Manga Monday: Sakura’s Dedication Vol. 1

Series: Sakura’s Dedication #1
Author/Artist: Fuyu Yukimiya
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: February 22, 2022
Received: NetGalley

It’s that time again! Manga Monday. Next up on my list is Sakura’s Dedication Vol. 1. This one looked super cute, and sometimes that is good enough for me.

Not all relationships last. Unfortunately, that is a lesson that Sawa just learned the hard way after having to break up with her cheating (now ex) boyfriend. The responsible thing to do now would be to take time for herself and heal.

Only Sakura has another plan in mind. He quickly makes his move, confessing his love to Sawa. Her rejection isn’t enough to deter him, as he shows his unending dedication to their potential romance.

Um. I don’t like that Sakura’s Dedication Vol. 1 essentially reinforces the whole “ask her out until she says yes” idea. It isn’t healthy. I was hoping for a cute or heartwarming story, and instead, all I got was creep vibes.

To sum up: Sakura waited until Sawa was recently single (and emotionally compromised), didn’t take her no for an answer, and constantly approached her. Worse, I didn’t get the impression that they were all that close before this, meaning it wasn’t worth his time to get to know her until she was single. I don’t like that vibe, not at all.

Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Manga Monday: Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You Vol. 1

Series: Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You
Author/Artist: Haruka Mitsui
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: November 16, 2021
Received: NetGalley

Who doesn’t love a sweet romantic manga with a slow-burning plot? That’s what readers will get if they pick up Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You Vol. 1written and illustrated by Haruka Mitsui. Oh, I should mention that this read will be perfect for fans of the friends-to-lovers trope.

Mizuha has had the same group of friends since she was a kid. They’re all super close, even now that they’re steadily growing up. All five kids have grown into attractive teenagers, though Mizuha has only ever seen the four boys as her best friends.

That is, right up until Kizuki confesses his feelings for Mizuha. Now she’s confused and struggling to process her feelings while dealing with the pressure his presence provides.

Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You Vol. 1 is a sweet and slow-burning romance, one that could easily last a dozen volumes if the creator felt so inclined. Mizuha is likewise a lovable character who is admittedly quite (adorably) naive.

I’ll admit that I struggled to get to know each of her friends at first. I do feel like more time getting to know them on an individual level would have helped me appreciate them all more – not to mention helped me tell the others apart.

It’s quickly apparent that Mizuha and Kizuki are the focus on Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You Vol. 1, so at times the others almost blend into the background. Which is fine, just something I felt the need to point out.

I did enjoy that the author added little notes here and there, telling readers what the plan had been (before the pandemic messed it all up, that is). Sometimes it is nice to see behind the curtain, you know?

Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Manga Monday: I’m Looking for Serious Love!

Author/Artist: Shoko Rakuta
Publisher: LOVExLOVE
Released: February 15, 2022
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Sexual assault, drugging

I’ve been in the mood to try more manga in the new year, and naturally, I want to read a little bit of everything. The ultimate goal is to add to my list of favorite series that I’ll continue to follow. However, I’m Looking for Serious Love! will not be making that list.

Kyouhei lived his whole life in the country while dreaming of the day he could move to the city. Now that day has come, and he’s feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. His new neighbor, Takara, isn’t helping things.

You see, Kyouhei can’t help but feel confused by Takara. One moment he’s friendly; the next, he’s insulting. But Kyouhei is trying not to judge everyone in this city based on one person’s behavior.

I think this might be the first time I’ve rated a manga one star. It is undoubtedly the first one-star read of the year, which is a bit disappointing. To be clear, I feel I have a good reason for not enjoying I’m Looking for Serious Love!

That reason is consent: there’s none of it in I’m Looking for Serious Love! Kyouhei is put into uncomfortable situations in multiple instances – situations he didn’t consent to be in. This includes a scene where he was drugged and then sexually assaulted. The book ‘addresses’ this issue by having Kyouhei think that a favor has been done to him. It’s all profoundly concerning and not at all a healthy thing to portray.

This manga is deeply unsettling even beyond the unhealthy relationship between Kyouhei and Takara. I would not recommend I’m Looking for Serious Love! to anyone, especially not anyone who would become upset at these subjects.

