This week, Maison Ikkoku comes to an end (again); the mesmerizing A.I. story, Your Forma, receives a manga adaptation; Tomozaki-kun makes a difficult choice in the latest volume of his top-tier light novel series; and much more, including the debut reviews by our two newest reviewers, WacOtaku and Marg. Check out their reviews and the rest below!
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (Vol. 9) • Maison Ikkoku: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 10) • Oshi no Ko (Vol. 1) • Pandora Seven (Vol. 1) • Romantic Killer (Vol. 2) • Yakuza Fiance: Raise wa Tanin ga Ii (Vol. 1) • Your Forma (Vol. 1)
Maison Ikkoku: Collector’s Edition, Manga Vol. 10
After a hit-or-miss middle portion that sometimes felt like Rumiko Takahashi was deliberately stalling, the final act of Maison Ikkoku gives this iconic RomCom a grand-slam home run finish. Volume nine ended on a cliffhanger, with an enraged Kyoko planning to return to her parents’ home after a miscommunication convinced her that Godai had two-timed her and proposed to his longtime sort-of girlfriend Kozue, when in fact he had deliberately broken off that relationship to tie up his loose ends. Now, with the finish line almost in sight, our luckless protagonist must overcome his lady love’s tempestuous nature, her father’s disapproval, and his own insecurities over whether Kyoko truly loves him or just sees him as the best available substitute for her late husband Soichiro. (Oh, and he still needs to find a full-time job as well.) This final volume centers around a remarkable shift in the relationship dynamic between our two main characters, and not simply in a romantic way. For so long, Godai has been an immature schmuck desperately trying to prove himself to an older and more established Kyoko. But now that Godai has grown as a man and closed the maturity gap between them, he is in a place to take the lead in their relationship, putting Kyoko into a situation where she must confront her own character flaws. I won’t spoil the details of the ending, but it forgoes bombastic displays of romantic passion in favor of a sometimes messy but incredibly tender intimacy that I’ve yet to see equaled by any other mangaka. Rumiko Takahashi finished Maison Ikkoku before I was born, and Yusaku and Kyoko would be about the same age as my parents today; but I strongly suspect that for as long as there are fans of manga, this series will remain evergreen. ~ WacOtaku
Maison Ikkoku: Collector’s Edition is published by VIZ Media.
Pandora Seven, Manga Vol. 1
Lia is the lone resident human on an otherwise-utopian island where food is plentiful and strawberries come in milkshake form practically straight off the plant. She’s cheery, capable, and kind—too kind for her own good, as her mother (a very, very large dragon) intones to the audience of (humanoid) vegetables, animals, and demons—er, “village ladies”—who come to keep her company during the millennial festival. Mama dragon is too preggers to move, so they bring the party to her. That turns out to be short-lived too, as suddenly a shipful of aggressive, veiled humans led by a particularly imperious young woman rock up and ruin everything. Absolutely everything. Lia flees, leaving death and destruction in her wake—much of it of her own inadvertent doing. For amid all the turmoil, Lia accidentally opened Pandora’s Box! What strange power has she stumbled into? What identity crisis will this fateful encounter with her own kind spark? Only time, and hopefully subsequent volumes, will tell—because this volume doesn’t really. Instead, reading Pandora Seven is akin to being dropped in the middle of a Gordian knot: there is a profusion of subplots, characters, relationships, tropes, and meaningful hints branching off willy-nilly, alongside masses of world-building, both visual and dialogic, but no clear through-line—thematic or otherwise. There’s no setup for a central character arc yet either. Granted, I do suspect that things will clarify in volume two, and what we’ll have is a kind of paralleling of the tales of the two human girls, protagonist and antagonist, until they realize they have more in common than not and would be better off partnering up to overthrow the various oppressive forces in their lives. But this is just a hunch, and based more on the two pages of bonus material at the end than the four chapters that precede it. Indeed, the bonus material goes a long way to salvaging this first volume, clarifying the lore and teasing vital plot and character points that are enough to pique my interest again after it had waned halfway through. What this volume needs is one final edit. Yet even so, there is a spark of something here that could be quite epic, and so I’ll give Pandora Seven and creator Yuta Kayashima one more volume to pull themselves together and start to shine with clearer purpose and direction. ~ claire
Pandora Seven is published by Yen Press. Volume one releases on January 17th.
