Reader’s Corner: Solo Leveling (Vol. 8, Final), Akane-Banashi (Vol. 1), and Zom 100 (Vol. 11)

Solo Leveling comes to an end, Zom 100 falls to a low point, Akane-banashi premieres in print, and much more in this week’s Reader’s Corner! We also review the latest volume of Raelinana and the first five volumes of para-sports manga series, Run On Your New Legs. Check out our thoughts on these series and let us know what you think in the comment section below!

Akane-banashi (Vol. 1)Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside (Vol. 5)I Want to be a Receptionist in This Magical World (Vol. 1)Lil’ LeoRainbow Days (Vol. 5)Run On Your New Legs (Vols. 1-5)Solo Leveling (Vol. 8)Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion (Vol. 4)Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead (Vol. 11)

Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion, Manwha Vol. 4

Oh my goodness, why did this volume end the way that it did?! That was such a horrible and heartbreaking cliffhanger! And volume five doesn’t come out until November? How am I supposed to wait that long when my heart needs to see our main couple together—and happily together! Ughhh! Just when it seems Raeliana and Noah have reunited after the events of volume three, Raeliana is summoned by Noah’s half-brother, who just happens to also be the King, and is now forced to stay at the palace until he says otherwise! As she acts out her typical hijinks of trying to leave, she begins to realize just how much she cares for Noah. Despite knowing what takes place in the original novel, is she going to accept her feelings for Noah, or is she going to attempt to “cut off” those feelings? Besides that horrible cliffhanger that should not even be a thing, this was a wonderful volume! The most noticeable thing to me is that while I really disliked Heika the High Priest in the previous volume, I enjoyed him so much more in this one! He’s really coming well into his role as “Grandpa,” and I especially loved that moment he and Raeliana have at the end. Noah’s brother is such a fun character! While I didn’t appreciate him “splitting up” our couple, I always smiled or laughed when he was on page. There is no denying that he and Noah are brothers, with the way they force their decisions on Raeliana! Ha! When our couple finally did reunite, it was super sweet and had my heart swooning! I’ve really become attached to this couple, and I’m bummed I have to wait so long to reunite with them because they have brightened my day every time I read more of their story! The next volume better not have a sad ending though! Ha! ~ Laura A. Grace

Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion is published by Yen Press.

Read: Why Raeliana Ended Up at the Duke’s Mansion Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3

Rainbow Days, Manga Vol. 5

Ever so slowly, romances are progressing in volume five of Rainbow Days, an unusual selection in the series but a fun and heartwarming one. It feels very much like a conclusion to “part one” of the story, completing the overnight trip event in which two would-be couples move a little closer to one another. As usual, there’s a mix of adult and more innocent, sweet moments in the volume, with the latter being those that are most compelling. Volume five also has some unusual aspects, including a ghost/possession chapter that fits right into this not-too-serious series and several collaboration drawings featuring characters from both Rainbow Days and Like a Butterfly, which is also receiving a release by VIZ. But the standout inclusion here is a one-shot by the mangaka entitled Yoriko-kun From School Paper Club, a wistful, romantic story that I would have loved to see serialized. I enjoyed the regular material in this volume, but the one-shot alone is worth the price of picking up volume five.~ Twwk

Rainbow Days is published by VIZ.

READ: Rainbow Days Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3 // Vol. 4

I Want to be a Receptionist in This Magical World, Manga Vol. 1

It has been such a long time since I’ve read a really good enemies-to-lovers story where the leads don’t actually hate each other but are just extremely competitive! I truly had a blast seeing the female lead, Nunnally, giving her all to beat her ultimate rival, Alweiss! When Nunnally was little and met the receptionist who helped her father to receive different forms of work, she knew her dream was to be a receptionist one day. Thanks to her deep studying to fulfill that dream, she was at the top of her class throughout her younger schooling and now finds herself attending the magic academy that will open the doors to her dream! The only problem is Alweiss Rockmann, who stubbornly provokes her wherever and whenever he can! Did I mention that he always takes first place, making her even more determined to beat him? From the first few pages, I felt an instant connection with Nunnally because I could relate to being so impacted by another adult as a child that it leads to wanting to be just like them when we grow up. Not only that, but her competitiveness! Oh my goodness, I deeply felt how frustrating it is to lose to your rival! I was the same way with this one boy in middle school, and even now, I am deeply competitive against my husband! The many time skips that took place flowed really well, and I deeply enjoyed the entire cast of characters, which is rare for me. While the ending wasn’t a huge cliffhanger, I am very much looking forward to picking up volume two! Definitely would recommend this story to those who like slowburn enemies-to-lovers, great friendships in an academy, and a fun dose of magic that leaves you excited to see more! ~ Laura A. Grace

I Want to be a Receptionist in This Magical World is published by Yen Press.

Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside, Manga Vol. 5

While I miss the gentle, slice-of-life material that permeated the first several volumes of Banished from the Hero’s Party, I’m entirely on board for its new direction if the series continues to deliver weighty material as well as it does in volume five. The previous release ended with an adolescent elf coming into Red and Rit’s life after his parents were assaulted by another adolescent whose father, it ends up, is the captain of the guard. What follows is material that deals with the use of banned substances, expresses the theme of how truth is often nuanced and complicated, and surprisingly parallels the discussion concerning police brutality in the US. It’s quite unexpected material for a relatively light-hearted fantasy series, but Banished from the Hero’s Party handles it all with subtlety, heart, and intelligence. I was fully engaged by the volume, which takes multiple perspectives in unwinding the mystery. This is a smarter series that I gave it credit for, and it has become quite a nice blend of humorous and soft moments with those that are more serious and thoughtful. I’m hopeful that the manga continues down this ambitious and engaging route.~ Twwk

Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside is published by Yen Press.

READ: Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside Manga Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3 // Vol. 4

Run On Your New Legs, Manga Vol. 1-5

If you’ve been looking for a short sports series, Run On Your New Legs is the series to pick up! Shouta and his best friend Take were an unstoppable soccer duo in middle school, with their hard work and efforts leading them to try and be accepted into a high school with a prestigious soccer team. While that hope is fulfilled, Shouta has a terrible car accident that results in him losing one of his legs from the knee down, his athletic dreams going up in dust, and him having to restart the first year of high school all over again. Yet his life is flipped upside down when a very shady-like man, who happens to be a prosthetist, approaches him saying he can help Shouta run again with a brand new prosthetic leg intended for speed. Shouta decides to take the man’s offer, resulting in him discovering a brand new passion: running. Each volume in this series has been a moving, thoughtful, and educational ride as Shouta’s despair turned to hope, new friendships are made, and horizons widened when he never thought competitive running would even be possible for him. Each panel and page has felt intentional, building up to what I adore about sports manga the most: Surpassing your past self. Growing and improving as an athlete. Not only did this manga have that, but it also showed how important friendships are. I loved that as the series progresses, Shouta’s “high” of discovering a new passion slightly dimmed, but only in the sense that Shouta can see his actions toward old friends in a new light and that he was giving them the cold shoulder. I honestly feel that reconciliation was one thing I was hoping for by the end of this series and was deeply thankful that it unfolded in a powerful way. Truly there are many layers to this story. It’s not just sports, or just friendship, or just learning, but a combination of all three that made this a quick and heartfelt read! Highly recommended if you’re looking for an impactful para sports manga!  ~ Laura A. Grace

Run On Your New Legs is published by Yen Press.

Lil’ Leo, Manga One-Shot

Leo is a very fine tabby cat with a special ability: he can wear a backpack. That means he’s ready for school! Ok, so maybe in the real world Leo would need to tick a few more boxes in order to register at the local primary, but in this charming, ever-so-slightly alternate world, the requirements for a feline to participate fully in the norms of human life are far more…minimal. For instance, if Leo can sport a cravat, then he can go on marriage interview dates! If he can understand the basics of manga, then he can work as a manga assistant! If he can offer insight into what it is exactly that cats love about those exciting little tins, then he can work as a consultant for a pet magazine! It all feels perfectly logical in the moment…and the fact that chapters devoted to Leo’s more human-like humorous hijinks are interspersed with those that capture the epitome of cat-ness (mewing in front of every outside door when it’s raining in case there is dry weather outside one of them, pooping neatly right next to the litter box when displeased, and so on) makes it even easier to suspend disbelief. Hitting this balance is the mark of a master storyteller, which is precisely what Moto Hagio is! Her career spanned nearly half a century, making her one of the early pioneers of shoujo. What’s most fascinating about Lil’ Leo though is that it can be read as a bit of fun about a sweet little floof, or as a rather sharp critique of Japanese society, spotlighting a controlling educational system bent on churning out conformist mini-mes that passive-aggressively stomp down any expression of individuality, or the dehumanizing effect of both a traditional gendered division of labor and the rampant consumerism that underpins a certain form of gender equality—you know, cute stuff like that! All in all, Lil’ Leo is a little weird, a lot charming, and absolutely brilliant. Best of all, it’s one that parents can enjoy with children, and that children can enjoy in new ways as they grow up. ~ claire

Lil’ Leo is published by DENPA.

