Michelle and Anna are holding down the fort this week and, surprisingly, it’s not all shoujo!
Black Rose Alice, Vol. 5 | By Setona Mizushiro | VIZ Media – I’m usually a bit hesitant to recommend series that are on hiatus, but Black Rose Alice is the rare exception, just because it is so quirky, unsettling, and well-executed. The emotional stakes go even higher as Alice meets up with Koya, the student who Azuza saved when she gave up her life and joined the vampires. Mizushiro never goes for tidy resolution, and the encounter between Alice and Koya will continue to affect the rest of the group. I’m sad that there’s only one more volume left, but I’ll take whatever I can get of this fascinating series. – Anna N
Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Vol. 7 | By Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki | VIZ Media – Sometimes, Food Wars! makes me feel bad for liking it. In this volume, the preliminary round of the Fall Classic gets underway, and I appreciate that quite a few female students—including unassuming Megumi, from whom the audience does not expect much—make an impression. One of these girls, Miyoko Hojo, is driven by the desire to achieve culinary prestige that the sexist all-male kitchen staff at her family restaurant will have to respect when she returns to lead them one day. Again, I appreciate that! What I don’t appreciate is that Hojo’s introduction features an extreme boob closeup and “bwoing” and “jiggle” sound effects. Siiiiiigh. I thought I had become inured to the fanservice in this series, but I guess not. Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable volume and features some tasty-looking curries. I look forward to seeing what Soma has come up with. – Michelle Smith
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 13 | By Shinobu Ohtaka | VIZ Media – By Magi standards, volume thirteen is merely pretty good, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it is bad. Rather, it’s transitional. Aladdin, Morgiana, and Hakuryu (the latter of whom gets to be significantly useful on several occasions!) all have individual quests they want to pursue, so they set sail from Sindria, ostensibly leaving a sulky Alibaba behind. Only, he has stowed away and has seemingly abandoned his petulance in favor of a goal of his own. And, indeed, when the group encounters some pirates who are abducting children, it’s a return to the clear-eyed, doing-the-right-thing Alibaba of the past as he declares he and his friends will save the day. And that’s great to see! It’s just all so introductory. I’m sure the next volume will be much more satisfying. – Michelle Smith
Say I Love You., Vol. 9 | By Kanae Hazuki | Kodansha Comics – It’s a rare thing that I feel bad for a romantic rival in a shoujo manga, particularly one with a track record of nastiness like Megumi’s, but when her contest-winning “date” with Yamato makes inescapably clear there’s no room for her in his heart, she earns my sympathies. Despite trading on her cute looks, she wants someone who looks past her appearance to really see her, and that’s something the Kurosawa boys seem genetically disposed to do, as the rest of the volume tells the story of Yamato’s brother, Daichi, and the love he once had, then lost, and is now struggling to move on from. In a way, this reminds me of Hatori’s story in Fruits Basket, and I wonder if we’ll check in with him from time to time, as he lets down his walls and achieves happiness once more. I really enjoy this series. – Michelle Smith
Skip Beat!, Vol. 35 | By Yoshiki Nakamura | VIZ Media – Much as I love Skip Beat!, I have mixed feelings about this volume. On the one hand, Ren talking to Kyoko in the guise of Corn the fairy allows him to admit his feelings freely and also to make progress toward accepting that his terrible past experiences were necessary to get him where he is today, where he was able to meet Kyoko. On the other, Ren is tricking Kyoko, using her unquestioning belief in fairies to explain away his appearance and manufacturing a story about a curse in order to manipulate her into kissing him. When she is exceedingly reluctant, this grown man literally says to a teenage girl, “Liar. You said you’d do anything to help me but you didn’t mean it.” Of course, he instantly feels bad about it, but ugh. I hope she is righteously pissed off when she eventually learns the truth. – Michelle Smith