This week, MJ, Sean, and Michelle take a look at recent releases from VIZ Media and Yen Press.
Bunny Drop, Vol. 7 | Yumi Unita | Yen Press – After commenting on the last volume that mangaka Yumi Unita seemed “less comfortable writing Rin’s voice than she was writing Daikichi’s,” I’m now prepared to take that back completely. Unita shines in her portrayal of Rin in volume seven, particularly during the last half of the volume when Rin begins to show interest in finding out about her birth mother. Any awkwardness over the series’ time jump has vanished with the previous volume as well, and it almost feels at this point as if those years weren’t missing at all. Older versions of Rin, Daikichi, Kouki, and even absent mom Masako are rich with history, and it seems clear that even if we were not privy to their offscreen years, those years absolutely happened in Unita’s imagination. Ultimately, this series continues to be warm, compelling, and surprisingly poignant. Definitely recommended. – MJ
Durarara!!, Vol. 4 | By Ryohgo Narita, Akiyo Satorigi, and Suzuhito Yasuda | Yen Press – With this fourth volume, which correlates with the end of the first novel, the manga adaptation of Durarara!! comes to a temporary hold (resuming in Durarara!! Saika). And so we get an ending that’s a little bit confusing, with revelations that would mean a lot more if we actually had gotten to know any of these (far too many) characters aside from Celty, who is admittedly pretty fascinating. Unfortunately, Celty and another female character end up declaring their love for unrepentantly murderous fellows, which gets my feminist goat and tarnishes Celty’s moment of empowerment when she realizes she doesn’t need to be ashamed of what she is. Durarara!! has certainly been interesting, and I will definitely check out its continuation, but it will probably never be one of my favorites.– Michelle Smith
Kimi ni Todoke, Vol. 15 | By Karuho Shiina | VIZ Media – Our main couple does get a bit of attention here—particularly Sawako’s worries about her relationship’s progression—but this volume’s big focus is on Chizuru and Ryu. We get a long, sad flashback to their childhoods, showing a turning point in their lives, and also hinting (though Chizuru has forgotten) why being treated like a brother bothers Ryu so much. It gets quite emotional, and the catharsis on the last few pages is welcome. The series continues to show stasis as a bad thing in life—always move forward. As for Kent and Ayane, I must admit I still have my issues with Kent—I’d like to see him be a little more flawed, as he was when he first appeared—but his passive/aggressive patience is, I suppose, one way of trying to court Ayane. Will it work? Dunno, let’s find out next volume. – Sean Gaffney
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 11 | By Izumi Tsubaki | VIZ Media – Tsubaki not being one to let the genre ‘shoujo’ mean much of anything to her, this current arc of Oresama Teacher has read much like a shonen battle arc, or even an RPG. Every volume, Mafuyu needs to take down a new mid-level boss, using both force (which doesn’t work here) and her basic power of being nice and shiny (which does). I admit I didn’t find Ayabe as interesting as I had Wakana in Vol. 10, possibly as he’s not tied to another regular as she is. The actual highlight of the book may be earlier, where Hayasaka gets his long-awaited date with Super-Bun… only for it to be more serious than I expected. That said, there’s still the usual number of hysterical gags here based on the entire cast being idiots. And we get to see Mafuyu lose! For the first time ever, apparently. Still recommended. – Sean Gaffney
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 11 | By Izumi Tsubaki | Viz Media – Because of its episodic (and silly) nature, Oresama Teacher is inconsistent in terms of quality, but this volume happens to be one of the good ones! The high point occurs at the beginning, when Hayasaka ends up on a Christmas Eve date with his hero, Super Bun. It’s a highly adorable chapter and creates a good feeling that lingers over the rest of the volume, which involves another minion of the scheming student council president being dispatched to disband the Public Morals Club. This is actually starting to remind me of Sailor Moon or something, where you’ve got the big bad (like Queen Beryl) running through her resources of devotees (like the Four Generals) to take down our heroes. I don’t really mind, but I’d rather read more about Hayasaka’s quirks and contradictions. I suppose if we continue to get a sprinkling of those, I’ll be satisfied. – Michelle Smith
Soulless, Vol. 2 | By Gail Carriger and Rem | Yen Press – After its debut volume’s satisfying, settled (and sexy!) conclusion, volume two of Soulless begins as the best “next” volumes do—with everything coming apart. This sense of unraveling begins immediately, as heroine Alexia is roused from her sleep by her husband’s noisy departure, followed by unwelcome late-night chaos on her own front lawn. She moves on, disoriented, from this point and things really never regain their balance, leaving her (and the reader) increasingly shaken all the way through the volume’s end. This is a tense installment to be sure, and I mean that in the best way possible, as the only response one can have to the book’s decidedly unsettling conclusion is an intense desire for more. Fast-paced, compelling, and oddly beguiling, Soulless continues to be my favorite of Yen Press’ growing catalogue of adaptations. Highly recommended. – MJ
We Were There, Vol. 15 | By Yuuki Obata | VIZ Media – Some manga is all about the plot, and so it’s easy to summarize what happens. We Were There, however, is all about the characters and while it might seem that not much actually happens or changes outwardly, the fact that things seem to be shifting internally for Yano at last is incredibly significant. The story is driven by conversations between characters, mostly people trying to point out to Yano that he can stop striving for atonement while he insists he’s just acting selfishly. Finally, though, the message gets through and he realizes that what Takahashi has always offered—strength, not neediness—is something he might finally be ready to accept. He finishes out the volume helping Yamamoto avoid going down the same path of regret, and then… what’s next? I am honestly not sure this series will end up with Yano and Takahashi together, but this is the first time I have felt like such an outcome would be healthy for all concerned. Truly an amazing series. – Michelle Smith