Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! snacks!

As mentioned previously, a change in my husband’s business trip itinerary allowed him to get to the Jump Shop’s Haikyu!! promotional event. The interesting thing was that about half the items he bought back were edibles, mostly snack foods. I’m not sure what marketing consultant drove the Jump Shop in that direction, but I guess it worked, considering my husband bought a bunch.

Choco-caramel and chocopuffs

So to start we have the sweets. Karasuno, Shiratorizawa, and Aoba Josai chocolate candies. As with many Japanese food products, a lot of effort went into the packaging. I will definitely keep the containers, but the Shiratorizawa and Aoba Josai tins only contained 5 choco-caramel candies each. As for the Karasuno one, it didn’t contain chocolates but chocolate flavored corn puffs. When we tried it, we felt like we should pour the whole thing into a bowl and add milk.

Although the packaging for these next candies isn’t nearly as durable, it is clever and super cute. The Haikyu!! characters are occasionally shown with milk or juice boxes which is the inspiration for this candy set. Not really sure about a giraffe for the chocolate candy box, but the cow makes a nice design for the milk caramel.

Choco candy and milk caramel in juice box packaging

Next, pie from the rivals! The pie, by the way, comes in (tiny!) individual servings that are of course well encased in packaging. I haven’t yet tried the leaf pie so I’m not sure what that’s about, but the filling for the apple pie is more like apple puree. So it looks cute, but it wouldn’t be my first (or second or third) choice for a snack.

Apple and leaf(!) pie from Karasuno rivals

More appetizing is the Karasuno manju. They’ve updated it since two years ago, and this version has a cute crow shape and comes with bonus postcards!

Crow shaped manju!

With player stats on the side!

The majority of snacks my husband bought were sweet, but there is a savory one in the mix. Position snacks! Each box features one or two players with their stats on the side. Pretty cool in the package design department. As for the snacks themselves, well… they kind of taste like a barbeque-ish version of the corn puffs from the Karasuno chocolate flavored corn puffs.

Position Snacks!

And finally, what all shonen like to eat: curry! I don’t know what makes it cafe curry or why the rival cats and owls got put together, but it still makes a nice visual on the box.

Nekoma and Fukurodani curry!

By the way, as part of the Jump Shop promotion, customers received a Haikyu!! sticker per a certain amount spent. Because of that, my husband and I now have more stickers than we know what to do with.

Jump Shop promotion Haikyu!! stickers

Next up: Not Haikyu!! but still cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival musical DVD and more!

When my husband and I went to the Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival musical last November, we signed up for email updates from the production company. Thanks to Google translate, we’ve learned from these periodic messages that the third Haikyu!! musical, The Winner and the Loser, toured Japan last spring; a special Haikyu!! exhibition took place at Tokyo Dome; and their fourth musical, The Summer Evolution, is coming out this fall. Then just before my husband’s most recent business trip, we learned that Jump Shop stores would be selling Haikyu!! musical goods for a limited time.

My husband’s itinerary was all China, so we chalked it up as just another event we couldn’t take advantage of. However, due to some unexpected hiccups during his trip, his boss redirected him to Nagoya for the last bit of his trip.

Translation: he wound up with one full day to shop in Japan.

DVD for the second Haikyu!! musical

And shop he did. Not only did he find the musical goods at Nagoya Jump Shop, but the store, in anticipation of an influx of Haikyu!! fans, also had their own Haikyu!! goods in force. In addition, my husband has learned from previous trips that there’s no guarantee that a character good will be around the next time you visit, even if it’s just a week later. So if he sees something he likes, he gets it. Thus, he came home with quite a haul.

So to start, we have the Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyu!! Karasuno Revival DVD. This is the musical that we saw last fall. Yes, we liked it so much we want to watch it again and again. No, there are no English subtitles. Yes, the DVD requires a Japan region player, but that’s okay because we got one when we bought the DVD for the first Haikyu!! musical.

