In this week’s Reader’s Corner, we continue to press forward with later volumes of a number of manga and light novels. Haven’t yet tried them out? Not to fear, as our largely spoiler-free reviews will give you a taste of things to come! But we do also take a bite of a couple of new series this week, including the latest spin-off for Twisted Wonderland. Come join the feast below!
Dandadan (Vol. 4) • Disney Twisted-Wonderland: The Manga: Books of Heartslabyul (Vol. 1) • The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom (Vol. 2) • Heavenly Delusion (Vol. 3) • Helck (Vol. 4) • The Horizon • Rascal Does Not Dream of a Nightingale • The Remarried Empress (Vol. 3) • Usotoki Rhetoric (Vol. 3)
The Remarried Empress, Manwha Vol. 3
This latest volume of The Remarried Empress is my favorite yet! Navier and Heinrey continue to grow ever closer—but of course, Sovieshu is deeply displeased with this. While Navier balances the growing confrontations with Sovieshu (because of Rashta’s actions as well as a new diplomatic relationship with a foreign country), she continues to have all the pose of a true empress. But when news comes out about a life-changing event that will deeply affect Navier, what will she do moving forward? There is something so deeply satisfying and very beautiful seeing Navier really experience love from people who are not that jerk emperor. It doesn’t matter if it’s the gentle but fun affection from Heinrey, caring but protective “love” from an unexpected character who drinks an even more unexpected love potion (and he is showing all the affection we know and feel Navier rightfully deserves), the avid support from her ladies-in-waiting who also encourage Navier to not attend certain events in this volume, or from a dear friend who holds Navier in much higher regard then she (Navier) ever realized until that critical moment. Truly, there were many wonderful moments that (thankfully) overshadowed the emperor and “Trashta” (Rashta). And speaking of the latter, while there was a very brief moment here or there that I felt an inkling of compassion for her, she is no saint. Someone once told me that because she was thrust into this situation, her worry and fears make sense (and as a result deserves some compassion), but Rashta has made plenty of her own trashy decisions that had nothing to do with fear or worry of her reputation. Anger aside, this was a very splendid volume that has me itching for the next volume! Definitely continuing to highly recommend this series! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Remarried Empress is published by IZE Press, an imprint of Yen Press.
The Horizon, Manhwa Vol. 1
At first blush, this volume reads like any other apocalyptic “boy meets girl” tale. War-torn urban setting? Check. Young boy with tragic backstory? Check. Young girl with mysterious past? Check. Edgy omniscient narrator who keeps interjecting unwarranted comments like a bad reaction YouTuber? Check. If that was all this book had going for it, you probably wouldn’t be reading this review. But The Horizon stands out with its striking visual style and intentional composition. Dense linework steals the show here; the author uses a sort of messy cross-hatching technique for texture and shading, which gives the volume a gritty, earthy mood. And as the story gets darker and more violent, the hatched lines fly haphazardly across the page, heightening the tension. Another nice touch is the occasional splash of color to highlight impactful moments. The panel composition ties it all together; it’s hard to translate webtoon art into print given the scrolling format, but this volume pulls it off masterfully. The thin panels draw readers’ attention to the small details in the characters’ expressions and body language. There’s a lot of lovely two-page spreads, though if I had to nitpick, some of them are cut off in the middle since there are no margins. All of these elements transform what would otherwise be a lackluster, average story into one with weight and intrigue. I see good things on the horizon for this series, especially if the author translates the craft applied to the art into the characters and story as well. Be warned, though: the art here is graphic and there are several depictions of gore and sexual assault. ~ sleepminusminus
The Horizon is published by Ize Press, an imprint of Yen Press.
The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom, Manga Vol. 2
If there was a series that surprised me in how much it has become one of my new favorite shojo series, it would be The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom. I deeply enjoyed volume one—but with volume two, I loved it even more! Koyou, our loving muscle queen (as a friend nicknamed her), is officially in the capital, but things are off to a hectic start! Between helping a patient recover from pneumonia, trying to get a herb that seems to be available nowhere, dealings with the Sect, and now a life-or-death situation with a father of a client who is in denial, Koyou has no time to take a rest as Prince Keuin slowly uses her to pave a medical “revolution”! I’ve been eagerly anticipating the time when I could sit down and read this volume—it’s been very high on my TBR. And let me just say, this volume did not disappoint! While the doctor aspect of this series has been upped even more than before, I continue to find it really interesting! Koyou is a wonderful doctor, but she really is very eccentric, making this series title extremely spot on! But yes, her doctoring I find very well explained but without taking away from the actual plot. I didn’t find anything to be graphic or nauseating, even if I do feel bad for her patients when she’s like “I’m going to ‘snip-snip!'” Ha! I’m still surprised that despite the lack of romance, I’m still having a blast and enjoying what I hope will be a slow burn at some point! I am so excited to read more of this story! It’s such a joyful and very interesting read, and I definitely can’t wait for the next volume’s release! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom is published by Seven Seas.
