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Manga Review: Beastars Vol. 02

Animal tales are often considered the purview of kids and fun fantasy. However, sometimes you’ll get one like Orwell’s Animal Farm, which is more a commentary about human society. Beastars also falls into that category, and you can read on for my review of Volume 2. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Dwarf rabbit Haru’s odd behavior causes wolf Legoshi to flee. He then learns that the Drama Club recruits new students with inner demons. What does their club president, red deer Louis, wrestle with? Before Legoshi can figure it out, Louis pressures him to face not only his own weaknesses but also his strengths. Legoshi’s character is truly put to the test when his onstage fight choreography with Bengal tiger Bill turns all too real. Has someone broken the school rules? And could the battle between Legoshi and Bill involve…rabbits?

The Review

Volume 1 ends with Legoshi unexpectedly encountering the rabbit he attacked during an errand for the Drama Club. In Volume 2, that scene progresses but not in the way you’d expect. Despite the injury to her arm, Haru doesn’t remember Legoshi’s attack. As such, she treats him like any other male student. As for Legoshi, he’s completely unaware of Haru’s reputation. So when Haru assumes he wants what every boy wants from her, it *ahem* comes as a shock to the innocent young wolf.

Haru’s upfront manner also took me by surprise. I had assumed the rumors about her were unfounded, that she was being unfairly slandered by that jealous harlequin rabbit. Judging from her interaction with Legoshi and a candid conversation between male students, she has slept with a number of herbivore guys and had no hesitation offering herself to a carnivore like Legoshi. I also got thrown off because I thought intimate relationships stayed within species, but I guess not? Anyway, although Haru’s been branded a slut, Legoshi sees her as a nice girl, which complicates his already complicated emotions about her.

Then the focus shifts back to the Drama Club, which is getting ready for its first performance of the year. Amid their frantic preparations, we learn that only beasts that have been deeply traumatized are invited to join that club. It is a strange criteria, and we’ve yet to meet to the advisor who supposedly scouts out these scarred kids. However, the information initiates speculation about what dark secret the seemingly perfect Louis could harbor.

The perspective then actually switches to Louis’ as he takes the stage for the play’s opening performance. We know he’s good at putting up an act on multiple levels. Now we get his unfiltered thoughts on his fellow students and circumstances as his plans go awry.

It’s pretty much a given that Louis’ hidden injury would eventually get out. The surprising twist is that Legoshi gets recruited to take the role vacated by Louis’ understudy Bill. Bill the Tiger is Legoshi’s polar opposite, and their different personalities make for gripping conflict on and off stage. It does get a little over the top when Louis inserts himself between the two clashing carnivores, but other than that, it demonstrates how tenuous the school’s herbivore/carnivore peace is.

Extras include character design notes, bonus comics, and the creator’s afterword.

In Summary

Things get awkward between Legoshi and the rabbit he nearly ate–but not the way you’d expect. Similarly, Louis’ injury forces last-minute changes in the school play, but not the way you’d expect. Itagaki-sensei does an excellent job keeping the plot interesting and heightening the tension at Academy with the emotional baggage of the main characters.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Promised Neverland Vol. #12

The Promised Neverland anime was a surprise favorite of mine for 2019. Its blend of mystery, suspense, and heart grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. For English-speaking fans who can’t wait to see what happens to Emma and their friends, they can read ahead in Viz’s translation of the manga. Read on for my review of Volume 12.

Back Cover Blurb

Life at Grace Field House is good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious food and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems…

With the demons of Goldy Pond finally defeated, Emma and the other children now focus on their next task—finding the Seven Walls. But it won’t be easy, especially with a dangerous new foe trying to hunt them down. Can Emma and Ray decrypt the ancient clues that will lead the children to true freedom?

The Review

The Goldy Pond arc went out with a literal bang, with bullets flying and the whole place blowing up. Now that the kids plus two adults are safely at the B06-32 shelter, the gears switch away from action to sleuthing and intrigue.

