This week, MJ, Kate, David, & Michelle take a look at several ongoing series from Viz Media, Digital Manga Publishing, TOKYOPOP, and Yen Press.
Bunny Drop, vol. 3 | By Yumi Unita | Yen Press – I think this column is a perfect venue for new volumes of series like Bunny Drop where all I basically have to say is that it’s still excellent. This time around, Daikichi deals with the milestone of Rin starting primary school, carries on traditions that his parents observed for him, and adds to the ever-growing list of responsibilities people face when they’re guardian for a child. For her part, Rin adapts to her new school and helps a friend do the same. Unita is such a smart and warm observer of the small moments that make up everyday life and the subtle connections that represent family at its best. I seriously can’t speak highly enough about this book and hope you’re all reading it. I’m thrilled that it received an Eisner nomination. – David Welsh
Countdown 7 Days | By Kemuri Karakara | Digital Manga Publishing – Kemuri Karakara’s latest series, Countdown 7 Days, focuses on the students at the Sheol Soul School — or should that be Schul? — an academy that prepares the recently deceased for the afterlife. Though I’m temperamentally predisposed to like manga with a supernatural theme, I’d be the first to admit that Karakara doesn’t seem to be in control of the material; the characters have no chemistry with each other, and the basic rules of the afterlife are so poorly explained that much of the action in volume one doesn’t make much sense. It’s a shame the plot is more muddle than linear narrative, as Karakara has a flair for drawing the kind of nattily attired men, fancy weapons, and evocative settings that inspire fan fiction and cosplay. -Katherine Dacey
High School of the Dead, vol. 2 | Story by Daisuke Sato, Art by Shouji Sato| Yen Press – The zombie action continues in volume two, but though the apocalyptic intrigue is beginning to ramp up as police and other authorities begin treating even living citizens as acceptable losses, the series’ fanservice has officially lost all touch with reality. While the volume begins promisingly, it later degenerates into unbelievable sexual fantasy, as we’re asked to believe that not only do average young women spend baths together playfully groping at each other’s (amazingly large) breasts, but that they are also keen to prance about in their thong underwear while all the menfolk remain fully clothed. Meanwhile, the avocados of doom have definitely grown. Suitable as wank-fodder only.– MJ
K-ON!, vol. 2 | By Kakifly | Yen Press – So, I have to wonder… am I really supposed to find any of this funny? When Yui, the ditzy lead guitarist of the band formed by the members of the pop music club, suddenly forgets a simple chord, am I supposed to laugh? How about when she acts superior to the new girl, Azusa, whose talent eclipses her own? Worst of all, how about when their faculty advisor, who is fixated on her students’ bust sizes, actually grabs one girl’s breasts? None of this is in the least bit amusing to me. The only reason I liked this volume a little more than the first is the introduction of Azusa, who motivates the girls to actually practice once in a while. Scintillating stuff, that. – Michelle Smith
Neko Ramen, vol. 3 | By Kenji Sonishi | TOKYOPOP – The third volume of Neko Ramen finds Taisho experimenting with “Boomeramen” (it comes back when the customer throws it), dressing as a panda (“They’re trendy,” he explains), and opening a high-end restaurant called Neko Ramen Hills. Though it’s clear to the reader – and to the shop’s only regular customer – that Taisho’s ideas are terribly misguided, the cat cook remains a fierce optimist, undeterred by failure and impervious to suggestion or criticism. That kind of character isn’t always the easiest to like, but Taisho is oddly winning in his dedication to building a successful business; it’s hard not to root for him, even though he never seems to learn from ill-advised promotions or impulsive hiring practices. Highly recommended. – Katherine Dacey
Otomen, vol. 9 | By Aya Kanno | Viz Media – Just days after rashly claiming my disillusionment with Otomen as a multi-volume series, I decided to give it another chance, with somewhat mixed results. Though a sub-plot in which Juta is nearly (but then not) outed as shoujo mangaka Jewel Sachihana only feeds my frustration with the series’ situation comedy setup, this volume’s ramped-up gender commentary has almost won me back over. Whether it’s enough to keep me hooked for more than another volume remains to be seen, but I can’t deny that things look more promising than they have in a while. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Kanno’s sense of humor and artwork are both just as stunning as ever. Cautiously re-recommended.– MJ