This week, Sean and Michelle look at recent releases from Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, and Yen Press.
Kaze Hikaru, Vol. 22 | By Taeko Watanabe | Viz Media – The yearly installment of Kaze Hikaru is here! In this volume, Sei and Okita have made peace with their feelings of love for each other—basically, they are content just to be near and watch over the other, respectively. Saito, however, has achieved no such peace, and spends the volume contending with his mounting lust for Sei’s person. Eventually, he discovers Sei’s secret and decides to get her ousted from the Shinsengumi and then marry her. Problem solved! Okita even endorses this plan. Watanabe makes note that the lack of consideration given a woman’s feelings in the matter was the norm for the day, but that doesn’t mean I want to see characters I like thinking in such a way about someone they claim to love. It would be impossible for Kaze Hikaru to have a bad volume, but I am forced to admit that this one wasn’t one of my favorites. – Michelle Smith
My Little Monster, Vol. 3 | By Robico | Kodansha Comics – I feel so badly for poor Chizuru, who would make an excellent shoujo protagonist in any other series, but is simply too normal and sensible to compete with the weirdos seen on display here. Haru still has immense self-control and temper issues, as well as difficulty with personal space. Shizuku can’t seemingly identify with anyone’s issues and feelings other than her own, and thinks that just telling herself not to think about love will solve everything. And Natsume, while her insecurity is played for comedy at times, has some deep-seated intimacy issues. For a wacky romantic comedy, there’s a lot of depth to the characters if you look deep enough. Possibly enough for 9-10 more volumes.-Sean Gaffney
No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Vol. 4 | By Nico Tanigawa | Yen Press – It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure I want Tomoko to continue to try to improve herself, as the consequences are proving almost unthinkable. We see more in this volume of how her own issues and basic personality are now actively hurting other people – in this case her brother. Her one friend seems totally oblivious to not only Tomoko’s issues, but reality, as Yuu seems quite happy to accept that Tomoko still wants to be an arms dealer when she grows up. As for romance, most of it would seem to involve fantasizing about said best friend. Still a deliberate train-wreck, this volume is well-written but makes you wonder how long this can go on.-Sean Gaffney
Soul Eater NOT!, Vol. 3 | By Atsushi Ohkubo | Yen Press – Given that this series is never going to have the drama, tragedy, or whacked out art than the main series does, it has to survive based on only two things: its comedy, and the chemistry between the three lead girls. It actually acquits itself quite well in that regard, giving Meme a focus chapter that looks into her spacey personality and providing several cute moments for Kim Diehl as well. There’s mocking of Japanese customs, baseball, and lots of 4-koma stuff. Still, the author admits he put this series on hold while he finished Soul Eater proper, and it shows – there’s no real plot here, as opposed to Vol. 1 and 2. It’s still fun, but it’s spinning its wheels. Luckily, it should wrap up soon.-Sean Gaffney
Sweet Rein, Vol. 3 | By Sakura Tsukuba | Viz Media – Well, that was anticlimactic. Granted, I didn’t expect a lot from this lightweight series, but the plot did seem to be steering towards something that never quite materialized. In one chapter, it’s suddenly reindeer mating season and perennial 17-year-old Kurumi finds herself bewitched by her reindeer, Kaito, along with all of the other girls and the fans he makes during his brief but sensational modeling career. The feeling doesn’t entirely dissipate after mating season ends, either. Then the appearance of another reindeer who wants to partner up with her nudges Kurumi to declare that Kaito is the only reindeer for her. Surely couplehood is right around the corner! But then… it isn’t. The story just stops, and as far as I know, this is the final volume. I’m left just shaking my head, wondering what the point of it all was. – Michelle Smith
Voice Over!: Seiyu Academy, Vol. 6 | By Maki Minami | Viz Media – I am hard-pressed to pinpoint what it is, but there is just something about Voice Over! that makes me like it. It’s not that its heroine, academically challenged yet plucky and potentially very talented Hime, is unique, or that her love interests, kind and refined Mizuki versus sullen and rude (when he’s not being surprisingly thoughtful) Senri, defy expected types. Perhaps it’s simply that the small steps on Hime’s road to success are rewarding, like the inroads she makes with a gruff and demanding sound director, or the sudden competence that emerges when Senri makes a mistake during their practical skills exam. I suppose the small resemblances to Skip Beat! don’t hurt, either. In the end, this has become something of a comfort read for me, and I look forward to the next volume. – Michelle Smith