An adventure tale centered on questions of morality. A businessman who transforms into a magical girl. Another young man who is reborn as a vending machine. And of course, the multiple layers to the fantastic series, Oshi no Ko. Things are most definitely not what they seem in this week’s selection of manga and light novels. So dive in and discover more about this selection of releases—including whether they’re worth unraveling for yourself.
The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten (Vol. 5) • The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower (Vol. 1) • Hollow Regalia (Vol. 1) • How to Grill Our Love (Vol. 1) • I Can’t Forget the Bomb: Barefoot Gen and the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: A Memoir • Magical Girl Incident (Vol. 1) • Oshi no Ko (Vol. 2) • Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon (Vol. 1) • Sengoku Youko (Vol. 1) • Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead (Vol. 10)
Magical Girl Incident, Manga Vol. 1
Hiromi Sakura has one rule in life: he doesn’t do overtime—not as a corporate drone and not as a…magical girl?! Say what? One day after refusing to work late, Hiro bears witness to a fairly routine event in Manga Japan: Truck-kun gunning down an innocent child. Like any good protagonist (even one who is not inclined to overwork), he leaps to the rescue and, at the critical moment of impact, finds himself transforming into a very cute, very female hero! Turns out some kind of sticky black monster substance is taking people over to deadly effect, and only Hiro/Sakura can save the day. This is the most refreshing take on the magical girl genre since…well, it’s hard to say exactly, because whereas innovations in the genre have been gearing towards the dark mahou shoujo bent of Madoka Magica for the past decade or so, pushing the once innocent, idealistic magical girl trope into ever more brutal, traumatic territory, Magical Girl Incident reintroduces the kind of playfulness, humor, and indeed, even (in the final panel) classic shoujo elements that have long been sidelined in the pursuit of gritty realism and emotional heft. Not that this story is lacking in impact—instead, it weaves together strains of the dark side and the lighter side of mahou shoujo really nicely, with an added gender dynamic that is often eschewed in a genre that seems at times to exist in a world without men. It’s well done too: there is no coarse body humor or the kind of voyeurism that often arises in manga with a genderbent male protagonist. Hiro is as bothered, for instance, by his boss’s sexism as his female colleagues are. His fellow drone and sidekick, the mysteriously wealthy, ridiculously well-connected Yuzuru, is another highlight of this volume, being a blend of Batman, James Bond, and a traditional bumbling sidekick who is there for comic relief purposes. An intriguing combination! There are some delightfully metatextual moments, with a hilarious commentary by the villain in the epilogue on the volume’s writing and editing. Speaking of which, the translation is out of this world in this volume! Kudos for the sheer number of colloquialisms and slang crammed into every speech bubble, giving the dialogue an over-the-top, energetic feel. This is an absolute gem of a series! ~ claire
Magical Girl Incident is published by Yen Press. It releases on May 23rd.
Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon, Manga Vol. 1
Imagine loving vending machines so much that you’d put yourself in front of a falling one to protect it, leading to your demise. Thankfully, you’d find yourself reborn in another world as a vending machine yourself! Joy! If this sounds like a new low for isekai series, another expression of how the form is running out of ideas, you’d actually be mistaken. Volume one of the Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon manga adaptation is cute and fun, bonding the reincarnated hero (who can only give one of about six automated phrases in response to questions) with a young adventurer who finds and cares for him. But while it does offer some warm-and-fuzzies, it’s also squarely in the violent adventure genre, with plenty of battle and bloodbath to go around. The two sides blend together really well: the humorous and warm exchanges between Lammis and “Boxxo” provide the buy-in needed to care about these characters and the silly setup, while the danger they find themselves in, from both monsters and fellow humans, bonds the two characters more deeply to each other and us to them. But can the series keep it going? I can see the story wearing thin if it doesn’t dig into anything of substance and—other than with the vending machine angle—follows the plotlines of countless other “less serious” isekai before it. It should also be noted that this volume isn’t heavily laden with fanservice, though covers of the forthcoming volumes indicate that the series is ecchi, which some of the aforementioned types of isekai find themselves relying upon rather than strong writing and characterization. But all that’s in the future and yet to be determined. For one volume at least, Reborn as a Vending Machine is worth your coin. ~ Twwk
Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon is published by Yen Press.
