Tag Archives: shojo manga

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.

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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.

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.