From Chisaki Kanai and Yen Press comes My Dear, Curse-Casting Vampiress. In an unfolding conflict between humans and vampires, one captive vampire woman will prove to be the weapon that shapes all their futures.
The story begins with Isuzu, who is a member of an elite government military squad tasked with taking down vampires who threaten the safety of Japan. After a battle with a particularly ferocious enemy, Isuzu and a coworker discuss rumors they have heard of a vampire named Baroque, a beautiful vampire known for expertly killing other vampires. Seeking to protect his country and his comrades, Isuzu decides to learn for himself whether Baroque exists. Only, the moment he finds her locked in a secure government facility is not the end of his fight—it is the beginning.
In breaking Baroque out of prison, Isuzu and his new companion end up battling the vampire who escaped Isuzu the previous day, and Baroque displays her ability to cast curses, dark magic many did not believe to exist. When they are captured, Isuzu is stripped of his military career, but top officials have realized that there is a connection between their former soldier and the vampire they have been unable to force to cooperate in all the years they have held her captive. They order Isuzu to become Baroque’s handler, and with their new weapon secured, they will bring the fight to their vampire enemies.
The only problem is, there are plenty of vampires with their own reasons for hunting Baroque. As for Isuzu and Baroque—they each have their own reasons for cooperating, but agreeing to work for the military, as well as work together, may have more consequences than either of them realizes.
The premise of My Dear, Curse-Casting Vampiress is not an entirely surprising one for manga, but it does set up an engaging dynamic nonetheless. With paranormal action and a tentative partnership/romance at the center, there are lots of engaging storytelling dynamics to be had here, and Volume 1 only barely scratches the surface of what is sure to follow.
While the overarching story is fun to read and sets up some exciting future adventures, the story does feel a bit rushed in its development and sometimes choppy in its execution—particularly in the hurry to introduce Baroque and kick off the main plot. The consequence is that character decisions and plot points do not always feel fully realized as the story charges ahead to its next scene.
In similar fashion, the art offers some excellent moments, both for characterization and action sequences. However, there are other points Where the rush of movement or combat somewhat obscures what is happening in a given moment. Beyond that, the mixture of stylization and realism fit the story well, and the manga is largely a dynamic visual experience that serves largely as an extended prologue setting up what is still to come.
Isuzu presents a familiar enough style of character within this sort of manga, but with enough personality that he is still entertaining to follow. And while much is made of Baroque’s beauty, and she often acts with the quiet timidity characteristic of female characters, the story gives her enough agency as well as combat ability and competence that she rises above simply being a token presence in need of guidance.
Yen Press does not offer an age rating, but My Dear, Curse-Casting Vampiress is solidly suitable for teen readers and older. There is regular violence along with some mildly suggestive content and language, but nothing that will be surprising to established manga readers. As far as collecting the series is concerned, this is not the strongest paranormal action manga on the shelves. If you’re light on budget, there are probably better options available. But if this is the sort of thing your readers can’t get enough of, there are enough promising elements in volume 1 that it’s at the very least a series worth keeping an eye on as the story continues to unfold.
My Dear, Curse-Casting Vampiress Vol. 01 By Chisaki Kanai Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975364908
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Japanese, Character Representation: Japanese,
When two high school students, one who believes in spirits and one who believes in aliens, challenge each other’s beliefs, it sets off a series of paranormal encounters that quickly spiral out of control in dramatic and absurd fashion.
One day, Momo Ayase intervenes to protect a boy at her school from being bullied, accidentally sparking a tense rapport with the loner she nicknames Okarun. This interaction leads to a challenge. Momo does not believe in aliens. Okarun does not believe in spirits. Because of this, Momo will go to a spot known for alien activity while Okarun will go to an area rumored to be haunted. The pair will then report back on whether they have become believers based on what they find. Neither of them is prepared for the consequences of this simple dare.
