Reader’s Corner: SAO Project Alicization, Evangelion ANIMA, and Cooking with Fluffy Friends

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 2, Vol. 3

Recently, I introduced my sister to the Ascendance series, and she’s hooked. As she gobbles her way through the novels from Part 2, I’ve been rereading them to keep up with her questions and comments. And I have to say, I really like this volume in particular. In some ways, it’s a filler novel, sandwiched between the rising tensions of volume two and the approaching climax in volume four. Myne sells off rights to the paper ink, completes the first printing press (finally!), finishes sets of playing cards for the orphanage, and cooks up some new sweets recipes in the interim. Nothing incredibly unique, but it’s the small details about Myne’s life that I love—including her banter with Benno and Ferdinand, of which there is much in this volume. Of course, it’s not all easy reading. Now that nobles know about Myne’s wealth of mana, she’s in more danger than ever before; and the arrival of a *certain* blue priest sends the whole temple into a panic. But whether you’re reading for the tension or the sweetness, you’ll definitely find something to love in this volume. At least, I did—even on my second read. ~ sleepminusminus

Ascendance of a Bookworm is published by J-Novel Club, which offers a free preview.

Sword Art Online: Project Alicization, Vol. 2

Volume two of Project Alicization picks up right where the initial one left off, with Kirito waking up in a digital world and meeting his new friend, Eugeo. He discovers that Alice has been taken by the Integrity Knight, but the next day, he and Eugen also can’t find Selka, the latter’s friend and sister to Alice. Elsewhere, Asuna and the OG gang try to figure out where Kirito’s body is after he went unconscious. It seems foul play and deception are afoot with Rath, the company who created this new game. Volume two keeps the action going at a frenetic pace, but it struggles with the same issues as the previous one. There is too much dialogue about how souls work in the game, in addition to other non-essential details. Some will enjoy the heavy focus on detail in this volume as with the previous, but this reviewer finds that SAO tries a little too hard to explain itself instead of moving the story along. I am, however, enjoying the new characters and plot as well as basking in Kirito’s bravery, so I continue to look forward to the next part of the series to see what happens next! ~ Samuru

Sword Art Online: Project Alicization is published by Yen Press.*

Since I Was Abandoned After Reincarnating, I Will Cook With My Fluffy Friends, Vol. 1 (light novel)

After her engagement to a pathetic prince is dissolved because of a malicious plot, Laeticia regains memories of her past life as a Japanese woman who loves animals and cooking. From there, she accepts an offer to become a figurehead queen in a neighboring country, and not wanting to bother the king—who has become distrustful of women—she lives apart from him in a villa with various servants and, of course, fluffy animals. There’s actually quite a lot more than just slice-of-life cooking here, as volume one presents nefarious noble plots Laetitia has to deal with, which adds drama to the story. Also, there is a bit of a fun element to the romance aspect, because while the king doesn’t quite want to meet his wife-in-name-only in person…well, he is the King of Wolfvarte, so maybe he can approach her incognito in a, let’s say, fluffier form? There are other neat fantastical elements here, and, of course, plenty of cooking and petting animals, making this was a fun story that I would love to read more of. ~ stardf29

Since I Was Abandoned After Reincarnating, I Will Cook With My Fluffy Friends, Vol. 1 is published by Cross Infinite World.

Neon Genesis Evangelion ANIMA, Vol. 1

The Evangelion franchise has birthed several alternate universe (AU) series since its initial inceptiontwo of which we’ve covered in this column in recent monthsbut ANIMA, originally serialized in Japan between 2008 and 2013, is distinctive both for being a light novel entry and in its ambition, functioning as a direct line from the original series if it has gone the direction of Shinji avoiding Human Instrumentality and now, three years later, dealing with a new threat, while bringing along most of the remaining characters from the series as well. Little time is spent exploring school life, as noted by the author himself in the volume’s extensive extras, with the action begining almost immediately and continuing in an unrelenting manner. Much like the final stretch of the anime, challenges occur one after another, barely leaving readers time to breathe. At once, the novel is a thrill because of this structure, as well as in how KHARA and Ikuto Yamashita reenvision NERV and the world it protects in light of the changes that come with Shinji’s altered decision and three years of maturation, while keeping tone and characterization consistent with its predecessor, and also disappointing because it doesn’t allow room for much growth for its characters. That’s not to say that Shinji, Rei, especially Asuka, and all the rest, haven’t developed greatly in the preceding three years, and readers are invited to witness these changes throughout volume one, but little growth occurs throughout the course of these some-300 pages. There is a much heavier focus on the sci-fi elements of the story, which will delight many fans, especially those who are interested in how technology in this universe works and how it’s progressed, but which will also serve to confuse others.  ~ Twwk

Neon Genesis Evangelion ANIMA is published by Seven Seas.

Your Lie in April, Vol. 6

Continuing my re-read during the month of April, I completed volume six, which continues the story of Kousei as he’s told that he will be accompany Kaori to a recital event. Unbeknownst to her, she selects a song that screams Kousei’s Mom, leading to a volume that forces Kousei to confront his unresolved feelings with his late mother, for whom he never allowed himself to. He just bottled his emotions deep inside. Other events occurs as well, including a deeper dive which the volume takes into his mother’s friend Hiroko Seto, and Kaori all but admitting to Watari that she likes Kousei; yet at the core of these chapters, as with the entire series, this is Kousei’s story. And let’s be real—it’s not a happy-go-lucky tale, filled with highs and almost as many lows as this teenager grapples with heavy emotional baggage from his late, abusive mother. Re-reading Your Lie in April has been a good exercise, helping me see different things I may have missed before. I posted more extensive thoughts on this volume on Twitter, if you’d like to explore this weighty selection in more detail. ~ MDMRN

Your Lie in April is published by Kodansha.

Skip Beat, Vol. 18

This, this is what I follow Skip Beat for. Following the “Dark Moon” and “Suddenly, a Love Story” segments, which were long and mediocre, volume 18 features a short arc focusing on a new character and his interactions with Kyoko, who isn’t relegated to a damsel in distress as she had been previously. Returning to her Love Me section job, Kyoko is given a special assignment to assist Kuu Hizuri, a Hollywood star returning to Japan, and who has some connection to Ren beyond having played the same role in the Dark Moon drama. Coming off as a brash, arrogant type, Kuu soon appears to be very intentional in how and why he’s picking on Kyoko, and turns out to be quite an engaging character. Kuu’s actions bring out treasured qualities in both Kyoko and Ren, the latter of whom has been near-insufferable in his insecurity. A brisk read, volume 18 advances the narrative, continues to have fun with the idea of celebrity, and deepens the backgrounds that connect the series leads as it gets Skip Beat back on track—a most welcome volume, indeed. ~ Twwk

Skip Beat is published by Viz.*

Reader’s Corner is our way of embracing the wonderful world of manga, light novels, and visual novels, creative works intimately related to anime but with a magic all their own. Each week, our writers provide their thoughts on the works their reading—both those recently released as we keep you informed of newly published works and older titles that you might find as magical (or in some cases, reprehensible) as we do.

*Thank you to Yen Press and Viz Media for providing review copies.

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