Like most people around the world, I’ve been staying inside since March doing my part to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Luckily, I’ve had a bunch of stuff to keep me busy; I’ve finally starting to catch up to my manga backlog! Here are a few series I’ve went through in the past few months, and if you’d like to check them out, they’re not too lengthy and perfect for a weekend reading binge.
I’ve been meaning to read more manga that isn’t quite shonen recently; as much as I love My Hero Academia, I wouldn’t mind a change of pace here and there. While I have taken a liking to shojo series like Sailor Moon as well as Takane and Hana, I read Ichigo Takano’s Orange around March and fell in love with it. While it has a somewhat cliched love triangle and a flimsy grasp on time travel that doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s a quite little romance series. Takamiya Naho finds an odd letter one day from her future self that warns her the new transfer student, Naruse Kakeru, will die during the year unless she can change the outcome of his situation. What follows is a slow-burning, heartfelt tale of Naho and her friends as they try to live their lives for their best future.
What do I like about Orange compared to other shojo series out there? Well, for starters, I really enjoyed the supporting cast of characters more than the protagonist and her love interest; Suwa is the fated third wheel but still manages to become endearing in his quest to help Naho, while aggressively protective Taka cares for her friends and will do anything to protect their reputation. The group dynamic is a wonderful one, and even as Kakeru joins as a newcomer, the friendship changes in some remarkable ways over the course of the story. I also enjoy the future segments that are interjected throughout the story, which highlights the regrets of the main cast and gives a poignant perspective on what’s going on with everyone at the moment.
While the original release covered five volumes, an additional one came out a little while after the main story wrapped up, which delves into alternate futures and what ifs that pop up within the manga itself. It’s more surreal in the time travel aspects than the main story, and those invested in certain shipping pairs might be incensed, but I think it’s a nice epilogue that sheds light on what happened in between the present manga and the future path. In addition, a new “final” volume was announced recently, so now’s the best time to catch up on this series if you want to be there in time for the resolution.
Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale
Do you like cooking? What about spiders and the feeling of existential dread? You’ll get a lot of the first two (and maybe a little of the latter) in Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale, a three-volume series that shows how a little girl adopts a gargantuan spider with a penchant for gourmet food. While the world around her falls into ruin, Nagi forages for ingredients in a forest. Along the way, she meets Asa, a spider with large teeth and a larger stomach. The two become good friends as they try and survive a world full of dangerous creatures and humans, though the story never gets too dreary and becomes a relaxed slice-of-life story instead.
The pacing is a bit uneven in the first volume, but it picks up as the story continues, handling a fine balance of quiet moments and Food Wars-esque cooking montages (with real recipes included in each chapter). It reminds me of Cooking Mama if she had to fend off hungry wolves with the help of a monstrous creature. The food itself looks amazing, and the manga accentuates the quality of the food Nagi and other characters make. As the manga continues, a little more of the world the protagonists live in is known, and it makes for a charming light read if you’re concerned about the grimmer elements of this series. The three-volume setup is a suitable length for something like this as well, so it’s not too much of a time commitment.
The Way of the Househusband
If the Yakuza series has taught me anything, it’s that even the most hardened criminals have a soft spot for the mundane everyday life. Kousuke Oono’s The Way of the Househusband is reminiscent of Kazama Kiryu’s serious yet kindhearted character, but still has bouts of violence and blood spatters here and there. The Immortal Dragon Tatsu has finally settled into a life of being a househusband, far separated from his days of being a top dog in the Yakuza. Unfortunately (though fortunately for us), the life of average Japanese resident doesn’t match the risky lifestyle of a crime lord, and hijinks ensue in every chapter of this comedy series. This also means that Tatsu’s past has a tendency to catch up with him, and shady characters from all walks of life will try to challenge him when he just wants to get chores done.
I love reading this series for the sheer absurdity of the premise. While it can feel one-note at times, the way the manga makes things like shopping for an otaku wife’s birthday gift and yoga sessions high-stakes thrill rides never ceases to amaze me. Tatsu’s dead serious demeanor and devious reputation scares everyone from police officers to high-ranking criminals, and the way everyone reacts to situations is gut-busting. I also like how Tatsu genuinely loves his wife and would do anything for her, and the feeling and relationship are mutual; it’s a love story that knows no bounds There’s also a lot of blood considering the subject matter, which oddly enough comes more from household items and food than anything else. There are some other bonus manga chapters that detail the lives and events of other characters within the story, and give a little bit of a breather to the main antics of Tatsu.
If you want a hilariously absurd manga, you should definitely check out The Way of the Househusband; while western releases have only gotten to volume 3, there are more on the way. I especially like the oversized VIZ Signature releases of this series, as the format makes for an easier read on the eyes as panels have more room to breathe in comparison to some of the smaller manga graphic novel releases.
Are there any manga that you’ve read while you’ve been in lockdown? Sound off in the comments below, and stay tuned for more anime, manga, and video game coverage here on Miso!