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.

Prince Freya, Vol 2

Prince Freya, Volume 2 by Keiko Ishihara

I enjoyed the premise and setting of the first volume of Prince Freya, even though I thought there were a couple pacing issues. I was curious to see if the next volume would feel a little more settled, and I’m happy to report that this volume felt much more cohesive as Freya settles into her new life as Prince Edvard, fending off evil plots and throwing herself into the action as much as possible. The volume picks up as Freya as Edvard attempts to save the royal guard Mikal from being kidnapped, only to put herself in danger in the process.

I’ll be honest, one plot point that I do enjoy about reverse harem scenarios where girls have to disguise themselves as boys is how often the boys surrounding the heroine start feeling oddly protective of their new companion and aren’t sure why their feelings have shifted. This happened multiple times in Prince Freya, so I found myself greatly enjoying the sillier aspects of the character dynamics. Mikal finds himself newly intrigued by Prince Edvard now that Edvard seems to have received an abrupt personality transplant. Freya is fiercely loyal to her friends, including people that she’s just met in her new role.
Aleksi and Julius head off to the rescue, and while they fend of danger with some help from Freya, Julius delivers a stern lecture about the responsibilities for self-protection that have to be present in royalty or someone disguising herself as royalty. Freya vows to protect everyone, including Julius, which causes him to be quite emotionally shaken.

As the story unfolds, Freya’s open personality cause her to strike up an unlikely friendship with one of Prince Edvard’s subjects, but her good intentions end up creating even more difficulties that are only solved by some bold action. The art in Prince Freya continues to be clear and dynamic, which is essential due to how many scenes involve combat by swords. One aspect of this manga that I found both intriguing and a bit startling is the body count that is starting to build up as Freya navigates her new world. It is true that there’s an inherit danger to being faux royalty, but I’m starting to find myself a little anxious about the survival prospects for anyone close to Freya. The cliffhanger at the end ensures that I’m already impatient for the next volume.

Blue Flag Vol. 2

Blue Flag Volume 2 by KAITO

This second volume continues to be strong entry in slice of life high school stories, as everybody gears up for an unexpected performance at a school sports day. They’re doing all the typical things teenagers do in spring, hanging out, getting gelato, and discussing everyone’s love life. Apparently Masumi is dealing with a string of short-lived boyfriends, which Toma finds quite startling. Toma gets peer-pressured into being cheer team captain in addition to being anchor on the relay team, and he agrees on the condition that Taichi and Futuba be on the cheer team too as vice-captains. Taichi is characteristically reluctant, but agrees to go along with Toma’s plan. Toma’s charm is key in winning his friends over. Taichi and Futuba diligently practice together while Toma is busy.

Taichi finds out from Futuba that Toma isn’t planning on going to college, and he’s startled because when he and Toma were childhood friends, this was the type of thing that they’d talk about. Friendships shift and develop in new ways, even though Taichi still has feelings for Futuba. There’s a general air of wistfulness throughout this volume as Taichi wonders what’s going to happen as his friends transition away from high school. KAITO’s illustrations set Toma apart from everyone around him, and while this emphasis on his hulking size shows how athletic he is, it also serves as a way of visually distancing him from everyone else. Taichi and Masami also get some one-on-one time, where he shows he’s not very capable at picking up what she’s talking about when she asks him what it is like to experience being attracted to the opposite sex. Taichi’s pondering about Toma’s future also cause him to question his own aimless nature.

It is a pleasure to see this new friend group come together in Blue Flag. While there is certainly drama to be had, it is also somewhat uncomplicated so far which makes it a relaxing read. This volume ends on a big cliffhanger though, so I expect much more drama ahead.

Ao Haru Ride, Vol 11

Ao Haru Ride Volume 11 by Io Sakisaka

Throughout this series, nostalgia and feelings of being haunted by the past have come up in a variety of ways, and this volume shows a bit of movement forward on Kou’s part as he goes to visit various sites from his past. He ditches during a school trip where he used to live and induces Futuba to come along with him “as friends.” She comes along, knowing in the back of her mind that she’s lying to herself.

Together they visit Kou’s old apartment, middle school, and his mother’s grave. Kou seems much more emotionally resilient, coming out of this nostalgic trip with a greater sense of certainty about what he wants to do and who he wants to spend time with (spoiler alert, it is Futuba!). There are also some nice side stories with the larger friend group interspersed as Futuba and Kou wander around with each other. Futuba ends up being stricken with guilt that she was hanging out with Kou without telling Toma what was going on, and ends up going to angsty extremes in dealing with her emotions. Toma’s on the cover of this volume, and he definitely deserves it, as his steadfast approach to romance with a girl who is fairly honest about her wavering feelings makes him a stabilizing presence. While Kou might finally know what he wants, and I’m team Kou all the way, Sakisaka infuses scenes of Futuba and Toma talking to each other with so much joy that I felt myself wavering a bit! There’s always plenty of drama in each volume of Ao Haru Ride, but it never seems to be over-the-top or unearned, because so much of it is drawn from the characters’ internal motivations and the changes to their personalities as they are gradually growing up. This was yet another solid volume in a very good shoujo series.