Platinum End Vol. 1

Platinum End Volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

I approached reading Platinum End with mixed feelings, I was interested because this series is another work from the team that brought the world Death Note, and I greatly enjoyed Death Note. On the other hand, I wasn’t looking forward Death Note 2: Electric Boogaloo. I ended up putting down the first volume feeling like I was cautiously interested in seeing where Platinum End was going.

The volume opens with Mirai Kagehashi, a high school student who has decided to kill himself. He’s foiled in his attempt by the sudden appearance of an angel who rescues him. Mirai is stuck in despair because he was orphaned when he was young, and taken in by relatives who abused him. His new angel announces that she’s going to make him happy and gives him some new abilities – he can choose between having wings to fly anywhere or mystical red arrows that will cause anyone to fall in love with him. Mirai responds that he’ll ponder what he wants if he’s given both gifts and the angel agrees.

Mirai’s angel Nasse functions more like the devil on his shoulder than a good conscience, as she encourages him to use his powers for the most selfish of reasons. Mirai gets a sense of how deadly the ability to make anyone fall in love with him can be, when he returns to his aunt and uncle and learns the truth behind the death of his parents. In true shonen fashion it turns out that Mirai is caught up in a cosmic game, where God has decided that he’s going to elevate a human to become the next God. 13 angels have been assigned to 13 chosen humans, and the last one left gets to be in charge of the universe.

Mirai says that he would be just content with normal happiness, but Nasse keeps pushing him to use his angel-given superpowers to manipulate and murder his way to having money and happiness. In a way, Platinum End seems more like a horror title than anything else, as Mirai wakes up from nightmares with horrific visions. The other contestants for godhood aren’t using their powers for good either, as one of them decides to disguise himself as a superhero and pick off his opponents one by one, killing a comedian who decides to use the love arrows to assault a group of women.

Platinum End is rated mature and aside from that, one could develop a drinking game centered on the number of panels where Nasse’s disembodied butt is hanging in the air randomly in many panels. The art from Obata is good as always. Overall, this was an interesting manga to read, but not very pleasant. It seems like Platinum End is going to be even darker in tone than Death Note, and that series was pretty dark. At the same time, seeing if Mirai’s inherent sense of morality is going to hold up to the temptation of godlike power is an interesting story to explore, even though it is thematically a bit too close to Death Note. I put this volume down feeling a bit cautious about this series. I’ll be curious to see if in the next couple volumes Platinum End develops into a manga that I’m looking forward to reading. If not, there’s always Death Note!

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Everyone’s Getting Married Vol. 3

Everyone’s Getting Married, Volume 3 by Izumi Miyazono

Is everyone getting married? I see no evidence of it yet in this series where aspiring housewife Asuka and committed bachelor Ryu continue to fall in love with each other despite their utterly incompatible life goals. This manga manages to balance the twists and turns of a soap opera with some very touching moments as Ryu and Asuka continue to struggle with their feelings for each other, balance their demanding work schedules, and navigate their possibly doomed relationship.

One of the things I like about this series is how little it relies on conflict due to people not talking to each other. Sure it happens sometimes, but not talking about a problem isn’t stretched over multiple volumes as sometimes happens in romance manga. Even when some standard plot elements pop up in the form of Ryu’s Complicated Ex-Girlfriend and Asuka’s Flirty Co-Worker, this continues to lead the couple to reflect on their relationship.

Two events happen in fairly short succession that cause some strain. Yuko, a married actress who Ryu had a long-term affair with years ago is back in town. She’s touched by scandal due to her philandering husband, and Ryu is maneuvered by combative questions from the press into joking on tv that he’d dump his girlfriend for a chance to date her. In addition, Asuka gets news of a upcoming work transfer and is spending time with Kamiya, a colleague. They’re walking down the street together and they agree to do a “couple interview” as a joke, only Asuka is shocked when she sees that Ryu is interviewing her.

These additional people popping up near Asuka and Ryu cause them to confront some of the issues in their relationship. Asuka wonders if Yuko is the reason why Ryu is so set against marriage. Ryu is jealous of Kamiya, even though his relationship with Asuka is professional. But while the only person Asuka wants to marry is Ryu, she wonders what might happen if she takes Kamiya’s overtures seriously since it seems he does really want to get married.

As always the art is attractive and easy to follow, easily handling cute scenes of Ryu and Asuka supporting each other in addition to some tumultuous relationship drama. I wish Shojo Beat could bring out more series like this all at the same time, but I’ll be happy with what I can get.

