Oops! We forgot Assorted Entanglements vol. 2 on Tuesday, so here it is now! Considering our status as a Christian ministry, readers are often surprised by the series we cover on this site, which include ecchi, graphically violent, and yaoi and yuri works. But if you’ve followed us for some time, you may have a good grasp of our approach. While we emphasize that it’s of vital importance for readers to carefully consider how the media they consume impacts their spiritual lives, we also love to find the wonders of God in unexpected places. This week, we dive into manga and light novels that may at first blush feel “wrong” for readers to peruse, but we’ll help you get past the covers and genre and let you know they emanate the kind of creative and character that are part and parcel of God or if they’re not worth engaging with your mind and heart.
Assorted Entanglements (Vol. 2) • Ayashimon (Vol. 2) • Cat Massage Therapy (Vol. 1) • Guyabano Holiday • Handyman Saitou in Another World (Vol. 1) • Marvel Comics: A Manga Tribute • My Instant Death Ability Is So Overpowered, No One in This Other World Stands a Chance Against Me -AΩ– (Vol. 1) • The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices (Vol. 2) • Secrets of the Silent Witch (Vol. 1) • SHY (Vol. 3) • Touring After the Apocalypse (Vol. 3)
Assorted Entanglements, Manga Vol. 2
Now two volumes in, I can say that Assorted Entanglements is a charming work and it’s also quite a mess. Having started out by focusing on the insecure Iori and cool Minami, in volume two the manga now explores other yuri romances connected to that central one. Because the characters look so alike and there are few hints as to where new scenes begin within the chapters (virtually none, in fact!), I frequently became confused about which characters were involved with one another and if they’d even been previously introduced. Once I was able to separate the three main relationships that are now the focus of the series (with some effort), I could enjoy it more. And enjoyable the series often is—it is frequently cute and humorous. But because it deals with serious issues like abusive relationships, Assorted Entanglements requires a deeper level of examination and doesn’t stand up well under the weight of that sort of critique. The series indicates that chemistry (and sometimes even less than that, with “being cute” provided more than once as a reason for enduring a relationship with a difficult person) is more important in relationships than virtually anything else; it’s a frustrating theme and too superficial of an answer when the manga proposes serious questions and paints characters as having major trauma or other significant life challenges. I guess that’s to be expected, though, from a series that titles relationships simply as “entanglements.” ~ Twwk
Assorted Entanglements is published by Yen Press.
Read: Assorted Entanglements Vol. 1 Review
Secrets of the Silent Witch, Manga Vol. 1
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Monica, a painfully shy mage with secretly mad skills, is thrust unwillingly into social interaction with her peers in a high school setting. There’s a super fan imouto type, who doubles in public as a conniving villainess; a mysterious, handsome prince who has a hidden agenda; a witty, magical familiar who knows how to push Monica’s buttons; and an aggressively tsundere best friend-in-the-making who secretly just wants to mother and protecc the helpless MC. All of them are caught up in the political intrigue playing out between the Great Houses that rule the domain and do not hesitate to use their children as pawns in the game of thrones. When you reduce it to tropes, it sounds like pretty well-trod ground, right? And yet, actually, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts here, and Secrets of the Silent Witch is a compelling read! The tropes are deployed with charm and warmth, making for a delightful start to a series that promises to deliver a little bit of something for everyone. School drama? Check. Political intrigue? Check. Magic and mystery? Check, check. Epic character arcs? Bolded check. (Monica can only grow from here, poor dear!) Romance? Ohoho! We’ll have to wait and see. That’s what I’ll be doing at least: waiting for volume 2! Tobi Tama’s artwork is very expressive and Monica’s character design, in particular, leaves plenty of room for charting her development in coming chapters. Looking forward to her transformation from rather disheveled and unself-aware (despite her self-consciousness) to confident savior of the nation! (Did I mention there were dragons threatening the realm?) Count me in. ~ claire
Secrets of the Silent Witch is published by Yen Press.
