For those who read my site by looking at the category archives, I have reviews of Happy Cafe 8 and Amnesia Labyrinth 2 on this week’s Bookshelf Briefs. They can be found here: Bookshelf Briefs
Oresama Teacher Volume 3
By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.
Another volume of Oresama Teacher, the antithesis of a cute and fluffy romance manga. There’s no romance here (beyond the implication that one of Mafuyu’s old classmates had a crush on her), but there’s plenty of laughs and action.
The majority of the third volume is about Mafuyu, who has discovered she has run out of food at her apartment, deciding to return home to mooch off her mother for the weekend. No sooner is she there, however, then she runs into the old turf war that she used to be deep in the middle of, as her old school is about to have a rumble with their rivals of West High. And what’s worse, she gets captured along with the current leaders! What’s a sweet young thing to do?
Good thing Mafuyu is not a sweet young thing. The two-page guide on how to escape as somebody is tying you up is not only genuinely useful, but is also hysterically funny. All of Mafuyu’s interaction with her two lieutenants is also comedy gold, as they manage to be stupider than she is, quite a feat if you’ve read the two previous volumes of this manga. Things are not helped by her being mocked by the bancho in charge of West High… who is, in the end, the only one sympathizing with her as well.
In the end, Mafuyu’s brief trip back home can only be just that, and she’s firmly told by her old crew that she’s not needed there any more. Naturally, she initially gets upset by this, but it’s for the traditional manga reasons of ‘it’s not your fight’ and needing to prove themselves without her… along with a big helping of having a crush, so wanting to protect her. Mafuyu doesn’t really need the protection (her punches can still knock guys out cold), but she’s thankful for this nevertheless.
A quick chapter follows showing her getting locked out of her apartment, and having to spend the night with Takaomi. Unfortunately, Takaomi is a very restless sleeper. If nothing else, this chapter may show us the most blood loss from an open head wound we’ve seen in a shoujo heroine – well, except maybe in Sukeban Deka. It’s a good thing this *is* a broad comedy, as the constant head injuries to Mafuyu, as well as her memory loss of even the most basic past events, might actually be tragic in any other context.
The final chapter seems more of a teaser for the next arc to begin in Volume 4, as we meet the Student Council and their charismatic leader Hanabusa. And when I say charismatic, this time I’m not just being descriptive, as his chief weapon is a charisma that borders on mind control. This chapter does see the welcome return of Hayasaka, who is mostly absent from this volume, and sees the two of them interacting like it’s old times. I look forward to seeing where this is going.
It’s fun seeing Tsubaki’s manga skills continue to improve as we move from the early volumes of The Magic Touch to the early volumes of Oresama Teacher. There’s less messy plotting and a more vibrant, modern Hana to Yume style heroine. But overall, the best reason to read this manga is still that it’s pure fun. Recommended.
Pick of the Week: Cross Game & Others
It’s another heavy release week at Midtown Comics. Join the Manga Bookshelf gang as they choose their week’s picks with new battle robot limb Sean Gaffney leading the way!
SEAN: My pick of the week is Cross Game Volume 4, which has now reached the halfway mark with this volume. Judging by what few sales numbers we see, Cross Game seems to do ‘OK, not great’. Therefore, we must continue to push it to everyone we know, as it really is a fantastic series, not only making baseball exciting even to non-fans, but also having a completely different mood and flow compared to both the typical shonen plot and the typical shonen lead couple. Plus it’s an omnibus, so you get two here! This will have the Japanese volumes 8 & 9.
MJ: I have a feeling Cross Game could be a popular choice this week, so I’ll take up the cause for one of my favorite shounen series, Jun Mochizuki’s Pandora Hearts. Yen Press releases volume six this week, and while it is probably the goofiest installment in the series so far, it still maintains the beautifully creepy vibe I’ve enjoyed all along. Currently running in Square Enix’s GFantasy, this series brings on the girl-friendly fanservice I’ve come to expect from that magazine, along with healthy portions of supernatural adventure, wry humor, and heart-wrenching human drama. And did I mention that it’s creepy? Throw in some really gorgeous costuming, and you’re pretty much got me hooked.
DAVID: MJ’s intuition is correct, as I’m going to second Sean’s recommendation of the fourth Cross Game collection. In spite of industry contractions, we’re still getting a ton of great new manga, and I would put this series right near the top of the list in terms of quality, inventive storytelling, and overall entertainment value.
KATE: Sean said everything that I would have said in support of Cross Game, so I’m going to recommend volume thirty-nine of Case Closed instead. Don’t be intimated by the sheer number of volumes; readers can jump into Case Closed at almost any point in its run and follow the action without difficulty, as the stories are generally short and self-contained. The latest volume pits kid sleuth Conan Edogawa against a serial arsonist whose likes to leave a small model horse at the scene of his fires. True, the story rehearses some familiar mystery/crime procedural tropes, but the brisk pace, smart-looking artwork, and snappy dialogue prevent the series from devolving into a manga re-hash of the Agatha Christie canon.
MICHELLE: Count me in as another voice in support of Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game, but I’m also personally looking forward to revisiting Rumiko Takahashi’s RIN-NE, which is now up to its sixth volume. I don’t love the series as ardently as I do some of Takahashi’s other creations, but I’m feeling in the mood to see what’s happening in the story since I last picked it up in volume four. Plus, with InuYasha wrapping up earlier this year, this is now the only Takahashi series with new releases to look forward to. I would probably continue to follow it just for that reason alone!
Readers, what looks good to you this week?
The Wallflower Volume 25
By Tomoko Hayakawa. Released in Japan as “Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Friend (“Betsufure”). Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
In a welcome if slightly odd return, the Wallflower manga is back to individual volumes, after a brief omnibus format for the prior three. So we only get one volume of fun here, but it’s a very good one, giving the reader all the humor they need, and even a few romantic bones thrown. Be aware, though: they’re only bones. The series is still running and still not resolving.
The first chapter continues on from the end of 24, where Kyohei kissed Sunako at a party. Despite his insistence that it was merely a ruse to distract people, she’s in full-blown “darkness take this creature of the light” mode and curses him. Strangely enough, the curse seems to WORK – Kyohei feels increasingly ill, and we see (though others cannot) the creepy spirits of young girls attaching themselves to his back. This chapter manages to combine everything good about Wallflower. The spirits are genuinely creepy and unsettling, the explanation for who they really are is hilarious, and Sunako has to admit that she was wrong to curse him and stave off the spirits, in what becomes a very sexy scene. And then they’re both hospitalized. Of course.
