published by Viz
published by Yen Press
published by Dark Horse
As the end of the year approaches, I’m catching up on some favorite series. I’ve been sitting on their latest volumes for a treat for myself, and here are some brief thoughts on my weekend reading. (The publishers provided some of the following as review copies.)
Yotsuba&! Book 11
by Kiyohiko Azuma
Yen Press, $11.99 US
If you’re not reading this charming series about a curious little girl discovering the world around her, I’m not sure what I could say now to convince you. (Unless it’s how jealous I am of you that you have over 10 books to enjoy.) It’s consistently good, enjoyable in its naive portrayal of the world, and encouraging in its optimism.
In this volume, Yotsuba learns how to make noodles in a local shop. Her happy face and button eyes as she and the older gentleman working the dough discuss udon and ramen convey how she’s thinking about the yummy taste, a feeling conveyed to the reader.
Dad’s panicked reaction when the shop owners meet him could fit into any of the stories: “I’m so sorry! What has she done? I apologize for everything!” There’s other food in this book, too, as Yotsuba tries pizza (as well as delivery) for the first time. They go chestnut picking and play with bubbles. Yotsuba also gets a camera and has to rescue her teddy bear from a dog. That last story is touching, as the little girl has trouble waiting for the toy to be repaired afterwards.
Yotsuba&! has all the wonder of seeing a child learn about the world without any of the annoyance of having to take care of her yourself. The chapter end illustrations, with Yotsuba and her bear, are especially cute.
Otomen Book 13
by Aya Kanno
Viz, $9.99 US
It’s a pleasure to see more focus on Ryo, the tomboy-ish love of Asuka, after the last book’s revelations about Asuka and his father. After a sudden street encounter, Ryo winds up coaching a judo team. However, since it’s part of an all-boys’ school, she has to go undercover as a pretty boy to do so.
Ryo’s good-natured determination, dedication to doing the right thing, and confidence are fun to see, and they reassure the reader that Asuka’s love for her has good basis, especially since the author is making them doubt each other. Since this series is built on cliche, there’s some drama when Asuka hears an unknown guy is seen going into Ryo’s house. Ryo also, through poorly explained complications, has to fight Asuka in the tournament. It’ll all work out ok, we know, but it’s the emotional wringer of getting there that provides the enjoyment.
A final chapter, set on Valentine’s Day, provides an excuse for Asuka to run through a lot of the Otomen cast members as he ponders them growing apart as they grow up.
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Book 13
story by Eiji Otsuka
art by Housui Yamazaki
Dark Horse, $12.99 US
It’s never a good sign when a creepy girl says, early on, “Loving someone or hating them… it’s the exact same thing.” I’d forgotten just how spooky this series can be, but the lead story here rams it home in spades.
A vengeful young woman is taking control of men who prey on runaway young women new to Tokyo — by having them wear hats with mouse ears based on a popular cartoon character that take control of their motor functions. The cliffhanger to the first chapter points out just how mean and disturbing this could be. Unfortunately, this story turns into mostly a chase, as the team attempts to stop the woman running rampant at a deserted theme park. There are some very neat suspenseful images as a result, but some of the potential of the premise seems to get lost.
The next story shows us Sasaki participating in the Japanese justice system. She’s one of the lay judges, kind of like a jury member but with more interaction with the case, which is about sentencing a man who’s confessed to killing the woman he was stalking. It’s a fascinating example of a more straightforward mystery, solvable without the talking dead bodies, but more dramatic with their presence. Fans of TV procedurals will enjoy this segment, I think.
Followers of the series will enjoy some of the revelations about relationships among the characters. There’s also a story about a guy who decides to bring back fertility sacrifice rituals; that one has the expected nude girl that shows up in the series every so often. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service remains my favorite horror series, because there’s so much more to it than just the scares, and even the gross bits are so beautifully illustrated.