Mint Chocolate, Vol. 1
Of all the variations of the incest romance one might find out there, the “stepsiblings who meet as teens” variant is probably the most “acceptable” for most people. After all, when you have someone like the protagonist of this shoujo manga, Nanami, who finds out that her new stepbrother Kyouhei is the guy she had been crushing on for a while, it’s hard to say that her feelings are somehow “wrong”. At the same time, she is aware that any potential relationship between the two of them will come with all sorts of complications, so she still tries to hide things from the parents. Her bigger issue is that Kyouhei, on his part, seems to like to tease her and show interest in her, but also seems to be pushing her away from anything too serious. There may be good reason for this, as the manga does touch upon the scars that can come from a broken family, which is probably the most interesting bit here. Beyond that it’s pretty typical shoujo stuff, with that extra stepsibling flavor, and I’ll probably be reading more of it, especially since it ends on a pretty nasty cliffhanger. ~ stardf29
Mint Chocolate, Vol. 1 is available through Yen Press.
Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun, Volume 1
The Assassin’s Creed series has been around for many years, but not too many manga has been created about it. I was excited to have the opportunity to review this one, especially since I wasn’t familiar with the character. It’s about a female assassin named Shao, who seeks revenge after her brotherhood was killed. An ancestor of hers is actually reliving Shao’s memories through a device called the Animus, which is common in the AC series. Basically, she is connected to a device that allows her to see what her descendant saw, but the danger is that the company that owns the Animus is actually part of the Templars, which are the sworn enemy of the Brotherhood of Assassins. The manga didn’t dive too much into who this girl is, but Shao’s story continues to be one full of action and danger. Looking forward to the second volume! ~ Samuru
Assassin’s Creed: Blade of Shao Jun, Volume 1 is available through Viz.
Moriking, Chapter 35
What a ride Moriking was. From my initial first impression on the series to now, Moriking has grown on me as a series. The series follows the titular Moriking has he goes from a beetle to a…human-beetle and battles for supremacy to become the King of the Forrest. The series follows him and the family through various misadventures as well as various insects who also assumed a human form. While I’m sure other mangaka could have milked this for longer, I’m glad this series ended when it did and the way it did. It gave a satisfying conclusion to the overall plot, our heroes reached the goal they were seeking, and honestly, it’s one of the better endings to a short-lived Shonen Jump series I’ve read in a long time. I’ll miss it, but I am glad it went out the way it did. ~ MDMRN
Moriking has been simulpublished by Viz on Shonen Jump.
She’s The Cutest… But We’re Just Friends! Vol. 1
This romantic comedy light novel is pretty much the embodiment of the statement “I don’t want to ruin our friendship.” Protagonists Kai and Jun are both big gamers and otaku, so they get along really well, especially with Jun visiting Kai’s house frequently to play games. Kai on his part finds her attractive, but probably more importantly, he genuinely enjoys hanging out with Jun as a friend; there is no sense that he’s just trying to use his friendship to leverage for something more. That doesn’t stop the two of them from having more flirtatious moments, though, and the result is a strangely sweet read that makes me want to cheer on the two to eventually become a couple, but also to never stop being friends. However, everyone around them seems to think they’re dating, and this actually causes quite a few problems for the two of them, especially since Jun is also one of the “popular” girls, which means there are plenty of people who think Kai is not “worthy” of her, leading to some moments of drama that are more hit-or-miss; thankfully, it’s never too long before things get resolved. Oh, and this novel goes hardcore on the otaku references; expect references to specific video games, manga, and anime that even name off specific characters, levels, and events/strategies within. ~ stardf29
She’s The Cutest… But We’re Just Friends! Vol. 1 is available through J-Novel Club.
Sword Art Online, Vol. 21
With the lengthy Underworld story arc completed, this volume marks the start of a new arc. Kirito and his friends involuntarily find themselves in a strange new game — the arc’s eponymous Unital Ring — which turns out to be a survival game, both in terms of gameplay and in the sense that if one’s avatar dies, the player is kicked out and can never play again. Oh, and the last player standing gets a prize. There’s one amazing aspect of the SAO light novels that doesn’t really appear in the anime adaptation: Kirito is actually an endearingly dorky first-person narrator. Another highlight of this volume was how many other returning characters are prominently involved, including Asuna, Alice, Leafa, LIzbeth, and Yui. With humor, mystery, and a surprise returning character showing up on literally the last page, I thoroughly enjoyed this volume. If you like SAO, I recommend it. ~ jeskaiangel
Sword Art Online vol. 21 is published by Yen Press.
Demon Slayer (Series)
So, 2021 was a year I decided I was going to catch up on popular manga series that I never read, starting with the ones that ended in 2020. This led me to Demon Slayer which I read over the course of one week. First, I get the hype. It’s an action packed series with great art, interestingly designed characters, and a very easy to follow and digest story. Second, I really enjoyed it, from the very jump right in beginning to the very end. Third, I have a handful of pet peeves about the series that are entirely petty and minor that if you want to ask me about, feel free to do so on our Discord or Twitter. Finally, while I really liked it, I don’t think this is a series that is going to stick with me. There are a number of manga series that after reading them I felt a big, “Wow, I am going to think about this and possibly read this again.” Series like Haikyuu and Your Lie in April gave me all those feelings. I didn’t feel that way about Demon Slayer. Maybe that’s me. ~ MDMRN
Demon Slayer is available from Viz.
Thank you to Yen Press and Viz for providing copies for several of the manga and light novels reviewed above. Featured illustration by ゆうきち (artist allows reprints).