Happy autumn, dear readers! Today, we’re helping you fall into the season with recommended reading selections, including a trio of newly launched releases and brand-new volumes in several series we continue to track. We hope you’ll enjoy these works (and in one case, stay as far away as possible!) as you take in the colors and mild weather of the fall.
Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World (Vol. 3) • Game of Familia (Vol. 1) • Glitch (Vol. 1) • Honeko Akabane’s Bodyguards (Vol. 1) • A Reincarnated Witch Spells Doom (Vol. 2) • Solo Leveling (Vol. 7) • Touge Oni: Primal Gods in Ancient Times (Vol. 1) • Your Forma (Vol. 4)
A Reincarnated Witch Spells Doom, Manga Vol. 2
The last time we saw Sena, the former shut-in reincarnated as a witch with malfunctioning magic, the ascendant king of the Wind Dragons, Liskal, had just burst onto the scene and was announcing that he’d been searching for her, the long-awaited “caller” of dragons and his destined partner. Well, it seems that after that rather shocking pronouncement, he whisked her away to his castle, where he’d prepared a pretty bougie nest for her. When we join her, Sena is holing up in the guest room, just a tad wary of her dragon fanboy. Smart girl! What awaits her in the dragon king’s domain? Does he have answers for her about her wonky magic? And wait, what about Prince Keith and all her new friends? In my review of the first volume of this pleasant isekai series, I hinted that the characterization was a little thin, and it continues to be a bit rough in patches here; but the cast’s motivations are beginning to clarify thanks to some illuminating backstory. The result is a few genuinely heartfelt moments. Added to that, Prince Keith’s massive “mom energy” reaches new heights, and I’ll admit, the fretful young whippersnapper is growing on me. Meanwhile, any awkwardness in the scripting is made up for by the art! It is vivid, with energetic lineart and creative compositions, producing a number of stunning full-page and two-page spreads. These are all the more impressive for the fact that the artist, Sora, is new to the kind of dramatic action and battle scenes that dominate the volume. We also gain some more glimpses into the kind of world this is, namely one wracked with racism and international strife, not just the internal political intrigue revealed in Volume One. All in all, this continues to be an enjoyable series, and I suspect it will only get better with time. ~ claire
A Reincarnated Witch Spells Doom is published by Yen Press.
READ: A Reincarnated Witch Spells Doon Reviews Vol. 1
Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World, Manga Vol. 3
If you looked up “generic fantasy series” in the Otaku Dictionary, the example given would very likely be Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World (Ningen Fushin). The Survivors, as the titular adventuring party is known, is comprised of likable characters who, on a journey of self-discovery (and powering up!), will learn to act as a team and “apparently” save the world. As I said, nothing unique here. Even so, Ningen Fushin is a comforting type of generic, the type of series that makes you happier to have read it. In volume three, with Nick and the gang having reached the final room on their quest to find the Sword of Bonds, a surprising new character reveals itself, as does a formidable foe. What follows is a battle where an important power for the party emerges. But for that to occur, the team members need to trust each other deeply. All this happens in a nicely crafted scene (and a well-illustrated one—this manga is very well drawn for a light novel adaptation), but alas, it all feels a bit too early for a series that leans so heavily (see the title) into the idea that the four main characters are disillusioned and unable to trust anyone. Thus an exciting and pivotal scene isn’t quite earned. But Ningen Fushin has never given its readers terribly high expectations anyway. It’s just a fun, “don’t think too deeply about it” series. And if that’s what you’re looking for—and to be honest, many of us are perfectly happy with a few titles like that in our reading list—I promise you, this series will leave you feeling happy, warm, and not at all disillusioned. ~ Twwk
Apparently, Disillusioned Adventurers Will Save the World is published by Yen Press.
