Sassy Girls, Space Cadets, and Wine Critics: New Manga for the Week of April 4

The girls are in control in this week's new releases, with an assortment of shoujo manga featuring heroines who don't let themselves get pushed around. But there's plenty for the guys, too, with new volumes of some Shonen Jump favorites. For the younger set, Viz launches its Voltron Force graphic novels, and for sophisticated adults, we have a new volume of Vertical's wine-tasting soap opera, Drops of God.

Viz publishes most of their Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat manga the first week of the month, and this month the standout title is vol. 2 of A Devil and Her Love Song. If you read my review of volume 1, you'll already know why: This is a high-school manga that avoids cliches and goes straight for the jugular, with a sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued girl who doesn't take any crap and a class full of hostile teenagers who are only too happy to dish it out anyway. Word on the street is that volume 2 is even better than volume 1, and I'm eager to find out.

This is actually a pretty good month for shoujo manga readers, especially if you like your girls with some spirit. For princess-in-arranged-marriage fans we have vol. 7 of Sakura Hime and vol. 3 of Dawn of the Arcana. I reviewed the first volumes of both series a while back, noting that they have similar themes (strong-willed princess forced to marry a jerky prince) but play out very differently. Vol. 8 of Kamisama Kiss features a shrine goddess with some sass, courtesy of Karakuri Odette creator Julietta Suzuki, and vol. 27 of Skip Beat! continues the long-running story of a strong-willed girl who believes success is the best revenge.

This month's Shonen Jump releases are a solid lineup of series that aren't Naruto or One Piece. Vol. 10 of Bakuman continues the craziness as aspiring manga creators Moritaka and Akito try to come up with a new story. This series continues to excel at taking something inherently dull—a writer thinking up ideas and an artist drawing them—and making it not only interesting but exciting, as Moritaka and Akito seem to run on sheer adrenalin. Meanwhile, vol. 8 of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan continues to bring on the weirdness as Nurarihyon's beloved is kidnapped by a yokai who wants to cut her up to find the source of her powers. Also up this week: Vol. 9 of the gourmet/battle manga Toriko, vol. 21 of Slam Dunk, vol. 39 of Bleach, and from the Shonen Jump Advanced line, vol. 7 of Blue Exorcist and vol. 8 of Rosario + Vampire: Season II.

Finally, while it is not quite manga, I want to mention vol. 1 of Voltron Force, Viz's manga based on the Nicktoons TV series. Viz has big plans for these books, which feature three new cadets. Check out the trailer for a sample of what's inside.

Kodansha has just one new volume this week, and it's another shoujo favorite of mine, vol. 7 of Arisa, by Kitchen Princess creator Natsume Ando. Ando's big-eyed shoujo style belies the heart of this story, which is actually a fairly dark mystery.

Finally, somehow it got by me that vol. 3 of The Drops of God was released last week. This is a great little soap opera about two willowy, handsome men battling over an inheritance, and since the battle is a wine-tasting competition, you'll learn a lot about wine while you enjoy the soap opera. An excellent little manga with overtones of nutmeg and burnt toast, well worth adding to your collection.

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