Tag Archives: Yen press

Manga Review: Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts Vol. 7

The theme of love transcending appearances is a popular one in fairy tales, and Yen Press’ Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts fits that genre. The fantasy manga tells of the relationship between a girl and her beastly fiance, and you can read on for the review of Volume 7. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

At last, Sariphi is able to carry out her first official job as Acting Queen Consort-giving a royal blessing to the newborn prince of the nation of Sarbul. That same night, Leonhart whisks her away to a place far from prying eyes. Once they’re alone, he tells Sariphi of his tumultuous past, which only deepens their bond. But just when Sariphi believes she and Leo can overcome anything together, a new duty may pull the two apart…

The Review

The Sarbul arc looked pretty much wrapped up with Sari and Leo rescuing the brash Princess Tetra. However, it extends two more chapters. As it turns out, the neglect suffered by Tetra not only allows Sari a path to reach out to the lonely princess, it dredges up painful childhood memories for Leo.

The mystery of Leo’s human form has been a mystery from the start. When I read on the back flap teaser that Leo “tells Sariphi of his tumultuous past,” I eagerly expected to learn the secret behind his parentage.

Unfortunately, that secret remains one. Turns out Leo has no siblings and no memory of his mother. He’s completely ignorant of his human origins, but his father was fully aware of and took pains to hide that aspect of Leo. Thus, we merely get more cold-hearted parenting and awful childhood memories, which is turning into a repeated theme for this series.

We then get a single-chapter interlude of Sari expressing her love and concern for Leo through the timeless medium of food before the story moves on to her next assignment as acting queen. This challenge is twofold. One, she must ratify the new lord of the city of Maasya without Leo’s company. Two, she must select a captain to lead her personal bodyguard.

I thought Anubis had softened somewhat towards Sari, but the manner in which he foists this task onto her indicates otherwise. Despite the supposed importance of the captain selection, Anubis gives Sari virtually no time to make her choice before rushing her out the door to Maasya. At any rate, we get new character Lante added to the cast.

Lante is a hyenafolk, whose tongue perpetually hangs out in a really distracting way. That aside, he draws nearly as much suspicion as Sari. Once more we get a chunk of hitherto unknown history and prejudices within Ozmargo. While it’s fine that Lante is a bit of a double edged sword, Sari’s personality feels inconsistent in her interactions with him. With Tetra, she was a trusting fluff-head who couldn’t interpret Tetra’s vindictive actions as anything but play. With Lante, she’s aware of his sketchy motivations from the get go and makes the conscious decision to trust him in spite of everyone else’s doubts. At any rate, she’s well on her way continuing the pattern of winning beastfolk hearts despite their universal hatred of humans.

Extras include embedded author’s notes about the characters, bonus sketches, and the bonus manga, “The Beast Princess and the Regular Servant.”

In Summary

We get a glimpse of Leo’s childhood but, disappointingly, no revelation on his human roots. Rather, Tomofuji-sensei gives yet another portrayal of a rejected child before continuing with Sari’s next challenge. Although the test ostensibly is to execute royal duties without Leo’s supportive presence, ultimately it boils down to the same formula of her conquering beastpeople’s prejudices about her.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Saga of Tanya the Evil Vol. #08

The Saga of Tanya the Evil anime was a surprise favorite for me in 2017. With a title like that, I was almost too scared to give it a try, but conniving little Tanya turned out to be nothing like I anticipated. Yen Press has released Volume 08 of the manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of other Tanya the Evil works, click here.)

The Review

This volume, like Volume 7, kicks off with a glimpse of the divine. However, rather than an interaction with humans, the divine forces discuss among themselves the most effective means to manipulate humanity. These characters are depicted as a rather jarring collection of religious figures. Fortunately, the interlude is brief, and we quickly return to Tanya’s battle against Colonel Sue’s aerial unit.

Unlike the anime, where Tanya kills the Colonel without much trouble, he puts up a serious fight, and Tanya only survives due to luck and Imperial reinforcements (who thankfully are considerate enough to show up with a spare coat for the naked Major). From the Tanya/Sue dogfight, the action zooms out to the positions of the 203rd unit. Then it takes a further step back to a macro level perspective for the Imperial Northern Sea Fleet’s invasion and the tremendous damage they dish out to the Alliance troops. Overall, Tojo-sensei does an excellent job conveying the fight’s progression and the chaos wreaked upon Os.

