Haikyu!! Vols 3 and 4

Haikyu!! Volumes 3 and 4 by Haruichi Furudate

I have great difficulty reading Haikyu!! because my kids keep stealing my volumes and rereading them before I have a chance to get to them, but I recently managed to find volumes 3 and 4 and stash them away so I finally got a chance get caught up. I’m very much enjoying the pacing of the story in Haikyu!! and also the accelerated release schedule that Viz has been setting for these volumes, so I don’t have to wait too long for the next one. The first couple volumes firmly established the new rookies on the volleyball team, Kageyama the perfectionist and Hinata the enthusiastic but short volleyball savant, but two rookies can’t make up a whole team. There are still some essential players missing, and these two volumes did a good job at filling in the gaps of the Karasuno High Volleyball team.

The third volume introduces Karusuno’s libero, a player who specializes in defence. Yu Nishinoya is even shorter than Hinata, and he’s fiercely dedicated to his specialist position. When he shows up to practice, he’s disappointed that Karasuno’s ace Asahi isn’t participating. He refuses to play without Asahi, but is won over by Hinata’s enthusiasm and desire to learn. The spector of the missing Asahi hovers over practice, and when the reader is introduced to him, he looks at first like a mild giant, his fighting spirit knocked out of him by a horrible volleyball loss the last time he played.

Another missing piece is a coach, Keishin Ukai, the grandson of the legendary coach who was responsible for Karasuno’s winning era. Ukai promptly sets up a new challenge for the high school kids – they have to play the local municipal team of adults. Along the way, Yu actually mangest to get Asahi involved in the game again. Bolstered by additional players and a coach, the team is starting to pull together.

The fourth volume shows the team take on a new challenge – a practice game with their traditional rivals, Nekoma High. One of the things I enjoyed most about this volume was seeing the personalities and playing habits of Karasuno pitted against another high school team. Karasuno still has a long way to go, but they have flashes of brilliance here and there which hint at success in future volumes. Sometimes sheer determination and repetition forces Hinata to take his game to the next level. The trust developing between all the teammates is also key to their improved performance.

Haikyu!! is just delightful to read, and while I might be inadvertently learning more about volleyball strategy than I ever expected, seeing all the subplots develop as each member of the team has individual struggles to reach their full potential is what makes this series so entertaining. Widening the focus of the story to include other team members like Asahi and Nishinoya keeps everything fresh, as the rookies have to adjust to the changing team dynamics.

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Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 2

Yona of the Dawn Volume 2 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I’m enjoying the way this story seems to is moving along at a fairly fast clip, but still seems to have plenty of time for character development and world building. In the last volume Princess Yona’s world was utterly shattered and she has to go on the run with her trusty protector Hak. He takes her to the home village of the wind tribe in order to seek refuge for a short time. I was happy to see that in this volume, Yona’s resolute spirit is highlighted, since she was mostly silly, sassy, and incredibly depressed in the first volume.

As they reach the Wind Tribe, there’s a little bit of comic relief as Hak meets up with some fellow warriors. Yona is exhausted, but living among the Wind Tribe helps her gain back some resiliency as she’s surrounded by a warm family. Hak continues to tease Yona somewhat relentlessly in such a way that I’m assuming that he’s just trying to cover up for his feelings for her. Yona has an opportunity to stay and live a quiet live with the Wind Tribe, but when it becomes clear that Su-Won isn’t going to stop trying to track her down. Yona is still a valuable political pawn.

What I most enjoyed about this volume is that I was able to see some flashes of the heroine I’m sure Yona is going to become. When Hak tries to leave her behind, she cuts through his joking demeanor and demands his fealty, and they strike out on their own again. Su Won’s soldiers are determined to capture Yona, and she stands up to the enemy, demonstrating that she isn’t the broken princess they were assuming they would find.

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QQ Sweeper, Vol 3

QQ Sweeper, Volume 3 by Kyousuke Motomi

I hadn’t realized that this series was so short, followed by a rebooted sequel series. So this concluding volume isn’t so much of an ending as it is wrapping up one stage of the series and signaling a new one. Still, with Motomi behind things, QQ Sweeper still manages to be a pretty satisfying non-concluding three volume series, and I hope Queen’s Quality also gets licensed.

