Manga Review: Everyone’s Getting Married Vol. 1

Most romances in Viz Media’s Shojo Beat line are targeted toward a high school audience, but Everyone’s Getting Married is actually aimed toward older readers. It’s twenty-something angst instead of teen angst, and you can read on for the review of Volume 1!

Back Cover Blurb

Successful career woman Asuka Takanashi has an old-fashioned dream of getting married and becoming a housewife. After her long-term boyfriend breaks up with her to pursue his own career goals, she encounters popular newscaster Ryu Nanami. Asuka and Ryu get along well, but the last thing he wants is to ever get married. This levelheaded pair who want the opposite things in life should never get involved, except…

The Review

Everyone’s Getting Married is a bit different than most Shojo Beat titles because it’s more josei than shojo. The character designs would suit a high school group, but the cast members are in their mid-20s, have well-established careers, and have had prior romantic relationships. And while shojo manga occasionally ends with a wedding, the heroine rarely thinks of marriage at the start. Here, however, marriage is the goal from the get-go.

It even opens with a wedding. Main character Asuka Takanashi is at that stage of life where her peers are getting married, and she thinks her own wedding is fast approaching–until her 30-year-old live-in boyfriend abruptly ends their five year relationship. As such, she’s thrust back into the world of couples mixers and matchmaking events.

Being back on the dating market isn’t horrible, but it is frustrating. Asuka wants not only a husband but one who will let her be a full-time housewife, and most of her prospects want a working wife. As such, her coworker’s roommate Ryu Nanami doesn’t even make the list. While the handsome newscaster respects Asuka’s reasons for wanting to be a homemaker, he declares in no uncertain terms that he’d “rather die than get married.”

The story reads like a contemporary Harlequin romance. The cast is small, and the plot focuses almost exclusively on Asuka and Ryu’s developing relationship. When the story does diverge from them, it usually shifts to their mutual friends Ono and Rio who are in the opposite situation (he wants to get married, she doesn’t). Other than being very good at her real estate career, Asuka’s a rather ordinary person. Ryu, on the other hand, has near celebrity status and a sexual reputation to go with it. But even though they are polar opposites in their views on marriage, they, of course, fall in love. The things that draw them together are kind of weak, but Miyazono’s illustrations do a fine job conveying their conflicting emotions and depicting the sparks that ultimately fly.

By the way, the series rating is “Mature,” but even though Ryu sleeps around and has a habit of kissing people when he’s waking up, there’s nothing graphic in the bedroom scenes (at least for now).

In Summary

Everyone’s Getting Married is a romance with an oft-used theme. Our heroine wants commitment; the guy she’s fallen for doesn’t believe in marriage. Aside from Asuka’s old-fashioned dream of becoming a housewife and mother, the story doesn’t have much originality, although that may change as we learn more about Ryu’s past relationships.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 10

The contrast between city and rural life has been a source of entertainment since the time of Aesop’s fables. It remains a popular subject in manga and anime today, and joining the ranks of Silver Nina, Non Non Biyori, and Silver Spoon is Yen Press’ series Barakamon. Read on for my review of Volume 10! (For my reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back cover blurb

The cold north wind sets in on the island and handsome young calligrapher Seishuu Handa longs for his winter clothes. But instead of Kawafuji making the delivery, Handa’s parents decide to make their island debut–and come bearing much more than just winter clothes!

The Review

Our young calligrapher has been on the island a while now, long enough for the seasons to change. Volume 10 opens with the approach of fall and some goofy fun in preparation for cold weather. Then Handa makes the seemingly innocuous move of requesting that his winter clothes be sent to the island. The next thing he knows, his parents make that delivery in person. Thus, the island gets another invasion of city folk.

While there are the usual comic elements of rural life assaulting urban sensibilities, interactions go beyond simple culture shock thanks to two tagalongs. Apparently, when you are a master calligrapher, you can’t go anywhere without your agent watching your every move, and Seimei Handa’s agent just happens to be another member of the Kawafuji family. With Takao Kawafuji rounding out the roster, we have two artist-agent teams of different generations plus two parent-child relationships that provide plenty of fodder for insight, strife, and insecurity. The father-son calligraphy battle in the schoolhouse is particularly fun and clever. Not only does it demonstrate the differences between Handa and his dad as artists, it also brings the islanders in as participants.