I Can’t Forget the Bomb: Barefoot Gen and the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: A Memoir, Paperback
Much like I Saw It, another work by Keiji Nakazawa, I Can’t Forget the Bomb is a short (fifty-page) autobiographical piece about the author’s life, primarily focusing on his and his mother’s survival in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. But whereas I Saw It is a manga, I Can’t Forget the Bomb is a more traditional autobiography, though it does feature manga panels recycled from his classic work, Barefoot Gen. This quick read is as devastating as that series, laying out in graphic and honest detail the brutality of the atomic bomb. Nakazawa was six when it fell, and the experience feels all the more vivid as he explains it from a youngster’s perspective. He’s also a passionate advocate for peace and frequently lays blame on multiple parties for the bombing, World War II in general, and results of both. But I don’t think readers will be turned off by the diatribes; they’ll likely be receptive to his anger because of the power of his eyewitness account and because he is rational and measured. Nakazawa has become one of the more significant figures in memorializing the victims and remembering the destruction, with Barefoot Gen being an entryway into the suffering of the people of Hiroshima for so many in Japan and abroad. If you haven’t experienced his work, this small volume is an easy way in, if not an easy read—you’ll leave it considering the depths of human suffering, the sorrows of war, and the evil of the men who create it for their own gain. ~ Twwk
I Can’t Forget the Bomb is published by Last Gasp.
Hollow Regalia, Light Novel Vol. 1
Two things make Yahiro Narusawa special: he’s the only Japanese survivor of the freak global murder spree that wiped out all his compatriots (the J-nocide), and he can’t die. The two might be connected. The racist killings kicked off when a giant crater opened up in Tokyo, releasing rampaging kaijuu—here known as Moujuu—into the city. That was four years ago. Skip to the present, and Yahiro is trying to find his younger sister, Sui, who disappeared the day death came to the Japanese. His quest leads him to hire himself out to a band of mercs intent on capturing a particular Moujuu that seems to be able to control other Moujuu. Much weaponry and implausibility ensue. The world-building here is supremely clunky, which is not ideal, but it gets worse—a lot worse. I have never wanted to drop a book so hard and fast as this one, but since I was reviewing it, I pressed on so that I can tell you, hand on heart, this novel is terrible. To put it succinctly, it is jingoistic, misogynistic, and horribly written. Yahiro is the worst Gary Stu I’ve ever encountered. He is the only character capable of rational thought; people of all other nationalities are idiots. All the female characters exist only to lust after him and be lusted after by him. Yahiro constantly shames the female lead for being confident about her appearance in a non-pandering way (i.e. for not seeking his approval/arousal). And everything—I mean everything—is sacrificed to the purpose of making Yahiro look good. That’s it. That’s the plot. No character arcs in sight. Ok, to be fair, there are some plot points that warrant a mildly disinterested, semi-thoughtful “huh,” and the idea of combining Norse and Japanese mythology is at least…non-standard. But fundamentally, this is a plot that requires that characters routinely do things that are either baseless or directly contradictory to their previous characterization. A tiny example: Before facing his first Moujuu while with the mercs, Yahiro reflects on how vital it is that he keeps secret the power of his blood to kill the monsters. In the next sentence(!), he showily stabs himself in the arm and gets his blade good and bloody before stabbing the monster which then shrivels dramatically where his little knife nicks its grenade-resistant skin. Nope, not suspicious at all. When the fight is over, the other characters swarm him in worshipful awe, busts jostling, and ask how he did it, to which he blithely replies, “My blood is poison to Moujuu!” Ok then. For much of the novel, I just laughed at the ridiculousness and desperate need for a good (ruthless) editor—until, that is, the epilogue, where my growing suspicions were confirmed and this thing jumped a very distasteful shark:Click here for spoiler Guys, I read this one to the bitter end so that you don’t have to. It’s going straight into the recycling bin. ~claire
Hollow Regalia is published by Yen Press.
