Futari no Renai Shoka / Our Romance Bookshelf by Yamakazi Kore

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I found Futari no Renai Shoka / My Romance Bookshelf by hitting the “surprise me” button at Mangareader.  Normally, I’m not much for straight people romances, but this one was cute (and complete in two volumes.)

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The premise is pretty straight-forward. Kanako and Akio are two book nerds that fall in love.

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The complication is that when they meet and Kanako blurts our “marry me!” she’s a college graduate and he’s in middle school.

I’d be more squicked about the age-gap, only he’s not drawn like a middle schooler and, perhaps more importantly, Kanako is only partly serious when she says it.  Akio has eidetic memory and can repeat full passages from books he’s read. When he recites one of Kanako’s favorites, she has the same moment I had when it was revealed in Dream Daddy that Damien had Naruto fan fiction in his library. I turned to my son and said, “I’m sorry, I have to marry this man.”

A lot of the rest of this manga is occupied with the question of how people are like books, and, particularly, the thought: sometimes you just like what you like.

There are some weird familial issues, too. Akio moves in with Kanako while still a high schooler, which he’s able to do because he’s that manga/anime phenomenon of the abandoned child of business workers, who just left town for a better job and abandoned their adolescent at home alone, sending the occasional packet of money home. (I just tried to do some Googling on this, and it does not seem to be a Real Thing, or is at least certainly not as prevalent as it is in anime and manga. If you have a source that proves me otherwise, PLEASE link me. I’d love to know more about this, if it’s a Done Thing in Real Life ™. )  Kanako, meanwhile, has a father who stopped caring for her after her mother died because “all his love was used up.”

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A lot of that is resolved by the end of the second volume, except Kanako’s parents. They’re just gone.

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But, beyond being baffled by some people’s (realistic?) lack of compassion, I enjoyed this manga and you might too.  It is, you could say, a ‘book’ you could curl up with while warming yourself under your comforters/kotatsu.

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Gangsta 48 by Kosuke (46 & 47, anyone?)

Speaking of splatter-fests, the newest chapter of Gangsta. is out at various scanlation sites. It is labeled as 48, though the last one I reviewed (and which seems to be out) is 45.

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I’m a terrible Gangsta. fan.  I mean, here it is, the end of Marco/Connie and I should be in tears. Yet, my only source of any feels is this panel spread:

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Do not hurt my PRECIOUS CINNAMON BUN, KOSUKE-sensei. I will hunt you down and kick you in the shins and yes I know you’re sick but DO NOT WITH MY BABY BOY.

I will be happy, however, if Connie is able to take out Striker with her final act. I hate that guy.

Likewise, given this couple of panel teaser with Nic, I am hopeful that the next chapters will bring us back to the main story arc.  “Hopeful” being a relative term, given that, if I remember correctly, Worick is working for the biggest anti-Tag doucenozzle, Corsica, in his guise as “Storage,” which just bodes so, so ill. Of course, speaking of “this can’t end well” scenarios, Nic has already agreed in Chapter 43 to give Dr. Theo his corpse to study, after he completes an ominous “final order” (which one PRESUMES is from Worick.)

So, we may be hurtling towards a grim, grim ending.

I mean, I do hope that Kosuke-sensei gets a chance to see her story to completion while she is still well enough to write and draw it, so you know, god speed and all that.

But, to quote the Star Wars franchise: “I have a VERY BAD feeling about this….”

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Brief UPDATES (with spoilers) of other manga chapters:

 

For anyone who depends on me (not likely) for alerts as to when some of the things that I follow have been updated, here’s a few that I’m reading, but have not individually reviewed:

Wombs: there have been three chapter updates since last I posted. As of this date, MangaHere has published up to: Chapter 35: Homecoming (19 weeks). What can I report about it? These last few chapters have gone deep on the political machinations between Dr. Lin and our stalwart Sargent Armea.  Something is rotten in transfer space and Olga is trapped in some kind of faux utopia… until she isn’t. This is getting into weird territory, but this manga has kind of been like that from the start. I’m glad someone seems to be continuing the work of scanlating this, however.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me: has two new chapter updates since I last reviewed it. They’re now up to Chapter 52: Their First Time?? The question of is Yoshiro stealing our heroine’s boyfriend is answered:

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And then this whacky “it should have been over when she picked one guy” reverse harem manga continues with an installment in which our two love birds realize that both of them are virgins and have zero clue how to get it on. They solve this in a typical for this manga way: our heroine realizes she’s straight and checks out shoujo manga; our hero talks to his fellow harem members who give him the straight talk (as it were) on how to take the lead (and remember consent!)