Yakuza Fiance: Raise wa Tanin ga Ii, Manga Vol. 1
I am beyond excited to finally have this in my hands! This is one of my most anticipated releases from 2022! Yakuza Fiance is by Asuka Konishi, who also created the one-shot Haru’s Curse. Having enjoyed that manga, I couldn’t wait to read more of her work. Konishi’s storytelling and beautifully distinct art style make her stand out above the crowd. The story opens with our lovely heroine, Yoshino, storming in on her grandfather and demanding he give her an explanation about a newspaper article. She finds out that the article is about her, and that she is to be married off to Miyama, the son of a rival yakuza gang. To keep the peace between gangs, her grandfather coaxes her into meeting Miyama in Tokyo. Yoshino reluctantly agrees, and off to Tokyo she goes. When they meet, Yoshino thinks that Miyama’s just a little “too chummy.” He doesn’t act like she’d expect a yakuza boss’s son to act, just like a regular high school guy. Then late one night, unable to sleep, she happens to see him coming home with blood all over his hands and clothes. Maybe she was wrong about her first impressions of him. Little by little, she starts seeing a different side to Miyama, a scary one. Her first instinct is to go back to her grandfather in Osaka, but she decides to stick it out for one year. She fires back at Miyama and takes him by surprise—so much so that a switch is flipped inside of him, and he becomes utterly obsessed with this strong, fiery side of her. It looks like we are witnessing the birth of a strong, independent woman. Will she be able to continue holding her own against these rivals and a love-crazed Miyama? I cannot wait to find out! The next volume is set to release this month. ~ Marg
Yakuza Fiance: Raise was Tanin ga li is published by Seven Seas Entertainment.
Your Forma, Manga Vol. 1
Echika Hieda has always been head and shoulders above the rest of the Electronic Investigation Department of Interpol. Which wouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that Divers like her must be paired up with equally skillful Belayers, or else risk permanent brain damage—to the Belayer, that is. After frying the brain of her latest partner in less than two seconds flat, Echika is paired with her worst nightmare—an Amicus, or a type of artificial person that Echika loathes, for reasons that are only hinted at so far through tantalizingly brief peeks at her slow-burn backstory. Writer Mareho Kikuishi offers up some ingenious world-building and genre play here, making Your Forma ideal for fans of sci-fi mixed with psychological detective story a la ID: Invaded, as Echika dives into people’s minds through the Your Forma technology implanted in their brains (now you can just think your social media posts!) and Harold, the AI, pulls her out. The story sports an edginess that recalls the more unsettling side of the genre spawned by Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics,” as seen in films such as Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. It’s also a bit of a globetrotting adventure, taking the leads from Paris to St. Petersburg, to the wilds of Sapmi (Sami territory or Lapland, and an official no-go zone for tech) and its polar opposite, Silicon Valley. The two MCs make for an interesting pair, with Echika being strangely grizzled for one so young and more emotionless than any AI ever was, while Harold is as jovial as they come, with cut-glass good looks and a flirty readiness to use them—all in the line of duty, of course. This is the first of writer Kikuishi’s novels to be adapted for manga, and boy, does artist Yoshinori Kisaragi ever do a fantastic job. I would be tempted to read the novel rather than wait for the next manga installment, but the art is so vivid and expressive that I’m going to try to resist, even if it means perching on the edge of my seat for a few months. In short, Your Forma is an absolute corker! ~ claire
Your Forma is published by Yen Press.
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, Light Novel Vol. 9
Fun, addictive, intriguing, and now, masterpiece? Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki reaches the heights of the romcom genre in volume nine, blowing the lid on parallel stories—Hinami’s slowly churning tale on the one hand, and on the other the romance between Tomozaki and Kikuchi, thanks to their recent decision to date and the major challenges in their new relationship. What results from Yuki Yaku’s decision to dig deep into these major storylines is heavy progression in relationships all around as Tomozaki, with the help of friends old and new, must decide how to prioritize values in his packed life. His thoughts are scattered and often puzzling, but realistic for him (and more generally to 17-year-olds). There’s also serious character growth for Tomozaki as the author dives right into the complexities of romantic relationships, jealousy, and friendships with the opposite sex. He doesn’t shy away from these issues, creating considerable depth as Tomozaki evaluates his feelings for Kikuchi and how he should treat her, as well as what he really feels for Hinami. But not only are we treated to Oregairu-level thoughtfulness, we also get tender and emotional moments—more in this volume than in the rest of the series combined. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sometimes scratch your head—and you’ll finish volume nine feeling satisfied. This story refuses to go in circles. I can’t wait to see how all lands. One caveat, though, which I haven’t previously explored: For all the laud I’ve given Yuki Yaku, I find this author’s notes at the end of each volume strange and sometimes deplorable. He gives little insight into his wonderful work, but always focuses on the cover image, explaining in great detail why these illustrations are so sexy. I wish he’d class these notes up to match the series he’s created. ~ Twwk
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is published by Yen Press. Volume nine releases on January 17th.
