Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Covering Sunday April 2018 Edition

It's nice being able to pick these up on my own, as now I feel like I can consistently talk about the covers a few days after they've been released in Japan. I also think (when possible) that I'll talk about the sales of the new releases in the same entry to keep things interesting! I say "When possible" simply because I depend on other people to get this info, as numbers are definitely out of my purview. If they don't have any info for me, I can't talk about it. Anyway, lets start things off with some of those accurse--er, blessed numbers.

Souboutei #8 - 4→7→11
ZKC #51 - 20→29→34

Birdmen #12 - 26→30→38

Yugami-kun #13 - 27→33→48

Ariadne #1 - 45→50→64

Hatsukoi #11 - 52→72→127

Xeno #1 - 154→175→189

Marry Grave #1 - 249→224→284

So marked in Green are the newcomers and the numbers represent their positions on the sales charts starting on the 18th of the month when they were released. So for example, Souboutei was 4th on the sales charafts and as time went by, (until about this weekend or so.) it went from that to seventh to eleventh. So not too terrible for it, no, actually that's pretty good considering. Granted, it, ZKC (Zettai Karen Children) and Birdmen are all by veteran artists so it's probably not at all surprising they're doing so well --though Ariadne is in the same bot even if it's by an author from another publisher, and not only that, one from the publisher, Shueisha. Not surprising that it's doing well, no? So that leaves Xeno and Marry grave -- Their numbers are way lover than everything else above, but being by new artists (Kyouichi Nanatsuki is a veteran writer, but it's Teppei Sugiyama's artwork that will be people's first impression of Xeno), it's not surprising. It did take me off guard a bit to see Xeno doing better than MG --especially since I heard the reception for the mystery series wasn't that great. So where does that leave these newbies? Not quite in the lurch since if the other serials after them (Memesis, Cawaii, 008, switch, Magia, Sekai, and Zero) all do badly then it's likely these two will stick around. Also Akuto is ending within the month, ZKC is on it's final arc, Daiku is likely to end soon, and Saike probably only has an arc or two left. As a note, when I was gathering materials for this entry, I saw that Hatsukoi Zombie's next volume is due for release in June despite a release this month, which suggests it might be ending soon. So for now if you like Xeno and MG, you don' thave to worry too much about them, but I suggest keeping them in your thoughts and more importantly your wallet if you have a spare buck or three. 

So since I started talking about them above, let's start with the newbies --with Marry grave leading the pack. There's something about this cover that's....not shounen? I'm not sure how to put it, honestly. I just feel like this is a manga I'd expect out of a seinen magazine looking at this cover, maybe it's the large text accompanied by a simple (and very effective) visual. It helps too that Yamaji's artwork is extremely detailed, eschewing the sometimes more simplistic and stylish flair a lot of shounen manga go for. No, rather than style, Yamaji goes for something more "realistic" for the lack of a better term. Unfortunately the cover does suffer from being a little too simple and thus not really illustrating what the series is about at first glance which is necessary for a new serial to do, especially in a magazine like Sunday that doesn't have the pedigree of others. Still, it's a good cover that I like a lot.

Next is Xeno which, ah. I can kind of get what they were going for with this, but man is that red box not doing this cover any favors. I'm not a big fan of the logo obscuring the artwork on volume covers, especially when it's as garish as this. Now, to be fair if they turn this into a motif, it'll probably work really well, I think --with each cover either with Xeno or another character looking head on into the "camera" and the box being different colors (hopefully). Sugiyama's color artwork is pretty great, especially for a newbie(?), so I would have liked to see this without the center box, but again, I get that as a mystery manga you're not supposed to get too much information from the cover. Just wish this had been executed a smidgen better.

I've ragged on Ariadne's color artwork before, but I honestly really like this one. The logo take up the back as it should, the two main characters are front and center, and the floating island as well as the shadowed out characters in the back keep a high level of intrigue. Not only that, but I think the muted colors of Rashil and Leane complement Yagi's artwork greatly. I think it's fair to say that this is the cover of the month for me --it's bright, but not too bright, the composition is great, and the logo is elegant yet subtle. Not only that but the manga has improved greatly in the last few chapters too so that potential the series had feels like it's back in full force and that fills me with hope that the Ariadne will soar once again.

Zanka takes up the 8th volume of Souboutei in a slightly less bold cover at least compared to the ones we've had in the past. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't make it bad at all, just a little less impressive than most. Still, Fujita's composition is in great form with the bold title in English and Japanese on top, and the choice of using Japanese lettering for the volume numbers gives it this old fashioned vibe which compliments the time shenanigans in the series proper. 

Hatsukoi Zombie's cover composition wise is simple --as most of them are, but Minenami's strength is color, and that is represented very well with the lighting and soft yet vibrant colors on this cover. The whole thing has this soft glow that I particularly like, even if my issues with the logo and how it's placed still remain as they have with the past covers of this particular work. At least this time around the volume # is less intrusive, but I feel like the title of the manga could be a little smaller and placed on one side. Still, the expert use of tone and lighting should be noted.

Birdmen's covers are what I'd like to see out of Xeno's if it's going for a similar motif. I am a little sad that Tanabe didn't go with something more complex like her Kekkaishi Covers, but I think this works for Birdmen which feels more "modern" than Kekkaishi, even if the latter took place in the present (of the time of release.) Kekkaishi was old-timey in a sense, while Birdmen feels like an up and coming story so it makes sense that the logo and cover designs have this very streamlined "pop-art" feel. The important thing here of course is that Tanabe has the logo positioned that it compliments her strong character designs, and her name is there, but not obtrusive. This is 12 volumes in, so we know who she is, after all.

