14th Dalai Lama and Che Guevara

In Japan, manga covers all sorts of subjects. It isn’t all boys fighting to protect the planet or girls looking for love. There are manga for just about every subject. Penguin Books has tapped into one of those other subjects: Biography. They debut their manga line with the lives of two very influential people of the 20th century with mixed results.

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PR: End of an Era

It’s been a long time coming for this, the final volume of Inuyasha. I remember seeing the floppy singles Viz released in the early aughts. I had no idea what it was about then, but with the release of the standard manga sized volumes, I soon discovered what a great series it was. And with the omnibuses, you can too. But if you’ve been following the series to the end, you won’t be able wait for this. More after the break.

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Yen Plus December 2010

Yen Plus finishes up the year with a new title and a new announcement. When Nightschool ended in September, a lot of people were disappointed. They were going to miss reading Svetlana’s story. Two months later, and Svetlana returns, not with more Nightschool (sadly) but as the artist on the third James Patterson series to be serialized in the magazine, Witch and Wizard. And then, in the “Next Issue” section, there is an announcement that only Yen Plus subscribers will see. Starting in January, Yen Plus will debut another new series, that is also their first simultaneous serialization. MilkyWay Hitchhiking is a new manhwa by Sirial, the creator of One Fine Day. It’s about a cat with a pattern on her back that looks like the Milky Way galaxy and the many wonders she discovers. It looks very cute, is in full color, and features a cat, so it’s already got a lot going for it. I can’t wait!

Witch and Wizard starts out the magazine, with a pretty dramatic scene of the heroes about to be hanged. It then flashes back to how they got into that situation. Not my favorite story telling device, as it’s been overused on TV recently. A new political party has taken over and is instituting new laws that make magic, real or imagined illegal. Our heroes, Whit and Wisty seem to have some of these magical powers and they and their family are taken into custody. There’s a lot of water throwing, and interrogation in the first chapter, and the reader in kept in just as much the dark as the characters. I don’t know if I like this series or not yet. The smugness and seeming absolute power of the bad guys is making me lean toward a no, but I’ll give the series a few more chapters before I decide definitively.

Aron’s Absurd Armada finally ends the confrontation between the pirates and the marines, but not before Ronnie makes an enemy of the leutenant…by falling on Dorothy’s chest. The pirates get a wanted poster that makes Aron happy. Ronnie gets a huge bounty and ONLY DEAD, while Robin is cut out, and Gilbert and Anton are officially identified. I’m still loving this title and will follow it all over the seven seas!

Daniel X jumps right back into his alien hunting, and decides to go after #5 on the list. Because he did so well taking out #6…. Anyway, he’s sticking to LA, as #5 hangs out in Hollinswood (Hollywood), making movies by forcing people to act and then killing them. Daniel is usually one step behind in this chapter, running into him at an S-Mart and gets a “screen test” to be the star in #5 next picture. The story is still being set up, so I don’t have much to say about it yet, but #5 isn’t really impressing me like #6 did. I did like S-Mart reference. I don’t suppose a guy from housewares with a chainsaw for hand will come to his rescue…

In Jack Frost, Hansen finally has to face his past and his brother. It takes Lucy sacrificing himself to get his gun to finally snap him out of his daze and get serious, which is where the chapter ends. Jack is still being used as a pin cushion, and I hope he’s just biding his time. Because, if he can be so easily contained by some big guy with some spikes, then he doesn’t deserve his title. Or is he just waiting for No-Ah to be threatened before he can level up again? Either way, Jack is a disappointment. Now that Hansen has his head in the game, maybe this part of the story can finally go somewhere.

Yotsuba&! is still at the Hot Air Balloon race. Yotsuba goes for a ride in one of the balloons, drops her teddy bear, plays with a bamboo dragonfly and ends by sliding down a hillside and ignoring the race they came to see. It’s just more the same. Cute if you like the series, boring if you don’t care for Yotsuba or kids being kids in general.

K-On! has the pop music club worrying about new student orientation, both for performing and getting new members. They do get one, Nakano Azusa, a girl with a lot of musical background and enthusiasm that is quickly snuffed out by the rest of the members, and teacher advisor. She is welcomed into the club with a pair of cat ears. I’m still feeling ‘meh’ about this series. I really don’t see what so funny or cute about it.

