Manga Review: The Royal Tutor Vol. 6

Rich, handsome young men, each with his own distinct personality…this type of bishounen cast is a staple in shojo manga. And if you like yours with a generous helping of chibi humor, you should definitely check out Higasa Akai’s The Royal Tutor. Read on for my review of Volume 6. (For my reviews of other volumes click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Heine and the princes have overcome many a difficulty together, deepening the mutual trust between the teacher and his pupils. But even though Heine has walked closely alongside the princes as they slowly come into their own, the royal tutor himself still remains a mystery to them. When Count Rosenberg claims to know who he really is, could Heine’s secretive past become public knowledge?

The Review

Volume 5 ended with what appeared to be the start of an ominous confrontation between the nefarious-looking Count Rosenberg and Heine. However, in true Royal Tutor fashion, Heine refuses to rise to the count’s baiting and almost immediately dispels his threatening air. As such, we don’t get much more dirt on Rosenberg or Heine, save for a pointed remark about Heine tutoring at a church prior to working at the palace. While it does rekindle interest in Heine’s true identity in Chapter 30, it mainly serves to highlight Leonhard’s childishness when he has a jealous fit at the thought of Heine’s other students.

And that’s it for Volume 6’s intrigue. Next, the mood alternates between endearing and comical as Heine continues to shape the princes into suitable candidates for the throne in four standalone chapters. While Kai’s and Bruno’s stories deal with the topic of school, Heine’s lessons have nothing to do with book learning and deal instead with building their character. Thus, Licht and Bruno learn (separately) to take consideration of others, Kai learns to speak up for what he believes in, and Leonhard accepts a task he’d rather reject. Regarding the Leonhard-centric chapter, Akai-sensei’s finally found a way to poke fun at Leonhard that doesn’t involve academics (for which I am grateful), but even so, he still winds up looking like the family idiot.

The volume wraps up with a final silly chapter in which the four brothers volunteer to clean Heine’s room. It is a task none of them are familiar with, and their team dynamics are already full of quirks so their efforts predictably wind up in chaos. However, their determination to please Heine and the objects they encounter in his room do make the chapter entertaining nonetheless.

Extras include bonus manga printed on the inside of the cover; three-page bonus story; and first page printed in color.

In Summary

This volume begins with what looks like big trouble for Heine and his four students in the form of Count Rosenberg. However, the steward of the eldest prince quickly recedes to the backdrop after throwing around vague remarks, and Volume 6 winds up a series of fluffy, filler chapters. Court Rosenberg does make another appearance at the very end of the book though, and it’s a tantalizing glimpse that makes me hope the next volume will actually shed light on his true agenda.

First published at The Fandom Post.

 

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Graphic Novel Review: The Cardboard Kingdom

A few years back, the We Need Diverse Books movement caused a stir in the publishing industry by demanding that books portray a broader spectrum of family backgrounds, cultures, races, genders, etc. The Cardboard Kingdom feels like a response to that movement, and you can read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when sixteen kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters–and their own inner demons–on one last quest before school starts again.

In the Cardboard Kingdom, you can be anything you want to be–imagine that!

The Review

The Cardboard Kingdom is a collection of sixteen stories in graphic novel format. Chad Sell is the sole artist for the work so that the illustration style remains constant. However, ten additional authors participated in the writing of this work. Except for “The Bully” and “Megalopolis,” the stories are stand-alone, but they all draw from the same cast of neighborhood kids who are spending their summer vacation playing make-believe with homemade costumes and cardboard props.

Each chapter/story focuses on a different child, who has his/her own unique imaginary persona. This persona stays the same throughout the book. Therefore, the kid who dresses as a blob is always a blob, the girl knight is always a knight, and the boy who wants to be a sorceress is always pretending to be a sorceress. The make-believe aspect allows for colorful illustrations, and Sell tailors the palette for each chapter to complement the featured character’s color scheme.