The mystery is twofold. First is the situation between the Minerva group and the Ratri Clan members that shut them down. The kids have extremely limited access to information on the human world, so they’re stuck making conjectures on what the actual situation is. Thing is, the Ratri Clan is also conjecturing about the escapees and their whereabouts. The creators do an excellent job keeping readers on the edge of their seats as Peter Ratri and his terrifying minion Andrew strive to sniff them out.

The second mystery is the Seven Walls, which they must locate if they want to attempt a new promise regarding the humans in the demon world. This starts off a lot like the trail of clues at Grace Field House, but then it takes a great leap in scope. The search involves distances that require months to cover. What this does is force a rapid progression of time; the events of Volume 12 span over a year and a half. As a result, the kids are pushed right up against their deadline to return for Phil and the remaining Grace Field kids by the end of the volume.

Another leap is that the Seven Walls investigation takes on a mystical aspect. Whereas before they obtained clues from those they encountered or gleaned them from books and objects, this time Emma gets overtaken by a vision. I wasn’t expecting the series to take a turn for the supernatural. Then again, elevators supposedly connect human and demon worlds, so why not?

After several chapters of furtive investigations, things get charged up again when Peter Ratri’s thugs invade the B06-32 shelter! It’s a compressed, more intense version of the battle at Goldy Pond. Once more, the kids get pushed to the brink, except this time their pursuers are other humans.

Extras include side scenes and the creators’ notes.

In Summary

Fans of the clue-tracking aspect of this series will enjoy the kids’ search for the Seven Walls. It’s a long investigation–over a year and a half! But the creators do a good job presenting events such that the pacing doesn’t get bogged down. Then it’s back to action and thrills when the Ratri Clan invades the shelter!

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Cats of the Louvre Vol. #1

Cats and cat-people are often used to bring an element of cuteness or fun to a manga. In Cats of the Louvre, Taiyo Matsumoto features felines with a rather different vibe. Read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

The world-renowned Louvre museum in Paris contains more than just the most famous works of art in history. At night, within its darkened galleries, an unseen and surreal world comes alive—a world witnessed only by the small family of cats that lives in the attic. Until now…

The Review

From the title, I thought this would be a collection of stories taken from the perspective of different Parisian cats. Turns out it’s just one story focused on one cat, but while the setting involves the actual building and artwork of the Louvre Museum, the tone is decidedly fantastical.

Old Marcel is a long time watchman at the Louvre. Having walked its halls for decades, he knows everything about it, including the secret community of cats in the museum attic. Most of them are ordinary animals who know to hide from the crowds below. However, little Snowbebe is so drawn by the artwork he can’t help from venturing downstairs.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be artsy. Partly because it’s set in the Louvre, and the mangaka has gone through tremendous effort to incorporate numerous aspects of the museum into the story. Partly because the plot centers on those who can hear “the voice of the paintings” and escape into the artwork.

And by escaping, I mean literally that. The souls with that talent have delicate temperaments. Unable to thrive and connect in the real world, they step through the picture frame into the scenes depicted within… and that’s about it.

Because the ones going into the paintings have no greater purpose than to enjoy the worlds they enter, the main tension stems from the trouble their behavior causes those around them. Oh, and the ability isn’t limited to humans. Thus we have Snowbebe’s trips to the museum’s display areas causing problems and arguments within the attic cat community. Unfortunately, Snowbebe’s spacey, self-absorbed personality makes it difficult to sympathize with him.

On the human side, we have Marcel trying to locate a sister who disappeared decades ago. However, he’s kind of gloomy and weird (who harbors eight cats in an unventilated attic?!) and Cecile, the tour guide who lends him assistance, is depressing too. The story’s not dark, but the cast’s personalities aren’t the most uplifting.

Speaking of cast, much of the cast are cats. When they interact with humans, they meow and look like cats. When they are alone, they take on anthropomorphic forms and exchange dialogue. Their behavior, however, is decidedly catlike. They spout random things, and when a spider that Snowbebe knows dies, Snowbebe mourns, then he eats the spider.

