Kenka Bancho Otome, Vol 1

Kenka Bancho Otome by Chie Shimada

Kenka Bancho Otome has many elements that I like present in a single manga. There is a reverse harem scenario in which a girl has to dress as a boy! It is an adaptation of an otome game, and I enjoy the occasional otome game (still playing Ninja Shadow). Also, there is punching and juvenile delinquency involved, and I do greatly appreciate shoujo manga heroines with the ability to perform acts of physical strength.

One thing I found absolutely hilarious was the way the set-up for the whole manga was taken care of in about 5 panels. Hinako, an orphan, is about to start her high school career at an all girls school, when she brushes against a boy who fakes a violent fall. The mysterious boy’s manservant tells her that he has broken his arm, and Hinako is forced to attend his school entrance ceremony in his place. Conveniently, the “injured” boy is Hinako’s doppleganger. She finds herself dressed as a boy, attending an all boys school for juvenile delinquents. Hinako is cosplaying as Hikaru Onigashima, the son of a yakuza boss, whose family obligations require him to become the boss of the school by beating up everyone around him. I sort of wish the rest of the manga took place at such a breakneck speed, but I’m sure that would not be practical to execute.

This being an adaptation of an otome game, handsome boys of different types are introduced in short succession. There’s the mysterious dark-haired uppperclassman with a secret shared past with Hinako, a sporty exuberant boy who blushes all the time, a silent boy with hidden depths, and a flamboyant rock star. I can’t remember their names because the characters are not really all that memorable, but that’s not really the point! Kenka Bancho Otome steps through many standard shoujo plot points with a breezy charm and attractive character designs. It did make me wish that the game was available on android, because I totally would have played it after reading the manga. On that level, I think the manga is a success. It was fun to read, mainly because I’m always up for punching and reverse harem manga. On the other hand, any otome game adaptation isn’t going to have the emotional depth of a manga like Hana Kimi or the hilarity of a series like Oresama Teacher. So Kenka Bancho Otome is nice and diverting, when someone might be in the need of a pleasant distraction, which is a mood I find myself in most of the time.

Takane & Hana, Vol. 2

Takane & Hana Volume 2 by Yuki Shiwasu

I enjoyed the first volume of this series, but it is always good to see how a new manga series will settle in after the author has gotten through introducing the characters and plot points in the first five chapters or so. It was interesting to see this odd couple continue to navigate situations that are out of their respective comfort zones. Hana attends an important work social event with Takane, made up to resemble her older sister. Hana then concludes (sensibly) that the age difference between them is too great and attempts to push Takane away, but that doesn’t go well. Hana then takes Takane out to cherry blossom viewing where he has to deal with being around throngs of people. One of the nice things about this series is seeing how this couple tends to push each other to experience new things, and then be very supportive of each other. One of Takane’s playboy friends shows up and awakens all of his protective instincts towards Hana. Shiwasu makes a comment in this volume about how much she enjoys drawing funny facial expressions and it really shows in the artwork for this series. I feel like even if there was very little character development or dialogue I would almost buy this series just to see Takane’s perplexed and incredulous facial expressions as he attempts to deal with Hana shoving a sea cucumber into his mouth. At two volumes in, Takane & Hana is still a fun, breezy read, and a welcome dose of shoujo comedy.


https://amzn.to/2GXq90E

The Young Master’s Revenge, Vol. 1

The Young Master’s Revenge, Vol. 1 by Meca Tanaka

Meca Tanaka’s manga is so charming! I thought that the first page of The Young Master’s Revenge was one of the most captivating first pages of manga that I’ve read recently. All in black, the thought “It is time for me to start my revenge” hovers while a boy accompanied by a lovely shoujo floral background illustration is leaving an airport with a bright smile and an adorable dog in a carrier. The contrast between the dark thoughts and the stereotypical innocent hero illustration immediately drew my attention.

The vengeful hero is Leo, a boy returning to Japan to attend high school after his father’s fashion company has become incredibly successful. Before he left Japan, he used to be friends with an heiress to a department store named Tenma. She was a tomboy who loved chasing animals, accidentally getting Leo into a situation where he was bitten on the butt by turtles, which has caused him years of psychological trauma. Leo has nursed his hatred for 10 years, turning himself into the perfect specimen of a high school boy just so he can make Tenman fall in love with him and then dump her. Unfortunately he finds out that things have changed in Japan and his path to revenge is not so smooth. Tenma’s family has fallen on hard times, and when he meets her again, she picks up her friendship with him exactly where they left off, but without any romantic notions at all.

