Reader’s Corner: Laid-Back Camp (Vol. 13), Boy’s Abyss (Vol. 1), and My Coworker Has a Secret! (Vol. 2)

Our offerings this week include a peace-themed isekai manga, an erotic thriller, and a spin-off of a classic CGDCT series. Click on to read our reviews of these new manga and light novel releases!

Boy’s Abyss (Vol. 1)I’m Quitting Heroing (Vol. 2)K-ON! Shuffle (Vol. 1)Laid-Back Camp (Vol. 13)My Coworker Has a Secret! (Vol. 2)The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices (Vol. 2)A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special (Vol. 2)Witch Watch (Vol. 4)

A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special, Manhwa Vol. 2

Volume two of A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special confirms what I thought was true after reading volume one: I’ve found my new obsession. The storyline was engrossing: the hero, Desir, is given a chance to restart his life with his precious comrades after they all died before saving the world. In volume two, Desir’s heart is on full display as he continues to train Romantica and then pivots to helping Pram discover what it is that turned the young, gentle boy into a great swordsman. Desir’s care and compassion for these two party members make him such an attractive protagonist, the kind of person we would like to have looking out for us. He handles them gently when needed and with boldness when necessary. In this way, he’s like a good father. Volume two also expands on complications introduced in the first book: Desir needs to train up a future party member who currently opposes him; and his group of commoners struggles with the other students, who are nobles in a caste system that not only stays regimented because of greed and pride, but also because of recent memories of the lower classes rebelling. It’s all very fascinating and adds further color to a story that’s already gripping. The artwork is inconsistent—and this isn’t an insignificant point since these full-color webtoon-to-manga releases are more expensive than typical manga prints—but works well enough to illustrate this exciting story. I’ll be awaiting volume three with bated breath. ~ Twwk

A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special is published by Yen Press.

READ: A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special Vol. 1 Review

K-ON! Shuffle, Manga Vol. 1

Kaede Shimizu and Yukari Sakuma are crashing another school’s Culture Festival when they are nearly caught. They manage to lose the invigilators by blending into a huge crowd of students who are…watching a band perform? Yukari’s a tad vertically challenged, so her bestie Kaede gives her a boost, and then they both promptly fall in love with none other than Ho-kago Tea Time and the girls of the Light Music Club. And so, the musical journey of another band of hapless wannabe pop rockers begins! This 4-koma spin-off from kakifly of the beloved K-ON! series serves up a fresh helping of the same fare we know and love from the original, with a few nods to Bocchi the Rock! (as with the guitarist who takes up the instrument under the influence of a crush on the bassist) and Sound! Euphonium (in the form of a few hints of Melodrama among the Pop Music Society senpais, who are not quite what they seem and have A Past). There’s not anything particularly exciting or unique to this volume, but the dynamics between the friends, new and old, are pretty fun (Yukari’s onee-chan, Kurumi, is hilarious), and the developments among the senpais in the final couple pages (that last panel!) speak of the potential for a bit more depth and intrigue in volumes to come. But for now, it’s cute, light-hearted, and beautifully presented, with eight glossy color pages to kick off and several pages of full-tone black and white shading at the start of each chapter. There are some cheeky cameos of the K-ON! original band members too, which prompt a chuckle. All in all, a pleasant read, and one I’ll look forward to following up on. ~ claire

K-ON! Shuffle is published by Yen Press.

I’m Quitting Heroing, Manga Vol. 2

Hmm…maybe I should give the anime another shot? Despite some interesting dub performances, I dropped that adaptation of I’m Quitting Heroing because I found the story to be too basic, with early episodes centering on the hero, Leo Demonhart, getting to know the Elite Four individually by helping each one grow. This kind of story was far more palatable for me (even enjoyable) to read in manga form. But in the midst of the third story of the Elite Four (the fourth is also covered in volume two), the series drops a bomb about Leo. I’m not sure it’s a game-changer, but it is a whatttt?! kind of moment. By providing a backstory that adds unexpected nuance to the tale, I’m Quitting Heroing opens the doors to a story that reaches deeper emotionally than I anticipated it would—and indeed, volume two already probes this harder-hitting territory in the second half when it shows a scene from Leo’s past where he speaks with a demon pacificist who convinced him to consider what the meaning of his life is. It’s actually a pretty profound moment in a series that has hitherto been pretty goofy. Between this volume’s major revelation, its probing of deeper themes, and another surprising reveal at its closing, I’m Quitting Heroing is becoming quite the tale. I’m eager to see how it’ll continue to develop in future volumes. ~ Twwk

I’m Quitting Heroing is published by Yen Press.

