Water Dragon’s Bride, Vol. 7

Water Dragon’s Bride, Volume 7 by Rei Toma

I suspected that when the Water Dragon God sent Asahi home, she wouldn’t stay there long, and that was definitely the case. She struggles to feel at home back in her own world, with a younger brother that she’s meeting for the first time, and her parents, especially her mother who desperately missed her. This brief story line shows how The Water Dragon’s Bride is a story of a family tragedy, in addition to exploring how human rules fight for power and resources. Asahi misses her old life, but back in the realm of the Water Dragon God, the young king is struggling with drought and the idea that he’s lost the favor of the heavens since Asahi’s disappearance. Subaru even attempts to intervene with the Water Dragon God in Asahi’s absence. When the Water Dragon God does intervene, in his cold and calculated way, Subaru reflects that Asahi was incredibly powerful to make a god change.

Water Dragon's Bride 7

Asahi’s disarming way of talking with both the Water Dragon God and Subaru show that she doesn’t regret her choice to leave her family behind, and the way the Water Dragon God is actually able to articulate his emotions and even show a sliver of a smile shows how far he’s become from a god who would dispassionately watch a human starve. While so far the elemental gods that we’ve seen seem content to observe and occasionally make some cutting observations to the Water Dragon God, now that Asahi has returned the next storyline for this series looks like it will be even darker than before. When will hte suffering end????

I’m delighted to keep reading this manga, but there was such a great artistic leap for Toma between Dawn of the Arcana and Water Dragon’s Bride (which makes sense given when they were released in Japan), I’m also extremely curious to see other series of hers.

Idol Dreams, Vol. 5

Idol Dreams Volume 5 by Arina Tanemura

Idol Dreams is a fun, if a bit uneven, soapy series about a repressed office lady reliving her youth in the best way by occasionally taking magic pills that turn her into a teenage aspiring teen idol singer! People fall in and out of love and deal with show business shenanigans, but will Chikage’s teenage adventures translate into any newfound maturity in the real world? Indications in this fifth volume are promising!

Chikage is much more assertive and resourceful in her teen idol persona as Akari. She’s trying to gain more recognition through a sing-off battle and manages to dodge a series of mean girl attacks and come out on the other side victorious even though she’s just a slightly better known aspiring idol singer. One of the things I’ve been wondering about is when Chikage’s old classmate and magical teen pill supplier Tokita was going to get a bit more focus, because so far he seems to be mainly pining in silence. My patience was rewarded with this volume, as it focuses on him. The real world is much more complex than teen idolland, as Chikage learns that Hanami who one of her workplace mean girls is also Tokita’s girlfriend, and she’s been cheating on him. Chikage is able to stick up for Tokita in a way that she’s never managed for herself, but she doesn’t realize what her own feelings are for Tokita until it is far too late. There is more time spent on the characters’ backstory in this volume, especially Tokita, which was a nice change of pace. I’m a bit worried that Chikage is going to bury herself in her teen persona in the next volume to distract herself from her pain as an adult.

It is all breezy fun although I’m slightly terrified about what might happen with Akari and Hibiki. I think that the series would also seem a bit less disjointed if I was reading it all with less time in between volumes, where the quick pace of people falling in and out of love might be less noticeable in a larger chunk of story. Still, I’m always up for an Arina Tanemura manga, and I’m hoping that Chikage becomes a more self-assured woman by the end of the series, and I’m glad that she’s showing some signs of assertiveness, even though she still needs more self-awareness to match.

Black Torch, Vol 1

Black Torch, Vol 1 by Tsuyoshi Takaki

I was surveying my stacks of manga and decided that I needed to make more of an effort to get into the Halloween spirit. I figured that Black Torch was an ideal candidate since it features supernatural beings and a black cat, who is also a supernatural being. Spooky!

Jiro is the plucky protagonist of this manga, who has some unique abilities. He has the ability to talk to animals and is descended from a long line of ninjas. He also has absolutely no tolerance for animal cruelty, as the opening scene in the manga shows him driving of a gang that was bugging a stray cat and raven. Jiro’s Grandfather seems to mainly enjoy yelling at his grandson about ninja traditions. Jiro finds out about a cat in distress and goes to rescue it. He finds Rago, a demon (or mononoke) trapped in the form of a black cat. Jiro learns that Rago was caught up in a demonic struggle, and doesn’t remember all the details of his past. Jiro is determined to help Rago, even though the demon attempts to leave Jiro, he is relentless in his desire to help. This is one of the more endearing aspects of Black Torch, even though Jiro ends up getting trapped in a deadly mononoke battle. Rago and Jiro end up being fused together, as Rago goes to help his reckless ninja friend. There are elements that are somewhat predictable in most shonen manga, like a supernatural protection agency and the hints that Rago and Jiro will soon join a team fighting evil.

