Best New Manga of June 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Turn that cliché upside down! This month offers up a stack of genre-bending manga: it’s school culture festival time in My Hero Academia, and that cues a villain who’s ready to take down U.A. High School for good. The super-shy girl in Komi Can’t Communicate decides to fight her malady head-on by making 100 friends. And Kaiju Girl Caramelise blends love and monsters in a one-of-a-kind high school drama that really brings the action. Plus: Boruto finally gets comfortable with technology, Gou Tanabe adapts H.P. Lovecraft, and more! Get your summer reading in order with this month’s new manga releases.

H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, Vol. 1, by Gou Tanabe
“I was interested in adapting the works of H.P. Lovecraft,” Junji Ito said in a recent interview, “but Mr. Gou Tanabe did what I consider the definitive version, so I gave up on that.” You can’t ask for a better endorsement than that, Ito being one of the masters of Japanese horror. Tanabe draws the human characters, the Antarctic landscape, and the 1930s technology (airplanes, radios, and ships powered by both sail and steam) of this Lovecraft classic with the same precision as Jiro Taniguchi, but a bit more verve. The inhuman creatures are more of a struggle, but he hits a nice balance between the anatomically convincing parts and the sheer weirdness of the whole. While it is not for the squeamish, it is a real treat for fans of Lovecraft, horror manga, and tales of explorers going to the extreme areas of the world. This is the first of two volumes.

Classmates, Vol. 1: Dou kyu sei, by Asumiko Nakamura
Rihito is your classic glasses-wearing high school boy, very smart and very self-contained—except it turns out he isn’t. He’s going to a subpar private school because he choked on the high school entrance exams, and singing a song in music class paralyzes him with anxiety. Hikaru, a happy-go-lucky type with flowing blond hair who plays guitar in a band, finds Rihito practicing his song alone and offers to tutor him. Thus begins a romance that, while it hits some of the usual boys love tropes, also feels refreshingly honest. Nakamura’s art is reminiscent of classic manga-ka such as Ryuko Ikeda, with elongated figures and an emphasis on line over tone. The story is broken into episodes set over the course of the characters’ high school years, with a bit more revealed in each. Classmates was adapted into an anime movie in 2016.

Komi Can’t Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda
Komi, the dark-haired, long-legged beauty on the cover, can’t communicate because she can’t speak—she gets tongue-tied whenever anyone addresses her. Everyone thinks she never talks because she’s just too cool, and she does cover it well, but her classmate Tadano finds out the truth. They form a tentative friendship, communicating by writing on the blackboard, and decide the best way for her to overcome her disability is to make 100 friends. Much awkwardness results! This is a good-hearted shonen rom-com delivered in short chapters, so it’s easy to pick up and put down.

Elfen Lied Omnibus, Vol. 1, by Lynn Okamoto
If this title seems familiar, it’s because the anime was a huge sensation when it was first released back in 2005. This is the first time the manga has been (legally) available in English, however, and it differs from the anime in important ways. The world of Elfen Lied contains both humans and the Diclonii, a new type of mutants who have horns on their heads and invisible, telekinetically controlled arms called “vectors.” Lucy, one of the Diclonii, was being held in a scientific facility in Japan but escaped, causing danger to others and damage to herself, including the development of a second personality. She is taken in by two locals, but she is far from free, as the Special Assault Force and an array of others attempt to recapture her. As much as it’s an action tale, this story also raises some intriguing questions about human—and mutant—nature. The series was originally 12 volumes, but Dark Horse is publishing it as four omnibuses, each containing three volumes.

Whenever Our Eyes Meet…. A Women’s Love Anthology, by ASCII Media Works
The stories are short and sweet in this collection of workplace yuri romances: a designer is hired to do a CD cover for a mysterious singer who always keeps her identity hidden behind a horse mask—and who turns out to be a secret fan of the artist; a one-night stand pops up as the new contractor at work; a cab ride brings old colleagues together. There’s a lot of variety here, but all the stories are well told and well drawn. A good read for fans of yuri and workplace romance in general.

Kaiju Girl Caramelise, Vol. 1, by Spica Aoki
Kuroe Akaishi is quiet, solitary, and suffers from a rare disease that causes her body to change in frightening ways, even more so than most teenagers. She keeps to herself as much as possible, but with adolescence comes the awakening of certain feelings, and while love can change people in strange ways, it’s seldom as extreme as in Kuroe’s case: when her heart goes pitty-pat, her body grows claws and scales and she literally turns into a monster. The cover says it all; this is story of teen romance that runs far, far off the rails.

