The Best New Manga of March 2017

A few of the series topping the list of this month’s new manga releases are barreling toward their final climaxes, as Tohru Honda struggles with the curse of the Sohmas in volume 11 of Fruits Basket and Kyuta is torn between the human and the animal worlds in volume 3 of The Boy and the Beast. Meanwhile, the Zelda team launches a new manga series, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess; a city witch moves to the country in Flying Witch; and a new Hatsune Miku series puts Kagamine Rin in the spotlight.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Vol. 1, by Akira Himekawa
The newest Legend of Zelda series follows the plot of the game of the same name. The story starts with Link living in a village inhabited by pumpkin farmers, one warrior, and a horde of super-cute children. Link isn’t a native—he took refuge there after a terrible incident in his past—but he loves his life and wants it to remain bright and peaceful. Of course, if it did, there would be no story. In fact, as we learn early on, the evil Zant, usurper of the throne of the Twilight World, is mounting an attack on Hyrule, and he starts by turning his people into monsters and setting them loose on Link’s village. The creative team of Akira Himekawa, who drew the earlier Zelda manga, are also responsible for this one, and they are particularly skilled at portraying the two extremes of this story: the light, happy world of Link’s village and the monstrous creatures who emerge from the Twilight Realm to destroy it.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask/A Link to the Past—Legendary Edition, by Akira Himekawa
Meanwhile, Viz continues to re-release Akira Himekawa’s earlier Zelda manga in deluxe two-in-one omnibus volumes with added color art. Each of the two self-contained stories in this volume follows the plot of a different Zelda game. In “Majora’s Mask,” Link travels to the land of Termina to retrieve an ancient mask imbued with special power. “A Link to the Past,” a prequel of sorts to the original Zelda game, follows Link as he rescues Zelda from a dungeon and sets out on his quest to save Hyrule.

Hatusune Miku: Rin-Chan Now!, Vol. 1, by Sezu and Hiro Tamara
Rin-Chan is cute! That’s the message of this book, which focuses on the yellow-haired Vocaloid idol, who usually plays second fiddle to her blue-haired friend Hatsune Miku. If you know Kagamine Rin, to use her proper name, you know that she’s super kawaiie, kind of ditzy, and has a twin brother, Len. This four-volume manga series, based on a video, is a series of short, funny stories about how the creators of the video would like to spend time with Rin—goofing around, going shopping, that sort of thing. It’s a charming, light-hearted slice-of-virtual-life manga with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor.

The Boy and the Beast, Vol. 3, by Mamoru Hosoda
The manga adaptation of Mamoru Hosoda’s anime continues its story of a boy who takes refuge in the animal world after his mother’s death and becomes the disciple of a bear. Things were rough at the outset, but by this volume, both Kyuta, the boy, and Kumatetsu, the bear, have matured, developing a true master-disciple relationship. However, Kyuta has begun traveling back to the human world, where he has made friends with a girl, started his education, and tracked down his father, whom he hadn’t seen since before his mother died. It’s not easy to simply flit between realms, though—Kyuta must deal with Kumatetsu’s feelings of betrayal and the void he has discovered within his own heart. As the story moves to a close in the fourth volume, Kumatetsu fights a duel to become the ruler of the animal kingdom—but an unexpected move puts the outcome in doubt.

One-Punch Man, Vol. 11, by ONE and Yusuke Murata
The One-Punch Man creative team pulls out all the stops in this volume, which starts off with Metal Bat fighting a giant centipede and just gets crazier from there. The hero hunter Garo is still picking fights with every superhero he can track down, and the hapless Pineapple and Mohican face off with a new set of monsters. In fact, new and weirder monsters are popping up all over Japan, and superheroes of all classes are battling them—and losing. Meanwhile, Saitama is competing in a martial arts tournament under false pretenses (he lists himself as Fist of Water Polo, Carbonation School), which allows ONE and Murata to create a whole slate of over-the-top mixed martial arts fighters, with competitors such as Dave of the Giant Smothering Killing Technique, Rogy the Psychoanalystic Martialist, and “School of Spice Fist” Mentai, who rubs chili pepper into his fists and punches his opponents in the eye. This volume moves fast, with plenty of monster-fighting action and a bonus manga at the end in which Saitama is compelled to team up with other superheroes, but decides the Voltron approach is not for him.

