Legendary heroes making bento boxes, a heroine trying to break up an adorable couple, two astronomy club kids who can’t sleep, and a vampire yuri romance are all on the plate for this week’s Reader’s Corner! Check out offerings new and old in our reviews below!
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (Vol. 10) • Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End (Vol. 8) • Insomniacs After School (Vol. 2) • My Happy Marriage (Vol. 1) • No Longer Heroine (Vol. 3) • Spice & Wolf (Vol. 6) • Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family (Vol. 1) • Uncle From Another World (Vol. 6) • Unnamed Memory (Vol. 3) • Vampeerz (Vol. 1)
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, Manga Vol. 8
At the heart of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is a character who, as volume eight begins, has been dead for 29 years. Himmel the Hero’s altruism changed Frieren’s life, and he continues to impact her and others as she journeys with her young party. In volume eight, two lessons that Himmel once gave bookend unexpectedly violent chapters, keeping this fantastic series grounded in love and grace. That said, I was happy to see so much action because, by this volume, Frieren has finally addressed its only major weakness: boring, poorly choreographed battle scenes. The action is intense here, the climax of an arc that has the party journeying into the Northern Plateau, which is described as a wild, dangerous place but is also shown to have value as being “home” for many villagers. The volume also emphasizes the work of first-class mages like Fern, who are sent on missions to eradicate demons and monsters; despite their great power, they don’t always return. The battles here are a reminder of the sacrifice that accompanies heroism, a concept explored throughout the series. This study of heroism through the “present-day” warriors and mages and the hero’s party of an earlier generation form a significant part of the beauty of Frieren, showing how heroes are at their best when they are expressing the most heart. What a beautiful message—and one that is just as comfortable in a fantasy world of mages, warriors, and priests defending villages from those that would harm the weak as it is with our heroes living and working all around us today. ~ Twwk
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is published by Viz Media.
Uncle From Another World, Manga Vol. 6
After joining Mabel and Sui in defeating a fearsome demon who might have otherwise destroyed the world, Uncle’s reward is…imprisonment and a death sentence? Of course, it is. Can’t Uncle catch a break? No, no, he can’t—but because he always comes out okay and is actually super cool and popular, we readers can’t help but eat up all the disastrous situations he gets into, whether by his own hand or because of the masses who hate him. Volume six presses the story and silly situations further along while revealing more and more of the characters’ personalities, particularly the young women who are in love with Uncle. It also spends a good chunk of time in the present day; this creates opportunities for some creative gags, including one involving a movie theater and Takafumi transforming into Mabel. In other words, more of the ridiculous content that makes Uncle From Another World such a humorous read, one that never fails to make me laugh out loud. I do so love the series’ gamer and old guy humor, as well as its willingness to cross the line a bit into “I can’t believe they did that territory.” The series continues to be a winner. ~ Twwk
Uncle From Another World is published by Yen Press.
My Happy Marriage, Manga Vol. 1
It’s probably no surprise, based on the majority of titles I review, that I deeply appreciate humor in what I’m reading and, in fact, prefer it to having a heavy overtone. However, in this first volume of My Happy Marriage, there is nothing humorous to be found. Miyo has been abused by her stepmother and stepsister and abandoned by her father to their mean devices. She is treated as less than a servant simply because she is the daughter of “the other woman” and also lacks any magical ability. To rid the household of her, she is sent to the head of a powerful magical clan, Kudo, to be a bridal candidate. While it seems she can finally escape years of abuse, rumors abound that Kudo is a brutal and mean man. What will become of her future now? Despite the many times I teared up reading, I deeply enjoyed this heartbreaking volume! Miyo’s story is compelling right from the start and rips your heart out with the abuse she has endured. My heart felt so broken for her on account of the worthlessness that she feels; she really believes she has no value throughout this volume. Thankfully, our hero Kudo is going to be a catalyst in helping her begin to see that she need not apologize for her very existence, more or less. While I don’t think this is necessarily a story of boy-saves-girl, I do think this is a story where Kudo is going to help Miyo see she does have value. I’m very curious about where this story will go next and will be reading the next volume immediately! Highly recommend it if you like Cinderella-inspired stories, fantastic slow burn romance, and (for now) lowkey fantasy! ~ Laura A. Grace
My Happy Marriage is published by Square Enix.
