Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Holiday Review: POP TEAM EPIC

Let's wrap things up with the most gentle, good-hearted manga to come out in 2018, a story of love, stardom, and magic...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Holiday Review: THE BRIDE WAS A BOY

Seven Seas brought us multiple webmanga this year, but aside from the sequel for My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, this may have been the most anticipated of the lot.  As important as Claudine was for trans representation in the 70s, it's important now that we're getting trans stories from actual transfolk like this.

THE BRIDE WAS A BOY (Hanayome wa Motodanshi), by Chii.  First published in 2016 and first published in North America in 2018.


Chii was a transwoman happily in love with her boyfriend.  She was so much in love that she began to make plans to undergo sex reassignment surgery so that she will be able to legally transition and finally marry her boyfriend.  What follows is a whirlwind story of love, transition, and weddings taken from the mangaka's own life!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Holiday Review: WAKAKOZAKE

As we get closer to Christmas, why not read a manga that's all about enjoying good food and drink?  Luckily, this year we got one from Media-Do that I had been craving for years.

WAKAKOZAKE, by Chie Shinkyu.  First published in 2011 and first published in North America in 2018.


Wakako Murasake is a 26-year-old office lady who enjoys nothing more than a good meal.  To her, nothing is more relaxing and enjoyable than a good izakaya dish paired with the perfect drink.  It's the best way to celebrate the small joys of life, get away from the world's frustrations, or just fill yourself until all you can say is "~pshuuuu."

Holiday Review: SATOKO AND NADA

Webcomics continue to be the new frontier in manga, and Seven Seas has been on the forefront of bringing more personal and unique stories like this to the West.

SATOKO AND NADA (Satoko to Nada), by Yupechika.  First published in 2017 and first published in North America in 2018.


Satoko is a Japanese girl studying abroad in America, and by chance she ends up rooming with the vibrant Saudi girl Nada.  Satoko has a lot to learn about living life as a Muslim woman from Nada and her friends, and together the two face some of the everyday challenges of foreigners living in the USA.

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Still, no josei title this year made a bigger splash than this one, the latest title from Princess Jellyfish creator Akiko Higashimura.  This is another cheat (as this was another previously digital-only title), but there was no way I was NOT going to talk about this one.

TOKYO TARAREBA GIRLS (Tokyo Tarareba Musume), by Akiko Higashimura.  First published in 2014, and first published in North America in 2018.


Rinko is an up-and-coming TV writer, but the combination of getting dumped by her long-time boyfriend and the prospect of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has her and her best friends fearful that they'll be single forever and stuck in dead-end jobs.  Rinko's anxieties are starting to get the best of her, and they're not helped along by a hot young actor who keeps bringing Rinko down.  What if she should take a chance on him?  What if she should try to mend things with her ex?  What if? What if?

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Everything old is new again, and this was even true for manga publishers this year.  Ed Chavez, the long-time head of marketing at Vertical, has returned from years of exile to start his own company: Denpa Books.  Sadly, I missed out on their debut at this year's Otabrew by a matter of minutes, but I wanted to mke sure I didn't miss out on one of their debut titles before the end of the year.

AN INVITATION FROM A CRAB (Kani wo Sasowarete), by panpanya.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2018.


Sometimes wandering will lead you to wondrous things.  Maybe it'll be a crab that leads to you its fishmonger.  Maybe it's a question of where pineapples come from.  Maybe it's wondering just how cracking coconuts produces energy, or what happens when your soul gets off at the wrong station.  This book is a collection of those wanderings, and the stories that result from them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


There's actually a fair bit of josei manga to talk about this year, and one of my favorites was this little sleeper of a title from Vertical.

THE DELINQUENT HOUSEWIFE (Futsusuka na Yome desu ga!), by Nemu Yoko.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.


As far as Dai Komukai is concerned, his brother's fiancee Komugi seems fine enough.  His sister may be suspicious and his grandfather may be kind of pervy about her, but she seems sweet enough.  Then he discovers her big secret: Komugi is a former biker gang member with no job and no talent for being a housewife.  Her fiancee is gone on an extended business trip, and Komugi is desperate to fit in with the family and keep her secret.  Dai agrees to help, but how long can the both of them keep up appearances?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Holiday Review: GO FOR IT, NAKAMURA!

This year also saw Seven Seas enter the world of BL, and they entered it with a bang thanks to this sweet stand-alone title.

GO FOR IT, NAKAMURA! (Ganbare! Nakamura-kun!!), by Syundei.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2018.


