Kiss of the Rose Princess, Vol. 5

Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 5 by Aya Shouto

I find myself enjoying this series more and more, mostly because with each new volume my suspension of disbelief grows, and I just kick back and enjoy the ridiculousness of this reverse harem fantasy manga. This volume did a good job balancing out which knights were featured, with a bit more attention given to Tenjo the White Rose Knight. As ever, Kaede the Red Rose Knight lurks around and smolders in a few panels for each chapter.

The first part of this volume picks up at an area that is fraught with terror in most shoujo manga – an amusement park. Meek classmate Mikage with her overwhelming crush on Kaede has been hiding an even worse secret. Even more fake Rose Knights appear, leading to an excess of flower avatar people everywhere! Anise powers up a bit, triggering an awakening in Tenjo the White Rose that allows him to deal with their enemies easily. This throws off the balance of power and changes the dynamics in the group a little bit.

The fake rose idols Rhodecia make a brief appearance again, and there’s an extended comedy bit when Anise, Kaede, and Seiran dress as servants in an attempt to infiltrate Tenjo’s mansion to check up on him. There are plenty of gags involving both maid costumes and the odd decorating habits of the rich. One of the things I enjoy about the series is the way it switches back and forth between more lighthearted scenes and hints of upcoming ominous events. Shouoto’s dramatic art has plenty of flourishes that suit the dramatic and silly situations the protagonists find themselves in. Even though evil fake roses keep popping up, the mystery around Anise’s diabolical father is still touched on briefly with each volume, hinting at larger issues Anise is going to confront eventually. With the Black Rose Mutsuki seeming to take center stage at the end of this volume and I’m assuming the start of the next, it looks like there’s going to be more grim vampirific backstory to look forward to.

Spell of Desire Vol. 5

Spell of Desire Volume 5 by Tomu Ohmi

It is the final volume of Spell of Desire! What’s happening in the conclusion of this paranormal romance series?

Throughout Spell of Desire Kaoruko has been heading towards a confrontation with her mother, the mysterious Witch Queen. She finds out that her mother sealed herself away as part of a spell to balance out the positive and negative energy that was building up in the world. The Witch Queen emerges, and Kaname confesses that he’s no longer able to serve as the Witch Queen’s knight due to his love for Kaoruko. The Witch Queen promptly wins an award for worst mother of the year when she announces that she’s going to curse her daughter’s boyfriend by taking all of his senses away, followed by taking his memories of Kaoruko away too. Kaname is blinded, and he slowly becomes more and more debilitated.

This curse presents quite the conundrum, and Kaoruko is determined to harness her power for once and for all in order to save Kaname. She’s been slowly inching towards claiming her power, so it was great to see her finally take charge and do something. She’s aided by an elderly black witch who shows up and indulges in a great deal of exposition as the volume wraps up.

Overall, I thought the pacing of this series was a bit off. I enjoyed the world building and character introductions in the first couple volumes a great deal, but the rest of the series felt like it was just marking time until the big witch battle happened in the final volume. Kaoruko’s rise to self-assurance and command of her power felt a bit rushed, but I still appreciate that by the end of the series she was making her own decisions and acting heroically in order to create her own happy ending. While Spell of Desire wasn’t the best example of paranormal romance, Ohmi’s clear visual storytelling made it easy to read.

I see that this manga hasn’t sold as well as Ohmi’s other series to be translated into English, Midnight Secretary. This is a bit of a shame, because I was hoping that Viz would bring out her earlier series Kindan no Koi de Ikou, since there is such a dearth of werewolf manga romance being translated into English. We have all the vampires we need, what about some werewolves for a change? I’d still recommend Spell of Desire and Midnight Secretary to romance manga fans, and I hope more of Ohmi’s work gets translated here.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Vol 2

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1, Phantom Blood, Volume 2 by Hirohiko Araki

I enjoyed the first volume of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and I was looking forward to see if the second volume continued with the unrelenting manliness and general crazy action. I wasn’t disappointed.

The second volume continues with the battle between Jonathan Joestar and Dio, who has completely been taken over by the evil stone mask. Dio can suck the life force out of people to heal his wounds, and the corpses become zombies, which can certainly be a problem for anyone trying to take Dio down. Jonathan is determined to destroy the monster who killed his father, and fights back through impossible odds, burning down his own mansion and fighting through the pain as Dio breaks both his arms. I continue to be delighted by the character of Robert Edward O. Speedwagon, mostly because I find it amusing when Jonathan yells “Get out of the way Speedwagon!” during battle. Also, Speedwagon’s tendency to stay on the sidelines while injured allows him to provide running commentary on all the battles.

With the Joestar mansion being burned down, and Dio both impaled on a statue and crushed beneath a pillar, one might think that Jonathan’s battle was done, but this is not the case. He meets his long-lost love Erina again as she tends his wounds, and once he is somewhat healed he meets a strange mentor named Baron Zeppeli, who decides to teach Jonathan the ways of mastering Hamon energy to become even more powerful.