The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, Light Novel Vol. 5
Hi there! Didn’t expect to see your good friend the Cajun Samurai here in Readers Corner? I’m full of surprises. Our dear boss asked me if I would write up something about the fifth volume of The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten a few weeks ago. Dear readers, my experience with light novels is next to zero. But Twwk is a master of getting people out of their comfort zones when it comes to writing, so I figured what the heck and bought the ENTIRE series up to this point, even though I had seen the anime. Fiscal responsibility: What is that? Volume five is uncharted territory as we see the after-effects of the confession of our two characters. Of course, the class is surprised that Mahiru, the “Angel” of the class, is going out with Amane, the…well…dude…of the class, and pepper our tsundere couple with questions. This volume deals with the aftermath; from their first day walking hand-in-hand at the school as an official sign of their new relationship, to a couple of trips to the pool and the beach, our young lovebirds navigate their new relationship with the same amount of awkwardness and shyness yet genuine affection that we’ve come to expect from these adorable dopes. I really love the idea of Amane going back to his hometown and directly addressing the source of his underlying insecurities. It shows that thanks to the bonds he’s formed over the last few months, he’s ready to let the past be just that and to look ahead to his future with his angelic neighbor. Also, Amane’s parents are always a joy whenever they appear—a stark and refreshing contrast to their tsundere offspring. All that being said, where does that leave us? Simple. If you’re interested in what happens AFTER the confession when credits roll on episode 12, The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten volume five is a must-read. ~ Josh
The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten is published by Yen Press.
READ: The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3 // Vol. 4
Oshi no Ko, Manga Vol. 2
It is time for the second installment of the hit idol-reincarnation-murder mystery-thriller-comedy series that has taken otakudom by storm in both its manga and anime forms! Volume one concluded with the male lead, Aqua, swearing vengeance on the mysterious figure—likely his father—who facilitated the murder of his mother and favorite from his past life, idol and budding actress Ai Hoshino. And so, in this volume, Aqua’s tale of revenge begins…right? Yes and no. Just as the first volume refuses to be limited to a single genre, so too does volume two, defying predictable plot points and tropes in how it pursues the thrilling mystery that is set up in the premiere’s finale: far more than a revenge thriller, we have here a drama of both workplace and family, and near the end, school as well. Ruby is set on making it as an idol, while her older twin brother is dead set against it, determined to protect her from her own dreams whether she likes (or knows) it or not. Being an idol is what got Ai killed, after all, and although Aqua does not show any affection for Ruby per se—he exhibits no emotion of any kind, really, being instead consumed with his obsession to avenge the light of his two lives who was so cruelly extinguished—he is certainly her fierce protector, at least from his perspective. His dual quest to protect Ruby and hunt down their father has him becoming entangled with child acting prodigy Kana Arima and a shoddy low-budget production of a popular manga. As a result, the bulk of this volume is a study of the cynicism and exploitation rife in the entertainment industry, which chews up pretty young people and spits them out without a second’s hesitation in the name of a quick buck and a stroked ego. But there’s something deeper and darker going on here too, for it’s not just the corruption of an industry that is being exposed but the corruption of the human spirit as well—namely, Aqua’s. For while Ruby’s memories from her former life inspire her to pursue her dreams wholeheartedly and live life to the full, Aqua’s “special insight” contorts him with arrogance and a predilection for manipulating and controlling those around him. As such, this volume may well prove to be the origin story for an anti-hero on the verge of outright villainy, before what we can only hope will be a spectacular redemption arc many, many volumes from now. Buckle up kids, the emotional roller coaster initiated in volume one continues, and is probably just getting started! ~ claire
Oshi no Ko is published by Yen Press. Vol. 2 releases on May 23rd.
READ: Review of Vol.
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Manga Vol. 10
The group sets its sights further west in volume ten of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead. After Takemina bets his life in an attempt to change his village’s disparity between rich and poor (and snap Akira out of his fat cat spell), the band of survivors find themselves chasing a rumor about zombie immunity. But they find time along the way to continue their quest to finish their bucket list, which includes a spiritual trek and spending time with geishas. Okay, maybe that latter item didn’t make it onto the bucket list, but it’s certainly something the boys want to try. As you can see, there’s a lot of movement happening in these chapters, which serve as transitional stories that bring Akira and the rest closer to their goal while giving us a chance to dwell in the humor of the series after another meaningful arc. But as the conclusion to this volume indicates, we won’t be in these joyous chapters for long, as a menacing group of foes appears to be directly in the path of our beloved travelers. Honestly, I’m not quite ready for more serious dealings. I want to see the group enjoy themselves for a bit longer. But that’s the ebb and flow of Zom 100, and I can’t deny that it’s worked almost perfectly so far—I have no reason to doubt that this terrific, fun volume will lead to the next terrific and more substantial one. ~ Twwk
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is published by VIZ Media.
