Daytime Shooting Star Vol. 9

Daytime Shooting Star Volume 9 by Mika Yamamori

At last! I could tell by the cover that this was going to be a Mamura-focused volume and I wasn’t disappointed. I tend to always root for the second lead guy in Korean dramas, and if Daytime Shooting Star was a K-Drama, Mamura would likely be the second lead, but in many ways he’s so much better than Suzume’s alternate romantic option of dating her teacher Shishio. While Suzume’s been rejected (good!) by Shishio, she’s attempting to move on with her life, however she becomes distracted due to the fact that in their second year of high school, Mamura is being targeted by throngs of first-year girls. With Mamura’s innate allergy to female contact, this creates a very awkward situation.

Daytime Shooting Star 9

Yuyuka decides to take matters into her own hands in order to defend Mamura’s honor and proposes a plan where Suzume will pose as Mamura’s girlfriend. He rejects the idea, but Suzume becomes more and more irritated about the girls that are following him around, prompting Yuyuka to propose the idea of Suzume posing as Mamura’s girlfriend in order to get rid of the throngs of girls following him around. Mamura turns down the idea. When Suzume sees Shishio for the first time in weeks though, Mamura happens upon the scene and declares that they’re dating! when he sees Suzume being distressed when she runs into Shishio for the first time since he rejected her, he declares that they’re dating!

I was pretty delighted by this turn of events, with this faux relationship that might turn real. Mamura is clearly devoted to Suzume, and he does call her out when she’s dwelling too much on the past. I’m hoping that things move forward and she can actually experience a more normal high school romantic relationship? But I’m not holding my breath because the second lead guy rarely gets the girl. I enjoy Yamamori’s stylish illustrations in each volume, and the prospect of non-Shishio romance for Suzume makes me feel less of a general sense of creeping dread about the ending. In any case, Daytime Shooting Star continues to be an extremely engaging high school soap opera.

Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 13

Ao Haru Ride Volume 13 by Io Sakisaka

I have this issue sometimes when I really like a series and the final volume comes out, I tend to procrastinate reading it a little bit just because I don’t want the series to end. So the last volume of Ao Haru Ride has been sitting in my house for a couple weeks now before I decided to read it. This was a very satisfying concluding volume that showed the main characters settled into a relationship in a very adorable way that contrasts nicely with all the sadness and difficulty that they faced along the way.

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Futuba and Kou are now firmly a couple and dealing with new issues, such as her wanting more reassurance about his feelings for her, and figuring out that while he might not verbalize his feelings as much he cares for her a great deal. As a couple with an established relationship they can even help out with Kominato’s extremely transparent plan to confess to Murao by agreeing to go on a double date that just coincidentally is happening on Valentine’s Day. While Futuba and Kou are plenty adorable with each other, the pain of the past isn’t forgotten, as seen in a misunderstanding when Futuba can’t find Kou at on the first day of school and is frightened that he’s disappeared again the way he did in the past. There were enough chapters showing Kou and Futuba in their new lives as a couple that felt like they were settled down with each other but looking forward to the future in the best way possible. The volume concluded with a surprise Strobe Edge bonus story, and it was a real treat to see those characters again. Ao Haru Ride dealt with teen romance in a complex way, layered with themes of loss and nostalgia that made it much more meaningful than the typical shoujo romance.

Prince Freya, Vol 3

Prince Freya Volume 3 by Keiko Ishihara

In three volumes Prince Freya has evolved into an enjoyable fantasy potboiler of a manga, with plenty of cliffhangers to keep the reader’s interest as well as a tendency to kill off sympathetic supporting characters. The story ratchets up the suspense because it seems clear that no one is safe from medieval mayhem in this story of a simple girl forced to masquerade as the charismatic Prince Edvard. As the manga opens, Freya is displaying her characteristic tendency to put herself in danger in order to save anyone in her near vicinity as she tries to rally the soldiers in a small fort against an enemy invasion.

