Light Novel Review: The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?) Vol. #03

Fantasy series are full of royalty, and those characters are often noble, incompetent, evil, or ambitious. But how about a genius prince who is plain lazy? That’s the protagonist of The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?). Read on for the review of Volume 3. (For my review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

After narrowly dodging a marriage proposal, Prince Wein is accosted by a messenger from the Kingdom of Cavarin, which can only mean bad news…and unfortunately, he’s absolutely right! The messenger cordially invites him to the Festival of the Spirit to celebrate the biggest religion in the western side of the continent: the Teachings of Levetia. Oh, and this event just happens to coincide with a gathering for the most influential group in the West, which is also in Cavarin. Either way, it’s not an invitation Wein can turn down easily, even though he knows he’s just begging for more trouble!

The Review

The third volume is a continuation of troublesome Western affairs that began in Volume 1. To recap, the truly despicable King of Marden ordered an invasion of Natra, and Marden wound up losing its gold mine to Natra and its remaining territory to their southern neighbor.

That southern neighbor (which was “Kavalinu” in Volume 1 and is now spelled “Cavarin” in Volume 3) gets things rolling by sending Wein an invitation to the Festival of the Spirit, a religious celebration in their capital. And this year’s festival also happens to coincide with the gathering of the Holy Elites, the top leaders of Levetia, the West’s most influential religion. Wein has no choice but to go, and unfortunately, the route to the Cavarin capital passes through an area where remnants of the Marden Army are struggling to take their territory back.

Quite a few old characters from the Marden conflict return to the story–and some with surprising jobs. But a new country coming onto the scene means new players, backstories, and agendas. While Falanya’s lessons are a blatant information dumping device, they do the trick of quickly laying out key bits of history and introducing Levetia. For the Western nations, there’s definitely no separation between religion and state. Rather the two are deeply intertwined, and much of the first half of the book is Wein trying to figure out the motivations of the Holy Elites and how he can best use them to Natra’s advantage. Toba-sensei keeps things interesting with the varied outlooks of these powerful individuals, but despite their “Holy” title, the group is sadly a corrupt bunch who twists religious texts to further selfish gains.

In addition to navigating that particular political landscape, Wein also winds up unexpectedly indebted to the Liberation Front, the remnants of the Marden Army led by a royal who survived the Cavarin invasion. As such, he agrees to sneak the Marden diplomat Zeno into the Cavarin capital by passing her as part of his retinue. Zeno is interesting and so are her interactions with Wein. However, Zeno’s perspective that the reestablishment of the Marden royal family is a righteous cause feels odd given that the last king was a terrible, incompetent ruler who abused his people, especially those at the gold mine. It’s even odder no one in the Natra contingent calls her out on it, considering MARDEN was the aggressor against Natra just a year ago. Anyway, if you can overlook this odd lack of bitterness between former enemies, all the twists and turns of these elements of international politics, religion, and military are pretty engaging.

The biggest surprise is Wein’s ultimate decision regarding King Ordalasse, the guy who invited him to Cavarin in the first place. I actually stopped to make sure I hadn’t misread the text because I was so stunned by what Wein does. It’s certainly not what you’d expect from a guy who wants to slack off his entire life. However, the treatment of a certain white-haired aide is a significant factor in this scene, and the series has already demonstrated how Wein is when it comes to Ninym. So while Wein’s response is shocking, it is also definitely in character.

The volume closes with a chase and military clashes. Some of the action scenes are difficult to follow, and the tone by which Hagal’s execution is announced immediately made me doubt its veracity. Overall, though, there’s plenty of excitement, close calls, and upsets to keep you eagerly turning the pages till the end.

Extras include the first eight pages printed in color, ten black-and-white illustrations, and afterword. The artwork, by the way, is heavy on the fan service, which, in my opinion, is completely unnecessary.

