Call of the Night Vol 1

Call of the Night Volume 1 by Kotoyama

I’m always a little curious about Shonen Sunday titles, as they tend to be a little more sophisticated than Shonen Jump manga so I was intrigued by the idea of a shonen vampire romance like Call of the Night. Ko Yamori starts out by being the typical hapless shonen protagonist but he’s isolated and has just started having terrible insomnia. He’s not attending school regularly and one night he slips out of his house and starts wandering around in the middle of the night while searching up ideas for insomnia cures on his phone. Seeing many people posting about the benefits of alcohol he stands in front of a vending machine contemplating buying a beer when he’s suddenly accosted by a mysterious blond girl in a cloak who says she can help him if he’s having trouble sleeping. She brings Ko back to her place to crash, and he quickly discovers that his new acquaintance is a vampire named Nazuna.

Call of the Night

Ko finds the idea of becoming a vampire immediately intriguing but Nazuna finds the topic incredibly embarrassing because the only way for a human to become a vampire is to fall in love with one and let that vampire drink from them. Ko is determined to make this happen, and while Nazuna likes to joke about sex, the idea of any type of emotional intimacy is something that she shies away from. Ko and Nazuna keep finding each other in the middle of the night and hanging out. There’s an undercurrent of loneliness to this manga that makes it a little more interesting and poignant than I was expecting, as Ko and Nazuna keep seeking each other out. Ko’s not done with the human world though, as he reconnects with an old friend of his who encourages him to go back to school. Kotoyama’s art is stylized and angular, making the world of the night seem more mysterious. I definitely felt intrigued by the end of the first volume and I’m curious to see how this relationship will develop over time.

Penguin Gentlemen

Penguin Gentlemen by Kishi Ueno

The premise of this manga – penguins who happen to run a cafe where they are all very buff men wearing tuxedos – seemed so ridiculous I couldn’t help wanting to check it out. This single volume manga certainly gets the deluxe treatment, with a hardcover edition and plenty of color pages. Now and then I really enjoy a didactic manga, and that’s what Ueno delivers. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of a storyline focusing on penguin cafe work, because I enjoy a good food manga as well, but for readers who want to dramatically up their knowledge of penguin behavior, species variants, and random facts about penguin habitats this is the book for you!

Penguin Gentlemen

The character designs are one of the most amusing aspects of the book, as Ueno showcases differences in penguin markings and size into the hair styles and tuxedo uniforms of all the waiters. The main boss of the cafe is the King penguin, who is dwarfed in size by the stoic Emperor penguin who looms over everyone. The penguin gentlemen discuss their characteristics in the setting of the cafe, with plenty of comedic bits. The characters switch back and forth often between their anthropomorphic human forms and their natural states as penguins, but Ueno is great at rendering the heightened emotions of the characters even when they are in bird form. I read this book in several sittings, simply because I was not able to absorb all the information about penguin egg hatching, body language, and markings without a break here and there. The last section of the book that focuses on penguin courtship rituals is particularly hilarious. If someone wants to learn many scientific facts about penguins and be entertained along the way, Penguin Gentlemen certainly delivers.

Moriarty the Patriot Vols 1 and 2

Moriarty the Patriot Volume 1 by Ryosuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi

I was intrigued by the concept of Moriarty the Patriot, because I was curious how the manga would flip Moriarty from being the antagonist into being the protagonist of his own story. It turns out that Moriarty has an intrinsically sympathetic goal – full scale class warfare! This first volume details how the evil mastermind Moriarty is adopted into a family of nobles, with a slightly sociopathic older brother named Albert who is determined to wage war against the nobility with the benefit of his younger brother’s genius.

The chapters in this first volume often involve an episodic approach to plot, with Moriarty intervening in the lives of people who’ve been taken advantage of by so-called nobility. His focus on revenge is certainly satisfying, and by the end of the volume, he’s surrounded himself with a core group of companions who are similarly bent on striking back against the British class system.

