Junji Ito’s Mimi’s Tales of Terror is an adaptation of Hirokatsu Kihara and Ichiro Nakayama’s collection of urban legends, Shin Mimibukuro. Each of the tales in the original compilation is reworked by Ito and features Mimi, an original character. The book consists of nine stories featuring college student Mimi, a bonus tale introducing different protagonists, and two afterwords describing how he altered the tales. This is a treasure trove for those who are fans of Ito, horror, contemporary legends, and evocative and haunting illustrations.
The first tale “On the Utility Pole,” is only a few pages long and takes place in only a few minutes, during a car ride on a rainy dark night. It sets the stage for the spookiness that will follow in the rest of the collection. Several of the tales focus on Mimi’s various problems with her disturbing neighbours while offering relevant background about modern Japanese culture. In “The Woman Next Door,” Mimi is annoyed by her noisy neighbour, but soon realizes that the problem is much scarier than she anticipated. Mimi survives to feature in the next story, assuring the reader that she has moved to a different apartment building. The legend in this tale reminded me of the legend of “Teke Teke” because of the significance of the sound effects in both.
“Rustling in the Grass,” offers another horrific interlude for Mimi and her boyfriend, this time while they are walking in the woods. The story, like many legends, does not have a tidy conclusion…it just is! Mimi’s new apartment in the next tale, “Grave Placement,” also features an eccentric neighbour and an eerie setting. Obviously, Mimi needs to be more selective of her living arrangements. Mimi and her friends take a trip to the beach but, of course, things cannot be straightforward for her. In “Seashore” one of her friends is drawn to ghostly spectres that only he can see. One of the creepiest tales in the collection for me is “Just the Two of Us,” in which Mimi meets a child who is haunted by her mother’s burnt corpse. Through his illustrations and pacing, Ito conveys both dread and affection in this almost intimate tale. The next tale, “Scarlet Circle,” is also dreadfully affectionate, but not in a warm or comforting way. Mimi is the target of an extremely jealous classmate who wants Mimi’s boyfriend for herself. “Sign in the Field” is the final tale featuring Mimi and is the shortest one in the book. The images strongly echo those of the legendary Slender Man.
The first afterword is told through two pages of panels featuring Ito himself. It is followed by two coloured pages, one of which is the splash title page for the bonus story “Monster Prop.” Haunted house attractions can be very disturbing, but when it includes a very dubious monster prop, the attraction can be even more dangerous than anyone imagines. It is a perfect tale for Halloween and those who admire horror films. The collection concludes with a two-page written appreciation by Ito for the original material, the chance to introduce the bonus tale to the audience, and the work of art of the book itself.
I must admit that I purchased this hardcover volume for my personal collection. It is truly a work of art, perhaps macabre art, but a gorgeous example of book making. The red-covered minimalist cover and endpapers are wrapped in a dust jacket that contains numerous spooky visual references to the stories inside. The illustrations inside are striking, unsettling, and sinister. The characters are distinctive, the settings evocative and realistic, and the monsters truly chilling and horrific. The pacing is well organized, with the panels offering just enough information to foster anticipation and activate the reader’s imaginings.
The essence of these tales may be familiar to those who know the three folklore collections of Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammel’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Both this book and those by Schwartz and Gammel are sourced from urban legends that have been circulating for years and both were newly adapted and illustrated for a contemporary audience. Highly enjoyable for those who like their horror based on folklore and those who like to be creeped out by things that may go bump, not only in the night, but in their ordinary habitats. Recommended for older teens and adults.
Mimi’s Tales of Terror By Junji Ito VIZ Signature, 2023 ISBN: 9781974738519
Publisher Age Rating: T+ Related media: Classic to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Japanese Character Representation: Japanese
What if a bunch of spies working for different countries all landed in the same house? What if it turned out that they were also childhood friends and crushes? What if they were now each trying to seduce each other in order to gain access to state secrets? And what if none of this went according to plan?
