Reader’s Coffin: Junji Ito’s Black Paradox, Zombie Makeout Club, and Kaiu Shirai x Posuka Demizu: Beyond The Promised Neverland

Welcome to a special Reader’s Corner—or should we say, Reader’s Coffin! As Halloween looms, we dive not only into the usual fray, but also the unusual: series with titles like MonsTABOO and Zombie Makeout Club; a collection of one-shots from a series that is perhaps best described as horror, The Promised Neverland; and a classic work newly released in North American by Junji Ito. Did we enjoy the macabre and spookiness of it all? Scroll down into our crypt to find out!

Black ParadoxFormerly, the Fallen Daughter of the Duke (Vol. 2)Kaiu Shirai x Posuka Demizu: Beyond The Promised NeverlandMonsTABOO (Vol. 2)My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected (Vol. 14.5)Sasaki and Peeps: That Time I Got Dragged into a Psychic Battle in Modern Times While Trying to Enjoy a Relaxing Time in Another World ~ Looks Like Magical Girls are on Deck ~ (Vol. 1)Zombie Makeout Club

Black Paradox, One-shot Manga

Have you ever tried to describe a Junji Ito story to someone? It’s not an easy task. Take Black Paradox, for instance—is it a horror story? Cautionary tale? A philosophical take on the nature of humanity and the soul? Are we supposed to sympathize with the group of four main characters who originally assemble to commit suicide together, or are they villains as much as later character who takes advantage of the mystical situation they happen upon? A final few frames cause the reader to wonder what we should ultimately think of the story, which veers from horror toward sci-fi as it progresses. However one describes Black Paradox and the four deeply flawed characters it focuses on, there’s no doubt that (as is true with so many of Ito’s works) this is a masterpiece. Grotesque enough to get readers in the spooky mood, but thoughtful enough to read (and reread!) in any season, Black Paradox is discomforting, enthralling, and creepy, and it’s also one of the best reads of the year. ~ Twwk

Black Paradox is published by VIZ Media.

Sasaki and Peeps: That Time I Got Dragged into a Psychic Battle in Modern Times While Trying to Enjoy a Relaxing Time in Another World ~ Looks Like Magical Girls are on Deck ~, Manga Vol. 1

Sasaki is a lonely corporate drone closing in fast on his forties when he decides to take the plunge and…adopt a pet! He can’t afford a cat or a dog though—the initial payout is too high—so he settles for a (suspiciously?) cheap Java sparrow that just happens to be able to talk. Which is cute, right? And perfectly normal too…right? Once Sasaki gets his new feathered friend home, though, it turns out that the sparrow can say an awful lot more than just “Pick me!” and is in fact a powerful mage reincarnated from another world. The two form a contract, and—hey presto!—cue the world-hopping shenanigans! What follows is part lesson in comparative economics and trade, as Sasaki and Peeps (or Piercarlo, as he calls himself) play carpetbagger between worlds, and part isekai slice-of-life, as Sasaki sets his sights on making enough money to finance extended vacations in both the other world and Japan. Temporal mechanics and magical training montages fill out the bill, while the Psychic Battle and Magical Girl of the subtitle don’t show up until the final two pages. But there is also another girl, a middle-schooler neighbor who is always huddled against the cold outside her apartment door… The tone of the volume is light-hearted and informative, and the dynamic between the two main characters reminds me of Pinky and The Brain, if Pinky was a bit cleverer and The Brain more stable and less evil—so far at least (I wouldn’t put it past Peeps to have a nefarious hidden agenda). The volume sets this tale up as an antidote to manga readers’ isekai-fatigue, claiming to be a refreshing new take on the genre, but apart from a modest degree of self-awareness, I can’t say that it’s hit that note yet. If anything, it seems to be replicating the usual mix of tropes, including disappointing traces of lolicon. Although there is nothing untoward with the neighbor girl in the manga itself, a bonus short story from the author of the original light novel at the end of vol. 1 has a palpable Lolita vibe to it. So, we’ll just have to wait and see where Sasaki and Peeps goes with things. Here’s hoping it stays cute and gets a little more creative too. ~ claire

Sasaki and Peeps is published by Yen Press.

