Flying Witch Volume 1 Review

I appreciate it when the back cover copy does a great job of summarizing a manga without major spoilers, so I’m going to quote Flying Witch’s here:

“Makoto Kowata, a novice witch, packs up her belongings (including her black cat familiar) and moves in with her distant cousins in rural Aomori Prefecture, in the far north reaches of Japan, to complete her training and become a full-fledged witch.”

 

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The atmosphere of Flying witch strikes me as Someday’s Dreamers meets Yotsuba. It’s an easy going, character centric slice of life story in a world where magic exists and is generally acknowledged (if still somewhat uncommon). It’s a wonderful premise for a light, everyday story to explore.

Flying Witch reasonably successful to that end. I did find this on slow side even for slice of life, but it works overall. The characters aren’t deep yet, but they are diverse and developed enough to start with to be engaging as the status quo is established.

The art style is solid and suitable, although there’s a strange mix of really detailed backgrounds and sparse/no backgrounds in certain panels and close ups. It’s not a huge deal, but the contrast does stick out a bit.

Overall I liked this, and just enough of Makoto and her world are shown here to make me interested in reading more. This volume ends on a high note too, with a fun character introduction that gives a glimpse of a good deal of potential going forward.

 

 

Clay Lord Manga Review

Clay is a young Golem molder who decides to test his meager skills by entering contest with a prestigious prize. But there’s more to Clay and his companions than first appears, and Clay’s skills could draw the wrong kind of attention.

 

I’ll be sharing thoughts on the entire series (volumes 1-3) as a whole here, so will keep it as spoiler free as possible.

 

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Clay Lord is a fun little manga with a good premise and likable characters that elevate it beyond the standard tropes it employs. Clay and his companions are engaging, and get a fair amount of development in the limited time they have.

The small scope is perhaps the series biggest weakness. There was definitely room for a couple more side stories to flesh out the world and characters more as well as allowing the major plot points room to breathe and thus achieve greater impact. This really could have, and probably should have, been at least a couple volumes longer.

That said while the general plot was pretty straightforward (within the trappings of the fantasy world) it was told extremely well with a lot of emotion packed into the short length and several key reveals that continually increased the emotional jeopardy of our lead. The focus is very tightly centered on Clay throughout to the story’s benefit, but the supporting characters were also well defined and important. It’s also a complete story, with major plot points being appropriately tied up and addressed by the end, which is always appreciated.

Overall Clay Lord is a solid, enjoyable series that could have been even better with more to it but also could have been worse in less capable hands.

 

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches Volume 2 Review

The Supernatural Studies Club’s newest member is out to destroy Yamada over seeing him and Shiraishi in a compromising position. Even if he can stop her, the club has various other threats looming…

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I’ve described volume 1 of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches as “surprisingly fun,” and that feeling continues to hold into this second volume.  The story is still in its early phases, with the titular “witches” concept not yet introduced, but the antics and mischief Yamada and friends get into with his power are amusing.

I do find things a little uneven and the school intrigue subplot is just so-so thus far, but it seems to be setting up the series’ backbone so I’ll give it some time. This manga’s greatest strength is its cast. The varied personalities mesh well and each has a touch of realism buried beneath a cliched exterior (I could admittedly do without the pervert though, who’s rather one note humor is already getting tiresome). Itou’s misguided earnestness makes her my favorite so far.

I’d like the central plot to start getting to the point soon, but regardless the first couple volumes of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches have been quite enjoyable.

Today’s Cerberus Volume 2 Review

Chiaki’s getting used to life with his new companion / guard dog, but he doesn’t quite realize how much larger his world has really become. Nor what a tempting target his unique situation makes him to other supernatural beings.

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Volume 1 of Today’s Cerberus was a fun read that put just enough of a twist on established conventions and tropes to keep things amusing and interesting. Volume 2 is a strong sophomore effort that continues to expand the cast of characters and new world Chiaki finds himself a part of while spending a fair amount of time on character development and firmly establishing the emotional core of the story.

I like the particulars of each of Cerberus’s personalities, and there’s good foreshadowing of each’s motivations, short comings, and the reasons they act as they do. The facts that the dominant personality is isolated from the others in their subconscious and that the most powerful of the three is self limited are great little nuances that portend ominous yet intriguing future developments. I still find Roze the most compelling, but both Kuro and Shirogane also have a fair amount of depth and uniqueness to them. The growing supporting cast fits well and all nicely supplements the (current) main plot of Chiaki trying to be more social and learn to be happy despite what he’s missing.

I’m still finding Chiaki and Kuro’s adventures highly entertaining. Looking forward to reading more.

