Daytime Shooting Star, Vols 11 and 12

Daytime Shooting Star Volumes 11 and 12 by Mika Yamamori

There are so many Shojo Beat series wrapping up! I’m trying to catch up on my reading and get myself psyched for new series. Daytime Shooting Star is by far the most anxiety-provoking Shojo Beat series for me, just due to the situation where Suzume falls in love with her teacher Mr. Shishio. From the first volume, the thing I was most dreading was a “10 years later” epilogue ending where Suzume is out of college, meets Shishio again and they live happily ever after. In this case my worry was unfounded and my expectations built on years of shoujo plot tropes might have made me worry needlessly. It is a testament to Yamamori’s storytelling abilities that this series was regularly on the top of my to-read pile and I was so invested in the story that I kept reading despite my worries.

Daytime Shoting Star 11

I’ve been on team Mamura all along, and it was great seeing Suzume and Mamura actually start tentatively dating. Of course Shishio has an incredibly immature reaction to Suzume moving along is to reel her back in with a confession of his feelings. One of the reasons why I’m so invested in the Mamura/Suzume relationship is that Mamura is unusually insightful, and willing call out Suzume a bit when she’s pretending that everything is ok when something is clearly bothering her. Mamura is putting her peace of mind in getting some sort of resolution over his own desire to move ahead with their relationship. There’s a great and touching scene where Suzume just leans her head into Mamura’s chest to calm herself, thinking “I feel like he’s putting my heart back where it belongs”. What follows is a sports day full of emotional confrontation and drama, as Mamura and Shishio compete in a relay race, Suzume gets injured in her dogged pursuit of bread, and she and Shishio have another emotionally charged talk.

Daytime Shooting Star 12

As the final volume opens, Suzume and Mamura go on a trip to Okinawa with friends, but he pushes her to resolve her feelings for Mr. Shishio. Shishio’s evolution from charming but slightly sketchy to selfish and incredibly immature over the twelve volumes has been something fascinating to see. Yamamori manages to make all her characters charming no matter what emotional issues they’re dealing with, and by the time I finished this volume I was convinced that all the teenage characters were exhibiting a maturity of character and psychological insight that far outpaced any of their adult counterparts in this manga. Suzume has been a charming and irrepressible heroine who has been plagued by self-doubt as she struggled to make sense of her emotions. By the end of this volume, she has clarity and is truly happy, which was wonderful to see. Daytime Shooting Star featured some great humor, stylish character design, and characters who grew and changed, becoming more secure in themselves as the series concluded. Daytime Shooting Star was an extremely satisfying series to read.

An Incurable Case of Love, Vol 7

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 7 by Maki Enjoji

Especially in these pandemic times, sometimes I just want to read something light and fairly predictable. I don’t want surprise plot twists or social commentary, but seeing a couple work through and resolve all the impediments to their romance and end up with a happy ending is often just the diversion that I’m looking for. The Shojo Beat “stealth josei” titles like An Incurable Case of Love tend to be limited, with only one or two coming out at a time but I really enjoy them.

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 7

This is the final volume of An Incurable Case of Love! I’ve been feeling like the past couple volumes have been stretching out the story a little too much, this would probably have been a very tight 5 volume series as opposed to a slightly meandering 7 volume series, but I very much enjoyed it overall. I’m a sucker for repeated plot tropes and anything in shoujo manga that reminds me of a k-drama, so I was delighted when there was a time skip involved when Dr. Tendo had to study abroad for a number of years only to finally reunite with Nanase at the end. I do not feel like I’m even revealing any major spoilers as all of this has been telegraphed to the reader all along. Still, by the end of the manga the Dark Lord and the Valiant One have become an adorable couple and it is nice to see Nanase win in her steadfast goal of bagging the one doctor that she feel in love with at first sight so many years ago. For fans of predictable workplace romance, An Incurable Case of Love absolutely delivers. I’m hoping to get some more josei titles that are set in places beyond offices, because this series was amusing and the medical setting gave the author plenty of opportunities to explore extra drama.

An Incurable Case of Love, Vol 5

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 5 by Maki Enjoji

After four volumes with plenty of workplace hijinks now that Tendo and Nana have become an actual couple, there have to be some random external influences show up to test their relationship. In the fifth volume this takes the form of a forlorn young man who shows up and demands that Nana hide him from some people who are following him. This turns into an extremely odd impromptu date involving a bowling alley and a park. Nana humors him for awhile, because her nursing instincts are kicking in. When he has a seizure, Nana has him transported to her hospital.