Regarding illustrations, they have a rough, cartoonish feel. Character designs are neither cute nor elegant. Expressions often have a level of distortion. The anthropomorphized animals especially have a psychedelic quality. Rather than using screentones, the mangaka uses hatching, and lines are squiggly and uneven. Overall, the artwork has the look of a draft, not a final product.

Extras include eight pages printed in color.

In Summary

The Louvre provides a grand setting for characters who transcend into artwork. However, it’s less of an exciting adventure into other dimensions and more of a gloomy investigation by the ordinary folk left behind. The art style is also lacking, and despite the fact that the story features famous art and architecture, the overall visual effect is underwhelming.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Way of the House Husband Vol. #1

As a manga trope, yakuza tend to be terrifying thugs or comical characters. Tatsu of The Way of the Husband definitely falls in the funny category. Read on for my review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

He was the fiercest member of the yakuza, a man who left countless underworld legends in his wake. They called him “the Immortal Dragon.” But one day he walked away from it all to travel another path — the path of the househusband! The curtain rises on this cozy yakuza comedy!

The Review

The cover blurb describes this title as a “cozy yakuza comedy,” but it’s more of a gag manga. As for the main running joke, the cover art for Volume 1 gives readers a pretty good sense of it.

Tatsu was the boss of the Shinzaki yakuza group. He had such a powerful reputation everyone feared him as the “Immortal Dragon.” But one day he left that life to devote himself to the way of the house husband. He’s completely turned over a new leaf! However, you can take a man out of the yakuza, but you cannot entirely take the yakuza out of the man…

The humor from the series stems not from the fact that Tatsu’s flubbing his new role as house husband. Rather he’s killing it. The problem is the ordinary folks around him think he’s killing other things/people as Tatsu strives to make a perfect home for his hard-working career-woman-and-otaku wife Miku and their cat Gin. Because even though his focus is on cooking, cleaning, and bargain-hunting, his look and manner of speaking remain that of a gangster.

As such, the laughs come partly from situations and partly from visuals. For instance, a neighbor asks him to babysit her son, so he does his best to entertain the kid… with gambling games. When he goes out, his garb consists of a flashy suit, sunglasses, and a housewife’s pet-themed apron on top. Oh, and he actually thinks he’s blending in as a normie throughout.

I should mention that the quality of Oono-sensei’s illustrations is excellent and consistent throughout. Everything from settings to clothes to food to the not infrequent brawls Tatsu winds up in is meticulously drawn and easy to follow. A lot of comedy arises from the juxtaposition of Tatsu’s true intentions and the reactions of those around him, and the character expressions do a wonderful job conveying the tension Tatsu causes wherever he goes.

One aspect the series feels lacking, however, is the plotting. The chapters are very short. In Volume 1’s 168 pages, we have nine chapters and three bonus manga. Each chapter is its own standalone story, and they end so quickly they’re more like sketches than stories. There’s no main arc driving the action, and thus far we’ve no backstory on why Tatsu chose to become a house husband or how he and his wife got together. (By the way, although his exit from the yakuza appears to be a relatively recent development, he and his wife are already past the honeymoon phase and give off the been-together-a-while vibe.)

This isn’t to say that the vignettes aren’t entertaining. They are, but if you’re hoping for a deep dive into Tatsu’s psyche or a strong plot, you won’t get it.

One more thing: the text includes no cultural notes. Unless you have an existing knowledge of yakuza and Japanese housewife stereotypes, you may have trouble getting the jokes. I understood most, but there were aspects of Miku’s birthday party that completely went over my head.

Extras include three bonus manga and the creator’s afterword.

In Summary

A yakuza house husband! The plot doesn’t dig too deep, but Oono-sensei’s excellent illustrations and wacky scenarios are quite funny. Although we get precious little about Tatsu’s backstory, it seems like it would be really interesting, and I hope we get some of that in future installments.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher Vol. #26

Mafuyu is a high school delinquent who wants to turn over a new leaf. So when she transfers schools, she thinks she’ll finally be able to live the life of a normal girl. There’s just one problem: her teacher  Mr. Saeki is a bigger delinquent than she is!

