Archives for February 2016

QQ Sweeper, Vol. 2

QQ Sweeper Volume 2 by Kyousuke Motomi

This was easily one of my most anticipated second volumes, because Motomi’s Dengeki Daisy is an all time favorite manga of mine, and found the first volume of this series both delightful and intriguing. I was interested to see how the story would develop further, now that the premise had been set up in the first volume.

One of the things I enjoyed greatly about Dengeki Daisy was the theme of emotionally scarred people gathering together and healing each other, and I was happy to see that carried through to this series but executed with new characters and new situations. While there’s a bit of a monster of the week aspect to the plot as Fumi and Kyutaro join together to spiritually cleanse a student who has been stricken by bad feelings, the core of the manga focuses on the (not yet a) couple learning to trust each other. This volume delves a bit more into Kyutaro’s past and the brief respite he experienced during a stressful time by making a new friend who might have been Fumi, pre-amnesia. At the same time, Fumi’s memory loss and recent history with people she’s befriended turning on her and claiming that she’s cursed is making it difficult for her to settle in to her new role.


There are still mysteries to unravel for the young protagonists, and there’s a hint of a sinister paranormal plot against them that I’m sure will be explored more in future volumes. Motomi’s quirky touches like the revelation of the identity of Kyutaro’s guardian owl and the illustrations of young teens heading into high-stakes supernatural battles armed only with cleaning supplies make this series fun to read. I’m very glad that QQ Sweeper was picked up so soon after Dengeki Daisy ended, so I didn’t have to feel too deprived!

Behind the Scenes!!, Vol. 1

Behind the Scenes!!, Volume 1 by Bisco Hatori

I read several volumes of Ouran High School Host Club and the first couple volumes of Millenium Snow way back in the day, so I was looking forward to this new series. Behind the Scenes!! takes place in a film props and set department at an arts college.

Ranmaru Kurisu comes from a fishing village, where he has never fit in. His bad luck isn’t quite reaching Ataru Moroboshi, Ranmaru automatically assumes that everything is his fault and he seems to spend most of his time apologizing unnecessarily. One day, he accidentally finds himself on set during the filming of a zombie movie on campus, spoiling the shot. He gets a rapid-fire introduction to the Art Squad, a team of students who support all the film clubs on campus. Ryuji Goda is the leader, and he immediately tells Ranmaru to sit down and start folding paper cranes for movie props.

It turns out that Ranmaru is incredibly good at crafts, but he spends so much time putting himself down he isn’t very aware of his own abilities. One aspect of his character development that I thought was incredibly clever on Hatori’s part is that Ranmaru’s perspective allows him to both anticipate and recover from disasters when they happen, because he’s just constantly thinking of how things could go wrong. Ranmaru spots a crack in a skylight in the Art Club’s studio space, and when the window shattering results in a prop getting damaged, he’s able to forage for supplies and improvise some impressive fixes. Ryuji sees Ranmaru’s talent and proclaims him as the Art Clubs savior.

Stories featuring found families are always appealing to me. While in many ways Behind the Scenes!! is very different from Paradise Kiss, both series feature characters who were alone who get adopted by art students and end up being transformed by the power of art. Behind the Scenes!! has a large supporting cast aside from Ranmaru and Ryuji, and there wasn’t enough space in the first volume to go into depth about some of the characters, so a few of them only fixed in my mind as “girl who loves special effects horror manga” or “handsome bland dude who likes latte art”. I’m sure that the supporting characters will all get more stories as the manga develops, and I’m looking forward to finding out more. The dynamic between the art squad and the student directors is a bit antagonistic and seems to rely a bit on forced drama, but the dynamic of a team of people all with different talents coming together to create props and sets made this manga fun to read, even if it doesn’t yet approach the goofy ridiculousness of Ouran High School Host Club.


School Judgement, Vol. 1

School Judgement Volume 1 by by Nobuaki Enoki and Takeshi Obata

This was a series that I expected to be wildly enthusiastic about, just for the Takeshi Obata art factor alone, so I was surprised to have a more measured reaction once I read the first volume. There were aspects of the setting and execution that didn’t sit well with me, but as always Obata’s art is beyond excellent.

School Judgement is set in an elementary school where conflicts are resolved by formal classroom arbitration, along with child prosecutors and defense attorneys. Two transfer students are introduced at the start of the volume. Abaku Inugami is a defense specialist whose hobby is arguing. He establishes his skills in an epic cross examination of his new teacher that results in her lifting the ban on video games at school. Pine Hanzuki is a prosecuting attorney who enjoys dressing up in magical girl outfits and is accompanied everywhere she goes by a rotund sidekick.

The new students are put to work promptly in “The Suzuki Dismemberment and Murder Case” where the Suzuki in question is a classroom fish. Tento Nanahoshi is the hapless student accused of fish murder, and when he is acquitted, he sticks around to provide a normal sidekick counterpoint to Inugami’s intensity. School Judgement is very entertaining when it sticks to power courtroom poses and mystery unraveling. I thought it was hilarious that the judges of the cases are babies who have prematurely aged due to their judicial duties, looking like wizened old men. Obata made Go dynamic and filled with suspense, so I was fully expecting dynamic courtroom scenes. There were some unexpected artistic choices too – when an adult is unmasked as evil, she’s suddenly rendered with a greater level of detail and rictus-like facial expressions that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror manga.


It could be that I didn’t like many of the characters due to their single-minded obsession with arguing, but both Inugami and Hanzuki aren’t particularly sympathetic. Hanzuki’s a spoiled rich girl, and while it seems that Inugami’s obsession with the law is due to a tragic event in his past, he’s too abrasive to root for. Nanahoshi is around to be a counterpoint to all the lawyering, but for the most part he’s also bland and forgettable.

The aspects of School Judgment that I didn’t care for were the contrast of the lower school setting and the art, which looked more like Hikaru no Go Obata in style with some of the darker or more mature themes. In a shonen manga set in a high school, I’d not really care about random bath scenes for example, but in School Judgement when the character is 12, that creeps me out a bit. Also, another story line is an extended drug metaphor, which also seems to be a bit much with the current setting. I think I would have enjoyed this manga much more if it had either aged down and just been an all ages title with cases to solve that invoked lighter themes, or if was aged up and set in a high school with the same type of stories. As it was, I found the manga entertaining in spots, a bit unsettling here or there, and I didn’t really care about what happens to the characters at all. My quibbles are mostly with the writing, because I think any manga by Obata ends up being a master class in illustration. So I’d recommend this for the art alone, even though I didn’t enjoy the story.