Manga Monday: Piano Duo for the Left Hand Vol. 1

Series: Piano Duo for the Left Hand #1
Author/Artist: Kenta Matsouka
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: March 15, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Wow. If you’re looking for a new manga series that will give you all the feels, please consider checking out Piano Duo for the Left Hand Vol. 1.

Shu hasn’t precisely had what most people would call an easy life. He’s earned a bad reputation because of it, giving him little reason to care about his future. This all quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Akari Yuzuki is everything that Shu is not. She’s a talented pianist known for having an “Angelic Left Hand.” Despite their different paths in life, Akari wants to give Shu a chance. That’s why she pushed so hard for him to show up to her next recital. Unfortunately, tragedy struck before that could happen.

I’m going to say it again, wow. I could say it a hundred more times and still, emphatically mean it. Piano Duo for the Left Hand Vol. 1 is an emotional read that is so beautifully crafted. Don’t pick this one up unless you’re ready to shed a tear or two (or ten).

It’s difficult to dance around this plot without risking significant spoilers. Shu and Akari are connected in ways that most stories would never dare try. It’s unique and compelling, even if it originally stemmed from tragedy.

What I loved about this story is that it is essentially a new take on the tale where somebody finally realizes their worth. Shu is cleaning up his act, trying to make a future for himself. It’s so heartwarming to see, and I can’t wait to see more of it.

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

Review: Demon in the Wood

Series: Grishaverse #0
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Artist: Dani Pendergast
Adapter: Kyla Vanderklugt
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Released: September 27, 2022
Received: Own

The fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse should make a point of picking up Demon in the Wood. We’ve all been waiting for this story – we just didn’t realize it. Every villain has an origin story. Sometimes those stories are wrapped up in the main plot. Other times they are tucked away, buried under centuries of trauma and history.

The latter is true for the Darkling – the shadow summoner. Even as a young boy, he had taken up (and discarded) many names. All in the name of safety, ironically enough. For the moment, he is Eryk, a Grisha looking for a haven for the winter.

He and his mother have traveled far, hoping to find safety and knowledge. Eryk needs time to master his powers, and that means his mother must keep him safe in the meantime. It’s a challenge, given that they live in a world that despises and hunts Grisha.

Writing

You know, it never occurred to me that I wanted to see an origin story for the Darkling. I had felt like his backstory was evident enough. Well, evident following everything that happened. But the Netflix adaptation made me realize there was more to be told. Okay, the announcement of Demon in the Wood helped me realize this. I realized that I wanted to learn more about the Darkling’s childhood. And boy, did I learn a few things!

Demon in the Wood is a brief look into the life of Eryk. It may only cover a few days of his life, but it goes a long way in helping us understand how he came to be the man we all know (I would say love, but that is only true for some readers).

The storytelling in Demon in the Wood is perfect. Given how much readers already know of this world, there was no need to take us through the Grisha process (or how they’re treated). Instead, we’re allowed to see it all play out carefully. Painfully.

Naturally, Demon in the Wood does get a bit dark before it concludes. You can even tell exactly how it’s going to go. But it’s like watching a horror movie – you can’t bring yourself to look away. You can only watch in horror, wishing you had been in a position to stop things from playing out this way.

Artwork

First, let’s talk about that cover! Demon in the Wood features a stunning cover. And I’m not just saying that because it has several shades of purple (though that doesn’t hurt. If you know anything about the Darkling, it’s a pretty evocative cover. You can tell who it is and how old he is (in a general sense) and therefore understand the title’s implications.

On the inside, the artist, Dani Pendergast, did a brilliant job of bringing two well-known characters to life. Even with such an age gap, it’s clear who they are. I enjoyed seeing the younger versions of these characters. Likewise, it was interesting to see what other characters appeared throughout.

I adore the use of solid colors for backdrops. This wasn’t universal for the whole graphic novel, but it did a great job of forcing our eyes to focus on specific scenes or details. This added to the sense of foreshadowing.

Conclusion

I’ll say it again: if you love the Grishaverse, you must pick up Demon in the Wood. You don’t need to read this graphic novel to understand anything else in the world, but it adds some backstory and context, which alone makes it worthwhile.