In Summary

Wein sets out to Cavarin, the kingdom that conquered the country of Marden. What begins as a trip to establish diplomatic ties with Natra’s new neighbor turns into a bizarre encounter with the most powerful leaders in the West. Toba-sensei does an excellent job of throwing Wein into tactical and strategic quandaries, large and small, that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Vol. #02

There are a range of witches depicted in literature nowadays – good, bad, sexy, terrifying. But how about a witch wandering around with no particular goal in mind? This is the subject of Jougi Shiraishi’s light novel Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. Read on for the review of Volume 2. (For the review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

A runaway princess, a zombie nation, a divine cat, and lots and lots of bread. These are just a few of the many highlights that color the travels of our young witch. Each place she visits is a new story waiting to be told, rife with encounters that are anything but typical, and rarely ending the way anyone expects. Such is the magic of wandering, you see. You never know quite where you’ll end up. A tale can take a turn at any moment and become something else entirely…

The Review

Wandering Witch continues into Volume 2 with another fourteen short stories about Elaina’s encounters with different people and places. Unfortunately, none were particularly fun or gripping, and I found myself less invested in Elaina than when I started.

Part of this is because Elaina is the one thing these stories have in common, and there’s virtually no character development for her. In Volume 1, we at least got to see her mature during her path to becoming a witch under her mentor. There’s none of that growth in Volume 2. Actually, it’s worse because Elaina’s inconsistent as a character. In the previous volume, she was introduced as an unfettered spirit who travels randomly and scrapes by using bogus fortune-telling. In Volume 2’s “Before the Snow Melts,” she abruptly informs us that she’s occasionally duty-bound to “help solve some country’s problems” as if she’s a pillar of society. Moreover, her champion-of-justice fervor for the orphaned beastkin Elise and her righteous attitude towards the official who summoned her are at odds with her flippant indifference toward the injured robbery victim in “Regarding the Bomb.”

Another reason I didn’t enjoy the stories is because the majority of Elaina’s encounters are with idiots. Saya, the creepy stalker girl from Volume 1, returns in “The Country of Truth Tellers” as an inept representative of the United Magic Association tasked with helping an even more inept witch undo a spell she cast for an ungrateful king. Their bumbling antics are supposed to be comic, but they just come off as tiresome. In “A Paradise for the Resurrected,” Elaina goes out of her way to rescue ten people from a zombie-infested town, only for them to reject escape at the last minute and wind up zombies themselves. And “The People Who Hunt the Lazy” is particularly pointless. There’s no real cause or resolution to the supposed job truancy crisis, and the whole concept of Elaina “taking a break from [her] travels” is preposterous because her behavior while on “vacation” is no different than usual.

Extras include the first six pages printed in color, five black-and-white illustrations, and afterword.

In Summary

Wandering Witch continues with several tales about idiots and a few that portray humanity in a dim light. If you like Elaina’s brand of snark, you’ll get it in spades. However, if you’re seeking a strong story arc, character development, or something uplifting, look elsewhere.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Manga Review: Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts Vol. 10

The theme of love transcending appearances is a popular one in fairy tales, and Yen Press’ Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts fits that genre. The fantasy manga tells of the relationship between a girl and her beastly fiance, and you can read on for the review of Volume 10. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

With the insurgency in Bolstobas settled, Sariphi makes haste to return to Leo’s side. But the ocean is wide, and the dangers are many-soon pirates capture her ship! Rescue seems impossible as a mysterious army invades Ozmargo, leaving Leo torn between his duties as a king and his love for his queen. Will Sariphi survive her captivity and see her true love once more?

The Review

I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting this volume is. Volume 9 gave a glimpse of the masterminds behind the trouble brewing in Ozmargo; now we get a really good look at them. Fenrir is a former prince who bears an old grudge against Leo, and Nir is his faithful and very powerful servant. Unlike other adversaries, their main interest is taking down the kingdom, which is a nice change from the tired storyline of Sari’s suitability as Leo’s mate.

This installment is also less about Sari and Leo’s relationship and more about the friendships they’ve built with others. Yes, once Sari gets kidnapped, our main couple suffers tremendous mutual anxiety and heartache, but because circumstances prevent Leo from going to Sari, others must come alongside them to assist. Thus, we have Anubis and Jormungand going beyond the call of duty to bolster Leo’s weakening position in Ozmargo and Lante relying on Bennu to locate Sari. In fact, I would say the relationship that develops the most in this volume is Sari’s relationship with Lante.

Oddly, the second runner-up for most development in a relationship is that between Fenrir and Sari. Unfortunately, much of Sari’s interactions with the Wolf King feel out of character. Her sacrificing her safety to save the Simians, I can see. Her being alternately sassy and sympathetic toward Fenrir in a way that makes him fall in love with her, not so much.

Fortunately, much of the narrative is focused on shows of force between the opposing sides, which is definitely more clear cut. Nir in particular has an intriguing fighting style and gives both Anubis and Jormungand a chance to show why they’ve been entrusted with the positions they hold.

