What an exciting week of reviews! We’ve got a collector’s edition of a CLAMP classic (but does it hold up); the latest volumes of two of the most popular romance manga out right now; the latest releases for fantasy anime that have received excellent adaptations; and much more! Dive into our reviews below and let us know what you’re reading these days!
CLAMP Premium Collection: Tokyo Babylon (Vol. 1) • The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom (Vol. 3) • Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End (Vol. 9) • Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love (Vol. 7) • It Takes Two Tomorrow, Too (Vol. 1) • Laid-Back Camp (Vol. 14) • Mint Chocolate (Vol. 9) • MonsTABOO (Vol. 4) • My Stepmother and Stepsisters Aren’t Wicked (Vol. 2) • The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices (Vol. 3) • The Remarried Empress (Vol. 4) • Tearmoon Empire (Vol. 2) • Usotoki Rhetoric (Vol. 4)
Tearmoon Empire, Manga Vol. 2
Last year I reviewed volume one of Tearmoon Empire, and while I liked it for the most part, I wasn’t planning to continue the series. However, after the anime announcement, I decided to give it a second chance and so glad I did! Volume two is where I was officially hooked because Mia is at the school academy and is doing everything she can to avoid the three people who had led to her demise. Unfortunately for Mia though, they have all taken an interest in her due to the helping hand she lent to a character in volume one. Fortunately for Mia, though, she finds a partner for the school dance who is far from the people she is desperately wanting to avoid. Just what is in store for her with this new chapter? As I shared, I might have been on the fence about continuing this series, but I am super invested after reading this second volume! It was so good! Mia continues to be an absolute hoot, but I really really loved seeing her deepening her relationship with Anne. I think she is my favorite character and absolutely adored so many scenes with her! The way she trusts Mia, encourages her, and has absolute faith in her is really amazing, especially when it relates to the ending. I do have to laugh because I very much feel Mia’s influence, as I want her to have nothing to do with Sion and am hardcore shipping her and Abel! He is so sweet! I am very excited to see him in more volumes and think the narrator hinted that we will see more of him, and I’m totally stoked about that! Lots of fun moments in this volume, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more! The art continues to be beautiful and extremely funny! It’s so good, and I highly recommend it! ~ Laura A. Grace
Tearmoon Empire is published by J-Novel Club.
READ: Tearmoon Empire Vol. 1 Review
CLAMP Premium Collection: Tokyo Babylon, Manga Vol. 1
Subaru Sumeragi is heir to the famed line of Tokyo-based exorcists known as onmyouji. Flanked by his twin sister, whose personality is even bigger than the outlandishly theatrical outfits she sports (those hats!), and the head of another spiritual spell-wielding clan, Seishirou Sakurazuka, the high schooler spends his nights putting the spirits of troubled young women to rest and making his beloved, if admittedly rather seedy, Tokyo a smidge more pleasant for its 12 million inhabitants. This is 1990s Tokyo, and things are about to get reeeeeally awkward. This volume will no doubt arouse a sense of nostalgia for at least some readers! Originally serialized in 1990, this is one of the series that put CLAMP, the all-female feminist mangaka circle of Cardcaptor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth fame, on the map. This re-release is part of a celebration of 30 years for the collective, and what an accomplished three decades it’s been! I’ll admit, this is my first experience of CLAMP manga, and it was both what I’d hoped for and not at all what I’d expected. In terms of the positives, the art is stunning! The style, of course, has that distinctive 90s feel to it (the energetic forelocks!), and there’s an intriguing undercurrent of edginess that runs throughout both the imagery and the dialogue that points to the hidden cost and dirty secrets of the kind of astronomical urban growth Japan’s capital has undergone since WWII (and which continues to this day: Tokyo has tripled in size since this series premiered). The character designs and layouts are deceptively simple, lending them a clean, crisp feel, while drawing the reader into the scenes. The paneling is lively, with no two pages alike. Less compelling, though, is the much of the story itself. Let’s just say that it has not aged well! The real plot here is that Seishirou, a 25-year-old man, wants to get it on with Subaru, a 16-year-old boy, and has, it is implied, wanted this since said boy was aged in the single digits. Meanwhile, the boy’s sister is all for it and serves as an aide de camp for the man, setting up opportunities for him to be alone with her bro, hounding Subaru to concede to the man’s advances, and so on. Eek. The emphasis on feminine pettiness (the spiteful spirits) is also rather cringey. So, final verdict: I admire the art and respect the legacy of CLAMP, and will try out their work again, but not in this series. I’ll leave Babylon to its own devices! ~ claire
Tokyo Babylon (the CLAMP Premium Collection series) is published by Yen Press.