Black Torch 1

The art in Black Torch has a slightly scratchy quality that I enjoyed. Rago’s surprised cat faces were hilarious, and when his mystical powers manifest in the form of swirling black tendrils surrounding his cat form, the effect is suitably dramatic and mystical. The action scenes are dynamic. While Black Torch doesn’t stray far from the typical shonen manga formula, Jiro’s devotion to animals, the odd couple relationship between him and Rago, and Rago’s hilarious cat expressions go pretty far in making it an enjoyable supernatural action manga.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 14

Yona of the Dawn Volume 14 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I always put down each volume of Yona of the Dawn feeling like Kusanagi has just served up a master class in plot and character development, but I felt that way even more in this volume, which shows Yona traveling to visit the Water Tribe and confronting some very serious issues along the way. As soon as they arrive on Water Tribe land, Jaeha takes the opportunity to invite Hak along to visit the Red Light District, because the women of the Water Tribe are legendary for their beauty. Yona’s cloaked reactions as this conversation unfolds underscores how much she cares. Hak turns Jaeha down, and Jaeha heads out to explore the city solo, sensing that something is very wrong with the town. He meets up with a couple ladies, who burn some suspicious incense and offer him some of the special local rice wine. Jaeha goes along with everything, as he suspects that someone is watching both him and the girls.

Yona of the Dawn 14

Yona and her crew rescue Jaeha and go out to investigate, learning that the Kai empire is flooding the town with a drug called Nadai. Yona is determined to stay and fight the drug traffickers, even though Jaeha urges her to leave. The leadership and confidence Yona has developed over the course of 14 volumes has me confident that she’ll leave the Water Tribe lands in a better state than when she arrived. Yona’s group also attracts the attention of some local dignitaries, Ladi Riri and her two companions Ayura and Tetra. Riri first thinks that Yona is suspicious, but eventually realizes that the groups have similar goals. Seeing Riri’s assessment of Yona shifting as she learns more about her just serves to underscore Yona’s strength. There’s time for a little bit of situational comedy as Riri is horrified that Yona routinely sleeps outside, surrounded by men.

After some army battles in the last volume, there’s a return to close action sequences featuring Yona’s determination as well as the unique abilities of her protectors. This volume ends on a cliffhanger, but I’m very curious to see how Yona and her companions change and grow after being challenged by the situation in the Water Tribe kingdom. I’m also happy to see Yona getting some more female friends as she continues her travels.

Dr. Stone, Vol. 1

Dr. Stone Volume 1 by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi

Dr. Stone is a shonen series that is entertaining due to the combination of post-apocalyptic setting and mad scientist hero. The first chapter opens with overly enthusiastic high schooler Taiju vowing to confess his love to the girl he’s had a crush on for the past five years. His cynical scientist friend Senku wishes him well in a backhanded fashion. Just as Taiju is about to launch into his confession a mysterious light appears in the sky and all the people in the world get turned into stone, frozen in place for several thousand years.

When Taiju wakes up again, he comes to in an overgrown area littered with stone fragments of people. He wanders around and sees one of his most powerful classmates, Tsukasa, also frozen in place. Senku pops up and tells Taiju that he overslept terribly, because he’s been awake and on his own for the past year and a half. Senku is determined to restart civilization, but he needs additional help, and Taiju is going to serve as the muscle in his scientific endeavors. Senku has a habit of making grand pronouncements about the rate of his ability to reconstruct stone-age scientific discoveries by yelling “Get Excited!”

There’s certainly a lot of yelling, naked men wearing leaves, and hazardous attacks from both animals and other survivors in Dr. Stone, but I enjoyed the emphasis on adventures driven by ancient science. The dynamic between the two protagonists, with one of them being super smart and the one mainly having enthusiasm on his side also set up plenty of amusing side scenes in between all the fighting and scrabbling for survival. I tend to not always be that enthusiastic about non-sports shonen manga, but I was definitely intrigued by the first volume of this series.

Dr Stone