Hankering for some horror? We got it. Kaiju or demons run amok? We have that, too. How about coming-of-age romance? We’ve got you covered. Post-apocalyptic adventure? Sure, come on in! Whatever you’re in the mood in, it seems, our reviewers have got something for you (or for you to avoid) this week. Welcome to Reader’s Corner!
Bride of the Barrier Master (Vol. 1) • Even If This Love Disappears Tonight (Vol. 1) • Kaiju No. 8 (Vol. 5) • Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible (Vol. 5) • No Longer Heroine (Vol. 2) • Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17–21 • Tombs • The World After the Fall (Vol. 1)
Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17–21, Manga One-Shot
From ages 17 to 21, Fujimoto of Chainsaw Man fame dropped several one-shots that were finally compiled into a single volume. While they all share his sense of humor and fantastic art style, each of the four stories is wildly different. The first is about two humans surviving together dressed as chickens after human-eating aliens take over the planet. The second is about a teenager who wants to be an astronaut as an adult with a crush on his teacher, when someone invades the classroom. Another about a lovestruck student council president who can’t get the courage to admit it. The final story is about an assassin who ends up going up against an unkillable opponent. So yes, they are wild and different. I loved each one of these stories for very different reasons. Each stood out in its own unique way and was very well crafted. The big thing about each of them is that if you tried, you likely could have gotten an entire series out of the premise out of them. However, Fujimoto was content with each being a self-contained, complete story. Frankly, I love that and would love to see more creative one-shots like these from the mangaka I love. ~ MDMRN
Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17–21 is published by VIZ Media.
The World After the Fall, Manga Vol. 1
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: mysterious towers suddenly appear around the world, and from them, stream hordes of horrific monsters bent on destruction. Amid the mayhem, certain people receive invitations to enter the tower and progress up its many levels under game-like conditions, complete with special abilities, rare items, and all life functions depending on stats rather than actual physical realities (such as the ingestion of food, medical treatment, sleep, etc.). As the Tower Walkers initially progress and ultimately die like flies, one hero distinguishes himself for his dogged perseverance and determination. His skill? Stabbing. Like, stabbing a lot until he can stab really hard and with deathly consequences. He’s a simple man. Okay, so not a great deal actually happens in this opening volume, either in terms of plot or characterization, but there is something on offer here, and it is admittedly quite stunning: full-color, glossy art of lots and lots and lots of monster battles, beautifully rendered. This story began life as a Webtoon—hence the full color—and is now receiving a physical release. Which is both a good and a bad thing. Good, because, as mentioned, the art is fantastic: lively, dynamic action candy for the eye. But also bad, because the pacing of the storytelling is way off here (not being scripted for release in volumes) and we don’t get far enough along for the story to distinguish itself from the millions of other magical-training-towers-suddenly-appear-on-earth-with-monsters adventures. There has been some effort to adapt the layout of the single long scroll of a Webtoon to the horizontal reading pattern of a physical book, but it’s inconsistent at best and ignores the potential of the double-page spread for visual impact. Adapting a Webtoon is a far more demanding undertaking than gathering together manga chapters into tankoban volumes (where mangaka usually have in the back of their heads the notion that their work may be gathered together into volumes, and write accordingly), and sadly, The World After the Fall does a mediocre job of it. It’s early days though in the business of Webtoon adaptations, so here’s hoping for some improvements, because having such high-quality art in physical copy is a real boon. ~ claire
The World After the Fall is published by Ize Press, an imprint of Yen Press.
Tombs, One-Shot Manga
Twisted tales that’ll make you want to sleep in your parents’ room! I believe this is, by far, the best short story collection from Junji Ito! I’m a huge fan of Japan’s master of horror, so to say that I was excited to read his newest release is an understatement. He is the master at writing the most unsettling horror stories and his intricate art style makes these creepy tales so immersive. From a strange town filled with tombstones, even in the middle of the streets and homes, to a nosey neighbor that you wish you didn’t live next to… “Like a good neighbor, stay over there!” My favorite story was “Washed Ashore,” which is about a strange deep-sea creature that washes ashore and attracts a huge crowd. I would have loved a few more pages to really explore the weirdness surrounding this creature and its effect on the people. Usually, short story collections are hit-or-miss—you have a few stories that you really enjoy and then some you don’t care for—but all nine of these stories were thrilling. Tombs is an excellent introduction for those who are interested in reading his work. Even though it’s a horror title, it isn’t too off-putting to new readers of the genre: it’s not intensely violent or graphic. But to seasoned Ito fans, it’s a must-have. It’s Junji Ito at his best! ~ Marg
Tombs is published by VIZ Media and releases on March 28.
Bride of the Barrier Master, Light Novel Vol. 1
I have a feeling that Bride of the Barrier Master was selected for English publication based solely on the low cost of purchasing its rights (the book lacks the slick design of most light novel releases, featuring just one illustration—on the cover) and maybe a reading of just the initial chapters, which are rudimentary but compelling. They tell the story of Hana, a girl neglected by her parents for being the less talented of twin sisters, who becomes able to summon shikigami familiars and fight against creatures known as shadows as she becomes the titular wife. The licensing decision certainly couldn’t be based on the remaining 2/3 of volume one, which are full of contrived situations, inane conversation, and zero tension in either the action or “romance.” This is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. It reminds me of watching a goofy Disney channel show for tweens where the characters puts on a play that gets laughs from the audience because of the clumsy dialogue and overacting. There’s obviously none of the latter in the book, but it feels that way for the characters, who jump from situation to situation through leaps of logic that serve to tie events together but don’t carry any plausibility at all. For instance, the central couple gets lunch at the mall only to run into Hana’s best friend and her boyfriend, who just happens to also be an antagonist. The whole story is full of dumb shlock like that. A saving grace, if there is one, is that the story wasn’t written so simply that I could fly right through it. I suggest, though, that you stay as far away as possible from Bride of the Barrier Master. Read a better light novel. Or a short story. Or even that fan fiction piece you wrote as a 4th grader. Anything else is pretty much guaranteed to be a better use of your time. ~ Twwk
Bride of the Barrier Master is published by Yen Press.
