Reader’s Corner: SHY, Solo Leveling, and Insomniacs After School

A number of the releases we cover this week correspond with upcoming anime, and judging by these volumes—including those from SHY and Insomniacs After School—you should be anticipating them highly! We also review manga and light novels that already have adaptations and have double vision with one of those soon-to-be-adapted work, reviewing the newest Solo Leveling webcomic and webnovel releases!

Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside (Vol. 4)Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway (Vol. 3)Insomniacs After School (Vol. 1)The Invisible Man and His-Soon-to Be Wife (Vol. 1)My Hero Academia: Team-Up Missions (Vol. 3)Shadows House (Vol. 1)SHY (Vol. 2)Solo Leveling (novel, Vol. 7)Solo Leveling (manhwa, Vol. 6)

My Hero Academia: Team-Up Missions, Manga Vol. 3

Have you ever want to see an adventure where Deku joins forces with Mt. Lady to plant trees in a small village?  That’s kind of a weird desire, but ok. My Hero Academia: Team-Up Missions volume 3 is here with more fun stories of our favorite superhero students and teachers. This time we see adventures including Mineta dressing as a dog to get love from the ladies; Sero, Deku and Iida helping out an ex-con trying to go good; class A doing impressions of one another; and the aforementioned tree planting story (which despite my snark, was actually a pretty good story). Much like the previous volumes, we even get a movie tie-in story, this time featuring Rody from World Heroes Mission.  This series continues to be a blast, giving team-ups not often seen and feature time for less-established characters. Yoko Akiyama’s art and writing remains very close to Horikoshi’s, which keeps things from being too jarring. MHA: Team-Ups volume 3 is another real treat for fans of the franchise. ~ Mike

My Hero Academia: Team-Up Missions is published by VIZ Media and volume 3 releases on March 21st.

Read: My Hero Academia: Team-Up Missions Vol. 1 Review

Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway, Light Novel Vol. 3

Higehiro continues to walk the thin line: Will this series be a compelling drama, or will it fall into creepy territory that overwhelms any story it may have to tell? Author Shimesaba has put his tale of a teenage runaway and the man who takes her in almost purely in the former—which is quite a feat. Shimesaba does it by continuing with what he did in the previous volume, focusing on personal transformation rather than on romantic feelings developing between Yoshida and Sayu (even if they are there). Both characters receive their share of growth in volume three, but there’s a particular emphasis on Yoshida as he comes to term with why he does what he does (including sheltering Sayu), instigated by the unexpected return of his first love into his life. The interactions between this new character and Yoshida are sometimes quite sexual and other times quite tender. All of it helps to create a sense of sympathy and caring for Yoshida, as well as to add realism to the innocence attached to the character that’s necessary to keep him from being depicted as a creep. Meanwhile, Sayu realizes she will soon have to make a decision about going home, and begins to understand that through circumstances beyond her control, the decision is really being made for her. There’s a lot happening in this short volume. It’s a brisk and emotional read, one that continues to take a situation that readers may automatically presume to be icky and adds layers of warmth and depth over it. There’s a lot to love here, even if the “love” at the center of the story is complicated at best. ~ Twwk

Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway is published by Yen Press and releases March 21st.

READ: Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2

Solo Leveling, Manhwa Vol. 6

While Korea and its new partner, Japan, are preoccupied with retaking Jeju Island, Jinwoo has more personal concerns to address in volume six of Solo Leveling, which move the action from his 100 levels of grinding back into the real world. I’ve preferred the original webnovel to this webtoon thus far, but volume six showed me why this adaptation is so beloved. It is totally engrossing. The luminescent coloring used during fight scenes is rapturous, and being able to see very distinctive characters in illustrations rather than just considering them in my mind with the bare details given in the webnovel adds a welcome new dimension. Panels showing the international team of hunters coming together to train and then dropping in on Jeju Island are far more alive to me here than in the corresponding chapters in the original work. And while the Jeju Island arc is a high point for the novel, it’s just as engaging here for those reasons—particularly when things go awry on the mission. The horror of seeing what happens on colorful pages adds a new element to the goings-on. I have a feeling that if you’re not totally addicted to this webtoon yet, volume six will be the one to hook you. It has me. ~ Twwk

Solo Leveling is published by Yen Press. Volume six releases on March 21st.

