This week, MJ, Kate, David, & Michelle take a look at several ongoing series from Viz Media, Digital Manga Publishing, TOKYOPOP, and Yen Press.
Bunny Drop, vol. 3 | By Yumi Unita | Yen Press – I think this column is a perfect venue for new volumes of series like Bunny Drop where all I basically have to say is that it’s still excellent. This time around, Daikichi deals with the milestone of Rin starting primary school, carries on traditions that his parents observed for him, and adds to the ever-growing list of responsibilities people face when they’re guardian for a child. For her part, Rin adapts to her new school and helps a friend do the same. Unita is such a smart and warm observer of the small moments that make up everyday life and the subtle connections that represent family at its best. I seriously can’t speak highly enough about this book and hope you’re all reading it. I’m thrilled that it received an Eisner nomination. – David Welsh
Countdown 7 Days | By Kemuri Karakara | Digital Manga Publishing – Kemuri Karakara’s latest series, Countdown 7 Days, focuses on the students at the Sheol Soul School — or should that be Schul? — an academy that prepares the recently deceased for the afterlife. Though I’m temperamentally predisposed to like manga with a supernatural theme, I’d be the first to admit that Karakara doesn’t seem to be in control of the material; the characters have no chemistry with each other, and the basic rules of the afterlife are so poorly explained that much of the action in volume one doesn’t make much sense. It’s a shame the plot is more muddle than linear narrative, as Karakara has a flair for drawing the kind of nattily attired men, fancy weapons, and evocative settings that inspire fan fiction and cosplay. -Katherine Dacey
High School of the Dead, vol. 2 | Story by Daisuke Sato, Art by Shouji Sato| Yen Press – The zombie action continues in volume two, but though the apocalyptic intrigue is beginning to ramp up as police and other authorities begin treating even living citizens as acceptable losses, the series’ fanservice has officially lost all touch with reality. While the volume begins promisingly, it later degenerates into unbelievable sexual fantasy, as we’re asked to believe that not only do average young women spend baths together playfully groping at each other’s (amazingly large) breasts, but that they are also keen to prance about in their thong underwear while all the menfolk remain fully clothed. Meanwhile, the avocados of doom have definitely grown. Suitable as wank-fodder only.– MJ
K-ON!, vol. 2 | By Kakifly | Yen Press – So, I have to wonder… am I really supposed to find any of this funny? When Yui, the ditzy lead guitarist of the band formed by the members of the pop music club, suddenly forgets a simple chord, am I supposed to laugh? How about when she acts superior to the new girl, Azusa, whose talent eclipses her own? Worst of all, how about when their faculty advisor, who is fixated on her students’ bust sizes, actually grabs one girl’s breasts? None of this is in the least bit amusing to me. The only reason I liked this volume a little more than the first is the introduction of Azusa, who motivates the girls to actually practice once in a while. Scintillating stuff, that. – Michelle Smith
Neko Ramen, vol. 3 | By Kenji Sonishi | TOKYOPOP – The third volume of Neko Ramen finds Taisho experimenting with “Boomeramen” (it comes back when the customer throws it), dressing as a panda (“They’re trendy,” he explains), and opening a high-end restaurant called Neko Ramen Hills. Though it’s clear to the reader – and to the shop’s only regular customer – that Taisho’s ideas are terribly misguided, the cat cook remains a fierce optimist, undeterred by failure and impervious to suggestion or criticism. That kind of character isn’t always the easiest to like, but Taisho is oddly winning in his dedication to building a successful business; it’s hard not to root for him, even though he never seems to learn from ill-advised promotions or impulsive hiring practices. Highly recommended. – Katherine Dacey
Otomen, vol. 9 | By Aya Kanno | Viz Media – Just days after rashly claiming my disillusionment with Otomen as a multi-volume series, I decided to give it another chance, with somewhat mixed results. Though a sub-plot in which Juta is nearly (but then not) outed as shoujo mangaka Jewel Sachihana only feeds my frustration with the series’ situation comedy setup, this volume’s ramped-up gender commentary has almost won me back over. Whether it’s enough to keep me hooked for more than another volume remains to be seen, but I can’t deny that things look more promising than they have in a while. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Kanno’s sense of humor and artwork are both just as stunning as ever. Cautiously re-recommended.– MJ
Noura saysApril 11, 2011 at 8:10 am
As a fan of slice of life, Bunny Drop was a must get for me. Honestly, I didn’t find myself enjoying it all that much at first but I have been enjoying it more with volumes 2 & 3. In these two volumes, we get to see Rin’s biological mother for the first time which was a bit of a shock to me given how young she is. I am also curious about the assistant who is always with her. Is he a boyfriend? Too many questions. Can’t wait for volume 4.
Otomen is getting better with each volume. It is definitely not one of my favorites but it is growing on me and the characters are likable. I would love to keep on collecting it to see how things will be with these otomen guys. It sure would be interesting to see how Asuka’s mom will react once she finds out her son is an otomen and I would love to see his father too. Can’t wait for the next volume.
Michelle Smith saysApril 11, 2011 at 8:45 am
I’m glad to see you liked volume nine of Otomen, Melinda. I had paused after volume seven and hadn’t even bought any new volumes, but the impending release of volume ten was making me feel like checking it out again. Perhaps I shall post my own thoughts in this column whenever that volume comes out. :)
Travis saysApril 12, 2011 at 5:03 am
I liked K-On and found it generally cute, but for a four-panel manga, it really wasn’t very funny at all.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 12, 2011 at 9:52 am
To be honest, I don’t find most 4-koma titles very funny. There are a few exceptions: as I noted above, I’m a big fan of Neko Ramen, and I’ve been enjoying I Am a Turtle on the SigIKKI website. But generally, my experience with the format has been pretty mixed. I imagine it’s the equivalent of trying to read something like Foxtrot or Dilbert in Japanese: the humor tends to be too culturally specific to cross cultural barriers, especially when the artist has just four panels to work with.
Travis saysApril 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm
Yeah, I often wonder how gag manga (which is not always 4-panel; I wonder this about Dr Slump, too) would work in English. However, I don’t read manga in English, and I can assure you, K-On is just as bafflingly unfunny in Japanese. :p The “punchlines” are all just “aren’t they cute!?” rather than actual jokes.
Aaron saysApril 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm
I found K-on! funny at least the humour was half way comprehensible un like Lucky Star wich had me running to the end notesto get what 2-chan or Japanese pop culture refrnce was being made or why it was supoused to be funny.