Witch Hat Atelier Manga Volume One Review

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Witch Hat Atelier became a big hit when the first volume was released in April earlier this year, and honestly I’m not surprised. It’s art is eye catching and the story is fantastically magical. I’m really surprised we haven’t heard much from this mangaka in the past considering the polished nature of the art and the detail put into the story, but with further digging it looks like I missed quite a few things. Kamome Shirahama is an accomplished artist who has been doing work for Marvel and DC for a while. They worked on various covers for Marvel including Howard the Duck #4 featuring Ms Marvel. It also looks like they are working as a regular cover artist for Batgirl and Birds of Prey. I’m honestly surprised, but looking through their past covers, I’m just really glad they were given the chance to create a full-length manga to show off their awesome art style. It also looks like they had another manga in 2012 called Eniale & Dewiela, but it looks like it may have only been given a French translation and hasn’t made it to the US yet. But if you’re a fan of witches, magical worlds, interesting magical systems, and magic school stories, I would highly suggest picking this volume up for a try.

The manga follows the story of young Coco who has wished she could learn magic from a young age. But everyone knows you have to be born a witch in order to use magic, so Coco spends her days helping her mother at their tailoring shop. Resigned to her un-magical life, she is about to give up on her dream when the witch Qifrey shows up at their shop. After secretly spying on him while he casts magic, Coco learns that her dream of becoming a witch may be closer than she ever thought.  Continue reading

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Mythical Beast Investigator Manga Volume One Review

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Mythical Beast Investigator is another manga that popped up one day while I was looking for some new series to get into. I wasn’t quite sure what I would think of it, but I have an interest in all things fantasy and especially a focus on magical creatures. When I was reading Ancient Magus Bride I was always drawn to all of the weird and mythical creatures that would appear in the series, whether covertly in the background or taking center stage for a particular chapter. Here is a series that focuses on one particular troublesome creature each chapter, exploring its history and looking at how its existence fits into the larger world of this fantastical manga. While I don’t think it’s the best fantasy manga I’ve read, it’s been interesting enough that I plan on completing the series when the final second volume comes out. But therein lies one of my concerns too, that the shortness of this series will not allow the narrative to fully explore the world and creatures in it. I’m hesitant to say that this is a great series without seeing the culmination of both volumes, but it’s interesting nonetheless for those who enjoy stories about mythical creatures.

This manga’s story takes place in a world where humans and magical creatures live side-by-side, humans living beside dragons, mermaids, or other possibly dangerous creatures. And when things do go wrong, that’s when Ferry is called in. Ferry is a mythical beast investigator who longs to see peace between beasts and humans eventually come to be real. Armed with an extensive knowledge of magical creatures and fierce and mysterious protector, Ferry travels from town to town solving the disputes between human and beast, and more often than not setting humans straight about the nature of mythical beasts.  Continue reading

The Alchemist Who Survived Manga Volume One Review

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I’m always on the look-out for new manga to read and often make it a point to check in on all the major publisher websites at least once a month to see what new volumes are coming out. The Alchemist Who Survived popped up one day and its description intrigued me. The full title of the manga is The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life. It’s quite a mouthful, so I’ll be using the shortened title throughout the rest of the review, but the full title does give you some idea about the nature and the story of this particular series. After reading through this first volume, I can predict that I’ll be falling in love with this series as more volumes come out. It reminds me so much of a combination of Snow White with the Red Hair in its focus on herbology and daily life and Ancient Magus Bride in its creation of the magic system. I have a deep love for series that focus on the daily life of mages, herbalists, or people in a magical setting, and I’m really interested to see where this series goes. 

The Alchemist Who Survived follows the life of one of Mariela who wakes up from a magically-induced sleep to find that her former home has been destroyed by a monster stampede. To make matters worse, the spell has kept her asleep far longer than she wanted, finally allowing her wake after 200 years. In those 200 years, she finds that the city she used to live and sell her potions in has been decimated by the monster stampede, reduced to only part of its original size, and that she happens to be one of the last Alchemists in the area able to make potions. Mariela sets out to make a place for herself again, selling her potions, and trying to lead a quiet life.  Continue reading

Way of the House Husband (Gokushufudou) Manga Volume One Review

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I have a hard time finding a better heart-warming comedy than those involving yakuza members. Hinamatsuri was a fantastic anime a couple seasons ago that highlighted a relationship between a young homeless girl (who happened to have psychic powers) and a yakuza member. Now we have Way of the House Husband that takes the over-masculinization of being in the yakuza and flips it on its head. I spoke about this series in the past when I wrote about it in the article “The Changing Face of Paternity in Japan as Told Through Anime and Manga,” but just last week it got its first English release to the states by Viz, introducing more people to this hilarious series. I honestly have to say that this series is up there with Hinamatsuri in its hilarious comedy and portrayal of the yakuza. With its fantastic art, great exaggerated gags, and hilarious premous, Way of the House Husband is sure to entertain fans of comedy manga.

