Chainsaw Man, Vol 1

Chainsaw Man Volume 1 by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Monster or demon hunting manga is a fairly common shonen manga scenario, but Chainsaw Man keeps it fresh, thanks to the introduction of chainsaws!? Actually Denji starts out in such a difficult situation, it is hard not to sympathize with him. He’s sold off some of his organs like an eye and a ###, and he struggles every day to piece together a meagre living from monster hunting, helped out by his pet demon dog Pochita who manages to look adorable despite having a chainsaw for a nose. Denji dreams of the day that he’ll have enough money to actually put jam on the slice of bread that makes up most of his meals, but it wouldn’t be the first volume of a shonen manga if there weren’t some powered up surprises in store for the hero.

There’s a level of off-kilter humor in Chainsaw Man that I find endearing. I found Denji heading into the woods to cut trees with his dog’s chainsaw nose extremely amusing. When Denji tells Pochita that if anything happens to him, the demon is free to take over his body and live his best life, his dog unexpectedly answers saying “I’ll give you my heart, in exchange show me your dreams.” Denji wakes up with his wounds from a recent attack healed, and a chainsaw pull sticking out of his chest. In some illustrated action sequences that show an impressive command of body horror, Denji cuts his way out of a pile of demons do to his sudden ability to manifest chainsaws on the top of his head and one of his arms. An attractive girl accompanied by additional agents suddenly appears and gives him a hug and introduces herself as a devil hunter for public safety. Makita offers him the choice to be slain as a demon or live as her pet, and she’s willing to provide incredibly yummy breakfasts.

Denji has difficulty integrating into his new Public Safety Demon Hunter squad, with some altercations with a new rival, and some funny slice of live scenes that showcase his unending devotion to jam at breakfast. There’s also plenty of juvenile humor as once Denji has the basics of food and shelter secured he promptly decides that his next mission in life is to touch some boobs. Overall, I found the monster fighting, buckets of gore, and humor in Chainsaw Man plenty amusing. Denji is an incredibly damaged but potentially powerful hero, so I’m definitely intrigued by seeing him chainsaw his way through further adventures.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol 25

Yona of the Dawn Volume 25 by Mizuho Kusanagi

Every story arc in Yona of the Dawn eventually has a volume that delivers action and emotional devastation. As Yona tries to prevent Su-Won from going to war with Xing the hypocrisy of religions officials is revealed, Yona manages to sway people through sheer willpower, the damaged and imprisoned four dragons fight back, and everything is mostly terrible yet incredibly epic and emotionally satisfying!

The volume opens with an excruciatingly awkward scene as Yona confronts Su-Won in front of his men, some of whom seem a bit perplexed that the daughter of King Il is alive after all. If that wasn’t enough, Yona’s logic and arguments on behalf of the Xing people prompts Su-Won to actually modify his intentions after she promises that Xing will be content to endure as a vassal state. An evil priest shows up all of a sudden! Gobi is determined to manipulate the political upheaval in Xing to get rid of Princess Kouren and install Princess Tao in her place, but he’s sadly mistaken if he thinks his transparent ploys are going to work. While Yona of the Dawn generally presents villains with some nuance and character motivations, there’s some satisfaction for the reader in seeing that anyone who would underestimate women is beyond any hope of salvation. Kouren is the type of leader that inspires devotion in her supporters, and Yona has Hak, who does some fairly foolish things in order to protect her.

There’s so much action packed in this volume, I felt slightly exhausted at the end! Kusanagi’s capable illustrations are able to easily carry such a plot and action-scene heavy book, where a panel here and there will contain hints about the emotional impact for all the characters in such high-stakes conditions. There were some Wind Tribe antics to distract a little bit from the impending horrors of war, and the promise that Yona and Hak might actually talk about their relationship soon? As always, an excellent volume of Yona of the Dawn. I always find myself looking forward to the emotional aftermath just as much as any big battle the characters overcome.

Fushigi Yugi: Byakko Senki vol 1

Fushigi Yugi: Byakko Senki Volume 1 by Yuu Watase

The Fushigi Yugi universe is one I’ve been following for a long time. Many of my earliest volumes are from the initial Viz release back in the early 2000s, so I felt very nostalgic reading the first volume of the last Fushigi Yugi story 20 years later. While there have been glimpses of Suzuno before in previous series and the anime, seeing an entire series devoted to her seems like a fitting way to finish out the Universe of the Four Gods.