READ: Solo Leveling Vol. 3 Review

Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside, Manga Vol. 4

Despite the title of the series, volume four continues to push the narrative away from slice of life and more and more toward conspiracy and adventure. In fact, though there are some peaceful, daily life activities depicted in this volume, including the swimsuit-clad getaway illustrated on the cover, the story more heavily focuses on the storm to come, which is nicely foreshadowed by an actual storm in the village. Unfortunately, I don’t find the action-packed and suspenseful parts of this narrative to be particularly compelling, and now with Rit and Red more or less officially together, there’s a lack of excitement to their relationship dynamics, too. I’m all for the hero and heroine pairing up, even fairly early in a series (think of how well that worked in the initial parts of Sword Art Online), but it’s too soon for a manga that’s explicitly supposed to be focused on the “quite life.” Well, it hasn’t been quiet in Red’s village for the last couple of volumes—fully half of the series thus far. I hope that we’ll either see the plot develop into something more interesting or that a quick resolution to this “drug-induced body control” storyline will occur so that it quickly returns to life in the countryside. Unfortunately, I don’t see the latter happening, but I’ll hold out hope for the former. ~ Twwk

Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside is published by Yen Press. Volume four releases on March 21st.

READ: Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside Manga Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3

The Invisible Man and His-Soon-to-Be Wife, Manga Vol. 1

My most anticipated seinen release is here and I couldn’t be more excited! The Invisible Man and His Soon-to-Be Wife takes place in a supernatural detective agency. Yakou is a quiet blind woman who slowly starts to have feelings for her boss, Tounome—who happens to be invisible and starts having feelings for her! Through small dates, as they get to know each other better, this slowburn office romance starts to unfold between a character who no one can see and a character who can’t see but always knows when he’s near. I surprisingly read this manga twice last month because I loved, loved, loved the story! It was exactly everything I hoped it would be and more! The relationship between our leads was so cute, and seeing them slowly make their feelings known gave me all the butterflies! Tounome is the ultimate gentleman who is dashing and charming, even though we can’t physically see his looks. And Yakou is such a sweet and beautiful heroine! I really loved seeing her be bold in small ways and demonstrate how she was such a strong young woman. It was also interesting knowing this is sort of a colored manga? I mean, I guess not really, but I was surprised to find the one blue color throughout the entire volume! Wondering if that will continue with each volume in the series? Overall, I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a cute romance! Such a wonderful story that definitely exceeded my expectations! ~ Laura A. Grace

The Invisible Man and His Soon-to-Be Wife is published by Seven Seas.

Shadows House, Manga Vol. 1

It’s taken a while, but it’s finally here, people! An official English translation of mangaka duo Somato’s gothic-inspired mystery-adventure story Shadows House. The series follows a group of “living dolls” (who look suspiciously like human children) and their shadowy doppelgänger masters as they go about their daily lives in a spooky Victorian mansion riddled with secrets and wrapped up in ominous foreshadowing (pun intended). The dolls serve as faces for their shadow masters, whose bodies are so pitch black as to prevent their own expressions from registering. Unanswered questions abound, as the living dolls are told not to think and only to do the bidding of their masters—who, it must be said, don’t seem very certain about how exactly things work in the manor house, either. Will their mutual ignorance be a point of contention for the pairs, living as they do in a world that insists on enforcing strict social hierarchy where shadows must exert their superiority over their dolls? Or could it become the basis of an alliance that exposes the truth of Shadows House and all its strange goings-on? To find out, you could just watch the delightful anime adaptation by CloverWorks, now with two full seasons to its name. So why should you read the manga instead/as well? Let me answer that in two parts. First, for those who are new to the series, if the genre tags listed above are not enough to whet your appetite, then let’s talk about the art: the inkwork is so fine, and each page so filled with detail, that it is an absolute treat for the eyes. Although Somato produced colorized versions of each chapter for digital release on Yanjan!, Yen Press has opted to print the black and white originals, supplemented by about a half-dozen glossy colorized front and end plates per volume. This was a good decision because the stunning inking tends to get lost in the colorized versions. Either way, Somato create a world that blends kawaii manga character design with a classic illustration style reminiscent of John Tenniel of Alice in Wonderland fame. Also like Alice, Shadows House is a substantive work, being just as dark in places as Carroll’s books as it engages with the ugly implications of the kind of rigid (colonial) hierarchies that are otherwise so often romanticized in Victorian-esque manga and other media. Shadows House exposes the exploitation and abuse that permeates the manor house, while yet retaining an air of hopefulness and possibility, thanks in particular to the main duo, Emilico and Miss Kate. For fans of the anime, the manga is definitely worth a read, particularly as we get into Volume 2. More on that next time! So to sum up, if you’re a fan of gothic mysteries, beautiful inkwork, and the irrepressible protagonists of classic children’s literature, this series is for you!  ~ claire

Shadows House is published by Yen Press.

