Anti-Romance, Vol. 1 | By Shoko Hidaka | Seven Seas – I was a big fan of Shoko Hidaka’s series Blue Morning. She excels at depicting complicated relationships where obstacles and conflict come not from external sources but from within the people involved. Happily, the same skillful characterization is on display in Anti-Romance. Ryou Kakitani and Hiroki Suou were childhood friends and classmates and now they’ve been roommates for six years. Nothing has happened between them, though Ryou has, on a couple of occasions, made it obvious that his feelings for Suou go beyond mere friendship. Suou prefers to run away from this knowledge so that things can remain comfortably as they are. Urged on by a meddling coworker, Ryou finally issues an ultimatum: “Do we face each other and move forward? Or do I go ahead and move out?” This is the sort of BL where some chaste smoochies are really big progress, and I’m so here for it. – Michelle Smith
Dinosaur Sanctuary, Vol. 1 | By Itaru Kinoshita | Seven Seas – The premise of this series is a bit high-concept: once upon a time, there were popular zoos for dinosaurs, just like Jurassic Park. But now a few years later, and a few disasters onward, our heroes are at a run-down, ramshackle zoo trying to get people interested in their dinos. Fortunately, they have a plucky young new girl, whose dad is said to have ties to this whole project, as well as a grumpy young man who clearly loves the dinosaurs more than any humans he comes across (he’s clearly her love interest, but this really isn’t a manga that will ever put that front and center). What this mostly is is a love letter to dinosaurs behaving cutely, and if you’re a fan of the species this is worth a read. – Sean Gaffney
Laid-Back Camp, Vol. 12 | By Afro | Yen Press – This volume shows us what the other three members of the club were doing while Rin and Nadeshiko are having their suspension-bridge camping adventures. That said, what it really is is an excuse for the author to simply go bananas, as the “flashback” to what actually happened is immediately filled with lies, additions, and a constantly commenting Nadeshiko, who leans in and out of a panel box meant to indicate the non-flashback portion of the narrative. Things get so surreal that the entire narrative breaks down and turns anarchic, much to the horror of Chiaki, who is trying to keep this volume vaguely sane. The closest they get there is a discussion of the best ways to chop firewood. A bizarre side step, but hilarious. – Sean Gaffney
My Love Mix-Up!, Vol. 5 | By Aruko and Wataru Hinekure | VIZ Media – In this volume, Aoki starts cram school and ends up teaching his instructor a valuable lesson about prejudice. Then it’s Valentine’s Day and Hashimoto makes cupcakes for Akkun and there’s a big misunderstanding with an eventual sweet resolution. Then Aoki gets a part-time job and Ida feels left out. Meanwhile, Aoki’s tsundere coworker seems to fancy him. Yes, My Love Mix-Up! has become somewhat more typical shoujo as it has gone along, but I still really enjoy the main characters and their interactions. I’m most impressed by how much Akkun has developed as a character—initially I couldn’t fathom at all why Hashimoto might fancy him, but he’s turned out to be pretty interesting. There are only four more volumes of this, which feels about right. – Michelle Smith
Snow White with the Red Hair, Vol. 21 | By Sorata Akiduki | Viz Media – I get the sense that the author is aware that no one really wanted what happened in the last three volumes, but she is stubbornly sticking to it and shoving it in our faces some more, as Kiki and Hisame get engaged. There’s a distinct lack of love on her part, and this is very much a political marriage. That said, hopefully we can finally put it on the back burner. More to the point, Snow White with the Red Hair is going on the road, as the King quietly (very quietly) orders Shirayuki and Obi to travel from town to town trying to sell people on the cure they’ve come up with which is unusual and will require some explanation. I think that, rather than angsty romance, is the foreseeable future. Still good. – Sean Gaffney
Tales of Wedding Rings, Vol. 11 | By Maybe | Yen Press – Last time I said “more battles, less sex.” There is slightly less sex here, I admit, mostly as it’s very difficult to get your rocks off when your other ring-bearing fiancees are within listening distance. They do all get a very nice “yes, I really am in love with you, and can’t wait till I get my turn” scene. As for battles, it’s mostly just walking slowly towards the battlefield here, with a slight diversion by Amber in order to get a bit more of her backstory. This volume does not really do anything wrong, but I get the sense that the author was told to shoot for a certain volume number, and ended up short of material, because it’s astonishing how little happens here. Perhaps more battles NEXT time? – Sean Gaffney
Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet, Vol. 1 | By Mika Yamamori | Yen Press – This manga has many familiar ingredients. Fumi is a plucky high school student forced to take a job as a housekeeper for a mysterious novelist. Kibikino is the mysterious novelist who ends up being young and having a tendency to collapse close to Fumi. Add in a new cranky student at Fumi’s school who bears a grudge for her beating him at a tiny tikes race ten years ago and you have a ready-made love triangle. Yamamori’s art is winsome, and Fumi’s earnest dedication to couponing is hilarious, but I wish there had been something a little more unexpected about this first volume. I’ll likely hang in there or another volume or so to see if I end up being pleasantly surprised. – Anna N.
Usotoki Rhetoric, Vol. 1 | By Ritsu Miyako | One Peace Books – Urabe Kanoko has the ability to detect lies by the sound of a person’s voice. A useful skill, it would seem, but a talent that has left her and her family ostracized in their hometown. And so she leaves, determined to hide her ability and start life anew. But things aren’t easy for a young woman on her own at the dawn of the Shōwa era. Fortunately, Urabe eventually meets Iwai Soma, a remarkably perceptive private detective who is convinced her talent can be used for good. The first volume of Usotoki Rhetoric is a strong start to a delightful series. There has already been some great character development and the leads are charming. Urabe and Iwai’s respective talents support and complement one another in entertaining and satisfying ways—while Urabe’s lie-detecting ability is helpful, Iwai’s understanding of people is just as important. I’m really looking forward to reading more. – Ash Brown