As for the story plots, they range from simple subjects, like learning to make friends or watching over a younger sibling, to heavier topics like divorce. Interestingly, although the creators go out of their way to include every skin tone and hair texture you can think of, race is not the source of tension between any of the characters. Nor is class, family background, or economics. A bit of Spanish is used in the dialogue for the Dominican American character, but aside from that, all the kids have equal status in the same pizza-and-soda suburban culture.

However, bullying and gender identity are the sources of quite a bit of tension. Three stories focus on the problems encountered by cross-dressing children, and another is about a boy crushing on another boy. As for bullies, there’s only one bully that harasses the neighborhood kids, but he pops up throughout the book, and his story takes two chapters to tell.

The book is aimed toward 9- to 12-year-olds. As such, story endings are predominantly positive. Children attain the understanding of their parents, rivals become partners, misfits find acceptance, and the bully becomes a friend and ally. However, “The Gargoyle,” which is about a boy whose parents are divorcing, contains so much fraught emotion that its ending is appropriately ambivalent.

In summary

The Cardboard Kingdom is part imaginary fun, part We Need Diverse Books project. Kids will enjoy the vibrant illustrations of the cast and their alter egos, but it feels like the creators tried a bit too hard to include characters and issues that every single person can relate to. As a result, certain details feel like they were forced in for the sole purpose that the publisher could say they were being inclusive.

First published in The Fandom Post.

Novel Review: Ash Princess

YA novels often involve a search for identity. If you’re looking for a tale about identity that involves royalty, magic, and a rebellion, Laura Sebastian’s Ash Princess might fit the bill. Please read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

The Review

Ash Princess seems targeted toward the YA audience who wants a royal teenage rebel but prefers reading about palace scenes rather than combat maneuvers. Even though the book includes a map of the country of Astrea, it’s not that helpful because almost everything takes place at the Astrean palace, and the primary battlefield is the web of lies and intrigue surrounding the court.

Our main character is Theodosia, Princess of Astrea, a land blessed with magical gems. When she was six, the Kalovaxians, a warlike people who are like a cross between Vikings and Nazis, invaded her country, killed her mother the Queen, and enslaved the Astreans. However, instead of sending Theodosia to the Spiritgem mines like the rest of her populace, the Kalovaxian Kaiser changed her name to Thora and kept her in the palace, where she is beaten whenever the Astreans cause trouble.

Ten years later, the last Astrean rebel leader is captured. Thora is forced to execute him, but before he dies, Thora learns her true relationship to him. The incident forces her to remember her duty to her people, and when the remaining rebels make contact with her, she gives up a chance to escape, choosing instead to spy on the people who imprisoned her.

There’s a lot going on in this story: magic, oppressed slaves, a castle with secret passageways, ruthless conquerors, an ambush against another country, romance, murmurs of a new military weapon. However, the main focus is the identity of our main character. Who is she really? The narrative uses three names (Theodosia/Thora/Theo) that highlight how she views herself, the roles she’s trying to play, and what she strives to become. This plays out primarily on two interweaving fronts: the spy game and the love triangle.

Despite getting beaten and humiliated at king’s orders on a regular basis, Theodosia not only gets to occupy the same space as the most powerful Kalovaxians in the land, she’s even endeared herself to one of them: Crescentia, the daughter of the Kaiser’s general. Even though Crescentia’s father killed Theodosia’s mother, the girls are best friends, and Crescentia trusts Thora wholeheartedly. As improbable as that relationship sounds, it does make for interesting internal turmoil when Theodosia starts deceiving her unwitting friend for the rebel cause.

That internal turmoil is matched by that caused by the Kaiser’s son Soren. The polar opposite of his self-absorbed, underhanded, ignoble father, the handsome prince falls in love with Theodosia. (Conveniently, she only carries scars on her back so that she’s still a pretty princess despite all her beatings.) What results is a surprisingly compelling star-crossed lovers scenario that only intensifies when we discover that Soren’s feelings toward Theodosia are more complex than she first realizes.