In a secluded tunnel, Okarun encounters the spirit known as Turbo Granny who tries to possess him while also stealing… shall we say, a specific part of his anatomy? Meanwhile, Momo runs across the Serpoians, a group of aliens searching for a way to reproduce other than cloning themselves. The encounters leave Momo and Okarun changed—through a mix of psychic abilities and spiritual possession—while also drawing the ire of Turbo Granny and an entire alien race. From this point on, life will never be the same. The pair is launched into an adventure of giant supernatural crabs and randy aliens as they try to make Okarun whole once again while also dealing with the increasingly eccentric cast of characters, human and otherwise, who are drawn into their orbit. Okarun and Momo have become believers—now they just need to survive the beings they never knew existed while also sorting out how they feel about each other. What could go wrong?
Dandadan is created by Yukinobu Tatsu and published by Viz Media. The story begins simply enough, but quickly gains a momentum that rarely lets up as Momo and Okarun are thrust from one situation into the next. Alongside alien encounters and supernatural attacks, Tatsu manages to deliver two characters the reader has no trouble rooting for, even with their personal complications. Moments of sincere emotion intersperse increasingly absurd battles against the paranormal enemies our heroes keep encountering. From early on, this series promise a wild ride, and Tatsu keeps delivering on a premise that has no issue being silly, horny, and wildly dramatic at every turn without overshadowing the characters and relationships that keep it grounded.
The art is fun to look at, too, often richly detailed and capturing the characters and settings in all their complexity. The action sequences play out in familiar enough manga style, but the visuals are bold and easy to follow as the super-powered action keeps raising the stakes. Tatsu also does a great job capturing the visual humor of the series, balancing absurdity and threat to create an epic adventure that never takes itself more seriously than it should. In the end, Dandadan is distinct, wildly fun, and over the top enough to be exactly the sort of story it sets out to be.
Viz gives the series a mature rating with a warning of explicit content. The violence is never overly strong and the tone remains mostly comedic, but there are scattered moments of serious character death and other thematic issues aimed at more mature readers. The larger reason for the rating is simply the constant thread of sexual humor and innuendo that runs through the adventure. The visuals are limited to characters in their underwear and occasional non-graphic nudity, but the suggestive tones of the story—from recovering Okarun’s stolen “family jewels” to the Serpoians’ quest to reproduce—is clearly aimed at an adult audience. There is also occasional sexual threat and other thematic content that, despite the consistently humorous tone of the story, may not be for all readers.
The final verdict is that Dandadan is a madcap paranormal adventure that keeps raising the bar for how weird it’s willing to go. The series is a lot of fun as it introduces an increasing number of complications and fascinating side characters alongside Momo, Okarun, and their uncertain relationship to each other and the very strange world around them. The series is clearly aimed at mature readers, but it is absolutely worth picking up—both for those who are established manga readers and those who haven’t encountered the form before but are open to the sort of chaotic adventure and humor presented here. The first three volumes of Tatsu’s series are a fascinating ride, and I’m curious to see where it goes next.
Shuna’s Journey is inspired by an ancient Tibetan folk tale about a young prince on a quest for barley in time of famine that fascinated creator Hayao Miyazaki. In Miyazaki’s hands the tale grew wings to tell the story of Shuna who, after hearing about the coveted golden grain seeds confined by the god-men in a land to the west where the moon resides, journesy to that land.
The original reworking was published in 1983 and was adapted into an hour-long radio drama broadcast in Japan in 1987. This is the first English translation. While the pages read right-to-left manga style, the layout largely resembles an illustrated picture book with limited dialogue and the text in non-bordered narration boxes abundantly sprinkled throughout the delicately rendered and coloured illustrations. Clothing styles, artifacts, and landscapes offer clues to the story’s cultural origins while also illuminating the fantastic. The result is an eerie, magical, and thoughtful tale reminiscent of an orally told tale. It is told simply with short sentences and not excess descriptions. The language is evocative and precise.
