It’s pretty typical for some niche manga to make MyAnimeList’s Top 100. But it’s wild that Spy x Family (published in English by Viz), placed around the halfway point of the manga list in less than a year after its launch. Time for me to board this hype train and see if it’s worth it!
In Spy x Family, a spy named Twilight is among the best in the business. But when his latest mission requires him to marry and have a child, he’s positively flummoxed. His solution is to establish a pretend family, with an orphaned telepathic girl named Anya, and an assassin named Yor Briar.
The thing about Spy x Family is that it’s not a rom-com with spies, but a sitcom with spies. Twilight and Yor don’t know of each other’s professions, nor do they know about Anya’s telepathy. However, Anya does know both of her “parents’” professions due to her mind-reading ability. Normally, I’d cringe at such a dynamic, but the fact that it’s done in a comedic way instead of a romantic way (like in Marissa Meyer’s Renegades) makes it more enjoyable.
And seriously, this manga is enjoyable. Spy x Family’s formula is simple, but it somehow works wonderfully. The comedy is done seriously well, with almost every page making me laugh out loud. But it’s not just a gag manga; there’s an actual overarching story as well.
The main goal of the series is for Twilight to get close to this really important politician named Donovan Desmond, whose son, Damian, is attending a prestigious school called Eden Academy. Twilight’s solution is to have his “daughter” enroll in the school and get close to Damian. But Anya’s kind of a ditz… and getting by in such an elite school is considerably easier said than done.
What makes Spy x Family so great is its cast. Twilight comes off as rugged, but slowly warms up to the fake family that he makes. Yor is, besides being gorgeous, someone who genuinely wants to be a good mom for Anya. She does NOT hesitate to use her skills in public to help her daughter. But the piece de resistance is Best Girl Anya. She looks like one of those typical moe blobs who exist just to be cute, but she’s got a real personality. Since she’s aware of her father’s mission, she actually tries to do a good job for his sake… but ends up getting carried away very often. When this happens, hilarity and genuine adorableness ensue.
There’s a curveball in Yor’s brother, Yuri Briar. He’s a secret service officer, whose mission is to find Twilight. He doesn’t know that his target is pretending to be married to his sister, nor does he know that she’s an assassin. Just more layers onto the cake of secrets.
The art in Spy x Family is very cute and appealing. The characters are very expressive, and their designs are quite memorable. The action scenes also look great for a slice-of-life manga. But most importantly, the panel flow is spot-on, which allows the comedy to fire on all cylinders.
Current Verdict: 9.75/10
Spy x Family is already one of my favorite comedy manga of all time. In fact, it’s probably the funniest manga I’ve read, more than my previous favorite comedy, Grand Blue Dreaming. Grand Blue’s comedy relies entirely on super visceral, over-the-top facial expressions, but Spy x Family is much more clever than that. I’d recommend Spy x Family to pretty much anyone!
PREFACE: This manga is a sequel series. As such, there will be unmarked spoilers of vanilla Levius in this review. Click this link to read my review of Levius if you are interested in this franchise.
The sci-fi boxing manga, Levius, proved to be a hidden gem. With its cyberpunk themes, and phenomenal art, I was hooked from start to finish. But the story’s only just getting started. In Levius/est (published in English by Viz), we get into the real meat and potatoes of Levius.
Set a year after the titular character’s battle with A.J., both people are hospitalized. But that’s the least of their issues; the return of Amethyst has caused a huge change in the world at large. War is on the verge of breaking out, and as a result, steam technology is banned… except in the Mechanical Martial Arts Ring. As such, whoever wins the Grade 1 bracket that Levius is now in… gets to decide the fate of mankind.
Right off the bat, Levius/est gives us much more context for, well, everything than the original series ever did. In addition to starting off with a more detailed flashback of Levius’ tragic backstory, we also get an explanation of how the steam technology actually works, as well as more information about the war. It helps flesh out the world of Levius a lot, and it’s very appreciated.