The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom, Manga Vol. 3
“I must chase this dream and find that muscle!!” Ah, how I love Koyou and her love for muscles! But before she can appreciate all the muscles, this volume kicks off with her performing surgery on a young woman whose life could be on the line if she’s not “cut open.” While she has finally convinced those who question whether that’s the best course of action, Koyou is adamant it’s the only way to save this woman’s life. And not just hers, but also another stranger she meets later on. As Koyou helps those around her, will she ever find the “buffet of brawn” that she seeks? This series definitely continues to be in my top three favorite shoujo that is releasing this year! Every volume leaves me laughing more, leaning in more, and simply just enjoying more than I did the previous volume. This one was no exception and has once again surpassed any expectations I had! While the beginning was very intense (especially with my fear of needles), it was very good! I haven’t seen a surgery like this in a manga before and will say it is non-graphic with no blood for those who are curious. I was completely invested in seeing if Koyou would succeed. On a different note, I was surprised by how much political intrigue was in this volume! Koyou meets a new character who is very pretty but also very dangerous…or at least seems to be. I’m nervously excited to see his role later on because I think something big is going to happen, but not sure what. Nonetheless, I still highly recommend this series! It has a mashup of genres and is always super interesting and a lot of fun! Eagerly looking forward to the release of the next volume! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Eccentric Doctor of the Moon Flower Kingdom is published by Seven Seas.
Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love, Manga Vol. 7
The focus on Mirai and her feelings for Noda continues in the latest volume of Ima Koi! While Noda has more or less made it known he likes Mirai, she doesn’t believe Noda is genuine in saying he likes her. She continues to do all she can to make him fall for her, but she’s surprised when a special someone from her childhood is back in her life! How is Noda going to react to Mirai’s new “bounciness” around her past crush? I feel so conflicted about this volume! It’s definitely still a really good volume in the series, but the only reason I’m feeling conflicted is because I love, love, love Yagyu and Satomi! They are some of my favorite shoujo couples I’ve read and deeply missed their presence in this volume! However, Miria and Noda are a lot of fun to read about! Noda has definitely grown on me because I could not stand him in the earlier part of this series! I think he’s softened a lot, though, so he has become a much more likable character. He still jokes around and comes across as mean and uncaring at times, but I see now that he really is a tsundere guy, and that helped change my view of him. I also continue to really like Miria! Many of her actions were super funny, especially when it came to her expressions! She loves Noda so much, and it made me incredibly happy for her with the events of his volume! Definitely hope she can be even happier in the future! Goodness to that cliffhanger though! It’s going to be a longgggg wait for December to see if she really is going to move forward with what she feels she needs to do based on how things ended. ~ Laura A. Grace
Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love is published by Shojo Beat, an imprint of VIZ Media.
The Remarried Empress, Manwha Vol. 4
“That woman [Rashta] is willing and able to sway public opinion for her own personal interests. I can’t do the same. I am the empress. I must consider the empire and its citizens.” Can we just take a moment to appreciate how wonderful our Empress is? Truly, she is one the best and most inspiring heroines in manhwa that’s out in English physically right now! On the other hand,
Trashta Rashta continues to be more irritating and frustrating. She increasingly is getting more frantic as she feels threatened by other people’s power and positions. One of those people is Navier’s brother, Kosair. With his increasing anger, he won’t hold out much longer in retaliating against Rashta and those against Naiver. At first, I found myself super dreading reading this volume, but only because it seemed Rashta seemed to have a lot of page time, which she unfortunately does. Ugh! Granted, it was scary hearing what happened to her, but I got more and more frustrated with her and the Emperor. Do they really not see how atrocious it is to say Navier will be the adoptive mother of their child without even talking to Navier or considering her feelings? Double ugh! Enter Navier’s brother, though. The way he stands up for his sister and gets angry on her behalf is everything! I enjoyed(?) seeing him force out answers of a certain character because no one outside of himself and her ladies-in-waiting even seems to care about Navier, which is horrible because she deserves nothing but happiness! Obviously, Heinrey is one of those people who does, though, and I desperately need him to reunite with our Empress and sweep her off her feet! I deeply appreciated the little page time he had! Even though I needed to get over Rashta’s large amount of page time in this volume, it was another fantastic volume where Navier slays like the Empress she is! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Remarried Empress is published by IZE Press, an imprint of Yen Press.
