And we’re back for some more short manga reviews! As usual, things have been busy on my end. Working at a comic book store is fun, but it’s also a lot of work, and keeping up with things other than manga. I’ve also been working furiously on a Wonder Woman cosplay that is nearly done. The last one of these I did was August 11, so at least I’ve gotten them down to less than a month in between. I do write some short manga and comic reviews for the store I work for, so if you’re in the DFW area, I’d be happy to point you in our direction. This week: volleyball battles, talking cats, and creepy idols.
Take any generic battle shonen series and substitute the fights and monsters for volleyball, and you’ve got Haikyu!!. Optimistic, enthusiastic, and loud, protagonist Shoyo Hinata is similar to a lot of modern era shonen heroes, like Naruto. He’s also short, which doesn’t make for the best volleyball superstar, but his hero is an equally height challenged legendary player called “the Little Giant.” With his hero in his heart, Hinata has vowed to make it to nationals some day. Unfortunately, he has trouble building a team at his middle school, and it takes him until his last year to gather enough players to enter a tournament. He’s inexperienced and lacks the basic necessary skills, but he’s strong and energetic, with a powerful pair of legs that helps him drive a hard spike over the net. In their first match, his team is up against a much more promising team, led by expert setter Tobio Kageyama. Kageyama rules the court, but suffers from a lack of teamwork and faith in his teammates. The two boys are instant rivals, though of course Kageyama’s team crushes Hinata’s inexperienced group. Hinata vows to beat Kageyama one day, but his plans change when they both end up attending the same high school. Now they must learn to trust each other and work together, or they won’t even make the team. Fast paced and energetic, Haikyu!! does to volleyball what Slam Dunk did to basketball, but it doesn’t reach the same heights. The character designs and personalities are too similar to others in the (shonen) genre, and they just don’t stand out. The action sequences are decent, but not amazing, although Furudate does some nice things with the characters’ eyes that go a long way toward bringing life to the page.
I pulled this one off the shelf at my store without realizing how old it was, but we’ll look at it anyway. It’s a five volume series that ended in 2010. It also has talking cats. Yumi Hayakawa loves to knit; specifically, she loves knitting cute outfits for her cat, Kansuke. Lucky for Yumi, her new school, Matabi Academy, allows its students to have a pet cat in their dorms. It should be the perfect place, except Yumi is late on her first day, draws the unfortunate attention of the Vice Principal, the odd attention of Student Council Secretary Akifuji, and Kansuke gets into a fight with a much larger cat named Musashimaru. Of course, that’s all relatively normal. The abnormal happens later on her first day, when she and her friend Nanako are attacked by a strange monster covered in hair. Kansuke, who feels gratitude toward Yumi for saving his life four years ago, rushes to his owner’s rescue. The student council also arrives to fight back the monster, but then Yumi and Kansuke are visited by the spirits of the Princess of Futakago and her cat Shirayuki. Many years ago, the Princess and Shirayuki sealed the great demon cat Kaen inside a barrier on the school’s grounds. Now, the Princess offers Kansuke the power to fight against Kaen and his fellow spirits. Wanting only to protect Yumi, Kansuke quickly agrees, and a bond is formed between them that allows Yumi and Kansuke to speak to each other. When the bond is activated, Kansuke transforms into a human boy with great strength, and he beats back the hair demon. The student council members are also bonded to their cats, as part of a select group that is destined to guard Kaen’s barrier. Unfortunately, that barrier has broken, and Kaen is now loose somewhere on the large campus. The set-up is definitely fun and unique. Plus, you know, cats. Yumi is kind of generic, a little clumsy, very kind, the usual for a heroine in this kind of story. It’s the cats and the student council members who have the most defined personalities. And it’s the cats who have the better artistic style, too. Iwahara is definitely better at drawing animals and monsters than he is at humans.
A little less summary here, a little more noping away because it’s really uncomfortable and kind of creepy. Now, I can’t recall reading the first volume, so I’m not sure why the main character has decided she needs to be a teenage idol. The cover says “to pursue missed chances at love and success,” so I assume she’s unhappy with her life at thirty-one. She takes a pill that makes her fifteen again. The only person who knows about Chikage’s secret life is her childhood friend Tokita. Tokita crushed pretty hard on Chikage when they were both fifteen, and she is forever that fifteen-year-old girl in his mind. Which means he has feelings for her when she’s in that form. That’s strike one for me. The way it’s worded in the volume is super creepy. Up next, fifteen-year-olds obsessing about having sex with each other. Specifically, with the super famous idol and music producer Hibiki, also fifteen. There’s a really uncomfortable power dynamic here, with one of the other young female idols professing she’d sleep with him, because of course she would, he’s Hibiki! Hibiki has a lot of sway in the company. Then there’s the two pages where Hibiki tries to force himself on Chikage, with some dialog right out of a rape scene – “You’ll get used to men once you do it.” “The famous Hibiki will make love to you, you know?” All while Chikage is telling him no and trying desperately to get away from him. It’s supremely uncomfortable, even if Hibiki is only joking. Strike two. And, of course, this being a shojo story about missed chances and relationships, I expect romantic overtones between Chikage and Hibiki (and it’s already started). That’s a fifteen-year-old boy and a thirty-one-year-old woman. He doesn’t know she’s that old, but she is still that old. It’s Tanemura, so I’m not exactly surprised (her Neko to Watashi no Kinyobi series pairs a fifth grade boy with a freshman girl, and Full Moon pairs a twelve-year-old girl with a twenty-four-year old man). If you want to know the plot of this volume – Chikage visits Hibiki at his home and learns about his family life, and she must compete against follow idol Yuko for a chance to have a CD produced by Hibiki.
Haikyu!! and Idol Dreams provided by Viz Media.