Oresama Teacher is a shojo manga that offers humor of the silly variety. Volume 26 has  been released, and you can read on for the review. (For those who are interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

Mafuyu’s homeroom teacher Mr. Maki isn’t just a conundrum, he’s also a kidnapper! Right when Mafuyu thought she was getting to the bottom of her missing memories, Mr. Maki spirited her away to an amazing mansion. While Mafuyu is a sucker for mansions, she does have a school to save. But she can’t escape on her own, and all her friends think she’s just home with a cold. Now her only choice is to rely on her enemy!

The Review

Mr. Maki’s exhibited some fairly odd behavior, and now he tops it all by kidnapping Mafuyu. Normally, a high school teacher abducting a student would be really creepy (not to mention illegal!). However, Tsubaki-sensei averts the creepy vibe, partly by making it a place from which Mafuyu could easily escape, partly by using the circumstances to progress her investigation of Mr. Maki, and partly by having Toko stumble upon the kidnapped Mafuyu.

As it turns out, Mr. Maki is a servant to Toko, and the place Mafuyu is held captive is the Hanabusa mansion. Interestingly, Mafuyu was not abducted at Toko’s orders, but that doesn’t mean Toko’s unhappy with the kidnapping. Rather, she seems amused to have someone in the house to mock (I guess rich people in this world don’t worry about legal implications) and goes to taunt Mafuyu whenever Mr. Maki isn’t around. But instead of being disheartened, Mafuyu is actually thrilled. She’s always wanted female friends, and her favorite female type is “an elegant, dignified rich girl.” As a result, no matter how demeaning Toko’s treatment, Mafuyu receives it joyfully, and the kidnapping turns into a bizarre situation where Mafuyu is pampered by Mr. Maki in posh surroundings and ingratiates herself to Toko.

It is through this turn of events that we get a major revelation on Mr. Maki’s past. Although Mafuyu spends much of her imprisonment letting Toko treat her like a dog, she does have a moment of bancho brilliance when she gets Toko to explain how Mr. Maki wound up in the Hanabusa household. And through Toko’s explanation, we also learn how she became the warped person she is.

Although this fills in a lot of blanks about Mr. Maki’s past, the one while he was at West High remains, and thanks to a convoluted pigeon letter exchange, this investigation falls to Takaomi. He returns to his old stomping grounds in Saitama, and it looks like there will be a fateful mingling of past and present as current and former Saitama delinquents cross paths.

Extras include Characters and The Story Thus Far, 4-panel comics, and a bonus chapter.

In Summary

Mafuyu gets kidnapped by Mr. Maki and winds up captive in the Hanabusa mansion! It’s kind of bizarre, but we’ve seen weird goings on in a rich family’s house before so it’s not out of character for this series. At any rate, an entire chapter gets devoted to Mr. Maki, the Hanabusa family, and the circumstances under which Toko grew up. Not all the details have been revealed, but we certainly get a lot in this volume.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Behind the Scenes Vol. #7

There are a LOT of anime and manga centered around glamorous idols and movie/TV stars, but what about the humble folk that do the grungy, tedious work behind the camera? The unseen teams charged with creating film sets, costumes, and props are the subject of Bisco Hatori’s Behind the Scenes!! Viz Media has released Volume 7, and you can read on for the review. (Reviews of previous volumes can be found here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The Art Squad has always felt like home to its members, but as their chief’s final year winds down, doubts begin to assail them all. Tomu worries he has no talent, Ruka decides to quit the club early to live up to family expectations, Izumi’s amnesia finally starts to get to him, and Maasa plans to give up zombies in order to find a man. Now it’s up to Ranmaru, the newest and most neurotic club member, to save the spirit of Art Squad!

The Review

This is the final volume of the series, and it’s a whirlwind rush to conclude the story’s various character arcs. First it starts with Tomu. Unlike the others in the Art Squad, he doesn’t have artistic talent, and his main contribution has been his dad’s garage space and his boundless energy. As it turns out, that boundless energy is a talent of its own in front of the camera, and he discovers his true calling when he gets scouted as a costume actor for an action film.