READ: The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom Vol. 1 Review
Dandadan, Manga Vol. 4
There’s no doubt: Dandadan is creative, action-packed, and hilarious. As the battle involving the aliens closes and a new character (and love rival for Okarun, apparently added to balance out Shiratori’s relationship to Ayase) enters the story, the series continues to gain steam. It is non-stop; every panel features kids pining for love, a high-speed chase, or a dirty joke. In fact, there’s so much potty humor that the gags in volume four are about how many dirty jokes there are in the series. And if it ended there, I would likely highly recommend the manga. But when the ecchi moments hit, as they do in the first half of volume four, they’re a little too much on this side of ick for me. Okarun and Ayase are drawn like they’re around 15 years old, and to see the former naked and the other in panel after panel in skimpy, sexually-charged clothing (or lack thereof) makes me a little sick. Dandadan, ultimately, is a teen sex comedy covered by the wrappings of a shonen action series. It sits firmly in the ecchi genre with almost everything revolving around teenage crushes, potential relationships, and physical attraction. I don’t expect any of that to be toned down as the series continues, since it wouldn’t be what it is without all the fanservice. That makes this series tricky to evaluate—is this fanservice any worse than others in manga? Are sex comedies valuable in their own right? Does this series exhibit real heart, or are we being manipulated to think of the manga as being a sort of beautiful ecchi series? As you’d expect with all those questions I have, all currently unanswered, my feelings remain mixed four volumes in. All I can right now is that Dandadan is unapologetically itself: fast, funny, original, and gross. ~ Twwk
Dandadan is published by VIZ Media.
Disney Twisted-Wonderland: The Manga: Books of Heartslabyul, Manga Vol. 1
If there is a group of boys that could ever even potentially compete for my love of the Haikyu!! boys, it would be the Twisted Wonderland boys. Since I started playing the mobile game a few months ago, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this first volume of the manga adaptation, and it did not disappoint! Our main hero, Yu, has found himself whisked away to a place called Night Raven Academy, which dwells in a place called Twisted Wonderland. Their students all have magical abilities they desire to hone and grow, but the problem is that Yu doesn’t have any kind of magical ability. He’s just a second-year high schooler from Japan who is looking forward to his Kendo match the next day. But now he’s stranded in this new world and things don’t look so good when some of his new friends cause him to get in trouble to the point of expulsion. This first volume was amazing! It honestly felt like I was reading the game but in manga form, which is exactly what I had been hoping for! I had no issues with the “transition” of me no longer being a “player” to Yu now being the main character, who I quickly felt fit right at home with these quirky boys. I very much loved his determination and how, despite not having any magic, he establishes a strong presence that has other people acknowledging him simply because of that determination and his strong will. Regardless of whether someone has or hasn’t played the game, I would definitely recommend this manga to those who enjoy low-key dark fantasy with Disney villain-inspired dorms and character personalities. It is a very fun story with absolutely stunning art and fantastic characters that will have you invested in their goals and overall shenanigans! ~ Laura A. Grace
Disney Twisted-Wonderland: The Manga: Books of Heartslabyul is published by VIZ Media.
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Nightingale, Light Novel Vol. 11
To what shall I compare being a Rascal Does Not Dream fan? It’s like playing an elaborate game of “the floor is lava”: I’m always dancing over the blatant flaws of the series, trying to find solid footing on the parts that are truly worthwhile. Nightingale tells the story of Sakuta’s middle school classmate Ikumi Akagi, who takes advantage of her prophetic Adolescent Syndrome to prevent a string of miniature disasters. Standard fare for the series, especially as Sakuta begins to pry into why Ikumi’s doing all this, only to find himself face-to-face with his own past. To his credit, Kamoshida hits the bullseye when unpacking Ikumi’s character, her regret about some defining choices she made in middle school, and her fear that it’s too late to make things right. “How do I forget that I hate myself for doing nothing?” It’s a hard question, but Kamoshida handles it with the nuance, clarity, and tenderness that characterize his writing. But Kamoshida’s writing is also characterized by contrived scenarios and bizarre worldbuilding, and those aspects are no less present here. I audibly groaned when the book finally explained the poltergeist-like effects of Ikumi’s Adolescence Syndrome on her body, and trust me, you will too. Oh, and you’d better remember those offhand quantum physics lectures Rio gave two volumes ago! You’re going to be pop-quizzed on them in this volume, unless you’ve given up on trying to make any sense of the plot. Plus, I’m peeved at how much of the commentary here assumes that Sakuta and Mai were justified in their actions in the Shouko arc. I had to put the book down a few times in frustration—and that’s coming from a long-time fan of the series! In sum, I’m tired of leaping over hot coals to justify Kamoshida’s writing. But seeing as Adolescence Syndrome isn’t going anywhere, I suppose this game of “the floor is lava” must go on. ~ sleepminusminus
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Nightingale is published by Yen Press.
