This week, Sean, Melinda, and Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, Seven Seas, VIZ Media, and JManga.
Attack on Titan, Vol. 3 | By Hajime Isayama | Kodansha Comics – There are many depressing series that never quite let you forget that hope for the best is behind it all. Attack on Titan, on the other hand, never lets you forget how fast hope can be lost and turn into total despair. Despite the arrival of a timely (and high-ranked) ally, most of this volume has our three leads existing at a knife-edge away from being killed. For once, the fact that I can barely tell anyone apart except for our heroes works quite well – the mob mentality and need to get rid of anything terrifying is at work here, and that tends to trump things like strategy and common sense. That said, there’s not a lot of common sense in what Eren can now do, and the ‘hey, now we have a titan on our side’ plan doesn’t go nearly as well as they thought. Luckily, there’s a cooking battle arc next time (OK, not really.) -Sean Gaffney
A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 6 | By Kazuma Kamachi and Motoi Fuyukawa | Seven Seas – This is adapting the third ‘Magical Index’ main novel, in case readers were wondering why the big battle with Accelerator consists of Misaka standing around watching things. Still, given that you can’t exactly write Touma out, the Railgun adaptation handles things quite well, putting the focus squarely on Misaka and her own suffering. And it is indeed suffering – Misaka cannot stop blaming her own past actions as a child for the mass slaughter of innocents, to the point where the reaches a horrible decision (that, luckily, Touma is there to talk her out of, or at least calm her down a bit). I will admit that Uiharu and Saten, briefly glimpsed at the start, are missed, but this is a big character-building exercise for Misaka, so it’s OK for once to let the spotlight drift elsewhere. -Sean Gaffney
The Earl and the Fairy, Vol. 4 | By Mizue Tani and Ayuko | VIZ Media – The ending to this final volume of Earl & Fairy is strangely open – or not so strangely, as the light novel series extends many, many volumes beyond this point. It’s not a bad ending to the manga, but I get a feeling that it’s simply reinforcing the lessons that Lydia learned at the end of Volume 2, simply filtered through a different scenario. Everyone gets to show off what they do best – Lydia is compassionate yet foolhardy, Edgar is intelligent yet nihilistic, and Raven gets to beat people up and be deadpan. I did like the repair of Rosalie and Doris’ relationship, mostly as Rosalie did not magically turn nice – she’s still as annoying as she was since we met her. This was a decent fantasy series, but I fear that it doesn’t really linger in the memories that long – which may be why the manga ended with this volume. -Sean Gaffney
My Darling Kitten Hair, Vol. 2 | By Haruko Kumota | JManga/Libre Publishing – As is usually the case, Melinda was absolutely right about My Darling Kitten Hair—it’s thoroughly charming. The time for confessions of love has long past, and now “Kei-chan” and “Mii-kun” are getting used to actually being together as a couple after six years in a long-distance relationship. The characterization in this series is so strong that the reader is actually truly happy for them when they achieve a breakthrough, and crushed when things don’t go quite right. I especially love that Mii-kun, the languid slacker type (as opposed to Kei’s tidy salaryman), is actually the more vulnerable one in a lot of ways. But on the whole, I love both guys so much that I really can’t wait for the next volume. Plus? Cute cats! I don’t know how I could possibly recommend this more highly.– Michelle Smith
Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 13 | By Yuki Midorikawa | VIZ Media – For me the best part of this volume was seeing attention paid to ‘Those Two Guys’, i.e. Natsume’s school classmates who aren’t Tanuma and Taki. It’s rare you see such characters get development beyond being a line or two within the hero’s larger story, so giving Nishimura and Kitamoto backstories and reasons for enjoying Natsume’s company (without making them connected to the supernatural the way Tanuma and Taki are) is heartwarming to see. Once again, the emphasis is on expanding Natsume’s world. The earlier chapters, a more action-oriented story featuring Natsume infiltrating a meeting of exorcists, didn’t do as much for me, but then I’ve always enjoyed the smaller, quieter chapters of this series over the main plot-based ones. Still a must read. -Sean Gaffney
Pride, Vols. 3-4 | By Yukari Ichijo | JManga/SHUEISHA Inc. – I’d nearly forgotten just how much I loved this series until I delved back into it this week, and wow do I love this series. Tension ramps up dramatically in these two volumes, as Shio, Moe, and Ranmaru form an unexpected musical trio that ultimately lives or dies on each of their personal career choices—all the while Shio struggles to keep secret her business-only engagement to record executive Jinno (who becomes both more sympathetic and more suspect over the course of these volumes). As melodramatic as the story’s plotting may seem, it’s rooted in exactly enough emotional truth to satisfy a cranky old lady like me. It’s an exciting, exquisitely-crafted, gorgeously dramatic ride that has left me absolutely pining for more. Highly recommended.