Nakamura fell for his classmate Hirose at first sight, but he can't even muster up the courage to say hello, much less make his feelings known.  Life throws all sorts of complications between Nakamura and his crush, but the biggest one of all might be his own feelings and clumsiness.  Will Nakamura ever find a way to make friends with the boy of his dreams?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Holiday Review: TRAP IN A SKIRT

It was a good year for BL manga, though.  Mostly it was the fact that more publishers began licensing it, including Kodansha.  Sadly, their print releases don't start until next year, so I have to settle for an intriguing digital-only series.

TRAP IN A SKIRT (Skirt ni Wana), by Puruchome.  First published in 2016 and first published in North America in 2018.


Aoi just wants to feel sexual pleasure the same way a woman does.  That's why he's taken to secretly dressing in a girl's uniform while masturbating, but it's not quite enough to get him there.  Then he's confronted by his classmate Takane, who harasses him about being gay only to then start making out with him.  It seems Takane's wanting to experiment with his sexuality, and Aoi sees in him the perfect toy for his needs.

Sunday, December 16, 2018


2018 was a good year for LGBTQ manga in general.  It wasn't just the usual BL and yuri titles, but we saw a lot more slice-of-life style manga about gay kids growing up.

THAT BLUE SKY FEELING (Sorairo Flutter), written by Okura & art by Coma Hashii.  First published in 2017 and first published in North America in 2018.


Dai is a happy-go-lucky kid who is hoping that this time around, he'll stay at this school long enough to make some friends.  Right away he latches onto Sanada, a solitary boy whom his classmates avoid because of rumors of him being gay.  Dai is determined to not let that get to him, but the more he tries to get Sanada to open up and smile, the more Sanada pushes back and confuses him.  As time goes on, Dai starts to wonder how to get Sanada to befriend him, but why it's so important to him.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Holiday Review: CLAUDINE

Sadly, another year has all but gone and we still have yet to see a release of Riyoko Ikeda's immortal shojo classic, The Rose of Versailles.  Thankfully, Seven Seas beat them to the punch with another Ikeda manga, one that was much shorter but also more relevant to modern issues.

CLAUDINE (Kurodinu...!), by Riyoko Ikeda.  First published in 1978 and first published in North America in 2018.


A century ago in rural France, Claudine was born to a wealthy family.  Claudine had every advantage money could buy, but it could not change this fact: Claudine was born a woman, but knows himself to be a man.  As Claudine grows into adulthood, we follow his life as each new love finds new ways to break his heart.  Will Claudine ever find someone who accepts and loves them as they truly are?

Friday, December 14, 2018


The monster boyfriend trend that was spurred by The Ancient Magus' Bride continued into this year, although now they're getting a little more explicit with the Beauty & the Beast homages than normal, but not with the same level of quality.

SACRIFICAL PRINCESS AND THE KING OF BEASTS (Niehime to Kemono no Ou), by Yu Tomofuji.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.


From the beginning, Sairiphi was destined to be a sacrifice.  Thus, when she is brought before the king of the beastmen, she is both resigned and fearless.  The king decides to not immediate eat her, but to keep her by his side.  As the two grow to know one another, affection begins to grow between them.  Can their blossoming love survive in a world where humans and beasts alike oppose their union?

Thursday, December 13, 2018


It's finally time to move on to some of this year's shojo manga.  We don't get a lot of reverse harem manga these days, and when we do more often than not they're based on otome games.

After reading this, I think I understand precisely why those two statements are connected.

KENKA BANCHO OTOME: LOVE'S BATTLE ROYALE, based on the game created by Spike Chunsoft, with story & art by Chie Shimada.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.


Hinako Nakayama was hoping that going to an all-girls' high school would let her put years of bullying at the orphanage behind her and make some friends in the process.  On her way to her first day, she's sidelined by her long-lost twin brother Hikaru.  He convinces her to pose as him and attend Shishiku Academy in his place.  Once she gets there, Hinako learns the truth behind the ruse: Shishiku is an all-boys' school full of deliquents, where student rankings are settled with fists instead of tests.  Hinako manages to win over some of the baddest boys with a potent combination of delicate looks and a powerful right hook, but can she keep her gender a secret forever?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


TEASING MASTER TAKAGI-SAN (Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san), by Soichiro Yamamoto.  First published in 2012 and first published in North America in 2018.


