Short Reviews #8: Even More Manga (3 titles)

BLUE EXORCIST, vol. 3 by Kazue Kato
Viz Media, 2011, 200 pages, 978-1421540344, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga

I do love a series that gets more interesting as time goes by. When Blue Exorcist began, it was a tad slow, but I still enjoyed it. The third volume, however, moves quite quickly as stakes climb higher for Rin. He learns that he’s being watched, and that his continued participation in the exorcist cram school–not to mention his continued existence–are on the line. He must prove to the people in charge that he’s not in danger of being overwhelmed by his powers, and that he’s willing to be useful.

There are also emotional stakes, of course, since Rin has never been able to keep friends. He’s used to being an outcast, and the new companionship he’s found with the other students of the cram school is strange to him but also encouraging. He wants so much to be accepted and useful to others that the threat of his new friends discovering his true identity can be quite nerve wracking for the reader. How will they react? At least three of the other students are victims of Blue Night, and it’s quite possible that they’ll turn on Rin when they discover what he really is.

Of course, this potentially dire situation is made far less grim thanks to all of the humor. Rin can be quite hilarious, mostly thanks to being a reckless teenage boy. Then, of course, there’s Mephisto Pheles. His wardrobe alone accounts for half the laugh factor.

The last frame of this volume will, no doubt, elicit an “uh oh…” from readers. Four months seems like a long time to wait to find out what happens!

A note on the art–I’m still loving it! In fact, I think I love it even more than before.

BLACK BUTLER, vol. 6 by Yana Toboso
Yen Press, 2011,176 pages, 978-0-316-08430-7, Paperback, $11.99

Genre: Manga

Volume six of Black Butler takes us straight into the mysterious circus where Ciel and Sebastian investigate the disappearance of several children. Strangely, however, they are unable to track down any information, and the circus performers themselves don’t come off as particularly suspicious. That is, until Ciel finds a hidden document with his name on it.

This volume doesn’t push the plot particularly far. It isn’t until the end that we begin to pick up real clues related to the mystery being investigated. Instead, we’re treated to page upon page of hilarity as the two protagonists attempt to infiltrate the circus. And, of course, once they manage to do so, there are even more comedic incidents, not to mention the unexpected appearance of a recent acquaintance.

Personally, I was quite happy to enjoy the amusing bits and wait for the serious stuff in (presumably) the next volume. In particular, I had a laughing/crying fit when Sebastian manages to provoke a tiger into trying to eat his face, and all he can say about it is, “Ah.” Even thinking about it now, I have to contain myself.

There are several new characters introduced for the circus arc–all of the first tier performers–and I find them pretty curious. Their character designs are also very nice, which I have, of course, come to expect of Toboso. All in all, I look forward to continuing with this storyline.

OOKU, vol. 6 by Fumi Yoshinaga
Viz Media, 2011, 224 pages, 978-1421539614, Paperback, $12.99

Genre: Manga/Alternate History/Historical Fiction

Every once in a while I come across a series that I find so fantastic that I run out of things to say about it. Ooku certainly qualifies, and I’m not sure how many more times I can laud this series for its inventiveness and depth. As I finished up this volume a few days ago, I realized that Fumi Yoshinaga has outlined an entire fictional lineage of the Shogun, as well as the names and numbers of spouses and concubines, not to mention other family lines that intersect with the story. It astounds me. I can’t help but wonder if she has a flow chart drawn on the walls of her workspace to keep it all straight.

Volume six wraps up the story about the Shogun Tsunayoshi and Ennonosuke (a story I loved–I found Ennonosuke to be a great character), and follows it with the introduction of a new Shogun and a story that centers around her advisors and attendants. We also learn how Yoshimune became the head of Kii due to several unexpected events (all of which seem suspicious to me, but maybe we’ll learn the truth behind them in the next volume).

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but there’s an incredible amount of emotion in this manga. The lives of the women who become Shogun are not easy, though they are considered the highest authority in the country. There is a lot of pressure on them from many different arenas, and it’s impossible for them to live as ordinary women might, with whatever freedoms that includes. Likewise, the men who work for the Shoguns come from many different backgrounds. Some arrive at the inner chambers willingly, and others less so. Some arrive with ambitions, and others with none at all. Either way they must adapt to their new surroundings and find places for themselves, and rarely are these easy things to accomplish.

This series is astounding. If you like historical drama (or, in this case, alternate historical drama), then definitely give this one a shot.



2 responses to “Short Reviews #8: Even More Manga (3 titles)

  1. You have Black Butler 6 the circus one…YAY! Does William aka Suit turn up in this one? And thanks for showing the release date of vol 7. Six days before my birthday. Sorry, I don’t pay attention to release dates.
    And you got Blue Exorcist 3…you are one lucky person

  2. @Nina @ Death Books and Tea

    Yes, indeed! “Suit” does show up. =D

    Yes, since my local Borders is going out of business, I’ve had to rely on Amazon for all my most recent manga releases. They’re very good about getting things to you close to the release date, if not on it.

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