Tag Archives: shojo manga

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.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 8

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

Back Cover Blurb

As Anis and Sherine settle into a new life built on love and friendship, tragedy and destruction have thrown the Eihons’ village into turmoil. Conflict with neighboring tribes has taken its toll, leaving Pariya’s family home in ruins. Though no one was hurt, little survived the assault, including the fabrics meant for Pariya’s dowry. Her passionate, frank personality has made things difficult for Pariya in the past, and being forced to delay marriage talks–now that she’s finally found an interested suitor–drives her to despair.

The Review

I’d thought we’d seen the last of avowed sisters Sherine and Anis after Mr. Smith moved on from their town, but Chapter 44 gives one last glimpse of their new life together. As Anis’ husband remarks, “You never know about these things until you’re in the same house,” but Mori-sensei makes clear that Sherine joining as a second wife results in a happily ever after for the whole family. Sherine brings a comic element to the idyllic household, and a frank conversation between the husband and his two wives reveals only mutual respect and devotion among the three. It’s a scenario too good to be true, but Anis has a fairytale life so this ending suits her story.

Then we move from the woman who has everything to the girl whose dowry has been destroyed. When we last saw Amir’s village, they’d just managed to repel a joint attack. Now the battle is over and the recovery effort underway. The town suffered casualties and structural damage, and Mori-sensei makes it personal by focusing on the losses of Pariya’s family. While they are physically unscathed, their house was destroyed and, with it, the embroidered fabrics for Pariya’s dowry.

The difficulty in finding a match for Pariya has been a running joke in the series. Now that she finally has an interested suitor, the wedding’s delayed until she can rebuild her dowry–from scratch. So it’s both sad and hilarious when she rants about how she’ll die unmarried. Fortunately, Pariya’s got friends to help her through the crisis. Amir’s family, which has taken Pariya’s family in, provides the despondent girl with sewing material to restart and guidance to help her over her dislike of embroidery. So against a backdrop of salvaging enemy weapons and hauling bricks for reconstruction, we have a couple chapters focused predominantly on embroidery.

Pariya’s energetic, frank personality is well established, but we know almost nothing about her groom, Umar. However, once he hears news of the attack, he gets a chance to shine. He and his father come to help rebuild, and Pariya–and all the townsfolk–see what he’s capable of. Pariya, who’d been favorably disposed toward him before, grows even more attracted, which results in an increase in awkwardness for the poor girl.

In the midst of Pariya’s efforts to remake her dowry and herself so she can marry Umar before he changes his mind, Mori-sensei also gives a glimpse of what happened to the Halgal. Characters keep hinting at the tensions encompassing the larger region, and although the Russians have yet to show up, it’s probably just a matter of time before they do.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.

In Summary

From the wife who has everything, the story shifts to the girl who despairs of becoming a bride. Between the shock of losing her house and the surprise of an unexpected visit from her intended, Pariya goes through quite an emotional roller coaster. While the concept of embroidering a heap of fabric in order to get married is foreign to Westerners, readers will be able to relate to Pariya’s adolescent turmoil as she strives to become a bride her intended can be proud of.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: My Love Story!! Vol. 10

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

Back cover blurb

Pastry chef Ichinose thinks he is best suited to be with Yamato and tells Takeo to break up with her! Takeo becomes discouraged, but he takes a stand against Ichinose even though Ichinose swears to declare his love to Yamato after he wins a pastry chef competition. Will Takeo and Yamato’s relationship survive the high-stakes baking contest?

The Review

The Ichinose arc concludes in this volume. The three members of this love triangle are so simpleminded that the ultimate outcome is pretty much a given, but it doesn’t make the chapter any less fun. Between Yamato’s and Ichinose’s brands of obliviousness and the physical humor unique to this series, readers will be plenty entertained.

Then the manga moves into territory beyond the anime. First, we have male bonding between Suna and Takeo. Interestingly, their outing is precipitated by Maki, who, at only seven months old, already exhibits a personality as big as the other members of her family.

That’s followed by one of the staples of high school manga: the school festival! The setting is actually Yamato’s school, but Takeo and his guy friends find a way to participate in her class’ Police Cafe. As usual, Takeo makes quite an impression, but unlike other situations where people get freaked out or laugh, the response from the girls’ academy is overwhelmingly positive. So much so that the longstanding “girls don’t want Takeo, they want his good-looking best friend” falls by the wayside. The chapter has a nice mix of comedy, internal turmoil, and romance, and I really hope the anime gets another season because I’d love to see this chapter animated.

