chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

This past weekend was Katsucon, so I have a stack of new manga. Most were recommended by "Year's Best Manga" lists on various sites, but one was something that looked intriguing when Great Big South American River brought it up in response to something else I was buying. As might be expected, I'm finding them a mixed bag.

Nichijou (Nichijou - My Ordinary Life) by Keiichi Arawi, vols. 1 and 2
Um, no. This comedy + slice-of-life high school series was billed as whimsical and surrealistic. It has a blocky, primitive drawing style that I'm presuming is deliberate. This does mean, however, that some of the surrealistic events have to be called out by the characters, or you wouldn't know what was up. When a wooden hand falls from the sky onto someone's head, for instance, it looks just as realistic as any of the characters' hands. And when the school principal tangles with a deer outside a character's classroom window, the student gazes at the spectacle with the same blank look she gives to just about anything.

The killer for me, however, was the treatment of the one character I found sympathetic, a robot schoolgirl who just wants to be a normal human being. Her creator, a child mad scientist, delights in tormenting her creation by refusing to remove the large windup key on the robot's back. She seems to have created the robot for just this purpose, plus some light housework. The whole thing left a bad taste in my brain. This one is going straight into the give-away pile.

Haikyū!! by Haruichi Furudate, vols. 1-3
On the other hand, I pretty much inhaled the first volumes of this shounen sports manga. While short, hyperactive Shōyō Hinata was in middle school, he saw a televised volleyball game featuring a player who was called the "Little Giant" for the way he dominated the game despite his small stature. Shōyō is inspired to nag and cajole his way to the creation of a boys' volleyball team at his own school. Despite their complete lack of a bench or any real experience or coaching, the team manages to avoid completely embarrassing themselves in their first and only real tournament, in which Shōyō encounters cerebral, athletically talented Tobio Kageyama.

In his mind, Shōyō paints Tobio as his nemesis, but when they both start high school, they find they're rookies on the same team. Not only that, but when their contrasting skills are put together, they become something special. At this point the story line kicks in for real as the remaining players on the team are introduced, along with their genial faculty sponsor who knows nothing about volleyball (and thus serves as the viewpoint character for similarly naive readers) and their coolly elegant manager, the only female character to make an appearance thus far. I especially enjoy the sweet senior player who has exiled himself from the team because, after freezing and woofing a key shot in a tournament, he feels he can't support his team mates properly (all the feels, Asahi!). This is probably nothing more than a typical example of its genre, but I'm enjoying the characters and their interactions.

chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

It's not that I haven't been reading actual books, but they have been re-reads: Gentemen of the Road,The Goblin Emperor. But the new stuff is manga and comics.

I got volumes 2 and 3 of Behind the Scenes!!; I have finished 2 and am about a third of the way through 3. I'm expecting that, like Ouran, this will eventually develop a running plotline, but at the moment, it remains episodic. Maasa, the girl who specialize in special effects makeup, is convinced that she ought to have a boyfriend, but her attempts in this direction always end in disaster because she's fascinated with gory horror flicks, and her interests always come out at inopportune moments. She tries again with a group date, fails, and drags herself back to the Art Squad, where her friends are sympathetic but not pitying. We also see more of Ranmaru's seemingly perfect and snooty cousin Soh (he lives with her family), a high school student: in fact, her life is not what it seems, and the Art Squad helps her find herself a little more. In vol. 3, the Art Squad participates in Film Camp, in which one of the uni film clubs goes to film full time on location while classes are on hiatus. The film features an actual paid actor: a 7-year-old prodigy who rubs Goda, the Chief, the wrong way. I'll have to see how this plays out.

I also read the latest Ms. Marvel volume, Civil War II. This series is certainly full of All the Feels. The first part of the story finds Kamala Kahn dealing with a squad of rather fascist-leaning do-gooders whose plans put Kamala's ethics through a veritable obstacle course. One of the pieces of fallout from this episode breaks Kamala's heart and sends her in search of a change of scene to Pakistan, her family's homeland, where she learns another lesson in why it can be tough to do good.

chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

Hey, long time no post, and this one will be short, but I've got to start getting back to posting somehow.

So I just started what looks like a delightful new-to-me manga series. It comes with an impeccable pedigree for being delightful: it's by Ouran High School Host Club's Bisco Hatori.

Behind the Scenes!! stars awkward, terribly introverted Ranmaru Kurisu, who was the odd one out in his family of hearty, hardy fisherfolk. Now at university, he's been creeping around trying not to draw attention to himself. One day, he encounters an apparent Zombie Apocalypse and is so shocked that he passes out. When he wakes from his faint, he discovers that it was a movie scene and that he has been rescued by the eccentric, creative members of the Art Squad, who provide costumes, makeup, sets, and special effects for the university's three film-making clubs.

Can Ranmaru find himself with this bunch? The answer is, of course, yes, and it's as much fun for us as it is for him.

There are two more volumes so far (I only have vol. 1 currently), and I will be picking them up ASAP. It's a good (if temporary) antidote to the current sociopolitical horror show.

chomiji: Two ghostly princes looking pained, with caption Oooh, that's really got to hurt! ... (Stardust Princes-ouch)

So on my way to work yesterday, I came up the escalator at the Metro station to find that a train was just pulling in. The guy ahead of me was going slow and blocking my way, so as soon as I got off the escalator, I ran around him and headed for the second car, which drops me off right at the bottom of the stairs at Union Station (where I get off).

As I bounded along, I felt something catch and then pop free at the bottom of my pelvis, where my butt joins my leg. Man, it hurt!