Maybe I should have an award for "Covers that really make me wish I kept up with this manga". If so, ZKC would be a shoo-in. I have no idea what's going on here, but the really cute animal versions of the lead girls has me intrigued. Takashi Shiina had upgraded the logo for the final arc, and it still looks really nice. Granted the white space does leave a bit to be desired, but his strong artwork bridges the gap somewhat. I also like that the logo, his name, and the volume # all lean to the side as so not to get in the way of the artwork, which works wonderfully. 

Through no fault of it's own, Yuugami just barely missed volume of the month. The only nitpick I have with this cover is the volume# being so huge, but otherwise splitting the logo to keep it from getting in the way of the artwork, Sakurai's name being regaled to the side as to keep things from being cluttered, and the composition/BG of the work are all wonderfully done, plus seeing the Yuugami siblings together is really nice too. Overall this is one of my favorite covers of the series, simply because it knows what it wants to show and accomplishes it well. I do think the tiny Chihiro is a bit superfluous as by the #13th volume we don't need a reminder of who she is, but again minor nitpicks. You were close Yuugami, but not quite this month!

A bit of Deja vu with Maiko-san's fifth volume, though I think I know why --it's very similar to a color page the series recently had, and I think that's by design. In fact, "similar" doesn't cut it. It's exactly the same, and I just noticed it! It's a sort of before and after scene here, with the one on the left being the color page from chapter 64 and the right volume 5. I really like how Koyama connects events here. As this series is sold under the "Sunday Comics Special" imprint, I wonder if the color page from the magazine will be included in the volume? Hm. In any case, I like the creative use of color page and cover here. Also, that Koyama uses traditional media(?) as the BG characters and architecture look like they were drawn with watercolor rather than computers. Like Souboutei before this, it gives this old-fashioned vibe which really helps sell how quaint Makanai is as a series.

Last but not least is Maoujo's 7th volume. Kumanomata seems to find a way to make these even more elegant and cute with each release. The green hue is it's greatest strength and weakness to me, however. It works for the border where the title and the author's name are, but not so much for the BG for Sakkyun and the princess, I think. It would have been better if Kumanomata had gone with more traditional coloring for the BG --like a night or day scene or even just the castle proper. Still the elegant cuteness that is this series is still covered (hah) well here, and I can't wait to see how the artwork will improve in the future.

That's it for the covers (and sales) this month! What was your favorite and why? Hit me up in the comments with your opinions, and look forward to the proper blog entry in a few hours. See you then! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Weekly Shounen Sunday #21 (2018)

There's always time for Sunday! Mostly because it's built right into one's schedule, but still, this little book is filled with big things, and I'm glad to be your guide! Ready? Let's go!

Rocking out on the Cover is Conan, Amuro, and the singer of the 22nd movie's theme --Masaharu Fukuyama! Along with that is the premiere of the 2nd of 3 new serials --Chrono Magia! This cover looks pretty awesome, though I think I'm just happy to see Aoyama's clean and charming artwork on a cover again!

Now calling collect for the TOC.

Chrono Magia by Fujiko Dosei (New Series/ Lead color)
Detective Conan by Gosho Aoyama (Chapter 1010)
Switch by Atsushi Namikiri (Chapter 2)
Komi-san wa Komyushou desu by Tomohito Oda (Chapter 138)
Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san by Aiko Koyama (Center Color/Chapter 64)
Be Blues by Motoyuki Tanaka (Chapter 329)
Amano Megumi wa Suki darake by Nekoguchi (Chapter 119)
Shinigami Bocchan to Kuro Maid by Koharu Inoue (Special Mini chapter).
Tonikaku Cawaii by Kenjirou Hata (Chapter 11)
Hatsukoi Zombie by Ryou Minenami (Chapter 122)
Kimi wa 008 by Syun Matsuena (Chapter 9)
Maoujou de Oyasumi by Kagiji Kumanomata (Chapter 97)
Aozakura bouei daigakkou no monogatari by Hikaru Nikaidou (Chapter 86)
Yuugami-kun ni wa tomodachi ga inai by Jun Sakurai (Center Color/ Chapter 69)
Detective Xeno to Nanatau no Satsujin misshitsu Art by Kyouichi Nanatsuki/ Art by Teppei Sugiyama (Chapter 19)
Tenshi and Akuto by Aya Hirakawa (Chapter 161)
Marry Grave by Hidenori Yamaji (Chapter 17)
Memesis by Takuya Yagyuu (Chapter 8)
Daiku no Hatou by Michiteru Kusaba (Chapter 47)
Hoankan Evans no Uso ~Dead or Love~ by Mizuki Kuriyama (Chapter 51)
Souboutei Kowasubeshi by Kazuhiro Fujita (Chapter 98)
Sokyuu no Ariadne by Norihiro Yagi (Chapter 18)
K.O.I King of Idol by Tamaki Wakaki (Chapter 42)
Shinobi no by Rokurou Ogaki (Chapter 37)
Youkai Giga by Satsuki Satou
Tokaichi Hitoribocchi nouen by Yuuji Yokoyama (Chapter 19)

Not in this issue:

Major 2nd
Zettai Karen Children

Shinobi no, where have you found yourself? It's sad to see Pops fall and crash land in the basement for the first time in his career, but we can just hope that perhaps for now it's a temporary set back due to Saike being away for now, and the new series/Conan's return causing things to get Topsy-turvy-- is what I'd like to say, but other than Memesis being dangerously low, this TOC is about as normal as it gets, even with the color pages augmenting things. I'm still suprised to see that it' Xeno doing the best out of it's respective serial round, in all honesty --I thought that'd go to Ariadne but all it took was one slip up for it to be fighting for the right to tell it's tale. The new volumes are out this week, so it should be the final nail/salvation for these series, and I'll probably have more to talk about then.