But as far as boxing goes, the first couple volumes of Levius/est are in the designated “drama” segment that comes before a lot of the fighting. Fortunately, this gives us a big chance for some major character development on Levius’ part. But sadly, this doesn’t really help offset his trope-ish, “dark and disturbed” personality.
Sadly, the other characters aren’t so great. Zack is still the same old drunkard. Meanwhile, A.J. ends up becoming a classic amnesiac (which, thankfully gets resolved pretty quickly). There are some new additions, one of which is arguably the worst character in the series: Natalia Cromwell. I don’t remember if they foreshadowed her, but she’s apparently Levius’ childhood friend, who gets taken in by Zack, and wants to become an M.M.A. fighter like Levius. If you couldn’t tell, she loves him, and gets friendzoned. While she’s cute as all heck, her personality adds a lot of out-of-placed humor to Levius/est, and also forms a rather annoying love triangle between herself, Levius, and A.J.
Another new face is Oliver G. Kingsley, the current champion of the M.M.A. Since he’s the champ, he’s incredibly important in the overarching narrative of Levius as a whole. But as far as personality is concerned, he’s a pretty typical “boxing champion”, i.e. a jerk. The real clincher, however, is that we finally get to see A.J.’s brother in action. And as you can expect, this helps launch the story into high gear.
As to be expected, the art of Levius/est is fantastic. The fights are spectacular, and the closeups are wrought with sheer emotion. The panel flow makes it fun and engaging to read as always, despite the reverse order of the pages.
Current Verdict: 9/10
I sounded like I was complaining a lot, but honestly, in terms of sheer entertainment value, Levius/est is looking to be the best cyberpunk manga since Battle Angel Alita. Sure, it’s edgy, and has some bland characters, but the series as a whole oozes a unique personality that makes it stand out. I recommend it to any boxing and cyberpunk fans.
Weekly Shounen Jump manga often get bashed for being the same thing over and over again, with a different coat of paint. But sometimes… sometimes, a Jump manga will attempt to break free of the mold while still embracing the core values of Jump and its demographic. The Promised Neverland (published in English by Viz), is one such manga.
The children of Grace Field House are as happy as can be, living under the loving eyes of their caretaker, Isabella, while waiting for their adoption. It’s just a bit weird that they have to take tests, and that they have numbers tattooed onto their necks, and that the house is surrounded by walls, and that they never hear from the kids who go out to get adopted… Yeah, something’s off with this place, and the ones who find out first are the three smartest kids in the house: Emma, Ray, and Norman. What they find out is that the kids are all livestock being bred for consumption by a race of terrifying demons. Naturally, they put on their thinking caps and figure out how to get everyone out safely.
So, in short, The Promised Neverland is amazing. Instead of screaming “FRIENDSHIP!” and brute forcing their way out, these kids have to use their wits to fight, or- more often than not- strategically retreat from combat. It is incredibly suspenseful, with new plot twists waiting just around the corner. It is amazing how it’s able to capture that familiar Jump feeling, while exploring uncharted territory for the magazine.
However… small spoiler: the escape from Grace Field House is only the first arc. After this, we begin to find out about the world that The Promised Neverland is set in, and it only gets more complicated from there. I know that critics have exclaimed that the whole story goes to sh** from here, as it becomes more about figuring out what the hell is going on than about conducting stealth operations. And to be honest… I kind of felt the same way for a while. The manga was still good, but it didn’t have that magic from the first arc.
Fortunately, things pick up when it enters its climax. Once the puzzle pieces finally start fitting together, it becomes just about as intense as it was at the beginning.. It’s a real shame that you have to go through a pretty big chunk of inferior content to get there, but if any part had to suck, be glad that it’s the midway point! There’s no doubt that critics hate the ending, but that’s to become expected of pretty much any Jump manga, especially a popular one like this. As far as most manga go, The Promised Neverland feels satisfying enough, as far as resolving plot threads is concerned.
