manga bookshelf

Bookshelf Briefs 10/22/12

This week, Sean, Kate, Melinda, and Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, VIZ Media, Yen Press, and Vertical, Inc.

Cage of Eden, Vol. 7 | By Yoshinobu Yamada | Kodansha Comics – Yes, the fanservice is still as gratuitous as ever. That said, there’s a lot to like here. For one, we get more casualties, reminding us that the longer everyone stays on the island, the more the cast is going to be culled. The fact that the group is taken out by what turns out to be ticks is quite chilling. Akira’s open show of determination and leadership, meanwhile, gives everyone inspiration and makes them want to keep up with him. This then takes a much darker turn, as we see the consequences of everyone not wanting to be dragging the group down – the cast getting altitude sickness that nearly kills them because no one will rest. And finally the cast start to hallucinate (a genuine symptom of altitude sickness) – which allows for a cliffhanger involving more horrific extinct animals. Shonen madness! – Sean Gaffney

A Devil And Her Love Song, Vol. 5 | By Miyoshi Tomori | VIZ Media – Maria’s first instinct when confronted with conflict is still brutal honesty, and I admire the fact that the manga shows this remains ultimately a good thing. Indeed, it’s not just Maria in this volume, as Shin shows off his own tendency to say exactly what he thinks. He thus ends up meeting Maria’s friend from her old school, Anna. I knew from the moment we started Volume 1 that Anna would be appearing at some point, and would be an antagonist. Thus I am once again pleased at how believable Tomori-san makes her. Maria, meanwhile, is still having trouble dealing with her feelings for Shin. This fails to surprise anyone, given how she has trouble with friendships, much less love. But I can’t wait to see what happens next. – Sean Gaffney

Fairy Tail, Vol. 21 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – There is a WHOLE lot going on in this volume. We meet most of the Fairy Tail cast doppelgangers – including Lisanna, who’s dead in Natsu’s universe – and find Erza’s working for the bad guys. Speaking of the bad guys, they’re the usual eccentric lot, ranging from obviously sympathetic to completely insane. There’s a healthy dollop of humor here, as we see Lucy’s double showing off how alike the two are and Loki ignoring Lucy’s call to battle as he’s on a date (presumably with Aries). And there are sad and heartwarming moments, such as Carla’s realization of what she’s been involved in, as well as the identity of the cats who briefly harbor them. Most of all, I’ve finally stopped thinking about how much Fairy Tail rips off One Piece when I read it. Which is quite the accomplishment. – Sean Gaffney

The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 3 | By Shuzo Oshimi | Vertical, Inc. – Though I had high praise for the first two volumes of The Flowers of Evil, volume three is a weaker and less psychologically plausible installment than what preceded it. Saeki’s increasingly desperate attachment to Takao seems more like a plot contrivance than a natural progression for her character, while Nakamura’s bullying sails over the line from nasty manipulation to outright sadism. The two girls’ tug-of-war isn’t beyond the realm of possibility; nor is Saeki’s unfounded belief that Takao represents something more interesting or profound than what other boys her ages could offer. What feels wrong is the way in which that conflict manifests itself, culminating in a scene that only a teenage boy would feel was an accurate representation of how girls think and behave. I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet, but I’m no longer convinced that Oshimi has as a firm a grasp of his characters as he did in the first chapters of the series. – Katherine Dacey

The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 3 | By Shuzo Oshimi | Vertical, Inc. – I wrote in my brief review of volume two that I “pretty much hated” The Flowers of Evil and couldn’t see myself continuing with it, and yet here I am. I suppose curiosity got the best of me. Volume three deals with the aftermath of Kasuga and Nakamura’s classroom vandalism, during which it becomes clear to Saeki and Kasuga’s mother that he is the one responsible. I actually did like certain things about what follows—especially Kasuga’s admittance that he was only reading Baudelaire in an effort to convince himself he’s special and that he’s scared of facing the real Saeki as opposed to his idealized vision of her—but spent a lot of time baffled by the characters’ actions and reactions. What is clear is that nobody is the person that others thought they were, which seems like a decent note upon which to end the series, but it actually continues from this point. I’m still not sure if I’ll be reading it. – Michelle Smith

Jiu Jiu, Vol. 2 | By Touya Tobina | VIZ Media – First of all, that cover is far saucier than a typical Hakusensha shojo title – something the author lampshades in one of her notes! Despite that, this title is becoming for females what Cage of Eden is for males. There’s lots of rampant fanservice of Snow and Night looking half-naked and sweaty. The plot is still a bit ‘make it up as you go along’, but I’m used to that with Hakusensha. The author hasn’t made it clear whether we – and Takamichi – are supposed to think of the two male leads as pets, or as children/family, or as love interests. It’s somewhat uncomfortable, and I think that’s at least partly deliberate. The addition of a few new cast members is nice to see, but for the most part this is still a three-hander about young people who are very bad at social interaction and the laughs and awkwardness that comes with that. Hope it continues to improve. -Sean Gaffney

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 | By Hiro Arikawa and Kiiro Yumi | VIZ Media- Okay, seriously, how did Library Wars end up being so shoujoliciously good? I mean, the premise is rather silly and the characters are far from convincing as soldiers, but the past couple of volumes have been genuinely enjoyable. In volume eight, the truth of why Iku’s being interrogated regarding a book-burning incident comes to light, which ultimately leads to her finally realizing that her commanding officer, Dojo, is her prince, whereupon she freaks out in a pretty awesome way. Combined with her composure under questioning and her reaction to this news, I am finally beginning to like Iku at long last. This volume also prominently features Iku’s awesome roommate, Shibazaki, who is one of those “I am jaded and unable to fall in love but will protect my idealistic friend with all I’ve got” characters whom I always adore. I’m looking forward to volume nine! – Michelle Smith

Pandora Hearts, Vol. 12 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – As tension ramps up over Oz’s questionable origins and the return of a mysterious villain with a penchant for beheading, I’ll admit that what really makes this whole volume for me is a (presumably) throwaway section in which Oz’s younger sister Ada reveals her secret obsession with the occult. That may not sound funny on the face of it, but trust me… it’s honestly hilarious, surprisingly charming, and makes it even harder to continue to hate the supposedly evil Vincent Nightray, to whom she bares her magically-consumed soul. Too, this section highlights one of the strengths of Mochizuki’s writing. No matter how dark and complicated her story becomes, she never loses her sense of whimsy or her deep love for her odd little cast of characters. Humorous interludes aside, volume twelve is full of terrific little nuggets of characterization—just part of the series’ considerable payoff for fans who have stuck with it so far. Still recommended. – Melinda Beasi

Skip Beat!, Vol. 29 | By Yoshiki Nakamura | VIZ Media – I am probably somewhat of a broken record where Skip Beat! is concerned, because not only do I genuinely enjoy every new volume, I also always wish that I had twenty more of them waiting in the wings, that’s how much I adore it. In this volume, Kyoko has realized that she’s on the verge of sprouting feelings for Ren, which scares her very much, since he is able to slip past her defenses so easily. She’s so distracted she allows a male costar to make her over for a wrap party, which yields two developments: Kyoko becomes convinced Ren sees her as too childish to pursue and she gains confidence in her ability to transform herself for a role. That’s Skip Beat! in a nutshell—even when there’s a smidgen of romantic progress, there’s a healthy dollop of career progress for the awesome heroine to go along with it. Perennially recommended. – Michelle Smith

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