Honey Blood Volumes 1 and 2

Honey Blood Volumes 1 and 2 by Miko Mitsuki

Two volume manga series are a bit tricky sometimes. They tend to be series that are canceled because they were not entirely successful, and sometimes have unfinished or rushed endings as a result. Sometimes there are two volume series that do end up telling a story satisfactorily, but most of the time when I read them, I either end up acknowledging that I just read a manga that was never going to work or I find myself wishing for just one more volume.

Hinata is a normal high school girl going about her daily life, slightly mystified about the vampire novels that are taking her school by storm. At the same time there have been cases of young girls who are the victims of mysterious attacks in her city. When she comes home one day after school, she bumps into a strange young man in traditional Japanese clothing. He’s accompanied by a clinging female editor. It turns out that he’s Junya Tokinaga, the writer of the novels that Hinata thinks of as ludicrous. Hinata has a tendency to burst out with whatever is on her mind and her first encounter with the famous author has her musing how the central plot point of a vampire giving up immortality to die with the person he loves is difficult to understand. Junya ends up acting bizarrely flirtatious around Hinata while she keeps making comments like “I can’t stand guys like you!”

The neighborhood attacks continue, and Junya saves Hinata from a man who almost assaults her when she is walking alone at night. She begins to be more fascinated with her next door neighbor, and he continues to demonstrate his interest in her. Hinata begins to suspect that Junya is a vampire, and it turns out that Junya’s novels describing a situation where a vampire who kisses a mortal is bound only to her until they both die is based on the conditions of his own vampirism. I thought the art in this series was attractive, but the storyline ended up shoving Hinata and Junya together a little too quickly to be believable. By the end of the first volume, they are almost a couple with Hinata pursuing Junya while he attempts to hold back details of his life from her. The continued vampire attacks make the reader a bit uneasy, as it is unclear if Junya is feeding on other women, or if in fact there are other vampires around.

I think the second volume shows the author throwing a bunch of ideas out to see if anything would stick. Hinata and Junya embark on their unconventional romance. The reader gets a bit of back story when it is revealed that Junya’s long lost love was one of Hinata’s ancestors. Hinata and Junya’s overly solicitous editor get into a conflict of personalities. A rival vampire named Setsuna shows up to complicate the situation further. I liked the romance better in the second volume when Hinata and Junya were an established couple. I also enjoyed the blend of vampire angst and little moments of humor, like when Hinata picks out modern clothes for Junya only for him to promptly become a target for aggressive modeling scouts. As the second volume wrapped up, I found myself wishing that the author had a bit more time to develop the series before launching it in the first place. It seemed like it was starting to get a bit more interesting only to be cut short. If a longer series by Mitsuki gets licensed, I would be interested in reading it, because I’d be curious to see what she could do with more space to develop a series. As it is, I’d recommend Honey Blood for vampire manga collections, or for people who don’t mind reading short manga with abrupt endings.

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign Vol 3

Seraph of the End Volume 3 by Takaya Kagami, Yamato Yamamoto, and Daisuke Furuya

One of the reasons why I like this shonen vampire dystopian series so much is that each volume propels the hero forward to a different stage of development and a different setting. In the third volume, brash yet unexpectedly capable hero Yuichiro has his demon possessed weapon, and now he’s about to become an official vampire hunter when he heads out with his squad to aid other soldiers in Shinjuku. Yuichiro’s new squad consists of the sarcastic and subversive Shinoa, earnest Yoichi, and his cranky new friend Shiho. The balance in the group is upset a bit with the arrival of Mitsuba, an abrasive girl who doesn’t understand why she’s been saddled with a rookie unit.

Yuichiro’s habit of rushing into battle causes tension with the group, since he doesn’t respect the standard tactical formations they are supposed to hold in order to make sure that the entire team is protected. They have a few skirmishes with vampires and survive more due to individual luck than coordinated effort. I have to say, I enjoy Shinoa’s leadership style because she makes pronouncements like “Let us be off on another fun-filled, vampire-slaughtering excursion!” While Yuichiro might be reckless, he’s also just as likely to risk himself to save one of his teammates as he is to charge ahead to fulfill his desire for revenge against vampires.

The reader gets a further glimpse into the life of Yuichiro’s adopted brother turned vampire Mikaela, and it seems like he will be meeting Yuichiro very soon. The combination of good world building, dynamic action scenes, and sarcastic quips makes me confident that Seraph of the End will continue to be very entertaining.

Kiss of the Rose Princess, Vol. 1

Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 1 by Aya Shouoto

I’m always happy to check out a new reverse harem manga. Kiss of the Rose Princess seems a little bit on the wacky and comedic side like Ouran High School Host Club, except it has random paranormal elements, is less ridiculous, and does not feature twins. So actually, not very like Ouran at all. The heroine of the story is Anise Yamamoto, a girl who is cursed with wearing the same rose necklace to school every day in flagrant violation of the dress code, because her father told her that she would be cursed if she ever took the necklace off.

Of course, only a few pages into the manga, Anise’s necklace falls off and she soon finds herself assigned mystical knights who she can summon to do her bidding by kissing cards imprinted with different colored roses. By day they are Kaede the slightly cranky yet typically handsome shoujo hero, Tenjo the secretly freaky student council president, the gothically morose Mutsuki, and the tiny but cute Asagi. Random events at school cause Anise to need help, and as she mystically summons her knights to her side she begins to learn a bit more about their personalities. There are plenty of amusing scenes in Kiss of the Rose Princess, even though it doesn’t approach the manic humor of a series like Ouran High School Host Club or Oresama Teacher.

