Romance and violence are sometimes bedfellows, but we’ve separated them for this reviews—we’ve got shoujo, school romance, and the like with the most recent volume of Sunbeams in the Sky and other titles, and a Thirty Years War seinen series joining everyone’s favorite gangster homemaker in a “how to” book. Choose your poison! We’ll let you decide which side is more harmful to your heart!
Last Game, Manga Vol. 1
I was originally going to pass on this series, but I heard so much about it on social media that I decided to give it a try! I’m so glad that I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it! There’s an independent, smart female lead, Kujou, and then you have Yonagi, a snobby rich kid that is mad that Kujou beats him at EVERYTHING in school. Kujou doesn’t have any friends; Yonagi, on the other hand, gets all the girls’ attention—except for one, Kujou. This just eats Yonagi up inside and fuels his anger enough for him to come up with an agenda to get back at her. It’s a “notice me senpai” situation but reversed! It’s really fun and endearing. I was so surprised at the amount of character growth that we see in Yonagi in this first volume. I love the dynamic that is happening between these two. Even though Yonagi is trying to get her to fall for him to “win,” I believe he is already in love with her and doesn’t even know it! I think this will be an adorable slow-burn romance. The only thing that bothered me about this first volume was that three short stories take up a third of this volume. I was so disappointed about this because I was very wrapped up in reading Last Game. I will be picking up the next volume in this series. I think fans of My Little Monster and Special A will enjoy this series too. ~ Marg
Last Game is published by Seven Seas.
Issak, Manga, Vol. 1
The critical and financial success of Vinland Saga seems to have convinced Kodansha to bring over more of their seinen historical fiction titles to the USA. Issak is one such title. The setting is southern Germany, AD 1620. The Thirty Years War is raging and central Europe is being devastated by the armies of the Protestant Union and Catholic League in equal measure. A mysterious lone mercenary arrives at a besieged German Protestant fortress, explaining in broken Dutch that he has been sent by the Netherlands to help them repel a mighty Spanish Catholic army. But “Issak” is clearly no Dutchman, and he soon reveals that he is a samurai who has travelled halfway across the world to hunt down and kill a man known only as “Lorenzo”. This Lorenzo murdered his master and is now fighting as a mercenary for the Spanish side. But to have any chance of success in his manhunt, Issak will need to survive the upcoming battle – no small task given that the Protestants are outnumbered several times over… Like Vinland Saga, this series is both magnificently illustrated and at times gorily violently. The two series’ premises also appear noticeably similar, both centering on a protagonist wholly devoted to a mission of revenge. But while young Thorfinn was a nearly mindless whirlwind of knives and rage, Issak is a grown man and a far more coldly calculating and capable warrior. This first volume of Issak also gives off a “playing it straight” vibe, rather than how Vinland Saga dropped clues from the earliest chapters that it was going to subvert its revenge storyline. It’s too early to judge if this series will live up to Yukimura Makoto’s masterpiece, but fans of Vinland Saga should absolutely check this series out. Also, it has a samurai sniper, how can you not find a samurai sniper cool? – WacOtaku
Issak is published by Kodansha
Sunbeams in the Sky, Manga Vol. 2
Like a high schooler fretting over his first crush, Sunbeams in the Sky continues to send mixed signals where it counts most: in its depiction of Himari’s mental health struggles. On the one hand, Himari continues to suffer flashbacks from the day she was beaten up after being mistaken for Mio, her twin sister. It gets so bad in volume two that she lashes out at her sister for bringing her back to school and resolves never to go back again. On the other hand, all it takes is an outstretched hand and a knowing look from Tsukiyono to get Himari back on her feet. Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy we get to see Himari genuinely winning in this volume, and it’s awesome that she’s bounding over the ways her past has held her back. But volume one thrived because we saw Himari softly blossom into her dauntless, joyful self under the bright light of Mio and her friends. The growth seems artificially accelerated this time around, and that’s a serious problem for a story that doesn’t want to shy away from talking about mental health. Still, all this doesn’t stop this sunny series in its tracks. Mio learns to set aside her outgoing persona and genuinely value herself, and the addition of a new character stirs up the romantic tensions in a satisfying way. Monika Kaname continues to serenade readers with her effortlessly smooth panel composition and gorgeous full-page splashes. Above all, this volume carries forward the unwavering optimism and steady determination of the first volume. Kaname encourages us to seek hope wherever it may be found amidst the weathered pages of our messy lives, and that hope is enough to make Sunbeams in the Sky shine. ~ sleepminusminus
READ: Sunbeams in the Sky Review Vol. 1
The Way of the Househusband: The Gangster’s Guide to Housekeeping, Guidebook
For fans of The Way of the Househusband, this guidebook of how to learn from Tatsu’s skills is the book you never knew you wanted but now wish you had! Once I read the table of contents, I knew it was going to get interesting. It contains sections on how to cook recipes from the manga, housekeeping, networking, and other random yet useful tips for daily life. I was taking notes on how to kill pests, Japanese dishes I’ve never heard of, ways to lower my water bill, why you need a fancy chef knife, and more. Tatsu’s gangster charm and attitude are sprinkled throughout the pages with scenes from the manga to go along with the topic. While you read it, try imagining Tatsu’s voice in your head and it may give you a few laughs. One major downside of the book is that about half of it are recipes and I just wanted more of the advice because I found it very practical. I hope to pick this one up and read it now and then to get a laugh, but also to learn how to organize my space better or shovel snow the proper way if I ever do. ~ Samuru
The Way of the Househusband: The Gangster’s Guide to Housekeeping is published by VIZ Media.
