Destiny Lovers and The Elder Sister-Like One First Impressions (Volumes 1-3 of Both)

Destiny Lovers

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been on a kick with very… scandalous manga lately. It’s either the adrenaline of consuming media that society considers taboo, or imagining what morally uptight people who can’t separate reality from fantasy would think if they saw something like this (or what they would do, in the case of Interspecies Reviewers (link to my manga review of it here)). So, let’s dive right into ANOTHER hentai manga, Destiny Lovers, published under Seven Seas’ good old Ghost Ship imprint!

In Destiny Lovers, a boy named Kosuke Fujishiro promises his childhood friend, Sayaka Ibu, that they’ll meet again someday and become lovers. He’s held onto that promise for years while waiting for their reunion. But one day, he’s thrown into a prison full of sexually aggressive women… and Sayaka is the warden?!

The manga comes off as a knock-off of Prison School, but that would be only half correct. It’s actually a combination of Prison School and World’s End Harem (link to my manga review of the latter here (don’t you just LOVE shameless plugs?)). The female jailers in this prison want to get Kosuke, and the other male prisoners, to have sex with them “for the sake of humanity”. And sure enough, the ending of volume one shows that the world seems to have indeed ended in some fashion.

Of course, it’s not going to be easy. If girls have learned anything, it’s the quickest way to a man’s heart… or rather, his little general. They pull out all the stops, from turning up the AC so that they’d be forced to cuddle up, or act as maids to let their guards down. For some reason, there’s some sort of appeal to watching men have to struggle against powerful women… maybe because it’s more often that the shoe is on the other foot? As appealing as it is, Destiny Lovers doesn’t have the same level of suspense as Prison School, but it works.

However, similar to World’s End Harem, the characters don’t have much more than what their… physical bodies have to offer. The only interesting characters are Sayaka, who tries to help Kosuke behind the other girls’ backs, and this one really smart and calculated dude whose name you don’t even get to know. Other than that, we have some basic character tropes and not much in terms of interesting personality quirks.

Overall, my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t show everyone’s age. The men go from their teens to early thirties, but they don’t tell you much about the women. In a hentai, it’s important for me to know if the girls are legal adults, otherwise I would feel less-than-good about myself if I enjoyed it.

The art is as spicy as expected. The sex isn’t as theatrical as World’s End Harem, but it still… works. Unfortunately, it seems to prefer nudity and underwear over sexy clothes, which kinda disappoints me. The character designs aren’t too remarkable either.

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Current Verdict: 7.45/10

Destiny Lovers is a good hentai but I can’t fully enjoy it since I don’t know which women are legal adults or not. But hey, it does what it sets out to do well enough. I recommend Destiny Lovers to any fans of Prison School and others like it.


The Elder Sister-Like One

Sometimes, I wanna read a naughty manga just because. However, The Elder Sister-Like One (published in English by Yen Press) is a rewritten version of a doujinshi. While both versions are by the same mangaka, my immediate concern was that some of the… finer details would be watered down in the not-doujin edition. Let’s see what happens, since this version is the only one legally available to us ‘Mericans!

In The Elder Sister-Like One, a boy named Yuu is basically at the bottom of the barrel. He has no friends, and all of his relatives resent him, except for his uncle… who’s in a coma. When he unwittingly summons a powerful demon woman, his wish is for her to become his older sister. The demoness, who names herself Chiyo, accepts his offer, and the two of them live together.

We all know that Japanese media has not been afraid to tackle some “questionable” sexual themes, and in the case of this manga, there is a lot of… er… chemistry between Yuu and Chiyo. During the first volume alone, Yuu’s head is in Chiyo’s bosom, her feelers rub every inch of his body, they French kiss, Yuu lays on her lap, and he gets a good look at her underwear. Typical hentai stuff.

But of course, one decisive thing must be considered when it comes to The Elder Sister-Like One. It is a question that will make or break the entire manga for you: Is Yuu and Chiyo’s relationship incestuous? She was summoned with the express purpose of being his older sister. Furthermore, they developmentally consider each other siblings. But biologically, they aren’t (it is the Elder Sister-LIKE One, after all). But what also must be considered is whether or not Chiyo is considered a legal adult. This is probably something that’s up to interpretation. Personally, I want to consider them siblings (with her as an adult) because that would make more people profusely offended and cause heated debates.

Incest aside, how’s the actual content? The Elder Sister-Like One is basically a slice-of-life romance. The bulk of the story is just Yuu hanging out with Chiyo and the pair having cute interactions with each other. While it seems like a typical wish fulfillment fantasy, Yuu showing her the ways of the human world and stuff gives Chiyo a form of happiness that she didn’t even know she wanted. 