This manga features Tatsu, the former Immortal Dragon, an ex-yakuza member turned house husband who is just trying to adjust to being the best husband to his wife. From cooking her lunches to running to the grocery store to doing all the cleaning in the apartment, Tatsu takes his duties as stay-at-home-husband very seriously, trying to leave his yakuza past behind him. But sometimes that’s harder than it might seem as people from his past start popping up around town. Created by Kousuke Oono, the English edition of this manga is now being distributed in North America by Viz.  Continue reading

Tokyo Tarareba Girls Manga Volume 4 Review

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What are you willing to give up when it comes to making a relationship work? When does a compromise start to affect your values or sense of self? Volume four of Tokyo Tarareba Girls digs into these questions among many others, using the character’s relationships as a frame to examine some pretty tough questions about love and relationships. The series was recently nominated for and then won the award for “Best US Edition of International Material – Asia” during the Eisner Awards this year. Honestly, I definitely think it’s well-deserved considering the scope and gravity of some of the things this series talks about and they way Higashimura uses comedy to address serious topics. I wanted to revisit this series this week both because of the recent Eisner win and because the series is very soon coming to a close with its 9th volume next month. Higashimura has given us so many great manga series with Princess Jellyfish and now her autobiography Blank Canvas, which is currently on volume two, that I really think this hilarious Josei series deserves to sit equally next to her other series.

Volume four picks up with the story as Rinko continues with her relationship to her current cinephile, bartender boyfriend. But something is nagging at Rinko about their relationship, particularly his insistence that she change her hairstyle to match that of his favorite actress. Even as she dreams of marrying this man, she begins to question how much change is too much to ask for in a relationship and how much she’s willing to overlook for the man she wants to marry. With the 2020 Olympic deadline for marriage still looming on the horizon, all three women scramble to balance relationships and careers. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Twelve [Final]

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“Love isn’t just about loving what’s in front of you. The past, the future, maybe it’s about holding all of them close to your heart.” I think this quote by Kyo in this volume is really emblematic of the kind of ending we see for the series. Fruits Basket has been a series about hardship, emotional and physical abuse, parental abandonment, and family secrets. But most of all its been about growth. Growth in character, relationships, and maturity. Facing the hardships and difficult emotions that come with them are a key aspect of the series and almost all the characters learn some way to grow and move past them. Volume twelve is the final look at how our characters we’ve grown so attached to over the series have matured and faced the issues of their pasts. We see this most clearly with Kyo, Akito, and Rin as they all struggle to find a new place for themselves after the curse is broken, dealing with the memories and fall-out of Akito’s past actions.

Volume twelve brings us back to the Sohma household where all the members of the zodiac have been called in to meet with Akito. It’s here that she reveals the fact that she has been a woman the entire time and attempts to apologize for her actions.  We also get to see the final wrap-up of each character’s stories as they finish off high school and move on to bigger and better things. Kyo and Tohru head off to places far away as Kyo studies to take over Sensei’s doujo. Uo still plans on joining Kureno wherever he is after graduation. Then there’s Yuki and Machi who are planning a slightly long-distance relationship as Yuki heads off to college. Shigure quits being a writer and moves back to the main house to be with Akito, and lives move on and grow from there. Continue reading

That Blue Sky Feeling Manga Volume One Review

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What does it mean to like someone? How does someone know when a person becomes special to them? What does it mean to be in a relationship? These are all questions fundamental to the romance genre no matter the age, though usually found in those stories centering around a younger age group. How a person understands and interacts with the people closest to them is an important part of growing up and maturing as a human being. High school romance stories often focus on this key period of development as the main characters come to understand and discover both themselves and their relationships with those around them. That Blue Sky Feeling combines the self-discovery of youth with the queer story-lines of realizing and coming to terms with being gay. Volume one of this three-volume series is not only a great introduction into these concepts but also can act as a great first step into the boys love genre for anyone interested.

