This week has some interesting titles coming out, as well as ending. Kodansha has just one title; Noragami: Stray God Vol. 1. This title was announced to some excitement last year, as it also has an anime that was streamed on Funimation, giving it name recognition that may help move the volume. We’ll have to see if it makes to the NYT bestseller list next week.
Vertical Inc., releases the 4th volume in their foodie series, What Did You Eat Yesterday? Seriously, if you’re not reading this series, why not?! It has something for everyone, foodie or not, and Vertical always puts out great editions.
Viz Media says good-bye to two of its titles. Midnight Secretary, the josei-as-shojo ends this week with Vol. 7. I did enjoy the first two volumes with caveats, but am still interested in reading more. It’s on the to-read list. Dawn of the Arcana, a true shojo also ends it’s run with Vol. 13. I have the first two volumes that have been languishing in my to-be-reviewed pile for a while now. Maybe this is a good time to pick them up and finally check them out. Finally, Time Killers by Kazue Kato comes out. It is a series of short stories by the creator of Blue Exorcist, another series I should read the first volume of some day.
Every week, Viz Media and the New York Times posts the top ten bestselling books. For Viz Media, it is the bestsellers on their site, Vizmanga.com. The New York Times gets their numbers of print sales from retailers. Offered here is a listing of these books with their status this week compared with the previous week, and some way-off analysis of the activity.
New digital releases wipe nearly all the new print titles out from last week. Only Bleach and Naruto survived, and they only just barely scrapped by, taking the last two spots. All the rest of the list are either digital only or digital firsts. I really wish I knew how JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure kept doing the double taps. Are all JoJo fans in sync with each other psychically? Lucky Star is a new digital only rescue from Bandai. It’s a four panel series about four girls and their more otaku ways. I had a hard time getting through the first volume. Actually, I never did. I found it really boring. But, your mileage may vary.
No big surprise with what’s on top. Seven Seas entertainment’s Monster Musume takes it with ever new volume. And can sometimes even hold on to it for while. But with the debut of a new Attack on Titan title, Before the Fall vol. 2, it may not be able to hold it for long. At least it’s not alone, with Dragonar Academy holding over from last week. Viz Media kept some of their titles on the list, but not the ones you’d expect. Bleach got booted completely, but Food Wars! Deadman Wonderland, and surprisingly, Rosario+Vampire Season II held on. Kodansha holds the most titles as usual, four of them being Titan titles. We’ll see if the Titans can keep holding on, with this week being a big week for Viz Media and their shonen and shojo titles.
∗ = New Release ↑ = Title moved up specified # of spots ↓ = Title moved down specified # of spots ↔ = Title didn’t moved from previous week ↵ = Title returned after dropping off list
The climax of our story is finally at hand! Mankind faces a crisis and Kenji is hustling to save the world and the people he loves. But he also must solve the mystery of the Friend. Who is he and why did he become evil? The answer is tied to a memory Kenji has from when he was a twentieth century boy.
21st Century Boys Volume 2 By Naoki Urasawa Publisher: Viz Media Age Rating: Older Teen Genre: Mystery/Thriller Price: $12.99USD Rating:
In my previous review of volume 1 of 21st Century Boys, I had hopes of the this part would redeem what I thought was a non-ending of the first part, 20th Century Boys. While this volume does tie up many of the loose ends and does finally answer the question “Who is the Friend?”, it still doesn’t satisfy like I had hoped.
The search for the remote to the proton bomb continues, both in reality and in the virtual world. The UN Forces show their distrust of Kanna and the rest of the group, but that doesn’t stop them from continuing the search. Kanna’s powers come into play in discovering the bomb’s button and the location of the remote. Kenji and Yukiji work in tandem to stop the bomb from going off, and then Kenji returns to the virtual reality to tie up some personal loose ends, that if he had done in the real world at the time, might have kept Friend from being created.
The race to stop the proton bomb was actually exciting. Yukiji getting to kick Shikishima’s daughter’s butt with her judo skills was cool, as was Kenji using those same skills to stop the robot from detonating the bomb. Kanna’s supernatural powers do come into play, but at least they are minimal, mostly just communicating with Kenji in the virtual world. I really didn’t find any of the supernatural elements to be compelling, so I’m glad they were kept to a minimum. Once again the twists run wild, but they are believable and kept the action moving.
