Fantasy romance and the modern kind take center stage in Reader’s Corner this week, as we dive into light novels and manga that revolve around love, some with sweeter tones and some more biting and fun. But it wouldn’t be a column without some sort of isekai, so we’ve got that, too, as well as our review of the first volume of a slice of life series that we’ll be going through the here on the column over the next several months!
The Drab Princess, the Black Cat, and the Satisfying Break-up (Vol. 1) • Fly Me to the Moon (Vol. 11) • Magical Explorer: Reborn as a Side Character in a Fantasy Dating Sim (Vol. 1) • Shortcake Cake (Vol. 1) • A Sign of Affection (Vol. 5) • Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion (Vol. 1)
The Drab Princess, the Black Cat, and the Satisfying Break-up, Vol. 1
In standard fashion for light novel fantasy-romances, Seren is the daughter of a duke and engaged to a prince. But then she overhears a conversation that seems to indicate Prince Helios doesn’t care for her and would much rather get together with her younger sister Marietta (emphasis on “seems”). The insecure Seren decides that this would be for the best and settles on a plan to get out of her engagement: she’ll secretly study intensively for a few months and take the exam to become a High Mage, a highly respected office which will give her the independent status necessary to break up without causing too much trouble. Seren’s magic instructor is the taciturn Archmage Viol, who masquerades as his own feline familiar. Meanwhile, the true intentions of some of the other characters may not be quite what they appear. Add in some bonus love interests seeking to win Seren’s heart, as well as lots of sweets, and call it a day. This volume somewhat resembles certain other series from the same publisher, but it avoids feeling derivative and gave me plenty of warm fuzzies. My one complaint is the issue of a guy in his mid-twenties repeatedly sneaking into a teenage girl’s bedroom, which is kind of creepy when framed that way. However, he only does so while shapeshifted into a cat, so maybe that partially mitigates it? Also, there’s potential for consequences once Seren finds out how she’s been deceived. Notwithstanding that awkward situation, I enjoyed this installment enough that I’ll definitely come back for the next volume. ~ JeskaiAngel
The Drab Princess, the Black Cat, and the Satisfying Break-up (light novel) is published by Cross Infinite World.
Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion, Vol. 1
It has been a little while since I’ve read a manga that has made me laugh as much as Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion, but this manga accomplished that and more! While I originally thought this story was another villainess isekai, I was quite thrilled to find that, yes, it is an isekai, but with a twist—Raeliana realizes she is actually a side character in a novel, who is also going to be killed by her fiancé! Using her memories of the novel from her past life, Raeliana devises a “plan” to not only break her engagement but also stay alive. However, she soon questions how good of a plan it was to propose a fake marriage to an even more powerful man then her fiancé, Noah Wynknight—who not only agrees to her “deal” but also announces that he has his own plans in mind too. Oh, how I enjoyed this story! I am already desperate for the next volume and officially placing this series on my I-must-read-it-as-soon-as-it-arrives list! I absolutely loved Raeliana and how strategic she is! She is truly such a fun character to follow, and even more so when Noah is involved! And speaking of Noah, I could not get enough of his conversation with Raeliana! The underlying snark and cleverness are everything! I am deeply enjoying seeing things unfold between them: they both have a chemistry that leaps off the page, and I could not stop laughing at some of their antics and conversations. Simply put, this manga is so very good and highly recommended! ~ Laura A. Grace
Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion is published by Yen Press.
A Sign of Affection, Vol. 5
Another volume of one my favorite series has been released, and it is absolutely precious! Yuki and Itsuomi continue to grow ever closer, with Itsuomi being more outspoken than usual in order to show how much he cares for our heroine Yuki. If there was ever any doubt that Itsuomi truly loves and care for Yuki, that doubt is no more! Granted, I didn’t have any doubt before now, but I think this volume confirms to Yuki that Itsuomi does have deep feelings for her. That said, I found it interesting that the opening chapter is centered around Yuki’s childhood friend (and “love rival”), Oushi! While I was surprised this chapter was included (because I want all the happy Yuki and Itsuomi right from the start!), I thought it was very good and helps show that he is not the “bad guy” I thought he was. And sweet Yuki! I loved seeing her grow as an adult and thought it really cool how this volume had a minor focus on her getting a job. I appreciated how our new couple has to find time and ways to see one another (and how Yuki questioned if these everyday moments such as him coming to her house just to see here would always be precious). So overall this felt like a somewhat slower volume (or maybe it was just more that our couple is doing “adult things” that made this volume feel different) but was still oh-so-delightful. As always, I can’t wait for the next volume! ~ Laura A. Grace
A Sign of Affection is published by Kodansha.