The sort-of-siblings are basically the only characters in the whole manga. Yuu is as generic and self-insert-y of a male protagonist as you can expect. But nobody reads a hentai manga for the guys (unless it’s yaoi)! The person we actually care about is Chiyo, and she’s about as waifu-able as you can expect. She’s very fun for a demoness, and she loves Yuu to pieces. It’s also cute to see her overreact to little things like mosquitoes and other things that cause minor abrasions. 

But there’s a curveball that gets thrown in around volume 3. Said curveball is named Haru, and she has some strange connection with Yuu’s uncle. I have no idea what her role is, but it seems like it’s going to add a core narrative to the story.

Like any hentai manga, the most important thing is art. I knew of the mangaka’s talents thanks to Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?, and I was not disappointed in The Elder Sister-Like One. Chiyo is gooooooooooorgeous, and the sexual content is exquisitely well-done. It’s even more *insert sexy cat growling noise here* if you interpret their relationship in the most controversial way possible.

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Current Verdict: 8/10

While curious as to what changed from the doujin, the manga version of The Elder Sister-Like One is a simple and relaxing romance that doesn’t think it’s something bigger than what it actually is (unlike SOME YA novels). It’s a wish fulfillment fantasy, and that’s that. I recommend it if you’ve always wanted a hot older sister in your life.

Reprise of the Spear Hero Manga First Impressions (Volumes 1 and 2)

Well, this is the most awkward way to introduce that I’m a big fan of the Rising of the Shield Hero franchise (I might have referenced it once but still). I started reading it in 2017, and loved it while also acknowledging its shortcomings (while hating the anime with a passion). Normally, I wouldn’t read a manga adaptation of a light novel, but I made an exception, due to One Peace Books’ offer for me to review the manga version of the spin-off series, Reprise of the Spear Hero, before volume two’s release. 

The hardest thing to figure out when it comes to Spear Hero is where it’s situated in the story. It immediately starts out with the Spear Hero, Motoyasu Kitamura, dying at an undetermined point in the main timeline (which may or may not be spoilers for an LN volume of Shield Hero that One Peace Books has yet to publish). It doesn’t show exactly what happened… but that’s beside the point, for it’s what happens NEXT that we need to discuss. You see, as soon as he dies, he returns to the very beginning of the Shield Hero series; a New Game+, to use videogame terms. All he wants is to have Filo-tan by his side, and for that, he needs to guide the Shield Hero, Naofumi Iwatani, to that point.

Since I didn’t remember him dying at all in the main story, it was difficult for me to get acclimated into Spear Hero. Also, alternate timelines are inherently VERY confusing. Based on the fact that he calls Naofumi his father at this point, it can’t be set any earlier than some time before the Q’ten Lo Arc. My theory is that Spear Hero will end with his return to the main timeline, with his brain in tatters (except he already calls Naofumi his father right out of the gate… so maybe his death is after that point? AAAGH, alternate timelines!).

Anyways, confusion aside, how’s the Reprise of the Spear Hero itself? For a spin-off, it’s pretty good. It’s hilarious seeing things from Motoyasu’s perspective (like with the women having pig heads), as well as seeing him slowly lose sanity. The story structure changes wildly, with Eclair being introduced super early on and Raph not even being included at all. There’s also the added complication that New Game+ gets reset every time any Hero dies, meaning that he has to baby Naofumi the whole way through.

Unfortunately, this does downgrade Naofumi as a character. With Motoyasu saving him from being cast out by the powers-that-be, he’s basically a wimp. He’s completely passive, and ends up just doing whatever Motoyasu says. He also lacks the sass and grit that makes Shield Hero such a standout isekai. Hey… at least he’s a good cook this time?

But this is probably just a way to put the shoe on the other foot. Despite my theory of how this will all turn out, Motoyasu is, for the time being, the most likeable he can possibly be in the Shield Hero universe. He’s wild and full of energy, and his love for Filo isn’t yet borderline psychotic. This is the first I’ve ever seen him and not wanted him to be wiped out of existence.

Other characters remain relatively unchanged. Eclair, Trash, Witch (who is now Crimson Swine in this timeline), Old Guy, and everyone are, well, themselves. Since this is Motoyasu’s story, they have surprisingly little impact on everything. 

