In this week’s column, we look back to a couple of classics (including one getting a reprint), and to the usual suspects: isekai, romcom, and…magical school?
Bleach: 20th Anniversary Edition (Vol. 1) • Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle (Vol. 1) • D-Genesis: Three Years after the Dungeons Appeared, Vol. 1 • The Liminial Zone • Mashle (Vol. 7) • A Silent Voice (Vol. 2)
Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle, Manga Vol. 1
When I reviewed the opening light novel on which the Chitose in the Ramune Bottle manga is based, I explained just how obnoxious the characters and series overall are. The titular Chitose is smart, athletic, popular, and arrogant. He’s also thirsted after by a swarm of equally high-stat girls who don’t mind being referred to as his harem. In this initial volume of the manga, Chitose’s homeroom teacher gives him the task of convincing shut-in Kenta to return to school. Chitose may be two-faced, putting on the role of the perfect guy in front of others while constantly thinking in harsh and judgmental terms in his mind; but that less-laudable, authentic part of his personality is bound to come out as he deals with the angry otaku Kenta. Despite all his flaws, however, Chitose is only mildly aggravating in the manga compared to the light novel. Without being constantly in Chitose’s head, readers don’t constantly run up against his conceit, and that’s a good thing—until perhaps it isn’t. I ultimately gave the light novel volume a good evaluation because of the strong hints that there’s depth to the series. We don’t get to that (at least not yet) in volume one of the manga, which reads as if it were the first volume of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki from Hinami’s point of view (and with none of her cute quirks). The storyline, in fact, is much the same, with Kenta taking Tomozaki’s place. I am eager to see how the manga handles the next volume, which should be better than this volume (if it follows the manga)—though it wasn’t too bad, especially when supported by the beautiful character designs and nice, crisp artwork. If you can stomach the lead’s arrogance, Chitose in the Ramune Bottle is definitely a series to keep an eye on. – Twwk
Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle (manga) is published by Yen Press.
Mashle, Vol. 7
If Mashle is a thinly veiled manga-ization of Harry Potter, then volume seven is this series’ Goblet of Fire, featuring top students in the school competing in a head-to-head tournament with high stakes and villainous surprises in store. In fact, it’s that last bit that’s most interesting in this volume, literally awakening me from my stupor and leading me to wonder if this series—which has for three volumes now transitioned away from straight-up comedy and more towards action and a fuller (though far less entertaining) tale—might now be gaining its second wind. Mashle, which can be forgiven for so closely emulating Harry Potter because the comedy is so uproarious, has become less and less interesting as it tries to explain the larger story of Mashle’s origins and his importance to the magical world as a non-magic user, as well as revealing a greater scheme of the villains of Innocent Zero. The jokes have slowed from a mile a minute to once or twice a chapter, and the action lacks suspense with its overpowered hero. But there’s promise in these chapters that some dramatic tension may have finally developed. I’d welcome that in volume eight—but not as much as I would a few more dozen references to cream puffs. – Twwk
Mashle (manga) is published by Viz Media.
D-Genesis: Three Years after the Dungeons Appeared, Vol. 1
In 2015, RPG-style dungeons began appearing across the globe; three years later, they remain profoundly enigmatic. When overworked chemist Keigo has an unexpected dungeon experience, he acquires a strange skill that opens the way for new research and development. Keigo and his partner-in-crime, Miyoshi, have a chance to obtain tremendous profits as they investigate the dungeon’s secrets; but they also risk getting dragged into fierce political conflicts (foreign and domestic). This story is part fantasy adventure, part science fiction, and part diplomatic/political thriller. (When I say sci-fi, I mean that if, say, a character acquires the power to manipulate magnetism, there will be a discussion of Faraday’s law of induction and the physics principles behind rail guns.) Besides the fun blend of fantasy and sci-fi, the story also sets a big mystery: the dungeons. What is their purpose, and who or what is behind them? Arcane inscriptions within the dungeons may hold the answer… In short, I really enjoyed this volume. I thought the magic-science blend—the intrusion of fantasy into our world—worked well and gave the story a unique feel. You can bet I’ll be back for the next volume. ~ JeskaiAngel
D-Genesis: Three Years after the Dungeons Appeared is published by J-Novel Club.
