Reader’s Corner: 86, After-School Hanako-kun, Batmanga, and Marie Kondo

86–Eighty-Six, Vol. 1

The recent anime adaptation piqued my curiosity about this series, and the first volume didn’t disappoint. A country steeped in racism and greed uses child soldiers from ethnic minorities (collectively dubbed the “Eighty-Six”) to fend off an endless robot army. The privileged Lena takes command of one such unit, Spearhead Squadron, and begins a long-distance relationship with squad leader Shin and the other dwindling members of the unit. This is a war story with sci-fi elements, but the main theme is really racism (which, in light of human history all the way through the present day, is a perennially relevant topic). The setting and story take inspiration from a variety of real-life countries and atrocities. It’s dark, but Lena (and others!) shined brightly enough to keep me from just dropping the book in despair. I’m definitely going to read the next volume. ~ jeskaiangel

86–Eighty-Six is published by Yen Press.

One Week Friends, Vol. 7

I’ve spent the last couple of months sharing the emotional journey that is One Week Friends and with this final volume, I can confidently say that I am content. This was the perfect way to end the series. I loved the ending and how it all came together—Fujimiya healed, other characters healed, and ultimately our beloved group of friends sticking together. Hase especially is a young man who is going to remain special to me. He experienced such growth in this series, and I just loved him as a hero. He is inspiring, brave, and such a lovely character. Hase may have doubted and almost given up, but he was a hero whom I could perfectly relate to. I had literal tears in my eyes by the end because while the ending was slightly different than I expected, it was the one this series needed. The mangaka mentions in the afterword that she hopes readers will feel even a second of gladness that they read the series. I can say with full assurance, I am very glad I read it. One Week Friends was so much deeper then I imagined and all the characters really became special to me as I read. I honestly would love to read more of their story, but even without, I can imagine their futures are so bright. I know this story is one that will stick with me for a very long time! ~ Laura A. Grace

One Week Friends is published by Yen Press.

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga, Vol. 1

Do you remember the 1960s Batman TV series, the with Adam West that approached the franchise is a more campy way than we’ve been used to in recent decades? Did you know that while it was airing, DC Comics worked with mangaka Jiro Kuwata to prepare a manga adaptation of this classic character for a Japanese audience? That is exactly what this is, a manga adaptation that is intended to feel like the 1966-68 show. It is cheesy, silly, and fun. In volume one, the manga appears to only be using new (at least to me), original villains that stem from the mind of Jiro Kuwata to mimic similar villains from the original TV series…or to just meet up with a random idea that Kuwata developed. New villains like Go-Go the Magician or Lord Death Man are a lot of fun. If you loved the 60s Batman show and if you enjoy manga, you absolutely should check this volume out. And if you don’t like either, I have to ask why you’re reading my review of it in the first place! ~  MDMRN

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga is published by DC Comics.

Kimi ni Todoke, Vol. 1

One of the best known “awkward girl is the heroine” shoujo manga is Kimi ni Todoke, in which Sawako Kuronuma, nicknamed “Sadako” after the antagonist from The Ring (who by the way, gets the lead in unique recent manga of her own) for a perceived ability to curse those in her vicinity and a face that appears forever gloomy, is gradually revealed as a loving and indeed remarkable person through the relationship she develops with the handsome and kind-hearted Kazehaya. Now nearing 20 years old (though it just concluded in 2018), Kimi ni Todoke remains a charming look at the transformative power of friendship, courage, and openness. The artwork also remains lovely, charged with nostalgia from the era but still beautiful to gaze at even now, while the story through volume one is shoujo at its most heartwarming as the leads express lovable characteristics, perfect in their imperfections. Kuronuma’s naivete and Kazehaya’s goodness are tempered by their sincerity and the humor infused in the volume, while the romantic elements are already tantalizingly strong in these opening chapters. Goosebumps rose along my forearms as I read through it, rising because of how heartfelt these two are and by their too-cute interactions. It’s also a smart move to establish early on that Kazehaya seems not only to like Kuronuma, but that her feelings lean more towards admiration at this point, helping to further solidify the theme of how one reaches across challenging social barriers (the title is literally From Me to You), not just by the obvious way the popular boy helps open the awkward girl’s world, but how she may change his as well. Kimi ni Todoke is more than just pretty pictures and romantic feelings—there’s depthhere and real beauty, evident right from the start. ~ Twwk

