About Anna N

Anna Neatrour is a librarian with too much manga in her house. She started blogging at TangognaT in 2003 about libraries, books, manga, and comics. She created Manga Report to focus only on manga reviews in 2010. Anna is a member of the writing collective known as The Bureau Chiefs, authors of FakeAPStylebook and the book Write More Good. Anna contributed the Bringing the Drama column to Manga Bookshelf before joining the team in Nov 2012. When not reading, Anna can be found knitting or wrangling small children.

Lovesick Ellie, Vol 1

Lovesick Ellie Volume 1 by Fujimomo

I picked this up on a whim, and I knew I was in for something a little out of the ordinary when I saw the title of the first chapter, “#HoorayforPervs!” The Lovesick Ellie in question is a fantasy twitter account run by Eriko Ichimura, a girl who remains largely invisible to her classmates. She’s decided to dedicate herself to living her best life in her imagination and pretends to be secretly dating the most handsome and popular boy in school, Ohmi.

Lovesick Ellie Volume 1

One day Eriko overhears Ohmi talking in a casual way to one of their teachers, and she discovers that he’s nothing like the smiling polite facade he maintains around everyone else. He’s actually not all that happy about being singled out for so much attention. Eriko is discovered and she promptly runs away, leaving her cell phone behind! Ohmi picks it up and reads her tweets and finds them hilarious. All of this happens in the first few pages of the manga, and the rest of the volume shows Eriko and Ohmi striking up an unlikely friendship. Eriko gradually realizes that Ohmi’s actually lonely. He encourages Eriko to befriend another girl who is as obsessed with costuming as Eriko is with over the top fake date narratives. Eriko’s tweets appear here and there to contrast reality with fantasy. There’s plenty of blushing and over the top emotions in the art, but Eriko isn’t really believable as an invisible plain girl because all the character designs are generally attractive.

Eriko’s twitter asides are genuinely hilarious, as she will take a small detail like a misplaced jersey and spin it out into paragraphs of slightly perverted situations. For Ohmi, it seems like Eriko is one of the few people he can actually be himself around, and while he takes a certain delight in teasing her, he’s actually having some difficulties navigating his own emotions as their relationship develops. For a manga with such a goofy premise, it actually ends up being rather heartfelt. I found myself smiling multiple times reading Lovesick Ellie, which is a great shoujo title for anyone wanting something funny and romantic.

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End Vol 1

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End Volume 1 by Kanehito Yamada and Tsukasa Abe

I’m always curious about new Shonen Sunday titles since some of the series that I’ve enjoyed from the magazine just end up having more emotional and narrative depth than the more formulaic series in Shonen Jump. Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is a deliberately paced fantasy story that examines the question of what happens next after a group of heroes succeeds in their ultimate mission. The party of friends on the verge of retirement includes character types that would not be out of place in any DnD campaign: Frieren, an elven mage, Himmel the Hero, Heiter the priest, and Eisen, a dwarf warrior.

The manga opens as the companions have completed their ten year quest to defeat the Demon King. The group splits up, with Frieren not quite understanding how time is going to pass much more quickly for her companions. She promises to check back with everyone in 50 years with the air of someone who’s going to drop by again next month, and leaves to continue her journey doing magical research. When she does return she finds Himmel transformed into a bald old man with an impressive white beard. When Himmel dies shortly after their reunion, Frieren finds herself more interested in reexamining her memories and trying to think the way humans do. She begins to retrace her party’s previous path and finds some low key magical adventures along the way as she starts to engage more with the idea of time passing for humans. Heiter tricks Frieren into taking on a human apprentice mage named Fern, so Frieren has a new companion along as she begins to come to terms with her past.

There’s a slow and gentle quality to the pacing of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End. I think it would appeal to anyone who also enjoys Snow White with the Red Hair. There’s also plenty of humor as Frieren attempts to get better at understanding emotions and the human pace of the world. The art is attractive, capably portraying the medieval fantasy settings and capturing the emotional dynamic between the characters. I found reading this first volume both diverting and relaxing.

