You Like Me, Don’t You? Vol. 1
This high school romcom is…wildly uneven in terms of quality. On the one hand, it’s got: the stereotypical loser guy (Soukichi) and popular girl (Kasumi) combo in a literature club; cliché, forced romcom scenarios; wonky or missing punctuation; sentence fragments; capitalization errors; ambiguity; tacky emphasis on the female lead’s breasts; misspellings; and awkward phrasing. On the other hand, this story is sometimes cute, funny, genuine, and thoughtful. The two leads are both bookworms, and Soukichi also has a published novel. This opens the doors for some interesting discussions pertaining to writing, editing, and publishing, as well as the enjoyment and evaluation of books. There’s also an amusing section where they talk about how Japanese and western dating conventions compare (or at least what they believe about “western” dating). But in the end, as much as I want to be fair to this book’s good points, You Like Me, Don’t You? felt like a slog that I had to force myself to finish reading. I can’t really recommend it. ~ jeskaiangel
You Like Me, Don’t You? is published by Tentai Books.
My Dress-Up Darling, Vol. 5
After the anime dropped last season, it felt like everyone was talking about My Dress-Up Darling. As someone who has been reading the manga for a while, I feel like Aslan yelling at the White Witch about how much I already know about it. But, anyway. Volume starts starts with Marin and Wakana finishing up one cosplay and moving on to another. Marin wants to play a succubus character from a cute chibi slice of life series, and Gojo is wracking his brain to come up with a good design for the costume. Along the way, the two spend more time together, leading to so many cute moments, including a lot of I wuv him‘s in Marin’s head. It is just adorable. However, much like the anime and the previous volumes, this is still a bit of an ecchi series, with Marin modeling some tight and/or skimpy outfits. Despite the drawbacks, the series is special for the slow burn chemistry between the leads, which is incredibly sweet and so much fun to read. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed volume one, and am equally shocked at how much I am still enjoying the series. Looking forward to volume six dropping this summer! ~ MDMRN
My Dress-Up Darling is published by Square Enix Books.
I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss! (Manga), Vol. 2
If I could, I would give this volume a glowing 10 out of 10 stars! I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss! feels like peak fiction for the villainess isekai / otome game subgenre, though I am absolutely blown away at how original this story is! Truly, this second volume swept me off my feet with its unpredictability and fun. Aileen continues to avoid all the “red flags” so that her bad ending won’t come to pass, but as she is kicking off her new business and gathering information on different events around her, she doesn’t realize that another character also has memories of a past life. Things definitely just got a whole lot more interesting! I love so many things about this volume. For starters, the “lackeys” (especially Isaac!) made the beginning so enjoyable, and Isaac is such a great character that I would have no qualms about him and Aileen becoming a thing—they make an excellent team! Also, the slow burn “romance” between the main leads is so good! I’m hoping that this manga will end on a happy note because I really don’t know what is going to happen, but I need this ship to sail! (King Claude is just so soft!) Again, I am just head over heels about this series. I definitely recommend it as a must-read! ~ Laura A. Grace
I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss (manga) is published by Yen Press.
When a Cat Faces West, Vol. 1
If you enjoy workplace slice of life with a fantasy/sci-fi twist and a dash of mystery, detailed backgrounds celebrating down-at-the-heels urban chic punctuated by tropical plant life, and toe beans, then this is the series for you! In less niche terms, this is a delightful new series from Yuki Urushibara, the creator of Mushishi, set in a Japan where a nebulous shimmer known as ‘flow’ wreaks havoc on reality, descending on a place and causing it to double, mirror, travel backward in time, or disappear altogether, and often doing the same to the people who stumble across its foggy bounds. Although it’s not clear whether flow is scientific or spiritual in origin, what is certain is that it plays off the unconscious thoughts and emotions of people, and that cats are quite sensitive to it. Hirota is an underemployed flow detective of sorts who helps people navigate the sporadic wrinkles in reality. Flow naturally dissipates after an unpredictable period of time (though Hirota is actually pretty good at predicting its lifespan), but a return to normalcy can also be sped along if the emotions that partnered with it to produce the weird and wonderful are dealt with. Hirota is aided in his work by Shacho, his (unfaithful) white cat, and new hire Chima who, although aged thirty-five and a former OL, looks instead to be a rather severe twelve-year-old, thanks to the effects of flow. The emphasis of the storytelling in this first volume is on the relationships between the three flow experts (human and feline alike), and the people they meet. The artwork is gorgeous and compelling enough to lose yourself in, while the characters are very well fleshed out and ring true—even (or especially) Shacho! Also, the bonus pages at the end of the volume are hilarious. In all, this is a charming, gently humorous, and relaxing series, with enough intrigue to convince me that I’ll be following this one for some time to come. ~ claire
When a Cat Faces West is published by Kodansha.