Vampeerz, Manga Vol. 1
Have you ever watched Interview with the Vampire? Among the movie’s many discomforting scenes was a kiss shared between a preteen Kirsten Dunst and a very not-preteen Brad Pitt. How you felt about that scene—whether it disturbed you greatly or you were fine with it as a creative choice—will go a long way in determining how you’ll feel about Vampeerz, a manga that’s otherwise a fanciful and sweet tale. The Brad Pitt role in this series belongs to Aria, an ancient vampire who appears to Ichika, a middle schooler who has just lost her grandmother. Aria wants Ichika’s blood—and something more as well—while Ichika finds herself falling in love with the vampire. That relationship between a young person and a vampire that only looks young, a trope that shows up quite often in similar manga, may present a roadblock to readers. You’ll also need to consider your feelings about yuri manga (e.g., will you avoid this but not Call of the Night, which features an age gap and romantic/sexual moments, but has a male/female pairing?). Other than this central issue, and the very basic artwork that’s nothing special, the volume is fun: it flows well and is chock full of cute moments as it presents a number of mysteries through the framework of school and home life. Readers will be happy to bite into this one if they find no issues with the above. ~ Twwk
Vampeerz is published by Denpa.
Unnamed Memory, Manga Vol. 3
Volume three of Unnamed Memory continues to offer the balance of charm, romance, and mystery that the previous two entries did, this time as it concludes the Magic Lake story by dredging up a monster that Tinasha conquered 70 years ago—and in the process, hauling up memories of that time as well. There’s quite a lot of plot progression in this volume (as well as surprising “growth”), which is very much welcomed, but I have to say that there wasn’t nearly enough interaction between Tinasha and Oscar for me. These two are lovely when apart but just perfect together, and their interactions and developing love story greatly overshadows the fantasy elements of Unnamed Memory. Still, the tale of wars and mages is good enough, and the artwork is fantastic, ensuring that there is barely any lag in the story, even when Oscar and Tinasha separate for much of the volume due to a battle. Other obstacles will surely get in their way, as well, including one hinted at during the final pages of this volume. I’m not crazy about where the story appears to be headed next, though three volumes in, Unnamed Memory has built enough trust that I’m willing to follow Toniasha and Oscar virtually anywhere. ~ Twwk
Unnamed Memory is published by Yen Press.
No Longer Heroine, Manga Vol. 3
“Am I an awful person?” “Don’t worry! I’ll be there for you even if you are!!” I think these quotes perfectly wrap up the series No Longer Heroine, because while I have loved this series thus far, this volume was a hard one. Not because it was badly written or poorly drawn, though! It’s because of the horrible choices that are being made by these characters. Cue nervous laughter. At the end of volume two, Hatori announces she is going to do her best to follow Adachi, Rita’s girlfriend and her ultimate rival, in becoming a good and proper heroine. However, Hatori quickly learns it’s a lot harder to act like a proper heroine when a new rival steps on the page! While this new rival was originally going to help Hatori get closer to Rita on a school camping trip, she suddenly starts having feelings for Rita instead?! What kind of heroine is Hatori going to be now? I came into this volume fully expecting Hatori to try and be a proper heroine, and while I give her an A for effort, she still falls very short. Ha! This, of course, makes for plenty of shenanigans, which I appreciated! But some of her choices were hard to come to terms with as a reader. However, I do commend her for telling Adachi that she should be getting upset that some girl is trying to steal Rita from her and that Adachi needs to stand up and step in. I get that she’s confident in their time together and feels that Rita most likely won’t break up with her, but I really thought Hatori was in the right—I don’t get how Adachi could let things slide. I think that despite all of Hatori’s delusions and not the best of decisions, that was one of her better moments in this volume. I’m pretty confident I’m going to read the next volume because I loved the art and laughed a lot when reading, even if I was certainly cringing a lot more than usual. Ha! ~ Laura A. Grace
No Longer Heroine is published by Yen Press.
Insomniacs After School, Manga Vol. 2
Is there a sweeter pairing in manga right now than Magari and Nakami? The two insomniacs (and, as of this volume, astronomy club members) who continue to deepen their bond as they gain a mentor, plan club activities, go on a school trip, and plan a date? The inner workings of that last one will have to wait until volume three at least, but it almost feels as if an “official” date isn’t a step forward for these two, who just by occupying this moment of time with one another in a way that no other two people can quite understand make it special enough as it is. Insomniacs After School perfectly hearkens back to those nostalgic adolescent romances we had or dreamed about, as Magari and Nakami are drawn together magnetically but still in a wide-eyed, innocent way. They’re so cute that I really just want to gush over them in this review. But that would do Insomniacs After School a disservice; little moments of anxiety and sadness poke their way through the kawaiiness, reminding us that there’s substance to the pair and perhaps deeper things that are bringing the two together. What a charming, smart, and comfy read! ~ Twwk
Insomniacs After School is published by Viz Media.