For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams, Vol. 2,by Kei Sanbe
Kei Sanbe’s followup to Erased is another murder mystery involving a supernatural power. This time it’s about twin brothers who are so in tune with each other that when one is hurt, the other feels pain—growing up, their father was an abusive alcoholic, so one twin protected the other by taking the beatings, even though they both felt his blows. When they were five, their parents were found brutally murdered, and one of the twins disappeared. Senri, the other twin, knows his brother is dead—because he felt him die—and has sworn to avenge his murder. Now a teenager, Senri lives with his grandparents but hangs out with a violent gang, pulling cons and getting into fights. As in Erased, Sanbe comes up with intriguing characters and an original premise for a mystery, constantly playing with what the reader does and doesn’t know to ramp up the suspense.

Hinamatsuri, Vol. 3, by Masao Ohtake
Saddling a gangster with a kid is always comedy gold, but Hinamatsuri ramps it up by making the kid in question telekinetic. Nitta is a rising star in his yakuza organization, and he enjoys spending his money on fine living and precious antique vases. So when an expressionless girl arrives in his apartment in some sort of capsule, he first pretends she isn’t there, then can’t figure out what to do with her. The only thing the girl knows is her name, Hina, but she immediately realizes she can get Nitta to follow her commands simply by threatening one of his vases. It takes Nitta a while to realize that Hina’s powers are more valuable to him than any vase, and the two form an uneasy alliance. Once they reach this rapprochement, of course, more characters come in to complicate things, and the series gets crazier and goofier at every turn. With volume 3 just out, it’s not too late to jump onto the crazy train and enjoy the ride. The anime is available on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Sailor Moon Eternal Edition, Vol. 5,by Naoko Takeuchi
Sailor Moon kicked off the shoujo manga boom back in the late 1990s; back then, Tokyopop published it, first in a short-lived magazine and then in tiny paperbacks with questionable translations (Usagi was called “Bunny”). Many years later, Kodansha Comics republished it in standard tankoubon with a new translation. Now they are really giving the series its due with the Eternal Editions, which feature a larger trim size, new cover illustrations by Takeuchi, and a newly revised translation. Each volume is 300 pages, equivalent to about one and a half volumes of the original.

Boruto, Vol. 6,by Ukyo Kodachi, Mikio Ikemoto, and Masashi Kishimoto
Much of this volume is taken up with a battle with Ao, the technologically enhanced former shinobi. Boruto, despite his previous objections, uses the technology himself, with some clever double-crosses. It’s a good fight, but an even better reason to check out this volume is to see the Steam Toad that follows. Six volumes in, Boruto still has a lot of energy, a lot of imagination, and a lot of heart.

Tokyo Ghoul: re, Vol. 11, by Sui Ishida
The Commission on Counter Ghoul has a new leader, and he’s crazy in the worst possible way. Nimura Furuta has stepped in after the mysterious disappearance of the previous bureau chief, and his strange behavior has some of the investigators alarmed but the rest of the CCG staff convinced. The clincher is his announcement of a public execution. Tokyo Ghoul: re continues the same mix of action, horror, and drama that made the original Tokyo Ghoul so compelling, bringing those characters into new situations and unveiling new information about them at every turn.

My Hero Academia, Vol. 19, by Kohei Horikoshi
With the massive battle with Overhaul behind them, Class 1-A turns to focus on something essential to every manga set in a school: The class culture festival. Midoriya is running late, and as he is hustling back to the school with supplies for the festival, he encounters a stranger on the street. And not just any stranger: As Midoriya quickly realizes, he has just run into Gentle Criminal, a villain who has some spectacular plans for taking down U.A.—and only Midoriya can stop him.

What new manga are you eyeing in June?

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The Best New Manga of March 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Want a second helping? This month’s new manga releases include a new series by the creator of One-Punch Man, a collection of Fullmetal Alchemist gag manga, and the return of the classic Aria, as well as some new manga with familiar storylines. And on top of that, there’s a new light novel featuring mechas with a side of social commentary—OK, that last one is not at all familiar, but it sounds like a lot of fun.