Extras include embedded author’s notes and the bonus manga, “The Fallen Country’s Exiled Prince and His Attendant.”

In Summary

Ozmargo is beset by the forces of the King of Wolves. Rather than the political squabbles that usually preoccupy our characters, an adversary bent on ruining the kingdom erupts on the scene. While the Wolf King’s fascination with Sari feels a bit too convenient, the trouble he causes for everyone else gives the cast a rare opportunity to show what they’re capable of.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Saga of Tanya the Evil Vol. #10

The Saga of Tanya the Evil anime was a surprise favorite for me in 2017. With a title like that, I was almost too scared to give it a try, but conniving little Tanya turned out to be nothing like I anticipated. Yen Press has released Volume 10 of the manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of other Tanya the Evil works, click here.)

Back cover Blurb

Exhausted and drained, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion prepares to head home- until an encounter with a suspicious vessel from the Albion Commonwealth piques the little major’s interest. Could this finally be Tanya’s one-way ticket to the rear?!

The Review

Volume 10 continues with the Entente Alliance’s attempt to establish a government-in-exile by smuggling out a top politician. Tanya’s encounter with the Commonwealth sub is the culmination of a series of coincidences that throws the whole asylum plan into disarray. While the Imperial battalion puts the Commonwealth side in a tizzy, the submarine presents an equally confounding dilemma for Tanya, and the manga does an excellent job depicting her quandary and how she arrives at her course of action. And whereas the novel’s description of what happened to the sub’s cargo was so roundabout as to leave me scratching my head, the manga makes his fate absolutely clear.

The skirmish is followed by a recap and analysis on both sides. Because neither has all the facts, they must make conjectures, and their conjectures lead to two very different interpretations of the same situation. It’s essentially a large-scale version of cast members misreading each other’s intentions. The interesting thing is that even though each side delivers a significant blow to the other, both take the encounter as a major loss and embarrassment. Much of this section is the military analysis of attacks and counterattacks, but some bits are funny, like the reactions to the note on Viktoriya’s orb.

The narrative then returns to its usual level of individual characters being out of step. Thus we have Zettour seeing Lergen and Tanya as close chums; Tanya thinking she’ll have to face a court-martial and firing squad; and Viktoriya thinking Tanya’s upset because Weiss got into her secret stash of chocolate and coffee.

The following arc is another not found in the anime. Having literally let their prey slip from their grasp on the open seas, the Imperial Navy undergoes a thorough reevaluation of their doctrine, and Tanya’s battalion is asked to simulate an attack on a state-of-the-art warship. This arc is actually quite fun because even though there’s action aplenty, neither side is out to kill. The creator also throws a bit of humor depicting the ship’s crew as pirates-turned-sailors.

Unfortunately for Tanya, her time in the rear is only temporary, and the volume closes with her heading back to the Rhine.

Extras include a world map, battle log thus far, character introductions, country profiles, and a detailed glossary of terms between chapters. Unfortunately, the font on the character introductions and country profiles is so small (4 point? 3 point?) that reading it feels like an eye exam.

In Summary

For those familiar with the TV series, the entirety of this manga was not featured in the anime, and it is definitely worth reading. Between the intrigue and collapse of the Entente Alliance’s plot and the utter ease by which Tanya’s mages school their own Navy, Volume 10 is worth the cost even if you’re not interested in picking up other volumes.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Manga Review: Restaurant To Another World Vol. #1

Most stories about dragons and elves involve epic battles or quests. But how about fantastical characters simply chowing down on modern food? That’s the delightful premise of Restaurant To Another World! Read on for my review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

By all appearances, Western Restaurant Nekoya is a normal restaurant serving normal people-but unbeknownst to the regulars, it also attracts an alternative clientele. Every Saturday, all manner of fantastical beings come to dine, and what is familiar fare to humans can be downright exotic for visitors from beyond. To these customers, Nekoya is known by a different name: Restaurant to Another World.

The Review

The Japanese love their food, and its importance in their culture is reflected by the fact that food manga is a legitimate genre. Food manga broadly falls into two categories: stories about making food and stories about eating food. Restaurant to Another World is a fun twist on the latter in which ordinary dishes are experienced as otherworldly cuisine. Because they literally are being enjoyed by fantastical beings from another world.

