This week, Michelle, Sean, & Anna look at recent and upcoming releases from Yen Press and Viz Media.
Bloody Brat, Vol. 1 | Original Series by Yuuki Kodama, Story and Art by Kanata Yoshino | Yen Press – Typically, I’m not much of one for comedic spinoffs of successful series, but the humor in Blood Lad happens to suit me, and I reckoned the adorable Mamejirou would be featured prominently, so I decided to give Bloody Brat a try. I actually found it a bit less funny than the original, but there were still a few things that made me giggle. Most of it, though, is neither awful nor amusing. Staz is late to a territory challenge because he’s stuck in the bathroom without toilet paper. Fuyumi is plagued by magic-sapping ogre undies. Bell gains weight and goes on a quest for a miracle drug. It is impressive how well Yoshino can draw in Kodama’s style, though. In the end, this really is just for pre-existing Blood Lad fans. If you’re of that group, I’d say it’s still worth checking out. – Michelle Smith
Blue Exorcist, Vol. 11 | By Kazue Kato | Viz Media – This seems very much like a breather volume for this series, after all the action and darkness we’ve had before. Sure, there’s Yukio’s worry that he has evil within him that he is unaware of, but that’s a normal part of his character arc. Also, we get a lot of ship tease between our love triangle, as Shiemi decides to ask Yukio to the school dance, but is rejected, and Rin, who was also going to ask Shiemi, decides not to now, and everyone is wonderfully clueless and it all ends with an OT3 at the Bon dance. (An innocent OT3, I might add.) This is just a breather, though – there’s more darkness ahead, seemingly involving creepy student Nemu Takara and our favorite grumpy eyebrows girl Izumo. I expect we’ll get less fluffiness next time around. – Sean Gaffney
Midnight Secretary, Vol. 5 | by Tomu Ohmi | Viz Media – I do so enjoy this mashup of vampire romance and office politics. This volume finally shows strict vampire boss Kyohei showing some vulnerability and admitting his feelings to his secretary Kaya, as he gives up drinking from anyone but her. This causes problems in vampire society and Kyohei’s integrity is called into question, as a predator vampire with only one person to prey on is simply not done. Kaya continues to wonder about the relationship between Kyohei and long time vampire friend Marika, and while she does still manage to keep her professional demeanor on most of the time, her true emotions start showing through. I think this series has a couple more volumes left, which will be just the right amount to wrap things up in a satisfying way. – Anna N
Nisekoi: False Love, Vol. 2 | By Naoshi Komi | Viz Media – I haven’t really been keeping up with this series at all, so the reveal at the end of this volume actually did come as a surprise to me, even if, looking back at what I read, it should have been obvious. Most of this volume is dedicated to deepening the love triangle of the three leads, and showing how their best friends are trying to nudge them in the right direction (even if said best friends don’t like each other at all, though I suspect there’s a ‘yet’ in there). Mostly this is very standard harem comedy fare, with very little that is original or surprising. But it’s decently told, the three leads never get so annoying that you want the manga to end fast, and the introduction of Tsugumi should provide some more action scenes, if nothing else. This is popcorn manga, and worth reading if you like the genre. – Sean Gaffney
Psyren, Vol. 15 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | Viz Media – One of the things I’ve liked best about Psyren is its focus on the mindset of its villains, and what they are striving for beyond ‘power’. There’s a monologue in this volume about trying to fill the emptiness that each of them feels with violence and greater and greater enemies that’s quite touching, even though it doesn’t lead to any sort of decision to stop. Likewise, if you recruit an emotionally damaged child and teach her how to destroy, don’t be surprised if you end up with an emotionally damaged teen. At least Sakurako is able to move past the differences in her split personality and her own tortured love for Ageha and come to a peaceful understanding. The final volume is up next, and I suspect it will wrap up too fast, being a Jump series – cut short is the name of the game. Still looking forward to it. – Sean Gaffney
Rin-Ne, Vol. 14 | By Rumiko Takahashi | Viz Media – Rin-Ne has always been more along the lines of UY aand Ranma rather than Inu Yasha, meaning everything here is silly and comedic. I particularly likes the possession of Jumonji, where it’s unclear if he’s using it as an excuse to abuse Rinne or not. We also get a new antagonist introduced, because that’s what these series do. Renge is a damashigami, meaning she has to harvest innocent souls before their time. She’s also better at getting the drop on Rinne and Sakura than previous villains have been. Luckily, as with a few other previous villains, she reckons without the true power of Rinne’s poverty and parsimoniousness, which manages to save the day. Rin-Ne is never going to win any awards for best manga, and it’s only recommended to Takahashi fans. Those fans should have fun, though. – Sean Gaffney
Strobe Edge, Vol. 10 | By Io Sakisaka | Viz Media – I’ve been getting a little impatient with the pacing of this series in the past couple volumes, so I was happy to see that the final volume wrapped up everything so nicely. This is one of those series where it is never in doubt that the main couple Ren and Ninako will get together, so I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by mentioning that they finally work through all the issues that were preventing them from officially dating and embark on a real relationship. It is all very sweet and heartfelt. The main story wraps up quickly, and there are a couple of additional side stories with the other characters included in this volume. Sometimes straightforward well-executed romance shoujo is exactly what a reader needs, and Strobe Edge fills this role easily. I hope the conclusion of this series means that Shojo Beat will release more Sakisaka manga in English. – Anna N