This week, we’re dropping reviews for a ton of new manga that are releasing today, ranging from romcoms to isekai, and classic shonen to a murder mystery featuring diverse lead characters. We also cover a highly anticipated series not releasing until next week, which is when we’ll also review volume two of that series, Summertime Rendering, which drops simultaneously (and in both hardcover and paperback editions) with volume one.
Crazy Food Truck (Vol. 1) • Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition (Vol. 17) • The Girl I Saved on the Train Turned Out to Be My Childhood Friend (Vol. 2) • In the Land of Leadale (Manga, Vol. 1) • Lost Lad London (Vol. 1) • MonsTABOO (Vol. 1) • Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, The Frozen Bond (Vol. 1) • Summertime Rendering (Vol. 1)
The Girl I Saved on the Train Turned Out to Be My Childhood Friend, Vol. 2
Although Takamori rejected Torigoe’s love confession at the conclusion of volume one, the latter is not going to give up, even as her love interest and Fushimi continue to grow closer and as the girls themselves become friends. Soon, the three are hanging out all the time, along with Takamori’s sister and another girl from this suddenly popular boy’s past. And that’s mostly the plot of volume two, which like the previous one, puts Takamori and one girl or another in one traditional romcom scenario after another, and sometimes more than one at a time, like when he and Torigoe spy on Fushimi in order to discover what secret she’s hiding, and then share an umbrella under the rain shortly afterwards. It’s the overabundance of these scenarios, together with a heavy, heavy concentration of dialogue, that stalls the story for the bulk of the volume. This was exactly the case with the initial offering, showing a pattern in which author Kennoji seems to be focused more on putting out as many cute moments as possible, and creating a strong harem around a particularly witless protagonist, than developing anything authentic or truly appealing, and only moving the story forward very quickly in concluding chapters. And yet, because the story developed somewhat at the end of volume one, I still found myself disappointed when reading this follow-up, having expected further character development, particularly the burgeoning friendship between the primary love rivals. Yet, Torigoe seems to really lose her voice in volume two, and like Fushimi, just becomes the picture of an obsessive girl pining after a boy that talks about his sexual urges and hides pornography in his room, but has no feelings for these two beauties, one of whom is described literally as the most beautiful girl in the entire prefecture. In fact, in one chapter, they both practically ask to be “sexually harassed” by Takamori. It’s all made worse by the overabundance of dialogue that is at once too much and not enough, in that it takes the series nowhere. This book is best avoided by everyone, even readers like me who appreciate a good harem series, as this one does not qualify. ~ Twwk
The Girl I Saved on the Train Turned Out to Be My Childhood Friend (light novel) is published by Yen Press.
Play It Cool, Guys, Vol. 3
Those goofy and clumsy boys are back in action with the latest volume of Play It Cool, Guys! I have absolutely adored this series and honestly almost cried when I saw the preorder up a few months ago—it is one of the most wholesome and light-hearted series I’ve read! At the end of volume two, readers were introduced to a new character that appeared to be joining our dorky crew, and I am happy to share that this volume picks right back up where it ended previously. The latest “recruit” is just as adorakable as the guys we’ve already come to love, and O deeply enjoyed how his backstory is interwoven with another character’s. He gives a “deeper” touch to these chapters that only further demonstrates how much these guys look up to and admire one another in different ways. Truly, these characters are just so wholesome and I could not get enough of them! Seeing them do the silliest things that are so relatable in their everyday lives (such as wondering why a computer mouse isn’t working only to discover that the object in use was not a computer mouse or going into the store to get one thing only to leave and realize you forgot to buy the thing one that led you to shop there in the first place) never failed to make me smile and laugh. Volume three further proved to me that it is indeed still in my top five favorite manga series, and it never fails to brighten my day! ~ Laura A. Grace
Play It Cool, Guys is published by Yen Press.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition, Vol. 17
The need of “sacrifice” for some grand, evil plan has been hinted at for many chapters, but it’s finally in volume 17 of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition that this comes to fruition. Those who have committed the taboo of using alchemy to revive the dead (and in this volume, another that is unexpectedly forced to do so) are brought together as sacrifices, even while the remaining Homunculi gather and show they still have strength, despite facing the considerable power of the heroes combining to fight against them. The result is to bring the world of FMA to the verge of ultimate loss. These chapters, which draw the series near to its conclusion (volume 18 will the final one in this collector’s series), run a mile a minute. There are casualties, maimings, and many near deaths, but little time to soak it all in as things move from horrible to worse for Ed, Al, and the rest. I’ll admit, Father’s final plan has never really taken root in me as a strength of the series (though the use of portals and passages as it happens, indicating terrible, taboo actions, continues to evoke a wondrous kind of horror), but it matters little as emotions are so heightened in these chapters that they carry the day, along with our care for the characters. As for the edition itself, they’re nice hardcovers with a few extra snippets that are worth purchasing only for collectors. But perhaps we should all be collectors, because despite my moderate feel about Father’s plan, FMA is and remains one of the great all-time mangas and continues to hold my heart in this penultimate volume. ~ Twwk
Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition is published by Viz Media.