In a world only slightly offset from our own, spies and nations compete for supremacy through violence and seduction. Seemingly immune to these seductive honey traps, unshakable master spy Hayato spreads rumors of vulnerable top-secret information and establishes a shared house to lure spires whom he plans to turn or kill as needed. Only one problem—the first person to take up residence in the house is his childhood crush, who is now a spy for a rival state. Unwilling to kill each other and falsely believing that their cover stories are intact, Hayato and Seraphy begin an uncertain dance of testing allegiances as they decide just what they’re willing to do for their countries. But as more spies arrive and a tangled web of past and present relationships takes shape, the seductive banter and hijinks that began the story may not be enough to overcome the external forces that have come looking for Hayato and the secrets he claims to possess.
With an intriguing spy story at its core, Honey Trap Shared House makes no attempt to hide that the main purpose of the book is to give page time to the sexy shenanigans and tangled relationships of the core characters. Kuji sketches an intriguing but sparse world of international spycraft and populates it with a set of characters that each have a grounded emotional core to their backstories, even if the women in the story are never allowed to exist apart from their sexuality. There are references to the harsh amorality of spycraft, marked by a trail of bodies and lies each character has left behind. The majority of the book however, takes a much more lighthearted approach to increasingly awkward and forced attempts at explicit seduction by a cast of unprepared characters who all quickly realize that they are in over their heads. There are moments of sweetness mixed into the increasingly bawdy storyline, but Kuji never lets the reader forget that the honey traps are the point, and all the rest of the story takes a backseat to the dynamic between the main characters and those around them.
If the writing left any doubt regarding the point of the book, Kozuki’s art is sure to remind the reader that the focus is on voluptuous young women in skimpy outfits failing to seduce their mark. There are some cool action sequences and engaging artistic styles, but each new female character brings with her a larger bust and fewer clothes than the previous. It’s worth noting that the male main character is never presented in this way. Even in their notes at the start and end of the book, Kuji and Kozuki are very clear that they came to write a sexy romcom, and that’s what they intend to do. Even more than the writing, it’s the visuals throughout the story that push the title solidly into adult territory.
Yen Press gives the title a Mature rating for language, nudity, sex, and violence, and the book delivers on all of these elements without inhibition. As such, Honey Trap Shared House is clearly intended for an adult audience. Overall, there isn’t a huge amount of substance here as the primary focus is on the visuals of the female characters and the situations they end up in. However, the art is effective even when not focused on women’s bodies and the writing does find plenty of humor and occasional moments of sincerity amidst the explicit fan service. It’s not a title I’d recommend for most collections, but for readers specifically looking for an adult-oriented, harem, romcom set in a world of spycraft and seduction, this book does deliver on its promises, managing to have fun even where it forsakes subtlety—which is most of the time.
Honey Trap Shared House Vol. 01 By Masamune Kuji Art by Koichi Kozuki Yen Press, 2022 ISBN: 9781975365042
Publisher Age Rating: M NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Creator Representation: Japanese Character Representation: Japanese
The Soul Senders are a special breed. Part wizard and part healer, they are charged with a sacred duty. Most of the time, when a creature dies, their spirit moves on to continue the cycle of life. However, sometimes the spirit becomes stuck in its former body. This leads to a curse, which blights nearby vegetation, disturbs the local wildlife, and eventually corrupts those unfortunates who live nearby. The Soul Senders have the power to send these spirits away and cleanse the corruption, though it takes a heavy toll upon them.
Alpi is a novice Soul Sender, embarking on her first journey apart from her parents. Since they are both powerful Soul Senders themselves, the expectations for Alpi are high. Thankfully, though she is apart from her family, she is not alone in her quest. Accompanied by her familiar Perenai, who takes the form of a devout butler, Alpi is determined to prove herself a powerful Soul Sender, despite her age and inexperience.
The first volume of Alpi – The Soul Sender is a wonderful introduction to the world of the title heroine. Many Magical Girl Manga tend to be overly heavy in exposition and grind their stories to a halt whenever the heroine must learn something new about her powers. Alpi is quite different. Apart from the opening text establishing the setting, there is very little in the way of information dumping. Instead, the details of how Alpi’s powers work come about naturally in the story.
