Why anime and manga? This week’s reviews give a glimpse into one of the aspects of manga and related media that we fans adore: the creativity of the art form. From fun shonen offerings (Welcome to Demon School!) to mystical romance (Fly Me to the Moon) and autobiographical accounts (I Saw It) to weird slice of life (Small Nozomi and Big Yume), and featuring art both rapturous (The Art of Haikyu!!) and mythical (Shuna’s Journey), manga and manhwa provide endless works for minds seeking creativity and engaging storytelling. Here are few such offerings:
The Art of Haikyu!!: Endings and Beginnings • Dark Gathering (Vol. 1) • Fly Me to the Moon (Vols. 15 and 16) • I Saw It: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: A Survivor’s True Story • My Gently Raised Beast (Vol. 2) • My Special One (Vol. 2) • The Reincarnated Villainess Won’t Seek Revenge (Vol. 1) • Shuna’s Journey • Silver Spoon (Vol. 10) • Small Nozomi and Big Yume (Vol. 1) • Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-Kun (Vol. 1)
The Art of Haikyu!!: Endings and Beginnings, Art Book
“There are times when you’re so down, you don’t want to hear ‘cheer up.’ At times like that, some happy people can just bring out the happiness in you.” This quote Sensei shares about an illustration he did of the Karasuno first-years sums up what Haikyu!! did for me, especially Hinata. No other series and its characters have impacted my life and changed me to be a better person today than these, which is why I was so excited about the deluxe art book, The Art of Haikyu!!: Endings and Beginnings! It has well over 350 pages of gloriously bright illustrations from the manga Haikyu!!, featuring full covers, chapter pages, sketches, and previous promotional images. Not only that, but having what felt like an exclusive look at Sensei’s office and his thoughts on a variety of chapter pages had me internally flailing and grinning like a kid with candy! Truly, taking in every page of this art book with the bonus content of Sensei’s “musings” is an unforgettable experience. At numerous points, I became deeply emotional and could feel my eyes well up with tears because the (mainly) textless pages left me in breathless awe from being able to see how phenomenal this story is in such a special format. I would highly recommend this to any and every Haikyu!! fan, because reliving the manga through these pages was emotionally moving and deeply satisfying. The print and page quality make the hefty price of this hardcover art book more than worth it, as it gives nothing but the best of the best for one of the best sports manga series of all time. ~ Laura A. Grace
The Art of Haikyu!!: Endings and Beginnings is published by VIZ Media.
My Gently Raised Beast, Manhwa Vol. 2
Blondina is back! Our fair-haired heroine is now twenty years old and love is in the air—just not for her! She remains oblivious to her childhood friend Amon’s affections, or even to the fact that he’s a strapping lad of eighteen now and not just a cute little black kitten with a transformation gem sparkling on his forehead when in feline form. That’s not really her fault though, seeing as Amon has not taken his human form in her presence for years now, perhaps unwilling to risk that she still might not see him as more than a little boy, or perhaps unable to give up the constant praise and affection she lavishes so freely upon his kitten self. Ah, the trials and tribulations of being a cute kitten/handsome young man! But more seriously, Blondina has a great many challenges to navigate in this second installment: a scheming half-sister, a taciturn half-brother who seems to be dogging her and lady-in-waiting Lucy’s every step, and haunting memories of childhood abuse at the hands of a cruel master and mistress. And then there’s also the matter of Amon’s coming-of-age ceremony in the dark woods of the Divine Beasts—this volume certainly packs in a lot! At no time does it feel rushed, though, with solid pacing and plenty of small character moments such that it hits the combination of slice-of-life comedy and courtly intrigue quite nicely. Amon’s cattish expressions in particular are delightful, and the vibrant art continues to impress. There are a handful of dark, expressionist panels in this volume, which are powerful in conveying the depth of Blondina’s character. She is no mere cookie-cutter princess, but neither is she an anti-heroine; instead, she is multi-faceted—something that comes through when she finally confronts her past. Reading this in physical copy is a joy, and in fact preferable to the online version published through the Webtoon app, in my opinion. The colors really pop and the panels have been arranged effectively to take advantage of the page and occasionally the double-spread as well. Very nicely adapted! This is one Webtoon I’ll be waiting on the physical volumes to read. ~ claire
My Gently Raised Beast is published by Yen Press.