Inserted in the midst of the Handa/Kawafuji family trip, we get a completely Hiroshi-centric chapter. Those who follow the Handa-Kun spinoff will not only enjoy the similar four-frames per page format but the string of misinterpretations that characterize the narrative. Given all the grief Hiroshi suffers at his village, it’s nice to see him appreciated at school (even if he doesn’t realize it).

Extras include character introductions, a bonus one-page manga, translation notes, and another installment of “Barakamon News.”

In Summary

It’s family bonding time on the island! Mrs. Handa provides an even more extreme level of Tokyoite-meets-country shock, but bumpkin humor aside, Yoshino-sensei explores our wacky characters from an intriguing new angle as parent-child relationships and expectations takes center stage.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Noragami Stray Stories Vol. #01

The Noragami Universe includes a manga series and anime. Now a spinoff manga  Noragami: Stray Stories has been released in English!

Back Cover Blurb

In a tale as epic as Noragami, sometimes details get overlooked, like how do shinki normally find employment? Is Yato ever useful? What happens when a god is targeted by a serial killer? Find the answers to these questions and more in this collection of short stories from Noragami creator Adachitoka!

The Review

According to the author’s afterword, Noragami Stray Stories are “diversions” from the main Noragami story. Indeed, the seven stories, each about 20 pages long, are the sort of short, fun works often included as a bonus in a volume of manga. However, as Adachitoka-sensei puts it, it was supposed to be a one-time thing and somehow turned into a series. Thus, these stories make up their own collection instead of being tacked on as extras in another book.

But even though Adachitoka-sensei refers to the stories as “a series,” they are standalone works. The only element connecting them is that they make fun of Yato. Readers unfamiliar with the Noragami Universe will probably get some jokes, like the ridiculously long fall in “A Story of a Fallen Man,” but this collection will be best enjoyed and appreciated by Noragami fans.

As mentioned above, the collection pokes fun at Yato. He might be a warrior god, but he’s not taking on malevolent spirits here. He only wields his sword twice, once to cut ties with a stalker office lady in “A Story of the Other Side of the Screen” and later to cut another idiot’s ties with bad luck in “A Story of a Fallen Man.” He gets roasted by his current and former shinki in “A Story of Exploring the Mind of a Shinki” and fails in an idol-style audition to become one of the Seven Gods of Fortune in “A Story of a Nameless God Making His Way Up In The World.” He also falls victim to a mortal swindler in “A Story of Mutual Deception” and the repeated murder attempts of a wannabe serial killer in “A Story of Conforming to Temporary Stereotypes.” Yato has a lot of weaknesses and quirks for a main character, and the mangaka doesn’t hesitate to capitalize on them in the name of comedy.

Other characters that figure largely in the stories are Yukine and Hiyori and the warrior god Bishamonten and her shinki Kazuma. Yukine and Hiyori serve mainly to call out Yato’s idiocy for what it is. As for the Kazuma/Bishamonten appearances, they mainly highlight Kazuma’s obsession for his god and provide blatant fanservice.

Extras include a character lineup, early sketches of Noragami characters, and translation notes.

In Summary

If you’re not familiar with the Noragami Universe, Stray Stories probably isn’t the best place to start. However, if you’re an existing fan, this collection will be a lighthearted addition to your library. There’s no overarching quest or storyline; these are just a bunch of silly one shots portraying Yato at his least dignified and most desperate.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Sherlock: A Study in Pink Vol. #01

Sherlock Holmes has had many incarnations throughout the years, but Benedict Cumberbatch’s hyperpaced version in the TV show Sherlock truly stands apart. And now a manga adaption of the series is available in English from Titan Comics!

Back Cover Blurb

The Japanese Sherlock Manga comes to the USA and UK for the first time ever! Adapting the episodes of the smash-hit BBC America/Hartswood Films TV show that sees Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) tackling brain-teasing crimes in modern-day London, this stunning manga is presented in its original right-to-left reading order, and in the full chapters as originally serialised. Each oversized issue comes with a selection of BRAND-NEW covers by some of the best Sherlock artists around! #1 kicks things off with a 52pp special. Meet Sherlock and Watson for the first time… all over again!