For instance, the second chapter centers around Alpi’s efforts to cleanse a curse from a local lake. The curse is caused by a great fish, whose unclean death began to taint the water. Unfortunately, because Alpi’s rituals require her to draw a circle on the ground around the cursed corpse, there is no clear way for her to perform the cleansing spell. This leads to an exciting rush to action, as Alpi enlists the local fisherman to help her build a dock around the curse, though the wood begins to decay almost immediately thanks to the blight. This also showcases Alpi’s cleverness and determination.
While Alpi -The Soul Sender does little to defy genre conventions, it is a fine manga in the same spirit as Cardcaptor Sakura. The artwork by Roma is crisp and clear, with expressive faces and exciting action. This would be a fine starter manga for any parent hoping to get their children interested in comics. It is particularly well suited for those bold girls who are ready to move beyond fairy tales but not quite ready for Pippi Longstocking or Anne of Green Gables.
Titan Manga has rated this volume as being appropriate for all ages. I agree with that assessment, for the most part. There is no overt violence and no sexual content. There is a bit of spooky stuff, with the dark spirits and Alpi’s fearful reactions whenever she is cleansing herself of the curses. The comic is also based around the idea of a holy magic-user, which may be a sticking point for some families. Alpi is an entirely heroic figure, however, and there is nothing in the book that references any specific religion apart from one off-hand mention of a singular god on the first page.
Alpi – The Soul Sender, Vol. 1 By Rona Morrison Titan, 2023 ISBN: 9781787741300
Publisher Age Rating: all ages NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Tween (10-13)
Known as the Silent Witch because of her ability to cast magic without vocal chants, Monica Everett leaves her secluded station to attend Serendia Academy. But she isn’t attending to learn, she’s there to secretly protect the second prince, Prince Felix Ridill at the behest of her colleague Louis, who was charged by the king to secure the protection. The prince would never suspect Monica as a spy sent to protect him since the reason she learned unchanted magic was to circumvent her inability to speak in front of others due to anxiety.
Shortly after arriving at Serendia Academy, Monica immediately discovers that something is not right. A noble is accused of embezzling from the student council funds, and a chance encounter with the second prince in the gardens ends with a potted plant being thrown at him from a great height. Despite this, Monica manages to make a new friend and get close to the prince to help with the investigation. All this with her cat familiar, Nero at her side.
Being the first volume in a new series, there were some cases of info-dumping exposition, but also new characters were given name and rank placards to help the reader identify the many characters featured in volume one. Luckily, none of these text boxes detract from the illustrations since they are lovely. The use of shading is used well in the absence of color to create plenty of contrast between locations and characters. And there’s lots of little details sprinkled throughout as well to reinforce that these students are nobility.
I personally enjoyed this series opener since it contains both magical school and dark academia tropes. The main character is quite powerful but is so shy that she comes across as a background character instead of a main character that demands attention. The story moves forward quickly for a first volume, answering a couple of questions while introducing plenty of others to keep the reader interested. This would likely do well in any teen collection and especially at any library where patrons are looking for more magical school or dark academia titles. There is also a light novel of the same name.
Secrets of the Silent Witch Vol. 01 By Matsuri Isora Art by Nanna Fujimi Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975365301
Publisher Age Rating: Teen
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: Japanese,
Only the smartest, most capable mages work at Harré and that’s just what Nunnally Hel plans to do. After meeting a receptionist at the esteemed establishment, she is determined to follow the same career path. She studied hard and is now heading to the kingdom’s magic academy to continue working toward her goal. At the magic academy, Nunnally faces social challenges and, as the commoners and nobles clash, discovers her magic type and meets her nemesis, Lord Alweiss Rockmann. Rivalry arises between Alweiss and Nunnally as soon as they start school and remains constant throughout their six years there. They are the top two students in their class and Alweiss is always number one, driving Nunnally nuts. She questions her teachers, but never gets a clear answer.
After their fifth year of school, all of the students participate in the Practical Magic Combat Tournament, which is observed by recruiters from Harré and other professional organizations. The tournament is divided by gender; Alweiss and Nunnally each win 1st place for their division and receive job offers pending their graduation. Alweiss is surprised to learn that Nunnally wants to be a receptionist, but doesn’t explain why. Even with job offers, feelings of competition continue between the two during their final year of school. After graduation, Nunnally heads off to begin her work at Harré. The book ends with a bonus classroom argument scene between Alweiss and Nunnally from their fourth year.