As for characters, er… this is where The Promised Neverland is at its most Jump-like. Even though Emma is among the smartest kids from Grace Field, she’s about as abrasive and reckless as any Jump protagonist. Fortunately, Ray and Norman are much better and smarter than her. The biggest problem with the cast is that it gets pretty large over the course of the story, with some minor characters not being that memorable. There are even a lot of characters whose names I can’t remember.
The art is what brings it all together. The Promised Neverland is drawn in an elegant, storybook-like style that can go from beauty to terror rather quickly. The designs of the demons are phenomenal, even if a lot of them look the same. The panel flow is also a key factor in building suspense; something that the anime sadly lacks due to the nature of its medium.
But if there’s any truly divisive flaw with The Promised Neverland, it’s Emma. If you couldn’t tell from this being a Jump manga, she’s a bit of a Mary Sue. Late in the series, it becomes really easy to succeed in the ultimate goal, except that it involves committing xenocide on the Demons. Since she’s such a good person who’s willing to forgive an entire race that’s indiscriminately bred and eaten human beings, she jumps in (or Jump’s in, rather) and tries to offer a more hunky-dorey solution. I’ll admit, it’s annoying, but hey, I also like lighthearted junk at times.
Final Verdict: 8.9/10
It’s not perfect, but The Promised Neverland is a great manga; definitely one of the better ones in recent days of Jump. It genuinely tries to do something that isn’t mere pandering to testosterone-y boys (like Kimetsu no Yaiba), and while it stumbles, it definitely succeeds to some extent. The manga truly has its own identity. I recommend it to any shounen fans who want something just a tad different.
I tend to have a soft spot for manga that would profusely offend the average folk. So naturally, I’d be curious about a manga that has to have part of its title censored! Let’s check out the bizarro romance manga, Watari-kun’s ****** is About to Collapse, published in English by Kodansha Comics.
Okay, so this manga’s premise is way more complicated to describe than actually experiencing it for yourself. Basically, a young lad named Naoto Watari lives with his aunt and dotes on his little sister, Suzushiro Watari. His life is pretty good, until a girl named Satsuki Tachibana appears. Six years ago, she destroyed his family’s garden (for some reason), and now, she comes on to him. And apparently, this destroys his life.
My best guess as to what was about to collapse is “sanity”, because that’s what was about to collapse for me as I was reading this. The plot of Watari-kun’s is off the wall… sort of. Basically, it’s a typical romance that tries to be a twisted, tragic love story (I think?). The idea of it is that Naoto forms these relationships with Satsuki, as well as Yukari Ishihara, one of his classmates, and his sister is super-psycho against it. He wants to dote on his sister for all eternity, and before long, it becomes evident that Suzu is pretending to be an utter ditz just to perpetuate that doting.
But despite his whole sister thing being in the product description, the real plot is… a shipping war. The main combatants are Satsuki and Yukari, and it’s about as entertaining as it sounds. A lot of times, I feel like that Watari-kun’s is trying to be a dark, psychological tragic romance… but it fails miserably. The main reason is because it’s a pretty typical romance, with only a couple of blips of grittiness.
And the grittiness is only relative. I was expecting it to be super-controversial, given the censored title. But as far as I got, the most controversial thing was this one scumbag guy who tried to overly assert his “male dominance” on one of the girls. Other than that, there’s nothing that special about this manga.
Speaking of not special, the characters match that description as well. It absolutely astonishes me that every single character can have a genuine psychological issue, and yet still be as boring as cardboard. The only even remotely interesting character is Satsuki, who is kind of a yandere I guess? I dunno… I didn’t like ANYBODY.
The art is also painfully average. While there are some shots that seem to go for the psychological atmosphere, Watari-kun’s looks typical even then. The characters look like they came from a How to Draw Manga book, and the backgrounds scream Clip Studio assets.
Current Verdict: 4/10
Watari-kun’s ****** is About to Collapse collapses in on itself mere minutes after starting it. I’m doubly disappointed in it because I at least thought it would profusely offend me. But no… it couldn’t even do that. I’m sorry, but this is probably one of the worst manga I’ve ever read. I don’t recommend it to anyone, even to people to enjoy shipping wars.