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Manga Monday: Medaka Kuroiwa is Impervious to My Charms Vol. 1

Series: Medaka Kuroiwa is Impervious to My Charms #1
Author/Artist: Ran Kuze
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: March 8, 2022

I want to preface this review by acknowledging that my rating seems to be running counter to the norm on Goodreads. Medaka Kuroiwa is Impervious to My Charms Vol. 1 has a decent rating (around three and a half stars). I’m not giving it that much because I have some significant concerns with the story. But I’ll discuss that more in a moment.

Mona is, without a doubt, the cutest girl in her school – and she knows it. She wears her cuteness like armor, using it to get what she wants. That is until Medaka Kuroiwa arrives. For some reason, her cuteness doesn’t seem to be getting through to him.

Medaka is a new student at the school, which is his first of this kind. Before now, he had spent his whole life living in a temple, training to be a monk. To say that he’s dealing with a bit of a culture shock would be an understatement.

So this series initially caught my attention because it sounded like a cute romance. However, I would not describe anything in this story as a romance. Mona is actively chasing Medaka around the school, doing everything she can to make him fall for her.

My issue with Medaka Kuroiwa is Impervious to My Charms Vol. 1: it’s problematic. Suppose you’re having trouble seeing why this is a problem. Try flipping the gender of the characters. Mona is harassing a guy that told her no, going so far as to put the two of them in awkward situations (which some would describe more harshly if we’re being honest here).

The lack of consent and awareness is alarming. It made it impossible to enjoy the story. So instead of a relaxing and fun romance, I got to read something that frustrated me to no end. Disappointing.

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

Manga Monday: Apple Children of Aeon Vol. 1

Series: Apple Children of Aeon #1
Author/Artist: Ai Tanaka
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: Marcy 8, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Time to dive into another new manga (I am determined to read the first volume of as many series as possible, so I can find favorites worth following!). This time I picked Apple Children of Aeon Vol. 1.

Yukinojo can’t remember his past, so he only has the future to look to. Following graduation, he entered an arranged marriage with Asahi. As the title may have already been given away, Asahi and her family run an apple farm (orchard?).

This life would be perfect for many, but Yukinojo struggles to feel at home – to feel like he belongs and fits in with his new home and family. Until one day, everything changes, and something wakes within his bones.

Apple Children of Aeon Vol. 1 was an interesting and relatively quick read. Admittedly the first part of this book (about the first half?) is slower than I would have liked. It takes a while to get to know Yukinojo and Asahi, and unfortunately, even longer to care about either of them.

Based on the description, I knew there was going to be a twist in this arranged marriage-turned story – however, I was wrong about what sort of twist it would be. I think I like this twist better than I had assumed. It was certainly more interesting and a little less predictable.

All things said and done, Apple Children of Aeon Vol. 1 does a solid job of wrapping many story tropes into one cohesive story. I’m not sure that it’s a series I would enjoy following in the long run, but I can easily see why some readers would fall for it.

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

Manga Monday: Having an Idol-Living Boyfriend is the Best! Vol. 1

Series: Having an Idol-Living Boyfriend is the Best! #1
Author/Artist: Mito Aoi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: March 1, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Okay, seriously, who can resist a title like Having an Idol-Living Boyfriend is the Best! It’s so funny and already screams about the humor and charm snuck into the series. Or so I hope. Let’s dive in!

Akari Tachibana is an idol fan. Her idols are her world, and she isn’t keen on letting that change anytime soon. Thankfully, she can share her idol love with her coworker and friend, Onda-san. He adores his idols almost as much as she does (okay, maybe more).

Only…there’s something else going on with Onda-san. He has a secret and is ready to confess it to Akari finally. You see, he’s had a thing for her for quite some time, and he’s willing to give them a chance, even if it takes some time away from their idol worship.

I went into Having an Idol-Living Boyfriend is the Best! Vol. 1 with really high hopes. I love the idea of a romance forming from a shared interest. It’s so human but also charming. Especially since, in this case, they both worship idols.

While I didn’t end up loving Having an Idol-Living Boyfriend is the Best! Vol. 1 as much as I had hoped, I certainly enjoyed it! I loved the premise (duh), but I feel like the follow-through was a bit…weak. There were times when the budding romance felt flat, forcing readers to rely on what they’re being told (instead of being shown). So that was disappointing.

However, the first volume did manage to work in several endearing or entertaining moments to help balance out those flatter scenes. I have high hopes that the series will get stronger in time – and I hope I’m right.

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

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.

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