Gender-Bender titles aren’t usually my thing, but because it’s twins switching places rather than some science/magic causing it, it might not be too bad. We’ve seen lots of titles of a girl passing off as a boy in an all-boys school plenty of times. Seeing how a boy deals with pretending to be a high school girl would be much more interesting. Hopefully it won’t hurt to read.
After coming to the realization that Kirishima-sensei was her first love, Yukina goes to face him on her own to finally know the love that she’s been seeking all this time. Meanwhile, Shigure hears a rumor that reveals Kirishima-sensei’s dark past and rushes off to tell Yukina, but before he can catch up with her, Yukina is whisked away by Kirishima-sensei in his car. Can Shigure reach them in time before Kirishima-sensei repeats an action from his sordid past?
Missions of Love Volume 9
By Ema Toyama
Age Rating: Older Teen
I liked the first two volumes of Missions of Love that I read, so when I was given the opportunity to read more, I couldn’t wait. But after two volumes, it seemed that little had changed, and I was bored with seeing Yukina still being completely clueless, Shigure still as cagey about his feelings for her, Akira is still plotting against Shigure and Mami is still holding out hope that Shigure would love her back.
Honestly, I don’t know what exactly I was hoping for, but this volume wasn’t it. I just felt frustrated at the complete lack of movement with the characters. Everything felt the same as it had back in volume 6. I guess I had hoped for something to have changed in those two intervening volumes, but it really felt like nothing had. What frustrated me most was Yukina. She’s had all these “missions” with Shigure and it seems like she hasn’t learned a thing. After eight volumes you would think something would have sunk in, but she’s still as oblivious to feelings of love as she was at the beginning. She makes big proclamations, but when she finally gets some true feelings she still can’t figure it out? Seriously? I also didn’t care for the cheap shot of using her teacher to set up a seduction when all he really wanted was to find out if she was being bullied or abused by Shigure. The set up was too obvious.
Fortunately there was some character development, but it seemed to be all reserved for Shigure. I liked that he was against Yukina going off with Kirishima to learn “what love really is.” Considering his feelings for her, it’s natural that he wanted to be the one to show her that. Akira agreeing to let Yukina go felt fake, like he was trying to rack up points with her. Shigure also took several steps forward in admitting his feelings for her. He told Mami that he could see her as a friend, not a girlfriend, and he told Yukina that for her, he would stop acting fake. It was a relief to see someone in this series acknowledge their changing feelings and actually act on them.
It’s also about time the story looped back around the cell phone novel plot that the whole “missions” are supposed to be helping her with. She’s supposed to be applying what she’s learned to her novels to make them better. Considering her rankings, she hasn’t been doing that, or even writing at all. Hopefully contact from her rival will change that, and that by applying what she’s learned in her novel it will finally get through to her as well.
I started out liking Missions of Love, but too much of the same can really kill the fun. There has to be some development in the characters, otherwise, what’s the point in reading about them? Unless Yukina is revealed to be a robot, I’m having a hard time buying her continued inability to understand the emotion love, especially now that Shigure is stepping up his game. Toyama needs to step her game too, otherwise this title will really stagnate. I’m not looking for the proverbial lightbulb, just a few connecting the dots.
Review copy provided by publisher.
For the past two weeks Seven Seas Entertainment has been raining down manga license announcements. Four titles have been announced. Some were surprising not just for Seven Seas to get, but just to plain see in print in the US. The collection does have a little something for everyone.
The first title announced was Franken Fran. This dark parody series is about Fran Madaraki, the “daughter” of a highly skilled surgeon who has disappeared. Fran, takes up the family profession by performing surgeries in her secluded gothic home with her “sister” Veronica and a monstrous entourage. If you are willing to pay her price, Fran will perform any operation, including bringing back the dead. Her creed, “Lives must be saved, no matter the cost,” means the end justifies the means when fulfilling her duties. The title will be released in 4 2-in-1 omnibuses and will include color inserts. This title has gotten a lot of good word of mouth recommendations, so I’m looking forward to checking out the first volume at least. It will be coming out February 16, 2016.
