Psycome: Murder Princess and the Summer Death Camp

By Mizuki Mizushiro and Namanie. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

The second volume of Psycome takes its premise and runs with it, as we see our class of murderers sent on a field trip/survival camp, a trope that I thought was actually more Western than anything else but apparently must pop up in Japan as well. Once at camp, we get the usual combination of cliched romantic comedy antics and attempted killings, even though, of course, murder is absolutely prohibited by the staff. We see such cliches as walking across a rickety rope bridge, class skits around the campfire, late-night ero comedy at the hot springs, and a nature walk to boot. And all this is supervised by a new girl, Shamaya, the Murder Princess of the title. And unlike Kyousuke or Eiri, she is definitely here for genuine murder, as she sees fit to gleefully tell us.


Just as all the main cast are painful cliches, so is Shamaya – as you can tell from the cover art, she’s the pampered ojou-sama type, and also fills in as head of the Public Morals Committee, dedicated to making sure all the new freshman are following the straight and true path. Of course, after Book One we know that said path is turning teenage killers into professional assassins, so we’re not too impressed. And indeed Shamaya is fairly easily thrown off her game – at first by people merely breaking the rules (such as the three goons whose names I can’t even remember trying to strangle Kyousuke), but later on she meets her match in Maina, the baby-talking clumsy girl who’s in this school for accidental deaths so ludicrous that no one believes they’re accidental. Maina brings out Shamaya’s true psychotic nature, but unfortunately for her there’s already a better psycho in town, Renko.

The book continues to walk a fine line, and doesn’t always succeed – sometimes when it tries too hard to be earnest or serious, I don’t feel as if it’s earned it. Hence I was skeptical of Shamaya’s heel-face turn after Maina’s big speech, and kept waiting for it to be another trick. Some of the comedy also falls flat, such as the epilogue where Shamaya seems to have traded in her murderous impulses for yuri impulses. But this is offset by some genuinely good set pieces, such as Eiri’s apology to Kyousuke for being such a tsundere to him, which *does* seem genuine and earned, or Maina’s aforementioned speech, which is depressing but also uplifting. And some of the comedy managed to surprise me and make me laugh, particularly Renko’s beatboxing rap group, which has to be read to be believed.

So, as with the first volume, we’re left with a promising yet deeply inconsistent book with an intriguing premise. The epilogue promises us a new character in the third volume, which I suspect will ramp up another cliched harem comedy trope accordingly, much as I’d wish it wouldn’t. But that’s what you get when you read a series like this. If they’re going to set a series in a wacky prison school and then throw in every cliche in the book, it would feel wrong not to hit every cliche. I’m not sure I could tolerate a manga or anime of this, but as prose, Psycome is amusing, goofy fun.

Cells at Work!, Vol. 1

By Akane Shimizu. Released in Japan as “Hataraku Saibou” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Sirius. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Yamato Tanaka.

We have seen a lot of anthropomorphism in manga and anime recently, with Hetalia probably being the most famous example of it. It can be fun to imagine countries, or subway lines, or beers reimagined with human shapes and personalities. It’s been around a long time, and is usually in a humorous vein. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t also be used to teach you things. In Cells at Work!, the things we’re learning about are – no surprise – cells, as the human body is shown as sort of a messy organic factory, where various types of cells try to do their job as quickly as possible while avoiding the seemingly constant threat of invasion. Thankfully, this is not an ‘educational’ manga per se, as the main thrust is human and action, both of which we get in great amounts.


Our Heroine is Red Blood Cell – yeah, don’t expect easy to remember Japanese names here – a cute, spunky, but somewhat dim girl whose job it is delivering oxygen to various parts of the body and then CO2 back to the lungs. Assuming she can ever find the lungs. And assuming she is not utterly destroyed by the various things that go wrong while she’s on duty, ranging from Pneumococcus and Influenza to allergies and scrape wounds, all of which could be complete disasters if not taken care of fast. Luckily, we have our hero, White Blood Cell, who is stoic and deadpan and more than a little insanely violent. He’s there to take out these monsters (some of whom resemble typical magical girl show villains, which is what makes it so amusing) and help explain things to Red Blood Cell, who seems to need a lot of things explained.

Much of this manga gets by on the sheer ridiculousness of what is going on, which helps make all the discussion of T-Cells and Memory Cells go down easier. We see overenthusiastic B-Cells, airheaded Mast Cells, yandere princess Macrophages (possibly my favorite), and trembling and scared Naive Cells. Each of the four chapters shows something going wrong, and what needs to be done to fight it. The fights involve a lot of things blowing up, crowds running and screaming, and lots of property damage, so in that way it’s a very fun shonen action manga. The humor is what I keep coming back to, though – especially a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure cameo where I was not expecting one to be. And then there’s the Platelets, who are absolutely adorable little moppets who will make you go ‘aaaaaw’.

You really do learn a lot about cells here, and the color frontispiece seems to imply we’ve only just scratched the surface of the cells we can talk about. The main characters are definitely Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell, though, and while there’s no romance (how on Earth could you pull that off?), their growing friendship is also a highlight. I had no idea what this manga was going to be like when I heard it was licensed, but now I’m totally sold. Give me more.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 2

By Mizuho Kusanagi. Released in Japan as “Akatsuki no Yona” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by JN Productions, Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.

I said I had wanted more plot development, and I get a lot of it here, very well told. We do indeed see there is a Fire Tribe in addition to the Wind tribe, and their young prince is appropriately a hothead (and ex-suitor) of Yona who is appalled when his hotheaded plan ends up turning into disaster. We also do not lose sight of Su-won, who may have started off the series by murdering Yona’s father but is not going to be just another insane shoujo villain. The idea that Yona is dead fills him with grief, and also allows us to see more flashbacks. Intterestingly, we see that Hak has actually told Su-won he wants to see him married to Yona and ruling as King. There is a silent “but not like this” that is very palpable, however.


Of course, this series is not 2 volumes long, and Yona is not dead. But before that, we get a nice look at Hak in his natural habitat, as we see another cliche of romance manga used quite well, which is the sheltered rich girl arriving in the town of the peasant boy and seeing how his simple, non-affluent lifestyle is much happier than she could have imagined. Hak is a good general who cares about his tribe, but is also able to let those who are his contemporaries (in age, if nothing else) get away with mouthing off to him provided it’s not an emergency. We also get a Tiny Tim sort, Tae-Yeon, who is adorable and inspiring and also needs his medicine. The world may be filled with political machinations, but here there are just good people.

And them there’s Yona herself, who does get to wield a sword in this volume, though she’s still shaking off her princess roots. Forced to pretend to be a lady’s maid at first, that doesn’t last long, as there’s no way that she can accept “just live here in hiding for the rest of your life” while people are suffering. I was very pleased that, rather than demand to come with Hak, she announces that she’s leaving, and wants him to come with HER. He calls her quite selfish, but it’s not the bad kind of selfishness. And, as long as we’re counting tropes, I loved the scene where she cuts off her long hair with a sword in order to escape the Fire Tribe leader. Not only is that sort of scene always badass, it gives supposed evidence of her death to the King later on.

But she isn’t dead, and despite the ridiculousness of Yona and Hak surviving a fall from that height (which the author herself points out in a 4-koma at the end), they seem to have been taken in by some allies. I’m not sure what will happen next, but given the type of manga this is, no doubt it will involve destiny and power struggles and possibly cool horseback riding? And more swords! The sky’s the limit, really. Oh yes, and some cute romance would be nice, but not necessary.