It’s double the Rumiko Takahashi this week as we review the newest release in the special edition of her classic, Maison Ikkoku, as well as the manga adaptation of Yashahime, a spin-off of her famed series, InuYasha. Other volumes we’re looking at include a new villainess series and art-school shoujo!
7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy! (Vol. 1) • Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition (Vol. 8) • A Nico-Colored Canvas (Vol. 1) • A Serenade for Pretend Lovers (Vol. 1) • Wandance • Yashahime (Vol. 1)
Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition, Vol. 8
Yagami, Yagami, who is she again? Oh yes, the school girl in love with Godai! I don’t feel too bad about forgetting her momentarily since, as she herself says, it’s been six months since she last saw Godai. Dozens of chapters will often go by in Maison Ikkoku with significant characters barely receiving a mention, but when they do, they typically receive significant focus for chapters on end. And when the content continues to be as humorous as it is (in this case with Yagami becoming increasingly desperate but also tactical in her attempts to get near Godai and separate him from Kyoko), I can leave my own frustration behind and instead just enjoy the characters’ angst. And believe me, there is plenty of that to accompany a whole lot of laughs! This volume is marked further by the increasing persistence of Godai in seeking a stable career, and Kyoko in making a decision about him. The two remain wishy-washy, but there’s more resolve to Kyoko than there once was, and Godai experiences difficulties that can no longer be fully blamed on him. Both are growing up, which may be a strange thing to say about a widow in her mid-twenties, but it simply describes where these two are in life. There’s maturation happening, and still so much more to go—but doesn’t that ring true for most of us? The charm of this series lies in the fact that it’s impossible not to root for this pair through all their foibles and silliness. And just maybe that says a great deal about us as well. ~ Twwk
Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition (manga) is published by Viz Media. Volume eight releases on July 28th.
Wandance, Vol. 1
So, you think you can dance? Well, to be honest, Kaboku’s not sure he can. A past experience also has him frightened to death of trying, but after seeing the cheerful Wanda doing a solo dance, he decides to try to overcome his fear, joining her as a new member of their school’s dance club. Although I knew this basic premise by the volume’s description, I was still surprised as it unfolded because of the excellent execution. Kaboku isn’t the type I assume a dancer to be; he instead reminds me a lot of awkward high schoolers like I once was—the incredibly self-conscious type. When he decides to pursue dance, I was happy to see that it’s with an authentic sense of trepidation and that Wanda isn’t his pure, guiding light, but rather a strong support to help (not carry) him along the path he’s chosen. In terms of characterization, Kaboku’s stuttering adds another layer that makes the story interesting; I’m eager to see how the mangaka continues to work with that trait. I’m also excited to see more of Coffee’s artwork. It took me a while to adjust to how Coffee conveyed dance by using alternately very dark or bright backgrounds, with smudges, bursts, and dashes of shading to indicate movement. But once it clicked for me, I could “see” the dance and feel the rhythm. I typically stay away from musical manga because I feel I’m missing too much, so I must say bravo to Coffee for finding a way to help this critical reader see the musical movement. Speaking of critical, I should note that Wanda and Kaboku compare very favorably to My Dress-up Darling‘s Gojo and Marin—they’re not quite as cute, bursting with personality, or shippable, but they are more authentic and believable, and just as easy to root for. Fans of that series will like this one. For everyone else, give it a try, as you might just find yourself, as I did, catching the beat. ~ Twwk
Wandance is published by Kodansha.
7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy! Vol. 1
The tropes seem common enough: a “protagonist meets with a terrible fate, then goes back in time” plot, starring a standard light novel “villainess” (daughter of a duke, engaged to a prince). The tale opens as Rishe is publicly denounced by her princely fiancé…for the seventh time?! Yep. In six previous cycles, Rishe was dumped and exiled at age fifteen, lived to around age twenty, and died, only to restart at the scene of her rejection. As this seventh cycle kicks off, she takes a different route while fleeing the palace, leading to a (literal) run-in with Arnold, crown prince of a neighboring empire…and the bloodthirsty warmonger WHO JUST KILLED HER five years in the future, ending her sixth life and initiating this seventh. Quite taken with this unconventional young noblewoman, Prince Arnold is surprisingly quick to propose, and—despite her bafflement and misgivings—she ends up accepting. She aims to avert the devastating war she knows is coming, save Prince Arnold from becoming the evil emperor of her past lives, and above all, survive past age twenty. Rishe is a delightful protagonist—physically she’s fifteen, but thanks to the time loops she has an extra thirty years of life experience, and she leverages all the skills and knowledge she obtained in the prior loops to make the most of her seventh chance at life. She also has the confidence, eccentricity, and mild cynicism you’d expect from having gone through so many time loops. Arnold, for his part, is wonderfully respectful of his peculiar fiancée. Great book, definitely looking forward to the next volume. ~ jeskaiangel
7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy! is published by Seven Seas.
