Reader’s Corner: Alice in Borderland, Fly Me to the Moon, and The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen

Kunoichi Bunny

This charming picture book shows the adventures of a young toddler, her dad, and a stuffed bunny as they make a visit to the park. And yes, “adventure” is the appropriate word—at least for the bunny, who finds herself tossed, thrown, stomped on, and knocked around as the girl uses her stuffed friend to prevent accidents, save a duckling, and cheer up an elderly traveler. Only one word is spoken through, “kunoichi,” which all anime fans know refers to a female ninja, adding a sense of humor to the short children’s tale as the bunny does indeed flip and flop like a ninja would. But more than humor, the pervasive theme expressed in the book is one of caring, giving, and empathy. Writer Sara Cassidy and illustrator Brayden Sato have develop a lovely story for parents to read to their young children, demonstrating those important facets, featuring a diverse set of characters (including the apparently ethnically Asian leads), and imbued with a sense of nostalgia which, together with the colorful illustrations, will engage parents, too, as they do their duty of caring for little kids. I certainly wish I could have owned Kunoichi Bunny when my children were small—it would have been an engaging addition to our night time routines, for them and me both. ~ Twwk

Kunoichi Bunny is published by Orca Book Publishers.

Medaka Kuroiwa is Impervious to My Charms, Vol. 1

Kodansha has launched a number of compelling romance manga one after another lately, including Falling Drowning, Tying the Knot with an Amagami Sister, Lovesick Ellie, and My Idol Sits the Next Desk Over! All are basically mix and match in terms of genres, character types, and plotlines, with Medaka Kuroiwa is Impervious to My Charms taking the beautiful fake girl (who actually is really sweet) and having her tease the boy to get him to like her. Of course, some sort of new element need be added, which in this case is the reason that Medaka Kuroiwa is impervious to Mona Kawai’s charms—he took a vow to become a monk, and wants to stay pure. Let that one sink in. While I’m not at all opposed to the storyline, it’s just too kitschy in this context and a bit brain dead as Mona tries her hardest to get Medaka to fall for her while he does his best to resist (“Empty your mind! Rid yourself of worldly desires!”), often leading to high fan service situations where she goes a little too far and he’s tempted a little too much. Still, Mona is often funny (I really like the translation work here where we get lines like “What the heckity heck?”) and the series is meant to have a sweet core, but it’s one-note: cute, fun, nice for a laugh, but not enticing enough for me to read any further. ~ Twwk

Medaka Kuroiwa is Impervious to My Charms is published by Kodansha.

Fly Me to the Moon, Vol. 10

Yo! We’re back for round ten of this charming romantic comedy. There are a couple plot threads tying this volume together. One is that Nasa discovers a hidden danger of marriage: weight gain due to eating so much of his wife’s yummy cooking. This leads to various physical fitness / workout / exercise-related scenarios. The other thread is that Tsukasa’s adoptive grandmother Tokiko decides to go camping, and half the cast gets roped into it. There’s a lot of silliness and flirting, as well as an awesome shout-out to Laid-Back Camp! There are also several more random episodes. Yanagi, Nasa’s former middle school teacher, drops by to ask for some relationship advice involving…pickled ginger? The incorrigible Kaname recruits a nude model to paint for an art club competition. Mechanic-girl Nakiri gets a chapter to admit she’s clueless about romance and demonstrate that she’s even more clueless than she realizes. She also asks whether kissing is hygienic, thereby raising an issue that mystifies me: how is kissing not self-evidently dangerous and disgusting? Like, you smoosh your face against another person’s (with great risk of headbutting each other and knocking someone’s teeth out or breaking their nose or something), all so you can…touch tongues and exchange saliva? Nakiri, I’m right there with you wondering why kissing isn’t considered gross. Perhaps most intriguing of all in this volume, there’s a rather cryptic (and ominous) flashback to sometime in Tsukasa’s past, set in what looks like a disaster site or war zone. This manga is going as strong as ever. ~ jeskaiangel

Fly Me to the Moon is published by Viz.