Until Death Do Us Part Volume 4 Review

“Mamoru-san doesn’t need my help. ”

This collection contains volumes 7 and 8 of Until Death Do Us Part as originally published. Although heavy in action it also features a fairly intricate plot that builds from volume to volume. Best to start reading at the beginning.

 

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Volume 7 picks up right where volume 6 left off, with a key confrontation between characters who have been circling each other thus far in the series. Takashige is excellent at giving just enough to be satisfying while holding back for later developments. Nothing’s settled but a lot is established. Also, fights (and other events) unfold in ways that develop characters. It’s an important and masterful use of craft to keep the manga engaging without losing momentum.

Things later move into a nice spotlight on Haruka as she has an unexpected vision at school. It’s an important story that shows her having to rely on the lessons Mamoru’s been teaching her in unexpected ways.

Then the patient, brilliant Wiseman’s finally ready to make his move…

All arcs here are grounded in nuanced underlying emotions: Genda’s controlled, calculating rage, Haruka’s feelings of inadequacy, Mamoru’s (over)confidence, etc. Haruka’s actions towards the end lead to a heart wrenching situation that illustrates how far Mamoru and she still have to go in understanding each other.

There are also interesting yet logical twists, and having master strategists involved on both sides of every conflict makes the unfolding stories absolutely captivating.

 

Continually fantastic stuff with no signs of slowing down.

 

Until Death Do Us Part Volume 3 Review

“This means hired killers and mercenaries the world over will be racing to Japan to find him.”

This collection contains volumes 5 and 6 of Until Death Do Us Part as originally published. In addition to nuanced plot and characters, this book directly continues an arc started in the previous one. Best to start reading at the beginning.

 

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Until Death Do Us Part is rolling along nicely, with another book filled with both captivating action and compelling, deepening intrigue.

The entirety of volume 5 features the conclusion of an intense fight started last book. It illustrates just how dangerous and hard to control things have become, and raises the stakes drastically.

Volume 6 moves things forward with Blade tackling a new, troubling situation with head on escalation. His blunt nature creates a solid anchor for the chaos around him, and also allows room for the more level headed members of the cast to shine.

And shine they do. They flesh out the world nicely and as I’ve gushed about in every review so far the intertwining and conflicting agendas and points of view of everyone make the manga extremely engaging and compelling. Well developed characters form the heart of any great story, and Takashige’s are great. Certain members of “The Wall,” Detective Genda, and Haruka all get spotlights and important moments. There are also several introductions of characters that will obviously be important later by way of minor, superbly paced cameos.

Another thing that’s impressive Takashige and DOUBLE-S’s storytelling is the economy of information delivery they achieve. The significance and meaning accomplished with little looks, expressions, and careful composition add an incredible level of atmosphere and depth to the narrative.

The book ends with a nice pair of weighted confrontations / meetings that continue to complicate the situation in the best possible sense.  It’s wonderful foreshadowing of long term impending doom as well as leaving things on a mild cliffhanger in the short term.

Another excellent entry in this series.

 

 

 

Until Death Do Us Part Volume 2 Review

“I wouldn’t trust him. He’s a killer.”

This collection contains volumes 3 and 4 of Until Death Do Us Part as originally published. It’s an action manga at its core, but the characters and story are quite layered so best to start reading at the beginning.

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I was pleasantly impressed with the way the first book of Until Death Do Us Part came together in terms of story, action, and art working in harmony to overcome some of the more cliched elements it employs. These volumes are more in same vein with appropriately escalating stakes.

Volume 3 ties up the first major arc that’s been building while setting future plot threads up with interesting new angles and players that continue throughout volume 4. The storylines and arcs feed into each other nicely, with prior events logically progressing into further complications for our protagonists. The main characters are well developed, and have sufficiently nuances personalities and motivations to keep them compelling and the general level of intrigue high throughout continually increasing tension.

The way numerous schemes overlap and intersect continues to be a highlight for me, as Takashige spotlights the intelligence of his characters even when they make mistakes  or get outmaneuvered. This is always important to me in any story, as when anyone acts dumb for plot convenience it ruins dramatic tension.

The opposition also finds clever ways of creating difficulties for Blade which prevents things from getting too one-sided given his vast skills.

In addition I liked some of the philosophical touches in these volumes regarding Haruka’s powers and the fact that sometimes the only choices available are bad ones. The desire of her companions to seek out as “normal” a life as possible for her is another strong theme that seems destined to become extremely important long term.

Good capitalization on the first book’s potential here. I hope the momentum continues.