As the year winds down and the holidays approach, November brings a fresh crop of new series, new volumes of ongoing series, and new light novels, covering love, war, adventures, and elves making pizza. Read on for some of our picks from this month’s new releases.
Record of Grancrest War, Vol. 1, by Ryo Mizuno
Record of Grancrest War comes to us from the creator of Record of Lodoss War, and like the latter, it started out as a tabletop game and light novel series. In the world of Grancrest War, Chaos is a threat to the world that can only be held back by Crests, which are wielded by nobles who range from squires to archdukes. The two kingdoms of this world are perpetually at war, but Mage Academy student Siluca Meletes would like that to end. After a disruptive event at the beginning of the story, she finds herself teamed up with a former royal guard named Irvin and a squire named Theo who has a Crest. In short order, Siluca and Irvin help him level up and get a territory of his own, and a neighboring lord starts scheming to take it over. The action moves pretty fast, and the story is entertaining, with enough twists to keep it from getting too predictable. Like Record of LodossWar, Record of Grancrest War has also been adapted into an anime..
RWBY: Official Manga Anthology, Vol. 3: From Shadows, by Various
Each volume of this anthology focuses on a different character from the title quartet of the RWBY animated series. This time the spotlight falls on Blake Belladonna, whose signature color is black and whose special power is that she can create and erase clones of herself as needed. She wears a black ribbon on her head to hide her cat ears, which give way that she is not human but Faunus, and she’s a bit goth. As with the other anthologies, this volume has a collection of stories by different creators that show slices of the character’s life, ranging from the serious to the goofy. It’s set deep in the world of the series, so it’s not likely to make sense to anyone who hasn’t seen the series, but for fans of RWBY, it’s a welcome expansion of the story.
Eden’s Zero, Vol. 1, by Hiro Mashima
Hiro Mashima is the creator of Fairy Tail, which ended with volume 63 in 2016. Eden’s Zero has many of the same qualities, but with more of a sci-fi bent. The story starts with a video blogger named Rebecca visiting an abandoned theme park where the resident robots greet her with glee. It turns out there is one human living in the park, Shiki, who has not had contact with another person since his grandfather died, leaving him alone with the bots. After a very weird series of events, he leaves the park (which turns out to be its own planet) and takes off through space with Rebecca and her cat Happy (a holdover from Fairy Tail). Mashima brings the same manic energy and imagination to Eden’s Zero as he did to Fairy Tail, filling the pages with remarkable side characters, even if the lead characters are straight from shonen central casting. If you barreled through all 63 volumes of Fairy Tail and couldn’t get enough, this series will be a delight. If you’re brand new to Mashima’s work, it’s a fine place to start.
Hiro Mashima’s Playground, by Hiro Mashima
And if you still haven’t gotten enough Hiro Mashima manga… Well, let’s just say this is a good time for Hiro Mashima fans. Hiro Mashima’s Playground is a double-size collection of his short stories, including a Christmas tale about a cake theft, a choose-your-own-path story, and the first appearance of the Fairy Tail guild.
Aposimz, Vol. 1, by Tsutomu Nihei
Nihei, the creator of Blame and Knights of Sidonia, is a master at creating vast, cavernous spaces that are visibly decaying, as are the people who inhabit them. This time, the space is a structure called Aposimz, and the people inhabit the outer layers, having been banned from the core. If Blame was damp and chilly, Aposimz is downright frigid, with a snow-covered landscape and a villain who kills people by literally freezing their blood. The story at the heart of this manga is a familiar one, although it takes a little while to get to it: A man and a woman fighting an evil empire. Sort of: Etherow, the man, has been transformed into a “frame,” a sort of super-powered skeleton, and Titania, the woman, is actually a small, lizard-like automaton who sometimes takes on human form, but they are definitely fighting an evil emperor. It’s all set in a really weird world where giant, face-gnawing worms come down from the ceiling—and the characters eat them. Nihei drops the reader right into the middle of this world without any explanations, but the outlines of the story become clear pretty quickly, so it’s more accessible than his earlier works.
Fruits Basket Another, Vol. 2, by Natsuki Takaya
In the first volume, we met the painfully shy Sawa, whose life began to open up a bit when she fell into the orbit of the Sohma cousins (much as happened to one Tohru Honda back in the day). No one turned into a rabbit or a seahorse, though; instead, the Sohmas turned Sawa into a member of the student government, the acme of Japanese high school life (at least according to manga). Things seem to be going swimmingly, but of course that can’t last, and in this volume, another Sohma shows up to roil the waters. This sequel to Fruits Basket has only three volumes, so it doesn’t offer as much depth as the original, but it is fun to spend some time with the descendants of the original characters.