Lost Lad London, Vol. 1
When a high-profile murder occurs in a London subway, an aloof boy named Al finds himself mysteriously drawn into the case. So too does Ellis, an injured detective who hopes he can help the young man, having been unable to do so for another young person long ago. Lost Lad London immediately announces its uniqueness through these two leads: Al, a self-reliant graduate student of South Asian descent who is an adoptee; and Ellis, a black detective recovering from a multitude of injuries. As the story builds, Lost Lad London verges on greatness, but that’s precisely what makes the manga so frustrating. The semi-realistic look of the characters, along with brilliant work on their facial expressions; the humorous dynamic between the grizzled officer and the impersonal graduate student; the welcome attempt at diversity in manga; the wonderful shading in the panels, including transitions that are dark and purposely indistinct—all these features are praiseworthy. But they are too often countered by dialogue that is at times inane, and an unnecessary reliance on tropes, including Ellis’ entire backstory and characterization. My hope is that these vital story elements will rise to the same level as the series’ art and ambition in future volumes, and turn Lost Lad London from an intriguing, fine work into a modern classic. ~ Twwk
Lost Lad London (manga) is published by Yen Press.
Crazy Food Truck, Vol. 1
Picture a post-apocalyptic world, an action setting, and your main cast. Did you have in your mind beefy dudes à la Fist of the North Star? That is not what you’re getting here. Chapter 1 opens with Gordon, a cook with a food truck, driving around a wasteland, almost running over an air conditioned sleeping bag. Inside is a naked woman who he tells to get dressed and then feeds. Turns out she’s on the run from someone. The rest of the first volume follows Gordon and Arisa going from town to town with the food truck. They help out a town dominated by former soldiers-turned-warlords who control a brewery. It is post-apocalyptic chaos with Gordon exuding huge Dad energy throughout the story. Also, Arisa is often naked, which leads to Gordon continually telling her to put on some clothes. It’s actually refreshing to see a middle-aged male not being creepy and sexualizing the much younger, scantily clad female lead. Regardless, it is chaotic fun, but definitely not for everyone. ~ MDMRN
Crazy Food Truck (manga) is published by Viz Media.
In the Land of Leadale (manga), Vol. 1
When Keina awakens to find herself transported into the world of the VRMMORGP she plays, she must work through not only her confusion and disorientation (she has been moved 200 years forward in the game’s timeline), but also the implication that the medical systems keeping her alive in her other life are no longer doing so. Keina is dead, and Cayna, her high elf character, is alive instead. As she investigates the world around her, Cayna remembers and uses her magical powers, forges new relationships, and reconnects with others, as she begins to move forward with her second chance. Indeed, the theme of “gratefulness” permeates the manga version of In the Land of Leadale. I’m only familiar with the light novel through our commentary on this site, and so was somewhat caught off guard at the thoughtfulness of volume one of the manga, as well as the sadness it exudes, though it is also filled with humorous moments, and culminates in a lovely, encouraging tone that makes the work a delight to read. And while, like many manga adaptations of light novels, it’s not much to look at (the character art is excellent, but the backgrounds are practically non-existent), this opening volume is a triumph, and will have me anticipating the second, and possibly even turning to the source material itself. ~ Twwk
The In the Land of Leadale manga is published by Yen Press.