I Want to Be a Receptionist in This Magical World, Vol. 1 is a pleasant read that left me wanting more. The story is well written. Mako does an efficient, natural job at giving the reader a good idea of the characters’ personalities. I found all of the characters interesting and would love to see more content with the background characters. Hopefully, that will come in subsequent volumes. Some character development among both the main and background characters is seen. Watching Nunnally’s relationships with her classmates develop and grow from enemies to friends is heartwarming and watching Nunnally and Alweiss become obsessed with each other is fun. It’s cute to see the reactions of the teachers and other students to their constant bickering. Even though Nunnally adds the goal of wanting to beat Alweiss, she admirably remains focused on her primary goal of working for Harré. The storyline is gratifying and motivating. Nunnally identifies her goal at the beginning of the story, and in each chapter the reader gets to see that she is closer to achieving her goal.
The story moves quickly, beginning with Nunnally as a young child and ending with her entering adulthood. I would have loved to spend more time witnessing her experiences in each year of school and seen her relationships develop more gradually. I would have enjoyed reading a more detailed account of events across five or six volumes. Rushing through so many years gives the impression that volume 1 is a prologue to the true story of Nunnally working at Harré and possibly falling in love with Alweiss. If that is the case, I am excited to read volume 2 and see Nunnally start her new adventure of working at Harré and potentially fall in love.
The artwork is beautiful, with lovely colors on the front and back covers. Even though the pages are black and white, the concept of color is expressed in an easy way for the reader to understand. In the beginning of the book, Nunnally’s love for the colors and magic in her world is translated into amazed facial expressions and stars, fireworks, and swirls in the sky. The reader knows that Nunnally has dark hair in the beginning of the book, due to shading. When her hair and eyes turn light blue, the shading reflects that. Her hair and eyes are suddenly shaded much lighter.
The facial expressions of the characters are fun to watch. When they feel extreme emotions, their features are simplified in a humorous way. When Nunnally is irritated or annoyed, her usually big, detailed eyes are drawn as little half circles with horizontal lines on top. Throughout the book, as the characters grow up, the aging and physical growth moves quickly with the story, and Yone and Maro implement each transition amazingly smoothly and subtly.
I Want to Be a Receptionist in This Magical World, Vol. 1 will appeal most strongly to teens who enjoy fantasy stories. It takes place during high school years. Ages are not mentioned, but the art style of the characters changes throughout the book. The readers get to watch the characters grow from pre-teens to young adults. Thirteen-18 year olds will likely find those changes relatable and exciting.
I Want to Be a Receptionist in This Magical World, Vol. 1 By Mako Art by Yone, Maro Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975352899
Publisher Age Rating: T NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
He talks to the dolls in his toy collection, spits out razor sharp nails with stunning accuracy, and conjures forth curses upon those who have wronged him to wreak spiteful vengeance. In his latest foray into the macabre, Junji Ito aims the spotlight at one of the quirkiest characters from his horrific imagination—young Soichi Tsujii—in Soichi: Junji Ito Story Collection.
In the opening story “A Happy Summer Vacation,” Michina and Yuskue pay a visit to their second cousins in the rural town of Fukazawa. No sooner than they settle down to play a game of cards does pesky little Soichi, the unhinged eleven-year-old child of the Tsujii family, sneak up on them. Muttering incoherently, his mouth crammed with protruding nails resembling fangs (he supposedly sucks on them to supplement iron in his blood), he makes his intrusive appearance. Dismissing him as nothing more than a little brat, Michina ignores him, which prompts Soichi to cast a voodoo-like spell by hammering a straw doll resembling Michina to a wall. Strangely enough, in the middle of the night, Michina begins experiencing stabbing chest pains. Could Soichi really be capable of supernatural dark magic? What lurks within the skewed corridors of his twisted mind?