The Review

I’ve reviewed one other comic adaption of a live action series (Game of Thrones), and while it had some good points, the art was a serious letdown. As such, I had reservations about Titan Comics’ release of A Study in Pink. It turns out I needn’t have worried. Mangaka Jay does an excellent job of rendering Benedict Cumberbatch’s and Martin Freeman’s likenesses such that they are not only recognizable but convey the essence of their unique Sherlock and Watson.

For those unfamiliar with the Sherlock television series, it is a modern-day take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective. A Study in Pink is based upon A Study in Scarlet, the first of the Doyle novels, but it is much faster paced and loaded with tongue in cheek humor. Our present day Sherlock is a self-proclaimed high functioning sociopath who sends snarky group texts while Watson is an Afghanistan veteran who blogs at the insistence of his therapist. As in the original, both men are struggling to pay the rent on their own, and a mutual acquaintance introduces them as potential flatmates. But while this Holmes has amazing powers of deduction like the original, his brilliance comes with an unfiltered mouth and a peculiar temperament. When Sherlock goes into a giddy excitement at a string of serial suicides, Dr. Watson gets swept into the first of his mysteries with his new roommate.

The manga adaption is not a scene-by-scene storyboard of the series, but it is quite faithful to the original script. In other words, if you’ve seen the series, you won’t get any new insights, but you will get to enjoy Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in a different media format. Regarding the format, Titan has chosen to release A Study in Pink in six parts, the first of which is 52 pages. I personally prefer my manga installments to be thicker than that, but the pages are supposedly oversized (I had a digital review copy so I can’t say what the actual dimensions are) which might make up for the thinner issues. At any rate, Jay-sensei certainly had enough space to narrate the story such that it flows beautifully and delivers an impact at the dramatic points. When we get our first glimpse of Sherlock, it’s a wonderful full-page close-up of his face. And while Cumberbatch fans might be most interested in those drawings, Jay-sensei’s artwork maintains a high level of quality in expression and realism throughout.

In Summary

A Study in Pink is definitely an excellent work in terms of pacing, artwork, and storytelling. In regard to the story, however, it doesn’t add anything to the television script from which it was based. So if you’re an existing fan who simply wants the TV series distilled into manga format or just a lot of black and white drawings of actors Cumberbatch and Freeman, this will fit the bill. If you’re a comic/manga reader who’s never heard of Cumberbatch or Sherlock, give it a try. Even if you’re not a mystery buff, you might just find yourself hooked into the fandom.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Heiress and the Chauffeur Vol. 1

A forbidden love between master and servant… That theme has formed the basis of many a romance, including Viz Media’s newly released historical manga, The Heiress and the Chauffeur.

Back Cover Blurb

Sayaka wears a crimson ribbon that signals she is at the top of her class, and her classmates all revere her. So when Narutaki ignores decorum and breaks school rules to protect Sayaka, will she stand by him or dismiss him as the school demands?

The Review

When I first read the title, I thought The Heiress and the Chauffeur was going to be a Japanese version of Downton Abbey. After all, Heiress takes place during the same time period as Downton, and its main characters are a very rich young lady and her servant. But whereas Downton was all about portraying the class differences in early 20th century British society with painstaking accuracy, Heiress‘ Taisho-era setting mainly seems an excuse to have a butler-type romance in period costume. The heroine Sayaka Yoshimura might attend a finishing school where they wear hakama uniforms, but she and her classmates have sensibilities more aligned with modern teens. Among the cast is a gaggle of self-proclaimed fans of Sayaka’s 22-year-old chauffeur Narutaki, and one fan in particular practically oozes otaku.

The cause of all their excitement, aside from Narutaki’s and Sayaka’s good looks, are the rumors that the two are having a forbidden love affair. Sayaka calls them nonsense; as far as she’s concerned, Narutaki’s a brother figure. That sentiment, however, is not mutual. Thus, we have a one-sided love on Narutaki’s part, a love he demonstrates by helping Sayaka through the various scrapes she gets into. And though Sayaka cherishes him as a friend, she’s utterly oblivious to his actual feelings.

