This week, Sean, Melinda, Michelle, & Anna look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, Yen Press, and 6 Degree Works, Inc.
Burning Love on the Aegean Sea | By Harumo Sanazaki | 6 Degree Works, Inc – This is a somewhat random Ohzora manga that I bought on impulse for my Kindle. It is a basic mishmash of Harlequin story tropes, without the elements of humor or lush art that makes romance manga more enjoyable to read. Christian is a man with anger issues and lush, long dark hair who comes back to a Greek island after being expelled with tons of money and revenge in his heart. Leda is the innocent heroine with a trampy older sister and ethically challenged father who is forced to stay on the island when her ex-lover appears, all while raising her sister’s son. Everything is very dramatic, and the illustrations of windswept hair and turbulent seas combine to underscore the tortured relationship of the two leads as they grow closer. Still, something this manga makes it feel more like it is going through the motions as opposed to telling an interesting story, and there’s plenty of other romance manga out there that will be more satisfying for most readers. Anna N
Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends, Vol. 4 | By Yomi Hirasaka and Itachi | Seven Seas – The majority of this volume continues the basic theme of the entire series, which is this group of misfits and outcasts having fun as friends without realizing that’s what they’re actually doing. They write a round-robin fanfic which basically involves torturing each others’ self-inserts, they play the world’s most ridiculous RPG, and they fail mightily at karaoke. There’s nothing particularly earth-shattering here, though the cliffhanger promises that next volume may ramp that up, as Kodaka is invited to meet Sena’s father. As it is, though, romance continues to sit on the back burner here, as the title is more concerned with seeing these broken people insult each other, mock each other, and likely form bonds they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives. -Sean Gaffney
Midnight Secretary, Vol. 2 | By Tomu Ohmi | Viz Media – As heroine Kaya becomes further dependent upon her vampire boss’ sexual attention (to the point of attempting to free herself by leaving his employ) and boss Kyohei is slowly driven mad by his feelings for a “mere human,” I’m aware that I should be fleeing the scene as quickly as possible. After all, it’s these tormented, controlling love interests I despise the most, isn’t it? Isn’t it?? Alas, I can’t deny that I’m enjoying Midnight Secretary, despite myself. I’m captivated by Tomu Ohmi’s tortured love story, her occasional humor, her clean artwork, but most of all, her competent, serious heroine, whose devotion to her work still trumps all, even sexy vampire bosses. Even for this grumpy old lady, sometimes trashy, over-the-top romance really hits the spot. Midnight Secretary is just that kind of romance. Recommended. – Melinda Beasi
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 18 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – I had wondered how volume 18 could top 17, with its many answers and “um… whut?” ending, but I think it does, largely because Mochizuki manages to provide still more answers to long-standing questions in a way that’s unexpected but absolutely fits with what’s gone before. (Well, what I can remember of what’s gone before. At some point, I’d love to start over from the beginning and see how it all hangs together.) I love how everything is tilted on its head in ways that remind me a little of Loveless, actually. I know this is more fangirl gushing than a legitimate review, but hopefully that just goes to show how much I enjoyed it and how eagerly I await the next volume. “Where do we go from here?” indeed. – Michelle Smith
Real, Vol. 12 | By Takehiko Inoue | Viz Media – Oh, Real. I seriously love you so much. Why you come out so seldom? Anyway, this volume finds Togawa in pursuit of change—he’s not entirely sure what it is he’s lacking, but he’s banking on finding it at basketball camp. It doesn’t entirely turned out as planned, but some insights from Azumi on his rush-ahead attitude are very welcome. Meanwhile, Hisanobu continues to give rehabilitation his all, and once his formerly estranged father learns about his son’s goal of participating in wheelchair basketball, Inoue-sensei crafts a thoroughly lovely non-verbal sequence wherein the dad learns all about the game and then silently prays for his son’s dream to come true. Sniff. Okay, yes, this volume is full of unabashedly feel-good stuff, but it’s not cloying about it. There’s plenty of sweat, tears, and frustration, and everything is drawn beautifully. Even if you don’t like sports manga, you should make an exception for this one. – Michelle Smith
Sankarea, Vol. 3 | By Mitsuru Hattori | Kodansha Comics – The cover to Vol. 3 continues to show how this is being marketed to a very different sort of fan than you’d expect. Yes, there are still elements of harem comedy here, though Wanko is perhaps starting to realize that “I see you like a sister” is a hole that’s usually too big to crawl out of for the typical harem girl. Where the manga really succeeds is in the drama and horror, with the addition of the annoying but informative Darin, and the realization that being dead is not something that Rea can simply deal with and live the rest of her life as normal. The cover art shows this off, as she stares at the stump where her arm used to be. It’s put back, but it’s a sign of a more dangerous trend, which is that she really is a zombie, therefore happily ever after may not be an option here at all. – Sean Gaffney