The Springtime of My Life Began with You, Vol. 1
It is honestly times like these where I wish I could collect digital manga in paperback. The Springtime of My Life Began with You is a new digital title from Kodansha, and while I’m excited we have this new story to read in English legally, I’m bummed that I can’t go to the store and pick it up because I want to be able to flip pages to my favorite scenes and dialogue. But enough moping! This delightful volume gives me a lot of When We Shout for Love vibes (which I LOVED!), and I caught myself leaning a little closer to my computer screen to keep reading. I love these kinds of stories where the shy main girl steps out of her shell into becoming a young woman she’s always dreamed of being. Suehiro is such a relatable character and I absolutely love her love for books and desire to celebrate that love with other friends. While I feel Takasago may appear to be the typical popular guy falling for the shy girl, I was actually surprised how this plot point turns into something deeper. He’s not just this super popular dude who just “happens” to fall in love. The bookish aspect, the characters, and the hopeful journey of growing self-confidence makes this a manga one I would recommend and read again! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Springtime of My Life Began with You, Volume 1 is published by Kodansha.*
Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 1
If you’re looking for something like The Apothecary Diaries but with more cooking and less sex, or something like I Will Cook With My Fluffy Friends but with an imperial China flair, then the light novel Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower might be for you. The setting of an imperial China-inspired inner palace is there, as are all the consorts, eunuchs, and an emperor and his servants. However, the focus here is more on Rimi, a consort from not-Japan as she has to deal with an emperor who thinks her country’s offerings of unique cooking “ingredients” are trash and thus worth beheading the poor girl over. This leads to Rimi literally having to cook for her life, with the help of a handsome cuisinologist, a beautiful eunuch with a strained relationship with the emperor, and a cute “mouse” who may be more than just mere ratatouille. Rimi herself is a solid protagonist who does struggle emotionally with the difficulties of being in an unfamiliar environment, but is also plucky enough to deal with everything that comes her way, even including the emperor’s personal problems, and she is very passionate about cooking. Add in some hints of romance and of course some cooking details, and you have an interesting series with a fair amount going on, and one that I definitely want to read more of. ~ stardf29
Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower is published by J-Novel Club.
Star Collector (Audio Manga)
Voice actor Todd Haberkorn’s (Natsu, Fairy Tail) considerable talents are highlighted in this audio version of BL OEL manga Star Collector, in which he voices the two primary characters. With a run time of a little more than two hours, Haberkorn, who also produced the recording, is joined by the always-welcome Caitlin Glass in various roles as he narrates the story of delinquent, chain-smoking Fynn and his budding relationship with classmate and stargazer, Niko. The voiceover work, along with whimsical music and well-timed sound effects, brings life to a story that is inconsistent, at times providing picturesque descriptions that, when combined with the excellent performances, evoke a sense of theater in the listener’s mind, but which at its worst comes across as an amateur’s attempts at clumsy, erotic fan fiction, with characters that feed a romantic’s imagination at the cost of coherent characterization. Still, there are far worse ways than to spend two hours on the road than to listen to Haberkorn’s dulcet tones—just make sure you’re not pumping the audio manga through your speakers while with someone else. Just trust me on that. ~ Twwk
Star Collector is published by TOKYOPOP.
Fly Me to the Moon, Vol. 5
What can I say? Fly Me to the Moon continues to be hilarious and sweet. If you read it, you will laugh, and you will get warm fuzzy feelings. This manga’s pop culture reference game remains strong, with nods to The Six Million Dollar Man, the Sega Dreamcast, the infamous “off course” typo in Final Fantasy VII, and more. “If this were a romantic comedy, disaster would be sure to strike!” Spoiler: Despite being a romcom, the only disasters are the ones Nasa imagines. Then there’s Tsukasa’s sage observation: “With a smartphone, the warlord Nobunaga really could have gone places” (which bears at least passing resemblance to more than one anime out there). Other highlights of this volume include Aya going full mother-in-law before bonding with Tsukasa over video games, Nasa’s junior high teacher getting the wrong idea about Tsukasa, and Tsukasa and Kaname trolling Chitose. It’s a small moment, but also I appreciated the realistic detail of getting confirmation that Tsukasa really was injured back when she saved Nasa from Truck-kun at their first meeting. I heartily recommend this manga. ~ JeskaiAngel
Fly Me to the Moon is published by Viz.*
In Another World With My Smartphone, Vol. 22 (light novel)
So all of the major threats to the world are dealt with, and Touya’s married to his girls… what else is even left to do in this story? Well, for most of the volume, it’s just more of the usual filler hi-jinks: some matchmaking events (including a side-character mini-harem that’s not in the orientation you might expect), silliness regarding the BL-writing princess, and the like. They’re the kind of small adventures and happenings that filled the space between major events in previous volumes. Likewise, towards the end of volume 22, the next major event of this story is revealed, as Smartphone pulls a Fire Emblem: Awakening and introduces children from the future! Obviously, with no huge danger to deal with, they’re just here to play around and meet the parents, but it still adds the the sort of fun little twist that should please anyone who’s enjoyed this series enough to still be reading it over twenty volumes in. ~ stardf29
The light novel of In Another World With My Smartphone is published by J-Novel Club.