This work is Ishihara-sensei’s debut series, and the manga does have a first-timer’s feel to it. Chapter 1 was originally a one-shot, and the illustrations are cramped because of all the details crammed in to complete the story arc. But even the panels of the subsequent chapters tend to be overcrowded, which is a shame because I really do enjoy Heiress‘ period costumes. Sayaka’s character profile also feels overloaded. She’s an heiress, she’s lame, she’s from an upstart family, she’s the “Crimson Lily” of her school, she’s ignored by her dad, and on and on. Narutaki’s, on the other hand, is a bit on the lean side for a leading man. He’s handsome, charming and in love with Sayaka just because. Fortunately, his previous place of employment is a bit of a mystery, which makes him somewhat more interesting.

This volume contains four chapters, each with its own arc. Despite their misadventures in those chapters, Sayaka and Narutaki’s relationship doesn’t really go anywhere, and given that Heiress is only a two-volume series, I wonder how far this romance will actually manage to progress.

Extras include an author afterward and the short bonus stories “Luca and the Bandit” and “The Promise from Four Years Ago.”

In Summary

If you’re looking for a historical romance with spot-on details, you’re better off looking elsewhere. But if you like devoted bishounen in servant attire longing for a love that cannot be, Heiress is worth a try. It does have its dramatic and poignant moments but for the most part stays a lighthearted story of one-sided affection.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Gods Lie

Most manga I read are series titles, but I recently had a chance to review The Gods Lie, a single volume work released by Vertical Comics. It’s a contemporary tale of first love amidst tragic circumstances, and you can read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

Natsuru Nanao, a 6th grader who lives alone with his mother, strikes up an unlikely friendship with the reserved and driven Rio Suzumura. Natsuru plays hookey from soccer camp that summer, and instead of telling the truth to his mother, he spends all his time with Rio and her kid brother at their rickety house, where a dark secret threatens to upend their fragile happiness.

The Review

When I read the title of The Gods Lie, I thought the phrase had an accusatory tone. As it turns out, the nuance of the words is actually more sympathetic. Our main character is Natsuru Narao who’s recently moved out of Tokyo. For the most part, he’s a typical sixth grader: loves playing on the soccer team, gets along with other boys, and doesn’t understand girls. However, he has his sore spots, and when a new coach openly pities the fact that he’s small and doesn’t have a dad, he ditches soccer camp. Not wanting to explain things to his mom, he instead hides out at the rickety home of his reserved classmate Rio Suzumura and her kid brother Yuuta, where he discovers she’s hiding a much more serious secret of her own.

The manga doesn’t include an age rating, but even though the protagonist is eleven, I would put The Gods Lie in the “13 and Up” category. In addition to themes of child neglect, there are disturbing images when Natsuru stumbles upon the secret in Rio’s garden. And even though both kids are in elementary school, they bear the weight of adult responsibilities.

Rio is a standard character for her situation. The oldest child of a deadbeat dad, she struggles to make ends meet, keep up appearances, and care for her younger brother, even as she clings to her father’s promise that he’ll return home. As for Natsuru, he’s the only son of a widow, and while having a single mom isn’t that unusual, they don’t have a typical parent-child relationship. When Natsuru’s mom is first introduced, I wasn’t sure who she was because he calls her by her first name and treats her like an older sister. He also grabs her breasts, which seems a bizarre habit. Boob-groping aside, he’s a likable kid, and his personal experience with disappointment and tragedy allow him to empathize with Rio more than others would.

Mingled in the midst of secrets and messy circumstances is also a story of first love. With Natsuru staying with Rio and helping to watch Yuuta, it starts off as a very realistic game of playing house. The interesting thing is that the more Rio falls for Natsuru, the more childlike she becomes. In essence, he allows her to put down the role of adult and be the twelve-year-old she really is. As for Natsuru, he wants desperately to save Rio, but because he’s also only a kid himself, his efforts fall short. Even so, there’s beauty in the moments of escape he creates for her and Yuuta. Ozaki-sensei’s shojo-style illustrations are about average overall, but the character expressions convey an amazing depth of emotion.

In Summary

The Gods Lie is part issues story and part young romance. While the ultimate outcome to the situation at the Suzumura household is predictable, Natsuru’s struggle to change Rio’s reality tugs on the heartstrings. And although melancholy dominates the mood, the manga manages to end on a hopeful note.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #17 (FINAL)

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has a unique bent. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has released the final volume of this novel series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases).