My Instant Death Ability Is So Overpowered, No One in This Other World Stands a Chance Against Me -AΩ-, Manga Vol. 1
The manga adaption for My Instant Death Ability Is So Overpowered isn’t particularly well done, but it does serve as an interesting companion piece to light novel series. Shaken awake on a bus by his cute classmate, Tomochika, Takatou discovers that his field trip has taken his class into another world. His other classmates, having received powers from a “sage” who demands that one of their own also become a sage within the month, have abandoned those who did not receive these “gifts,” which include the two protagonists. But not to fear—Takatou has the titular OP ability. The story moves pretty quickly, so much so that we don’t see much characterization for anyone in these opening chapters. In fact, the plot moves along too quickly—the isekai event, the abandonment, a dragon attack, the power discovery, an attack by a trio of classmates, and the appearance of a spirit help all happen without giving the readers a chance to breathe. There’s no time to digest some of these clever ideas. Add that to staid backgrounds and generally unremarkable art, and you end up with a forgettable opening volume. However, this could be a nice addition for the light novel readers. There’s nary an illustration in volume one of that series, and it’s nice to see the events and characters described from the first roughly one-third of the opening light novel volume shown here. If you’re a fan of the original, I might recommend you pick this manga up for that reason; otherwise, it’s best left on the Barnes and Noble bookshelf. ~ Twwk
My Instant Death Ability Is So Overpowered, No One in This Other World Stands a Chance Against Me -AΩ- is published through Yen Press’ J-Novel Club imprint and released digitally through J-Novel Club.
Guyabano Holiday, Manga One-Shot
Charming, whimsical, zany, and surprisingly informative—this is such a delightful volume! Guyabano Holiday gathers together the works of independent mangaka panpanya, whose flair for anecdotal-fantastical storytelling has been delighting Japanese readers for nearly a decade and a half and can at last do the same for English audiences. The volume follows the daily life of a young girl with a timeless soul and her companions Leonard (who is not a dog, though he has a tail, and resembles a frog but with cat ears), a teacher who looks like Jacques Cousteau, and an unnamed school friend who is far too sensible for her own good. Their adventures are modest but profound, and have more to do with quietly experiencing existence together than their relationships per se. The stories range in length from two pages to nearly a hundred, but each achieves a sense of completeness that attests to the skill of the creator, who excels in the visual equivalent of everything from flash fiction to novella. The attention to detail conveyed by image and word invites readers to see the world afresh and stir up their own curiosity about everyday things, from canned foods to pigeons, road signs to streetlights, and culminating, of course, in that rare exotic fruit known as guyabano or soulsop. But best of all, by some magic, panpanya succeeds where so many fail, and captures perfectly that paradoxical quality of a child’s imagination, where grand adventures are rooted in practical concerns—like homework, grocery shopping, and alarmingly large birds—and yet remain unfettered by reality. Added to this, the visual jokes and play sprinkled throughout are a real treat! Definitely worth checking out. ~ claire
Guyabano Holiday is published by DENPA.
Handyman Saitou in Another World, Manga Vol. 1
Truck-kun claims another victim! Yes, the scenario that sends Saitou to another world isn’t exactly unique or creative, but the are aspects to volume one of Handyman Saitou in Another World that set it apart from other isekai series and make it terrifically compelling. The artwork, first off, is charming. Illustrated in a sketchy style that fits well in a world of wizards and warriors, the drawings are also full of life. The character designs are lovely and convey a richness that would be lacking if the series was drawn in a fuller, more classic manga format. The characters’ personalities are rich as well. Saitou’s party—comprised of himself, a fairy, a female knight, and an old man wizard—are pretty typical; but their personalities sparkle, especially the senior member’s (forgetful, ecchi, and sweet). The format of the series, which is in short chapter form, telling many very brief tales, allows us to quickly understand the characters’ personalities. We don’t know much about their backgrounds as of yet, but their redeeming qualities are portrayed early on, and so we very quickly come to care for them. The side characters also generally shine, with many chapters dedicated to side stories from this fantasy world (though be warned: a number of these, including some of the main ones—especially one shocking but funny story late in the volume—are pretty adult). Most importantly, though, Saitou himself stands out because of his personality and profession. As a normal human who isn’t gifted with anything special when coming into this world, Saitou lacks magical skill or powerful warrior athleticism; he views himself as weak and believes that he’s holding his party back. But as is explained throughout and especially in a moving later chapter, he’s the backbone of the team. In fact, the work really expresses an admiration for Saitou’s handyman skills and, by extension, those of the hard-working, blue-collar professionals who are so important in the labor force. Blue-collar workers, in America at least, rarely receive the recognition they deserve. I was deeply moved by how Handyman Saitou is almost reverent toward them. There’s so much heart in this story because of that tone. Volume one was surprisingly lovely and has me anticipating what’s to come. ~ Twwk
Handyman Saitou in Another World is published by Yen Press.