Rosen Blood, Vol 1

Rosen Blood Volume 1 by Kachiru Ishizue

The phrase “gothic reverse harem vampire shoujo manga,” is jam-packed with many plot tropes and Rosen Blood certainly manages to be all of those things. I might wish for slightly more character development, but I found myself sufficiently diverted by all the vibes this manga serves up. The manga opens with heroine Stella Violetta waking up in a luxurious bed with a handsome man with slightly outsized canines introduces himself as her host, Levi-Ruin. Stella was on the way to take up a position as a maid after her sister died and she’s completely destitute. She begs Levi-Ruin to let her work in his mansion and he promptly takes her on a tour.

Levi-Ruin’s house is inhabited by a number of men with outsized canines. There’s Friederich, who is flirty and a bit handsy, the exceptionally pretty Yoel, and the nearly psychotic Gilbert. Levi-Ruin warns Stella that she can’t go outside because the estate is surrounded by a forest of thorns, and she’s not supposed to go into the basement. It takes Stella quite a bit of time to figure out what might be happening, even with Gilbert exclaiming over her “elegant, pulsing veins…” But I suppose most gothic heroines wouldn’t automatically assume the worst when they head into a life of servitude in a creepy yet luxurious mansion. The art in this series is delicate and well-executed to produce plenty of surreal and emotionally overwrought scenes as Levi-Ruin and his companions struggle with having a human in their midst. If you enjoy spooky romances, Rosen Blood packs plenty of atmosphere into one volume. I’d like to see a bit more complexity in Stella’s personality, but I enjoyed the first volume and I’m curious to see where the story goes.

Knight of the Ice, Vol 7

Knight of the Ice Volume 7 by Yayoi Ogawa

We don’t get a ton of josei series translated, so I do cherish the ones that come out in print like Knight of the Ice which has a winning combination of figure skating drama combined with Ogawa’s quirky sense of humor. While many of the plot points of the series center around Kokoro’s difficulties training and winning competitions, this volume opens with Chitose dealing with her heart condition. Kokoro’s hard-nosed manager Moriyama visits Chitose in the hospital, and it is great to see how much she cares even though she goes to great lengths to hide her emotions. Chitose doesn’t want to derail Kokoro’s concentration by having him worry about her, so she decides to both postpone having surgery and wants to keep her condition a secret.

Knight of the Ice 7

For the rest of the volume, Kokoro is vaguely uneasy as he trains for his latest competitions, as he can tell that Chitose is hiding something but he isn’t sure what it is. He’s dealing with his ongoing issues of pushing his technical abilities but sometimes struggling to be artistic and expressive enough in his skating. “Yayoi Ogawa” shows up to dash off a sketch for an inspiring new costume. Ogawa’s dynamic and expressive art makes the skating competitions compelling, as all the skaters are dealing with their own struggles. Kokoro has some triumphs and setbacks, and has still not yet reached his full potential. I’m enjoying seeing the story in Knight of the Ice unfold.

My Love Mix-Up! Vol 1

My Love Mix-Up Volume 1 by Wataru Hinekure and Aruko

I was curious about My Love Mix-Up since I’m always up for a new shoujo series and Aruko illustrated the astoundingly good My Love Story!!. While this new series doesn’t have the innate hilarity of My Love Story!!, it is a light, warm-hearted unconventional love triangle with protagonists who are all kind to each other.

Aoki has a long-term crush on Hashimoto, the girl who sits next to him in class. On a fateful day he borrows her eraser and sees the name of another boy, Ida, with a heart symbol next to it. When Aoki drops the eraser and Ida picks it up, Ida assumes that Aoki has a crush on him. Aoki plays along with this assumption because he doesn’t want to reveal Hashimoto’s secret. Ida’s reaction to all of this is thoughtful consideration. Ida’s never dated anyone before, so he doesn’t immediately reject Aoki, even though Aoki is encouraging him to! As Aoki gets to know Ida better he starts realizing what a cool guy Ida is. While there is less opportunity for Aruko to engage in the more broad caricature work of My Love Story!!, there are a few great scenes where Aoki looks like a haunted zombie due to the depths of his teenage embarrassment about the confounding situation that he finds himself in.

There’s a similar sort of love triangle in Blue Flag, and My Love-Mix! up looks like it is going to cover the same territory but without the emotional depth. I don’t think that every series needs to have that degree of pathos, sometimes a relatively angst free love triangle is the perfect diversion. There’s a cliffhanger at the end that promises plenty of more romantic mix-ups ahead.