Delicious in Dungeon, Vol. 6, by Ryoko Kui
Delicious in Dungeon marries two classic manga genres, dungeon fantasy and foodie manga, to create an interesting hybrid: this band of adventurers doesn’t just slay monsters, they eat them. Like most foodie manga, this series isn’t just about ingredients and recipes but also about clever ways of preparing food and, of course, the emotional connections it creates. It’s all done with a light touch, as Kui plays each situation for laughs and keeps coming up with stranger and stranger situations for the underground gourmets. Six volumes in, the storyline has deepened quite a bit beyond the initial setup, so you’ll definitely want to start at the beginning.
The Complete Art of Fullmetal Alchemist, by Hiromu Arakawa
This is big, beautiful art book draws together all of Arakawa’s non-story art—covers, chapter openings, promotional pieces, etc.—from the Fullmetal Alchemist manga series, which ran from 2001 to 2010 in Japan. Each chapter covers a year of the original series, and a 30-page additional chapter features pieces from the series’ lengthy afterlife (Viz is currently republishing it in deluxe hardcover editions). There’s also an afterword from the creator herself, making this a great gift for fans of the manga and the anime.
I Hear the Sunspot: Limit, Vol. 1, by Yuki Fumino
In an endnote to the first volume of this series, I Hear the Sunspot, Fumino confesses that she didn’t know it was supposed to be a BL manga until after she started it. That is exactly what made it so good—it didn’t cling to the tropes of the genre but felt like a genuinely fresh love story between Kohei, who is misunderstood because of his deafness, and Taichi, a cheerful, carefree, bro-type. Fumino also added to the complexity of the story by showing the same events from both characters’ points of view. This followup volume tracks the two as their lives take separate trajectories—Kohei to school, Taichi to work—while they continue to grow together as a couple.
Battle Angel Alita: Holy Night, by Yukito Kishiro
Kodansha continues to fill out its Battle Angel Alita catalog with this collection of four short stories, presented in a 300-page hardcover volume with a larger trim size than most manga. All the stories date from 1997-2006, after the original series ended. And yes, the title story is a Christmas story—or at least, it’s set at Christmas, and there’s snow.
Wonderland, Vol. 1, by Yugo Ishikawa
High schooler Yukko wakes up one morning to find that she is teeny-tiny. That sounds cute, but the story gets disturbing in a hurry when the consequences of small size become extremely real: Yukko’s cat kills her parents before her eyes, tossing them around like toys, and she realizes that the world is suddenly filled with mortal danger. Wearing her doll’s clothes and riding on the back of her faithful dog Poco, Yukko heads out to find that she is surrounded by confused, scared, hostile, tiny people—including a paint-thinner-crazed gang. She makes a few friends, including an odd girl dressed like an anime character whom she takes to be a cosplayer, but she also sees the military rounding up the shrunken people and gassing them. Wonderland brings some strange twists to the survival story—the tiny people hide themselves in plush bears, seemingly bringing them to life—and the story is both dark and fascinating.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days: The Novel, by Tomoco Kanemaki, Tetsuya Nomura, and Kazushige Nojima
Kingdom Hearts is a series of video games that feature favorite Disney characters going on adventures with original characters. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is one of those games, and this book is a light novel based on the story of that game. It’s a good value, particularly for fans of the franchise, as it was originally published as a trilogy in Japan; for those who can’t get enough of all things Kingdom Hearts, there’s a manga adaptationas well.
The Hero and His Elf Bride Open a Pizza Parlor in Another World, by Kaya Kizaki and Shiso
Like many light novels, this book features a nebbishy guy surrounded by women who are way too much for him, all in a world that is straight out of RPGs. But this one also has pizza! Kaito, our hero, is hit by a pizza delivery bike (irony!) and dies. When he arrives in the central clearing office for the afterlife, he is offered the opportunity to be a hero in three different worlds, but two of the choices are snatched away and he is dispatched to make pizzas for elves. That may not sound very heroic, but the elves actually are starving, and Kaito is given not only the materials to make pizza, but a pretty girl to help him. The whole thing is grinningly over the top, putting it firmly into the light-novels-that-are-spoofs-of-light-novels category, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with that, and Kizaki and Shiso pull it off nicely.
What new manga is on your list for November?