February is nasty, brutish, and short—in other words, a good month to stay indoors and read manga. This month’s new releases will make the gray days fly by, from the return of Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura, to a spinoff of Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, and a new manga about girls and magical bears. Read on for our picks of the month’s best new manga.
Urusei Yatsura, Vol. 1, by Rumiko Takahashi
Viz brings back a classic in double-volume omnibus format. Urusei Yatsura is a fast-moving gag comic about a hapless teenage boy who is constantly pestered by space aliens, most of them beautiful women. Ataru Moroboshi is just an ordinary schlub, but for some reason when space aliens threaten to take over the earth, they hang the whole thing on a game of tag between Moriboshi and Lum, a voluptuous, bikini-clad space princess. Moriboshi’s troubles don’t end there, though, as Lum decides she wants to marry him, much to the dismay of his long-suffering girlfriend Shinobu. To make matters even worse, Moriboshi’s friends form a Lum fan club and follow him everywhere, as does a Buddhist monk who keeps telling Moriboshi he has an inauspicious face. The story is episodic, with a new set of troubles besetting Moriboshi in every chapter. All the girls are beautiful, all the boys are doofuses, and the art is straightforward and easy to follow. The series first ran in Japan in the 1970s and 1980s, and Viz published nine volumes in the 1990s under the title Lum and The Return of Lum. Takahashi was inducted into the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame last year and awarded the Grand Prix at the Angouleme International Comics Festival last month.
Kakegurui Twin, Vol. 1, by Homura Kawamoto and Kei Saiki
This manga is a spinoff of Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, the compulsively readable series about a school where gambling is more important than stupid stuff like grades. Kakegurui Twin is set in the same school a year earlier, and it focuses on Mary Saotome, who also appears in the main series. Mary comes to Hyakkaou Private Academy as a scholarship student, so she doesn’t have the wherewithal to pay the school “taxes,” let alone indulge in high-stakes gambling. Turns out an acquaintance from middle school, Tsuzura, is also at Hyakkaou and, having lost big, is now a “housepet,” required to act as a slave to another student. Disgusted by this, Mary sets out to win enough money to free Tsuzura and secure her own position. With the same writer but a different artist, this book offers many of the same pleasures of the original—complex games and cheats, over-the-top characters, high drama—as viewed through the lens of a different character with different motivations.
Shut-in Shoutarou Kominami Takes On the World, by Dan Ichikawa
Hopelessly shy 22-year-old shut-in Shoutarou is forced to leave his home and to go to the employment agency after his mother announces she will stop sending him money. At the agency, he bumps into a young woman who is looking for a man who is “Shlocken”—shy, lonely, and chicken. Shoutarou fits the description nicely, and she brings him back to her co-worker, who wants to study a Shlocken man. Shoutarou thinks he’s a psychologist writing a self-help book, but he’s actually a gag manga writer, and the tasks he has for Shoutarou are not therapeutic, they are situations that will make him uncomfortable—and hopefully end in hilarity.
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Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Elma’s Office Lady Diary, Vol. 1, bycoolkyousinnjya and Ayami Kazama
In the original series, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, a powerful dragon, Tohru, becomes the maid to an ordinary woman. This spin-off focuses on another character, Elma, a water dragon who takes on human form in order to bring Tohru back. She ends up as an office lady, making copies and doing odd jobs (although she’s supposed to be a software engineer trainee). This is a 4-panel gag manga, with plenty of jokes about Elma’s love of sweets and the mismatch between a dragon’s life and the workplace. Although there are references to the original, this series works pretty well on its own.
Yuri Bear Storm, Vol. 1, by Kunihiko Ikuhara and Akiko Morishima
This is a quirky take on the schoolgirl yuri (lesbian romance) genre. Kureha is quiet and almost invisible to her classmates until a new student, Ginko, goes out of her way to make friends with her. Their friendship quickly blossoms, but Kureha keeps having these weird dreams about Ginko and magical bears. Ginko insists she’s not a bear, but when Kureha’s new roommate arrives in bear cosplay costume, insisting she is Ginko’s ex, things start to get really weird. Morishima’s art is clear and uncluttered, even when the story is a bit convoluted. The manga is an adaptation of the anime Yurikuma Arashi, but the two have different storylines.
Fairy Tale Battle Royale, Vol. 2, by Soraho Ina
Aoba is a schoolgirl who was bullied until the day she found a magic contract that granted her one wish. She wished that everyone would be friends with her, and now they are, which is a little weird. Even weirder is the fact that she turned into Alice in Wonderland and was transported to a strange land where she is stalked by zombie-like versions of fairy tale characters. She meets Noah, who is in a similar situation, and together they have to figure out the rules of the strange fairytale land. This is a very readable new series that puts some original twists on the fairy tale horror genre. The action flows naturally, the lead characters are likable, and Ina springs plenty of surprises as Aoba and Noah move between their everyday lives and the strange land of zombie fairy tale characters.
My Solo Exchange Diary, Vol. 2,by Nagata Kabi
After struggling with loneliness and depression, Nagata Kabi hired an escort service so she could have sex for the first time. Her manga about what happened, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, became a huge success, both in Japan, where it was first published as a webcomic on the online art site Pixiv, and in the U.S. My Solo Exchange Diary picks up her life story from there, as she tries to strike out on her own, still struggling with depression, loneliness, and her relationship with her family. Kabi has a light, cartoony style that keeps these diary comics (actually letters to herself) from getting too heavy, even when she is talking about serious problems.
My Hero Academia, Vol. 17, by Kohei Horikoshi
The battle with the Hassaikai gang continues in this volume, as Midoriya and his friends go head to head to rescue the little girl, Eri. As always, the bizarre quirks of the characters make this an interesting spin on the standard action manga, and as the fight rages on, we learn a bit more about Eri and why she is important. Even 17 volumes in, Horikoshi keeps the story fresh and entertaining.
What new manga are you reading in February?