Golden Japanesque: A Splendid Yokohama Romance, Vol. 2
Sometimes we need people to come alongside us and show us who we could be and stir our hearts to change despite the adversity we may face from others (or even in Maria’s case, family too). I found this to be very much true for Maria in the delightful second volume of Golden Japanesque: A Splendid Yokohama Romance. Maria is such a sweet character, but due to the constant negativity she has had voiced to her, she’s so fearful of doing the wrong thing, offending someone, or upsetting her mother. Yet that fear doesn’t completely define who Maria is, and I loved seeing her slowly grow a little bolder in this volume! She has a hidden “brass” to her as others have claimed and a little more boldness then even she realizes, though thankfully Rintarou is helping to bring that out (Speaking of, glad he is still his teasing self!). I hope Maria continues to bloom and grow as a person and not just in romance. Seeing her bravery near the latter part of the end made me want to get up off my couch and cheer for her! I could imagine I’ll being doing a lot more of that based on the teaser we were shown for the upcoming volume! ~ Laura A. Grace
Trapped in a Dating Sim: the World of Otome Games Is Tough for Mobs, Vols. 1-2
You’ve probably seen the reincarnated-into-an-otome-game story premise before (especially the kind that takes place at a school for nobles and royalty), but Trapped in a Dating Sim manages to put some fun twists on that concept. The protagonists of these stories are usually girls, but this book’s MC, Leon, is a guy. And he isn’t reincarnated as a major character from the game, but as a nobody who doesn’t actually have any connection to the game plot. The setting is downright dystopian, with slavery, classism, and rampant sexism against men. The world is also illogical in other ways, due being based on the wonky mechanics and shallow world-building of the game. Leon eventually meets the game’s protagonist (Olivia), antagonist (Angelica), and five love interests (Greg, Chris, Brad, Julius, and Jilk), but something has gone awry. The love interests are barely even aware Olivia exists, instead fawning over some other girl named Marie. Did I mention the snarky AI sidekick, or the fact that since the original otome game included airship battles and giant robots, the isekai world has them too? I enjoyed volume one enough that I dove right into volume two, and while I find Leon obnoxious at times, overall I like Trapped in a Dating Sim enough that I’ll continue reading. ~ JeskaiAngel
Trapped in a Dating Sim: the World of Otome Games Is Tough for Mobs is published by Seven Seas Entertainment.
With the Sheikh in His Harem, Vol. 1
When I first saw the cover and title of With the Sheikh in His Harem, I was admittedly nervous that it would be about a young woman joining other wives/concubines for one (handsome) man. Thankfully my fears were unfounded. It’s probably the first manga I’ve read with an exotic location and I’m totally here for it! Another one reason I found this to be such a compelling story is because of the character Sanagi, who is such a diligent worker. I absolutely love how that even if her situation changes, Sanagi still seeks to be true to herself and work hard. Prince Lui is another fun character; I enjoyed how he is discovering the beauty and joy in life with Sanagi. I like how passionate he is and how he not only wants the best for her, but that he will also do whatever it takes to keep her around (and safe). One of the best parts, though, is how the mangaka includes mini-travel guides. I LOVEDDDD that! It was a very fun feature to this manga and definitely “bumped up” my enjoyment of this story. Overall, I really enjoyed With the Sheikh in Harem and thought it to be a fun escape and highly enjoyable, recommended to anyone who enjoys reading shoujo manga but is looking for something that combines a good romance and Arabian-like setting! ~ Laura A. Grace
With the Sheikh in His Harem is published by Kodansha.*
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 Kodansha for providing review copies. Featured illustration by Lumo_1121 reprinted w/permission).