I.O.N, One-Shot Manga
I feel like I have made it as a shojo reader because, thanks to the latest video in the ABCs of Shojo Manga, I have read my very first Arina Tanemura manga! When starting this story, I already expected it to be beautiful (and it very much was!), but what I didn’t expect was how fun and interesting the plot would be! Ion is an easygoing but klutzy heroine who brings good luck to her life–and to her friends–when she needs it by chanting her name, “I-O-N.” However, after touching a mysterious substance where the school club Psychic Powers Research Society meets, suddenly she now has magical powers when she chants her name?! Ion is such a fun heroine to cheer for, and I loved how her dream was to find a man that pursues his lifelong dream because I feel it is extremely rare for that to be the number one thing a heroine is looking for in a crush. I think it shows a deeper and more serious part of her character, since for the majority of the manga it may seem like she is mainly just wanting to make her crush happy. I also really liked the hero, Mikado! It was fun seeing him geek out about his passions and be really happy when other people genuinely express an interest in his passions too. I think I unknowingly started this manga imagining it would be “dated,” and shame on me for thinking such a thing! It’s a beautifully drawn story that does have a little bit of age, yes, but it’s also just a very beautiful story of helping other people as well as helping spread joy to those around us—even if that mainly centers around her Mikado specifically. Ha! ~ Laura A. Grace
I.O.N is published by Shojo Beat, an imprint of VIZ Media.
Silver Spoon, Manga Vol. 12
Are you a fan of boxing movies? If you are, you know the ironclad rule to these films. In the final match, the hero takes a beating—a severe beating—before making his comeback. In fact, he may even get knocked down; this is the moment when he or she is on the precipice of giving up. These moments are an apt metaphor for life, which often comes at us hard, beating us down and sometimes even knocking us to the floor. In Silver Spoon, Hachiken comes into the series already bruised and battered; in fact, he’s like the boxer who has lost a match and is thinking of quitting the sport. But through twelve volumes, he’s recuperated, trained, and found new energy and meaning in life. Now, as he goes twelve rounds with his old man, the cause of his initial loss, Hachiken is unwilling to give up. What’s interesting about this new (and summing final) arc of Silver Spoon is that it really opens the series into new directions; while the first half of the series is indeed about Hachiken finding himself, the later volumes are about him persevering, which leads to captivating new developments. The pace quickens and year two flies by in this volume. New students enroll in the school and the ones we’ve come to love are, like Hachiken, pursuing their own paths as well. And Silver Spoon also reveals something that more astute readers than I may have noticed from early on: While Hachiken is the protagonist, there is really a trio of leads in this series, and they are all prizefighters who have been knocked down to the mat and must decide whether to press forward. Hachiken is the first, Aki—with her decision to pursue her passion and study harder than she thought she was capable of—is the second. And volume twelve makes clear who the third is. It’s an exciting development in a swift-moving volume that feels different from the rest of the series but is just as good as slower, more contemplative earlier ones. Silver Spoon continues to be a knockout and surely will be until the final bell rings. ~ Twwk
Silver Spoon 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.
Featured illustration by ZM (reprinted w/permission)