Overall, the weirdest thing about Spear Hero is how different it is from the parent series. It’s significantly more lighthearted, with the original’s themes of slavery, politics, and the issue with the Waves being pushed aside. It’s almost a slice-of-life fantasy, with every other scene being an episode of How to E.V. Train Filolials, Hosted by Motoyasu. It’s definitely a strange companion to Shield Hero, that’s for sure.

Most manga adaptations of LNs that I’ve come across look really bad, but Spear Hero’s art is more than acceptable. While definitely dwarfed by the illustrator of the main series, the manga is simplistic, but charming. The characters are expressive, and the action scenes (well, for how infrequent they are), have some nice pop to them.

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Current Verdict: 8/10

Reprise of the Spear Hero is a surprisingly enjoyable spin-off. It’s also much faster paced than the main series light novels, which I can also assume is the case with the LN version of Spear Hero. Fans of Shield Hero can definitely enjoy Spear Hero (which I myself can’t believe I’m saying, since Motoyasu is so infamous in the main story). Unfortunately… the manga version of this isn’t available on BookWalker, so I’ll be forced to backtrack to the LN if I want to see this through to the end. But hey, if you like print, then the manga will be right there waiting for you (once COVID-19 ends, that is). Once again, I thank One Peace Books for their offer to review this title!

Children of the Whales (1-6) and Kaiju Girl Caramelise (1-3) First Impressions

Shoujo is by far my least favorite manga genre. It’s basically the manga equivalent of cringey YA romance, which I have very much established as not liking. But one shoujo manga (at least according to MyAnimeList), Children of the Whales (published in English by Viz), actually looks legitimately good! Let’s see if it is…

In Children of the Whales, we follow a group of people who live on a boat, called the Mud Whale, adrift on an endless sea of sand (potential Xenoblade Chronicles 3 idea?). Our main protagonist, Chakuro, who has some serious OCD that makes him document everything in ridiculous detail, participates on a mission to investigate a second, derelict ship that is spotted in the sand. There, he finds a mysterious girl he names Lykos, the first human from outside of his own Mud Whale that has ever been witnessed, and naturally, she single-handedly turns Chakuro’s life on its head.

While it does get a bit exposition-y at the beginning, Children of the Whales wastes no time getting into that good ol’ intrigue. There’s a lot of weird stuff regarding the reason why the Mud Whale is even where it is, and of course, where Lykos came from and what her beef is. Overall, the manga has a very whimsical atmosphere, and regardless of how straightforward the plot is, it always feels like there’s secrets waiting to be revealed.

Unfortunately, it does fall into some typical modern fantasy traps, the worst of all being the Thymia system. Thymia is basically magic, and it cuts people’s life spans short (but since our characters are teens, it’s no problem for them). The only thing explained about it (not counting the blips of lore that come in between chapters) is that it’s powered by raw emotion. This means that the author can go hog wild and we just have to deal with it.

But hey, at least it has interesting worldbuilding to offset that. The in-between chapter blurbs show how much thought the author put into the Mud Whale’s design, and the thing itself does have a memorable look. It’s also really good at building curiosity and anticipation to what the rest of the world is like. 

It’s just too bad that the characters aren’t so great. Chakuro is your basic weak, generic boy who ends up existing just to absorb plot information. Among the people who actually have to do the legwork are Lykos and Ouni. Lykos is your typical “sad girl who needs wuv”, and Ouni is just the super-powerful angsty teen. There are a lot of other characters, but they’re just as unmemorable. This is definitely a story-driven manga, that’s for sure.

Normally, I find shoujo manga to be visually appalling. However, Children of the Whales actually looks beautiful. It definitely embraces some shoujo tropes, such as sparkly eyes, but the author didn’t gouge out the characters’ actual eyes and put diamonds in the sockets. There is also, thankfully, a lack of the knife-chins that most shoujo characters have. The background art is the most appealing aspect of the manga, along with some great abstract imagery. The Thymia also gives characters magical tattoos, and if there’s anything I find sexy, it’s magical tattoos!

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Current Verdict: 7.5/10

Children of the Whales is starting out pretty well, but it looks like it’s going to be one of those slow burns. Fortunately, it does seem to ramp up by around volume 5, so I am curious as to how much better it could get. It’s extremely sparse on romance, so I don’t know why it’s supposedly considered a shoujo manga. As such, I can’t exactly recommend it to shoujo fans. But if you want an ambient, whimsical story, Children of the Whales has got you covered.


Romance is a tough genre to do well (at least for cold-hearted introverts like me). I’ve seen a lot with great potential fall flat on their faces. Let’s see if Kaiju Girl Caramelise, published in English by Yen Press, bites off more than it can chew.