Jersey towels!

Next we have jersey mini-towels. As those who’ve visited Japan know, most Japanese restrooms don’t provide paper towels, so people carry handkerchiefs or small towels for drying their hands. Now fans can show their team spirit every time they head to the sink. Jump Shop had a towel for every Karasuno member, and because Daichi and Hinata are my favorites, my husband brought back 1 and 10.

Jump Shop also had jersey mugs for the whole team. My husband picked up a Hinata mug along with a traditional-style tea mug featuring most of the Karasuno team and several rival players. A nice detail of the jersey mug is that the inside of the mug has a manga-style picture of Hinata.

Chibi character tea mug and jersey mug

 

I think it reads,”Mou ippai!”(“One more cup!”)

Not to leave the Karasuno captain behind, my husband also picked up a Daichi clip and stamp. However, these items and the Haikyu!! pen alongside them are actually not from the Jump Shop but a random Ikebukoro shop.

Haikyu!! stamp, clip, and pen. The clip splits Daichi in half.

Also from another store (Ikebukoro Animate) is one of the best items of the bunch. When we visited last November, this team banner was part of a store display, but it wasn’t actually available for sale. This time it was, so now we get to show our support for our favorite volleyball team. Go crows!

FLY!!!

Next up: Haikyu!! themed snacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manga Review: The Royal Tutor Vol. 1

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 1.

Back Cover Blurb

Accepting the post of Royal Tutor at the court of the king of Grannzreich, Heine Wittgenstein is a little professor with a big job ahead! Each of the kingdom’s four princes has a rather distinct personality. Does their diminutive new instructor have what it takes to lay down some learning? It’s a comedy of educational proportions!

The Review

The Royal Tutor is an interesting take on the reverse harem genre. It includes several standard elements including four handsome princes and a luxurious, palatial setting. However, the protagonist is not a teenage girl through whom readers can live vicariously. Our main character is the princes’ tutor, Heine Wittgenstein.

Summoned to the royal palace by the King of Granzreich himself, Heine is charged with grooming the king’s troublesome younger sons into suitable candidates for the throne. Heine though is not your ordinary academic. Although he is an adult with a certain degree of weakness for female charms, he looks like (and is constantly mistaken for) a little boy. Yet his intellect is second to none, and he is physically capable of chasing down his much larger students. At the same time, his small stature causes all sorts of inconveniences, which affords ample opportunity for visual humor, and he occasionally gets handled like a plushie toy. In fact, Heine at times looks like a cute mascot for this princely lineup.

As such, there are no romantic overtones whatsoever between this teacher and his students. (In fact, the only females in the cast are the princes’ grandmother and three-year old sister.) Even so, Heine, like many reverse harem heroines, is able to win over these difficult bishounen in short order. Despite its late 19th century European setting, these princes have very modern sensibilities and of course extremely distinct personalities. Thus, we have Kai, the taciturn delinquent; Bruno, the rigid intellectual; Leonhard, the prideful athlete; and Licht, the frivolous playboy. These brothers have driven all preceding royal tutors to resignation, yet Heine is able to quickly discern the true natures behind their public facades and earn their acceptance.

Heine himself though is a bit of a mystery. For all his abilities, he has no formal credentials. And although he was summoned to the palace by the king, Heine has his own–and as of yet unknown– personal agenda for accepting the position. While this does make him more intriguing as a character, Volume 1 is for the most part lighthearted comedy stemming from Heine’s unusual appearance and abilities and the princes’ antics.

For those familiar with the anime, the storyline is not an exact match for the TV series, but it is pretty close. The artwork is clean and well-drawn with lots of chandeliers and Rococo style decor and dress. Character designs alternate between shojo-style bishounen and chibi-style for princes and tutor alike (although Heine gets chibified more frequently than anyone else).

Extras include bonus manga printed on the inside of the cover flaps; first page printed in color; a note from the creator; and translation notes.

