My Hero Academia Vol 1

My Hero Academia Volume 1 by Hohei Horikoshi

So Viz has one hilarious send-up of the superhero genre in One-Punch Man. I was curious to see how the more mainstream and shonen take on the superhero genre would read. My Hero Academia seems to be gunning more for traditional western superhero genre, with the issue numbering rectangle on the top left of the cover just as you would expect from an American comic.

The set-up for My Hero Academia also reminded me of Tiger & Bunny a bit, in the way that super villains and superheroes are treated like an extension of celebrity culture. Over 80 percent of the world’s population has unusual abilities, or “quirks”. Like most shonen heroes, Izuku Midoriya is nothing special. He’s unusual in his ordinariness, as he is one of the few kids in his class at school who has no abilities. He’s picked on and bullied by the other kids in his class, but he’s determined to get into the hero training program somehow. Izuku has a fateful encounter with the superhero All Might, who looks like a slightly better proportioned Rob Liefeld character.

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It turns out that after All Might uses his power, his muscles deflate and he becomes a skeletal creature who suffers from a variety of physical problems. He can only sustain his power for three hours a day before he reverts into his normal form. All Might decides that it is time to pass along his power to a new person, and he picks Izuku, after witnessing Izuku take on a super villain with nothing but the determination to save someone else. Izuku is a pretty typical shonen hero in his determination to become a hero, but his immediate reaction when he sees someone in danger is to sacrifice himself. Although Izuku might have All Might’s power as a legacy, he has no idea how to control it.

Ikuzu winds up going to hero training school along with his school bully, and meets some other kids who are also determined to be heroes. Izuku’s lack of control of his new powers causes him to perform heroic acts with just his fingertip, because the power is too much for him. There’s a lot of set-up and story packed into this first volume, so I’m actually interested to see what happens next once all the characters and background are established. Horikoshi switches between different styles of characture with ease, and the contrast between All Might’s heroic and ordinary form is funny. Ikuzu spends most of this volume looking either incredibly hopeful and enthusiastic or absolutely terrified. The action scenes were for the most part easy to follow, but some of the paneling was a bit cluttered at times, and I think occasionally the art suffered a bit from being shrunk down from the original magazine format it was serialized in. My Hero Academia was quirky enough to appeal to me, and I’m generally picky about shonen series. I’ll see if the next few volumes continue to hold up well.

Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol 4

Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 4 by Aya Shouoto

I’ve been enjoying this series, although I have to admit if I was forced to recommend only one manga about an ordinary girl who finds herself heir to a house inhabited by ayakashis, I’d go with Kamisama Kiss. That being said, this volume of Demon Prince of Momochi House represents a high point for the series so far, with a story that was surprisingly emotional.

Aoi’s symbiotic relationship with Momochi house means that he’s trapped, with the memories of his previous life wiped from the minds of anyone who knew him in the human world. When Yukari goes to school wearing a 4 leaf clover ring that Aoi made for her, one of her classmates suddenly demands to know where she got it. When she tells the boy that a family member made it and her name is Momochi, he wanders off. Yukari learns that the boy is named Hidaka, he’s a loner, and has a reputation of being cursed. There’s a legend that his family is descended from fox shape-shifters, so Yukari wonders if there’s a connection to Aoi. As she investigates she learns that Hidaka and Aoi were best friends when they were younger.

Aoi doesn’t directly share his feelings with Yukari, but she senses that he feels a bit of regret and doesn’t want to risk rejection. As she learns more about the curse of the fox spirits that is affecting Hidaka, she begins to realize that the curse itself is keeping Hidaka’s memories of his friendship with Aoi alive, making him feel constantly guilty and unsettled. Aoi as the Nue has to intervene, and while he is able to cause a resolution to the situation, one final link to the outside world for Aoi is severed. The story is very bittersweet and filled with a sense of nostalgia, as memories are shown to be insubstantial. The last part of the manga turns to a gathering of akashi and hints of a creepy storyline in the next volume. Shouoto continues to make the backgrounds of Momochi house interesting with gatherings of tiny ayakashi in strange shapes, and there’s are general hints of menace in some of the characters’ facial expressions and reactions. This is all blended with a few moments of humor here and there as Aoi’s random attempts to get closer to Yukari don’t get him very far. Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by this volume, and I hope this series which was already enjoyable continues to improve.

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Library Wars: Love & War, Vol 15

Library Wars: Love & War Volume 15 by Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa

When I started reading this series, I admit I was drawn to it more due to the premise than the execution, because it is a rare thing for there to be a manga about librarians organized as a fighting force to combat censorship. But as the series continued to grow, the simple slowly developing romance between Kasahara and Dojo became more and more interesting, and the supporting characters began to be more multidimensional, causing Library Wars to be one of the most emotionally satisfying Shojo Beat series, even if it doesn’t have terribly flashy art.

