Tag Archives: shojo manga

Manga Review: Waiting for Spring Vol. 1

Reverse harem is a huge subset of the shojo manga genre, and mangaka Anashin’s Waiting for Spring has a bishounen cast made up of basketball players  Read on for the review of Volume 1!

Back Cover Blurb

Mizuki is a shy girl who’s about to enter high school, and vows to open herself up to new friendships. Of course, the four stars of the boys’ basketball team weren’t exactly the friends she had in mind! Yet, when they drop by the café where she works, the five quickly hit it off. Soon she’s been accidentally thrust into the spotlight, targeted by jealous girls. And will she expand her mission to include… love?

The Review

In reverse harem manga, the heroine generally has unique circumstances or character qualities to capture the attention of the male characters. Make her a little too ordinary, and the dynamic doesn’t quite work. Worse, give her a personality quirk that doesn’t make sense, and you’re left wondering why anyone bothers with her.

Unfortunately, that’s the issue with Waiting for Spring. It’s posturing itself as a Boys Over Flowers kind of title with its Elite 4, a basketball-type F-4. These four handsome boys are athletic, popular, and have a gaggle of rabid fangirls following them wherever they go. And the girl that manages to befriend them unlike any other is Mitsuki Haruno, the shyest girl in school. In contrast to the Elite 4, she hasn’t made any friends at school. But it’s not because she’s a victim of bullying or abuse; there’s no indication of that. She’s. Just. That. Shy. However, you can’t categorize her as a shut-in type because she interacts normally with the customers at the cafe where she works part time. Plus, she is friends with her boss and his college-age daughter Nana so she doesn’t have true social anxiety.

These personality inconsistencies make it difficult to relate to Mitsuki. Her shyness comes and disappears whenever it’s convenient for the plot. And because her problems aren’t particularly difficult (i.e. talking to classmates) she doesn’t inspire me to cheer her on. While the set up for her first encounter with the Elite 4 is decent (one of the boys has a crush on Nana), their lingering interest in Mitsuki is a stretch.

Also a stretch is the Elite 4’s fanbase. They have the usual vicious devotees, ready to rip out the throat of any girl who gets too close to their idols. However, when the Elite 4 has their first basketball game together, the fangirls are too busy ogling over the boys’ pretty faces to shout out support, and when Mitsuki suggests that they cheer the team on, they act like they can’t be bothered. Also, basketball is a FIVE player game, but all the illustrations of the game only show the Elite 4 so I feel rather sorry for whoever their invisible fifth man is.

Extras include bonus comics, mini character profiles, author’s notes and afterword, and translation notes.

In Summary

Waiting for Spring is well-illustrated, and that’s about it. The heroine is wishy-washy, and the cast’s bishounen latch onto her for no good reason. While it has the elements of a reverse harem manga, it can’t quite pull them together for a convincing story.

First published at The Fandom Post.

 

 

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Manga Review: Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight Vol. 1

Cinderella type stories are a staple of shojo manga, and in many modern versions,  ordinary high school girls get romanced by gorgeous celebrities. Rin Mikimoto now adds another title to this list with Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight. Read on for the review of Volume 1!

Back Cover Blurb

At school, Hinana is an honors student, respected by all her classmates. She’s totally above things as juvenile as crushes and dating. Secretly, though, she has but one wish: To have a fairy-tale romance. One day, a super-hot celebrity named Kaede shows up at Hinana’s high school to shoot a movie, and it becomes difficult to keep up her act. By pure chance — or y’know, fate! — Kaede reveals his own ridiculous personality to Hinana, and her ordinary life turns breathtakingly romantic! Or just really, really… weird?!

The Review

This is my first time reading Mikimoto-sensei’s work, and I found Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight somewhat reminiscent of the Goong manhwa by So Hee Park. This partly because it is also a romance that incorporates crude humor, and partly because the character designs go from sparkly-eyed shojo-style to goofy caricatures when things get bawdy. And like Goong, it is a Cinderella story. However, instead of an actual prince and a poor girl, the lead couple is a handsome celebrity and a straitlaced honor student.

That honor student being Hinana Hanazawa. Unlike many other Cinderella-type heroines, her family is not in debt, and she doesn’t have to work part-time to make ends meet. If anything, she’s the embodiment of the perfect high school girl with good grades, a seat on the student council, and a serious demeanor. Secretly, however, she fantasizes about having a fairy-tale romance with a hot guy—not that she thinks it could ever happen.