In a rare twist of fortunes, rather than a beauty being the pinup of the week, we have Mr. Fukuyama doing double duty as singer of the movie theme, and sporting quite a look in this week's Sunday. Born in Nagasaki in Feburary 6th 1969, he debuted in 1990 with "Tsuioku no Ame no Naka" or "In the rain of recollection" The movie theme for Detective Conan: Zero's Enforcer" will be called "Zero" and at least for now will only be distributed digitally. 

So to begin with I know almost nothing about the cellphone game that inspired this manga mostly because I have no interest in Cellphone games of any type. (I guess if anyone was at all interested in learning about the person behind this blog, then there you go.) So I'm going into this as someone who's a Sunday enthusiast, and, well, an enthusiast of the author Fujiko Dousei who was once an assistant to my favorite artist --the man behind Saike; Tsubasa Fukuchi. Dousei once had a manga in WSS named "Sensou Gekijou" or "Wartime Theater" which despite the ominous sounding name was a pretty cute manga about a girl and the trope of her "good side" and "evil side" having a war to determine which decisions she makes in her life. (Okay that still sounds ominous, but it's cute, I swear.) So now to this series --admittedly I'm a little disappointed that Dousei returned to do an adaptation of a cellphone game rather than a original series, but her art still remains adorable, and while I'm not sure where this series is headed, it has an interesting enough premiere chapter and admittedly the tagline of it being a "Card battle/romantic comedy" is unique at the very least. Let's flip our cards to read mode and head in. 

Inumaru Shiba (An obvious play on the "Shiba" dog species) is your....ah, let's be honest, this dude is a little off kilter even if he means well. He's surrounded by three scenarios of people in trouble --An old lady stuck in traffic, a little girl who's balloon has gotten away from her, and a dog who's drowning. It's great how one of the people on the page in color on the left is like "Isn't it weird that all of this is happening at once?!" Dousei has a great sense of humor that's seen throughout this chapter, from Inumaru actually trying to save everyone by using people such as the old lady as items to save others, or the fact that it actually sort of works...

Until it doesn't. Turns out using old ladies as boomerangs and mentally scarring little kids while popping their balloons and almost drowning a dog by falling onto it while it's drowning are things that people don't usually appreciate. Inumaru can't understand why he's treated like this despite trying to save everyone. A tiny voice explains it quite simply---

It's because he's a moron, the worst kind of moron. She also says he's her "partner", and she can't believe she got stuck with a moron like him. This tiny lass is Karin, and she entered Inumaru's life only a few days ago, when he got a mysterious package in the mail with strange trading cards --one of which came to life! 

Inumaru thinks it's just a well made doll and pokes her profusely until the doll speaks and threatens to kill him. For whatever reason Karin was sent to be Inumaru's partner, but he's not exactly the brightest bulb in the package, so Karin suggests they just go to where they need to be rather than her wasting her breath trying to explain it. So after that brief failure of a detour, the two continue to their destination...

Kurono Academy (A play on Chrono, I assume). Where the upper class elite or those who are of above average intelligence attend. Except that's only half of the story --it's also a place where people go to learn magic! Thanks to the special properties of the gate out front, to people who aren't attending it looks like a normal school, but the truth is all kinds of magic happens behind these closed doors. 

A battle between magical beasts leaves a girl in danger, and Inumaru being the sorta guy he is dives in to save her. For once the other students are kind of impressed by his moxy, but rather than running away like everyone suggests he do, he shows an overwhelming amount of self confidence and stands before the beast challenging it! Too bad it just sorta...kills him, but he turns out to be okay! I wonder if that's just part of a gag or if it's Inumaru's ability of some sort, hmm. In any case Karin tells him to back off because there really isn't anything he can do in this case. 

Inumaru refuses --just because someone "can't" do anything, doesn't mean they "shouldn't"! He rushes right in again as Karin admits he's a big idiot, but perhaps he's an idiot who can get the job done. She tells him to fight fire with fire and use a card rather than throwing his own body in the fray.

After a lot of misunderstandings (Inumaru attacks the monster by stabbing it with the card, and then when Karin shows him how to summon an arrow to fell it, he points the card at himself and nearly kills them both), he finally gets it right and summons a beast to fight alongside them! 

I wouldn't have imagined that Dousei would be talented in drawing monsters as well as she does cute girls, but in a case like this, I don't mind being wrong. Everyone, meet the moon wolf, Hatei. 

Apparently summoning such a strong creature on one's first try is incredible luck(?) as Karin is surprised Inumaru was able to do it. The moon wolf is able to defeat the rampaging monster, and the day is saved --until Inumaru realizes he's been separated from Karin and upon trying to rescue her has the page on the left happen. Ah, there's that romantic comedy bent. 