Monday through Friday, Western Restaurant Nekoya serves normal food to a normal clientele in a normal Japanese city. But on Saturdays, the restaurant door distorts space-time, creating several doors that allow the varied inhabitants of an alternate fantasy-style world to come in. It’s a fun and refreshing premise. Most manga with swordsmen and wizards have them engaging in battle or searching for magical treasure. In this series, they’re kicking back at the table, savoring the magic that is modern Japanese cooking.

And from their perspective, refrigerators, ice water, and showers are so mind-blowing as to be magical. But the primary thing that captivates all comers is the food. Whether it is an adventurer dining for the first time, snooty elf laying down a vegan challenge to the chef, or a powerful dragon regular, the creators turn each individual eating experience into something fascinating and unique.

As you might guess, there’s no strong story arc. Rather, the book is a series of vignettes that show why each customer treasures the restaurant and the special place it holds in their hearts. Because they can only access the restaurant every seven days, each visit is a special occasion, and there’s no way for them to tire of the food. Rather, everyone knows their favorite dish and sticks with it.

For those familiar with the anime, the manga is not a storyboard of the TV series. Characters are introduced in a different order, and although their stories cover the same general territory, there are minor variations in details and storytelling. While they have the same basic traits, the anime characters are drawn in a more realistic style while the manga illustrations lean toward the cute spectrum. Obviously, the manga does not have the advantage of color for the food depictions but does an excellent job portraying them in delicious detail nonetheless. Also, the entrées in the manga have cutesy “dialogue,” which is not included in the anime, and the manga’s fan service is a notch higher than the anime’s. However, both possess the same charm, and if you like one, you’ll like the other.

Extras include the first two pages printed in color, bonus deleted scene, bonus illustrations, and illustrated creator’s afterword. Please note, there are no translation or cultural notes so you’ll have to look up any unfamiliar menu items on your own.

In Summary

It’s a food fantasy! But at Western Restaurant Nekoya, it’s the clientele who’s fantastical. While the characters would fit right in with an adventurers’ guild undertaking a magical quest, the focus of this cozy series is their varied expressions of delight as they feast on the otherworldliness that is modern Japanese cooking. Come taste it yourself!

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Little Miss P: The Second Day

Manga covers a range of subjects, even those deemed embarrassing or unspeakable. Thus it shouldn’t be too much of a shock that there is a series centered on menstruation. Read on for my review of Little Miss P: The Second Day.

Back Cover Blurb

Like clockwork, Little Miss P has stopped by for another one of her energy-sapping, gut-twisting monthly visits! Despite the difficulties brought about by her arrival, women around the world-and galaxy-must find ways to cope with her (ir)regular visits, a task made easier by the support and understanding of those who care about them. Through frank discussion and a heavy flow of humor, this collection follows Little Miss P as she calls on women from all walks of life. No pop star, action hero, or office worker is exempt from Little Miss P’s formidable PERIOD PUNCH!

The Review

In full disclosure, I’m writing this review of Volume 2 without having read Volume 1. However, I don’t think it makes much of a difference given that the series doesn’t have an overarching story arc. Rather, it’s a collection of standalone stories that deal with a common subject. Namely, menstrual periods, as represented by the anthropomorphic character Little Miss P.

There are two striking things about this title. The first is the artwork. It is stunningly awful. The humans and backgrounds are cartoony at best, and the anthropomorphized representations of periods, virginity, and libido are freakish. The second is the subject matter. Menstruation isn’t a topic you often find on center stage, let alone the main theme for an entire series. Not that manga shies away from taboo subjects, but this is a rather niche title.

Little Miss P is somewhat like Cells At Work in that it presents medical facts in an unconventional way. But whereas Cells at Work sticks to pure biology, Little Miss P also injects social perceptions and emotional hangups surrounding the female cycle. Both series include humor, but Little Miss P tends to be darker and more crass than Cells At Work. Oh, and the artwork for Cells At Work is way better.

This installment includes seven standalone stories. “Little Miss P and the Lovers” is basically a compilation of all the things a guy can do to aggravate his lady while she is on her period. The scenarios and ignorant boyfriend are rather stereotypical so it isn’t a particularly fresh take on the subject. Weirder is “The End of the World and Little Miss P.” In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, a gentle giant of a guy tries to figure how to make pads when his community’s supply runs out. (Um… yeah.) That story felt less about menstruation and more about gender roles in society. Then in “Grade School Kids and Little Miss P,” sex-ed achieves a ridiculously excessive level of openness.