READ: I’m Quitting Heroing Vol. 1 Review

The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices, Light Novel Vol. 2

The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices has conveniently changed its heroine’s personality. I guess you could call it character growth, though I’m more inclined to see it as a response to criticism of Octavia’s obnoxiousness or—you guessed it—a convenient plot device. In volume two of the series, Octavia continues her plan to find a “(fake) boyfriend” in order to avoid her destiny of being married off to a suitor and being forced to one day give up the child from that marriage as heir to her brother’s throne. She attends the ball, hoping to meet the object of her unaffection, the enigmatic Rust Byrne, but picks up an inconvenient person on the way and attaches herself to another escort once arriving, leading to a series of conundrums she must work through. How convenient. I’m being a bit facetious, though—as with the first volume, the plot here moves quickly and remains interesting. I had mentioned that half of the first novel feels like A Song of Ice and Fire in its cruel mechanisms, and that theme thankfully remains, though Octavia herself is now far less annoying and quite a bit smarter. You’d think that having the protagonist turn down her fujoshiness from eleven would be a positive, but I’m not so sure it is. It was satisfying in volume one to see how her view of this BL world sharply contrasted with the reality of her situation, while her personality shift (without good reason) here dismisses that element of the series entirely. Also, her chemistry with Klifford is severely lacking and is quite forced during one particular scene late in the novel. So while the world of the series remains interesting and the mysteries (now expanding) continue to have me gripped, the most dangerous part of this novel may actually be its flaws and especially the author’s willingness to suddenly make his heroine more “realistic.” That doesn’t bode well for future volumes. ~ Twwk

The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices is published by Yen Press.

READ: The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices Vol. 1 Review

Laid-Back Camp, Manga Vol. 13

It’s the first day of April and the cherry blossoms are out! Nadeshiko and her onee-chan are off for a scenic drive and some sisterly bonding amid the blooms, Rin is doing her thing, and Chiaki is braving her inaugural solo camp, saving a choice spot for when the whole club reunites the next day for a group camp. Meanwhile, Inuko (Aoi) is at home awaiting her aunt and a mysterious present that may just change her life, and Chikuwa the chihuahua is strutting through the park in search of a choice napping spot in the sunshine, Ena in tow. In other words, all is right in the world of Laid-Back Camp! That said, I’ll admit that I was a little thrown by Rin, who seems to be sporting a mullet for half the volume and expresses a controversial opinion about cats. (After a failed photo op with a herd of obstreperous felines she dares to opine that dogs are better. The nerve!) These quibbles aside, there are some great chuckle-out-loud moments, like when Nadeshiko impersonates a vintage train, Rin worries about being seen by Italians, and Inuko reveals that she is descended from ninja, while the chibi cartoons at the end of each chapter are a delight, especially the one that calculates Nadeshiko’s cycling speed relative to manjuu consumption. A couple youngsters debut too, chatting about how they want to try something new once they start high school in a few days. Are the Laid Back girls about to become senpai? Amid the usual leisurely play-by-plays of traveling to campsites, visiting onsen, and cooking up new recipes, there was one more exciting development in this volume. You know how time and time again the montage in the anime and the manga makes it seem as if the girls are on the verge of bumping into one another whenever they’re off doing different things, as the cross-cutting of shots of the scenery they’re taking in and the messages they’re sending one another seem to be building up to that serendipitous moment when they crest a mountain or dip into a hot spring and lo and behold, their friends are there too? Well, this time it actually, finally, almost maybe happens! Or it could be another teaser from mangaka Afro, who knows how to dish up the exact degree of low-key tension suited to comfy cozy slice-of-life. Will Rin and Nadeshiko recreate that fateful moment when their paths first crossed? We’ll have to pick up volume 14 to find out! Put my name down on the waiting list now, boss. ~ claire

Laid-Back Camp is published by Yen Press.

