While settings, archetypes, and genres are so often limited in manga and light novels, this week’s selection demonstrates how creative writers and artists can be within these confines, from the humor of body-swap historical light novel Though I Am an Inept Villainess to the medical research high school romance, Mia and the Forbidden Medicine Report. But there are two unique series in our reviews this week as well: Manga Metamorphosis, the second in the Manga Messiah series centering on the life of Christ, and Look Back, a tender one-shot from the creator of Chainsaw Man.
As the Villainess, I Reject These Happy-Bad Endings! • Alice in Borderland (Vol. 3) • Look Back • Manga Metamorphosis • Mia and the Forbidden Medicine Report (Vols. 1-2) • Shortcake Cake (Vol. 7) • Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court (Vol. 1)
Look Back, Manga One-Shot
The extreme violence and sexuality of Chainsaw Man is both a magnet and a put-off, drawing in many readers and repelling others. But if both audiences define Tatsuki Fujimoto’s work by only the explicit imagery, they’ll miss the tenderness he’s able to convey. Look Back, a one-shot about two girls who draw manga, ditches the crazy, world-ending type of pain from Fujimoto’s most famous work and replaces it with a more personal kind. Fujino, a popular, prideful girl who doesn’t really seem to know why she draws other than for adulation, and Kyomoto, a shut-in who is kind and shy, both feel very authentic. There’s a realism to Fujimoto’s designs: even when he sometimes draws his characters with preposterous facial expressions and weird body angles, somehow it makes them feel less comical and more human, as well as imbuing them with personality. And as he’s apt to do, Fujimoto also takes the story in unexpected directions, leading to a creative and meaningful conclusion. This work is thoughtful and captivating, and perhaps a perfect primer for anyone under the impression that Fujimoto’s work is only skin deep. ~ Twwk
Look Back is published by Viz Media. It releases on September 20th.
As the Villainess, I Reject These Happy-Bad Endings!, One-Shot Light Novel
Iris is reincarnated as villainess of a “grimdark otome game” she enjoyed in her past life—a game known for how horrifying even the supposedly “good” endings were. As usual in this genre, Iris seeks to derail the plot to avoid doom, but she quickly gets sidetracked by a new mission: create a vaccine for the deadly “soilpox” virus (an illness clearly inspired by smallpox). Iris herself is a survivor (with the scars to prove it), and she deduces that a future soilpox outbreak is probably a big part of what causes two of the game’s love interests to be so messed up. Once the medical crisis is mostly settled, Iris finds herself (nominally) pitted against the game’s protagonist Camille in a “competition” to become the Sacred Maiden, despite Iris herself having no desire to compete. And so we get an isekai fantasy medical drama romcom—a rather unusual combination, but it works nicely. I especially appreciated the role of fairies in the story: they have just the right amount of whimsy and caprice, inhuman but not impersonal. Aside from unnecessary Protagonist Denseness Syndrome, I really enjoyed this standalone volume. ~ Jeskai
As the Villainess, I Reject These Happy-Bad Endings! is published by Cross Infinite World.
Mia and the Forbidden Medicine Report, Light Novel Vols. 1-2
In a fantasy world reminiscent of early twentieth century Europe, two mysterious diseases plague the land: the one drives magic users insane, and the other wrecks the immune systems of non-mages. Scholarship student Mia attends the royal academy in hopes of curing the latter illness—Demon Claw—because it afflicts her mother. She’s joined by a trio of potential love interests: Felix, the panic attack-prone, pretty-boy prince; manly Mathias; and smart-guy Henrik. Of course, inventing a new treatment for a previously incurable illness is kind of ambitious for a handful of students to do for their senior thesis, and the looming government conspiracy won’t make things any easier either. This light novel—part fantasy, part reverse harem romance, and part mystery—suffers from the sometimes rough translation and editing one often sees in Cross Infinite World’s earlier releases. However, aside from that, it’s quite an enjoyable tale. ~ JeskaiAngel
Mia and the Forbidden Medicine Report is published by Cross Infinite World.