However, “Little Miss P of the Distant Milky Way” is a surprisingly touching story. Despite the fact that it’s a sci-fi involving an interspecies couple in space, it does extremely good job portraying the ups and downs suffered by infertile couples.

That’s followed by menstrual embarrassment going to unbelievable extremes in “Middle School Kid and Little Miss P.” Accidents involving Little Miss P happen, but they don’t usually drive a girl to entirely give up on her school life.

The last two stories, “Career Woman and Something That Isn’t Little Miss P” and “Idol Singers and Little Miss P,” are both educational and social commentary. They’re educational in that they address things that can go awry with a woman’s reproductive system. They’re social commentary in exploring why women who are unwell don’t take care of themselves or even aggravate their conditions. While these two stories involve Japanese characters, the scenarios are entirely relatable for Westerners.

Extras include the first eight pages printed in color, the bonus manga “Go for It, Mr. Virginity,” bonus illustrations, and translation notes.

In Summary

If you’re not put off by terrible artwork and either want to learn more about menstruation or yearn to commiserate about that time of month, give Little Miss P a try. She’s not for everyone, but those who want to vent about a generally unspeakable subject might find comfort in these pages.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Light Novel Review: Saga of Tanya the Evil Vol. #07

The Saga of Tanya the Evil anime was a surprise favorite for me in 2017. With a title like that, I was almost too scared to give it a try, but conniving little Tanya turned out to be nothing like I anticipated. Yen Press has released Volume 7 of the light novel adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other Tanya the Evil works, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The eastern front is a place where soldiers never sleep and artillery guns howl without rest. This quagmire is where the Salamander Kampfgruppe has been hurled once again, just another cog in the grand war machine of their fatherland. Still, there’s only so much one unit can do. As the fighting ramps up with renewed enemy attacks and a brand-new weapon that pitches the Federation’s quantity against the Empire’s quality, Tanya faces one of her toughest battles yet, making a certain visitor’s arrival a sight for sore eyes…

The Review

Most volumes in the series chronicle events that span over months and across multiple war fronts. In contrast, Volume 7 focuses solely on the happenings of the Eastern Front from April 20, 1927 to May 14, 1927. In other words, a ton of stuff takes place in just a few weeks in the war against the Federation.

If you’ve stuck with Tanya this long, you’re probably used to Zen-sensei habit of shifting POV’s and minimizing setting descriptions to the point where you’re not sure who’s in the room. If you’re able to tolerate those stylistic idiosyncrasies, you’ll find Volume 7 a fairly thrilling narrative of Imperial finesse versus Federation brute force with a lot of politics sprinkled throughout.

The volume opens with the Salamander Kampfgruppe abruptly yanked back to the East because the Federation got the jump on the Empire. Rather than the Imperial Army launching a spring counteroffensive, the Federation Army is shoving them back hard. The resulting disarray is vividly depicted as Tanya narrowly escapes getting blown up by a Federation trap, blocks an Imperial unit on the brink of desertion, encounters enemy mages with a new model orb, and barely averts friendly fire on her Kampfgruppe.

In the midst of this chaos, Colonel Lergen visits Tanya on the front with a request. Up till now, Lergen’s thoughts on Tanya have been a continual refrain of “she’s a monster,” “she’s abnormal.” While the two continue to not quite be on the same page, it’s nice to see him finally feel respect toward the peace-loving individual that’s Tanya. As for his request, it’s rather surprising. Tanya’s to play host to a high level Ildoan military observer.

In addition to creating another annoyance in Tanya’s already burdensome work environment, Colonel Calandro provides a normie’s perspective on the front. Tanya and the Empire have been fighting multiple fronts nonstop for years whereas Calandro and Ildoa are newbies to clashing with enemies who don’t recognize international war conventions.

Calandro’s not the only one faced with unpleasant new realities. General Staff has been progressively forced to do more with less, and the precision fighting machine that was the Imperial Army is now resorting to making all or nothing gambles. The conversations between Rudersdorf and Zettour still trend toward long-winded, but they effectively show how pressure’s building on the higher ups.

Despite all the activity on the Eastern Front, we only get one glimpse of the Federation pedophile Loria, but that one scene is telling enough. As for the joint mage force under Drake and Mikel, we also get a glimpse of how the brawling in the East impacts forces in the North. Unfortunately, most of that glimpse is Mary Sue reacting to her new orders like a spoiled child.

