This week, Sean and MJlook at recent releases from Viz Media, Yen Press, and Vertical, Inc.
Blue Exorcist, Vol. 9 | By Kazue Kato | Viz Media – We wrap up the Impure King arc here, with some really impressive fire power by Rin, and a cute epilogue. Most of this volume, as you’d expect from this series, revolves around Rin and Yukio – Rin learning to accept himself for what he is and use his satanic powers for good, and Yukio learning to trust his brother (though not enough to reveal his own inner demons). Meanwhile, Mephisto continues to do what he does best – look mysterious and not give anything away. Shura, at least, seems to know he has plans for Rin, though can’t do anything about them right now. And I must admit, even if Western fans complain about “nobody dies in Jump”, I was pleased to see a few characters I thought were goners survive through the arc. As ever, Blue Exorcist is a fun romp with lots of alluring backstory. – Sean Gaffney
Devil And Her Love Song, Vol. 8 | By Miyoshi Tomori | Viz Media – Now that Anna is gone, we need to introduce new conflict into the storyline, and much to my surprise it wasn’t that signing teacher. Instead, we get a new first year, Shintaro Kurosu, who is secretly head of a vampire… wait, wrong Shojo Beat series. What Shintaro is is a classic “playboy who finds himself falling in love for real” character, and also has a way of speaking his mind. He and Maria go quite well together, something that Shin immediately notices and is quite pissed off about. Things all come to a head on the beach (great swimsuit montage as well), where Shin confronts some family demons and Shintaro makes his move. I love love love this series. Also, why ids that evil teacher STILL THERE? Why couldn’t Maria’s class be taught by Onizuka? Or Pin? (It would have been much a much shorter manga, yes.) -Sean Gaffney
The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 5 | By Shuzo Oshimi | Vertical, Inc. – Time and again this series manages to be genuinely surprising—at least on the surface. As summer vacation approaches, Kasuga and Nakamura begin to hatch their plan for taking things to “The Other Side.” Meanwhile, Saeki goes to extremes to try to win back Kasuga’s attention; but what exactly is she jealous of? Though Saeki’s actions surprised me, the feelings behind them ring uncomfortably true. Once again, these characters seem to have reached an impasse, but what will that mean for them this time? With its new anime series currently running, it seems likely that this story is far from over, but Oshimi has a gift for writing characters into corners they must forcefully bust out of on nothing but their own steam. As always, I’m dying to know what comes next. Still recommended. – MJ
Soul Eater, Vol. 13 | By Atsushi Ohkubo | Yen Press – There are three storylines that get attention as we continue our long march through the castle to stop Arachnae. First, and probably best, is Black*Star’s arrival and battle against Mifune. I say best as we get a terrific flashback showing Black*Star visiting Tsubaki’s family and seeing his resolve to get stronger is not for killing but to protect. I always love seeing the meisters and their weapons bond in Soul Eater, and this gives some additional depth. Second, we see Ox and Harvar battling Kim and Jacqueline, which is a typical “snap out of it, I still love you” shonen battle, but still sweet. And lastly, Kid and Free battle Mosquito, which gives us this volume’s cliffhanger and shows Mosquito is more than just a goofy old guy in a nice hat. Also, the “finest nose” line made me laugh out loud. Complex, but recommended. -Sean Gaffney
The Story of Saiunkoku, Vol. 9 | By Kaira Yura and Sai Yukino | Viz Media – The publishers decided that this would be a good place to end the manga, even if the light novels went on for a while longer. As a result, what we get here is a volume of ‘side stories’ that flesh out a few of the other characters. In theory, this allows us to see the depths of the familial bonds in this series, and how even if they fight, brothers still love each other. In practice, everyone in the entire cast is a giant dork throughout the volume. It’s fantastic—this is mostly gloriously silly, especially the Ryuren chapter (which is justifiably the longest), and I can’t even describe the hilarity that the ‘Shoka masks’ provoked in me. This series was a real surprise winner for me—girl strives to become a civil servant is so refreshing after a lot of “girl struggles to tell boy she likes him” series. Well done, Shurei! -Sean Gaffney