Next is Soh’s crush on Izumi. Although chit chat abounds about stage work, these chapters take place against the backdrop of an outdoor barbeque and a fireworks festival. Ultimately, Soh resolves to get over Izumi by agreeing to a date with another boy, an event which has both her and Ranmaru freaking out. While it’s fun to watch the squad keep Soh’s outing from turning into a disaster, her resulting interest in Ranmaru feels forced and somewhat squicky. (They are cousins, after all.)

Then the focus turns to Ruka when she tells the squad she’s quitting after the school festival. No sooner has she made the announcement than she gets slammed with costume and hair requests. This two-chapter arc is part Ruka resolving her family issues, part Art Squad team effort, and part Goda fessing up to his feelings for Ruka. Of those three elements, the third is the most subtle (a bit too subtle, IMO) but delivers the biggest payoff in the end.

The last chapter is a final tying off of loose ends with Goda finishing his script at last and directing his film. The film’s production winds up the catalyst for good things for everyone in the Art Squad, and to eliminate any doubt about their happy futures, Hatori-sensei concludes with a five-page glimpse six years into the future.

Extras include mini-profiles on the mangaka’s assistants, embedded notes from the creator, glossary, and author bio.

In Summary

It’s a wrap for Behind the Scenes!! Rather than focus on the production of any one film project, these chapters are mainly geared toward providing closure to romantic elements. The one exception is the final chapter which relates the making of Goda’s film, and mixed up in the backstage chaos are key moments that set the trajectory of the squad members’ varied futures. Parts feel rushed, especially Soh’s abrupt change in love interest. Otherwise, there’s plenty of success and happily-ever-afters to go around in this conclusion.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Beastars Vol. 01

Animal tales are often considered the purview of kids and fun fantasy. However, sometimes you’ll get one like Orwell’s Animal Farm, which is more a commentary about human society. Beastars also falls into that category, and you can read on for my review of Volume 1. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

One night at Cherryton Academy, an herbivore student is brutally murdered. Among the members of the Drama Club, the herbivores’ suspicions naturally turn to their carnivore classmates… The prime suspect? Wolf Legoshi. But he wouldn’t hurt a fly. Or would he? Will dwarf rabbit Haru bring out the beast in him? Or are his feelings for her something else?

The Review

Cherrystone Academy is a school where herbivore and carnivore animals attend class side-by-side in peace. At least, until alpaca student and drama club star Tem is found murdered on campus. Herbivores immediately suspect their carnivore classmates, and the one who draws the most suspicion is drama club stagehand Legoshi the wolf. But even though Legoshi’s big, he’s far from bad; he’s a law-abiding citizen if there ever was one. Unfortunately, as the drama club struggles to prepare their next performance in the wake of Tem’s death, Legoshi gets dragged into one conflict after another, causing a savage bloodlust to stir in the mild-mannered wolf’s veins.

The mangaka mentions in the afterword, “This is a animal manga that is a human drama.” And it is. The cast are animals who get categorized by and retain key traits of their species, but they all walk on two legs, have hands with opposable thumbs, speak a common language, and wear school uniforms. Within the student body, you can identify the school bullies, elitist machinator, jealous wannabe, and social outcast. Our main character Legoshi is the epitome the scary-looking guy who’s completely misunderstood. After all, he literally is a big wolf, and classmates assume he’s bad to boot.

The story begins with Tem’s murder, and Chapter 1 is dedicated to an herbivore’s perspective of Legoshi’s suspicious actions the next day. However, rather than turning into a murder mystery, the plot focus shifts to the impact on Tem’s club. The drama club kids aren’t playing detective; they’re trying to put on a theater production, and they have to find a replacement for Tem. Thus we have an engaging mix of school and club politics on top of the carnivore/herbivore tension, and unfortunately for Legoshi, he gets unwillingly dragged into it all.

