About Sean Gaffney

Sean Gaffney has been reading manga since 1996, writing fanfiction in the manga and anime world since 1996, but only decided to start a manga blog in 2009. No one is quite sure why, as talking endlessly is one of his favorite things. He’s also written guest posts at Erica Friedman’s Okazu. His favorite manga things to discuss are shoujo with cheerful yet oblivious heroines, defending angry tsundere girls, and pretending he doesn’t ship. His favorite non-manga things to discuss are classic cartoons from the 1930s to 1960s, William Shakespeare (and other Elizabethan/Jacobean playwrights), and Frank Zappa. But really, he’ll happily talk about anything, even if he has to Google it first to pretend he knows all about it. He lives in Connecticut.

The Magic in This Other World Is Too Far Behind!, Vol. 5

By Gamei Hitsuji and himesuz. Released in Japan by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

It stands to reason that, given this fantasy world is looking for strong heroes, and they’ve gathered three of them from Suimei’s “home” universe (albeit two of them by accident), that there would be other heroes here who hail from Japan. That said, having the hero be Suimei’s childhood friend is asking a bit much of the reader’s suspension of disbelief, methinks. She also has amnesia, which ends up helping the book to pad out its length, because a great deal of time is spent with Suimei trying to get her to trust him and also fending off attacks from her allies, who think that he’s some sort of villain. She is… an OK character, I suppose, but I have to be honest, an overly earnest swordswoman is not really something we need to add to Suimei’s party given that we already have Lefille. Given Hatsumi has her own party, much like Reiji, I’m hoping that when this arc ends she will head off on her own.

We also get a bit more information on our villains, if not their purpose just yet, and honestly I’m wondering if they’re more antagonists than villains. There is a sense that the religion in this world may be what’s actually holding it back, and while Suimei doesn’t dwell on it too much, given that he has some highly religious people in his party, I suspect it’s not something that will go away. This is also not too surprising for a Japanese fantasy light novel, where the Church has a tendency to be evil by default, but given this author’s habit of going deeply into magical theory, I’ll be interested to see if he also goes deeply into this in a way that’s not just “God bad. Grr!”. We also get a whole cadre of demons introduced, and they seem far more villainous – the one behind the battle at the end is a typical smug jerk who needs to get what’s coming to him. (Speaking of which, once again Suimei saves the girl multiple times but the author allows Hatsumi to get in the final blow. I’ll take what I can get, I suppose.)

I mentioned last time that Liliana’s depth suffered as she was essentially the victim in her introductory books. She does much better here, adding to Suimei’s party of white mage and swordswoman by being a top class spy. The scene where everyone comes up with no information whatsoever and she mentions she found “a little bit” and then rattles off every secret in the town is almost hilarious, and as Suimei notes speaks very well of her. Admittedly, you still get the sense that the girls are all doing this to get him to like them more, but given the nature of the genre I can’t really avoid that. This book ends with a cliffhanger, so it looks like another two-parter is in the works. I do wonder if Hatsumi will get her memory back in the next book or not – there’s good plot reasons why it may be best for her to stay amnesiac. Also, will Reiji and company (who have an unwanted addition now in the form of Evil Olivier Armstrong) find the ultimate weapon they’re seeking? Too Far Behind continues to stay just on the good side of “overpowered guy with harem” titles.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty, Vol. 5

By Megumi Morino. Released in Japan as “Ohayou, Ibarahime” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Dessert. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley.

I reviewed the first volume of this shoujo series, and then the next three were reviewed as Bookshelf Briefs. This is common for the majority of the series I follow – there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and usually I don’t have 500+ words to say about a title even if I am enjoying it. But sometimes a volume comes along that I just can’t stop thinking about, and this penultimate volume of Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty is certainly that. I actually put it off for quite some time because I had a sneaking suspicion that it was going to be too depressing and also driven by Shizu’s antagonistic father. I was wrong on both counts – Tetsu fleeing with Shizu actually turns out to work out for a while, and Daddy Dearest doesn’t get to do much until near the end, because first we have to repair Shizu’s relationship with her mother.

