The first two volumes of Summertime Rendering drop today, and we’ve got a review of volume two this week to join our thoughts on the first volume last week. In addition to that UDON Entertainment twosome, we have reviews for new and recent volumes from VIZ Media, Yen Press, J-Novel Club, and Cross Infinite World to share with you today!
Bond and Book • Dragon and Ceremony (Vol. 2) • Ghost Reaper Girl (Vol. 1) • I’d Rather Have a Cat than a Harem! Reincarnated into the World of an Otome Game as a Cat-loving Villainess (Vol. 1) • Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love (Vol. 2) • Kokoro Connect: Asu Random (Part 1 & 2) [Vol. 9-10] • Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan (Vol. 2) • Summertime Rendering (Vol. 2)
Summertime Rendering, Vol. 2
Volume two of Summertime Rendering, the supernatural horror / time travel tale that is currently streaming as an anime series (though not yet released stateside by Disney+, grrrrrr), taps into the potential of volume one, not by expanding the story but by narrowing it. Now realizing how heinous the truth of Ushio’s death and the events following are, Shinpei resolves to seek out Nagumo’s help to stop the evil and protect Mio. Most of the events in this volume happen over just a couple of days and focus on Nagumo, Shinpei, and the old man, Nezu, who together form a trio like Hooper, Hooper, and Quint in Jaws, squaring off against an insatiable force that is proving almost impossible to stop, even with Shinpei’s supernatural ability and both experience and knowledge of the shadow creatures. Another mystery they can’t unravel (in addition to what the shadows and their mother ultimately desire) is why the Ushio shadow is different from the rest. This may be the most compelling of the many questions in Summertime Rendering so far, with volume two going a long way in making Ushio an enchanting character, a must since she anchors the series. I could have done without the naked panels of her, which cheapen her character, however—and I bet Disney is thinking the same. ~ Twwk
Summertime Rendering is published by UDON Entertainment.*
Ghost Reaper Girl, Vol. 1
Chloe Love is a 28-year-old actress who has 36 credits to her name—30 are as an extra though, and virtually all of them in horror movies, including the little-watched film, Ghost Reaper Girl, in which her character wore a swimsuit while slicing away at spirits. Little does Chloe know that life is about to imitate art: it turns out that her spirit holds a special appeal to ghosts, who are keen to seize her. Fortunately, with the help of “hottie” spirit Kai, Chloe can use her unusual talent to turn into a real ghost reaper girl and fight back. I’d read the initial chapter of this series in Shonen Jump when it premiered, but had forgotten all about it until volume one was published. It’s a pretty series—Chloe is beautifully designed (particularly in her transformed outfit), as are Kai and Noel, a second spirit that soon joins her. The action, however, leaves much to be desired, with the series hitting better notes with its frequent jokes. There is potential in the story itself, too. Chloe, as a former homeless and destitute young woman, offers an interesting opportunity for something creative as she is paired with her new familiars and enters an agency to register to defend against a ghost invasion. I enjoyed the characterization and especially the gothic vibes in the volume, as well as what I would assume to be the unintended Ghostbusters feel to it, both in terms of the story and the look of some of the ghouls. But by the end of volume one, I didn’t feel a desire to carry on with the series, despite the quick pacing. Glossy and finished, Ghost Reaper Girl feels like a good shonen, but I have yet to see anything special in it that would distinguish it from dozens of others and make it worth continuing. ~ Twwk
The Ghost Reaper Girl manga is published by Viz Media. Volume one releases on June 7th.