Unfortunately, the chemistry between Theodosia and the other leg of the love triangle doesn’t quite work. Blaise is an escaped slave and the equivalent of the “boy next door” from Theodosia’s childhood. He and the other two Astreans who have managed to infiltrate the palace are initially distrustful toward Theodosia, partly because they’re unsure where her loyalties lie, partly because they question her abilities. The fact that she’s been well fed in a palace while her people are starving in mines doesn’t help. As such, there’s a lot of initial squabbling between Theodosia and Blaise. However, when they plot to have Theodosia seduce Soren, the subsequent conversation about Theodosia’s first kiss seems way out of character for former slaves who’ve supposedly suffered rape and other unspeakable atrocities. So when Blaise kisses Theodosia, it feels forced, like it’s only there to achieve a plot point. And when Theodosia’s feelings go back and forth between Soren and Blaise, she just comes off as fickle.

Another weakness of the story is backstory of the Kalovaxian invasion. Supposedly, Astrea was an idyllic country where everyone was unified under their strong, beautiful Queen. In addition, it was the only place where people wielded magic. Theodosia remarks at the opening about the astounding superhuman powers Astrean magic users possessed that the Kalovaxians have never been able to imitate. And despite this great advantage, they fell—in fairly short order—before their magicless conquerors, and it’s never made clear how.

The strategies of Theodosia’s rebel companions are equally baffling. At one point, Theodosia steals Spiritgems, making it possible for one of the rebels to cast illusions and another to become invisible. Yet they shove the job of poisoning the Kalovaxian general and his daughter onto Theodosia. While it does provide more for Theodosia to agonize over, strategically it makes a lot more sense for the invisible guy to do it. Instead, they use their powers to hover over Theodosia when she goes to a masquerade ball.

As for the end of the story, it’s not really the end of the story. Like so many books in this genre, it concludes with the end of a battle and the beginnings of an uprising. While the final chapters reveal some intriguing connections between the cast, I don’t feel sufficiently invested the world of Astrea to read on about its ultimate fate.

In Summary

Ash Princess presents a tale in which a captive princess must cast off her slave persona and find the inner fortitude to become the queen her people need. While it takes us on an interesting internal journey about self-identity, the novel’s external conflicts left me scratching my head at times. However, if you aren’t as interested in those kinds of details and just want a story where a beautiful princess defies an unquestionably evil enemy while wearing pretty gowns and having two boys fall in love with her, then give this book a try.

First published at The Fandom Post.

 

Manga Review: Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts Vol. #01

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.

Back Cover Blurb

A young girl has resigned herself to being he next sacrificial meal for the Beast King…but the king is no mere monster! Love is more than skin-deep in this gorgeous fantasy manga.

The Review

Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts feels like a twist on the Beauty and the Beast genre. In addition, I found the character design of the King of Beasts Leonhard to be quite reminiscent of Disney’s Beast. Both of these male leads are bestial but not grotesque, and while their forms command respect, the heroines also bring out a cuddly side to them as well.

In Sacrificial Princess, that heroine is an ordinary village girl, Sariphi. Her name means “sacrifice” and for good reason. In this world, fear and hate separate beastkind and humankind, and in order to appease the King of Beasts, humans must regularly offer him the sacrifice of a young girl. Sariphi is the 99th offering, but unlike her predecessors, she does not fear the king. Rather, she’s able to see through his fierce facade and see the kindness beneath his ferocious work and actions.

If you like a moody hero who’s hiding secrets and an artless ingenue who can ease his heart, you will probably enjoy this story. Throughout the volume, Sariphi is given warnings or instructions not to do something, but she (always) winds up in trouble anyway. However, rather than annoying the king, those instances (always) endear her to him.