In Summary

If you’re the type that enjoys princely eye-candy against a luxurious backdrop, you’ll probably like The Royal Tutor. This series is also worth checking out if you like light comedies with characters that don’t fit the mold. The bishounen princes are somewhat standard, but their tutor is in a class of his own in this near reverse harem comedy.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: My Love Story!! Vol. 12

Takeo Goda, the male lead for Viz Media’s  My Love Story!!  is quite unusual. Bishonen tend to dominate the cast of shojo manga, but Takeo’s looks are about as far from a stereotypical pretty boy as you can get. Still, he possesses tremendous appeal in this hilarious romantic comedy. Volume 12 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of other volumes, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Tanaka, a boy who transferred to Takeo’s school, keeps hanging around Sunakawa for some reason. At first, Takeo thinks nothing of it, but when he hears that Tanaka is just using Sunakawa, he immediately goes to help his friend! And later, Takeo finds out some distressing news from Yamato! Will Takeo and Yamato actually be separated?

The Review

It was initially unclear where the plot was going with the introduction of fashionable transfer student Tanaka, but it winds up a hilarious arc that shows a hitherto unseen aspect of both Takeo and Suna. Takeo’s strong point since the very beginning is his popularity among other males, and Tanaka’s the first guy we’ve seen (other than the groper) that dislikes him. However, Takeo’s clashed with other boys before and actually has a proven strategy for turning enemies into friends. To be sure, this strategy is the sort a grade school kid would rely on, but that’s okay because Suna is acting a bit childishly as well. Suna’s definitely the most mature character in the cast, and despite all the crazy stuff Takeo drags him into, he’s never gotten really mad. Now we get to see what Suna is like with someone he seriously dislikes.

Meanwhile, Tanaka is a much more typical teenager, insecure in his relationships and obsessed with looking good on social media. I’m not sure if Tanaka’s chat group lies are meant to be social commentary, but when the three go out for a day trip and Takeo takes all of Tanaka’s posts at face value, the results are a riot. I’m not a fan of Aruko-sensei’s particular art style, but the expressions in this arc deliver huge comedic impact nonetheless, and I really wish I could see these chapters animated.

Then it’s back to Takeo’s love story and the next challenge for our main couple: the Yamamoto family is moving–to Spain! The announcement takes everyone by surprise, and although he’s crushed by the news, Takeo does his best to be a supportive boyfriend and reassure Yamato of his commitment to her even while they’re apart. Thus, Yamato’s last days in Japan go pretty much as one would expect–until she runs away from home! It’s a shock to everyone, Takeo included. But even though she’s been portrayed as a model daughter, her actions–though drastic–are not out of character. Still, it’s anyone’s guess how this arc will end, and I look forward to its resolution.

Extras include story thus far, two sizable bonus chapters, and notes from the creators.

In Summary

My Love Story!! hits another one out the park! As Takeo discovers, Tanaka is using others to achieve his own shallow goals, which sparks a near rampage out of our main character. However, what’s even funnier is Suna’s reaction when Tanaka airs his unfiltered thoughts about Takeo. It’s male bonding magic when self-absorbed superficiality collides with earnest friendship!

First published at The Fandom Post.

Castle Under Siege: An Attack on Titan Real Escape Game!

Back in the day, the most a manga could hope for was an anime adaption and maybe a movie. Nowadays, manga serves as the basis for all sorts of entertainment, and when my husband and I visited Los Angeles for his birthday a few days ago, we experienced Castle Under Seige: a collaboration between Real Escape Game and Attack on Titan.

For those unfamiliar with Real Escape Game, it’s a franchise that began in Japan and has since spread to other places including San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles. It runs Escape Rooms and hosts events at special locations, but the premise behind all of its puzzle events is the same. You and your team members are “trapped” and have 60 minutes to search for clues and solve puzzles in order to escape.