Enter super-star Kaede Ayase. He shows up at Hinana’s school to shoot a film, and Hinana and her classmates can’t even speak to him because he’s so glamorous. But by pure chance, Hinana discovers that Kaede is a “butt alien” (panty freak), and suddenly, the celebrity prince doesn’t seem so unapproachable to her any more.

This title is rated for “Older Teen,” but I’m still troubled by the fact that our heroine falls for such an unabashed pervert. This is shojo, after all, not hentai. It’s one thing for Kaede to catch a glimpse of her panties because she (oopsies!) trips at the wrong time. It’s another thing for him to ogle the whole high school tennis team and to offer to let Hinana feel up the panty flash figurine he wins at an arcade. Plus, he’s 24–an adult, and at least seven years older than Hinana. He takes special interest in Hinana because she doesn’t condemn him for his butt fetish and keeps it a secret. However, his special interest in her doesn’t stop him from ogling other women, girls, and inanimate objects. Kaede is portrayed as a carefree bubblehead so his fetish doesn’t come across as predatory, but I do wish Hinana had higher standards.

If Kaede had a less perverted quirk, this would be an otherwise entertaining romantic comedy. I liked its twist on Cinderella’s shoes, and because Hinana’s not a Cinderella that needs to be rescued from her circumstances, the mood stays fun even as she ponders the chemistry brewing between her and Kaede. As mentioned in the author notes, this story tries to capture the nature of celebrity crushes as well as the fact that celebrities are human, too, and it does a good job of showing the comic awkwardness of a budding relationship complicated by the burdens of stardom.

Extras include the first five pages printed in color, author’s notes and afterword, and translation notes.

In Summary

Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight is yet another Cinderella-type manga with an ordinary high school heroine and a gorgeous celebrity. However, unlike most stories that fall into this trope, neither character is in desperate or extreme circumstances so there’s not a lot of high stakes drama. There are, however, quite a lot of panty shots for a shojo title. So if you’re interested in a Cinderella romantic comedy and don’t mind raunchy humor, you can give this title a try.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 9

Kaoru Mori is best known for her work, Emma, an exquisite romance/slice-of-life set in Victorian England. Her latest work to be released in the United States, A Bride’s Story, is also a historical/slice-of-life but is vastly different than Emma. Set in Central Asia in a rural town near the Caspian Sea during the early 19th century, A Bride’s Story revolves around a young woman, Amir, who arrives from a distant village across the mountains to marry Karluk, a boy 8 years her junior. Volume 9 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Pariya’s budding romance with Umar is off to a rough start due to her brash personality and lack of confidence. But if she can’t figure out how to say what she wants with words, then perhaps the old adage is true–the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!

The Review

Between Mr. Smith’s travels and the movements of the Halgal, Bride’s Story has covered a wide range of territory, and Volume 9 begins with a kind of recap. “Living Things’ Stories” is a set of 4-panel comics that revisit the people we’ve encountered in the series. In addition to being cute and funny, they update readers on characters’ circumstances.

Then the plot moves on with Pariya and her potential fiancé. It’s unclear what Umar’s father currently does for a living, but apparently, he can spare Umar for an extended period of time. As such, Umar helps with the town’s reconstruction until its completion, and the townsfolk get to know the boy fairly well. However, the one who’s most curious (Pariya) can’t interact freely with him because of social constraints.

Mori-sensei does an excellent job brewing humor and conveying Pariya’s frustration as the girl gleans what information she can about her potential groom. Mori-sensei is equally skillful at conveying Pariya’s resulting insecurities. The townsfolk speak of Umar in glowing terms, and while that makes him more desirable as a husband, it makes Pariya feel less adequate as a bride, especially since her efforts to recreate her dowry are progressing at a snail’s pace. Even her parents marvel that Pariya’s found such a match, and you’ve got to feel bad for her when her own father directly asks Umar’s father why he’d choose a girl with Pariya’s reputation for his son. The reply Umar’s father gives is an interesting and insightful one. While Pariya may not fit conventional standards of femininity, she is uniquely suited for Umar.

