As one classic series nears its end (Maison Ikkoku), other manga and light novel series are just beginning, with our reviews including a romance that we thought was quite a lot better than early reviews indicated (No Longer Heroine). We also dig into the latest from an author whose last novel was the subject of our last Light Novel Club meetings and which just received an anime adaptation.
Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade (Vol. 1) • Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition (Vol. 9) • My Wonderful World (Vol. 1) • No Longer Heroine (Vol. 1) • Shortcake Cake (Vol. 8) • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs (Vol. 5) • Wait for Me Yesterday in Spring
Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition, Manga Vol. 9
It doesn’t seem possible that a series whose humor (and every chapter) is based on romantic misunderstandings could ever resolve in a romantic and fulfilling way. But somehow, as Rumiko Takahashi guides one of her classic series near its conclusion, she’s able to handle her subjects, Godai and Kyoko, gently and meaningfully, even as the trademark miscommunications continue. Yet, the two have matured, particularly in the second half of Maison Ikkoku‘s run, so the same irresponsible failures by Godai and overreactions by Kyoko will not do. Instead, Godai must succeed as a responsible adult, while Kyoko has to resolve her relationship with Mitaka once and for all. That latter bit is at the heart of this volume, creating a number of tender moments as the main love rival in the series takes center stage and puts his heart on the line. And though his storyline in these chapters naturally involves a crude misunderstanding, it’s also gentle and sensitive, reminding readers that Takahashi is as adept at drama and romance as she is at humor. The volumes ends, though, on a series of sudden and impassioned events that draw us right to edge of the manga’s climax. Only one volume remains, and the biggest misunderstanding of all—one that could permanently break apart Kyoko and Godai—may have been saved for the very end. ~ Twwk
Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition is published by Viz Media.
Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade, Light Novel Vol. 1
Imagine you’re watching a gritty, realistic war movie, complete with standard war story characters—the inexperienced private, the by-the-book NCO, the martinet staff officer, the grandfatherly general, etc. Except suddenly Goku shows up with Ultra Instinct and derails absolutely everything, leaving both sides befuddled by his absurd power and eccentric behavior. That’s kind of what this fantasy-adventure war-story comedy is like, and it’s great! Having been raised in isolation by a mysterious, grim-reaper-like being that calls itself Z, Olivia ventures out into the world after her caretaker disappears. She stumbles into a continent-spanning war, ends up joining the side that is losing, becomes a hero, and starts turning the tide. Olivia’s unconventional upbringing has made her totally OP, but also quite lacking in what others consider common sense. She’s basically the funny man to a whole cast of straight men. I found this story quite entertaining and will definitely pick up the next volume. ~ Jeskai
Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade is published by J-Novel Club.
Wait for Me Yesterday in Spring, One-Shot Light Novel
Frustrated with his dad and with the burdens of Tokyo life, Kanae Funami ditches spring break supplementary classes and hightails it back to Sodeshima, his backwater hometown. Things have changed little back home. The town is still and quiet, almost dying; his grandmother and sister still live in their childhood home; and his childhood friend Akari Hoshina still wanders the seaside paths. But tragedy strikes swiftly, and in its aftermath, Kanae finds himself thrust five days into the future. What emerges is a weighty but hopeful story about the passing of time, loss and healing, and the disarming power of kindness in the face of cruelty. It’s a beautiful vision: a vision of a universe where there’s a good ending for all who seek it (and sometimes even for those too tired to try). Sadly, this vision is obscured by a convoluted time travel setup, which goes unexplained even as the author takes great pains to convince us it’s the most natural thing ever. And the outpouring of melodrama clashes sharply with the book’s subtle, reflective setting. These things aren’t new for Mei Hachimoku, either; I noticed a lot of similar issues in The Tunnel to Summer when we read that for the light novel club. Ultimately, though, it’s that beautiful vision that keeps me coming back to this novel, even if it does make waiting for the next Hachimoku release in English a little harder to bear. ~ sleepminusminus
Wait For Me Yesterday in Spring is published by Seven Seas.
No Longer Heroine, Manga Vol. 1
I told myself that I had zero plans to pick up No Longer Heroine because of overwhelming negative reviews for the series I had seen prior to its release. After a spontaneous trip to the bookstore though, I walked away with volume one in hand and a deep curiosity about whether I would like it. While I always love my wholesome shojo heroines, the heroine of this story, Hatori, is far from typical. Never mind the fact that she proclaims herself the heroine of her own love story and her childhood best friend, Rita, the hero. After all, she knows him better, and has loved him longer, than anyone else. Every other girl that tries to win his playboy heart doesn’t really have a chance. She’s got destiny on her side, so there is no rush to confess and let him know her feelings, right? This story was hilarious! I came in nervous and expecting not to like it, but ended up enjoying it far more than I anticipated. Hatori’s actions are funny more often than not because of her facial expressions—but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s an internal snob, is rude, and can be mean. While that might sound like a turnoff to read this, I love how as the story progresses: she knows she these things about herself and wants to change. Rita is also quite the interesting hero and felt a little bad for him at times, but I definitely want to see how their “love story” will unfold! No Longer Heroine was surprisingly refreshing and such a fun read! ~ Laura A. Grace
No Longer Heroine is published by Yen Press.
