Reader’s Corner: Record of Ragnarok, Higehiro, and Cosplay: The Fictional Mode of Existence

Banished from the Hero’s Party, Vol. 1 (manga)

Having been surpassed in power by the members of his party—a group of chosen adventurers ridding the continent of a great, devastating evil—and called out by one as “not a true comrade,” Gideon leaves his sister (the hero) and the others, and settles in Zoltan, a peaceful, rural district where he hopes to become an apothecary. There, he tries to avoid making a commotion and develops his skill, but could his careful plans all be thrown into the air with the arrival of a former party member, Rit? Or is she hiding a secret of her own? There’s actually little indication of the latter at this point, with Rit’s story a little flat an inspired, but here’s hoping that there’s more to it for a character who is a great romantic interest, filled with personality and power of her own (although I would say that flashing her panties while she’s trying to avenge her master kinda takes away from her character), and acts as a nice balance to Gideon, now called Red. I loved the flashbacks, which were full of both action and humor, and I think the volume functions extremely well as a romantic comedy in a fantasy setting. I have no experience with the lght novel, but have watched the first couple of episodes of the anime, and the manga adaptation is far better. However, the ending of volume one indicates that a more traditional action approach may take over, and I’m not sure it’ll excel as it moves that way (those more experienced with this series may enlighten me on this point). Still, the lovely relationship between Rit and Red demands a reading of at least another volume. ~ Twwk

Banished from the Hero’s Party (manga) is published by Yen Press.

Springtime by the Window, Vol. 2

Spring is officially here, and with it, the time to dive into manga with spring vibes! I have been waiting for spring to arrive so I could finish the two-volume series, Springtime by the Window, and it was so worth the wait! Volume one concluded with our main characters inviting their unsuspecting crushes to the festival. This volume unfolds with not only a festival that will bring to question their romantic feelings, but also hopeful endings. I was definitely nervous for, Yamada and Akama, characters with their loves unrealized by their crushes, and I did get a little bit angsty and slightly frustrated in a way that only shojo manga can make you feel! (Air-headed characters anyone?!) However, while I enjoyed the romantic development (and felt it was true to each character), I loved Yamada and Akama’s friendship! I feel it’s not very common to see a lot of non-romantic boy-girl friendships in shojo manga? Or maybe I just haven’t seen as many, but I found it refreshing nonetheless! I will definitely be coming back to reread this short series again (Maybe even near the end of spring!); it was absolutely delightful and I was very happy on all fronts by the end! Highly recommend!  ~ Laura A. Grace

Springtime by the Window is published by TokyoPop.

READ: Springtime by the Window, Volume 1 Review

Mashle: Magic and Muscles, Vol. 5

After resolving the conspiracy with the Magia Lupus, which reveals itself ultimately to involve a far greater evil (the Innocent Zero), Mashle returns to normal academy life—or so he thinks. He finds himself dogged by rumors of his lack of magic (cat’s out of the bag!), which eventually leads him to a court confrontation that is perhaps more dangerous than anything he’s faced so far. After the thrilling end to volume four, these chapters act as a transition, setting the stage for battles ahead. As such, they just aren’t as interesting as previous ones, and oddly enough, aren’t as humorous either. They also include an odd chapter where Mashle and his friends go visit his adoptive father, and it’s neither quite as heartwarming nor as comedic as intended. Could it be that this magical series has hit a wall already? Perhaps, though even as these chapters meander (with the one interesting bit being the reveal of the Divine Visionaries), the story now has enough legs to allow for some slowdown and setup. As Mash would say, “‘kay.” ~ Twwk

Mashle: Magic and Muscles is published by Viz Media.

READ: Mashle Reviews: First Impression // Volume 4

Record of Ragnarok, Vol. 2

As the match between Thor and Lu Bu reaches its climax, the audience is reminded of the stakes for the individual battles, with the loser being erased from existence for all time. The conclusion of that battle leads into the next, pitting “man against creator” in a fight that is surprising in more ways than one. As I mentioned last time, these death battle stories work best when we connect to the fighters. Record of Ragnarok attempts to build this case by explaining their great deeds of the past and why their personalities are shaped the way they are. Unfortunately, most of this contextual information is either too simply spoken or shown in just a few panels. The series moves at a swift pace, and little time is given to backstory. And thus, really, who cares if Thor and Lu Bu beat each other’s brains in? Who cares if only one survives? And when readers don’t care, they’re left with what’s simply a gorefest, though to be fair, the series at least attempts to be more than that, bringing together mythology and religion (the side of the gods) and history (the side of humanity). Because all gods of all religions seem to be included in this pantheon, the first humans weren’t created by “God” but by “the gods,” mixing stories together. Similarly, there are multiple gods of war, I guess deviated by secondary title that follow their primary ones. Also, Zeus, a god no one believes in, overpowers another powerful god than millions of people in the world currently do worship. From this perspective, the story is just really strange in its pluralism. Attempts at humor using historical / religious figures also fall flat. With virtually nothing seeming to work, there’s little left for this series to stand on. ~ Twwk

