Reader’s Corner: A Sign of Affection, Dragon and Ceremony, and My Next Life as a Villainess Side Story

My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected @ comic, Vol. 17

The final arc of Oregairu (this is the 17th of 19 manga volumes) shifts heavily toward the dramatic, immediately evident ipn the cover which makes Hachiman, commonly memified as Batman-like hero, 8-man (“Hachi-man”), look like he’s in an action manga, while Yukino and Yui look on sorrowfully. Yes, it’s a bit overdramatic, but so, too, is the material from the light novels upon which this manga is based. I’ve been critical of the too-long, overserious final arc of what’s otherwise a remarkably witty and wonderfully thoughtful series. But the manga takes a slightly and surprisingly different beat. Volume 17, in which little happens on the surface (Yukino continues to struggle with impending cancellation of the prom while Hachiman wonders whether or not he should help) but where all the main characters are hitting the climax of their feelings and considering how to move forward, is a satisfying and lovely read. And it’s all because of the mangaka. As all works are apt to do, My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected @ comic has developed over time, from the rougher artwork and writing trying to find a voice early on to a beautifully developed piece that now stands on its own, as Ponkan⑧ and Naomichi use the strengths available in manga format to take light novel writer Wataru Watari’s wordiness (both his greatest strength and weakness) and make emphasis where necessary, using panels drawn as metaphors to explain or break up confusing and long passages, and incredible artwork every few pages (ex. a shot of Yui in the future as a housewife) to do the same. They also avoid having the heavy drama overwhelm the general tone of the story by including cutesy, kawaii, and romantic panels, creating a nice balance to an arc that is and needs to be dramatic, but not overly so. I should also note that even though I can’t describe myself as a Yui stan, I’m happy to see the opportunity she receives to shine in these chapters, most surprisingly through Haruno’s perfect description of her character, a nice moment in the midst of emotional chaos. And there’s no doubt, chaos is the center of this volume, an untangling of complex emotions by teenagers who are struggling to do so, and if that sounds rather dull, well, in Ponkan⑧ and Naomichi’s hands, it’s not—it’s thrilling. I cannot wait to see how these two conclude this masterful series in the final two volumes. ~ Twwk

My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected @ comic is published by Yen Press.* Volume 17 releases on January 25th.

Visions 2021__Illustrators Book

You may follow artists who illustrate in anime-style art on Instagram, Twitter, or deviantArt, but are you familiar with Pixiv? The Japanese site has exploded in recent years, and mostly feature Asian artists who illustrate in styles familiar to anime fans. The Visions 2021 book captures the art of many of Pixiv’s most notable artists, including Lack, Kawacy, and 江戸屋犬八, with each receiving a two-page spread in this several hundred-page artbook in which almost every single piece that is featured (mostly somewhere between 3-7 per artist) is breathtaking, worthy of examination and admiration. I’ve long held an account at Pixiv and frequently talk to artists about featuring their work here on our blog and on other sites, and so am absolutely thrilled to see many of their original works (there are very few fanart pieces in Visions 2021—I saw just one, in fact, for Spice and Wolf) in a physical copy. Landscapes, especially, sparkle in a way they don’t on a digital screen. Fans of Pixiv will also be excited to see the caption material for artists, which include profiles and both English and Japanese (or Chinese or Korean) translations of their names. The profiles also often explain their what kind of work they do, with some having reached the heights of the industry, including two of our favorites, Loundraw and Yoshitoshi ABe, and Ponkan⑧, who we praised in the review above. Those unfamiliar with Pixiv will marvel at how insanely detailed and powerful these illustrations of mainly anime girls can be, and how they run a gamut of different styles and genres, made all the more evident by a lack of thematic order (pages are ordered alphabetically by artist name). There is some gore, body horror, and fanservice, but the works aren’t explicit, and veer toward what I might describe as “tasteful ecchi,” if there is such a thing. ~ Twwk

Visions 2021__Illustrators Book is published by Yen Press.*

A Sign of Affection, Vol. 4

The next volume of A Sign of Affection is here and it is precious as always! This continues to be a manga that doesn’t languish on my stacks; I start it shortly after it arrives because I love it so much. This trend continues as I was already squealing within the first few pages! While Yuki continues to be amazing and sweet as ever, Itsuomi really shines in this volume. He’s more relaxed then ever before. Yuki really sees him in his element and much of what takes place in this volume reminds me of a certain scene from Kimi ni Todoke when Kazehaya tells Sawako he wants to “feel his future” with her. I don’t know if that is what Itsuomi is thinking or not (because yeah, I agree with Yuki that he is still a mystery), but gosh, I love how he is just so respectful of Yuki! And his thoughtfulness! Both him and Kyouya bring the swoon-worthy vibes! There’s lots and lots of wholesomeness in this volume and with an ending that had a good turn of events. I’m not sure if I would say there’s a plot twist, as well, but now I am super curious to know what will happen next because I wasn’t expecting that! 5 out of 5 stars, and as always, a desperation for the next volume! ~ Laura A. Grace

A Sign of Affection is published by Kodansha.

