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.

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.

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.