Attack on Titan: Choose Your Path Adventure, by Hajime Isayama
If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself in the world of Attack on Titan, this book is for you (though we question your sanity)! It starts out as an illustrated prose retelling of the Attack on Titan manga, with maps, character portraits, etc. You enter the story as a recently graduated member of the 104th Training Corps and start out exploring the town, meeting people, and learning a bit about the walls and the different defenses against the Titans. If there’s a flaw in this book, it’s that this section is too long for readers familiar with the manga, but it’s a good intro to the world; everyone else can skip it. After that, you end up playing a character in a real fight-the-Titans adventure. You might change history, or you might die ignominiously, but you get plenty of second chances, so eventually, even the greenest trainee can become a hero.

Blame, Vol. 3, by Tsutomu Nihei
Kyrii and Cibo (the latter in a new body) continue their journey through the overgrown, crumbling world of this manga, searching for the Net Terminal Genes and dodging the Safeguards—the sort of hybrid monsters only Nihei could conjure up. The manga-ka scrambles technology and natural life forms, so that intelligence can live on in different ways without connection to its original host. Kyrii and Cibo encounter Mensab, the artificial intelligence that controls one of the caves in Toha Heavy Industries; the totally cyberpunk Maeve and Ivy, who are spoiling for a fight; and a host of skeletal, fairy-like creatures. As they travel, Cibo uses her hacking skills to gather information about their world, and the picture begins to grow clearer. Nihei’s sense of space and skill at depicting a decaying world make this manga a visual feast as well as a complicated sci-fi saga.

Bungo Stray Dogs, Vol. 2, by Kafka Asagiri
The violence ramps up in this second volume as the members of the Armed Detective Agency face off against the local Mafia. The detective Edogawa Ranpo solves a murder, a Mafia member deploys lemon-shaped bombs on a train, and a strange kimono-clad girl leads our hero, Atsushi, to the brink of death—and a personal epiphany. The goriness of the battles is a sharp contrast to the playful scenes of the Agency members hanging out in their headquarters and the straightforward deductive logic of the Edogawa Ranpo story. The plots are carefully laid out, and often a small detail will turn out to be important later on. Those who are knowledgeable about Japanese literature can enjoy the many allusions (almost all the characters are named after famous authors, and their powers and weapons often point to particular works), but that’s just an extra feature—this clever, action-packed story works fine on its own.

Flying Witch, Vol. 1, by Chihiro Ichizuka
Vertical brings us a slice-of-life manga featuring a teenage witch who moves from her big-city life in Yokohama to the country to live with relatives. We follow her as she becomes familiar with her new surroundings, explains witchcraft to her young cousin (even taking her for a ride on her broomstick), and attends the local school with her older cousins. The anime based the manga has already been released in English.

Fruits Basket, Vol. 11, by Natsuki Takaya
Takaya begins drawing her story to a close in the penultimate volume of this classic series, as Yen Press rounds out its excellent set of collector’s edition reissues. The zodiac curse is beginning to fall away, but there are plenty of obstacles left, including Akita’s determination to keep it going and the question of whether lifting the curse will heal the Sohma family—or destroy it. Of course, there’s also the question of how the love triangle between Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki will finally be resolved. With its balance of lightness, humor, and deep emotion, Fruits Basket continues to be an entertaining and satisfying read, all these years later.

Haikyu!!, Vol. 9, by Haruichi Furudate
One of the things that sometimes gets lost in high school sports manga is the fact that the characters are high school students—they seem to spend all their time in sports and clubs, none on studying. Not in this volume, though: as the team gathers its spirits after a heartbreaking loss and prepares to go to an elite Tokyo training camp, the issue of academics pops up, and not in a good way. Four of the stars of the Karasuno team may not be able to go unless they pull up their grades—and that could stall their momentum as they head toward the next big event, the Spring Tournament.

What new manga are you excited about in March?

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