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Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Sprites: Loveless, Heartless, Laughless

Some times, you have time to write a 1,000+ word review of a single book. Some times, you just don't. For those times, we have Book Sprites, compact book reviews for the discerning reader with no time to lose. No major spoilers lie here!
In this post, we have a triple threat with volumes of Loveless, Strobe Edge, Shugo Chara-Chan!, and Blue Exorcist/Ao No Exorcist.
Loveless volume 10 by Yun Kouga: In this volume, our protagonists are reeling from the latest series of events regarding Seimei as well as Kio's kidnapping and subsequent rescue. Just when Ritsuka is getting back into the groove of things, Youji and Natsuo end up transferring into his class and causing trouble for him. Plus, the team known as Moonless moves into action to pit Ritsuka against Seimei, whom he still loves despite what has been going on in the past couple of volumes.
I was ready to think lowly of this volume with the first half, which involves a lot of "I still love Seimei, that jerk!" apologia and Youji/Natsuo being absolute asses to Ritsuka and Yuiko for no reason. I honestly am not a fan of Youji and Natsuo as characters. They are obnoxious and rude and it's played off as "oh, those boys!" far too often for my liking.

And then Ritsuka starts standing up for himself and for Yuiko, defending his friend not only against the female classmates who bully her but also the member of Moonless they stumble upon while walking home. And that made everything immensely better. We also see more of Ritsuka and Soubi's relationship, as well as the abnormal relationship that is Loveless. I'm looking forward to seeing how Ritsuka decides where his allegiance ultimately lies - with Soubi or with Seimei.
We also see further into the personal life and history of Kio, as he makes a surprising visit to two people from his family. I love how Loveless slowly and carefully shows us that each character has a story and secrets of their own, even someone as unexpected as Kio. I'm looking forward to Yuiko getting the same treatment!
In regards to bonus manga, that Loveless/Gundam 00 comic was oddly adorable as well as a telling character study, reflecting each person's inner thought process as they pick their favorite Gundam character. Nice promo for the film.
Strobe Edge volume 4 by Io Sakisaka: Ninako is taken aback by Ando's confession of love but decides that she can't really answer him right away, as she is still in love with Ren. Ren is developing less than innocent feelings for Ninako, but his obligations to Mayuka are about to make those feelings very difficult. And Daiki and Sayuri's relationship is about to be tested in multiple ways. And that's what you missed on Glee.
My feelings on Strobe Edge so far are pretty loud and obnoxious and pro-Ninako. What do you mean I can't just shout "damn it, Ren!" and be done with it? He is clearly in love with Ninako and everyone can see it except for him. Or can he? As I said on Twitter with volume three, there's no way this series is gonna end without some hurt feelings - and it'll be because of Ren's indecision regarding the women in his life.
I actually liked Ando in this volume, as we saw the awkwardness behind his usual facade, flustered by his feelings for Ninako. Pardon the JJ Abrams reference, but Ando is the Sawyer to Ninako's Kate (which makes Ren Jack - yeah, that seems about right). I also really like Daiki and Sayuri; they are absolutely lovely together, and I wish them the best of luck in the near future. It helps that all of Sayuri's friends are pretty much helping Daiki with all his romantic schemes and ship them like it's a schoolyard fandom. And one can't help but applaud how smoothly Daiki has gotten over his previous feelings for Ninako and dedicated all his romantic affection for Actual Girlfriend Sayuri.
Also, it is nice to see older characters in shojo manga actually be part of the story without being ridiculed or used as plot fodder. They even discuss such weighty issues as marital issues with respect and treat those who are effected by it like adults. And Daiki and Mayuka's dad is cute, heh. (/oyaji loving tendencies)
Shugo Chara-Chan! volume 3 by Naphthalene Mizushima: Why am I still reading this series? I guess it is because I read all of Shugo Chara by Peach-Pit, so I figure I should finish its spin-off series as well. Good thing the fourth volume is the last one - and that each volume is mercifully short. I'd rather that Kodansha Comics had exerted the effort put into SGC! into, say, a set of Peach-Pit full color art books.
In this volume, the Guardian characters explore the different seasons and the celebrations that highlight each season. Basically, it's a whole lot of hijinks based on the fact that they are small and magical and don't understand how humans work. Amu is pretty much the only human character the Guardians interact with. It makes me really miss the other Shugo Chara! characters who are getting shafted so that more Guardians based hijinks can dominate the page.
There is also yet another set of 'cross-over' stories, featuring characters from Nakayoshi manga like Hell Girl, Wankorobee, Marchen-chan, and Watashi ni xx Shinasai. I'd like to read Marchen-chan most out of the whole group, although I doubt it will be licensed for English release any time soon.
This series is shaping up to be an ultimately forgettable, frothy bubble of a series. Can't I just pop it now?

(Psst, you can watch all of the Shugo Chara! anime on Crunchyroll right now. If you have time to burn to marathon through a 100+ maho shojo series this weekend, go for it! Here it is!)