Bootsleg, Vol. 1
Bootsleg is built like the next big shounen series—all the stars are aligned in its plot: mystical and horrible creatures that steal away children’s family members (and half the hero’s leg); the teaming up of several young people whose powers are awakening; and its own system of powers and fighting, which involves a mysterious organization led by an elderly, wise leader, who outfits the team with soul-charged shoes charged that counter the enemy’s hands and gloves. Most of all, the drawings—the drawings! Suzuhito Yasuda is a master at art. His paneling is wonderful, his shadowing is near-perfect, and he draws his characters with vitality and strong lines. It is a stunning series, with volume one featuring a number of action-packed (and detailed) two-page spreads. No surprise, though, coming from a mangaka who has created his own manga (Yozakura Quartet) and also chosen to illustrate the Durarara and Danmachi light novels. However, despite the earlier mention of soul, there isn’t much of it in this initial volume. I liked all the major characters introduced, but didn’t feel a deep emotional connection to them and their sob stories. Underneath the unusual storyline and power system, and the incredible art, lays a flat story, nothing of particular note or to add to the genre. Still, the characters are fun and the artwork, again, undeniably attractive, so here’s hoping that the story will find its way and match these elements. ~ Twwk
Bootsleg is published by Kodansha.
The Apothecary Diaries, Vol. 2 (Manga)
The Apothecary Diaries was probably one of my least expected pickups from late last year; I was totally caught off guard by how much I enjoyed the first volume! Volume two was fun as well, though I may have not appreciated it quite as much as the first one (I know the strong focus on boobs in the first chapter was very off putting, even if the story itself featured a good, strong opening). Even if that’s the case, Maomao came back in all her sass and couldn’t help but think how she is probably one of the most unique female characters I’ve read! In this volume, a few secrets about her that were revealed, with one definitely being a good plot twist. We also got more Jinshi! I wouldn’t call myself his fangirl, but there were some excellent potential shipable moments that I absolutely fangirled over! A few more behind-the-scenes moments with him were portrayed, leaving me extremely curious as to what would happen next. Also portrayed is just how interesting things can be with Maomao when a food tasting goes awry…and unfortunately quite sensual. I think that was truly what I was most disappointed about. However, I really did enjoy the story once more, even if I’m a little nervous to start the next volume. ~ Laura A. Grace
The Apothecary Diaries is published by Square Enix.
READ: The Apothecary Diaries, Volume 2 Review
Mashle, Vol. 4
While Mashle is an effective comedy and parody of Harry Potter, volume four demonstrates that it is equally an action series as well. In fact, I do believe it surpasses the source of its parody in that department, with Mash’s muscle-bound, magic-less battle in this volume against the powerful magical student, Abel, drawing far more excitement than any duel I can remember in the Potter series. Yet, as the fight and inevitable shonen contextual flashback pours forth, mangaka Hajime Komoto continues to flex his writing muscles, frequently dropping in humor, which helps to keep the series balanced and from tottering too much toward a less interesting, typically-shounen end. What an addictive series, and what a fine conclusion —ending with a thrilling cliffhanger—to this early arc of the manga. ~ Twwk
Mashle is published by Viz Media.
Sakura’s Dedication, Vol. 1
Hanasaki seems to attract the worst kind for boyfriends, but her luck might be changing. Sakura, a class genius who’s barely ever talked to her, just confessed, and though she declined, he explains to her that he refuses to give up. While Sakura’s insistence could come across as stalker-ish, the first volume of Sakura’s Dedication makes the smart choice of moving these two into a relationship fairly quickly and making his “dedication” more about an unrelenting love toward Hanasaki, who struggles on the surface to react well to his “embarrassing” and honest words, but more deeply with feelings of low self-worth, owed much in part to how her ex-boyfriends viewed and treated her (and in fact, the way they still speak to her). This leads to plenty of cute and lovely moments, as Sakura remains very forward with Hanasaki, who can’t seem to do anything but blush and run away, until she decides that he’s worth changing for. A cute, fun, charming work, volume one of Sakura’s Dedication is the kind of read that reminds you of how warm love should be. ~ Twwk
Sakura’s Dedication is published by Kodansha.