READ: Laid-back Camp Reviews: Vol. 5 // Vol. 6 // Vol. 7 // Vol. 8 // Vol. 9 // Vol. 10 // Vol. 11 // Vol. 12

My Coworker Has a Secret!, Manga Vol. 2

I think I’ve got the “meme” down in which I’ve seen some fangirls of manga characters say “screaming, crying, throwing up,” because that’s a pretty accurate depiction of how I feel right now! Ha! This second and final volume of My Coworker Has a Secret! was so very wonderful! It picks up right where the cliffhanger in volume one ended and is only the beginning of the transition of Akari and Kazama’s friendship to maybe something more. With an unexpected hug serving as the catalyst, both begin to reflect and realize they just might have feelings for each other. This short series was a huge delight to read! I very much loved these two characters and watching their blooming relationship unfold throughout this volume. It felt so natural and down-to-Earth that despite things unfolding quickly, it didn’t feel rushed and disjointed. The communication was fantastic, and I loved how even when the characters struggled, someone would always come along to encourage them to express their feelings and not deny what they feel. It was very beautiful and made this story all the richer. The art in this was also hilarious! It honestly reminded me of No Longer Heroine because there were these panels of super dramatized expressions that left me laughing out loud a lot! But on the flip side, there were a lot of soft and lovely panels that I deeply enjoyed and strongly appreciated. Definitely recommending My Coworker Has a Secret! to otaku and romance lovers! This was a very sweet and fun story! ~ Laura A. Grace

My Coworker Has a Secret! is published by TOKYOPOP.

READ: My Coworker Has a Secret! Vol. 1 Review

Boy’s Abyss, Manga Vol. 1

Boy’s Abyss aspires to be serious smut. Not seriously smutty, though in some places it is, but serious smut: a psychological thriller that also tantalizes readers through sexual content. It isn’t able to hit that mark, which is a shame because the story itself is engrossing. Reiji is the common small-town adolescent who wants to break out on his own, but a difficult family situation—an angry, shut-in brother; a grandmother suffering from dementia; and an overwhelmed single mother—prevents him from pursuing a life of his choosing. He’s also weighed down by a long-term bully, who will potentially be a part of his life into adulthood. A chance meeting with a young woman, however, opens up a number of doors, including the very real possibility of a double suicide. It’s heavy stuff, and though I wouldn’t say that the content is accompanied by any particular depth, the mangaka demonstrates his talent by moving the tale along at a nice pace while opening up question after question. But while volume one features engaging mysteries, characters who are well-positioned to play integral roles in a long story, and dialogue that appears to only bear shades of truth, these elements get lost in distracting sex scenes that bring the reader back to earth and showing us that this just another in a line of series intended to bring male readers into a fantasy world where they can imagine receiving instant sexual gratification from a dream girl that they may end up rescuing if given the opportunity, and who offers a path away from challenges not of their own making. “You are the hero and deserve everything,” it infers. Some pages resemble straight-up hentai, while the basic characters and pretty designs contribute to an empty feeling in the volume. I know there’s more that this story has to offer, but the smut gets in the way. Much like how a piece of clean cloth smudged by a touch of mud is now dirty, not both dirty and clean, so it is with this series that, through one volume, is forsaking something potentially excellent to titillate male readers. It’s not just great and gross—it’s just another adult-only manga. ~ Twwk

Boy’s Abyss is published by VIZ Media. Volume one releases on April 25th.

Witch Watch, Manga Vol. 4

Witch Watch’s werewolf saga concludes with a huff and puff and…sort of a wheeze, as the fight between Moi and Keigo/Wolf takes all of a couple of pages to conclude and the witch is given a brief backstory before everyone becomes friends again. Oh, and Keigo moves in with Nico, Moi, and Kan. Look, this isn’t a spoiler: It’s what you expect to happen in Witch Watch. It’s also not entirely a criticism. While this series goes flat when it comes to action and the supposedly suspenseful plot involving some grim power trying to hurt Nico, it excels in building up characters who, though polar opposites, develop cute friendships with one another (and a bit more in Nico and Moi’s case, with the two coming just a bit closer together in the second half of volume four). The interactions between the main characters—now including Keigo and with Nemu getting more involved as well—are full of warmth and charm as they play off each other humorously. Everyone is so likable. It’ll make you wish that when you went to high school, you were housed with a witch, ogre, tengu, werewolf, and shapeshifting cat. If you’re okay with muddling through boring action scenes to get to the lovely bits of friendship in between, Witch Watch remains a lovely read. ~ Twwk

Witch Watch is published by VIZ Media.

READ: Witch Watch Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3

“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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