Record of Ragnarok is published by Viz Media.

Higehiro, Vol. 2 (manga)

When volume one ended, Sayu had run away from her new home, the space Yoshida had created for the runaway. But as she runs again, Sayu bumps into someone unexpected, who helps her and Yoshida consider the question of why they’ve created this arrangement at all. While I enjoyed the “innocence” of volume one, volume two doesn’t shy away from the complexity and discomfort of the living situation, and turns up the sensuality more than the first. The intent here is for the series to have its cake and eat it, too. While I still find it difficult to accept a story which emphasizes that sexualizing girls is bad and then has readers leer at one, I’m impressed by how Higehiro deals with flawed people, imperfect situations, and missteps with a raw kind of honesty. That is as compelling as the characters, who continue to grow on me—and not just Sayu and Yoshida, but a couple of others featured in this volume. The artwork remains bare, but Sayu is drawn very well (a better representation of her than the anime), as are the other characters. I look forward to volume three. ~ Twwk

Higehiro (manga) is published by One Peace Books.

Cosplay: The Fictional Mode of Existence

While probably fascinating when divided into smaller portions presented at professional conferences, or condensed even further and discussed during a convention’s panel session, Frenchy Lunning’s study of cosplay is a rather inaccessible work, too academic and more importantly, too theoretical, to really engage me wholeheartedly—not that there aren’t passages in Cosplay: The Fictional Mode of Existence that didn’t delight me. Lunning reaches far back in time to set the context for her work, which ultimately seeks to explore how cosplay provides meaning and identity for the cosplayers; these historic and modern peeks at cosplay, as well as some of the connections Lunning makes to others’ theories that make good sense, are highlights of the book. However, despite an obvious love and passion for the topic and those who participate, the discussion perhaps gets too high-minded, and while quotes and examples personalize the text, there’s this cosmic, “looking down upon on humanity through time” sort of quality to the theories that I don’t think necessarily always fit the western cosplay community as much as Japan’s; the quickly changing dynamics of cosplay, not only since COVID, but in the years before research on this book was completed (2019); and the individual stories of many cosplayers I’ve befriended and interviewed. In fact, while I found Lunning’s recollections of Japanese events fascinating, I was surprised at the lack of discussions of domestic ones. As the text progresses, though, it’s plain that this book mostly settles in the world of theory, which some will find fascinating. But while I appreciate all the obviously countless hours that went into developing this text, I did not. ~ Twwk

Cosplay: The Fictional Mode of Existence is published by University of Minnesota Press.

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 3

Continuing on after his near disastrous financial loss, Lawrence and Holo travel ever nearer to the latter’s ancient home, though they first stop in a city for some trading during a festival. But even as he discovers more details about Holo’s home, Lawrence finds himself succumbing to another scheme—though this one doesn’t just involve finances. It is also a scheme of the heart. And thus sets the stage for a volume focusing on Lawrence’s feelings for Holo, as a new character and his machinations force him to face them. I’ve grown to appreciate Lawrence’s character flaws, which allow him to realize more and more in his failure how much he still needs to grow; truly, though he’s matured much in the course of just three volumes, Lawrence is still an adolescent when it comes to romance, which helps the series keep the anime style romance vibe through a more adult tale. The first half of the volume is wondrously slow-paced, and introduces quite and interesting cast, while the second half hurdles toward a conclusion with an especially breathtaking final dozen pages that thrill by means of economics—as this unique and classic series is apt to do—and by matters of the heart. With a focus on friendship and love in a variety of ways, Spice and Wolf, Vol. 3 is a compelling but peaceful read, and with sentences one after another that are beautifully shaped and full of meaning, it’s also a literary delight. Another winning volume in this much beloved series. ~ Twwk

Spice and Wolf 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.

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