This brings the first chapter of Chrono Magia to an end as a mysterious girl watches the two from a distance, and the ending text promises that the gears of love and magic have begun to turn. I think this could be a fun little series as long as one tempers their expectations and doesn't go in expecting something more than a tie-in series. I feel like a lot of the disappointment that comes from tie-ins is expecting something totally unrelated or way better than the base work which isn't what these are supposed to be. At most they bring in new fans to a work, and at the least they're just something to enjoy while making a little extra cash. How do I feel? Hm, I don't think my feelings have changed that much from when I heard this had been announced --disappointment that an artist I like is being asked to do a tie-in, but happy to see that they're back in the magazine after so long. I hope this does lead to more work for Dousei soon, but for now it's just great to see her "home", and that her artwork has retained it's cuteness. 

And so the investigation begins in this weeks chapter of Detective Conan. For those who have joined in on my blog during it's absence, first off, thank you for coming! I appreciate it. Second, I don't really go through Conan in great detail mostly because by the time I do spoilers have crept along the internet like the criminals in this manga do when they're trying to hide their crimes. That and Conan is a big enough deal that I don't think I really need to translate the entire chapter for people since there are folks who do it way better than I do! At the same time, it feels remiss to not at least feature the biggest series in Sunday in the blog each week when it's running, so Conan gets short little ditties like this. The case is progressing so far like a Conan one would, though a flashback of Elena Miyano floating to Amuro's consciousness at the end of the chapter does provide a sense of future intrigue that one can't help want more of. Even he's surprised that he'd suddenly remember such a thing, so much so that he doesn't hear Conan asking for his opinion on the case. Considering how things started off last week --with a showdown between he and Akai, I want to believe that these threads will come together and we'll start seeing a bit more plot focus for the series. That being said, Aoyama definitely doesn't seem to be in a hurry to give us more than little pictures of the plot at hand, so maybe tempered expectations should be the best thing going forward. 

Chapter two is here, and it's time to switch on! Last time we left off with Raimu challenging his brother Riku to a basketball shoot off which he, well, loses. Interestingly enough the showdown is shown as a flashback rather than in the present. Also, Namikiri dedicates a lot less time toward what one would think is a pivotal moment between the brothers than one would think as well which is intriguing to me. The speed of the series seems to pretty much be fixed on "breakneck" which I suppose could keep things interesting, even though it's counter what I'm used to from most sports series. Granted, we're also still in their "sports formulative years" as the first color page indicates that at least one of the bros is headed straight to the top, so this speed is a thing to consider from a storytelling perspective. 

The teacher known as "Dekami" which sounds like a nickname if I'm to take a guess noticed the two playing basketball the previous night and is convinced she's seen the birth of a new hoops duo. Raimu says no way, because he can't measure up to his brother, and the teacher --Katou will probably make fun of him again, which prompts Dekami to ask why he seems convinced that he has to delineate his value as based on it's relevance to others. Which is to say --why does he compare his skill to his brothers or what others say when he clearly loves the sport? She then asks Riku why he didn't hold back against his brother in their match the previous night, and why not give him some advice? Riku replies that they're rivals and that was a match between them --implying he has the confidence his brother can see through his own weaknesses and come out on top. 

It's nice getting a look into Raimu's head too as he practices on his own later --as well as Namikiri's artwork and storyboarding. It's not as if he's wrong to compare himself to his brother --after all they started at the same place, so why wouldn't he look at how much stronger his brother is and feel inadiquate? Though to look at it another way, because he was born with a wall to overcome, he understands the necessity of hard work better than those who had nothing to fear until later in their lives. 

As such he has the perfect inspiration and rival as represented here in this page. 

Raimu finds his goal --maybe it isn't a lofty one but it's exactly what he needs to shake himself out of his funk --he wants to become a player worthy of being Riku's rival. The chapter ends with him finally joining the basketball club, and the series "beginning" of sorts. Admittedly I thought this series was going to go down the path of many before it with something happening to Riku to cause Raimu to change and embrace his dreams, but so far Namikiri seems to be taking a different path, which I respect. Granted there's a chance that very well could happen somwhere down the line, but the pacing and artwork have been pretty unique so far, and the twins angle is being handled deftly. The last "obligatory" chapter is next issue, so my own time of decision is drawing near....

The fun spreads like a virus this week on Komi after a mini hiatus on the blog. Though no, in reality it's more about those pesky allergies now that it's spring. I do like that Komi's newest friend Manbagi has integrated into the cast so quickly, but her cold shoulder to Tadano seems weird when she was depicted as someone who wanted friends. Still, as the first friend Komi made on her own, her significance to the plot is not lost on me. This week's chapter is simple in concept, but features the wide cast of characters that we've come to love -- everyone's commiserating over allergies and how unintelligible they sound wearing masks while sniffling over their sicknesses. A conversation Komi can't really join since she's feeling fine, ironically. I can't say I've ever had a conversational hinderance like being well when all of my other friends are sick before, but I assume that would be pretty alienating. Luckily (or unluckily?) for her she also gets a case of allergy sniffles at the end and Tadano (rightfully) asks why she's so happy to be miserable. I guess its true, misery does love company! 