The final chapter centers around another high school manga staple: the class trip! The prospect of Takeo’s and Yamato’s schools traveling to the same place is fun in of itself, but the creators throw an extra complication in the loop. Thus far, Takeo, despite his size, has treated Yamato the way an elementary school boy would treat his crush. Now, his hormones are getting revved up. He can’t seem to figure what to do about it, and I look forward to seeing the impact on the school trip and his relationship with Yamato.

Extras include story thus far and notes from the creators.

In Summary

The manga wraps up the Ichinose arc and plows on into Takeo’s love story (!!) beyond the anime. After so much attention on his relationship with Yamato, the plot switches gears to give Takeo’s buddies some air time with a Suna-Takeo sauna outing followed by a rollicking time at Yamato’s school festival with all Takeo’s friends. The series has already reached Volume 10, but its particular style of rom-com remains fresh as ever.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Heiress and the Chauffeur Vol. 2

A forbidden love between master and servant… That theme has formed the basis of many a romance, including Viz Media’s newly released historical manga, The Heiress and the Chauffeur. The second and final volume of the series has been released and you can read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

Sayaka’s father arranges for her to marry the son of an earl! Meanwhile, Sayaka has started to develop feelings for Narutaki… But with such a huge difference in their social standings, is it possible for Sayaka and Narutaki to be together?

The Review

This is the final volume of the series, and Ishihara-sensei introduces a rival, has Sayaka realize her love for Narutaki, and brings everything to a close in five chapters. This is a lot for one installment, yet it still dragged for me. Much of it had to do with Sayaka’s continuing cluelessness about Narutaki’s feelings and Narutaki’s lack of initiative to do anything other than catch Sayaka when she inevitably falls.

The addition of marriage candidate Akihiko Tachibana doesn’t do much to intensify the situation. He starts off as a promising element to complicate Narutaki and Sayaka’s lives, but he’s so quickly and overwhelmingly won over by Sayaka that he becomes more baffling than intriguing. As Ishihara-sensei accurately admits in an author’s note, “Mr. Tachibana changed so much it was as if he had been abducted by aliens.”

Also inconsistent is the matter of Sayaka’s foot. She alternately displays the actions of a reckless tomboy and a stumbling cripple. In Chapter 5, she leaps off a bridge into a lake and lands without trouble, but in Chapter 6, she balks at jumping from a sinking rowboat to a dock. And time and again, she trips for no better reason than to be dramatically caught by the male characters.

This is a romance so it of course has a happy ending. However, it’s not till Chapter 7 that Sayaka realizes her feelings toward Narutaki are not sisterly ones. That leaves only two and a half chapters for heiress and chauffeur to contend against and defeat the forces that would tear them apart. Sayaka’s long-absent father abruptly appears to play the ultimate obstacle to their happiness only to capitulate so quickly that he, like Mr. Tachibana, appears to have been abducted by aliens.

While the final chapter doesn’t involve a wedding, the volume includes a four-page bonus story that paints a pretty clear picture of Sayaka and Narutaki’s ever after. Other extras include embedded author’s notes and afterword. I should also mention that the artwork does include a few larger, sweeping illustrators, but for the most part, panels are small and cramped, and the printing tends to be overly dark and heavy. The dialogue translation is also confusing at a couple points, and it doesn’t help that several dialogue bubbles are arranged such that you can’t tell who’s speaking.

In Summary

Ishihara-sensei concludes with a happy ending for our heiress and chauffeur, but the journey is rife with character inconsistencies. In addition, Sayaka’s inability to recognize romantic feelings (including hers) for what they are drags down the first half of the volume, and when she finally does realize she’s in love, things move unbelievably fast in the second half. Sayaka might be touted as the universally adored “Crimson Lily” of her school, but I found her to be a frustratingly dense and somewhat pretentious heroine.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: My Love Story!! Vol. 9

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

Back cover blurb

Yamato starts working at a cake shop, where she meets a handsome pastry chef named Ichinose. Ichinose mistakes Yamato’s kind-hearted actions for signs of affection, and he falls for her! What will Takeo do about this persistent rival?

The Review

Volume 8 concluded with the introduction of the handsome young pastry chef Ichinose, and interestingly, seeing him call Yamato by her first name (an indication of familiarity in Japanese culture) doesn’t make Takeo go ballistic. Rather, he sinks into a funk because he isn’t bold enough to do the same. His insecurities grow as he realizes how much fun Yamato’s having at her part-time job with Ichinose. Of course, Suna gets dragged along to listen to Takeo’s problems and stand witness to the funny effects this emotional blow has on him.