READ: My Gently Raised Beast Reviews Vol. 1
Dark Gathering, Manga Vol. 1
Dark Gathering is a horror series that’s not very scary and which features a sentimental story that isn’t particularly touching. But there’s room to grow, mostly based on that interesting little girl on the cover, Yayoi. She’s part of the trio of leads, which also includes Keitaro, who is able to interact with the supernatural and is now just returning to society after shutting himself away to escape malevolent spirits, and Eiko, his childhood friend. Yayoi is Eiko’s cousin and is obsessed with the spiritual world, but not just seeing and learning about it; she wants to destroy evil spirits, and one in particular. Once the mangaka moves past his initial presentation of Yayoi as unfriendly and spooky, she turns out to be a hoot and helps generate interest in what’s otherwise a moribund tale. And listless it is—from bloody handprints to cursed hand, and from a shrine maiden grandmother to the totally-expected “twist” ending, this volume presents the same old stories from countless yokai-centered series before it. Thankfully, it moves along briskly from scenario to scenario, which helped to keep my attention. And again, Yayoi, with her dry sense of humor, is a fun protagonist. We’ll have to wait and see, though, whether the rest of the series will rise to her level and provide us with a manga worth continuing. ~ Twwk
Dark Gathering is published by VIZ Media. Volume one releases on May 16th.
Fly Me to the Moon, Manga Vols. 15 and 16
Wow! After fourteen volumes of cryptic hints and buildup, these two volumes really pay off in a big way. Just who is Tsukasa, really? These volumes hold the answer. My one complaint is that volume fifteen opens rather confusingly, with a flashback, followed by a flash-forward to a future scene, before jumping back to the story’s present day. Even so, it all does make sense eventually. A chance comment reveals that Nasa, due to his injuries, doesn’t fully remember what happened on the snowy night he met Tsukasa. Relationship drama ensues, as Tsukasa believes Nasa will reject her once he learns a truth that she had assumed he knew but which he’s apparently forgotten. Expect major revelations! Following the dramatic deep dive into the past in volume fifteen and the first half of volume sixteen, the latter half of volume sixteen loops back to the cute romcom antics and pop culture references that are this manga’s usual fare. There’s more I wish I could say, but I really don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I’ll exercise restraint. Just know that in these volumes, the manga finally stops drip-feeding us implications about Tsukasa and unleashes a flood of information. I definitely strongly recommend these two volumes if you have any interest in this series. ~ Jeskai
Fly Me to the Moon is published by Viz Media.
I Saw It: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: A Survivor’s True Story, One-Shot Manga
There is a deep sorrow that permeates the lives of many women who lived through the tumultuous wars of East Asia in the 20th century. I Saw It, which is the shorter autobiographical account Keiji Nakazawa created before his classic manga, Barefoot Gen, expresses this sadness by putting the focus on his mother. Her strength as the breadwinner for a large household, her pain at hearing her child and husband burn to death following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, her quiet fortitude in providing for her impoverished family in the years afterward, and her love for Keiji despite his troublesome youth and rare visits home later in life are as much the center of the action in this 42-page work (printed on paper larger than usual for manga these days, but smaller than American comics) as Nakazawa’s life. The imagery of this story is horrific, as one can imagine, but remained anchored in reality. This is a true story. That emotional center is so important for telling the tale. World War II and its aftermath feel like ancient history now, and yet remembering what happened and the people who lived and died in the conflict feels as if it’s as important as ever. The memories of our grandparents and great-grandparents still have something vital to say to the world, stories and history that can change it should we take these things to heart. I Saw It is a moving and memorable part of that collective memory and should be on bookshelves all over—for manga fans, history buffs, educators, and anyone at risk of drowning in the anxieties of today and forgetting the persevering spirit lying within all of us. ~ Twwk
I Saw It: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: A Survivor’s True Story is published by Last Gasp.