My Next Life as a Villainess Side Story: On the Verge of Doom!, Vol. 1

This spinoff manga of the My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! light novel series asks a fun what-if question: What if Katarina didn’t regain memories of her past life—and thus the knowledge of Fortune Lover and her impending doom—until she was already in the academy? This presents quite a few problems for her: Not only does she have to somehow reverse all the bullying against protagonist Maria that she had started (while everyone around is confused why her personality changed so much), but she now also only has one year before her supposed Bad Ends! This is a very enjoyable spinoff that twists the story just enough to make some interesting changes. For example, one of game!Katarina’s lackeys becomes a significant character as Katarina tries to convince her to stop bullying Maria. At the same time, this spinoff works because Katarina is still her same ditzy self, and her bumbling around to find ways to prepare for her Bad Ends are both familiar and just different enough to still be funny. Much of the original main cast is also here, though it is worth noting that here, they have not been influenced by a younger reincarnated Katarina, which again provides all sorts of interesting differences and similarities as Katarina interacts with them. Overall, this was a really fun spinoff and one I definitely recommend for Bakarina fans, although it’s best to be familiar with the original series (whether through the light novel, manga, or anime) to get the most out of it. ~ stardf29

My Next Life as a Villainess Side Story: On the Verge of Doom! is published by Seven Seas.

Dragon and Ceremony, Vol. 1

Wandmaking apprentice Ix is at a crossroads, figuratively and literally—his master has died, he lacks the credentials to become a full-fledged craftsman on his own, and stand at the road, unsure where to go. There he meets Yuui, a young woman hiding beneath a hood who approaches him with a wand in need of repair. Their serendipitous meeting sets off an unexpected journey which by the end of volume one of Dragon and Ceremony leads to most satisfying and beautiful conclusion. This is a well-written novel. Though it relies on a very standard fantasy setting and wandmaking conventions that will be familiar to Harry Potter fans, there’s a subtlety and strength in how author Ichimei Tsukushi guides the story. He mixes humor, mystery, and fantastical elements, but the main object for us as readers is to enjoy the dual leads as we get to know them and see how they grow over the course of the novel. Tsukushi also makes wonderful use of religion in his story. Too often presented as an almost comical villain in other similar series, without much depth, here religion is presented more broadly and deeply, and it plays a significant role in the wondrous conclusion to the tale. Speaking of the ending, volume one concludes in such a way that readers will long for more, to see in what direction this story will develop. It feels a lot like the early volumes of Spice and Wolf in that the series feels as if it can go in a variety of directions, and that its main characters could come together or stay apart, which adds to the magic of an already magical volume. I, for one, am entranced. ~ Twwk

Dragon and Ceremony is published by Yen Press.*

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, Vol. 4

I’ve been addicted to Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki lately, finding the series about the titular nerd receiving to become a normie to be highly engaging and surprising in the best of ways. Volume four, however, is a slight step back from the heights of volume three, which ended with Hinami being challenged for the first time for her world view, the way she approaches life, and just generally in how she treats others. In this follow-up, Tomozaki is now given what amounts to a volume-long assignment of trying to get the horrible, terrible, no-good Konno to actually want to participate in the upcoming school sports festival. I like how this volume, more than previous ones, feels very video game-like, not just by the constant analogies made, but by how the author structures the plot to make it feel as if Tomozaki is in an RPG and planning to fight a tough boss. However, some of the flaws of the series are getting tiring by this point, including a complaint I have about many shonen / harem works: The MC is a character whom we’re supposed to like and buy into, even though he’s actually leading several girls on (but it’s okay because he has no idea they like him!). Tomozaki as narrator is far too smart to not realize, or simply take the time to think about, whether Fuuka (and may others?) likes him. Also, the turn that happens near the end of volume four, a veering toward the importance of another character in volume five, feels a bit forced and isn’t terribly compelling (at least not yet). Still, for all its flaws, I finished the book in about two days. I remain addicted, and imagine I’ll stay that way unless the low points grow more prominent than the engaging remaining elements of the series. ~ Twwk

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki 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 for providing review copies. Featured illustration by Enji, artist for Dragon and Ceremony (reprinted w/permission).

5 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: A Sign of Affection, Dragon and Ceremony, and My Next Life as a Villainess Side Story

  1. Dragon and Ceremony sounds interesting. It’s nice to see a series where religion isn’t represented by a bunch of corrupt fat men who are taking advantage of people.

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