This week, Sean, Melinda, and Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, VIZ Media, and Vertical, Inc.
Fairy Tail, Vol. 23 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – This volume can pretty much be summed up by: cool things happen. Seemingly every five pages. We’re still in the middle of the battle in Edolas, and we see Natsu, Gajeel and Wendy combine their dragon powers to take on the insane king; Erza fighting her doppelganger while also plummeting from a great height; Edolas Fairy Tail showing up just in time to be Big Damn Heroes and prove their mettle. In the middle of all this is Mystogan, aka the Edolas version of Jellal, who has a cunning plan to save Edolas that, much to my relief, is immediately exposed as being mind-numbingly stupid. And since the best way to combat stupid is with stupid, it’s up to Natsu to save the day. There’s a lot of fighting going on here, but it’s certainly never dull. And the next volume should finally wrap up this arc.-Sean Gaffney
The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 4 | By Shuzo Oshimi | Vertical, Inc. – Though on the surface this series appears to be getting darker, for Nakamura and Takao this volume offers up the opportunity for a kind of camaraderie that hadn’t previously been possible. Where this leaves poor Saeki is another question, but though Takao and Nakamura are clearly headed down a perverted path, the tone is decidedly jubilant as this volume comes to a close—for better or worse. In a way, it just feels like their story is back on track, though I think it needed to fall apart in order to get there, and especially to put Takao and Nakamura on something closer to equal ground. Either way, I can’t deny that I’m more intrigued by this story than ever at this point, which indicates that things are going very much right. Readers who found the first few volumes a bit too dark to handle will not see any relief here, but for the rest of us, this volume is a must-read. Still recommended. - Melinda Beasi
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 12 | By Julietta Suzuki | VIZ Media – A new arc starts here, as Nanami is abducted by the servents of a spoiled-brat yokai who is engaged to marry Himemiko. The trouble there is Himemiko is already in love with a human boy, Kotaro. Of course, she hasn’t actually told him who she really is. There’s some examination of the huge gulf that exists between kamis and humans, and why most people regard Himemiko’s affair as a mere fling. Nanami doesn’t, though, and she continues to be the best part of the manga simply by being herself. Laying the smack down on the spoiled yokai while trying to espouse the virtue of true love, it’s almost as if she has some other reason for wanting Himemiko’s marriage to a human to happen. There’s a lot of romantic angst here, as we try to resolve a minor subplot that’s been simmering for far too long…-Sean Gaffney
Miles Edgeworth: Ace Attorney Investigations, Vol. 4 | By Kenji Kuroda and Kazuo Maekawa | Kodansha Comics – And so the second series of Phoenix Wright manga volumes comes to a close, with two more fairly typical cases. These have been good reads for those who merely want to see more of Edgeworth being cool, or Gumshoe being dumb. But they’re frustrating for anyone wanting long-term character development, as they can’t change (or even mention) their original source material, the games. The best chapter in this series was the one where Ema Skye returned from America, simply as it was a connection to past and future games we were being allowed to see. Most of the series, unfortunately, didn’t have that, leaving it as a series of cute one-shot crimes with little to no emotional content. Also, Phoenix makes a much better protagonist. Sorry, Edgey.-Sean Gaffney
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Vol. 9 | By Naoko Takeuchi | Kodansha Comics - I firmly believe that there are no bad volumes of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, but this is an especially good one. The aim of the villainous Dead Moon Circus is to turn people’s dreams into nightmares, and so each of the “inner senshi” gets a chapter to herself in which she triumphs over an enemy attempting to instill doubt (and the notion that she should just find a nice boy and settle down) in her, earning a new attack phrase in the process. It’s great to spend some quality time with the girls individually, and there are some truly rewarding moments (especially concerning Artemis), but the best chapter is about the “outer senshi” and the little family they’ve become in the six months since they made a pledge to raise baby Hotaru. All in all, a truly great volume. My only complaint is that the Amazon Trio are vanquished so quickly! Tiger’s Eye in particular is barely a blip. Sniff. - Michelle Smith
Skip Beat!, Vol. 30 | By Yoshiki Nakamura | VIZ Media – Lory’s school of Enforced Method Acting to sure his proteges’ deep inner traumas has always been for everyone, not just Kyoko, and here we once again see the effects it’s having on Ren, who’s forced to relive the past that he’s been blocking out. Ren is not doing a particularly good job at this, and is starting to lose himself in the role – something that Kyoko is all too familiar with. And it’s not just the serial killer character of BJ, either – Ren and Kyoko’s roles as Cain and Setsu are blurring together as well, and the intentional incestual subtext is getting to be a bit too much to bear for both of them. Things seem to be reaching a boiling point, though I’ve said that before, and this series has now gone 30 volumes with no sign of romantic resolution. Still, maybe a kiss? Hrm? Sadly, no kiss here. Still great stuff, though.-Sean Gaffney