Manga Challenge – February Update

I wanted to kick off February with as much light reading as possible. Not out of laziness, mind you, but because I knew there’d be a bunch of days where I wouldn’t be able to read at all. You see, my friend from Norway came over to visit for the first time since the pandemic. We had a lot of catching up to do and very little of it would involve manga.

This strategy led to me picking up Onani Master Kurosawa, which was once recommended to me by a friend. It’s a story about a miserable 14-year-old guy called Kurosawa. A loner by choice, who spends his days grumbling about how much his classmates irritate him. Every day after school, Kurosawa sneaks into the girls’ toilet and masturbates there. It’s his daily ritual, as he calls it. Something he cherishes. Until he is one day caught by a girl called Aya, who blackmails Kurosawa into helping her enact vengeance upon her bullies.

That sounds crass, but it’s a story that ended up being quite remarkable. Rather than celebrating the cool aloofness of its protagonists, Onani Master Kurosawa is an admonishment of that kind of mindset. Kurosawa and Aya are painted as pathetic, hateful people. Their vengeance not an act of cool retribution, but of childishness. It’s a coming-of-age story and one that I feel develops in interesting directions.

Afterwards, my mood bounced around for a while. Specifically between the two extremes of yuri romance and gore-tastic violence. At one point I was simultaneously reading the erotic fantasy manga “You Still Rely on Magic?” and the eroguro anthology Dissecting Girls. It was a weird month.

A stand-out result from this period was “The whole of Humanity Has Gone Yuri Except for me”. Its story follows Mariko; a young girl who one day discovers that she has moved into an alternate reality where men died out in the 1920s. Humanity has adapted to being a mono-gendered species and much of history proceeded as we know it, albeit with every male replaced by a female counterpart.

Mariko wants to return to her own reality, but the only person who believes her is the socially-awkward beauty Lily Kazami. Yet as feelings between the two begin to flourish, Lily begins to have second thoughts about sending Mariko home. As if unraveling the mysteries of inter-dimensional travel weren’t complicated enough already.

It’s a gripping story with many exciting (romantic) developments along the way. The technobabble can be a bit obnoxious, but this was still easily one of the most entertaining works I read throughout February.

On the flipside, a manga that confounded me was “Tales of the Corporate Slave Succubus“. Like HEAL & SQUEEZE from last month, it’s another story wherein being a succubus is treated like a proper job. Cute demon girls just go out at night to trade human vitality in return for nice dreams; it’s not even a sex thing anymore.

Succubus Lily forms a partnership with the terminally-overworked salaryman Tsutomu Kuroki, at which point the manga quickly becomes a discount alternative to Helpful Fox Senko-san. Tsutomu is suffering day in and day out, but Lily helps him get as much relaxation possible out of what little free time he does have. Yet the unyielding gears of late-stage capitalism threaten to counteract what little comfort she can offer him. Keeping Tsutomu always on the brink of finally breaking down completely.

These themes are unfortunately relatable, but the manga itself feels shoddy. Many chapters are only 4 pages long and recycle the same joke over and over again. Lily discovers a problem in Tsutomu’s life>she offers him an incredible dream to solve it>except he then asks for something terribly mundane. It’s functional, but wears out after about 3 iterations.

These are spontaneously alternated with bloated chapters, usually revolving around side-stories. These felt quite boring and also highlighted the manga’s low-effort art. Many environments are just photographs with the characters drawn into them. Sometimes there are even real people in these photos, which are either left alone or hastily sketched over. The artstyle and quality are generally disjointed. And with the story being what it is, spotting these visual oddities became more engrossing than following the actual plot.

A manga that ended up surpassing my expectations was Kuro-chan Chi no Oshiire ga Tsukaenai Riyuu. I went into it with assuming it’d be a lewd comedy with ample fanservice and a barebones story. Instead, this turned out to be a remarkable sci-fi comedy with a solid protagonist.

Kuro-chan one day discovers that her closet has become a wormhole to outer space, through which all manner of aliens are looking to travel. In order to restrict the ensuing chaos, she sets up an immigration office. A tough job indeed, for not every alien is what they seem on the outside. Not to mention, not all of them are keen on playing along with her makeshift laws.

It’s short, but very fun and gets a lot of mileage out of its unique premise. Definitely a manga that stuck with me.

Belial-sama wa Shitennou no Naka demo xx was another winner. Its actually the reverse of last month’s Sekai Maoa: a JRPG parody where, this time, the all-powerful demons are comically weak. Belial is meant to be one of the dark lord’s greatest champions, but she only has 10HP and no powers to speak of. Literal children and starter-level monsters can beat her, all of which she has to keep secret. What would her dark sovereign do if they found out how weak she is? What would the hero do if they knew demons could be such pushovers?

I also recommend Stra the Warlock, if you’re in the mood for a more action-oriented shounen story. It chronicles the adventures of Stra; a kid who is the last person on the planet capable of wielding magic after demons eradicated his people. With the backing of a dubious secret organization, Stra initiates a campaign to defeat the demons and free humanity from their slavery.

It’s a story filled with action, mystery, and endearing characters. I also like the unique designs for the demons in this manga, which frequently tap into cosmic horror for inspiration. If you want to read a shounen manga but don’t feel like committing to hundreds of chapters; then Stra the Warlock is exactly what you want.

That just about closes out my reading for February. I hope to regain my momentum in March and build up a bit more of a buffer, while also finishing up some lengthier series that I have made a start on. See you all in the next update!

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords
  2. Kusanagi-sensei Is Being Tested
  3. 1/8 Kanojo
  4. Kekkonshiki Made Nan Mairu?
  5. Kuro-chan Chi no Oshiire ga Tsukaenai Riyuu
  6. Student Council ~ Total Takeover!
  7. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Shin Kitanshuu
  8. Onani Master Kurosawa
  9. Last Menhealer
  10. Mio’s Diary
  11. Yuka’s Diary
  12. Triangle Struggle
  13. You Still Rely on Magic?
  14. Dissecting Girls
  15. The Whole of Humanity Has Gone Yuri Except for Me
  16. Beautiful Amanda
  17. Tales of the Corporate Slave Succubus
  18. One Day in the Life of Ivan Dejavu
  19. Disgaea
  20. Disgaea 2
  21. Koishigawa-san wa Nikushokukei
  22. Our First Time
  23. Love is Still Too Early for Himeno-chan
  24. Symphogear
  25. Stra the Warlock
  26. The Simple Job of Having Your Blood Sucked by Kiryuin Kaya

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