This week, MJ, Sean, & Michelle look at recent releases from Yen Press, Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, and Seven Seas!
The Betrayal Knows My Name, Vol. 6 | By Hotaru Odagiri | Yen Press – Now that this series has caught up with Japan, Yen Press has switched from double-length omnibus releases to single volumes, and I’ll admit this worried me to start. Though I’ve found this melodramatic, BL-leaning, supernatural epic to be a fairly satisfying (if somewhat guilty) pleasure, I was concerned that single-volume releases might only serve to expose a lack of real substance. I’m happy to report that I underestimated the series. Not only does this relatively thin-looking volume manage to successfully engage, but it does so without the constant addition of new characters that had become the series’ greatest point of weakness, at least for this reader. The Betrayal Knows My Name may not be a shoujo masterpiece, but it hits enough of my personal storytelling kinks to remain thoroughly enjoyable. – MJ
Genshiken 2nd Season, Vol. 3 | By Shimoku Kio | Kodansha Comics – Despite the fact that the series has gone from a male-dominated series where otaku talk about ero games to a female-dominated series where otaku talk about BL, the core premise of the series really hasn’t changed, nor have its observational tendencies dimmed in any way. We also get even more gender-bending as another new character is shown to be a ‘trap’ in some way… given the direction both fandom and this series have taken in recent years, this isn’t really a surprise. Hato remains at the core of this new series, though. His gender displacement gets so bad that he draws totally differently depending how he’s dressed, and he still can’t get over his attraction to Madarame. Genshiken’s always been about the characters, and that will never change. Still very good. – Sean Gaffney
The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, Vol. 7 | By Puyo and Nagaru Tanigawa | Yen Press – The nature of this series means that it’s a playground to have fun. We see the main series being made fun of, the nature of 4-koma driven gag comics being made fun of, and Japanese holidays and customs being made fun of, taking advantage of Haruhi‘s obsession with them. Divorced from canon, Koizumi can be far more active in his desire to get our stubborn couple together. Nagato can be far more adorable in her interaction with others… and also far more petulant, as the chapter where she sends Ryouko and Kimidori against a dragon proves. The main manga series is ending, so I’m not sure how long Haruhi-chan will last on its own. Or indeed if the cast from the 9th-11th novels, who show up at the end, will have any relevance. It’s a gag series, after all.. – Sean Gaffney
Otomen, Vol. 16 | By Aya Kanno | Viz Media – There’s a definite sense of this being the final arc in Otomen – the series is ending in Japan right about now – and as everyone no doubt expected, Asuka’s mother is clearly the final boss, and gets a cover with her son. Her obsession with manliness is starting to look like a mental illness of some sort. Unfortunately, she has lots of influence to get anyone to do whatever she wants, which is… good for most of our heroes, as they find great opportunities that coincidentally take them far away from Asuka. No such luck for Juta, whose Love Chick is summarily canned at the cliffhanger. God only knows what she’s going to do to Ryo… I hope that Asuka can turn things around next volume. Then again, I suspect next volume may be a ‘darkest before the dawn’ type book. Ryo’s not the type to break things off, but…? -Sean Gaffney
Psyren, Vol. 12 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | Viz Media – Most of this volume consists of Ageha, Sakurako and Matsuri walking into the world’s most obvious trap – indeed, it comes as a surprise that the mole leading them to it *isn’t* in on the trap himself. Much of what follows is a battle between good guys and a psychopath, with lots of psychic attacks and near-deaths, along with lots of assorted army officers getting slaughtered (this series has quite a high mook death count). The high point, though, is the appearance of Sakurako’s dark alternate personality. Just in case we miss the point, her skin literally darkens when she takes over. And she has no issues whatsoever with expressing her feelings for Ageha, in the loudest way possible. If this were a romantic comedy, no doubt shenanigans would ensue. But it’s a battle manga, so more likely we go back to fights. -Sean Gaffney
Strobe Edge, Vol. 6 | By Io Sakisaka | Viz Media – After the previous couple of volumes of Strobe Edge tried to hit maximum angstosity, this one seems to be more of a breather. Everyone finds out that Ren is now single, and this means that every girl in the school except Ninako is trying to hook up with him. Ninako accurately surmises that he needs time to cope with the breakup, but isn’t quite sure how to help him. Ren, meanwhile, is also dealing with this rivalry/friendship with Ando, and wonders how exactly to define it. A new school year, and some old faces, might mean a lot more tension next time around. This is a short volume, so there’s an unrelated short story at the end. Sadly, it really didn’t grab me the way that Strobe Edge does, as the heroine’s flakiness is less endearing (like Ninako’s), and more simply irritating. It’s clear the author has improved with time. -Sean Gaffney
Voice Over!: Seiyu Academy, Vol. 1 | By Maki Minami | Viz Media – Let me get this out of the way up front: Voice Over! is every bit as generic as you might suppose. Its lead, Hime Kino, is a “bright-eyed first-year” whom we meet on her first day at a high school with a prestigious voice acting program. She’s ditzy and uncoordinated and possessed of a voice that makes the other students wonder why she was accepted, yet somehow attracts the notice of the most surly/handsome/talented boy in her year as well as that of a popular idol duo. Soon, she discovers a Hidden Talent she is loathe to embrace, but Surly Boy’s taunts fire her up to surpass him. So, okay, a work of genius this is clearly not, and yet… I kind of liked it. Perhaps it just suited my mood in the moment, but I have to admit that I’m planning to read volume two. – Michelle Smith
Zero’s Familiar, Vols. 4-5 | By Noboru Yamaguchi and Nana Mochizuki | Seven Seas – The North American market has seen a glut of manga series adapted from light novels these days, for good or for ill. At one end of the spectrum is a series that can enhance and even outpace its core series… Railgun is a good example here, as is the Higurashi franchise in its later books. On the other end… sometimes you read an adaptation, and know it must have been far more thrilling and emotional in the original story. Such is the case with Zero’s Familiar, where the need to write thrilling action battles finally catches up to its artist. Saito’s sword battles are simply dull, and the facial expressions of the main cast also seem stiff when trying to emote the tragedies contained herein. The light novels are unlikely to be licensed, so this is all we have at the moment. I hope the artist improves. -Sean Gaffney
Aaron saysSeptember 23, 2013 at 10:41 am
It doesn’t help when the manga adaptation of a series is based on the weakest arc of the series (Zero’s Familiar) although Seven Seas did announce they licensed the second manga series which is based off of the second arc and while not a huge improvement at least fleshes out the character development a little more.