It has been announced that the manga, Knights of Sidonia, will be coming to an end in the November issues of Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine due out in September.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kosei Arima was a piano prodigy until his cruel taskmaster of a mother died suddenly, changing his life forever. Driven by his pain to abandon piano, Kosei now lives in a monotonous, colorless world. Having resigned himself to a bland life, he is surprised when he meets Kaori Miyazono, a violinist with an unorthodox style. Can she bring Kosei back to music, and back to life?
Your Lie in April Volume 1
By Naoshi Arakawa
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
I knew nothing about Your Lie in April when it was first announced other than it was a musical title that was often compared to Nodame Cantible, a musical title that featured a straight-laced violist/pianist as the male lead, and a highly unorthodox pianist as the female lead. Having now read Your Lie in April, the fact that the two leads are a violist and pianist with one being straight-laced and the other unorthodox, the two stories really have nothing to do with each other.
Playing the piano was everything to Kosei Arima. He lived and breathed playing to please his mother, who was determined he would become the great pianist she was. But when she died, in a way, so did Kosei. Her dream was his dream. Without her, he had no reason to live. No dream of his own. He has been stuck, marking time, unable to move forward. Kosei is haunted by the piano. He can no long hear himself playing, but he also can’t move on from it. His life is the same, day in and day out.
Then he meets Kaori Miyazono. She is the classmate of his childhood friend Tsubaki. Kaori wants to meet their mutual friend Watari, and Tsubaki gets Kosei to tag along. Kaori is the opposite of Kosei in many ways. She is full of life, always smiling and energetic. She performs in much the same way. She participates in a competition, but plays the assigned piece her own way, ignoring the tempo and even her own accompanist. She isn’t playing to impress the judges, but to entertain the audience and have fun all at the same time.
I really liked both Kosei and Kaori. They don’t get off on the best foot at first, but Kaori ends up making a big impression on Kosei. Her performance is the opposite of everything his mother told him it should be like, and he has a hard time processing it. Kaori becomes kind of obsessed with Kosei, determined to make him her accompanist for the next round of the competition. I really liked that she didn’t feel sorry for Kosei when he told her about how he can no longer hear the piano. Her reaction was great, and pretty much the same as mine. I also liked that Kosei didn’t automatically assume the feelings he was starting to have for Kaori was love, but instead thought there were inspiration.
Tsubaki and Watari, their friends, make good supporting characters. They both support Kosei in their own ways. Tsubaki cares for Kosei like a little brother, and just wants to help him move on with his life, in whatever direction it takes him. I loved the way she plotted with Kaori to try to convince him to be her accompanist. Watari, despite being a bit of a playboy, has some insightful things to say to Kosei about life and specifically girls. His words have a surprising impact on Kosei.
Your Lie in April vol 1 was a really fun read. The art is well done. The characters were all portrayed very playfully. Kaori was always playful. I loved when she knocked Kosei away from the cat he was feeding so she could pet it. Tsubaki had some good moments with trying to get Kosei to lighten up and Watari was funny when he got a text from another girl. The final scene of the manga, with the four friends rushing off to the competition was another wonderful scene, filled with exuberance. It was a strong ending to a strong first volume. I can’t wait to read more.
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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Words are powerful. Insults and rumors can derail a career; a bit of encouragement can give someone the strength to pursue their dreams. When a high school boy skipping class to sketch shoe designs and a taciturn woman drinking a morning beer meet in a Tokyo park, they say little, but the woman bids farewell with an ancient tanka poem. Will the boy figure out the poem’s meaning-and its corresponding response-before it’s too late?
The Garden of Words
Written by Makoto Shinkai; Art by Midori Motohashi
Publisher: Vertical Comics
Age Rating: Teen
The Garden of Words is based on an anime movie that was released in 2013. It takes place over a short period of time, just a few months in the summer, during Japan’s rainy season. But in that short period, two people find enough to say to give flight to the hopes and dreams for both of them.
This story focuses on two people, Akizuki, a high school boy who dreams of being a shoe maker, and Yukino, a young woman who seems lost and without purpose. These two meet one rainy day under a gazebo in a Tokyo park, and continue to do so on rainy mornings where they begin to talk and open up to each other, but never introduce themselves. Things become complicated once their true identities are revealed, and feelings are confessed.