Kimi ni Todoke is published by Viz.*

After School Hanako-kun, Vol. 1

Attention fans of Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun! That moody, cute, and inventive manga now has its own spin-off, trading “Toilet-Bound” for “After School,” and plot progression for some light-hearted comedy featuring most of the characters from the original story interacting with one another in cute and funny ways. The Mokke even get an entire chapter to themselves (my favorite in this collection, with the Mokke interviewing in an attempt to become one of the school mysteries)! On an aside, if you love the Mokke as much as I do, you’ll be delighted by this volume, as they show up in many of the stories, which are still captivating even they have no forbearance on the tale at large (though at one point, Hanako does mention that he “almost just left the story for good…in the first chapter of a spin-off, no less.”). These chapters are simply fun, even for a very modest fan like myself, as I’m able to in some cases recollect and in others learn about characters that I hadn’t know before by being quickly introduced to them as needed. And thus, it’s a charming read, both for fans of the manga and those just looking for something macabre cute. ~ Twwk

After School Hanako-kun is published by Yen Press.*

Strobe Edge, Vol. 4

I’ve been a little manic with these weekly reviews of Strobe Edge, one week singing the manga’s virtues and the next pointing out its flaws. But that’s very telling of the series—Sakisaka does well in creating doki doki moments and crafting humorous and cute scenes, but also creates frustrating characters who are written in a way to justify sometime irrational and occasionally morally questionable actions. Ninako continues to cling to Ren—but “it’s okay because she’s naive.” Ren continues to grow closer to her—but “it’s okay because he’s a nice guy.” Ando treats other girls like trash—but “it’s okay because he’s actually nice on the inside.” The readers are supposed to buy in, and we do…until we don’t. And I hit that very wall in this volume, specifically during a train ride where Ninako falls asleep on the very much-taken Ren, who begins to respond, subtly, to her feelings. It became a little too difficult to get behind their motivations, especially since there’s no real depth here: They’re verging on an affair because of a simple high school crush. Sakisaka’s magic, of course, is that she’s able to frequently imbue a sense of innocence into her work, and the more frustrating components are quickly swept aside. That, and in this volume at least, a way of surprising the readers with unexpected developments, including a story between two other characters which for a bit, pushes deeper than the “feelings” that seem to primary charge these (and to be fair, most real life) adolescents’ worlds. I’m hoping for more depth in future volumes, however, and for a resolution, too, that’s ideal for Ninako and Ren—who I’ve come to adore—but also for the reader. ~ Twwk

Strobe Edge is published by Viz.

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo’s process of tidying is about more than order and cleanliness—it’s about changing one’s lifestyle. It’s also imbued with spirituality, and in fact becomes quite close to a religion, At times, The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up, a how-to manga (though left-to right in western style) in which Kondo helps a young woman learn her organization process and, as she goes through it, become a more satisfied, happy person, often feels quite like religious propaganda: Kondo is a perfect god at the center of it, a religious leader whose own story is developed in the book as a sort of down-to-earth version of enlightenment. And you, too, can be enlightened. That’s not to say that it isn’t cute—it very much is, with Kondo and her client developed in a most kawaii way—or that it’s not helpful (I love organizing myself and took away a few handy tips), but it ultimately functions for readers as just a curiosity, a motivator, or a guide—and on all three counts, and by Kondo’s own teaching, it probably doesn’t spark enough joy to keep from tossing into the recycling bin. ~ Twwk

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up is published by Penguin Random House.

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 Viz Media and Yen Press for providing review copies.

5 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: 86, After-School Hanako-kun, Batmanga, and Marie Kondo

  1. Oh my goodness, a KonMari manga?!?!?! Yes.

    There is definitely a strong spiritual element to her method, and its palpable in the show too. I find it really moving (I tear up every episode), as it is such an important reminder about practicing gratitude. Although Kondo is “thanking” inanimate objects due to what I’m assuming are her Shinto roots, I think that the principle translates really well to Christian faith too, where we can practice thankfulness toward to Provider who takes care of our needs for accommodation etc. It’s also a strong reminder that worshipping stuff (i.e. having such strong emotional bonds to things, whether out of nostalgia, guilt, consumerism, etc.) actually steals joy from our lives and weighs us down.

    1. Seems as if I might enjoy the TV series (I’ve only caught clips in the past). She seems very sweet and authentic, and even just reading this manga has motivated me. I think my family is sick and tired of hearing me declare how I’m going to tidy up our house, KonMari style!

      But this manga, as cute as it is, feels like a super-polished religious tract. Without the greater context, it gives off the vibe of those Christian ones we’re often used to, though less forceful and condescending (and more kawaii!).

      1. I think you would like the show! I saw the whole season on Netflix. I had seen the book somewhere on amazon, and I saw her on TEDx on Youtube (since she is Japanese, I just wanted to see what she was teaching 🙂

        But yes, the episodes are pretty good, and they do have the whole religious (I assume as claire did, shinto?) “blessing” to the house and objects. It is in every episode, but besides that I enjoyed watching her do her thing.

        I have to mention though, it was funny to me because she would sort give “homework” to her clients then leave and see how they did. I would say to myself “how much did they charge this lady to help, then she just leaves and comes back to see how it went?” She helps a LITTLE but maybe I am overthinking it…

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