Moriarty the Patriot Volume 2 Ryosuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi

I found this second volume a little less interesting because it had more of the expected story beats that I’d assume would show up in a Holmes adaptation. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more Moriarty in this volume. Here the reader sees Takeuchi’s version of Holmes meet Watson and figure out how to deal with his landlady Mrs Hudson. While it was enjoyable, there wasn’t as much dramatic tension because other than his lower class affectation, Holmes is pretty much what one would expect. As Holmes hurdles into his next case, I’m curious to see if he’s going to be at odds with Moriarty once more, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen when they start clashing over cases involving spectacularly murdered noblemen.

Yona of the Dawn 28 and Prince Freya 4

I hit a bit of a pandemic wall in my manga reading, so hoping to feel less bad about my backlog by posting some quick takes on my recent reading. Maybe I’ll have more energy next month!

Yona of the Dawn 28 by Misuho Kusanagi

Yona of the Dawn

Yona of the Dawn is such a consistently satisfying fantasy series with a depth and nunace that few authors are able to pull off. This volume was extremely amusing to me because it featured Tae-jun freaking out a bunch. Tae-jun was extremely worried about his not very great covert support of Yona possibly being found out by his older brother and chief of the fire tribe Kyo-ga. Tae-jun also had the best hysterical facial expressions when he yelled about the need for separate rooms for Hak and Yona. All along as Yona has been traveling the country helping people, there have been hints of what might happen if a cult of personality develops around her as the true heir to the Crimson Dragon King and her new Four Dragon Warriors. These undercurrents were brought to the surface by Su-Won’s advisor lurking around being menacing to anyone in his vicinity. There’s clearly more conflict coming with both political maneuvering and with upcoming battles, but this was a great spacer volume with plenty of wonderful character development moments.

Prince Freya 4 by Keiko Ishihara

Prince Freya

I have come to realize that I read this manga much like I would read a Harlequin romance. Are there inexplicable plot twists? Yes! Do I care about really understanding what’s going on? Not so much! While there are no cases of pregnesia in this manga we do get the shocker of Aleksi coming back from the dead in the company of a group of forest people who express just how metal they are by wearing stag skull masks and making vague pronouncements in an odd tone of voice. Meanwhile, Julius continues to develop more feelings for his charge, and Freya as Prince Edward manages to inspire her subjects even more. An additional complication comes up when Freya has to meet the emotionally unstable king and attempt to pull off a much more complicated bit of acting. This is one of those series that I just read, let wash over me, and don’t worry about the plot twists and complications. I’m expecting some love triangle shenanigans with Julius and Aleksi in the next few volumes, along with the swashbuckling battle scenes that have become a fixture in this manga.

The King’s Beast, Vol 1

The King’s Beast Volume 1 by Rei Toma

I liked Dawn of the Arcana, but The Water Dragon’s Bride was a big step up for Rei Toma artistically. I was extremely curious to read The King’s Beast, which returns to the world of Dawn of the Arcana but with an interesting twist. I was more intrigued by this series when I realized that instead of the quasi-Medieval European setting of Dawn of the Arcana, The King’s Beast was set in a kingdom that resembled historical China. What both series do have in common is an uneasy societal structure where humans live aside Ajin, humanoids who have beast-like features and occasionally special abilities. Ajin are systematically subjugated and forced to serve humans. The manga opens with Rangetsu, a female Ajin who has disguised herself as a boy in order to become a servant prince Tenyou. Her twin brother Sogetsu died in the prince’s service when they were young and now she’s determined to get her revenge.

One of the strongest aspects of The Water Dragon’s Bride was Toma’s exploration of the darker side of humanity and the hope found despite the darkness. This also seems like a continuing theme in The King’s Beast, as the Ajin face severe discrimination, and Rangetsu’s desperation for revenge shows how much pain she’s faced in her life so far. I always enjoy the way Toma paces out her stories, and once Rangetsu is in place she quickly learns that Tenyou wasn’t responsible for her brother’s death, and actually mourns him. There’s plenty of palace intrigue in store as Rangetsu tries to figure out her place as the prince’s new Ajin servant and Tenyou starts realizing what Rangetsu’s motivations are. Toma illustrates her manga with a clear, delicate style but she also pulls of plenty of dynamic action scenes as Rangetsu’s fighting abilities are challenged. This volume did a great job at setting up the dynamic between the two main characters and the political intrigue to come seems like it will be plenty challenging. There’s also a great bonus story for The Water Dragon’s Bride fans included at the end of the volume.