Reader’s Corner: The Villainess Stans the Heroes, MonsTABOO, and Rascal Does Not Dream of a Lost Singer

It’s a Yen Press kind of week here on Reader’s Corner, with all nine of our reviews for manga and light novels released by the publisher. But that doesn’t mean they’re not varied! Highlights from the mix include the latest in the Rascal series, Rascal Does Not Dream of a Lost Singer; the third volume of Shadows House; and the concluding volume to Re:Zero, The Frozen Bond!

In the Land of Leadale (Vol. 3)MonsTABOO (Vol. 3)The Other-Worlder, Exploring the Dungeon (Vol. 1)Rascal Does Not Dream of a Lost SingerRe:Zero -Starting Life in Another World, The Frozen Bond (Vol. 3)Secrets of the Silent Witch (Vol. 3)Shadows House (Vol. 3)Touring After the Apocalypse (Vol. 2)The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves! (Vol. 1)Visions 2022__Illustrators Book

Shadows House, Manga Vol. 3

It’s time for the newest shadow masters and living dolls to debut! Who will pass the test and prove themselves fit to progress in the enigmatic world of the manor house? And what, pray tell, will that test entail? The senpais have been rather tight-lipped about the entire affair, and as things get underway, whispers among the adult shadows hint that things may be a bit more demanding than usual—perhaps even dire—thanks to the nefarious Edward who has his own agenda for the day’s trial. Will all the children escape unscathed? Or will there be some farewells in the offing? So far, Shadows House has been strong on mystery and gothic overtones, but in this volume, things take a turn for the adventurous and puzzling, as the five main living dolls must rescue their shadow masters from a locked room-type scenario—only it’s a deadly English garden complete with strangling vines, painful thorns, and garden furniture that was built not to last but rather to give way in deathly fashion should a certain shadow lose her cool. (Miss Kate, calm down!) Emilico has never been a conformist in Shadows House, inadvertently undermining House Rules through sheer friendliness and genuine-heartedness; but in this arc, we begin to glimpse the hidden strength hitherto overshadowed by her happy-go-lucky personality: it turns out that Emilico is a sharp cookie, sharing the quick wit of her shadow master, Miss Kate, albeit expressing it less directly. So while her bubbly personality may be what earned Emilico her first friends in volume two, in this next installment it’s her problem-solving abilities that enable her to keep those friends and their shadows safe. The manga is resisting the urge to rush the character development, taking its time in building trust among the children, all the while teasing readers with hints of the grander dynamics—and darker secrets—at play in the world of Shadows House. Gripping stuff! ~ claire

Shadows House is published by Yen Press.

READ: Shadows House reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2

Secrets of the Silent Witch, Light Novel Vol. 3

There’s a scene late in volume three of Secrets of the Silent Witch, Matsuri Isora’s remarkable series about a great sage who has a deep-seated fear of interacting with others, where the protagonist witch Monica and another character share a mutual excitement for books. The two are blinded to festivities, romance, and fine dining, instead finding a thrill in diving into their favorite works. I feel the same sort of excitement for Isora’s series, which in volume three blends the warmth and charm from the previous two novels with a worldliness and mystery that digs deeper than he has previously. The author intimately understands the draw of the tropes for us fans of light novels, manga, and anime, but unlike so many recent works I’ve read, Isora isn’t simply moving from one event to another. For sure, there are acts that take us to specific settings (a chess tournament and town festival in this volume), but Isora doesn’t overly rely on tropes. A gifted storyteller, Isora takes the plot in directions that are unexpected—but that make perfect sense for the characters and situation. It’s a fulfilling thing to look back at a book and realize that it surprised you all along the way even though you realize it couldn’t have logically played out in any other manner. And along the way, through two very different scenarios in volume three, we witness Monica’s growth as a person and learn more about her past as well as Prince Felix’s. The mystery involving the latter also deepens as pieces are revealed regarding his impending kingship and the forces trying to prevent him from assuming the throne. The mixture of a funny, heartwarming tale and action-packed suspense is just about perfect. I can’t give this lovely series any higher praise. ~ Twwk

Secrets of the Silent Witch is published by Yen Press.