Their next pickup was Not Lives, a “virtual gender-bender” manga. It is about game designer genius and high school student Mikami whose next big project is a romance game. Among the materials he received for research was a game he didn’t remember getting. Curiosity gets the better of him and his plays it, only to find himself thrust into a survival game and transformed into a girl. And in this game, it isn’t just his character on the line, but also his own life. This series sounds a like BTOOOM! meets Sword Art Online meets any generic gender-bender series. None of these titles really interest me so this looks like a series will pass up on. There are currently 7 volumes and the series is ongoing. The first volume will be released with color inserts on March 29, 2016.
The third license announced was Orange, a time-travel shojo. In this series, 16-year-old Naho Takamiya receives a letter from herself 10 years in the future. In the letter, she tells of an incoming transfer student named Kakeru Naruse, and that her biggest regret was that Kakeru was no long with them. She asks her past self to look after him. Naho didn’t believe the letter at first, but as things in the letter start to come true, including Kakeru’s transfer, she has to decide what the letter means for herself and Kakeru’s future. The series will be printed as 2 omnibus volumes with wraparound covers and color inserts. They will each be 380 pages long, or the equivalent of 2.5 Japanese manga, confirming the length of the series at 5 volumes. There are currently 4 in print. I was intrigued by this series when Crunchyroll announced it would stream it digitally. But now that it’s coming out in print, I will definitely be checking it out. The first volume will be released January 26 and the second in May, 2016.
The final series announced was Hour of the Zombie. Guess what genre this title is from. The story is about Akira, a typical high school student who has dreams and aspirations like everyone else, an unrequited crush on his childhood friend Kurumi, who seems to be more interesting in his best friend Umezawa. Their love triangle is trival in comparison to the drama that hits their school. Students start to turn into zombie, eating their friends and fellow students alike, and just as quickly, stop. Soon the school is divided between the turned and the unbitten, with unanswered question looming; how long will this peace last, and why did the students turn in the first place? I’m not normally interested in Zombie manga. Much like vampires, I feel they’ve run their course, but this series has some intriguing aspects that I might just want to check out. There are two volumes out and it is ongoing. The first volume will be released with color inserts April 5, 2016.
Homely and shy, Himé is burdened by the name her mother gave her, “Princess.” Wanting nothing more than to be unnoticed and live a modest life, Himé gets a jolt of inspiration when she tries a dance class where she meets Tango. her teacher/dance partner, Tango happens to also be her classmate at school. Unfortunately, Tango is desperate to keep his ballroom dancing a secret, believing it will ruin his cool image if anyone at school finds out. Will Tango quit teaching Himé in order to keep his secret or will he be the partner Himé believe he is destined to be?
Let’s Dance a Waltz Volume 1
By Natsumi Ando
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
I haven’t read a Natsumi Ando series before. It’s not like I haven’t had the chance. I’ve had her series Zodiac P.I. in a to-read pile for ages, but have always had some reason to pass it up. The start of this new series is the perfect opportunity for me to stop procrastinating and finally read one. Let’s Dance a Waltz is about competitive ballroom dancing, a subject you wouldn’t think would be all that interesting, but Ando makes it so with engaging characters and an almost shonen take on dance.
Four characters make up the core of this first volume. Himé Makimura is the protagonist. She is shy and rather mousey in looks and personality. She comes to the Minami Dance School to try out dancing after the owner encourages her by telling her she could become a princess. Tango Minami is the son of said owner, who used to ballroom dance competitively, but has since given up. He works at the dance studio to make extra money. He prefers dancing on his own, and is considered good-looking and cool at school. Yusei and Sumiré are the star dance couple at the studio. They are also Tango’s childhood friends. They both want Tango to start dancing competitively again, and see Himé as the chance they’ve been waiting for.
I really liked this first volume. I wasn’t too thrilled by the emphasis on body image and conforming to societal expectations, but Himé’s hangup about her looks and living up to what she thinks is her mother’s expectation is completely believable. I actually liked Himé with her round face, and fuller figure. I also liked that other than one jerk boy, no one criticized Himé’s size or appearance. Even Tango was more worried about his reputation being ruined than Himé’s appearance when he first dances with her. Sumiré admired Himé’s muscle structure and both Yusei and Sumiré were supportive of Himé’s abilities with little concern for her weight. This made the reveal at the end more believable and easier to take.