Another rare face in the blog due to scanslations being quite frequent for it is Maiko-san! Of course you know my rules --color pages get covered even if I don't typically talk about the series, so this and the next one get to poke in for an appearance. Admittedly it is kind of a shame I don't have the time to talk about Maiko-san frequently because it is a beautiful series of quiet serenity and charm. Even the color page of Kiyo tripping as she brings back groceries is funny in a cute way. It's also a series that uses it's short format rather effectively --in fact I want to say that more series in this magazine are short format than the typical 18-19 pages, whic is probably why they're able to run a lot more manga, but being able to use that space well is the sign of someone truly in tune with their story. In any case, this week's chapter is about the hair of the Maiko and how one girl is concerned that her hair isn't growing fast enough for her liking. Really it's a whole conversation about hair care, but with Koyama's artwork it's just charming to read. Oh and as far as the "meal of the week" in this chapter, it's "Hot Apple Cider".  Like Komi before it, this chapter is short, sweet and cozy....just without allergies (unless you're allergic to apples, heh.) 

A new character in Shinigami Bocchan? Maybe. Meet Viola who's not afraid to flaunt how cute, elegant, and exciting she is. Oh and fun, don't forget fun. She seems like the type to keep this series interesting at the very least, though this one page special is one where you'd really have to be familiar with the source material for it to be more than just amusing. I'd like to see more of Viola, if I'm to be honest though. 

Hatsukoi Zombie is all about last chances and seizing opportunities this week. I don't read this properly so I can't really speak for the plot, but from reading this chapter, it does seem as if Tarou and Mei who have been dancing between feelings for each other have finally decided to go on a date together! Of course as this is a romantic comedy series, I don't expect their date to go over as simply as that, and with other characters involved in their affairs, I have to wonder who will end up with who in the end, but having this chapter that takes place from Mei's POV and how happy she is to have a chance with the boy she likes is endearing all of it's own. She's the one who proposes the date in the first place, but the chapter ends before we can find out what Tarou's response is. Sadly if you want to know you'd probably have to read it on your own as I'm unable to give this the coverage it so rightfully requires, sorry! Still I'll keep an eye on things, as even though I'm not into this genre, Hatsukoi Zombie has proven quite entertaining from time to time. 

Yuugami's reached a sales milestone, with one million approximate copies in print now with volume 13 out in stores. Kind of weird that at this point it doesn't have an anime or a live action show out there, but I think by now we know how mysterious Sunday adaptions are. More importantly, it seems he might even have a possible Girlfriend? Since the last chapter, Kaori who had a taste of popularity and is now watching it wane due to the tides of the times decides that the best thing to do to maintain her popularity is to go on a date with the popular-thanks-to-going-viral Yuugami, and she wants Chihiro to help. When Chihiro mentions that Kaori has said she doesn't really like Yuugami much in the past, she simply says that she has thought from time to time he may not be that bad, so the possibility of something between them isn't zero! Meanwhile Yuugami's grandmother advises him not to let other people around him change how he thinks --something he doesn't believe is possible, but she says by the time he's noticed it'll be too late --and thanks to going viral, he's got more fans who come to watch him play ball. Although Yuugami is usually unflappable, the shouts of the peanut gallery change the way he plays and thus his grandmother's words return to haunt him. 

So in order to keep himself from changing, Yuugami keeps a notebook of all the things he's noticed around him so that he can see things coming and keep being himself. What makes this whole tragicomedy really tick (besides it being really over the top) is that poor Yuugami just doesn't realize he's gone viral and people are reacting to that rather than his changing or anything like that. Chihiro --bless her heart knows about the video, and thinks to herself that it's wonderful how Yuugami has gone from pariah to darling though the idea of him perhaps leaving due to his new found fame makes her feel a bit lonely. 

Kaori is still trying to get with Yuugami, and when she asks what kind of girls he likes, he replies something along the lines of "Old fashioned performers" since he's really into listening to Rakugo. As such she tries to get on his good side by writing an old fashioned love letter --but without a single ounce of feeling in it whatsoever, which makes sense since she hasn't had any interest in him up until now at all, something Chihiro dutifully points out. So Kaori incensed asks Chihiro to write the letter, and surprisingly enough even she can't write anything with feeling....

The story takes a reflective turn when Chihiro actually thinks about her interactions with Yuugami up until now, and the letter starts to take shape. This is actually helpful to a reader like me who hasn't been with the series from the start --I had no idea Chihiro was a transfer in and the other students warned her about Yuugami and how distant and flaky he is. It really helps me understand their dynamic in ways I hadn't before I started writing about the series monthly. She even recalls a time he was injured playing baseball but wouldn't ask for anyone's help, instead relying on his own strength to get through things with that trademark half hearted grin of his. She admits that she felt...happy seeing him like that. 

In the end Yuugami's claim to fame ends when a popluar attraction --a Dolphin goes viral, and his time on TV is reduced to a footnote. Even Kaori gets in on this by taking a picture with said Dolphin and exploding on social media, reducing Yuugami to being who he was before all of this happened. Yet when Chihiro teases him about never changing, Yuugami points out she's the same, as they both share a smile. Sometimes in our need to change and be different, we forget that there are some unchanging things that are special as well, so don't rush off to be someone different if you don't have to! One thing that doesn't change is that Yuugami is a monthly series in a weekly magazine, so we weon't be seeing him again until Issue 26 out on May 23rd. Until then, stay you and stay cool. 

Oddly after Yuugami went out of it's way to proclaim that not changing isn't a bad thing, Xeno starts off by changing up a whole lot. Number one, the case begins with the scene of the crime, the victim, and the perpetrator all on the first set of pages. Next, this doesn't seem to be a murder committed in a sealed room, so that's a deviation away from Xeno's normal modus operandi, and last the SFX on the right page is in roman lettering --okay, that last one is pretty minor, but still new for this series. Also, it's new that the series is giving us the murderer and the murder weapon --so we're going Columbo style into this one, where the story is more about Xeno getting clues and figuring out what we already know. All we know from these opening pages is that the victim is Noe Satou, and she was apparently a stalker? 

