Viz Media Manga Highlights – April

We thought that with everyone in lockdown the world over, it was a perfect time to pull on our manga-reading socks and start bringing you a look at some of the latest books you can buy and download right now. Viz Media put out well over a dozen books each month, ranging from original manga to video game adaptations and even gorgeous art books. The April lineup of releases from Viz Media is just as packed as ever, promising a variety of enticing delights for any long-time manga fans or first-time dabblers. From the anxiety-riddled comedy of Komi Can’t Communicate or the continued supernatural action of Jujutsu Kaisen, to brand new debuts like Blue Flag and Prince Freya, here are some passing glances at what fans can expect from the world of Viz Media manga next month.

Komi Can’t Communicate – Volume 6

Komi Can’t Communicate is all about the titular high school heroine Shoko Komi and her desperate struggle to make friends despite her crippling social anxiety. Over the course of the series, her and the socially awkward boy determined to help Komi make friends, Tadano, have managed to assemble a motley crew of weirdos and wackjobs who, despite their strong differences and strange personalities, genuinely enjoy being friends. Still, Komi continues to grapple with her social anxiety as the latest volume puts her in a variety of chaotic situations.

Things open with a bang when Komi is forced to go to a karaoke after-party with her crew of companions, shaking like a broken blender at the thought of having to sing in front of people. This series started out with the comedic dynamic squarely involving Komi and Tadano, but supporting characters like Najimi Osana and Ren Yamai deliver plenty of laughs this volume. Najimi smugly forcing everyone to sing at least once yet cracking under the pressure of taking a dozen drink orders for her friends within the same set of pages helps solidify her as one of the standouts of this volume. Still, equal praise is in order for hilarious moments like Komi’s dad taking his daughter on a shopping trip or blonde-haired badass-in-training Katai being petrified by Komi’s silent, steely nature. Komi Can’t Communicate is a chaotic comedy of errors and misunderstandings, and the constantly evolving and expanding cast of supporting characters helps make each volume more of a riot than the last.

Jujutsu Kaisen – Volume 3

On paper, Jujutsu Kaisen is a pretty standard shonen experience. Cursed objects scattered across the land grant immeasurable power when collected, a young boy with insane potential finds himself accidentally wielding a portion of that power, and now he must link up with talented fighters to track down the other pieces and keep them out of the wrong hands. It’s a simple and familiar premise, but the beauty of the series comes from how that all-too-familiar framework is complemented by incredibly unique visuals and supremely endearing characters.

Nothing quite speaks better to that tone of badass-endearment than volume three, in which the rivalry between the Tokyo and Kyoto campuses of Jujutsu High reaches a boiling point during their joint Goodwill event. Both schools are made up of fearsome and talented fighters, but they’re still schools, and these are still high-schoolers. The balance between these characters being cold and calculated killers while still acting like bratty teenagers is achieved flawlessly, though things quickly veer into dark and sinister territory once the true villains of the volume approach.

Jujutsu Kaisen also continues to make itself stand out from the pack of shonen battle series with crisp, inventive art that stretches the limits of what is normally seen in all-ages action series. This may be a book rated for teens, but some of the grotesque creatures and body-warping abilities shown off in this series could make even the strongest of stomachs quiver. Jujutsu Kaisen got off to a slow start in volume one, but each subsequent entry has achieved further polish than the last, with things shaping up to take an engaging turn next volume.

Blue Flag – Volume 1

While Blue Flag is ramping up toward its climactic conclusion in Japan, the dramatic highschool romance series is only just debuting overseas with an official release by Viz Media. Written and illustrated by KAITO, this story of fleeting highschool feelings and a complicated, unsolvable love triangle embraces a side of these all-too-familiar teenage struggles that I’ve rarely seen explored in anime or manga. So often, stories of highschool romance and unrequited crushes seek to put a spotlight on the heartache and suffering that come as a result of these eventually unwinnable battles and their all too unexpected outcomes. Blue Flag doesn’t shy away from that, certainly – socially challenged protagonists Taichi and Futaba go through their fair sure of struggles in this story – still, there are always moments of uplifting introspection or heart-warming comedy that help ease the pain of their trials and tribulations.

Taichi is a quiet, awkward loner, with his only friend being Toma Mita, a star athlete who he’s known since they were kids. Taichi is prepared to bask in his solitude and live through his highschool days with no one beside him, but one day, a girl with a similar disposition approaches Taichi to help her get closer to Toma. Despite struggling through nearly identical social challenges, Taichi reluctantly serves as her wingman and guides Futaba through the challenges of pursuing this crush she holds for the tall and talented Toma. When Futaba begins to discover self-confidence and personal strength, though, Taichi can’t help but fall in love as he witnesses her growth and transformation. If she can do it, after all, why can’t he? Complications only serve to escalate even further as Toma’s own feelings become known, and Futaba’s close friend Masumi Itachi gets involved with the three hopeless, love-hungry youths.

Gorgeous artwork complements the nuanced storytelling of Blue Flag, with crisp illustrations and dynamic facial expressions filling each page. The panel layout of each page is never the same, with blending borders and shrinking frames that always complement the current pacing of the story. When these panels temporarily set into a repetitive rhythm, such as three equally sized panels right next to each other, it’s always for the purpose of elevating a gag and delivering an adorable punchline. Blue Flag carries a constant melancholic aura throughout it’s first volume, but flitters of humor and the genuine care each character has for each other make this a wonderful story that I can’t wait to read more of.