Shi ga Futari wo Wakatsu Made / Until Death Do Us Part by Takashige Hiroshi / Song Ji-Hyoung (Double-S)

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I haven’t been in the mood for anything like Shi ga Futari o Wakatsu Made / Until Death Do Us Part for a long, long time. But, holy crap, when I want a blind, katana-welding vigilante to protect a clairvoyant middle schooler, the only one for me is Hijikata Mamoru.

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Look at this badass mofo

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Seriously, what’s not to love?  The story starts with Haruka Tooyama, a middle schooler, who has the power of precognition. Everyone is after her for her predictive skills, and some baddies have murdered her parents and kidnapped her.  The problem for them? She knows just who she needs to get herself out of this mess: enter the blind ‘samurai’, Hijikata Mamoru.

Mamoru is loosely affiliated with an paramilitary organization that fights international crime called the Elements, or something like this. It doesn’t much matter, except that because of this tangental relationship, Mamoru has access back-up in the form of a hacker named Igawa in a bullet-proof van who supplies him all the best tech, including a cane-katana made from a space-age microfiber that can literally cut ANYTHING and fancy sunglasses that allow Mamoru something akin to “sight.”

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Aren’t you all in? Because at this point, I was ALL IN!

I mean, holy sh*t, is this whole thing some kind of high octane ‘way of the sword,’ but there was hardly a misstep in all 214 chapters for me.  The final arc gets a little political and “scheme-y” for me with the introduction of a spy/game master character known as “Wiseman”, but I can attest to the fact that a lot of that can be skimmed and the gist of it is still very enjoyable.

The women characters in this have gigantic boobs (Double-S, indeed!) with a lot of what my gamer friends would call “jiggle physics,” but that’s the worst of the fan service, IMHO. And, for all of that, we also get a lot of lingering on the male form, as well,

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This is my boi, Dai, the hot-headed motorcycle ace introduced late in the series. Dude, if you had red-hair and tattoos, I would marry you.  

The only other problematic bit in this manga is the relationship between Mamoru and Haruka Tooyama, THE MIDDLE SCHOOLER.  Girl is YOUNG.  I mean, you see her at the top there? She’s a child.  Mamoru is AT LEAST ten years older than she is, if not more.  But, Haruka announces early on that her precognition has told her that Mamoru is her future husband.

Mmmm, yeah, that hits my squick button pretty darn hard.

However, don’t let that stop you from the rest of this amazingly over the top, cheesy-awesome ride. Having read all the way to the end, I can assure you that the relationship stays mostly platonic.There’s no courtship beyond them fighting side-by-side an the occasional awkward promise.  If you can stand Haruka cooking for Mamoru from time to time and the people around them making crass jokes about her being “wife-y” you’ll be okay. There is ONE kiss in the chapter near the end, but it’s: “you’re probably dying so here is a chaste kiss on the lips.” For me, that was almost too much, but since most of the rest of the story was about other stuff, I was okay with it.

9/10ths of this manga is Mamoru being bada$$ with a katana.  But they do go there at the end — as in, after a timeskip where Haruka grows-up, they do utter the titular phrase in the kind of setting where you’d expect that. (Psst, they get married.)

For me, knowing that was likely coming helped me ignore it, you know?  Personally, I kind of hoped they’d go an unexpected direction, given what they set up in terms of the limits of Haruka’s precognition, but alas.  Honestly, I think because it was stated as a possibility at the start, it didn’t get under my skin that this was yet another adventure that seemed to have end in the dreaded wedding bells ™.

At least, the ensemble cast is so interesting that I could also ignore that weird relationship for all the others. (So many ships!) In fact, I was excited to see that several of the characters got manga of their own:

Aegis gets two separate spin-off manga: a six volume manga called Akatsuki no Aegis / Aegis of the Dawn (which no one appears to be scanlating) and Yami No Aegis / Aegis in the Dark, an on-going prequel (7 volumes scanlated so far out of 27) by a different author/artist team: Nanatsuki Kyoichi and Fujiwara Yoshihide.

The Aspergers genius behind “Elements” and the creator of SPARC, Tatsumi Daiba, gets a three volume spin-off called: Alcbane.  No one seems to be scanlating this one either, which is a shame because it looks almost like a superhero manga, with a cover showing Daiba wearing SPARC in its helmet form. This one is written by Takashige-sensei, but illustrated by Kinutani Yuu.

Jesus also gets a couple of spin-off manga, as well. He gets Jesus – Sajin Kouro, (14 volumes) and Jesus , a prequel, (13 volumes.)  Both of these manga are produced by the Nanatsuki/Yoshihide team. Only the prequel is currently being scanlated, alas.

I’m sad to see that “Double-S” (a.k.a. Song Ji-Hyoung) was not associated with any of the spin-offs, because in so many ways, his art makes this story.  The action is AMAZING:

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I also just really loved the way Mamoru is rendered:

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But, I was interested enough in this vaguely futuristic world enough to consider checking out the spin-offs that are available.