Castle Under Seige, by the way, is not the first Attack on Titan themed Real Escape Game. In 2015, Real Escape hosted Escape from the Walled City at AT&T Park and a couple other stadiums in the United States. Sadly, my husband and I heard about it two months after the event (so disappointed!). Thus, when we chanced upon a Castle Under Seige flyer in Little Tokyo on our last day in Los Angeles, we couldn’t let the opportunity slip. Less than two hours later, we were at the Los Angeles Real Escape Room with five local college students.

The premise of Castle Under Seige is that participants (maximum of ten) are members of the Scouts/Survey Corps, who’ve been forced to take shelter from titans in an old castle. Eren (in titan form) and Mikasa are buying time (60 minutes to be exact) by fighting them, and Armin is giving clues to find various objects to help against the enemy.

The game does go out of its way to make it fun for Attack on Titan fans. If you have your own Attack on Titan cosplay, you are encouraged to wear it. For those without, the hosts provide green cloaks with the Wings of Freedom insignia to wear during the game. The game instructors/hosts are also in cosplay and in character. Funimation is one of the game collaborators, and I’m assuming Castle Under Seige used the anime’s English language voice actors for Mikasa and Armin (sorry, I prefer subtitles so I’m not familiar with the dub). Also, several inside jokes are infused into the puzzles and clues.

Participant uniforms!

While knowledge of Attack on Titan makes Castle Under Seige more enjoyable, it doesn’t actually give participants much of an edge. When it comes to solving the puzzles, experience with other Real Escape Games actually gives a greater advantage. So it’s entirely possible for a team with no knowledge of Attack on Titan to succeed, although they’ll probably think it’s weird that a gas cylinder is useful against man eating giants. (And according to our host, Castle Under Seige has had participants unfamiliar with the series. They provide those players with a single page synopsis of Attack on Titan.)

By the way, the success rate for Castle Under Seige is about 60%. For comparison, Real Escape Game’s Escape from the Mysterious Room is closer to 10%. So the Castle’s puzzles aren’t as intense as the Mysterious Room’s, but they’re enough to pose a fun challenge to fans looking for a new way to experience Attack on Titan.

So did we escape the titans? We did! Everyone in our team of seven was familiar with Attack on Titan, but only my husband and I had prior Real Escape Game experience (we played the Escape from the Mysterious Room in 2015). With everyone’s help, we achieved victory in 55 minutes. We weren’t anywhere close to Castle Under Seige’s current record (just over 30 minutes), but it was enough that we didn’t get eaten. And we got to pose with the props afterwards! It made my husband’s 44th birthday a memorable one.

So if you and your otaku friends are looking for a group activity and have $35 to spare, I would certainly recommend Castle Under Siege. Castle Under Siege is currently only available in Los Angeles Little Tokyo, but Real Escape also has a Zelda game and Final Fantasy XIV game touring various cities this summer. Supposedly, there’s also a Dragonball escape game at Anime Expo 2017, but the website is unresponsive so I can’t confirm that.

Anyway, check it out. And have fun escaping the titans!

Manga Review: Everyone’s Getting Married Vol. 5

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

Back Cover Blurb

Akito Kamiya has found out that Ryu and Asuka have been dating away from the public eye, but he hasn’t given up his pursuit of her. Ryu means to keep Kamiya in check, but instead a direct confrontation erupts between them!

The Review

The previous volume ended with Ryu and Kamiya looking like they’re about to brawl it out. However, this is an adult cast, and while boys might knock the snot out of each other over a girl in shojo manga, grown up men apparently handle such disputes by going to a bar and making snarky remarks over drinks. It wasn’t the clash I’d anticipated, but Kamiya’s comments do get under Ryu’s skin in a way that shakes his confidence.

Kamiya doesn’t let up either. He continues to finagle ways to be alone with Asuka, even coercing a date by threatening to make her relationship with Ryu public. Although Kamiya’s reasons for choosing her were coldly calculating, he’s not nearly so logical about accepting her refusal. While this might seem like a character inconsistency, Kamiya’s personality is so aggressive that it’s not. It’s questionable whether his feelings for Asuka can be accurately termed “love,” but his actions are certainly those of a competitive man who hates to lose.

