Viz Signature Quick Takes – Used Books, Charisma, and Leaves

Kingyo Used Books Volume 3

Reading this series can sometimes be a little bit painful. All the loving descriptions of classic manga that will never be released in English make me pine for what I’m unable to read. This volume might be a little more fun for American manga fans because much of the manga profiled in this volume will be familiar. The third volume starts off when a scardey cat meets a beautiful woman who is obsessed with Umezu horror manga. He tries to read the manga as a superficial way of connecting with his pick-up target, and ends up appreciating the horror genre much more than he thought he would because “Every one of his characters goes full-throttle at everything.” In “Makeup” a woman struggling with her career finds the strength to continue when she revisits her childhood love of Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon serves as a cultural touchstone for all the women she randomly encounters during her day. They share memories, with one of them asking “Don’t you think dressing up feels like going into battle mode?”

The other stories in Kingyo Used Books feature stories about cooking manga, romance between employees, and the lengths someone will go to in order to track down an unreturned book. The notes in the back provide some interesting historical context about the status of manga lending libraries in Japan. It occurs to me that between Kingyo Used Books, with its overview of classic series and focus on the connections that readers make with manga and Bakuman’s feverish statistic-laced overview of the act of manga creation, it is possible to build up a good if idiosyncratic portrait of the manga industry in Japan.

Afterschool Charisma Volume 2

I’m not always great about remembering to go over to check the Sigikki site for online chapters (although I am very thankful the site exists), so I’m making a mental note to go over there this week and get caught up on Afterschool Charisma. I was familiar with most of the chapters in this volume due to one of my infrequent Sigikki binges, but it was nice to sit down with the print edition and revisit this series about a normal high school boy trapped in a school filled with the clones of famous historic figures. The clones are getting ready for their annual talent day. Glimmerings of a new religion begin to manifest when small groups of clones start carrying around tiny sheep and referring to the “Almighty Dolly”. Shiro has to deal with a couple stressful situations – he’s tasked with babysitting a suicidal Mozart, and the school’s feckless director swoops in along with an ominously familiar looking little girl named Pandora. The school director latches on to Shiro and forces him to play tennis and other sports while all the clones are studying. Shiro starts getting caught up in the clones new religion, along with his new companion Hitler. I continue to be an unabashed Freud fangirl, because it is just hilarious seeing teenage Freud skulk around with his pageboy haircut uncovering evil secret organizations, and then acting incredibly neurotic the minute anyone asks him what he’s doing. This volume ends with a big surprise, so I’ve got to get over to the online chapters and find out what is going to happen!

House of Five Leaves Volume 3

Every time I pick up a volume of this manga, I’m struck by the unique atmosphere that Ono creates. The blend of Edo period slice of life pacing and the underworld setting creates an undercurrent of tension. I’m always on edge thinking that the moment is going to come when hapless ronin Masa is going to get caught up in violence but he always manages to drift along on the edges of life, surviving despite himself. In this volume the spy/thief of the House of Five Leaves gets caught stealing, and Masa takes advantage of his new charismatic acquaintance Yagi to gain a side job at the house where his companion is being held captive. Yaichi is suspicious of Masa’s new friendship with Yagi, but is he anxious not to see someone else take on his pet ronin or is something else going on? Masa’s sister abruptly visits Masa in order to get some help extracting herself from a marriage offer, and it is funny seeing how the gang of hardened criminals acts around her. Everybody remarks that she eats just like Masa, and seeing Masa take on the role of scolding older brother shows a different aspect of his personality. For all of Masa’s supposed ineffectiveness, he does manage to aid his comrades but in doing so he gives the outsider Yagi more information than what might be prudent. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next between the odd triangle of Masa, Yaichi, and Yagi.

Review copies of Kingyo Used books and House of Five leaves provided by the publisher.

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