Reader’s Corner: Skip and Loafer, Zom 100, and Megumi Hayashibara’s Characters

A Sign of Affection, Vol. 3

A Sign of Affection continues to sweep me off my feet! Volume three begins with all the giddy expectation that volume two left me on. Yuki and Itsuomi continue their conversation of how far does it go when it comes to Itsuomi and the answer to that question leads to the beginning of a sweeping romance that I have been longing for since the beginning of volume one! In no way did this story disappoint (except maybe in the slightly smaller size of this volume compared to the previous two) because Itsuomi was full of surprises that had me turning pages quickly. I deeply enjoyed seeing him open up more and how deep his feelings go for Yuki. I also continue to deeply enjoy Yuki’s character; her bravery in speaking her feelings continues to inspire me! While the romance is most certainly my favorite part of this series, I also continue to love the sign language part of this manga a lot, too, and the thought the creators put into this series because it is extremely powerful to read. There are subtle things that I wouldn’t have even thought about, but makes me realize how I take certain forms of communication for granted. (A great example of this is when Yuki internally mentions it’s harder to sign when she’s holding hands.) A Sign of Affection definitely continues to be in my top three favorite series this year and already desperate for volume four!   ~ Laura A. Grace

A Sign of Affection is published by Kodansha.

Megumi Hayashibara’s The Characters Taught Me Everything

During the past four decades, Megumi Hayashibara has voiced some of anime’s most popular and iconic characters, including Rei Ayanami (Evangelion), Ranma Saotome (Ranma 1/2), Lina Inverse (Slayers), and Jessie (Pokemon), so it makes a great deal of sense for this unconventional memoir—first made available digitally in both Japan and the U.S. and now available in print—to move chronologically through dozens of her characters as the voice actress and musician writes about her relationships with industry staff and actors and gives life advice. Hayashibara’s voice is strongly present in every part of the writing—she emphasizes that these are her words, and that’s both part of the fun—getting insight with seemingly little editing—and what leads to a quite meandering book, with Megumi discussing two to three topics for each character. Generally, she’ll discuss her experience in voicing the character, and then what that experience or the character taught her about about life (also included are a number of new illustrations by the artists who originally developed the characters, some with notes celebrating Megumi). The thoughts sometimes feel random, though I can’t say I was ever bored. The book reads a bit like a history of voice acting in Japan, while also conveying the actress’ wisdom and caring. However, at times, I wondered who this was written to—super fans of Megumi? A new generation of fans? As a manual for voice actors? For Japanese readers? English-speaking? Ultimately, it’s firmly a work written to all the above, and indeed to anyone with a passion for anime or voice acting. Although not all the sections will be of interest to every reader, and one might disagree with some of her assessments and advice, it serves as a testament to Megumi’s heart for the craft, industry, and fans that she can reach out to such a wide audience and successfully convey to that vast spectrum her experience and love. ~ Twwk

Megumi Hayashibara’s The Characters Taught Me Everything is published by Yen Press.*

The NPCs in this Village Sim Game Must Be Real!, Vol. 1

Yoshio is a thirty-something NEET living at home, but totally alienated from his family. One day he receives an unsolicited opportunity to playtest a new game he’s never heard of. In it, he plays as the God of Fate, watching over and guiding some villagers. But a lot of things are strange. Maybe the incredible graphics are just cutting-edge tech, and the hyper-realistic NPCs are some new form of AI. Maybe. But it’s pretty weird that Yoshio didn’t need to sign an NDA; he just gets a letter asking him not to tell anyone about the game. Also, why would the alpha version of a game have microtransactions? And isn’t it weird how committed the developer is to this gimmick of sending Yoshio packages of meat, fruit, and even lumber that exactly match whatever the villagers offer to their god each day? In addition to the gaming, fantasy, and mystery elements, this volume is surprisingly heartwarming, as Yoshio’s villagers inspire him to start turning his life around, to get a part-time job and begin to rebuild relationships with his parents and sister. I found this combination of themes unexpected, but a lot of fun. I quite enjoyed this volume and will definitely pick up the next one. ~ Jeskai Angel

The NPCs in this Village Sim Game Must Be Real! is published by Seven Seas.

