Kenji and Shiro continue on their journey of discovery and acceptance as Shiro leans why Kenji fell for him, Kenji finally meets Shiro’s parents, they take a vacation to Kyoto together, and the pains of parents and themselves growing old sneak up on them. And through it all, Shiro continues to cook inventive yet simple-to-make dishes as well as adding new ones to his repertoire.
Kazumi, a teenage girl, wakes up in a suitcase without any clothes or memories. She soon learns that she is a magical girl, and part of a team know as the Pleiades Saints, who fight to protect their town Asurano from witches. But something about the Pleiades seems off and as Kazumi learns the truth about them, magical girls and herself, will anything be right again?
For five years, Eren Yeager has nursed a grudge against the Titans. Now he’s about to enter junior high with these massive creatures as classmates, and he won’t let his chance for revenge go to waste! Watch as your favorite trainees take on the Titans…in class, music club and dodgeball!
Attack on Titan Junior High Volume 1
By Saki Nakagawa
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Attack on Titan has had a lot of spin-off titles. Some have been serious, like No Regrets and Before the Fall, adding to the mythos of the world. Junior High is not that kind of spin-off. Following a trend that seems to have become popular, it takes the characters from the main series and drops them into a high school setting so the hilarity can ensue. It is an irreverent take that is meant to be funny, but is more hit and miss with its humor.
Once Shinji didn’t care about anything; then he found people to fight for–only to learn that he couldn’t protect them, or keep those he let into his heart from going away. As mankind tilts on the brink of the apocalyptic Third Impact, human feelings are fault lines leading to destruction and just maybe, redemption and rebirth.
Neon Genesis Evangelion Volume 1-3
By Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Price: $19.99 USD
Neon Genesis Evangelion is an anime from the 1990s that defined a generation, and changed the mecha genre. I was never able to watch more than a few episodes of the anime, so I thought reading the manga adaptation would be a better way to go. Nope. My first instincts were correct. These first three volumes are slow and boring with a protagonist that you spend most of the time wanting to slap silly.
On her sixteenth birthday, orphan Himari Momochi inherits her ancestral estate that she’s never seen. Momochi House exists on the barrier between the human and spiritual realms, and Himari is meant to act as guardian between the two worlds. But on the day she moves in, she finds three handsome squatters already living in the house and one seems to have already taken over her role!
Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 1
By Aya Shouoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
I was really looking forward to reading the first volume of Demon Prince of Momochi House, and was lucky enough to get a friend to pick it up for me as SDCC (along with one of Viz’s con bags). I read it the same night it arrived, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was let down by the stale characters and a story that didn’t seem to go anywhere.
Once a loner, Hikari “Picasso” Hamura has helped so many people that he finds himself surrounded by friends! Picasso’s going to need them as he faces his most difficult “portrait” yet. It’s easy to deal with other people’s problems. But it’s another story when you have to face your own…
Back when I read volume 1 of Genkaku Picasso for the Usamaru Furuya Movable Manga Feast, I said I was definitely going to be picking up the last two volumes, which I did, but didn’t get around to reading. Have I mentioned I can be a bit of hoarder when it comes to books? Anyway, I finally decided to read the final volumes, and I am really glad I did. The classmates they help and the problems they deal with are both timely and poignant. The final volume has one of the best twists I’ve ever read in a book, and just elevates this series to a whole ‘nother level.
Haruka and Mamoru finish off the invisible enemy and its operator, the hit man Fang. Sierra is injured and is off the case for a while, leading to the introduction to the abrasive Juliet, who Haruka doesn’t get along with. Turus ups the ante by offering a bounty on Haruka and Mamoru that draws in killers from around the world. Mamoru becomes the bait for them while Haruka has an adventure of her own with some friends from school. Meanwhile, Wiseman, one of those attracted by the bounty makes his move, finding Mamoru’s weak spot, setting up a trap meant to take care of the blind swordsman for good.
