Everything old is new again! This anime season has seen the return of classics like Urusei Yatsura and Bleach, so we thought…why not cover the latter as a throwback by a reviewer who has never read it? We’re also looking at the first volume of another classic that’s soon to receive a reboot, Trigun: Maximum. They join a host of other releases this week, including a romcom full of imagination and the 12th and final review for Shortcake Cake!
Banished from the Hero’s Party: I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside (Vol. 2) • Bleach (Vol. 1) • I Am Blue, In Pain, and Fragile • Imaginary (Vol. 1) • Kaiju No. 8 (Vol. 4) • Shortcake Cake (Vol. 12) • Trigun: Maximum (Vol. 1)
Shortcake Cake, Manga Vol. 12
This ending of this amazing and heartfelt series only confirms to me that I will binge-read anything Suu Morishita writes (and legally gets translated/printed in English). Such a beautiful and fantastic ending! Seriously, I’ve reread this final volume at least two or three times now because it gives all the warm, happy feels and so deeply thankful that everyone can be together. Yes, we see in some of the bonus stories that certain characters went to different places, and aren’t altogether, but the way they keep in touch and the happiness they have when they are together is so beautiful given what has transpired over this series. I deeply loved Ten and Riku’s happy ending and how there was even a surprise happy ending for a set of side characters! It made me smile and laugh and feel it only continued until the final page. I think the cover honestly wraps up what this final volume conveys not only for the characters, but I think the reader too. I know it certainly made me smile! (The cover and the ending.) I think the only sad part is knowing that the series is indeed over. It’s been a beautiful and wonderful journey with these characters and thankful that Ten made the decision to live in a boardinghouse because otherwise we might have not gotten this touching and powerful love story of not only between friends, but between two brothers who found healing as well. Shortcake Cake is a series I highly recommend! ~ Laura A. Grace
Shortcake Cake is published by VIZ Media.
Imaginary, Manga Vol. 1
Imaginary is what happens when a mangaka combines the mundane with the fantastic, and has the skill and, indeed, imagination to back it up. The story begins with the most ordinary of manga romcom framing—boy (Takasu) reconnects with girl (Maika), and the childhood friends kindle what could become a romance. But this is where Imaginary separates from other romantic comedies, by how it lives in the character’s minds. For instance, as Mai rides home on the train after seeing Takasu, she spies a boy looking out a window, and remembers how she did the same as a child, imagining a ninja leaping from building to building across the quickly passing landscape. Mangaka Niiro Ikuhana illustrates these thoughts, and he depicts action and the fantastic more sharply than “real life”—which he’s quite good at depicting, too! He also excels at transitioning from scene to scene, with an unusual flow that keeps readers on their feet. Instead of portraying what happens when Takasu visit Maika’s apartment, for example, he shows the scene where the two finally decide to go over, shifts immediately to Mai reporting that nothing that occurred to a friend, and then shifts to that friend’s life. It’s a deft technique that makes the normal ebb and flow of life engaging, and when combined with the fantasy sequences, helps bring each of the characters to life. This includes Mai’s three friends, who receive intimate treatment and avoid becoming simple side notes to the main story. In fact, the friendship between the four girls is as central as the budding romance, and in volume one (perhaps as insinuated in the mangaka’s very interesting postscript) this is really the heart of the tale. The artwork is sharp, detailed, and unique, adding another engaging element to the manga. (Warning: an early illustration is quite vivid in its depiction of Mai’s body; it demonstrates the quality of the volume’s artwork and also some of the lesser, but still present, fanservice throughout the book). If there’s one negative, though, it’s this: I don’t know if I can be okay with traditional romcoms any longer—not when there’s something as creative, thoughtful, and fulfilling as Imaginary out there. What a remarkable piece of art! ~ Twwk
Imaginary is published by Seven Seas.
I Am Blue, In Pain, and Fragile, One-Shot Light Novel
Being a university student is hard. (And no, I’m not just saying that because it’s midterm season.) University is that time where society throws you and a bunch of other half-adults into the pressure cooker of classes and social groups until you somehow figure out your career and worldview and life. It’s disorienting, especially since university is often your first foray beyond the insular world of high school and family into a world that isn’t too kind to dreamers. And I Am Blue, In Pain, and Fragile gets this. Kaede and Akiyoshi, two university students who create a club dedicated to pursuing their shared dreams of universal peace and happiness, soon find themselves in over their head and questioning the practicality of those dreams. The book focuses on Kaede in particular, who reminded me of Kanae from I Will Forget This Feeling Someday—ambitious but single-minded, distant but fragile, and longing for healing and hope. And also like that book, this one focuses much on the passing of time, the pain we endure and inflict, the pressures of social life, and the possibility of reconciliation. What stands out here is Yoru Sumino’s piercing depiction of how institutions can careen out of the control of the people behind the wheel. It’s a relevant point of warning for college students especially. Don’t let your ambitions outpace your character. Don’t let yourself hurt others, even your enemies. Don’t use others as tools, even to take hold of the things that are meaningful to you. Those are timely messages, and they make the book shine—though I will say it shines a little more dimly than some of Sumino’s other works. While Kaede and Akiyoshi get their full stories told, the rest of the characters get shoved to the side after their time in the light. And despite all that, there’s never an explanation for why Kaede developed the worldview that he holds, even though Sumino drops hints at such an explanation throughout the book. But hey, the sky is still blue, even if a few clouds block the view. ~ sleepminusminus
I Am Blue, In Pain, and Fragile is published by Seven Seas.