Having survived the Battle of Osfjord, Anson Sue handily provides a window into two groups within the defeated country: the ordinary citizenry and the politicians. The loss of their homeland is inevitable, so the Colonel arranges for his family to escape the country, and we witness his touching farewell to his wife and daughter Mary. Mary doesn’t do much but smile and look charming, but quite a few pages are devoted to her introduction. Oddly, even though the Entente Alliance is a northern country and it is December, she frolics in a meadow in a spring dress. Even odder, she’s half her mother’s height, which makes her look twelve at most, but she’s drawn with a C-cup bust. That aside, the manga shows the means by which Mary obtains her submachine gun present to her father, a detail that was not included in the anime or novel.

As for Colonel Sue, he’s stuck with carrying out his defeated government’s plans to continue the fight against the Empire. With the enemy closing in, the Entente politicians desperately reach out to the Albion Commonwealth. The two countries scheme to smuggle out a high-level Entente official for the purpose of establishing a government in exile, and Colonel Sue is assigned to accompany that official out. Although it’s somewhat dense, the diagram that explains the Alliance and Commonwealth plan to get around the Imperial naval blockade is super helpful. By the way, this arc was part of the light novel but not the anime, and I look forward to seeing Tojo-sensei’s visual interpretation of it.

Extras include battle log thus far, character introductions and detailed glossary of terms between chapters.

In Summary

Aerial dogfights, battleship salvos, and marine landings, oh my! Military buffs will get their fill of action in the conclusion of the attack on the Osfjord. Then the cloak and dagger types will get their turn as the Alliance schemes with the Commonwealth to smuggle out a high level official to form a government in exile. The focus is less on Tanya and more on the plight of her defeated enemy, but the narrative remains a compelling one.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 18

The contrast between city and rural life has been a source of entertainment since the time of Aesop’s fables. It remains a popular subject in manga and anime today, and joining the ranks of Silver Nina, Non Non Biyori, and Silver Spoon is Yen Press’ series Barakamon. Read on for my review of Volume 18! (For my reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

It’s been a year since Handa arrived on the island, and a lot has changed for the residents of Nanatsutake Village. Hiroshi’s in Tokyo, Miwa and her friends have graduation on their minds, and Naru and her classmates are going into their second year of elementary school. With everyone looking to the future, the time to say goodbye approaches in the final volume of Barakamon.

The Review

It’s been a year since Handa arrived at the island, and this final installment notes how the characters have moved forward over that time. Some progressions are mundane. The kids advance another grade in school but are otherwise exactly the same. The notable exception is Tama, who achieves a significant milestone when her work gets published as an honorable mention in a manga contest. The subject of that work, however, is a massive detour from her usual genre and turns into a bit of a running joke.

Unlike Tama, who’s been diligently working at her mangaka dream, Miwa has been more a giant goof-off, but in this final volume, Miwa decides to become a brewer. Because she’s the flaky type, I took it as a joke at first, but apparently she’s serious. (Or as serious as Miwa can get.) I found it rather sudden, nearly as sudden as her dad shutting down his store to take a job on Yuuichirou’s ship. Overall, the timing feels odd because there wasn’t foreshadowing for either development, and because the series is ending, we don’t actually get to see Miwa set out on the path of the brewer or how she adjusts to life without her dad at home.

An arc that actually achieves a kind of resolution, however, is the relationship between Naru and her dad. Theirs is definitely not the typical parent-child dynamic, but it starts to shift in that direction with some help from Miwa and Handa. Unfortunately, it is not entirely satisfying because we never get any information on Naru’s mom, nor does Naru show any interest in learning about her.

As for Handa, this final installment has him growing into his calligraphy teacher role although he remains as immature as his students. This is evidenced by the final chapter in which the now second-grade kids designate Handa their substitute first-grader at the school’s first years welcome party. While the villagers have become accustomed to Handa and he’s found a way to support himself, he hasn’t changed that much.

Extras include translation notes.