As the story marches on, we get more info about the murderer herself --Lune/Rune (I'll go with the former because that's what she names her brand after), who is a fashion designer and model. She ws preparing to put out a new product, but this woman --Satou was in her way somehow, and had to be eliminated. Lune's personality is pretty forceful and self righteous, so it seems at least at first glance that she would be the type who'd commit murder if she felt it would further her own goals, and she immediately works on getting rid of the body without blinking an eye --not only that she takes a phone call from her secretary, who also reiterates that the stalker is in the area. Little does she know that Lune has already "taken care" of her. She dumps the body in the sea, and coldly plans her next moves --not returning to her studio right away, and going every which way just to return to her studio the next morning after a jog so that she doesn't look suspicious. It's actually a bit chilling since as far as we know, this is her first murder, yet with this much planning it seems like she had been prepared to do this for some time. 

What this new set up brings us in regard to new content in Xeno is cool as well --see, because in normal Xeno cases we start off with the protagonists, we learn things from their point of view, and only find out the criminal's thoughts and motives in the form of a info dump at the end when the case is solved. Since we're beginning with the culprit this time around we get more into their head as a consequence. As Lune flops into bed after a night of hard work, she sees a woman enshrouded in darkness --Satou screaming something she can't hear. Very creepy and unsettling --like Lune's cold nature until now, but extremely good at setting this case apart from the ones before it. Lune is awakened later by a very familiar face at her door yelling for a small box of some kind immediately --Xeno's making a house call, but before he will explain why he's here, he needs a box for a rare bug he's found --a Granida albolineata. It's kind of cute to see Xeno so hyped over bug hunting, but that can't be the only reason he's here. 

Turns out he's been hired to find Satou after her car was found in Tokyo, and since it was public knowledge she was stalking Lune, his thought was to question her first. Unfortunately for her, she's left the murder weapon out in plain view despite being sure that she hid it somewhere safe. Her mind is adrift, wondering if she brought it here, or if she hid it, or if it was Xeno who brought it out? Who knows? Though at this point there's only one thing to do --amateurs would deny and act suspicious, but Lune rides the wave and consents to assist Xeno with his investigation despite her shame being right before his eyes. Are we going to get a battle of wits between the two? Considering what we've seen so far of Lune, she might just be able to give Xeno a challenge in how calculating she is --though this huge slip-up is interesting too. I find it hard to believe she'd really screw up this badly without there being a reason for it, and that Xeno wouldn't be upon this blunder with laser like focus. For now, the game is afoot, and I'm ready to see these two go at it. 

Now this is the content I was hoping for from Tenshi and Akuto, even though it's not as if I've completely been cold to the romantic developments in the series as of late. Nari and Akuto have finally returned to the stage now that the larger part of their scandal has been put behind them, and even if they are a couple, they're a couple with something to prove! They're back to recording lines and have turned this into a competition --as Akuto realizes this is the first time he's been able to directly compete with his inspiration/girlfriend Nari, and don't let her cute looks fool you, she's just as competitive as he is. Why, even Tokiko tamaki from the previous "Sugar Girls" arc comes in to get Akuto's engines revving, setting the stage for one heck of a competition! This is a gig that's going to be on a Universal (studios) level, so of course the two have to be ready to bring their all! 

However before they can kick that into gear, Nari says to Akuto there's a place she wants them to go together, and the side text there says that the "countdown to the climax" has begun. How many more chapters does Tenshi and Akuto have until it's conclusion? I'm sure if someone is counting the chapters in each volume that it's easy enough to figure out (and by all means if you know please hit up that comment box), but I haven't been keeping track so I have no idea. Still it's been basically telegraphed that the series is in it's end stages so I don't think it's a stretch to imagine that we'll be bidding farewell to this unique voice acting battle/romance manga in the immediate future. 

After a stint with Rozalie, Marry Grave returns to it's roots with Sawyer and Jean discussing the former. I think it's incredibly good content that Rozalie was in her own right a fearsome warriror, but what makes this even better is Sawyer had absolutely no idea. Like I guess none of us really noticed, but he's just as surprised as everyone else when he hears stories about his wife's bravado, so when Jean asks him why he's just as in the dark as everyone else, he explains it's because he really had no idea she was so tough. That gets me wondering just how they met --a story I hope Yamaji will tell, or more likely, will have time to tell. I'm really nervous about first volume sales, ya'll.  Though Sawyer does admit he did feel like she was hiding things from him, but didn't realize they were on this level. Not that he has a problem with this, at all mind you! The two travel a bit more and find a corpse with a particular emblem emblazened on their clothes, one Jean recognizes. Apparently this hapless person was a member of the "Grave church". A secret religious sect that had many followers but remained on the outskirts of history acting suspiciously --possibly teaming to do something major in the future. Have we found our antagonistic group? In any case, Sawyer gives his regards to the corpse and the two head off again but find a rather large impediment as seen above. 

The duo think it's just a stone statue until it starts talking, and accuses Sawyer of being a mountain bandit. He manages to explain they're travelers, which prompts the giant soldier to ask if they're after the things it's master gathered and that it stands protecting even now. Sawyer is amazed and figures out this must be a "Golem", a being who lives off magic stored in it's own body. That's amazing and everything, but Jean rightfully says they have to get going --they've got to gather the ingredients for the Deadman's recipe, and don't have time to waste here! The Golem seems interested in this "deadman's recipe", but attacks Sawyer when he confirms he's on a quest to revive someone. 