I loved this one. I totally recommend it for anyone who can handle violence and enjoys sh*t like pages of people talking about various sword-forms and The Art of War. Plus, did I mention?  BLIND MODERN-DAY SAMURAI.  I mean, what the heck more could you possibly need??

My Neighbor Seki / Tonari no Seki-kun (Vol. 1) by Morishige Takuma

I actually picked up all nine volumes of My Neighbor Seki /Tonari no Seki-kun that my library had in hopes of having a manga to last me over winter break. It should have been right up my alley being a light, slice-of-life, low drama sort of story.  That’s exactly the sort of thing I’ve been craving lately.

Alas.

I stopped reading this one after about a volume and a half, because the gag seemed repetitive.

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The story is about a middle grade girl, Rumi, and her desk neighbor, Seki. Seki brings toys to school and plays imaginative games with them that Rumi gets emotionally invested in… to the point that SHE’S the one who gets in trouble for goofing off, not him.

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This seems to be a never-ending gag.  I could have read the remaining eight volumes that I’d checked out of the library, but I just didn’t trust that the story would ever move beyond this. TBF, normally, I don’t need it to.

If this turns awesome a few more chapters in, let me know. I can always check it out again. But, this time, for whatever reason, I was just much less willing to push forward on my own.

As long-time readers of MangaKast know, I’m a really hard sell on certain types of broad humor–in manga (often the exact same stuff will work just fine for me in anime.) Luckily, there is an anime for this manga: Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time, which is available on Crunchyroll (linked above.)

I haven’t tried it out yet, but I will put it in my ever-expanding queue.  I mean, I went from feeling “meh” about One-Punch Man to absolutely loving it, so just because I bounced out of the manga, doesn’t mean I won’t love My Neighbor Seki / Tonari no Seki-kun in a different format.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?/ Kinou Nani Tabeta? (Vol. 12) by Fumi Yoshinaga

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I’ve been known complain about how Yosihnaga-sensei makes her gay protagonists (in everything, but in What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? especially) seem vaguely unhappy, like they’ve settled for something not quite perfect.  In the past, I’ve felt like, even though she might be going for “realism,” the Unhappy Gay Guy is such a hurtful stereotype that I’m angry that her sense of ‘real’ doesn’t accurately reflect my life.

Until Volume 12.

There’s a chapter in volume 12 (#95) that so perfectly encapsulates my life with my wife that I had to read it to her.

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Before I get into that scarily accurate chapter, I have to take a moment to appreciate this ridiculously awesome cover for volume 12.

Here we have Kenji and Shiro walking seriously out of a lined black background, dressed to the nines, looking like they could be yakuza hit men or something.  All around them are the titles of the recipes found within:  “apple muffins,” “sukiyaki,” “stir-fried chicken and turnips,” and “red squid, natty, and avocado rice bowl.”

I dunno. Something about the juxtaposition of this serious, stylish look and the recipes made me smile.

If you’ve never read What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? before, the thing you have to know about this slice-of-life manga is that it’s basically an illustrated cookbook with tiny–and I mean, minuscule–bits of plot threaded through very detailed recipes. I categorize it as yaoi, because the main characters are gay and because Yoshinaga-sensei is known for her yaoi/shounen ai. (It apparently debuted in a seinen magazine aimed at adult men: Weekly Morning. So maybe it should be categorized as seinen?)

Despite the fact that it’s mostly recipes, there are a couple of great character moments in volume 12.  One thing I will forever love Yoshinaga-sensei for is that she very much prefers to write about older men.  The heroes of What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? are in their 40s.  They even joke about how this is why their lives just aren’t that dramatic.  At one point, Shiro gets hit on by a friend of theirs.  It’s a really light pass–hand holding and a serious stare–but it’s not nothing.  He gets super flustered (and flattered) by it, but turns it down with a gentle laugh.  Fondly, he thinks, “Ah, if that had happened ten years ago, who knows what might have happened.”

That’s What Did You Eat Yesterday / Kinou Nani Tabeta? in a nutshell, folks.

And, if the next chapter hadn’t been my life, I probably would be complaining right now about how it’s deeply unfair to so broad-strokes categorize older gay people as sexless and done having adventures and extra-(non-)marital affairs.  But, yeah, so comes chapter  #95.

Our couple have time off together for O-Bon. They’ve slept in, Shiro has made breakfast, and Kenji is trying to get Shiro out of the house to enjoy the day.  Shiro jumps up and is like, “Oh! The shops will all be closed. We have to get groceries for the week.”

I swear to god(s), I married this man.  And, just like my wife, when they get home from this huge shopping trip, Shiro is like, “Right! Let’s do some of that cleaning we usually neglect! I’ll clean the vents. You do the curtains!”