In Summary

The series concludes! It doesn’t exactly go out with a whimper, but it’s not a strong finish. Some loose ends get wrapped up, like Naru’s relationship with her dad, but Yoshino-sensei oddly chooses to introduce a couple new elements with the story about to close. As for our main character Handa, he merely exhibits his usual immature behavior for the last chapters.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 11

Kaoru Mori is best known for  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 11 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Having reached his destination in Ankara, Smith is not only reunited with his old friend, but also Talas, the woman he briefly stayed with on his journey. An agreement was made, and now Smith must travel back to Amir and Karluk with his new companions and newly acquired camera. However, the roads back are perilous as war approaches…

The Review

Volume 11 opens with Chapter 70, “Song of Midwinter.” Rather than a narrative, this chapter is a gorgeous montage of single and double-page illustrations depicting different winter scenes in town and on the plains. There’s no dialogue, but captions following Amir’s perspective provide almost poetic descriptions.

Then the story returns to the reunited lovers, Mr. Smith and Talas. As it turns out, their meeting in Ankara was not entirely the result of serendipity. The clock winds back to show the highlights of their relationship from Talas’ perspective. For such a quiet character, she’s remarkably determined and passionate. Equally remarkable is the husband her uncle forced her to marry. Not only does he sympathize with her heartache, he helps her journey to Ankara to look for Smith. When they don’t immediately find him there, Talas sells off her jewelry to prolong their stay. It’s a mind-boggling step of faith, especially considering there was zero coordination between Talas and Smith.

But fate has rejoined them, which causes new problems. Smith’s no-nonsense British compatriot Hawkins is quite vocal about the disapproval their marriage would stir in England. Talas, for her part, is oddly diffident in this discussion. The woman has literally given up her whole world to go after Smith, and after all that sacrifice, she says she’s content to be used as a servant? Perhaps that is an accurate characterization of a nineteenth century Central Eurasian woman, but from my Western perspective, her attitude is perplexing.

At any rate, despite the tensions brewing in the region, Smith resolves to travel back through Persia to take photographs. And despite the danger and uncertainty, Talas chooses to accompany him. There is no wedding, but once again, the two exchange promises and a token of their love.

That resolved, Smith and company make preparations, which include a chapter-long lesson in 19th-century photography. The wet collodion process is a lengthy, material-intensive endeavor involving various implements and chemicals. It’s largely the mixing of various compounds, so it’s less visually stimulating than the chapters on sewing or falconry, but if you are curious about early photography, it lays out the steps very clearly. When Smith finally leaves Ankara, he’s gained a couple camels, one fiancée, and the guard Nikolovsky on loan from Hawkins. The additional people bring a new dynamic to Smith’s travels, and considering Talas and Nikolovsky are tough, reliable individuals, spacey Mr. Smith appears to be in better hands than ever.

One more thing. For fun, Mori-sensei throws in a chapter about the watch that was Smith’s original engagement pledge to Talas. The journey carries the tone of a tall tale as the watch acquires a reputation so grand that Smith is gobsmacked when he chances upon it again.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.

In Summary

A renewal of vows, a lesson in 19th-century photography, and then it’s back on the road for Smith. This time, however, Talas accompanies him on his expedition to take pictures of the Persian interior. Not the most romantic start to their life together, but with Smith intending to visit all the towns he’d passed through, it looks like we’ll see the happily-ever-afters of all the brides in this series.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Royal Tutor Vol. 12

Rich, handsome young men, each with his own distinct personality…this type of bishounen cast is a staple in shojo manga. And if you like yours with a generous helping of chibi humor, you should definitely check out Higasa Akai’s The Royal Tutor. Read on for my review of Volume 12. (For my reviews of other volumes click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

When Leonhard receives an invitation to the Kingdom of Fosein from Prince Claude, the princes set off on their first big trip together. Will this trip give Leonhard the opportunity to put his new language skills to some good use, or will he sink to his usual aggression?

The Review

Volume 11 closed with a tense moment between Bruno and Count Rosenberg. However, as Akai-sensei’s done previously, rather than escalate matters with the princelings’ most formidable antagonist, the mood quickly reverts to lighter fare. First with a conversation between Kai and Bruno about their experiences away from home, then an absolute deep dive into silliness in a single chapter story about the king’s facial hair.