Once again, there is a lot going on in these two volumes of Until Death Do Us Part, but not much happens. Mamoru and his sword still dominate the action, but there are a few shining moments here and there that keep me just interested enough to keep reading.
As Paperboy starts to issue video warnings of crimes they plan to commit against ever-larger targets of internet outrage, Lieutenant Yoshino and the Anti Cyber Crimes Division attempts to get on step ahead of the newspaper-masked terror group. But even as they contend with the authorities, the greatest threat to Paperboy’s master plan may come from a totally unexpected place–within…
Prophecy Volume 2
By Tetsuya Tsutsui
Publisher: Vertical Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
I really enjoyed the first volume of Prophecy and found it hard not to want to cheer on Paperboy over the ACCD who were trying to catch them. It seems they are always one step ahead of the police as they play a long game where the goal is still unknown, and they continue their mast manipulation of social media to reach it.
Once again, I am finding myself sympathizing with the antagonists of this series, Paperboy. They take on an environmentalist group called “The Sea Guardians”, who target Japanese fishing boats in the name of the environment, but are made up of some really slimy people. Like the “justice” they administered in volume 1, Paperboy’s vigilantism feels wholly appropriate and well deserved. But this act, along with their previous acts, are just more social engineering. Their huge success with “The Sea Guardians” creates copycats that then creates a backlash against an open internet. But the question remains, to what end?
“Gates”, the leader of Paperboy, shows himself to be a master strategist as well as programmer. He has been planning this for three years, and while he couldn’t predict the details, he has predicted what certain people would do and how they would react to their incidents. This leads up to the surprising announcement at the end of the volume. While I have no doubt “Gates” would do it, I’m still left wondering what their endgame is, because I can’t believe it is that.
Trouble is stirring in the ranks of Paperboy as one of their members, “Nobita”, starts to have second thoughts and essentially wants out of the plan. Some of this background is shown as is what he’s been going recently, that seems to be fueling his change of heart. He makes his move at the end as well.
ACCD continues to try to piece Paperboy together. Yoshino tries to resign when who she thinks is the wrong Paperboy is caught in her sting. Ichikawa has the completely wrong read of Paperboy, making him dismissive of them. It’s Okamoto, the non-techie, who starts to see behind the social media flash, and that Paperboy’s motives are not all about notoriety. He also has dogs at home that he cares for, so that up his estimation with me. It would be even higher if they were cats.
Prophecy Volume 2 is a good middle volume that pushing both plot and character forward while retaining the hook that makes volume 3 a must have. Paperboy seems to have legitimately good reasons for doing what they are doing, but it is the endgame that will show if the end actually justifies the means. “Gates” seems certain. “Nobita” does not. I’ll just have to wait to see who is right. Prophecy continues to be a great thriller and a must read.
Review copy provided by publisher.
An imperial capital in an era of splendor and romanticism… Orphaned in an earthquake, Sorath is taken in by Baron Kamichika, the lord of “Blood Blossom Manor.” There, he pledges eternal friendship with Garan, the Baron’s heir, and Kiyora, Garan’s fiancée. But their friendship turns grisly by events none of them could foresee. The tender feelings each secretly harbors, the machinations of Baron Kamichika and his strange and seductive female companion, and a fateful encounter with a young girl with bizarre powers…all draw them to the Walpurgis Night and the nightmare’s climax!
Demon From Afar Volume 1
By Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
In general, I’ve enjoyed more of Kaori Yuki’s works than not. Her blend of bishonen characters with elements of horror and a touch of humor usually appeal to me. In Demon From Afar, all of the elements are there, they’re just not striking the right chord for me.
Sorath, the protagonist, is a boy with no memory of his past and is saved by Garan, the heir to Baron Kamichika, after a terrible earthquake strikes the capital. There really isn’t anything remarkable about Sorath. He is devoted to Garan, taking responsibility for anything Garan might get punished for, and always holding himself back to make Garan look good. He acts as a bodyguard to Garan and his fiancée Kiyora. But beyond that, nothing seems to motivate him. He is content in his role, not interested in finding the meaning behind the symbol on his hand or learning about his past. He’s the character we are supposed to be most invested in, but there’s nothing interesting about him.