Kaiju No. 8, Manga Vol. 5
It never fails. With every volume I read of Kaiju No. 8, I always forget to breathe at multiple points when reading. Volume five proved that to be true as Kakfa engages in full-out battle with Kikoru’s father in a great effort to prove he is still human. However, his “inner” kaiju makes the outward battle far from easy, as Kafka has to face his own inner battle of who will claim “dominance” over the Kaiju No. 8: Kafka or the kaiju? And unfortunately, that’s just the beginning of his problems… While I confess I was pretty devastated that the third division did not play an active role in this volume, the appearance and involvement of a new character—and new division—made it hard to mourn the lack of some of my favorite characters. Okay, no, I lied. It’s still hard, but Narumi (a character who is going to greatly impact Kafka’s new life, though not in the best of ways) made things interesting. It’s hard to really dislike a character who not only looks cool but can also say some pretty cool things and do pretty cool things as well. Though I still absolutely hate what he said to Kafka, I am hesitantly optimistic that I will come to like his character more in the upcoming volume. As always though, the stakes are even higher with an even more on-edge cliffhanger than the last volume. I am again desperate to see what happens next in this series! ~ Laura A. Grace
Kaiju No. 8 is published by VIZ Media.
Even if This Love Disappears Tonight, Light Novel Vol. 1
The first twist in this lovely coming-of-age novel plays out fairly early on—early enough to serve as the premise of the story: Maori Hino cannot make new long-term memories. She forgets each day as she sleeps at night, and has done so ever since an accident in the spring of her sixteenth year left her with anterograde amnesia. So when Tooru Kamiya makes a fake confession to her after school one day (for reasons), she first lays out a few rules to protect her secret, and then blithely enters into a fake relationship with him. She wants to discover whether or not she can still do new things, even in her condition. What follows is an unusual, if not necessarily unique, romance. (Think Memento without the violence and manipulation, or 50 First Dates with fewer gags and a great deal more self-awareness.) But it’s never really the intriguing setup that carries this story; it’s the opening promise of character growth and the delicate touch of author Misaki Ichijo in leading her three main characters—including Hino’s best friend, Izumi Wataya—through the challenges of loss and relational brokenness to a place of tender hope. Kamiya is the initial narrator of the three friends’ shared story; and by the end of the opening paragraph, his tale already promises a profound journey with just a few simple words: “…that day after school, I surprised myself.” Here is a character who is introduced as rather dull, without ambition or dreams, and quite possibly rather self-satisfied or even conceited; yet, within a few short sentences, he turns that tired Kyon-like trope on its head by admitting he still has a great deal to learn, even about himself. The novel delivers surprisingly quickly on this promise of character growth, in a refreshingly direct manner without the tedious melodrama of misunderstandings and endless hesitations—and not just for Kamiya, but the girls as well. (Also, don’t worry, there’s no love triangle here.) The different narrators, each of whom has his or her own distinctive voice, are deployed to good effect, driving the story forward and, along with a couple more plot twists, making for a satisfying read. All in all, this is a thoughtful, kind, and compelling story. A few tears may have been shed in the reading. ~ claire
No Longer Heroine, Manga Vol. 2
I can’t say I am one to read overly dramatic fiction, but No Longer Heroine continues to be an absolute delight to read! Last year, volume one was in my top ten favorite manga of 2022, and this trend continues to hold true with the release of volume two! Hatori has made it clear to Rita that she loves him and is content to do so from afar. While things seem to be going as smoothly as they can in this kind of situation, Hatori is completely taken off guard when Hiromitsu arrives on the scene and not only looks like her favorite pop idol but surprisingly takes an interest in her! I absolutely loved this volume! Hatori’s love problems are anything but simple with Nakajima “the fool,” who continues to listen to all her dilemmas and delusions—and continues to be the real MVP in this series. I still continue to be #TeamRita, but I was very surprised at how much I liked this new love rival! He’s definitely a player, but surprisingly treats Hatori very well. It also didn’t hurt that with all the drama that unfolded, he was the one person who stood up for her more than once. I’m extremely curious as to what will happen next, especially with Hatori’s new plan to win Rita’s heart, because no way are things going to go as simple as she thinks it will. Hopefully, the wait for volume three will go by quickly, because I need more of this hilarious and over-the-top shojo series! ~ Laura A. Grace
No Longer Heroine is published by Yen Press.
READ: No Longer Heroine Vol.1 Review
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, Manga Vol. 5
I’ve liked Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible much more since Kubo and Shiraishi’s friends and family have become a larger part of the story and the manga has become as much about Shiraishi’s growth as it is about his potential romance with Kubos That all continues in volume five, which enters a small sports festival arc involving the five main friends. Seeing Shiraishi blossom under Kubo’s care and that of the others is lovely and a high point for the volume. Another is a warm moment involving Shiraishi’s mom after she meets Kubo for the first time. Much of the rest of volume five is cute but a tad forgettable. Still, I’ve come to adore Shiraishi and Kubo over the course of this run, and while the series lacks a creativity and depth that might aid it in becoming one of the best ongoing romcom series, there’s still plenty of warmth, humor, and cuteness in Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible to continue to carry it for many more volumes. ~ Twwk
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is published by VIZ Media.
“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.