There’s never really any question where this series will end up, and with the ending telegraphed from the start the focus is much more on how the characters all get a version of a happy ending. For a character that struggles with being competent, with her main advantage being on improvisation and action, Kasahara’s strategic thinking is the main focus of the final story as she ably plots a way for an author to defect and save himself from censorship. She’s all alone, and manages her mission capably, finally showing that she’s grown up and can take care of herself and others. It is fitting that the final romantic confession and resolution only happens after Kasahara has fully realized her true potential.

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The resolution is everything that fans of the series would have hoped for, and there are enough cameo appearances from the supporting cast that everything feels nicely wrapped up. Library Wars will always have a special place on my bookshelf not only for the awesome but slightly silly images of librarians fighting off censorship with automatic weapons, but also because the romance in the manga is genuinely heartwarming.

Shuriken and Pleats Vol. 1

Shuriken and Pleats Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino

Matsuri Hino is one of those shoujo authors who I like, but I haven’t been pulled into the time of deep admiration that I feel towards an Arina Tanemura or a Chika Shiomi. One of the main reasons for this is that I never really connected with Hino’s major series Vampire Knight. I have some volumes stockpiled and I intend to give that series another chance one day. I do enjoy Hino’s delicate art. I was curious about a non-vampire series from Hino.

Shuriken and Pleats is a short two-volume series about a ninja girl in the modern age, with all of the angst one might expect from a Matsuri Hino title with the added bonus of some fish out of water humor. The tragedy is introduced in the first chapter, as Mikage Kirio is assigned to protect an idealistic man whose wife and daughter have passed away, possibly as the result of some of his research into a way to end world hunger. Mikage’s master James goes out of the way to exhibit a personal interest in the young ninja, wanting her to have a normal life. When James dies, his will sets Mikage up with an option for an independent life for the first time, and he requests that she take the time to go to school like a regular girl. Mikage moves back to Japan and makes an attempt to fit in as a schoolgirl, while being haunted by her past. She also finds a final person to protect along the way.

“Girl who doesn’t understand her feelings” is almost as much of a shoujo cliche as the inexplicably alluring klutzy heroine, but Mikage is a more interesting than usual example of this particular type of heroine. Being part of a secret ninja clan in the modern world is a legitimate reason to have a closed-off personality, and while she fails sometimes she does have some serious ninja skills. One thing that does make Shuriken and Pleats stand out are some fine points of character development that manage to be both humorous and tragic at the same time, like Mikage’s shrine of cute erasers that her former master gave her. Mikage’s reaction to having papers passed to her at school from behind her back is a dramatic flip and the stern command for her classmate to “State your intention.”

Mikage’s ninja nature is signaled by the flowing black scarf she wears at all times, even when in her school uniform. Hino’s art has her trademark extremely pretty character designs mixed with dynamic ninja action scenes. I found myself intrigued by Mikage’s journey as she gradually loosens up on her ninja training and starts dealing with her emotions for the first time. I was less interested in some of the aspects of the plot, like the conspiracy at work that Mikage has to unravel. There’s a great deal of plot development packed into just one volume, which perhaps speaks to the benefit of planned short manga series as opposed to short series that are the result of an abrupt cancellation. I enjoyed this manga, and I’ll look forward to the concluding volume. Shuriken and Pleats seems like it will be an entertaining diversion if someone is looking for a short series to enjoy.

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Skip Beat! Vol. 36

Skip Beat Volume 36 by Yoshiki Nakamura

I feel like most reviews of Skip Beat could just be summed up as, “Skip Beat, long-running shoujo series, continues to be relentlessly excellent,” but as I was reading the latest volume there were several specific things that struck me about it. I absolutely loved the Heel siblings plot, and while the manga has to move on from Ren and Kyoko being forced to be in close proximity to each other as they pretend to be gothic semi-incestual siblings in order to further Ren’s acting career as he acts in a drama while pretending to be an entirely different actor than “Ren” which is itself a totally different persona from his genuine personality, I’m glad that this volume eases out of the story line gently, with Kyoko getting one last big scene as Setsu.

Early in this volume I was reminded at how good Nakamura is at drawing Kyoko in freak-out mode, as she suffers agony in telling Ren that she kissed her long-lost fairy prince Corn (who is also Ren). Ren is pushing Kyoko a bit to get an emotional reaction from her, but he also is genuinely grateful for her help as they part and she heads back to Japan to resume her own acting career. Kyoko has matured so much as an actress and a person, and while she’s handling a crisis on her new show, things get complicated fast when Sho visits her home.

A settled and stable shoujo heroine doesn’t make for much drama, and now in addition to Sho’s reappearance, Kyoko is confronted with the specter of her long-absent horrible mother. Just when she starts to get a bit of emotional equilibrium, something happens to throw things off!

Lettering Skip Beat! must be a fun and challenging job, as there are different fonts used for Kyoko when she’s beset by the angry demon side of her personality, when she’s yelling at Sho, and when she’s calmly giving advice to a fellow actress. All in all, this was a very entertaining volume helping Skip Beat! transition away from one story line into a new direction, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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