About Anna N

Anna Neatrour is a librarian with too much manga in her house. She started blogging at TangognaT in 2003 about libraries, books, manga, and comics. She created Manga Report to focus only on manga reviews in 2010. Anna is a member of the writing collective known as The Bureau Chiefs, authors of FakeAPStylebook and the book Write More Good. Anna contributed the Bringing the Drama column to Manga Bookshelf before joining the team in Nov 2012. When not reading, Anna can be found knitting or wrangling small children.

Requiem of the Rose King, Vol 6

Requiem of the Rose King Volume 6 by Aya Kanno

My only minor quibble with this series is that as it progresses, I sometimes have difficulty telling all the blonde Englishmen apart. However, once I’m further into each volume I start remembering the more subtle aspects of Kanno’s character designs and then I can tell who is who.

One of the themes of this series is the brutality of war and the psychological cost associated with making kings, both with those who seek power through manipulation and the kings themselves who end up as pawns in a bigger game of statesmanship. Richard and Henry have found a peace with each other that is utterly separate from their hidden identities as opposing Tudor and Yorks. While Richard as the central character of this manga is undoubtedly fascinating, I enjoyed the way this volume focused on the kingmakers Buckingham and Warwick, their varying relationships with Richard and the hazards of trying to seize power through putting someone forward for the throne.

Kanno’s artistic and surreal portrayal of Richard’s psychological torment and the horrors of war is a highlight in this series. The battle that Richard fights is made even more confusing by a fog that envelops the troops, causing the soldiers to be uncertain if they are fighting their own side or the enemy. As Richard heads towards the vengeance he desires for the death of his beloved father, he’s going to be even more overset when he finds out just who his Henry really is. It always feels like there’s quite a long wait between volumes, but this is one series that I’m going to be rereading from start to finish as soon as the final volume comes out, just to be able to get swept up in this fascinating story again.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 6

Yona of the Dawn Volume 6 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I’m always happy when a new volume of Yona of the Dawn comes out. The cover of this volume, featuring Yona and Sinha sheltering from the rain under a giant leaf, is particularly adorable. Yona is tested in many ways as she learns more about the Green Dragon and his pirate companions.

Although Yona doesn’t have any superpowers, the force of her forthright personality proves to be an incredible advantage for her. When the Green Dragon Jaeha announces that he won’t join up with her, she reacts calmly, saying that she’ll ask him to join her but would never order or try to compel him to change his mind. Yona is tested even further when Jaeha takes her to meet the pirate queen, Captain Gi-Gan. She tests the companions and refuses to accept Yona, since Yona doesn’t have any special or useful abilities. Gi-Gan tells Yona to gather a rare medicinal herb, which requires some treacherous hiking at the edge of a cliff. Yona is determined to prove herself worthy of taking part in the upcoming battle, and she heads off to face her test, accompanied by Jaeha. Jaeha’s Green Dragon protective instincts kick in even as he tries to fight the bond he has with Yona.

There were a bunch of very cute Yona and Hak moments in this volume. Hak points out that her attitude towards the Green Dragon’s recruitment is totally at odds to her ordering him to accompany her on her journey and she gets incredibly flusters and tells him to shut up because “You’re different.” Hak secretly finds this adorable. Hak’s jealousy kicks into high gear when Jaeha talks about how unique and cute Yona is. His emotions are tested even more when Yona decides to go undercover to subvert the local warlord’s terrible plans for human trafficking with the village girls. Sometimes I’m not a fan of such slowly developing romances, but while Hak has clearly acknowledged his feelings internally, it still seems like Yona hasn’t examined her feelings for him quite as closely. Hopefully there will be more developments here in the next volume or so!

As I was reading this volume of Yona of the Dawn, I realized that it reminded me quite a bit of Basara. There’s the superficial similarity of awesome pirate queen characters popping up in both manga, but the slower pace of the storytelling allowing the author to introduce an expansive cast with plenty of character development along the way is the main reason why I like both series.

Water Dragon’s Bride, Vol. 2

The Water Dragon’s Bride, Volume 2 by Rei Toma

The first volume of Water Dragon’s Bride was surprisingly dark, which made it feel quite a bit refreshing as it was quite a tonal shift from the usual shoujo fantasy fare. The second volume wasn’t quite as dark in theme, but it was still quite absorbing, ensuring that this series is rapidly becoming a current favorite of mine.

Modern girl Asahi finds herself transported to another world where she ends up being brutalized by humans, offered up as a sacrifice to the Water Dragon God, and almost starves to death due to the Water Dragon’s utter incomprehension of human frailty. Her one ally is Subaru, a village boy with a scheming and overbearing mother. The Water Dragon appears and heals Asahi from her injuries as she is recuperating in the village. Asahi has a few normal hours where she attempts to communicate while being robbed of speech and she is able to enjoy the outdoors a little bit.