In Kaiju Girl Caramelise, an emotionally unstable girl named Kuroe Akaishi ends up meeting the hot guy in her school, Arata Minami, and hits it off with him. The problem with Kuroe is that she has a rare disease where she grows monster parts whenever her mental state is under duress. And when her emotions rise to a fever pitch, she straight-up turns into Godzilla.

While her inevitable love for Arata seems to come out of nowhere, the manga starts with a flashback of her as a kid getting rejected by an unknown male character. I immediately assumed that this was in fact a young Arata, which explains her initial fervor for him at the beginning. But regardless… her love for him really does appear abruptly. All he does is go out of his way to talk to her and she suddenly has sparkly eyes.

Sadly, the kaiju aspect doesn’t really change the romance aspect at all. To me, it seems very blatantly symbolic of girls when they’re going through their period, since their bodies change due to circumstances outside of their control. The fact that it occurs whenever Arata comes to mind is further symbolism of this. I suppose if you care about stuff like that, then this manga would be fascinating to no end for you.

Anyways, as far as characters are concerned, they’re kind of meh. Arata is a typical Gary Sue, and Kuroe is a typical “imperfect girl who’s special for some reason”. The only saviors of this manga are Kuroe’s hot mom’s dog, Jumbo King, and this girl named Manatsu. The latter is super rich and has a crazy kaiju obsession that I find genuinely enjoyable. 

As for the art, it’s typical shoujo fare. Sparkly eyes, check. Long chins, check. Simple textures, check. It’s not the most nauseating thing to look at compared to, say, Anonymous Noise, but it’s still not my style.

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Current Verdict: 7/10

Kaiju Girl Caramelise is starting off as a… tolerable romance. It’s not pretentious like a number of YA romances I’ve read, so it’s got an advantage there. I’d recommend it if you want to see the underdog get the sexy significant other in the end.

Chainsaw Man First Impressions (Chapters 1-37)

Aaaah, you gotta love a good Jump manga. Unfortunately, a lot of them have similar running themes, such as having a goody-two-shoes main protagonist; a privileged young man that anyone can relate to. But a new series, Chainsaw Man, published in English by Viz, looks to be attempting to tell its story with an utter turd of a protagonist instead.

In Chainsaw Man, a dreg named Denji makes a living by hunting devils, with the help of a chainsaw-dog-devil named Pochita. But “makes a living” can be read as “barely scraping by”, for he’s shouldering a serious debt from his late father. However, when he’s almost cut to pieces, he fuses with Pochita and becomes a chainsaw man, after which he is taken under the wing of Makima, a beautiful girl from an official team of devil hunters.

Normally, I’d go over the overarching plot as it is. However, Chainsaw Man’s appeal seems to revolve entirely around the characters and their interactions. Otherwise, it’s the standard Jump fare; bad thing appears, kill bad thing, get stronger. There is some strange fascination with Denji shared between Makima and some of the other devils, but that’s likely going to be an endgame reveal.

Like I mentioned before, Denji is a very unusual protagonist for Jump. He’s a guy who’s down on his luck, who gets lucky when he gets to work for the devil hunters. However, a lot of people there treat him poorly. It’s even made very apparent that Makima only sees him as a dog. But hey, he takes it because it’s all he’s got. He’s not someone who has a lofty goal, like becoming the #1 Pirate Devil Hunter King of the Hokage Wizard National Volleyball Basketball Baseball Champion; no, he just wants to… er… touch a breast. Thing is, he does get that very early on in the story, but he realizes that it was a shallow dream. He’s still as relatable as any Jump protag, but instead of throwing women on his lap and expecting the reader to pretend to be him, Chainsaw Man shows the more vulnerable side of the emotionally insecure target demographic in Denji.

Denji is treated like crap at first, but he starts to grow closer to his squadmates over time, all of which have devil powers like him. Most of them aren’t too interesting, except for Best Girl Power (Power’s her actual name). She’s a fiend- a devil that’s possessing a corpse. She’s awesome, and her interactions with Denji are some of the best moments throughout the entirety of the manga.

Makima is very beautiful and mysterious. Denji’s whole MO is to kiss her, but we- the readers- get an exclusive sneak preview of what kind of a person she is. A lot of bits and pieces of intrigue regarding her pop up every now and then, and I’m curious as to what’s going on with her.

The art is also pretty good. It has a very rough and gritty style. The devils’ designs are very unsettling, and there’s an uncharacteristically large amount of gore. The action is great as well! And most importantly, the girls are very cute.