Back Cover Blurb

Several years have passed since the incidents surrounding the Coin of the Sun. Having received a letter from Holo, Norah the former shepherdess and Eve the merchant woman travel north–and on the way, they end up in the same wagon as Diana the alchemist! Were Lawrence and Holo able to find happiness for themselves? In addition to an epilogue covering the days immediately after the events of Volume 16, this final book in the Spice and Wolf series includes three new short stories!

The Review

I was somewhat surprised that the Coin of the Sun arc did not include an epilogue. Once Holo and Lawrence vow to live life together, the curtain closes without a hint of what that life looks like. As it turns out, this is because Hasekura-sensei needed more than a slim chapter to describe Holo and Lawrence’s post-journey life. Thus, we have Spice and Wolf Volume 17: Epilogue.

The series epilogue totals about one hundred pages split into two parts. The first, “Intermission,” is told from the perspective of Norah’s trusty dog Enek. Five years after Holo and Lawrence’s journey, Holo invites five of the women they encountered to the north for a celebration. Although Eve, Norah, Diana, Fran, and Elsa eventually wind up traveling in the same carriage, “Intermission” focuses predominantly on conversations between Norah, Eve, and Diana. The main topic of discussion is the couple that summoned them, and apparently, Holo’s not the only one to laugh at Lawrence’s expense. Female chatter aside, the chapter gives a detailed look at Norah’s life after the events of “The Shepherdess and The Black Knight.” Less information is provided on what happened to Eve following Kerube, but we still get a pretty good idea of her ever after.

The story then switches to Lawrence’s point of view for the second part, “Conclusion.” The events of the Coin of the Sun pretty much guaranteed him the means for his own business, and so we find him preparing for his grand opening. What is surprising is the location and type of business he’s going into. After all his talk of owning a shop, I’d thought he’d open a store in Lesko. Instead, he and Holo have settled in the hot springs town of Nyohhira to build an inn. As such, Lawrence continues to handle business matters but ones quite different from when he was a traveling merchant.

What hasn’t changed, however, is his inability to read Holo’s true intent. In fact, the women traveling to visit them seem to have a better grasp of what she’s plotting than Lawrence. Thus, we still have Laurence doing his utmost to please Holo but uncertain of what reaction he’ll get. One major shift, however, is that he now has the assurance that Holo will always be with him, which gives their relationship a sweet “married couple” feel despite the fact they are not officially wed. And even though “Conclusion” doesn’t include a wedding, the end is bound to delight Holo/Lawrence fans.

While the epilogue is too much to tack onto the end of a volume, it’s not quite enough to fill an entire book. As such, Hasekura-sensei wraps things up with three short stories. In ”Traveling Merchant and Gray Knight,” Holo remarks that Lawrence doesn’t speak much about his past, and that sets the stage for an anecdote about an eccentric, elderly knight Lawrence encountered well before Holo. “Gray Smiling Face and Wolf” tells of a profit-making scheme from Col’s perspective, and because Holo and Lawrence are more honest with the boy than they are with each other, it makes an interesting narrative. The final installment, “White Path and Wolf,” isn’t particularly exciting, but it does provide a quiet commentary on life and human existence, which makes a decent end to the closing volume of Spice and Wolf.

This light novel includes the first four pages of illustrations printed in color, world map, nine black-and-white illustrations, and afterward.

In Summary

If the romantic tension between Holo and Lawrence was what kept you reading Spice and Wolf, you’ll definitely want to pick up the last volume. It includes three side stories set during Holo and Lawrence’s travels together, but the main feature is Holo and Lawrence five years later. There is a business aspect to the epilogue, but by and large, it’s an illustration of what a happy ending between a merchant and wisewolf looks like.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Handa-Kun Vol. 2

Fans of Satsuki Yoshino’s Barakamon can now get even more Handa-centric comedy. Yen Press has released Handa-Kun, a prequel series which chronicles the high school days of our favorite genius calligrapher. Read on for my review of Volume 2!

Back cover blurb

School life isn’t getting any easier for Seishuu Handa. Try as he might to make himself invisible to his classmates, the rising number of “Handaists” –classmates beguiled by his erratic behavior– make his task nearly impossible. With a new nemesis and girlfriend (??) in the mix, does Handa-kun have even a slim chance of staying off the radar?

