For this week’s column, Michelle and I look at three very different titles: volume 26 of Case Closed (Viz), a mystery series starring an underage sleuth; volume three of Fairy Cube (Viz), a Baroque fantasy from Godchild creator Kaori Yuki; and Voices of Love (Aurora/LuvLuv), a collection of steamy stories for female readers. So what’s worth adding to your shopping basket? Read on for the verdict.
Case Closed, Vol. 26
There were three complete cases in this volume: two murders and one valuable missing stamp. I’ve only read one other volume of this series so far, but each of the two murder cases had an aspect that was similar to the skating rink case from said volume. In the first case, one member of a group of friends had done away with another. In the second, sounds of celebration were used to disguise a gunshot. I don’t know enough to state whether this sort of “variation upon a theme” is standard for this series or not, but it is a little worrisome.
The cliffhanger ending from the last volume—one of Conan’s friends seemed to realize who he really is—was resolved in a way that managed to be fun but still left all of the characters right back where they started, when all was said and done. I suppose when one is writing a series of this length, one might have to recycle some criminal methods and might also try to avoid doing anything major to break up the character dynamic. But as a result, while Case Closed is good for episodic fun, it will probably never achieve greatness.
Volume 26 of Case Closed will be available on November 18, 2008.
Fairy Cube, Vol. 3
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: no one will ever accuse Kaori Yuki of writing boring manga. If only she knew how to end a series! Fairy Cube began promisingly enough, offering readers a veritable smorgasbord of the things she does best, from drawing hot guys in ridiculous outfits—often involving eye patches, capes, or hats—to pushing the envelope with taboo-busting stories—often involving dead mothers, abusive fathers, or unwanted pregnancies. By the middle of volume two, however, Fairy Cube started to fly apart at the seams with the introduction of new characters and a new subplot in which fairies plan to take over the world by means of a beauty pageant. (No, I’m not kidding, and yes, there is a swimsuit competition.) The third and final volume does provide answers to many of the questions posed in the first, but in an artless, talky fashion; characters spend an awful lot of time shoutin’ and speechifyin’ and precious little time doing anything.
The final chapters of Fairy Cube comprise a mere 127 pages, so Viz has padded volume three with “Psycho Knocker,” a short story billed as a sequel to Fairy Cube. In fact, “Psycho Knocker” has only the most tenuous connection to the main story—namely, cameo appearances by two characters. “Psycho” is actually an example of comeuppance theater in which a teenage girl pays a terrible price for wishing her romantic rival harm. Yuki doesn’t pull any Baroque punches here, offering a straightforward approach to shopworn material. Though it isn’t her best work, “Psycho” is cleanly illustrated, briskly paced, and easy to follow, three qualities that are in painfully short supply elsewhere in volume three.
Volume three of Fairy Cube is available now.
Voices of Love
The promotional copy for Voices of Love promises “five romantic, hot and sexy stories about modern women and the men they love.” Alas, the “modern women” at the heart of these stories aren’t terribly interesting or, for that matter, modern; most of them behave like doormats, tolerating bad behavior in the hopes of finding true love. (Hasn’t someone translated He’s Just Not That Into You into Japanese yet?) The few that do assert themselves are still fairly wishy-washy, finding the strength to make tough choices only with the love—and lovin’—of a good man.
If the characters weren’t so passive, these submissive fantasies might be more fun—an opportunity for strong women to explore a different side of their personalities, perhaps. But when so much of the sex is depicted as unhappy and, in some cases, non-consensual, it’s hard to find these stories very enjoyable, even if every one ends the same way, with the heroine finding a handsome, sensitive Prince Charming who loves her just the way she is, who whispers sweet nothings in her ear, and who uses more hair product than the women I know. Undoubtedly this is someone’s fantasy; it’s just not mine.
Voices of Love is available now.
–Reviewed by Katherine Dacey