In the next chapter it’s Halloween, and Noi has another one of her cunning plans, which somehow always seem to end up about as cunning as Baldrick’s. (This is, I think the 5th Halloween in the manga, showing that the series is very much not running in realistic time.) She shows Sunako this great fake tree with skeletons attached to it, and notes that it’s the prize in a competition. Of course, it’s a modelling competition. Sunako does her best, and seeing her as a goth loli babydoll is so jarring it almost becomes parody, but still lacks confidence in her looks. As always it’s Kyohei to the rescue, even in the hospital, but the resolution is not what Noi wanted at all…
Speaking of Noi, she then gets a focus chapter with the gang all going hunting for Matsutake mushrooms. After approximately 10-11 chapters with Noi feeling unworthy of being Takenaga’s girlfriend, we now have her worried about taking things farther. It’s actually a rather interesting reminder that of the seven main characters, only four are still virgins – clearly this is not a series aimed at otaku guys. :) Of course, the only male in that group is Takenaga, and he still wants to wait, especially after the gang eats some poison mushrooms, and Noi starts trying to seduce him with her sexy. “Not like this,” he says. All ends well, but those frustrated at the lack of romantic progress with Kyohei and Sunako can be equally frustrated that Takenaga and Noi are equally slow.
The last chapter is Christmas (again? wasn’t Christmas in the last volume?), and involves many of our favorite themes. Noi and Tamao (Ranmaru’s fiancee, who is rarely named in the manga itself) are trying to knit handmade gifts, but are thwarted by being a beginner (Noi) or having Ranmaru admit he hates handmade stuff (Tamao). Sunako doesn’t have their issues, but Kyohei is also depressed by all of this talk of handmade gifts, as it reminds him of his past with his mother – one that ended badly. And poor Yuki is just upset that he can’t get a hold of his girlfriend at all. Naturally, all is resolved in the end with Sunako’s help, and the final chapter ends with a big Christmas toast from all four couples (well, OK, Sunako is more surprised than toasting).
If you want another great volume of Wallflower antics, this will give it to you. it’s a lot of fun. If you want character development or resolution of anything, may I recommend a nice cup of tea instead?
Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei Volume 9
By Koji Kumeta. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
Fans of this series may know that the translator/adaptor for the first four volumes was Joyce Aurino. She then left, and as of Volume 5 the translator was David Ury. Well, either Kodansha has a policy of switching up every few volumes, or this series burns translators out faster than most (the latter is more likely), as we now have a third translator, Joshua Weeks. Joshua has translated Pink Innocent, I Am Here!, and Panic x Panic for Del Rey in the past. How will he be able to handle the adaptation nightmare that is Zetsubou-sensei?
Well, for the most part, pretty well. The one piece of bad news is that there are even fewer endnotes than ever. I think Kodansha has realized that most folks don’t care who Mitsui-kun is or why he was hospitalized, and that explaining these would make the book 26 pages longer. For the most part the ‘Despair list’ references are ignored, and we just get footnotes when it’;s an important piece of plot or dialogue, such as Setsubun, or Giri Chocolate. I think I’m fighting a losing battle caring about this, so will try to shut up from now on.
That said, the actual translation is pretty excellent. Nozomu is despairing again, something that makes me happier than words can say. Kiri’s “Don’t Open” is also back to sounding more like what I was used to with earlier volumes. In general, though, it’s an excellent translation because I didn’t really notice it. There weren’t the continuity errors of past volumes that made me angry that Del Rey never credited an editor. (Kodansha does not either, in case you were curious.) So hooray, I am pleased and can now move on to talking about the actual volume.
The volume starts off with three very “Japanese” stories, and they’re possibly the weakest in the collection. That said, I was amused at Rin’s cherry chocolate factory, a giant cynical snarl at the Valentine’s Day industry in Japan. As the chapters go on we begin to discuss issues that are more “universal”, such as overaccessorizing, biased viewpoints, and the concept of “overcharging”. My two favorites were the ones that resonated with me the most, as Nozomu talks about people who try to look down on their betters with condescension, and trying to pretend that major decisions and announcements are really no big deal.
As the series has gone on, we’ve moved from a series driven by the insanity of its cast to one where it’s all about observational humor, so it’s no surprise that there’s not as much to discuss here character-wise. There are no major murder sprees from Chiri; in fact, her scariest moment is in a courtroom scene where she proves that the line between funny and terrifying is microscopically thin. We do see Jinroku-sensei has a huge tattooed back (implying he was once a yakuza, though this isn’t in the notes), and see the dangers of Chie-sensei being the serious type who doesn’t usually joke. My favorite character bit of humor was probably Manami, who’s absent from the overcharging chapter because she’s far too busy with housework, noting “Housewives don’t have time to recharge.”
Oh yes, one other reference I loved that wasn’t spelled out. As this volume was being written, the first anime series was broadcast. This meant that some of the characters were becoming associated with their voice actresses. Particularly Rin, who Kumeta Koji was very amused to see was voiced by Akiko Yajima, best known in Japan as “Crayon Shin-chan”. As a result, at the end of this volume and in subsequent ones, Rin will appear with her ass facing the reader, in tribute to Shin-chan’s tendencies. (Rin also joins the class as a student this volume, but will continue to be a “semi-regular”, only showing up when she needs to.)
I could go on about this series for a while, as you can see. And I’m pleased to see that many of the issues I had with prior volumes in terms of the editing and continuity seem to have been sorted out. Definitely recommended (though if you read Japanese, google for the Kumetan Wiki to find all the references you’re missing).
Kimi ni Todoke Volume 9
By Karuho Shiina. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Margaret (“Betsuma”). Released in North America by Viz.
I had a lot of questions at the end of Volume 8 that I wanted answered. Luckily, most of them are answered here, as we get a lot of resolution to various plot tentacles and head closer towards our leads becoming a couple. Though, word of warning, we still aren’t there yet.
I know that the focus of this volume is Sawako and Kazehaya, but I have to start off here by talking about Kento. Given that our two leads have so much trouble communicating, it’s somehow incredibly appropriate that everything that goes wrong in this volume (as well as one last thing going right) is the result of Kento simply talking and talking and NEVER SHUTTING UP. He is cheerfully trying to do what he thinks is best for everyone – but he’s wrong, and it takes the entire volume and a giant slap in the face from Kurumi (I hope people cheered) to make him see that. And so, when he realizes that his big mouth and misconceptions have screwed over everyone to date? He immediately goes to Sawako to talk to her some more, and tell her that he was totally wrong and he wished her good luck with Kazehaya. He’s such a contrast to everyone else in this manga my jaw almost drops.