READ: Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3 // Vol. 4 // Vol. 5 // Vol. 6 // Vol. 7 // Vol. 8 // Vol. 9
Sengoku Youko, Manga Vol. 1
Any fans out there of epic band-of-warrior adventure tales that grapple with fundamental moral questions? If so, I have good news for you: Sengoku Youko, a long-time favorite on Japan’s shounen manga lists, is finally receiving an official English translation! Two adopted siblings, fox spirit Tama and spiritual magic user Jinka, team up to fight evil and injustice wherever it may be found. Er, kind of. Tama is the driving force here, and is keen to fix the world so that everyone might live together in peace, human and katawara alike—with katawara being monsters that include everything from fox spirits like her, familiar from Japanese folklore, to gross murderous beings unique to this story. Jinka, on the other hand, hates humans (despite being one himself—mostly) and would rather just annihilate them and give katawara a free pass. But though Tama be small, she be mighty, and she is somehow able to rein in her unruly, bitter brother. It might have something to do with the fact that when she shares her blood with him, he becomes an indestructible force using a technique known as spiritual transformation. (He gains her fox ears, plus a shock of hair that looks like it is itching to take out an MMA fighter.) Or it might just be that she’s in charge of the snacks. This first volume sets up a number of moral quandaries that will no doubt prove central to the series, questions around the nature of good and evil, responsibility, restitution, and remorse. The art is deceptively simple, full of dynamism and quite expressive, especially during the moments of levity that leaven the otherwise sober action tale. The main duo is joined by a couple more characters who fill out the spectra of human-katawara mix and hatred-love for humanity, granting the series the potential for multivalence and depth in how it explores its core themes. With a total of seventeen volumes to look forward to, Sengoku Youko is only just getting started here, but I for one am looking forward to this ride! ~ claire
Sengoku Youko is published by TOKYOPOP.
The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower, Manga Vol. 1
I started The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom a little hesitant because I haven’t had a lot of success in reading Chinese-inspired manga that has quite a bit of political intrigue and backstabbing in the royal palace. However, Koyou, our heroine, instantly had me hooked on this story with her love for muscles! Ha! This story opens up with a prince seeking aid for his right-hand man who has been critically injured by assassins who are after the prince. When he meets Koyou and she performs a life-saving procedure using medical tools rather than begging the gods for mercy, he is more than shocked—and very thankful! Intrigued by her medical methods, he asks her if she’ll return with him to his home and help the people there. As soon as I finished reading this first volume, I was already looking to see if volume two was up for preorder, as I enjoyed this one so much! I never expected my favorite part to be Koyou loving muscles, but it was! Ha! The doctoring part of this story was very interesting, and I found it wasn’t nauseating for me despite the blood (thankfully there was very little!), which was something I was a little nervous about originally. Surprisingly, though, I am also very curious about the political intrigue! Right now, this first volume seems to be setting everything up and doesn’t seem too overwhelming for me, which is something I usually struggle with in stories like this. Overall, it was a very strong first volume, with much more humor than I expected and very engaging characters! I definitely recommend checking out this new series because it’s a fun one! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom is published by Seven Seas.
How to Grill Our Love, Manga Vol. 1
When the weather is nice outside, and it’s almost lunchtime, there’s no better outdoor activity than grilling meat and enjoying some cold drinks on the deck. Kenta, who considers himself a pretty good pitmaster, and Chihiro, a hardworking businesswoman whom he met on a dating app, find themselves getting closer through cooking. It’s a fun spin that focuses on both characters and how their awkwardness keeps them from truly expressing themselves at first—but the story never forgets that this is about barbecue, a motif that is spaced well throughout the chapters. I wasn’t expecting too much when I started going through it, and I was surprised how quickly I finished this volume. There were a few cooking tips that I may try out myself, like which spice to use on meat or which sauce to add. Kenta and Chihiro’s relationship seems genuine until Chihiro decides to pop the question, and they get married on the spot! However, it’s not shown on any page whether a wedding or any paperwork actually occurred, so I don’t know if this was a verbal agreement, or maybe I’m looking too much into it. I wouldn’t mind taking another bite of this series to see if meats my expectations! ~ Samuru
How to Grill Our Love is published by Kodansha.
“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: Oshi no Ko (Vol. 2), Zom 100 (Vol. 10), and How to Grill Our Love (Vol. 1)”
Hollow Regalia sounds awful. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll be giving it a pass.
Literally every person I know who has read Vending Machine (manga or light novel) had said its a fun story even though the premise sounds so absurd! LOL!