Extras include map and fold-out illustrations in color; appendixes of the history timeline and general commentary; author afterword; and six black-and-white illustrations.

In Summary

Volume 7 packs a lot into a short timeframe. All the action takes place on the Eastern Front, but there’s plenty of chaotic back-and-forth clashing. Between near misses, masses of enemy mages with incredible firepower, and impossible requests from higher ups, there’s never a dull moment for Tanya.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Manga Review: ACT-AGE Vol. 1

Show business is generally the purview of shojo manga, but ACT-AGE puts a shonen spin on this subject. Read on for the review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

Is there a method to Kei Yonagi’s madness when it comes to acting? The young actor has a family of siblings to feed, but she finds herself struggling with her psychological demons when playing a role. Her desperate acting catches the eye of a famous director, Sumiji Kuroyama, who’s looking for raw talent to mold. Can he help Yonagi navigate the cutthroat world of acting without losing her sanity?

The Review

ACT-AGE is a Weekly Shonen Jump title, which came as a bit of a surprise. First, the main character, Kei Yonaga, is a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl. Second, the world of acting and show business forms the backdrop. A girl aspiring to be an actor sounds more like shojo fare, but the tale gets presented as a shonen title by telling it as the journey of an undiscovered genius scrapping her way to the top.

And Kei’s got a long way to get to the top. Her mom’s dead, her dad walked out long ago, and she’s responsible for supporting her two elementary school siblings. In short, she’s got no time or money for acting classes or drama club. Even so, she’s so adept at portraying emotions she immediately catches the attention of director Sumiji Kuroyama. He’s been searching for a talent like her, and she’s going to be his star actor–even if he has to drag her kicking and screaming.

A key premise of this series is that Kei was born with superhuman acting abilities. Even as an untrained amateur, her performance at a new-talent audition is so intimidating it causes one of the audition finalists to give up on acting. However, the plot wouldn’t be interesting if Kei simply waltzed to the top. Rather than snatching up this undiscovered gem, the agency CEO rejects her on the basis that acting will eventually cause Kei to have an emotional breakdown.

So instead of getting properly trained by an agency or theater company, Kei gets approached by a sketchy looking guy who turns out to be an award-winning director. But Kuroyama’s brash and eccentric, and his lessons consist of throwing Kei first onto a commercial set and next onto a period drama set with no preparation.

This is where the disconnect comes for me. Kei supposedly wants to be an actor. As her family’s sole breadwinner, she’s got more motivation than most to succeed. But somehow, she’s incapable of following basic directions or even grasping what an actor’s job is. In the period drama arc, she immediately breaks out of character to kick down the lead actor. Her behavior is just as unbelievable as the drama director’s decision to keep her on set even when she ruins the first AND second takes. Her becoming an actor is less about learning the craft and more Kuroyama showing her how to tap into her latent powers (which puts it very much along Jump storylines).

The volume wraps up with her entering an open audition for a movie. Five hundred actors are competing for twelve roles, and they are divided into groups of four for live auditions. Thus, we have Kei in a battle for one of those spots with her four-person cell, which definitely sounds like the stuff of shonen manga.

Extras include creators’ notes and bonus comics.

In Summary

The main character of ACT-AGE feels a bit all over the place. She’s a natural genius at acting yet at the same time she’s a clueless idiot who doesn’t realize actors must follow a script. Oh, and she’s also gorgeous and responsible for supporting two younger siblings. This is shaping up to be the tale of how an undiscovered talent makes it big, but Kei’s mentor is such a weirdo and Kei herself is so difficult to relate to that I’m not particularly interested in following her journey.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Beastars Vol. 5

Animal tales are often considered the purview of kids and fun fantasy. However, sometimes you’ll get one like Orwell’s Animal Farm, which is more a commentary about human society. Beastars also falls into that category, and you can read on for my review of Volume 5. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Dwarf rabbit Haru has been abducted by Shishi-gumi, a gang of rogue lions infamous for torturing, murdering and devouring herbivores. The mayor offers to help, but can he be trusted when he himself is a lion? Meanwhile, Legoshi tracks Haru’s scent, determined to rescue her at any cost, while Haru both defies her captors and tries to accept her fate. Elsewhere, red deer Louis is faced with a terrible temptation…

The Review

Things were looking bad for Haru at the end of Volume 4, and now we find out just how bad. Her behavior has made her a target at school, but this time, her behavior has nothing to do with her predicament. Pure and simple, she’s an herbivore, and a scofflaw carnivore thinks that she’ll make a delicious meal for him.