READ: Insomniacs After School Vol. 1 Review
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, Light Novel Vol. 10
While Tomozaki is the main character of the series bearing his name, his transformation has never been the end game. From the beginning, there was little doubt that he would learn to become a top-tier character, with that change happening fairly quickly (too quickly, perhaps, according to this reviewer). Instead, all the drama has been centered on Hinami: Why does she wear a mask? Who is she really? And how will Tomozaki get her to change? In volume ten, Yuki Yaku does a masterful job of keeping us wondering if that dam will break fully open as Hinami’s friends celebrate her birthday at USJ (Universal Studios Japan). It’s really thrilling to read about Tomozaki actively working to break down her walls in a really fun setting for a light novel, different from a Disneyland-style theme park in that it takes full advantage of Super Mario Brothers (see the wonderful pullout illustration by Fly) and, of course, Atafami. I should note, though, that despite what an engaging read this volume is, I’m still struck by what a strange and possibly bad boyfriend Tomozaki is. It’s clear that Kikuchi is not the most important woman in his life. Though the pair have decided it’s okay to not lean on one another so much and Kikuchi is trying not to be jealous of Hinami, it’s still really grating to see how Tomozaki treats his girlfriend when she obviously wants to be closer to him. In one sense, I appreciate Tomozaki’s honesty and consistency about how he sees Kikuchi and Hinami; I also understand that they’re just teenagers and their relationship isn’t a marriage. But it also feels cruel and makes me wonder if instead of trying to convince the audience that Tomozaki can be intimately connected to both Kikuchi and Hinami, he’s setting up another major conflict in the dating relationship to create a Tomozaki x Hinami ending. I’m very interested in seeing if that’s where the story is going, but I’m also just so invested in these characters (and all the rest) that I want more and more of them in any scenario that Yaku dreams up. Volume eleven can’t get here fast enough. ~ Twwk
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is published by Yen Press.
Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, Manga Vol. 1
I’d known of this manga for some time, but after reading volume one, I have to say: it’s an even more brilliant idea than I’d originally thought. The Fate/stay night characters are among anime’s most treasured, but in that series and its spin-off and sequels, they’re often put in harm’s way and frequently even killed. Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family puts these beloved characters, with personalities intact (though shaved back a bit to avoid any real unpleasantness), in family situations—namely preparing a meal and eating it at the dinner table. There’s fanservice galore in the volume, mostly in the form of your favorite characters making appearances; but in one chapter, there’s the traditional form of fanservice, too. But despite the bikinis in that story, the artwork in this series is mostly just really cute, though not to the point that the characters are chibified; they’re really beautifully designed and the drawings are clean and clear. A lot of love went into creating this series, and I assume this also extends to the recipes, which are not only the centerpieces of the chapters but also written out for you for easy cooking. What a great read and cool recipe book this is! ~ Twwk
Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family is published by Denpa.
Spice & Wolf, Light Novel Vol. 6
Deviating from the previous entries of the series by only superficially touching on economics and keeping its main characters away from mystery and danger, volume six of Spice & Wolf is nonetheless an entrancing read, as much a page-turner as any of the other books. Author Isuna Hasekura accomplishes this by slowing down the story, which in volume five ended in a shocking turn of events and a love confession. Holo and Lawrence decide to pursue Eve (though neither will admit that it’s more to preempt their journey’s end and inevitable separation), boarding a boat and being joined by a young man named Col, whose earnestness quickly earns him the favor of his traveling companions. This being Spice & Wolf, there are a couple twists in the story to keep our attention, as well as some talk of economics that play a role, but the focus here is on the relationship between Holo and Lawrence as well as the introduction of Col, whom the readers will also quickly come to like. The full charm of Hasekura’s writing is on full display in volume six, with possibly more dialogue than in any of the previous volumes; this allows us to read more of the biting and thoughtful exchanges between characters, particularly Lawrence and Holo, in Renaissance-style language. A camp that the characters make amidst a large group of other sojourners at one point in the book is also a high point, evoking festivities that make us wish we were there, as common a gathering as it is. I think that describes this book as well—nothing extraordinary of note happens, and yet it’s a treasure, another delightful volume in this classic, charming series. ~ Twwk
Spice & Wolf is published by Yen Press.
“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.