published by Del Rey Manga
Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Book 4
by Koji Kumeta, Del Rey Manga, $10.99 US, due out November 24
I have given up trying to make sense of all the Japanese references in this series. Although there are plenty of endnotes, I’d rather just focus on the clean graphic design of the art and the humor based around stupid things people do. I don’t need to know the name of a Tokyo baseball player to find, for example, an over-organization fetish funny, especially when it makes a house wind up looking like a 3-D game of Tetris.
I’m pleasantly surprised that Kumeta can make humor out of the pain one feels at being left out of a party, while the misery of holidays is a familiar subject given a very different twist with an unusual reason for the suffering. Cutting students slack no matter what they do is a tendency shared between cultures, and the virtue and benefit of silence is thought-provoking. There is one story that makes no sense without the explanation, which is based on manzai comedy, but I just considered it an exercise in surreality, so it fit right in with the rest of the book. Other chapters focus on concepts already familiar to Americans, like cooling-off contract periods or getting a second opinion.
I’m still enjoying reading this odd series, enough to continue.
Gakuen Prince Book 3
by Jun Yuzuki, Del Rey Manga, $10.99 US
This series, on the other hand, I quit with no regrets. I wasn’t appalled by the concept, as shown in the first book, as others were (with justification). I just didn’t care enough to continue, and flipping through this third book didn’t show me anything to change my mind. I’d also clearly missed something important in the second volume, since this entry opens with everyone talking about whatever it was, but I wasn’t interested enough to puzzle it out.
One sample was slightly amusing, but continuing this bit of perversion just seems tawdry. I have more entertaining things to read. This now feels like a waste of time.
Kitchen Princess: Search for the Angel Cake
by Miyuki Kobayashi, art by Natsumi Ando, Del Rey, $9.99 US
This new story is a novel using characters from the manga series by the same creators. Each of the four sections of the book ends with a new recipe, and each section has about four illustrations. I don’t think the characters and situation — recreating a cake beloved in memory — are strong enough to support the story without more art, myself, but perhaps that’s my preference for manga over prose text. Others may find the flipped responsibility, having the writing partner carry more of the work, a valuable comparison to the other way around they’re already familiar with.
(The publisher provided review copies.)