Spice and Wolf (Yen Press Extravaganza Part V), by Isuna Hasekura

Yes, dear readers, it's time for another run-down of Yen Press's recent releases!

Spice and Wolf: Vol. 1, story by Isuna Hasekura and art by Keito Koume

Spice and Wolf is a manga adaptation of Isuna Hasekura's novel series of the same name. When young merchant Kraft Lawrence finds a naked girl with wolf ears and a tail napping in the back of his cart, he remains calm (more or less). The girl introduces herself as Holo the Wisewolf, an ancient harvest goddess. Hoping to travel back to the northern lands of her youth, Holo joins Lawrence on his journey along the trade routes, generously giving him the benefit of her wisdom... whether he wants it or not.

For a book with a relatively dry plot (Lawrence and Holo spend most of the second half of the story mulling over a questionable deal involving the weight of silver coins), Spice and Wolf features an awful lot of gratuitous nudity. And while nudity has its place, the sheer randomness of these scenes is more confusing than sexy—watching the topless heroine toss her hair like a porn star while discussing the wheat and fur markets is just plain weird. This is the first volume, so it's still too early to tell (maybe they'll make sense later?), but currently I'm of the opinion the fanservice shots were a mistake. To borrow a phrase from Rocky—you're better than that, Spice and Wolf.

Raiders: Vol. 2, by JinJun Park

If you took a dash of Indiana Jones, added a pinch of Dan Brown, and mixed 'em both with a healthy shot of every crappy zombie movie ever made, you'd probably end up with something closely resembling JinJun Park's Raiders. When professor's assistant Irel Clark is attacked by monsters after finding the Holy Grail, Irel is forced to drink the blood of Christ in order to survive. Unfortunately, immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be—when the world is full of flesh-eating zombies, Irel's immortal, constantly-regenerating body becomes quite the prize...

The artwork and action sequences in this series are competent but unremarkable, and the religious stuff tries way too hard to be shocking. (SPOILER: Vol. 2's final image—a zombie take on Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper—was obviously meant to have enormous impact, but just made me snicker.) Still, there's obviously a market for secret religious cult books and zombie stories, so hopefully Raiders will find its niche.

Very! Very! Sweet: Vol. 6, by JiSang Shin and Geo

From our first review of Very! Very! Sweet:
"Very! Very! Sweet is the story of a rich and spoiled 15-year-old boy named Tsuyoshi, whose domineering grandfather ships him off to Korea to connect with his family's Korean heritage—or die trying. Naturally, Tsuyoshi moves in next door to an exuberant Korean girl named Be-Ri, whose strict family life and far more modest circumstances result in an over-the-top culture clash."
This series continues to deal strictly in tried-and-true romantic conventions, but its cross-cultural twist is used to particularly good effect in this volume. It's not high-brow humor, but I couldn't help but laugh when Be-Ri mistakes Tsuyoshi's “Daisuke!” (Japanese for “I love you!”) as the Korean phrase “Ya! Ee Saekki!” (“Hey! You bastard!”). The weight Be-Ri places on Tsuyoshi's differences forces one to wonder about the homogeneity of Korean culture, but her over-the-top reactions make for a fun, sweet read.
Time and Again: Vol. 2, by JiUn Yun

Time and Again is a collection of loosely-connected horror stories. Exorcists-for-hire Baek-On and Ho-Yeon travel throughout the countryside, searching for ghosts (and occasionally creating them—but totally by accident). This volume features three stories, including a particularly disturbing one ("Love") about a married servant woman who attracts the unwanted attentions of her master.

Most of the artwork in Time and Again is attractively spare, although it features flashes of unadulterated cuteness that help lighten the atmosphere. It's not quite as good as my beloved Banhonsa: The Spirit Returner (the gold standard for this type of myth- and legend-inspired series), but it's still very well done, and has a similar creepy-fairytale vibe.

Reviews based on publisher-provided copies.
Posted by: Julianka


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