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-Kun, Manga Vol. 1
“What’s that? All the money I could want in exchange for my soul? Would you settle for my son’s soul? You’ve got a deal.” And this is the plot of Welcome to the Demon School! Iruma-kun. Iruma Suzuki is sold off to a demon by his good-for-nothing parents, who had already been treating him pretty badly. But the demon, Sullivan, doesn’t want to eat or torture Iruma. Turns out, he just wants a grandson he can brag about to his demon buddies. So he sends Iruma to the demon school, where our young protagonist hopes to just blend into the background. Unfortunately, he doesn’t blend in at all, becoming famous around the school while meeting lots of interesting people like top student Alice Asmodeus, crazy oddball Clara Valac, and powerhouse would-be demon king Sabro Sabnok. Together, they go through many wacky adventures as Iruma gets used to living in the demon world. This is a fun comic series with a combination of goody comedy, tear-jerking moments, and some epic battles. Osamu Nishi does a great job switching from super-deformed looking characters to heavily inked action images and everything in between. The characters each have unique personalities that allow them to stand out and make you want to see what they’re going to do next. There’s a little something for everyone in this series and plenty to look forward to in future volumes. Welcome to a fun manga, Reader-kun. ~ Mike
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-Kun is published by Kodansha.
Small Nozomi and Big Yume, Manga Vol. 1
Nozomi is a really little girl with a really big problem: She’s woken up from some sort of slumber still wearing her seifuku, but with no memories of who she was. Oh yeah, she’s also now only 10 cm tall and is calling the apartment dwelling of a NEET named Yume home. To complicate things, Yume discovers her and instead of helping Nozomi, she asks the shrunken (and younger) school girl to mentor her! Well, at least Nozomi gets donuts in exchange for her guidance! Small Nozomi and Big Yume sounds like a cute story, right? Volume one is indeed cute, especially the kawaii artwork (though sometimes I wonder who the audience is meant to be when the CGDCT-style panels drift into fanservice mode). But neither Nozomi nor Yume particularly stand out as engaging personalities; if anything, they’re both a bit obnoxious—the former with her bossy attitude and the latter with her laziness—which really prevents this cute tale from taking off. But there is potential here, and not just because of the art and fun storyline: the mystery of Nozomi’s transformation is already coming into focus in volume one and adds a nice element to what might have been a completely flat volume. It remains to be seen whether her unusual circumstances might lead to an expansive and creative storyline, but here’s hoping it does—and that the characters grow up a little as well. ~ Twwk
Small Nozomi and Big Yume is published by Kodansha. Volume one releases on May 16th.
Shuna’s Journey, One-Shot Manga
Imaging telling Hayao Miyazaki “No.” But that’s what he heard when he was younger, at a time when the master’s career was languishing and he was told that a story he was planning would not be animated. But within that space, Miyazaki developed some of his greatest works. Shuna’s Journey, a one-volume fable-like manga drawn in lovely watercolor, is his solution to not being able to create an animated feature of the tale featuring the titular prince’s journey to find seeds that will feed his village while encountering slave traders and gods along the way. Developed alongside his celebrated manga Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Shuna’s Journey shares visual and thematic similarities with that series, though translator Alex Dudok De Wit notes that the two are also opposites, with this one being “terse, spare, and lucent.” But that doesn’t mean that the manga isn’t rich, conveying Miyazaki’s brilliant artistry and concerns about humanity, progress, and the natural world. Fans of the artist will also see how pieces of this work did eventually become animated, making their way into Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, and Tales From Earthsea in some form, with even exact characters and mirrored scenes finding themselves in some of those films. As such, Shuna’s Journey, which concludes with an excellent short essay by the translator that helps situate the work in Miyazaki’s canon, is a must-have for Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli otaku. It’s also a beautiful and meaningful addition to the shelf of any reader who enjoys children’s tales and fables. Written amidst an unparalleled creative output by Japan’s greatest animator and one of the world’s greatest storytellers, Shuna’s Journey is yet another classic work from an artist we have begun to take for granted. Released for the first time in English, it’s worth owning and enjoying, for with the years adding up and his next retirement likely to be the one that sticks, we should be celebrating every “new” work from Miyazaki that we’re blessed to receive. ~ Twwk
Shuna’s Journey is published by First Second, an imprint of Macmillan Books.
