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New review at Girls in Capes: Akuma no Riddle, Vol. 1

New review up at Girls in Capes:

The best way to describe this manga is a schoolgirl assassination action manga with undertones of yuri romance. Tokaku is a star student at her original school of assassins, presented in the prologue as totally cold. Yet the warmth of a girl like Haru, who wasn’t raised to kill people, starts to melt her, and even after their first meeting, Tokaku is already a little attached.

While Tokaku’s assassin exploits may seem like the biggest draw to this series, the real star of Akuma no Riddle is Haru, the eternally optimistic assassination target, who tells Tokaku quite firmly that she wasn’t born to die — she was born to live.

More interested in the anime? Check out my Marathon or Drop evaluation over here.

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New review at Girls in Capes: Love at Fourteen, Vol. 5

I have a new manga review up at Girls in Capes!

As with previous volumes, Kanata and Kazuki’s relationship is still precious and the absolute best thing about the manga. At one point, Kazuki faces attempted humiliation at the hands of a girl who has a crush on Kanata, but he faces that potentially mortifying experience with grace, and he never tells Kanata what happened — because he wants Kanata to remain friends with the girl. It’s a touching plotline and shows not only Kazuki’s kindness but also his faith in Kanata’s affection for him.

However, I’m starting to worry that this series is moving in the direction of “problematic favorites.”

Read the full review here.

New review at Girls in Capes: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Vol. 1

This month, I was excited to review the first volume of manga in one of my favorite franchises: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun.

Readers or viewers familiar with manga tropes will definitely recognize the characters by visual cues — Mikoshiba is a very typical shoujo manga bad-boy, and Kashima is a very typical shoujo manga “princely girl” type, complete with fangirls. The best thing about Nozaki-kun, however, is the way the manga subverts the tropes and makes the characters much more real.

Read the full review at Girls in Capes.

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New review at Girls in Capes: Puella Magi Suzune Magica, vol. 1

Magica Quartet_Suzune Magica_1I’m really excited about this series!

Puella Magi Suzune Magica is a story of a magical girl assassin set in the world of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a magical girl anime that aired in 2011. The titular character of the spinoff is a “magical girl” assassin in both senses of the phrase: she’s a magical girl who assassinates people as well as someone who assassinates other magical girls.

But Suzune isn’t necessarily the protagonist of the spinoff: the more important POV characters are Arisa and Matsuri, two middle-school girls who are part of a larger group of magical girls. And with the plot being what it is, I’m sure you can see where the conflict of the manga is going.

Check it out now!

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New manga review at Girls in Capes: LOVE AT FOURTEEN, Vol. 4

Mizutani_LoveAtFourteen_V4_FINALCheck out my latest manga review at Girls in Capes!

Kanata Tanaka and Kazuki Yoshikawa are very grown-up for middle schoolers. Between Kanata’s womanly grace and Kazuki’s sophisticated manliness, the rest of Class 2-B is awed – and a little intimidated – by their maturity, seriousness, and good grades.

But Kanata and Kazuki really don’t feel mature at all, and they meet secretly to goof off and blow off steam – but during their second year of middle school, their friendship starts to change into something else entirely.

Check out the full review here.

Read or Drop? Rinne Vol. 1-5

When I reviewed Food Wars!, I mentioned that I’m not typically a huge shounen series lover – with the exception of all work by Rumiko Takahashi, the mangaka of series like Inuyasha and Ranma ½. Rinne, Takahashi’s newest manga, revisits many of the same themes addressed in both series I mentioned, and that thrills me beyond belief.

KYOKAI NO RINNE © 2009 Rumiko TAKAHASHI/SHOGAKUKAN

KYOKAI NO RINNE © 2009 Rumiko TAKAHASHI/SHOGAKUKAN

One reason I fell so deeply in love with the Inuyasha series was because of how the series treated its protagonist and titular character, a teenage boy who is half-demon and half-human. Inuyasha is a loner, ostracized by humans for being half-demon and looked down on by demons who see his human half as less worthwhile.

