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.

Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Vols 1 and 2

Tsubaki Chou Lonely Planet Volumes 1 and 2 by Mika Yamamori

I enjoyed Yamamori’s Daytime Shooting Star, even though I spent many volumes deeply concerned about the resolution of the age-gap romance in the manga. I can experience those feelings all over again, as the heroine in Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet seems to be headed in that direction as well. Will the charming character designs and humor in this title cause me to tamp down my uneasy feelings about power dynamics in shoujo manga? Quite possibly!

Parents in manga have a lot to answer for, what with their habits of abruptly marrying people who come burdened with incredibly cute and charismatic new step-siblings, or their tendency of suddenly abandoning their children for endless overseas trips, or manifesting total financial instability that causes their high-school age children to get a job to fend off terrible loan sharks.

Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet

In the first few panels of Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet thrifty and responsible Fumi Ohno learns that her father is shipping off to sea to become a fisherman in order to pay off the aforementioned loan sharks. She’s being kicked out of her apartment, right when she was on the verge of being able to buy a new vacuum with the money she’s been saving from stretching the household grocery budget! She concludes that her only option is to become a live-in housekeeper to an author. Dazzled by the thought of free room and board, Fumi shows up at her new workplace only to discover that instead of the bespectacled old man with a mustache she’s imagining, her new boss is a floppy-haired young man who seems to be in the habit of passing out in his front hallway. Akatsuki Kibikino writes historical novels and lives in an incredibly untidy house. He’s not happy that a young girl showed up to clean and make his meals (he thought only grandmas were named Fumi) but after hearing that she’s totally alone in the world, he decides that maybe having a clean house and homemade meals would be a good idea after all. Akatsuki informs her that if she’s his housekeeper, it is also his duty to protect her, and he follows up on this promise.

A new transfer student shows up at Fumi’s school and makes a point of singling her out. However Isshin Imamura is harboring a decade-long grudge because Fumi beat him in a race in elementary school. Fumi begins struggling with her feelings towards her employer, and they become a bit closer just with their daily interactions. They have fateful encounters like going grocery shopping for rice. Fumi tends to be a bit naive about the world, throwing herself into some potentially unsavory situations when she hears that her father is having money troubles again, but Akatsuki has a tendency to show up just in time to rescue her. Isshin also becomes more sympathetic and has some blunt assessments about Fumi’s emotions that cause her to reflect on her feelings.

There’s plenty of humor in this series, mainly due to Fumi’s genuine skill and enthusiasm for homemaking pursuits like cooking, maintaining a coupon book, and being willing to battle it out at grocery stores for discounted vegetables. Akatsuki is grumpy and doesn’t take care of himself at all, but when he senses that something’s amiss he springs into action to help Fumi, even if it might take him a little while to realize what’s happening. Yamamori’s art is engaging, highlighting the occasional moments of emotional revelation that occur as the characters get to know each other better. After reading the first couple volumes, I’m invested in seeing how Fumi is going to make her way in the world, and I hope for the best for her. Fans of Daytime Shooting Star will find plenty to like about Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet

Honey Lemon Soda Vol 1 by Mayu Murata

Honey Lemon Soda Volume 1 by Mayu Murata

I was aware that there was a great deal of anticipation when Honey Lemon Soda was licensed, and the first volume lived up to the hype! Popular boy inexplicably adopting an incredibly awkward girl is a familiar plot in most shoujo manga, but Honey Lemon Soda takes this premise and runs with it, making the reader feel instantly sympathetic with the introverted heroine in question. Uka Ishimori’s gets in the way of an errant blast of lemon soda wielded by Kai Miura. She freezes up and is unable to respond to his friends’ expressions of concern and she runs away when Miura apologizes to her. His friends comment “It’s kinda like she’s living out a different genre than the rest of us” which is a good way of summarizing how disconnected Uka is from people her own age.

Honey lemon soda 1

In middle school, Uka was bullied, with classmates calling her “Rocky” due to her last name and stony expression. She’s determined to make friends and change in high school, and picked a school to go to based on its more laid back and flashy reputation instead of going to a school where people are devoted to studying. Every possible social interaction has Uka caught up in her anxious thoughts, as she has to force herself to offer to help a classmate with the answer to a question. Miura starts taking an interest, coaching Uka through some basic greetings. When she actually calls on him for help, he leaps in and defends her from some of her former middle school bullies. Uka starts expressing herself more often, although sometimes she’s so tense about communicating with others that her thoughts come out more like yelling accidentally.

Miura might look super cool with his effervescent blond hair, but he also seems to have more compassion than is typical in a shoujo hero, and he keeps dropping comments designed to help Uka become more comfortable with herself. Murata’s character designs are attractive, and there are plenty of dynamic panel layouts as the characters make their way through emotionally fraught situations. After reading the first volume, I am eager to see how Uka changes on her journey to break out of her shell and express herself more.