Plotwise, I’m not sure where this series is headed. Chapter 1, which is just under 50 pages, seems like it was originally a standalone story. By the end of that chapter, Sariphi discovers the king’s deepest secret and he declares his intention to make her his queen. Given their circumstances, the pair’s feelings for one another are decidedly steadfast, and it feels like “happily even after” is attained at the very start.

So how does the series push forward? By complicating the politics of the setting. The title King of Beasts makes it sound like Leonhard is the king of ALL beasts, and the book’s opening makes it seem like there are only two groups: the beast people, who occupy a miasma polluted region, and the humans who live beyond the miasma. In Chapter 2, beastkind expands to encompass an international scope. The King of Beasts is only one of a number of beast kings, and it is unclear whether the ritual sacrifice that brought Sariphi to Leonhard has significance for beastkind as a whole or if it’s just a regional tribute.

The main purpose of adding all these extra kingdoms is to introduce would-be rivals of royal rank for Sariphi. As such, the focus is the Sariphi’s insecurities because of these beast princesses, and the world building that justifies their existence seems thrown together as an afterthought. However, if you’re more interested in watching a beast and girl’s devotion play out in different scenarios, those details might not matter to you.

Extras include embedded author’s notes and the bonus manga, “The Beast Princess and the Regular King.”

In Summary

Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts should have a lot of appeal for fans of Beauty and the Beast stories, especially ones who like anthropomorphic animals. The King of Beasts has an interesting background and carries a ton of emotional baggage, but the relationship between him and Sariphi is simple fairytale devotion. Although hate, prejudice, and sacrifice swirl in the backdrop, the pure love between our main couple is what dominates this story.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Really Random Stuff

My husband and I have gone off the beaten track (sometimes WAY off) in our Japanese pop culture travels, so our friends have sometimes accused us of going out of our way to get bizarre stuff. However, all of these following items my husband bought at Narita Airport. Meaning that the Japanese want visitors to buy these as souvenirs, and you can’t blame my husband for picking them up when the airport authorities made it so convenient.

So first of all we have that favorite Japanese dish—curry!  Inside this box is a single serve pouch  of curry; just heat and serve. However, thing that makes it interesting—and therefore worthy of occupying space in an airport souvenir shop—is the meat they used. That’s not an ordinary pig on the box—it’s a wild boar!

Yes, folks, it’s wild boar curry. You, too, can pick up a box at Narita Airport and enjoy this novelty for a mere  ¥600!

Also, at that same store for the same low price is another curry. It’s a little more difficult to tell from the package illustration, but this is “Bakayarou Curry.” Or to translate: “Idiot Curry.”

 Now this is a pun that requires explanation, so much so that I’m surprised they put it in the airport with the intention for foreigners to buy. As mentioned above, “bakayarou” translates into “idiot” or ”fool.” The jinchuuriki Killer B from Naruto often uses that term in his raps. However, the word bakayarou is written by putting together the kanji characters for “horse”and “deer.” (Don’t ask me why, that’s just how it is.) And the meat used in this particular curry pouch is—you guessed it— a blend of horse and deer meat.

And you can bring it home from Narita Airport for just ¥600!

Moving on from curry, we have a snack that looks like it was inspired by the west but took on a life of its own in Japan: Tohato Bacon Sticks!

This he picked up at the airport convenience store. I kind of thought it would be a shorter version of a slim jim, but this snack actually has a texture closer to a Pocky or potato chip. It’s definitely not a 100% meat product, but it still emits that enticing smoky aroma that is distinctly bacon.

We put it out during our last Bible study gathering, and it was a massive hit. There’s just something irresistible about bacon, and Tohato has harnessed its qualities into an unexpected crowd-pleaser.

And finally, my husband brought home this:

In case you’re not familiar with it, “The Wave” is an iconic piece of Japanese art, and the creators inserted Godzilla, another Japanese icon,  into the scene. Even though it’s been about a half century since Godzilla first stormed onto the scene, he remains popular around the world. He’s certainly popular with my husband, and we had a little fun superimposing Godzilla onto our kitchen noren.

