Yona of the Dawn Vols 11 and 12

Yona of the Dawn Volumes 11 and 12 by Mizuho Kusanagi

It is an indication of how busy I am that I read two volumes of Yona of the Dawn together, because usually a volume of Yona of the Dawn does not linger unread for very long in my house. Reading volumes 11 and 12 back to back enabled me to appreciate Kusanagi’s storytelling skills even more as she shifts into a new storyline for Yona and her now complete band of mystical dragon protectors. Volume 11 was a little more light-hearted and character-driven, with the opening chapter flashing back to when Yona, Hak, and Su-Won were children, with Yona reacting against the restrictions of her role as a princess and the older boys watching over her as protectors.

A very important moment occurs in the next chapter, when Hak declares his undying devotion to Yona by…kissing her on the forehead. Yona spends most of her time being perplexed. Jaeha turns into a bit of an odd cheerleader for the relationship, by acting continuing to act obnoxious and needling Hak at any opportunity. The team heads into the Kai empire in search of more sustainable food for Yona’s people, and some hilarious scenes ensure as the village maidens who are starved for the sight of handsome men swarm Yona’s companions. Yona has a key moment where she wins over the villagers, demonstrating that she has the unique diplomatic skills of a potential queen. Kusanagi handles moments of Hak’s internal turmoil, Yona’s perplexed emotions, and over the top fangirl squeeing with ease, and I’m always intrigued to see how she chooses to illustrate these important emotional moments.

In contrast, volume 12 shifts into exploring geopolitical issues as generals and lords hatch an elaborate plot to start a rebellion in Kohka. One of my favorite things in this series is seeing Yona become more self-assured and confident with each volume. Once she realizes what is happening she’s determined to return, not for any military or personal ambition of her own, but because she wants to do something to help out the people who might be crushed in a confrontation of opposing armies. At twelve volumes in, one of the great things about this series is that Kusanagi has built up the characters so much that an abrupt shift to multiple scenes of old general dudes hatching evil plots while discussing tea is not alarming at all, because the reader has full confidence that it will all come together in the end, and it totally does. I thoroughly enjoy the pacing of Yona of the Dawn, as the characters and the challenges they face continue to evolve in fascinating ways. Overall, as someone who has read a ton of shoujo fantasy, I think this series is one of the best examples of the genre.

Everyone’s Getting Married, Vol 8

Everyone’s Getting Married, Volume 8 by Izumi Miyazono

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about this series is the way Miyazono has weaved in a strong sense of impending doom as Askuka and Ryu get closer. Their ultimate goals are so opposed, there’s no way a long-term relationship will work out without one of them significantly changing. This adds an additional level of emotional complexity to this josei romance manga.

While Asuka and Ryu have moved in together, he then decides to accept a news posting in the United States. They embark on a long distance relationship where they occasionally see each other for a weekend, but keep spending more time on their careers. It is almost like the universe is conspiring to keep them separate. Asuka ends up suffering a pretty big career setback when someone hears her breezily discussing her ultimate goal of becoming a wife and homemaker, and Ryu continues to become more and more busy as a news reporter. As Asuka keeps getting disappointed by her relationship and her career, Kamiya is there to offer up some companionship while Ryu is overseas. Towards the end of the volume though, it is Asuka who finally gets herself together to start making some changes in a somewhat roundabout way. Everyone’s Getting Married is a josei series with a surprising amount of emotional depth. If a happy ending does happen for this couple, it will not be an easy path, and that’s why this series continues to be so interesting.

Kenka Bancho Otome, Vol 1

Kenka Bancho Otome by Chie Shimada

Kenka Bancho Otome has many elements that I like present in a single manga. There is a reverse harem scenario in which a girl has to dress as a boy! It is an adaptation of an otome game, and I enjoy the occasional otome game (still playing Ninja Shadow). Also, there is punching and juvenile delinquency involved, and I do greatly appreciate shoujo manga heroines with the ability to perform acts of physical strength.

One thing I found absolutely hilarious was the way the set-up for the whole manga was taken care of in about 5 panels. Hinako, an orphan, is about to start her high school career at an all girls school, when she brushes against a boy who fakes a violent fall. The mysterious boy’s manservant tells her that he has broken his arm, and Hinako is forced to attend his school entrance ceremony in his place. Conveniently, the “injured” boy is Hinako’s doppleganger. She finds herself dressed as a boy, attending an all boys school for juvenile delinquents. Hinako is cosplaying as Hikaru Onigashima, the son of a yakuza boss, whose family obligations require him to become the boss of the school by beating up everyone around him. I sort of wish the rest of the manga took place at such a breakneck speed, but I’m sure that would not be practical to execute.