Thanks to LOVExLOVE and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Review: Voices That Count Anthology

Authors: Julia Otero, Lola Garcia, Diana Lopez Varela, Estefania Molina, Eva Amaral, Leticia Dolera, Sandra Sabates, Almudena Grandes, Patricia Campos
Artists: Ada Diez, Agustina Guerrero, Akira Pantsu, Ana Orcina, Maria Hesse, Raquel Riba Rossy, Sandra Cardona, Sara Herranz, Sara Soler
Translator: Diego Jourdan Pereira
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Released: June 14, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Voices That Count is a graphic novel anthology full of stories that take a closer look at our world as it stands. More accurately, it portrays tales of different women all over the world. It was initially written in Spanish but was recently (ish) translated, letting a more comprehensive range of readers give it a try. I was really excited when I heard that, as Voices That Count had been on my radar for a while now.

This anthology has nine stories, including some that hit close to home! I’m sure that was the intention; how could it not be? I highly recommend that readers try this one, as some crucial messages are woven into the stories.

Julio by Julia Otero and Ada Diez

Julio is very much an homage from daughter to father, and it is very sweet. It certainly rang a bell for this reader. On a different note, I really enjoyed the art style.

24 Hours by Lola Garcia and Agustina Guerrero

Ouch, 24 Hours hits hard. It imagines what the world would be like if gender norms were swapped. The simple black and white color palette enhance this image, making it feel like a classic TV show.

The Bug by Diana Lopez Varela and Akira Pantsu

The Bug is going to be a hard one for certain readers to get through. If you have or are currently struggling with an eating disorder, you might want to pass on this one. That being said, it did a great job portraying what was happening inside somebody’s head during this time.

Empowered by Estefania Molina and Ana Orcina

Empowered takes a closer look at why women do and don’t speak up, especially in a professional setting. It’s a great conversation starter (no pun intended) on this subject.

Loneliness by Eva Amaral and Maria Hesse

Loneliness is a powerful poem with creative imagery to help support the message. I really enjoyed this one!

Sexier by Leticia Dolera and Raquel Riba Rossy

Sexier is an excerpt from Biting the Apple. It looks at how women’s bodies are policed, especially in certain careers. They’re expected to meet these insane standards or risk losing out. I will have to make a point of reading the rest of Biting the Apple.

Turtle Steps by Sandra Sabates and Sandra Cardona

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That certainly feels to be the case in Turtle Steps. The story is compelling, but the artwork really brings it home! This is probably my favorite from the collection.

Over a Banana Skirt by Almudena Grandes and Sara Herranz

Over a Banana Skirt is a surprisingly introspective piece, delving into history, societal expectations, and pretty much a hundred other things. It’s a great read, especially if you’re looking for something that’ll make you stop and think.

Mzungu by Patricia Campos and Sara Soler

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about how sports can help societies as a whole – it can encourage education and equality, among many other important concerns. Mzungu seems to encapsulate all of that reading I’ve been doing, putting it into something both deeply personal and approachable.

Thanks to IDW Publishing and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Manga Monday: Alice in Bishounen-Land Vol. 1

Series: Alice in Bishounen-Land
Author: Yushi Kawata
Artist: Yukito
Publisher: LOVExLOVE
Released: February 8, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Alice in Bishounen-Land Vol. 1 is a twist on the popular reincarnated-into-a-game manga, as it isn’t reincarnation. Instead, the leading character (and thus readers) are transported into an idol game, where they have to successfully create a top band to find their freedom.

Alice is not a fan of idol games, to be clear. Nor is she all that fussed about K-Pop, if she’s being brutally honest here. So imagine her surprise when she winds up stuck in a game where she has to create the best band to get out.

You see, it’s Alice’s best friend, Tamami, that loves this sort of thing, which is the whole reason why Alice is here in the first place. How will she do this when she has absolutely no idea what she is doing?

I went into Alice in Bishounen-Land Vol. 1 with pretty high hopes. I love these transported-into-game stories, and this one seemed to have a really fun twist, especially with the added twists of K-Pop band building and an unwilling contestant (Alice).

However, I really struggled to get into this one. I think the biggest problem for me was Alice herself. I didn’t like her. She was super judgmental of her friend’s passions and not afraid to speak against them.

This created a sour introduction into the plot and world, making it harder for me to root for Alice and her mission. Though admittedly, I did appreciate seeing her have to work her way from the ground up when it comes to understanding this world – the world she so quickly put her best friend down for liking.

People who adore this genre, virtual gaming, and friendship drama would potentially really enjoy this read.

Thanks to LOVExLOVE and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Review: The Harbinger Book 1

Author: Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment LLC
Released: May 24, 2022
Received: NetGalley

The Harbinger Book 1 is the first in a new series from Valiant Entertainment and also happens to be one that I’ve been looking forward to! Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Robbi Rodriguez are the minds behind this project.

