published by Del Rey Manga
Reviews by Ed Sizemore
Yozakura Quartet Book 5
by Suzuhito Yasuda; adapted by Nunzio DeFlippis & Christina Weir
Del Rey Manga, $10.99 US
After the major battles of volume 4, everyone is taking time to settle back into daily life. However, they don’t get long to rest before things get exciting again. Rin, the delivery girl for a popular ramen shop, is kidnapped by a mysterious figure.
Yozakura Quartet continues to be an entertaining read. The central draw is the wonderful cast of characters that Yasuda has created. They are well-rounded individuals with lots of depth, and each volume gives us new insight into one or two people. Yasuda has poured a lot of time and care into his characters, and that affection comes through to the reader.
Another impressive aspect of the series is how normal Yasuda can make this town and its citizens feel. Sakurashin Town is a place where various demons and humans live side by side. The people have all the typical worries: going to school, running a business, the bureaucratic realities of being mayor, having a job, etc. It also helps that everyone looks like a regular human being. This normalcy makes is easy to identify with the various characters.
Yasuda continues to have good, solid art. My only disappointment with this volume was the level of fan service present. In previous volumes, there wasn’t ever more than one panty shot. In this volume, there are several. Because I find the female characters so well-rounded, I don’t like to see them objectified like this. Hopefully, this trend won’t continue in future volumes.
Yozakura Quartet has the best bonus pages of any manga series I’ve read so far. This volume Yasuda tells us about the making of the anime. He got to sit in on a voice recording session and shares his observations. It an incredible behind-the-scenes look at the making of an anime.
Yozakura Quartet is a nice blend of slice-of-life, supernatural, and great fights. It’s hard to categorize this manga or come up with another series to compare it to. Even with the big fights, the series has a quiet feel to it. The best I can recommend is that you try this volume to see if you like the series. I think you’ll find it a pleasant surprise.
Minima! Book 4
by Machiko Sakurai; adapted by The Nibley Sisters (Athena & Alethea)
Del Rey Manga, $11.99 US
The stuffed animal Nicori has decided to take the amusement park’s offer and become one of the star attractions. He believes this will solve the problems that he has caused. Besides dealing with Nicori’s seeming rejection of her and her family, Ame also has to sort our her feelings toward Midori and Sasaki in this final volume of the series.
Minima! has been a gentle, intimate series. Even with the supernatural element of toys talking, Minima! is really about a junior high girl coming out of her shell. Ame just needed a more unusual push than most teens. Seeing her mature in these four volumes has been a satisfying journey.
Ame isn’t the only one that grows and matures in the series; both Midori and Sasaki have problems to overcome. After years of leading separate lives, Midori’s parents are getting a divorce. Sasaki’s family moves frequently, so he doesn’t want to become too emotionally connected to anyone. Seeing both face up to their situations and find constructive ways to handle them is very heartwarming.
I’ve grown to like the art in the series. The minimalism seems to suit this last volume best. It reflects well the understated storytelling, the hidden emotions, and the awkwardness of the characters. Sakurai has always been gifted at expressing emotions, and that strength serves this final volume perfectly.
I’m going to miss Minima! It’s a short series that delivers big rewards to the reader. The characters were immensely likable, and I was very fond of them by the end of the series. This volume does have a proper ending which is comforting. It’s a well-told coming-of-age story that I recommend.
Dragon Eye Books 7 and 8
by Kairi Fujiyama; adapted by Mari Morimoto
Del Rey Manga, $10.99 (vol 7), $11.99 (vol 8)
These volumes are the beginning of a new story arc. VIUS is having its annual fighting tournament. This year, there are important dignitaries from neighboring cities attending. It seems there are lots of hidden agendas as the tournament progresses.
Dragon Eye continues to be a fun comfort read for me. Kazuma is such a fascinating character. He seems to be a walking bag of contradictions, but as you get to know him over the series, you understand how carefully he has construed his public persona. He has these wonderful layers, and Fujiyama slowly reveals each one.
These books are a good blend of great fighting sequences and intrigue. This is our first introduction to the larger world surrounding Mikuni City. The D virus has decimated the human population, and the survivors have formed city-states. Like the ancient Greeks, each city-state has its own culture and focus on how to protect its citizens from the dracules. I’m interested to see how this aspect of the series develops.
Fujiyama’s art has gotten noticeably better in these volumes. I don’t see the awkward poses that plagued previous volumes. The fight scenes are especially good. The drawings are very dynamic and capture the energy of the combatants well. The introduction of these new characters allows Fujiyama to create some wonderful costume and character designs.
Dragon Eye continues to be a favorite escapist read for me. Volume 7 is a good place for new readers to jump in and get a feel for the series. I won’t pretend the series has deep philosophical statements about humans or technology. The is simply a well-written story and a great cast of characters. (The publisher provided review copies.)