The relationships were handled very well. I especially liked Tango’s and Himé’s up-and-down relationship. Himé just wants to dance with Tango, but he ignores her, for fear their schoolmates will find out, but when she starts avoiding him to keep her practices with Yusei a secret, Tango is suddenly bothered by the loss of her attention. Sumiré was a bit of a trap too. Just when it seems like she might be jealous of Himé, she turns out to actually be very supportive of her wanting to dance, and dance with Tango.
I also liked how Ando portrayed the ballroom dancing. Instead of just showing the couple dancing around a dance floor, she likened Himé’s partners to a different experience. When she first dances with Tango, she feels like she is a princess, but when she dances with Yusei, it is like she at a fancy 8-course dinner. These scenes reminded me a lot of The Drops of God, where wines are described in wild and far out ways. While it’s exciting to see to talented dancer at work, the addition of these other sensations adds to the experience.
Let’s Dance a Waltz Volume 1 was a really fun read. The characters are very engaging and the story has sparked my interest. Ando’s art is superb. The characters are varied in appearance and dress. The dancing was well done as well, with some of the ballroom gowns looking gorgeous. I can’t wait to see what a dance competition will be like, and what new experiences Himé will have on the dance floor.
The awkward feelings between Louise and Bruce are growing, though it seems like Louise will never realize what’s going on in Bruce’s head. But when Bruce’s family runs into even more financial trouble and he needs money fast, a modeling competition may be the best–and most embarrassing–way to solve all his problems at once.
The second volume of Orange Junk starts a new arc that takes the characters out of school and into a modeling competition. The change of venue brings in new characters, including a rival for Louise’s affections, and plenty of new opportunities for comedy and drama.
I really enjoyed this second volume, possibly more than the first. While the series does use the shojo tropes well, all the time spent at school was starting to drag. This volume changes that as the characters move into new environments. Bruce’s mother has to be hospitalized, and as the bread-winner with no insurance, it’s up to him to try to find a way to cover everything. Enter the male modeling competition with a cash prize for 1st place. While Bruce is away, Drew and Louise spend more time at Bruce’s helping out with his siblings and being all domestic. Drew is really cute with the kerchief on his head, baby on his back and broom in his hand. While Louise isn’t much help domestically, it is a chance to get out of her house and away from the drama brewing there. While we don’t see it as much in this volume, there are subtle hints that things may be getting worse instead of better.
The modeling competition is really where all the fun and excitement is. Bruce’s change from tough guy to chic is amazing, though I do like his “hedgehog” hair better. It’s cute seeing how uncomfortable and vulnerable he was answering the personal questions, going through the makeover, and walking the runway in a speedo. A couple of new characters are also introduced. Ryan is one of modeling competitors, who Louise calls Flower Boy. He looks much younger than his stated 21 years, and isn’t really interesting in winning the competition. He becomes friends with Bruce. Miles Reagan, who Bruce’s sister Jenny calls “Refined Boy,” is the son of the man who cause Louise’s family to go bankrupt. He has feelings for Louise and thinks he can turn her around and get her to reciprocate them. The scene where he first talks to Louise with Ryan and Bruce is really funny and shows everyone’s level of comprehension of the situation. It was great.
Miles’ declaration to win Louise back is going to be a problem for Bruce and Louise as the pair have been slowly realizing their feeling for each other. Both spend a lot of time blushing as Bruce dreams of Louise, and through the competition, Louise sees a lot of more of Bruce’s body. It’s hard to imagine Miles having any kind of chance getting between them, but some things he says to Louise implies more was going on than she knows between their families. But he comes off so smarmy that I really don’t want to see him either win the competition or even Louise’s friendship.
This second volume of Orange Junk was very addicting, making it hard for to pull away. The competition should really start heating up now that Bruce has decided to get serious, and the stakes were raised by Miles. I love that it’s the guy that gets to be the model and objectified instead of the girl. This twist is part of what really made this volume fun for me. I’m really looking forward to seeing where the story goes in the next volume, and am really glad Sparkler added it to the magazine, so I can get in monthly chunks.
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When Louise’s wealthy family loses everything, she has to pull herself up by her bootstraps and start over in a new high school – where the smartest boy is the meanest, and the hottest boy is the weirdest. But Louise needs tutoring, so the three become a team…and it’s heaven, hell, and everything in-between.
