This week, Sean and Michelle look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Yen Press, and VIZ Media.
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar’s Game, Vol. 1 | By QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru | Seven Seas- It occurs to me that I’ve started several of the post-Country of Hearts series in this franchise, but haven’t yet made it to the second volume of any of them. It’s not that they’re bad, there’s just nothing about them that really compels me to continue. For the most part, the same can be said about Country of Joker. There are some things I definitely like, especially ominous hintings about both the past and the future, but this volume feels mostly like recap and exposition all at once, and so despite having much more at stake than Alice’s romantic prospects, it ends up being a little dull. Still, if there were any sequel/spinoff I’d be likely to continue, I reckon this is the one. - Michelle Smith
A Devil And Her Love Song, Vol. 7 | By Miyoshi Tomori | VIZ Media – And so, for the moment, the Anna arc is over. And it’s as emotional as I expected, with Anna finally getting through to Maria that her sort of help is only making things worse, even if it’s with the best intentions. Anna has to do this herself, and can’t, so seeing Maria and her circle of friends is a fresh wound every day. In addition, the author has perhaps realized that Maria/Shin is becoming a bit too obvious as the endgame, so Yusuke gets a whole lot of face time here, confronting Maria about how she deals with things in ways that Shin doesn’t or won’t. And at the back of the plot is still Maria’s late mother, who appears to us in a nightmare that Maria’s having pretty much all the time. Also, no evil teacher this time, but we do get a new creepy adult to balance it out. Never has “technique” sounded so forbidding. Highly recommended.-Sean Gaffney
Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden, Vol. 11 | By Yuu Watase | VIZ Media - I’m so glad I finally got caught up with this series last October. Now I can enjoy the final volumes along with everyone else! Volume eleven is the penultimate volume in the series, which means that a ton of very important stuff happens. The revelation of truths, or of someone’s true intentions. The willingness of some to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. The feeling amongst your friends that, with all this heavy responsibility, you and the one you love deserve some stolen moments of happiness. It is perhaps a trifle rushed—we barely spend any pages with the final Celestial Warrior before he’s handing Takiko the scroll and they’re preparing to summon Genbu—but the feeling that we’re being carried along to something truly tragic and climactic makes up for it. Highly recommended. Michelle Smith
Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends, Vol. 2 | By Yomi Hirasaka and Itachi | Seven Seas – This continues to be the most interesting of Seven Seas’ recent moe pickups, though it also continues to suffer from the same problems – you feel somewhat dirty reading it. This is not helped by the addition of Kodaka’s younger sister Kobato, who is as screwed up in the head as the rest of the cast. That said, the fact that they apparently aren’t incestual feelings here speaks volumes. The manga is going to play around with horrible moe and sexual tropes, but is not going to take that extra step into horrible. (It comes damn close, though.) This means that you’re allowed to get some character development and (gasp!) sweet scenes, particularly between Kodaka and Sena. I’ll pick up Vol. 3, and am interested in seeing what happens next. Still feel uncomfortable recommending it beyond otaku.-Sean Gaffney
The Misfortune of Kyon and Koizumi | By Various Artists | Yen Press – Unlike the Evangelion doujinshi anthology that was released the same week as this, the authors herein are not all that well-known, beyond “see who we can grab at the Kadokawa offices”. Unfortunately, despite having a variety of artists and styles, there’s a somewhat exhausting similarity between the comics. They’re clearly meant to appeal to a more female-oriented audience than Haruhi generally tries to attract, with lots of BL tease (but no delivery). The characterization is also at its baseline to drive the gag humor, meaning that the Haruhi we see here is the default Vol. 1 girl with no character development. There are a few cute gags here, but for the most part I’d recommend this only to the most hardcore Haruhi fans who must possess everything, or to BL fans who likewise must possess everything.-Sean Gaffney
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 13 | By Hiroshi Hiibashi | VIZ Media – I’m getting rather weary of this Kyoto arc (has anyone done a list of which manga/anime series have “Kyoto arcs” in some way?), and I admit that the parts I found the most interesting were the darkest ones. The ongoing butchering of young innocents for their livers (is it implied that the TV reporter is added to that stack?), the tragic backstory of Aotabo, who became a yokai in order to protect those he loved (yokai who enjoy being evil are not the sort of yokai that Rikuo tolerates), and Yuki-Onna considering killing herself so that she won’t be “bait”. Oh yes, and some blatant Rikuo/Yuki-Onna ship tease (Kana who?). The rest of this volume is showing Rikuo that his power is all about the feelings of his friends/underlings, which we already knew, because this is Shonen Jump, and that’s how it works.-Sean Gaffney