Speaking of Kurumi, I never thought she’d become an audience identification character, but her ran to Sawako halfway through the book could almost have been the reader in many ways. It’s very easy to feel bad for her, even if you did dislike her at first. After all that sneaking around, she confessed straight out – and was rejected straight out. And now seeing the girl that she was rejected for being a giant coward is just too much to bear.
Is she really being cowardly, though? In many ways the entire plot of this series is ‘poor communication kills’, but nowhere is it hammered home more than in this volume, where not a page goes by without Kazehaya or Sawako misinterpreting each other, due to lack of confidence, poor verbal skills, and a whole lot of assumptions. It’s less surprising with Sawako, whose poor interpersonal skills are brought up when it’s noted how far she’s come with everyone EXCEPT Kazehaya. As for him, he gets less sympathy from most of the cast, especially Pin, who rather cruelly tells him to “just give up on her.”
Ayane and Chizu don’t get as much to do here except worry about their friend and constantly try to stop Kento from opening his mouth. Ayane’s reaction to Kento admitting he may have screwed things up is the comedic highlight of the volume. And Ryu too is almost absent, but that’s because he only gets involved when absolutely necessary – his line to Sawako “I don’t know if I should be saying this, but you need to explain yourself better.” is of course the entire book condensed into one remark. It’s also great that he tells her where Kazehaya is at the end.
“Did my words say what I wanted them to?” And so Sawako rushes off to find Kazehaya, and tracks him down to their classroom. And then… the book ends, in what is possibly one of the most frustrating cliffhangers I’ve seen in manga. We *desperately* want to see this resolved, want these two to finally get it, to see what they mean to each other. But now we must wait for Volume 10. In the meantime, what a great series.
Bamboo Blade Volume 9
By Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Young Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press.
I had mentioned in my review of Volume 8 that much of it was a setup for this being a meeting of two mismatched teams, and that I expected our heroes to spend most of the competition kicking asses. And indeed, that’s pretty much what I get here – well, at least until 3/4 of the way through it. But for that 3/4, it’s pretty much fantastic kendo action.
We begin with Azuma versus Chikamoto, which manages to be one of the few tense matches here, mostly as Chikamoto is the exception to most of the rest of her team. We can see her frustration as she realizes that Azuma is much, much better than she is – to the point where she recalls Azuma winning against someone who had previously beaten her in a competition, but can’t recall who beat her.
We then get what is, for me, the highlight of the volume. I’ve not tried to hide the fact that Miya-Miya is absolutely my favorite character in this series, and her split personality, angry snarling, and blunt honesty have been quite refreshing compared to her honest and forthright kendo leads. In Volume 8 we saw her training, and it was noted that she was shaping up well for a total novice. More to the point, Reimi has a cold, so is sick at home and not there to be a horrible distraction. As we see her fight, she scores a point, and is wise enough to realize that it only just barely landed, so didn’t feel “good enough.”
Counterpointing this is her arrogant opponent, who can tell that she'[s a beginner by her footwork, but can’t actually seem to do anything with that knowledge. And so, after giving up a point to stay even, Miya-Miya strikes, and gets the win. This is, in fact, her first win in the entire series. And she realizes… it’s an incredible feeling. Seeing the look of pure joy on her face, unshrouded by cynicism or anger, is worth the price of the book.
And so it goes through the match, with even Dan and Yuuji getting to play this time – and thrashing their opponents. And so finally we get Tamaki versus Takeshi, the sullen boy whose poor attitude has symbolized the spirit of the entire team. He has the most talent on the team, but lacks any will to fight. But even with that, Tamaki crushes him far too easily. So he notes the cords in his padding were loose, and asks for a rematch. And she does it again. Then the cords are actually too tight. So she beats him AGAIN. Then he stops trying to find excuses, and just starts demanding match after match. And slowly but surely, has a complete nervous breakdown as it becomes apparent just how far he’s fallen.
For the kids on the team it’s a vaguely happy ending – Takeshi is quitting, but he’s going back to a dojo to relearn the passion he had lost. And the rest of the team, now led by Chikamoto, is training much harder than before. I wish I could say that was it for the volume, but of course we have the match between Kojiro and Ishibashi. Which after the fantastic kendo action of the prior chapters, is a complete washout. The writer apologized in the afterword for there being too much focus on guys in this volume, but I had no issue with Takeshi’s plotline. Making Ishibashi into a complete comedic idiot, however, simply doesn’t work, and devoting almost an entire chapter to his and Kojiro’s post-match shenanigans makes it end on a poor note.
Still, it’s 3/4 of a volume of awesome, and you get to see the whole of Kojiro’s kendo team do an excellent job. Which is good timing, because the cliffhanger for Volume 10 suggests television might be in their future…
Manga the week of 7/13
It’s a good second week of the month for manga, seeing a hefty but not overwhelming amount of stuff coming from Midtown Comics (which still seems to have misplaced June’s Kodansha releases that Diamond and bookstores already have, by the way).
Seven Seas gets to Volume 10 of its bestselling title Dance in the Vampire Bund, one of the few things they have that’s not a Dengeki work. It comes from Media Factory’s Comic Flapper. There’s also the second volume of romantic comedy Toradora!, which *is* from Dengeki Daioh, and features possibly the most popular of the four ‘loli tsunderes’ that all arrived at the same time (for the curious, the other three are Shana, Louise and Nagi).
Viz has its ‘Oh, right, we also put out Shonen Sunday stuff’ second week, and the big news here is the 4th volume in the Cross Game omnibus, which has now reached its halfway point. There’s the 39th volume of Case Closed, which is really quite impressive given how it has to compete with all those Jump titles. The 6th volume of Rin-Ne will no doubt make us all keep hoping that Sakura will actually get mad at something. New volumes of Hyde & Closer and Kurosakuro, both Vol. 5. And for Pokemon fans, two volumes of the new Black and White series, 96 pages each.
Yen Press also rolls out their July releases. The 4-koma series Ichiroh! ends here with Volume 5. Cirque Du Freak is up to Vol. 10 for you Darren Shan fans. High School of the Dead would like to remind you that yes, it is technically a shonen title, at least in Japan. Speaking of genre, what genre to call Kobato, which runs in media magazine Newtype. The fanboy genre? But of course, the big titles for yen are the Square Enix ones from GFantasy. Black Butler and Pandora Hearts, which are both smash hits. And Nabari no Ou, which… isn’t a smash hit. But has ninjas, so should be doing better than it is.