Going into this final volume, you may start to wonder if everything will be tied up. It takes most of the volume to stop the robot, with Kenji and the gang getting obstacles thrown at them left and right. But some how, Urasawa is able to do it. The major loose ends are tied up, all for the better. Manjome and Sadakiyo got happy send offs. Kanna got her man and her mom, and Otcho returns to be Shogun, fighting human traffickers. But the end that needs most to be tied is Friend’s.
Who was he and did Kenji really know him? The answer relates back to the scene at Jijibaba’s shown in the previous volume. Older Kenji finally realizes the truth, and has younger Kenji do what he didn’t all those years ago. Not that this fixes anything for anyone but Kenji. But it does make him take a look at the choices he’s made and how he can make better ones. He and Yukiji come to an understanding too about their feelings in a way that only Kenji and Yukiji could.
It’s not until the last few pages is Friend’s identity revealed in one of the most anti-climatic ways possible, in a single frame with next to no explanation about who he was. This is where the volume and ultimately the series let me down. The whole series was touted to be about the question “Who is Friend?”, but in the end that question and his motives are left to the reader to figure out. While this is usually fine in a mystery, in order for it to work the author has to leave enough clues to lead the readers to the right answer. Anything else is just a cheap twist, which is ultimately exactly what this series boiled down to.
Overall, 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys is a decent enough series. It was enough to get Urasawa not only a nomination, but ultimately an Eisner Award. But I think the execution could have been better. The series went off the rails after volume 15, and while these last two volumes brought it back, it was too little, too late. I would still encourage people to read this series, just be prepared for some bumps in an otherwise smooth road.
The Seishu Gakuen baseball team is one win away from fulfilling Wakaba’s final dream of seeing Ko pitch in front of a packed crowd at Koshien. But they’ll have to beat powerhouse Ryuou Gakuin in the North Tokyo Tournament finals in order to get there. Meanwhile, Akane Takigawa’s health takes a turn for the worse, and she’s scheduled to have surgery…on the day of the big game.
By Mitsurs Adachi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $14.99US Rating:
When Cross Game first came out, it got a lot of praise. It was also featured in a Manga Movable Feast, but the first chapter preview Viz made available didn’t interest me. So, I passed on the series, until I received a copy of the final volume. I decided to give the series a shot and see what everyone was so excited about. I did enjoy the volume. It was easy to get into, even with being the final volume, but ultimately it still didn’t make a convert out of me.
This volume starts out with Ko and the Seishu Gakuen baseball team departing to play the final game that will decide who will go to Koshien. Any potential drama with Akane’s health problems are swiftly dealt with so the characters and the reader can concentrate on the game which is the majority of this 2-in-1 omnibus volume. It is a very tense game, as both pitchers are determined to pitch a no-hitter. The sides switch quickly, and the few hits that do get through puts the game into extra innings, with the twelfth ending it all.
In many ways this feels like a final volume. Everything the characters have been working for is leading up to this moment, this game. As the game is played, there are call backs to previous moments in the series with Ko dealing with Wakaba’s death, and working to become a baseball player good enough to go to Koshien. Ko and Aoba’s relationship is also strengthen throughout this volume, tying things up for the last scene.
While there are a lot of characters, and many of their stories are tied up, this volume is really all about Ko. This final game is his. He goes into it with a calm confidence that many of his teammates don’t seem to feel. He is relaxed before the game, sleeping on the way to the stadium, and all through the game itself, he never seems fazed. He doesn’t get mad when his no-hit game is ruined, and his only surprise is when a ball flies at only 98 mph, not the 100 mph he had hoped for. It almost makes you want to shake him, he is so placid throughout the game, like a still lake. This is a moment he has worked for since he was in the 5th grade, and he will let nothing stand in his way.
The game itself isn’t filled with over-the-top dramatics. Adachi doesn’t need to go to such lengths to build the tension. His game is filled with great baseball, and helped to remind me why I loved the sport so much when I was younger. Compared to other sports, baseball can seem laid back or even boring, but there is nothing boring about this game. Both teams can taste victory and are determined to win. Ko and his rival Oikawa are throwing their best pitches, both intent on throwing no-hitters. The balls fly fast and hard, and you can almost hear the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt with every pitch. It’s not an “edge of your seat” kind of excitement, but really a thrill of watching athletes at the top of their form pushing themselves even further.
Ko and Aoba’s relationship is handled much more subtly. Things that the readers probably already knew were revealed to the characters. Ko and Aoba never verbally express their feelings for each other. They don’t have that kind of relationship. Instead, they’re shown in a more subdued manner with something as simple as holding hands revealing their feelings more elegantly than any words could.