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Current Verdict: 8.15/10

Chainsaw Man has a lot of great ideas, but at this time, I’m a bit underwhelmed. It has a number of risque tropes that wouldn’t normally be in Jump, but are prevalent in Jump Plus or any seinen magazine. And that’s why Chainsaw Man stands out; because it’s in Jump. I gotta admit that I’m curious about the direction it could head in, so I’ll keep my eye on it for a while (let’s see how much sooner this ends than Kimetsu no Yaiba, which’ll likely run for ten more years at least).

Gleipnir First Impressions (Volumes 1-5)

How many more edgy battle shounen manga can one person read?! It’s become a running theme on my blog, and it’s not stopping any time soon. Let’s examine Gleipnir, published in English by Kodansha Comics.

In Gleipnir, Shuichi Kagaya just wants to fit in, which is difficult. While he doesn’t have puberty to deal with, he can turn into some kind of Chuck E. Cheese reject for some yet-to-be-explained reason. After saving some girl named Claire Aoki from a fire, he ends up going on a quest to find her older sister.

But of course, it’s never that simple. By the second volume, the search for Claire’s sister turns into the search for a bunch of coins for some alien guy. Oh, and giving said alien guy a coin is what actually causes the transformations (even though Shuichi doesn’t remember anything about that happening). 

This manga asks so many questions. Shuichi has some personal connection to Claire’s sister. The true nature of Shuichi’s power remains a mystery. Who really killed Claire’s parents? Why aliens? The plot seems fairly straightforward in the moment, but as soon as you stop to think, it becomes a massively tangled knot.

Fortunately, the characters are pretty creative in terms of design and abilities. Of course, you saw the volume 1 cover art, and know that Claire and Shuichi fight by having the former enter the latter’s body while he’s in Chuck E. Cheese mode. She often does this in her bathing suit. Yeah, say goodbye to being master of your domain. There are other crazy characters, like a literal cameraman, and a kid who summons a demon in the form of his parents stitched together (and naked of course). 

Speaking of naked, get ready for fanservice galore. It’s not just limited to a sweaty teenage girl entering a teenage boy’s body. There are a lot of “nips”, including the groping of said “nips.” There’s also an almost-sex scene. Being the edgy thing that Gleipnir is, it’s doing all of the fanservice with a straight face.

Unfortunately, the characters aren’t as great on the inside as they are on the outside. Shuichi is a generic whiny protagonist who gets emotional support from Claire, who happens to be a yandere. It’s YA-levels of unnatural when it comes to how easily she will commit murder, even on her own sister. Speaking of which, her sister, Elena, has a bizarre contrast of mysterious and socially awkward, but otherwise she isn’t that interesting, besides her unknown role in the overarching story. There are a lot of other characters, but they fall under tropes such as, “Skimpily Dressed Busty Lady”, “Jealous Guy”, “Pervy Guy”, “Catgirl Loli”, etc.

The art in Gleipnir is great. The action shots are done well, and the uncharacteristically large panels make individual volumes easy to read. And most importantly, the fanservice shots are on fleek!

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Current Verdict: 8.3/10

Gleipnir is a pretty standard edgelord manga. It’s perfectly readable, especially when compared to a lot of bad YA novels, but it’s not quite as good as stuff like Tokyo Ghoul. Check it out if you like sexy murder girls and fanservice.

World’s End Harem First Impressions (Volumes 1-5)

The year 2020 will go down in history as the year that the coronavirus happened, where mankind barely avoided complete decimation when historians unearthed the ancient, arcane arts of Good Hygiene. But as much as the media hyped it up to apocalyptic proportions, the coronavirus is mere peas and carrots compared to the virus that’s going to ravage mankind in the next twenty years, at least according to World’s End Harem, published in English by Seven Seas.

In the year 2040, a college student named Reito Mizuhara enters cryogenic sleep, in hopes that scientists can treat him of his cellular sclerosis. He promises to meet the love of his life, Elisa Tachibana, when he wakes up. Five years pass, and he wakes up cured just fine. But in that time, the world was ravaged by a pandemic called the Man-Killer Virus, which has killed every man in the world… except for a handful that entered cryogenic sleep (including Reito). In order to save mankind, Reito needs to have a lot of sex.

But of course, this is a harem manga. And if there’s any law that governs harem manga, it is as follows: the main character is morally correct, and doesn’t want baseless, carnal sex, even though the reader is meant to want exactly that. Reito loves Elisa, but when he awakens, she turns out to be missing. The manga wastes no time turning into a sci-fi mystery series as he tries to figure out what happened to her. It, naturally, ends up being something much bigger- and more political- than expected. There’s also the moral conundrum of how much sex etiquette can be disregarded in the face of desperation for survival. Is it good enough that all women involved have given consent? I don’t know; that’s for you to debate.