Anything interesting you? Or will you be catching up with the pile that came in this week?
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Volume 1
By Kenji Kuroda and Kazuo Maekawa, based on the video game by Capcom. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Young Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
Back when Kodansha Comics was still Del Rey, they put out two doujinshi anthologies based on the popular video game series, featuring lots of cute stories and bad puns. In Japan, however, there was actually a genuine ongoing manga based off of the series. It ran for five volumes, and also spawned a sequel based off of Phoenix’s rival Miles Edgeworth which ran an additional four. Rather than a gaming magazine, it appeared in one of their titles aimed at young men, the appropriately named Young Magazine.
I’m not normally a gamer, but I make an exception for Phoenix, whose games were so much fun. For those unfamiliar with the premise, Phoenix Wright is a young up and coming defense attorney who usually finds himself dealing with clients who look incredibly guilty but profess their innocence. He and his partner, the perky teenage spirit medium Maya Fey, investigate the crime, stack up clues, and eventually arrive at the trial, where they cross-examine witnesses and try to get the judge to see what really happened.
The manga based off of it is much the same, and even starts the way most games in this series have, with Phoenix called on to defend his hapless childhood friend Larry Butz, who is accused of murder – again. Once this appetizer is finished, we get the main case of the volume, which actually will be spreading out into Volume 2 as well. Phoenix is called to the house of a somewhat jerkass president of an IT company, who suspects he will soon be arrested for murder and wants Phoenix to represent him before that even happens. What follows is a rather claustrophobic tale of a messed-up family, a building that screams ‘deathtrap’, and spiders. A whole mess of spiders.
The manga follows the general theme of the games quite well. We meet a pile of different characters, all of whom seem to be at odds with each other, leaving Phoenix and Maya to try to figure things out. I was also very pleased to see that they kept the basic humor that makes Phoenix Wright so much fun – Phoenix and Maya snark at each other (and other characters) constantly, and there’s no shortage of goofy characters and evidence, especially in the first case. That said, the murders themselves are treated quite seriously. The first case ends on a melancholy note, and the second one gets very intense – folks who don’t like spiders might want to steer clear of this volume.
The localization of the manga reads fine, sounding much like the games. Occasionally they have to cheat, as the manga can show things like Maya’s ramen obsession – so the translation notes say Maya likes burgers AND ramen! Fans of Miles Edgeworth should be warned, however, that he doesn’t appear here beyond Phoenix briefly thinking of him. Winston Payne is the prosecution in Larry’s case, and we have not gotten to the trial for the second one yet. Heck, even Dick Gumshoe doesn’t show up until the end!
Oh, and the Judge asking Phoenix and Maya to keep their lover’s spats outside the court did my little shipping heart good. :)
There’s nothing groundbreaking about this manga. It gives readers exactly what they want – more adventures of Phoenix Wright – and does it in a way that won’t disappoint fans. People who aren’t fans of the game might find its attitude hard to take at first – it’s very glib for a detective series – but for what it is, it works very well.
Soul Eater Volume 6
By Atsushi Ohkubo. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press.
I somehow missed reviewing Volume 5 of this series, but no worries. This new volume sees the series doing a lot of things right, and the result is that I feel I can finally wholeheartedly recommend it in ways that go beyond the art style.
The plot here continues from the last volume: our heroes are trying to stop Medusa and her cronies from resurrecting the Kishin, a Very Big Bad who has been sealed up in a subbasement in a bag made of his own skin. Maka has found herself confronted by the series’ most disturbing character (and that’s saying a lot!), Crona, who definitely seems to have the upper hand. Maka can get it back, but only to abandoning herself to madness, and trusting that Soul will be able to bring her back.
This series runs in a magazine called ‘Shonen Gangan’, but the age bracket it seems to market itself to is noticeably higher than the big 3’s shonen titles – more of a 10-15-year-old market. I’d say that’s definitely a good thing, as some of the events in this volume can be downright unnerving and almost terrifying. In fact, at times the unnatural and abstract art style helps – at one point, Maka grabs Crona’s face and runs it along the blade of her scythe, something that would make you scream in horror if it weren’t so cartoonlike. The distancing works very well.
As for Crona (who Yen seem to have dubbed ‘male’ simply because avoiding pronouns is very awkward in English – Crona generally is sexless), in trying to open up, Maka discovers that Crona lacks a very good sense of self, and in many ways almost seems to have a split personality. Maka breaks through using the power of friendship, of course, but it’s very uneasy – Crona’s weapon rebels against this, and there’s a sense that everything is still hanging on a knife-edge.
The rest of the volume sees Black*Star and Death the Kid try to get to the basement to stop the Kishin’s resurrection. This is more shonen battle oriented, with lots of killer hidden moves and self-doubt – hallucinatory images play a big role here, and at one point even the villains almost commit suicide because they’re being tricked by the sheer insanity of the Kishin’s thoughts. However, they finally make it down there, and…
…well, they fail. The Kishin ends up being resurrected after all, though at least Medusa is killed (or is she?). This is the first really big plot line that our three groups have worked together on, and though they all get to strut their stuff and do cool things, it’s rather noticeable that it ends in failure. It has to be said that Soul Eater is, at heart, a world that seems to live off of fear and madness. As a result, things like this happening are far more the norm. Hopefully as they get stronger Maka and company will be able to help prevent this, but for the moment the bad guys have won.
This is not your typical shonen series. It has a high body count and a lot of blood, as well as facial expressions which can cause you to whimper in horror. And as always there is the art, giving you a comforting disconnect from reality to help with the worst gory bits, but also being nowhere near reality in terms of its everyday setting. I’m enjoying it more with every volume, and now that it’s settled down into a plot-oriented groove, it’s become one of Yen Press’s better acquisitions. Recommended, especially for those who want something a little different.
Oh yes, and Patty’s ‘Voice of Authority’ was hilarious. :D
Tenjo Tenge Volume 1
By Oh!Great. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Ultra Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
Well, I must admit, I feel I brought this on myself. I kept bringing up the fact that Japan was filled with delinquent manga, featuring entire schools filled with young bruisers of both sexes who are there to kick ass, take names, and fight increasingly stronger other guys. And I noted how we rarely saw these over here, and that when we did (Digital Manga Publishing’s three released volumes of Worst come to mind), they tend not to do so well.