And how does Ryu secure his claim on Asuka with such a rival? Sex and lots of it. The last volume was light on the bedroom scenes with rivals Kamiya and Yuko distracting our couple. Now Ryu’s pawing Asuka’s clothes off every time she has a run-in with Kamiya. As usual, the scenes aren’t too graphic, but Ryu does come off as inexhaustible the way he pounces on Asuka despite his supposedly grueling work schedule. And when Kamiya buys Asuka a pair of Altier earrings, Ryu responds with a spur of the moment trip to Kyoto and his own gift to Asuka. No, it’s not a wedding ring, but we do get to see our main couple in a traditional setting and relaxing for once.

Meanwhile, Yuko doesn’t do much in this volume. In fact, she looks like she might be dropping out of the love square entirely. Never fear, a new PTV character gets introduced as she steps away. Yuma Shimizu is a rookie reporter on Ryu’s news show. Although he’s definitely not a love interest for Ryu, he brings out a side of Ryu we haven’t seen before, and it remains to be seen how exactly he will affect the plot.

Extras include a 6-page mini-manga about Ryu.

In Summary

It’s two alpha males vying to get the girl in this volume. Kamiya takes every opportunity to monopolize Asuka, and in the face of such pressure, Ryu must bring his A-game to compete. Most of that involves sex, but based on their trip to Kyoto, perhaps wedding bells aren’t just wishful thinking on Asuka’s part.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #10

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

Back cover blurb

Taichi Hiraga Keaton is a busy insurance investigator who yearns to make a living as an archaeologist. Just how long does he have to continue working as an investigator? Keaton is uncertain of his future, but he does know that a string of difficult cases awaits him!

The Review

Those who enjoyed Urasawa-sensei’s Monster will like Volume 10′s two-part tale, The Village that God Loved. It’s got the elements of a good thriller–a seemingly peaceful village, detectives after a criminal on the loose, bizarre ”accidents.” It even has a creepy looking kid (whose expression is extremely reminiscent of Monster’s child twins) watching the events unfold. Because Keaton is involved, medieval history also gets worked into the story in a way that aids his escape from some tricky situations. Between the attacks on the detectives and the mystery shrouding the remote community, it’s a tight, engaging read.

The volume’s other two-part story Resident of a Lightless World also contains elements in common with Monster. Set in former East Germany, it has a cast that includes communists and Nazis, and bloodshed abounds with a serial killer on the loose. Ancient artifacts play a role, but a more recent antique and modern political history are the keys that help Keaton solve this case.

The rest of Volume 10 is an assortment of one-shots. Two involve novice investigators poking their noses into an assignment. In these situations, Keaton usually winds up bailing out the amateur, which is what happens in Volunteer Detective. However, in An Incident Among Women, that dynamic gets shifted around. Not only does the pushy old woman keep up with Keaton, she shows him a thing or two, and even though it involves a murder, the story is largely comedic.

For those who favor chases from armed bad guys, Keaton crosses paths with a target of the Russian mafia in Immortal, and in Detour, he protects a client hunted by former agents of the Romanian secret police. The remaining stories are largely misadventures that arise during Keaton’s personal time. Sadly for Keaton, a university position remains but a dream, and the only teaching he does in this installment is tutoring a rebellious child in Keaton the Home Tutor.

Extras include a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

Fans of Urasawa’s Monster will find much to enjoy in this installment of Master Keaton. A quarter of the tales involve the shadowy dealings of former Eastern European officials, and another story set in a remote village serves a delicious blend of of intrigue and action along with one really creepy looking kid. Our SAS-trained investigator contends against adversaries ranging from fanatical villagers to Russian mafia, but if you’re wanting to see Keaton at a lecture hall or archeological dig, you’ll have to look to another volume.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 13

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

Back cover blurb

Tagging along on Handa-sensei’s visit home, Naru finally arrives in Tokyo! Trains, tall buildings, the zoo-the big city’s full of amazing first experiences! But what will Handa decide when his dad asks him to come back to Tokyo? Volume 13 promises growth, courage, and farewells!

