published by Kodansha Comics
This week, I was honored to receive a big box of Kodansha’s December releases, so I’m getting a welcome chance to sample their line.
First, a brief mention of the books you’re likely already familiar with. I don’t think I need to tell anyone about the second omnibus of Love Hina or the third of Negima!, since those long-running series are well-known to their fans already, and these thick volumes simply make them available more affordably. Air Gear Book 21, meanwhile, I know isn’t for me, between the high volume number and it being from the author of Tenjho Tenge.
Let’s start with an old favorite. I haven’t read Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei since book 8, a year ago. Book 12 is consistent, more of the same, even on its third translator (here, Joshua Weeks), although the endnotes section keeps getting shorter and shorter (perhaps to make room for the four-page fan art gallery included here?). Particularly funny (because of its truth) is the early line from the girl obsessed with precision: “I wonder if people reading for the first time can really understand this manga.” This chapter is about those who deny first-timers service, because no one wants to be the one training the newbies.
That’s actually a lead-in to a reintroduction to many of the characters and jokes about the expectations of long-time fans, so this wouldn’t be a bad volume to start with, if you’re curious. As a gag manga very tied into its culture, I think I’m not really part of the audience any more. The series seems to be best for those who like getting the in-jokes from another country, that feeling of “I know more about this than others do”. While I sometimes find the connections the characters make insightful, the book as set of gags is just a bit too episodic for me.
Additional chapters tackle those doing stupid things because they’re told they’re hot; what it means to be treated as an adult; no-win situations where both choices are undesirable; auras of disappointment; and enjoying coming full circle. The art is as graphically striking as always, with unusual flat, high-contrast images. This volume is seasonally timely, as well, with stories that mention Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
The only other title in this batch I was familiar with was Gon, which I read some of back when CMX was releasing it. Book 3 was thus exactly what I expected, gorgeously illustrated tales of savage life among the beasts. In the four chapters here, Gon explores life on a big river, sometimes placid, sometimes filled with rapids; Gon torments a dingo trying to feed her cubs, including leading a mass koala attack; Gon eats mushrooms deadly to all the other animals; and Gon temporarily becomes an adopted wolf cub and battles the tiger that kills the pack mother.
The situations can frequently be ludicrous, as in the Australian chapter, where Gon somehow manages to get natural enemies to work together, but the detailed line drawings are masterful to behold. The series rewards a slow, patient read. Since it’s wordless, close attention must be paid to details to be sure of what’s going on. Animal Land Book 3 is a much different, more fantastic take on a similar concept, with a human boy the only outsider in a land of animals. This series features more exaggerated (and more typically manga-like) art.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Book 3 was a welcome change of pace, with goofy humor woven into a murder investigation. There’s a group of five fortune tellers operating out of a department store. Wright’s assistant drags him in while she visits them, which luckily puts them in place when one of the seers gets murdered in a locked-room mystery, supposedly by a young woman client.
This was a fun read that played fair with the mystery. It reminded me of watching an old-style 80s TV series, as though the fortune tellers were the weekly guest stars. I appreciated having a single case get introduced, complicated, and resolved in one volume. I also liked the gag of the misunderstanding over “Thong Fortunes”. While several men envision predictions from a girl in a well-stuffed bikini, the real approach turns out to be much different. A neat bit of escapism, with an intriguing endnote page that explains the character names used and why they were selected.
I moved through the remaining books quickly. Bloody Monday Book 3 is a more mature thriller, as a group of kids try to find out more about a terrorist plot revolving around a deadly virus. I admit, I wasn’t in the mood for what’s been called an “adrenaline-pumping” ride, so I passed on this one. I also suspect I’d need to start from the beginning to get the cast of kids straight. Monster Hunter Orage Book 3 is based on a video game about, well, killing monsters, so I skipped it as well. And when I saw that Mardock Scramble Book 3 was the story of a hooker rescued from death and turned into a vengeful cyborg, I concluded it wasn’t for me.
That leaves Cage of Eden Book 3, another in the genre of “schoolkids marooned somewhere weird, must band together to survive”. In this case, it’s a deserted island populated by giant extinct animals and, as discovered in this installment, teenage gangsters. It was interesting to start, but I was turned off when I got to the “girl students change clothes” fan service chapter. And if that was annoying, I suspect the cute girl “fighting force” in Tokyo Mew Mew Omnibus 2 would drive me right over the edge.