This first volume is structured as a prequel within a prequel, giving the reader insight into Suzuno’s character as both a child and a young adult and setting up an intriguing conflict that I expect to see explored more in future volumes. As Fushigi Yugi: Byakko Senki opens, a young Suzuno is spending time with her parents. Her father has the volume of The Universe of the Four Gods, burdened with the tragic legacy of Takiko Okuda and her professor father. As the Great Kanto earthquake strikes, Suzuno is trapped in her burning house and her father sends her into the book in order to save her life. In the Universe of the Four Gods, Suzuno is clearly unable to fend for herself, but she meets up with some people who are surely going to be pivotal figures in her life – Neiran, a psychologically damaged woman who can turn into a tiger, and the brothers Kasal and Karm. After narrowly escaping being kidnapped, Suzuno travels for a little bit with her new companions who begin to suspect that she might be the fabled priestess of Byakko.

Suzuno travels back to her own world in the aftermath of the earthquake, and the story line shifts to show her as a young woman, quiet and artistic and plagued by enduring visions and memories of what she’s lost. A shy, retiring heroine forced to adapt to a mystical new world isn’t exactly a novel plot point, but the overtones of impending tragedy and Suzuno’s resilience in difficult situations immediately make her an engaging heroine. Watase’s art is always clear and engaging, and I’m looking forward to seeing her portrayal of Suzuno’s mystical warriors and the unique world of the Universe of the Four Gods. This first volume mainly established Suzuno as a fully-fledged protagonist and I’m fairly happy with that pacing even though I put it down feeling a little impatient waiting to get started on the rest of the story. While I think is possible to enjoy this series without reading other Fushigi Yugi stories, I think at minimum someone reading Byakko Senki should be familiar with Genbu Kaiden, and hopefully the main series that started off this 20 year old saga.

Daytime Shooting Star, Vol 7

Daytime Shooting Star Volume 7 by Mika Yamamori

This manga brings both the drama and major uneasiness as Suzume and Shishio progress a bit on their student-teacher romance and then things get curtailed, causing plenty of angst.

One of the reasons why I enjoy reading this manga so much is that it makes me feel uneasy, which is not all that typical for shoujo manga. I’m not sure if Yamamori is going to be able to pull of a happy ending out of this series, and for all the swoony feelings of first love happening, it is difficult to escape the issues with the age gap in the main relationship in the manga. Suzume asks Shishio to go to a shrine for New Year’s and shows up wearing a disguise so no would be able to identify them in public. When a snowstorm causes them to miss the last train back, they have to check into a bread and breakfast and hide where they are. Shishio straight out lies to Suzume’s uncle, which is a bit beyond the pale, even if nothing much has happened on the romance front other than some significant gazes and a couple kisses.

I really enjoyed the chapter in this volume that was presented from Nekota’s point of view. She’s rightfully cynical about her own popularity and reflects on how she’s changed since developing a genuine friendship with Suzume. This chapter gave much more insight about her character, and the shifting point of view felt refreshing.
There’s also a bonus story in this volume that didn’t make a ton of sense, since Yamamori was collaborating with another author. I’m curious to see how Suzume deals with the emotional fallout from this volume, and if she’s able to move on a little bit with her life. Mamura continues to be awesome, so I’m hoping that Suzume at least attempts to give boys her own age a chance.

An Incurable Case of Love, Vol. 4

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 4 by Maki Enjoji

I do always wish that we got more josei from Viz, but I will take my one series at a time josei and enjoy it if I need to! Often in An Incurable Case of Love, there’s external conflict in the form of crazed stalkers or too-handsome additional doctors.

In this volume Nana and Tendo have to deal with a sudden opportunity for him to study abroad popping up, along with some memories from his past. It turns out that Nana is not the first nurse that Tendo has dated a nurse, his relationship with an extremely capable nurse with an incurable disease prompted him to specialize in pulmonology. Nana first tells Tendo not to leave but he ends up being so scattered and distracted at work that he’s not able to perform up to his usual standards. Nana points out that she’s actually capable of managing on her own and tells him to pursue his dream research opportunity.

Misunderstandings abound, but Nana and Tendo end up on the other side with a stronger relationship, although they are helped along the way by some of their interfering co-workers. Now that they’re officially dating, they need to switch up their work departments, and Nana needs to move from trainee nurse to being on her own. Her sudden business underscores just how much Tendo actually depends on having her around for emotional support, even though he’d never come out and say it. Overall, this was a solid volume, although it left me wanting a little more drama.