Looking for action? Boy, do we ever you have covered. Copious amounts of gun-blasting and sword-wielding battles fill the volumes of manga and light novels this week. But fear not, romance lovers! There’s room in some of these adventure works for some lovey-dovey material as well, and we review several straight-up romance series, including the introductory to the new series from Ao Haru Ride and Love Me, Love Me Not‘s Io Sakisaka!
The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor (Vol. 1) • Fly Me to the Moon (Vol. 17) • Helck (Vol. 6) • I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time (Vol. 1) • Issak (Vol. 3) • Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible (Vol. 10) • Sakura Saku (Vol. 1)
Issak, Manga Vol. 3
Out of the frying pan and into the fire…out of the fire and into an industrial blast furnace. Having defeated two attacks on Fuchsburg Castle, Issak, his comrade-in-arms Prince Heinrich of the Palatinate, and Zetta now find themselves besieged in the city of Rosenheim. The Spanish and Italian armies have combined forces to make an end-run around Fuchsburg Castle and attack the supply depot at Rosenheim with far greater numbers than our heroes have ever faced before. But the greatest threat of all is a single man: Issak’s mortal enemy Lorenzo. Outnumbered, outgunned, and facing an enemy sniper with the skill and cunning to match his own, Issak is going to have to dig deep just to survive, let alone win. And what’s the full story behind these two samurai in the middle of Europe and the extraordinary pair of guns they carry? As an amateur history buff, I have some beef with the claim that this series was as “meticulously researched” as the marketing material boasts. Or rather, while it’s clear that serious research certainly went into Issak, it’s also clear that Shinji Makari is perfectly willing to play fast-and-loose at points when the story requires it. That’s a nerdy thing which probably won’t bother anyone less obsessive than me, but I just wanted to state it somewhere. Regardless of my academic idiosyncrasies, Issak continues to be a highly engaging historical adventure. Nemesis characters like Lorenzo can sometimes fall into the trap of being “a threat in name only,” where the story “tells” us the character is dangerous but only ever “shows” the hero winning—that’s not the case here. The tension ramps up considerably as Issak finds himself fighting ferociously to keep pace with a brilliant enemy who practically oozes gleeful, ruthless menace. Also, I hope Kodansha will someday release this series in physical books, because the art remains top-tier stuff. ~ WacOtaku
Issak is published by Kodansha.
Fly Me to the Moon, Manga Vol. 17
The opening to this volume confused me a bit; I know it’s been a while since I read the last one, but I went back and skimmed the latter part of volume sixteen and still couldn’t make sense of how this volume begins. Anyway, Nasa and Tsukasa have been apart for a week due to some sort of conflict, but Tsukasa returns and they maturely reconcile. With that out of the way, there’s some silly stuff (a section from Toast the cat’s POV, and a hilarious “summary” page that has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual plot). However, the bulk of this volume deals with Tokiko and the fallout of her death: a bequest, her last wishes, her wake, and a lengthy exploration of her and Tsukasa’s relationship and shared history. The historical references are fun (Tsukasa once called in a favor from some American called Ike, and she was deeply disappointed when the Apollo landings found no sign of Kaguya on the moon). There’s a passing of the torch vibe here, as Tokiko entrusts Nasa with fulfilling Tsukasa’s dreams and leaves them a mysterious data crystal; presumably this will figure in the overall plot. So, on the whole, a little bit of an atypical volume for this manga, since cute-and-dorky couple interactions aren’t really the focus this time around, but it’s still an enjoyable read that manages to fill in backstory and set up future plot developments while still being silly. ~ JeskaiAngel
Fly Me to the Moon is published by Viz.
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, Manga Vol. 10
In the author’s note at the end of volume ten, Nene Yukimori asks if readers gush about how great Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is like she and her friends did in high school over the manga they read. Well, Yukimori-sensei, please consider this review a published “gushing” about how wonderful this series is. Summer has turned into autumn, and Shiraishi, Kubo, and their classmates are now preparing for the school festival. All the while, Kubo desires to spend and more time with Shiraishi as he becomes a little more popular in the class. Simple storylines like those in this volume create the framework through which we can experience the warmth and humor that Yukimori imbues in the manga through her characters and their lovely interactions with one another. These are sometimes heart-warming (see Saki admiring Akina’s cooking), sometimes all gooey (Kubo waiting for Shiraishi to finish up his part of the class’s haunted house so that they can tour the festival together), and even sometimes physical (the funny and cute muscle chapter!). I admit that I do wish Yukimori would use less white space—although I know it complements the simple awws and hahas of story, it feels somewhat amateurish, which is a little unacceptable by volume ten, particularly when she does a wonderful job with backgrounds in some panels. But that’s a modest criticism of what’s otherwise an enchanting series. ~ Twwk
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is published by VIZ Media.