The Review

The tables are turned when Naru joins Handa on a trip to Tokyo. Now he’s the regional expert, and she can barely comprehend her hectic surroundings. But while she makes an atypical guest in the Handa household, this arc is less about her and more about the interactions Handa has with the adults of Tokyo.

For starters, Yoshino-sensei introduces Ojou, a college student working part time for the Kawafuji business. She’s also the girl Handa was asked to consider as a marriage prospect. After Handa turned the proposal down, I didn’t think she’d be mentioned again, let alone make an appearance. However, she is quite unlike her photo and, despite certain shortcomings, can hold her own in the art business world. Except for Kawafuji, Handa hasn’t had much opportunity to hang out with people his age, and as he and Ojou interact, we get a pretty good idea why he doesn’t have a girlfriend.

Then on the professional end of things, Handa meets the representatives for the major hotel project his father is working on as well as a young calligrapher just starting his career. Because Handa has been producing commissioned works and participating in contests (and is the son of a master calligrapher), I assumed he knew what a career as a calligrapher would entail. This trip to Tokyo shows just how much he doesn’t know about the art business. While Naru does have the opportunity to cause her particular brand of mayhem away from home, these chapters are less about her city experience and more about Handa’s reflections on the trajectory of his life.

However, the village isn’t completely left out of this volume. Kanzaki runs away to the village, supposedly to get away from “society’s strictures,” and Handa gives the kid permission to stay at his house while he’s in Tokyo. Thus the island gets another city boy in Handa’s absence. Kanzaki though is less of a clueless urbanite than he is an annoying, whiny one, and poor Hiroshi gets saddled with the brunt of Kanzaki’s damage.

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

In Summary

Handa finally gets his chance to show one of the villagers around his home turf. However, this arc winds up less about city versus county life and more about the direction of Handa’s life. Naru displays some of her usual kiddie antics, but for the most part this arc is an intriguing glimpse into the demands on a professional artist and the relationship possibilities for Handa’s personal life.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Handa-Kun Vol. 5

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 5. (Click here for reviews of other volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

The class trip has begun, but now it’s not just his own classmates Handa needs to worry about. When a rival school ends up going along for the ride, isn’t it a given that Handa-kun’s going to run afoul of a whole new set of kids? The Handa Army have met their nemesee…nemenisee…neemessss–their rivals! There is no way they will allow their beloved Handa to be diminished by the white shirts! Meanwhile, poor Handa-kun is trying REALLY hard just to fit in…

The Review

Volume 5 covers the class trip that Handa’s been anticipating as an opportunity to make friends. Although it does include the usual misunderstandings and failed attempts at bonding with classmates, most of the plot is dominated by students from another school. Nicknamed the “White Shirts,” they get along with the students of Handa’s school like cats and dogs. And this rival school has its own charismatic leader and minions to match Handa and his army.

By “match,” I do mean match. Ichimiya’s bodyguards are comprised of a burly delinquent, a bespectacled nerd, a pretty fashionista, and a no-name ordinary guy. The most entertaining of them is Sousuke Kojika, who goes to interesting lengths for the sake of beauty and has a unique connection to the delinquent of the Handa Army.

As with Handa and his Army, Ichimiya’s Bodyguards operate largely independent of the leader they idolize. So while Handa and Ichimiya are touring Kyoto’s sights, the Army and Bodyguards are waging war, which alternates between group efforts and individuals facing off against his equivalent. Much of this fighting is just a hyped version of the usual Handa Army antics, but the big surprise is the clash between the average guys. Kondou has been a levelheaded observer for most of this series, but it turns out he’s not completely dispassionate when it comes to Handa either.

