This week, Sean, Melinda, Anna, & Michelle look at recent releases from VIZ Media, Yen Press, Kodansha Comics, and Vertical, Inc.
Cross Game, Vol. 8 | By Mitsuru Adachi | VIZ Media – And so Cross Game comes to an end (for the record, I started sniffling at page 305). While it’s an extremely satisfying ending, Adachi stops short of adding scenes that fans might like to see, but which are ultimately superfluous to the story. Wakaba’s dream was always of Ko pitching at Koshien, not necessarily winning Koshien, so most of this omnibus is devoted to the riveting final came of the North Tokyo tournament. We never see the Seishu team at Koshien itself, nor do we see Ko and Aoba openly profess their love for one another. But the thing is… they don’t need to. They’ve always been so much alike, after all. It’s a lovely, understated, uplifting ending, and possibly my favorite thing about it involves Akaishi. (Dang it, I’m about to start sniffling again.) There’s something profoundly comforting about sports manga that Cross Game encapsulates perfectly. I couldn’t recommend it more highly. – Michelle Smith
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 11 | By Julietta Suzuki | VIZ Media – I’m always struck by how well done Kamisama Kiss is. The story that started off this volume provided a glimpse into human kamisama Nanami’s past as she slips through a mystical gate and becomes a child again. Her shinshi Tomoe sticks around to observe Nanami as a young girl back when her parents were still alive. He begins to have a newfound appreciation for Nanami’s strong personality when he observers her flighty father and her strong mother. Nanami clearly gets much of her personality from her mother, even if she doesn’t remember her clearly. While some of the adventures in Kamisama Kiss might seem a bit repetitive as Nanami always seems to encounter new otherworldly spirits due to her habit of rushing into action without thinking clearly, Nanami’s adventures are always filled with such interesting and well-executed illustrations that this manga continually seems fresh. I particularly enjoyed a story where Nanami and Tomoe venture to a New Year’s market to buy essential shrine supplies, only to find themselves shopping for shoes, dodging the stompy feet of giants, and talking to a rabbit fortuneteller who has a fondness for leaf umbrellas. – Anna N.
Fairy Tail, Vol. 22 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – This is one of those ‘fight’ volumes we see so often in shonen manga, but Mashima does a very good job of balancing the fights with plot, humor, and heartwarming. We’re starting to see the different sides of the villains, and that not all of them are simply evil for the hell of it. Erza and Gray are able to return, which allows us to get what we knew was coming – Erza fighting her evil doppelganger. We get to see more about what’s actually happening here, and the huge gulf between the cat race and the humans. And, of course, this being a Magazine title, we get tons of fanservice, mostly from Lucy, as it is her duty (she does get to be awesome as well, which is a relief). Essentially, this is a very solid Fairy Tail volume, and will not disappoint readers of the series. -Sean Gaffney
Limit, Vol. 2 | By Keiko Suenobu | Vertical, Inc. – The second volume of Limit sees us expanding a bit beyond our main cast, showing us the school starting to figure out what’s going on and the bus company panicking (I sense a cover-up coming soon). What this translates to is not a lot of help coming anytime soon for our heroines. Meanwhile, while Mizuki does manage to bond with some of her fellow survivors in basic things like catching fish and making fires, the class strata are still at work. Everyone is coping in their own different way, especially Chieko, whose way of thinking the sentimental Mizuki just doesn’t get. And then there’s Chikage, who’s not really coping at all, and decides to remove herself from the entire picture. Gripping and compelling, the soap-opera style confrontations don’t feel all that forced, and you still really want to find out what’s next – and if there can even be a happy ending. -Sean Gaffney