My Stepmother and Stepsisters Aren’t Wicked, Manga Vol. 2
The “wicked” stepmother and stepsisters are back at it with their less-than-evil actions! As Miya spends time with her not-so-wicked family, she begins to grow ever closer with each member and even meets a new family member! With each fun and precious shenanigan, Miya’s worries of being out of place dissipate more and more. This was another really sweet volume in this series! My favorite part was gradually seeing Miya much more comfortable around her sisters and stepmother than she was when she first came into their home. She definitely still gets nervous and apologizes when she feels she’s “messed up” or upset the other person, but she smiles freely so much more often that it leaves my heart feeling happy. I truly hope that this continues as the series goes on and that it continues to be a feel-good story, because this volume gave me just as many warm fuzzies as the sequel did! I think the last chapter was also one of my favorite parts because it was such a sweet way to wrap up this volume, even though the bonus chapters were funny and enjoyable too. Honestly, if I had any complaint about this series, it’s that the volumes are just so short! With how easygoing this series is, I easily caught myself reading this volume under thirty minutes, which is quite a feat for me! Despite the shortness though, I will continue to keep recommending My Stepmother and Stepsisters Aren’t Wicked and hope the third volume will be just as sweet! ~ Laura A. Grace
My Stepmother and Stepsisters Aren’t Wicked is published by Seven Seas.
READ: My Stepmother and Stepsisters Aren’t Wicked Vol. 1 Review
Usotoki Rhetoric, Manga Vol. 4
With the last volume having more than its typical Scooby Doo vibes and leaving me making sure I had a light on at night, I braced myself for this fourth volume. I was quickly and pleasantly surprised to find old faces making an appearance once again and that our duo is making new friends! While some of the chapters are not necessarily connected, the main mystery is Kanoko and Soma helping their friend Kanji. After visiting a remote island, he is accused of being one of the culprits of a death that occurred during his stay. Can Kanoko and Soma help break the case of who the actual culprit is? I continue to love this series more and more! It has so much heart, humor, and mystery that I always find myself looking forward to more volumes. However, as I shared, I was very thankful that this volume had significantly less spookiness, and that the first chapter even opened with Chiyo and her solving her own less-than-spooky case! I also loved seeing Kanji once again! While there is definitely some detective work by our duo, it hit differently than the previous volume because Kanji really wanted the culprits to be innocent. The way he freely cried in one scene really had my heart aching. I’ve seen a few reviews say this is a romantic story and I’m not sure if it will be one, but I did feel there were at least two very cute moments of them that seemed like it could lead to romance. Not sure if it will, but I did get a little giddy during those scenes. Hehe! I look forward to seeing what case these two will solve next and where this story will go! Definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a fun shojo mystery! ~ Laura A. Grace
Usotoki Rhetoric is published by One Peace Books.
READ: Usotoki Rhetoric Vol. 3 Review
Mint Chocolate, Manga Vol. 9
“I was wrong when I said she was my weak spot. The truth is she’s my strength.” Excuse me while I squeal and attempt to write this review, because what an epic quote from our “grumpy” male lead! However, he definitely has a right to be grumpy because the student council president’s actions have gone too far and resulted in Nanami crying, putting him at his limit. Kyouhei confronts him one-on-one, which results in the student council president never wanting to meddle in their relationship again. Just when things seem to have calmed down a little bit, a new character appears and he isn’t afraid to use blackmail! While the opening chapter was everything I was hoping and I was anticipating the confrontation, it has been deeply satisfying to see how much Kyouhei has grown from the beginning of this series. There were a lot of soft spots with him and how he views Nanami that left my heart feeling all the warm fuzzies but also occasionally wanting to swoon. I think one of my favorite parts is when he said the opening quote I shared because we really see how deeply he cares for Nanami, as well as how head over heels he is for her. I also loved the chapters with the new character that makes an appearance! There was some heartbreaking conversation between him and Kyouhei for sure, but they also had some heartmoving moments that were super touching too. I’m glad Kyouhei was there to help and said the things he did, even if now he is in quite the predicament due to the consequences of confronting the student council president! I am very eagerly looking forward to the next volume because each volume has been more and more gripping, romantic, and just plain good! ~ Laura A. Grace
Mint Chocolate is published by Yen Press.
READ: Mint Chocolate Vols. 1-8 Review
The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices, Light Novel Vol. 3
For two volumes, The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices has been a fun and clever but more or less generic “isekai’d fujoshi protagonist” read, with Octavia frequently referring back to her knowledge of the BL world from the game she was obsessed with and is now living in as she navigates mysteries therein. Volume three, however, takes an unexpected and much-welcomed turn to more a visibly serious tone, by opening up lore that was previously only merely touched upon to an almost exponential level. I’m not exaggerating when I say this volume feels more akin to a western fantasy epic than it does to the milder read that was presented in the initial releases. These explosive changes, which include both an expansion of Adjustant storyline and exploration of the kingdom’s ancient history, occur during the same setting that ends volume two: the junior ball. But the excitement of the story surpasses dances and Octavia’s search for a “fake boyfriend” as new and just-introduced characters play vital roles in a large-scale action that occurs. I could not put down this volume—it was so very rich as the world-building fed the action so actively, and with characters coming alive as their motivations, thoughts, and even dreams begin to be revealed. In fact, it feels as if this entire series is revealing its true colors as an entertaining, creative, and thoughtful work of fantasy—I can’t wait to see where it takes us next. ~ Twwk
The Princess of Convenient Plot Devices is published by Yen Press.