I’m really happy to see Yen Plus getting some new titles for the new year. Milkyway Hitchhiking sounds like a lot of fun and kid friendly, and it’s good to see Sveltana’s work, even if the story isn’t rocking me yet. But it’s really the Japanese side that really needs some help. Yotsuba&! and K-On! have their audiences, sure, but it looks pretty pathetic, especially when compared to the more varied OEL/Korean side. Something with some real action would be good. Something with good action and story would be even better. Yen has to have something in their catalog now or upcoming that can help this side rise up to at least meet the Korean/OEL side.

Shonen Jump January 2011

It’s the beginning of a new year for Shonen Jump and they start it off with what they call another “evolution” I wouldn’t call what SJ did an evolution, but it is a definite improvement. Two new manga are added to the magazine, bringing the number of titles back to six, and the page count back those of the good old days. Subscribers also have online access to Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. So let’s jump into it!

The magazine begins with all its ad stuff. Merchandise, DVDs, video games and TV/Online airings of Shonen Jump anime. There was also a free Yu-Gi-Oh! card. I only mention this because I had to buy this issue for my youngest daughter so she would stop asking for my card. Not that I collect the cards, I just like to keep my issues complete.

Psyren is the first manga and first new manga in the magazine. It’s about Ageha Yoshina, a high school boy who likes to fight. He picks up a call at a public phone booth and gets a red phone card with the world Psyren on it. It turns out Psyren is the name of a secret society, made of people who want to create a new paradise on Earth. It’s treated like an urban legend, but one of his classmates, Sakurako seems to be involved. Unable to keep his nose out of her business, he uses the card, and ends up being transported to another world, where he runs into Sakurako who is being attacked by a strange bug-like monster. Meeting up with others new to the world, he learns the psyren is some sort of game, and you can’t leave until you finish the level. I enjoyed these first two chapters. Ageha is the trouble-maker with a heart of gold. He helps people using his fists, and doesn’t tolerate bullying. We still don’t know much about Sakurako or how she got involved with Psyren, but with the two of them together in the game, hopefully next issue will give use some useful exposition.

Naruto starts with Kabuto making Madara a deal he can’t refuse, though we are kept in the dark about why. Meanwhile, it’s decided to hide away Naruto and Killer Bee to keep them safe from the Akatsuki, and they go off to a solitary island where Killer Bee learned to control his Biju. Naruto wants to learn to, so after a rocky start, he begins training. These chapters were too bad. I like the frog sages, so seeing more them is always a plus. I don’t know how much I like Bee. All the rhyming is fun, gets old pretty fast. Naruto’s enthusiasm is a nice change, and I’m interested to see how his training goes with Nega-Naruto.

I have only one thing to say about these chapters of One Piece: Oh.My.God. Whitebeard continues to try to hold off the marines so his men can get to safety. He splits the island in two so his men can’t keep trying to help him. The whole thing ends with Black Beard and his crew appearing. I dont’ want to say what happens in the middle with Luffy, but needless to say, I so did not see that coming!! It’s not a moment that bring tears, because your mind is so shocked by what happens that it never gets to that. I still can’t believe it, but if there was to be anything happen to shake Luffy’s faith, in himself, and in the world, I can see it being this.

In Ultimo, Vice decides to go on a killing spree. It seems he’s determined to upset Dustan’s plans as well, but only for self-preservation. He takes out Gauge, Slow, and Pardonner, while Yamato has rushed off to Sayama’s birthday party with Rune, not knowing that Rune has contracted with Jealousy. I have no idea where Ultimo is going, and frankly I really don’t care. It has moments that look like it will have potential, that then get swallowed up in pointless fighting. I can just see another time travel reset lingering in this series’ future.

