This week, Sean, Melinda, & Michelle look at recent releases from Yen Press, Seven Seas, Viz Media, and Vertical, Inc.
Bunny Drop, Vol. 9 | By Yumi Unita | Yen Press – I went into this final volume with a great deal of trepidation, but I actually didn’t dislike it. True, I did find one big reveal terribly convenient in terms of making a relationship between Rin and Daikichi less icky—were there hints about this that I missed?—and I remain unconvinced that Daikichi feels something genuinely romantic towards Rin, but there were some aspects that I liked, as well. Daikichi’s reaction to the situation has some genuinely riveting moments—“That is the cruelest thing you could’ve done to me”—and I got a fuller sense of how Rin sees Daikichi that made her side of the relationship make more sense to me. I can imagine them forming a contented little family and dwelling in domestic bliss, but I certainly can’t imagine rollicking sexy times between them. Perhaps that is for the best. – Michelle Smith
Limit, Vol. 6 | By Keiko Suenobu | Vertical, Inc. – I’ve been a fan of Limit from the start, and though I’ve often seen the series’ later volumes described as “melodramatic,” I personally find use of that word somewhat perplexing when discussing a story in which a group of not-necessarily-friendly teenagers has been stranded in the wilderness after an enormous trauma without necessary sustenance, training, or supplies. Does it really require the use of melodrama to imagine that things might go horribly wrong? I’m thinking not. High stakes naturally lead to life’s Big Moments, and this series is certainly full of those, quite a number of which occur in this tense, final volume. The series’ wrap-up is both predictably dramatic and surprising simple in equal parts, and gratefully hard-won. Compact and satisfying, Limit is hard to beat. Recommended. – Melinda Beasi
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 16 | By Hiroshi Shiibashi | Viz Media – I had been making fun of the last few volumes of Nura for having a Kyoto arc that would never end. it finally does this volume, but the point still remains: this felt really dragged out far longer than it ever should have been. As a result, when the tragic revelations are revealed (as they are here), there’s not as much weight to them as by now we just want to get it over with and move on. Luckily, we start to do that here. Tsurara/Yuki-Onna gets her own mini-arc, showing that she can control a group with her own force of personality and not just moon over Rikuo. As a reward, she gets a cute ship tease with an umbrella. The next arc looks like it involves a shrine where teens go missing, and introduces Rikuo’s new teacher, who knows more than she should about it. At least it’s not in Kyoto. – Sean Gaffney
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 17 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – As I pick up each new volume of Pandora Hearts, filled as they have been with increasingly shocking and painful revelations, I find myself thinking, “This is it. This must be the last. Nothing could be more shocking or painful than this.” I am always wrong. I had no idea, Pandora Hearts, where you were headed—what darkness and pain you had in store. I was a fool. I was a babe in the woods. Fortunately, this is not a bad thing by any means. Though I’ve often wondered just how far Jun Mochizuki will be able to stretch her increasingly complicated series before it collapses under its own weight, that day looks to be far off, indeed. For those who have made the sixteen-volume investment required to reach this point, you’re in for some spectacular drama. And the rest… what are you waiting for? Still recommended. – Melinda Beasi
The Sacred Blacksmith, Vol. 2 | By Isao Miura and Kotaro Yamada | Seven Seas – For those who enjoy fantasy manga, there’s a lot to like here. Sword battles, magic battles, magic sword battles. I find that pretty boring myself. Luckily, there is a bit more than that here. We meet Aria, a human-looking woman who turns out to be a demon sword – one highly prized by many people who have mayhem on their minds. Most of the volume is spent protecting her (see previous discussion of fights), but we also wonder, as Aria does, how responsible she is for the deaths she causes when wielded by others. Combine this with Lisa’s own revelation as a demon – and low self-worth, it would seem – and the scene where Cecily helps exorcize a demon merely so a man can die as a human rather than possessed, and I think we’ve found this manga’s major theme. – Sean Gaffney
Toriko, Vol. 17 | By Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro | Viz Media – The first half of this volume consists of one-shot chapters, designed to help cleanse the palate after several long story arcs. Komatsu pulls Excalibur (or its equivalent) out, they worship at a shrine, they try to amaze some apples (that story has a great, if immature, punchline) and they talk to an old man about obsession and lost loves. The second half of the book begins a new arc proper, as they team up with Sunny to go after a fish that’s well-nigh impossible to get to. (We also get more people saying they want Komatsu to be their chef and companion – really, there’s not much difference between Toriko and a harem manga at times.) There’s nothing earth-shattering here, but it’s still big goofy shonen fun, which is exactly what I want out of a title like Toriko. – Sean Gaffney
World War Blue, Vol. 2 | By Crimson and Anastasia Shestakova | Seven Seas – The best scene in this volume involves our hero, finally meeting his father after so long, and immediately having to make a horrifying decision. It points out the fantasy aspect of this world, allows a sort of tortured bonding and grieving at the same time, and has some nice heartbreaking depth to it. Sadly, this is offset by the rest of the volume, which is really, really generic RPG-style manga fighting. There are, perhaps, more masturbation jokes than you’d normally find in a more mainstream manga, but other than that, there’s better shonen elsewhere. Even the ‘draw’ of this series, that the characters are based on 80s video games, is wearing a bit thin – particularly as we don’t have a glossary given all the time. Still, that one scene was very good. Perhaps it will gain more depth like that later. – Sean Gaffney