MonsTABOO, Manga Vol. 4 (Final)
At almost 250 pages, volume four of MonsTABOO may seem especially long, but when you consider that the artists have effectively folded in ten volumes worth of material to reach its conclusion here, it’s almost admirable that they could stuff all that into this limited span of pages. Of course, it’s no surprise that volume four is a terrible read. Awful. When your work gets canceled, as I assumed happened with MonsTABOO, you can choose to leave loose ends, wrap up just the most major pieces of your tale without fully going down all the major roads you intended to, or you can try to fit everything in. MonsTABOO takes the last route, a path full of death and presumably heartache, though we don’t feel it as an audience because we still haven’t been given enough time with any of these characters outside of Maruka and Zukky to empathize with them when their Groan-Ups are killed, cheer when they overcome personal struggles, or in a few cases, even really remember who they are (there are an appropriate amount of major characters for a 10-15 volume manga series, but way too many for just four). And still, volume four tries to give them all full storylines and resolutions. It all happens too quickly for me to feel anything. Meanwhile, the series still doesn’t really know what it wants to say about perversion, so perhaps this was the best way for it to go out after all—both for the mangaka who decided to complete their tale (as truncated as it is) and for the readers, who no longer have to read this mess of a series. ~ Twwk
MonsTABOO is published by Yen Press.
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, Manga Vol. 9
The journey for Frieren and her party takes an unusual turn in volume nine of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End. While the series has mostly been a quiet, contemplative, humorous trip so far, it swerves toward action and danger here—and unlike in previous volumes, where it wasn’t exactly enthralling, the action come alive in these chapters. After making their way through more geographic challenges and meeting old friends, Frieren, Stark, and Fern accept a mission to work with Denken to kill one of the Seven Sages of Destruction, who is currently trapped within a city that he turned into gold. Frieren, however, was already once defeated by the demon, Macht, and sees no way to win even now against this powerful enemy who, oddly enough, considers himself to be a pacifist. That last bit makes for an opportunity to dive more into the minds of demons in the world of Frieren, and they are indeed fascinating and terrifying creatures. It also adds to the terrifying character of Macht, who does seem near-unbeatable. I’m on pins and needles as we wait on volume ten to see how this battle will turn out. ~ Twwk
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is published by VIZ Media.
It Takes Two Tomorrow, Too, Manga Vol. 1
A manga that centers around a couple that is living together as lovers and being able to see into their daily life? Count me in! Yuya and Rio, a couple in their mid and late 20s, have decided to move in together. They are in fact the opposite of the anime More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers, as these two are content and happy with being lovers, and not married just yet. When I heard about the license announcement from One Peace Books, I knew this one was for sure I needed to check out and it was so cute! I realize they aren’t a married couple, but this is such a nice change of pace from the shoujo romances I love and read! Yuya and Rio are working adults who live together with the hope (enter question mark here?) of getting married one day! I definitely saw me and my husband in many of these chapters, creating a lot of relatability with these characters. For example, the food grudge… Ha! Also when Yuya calls Rio and asks her a certain question about an event he really did not want to go to and hopes she says no, only for her to say yes and he’s whispering about how he hoped she would say no. Ha! Talk about on point! I definitely was laughing from beginning to end, especially with that bonus chapter! I wouldn’t say there is anything “groundbreaking” with this series, but I’m definitely going to keep reading as I had such an enjoyable time! A very down-to-earth couple that really captures the everyday life of living together! Highly recommend it if you’re looking for an adult romance with slice-of-life vibes! ~ Laura A. Grace
It Takes Two Tomorrow, Too is published by One Peace Books.
Laid-Back Camp, Manga Vol. 14
Volume fourteen of Laid-Back Camp is out, and it’s official: we’ve caught up with Japan! All bound volumes tracing the adventures of the Outdoor Activities Club are out now in both English and Japanese! Though that’s actually not quite accurate; while fourteen volumes are in print, can we call the camping group the Outdoor Activities Club anymore? Volume fourteen has the girls mulling a club name change as they recruit new members by showing off Nadeshiko’s outdoor cooking, but will doing so be enough to set themselves apart from competing clubs that are also taking advantage of the outdoor camping wave? And might the girls find a new and unexpected member in a relatively new character who receives significant face time in this volume? Yes, you know who I’m talking about: It’s none other than Charikuma, “a bear that loves bikes and food” but enjoys the latter so much that it became too heavy to ride the former. Poor kuma. I’m just playing, of course—there are one or two characters who suddenly grow in prominence in volume fourteen, which features lots of fun times with friends (most human ones) old and new as their adventures in camping, friendship, and growing up continue to hit all the right notes. The series is as humorous and lovely as ever. I hope volume fifteen won’t be too far away! ~ Twwk
Laid-Back Camp 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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