Like Inuyasha, the titular character – Rinne Rokudo – is a mixed-race character, though rather than half-demon, he’s part human and part Shinigami. The Japanese Shinigami is something like a grim reaper, a supernatural being whose duty it is to guide the dead to the afterlife. In Rinne, Shinigami also have other duties, mainly dispatching evil spirits and making sure nothing supernatural goes terribly awry. But Rinne, who is part Shinigami and part human, has diluted supernatural abilities, making him more dependent on devices than other Shinigami.

Takahashi’s work rarely has a hero who is also the protagonist, and the true protagonist of the series is a girl named Sakura Mamiya, who sees ghosts and spirits but is otherwise ordinary.

The first five volumes so far have served to introduce the series’ major players: the protagonist Sakura, the titular character Rinne, each of the two’s other primary love interest, and Rinne’s father, who seems to be the Big Bad of the series. These volumes also set up most of the running gags of the series: Rinne’s extreme poverty and subsequent stinginess, Tsubasa Jumonji’s obtuse one-sided crush on Sakura, and the Shinigami Ageha’s unrequited love for Rinne.

(It wouldn’t be a Rumiko Takahashi story without a love hexagon or three.)

One of my grievances with this series, though, is that I’m five volumes in and have no idea what the overarching plot is about. It seems to be more in line with a Ranma ½ style situational/romantic comedy, but the Shinigami plot feels more like Inuyasha’s more epic style, which is a bit confusing. No quest has appeared so far, and the largest issue (besides Rinne being extremely broke) is whether or not Sakura and Rinne are into one another.

The series is very funny, though, and I’ve enjoyed the whole thing. The art style is pretty typical of Takahashi’s, which has been so consistent over the course of different series that you practically expect Ranma and Inuyasha themselves to pop up at some point.

I’m not sure if too many people would be falling over themselves for this series, but lovers of Ranma’s light tone and Inuyasha’s supernatural elements will love it.

Story: 2.5 out of 5

Art: 3.5 out of 5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Cover for the American English edition of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

Read or Drop? Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma Vol. 1-4

Typically, I’m not the biggest shounen series reader.  I didn’t really enjoy Bleach when I tried it, and neither Naruto nor Death Note have really ever been my speed.  I’ve enjoyed Inuyasha, sure, and just about everything else by Rumiko Takahashi — but usually shounen’s not my bag.

Cover for the American English edition of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

SHOKUGEKI NO SOMA © 2012 by Yuto Tsukuda, Shun Saeki /SHUEISHA Inc.

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma is a series that defies my normal categorization.  Though ostensibly centered on Soma, the titular character, this series — set in a hyper-competitive Japanese cooking academy — contains a rounded-out cast, interesting (though weird) subplots, and so much cooking knowledge and so many recipes that you can practically teach yourself to cook just by reading it.

I’ve read the first four volumes of the series — purchased all four of them, actually — and I’ve been so vocal about how much I like it that my local indie automatically orders the next volume for me after I’ve purchased the most recent one.

One of the things I truly enjoy about long-running manga with ensemble casts is that normally I enjoy the other characters much more than the protagonist.  Food Wars!  is no different: my favorite characters are Erina Nakiri, an arrogant high school first-year with a prodigious sense of taste, and Nikumi, another first-year with a special talent for selecting and working with meat.  Each of the characters are interesting on their own, and seeing the different ways each character deals with individual challenges is incredibly entertaining.

The art style of Food Wars! is, admittedly, a little bit weird.  Whenever Soma wins a shokugeki, or a cooking challenge, the shokugeki judge is usually depicted as… uh… naked.  And covered in food.  Which you can take as you will.

It’s definitely the sort of manga that’s a bit on the fluffy side, and some of the plots are a little hyperbolic — any time there’s a shokugeki involved, it gets really hyperbolic.  But it’s definitely a shounen-style manga, and shounen readers will probably really enjoy the storytelling style, the weirdly battle-like illustrations when anyone’s cooking something, and of course the vaguely pervy humor.

This one is 100% a read, not a drop.  I would recommend this manga to manga readers who also like to watch cooking shows.  (Master Chef and The Taste both come to mind.)  It’s definitely a manga I’d recommend buying at least a couple volumes of to really get a sense of the story, since the first volume’s plot arc stands almost completely alone, and it would be a great series to pick up soon: the anime will premiere in April.

Story: 3.5 out of 5

Art: 4 out of 5

Overall: 4 out of 5