According to Golem here, their master said that a great calamity would befall the world should the deadman's recipe so they gatehered as many as they can, stuffed them into Golem and had it guard them from the wrong hands. --And again I'm surprised that this book seems to be so...common? I dunno, I just sort of thought that it was a mystical artifact, but the more Marry Grave unfolds, the more this book seems like a common thing in this world. Golem threatens Sawyer's life, claiming his is a life that shouldn't still exist, and thus should be purged. Till next week...!!

Memesis starts in medias res, with Kijira finding himself in a pretty precarious predicament. Ash and Rose are out for the count and they're in enemy territory. The trio are in the poisonous clutches of the boss of this land --Kinogon and it's not about to let them walk out with their lives. Rose and Ash are poisoned, and it's the latter of those two who knows the healing spell "Gedogeru" which will save them from succumbing to their injuries. With no way to use the spell himself, Kijira has no choice but to hide his friends and dive into battle himself! He notices the mushrooms dotting the nearby landscape, and decides on a desperate gambit --Terasurul, a light magic. 

Yagyuu's got this interesting hodgepodge of treating this like a video game and an action manga at the same time....which I guess isn't mutually exlcusive considering the tropes both employ, but I feel like it enhances things with Memesis more than it does other manga of it's type. Like it just makes it all that much more hilarious when Ash suggests using light magic to dry up the poisonous mushroom monster, and Kijira compares it to doing laundry and putting it up to dry like that's some kind of attack, haha. Eventually he's able to directly approach the mushroom boss and applying the light spell to it directly, chopping it away with the Gedogeru spell until it's back to being a friendly monster, who gives them a "helpful drug" for their troubles. 

...that turns the guys into girls. Apparently the Lord of the territory --Hedoro only allows women to pass through to the castle, so in order for them to get through, they'll have to take girly forms as seen above. In fact, the whole area is known as a "Mummy Woman" nest. Clocking in at 12 pages this week, Memesis is short, but again well paced so I have no complaints! That being said, I cannot tell a lie --female Ash is kinda cute. Next issue's preview text says that it'll be a "erotic" adventure, so that's a thing that's gonna happen whether we're ready for it or not. 

A new character, a new mission, and new intrigue. Evans has it all this week! Pheebs shows up not surprised that Evans is after the escaped prisoner Clinton Morris who has a bounty on his head, except Evans doesn't feel like capturing criminals at all. What happened to his morale? The answer will probably surprise you less than you'd think! 

To give a rundown of why Abby Earp --introduced last chapter is here, it would seem that while it's true the bounty hunters have a lead on Morris, the guy hiding out is actually someone completely different, and the Government wants to keep this under wraps while moving him out of the country. As of now they have one person escorting the other guy, but once he leaves the hideout his life is in danger as the bounty hunters will undoubtedly be after him. So Evans job is to protect this guy from them....a major deal that he immediately accepts much to his own chagrin. 

Unfortunately for Evans things get really complicated when several bounty hunters show up to grab Morris, including Pheebs. It's looking like every bounty hunter for themselves, and one guy, Graves the "Immortal Deadman" takes the lead up the hill, just to find that it's booby trapped --by Evans. See, he figures the easiest thing to do is to keep the Bounty Hunters from reaching the hideout so he dug traps the night before. At least he's able to hold Pheebs back from falling into one of the, but Graves isn't quite so lucky.

It's at this critical juncture that Abby shows up with news for Evans --it's time for departure! Except this is bad news for Pheebs as she recognizes Abby at the girl from before! Not only is she in the dark about Morris, but Abby and Evans' relationship which is bound to make the wild west just that much wilder next week.

I think I can officially say that this time outside of the Souboutei has proven to be more interesting than what's going on inside of the house, but that's like comparing something amazing to something phenominal, honestly. I don't mean to say this as a slight to the group struggling inside of the house, just....I love all of these characters, and being able to see the ones left out has been so rewarding, even if their circumstances aren't ideal. They're still very much under lock and key when the threat of the Souboutei is looming outside, all that much fearsome after Takoha's ghostly warning. 

So the question that's building up here now is how do they slip from their constraints to the house in question? Yadogi tries telling the man running things --Madarme the truth that she got a ghostly message from Takoha who's still in the house of the incoming doom headed their way if they don't act quickly. Not surprisingly, Madarame doesn't believe a thing she says, and she replies that she has no more to tell him then. I kind of read this as a warning "Listen, I told you what needs to be done, and tried to involve you in it, but if you're not going for it, then I'll do what I must with or without you." The two are superior (Madarame) and subordinate (Yadogi) and acting in the best interests that they know, but we know how hierarchy can get in the way of what needs to happen. Still, I like it that they aren't outright antagonistic to each other, lending well to a sense of believable strain between them. 

Bullet (Barret?) charms one of the nurses into telling him information in regard to their prison of sorts, and getting a single phone The group is on 24/7 surveillance, and thus under the strict guard of the facilities' employees. This unseen "pressure" is intended to keep them from doing anything untoward, at least on the surface, but a plan is cooking within the minds of the group as they act nonchalant. 