Other stories explore aspects of his character from multiple perspectives. In “Soichi’s Happy Diary,” Michina stumbles upon his diary and gains access to his deluded fantasies, the entries revealing how he methodically carries out curses on others with vengeful glee, with her being the first victim of his vicious pranks. But is he really jinxing others into accidents and mishaps, or are these mere coincidences? In “Soichi’s House Visit,” a schoolteacher pays a home visit to Soichi. However, Soichi places a hex on him, turning him into a cloth doll that bends towards his will, much to the shock of the students at school when they encounter the teacher’s erratic behavior. “Soichi’s Birthday” sheds light on his sickly grandmother, also known as “old lady prophet,” due to the ominous prophecies she spouts even though they rarely came true. But she predicts the birth of a demon child to be born on June 6 at six in morning and forms a special connection with him, believing he is destined to become a genius.
Unlike other collections, this one centers on an antihero alongside recurrent side characters and plots, delving into an intriguing character study. While not packed with grotesque shock scares as in his other works, Ito manages to deliver a deeper, psychological exploration of an enigmatic character. The imagery exudes haunting overtones as in “The Four Layered Room,” wherein Koichi, Soichi’s older brother, needs to study for his exams and hires a contractor to build a soundproof room so he can concentrate and insulate himself from Soichi’s persistent pestering. The contractor—a sickly looking fellow—builds a super confining space enclosed by four concentric layers of walls. Claustrophobic angled shots unfold through a montage of panels, creating a creepy maze-like sensation as Koichi navigates the infrastructure of the house, playing a warped game of cat and mouse with his insidiously mischievous brother.
Dark humor mixed with hilarious moments fill the pages of this fascinating foray into the haunting conundrum of Soichi. Is he merely a mischievous brat craving attention? Or does he harbor a sinister machination against his family and the world at large, especially those who dare cross him? A fun, amusing, and quirky collection, this venture into the multiple facets of Soichi highlights a weirdly delightful exploration into one of Ito’s most confounding characters yet, serving up a unique blend of horror and eerie comedy to adult manga collections.
Soichi Junji Ito Story Collection By Junji Ito VIZ, 2023 ISBN: 9781974739028
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Japanese, Character Representation: Japanese,
Gorou Amamiya is an obstetrician-gynecologist is a small hospital. He develops an interest in idol star Ai Hoshino after a former patient shared her obsession. One night, he comes face-to-face with Ai, who is pregnant with twins but doesn’t want her fans to know because that would kill her career as an idol. He is murdered before Ai gives birth and is reincarnated as one of the twins named Aquamarine.
The other twin, named Ruby, is also a reincarnation, the same former patient who introduced Gorou to Ai. Neither of them knows who the other was before their incarnation as Ai’s twins, but they work together to help Ai achieve her goals. Several chapters are spent on slice-of-life activities to build relationships and character development.
Unfortunately, Ai is murdered by a fan who then commits suicide when the twins are only four years old. The twins are adopted by Ai’s manager, whose wife had been taking care of them publicly, and Aqua decides that the only way the fan could have known their address was from their biological father, who has always been a secret. The story then jumps forward twelve years.
I enjoyed the coupling of the glitz and darkness of the entertainment industry. I have no personal experience, so I don’t know how accurately it is portrayed; however, it does seem to match what actors and industry people in the United States have revealed in interviews and biographies. It was especially fun to look closer at idol groups, which are very popular both overseas and here in the US. Even if the premise is not based in fact, the storytelling is excellent and crafts a good balance between drama and character growth. This story would benefit from color art, but the illustrator does a good job setting the tone for scenes with the appropriate glitz or darkness.
If you have patrons who are enjoying the anime (available to stream on Hidive), the manga is an excellent complement to have in your collection. The first volume is featured in the extended first episode of the anime, but the manga includes one-page interviews between each chapter that give additional insight into the main story. I would recommend this series for teens or adults since there are some sensitive themes explored.
Oshi No Ko Vol. 01 By Aka Akasaka Art by Mengo Yokoyari Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975363178
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Japanese,
When I first saw Wolverine: Snikt! I thought I was simply reading the next installment from Viz Media of Marvel characters that were being given their own manga book. I was both right and wrong; this book is a Wolverine story told in magna formatting, but it isn’t new.
