This week we continue with the newest volumes of favorites like Solo Leveling, which is receiving an anime adaptation, and Uncle from Another World (which has one currently airing), and review the initial offerings from a couple of fantasy series as well, including one in which the MC becomes a dragon…skeleton. Who says light novels have run out of ideas?
Chronicles of the Hidden World: How I Became a Doctor for the Gods (Vol. 1) • Minami Nanami Wants to Shine (Vol. 2) • My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong As I Expected (Vol. 14) • The Skull Dragon’s Precious Daughter (Vol. 1) • Shortcake Cake (Vol. 4) • Solo Leveling (Vol. 5) • Uncle from Another World, Manga (Vol. 5)
The Skull Dragon’s Precious Daughter, Manga Vol. 1
In the final few years of a dragon’s long life, he ends up taking care of an abandoned girl, Eve. Under his care, Eve reaches age 10 before her dragon caretaker finally closes his eyes for good—except that isn’t quite the end of his life, as Eve succeeds in returning his soul into a small dragon skeleton she made! Thus, the dragon accompanies Eve as she heads out of the forest she has lived in, to teach her how to live amidst society before his new body runs out of the magic power needed to contain his soul. This is an adorable and fun fantasy adventure manga, as Eve is both physically and magically gifted, yet also naive about the ways of the world and reckless in her approach to problems. The dragon, who Eve named Snoozy, serves as the straight man to her antics, and a few other supporting cast members appear to add to the fun. The volume ends with a nice heartfelt story arc and rounds out a very enjoyable read, and I definitely will be reading future volumes to see what antics Eve and her undead guardian get up to next. ~ stardf29
The Skull Dragon’s Precious Daughter is published by J-Novel Club.
Minami Nanami Wants to Shine, Manga Vol. 2
Minami Nanami, a happy-go-lucky girl who is silently suffering from insecurities, is my favorite character from Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, a light novel series I’ve been addicted to. But the first volume of her spin-off manga disappointed me, both by what seemed to be a very superficial theme and by rewinding Minami’s terrific character development from the original work back to almost zero. If volume two is any indication, however, my worries were unfounded. A major part of the improvement in these chapters is that Minami indeed is feeling pressure to become someone different. As she becomes more resolute in her decision to become a model, she has to navigate both superficial challenges, like improving her Instagram account, and deeper ones, such as determining whether she wants to be more like Aoi. While she wants to change, does she really want to become the kind of person who can be a successful model? The story leaves it unclear whether such changes are good, bad, or dependent on each person, but I’m okay with that ambiguity for now, as the series is demonstrating more depth and subtlety than I suspected from the first volume. I’m also glad to see several characters from the main series play a bigger role here than in volume one: in particular, Minami’s relationship with Tomozaki begins to blossom (and receives a specific nickname affecting the relationship development in the light novel). There’s no sign of romance yet. I’m eager to see how the manga tackles this friendship and which path it ultimately takes, as well as how Minami deals with her newfound desire to model and the worries that this choice is already giving rise to. What will she have to do, and who will she become? What does it mean for Minami to shine? Here’s hoping that future volumes continue to be as satisfactory as this one and show us a story and theme as bright as its protagonist. ~ Twwk
Minami Nanami Wants to Shine is published by Yen Press.
READ: Minami Nanami Wants to Shine Vol. 1 Review
Chronicles of the Hidden World: How I Became a Doctor for the Gods, Light Novel Vol. 1
Yae reincarnates in a setting that resembles Edo period Japan, except with yokai, beastfolk, and random giant-sized objects from our world. Most reincarnated people in the setting lose most of their memories of their past life, but Yae retains hers. She serves as a sort of shaman or priestess, performing rituals to pacify hostile spirits, until one day she gets shipped off (along with several other women) to be married to men in a neighboring settlement. But when monsters attack, the men leave her as bait to distract the yokai while they flee with the other women. A handsome tiger-man named Arai rescues her, then immediately tries to kill her, then instead demands that she heal his tiger-man brother Sui. Talk about indecisive. With the supernatural manifesting through curses, food, transformations, swords, boundaries, and sacred spaces, this story has strong fairy tale vibes, and its world feels full of magic and mystery. I have no particular complaints about the book, so whether you read it will come down to whether this type of story interests you. I’ll plan to read at least one more volume. ~ Jeskai
Chronicles of the Hidden World: How I Became a Doctor for the Gods is published by Yen Press.