Every day, Nishitaka tries to think of ways to get a reaction out of Takagi, the girl who sits next to him in class.  Every day, Takagi finds a way to get Nishitaka to freak out and make weird faces, giggling all the while.  Will Nishitaka ever find a way to outwit her?  And will he ever figure out what her REAL motive for teasing him is?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


This year saw the debut of a lot of new digital-only manga publishers.  The most prolific of the lot was Media-Do, whose library could be generously described as a grab-bag.  Even then, there were some gems in that grab-bag, such as this unconventional little seinen series about ballet.

LA MAGNIFIQUE GRANDE SCENE (Kenrantaru Grande Scene), by Cuvie.  First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2018.


Inspired by the performance by her neighbor Risa, young Kanade decides to take up ballet dancing.  It turns out that learning ballet is harder than it looks, and Kanade's ready to give up even before she gets the pointe shoes she so desires.  Maybe what she needs to find her way is a new approach and to learn from the girl she so idolized.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Holiday Reviews: HINAMATSURI

Comedy manga is a hard thing to pull off, and deadpan comedy even more so.  So leave it to a seinen story of a yakuza thug and his unwittingly adopted psychic daughter to get it right.

HINAMATSURI, by Masao Ohtake.  First published in 2010 and first published in North America in 2018.


Yoshifumi Nitta is an up-and-coming Yazkua whose decadent life is turned upside down by a strange metal egg that appears in his apartment, which in turn contains a strange young girl named Hina.  Hina has incredible telekinetic powers, but she also has expensive taste in food and her powers creates as many problems for Nitta as it does solve them.  Together the two will have to find a way to forge something like a family despite neither of them quite knowing how that works.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


This year did not want for comedy manga, thanks to the adventures of Japanese Garfield Umaru-chan!

HIMOUTO! UMARU-CHAN, by Sankakuhead.  First published in 2013, and first published in North America in 2018.


To the wider world, Umaru Doma is the perfect high school girl.  Pretty, poised, brilliant, and talented at every task she sets herself to, she is the envy of every kid in her class.  Once she gets home, though, she becomes Umaru-chan: a selfish, lazy otaku who pigs out on junk food, torments her brother, and manipulates him to get her way.  The only thing that Umaru works harder at than being a pest is keeping others from discovering her true self, but a strange silent classmate might ruin all of her work in a moment.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Holiday Review: DR. STONE

Meanwhile, Weekly Shonen Jump is enjoying something of a boom, and Viz is reaping all the benefits.  Sadly, most of the big-name titles debuted in English last year (if not before)...save for one.

DR. STONE, written by Riichiro Inagaki & art by Boichi.  First published in 2017 and first published in North America in 2018.


Taiju isn't anywhere near as bright as his chemistry-obsessed friend Senku, but he's loyal and determined and today he's determined to finally confess to his crush Yuzuhura.  At that moment, though, a bright flash envelops the world transforming human flesh to stone.  Thousands of years pass before Taiji is able to break free of his stony prison, only to find that Senku beat him by six months.  Together the two find a way to rescue others, but Senku and Taiju soon find themselves in competition with another fellow classmate who sees this as a chance to rebuild the world without adults.  The only way to stop him is to recreate gunpowder, but can these two do so while trying to rebuild civilization in this savage world?

Friday, December 7, 2018


Meanwhile, Kodansha was mostly busy publishing Fairy Tale spinoffs.  The sad thing is that those are likely preferable to this series.

GRAND BLUE DREAMING (Guranburu), written by Kenji Inoue & art by Kimitake Yoshioka.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2018.


Iori hoped that with the move to college and his uncle's seaside dive shop, he would be able to finally meet some girls and start enjoying his youth.  Instead, he finds himself shanghai'd by the college diving club.  They spend most of their time drinking and stripping, and more often than not Iori ends up getting dragged into it.  Will ever learn to actually dive and maybe even impress his pretty cousins in the process?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Holiday Review: MOB PSYCHO 100

Meanwhile, in the world of shonen that doesn't involve apocalypse and/or fantasy, Dark Horse was out there releasing one of the better examples out there to virtually no fanfare.

MOB PSYCHO 100 (Mobu Saiko Hyaku), by ONE.  First published in 2012 and first published in North America in 2018.


Just looking at him, Shigeo would seem like just another anonymous teen boy.  He doesn't much in the way of looks, ambition or hobbies.  Even his nickname, Mob, refers to the fact that he's just another face in the crowd.  What they don't know is that Mob has great pyschic power, although he keeps it mostly repressed.  The only person who does know is Reigen, a wanna-be spirit medium who exploits Mob's powers to hide his own lack of them.  Even then, Mob can only put up with so much frustration before his emotions and powers explode, and when they do the results are unpredictable.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Thankfully, there are isekai stories out there that aren't naked power fantasies, edgelord or otherwise.  Some of them are just about having nice bar food.