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.
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.
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.
This was honestly a very tough review to write. I got into Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (published in English by Viz) months before the anime- that freaking anime- aired. At that time, it had a pretty niche fanbase, like any anime-less manga would in the West. But my whole perspective of it changed when the anime launched- especially the viral nineteenth episode- and made the franchise mainstream overnight. Kimetsu no Yaiba has become one of Jump’s bestselling manga in recent years, even overtaking One Piece as the #1 bestseller of 2019. It has now become the embodiment of everything I hate about mainstream culture and marketing, similar to how I feel about BABYMETAL (which I’ll cover in a future post). I was going to give it a relatively high-ish score at first, but how much will my contrarian-ness affect the score now?
So, Kimetsu no Yaiba’s premise is as simple and unoriginal as it gets. In Taisho Era rural Japan, Tanjiro Kamado lives a happy life with his mother and siblings. But of course, he comes home one day to find his whole family dead (easy emotional hook, check), i.e. slaughtered by a demon. Only his sister, Nezuko, has survived, but she’s become a demon herself (cute girl who needs to be protecc, check). He then goes on a journey to become the #1 Demon Slayer (lofty goal, check) and kill the guy who orchestrated it all.
If you couldn’t tell, Kimetsu no Yaiba is mainstream to the Nth degree, following each shounen trope with little to no deviation. Fortunately, the mangaka at least seemed pretty aware of this, and chose to breeze through a lot of training and entrance exams to get to the real demon-whooping that readers actually want. After Tanjiro joins the Demon Slayers, he basically goes out with Nezuko (who is conveniently small enough to carry in a box) and fights whatever demon is terrorizing whatever area. The only saving grace of the narrative is its fast pacing.
The characters aren’t much better. Tanjiro is your typical, wish fulfilment protagonist. He runs on plot armor, and is inexplicably loved by everyone, even the demons that he cuts down; every single one of them goes through their “tragic backstory” to make you sympathize with them at the last second before Tanjiro kills them, and then they thank him for being a good person in their final breath. His sister, Nezuko, is marketing incarnate. She basically exists to be cute (which works, as I have seen on the message boards when the anime aired). Sure, she can actually hold her own in combat, but her cuteness is definitely a higher priority and a big factor to the franchise’s success.
There are a couple of saving graces, however. Joining Tanjiro are Zenitsu and Inosuke. Zenitsu can be annoying, given that he’s a big fat wuss who exists to provide comic mischief, but when he falls asleep like Bodkin from Wizards of Once, he becomes a super powerful bad-ass. Inosuke is a buff chuunibyou who wears a cool boar mask. These two aren’t the best characters in the world, but they’re enough to make Kimetsu no Yaiba more enjoyable.
Given the traditional battle shounen structure, Kimestu no Yaiba is full of throwaway antagonists who rarely last more than an arc. But among them is the actual main antagonist, Muzan Kibutsuji. He is a legitimately intimidating villain who has a very suave aura about him. He might be an a-hole to his minions, but he’s at least dressed fabulously.
Sadly, that’s pretty much it for the cast. What remains to be discussed are the many other Demon Slayer people that Tanjiro looks up to. I always forget who they are almost immediately after every reading session of the manga, so that really speaks of how unremarkable they are. The only one I remember is Giyuu, but that’s just because he’s the first one encountered, and his name is funny.
In the end, the one thing I can appreciate about Kimetsu no Yaiba is the fact that it ends startlingly quickly; clocking in at 205 chapters despite its insane popularity. Out of everything in the manga, the best thing that could’ve happened was for it to end, so that the mangaka didn’t have to worry about shoehorning in unremarkable antagonists just to pad it out for ten more years (like DBZ and Naruto).
The art is, uh, an effort. I’m not gonna crap on the art like everyone did when the anime came out. Sure, it’s not as “clean and crisp” as the anime, but it has a unique charm to it. Also, the fights are more than visually appealing enough. But like what critics said about the anime, the great art can only go so far to offset such a cookie-cutter narrative.