The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices, Manga Vol. 2
This manga adaption for The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices almost perfectly blends the strengths of the original light novel with the advantages of the manga format. Case in point: Octavia, the former fujoshi isekai’d into to the role of princess in another world, is both obnoxious but captivating in the light novels. There, her obliviousness is so important to the plot that when she becomes a little wiser in volume two of the light novel, Octavia is immediately less interesting. But here in the manga, Octavia never gets to the point of becoming annoying; she’s just a fun character, a fujoshi trying find a male companion in order to avoid a bad ending. We’re continually privy to her thoughts in the manga, which balance well with her choice of words in public interactions. The latter is particularly important in volume two as she attends a ball where her appearance, as well as that of others in her party, and the first dance in which she partakes are actions that are sure to hit the rumor mill, greatly impacting her and others. She handles this frustration well, proving that Octavia is smarter than she gives herself credit for. The men who receive attention in this volume, including her bodyguard/main love interest Klifford, are likewise adorable. Meanwhile, the story starts to travel further down the path of mystery in volume two and has become intriguing; I’m eager to see what direction it all goes, particularly with the potential romances and the introduction of a new character. Hopefully, we’ll conveniently get the next volume sooner rather than later. ~ Twwk
The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices is published by Yen Press.
Ayashimon, Manga Vol. 2
Is Ayashimon the next great shonen? While there isn’t any particular uniqueness to this tale, it latches on to beloved shonen tropes with ferocity and style. This series is certainly anything but boring. Volume two begins by continuing the fight between the outmatched Maruo and Doppo Akari. With a “boss match” coming up so early in the manga, the expectation is that Maruo and the gang will lose. But it remains an exciting fight, even if we feel we know the outcome, and some unexpected events occur in the battle that are important for the story as Urara figures out what her true goal is and what kind of leader she’ll be. The second half of the volume focuses on another battle that could end up gaining Urara powerful allies (and which introduces a new compelling character), and it’s a lot of fun, too. In fact, that’s how I would characterize the entire series thus far: fun. Maruo is a pretty memorable tough-guy character as well, adding to the attractiveness of the manga. Urara is less memorable, though, and I think developing her into someone unique is going to be vital if the series is going to continue this strong launch. Until then, I’m more than happy to continue giving Ayashimon a chance. ~ Twwk
Ayashimon is published by VIZ Media.
Read: Ayashimon Vol. 1 Review
Cat Massage Therapy, Manga Vol. 1
“Oh my!! Their very presence is soothing my soul! It’s like they’re a living massage!” I recently saw someone on Twitter share something along the lines of “psychologists hate this anime” (their tweet was in regards to some kind of anime) “because it gives free therapy and comfort to people.” If there was a manga I feel fits that tweet, it would be Cat Massage Therapy! The title is perfect for this story because Nekoyama is a businessman who is deeply stressed due to his job. Deciding to get a massage to help him relax, he is surprised that the massage parlor he’s visiting is run by cats! And not just run by cats, but the massage is given by cats! If the goal of this colored manga is to make the reader relax, then this volume very much accomplished that! This slightly episodic story is packed with cat cuteness, and regardless if you are a cat person or not, there is something so adorable about these cats (and kittens!) that really makes you forget your stress of the day and just smile. You can definitely see how huge a difference these massages make on each person who receives one, and if there was any downside to this manga, it would be that I can’t go out and get a cat massage too! Ha! Overall, this was a really fun read and so glad my library had it! The ending has me really interested in what will happen next because I’m sure it will be just as happy of a read as this one, but unfold a little bit differently because now there is a new cat on the scene who isn’t a kitten trainee! ~ Laura A. Grace
Cat Massage Therapy is published by Seven Seas.
