Spring is in swing, and we’re finally getting some great weather in the west with May Manga Minis! It’s still raining a bit, so why not stay in and read some quality manga? Check out three of our reviews below.
Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon Volume 1 (Yen Press)
Like I’ve said in previous Manga Minis, I’m not a fan of Isekai unless it’s silly or exceptionally distinct. Yen Press’ Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon is one such series. If you’re looking for a zany and lighthearted manga to read… well, this is it!
Reborn… (I’m not writing it out again) stars a nameless male protagonist with an unhealthy obsession with vending machines. He loves them so much, he ends up dying when a truck nearly destroys one! (Even the “truck-kun” trope is mocked here, which I thought was a hilarious touch.) After his death, the protagonist gets whisked away to a far away land, where he becomes a vending machine!
Turns out being a mostly voiceless, immobile piece of machinery in a pre-technological setting bodes unwell for most people. While he gets abused by frog creatures, the hunter Lammis ends up protecting him. After forming a bond, the two become friends while the newly-named Boxxo ends up improving the lives of the townspeople.
What I love about this series is how realistic the initial premise is. Boxxo cannot speak, and is nearly wiped out thanks to an ambush. He’s only really saved by a divine blessing (that helps him construct a force field) and the entrance of Lammis. However, there’s some great planning on Boxxo’s end, as he has to manage his stock and sales. It was interesting getting to see how he’s used as a mobile mess hall and as his relationship with Lammis. It’s a refreshing series that has some amazing art (and the convenience store food is drawn well). While I can see the premise wearing thin quickly, this is a great first volume! I can’t wait to see what products Boxxo serves up!
Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs
Alice in Borderland Volume 5 (VIZ Media)
Alice in Borderland is one of my favorite VIZ Media Signature releases currently. There are lulls in every great series, and Volume 5 of the series is probably this. This omnibus collects volumes 9 and 10 of the original run, which starts a brand-new arc and some new conflicts.
Arisu and the survivors of the beach arc head to the next stage of the game, which includes face cards. Each of the main suits hold a devious character with the most excruciating games yet. The King of Clubs, Ginji Kyuma, challenges Arisu and four others to a game about gathering points. The chasing game begins as the protagonists have to work with Suguru Niragi, who’s been badly burned but breathing. How will Arisu, Usagi, Kuina, Tatta, and Niragi work together to survive this one?
I think this is a solid volume, but it still happens to be one of the slower arcs for now. While the confrontation with the King of Clubs is tense, it comes right after the harrowing beach arc. There are stakes (especially with three supporting characters in tow), but a lot of the volume is spent planning. It doesn’t help that the two original volumes in this omnibus have lengthy side stories this time around too. The gleefully cunning Shuntaro Chishiya gets his spotlight with his first game in Borderland, with a killer game of Blackjack.
Meanwhile, we’re also introduced to another minor character, Akane Heiya, who must survive the Seven of Spades game by herself. I did enjoy these two arcs in isolation; however, the latter bogs down the pacing of the main story. It’s jarring that Akane’s story takes up more than half of the second volume of this omnibus. While it’s more than certain she will appear in the future, I would rather taken that time to finish the main story’s arc first. I’m still impatiently waiting for the next volume, but I can’t wait to see the rest of the face card games instead.
Rating: 3 out of 5 UwUs
Tista Volume 1 (VIZ Media)
Spy x Family took the world by storm last year, and Tatsuya Endo became a household name due to the manga a few years back. It’s with this success that we’re granted a look at his earlier work, 2007’s Tista.
By day, Tista Lone is an unremarkable wallflower who is like any other schoolgirl. She wants to teach kids when grows older. At night, however, she becomes the deadly Sister Militia, an efficient assassin raised from childhood to purge the corrupt. She has unnaturally skilled vision and kills her targets with unique precision, though it starts failing throughout the volume. Tista meets Arty, an artist who takes a liking to her. However, he’s also tangentially involved in a drug smuggling plot, which summons Sister Militia in a conflict. What follows is a harrowing journey that explores Tista’s degrading mental state while juggling faith and her heart.
If I’m being honest here, Tista feels like a prototype of Spy x Family. In a way, Tista feels like a composite mix of Loid and Yor. However, as the only main relationship is between Tista and Arty, there isn’t a third child-like relationship in which to factor. While the latter is a lighthearted slice-of-life, this dives deeply into a film noir setting. Everything is much more serious, and even the lighter moments have a grim undertone. It feels overly dark and could use a little fluff.
I appreciated the American setting for the manga, which feels like something out of Part 2 of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It also helps that it justifies the presence of gangsters and seedy characters. That said, overall the series always feels like a lesser Spy x Family. It doesn’t have anything remarkable, and the dark tone feels like most grimdark media. This series is short (running two volumes long), so I’ll check out volume 2 to see if the situation improves.
Rating: 2 out of 5 UwUs
Thanks for reading our May Manga Minis column! Check out our last column, and stay tuned for more manga news here on Miso!