Wonder!, Vol. 3

By Akira Kawa. Released in Japan by Futabasha, serialized in the magazine Women’s Comic Jour. Released in the United States by Futabasha on the JManga website.

When I left off with Vol. 2 of Wonder!, I was wondering whether the extremely uncomfortable plot twist that ended it would be brought up again in the third volume or just glossed over. In a way, it’s both. But I’m OK with how it resolved, as having it any other way would just give me the creeps (as indeed it does to Kaori at the start of the book). That said, it feels a bit of a cop-out, and makes Kaori’s mother even less sympathetic than she already was. But then, that’s one of the main things about this series: family are always there, even if you try desperately to avoid them, and they always bring their own issues to the table. And not all families are perfect.

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That said, the main family – Kaori, Taiyou, Kota and Miya – still tend to be a bit better than you’d expect. Problems that affect them mostly come from outside sources, and even the one time there’s a big screw-up – Taiyou trusts a mother that he bonds with at the zoo to take his girl to the ladies’ room, only for the mother to run off with her – it’s something that resolves in a rather pat way. As for Kota, when your worst flaw is that you’re sometimes too direct and a bit reserved, you’re clearly a great kid. He gets to show off how he deals with both kids and creeps in this volume, and his awesomeness is (so far) rewarded. Only Kaori really seems to have major issues here, and that’s mostly from the fallout from last volume. Everyone’s just a bit too perfect.

However, the author does seem to be trying to shake things up. Kota’s cousin Kaito, who looks very similar to Kota except for his height, arrives, and proves to be a giant pain in the neck. He’s under pressure from his mother to live up to his siblings’ success in school, and it’s driving him to acting up. He’s clearly meant to contrast with Kota, as the cast lampshades, and almost causes Kota to show an actual emotion. His mother, though, once revealed, explains much of his behavior – she’s even worse than Kaori’s mom (and in fact allows Kaori’s mom to have the upper hand for a bit), and makes your nerves grate. Kaori notes to Taiyo that part of the reason they agre4ed to their ‘open marriage’ at first was simply to avoid dealing with each other’s family, and we’ve come to see why.

And throughout all this there is the dog Wonder, who still has odd traces of the supernatural to him, being able to instantly show up whenever there is trouble, even if he’s also still at home playing with the kid. The family seems to have quietly accepted it as ‘awesome dog powers’, but given that said dog has saved their lives multiple times, I can see why they’d want to gloss over and explanations in case they ruin the fantasy. It does add an odd touch to this off-kilter soap-opera of a manga, which never quite allows me to find my footing. While the lack of stability can be annoying, it’s also probably why I find it so fascinating. I want to read more about these people to see how they tick. Yes, even if it means dealing with their families. Here’s hoping for Vol. 4 soon.

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