Tanaka’s illustrations easily switch between capably showing the subtle emotions in the growing friendship between Tenma and Leo to straight out caricature. Tanaka’s characters have the most adorable surprised facial expressions. Leo grows more distressed as he realizes that other boys are aware of Tenma too, and potential rivals for her affection are introduced in such over the top ways, it is fun to see Tanaka poking fun at some typical shoujo conventions. Leo’s reasons for revenge are ridiculous, but this manga isn’t mean spirited at all. I preferred the revenge story in this manga as opposed to Komomo Confiserie which has an extremely similar plot because The Young Master’s Revenge never seems to cross the line into meanness at all. For me this manga fills that slot on my reading list for simple, cute, and adorable manga that has been left a little vacant by series like My Love Story!! and Honey So Sweet that have recently finished.

Anonymous Noise, Vol 6

Anonymous Noise, Volume 6 by Ryoko Fukuyama

Anonymous Noise, sometimes I find this series a little infuriating because I’m not fond of the dynamics in the Nino-Yuzu-Momo love triangle, where Nino as muse gets bounced back and forth between two songwriters while everyone keeps hiding their feelings for various reasons. On the other hand this series does bring a regular dose of rock band drama, which I do appreciate. I found this volume more entertaining, probably because there was a bit more focus on the supporting cast. This volume starts out with the aftermath of the In No Hurry vs Silent Black Kitty battle of the bands, where Nino runs after Momo, gets rejected, Yuzu shows up to pick up the pieces, and then decides to lie about his feelings again.

Momo vanishes and Nino’s psychosomatic reaction is to have difficulty singing again, but she does hang out Miou a little bit, which I am taking as an indication that my dream ending for the series, where Momo and Miou forswear all men to launch an all girl band is totally going to happen. One thing that I was quite thrilled with is that Miou finally decides to take a chance on Haruyoshi, who has been pursuing her forever. Nino is determined to get back her voice, and Yuzu and Momo are dealing with their obsessions in their own way, as Yuzu buries himself in songwriting, and Momo attempts to get Yuzu to slip one of his songs to Nino. The circular nature of the love triangle leads back to Nino yet again having to choose between the two songwriters.

I don’t know, as I put down this volume I found myself much more invested in the Miou/Haruyoshi romance, because it at least seems to be progressing somewhere! I still read this for the reliable angst and rock band poses, but I would really really like to see a little more progression for the main characters. Also, I miss cranky Nino, and hope she will manifest the snarkiness she exhibited during her band’s radio interview. Will that happen in volume 7????


http://amzn.to/2FRFQmm

Yona of the Dawn Vol. 10

Yona of the Dawn Volume 10 by Mizuho Kusanagi

It is a sign of a good long-running fantasy series, when at 10 volumes in I feel like the story is barely getting started and I just want it to go on forever! Part of the reason why I’m finding this manga so compelling to read is the inherent niceness of the characters. It might be cheesy, but this manga helps me maintain some hope for humanity. Yona’s ability to spread compassion throughout her immediate surroundings by demonstrating her own compassion gets featured often in Yona of the Dawn, but each time it is with a special twist that has me immediately captivated.

In this case, the target of Yona’s transformation through compassion is Kang Tae-Jun, second son of the fire chief and all around unpleasant person, as shown in his actions in earlier volumes when he thought he killed Yona by throwing her off a cliff. His obsession has continued, and he’s consumed with guilt when he realizes that Yona might be in the company of the fearsome bandits that are occupying a village. Tae-Jun’s trauma is played for laughs at first, as he lingers in bed and plots to return to Katan village where he thought he heard Yona’s voice. He declares that he finally has a reason for living and his men are bewildered, but supportive. Tae-Jun’s undercover attempts involve an inept disguise as a commoner. When he encounters members of Yona’s band, he assumes that they are evil, but they scoop him up and take him for medical treatment.

Tae-Jun learns that conditions in the town for the citizens are terrible, and the things he’s been told about the lands of the Fire Tribe were lies. Tae-Jun’s encounter with an enigmatic Hak is hilarious, as Hak maintains an enigmatic expression while Tae-Jun is inwardly dying as he realizes that he’s sharing a fire with the dreaded “Thunder Beast”. Kusanagi could teach a master class in drawing overwrought facial expressions as Tae-Jun goes through such an extreme of emotions in this volume. When Tae-Jun finally encounters Yona, she forgives him, and he then decides on a covert campaign to improve the lives of the Katan villagers, while leveraging the resources of the military under his command. Tae Jun keeps helping more and more, until he’s been transformed in his outlook and abilities by the end of the volume. This was a satisfying, more self-contained volume of Yona of the Dawn, but it seems clear that another adventure is about to begin. I’m excited to see what happens next for Yona and her band of mystical warriors.