Manga Monday – New and Notable 02/04/18 – 08/04/18

Although there haven’t been as many brand new offerings this week, there have still been plenty of exciting manga released. The likes of Princess Jellyfish, My Hero Academia and The Promised Neverland all had new volumes out, along with many others. With all the new anime that’s coming out I had kind of hoped for a quieter release week, but no… it turns out that they’re trying to kill me after all.

Moteki Volume 1 by Mitsurou Kubo

Yukiyo Fujimoto’s life has been in a rut. He is about to turn thirty and has never held a steady job or had a girlfriend. And at a time when the prospects for hope seem at their lowest, suddenly his phone blows up! Out of the blue he is contacted by several women from his past! His moteki (season of popularity) has finally come!! Love has struck and cupid’s arrow has hit him repeatedly and, coincidentally, all at the same time! Yukiyo may seem to have many options now, but is he ready for love? And are any of these women? The stage for love might be set, but the time might only be right for him to finally grow up! (description courtesy of the publisher)

If you’ve been following anime at all for the last couple of years, you will probably recognise the name Mitsurou Kubo. She provided the original concept and character designs for Yuri!!! on Ice, which she co-created with Sayo Yamamoto. It’s great that after her recent successes her work now has more of a chance to be recognised in the West.

Yukiyo Fujimoto is not an immediately likeable protagonist. It’s no wonder he’s never had a long-term girlfriend, because he doesn’t seem to respect women very much and has unreasonably high standards.. At first glance it seems like plenty of super cute women are suddenly into him (although they aren’t always a hundred percent above board with their reasons), but instead of being excited about it he whinges about how they aren’t his type, or that they want him to hang out with their friends, et cetera et cetera. Considering he’s neither particularly attractive or the owner of a stunning personality he should be counting himself lucky that he’s getting all this interest! However, at least part of his behaviour is rooted in his insecurities. Throughout the first volume he does grow: he realises that he’s self absorbed, passive and needs to change. Regardless of his flaws, I grew to like him at least a little bit over the course of these chapters as I learned more about how he became this way.

Relationships are more complicated than they seem. If you miss your moment nothing will ever happen, or things are doomed from the start and you never had a chance in the first place. We see this over and over again in the first volume of Moteki; one woman just wants to cure Yukiyo of his passivity, another had a crush on his best friend and can’t move on, and the woman he loves most tried to be receptive to him, but was unable to see him as a potential partner. It’s interesting to see this sort of story written by a woman but from a man’s perspective; the women are fully fleshed out and aren’t painted as being unreasonable for not being interested in Yukiyo, but we can still understand his frustration.

It’s refreshing to read a story about adults. The scenarios are more realistic, less idealised, and are more focused around the types of situations you would encounter while dating in the real world. I love how publishers have started to recognise the fact that their fanbases from ten, twenty years ago have grown up and now want to read more realistic stories than the ones they read as teenagers.

Clocking in at 441 pages, you get a lot of book for your money with the first volume of Moteki. If more grown up romance/coming of age stories such as Tokyo Tarareba Girls or Wave, Listen to Me! appeal to you then I reckon this is worth checking out because they share a lot of similarities while coming at it from the perspective of a male protagonist.

Volume 1 of Moteki was published by Kodansha Comics and received a digital and paperback release last week.

The Good:

  • For fans of more adult-orientated romance manga this will definitely scratch an itch
  • The characters have a lot of depth and feel like real people, warts and all

The Not So Good:

  • Even though the story doesn’t glorify him, not everybody will be able to tolerate the entitled, somewhat misogynistic protagonist

The Promised Neverland Volume 3 by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu

Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. Good food, clean clothes and the perfect environment to learn—what more could an orphan ask for? One day, though, the three of them uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing. In order to escape the orphanage, Emma, Norman and Ray begin recruiting allies. But convincing the other children to believe them may not be an easy task.

The Promised Neverland isn’t your average horror story. Set in an idyllic, English-style orphanage that feels like it’s straight out of the 1950s, the story follows three eleven year-old children who are trying to solve the mysteries surrounding the world outside their home and find a way to escape their captors before they’re shipped off in two months time. They’re playing a high stakes cat and mouse game with their “Mom” who runs the orphanage, and the pressures of not giving away their knowledge to her while trying to find out as much as they can before their time runs out creates an incredible amount of suspense. The fact that they can’t even tell most of the other kids what really happens to the children who leave the orphanage limits their options even more.

The unique setting is a big selling point for this manga. While there are plenty of stories about humans being trapped in a tiny safe haven by outside forces beyond their comprehension (Attack on Titan and Seraph of the End immediately spring to mind), not many of them follow characters of this age and with this degree of helplessness. Emma, Norman and Ray have to rely on ingenuity because it’s all they have; there are no special powers here that the kids can tap into to fight back against their oppressors. One wrong move could put the children in untold danger and they can’t just settle things with a sword fight if all else fails, which I think creates a lot more tension.

Another way in which the manga creates tension is with the art itself. The frequent use of dutch angles (a type of camera shot in which the camera has been rotated relative to the horizon, often used in film to create a sense of unease or disorientation in the viewer) to create a sense of unease in the reader without having to explicitly reference the tension. This composition is often used when the characters are somewhere they shouldn’t be or are having conversations that should not be overheard, and it makes us wonder whether they could be being watched or snuck up on in that moment.

Three volumes in the children aren’t much closer to leaving the orphanage, but we do get the answers to some important questions, like how the Moms are kept in check so that they can’t rebel against the system. Like any good mystery we get new questions to ponder for the next instalment, just tantalising enough that it’s hard to stop thinking about them while we wait. The Promised Neverland refuses to show its hand too early so that we keep coming back for more.

All of this, along with the cliffhanger that awaits at the end of this book, makes the latest volume of The Promised Neverland an unmissable treat. If you’re a fan of horror or suspense stories then you owe it to yourself and haven’t given this manga a go already then you owe it to yourself to give it a try. My only problem is that it’s not releasing fast enough!

Volume 3 of The Promised Neverland was published by VIZ Media and received a digital and paperback release last week.

The Good:

  • We get some answers to some very important questions regarding how the system is perpetuated
  • The last couple of chapters ramp up the stakes in a big way

The Not So Good:

  • Volume 4 isn’t already out

Other Notable Releases:

As somebody who really enjoyed Seraph of the End, I was excited to see that Volume 14 released this week! Thanks to the fact that it’s the start of the Spring 2018 anime season I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet but I have it ready to go. The story has been getting into some interesting territory with the introductions of some new, very important vampires as well as a deeper look into the changes that have been taking place in the Imperial Demon Army. If you enjoyed the anime you can pick up with Volume 12 if you want to continue where it left off.

If you love My Hero Academia so much that you want to get ahead of the anime then you’re in luck, because Volume 12 is here! VIZ have also had a bunch of the earlier volumes on sale for the last week or so to celebrate that season 3 is starting so it’s a great time to add this one to your collection. The latest season starts at Volume 9 of the manga, so if you didn’t get your superhero fix from the recap episode that the premiere turned out to be then you can always see what lies in store.

Akiko Higashimura is my queen, and this week she has blessed us with the ever enjoyable Princess Jellyfish Volume 8. I believe this is the penultimate volume of the two-in-one releases we’ve been getting so the stakes are high! Thanks for the reminder that there’s yet another series that I really need to catch up on before it ends. This is my life now.

In addition, Kenka Bancho Otome and Houshin Engi have both had their first volumes released this week. Both series have received an anime adaptation recently, so if you were a fan then it may be worth keeping an eye out for them.

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