This week, Sean, Melinda, and Anna look at recent releases from Viz Media, Yen Press, Kodansha Comics, and Vertical, Inc.
Cross Game, Vol. 6 | By Mitsuru Adachi | Viz Media – I’m finally finishing out this series! Picking up the 6th volume after a gap in my Cross Game reading reminded me again what a master of manga Adachi is. For a series where on the surface not much happens other than a bunch of kids preparing to play baseball, there’s so much subtext and subtle psychological development being portrayed, that this manga is a delight to read. Ko continues to hone his skills, but the sudden appearance of Akane, a dead ringer for his childhood love Wakaba, causes a bit of consternation in the neighborhood. Romance is more of an undercurrent in this volume as Aoba slowly realizes that people may appreciate her for something other than her pitching skills. - Anna N.
A Devil And Her Love Song, Vol. 9 | By Miyoshi Tomori | Viz Media – Well, that went south in a hurry, didn’t it? The first half of this volume is actually quite heartwarming, despite the opening. It gives the message “forcing yourself on others is wrong”, but also allows the others to forgive Shintaro and allow him back into their inner circle. Moreover, Maria is bonding even more with her friends, and Shin is getting over his own hangups regarding the piano. He decides to do a big, extravagant performance for Maria, at the end of which he will tell her his real feelings. AND THEN IT ALL GOES SO WRONG. Leaving aside horrible assault guy, who ensures she never gets to the performance, it’s more of a classic “misunderstanding comfort as a confession” that leads to the depressing cliffhanger we get here. I really cannot wait for Vol. 10. - Sean Gaffney
Durarara!! Saika Arc, Vol. 2 | By Ryohgo Narita, Akiyo Satorigi, and Suzuhito Yasuda | Yen Press – We continue to have two different stories going on here, and they aren’t quite interweaving with each other until the very end… or so we think. First off, there’s the attempts by Celty to find out what’s going on with Saika, the demon blade that’s slashing people and has professed a deep, stalkerish love for Shizuo. Secondly, and probably more interesting to me, there’s Anri and her attempts to deal with her teacher’s sexual harassment. Anri’s natural emotionless facade doesn’t make the discomfort of this situation any less striking, and the occasional dream she’s having of a happy birthday with her parents turns into a nightmare rather rapidly. Plus, for all that the blade supposedly loves Shizuo, it does seem to be going after Anri an awful lot. A fun, complicated mess (yes, that’s a compliment). - Sean Gaffney
Fairy Tail, Vol. 26 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – Well, the villains are posing on the cover of this volume, so it is not a particular surprise that they come in and completely kick our heroes’ asses, as shonen villains often do at first. Even worse is the identity of the old man who seems to be behind the group of villains… and Makarov’s betrayed reaction. There are one or two jokes here, mostly revolving around Elfman and Evergreen, the couple that isn’t. But for the most part, this is simply pure serious fighting, with lots of people getting knocked unconscious and/or near death. And hovering over all of this is Zeref, who just wants to be left alone – supposedly – but Ultear isn’t having any of that. It looks like we’ve got a long way to go before any of this is wrapped up, to be honest. Oh and hey, was that a Laxus cameo I just saw? Foreshadowing! - Sean Gaffney
Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 3 | By Tsutomu Nihei | Vertical, Inc. – I’ll admit, this volume really surprised me. No, not the deaths of even more pilots. And no, not the flashback which showed us the origins of Tanikaze’s birth (at least once I figured out it was a flashback – come on, use black borders like other mangaka do!). No, what really startled me was the middle of this volume, where all of a sudden it became a wacky romantic comedy with a love triangle. It’s actually even more amusing given the artist’s usual unexpressive style. That said, that’s just a moment, and for the most part this volume is serious business, as we try to figure out why Tanizake is piloting every single goddamn mission, learn more about the placenta they captured, which is a little TOO good at mimicking humans, and depressing the hell out of Izana. Still riveting. - Sean Gaffney
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 16 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – Recent volumes of Pandora Hearts have been so chock-full of twists and revelations, that every time I’ve thought that I discovered what was really going on, I’ve been proven wrong in the next volume. This continues with volume sixteen, and it is by no means a bad thing. Things start out lightly, as though to provide a healing balm for last volume’s tragedies. Yet, just when I thought I’d been shocked to the core, something much more shocking is revealed, and oh… GAH. I’m kind of dying at this point. It’s all extremely well-plotted (better than I thought Mochizuki had in her, to be frank) and cleverly painful. Meanwhile, Xerxes Break continues to be the most endearing character ever, and his relationship with Sharon is almost too charming to bear. Thanks, Pandora Hearts, you always come through. Increasingly recommended. - Melinda Beasi