This week, Sean, Anna, & Michelle look at recent releases from Viz Media and Vertical, Inc.
Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 5 | By Tsutomu Nihei | Vertical, Inc. – There is quite a good space battle towards the end of this, but as usual I’m focused on other things. The reason that I keep coming back to Sidonia is the balance it maintains between different aspects. I will never get over how this is still a wacky harem manga, complete with Nagate being a clueless dope and Izana running off in best cliched “I hate you!” form. But I will also never get over the scene with Tahiro’s possession – and, I have to assume, death – which is some of the sickest body horror I’ve ever seen, and is done slowly and silently so that you revel in its horribleness. These are both in the same manga! And yes, there is also a great Star Wars-style battle with SPEED GAUNA and Nagate showing off his awesome skills as well. It’s become a must-read title. – Sean Gaffney
Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 5 | By Tsutomu Nihei | Vertical, Inc. – I honestly never thought I’d love a mecha-centric manga like I do Knights of Sidonia, but then again, this is not your average mecha manga. Humanity’s desperate fight for survival never lets up—which isn’t to say the series is devoid of light moments, only that they are few and far between—and just when it seems they’ve possibly got a leg up on the enemy, the enemy grows more clever while an unknown threat begins to grow within Sidonia itself. The characters have become even more endearing, too, especially Izana Shinatose, Tanikaze’s “middle-gendered friend,” and this is the kind of series where people can easily end up dead—dead en masse, in fact—so watching them fly into battle can be a somewhat stressful reading experience, but oh so addictive and rewarding. I’m counting the days until volume six! – Michelle Smith
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 15 | By Izumi Tsubaki | Viz Media – The class trip that I thought would take the entire volume only took half of it, but things are all the better for it. First, we get just enough time devoted to Mafuyu trying once again to hide her past, Yui realizing that his deep cover role is a lot deeper than I suspect he’s truly comfortable with, and Saeki once again being ridiculous. To my surprise, though, I also loved the second half. I didn’t think much of Shibuya when he was introduced, as he was putting up a very false front. Now, with everyone else off on the trip, we can delve closer into that, and see what happens when he runs up against someone he can’t read like a book. As for our latest mini-villain, Komari… well, she’s finding the exact same thing happening to her. Clearly these two are made for each other. Depth is always welcome in my favorite shoujo comedy. – Sean Gaffney
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 15 | By Izumi Tsubaki | Viz Media – I’m a bit in awe of the capacity of this series to seem absolutely silly and hilarious even as the cast grows and almost nothing happens in terms of forward-moving plot. The class trip is funny, and I especially enjoyed Saeki’s unholy obsession with ping pong. While sometimes the large cast gets a bit tricky to keep track of, the story shift in the latter half of the volume to Shibuya fending off Komari’s aggressive cuteness is both amusing and intriguing from a character development standpoint. It is always nice to have a manga to turn to that always makes me smile, and Oresama Teacher delivers every time. – Anna N
Slam Dunk, Vol 31 | By Takehiko Inoue | Viz Media – The final volume! It feels a bit like the end of an era. I didn’t think this basketball game could get any more intense, but the tension and strain were palpable as the underdog heroes of Shohoku High face the final minutes of their battle against Sannoh. There’s a bit of bittersweet resolution as Sakuragi and Rukawa acknowledge each other as teammates in the closing moments of the game. I feel like this series has just been a wonderful gift, seeing Inoue’s style and storytelling skills evolve and grow over the 31 volumes of this series serves as a master class in manga appreciation. I would happily have read 31 more volumes of this series, yet it is utterly appropriate that Sakuragi gets the last word, delivered with his characteristic confidence to conclude the volume. – Anna N
Strobe Edge, Vol. 7 | By Io Sakisaka | Viz Media – I would like to note that it is starting to beggar belief that every single ex of every single character is converging on the same school now. But, having gotten that out of the way, this was a solid volume of Strobe Edge. The focus on Sayuri was appreciated, and showed how experiences (and indeed lack of communication) from past relationships can affect future ones. I’d argue that even more than most shoujo manga, this series reads like a primer for first love, with the characters talking about their feelings out loud far more than we normally see. Sadly, Ninako and Ren are rather static right now, as they enjoy their close friendship and think “This is enough, right?” Well, no, it’s really not, and I think Ren is going to be the first to break. We shall see… – Sean Gaffney
Vampire Knight, Vol. 17 | By Matsuri Hino | Viz Media – For the past several volumes of Vampire Knight, I’ve noted that I’ve enjoyed its mood and flavor, but really haven’t been able to follow the plot from one volume to the next. That’s getting worse and worse, and this volume can only coast on style for so long before I start to skim. We’re clearly in endgame, but most of what’s happening involves Kaname trying to kill Sara and Yuki trying to stop him, and everything else here is pretty much added window dressing to those two things. There’s some attempt at development for Ichijo, and some romantic sacrifice by Souen, but honestly it’s been 17 volumes, I should not still be turning to the back to remember who everyone is. Still, the art is gorgeous, and everyone suffers beautifully. It’s the manga equivalent of Rococo art. – Sean Gaffney