Sakamoto Days, Vol. 1
Sakamoto Days has the dubious distinction of being the second-best “retired hitman comedy manga” published by Viz—though that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any means. Though the titular character has also left a life of crime, like The Way of the Househusband’s Tatsu, the latter is more absurdist and gag-oriented, while this series is a traditional Shonen Jump title, with Sakamoto spending his days running a convenience store, though the story picks up with him once again on the yakuza’s radar. His former associates want him dead for leaving the criminal life, which he did after falling in love and deciding to start a family. The action scenes are fairly good (especially a roller coaster fight late in the volume), with the nigh-invincible (if now overweight) Sakamoto teaming with a young protege, the mind-reader Shin, to fight off other hitmen while preserving his treasured family life. Humor and feels are all included at no extra charge. It’s a fine shonen series, though with the exception of Sakamoto’s character design, volume one, at least, remains indistinct from the rest of Shonen Jump‘s fare. ~ Twwk
Sakamoto Days is published by Viz Media.
Lightning and Romance, Vol. 1
What happens when a shoujo manga an older, bad boy type (Reo, age 20, nicknamed “Lightning” by the student body) with a sheltered but sweet girl (Sumire)? The answer is a very typical romance manga—though not that that’s an entirely bad thing. Volume one of Lightning and Romance lives mostly in Sumire’s mind as readers get the sense of her home life (led by a father who is kind but overprotective—to later be revealed for good reason?) and her social life, which is mostly about friendships until she starts interacting with classmate Reo, who is attending school for some mysterious reason even though he’s no longer a teenager. There’s mystery and probably tragedy invovled, but in volume one, most of the mystery remains on the level of Sumire trying to unravel who the “true” Reo is. There’s nothing here that’s particularly inspired, and the artwork is often flat, but the characterization is nice, and it’s easy to fall for the leads and become lost in the cute love story—with hints of depth to be revealed—that’s quickly forming, especially for fans of shoujo series in general. Count me as part of that flock, and as eager to see how this romance develops. ~ Twwk
Lightning and Romance is published by Kodansha.
Chainsaw Man, Vol. 10
Chainsaw Man is full of graphic content, some of which has been famously censored, which makes it easy to dismiss the series as a simple gorefest. Those who’ve followed along all these volumes, though, realize the genius of the manga, on full display here with Kobeni tripping at the family burger restaurant not once, but twice, and then forced to play DDR; the uncomfortable scene with the dogs licking Denji and Makima while literally speaking; and the despondence that starts the volume, with Denji trying to find a way to recover from his killing of Aki when another sudden death—the most painful in the entire series by my estimation—occurs, kicking off the final confrontation between Denji and Makima. But as much as I couldn’t look away from the goings-on, volume ten exposes the problems that all shounen face, including having to top itself over and over again, especially during the final fight. These arcs are often uninspired, which part of the reason I found the Fourth Shinobi War Arc in Naruto, which has more than a passing semblance to this arc, uninteresting, and they sometimes border on extravagant, which happens here, the last few pages so extreme that they’re even ridiculous. Come back down to earth, Chainsaw Man, and stay grounded in that little tread territory of horror shounen genius. ~ Twwk
Chainsaw Man is published by Viz Media.
Nighttime for Just Us Two, Vol. 1
How do you find a way to reinvent the love triangle, with the comely but relatable girl choosing between the good guy and the bad boy? Well, you could make the boys one in the same, and add a body sharing alien in for good measure. That’s the premise of Nighttime for Just the Two of Us, in which the practically invisible Nikaido serendipitously meets her popular classmate, Koga, during the middle of the night, except he isn’t Koga—this is “Chiro-chan,” a friendly and bright (literally) alien who is able to take control and express himself when Koga is fast asleep. The ridiculousness of the plot is so much fun, a throwback to shoujo of years past and even to the 1980s fascination with aliens in western culture (Mork and Mindy? Starman?). It’s firmly in shoujo territory, best expressed by the mean-but-is-he-really Koga, and a hilarious lead in Nikaido, who is strange and awkward without being cringey. The combination of all this ensures that volume one rushes to an excellent, humorous, and heartfelt start. I see continued gobs of humor and romance in the future, and probably a heartbreaking ending as well, and I’m eager to experience it all. Nanu nanu. ~ Twwk
Nighttime for Just Us Two is published by Kodansha. Volume releases on April 12th.
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.