READ: Secrets of the Silent Witch Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2

In the Land of Leadale, Manga Vol. 3

What if you awoke within an RPG you used to play and realized that your real-life body had passed away, but all your friends who you once played with in the game are no longer there with you either? Would you feel lonely? Depressed? In absolute despair? Cayna is dealing with this situation and these emotions as volume three begins, in addition to the complications of meeting her game children who have aged some 200 years since she “birthed” them. This manga version of the light novel does a really nice of blending the melancholy of Canya’s awakening with fantasy adventure (which in this volume is by her work as a guard for a caravan) and peaceful, humorous sequences. It all adds up to a charming read—mostly because of its central character. Cayna’s personality, which is wise, authentic, and easy-going, allows for a smooth blend of humor and sadness in the work. This particular volume also dives into the question of whether taking life, even in battle, is morally okay, and the effect it has on the warriors or adventurers. Don’t expect anything too deep (it never drifts too far from whimsy), but the series does manage to briefly touch on topics like loss, disability, and torture. Altogether, this makes In the Land of Leadale an engrossing read and an example of what can happen when a beloved light novel is properly and lovingly adapted into a manga. Absolute magic. ~ Twwk

In the Land of Leadale is published by Yen Press.

READ: In the Land of Leadale Manga Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2

Touring After the Apocalypse, Manga Vol. 2

It’s time for the next leg of the post-apocalyptic road trip with Airi, Youko, and their trusty Honda Serow! Will they find any other survivors? Unearth any clues as to what happened to end the world as we know it? Most importantly, will they happen upon a stockpile of delicious snacks? Rather than answer these, and the other more intriguing questions evoked by volume one, volume two of this adventure presents us with…many, many more questions! This time, the mounting pile of unknowns pertains to Youko who, in contrast to Airi with her terminator-like body, hitherto came across as a pretty ordinary teenage girl, if rather gifted with mechanics. But all is not as it seems. First off, there’s the small wound on her finger that heals too quickly; next, her sense of foreboding that is so finely honed as to resemble precognition. But most of all, there are the dreams. Is Youko seeing into the past as she sleeps, back to when the land was teeming with people rather than wild creatures? And is that herself she sees among that group of middle schoolers decades ago on a class trip before the apocalypse? Volume two continues to showcase the careful attention to detail and mad artistic skills of mangaka Sakae Saito, whose loving rendition of an Akiba where exotic zoo animals now roam amid the vestiges of anime fandom, maid cafés, and old-school electronics is enough to awaken a feeling of nostalgia even in those who have never been there. (And to convince serious-minded Airi to don a little cosplay!) The series maintains the sense of joyful delight at the freedom of exploration that so defined the first installment, but with an undercurrent of mounting tension that culminates in a cliffhanger that will have you counting the weeks until the release of volume three! This is absolutely one to look forward to! ~ claire

Touring After the Apocalypse is published by Yen Press.

READ: Touring After the Apocalypse Vol. 1 Review

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World, The Frozen Bond, Manga Vol. 3

Volume three of The Frozen Bond, the spin-off manga connecting the time between Emilia’s reawakening and her appearance in the series proper, concludes the side story with a smooth transition into Re:Zero, and it features all the fluffiness and emotion you’d expect from the formal forging of Emilia’s relationship with Puck. But it doesn’t work as well as it should, which is less an indictment of volume three than of the work as a whole. The Frozen Bond wants to present a coming-of-age story for Emilia fans while also explaining how the special relationship between her and Puck came into being, but it does neither very well. The former is expressed through forgettable villains and scenarios, while the latter forms too quickly. The entirety of volume one featured a Puck who doesn’t care for Emilia, while in volume two, he slowly starts to care for her. However, the Puck we see in volume three hasn’t had the chance or opportunity to grow in the affection he eventually demonstrates toward the young half-elf. The finale, which does feature an unexpectedly heartfelt backstory for the piece’s “villain,” doesn’t otherwise earn the big feels it attempts to get across. The Frozen Bond is leaning upon the readers’ and viewers’ remembrance of the warm bond between Puck and Lia later on without developing them here in these volumes as intended. And thus, The Frozen Bond ultimately functions as just another series for Re:Zero and Emilia-tan fans to collect, serving little other purpose for those who aren’t totally absorbed in the world of half-elves, witches, and the Beast of the End. ~ Twwk

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World, The Frozen Bond is published by Yen Press.