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected, Light Novel Vol. 14.5

When I reviewed volume 14 of My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected, I noted that it was the concluding book of this wonderful series. But I was wrong. I’d forgotten about this slim, actual final volume (maybe—more on that below) consisting of side stories that complete the main storyline. Some Oregairu fan I am! And even at less than 150 pages long, there’s a lot to enjoy here, though less so in the first half, which features four side stories of varying quality and importance to the main tale, including an adaptation of the Fes. FINAL event and a short Irohas / I LOHAS collaboration chapter. The final part, though, which fills the other half of the volume, shows the service club trio in their third year, now with Komachi attending their high school and Iroha continuing to ask for the group’s assistance. Komachi and Iroha play a major role in the chapter (we even get to read a section from Iroha’s point of view!), though the emphasis is really on wrapping up this tale for the service club. These last few pages really feel like the closing I wish we had received from volume 14, and so despite the oddity of having a half-volume after a more traditional concluding work, I’m glad for it. I’m not sure if we’ll receive official translations of any of the additional works that have spun out since this was released in Japan, including “Shin” (which continues the story) and “Ketsu” (the alternate Yui timeline)—and judging by the reactions across the fan community, we may not want them—but if the final chapter of 14.5 is how Oregairu more or less concludes, then I’m walking away a happy fan indeed. ~ Twwk

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected is published by Yen Press.

READ: My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected Reviews (Vol. 7.5 // Vol. 8 // Vol. 9 // Vol. 10 // Vol. 10.5 // Vol. 11 // Vol. 12 // Vol. 13 // Vol. 14) and Light Novel Club (Vol. 1)

MonsTABOO, Manga Vol. 2

At the conclusion of volume one of MonsTABOO, the “middle-schooler-paired-with-familiar” manga that mixes in some adult elements, it appeared that the story might move into a gaming direction, in which the characters find themselves involved in a competition to knock off one another. Volume two dives fully into this storyline as Maruka and her groan-up familiar, Mochizuki, are drawn into a mobile app in which players can earn money as they kill off other groan-ups. Of course, Maruka wants to protect her “boyfriend” (and he her), but they’re drawn into the game anyway, as players from other schools engage them in combat and one university student takes a particular interest in Maruka. If volume one was intriguing because of the uniqueness of Mochizuki’s character design and relationship with the oddball Maruka, volume two is entertaining because of multiple other engaging elements. It reads like a high-paced but well-plotted film, non-stop in both the action scenes and the relationship and school life panels. The new characters are also a lot of fun, with some who are rivals now showing signs of becoming allies in the future. Of course, part of the engagement in this series, also, is the “taboo” elements, which are mostly related to the creepy relationships between the middle school girls and their sometimes much-older groan-ups. It feeds the entire tone of the series. While I find this volume to be a lot of fun, readers should weigh this difficult material when deciding whether to dive in. ~ Twwk

MonsTABOO is published by Yen Press.

READ: Monstaboo Vol. 1 Review

Kaiu Shirai x Posuka Demizu: Beyond The Promised Neverland, One-Shot Manga Collection