Glitch, Manga Vol. 1
Siblings Minato and Akira arrive in Touka-cho with their mom, Noe. It’s the first day of school, and they’re living their best manga trope lives: first, there’s the self-introduction and weathering the titters of excitement over the transfer students; then it’s time to make friends, pick a school club, and you know, maybe fall in love…right? Nope. This is not that kind of story—which becomes very clear as soon as Minato takes their seat and sees a giant shadowy hand and arm sweep through the classroom. No one else seems to notice. This is the first of many strange encounters for the siblings over the coming days. Lucky for them, they find a couple of allies among Akira’s cram school classmates, and together they decide to found a club to investigate the town’s uncanny nature—it’s “glitches,” if you will. What dark secrets lie hidden in the woods? I’ll admit, based on the premise, I was expecting something quite creepy, but that’s not really the vibe here. Instead, the pages are suffused more with a sense of curiousness, as in the “curioser and curioser” nature of Alice’s Wonderland, but with a smudgy, four-armed little creature leading the way in place of a white rabbit. The mysteries here are low-key yet intriguing, and they go beyond the strange sightings and the fact that the corner store clerk’s head is composed of bird’s wings. The siblings have their hidden stories too, from the way they refer to their mom by her first name, to the fact that they do not resemble one another. There’s also the other club members: the oddly precocious Kei and the completely average Ito, who must be hiding something (no one can be that happy and well-adjusted in a mystery manga, after all). But perhaps the most noteworthy feature of this volume is the art, which foregoes the familiar range of manga styles and features a more modernist, conceptual, and slightly abstracted style, reminiscent of French bandes dessinée like Persepolis. It’s both eye-catching and refreshing! This may not have been what I expected, but it has piqued my interest! ~ claire
Glitch is published by Yen Press.
Honeko Akabane’s Bodyguards, Manga Vol. 1
Ibuki Arakuni looks rough around the edges, but he’s a good kid beneath his delinquent appearance. His pretty, straight-laced childhood friend Akabane Honeko is his school’s student body president and top of the class academically. Although they quarrel regularly, it’s pretty obvious that this pair of opposites both caught feelings for the other a long time ago, even if neither is willing to admit it openly. But there’s a new twist in play now: Arakuni has just been recruited as Honeko’s covert bodyguard. Why? It turns out Honeko is actually adopted and (unbeknownst to her) her birth father is the godfather of a major yakuza gang. With a bloody succession battle looming, Arakuni has been by hired by Honeko’s biological dad for two things: 1) Protect her at all costs from rogue gang factions trying to kill her. 2) Do so secretly, to keep her happy, normal student life on the straight-and-narrow unaffected. But why does such a wealthy and powerful yakuza boss even need to bring in a no-name street brawler for this job at all…especially since he’s already covertly filled Arakuni and Honeko’s homeroom class with a team of elite teenage underworld bodyguards?! Shonen-igans ensue. This series feels like author/artist Nigatsu Masamitsu rolled bits of Spy x Family, Sakamoto Days, and several Yakuza video games all into one with some pretty good illustrations to boot. And frankly, I like it. Perhaps not quite love it, but it has been fun ride so far watching Arakuni try to balance his roles as both a shonen romcom protagonist and his secret identity as a shonen battle manga hero. And all while rocking a classy suit and tie look. It has some fanservicey moments, and you have to embrace the over-the-top video game logic vibe to fully enjoy it (this series could only happen in “MangaLand”—nothing about it is remotely grounded in realism), but if you’re up for what it’s selling, Honeko Akabane’s Bodyguards is a good time. ~ WacOtaku
Touge Oni: Primal Gods in Ancient Times, Manga Vol. 1
Miyo is an orphan. She’s also about to die. It’s not a disease that hovers like a sword of Damocles over her young life though, nor some internecine conflict that chimes like a death knell through her village. No, it’s her god, Kippuuson-no-Mikoto, who is the source of her impending peril: Miyo is a human sacrifice. When the charismatic roving priest and his two mysterious acolytes (whom some claim are oni) show up on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Miyo knows the time has come—not to run or hide, but to be strong for her village and lay down her life for the sake of plentiful harvests and a handful of seasons free from natural disaster. That’s just the kind of girl she is. So when instead of dying she trips into another world and an altogether different path unfolds before her young feet, what will she do? Touge Oni is off to a compelling start in the first volume of what promises to be a delightful “adventure of the week” type mythical tale, set among the mountains and valleys of primordial Japan in the waning days of the Shinto gods. With strong To Your Eternity vibes from the very first page—in terms of both themes and art—this series is sure to appeal to readers who appreciate a little pathos mixed in with their epic journeys peppered with spiritual lore, tsundere oni, and quizzical itinerant masters, who may or may not be trustworthy. Miyo is an absolute cinnamon roll, putting her foot in her mouth half the time and ripping your heart out with her kindness and innocence the rest. The chapters are generous in their length, meaning that each installment of the adventure has plenty of space to develop satisfying character and plot arcs. And the twist dropped in the first chapter is one I’m hoping we’ll come back to again sooner rather than later, as it makes for some potentially fascinating developments. All in all, this one has my attention! ~ claire
Touge Oni: Primal Gods in Ancient Times is published by Yen Press.