She proves it, too, on a mundane errand that turns into a misadventure. While it is surprising that no one objects to them going off unsupervised, the scenario allows them to interact with a minimum of interference. Their trip for cosmetic ingredients is far from romantic, but it allows Pariya to unwittingly show off her good points to Umar. By the time the volume closes, there’s a definite sense that although Pariya can’t get married for some time, she has a happily even after in store for her.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.

In Summary

Pariya’s adolescent turmoil continues! It’s hard for teenagers to communicate with the opposite sex, especially if it’s someone they’re attracted to. It’s even harder in a gender separated society, and Pariya’s bumbling efforts to make her feelings known to her intended are both touching and hilarious. It’s not the most romantic bride’s story in the set, but it goes a long way to show that the girl who saw herself as unmarriageable is well suited for someone after all.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: My Love Story!! Vol. 13

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. The final volume has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Yamato initially accepts that she has to move to Spain with her family, but her feelings for Takeo are so strong that she runs away from home! Takeo follows her with the intention of bringing her back, but what will he do when he faces a heartbroken Yamato? And just how will Takeo’s love story end?

The Review

Volume 13 is the last volume in the series, and in it, Takeo and Yamato face their greatest challenge yet: the long distance relationship! The previous volume dropped the bombshell announcement that the Yamato family was moving abroad, and I anticipated some convoluted plot twist that would allow our main couple to stay together. Well, the impulse trip to Okinawa concludes with warm and fuzzy moments but no miracle solution. And so… Yamato leaves Takeo for Spain.

Fortunately for Takeo, he gets a lot of moral support in her absence. Many series finales include a kind of curtain call with the entire cast, and in the last three chapters, several characters we haven’t seen in a while pop up to give Takeo encouragement. Some of these encounters are more forced than others, like Yukika’s gift bag to Takeo, but they do get the message across that everyone, even former rivals in love, want Takeo and Yamato to stay together. As usual, the lion’s share of support comes from Suna. Thus, we get a bunch more best friend bonding scenes with the two guys. Two scenes in particular (the overnight stay at the hostel and the ring purchase) had me laughing out loud, and I dearly wish I could see them animated.

The final arc, with Takeo and Yamato’s relationship breaking under the strain of distance, could be seen coming from a mile away. And while it is sweet to see Takeo pondering Yamato’s importance in his life and hilarious to see the Takeo effect in a foreign country, there’s never any real doubt that the two will reunite. However, they certainly patch things up in the flashiest way possible, paving the way for a feel-good ending that neatly wraps up the series.

Extras include story thus far and final notes from the creators.

In Summary

My Love Story!! reaches its happy conclusion! While the unique cast has never failed to earn laughs (especially those awkward Suna/Takeo moments), the story arcs have been starting to lack originality. As such,Volume 13 is a good place for the creators to call it quits, what with our characters graduating and Takeo’s love life seemingly assured for all time.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #5

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 5 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

In her exile to the east of the east of the east, Liselotte’s rambunctious house attempts to coexist with the witch’s forest. Hoping to break down the seal Vergue has cast, Anna ventures out on her own to pay the witch a visit. Despite a being hurt by humans in the past, can Anna convince Vergue to give people another chance, and to live among them again? Meanwhile, Lise is shocked by a familiar looking visitor surveying the nearby village.

The Review

In Takaya-sensei’s previous series Fruits Basket, there were a lot of antics and silly interactions, but once you got to know the characters, you discovered each one carried deep trauma. If you enjoy that sort of story, you can eat your heart out in Volume 5 of Liselotte and Witch’s Forest. The previous couple volumes delved into Liz’s tragic past, and now we shift to the rest of the cast, starting with En.

Given his memory loss, he doesn’t have much past to dwell on. The bits he retains suggest a desperate existence before he entered the Berenk household. However, his current circumstances aren’t particularly ideal either, as an interaction with the Eiche spirit reminds us. This is the first time we really get to delve into En’s thoughts, and there’s dark humor in his blunt assessment of Liz and his utter incomprehension of why he was so devoted to her.

Next up are Anna and Vergue. Liz is determined to befriend Vergue despite his attack on the house and repeated rejections, but interestingly, she’s not the one to crack through Vergue’s shell. On the surface, ever-smiling Anna doesn’t have anything in common with the irritable male witch. However, she recognizes the similarities they bear, and when she tells Vergue about the upbringing she and Alto suffered, it’s a confession, a rebuke, and an invitation for him to strive for something better.

