Relationships take central focus in this week’s Reader’s Corner: that between would-be lovers and those seeking to take the next step in intimacy; between adventurers who have trust issues; between a traumatized detective and her robot partner; and even between a teenager and her dog. Some of the series are serious, some lighter, but provide interesting scenarios. But are the manga and light novels worth reading? Read on to see what Laura and Twwk think!
Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World (Vol. 1) • The Coppersmith’s Bride (Vol. 1) • Doomsday With My Dog (Vol. 1) • Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End (Vol. 7) • A Galaxy Next Door (Vol. 4) • Honey Lemon Soda (Vol. 1) • I’m Quitting Heroing (Vol. 1) • Your Forma (Vol. 3)
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, Manga Vol. 7
Can an ordinary person change the future? Can someone who is self-absorbed, arrogant, anxious, depressed, or impulsive really impact the world for the better? Himmel the Hero represents the last one of those faults, and yet again and again, he’s both given credit as the adventurer who was most responsible for saving the world, and is the friend who totally changed Frieren’s life. A statute is erected for him in practically every town that Stark, Fern, and Frieren visit (with the one notable exception explained in this volume)—so many, in fact, that the latter notes the statues have been cast in over one hundred different positions. And yet, as this volume emphasizes so much, his value doesn’t just derive from the world-class achievements, but also from the individual lives he personally impacted. The same can be said for the rest of the characters from antiquity, whose tutelage, kindness, and sacrifice have changed the next generation, who are now undergoing their own journeys of transformation and taking after their models in caring for others. How amazing that in a volume that begins with the results of the mage exam and continues with a journey to a hot spring, with a small quest and a date(!) along the way, the themes of grace, sacrifice, and forgiveness changing people’s lives for now and into future generations would shine so brightly. In any other series, that would be unexpected, but not so for Frieren. Reading the manga is an experience every time, always bringing me nearly to tears (multiple times here in volume seven) even as it balances that emotion with humor. It reminds us that despite our shortcomings, we have the power to change lives for the better. This manga has that power, too. ~ Twwk
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is published by VIZ Media.
I’m Quitting Heroing, Manga Vol. 1
The Demon Kingdom needs a rebuild. After being single-handedly conquered by the human hero, it’s in total disarray, but Queen Echidna and her four generals are committed to repairing their world. And who better to help in their restoration than…the very hero who destroyed them in the first place? The story of Leo joining forces with his enemy after the humans turned on him in mistrust and fear has already received an anime adaptation as well as the original light novel release. Now comes the manga, which is light-hearted and fun. There are intriguing isekai elements that connect the story to our own near-future earth, which might ultimately give the manga the depth of storyline it’s lacking; but if those never come to a satisfying fulfillment, that’s okay, too. I found this volume more enjoyable than the bits of the anime I watched because it moves forward with great speed, refusing to dither in a world and characters that have little depth. I think that’s what this type of story needs, for not every tale needs to be a masterpiece. If you’re looking for a cute read with humor and what appears to be a budding romance, this might be your book. ~ Twwk
I’m Quitting Heroing is published by Yen Press.
The Coppersmith’s Bride, Manga Vol. 1
Ever since the middle of last year, I have been low-key on the hunt for more manga that has the friends-to-lovers trope, and that was why I was so excited for one of J-Novel’s new releases, The Coppersmith’s Bride! Not only is this cover super cute, but a gyaru who is suddenly proposed to by her “smithing nut” childhood friend? And the story follows them through the beginning of their engagement? Count me in! While that premise sounds right up my alley, I was surprised to find that this story is more “educational” than a cute love story. The romance is cute, but in some ways this almost felt like a love letter of sorts as to why the Niigata prefecture is so amazing. Definitely not a bad thing, as I found learning about Japanese coppersmithing super interesting! More often than not, I felt like I was a tourist invited to experience how amazing and charming the Niigata prefecture is as we met a few different artisans. It was cool because this was the first time I’ve read a manga that took place in this prefecture, and it made me want to visit should one day I travel to Japan. So while this first volume was different than expected, it was not in a bad way! I still wish it would have more focus on the romance, since it’s what I was most looking forward to, but I would still recommend The Coppersmith’s Bride if you enjoy learning about new places and new things! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Coppersmith’s Daughter is published by J-Novel Club.
Your Forma, Light Novel Vol. 3
In the afterword for volume three of Your Forma, the excellent science fiction series about artificial intelligence and investigators who dive into criminal suspects’ memories, author Mareho Kikuishi explains that the first two volumes involved people who benefitted from technology, while this one focuses on those hurt by it. It’s an unexpected and welcome turn for a series that consistently keeps its readers on their heels. As the volume begins, Echika, who has always been between those worlds described by Kikuishi, becomes involved in an incident that pushes her away from the Your Forma tech and separates her from Harold, to whom she had been bonding. And so, apart, the two must deal with their own complicated emotions (human, robot, and in-between) while investigating cases involving the mysterious “E,” an anti-technology figure who is encouraging his growing following to commit increasingly violent acts against the crime bureau, knowing that it is hiding critical information involving Your Forma technology. Just as with the last volume, I appreciated how volume three moved in unforeseen directions. Instead of some case that leads Harold and Echika to bond, Kikuishi has them struggle individually while diving into the rich territory of the haves vs. the have-nots, with an important supporting character, Bigga, playing a major role. Her people, the Sami, resemble indigenous populations across the world who have historically been left behind as the world “progresses” without them, complementing a matching story of a larger group of people trending toward extremism. I’m continually impressed by the depth of this series, which reads more like hard sci-fi than “light novel sci-fi.” In fact, it’s sometimes the victim of its own greatness, as when characters say or do things that are unrealistically below their station: for example, when Harold needs to be told to send footage of suspects for analysis and considers it a great idea, something that should be so obvious to the advanced A.I. unit that it wouldn’t bear mentioning in the story. But even these tidbits contribute to the tale, which ends in a very satisfying manner while setting up future stories, so I’ll forgive them. I feel that Your Forma has room to develop for dozens more volumes, and I hope that’s what we end up getting because smart A.I. stories in anime like this are few and far between. ~ Twwk
Your Forma is published by Yen Press.
Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World, Manga Vol. 1
The three young adventurers that sit at Nick’s table all wear the same sort of face, one familiar to him. It was the face he had after being betrayed by those he trusted. But though Nick is still stinging and unable to move forward, he was previously rescued from the lowest of lows through a chance encounter, and so decides to try to help these strangers by doing exactly what he doesn’t want to do: form a party. Volume one of Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World navigates the pains that each of the four would-be adventurers have suffered and follows them on their first quest as they clumsily learn to fight alongside one another. This is the third time I’ve witnessed this same story in recent weeks, joining volume one of the original light novel and the first episodes of the new anime series. All share this underdog-against-the-world mentality that warms my heart and keeps me interested for more, despite a few prominent issues, including relatively flat characters. Each adaptation also has its strengths and weaknesses. The manga moves through the backstories a little too quickly, though not with nearly as much speed as the anime. On the plus side, thanks to the added imagery that the light novel doesn’t feature, I was able to warm up to the characters despite not knowing them too well. Karan, the beast girl, gets center stage in volume one, and she’s adorable in the manga—a treasure. These visuals may tilt the manga ahead of the light novel—in the opening volumes, at least. Though beware, that parental advisory warning is there for a reason, as the manga takes the unfortunate route of detailing some of the playboy cleric Zem’s thoughts and actions. ~ Twwk
Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World is published by Yen Press.
Honey Lemon Soda, Manga Vol. 1
Starting off 2023 with Honey Lemon Soda as my first shojo manga of the year was the best way to kick off my reading! This first volume well exceeded my expectations as we get to know our heroine, Uka, who has hardened her heart—and facial features—due to the bullying she has endured in school. After all, if she hardens her heart, it won’t hurt so bad that her dreams of making friends and having fun at school aren’t a reality, right? Maybe that was true until Miura entered her life, encouraging her to ask him for help and showing her what her high school days can look like with friends. Now Uka’s dreams aren’t quite so far-fetched as she gets closer to this blonde-haired boy. If Kimi ni Todoke and Komi Can’t Communicate had a shojo baby, Honey Lemon Soda would be the result, which is the perfect combo! Uka is a very precious heroine, and more than once I felt my heart break on her behalf because seeing any heroine or hero getting bullied in fiction always hits me pretty hard. Definitely made me thankful that Miura is in her life and helping to push her to sprout wings and fly! The art is absolutely stunning! I appreciated multiple pages: the art style is sometimes super cute (the frazzled Uka panels) but often just gorgeous to look at and appreciate, as with the “glow-ups” during certain scenes. I easily can see this series becoming one of my favorites this year and will definitely be reading upcoming volumes as soon as their in my hands! ~ Laura A. Grace
Honey Lemon Soda is published by Yen Press.
A Galaxy Next Door, Manga Vol. 4
The relationship between Goshiki and Kuga is moving along a very obvious path, namely marriage. But as loving as the pair are, they’re also inexperienced. And life comes at them quickly in these chapters, creating a sense of realism as the two are tested by mundane but taxing events like changes at work and health concerns. These episodes push them to consider what it means to be in a committed relationship. What role and right do they have to be involved in each other’s lives and with family, especially when things become intimate or stressful? If they desire to be with one another forever, the barriers to intimacy must erode, and that’s the overlying focus in the midst of all the cuteness and humor in these pages. As usual, A Galaxy Next Door is also engaging because of Goshiki’s younger brother and sister, the latter of whom receives her own chapter in this volume. The supporting characters are fun, too, though I have to admit, I have a difficult time telling them apart and remembering what their relationships to Kuga are. Another more worrying flaw: the royals and aliens from Goshiki’s home island remain hovering above the proceedings, threatening her and Kuga’s happiness with their menace. As the series progresses, these elements feel out of place. Were they ever really needed in the first place? Still, A Galaxy Next Door remains one of the best ongoing romance manga, full of warmth and genuine expressions of love—a truly wonderful and heartfelt work. ~ Twwk
A Galaxy Next Door is published by Kodansha.
Doomsday With My Dog, Manga Vol. 1
I don’t read many post-apocalyptic stories, but when I heard about Doomsday With My Dog and its heroine—a teenage girl, and the last human on Earth—who travels with her cute dog, it was something I wanted to try! After all, I can’t think of any other story where a Shiba Inu is not only super cute but is quick-witted and gives comedic advice about the meaning of life! Yet this manga wasn’t quite what I expected: I thought it would be a “deeper” version of Wonder Cat Kyuu-chan, and it is! But I didn’t connect with this series the same way I thought I would. I did enjoy the way the story is told with double four-panel “comics,” because it seems rare for manga to be told in that format through an entire volume. Haru is also really cute, and I had fun following a dog as the main character instead of a human. He’s definitely pretty smart for a dog: sometimes I was like, “Whoa! This dog has some pretty profound and encouraging thoughts!” Ha! I liked his master well enough. She wasn’t my favorite, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. However, I loved the aliens! They were definitely my favorite part of this first volume, and I would totally love to see more of them in future volumes! I also liked the variety of dogs that our main characters crossed paths with; I didn’t expect there to be so many in post-apocalyptic times! Ha! Overall, this wasn’t my favorite read, but I did find it fairly enjoyable, I think! ~ Laura A. Grace
Doomsday with My Dog 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.