Next, cute Prince Claude returns to the story in a three-chapter arc that takes place in Fosein. Yes, the Granzreich princes leave the palace again, but this time three of them go together and for leisure rather than work/training. This means there are no lessons, although the trip expands the horizons of the mostly sheltered princelings. Basically, we get lots of fun illustrations of the princes in civilian clothes playing tourist in Fleur, a city styled after Paris.

Although three the Granzreich princes are on this trip, the focus is mainly on Leonhard. In contrast to most Leonhard-centric chapters, this arc demonstrates that the study-averse prince can excel at a subject if sufficiently motivated. It also shows that the honesty of an adorable child can demolish the hotheaded prince’s pride.

Then the trip ends, and the story shifts to Licht out among the commoners. His job has kept him busy, especially with the opening of the second Café Mitter Meyer. It’s an occasion for celebration, but the mood plummets when vandals plague the business. This arc is less about Licht himself and more about the challenges faced by his employer, who turns out to be part of an ethnic minority. The unknown hooligans and their motives have my interest piqued for this arc, and the second café’s newly hired manager Herman offers readers new eye candy.

Extras include bonus manga, afterword, and first page printed in color.

In Summary

Kai and Bruno return from their journeys of self-betterment–just to leave with Leonhard on another trip outside the palace. This time, though, the three are traveling as tourists, and adorable Prince Claude acts as their guide to beautiful Fosein. However, this installment’s not all fluff and fun. Although Licht is enjoying the commoner life, his eyes also open to its rougher side when his place of employment becomes the target of vandals.

First published at The Fandom Post.

 

Light Novel Review: Saga of Tanya the Evil Vol. #06

The Saga of Tanya the Evil anime was a surprise favorite for me in 2017. With a title like that, I was almost too scared to give it a try, but conniving little Tanya turned out to be nothing like I anticipated. Yen Press has released Volume 6 of the light novel adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other Tanya the Evil works, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Through the bone-chilling winter wind, the clashes of war can be heard. Equipped with fragile weapons and machinery, Tanya and her unit march toward the Eastern front. There, Tanya realizes the primitiveness of it all, and that it’ll take more than a miracle to emerge unscathed…

The Review

As with the previous volume, this one begins with Tanya on the Eastern Front dealing with a dilemma. Whereas before the Salamander Kampfgruppe was struggling against guerrilla attacks, it’s now contending against a greater, nondiscriminating enemy: winter. Although they do have the assistance of the newly formed Council for Self-Government, their collaboration is mostly in name only. Yet Tanya once again sees through the mess of problems and to find solutions that protect her forces and cement relations with the Council for Self-Government. While her insights aren’t as revolutionary as the not-everyone-in-the-Federation-is-a-Commie realization of last time, watching her rational brain deal with the challenges that beset her still makes for an engaging read.

Of course, the Commies aren’t taking the PR fallout from the formation of the Council for Self-Government lying down. They counter with their own campaign: a multinational mage unit to display their international ties. Leading this unit are Colonel Drake of the Commonwealth and Colonel Mikel, recently a resident of a Federation concentration camp, and embedded in their group is Lieutenant Mary I’m-gonna-kill-the-Devil-of-the-Rhine Sue. Perspectives on the anti-Imperial side have bounced from character to character throughout the series, but that role looks like it’s going to be carried by this threesome moving forward.

This is a nice development because we’ll actually get a chance to truly get acquainted and attached to the people stuck with carrying out the orders of Commonwealth and Federation. Despite being representatives of very different ideologies, Drake and Mikel hit it off right away. Both are talented mages with a keen understanding of the political forces that have teamed them up. With a Communist political officer attached to watch the multinational unit’s every move, the two men are continually thrust into situations where they must put on a show for the Commies so that Mikel doesn’t get tossed back into the concentration camps.

