This week, Sean, Anna, & Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, Viz Media, Yen Press, and Seven Seas.
Attack on Titan Junior High, Vol. 2 | By Saki Nakagawa | Kodansha Comics – A word of warning: as with the first volume, if you think that accurate translation is the most important thing in a North American release, this volume may make you catch fire just by touching it. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for an adaptation bursting with ridiculous humor, you’ve come to the right place. Even when the manga tries briefly to run with a serious plotline, it’s not only filled with multiple gags per page, but it undercuts the serious by talking about how crappy the Naruto manga’s become as it’s ending. There’s Eren being racist, Hange being hyper, Ymir loving (and insulting) Krista, and the introduction of Erwin and Hannes to the series. This is tremendously stupid, in all the best ways. – Sean Gaffney
Black Rose Alice, Vol. 2 | By Setona Mizushiro | Viz Media – I really was not prepared for Black Rose Alice to get more awesome, but that’s exactly what it does in its second volume. The transplanted soul of 28-year-old teacher Azusa Kikukawa awakes in the 16-year-old body that once belonged to a Viennese aristocrat whom vampire Dimitri once loved and learns exactly what’s expected of her in exchange for Dimitri saving her lover’s life. What is expected is pretty dark, but Mizushiro-sensei sort of half-buries this with cuteness, resulting in a volume with a really interesting and inescapable undercurrent. Honestly, reading this manga feels somewhat like reading a novel, so sure-footed is the storytelling and characterization, but with the added benefit of some terrific non-verbal reaction shots, especially from Dimitri and Kai, one of the vampires vying for the chance to propagate with Azusa (now renamed Alice). This is fascinating stuff. Get on board! – Michelle Smith
A Bride’s Story, Vol. 6 | By Kaoru Mori | Yen Press – I think I’m finally starting to be won over in regards to Amir. I had trouble getting a handle on her in the first few volumes, finding her a bit too detached for my tastes. But we return to her after a few volumes’ absence now, and she has a lot to be emotional about – her family has now come to take her back by force, even though some of her brothers may disagree with this; said family is allying with treacherous Russian gun-runners; and Karluk is growing up, and chafing at still being considered a child. This culminates in a magnificent battle, drawn with verve and attention to detail. It looks like we’ll be following a new bride in the next volume, so I appreciate that we saw Amir and company here again – and I like her a lot more now. – Sean Gaffney
Food Wars, Vol. 3 | By Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki – This series is slowly winning me over. I enjoyed the third volume of Food Wars much more than previous volumes. The elite cooking academy goes to a resort, not for a relaxing vacation but for grueling tests with the harshest taskmasters possible – successful graduates of their school. Soma finally meets a rival worthy of his attention when the half-Japanese half-Italian Takumi Aldini shows up and promptly challenges him. Takumi has a tendency to make aggressive pronouncements that then turn out to be very anti-climatic, but his approach to food is similar to Soma’s. Seeing the students of cuisine being pitted against the quirky graduates of their program was amusing, and I’m looking forward to the next volume. – Anna N
Gangsta, Vol. 4 | By Kohske | Viz Media – Between Gangsta and Dorohedoro, it may be that the most violent titles on the manga market at the moment are both being drawn by women, which is awesome. There’s also more of the complex plot, as we find one of the new villains is an old childhood friend of Worick and Nicholas, and that there’s a group – supported it seems by the general populace – who simply want all Twilights wiped out entirely. There’s also Alex, who not only can’t escape her past – she’s still being told prostitute is her best and possibly only option – but also recalls she is searching for her brother, whose appearance at the end of this volume is one of the least shocking plot twists ever. Complex, but also fun to read. – Sean Gaffney
Kokoro Connect, Vol. 2 | By Sadanatsu Anda and CUTEG | Seven Seas – After a first volume establishing the mind-swapping premise, things settle down here into more prosaic matters – a love triangle and teenage angst. In fact, the teenage angst is a particularly good spotlight. as Inaba stresses herself into being sick over worries that, once revealed, turn out to be fairly ordinary. This manga seems to be about secrets that can’t help but be revealed, so it’s nice to see that some of what folks think is a huge secret turns out to be no big deal. (Also, it’s refreshing to see a female character admit they masturbate in a non-porn title.) I suspect Iori’s worries are more complicated and harder to magically fix, and also that Taichi is not the best one to do it. We’ll see what happens. – Sean Gaffney
Phantom Thief Jeanne, Vol. 5 | By Arina Tanemura | Viz Media – Phantom Thief Jeanne comes to an end with this volume, wrapping up in a thoroughly shoujotastic yet satisfying fashion. After resolving the cliffhanger from the end of the last volume, things begin moving quickly. Maron ends up meeting God (depicted as a glowing ball of light), who drafts her to participate in one final fight against the Demon Lord. I wondered how this would work, since Jeanne basically has no powers aside from sealing demons located in paintings, but I should’ve known it would play out in the most magical girl way possible. So, maybe the resolution was a little too easy, but I really can’t argue about any aspect of it. I particularly enjoyed seeing the eventual fate of a couple of supporting characters who are finally able to find happiness together. Definitely recommended. – Michelle Smith