Bleach continues to the battles between Byakuya and Zommari which takes up the whole of the two chapters. Byakuya wins, but not before Zommari runs off his mouth with some speech about Soul Reaper arrogance. The last chapter ends oddly, with Mayuri seemingly at Szayelaporro’s mercy. I find this hard to believe, even with Mayuri’s arrogance, I don’t see him falling so easily to Szayelaporro. He has to have something up his sleeve. I’m still waiting to see where this Soul Reaper invasion is going. Aizen’s true goal still hasn’t been revealed, so he won’t be defeated anytime soon. Perhaps the invasion will lead to a confrontation that will lead to a reveal? Or at least a better idea. I’m really getting tired of all this fighting.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds is the second new title to join the print magazine. It takes place in 20XX, on a satellite. The new hero is Yusei, a cool and confident-looking guy whose hair is throwback to the original Yugi, with duo-tone spikes. Duel Monsters is now played on Duel Runners, motorcycles that the players race on while they throw out their cards. Their speed is dependant on how well they play. We see one race, Yusei vs Sect, his seeming sidekick/rival. The chapter ends with the appearance of an urban legend come to life, the Skeleton Knight who challenges Yusei. I actually liked this first chapter. Not a lot has been explained about the world or the games, but I like Yusei, and that’s enough to make me want to see the next chapter.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is the first online only manga for Viz that only subscribers can access. The first two chapters are available online. It starts by introducing Rikuo when he is 8-years-old. He’s loves playing with the yokai in his grandfather’s mansion and is really gung-ho about one day succeeding his grandfather as the Lord of Pandemonium. He thinks yokai are good. A presentation at school suggests that they aren’t. A powerful yokai tries a power play, and attempts to assassinate Rikuo by destroying his school bus. Rikuo wasn’t where and now his classmates are trapped. Rikuo’s yokai blood reacts to the danger and he leads a group of yokai to rescue his friends and stop the rouge yokai. Fast forward 4 years later. Rikuo has done a complete 360. Now he wants nothing to do with yokai while all of his classmates at school believe in and love yokai. They all go to a local abandoned building to look for them, as Rikuo tries to keep the yokai away from his classmates. I really liked the first chapter, and was feeling a lot of good potential coming fromt his title. Then I got to the second chapter. I did not like the total change in Rikuo. He’s become a “nice” guy, offering to do things for kids at school, which almost looks like he’s being bullied and/or taken advantage of. He really comes off as weak and useless, and reminds me a lot of Yugi from Yu-Gi-Oh! I really didn’t like him, and preferred the stronger, more confident “Other Yugi.” I’m getting the same vibe here from Rikuo. It’s only two chapters in, so things might change for the better again. I’ll wait and see.

This was definitely a good issue. The new manga greatly improved the magazine in general, and now I have more reasons than just One Piece to read it. I can’t really say the same for the online side though. Viz pushed that other manga would be available to SJ subscribers, but that’s turned out to be “extended previews” of upcoming volumes, and will only be available when the volume is actually releases. There still no world at how long the previews will last, or if previous chapters of Nura will remain on like or if they will be taken down when the volume comes out. I’m guessing it’s gonna be the latter. But, I’m not subscribing for the online content, so it’s no big deal…for now.

Dr. Slump vol 12 and O-Parts Hunter vol 5

Dr. Slump Volume 12

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By Akira Toriyama  ♦ Viz Media ♦ Teen ♦ Action/Comedy ♦ $7.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

In an especially tearful episode, Senbei fixes the anti-gravity device on the Tsun family’s rocket, and they leave Penguin Village forever…or at least, for a few pages.  And in a slightly less tearful episode, Senbei fixes the anti-gravity device (again!), this time so that King Nikochan can return home—with some unwanted stowaways:  Arale and the Gatchans!

The only tears that usually come from a Dr. Slump volume are from laughter.  This series is all about the slapstick, and this volume doesn’t disappoint.  From Arale having a greeting battle with a space monster that threatens Nikochan’s home planet, to a thief that uses books to distract her victims as she robs them, there’s always a good reason to laugh.  Even in the less comical chapter where the Gatchans finding an egg that they and Arale decide to hatch, which leads the Norimaki household on a journey to take the baby Penseal home to his parents, they still find time to do laundry (in the Nile), get ice from the refrigerator (that Midori packs), and stop for sightseeing in France.  It might seem at first glance to be gags that have all been done before, but Toriyama’s cast of characters definitely give them new life.  And the “Day in the Life” photos of Toriyama were fun too.

