published by Viz
published by Yen Press
published by DC/CMX Manga
In case you’re looking for something appropriate, these three manga are rated as suitable for all ages and recommended as good reads.
Choco Mimi Book 2
by Konami Sonoda
Viz, $7.99 US
The fun of the first volume continues with more four-panel comic strips about fashion, friendship, and young love. There are also album and scrapbook pages featuring “pictures” of the characters and their pets that are very realistic in feel, as though a 14-year-old really put them together, plus longer stories with the same characters. An early one is surprisingly thought-provoking, with a flower symbolizing love and the characters discussing their different approaches to the subject.
Others are silly takes on topics like going to the beach or working in a cafe or putting on costumes to scare each other. School activities and holiday celebrations also feature. It’s a light read, but the cute kids and darling art style are appealing, and I enjoy being part of their world for a while, where there aren’t many things to worry about beyond looking good and the attention of the boy you like. It’s also got a surprising amount of content — I spent longer reading this than I do many other shojo volumes, both due to the page structure and wanting to notice the details of the characters’ outfits. (The publisher provided a review copy.)
The Lapis Lazuli Crown Book 2
by Natsuna Kawase
CMX Manga, $9.99 US
Miel Violette found her impulse to study magic and improve her skills in the first book: befriending an undercover prince. Here, in the second (and final) book of the series, we first see her back at school, working toward that goal. She aims to improve enough to work at the palace and thus get closer to Prince Radian.
Unfortunately, the prince is missing from the opening chapter, which has turned into a school story, following Miel and two of her friends as they study magic. I’m glad to see him back in the following chapter, where she’s met her goal, since his interaction with Miel is the best part of the book for me. I’m just not as interested in her classmates and their struggles with (for example) succeeding on merit instead of due to their family name.
The changes in direction and approach may be related to the short length of the series. It looks like the author was casting around for a successful path to follow and never quite got there. She alludes frequently in the many author’s notes about wanting to do more with various characters but running out of space to do so before the series end. There are also what look like the beginning of subplots that don’t have room to go anywhere. Perhaps the best way to describe this is “valiant but failed experiment”.
If this book sounds interesting to you, the core premise is explained early on, and the new setting is different enough that a reader who couldn’t find book one could start here with little trouble, although I found the first volume much more interesting. (The publisher provided a review copy.)
Yotsuba&! Book 6
by Kiyohiko Azuma
Yen Press, $10.99 US
The beloved series returns from a new publisher (who thankfully has also brought the previous volumes back into print) with all its charm intact.
The stories here fall into the category of “what it’s like to live with a young child” — they see the world differently. Everything’s new to them, yet they also start forming their own conclusions about the way things work. The result is creative comedy that rings adorably true. In this volume, Yotsuba discovers recycling, bicycling, office work (which consists of her labeling everything in the house), and playing milkman.
Sound effects (of which there are many) aren’t translated here; instead, the English sound and meaning are both written into the panel next to the Japanese symbol. I found this cluttered the page and distracted my eye from following the characters. Add in the translation notes put in the gutters between panels, and sometimes, there was just too much to look at. Especially when they kept reprinting the same note every time a labeled object appears, which I found unnecessary. I was also distracted by how often Yotsuba’s speech is bolded — I know she’s supposed to be frequently excited, but I soon lost that awareness in annoyance at the technique.
But those are minor points. The artist’s sense of motion and movement is wonderful. Yotsuba feels right, in all her actions and expressions. I appreciate her dad’s patience with her, even though you can tell it can be a struggle (as when, for example, she’s doing gymnastics on top of him). It’s her lack of self-censorship that makes her such a joy to read. The neighbor girl egging her on helps with the comedy, too.
I don’t know that I would have handed her a power tool, as Dad does when they build a bookcase, but that I was concerned for her welfare indicates how much I was lost in her world.
Here’s another review by Brigid at MangaBlog. If you’re interested in differences between the two publisher versions, here’s a visual comparison, criticism of the translation decisions, and an interview with Yen about their choices.