A major challenge Western readers will have with the arc is the Kyoto backdrop. In keeping with the tourist spots they visit, characters dress up as Japanese icons and make historical references in jokes and insults. If you’ve studied Japanese history or watched one of the many anime or Japanese dramas about the Shinsengumi/Ryouma Sakamoto/Bakumatsu, you have a decent chance of enjoying these chapters. If not, the translation notes in the back of the book provide a lot of information, but it will require much flipping back and forth.

Extras include the title illustration in color, bonus manga, translation notes, and an installment of “Handa-Kun News.”

In Summary

It’s delusion insanity squared when the Handa Army clashes with students from a rival school during their class trip. While the Kyoto setting allows for fun props and samurai cosplay, these chapters are heavy on historical references, which will go over the heads of most Western readers. And although most of the Handa Army’s hijinks are predictable, the trip brings out a surprising side of Kondou, who isn’t as immune to HND Syndrome as previously thought.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #3

Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket was one of the most popular shojo titles in the United States in the previous decade. Now Yen Press has released Takaya-sensei’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, which showcases the mangaka’s distinctive art style, a new upbeat heroine, and a fantasy setting. Read on for the review of Volume 3 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

Liselotte, daughter of a feudal lord, has been exiled to the lands east of the east of the east, now living with her servants Anna and Alto, the mysterious Engetsu, and the impertinent familiar Yomi at the edge of the witch’s forest. Despite Alto’s objections, Lise’s new family somehow continues to grow. But her troublesome past has caught up to them and Engetsu is seriously injured. Can Lise save him and also continue to live as optimistically as her heart desires?

The Review

Engetsu is in dire straits at the end of Volume 2, thanks to the fight with Liz’s would-be assassin, and with help from Yomi, Liz seeks supernatural help from the massive tree that grows though their house. Eiche trees, like witches, are magical, but their power appears innate rather than something learned. And even though witches are the ones with a bad reputation, the spirit of the Eiche tree makes them look positively benevolent in comparison.(It’s not the witches you have to beware of–it’s the trees!)

Far from being swayed by Liz’s bold demands for help, the Eiche cuts her down with a vicious verbal, then physical assault. In the midst of this encounter, we discover what En endured to return from the dead and the limitations of his current existence. Everything about the episode serves to demonstrate En’s extraordinary devotion to Liz, which underscores the true cost of his restoration when the pair returns to the real world.

With the mystery of Engetsu/Enrich connection revealed, a different mystery arises: Enrich’s origins. After the Eiche encounter, En’s behavior changes so drastically it’s as if he’s a completely different person. Faced with this new,  roguish En, Liz makes the surprisingly astute observation that if they think En’s changed that just means they didn’t know him well enough to begin with. Indeed, even though Enrich knew so much about Liz before, she knew very little about him, and that unknown history before he became her servant looks like it will be central to the next phase of the story.

The angst and despair of the first half of the volume is emotionally draining, thus for the second half, Takaya-sensei reverts back to bird-brained humor. Hilde and Myrte return and wind up incorporated into Liz’s household, which, as Alto describes it, is turning into “a supernatural menagerie.” This of course provides the framework for situational humor between grumpy Alto, prickly Yomi, and their high-strung new housemates. While Liz and En’s interactions retain an element of melancholy, the silly squabbling that surrounds them helps to keep the mood light.

Extras include story thus far, character profiles, embedded author’s notes, six bonus illustrations in color, translation notes, and a sneak peek of Volume 4.

In Summary

En has been the one rescuing Liz all this time, but everything changes after Liz begs the Eiche spirit to return En to her. Now she must strive against the impossible to restore the bond they once shared. In the meantime, a witches’ spat puts Hilde and Myrte onto Liz’s doorstep. Between Liz’s love tragedy and everyone’s new living arrangements, it’s a rollercoaster of ups and down in the land east of the east of the east.

First published at the Fandom Post.