Not all of the chapters were laugh-out-louds, but as a whole, this volume does a good job of entertaining.  It definitely merits returning to Penguin Village for more silliness from its inhabitants.

O-Parts Hunter Volume 5

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By Seishi Kishimoto ♦ Viz Media ♦ Action ♦ Teen + ♦ $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

Jio’s friend Ball always dreamed of being strong—strong enough to help the resistance movement stop the maniacal governor Jaga who has a stranglehold on his hometown, and strong enough to defend his friends and his sister.  Now that he too is an O.P.T., it looks like Ball might stand a chance!  Can he, a novice when it comes to O-Parts, defeat a powerful member of the Zenom syndicate single-handed?

As we move toward the climax of the Entotsu storyline, this volume spotlights how much Ball and Jio have grown.  Ball, after all his bragging, finally figures out what it means to be an O.P.T., and shows all of his big talk wasn’t for nothing.  Jio has a greater obstacle to face, as he finally comes face to face with his inner demon, Satan, and makes a deal with the devil, so to speak.  And, though we are still faced with more questions than answers, we do learn a little more about Satan’s motives.  And, as you might suspect, they aren’t very nice.  Despite it’s slow start, this series is finally starting to get into its stride and it’s really starting to shine.

At its heart, O-Parts Hunter is a straight out action series.  It has an energy that’s really appealing without being big and flashy.  When I first started reading this series, it reminded me of another title, and it took me a while to figure out which; Dragon Ball.  Toriyama storytelling had the same straight forward action as this one.  The original Dragon Ball was a quest with a lot of fun and action.  O-Parts Hunter has that same energy, and it makes this title a lot of fun to read.  It was another one that I just couldn’t put down until the end.  And it looks like the action is really going to be taking off from here.

Season’s Screamings: Grand Guignol Orchestra & March Story

When one thinks of the holiday season, it tends to be of being merry, giving gifts, and celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. But the holiday season also has a history of ghostly stories and ghoulish things. So in that spirit, here are two titles to make you clutch your blanket closer on these cold, dark winter nights.

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Angel Sanctuary Volumes 1-4

Setsuna Mudo has some serious problems. He is always getting into fights, doesn’t care for authority, and worst of all, has incestuous feeling for his sister, Sara. To top all this off, he also seems to be the reincarnation of the angel Alexial, who is being punished by God for rebelling against him. Now, Alexial’s twin, Rosiel is trying to kill Setsuna before Alexial awakens, the demon Kurai wants Alexial to awake and lead the demons against heaven, and all Setsuna wants to do is run away with Sara.

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Angel Sanctuary Volume 1-4
By Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Shoujo
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I read the first volume of Angel Sanctuary a few years ago, and at the time didn’t care much for it. But after reading, and enjoying, other works by the same creator, Kaori Yuki, I decided to give the series another try, and read a few more volumes to give it a real chance.

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The story revolves around Setsuna Mudo, your typical angst-ridden teenage boy with the usual problems you’d expect a teenage boy to have; getting into fights and not caring for authority. But the one problem he does have, that makes him unusual, is the incestual feelings he has for his sister, Sara. He tries not to express them, coming off more like an overprotective brother, but his inner thoughts are consumed by her. This has completely alienated him from his mother, who seems to sense there’s something wrong with her son, and doesn’t trust him with Sara. This plotline dominates the first four volumes, as Setsuna struggles with his growing feelings and finally gives in to them, convincing Sara to run away with him.

But Setsuna has another problem. He is also the reincarnation of the Archangel Alexial. The demons, led by Kurai, want to awaken Alexial, so she can lead them against the armies of heaven. But the angels fear Alexial, and one angel, Katan, takes it upon himself to use forbidden magic in the form of a computer program, Angel Sanctuary, to free Rosiel, the only angel that has a chance going up against Alexiel. Rosiel is too consumed by revenge and himself to care much for heaven’s problems, and will use anyone or everyone to kill Alexiel.