The POV then switches from Anna to Vergue. We don’t get as many details on his wretched past but like the twins and Liz, he suffered undeservedly when he was a human. However, Anna’s words do impact him, and it shows in his actions, even if his speech and manner remain prickly as ever.

The focus then returns to the main character with Liz hearing about Heil Village’s spring festival. While it is strange how Liz’s companions unanimously encourage her to see it, the trip there gives Liz and En a chance to be alone. It also allows Liz to cross paths with Richard, the brother that exiled her. Liz’s guilt at seeing her brother isn’t too surprising, but what is surprising is En’s displeasure over the situation, especially since he’s lost his memories of Richard. If a visit from the regional lord isn’t enough, Woglinde, the true witch of the frontier forest, also returns home. With so many powerful characters in Heil Village, I’m anticipating something big in the works.

Extras include four illustrations in full color, story-thus-far, character line-up, and embedded author’s notes.

In Summary

If you like characters who bear the scars of abuse and rejection, you will have much to enjoy in this volume. If you prefer lovey-dovey moments, you’ll find a beautifully illustrated romantic scene between Liz and En, although En’s behavior is somewhat perplexing given his evaluation of Liz in the volume’s opening pages. There’s not much brawling in these pages, but with the arrival of Liz’s brother and the return of the witch Woglinde, the stage seems to be preparing for something big.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #4

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 4 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

Liselotte’s house in the east of the east of the east has become even livelier with the additions of the witch Hilde and her familiar, Myrte. But one day, Vergue, a witch who hates all humans, attacks the household to drive Lise and the others away! Why is it so difficult to live a peaceful life?

The Review

Till now, little information has been given about the place in which the characters reside. Now we learn that The Land East of the East of the East is part of Erstes, a country that once achieved military victory with the help of witches. Considering it’s already Volume 4, these basic details about Erstes are late in coming, plus the way they’re presented (in the form of a schoolchildren’s lesson) is rather heavy-handed. However, they do give us a clearer picture of the society from which Liz has been exiled.

This provides a good place to introduce our next new character. Captain Erwin is head of the frontier outpost near the witch’s forest. However, he’s originally from the capital where he served Liz’s brother. He not only monitors Liz’s activities but seems aware of the true circumstances behind her banishment. He also has his own power when it comes to witches. Despite the lazy front he puts up, he is definitely not an ordinary human, and given his complicated background, he’s likely to get into the thick of Liz and Engetsu’s future affairs.

In the meantime, Liz continues to bravely strive forward in her hinterlands life. For fans of Fruits Basket, Liz is definitely a Tohru-type heroine: a cheerful dimwit who remains intensely positive despite the tragedies in her life. She’s also able to connect with social outcasts, as evidenced by the six people now living in her house. Now that Hilde and Myrte are part of the family, it’s almost a given that Liz will find a way to draw Vergue in, despite his violent efforts to drive her away.

As for the romantic arc between Liz and En, there are a couple poignant moments between the two, but overall, the mood is more comic than sweet. En without memories is sarcastic and blunt, which makes him a lot more interesting than when he was so unconditionally agreeable toward Liz. Judging from a brief interaction with Erwin, this new En is closer to his true personality and hints about a past I’m curious to learn more about.

Extras include four illustrations in full color, story-thus-far and character line-up, embedded author’s notes, translation notes, and a nine-page preview of Volume 5.

In Summary

This volume doesn’t so much move forward as it delves backward. Lessons, remembrances, and flashbacks provide a better understanding of the factors separating humans and witches and the circumstances that brought our characters where they are now. So aside from Vergue wrecking Liz’s house, not too much happens in these six chapters, but they fill in a lot of holes in the story.

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.

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.

Manga Review: My Love Story!! Vol. 11

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 11 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of other volumes, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Lately, Yamato has been making Takeo’s heart race more than usual, so Takeo tries to train himself to be more stoic. But when their respective schools take them on a trip to Hokkaido, Takeo and Yamato keep getting thrown into close contact! Looks like Takeo is in for a rough challenge…

The Review

Volume 10 ended with Takeo determined to get his feelings for Yamato under control before the school trip, but of course, he doesn’t, and that’s where comedy comes in. Volume 11 opens with the Hokkaido trip well underway, and Takeo’s hormones raging hot as ever. Takeo’s and Yamato’s schools are at different hotels, and their schedules only coincide for one day. As such, their interactions aren’t a multiday stretch but something closer to an extended date–with Suna dragged along. Apparently, the sight of Suna calms Takeo. Thus, we have several hilarious variations of Yamato purposely getting close to Takeo, and Takeo desperately using Suna to maintain control. Eventually though, Takeo does face Yamato and his emotions head on. Although this brings their relationship to a new level, their physical intimacy remains firmly G-rated. By the way, for a school trip arc, we don’t actually see much of the Hokkaido sights.

