Dawn of the Arcana Vol 13 and Midnight Secretary Vol 7

These are both great series from the Shojo Beat line that are concluding! I always feel a bit wistful when reading final volumes, but fortunately I am quickly distracted by new manga series.

Dawn of the Arcana Vol 13 by Rei Toma

In this volume of Dawn of the Arcana, Nakaba and Caesar are reunited, while Loki makes an unexpected demand – to be given the kingdom of Senan so humans and Ajin can live separately. Nakaba is absolutely against this, seeing a way for her and Caesar to bring both people together, but Loki leaves, determined to secure a kingdom for the Ajin. Nakaba is heartbroken, starting to adjust to life in Belquat as Caesar’s queen yet again. She closes herself off from her magical powers, not wanting to suffer again if she sees Loki in a vision. One of the things that I’ve always liked about this series is that it is a bit more about the world the characters live in than the romantic issues that they need to work through. So Nakaba and Caesar set to rebuilding their world without Ajin, as the country of Senan becomes more closed off and mysterious. When an almost grown-up Rito shows up with a message from Senan, this sets off a series of surprising revelations that can change how readers interpreted the story from the very beginning. I have to admit, I was genuinely surprised by this concluding plot twist.

Dawn of the Arcana
was one of those series that grows on readers gradually. I remember enjoying but feeling slightly ambivalent about the first volume, but after reading a few more I knew I’d be reading the rest of the series. While there is plenty of romantic angst, the focus on world buliding, geopolitics, and human-Ajin race relations made the story seem more expansive than usual for a shoujo fantasy series.

Midnight Secretary Vol 7 by Tomu Ohmi

Seven volumes seems like just the right length for this manga about a dedicated secretary and her vampire boss. In this volume Kyohei is formally banished from the vampire clan because he refuses to part from Kaya. But as they start to figure out how to live on their own, they have to start working on ways to deal with complications like Kyohei’s regular blood supply and the loss of business that occurs when Kyohei’s new company starts running into trouble. There’s an additional issue as Kaya’s blood starts to turn toxic to Kyohei, further straining their relationship. There’s never any doubt that this manga is headed to a happily ever ending for this unconventional couple, and readers wanting to see Kaya and Kyohei set up as a strong couple facing their future together won’t be disappointed. There’s an extra bonus chapter that flips the gender dynamics of the whole book, as vampire Marika finds her “Midnight Butler.” This was a great bonus story, and it was interesting to see Marika in a different context, because she’d only showed up as a friend of Kyohei’s before. Overall, this was an extremely satisfying josei-disguised-as-shoujo-series, and I’m delighted that I can now switch over to Ohmi’s Spell of Desire for similar supernatural romance!

Review copies provided by the publisher

My Love Story Giveaway Winner

I got some great lists of love stories in the comments to the My Love Story! giveaway. The winner according to Random.org is commenter #8, Dawn whose favorite love story is Amelie.

Kaze Hikaru Vol 22 and Happy Marriage?! Vol 7

Kaze Hikaru Volume 22 by ´╗┐Taeko Watanabe

So much of Kaze Hikaru deals with repressing emotions, since Sei has disguised herself as a boy in order to join the Shinsengumi and Soji has agreed to keep her secret. While Sei and Soji are clearly in love with each other, there’s a long way to go until any actual romance occurs. This volume revolved around so many feelings, as Sei has been newly assigned to Saito’s troop and Saito harbors some suspicions of Sei based on his past friendship with Sei’s brother. Saito has disturbing dreams and isn’t sure what is happening with his involuntary reactions to Sei. Saito finally figures out that Sei is a girl, and his reaction is that he’ll simply maker her quit the Shinsengumi and marry her. When Saito goes to Soji to discuss his plans, Soji encourages the marriage, telling Saito to “Make her happy.” It is interesting how effectively Watanabe explores the points of view of the characters, while Soji cares for Sei the idea of pursuing marriage with her isn’t in his worldview. He’s just going to support her while thinking of her as the man she pretends to be.

Saito’s plan begins to evolve as he sees Sei protect Soji in battle and he realizes that she’s more courageous than most of the men she knows. At the end of this volume, Sei is transferred back to Soji’s troop, where I’m sure Soji’s general feelings of uneasiness and his tendencies to lie to himself will grow even stronger. Kaze Hikaru’s detailed historical setting, clear and attractive art, and compelling story make it one of my favorite Shojo Beat titles. I wish the new volumes came out at a greater rate than once a year, because I think the deliberate pace of the story would reward readers who like to stockpile volumes and read a bunch at a time. I read every volume almost as soon as I get it though!

Happy Marriage?! By Maki Enjoiji

I enjoy reading Happy Marriage?! just because romances set in offices give me a break from all the romances set in high schools that I tend to read just because I am such a shojo manga aficionado. Chiwa continues to work in her new job, but has to deal with one of her former friends still having a crush on her. Hokuto continues to be both busy and remote, and his father is still in the hospital. Chiwa attempts to intervene to bring Hokuto closer to his family, without the results she was expecting. One sour note for me in this volume was Hokuto slapping Chiwa in the middle of an argument. While they fight and work through their issues as always, I’m starting to get a little weary of the relationship dynamic in the book. I’m also a bit more interested in some of the newer Shojo Beat series like Spell of Desire or Black Rose Alice. I’m hoping that the next volume of Happy Marriage is a bit better.

My Love Story Giveaway!

I have an extra copy of My Love Story, so I thought I would do a giveaway! Just leave a comment here telling me what your favorite love story is, and I’ll randomly pick a winner next Sunday. US residents only please.

Food Wars, Vol 1

Food Wars Volume 1 by Yuto Tsukudo and Shun Saeki

This is a potentially engaging battle style foodie manga that I found myself having a difficult time getting into due to the copious amounts of fan service. I do realize that in shonen manga, one has to expect some boobs and miniskirts, just as one might expect scenes of shirtless vampires chained to the wall in supernatural shoujo manga, but I thought the sexual elements in Food Wars didn’t really enhance what might otherwise be a fun food battle manga.

Soma has grown up cooking for his father’s neighborhood restaurant. He’s trying to battle his father for supremacy but still falling short of the mark. The third page of the manga contains a reference to tentacle rape, as Soma pops a bite of a squid food experiment into a girls mouth, only for her to feel horrifically molested by the terrible combination of flavors. The first chapter in the book is a prolog, as representatives of a hostile corporation try to move in on the restaurant, Soma’s father decides to take off and cook in America, and Soma is promptly sent to try out for an elite cooking school called the Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute.

The female antagonist of Food Wars is Erina Nakiri, a student with an incredibly refined palette, and a gift for metaphor, as she likens an unsatisfactory dish to the sensation of visiting a hot springs only to find out that there is a gorilla staring at her. Full visuals for this scene are of course provided, and it is actually much more funny than some of the other fanservicey scenes that just seem to involve food blowing away peoples’ clothes. Erina judges Soma’s dish and finds it extraordinary despite the fact that he’s making everyday Japanese food instead of something more fancy. She fails him, but he’s let into the school after all when a school administrator tears up the test results after tasting the dish.

I do enjoy food manga, and ordinarily I’d be totally up for reading a few volumes of food battling set in an elite high school. I also liked the theme of contrasting Soma’s expertise in making everyday food with the snobby pretensions of his fellow students. The fan service elements were just a bit too much for me, and there are certainly other examples of food manga that manage to show the transformative experience of eating an excellent dish without resorting to upskirt shots. So for funny food manga, I’d probably recommend that someone with similar tastes as me go with Yakitate Japan or the ridiculous Toriko.