That Blue Sky Feeling focuses on the life of transfer student Noshiro Dai who meets the loner Sanada after coming to his new school. He doesn’t seem to have friends or really want any. And then there’s the rumor permeating the school that Sanada is gay that makes the other boys keep their distance from him. But that doesn’t seem to deter Noshiro who decides to embark on a campaign to win Sanada over and become his friend. The manga was adapted from an original webcomic by Okura with artist Coma Hashii collaborating for the adaptation. It’s currently licensed for English release by Viz Media. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Eleven

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Let’s face it, growing up is hard. Becoming an adult comes with a lot of responsibilities, one of which is owning up to your own mistakes or realizing when your actions are negatively affecting other people. Fruits Basket has taken us on a wild journey from kooky supernatural comedy to a story of self discovery and emotional maturation for all its characters. The character growth we’ve seen so far has been so fulfilling, and volume eleven takes its characters to their satisfying conclusion with one last round of profound growth before the final volume 12 and its wrap-up of the story. Kyo, Akito, Tohru, Momiji, Kureno, and Uotani all see their lives change and grow with their relationship to each other and specifically to Akito changing drastically at the end of this volume. Like I said, it’s a wild ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Natsuki Takaya has succeeded in taking us deep into the psyche and shadows of the dysfunctional and toxic Sohma family while seriously talking about issues like grief, depression, suicide, love, family, abuse, ad growing up.

Volume eleven continues after Kyo’s reveal that he not only knew Tohru’s mother but was there the day that she died, harboring a tremendous amount of survivor’s guilt over her death. In his highly emotional state Kyo tells Tohru he’s “disillusioned” by their relationship and runs off, leaving Tohru questioning whether or not he actually loves her. At the same time, Akito is at her breaking point after more of the zodiac member’s curses have broken and has gone in search of Tohru to confront her for her perceived role in ruining her future of eternal happiness. But their confrontation and almost reconciliation is cut short when the ground falls away and Tohru plummets down a cliff and is rushed to the hospital. What follows is the culmination and resolution of the last ten volumes worth of story. Continue reading

Kase-san and Morning Glories Manga Volume One Review

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In the Victorian language of flowers, morning glories are known as representations of love, affection, and mortality because they bloom and die in one day. Kase-san and Morning Glories definitely adopts many of these meanings for this flower to use in the background of this manga, with budding romance and affection being the forefront of this series. If you’re looking for a sweet yuri romance for Pride Month this June, then look no further than this series. While I will say it feels very typical of a high school, shoujo romance when it comes to story, characters, and certain plot elements, but it is also a great starting point for people looking to get into the yuri genre. I don’t have much experience with the yuri genre myself, and have been very critical in the past of popular series like Citrus, so it was nice to pick up a yuri series like this with a calmer and more wholesome atmosphere. After this first volume I can see myself picking up the next four in the series.

Kase-san and Morning Glories follows the life of Yamada, a shy and clumsy high school girl who spends her time tending the gardens at school as part of the Greenery Committee. But watering the flowers out by track bring her to the attention of Kase-san, the star of the track team. Though both of them don’t seem to have much in common, their friendship blossoms quickly and starts to turn into something more. The boyish and athletic Kase-san and the small and shy Yamada now have to figure out how to make their budding relationship work. The story and art for this manga is by Hiromi Takashima and it’s currently being localized in English by Seven Seas. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Ten

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Grief and how one deals with the loss of a close loved one has always been a major theme running in the background of this series, often brought to the foreground as characters are forced to make decisions that put them face to face with their own memories and loss. We see this the most in the characters of Kyo, Tohru, and Akito as all three of them are forced to come to terms with their grief and the guilt and turmoiled emotions that surround it. But I think Fruits Basket is primarily a manga that centers around how life moves on and how people’s feelings, grief especially, change over time as we grow older. I like to think that this is one of the core messages Natsuki Takaya was trying to write about when she made this series. There are so many different stories, threads of overcoming loss, guilt, and the fear of being left behind that all fit so well into this overarching theme of growth and forward progress.

Volume ten continues where we left off with Tohru desperately trying to hide and push aside her feelings for Kyo as graduation gets ever closer and the curse hasn’t been broken yet. Shigure is claiming the curse will break on its own eventually, but eventually isn’t soon enough for Kyo who will be locked away for life after graduation and seems to be resigned to this fact. But has Tohru becomes ever more desperate, she can’t deny her feelings for Kyo any longer and they begin to bubble to the surface despite her best efforts. However, it looks like the death of Kyoko has touched more people than just Tohru, with Kyo and Kakeru both feeling the lingering effects of her passing. Back at the Sohma main house, Akito is having her own battle with grief, a battle between her mother and her for the soul of her deceased father, Akira, as well as the very real possibility that this may be the last zodiac banquet as one by one the curse begins to break. Continue reading