If you could wish for any superpower, what would you choose? Peter Stanchek didn’t have much choice in his powers, but he could still make the most of them. As a telepath, his potential is endless, even if he can’t remember everything about his past.

The Harbinger Book 1 had a lot of potential; I knew that much going into it. I want to see superhero stories come out from other publishing houses because I think there’s an untapped opportunity there.

Overall I would have to say that while this introduction was interesting, it did fall a bit flat for me. The character is perhaps a little too powerful, especially right out of the gate. It makes readers focus more on his abilities and less on his character development, which is something I’m not usually a fan of.

Like many superhero stories, the best characters in The Harbinger Book 1 were the villains. To me, a series is made or broken by the villains that fill the pages. For this reason, I still have a ton of hope for this franchise, as these characters were a delight. Though perhaps delight isn’t the correct term, considering we’re talking about the bad guys…

The artwork helped support this story, taking it a few steps further than the story on its own would have. I’m particularly a fan of the color palette, but I am generally drawn to those specific details.

Thanks to Valiant Entertainment and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Manga Monday: In the Clear Moonlit Dusk Vol. 3

Series: In the Clear Moonlit Dusk
Author/Artist: Mika Yamamori
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: February 8, 2022
Received: Own

Forgive me as I squeal a bit, but I am just so happy that In the Clear Moonlit Dusk Vol. 3 is finally out! I got hooked on this series back when the first volume dropped, and I have been eagerly waiting for each new volume as it comes out. Thus far, they have always proven to be worth the wait.

Yoi Takiguchi has always been called a ‘prince’ in her school. She’s beautiful and charming, acting exactly how all the schoolgirls would imagine a prince should behave. Hence the nickname. Yoi had gotten used to being overlooked and treated as nothing more than a prince.

That is until Ichimura-sempai spotted her. Something about her demeanor instantly fascinated him. Over the last two volumes, this fascination has steadily grown. While the two still don’t know where they stand with one another, it is clear that this growing feeling is mutual.

I would like to nominate In the Clear Moonlit Dusk Vol. 3 for the sweetest volume of the year award. No, seriously, is that a thing? Because it needs to be. In the Clear Moonlit Dusk is arguably one of my favorite manga at the moment, and I am happy to say that the third volume held up to my high expectations.

Come to think of it; I think I liked In the Clear Moonlit Dusk Vol. 3 even more than the second volume. This one felt very true to the characters while naturally forcing the plot forward. The romantic plot in this series is slow-burning, but that just makes it all the more endearing if you ask me.

In this series, the ‘will they/won’t they’ balance is divine and admittedly perfect for shippers (myself included). The inclusion of a new character, Oji was a surprise, but I also think he will be essential for moving the plot forward.

Truth be told, I don’t know how long In the Clear Moonlit Dusk will run for. It could be one more volume, or it could be ten. All I know is that I’m going to happily buy and read each and every one of those volumes.

Manga Monday: Falling Drowning Vol. 1

Series: Falling Drowning
Author/Artist: Yuko Inari
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: February 2, 2022
Received: NetGalley

I’ve been trying to make a point of taking more risks and picking up new manga series as they come across my searching. Sometimes those risks don’t pay off. Other times I find a new favorite series to follow. Falling Drowning is the latter, as this is clearly going to be a series I follow from here on out. Written and illustrated by Yuko Inari, Falling Drowning Vol. 1 is an endearing start to this series.

Honatsu is a girl who has been through more than she lets on. She’s starting her second year of high school, and the rumors are already spreading. At least this time, the rumors are positive, as people believe she is dating her best friend, Toma.

Honatsu isn’t opposed to the idea of dating Toma, to be clear. She’s just not sure if what she feels for him is love. The appearance of Shun Tachibana further amplifies this concern. There’s something about him, but again, she’s not quick to call these feelings love.

When I say that Falling Drowning is a new favorite series of mine, I am not overstating. I keep checking to see if the shop has updated, so I can just subscribe to the series and get each volume the day they release. That’s how swept up I am with Falling Drowning Vol. 1.

Right away, it’s pretty clear that something is going on with Honatsu’s character. She’s sweet and determined, but the overprotective nature of her friends hints at something else happening behind the scenes. This mystery pulls readers in while setting the scene for a potential romantic plot. It’s all wonderfully done.