READ: Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World, The Frozen Bond Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2

The Other-Worlder, Exploring the Dungeon, Manga Vol. 1

Yes, this is yet another entry into the isekai-dungeon-party genre, but volume one of The Other-Worlder, Exploring the Dungeon has an edge to it that makes it fascinating. Case in point: the sci-fi component to the story is strong enough to truly place this read in the category of sci-fantasy. Souya dives into the other world with multiple weapons and other pieces of technology in hand and is guided by a robot with multiple personalities. The tech plays a significant role in volume one as a temptation to be stolen by multiple groups of people in the fantasy world. To retrieve some of his items after they’ve been taken, Souya must then enter into the rules of the fantasy realm, including learning how to register as an adventurer, which requires making a contract with a goddess. By the way, the contracts and magical spells in this series are lengthy and thoughtful, adding to the flavor of the series. Also coloring it are fun characters, including the undersea friend Souya makes, the adventurer with her own story that takes Souya under her wing, and a (temporary?) party that develops in these chapters. The humor is biting and the action is furious. The Other-Worlder, Exploring the Dungeon is an intense tale with heart, and one that takes in an interesting world. It thus hits important checkmarks for me in this otherwise overstuffed genre. I’ll eagerly be awaiting volume two. ~ Twwk

The Other-Worlder, Exploring the Dungeon is published by Yen Press.

Rascal Does Not Dream of a Lost Singer, Light Novel Vol. 10

Notice how, unlike the other volumes of this series, the cover of Lost Singer doesn’t have a circle around the title. Sakuta and his friends have finally outgrown the confines of adolescence! That means they’re fully ready to jump into college, right? No more angsty relational conflicts? Well, we might assume so. But author Hajime Kamoshida invites us to face those assumptions about growth and relationships, with respect to both what they say about us and how they harm others. Uzuki, that laid-back idol from Sweet Bullet, realizes one day that her friends scorn her ditzy, energetic, idol-typical personality. So she reads the room: dresses like everyone else, tones down her perky mannerisms, and acts the typical college student. Her performance works at first. But weighed down by the burden of conformity, Uzuki soon finds herself distracted, confused, and lost. She’s crushed by those assumptions, those social pressures that say we should know how to interact with others as adults, that we shouldn’t stand out too much, that we should avoid stirring the pot with unconventional behavior. Yet, as Kamoshida reminds us, relational conflict haunts us into adulthood. We’ll never grow out of our instinct to embrace what’s comfortable and exclude those who aren’t. Even so, we need to fight that instinct. Through the gentle kindness Sakuta and his friends show to Uzuki, Kamoshida paints a lovely picture of what it looks like to welcome those who struggle to fit in. And guess what? Adolescent Syndrome takes a backseat this time around, along with its contrived plot points! I only raised my eyebrows once while reading—surely a record for this series. Overall, Lost Singer is refreshing to read, like returning during college break to meet up with a friend from high school and realizing that despite their new hairstyle, you’re still laughing at the same jokes, still gleaning bits of wisdom. Sakuta’s squad might have graduated high school, but they’re the same characters I’ve grown fond of. And this is the same series, too—as optimistic, penetrating, and cheeky as ever. ~ sleepminusminus

Rascal Does Not Dream of a Lost Singer is published by Yen Press.

READ: Rascal Does Not Dream reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3 // Vol. 4 // Vol. 5 // Vol. 6 // Vol. 7 // Vol. 8 (full) // Vol. 9 (full)

