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.

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 7

By Hitoma Iruma and Non. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee.

I have spent several volumes of this series fascinated by the thought process of Shimamura, and this is the volume that really drive home that perhaps I should have been paying more attention to Adachi, who is starting to worry me. Overexcitable angsty gay has worked for her so far, and has ranged from amusing (we see that in the first quarter or so of this volume) to seriously concerning (the rest of this volume). Indeed, Shimamura has benefited far more from getting a girlfriend, and makes stabs towards almost being normal in this book, in a detached introspective way. She’s saying and doing the right things. Adachi is not, and her lack of any other social group other than her crush/girlfriend is starting to tell in a bad way. Shimamura is allowed to have friends. It can’t just be the two of them in a bubble of their own. Given that I doubt the author is going to do a breakup arc anytime soon, I can only hope Adachi matures soon, as Christ, she’s annoying right now.

The main plot, such as it is, is the two girls trying to get used to their new relationship upgrade. Shimamura has to be a bit more proactive about everything, going along with making lunches for each other and things like that, while also still groping in her own mind towards how she feels about Adachi. I think she clearly loves her – she talks offhandedly about wanting to spend the rest of her life with Adachi – but it’s not connecting with anything other than her default “well, whatever” emotional setting. And there’s also old childhood friends to deal with… or rather, to avoid. As for Adachi, you’d think she’d be over the moon, and she is, but her anxiety and stress is simply making things worse most of the time. You know things are bad when she’s asking Nagafuji for date advice – if you thought we’d end up with boomerang throwing again, you’re right.

The main plot is bookended by several interludes showing alternate universes where Adachi and Shimamura meet or interact in different way. Sometimes this can be a mistake – the universe where Adachi stayed cool and aloof made me think “Oh my God, I wish we had this one instead” – but for the most part they show us that no matter what, the two girls will always somehow find their way to each other, which is sweet. There’s also the usual brief interaction with Yashiro, and I must admit I respect the author for not simply using her less and less as our heroines figure everything out but insisting she barge into the narrative anyway. She’s still not quite human, but she’s not quite 100% abnormal either. She’s almost a mentor to Shimamura and her sister, and has even taken to showing up in Shimamura’s dreams. It’s… weird, but not bad, sort of like eating a food with an unusual filling you didn’t expect in it.

The next volume promises a school trip, which should be fun. Till then, Adachi needs to chill more, Shimamura needs to chill less, and Nagafuji needs to find a different children’s toy.

My Next Life As a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 10

By Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka. Released in Japan as “Otome Game no Hametsu Flag Shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei Shite Shimatta…” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Marco Godano.

As this series goes from a quick two-volume story to a double digit franchise, it’s perhaps a very good time to take a look at exactly who Katarina Claes is now. I still tend to call the series Bakarina out of habit, and certainly when it comes to not picking up romantic clues there’s still no one who can touch her, but the earlier books showed off how difficult it was to imagine Katarina as an adult out in the world. That’s not really the case anymore, and it almost sneaks up on you. While she can’t read the room in regards to anyone’s love for her (and her offhand “love, maybe I’ll try that one day” really will delight the ‘Katarina is asexual/aromantic’ faction), her empathy and desire to help others is off the charts, and, when told to start learning black magic, she develops a power that is literally cleansing the evil out. With a magic wand.

Back at the Ministry after the events of the last book, Katarina has discovered that the books that she and Maria are trying to decipher also turn out to be very user-specific – Maria can’t teach anything that she learns from her book, and Katarina would no doubt be the same. But Maria is a light magic expert. So, much as she worries it will lead to her doom, Katarina is told to learn dark magic. Still, she also has time to go with Cyrus and Maria (and everyone else in the cast, because this is a Bakarina novel) to an orphanage, where she learns what she can and can’t do with little kids and tries to help a particularly stubborn orphan. Unfortunately, we also see the return of a villain who hasn’t been seen since Book Four – Sarah is back, and still trying to find troubled folks she can do dark magic experiments on. Can even she be helped by our all-loving heroine?

I’ve talked before about how I think this series is LGBT “by accident” – that is to say it’s because the premise has everyone fall for Katarina, not because of any desire by the author to have the girls end up with other girls. That said, particularly in the case of Maria Campbell, it’s becoming hard to try to drag things back to the normal romance novel mode. Cyrus has amazed us by being one of those rare main characters not in love with Katarina Claes, and she spends much of this book trying to get the awkward lug to get closer to Maria – and failing, because of course Maria is over the moon for Katarina herself. Even the bonding activities that they’re doing with his teaching her martial arts comes down to her desire to protect Katarina rather than needing to be the one who is protected. If Cyrus does end up being a love interest for Maria in future books, we’ve got a LONG way to go. Then again, the same could be said about Katarina and Jeord.

From what I hear, the next volume may do something about that. Till then, enjoy this series and its all-loving heroine, who may be impulsive but is also a very good person. And now she has a magic wand.

An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, Vol. 12

By Fuminori Teshima and COMTA. Released in Japan as “Maou no Ore ga Dorei Elf wo Yome ni Shitanda ga, Dou Medereba Ii?” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

Usually when I’m reading books that I’m going to be reviewing I try to come up with a theme for the review so that it doesn’t end up just being me babbling on for 500 words. (Sometimes I can’t, as longtime readers who have read my babble know.) With this volume of Archdemon’s Dilemma, watching everyone suddenly obsessed with birthdays, it was going to be about how this series tries to balance out the cute romance aspect of it with the much darker plot and backstory part, and how that can be difficult because it’s pretty clear the main audience – or at least me – are far more interested in the former. Seeing magic battles and having traitors get rewarded as they deserve is all very well and good, but where are the blushing idiots? That *was* the plan for the review. Then Richard and Nephteros had to pull a “your shirt” moment, and everything went to hell.

The fun part of the book is the fact that Zagan has the idea of a birthday party for Nephy, and this just spirals on until everyone wants to know everyone’s else’s birthday. This is both hilarious and tragic because half the characters are either orphans, constructs, or hundreds of years old, so have no experience with birthdays or parties. So you get a lot of randomly chosen days, and a lot of worrying about presents. The three “main” couples (Zagan and Nephy, Chastille and Barbatos, and Shax and Kuroka) all get a cute scene or two. As the book goes on, though, the cuteness takes a back seat to the darkness. Nephteros is dying and does NOT want to have the usual fix when a homunculus is dying. Dexia is on the run and desperately trying to resurrect her sister. And we have two bad guys from the past suddenly show up in the present… and they seem to know who Zagan is? Finally, Nephteros too finds out what it’s like to love someone. In the worst way possible.

I think we can all agree that Bifrons is the Big Bad of this series, and he’s at his absolute worst here. You know a villain is bad when they start quoting Izaya Orihara, and that’s what we get here, with Bifrons “I love humanity” amounting to the same thing – he loves seeing them suffer and struggle. The Nephteros and Richard scenes were very good, but I will knock the book off two points for reminding me of that scene with Willow and Tara in Buffy that I pretend never happened. There’s also an attempted rape, which I could also have done without. I did enjoy seeing a new love triangle form, especially when one of the points in it admits that she’s a lesbian, but I’m pretty sure that she’s going to be the one left out of it in the end, so oh well.

As the book went on and got more serious, it was very well written but not really what I read this series for. I suspect the next volume, whenever it comes out, will be rather dark, but I hope it finds the time to remember its core plot: dorks in love.