The previous volume demonstrated that there are carnivores devouring nameless herbivores out of the public eye. This volume introduces the Shishi-gumi, gangster lions brazen enough to abduct victims from the general populace. Unfortunately for Haru, the boss has a taste for herbivores with pure white fur. The series earns its T+ rating with the violence that breaks out at the Shishi-gumi headquarters, but it pushes toward an M rating the way the Shishi-gumi boss terrorizes Haru. He says he just wants to eat her, but the way he forces her to strip makes it seem more like rape.

Her disappearance, of course, has both Legoshi and Louis frantic. However, in their efforts to find her, each has a game changing encounter. For Louis, the prospective beastar, it’s with the town’s lion mayor. For Legoshi, who is so frenzied he charges ahead without a plan, it’s with the black market’s psychologist panda. Thus the path to Haru’s rescue takes multiple twists and turns and culminates in an unexpected outcome.

In the midst of all the brawling on Haru’s behalf, we get a deep dive into her thoughts. I’d wondered at the motivations behind her relationship choices, and this volume lays bare her views about herself and those around her. While she certainly has a complex about her size, I don’t find the rationale behind her promiscuity particularly convincing, especially when there are a lot of herbivores even smaller than she is.

As for Legoshi, we’ve been aware of his internal conflict regarding Haru for some time. In the chaos of storming the Shishi-gumi headquarters, he finally comes to a resolution, and I look forward to seeing what it does to their interactions.

Extras include story thus far, cast of characters, character design notes, bonus comics, and the creator’s afterword.

In Summary

Haru gets kidnapped! As a result, Legoshi and the psychologist panda take on a vicious lion gang to rescue her. There’s a lot of violence–some of which is disturbing–but amid the fistfights and bullets are also epiphanies that make for a dramatic and riveting read.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 11

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 11! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The start of the school year brings unexpected trouble for Kai, as the new semester’s class assignments mean he’s no longer in the same class as Riko. Their time together has been drastically cut, but Riko is completely unfazed, to Kai’s dismay. Luckily, the school trip is right around the corner, and there will be plenty of time for relationships—even if it’s not their own they’re working on!

The Review

Most volumes in the series focus on one or two pairings, but Volume 11 gives three couples significant moments. First we have Kai and Riko. Lately, they’ve gone through different variations of Kai’s romantic plans getting derailed. This time, things get changed up when Riko unexpectedly asks him to go on a visit to Suwa and Akemi’s home. They pretty much dropped out of the picture since their wedding, so it’s a chance to catch up with the newlyweds and their baby. It also gives Kai the opportunity to earn points using his superior baby-handling skills. He does make one bungle, but his dismay over the mistake is way over the top. By and large, he demonstrates himself to be an excellent boyfriend and earns Akemi’s stamp of approval.

The focus then shifts to Misaki and Ayumi. Several weeks have passed since Misaki’s Valentine’s Day get well visit. Although the results weren’t immediate, his efforts made a definite impact on Ayumi’s heart and mind. It does drag on a little long, but the instant of realization for Ayumi is cute and very much in keeping with her personality.

That leaves us with one final couple-to-be. At this point, the timeline jumps to the class trip, so the vaunted city of Kyoto serves as the backdrop for Kagura’s attempts to be honest with Tarou. Because she is such a stubborn tsundere, Kai must give her an extra push, though his involvement seems more like that of a meddlesome aunt than a concerned friend. It’s a romantic comedy, so Kagura’s prickly nature of course interferes over and over. However, when it really counts, she is surprisingly articulate to Tarou. At this point, it’s unclear what will happen between the two because Tarou has never shown interest in becoming a one-woman man and Kagura is unwilling to do more than “wait” for him.

Extras include story-thus-far, mini-manga about Fujisawa-sensei and her assistants, and translation notes.

In Summary

A lot of fun wins for our characters in this volume! Kai has an unexpected opportunity to impress Riko, and he manages not to get punched by her. Misaki’s efforts to capture Ayumi’s heart finally pay off in a beautiful springtime moment. Kagura also manages to make progress in her relationship with Tarou, but whether he returns her feelings in kind remains to be seen.

First published at the Fandom Post.