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Komomo Confiserie, Vols 4 and 5

Komomo Confiserie, Vols 4 and 5 by Maki Minami

This series was five volumes long, and it feels like exactly the right length to wrap everything up and not leave the readers hanging. It was pleasant enough, but I don’t see myself rereading it anytime soon. Still, this is the first Minami series that I’ve stuck with all the way to the end, so there’s something about cranky pasty chefs that I must find appealing! The last two volumes of the series work through a few barriers to Komomo and Natsu getting together.

This volume shows how Komomo deals with a psychotic girl who has decided to stalk Natsu in a dramatic fashion. Natsu starts ignoring Komomo for her own protection, because he doesn’t want Komomo to become a focus for Noelle’s wrath. Komomo doesn’t deal well with being ignored though, and since Natsu doesn’t openly discuss this problem with her at all (which is standard practice for shoujo heroes) the situation drags on far too long. While Komomo manages to fly under the radar for a little bit, Noelle becomes suspicious of Komomo and Natsu’s relationship and decides to take out her revenge on the Meli-Melo pastry shop. Here, Komomo’s sheer force of will and commanding nature comes out when she decides that she will not stand for Natsu’s livelihood being threatened, and she takes charge in a spectacular fashion, exhibiting some emotional maturity that she wouldn’t have been capable of at the start of the series.

Mitsuru, an old friend of Natsu starts to move in on the story. He’s fascinated with Komomo and figures out that Natsu must be in love with her. However, he has his own secret motivation for becoming involved with the odd pastry-obsessed couple, which is explored more fully in the next volume.

While Komomo starts to realize her feelings for Natsu when she begins to feel jealous of Noelle in the previous volume, the dynamic in the final volume is reversed as Natsu is forced to confront just how precious Komomo is to him once Mitsuru comes charging on the scene. Komomo has a choice to go back to her old life or stay devoted to Meli-Melo, and while her feelings aren’t in question, it takes a bit of time for Natsu to actually acknowledge what the reader has known has been going on since the very first volume.

Komomo Confiserie isn’t the most innovative shoujo manga, but I enjoyed the pastry-themed setting and Komomo’s imperious manner, expressive eyebrows, and occasional fits of rage. I While I don’t see myself rereading this manga anytime soon, it was the first Maki Minami series that I actually read from start to finish. Even though I had a very clear idea where the story would conclude after reading the first volume, I still enjoyed reading the whole series.

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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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Idol Dreams, Vol. 3

Idol Dreams Volume 3 by Arina Tanemura

Well, I spent the first two volumes really hoping that Tanemura would be able to pull off the inherently problematic premise of a 30 year old heroine with arrested development suddenly being given the chance to relive her teen years through magic teen idol pills, but as the various love triangles start to develop with Chikage’s two personas I found myself wishing that the series would wrap up quickly before it starts to head into some uncomfortable territory.

One part of this volume that I liked very much is more time spent with Chikage as an adult. She runs into her long-lost crush Haru and they start to reconnect. Tokita keeps interfering in any situation where Haru and Chikage might become more intimate, even though he doesn’t really have a logical excuse for his actions. Haru has been a bit too mysterious so far, so it was good to get some of his backstory filled in, and see how it is clear that he really did care for Chikage when they were teenagers and he still has feelings for her. It was fun to see the teenage bonds of friendship resurface between Chikage and the two men as they hang out as a trio for the first time in years. Haru is very observant, and seeing how Tokita keeps reacting to Chikage, he decides to step back, but this is only temporary. What is more problematic is that Chikage really can’t relate to anyone intimately as an adult, and she reacts like a flustered teenager to Haru’s overtures. At this point, I’m convinced that she needs therapy more than magic teen idol pills.

Chikage’s adventures as Akari in this volume were a bit more dynamic as she has to manage babysitting duties and breaking into a school in disguise. However, what I was hoping wouldn’t happen in this series happened, as Akari decides to date a 16 year old. I find this more creepy than anything, and I hope this is really short-lived. I’ve enjoyed Arina Tanemura series so much in the past, but now I’m wondering if I should just fill in some of the gaps in my Sakura Hime manga collection and going back and reading that instead. I’m still firmly team Tokita, as he’s clearly the only man that Chikage can actually relax around and be herself with. I hope that the romance swings more that way in future volumes.

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