It’s the end of July, which means midsummer manga minis for everyone! We’ve got a great lineup of summer releases that you should check out, including an early review of Mr. Villain’s Day Off! Read on below for our recommendations.
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End Volume 8 (VIZ Media)
Look, if you haven’t started Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, you need to right now. The anime’s coming this year, so this gives you more than enough time to catch up! An accessible read with a heartfelt story, this volume continues the adventure of our stalwart mage.
In this volume, Frieren and her friends head to the Northern Plateau to have some more fun-filled adventures. While this new location harbors more frightening foes, this also brings some interesting background with Frieren’s past. Events range from finding the legendary alcoholic spirit Boshaft to Frieren’s indentured servitude with the Norm Company. (We also see a little more of the Fern/Stark relationship blooming, which I really hope happens at the end.)
The main conflict in this volume is the party’s fight with The Divine Revolte, a demon that destroyed Genau’s town. The trio teams up with Genau and Methode (who were last seen in the First Class Mage exam) and fight. This battle wraps up quickly within the volume (compared to the demon fight from a few volumes back). However, it still manages to feel meaningful to the overall narrative.
What I love about this volume is how it continues to explore Frieren’s growth. While she is the oldest among the party, it feels like she has the most to benefit from the party’s journeys. The Boshaft chapter in particular highlights her development on doing things for the experience rather than the reward. Even in death, Himmel the Hero’s lessons struck a chord in her heart, and it sets the mood for the entire story.
Eight volumes in, and Frieren still feels as fresh as it was from chapter one.
Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs
Dead Company Volume 1 (Tokyopop)
The battle royale/death game genre is one that you can easily emulate. Put a bunch of strangers into a mysterious location, give them motives to kill each other, and boom! Tasty manga right there. However, we haven’t seen too many series which tackle the behind-the-scenes preparation of death games. Thankfully, Dead Company scratches that itch with an interesting hook that delves into the business of murderous intent.
Ryosuke Miyauchi is your typical run-of-the-mill salaryman, with one distinct difference: He is a death-game survivor. Three years ago, he was the sole survivor of a winner-takes-all game (where he seemingly killed his girlfriend). Now looking for a job, he lands one with the popular game developer EDC. However, it becomes instantly clear that he was brought there for a reason. If he wants to get out unscathed, he’ll need to think on his toes and dive back into the game.
What I really loved about Dead Company is how it twists its premise on the wayside. Rather than Miyauchi heading back into another death game, he instead needs to assist someone else important to him. It’s a neat parallel to the regret he feels from his past, and it highlights a behind-the-scenes look at how this all works. The company he works for feels a lot like something you’d see in Cabin in the Woods or the SCP Foundation. That is, your stereotypical business corporation building that happens to harbor eldritch abominations. I’m excited to see what happens in the next volume soon!
Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs
Alice in Borderland Volume 6 (VIZ Media)
Up next with our midsummer manga minis, we’re more than halfway done with Alice in Borderland’s US releases! This newest volume bundles up two more exciting arcs as we begin to near the end of the harrowing death games.
This sixth installment (which compiles volume 11 and 12) chronicles Arisu’s continued battle with The King of Clubs, Ginji Kyuma. The game about trading points has reached its climax, and by the end of the arc, everything will change. Will Arisu’s team leave unscathed, or will his time in Borderland be cut short?
Starting from this point, the series relies on its ensemble cast to showcase its games. Due to some circumstances, Arisu isn’t actively involved in the second half of this omnibus, which instead focuses on the other cast. Arisu and Usagi get a much-needed breather, which slows the pace after the harrowing events of the previous arc.
The Jack of Hearts begins here, with a motley crew of unrelated characters and a sinister Hearts game to play. The Solitary Confinement event has a great balance of tension and character buildup (which is great since everyone is new).
Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs
Tista Volume 2 (VIZ Media)
It’s so interesting to see how Tatsuya Endo has grown since his first serialization, Tista. Spy x Family is a household name nowadays, and he has a trademark style and narrative structure that’s apparent in his debut serial work. However, as much as this two-volume tale showcases Endo’s growth, it also highlights how much he needed to grow.
Tista Lone is struggling with finding herself. While she was born an assassin due to her special sight, it’s turning into a double-edged sword. Mentally fractured with the burden of her sins, she tries to balance her personal and work life. We also get a look into why she was adopted into the order of assassins, her powers awakened when she was a child. This volume dives into how bleak Tista’s world really is, and it highlights the lengths she is willing to go to find redemption.
I really want to like Tista as a series, but the final length of the whole tale leaves a lot to be desired. Everything speeds too quickly in this volume as it needs to wrap up the narrative but also go into backstory. I feel like this needed at least one more volume to finish some loose ends. However, the sniper scenes are great, and the use of stylistic gore amplifies the experience. However, this series doesn’t have enough to set it apart from its contemporaries (even in the late 2000s). It remains a historical time capsule for fans of Spy x Family and not much else.
Rating: 2 out of 5 UwUs
Mr. Villain’s Day Off Volume 1 (Square Enix Manga) – Midsummer Manga Minis early review!
Rounding out our midsummer manga minis is an early review! I think I might have a type when it comes to manga. I guess I enjoy “bad guys not being so bad and enjoying slice-of-life escapades”? Mr. Villain’s Day Off fits the bill, with a vicious evil overlord enjoying the entertainment of a world he wants to destroy.
The unnamed Villain is an elite leader of the Evil League is determined to destroy humanity and build anew. Of course, he’s a bit distracted by pandas in the area, so this series chronicles his villainous breaks. While he tends to be fraught with angry emotional outbursts, on his days off he’s nicer.
Readers will explore how the Villain became enamored by pandas as well as getting used to the customs of Japan. The Rangers try and stop him… or they would, if the one who bumps into him wasn’t so incompetent. Red is someone that the Villain encounters, but thanks to his poor sense of direction, can never get an advantage.
What I really loved about this series is how corporate the Evil League is. From PTO days to a general employee hierarchy, this feels like an evil version of The Office and Strange Planet. I liked how the Villain is nice when the situation calls for it, and he has some humanity in him. While the premise might wear thin in a few volumes, it’s still a great enjoyable slice-of-life series!
Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs
And that’s a wrap on our midsummer manga minis! If you need some gaming recommendations, we recently released a column about our favorite summer indies. Square Enix also announced their newest titles to be released in 2024. Stay tuned for more manga reviews here on Miso!