This week, Michelle, Melinda, & Sean check out recent releases from JManga, Yen Press, SuBLime Manga, and VIZ Media.
Ai Ore!, Vol. 7 | By Mayu Shinjo | VIZ Media – To be honest, I’m not sure why I’m still reading Ai Ore!. It’s a lazily written, episodic type of shoujo comedy that I just can’t like, and Akira as a character is especially grating to me. In this volume, he gets jealous of Kaoru, Mizuki’s childhood friend and former bandmate, and so embarks upon a career as a female idol just to get Mizuki’s attention. When this plan fails, he decides to make a serious bid for stardom, at which point Mizuki communicates her feelings for him in song (barf) and declares that he’s her prince (barf), causing him to abandon the project. On top of Akira’s personality changing half a dozen times over the course of the volume, everything that happens is just so stupid and pointless that I am profoundly relieved that my completist nature will only compel me to to endure one more volume of this mess. – Michelle Smith
Ninja Papa, Vol. 3 | By Yasuto Yamamoto | JManga – I think the author is starting to run out of ways to use his basic theme—I am a wimpish salaryman who nevertheless becomes a BADASS NINJA when pushed—as volume 3’s confrontations seem less over the top and silly, which was really the main reason to read this series in the first place. Honestly, there was too much salaryman and not enough ninja. We get the basic seinen themes restated – don’t let go of your dreams, stand up for what you believe in, even an ugly nebbish loser can attract gorgeous women. Halfway through things perk up when we get a flashback that shows us how Nobuo met his wife and began to doubt the ways of the clan. Unfortunately, his wife proves to be as just one-dimensionally sweet and wonderful in the past. There’s still cool ninja moves, but this series is starting to lose me. -Sean Gaffney
Punch Up!, Vol. 1 | By Shiuko Kano | SuBLime Manga – I’m late to the party on this title, which I only picked up after repeated recommendations in the comments of last week’s BL Bookrack: Best of 2012—and the reasons for those recommendations is pretty clear. Punch Up! is a smart, sexy title with just the right balance of honest characterization and guy-on-guy action for pleasing nearly any BL fan. Shiuko Kano serves up a host of messy characters in messy relationships (the best kind for storytelling, if you ask me), and if it all feels just a bit rushed, well, that’s the fantasy kicking in. That last bit is my only real quibble with the series so far, and I’m anxious to see if things slow down to a more believable pace over the next few volumes. Recommended. – Melinda Beasi
RIN-NE, Vol. 10 | By Rumiko Takahashi | VIZ Media – It’s been a full year since I last reviewed RIN-NE, and most of what I said about it back then still applies, especially as relates to the part about nothing ever changing in the characters’ personal relationships. Still, I usually enjoy a volume of RIN-NE a bit more than this one, which has rather too much Ageha—a young, belligerent tsundere of a shinigami—for my liking. The chapters having to do with her contentious relationship with her contracted black cat are particularly draining. And speaking of—I need to start a tally box for how many ghosts died as a result of overwork and strain! Maybe this is a common problem in Japan or something. Anyway, Takahashi never fails to muster some fun moments, but there are certainly better volumes of RIN-NE (even if not substantially different). -Michelle Smith
Soul Eater NOT!, Vol. 2 | By Atsushi Ohkubo | Yen Press – The least interesting part of this spinoff for me is what seems to be attracting others – the moe cuteness. I find it far less cute than I’d like, and the faux-yuri shenanigans are simply grating, mostly as they’re so obviously tease with no payoff. That said, I did enjoy this volume more than Volume 1, for two reasons. First, we got to see the series (a prequel to Soul Eater proper) interact with the main title. Liz and Patti as grumpy, just-arrived-at-DWMA waitresses was a thing of beauty, and Maka reminds us once again why she’s the heroine of the main series. Secondly, the dark horror overtones that is a primary reason to read Soul Eater aren’t totally whitewashed here, as the cliffhanger is sudden, tragic and chilling. All of which shows I can never take anything by Ohkubo at face value. -Sean Gaffney