Heavenly Delusion, Manga Vol. 3
With their journey to Tomato Heaven turning up only tenuous clues and no tangible answers, Kiruko and Maru are back in Tokyo for volume 3—and they’re short on cash. Growing up as orphans after the apocalypse has taught them a thing or two about survival, though, so their wits are enough to get by on. Except for the fact that they can’t seem to learn that one core lesson that should be second nature by now: don’t trust anyone. After a few tough scrapes and near misses, they find themselves teetering on the edge of one heck of a cliffhanger! One of the things that is so endearing about this series is the way in which the two young leads manage to hold onto their humanity so effortlessly. Amid all the chaos, destruction, exploitation, and betrayal of a broken world, Kiruko and Maru remain kind—both to one another and to others. And this volume is chock full of these little character moments, many of which were left out of the anime, due no doubt to time constraints. The adaptation was very well done, but it is a real treat to return to the manga now and discover these gems, such as a discussion of the temporality of heaven and the small observations the two make of one another. I definitely recommend that anime viewers check out this volume rather than only picking up after the final episode, so as to benefit from these extra touches. Meanwhile, the second plot line following the children in the institution continues to ration out mysteries and tiny twists, but has yet to achieve the degree of warmth that makes Kiruko and Maru’s story so compelling. Nevertheless, this is the best volume so far in striking that balance between character development, fantastical elements, adventure, and mystery. This series just keeps on delivering! ~ claire
Heavenly Delusion is published by DENPA.
Usotoki Rhetoric, Manga Vol. 3
Kanoko and Soma are on the run! Not because they got in trouble with the law, but because they have no money for rent, so Soma figures fleeing is the answer! Ha! What neither of them anticipated was running into someone Soma is familiar with and being invited on a trip to help look into an incident where a doll was murdered. Soma decides to take her up on the offer, but once they arrive at their destination nothing but mystery greets them…and a girl who looks very much like a real doll. This volume definitely upped the creepiness, because I thought there would be more Scooby Doo vibes like volume two had, but this one had me
quite a little bit paranoid while reading alone last night. I appreciate that Soma and the gang weren’t scared because I would have been freaked out and not just paranoid! Ha! I really liked the change-up of this volume being an entire detective case. The mystery itself was very good, and I found my heartstrings deeply pulled on when we discovered what was going on in this story; I resonated strongly with Kanoko’s desire to want to help change things. Each volume thus far has had a great message concerning lying and believing people, and this volume was no disappointment in that regard! Kanoko questioning the meaning behind why someone is telling a lie and whether it’s “good” or “bad” is such a great conversation, but there is also an exploration of that very thing throughout half of this volume. Even if there were more creepy levels than I anticipated, I’m really looking forward to reading the next volume! Though next time I’m not going to read at night, just in case I almost get spooked again. Ha! ~ Laura A. Grace
Usotoki Rhetoric is published by ONE PEACE BOOKS.
Helck, Manga Vol. 4
The best volume of Helck thus far is also its most serious. Beginning with a heavyweight matchup in which Helck receives some brutal blows that we haven’t seen him endure thus far in the series and continuing through a flashback showing his backstory for the first time, Helck veers mostly away from humor and toward action and sentiment. For this volume, at least, it’s an excellent move. Helck’s background is appropriately moving, but not to the point of being saccharine. Although not completely told in this volume, the story nicely connects to Helck’s decision to betray humanity and side with the demons. And while Helck has shown plenty of warmth all along, it’s only in this volume that the manga proves it can really pull at the heartstrings. Volume four also hints at more serious and potentially heartrending stuff to come. I’ll be interested to see how the story plays out from here, both because it feels like we’re nearing the end, even though the series is only one-third through, and because it feels like we’re at a point of no return in Helck‘s tone. Are we done with the heavy doses of humor? How will Vermilio and the rest interact with Helck now that they are sure who he is? How strong the remainder of the series is may depend on how the manga answers these questions. ~ Twwk
Helck is published by VIZ Media.
“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.