This week, Anna & Michelle look at recent releases from Viz Media & Kodansha Comics.
Dawn of the Arcana, Vol. 13 | By Rei Toma | Viz Media – Dawn of the Arcana comes to an end with this thirteenth volume, and though I could still argue that some plot elements are a bit rushed, that seems a conscious decision to allow more room for characters’ emotional responses to events, and so I must ultimately approve. Case in point: after Loki’s surprise usurpation of Senan, ample time is devoted to Nakaba’s overwhelming sorrow and grief, and it’s very well done. Then, a single panel references her off-camera remarriage to Caesar and years seemingly pass. And then we bring it back ’round to Loki and his backstory for an affecting conclusion. In fact, it seems that Nakaba’s relationship with her former attendant, and their love for each other despite all that transpired, is actually more important than her romance with Caesar here at the end, and I kind of love that. I really enjoyed this series, and hope we see more from Rei Toma in the future! – Michelle Smith
Honey Blood, Vol. 1 | By Miko Mitsuki | Viz Media – When a series of attacks in her neighborhood is rumored to be the work of a vampire, Hinata Sorazono is dubious. That is, until her new next-door neighbor, Junya Tokinaga (author of vampire romance novels), piques her interest. Could he be a vampire? In a flash, they are in love and angsting about whether to seal their relationship with a kiss that will bind them in a contract wherein Junya can only feed on Hinata’s blood and will therefore finally be able to die when she passes away. While there’s nothing outright objectionable about Honey Blood, I found it difficult to connect with the story. It felt like the author was going for some epic romance, but the characters are so flat that it just wound up generic. Interestingly, in the bonus material Mitsuki-sensei admits that the series was not popular when serialized, so it concludes in the next volume. – Michelle Smith
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 16 | By Julietta Suzuki | Viz Media – Nanami continues to dwell within Tomoe’s past, trying to make contact with the fallen kami responsible for the curse affecting Tomoe in the present. In reality, there’s not a great deal of plot here—Akura-Oh, Tomoe’s erstwhile companion in mayhem, has decided to kidnap Yukiji on the way to her wedding. Nanami, trying to protect the woman Tomoe loved, takes her place, and then ends up rescued by Tomoe, who wants her to stay by his side. I am pretty sure we’re going to a “Nanami was the one he loved all along” place, but I don’t even mind if my prediction comes true because it’s worth it just to see a lovestruck Tomoe say the words, “I’ve been desperately in love with you.” Even if it doesn’t translate to the present, just seeing these two be open about their feelings is truly gratifying. – Michelle Smith
My Love Story!!, Vol. 2 | By Kazune Kawahara and Aruko | Viz Media – You might think that a super sweet love story involving pure-hearted characters being nice to each other and never getting bent out of shape would be boring, but that is not the least bit true about My Love Story!!. Nothing can get Takeo and Yamato down, be it her friends initially making fun of them until Takeo proves his coolness by saving them from a burning building, or the Judo tournament that takes up Takeo’s free time, or birthday plans gone awry when Takeo decides that he has to be at his best friend’s side during a difficult time. I basically smiled throughout the volume like an utter goofball. Two particular things I love are the depiction of Takeo and Sunakawa’s friendship and the subtle way Takeo’s good deeds are overlooked because of his appearance, while Sunakawa gets credit instead merely for being handsome. See, it’s cute and it has depth! – Michelle Smith
Say I Love You, Vol. 3 by Kanae Hazuki | Kodansha Comics – Hazuki continues to develop the growing relationship between Mei and Yamato while fitting in plenty of time for her supporting cast. Aiko continues to struggle with seeing Yamato acting so developed to Mei. She’s unhappy about her own relationships and the rumors that are spreading about her. Yamato acknowledges her feelings but lets her know that a relationship with him isn’t ever going to be a possibility. Mei and Aiko also talk, and Mei’s usual forthright manner. There’s a cute chapter showing what happens the first time Yamato takes Mei to his house after school, where Mei meets Yamato’s very jealous and slightly maladjusted younger sister. There are the inevitable struggles with Valeintine’s day too, but at this point I’m so invested in the characters I don’t even mind the standard shoujo plot devices. Looking forward to the next volume! – Anna N
Phantom Thief Jeanne, Vol. 4 | By Arina Tanemura | Viz Media – I’m enjoying being able to experience this series all over again in a new edition and new translation. Here Maron is shocked when she learns about the true motivations of her angelic sidekick Finn, and she even manages to take a trip into the past to visit her past self, Joan of Arc. Maron’s resilience in the face of overwhelming odds is endearing and while she might be full of courage when it comes to fighting the Dark Lord, she still needs to get her personal life together and actually admit to Chiaki how she feels about him. The balance between a cosmic struggle between good and evil and the pain of high school romance has seldom been done better than this series. Even though this is an early work by Tanemura, her signature style is well in place. Highly recommended. – Anna N