So now we have a re-release of the classic boobs ‘n martial arts extravaganza Tenjo Tenge, this time with all of the sex that original publisher CMX covered up or simply cut out. This volume actually contains the first two volumes of the original series (and confusingly, has the cover for Volume 2 on its cover and the original cover for Volume 1 before the second volume), and is unedited as far as I can tell. I don’t have the original Japanese to compare it to, but certainly looking at several of the sequences, if Viz *is* editing anything I can’t imagine what it is. It also has lots of nice color pages, and is slightly larger in size than the typical manga volume – it’s a really nice reproduction.
As for the content, it’s exactly what a young reader of Ultra Jump would want. Really, Oh!Great knows his audience and delivers exactly what they’re after without fail. There’s lots of nudity and suggestion of sex (and one rape scene that gets fairly graphic), lots of fists flying and kicks connecting, and a school full of people who like to pose and sneer. It is, in other words, the PERFECT manga for fourteen-year-old boys. There seems to be a bit of a plot regarding the past of the school’s club and the heroine’s dead brother, and some vague supernatural powers at work, but none of that detracts from what the manga is there to deliver. You need SOME plot to hang your sex and violence on.
Soichiro and Bob (half-black, half-Japanese) are two best friends who are used to dominating their old school by being the top fighters around. They arrive at Todo Academy ready to put it under their thumb, only to find that the students here are even better fighters, who can kick their ass without breaking much of a sweat. This delights them, as they’re itching to find anyone who can drive them to be even better. Of course, as Bob knows and Soichiro starts to learn here, you need a reason to be strong besides ‘strong is cool’.
The characters here are all types, but they’re decent enough types – for characters where you know their whole arc in advance, they don’t put a foot wrong. Aya is the classic overenthusiastic girl who has already declared the hero her husband (shades of Lum/Shampoo/etc.) but is plagued by inner doubts. Her sister Maya is a mentor figure so far, but shows signs that she has a troubling past that drives her. Soichiro seems to be the idiot hero who will get better and faster based on pure instinct. Heck, even Chiaki, Bob’s girlfriend whose sole role in the story seems to be to have sex with her boyfriend and get threatened, is handled pretty well – after the aforementioned rape scene (she was the victim), her laughter and bravado at saying that he didn’t go all the way and that she fought him off is both heartbreaking and realistic, especially contrasted with the three broken heroes she’s trying to pass it off to. (The rape itself is incredibly exploitative, of course, a classic example of Oh!Great trying to have his cake and eat it too.)
And then there’s Isuzu. A heh. Well, I know that sort of fetish is out there, and for those who love it, here she is.
I don’t want to give the impression that this is anything more than a pandering school delinquent manga with fantasy overtones, as that’s just what it is. There’s an incredibly bad onsen scene that is there to give faux yuri fanservice and nothing more. And though I did note that there are semblances of a plot here, I do not expect this to remotely overtake the manga’s primary goals: to excite and titillate. And yes, the girls look like plastic fantastic lovers.
That said, if a manga succeeds entirely at giving its target audience exactly what they want, can one call it a failure because it doesn’t deliver at all outside that target? Tenjo Tenge is what it is, a boobs ‘n martial arts manga. And with ten more omnibus volumes to go, there’s a lot of both of those still to come. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t enjoy people hitting each other with grins on their faces while girls with unrealistic bodies lose their clothing a lot. If you don’t mind that? I think this is quite decent, and even entertaining.
Hello To Manga Bookshelf Readers!
Hi, everyone! My name’s Sean Gaffney, and since the very end of 2009 I’ve been writing a blog called A Case Suitable for Treatment (called that because I can’t remember movie titles very well, but I do like David Warner).
Mostly what you’ll be seeing from me here is what I’ve been doing on my old blog: lots of manga reviews, with the occasional post discussing cartoons, or Shakespeare, or Frank Zappa, all obsessions of mine. You will find my style of writing to be fairly stream-of-consciousness (crueler people might say ‘rambling’), but I hope you will enjoy my reviews as much as I enjoy writing them.
For those worried about the content of my old blog, fear not, it’s all here already, and available via the handy category dropdown to my right. Thus you will not be losing any of my posts begging you all to buy Excel Saga, Gatcha Gacha, or I Hate You More Than Anyone!.
A word of warning: I write a lot of positive reviews. I am pretty easy to please, and even with things that I know are aggressively mediocre I can usually find enough about them to praise. When I do feel that something is unworthy of your time, however, I will certainly let you know it.
I am extra thankful to MJ, Katherine Dacey, David Welsh, and Michelle Smith for inviting me to join their collective group, and I hope to be able to train harder to get to their level, in the best shonen traditions of friendship, perseverance and victory.
Excel Saga Volume 22
By Rikdo Koshi. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young King OURS. Released in North America by Viz.
Yes, at last, we are CAUGHT UP with Viz’s serialization of Excel Saga! Do you know what this means? It means you won’t get to see me talk about it till April 2012, as Excel Saga is down to a yearly release. Ah well. In the meantime, we have the action-packed Volume 22! And I’m not joking, after the seeming stasis of the Teriha arc and its aftermath, things all seem to be coming together here, and everyone clashes against each other.
First off, to resolve the minor cliffhanger from last volume, Il Palazzo appears on Excel’s homebrew computer to tell her and Elgala to keep doing what they’re doing and do not attempt contact. Excel finds this suspicious, but sends Hyatt (who is not ‘on individual assignment’ back to him while she and Elgala reconnoiter. Excel is really dealing with a lot here – she’s slowly getting her Teriha memories back, she’s realizing that Il Palazzo has been compromised and can’t necessarily be trusted, and she knows that telling Elgala this would be a mistake. So she puts a straw dummy of herself at the riverbank, and goes off on her own to sneak into Professor Shiouji’s home base. Honestly, throughout this volume Excel shows impressive ability to think and plan. After everything she’s been through, it’s nice to see her get focused.
Of course, that’s not to say she’s suddenly competent. She does get into the base, through a combination of luck and her repressed memories. Once there she runs into Iwata, who is somewhat taken aback to find that Teriha is now attacking him. The two of them get into a fight as Misaki, Watanabe and Sumiyoshi also appear. Sadly, Iwata then recalls fighting Excel’s doppelganger last volume and tries to use robot strength to knock Excel out. It works all too well, and now they have to deal with a captured fugitive.
Excel being Excel, she goes back and forth between berating her captors and demanding food. Well, she has been living as a fugitive for a while. They bring her food, and she eats about 12 bento boxes worth. Misaki even notes that she’s not worried that it’s poisoned, which Excel responds to with “You couldn’t put enough in here to kill me.” Probably true, but it’s rare for Excel to be aware of her own superhuman attributes. She then gets into a long discussion with Misaki about their respective organizations, which ends up telling us more about Misaki than it does Excel. Excel is in her ‘for the greater glory of ACROSS’ mode, while Misaki is at her cynical best, noting she doesn’t care who rules the world as long as she is left alone. Her image on Page 53 is actually rather scary in its combination of threat and disinterest.