Speaking of mothers, Tatsu’s mom manages to be the star of the show this volume, which is all the more impressive given that she spends the entire book in a coma. This is actually a major plot point, as it’s been eight years, and the family has been sacrificing everything they have to keep her going. Is it time to give up and pull the plug? The family has a difficult decision to make. The reader is not helped in making this easier when we find out who one of the spirits possessing Shizu really is. I’m not entirely sure if the final volume will have Aki waking up or dying, but I did appreciate the backstory given to both her and Sanae, Shizu’s mother – honestly it feels very much like a shoujo manga of its own, and one I’d want to read. It also helps Sanae repair her relationship with Shizu, and come to accept her despite the spirits.

That still leaves her father, who is seemingly a tougher nut to crack. In reality, I suspect this is when the author was told “you need to wrap this up by the next volume”, as this is perhaps a very rushed resolution. That said, it is quite dramatic, and we get to see the past of Shizu’s father as well, showing why he’s such a seemingly emotionless hardass. When you are starving for love, it can be wonderful to find the right person in your life. But if you then have children, you have to accept that this love is not going to be entirely the same anymore, and that can be difficult for many people. Fortunately, despite a dramatic fall, this is not resolved via convenient plot death, and hopefully the family can work things out. This is especially true given that clearly the spirits in Shizu are all, one by one, getting ready to move on. The cliffhanger suggests this will be the thrust of the final volume.

I wasn’t expecting much of this series, but it’s rapidly become one of my favorite shoujo manga this year. Fans of the genre should absolutely be buying it.

I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse, Vol. 9

By Namekojirushi and Nao Watanuki. Released in Japan as “Ore ga Heroine o Tasukesugite Sekai ga Little Mokushiroku!?” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Mana Z.

Eventually this series is simply going to have to run out of stereotypical heroines to stack on to Rekka’s pile. We’re down to two – well, one, really, but I have my suspicions about the other – in this book, and the cracks are starting to show – I’m OK with beloved childhood friend, but beloved childhood PET? Yes, turns out the cat was a cat yokai of some sort, and now She Is All Grown Up and everything. Of course, she still acts like a cat. Her story is probably the weakest in the book, actually, as this is essentially a book of four short stories with a wraparound, and so it gets resolved quickly and easily. Possibly realizing that, the author gives us a little more depth to both heroines from the 6th book, who R wasn’t quite sure were heroines or not last time. They may not have crises to resolve, but they do both seem to like Rekka. And then there’s R.

I have been crying out for more character depth and insight into R and her future, and it looks like I’m finally starting to get it. The other “girl” in this volume is an assassin from the future, and the moment we hear she’s named L we know she’s connected to R in some way. As it turns out, she’s the prototype for what R is, and it was originally her mission to save the world… but things took too long, and R had better specs, so she was used instead, and L was sent to live her own life and, well, get corrupted by the forces of evil. As frequently happens in this sort of story. I’m not entirely certain if we’re going to add L to the harem list, but the door is open for her return. That said, I found R more fascinating here. For the most part she remains her dry, emotionless snarky self, but dealing with L finally forces some actual anger and rage out of her, mostly because she can’t be like Rekka.

Much as this series tries to have Rekka be a parody of the clueless harem guy, and he absolutely is, when it comes to saving the girl he’s really, really good at it. R has watched him save the day time and again against all odds, and it’s very frustrating to R that she is ultimately unable to talk any sense into L or save her. Unfortunately, the drawback of my enjoying her plotline is that the rest of the book feels off-balance, as if the other three stories aren’t up to the task of the final one. There’s nothing wrong with them – everyone goes to the pool and tries to flirt with Rekka, to no avail; they hold a “summer camp” at the school in an effort to give Midori a bit more depth, which… works a bit, but she still suffers from not really having had much impact in her debut. So in th\e end this volume of Little Apocalypse is just OK, but the best part is at the end, so it will leave you happy when you finish it.