Shuna travels with his mount Yakul, an elk-like creature who was the source of inspiration and the namesake of Ashitaka’s mount in Princess Mononoke. Their adventures over the bleak and dangerous landscapes bring them into contact with female cannibals, slavers, and the young slave Thea and her young sister. After rescuing the two girls, Shuna reaches the western edge of the land. He leaves Yakul with them and crosses the wide water to the land of the god-men. There he witnesses the role of the moon in the creation of the giants and the planting and miraculous growth of the barley. He manages to take some of the golden grain, causing a great deal of pain to himself. He escapes and returns to the land to the east, but at intense cost.
In the short afterward, Miyazaki discusses his fascination with the folktale, “The Prince Who Turned into a Dog”. In the much longer following essay, translator Alex Dudok de Wit discusses his journey with the adaptations, Miyazaki to his origin tale, and its publication history beginning in 1983. De Wit explains that this format is a emonogatari—illustrated with exquisite and detailed watercolours—rather than a manga. De Wit also contrasts this novel to Miyazaki’s later animated works considering this work as a prototype for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke. Like these later works, this story addresses questions of morality and greed, especially relevant today. The story also delineates the transition into maturity for the main characters.
Shuna’s Journey is both a fascinating look at the creator’s earliest work and a dramatic but quietly reflective narrative that I highly recommend for readers, especially for those over the age of 12. The adventures are often blood curdling but, at the same time, understated. The main characters look rather young throughout the book, but are definitely mature enough to weather the hardships and challenges continuously thrown at them.
Shuna’s Journey By Hayao Miyazaki Macmillan First Second, 2022 ISBN: 9781250846525
Publisher Age Rating: 12+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Japanese Character Representation: Tibetan
The magical realism of anime meets the enchanting wonder of Disney in Academy Award nominated director Mamoru Hosoda’s (The Girl Who Leapt through Time, Mirai) mesmerizing virtual world fantasy that echoes Beauty and the Beast. The tagline of this fantasy thriller states, “You can’t start over in reality, but you can start over in U,” prepping viewers to delve into this alternate reality where the inhabitants adopt identities that mask their true personas, yet draws out their hidden strengths.
Suzu, a reclusive and socially awkward lone wolf of a schoolgirl, leads a melancholy life. At a young age, she lost her mother to a drowning accident, and since then, has been holding onto a fractured relationship with her father. With the aid of her savvy social media classmate Hiro, they enter “U,” an immersive virtual world populated by avatars of every imaginable size, style, and variation. Before long, she rises to stardom as a sensational global pop star, captivating fans with uplifting songs that inspire and heal. In this world, however, lurks a brooding figure known as the Dragon, a monstrous beast who hides in the shadows, isolated and sheltered away from everyone else. Who is this mysterious beast? What secrets does he harbor? In her persona as Belle, Suzu seeks to penetrate the depths of the Dragon in hopes of uncovering his identity to redeem him.
A brilliantly executed rendition of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Hosoda’s fantasy, supported by the creative character designs of Jin Kim (Frozen, Moana, Encanto), orchestrates a story that intersects elements of mystery, romance, and fantasy while touching upon issues of self-identity, trust, loneliness, courage, and hope. Vibrant CGI set designs along with exquisitely hand-drawn scenic backgrounds complement a surrealistic world reminiscent of the dazzling dreamlike sequences in Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. In addition to the vibrant fluency and synergy of colors, strategic camera angles capture majestic and iconic shots in homage to Disney’s original animated film. The songs enrich the film’s charming enchantment, transforming it into a semi-musical piece that resonates with warmth and heart.
While not initially apparent, each character plays a significant role that culminates in a riveting climax that propels Suzu to embrace her true identity and purpose, empowering her to uncover the mystery behind the beast’s predicament. Bonus extras include character and set design galleries, insightful interviews with Hosoda, scene breakdowns, and more.
A fine achievement to the ever-expanding films of GKIDS (a division of Studio Ghibli) for family and adult audiences, Belle radiates with heartwarming passion and makes a welcome addition to anime collections .
