We’re leading off today with the first volume of a ghoulish original English language manga series that has become a cult favorite: I Luv Halloween! Written by the recently deceased comic book legend, Keith Giffen, it feels extremely appropriate to cover this manga today. But does it hold up? Read our review for volume one as well as our thoughts on tons of other series in this slightly spooky edition of Reader’s Corner!
After the Rain (Vol. 2) • I Luv Halloween (Vol. 1) • I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time (Vol. 1) • Looks Are All You Need (Vol. 1) • My Instant Death Ability Is So Overpowered, No One in This Other World Stands a Chance Against Me -AΩ- (Vol. 2) • Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu (Vol. 1) • Stray Cat & Wolf (Vol. 1) • The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves! (Vol. 2)
I Luv Halloween, Manga Vol. 1
On October 9th, comic artist and writer Keith Giffen passed away. Known to legions of fans for being the co-creator of beloved characters Lobo, Rocket Racoon, and Blue Beetle, as well as for his work on Justice League and Legion of Super-Heroes, Geffen is also connected to the anime community through I Luv Halloween, a quirky three-volume series which he wrote and released through Tokypop as an OEL manga in 2005. Reading it now, almost 20 years later, is like a jolt to the system; Giffen’s writing and Benjamin Roman’s artwork feels like the end of an era, something I would have adored as a middle-school-aged boy in the 1990s. But the juvenile terror that fills volume one as Finch, his maniacal younger sister Moochie, and the rest of their gang go trick-or-treating and causing harm (including torture and murder) is a less enjoyable read for me now. And yet I recognize its value as the type of grotesque and shocking material that works to draw young readers in and helps them realize that stories on a page aren’t limited to the classics you read in school, but can even contain shocking and grotesque imagery. And volume one is full of that, for sure, in addition to fanservice elements (this is the type of material that kids read in secret without their parents or teachers realizing how graphic the material is). The dialogue, however, may be the best part of the volume; I was really drawn in by how Finch and his gang of sometimes destructive, sometimes sensitive (and often both at the same time) peers speak. They don’t always answer in ways that make sense to the readers or to each other, and that feels quite right for their ages, maturity, and relationships with one another. I do admit, though, that it was often hard to follow what was happening in the story, though by the last third of volume one, everything had fallen into place quite nicely, or horrifically, depending on your point of view. The same could be said about whether or not you’ll like the volume—if juvenile horror comedy is your thing, this series has become a cult classic worth collecting; if not, something warmer but equally creepy involving the same age group, like Coraline, may be a better choice. ~ Twwk
I Luv Halloween is published by Tokyopop.
I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time, Manga Vol. 1
The title of this manga adaptation of the light novel series may be a mouthful, but at least it tells you precisely what this series is about. The guild receptionist in question is Alina Clover, who loves the stability of her job but absolutely hates overtime, which is often the result of a dungeon where the boss can’t be beaten. That’s when she takes things into her own hands and uses her unbelievable abilities to crush the boss. Yes, she’s both a guild receptionist and an OP character, which admittedly bored me a little at first. It wasn’t until Alina revealed her haughty personality that I really started enjoying this volume. When she begins to interact with another powerful character who uncovers her secret, the story becomes more humorous and more fun. I found this volume quite delightful by its conclusion, though it did leave me wondering if the shtick will get old. I’ll be checking out the next volume to see if the story can develop down an interesting route and keep the central conceit an entertaining one. ~ Twwk
I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time is published by Yen Press.
The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves!, Manga Vol. 2
This series continues to be an absolute gem! At the end of volume one, Ellua saw one of her faves being forced to fight in an underground fighting ring while dressed up as a playboy bunny. As volume two unfolds, Ellua uses her villainess role to the fullest to help rescue her! As Ellua once again gets close to another one of her faves, she slowly learns that there are even more dastardly things happening underground, and it’s going to require Albert to go incognito and Ellua to use all her villainess charm to keep her faves safe! I continue to love this series deeply! More and more, I feel a deep relation to Ellua because of her saying “so precious” at the wrong times and scaring her faves! Oh my goodness! I would be the same exact way! Ha! She continues to be a blast, and I love seeing her interact with one of her new favorites who has no idea about her “visions” and how she knows so much. Meanwhile, Albert is just rolling with it and then reminding Ellua she is saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Ha! Speaking of Albert, the romance is slowly moving forward, with me also looking forward to seeing Ellua “fall.” Ha! I’m surprised that if she has been in this world for ten years, she hasn’t already fallen, because no way could I restrain myself even with knowing the rule of never touching the faves! Ha! Albert really knows how to make her swoon: he makes a really good argument for why it would be okay for her to touch him, and again, I’m curious how long she can hold out. Ha! This was another super fun volume that has me wanting to read more because of how relatable of a character Ellua is! ~ Laura A. Grace
The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves! is published by Yen Press.
