Reader’s Corner: Sarazanmai, The Abandoned Empress, and the Toilet-bound Hanako-kun Artbook

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected, Vol. 12

Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui’s story approaches its final stages in volume 12 of My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected, which more than ever leans upon a melancholic and anxious tone as Yukino asks for the others’ support for help with a project that is challenging in unexpected ways, and as the trio begins to face the end of all sorts of things—tenures, relationships, and perhaps even their club—in what had been a cushy world for them. Watari’s writing remains both as clever and mystifying as ever, but with only brief punctuations of humor, this volume isn’t as enjoyable as most of the rest of the series, and even tends toward a feeling of self-importance—but only slightly, as Hachiman, one of the best protagonists in recent light novels and anime, continues to anchor this series in his mix of cynicism and raw authenticity. There are also some wonderful asides in the volume, with Iroha getting some of the spotlight and Saki, too, though the most interesting dynamics are centered on the main trio—Hachiman’s relationship with Yui, his feelings toward Yukino, and those between the girls, which mostly remains unsaid until a pivotal final chapter, which follows two other significant ones as well. The end of the journey is night, and while volume 12 demonstrates that it won’t necessarily be a lot of fun, as is expected from this franchise, it will be right. ~ Twwk

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

Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You., Volume 1

Mizuho likes life the way it is—it’s always been her and her four guy friends. But now, as she finds her courage to ask out a member of the swim team, one of her childhood friends also finds the strength to reveal his feelings for Mizuho, though she’s resistant—she has no intention of falling in love with him. The story, as laid out in volume one of Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You, doesn’t offer anything particularly new, but the setting is unique. The first few pages take us to the year 2030, and then leap back in time to 2020. As the plot progresses, so does a significant world event from that year: the pandemic. It’s really interesting to read how COVID (only referred to as a virus) impacts the events of the story, somewhat indirectly but still with consequence. Or maybe the storyline is just a distraction from what’s happening, which honestly isn’t particularly compelling at all. These initial chapters feel a lot like self-fulfillment—a girl surrounded by hot guy friends who would do anything for her, at least a couple of which like her, and who is so intimate with them that they vacation together in Hawai’i, alone, and sleep all next to each other. I couldn’t really buy it. But the artwork is beautiful, and there are signs that much drama is on the way, which could add some flavor to the tale. Plus, the look backwards ten years from the future is compelling, even if nothing much was done with it in volume one. I’ll be awaiting the next volume to see if this series can develop into an engaging read, or if it’s “just another” shoujo. ~ Twwk

Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You. is published by Kodansha.*

AidaIro Illustrations: Toilet-bound Hanako-kun

There are many appealing aspects to Aidalro’s manga, Toilet-bound Hanako-kun, but most of all is the beautiful artistry, particularly the lovely and distinctive character designs and a flooding of colors, like an artist splashing a canvas with rich oranges, reds, pinks, and blues. Thus, the new artbook release showcasing the full-color works from the series is a marvel for the eyes from the beginning to end. Featuring illustrations from all sorts of works associated with TBHK, the artbook is exactly what this medium is made for, to express just how engaging standalone pieces from the world of manga can be. The work also includes an index, pages of black and white bonus manga, and even translation of Japanese words in the illustrations themselves. There are plenty of drawings featuring Nene and Hanako, as well as the lead trio all together, but additional characters abound in the collection as well. At $35 USD, it is a bit pricey, as artbooks typically are, but occupies a special space even among the type, for there are few more creative and talented mangakas than Aidalro, and his pieces are indeed a feast for the eyes.~ Twwk

AidaIro Illustrations: Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is published by Yen Press.*

The Abandoned Empress, Vol. 1

The beautiful royal consort, Aristia La Monique, is accused of attempting to assassinate the emperor, and as she is executed, stares into the emperor’s satisfied eyes and the more fearful ones of the empress. Thus begins The Abandoned Empress, which tells of Aristia’s fall from the emperor’s fiancee to consort to one sentenced to death. But that is all part of the long backstory that sets up this time traveling fantasy, in which Aristia, cold and jealous, is given an opportunity to start again and maneuver her life in such a way as to avoid its terrible fate, and indeed, as is explained in a captivating and thoughtful section of the narrative, to fight fate itself. There’s nothing new here that fans of otome and otome-inspired isekai series wouldn’t recognize, though that doesn’t take away from the story’s highly engaging initial volume. Much like, say, My Next Life As A Villainess, there’s an immediate attraction for readers to the central protagonist as she seeks to avoid a bad end, as well as to potential suitors of varying types. Add to that a seriousness and raw emotion associated not only with the high stakes for Aristia, but of the type of person she should have become, and now has another chance to, and the final product is quite captivating. Unfortunately, the series is hampered by its format. Only the best illustrated of webtoons can make up for the clunky formatting and mediocrity that occurs in panels when the artist must color everything, and The Abandoned Empress is not set itself apart on that way. The cover is beautiful, as is some of the standalone art, but the rest feels a bit amateurish, as many webtoons do (this series itself is collected from a webtoon, which itself is based on a webnovel). Korean influences abound, which is a nice touch. However, I would likely be all in if the series was developed in a manga format. Even so, all the otome tropes, combined with the aforementioned other positives, are enough to overcome the weaknesses and lead to a tale that has just barely begun in earnest, and is already addicting. ~ Twwk

The Abandoned Empress is published by Yen Press* and releases on January 4th.

Sarazanmai: The Official Manga Anthology

If you could not tell from my numerous articles on the topic, I really enjoyed the Sarazanmai anime. I thought it was a fascinating series on gender, love, and desire that really told a story in a unique way. This anthology collection is a good opportunity to revisit all of the characters from this series. It features a mix of stories set at various points in the series. This allows for the different artists and writers to tell a large variety of different tales set in Sarazanmai’s world setting. It also allows for some silly 4-koma moments as well, using the Sarazanmai cast. As with the original series, this will not be for everyone. Some of the humor is crude. However, if you were a fan of the series, this is a great opportunity to jump back in and revisit the cast in a fun way. Also, the entire single volume begins with a whole collection of full color art from various artists just showing their love for Sarazanmai. Overall—if you liked the anime, check this out. If you didn’t like it or didn’t see it, don’t. ~ MDMRN

Sarazanmai: The Official Manga Anthology is published by Seven Seas.

Silver Spoon, Vol. 3

As summer break wear ons, Hachiken continues work at Mikage’s family farm, where he learns more and more about life, including about how doing work haphazardly can be disastrous. He also receives an unexpected visit. And when the students return to school, Hachiken is faced with another difficult assignment: just what to do with Pork Bowl, who will be sent for processing and butchering in just a short time. That latter part of the story reaches its climax in volume three of Silver Spoon, and it remains one of my favorite arcs in anime and manga, period. In the hands of a master, the story of how an anxiety-filled city boy who has to deal with the pain of raising a piglet into a pig that will die and be eaten is full of meaning, humor, and significance, but it’s only one-half of the greatness in these chapters, with Hachiken’s aforementioned mistake also taking center stage, and connecting back to Pork Bowl. What a wonderful series, one that manages to convey deep meaning while always being an entertaining and fun read. If you haven’t read this classic, I can’t emphasize how much you should. It’s the best of the best. ~ Twwk

Silver Spoon 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 Kodansha for providing review copies.

2 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: Sarazanmai, The Abandoned Empress, and the Toilet-bound Hanako-kun Artbook

  1. How do webtoons like The Abandoned Empress work in a printed format? I’ve only read them on apps where you scroll down through each chapter.

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