In general, I don’t care for the riches-to-rags stories. I don’t find financial hardship to be funny no matter who is writing it, so I had my doubts about Orange Junk when it was announced as a new addition to Sparkler Monthly. But I have a terrible case of curiosity and decided to check the series out on my lunch break at work. I ended up reading all 7 available chapters over lunch and break. Orange Junk spins an engrossing story filled with appealing characters and a story that balances the humor and drama just right.
The protagonist of Orange Junk is Louise Barton. Her family used to be wealthy, but her father’s company went bankrupt and they lost everything. They move into a regular neighborhood where Louise has to go to the local public high school. It’s like a whole new world for her, but she does adjust and makes friends. Bruce Daniels starts out as Louise’s nemesis. He is quick to anger and is always getting into fights. He also hates rich people, so sees nothing good in her. Andrew Grey is the third member of the trio. He is a new student like Louise. He lost his parents and now lives with his Grandmother who spends a lot of time traveling. He is good-looking and a bit clumsy. The trio become friends when Bruce is forced to tutor Louise in math to keep their teacher Jack from telling his mother about his fighting and Drew lets the use his house when rumors start to fly at school.
I really like all three of these characters. I wasn’t sure I would like Bruce at first. He was so quick to judge and jump to conclusions about Louise. He is hyper-sensitive about his family’s financial situation, while Louise isn’t. She seems to have accepted the change in her lifestyle, though she does hold a bit of a grudge against her father’s partner who was responsible for the family’s downfall. For most of the first volume they spend a lot of time bickering. I loved that Louise called Bruce and hedgehog, and imagined him as a pineapple when his mother described him as tough on the outside but sweet on the inside. They do finally come to an understanding, mostly with the help of Drew. He starts to hang out with Louise and Bruce during their tutoring, and the reason why is not one you would expect. I thought is was a good twist.
The humor is strong emphasized in this first volume, but dramatic elements still get dropped in. The trios’ back story is revealed as well as glimpses into their family lives are shown. Bruce is tricked into revealing his when Louise opens up to him first. All three have very different homes to go to. Bruce’s is lively and happy. Louise’s is still filled with anger and resentment. You can’t see the bonds in Louise’s that you can in Bruce’s. Drew’s family quickly becomes Bruce and Louise since he is essentially alone, but he always has an upbeat attitude and smile.
The art of Orange Junk is charming. It has a shojo feel to it, while having a life of its own. Both Bruce and Drew are good-looking in their own way. Louise is comely, though I like her better with her hair down. I also really like Bruce’s hedgehog spikes. The characters also have their own fashion styles, and I enjoyed seeing them in different outfits.
Orange Junk is a fun series that delighted me, all the more since I wasn’t expecting it to. It has a lot of shojo manga tropes, but handles them in a way that they don’t feel old or tired. I was riveted as I torn through the pages, the story and characters growing on my with every chapter. If you are a fan of shojo manga or just good stories, check this series out.
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Easter weekend was a busy one for conventions. On the east coast was Anime Boston, and on the west coast, Wondercon was held in Southern California and Sakura-Con up north in Washington State. Manga publishers split up to cover the anime cons, with Yen Press taking Sakura-Con.
Yen Press has already been busy this year with the manga and light novel announcements, and their appearance at Sakura-Con was no different. They stuck with just manga licenses this time, announcing a whopping 13 titles to be released in either print of digital.
Starting with print manga, one of the biggest announcements and surprise was Yowamushi Pedal. This is not only a sports manga, but also a long running series, currently at 39 volumes, features that tend to make publishers shy away from a title. Yowamushi Pedal though is already fairly well-known among Western readers. The anime was streamed by Crunchyroll, and fujoshi have been obsessing over the manga for a while. The story is about Sakamichi Onoda, an otaku whose passion for figures and anime was so great that he would ride his bicycle 60-miles round trip to Akihabara to shop there. His bicycling skills get him into competitive bike racing. I’ve seen plenty of references to Yowamushi Pedal on my Twitter feed, but I never knew what it was about, nor had much interest in finding out. Now, I think I’d like to check it out. It will be published in 2-in-1 omnibuses.
Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun is another manga that fans have been clamoring for. The anime was also streamed by Crunchyroll, and quickly became popular with viewers. It is about high school girl Sakura Chiyo, who confesses her feeling to classmate Nozaki. Nozaki mistakes her as a fan of his shojo manga, and ends up recruiting her to help him with it. The series is at 6 volumes and is just as much about creating manga as it is a rom-com, so there’s little wonder it was popular. This is a title I’ve been waiting and hoping would be licensed, and figured it was just a matter of time.
Sakura no Himegoto is a short two-volume shojo. It is about a girl, Aoi, who comes from a prestigious family, and Kei, a boy with a mysterious background. Thanks to a debt Aoi’s grandfather owes to Kei, Aoi is stuck repaying it as she gets pulled into a master-pet relationship with him. While this is a short story, it doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me. I don’t care for the master-pet/rich girl under poor boy’s power plots that seem to pop up in shojo manga lately. I will probably give this one a pass unless some of my fellow bloggers rave about its virtues.
Dragon Rioting is another titles I think I can do without. It centers around Rintaro, a boy who has been diagnosed with a disease that could kill him if the gets too sexually aroused. So, what happens to him? He gets accidentally enrolled in an all girls school and has to deal with the three “Dragons”, the three girls who control the school. If the cover wasn’t enough to make me back away, the “getting sexually aroused could kill disease” certainly did. There are five volumes out that will be passing up.
Aldnoah.Zero Season One has a lot more potential. It also has an anime. It is a sci-fi mecha series about a hypergate to Mars being found on the moon. Colonists to Mars discover advanced tech on Mars and form an Empire that declares war on Earth. The Moon is destroyed in the war, creating a debris field around the Earth. Martian fighters set up bases in the debris field and a truce is called, until 15 years later the life of Vers Empire Princess is threatened and the Empire declares war again, intent on taking Earth this time. This title sounds really interesting, and fits historical context really well. It has three volumes out so far that I’m looking forward to reading.
On the digital side, 8 Square-Enix titles that have not appeared in English previously were announced. Handa-kun is a spin-off of Barakamon, another Yen Press title. It is about Sei Hanada, a second year high school student and calligrapher. His is admired around his school for his cool charisma, but he thinks everyone at school hates him. It is three volumes so far. I want to check out Barakamon before I pass any judgement on this title, but so far it sounds like it has potential.
Today’s Kerberos is a title I’ll give wide berth. It a harem comedy, a genre I rarely find funny. Chiaki is a boy who no longer feels joy or fun after a childhood incident. His traveling father sends him a gift. Inside is a girl who calls herself Cerberus, and has three personalities. She vows to protect Chiaki from all harm. It’s currently three volumes and is ongoing. This will be an easy title to pass up.
Shut-In Shoutarou Kominami Takes on the World is a senien series about shut-in Shoutarou Kominami who, instead of getting the allowance he was expecting from his mother, gets a note telling him he’s been cut off. Shoutarou hasn’t left his place in months, but must now go out into the world and get a job. The series is complete in three volumes and sounds interesting. I’d be willing to read the first volume.
Servant X Service is a 4koma as well as being another senien. This slice of life comedy follows the staff of the Health and Welfare section of a ward in the fictional city of Mitsuba, Hokkaido, and their everyday hijinks in the office. It is complete in 4 volumes. I’m really intrigued by this series. It seems to be aimed at an older working person like me.
Unknown is a supernatural shonen action series. It follows Ox and Ivan, a pair of “wisemen”, who collect “wisdoms” that are too powerful and too dangerous in the wrong hands. The series is complete in 4 volumes, and is a title that would like to check out.
When a Magician’s Pupil Smiles is about Ouka Namae, a boy devoid of emotions. He must learn what it means to be alive, and to feel. The cover art work and hint of a mystery makes this a title I’d be willing to check out. It is complete in 3 volumes.
The Royal Tutor is about Haine, a newly minted Royal Tutor ready to get to work. But he’s in for more than he expected when his new charges, four princelings are more interested in testing his patience than their knowledge. This series could be interesting, but I don’t know. I’ll have to read the first volume to see. It is ongoing and there are 3 volumes out so far.