Solo Leveling, Novel Vol. 7

Volume seven of Solo Leveling is big, non-stop, and exciting. It also worries me. As Jinwoo encounters the Monarchs and must turn to the power within his second heart to fight them and prepare for the war ahead, Solo Leveling hits a crescendo. Resembling a shounen manga hero’s journey, the story has become so much bigger in scope than it was even just a couple of volumes ago. All the secrets so carefully hidden the previous volumes are revealed and the “real” story is now exposed. Is it a good thing that we’ve reached this point? In one sense it is, because the focus on the Monarchs gives even more opportunity for Jinwood to flex his muscles, which is one of the most compelling things about Solo Leveling. For those less familiar, think about this series as presenting the excitement of the adrenaline-pumping battles in Dragon Ball Z, but in novel form and a near-future setting (you might then understand why this series is so addictive). But the negatives of this sudden expansion of story outweigh the positives. Volume seven reaches a point where it disposes with the grinding, which helped give Jinwoo a human feel. Other human elements have also been abandoned or only quickly covered, as if by necessity, like the reveal involving a character hinted at since volume one and a “date” that was so cliche for the genre that it hurt. I was reminded of the movie Hancock where the compelling and very personal first half of the movie was tossed aside for an epic battle of the gods, which wasn’t well received. I’m not receiving this transformation well, either, though it remains to be seen if future volumes can return the story to its charm even as it’s grown to a charmless scale. ~ Twwk

Solo Leveling is published by Yen Press. Volume seven releases on March 21st.

READ: Solo Leveling Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3 // Vol. 4 // Vol. 5 // Vol. 6

SHY, Manga Vol. 2

Volume 2 kicks off with the same verve and energy as the first installment. Teru Momijiyama, aka Shy, faces off against Davie Stardust, Britain’s hero, in a type of examination battle to test her right to be numbered among the world’s heroes. She’s had a rocky start to the hero’s life so far, and still can’t use her heart power. Will it finally manifest when everything is on the line? Fortunately, this nail-biter is resolved pretty quickly and it’s on to the training montage—and what a unique montage it is as well! Rather than the feeble Teru pumping iron and running steps at the local mountain shrine (though there is some mountain hiking) to overcome her physical limitations, Japan’s bashful hero undergoes a training regimen suited to strengthening her heart, which is both her current area of weakness and the source of her greatest potential. Chapter after chapter, the self-conscious middle-schooler is faced with people who need her help or situations where she needs to assert herself, despite the blushes, knocking knees, and trembling voice and hands. In my review of the first volume, I drew a parallel between Shy and Bocchi the Rock, and that comparison continues to be apt in this volume: neither series is interested in “quick fixes” for their anxious protagonists or making grandiose claims about how facing your fear in a dramatic way transforms you into a confident extrovert. Instead, Teru continues to feel nervous every single time she needs to speak up. She will never be an exuberant, flashy hero, but she is becoming the hero she has the potential to be: her name, Teru, is a play on the word tereru, “to be shy”; yet the word itself, teru, means “shine”! This shy hero is learning to shine, against all odds. A few more details about the magic system are revealed this time, and they are set to take this superhero comedy drama in an interesting direction. The artwork continues to be top-notch, with the addition of some striking two-page spreads alongside the detailed backgrounds and clean character designs of the first volume. All in all, very much looking forward to Volume 3 and/or the anime—whichever comes first! ~ claire

Shy is published by Yen Press. Volume 2 releases on March 21.

Read: Shy Vol. 1 Review

Insomniacs After School, Manga Vol. 1

Could this story be any cuter? Two high school students, the chipper Magari and nitpicky Nakami, find refuge in their school’s old astronomy clubroom, which is the only place where these insomniacs can find sleep. They also discover a special friendship with one another, which might develop into…who knows, but the pairing feels particularly lovely as just a friendship at this point, the two different souls bonded by their common suffering. Magari and Nakami are insufferably cute in their earnestness, and the drawings in the series, though a little too simple in many panels, convey a nostalgic feel. I was instantly transported to a school life I never knew and a teenage friendship and romance like those out of the most endearing of adolescent novels. There’s such a sweetness to the series, even as it keeps things real with how Nakami is picked on for his lack of charm. An anime adaptation is coming soon, but this story is made for the written form, and this is one of the best first volumes of any manga I’ve read in recent years. Insomniacs After School has all the makings of something very special. Don’t sleep on it. ~ Twwk

Insomniacs After School is published by VIZ Media and releases on March 21st.

“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.

3 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: SHY, Solo Leveling, and Insomniacs After School

  1. […] Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside (Vol. 4) • Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway (Vol. 3) • Insomniacs After School (Vol. 1) • The Invisible Man and His-Soon-to Be Wife (Vol. 1) • My Hero Academia: Team-Up Missions (Vol. 3) • Shadows House (Vol. 1) • SHY (Vol. 2) • Solo Leveling (webnovel, Vol. 7) • Solo Leveling (webtoon, Vol. 6) […]

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