This being an adaptation of an otome game, handsome boys of different types are introduced in short succession. There’s the mysterious dark-haired uppperclassman with a secret shared past with Hinako, a sporty exuberant boy who blushes all the time, a silent boy with hidden depths, and a flamboyant rock star. I can’t remember their names because the characters are not really all that memorable, but that’s not really the point! Kenka Bancho Otome steps through many standard shoujo plot points with a breezy charm and attractive character designs. It did make me wish that the game was available on android, because I totally would have played it after reading the manga. On that level, I think the manga is a success. It was fun to read, mainly because I’m always up for punching and reverse harem manga. On the other hand, any otome game adaptation isn’t going to have the emotional depth of a manga like Hana Kimi or the hilarity of a series like Oresama Teacher. So Kenka Bancho Otome is nice and diverting, when someone might be in the need of a pleasant distraction, which is a mood I find myself in most of the time.

Takane & Hana, Vol. 2

Takane & Hana Volume 2 by Yuki Shiwasu

I enjoyed the first volume of this series, but it is always good to see how a new manga series will settle in after the author has gotten through introducing the characters and plot points in the first five chapters or so. It was interesting to see this odd couple continue to navigate situations that are out of their respective comfort zones. Hana attends an important work social event with Takane, made up to resemble her older sister. Hana then concludes (sensibly) that the age difference between them is too great and attempts to push Takane away, but that doesn’t go well. Hana then takes Takane out to cherry blossom viewing where he has to deal with being around throngs of people. One of the nice things about this series is seeing how this couple tends to push each other to experience new things, and then be very supportive of each other. One of Takane’s playboy friends shows up and awakens all of his protective instincts towards Hana. Shiwasu makes a comment in this volume about how much she enjoys drawing funny facial expressions and it really shows in the artwork for this series. I feel like even if there was very little character development or dialogue I would almost buy this series just to see Takane’s perplexed and incredulous facial expressions as he attempts to deal with Hana shoving a sea cucumber into his mouth. At two volumes in, Takane & Hana is still a fun, breezy read, and a welcome dose of shoujo comedy.


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The Young Master’s Revenge, Vol. 1

The Young Master’s Revenge, Vol. 1 by Meca Tanaka

Meca Tanaka’s manga is so charming! I thought that the first page of The Young Master’s Revenge was one of the most captivating first pages of manga that I’ve read recently. All in black, the thought “It is time for me to start my revenge” hovers while a boy accompanied by a lovely shoujo floral background illustration is leaving an airport with a bright smile and an adorable dog in a carrier. The contrast between the dark thoughts and the stereotypical innocent hero illustration immediately drew my attention.

The vengeful hero is Leo, a boy returning to Japan to attend high school after his father’s fashion company has become incredibly successful. Before he left Japan, he used to be friends with an heiress to a department store named Tenma. She was a tomboy who loved chasing animals, accidentally getting Leo into a situation where he was bitten on the butt by turtles, which has caused him years of psychological trauma. Leo has nursed his hatred for 10 years, turning himself into the perfect specimen of a high school boy just so he can make Tenman fall in love with him and then dump her. Unfortunately he finds out that things have changed in Japan and his path to revenge is not so smooth. Tenma’s family has fallen on hard times, and when he meets her again, she picks up her friendship with him exactly where they left off, but without any romantic notions at all.

Tanaka’s illustrations easily switch between capably showing the subtle emotions in the growing friendship between Tenma and Leo to straight out caricature. Tanaka’s characters have the most adorable surprised facial expressions. Leo grows more distressed as he realizes that other boys are aware of Tenma too, and potential rivals for her affection are introduced in such over the top ways, it is fun to see Tanaka poking fun at some typical shoujo conventions. Leo’s reasons for revenge are ridiculous, but this manga isn’t mean spirited at all. I preferred the revenge story in this manga as opposed to Komomo Confiserie which has an extremely similar plot because The Young Master’s Revenge never seems to cross the line into meanness at all. For me this manga fills that slot on my reading list for simple, cute, and adorable manga that has been left a little vacant by series like My Love Story!! and Honey So Sweet that have recently finished.