Garan and Kiyora aren’t much better. Kiyora seems more like comedy relief with her inept social skills and love of eating. Of course, she is more interested in Sorath than her fiancée, and Garan is oblivious to the differing feelings. Baron Kamichika is about as one-dimensional as the paper he’s printed on. The evil villain who care about no one but his own ambitions, not even his own heir. Everything and everyone is a tool for him to use to reach his goal; immortality. I didn’t really hate him as much as I hated his shallow motives. His demon servant Liece/Mephistopheles wasn’t much better, playing along, but helping to betray the Baron at the end.
What I did like was some of the horror elements. The belief by locals that the spider lilies that surround the Baron’s manor are red from soaking up human blood was made all the more creepy by the discovery that Sorath makes when he finally starts investigating what the Baron is up to. I also like the idea of the yin/yang miko, with the darker one becomes, the more pure the other. The way Noella was restored wasn’t what I was expecting and definitely one the disturbing side.
I didn’t dislike Demon From Afar, but it didn’t hook me either. This first volume feels like a prologue. It’s setting up the background and characters before getting to the real story. It feels more like it’s just spinning its wheels as it doesn’t set Sorath up with any kind of goal or motivation. The higher price for this volume is because it is printed in hardcover with a dust jacket. There is one color plate. More would have been better. Overall, it is a nice presentation and worth the extra dollars. I’ll give this series another chance and check out the next volume, but something had better happen soon.
Makoto Amano wants to be come an actor instead of taking over the family dojo. His stern father decrees he can only do so if he spends the last two years of high school disguised as a girl and no one finds out. Ito Miura is a popular girl in her school’s drama department, but is always being given boy’s roles due to her tomboyish ways. The two become friends after Ito discovers Makoto’s secret, but as they constantly protect Makoto’s secret, they start to become something more.
W Juliet Volume 1-5
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $9.99 print/$6.99 digital
When I was tracking the new releases on Vizmanga.com, the release of W Juliet in digital caught my eye. I remember seeing the series in my local comic book store back in the day, but I never got around to picking it up. With it out in digital, and my daughter taking drama in school, I decided to try it out. It wasn’t a bad series, but neither did it ring any bells.
The two leads, Makoto and Ito are likable enough. Makoto is very earnest in his desire to be an actor and takes playing a girl seriously. He pulls off pretty well too, as everyone is convinced he’s a girl. It’s funny how he reacts to the girls swarming around him and questioning him relentlessly. But he is still a man, and is very protective of Ito, and risks his secret being discovered to be with her. Ito is the tall, tough, straight-figured girl who is constantly being mistaken as a boy. She thinks she can’t be feminine, and doesn’t look good in skirts, so she doesn’t try. She very insecure about her femininity, and is even slight jealous that Makoto makes a better girl than her. She discovers Makoto’s secret by accident, but it becomes the bond that draws them closer.
The story in these first five volumes involve one of two things; either Makoto’s secret is about to be discovered, or a boy falls for Ito and Makoto has to come to her rescue. Having these two elements be an issue occasionally would be okay, but when they are the problem in every single chapter, the story quickly becomes tedious. In first volume, Makoto is investigated twice and is thought to be a guy, Makoto Narita (who he really is) but his detractors are fooled by theater prosthetics. Makoto also has a fiance, Takayo, who tries at first to force him back, but later transfers with her brother to get between him and Ito. Ito gets a pair of suitors in Toki, an alumnus of the drama club, and Sakamoto, a boy she meets on a school trip who transfers to her school. Both are determined to make her theirs despite what she wants.