But in the end, it’s still a harem at its core; it’s called World’s End Harem, after all. Reito is allowed to try and track down Elisa, but what’s left of mankind can’t gamble on something like that. As a result, he has a number of women live with him, just to “tempt” him. This results in your usual ecchi antics… or hentai, rather. Since this is serialized in Jump Plus, and these are adults in this manga, there are many showcases of “coitus”. This isn’t your “accidental” boob grab crap. The women in this World’s End Harem are paid professionals.

So, who are these women anyway? Well, first off, we have Reito’s caretaker, Mira Suou. She’s the most… er… level-headed of all of them, and is basically in charge of exposition and stuff. There’s also the nurse and bodyguard- Akane Ryuzoji and Sui-  who get hired to live with him. I admit… they’re pretty uninteresting in terms of their personalities (but Akane is the best of all of them because she’s tall and spunky).

Reito isn’t mankind’s only hope, however. In addition to him, there’s Hino Kyoji and Shota Doi among the surviving men, both of which greatly increase the controversy of the manga. Hino is totally into the wish fulfillment-ness of the whole situation, which means he gladly has sex with as many women as possible. But even more divisive is Shota, an emotionally insecure high school student with feelings for his teacher. He ends up getting to live a perfect recreation of his high school career, where all the female students- and… er… his teacher- love him. These two seem to not serve any purpose in the overarching narrative, and thus their-especially Shota’s- scenes are the least enjoyable parts of the manga to me thus far.

Hoo boy, though, the art. The artwork is pretty standard-looking, but the… stuff… is drawn exquisitely. The sex scenes are full-on extreme, to the point where even I- as “level-headed” as I was- felt a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately, I am an adult. Just keep in mind that there is much nudity, complete with “nips.”  I personally don’t find a lot of the… activities in World’s End Harem to be very attractive (even though they should be I guess? I practically have “virgin” written on my profile by now…). I always preferred sexy clothes over nudity, and there wasn’t enough of that here, which sucks because sci-fi clothes can be pretty sexy.

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Current Verdict: 7.6/10

I don’t know if the following statement means that I’m blessed or cursed, but World’s End Harem is perhaps the lewdest manga I’ve ever read. Sure, Prison School and Interspecies Reviewers are technically just as controversial (and the former has lewd scenes with teens), but those two manga have a bit more finesse than this one. The narrative is legitimately interesting, but there’s a lot of excess lewd you have to sift through. I ONLY recommend World’s End Harem to ecchi and hentai fans.

Nicola Travelling Around the Demons’ World First Impressions (Volumes 1-2)

So, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I wanted to make a post that would fit the theme. Seven Seas says that this manga, called Nicola Traveling Around the Demons’ World, felt like a European children’s picture book. European folklore > Irish folklore > St. Patrick’s Day… that’s close enough, right?

In this manga, the titular Nicola is found in the middle of the Demon World by some dude named Simon. They then decide to travel together. 

That’s it. That’s the whole premise.

Nicola is basically Yotsuba&! meets Somali and the Forest Guardian. It’s more like the latter, what with humans being discriminated from literally everything else in the world, but it has the much lighter tone of the former. 

Each chapter is a short story, which usually involves antics between Nicola and Simon, and Nicola doing good deeds without even trying. It’s a very sweet and heartwarming manga, in a way that’s not as superficial as If It’s for my Daughter, I’d even Defeat a Demon Lord.

Since Nicola and Simon never stay in one place for too long, they end up being the only characters that show up consistently. Nicola isn’t anywhere near as much of a liability as Somali, plus she has the spunk of Yotsuba. Most notably, she can use magic, which is rare, but can only produce flowers. 

If Nicola is Stan Laurel, then Simon is Oliver Hardy. He spends most of his time making sure she doesn’t do anything stupid, and that’s about it. He is a merchant of some kind, but his heart isn’t quite a golden idol, given the fact that he’s babysitting a kid with no pay.

The art is what makes Nicola very appealing. There’s hatching everywhere, and the characters are all very cartoony and expressive. It’s basically The Girl from the Other Side‘s general idea for a style, but used in a way that’s not as unsettling.

