Reader’s Corner: Nights with a Cat, Ex-Yakuza and Stray Kitten, and I Kept Pressing the 100-Million-Year Button and Came Out on Top

In this week’s column, we review manga and light novels featuring angels, spies, and young people isekai’d, as well as ex-yakuza, cheeky brats, and adopted cats. Oh, so many cats! So get comfy, curl up with your own kitty (or another furry friend), and enjoy our reviews. We hope you’ll find one or two among them worth adopting!

Cheeky Brat (Vol. 2)Ex-Yakuza and Stray Kitten (Vol. 1)I Kept Pressing the 100-Million-Year Button and Came Out on Top (Vol. 1) In the Land of Leadale (Vol. 2)Nights with a Cat (Vol. 2)Spy Classroom (Vol. 2)Studio Apartment, Good Lighting, Angel Included (Vol. 1)Tearmoon Empire (Vol. 1)

In the Land of Leadale, Manga Vol. 2

Peaceful, humorous, and with just enough suspense to keep readers on their toes, In the Land of Leadale is one of my favorite manga releases of 2022. Cayna, who is now becoming adjusted to her life within the fantasy world (having presumably died in the real world), denies her desire to stay in town with the people she’s grown to care about and moves forward, partly because of a promise to visit Leadale’s magical towers. She also wants to reconnect with her “children,” NPCs whom she had created while playing the game (and who are now 200 years older, like the rest of the fantasy world). If you’re thinking that the children may become her enemies, well, I thought that, too. But this isn’t that kind of series. The first “child,” a master-crafting dwarf, is—despite his gruff exterior—still just a kid to her. The others have reached remarkable heights in the world as well, and I’m eager to see Cayna interact with them all, but a slight cliffhanger may put a damper on an immediate reunion. There it is: that aforementioned “keep you on your toes” suspense! It’s just enough to add an unnecessary but appreciated element to a story that is already so warm, funny, and fantastical that I’m fully invested and eager to read more. ~ Twwk

In the Land of Leadale is published by Yen Press.

READ: In the Land of Leadale Vol. 1 Review

Tearmoon Empire, Manga Vol. 1

Reincarnated isekai seem to be all the rave, but what about go-back-in-time isekai? I’m not sure if that’s the “correct” term for that kind of isekai, but Tearmoon Empire is indeed one of these! Right from the start, the main character, Mia, is executed  by way of a guillotine, only for her to suddenly “wake up” as her past twelve-year-old self! At first she first questions if it’s just a bad dream, but the bloody diary in her possession confirms those memories were not simply “bad dreams” but a past reality. Now having a second chance, she decides to do everything she can to avoid her death and hopefully restore her empire from political and economic strife in the process. I was pleasantly surprised how this story was not the “traditional” isekai of a character dying and waking up in a new world. I found this much more exciting! Yet, while I enjoyed seeing the changes in who Mia was in the future and the present, I didn’t absolutely love Mia as a character. She is very funny and extremely sharp-witted and smart. I just couldn’t find her very likable with the selfishness driving almost all of her actions. Granted, this is probably part of her overarching character growth, and I realize such has also been true for other titles in this genre. I just couldn’t seem to fully love her as the main character. I did find the story to be engaging and fun, especially with the new adventure Mia is now on towards the end of the volume. Mia’s actions and misunderstandings with people surrounding her, as well as the fantastic art, make this an interesting page-turner even if it wasn’t my favorite isekai I’ve read. ~ Laura A. Grace

Tearmoon Empire is published by J-Novel Club.

Cheeky Brat, Manga Vol. 2

Typically when I drop a series, I don’t usually give it a second chance. However, I’m thankful I gave the shojo manga series Cheeky Brat a second chance because I loved this second volume! While Naruse is still his pushy self—though thankfully not anywhere near as pushy as volume one—there is “more at stake” here than simply Yuki admitting if she likes him or not. A new basketball rival arrives on the scene, and upcoming basketball matches will demand more of both our characters’ time and attention. Yet when Naruse only seems to let Yuki down in the aftermath of a basketball match, she wonders if she was expecting too much from him. I think what really convinced me to read more of this series is that we are starting to get to know these characters on a deeper level. While the previous volume was very funny, it seemed like it centered around Naruse consistently pushing Yuki’s boundaries. This volume instead focuses more on Naruse’s love for basketball and how Yuki has helped him realize the importance of hard work. In turn, Yuki is seeing that he’s not just a “cheeky brat”: he does have feelings for her and knows her better than she thinks he does. Thankfully, with the arrival of the sports rival, I am hoping we see more of him and that he will be a catalyst in Yuki admitting she likes Naruse. Not only that, but maybe—more importantly—Naruse will also continue to show more respect towards Yuki. ~ Laura A. Grace

Cheeky Brat is published by Yen Press.