While the Mikel and Drake walk a political tightrope to keep themselves and their subordinates alive, Mary tears about like the proverbial bull in a china shop. She might’ve gotten sympathy points before as the bereaved daughter of a fallen Entente Alliance mage, but now she’s just a thoughtless officer causing trouble for everyone around her. If Tanya has an antithesis, Mary is it. She’s fighting for completely personal reasons, has no regard for rules and procedure, and despite the line in the narrative, “[Mary] wasn’t a girl who couldn’t read the room,” Mary really can’t read any perspective but her own. Any appearance of Mary inevitably causes a headache for her commander Drake, and I’m groaning right alongside him.

As far as the broader scope of the continental conflict goes, things get muddled further when the kingdom of Ildoa does some saber-rattling. The introduction of a potential new player on the current theater of war turns the narrative into a bit of a slog. Zen-sensei’s tendency toward untagged dialogue and minimal setting descriptions, unfortunately, means that all the conjecturing about Ildoa’s intent and motives results in confusion rather than an aura of intrigue. As such, I look forward to the manga’s version of these events to clarify the situation for me.

Extras include map and fold-out illustration in color; appendixes of the history timeline and general commentary; author afterword; and six black-and-white illustrations.

In Summary

Characters on both sides keep the story lively with challenges physical and political. We still have Tanya struggling to compensate for the gap between General Staff’s view of things and reality, but now the Commonwealth’s Drake also provides a similar perspective as a commander in the multinational mage unit. The high level scope of the growing continental conflict unfortunately remains a difficult read, but the scenes of those in the trenches cut straight to the heart.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Manga Review: Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts Vol. #6

The theme of love transcending appearances is a popular one in fairy tales, and Yen Press’ Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts fits that genre. The fantasy manga tells of the relationship between a girl and her beastly fiance, and you can read on for the review of Volume 6. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The Grand Consecration to celebrate the founding of the Kingdom of Ozmargo is nigh…but the king of beasts remains in his human form despite the dawn! Thanks to Sariphi’s quick thinking, disaster is averted and the ceremony goes off without a hitch, prompting Chancellor Anubis to declare an end to Sariphi’s trials. But having assumed the role of Acting Queen, Sariphi is faced with her first job…which just might turn out to be insurmountable!

The Review

Volume 6 begins with the conclusion of the consecration arc. Surprisingly, although the judge Set injected an insidious air right before the arc’s climax, he doesn’t appear at all during Leo’s consecration speech or the falling action. Even so, Set left enough of an impression that he’s likely to cause problems in the future. As for Leo and Sariphi, an unexpected outcome results from the incident: Anubis appoints Sari as acting queen consort.

It seems like a big win for Sari, but when Anubis lays out the conditions of the position, the concession merely sounds like a continuation of her queen trials only with higher stakes. So even though she now has a title, her newfound standing grants her no security. Thus, her fight for acceptance in the beast realm continues.

The narrative then takes a single-chapter detour to focus on another couple. Although Princess Amit’s feelings for the dashing Jormungand continues to be one-sided, her maidenly fluster is plenty entertaining as she waffles over whether to wish him well on his next military assignment. And as always, her toothy looks provide a humorous contrast to her blushing personality.

Then it’s back to Leo and Sari as they head to Ozmargo’s protectorate, the nation of Sarbul, for Sari’s first official duty as acting queen consort. The decision to instate her has not been a popular one, and Sari must confront the prejudices of the population at large. Leo’s authority keeps the behavior of adult beastfolk in check, but that restraint doesn’t extend to children.

Whereas Sari had to win over a battle-hardened geezer a couple volumes ago, now she must deal with a bratty kid. Princess Tetra abounds with smart remarks, which is to be expected. However, her threat to make a suicidal leap is not, and the parallels drawn between Queen Calra and Sari’s substitute mother feel forced.

Extras include embedded author’s notes about the characters and the bonus manga, “The Beast Princess and the Regular Princess.”