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When I first read this series, I was bothered with the incest angle. But after reading more of Yuki’s titles, I came to realize it was just a plot device she used to create angst in her characters. And there is a lot of angst in this series. I nearly lost all interest in the series, as the first three volumes is consumed with Setsuna and Sara willing to sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of the other. The actual angel plot took a back seat to this as the importance of Setsuna’s and Sara’s relationship was emphasized, as it becomes the catalyst for Alexiel’s awakening. I understand the need to emphasize a point, but was 3 volumes of angst-ridden teens really that necessary?

The angels of Angel Sanctuary are not your typical “dressed in white with halos and hands together in prayer”. They are little different from humans, with many of the same desires and animosities. They are also the biggest jerks you could ever imagine. They think nothing of raping a demon survivor of a massacre they had just done. Female angels are persecuted for being temptresses, and they have little to no interest in humanity. They seem to be more preoccupied with a power struggle of who will be in charge now that God has had to go to sleep as his power weakens. They will go to any length to succeed. The entire time I was reading these volumes, I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity between the way these angels acted and the angels in the TV series Supernatural. The angels in that show were in a struggle with each other to cause Armageddon while God was absent. The Supernatural angels were just as big of jerks, and cared just as much about humanity. I wonder if the creators of Supernatural were familiar with this manga?

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My interest returned with the fourth volume, as the story turned toward a more traditional quest plot. Setsuna is determined to rescue Sara, and must take a Orphean journey to the underworld to find her. Along the way, he will have gain followers, both angel and demon and return before his time is up (literally). He starts out with a familiar face as a guide, and while he may have it in for Setsuna, there do seem to be indications that he may become Setsuna’s first follower. The quest plot was infinitely more entertaining than the angst-ridden teenagers of the first three volumes. I may continue with the series, but only because of this turn of events. If I had stopped reading at three, I wouldn’t have considered continuing.

The art is ver recognizable as Yuki’s, with longs of beautiful boys and long, stringy, flowing hair. You can tell this was written early in her career, as the art is rougher and not as refined as Godchild. It doesn’t look bad, but you can tell it’s not her latest work.

I wanted to like Angel Sanctuary, since I’ve enjoyed so many of Kaori Yuki’s other titles, but the first three volumes made it really hard. A little bit of angst I can take to establish a conflict. Spread it out over length of the story, such as Godchild does, if you must, but concentrating so much at the beginning really turns me away. I think I will investigate further volumes of this series, just to see where it goes, but I think I’ll borrow, or if it ever becomes available digitally. I want to know better what I’m getting before investing in a 20 volumes series, especially with such a shaky start.

Hark! The Manga Angels Sing!

Christmas isn’t exactly a holiday that gets titles dedicated to it. There are often chapters with a Christmas theme, especially in romance titles, since in Japan the holiday is more for lovers. But it finally occurred to me, that there are titles with angels, and there is no Christmas in the US without angels in song or on a Christmas tree. So here are some manga with/about angels!

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This Week in Manga: 12/11-12/17/10

Finally there is some news this week. It’s not a lot again, but it’s pretty juicy! We have license announcements from a surprising source, an online manga store opening, and some publishers throwing their weight around. And then there are the regular features of the NYTBSL, podcasts, and a roundup of what happening at Manga Village.

Continue reading This Week in Manga: 12/11-12/17/10

Tech Friday: Good Idea, Bad Idea

Good Idea: Putting manga on the Barnes and Noble Nook.

Digital Manga Publishing has announced that titles from their catalog will start appearing on the Nook and B&N’s newest e-reader the Nook Color. They already have titles on the iphone/itouch and Kindle. Just as they had with those other devices, they are starting with their adaptation of Vampire Hunter D volume 1. The book will be available in black and white or color (for the Nook color) and will be split in half, each half going for $3.99. I don’t know about the splitting the book in half, but getting their manga on as many of the digital platforms as possible is making them the most versatile manga publisher.

Bad Idea: Selling Subscriptions to Scanlated Manga

Two years ago I wrote an article about hacking the Kindle to view images, which could be used for digital manga as well. This article has attracted a lot of views and some comments about other programs people have created to make image viewing easier. I let a lot of these side since the technology can be used for legal images, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and the latest comment I got was that line. The link that appeared in the comment was for the site Manga on the Kindle, which claims to have over 100 manga volumes formatted for the Kindle, which are available for a $5 monthly subscription. Um….no. This is worse than the aggregator sites, since it’s soliciting money directly from people. Now, if publishers were to do something like this, that would make it a good idea.

