While not as strong as the first volume, Crown of Thorns wraps up fairly nicely.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 8.45.18 PMTitle: Crown of Thorns
Genre: Supernatural
Publisher: Shueisha (JP), Viz Media (U.S)
Creators: Yoko Kamio
Serialization: Bessatsu Margaret
Translation: Casey Loe
Release Date: Feburary 9, 2016
Review copy provided by Viz Media

Viz has decided to release this two-volume, digital-only shoijo title very quickly with a less than three month gap between releases, which for fans like myself is fantastic! Nobara is still “haunted” by the demon Lucio, but as the second-volume rolls around she’s less focused on collecting orbs of negative energy for Lucio and more disturbed by the changes in her classmate Henmi and the truth behind demons.

Now that this quick little series is done I think that the first volume was the stronger of the two, although the second volume wasn’t much weaker. I do think that this second volume was paced a bit too quickly; it felt as if the story needed one more volume in order to pull off a more graceful transition from the “Nobara needs to collect black sphere for Lucio” to “let’s find out more than Lucio’s past.” Like the first volume this volume is absolutely stuffed, but it did try for a few moments of levity — Lucio celebrates Nobara’s belated birthday on a whim and they have a date-like moment or two. I didn’t feel like these shoujo rom-com bits worked; for me, they just served to reinforce the idea that Nobara’s world is full of petty, mean people and that she should be thorny and spiky in order to keep herself safe — something that manga explicitly disagrees with later on!

One of the big points all along has been that Nobara isn’t truly a mean person, just prickly and “needs to remove her crown of thorns.” As an ex-Catholic, “crown of thorns” invokes a rather different image than whatever the series was actually going for, but I also thought it was unfair that the story painted Nobara as someone with a sharp, careless tongue regardless. Every other character we see, demon and human alike, is even more cruel than she is and the story itself makes some rather unpleasant remarks about people as a whole (such as outright suggesting two unattractive characters will only have an ugly baby!). The manga’s rather sappy idea is that Nobara only needs to open up and be more kind, which makes me rate this volume a bit lower than the first. I was also a bit unhappy with some of the (also surprisingly sappy) romance in this volume but only because it was clichéd and I had hoped the manga would avoid that.

All in all it’s still a rather nice, brisk shoujo manga that manages to avoid all of the trappings of a high school romance and works in just enough supernatural elements that it doesn’t feel like a mere gimmick. I’d love for Viz to put it out in print but as of writing there are still no plans for a non-digital release.