Reader’s Corner: Alice in Bishounen-Land, Zom 100, and Cells at Work! White Brigade

I Kept Pressing the 100-Million-Year Button and Came Out on Top, Vol. 1

Let me tell you a story: a boy attends fantastical sword school, and is considered the absolute worst, but is actually surprisingly capable. The academy headmaster (a woman) deliberately engineers an incident where this boy walks in on a girl in the middle of changing; said girl happens to be a princess from a foreign country. This leads to them having a duel, with the bizarre stakes of loser-becomes-slave-of-winner. The guy wins; he and the princess end up sharing a dorm. There’s also a tournament among the elite sword academies, with behind-the-scenes scheming and political machinations; boy and princess are among the competitors representing their school. The preceding outline describes Chivalry of a Failed Knight, first published in Japan in 2013. Strangely, though, this synopsis is also just as true of I Kept Pressing the 100-Million-Year Button and Came Out on Top, Vol. 1, which was originally published in Japan in…2019. Huh. *awkward pause* Look, humans have been telling stories for thousands of years, and there are tons of shared elements among those stories. Points of commonality aren’t inherently problematic. But how many such points does it take before a work becomes sketchy? I’m not saying plagiarism is involved, I’m just saying I’m flabbergasted by this awfully impressive series of “coincidences.” If it didn’t mirror an older story to a suspiciously specific degree, 100-Million-Year Button would be…okay, I guess, probably, if you really want a super-powered sword battle school story with ecchi elements. I hope I’m not being unfair, but I just can’t bring myself to say anything nice about this book or recommend it to anyone when it reads to me like a shameless, completely unoriginal, wholesale ripoff of another light novel. ~ jeskaiangel

I Kept Pressing the 100-Million-Year Button and Came Out on Top is published by Yen Press.

Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 11

While I’ve remarked on it before, the maturity, foresight, and restraint that Io Sakisaka brings to Love Me, Love Me Not, often missing as the stories progress beyond their initial stages in her previous works, are perhaps best on display in volume eleven, continuing to demonstrate her growth as a mangaka. While the romance in this volume is thrilling as it should be, and particularly so in the final third, what’s most impressive is how Sakisaka is blending a romantic tale with a coming-on-age story, with the latter reaching a climax for multiple characters. The small victories for and changes demonstrated within two of the leads is the result of Sakisaka applying depth throughout the series run. The careful storytelling lends an element of both surprise and fulfillment to some of the actions and decisions in volume 11, and also makes the cliffhanger both shocking and rational, a reveal that makes too much sense in terms of where the story was always headed. Io Sakisaka has grown up as a mangaka, and this series is her masterpiece. ~ Twwk

Love Me, Love Me Not is published by Viz Media.*

Candy Flurry, Vol. 1

Since reading Heroine for Hire, I’ve been trying to catch up on digital manga I’d been interested reading, including series on the Shonen Jump app. Earlier this year, Shonen Jump started serializing a short manga series called Candy Flurry, and I finally started to read past the second chapter! It has such a fun and unique premise, featuring “candy users” who can create candy out of thin air. The main girl, Tsumugi, is a lollipop user and since Tokyo was destroyed by giant lollipops years prior, she’s been on the down low so as to not reveal her abilities (even though those weren’t “her lollipops” that destroyed Japan). However, when the a Recette agent part of the “sweets police” shows up and needs unexpected aid, Tsumugi might have made it known she is a lollipop user, which is the most wanted candy user in Japan. I really liked Tsugumi! She’s a very fun heroine to cheer for and I love her determination in showing Misaki that people can still love sweets and enjoy them. Speaking of Misaki, he’s a fun hero, too. I feel sort of bad for him because it’s very obvious that Tsumugi is a lot stronger then him. Yet, I love his seriousness and how he is equally dedicated to keeping non-sweet users safe from sweet users. There is quite a bit of interesting quirkiness in this story that while may sometimes be over the top, it never fails to make me laugh! ~ Laura A. Grace

Candy Flurry is published by Shonen Jump.

