Bookshelf Briefs pointer

For those who read my reviews by category (like me), I have reviews of Blue Exorcist 3, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan 4 and Kamisama Kiss 4 in this week’s Bookshelf Briefs.

Brief Reviews On Sundry Manga: The Sequel

Yes, once again I have several volumes that I can’t seem to find several paragraphs worth of things to say, so will pile them all together in order to winnow down my review pile.

Kamisama Kiss 3: Yes, it’s still suffering from not being Karakuri Odette. Which is a shame, as it’s quite a likeable manga. We get a lot of plot points about how romances between humans and yokai go in this world, and how much “forbidden” tends to be actual lip service. Nanami is kidnapped by a snake yokai (who then turns into a bishie – this is shoujo, after all). I quite liked the fact that Nanami’s quiet “Tomoe, enough.” was sufficient to get him to listen to her and stop his rampage, which shows the bond of trust that’s developed between them since the first two volumes. The last chapter is more serious, featuring Nanami going back in time to see a Tomoe who’s seemingly far crueller and more dangerous than the one she knows. In the end, it’s a little more mainstream and typical than her previous series, but that’s also helped it run longer in Hana to Yume as well.

Toriko 5: This volume continues the search for the Regal Mammoth, and as such is basically just a bunch of fights. It was hard for me to see one group coming at the mammoth from one path and the other choosing a different one without thinking of The Five Doctors, honestly. And like The Five Doctors, each path proves to be fraught with peril. Toriko actually has to let his savage self take over in order to drive away some predators (and trust me, it’s a nightmarish sight), which Sunny and Komatsu travel through a deadly marsh. We are once again reminded of the ethics that govern Toriko’s universe, as Sunny and Komatsu are horrified than Gourmet Corps is casually slaughtering the animals without using them for food – WASTE is the big sin here. The Regal Mammoth does indeed prove to be huge – so huge that our reunited gang must journey INSIDE the animal to get at its prized meat within. As always, this is big dumb goofy Shonen Jump fun.

Blue Exorcist 2: Things settle down in this second volume, as Rin and Shiemi continue their school life at True Cross Academy. We meet a few new cast members, who are very much shonen ‘types’ – there’s the frustrated hothead who derides the hero for being lazy and stupid, but turns out to be far too similar to him for everyone’s tastes. And there’s the bitchy girl who ‘allows’ Shiemi to be friends with her in return for waiting on her hand and foot (and who seems to be the kid who was bullied when she was young, now trying to live life on the other side). Naturally, by the end both are reluctant allies to our heroes – Ryuji after he sees Rin’s bravery in the face of danger (albeit somewhat stupid bravery), and Izumo after getting told off by her ‘normal’ friend and being rescued by Shiemi’s basic goodness and niceness. It’s decent stuff, and I kept turning the page, but it hasn’t really risen above cookie-cutter shonen level yet.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan 3: This had several interesting plotlines going through it. We wrap up last volume’s big fight, and get a highly interesting revelation: Rikuo’s been playing everyone (and the reader) all this time, and is far more in control of his life than previously suspected. Of course, this also leads to organizational problems, as Rikuo also tends to be merciful, and when you want to be the leader of a bunch of cut-throat yokai, mercy is something that needs to be explained. There then follows a short plotline with Kana being stalked by a yokai that has been killing children on their 13th birthday. Naturally she’s rescued by Nura… unfortunately, this leads to her falling for the Nura side of Rikuo’s personality, and asking if Rikuo can hook her up. Ah, secret identities… (There’s also a great mirror of Kana spying on Rikuo and Tsurara at the start, with Tsurara doing the same at the end when Kana is being ‘overly friendly’… romance is likely not important in this series, but it’s sometimes cute to see. Finally, a new gang of yokai comes in to ‘take over’, and start by going after Rikuo’s grandfather. Which is unfortunate, as he’s hanging out with Yura, who most likely would try to kill him if she knew who he was. Nura is trying to do the yokai tales as a mafia/yakuza-type story, and so far it’s working pretty well.

Blue Exorcist Volume 1

By Kazue Kato. Released in Japan as “Ao no Exorcist” by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Jump Square. Released in North America by Viz.

Sometimes it’s hard to start a series when it’s actually starting. This especially holds true for Jump series, which frequently take a few volumes to get off the ground (and sometimes completely change direction). If the series has gotten buzz, and there’s already 15 or so volumes out, you can slowly catch up one by one, and if a volume is slow or awkward, shrug it off because you know the good stuff is coming.

So I suspect it is with Volume 1 of Blue Exorcist, which, as a setup for a Jump series about a hot-blooded exorcist who’s also the son of Satan, is entirely… adequate. The first chapter slightly less so, as it reads very much like a pilot episode (Nura had the same problem with its first episode), and doesn’t really go anywhere unexpected – Father Fujimoto had ‘I am going to die tragically’ tattooed across his forehead from the moment he showed up. Luckily, things pep up right at the end with the introduction of Mephisto, who is a giant freakish freak of the sort I love to see in Jump series. His alternate form is possibly the funniest moment of the volume.

After we begin Volume 2, at the academy, things start to improve as the author takes pains to worldbuild. The Academy itself looks great – the two-page spread of its grounds it fantastic, and made me want to walk around in it. I likewise enjoyed the revelation about Rin’s brother, and look forward to seeing more of their interaction – so many anime fighting series have siblings either on opposite sides or one dies to protect the other. Luckily for Rin, he already has his designated tragedy, so he and his brother can continue to bond. The other major character we meet, Shiemi, is a sweet, nice, girl in the Orihime Inoue vein, though so far lacking the eccentric quirks that drew people to Hime. I hope we get more to draw on in the future.

Again, the trouble with first volumes is that we don’t get much of Rin wising up, learning, and getting more powerful. I’m not sure how much he’ll actually wise up – his character is pretty much a hothead by definition, and will no doubt be rushing into any battles with little analysis. But right now he seems to be there to be exposited to, as we learn more about the way that exorcism and demons work here. Which unfortunately makes him a bit dull right now. There’s a few cool action sequences, but…

So as a debut Blue Exorcist is okay, but I still wonder if I would enjoy it more if I’d waited till Volume 5 was out, and then read it all in one big gulp. I will check out Volume 2, however.