Manga Monday, 2016 Reads: Current Manga Series, Part III

For this segment, of my on-going series on my 2016 reads, we’re going to look at the longer series on my TBR lists which are, with fifteen or more volumes out and all still on-going in Japan.

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me To You

KimiNiTodokeKaruho Shiina’s Kimi ni Todoke: From Me To You is the longest shojo series I’ve ever read (a record previously held by Fruits Basket which has 23 volumes) and it is now the third longest series in my collection since I dropped Bleach.  It began its run in Japan in 2009 and is now up to 25 volumes there, while 23 are available here in the US so far (which I’ve read all of so far).  As there has been no announcements about it ending any time soon, I wouldn’t be surprised if it passes Rurouni Kenshin in length (28 volumes).

Kimi ni Todoke is arguably the story of the slow, sweet romance that builds between Sawako Kuronuma, a good-hearted, shy, and awkward girl whose been an outsider at school for most of her life because she favors Sadako, from the horror films (they even call her that instead of her name), and the most popular boy in school Kazehaya.  Kazehaya is the first to notice Sawako and call her by name, and his interest becomes the bridge to her being acknowledged by her classmates and finally coming into her own.

With that said, you might be thinking, OMG there is no way a romance can carry a 25+ volume series!  I’d be thinking the same thing, but fortunately Kimi ni Todoke is about far more than just about the romance between Sawako and Kazehaya.  If anything, it is primarily about Sawako’s trials, tribulations, and growth as she struggles to become better at social situations and to understand others now that she is actually interacting with them.  Having been an outcast most of my life myself, I can totally identify with and understand Sawako’s ways of misinterpreting others actions and her struggles to make herself understood when she does or says something people take the wrong way. 

And while I did fear the series would drag as it goes further along, it really hasn’t.  As much as I enjoy reading about her relationship with Kazehaya, I’m enjoying reading about Sawako as she both changes and adapts to society while also staying true to herself.  I love the friendship she forms with Yano and Yoshida and how it isn’t just “insta-perfect” but something all three must deal with.  I love reading about the struggles and relationships the people around the pair also must deal with.

I do suspect the series will be wrapping up soon, as the gang is nearing graduation.  I admit, I’m hopeful a certain pairing happens (but no spoilers), but more I look forward to seeing how the gang continues to grow together and apart as they approach college and adulthood.

The first 23 volumes of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me To You are available from Viz Media in print, digital, and via comiXology.  Volume 24 is up for pre-order with a May 3rd release date.

Noragami: Stray God

NoragamiNoragami: Stray God is an on-going shōnen series by Adachitoka that began serialization in Japan in 2010.  There are currently fifteen volumes out in Japan, plus a special called Noragami: Stray Stories that has a single volume (this side series apparently was dropped or is on hiatus).  Ten volumes are currently available in the US, along with the special, with eleven dropping in a few days.  I’m a little behind on this one and have read through volume 8.  I’ll catch up during the next Kodansha sale though.

The “stray god” of Noragami is Yao, a seemingly minor god of calamity who is now working to get his name know and get his own shrine.  To do so he plasters his number and cards all over the place, which are generally seeable by those who need help.  For the standard charge of only five yen, he will take on most jobs, from finding a lost cat to helping a student who is being bullied at school.  During the lost cat job, a girl name Hiyori Iki somehow is able to see him.  Thinking he is about to be hit by a car she “saves” him, only to get hit herself, resulting in her soul regularly slipping out of her body.  Yato agrees to “fix” her, even though he has no idea how. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Noragami so far.  Yato is both hilariously greedy and selfish and deeply kind-hearted and clearly in need of emotional support.  Hiyori is a nice change of pace, with a can-do attitude, a fondness of wrestling that makes her a decent fighter, and enough heart to deal with Yato and later Yukine, Yato’s divine weapon.

The series is fully of mythological references and includes several “famous” Gods, such as Tenjin and Bishamonten, and things such as the 5 yen offering.  While there is comedy, particularly with Yato and Hiyori’s regular bickering, there is a lot of intense emotional drama that in some ways reminds me of Fruits Basket.  Yato has issues, Yukine really has issues, and so do most of the gods and beings they encounter.  It explores the meaning of family, friendship, and in the ability of those to overcome their circumstances.

There is, of course, a romantic element being set up between Yato and Hiyori, though how that will play out considering he’s a god and she’s human is yet to be seen.  Like most shōnen series, though, that’s a secondary element and I suspect won’t become a big issue until the final arc.

Meanwhile, I look forward to continuing along with the series now fully into what I’d consider the third major arc.

The first ten volumes and the special volume of Noragami: Stray God are available from Kodansha in print, eBook, and via comiXology.

Say I Love You.

SayILoveTouThe final series for my lengthy on-going ones is Kanae Hazuki’s shojo romance Say I Love You. which has been running in Japan since 2008.  There are currently fifteen volumes out, of which eleven are available in the US and volume 12 will be out this week.  I’ve currently read up to volume ten.

In some ways, Say I Love You. (and yes, the “.” is part of the title) has a similar set up to Kimi ni Todoke and some other manga series: girl with no friends attracts a popular boy and now begins to be part of the circle again.  However, the details are much different.  Mei Tachibana isn’t an outcast by force, but by choice because she firmly believes people only betray each other sooner or later and she doesn’t want to get hurt again.  She is teased at school because she rarely speaks and is “freakishly gloomy” which only feeds her anti-social nature.  When one of the boys pushes her too far by messing with her skirt, she drop kicks him, except her kick lands on innocent by-stander Yamato Kurosawa, one of the most popular boys at school.  While Mei is embarrassed, for Yamato it was love at first kick.  Now he just has to get her to believe him and give him a chance.

Mei is a very observant character and honest, sometimes to a fault.  Her difficulties in believing Yamato, or anyone else, and her occasional backslides as she begins making friends is very realistic given her views and long-time distrust in others.  Yamato at first comes across as a bit pushy despite his reputation for being someone who thinks of everyone else before himself.  In some ways, though, that’s good as it shows that his feelings for Mei are more genuine versus his just being a nice guy trying to help her out.  With her he actually lets himself be jealous, insecure, and needy even while still being a “cool” guy capable of protecting her.

I think the friends that Mei makes are also well-fitting for her nature, not popular girls or especially cut girls, but girls who also are “broken” or “ugly” like Mei herself – one who lets herself get used because her complex about her large chest, one who has heavy stretch marks from rapidly losing 20 kilograms to woo Yamato and who is obsessed with being pretty, and so on. 

So while the setup is similar, I do find that Say I Love You. is different enough from Kimi ni Todoke: From Me To You that I have no problems reading them simultaneously or in telling them apart.  The overall feel is also different, with the focus of Say I Love You. being more on Mei and Yamato’s relationship, particularly Yamato’s continued efforts to one day get Mei to return his love.  That said, as with many such series, the people around them get plenty of page time and fleshing out to keep things from being boring and I look forward to seeing where things go.

The first eleven volumes of Say I Love You. are available in print, eBook, and via comiXology.