Alice in Bishounen-Land, Vol. 1

Anyone else not super familiar with otome games and/or haven’t played them? That would be me and why I was very interested in discovering more about that world, which I did by reading Alice in Bishounen-Land! Like the main character, Alice, I haven’t played otome games or fully understand why they’re so popular, but that’s probably where our similarities end because in no way was I sucked into an otome game! Alice now becomes a producer in a new idol game where she has to train five guys to win the ultimate competition so she and her best friend can return back home. Oh, and did I mention that maybe her best friend doesn’t want to come back home? I deeply enjoyed the first volume of this series. It definitely hit the “right notes” of me hoping I would be able to relate to Alice and that I would have done/made similar decisions if I was in her shoes. While I definitely wouldn’t want to be in her shoes, I had a blast seeing her live out her “new life”! The five (very different) guys she has to train were awesome and I really liked all of them (especially the fairy-sized guy). They brought a liveliness that made me laugh more than once as well as a simple joy to me of just enjoying what I’m reading for no other reason than it being fun. I’m eagerly looking forward to volume two and already have plans to purchase volume one in paperback! Recommended to fans of idol groups and quirky storylines! ~ Laura A. Grace

Alice in Bishounen-Land is published by TokyoPop.*

Cells at Work! White Brigade, Vol. 1

White Blood Cell fans unite! Kodansha knows exactly what their readers want when it comes to the Cells at Work franchise, and that’s more White Blood Cell! Granted, I love Red Blood Cell and feel she and and her counterpart were like two peas in a pod, but White Blood Cell is one of my favorite characters! In one of the newest digital releases from Kodansha, we get not only more of White Blood Cell 1146, but we get to join all of his friends (or the “white brigade”)! While I originally started this manga thinking it would center around the White Blood Cell, I was surprised and happily delighted that it actually is centered around a Band Cell who is joining the white brigade. It’s “his story” as he interacts with the other White Blood Cells through training, “games,” and just some general shenanigans. I loved it, particularly the “main character” and how we really get a feel for the personalities of the other White Blood Cells and their history as a group. The chapters are more standalone than continuous due to that, but I found that didn’t bother me. There were also so many side characters from the original series that I found myself cheesin’ because this is truly everything I would want for a spin-off with these guys. I highly recommend Cells at Work! White Brigade to those who are fans of the original series Cells at Work, especially if you want some good humor in simply a good story! ~ Laura A. Grace

Cells at Work! White Brigade is published by Kodansha.*

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Vol. 4

As Akira heads toward his childhood home with Kenichiro and Shizuka, the group picks up a fourth member, the buxom Japanophile German, Beatrix, and as they do so, this manga fully hits its stride. Although it’s been entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful from the beginning, Zom 100 is now in rare shonen territory, where the story moves easily between humor, action, and sentimentality, and especially the latter in volume four with Akira’s homecoming and also along the way with a lovely chapter about an old man building a treehouse. In the meantime, Akira has also become a true shounen hero, not necessarily by his escapades in slaughtering zombies but rather by his energy and offbeat enthusiasm as he continues to express outrageous thoughts like, “I’d rather be eaten by zombies than not relax in the hot springs!” The other characters, including the new girl, are falling comfortably into their roles as well, but because the series moves a mile a minute, and is accompanied by the aforementioned tenderness as well as top notch artwork, the tropes and conventions don’t have the time to sit and become boring. The characters and their personalities feel like they’re along for the ride, as are the readers, making Zom 100 increasingly a worthwhile and memorable read. ~ Twwk

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead 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 Viz Media, Tokyopop, and Kodansha for providing review copies. Featured illustration by 澗C_23 (reprinted w/permission).

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5 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: Alice in Bishounen-Land, Zom 100, and Cells at Work! White Brigade

  1. The ironic thing about saying that 100-Million-Year Button is a ripoff Chivalry of a Failed Knight is that, due Sol Press’s latest troubles (particularly with not paying their taxes), we may end up with a situation where the latter is out of print and only the knock-off is available for legal purchase…

    1. Even before the tax issues, Sol Press had a history of inconsistent releases. I remember a lot of people were disappointed when they acquired the license as they were worried it would never be finished.

  2. “Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End” is a fantasy manga which just released in English, and I think you should check it out. It tackles some interesting material about coming to terms with loss and the passage of time that you don’t exactly see often in the genre. The main character, Frieren, is a long-lived elf girl who goes through a personal crisis after a close human friend dies of old age. She then goes on a journey in an attempt to sort her grief out and fantasy heroic questing ensues. I think the manga expertly conveys the feeling of regret from treating time too flippantly and “zoning out” only to realize the time you zoned out of was one of the highlights of your life, while still being a fun adventure story.

  3. When the anime for “Chivalry of a Failed Knight” was airing, there was another anime called “The Asterisk War”. I remember after the first two episodes trying to explain one of the series to a friend, and I kept accidently mixing up the two. The characters even had similar designs and the same hair color across series. I wonder if there’s some earlier series about a red-headed princess in a sword school that they’re all copying from.

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