READ: Cheeky Brat Vol. 1 Review

Nights with a Cat, Manga Vol. 2

Fuuta lives with his sister, P-chan, and his cat, Kyuruga, in a small two-storey house somewhere in Japan. Or more accurately, Kyuruga the munchkin cat rules over his adoring subjects like a king in his castle, offering the precise amount of acknowledgment and affection necessary to keep the siblings on the hook. As one does when one is a cat! This is volume two in the charming series about daily life with a cat, as told through thirty-five low-key vignettes centering on human-feline interaction. There is no overarching plot, but there doesn’t need to be; the appeal here lies in the relatable mix of reverence, insecurity, annoyance, and wonder that Fuuta conveys as he reflects on the idiosyncrasies of his feline companion. Relatable, that is, if one is a “cat person.” As such a person myself, I found myself laughing out loud and nodding my head in sympathy with most of the stories, as they brought to mind similar scenarios from my own storied past with beloved fickle-floofs. Mangaka Kyuryu Z does a marvelous job of capturing the posture, movement, and expressive little details of cat physique, right down to the ears rotating in impatience and condescension, or the tail flicking in mockery—not to mention the nuzzle, nose boop, and affectionate head butt. All the moves are there. The art is clean and simple, with hints of color used sparingly and to good effect throughout, particularly in the physical copy, which boasts good quality, brilliant white paper that sets off the muted greens, yellows, and occasional pinks very nicely. The faces, both human and feline, are highly stylized with saucer-like eyes dominating all other features, which means that much of the expressiveness of the art is left to the body language. This works surprisingly well, enabling the art to resist anthropomorphizing Kyuruga (a regular trope of animal illustrations and animation) and rely instead on his wholly cat-like qualities to carry the story. All in all, a delightful way to spend an evening! ~ claire

Nights with a Cat is published by Yen Press.

Studio Apartment, Good Lighting, Angel Included, Manga Vol. 1

Angels are found throughout both the Old and New Testaments in the Bible—but ever wonder what they’re up to today, thousands of years later? If super cute angel Towa-chan is any indication, they’re now hard at work at their “main job” of communicating God’s will (scriptural!) and getting cozy and cuddling with teenage boys (not scriptural!). To be fair, Towa is doing the latter in addition to a great many other acts of service for Shintaro, a high school freshman who finds the angel sleeping on his balcony. He takes her in to literally keep Towa from being assaulted, and thus begins their cozy life together. There are definitely Fly Me to the Moon vibes in this series, right down to the protagonist’s character design, as the relatively normal and nice boy starts to live with a beautiful girl he barely knows. But that doesn’t mean if you like that series that you’ll feel the same toward this one. Studio Apartment, Good Lightning, Angel Included (great title btw) leans more heavily on fanservice and features a less plausible and stronger harem storyline than Fly me to the Moon. But on the plus side, this series is humorous, too; and it’s drawn in a really pretty and soft style, which makes it easy to like Towa-chan when she might otherwise be a little obnoxious with her obsessing over Shintaro. But hey, this is wish fulfillment after all, with roughly the same barrier as Oh My Goddess! had a generation or two before. Some likable elements may make this pleasurable reading to a wide variety of readers, but it’s best enjoyed by those who will approach the story with escapism and a bit of yearning in mind. ~ Twwk

Studio Apartment, Good Lightning, Angel Included is published by Yen Press.

