This week, Sean and MJlook at recent releases from Seven Seas, Yen Press, Kodansha Comics, and Viz Media.
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar’s Game, Vol. 3 | By QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru | Seven Seas – This continues to be the best of all the many Alice spinoffs we’ve seen by a wide margin, as it’s particularly good at developing the themes that made the original game so interesting. People you once knew vanishing and getting replaced, the fact that everyone in the world – except Alice – CAN be replaced, and wanting everything to stay in a happy stasis so that nothing bad ever has to happen are all driving factor’s in Alice’s mindset. But it’s a bad mindset to be in, which is probably why this world is always on the cusp of violence, why everyone (except Ace) keeps urging Alice to choose them, and ultimately why we keep coming back to the image of Alice’s older sister Lorina, whose appearance – supposedly – makes up the cliffhanger to this volume.-Sean Gaffney
Fairy Tail, Vol. 31 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – We’re essentially starting fresh after this time skip, so this volume is a good one to reinforce the basic talking points of the series to date. We see the continued connection between Fairy Tail’s world and Edolas, the reappearance of Jellal, who tries to get Erza to abandon him in one of the most transparent lies ever – no one, particularly Erza, believes a word of it. And we see Lucy’s bond with her Celestial Spirits, which help her to finally move past the death of her father. This all helps set up the Grand Magic Games, the fighting tournament that will dominate volumes to come. Fairy Tail may be back at the bottom of the heap, but the awesome teamwork shown at the end means we can’t count them out just yet. Still a fun shonen romp. -Sean Gaffney
Magi, Vol. 2 | By Shinobu Ohtaka | Viz Media – I had assumed that Jamil, the ruler we meet here, would end up being one of the series’ first major antagonists. But no, he’s just a minor antagonist, and so is allowed to show his evil, cowardly, and gutless ways right off the bat. Indeed, this volume reads very much like “if the series isn’t popular, it can end here”, with only the last few pages, sending Aladdin off into another plotline, showing that it’s moving on. Aladdin continues to be more than he seems, but we don’t really find out how much more. Instead, I was more fascinated with Morgiana, and the manga discussing how slavery works not only through physical chains but also the sheer emotional beatdown that convinces a slave that escape is impossible. I hope we see more of her soon. In the meantime, get on the Magi train now while it’s still early. – Sean Gaffney
Missions Of Love, Vol. 5 | By Ema Toyama | Kodansha Comics – Despite what the cover may lead you to believe, this is not the latest from Project H Manga. It still runs in Nakayoshi, a magazine for elementary school and junior high girls in Japan. And the actual content inside is less salactious, ear-biting aside. The author is far more interested in seeing the back and forth involved with four selfish people who see no harm in abusing the others for their own ends. Shigure, however, is probably the nicest of the four, and therefore he seems to suffer the most, between Yukina’s appalling mixed signals, Mami’s emotional manipulation, and Akira’s willingness to do whatever it takes to make Yukina his. It all adds up to a giant teen hormone cocktail, and it’s as addictive as ever, even if it’s still bad for you. – Sean Gaffney
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 18 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – A day or two ago, a kind soul came along in comments to a recent post to reassure me that nobody dies in volume 18 of Pandora Hearts. But, y’know, some revelations can be more painful than death, and that’s certainly true of this volume. Fortunately, that’s just how I like it. Jun Mochizuki continues to hurt me in all the best ways, as she begins to really unravel the truth behind both Oz’s origins and Alice’s death. Her frenetic style generally sends me back for a second read shortly after I’ve finished the first, but I’ll admit I enjoy every second of it. Unfortunately, this has never been a series that can welcome new readers into its middle volumes, but if you like lively, delicious artwork and complex plotting, this series is well worth hunting down from the beginning. Still recommended. – MJ