We have a busy week of releases new and old to share with you, headlined by the initial volumes of From Toxic Classmate to Girlfriend Goals, My Happy Marriage, and the Spy Classroom manga. But dedicated readers might also noticed that while we’ve been going through Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki these past few weeks, we jumped ahead to volume seven today. Next week, we’ll backtrack to volume five and make our way again from there.
Happy reading, readers!
My Happy Marriage, Vol. 1
In a lowkey fantasy version of Taisho Era Japan, family lines that possess the magic to fight spirit-monsters have become the nobility. Miyo Saimori’s lack of this power provides a convenient excuse for her father, stepmother, and half-sister to abuse her for years, until the chance arrives to get rid of her for good. They send Miyo off to be fiancée of Kiyoka Kudou, a rich and powerful soldier notorious for the fact that all his previous fiancées fled or were kicked out within three days of their engagement. Her family is confident Miyo will be lying dead in a gutter in a week or two at most. Oh, whoops, looks like Miyo and Kiyoka might actually like each other… You guess it: This is another Cinderella story. As is often the case with this archetype, I have questions about whether Miyo might overcome her abusive past too quickly, but this is only the first volume, so it’s unknown how much her trauma may continue to play a role in the future, and anyway, it would be wonderful if healing from trauma were easier IRL, so I’m not opposed to a fantasy story where that’s the case. I also appreciated how much both Miyo and Kiyoka struggle with communication in different ways, yet genuinely strive to be more open and to understand each other. The story leaves some big plot threads hanging: mystery surrounds Miyo’s mother’s family, a noble house with creepy powers of telepathy and brainwashing; there are hints that Miyo might not be quite as ungifted as she and everyone else believe; the apparent decline of spirit-monsters and magic as people come to accept western scientific theory is an open question; and the title says My Happy Marriage, but the two leads are yet to marry. I enjoyed this volume and don’t have any major complaints, but I can’t unreservedly recommend it since there are some pretty heartbreaking moments involving Miyo’s abuse that might not suit all readers. Personally, I liked this story enough that I’ll definitely see how it holds up in the next volume. ~ jeskaiangel
My Happy Marriage is published by Yen Press.
The Dragon Knight’s Beloved, Vol. 1
I’ve read a few titles where dragons are mentioned, but The Dragon Knight’s Beloved is officially my first manga that heavily centered around dragons! It is a beautifully illustrated story about a young woman named, Melissa, who is obsessed with these fantastical creatures that the dragon knights fly on (specifically the one on which Commander Hubert flies ). However, now that her coming-of-age ceremony has arrived, Melissa decides to “spread her wings” so to speak and begin a new life where she isn’t coddled. But not everyone is exactly happy about her leaving, and that is when Commander Hubert brings her an offer: Pretend to be his fake lover and come with him to his family’s estate where wild dragons roam. This story was quite engaging and found that I really liked Melissa a lot, as well as her deep love for dragons. While I believe this story is said to be a fantasy romance of sorts, I found there wasn’t much of any romance just yet. In fact, it’s almost a political story, but again, with dragons! I was a little disappointed about that since I was most looking forward to the romance, but I still enjoyed what I read. The art is absolutely stunning and I love the worldbuilding and how it wasn’t just a backdrop for the characters. I would definitely recommend this story to those who love dragons, sweet heroines, and great world-building that ties into the plot! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Dragon Knight’s Beloved is published by Seven Seas.
Bakuman. Vol. 9
Have you ever read a series that was both amazing and problematic simultaneously? One that you can’t help but get engaged in even though it has moments that drive you up a wall? That’s how I feel about Bakuman. This classic series, for those unaware, is about two teenage boys who want to succeed in manga. As Bakuman progresses, it introduces various mangaka rivals for the duo and the series takes the shape of a sports manga in many ways. There are rivals, there are battles and scores, there’s engagement in friendly rivalries, and there’s a lot of comraderie inside the industry. However, the way female characters in the series are written is infuriating. Each is basically only existing to progress the personal advancement of a male character. The one exception is fellow mangaka Yuriko Aoki, who has her own issues in the way she’s written. However, I digress (and will discuss in detail on Newman’s Nook this Friday). Overall, the plot is fascinating and provides an interesting, inside look into the manga industry. That said, again, the way it writes its female characters as pawns for plot advancement is so aggravating. If you can look past that, you’ll find a very interesting sports manga with a manga publishing coat of paint on it. ~ MDMRN
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, Vol. 7
And thus ends the first arc. At least that how volume seven feels, in its quite epic (at least for a school romance tale) and moving closure to the school festival task and with it, major shifts in relationships and dynamics between characters. Volume six left off on a cliffhanger, and while volume 6.5 filled in some gaps that help form these chapters, readers have to wait for some time to see how the story develops, but it’s worth the wait. There’s struggle and emotion and angst and authenticity as Tomozaki sorts out his feelings, but most fulfilling is that readers learn so much about the girls in this volume. If they were ever second class citizens in the Tomozaki light novel realms, relegated to harem status, they are no more. They’re given subtlety and realism, and are all lovable and engaging in distinct ways. All except, I might note, Hinami, who has been hard to like all along, though I think that’s somewhat the point, and she’s becoming more and more central to the story, not as much in her role as mentor to the protagonist but as the second most important character in the series. Astute readers will start connecting the dots as to why she is the way she is, just as some of the other characters are doing the same, but there’s still also plenty of mystery to go around—left for future volumes in the second half of this series, I presume. But for now, and for this volume in particular, Mimimi is the character who most continues to shine, perhaps part of the reason why she received a spin-off series. Thankfully, that’s something to look forward to as readers wait some more, with volume eight due out from Yen Press later in the spring. ~ Twwk
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is published by Yen Press.
