This week, Sean and Michelle look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Viz Media, and Kodansha Comics.
Alice in the Country of Clover: The Lizard Aide | By QuinRose and Job | Seven Seas – It’s never a good sign when the main story of an Alice volume ends two-thirds of the way into the book, and it’s doubly bad when they have to pad it out with Crimson Empire. But the main problem with this is that it stars Gray Ringmarc, who is one of the characters we’ve met and cared about the least in these volumes. He’s introduced in Clover, and without the games as a base, there’s not as much impetus to care about him compared to major players like Blood or Ace, or even Boris, who got seven volumes to get fleshed out. Add to that that Alice is less damaged here (making her less interesting), and the art being subpar, and you have a thoroughly unessential volume. – Sean Gaffney
Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Vol. 3 | By Ark Performance | Seven Seas – Much of this volume involves the battle between the heroes and the bad guys’ and it’s well-told, making things tense and fleshing out the villains a bit more while still keeping them mysterious. Unsurprisingly, the villain that survives is the stoic one on the cover. More intriguing is the brief look at what makes Gunzou tick; Maruri clearly is carrying a torch for him, but says that she can’t be around him as he’s too perfect, which is also his greatest weakness. This scene was needed as Gunzou’s implacability was indeed becoming a weakness for the series, but now that we see there may be something behind it, it bears further study. A cut above the ‘girls and war machines’ subgenre. – Sean Gaffney
Girls Und Panzer, Vol. 3 | By Girls Und Panzer Project and Ryohichi Saitaniya | Seven Seas – Speaking of the ‘girls and war machines’ subgenre, as well as titles created by a committee, our band of tankery girls has another battle this time round, with the stakes raised considerably. Indeed, perhaps raised a bit too much: seeing Miho be told that if they lose, she’ll be disinherited is bad enough, but adding to that that the entire school will be shut down if they lose seems a bit over the top. That said, seeing this particular battle take place in snowy conditions adds a bit of spice to the tank battle, and while the outcome is not yet in doubt (it will be once we hit the finals), it’s close enough to keep us interested. This wraps up next volume, and should have a good ending. – Sean Gaffney
Jaco the Galactic Patrolman | By Akira Toriyama | Viz Media – Though I failed to love Dr. Slump and have yet to try Dragon Ball, I typically enjoy Akira Toriyama’s one-volume manga, and Jaco is no exception. Silly, charming, and absolutely suitable for all ages, this is the story of a diminutive, posturing (yet occasionally genuinely kind of badass) galactic patrolman who crash lands on earth and into the solitary life of widower scientist Omori. At first he’s ready to eliminate earthlings on account of all the crappy ones he meets, but he eventually encounters some good ones, too, and bravely saves a lot of lives without hesitation. Okay, yes, there are a couple of jokes about burps, boogers, and pee, but catering to the target demographic is certainly understandable and the end result wasn’t offputting to this totally middle-aged lady. I think it’s time I faced the fact that I clearly must try Dragon Ball – Michelle Smith
Kiss of the Rose Princess Vol. 2 | By Aya Shouoto | Viz Media -This series is nine volumes in total, which surprises me, as this reads more like the middle volume of a three-part series. We’re introduced to a childhood friend of Anise’s, and he not only turns out to be a missing knight, but also an evil knight, and also a love rival, and oh yes, an Osaka hothead. Plus we get a rather startling revelation about Seiran, which I won’t spoil here, but does shake things up quite a bit. Add to that the return of Anise’s emotionally abusive father, who needless to say is unhappy, and you have something that should be reaching a dramatic climax next time. Except it isn’t. Oh well. The title continues to hold my attention as good meat-and-potatoes shoujo. – Sean Gaffney
Missions of Love, Vol. 10 | By Ema Toyama | Kodansha Comics – We continue to deal with the worst people ever, as Yukina finally gets a confession, but still has trouble dealing with the aftermath of her first love. She orders Shigure to make her forget, but that’s easier said than done, particularly with Akira still trying to sabotage things. This culminates in her going on romantic dates with both of them, which lets the reader know how she feels (Akira is the ‘like a brother’ sort of love), but she remains in the dark. Meanwhile, Mami seems to be trying to get over Shigure, and seems to like Akira, even if she doesn’t know it. And who’s this new guy? He has a sneer, must be evil. If all this sounds exciting to you, you’ll love it. If you think “they all sound like terrible people”… you may love it as well. – Sean Gaffney
My Love Story!!, Vol. 3 | By Kazune Kawahara and Aruko | Viz Media – Much of the first half of this third volume consists of Yamato trying to push their relationship forward a little – we’re talking kisses on the cheek here, but Takeo can’t even comprehend that, being the innocent sort who’s never really had to think about that aspect of love before. This suits Yamato just fine mostly, as I think she wants to take things slowly as well (just a little faster than he does), and she also likes his outgoing-do-good self the best and worries that he might try to change it to suit her – which indeed he does try (and fails) here. After all that romance, we then get a final chapter that’s filled with hilarity. This continues to be the sweetest shoujo around. – Sean Gaffney