My Wonderful World, Manga Vol. 1
I became aware of dyslexia the way many Americans did—through an episode of The Cowboy Show in which teenager Theo Huxtable learns that his struggles in the classroom arise from this learning disorder. It was a cultural milestone for the country. But judging by the very existence of My Wonderful World, including the author’s note at the end of volume one where the mangaka admits never even hearing about dyslexia until about a decade ago, Japan may have never had a similar moment. So this series functions as an introduction to dyslexia through the eyes of Shinobu Asakura, a young man who cannot read or write well and has difficulty holding down even part-time work. When he uses his cell phone to help him cope at his new job and is consequently let go, he serendipitously meets a cafe manager who explains to Shinobu that—like himself—he seems to have dyslexia. Shinobu’s new friendship with the manager opens doors—and create struggles—that are explored through the rest of the volume. Though he now identifies himself as dyslexic, he still struggles with how to interact with the world—with (as the manager explains to him) what exactly it is he wants to say. I think that’s what I appreciated most of this manga volume: it isn’t just the primer for understanding the disorder, though it will help many readers in this way; it also portrays Shinobu in an authentic life, with his foibles and struggles. This is a strong start for an important work. ~ Twwk
My Wonderful World is published by Kodansha.
Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs, Light Novel Vol. 5
The Alzer Republic arc of Trapped in Dating Sim, especially the storyline in volume five, is a misstep for what has otherwise been a wildly entertaining series. After reaching a peak in volume three, which resolves the arc portrayed in the recent anime adaptation, volume four swept Leon, Marie, and the “Idiot Brigade” to a kingdom run by arrogant nobles who obtain power from holy trees. Volume five continues this study-abroad arc, but travels down an unsavory path in which the possessive Loic makes political dealings and military maneuvers in an attempt to secure Noelle as his bride. Loic is vicious and abusive in this novel, which could make for an interesting tale but ends up feeling flat, uncomfortable, and—maybe worst—unimaginative for a story that’s been fun for its creativity and wink-wink attitude toward isekai and otome light novels. Most of the rest of this volume feels similarly dull. Some of that is because the Alzer Republic is just less interesting than Holfort: its hallmarks are a misplaced pride in their military based on the power of the Sacred Trees (which don’t get the same sort of rich mythology as the Juraian trees of Tenchi Muyo) and the noble houses (filled with flat characters) that rule the nation. Even less forgivable is how Noelle is reduced to a crying victim, left to be rescued while her own powers and will are stripped from her. Just as Asuna depends on Kirito or Rukia on Ichigo, Noelle awaits rescue by Leon, who has little to do in this series until called upon. His usual biting banter with Luxion is largely replaced by Loci’s abuse of Noelle, leaving Trapped in a Dating Sim to feel for the first time like a more typical isekai, and a rather boring one at that. Even so, there are some bright points, including Marie’s developing relationship with Leon; the characterization of Lelia, whose relationship with Noelle feels like the antithesis of Hertrauda and Hertrude from volume three; and the Idiot Brigade, who in the absence of Leon and Luxion must serve as the only source of humor for most of the volume (our crown prince handles this job exceptionally well). And thankfully, as the volume ends, there are signs of better storytelling ahead. I’m hopeful that even though a return to Holfort is still a ways away, this series will move back on track and return to what it does best: having fun at the expense of isekai and otome tropes with a lead and companions that are at their best when interacting with one another in all their goofiness and glory. ~ Twwk
Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs is published by Yen Press.
Shortcake Cake, Manga Vol. 8
I think prior to this volume, if someone were to say Shortcake Cake is a “fluffy shojo” I would quickly and heartedly agree. However, with volume 8, I would be hesitant to agree because there seems to be a gradual transitioning in this volume. Now don’t get me wrong! We definitely have lots of fluffiness in this volume because it begins with our couple officially heading to Ten’s home to see where she grew up and (much to Riku’s surprise) meet her family on Christmas Eve. Not only that, but they have an excellent and super romantic moment at New Year’s (which I’m pretty sure turned my heart to mush)! Yet within these moments, we see there is a deep sadness to Riku due to his past that hasn’t been quite “unveiled” like this in previous volumes. Yes, we know things have happened that have involved his brother Rei, but this volume looks like it’s going to be the catalyst in bringing Riku’s past to light. Based on these events and newfound knowledge about Riku’s family, I have a strong feeling it is going to be very heartbreaking in learning more about Riku’s past. Not quite sure my heart is ready, but I did love how we are getting to know a side character (Shingen) that we’ve briefly seen/met so far! I feel cautiously optimistic for the next volume even if my heart did feel heavy at the end of this one. ~ 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.
Featured illustration by Lumo_1121 (reprinted w/permission)