Orange: Future, Vol. 6

I may have been extremely nervous to read the final volume of Orange (Orange: Future) due to mixed reviews, but it turned out to be a truly a perfect way to wrap up this series. The mangaka’s very touching note at the end led me to break down in tears and gain a new sense of thankfulness and appreciation for my friendships today. However, what was most interesting about this volume is that it is was from Suwa’s POV! He has been my favorite character throughout the series, and while I would love to say I was delighted to see things from his perspective, it was so very hard watching him beat himself up and call himself a scumbag. As a reader, I do not see him as such and truly admired his strength in the decisions he made (or did not make). Much of this volume was more emotional for me for this reason, but it also reminded me of kintsugi, the Japanese art of piecing broken pottery back together using gold to create a new kind of beauty. I think that analogy would fit really well for this ending as Naho was once again relatable and Suwa remained such an amazing character who continued to give his all the best way he knew how. I highly recommend reading this final volume in the series because it is just so very good: a great and heartfelt conclusion! ~ Laura A. Grace

Orange: Future is published by Seven Seas Entertainment

Alice in Borderland, Vol. 1

The recent success of Squid Game invited many viewers into the world of survival game television series, movies, and anime for the first time. Of course, those of us entrenched in Asian media have known about this genre for many years, though we have that Korean series to thank, perhaps, for a recent revival in its popularity. This includes audiences who are now streaming Alice in Borderland on Netflix and the issuing of the manga series on which the show is based. The manga traces the journey of the titular Arisu into a mysterious world where other wanderers, including his two good pals and a woman they befriend, must complete games successfully or perish. Alice in Borderland creates a disconcerting tone typical to the genre by dropping readers (and the characters) right into the middle of the action. Like Gantz and other such series, the violence is high (though not quite so graphic as some) and social commentary is present, but the inherent coldness needed to develop an unsettling tone doesn’t overwhelm. Instead, Alice in Borderland features surprising warmth by imbuing its main characters with gutsy spirit and kindness, graciousness and a love for one another that may grab ahold of readers’ hearts. Though this may all be simply setting the stage for brokenness should we become too attached to characters who may not live very long. This double-sized opening volume makes us keenly aware of those dangers, while effectively building the mystery of the “wonderland”—features that are enough to keep me interested, though it’s Arisu and the rest that are more likely to lead me to check out volume two and discover just what happens next. ~ Twwk

Alice in Borderland is published by Viz. Volume one releases on March 15th.

The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen: From Villainess to Savior, Vol. 1

One day, Princess Pride realizes that she has reincarnated as the gratuitously malevolent villain of her favorite otome game from her previous life. Subsequently, she encounters the game’s heroine (her younger sister) and two of the five love interests, as the story hits many of the beats you would expect from an entry in the reincarnated-as-a-villainess genre. An interesting aspect of the book is how Pride doesn’t seek to avoid doom. Instead, she believes it’s inevitable that she will become evil and deserve to die, so her goal is to minimize the harm she causes before that time and prepare others to kill her after she turns into an evil queen. Foresight plays a major part in the story, as Pride uses her game knowledge and precognitive abilities to change others’ futures for the better, but ironically sees no prospect of changing her own. The dangers of a self-fulfilling prophecy also appear in connection with Pride’s mother, the queen. The story skews more toward drama than comedy, but does have its funny moments. At one point, Pride discovers that she has freakish combat instincts that make her seriously OP for a young girl, and I loved how she applied video game logic to rationalize this strange fact. I look forward to the next volume. ~ jeskaiangel

The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen: From Villainess to Savior is published by Seven Seas Entertainment.

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.

4 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: Alice in Borderland, Fly Me to the Moon, and The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen

  1. Really enjoyed hearing about The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen: From Villainess to Savior! My friend keeps putting it on my radar with her excitement (LOL), so grateful for to hear more about it! 😀

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