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Vol. 3

The peculiarities of Zom 100—how it balances out quite serious themes about a workaholic society society with comedy, fanservice, action, and really macabre illustrations—finds a comfortable stride in volume three. One single, short arc occurs from beginning to end in these chapters, as formerly overworked Akira once again finds himself trapped by his old manager, as do Kenichirou and Shizuka, who now seems to more or less officially be part of the group. As Akira retreats back into his old self, Shizuka’s unexpected backstory is revealed, fleshing out her character and transforming her more fully into a likeable character. A brisk read, volume three doesn’t seem to be particularly consequential, but it’s a nice respite from the almost too-big story of the initial releases, and continues to do an admirable job of sitting solidly within the zombie genre while poking fun at it. And while the smallness of a mini-arc leads Zom 100 toward more traditional shonen territory than in previous volumes, it also exposes the story as having a strong enough foundation with its three main characters to push the tale forward as more than a simple shock story or exercise in imagination. This is a good manga, and one that any fan of shonen or comedy should try out—even those that, like me, find zombies to be a bit much. ~ Twwk

Zom 100 is published by Viz Media.*

Skip and Loafer, Vol. 1

While A Sign of Affection was my most anticipated manga of the year, the latest release of Skip and Loafer volume one is almost its equal! I preordered it months ago because I loved the premise of a “country mouse” (Iwakura Mitsumi) moving to Tokyo to attend a local high school near the aunt she will be staying with so she can reach her dreams of one day attending Tokyo University. Combine that with rekindling old and forming new friendships, getting lost, and the inklings of a blooming romance, and I’m hooked! Iwakura truly is such a fun and down to Earth girl that made me laugh more than once in this volume.. She’s so open and honest, and genuinely wants to give her all. Throw in the super kind “hunk,” Shima, in her new school adventures, and I had a really great time seeing their friendship unfold! The relationships are one of the most exciting things about this story because each of her new friends are so different, but they all really form a “connection” with Iwakura that is special. Due to these new friends Iwakura has made, I already went ahead and preordered volume two because I need more of this story! Skip and Loafer is a very calming and fun slice-of-life read that had me smiling as I turned pages—I loved the story more as it progressed and really enjoyed many of the characters. A fun read, I definitely look forward to seeing what happens next! ~ Laura A. Grace

Skip and Loafer is published by Seven Seas Entertainment.

High School Debut, Vol. 4

This has been the best volume yet of High School Debut! One thing I have really come to appreciate about these volumes is that even if they feature lot of drama, tears, and misunderstandings, they still get a good solid ending with happy closure. I feel this is a rarity in shojo manga, with High School Debutnot only lacking cliffhangers, but also providing “happy endings” of sorts. I know volume four really fulfilled all the happy feels and I absolutely loved it! It also made me realize that the “Christmas date” is my absolute favorite kind in shojo manga! I deeply enjoyed the one in this volume, even if at times I felt bad for Haruna (because oh no to her plans!). She is so so so sweet! Yoh, on the other hand, is a very patient man! I couldn’t help but start to admire him, too. It was really nice to see Yoh smile more in this volume and see that he actually does have a funny streak with the ending making me laugh!  ~ Laura A. Grace

High School Debut is published by Viz Media.

Strobe Edge, Vol. 9

There’s no obstacle left in the way between Ren and Ninako—not a real one at least. Instead, Ninako continues to make assumptions about Ren, while Ren may be waiting too long to tell Ninako about his feelings. Everyone else in the story, including Ando and his girlfriend, as well as a new sorta love rival in this chapter and the last, are superficial challenges at best to the ones in their own minds, which is what makes Strobe Edge so frustrating. If the pair would just talk things out, rather than depend on their own self-justifications and poor advice from others who in some cases barely know them, the story would be concluded. But I guess that wouldn’t be much fun (and admittedly there are fun scenes in this volume, including a “gotcha” moment at the very end that’s one I haven’t seen before and which drew me vividly into how that scene might happen if I were one person or the other engaged in it), and it wouldn’t be very teen-like, which if nothing else, describes these kids and how they think—which perhaps is what should be expected from this series after all. ~ Twwk

Strobe Edge is published by Viz Media.

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 for providing review copies. Featured illustration by FUI (reprinted w/permission).

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