This week, Sean, MJ, & Michelle look at recent releases from VIZ Media and Yen Press.
Blue Exorcist, Vol. 8 | By Kazue Kato | VIZ Media – For the most part this is a typical Jump battle volume, meaning there’s lots of fighting and enemies vanquished, but not as much to really mention in a review. There’s enough to really enjoy, though. Shiemi showing her gumption in commanding her familiar to help her save Izumo; Renzo having to face up to the fact that doing the right thing is really annoying and hard; and all of Rin and Bon’s fight against the Impure King (who is truly disgusting adn foul, as you would expect from a giant demonic fungus). But it’s Yukio who gets the most attention here, as he’s dealing with the traitor Saburota, who knows just how to get under his skin and hit his weaknesses. Just as Rin feels his brother outshines him, Yukio feels the same. Hopefully it won’t prove to be a problem in future, but the foreshadowing isn’t looking good. -Sean Gaffney
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 11 | By Julietta Suzuki | VIZ Media – Volumes like this remind me why I keep reading Kamisama Kiss even when it seems that the plot is content to coast along without resolving much. There’s just strong characterization, particularly of the heroine, Nanami. We already knew her father was a scumball from the opening chapter, but the flashbacks we get here show a truly tragic childhood, with the love of her mother (who dies early, in what is hinted to be part of a kamisama’s curse) being one of the few bright spots… and these days Nanami can’t even remember her face. It’s a sign of her strong will that she’s grown up to be the determined young woman she is today, and we see that determination in the second half, where she goes toe to toe with some nameless demons. Cute, intelligent, plucky heroines. What’s not to like? -Sean Gaffney
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 15 | By Karuho Shiina | VIZ Media – Although the friendship between Sawako, Chizu, and Ayane has been a central focus of the series since the beginning, at this point in the story it seems like the three of them have truly become co-leads, as they each face their own romantic problems in this volume. Sawako is troubled by a new distance in her relationship with Kazehaya; Ayane is possibly beginning to feel something for Kent, though she insists she’s not as great as he thinks she is; and Chizu is panicking because Ryu’s confession of love means the end of the sibling-like relationship they’ve shared since childhood. There’s a long and wonderful flashback to the two of them as kids, proving that she’s always been the one who understood him best, culminating in a surprising display of feeling from Ryu. Honestly, it’s giving me goosebumps just typing about it. How can I possibly wait until April for the next installment?! – Michelle Smith
March Story, Vol. 4 | By Kim Hung-Min and Yan Kyung-Il | VIZ Media – After a very exciting and beautifully-crafted third volume, volume four of March Story focuses on March’s secret gender. On the upside, this plays out much differently than in the all-too-common gender-bending comedy. On the downside, it seems to be part of some kind of grand, coordinated effort to boost the series’ volume of fanservice, which is suddenly in full bloom. The artists pull out all the usual tricks in this volume, including ill-fitting clothing that can’t quite keep from falling off and strategically timed gusts of wind. From this reader’s perspective, it reads as distracting and unnecessary pandering that is below these artists’ abilities, but perhaps it’s just a stern reminder that I’m not the series’ demographic after all. There’s enough genuine substance still in this volume to keep my attention, but I can’t deny that I found it disappointing. – MJ
The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, Vol. 6 | By Puyo and Nagaru Tanigawa | Yen Press – The goal of this series is to be as silly as possible. And as logn as that goal is in sight, it doesn’t matter how it achieves it. This time around, we get a discussion of fanservice, the continued humiliation of Mori-san, a far larger role for Kunikida than he ever gets in the main series (though he may not be too happy with why that is), and Ryoko and Kimidori-san teaming up to throw Yuki a school festival in the privacy of their own apartment. But the best chapters, in my opinion, are the two that mock the cliched Japanese over-dramatic plotlines, as we see Haruhi discovering she has to transfer and saying goodbye to everyone, followed by a life-or-death struggle to see who’s strongest on Children’s Day. Neither story has an ending, but endings don’t matter. Are they silly. Yes indeed. -Sean Gaffney
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 12 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – Pandora Hearts doesn’t have the most coherent plotting at the best of times, but volume twelve is more disjointed than most. There’s a lot of exposition here, as the focus shifts towards finding the seals (and their keys) that bind villainous Glen Baskerville and investigating a mysterious, murderous contractor known as “the headhunter.” We go from scenes of Vincent Nightray scheming to seduce Oz’s sister, to Oz’s uncle seeking to dispel the gloomy atmosphere at Pandora by hosting an outdoor tea party, to the group doing some snooping in disguise (with Oz in drag), to everyone attending a fancy dress banquet at the home of a creepy cult leader. This makes for some nice moments—I’m especially fond of the contrast between the female-filtered view of gussied-up Gilbert and the reality—but on the whole, the volume feels rather scattered. That’s not enough to keep me from recommending it, though! – Michelle Smith