Haru to Natsu / Between Haru and Natsu, I am…
Kimura has developed a crush on Natsumi, a beautiful, intelligent, and friendly girl at his school. However, when he sets out to confess this love he finds himself accidentally doing so to her identical twin sister Haruna. Even when he corrects the mistake later and gets together with the right sister, Haruna continues to hang around and mess with the new couple.
Haru to Natsu is a sex-driven comedy series where most chapters will see Kimura and Natsumi make plans together, only for Haruna to show up and sabotage their efforts. A movie night with a romantic film goes south when Haruna exchanges the DVD with a porno, or she might even pretend to be her sister to go on the dates instead. Through these repeated teasings, Kimura soon learns that Natsumi is a bit of a pervert herself and is a little too easily dragged along in her sister’s lewd schemes.
I had a good time with this manga, thanks in part to the fun subject matter and uncensored nudity. The dynamic between the two sisters is the real selling point and it was interesting to see how Haruna’s free-spirited nature helps the relationship between Kimura and her sister advance more quickly. I don’t think I have ever seen a manga so openly address milder, sexual interaction between couples, stuff like masturbation and teasing. You get the impression that Kimura and Natsumi are discovering their own sexual desires here.
While that is all good, the manga does have some shortcomings. Haruna’s antics sometimes go overboard and land her in creepy territory, which is rare, but really jarring when it does happen, like forcing or tricking female classmates into stripping for the amusement of boys. Kimura is also a bit of a template “nice guy” character; he exists for the girls to bicker over, but doesn’t have much substance or input in it himself.
Harukaze Bitter Bop
The best way to describe Bitter Bop is by simply saying it features on the absolute bottom tier of shounen manga, assuming it was even supposed to be shounen. A frustrated student, a quirky girl who fancies herself a detective, and an immortal man with imposing physique one day meet and just suddenly decide to be friends and figure out the mystery of the man’s amnesia.
The manga kind of bums around as a mixture of awkwardly unfunny comedy, a few action moments, and the kind of mystery that relies entirely on lengthy exposition sequences. It has, in my experience, 0 appeal. Nothing. Every panel is stuffed with speech bubbles, most of which have characters shout at each other or ramble on about their past and one-note personalities. The actual storyline progresses at a meandering pace and developments are introduced so clumsily I found it impossible to actually care about them.
It’s a manga of ideas, lacking any of the competence or planning to utilize them. The girl detective does nothing detective-related throughout the story and the dark trauma for the high school student is resolved in an early chapter, yet he continues to brood about it anyway because that was the core of his characterization. The cover may look appealing, but don’t bother with trash like this.
I tend to enjoy manga and anime that feature weird, sexual-themed stories, but a problem with writing those is that it’s very easy to subtly miss the mark and land yourself in creepy territory. Whereas Haru to Natsu thrives with its erotic content, Haruwaka ends up failing despite having an eerily similar premise.
From the author of Scum’s Wish comes a story about a peculiar relationship: Ono Matori is a hentai artist who accidentally agrees to date both twins that live in the house next door, but they are the very same twins that have inspired his current manga. He ends up revealing this to them, but rather than be upset about him agreeing to date both, or indeed about their likenesses being used for porno, the girls quickly accept and continue to date him regardless.
Where Haruwaka falls short is that it feels like creepy wish fulfillment. Ono has no real qualities to him to explain why the girls like him or put up with his shit, and he comes of as a bit of a psychopath in how he chooses his words to keep both girls feeling favored. Meanwhile, he very openly abuses them by coercing the girls into stripping or performing lewd acts that he can trace for his stories. The manga kept giving me the impression I was supposed to think Ono was this cool, relatable guy that totally deserves the double helping of pussy, but instead some of the erotic scenes left me feeling very uncomfortable.
Hatsukoi Lunch Box / Putting Heart into a Lunch Box
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and nobody knows this quite as well as Sae, a young high schooler who can’t help but be a busybody when it comes to love. In this series of shorts, each chapter sees Sae meet a schoolmate who is having romantic trouble and helping them out by suggesting they make a bento together.
However, Sae can’t actually cook herself, so she and whoever she is helping end up enlisting Yuuki and Shiori, the brother and sister who work at a local café. Together they cook up the bento, decorate it, and eventually offer it to whoever the lucky man (or woman) might be.