Makoto and Ito have plenty of allies, both willing and not so helping them out. Makoto’s older sister Akane is his biggest supporter. She is a make-up artist and helps him with his make-up, wig, and bringing him clothes when he’s in a jam. Ito has two older brothers and a younger brother, all of whom look are very overprotective of her. This comes in handy when Makoto’s father sends men to watch him when he is staying at Ito’s home over New Year’s. I liked the brothers a lot, but I do have a soft spot for overprotective brothers.
Overall I look at this series favorably, but I have to admit it had trouble holding my attention. It took two tries to read all five volumes. The monotony of Makoto’s secret always being on the verge of being discovered, and the guys that kept forcing themselves on Ito made it difficult. And I know this is a shojo series, but the fact that Makoto was always having to save Ito, despite her having martial arts training started to grate after a while. The stories I enjoyed most were where Makoto and Ito worked together as partners, such as during the ugly duckling performance the club put on to bring in new members. These chapters didn’t happen as often as I would have liked.
I wanted to like W Juliet more, but in the end, it was just average. The art was serviceable, but it was nothing to get excited about. I liked the characters and the story was fun at times. I don’t know if it would have been better to string out Makoto’s secret before Ito found out. I like it being the thing that bonds Makoto and Ito, and brings them together, and through the story, keeps them together. W Juliet definitely works as a rom-com, but it’s one of the more forgettable ones.
Review copies provided by publisher.
Teenage manga artist Kanna Tezuka’s series about a high school for Buddhist statues is facing cancellation! Meanwhile, the manga course that’s given her so much free time to draw at school is under threat from a principal taken with the next big thing: light novels! Their teacher’s solution to this existential crisis is an inspiring field trip, but will it be enough to get these dogs to start drawing at last?!
Manga Dogs Volume 3
By Ema Toyama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
I didn’t really care for the first volume of Manga Dogs. The characters weren’t interesting and the stories weren’t funny. But I was given the opportunity to read the final volume, so I decided to give it a try to see if anything had improved. I can safely say, the series didn’t get any worse, but neither did it get any better.
Kanna continues to struggle to keep her series from being canceled. She gets a new editor who believes in her talent, but doesn’t actually do anything to help her improve the story. The boys continue to be delusional, and be more of a hindrance than help to Kanna, until they are given an ultimatum. Produce a manga that will be published or the program will be shut down in favor of a light novel program.
Not much has changed from the first volume, something I shouldn’t be too surprised by after reading Missions of Love a few volumes later. The boys are still lazy and assuming they will be great without doing any work, and are still annoying as all get-out. Kanna at least has grown slightly as a character, and it shows by the end. After a year with the boys, they have grown on her some, and she doesn’t object to spending some time with them.
Most of the chapters didn’t appeal to me again, as they were more of the same, the boys messing things up for Kanna more than helping. They chase away a potential new student while trying to act cool, and answer some interview questions that were for Kanna. I did like the cultural festival chapter, where they do a version of a haunted house, but instead do what it’s like to be a mangaka. Their version is more scary than a haunted house. I also like the pilgrimage their teacher takes them on to all the places where the gods of manga stayed and worked to give the kids inspiration, and also so she could pray to the gods of manga to help save the program.
Overall, I did like this volume a little more than the previous. Kanna’s growth, and some of the humor did work for me, but those things were too few or far between to really make this volume work better. I still spent more time shaking my head than smiling, though I did feel a bit of vindication when it truly sank in how much work the boys would have to do get a story ready for a contest.
As a satire, Manga Dogs does lampoon much of the industry. Editorial gets hit the hardest with Kanna’s editors being ineffectual at best and harmful at worst. The boys are shown to be what most hardworking artists hate most in fans; those who think they can do just as well or better without the work. Even Kanna represents what artists shouldn’t be like by just going along with what other people say than craft a story herself. It might have worked too, if Kanna had been in any way appealing as a character. Manga Dogs had its moments, but there are better manga-about-creating-manga that deserve your money more.