As the volume opens, Kyutaro knows that Fumi is his long-lost childhood friend, but her peculiar amnesia prevents her from remembering any elements of her previous life. He’s content to be near her, even if she doesn’t regain her memories. While there is a little bit of school drama, most of the conflict in this volume comes from Fumi being signaled out by a new enemy, Ataru, pretending to be a boy with fortunetelling skills. Ataru shows up for group karaoke dates but then manipulates everyone around him by intoning dark prophecies. One of Fumi’s friends is particularly susceptible to this type of plotting, and Fumi soon finds herself gossiped about as being cursed yet again. Fortunately some of her closest friends don’t fall into this trap, and QQ Sweeper shows that there’s plenty of possibility for redemption in humanity after all.

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All along in Fumi’s efforts to become a sweeper and clean up bad supernatural messes, there have been hints of a larger destiny for her. As Fumi and Kyutaro confront Ataru, he references Fumi’s potential to become a Queen, and she exhibits a greater degree of confidence and control in bring back her friend’s lost soul. Motomi series always have an endearing quirkiness about them, that when combined with the themes of friendship and found family result in manga with a unique feel. QQ Sweeper‘s juxtaposition of random domestic cleaning with violent supernatural confrontation with some humor here and there made me wish that this wasn’t the last volume. I hope to see these characters again in Queen’s Quality if Viz decides to bring out that series too!

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Vol. 1

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 1 by Aya Shouoto

I enjoy Shouoto’s other series, Kiss of the Rose Princess, so I was interested in trying out The Demon Prince of Momochi House. When I read the description and looked at the front cover, I was also curious to see how similar it might be to another Shojo Beat series featuring yokai, Kamisama Kiss.

Himari Momochi is a plucky orphan who inherits a house that has been in her family for years. She decides to journey to Momochi House and claim her inheritance, despite some dire warnings along the way that the house she’s traveling to is haunted. When she arrives at the house, the inside is trashed and shadowy figures keep brushing past her as she explores the interior. One of the shadowy figures ends up being a naked young man named Aoi, who is quickly admonished to put clothes on by a couple of other men. They accuse Himari of being a burglar, and she quickly produces the legal document that proclaims she’s the owner of the house. Himari is determined to stay, and the horrible cleaning jobs that await her and the mysterious implosion of her smartphone, and presence of male squatters do nothing to change her attachment to her new home. Mysterious animal yokai appear, and Himari is introduced to the supernatural elements that occupy her house. Aoi is serving as the guardian spirit, and the other young men are his helper spirits Yukari and Ise.

When Aoi switches from his human to Omamoiri form, he admonishes Himari not to look at him in his beguiling fox spirit guise. Himari thinks the relationship between Aoi and his helpers is very much like a family, which makes her wistful. She’s also pragmatic despite the new element of the supernatural in her life, deciding that she needs to charger her three freeloaders rent and thinking about investigating enrolling in a local school. Aoi and Himari are clearly attracted to each other, and Aoi seems to be operating under an imperative that he protect her at all costs from the haunted elements that still exist in her ancestral home.

Demon Prince of Momochi House is a much less silly series than Kiss of the Rose Princess. I think the art is stronger and a bit more distinctive than Rose Princess too. Sometimes drawing spirits brings out the best in a manga-ka! Some aspects of this series did remind me of Kamisama Kiss, but I also feel as though Kamisama Kiss is such a standout series in terms of quality that other manga are going to suffer in comparison automatically. I wish there had been a bit more character development, because so far the characters seem more like types than fully realized individuals. I found myself liking Kiss of the Rose Princess more as the series progressed, and I’m expecting that to happen with The Demon Prince of Momochi House too. It could be that I’m just a sucker for series featuring handsome spirits, but I enjoyed this first volume much more than the first volume of Kiss of the Rose Princess too. I’m hoping for more character development in the next volume.