Although I enjoyed this volume of Cross Game as a whole, and really enjoyed the baseball game, I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed the journey. It’s easy to tell where Ko and Aoba came from and what it was they were striving for, but I don’t know how much I actually like them as characters. They do have the more contrary type of relationship that I prefer, but they didn’t really click with me. I appreciated Ko as a baseball player, and seeing he and Aoba get together, but I’m not sure I would have had the patience to get to there. I may the first volume though, just to see. Still Cross Game has all the elements to be a great series, and the sports parts is very well done. It was a great game, and a really good series. I’m glad I got to read it.
Shohoku has made it to the second round of the Nationals, and are matched up to play against Sannoh, last year’s National champions. While Sannoh seems to be on a whole different level from Shohoku, the boys are ready to give up on their dreams of advancing just yet, especially Sakuragi. It going to take everything they got and every trick in their book to make it through this game. The question is, will it be enough?
By Takehiko Inoue Publisher: Viz Media Age Rating: Teen Genre: Sports Price: $9.99 Rating:
Slam Dunk is one of those titles that can suck you in and keep you glued to your seat whether you think you’ll like the series or not. I’ve read previous volumes and have enjoyed them all, but these volumes, some of the last before the end of the series are just amazing. There really is no other way to describe it. I know nothing about basketball and really don’t care for it, but I could not put down a single one of these volumes and had to grab the next, the game was so gripping.
The entirety of these four volumes is dedicated to a single game; Shohoku’s semi-finals game against Sannoh, the previous year’s national champions. And they don’t even end the game! These volumes only cover the game through to seven minutes left in the second half. They start out with both sides scoping out the competition through tapes of the teams playing. For Sannoh, this is no big deal. They easily spot Shohoku’s player’s weaknesses. For Shohoku, it’s more of a shock to see how far out of their league Sannoh seems. It really shakes the confidence of the players, especially Mitsui, Shohoku’s Center. Sakuragi isn’t shaken though. He goes into the game with the complete confidence that they can win, and even if that confidence seems misguided, it helps the other players to go on the court with that same confidence.
The majority of volumes 26-28 happen all on the court. Even before the game officially starts, both sides show off for the crowd and the other team. Sakuragi is right up there, trying a flying slam dunk and failing, but he isn’t fazed at all. As soon as the game starts, it becomes a battle of not just skill but also wills. Sannoh is taken by surprise by Shohoku starting play, but they soon get their rhythm and throw Shohoku off theirs and the game is like a teeter totter, the tide turning from Shohoku to Sannoh and the slowly back to Shohoku.
It is incredible how Inoue is able to put the reader on the court and in the players heads. All through these volumes, we are constantly seeing what the player is thinking and feeling as the game progresses. We also see how easy it is to get trapped by those thoughts. Akagi gets caught up in his belief that he has to beat Sannoh’s Kawata, and it puts him and his team in the bad place. It takes his older brother and Sakuragi’s outrageous antics to get his head back in the game. While Inoue draws exciting and dramatic shots and moves down court, it’s the characters that really make this title awesome.
And it’s Sakuragi that really gets to shine in this game. He might not know better when the others see how much better Sannoh is, but he never lets them intimidate him, and he never loses hope. He may be the loudmouth and a bit of a showboat, but he knows his teammates and what they need to get them focused on the game. Whether it’s taking big about being a “phenom”, or jumping on the tables on the sidelines to declare Shohoku will win, he knows what’s needed and isn’t afraid to do what it takes. He also finally has the skills to back up some of his words. He is the “offensive rebound king”, and it’s this skill that helps the team get their rhythm back at the critical moment in the second half.
Slam Dunk is a Shonen Jump title that embodies the spirit without having to resort the to tropes. Building friendships, facing adversity and beating the odds, Slam Dunk does all this without being obvious about. Sakuragi was an annoying mess at the beginning of this series, but now, he is one of the strengths that the team can rely on. He smack talks his teammates, but they know they can trust him to do what is needed, and he isn’t willing to give up, no matter what is in front of them. Whether or not you like basketball, if you like a good story with some real driving action and great characters, then you should be reading Slam Dunk.
Misao has made the choice to forego college and a normal human life in order to be Kyo’s wife and mother to the demon child she carries. But her pregnancy is unusual, even for the demon world. The last pages of the Senka Roku will reveal the truth of the matter, but now that Kyo has it in his hands, does he really want to know…?