Next we have a single chapter arc where Yamato decides to improve herself physically. Takeo is obviously the athletic half of the couple, but when he teaches Yamato the basics of tumbling, it becomes clear how unathletic Yamato is. Having Takeo as Yamato’s instructor brings a new aspect to their relationship though, and it’s cute seeing the two of them in martial arts uniforms.

Then a new character appears! Tanaka’s a transfer student who’s as handsome as Suna, and he takes a special interest in Suna. At the same time, the new guy gives Takeo the cold shoulder. Between Tanaka monopolizing Suna’s time and Suna’s strange behavior when Takeo does see him, Takeo finds himself reevaluating his ”best friend” relationship with Suna all over again.

Extras include story thus far and notes from the creators.

In Summary

Teen hormones don’t push Takeo over the edge, but he gets pretty close in the conclusion to the school trip arc. If you liked how Takeo used Suna for kissing practice, you’ll probably enjoy how Takeo uses the “Suna calming effect” to counter Yamato’s efforts to stir him up. Yamato and Takeo’s relationship remains pure as ever, but the creators continue to find cute and funny ways to keep readers engaged.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #2

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 2 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

Liselotte, the daughter of a feudal lord, has been exiled to the land’s easternmost reaches by order of her older brother. Despite the bitter past that put her in these straits, Lise enjoys her new life with her twin attendants, Alto and Anna, the familiar Yomi, and Engetsu, a young man who not only harbors a secret, but also bears a striking resemblance to an old acquaintance, Enrich. However, Lise’s quaint idyll is shattered when none other than a witch comes calling!

The Review

Takaya-sensei mentions in her notes that “Volume 1 unfolded at a relatively leisurely pace.” Well, she makes up for it with Volume 2. She starts with flashbacks and a conversation with the local villagers that shed light on Liselotte’s circumstances and brings context to En and Liselotte’s mutual attachment. His reappearance in Liz’s life is no accident. And random though Yomi’s entrance seemed, he also has a reason for hanging around Liz and En.

Then the witch from Volume 1 reappears, this time by Liz’s house. Overall, the illustrations do an excellent job of creating an air of tension and mystery. Unfortunately for one forest scene, sound effects are key to that terrifying atmosphere, and I spent several confused seconds hunting down Yen Press’ tiny sound effects translations (which are almost buried by the original Japanese sound effects) before I could figure out what was happening. To offset the creepiness of the witches, Takaya-sensei inserts silliness in the form of Liz’s blithe decision to embrace the witches as neighbors. Thus continues the somewhat hackneyed joke of Liz’s inedible food.

Her ditzy attitude seems inappropriate for approaching a powerful enemy, but it turns out to be entirely fitting. In one fell swoop, Liz exposes the witch and her familiar to be just as silly as Liz herself. That discovery is a letdown, especially after all that hair-raising anticipation, but Hilde the inept, crybaby witch does make a suitable companion for Liz and company.

Takaya-sensei, however, quickly replaces the witches with another enemy, one whom Liz definitely won’t offer a slice of cake. Magic takes a backseat to swordplay when an assassin explodes on the scene. Apparently, humans are more dangerous than witches, and we get to witness En’s heroics in a duel interspersed with glimpses of a past fight. Some of En’s dagger skills are a bit difficult to follow, but overall, the battle brings Volume 2 to a thrilling and emotional close.

Extras include embedded author’s notes, the title page in color, and translation notes.

In Summary

Volume 2 fills the blanks of Volume 1 to make what felt like a random assemblage of characters without clear direction into the tale of tragic lovers grasping at a second chance. Takaya-sensei had done a marvelous job of painting the witches as a malevolent threat to Liz, so when she reveals their true nature, it’s a disappointment. However, they’re quickly replaced with another adversary, one that sheds light on the past and leaves us with a heart-pounding cliffhanger.

First published at the Fandom Post.