Belle By Mamoru Hosoda Art by Jin Kim GKIDS/Shout! Factory, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: PG
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Japanese Character Representation: Japanese
Pokémon trainer Ash Ketchum and his buddy Pikachu are back! This time they are joined by a friend called Goh and his Pokémon partners for adventures that have them traveling all over the Pokémon world.
At the start of this series, Ash and Goh meet and are invited to become “research fellows” by Professor Cerise, who runs a lab studying Pokémon. They accept the position, and Cerise Laboratory becomes their home base in between trips that are theoretically about research but also involve lots of Pokémon battles. While most Pokémon manga are set in a particular “region” of the world—that is, the setting of one of the Pokémon video games—this series sees its protagonists traveling between several regions, sometimes in the same volume. In particular, they spend a lot of time in the Galar region, the setting of the games Pokémon: Sword and Pokémon: Shield.
Each volume of the Pokémon Journeys manga is essentially a collection of short stories. While theoretically these stories are sequential, many of them can easily stand alone. The stakes vary from “save the realm from an unstable, overpowered Pokémon with the aid of legendary heroes” to “we found a mischievous little Pokémon, does it belong to someone?” A couple of plotlines come up repeatedly: Ash is competing in a battle tournament called the World Coronation Series, and the goofy Team Rocket villains Jesse, James, and Meowth periodically show up to try and steal Pikachu or otherwise meddle. Neither of these is likely to leave readers confused if they start reading in the middle of the series.
Like most Pokémon manga, this series features optimistic, good-hearted young heroes and lots of creatures with different personalities and powers. There are frequent Pokémon battles, some friendly (like when Ash and Goh’s Pokémon train against each other), some competitive (like the ones to move up the ranks in the World Coronation Series), and some serious (like to defeat villains or control a rampaging Pokémon). There is also silly humor and some character development, as when Goh learns that he has to pay attention to what his Scorbunny wants in order for them to battle effectively as a team.
The visual style will be familiar to readers of other Pokémon manga series. The art is black and white, the book reads from right to left, and there is tons of action—much of it the over-the-top superpowered action of Pokémon battles, which can involve things like lightning, fire, and significant damage to buildings.
There is not much explanation here of how things work in the world of Pokémon. Battles, Pokéballs, and Pokémon evolution, for instance, may confuse readers who are brand-new to the franchise. For those who know the basics, however, this is an accessible entry point to the Pokémon manga universe, not requiring readers to know the events of many other volumes to understand what is happening. The “journeys” aspect may particularly appeal to fans of the games, who will recognize the different regions but may not be used to seeing characters travel between them.
Hakaba is just a student, but when his linguistics professor is injured on his way to field work, he gets pulled in to take over. There’s just one catch: The professor researches the languages and communication styles of the inhabitants of the Netherworld and there’s a lot more to communicating with werewolves, harpies, lizardfolk, and other cultures than Hakaba ever imagined!
His first surprise comes when he meets his guide, half-werewolf Susuki, and the challenges come on quickly as he begins to travel with Susuki and a varying group of Netherworld peoples. Just when he thinks he’s gotten things figured out, there’s always a new language, creature, or cultural practice waiting to surprise him and remind him to put away his human biases and conventions and explore with an open mind.
Seno’s fine-lined art style reminded me of the art of Ryoko Kui, creator of Delicious in Dungeon, and there are several similarities between the two series. Like Kiu’s adventurer Laios, Hakaba is not your typical traveler, a fair-haired young man who is more eager to learn and experience than he is to fight or conquer, spending most of his time observing with wide-eyed interest all he sees around him and keeping copious notes in his journals. Susuki is adorably fluffy, both childlike and puppy-like at the same time. Hakaba’s sometimes abrupt introduction to the different habits and communication styles of the Netherworld peoples often leave him sweating with nerves and bewildered and hurt by what appears to be indifference or anger, but once he’s managed to relax and investigate, he discovers that most of the creatures he meets are simply not that interested in him, or in humans in general. Although Seno focuses on a few specific persons from each group, they’re often difficult to distinguish from the others of their species, letting the reader look through Hakaba’s eyes, trying to see the differences between various lizardfolk, a minotaur, or dragons.