Uncle from Another World, Manga Vol. 5
After the tsundere elf comes to Uncle’s aid when he’s stuck in the form of a dragon, the two visit a hot spring, slowing down the isekai narrative and showing some unexpected progress in their relationship—though whether Uncle notices is a different question! Volume five of Uncle from Another World indeed seems to move the plot along surprisingly well for a series that’s more about laughs than story, both with Uncle’s potential relationships (friendly and amorous alike) and with Fujimiya and Takafumi. Of course, the story is still mainly about the humor, and the jokes continue to be just as uproarious as in previous volumes. But the hint that Uncle and elf may actually end up together at some point? This storyline has grown to become important to me. It’s a testament to how a series that has A+ comedy can also be imbued with plenty of heart. ~ Twwk
Uncle from Another World is published by Yen Press.
Solo Leveling, Light Novel Vol. 5
“Who am I?” For all the fun and excitement of reading about Jinwoo’s journey to becoming a near-invincible hunter, Solo Leveling has never answered this primary question. But volume five finally begins to unravel the mystery of why it’s Jinwoo who reawakened as apparently the most powerful being in this universe (and across others) by being returned to the double dungeon that started this entire adventure. While I can’t say that the answers given are particularly unique or earth-shattering, they do fit perfectly well with the story while continuing to develop the tale of Jinwoo’s unstoppable growth, which is what’s most addictive about Solo Leveling in the first place. More importantly for me, however, is that the revelations actually return some humanity to Jinwoo. Over the course of these novels, I’ve struggled with two key points—the first being that Jinwoo is fairly merciless, making it hard to root for him beyond cheering his physical feats, much like appreciating a football player’s skill on the gridiron even if he’s a terrible human being. I wondered if Solo Leveling would address this defect; and while it doesn’t work an explanation into the storyline, volume five has Jinwoo appearing as a much better human being than in previous issues. The second challenging area is in how much Korean nationalism oozes through in the writing, vilifying Japan and torturing Japanese characters. However, this volume walks back that concern somewhat as well. So although this volume doesn’t get the adrenaline flowing quite the same as the others, it rewards readers with a slightly kinder tale, which has been the only thing I’ve missed in Solo Leveling. ~ Twwk
Solo Leveling is published by Yen Press.
My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong As I Expected, Light Novel Vol. 14
I’ve long been critical of the final volumes of My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected (Oregairu) and its anime adaptation, which I have blogged about episodically. The series loses its humor, meanders, and leans too heavily on melodrama in volumes 12 through 14. But reading the official release of volume 14 for the first time gave me an opportunity to reconsider, and now—several years after the light novel came out in Japan (and some time after the anime ending as well)—I’ve separated some of the disappointment I felt from earlier readings of my favorite series and am able to give the conclusion more of a fair shake. My verdict? Yes, it’s still far too melodramatic for a series about three kids who are basically just learning what it means to grow up, but I’d forgotten that it’s still quite an engaging read. It’s heartwarming to see Hikki finally approaching that something genuine he’s been striving for. And there remain bits of humor here and there that remind me of earlier, better volumes. Still, the issues with the prom arc are clear: it’s overblown and entangled (two proms?!), with Watari writing himself into a corner (apparently at the publisher’s behest) instead of completing the series more quickly and effectively. It’s an overly dull, not-warm-enough ending for such a beloved series and for the mountainous heights Yukinon and Hikki have reached in their character and relationship growth. Their development here should mean more. A meh conclusion, but a fine, fine series regardless. ~ Twwk
My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong As I Expected is published by Yen Press.
Shortcake Cake, Manga Vol. 4
I’m pretty sure I was riding on a book high at the end of the previous volume because is that the #TeamRiku ship sailing?! While I might have celebrated a little too early to say the ship is officially sailing, I deeply enjoyed seeing Ten explore her feelings in this volume when that kiss Riku gave her left her in a panic. However, while she works through her feelings, Chiaki has also been working through his own about Ten, and his emotions only grow stronger throughout this volume. While I’m not necessarily rooting for Chiaki when it comes to the romance, I really enjoyed getting to know more about him and how he thinks. The way he internally describes and compares himself to stories he’s read and bookish quotes he knows made it fun and provided insight into his own struggles. He wants to be a great friend to Riku, but he also wants to explore his feelings and pursue Ten, which leads to all three of them going to the beach together for a day! I often found myself like Ten: I would look forward to what would happen next, but also feel a little disappointed because I wanted more of those wholesome interactions between Ten and Riku we had previously. That ending, though, had me beyond excited because Ten has a powerful revelation about her own feelings. I cannot wait to see how things will unfold in the next 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 those older titles that you might find as magical (or in some cases, reprehensible) as we do.