Are you using the holidays to catch up? We’re doing a bit of the same here, with just a scattering of new entries this week and mostly reviews of other fairly recent releases. And here’s a tip: A number of our reviewed volumes this week are on sale! Click the images to follow our affiliate links to that big ol’ book (and everything else) retailer. Happy reading!
The Eminence in Shadow (Vol. 5) • The Executioner and Her Way of Life (Vol. 5) • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Wraith Arc (Vol. 3) • Rainbow Days (Vol. 1) • So What’s Wrong with Getting Reborn as a Goblin? (Vol. 1) • Unnamed Memory (Vol. 1)
The Executioner and Her Way of Life, Light Novel Vol. 5
“Saving a friend is well worth destroying the world”—a complicated statement that is central to the theme of The Executioner and Her Way of Live (vol. 5), and to the entire story thus far. Through four volumes, Menou has struggled with her sense of duty and a growing heart for Akari, the otherworlder who is in love with her, but whom it is her job to kill. As volume five begins, Menou has embraced her friendship with the girl, and out of that love desires to kill her friend before she becomes a “human error,” an otherworlder who has lost all her memories and turned into a being with enough power to destroy a continent. But first, Menou must battle her old master, Flare, who has captured Akari. That fight, and many others, comprise the bulk of this volume, which reaches deeper into the relationships at the core of the series than in previous ones. This volume thus improves a light novel series that has been on a slow decline since its inception. While The Executioner and Her Way of Life has always excelled when it focuses on the action, making great use of its unique magic system and setting a tone that is often grave, there is a disconcerting trend that continues in volume five: characters never really die (or at least don’t stay dead). That device drains the series of much of its excitement. On the other hand, the total lack of chemistry between characters and flat relationship-building, while remaining in the first half of the book, starts to finally disappear near the climax of this volume. Yes, the characters remain obnoxious (Momo), boring (Menou), or both (Ashuna); but interesting reveals and serious character growth, which compliment the relationship development between characters, add a critical element that’s been missing for these many volumes. If Mato Sato can continue to improve his characterization while making deaths and injuries more permanent (people die if they are killed!), he may finally meet the promise of a series that started so strong. Volume five is the best the series has offered—and hopefully a harbinger of even greater (and more devastating) things to come. ~ Twwk
The Executioner and Her Way of Life is published by Yen Press.
So What’s Wrong with Getting Reborn as a Goblin?, Manga Vol.1
Akira Yagami is a skilled office worker who goes the extra mile for everyone—from his slackadaisical intern, to the little boy about to be run over by Truck-kun. That’s how he ends up lying in a pool of his own blood on the asphalt making two final wishes: that he could have lived his full four-score years, and that he could have passed on the skills he’d acquired to his junior, who happened to be at the scene of the accident. Cosmic Google intercedes and locates a world where those two wishes can be granted! And before you know it, Akira is a goblin with the Unique Skill of Octogenarian. Which is a big deal since goblins only live for seven days. Akira’s management skills, strategic planning, and acquisition of many more skills, paired with his longevity, soon see him becoming the mayor of the goblins and venturing out into the wider world to negotiate deals with humans. The way he lays the foundation for an essentially feudal, trades-based society is interesting and, alongside the vibrant art, serves as the highlight of this introductory volume. So in answer to the title, well, Akira manages to avert the one thing that is wrong with getting reborn as a goblin—the hebdomadal death sentence (new word alert! that’s fancy for “week”). So nothing much is wrong there. But what about the volume itself? What is “wrong” with So What’s Wrong…? First off, the titular goblin is blue, whereas everyone knows goblins to be green. Translation error? Maybe. Second, every chapter reiterates at least a handful of times a) how virile goblins are and b) how cute humans find them to be. Ok, ok, so Akira’s goblin form is admittedly cute, but talk about heavy-handed foreshadowing here! A lengthy visit to a brothel confirms these suspicions, though the perviness of this sequence is mostly displaced onto an old man character rather than attributed to Akira himself. All in all, there wasn’t enough intrigue here to keep me hooked—but then, I’m not super into goblins, even if they are irresistibly cute. ~ claire
So What’s Wrong with Getting Reborn as a Goblin? is published by Yen Press.