While this is a narrative, with Hakaba traveling towards a definite point, it is much more in the nature of fieldwork than a quest. Each new creature is introduced with an exposition of their communication styles and carefully drawn sketches of things like kilns, food production, and various shelters, make it clear that this is an academic journal. Like Kui’s analysis of dungeon creatures as food sources, Seno delves deeply into the complex communication styles which may include scent, various movements, or even ranges of color that humans cannot comprehend, often shown simply as sketchy shadows on the page, or blurred movements. A little spice of romance and humor is added by the inclusion of notes from the professor’s journal at the end of each volume.
This is a rather dry narrative, with little action and much repetition of Hakaba’s efforts to view other cultures objectively, rather than through the lens of his own human experience and cultural mores. The introduction of different species and explanation of their language and cultures may be of interest to readers who like detailed fantasies and I personally found this a peaceful and interesting fantasy of linguistics, but it’s unlikely to appeal to the teens for whom it is rated. It’s most likely to appeal to adult readers or those who are more academically inclined, as well as serious fantasy fans who like to invent and play with languages.
Heterogenia Linguistico: An introduction to interspecies linguistics Vol. 1-3 By Salt Seno Yen Press, 2020 ISBN: 9781975318079
Publisher Age Rating: T
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Japanese,
Welcome to Borderland. You’ll be dying to stick around.
In volume 1 of Haro Aso’s Alice in Borderland, life is simple, if a bit of a letdown, for eighteen-year-old Arisu and his friend Chota. Obsessed with girls and unconcerned with school, the boys spend their time skipping class and hanging out with older dropout Karube at his bar. Weighed down with family and social pressure as well as dwindling hope for the future, the trio have accepted their lot in life. All that changes with a visit to a fireworks show and a flash of blinding light.
They wake up in their own town—now rundown and absent of any people. Unsure whether they’ve been transported to the future or some alternate dimension, the three embrace their new adventure until they meet a woman named Shibuki—a woman who calls this strange landscape Borderland and reveals that it is not the grand opportunity they first believed. Borderland is an arena. Every night features games where the stakes are life and death—and the only way to stay alive is to keep playing. With no idea who controls Borderland, the four survivors must work together to face the challenges and uncover any way to get home. There are many players in Borderland, but not all of them are friendly. And many will not be going home alive.
Written and drawn by Haro Aso, the story takes its time establishing the characters before charging headlong into the tension of their new predicament. The manga is weakest at its opening, in part because neither Arisu or Chota is particularly likeable when we first encounter them. As the story continues, Aso weaves in flashbacks alongside the main action, giving the reader insight into the struggles each faces and deepening our investment in their survival. It is these secret motivations, in part, that helped bring them to Borderland for this twisted version of a chance to change their fates. Each of the four central characters brings a key strength to the group’s survival, and with each new player introduced, Aso lays the groundwork for future plotlines. Volume 1 is an exciting read on its own, and its promise of future stories makes it a strong introduction to the series.
The art has comfortably familiar manga stylings. There are some strange flourishes—particularly in characters’ expressions—but Aso largely captures the events and emotions of both quiet moments and action sequences in clear detail. In particular, the visuals shine during some of the most sinister moments of the second game, keeping the unfolding action clear while also building tension and drawing the reader into the nail-biting efforts of the characters just to see another sunrise.
The publisher rates Alice in Borderland Mature for depictions of violence and death. Along with some language and suggestive content, it’s certainly a manga aimed at more mature readers. While the themes and violence are intense at times, the content is not so extreme as to be unsuitable for older teens. With a mix of teenage and adult characters, mature teens and adults alike will certainly find something to appreciate here—especially for fans of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games as well as the more recent Squid Game on Netflix. A strong first volume with lots of thematic and action promise for future chapters, Alice in Borderland is a worthy addition to any collection with older manga readers. And with the 2020 live-action adaptation of this manga available on Netflix as well, having this series on the shelf carries the added benefit of drawing in any reader curious about the source material.