The format is a bit repetitive and each chapter ends up feeling pretty much the same as the last. Even so, the manga has a pleasant atmosphere to it and changes up its ideas enough to keep the premise fresh enough to last 15 chapters. There is also character development for Sae and Yuuki, which create a bit of an overarching story to tie the whole thing together like a nicely-packed lunch box.
We can all feel ashamed about our family from time to time, especially its more eccentric members. Sabato is no different, because his family is completely in love with a hardcore gothic aesthetic. They dress and live as vampires and witches, and their house is more like a crypt.
Sabato just wants to be normal and becomes increasingly frustrated, as every girl who visits his house is scared off. Admittedly, he has become a bit of a loverboy because of his troubles, and any woman he meets is bound to become his latest flame.
Haunted House tries to play it like his family is doing him a favor, but many storylines begin to feel like bullying and domestic abuse, and I struggled to find much entertainment value in it. None of the characters are sympathetic or likeable, and it’s just kind of a bore that keeps recycling a handful of gags.
Hepatica / Misu Misou
I hesitate to call Hepatica a good manga, but I sure can’t deny that it delivered exactly what I was expecting from it, and it was a thrilling story to read through. After having moved to a tiny town, Nozaki Haruka becomes the target of severe bullying. The local youth is completely out of control and the bullying eventually culminates into Nozaki’s house being set on fire, killing her parents and leaving her little sister comatose.
Nozaki soon returns to school to get her vengeance, starting a brutal campaign as she picks off her bullies one by one. The story is effectively just misery porn, but it knows this and carries on with admirable pride. All the characters are despicable human beings with only the faintest of redeeming qualities, yet it’s still stomach-churning to watch Nozaki brutalize them. Eyes get gouged out, organs get spilled, bones break, muscles are cut, it’s gross and unsettling to read, especially with how young the characters are.
I was no fan of Rensuke Oshikiri’s artstyle in Hi Score Girl, but it gives the characters a deranged touch in this manga that fit very well. It’s severely fucked up, but if you go into it with the right mood it’s a damn impressive work.
Otome Yamada is an upbeat girl who is part of her school’s theater club, but always gets made fun of because her natural voice sounds like that of an anime character. She never lets this get to her and practices hard, which one day leads to her being scouted by a small company that supplies voice actors for anime productions. There she is paired with Suzu Ayase, a former idol who fell from grace and struggles to stay in the business.
Heroine Voice offers some insight into how anime is produced from the perspective of a newly-debuted voice actress. It gives you some of the technical information, but also delves into the more depressing aspects such as fixed auditions, internet drama, and just how few people will actually be able to make a full-time career in VA. Otome and Suzu make for a good duo here, as Otome is ridiculously talented, confident, but lacks experience. Suzu, by comparison, got into the business based on her idol career and, having lost that, finds that she lacks the actual skills to compete. She is frustrated and depressed, and despite Otome’s attempts at friendship, it’s obvious that it hurts Suzu to see her junior surpass her so rapidly.
I haven’t seen Seiyu’s Life yet, so I am not sure how the two compare. However, I did enjoy my time with Heroine Voice a lot, which makes it a shame that it kind of undershoots its own potential. It’s short and doesn’t delve deep enough, it kind of ends just as the story is finally building up steam and could start developing the characters and show us the inner gears of anime voice acting. A fun manga that could have done with another 2 volumes.
Hiai Mousou / Delusional Love
Delusional Love kind of says it all in the title. Kazuma is a young teacher who just started an exciting year with a new class, which includes the principal’s own daughter. She seems shy and kind of delicate, so he makes an attempt to be friendly and encourage her. A wrong move, as he soon finds her masturbating on school grounds and slowly begins to notice that she is growing a sick fascination with him.
The story caught me somewhat by surprise because I only knew it from its Japanese title and thought, at first, that I had stumbled my way into reading another hentai. However, it then develops into a yandere story, which certainly benefits from some good art and suspenseful moments. Writer Uzuki Nakamura certainly knows how to make scenes gripping and stressful to read. However, the characters did feel shallow and, after I finished reading it, I couldn’t help but feel that it was kind of silly and stupid.
If you like the idea of yandere stories, then it is well worth reading. However, those who have read several may find that it doesn’t develop its characters well enough to remain memorable.