This week, Sean, Anna, Melinda, & Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, Viz Media, Yen Press, and Vertical, Inc.
Attack on Titan, Vol. 4 | By Hajime Isayama | Kodansha Comics – The art still has issues with facial differences, but this is finally the volume where we see developed characters beyond the big three. Annie and Jean both get to show off potential antagonist chops, but my favorite was Sasha, or “Potato Girl.” In a manga as deeply depressing and bleak as this series is, we need moments of levity—moments we didn’t get in the first three volumes. Sasha’s personality, love of food, and general liveliness are a breath of fresh air. Of course, that doesn’t mean this volume is all laughs. We cycle back and forth between training flashbacks and the present day so quickly that I lose track of which is which (black borders would help, Isayama—don’t you read manga?), and the present day is bad for everyone, with more corpses, more distrust of Eren, and a bleak future promised. Also, Blouse? Not Braus? This reminds me of Fairy Tail romanization… -Sean Gaffney
Demon Love Spell, Vol. 2 | By Mayu Shinjo | Viz Media I read the first volume and liked this series much more than Ai Ore!, and that was confirmed by the second volume, which kicks off with an unexpectedly poignant story of a lost fox demon. Miko continues to be a reasonable foil for any demons she encounters due to her almost bull-headed obliviousness. A scene of her fending off a demonic spirit with an extra sandwich was hilarious. Kagura is very much the typical alpha male Shinjo hero, but his frequent transformations into a tiny handbag mascot keeps him from being too insufferable. This is going to be a go-to fun read for me whenever I need a bit of a laugh. – Anna N
Durarara!! Saika Arc, Vol. 1 | By Ryohgo Narita, Suzuhito Yasuda, and Akiyo Satorigi | Yen Press – As always with DRRR!!, there’s a lot going on here at the same time. Mikado fades into the background a bit, as we turn to Anri and her own self-esteem issues, which aren’t helped by a sexually harassing teacher. Shizuo is on the cover, and some of his backstory is covered here, showing why he is so incredibly strong—and why it’s a burden rather than a choice. And of course there’s also a series of assaults in the city, as everyone’s getting slashed by a mysterious demon sword—who’s also an internet troll. DRRR!! is the sort of series where explaining everything that’s going on makes it sound more complicated than it is. This is the life of a city, as filtered through about 20 different cast members. Like the author’s other series, Baccano!, there is no main character. Just lots of fun and chaos. – Sean Gaffney
Limit, Vol. 4 | By Keiko Suenobu | Vertical, Inc. – As swiftly as Limit‘s group of survivors came together in the series’ third volume, they fall apart even more quickly in the fourth, as it becomes clear that one among them has committed a brutal murder. Accusations are hurdled from all sides, and yet another member of their party will be lost before the group finally settles into a sort of grudging paranoia that is unlikely to abate anytime soon. Volumes of this series seem to fly by, that’s how engaging they are, and I emerged from this one with a combination of dread and feverish anticipation. Fortunately, these are being released on a reasonably brisk schedule, with volume five due out before the end of May. Given the series’ tense atmosphere and quick pacing, it’ll be a great candidate for marathon reading once all six volumes have been released. I look forward to that re-read for sure. Still recommended. – Melinda Beasi
The Story of Saiunkoku, Vol. 9 | By Kairi Yura and Sai Yukino | Viz Media – The main storyline of The Story of Saiunkoku wrapped up quite satisfactorily in volume eight, and I never would’ve thought that a subsequent volume of side stories would be necessary. And, indeed, it really isn’t. There are three stories in this final volume—“So Began the Fairy Tale,” which offers a glimpse at the early loss of innocence suffered by Shoka, Shurei’s father; “Hurrican Ryuren Strikes the Capital,” about the eccentric member of the Ran clan who achieved the second-highest rank on the civil servants’ exam; and “Someday I Will Come to You,” about Shoka’s odd brother Reishin and his continued obsession with Shurei. Actually, rather a lot is made of Reishin and his obsession for Shoka, too, and it’s a joke that’s warn a bit thin with me. Nevertheless, this is a pleasant volume, if not the most dramatic or substantial. I’ll miss this series. – Michelle Smith