Scarlet Empire is a time-bending historical, martial arts shonen. Souzou Sagara is the leader of the Sekihoutai in the Bakumatsu era. Kotetsu Miyasaka is a kendo student in the modern era aiming to be at the top with his younger brother. These two men are connected by the red string of fate as their struggle to protect and change their prospective worlds transcends time. Key words historical and martial arts are enough to pull me into this series enough to check out the first volume. It is at 3 volumes and going.
While no release dates were given with these announcements, I think we can expect titles to begin coming out in late 4th quarter or early next year. The digital titles could come out even sooner. Hopefully Yen Press will update their site with direct links to the digital titles. The easier they make it for reader to find, the quicker they’ll make the sale.
Since Shojo manga doesn’t tend to get the attention shonen does, its encouraging when it gets a big update like this, especially to a site mainly known for US comics that doesn’t cater to feminine tastes. There are a lot of really good titles in this update. I would personally recommend Library Wars: Love and War, Otomen, and Skip Beat. Please Save My Earth and Ouran High School Host Club are on my list to check out as well. They all should be on yours too if you haven’t. Most of them are complete and there’s no waiting for the next volume.
I have been waiting for this series since is was announced in Japan. I’ve always had a fascination with the War of the Roses, and with Richard III being in the news lately, my interest in the much maligned monarch has grown. I’m really interested in seeing this mangaka’s take on the character and the time period.
I already gave my two cents on these two titles over the weekend, so check out that post. Otherwise, here’s the official announcement.
Erwin’s political enemies have hired Levi and his crew to take back some incriminating documents. Their reward: the right to live a proud life above ground, in the royal capital. But deep in titan territory, it’s going to be tough to break formation and steal from a squad leader, and Levi still insists on killing the man who humiliated him after the mission is complete. Of course, beyond the walls anything can happen, and a sudden change in Levi’s fortunes will force him to face the greatest regret in his life…
Attack On Titan: No Regrets Volume 2
Written by Gun Snark (Nitroplus); Art by Hikaru Suruga
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
I really enjoyed the first volume of Attack On Titan: No Regrets, and was really looking forward to this one, and again it didn’t disappoint. The series takes a darker turn from the lighter first volume, but keeps all the drama and excitement to deliver an ending you won’t regret.
After their first encounter with a titan, Levi, Isabel and Furlan all start to change a little. Isabel is drawn into the Corps more, sympathizing with their cause. Furlan goes in the opposite direction, wanting to push his plan forward and get out of the Corps and into the life of luxury they’ve been promised. Levi, as usual, remains a mystery, his true feelings being veiled by his desire to protect his friends. I do like that about Levi. Part of his appeal is his silent, stoic demeanor. Hearing his thoughts would ruin some of his mystery. We meet Hange Zoe in this volume, as he barges in on the trio to ask Levi about his tactics in taking down the titan. I love his expression before and how he deals with Isabel constantly interrupting him. It was a smile-inducing moment.
With a subtitle of No Regrets, it should come as no surprise that regret is a major theme throughout the volume. Erwin speaks of the sacrifices members of the Survey Corps make to further their cause and do so without regret. Levi must struggle with regret as well after he makes his own fateful decision. It leads to a fantastic confrontation between Levi and Erwin. Erwin’s speech says so much about what he believes and shows how he is able to get people to follow him even to face the hell that the Titans represent.
Suruga does a wonderful job with the art again. His action sequences continue to be thrilling as Levi shows once again why he is called “humanity’s greatest soldier.” The few moments of emotion that Levi shows for Isabel and Furlan are all the more moving because he shows his feelings so rarely. Levi and Erwin’s expressions are superb in their confrontation, which leads into a beautifully symbolic awakening for Levi.
Attack On Titan: No Regrets is a great piece of storytelling with some very compelling characters. Even though you don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, you care about what happens to them. I was happy at the end that we got some side stories about Levi, Isabel and Furlan set before they joined the Survey Corps. I would gladly welcome more like them. If you have even a passing interest in Attack On Titan, pick this series up. You won’t regret it.
If you’re like me and have never read the first series, then you should check out the specially priced bundle Viz is running for the first 10 volumes of Boys Over Flowers. I’m interested in reading this new series. I was intrigued by the first chapter of the original, so hopefully this second series will be just as enticing.