Mystery, action, and high-stakes survival—Alice in Borderland, Volume 1 is bold enough to pull you in and has enough layers to keep you thinking about it even after the last body has hit the floor.
Alice in Borderland Vol. 1 By Haro Aso VIZ, 2022 ISBN: 9781974728374
Publisher Age Rating: M Related media: Comic to Movie
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Japanese, Character Representation: Japanese,
Supernatural intrigue laced with magical realism and punctuated by moments of humor permeate the short stories in Rumiko Takahashi’s latest collection Came the Mirror and Other Tales. This volume introduces five selections and an autobiographic bonus that highlights her early years as an aspiring manga storyteller.
Came the Mirror opens the collection with two teenagers who grapple with a dilemma through the time tested adage that with great power comes great responsibility. Whether by chance or by fate, Nana and Eito cross paths with each other and acquire magic mirrors that mysteriously materialize in the palms of their hands. They are gifted with the ability to see the dark side of people—an inner darkness manifesting as grotesque monsters to which the people themselves are oblivious. Together, the two must join forces to stop this insidious evil from spreading amongst the inhabitants of the town.
Obsession runs deep in “Revenge Doll” when Sentaro Yuda, a struggling manga artist past his prime grows jealous of a young budding artist who makes impressive strides with the chief editor of a popular manga magazine. One day, Sentaro receives an odd looking doll that grants him the power to place curses on others. How far will he go to fuel his jealousy? Will he resort to wishing death upon his competition? Ailurophobia runs rampant in “With Cat” when cat-fearing Shuta attempts to reunite with his childhood crush Miya, only to discover that he may be developing feline urges—literally. In addition to these tales of magical and comical intrigue, “My Sweet Sunday” offers a glimpse into a young Takahashi who indulges in manga novels, takes a sequential art course in college, mimics the artwork of classic manga creator Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), and follows the career of manga creator Mitsuru Adachi in her dream to becoming a manga artist herself.
Whether combating deadly monsters lurking inside the psyches of people, dabbling with a curse inducing doll, or entertaining pesky cat games, Takahashi’s stories run the gamut of magical realism and humor. As in her other popular series Ranma ½ and Inuyasha, ordinary and innocent characters are often thrust into extraordinarily bizarre and amusing situations. Her careful attention to conveying character emotions range from pensive curiosity and fearful anxiety to frustrated annoyance and anger. Climactic scenes unfold as striking medium close-up shots imbued with swift action and sound effects. The stories cover a diversity of genres including horror, drama, romance, mystery, and comedy. Although some characters aren’t fully fleshed out, this collection offers a cross-sectional sampling of Takahashi’s standalone works that make an entertaining addition alongside her usual episodic series.
Came the Mirror & Other Tales By Rumiko Takahashi VIZ, 2022 ISBN: 9781974725847
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Japanese, Character Representation: Japanese,
Satomi Mizusawa is a first-year high school student, and normally on the bashful side. But when a mystery boy saves her from a handsy stranger on the subway, she throws shyness out the window in her quest to meet her rescuer properly. She still regrets failing to act on a past crush and is determined not to make the same mistake again. So when she discovers that the boy, Yagyu, attends her school, Mizusawa makes a point of telling him that she wants to get to know him better. He agrees, and suddenly, they’re dating!
Unlike the common “will they or won’t they” romantic storyline, this manga settles the question immediately, following it with “and now what?” Mizusawa has never dated before, and she isn’t sure what the norms and expectations are. Can you ask for attention without seeming needy? What do you do when one of his friends seems not to like you? How do you tell your boyfriend that your birthday is coming up without sounding like you’re fishing for presents? Fortunately, Mizusawa has her supportive friend Nimo to help her figure it all out.
The central romance of this story is sweet, with Mizusawa and Yagyu each standing up for and taking care of the other. They’re clearly both still figuring out how to date, and each seems willing to give the other the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, Nimo’s tell-it-like-it-is attitude adds some humor, as does the shock that Mizusawa’s older brother, Saichi, feels about his sister starting to date.
