Epic wars, yokai, budding romances, and a kitty mark the releases our writers cover for this week’s column. The reviews include a couple of first volume releases—The Bride of Demise and The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World—along with continuing volumes of other works and even a one-shot period piece light novel.
The Bride of Demise (Vol. 1) • Cat + Gamer (Vol. 2) • Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle (Vol. 2) • The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World (Vol. 1) • Romance of the Imperial Capital Kotogami: A Tale of Living Alongside Spirits • A Silent Voice (Vol. 3)
Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle, Light Novel Vol. 2
Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle continues to perplex in volume two, featuring strong characterization for its titular character and a satisfactory conclusion, but also filled with a lot of mediocre and even discomforting material. Take, for instance, the entire first half of this volume, in which Chitose embarks on a fake romantic relationship with one of his friends (I could name her, but she’s as equally bland as the next girl in this series, so it hardly matters) to scare off a would-be stalker. We’re privy to his thoughts, which seem to confirm that this story will be about little more than defining infatuation as “love.” But about halfway through, Chitose explains to a just-introduced character what he thinks it means to be in love: it involves sacrifice, hardship, conflict, and authenticity—all things he and his friends tend to avoid. But as he also explains to Tomoya, he is also aware of this shortcoming: Chitose’s “harem” is filled with selfish kids whose “kind” actions are more self-serving than other students believe them to be. There are a few striking conversations, and a pretty smooth ending, but they’re few and far between. Instead, most of the novel features Chitose’s interactions with and thoughts about the various girls in his group, who are barely distinguishable from one another except by archetypal superficialities. At various times, I wondered if that was actually the point—that the author, Hiromu, doesn’t mean for the characters to stand out yet, both to build them up through their own arcs and to make a statement about superficial relationships. But ultimately, the banal conversations and unoriginal “romantic” situations suggest that Hiromu just doesn’t do high school romance particularly well. And while I appreciate the strength he does ultimately give this volume’s main female character, he also sometimes pulls the story into disappointing directions: at one point, Chitose pretends to sexually assault her to force her to become stronger (a common tactic these days, it seems, based on a similar situation in the Classroom of the Elite anime this season). To this, she responds that she’s leveled up, calling Chitose (albeit with some sarcasm) her “hero.” Yikes. The idea that his “girlfriend” needs to learn to move forward from trauma and stand up for herself is sound, but the execution is thoughtless, the character is too superficial, and the situation doesn’t ring true—something that could be said for too much of this volume and series so far. I hope the weaknesses improve as the volumes move forward, because there’s some great content in Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle—there’s just not enough. ~ Twwk
Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle is published by Yen Press.
READ: Chitose is in the Ramune Bottle Vol. 1 Review
The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World, Manga Vol. 1
Sometimes a generic series is exactly what you need. Ray White, ordinary and non-noble incoming student to the prestigious Arnold Academy, is of course not normal at all. He’s the “Iceblade Sorcerer,” a powerful magic user who was vital in a war three years prior. But he’s at the academy to enjoy his youth—beginning, of course, by forming a party (including a roommate/best buddy and a romantic interest) and facing a dangerous challenge in their first test. Yes, this volume resembles dozens of other similar fantasy series, including Dawn of the Witch and Didn’t I say to make my abilities average in the next life?! But the volume also knows it isn’t covering new ground: like its laid-back protagonist, it’s okay just going along with it. (And frankly, with how quickly things develop in these first sparse panels, it feels as if the writer knows that there isn’t much creative about these opening chapters and is hoping to make it quickly through the perfunctory material to get to the real tale.) The artwork for this manga adaptation of a light novel is similarly unpolished but functional, and the frequent and goofy humor lands pretty well. The volume is a fast read, a reasonable way to spend 15 or 20 minutes; I enjoyed the characters, snickered at the laughs, and wondered whether references to The Ancient Magus Bride (another magician named Ainsworth) and Fullmetal Alchemist (a powerful Bradley family and an Armstrong who also likes to take off his shirt and talk about his muscles) were intentional or lazy. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, because this volume is mostly fluff, and if you expect as much, this just might be the pleasant read you’re looking for. ~ Twwk
The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World is published by Kodansha.
Romance of the Imperial Capital Kotogami: A Tale of Living Alongside Spirits, One-Shot Light Novel
In the Taisho period Japan of a parallel universe,
Pokemon yokai are caught have their stories recorded in pokeballs books called Kotogatari by trainers Narrators, who can then call upon the power of these Kotogami to neutralize further yokai. Office worker Akari (coincidence, but funny!) hates stories like the legends and folktales recorded in Kotogatari. Why? Good question—one she herself has trouble answering. But when a rampaging yokai demolishes her apartment, she finds herself reluctantly involved with spirits, forcing her to confront her curious aversion to fanciful tales. This one-shot volume is a fantasy mystery in a historical setting; contrary to most Cross Infinite World releases, the only “romance” here is in the literary sense of that word, so don’t pick this up expect anyone to fall in love. I enjoyed this story both for its historical setting and the mystery, which did a marvelous job of being just simple enough that I could catch some clues and feel smart, while still keeping secrets from me till the end. And no, it’s not actually similar to Pokemon; that’s just me being silly. Recommended. ~ Jeskai
Romance of the Imperial Capital Kotogami: A Tale of Living Alongside Spirits is published by Cross Infinite World.
