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Manga Minis Spring Preview!

The Manga Minis Spring Preview is here for all you enthusiasts looking for something to read this season. Three out of the four reviews are advanced releases, and (spoiler alert) they’re all pretty good! Check out our column before to find out more of what we recommend keeping your eye out this spring.

My Name Is Shingo: The Perfect Edition Volume 1 (VIZ Media) – Available Now

When talking about influential manga artists in the horror genre, Kazuo Umezu gets referenced multiple times. While I’ve only read The Drifting Classroom from him on the VIZ Manga app, it hooked me. The existential dread coupled with a sudden transition from childhood to adulthood appealed to me, and I was ready to check out another series of his. VIZ is currently releasing My Name is Shingo in the west, a previous work which delves less into horror and more into science-fiction. Unfortunately, this shift comes with a few flaws that dampen an intriguing premise.

Satoru Kondo is a grade-schooler whose father works in a factory. One day, his dad’s company decides to use two robots to increase efficiency. During a school trip to a factory, Satoru takes an interest in one of the robots, Monroe (named after Marilyn Monroe). He also meets a girl named Marin, a potential love interest who also takes a liking to learning about the robot. As technological advances continue, what will Satoru and Marin do with Monroe, and will it learn something other than its directives?

What’s interesting about My Name is Shingo is how applicable it is with the slew of AI current events. Obviously, generative AI is a hot topic, but even things like a computer learning human emotions and faces in a primitive state is something interesting here. I just wish the story would be eventful with this plot.

The primary issue with My Name is Shingo is how it’s too much of a slow burn. The characters aren’t likeable or fleshed out, and I was only focused on Monroe’s character arc throughout the volume. The problem’s exacerbated by the fact that this Perfect Edition bundles more chapters into one, so we should get a bigger piece of the story, but we don’t. It doesn’t help that the actual event that the manga is based on doesn’t even happen in this collection. (We don’t know who or what Shingo is now, but signs point to Monroe developing into something more…)

This volume has potential, but it’s watered down by an uneventful prologue and some generic characters. I would recommend checking out The Drifting Classroom if you want some signature Kazuo Umezu. As it stands, I’d have to read the next omnibus of My Name is Shingo to get a better read of the series, but it’s not looking great.

Rating: 2 out of 5 UwUs

My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv999 Volume 1 (Inklore Books) – Available May 14

It’s amazing to see how the Manga Minis column continues to grow. We have a ton of new titles to check out courtesy of some great publishers!

The story begins as protagonist Akane’s boyfriend Takuma makes the decision to dump her. She laments her situation as she reluctantly continues an MMORPG she used to play with him. Trying to make Takuma envious at a gaming convention, Akane notices she’s out of her league as her ex has a new girlfriend in the picture.

Disheartened and struggling to find a comeback, she suddenly comes up with a plan to make fellow guild member Yamada her boyfriend. Turns out, he’s a pro gamer that only has eyes on one thing: The MMORPG. How will their relationship level up as Akane tries to get closer to Yamada?

The premise of My Love Story With Yamada-Kun at Lv999 is interesting, though it takes a few chapters. Akane seems unlikeable and justifiably heartbroken, and the intent to date someone to make someone envious feels disingenuous. However, Yamada’s stoicism and the other guild members ground Akane’s personality to something more reasonable by volume’s end. I felt more invested in the story near the end of the volume, and the mystery of uncovering who’s who in person within the guild is a great hook. The romantic elements are fun to explore, and there’s a lot to like about how Yamada respects Akane even if he’s annoyed by her. The art style is a bit simplistic, but for this genre it’s serviceable for the story.

I’m interested to see this manga develop, and in the meantime the anime’s available to stream for those wanting more!

Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs

Smoking Behind the Supermarket With You Volume 2 (Square Enix Books) – Available May 24

Smoking Behind the Supermarket With You’s first volume was a great opener with and adult dynamic and interesting slice-of-life setting. The second volume of this manga continues the adventures of businessman Sasaki and fellow smoker Tayama. (Well, she’s also the sweet convenience store cashier Yamada too, but Sasaki is too dense to realize this though.) The slice-of-life adventures this time around include more zany antics with the store’s manager and dealing with ghosts too.

In addition, we have another recurring character in the mix, a dog named Daigoro who helps Sasaki with a retrieval task. To cap off the volume, we get an adventure with a college-aged Sasaki as we get to find out why he started to take up smoking.

This volume of Smoking Behind the Supermarket With You is as beefy as the last one, and honestly great value. (With most single manga volumes increasing in price, it’s nice to have a standard $12.99 volume with over 200 pages of content). The structure of the encounters between Sasaki and Tayama/Yamada is finally established here, so it’s great to involve other cast members in the smoke sessions. This also can be a slight detriment for those hoping for something drastically different, as Sasaki remains none the wiser to Tayama’s true identity. It would be cool to see more of Sasaki’s office life as well, and more of his significant figures in his life (which we do see from the prequel story, admittedly).

I enjoy how it’s still a slow burn with decently paced conversations. After all, this series excels in character-driven conversations that slowly reveal their motivations. The main duo keeps revealing small details about their lives, and I can’t wait to see more from them!

Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs

Battle Royale: Enforcers Volume 1 (VIZ Media) – Available July 16

This might be stretching the “Manga Minis Spring Preview” criteria, but I still wanted to add it here. I haven’t read the original Battle Royale manga, but I’ve watched the films and finished the original novel. The latter two media are great for those looking for more “death game” romps, and I wanted more from the world aside from the main narrative. (Well, maybe not the second film, but…) Battle Royale: Enforcers is a sequel that excellently delves into a dystopian Japanese setting where students need to fight to survive.

Rion Sakamoto is the Squad 8 Leader in Class F at Daitoa Academy. Spending time with his best friend Kunimitsu Watanabe, Rion is a bit of a rebel as he plays rock music in the band room unauthorized. Prospective love interest Aoi Hayasaka also gets to see a different side of him, while Kunimitsu’s childhood friend Hikaru Ninomiya sticks up deals with some catty bullies. Aside from the dystopian undertones, the story begins as a little nod to something like Assassination Classroom with segregated classes.

This introductory lull is broken as the malevolent AI known as Sister rounds up the class together for a sinister game: An inter-squad fight to the death. While cancelled in-universe for years, it seems that Program 68, the Battle Royale, has resurfaced. Each squad of students has to team up and fight the others in a match to the death, with the last 5-person squad standing getting to graduate. Rion, Ninomiya, Aoi, and the others try to make sense of the situation as they’re put in a deadly game with an oppressive time limit.

What I was surprised about with this manga is how sudden the casualties pile up. The original novel did have deaths before the game proper, but there was an interesting conflict that happened in the beginning. The sadistic choice to lop off a student even before the beginning just emphasizes how much deadlier this game will be compared to its predecessor. The story clips by at a blazingly fast pace, so much so that flashbacks and present-day events get muddled in the narrative. It’s fine after another read-through, but it may be confusing the first time around.

There’s a ton here to explore for the next volumes, and I’m curious as to what caused the reinstatement of the Battle Royale program as well. The fact that a malicious AI system is hosting this game brings a futuristic dystopian feel to the setting, and I’m itching to see more of it. Since Alice in Borderland wrapped up here in the west, I have a death game-shaped hole in my manga reading schedule. I’m keeping my eye out for this series after a great debut!

Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs

Thanks for checking out our manga minis spring preview! Stay tuned for more manga and anime reviews here on Miso!

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Katamaris

Katamaris

During the day, Elisha is an aspiring businessman, but at night, he's a wacky freelance writer. Born into the world with a fleeting knowledge of rhythm games, he loves shonen manga and still wants Pushing Daisies to have some closure. For any manga/anime/video game inquiries, please contact him at edeograc (at) gmail.com
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