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????

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.

Takane & Hana, Vol 1

Takane & Hana Volume 1 by Yuki Shiwasu

This month has been crazy busy for me, so I haven’t had as much time to read manga as I would like. But there’s nothing like the first volume of a new shoujo series to break me out of a reading slump! Originally I was a tiny bit skeptical about the couple featured in this manga, because it features a high school girl and a businessman. But if Dengeki Daisy can easily convince me that the best companion for a young orphan is an older emotionally damaged janitor/hacker, Takane & Hana can certainly do the same for its unconventional couple.

As I started reading the first few pages of this manga, I was impressed at how many awesome facial expressions and comedic situations Shiwasu was able to pack into the first few pages. Hana is being dragged to a marriage meeting with the heir of a business empire because the chairman happened to catch a glimpse of her older sister while he was visiting her father’s struggling subsidiary company. Hana and her dad look incredibly stressed, and they have an amusing exchange where she wonders “What’s the plan for if he falls in love with me?” and he reassures her, “You don’t really have the looks to make that happen.”

Takane Saibara shows up and turns out to be incredibly good-looking, but not so wonderful with social skills, commenting that he doesn’t like all the makeup Hana is wearing to disguise her age. She jumps up, throws her wig in his face, and stalks off yelling that she isn’t interested in him. Takane ends up deciding to spend more time with Hana, showing up at her house with an oversized bouquet of roses and pointing at her while declaring “I’ve taken an interest in you!” Takane attempts to sweep Hana off her feet by bullying her into wearing a designer dress and taking her out to an expensive restaurant, expecting her to be impressed by his display of wealth. There’s a great one-panel sequence where Hana calmly tears Takane to shreds by psychoanalyzing him, saying that he isn’t charming enough to attract anyone but gold-diggers who dump him quickly, but he doesn’t want to face reality so he just goes around saying that he hates women all the time. Takane actually manages to apologize to Hana for his remarks, but it seems like it is the first time he’s actually said “I’m sorry.” to a girl.

The dynamic between Takane and Hana is what I absolutely loved, as he’s emotionally stunted, and she’s incredibly insightful and self-assured. He doesn’t pursue anything physical with Hana, seeming content to show up with ever more elaborate bouquets and gifts, while she manages to get him to agree to a date where he cosplays as a commoner. Their odd encounters actually force them to get to know each other as people, and Hana finds herself unexpectedly jealous when she contemplates the idea of Takane dating another woman. The first volume of Takane & Hana packed in a surprising amount of emotional development and funny moments in just a few chapters. It might not be as overly sweet and over the top as My Love Story!!, but if you’re looking for a funny new shoujo series to add to your manga collection, Takane & Hana definitely delivers.

SP Baby Vol. 2

SP Baby, Volume 2 by Maki Enjoji

I hadn’t realized before that this was only a two volume series! The second volume of SP Baby does exhibit some typical final second manga volume characteristics of plotlines going kablooie, but overall I enjoyed it as a peak into the possibilities of a slightly more lighthearted Maki Enjoji series.

Story wise, the pacing in this volume is a bit on the frantic side, as each chapter races through events that might have taken an entire volume to play out in a series with a bit more space. Tamaki deals with her infatuation for the florist next door, there’s an incident where she’s suddenly a maid for a short period of time, she continues to demonstrate her unerring bodyguarding instincts, the reader gets a little bit of information about Kagetora’s mysterious past connection to her, and a mysterious random fiancee is quickly disposed of. That’s a crazy amount of stuff to happen in one volume! Still, I liked the more comedic touch Enjoji brought to this series. Everyone’s Getting Married has me much more anxious about what will happen to the characters, but SP Baby was much lighter in tone, so I wasn’t reading every volume with a slight feeling of dread.

I enjoyed Tamaki’s frequent aggressive kicking and Kagetora’s intrinsic endearing weirdness and disconnection from reality. Enjoji’s art is always solid, easily portraying Tamaki’s swings of emotion from unchecked aggression to more tender feelings towards Kagetora. I really think that with 3 or 4 volumes and more time for the pacing to be more deliberate, SP Baby would have been so much better. As it is, it is a nice brief read that doesn’t quite come together in the end. Still recommended for fans of light and fluffy josei.

Queen’s Quality Vol 2

Queen’s Quality Volume 2 by Kyousuke Motomi

Kyousuke Motomi shoujo series are entertaining and refreshing for me to read, because while romance certainly is a feature, it often takes a backseat to subversive humor and action oriented plots involving hackers or the demons that lurk inside the souls of humans. This volume of Queen’s Quality continues the exploration into the twisted soul of a teacher who was bullying students, and Fumi and Kyutaro have to combine their abilities yet again in order to root out the bugs that cause a sort of soul malaise to spread to people like an infectious disease.

Motomi’s humor is on full display in a scene where Fumi is going to pick her sacred psychic weapon and instead of summoning a spear of light or magic sword she conjures a long-handled scrub brush. Kyutaro suggests that she try for another weapon but Fumi is delighted with her weapon because it is perfectly balanced and the best possible implement for cleaning toilets. Fumi’s cartoonish enthusiasm as she waves her brush around in the air is one of the few light-hearted moments in this volume, because once the Sweepers head into the brain of Ms Hayashi, things get both scary and surreal.

Kyutaro’s role as a steady emotional support to Fumi becomes even more important as she reveals another aspect to her hidden power as they battle their most challenging bugs yet. The layers of protection that exist in Fumi’s mind that hide her memories as well as her ability to consciously manifest her role as a “Queen” make Queen’s Quality an intriguing character study. The violent psychic landscape that the couple has to navigate contrasts with the more mundane chores of cleaning and making rice porridge back in the real world. Motomi is great at portraying slightly broken characters with great nuance, and it’ll be interesting to see if Fumi and Kyutaro manage to heal each other and achieve some sort of peace by the end of the series.