In the meantime, Dio has pulled himself out of the wreckage and continue to grow more and more powerful, aided by some additional evil allies. Jonathan and Zeppeli go to confront Dio, but will his vampirific power overcome their new martial arts discipline?

It is a bit unusual for me to be truly surprised by action scenes in a manga, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure really does deliver on this front, with surprising plot twists and innovative ways for everybody to power up. The stakes grow higher and the battles grow more impressive as both Jonathan and Dio gain power. The art is still a bit on the crude side, but undeniably energetic. Some of the fights take place against the backdrop of a low-hanging moon, which just makes everything look even more epic. What random character named after a rock band will appear next? I’m looking forward to the third volume to find out.

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Vol. 1

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 1 by Aya Shouoto

I enjoy Shouoto’s other series, Kiss of the Rose Princess, so I was interested in trying out The Demon Prince of Momochi House. When I read the description and looked at the front cover, I was also curious to see how similar it might be to another Shojo Beat series featuring yokai, Kamisama Kiss.

Himari Momochi is a plucky orphan who inherits a house that has been in her family for years. She decides to journey to Momochi House and claim her inheritance, despite some dire warnings along the way that the house she’s traveling to is haunted. When she arrives at the house, the inside is trashed and shadowy figures keep brushing past her as she explores the interior. One of the shadowy figures ends up being a naked young man named Aoi, who is quickly admonished to put clothes on by a couple of other men. They accuse Himari of being a burglar, and she quickly produces the legal document that proclaims she’s the owner of the house. Himari is determined to stay, and the horrible cleaning jobs that await her and the mysterious implosion of her smartphone, and presence of male squatters do nothing to change her attachment to her new home. Mysterious animal yokai appear, and Himari is introduced to the supernatural elements that occupy her house. Aoi is serving as the guardian spirit, and the other young men are his helper spirits Yukari and Ise.

When Aoi switches from his human to Omamoiri form, he admonishes Himari not to look at him in his beguiling fox spirit guise. Himari thinks the relationship between Aoi and his helpers is very much like a family, which makes her wistful. She’s also pragmatic despite the new element of the supernatural in her life, deciding that she needs to charger her three freeloaders rent and thinking about investigating enrolling in a local school. Aoi and Himari are clearly attracted to each other, and Aoi seems to be operating under an imperative that he protect her at all costs from the haunted elements that still exist in her ancestral home.

Demon Prince of Momochi House is a much less silly series than Kiss of the Rose Princess. I think the art is stronger and a bit more distinctive than Rose Princess too. Sometimes drawing spirits brings out the best in a manga-ka! Some aspects of this series did remind me of Kamisama Kiss, but I also feel as though Kamisama Kiss is such a standout series in terms of quality that other manga are going to suffer in comparison automatically. I wish there had been a bit more character development, because so far the characters seem more like types than fully realized individuals. I found myself liking Kiss of the Rose Princess more as the series progressed, and I’m expecting that to happen with The Demon Prince of Momochi House too. It could be that I’m just a sucker for series featuring handsome spirits, but I enjoyed this first volume much more than the first volume of Kiss of the Rose Princess too. I’m hoping for more character development in the next volume.

Meteor Prince Vol. 2

Meteor Prince Volume 2 by Meca Tanaka

I enjoyed the first volume of Meteor Prince very much, and after reading the second, I’ve found it to be a great, self-contained two volume series. Sometimes shorter series suffer a bit from having an unfinished feeling, with an abrupt final chapter, but Meteor Prince pulls off the trick of telling a short, self-contained story with a satisfying conclusion. After the perpetually enthusiastic alien prince Io and earth girl with bad luck Hako got together in the first volume, it is time for some additional obstacles to be thrown in their path.

Io’s intended alien fiancee abruptly appears on earth to claim her man, and she is not happy that Io has pledged himself to a human. Tania’s flowing hair and imperious attitude, combined with her tendencies to transform into a giant ape-like creature makes her a formidable opponent. Tania’s relentless approach to winning Io back doesn’t fare well when faced with the strength of the couple’s bond, and she ends up reduced to lurking in the background and plotting slightly more quietly.

The next trial for Io and Hako is when he meets her parents and her extremely protective younger brother. There’s plenty of cuteness and comedy when Io makes some over the top attempts to be extremely polite to his future wife’s parents. The family issues don’t stop there, as Io’s younger brother Yuro decides that the best way of getting his older brother back is to come to earth and disintegrate everything.

Tanaka’s facility with art portraying both wacky alien landscapes and blushing high school students in the first stages of romance ensures that Meteor Prince is whimsical without being overly wacky or too sweet. She balances heartwarming moments with humor, making this a great feel-good short series. I would have been happy to read several more volumes of Io and Hako’s adventures, but the last volume wrap up the storyline nicely. Highly recommended for people who enjoy their shoujo with a bit of humor.