Wolverine: Snikt! was originally published by Marvel Comics as a five-issue series way back in 2003. It was part of a Marvel short lived “Tsunami” line of comics that were “manga-style” so they could try and jump on the growing demand for manga in United States. This edition is being formatted by Viz as a traditional manga and it is being labeled a deluxe edition with an introduction from Nick Dragotta (East of West, Fantastic Four) and an art gallery at the end.
On the third page of this book, and with no dialog to tell us why, Logan is pulled into another time by a young mutant girl. She loses track of him in the transfer and he finds himself alone in a dystopian future where a weird biomechanical monster starts to fight him immediately. It has the ability to self-repair and Logan would be lost if not for The Colonel, a man-shaped machine with the only weapon capable of taking down a Mandate. They are running out of ammunition for the gun and they are running out of warriors. Fusa, the girl who brought him here, explains that 11 years ago in 2047 the Mandate attacked and wiped nearly everyone out. It turns out the Mandate itself is a mutant, sort of. It’s a mutant disease that started out as a lab experiment where they hoped to turn a bacteria into a microorganism that would decompose the toxic materials poisoning the Earth. However, once it was outside of the lab environment it couldn’t be contained and it gained sentience. Now, they have to destroy the original Mandate, called Primogenitor, otherwise it will never stop producing more Mandates. You have to destroy a Mandates orb-core to kill it, otherwise it will keep knitting itself back together. By now, you can guess what element will destroy an orb-core and what The Colonel is made out of, Adamantium, making Logan their only hope.
This story is going to be a tough sell to an audience older than tweens and teens. Viz rates this Teen+ for older teens, but I think Teen is fine rating for this. It’s violent, but they are fighting robotic monsters and it is only 136 pages with credits. The story itself is tissue-paper thin and there are no surprises anywhere along the way. A teen reader might give this a pass and enjoy the action, but I found myself mostly disappointed. I appreciate that Tsutomu Nihei had the unenviable task of trying to get the entirety of a story into five issues, but I’ve seen other creators do more with that same task.
The art from Nihei is a lot murkier than his later, much lauded work Knights of Sidonia. That is to say, this art feels like it’s from 2003 and the artist is still evolving. His later work is a lot cleaner, here faces are tough to tell apart and are very sparse on details. Some of the larger vistas that he illustrates show the range of his talent, but Logan hardly looks like the character most comic fans know. Marvel made the choice to have this colored, which probably hinders the work more than it helps. I don’t know that this book is going to make a convert of anyone, but it is hard to deny Wolverine’s appeal and ability to sell books. I think there is certainly an audience out there for this story and there are plenty of teen readers who will enjoy both the manga aesthetic and “otherworld” approach to the storytelling.
Wolverine: Snikt! By Tsutomu Nihei VIZ, 2023 ISBN: 9781974738533
Publisher Age Rating: Teen+(older teen)
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Japanese,
Insomniacs After School is the most surprising, delightful, and charming book I have read in quite some time. It is a simple slice of life book that, thanks to its sincerity, at no point let me down. I wondered constantly if something exciting, paranormal or extraordinary might happen. It had all the hallmarks of a book that was about to toss a curveball at the reader, but it didn’t and yet I was never disappointed.
The books opens with a student at Kuyo High School telling another why they no longer have an astronomy club. It is a ghost story about a girl who supposedly threw herself off the top of the astronomy tower. Then other members of the club started dying mysteriously. It’s an interesting way to open the book, and it is what set me up to think something unusual might happen at any time. However, we learn in time that one of our protagonists made up the story to keep people away from the astronomy tower. Isaki Magari cannot sleep and as someone who had childhood illnesses, she doesn’t want people making a big deal about her sleep now and fussing over her. Ganta Nakami can’t sleep either and it makes him grumpy which keeps people at bay, so he doesn’t have many friends. He doesn’t want to go to the nurse because he’d be going all the time and he doesn’t want people to think there is something wrong with him. They both discover that the disused observatory is quiet, comfortable, and entirely theirs for the taking.
