KATE: If you buy only one manga this week, make it The Flowers of Evil. I was fully prepared to hate this series with every fiber of my feminist being, as the plot summary made it sound like Sundome: The Revenge. What I discovered, however, is that Shuzo Oshimi is a far more accomplished storyteller than Kazuto Okada. Oshimi paints a sympathetic portrait of his hero, oddball bookworm Takao Kusuga; Kusuga is the kind of earnest kid who feels uncomfortable with normal boy stuff, but isn’t confident enough to ignore his peers’ snickering. Kusuga unwittingly becomes the toy of Sawa Nakamura, an angry, confused girl who threatens to expose Kusuga as a “pervert” unless he acquiesces to her demands. The dynamic between Kusuga and Nakamura is expertly rendered; though Nakamura’s motives for blackmailing Kusuga aren’t directly explained, we can see how important it is for her to find someone—anyone—her shares her predilections. A queasy yet fascinating exploration of teenage sexuality.
SEAN: When Yen press announced Until Death Do Us Part at NYCC, I was quite excited. For one thing, it was 15 volumes and still going, and I wasn’t expecting any more licenses of long series that weren’t Naruto-esque. For another, it simply feels like it will do well here. It has swordfighting, it has future prediction, and it has lots and lots of excitement and action. It may not win any prizes for depth, but that’s never stopped me before. And it’s an omnibus, so you get two volumes in one.
MICHELLE: Having not yet read The Flowers of Evil, and having probably touted Pandora Hearts a time or two in the past, I’ll cast my vote for the fifth volume of Saturn Apartments, from VIZ’s SigIkki lineup. I’ve described the series as a low-key dystopia, as it somehow manages to charm whilst depicting a pretty bleak future for humanity. It doesn’t come out very frequently, but when it does, it’s something to be happy about.
MJ: This week, I’m with Kate. While I’m certainly enthusiastic about new volumes of Nabari no Ou and Pandora Hearts, and I’m looking forward to checking out Puella Magi Madoka Magica, this week’s must-buy is The Flowers of Evil. As I mentioned in last week’s Off the Shelf, I went into volume one of The Flowers of Evil with the expectation that it was most likely Not For Me, but it rather emphatically was for me. As Kate indicates, it succeeds on the strength of its characterization, and the fact that both of its leads are immediately sympathetic, or at least relatable. This kind of honest storytelling is absolutely the key to my heart. This series is not to be missed.
Readers, what looks good to you this week?