published by Viz
published by Del Rey Manga
All books were provided by the publishers for review.
Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs Book 12
by Yukiya Sakuragi, Viz, $9.99
The dog dance competition they trained for in the previous book takes place. But before that, it’s Christmas (a few months late for US readers), which means the readers get a gratuitious butt shot of Suguri!
Those looking for cute girls, though, will find plenty to enjoy in the competition scenes, since rival challenger Yasmin takes the “sexy schoolgirl” approaching, stripping down from short pleated skirt to a bikini during her performance. For those interested in hints of yuri, Yasmin’s very friendly and physical with Suguri as soon as they meet, hugging and grabbing her. (She also starred in a previous, untranslated manga from the same author.) Suguri’s performance is relatively sedate. Her dog Lupin’s trick as a scratching DJ is cute, but the drama is overdone, with everything that can go wrong doing so.
The rest of the book contains another competition, this one a relay race, in which Lupin fills in under suspicious circumstances, and a heart-tugger in which a beloved pet takes ill suddenly. As the book ends, Suguri has to figure out how to share very bad news in a caring fashion, no matter what she thinks of the recipient.
Kitchen Princess Book 9
by Miyuki Kobayashi and Natsumi Ando, Del Rey, $10.99
I’ve mentioned before how this series can be repetitive, and this installment is no exception. Once again, Najiki thinks she’s found her “Flan Prince”, the child that saved her life years ago, only for later chapters to do the print equivalent of “psych!” (If you’re worried about being dragged around, the next volume will be the last, so presumably, the question will finally be settled. Or at least, have no more pages to change its mind.)
Najika’s being hit on strongly by Seiya, the living image of her deceased crush. She’s torn between this pushy boy, whom she doesn’t really like, and Daichi, the dead boy’s brother. This volume gets much further into emotional past history among Daichi, his departed sibling, and their controlling, widowed dad. With all these feelings and revelations, the big, shiny eyes are bigger and shinier than ever. (One closeup has four different kinds of highlighting on the pupil.) Everyone’s got these huge, light-filled marbles staring out at the reader, and they’re shown off in closeup after closeup.
I put up with it because I like reading about the food. As usual, the recipes (included in the back) here are mostly snacks and sweets, with exceptions for doria (a baked rice dish) and vegetable soup. After seeing one chapter-opening image of Najika holding a pot of nabe (a kind of mixed hotpot full of meat and vegetables), I realized how much more I would have enjoyed a series that taught how to make main-course Japanese dishes instead of cake. I will say that I will never again drink hot chocolate from a mix after reading their recipe, which starts by melting a chocolate bar.
Next time, it’s the World Junior Pastry Chef Contest in Paris and the presumed happy ending as Najika finally picks a boy.
Love*Com Book 11
by Aya Nakahara, Viz, $8.99
Once again, I’m catching up on Love*Com. I don’t know why I wind up reading this series in larger bunches, but it gives events a certain depth as I spend more time with the characters.
It’s been an eventful few months for the lead couple, Risa and Otani, as they face the future for the first time. (It’s easy for teens to live only in the moment.) Their ambitions are taking them in different directions — him to college, assuming he can study hard enough to get in, and her … well, she doesn’t know, but for now, she’s clumsily waitressing. Since they’re spending more time apart, there’s the temptation of her co-worker, also a short guy, who’s got a crush on Risa and the time to spend with her. Various events from the previous volume mean that, as the book opens, the two have reunited after a serious breakup, and they’re tiptoeing around each other even as they plan to spend New Year’s Eve together.
The appeal of this series is the way it takes common elements of young relationships and amps them up a notch, making it all funnier while still keeping it recognizable. Plus, the two leads are a classic example of opposites attracting. They yell at each other because it’s a less vulnerable way to show their affection for each other. That’s all supported by comedic drawings of the leads that exaggerate their emotions for easy reading, but the feelings are real. The ridiculous situations they find themselves in, not so much, but that’s what makes this fiction.
The majority of this volume has the two worrying about friends of theirs. Nobu and Nakao had planned a future together, but Nobu has changed plans in order to move with her sick grandmother far away to the country. The two say they’ll be fine, but their concern and dread come out in weird ways. Risa and Otani and the rest of their friends are paralyzed with indecision over what to do, whether to say something or not. What’s the most supportive way to react? They all want the best for each other, and they don’t want to share how they feel for fear of getting in the way and being selfish. It’s a great demonstration of different kinds of love.