This week, Sean, Anna, & Michelle look at recent releases from Seven Seas and Viz Media.
Alice Love Fables: Toy Box | By QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru | Seven Seas – This is pretty much what it sounded like, a series of short stories, all romance-themed, on QuinRose’s 3 properties. Arabians Lost is the first (and dullest), Alice in the Country of (blank) gets the majority, and Crimson Empire rounds it out. I’m most familiar with Alice, so those were the most enjoyable, even if they lack the twisted core I like in my Wonderland. She gets stories with Peter and Grey as love interest, something we haven’t gotten books for yet. And the Blood story is really adorable and sweet. As for Sheila, she’s the most interesting of the three heroines, but is rarely served as well by her male leads, so her stories don’t really gel as much. Still, nothing here truly bothered me, and it’s a good stocking stuffer for Alice fans. – Sean Gaffney
Dengeki Daisy, Vol. 13 | By Kyousuke Motomi | Viz Media – By now everyone knows that this is one of the best shoujo manga coming out today, with laughs, thrills, excitement, and frustratingly unconsummated romance that gets even more tantalizing here. Heck, even Akira, who’s been a horrible thorn in the side of our heroes, looks like he may get a bit of redemption after all, once we hear of his tragic past. (You know, the one every character in this series has.) What I really noticed in this volume was the way the art has matured. There’s a scene with Riko receiving something belatedly from Soichiro, and it’s made even more intimate by our never seeing what it is (even though we know). It shows a lovely subtlety that contrasts with the wacky “what color are Teru’s favorite panties” schtick that’s going on next door. I will be so sad when this ends. – Sean Gaffney
Kimi Ni Todoke, Vol. 18 | By Karuho Shiina | Viz Media – This volume, set during Christmas, is the perfect manga to read while curled up by a fire and enjoying some hot chocolate. Lack of communication has caused some issues with Sawako and Kazehaya’s budding relationship. They have a breakthrough around Christmastime, and finally acknowledge how much they care about each other. Sawako and her friends Ayane and Chizu get together for some post-date gossip, as each girl has new romantic developments to report. The whole gang gets together at Sawako’s house for a party, and even Sakako’s overprotective father begins to acknowledge how good Kazehaya is for his sheltered daughter. This slice of life manga works through plenty of emotional developments in a warm and cozy manner, making it the perfect volume for some winter relaxation. – Anna N
Midnight Secretary, Vol. 3 | By Tohmu Ohmi | Viz Media – Things continue to be hot and heavy in the 3rd volume of this josei paranormal romance series. Kaya’s extreme competence as a secretary allows her to work for a subsidiary office by day and then return to her lover/ex-boss and vampire Kyohei at night to serve his secretarial, carnal, and blood bank needs, but her double life begins to take a toll on her. Kaya collapses, and it results in Kyohei trying to rearrange his life to accommodate their new unusual lifestyle. Along the way he begins to realize that he might actually care for Kaya, even though she is a human woman. This series is top notch paranormal romance for those who enjoy that kind of thing, which I certainly do! – Anna N
Skip Beat!, Vol. 32 | By Yoshiki Nakamura | Viz Media – For those who love the love triangle between Ren, Kyoko and Sho, you will revel in this volume and all its glorious horribleness. Sho in particular is in fine form, showing off both his consummate skill at reading Kyoko and his complete and total immaturity when it comes to what she wants or needs. (I could do without Shoko starting to fall for him, though.) He tries the same mental manipulation on Ren, and while it may not work while Sho is there in person, Ren’s distrust of himself is enough to make it niggle regardless. This all comes to a head in the hotel room, where a phone call from Sho causes Ren and Kyoko to both fall out of character… or maybe, given the incestuous subtext between Cain and Setsu, the character and the self may be bleeding together. I warn you, the cliffhanger will drive you nuts. Can’t put this down. -Sean Gaffney
Skip Beat!, Vol. 32 | By Yoshiki Nakamura | Viz Media – What a dramatic volume! It definitely feels like the beginning of the end here, with Kyoko getting an inkling of what might’ve happened in Ren’s past, Sho pushing her buttons expertly and getting her to declare that she’ll never fall for Ren (lest she lose herself even more than she did with Sho), and then Sho promptly informing Ren of this fact. Poor Ren’s barely hanging on by a thread (a thread named Kyoko) and with two guys out to possibly snag her affections, he snaps and breaks character when they’re supposed to be on assignment as the Heel siblings, scaring her with the darkness he’s desperately trying to hide. It’s not that I want this series to end, but these developments definitely have me excited for a grand finale to come! – Michelle Smith