Magari and Nakami bond over their inability to sleep and the feeling of being an outsider because of it. There is a cat that befriends them and harasses one of their teachers, stealing lettuce from Kurashiki Sensei’s sandwich. They find they can actually sleep when together in the observatory and so they try to make time to be there together. Kurashiki Sensei one day chases the cat all the way up to the observatory trying to get her food back and stumbles upon their secret. She isn’t mad, she isn’t judgmental, but she is required to report it to the school. Fortunately, they work around this by reviving the astronomy club and Nakami and Magari become the first members.
The publisher has this tagged as a romance genre book, which may be true later, but in this volume I would say you only get a glimpse of attraction. Magari certainly seems to sense she has feelings for Nakami, but never speaks them out loud, even to herself. Nakami realizes he only wants to come to school to see Magari, but he can’t quite sort out if it’s more than to be able to sleep. This may develop into a relationship in further installments, but for now it’s entirely chaste as two high school students try to navigate making friends with someone very different from themselves. That said, the art certainly wants you to find Magari adorable and charming.
The strength of the art is how effectively it’s used to forward the plot with wonderful subtlety. Characters are framed in-panel to help shape our feelings about them, much like a movie director giving us cues wordlessly. Each character is distinct and the world is fully recognizable without any panel being overstuffed or too busy to enjoy. It feels like choices were made specifically for pace and atmosphere so that there is never a wasted moment; everything is about creating an almost ethereal world for our sleepy protagonists even in the middle of a school day.
This book is rated Teen and while I understand that rating, there is nothing here that would prohibit tweens/junior high readers from enjoying it. As an adult, the art and tone captivated me immediately and I have already preordered all available volumes for our library. For libraries considering this book, at the time of this writing there are 13 volumes available in Japanese. English translations may be slow to follow, but there will be a lot more to come. I am recommending this to readers at my library who are looking for books that are not heavy action or high emotion stakes. This is a gentle read that still satisfies, and I think will find a lot of different types of fans.
Insomniacs After School, Vol. 01 By Makoto Ojiro VIZ Signature, 2023 ISBN: 9781974736577
Publisher Age Rating: Teen NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Japanese Character Representation: Japanese
Agredios, the margrave’s son, returns from an unsanctioned hunting trip hoping to surprise his family with a plump pheasant for dinner. Unfortunately, he returns to find his family and the rest of the town dead of unnatural causes. In his grief, Agredios rushes into the Forbidden Woods to confront the local witch as he believes she is the cause of all this death. When he finds her, he proceeds to use his magic to attack her. She claims she was not at fault for the town’s misfortune, so they decide to work together to discover the truth and survive.
The two discover a set of twins, Percie and Perla, who are still alive and begin to care for them. Then some villagers from a town over arrive being chased by an enormous fortress bee (best described as a giant bee that is also a hive for a large amount of bees). Agredios is joined by his sister Griamelda and is able to defeat the fortress bee. The family decides to stay for awhile and show the others how to use the bees’ honey, larvae, and bodies to make food to complement the little they have available.
This is an interesting start to a story; however, it is clearly the beginning to something long and involved that may not know where the end is supposed to be. Very little story building is provided for the world at large, including the country’s structure, how magic works, or anything about the witch’s origin. The focus is more on survival skills and immediate actions, which I enjoyed as well as the creatures that were introduced. But at the end of volume one, I was left wanting more information about these characters and the world itself.
While the art style is enjoyable, many of the illustrations are highly detailed to the point of obscurity, especially in panels that portray action sequences. The characters are easy to tell apart, but I didn’t think the action came across that well in black and white. Color definitely would have been helpful for clarity.
With the amount of violence and bodily fluids portrayed (as well as a panty shot on two young children), I wouldn’t be comfortable giving this to anyone under the age of 16. It’s meant for older teens and adult readers. Honestly, you could skip adding this title to your library’s collection unless it is turned into a popular anime.
The Witch and the Knight Will Survive, Vol. 01 By Dai Chikamoto Art by Gonbe Shinkawa Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975360603
Publisher Age Rating: 16+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)