This week, Melinda, Michelle, and Sean look at recent releases from Yen Press, Viz Media, Dark Horse Comics, Kodansha Comics, and Vertical, Inc.
Bunny Drop, Vol. 8 | By Yumi Unita | Yen Press – This volume has been greatly anticipated and feared by fans—me included. And though I had faith that Unita-sensei would execute the much-feared plot twist—Rin’s developing romantic feelings for her guardian, Daikichi—in a thoughtful and inoffensive way, my reaction was mixed at best. While I’m happy to report that this volume is, indeed, inoffensive, it’s also hard to swallow—not because of any breach of propriety, but because it just doesn’t quite ring true. Rin’s inner monologue about her awakening feelings is written sensitively, and on the surface it makes some sense. For a girl who craves consistency above all else, Daikichi’s steadfast loyalty can’t be beat. But even as I read Rin’s careful dissection of her own feelings, I’m just not buying it. The words are there, but the attraction is… not. That said, I’m invested enough to stick around for more. Recommendation pending. – Melinda Beasi
Bunny Drop, Vol. 8 | By Yumi Unita | Yen Press – (Look away to avoid spoilers!) My primary reaction upon completing this volume can best be summed up as a sort of grudging respect. Melinda always had faith that Unita could get readers to accept the romantic pairing of Rin and her much-older guardian, Daikichi, but I had remained dubious. Still, it’s hard to maintain such a feeling when Rin is so absolutely clear about her feelings and what she wants to do with her life. It’s worth noting, too, that so far Rin is convinced that getting what she wants is impossible, and that trying to achieve it would destroy what they have now. Is this Unita’s clever ploy to actually get me to root for them as a couple? And could it actually be working?! In any case, I’m not as leery of the final volume as I once was. – Michelle Smith
Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 2 | By Tsutomu Nihei | Vertical, Inc. – This is absolutely riveting stuff, with your hands turning the pages as fast as your eyes can process. The battles are tense and visually clear, and you feel for the hero even though he, like most of the cast, tends to be fairly unemotional. Actually, that’s probably for the best – if everyone in this cast started crying when bad things happened, there would literally be nothing but 100 pages of sobs Bad things happen constantly in this story, and even when you get a happy, redeeming moment, it’s merely setup for an even more crushing blow later. And we’re still wondering what’s so special about Tanikaze that everyone is going out of their way to accommodate him. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be a really depressing backstory. That will once again make me want to turn the pages even faster. – Sean Gaffney
Loveless, Vol. 3: 2-in-1 | By Yun Kouga | Viz Media – Everyone should know by now that I’ve fallen in love with Loveless, so a positive review of Viz’s latest omnibus edition is surely no surprise. Despite that, I must continue to register my surprise over Kouga-sensei’s ability to portray complex emotions and moral ambiguity with a combination of thoughtfulness, humor, and razor-sharp honesty. Over and over again as I read this omnibus volume, I was struck by bits of complicated emotional truth that most writers would carefully avoid—especially in the sort of deceptively fluffy genre tale that Kouga weaves here. Kouga’s insight into the human heart seems boundless, resulting in a story that is occasionally shocking, often dark, and always brilliant. Oh, Soubi… poor Soubi. Look for further discussion of this volume as the week goes on. Highly recommended. – Melinda Beasi
Missions of Love, Vol. 3 | By Ema Toyama | Kodansha Comics – I know that I sometimes read shoujo manga for different reasons than everyone else. This is probably why I’m still enjoying the really, really problematic Missions of Love, which is apparently trying to spice up Nakayoshi in a way I’m not used to from this company (what is this, ShoComi or something?). Yukina is horrible much of the time, which is only somewhat excused by her complete ignorance of love and the emotions of other people. Akira does indeed step up his game, as predicted, and comes across as obsessed. And we also meet Shigure’s old friend (and past love, according to everyone but him) Mami, who I am sort of desperately hoping does not become the standard evil rival bitch character or many shoujo manga but I know she will be. In short, this is a fun little trainwreck, and if the lead female were weak or whiny, I’d drop it like a stone. But she’s a horrible person too. So I like it. Go figure. -Sean Gaffney
Oh My Goddess!, Vol. 44 | By Kosuke Fujishima | Dark Horse – The most interesting part of this volume actually won’t have its real impact until Vol. 45, which is the dissolution and then reconnection of their contract. Keiichi, who goes along with this because he trusts Belldandy, immediately notices one big difference – Belldandy looks much sexier to him, and indeed he’s reacting in ways we haven’t seen in years. But the meat of this particular volume is the sisterly bond between Urd and Skuld, and how strong it has to be given the control Urd has – or doesn’t have – over her demon side. Urd loves and trusts Skuld enough to kill her if she gets out of hand, and Skuld loves and trusts Urd enough to find a way out that doesn’t involve that. So now everyone’s coming together again, including Hild, whose arrival will make Vol. 45 even more fun than you’d expect. -Sean Gaffney
We Were There, Vol. 16 | By Yuuki Obata | Viz Media – Now that is one satisfying and well-earned ending. Yano begins reaching out to Takahashi, but because she’s so busy at work, they play phone tag for a while, and right after they reach each other, she ends up in the hospital. In the hands of a lesser mangaka, such a plotline would be rife with melodrama, but here it’s urgent and scary and the catalyst for putting things in crystal-clear perspective. Truly, this is a splendid ending that goes beyond what one would expect, taking the time to acknowledge how important Takeuchi has been to both Yano and Takahashi and bringing the series full circle with a return to the peaceful countryside of Hokkaido. Have I gushed sufficiently? It’s wonderful. If you like shoujo manga even a little, you need to read We Were There. I’m already looking forward to rereading it, that’s how good it is. – Michelle Smith