From Toxic Classmate to Girlfriend Goals, Vol. 1
This high school romcom isn’t bad…I just don’t like it. Let me explain. This is the story of Koyuki the ultra-tsundere girl and Naoya the extremely perceptive and extremely blunt boy. Naoya saves Koyuki from a man who’s harassing her, Koyuki later approaches him and blusters, Naoya correctly interprets her to be inviting him on a date, and off we go. Naoya’s astute grasp of nonverbal cues is the highlight of this book. It’s really satisfying to have a guy can accurately parse the awkward utterances of his love interest, and it can be really funny when Koyuki spouts some tsundere nonsense and Naoya’s like, “Oh, so you’re really enjoying our time together. I’m glad.” The downside to Naoya’s observational skills is that it contributes to a feeling that their relationship progresses at madcap speed. He’s never been in a relationship and is supposed to be struggling with figuring out how he feels about Koyuki, and so he struggles…for all of like a day and a half. Second, this volume had a surprising amount of profanity for a story that billed itself as cute and wholesome; the foul language was jarringly out of place. I also detected a lack of editorial polish, with some really blatant errors like misspelled names (it was worse than the other Tentai LN I’ve read, How to Melt the Ice Queen’s Heart). Finally, this novel is full of self-aware meta comments by the characters themselves about topics like protagonists, shipping, light novel plots, dating sims, etc. These are supposed to be funny, but I felt more like the author was coming along every few pages and punching me in the head, saying, “Hey! Notice the cleverness and irony and see how I’m diverging from romcom tropes!” Again, this is NOT a bad light novel. But it’s not for me. ~ jeskaiangel
From Toxic Classmate to Girlfriend Goals is published by Tentai Books.
Spy Classroom, Vol. 1 (Manga)
Lily, code-named “Flower Garden,” is leaving spy school to take an “impossible mission,” one with a 90% mortality rate. When she arrives at the mansion at which she’ll train, Lily finds seven other young women there, and they share one thing in common: All are spy school washouts. They’ve been brought together by a master spy, but for what ends? Are they merely meant to be sent out on this mission to die? Volume one of Spy Classroom, to be completely honest, is a pain to evaluate. While most series slowly bring the reader into the world, building the setting and introducing characters, that happens especially slowly in these chapters as the managaka must introduce not one or two main characters, but entire squad of them at once, with the plan apparently being to present a short story for each girl in order to help the readers connect. By the end of volume one, the manga is about two girls through, indicating that while I do believe this series will be a lot of fun—the girls have distinct personalities, the idea of “less thans” working together on a dangerous mission to accomplish the impossible is compelling, and I’m already caring for the girls (particularly those that have received heavier development)—it may take a few volumes to get there. ~ Twwk
Spy Classroom is published by Yen Press.
Anonymous Noise, Vol. 1
I‘m not a fan of love triangles, but I’m becoming a fan of the shojo manga, Anonymous Noise, nonetheless! While it’s uncertain if this story will technically have a love triangle, the beginning gives clear hints that main character, Nino, is going to be pretty divided in the future when it comes to love. She has absolutely loved singing from a young age and would often sing with her best friend, Momo, before he moved away. It resulted in her almost not singing again due to the heartache she felt, but then she met Yuzu, a music composer who refuses to sing, but who helps Nino keep her voice when she thinks she’ll never sing again. Though when he also mysteriously leaves, Nino holds onto the promises both these young boys gave her in that her voice would lead them back to her one day. From the first chapter, I was completely sucked into this story! It’s one of the few manga titles where I am genuinely curious to see how this “love triangle” will unfold. Nino is a wonderful main character and I loved how singing played such a deep role in her life. While I thought her character design was very cool on the cover, after reading I found it be very bittersweet due to knowing why she wears a face mask. Very creative! I like both young men as well, though so far, I am favoring Yuzu because of his internal honesty. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of this series and am glad I have the second volume on hand! ~ Laura A. Grace
Anonymous Noise is published by VIZ Media.
With You and the Rain, Volume 1
On her way home during a rainy day, a young woman finds a dog with a sign asking her to take him in. But this is no ordinary dog—it wrote the sign itself. Also, the dog is actually a tanuki. Playing on the idea of the association tanukis have with magic, With You and the Rain mixes calm, nostalgic scenes with humor that thrives off subverting expectations through multiple steps—what the reader expects to happen never does, at least in these initial chapters. For instance, the main character sees the tanuki but thinks it’s a dog. Her father finds it strange, but still believes it to be a dog. The mother, whom we presume will identify it as a tanuki, instead also sees it as a dog, although one without talent (although it can write); when she does see it as being talented, its for something minor and not for its writing skills. The jokes continue throughout in that nature. They didn’t elicit many chuckles from me, nor did most of the heartwarming moments feel all that satisfying (though the moments involving rain—there are several—convey a lovely tone). The series is just kind of there—a little funny, a little warm, and drawn a little nicely. There are better series of this type to read, though I could think of worse ways to waste away a rainy day. ~ Twwk
With You and the Rain is published by Kodansha.
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.