Banished from the Hero’s Party: I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside, Manga Vol. 2
The way volume one of Banished from the Hero’s Party ended left me worried and disappointed. Would the charming fantasy and romance and engaging flashback structure displayed earlier in that work go the way of the birds? Thankfully, volume two proves my concerns unfounded. Rit and Red continue to grow more intimate with one another through their cute interactions and as the former powerful warriors set aside the sword to run a pharmacy. There are obstacles in the way, though, such as that many residents aren’t willing to let Red “abscond” with their beloved protector princess. But far more concerning is a looming threat that neither is considering—what the hero’s party has been up to and how it still may impact Red. This volume employs three different settings, and all contribute to making the story compelling. The current time frame and its cutesy goodness are much welcomed, but so is a flashback showing more about Rit’s initial meeting with Red, further developing the context of their friendship (turning more and more toward romance), and introducing another member of the hero’s party who is a key character. Actually, that member is briefly introduced earlier in this volume through another present-day scene that shows the readers that the hero’s party doesn’t devalue Rit as much as he believes them to. That opening adds an encouraging tone to the work while keeping the menace of the evil world looming large in the tale, ensuring that readers are rewarded with the conflict we desire while still being able to enjoy a story that’s mostly just heartwarming. ~ Twwk
Banished from the Hero’s Party (manga) is published by Yen Press.
READ: Banished from the Hero’s Party Vol. 1 Review
Kaiju No. 8, Manga Vol. 4
I am convinced that no volume of Kaiju No. 8 can be less than five stars because it’s just that good! This series continues to be my favorite ongoing shonen series and rightfully so! Every. Single. Time. I pick up a new volume, I am completely immersed in the story, with volume four being no exception. To echo Kafka’s thoughts in the beginning: “Everyone is so amazing!” This volume kicks off right where the previous volume ended with the vice-captain, Hoshina, battling one of the strongest kaiju we’ve seen thus far. Just when it appears that the Defense Force is victorious, the daikaiju launches a surprise that only Kakfa’s detection ability reacts to. How is he going to help fight, keep his comrades safe, and not reveal his secret? I have been eagerly anticipating this specific volume because I wanted to see more of Hoshina, and it did not disappoint! Granted, no volume in this series has disappointed me, but seeing Hoshina in action was absolutely incredible! His fighting technique is so engaging to watch, and I was almost giddy at seeing his backstory despite also being angry about what people told him. Ha! I was completely on edge throughout all of his scenes as he began to reach his limits—but just when I thought I couldn’t be more on edge, a situation unfolded that left me wondering as to what will happen to Kafka and everyone involved. If you’re a fan of the series, do not miss out on this volume! The stakes get higher the more the series unfolds, and I am extremely desperate for the next volume so I can know what happens next! ~ Laura A. Grace
Kaiju No. 8 is published by VIZ Media.
Trigun: Maximum, Manga, Vol. 1
In the early years of my exposure to the expansive genre that is anime, Trigun was one of those top tier ones that I remember enjoying. I’ve only watched the anime, which I feel is still fun, but I have not read the manga and have only heard about Trigun Maximum. I bought volume one to see what it was about, as I assumed it would just rehash some episodes from the anime. In fact, it’s a continuation from a certain point in the anime and has a lot of new story that I was excited to discover. It starts off with Vash the Stampede in retirement after several rough battles. His friend Wolfwood finds him and pushes him to come back and help the people that need him. In the midst of this, the town Vash is staying at is attacked by a gang, so he jumps in to save them. Familiar faces return and the story continues to unravel as Vash seeks Knives, his nemesis. It’s great to get back to one of my nostalgic and favorite anime, and I’m glad there’s more that I haven’t read up on. So Trigun Maximum, even though it is an older manga, is fresh for me and I want to see what happens next! ~ Samuru
Trigun: Maximum is published by Dark Horse Comics
Bleach, Manga Vol. 1
I have a number of huge geek gaps when it comes to anime and manga. I have filled in some of those gaps over the years by reading all the Dragon Ball and One Piece manga, being fully up to date on both. As the new Bleach anime series dropped recently, I ended up deciding to try out that manga series. So glad I did. For those, like me, who were unaware, Bleach is set in a world where soul reapers come to help the souls of the dead move onto the next life. Some souls with unfinished business transform into monstrous forms called Hollows. Soul reapers should not be seen by humans. Enter our titular hero Ichigo, a human who can see spirits and also, apparently, Soul Reapers. Through an accidental moment where a Soul Reaper is injured, Ichigo transforms into both Soul Reaper and human to protect his family. The story is fast-paced from there, introducing new characters, new Hollows, and great action scenes in the first volume. Tite Kibo’s art is effortlessly cool and the Hollows are frighteningly monstrous in the best way. If you like action stories, this may be for you. And me, apparently. I guess my biggest complaint is that it took me this long to check it out. ~ MDMRN
Bleach is published by Viz Media under their Shonen Jump imprint.
READ: Bleach 20th Anniversary Edition, Vol. 1 Review
“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.