By Kanoko Sakurakouji Publisher: Viz Media Age Rating: Older Teen Genre: Supernatural Romance Price: $9.99 Rating:
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Black Bird for a while now. I found Kyo’s skeeviness annoying, as well as Misao’s submissiveness. A lot of that changes with this volume. After defeating his older brother Sho, Kyo has learned the final fate of the Senka Maiden, and it doesn’t bode well for Misao. Kyo sets the Daitengu to work trying to find a way to keep both mother and baby alive. A single clue left by Sho and some information from the Senka Roku just might hold the answer.
There are a lot of emotions flying around this volume. Misao is faced with the prospect of either she dying or her baby. Neither are acceptable to her. But there are a lot of tearful moments as she faces Kyo and the Daitengu about not only what will happen to her and Kyo, but also the others. It’s kind of sad that it’s surprising that she figures it out on her own. Misao would be a much better character if she wasn’t played to be so dumb.
Kyo’s internal dialog was the big draw of this volume. Now that Kyo and Misao are married, all the skeevy scenes are done and gone. Kyo is serious about his love for Misao and is desperate to find a way to keep her alive. This volume is probably the most convincing he’s been about his feelings for her. He isn’t leading her own or playing around. Everything he says and does is all for her, and it shows.
Kyo’s observations about Misao and the changes he sees in her were the most interesting parts. He doesn’t know what a pregnant human female is like, so he doesn’t connect the changes at first. But as he starts to make the connections with the Senka Roku, and some of Misao own behaviors change, it really becomes clear that what she’s going through is different. I do wonder if Misao’s fear of Kyo isn’t in some way an extension of the baby she’s carrying. The change of perspective definitely makes these revelations more interesting, and Kyo into more of a detective as he works to solve the mystery of the Senka Maiden.
Once the story gets past all the drama and emotion between Kyo and Misao, the volume of Black Bird become what I’ve been waiting for all this time. Finally, the mystery of the Senka Maiden is being delved into. While there are no answers now, with this being solidly in the final arc, those answer will be coming soon, making the final two volumes must reads. I’m actually looking forward to them now.
At Sakura-Con last week, Viz Media announced the print and digital release of World Trigger, a digital Weekly Shonen Jump only title. It looks like a fun title, so I’m glad Viz is making it available finally to those of us who don’t subscribe to WSJ. More info available after the jump.
This week I check out the Weekly Wish List, a new title at Crunchyroll, double the Top Ten Department, and the new manga licenses announced at Sakura-Con from Yen Press, Dark Horse Comics and Viz Media.
Lydia Carlton is a fairy doctor, one of the few people with the ability to see the magical creatures who share our world. During one of her rare trips to London to visit her father, Lydia’s quiet life is suddenly transformed when she is rescued by kidnappers by a mysterious young man! Edgar Ashenbert claims to be descended from the human ruler of the fairy kingdom, and he urgently needs Lydia’s help to find and claim his birthright, the legendary sword of the Blue Knight Earl. Things will never be the same for Lydia as she is pulled into a dangerous quest against dark forces!
By Ayuko; Original concept by Mizue Tani
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $9.99 Rating:
The Earl and the Fairy is a title I enjoyed the first volume of, but fell behind as subsequent volumes came out. I still collected the volumes and they have been sitting on my self until I realized the series would make a good addition to my St. Patrick’s Day themed manga. With only four volumes, it would be quick read too. It was easy to get back into the flow of the story and characters, for whom my love of only grew with each subsequent volume.
The story follows Lydia Carlton, a young woman trying to make it as a Fairy Doctor, a person knowledgeable in the ways of fairies and magical folk and tries to help humans and fairies live in harmony. I loved Lydia right from the beginning. She is determined and strong-willed. She doesn’t let what people think or say about her deter her. She accepts Edgar’s challenge to find the Treasure Sword more because of her pride than any desire to help him. She is soft-hearted, sometimes to a fault, but will always help other in need, both fairy and human. I liked that she isn’t drawn as some bishojo. She wears plain clothes and her hair is usually an unruly mess. She complains that it looks like the color of rust.
Edgar Ashenbert seems to be the opposite of Lydia. He has the air of a noble and is able to easily fool people. He can be manipulative and seemingly cruel, but underneath his cool facade, is the heart of one who cares about his friends and will do anything for them, including lie or kill. He has a tragic past, but his deceptive nature makes it hard to tell if he should be believed or not. Traveling with him are his two servants, Raven and Ermine, half-brother and sister. They are completely loyal to Edgar, and have been through many of the trials he has. Their shared ordeals has created a strong bond between them. It is for them, the last of his comrades, that Edgar continues the quest for the Treasure Sword.
