This is me clearing off a significant portion of the manga on my “to review” list before the next batch arrives later this week. Most, but not all, of the titles here were also read by me during my time at this year’s Fanime *sigh*. After the break, prepare yourself for my thoughts on the latest volumes of Golden Kamuy, Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction, The Girl From the Other Side, Kaguya-sama, and The Heroic Legend of Arslan.
If you think the cover to Golden Kamuy vol. 9 indicates that this will be a Shiraishi-centric volume, then you’d be kinda right. Vol. 9 has a memorable sequence explaining how the goofy-ass felon became “The Escape King” and it’s all down to the likeness of a nun drawn by a master forger which turns out to be as minimalist as it is accurate. That’s good for some laughs, but the master forger also turns out to be relevant to the main plot as well as the cast splits up into two groups, one led by Sugimoto and the other by Hijikata, to find him.
While the latter group makes it to the prison where he’s supposed to be held, the former winds up in a very suspicious Ainu village. It’s suspicious enough to lead to one of the most balls-out action sequences in the series once its secret is exposed. There may not be a lot of real progress made on the main story in this volume, but the individual stories are still entertaining enough on their own merits.
The previous volume ended with Oran meeting up with the alien in a humanoid body that’s been wandering around the first volume. So that means Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol. 5 should be full of lots of interesting stuff as Oran and Kadode get to know their new friend “Oba?” Well, all of their interactions play out as you’d expect. Humans and aliens get to know each other, find out they’re not so different, and all that jazz.
What really makes vol. 5 interesting are a pair of chapters which shift the focus away from the primary cast. There’s one about SDF soldier Nori who’s beset on both sides by family members who are both immensely proud and utterly horrified by how he defends Japan from the invaders. Nori himself, however, is interesting to observe in his middle-of-the-road stance as he laments the fact that we’re not able to communicate with the aliens but also realizes that he has a job to do as a soldier. Later, we get to see how the military’s latest combat drone crushes all hope of peaceful co-existence in the minds of the aliens in their colony. It’s too bad the main story isn’t as interesting as these digressions into the margins of the human/alien conflict in this series.
I really enjoyed The Girl From the Other Side vol. 6. The reason it’s not getting a longer writeup is because it’s just doing more of the same really well. We see how Teacher and Shiva settle in at their new residence, observe the transformed Insider soldiers searching for them, and witness Teacher’s extended conversation with an Outsider regarding whether or not he may actually be one of them. The mysteries are deepened here and it’s questionable whether or not the answers we get here are genuine. Yet the Teacher/Shiva relationship is the core of this series and we get developments that are both touching and fun. Enough so to make the final story pages of this volume hit like a punch to the gut.
The most loving/painful massage imaginable. The weepy compellingness of shojo manga, impressed on a group. The return of the Love Detective in arguably her most challenging case to date. The introduction of a doctor who is not just the hero this series needs, but the one it deserves as well. All of these things are in Kaguya-sama: Love is War vol. 8. Do they get us any closer to resolving the battle of (dim)wits between Kaguya and Miyuki? Not one bit. Are they all very clever and funny on their own terms -- along with most of the other setups featured in this volume? Absolutely.
Ten volumes in and I’m starting to realize that the title character is probably the least interesting one in The Heroic Legend of Arslan vol. 10. Consider that members of the opposition get more interesting things to do in this volume. Silver Mask leads an assault on the religious fanatics holed up in an impenetrable fort while irascible soldier Kubard defends a village from Lusitanian raiders and winds up helping a princess rebuild her Kingdom. What does Arslan get to do here? Receive more forces at Peshawar Castle and make the decision to fight Silver Mask after Pars has been reclaimed from Lusitania. The latter bit may sound proactive, but it’s contextualized not by the prince but by a conversation between Narsus and Daryun, who have been doing more to drive the narrative than its ostensible protagonist. While the overall story is still solidly crafted, with the Kubard storyline being an entertaining digression, waiting for Arslan to become a legendary hero is really starting to drag.