Higehiro, Vol. 3
It’s not easy to keep it secret that a runaway high school girl is staying at your home, especially when you’re the honest type who doesn’t lie well. So it isn’t long before some of those closest to Sayu and Yoshida know bits and pieces about their living situation, including Goto, the woman Yoshida has been pining for all these years. But instead of pushing her away from Yoshida, might his living arrangements draw the two nearer to one another? That summary sounds like it could be from an ecchi series (or worse), and Higehiro certainly walks the line of what’s “acceptable” in its story of a relationship that is at once heart-warming and discomforting. The story, though, never shies away from the elephants in the room—both the inappropriateness of the pair’s relationship and hints that they might fall in love. Obstacles to the latter appear though, including Goto, who is built up in this volume to be a more likeable character, which is appropriate since the roadblock she represents between Yoshida and Sayu is necessary for reasons of both angst and morality. That’s what makes the series compelling: it is a romance, but one that deals constantly with the challenges of Yoshida and Sayu’s situation. Volume three is made all the more palatable, too, by turning the leering eye away from the teenaged girl, making for a volume of Higehiro at its best: complicated, endearing, and engaging. ~ Twwk
Higehiro is published by One Peace Books.
The Holy Grail of Eris, Vol. 1
Behold: the film noir iteration of “villainess” light novels. There is romance and comedy, but this is primarily a murder mystery / detective thriller. In a setting inspired by early modern Europe, femme fatale Scarlett Castiel was a stock light novel villainess: daughter of a duke, fiancée of a prince, arrogant and cruel. Then she attempted to murder a girl of lower status she viewed as a rival, for which she suffered the death penalty at age sixteen. A decade later, when young noblewoman Connie is facing false accusations and public humiliation, who should come to her rescue but the ghost of the infamous Scarlett! In return for her aid, Scarlett demands that Connie help her exact revenge. But on whom? Good question. See, Scarlett was a real jerk, but she never tried to murder anyone. She was framed by an unknown party, so before any vengeance, Connie and Scarlett are going to need to figure out who had her killed. Expect police investigators, murder, revolvers, illegal hallucinogens, human trafficking, conspiracy by a shadowy organization, international political intrigue, treachery, a sham (?) engagement, a cliffhanger ending, and more! The story and characters are both great, but there are other points I want to highlight. I loved the evolving character summaries at the end of each chapter, which often contain hilarious meta commentary. I also want to mention something awesome Scarlett says: When someone misapplies the concept of “an eye for an eye,” our snarky specter correctly points out that that law was not a license for cruelty but rather a prohibition against disproportionate retribution. I just loved seeing someone get it right for once! And it’s great seeing how Connie and Scarlett rub off on each other in positive ways. I could go on, but suffice it to say this volume was a blast to read, and I’ll totally continue the series. ~ jeskaiangel
The Holy Grail of Eris is published by Yen Press.
From the Red Fog, Vol. 1
From birth, imprisoned in a cellar, neglected by his mother, and reared with a bloodlust, Ruwanda escapes into the brutal life of the have-nots of 18th century England, a land depicted as being filled with adults who take advantage of orphans for their own pleasure, and where a troubled young boy might succumb to the darkness within. From the Red Fog is a macabre, engaging read, obviously inspired by the most famous serial killer of them all, Jack the Ripper, and feeling much like an origin tale for the murderer. As such, it is bloody and violent, illustrated with grays and blacks that match the dreariness of the Industrial Revolution and the darkness of the tale. Blood and gore aren’t celebrated in the story, per se, but readers are meant to get excited in these precarious scenes where characters fight, often for their lives, and where Ruwanda kills. The morality is balanced a bit by the plight of the orphans, the appearance of a slightly kinder “friend” for Ruwanda, and the awfulness of the adults in the story—with the exception of one, whose unfailing kindness serves as Ruwanda’s conscience, though it’s done little good for him yet. It’s difficult to tell at this point whether the series has a heart as cold and violent as its characters, but it’s compelling enough, in both art and story, to make the second volume worth cutting into. ~ Twwk
From the Red Fog is published by Yen Press.