Yul continues his machinations against Shin, determined to get both Chae-Kyung and the title Crown Prince. His mother only cares about him becoming prince, and even sets him up in an engagement with the daughter of a powerful business man who is possibly more horrible that her. Shin and Chae-Kyung’s relationship continues down a rocky road as they alternate between loving and alienating each other, and causing the royal family public humiliation. Add to that the King who won’t show his feeling for his own son and royal baby on the way that could just complicate things further, and you have just another day at the Royal Palace.
The drama continues to crank up, as if that’s possible, in these two volumes. The soapiness just froths over like a wrongly loaded washing machine from a sitcom. The power plays and political intrigues start coming to the forefront, while Shin and Chae-Kyung’s relationship hit more bumps than smooth patches. While I still find Goong a compelling read, it isn’t as satisfying as it once was.
The main problem I have had with these two volumes is that everyone has become unlikable. Chae-Kyung spends all of her time whining about not wanting to be in the Palace while still pining for Shin. She is so completely selfish that she falls for Yul’s manipulations and betrays Shin even after he tells her it’s what he fears most. This isn’t how you’re suppose to treat someone you claim to like. Shin isn’t blameless in any of this though. His big mouth and bigger pride keeps him from actually showing Chae-Kyung his true feelings, which leads in part to her betrayal. So much of their problems come from their inability and/or unwillingness to talk to each other. It’s become more frustrating than entertaining at this point.
I really disliked Yul for using Chae-Kyung against Shin, despite his claims to love her. You don’t win someone’s love by hurting the person they love, even if it the hot-and-cold relationship Shin and Chae-Kyung have. And then he has the gal to think Shin manipulated Chae-Kyung for not telling her about her grandfather, after all he’s done to try to sabotage her and Shin’s relationship? As much as I hated Mi-Roo Oh, Yul’s chosen fiance, she is exactly who Yul and the Daebi-mama deserve for their manipulations. The King isn’t much better, with the way he keeps favoring Yul over Shin for so many personal reasons and none of them good. Whether it’s because of his feeling for the Daebi-mama, the promise he made to his older brother or some of reason we haven’t heard yet, none of them are excuses for ignoring the good of the country, which putting Yul and Daebi-mama in charge may jeopardize. Hyo-Rin proves she’s on the same level as Daebi-mama, as she manipulates Shin by first exposing the truth of Shin and Chae-Kyung’s engagement, then pleading with Shin to divorce Chae-Kyung for her own good. Despite her situation, she isn’t someone I feel sympathy for.
The only people who I still have any respect for are the Queen and the Queen-Mother. They are the only two without any secret agendas, who actually care about others and aren’t afraid to admit their feelings. The Queen has to plead with the King to allow Shin and Chae-Kyung to move to Changduck palace not as the Queen but as Shin’s mother. They are the only two who think to investigate the Daebi-mama as a possible suspect in her own arson. Honestly, I think they are the two smartest in the series and the Queen should be leading instead. She dealing with a difficult pregnancy and is still the most rational person in court at the moment.
I’d really like to see more political intrigue than relationship drama. Shin’s position as Crown Prince has been iffy at best for most of the series, but as soon as decides to take his duties seriously, is when the King seems to really turn against him. Most of the time the problems come from Chae-Kyung. The mention of divorce on National TV and the revelation of their engagement pushes the King to seriously consider demoting Shin. Yul and his mother want to push for a stronger monarchy which doesn’t make them very popular with many in the National Assembly, giving Shin more support. It is going to be tough to get any support for Yul to become Crown Prince. I hope this will be explored more in future volumes.
While these two volumes of Goong didn’t leave a favorable impression on me over all, I did still enjoy reading them. Soaps are supposed to have characters you love to hate, but I don’t think you’re suppose to hate everyone. Hopefully future volumes will change this and give me someone to sympathize with and root for. I still love all the costumes and the detail Park puts into them. I also really like the different fashions Chae-Kyung gets when she’s in everyday clothes. Even though I’ve grown weary of the miscommunication and manipulation in the personal relationships. I will keep reading. It’s like the train wreck you can’t look away from.
Review copies provided by publisher.