They would like Excel to just go home, but the trouble is they aren’t sure how she got in – and neither is she, since she did it mostly on instinct. She does decide to escape from the bed they currently have her handcuffed to, and gets out of her room by simply ripping out the computer lock with her bare hands. Sadly, this also sets off the big alarms all over the base, and gets Dr. Kabapu down there – who most certainly is NOT for letting her go. As all this is happening, Il Palazzo (or more likely Miwa) sends RopponExcel (called Isshiki throughout, aka ‘First’) to capture our Excel. Everyone converges in a hallway, and the two Excels, now that there isn’t a bomb about to go off, have the big confrontation Elgala expected in Volume 20. Excel has mad kung-fu skills. Isshiki has a hand laser that can sedate into unconsciousness. Round 1 goes to Isshiki.
Isshiki, before this, also managed to break Iwata (yes, again) in two. This does not, however, prevent Kabapu from using his body as a puppet to attack Teriha. Given that Iwata is unconscious and therefore can’t actually be stupid, this fight is far more even than many other fights involving Isshiki. Kabapu destroys her hand laser; Isshiki then destroys his control (and it is revealed that yes, it’s Miwa rahter than Il Palazzo who’s calling the shots for Isshiki). Intriguingly, Kabapu notes that Isshiki is EQUAL to Iwata in power, not surpassing him. Then the fight is promptly finished by Excel herself, who is still groggy but is awake, kung-fu fighting, fast as lightning, and REALLY REALLY ANGRY. She kicks Iwata (controlled by Kabapu) into a pile, grabs Isshiki, and screams into her face, demanding to know where Il Palazzo is. There’s a short crackle, and just like in Volume 9 (remember Volume 9?), Isshiki shorts out in contact with Excel and folds like a ton of bricks. Excel, while noting that she’s still really heavy, then PICKS HER UP OVER ONE SHOULDER and asks Misaki where the exit is. And then exits, as security’s basically completely shot anyway. I merely note once more that when Excel is not paying attention to her limitations, she is astounding, given Isshiki weighs about one ton.
So now Excel is back on the riverbank, with Elgala. But as a bonus, she also has Isshiki, who is following Excel’s orders, although Excel still can’t get any information out of her. Elgala is hopelessly lost when having to deal with two Excels, and one of my favorite lines has her asking Isshiki to say “I am an imposter” after everything she says. Excel, though, is not just standing there having Isshiki catch fish and cook for them because she’s good at it (though she is). She’s trying to draw the enemy out. And when this happens, she sends Elgala out to deal with them. Sadly, it’s only Professor Shiouji, who is totally unimpressed with Elgala’s supposed stick-fighting skills. He asks Elgala to tell Excel that he, like Misaki, is not her enemy, but not her ally either – and that Umi is totally innocent in all of this.
As this is going on, Hyatt’s corpse floats down the river, leaving a red tide in its wake. Upon revival, she notes that the ACROSS base was deserted. So our heroines are all back together again. (We also have the funniest part of the volume here, when Elgala is overexcited and Excel hands her what she thinks is water – only to find it’s a cup of Hyatt’s blood. She promptly hallucinates the Sanzu River, with her dead form crossing it in a small boat to get to the afterlife. Upon returning to reality, she notes “Senior Hyatt, yours is a dark eucharist.”) (Oh, Happy Easter, by the way!)
Now Excel is positive that Miwa is their enemy, but needs more information. So after ‘pretending’ to have a fight to throw off their observers (which just causes Hyatt to collapse in a bloody heap in confusion), she and Elgala proceed to ambush Misaki, hogtie her, and toss her into their wheelbarrow (wow, it’s REALLY been a while since we’ve seen the wheelbarrow). Misaki is very angry about this, for several reasons: 1) She would have talked to them anyway, no need for kidnapping; 2) not knowing what was going on, she set off her alarm so that Iwata and the others are coming for her, and 3) she doesn’t have much to tell them anyway. She says Miwa’s a free-agent, and more self-centered than evil. Iwata then comes to get her… in the body of Nishiki, as he’s now body-hopped again. While Excel and Elgala escape, Misaki deals with this new crisis. Shiouji has no idea how he jumps bodies, his own body is slowly dying without his consciousness in it, and he doesn’t know how to fix it. Last time Misaki punched him – this time, she tries kissing him (in Nishiki’s body – Ropponmatsu 2, for those playing at home), a full page-and-a-half kiss of awesome. It works, though Misaki is starting to fray at the edges a bit with everything going on.
As is Watanabe, as the cliffhanger has him power up his suit when he sees Hyatt, his one true love, lying dead in the arms of “Excel”, aka Isshiki. Watanabe’s been ‘dissolutely evil’ for some time now, but it appears his feeling for “Miss Ayasugi” have not dimmed. Cliffhanger!
This volume was fantastic, showcasing Excel at her finest, giving Misaki and company lots to do, and having Elgala carry the bulk of the humor at her expense. All this and liner notes by Carl Horn! Do yourself a favor and buy Excel Saga. It’ll make many folks very happy.
Excel Saga Volume 21
By Rikdo Koshi. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young King OURS. Released in North America by Viz.
At long last, folks, we are caught up with Excel Saga. At least until next week, when Volume 22 comes out. But for now, back to one year ago, when Volume 21 came out! Yes, it may be down to once a year, but Excel Saga marches on! (On a quick tangent, I note that one of the endnotes in this volume takes up almost an entire page telling us that Iwata’s ‘Sexy Adventure’ was in English in the original Japanese manga, and then telling us about Lupin III’s third season. In detail. Tremendous detail. Only Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service brings you this level of endnote, a level that may go beyond the fringe of reader comprehension, and reminds us that editors are for OTHER people. It’s awesome.)
Meanwhile, in the actual manga, Excel has grown frustrated with being unable to see Il Palazzo, and decides it’s high time she and Elgala go looking for him. So it’s back to the sewers, in a nostalgic retrospective that reminds us of the good old days of Volume 6 and its control room of deathtraps. Excel and Elgala run into one of those deathtraps, namely a torrent of water coming down the pipe. Luckily, Excel has a solution to drowning: Elgala, who she proceeds to suck all the air out of like an aqualung (as Carl notes in an endnote, what’s the opposite of the Kiss of Life?). Luckily, they both survive, and manage to make it to the locker room and get back in uniform. It’s really been a LONG time since we saw the uniforms.