The Water Dragon begins to exhibit some gradual signs of change with the mild protectiveness he exhibits towards Asahi. He becomes angry at the human villagers and finds the rituals and stories they’ve made up about him ridiculous, but he still has no idea how easily breakable humans are, causing yet another accident to Asahi and Subaru as he gets caught up in rage. Asahi is left to care for Subru on his own when he’s injured and she ends up being incredibly resourceful even when she is helped along a little bit by the gods who seem to regard her as a pet project.

Asahi’s situation stabalizes somewhat, as she’s given the role of a priestess and a caretaker. The Water Dragon decided to wait to claim his bride until she’s older and the last few pages give a glimpse of Asahi and Subaru much older, giving a hint to the next story arc. The art on The Water Dragon’s Bride continues to be delightful, and I’m still in awe of Toma’s deceptively simple illustration style. The art isn’t overdecorated, but she manages to portray everything she needs with great economy. It is always clear what Asahi is thinking, even when she’s robbed of the power of speech. The character designs for the pantheon of gods that keep popping in and out to offer sly commentary on the Water Dragon’s inexplicable choices are also charming. My only complaint is that there’s too much of a wait between volumes for this series!

Platinum End, Vol. 2

Platinum End Volume 2 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

This is a series that I want to like a little more than I actually do in practice after reading each volume. I thought that the first volume had a lot of potential, but I was a bit worried about some of the themes being a rehash of Death Note. I had a mixed experience with the second volume, finding the first few chapters more interesting than some of the main action depicted in the latter portion of the manga.

Mirai gets struck by a red arrow by a girl who he already had a crush on! This was the part of the manga that I found the most compelling as a reader, because Mirai has been dealing with manipulating people and the complications that ensue in the first volume, but then the situation is reversed in the second volume. This change of dynamic was interesting, and I thought the emotional aspects of being in thrall to someone were well-portrayed as Mirai is suddenly enthusiastic about protecting Saki at all costs, but he clearly would have been willing to help her without being coerced. Saki meanwhile seems to like him well enough but is still signaling her disinterest in a romantic relationship with Mirai in a diplomatic way.

The bulk of the manga deals with a confrontation with Metropoliman in a stadium, where a variety of coerced god-candidates and audience plants end up in a series of revelations and double-cross maneuverings that play out while Mirai and Saki have to sit in the stands like regular audience members, so they don’t end up being a target for the god candidates too. There wasn’t as much dramatic tension in these scenes because most of the time people were yelling variations of “gotcha!” and played out over multiple pages, it got to be a bit too one-note for me. I didn’t very much care for the way an under-aged girl with the god-power of wings was portrayed, with some of the panels like one showing the way she got struck by a red arrow are uncomfortably sexualized.

The art is always a highlight of any Obata title, and for the most part I’m enjoying that, but I’m hoping that the story ends up being a bit more compelling in future volumes. I’m still not finding this title as compelling as Death Note, but that’s a high bar to measure anything by. Although I’m not enjoying Platinum End as much as I hope to, it is still more interesting than many shonen titles.

Peach Heaven Vol. 1

So far, I’m having a mixed experience with Kodansha’s digital line. I like Chihayafuru and The Full-Time Wife Escapist (review of that coming soon), but I am not thrilled with A Springtime With Ninjas or Peach Heaven. In a way this is good, because I’m not having to set aside funds for so many digital series!

Peach Heaven treads familiar ground as the hapless heroine Momoko is blackmailed into being a slave to an evil male model – is there any other type of model in shoujo manga? Momoko has taken over her father’s writing persona and is cranking out erotica books in order to support her sick mother and younger brother. She toils on her writing all night, only to fall asleep in school the next day. Her friends think she’s hopelessly addicted to online gaming. Through a series of events that I no longer remember, Ranmaru the male model finds out about her double life and starts blackmailing her. Momoko is forced to bring Ranmaru lunch every day at school, and he continues to berate her for her life choices and makes fun of her for being a virgin.

Of course, various situations come up when Ranmaru has to rescue or intervene in Momoko’s life, indicating that he might be not so terrible after all. There isn’t really any suspense or dramatic tension in this manga. While I generally enjoy trashy romance manga, that’s usually only in cases where there’s a bit of a sense of humor or some over the top soap opera element to the storylines, and I don’t see anyone in Peach Heaven, say, abruptly deciding to become a priest or dealing with the aftereffects of personality-changing hypnotism. I was hoping that Peach Heaven would be another fun guilty pleasure manga, but it is just not very interesting. The rote plotting isn’t really complimented by the art, which is competent but doesn’t exhibit any individual sense of style.