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Off-Season Character Goods

As mentioned in my previous postHaikyu!!  fans are in the midst of a long wait for our next season of anime. In addition to fighting impatience, fans also have to contend with something else: a decline in character goods. There are hundreds of manga and anime in existence, and even as large as as Animate and The (Shonen) Jump Shop are, there’s only so much shelf space. As such, stores tend to stock merchandise of series that are currently airing or about to air, and only mega popular titles like Naruto get year-round dedicated space.

However, even though it’s been a couple years since the last episode of Haikyu!! aired, its fan base is apparently strong enough that my husband found some items on his last trip to Tokyo. It’s nowhere near the quantity and variety he witnessed in 2015, but he still found some interesting items to go with our Haikyu!! musical Blu-ray sets.

First, we have something that can only be described as really really random. Remember Shimada-san, the Karasuno alum who teaches Yamaguchi the jump float serve? If you’ll recall, he works at the family business, a supermarket called the Shimada Mart with a distinct piggy logo. Anyway, for some reason, someone thought it would make a marketable piece of merchandise, and for some reason. my husband thought I’d like it and bought it.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised they made a Shimada pig plushie considering a gal dressed up as the Shimada pig at last May’s Fanime Convention. At any rate, the pig plushie is still in its packaging, and if you want it, message me with your best offer.

This next item, on the other hand, I am totally keeping. It is the kind of accessory that sets you apart from all the other Haikyu!! cosplayers, and the best  ¥5000 my husband spent on this trip—a vinyl Karasuno gym bag! It’s got an adjustable strap and a side compartment in addition to the main one. Plus, it’s perfect for stowing street clothes during a cosplay meetup. I just have keep a close eye to make sure another Haikyu!! enthusiast doesn’t try to take off with it during said meetup.

And lastly we have an edible product: latte art in a package by Takara Tomy Arts! It’s kind of a cute concept, given the popularity of latte art. Apparently, they’ve solidified the milky foam stuff into solid discs. Just drop a disc into a cup of hot coffee, and you have insta-art!

However, it is a little disappointing that the creators didn’t choose a more detailed illustration for this product. My husband also bought the One Piece version to show what Takara Tomy was capable of producing, and as you can see below, the One Piece illustrations are much more intricate.

Next up: Really Random Souvenirs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! 2017 Musicals: “The Winner and The Loser” and “The Summer Evolution”

Haikyu!! fans are in the midst of a long waiting season as far as the anime goes. The last season was released 2016, and although it’s already 2018, there’s been no official announcement about when Season 4 will come out. Fortunately, the manga is still ongoing, and those in Japan had the opportunity to relive the drama in the Haikyu!! films and musicals.

As I mentioned in a post last summer, the Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! production company presented the third musical The Winner and the Loser and the fourth musical The Summer Evolution in 2017. Unfortunately, my husband and I were unable to attend either show. Fortunately, as with their previous productions, the company collaborated with Toho Animation to release DVDs (Region 2 only) and Blu-rays of the musicals.

These are available through the Toho Animation online store and Amazon Japan, but both those outlets require a working knowledge of Japanese to make a purchase (and probably a Japan based credit card, I suspect). So my husband got them the old fashioned way: he ran to Akihabara during a 9-hour layover in Tokyo and bought them at Animate. (Arigatou, Animate!)

As with the previous releases, there are no English subtitles (although  the closing song for The Winner and the Loser does have English lyrics). And yes, it is pricey. Is it worth it? We think so! We only understand about one-tenth of the dialogue, but if you’re familiar with the series, you shouldn’t have any trouble following the overall plot. Also, the packaging, especially for The Winner and the Loser is really slick. The case includes a clear wraparound cover, and when you slide it off, you get a pretty cool image of Hinata in mid-jump. The Summer Evolution’s packaging isn’t quite as flashy, but its cast is the first to include females. Even though watching men play female bit parts is funny, it is nice to finally have actual women step onstage.

