Reader’s Corner: Frieren, Pop Life, and Reign of the Seven Spellblades

Deserter: Junji Ito Story Collection

Christmas season is a time for ghost stories, right? Just read A Christmas Carol to get the idea. So how about this collection, a Junji Ito one entitled Deserter? Let me tell you—it’s a lot. Each of the 12 stories are dark and filled with sadness and body horror, while many of them share the same pattern of negative endings. There is no joy in these stories, only peril and pain. Each is grim, which is common among Ito’s works, noting an interesting truth that life is filled with negative things all around us. Also, apart from one or two instances, the evil in these stories are not supernatural per se, but very human. It makes the evils in the stories all the more interesting and engaging. One that really hooked me was The Devil’s Logic. The story follows a, well, creepy boy who sneaks a tape recorder into a girl’s purse to listen in on a date she’s about to have. Then he finds out she committed suicide before the date. When he gets the recorder back, what the boy hears is an entire conversation the girl had with another who convinced her to kill herself. The scary part is, the recording appears to be convincing him to do the same. It’s such a strangely compelling story that just keeps you on edge the entire time. If any of this intrigues you or you just want to read a collection of darker shorts, check it out. ~ MDMRN

Deserter: Junji Ito Story Collection is published by Viz Media.*

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected @ comic, Vol. 16 (Manga)

The last several light novels of My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected, and the corresponding third season of the anime (Oregairu), were a bit of mess—overly long and a little pompous, putting a damper on what’s my favorite anime and light novel series. But here, in volume 16 of the manga for the franchise, alterations have been made for the better. Although manga is by nature less wordy than light novels, differences in the dialogue of this adaptation actually add clarity, making Yukino’s situation in particular—both her request to the club and the accompanying decision to be more “herself,” leading to a decision to manage a prom proposal, which are the focus on the volume—much easier to understand, and Haruno’s actions more decipherable and even ones that the reader can embrace. All this helps the relatively muddy material of the final arc, but so, too, do a number of cute romantic moments and humorous ones, many of which involve my favorite character, Iroha, “The most powerful kouhai.” Overall, another lovely read in this series which is nearing its end, and further, the best iteration of this arc (at least in the early going) across the Oregairu media. ~ Twwk

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected @ comic is published by Yen Press.*

Pop Life (Series)

I do enjoy reading independent manga/doujin. These series can sometimes tackle topics not regularly present in mainstream series. Pop Life is a great example. The series follows the lives of two single mothers, both of whom are divorced, though for different reasons. The primary mother, Sakura, had an unloving husband who never wanted children. So, eventually she left. The series follows their lives in modern Japan as they raise their children. It’s a slice of life series, so it’s not fast paced with high action. Yet, the story is so very grounded and well crafted with characters that felt real. I also appreciated that this series focuses on friendship between the two mothers and did not try to turn this into some kind of romantic series. This allows the story to focus on parenting and its challenges, especially for single mothers. If the topic interests you, check it out. Star Fruit Books publishes this and a lot of other independent manga, including others from the same creator. ~ MDMRN

Pop Life is published by Star Fruit Books.

Kaiju Girl Carmelise, Volume 4

Before I get too far into my review, let me remind you that Kaiju Girl Carmelise is a series about a girl who, when she feels intense emotions, transforms into a kaiju. Yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds. In her human form, Kuroe is a nervous introvert who has very few friends—at least, at the beginning. As the series progresses, she remains introverted, but by this point in the story, Kuroe has a boyfriend in Minami. However, during a date in volume three, she transformed into her kaiju form and the world saw her kind of kiss Minami in that form. The world is then obsessed with her boyfriend while she is trying to deal with his sudden fame. All the while, her friend Manatsu is trying to summon the kaiju form because she’s in love with it. There’s a lot of “crush me daddy” monster-lover vibes in the actions we see from Manatsu. In the midst of all this, Kuroe ends up finding a cavern with strange writings, art, and pieces of an egg. Has she discovered where she came from? Will she be able to deal with her boyfriend’s sudden fame? Can he? And who is the mystery boy who suddenly arrives out of nowhere on the last few pages of the volume? What! I am definitely hooked on this series and can’t wait for Volume five to drop. ~ MDMRN

Kaiju Girl Camelise is published by Yen Press.

Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 1 (manga)

The first volume of Reign of the Spellblades, the manga adaptation of the light novel about magical techniques that “bring death” and the mages who master them, can be summed up simply as “manga meets Harry Potter.” As such, it feels twice as heavy on tropes, as young mages begin their magical schooling, complete with a teacher who looks like McConagall and a Draco-like rival for the protagonist. But this being a Japanese work, a samurai girl with an indomitable spirit is also involved, and the story otherwise feels just like the introduction to a typical fantasy manga, setting the stage for an epic mystery while a harem begins to form around the a-ok protagonist. I was utterly bored with it at first, as nothing felt original, but by the end of volume one, I had come to enjoy the setting and characters. Most of all, though, I remembered that I really like Harry Potter, and I really like manga, and so the two colliding lead to a compelling product for this nerd. The series may not become anything too special, but for at least one volume, it’s a fun read. And there’s this, too—the mangaka is an unusually noted one for doing he manga adaptation of a light novel; Sakae Esuno is best known for creating Mirai Nikki. Maybe it’s worth sticking around to see if Esuno works his own magic into this series. ~ Twwk

Reign of the Spellblades is published by Yen Press.*

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, Vol. 1

It’s rare to find someone who would tell you that relationships and people are meaningless. Yet it’s also too common to walk through life either running too fast and unable to invest properly in others or too slowly, concerned only with ourselves. Frieren, the elf mage at the center of this eponymous manga, is a bit of both, particularly at the start. But the beginning of this manga is unique—as explained in the title, it’s the end of the journey for a party of adventurers who have banished a demon king. Decades later, their friendship gives the laid-back, ageless mage the impetus she needs to find beauty and meaning outside of her own concerns. Written with calm and beauty, each chapter in volume one, particularly once Fern joins the journey as Frieren’s much younger (by centuries) apprentice, is a discovery for the lead character, but also a revelation for the reader. In subtle and unexpected ways, such as how by moving faster, Frieren actually values her apprentice’s time and life more, readers are treated to a story that is at once humorous, warm, and heartrending. Frieren herself is surprisingly full of personality for one presented as being icy and unconcerned with others, and Fern works as a nice foil to help explain the journey in a way the chill Frieren could not. Well-crafted, emotional, and well-paced, volume one of Frieren sets the stage for a life-changing journey for its main character, but if we’re willing to listen, perhaps for us, too. ~ Twwk

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End 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 and Yen Press for providing review copies.

7 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: Frieren, Pop Life, and Reign of the Seven Spellblades

  1. Yeah, there’s no way you would ever catch me reading Junji Ito. Just from that description of that collection makes me want to keep it far away.

    That Kaiju one seems interesting though! As well as the Frieren one. Thanks for the reviews.

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