Current Verdict: 8/10

Nicola is no Yotsuba&!, but it’s definitely a good, cute read. It doesn’t have any fanservice, so even little kids can enjoy it. If you want a jolly fantasy romp, then join Nicola on her travels through the Demons’ World.

Phantom Tales of the Night First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

Sometimes, there is a case where a knockoff of a popular series is better than said popular series. Phantom Tales of the Night, published in English by Yen Press, initially comes off as a knockoff of Clamp’s classic manga, xxxHolic. But upon further inspection, it’s something much better.

Phantom Tales of the Night stars the unnamed proprietor of the mysterious Murakumo Inn. He allows anyone to stay at his inn- from humans to monsters. The man asks only one thing from you in return: a secret. You don’t even need to be aware of your secret, such as the case of Tokihito Sasaki, a high school student who’s secretly been dead for quite some time.

This manga mostly contains episodic chapters that slowly contribute to a bigger story. One immediate advantage that Phantom Tales has over xxxHolic is that YOU DON’T NEED TO READ AN ENTIRELY SEPARATE MANGA IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON. As a result, this manga has a much simpler plot. But just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s not intriguing. After all, there’s the question of who the proprietor of Murakumo actually is.

The characters consist of three main protagonists: the proprietor of the inn, who’s merely referred to as Owner, and his two servants, Butterfly and Spider. Owner is, obviously, the Best Boy. He’s a cold, heartless man who doesn’t give a crap about anybody unless they have secrets for him to eat. Yet despite this, he’s a freaking badass, with plenty of epic shots all to himself. His secret is obviously going to be juicier than the Krabby Patty Formula, and I can’t wait to find out what it is!

His buddies are interesting. Butterfly is incredibly handsome, but ditzy, while Spider is the brute force guy. Their personalities clash regularly, and some great comedic scenes result, as out of place as they may be. Each chapter gives you bits and pieces of all three protagonists’ backstories.

There’s also a number of minor characters in Phantom Tales. Some, such as the aforementioned Tokihito, appear multiple times. But most of the time, these minor characters are just one-time visitors to the inn, ranging from regular humans, to assorted yokai, such as yuki-onna. If you’re no stranger to xxxHolic, you’d know that things generally don’t work out too well on their end.

Phantom Tales is one of those manga that relies on its visual presentation the most. It has a vividly detailed style that can go from beautiful to horrific at the turn of a page, and naturally, I love it. This is where the manga is the most similar to xxxHolic, but thankfully, the characters’ limbs aren’t spaghetti.

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Current Verdict: 9.45/10

Phantom Tales of the Night is amazing and underrated. Hopefully it’ll never get an anime adaptation, so it’ll stay perfect and pure forever. If you’re in the mood for a mind trip, then pack up your darkest secrets and stay a night at Murakumo Inn.

Hinowa ga CRUSH! First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

I haven’t talked about Akame ga Kill! on my blog, so let me give you a short gist on how I feel about it: I love Akame ga Kill! It is a fun, edgy battle shounen with dark undertones and a surprising amount of emotional tension. Oh, and of course, the manga’s better than the anime! So with that out of the way, let’s dive into Akame ga Kill!’s sequel series, Hinowa ga CRUSH!, published in English by Yen Press.

The nation of Wakoku has been caught in a civil war for, basically, ever. Our main character, Hinata- who changes her name to Hinowa, taking after her mother who died in battle- dreams to end said war (pretty typical). It’s definitely a lofty goal. But fortunately, a familiar face washes up on the shores of her village, and just so happens to be pretty stinking powerful. (Spoilers: It’s Akame! *fan gushes*)

Despite the whole, you know, war going on, Hinowa is noticeably lighter in tone compared to its parent series. The first thing that’s easily noticeable is the fact that Hinowa’s friends don’t get slaughtered to death within the first volume, which is what happened to Tatsumi’s redshirted buddies in Akame. In fact, not a single protagonist dies in the volumes that I’ve read, other than Hinowa’s mom way at the beginning. This is a huge tonal shift compared to Akame, which had been memed as the “Game of Thrones of anime” while it was airing.

So while Akame got backlashed for having too many deaths “just for shock value”, Hinowa seems to suffer from the opposite; plot armor. We only see bits and pieces of training throughout the story, and it mostly comes down to them getting whooped by Akame in mock duels. It’s not enough to show how darn good these kids are during their very first battles. One particularly bad example is when this redshirted commanding officer gets one-shot by some other guy, while one of Hinowa’s friends- who’s still a greenhorn- manages to hold their own against the same exact guy. Maybe the author responded to the backlash in Akame? Or is this all a red herring before a dark tonal shift later?