By the way, just like in the anime, the musical incorporates flashbacks in its storytelling. As such, these shows have references to previous productions, and those who’ve seen the first two musicals will have a more comprehensive entertainment experience.

Next up: Haikyu!! Off-season Character Goods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 15

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 15! (For my reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Severely overestimating the villagers’ wealth, Handa-sensei finds himself quite short on students for his calligraphy school upon announcing his exorbitant tuition rate. But as his hopes begin to fade, a savior appears!?

The Review

Handa has settled into the island community for a while now, but the calligraphy school arc has a similar vibe to Barakamon’s early chapters where he was struggling to adjust. This time, however, instead of being the clueless city boy learning how to live in the country, he’s the sheltered artist figuring out how to make a living. Yoshino-sensei makes clear just how sheltered Handa’s been when he discovers his father’s been paying rent for him all this time. When village chief informs Handa that his father now expects him to pay his own rent, the young calligrapher’s stunned speechless. What’s more, Handa doesn’t have even a basic grasp of how a calligraphy school functions as he’s only ever trained at home.

Handa’s definitely not the type of protagonist to figure these kinds of things by his own strength. Unfortunately, the islanders can’t offer much help in his latest endeavor, and he takes on an almost predatory view of his friends as prospective students. (Naru’s comparison of Handa to a sea anemone is quite funny). As such, it’s up to the friend who’s always handled the business aspects of Handa’s calligraphy—namely Kawafuji—to help with the business aspects of starting Handa’s school.

As a result, there are a lot of parallels with earlier chapters as Handa fails to plan ahead, gets overwhelmed to the point of paralysis, and exhibits no practical ability whatsoever to Kawafuji’s frustration. If you enjoy watching Handa’s occasional moments of brilliance amid mostly incompetent behavior, you’ll have a lot to like.

The remaining two chapters are brief holiday-themed stories. The first is Setsubun—Gotou style! As part of this Japanese holiday, children pelt a “demon” with beans, and you can easily guess whom the kids choose as their demon. Then we shift to the middle school for Valentine’s Day. There’s little romance to be had, but quite a few delusional girls.

Extras include bonus manga, translation notes, and another installment of “Barakamon News.”

In Summary

In the early chapters of Barakamon, Handa struggled as a clueless city boy unused to country life. Now he’s struggling again—as a clueless person unused to basic adult responsibilities. And once more it’s up to Kawafuji to do the practical thinking for his sheltered artist friend. If you were hoping for more Kawafuji-style tough love, you’ll get it in this volume.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher Vol. #23

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 23 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

It’s Mafuyu’s last year of high school! With Miyabi and most of the delinquents safely graduated, Mafuyu and her friends are looking forward to a peaceful final year. But a mysterious new first-year is up to something sinister, and her schemes quickly take Mr. Saeki out of the picture. Now the fate of the whole school rests on the shoulders of the suddenly advisorless Public Morals Club!

The Review

The lengthy arc between the Public Morals Club and Student Council has ended. However, Mafuyu still has a year remaining in high school, and the outcome of the bet between the Director and Takaomi has yet to be determined. And so, new challenges arise just as the majority of delinquents and former PMC adversaries graduate from Midorigaoka.

The first of the Public Morals Club’s new enemies is Toko Hanabusa, Miyabi’s younger sister. She looks like Miyabi with long hair, and like her brother, she seems to have a secret agenda no one knows about. Oddly enough, Miyabi comes to the PMC’s assistance, providing them with background information about Toko. Those who enjoyed the peculiar dynamics of Hayasaka’s family will likely enjoy the glimpse into the Hanabusa siblings’ upbringing.