Marvel Comics: A Manga Tribute, Art Book
Marvel Comics: A Manga Tribute is one of the most exciting manga-style art book releases of recent years. If only it was a little longer! At about 120 pages (and less than that if you don’t count the many pages simply providing white space), the “tribute” is better defined as a collection showing how intertwined western comics (Marvel in particular) and manga have become. The book begins with a quick history lesson by Marvel’s VP of Publishing and Executive Director, Tom Brevoort, who explains how the two media have benefitted mutually from one another and how audiences in Japan and the U.S. have embraced each other’s works. And then the collection shows it. The variety is quite wide, ranging from cutesy drawings, like those from Zombies Assemble, to more gritty work, like Hachi Ishie’s Spider-Man illustration. Taken from previous Marvel works, there’s nothing original that I can see here, though for many of us, this entire collection will feel new. It’s exciting to see celebrated mangaka and artists drawing popular American characters, like Yasuhiro Nightow’s illustration of Venom, Peach Momoko’s Spider-Gwen, and Kamome Shirahama’s Squirrel Girl and Gwenpool (among others). The Captain Marvel piece by Haruhiko Mikimoto is another favorite of mine from the work, though there are really very many wonderful pieces. This is a superb collection. And for those of us who grew up on or have some to appreciate for both American comics and manga, I dare say that Marvel Comics: A Manga Tribute is a must-own. ~ Twwk
Marvel Comics: A Manga Tribute is published by VIZ Media.
Touring After the Apocalypse, Manga Vol. 3
As Youko and Airi continue their laid-back sight-seeing of what remains of the world, it’s time for a few upgrades! First, there’s a bug fix for robot-girl Airi, whose software is glitching; then, an update to the Touringram app that guides the two on their travels; and last but not least, there’s Youko’s motorcycle. That’s right: in volume 3, she finally gets her hands on a proper racing bike with a gasoline motor that can hit the kinds of speeds Youko has only ever dreamed of! Which she has done, very recently and quite vividly. You see, those strange dreams of hers that transport her into the past at the various sites they visit are becoming ever more frequent and realistic, and may just be seeping into her waking hours too? This series just keeps on delivering the carefree slice-of-life apocalyptic vibe you never knew you needed, but now can’t live without! Mangaka Sakae Saito is a master of restraint, doling out the tiniest hints that all is not what it seems. It’s subtle enough to make readers second guess themselves, just as the girls themselves do. The result is an immersive reading experience! It’s also hard to resist forming theories about all that is going unsaid and unseen—particularly when it comes to the mysterious Onee-chan, whose steps the pair are following and who seems to have endless resources at her fingertips. Another intriguing, yet simultaneously relaxing volume! Can’t wait for the next stage of the trip. ~ claire
Touring After the Apocalypse is published by Yen Press.
SHY, Manga Vol. 3
Shy and Co. are on the trail of Stigma, the creepy, childish villain who infects unsuspecting victims with the darkness of his heart. Their only lead is the fact that during the Arctic battle, Stigma’s mysterious henchgirl called Pepesha-san (aka Spirit) by a nickname known only to her closest friends and family. So, ready your fur coat because it’s time to visit Russia! The storytelling really finds its feet in this volume. Until now, SHY has tended toward short arcs focused on introducing a wide cast of characters and establishing Shy’s starting point as a lead and her motivations for personal growth. It’s been fast, fun, and a bit of a whirlwind. This volume settles in for a longer arc, and what a great place to start: with Spirit and her backstory! Turns out her functional alcoholism is not just a cheap stereotype derived from her nationality, nor is it a coping tool for numbing a tragic past that, though unfortunate, is pretty predictable. Instead, while Spirit’s past is indeed difficult, her romance with the bottle comes from a desire to feel some kind of connection to her mother, and to live out the cheery life that Mom so desperately wanted for her daughter. In other words, this volume introduces complexity and depth where I least expected it! Also, the artwork, and especially the action sequences and double spread layouts, kick up another notch here, which is saying something considering how dynamic the visuals have always been with this series. Gotta say, out of all the volumes so far, this one has me most excited for the anime adaptation that will be coming out soon—maybe even before the next volume! Either way, whether in anime or manga form, I will be there for the next installment of this series! ~ claire
SHY 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.