Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 13
After thirteen volumes, Ao Haru Ride has come to an end, but instead of celebratory feelings, I couldn’t shake an irksome question: Why is it that this story just never really works? The unlikeable lead characters are one reason, with Kou and Futaba hurtling forward, especially in this volume, without much regard to others (The latter says the following or something like it more than once: “Even if I feel guilty, I have to keep moving forward.”), though the biggest concern with Ao Haru Ride is rather that there’s no subtlety. Despite the frustration I share with fans at the actions of Kou and Futaba, I mostly appreciate the authenticity and realism of thedr deeply flawed characters. Instead, my biggest criticism is that Io Sakisaka lets readers know too much about what they’re thinking, which not only reduces much of the suspense that naturally develops in a story, but also contributes to this dislike of the characters, for the more we know about an individual, the more there is to dislike. That’s how people are—beneath the beautiful veneer lies imperfections and even awfulness. And in addition, there’s not enough time within chapters to just let things rest: Too many panels feel like info dumps, and confessions come together far too quickly (as one does in this volume). Longtime readers will be excited to see how relationships evolve and culminate in the finale, but for the rest, we may be more excited about the bonus chapter to Strobe Edge, included in the volume, or Love Me, Love Me Not, Sakisaka’s more recent work which has been fantastic through its early volumes, better reflecting her enormous talent. ~ Twwk
Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 13 is available through Viz.
Laid-Back Camp, Vol. 7
Nadeshiko goes on her first solo camp! As much fun as it is to have the entire gang together, some of the best stories in Laid-Back Camp focus on the individual character journeys (both their physical trips and the little things they learn along the way). Volume seven features just three characters through most of its chapters: Nadeshiko, making her aforementioned trip; Rin, as she also goes solo camping; and Sakura, Nadeshiko’s older sister, who is making a journey as well. The usual laughs and cuteness are found on every page, as usual, but there’s also some nice relationship development that occurs in this volume, even as characters are mostly traveling apart, demonstrating the skill it takes to create an effective story that is far deeper than its CGDCT surface would indicate. Also per the the usual, these excursions will make you want to go camping, as the food that the girls cook and eat will make your mouth water—with the exception, perhaps, of a pungent and long-stewing Bear Paw soup. Yuck. Oh, and beware of tents dropping potatoes (and other wondrous things that come into Shimarin’s mind). ~ Twwk
Laid-Back Camp, Vol. 7 is available through Yen Press.
All My Darling Daughters
I had extra digital dollars at Amazon again, and looked into single-volume manga there that were well-received. That’s how I found All My Darling Daughters. Fumi Yoshinaga is known for her acclaimed shoujo and BL work, but though this series is out of that realm—a josei romance—it had rave reviews, so I snatched it up. I was not disappointed. The story centers on a group of women following the marriage of one of their mother’s to a much younger man. After surviving cancer, the mother decided to live her life as she pleased, with her actions impacting each of the members of the family and friend group differently. All My Darling Daughters is an interesting, self-contained story about adult relationships and how they can change over time. Very raw and unfiltered at times, I really appreciated this female driven story. ~ MDMRN
All My Darling Daughters is available through Viz.
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vols. 1-3
After reading stardf29’s first impression of the Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear anime, and watching the first episode for myself, I felt rather curious about how different the light novel might be. This is another fantasy-world-based-on-a-game type isekai story, with the major quirk being that protagonist Yuna is totally helpless unless she equips the magical bear onesie a god gave her. But OP battle shenanigans wearing a bear suit aren’t really the point of this tale. I get serious vibes of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, another tale about a cynical, lonely moneygrubber changing with supernatural help. Yuna’s story is about a bitter, hurting person who claims to care about nothing but money finding healing through an unknown god’s meddling. This will sound ridiculous, but Yuna starts as a female teenage Japanese Ebenezer Scrooge in a bear onesie, before her isekai adventures push her to change. Three volumes in, I’m really enjoying this series. Beware, however, because you’ll need to bear with a fair number of ursine puns. ~ Jeskai Angel
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is published by Seven Seas Entertainment.
Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside, Vol. 1
This mouthful of a light novel title is about a former member of the hero’s party who was kicked out by another member because his skill, which gave him a large starting level advantage and trivialized the early-game, was starting to fall off in the mid-game. Taking on the name Red, this former hero heads off to the frontier, far away from the whole Demon Lord war, and starts an apothecary, where he’s joined by a princess that he worked with in the past. This is a super-charming novel with a very sweet romance developing between the two leads, interspersed with some stories both past and present about the hero’s party, what role “Red” had beforehand, and how they’re coping with losing a member that might have been more helpful than one of the members thought he was. The way this world uses the idea of every character having a “unique” ability (a “Blessing”) is also interesting because those abilities also affect their mental states, and not always for the better. It’s an interesting mix of laid-back romantic slice-of-life and more serious events, and I definitely want to read more of it. ~ stardf29
Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside is published by Yen Press.
Fairy Tail, Vol. 30
I’m nearing the halfway point of my read through of Fairy Tail and let me tell you—it’s okay. I’m surprised this series has kept my attention for as long as it has for there’s nothing deep and the series feels very superficial. It’s an action series about a group of scrappy wizards. It’s fun and entertaining…and I don’t have to think about it too much. Yet, at times I find the characters surprising me in unique ways, with this volume centering on climactic events at Tenrou Island that shake the series to its core, while continuing to move character growth forward (particularly with Cana and Gildarts), being no exception. And I’ll say this as well—Mashima basically makes every other chapter cover page a picture that feels like an Instagram model’s thirst trap post. No, I’m not joking. That said, I’m still keeping at it and will continue to work my way through the entire main series. I mean, it’s kind of mindless at times, but it’s fun, and sometimes that’s all you need from a manga series. ~ MDMRN
Fairy Tail, Vol. 30 is available through Kodansha.
The Promised Neverland Special Side Story: The First Shot
Months after the finale of The Promised Neverland was released, readers were given a surprise: a whole special chapter dedicated to Ray before the events of the story. I gotta say, I enjoyed reading this while having my heart broken to pieces over this boy, especially as it confirmed a lot of things I suspected about him. In reading through his many thoughts and actions, it helps show why Ray became so cynical and suicidal over not being able to save everyone. Adding to that thought, the side story also develops his character further, shaping him into someone more hopeful and idealistic all the more fulfilling thanks to Emma’s influence on him. It also makes certain parts of the main story harsher in hindsight, such as the nightmarish experience Ray had in the Seven Walls, and Phil living out the same experience he had after the escape from Grace Field. Overall, this was a great focus chapter, and here’s hoping there’s more chapters Shirai and Demizu have in store for us (and if I had to choose which character I’d like to see next, it’d definitely be Ayshe). ~ thathilomgirl
The Promised Neverland Special Side Story: The First Shot is available through Viz.
The King Of Fighters: A New Beginning Chapters 1-8
The King of Fighters series is a staple in the fighting game genre. I enjoy the rivalries that several of the characters have, like Iori and Kyo or Terry and Geese. The opening chapters of the manga center on a tournament to decide who is the greatest fighter, with a new mysterious team watching to see who is the strongest. He seems very powerful, and would even challenge the main heroes or villains of the series, so that’s interesting! I got through several of the chapters pretty easily as the beginning is just introducing the various teams. In the game and this manga, there are three characters that are partners or share similar fighting styles. The artwork was very detailed, but also fanservice heavy, which I don’t appreciate. What I did enjoy, though, was the first battle between the famous Kyo and Iori; it was great to read and looked similar to the game. I look forward to reading more, and seeing what’s in store for this tournament—hopefully more depth than just some random powerful character with an ego.
The King of Fighters: A New Beginning is published by Seven Seas.
Featured illustration by 霧月 (reprinted w/permission)