Knight of the Ice, Vol 11

Knight of the Ice Volume 11 by Yayoi Ogawa

I often feel a little wistful at the end of a series, especially one as consistently entertaining about Knight of the Ice, but the final volume concludes in a fashion that will satisfy readers, even though the outcomes were easy to foresee at the start of the series. As Kokoro prepares to take the ice at the Sochi Olympics, the field of skaters is shaken up by a dark horse contender with multiple quads from the United States. Kokoro also has to face a major competition without Chitose by his side to support him, since she’s recovering from necessary heart surgery. It is great to see the progression in Kokoro’s personality and how he’s able to make more decisions and assert himself as a skater, instead of drifting through life in an attempt to live up to his family’s expectations.

Ogawa nails the tension of Olympic ice skating as different skaters attempt to skate their best due to a variety of reasons, sometimes succeeding and sometimes having the small mistakes and spills that happen in competition. I always appreciate the paneling and action sequences of Knight of the Ice, which really serve to heighten the When Kokoro pops his quad lutz, readers are treated to a detailed discussion of scoring system issues, making the moments of Kokoro’s next decisions to modify his program on the fly even more dramatic. Even issues with Russian judges come into play as the final scores are tallied, making this manga enjoyable for a casual or more serious skating fan. One thing I really liked about this series was the way it developed all the supporting characters as well, and many of Kokoro’s compatriots get a sense of conclusion at the end of this volume as well.

One thing I appreciated was a bonus story that takes place before the first volume, which shows how Chitose and Kokoro reconnected after being close as childhood friends. It served as a nice way to think about how far they’ve both come as they’ve evolved over this series. I’m very glad that we’ve now gotten two Yayoi Ogawa series translated into English, but I have to say after reading both Kima wa Pet and Knight of the Ice, I feel a little greedy for more.

Nina the Starry Bride, Vols 1 and 2 by Rikachi

Nina the Starry Bride Volumes 1 and 2 by Rikachi

I’m really bad at buying digital volumes of manga and then totally forgetting to read them, but I got a new tablet recently so I’m hoping to start getting caught up on some digital series that have been out for awhile. Nina the Starry Bride is likely one of those series that I would have glommed onto immediately if it had a print release, but I’m coming to it a bit late.

Nina the Starry Bride Vol 1

Royal duplicate plots are fairly common in fantasy manga, but Nina the Starry Bride is a solid example of the genre, helped a great deal by charming and detailed art. Nina is an orphan with unusual blue eyes who has found a family of sorts with a couple brothers. They spend their days hiding out and stealing occasionally to support themselves. When they fall on hard times, Nina is betrayed and handed over to slavers and her unusual eye color leads to her being recruited to be a stand-in for a recently deceased princess by the amber-eyed Prince Azure.

After some initial resistance, Nina works hard to develop her knowledge of etiquette and ability to behave like a princess. As only Azure and a few trusted servants know her secret, Nina grows closer to the second prince as she learns more about the royal family. Azure has a younger brother who is the acknowledged heir, a snarky stepmother, and his mysterious father is king. Nina and Azure share a certain loneliness, and it is nice to see how they begin to open up to each other. This series is fairly fast-paced as by the second volume Nina has a strong grasp of geopolitics and decides to save Azure, even though he’s attempting to prevent Nina from being sent off to a neighboring kingdom as part of a political alliance.

Rikachi has attractive character designs, with Azure looking particularly cool with his standoffish manners and asymmetrical earrings. Nina shifts from orphan to princess, and the lush detail of her life in the palace contrasts with the sparseness of her previous life. While Nina might not have the royal background of the people surrounding her, she’s true to herself in a way that makes it easy for her to deal with the political and family issues that she she encounters. While the elements of Nina the Starry Bride aren’t used in a particularly novel way, it is overall a strong fantasy manga that should appeal to fans of Dawn of the Arcana

Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love, Vols 1 and 2

Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love Volumes 1 and 2 by Ayuko Hatta

In today’s stressful times, reading determinedly uncomplicated romance can be quite soothing, which is why I’m enjoying the angst free and sometimes silly series Ima Koi. Satomi was too shy to confess her feelings to a crush in middle school, so she’s determined to be different in high school and seize her next chance for love. When stoic, incredibly tall Yagyu saves her from a train groper and she finds out that he goes to her school she follows through on her vow and asks him out. He says yes, and thus their romance begins.

Ima Koi

Satomi is cute, with her quick entry into dating she’s fulfilled her main goal, but she’s still figuring out what to do now that she’s in a relationship. Yagyu is a bit more enigmatic, but he’s won over by Satomi’s forthright nature and her tendency to fling herself on top of him from the subway stairs. He’s interested in getting to know her, and they soon start dating. They deal with complications that beset any new couple as Satomi has to navigate around Yagyu’s suspicious best friend and his obsessed younger sister. While this manga doesn’t reach the hilarity of My Love Story!! there are plenty of funny situations, such as when Yagyu and Satomi go on a date to the zoo and his younger sister Juri tags along. Juri becomes more and more enraged as Satomi keeps not reacting to her attempts to undermine the date, until she transforms into a menacing side character from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Ima Koi is a fun escape, and the way most issues get resolved by the end of every volume makes for a relaxing shoujo series.