While the two main characters start dating abruptly, the relationship moves slowly in other ways. By the end of this volume, they have confessed to liking each other and have shared a couple of brief kisses. There is no more sexual content than this, aside from the stranger on the bus groping Mizusawa in one panel early on. There are a few moments of very mild danger, as when Mizusawa yells at a stranger for being rude to Yagyu and the stranger seems like he might possibly hit her before Yagyu intervenes. No one is hurt at any point in this gentle story.
The art of this manga is mostly straightforward and down-to-earth, with few visual exaggerations. Occasionally, a character appears in a chibi or stylized form for a single panel, and there are a couple of instances of floating hearts or fanciful screentones, but mostly, the art is consistent and realistic, by manga standards. Backgrounds are often minimal, composed mostly of screentones, keeping the focus on the characters and their emotions. When settings are illustrated, they are everyday places like school, Mizusawa’s home, or the mall.
This sweet, earnest romance will appeal to readers of romantic shojo manga, especially those who like a realistic contemporary setting. Unlike many series, it does not have a flashy hook—no sports stars, teen singing sensations, or characters hiding dramatic secrets (as far as we know). The most unusual part of the premise is the fact that Mizusawa and Yagyu start dating early on, eliminating the question of whether and how they will get together. Some readers may find this comforting, and might be intrigued by the new questions of how two high schoolers new to romance can build a relationship together.
Ima Koi: Now I’m in Love, vol. 1 By Ayuko Hatta VIZ, 2022 ISBN: 9781974728954 Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Japanese Character Representation: Japanese
This uncanny story begins at the base of Mount Sengoku, where a woman named Kyoko Byakuya, whether by fate or chance, stumbles upon a secluded village covered by gold-colored “angel hair.” These fine threads of hair—known as divine Amagami—somehow possess a mystical ability that enables the villagers to commune with each other through the power of clairvoyance. But why do they believe this woman to be their messianic savior, and what unearthly forces have been unleashed by her sudden arrival?
Thus launches horror master Junji Ito’s Sensor, a cosmological tale of apocalyptic proportions. Whereas Ito usually spins tales of the macabre in short, self-contained stories with morbid shock endings, this graphic novel unfolds through episodic chapters, each one ratcheting up the suspense as side characters and incidents enter the plot. Among the intriguing elements are Wataru Tsuchiyado, a “no name” reporter who investigates the mysterious appearance of a woman with long, flowing golden hair, allegedly the sole survivor of a volcanic eruption from Mount Sengoku. During his investigation, an underground group of cult believers begin mobilizing their forces, seeking to summon forth their lord of destruction known as “The Black Hair.” Amidst these warring factions of good and evil, Ito injects his signature brand of horror including a hypnotherapy session that nearly spirals out of control; an onslaught of “suicide bugs” shaped like spiders with bulging sacs as they deliberately place themselves in harm’s way to be stomped upon; and a sinister woman in black who materializes in mirrors and stalks unsuspecting victims around the streets of Tokyo, causing traffic mayhem.
Ito serves up a flurry of horrific treats interspersed throughout an extensive storyline. From a pair of forlorn women with flowing, wispy hair to a dark, shadowy entity lurking in the hidden reaches of outer space, Ito infuses suspense with chilling effect. Swift action scenes punctuated by gradual close-upshots accentuate the mounting tension across his meticulously orchestrated panels.
Although fans accustomed to Ito’s self-contained tales of the macabre may prefer his concise narrative style, Sensor packs a unique dose of horror into an epic story that unfurls through episodic chapters, similar to the intense momentum of Remina. Furthermore, he conjures forth a cosmic tale that blends mystery, horror, fantasy, and even mythic elements that will diversify library collections in this obscure corner of the science fiction universe.
Sensor By Junji Ito VIZ, 2021 ISBN: 9781974718900 Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Japanese Character Representation: Japanese