The Review

The characters introduced thus far, both adults and students, have been weird in one way or the other. Now Yoshino-sensei changes things by bringing Yukio Kondou into the cast. He’s a normal high school student with average grades and interests. In short, he’s a garden variety mob character. But due to the luck of the draw, he gets grouped with Handa and Handa’s top three idolizers for a home economics assignment. Aizawa, Reo, and Tsutsui behave much as they did in Volume 1; Handa completely misinterprets their true intentions; and Kondou is the single normal POV, calling out the other boys’ craziness for what it is. By the way, their home economics assignment is a cooking project, and just as in Barakamon, cooking and Handa prove a disastrous combination.

Afterward, Kondou has no desire to associate with these freaks, but the three Handa idolizers somehow incorporate Kondou into their group. Handa henceforth has a foursome watching his every move: three spouting delusions while the fourth (Kondou) tries to inject reality into the commentary.

Yoshino-sensei then returns to introducing more characters with “HND Syndrome,” and Kei Hanada in Chapter 7 has it bad. Simply put, he’s very similar but not exactly the same as Handa, and the funniest and most extreme aspect of Hanada’s “similar but not exactly” is his face. The reaction Handa fans have when they discover he’s a fake fuels much comedy, and though the real Handa is largely absent from this arc, he does makes a final calligraphy jab at the fake that’s hilarious.

Then to wrap things up, Dash Higashino joins the story. Unlike most HND sufferers, his obsession with Handa began in middle school. While the cause of Dash’s jealousy is a bit of a stretch and his subsequent phobia of Handa is even more of a stretch, the illustrations of Dash trying to conquer his HND with the help of Hanada (the fake Handa) are quite funny.

Extras include bonus manga including glimpses of the Barakamon kids, translation notes, and an installment of “Handa-Kun News.”

In Summary

There’s one panel in this volume where a teacher yells, “Another second-year!? What is wrong with your grade!?” Indeed, everyone in Handa’s year are so out of touch with reality that when a normal person gets added to the cast, he’s the lone voice crying in the wilderness. For the most part Handa himself doesn’t do much to push the action forward; most chapters revolve around other characters’ impressions of him. As such, there’s no overarching plot or goal, but if you enjoy delusional characters, this volume should keep you entertained.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher Vol. #20

Mafuyu is a high school delinquent who wants to turn over a new leaf. So when she transfers schools, she thinks she’ll finally be able to live the life of a normal girl. There’s just one problem: her teacher  Mr. Saeki is a bigger delinquent than she is!

Oresama Teacher is a shojo manga that offers humor of the silly variety. Volume 20 has  been released, and you can read on for the review. (For those who are interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

After the burden of his past sent Hayasaka fleeing into the stormy night, his dad is finally ready to reveal their family secrets. But is Hayasaka ready to remember why his memories started to disappear in the first place?!

The Review

The first half of Volume 20 is all about Hayasaka’s past. After the dramatic end to Volume 19, an explanation is necessary to reconcile Hayasaka’s memories with the situation at the Hayasaka mansion, and Hayasaka’s dad finally provides it. This mystery is something Tsubaki-sensei’s teased readers with for several volumes now, and whatever you might have guessed about the Hayasaka family, it’s probably wrong. To put it another way, the true nature of the Hayasaka relationships and the circumstances that got them there are too illogical to be reasoned out. At one point during the explanation, Hayasaka’s dad and mom are both labeled “delusional,” which pretty much sums up the environment that saddled Hayasaka with a girly name.

While these revelations are more weird than satisfying, the more important thing is that Hayasaka’s back with an intact set of memories. In fact, he remembers more than anyone might have guessed. However, the one who meddled with his memories remains to be dealt with, and Hayasaka is the one who proposes a plan to ensnare Momochi. It’s a risky ploy, and as it plays out, you’re never quite sure whether the Public Morals Club or Momochi has the upper hand. At the same time, Tsubaki-sensei does an excellent job of weaving humor into the tension.

Then the Hayasaka’s past/Momochi battle arc concludes, and Tsubaki-sensei turns the attention to the two PMC members that had largely been left out of the loop. First, we have an Okegawa-centric or, more accurately, a Strawberry Love-centric chapter. After Momochi’s nefarious scheming, Mafuyu’s and Okegawa’s girlish correspondence delivers on some much needed lighter bird-brained fun. Then we have an Akki-centric chapter, which, in addition to updating us on the state of his relationship with Komari, hints that the Momochi/ PMC battle might not be completely over.