In Summary

Sariphi’s trials come to an end! Well, not really. She attains the role of acting queen consort, but there’s no security in the position whatsoever. As such, even though her new title supposedly means that she and Leo can face the challenges of the crown together, the story still continues with the theme of Sariphi having to convince beastkind that humans aren’t awful.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Saga of Tanya the Evil Vol. #07

The Saga of Tanya the Evil anime was a surprise favorite for me in 2017. With a title like that, I was almost too scared to give it a try, but conniving little Tanya turned out to be nothing like I anticipated. Yen Press has released Volume 07 of the manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of other Tanya the Evil works, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

With undeniable wit and charisma, Tanya manages to charm her way into the warmth of the office…not. When an order for a military march launches the dumbfounded Degurechaff into the freezing depths of winter, fluffy pillows and five course meals are the last thing on her mind…That is, until the Major discovers another tempting course of action…

The Review

I commented in my review of Volume 6 that Being X has been absent a while. Well, apparently he doesn’t want us to forget him because he pops in at the opening of Volume 7. Although the chapter is titled “Norden VI,” nearly half of it is Tanya’s reflections on her previous world and the philosophies and events that formed her character. In the midst of this walk down memory lane, Being X interrupts with images of a life the Japanese salaryman could’ve had. The interaction between divine and mortal is brief, but in addition to the usual spite and venom that reaffirms our main character’s disgust toward his creator, we also see a rare instant of vulnerability.

Then it’s back to Norden and the winter offensive so hotly debated in the previous volume. Tanya calculated that such a push would only wear down the Empire’s already ragged resources, but General Staff is treating the Northern Army’s offense as part of a larger plan to subdue the Regadonia Alliance. Tanya piecing together the top-secret attack through her conversation with von Rudersdorf is covered in all three incarnations of this story, and as usual, the manga provides the clearest version. Whereas the anime breezes through the massive pincer plan too quickly and the novel’s narrative is a bit hard to comprehend, the manga’s depiction of the von Rudersdorf interchange followed by a cartoon outline spells out the operation in understandable terms. Granted, the outline is somewhat dense, but that’s only because so many elements are involved in the multipronged attack.

Having explained what the imperial forces are about to do, preparing to execute it is the next order of business. Thus far, we’ve only seen Army forces at work, and in “Norden VII” we get a first glimpse of the Navy. Despite the tension of the impending fight, these scenes are good for giggles. In addition to the usual contrast between Tanya’s train of thought and those of the adults around her, Tojo-sensei has fun with the character designs of the imperial sailors. (Battleship Yamato anyone?)

The volume concludes with the start of the strike on Os. While the illustrations deliver excitement with clarity per usual, they also included an artistic choice that made me really uncomfortable.  Not to say that getting one’s clothes shredded is an impossibility in combat, but it just seems wrong when Tanya’s the only one fighting naked in a zone filled almost entirely with adult men. I really wish Tojo-sensei had let her stay clothed or leveled the field by making everyone naked.

Extras include battle log thus far, character introductions and detailed glossary of terms between chapters.

In Summary

General Staff chooses to make a winter offensive on Norden! But before the fight begins, the narrative delves into the strategic nitty gritty of what the higher ups really have in mind for this seemingly foolish attack. While we don’t get any combat scenes till the very end of the volume, the lead-up to the fighting plus a glimpse into Tanya’s previous life keeps things engaging.

First published at the Fandom Post.

 

 

 

Manga Review: Dive!! Vol. 3

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics around the corner, there’s bound to be an interest in sports manga about Olympic hopefuls. Dive!! is one such title, and you can read on for the review of Volume 3. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The Japanese delegates for the Tokyo Olympics have been selected…and Youichi’s gotten the ticket of his dreams! When the motives behind the JASF’s premature decision come to light, though, Youichi is completely thrown off his game. But that won’t stop him! Once he’s back on his feet, determined to take back the Olympics on his own terms, how might his actions turn the tides?! See what the future holds for the boys of MDC in this final volume of DIVE!!

The Review

The first volume mostly focused on Tomoki, and the second volume showed Okitsu’s struggles. Now the third volume delves into Youichi’s issues. Up till now, he’s been the unshakable champ, the elite paragon the others measure themselves against. So when the JASF decides to choose its Olympic team without holding a qualifying meet and Youichi gets selected, their choice seems more than reasonable. After all, he has a winning track record to justify his place on the team.

However, Youichi’s unhappy at how the decision was made. Even though it’s his dream to compete in the Olympics, he wants it on his terms. His frustration gets to the point of interfering with his diving, and he ultimately throws his Olympic spot back at the adults who handed it to him.