Fly Me to the Moon, Vol. 11
The adorably dorky lovebirds are still going strong! The barbecue planned in the previous volume turns out to be a surprise belated wedding reception, complete with some philosophizing about marriage. There are hints of mystery: Grandma Tokiko has something to do with why it took Tsukasa two years after their first meeting to reunite with Nasa. Tokiko also thinks to herself that Nasa is “the one” who “can satisfy your wish.” She gives Nasa a moon rock as a wedding gift, though she downplays its significance. Also appearing in this volume: Nasa and Tsukasa’s rebuilt apartment is nearly ready; Tsukasa is a gamer (and so is Aya!) but Nasa is…not; Nasa is a “terrible hugger,” so Tsukasa schools him on how to hug her; Nasa becomes a volunteer instructor of computer programming at an all-girls high school; and we close with the introduction of a seemingly important new character: a girl named Kaguya. Going back to that bit of philosophizing about marriage, Tsukasa brings up the ephemeral nature of human life (sounding very Ecclesiastes-ish), but says “There must be lights that never fade,” and expresses hope that some things last forever—specifically, love. “Marriage symbolizes eternity. A love that can never decay.” Considering how the eternal God of the Bible “is love” and how the scriptures so often compare the relationship between God and his people to marriage, Tsukasa is right on the money. Earthly marriage is a symbol of the eternal love between the Lord and his people. Surprisingly deep insights for a manga, and yet another reason to keep reading this fantastic series. ~ JeskaiAngel
Fly Me to the Moon is published by Viz.
Magical Explorer: Reborn as a Side Character in a Fantasy Dating Sim (Manga), Vol. 1
For all the gentle prodding that isekai works often receive for their extra-long titles, sometimes these titles manage to explain the series very succinctly. That’s precisely the case with Magical Explorer: Reborn as a Side Character in a Fantasy Dating Sim: the protagonist awakens in the game as Takioto, a friendly, airheaded, and over-the-top type of supportive character that I think we all would like to have in real life. But armed with a deep familiarity with the game, this Takioto hopes to keep his new world along the proper routes while achieving a new goal: to become the game’s most powerful character. Of course, by bringing in his encyclopedic knowledge of the different romantic routes and by changing his character’s personalities and goals, this Takioto is already making major alterations to the original story, though it’s hard to grudge him that when he’s such a likable and humble character. The first volume of the manga, based on a light novel, is terrific fun because this type of character deserves the spotlight, and it’s great to see him get it! Be warned, however, that the title doesn’t quite tell it all, for the fantasy isekai that the MC has found himself in is an eroge. There are a couple of surprising and graphic moments in volume one, and I expect many more ahead. I could have done without, as I think the story’s tone is far more fitting with a non-eroge game, and I count it as the only serious misstep in what’s otherwise an enchanting opening volume. – Twwk
Magical Explorer: Reborn as a Side Character in a Fantasy Dating Sim (manga) is published by Yen Press.
Shortcake Cake, Vol. 1
Thanks to the manga community on Instagram, I have started reading another super wholesome shojo called Shortcake Cake! This first volume centers around a young woman named Ten who makes the daily two-hour bus ride from school to home and vice versa. She claims that the long trip doesn’t bother her, but when her best friend invites her to hang out with some friends after school and she needs to leave early to catch the bus, she starts second-guessing her choice. When her best friend offers to let her stay at her boardinghouse, Ten decides to accept! This first volume was absolutely precious! I’ve only read two other manga that took place at a boardinghouse, and I think this one really caught me by surprise: all the boarding house members (minus one) are really young. It was refreshing and new to me! I thought Ten was a fun main character to follow and really appreciated how she is not boy-obsessed (unusual for a heroine in the majority of the shojo manga I’ve read) and that she’s not afraid to speak her mind. I also loved all her housemates, but I absolutely adored our love interest Riku! At the same time, Chiaki (our other potential love interest?) is a fun character who is supposed to be this popular guy with girls, but since his nose is always in a book, he doesn’t notice the girls around him! I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of this series after this great first volume! ~ Laura A. Grace
Shortcake Cake is published by VIZ Media.
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.