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 13 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – Well, wow. This volume is full of revelations, particularly regarding the Baskerville family, but also concerning Elliot Nightray and his valet, Leo, who are not only caught up in something that seems inevitably horrifying and tragic (by no fault of their own), but also suddenly stand as the series’ most slashable couple—and in this series, that says a lot. That’s not to say that there’s anything remotely romantic about this volume—in fact, it’s filled with truly horrible events, some of which are quite painful—but it’s exactly this kind of thing that reveals people’s deepest bonds, isn’t it? Jun Mochizuki certainly understands this to be true, and she uses it to her best advantage here, marrying love and pain in an irresistible display of emotional theatrics. As a bonus, this volume makes more sense than Mochizuki’s displays sometimes do—not that lack of such has ever deterred me from reading. Pandora Hearts, never change. Love, Melinda. – Melinda Beasi
Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Vol. 3 | Story by Magica Quartet, Art by Hanokage | Yen Press – The only real downside of having watched the anime series Puella Magi Madoka Magica, is that having done so, it’s impossible to know for sure what it would be like to experience the story by way of its manga adaptation for the very first time. That said, my best guess would be “utter confusion,” especially as it reaches its third and final volume. Two of the series’ biggest revelations occur in this volume—the history of magical girl Homura Akemi and the truth of Kyubey’s mission—yet the former is rushed through at such breakneck speed, it lacks any real impact or even basic coherency. Though Kyubey’s revelation (and existence) still manages to be massively creepy, without a real understanding of Homura’s devotion to balance things out, the series has essentially been robbed of its heart. For completist fans of the anime series, this adaptation may be a necessary part of their Madoka collections, but it’s hard to recommend on its own. Sadly disappointing. – Melinda Beasi
Rin-Ne, Vol. 10 | By Rumiko Takahashi | VIZ Media – As I’ve noted before, this series has very little regard for its ghosts that drive much of the plot. If there’s a message in Rin-Ne’s comedy one-shots, it may simply be “don’t hold on to attachments after you die, as it will never be worth it.” The ghosts we see here are whiny, despondent, and histrionic. The ones that they leave behind, however, tend to be more like the series’ heroine, Sakura – practical, pragmatic, and moving on with their lives. Now, that said, this makes Rin-Ne sound a lot deeper than it really is. This particular volume doesn’t even have any advances in the love quadrangle, which is par for the course with Takahashi, but usually she at least mentions it once or twice. Still having the same pluses and minuses as the previous nine volumes, this is for the reader who misses Ranma 1/2 and wish it had more ghostbusting.-Sean Gaffney
Soul Eater, Vol. 11 | By Atsushi Ohkubo | Yen Press – A danger of releasing a series as popular as Soul Eater is that you want to put out the spinoffs as well – even if the spinoffs are far newer. As a result, Soul Eater Not! 2, which came out in 2012, spoils a major plot point for Soul Eater 11, which was released in Japan in 2008. That said, it’s not like Kim was a major character in Soul Eater to begin with. Unfortunately, the Witch Hunt surrounding her goes about as well as real-life witch hunts did, and I have a feeling that we may be seeing some brainwashing coming really soon. Other than that, Maka and Soul get to be extra awesome here, mostly as Black * Star has run off and Death The Kid is getting even more OCD with every chapter. And that’s not even mentioning Crona. There’s a whole lot of plot going on here – don’t miss it. -Sean Gaffney
The Wallflower, Vol. 29 | By Tomoko Hayakawa | Kodansha Comics – It says something about what this series has become when the author praises herself for writing a chapter that’s meant to be heartwarming rather than ridiculous. And to be fair, she does deserve some of that, as it’s the best chapter in the book, and uses a peculiar time skip that gives it a fairy-tale quality (and makes the backstory more depressing). That said, it’s not like this series wasn’t ridiculous to begin with as well. And the ridiculous is in top form here as well, particularly in the fanservice-laden chapter where, to combat a heat wave and a stubborn Sunako revoking AC privileges, the boys decide to walk around naked. It’s every bit as funny as it sounds. (Kyohei as a nerdish rule-driven class president comes close, though.) No romance whatsoever, but lots of laughs, and a bit of sweetness at the end.-Sean Gaffney