No matter how you look at it, Falling Drowning Vol. 1 offers several potential romantic tropes for fans to fall head over heels for. Either it is friend-to-lover, or it is a mild version of enemies-to-lovers. Either way, the fans are going to win. Not to mention the whole love triangle aspect, mixed in with the mystery of Honatsu’s past.

On the note of romantic triangles, we have Toma and Shun. Toma is a sweet guy with strong ‘boy next door’ vibes. He adores Honatsu, and will clearly do anything for her. Shun overall offers the opposite vibes. He’s dark and moody. Yet all of his gruffness gives the impression he’s working too hard to avoid caring.

Overall, I really enjoyed Falling Drowning Vol. 1. I legit cannot wait for the second volume to release, especially since this volume concluded with a tease of a hint towards Honatsu’s past. More, please!

Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Manga Monday: Fungus and Iron Vol. 1

Series: Fungus and Iron
Author/Artist: Ayaka Katayama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: February 8, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Before I dive into my review, I just want to point out that I am a sucker for nice covers. I adore the blue hue found on Fungus and Iron Vol. 1, which may have influenced my decision to read this one. Just a teeny tiny bit.

Fungus and Iron Vol. 1 is a bit difficult to describe. It’s sort of a mixture of 1984, classic dystopian elements, and manga tropes. I almost feel like it was trying to do too much at once, but I’ll get to that later in my review.

Dante is a bit of an oddball, to put it kindly. He lives in a world where a mushroom has taken over the planet. It does so by taking over the minds of its hosts – including people. Think cordyceps fungi (the fungus that turns ants into zombies) but for people.

You’d think that would make Dante a hardened guard, fighting to keep himself alive alongside all those he cares about. Well, some of that is true. Mostly, Dante survives on sheer dumb luck.

So, as I hinted at above, Fungus and Iron Vol. 1 feels like it tries too hard to be too many things at once. It’s a dystopian tale with romance, action (alongside gore), manga tropes, and even a 1984 vibe. It’s all too much for a relatively short period of time.

The result is that it just feels…shallow. I don’t feel like I know Dante. I know that he’s a lucky idiot, but being able to say that doesn’t mean that I actually know him, does it? Honestly, I didn’t even like him all that much. I certainly didn’t find myself rooting for him.

There lies one of the problems here. I wasn’t emotionally invested in the story. I think part of it is due to the issues I mentioned above. The other part is probably the pacing. Maybe if we had been given more time to know Dante and his love, I might have been able to care a little bit more.

Ultimately, Fungus and Iron Vol. 1 was a flop for me. However, if you’re looking for a read with lots of action and gore, this might be right up your alley.

Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Manga Monday: Her Majesty’s Swarm Vol. 1

Series: Her Majesty’s Swarm
Author: 616th Special Information Battalion
Artist: Eiri Iwamoto
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: December 28, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warning: Spiders, Gore, Slavery

It’s time for another reincarnation manga, as Her Majesty’s Swarm Vol. 1 throws the leading lady into the video game she cherished. While we’ve all probably dreamed of becoming the leading characters in the stories we love so much, it is unlikely we’d want those wishes to be taken so literally.

Mushi-nee is arguably an appropriate nickname, as this one game is obsessed with a real-time strategy game – one that lets her control an army of arachnids. She’s the spider queen in this world, and everyone knows it.

You can imagine Mushi-nee’s surprise when she one day wakes up in a world eerily similar to the game she adores. Not everything is the same, but it is enough to make her mission clear. She must rule the Arachnea faction and help them on their path to victory.

“I am destined to become the most vile mass murderer the world as ever seen.”

With an introductory quote such as that, it is easy to understand how some people might go into Her Majesty’s Swarm Vol. 1 expecting Mushi-nee to be a monster. Perhaps one day that is exactly what she’ll become. But for now? Now she’s a girl newly thrown into a world both new and familiar to her, and she’s still trying to process it all.

I was surprised by some of the twists that occurred in volume one. I’m not sure if this is to show how different her character is from expectations – or if this will allow readers to make comparisons later down the road. Only time will tell.

I should mention that Her Majesty’s Swarm Vol. 1 does not steer away from more graphic details and implications. The first bit is obvious: there are plenty of spiders in this series. Don’t read if they freak you out. Likewise, there’s a fair bit of gore, plus slavers and the like. Their behavior isn’t condoned (hence the gore), but it is still present.

Her Majesty’s Swarm Vol. 1 was a solid start to the series. I can’t say that it was my favorite, though I did enjoy all of the surprises that it brought with it. It will likewise be interesting to see how the series evolves from here.

Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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