MonsTABOO, Vol. 1
It’s been years since I’ve read anything that was sold in shrink wrap, which had me wary of volume one of MonsTABOO. How much nudity must there be for this manga to receive that treatment? The answer is “none.” And while the violence is gory, it’s no more over-the-top than in many other series, and the sexual violence, though present, isn’t depicted in any detail. It seems that perhaps the packaging is meant to evoke an earlier era in the history of manga, and appeal to older audiences that will recognize the throwback character design and respond openly to the storyline of middle-schoolers using the power of partner monsters to kill other monsters. The more adult theme lies in the fact that these young protagonists find themselves in troubling relationships with those monstrous partners: some sexual, some physically abusive, and at the center of the series, a comically-presented dating relationship, between the fatalistic Maruka, who witnessed her mother brutally killed by a “groan-up” (adults who become monsters), and the powerful but loveable rabbit / moon-stylized Mochizuki. The series is nothing if not engaging by way of its precarious storyline, which is worth questioning and will make the series one to avoid for many readers, though I personally didn’t find it as exploitative as other series that are presented as more “pure,” and lack the shrinkwrap or any other warnings. The action is a mile-a-minute, and leads to a volume finale that makes me question what this series is all about, and amplifies the subtle Persona 5 / gamelike tone of the series. If it continues down that course, I can see the manga going off the rails quite quickly, but for this first volume at least, MonsTABOO presents something wholly absorbing and twisted—and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. ~ Twwk
MonsTABOO (manga) is published by Yen Press.
Summertime Rendering, Vol. 1
Returning to his isolated island home for the first time in two years to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Shinpei not only learns of the strange circumstances surrounding her death, but must brace himself to protect those he holds dear in the face of an unexpected evil. Summertime Rendering, a manga all the more popular now after receiving an anime adaptation (currently airing in Japan, though awaiting worldwide release through Disney+), is a modern version of Higurashi, with the two properties sharing story lines and other qualities. But while that classic series is compelling for its “can’t turn away” vibe and creepiness, the violence in this volume, as bloody as it is, isn’t quite so unsettling, nor is the lore so deep—at least not yet. Summertime Rendering is still plenty engaging though, turning up the heat (and violence) very quickly, creating a series that crosses genres and is maybe more accurately described as Higurashi meets ERASED rather than just an imitation of the former. There’s also humor and fanservice dropped into the story in occasional dollops, and characters that I feel I should care for, though their relative blandness didn’t get my heart stirred just quite yet, with one exception—a Sarah Connor type who writes horror novels on the side. She’s on the cover of volume two, which will release at the same time as this volume, and which we’ll review next week. ~ Twwk
Summertime Rendering is published by UDON Entertainment.* Volume one releases on May 31st.
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, The Frozen Bond, Vol. 1
Based on a short story by Tappei Nagatsuki, The Frozen Bond is a three-part Re:ZERO spin-off that fills in a portion of time in Emilia’s life between her freezing of Elior Forest and its residents and the Royal Selection arc of the main series. Your appreciation for The Frozen Bond (at least for volume one) will depend greatly on your feelings about Emilia, a rather unpopular heroine for such a beloved series. I actually like Emilia quite a lot (who is Rem, anyway?), and find her optimism and kindness appealing, both of which are on full display here. In The Frozen Bond, she’s in early adolescence, and readers are given a good taste of the extent of her power even at this young age, as Emilia deals with ruffians in the forest and seeks to develop a relationship with the villagers who recoil from her. It’s a tough life for a young woman. At least she has Puck, right? Well, sort of. Part of the charm of this spin-off is that while Puck is watching over Emilia, the spirit doesn’t yet do so with the care and affection familiar from the main series. The two are not yet inseparable. And thus begins a short arc that will presumably draw these two nearer together as Emilia grows more and more into the upstanding half-elf who will one day soon meet Natsuki Subaru and begin an even greater adventure. ~ Twwk
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, The Frozen Bond (manga) 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.