The Liminal Zone
Even Junji Ito’s “leftover” ideas turn into captivating “short stories” of horror and mystery. The Liminal Zone, developed out of old thoughts that he later decided to develop further, is a collection of four manga stories that were originally released in Japan on LINE’s manga app. They are diverse in topic and style, and all wickedly clever and mesmerizing: the tales range from one about a man who wakes with memories of slaughtering people in his sleep to another of a Catholic school gone awry via the corruption of its leader. While the former story is my favorite in The Liminal Zone (and the only one that I would call traditionally “frightening”), the latter one, “Madonna,” is certainly ripe for analysis on our Christian-focused blog. The story slowly unravels the history of corruption at the school, a corruption mixed with a theology that goes into deviant directions because of power gone unchecked. There’s something to be said here about how each of us, particularly leaders, can cause severe damage when indulging in sin; but the story also leaves room for hope through the kindness and purity of one character who does not fall. That story is certainly worth a closer look for Catholics and other Christians, but the other three in the collection are likewise excellent, combining various measures of whimsy, fantasy, the spiritual, and of course, horror. – Twwk
The Liminal Zone (manga) is published by Viz Media.
A Silent Voice, Vol. 2
I came into volume two of A Silent Voice with much hesitation after really despising Shoya’s actions in the previous volume. However, with this second volume, I strangely enough feel the tables have turned, and now my heart feels heavy for Shoya. I didn’t expect that my heart could feel this way after everything he’s done, but this volume really shows how Shoya has changed. It might have been five years since he bullied Shoko in elementary school because she couldn’t hear, but now he boldly declares to a new character, Yuzuru, that he will dedicate his life to Shoko and making up for all the wrongs he has done. We see him truly remorseful for his past actions and cannot help but feel compassion for him as he shares how he hates himself and how he views the people around him. As much as I didn’t like his earlier actions, I would never want him to take his own life or live completely alone. I was deeply concerned on his behalf and was very thankful for the very subtle change in him when he questions what friendship is and when a friendship forms. Also, as odd as it might sound, I was glad that this volume opened up with Shoko saying she hated Shoya. I don’t condone hate, but it made her character a lot more relatable because until this volume, I was genuinely at a loss to explain how she didn’t seem to express any anger. She continues to be a very inspiring person in that, despite her own feelings, she is still willing to give Shoya a second chance. Her actions are indeed humbling and inspire hope as I continue this series. ~ Laura A. Grace
A Silent Voice is published by Kodansha.
READ: A Silent Voice Reviews: Vol. 1
Bleach 20th Anniversary Edition, Vol. 1
I remember reading volume one of Bleach for the first time, picking it up in a Barnes and Noble and standing near an aisle of books, unable to stop myself from tearing through the manga. Twenty years later, an anniversary edition is coming out, but the sheen of the series has dimmed—by its conclusion, Bleach had become a textbook example of what happens when you create too many OP characters that you don’t know what to do with, either placing them in meandering, boring arcs or forgetting they exist for volumes on end. So why purchase this volume, whose only extra is new cover art from the launch of the series on Shonen Jump? Well, what’s the only reason for buying manga at all? Because it grabs you, because it’s engaging, because it’s good. And volume one still hits hard with slapstick humor, a really cool cast of characters (and two leads who are particularly endearing), and some pretty awesome action scenes. All these aspects get lost later on, but for one volume—and to be fair, for many thereafter—Bleach reminds readers why this series was so popular and beloved. For me, it was the manga most responsible for stirring my love of the medium. So for nostalgia’s sake, as well as for the strength of its initial chapters, I’m not sure there’s a single volume of manga that I’d rather own. – Twwk
Bleach 20th Anniversary Edition (manga) 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 those older titles that you might find as magical (or in some cases, reprehensible) as we do.