Did Yoshinaga-sensei peek in my window and just copy my life???

I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking, “What? This isn’t cute. Why did Lyda marry someone so… anal?”  Trust me that I’m over here smiling a huge smile.  (Case and point? My wife just said, “Okay, here’s your list” talking about the shopping I need to do today, so that we can spend the day baking.  I LIVE IN THIS MANGA.)

Except I’m not a hairstylist.

Or a dude.

Otherwise, this is my life.  The gay agenda: cooking and cleaning and shopping.

Ekrano by Kitoh Mohiro

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I’m still trying to find another science fictional manga as cool as Wombs, and I kept striking out.

Ekrano is clearly a one-shot chapter that’s been pulled out of a larger work. On the scan you can see page numbers that start in the hundreds.  It doesn’t seem complete, though Baka-Updates suggests that it is.

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If this is really the whole story, the emotional arc could be summarized thusly: hot-shot, high schooler pilot Solotto and her stick-in-the-mud companion, Shiruru, argue about the merits of doing your homework, especially Algebra, while killing mutant space-whales.

The mutant space-whales are actually on Earth. They were mutated when we brought asteroid harvested resources to Earth, having exhausted our own. The asteroid-based metals brought along bacteria, etc., that got into our oceans and in the air, and now basically the habitable bits of Earth have be colonized by space-infected-monsters. Humans live in floating cities, patrolled, apparently, by complaining high schoolers in skimmers.

Baka-Updates is convince this came out in 2012, but the art style reminds me of the original Star Blazers that I watched in 1979.

Especially, this guy:

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Shiruru, the Algebra-loving wet towel.

Is it worth reading? I mean, it will take you less than ten minutes, so maybe?  But the art is very rough and the plot is almost non-existant.  If the art style were hyper-realistic it might be more worth is, but as it stands… nah, I think you can safely skip this one.

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This is about as good as it gets.

Wombs by Shirai Yumiko

 

I love me a good science fiction manga and what’s not to love about pregnant soldiers with the ability to translocate (because, um, they were implanted with…um… aliens.)

 

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I was turned on to this one by a friend who read the first volume in paper.  However, you can find 32 chapters (about 4 volumes) of it on Manga Here.  Baka-Updates reports that Wombs was published in Japan in 2009 and is complete in 5 volumes.

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The story follows Mana Oga, a new recruit in the Special Transfer Corps.  Like any good army buddy story, Mana’s got a charismatic, if foul-mouthed, commander, Sargent Armea, and a diverse, rag-tag gang of colleagues.

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The nerd, the hot-head, the space-case, and the character with plot-turning mysterious backstory.

I would be more snarky about the all army tropes this one hits, but I found it weirdly compelling because it’s SO weird, so science fictional.

The action takes place on a planet that humans (presumably from Earth) have terraformed and colonized… only, we’re not the only colonizers out there, and someone else arrives to lay claim to the planet. We were on Hekiou first, so we’re in constant battle with the more technologically-advanced new colonists (who are decidedly inhuman), which we, cleverly, refer to as Seconds.

The unit that our hero, Oga, is attached to is the human colonists’ “secret weapon.”  Somehow… and it really doesn’t bear considering how... we discovered that human women could be implanted with neibass embryo and that this caused them to have the ability to cause massive physical dislocation.  Initially, the army used these women as human bombs, impregnating them and dropping them out of airplanes.

But, at some point, (either the humans or the neibass evolved and) a woman learned how to use this bifurcation/dislocation of space to travel between focal points that the neibass have left behind.

So, now women use this ability to drop soldiers into areas for combat (and, of course, bring them back out again.)  The creepy/cool part about all this is that the embryo are GROWING inside the women, and they have a symbiotic relationship… they’re really sort of pregnant, only not. The military normally removes the neibass before it comes to term, and then some of the career military types, like our Sargent Armea, go back and get re-impregnanted.

There’s this whole culture in the women’s units of “within only” spaces. “Within” meaning that you have something living within you… but you get better food, there’s recreation involving male strippers, all sorts of special allocations (but nothing motherly, because there’s an attachment danger….)

Fascinating stuff. A very compelling story, especially since there’s also obviously mysteries involving what the human military’s real agenda is, what the Seconds are up to, and of course what *is* this weird inter-dimensional space that the women can enter in and out of.

And, you know, this isn’t shounen, but seinen is written for those who have aged-out of shounen, so there are hero power-ups and main characters with super-special unique abilities.

In short, pretty much everything I like. (I mean, there’s no porn, but… damn the Sargent is pretty damn hot):

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I like that all the women are fully-armored (thus, fully dressed) and physically trained to be good soldiers.  There’s a lot of competence porn going on, honestly, so maybe–so long as you stretch your definition of ‘porn’–it hits ALL my buttons.