READ: The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves! Vol. 1 Review
Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu, Manga Vol. 1
The latest anthology manga series from UDON Entertainment features an isekai’d izakaya (say that five times fast) that drops into an alleyway in a fantasy world that’s similar to Renaissance Era Germany. Chapter by chapter (or course by course), residents of a walled city find their way into the establishment, where they’re served food they’ve never heard of before (Udon! Sashimi!) and find not only a cure for their hunger but also, if just for an evening, the difficulties of life. What a nice, peaceful series! I’m a fan of Midnight Diner, which is somewhat similar in structure and theme (without the isekai bit), and so I’m glad to have found a manga counterpart in Otherwordly Izakaya Nobu. It does what a calm anthology + food manga should: leave us with warm feelings and leave us wanting to eat. The food all looks exquisite and it’s easy to like the characters, particularly those who are repeat customers. I found it interesting, too, that the series makes no qualms about sharing that the restaurant is directly connected to our world and that the chef and waitress shuffle back and forth to gather ingredients. It makes me wonder if all that’s on tap (besides their famous chilled beer, known to the locals as…”whatsontapp”) is an anthology-formatted, customer-of-the-week style series. That would be fine if done well, but I do worry that the mangaka may run out of steam quickly. After all, the third chapter already directly stole from the climactic scene of Ratatouille (if just replace “food critic” and “ratatouille” with “tax collector” and “spaghetti napolitan”). If the mangaka can somehow keep the pace up and continue pumping out engaging tales, though, I’m willing to forgive wrong turns such as that. Whether Disney would, however, is a different story. ~ Twwk
Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu is published by UDON Entertainment.
My Instant Death Ability Is So Overpowered, No One in This Other World Stands a Chance Against Me -AΩ-, Manga Vol. 2
Volume two of the My Instant Death Ability manga is more interesting than the first, but it ultimately fails to capitalize on what’s unique to the story. A primary reason for this is just how much material the volume covers. The speed at which My Instant Death Ability moves through its tale is so frenetic that it generates a kind of kinetic energy that the reader gets caught up in. Yes, it’s fun, but it also pushes us away from developing intimacy with the characters. When Dannoura lands a powerful blow on an opponent, for instance, the action doesn’t pause long enough for us to appreciate it and what it means for her character. And when she comments on how Takatou’s death ability doesn’t really affect her emotionally anymore, the manga again doesn’t stop long enough for us to make more of that “seemingly benign but very actually significant” comment. Instead, as the pair moves from the rural parts of their new world to the city, where they expect to meet up with all their classmates but instead just stumble upon one incredibly powerful (and arrogant) one, we’re left almost with just the “after images” of cool things. The moral implications of Takatou’s ability, the deviance to which many of the characters have so quickly turned, and a sage who is showing signs of being a potential ally are among those important items that we don’t have time to reflect on. They’re here, and then a page or two later gone. I think there’s a really decent series somewhere in this manga—I just wish it would slow down, connect the dots, and let me see it. ~ 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.
