Moriarty the Patriot Vols 1 and 2

Moriarty the Patriot Volume 1 by Ryosuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi

I was intrigued by the concept of Moriarty the Patriot, because I was curious how the manga would flip Moriarty from being the antagonist into being the protagonist of his own story. It turns out that Moriarty has an intrinsically sympathetic goal – full scale class warfare! This first volume details how the evil mastermind Moriarty is adopted into a family of nobles, with a slightly sociopathic older brother named Albert who is determined to wage war against the nobility with the benefit of his younger brother’s genius.

The chapters in this first volume often involve an episodic approach to plot, with Moriarty intervening in the lives of people who’ve been taken advantage of by so-called nobility. His focus on revenge is certainly satisfying, and by the end of the volume, he’s surrounded himself with a core group of companions who are similarly bent on striking back against the British class system.

Moriarty the Patriot Volume 2 Ryosuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi

I found this second volume a little less interesting because it had more of the expected story beats that I’d assume would show up in a Holmes adaptation. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more Moriarty in this volume. Here the reader sees Takeuchi’s version of Holmes meet Watson and figure out how to deal with his landlady Mrs Hudson. While it was enjoyable, there wasn’t as much dramatic tension because other than his lower class affectation, Holmes is pretty much what one would expect. As Holmes hurdles into his next case, I’m curious to see if he’s going to be at odds with Moriarty once more, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen when they start clashing over cases involving spectacularly murdered noblemen.

Way of the Househusband Vols 3 and 4

Way of the Househusband Volumes 3 and 4 by Kousuke Oono

One of my favorite things about Way of the Househusband is how ordinary household chores get infused with the action and drama of a gangster drama. Tatsu and his wife Miku have to band together to banish a roach in the opening chapter, and they cycle through roach fighting options growing more and more frantic until their foe is vanquished. There’s no real overarching story line here, but the episodes around high stakes bread baking and grocery store promotion antics were funny. I enjoy most when the househusband has interactions with people from his past, and he runs into his old boss (and an adorable dog!) and then again the grocery store becomes a site for a reunion with a woman yakuza boss from his past. Seeing tough guys melt in the presence of the sheer competence of ladies whipping up nutritious homemade dog food is both heartwarming and hilarious.

I also enjoy the little vignettes that show the househusband and Miku together, and the 4th volume has a couple stories that show the couple tackling going to a theme park with military precision and taking on some local toughs in a dynamic beach volleyball tournament. I was quite amused by the drug dealing influence on boba tea recipies and distribution, as well as a dramatic trip to the dollar store to secure the essential tools of the house keeping trade. While this series is predictable, it is the good kind of predictable that you can find with very well-executed comedy series. The jokes might be the same, but the quirky mash-up between yakuza antics and housekeeping always seems both refreshing and funny. This series is helped a lot by Oono’s dynamic and expressive art which infuses the most mundane tasks with the high-stakes suspense worthy of an action movie.

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.