Cherrystone Academy is essentially an allegory for a heterogeneous community, and the rules that maintain peace between the animals represent the social standards that maintain order between varied people groups. As in our world, individuals at Cherrystone must keep their personal urges in check for the greater good. And just as circumstances in this world can drive some to give way to their baser urges, the antagonism of Legoshi’s classmates causes a predatory instinct to erupt within the young wolf, and his struggle to master that hitherto unknown bloodthirst looks like it’ll be an intriguing one.

The artwork, I should mention, is not this series’ strong suit. In the spectrum of manga art, this definitely falls in the ”rough” range. The style is scribbly and includes a lot of hatch marks. The animals are cartoony rather than cute or elegant, and certain species, especially smaller mammals, are difficult to tell apart.

Extras include character design notes, bonus comics, and the creator’s afterword.

In Summary

Beastars begins with a murder but winds up relating the internal conflict that results when an individual must suppress his innate nature to be accepted by society. Legoshi is a likable main character, and it is surprisingly easy to sympathize with the misunderstood wolf as he deals with distrustful classmates and a manipulative club officer. The premise of carnivores wanting to live in peace with herbivore comrades and choosing to subsist on bean-based burgers is a little farfetched though.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Everyone’s Getting Married Vol. 9

Most romances in Viz Media’s Shojo Beat line are targeted toward a high school audience, but Everyone’s Getting Married is actually aimed toward older readers. It’s twenty-something angst instead of teen angst, and you can read on for the review of Volume 9. (For the reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Successful career woman Asuka Takanashi has an old-fashioned dream of getting married and becoming a housewife. After her long-term boyfriend breaks up with her to pursue his own career goals, she encounters popular newscaster Ryu Nanami. Asuka and Ryu get along well, but the last thing he wants is to ever get married. This levelheaded pair who want the opposite things in life should never get involved, except…

The Review

As you might guess from the cover art, this is the final installment of the series, and yes, Asuka and Ryu join the ranks of the married. However, the way this romance concludes is a real disappointment.

It opens with a promising start. Asuka tells Ryu they’re breaking up and refuses to change her mind. While Ryu’s stewing about this overseas, Kamiya makes a move to take Asuka home on a stormy night. Asuka’s emotionally vulnerable, and as Kamiya responds to that, you can feel the sparks flying between them. But Asuka can’t stop comparing Kamiya to Ryu, and the scene ends in a handshake. Personally, I think the comparison should drive her into Kamiya’s arms, but if she’s going to pass him up because she can’t get Ryu out of her head, then Ryu needs to do something spectacular to get her back.

Unfortunately, that spectacular effort doesn’t materialize. The most telling lines are Ryu saying, “To me, Asuka, you’re no less important than my work,” juxtaposed against Asuka’s thought, “Ryu is the most important.” Ryu finally returns for a visit but almost immediately gets orders to return to Washington so Asuka’s the one rushing to see him. Then he says that he’ll honor Asuka’s feelings—by focusing on work and waiting for her. (That’s no different than what he was already doing!) And even though there’s no proposal or promise of marriage, Asuka’s heart wavers toward him.

It gets worse. The story fast-forwards three years. Rio has changed her mind on marriage and is marrying Hiroki while Asuka, although she still desires marriage, doesn’t seem to have dated anyone since Ryu. Of course, Asuka and Ryu run into each other at the wedding. They haven’t kept in touch, and as they have their first conversation in three years, Ryu proposes to Asuka. One might argue that this is romantic because Ryu hasn’t been able to forget Asuka after three years. However, he also hasn’t done a thing for her in three years. He says he focused on work for her sake, but those words ring hollow considering how he put work before her throughout their courtship. Yet despite having been ignored three years, Asuka readily accepts the proposal, no hesitation.

The last chapter depicts the couple’s “happy ending.” Just as Ryu’s changed his mind on marriage, Asuka’s changed her mind on what she wants her married life to look like, and somehow everything beautifully works out. Even so, Ryu keeps doing stuff that makes me want to scream at Asuka to call the wedding off.