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 5

The young man turns out to be Chikashi, the heir to a conglomerate. He refuses to be transported to a private hospital and demands that Nana be assigned as his personal nurse. Nana agrees after Chikashi makes it clear that he isn’t above a bit of blackmail, he also incorporates some threats to Tendo’s career. Nana and Tendo’s relationship is strained, and while Chikashi is clearly acting like an extremely bratty patient, he’s also doing this because he’s incredibly lonely. One of the best parts of this volume was Tendo’s aggravated faces as he attempts to deal with this situation semi-professionally. Nana lets her caring nature lead to her getting taken advantage of, but it seems like Chikashi ends up in a better place than he was before, so if her goal is to maintain being an excellent nurse, she’s still on track to achieve it. While there isn’t really a high amount of drama or complex story line in this volume, this workplace romance still manages to be diverting and seeing Nana and Tendo work through their issues with the core of their relationship strong is plenty heartwarming.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol 27

Yona of the Dawn Volume 27 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I’ve been eagerly waiting for this volume of Yona of the Dawn since Hak came forward with an actual love confession in the previous volume. One of the things I love about this long-series is the fact that it can still surprise me. Instead of any drawn-out angst, in the aftermath of the love confession Hak totally oversleeps, unburdened by worries while Yona is the one who has been tossing and turning all night. This volume serves as a transition from one storyline to another as the Four Dragon Warriors need to recuperate closer to Hiryuu Palace. There’s some adorable awkwardness between Yona and Hak, and he decides to take up training with her again in an attempt to make things a bit more normal. Kusanagi’s illustrations show Yona progressively more embarrassed and overcome with emotion as Hak no longer has any hesitancy about telling her exactly how he feels.

While I enjoy the sweeping action and more complicated political plots as Yona roams around trying to make the lives of her people better, I find these more character-focused quiet volumes in between the larger story arcs a great way to reset and reflect, setting me up to look forward to the next complex storyline. Of course, this wouldn’t be shoujo manga without additional emotional complications, and Hak speculates that while Yona might be able to move on with her feelings about Su-Won, he is still dedicated to nurturing his hatred.

This volume also provides an opportunity to check in on other beloved characters such as Riri and Tae-Jun, who are dealing with the aftermath of the averted war with Xing in their own ways. There’s a skirmish happening and Yona and her warriors come to Tae-Jun’s aid. While Yona’s been able to be somewhat undercover for awhile, more and more people are beginning to realize that she’s not dead after all. As it turns out, Yona’s growing notoriety and the legend of the Four Dragon Warriors might be the cause of upcoming conflicts

Love Me, Love Me Not Vols 4 and 5

Love Me, Love Me Not Volumes 4 and 5 by Io Sakisaka

With the conclusion of Ao Haru Ride, I’m glad that the Shojo Beat imprint has another Sakisaka series running with Love Me, Love Me Not. This series doesn’t quite have the layers of meaning I was finding in Ao Haru Ride, as the love quadrangle in this series lends itself more to more of a chill teen soap opera feeling with plenty of slice-of-life elements that makes this a soothing series to read, even as the protagonists deal with plenty of romantic complications.

In the fourth volume, there’s the fallout of Rio kissing Akari to deal with. While Akari has been dedicated to putting up emotional walls since they became step-siblings, Rio hasn’t been able to detach from his previous feelings so easily. Along the way Akari has to deal with a boy at school who has a crush on her who turns hostile after she turns him down. Inui is around to help her deal with things, but Akari wonders just how much he understands about her situation. Akari gets self-conscious and starts avoiding Yuna, who is dealing with her own feelings for Rio. Really, the tangled relationships ensure that there’s plenty of drama to come. However, one of the reasons why Love Me, Love Me Not remains interesting is that the characters actually talk about what’s bothering them and evolve and change. Yuna calls out Rio for his actions and points out that he’s not being considerate of Akari, and she then messages Akari so they can have a chat as well. Being active in her friendships and talking to the boy that she has a crush on show how much Yuna has evolved from the shy and self-contained girl she was in the first volume of the series. Rio even comments to her that Yuna is “growing into the person you want to be” while he hasn’t progressed much beyond the person he was in junior high.

The fifth volume features that staple of shoujo romance, a festival! Rio is haunted by the fact that he had a dream about Yuna, which makes him finally start to be interested in her romantically. Akari continues to be intrigued by Inui, and she and Yuna engineer a double date to the festival. Out of all the main characters, Inui has been a bit of a cipher, occasionally dropping by to make enigmatically mature pronouncements and then moving on. I was happy that this volume featured a little more of his self-reflective moments, making it clear that he’s only steering clear of Akari because he doesn’t want to hurt Rio. I really like the way some of Sakisaka’s illustrations shifted to reflect the characters’ feelings in this volume. Yuna has a few panels of looking absolutely adorable, because Sakisaka is showing her from Rio’s point of view as he appreciates her more and more. It is particularly fun to see Rio in a somewhat tortured state throughout this volume as he struggles with his new feelings, since he was originally introduced with such a self-assured, flirtatious personality that was all on the surface. While the characters are all suffering through the foibles of teenage romance, there’s no question in my mind that there will eventually be a happy ending, which makes this a great comforting manga to read when I feel the need to de-stress a little bit.