Honestly, I was surprised when I heard that this compilation volume was going to be released in English a few months back. But I’m glad, as it gave me the opportunity to briefly talk about the one-shots that I hadn’t had the time to in the last two years. First, reading the behind-the-scene omakes sheds light on how and why the stories came about (especially Spirit Photographer Saburo Kono, We Were Born, and DC3, whose initial drafts were actually created by Kaiu Shirai before The Promised Neverland was published in Weekly Shonen Jump). Next, there’s also a deeper appreciation for Posuka Demizu and her drawing skills that bring each of these stories to life, a fact which Shirai constantly emphasizes in the omakes. Third, given how well-received it has been in the past few years since its release, I’m glad that the Poppy’s Wish one-shot (the first story which the now famous Shirai-Demizu duo worked on together) finally got its official English translation. Then there’s the TPN post-canon chapter, Dreams Come True,” which I’m guessing was the main pull for getting this book licensed in English in the first place. Knowing the struggle it took for them to get their happy ending in the main series, it was fun to see the Grace Field kids each get the chance to do the things they wished to do back in the GF House. It does feel a bit bittersweet near the end, though, considering what Emma had to give up to bring them to the human world. Reading it also makes me wish that the TPN side-stories previously published, plus the ones Shirai once said would come out in the future, would also get the same treatment and be released in their own volume. Finally, there’s the “Takashi and Poppybonus chapter, which surprisingly ties in all the stories in this volume together and shows how much some of the characters have grown from their previous struggles. Overall, I would say this collection is worth picking up, regardless of whether or not you were a fan of TPN before. ~ thathilomgirl

Kaiu Shirai x Posuka Demizu: Beyond The Promised Neverland is published by Viz and releases on November 8th.

Formerly, the Fallen Daughter of the Duke, Manga Vol. 2

I tend to not read book blurbs before I start reading, but I think this would have been a good time to do so. Volume two of Formerly, the Fallen Daughter of the Duke continues where the previous volume ended. Vik and Claire’s earlier plans have come to pass, with Claire now officially enrolled in the magic academy and learning how to grow her magical abilities. When she’s not learning new skills, she is at home fulfilling her role as governess by teaching Isabelle. In between, she continues to “hang out” with Vik, but she wonders if her visits with him are about to end as Vik will soon have to choose a fiancée. I didn’t find this volume quite as exciting as the first volume: I’m not sure why, because I continue to really, really love Claire’s character. She is so admirable and strong, and I have enjoyed seeing her offered a chance at the academy to develop her magic. I think I came in with different expectations because one of my favorite parts in the previous volume was Claire becoming a governess. While she still is, and we see some of that, this volume does focus more on Claire being at the academy. For some reason, I wasn’t quite as excited about that as I thought I would be, even though I still found it a good read. Even if I feel this volume went in a slightly different direction than I expected, I am very much looking forward to seeing what happens next, especially regarding who Vik will choose as his future fiancée. ~ Laura A. Grace

Formerly, the Fallen Daughter of the Duke is published by TokyoPop.

READ: Formerly, the Fallen Daughter of the Duke Vol. 1 Review

Zombie Makeout Club, Manga Vol. 1

Zombie Makeout Club is a popular apparel brand that I would describe as “punk meets macabre.” This OEL manga release of the same name features a collection of webtoons that are an extension of the property, and which are also developed by its creator, Peter Richardson. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from such a project: full of creativity and artistry, but roughly crafted. For instance, the panels themselves each resemble creative designs that could easily translate to a sweatshirt or sticker (though perhaps gorier than the rest of the brand—”DEATHWISH,” the main story, is full of gore and splatter violence) as they show a zombie adventure story. After committing suicide, Yume is resurrected as part of an experiment mixing “science and the occult.” She’ll team with her also-deceased sister and another ally to try to fight back and escape this living hell, where “escape” means permanent death. “DEATHWISH” isn’t easy to follow; I never quite knew what was going on or who most of the characters were (sometimes confusing them for one another), and the resolution didn’t particularly feel like an ending. But I think it’s a solid beginning and an expression of the talent that Richardson possesses. There’s a reason that fans gobble up his work and buy his clothing from major retailers—the character designs are appealing, some sort of mix of cyberpunk, manga, and Ilya Kuvshinov-style artwork, and they capture a certain mood that engages youth. I think we’ll be seeing more from Richardson, and I’m eager to see him mature as a storyteller and mangaka as he continues to perfect his art. ~ Twwk

Zombie Makeout Club is published by ABLAZE. It releases digitally on November 9th and on paperback November 22nd.

“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 だいすけ (reprinted w/ permission)

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