This week, Michelle, Sean, and Melinda check out recent releases from Yen Press, Viz Media, and Seven Seas.
Bunny Drop, Vol. 10 | By Yumi Unita | Yen Press - This final volume of Bunny Drop (comprised of short stories) does nothing to clarify the mixed feelings I have about the series. I appreciate having more time with Rin and Kouki as kids, especially seeing how Kouki reacted to having a father figure like Daikichi in his life, or how he ended up on a delinquent trajectory in middle school. There’s also a fun chapter about how Rin’s mangaka mother met her assistant/husband. If the whole volume had been set in the past, that might have been ideal, but the final story, “And Then,” affords readers a glimpse of Rin and Daikichi’s married life, which basically looks just like their pre-marriage life. Their dynamic seems exactly the same to me, and though I suppose I prefer that to scenes of them making out, it’s also kind of depressing that Rin never really got out and experienced life on her own. - Michelle Smith
Magi, Vol. 5 | By Shinobu Ohtaka | Viz Media – Inequity is a sad reality in most worlds, fictional or no, and Magi is no exception, as Alibaba’s flashback shows us his origins and reveals how much of the ‘villainous gang’ presented her are simply fighting for basic needs. The current ruler, of course, is a typical ‘they deserve to starve to death’ type King, but at least the good guys now have Sinbad on their side. That said, the real highlight of this volume is the debut of Judar, who has a real over the top villainy to him that appalls the senses. Naturally, he’s a magi as well, meaning he’ll have to fight with Aladdin – a fight that is evenly matched even with Ugo’s help. In fact, Ugo seems to be almost enraged. A nice solid volume of Magi. - Sean Gaffney
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 20 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – While it may seem a bit unbelievable that I’ve waited this long to delve into the newest volume of Pandora Hearts, I’ll admit that the fact that we’re nearly caught up with Japan (and are therefore now experiencing longer wait times between volumes) has me feeling a bit anxious. How can I survive without my regular dosage? How? And volume twenty does nothing to relieve my condition, what with its increasingly tense plot, relationship building, joyous reunions (welcome back, Alice!), and dramatic (if not wholly unexpected) ending. Sean recently joked that the site might have to shut down in mourning when this series ends, and I suspect he’s on to something. Oh, Pandora Hearts, how I love the way you hurt me. Still recommended. Y’know. Just in case you wondered. - Melinda Beasi
Strike Witches: Maidens in the Sky, Vol. 2 | By Humikane Shimada, Projekt Kagonish and Yuuki Tanaka | Seven Seas – I had my issues with the first volume of this series, but it did in fact make sense and have an actual story that introduced the main heroes. This second volume, unfortunately, drops that in favor of pandering to those who have seen the anime, dropping in at least 10 different characters who apparently starred in that version of the story. Which is nice for those who wanted to see them, but for me it’s just a parade of names and quirks. Between that, the ‘look, panties!’ art, and the fact that our heroine is incompetent except when people’s lives are at stake, I’m afraid that I found Strike Witches intensely frustrating overall. - Sean Gaffney
Sweet Rein, Vol. 2 | By Sakura Tsubasa | Viz Media. – The lead relationship in this manga is a bit fuzzy to me (Kaito, in particular, needs more to do besides be the perfect reindeer boyfriend), so I am pleased to see that we had a lot of focus on Kaito’s brother, Rihito, and his much more grumpy and standoffish relationship with his newfound Santa, who is a young man working extra jobs in order to support his younger sister after their parents died. There’s a bit of BL tease here, but mostly it draws on the reindeer/Santa relationship, and how it manages to draw out Rihito’s nicer side almost despite itself. On the whole, though, and not helped by a very weak unrelated one-shot at the end, this isn’t as strong as its first volume. - Sean Gaffney
Voice Over! Seiyu Academy, Vol. 4 | By Maki Minami | Viz Media – One thing I really like about this manga is that the romance barely exists. This series is about Hime’s acting career, and even if she does bond with Senri, there’s no sense that it’s going to resolve anytime soon, nor should it. Right now this is about Hime learning how far she has to go (I loved her realization that all her lines sounded the same), and dealing with a highly competitive and biased acting world that may be out to get her before she even begins. As with Minami’s previous series, Special A, the reader has to accept the fact that Hime’s shininess is one of the things that will never go away. The key is finding out how to use that shininess for good… and by good, I mean good acting. - Sean Gaffney