Reader’s Corner: Solo Leveling, Horimiya, and Love in Focus

My Best Friend’s Little Sister Has it in for Me, Vol. 1

Ten or fifteen years ago, I was involved in a roleplay writing community. For those that haven’t participated before, the idea is that an admin sets up a scenario (sometimes quite intricate) and players join as characters, taking turns posting paragraphs from their characters’ perspectives and jointly advancing the story. There’s no realistic foundation and little consistency in these roleplays, but if the writers are good, the story is a whole lot of fun. My Sister’s Best Friend Has it in for Me is a lot like those stories—there’s virtually no attempt to create a sense of realism, a story the reader can put himself into, but the tale is so entertaining that it hardly matters. It’s also a little difficult to describe, as this volume is quite ambitious, beginning as the story of a most “average” boy who feels that every girl, including the titular one, Iroha, hates him, before introducing another hater / love interest, Mashiro, who happens to be the daughter he must fake date in order to secure a job for himself and his secret game app development group. Whew, chew on all that. The shenanigans and the protagonist, Aki, are set as purely in the world of tropes as that summary is, but the swift action and frequent dialogue keep the volume extremely engaging (even if I found the fanservice and foul language a little off-putting), but there’s this, too—interludes are used effectively, revealing character insights and even turning the plot suddenly, and when combined with an unexpected reveal toward the end of the volume, emphasize how competent the author, Ghost Mikawa, is. This is a fun tale, written for fans of anime love comedies, but with surprisingly energy and just maybe some unexpected and strong intent. ~ Twwk

My Best Friend’s Little Sister Has it in for Me is published by J-Novel Club.*

Many Are Called

Recently, I was looking through the manga that I own and wanted to see if I hadn’t covered any for Reader’s Corner. To my surprise, I forgot about this manga, Many Are Called, which is based on the biblical text of Matthew 25: 1-13. I had started it a while back, so I determined to finally complete it and give my thoughts, even though it’s already been covered here. The story starts off with Christ sharing to several of his disciples the parable of the ten virgins and then the story of the king who requests guests to come to his banquet. It’s a well illustrated action-drama with the prince going out to save the princess, akin to Christ rescuing His bride from evil. As Twwk mentioned in his review, I would have liked this to be a multiple volume manga to see the characters fleshed out more and given more scenes. Still, after turning the last page, I thanked God for the read and I hope more manga like this is produced soon. I recommend getting a copy if you want something fresh and inspiring. – Samuru

Many Are Called is published by Manga Hero.

Love in Focus, Vol. 2

While I enjoyed volume one of Love in Focus for the most part, I can say that I enjoyed its sequel even more! It continues right after the declaration at the end of the previous volume and into a certain someone making their feelings known, and another experiencing new feelings. With that, I will say my favorite part was seeing the natural progression of Mako realizing she has feelings for a certain someone. I thought it was very well done; I was worried that it would be rushed, but it was far from it! I also really enjoyed getting a backstory chapter about Kei! It was eye-opening to see how he met Mako and realized when he first started loving her, as well as seeing his family dynamics. The photography aspect also continues to be a fun theme to read about, and I loved the little tip that was woven in the story. Though this series hasn’t had very strong cliff hangers, the slightly cliff hanger-y ending has me very interested in seeing what happens in the conclusion of this series! ~ Laura A. Grace

Love in Focus is published by Kodansha.

Solo Leveling, Vol. 2 (Light Novel)

A sneaky good read, Solo Leveling approaches the grimdark isekai genre (without technically being an isekai) with unexpected dramatic elements, slowly unfolding a tale that hasn’t quite revealed itself yet, but is a whole lot closer to it after volume two with the appearance of a new character who has an intimate connection to Jin Woo and a more international story than first anticipated. However, 90% of the story remains firmly set in Jin Woo’s quests and campaigns as he grows exceptionally in power while making partnerships and enemies along the way. And unlike many similar series, the protagonist himself is the most interesting character, complicated and realistic, caring and twisted. With that foundation, the addition of the interesting “game” mechanics and new skills that Jin Woo develops adds further layers to the story, which reads like a wholly original work instead of as a simple adaptation. There’s also a heavy Korean tone to the series, both in the story details (names, meals, locations) and in the it’s general approach, which varies considerably from a Japanese light novel or manga. While I can’t say I’ll finish the story—the moral quandaries of Jin Woo’s choices are both engaging and off-putting—I will say that I breezed through the 300+ page novel in just a couple of days, and am anticipating volume three as well. ~ Twwk

Solo Leveling is published by Yen Press.*

Horimiya, Vol. 1

Several seasons now removed from the stylish anime, and witnessing (and reading about) how the story was rushed through its one cour, I decided to pick up volume one of the manga on which Horimiya was adapted. And indeed, although the story about the connection that develops between the popular Hori and gloomy Miyamura (who both hide unsuspecting parts of themselves) is generally the same, as much of volume one was covered almost panel by panel in the adaptation, there are already significant differences showing—portions cut out, important characterization missed, and items placed out of order. It makes for a read that’s both familiar and new. There’s a loveliness to this story, a strong heart, and plenty of humor as well—all enough to interest me in continuing with the manga, even if I already know how it all ends. ~ Twwk

Horimiya is published by Yen Press.*

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 J-Novel Club for providing review copies. Illustration by unya (reprinted w/permission).

5 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: Solo Leveling, Horimiya, and Love in Focus

  1. I watched the Horimiya anime and was disappointed by how they rushed through the story. I enjoyed reading the manga series, although the endign caught me by surprise.
    I’m planning to read My Best Friend’s Little Sister Has it in for Me, Vol. 1 at some point, although I’m surprised that you mention there’s foul language in the volume. I don’t think I’ve encountered that in a light novel before.

  2. I’ve tried to get into “Horimiya” a couple times over the last 5 or 6 years, but it never sticks. It always came across as a bit too formulaic and predictable, and I’ve seen its core theme of “people can be very different from how they first appear once you get to truly know them” done better elsewhere. And Miyamura feels a bit too much like a wish-fulfillment character for female readers: he’s a BAD BOY (in theory) but we only ever see him be a total sweetheart who Hori has to expressly tell to be more physically assertive in their relationship. He’s DANGEROUS… but also uncomfortable “playing a little rough” with his girlfriend even after she’s the one who brought the subject up and unambiguously gave her consent.

    I’m not about to pretend there aren’t mountains of female characters in manga who exist as wish-fulfillment for boys first, believable characters second, but it’s harder to ignore when looking at the problem from the other side. If you enjoy it, more power to you, but “Horimiya” has never clicked with me.

    1. For me the main draw of Horimiya is seeing the main character interact with each other and get into humorous situations. The comedy was why I kept reading it.

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