This week, Sean, Michelle, & Anna look at recent releases from Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, and Yen Press.
Happy Marriage?!, Vol. 9 | By Maki Enjoji | Viz Media – We’re starting to wrap everything up here, and it shows. There’s a brief ‘I must not confess my horrible secret’ plotline here, but it’s resolved without much fuss. Hokuto can still be difficult to read, and Chiwa gets emotional, but that’s them, and we’re not doubting their Happy Marriage here. That leaves us with Hokuto’s father, whose death is not a surprise but does allow for some closure. And of course the attacks on Chiwa continue. I had already guessed that Hokuto’s ex was a red herring, but the author has done a good job at concealing the real culprit – I have my suspicions, but am still unsure. In any case, a nasty cliffhanger here, but I expect everything should work out well in the end. – Sean Gaffney
Honey Blood, Vol. 2 | By Miko Mitsuki | Viz Media – I didn’t have high hopes for volume two of Honey Blood, since I’d initially found the characters generic and their romance unconvincing, but it turned out to be quite an improvement! It helps that one can just accept that teenage Hinata and immortal vampire Junya are now a couple, and go on from there. What I really liked was that a rosy future for these two seemed downright unlikely. Hinata opines frequently about their current happiness not lasting, and a character from Junya’s past instills further doubts when he reveals that Hinata is the spitting image (and probably the descendant) of Junya’s former love, whom he admits he can never forget. And the best, most bittersweet, twist comes at the very end. Mitsuki-sensei writes that she’d hoped for a longer serialization and wasn’t able to wrap everything up to her satisfaction, but ultimately, this series turned out to be much better than I’d originally thought. – Michelle Smith
Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Vol. 3 | By Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki | Viz Media – Man, sometimes shounen manga just hits the spot! I really enjoyed this third volume of Food Wars!, in which all 980 members of Soma’s class at the Totsuki Institute go off to cooking camp, where distinguished alumni of the school set challenges in which failure means immediate expulsion. Every good shounen hero needs a worthy rival, and Soma gets his own Akira Touya in this volume in the form of Takumi Aldini, a boy his age who also grew up in a humble family restaurant and has experience cooking for actual customers. I look forward to them challenging and inspiring each other for a long time to come. Soma’s friend and class partner, Megumi, makes some welcome progress, too, and the volume ends on a cliffhanger regarding her future. Realistically, I know that she’s probably not genuinely in peril, but I still wish I had volume four here already! – Michelle Smith
My Little Monster, Vol. 5 | By Robico | Kodansha Comics – The romance and comedy in My Little Monster are both pretty good, but let’s face it: we read this series for the deeply broken characters, right? Haru’s violence continues to disturb me, and something has to give soon there – I simply don’t trust him enough. Natsume is dealing with feelings she’s not ready to handle, particularly given her past. Shizuku wonders if she’s bothering to do enough in her relationship, and Yamaken is easily the most self-aware and savvy character in the cast, but that’s not helping him at all. It all comes to a head in a disastrous ski trip, with lots of misunderstandings. This is one of the better train wrecks I’ve read, and I mean that in the best possible way. – Sean Gaffney
Phantom Thief Jeanne Vol. 5 | By Arina Tanemura | Viz Media – One of the main reasons for my enduring fondness for this series is the absolutely crazy ending, where Maron goes to heaven, explores the complexities and secrets of the tale of Genesis with a magical girl twist, and finally dukes it out with the source of all darkness in the world. Maron ends up in a much better emotional place, and is able to resolve the issues causing the theme of loss and abandonment that was explored throughout the series. There’s plenty of romance as the obstacles keeping many couples apart are finally dealt with, and the profusion of ribbons and flower petals sprinkled over all the panels will be enough to make any shoujo fan happy. There are bonus side stories in this volume as well, giving the reader the opportunity to visit with favorite characters one last time. Hands down, this is my favorite Tanemura series. Highly recommended! – Anna N
Soul Eater, Vol. 23 | By Atsushi Ohkubo | Yen Press – The major event in this volume is Kid’s journey to ask the witches for help, assisted by allies such as Kim as well as prisoners like Erika. As you can imagine, it doesn’t go well at first, but Kid’s willingness to put pride aside when it comes to the safety of the world is important, and a major development for him. He even stops being OCD about symmetry briefly! Meanwhile, Maka and Black*Star join the battle on the moon, and it’s noted that they’re not merely very powerful students, but “freaks”, the sort of soldiers you hold back toill the last minute. Which has now come, as Crona seems to have woken Asura, who is finalyl making his terifying appearance. Can’t wait for the next volume. – Sean Gaffney
Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance, Vol. 2 | By Reki Kawahara, abec, and Tsubasa Haduki | Yen Press – There’s a few brief moments in the real world here that are intriguing, with Kazuto finding it hard to reconnect with a non-fantasy life, and his love for Asuna being driven home to Suguha. The majority, however, takes place in Alfheim, with Kirito showing off his mad gaming skills in large battles, and Asuna attempting to escape and find out exactly why she and the others are trapped there. I knew she would end up recaptured, so wasn’t bothered by that – but framing it as slug-like tentacle things capturing her, along with the coarse breast size discussion in the author afterword, left a bad taste in my mouth. I may stick to the light novels in the future. – Sean Gaffney