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, Vol. 1
This is one of the few times that I’m not quite sure what to say about a manga. I originally read the beginning of Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible on the Shonen Jump app and absolutely loved what I saw. However, when I dove into the paperback, even though I could not recall all of the beginning, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much. The premise of the story is a fun one though! The male hero, Junta, goes unnoticed by everyone—well, that is except Kubo…and she won’t dare let him forget that she can see him with all her playful teasing! When I started rereading this story, I found it to have similar elements to Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie, but with a more playful tease for the love interest. Poor Junta has it a lot rougher since he’s literally almost invisible to everyone and when people actually do see him, they think he just showed up! Despite his interesting “hardship,” I liked him as a hero and overall enjoyed his and Kubo’s interactions. They made me smile more often than not, but I just didn’t find it quite as exciting as I hoped it would be. I think this is a good one to pick up if you’re looking to pass the time or want to read a series that isn’t heavy. ~ Laura A. Grace
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is published by VIZ Media and releases May 3rd.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition, Vol. 16
Now as the final standoff occurs between Father and the Homunculi and the desperate team of allies trying to stop them, Fullmetal Alchemist presents one awesome chapter after another, each one tying up a storyline and the ultimate fate of a character, bringing readers ever nearer to the conclusion. There’s so much goodness here, a reminder of why FMA is on the very short list of all-time great modern manga, with Arakawa deftly balancing huge fights, an insurrection storyline, the continued movements of different heroes and villains (including a number that are still in the shadows), the character growth of major players like Edward, Scar, and Roy, reappearances by favorite characters (it’s an amazing feat in itself to continue to give meaningful roles to some five dozen characters), and scenes of humor mixing in with violence—sometimes on a horrific scale. So many series go off the rails when the story gets too big, but when Fullmetal Alchemist hits that point, it gets all the better. Few other series are as deserving of a special edition. ~ Twwk
Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition is published by Viz Media.
Silver Spoon, Vol. 6
Ezo Ag Fest is just around the corner, but first, Hachiken will compete in his inaugural equestrian event, and he might just do well too, if he can get over his nerves. In fact, he might also enjoy the festival—that is, if his over-committed schedule doesn’t lead Hachiken to collapse, literally. For such a wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve character, Hachiken displays his growth in subtle and realistic ways. Thus, his participation in the equestrian competition feels right, as does the result, for better or worse. But it’s also this same authenticity that leads to Hachiken’s “failure” toward the end of volume six. As much as we might grow through new experiences, it’s difficult to shed the past, and even harder to make good decisions that will match the new lessons you want to live out. Silver Spoon, for all its humor and hints at romance (and both are present in spades in this volume), doesn’t shy away from striking this honest note. It’s what helps make the series so special, though I would be lying if I didn’t say my favorite parts of this volume weren’t the serious ones. The continued development of Mikage’s relationship with Hachiken were cute and fun, and these moments, along with absolutely lovely artwork of the horses at the competition, were mesmerizing. ~ Twwk
Silver Spoon is published by Yen Press.
Spice and Wolf, Vol. 4
As Lawrence and Holo continue north in search of the latter’s home village of Yoitsu, they search out a small village that may hold a key to its whereabouts, but upon arriving, find that the church will neither welcome nor help them, and furthermore, that something is afoot which may prove catastrophic to all involved. As usual, economics, myth, rural life, travel, the church, and other elements are woven together to create a story at once unique and entertaining—another successful volume. What’s more, this book will challenge many readers of this very blog. While Spice and Wolf is set firmly in a world where the church’s God, analogous to the Christian one, may or may not exist, pagan gods certainly do, since one is a main character. In volume four, this comes to the forefront as some clergy struggle with their faith and others are clearly villainous. While it’s not likely that the author meant anything of theological significance by how the story ends, Christians may be put off by the final solutions and the inferences those might lead to, as well as by a character described as faithful but who lives almost purely by the letter of the law and rarely by the spirit. However, I found the religious discussion—which permeates this volume—caused me to consider how those in power in the church may abuse their authority, affecting generations of believers and even young leaders. As usual, Spice and Wolf provides both getaway entertainment (sometimes peaceably and sometimes through suspense) and food for thought. ~ 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.