Then things get really heated when Ichinose outright demands Takeo give Yamato to him. It’s a hilarious interchange when Ichinose presses Takeo about his qualifications to be Yamato’s boyfriend and then makes his own pronouncements about the type of woman Takeo should be with. Again, even though Takeo could easily knock Ichinose into next week, he comes away from the encounter like a whipped dog.

Meanwhile, Yamato is completely oblivious to the turmoil she’s causing. She thinks Ichinose’s interest in her is solely professional while Ichinose interprets her unabashed praise of his work as confirmation that their feelings are mutual. Takeo’s pretty dense, but Yamato and Ichinose bring in their own comic brands of cluelessness as well.

For those familiar with the anime, the TV series followed this volume fairly closely but did omit a couple minor scenes, including one where Takeo’s friends come to invite him out. The omitted scenes aren’t critical to the narrative, but the pacing of the manga feels more natural compared to the corresponding anime episode.

Volume 9 is a bit short. It only contains three chapters, but they make up for it with an extra-long bonus story about Takeo and Sunakawa when they were in elementary school. Extras also include story thus far and notes from the creators.

In Summary

Gentle giant Takeo breaks more stereotypes when another guy demands that he break up with Yamamoto. Instead of squashing his rival shonen-style, Takeo gets depressed, wondering if he’s good enough for his girlfriend. Given how cute Yamato is, this arc has been a long time coming, but Takeo’s unexpected insecurities and Ichinose’s overconfidence make it a worthwhile one.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: My Little Monster Vol. 13

There’s the type of shojo manga where a girl really can envision herself as the heroine. And then there are those where the characters are constantly going off the deep end. My Little Monster falls into the latter category, and if your taste in high school romance leans toward the improbable and wacky, this title might be up your alley. Kodansha  has released Volume 13 of the English translation, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Shizuku and Haru have their happy ending, but what about their friends and family? Everyone is the hero of his or her own story. Sasayan, Natsume, Iyo, Yuzan—they all have their own tales to tell. What paths will they follow? Find out in this final volume of My Little Monster! Includes over 60 pages of extras after the story!

The Review

My Little Monster’s main arc ended in Volume 12, but the story isn’t quite over yet. Robico-sensei follows up with a hefty final volume comprised of four extra chapters and material from the My Little Monster Fan Book. While these extra chapters focus on the supporting cast, Shizuku/Haru fans should still pick this volume up because the setting for Extra Chapter 4 is Haru and Shizuku’s wedding. Given Haru’s family background, it winds up a huge western-style affair, and we get a rare chance to see Shizuku dressed up and out of her trademark pigtails.

Aside from the wedding portion, Extra Chapter 4 is also interesting because it follows the POV of younger brother Takaya, now a high school student. Though he appeared numerous times in the series, he rarely spoke or showed emotion. This story offers a look into his thoughts about his sister but, more importantly, delves into his surprisingly passionate feelings for the woman he’s in love with.

Love is also the theme for Extra Chapters 1 and 2, which focus on Sasayan and Iyo, respectively. Extra Chapter 1 revisits a number of past Natsume/Sasayan moments through Sasayan’s eyes. Extra Chapter 2, which is set shortly after the series end, is about Iyo’s obsession with “the red string of destiny” and an impromptu date with Yuzan.

Extra Chapter 3, which focuses on Yuzan, is a bit more complicated. It’s set just before Haru and Shizuku’s wedding so we get a glimpse of Yuzan’s political career, but much of the narrative has to do with the far past. If you’ve wanted more of the dysfunctional Yoshida family dynamic, this story is for you.

Following the extra chapters is the fan book material. Detailed character profiles for everyone from Shizuku to Sasayan’s baseball teammates make up the majority of this section, but it also includes mini-manga about Natsume’s daily life and the origins of the Kaimei Academy foursome. There are several four-panel comics, a couple games, and an overview of how the manga is produced as well.

In Summary

Past, present, and future are all covered in more than 200 pages of post-series extras. Four extra chapters focus on Sasayan, Iyo, Yuzan, and Takaya, but we get a pretty good idea of the entire cast’s happily ever when everyone convenes for Haru and Shizuku’s wedding. And if you’re interested in character details like Yamaken’s blood type, you’ll find it all in the fan book material at the very end.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Heiress and the Chauffeur Vol. 1

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

Back Cover Blurb

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

The Review

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Gods Lie

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

Back Cover Blurb

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

The Review

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

First published at the Fandom Post.