The Reincarnated Villainess Won’t Seek Revenge, Light Novel Vol. 1
Rosemary, a noblewoman engaged to a prince, is framed and executed on false charges. She reincarnates as Mary. But not in another world—she’s born in the same kingdom, just a couple years after her past life ended. And she doesn’t regain her memories as a kid, but when she’s eighteen. Soon after, she is summoned to the palace to work as a maid; of course, that’s a just a pretense for trying to find the current crown prince a fiancée. Prince Rizel is the son of the people who had Rosemary murdered…and he falls in love with Mary at first sight. Awkward. Meanwhile, the palace is a hotbed of debauchery and corruption, factional politics divide the court, and the late Rosemary’s little brother Reynaldo (now a duke) and childhood friend Albert (now commander of the knights) are still obsessed with her and plotting to avenge her. The main narrative is laced with flashbacks that help connect the dots between the characters’ present behavior and their pasts. The writing feels a little cliche at times (e.g., the love-at-first-sight trope, the trio of love interests), but there were enough twists on the basic “villainess” story template that this volume kept my attention all the way to the end. I also found it interested that story explicitly calls out Rosemary and Reynaldo’s unhealthy childhood relationship as codependent, and (through Rizel) critiques Reynaldo and Albert for being hung up on Rosemary and not appreciating Mary for who she is. This volume is solid enough that I feel comfortable recommending it, IF you’re in the mood for yet another entry in the “villainess” genre. ~ Jeskai
The Reincarnated Villainess Won’t Seek Revenge is published by Cross Infinite World.
My Special One, Manga Vol. 2
If there was a shojo manga that surprised me in how it quickly jumped on my radar after reading the first volume, it was My Special One. However, with this second volume, it leaves me unsure if I should keep it on my radar. Not because of bad storytelling or art! Mainly because the first volume was so funny, but with volume two the series takes a turn as we dive into Kouta’s past. Not only is Sahoko working through the rejection of her confession to Kouta, but Kouta finds him in the center of a scandal that could hurt not only his self-image, but his heart too. The scandal and Kouta’s backstory were something I didn’t anticipate when starting this volume. The humor moments I loved before are few and far between, but I don’t necessarily think this was a bad thing because it made Kouta’s character much more three-dimensional, as well as pulling hard on your heartstrings. In turn, this made Sahoko a more relatable character, because seeing how she couldn’t “fix” him or had the right words to comfort him was a nice change in shojo manga. The ending definitely makes me want to pick up the third volume, though I might wait for it to be released and then check it out at the bookstore before deciding. The manga creator’s other series No Longer Heroine is one of my favorites, and I think I was hoping to have that same humor carry over in this series. Maybe it was just my mood in wanting something lighter and funnier at the time, but it’s a series I am still curious about and would recommend to those who like idol romances. ~ Laura A. Grace
My Special One is published by Shojo Beat, an imprint of VIZ Media.
READ: My Special One Review Vol. 1
“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.
2 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: The Reincarnated Villainess Won’t Seek Revenge, My Special One, and I Saw It: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima”
Ooo, Haikyu art book! Even the cover art looks awesome! That is definitely going on my wish list.
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