Nightschool: The Weirn Books (Yen Press Extravaganza Part VII), by Svetlana Chmakova

Nightschool: The Weirn Books: Vol. 3, by Svetlana Chmakova

The Nightschool is a magical place that allows vampires, werewolves, and weirns (a special type of witch) to learn everything from scrying to calculus. Alex is a young weirn who has always been home-schooled by her big sister... but when her sister disappears, Alex may need the Nightschool's resources—along with the help of its superpowered students—to find her.

I really liked the artwork in Nightschool (v. elegant and dramatic, with clearly-defined characters), but was even more impressed by its convoluted plot. “Monster school” stories are a dime a dozen, but this was one of the few titles I've encountered where the storytelling actually mattered more than dressing up the characters in cool goth outfits. It's always fun when a story takes its own mythology seriously (think the first Underworld movie, or the Russian "Nightwatch" series), and Nightschool seems to have that down pat.

Pig Bride: Vol. 4, by KookHwa Huh and SuJin Kim

Handsome and rich, Si-Joon's fate was forever altered by a strange experience he had as a child: lost in the woods, he wandered into a strange house. Desperate for food, he agreed to become engaged to the daughter of the household, a girl cursed to constantly wear a pig mask. He has only the haziest memory of his promise... until his sixteenth birthday, when a girl with a pig mask appears and demands that they consummate their marriage—immediately.

People have said some nasty stuff about Pig Bride. The Manga Critic chose it as one of her five 2009 Hall of Shame inductees, writing about both the “awful” art and the author's contempt for her female characters. I am unfamiliar with the earlier volumes of this series, but by volume five it doesn't strike me as any worse (or, admittedly, much better) from similar manhwa—the artwork is clean and easy to follow, a few of the jokes made me laugh, and while the selfish hero and self-abasing heroine are a little tough to take, I've definitely read worse.

Angel Diary: Vol. 11, by Kara and Lee YunHee

From our first review of Angel Diary:
"We *love* Angel Diary. If you can get past its slightly cracked-out premise—the heroine is a cross-dressing Princess of Heaven who hides out in a Korean high school in order to escape an arranged marriage with the King of Hell (who, by the way, is hiding out there too, secretly knows who she is, and hits on her like it's his job)—it is absolutely adorable."
Angel Diary has two more volumes yet to go, but this volume clearly started the winding-up process. This series has always had its strengths: the main couple is delightful, the supporting cast is memorable, and the artwork is cute (although they seriously skimped on the backgrounds). I don't think there was quite enough plot to justify a thirteen-volume run, but there's no denying it's been a pleasant ride. This is one of the few series I've snagged for my personal collection, and I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion.

Bamboo Blade: Vol. 4, story by Masahiro Totsuka and art by Aguri Igarashi

Bamboo Blade is the story of Toraji Ishida, a perpetually-broke high school kendo instructor, who is challenged by a fellow kendo instructor to a competition between their students. (The prize? A year's supply of sushi.) Desperate to win, Toraji scrounges up a team of five girls, one of whom is an incredibly gifted fighter who has trained in her family's kendo dojo since birth. Unfortunately for her teacher, this means she views kendo just like any other chore, but Toraji is determined to do whatever it takes fire up her enthusiasm.

I put off reading Bamboo Blade because of its cover (schoolgirls posing provocatively with kendo swords do nothing for me), but it turns out I was doing this series a major disservice. Bamboo Blade is weird and wonderful—an over-the-top hybrid of Skip Beat, Gokusen, and Fox's Glee, but with a kendo theme. Not only will I be keeping this volume, I'm even planning to buy the back issues (for me, the ultimate sacrifice).

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


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