As this is happening, the Security Force cast are relaxing at a hotspring. This mostly consists of Iwata trying to peep on Misaki while she’s bathing, only to be foiled by the mines she had thoughtfully set up. The most interesting part of this chapter is seeing Miss Momochi’s teasing side, as she asks Misaki if she wants to swap room assignments so that she can be with Iwata. Misaki actually drops her sake cup, and I would too. This is the most Momochi has spoken in 21 volumes, as she gets to talk more once Iwata accidentally tries to molest her instead of Misaki in the middle of the night. (He actually feels remorse at this, a rare Iwata trait.) We still know absolutely nothing about her, and we may never know, but it’s as close to character development as she gets.
Meanwhile, Excel is back in Il Palazzo’s throne room! Elgala is not, mostly as she was trailing behind, and failed to notice that doors don’t automatically open for her. Excel has enough trouble, though, as she’s dealing with seeing Hyatt once again encased in some sort of cryostasis chamber (presumably to try to make her well again), not to mention Il Palazzo immediately dropping her into the pit. The pit! Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve seen the pit? So nostalgic… Anyway, she manages to avoid falling by merely dislocating both hips, and discovers that the Il Palazzo on the throne… is a HOLOGRAM! Of course, now she’s wondering exactly how many times before Il Palazzo has deployed a fake to deal with her.
As this happens, Shiouji is trying to infiltrate ACROSS’s base as well, using Ropponmatsu II. She does very well, until she runs into RopponExcel, who smashes her across the room (and into Elgala, but it’s not the worst damage she’s ever suffered). The real Excel arrives and sees her double abusing a child, and tries to go to town on the robot. It’s actually rather startling that Excel is able to hold her own, given we’ve previously seen Excel having tremendous difficulty lifting Ropponmatsu I. Perhaps she just has to not think about what she’s doing? In any case, it’s yet another example of Excel having superhuman strength and endurance, something we’re likely used to by now. The battle doesn’t last long, as Excel and Elgala retreat and leave the two robots to fight it out.
Excel and Elgala continue their attempts, now trying to get OUT of the base. This involves Elgala holding Excel’s hand, as she finally gives in and admits that the doors won’t open for anyone else. (Excel blithely notes that she’s never noticed such things at her rank.) Unfortunately, they run into Miwa, who has now pretty much taken over the base, and she expels them forcefully down an even BIGGER pit. After all this wackiness, Il Palazzo returns to his throne (seemingly not a hologram now, although I hesitate to use the word ‘real’ in regards to Il Palazzo anymore) with a rejuvenated Hyatt and RopponExcel at his side.
So everyone’s back to square one… at least until Iwata, for reasons still unclear, wakes up in the body of Ropponmatsu II (who got creamed by RopponExcel, and is back in the lab for repairs). After some brief awkwardness showering with Umi (and more lampshading that, despite seeming to be a total perv, Iwata has only ever been interested in Misaki – like Momochi, he mostly feels guilt when seeing Umi), Iwata knows the best way to abuse being in someone else’s body – go find Misaki and try to sneak into her bed as Ropponmatsu II. This goes about as well as you’d expect, though it does take Misaki at least 6 pages to figure it out – is she slipping? So she stomps him unconscious… and he wakes up…
…in RopponExcel! OK, we now have no idea whatsoever what is going on with Iwata now, as he can apparently jump between any robot body unconsciously. Now he’s in Il Palazzo’s base, and trying to figure out what’s going on. He meets up with Hyatt, who’s still trying to figure out “what’s wrong” with her sempai, and reminds her of Watanabe, something which seems to cause her to dribble blood a little. Again, we see that a brainwiped Hyatt seems totally healthy, but the moment she starts remembering things, she is coughing up blood again. Iwata, somewhat poleaxed to realize that he’s in the body of “Teriha”, ends up bolting, and quickly arrives at the same secret room Excel almost got into 18 volumes or so ago. Sadly, it appears to zap him, and he ends up back in his own body.
Shiouji, delighted to get new information on his mother’s secrets, no matter how unintentionally Iwata did this, decides to interrogate him, with Misaki’s help. This goes very badly, as Iwata gets more and more random, and Shiouji notes that a human brain just has trouble adapting to a robot’s processes, and that Iwata is becoming increasingly unable to perceive reality. Yes, even more so. As this happens, Hyatt is out for a walk, trying to get her brain around what’s happening to Excel – still. Not one for great thoughts, our Hyatt. Sadly, she runs into Sumiyoshi, which again triggers memories, causing her to cough up blood and pass out into the river. Naturally, where does she end up? At Excel and Elgala’s cardboard domicile at the riverbank, where Excel has a computer setup as part of her attempts to become more worthy of her Lord. (She did the physical part as well, stopping only when Elgala was at the point of exhaustion. Excel was unfazed, of course.) Elgala notes that she used to be horrible with computers, and we see Excel flashing back to her time as Teriha, where she was reading tons of the Professor’s programming books merely for something to do. Clearly Excel is remembering SOME things about Teriha, but is generally too embarrassed to admit them.
So our power trio are together again, once Hyatt returns from the dead, and just in time, too, as the computer is giving a message to all members of ACROSS – from Il Palazzo! What could it be? Well, we’ll find out next week, when Volume 22 arrives in stores.
Summary of Volumes 1-21: Excel Saga is awesome, and needs more love.
Excel Saga Volume 20
By Rikdo Koshi. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young King OURS. Released in North America by Viz.
Hallelujah. After what seems like a lifetime, this is it. This is the volume. Excel is back, baby! And as if to celebrate that fact, Rikdo has gone the extra mile, giving us one of the absolute best volumes to date.
However, at the start of it, we’re still focusing on Teriha, who has heard the news about a bomb at the ILL building. She runs into Elgala, and the two of them break into the building through the parking garage. Some lovely stuff here, mostly as Teriha has no idea who Elgala is, but still feels the need to punch her hard enough to break her jaw out of sheer instinct. Elgala, for her part, is happy that she’s in a manga, as she manages to shake her head a bit and get rid of all the bone and cartilage damage (though she notes ruefully she can’t do it twice in a row). And as they head up to find the bomb, Iwata is heading down, having transformed – midair – into his sentai suit, something which went absolutely fine except his head is now backwards. This fazes him not a bit. Lastly, Il Palazzo has sent RopponExcel down to find the bomb as well, and the three groups all run into each other at once.