I liked Akizuki and Yukino. They are both sympathetic and likable leads. Akizuki’s determination to follow his dream no matter how silly it seems to others is cool. His hesitation to tell anyone his dream is reasonable for a teen who expects ridicule from his peers and discouragement from adults. He still works hard toward his goal, constantly drawing shoe designs and practicing working with leather. He spends his summer break working to earn money for tuition and supplies for a trade school. Yukino is just the opposite. She has an experience that turns her dream job into a nightmare, and worse, is practically bullied by those who should respect her for something she had no control over. It’s really sad what Yukino goes through, but Akizuki’s kindness is just what she needs to escape the mire she’s been trapped in.
The Garden of Words is the story of recovery and self-reliance. Akizuki and Yukino were drifting in their lives, knowing their dreams but having their doubts. Meeting each other in the garden, where they would support each other with just kindness and friendship, they both found their paths and could take them, even if they weren’t necessarily together. It is a beautiful story filled with emotion. Midori Motohashi’s art is delicate and expressive, displaying the characters feelings perfectly. In one volume, a sensitive story of life and love is cultivated to illustrate the redemptive side of the human condition.
Sachie Wakamura just lost her mother, and her estranged grandfather has shown up to take care of her. The only problem is that Grandpa is the head of a yakuza gang! Sachie tries to continue living her normal life, but she can’t run far since Rakuto, one of the most popular guys in school, is part of her grandfather’s gang and her new protector. Soon, Sachie finds herself falling for her bodyguard. But she’s the granddaughter of Rakuto’s boss, so he can never show his feelings for her. Can Sachie find a way to fit into her new family and seize her chance at romance?
Wild Ones Volume 1-10
By Kiyo Fujiwara
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $8.99-9.99 USD
When I first read the first two volumes of Wild Ones, I liked it. It wasn’t amazing or groundbreaking in any way, but it seemed fun and the characters interesting. Then I binge-read the entire series. It unfortunately lost its charm pretty quickly as it fell into a rut of the same romance clichés and no character building.
Wild Ones follows Sachie Wakamura, the unknowing granddaughter of a Yazuka gang. After her mother dies suddenly, Sachie is thrown into the strange new world of big manly men having no idea how to deal with a girl and her girly things. She is treated like a princess and given a protector, Rakuto, who while being part of her grandfather’s gang is also the prince of her high school. The story follows the high school years of Sachie, Rakuto, and romantic rival Azuma as they try to figure out their feelings for each other while trying to keep their yakuza connection a secret for their school friends.
I wanted to like Wild Ones. I really liked the first volume, and while feeling more luke warm, still liked the second volume. But the further I went into the series, the less I found myself enjoying it. I didn’t mind the clichés at first. I like the “friendly yakuza boss” trope, so I was fine with that. And I don’t mind so much the all the usual shojo tropes that show up in most titles as they can have their uses. Going to the beach, the onsen, the school festival, introducing a romantic rival or character from the past to warn on of the protagonists off, all of these things can be useful in changing and growing the characters and their relationships. The problem with this series is that, they don’t.
The characters never really change throughout this series. Sachie’s and Rakuto’s relationship never goes past the protector/protected stage. After every situation where one would think their relationship should move forward, instead it resets to the status quo. The introduction of Azuma as a rival to Rakuto never really goes anywhere, since Sachie never shows any interest in him other than friendship. He is shown to keep trying, but I kept wondering, what was he trying for? What made him think Sachie would ever look at him differently even if he showed up or pushed Rakuto out of the picture? He was there just for comedy relief/conflict with Rakuto. He never came off as a serious threat to their relationship.
The other story element that just became boring after being played so many times was the trying not to let anyone find out their from a yakuza family. It came up in nearly every volume, from Sachie blurting it out, to her being seen with some of the men, to a former yakuza threatening to expose them, Sachie, Rakuto and Azuma are always on damage control to keep their class mates from finding out. This can be funny one or two times, but it comes out so many times, that the tension is drained, so when it finally does happen, it’s more of a shrug than the deal breaking moment it should have been.
Wild Ones had it entertaining moments. Sachie and Rakuto’s budding relationship did have some sweet scenes. They are a couple you want to see together. Rakuto’s dedication to Sachie is almost envious, and Sachie can be tough but nice without becoming a tsundere. They just couldn’t outweigh all the problems. The art is well done. I liked the character designs even if at times they seemed a little generic. It’s not a title I would strongly recommend, but it’s not a bad way to spend a weekend reading either. It’s best borrowed from a friend or the library.
Some review copies provided by publisher.