This week, Sean, Anna, & Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, Digital Manga Publishing, and Viz Media.
Cage of Eden, Vol. 14 | By Yoshinobu Yamada | Kodansha Comics – We’ve moved past the ‘everyone is fighting against horrible prehistoric animals’ stage of the manga, and the ‘everyone is bathing naked in rivers so you can see their breasts’ stage has at least lessened (the biggest fanservice moment in this volume is for the ladies, as Yarai shows off his manly naked body). So now we seem to be at the ‘actually trying to figure out what’s going on’ stage, as Sengoku and company explore the depths of a pyramid filled with death traps, surprisingly Japanese-made machinery, and even more giant stuff that makes no sense – plants this time. I’m not sure there’s any explanation that justifies all the buildup, but this is still a lot of good shonen fun. -Sean Gaffney
Gangsta, Vol. 2 | By Kohske | Viz Media – This volume develops a bit on the first, teasing us with a little more backstory regarding Nic and Worick and their respective backgrounds. There’s also a lot more worldbuilding, as we meet some rival families and groups who will no doubt continue to influence events. Mostly, though, it’s a volume that shows us just how terrible and knife-edge everyone’s lives are at the moment – violence runs rampant throughout, there’s tons of casualties, Nic goes into a drug-induced berzerker rampage, and even Ally, who spends almost the entire volume staying at the office, is having drug-induced hallucinations leading to psychotic breaks. If you like Black Lagoon but thought it was too cheery, Gangsta is right up your alley. – Sean Gaffney
Itazura Na Kiss, Vol. 10 | By Kaoru Tada | Digital Manga Publishing – This volume is an excellent one for showing us how far we’ve come since the first. Yes, Kotoko can still be shallow and aggravating, and Naoki can be heartless and insensitive. But it’s almost in the minority by now, as they deal with fresh new crises; the birth of her friend Satomi’s child, visiting her mother’s embarrassing family (who all have so many stories to tell her new husband), and dealing with Naoki deciding he has to intern in Kobe in order to better specialize (in pediatrics, god help those children). I’ve described Itazura Na Kiss as a bitter coffee of a manga, but the coffee now has milk and sugar in it, and the bitterness is mostly knowing it’s about to be cut short by the author’s death. – Sean Gaffney
Kimi Ni Todoke, Vol. 19 | By Karuho Shiina | Viz Media – I was a little grumpy about a third of the way through this volume, as Kento really is being a little too perfect to be realistic. But then, so is the rest of the cast, if I want to be honest. And it dawned on me that there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. This is a manga filled with nice people having quiet, gentle moments with each other. The only real conflict comes at the end, when Kazehaya’s controlling father shows up to provide a cliffhanger. Everything else is just heartwarming, sweet, and adorable moments. Even Pin, who does get to be goofily obnoxious, gets a sweet, heartwarming backstory here. I should stop trying to make this title more than what it is – just the nicest manga you’ll ever read. – Sean Gaffney
Millennium Snow, Vol. 3 | By Bisco Hatori | Viz Media – Perhaps the best and worst thing I could say about the continuation of Millennium Snow (after a ten-year hiatus) is that it reminds me of Hatori’s much more famous series, Ouran High School Host Club. Remember those episodic chapters in Ouran where the gang would try to help a schoolmate with their problems? That’s basically what’s going on in this volume, as a seemingly cold-hearted nurse turns out to be nurturing guilt over the death of her child and a bullied girl befriends an injured supernatural beastie that feeds on the power of words. It’s kind of dull. However! Ouran also had a sense of humor that appealed to me, and I found myself giggling a couple of times in this volume, namely at the image of an immortal vampire’s hesitant first encounter with a stapler and the notion of his bat servant hastening to the supermarket because “Eggs is on sale!” So, in the end, not the best ever, but I’ll read the fourth and final volume anyway. – Michelle Smith
My Little Monster, Vol. 2 | By Robico | Kodansha Comics – It’s not that the plot of My Little Monster is new and original—it is, after all, a romance manga—but I think the characterization of the protagonist, Shizuku Mizutani, is nicely done. As we begin the volume, she’s been rejected by former wild child Haru but has declared she’ll make him fall for her. Unfortunately, she has no idea how to do this, and proceeds to be her usual prickly self even while helping him out of various troublesome situations. Eventually a new character, Oshima, falls for Haru too, and Shizuku is so distracted by this that her schoolwork begins to suffer. She decides that anything that detracts from securing a stable future is unnecessary, which of course coincides with Haru seemingly realizing that he does fancy her after all. It’s a lot better than this synopsis makes it sound, and Oshima is intriguing in her own right. Plus, there is a chicken! – Michelle Smith
Sweet Rein, Vol 3 | By Sakura Tsukuba | Viz Media – If Sweet Rein has a fault, it is that it can sometimes be a tiny bit too sweet at times, but anyone who enjoyed the first two volumes of this series about a teen girl Santa and her handsome bonded transforming boy/reindeer will enjoy the third volume. The volumes follow a fairly predictable pattern of going through the seasons as the characters stubbornly refuse to age. Kurumi has to deal with Kaito during the spring, when all the reindeer have spring fever and become even more irresistible. A reindeer whose master has left him behind fixates on Kurumi in an unhealthy matter, and Kaito finally is driven to actually express a preference in a way that influences Kurumi’s behavior. This is a fun vacation read, as it isn’t terribly demanding on the reader! There’s also a bonus story from Tsukuba’s CMX series Penguin Revolution included in this volume, and I enjoyed being able to dip back into that series as well. This is light romance shoujo at its fluffiest. – Anna N.
Tiger & Bunny, Vol. 5 |By Mizuki Sakakibara, et al. | Viz Media – I haven’t exactly been complimentary in my previous reviews of Tiger & Bunny, citing an inability to connect with the lead duo, but something has really clicked for me in these past few volumes. True, the story still flows swiftly, but it also does so with admirable clarity, focusing mostly on action but without forgetting to flesh out the characters. Not only does Barnabas come to trust Kotetsu more as his partner, which is nice to see and handled in a “show don’t tell” kind of way, but we also learn more about several of the supporting Heroes and how they feel about their responsibilities and each other. The plot, involving a villainous organization responsible for killing Barnabas’ parents, may not be the most riveting thing ever, but seeing this proud guy accept help in figuring things out is enough to keep me interested. I am finally on board! – Michelle Smith