Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign Vol 3

Seraph of the End Volume 3 by Takaya Kagami, Yamato Yamamoto, and Daisuke Furuya

One of the reasons why I like this shonen vampire dystopian series so much is that each volume propels the hero forward to a different stage of development and a different setting. In the third volume, brash yet unexpectedly capable hero Yuichiro has his demon possessed weapon, and now he’s about to become an official vampire hunter when he heads out with his squad to aid other soldiers in Shinjuku. Yuichiro’s new squad consists of the sarcastic and subversive Shinoa, earnest Yoichi, and his cranky new friend Shiho. The balance in the group is upset a bit with the arrival of Mitsuba, an abrasive girl who doesn’t understand why she’s been saddled with a rookie unit.

Yuichiro’s habit of rushing into battle causes tension with the group, since he doesn’t respect the standard tactical formations they are supposed to hold in order to make sure that the entire team is protected. They have a few skirmishes with vampires and survive more due to individual luck than coordinated effort. I have to say, I enjoy Shinoa’s leadership style because she makes pronouncements like “Let us be off on another fun-filled, vampire-slaughtering excursion!” While Yuichiro might be reckless, he’s also just as likely to risk himself to save one of his teammates as he is to charge ahead to fulfill his desire for revenge against vampires.

The reader gets a further glimpse into the life of Yuichiro’s adopted brother turned vampire Mikaela, and it seems like he will be meeting Yuichiro very soon. The combination of good world building, dynamic action scenes, and sarcastic quips makes me confident that Seraph of the End will continue to be very entertaining.

Sweet Rein 1-3 Giveaway

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I’m getting rid of some of my manga! I have a bunch listed on ebay right now, but I thought I would also do a giveaway as well. So appropriately for the start of the holiday season, I’m going to give away Sweet Rein Volumes 1-3. Just leave a comment on this post and I’ll select a random winner in a week.

Black Rose Alice Vol 2

Black Rose Alice Volume 2 by ´╗┐´╗┐Setona Mizushiro

If you had asked me where Black Rose Alice was headed after reading the first volume, I would not have replied “slice of life reverse harem story about vampires running a cafe” and yet that was what ended up happening in the second volume. I thought that after establishing Dimitri’s past and the troubled present lives of the teacher Azusa and her doomed relationship with her student Koya, I was expecting a bit more fallout after Azusa agreed to trade her soul to Dimitri in exchange for Koya’s life. There are a few hints of Azusa’s past feelings in the second volume, but the bulk of the story is spent establishing her new existence inhabiting Agnieszka’s body and what exactly happens when she wakes up as the object of affection for four vampires that all want to continue their species. Azusa takes on the name Alice in her new incarnation.

Dimitri has surrounded himself with vampire companions. There’s the twins Reiji and Kai, who are a bit young (for vampires) and naive. Leo, who is more sophisticated dedicates himself to waging a calculated campaign for Alice’s affections. In an interesting twist on the reverse harem scenario, Alice is going to be the only way for the young vampires to extend the life of their line, but it is up to her to make a choice about who she wants to end up with. Dimitri is determined to hold himself aloof from the new soul inhabiting Agnieeszka’s body, but he finds himself drawn to Alice despite himself.

While the first volume had more of a tumult of emotions, this second volume was much more even in tone and had some vampire-centric slice of life moments as Alice slowly gets used to her new identity. Alice has an imperious streak that comes out from her former habits of managing a classroom. There are still a few moments of the surreal body horror that made the first volume more distinctive, but not nearly as many random tarantulas spewing from a given vampire’s mouth. It isn’t often that I put down the second volume of manga feeling genuinely surprised about the direction and tone, but I finished up this volume feeling more intrigued than I did after reading the first. This series seems to be shaping up to be quite quirky and unique, which is just the type of thing that I’m currently most interested in reading.

Kiss of the Rose Princess, Vol. 1

Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 1 by Aya Shouoto

I’m always happy to check out a new reverse harem manga. Kiss of the Rose Princess seems a little bit on the wacky and comedic side like Ouran High School Host Club, except it has random paranormal elements, is less ridiculous, and does not feature twins. So actually, not very like Ouran at all. The heroine of the story is Anise Yamamoto, a girl who is cursed with wearing the same rose necklace to school every day in flagrant violation of the dress code, because her father told her that she would be cursed if she ever took the necklace off.

Of course, only a few pages into the manga, Anise’s necklace falls off and she soon finds herself assigned mystical knights who she can summon to do her bidding by kissing cards imprinted with different colored roses. By day they are Kaede the slightly cranky yet typically handsome shoujo hero, Tenjo the secretly freaky student council president, the gothically morose Mutsuki, and the tiny but cute Asagi. Random events at school cause Anise to need help, and as she mystically summons her knights to her side she begins to learn a bit more about their personalities. There are plenty of amusing scenes in Kiss of the Rose Princess, even though it doesn’t approach the manic humor of a series like Ouran High School Host Club or Oresama Teacher.

The art is attractive, but fairly conventional. It doesn’t have much of a distinct style to it, and I tend to enjoy reading manga a bit more if the artist has some recognizable unique takes on character design, backgrounds, or paneling. I found myself picking up and putting down this volume a bit, which might have been a function of me being crazy busy recently, but the story didn’t really capture all of my attention. That being said, Kiss of the Rose Princess was enjoyable to read, as a good example of super light and fluffy manga. I’m hoping that the humor and the relationships between the characters develops a bit more in the second volume.

The Clockwork Sky, Vols 1 and 2

The Clockwork Sky Volumes 1 and 2 by Madeline Rosca

I haven’t read Rosca’s series for Seven Seas, The Hollow Fields, but I remember being aware of it as one of the more positively reviewed English language manga series. So I was curious to check out Rosca’s recent series The Clockwork Sky.

The first volume establishes the world of Ember, along with a plucky heroine who has a habit of getting in trouble for being improper due to her need for speed. Sally has been sent to live with her Uncle Croach, who is a evil steampunk industrialist. His line of household robots is transforming the city, but where is he getting all the parts for his creatures from? Sally is basically locked up in her room and told to concentrate on being a proper lady, but she’s got plenty of ingenuity and manages to sneak out of her uncle’s house and comes across a race, which she promptly enters.

The other young protagonist of the story is Sky, a young mechanical police aide who resembles an adolescent Atro Boy a bit in his character design and powers. He’s assigned to track Sally down, but soon finds himself a bit sympathetic towards her. This conflicts with his orders. As Sally and Sky soon begin to discover, her Uncle’s scrapyard contains secrets and unexpected dangers.

While the first volume introduces the characters and world of The Clockwork Sky, the second volume is almost non-stop action as Sally and Sky learn that the missing children of the city are being recycled in unexpected ways. Croach makes an unconventional presentation to some powerful people in a desperate attempt at getting the raw materials needed to keep his factory going, while Sky begins to chafe at his programming and manifests even more self-awareness and independent thought. There are plenty of dynamic action sequences in Croach’s factory, and when Sky is able to bring in the authorities, Sally is able to build a new life for herself.

I appreciated the varied character designs and the clarity of Rosca’s art. In the second volume I sometimes wished for a bit more detail, as so many of the characters were yelling while being drawn in a slightly super deformed mode. Rosca touches on class issues with the clockwork underclass but there’s plenty of adventure and world building to keep a reader engaged. The story and art were well in synch, which made The Clockwork Sky easy to read. This would be a great comic for the upper range of elementary school, and a two volume series isn’t too much of a space commitment for most libraries. I’d definitely recommend this series for younger readers.