Mob Psycho 100, Vol. 2, by ONE
Mob Psycho 100 is by the writer of One-Punch Man, and shares that series’ deadpan humor—although Mob Psycho 100 is about spirits and exorcists, not superheroes and villains. The joke starts with the title, which seems to promise crazy violent Yakuza action. In fact, “Mob” is the name of the lead character, a mild-mannered eighth-grader who blends into the crowd (in other words, he’s just one blip in a mob scene). Mob has superhuman powers, and he has apprenticed himself to a phony medium who exploits them shamelessly, but he doesn’t seem to care much. In fact, he is disinclined to use his powers at all, unless pressed to the limit. Most of the time he is pretty straight-faced, like Saitama of One-Punch Man, but when his inner emotional gauge hits 100, his psychic energy goes haywire. Mob Psycho 100 pokes fun at manga tropes—the club that will be dissolved if it can’t find one more member, the endlessly fighting gangs of tough guys in gakuran (military style) school uniforms—so the more manga you have read, the more you will enjoy it. Since ONE draws Mob Psycho 100 himself, it doesn’t have the polished look of One-Punch Man (which benefits from the artwork of Eyeshield 21 creator Yusuke Murata), but the style fits the story well. This month marks the release of the second volume, so it’s a good time to jump onboard a promising series.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel Comics, by Hiromu Arakawa
This volume pulls together all the bonus 4-panel gag strips that ran at the end of the individual volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist or were included with the anime DVDs and various booklets, websites, and other products. Like most manga creators, Arakawa takes the opportunity to poke some good-natured fun at her characters and their quirks, and she even drew a set of “Fullmetal Masterpiece Theater” strips spoofing famous fairy tales. Since all the strips are about Fullmetal Alchemist,the book won’t make much sense to those who haven’t read the series or watched the anime, but FMA fans will certainly enjoy the sly digs and insider humor.

Aria: The Masterpiece, Vol. 1, by Kozue Amano
Aria is a slice-of-life manga set in a beautiful fantasy world. In the future, Mars has been terraformed for human habitation, and when the ice caps melted, the imagineers in charge created Neo Venezia, a canal city based on Venice. Naturally, there are gondolas, and Aria follows the adventures of Akari, who has traveled from Earth (now called Manhome) to train as an Undine, or professional gondolier. This is the sort of manga you read just for the pleasure of being in a particular world. It doesn’t have a lot of action, but a character in the first chapter describes the gondolas as “strangely calming,” and the same could be said of the series as a whole. Aria was first published in English in 2004, and Tokyopop picked up the license after the original publisher became defunct. Now they are bringing it back in a deluxe edition; this first volume contains the prequel series, originally known as Aqua.

86?EIGHTY-SIX, Vol. 1, by Asato Asato and Shirabi
This light novel from Yen Press is fantasy with a sting. The San Magnolia Republic has successfully deployed unmanned weapons to defend themselves from an attack from a neighboring empire, but all is not as it seems: the “unmanned” weapons are actually piloted by the young men and women of the Republic’s 86th District, which does not exist in any public and official sense. In other words, the government has been lying about the whole project. With a mix of mechs, military action, and politics, this is an interesting light novel that goes beyond the usual tropes.

Boruto, Vol. 5, by Ukyo Kodachi, Mikio Ikemoto, and Masashi Kishimoto
After charging through 72 volumes of adventures, Naruto finally settled down and had a son, Boruto. This series picks up the story of the younger Uzumaki, who is headstrong, resentful of his father, and inclined to go barreling off on his own adventures. With Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto supervising its creation, this new series is a worthy match for the original. The Boruto manga initially followed the storyline of Boruto: Naruto the Movie, but has moved on to original material. Currently, Boruto is grappling with a mysterious organization called Kara, and in this volume he also goes up against his father, satisfying the desires of meme creators all over the world.

Love in Focus, Vol. 1, by Yoko Nogiri
Sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned shoujo romance manga, and Love in Focus fills the bill. Mako, our heroine, loves photography, and after suffering a loss, she dives deeper into it. At the suggestion of a childhood friend, she leaves home to attend a new school that has an elite photography club—and she’s soon living in a dorm with her friend and another student who hates to have his picture taken. Have we checked all the Shoujo Bingo boxes yet? This one looks like it will be good fun, with the photo angle to add some extra interest.

The Ideal Sponger Life, Vol. 1, by Tsunehiko Watanabe and Neko Hinotsuki
If, on the other hand, you want a good old-fashioned wish-fulfillment seinen manga, here’s the one for you. Zenjiro is a totally ordinary guy with a boring office job and not much else going on, until a beautiful queen of an unearthly realm summons him to be her husband. If he accepts, he gets to live a life of leisure with his beautiful spouse—but the catch is that there are no backsies on this offer, and he will be saying goodbye to everything dear to him on Earth, including his family and the internet. It’s also possible that all is not quite as it seems, and the queen has some sinister motives. With its everyman hero and gorgeous supernatural heroine, The Ideal Sponger Life is a solid seinen romantic comedy.

10 Dance, Vol. 2, by Inouesatoh
Two “kings” of ballroom dancing go head to head in this steamy yaoi romance. Shinya Sugiki is a champion in the world of traditional ballroom dancing, while Shinya Suzuki is the top Latin dancer. The twist is that in order to compete in the prestigious 10 Dance competition, each has to learn the other’s style, so they agree to teach each other. While they share a first name, the two have very different personalities and teaching styles, so there’s plenty of tension—and tension is the magic ingredient in yaoi!

What new manga is on your list this month?

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