Shortcake Cake, Manga Vol. 7
Thus far, Shortcake Cake has to be in my top 5 of most wholesome shojo manga I’ve read! Goodness, be still my heart because this volume delivered everything I have desperately been hoping since volume one! Ten has confessed her feelings to Riku, but rather than “jumping in” a relationship with him she asks him to wait! I did not see that coming! However, as shocked as I was about her decision, I love how Riku respected it even though we as the reader know he still likes her. As much as I might have internally grumbled about Ten’s choice of waiting to hear Riku’s response to her confession, I found her “consulting” her best friend of how to be pretty very relatable for a young high school girl. Those chapters of Ten and her best friend (as well as a few other friends from school) helping her become prettier were ones I really enjoyed because like Ten’s friends said, no, we don’t have to lose weight or wear makeup for someone to like us, but it does tend to be a natural go-to in trying to get our crush to like us. Ha! Though with that said, I love the takeaway that Ten speaks of after she feels she has finally “made it because she voiced how it’s important to look nice for yourself and thought that very true. Every page, every chapter of this volume really blessed my shojo-loving heart and reminded me why I absolutely love this genre so much! ~ Laura A. Grace
Shortcake Cake is published by VIZ Media.
Manga Metamorphosis, Manga (Manga Messiah, Vol. 2)
Having read years ago the first volume in this series, Manga Messiah, I had not got around to reading the other volumes that continue the New Testament books of the bible. I’ve owned all of them for quite a while, but like most people, I own books that I have not read. Seeing that a review hadn’t been written yet here on BtT, I gave it a read and have to say I regret not getting to it sooner. The illustrations usually look very detailed, though they sometimes go down a few notches and look rather childish. The series is meant for a younger audience, but I would have liked for the artists to keep the same level of excellence throughout. This volume deals with the book of Acts in its entirety, going from chapter one all the way to the end of Paul’s life. I’ve read the book of Acts myself, but it’s one thing to only read the words; it’s quite another to read a manga that brings those pages to life. The authors do add some dialogue that isn’t in scripture, but it gives the characters some development and helps us understand what’s going on. The Bible verses the pages reference are listed at the bottom, and there’s a map of Paul’s journey at the end of the manga. I found myself reflecting on God’s word, Paul’s life, and how Paul trusted in Christ throughout all his trials. I recommend this volume for those who want to see scripture come to life in a new way, especially for teens who may not be interested in reading the Bible. ~ Samuru
READ: Manga Majesty Review
Manga Metamorphosis is published by Next Manga.
Alice in Borderland, Manga Vol. 3
Trust. Memory. Love. For a death game story so full of violence, Alice in Borderland is quite a contemplative work, especially in the Beach arc. Volume two concluded with Arisu betrayed, tied up and awaiting his death as his time to play another game runs short. Meanwhile, the situation at the beach has suddenly become more wild and deadly, with the haven erupting in a frenzy of death and violence. I worried that with the death of what had appeared to be the main “team” in volume two, Alice in Borderland might turn more heavily toward shock value rather than meaning, but this arc proves my fear was unfounded. The deaths from the previous volume, plus insights into certain characters in this one (and not those one would expect), lead readers to contemplate how the worst in humanity can turn us into monsters—and how we may prevent ourselves from becoming that which we hate. All the while, Haro Aso weaves together a suspenseful tale where no one is safe. I was a little put off at first, when the Beach arc took a break and turned toward a side story for several chapters, but even that was moving and exciting. I’m now absolutely sold—Alice in Borderland is no Gantz, reveling in twisting its readers with shocking and graphic violence; it’s instead a thoughtful work because of that violence, a gripping and mesmerizing manga indeed. ~ Twwk
Alice in Borderland is published by Viz Media. Volume three releases on September 20th.
Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court, Light Novel Vol. 1
In a setting inspired by historical China, women of five clans compete for the crown prince’s favor. Keigetsu—jealous of the beautiful, smart, talented, and universally beloved Reirin—uses magic to perform a body swap. She frames her old body (now housing Reirin) for attempting to murder Reirin (who is actually now Keigetsu). And then the comedy starts. See, the chronically ill Reirin finds herself in a new, healthy body, while Keigetsu discovers she’s unwittingly saddled herself with Reirin’s sick body. Meanwhile, Keigetsu also uses magic to keep Reirin from telling anyone about the body swap, leaving everyone baffled at “Keigetsu’s” extreme personality shift and general antics. There’s some court intrigue and some hints of potential future romance, but the heart of this story is the humor, as the irrepressible Reirin (in Keigetsu’s body) constantly confounds everyone’s expectations. The volume concludes with a cliffhanger reveal that others have found out about the body swap, and I’m curious to see where the next volume of the story goes. ~ JeskaiAngel
Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court is published by Seven Seas.
“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.
Featured illustration by Aura (reprinted w/permission)