The Youichi arc is part rebellion against the machine controlling Olympic athletes, part rebellion against the father who treats him as a component of his coaching career. While Youichi’s resentment against the adults using him is definitely relatable, the way he self-destructs goes off the deep end. Much like Tomoki’s depression over Miu, it feels like drama for drama’s sake.

At any rate, Youichi’s rejection of the JASF’s grand plan allows for a final competition among the divers in this series and opens the door for a major shakeup in rankings. The MDC boys, including side character Reiji, get to show how they’ve progressed with their skills even as their stories get wrapped up. While I’m not averse to underdogs, I didn’t find this sports manga’s ultimate conclusion particularly satisfying, though that’s probably due to a lack of empathy with the cast.

As with the previous volume, this volume covers the same territory of the corresponding Dive!! anime episodes. However, unlike the anime, the manga carries the qualifying meet till the very end. In addition, it includes details the anime glossed over as well as a post-competition celebration with Tomo, Reiji, and Ryou. So if you’re a fan of the anime, this volume might be worth picking up for those extras.

Extras include the first four pages in color and afterword.

In Summary

Tomo and Okitsu have had problems, and now Youichi has them, too. While his resentment toward his father is easy to relate to, the dilemma of having an Olympic spot fall in his lap is less so. At any rate, this last volume has a final barrage of dynamic diving scenes set in the grand competition of Olympic qualifiers. But even though a place on the Olympic team is at stake, the meet is less about the fight for the top and more about the MDC boys overcoming their individual challenges.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Hatsu*Haru Vol. 7

Ah…high school romance. It is a staple of shojo manga, and Shizuki Fujisawa adds another title to this list with Hatsu*Haru. Read on for the review of Volume 7! (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

After an uneasy start to their relationship, Kai and Riko are officially dating! But now Kai has a new ocean of relationship questions to cross — first up: what kind of lunch do you bring your girlfriend?!

The Review

As mentioned in my previous review, now that Riko/Kai are (finally!) an official couple, the trajectory of the plot is somewhat up in the air. The cover art might lead you to believe that Fujisawa-sensei’s going to start something between clerics Tarou and Kagura, especially since they’re the only ones in the main cast who haven’t been mingling. However, the pair only get a brief interaction that just gives Kagura one more reason to gripe at Tarou.

Instead, the narrative continues on the subject of playboy Kai blundering through his dating relationship with Riko as classes resume. Interestingly, Riko doesn’t get targeted by Kai fans like she did before; the reaction amongst the student body is relatively subdued. Perhaps the other girls learned their lesson in Volume 3? But even though Riko has no trouble defending herself, she can’t cook to save her life, so Kai resolves to make a bento lunch for her. The lunch-making arc is very cute visually, but it did have me concerned about Kai’s masculinity because he was acting out what’s generally the girly role in shojo manga.

However, in the next chapter, he reasserts himself as a hot-blooded young man as he agonizes over how to romance Riko into a kiss. If you liked the analogy of Riko as a black hole, you’ll enjoy Kai’s rants to Einstein as well as Ayumi’s pseudo-physics unified theory of love. Unfortunately for Kai, the only kind of physical contact Riko’s accustomed to involves her fists, thus he continues to be subjected to the punching bag treatment.

About the same time, Kiyo and Miki hit a rough patch, and it causes things to sour between Kiyo and Riko, too. Most of Riko’s flashbacks have been about Suwa-sensei, and now that he’s out of the picture (he doesn’t appear at all in this volume) we instead get backstory about Kiyo and Riko’s longtime friendship. Intervening between estranged friends is generally the purview of girls, but Kai takes it upon himself to act as a mediator in a reconciliation session. Again, not something you’d expect from the male lead in a shojo manga, but if you enjoy Kai’s sensitive side, there’s plenty for you to like in this volume.

Extras include story-thus-far, embedded author’s notes, bonus comic, and translation notes.

In Summary

The struggle continues for Kai in this romantic comedy. He’s won Riko’s heart, but nothing in their relationship is coming easy for him. If you thought this series was done making fun of Riko’s cluelessness or knocking the snot out of Kai, guess again. For now, it’s still entertaining, but I hope their relationship develops a new vibe before it gets stale.

First published at the Fandom Post.