While it is a hackneyed move to replace one adversary with his younger sibling, the introduction of Toko does lead to an astonishing development: Takaomi’s resignation. His disappearance results in unexpected laughs as Mafuyu attempts to locate him, but it’s really the first in an avalanche of new circumstances for the PMC. Even as they try to figure out why Takaomi left and whether Toko’s up to anything, they wind up stuck with a new advisor, confronting rumors of Midorigaoka gang activity, and drawing the ire of the Kiyama High students.

It’s a lot to take at once. While you’re getting to know newly hired teacher Mr. Maki, you’re having to recall Kiyama’s contentious history with Midorigaoka from several volumes back. In addition, there are a bunch of rumors and brawls to keep track of. While it’s great that Tsubuki-sensei is launching into the PMC’s next round of adventures, processing all these details is like trying to drink through a fire hose.

Extras include Characters and The Story Thus Far, 4-panel comics, and closing notes.

In Summary

Mafuyu begins her senior year with lots of changes and brand new challenges. Tsubaki-sensei maintains humor throughout the volume, but events stack up quickly one after the other. Between new characters stepping in, the reappearance of ones we haven’t seen in a while, and a complicated mystery for the PMC, it is a fast—and almost overwhelmingly so—start to the series’ next major arc.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Everyone’s Getting Married Vol. 8

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 8. (For the reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Successful career woman Asuka Takanashi has an old-fashioned dream of getting married and becoming a housewife, but popular TV newscaster Ryu Nanami would rather die than ever get married. Asuka and Ryu start their long-distance relationship, but the difficulties of being apart grow day by day. Will their feelings for each other still be the same when they meet again?

The Review

Ryu’s transfer to America appears to be the ultimate challenge for our lead couple as Miyazono-sensei starts stacking difficulties hard and fast once he’s abroad. Not surprisingly, the trip Asuka’s anticipating at the end of Volume 7 gets canceled due to Ryu’s hectic work schedule, but Asuka also suffers a surprising blow to her career. A higher-up overhears her telling Hiroki she still wants to be a full-time homemaker. The next thing she knows, that higher-up removes her from the management strategy team with well-wishes that she’ll be married soon.

For all intents and purposes, it is a demotion. What makes it worse is that everyone’s congratulating her on the marriage she desperately wants but remains beyond her grasp. In addition, the distance is hard on Asuka, and you can feel her loneliness overflowing from the pages.

Ryu, on the other hand, is doing extremely well in America. Even though he misses Asuka, he has a lot to distract him, and he clearly prioritizes his work over their time together. At one point, Asuka travels to Washington expressly to visit Ryu, and despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other in six months, he ditches her to go to New York on assignment.

It’s clear the situation is hurting Asuka while Ryu isn’t nearly as affected. In fact, you might argue that he has everything the way he wants, considering he refused to let Asuka move to America with him. As such, I’m hardly inclined to cheer their relationship on; rather I want Asuka to dump Ryu and hook up with Kamiya already.

Kamiya, by the way, looks really good in this volume. He is Asuka’s shoulder to cry on when Ryu fails to understand why losing her management team position hurts so much. He’s too much of a gentleman to take advantage of Asuka’s neediness when she turns to him for company. And he’s the one person to call Ryu out on the strain he’s placing on Asuka. While every good romance can use a love triangle for tension, at this point I’m thinking Asuka’s stupid not to snatch Kamiya up.

Extras include the story thus far, two bonus manga, and author’s afterword.

In Summary

Ryu wasn’t looking too good as a boyfriend in Volume 7, and he looks even worse in this volume. While his career is going great, Asuka suffers a setback due to a casual remark about marriage, and the emotional toll of separation makes things worse. It’s the perfect setup for Kamiya to come in and entice Asuka away from his rival. However, because Ryu’s treatment of Asuka is so dismal in comparison, it feels less like a love triangle and more like Kamiya’s stealing the show.

First published at The Fandom Post.