Ex-Yakuza and Stray Kitten, Manga Vol. 1

A former yakuza enforcer now lives a milder, kinder life, but keeps being mistaken as the street-tough he once was…hmm…wherever have we seen something like that before? Look, to be fair, Ex-Yakuza and Stray Kitten not only emulates The Way of the Househusband, it also jumps into the realm of series where events are shown from a pet’s perspective, like My Roommate is a Cat. So it’s like two series (imitated) in one! Okay, let me walk this back a little and retract my claws for a bit. While volume one of Ex-Yakuza and Stray Kitten is indeed a little too much like those series, using the same types of gags, there are signs of hope and bursts of creativity in volume one. While it may emulate other, stronger manga, the jokes, feelings, and kawaiiness still manage to land really well in the story of Jin, the former yakuza, finding the stray kitten Sabu and taking him in. I found myself chuckling quite a bit at how caring Jin is toward Sabu while the latter is constantly on guard against his new owner. There’s so much adorable cuteness, too, particularly in Sabu’s expressions, whether he’s freaking out (like when he bites Jin in the same way that Teto bites Nausicaa—that famous panel is even referenced!), sleeping next to a water bottle, drinking warm milk, or being spoiled by Jin in a variety of ways. And I’m hopeful about where the story is headed. I won’t spoil it, but the last chapter of volume one pumps in some character appearances that have me excited for even more of the warmth and humor that is surely ahead. ~ Twwk

Ex-Yakusa and Stray Kitten is published by Seven Seas.

Spy Classroom, Manga Vol. 2

Time is up. For a series featuring an entire team of cute and mostly clumsy girls, there’s a lot of tension in Spy Classroom, much of it the result of all the weaknesses that the Lamplight girls excuse. They’re all spy school washouts. They can’t best their teacher in anything they try to do. And they are constantly tripping, falling, and making decisions. But by the end of volume two, these girls must be ready to go on their “impossible mission,” and the manga builds the case that, while this isn’t the sort of series that would kill off its characters, it’s hard to believe that they’ll accomplish their mission and all return home alive. That balance between serious and humorous helps to make Spy Classroom an engaging series, aided this time around by providing bits of back stories for several of the girls, helping delineate them when four blonde characters look very much alike and two of the brunettes do as well. It’s still a struggle though, and that worries me as we head into the mission, as it’s hard to have a heart for characters that you can’t quite pin down yet. Hopefully, we’ll get to know them more intimately as they move to accomplish their goal, adding more of that necessary emotional connection to a series that’s already stylish, exciting, and fun. ~ Twwk

Spy Classroom is published by Yen Press.

READ: Spy Classroom Vol. 1 Review

I Kept Pressing the 100-Million-Year Button and Came Out on Top, Manga Vol. 1

I’m always wary when starting a revenge series. While it’s always fun to root for those who are victimized to gain justice against the perpetrator, the story can very easily veer into something both unsavory and addicting when the protagonist becomes overpowered and cruel, while we reader begin to relish the excessive violence he inflicts on others. Allen, the “Reject Swordsman,” fits the mold of a character who could turn to such violence. He is poor, relentlessly bullied, supported by a single mom, and makes the unwitting choice to press down one of those oversized buttons from memes or Press Your Luck to gain 100 millions years to train as a swordsman before facing his tormentor. He does so, trains, and presses it again. And again and again, returning to the present day on the verge of madness. This seems like a recipe for that crueler story I referred to, but then the manga surprised me—it’s not at all what it seems, with the second half of volume one laying the groundwork for the setting (a school famed for sword fighters) and tone (more warm, humorous, and tender than I anticipated) of this fantasy tale. Allen has gained skills, but he will also gain comrades. On what mission they’ll eventually go, I can’t say (though it might involve the twist given in the volume, and that oddly futuristic and powerful button that predicates the action). But for now, I don’t need to know—some time spent in this world with Allen and the others is more than enough to make for a pleasant and unexpectedly fine read. ~ Twwk

I Kept Pressing the 100-Million-Year Button and Came Out on Top 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.

Featured illustration by 桐野 (reprinted w/permission)

One thought on “Reader’s Corner: Nights with a Cat, Ex-Yakuza and Stray Kitten, and I Kept Pressing the 100-Million-Year Button and Came Out on Top

  1. A lot of these series sound pretty good! I’m definitely going to try out Tear Moon Empire. The main character might turn out to be a really good person, it’s happened in other series.

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