Requiem of the Rose King, Vol. 4

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 4 by Aya Kanno

This series continues to impress me, as with each volume Kanno capably delivers a larger cast of characters and more intricate plots centered around the succession to the English throne. While many of the earlier volumes served to establish the motivations of many of the characters, this volume moved into more political plotting, especially as the Earl of Warwick decides to play kingmaker.

I found myself struck by all the ways that Kanno’s art signals character in elegant ways. Richard has a vision of his father as an avenging angel with dark wings, and the swooping black feathers bordering the panels serve to show how isolated Richard is in his inner world. Warwick is often drawn with areas of his face shown in stark shadow, which suits his manipulative personality.

This volume focuses on the fall of Edward, his manipulative wife, and the possible rise of middle brother George. Richard is still an object of desire to Edward, who willingly travels to meet Anne to explore a possible engagement once he knows that Richard is also visiting. For a brief time Richard is able to deepen his friendship with Anne, and he finds some solace in a new friend who lets him be completely himself. This being a tragedy, Richard’s brief period of peace is quickly destroyed, and he has to head back into battle again where he thinks he’s going to find a different kind of escape.

As Warwick’s plots fall into place, Buckingham is determined to provide a different king for the nation and goes off in search of Richard. There are too many kings and would-be kings wandering around England! But it is clear that while they all may be trying to gain the throne, so much of the real power is in the hands of the nobles trying to manipulate all the political uncertainty.

Requiem of the Rose King continues to be a favorite series. The art is absolutely top notch, and the combination of Richard’s surreal visions and complicated inner life against the backdrop of the political struggles for the English crown makes it incredibly compelling.

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The Heiress and the Chauffeur, Vol 1

The Heiress and the Chauffeur, Volume 1 by Keiko Ishihara

It is interesting that there are a couple new two volume series (Shuriken and Pleats being the first) coming out from Shojo Beat now. I feel like publishes backed off super-short shoujo for a little bit in favor of mid-range 5 or 6 volume series. Heiress and the Chauffeur is a conventional shoujo series with attractive art that is livened up by a historical setting.

The heiress in question is Sayaka Yoshimura, who is the daughter of a wealthy family. Her chauffeur is Shinobu Narataki, and they were raised closely together as children, resulting in a friendship that is entirely unconventional for a mistress and her servant. Sayaka has to deal with the behavioral rules and rumors swirling at her all-girls school, while running a gauntlet of all her admiring classmates who enjoy staring at Shinobu while he patiently waits to pick her up. Sayaka has a bright, spunky personality and she isn’t afraid to stick up for Shinobu when his habit of barging in to rescue her gets them both in trouble with the school authorities.

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I enjoyed the historical aspect of the manga, and seeing the life of an heiress in the Taisho era portrayed, because that’s a type of setting that I don’t usually see in shoujo manga. I was a bit worried that each chapter would be a replay of the dynamic where Sayaka gets in trouble, Shinobu rescues her, and they have to find their way out of the aftermath, but towards the end of the volume it is made clear that their odd friendship has given Sayaka the tools to stand up for herself independently. That being said, overall the manga was a little bit dull. The art is pretty, but not terribly distinctive, and while the premise and setting is interesting, there isn’t much to distinguish the main characters from any other shoujo series. This is Isihara’s first series though, and it certainly is well executed enough that I’m curious to see what she could do given a bit more space to develop a manga. I think younger teens would enjoy The Heiress and the Chauffeur in particular.

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.