Unfortunately, the characters have been downgraded from Akame. The whole cast of Akame either had a very expressive personality, memorable character design, or a creative ability. In contrast, the titular Hinowa and her buddies are just generic teenagers, and seem to handle being in the military as well as going shopping at the local mall; no moral quandaries here! The weapons in Hinowa are similar to the ones in Akame, but are nowhere near as interesting thus far. 

But what about the character we all came to Hinowa ga CRUSH! for: Akame? It has been a couple of years, but I remember her being way better than she is here. Akame goes from being a “tough-exterior-unstable-interior” type of girl to kind of a “perfect girl” type; powerful, but kind and supportive. While it is possible to follow Hinowa without reading the prequel, the context of Akame is important, or else you might think it’s strange that such a powerful woman just magically turned up when it happened to be convenient.

Another concern is the change in the artist. Overall, the new artist did a good job making Akame recognizable, but there’s a noticeable lack of oomph compared to the previous artist. All the over-the-top gore and expressions are toned down a lot, which makes Hinowa more “grounded”, but I’m still not a big fan. It could’ve been worse, I guess.

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Current Verdict: 7.25/10

I don’t want to be one of those fans that’s like, “It’s not EXACTLY like the original series I loved so much, therefore it’s objectively bad”, but I feel like Hinowa ga CRUSH! is lacking the chutzpah that made Akame ga Kill! so great. With how different it is, I definitely can’t easily recommend Hinowa to Akame fans. Honestly, I’m gonna have to sit on this one for the time being.

Karneval First Impressions (Omnibus Volumes 1-4)

I’ll never get the manga magazine industry. I do understand that whatever manga stays and goes depends on popular vote, but sometimes, it’s really astonishing when something that isn’t all that popular somehow manages to survive for a long time. Seraph of the End and Twin Star Exorcists come to mind. But what about Karneval, published in omnibus form by Yen Press?

In Karneval, a boy named Nai is captured and almost sexually assaulted by some rich woman (who is, apparently, also a mutant of some kind). He’s saved by a dude named Gareki, who notices a necklace on Nai’s person: an I.D. bracelet of someone in the secret service known as Circus. According to Nai, a friend of his, named Karoku, possessed this bracelet (somehow), and wants to find him. So, the two boys team up to seek out this dude, and inevitably get involved in a whole bunch of stuff along with Circus themselves.

Karneval is basically a battle shounen manga that tries to be story driven. There is a lot of plot that gets covered in each chapter… almost too much at once. If I may touch on the artwork early, the panel flow is very wonky, as it cuts away to scenes more abruptly than Family Guy. A lot of times, there’ll be a fight scene happening, and then suddenly, two completely separate people will talk about something that has nothing to do with the fight at all!

Despite the weird cuts, Karneval has a pretty standard issue story. Most of the intrigue revolves around Nai’s strange hearing ability, among other things, as well as what Karoku’s deal is. It progresses towards answering these questions, while asking new ones, at a pretty steady pace. The Circus spaceships are also pretty cool. They’re basically flying mansions that are managed by robot bunny rabbits. Karneval also has a cool explanation for how they get their fantasy superpowers.

The characters are, sadly, pretty unremarkable. Nai is the worst of the bunch, as he is just a weak kid who only exists for his plot relevance. He’s obsessed with Karoku, to the point where it gets super annoying, and he’s also just… dumb; not in the fun way. Gareki is just the designated cool dude, with no real personality. These two protagonists are also lacking in the power progression department. Gareki doesn’t even start his first training arc until the fourth omnibus (volumes 7-8), and Nai is pure baggage, who is incapable of defending himself in any capacity whatsoever.

The people in Circus that they meet are basically just various character tropes. Yogi is the aloof guy, Tsukumo is the loli, Eva is the busty older sister, Hirato is the nonchalant guy… It’s an understatement to say that you’ve likely seen this before.

As for the art, Karneval looks kind of like a shoujo manga when it comes to the shapes of the characters’ faces. Fortunately, they (at least the ones in Circus) are VERY well-dressed. The mangaka creases the clothes so much that your mother will want them to put their clothes back in the dryer. The only issue with the clothing choice is that there are at least three guys in tuxedos and top hats, and I get them very easily confused with one another.

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Current Verdict: 6/10

Is there something I’m not getting? Karneval has been running for thirteen years and counting, yet it’s kind of meh. It’s not the worst manga ever, but that doesn’t make it a masterpiece. If you just want to kick back and relax with a whacky battle shounen manga, then Karneval is there for you.