RopponExcel, also seemingly running on instinct, takes out Iwata fast (it’s more emotion than we’ve ever seen from her, and clearly implied she shared Ropponmatsu I’s memories somewhat), and finally is face to face with Teriha. Elgala clearly wants some form of confrontation, but unfortunately there’s still a bomb, as RopponExcel and Teriha tell her. In unison. Elgala is rather disturbed by the almost Zen-like bond the two share, as they even find the bomb at the same time – RopponExcel using her super investigating skills, Teriha by pure instinct. RopponExcel starts to defuse the bomb, but sadly the bomb’s creator (take a wild guess who that is – no prizes, she’s the only real villain the series has left) decides to set it off then and there. This takes out RopponExcel, but Teriha and Elgala were shielded. And what’s worse, there were TWO bombs – and one has been delivered to Il Palazzo’s office.
Teriha takes off, racing to the top floor, bolting past a rather stunned Hyatt (who has slowly been realizing that Elgala was correct about a fake Excel but not really having the will to do much about it) and tells Il Palazzo – right as the bomb explodes, sending them flying out the top window of an 80-story building. And they start to fall. And it’s the falling – after so many drops into the pit, or falls into the sea, or just plummeting in general – that wakens Excel’s memories. In fact, it may almost be conscious – Teriha seems to know what’s about to happen, and tells Umi ‘bye-bye…’… before starting up in maniacal glee and screaming “HAIL, IL PALAZZO!” It’s fantastic. If only Il Palazzo felt the same – he shoves Excel away from him and activates some sort of antigrav device, the teleports out with the inactive RopponExcel. Excel plummets into a nearby handy river. Elgala merely gets trampled in the mass exodus from the building. And Hyatt is MIA.
(Oh yes, the Security Agency watches all this via remote, and does its best snarky commentary. Relevant here is that a) Iwata points out to them that Excel is Teriha, and had in fact been living with the professor for a year; b) everyone has pretty much guessed that Miwa was behind all this, but can’t do much about it, and c) Umi is devastated at Teriha’s absence, walking around in a stupor. Shiouji, showing a rare bit of compassion, notes she isn’t the sort of personality to let this bring her down for long, and will snap out of it soon.)
What follows next is perhaps the BEST MONTAGE EVER, as Excel tries to piece together what she’s been doing. Yes, she has her memories back, but all her time as Teriha is now gone. We see her escaping her plight in Vol. 15. We see her on a boat, which is promptly destroyed. (For fans of the anime, Pedro makes his 2nd and final appearance here.) She’s in China, dressed as Chun-Li, trying to do a dash-and-dine with roast pig. We see her in Russia, with a Cossack helmet, then fleeing a la Anastasia. She goes to America via the luggage hold (and, it’s noted, is freezing to death in there – a bit of realism in a not-very-realistic anime), where she ends up as a NYC police officer (no, I’m not making this up), but she still can’t escape the enemies constantly chasing her, who eventually capture and chain her up. However, the sight of… wait, this sounds ludicrous. Even Excel tells herself to calm down and notes that her memories sound more like a movie than something that actually happened. Made an awesome montage of Excel being silly, superhuman, and generally Excel-ish, though.
So Excel is now back to her normal self, something that delights Elgala when they come across each other on the riverbank. Elgala may get abused by Excel, but at least it’s the abuse she’s used to, and not confusing new abuse. Excel, meanwhile, is rather disheartened to learn she’s somehow lost an entire YEAR (one of the few times the manga actually tells us how long things take) and been replaced by a duplicate. Elgala’s pep talk doesn’t help that much, but Elgala’s insults do, and soon Excel is back to her old self and deciding that they will raise money that will help them get to Il Palazzo.
So they start by becoming shrine maidens. This may, in fact, be the funniest chapter in the book, one which plays on the then-current anime Kannagi, which was taking otaku by storm. They’re doing it supposedly to aid an old, bed-ridden priest, but don’t seem to care about him too much – especially not when he goes mad after Excel carves the Sacred Tree into a life-sized idol of Il Palazzo. However, they do make the shrine incredibly profitable, and the cash is soon rolling in. Sadly, this does not mollify the priest, who gets his revenge by burning the shrine down. Excel and Elgala weren’t in it at the time – they were drinking out on the grounds – but that doesn’t matter, as Excel’s Il Palazzo shrine is in there, and she goes back to get it after much struggling (Elgala generally values self-preservation a lot more than her senior). This leads to my favorite two pages in the entire volume, where we see Elgala, saddened and crushed as she gazes into the fire where Excel has just thrown herself. We then cut to what Elgala sees – Excel, burned to a crisp, holding into the preserved Il Palazzo idol, her hands in a ‘V’ sign. “You win, senior.” Excel then notes that it wasn’t even about the statue, and that she had to make sure that “she can go through fire or him.” One reason I love the later part of the manga is Rikdo’s ability to be incredibly silly then turn serious on a dime. Luckily, Excel reminds us of her insane healing ability here as well, as her charred flesh is fine the next day.
The last chapter has Excel, Elgala and Menchi – still homeless – freezing to death at the riverbank. Excel decides that this may be a good time to use some of the money she hid from Elgala to buy a hotel room. It’s rather fun being reminded of Excel’s incredible parsimonious, as well as her very sensible reasoning for hiding the cash from Elgala – Elgala would likely spend it all in about 5 minutes. So they get a cheap hotel room – which is clearly haunted. Sadly, only Elgala seems to notice the ghosts, and Excel solves the problem by getting the manager (who is clearly aware the room is haunted) to knock a few hundred yen off the price. She then leaves Elgala to freak out and goes to buy groceries, noting rather grimly that she does see visions, but pays them no mind – meanjing she is still haunted, to an extent, by her Teriha memories. This is not helped by her then SEEING Umi off in the distance. She starts to go after her, but is stopped by Professor Shiouji, who notes that seeing Excel would merely make Umi worse right now, and that if she doesn’t remember her time as Teriha, she doesn’t belong here. It’s really rather harsh, but entirely accurate. A melancholy Excel returns to the apartment, where Elgala is now seeing her skeletal remains in mirrors and the wallpaper seems to be concealing a dead body. Excel finally agrees that yes, something is wrong with the apartment, and they flee back to the freezing riverbank.
It was wonderful to see Excel and Exgala back to their old tricks here, and I hope Hyatt is able to join them soon. However, the plot continues apace, and Miwa’s plans – whatever they are – are not showing any signs of being stopped. What happens next? I guess we’ll find out soon!