Recent Reads from CMX – Venus in Love, Lapis Lazuli Crown, and Swan

I think sometimes I tend to focus mostly on covering first volumes of manga series, but I thought I’d also try to start doing some short takes on some of the ongoing series that I enjoy.

Venus in Love #7 by Yuki Nakaji

I’m not sure why this series doesn’t get more hype because it really deserves to be better known. It doesn’t have dramatic plot twists or heaping servings of angst, instead it follows the friendships of an interconnected group of college students. Suzuna and Eichi finally take their friendship to the next level with a kiss. This ends up being very emotionally satisfying for the reader, and it is easy to see obvious how much the couple cares for each other as they can’t pull themselves away from their embrace. When they finally separate the panels that follow illustrating their solitary reactions to the event are so cute. Eichi does a fist pump and yells “Yes!” Suzuna has a more subdued but pleased reaction as she blushes and snickers uncontrollably to herself. This meandering slice of life title is one of my favorite feel-good reads.

Lapis Lazuli Crown #2 by Natsuna Kawase

This is the concluding volume of this short fantasy series. It seems from the author notes that she originally planned a longer series, but had to cut back on all of the stories she had planned. I still enjoyed reading the further adventures of Miel as she worked to improve her magic and support Prince Radian. Miel’s superhuman strength indicates a boundless capacity to deal with magic but she has to work on her lack of control.

The first story of the collection focuses on Miel’s childhood friend Rosette and her rival and potential boyfriend Seigle Chiffonnade. We move further ahead in time as Miel manages to successfully graduate and is assigned to the Barrier Bureau, the department of protective magic that Prince Radian administers. Radian and Miel agree to date in secret. Miel’s powers are tested when the protection that is channeled through the Lapis Lazuli Crown must be renewed. Noble families start to manipulate the ceremony, but Radian is able to take charge of the situation with Miel’s support. This short series strikes me as being a good pick for middle school libraries. It is rated E for everyone, so there would be few concerns about the content, and the two volume length will be useful for any librarian worried about space constraints on the shelves.

Swan #2 by Kyoko Ariyoshi

I wish I’d been collecting this series all along, but I didn’t so I’m just picking up a random volume here and there when I can. In the second volume of this energetic ballet saga Masumi competes with the dancer she most admires, Kyogoku, for the role of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty in a performance that will take place in Russia. Masumi has improved at an amazing rate, but she still suffers from a lack of self-confidence. Her teacher tells her to focus on the basics as she is left behind while her friends scatter all around the world. An amazing amount of story is packed into this volume. A dancer from Cuba arrives and practices a pas de deux with Masumi. Masumi is sent to London, but decides to detour in Moscow to see her friends again. A Russian prodigy tries her mean girl tricks on both Kyogoku and Masumi. Ariyoshi could teach a master class in layout techniques, as she manages to fill her panels with the dynamic nature of dance as well as the dancers’ inner feelings. To add to the excitement there is a Giselle dance-off between Russia and Japan.

Swan #7 by Kyoko Ariyoshi

Now romantic complications are working their way into the dancers’ lives. Aoi has confess his love for Masumi and his feelings were not returned. Masumi is in love with Kusakabe but he loves Kyogoku. What does a ballet dancer do with unrequited love? Use their feelings to make their dancing even more awesome! Masumi auditions for a role against her classmate Kaoru. Kaoru’s mother has been mercilessly training her in an attempt to make up for her own shortcomings as a dancer. When Kaoru’s mother realizes that Masumi is the daughter of her rival the pressure on Kaoru increases even more. Swan is filled with 1970s flowing hair, copious tears, the power of dance, and fascinating ballet footnotes. I’m determined to track down the other volumes in this series and make up for lost time.