This week, Sean and Kate look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, VIZ Media, and Yen Press.
Attack on Titan, Vol. 2 | By Hajime Isayama | Kodansha Comics – This grim and downbeat story continues to intrigue almost despite itself, as we see humanity battle against the seemingly unstoppable titans. Luckily, they are helped out this time by a mysterious titan who turns against its own, tearing them apart in messy ways. The revelation of the titan’s identity is not as much of a surprise as the author wants, I think, but still well done – particularly Mikasa’s reaction. The main problem with this series, though, continues to be the artwork – I simply can’t tell many of the characters apart, and their being soldiers in the same uniform isn’t helping. At one point I thought I saw one of the soldiers we knew shoot himself in the head, only for it to turn out to be another, similar crew-cut soldier. A character guide at the front of the volume is no help – it only has the three leads. -Sean Gaffney
Blue Exorcist, Vol. 7 | By Kazue Kato | VIZ Media – One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about Blue Exorcist is Kazue Kato’s ability to tell an intricate story while still providing enough points of entry that a newcomer can follow what’s happening. In volume seven, for example, we learn more about Mamushi and Todo’s true purpose in stealing the Impure King’s eyes. Though these scenes are more emotionally engaging for a well-informed reader, a newbie can readily grasp the basics: Kyoto will be toast if the Impure King’s seal is broken. You don’t need to know much else to appreciate Kato’s smart pacing, crisp artwork, and flair for the grotesque; the Impure King looks like the unholy love child of InuYasha‘s Naraku and AKIRA‘s Tetsuo, and haunted me for several days after I’d finished the volume. Still highly recommended. -Katherine Dacey
Durarara!!, Vol. 3 | Created by Ryohgo Narita, Character Design by Suzuhito Yasuda, and Art by Akiyo Satorigi | Yen Press – Durarara!! is 50% great, and 50% irritating. The good parts involve Celty, a headless Irish spirit who rides through Tokyo on a sleek motorcycle; Celty is tough, funny, and more human than the high school students, thugs, and evil scientists who also inhabit her world. Her quest to be reunited with her head provides the story’s best comic and dramatic moments, including an agonizing scene in which she must decide whether to reclaim it from its new owner. The not-so-good parts involve the rest of the cast, none of whom behave like real human beings. The worst offender is Namie Yagiri, whose obsessive interest in her younger brother crosses the line between eccentric and just plain icky. More frustrating still is how labored these scenes feel; a judicious trimming of secondary characters and subplots would make Durarara!! a more consistently entertaining series. -Katherine Dacey
Miles Edgeworth: Ace Attorney Investigations, Vol. 2 | By Kenji Kuroda & Kazuo Maekawa | Kodansha Comics – As with Volume One of this series, the only regulars from the games are Miles and Detective Gumshoe, which makes me sad. Things are simply less silly here, as Miles doesn’t have everything go wrong as much as Phoenix does. The first case is fairly straightforward and obvious, though I loved Miles casually pointing his finger and saying ‘Objection” to an officer, as if he uses it in conversation all the time. The second case is stronger, with a better gimmick – the so-called Gentlemen Thieves. It also has a Maya/Kay surrogate in Monet Kreskin, and a very clever solution – I had figured out half the mystery, but not the other half, and the revelation was quite well done. Mystery fans will enjoy this as a quick, non-filling read.-Sean Gaffney
Yotsuba&!, Vol. 11 | By Kiyohiko Azuma | Yen Press – One thing I’ve always loved about the Yotsuba series is that the title character is not presented as a weirdo in a world of normal people. Yotsuba can do strange things, yes, but less so as the series has gone by – she’s no longer prone to climbing telephone poles, and is content to buzz around the neighborhood with a camera. Likewise, the adults and teens all have quirks of their own, from Fuuka’s strange sense of humor (which also seems to drive her relationship with Shimau – sorry, Miss Stake) to Yotsuba’s father’s tendency towards overacting. I’ve even grown to tolerate Yanda, their annoying friend, who is growing more tolerant of everyone messing with him – and in fact seems bothered by Yotsuba’s inability to do so because of depression. Lastly, Asagi is the best big sister ever. That is all.-Sean Gaffney