The volume concludes with a Christmas chapter. As it turns out, Christmas Eve is Yui’s birthday, and Mafuyu insists on hosting the party. Between the mashup of celebrations and all the gang-related stuff Mafuyu forgets to hide from her friends, it’s a chaotically fun time that ends with a tantalizing hook.

By the way, if the notes at the end of the book are correct, the Student Council President’s arc will conclude in the next volume. Considering all the rounds that have taken place between the Student Council and PMC, it does seem about time for it to wrap up.

Extras in this volume include Characters and Story Thus Far, 4-panel comics, and a character relationship chart.

In Summary

Hayasaka’s past is revealed! His family background is nothing short of unbelievable, though not in a particularly good way. Fortunately, we have the PMC’s particular brand of friendship and loyalty to keep us entertained as well some additional Hayasaka memories that reveal the true nature of the enigmatic Runa Momochi.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #6

I became an instant fan of Naoki Urasawa in 2004 when I saw the Monster anime. Psychological thrillers are definitely NOT my cup of tea, but he had me hooked with his combination of realistic artwork and gripping plot. As such, I was thrilled when Viz Media decided to release a translation of an earlier Urasawa action/adventure: Master Keaton. Read on for the review of Volume 6. (For my reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Taichi Hiraga Keaton dreams of someday being the archaeologist who excavates the Danube Valley Civilization. Reality doesn’t seem to be working in his favor, however, as being an insurance investigator keeps him busy and always in peril! With no rest in sight, what’s in store for Master Keaton next?

The Review

After the lengthy Leopard’s Cage arc in Volume 5, Master Keaton returns to its usual pattern of short, stand-alone adventures. While one chapter (“The King’s Tears”) shows him pursuing artifacts during his free time, a paying job in archeology continues to elude him. As such, his role in Volume 6 is predominantly that of Lloyds insurance agent and investigator. Most of these cases have little to do with ancient history. Instead, Keaton’s investigations involve the current events of his era, such as ongoing tensions between Ireland and Britain, and two chapters (“The Winds of Cornwall” and “The Adventures of After-School Detectives”) are purely detective stories.

As usual, Keaton’s ex-wife doesn’t show up, but Keaton encounters various former classmates and colleagues as he travels Europe on his assignments. “The Code of Blood and Honor,” the longest arc in this volume, is a two-chapter mystery that involves the murder of an old schoolmate who just happens to be the son of a Mafia don. So in addition to having a “Godfather” flavor, the case has personal meaning to Keaton. To make it more personal, an assassin from one of Keaton’s earlier adventures returns, and he’s bent on revenge. In the “The Winds of Cornwall,” Keaton investigates the suspicious activity targeted toward a childhood friend, which a second mutual childhood friend is also investigating. Unlike the gripping plot in “The Code of Blood and Honor,” “The Winds of Cornwall” meanders all over the place, and even though it does involve deadly threats and organized crime, the story’s more about what Keaton’s friends think of him.

As for what strangers think of Keaton, most continue to view him as an eccentric or an annoyance. “The Adventures of After-School Detectives” is another murder mystery, but it’s also one of the funnier stories. Three school-age detectives are also on this case, and the way they pick at Keaton’s performance as an investigator is fairly amusing.

Keaton is in Europe the entirety of this volume; we only get one brief glimpse of his daughter and dad celebrating the holidays without him in Japan. However, both of them do travel to London to see him so we get our Yuriko- and old man Hiraga-centric chapters. In both these stories, the Hiragas render a service to strangers, and in Hiraga senior’s case, his primary motivation is his skirt-chasing tendencies, which we’ve heard plenty about but are kind of awkward to watch in action.

Extras include the first pages of Chapter 4 in color and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

Keaton is all investigator in this volume. No teaching assignments or requests from the SAS. Just one Lloyds case after another with a couple personal adventures on the side. Not a lot of ancient history, but if you like tales of organized crime against a backdrop of Europe right after the fall of communism, this volume will deliver.

First published at the Fandom Post.