This week, Sean and Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, Viz Media, and Yen Press.
Genshiken: Second Season, Vol. 6 | By Shimoku Kio | Kodansha Comics – I’m still not quite sure which direction Kio is taking this manga – something that I’m sure is quite deliberate on his part. After resolving the long-running Saki plot last time, she hints that Madarame is gathering a harem of his own, and this volume is happily content to riff on that for all it’s worth (as well as fracturing his wrist, possibly for daring to be a harem protagonist). But it doesn’t shy away from Hato’s gender identity issues either, with him trying to distance himself from both Madarame and BL while feeling completely miserable about everything. There’s plenty of humor here as well, as you’d expect given it takes place mostly during Comiket. Solid, but a bit too diffuse – impossible as that is. – Sean Gaffney
Magi, Vol. 11 | By Shinobu Ohtaka | Viz Media – It can be very difficult to deal with the fact that the world can sometimes be a cruel, unjust place – we see this every day of our lives. And in this volume of Magi, we see how it can turn an adorable young princess into a power-crazed villain. And just because you’ve been getting more powerful every day does not mean you’re going to waltz in and save the day – after winning the dungeon, our heroes get the crap kicked out of them by some powerful villains, and require a rescue by the cavalry from Sinbad’s country. In fact, this may be the most graphic, violent volume of Magi that we’ve seen to date. It’s a harsh but powerful read, and reminds you why we want people like our heroes to triumph over injustice. – Sean Gaffney
Skip Beat!, Vol. 34 | By Yoshiki Nakamura | Viz Media – A lot of this volume focuses on Kyoko’s view of how love makes her a terrible person, for not only does she become an idiot, but she also hates herself for taking comfort in the fact that Ren’s belief that he doesn’t deserve love means that she won’t have to worry about someone else snagging him. The President tries to help adjust her thinking on this, and gives her a break from her role as Setsu, but soon enough she and Ren are back on location in Guam for a shoot, only Kyoko has arrived early and encountered Ren looking like Kuon. And then there’s a super-cruel cliffhanger that we have to wait until September to see resolved. Argh! As much as I look forward to these rare treats of Skip Beat!, they really do keep the agony of waiting for the next dollop of story fresh. – Michelle Smith
Sword Art Online: Progressive, Vol. 2 | By Reki Kawahara and Kiseki Himura | Yen Press – I usually don’t pick up the manga adaptation after I start reading the light novel, but this was a very good example of how adaptations change the source to fit better within the manga genre. There’s more goofy humor here, Asuna’s POV is given a lot more workout than Kirito’s, and the plot is streamlined. That can also work against it, as we miss Kirito and Argo’s side story, and the loss of seeing the blacksmith working on a sword before Asuna’s makes the cliffhanger ending more of a surprise than it was in the book. Also, Kirito is a lot more into Asuna here than he is in the novel. Still, if folks want to pass up the novel for the manga, this is still very good, with likeable art. – Sean Gaffney
Voice Over: Seiyu Academy, Vol. 10 | By Maki Minami | Viz Media – I was sure that this would be the volume where Shiro’s secret finally came out, along with the inevitable fallout. But no, we’re keeping things going right until the end, even as Senri is getting more and more suspicious that SOMETHING is going on, and Hime is finding it harder and harder to keep the two sides separate. On the acting front, there’s some great discussion of how an actor should try their best not to listen to what the fans want or recommend when performing – in particular, don’t go to forums! The rest of the cast take a back seat to Senri and Hime here, but that’s what you’d expect – next volume is the last, and they’re the main couple, so let’s keep them hanging for one last cliffhanger. – Sean Gaffney
Voice Over!: Seiyu Academy, Vol. 10 | By Maki Minami | Viz Media – Hime, in her guise of Shiro, has a role in a new anime but fans of the character are so far displeased by her performance. While she works hard to figure out what she’s doing wrong, Mizuki—coming off as creepily controlling—suggests Shiro’s friendship with Senri will jeopardize Hime’s dream of becoming a top voice actor, so she abruptly pulls away from Senri. Lots of great moments of professional and personal growth ensue, with one particular scene making me go all sniffly. True, Hime does continue to be awfully careless at protecting her secret when Senri is around, but the scene in which he appears to maybe figure it out is done about as well as it could be. With only two volumes left, I find myself hoping for a romance-free ending. None of these characters is ready for that, anyhow! – Michelle Smith