Good Idea: Updating Your e-Reader For More Functionality

Barnes and Noble has said that the Nook Color, which is currently running on an older version of Android will be getting the 2.2 update in January. This update will give Nook Color owners access to the Android Market as well as other features. This is fantastic news for comics and manga fans, as apps come out for the Android, they will be available to use and read on their Nook Color. It will also give them the option of using their Nook Color as a full tablet, at half the price and more convenient size than the Apple iPad.

Bad Idea: Censoring e-books you’ve already sold

From the “I Wanna Be Like Steve Jobs” Department

Word has come from writers on blogs and on the Amazon forums, that Amazon has started removing erotica fiction from the Kindle store, which includes deleting the book from people’s accounts that have already purchased the books. This is one of the reasons I am hesitant about joining the e-reader revolution. When I purchase I book, I don’t want to be told somewhere done the line that I can no longer read the book I purchased. It doesn’t say “rent” on Amazon. It says “purchase”, and that should mean it’s mine until I decide to get rid of it, not when Amazon decides to back pedal on their “no censorship” stance that they claimed to have, but seems to have changed their mind about. This is especially frustrating for both writers and readers as Amazon has not clean statement about what is appropriate for the store and what is not, and they seem to be choosy about who gets to stay and who goes. Just like Apple and their Apps Store. Not a good model to emulate, Amazon.

Bunny Drop Volume 2

As the impromptu dad and his charge learn to adapt to both one another and their very new living situation, Daikichi is plagues by thoughts of Rin’s mother. Who is she? Why has she been quiet all this time? Hot on the trail after discovering a modem at the old man’s computer-less abode, Daikichi plays detective in a search for answers. But elementary school enrollment, extracurricular activities, and other parental obligations wait for no man, so when the day of confrontation with the mysterious Masako arrives, will Daikichi be prepared?!

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By Yumi Unita
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★½

Rin has been with Daikichi for 6 months now, and both seem to have settled into their new situation. Daikichi’s demotion to the warehouse has him interacting with more parents than the single guys in the sales department. Rin is finding more acceptance from Daikichi’s immediate family and starts to open up to them more. But it’s Daikichi’s obsession with finding Rin’s mother that’s the focus of this second volume.

I really enjoyed watching Daikichi’s continued adjustment to parenthood. In his new position in the distribution department, he has other parents to interact and commiserate with. The stressing over extracurricular activities, preparing to start elementary school are all things parents deal with, so seeing Daikichi stumble through them is a familiar feeling. I loved the scene at Rin’s graduation ceremony, where Daikichi is the only one there without *at least* one camera. Though, he read through Rin’s Mother-Child Health Record, and even commented on how thorough the mother was in filling it out, so it was odd that he would have to ask about immunizations. It did make for a good panel for the dirty looks he got from some of the other mothers.

Most of this volume though, was about Daikichi’s search for Rin’s mother. He has a hard time understanding why she hasn’t tried to get Rin back. When he finally meets her, the answer is rather shocking to him. She chose her career over raising Rin. Choosing to continue working while raising a child is a decision a lot of women must face, as we do see in the volume with Kouki’s Mom trying to juggle work with Kouki just as Daikichi does with Rin. Daikichi’s mother tried working after having him and becoming pregnant with his sister Kazumi, but was forced out by the company she worked for. But Masako takes things a step too far by not even trying, and convincing Rin she isn’t her mother. Masako’s whole attitude toward it though seems a little extreme, and it’s hard not to agree with Daikichi’s reactions. But it probably is the best for Rin to not be with her. Children only do better with their parents when they care. They will always flourish with people who truly care for them, and there’s no doubt Daikichi cares for Rin.

Bunny Drop continues to be a great title that is charming while being very relatable. Daikichi fumbles though his sudden parenthood just as well as a parent that’s been raising their child all along. He struggles through the same choices and decisions, and even parents from the beginning have doubts about their abilities to raise their child properly. He makes good decisions though, and respects Rin’s feeling, perhaps more than actual parents might. I continue to recommend this title highly.

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