This week, MJ, Sean, and Michelle look at recent releases from VIZ Media, Yen Press, and Vertical, Inc.
Dawn of the Arcana, Vol. 6 | By Rei Toma | VIZ Media – I’m sadly behind on this series, but fortunately it’s turned out to be something that’s worth savoring. After a couple of relatively slow sections (perked up mainly by the introduction of more Ajin who are, frankly, damn cute), volume six begins with some real payoff, as Princess Nakaba finally learns why her ability to see the future is something likely to cause her tremendous grief and regret. This kind of internal struggle (by which I mean one that is finally more complex than just choosing between love interests) with its rather terrifyingly high stakes and potential for personal turmoil is exactly what Nakaba needed in order to become the best kind of shoujo heroine, and I’ll be forever grateful for it. What was once a casual read now moves to must-have status. Recommended. – MJ
Limit, Vol. 3 | By Keiko Suenobu | Vertical, Inc. – Despite being incredibly angsty and no doubt corpse-filled eventually, this series continues to keep my interest simply by being really well-written. I admit I’m not wild over the new guy showing up, mostly as he hasn’t really been developed beyond ‘he’s a nice cute guy in class everyone likes’. But I’m sure later volumes will show his inner turmoil too. Speaking of which, Morishige’s backstory is incredibly horrible, and definitely explains much of her behavior. The goal here seems to be about surviving while not losing whatever humanity you have, as well as re-evaluating what true friendships are (something I wouldn’t wish on teenagers). As for the cliffhanger ending, I was hideously unsurprised, but I wasn’t really meant to be, and it looks like after a volume with some hope, things are going to go bad fast in Vol. 4. Definitely recommended.-Sean Gaffney
Skip Beat!, Vol. 30 | By Yoshiki Nakamura | VIZ Media – I hope no one’s tired of me talking about new volumes of Skip Beat! as they come out, ‘cos here’s another one. And, actually, it’s quite a bit different than most. Kyoko and Ren are still acting as the Heel siblings, but when Ren ends up breaking character in a rehearsed fight against a co-star who used to be a thug himself, Kyoko starts really worrying. What’s worse is that Ren didn’t realize that he’d done it at first, and subsequently spends a lot of time worrying if Kuon is just going to take over (as if he’s a completely different personality). The tense and freaky atmosphere of “something’s really wrong with Ren” is riveting and how Kyoko handles the situation has got me positively antsy to have the next volume ASAP. I didn’t think I’d be surprised by the thirtieth volume of a series, but with Skip Beat! I guess I should’ve known better. – Michelle Smith
Slam Dunk, Vol. 26 | By Takehiko Inoue | VIZ Media – The Shohoku baseketball team has advanced to the second round of the national championships, where their opponent is last year’s victors. Although the opposing team is largely forgettable—seriously, I could not remember any of their names despite reading them over and over—the volume’s still a really satisfying one, since Coach Anzai’s strategy involves letting different players on the team have the spotlight for a time. It starts with Mitsui, who deserves some glory after toiling in the background for a while, but then Anzai makes the radical decision to let Sakuragi take the lead and Sakuragi doesn’t screw it up. No, he hasn’t suddenly gotten mature or anything, but he’s been working so hard that he surprises everyone with his skills. I’m just a sucker for these sorts of sports manga “progress moments,” I guess, and having Sakuragi as someone the team can truly depend on makes me feel kind of sniffly. – Michelle Smith
Soul Eater, Vol. 12 | By Atsushi Ohkubo | Yen Press – There’s not as much weird art and architecture in this volume, which ends up being good as it makes me focus on the plot and characters a bit more. And remember a few more names! (Hi, Kilik!) And it’s a good plot,k too, as our heroes finally start to storm Arachne’s fortress… with their new adviser, Medusa. Which is as screwed-up as it sounds, and no one remotely trusts her a bit. They even remind us that she’s still possessing the body of a 5-year-old with her mind-snake things. Grlk. I also appreciate that no matter how dark and creepy tings get, there’s always an amusing gag just a few pages along – even from the villains. Especially from the villains. Yen seems to be releasing this series a bit faster now, which is good, as I really am starting to get addicted to it.-Sean Gaffney