Record gas prices? Check! Skyrocketing food costs? Double-check! Humongous list of new comic book releases for the week? Triple-check!
Some of these series have been running for some time now, so it might be useful to provide some introductions. Also, I really like Manga Recon’s new Weekly Recon format, so I’m going to swipe it.
Crayon Shinchan Vol. 2, by Yoshito Usui, CMX: I can’t really put it any better than Matthew Brady: “Also: kids are horrible, awful creatures. Good times!” Exactly. If I’m going to be completely truthful, I’ll admit that I prefer the anime to the manga, but the second half of the first volume of the manga, when the setting shifted from home to school, was laugh-out-loud funny. Great. Now the infectious theme song is running through my head again.
Eden: It’s an Endless World! Vol. 10, by Hiroki Endo, Dark Horse: A bizarre virus has decimated the population, leaving all kinds of power struggles in play. Corporate moguls, political bigwigs, and terrorists fight for the future of a world that may not be worth the trouble. It’s beautifully drawn and often quite gripping as it combines the personal with the political.
King of Thorn Vol. 4, by Yuji Iwahara, Tokyopop: Another post-viral-apocalypse comic that’s much more conventional in its structure. Think The Poseidon Adventure set in a cryogenic research facility. A group of disease carriers wake up to find themselves abandoned in said facility, which is overrun with bizarre monsters. The demographically familiar band struggles to find a way out and, honesty compels me to admit, to display distinct personalities beyond their character types. But Iwahara’s art is a treat.
Kitchen Princess Vol. 6, by Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi, Del Rey: The orphan child of two gifted pastry chefs bakes her way into a snooty private school to track down the boy of her dreams. That sounds awfully saccharine and formulaic, and the series started off in that vein, but the creators have taken off the oven mitts and started delivering some serious emotional punches as the series has progressed. The previous volume ended on a cliffhanger rather more perilous than is usual for school-romance manga, and I’m eager to see what happens next.
High School Debut Vol. 3, by Kazune Kawahara, Viz – Shojo Beat: This imprint has three crack-tastic releases this week. The premise of this series – a sporty girl enters high school and decides she wants a boyfriend, securing a hunky male mentor to advise her on issues of dateability – is extremely formulaic and blissfully irrelevant in light of its other charms. Those include terrific characters and emotionally specific writing that can really make you catch your breath. I’m perfectly happy to see a familiar formula executed with panache, but I think I’m even happier to see one subverted so feelingly.
Hikaru No Go Vol. 12, by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata, Viz – Shonen Jump: I went on about this title at some length in yesterday’s Flipped column, so I’ll just summarize its selling points: likeable characters, terrific art, and a surprisingly intriguing and flexible premise about a board game.
Nana Vol. 10, by Ai Yazawa, Viz – Shojo Beat: Two young women named Nana meet on a train to Tokyo and strike up an unlikely but enduring friendship. The series consistently provides sexy urban soap opera, and it’s currently in the midst of a perfect storm of personal and professional conflicts.
Salt Water Taffy Vol. 1, by Matthew Loux, Oni Press: This is delightful, as I mentioned in a review last week. Loux introduces his protagonist brothers to the weird and wonderful charms of a coastal town in Maine.
Sand Chronicles Vol. 2, by Hinako Ashihara, Viz – Shojo Beat: Ashihara doesn’t ask for much; she merely wants to rip your heart out with her pitch-perfect episodes from a girl’s coming of age. Like High School Debut, there’s a shocking quantity of recognizable human behavior here. Unlike that worthy book, Sand Chronicles doesn’t even pretend to follow a formula as it cherry-picks key moments from the adolescence of its engaging heroine, Ann Uekusa. Extremely absorbing, grounded storytelling, and beautiful art.