The Eminence in Shadow, Manga Vol. 5
Meanwhile, while sitting atop a “needlessly tall building in Midgar…” Yep, the humor has finally returned! After so much seriousness for the last volume and a half, The Eminence in Shadow manga wraps up its mini-arc involving Aurora the Calamity Witch and returns to what it does best (and what it does better than virtually every other isekai)—dwelling in humor and ramping up the laughs. To accomplish that, the story transitions from a surprisingly heartfelt conclusion for Aurora’s arc to the Bushin Festival (the second in the series so far, though who’s keeping count?), where Cid will enter disguised as a weak fighter to live out yet another manga trope. And in between, the manga addresses a weakness that apparently isn’t present in the original light novels: lack of character development for the Shadow Garden members. With that now covered, could this be the rare manga adaptation that surpasses the light novels? By maximizing the comedic potential and minimizing the less compelling parts of the story, I can’t see how the answer isn’t “Absolutely!”~ Twwk
The Eminence in Shadow is published by Yen Press.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Wraith Arc, Manga Vol. 3
When given the task of writing an “interquel” between two anime (the original Puella Magi Madoka television series and the Rebellion Story movie) that are already complicated, and creating a new arc that makes some sense, it’s just natural that you end up with a tale that is itself overly complex. And unfortunately, that’s the case with Wraith Arc. After some pretty thrilling action in the first half featuring Mami and Kyoko fighting against wraiths that resemble them and their friends, as well as other powerful ones that are killing people, a long, soporific section explains what Homura has been feeling, why she’s forgotten so much, and what she ultimately decides to do in order to “protect” Madoka. Yawn. That said, this does feel like more than a simple cash grab. I do believe it’s canonical (help, Madokaverse fandom?) and has value as an explanation of what occurred between the two referenced works. It also features majestic art by Hanokage, who illustrated a number of the spin-off manga. The visuals are breathtaking and on-par with the anime series and movies. Many of the panels are beautiful pieces independent from their relation to the story, stunning additions to the PMMM franchise. And so I’m very glad to have looked at this volume and the previous two, though I think only the most dedicated fans will be glad to have actually read it. ~ Twwk
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Wraith Arc is published by Yen Press.
Rainbow Days, Manga Vol. 1
The best way to get over being dumped by your girlfriend on Christmas Eve is to fall in love with Santa. I’m serious. Especially when this Santa knows what you really want (tissues to dry those eyes) and she’s both beautiful and kind. Too bad that this Santa may or may not remember meeting you on the 24th (it was a busy night after all). Thus begins Natsuki’s journey toward confessing his love for Anna, who—whether by coincidence or fate—was passing out sample products on Christmas Eve, including right to the newly love-stricken boy. Though their burgeoning relationship is certainly cute, Rainbow Days works because of the friendship between Natsuki and his three guy friends, who are by varying degrees more “mature” than he is—which basically means they act more like typical teenage boys than the naive and sincere Natsuki does. Minami Nizuno does a fabulous job of keeping an innocent, cute, laugh-out-loud vibe while featuring teenagers who are thinking and often talking about adult topics. I laughed throughout and enjoyed the entirety of volume one, and was reminded why I similarly delighted in the anime version from several years ago, though the manga is more engaging than that adaptation. It’s a quicker, sharper romcom work. What this volume does less well, though, is presenting one character as gay while obviously meaning for that individual to go on a journey toward falling for someone of the opposite sex. This small side story (which will almost certainly grow in prominence in future volumes) didn’t necessarily bother me, but I imagine many will find it in poor taste if not outright offensive. That aside, the volume rings with charm, warmth, and a calming tone, and since I don’t remember the anime too well, I’m eager to “discover” how the stories between the boys and their matches work out. Oh, and extra points for a mangaka friend in the series referencing Oreimo, and then shortly afterward making his Valentine’s Day chocolate into the shape of a Gundam because his girlfriend “loves the principality of Geon.” What a nerdy, lovely good time! ~ Twwk
Rainbow Days is published by VIZ Media and releases on December 6th.
Unnamed Memory, Manga Vol. 1
It’s exceedingly rare for a manga to hit that apex of strong romance, humor, and fantasy adventure, but volume one of Unnamed Memory manages to do so. Adapted from the light novel series, the manga immediately captivates by creating a mysterious and ominous backstory focusing on five witches and setting the initial action in the tower where one dwells. But this where cuteness and romance develops, as the Witch of the Azure Moon is quite pretty and kind, and agrees to accompany a prince back to his kingdom, though he’s insistent on more than that, asking her to marry him! But before the romance goes full blown, a murder occurs during a festival, and the witch becomes the leading suspect. I don’t actually do justice to the tone of work through this summary, as its moves deftly between kawaiiness and macabre, and is able to do so successfully while pulling readers in through the charm of its leads. I’m very eager to continue the tale where it takes us—into legend, romance, or humor (and likely all of the above). ~ Twwk
Unnamed Memory 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 WOOD CUBE (reprinted w/permission)
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