The White Knight Julius is now Freya’s main protector after the deaths of her childhood companions Alek and Aaron. Does Julius start experiencing conflicting emotions about his new charge? Does one even have to ask when this is shoujo manga that we’re talking about??? Freya’s actions show her motivating her soldiers with a different type of charisma than the late Prince Edvard as she makes a point to get to know all of the men in the fort who are trying to defend her. She’s not afraid to take part in tactical maneuvers in order to confuse the enemy, and while the extent to which she is willing to sacrifice herself might seem extreme, when balanced at all the family and friends she’s lost in her life the reader can see why she’s resistant to seeing anyone die unnecessarily. There’s medieval battle scenes galore and an enemy soldier making fun of Julius for being a pretty boy, so there’s plenty to enjoy in this volume, which ends on an incredible cliffhanger that promises plenty of angst in the next volume. This manga isn’t particularly deep, but it does serve up plenty of gender-swapped shoujo medieval action which I am finding to be delightfully distracting in these current times.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol 25

Yona of the Dawn Volume 25 by Mizuho Kusanagi

Every story arc in Yona of the Dawn eventually has a volume that delivers action and emotional devastation. As Yona tries to prevent Su-Won from going to war with Xing the hypocrisy of religions officials is revealed, Yona manages to sway people through sheer willpower, the damaged and imprisoned four dragons fight back, and everything is mostly terrible yet incredibly epic and emotionally satisfying!

The volume opens with an excruciatingly awkward scene as Yona confronts Su-Won in front of his men, some of whom seem a bit perplexed that the daughter of King Il is alive after all. If that wasn’t enough, Yona’s logic and arguments on behalf of the Xing people prompts Su-Won to actually modify his intentions after she promises that Xing will be content to endure as a vassal state. An evil priest shows up all of a sudden! Gobi is determined to manipulate the political upheaval in Xing to get rid of Princess Kouren and install Princess Tao in her place, but he’s sadly mistaken if he thinks his transparent ploys are going to work. While Yona of the Dawn generally presents villains with some nuance and character motivations, there’s some satisfaction for the reader in seeing that anyone who would underestimate women is beyond any hope of salvation. Kouren is the type of leader that inspires devotion in her supporters, and Yona has Hak, who does some fairly foolish things in order to protect her.

There’s so much action packed in this volume, I felt slightly exhausted at the end! Kusanagi’s capable illustrations are able to easily carry such a plot and action-scene heavy book, where a panel here and there will contain hints about the emotional impact for all the characters in such high-stakes conditions. There were some Wind Tribe antics to distract a little bit from the impending horrors of war, and the promise that Yona and Hak might actually talk about their relationship soon? As always, an excellent volume of Yona of the Dawn. I always find myself looking forward to the emotional aftermath just as much as any big battle the characters overcome.

Daytime Shooting Star, Vol 7

Daytime Shooting Star Volume 7 by Mika Yamamori

This manga brings both the drama and major uneasiness as Suzume and Shishio progress a bit on their student-teacher romance and then things get curtailed, causing plenty of angst.

One of the reasons why I enjoy reading this manga so much is that it makes me feel uneasy, which is not all that typical for shoujo manga. I’m not sure if Yamamori is going to be able to pull of a happy ending out of this series, and for all the swoony feelings of first love happening, it is difficult to escape the issues with the age gap in the main relationship in the manga. Suzume asks Shishio to go to a shrine for New Year’s and shows up wearing a disguise so no would be able to identify them in public. When a snowstorm causes them to miss the last train back, they have to check into a bread and breakfast and hide where they are. Shishio straight out lies to Suzume’s uncle, which is a bit beyond the pale, even if nothing much has happened on the romance front other than some significant gazes and a couple kisses.

I really enjoyed the chapter in this volume that was presented from Nekota’s point of view. She’s rightfully cynical about her own popularity and reflects on how she’s changed since developing a genuine friendship with Suzume. This chapter gave much more insight about her character, and the shifting point of view felt refreshing.
There’s also a bonus story in this volume that didn’t make a ton of sense, since Yamamori was collaborating with another author. I’m curious to see how Suzume deals with the emotional fallout from this volume, and if she’s able to move on a little bit with her life. Mamura continues to be awesome, so I’m hoping that Suzume at least attempts to give boys her own age a chance.