This week, MJ, Kate, David, & Michelle take a look at a slew of manga from Viz Media and one lonely manhwa from Yen Press.
13th Boy, Vol. 7 | By Sangeun Lee | Yen Press – There are few currently-running romance series I find as charming as Sangeun Lee’s 13th Boy, and exactly none can match it in sheer whimsy. Volume seven’s main drama revolves around sometimes-talking-cactus Beatrice who, in the midst of some serious heartache, reverts to his human form off-schedule without any sign of turning back, placing him smack in the middle of Hee-So’s newfound romance without a comfortable pot to retreat to. It’s an absurd situation, obviously, but though the series’ author doesn’t try to deny that fact, the emotional drama created for the story’s main characters is utterly serious. Lee’s sense of humor never sinks to self-concious eye-rolling, even in its most outrageous moments. It doesn’t hurt that I kinda ‘ship the story’s heroine with the cactus. What can I say? Still recommended. -MJ
Afterschool Charisma, Vol. 3 | By Kumiko Suekane | Viz Media – After two volumes of build-up and teasing, Kumiko Suekane finally offers readers a reward for their patience: not only does stuff blow up in volume three, but Suekane drops a nasty little surprise in one of her characters’ laps, forcing him to question his very identity as a clone. Good as volume three may be, pacing remains an issue; every time Suekane stages a bit of comic relief, the series’ creepy, unsettling vibe dissipates in a cloud of fanservice and lame historical jokes. Still, Afterschool Charisma gathers enough momentum in these chapters to overcome its narrative weaknesses, ending on a cliffhanger that’s sure to please fans. And really, what’s not to like about a manga that portrays Freud and Mozart as petulant bishies, or Rasputin as the class bad boy? -Katherine Dacey
Detroit Metal City, Vol. 9 | By Kiminori Wakasugi | Viz Media – As I struggle to come up with a summary for this volume that might distinguish it from those before, I think it may be time to admit that I’ve reached my limit with this series. I’ve been a fan since the beginning, but as is the case with so many gag manga, Detroit Metal City has worn out its gag. Yes, Negishi still wants to be a Swedish pop star, and yes, he still reverts to his death metal alter-ego whenever things (inevitably) do not go right in his sweet, cheese-tart-filled life. Though it was once interesting (and certainly hilarious) to ponder on Negishi’s real personality, the question has long outlived its potential for fascination, and even the best jokes are beginning to wear thin. Detroit Metal City, it was good to know you. But all things must pass. -MJ
Gente, Vol. 3 | By Natsume Ono | Viz Media – Is this the best Ono title available in English? Heavens, no. Did I enjoy it a great deal? Certainly. This volume is even more of a collection of casually related shorts than the previous two, but they’re good shorts with a gracious nature and a warm sense of humor. Ono takes closer looks at the lives of the distinguished staff of the Ristorante Casetta Dell’Orso. We see one man’s life before he took up the work of a waiter, and it’s an intriguing surprise. A married couple, regulars at the restaurant, brings their marital strife to the dining room, sparking a lot of gossip and some intriguing revelations. There’s family, friendship, romance, and food, and there are many worse ways to spend a sunny afternoon than in the company of Ono’s cast. Should you also be reading House of Five Leaves? Clearly. -David Welsh
Saturn Apartments, Vol. 3 | By Hisaw Iwaoka | Viz Media – The third volume of Saturn Apartments serves a hearty slice of sometimes disheartening, sometimes uplifting, and sometimes downright mysterious life. It seems that everyone besides the members of the window washers guild themselves think it’s a wretched occupation, and Mitsu refuses several job offers from wealth clients before ultimately being able to prove the importance of his job to a former classmate. Meanwhile, underemployed engineer Sohta begins work designing a craft with the capability to descend to Earth and thinks Mitsu might just be the perfect candidate to test it out someday. I’d say this volume is still about 90% episodic, but a 10% focus on an ongoing plot is a welcome change! -Michelle Smith
Vampire Knight, Vol. 12 | By Matsuri Hino | Viz Media – Volume twelve advances the narrative a full year ahead: Cross Academy is in shambles, Yuki’s uncle Rido is presumed dead, and Yuki is about to make her vampire society debut. The time jump is a wise decision, allowing Matsuri Hino to transition away from school-oriented plot lines while bringing different characters to the fore. As rewarding as it is to see villain Sara Shirabuki get a proper turn in the spotlight, however, Vampire Knight still suffers from a glaring problem: mediocre artwork. Hino lavishes so much attention on hairstyles and accessories that more basic design elements — background detail, panel flow, facial expressions — often feel like an afterthought. Though hardcore fans will be more focused on the relationships than on the art, readers with a more casual investment in the story may find the blandly undifferentiated character designs an impediment to following the story. -Katherine Dacey