The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady (manga), Vol. 1
In the great mix and match in the world of isekai stories, this particular one pairs a young woman—the princess Anisphia, who regains her memories after being reincarnated in a fantasy world and who uses them to create advanced technology in her new life—with another—Euphyllia, who does seem to belong to this world, but is in a perilous state after being publicly rejected as the betrothed of the crown prince. There is no male harem awaiting Anisphia or Euphie; instead, the former is singularly focused on the latter, whom she rescues from the prince’s false accusations, literally flying off with her and turning her into a research assistant. That bit there is the “new” element that the writer brings into this work. No, it’s not much, barely a novelty really, and unfortunately, the writing isn’t particularly sharp or comedic in the manga either. Although Anisphia is incorrigible, she doesn’t stand out from other heroines. Euphie manages a little better, however, and particularly toward the end of volume one when readers are privy to her self-reflection on how she’s bottled away her emotions. Still, these early chapters are bland, and the would-be yuri romance isn’t compelling either. Perhaps the light novel on which this manga is based fares better, though that would surprise me, for the best element of this particular volume are the wonderful illustrations. Otherwise, this is one isekai you can skip—though not to worry: With all the (mostly) same storylines and character types out there in the genre’s landscape, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find a story about a character reincarnated into another world that’ll hit you just right. ~ Twwk
The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady (manga) is published by Yen Press. Volume one releases on May 24th.
Cat + Gamer, Vol. 1
Riko has gained a reputation at work for doing exactly what she needs in an efficient manner and not an iota more, completing all her assignments and leaving by 5:00pm on the dot each day, often at a mad rush. While her co-workers wonder what the reason could be, we nerds all understand: Riko just wants to get home to game! But her routine is about to be shaken up when she agrees to take in a stray kitten, and through ownership of her first pet, Riko will learn and grow in unexpected ways, shaking up her usual plans of applying RPG stratagem to real life. After the initial framework is set, volume one of Cat + Gamer takes place almost exclusively in Riko’s apartment as she plays with and cares for her new kitty. There’s a fun balance between her gamer personality / way of thinking, and the ways she has to adapt her thought patterns, learning all sorts of new things as she cares of her new cat (in bonus chapters, the action of the preceding chapter is hilariously reframed from the cat’s perspective). A simple series—both in composition and art—Cat + Gamer is just three volumes long, which seems to be just about right for a manga that is meant to evoke a peaceful feeling and deliver cute humor. It’s the perfect series to basically do with what Riko herself does with games: take a break from the world and relax. ~ Twwk
Cat + Gamer Volume 1 (manga) is published by Dark Horse Manga and releases May 24th.
Satoko and Nada, Vol. 3
While Satoko and Nada is a fun series, I also appreciate how the mangaka doesn’t shy away from addressing questions and concerns that I think are commonly voiced not only in Japanese society, but also in America. In volume three, this is achieved through two new characters that we meet (briefly) as they raise what I think are valid concerns about who Nada will marry one day. Nada’s own apprehensions (and those of her friends as well) about her fiancé are well handled and thoughtfully addressed. I was worried for Nada, too, and while I love her cheerful self, I have also liked seeing her more reflective side. I also thought it interesting that Christianity is a lot more present in this volume than the previous two. While it’s been shown that one friend, Miracle, attends church, this time Satoko is also shown volunteering at a Christian camp and experiencing Christian community. This series is deeply respectful of the various religions and cultures it depicts, and I honestly think this is one of my favorite things about it! I’m nervously excited for the next volume because it’s the final one, and I am really hoping that it will not end on a sad note. While I am happy for Nada and her fiancé, and about how Satoko has made new friends, I don’t want these ladies to part and go their separate ways, so to speak. Can’t they just continue to be happy roommates forever?! ~ Laura A. Grace
Satoko and Nada is published by Seven Seas.
Modern Villainess: It’s Not Easy Building a Corporate Empire Before the Crash, Vol. 1
Have you ever wished for a reincarnated-as-a-villainess light novel that trades all the customary romance / comedy / fantasy elements for a tale of corporate and political intrigue set in 1990s Japan? Well have I got good news for you! Protagonist Runa is the scion of a powerful zaibatsu (a wealthy business-conglomerate-owning family, defunct in our world but still around in the game’s), as well as an otome game’s villainess. Her story is heavily grounded in late twentieth and early twenty-first century economic and political history, and the author provides helpful notes at the end of each chapter to explain various terms and references. Now reborn and living as a child in the 1990s after having died sometime during or after the 2008 recession in her first life, Runa proceeds to use her knowledge of the world’s future to try to change the course of history and save her game-world Japan’s economy from collapse. Between a lecture on the nature of money, business dealings involving billions of yen, her Swiss bank account, shell corporations, mergers, hedge funds, elections, the Russian mob, and kindergarten (among other things), Runa just doesn’t have time for the content you probably expect from the villainess genre. This volume held my interest, but just barely. If a story about big business and international commerce based on recent history sounds good, check out this volume. Just don’t go into it like I did, expecting it to be anything like other books in the reincarnated-as-a-villainess genre, because you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. I think I’ll set it aside, give it another chance sometime in the future (this time with more accurate expectations), and see if that makes the story less off-putting to me. Then I’ll decide then whether I want to continue the series. ~ jeskaiangel
Modern Villainess: It’s Not Easy Building a Corporate Empire Before the Crash is published by Seven Seas.
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.