I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time, Light Novel Vol. 1
Like the manga adaptation I recently reviewed, volume one of the I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time light novel is an enchanting read, but the second half of this work takes the series even further and into an unexpected direction. But the first half is much the same, tracing the daily life of Adventure’s Guild receptionist Alina Clover, who loves the stability of her job but hates the massive amounts of overtime associated with it, especially when a challenging dungeon appears. So, to clear out her backlog, Alina takes care of business herself with the mighty power of her war hammer and a determination to get home on time! The trouble is that the tank from the area’s leading party, Jade of Silver Sword, saw through her disguise; now Alina has to deal with the possibility that she’s been identified as “The Executioner” and lose her job, and also with Jade’s infatuation with her! The second half of the novel, however, goes beyond laughs and (smart) commentary about the complicated nature of work to enter the mythos of the world and an adventure that proves to be exciting and fearsome. While I May Be a Guild Receptionist doesn’t do anything new when it comes to these adventure components, it does them well; I was flying through the pages in the climactic chapters of volume one! Meanwhile, Alina’s personality and wishes for a stable life are extremely relatable, a surprising but pleasant commentary that carries throughout the novel and filled with an honesty that makes her complaining and often agitated character more likable than it otherwise would be. There’s a warmth to the series, too, largely focused on the importance of adventurers that adds heart to the end of the novel, though I think it would have delivered even better with a little more heartfelt exploration of the concept earlier in the volume. Nonetheless, volume one of I May Be a Guild Receptionist was a brilliant read—full of fun, adventure, and overtime, it’s the most fun you’ll have reading a story about how terrible work can be. ~ Twwk
I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time is published by Yen Press.
Sakura Saku, Manga Vol. 1
I am beyond grateful that I am starting a new series by the incredible Io Sakisaka because this first volume was amazing! After collapsing on a train from illness but not having any injuries (or lost items!) as a result of a kind stranger helping her, Fujigaya wants nothing more than to say thank you to the boy who helped her that day. With only the note he left of his name, Fujigaya eagerly seeks to find him, all the while never ignoring a stranger in need. She’s shocked to learn that her classmate, Sakura, is the younger brother of the boy who helped her! Overjoyed that she has found a way to at least give him a thank-you letter, she asks Sakura if he will pass it along, but she’s surprised when he refuses to do so! Truly, Io Sakiska has done it again, because this series is sure to become a new favorite for me based on how much I loved this volume! In my previous reading experiences, I have related a lot to Sakisaka’s male heroes, but this was the first time I very much related to one of her heroines! I haven’t seen a female lead have similar struggles as I do when it comes to anxiety—including how she gets labeled as a “goody two-shoes” because she wants to help those around her. While I don’t know if I would go as far to say that I help everyone as she has (I have definitely become a homebody. Cue nervous laughter.), the happiness she feels and wanting to thank the person who has changed her life was very much something I have felt time and time again. I think if I could wrap up the heart of this volume with one quote, it would be this one by Fujigaya: “What are you talking about?! Everyone cares! Being kind is essential!” Definitely hoping future volumes will be released quickly because this first volume left an impression that desperately makes me want to read more! ~ Laura A. Grace
Sakura Saku is published by Shojo Beat, an imprint of VIZ Media. Volume one releases November 14th.
Helck, Manga Vol. 6
This consequential volume of Helck leads the story forward by large strides, both on an interrelational level and in the war between the demons and now-monstrous humans. With the former, Helck completes his flashback and makes a troubling request of Vermilio that perhaps sets the stage for future heartache, while she reveals her identity to him. Their trust is now unshakeable. Meanwhile, plans are hatched in both the human and demon realms, and the back and forth between the armies seems to be coming to a head. This new stage of the battle makes for an exciting volume, as does a deeper dive into Asta’s spy mission about halfway through the book. There’s also an unexpected development related to Asta’s work, further adding flavor to an excellent volume. It really does help that the story moves forward so much; while the flashbacks were of incredible importance, they contributed to what’s an already relatively slow-moving series. I’m excited by all that transpires here and eager to see our relatively few combatants face real danger. And indeed, I am worried for our heroes; I fear that not all of these characters will make it out alive. ~ Twwk
Helck is published by VIZ Media.
The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor, Manga Vol. 1
Imagine A Song of Ice and Fire…but where the dragons, kings, and pretty much everyone else is much cuter. If you’ve got that in your mind, you get a sense for the tone of The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor, in which the stage is a violent, miserable world and the players are powerful and sometimes evil. Caught in the middle is Jill Cervel, a magic-wielding warrior engaged to the prince of a kingdom who, in the manga’s opening act, is revealed to be involved in an incestuous relationship and frames Jill for a crime that will result in her execution. But he’s just a cute young man with glasses! This can’t be true! (I told you: ASOIAF meets manga.) The consequential events lead Jill to jump back in time to the night when she becomes the prince’s betrothed, but this time, she instead becomes engaged to a rival emperor, and thus begins a really funny and cute romance that seems out of place among the dark deeds of this world, but somehow all works together really well. What this means is that The Do-Over Damsel can go down the route of heavy fantasy, include scenes of intense violence (and it should be noted that the opening action sequence is well-crafted), and feature plenty of humor and cute romance. You get a dose of everything. Here’s hoping that future volumes continue to navigate all these avenues as well as the initial one does! ~ Twwk
The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor 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.