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

In Summary

The series concludes as most romances do with a joyful wedding. However, Ryu doesn’t put in the effort to earn Asuka at all. A male lead who completely drops out of a woman’s life for three years and returns to the scene expecting her to marry him isn’t at all compelling. As for Asuka, I find myself wondering about her judgment rather than being happy for her.

First published at The Fandom Post.

 

Manga Review: Shortcake Cake Vol. 01

suu Morishita is a manga creator duo, and their slice of life series Shortcake Cake is being released by Viz Media. Read on for my review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

Ten Serizawa has a two-hour commute through the mountains to high school every day, so she can’t spend much time hanging out with her friends in the afternoon. She decides to move into the local boardinghouse, where one of her friends and three other boys are living. Ten’s friends consider her to be as oblivious as a rock when it comes to noticing boys and falling in love, but will she be able to keep her calm and steady heart in her new living situation?

The Review

Because I’m a shojo manga fan, Viz’s Shojo Beat titles generally have at least some amount of appeal for me, and I’ve enjoyed several series with “ordinary girl” protagonists. As such, I was surprised to find Shortcake Cake such a disappointment.

To start, the plot is hardly a page turner. Our main character Ten is a freshman from Ryunohara, which is a two-hour bus ride from the nearest high school. Her schoolmate Ageha is also from Ryunohara, but she stays at a local boarding house to avoid the commute. After spending the night with Ageha at the boarding house and meeting its residents, Ten decides to move in there, too.

This opening scenario could have delivered conflict and drama to engage the reader, but it doesn’t. Moving out might be unusual for most teenagers, but in Ten’s rural community, it’s no big deal, everyone does it. Her parents have no problem with her moving away, and paying for her room and board isn’t a financial burden. Yes, there are boys living at the boarding house, but the girls are not overwhelmingly outnumbered (once Ten moves in, the house boards three boys and three girls). Plus there is a live-in house mother to enforce the rules. As such, the opening chapter ends up being a long-winded introduction to Ten’s housemates.

Without any major (or minor) external conflicts, it’s up to character relationships to carry the story forward. Unfortunately, they’re not all that interesting. Ten’s female friends are all bland friendly types. As for her male housemates, we have a stereotypical bespectacled nerd, a flirty Casanova, and a gorgeous intellectual. It eventually becomes clear that the plot will center around these boys’ interest in the main character. The problem is Ten’s not outstanding at all. Her looks are on par with the other female boarders; she has no goal she’s trying to accomplish or challenge she needs to overcome; and while she is not antisocial, her personality is pretty dull. As a result, I have trouble warming up to her as a main character. So when Riku, the resident playboy, instantly falls for her, it feels completely forced.

In addition to the lackluster narrative, the artwork is also unimpressive. The only difference between the two resident lookers Riku and Chiaki is a minor variation in their bangs, so in group scenes, I had trouble telling which boy was which. Also, the illustrator frequently uses mini-eyes and mini-faces in dialogue bubbles to indicate the speaker, but except for Yuto the singular glasses character, they are all so similar that I’m still left guessing as to who is talking.

Extras include an afterword, bonus mini-manga, and title page collection at the end of the book. Oddly, there are no footnotes or translation notes despite a number of cultural references.

In Summary

I usually enjoy Shojo Beat titles, so I was unexpectedly underwhelmed by this one. The heroine Ten is neither engaging nor inspiring, and without any real conflict or believable chemistry between the characters, the plot is boring. I can’t recommend the illustrations on this one either. Shortcake Cake doesn’t have offensive or inappropriate content, but without real substance, it doesn’t have much to like either.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher Vol. #23

Mafuyu is a high school delinquent who wants to turn over a new leaf. So when she transfers schools, she thinks she’ll finally be able to live the life of a normal girl. There’s just one problem: her teacher  Mr. Saeki is a bigger delinquent than she is!

Oresama Teacher is a shojo manga that offers humor of the silly variety. Volume 23 has  been released, and you can read on for the review. (For those who are interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

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

The Review

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

First published at the Fandom Post.