Have you ever felt insecure and maybe unable to fully express yourself? Or have you ever felt stuck, unable to move forward because of some physical, emotional, or spiritual limitation, or perhaps some impossible mountain you need to surmount? This week’s offerings are full of series with characters facing such challenges in fantastic, romantic, or realistic ways. Maybe there’s a volume or two in here that speaks right to you.
On another note, our reviewers are taking the next couple of weeks off for the holidays. Reader’s Corner will return in 2023! In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy our 12 Days of Christmas Anime posts, as well as our selections for the best manga of 2022, which we’ll drop in lieu of our column on December 27th.
Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian (Vol. 1) • Coffee Moon (Vol. 1) • Embrace Your Size: My Own Body Positivity • Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway (Vol. 2) • Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story (Vol. 5) • Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion (Vol. 2)
Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian, Light Novel Vol. 1
Although I’ve never confirmed it, I’m absolutely convinced that there’s a secret gacha-style app that light novel writers use to determine their story plots. You just hist the spin button until voila!—you have a light novel! Which character did I get? Little sister-type who has a ponytail and is secretly an otaku? Perfect! Which setting will I win? Ah, another high school romcom? That’s okay, they’re valuable! What’s the unique take for my series? My heroine speaks Russian when she gets flustered, revealing her feelings for the main character who also understands Russian but hasn’t told her he does? Hmm…that might be a little hard to incorporate since I don’t actually know Russian. Nah, no worries—I’ll just say she’s speaking Russian without actually using the language! And that last bit is the primary disappointment with a light novel series that features Russian in the title, Russian on the cover, and a Russian main character—but only uses the plot device in the cheapest manner by employing brackets to indicate that the beautiful, smart ice queen Alya is speaking Russian rather than actually displaying the language on all but a couple of emphasized occasions. There’s nothing else to set her whispers to herself, during which she says things like “Why don’t you pay attention to me?”, apart from any other language. There’s no Russian culture that sneaks through into the series either. Worst of all, this weakness is a pall over what’s otherwise a well-written volume that stays within those “light novel gacha” conventions but remains fun and compelling, filled with likable characters and cute situations. I would have preferred the book much more if Masachika, the MC, could read minds instead, or if Alya spoke some other language that the author is more familiar with, but it’s an enjoyable read nonetheless. But here’s hoping that the author will actually do something with Russian in future volumes, and turn a cute series into an outstanding one. ~ Twwk
Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian is published by Yen Press.
Embrace Your Size: My Own Body Positivity, One-Shot Manga
When I first heard about Embrace Your Size: My Own Body Positivity a few months ago, I knew this was a read I didn’t want to pass on, and I’m so glad I didn’t! The blurb says this is “a love letter to anyone striving to embrace their size,” and I feel that is indeed true. The mangaka, Hara, shares her own personal story through engaging text and super cute illustrations that address topics such as dieting, eating disorders, and struggles with weight. Hara also shares how she has started to view her own body positively, and how she has come to love herself. Truthfully, I don’t know if anything I shared above reflects how encouraging and inspiring it was to read this manga. While there are some struggles that Hara voices that I personally have not struggled with in the same way, I found her story no less relatable. Her transparency with her struggles and seeing how I’m not alone in feeling a certain way (such as the changing room not being “your friend”) made her story one that reached out and wrapped around me. I’ve wrestled with how I am not as thin as I used to be, and I feel like her encouragement and adamancy that you can still love your body is not as farfetched as I once thought. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or will happen overnight, but I love her take on body positivity right from the beginning: “Being body positive means knowing it’s okay not to force yourself into a single mold and having that weight lifted off your shoulders.” I think this is a wonderful manga to pick up regardless if you are struggling with diet, weight, or a combination of the two. I would highly recommend this to any woman who is struggling specifically with the way they view and love (or don’t love) their body and want a beautiful introduction to a world that can be a reality—of loving all your curves—and not just something that sounds nice on a page. ~ Laura A. Grace
Embrace Your Size: My Own Body Positivity is published by Yen Press.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story, Manga Vol. 5
I’m embarrassed to admit that the Magia Record anime frequently left me confused. I’d have to revisit past events just to understand what was happening in many episodes, and to even remember who many of the characters were. The Magia Record manga fixes those problems by taking a less obtuse, more traditional approach to telling a story. Volume five reads like a regular shoujo, starting with Iroha and the girls’ daily life in Yachiyo’s home before moving into the action, beginning and completing a tale related to a “rumor.” The problem is clearly laid out, a solution is found, and characters are developed. So…hurray? Not so fast. Part of the attraction of Magia Record and the entire PMMM franchise is its creativity and imagery. Yes, the series can sometimes be confusing, but you least receive a feast for the eyes and food for the brain. There’s none of the latter here (volume five is a plain story without any dialogue or scripting of note), and often little of the former (though some beautiful panels definitely belong in the Madoka Magica universe). As an addition to the PMMM franchise, Magia Record is lacking. But as a story about magical girls, it’s a lovely and easy read. ~ Twwk
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story is published by Yen Press.
Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion, Manhwa Vol. 2
When I read volume one of Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion this past summer, it quickly became one of my favorite reads of this year. With volume two, that fact remains unchanged. In fact, I think with this second volume I love the series even more because now we are seeing Raeliana get “used to” this new world she has found herself in. She absolutely slays any and all situations centering around politics, proving to Noah just how well she can stand her ground and hold her own. However, when she thinks she has succeeded in getting close to a certain character per Noah’s “demand,” it ends up with her getting kidnapped! Not only that, are we starting to see that Noah actually does feel affection for our heroine? This second volume far exceeded my very high expectations, and I am absolutely giddy to be following Raeliana once again. In fact, one of my favorite moments in this volume was seeing her stand her ground in the face of danger and, as a friend said, she went from “victim” to her own “protector.” It was a strong highlight of this volume and one of the best scenes I have read in fiction recently! I think the most surprising thing about this volume is that I didn’t expect this series to take a gradual turn in having more fantasy elements. I won’t say more lest I give something away, but it was very much a fun delight to read! Overall, this series definitely continues to be among my favorites of 2022, and I will eagerly be anticipating the release of volume three as well as watching the anime next year! ~ Laura A. Grace
Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion is published by Yen Press.
READ: Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion Vol. 1 Review
Coffee Moon, Manga Vol. 1
If I could say any manga was the most “trippy” manga I’ve read this year, it would be Coffee Moon. I didn’t know what to expect going in except that the main character, Pieta, has repeated yesterday’s today over a thousand times now. When she thinks today is just going to be another yesterday, her best friend, Danae remembers that she had already had this today…yesterday! Together, they embark on a new journey of experiencing today, not as yesterday, but as a completely different kind of today that neither of them have experienced before. For roughly the first half of this story, I kept finding myself asking, “What in the world am I reading…?” Not because it was bad, though! I honestly had no idea where the story was going. I didn’t understand the significance, or if there was a significance, of the story, but I’m really glad I kept reading! The art is super engaging, and the story itself is mysterious—it makes you ask the question above, yes, but you also ask why things are the way they are. I also really loved the message of living each day to the fullest. Even greater than that, though, is the challenge to not settle for things being the same as yesterday, but instead to help incite change so we and our friends can live to the fullest as well. Overall, this was a great first volume and one I’m definitely planning on picking up the second volume for when it releases because I need to see what happens next after that cliffhanger! ~ Laura A. Grace
Coffee Moon is published by Yen Press.
Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway, Light Novel Vol. 2
I’ve worked my way through Higehiro in precisely the wrong order: anime to manga to light novel. As I drill down to the source material, I’ve discovered that author Shimesaba has worked diligently to present Sayu as an attractive heroine to readers, but, at least by volume two, as a teenage heroine who isn’t yet an adult in part by mostly taking away her sex appeal. By doing this, he creates an authentic story about a young woman who is struggling to find a future and a man who wants to save her but doesn’t know how or even why. There is still some slight romantic tension between the two (Sayu seems to be set up as the ultimate final girl somewhere down the line), but volume two of Higehiro is far more interested in exploring how Yoshida’s care for her has helped Sayu find value in herself, particularly and powerfully demonstrated in an unexpected event in the latter part of the book. While the novel struggles sometimes, especially when its characters say and do things that functionally carry the plot along but don’t necessarily make sense, it does well when focusing on humor, warmth, and especially the transformation that can occur through adults demonstrating kindness to young people. Let’s hope it stays on this route and doesn’t drift toward the path of “it’s wrong to sexualize minors but let’s sexualize Sayu for the art of the story” that its adaptations do. If it doesn’t, Higehiro might have something impactful and important to say, while saying it in a mature and appealing way. ~ Twwk
Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway is published by Yen Press.
READ: Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway 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.