The art is attractive, but fairly conventional. It doesn’t have much of a distinct style to it, and I tend to enjoy reading manga a bit more if the artist has some recognizable unique takes on character design, backgrounds, or paneling. I found myself picking up and putting down this volume a bit, which might have been a function of me being crazy busy recently, but the story didn’t really capture all of my attention. That being said, Kiss of the Rose Princess was enjoyable to read, as a good example of super light and fluffy manga. I’m hoping that the humor and the relationships between the characters develops a bit more in the second volume.

Spell of Desire, Vol. 2

Spell of Desire Volume 2 by Tomu Ohmi

This series is rapidly becoming my favorite josei masked as shoujo series released on the Shojo Beat imprint. When I picked up the second volume, I was expecting a bit of filler with a few more episodes of Kaoruko’s runaway witch powers manifesting, with the obligatory makeout sessions with Kaname in order to keep her powers under control. While this certainly happened, Ohmi also went full speed ahead with plot development, introducing us to more backstory, evil covens, and Kaname actually admitting he has feelings for the young witch he has sworn to protect.

The sensual nature of Kaoruko’s magic ensures that she’s going to be an object of attraction to men, and Kaname is struggling with this himself. She wants to be able to control her magical abilities, but the fact is that having her mother’s power sealed inside her, in addition to her own magic has made her a bit of a danger to herself. Kaname returns to the coven, leaving one of his mystical animal sidekicks behind for Karuoku’s protection. In his dealings with the coven we see how Kaname is struggling with wanting what is best for his charge as person, in contrast to the way the coven views her as a valuable pawn. He wants to protect her freedom as much as possible, but the powerful witches he reports to might make this difficult.

Kaoruko’s neighbor Yu finds himself irresistibly attracted to her when her magic spirals out of control, but fortunately Unicorn delays things a bit. When some additional witches show up at Kaoruko’s house, she’s almost attacked again, but Kaname returns just in time to save her. Towards the end of the volume, Kaoruko makes a fateful decision to protect Kaname herself. While she’s been a bit passive so far due to reacting to her out of control powers, Kaoruko shows that she has plenty of willpower when someone she cares about is threatened.

I still really enjoy the way Ohmi portrays Kaoruko’s powers as black vines becoming entwined around the panels of the manga, it’s a visual device that is both pretty and ominous at the same time. I was happy that by the second volume, both Kaoruko and Kaname are clear that they love each other, even if they aren’t clear yet that their feelings are reciprocated. I think there will be interesting times ahead if Kaoruko is able to control her own powers and doesn’t need Kaname’s protection as much. I highly recommend this series if you enjoy paranormal romance manga.

World Trigger, Vols 1 and 2

World Trigger Volumes 1 and 2 by Daisuke Ashihara

World Trigger starts out with a very Attack on Titanesque set-up, expressed simply in one page. Monsters from another dimension are invading the earth. A paramilitary force shows up to fight the monsters. Daily life for the rest of humanity is often interrupted by these “Neighbors” who look a bit like giant eels and the humans who fight back against the invasion.

Osamu is a bit of an unassuming student, but he finds his life complicated when a mysterious new transfer student named Yuma shows up. Yuma seems to not know very much about basic human behavior. When a Neighbor attacks outside of the usual boundaries, Osamu reveals that he’s actually a trainee for the Border Defense Agency, with a small amount of power that he’s determined to use to protect everyone in his city. Yuma turns out to have some extraordinary powers himself. He claims to also be a Neighbor, from the dimension where the monsters come from. He also has the ability to use a trigger, the weapon/body exchange protocol that allows users to fight off the monsters.

In the ensuing battle, Yuma fends off a powerful monster after Osamu proves not to have the level that he needs in order to destroy his enemy. Osamu turns to helping out however he can, by evacuating residents and helping everyone stay safe. Members of the Border Protection Agency turn up, suspicious of the recent events and determined to follow correct bureaucratic procedure. The cast of the book gradually expands beyond Osamu and Yuma to include many of the typical foils for a shonen protagonist. There’s a cool older male mentor, a type A overachiever warrior girl, and a host of bureaucrats in the Border Protection Agency that will surely make life difficult for Osamu.

The Border Protection Agency seems more chaotic than a force for either good or evil, as a squad starts to hunt down Yuma. Osamu tries to intercede, but Yuma’s level of power is such that he’s able to evade attack from multiple agents at once with only some slight injuries. One interesting aspect of the story is that Osamu keeps getting promoted within the Border Protection Agency simply because he is often in the right place at the right time and occasionally forced to take credit for some of Yuma’s actions in order to maintain his new friend’s cover. Osamu’s leveling up though being an unassuming nice guy who is incredibly lucky is a bit unexpected for a reader expecting a more typical brash shonen hero, and this was one aspect of the book that I found intriguing.

There’s a fair amount of world building as the characters go into details about the alien tech infused battle system, but I didn’t find this very interesting. The art is workmanlike and easy to follow, but it doesn’t have that extra bit of style or distinct quality that would make me want to pick up the manga just to see some fabulously paneled battle scenes. The story is solid, but there isn’t much that’s surprising about it so far. The anime for this series is starting to air, so I imagine that will fuel interest for this title. I didn’t find myself inspired to keep reading the series, simply because there are other titles out there that are much more entertaining. I can read One Punch Man if I want something funny, Attack on Titan if I want to read about a dystopian future where humanity is fighting off giant invaders, or Seraph of the End for more attractive art and interesting world building. Overall, this is a solid if not super compelling shonen title, and I imagine that someone less picky about shonen manga than me will enjoy it.