Game of Familia, Manga Vol. 1
“High schooler Sasae Hatsushima has been summoned to a world of dark fantasy to defeat an undead army. That shouldn’t be hard when he has the help of his hyper-competent stepmom and her two younger sisters, a high school karate champion and a girl genius! But to gain the powers needed for their quest, a great and painful price must be paid… And who better to pay it than Sasae, who seems utterly ordinary compared to his brilliant stepfamily?” That’s the official blurb for this one. Sounds kinda cool, right? A whole family being isekai’d together! Just imagine the rich emotional arcs ahead as this blended family grows in their respect, trust, and appreciation for one another through their trials in a strange land. That’s what I thought I’d be getting when I requested the review copy. That is decidedly not what I got though. I did not notice the “Mature” rating tucked away at the bottom of the page. Usually, the covers and blurbs make that kinda thing clear, right? Turns out, this volume is chock full of explicit content. And it’s not just the usual ecchi tropes of female characters’ costumes exploding off their bodies in mid-battle (including underage girls), or anatomically impossible character designs and positioning. Nope. It’s more insidious than that. The core of this series revolves around “normal” guy Sasae and shows that, for a “normal” guy to have a shot at attracting feminine attention, he needs two things: 1) to be as manipulative and wily as possible behind the scenes while maintaining a cover of gormlessness (a lesson learned from his late father, another “normal” guy), and 2) to be whisked away to a world where every single other male—be they zombies, pig men (talk about being on the nose), or whatever—is a r***ist. Literally. We are shown the evidence of this over and over again. This volume isn’t “harmless” wish fulfillment—it’s destructive; it’s demeaning to both women, who are objectified and infantilized here, and men, every single one of whom attains new lows of scumminess and vileness in order to make “normal” Sasae look like a nice guy. What’s more, it’s set to go the pseudo-incest route a few times over. Don’t be fooled by the blurb and the cover like I was: this one ain’t worth the read. ~ claire
Game of Familia is published by Yen Press.
Your Forma, Light Novel Vol. 4
Much of Your Forma‘s appeal lies in how it so effectively walks the line between crowd-pleasing, “light novel light” entertainment and harder science fiction. In fact, by volume four, Mareho Kikuishi’s writing reminds me so very much of Michael Crichton’s, whose knowledge of science and research into his novel topics helped build realistic worlds in which to set his thrillers. By now, Kikuishi has done that so well that I feel as if I’m a resident of Your Forma’s AI-heavy, near-future Russia. This realism is helped along by the wonderful character-building of the story’s most fascinating character, Harold: after glimpses of his recent tragic past in the first three releases, in this volume, he meets his trauma head-on through the case of a serial killer—a case that directly verges with his painful memories and the task he intends to carry out with the unrelenting and cold approach one would expect of a robot. But this advanced model has human qualities that make for intriguing choices in how he approaches relationships and people. Weaker is Echika’s character development, which since volume two seems to be entirely hinging on her evolving relationship with Harold. Even the one unique thing about her, the ability to “brain dive,” isn’t that cool in practice; it’s an unoriginal version of jumping into people’s memories, offering nothing unique or fun for readers. I hope that Kikuishi will develop that part of the series more in future volumes, as well as Echika’s character in general, to match the brilliance of the sci-fi elements related to Harold and his increasingly strong work as a mystery writer, replete with thoughtful twists and turns in the climax of this volume. I’m thrilled to see how the story advances from here. ~ Twwk
Your Forma is published by Yen Press.
Solo Leveling, Manhwa Vol. 7
As a teenager I watched a short Star Wars documentary in which George Lucas explained how in The Empire Strikes Back, his intent was to put the heroes in the worst situation possible before rescuing them in the third movie. Volume seven is a bit like Solo Leveling’s version of Episode V: the heroes are South Korea’s S-Rank hunters, the “worst possible situation” is that their assault on Jeju Island is a trap, made worse by falling prey to an ant soldier whose power far exceeds their own, and their salvation is Sung Jinwoo. His arrival is expected, but it is still an awesome moment to see him appear and kick so much butt in a situation where many of the world’s greatest hunters are left ineffective or even dead. The excitement of these scenes is conveyed most uniquely through colors: when Solo Leveling combines its beautiful blues, purples, and pink all in one scene, you know you’re in for a visual treat. But even “lesser” scenes are so full of vividness and dynamic action that I happily took my time to absorb all the goings-on. Meanwhile, the story also moves in some interesting new directions following the Jeju Island arc, bringing further intrigue (and more international components) to a series already full of it. Solo Leveling is really hitting its stride at this point—but with so mystery still left to uncover and a larger conflict just starting to brew, you bet that ther are plenty more cool and exhilarating volumes to come! ~ Twwk
Solo Leveling 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.
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