Akane-banashi, Manga Vol. 1

Akane Osaki is a typical high school girl—except for her “flashy” pink hair tips. Oh, and her laser-focused determination to enter the grueling apprenticeship program to become a rakugo performer, or traditional Japanese comedian. And to do so in order to vindicate her father, who was deemed insufficiently funny by the rakugo school founder when Akane was a small child. Ok, so maybe Akane isn’t your typical teenager! So don’t expect a school romance or a gag series here, even though it is about a teenaged Jim Carey wannabe. Instead, this opening volume sets up Akane’s story more along the lines of an epic, following the beats of the hero’s journey: there’s the backstory, the time skip, the protagonist’s first trial, her successful initiation, and her first training arc. Talk about jam-packed! The pacing is spot on, which is to be expected from a series about story-telling, and the art is expressive, also as to be expected when the subject is an art form that relies on facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice (without costume changes, hair and makeup, masks, or indeed much movement—performers remain seated—and with only minimal props: a fan and a small hand cloth), to keep viewers riveted. If you’ve ever seen a rakugo performance, you’ll know that it’s fast and it’s furious—far more so than what you’d expect from a one-man show. It’s like the equivalent of Formula 1 racing for traditional Japanese arts. And according to Akane-banashi (or Akane’s Stories), it’s just as demanding when it comes to the training process and physical conditioning. Who knew being funny was such hard work?! This is a fun, informative whirlwind of a start to the series! There’s also some bonus material with the volume (supplementing the chapters, which are also available on the Shonen Jump app), including an introduction to the series’ rakugo consultant and an in-depth explanation of rakugo, the training process, and where to enjoy it in Japan. If you’re interested in Japanese traditional arts, or want a peek at a very different side of the entertainment industry (after the trauma of Oshi no Ko, for instance), this is the series for you. Definitely one to check out! ~ claire 

Akane-Banashi is published by VIZ.

Solo Leveling, Light Novel Vol. 8 (Final)

Solo Leveling comes to an end with a finale that is satisfying but unexpected. For one, I didn’t realize the series was ending so soon. Although it was starting to reach DBZ heights of “let’s see how we can make the next character even more powerful than the previous world-destroying one,” which infers that the end is nigh, I miscalculated and thought there were still multiple volumes remaining. Instead, the story concludes quite suddenly—a little too suddenly, in fact—within the first 60 pages of this book. That said, the final battle fits well within what the series does best, which is to get the reader insanely pumped up over mega fights. The remaining 80% of the volume, though, is even better than the epic finale. Without spoiling how the story ends, the bulk of volume eight continues the tale and does so from multiple viewpoints, by leaping to different periods of time, and with peaceful, humorous, and often corny tones. This extra-long epilogue (actually divided into “bonus stories” and epilogue sections) allows Chugong to explore calmer situations and peaceful settings that he wasn’t able to in a series about the impending end of the world. And despite sometimes featuring cringy moments (that are the norm for Solo Leveling), the long denouement is a lovely and often heartwarming closure to an excellent light novel series. And it goes one step further as well: volume eight sets up the sequel, which dropped on KakaoPage earlier this year. ~ Twwk

Solo Leveling is published by Yen Press.

READ: Solo Leveling Reviews Vol. 1 // Vol. 2 // Vol. 3 // Vol. 4 // Vol. 5 // Vol. 6 // Vol. 7

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Manga Vol. 11

From a religious pilgrimage to a hedonistic sex cruise? Zom 100 has also played with juxtapositions, but maybe no more so than in volume 11, which concludes the group’s Buddhist pilgrimage and begins a pleasure cruise arc. These two tales—the former emphasizing moral principles and the latter being full of licentiousness and fanservice—feel like they’re purposely written back-to-back, building out the over-the-top quality that helps make Zom 100 such a fun read. However, the two short arcs are both lacking; while they express admirable themes—the pilgrimage one about having integrity even when it hurts and the latter about romantic love being greater than sensual—both ring rather hollow. The first arc features a redemption that is too quickly developed, and the second lingers so much on what’s the heaviest fanservice of the series so far that it’s hard to pay the “greater love” theme any attention. I get the feeling that what Haro Aso was trying to do was to get his characters physically to a geographic location (which they end up at in volume 11’s conclusion) and interpersonally to a specific point in their relationships as he prepares for the next arc, which seems to be quite critical to the story. Unfortunately, he sacrifices his usual depth to get there. Volume 11 then is a rare misstep for the series; I hope and expect volume 12 to be a return to form. ~ Twwk

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is published by VIZ. Volume 11 releases on August 15th.

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 // Vol. 10

“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.

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