I’d Rather Have a Cat than a Harem! Reincarnated into the World of an Otome Game as a Cat-loving Villainess, Vol. 1
It’s another reincarnated-as-a-villainess isekai light novel, so what sort of twists set this one apart? First, I recommend reading this volume only if you’re already pretty familiar with reincarnated-as-a-villainess stories. Genre savvy protagonist Amy brings up various plot devices and tropes associated with this kind of tale, wondering if they apply to her life, and recognizing those elements is part of this volume’s fun. Second, perhaps this volume’s most intriguing departure from the familiar “villainess” premise is that Amy doesn’t reincarnate alone. Her new mom, dad, and elder brother…are reincarnations of her mom, dad, and elder brother from her old life, and they’re all aware of what has happened. (This incidentally sets up one of the sweetest plot points I’ve ever seen in a light novel: the idea that her parents in her old life sought each other out so they could marry again in their reincarnated life just oozes warm fuzzy feelings.) This setup also suggests an interesting mystery: what exactly happened to this family in their old life? I also liked how Amy barely knows anything about the game, which she only played briefly because a friend asked her to. This means that she doesn’t have the sort of foreknowledge about the plot or characters that one often finds in this kind of story. Finally, it’s worth highlighting the way this volume challenges conventional notions of beauty. See, part of her mom’s advice to Amy for avoiding becoming engaged to the prince and sucked into the game’s plot is…to gain weight. Not in an unhealthy way or to the point of obesity, but just to deliberately flout society’s expectations of maximum slimness, and to enjoy food instead of obsessively scrimping on calories. The text consistently emphasizes that although Amy is a bit rounder than her culture considers ideal, this in no way detracts from her cuteness and beauty. We all know modern culture often promotes slimness in women to a dangerous and unhealthy degree, and Amy’s story offers a commendable refutation; I’ve never seen anything quite like it in a light novel before. TL;DR I liked this volume. ~ jeskaiangel
I’d Rather Have a Cat than a Harem! Reincarnated into the World of an Otome Game as a Cat-loving Villainess is published by Cross Infinite World.
Dragon and Ceremony, Vol. 2
Ix, the apprentice wandmaker, is given an unusual task by his former master’s first apprentice: he must discover why the magic that strengthens a city’s wall has waned, and what role a “witch” may have played in it. As he investigates, Ix is joined by both an established friend and a new acquaintance, and discovers that magic and religion may be behind this mystery. The path of volume two, subtitled Passing of the Witch, is one that surprised me. It focuses neither on Yuui’s new life at the Academy, nor Ix’s as an apprentice, instead building a mystery that is rather boring for half of the book. The story does become more engaging in the second half when the focus turns to the story of the witch, but still, it doesn’t deliver as well as the first volume. This is a solid read, yet a massive disappointment too. This paradox is perhaps best accounted for by the author, Ichimei Tsukushi, in the afterword, when he explains that the original volume was meant to stand alone, and that when volume two was completed, it also could be read independently. He goes on to remark offhandedly that a certain character was included since this is a light novel series after all, and more than anything, it’s that inclusion here in volume two that hurts the tale, driving it in directions that distract from the heart of the story and are ultimately the most forgettable parts of the volume. In fact, that character is done a disservice more through being included here than if omitted entirely, which I assume would likely have happened naturally, based on the conclusion of volume one. Yet, light novel series. A serious misstep has been taken here to make Dragon and Ceremony more appealing and lucrative. Still, the beauty of the main tale in volume two, the characterization, and all goodwill built from volume one, still have me hopeful that Tsukushi will right the ship and return the series to what it initially appeared to be: more a warm magical fantasy series about finding oneself, and less a cheap imitation of Spice and Wolf—festivals, double-crosses, magical beings and all. ~ Twwk
Dragon and Ceremony (light novel) is published by Yen Press.
Kokoro Connect: Asu Random (Part 1 & 2) [Vol. 9-10]
These two volumes make up the final story arc of Kokoro Connect, and thus bring the main story to a close (although there is one “side story” volume after this). As a finale, these volumes sure deliver: the scale of this final psychological phenomenon expands beyond the Cultural Research Club’s (CRC) main characters to encompass the entire school! As if trying to deal with all of their classmates’ newfound problems wasn’t enough, there’s also the looming threat of the CRC members losing all of their memories relating to the previous phenomena, due to a conflict of interest between Heartseed entities. The revelation that there are not only multiple Heartseeds, but also that they don’t all agree with each other, adds an extra layer of intrigue and helps make these Heartseeds feel more like actual characters, rather than just plot devices. The relationships between the main characters have largely been solidified by this point, so most of the relational development here involves the side characters, including the various named classmates and family members who realize that they are acting weird. Overall, these volumes provide an excellent conclusion to the main story and reaffirm why this entire series is one of my most recommended light novel series. ~ stardf29
Kokoro Connect is published by J-Novel Club.
Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love, Vol. 2
The second volume of Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love is one that I held very high expectations for because of how deeply I loved volume one. I was already calling this series a favorite shojo manga for the year, so it was with that thought in the back of my mind that I began reading volume two. However, this second volume did not meet these expectations in the way I hoped it would, though I did still enjoy it. The beginning picks up right where volume one ended, but now our main couple is acting more “confident” in their love and affection for one another. It doesn’t matter if they come across an ex-girlfriend or even a sister who is bent on tearing them apart, they continue to have open communication with one another. This strong theme of open communication is one of my favorite things about the series. I also loved seeing our main couple have one-on-one time together at their first sleepover and Yagyu being nothing less than a gentleman. (It was one of my favorite chapters! Or maybe the opening chapter because beach scenes are always a lot of fun!) Despite this, there were two chapters I didn’t enjoy specifically because of one character. Even so, the ending left me hopeful that while there may have been chapters I didn’t love in this volume, the series will continue to shine among shojo manga as it captures the beauty of first love and the importance of being open to talking and listening in a relationship. ~ Laura A. Grace
Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love is published by VIZ Media. Volume two releases on June 7th.
READ: Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love, Volume 1 Review
Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan, Vol. 2
As soon as Princess Leia discovers that her father is “part of the rebel alliance and a traitor” along with her mom, she immediately volunteers to assist. But rebellions against vicious, totalitarian states are neither easy nor safe, and the viceroy and queen are unwilling to let their daughter join in their struggle. Leia decides that she must find a way that is both helpful and hidden, her own path to support her parents’ work while gaining their trust. Doing so will take her near a planet more personal to her story than she knows. The tension in this volume is high, in part because it resembles Rogue One and presumably Andor, with its setting being the early days of the rebellion, with an emphasis on dangerous, clandestine operations. It is also tense in part because of Leia’s age. If you recall, she was only 19 in A New Hope; in Princess of Alderaan, she’s the even more tender age of 16. Based on Claudia Gray’s young adult novel, this manga is absolutely thrilling, expertly weaving a tale that features action, diplomacy, coming of age elements, and even romance, while asking heavy questions about the thin line between terrorism and righteous rebellion, similarly to the above-referenced stories set during relatively the same period. I flew through the volume, and am so glad that it’s back in production after the mangaka took considerable time off for health reasons; in fact, with Obi-Wan Kenobi now starting to air on Disney, the timing couldn’t be better, as these volumes act as an almost perfect companion piece to that show. As with that series, the nostalgia is strong with this one. In all the terror, gloom, and danger, there’s a wonderful bit of fan service in this episode hearkening back to Episode I, and featuring more than one character from that movie, which warmed my heart and had me on cloud nine (before it all burned to the ground, naturally). Most all the Star Wars manga released thus far have been wondrous, but Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan may, by the end of its run, prove to be the best of the them all. ~ Twwk
Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan (light novel) is published by Yen Press.
Bond and Book
Musubu Enoki is a pretty typical high school boy, with two major exceptions: first, he is able to hear and talk to books, which he’s come to learn each have a voice of their own; and second, his girlfriend, Princess Yonaga, is herself a book. What an extraordinary and lovely idea for a series! Each chapter features Musubu interacting with another book as they work together to tend to some human counterpart. One or two original works are featured, but most of the novels and stories are classics or otherwise well-known, including Pippi Longstocking and the gothic tale, “The Surgery Room,” from which this volume receives its subtitle. It all sounds lovely. In practice, however, Bond and Book leaves much to be desired. Musubu isn’t particularly appealing as a character, and others are flat as well, though that can’t be said of Princess Yonaga, who trends in the opposite direction and is obnoxiously possessive of her boyfriend. Her relationship with Musubu is also strange, even by anime standards, exhibiting a discomforting sensuality that is related to the turning of pages. Ahem. The chapters themselves (each corresponding to a title) are of varying quality, with some showing promise that might be fulfilled in future volumes. However, it’s unclear to me whether Mizuki Nomura has continued this series beyond one additional novel, also released by Yen Press (and which we’ll review here soon). That’s a shame, for despite the weaknesses of this initial volume, I enjoyed a number of the stories, and am hoping for more—since much can be forgiven of a book that celebrates, and is written for, bibliophiles. ~ Twwk
Bond and Book (novel) 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.