Final Verdict: 6.75/10
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a fairly enjoyable manga that managed to end on the best possible note. Is its popularity undeserved? Hell yes. Is it the worst thing ever? Not quite. Like I said in the beginning, I’m being extra harsh on the manga because the anime was insanely successful due to the inherent appeal of Tanjiro’s simple and idealized personality, Nezuko’s cuteness, the visual spectacle, and the presence of famed composer Yuki Kajiura. Raw, human emotion, not perturbed by critical thinking, is imperative in order to enjoy Kimetsu no Yaiba; enough to have your heart melt from the backstories of people that you know for five seconds. By now, it should be obvious if this manga’s your cup of tea, so decide accordingly.
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.
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!
Boxing narratives are all well and good, but they kind of tend to be the same. The main character loses, trains, gets told by several peers that he’s killing himself, trains anyway, manages to beat the bad guy with sheer force of will, then lather, rinse, and repeat until the fanbase is tired. But can some cyberpunk overtones make it a bit more interesting? Let’s find out in the short manga, Levius, published in English by Viz.
In 19th Century… somewhere (lol I don’t actually know), the titular Levius Cromwell is constantly haunted by the scars of a cyber war, which resulted in his mother ending up in a coma. For reasons that are a combination of him wanting money to fund her recovery, mysteriously seeing her as a child, and the organization that caused her coma being involved, he takes up mechanical boxing.
It’s a bit hard to follow at first because it takes a while to get acclimated to how the world is, but overall it is as straightforward as boxing gets. Fortunately, it doesn’t beat around the bush, and starts the story off with Levius at the second highest grade of boxing. He also gets a head start to enter the highest grade once a famous boxer from that bracket passes away. The fight to see which person enters that bracket is basically the entirety of Levius.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Remember that organization I mentioned? It’s called Amethyst, and its people are quite mean. They create some emotionless cyborgs that specialize in killing. As expected of a boxing narrative, Amethyst is a pretty one-dimensional evil organization for the time being.
And the characters, sadly, match that description as well (the one-dimensional part, to be exact). If you’ve seen Rocky, you’ve seen the cast of Levius already. Levius is a typical, brash boy who’s AAAAANGRY at Amethyst and SO AAAAAANGSTY all the time. His uncle, Zack Cromwell, is the coach who constantly tells Levius to not kill himself. The female lead is an Amethyst machine: A.J. Langdom. She’s a cute girl who’s been heavily modded, and basically serves as a damsel in distress. The main villain, Dr. Clown Jack Pudding, is literally Battle Angel Alita’s Desty Nova cosplaying as Final Fantasy VI’s Kefka, and he’s pretty great.
The art for Levius is rather unusual. First off, the manga is published backwards (forwards in a Western sense). “CENSORING JAPANESE CULTURE, IN 2020?! TRIGGERED!” you exclaim. Look, I have no idea what the factual reasoning is, but according to a comment on Viz’s page for Levius, it was actually published backwards in Japan as well because it’s supposed to be set in the U.S.? I don’t know… But regardless of the direction, Levius is a manga through and through. The panel composition is still what you’d expect for a battle manga, so you don’t have to worry about it being too Westernized.
But it’s not just the format that’s unusual, it’s the actual drawings, too. Levius has a very sketchy and gritty style for a sci-fi manga, even more so than Attack on Titan. For what it is, it looks fantastic, with great action, and phenomenal close-ups. The color pages are also amazing as well (PS: nudity warning, by the way).
It might not be wholly original, but Levius is a pretty solid read. But notice that I don’t have “Full Manga Review” in the title or “Final Verdict” in this section? In case you haven’t noticed, Levius was not axxed; no, it’s only just beginning. There is an ongoing sequel, Levius/est, and I am hyped to read it. For now, I recommend Levius to fans of boxing, battle shounens, cyberpunk, and steampunk.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).