Romantic Killer, Manga Vol. 2
Due to the ever-heated controversy on Twitter surrounding the shojo series Romantic Killer, I continued this series with just as much hesitant curiosity as I did volume one. Volume two kicks off right where the previous volume ended, as we get to know and learn more about the “childhood friend,” Junta. As Anzu becomes more acquainted with him while discovering how to survive in her “awful world” of being surrounded by hot guys, she starts to think she has a pretty good handle on things. That is, until Riri’s antics lead to another hot guy taking an interest in her! I have to confess that I was most interested in reading this second volume because of Kazuki. He and Anzu have such a wonderful and refreshing friendship that I needed to know if Riri would cause more romantic “mishaps” between these two. While I won’t say whether my expectations were well met (due to not wanting to share spoilers), I will say that I was very happy with the amount of page time he received. I also enjoyed getting to know Junta on a deeper level, even if, like Anzu, I wish that the “love spell” (as she calls it) would be broken. He is such a sweet young man! I did, however, deeply dislike the new guy that Anzu meets. I didn’t care for his actions or general attitude, regardless of how hard he tried to “change” so that he could get to know Anzu better. Despite that, though, I am curious to see where things go in volume three, even if it is specifically for more romantic mishaps between Kazuki and Anzu thanks to Riri’s relentless shenanigans. ~ Laura A. Grace
Romantic Killer is published by VIZ Media.
READ: Romantic Killer Vol. 1 Review
Oshi no Ko, Manga Vol. 1
What do you get when you cross the comedic cleverness of Kaguya-sama: Love is War with the unflinching stare at the seedier side of life found in Scum’s Wish and set the whole thing among teenaged entertainers in the Japanese film and music scene? You guessed it: Oshi no Ko (which can be translated many ways, the most pertinent to this story being “the children of my favorite performer”), which is co-created by Aka Akasaka of Kaguya fame, and Mengo Yokoyari, of Scum’s Wish. The results are intriguing, producing a rich thematic tapestry that both pushes and pulls, repels and compels with its various plots and punchlines. There are many moments that, if pursued a beat (or panel) longer, could make for a really uncomfortable scene. The premise alone is what my grandma would have called “near the knuckle”: Gorou is a massive idol otaku and an OB/GYN who treats—and then on the fateful day of labor, reincarnates into the child of—his favorite idol, Ai, who is a mere sixteen years of age(!). But Akasaka and Yokoyari know precisely when to cut short a particular thread before it crosses the line, and leave it up to the reader instead to wander (or not) into unsavory thought territory. If this were all this volume was—a sort of knife’s edge dance with titillation—then I’d probably pass on it and the upcoming anime adaptation (about which there’s already a fair amount of buzz). But actually, there’s a lot more on offer here. The story swiftly and unexpectedly moves into the realm of thriller, with the fate of the male lead’s soul in the balance. There are layers upon layers to the storytelling, with a clever framing device at the start of each chapter that gives the sense that the creators have planned everything out thoroughly, taking the time to refine the details and set up a potentially mind-blowing resolution, possibly years from now. The first volume concludes with two core mysteries in play: one that Gorou is aware of, and the other that has yet to dawn on him, though we already know the answer. This is a clever technique because the genuinely unknown plot hooks the reader, while the known mystery ties us to Gorou as we anticipate that moment when he finally realizes what we know to be true. Will this second mystery have lost its affective power by the time he puts things together, or will it be the missing piece that redeems him from a self-inflicted fate as ugly as any of those in Scum’s Wish? In short, an unexpected twist and skillful restraint in the writing here have piqued my interest, and I am looking forward to the next installment. ~ claire
Oshi no Ko 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.