This week, Sean, Anna, and Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics and Viz Media.
Dawn of the Arcana, Vol. 9 | By Rei Toma | Viz Media - Dawn of the Arcana is shaping up to be a decent fantasy adventure! Nakaba and friends are presently in Lithuanel, attempting to broker an alliance with Senan, but the foreign land is no stranger to ruthless political machinations, as Nakaba soon knows all too well, thanks to her power, the Arcana of Time. In fact, this volume makes it clear that the ability to see into the past and the future is far more of a curse than a blessing, as Nakaba learns just what it is that her attendant Loki has been hiding and soon faces a terrible choice. Meanwhile, her husband, Caesar, sails home to an uncertain fate. A little bit of sloppy plotting and art that’s a bit too simple keep this title from achieving true epic status, but it’s still quite entertaining. Highly recommended. - Michelle Smith
Genshiken: Second Season, Vol. 2 | By Shimoku Kio | Kodansha Comics – Most of the original cast of Genshiken has moved on by this volume – Sasahara barely appears, Saki is absent, etc. But Madarame has always been Genshiken’s heart, so it’s no surprise that he can’t drag himself away from the narrative for long. Which is good, as it’s becoming clear that he’s having a mini-harem form around him. Not that he’s aware of it or anything. It’s good as this is a goldmine of humor, and allows Genshiken’s funniest characters – particularly Sue, who gets her own omake devoted to how awesome she is – shine. But what the 2nd season really seems to be about is Hato and his gender identity, and that’s handled quite realistically and sensitively. In short, it may be a second season with a new cast, but Genshiken still does what it’s always done best – give otaku nerds depth and heart.- Sean Gaffney
Kimi Ni Todoke, Vol 16 | by Karuho Shiina | Viz Media This is one of those shoujo series that is just always excellent. We see Sawako and her friends move forward with more self-awareness and maturity into their developing relationships. Sawako senses some distance between her and Kazehaya and attempts to deal with the issue. Kento attempts to develop his relationship with Ayane. Some of the best moments in this manga are when characters are just sitting and talking to each other, as Kento and Kazehaya discuss their relationship woes. Shiina’s use of paneling and shifting perspective makes everything visually interesting even when most of the manga focuses on heartfelt discussions as opposed to action. - Anna N
Psyren, Vol. 9 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | Viz Media – I’ve been more of a fan of the modern day parts of Psyren than the dystopian future, though the leveling up of the Elmore Wood kids helped a lot in Vol. 9. Still, in a manga where the future can change such as this one, it’s hard to invest in it. Which is why it’s good to see a subplot with someone like Amakusa, a slimeball who is determined that since the world is destroyed, he may as well rule it. There’s always going to be people like him around after a tragedy. Luckily, he’s merely small fry, getting taken out merely by Marie getting very mad… and crumpling the entire building into a ball around him. Still, there’s no getting around it – this is a “fighting volume” of a Jump series, meaning that the plot mostly takes a pause… with the exception of Nemesis Q’s creator, whose big appearance is the cliffhanger of this good but not great volume. - Sean Gaffney
Rin-Ne, Vol. 11 | By Rumiko Takahashi | Viz Media – One of the big reasons that I go on about Sakura having her negative emotions stolen when she was in the afterlife is that she’s so normally passive that it’s hard to get a grip on her and understand her, and thus she runs the risk of becoming dull. Dull Takahashi characters make me sad. That said, the start of Vol. 11 continues to make me think there’s something to it, as Sakura gets some candy that allows her to not see ghosts… including Rinne himself. And, in her own subtly, low-key way, she realizes that she’s bored out of her gourd without them. (On the bright side, she does miss the many, many attempts on her life.) Other than that, we get the usual: ship tease that doesn’t really go anywhere, unhappy spirits who can easily move on because the whole things a misunderstanding, and lots of violence. Rin-Ne is what it is. - Sean Gaffney
Strobe Edge, Vol. 3 | By Io Sakisaka | Viz Media – This third volume of Strobe Edge is primarily devoted to Ando, who is being groomed to take over the rival spot from Daiki now that he’s been quickly paired off. It’s always fun seeing the so-called player who’s found a girl that he’s genuinely fallen for, but can’t make that clear. Ando’s player tendencies have a serious past to them, much like every other character in this series. The pain of teenage love, and the fact that it doesn’t work out most of the time, is why we read Strobe Edge, a series that so far has no real bad guys. Even Mayuka seems beset by doubts when she shows up towards the end. But of course, if things remain as they are, we won’t have a plot, so that’s no surprise. Strobe Edge is slow paced, and may frustrate some people, but its bittersweet feelings seem just about right for me. - Sean Gaffney