READ: My Instant Death Ability Is So Overpowered, No One in This Other World Stands a Chance Against Me -AΩ- Vol. 1 Review
Stray Cat & Wolf, Manga Vol. 1
What happens when a neglected high school girl becomes a temporary roommate with a musician whose twin pursuits in life are sex and rock and roll? An awkward love story, that’s what. The title Stray Cat & Wolf refers to these two lead characters, Mishina and Rou. The former, having left a village where she was a pariah, comes to Tokyo to pursue her education. She, however, suddenly finds herself on the streets and then in the residence rented by Rou, who is admittedly rough around the edges (if not fully predatorial like a wolf). The weirdness ensues because Rou is about 21 and Mishina about 16, but more than that, her growth has been stilted by the abuse she went through, so emotionally she’s even younger than her age indicates. The series also lives in a weird place where it’s not an erotic work but does favor physical encounters more than sweeter shoujo fare would. The negatives are countered by Rou’s slow transformation, which we’re obviously expecting and starts here in volume one. The story itself is kind of up and down as well, though. For instance, the entire situation in which Mishina comes to live with Rou feels like lazy writing, as does Mishina’s character development until we see a different side of her in the classroom, which is the most fun part of the volume. And the best character in volume one doesn’t arrive until the final chapter or so, while other important ones, like Rou’s bandmates, barely register as more than background characters. I admit I am interested in seeing how Rou and Mishina’s relationship progresses, but the problems with this work may be too big an obstacle to keep me committed to the series. ~ Twwk
Stray Cat & Wolf is published by Yen Press.
Looks Are All You Need, Light Novel Vol. 1
Gakuto and his sister, Shiika, are quite the duo. A couple of hikikomori, Shiika is a talented singer and modestly popular vtuber, and Gakuto manages her account while avoiding a “real” job. But their shut-in lives are about to change when the two are offered a full scholarship to a performing arts high school (Gakuto will sit in on Shiika’s classes) and a chance to earn even greater earnings while there—but it won’t be the easy experience Gakuto expects, and will push Shiika, who has stayed at home because of a reason connected to her singing ability, to open up to others. If you think this sounds like a potentially fun series featuring heartwarming elements, you’d be exactly right. Looks Are All You Need features a protagonist whose self-talk is self-deprecating and smart, and surrounds him with a cast of memorable characters, including a rival for Shiika; a classmate who befriends the siblings when it helps her ambitions and jumps to her rivals, too, as necessary; an otaku gaming partner who speaks in that “historical” way that light novel otaku apparently do (see Zaimokuza in Oregairu); and an idol-like student who is a brilliant songwriter and a player (or is he?). Author Ghost Mikawa makes great use of these characters in a fast-moving and pleasant read that nonetheless feels like it has something potentially profound to say about the entertainment industry, including its complex relationship with style, looks, and talent. And Shiika, whom the action of the series revolves around, begins the volume as a complete blob but grows as a character through the course of 200 pages and is as loveable as all the rest of the cast by the conclusion. That ending, by the way, steers the series in an unexpected but exciting direction. And I’m eager to see how the series walks that path in future volumes. If you’re looking for a new series that focuses on entertainers, features harem elements, has an interesting male lead, and is set in a high school, all written with heart and suggesting maybe a “second chance at life” theme, try Looks Are All You Need. This is potentially the next Oregairu or Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, and coming from this superfan of both series, that’s high praise indeed. ~ Twwk
Looks Are All You Need is published by Yen Press’ Yen On imprint.
After the Rain, Manga Vol. 2
With its tale of a potential romance between 17-year-old Akira and 45-year-old Kondo, mangaka Jun Mayuzuki’s nostalgic series After the Rain is, to say the very least, complicated. I get the impression, though, that Mayuzuki likes it that way. For instance, unlike Higehiro, another recent series I recently reviewed that features a May-December pairing, After the Rain is unapologetic and honest in its approach; it doesn’t seem to want the readers to root for the two to get together, but it doesn’t judge them, either. The attraction that Akira feels and the reaction that Kondo has are just kind of there as the two cross paths during turning points in their lives. What results is an authentic story and beautiful characters who develop more and more in volume two, especially as they both navigate bent (though not quite broken) friendships from painful pasts. What a beautiful story. Volume two also nicely features vignette-style chapters in its opening third, which function as nice slice of life-style snippets, before returning to a heavier focus on the story. I was also pleasantly surprised to see panels in which Akira looked to Yahoo! Answers for advice; ironically, that short bit was probably meant to be modern in a series that mostly lives in nostalgia, but was nostalgic to me since I used to frequent that platform, which no longer exists! The artwork, of course, remains exquisite; between this series and her most recently published in the US, Kowloon Generic Romance, Mayuzuki has demonstrated that she’s among manga’s most uniquely gifted artists. There’s just so much to love about the series—even if the “love” isn’t part of it. ~ Twwk
After the Rain is published by Kodansha.
READ: After the Rain Vol. 1 Review
“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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