A Silent Voice, Manga Vol. 3
A Silent Voice is one of those unique series for which there really are not enough words to fully reflect your thoughts and feelings. Despite the personal turning point I reached in volume two (no longer strongly disliking Shoya), volume three was far from easy to read. In another attempt to befriend Shoko, Shoya unexpectedly finds himself in a position not only of being befriended but also of being the key player in Shoko forming new friendships with old classmates. Some reunions he creates will bring a smile to your face, while others leave a more-than-bitter taste in your mouth. Thankfully, the plot twist at the end took that awful taste out of my mouth! (Well, mostly, I think.) While I know this volume was more about focusing on Shoko and her encounters with old classmates, I absolutely loved seeing how Tomohiro and Shoya’s friendship has grown! In fact, the way that Shoya was so vulnerable when he told Tomohiro he was the only friend he could talk to really pulled at my heartstrings. On the flip side, there was one character that we meet who I did not like! I don’t care what this character’s reasons are, but it was wrong of her to want to see Shoya the way he used to be. Shoya is a totally different person now, and I was so glad that he stood his ground, telling her he didn’t want to be like her and have a dirty mouth. Despite my anger at this new character near the end of the volume, I still really enjoyed this installment and am very curious as to what will happen now that we have met these new classmates. ~ Laura A. Grace
A Silent Voice is published by Kodansha.
Cat + Gamer, Manga Vol. 2
Ever seen a cat in berserker mode? If you’ve owned one, I’m sure you have, but what Cat + Gamer does so well is to get us get us thinking of a kitty’s actions in the language of gaming. Riko, the titular gamer, sees the world through the lens of games, and that’s where most of the humor in Cat + Gamer comes from as, chapter by chapter, she interacts with and learns more about her new kitten, Musubi. While the series is neither uproariously hilarious nor deeply affecting, it is a relaxing, cute read, and volume two is better than the first, settling nicely into the pattern of 1) Musubu causes a problem 2) Riko finds her cute and irresistible anyway 3) Riko discovers something new about cats. Each chapter’s final page, which shows a scene from the preceding material but from Musubi’s point of view, is an adorable addition. The entire volume, in fact, exudes a sweet energy in every panel. And that’s exactly the kind of manga, I think, that could find a place in many readers’ bookshelves—though as Riko learns, beware of displaying anything you like because they might just become your kitty’s next plaything. ~ Twwk
Cat + Gamer Volume 1 is published by Dark Horse Manga.
READ: Cat + Gamer Vol. 1 Review
The Bride of Demise, Light Novel Vol. 1
There’s a whole lot going on in Bride of Demise. The sci-fantasy adventure dabbles in cyberpunk, is tonally grimdark, and takes place in a post-apocalyptic school setting. Combining elements of Starship Troopers, The Terminator, Re:ZERO, and The Executioner and Her way of Life, this ambitious series is a thrilling read—though it tries too hard to be too many things at once. The prologue (and shorter intros before each chapter) do a wonderful job of introducing the dark fantasy elements of a world in which much of the population was killed off by “kihei.” Kihei are creatures who combine organic and mechanic elements and are immensely dangerous, even to soldiers—most of whom are students attending a school that offers a number of different tracks for studying or learning to fight these enemies of mankind. Kou, our protagonist, is not in the combatant track—until a mission gone awry leads to him “marrying” the mysterious and powerful White Princess, which leads the pair to a secret class at the school and missions of epic proportion. In fact, volume one turns the dial up to 100 from early on. Keishi Ayasato has so much story to tell and so much ground to cover that he skips months at a time, jumping from major event to major event. He ultimately brings the tale together in a compelling and surprising finale, though like the rest of the volume, it’s a bit rushed. So to with the relationships in this book, particularly between the brides and grooms, who are supposed to have bonds that run deep and intimate. But the only bonding moments between Kou and the White Princess are in either action sequences or lofty words of love that unfortunately come across as rather melodramatic and mechanical. The dialogue is clunky and stilted, and the climactic emotional scenes aren’t quite as fulfilling as they should be. A shame, because Ayasato has an inventive mind and weaves a pretty tight tale that should land better than it does. Here’s hoping that volume two, which can’t possibly pass the heights of action in volume one (can it?), lets this story and its character breathe a little before throwing them into more daring and violent adventures. ~ Twwk
The Bride of Demise 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 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.