A Serenade for Pretend Lovers, Vol. 1
“Cute and silly” veers toward “erotic and creepy” when the fake relationship motif shifts from high school-aged characters who barely have any physical contact and blush at the slightest suggestion that they might actually like one another, to full-grown adults, including a woman just out of a relationship where she has been deceived into being “the other woman,” who decides that sexual contact should be part and parcel of the fake relationship. For his part, musician Chizuru Kobuchi feels that this is the only thing romance is about, and Akari Sayo, who has been cajoled into doing a documentary on him, doesn’t seem to much more about relationships and accepts the invitation to become his “pretend lover” in an attempt to inspire him to finish a piece he’s composing for a romantic film. The intimacy and urgency of the relationship, with Akari put into vulnerable positions several times over, is troubling. But most dreadful to me as a reader is how the mangaka wants to have his cake and eat it too, creating erotic panels for several pages and then jumping back to “tee hee” cutesy panels to keep from being a full-blown adult series. And perhaps that’s what makes the scenario most conspicuous: in a series with a consistently cute tone, the physicality would normally be toned down, while readers might expect the challenging or abusive elements in a harder-edged series. But put them all together and it results in a volume that doesn’t work at all. ~ Twwk
A Serenade for Pretend Lovers (manga) is published by Kodansha.
Yashahime, Vol. 1
Life is challenging for Towa, what with her white hair, unusual eyes, and cool mystique creating an unapproachable aura around her. But these social difficulties are a cakewalk for Towa compared to her side gig exorcising demons that virtually no one else can see. Gifted with a special power, Towa is about to realize that her life is even more epic than what she’s known so far, when her twin sister, Setsuna, and cousin, Moroha, travel through a dimensional portal to feudal Japan and take her back with them. There, it is revealed that Towa is the daughter of Sesshoramu and Rin, and niece to InuYasha and Kagome, and that it has been foretold that she and her two companions will set out on an adventure to save their respective parents! This adaptation of the anime, itself a sequel to the beloved anime based on Rumiko Takahashi’s classic manga, impressed me to no end. Although I’ve heard good things about the Yashahime anime, I’ve stayed away—it’s not a Takahashi work (though developed with her blessing and character designs), so how good could it really be? Well, potentially really, really good. Developed by mangaka Takashi Shiina, the series features plenty of throwbacks to the original manga, as it should, but also creates three distinct characters who are loveable in their own right: the earnest and caring Towa, excitable and fierce Moroha, and cursed and cool Setsuna. Volume one sets up their story, and by the end of it, I already cared about the trio, not only for their connections to those treasured characters of the past, but because they’re compelling in their own right. Though staying true to Takahashi’s unique atmosphere and tone, the manga is also its own animal, and volume one is dynamic and fun because of Shiina’s artistry and voice. An interview with him and Takahashi makes a nice bookend to volume one, right after the final panel showing the girls starting on their path to save their parents. They’re ready to go—and I’m ready for the journey with them as well. ~ Twwk
Yashahime (manga) is published by VIZ Media.
A Nico-Colored Canvas, Vol. 1
You’d think a free spirit would be right at home at art school, but Nico might be a little too unconventional even for her new college. From painting her professor’s face to organizing a showing of “failed” artists, Nico subverts expectations, supported by a talented friend and egged on by a boy who may or may not have her best interests at heart. Nico is adorable. In the vein of characters like Sarasa from Kageki Shoujo, Nico is hyperactive, genuine, and kind—a terribly easy protagonist to root for. But the rest of the volume leaves much to be desired. The other characters aren’t compelling, and the first “showdown” being set up feels both a bit too early and rather rote; there’s nothing in this volume that I haven’t read a thousand times before. You’d be wise to pick this series up only if you’ve finished better fine arts fare like Honey and Clover and the aforementioned Kageki Shoujo. ~ Twwk
A Nico-Colored Canvas (manga) is published by Kodansha.
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 they’re 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.