OTHERWORLDY IZAKAYA NOBU (Isekai Izakaya "Nobu"), based on the story by Natsuya Semikawa and character designs by Kururi; art by Virginia Nitouhei.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.


With the medieval walled city of Eiteriach, there is a strange pub that serves as a portal to another world.  Within its walls, the head chef and his friendly waitress Shinobu offer up classic izakaya fare to the grateful populace.  Whether it's soldiers from the city watch, snooty tax collectors, or fussy aristocrats, all find themselves overwhelmed by the exotic new food and cold mugs of 'whatsontapp.'

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Holiday Review: DEVILMAN

No, if you want something that is both edgy and substantial, you'll have to look to the past and to one of the manga world's most noted creators.  This year saw a lot of older titles get their first proper releases in English, but thanks to Masaki Yuasa's incredible adaptation few were as anticipated as this.

DEVILMAN (Debiruman), by Go Nagai.  First published in 1972, and first published in North America in 2018.


Akira Fudo is a gentle boy who abhors violence.  Yet when his best friend Ryo returns with stories of demons taking over the earth, Akira is ready and willing to help him fight.  To do so, Akira must fuse with the demon Amon without losing his pure human heart.  So long as he can keep control, he can use his devil powers to fight the demons that not only threaten his family and friends, but history and humanity itself.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Holiday Review: GOBLIN SLAYER

Nothing could compete for controversy this year quite like today's selection.  Although Yen Press has been quietly releasing this digitally in chapters for some time, it only blew up in popularity after its animated adaptation began airing.

Oh, if only had it stayed obscure forever.

GOBLIN SLAYER (Goburin Sureiya), based on the original story by Kumo Kagyu and character designs by Noboru Kannatuki with art by Kousuke Kurose.  First published in 2016, and first published in North America in 2018.


For the Priestess, this was meant to be just another adventure for her newly formed group of adventurers.  Little could she have known that what was meant to be a mission to kill some simple goblins would end with most of her party killed, tortured, and cruelly violated.  At the last minute, she is saved by a hulking figure in a suit of armor, known only as Goblin Slayer.  His only purpose in life is to kill every goblin he can find.  The common folk adore him; other high-ranking adventurers scorn him; to Priestess, he is a savior.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Holiday Review: GOLOSSEUM

While some series approach world-wide disaster with irony and ennui, others approach it by going full edgelord and adding in some wrestling moves to boot.

GOLOSSEUM, by Yasushi Baba.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.  


At the beginning of the 20th century, 3 strange records fell to earth.  To most they sounded like just noise, but for a select few they held the secrets to incredible power.  Decades later, the technology the records contained are used to create special bracelets that can enhance a person's strength and repel virtually every weapon save for physical attacks from other enhanced fighters.  The leaders of the world hope to use their own arsenal of super-soldiers to gain power, but all of them are on the hunt for the most powerful soldier of them all: Sasha, a Russian woman known as the White Witch.

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Considering what a strange, disastrous year this has been for the US, it feels weirdly fitting to kick this year's holiday reviews off with a manga that's also about trying to life one's life in the middle of an ongoing disaster of unprecedented scale.

DEAD DEAD DEMON'S DEDEDEDE DESTRUCTION (Deddo Deddo Demonzu  Dededededesutorakushun), by Inio Asano.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2018.  


Three years ago, a giant flying saucer appeared over Tokyo, destroying buildings and killing hundreds.  The conflict has come to a standstill, and as the government debates how to handle the menace others simply try to live out their lives.  That's certainly true for Kadode and her best friend Oran.  As they deal with friendships, exams, and awkward crushes on teachers, they wonder if there's any point to it all.

Christmas Time! Time for Reviews! (and Giveaways!)

It's time once more for the Manga Test Drive's annual Holiday Reviews!  Every day from now until Christmas, we will cover 25 of the year's most notable releases!

It also means that it's time for our annual Holiday Review Giveaway!  As always, the prize is a $25 Rightstuf Gift Certificate so that you can go out and buy some of the best books we covered as part of those post-Christmas sales.

As always, entry is simple:  just leave a comment below about what YOUR favorite manga of 2018 was.  Old or new, it doesn't matter - so long as it was new to you, it works!  This year, we'll also be accepting entries on Twitter, so if Blogger gives you a hassle just leave a comment HERE!

The giveaway ends at the end of Christmas Day, so get typing and enjoy the reviews!