My News and Reviews
So, one of the many reasons that I’ve been incredibly busy lately (which led to me temporarily reducing the number of posts that I’ve been writing each week) is that I’m in the process of applying for a promotion at work. I’m currently putting the final touches on my dossier which is due later this week. At this point it’s already well over two hundred pages and has taken up a significant amount of my time; I’m really looking forward to being done and over with the whole thing so I can get back to reading and writing about things that I actually enjoy.
That being said, last week I announced the winner of the Kodansha Shoujo Smorgasbord manga giveaway. The post also includes a list of some of Kodansha Comics’ shoujo and josei manga, of which there’s a nice variety. The honor of the first in-depth review of the month went to Studio Kôsen’s Windrose, Volume 1 from Chromatic Press/Sparkler Monthly. Kôsen has had a few other releases in English, but I think that Windrose is probably my favorite so far. Finally, over the weekend I posted November’s Bookshelf Overload which will likely be the last list of its utterly ridiculous size for a while.
Elsewhere online in manga publishing announcements: Kodansha Comics manga are now available digitally on Overdrive, which is great news for libraries in Canada and the United States. Seven Seas is in the midst of celebrating ten days of licenses with some interesting as well as not-so-surprising choices. (At the moment, the new license tag on Seven Seas’ Tumblr may be the easiest place to see all of the new titles at once.) Yen Press probably made the biggest license announcement last week, though–Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket is being re-released in English! Yen plans to release Takaya’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest and Twinkle Stars as well.
Alley of First Love by Ellie Mamahara. I picked up Alley of First Love without knowing much about the manga except that it was a boys’ love one-shot. Sometimes that can a risky proposition ripe with potential for disappointment, but Alley of First Love ended up being a pleasant surprise. After graduating high school, Shusuke’s best friend (and crush) Atsushi left to study abroad in England with no intention of returning to Japan. But six years later he unexpectedly comes back and Shusuke must once more face the fact that his feelings for Atsushi go far beyond friendship. There were quite a few things that appealed to me about the Alley of First Love: the leads are adult men, the prominence of their tightly-knit families and community (and the realistic rumor mills that accompany those), the touches of humor and overall heartwarming nature of the story, and so on. Readers looking forward to steamy love scenes will be left wanting as they are mostly implied rather than shown (Mamahara jokes in her notes that she’s terrible at drawing them), but the emotional connection between Shusuke and Atsushi is definitely there.
Love at Fourteen, Volumes 3-4 by Fuka Mizutani. I didn’t anticipate that I would enjoy the first couple of volumes of Love at Fourteen nearly as much as I actually did. However, although I also enjoyed the third and fourth volumes, my compulsion to read more of the series has somewhat diminished. Tanaka and Yoshikawa may be the leads, but I think they may actually be some of the least interesting characters in the series. But even though their personalities aren’t particularly strong, I do like them. And I like their relationship and the portrayal of the slow development of young love. But in the end, I find that I’m more intrigued by the supporting characters and their stories. Perhaps I’m not the only one who felt this way—Mizutani adds even more of them to the series in these two volumes. My favorite character has turned out to be Nagai, a delinquent with a talent for singing. However, the way that the music teacher manipulates and leads him on is troubling. She’s supposedly fallen in love with her fourteen-year-old student. I’m not sure if Mizutani intends for it to be tragically romantic, humorous, or what, but the way it plays out and is shown in the manga comes across as creepy more than anything else.
My Love Story!!, Volume 3-6 written by Kazune Kawahara and illustrated by Aruko. I absolutely loved the first two volumes of My Love Story!! and so have made a point to collect the manga even though I’ve fallen behind in actually reading it. At first, I wasn’t really sure how long the series would be able to last before the gimmick was completely played out and became tiresome. After all, the manga was initially intended to be a one shot. Happily, My Love Story!! has yet to lose its charm for me. It continues to be funny and sweet, earnest and endearing. The story is beginning to expand more, as well. While Takeo and Yamato’s incredibly adorable and wholesome romance is at the heart of it all, the manga is now exploring the lives and relationships of their friends and family members as well. At one point it seemed as though My Love Story!! was going to be somewhat episodic, but some longer, continuing storylines are being introduced as are new, recurring characters. My Love Story!! always manages to make me happier just by reading it, so I’ll definitely continue following it.