And then before anyone knows what happens, the plan is sprung. Auguste uses his ability to shut down the surveillance cameras, Mary --a psychic with pyromaniac tendencies heats up the triggers of the guns so that they're too hot to touch, and Frol takes the ID's of the personnel, allowing them to leave through the guarded entrances. This sudden attack trips the alarm of the main buildings, and the jail break is now public knowledge around the facility. The survivors from the Souboutei are now on their way back, and are willing to roll right over anyone who gets in their way. Fujita said recently that there are only "one or two mountains to cross" before Souboutei reaches its ending, which jives with some of the notes in the volumes that the story has already passed it's halfway mark, and that this wasn't meant to be a long manga like his other works. I can kind of see it, honestly --once this group reaches the house, I can't imagine there's much more to do than to group together and take down Sakamaki and the aliens. Either way I'm in for the wild ride until the end, so do what you gotta Fujita. 

Many I've talked to have said that they're into Ariadne because of the artwork, and while I respect Yagi's sense of panelwork and character designs, I didn't really see what they meant by artwork until this week's chapter --there's a lot going on in this fight between fists and firepower. Not only that, by the end of the chapter, Rashil's past as a "photon carrier" seems to be coming into play as the guy he's up against seems to want revenge against them. What kind of past does he have with them? That being said, I know this is an awfully short entry, but it was all action this week on Ariadne, which allows for Yagi's art to shine, but my concern about the last time Rashil got into a fight rears itself yet again. Will this one be a lot less lopsided? The potential of world-building and character development have me intrigued, but Yagi's past folly still remains fresh in my mind. I do hope that Ariadne is able to recover since it was the series with the most potential out of the last few serializations. 

Shinobi no is almost last up on the lineup, but this has to be one of the most exciting chapters of the series on a narrative standpoint, and for me as a Gintama fan who's still a fledgling in learning about Japanese historical figures. I do know Okada a little from the aforementioned Gintama, though as with many of the figures featured there and here, his depiction is wildly different. Though this isn't a Gintama comparison post so we'll stick to the facts from this chapter --Okada wants to take Siebold in for his bounty as the Grim Reaper. Pops can't have any of that and grabs Okada, but he smells...reeks. He simply reeks, and it's so bad that it knocks Pops off his feet, and Okada stating his dislike of children knocks Toudou away before he can intervene. 

Now the timeline gets a little weird since things seem to skip forward with Todou waking up a bit later to see a girl watching over him. In the meantime, Pops and Okada wrestle over the German doctor, with neither of them getting a leg up for long. Okada is as freakishly strong and fast as Pops is clever. Eventually Okada makes a leap too far and goes right over a waterfall, declaring that the next time he meets up with Pops he'll be the winner. Pops doesn't have much luck this time however, as he goes over the falls with the doc in tow, but they survive much to their fortune --that doesn't last very long. 

The girl from earlier appears and asks Pops if he'd like to play. Now, as the one somewhat reliable narrator in this series, when Pops gets the heebie jeebies about something, it's usually a legitimate threat --and his spider sense goes off when seeing the girl, to the point that he tells the doc to run while he takes care of this. He knows she's no ordinary little girl, to which she responds if he plays with her, he'll find out. She's able to thrust upon him three times in one movement, and Pops realizes he's in big trouble against an opponent like this --except then another one appears --and then another! And then another!  And then another! Soon Pops is completely surrounded, and these warriors are all extremely strong. 

Ladies and Gents of my blog, I'd like to introduce you to the Shinsengumi! Yup, that Shinsengumi. Going from left to right in the image above, we have Toshizou HIjikata, Isami Kondo, Keisuke Yamanami, Souji Okita, Sanosuke Harada, and Shinpachi Nagakura. For more about the Shinsengumi, here's their Wikipedia link though I admittedly only know their Gintama counterparts, their names are ubiquitous enough that I feel like anyone who likes anime/manga at least a little have heard them in other places. Having them appear in Shinobi no isn't a surprise for that reason, but it's still rather exciting! And yes, at least for now Ogaki's version of Okita is a lady. Granted due to the depictions of Okita in other manga/anime (and real life apparently) I can imagine this being a bait and switch of some kind, although I really hope it isn't. After all, Pops himself said that she's a girl, and again he's the one reliable narrator in all of this. Either way, he's in a perilous situation with all of them staring down at him at once, and no back-up. Interestingly enough Toudou was a member of the Shinsengumi in real life, and from what I can see, Okada has nothing to do with them in real life, and so far in Shinobi no as well. How do they figure in with the legend of the Grim Reaper here, and how will Pops get out of this one? 

This week's Youkai Giga features the Tatami Tataki, a Yokai that makes a sound similar to tapping tatami floors at night. Other than that, not much is known about the Yokai or why it does what it does, but at least in the case of the one featured in this week's chapter, it does the tapping for the sake of protecting people's smiles --or so it thinks. The poor girl in this story just wants to sleep, but the Tatami Tataki insists that she tell it her own worries, but she says that compared to others her concerns are minuscule, so she's fine. The youkai won't take no for an answer however, and says it'll keep at the t-t-t-tatami tapping until she has a problem it can solve --even if it takes all night. If only she could just tell the little youkai that her problem is in 

That's it for issue #21! Next time Hiroshi Fukuda's new series "The world after _____" will begin, and Birdmen, Tonikaku Cawaii, and Ariadne will all receive color pages. As Fukuda's new series was the one I was looking forward to most of this set of serials, I can't wait for this issue to come out and for the mystery of the title among other things to be revealed. Until then, take care and keep Sunday-ing!