Visions 2022__Illustrators Book, Art Book

Even though fantastic art is only a hop, skip, and type away on the Internet, there’s something special about owning a physical art book, especially when it’s full of remarkable anime-style illustrations. For the second year in a row, Pixiv, a Japanese platform for artists who draw in anime-style or are inspired by anime, has released a collection of digital prints from some of its most talented artists. Visions 2022 contains almost 350 pages of illustrations, with each featured artist receiving a two-page spread. Upon perusing the book, I immediately recognized the works of many of my favorite artists, like banishment, EB十, 黒イ森, Miv4t, Paindude, Q, and T5. Pixiv is a somewhat anonymous platform, so it’s also thrilling that this release provides biographical information about the artists. Just as exciting are the QR codes that link to their Pixiv accounts, helping me discover a number of those whom I hadn’t known of before. That wonderful addition, though, demonstrated something a bit strange about the collection; I didn’t recognize many of these artists, as avid a Pixiv browser as I am, because some haven’t posted on their pages in months or years. More conspicuously (and very likely for good reason such as time constraints and worries about art theft), visits to many of the artists’ Pixiv pages show that they posted only those illustrations reprinted in this collection or even fewer—some posting just one illustration or none at all. Can they be really considered “Pixiv” artists if they don’t use the platform anymore? Another relative weakness was the article explaining recent trends in digital art, which provided some points that were already outdated (COVID and work from home) or plainly obvious (international artists use this Japanese platform). Still, neither takes away from the quality of the collection. Every single page is stunning and the variety of styles makes the collection exciting. It’s reminiscent of a compendium you might find at a museum for an exhibition—the tone is very professional (and for those wondering, the ecchi kept to a minimum). Anime-style art aficionados and Pixiv users will definitely want to make Visions 2022 part of their collection, especially if you treasure having illustrations at the turn of your hand rather than only at the flick of a finger. (Extra: see a quick flip-through of the work.) ~ Twwk

Visions 2022__Illustrators Book is published by Yen Press.

READ: Visions 2021__Illustrators Book Review

The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves!, Manga Vol. 1

Yen Press has some of my most anticipated titles coming out this year, with The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves! being one of them! This shoujo title was one I could not wait to get my hands on. A girl being reincarnated into her favorite game with her favorite characters and embracing the role of antagonist to make them shine as the heroes they are? Count me in! This manga was truly everything! It honestly felt like a reader’s dream come true for any person who has wished they could go into the world of their favorite characters, even if they have to go into that world as a villainess! Not only was the story itself amazing and a lot of fun, but I loved how all the expressions of what Eldia was truly feeling were deeply reflective in her facial expressions, as I’ve made similar ones when reading about my faves! It makes her character so enjoyable to read and deeply relatable! Plus, I love how this villainess trope had its own twist in which she’s relishing being a villainess just so the game will stay the same and her faves will flourish and grow. In most of the ones I’ve read before, the villainess is just trying to stay alive, but every single action by Eldia is backed not by fear but by trying to help her faves or to cheer them on in secret. It’s so good! I definitely think this story is perfect for any reader who has wanted to interact with their favorite characters! Eldia lives out that wish fulfillment tenfold, and I need volume two in my hands ASAP because I want more of this story! Highly recommended! ~ Laura A. Grace

The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves! is published by Yen Press.

MonsTABOO, Manga Vol. 3

In just three volumes, MonsTABOO has taken a number of left turns, to the point where I’m not really sure what it’s about or what it wants to do. Though maybe author Yuya Takahashi (screenwriter for anime like Tiger and Bunny) and artist TALI have finally settled on what they want this series to be. If so, I’m both glad and disappointed, the former because despite being shrinkwrapped, volume three has no lewd or lascivious content—unlike the previous releases, in which heroine Maruka and others are treated as eye candy. I think this may be so because Takahashi realizes that he can’t stand the hypocrisy that drives many other mangaka to express the theme that we should value younger people while simultaneously feeding us panty shots of underage girls. There’s no real room for such fanservice at the start of volume three, as Maruka has become so grieved over the loss of Mochizuki that she is raging and fighting against other competitors in the Academy Game. She has teamed up with mastermind Gaku but learns that the boy is a teenage Jeffrey Epstein, feeding the horrible perversions of adults—though instead of sexual favors, he uses children in psychologically intense and violent games as they pit their “Groan-ups” against one another. By the end of the volume, MonSTABOO seems to have settled into a series where a group of teens are up against terrible adults, which is an admirable turn for the manga. But it’s also not a particularly interesting storyline, whereas the more shocking materials in the first two volumes were at the very least entertaining. So while I commend Takahashi on finding a moral core to the story and staying true to it, I hope he can find a way to keep it while making this manga compelling again. ~ Twwk

MonsTABOO is published by Yen Press.

READ: MonsTABOO Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2

“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.

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