The Earl and the Fairy is based on a light novel series that is currently at 33 volumes, but the manga only went four. Two volumes tell a complete story, no doubt making one volume of the light novels. The story for the first two volumes involves a lot of chasing and a treasure hunt that reminds me of National Treasure or The Da Vinci Code with the clues to be unraveled and the treasure, the Sword, to be found at the end. The second story has Edgar now officially recognized as the Earl Ibrazel and Lydia employed as his Fairy Doctor. More of Edgar’s past is explored as is the possible attraction between Edgar and Lydia, in the midst of finding a kidnapper and stopping an evil fairy.
One of the best elements of this series is Edgar and Lydia’s relationship. It’s hard to tell when Edgar is being serious about his attentions toward Lydia, and his deceptive nature makes it difficult for her to believe him even when he is being sincere. Their relationship is complicated at best. Edgar tries to only use Lydia, and she knows it, but either seems unable to give up on the other. Watching them maneuver and try to figure out what the other is thinking is a lot of fun.
Also a lot of fun is all the creatures that appear in the series. Nico is Lydia’s friend, a fairy that looks like a cat. He talks, and is very particular about his clothes, food and drink. He is suspicious of Edgar right from the start, constantly warning Lydia to get away from him. Though he doesn’t object when he receives new fineries from Edgar after Lydia comes under his employ. Brownies make several appearances in the first story, and the end takes place in the fairy realm, in a merrow town. The second story has an evil fairy known as the Fogman, and his servant, a Bogey-beast, using a nouveau noble girl to release him. It takes a group of Sylphs to truly defeat them.
The Earl and the Fairy was a really fun series, and I enjoyed reading it a lot. The biggest problem I have is that there are no more volumes to come. I want to keep reading about these characters and learn more about this world. I love all the bits with the fairies, and with 33 novels available, there is a lot more to learn. I guess I will have to be happy I got these volumes and that the anime was released here as well. It goes further than the manga in its short 12 episodes. It’s too bad it never got another series, or that the light novels will ever be licensed. Still, it’s a great series, and I highly recommend it.
With Nanamine’s manga struggling, he proposes an interesting challenge to Moritaka and Akito. But will the duo accept and risk what they’ve worked so hard to achieve? And when the news media puts the spotlight on their series for the wrong reasons, how will it affect Akito?
Written by Tsuguimi Ohba; Art by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $9.99 Rating:
One of the things I’ve come to enjoy about Bakuman is all of the behind the scenes peeks it gives about the manga publishing industry. The importance of the creator-editor relationship, the support the publisher gives their creators and the shattering of the myths behind being successful are all covered in this volume.
The relationship between creator and editor is a big deal in the manga world. When it doesn’t work out, the situation can get out of control such as what happens with Nanamine and his editor Kosugi. Both Nanamine and the manga suffers for it. But when it’s a strong relationship, such as with Moritaka, Akito and Hattori, the support Hattori gives them helps them, most especially Akito through a tough spot when a copycat criminal uses their manga to justify their crimes. I really enjoyed the scene with the Editor-in-Chief and Hattori talking about it. The Chief seemed concerned for Muto Ashirogi and reminded Hattori about the importance of supporting the artists.
The Chief showed his support as well by standing behind Muto Ashirogi’s Perfect Crime Party, when it is used to commit some crimes and is reported on the news. I loved seeing how supportive not only he was that PCP not change, but that the other editors felt the same way. The manga shouldn’t be censored because it was being used by other to do illegal things. That was never the point of PCP, and even through Akito hits some bumps, he and Moritaka find a way to show that and put the whole thing behind them.
The biggest bit of reality that is dropped in this volume is when Morishita and Akito plan to go to their 2nd grade reunion. Akito ends up missing it, but Moritaka meets his old classmates and the difference in their lifestyles becomes painfully obvious. They all think Moritaka has it easy because he’s successful, while Moritaka sees how easy it is for them to make plans to go off on vacation while he can only think about work. His ink-stained hands are a testament to his dedication to the work. While this could have been a moment of crisis for Moritaka, it instead becomes a reaffirming moment. He doesn’t regret the last ten years or the young adult moments he’s missed. It’s a simple scene with Akito, but still a moving one.
Bakuman continues to surprise me, since it was a title I expected to hate at the beginning. But every volume has managed to show me something that has entertained or moved me. Moritaka’s concern for his fellow manga artists and rivals always warms me, and I really like how Fukuda, who seems so tough and unsympathetic is always right there with him. I just can’t stop recommending Bakuman. It never stops being a great title.