And still hurts, although it's a little better this morning, after some Alleve overnight. From info I found online, it looks like I may have slightly torn the tendon(s) at the top of the various hamstring muscles, which attach at that point.

So here I am, literally butt hurt. Ow.

Gotta remember that I'm too old (or at least, not in good enough shape) to be running for trains. :-(

chomiji: Sai, the courtly, go-playing Heian ghost, playing a flute - from Hikaru no Go (Sai - music)

Springsteen looks like such a kid in this, although I think he was actually close to 30 at the time. The in-concert energy is palpable even over the Intarwebs, both among the band members and out in the audience.

Looking at this and listening to it just makes me feel so much better. Because even today, the Boss still loves us and stands up for what's right.

ETA: The video embed service on DW seems to be messing up—it doesn't load, and at one point I got an error that the server (on DW) wasn't responding. You can view it over at LJ or use the YouTube link. It's a live performance of "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" from 1988.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

IT'S A SECRET!

(Re-reading canon for Yuletide. Many volumes of canon.)

chomiji: Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach in his Hollow form, with the caption Surprise! (ichigo hollow-surprise!)

This year's jack-o-lantern:

A carved jack-o-lantern, lit with a candle

I'm filled with nostalgia for Halloweens of the recent past, during which I spent the evening alternately giving out candy to the neighborhood kids and writing flashfics for trick-or-treating online fan-friends. I don't have the energy; don't know how I did it then, either.

chomiji: An image of a classic spiral galaxy (galaxy)
Making progress.

We’re officially ready to start writing the actual Alliance Rising book, and along with it, we’re going to put Finity’s End into Closed-Circle. That’s a hundred or so years on…some of the same bunch.

http://www.cherryh.com/WaveWithoutAShore/?p=6987

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

So I have utterly failed at reading anything of substance this week. In fact I was going to post that I had utterly failed at reading anything this week when I was saved by the arrival of the first collected volume of the web comic Stand Still Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg. Because, in fact, I have been reading a lot of bits and pieces of SSSS (why not S4? - that simply isn't how the fandom rolls, I guess) and related stuffs, like fanfiction and TVTropes entries. This is part of Yuletide prep, because I'm going to request SSSS, but I always meant to blog this comic anyway.

Stand Still Stay Silent is a science fantasy series set in Scandinavia. It starts with an extended prologue. In our recent past, a pandemic known as the Rash has spread around the world. The disease seems pretty harmless if somewhat debilitating at first, but after a few weeks, it becomes clear that everyone underestimated the Rash. In the end, as far as the central characters of the main timeline know, only Iceland and a scattering of populations in the continental Nordic countries survive.

The main story starts 90 years later with the survivors having adjusted to the New Normal. Isolated communities and a very few small cities are surrounded by wilderness haunted by weird, horrific warped creatures that used to be human beings and other mammals (they're often referred to as "trolls"). A badly underfunded research expedition is being assembled to go out into the Silent World (the lands that were abandoned by the remnants of the human race) to seek out and bring back technology and medical information. This band of misfits is our main cast.

Humorous or poignant interactions among the expedition crew members alternate with spooky or downright terrifying encounters with the trolls, who are as varied as they are grotesque. The fact that the crew members are all from different countries (except for the Finnish cousins) and mostly speak only their native languages adds another layer of complexity to the situation. And then there's the fact that not everything that happens can be explained by science ... .

Sundberg's artwork is vivid and dynamic. The palettes tend to be limited: monochrome schemes overlaid with washes in one or two colors and small spots of intense hot or cool colors. The details of the larger set pieces are impressive (warning: wide image), especially for a comic that's updated five days a week. The world-building is intriguing. The story is full of the family-of-choice and hurt-comfort tropes that make things work for me. And the storyteller punctuates the action of the series with artful infodumps in the form of in-story posters or pamphlets.

The most common criticism I've seen is that the pace is fairly glacial. Things do pick up considerably once the prologue is complete. The cast is ethnically diverse only within the confines of Scandinavia: everyone is very white. There are a number of female characters in the full cast, including two in the adventuring crew, and they have plenty of agency (one is the commander). No one is explicitly LGBTIQ, but then, romantic/sexual relationships haven't been part of the plot thus far (although a number of straight couples are shown in the prologue). No one seems affected by a disability unless you consider Lalli to be on the autism spectrum (which I do, actually).

Anyway, I'm enjoying the hell out of this one.

chomiji: A bear wearing pajamas, sitting at a desk, writing, with caption Yuletide (Yuletide Bear-Author)

If a fandom is your very favorite thing, and you have been dying for fanfiction from it, and you have gone through the trouble of nominating it and requesting it for Yuletide, and your canon consists of only two medium-sized paperbacks, is it really that much trouble to figure out that two of the four characters you nominated actually have full names and/or surnames in canon?

Dita is Perdita Verist: "I'm Perdita Verist, the new teacher, remember?"

Peter is Peter Merrill: "Peter Merrill! How many times have you been told not to climb things at school?" (The speaker is Peter's first grade teacher.)

I did that from memory (verified via Google courtesy of some sketchy outfit that has the full text of the books online), and it has been at least a couple of years since a re-read any of Zenna Henderson's "People" stories.

(I realize that whoever is keeping up this fandom at AO3 is at least as much to blame as the requestor: the tags give them as just Dita (The People) and Peter (The People).

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Got very little serious reading done this week Because Reasons (sad RL event).

I read the openings to This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, which I mentioned last week, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (which I had forgotten that I'd bought a couple of weeks ago to support our local bookstore after killing some time there between appointments). More power of concentration will be needed to continue with either.

I read volumes 2 and 3 of the manga A Silent Voice, and now I am on the horns of a dilemma. The mangaka has ticked me off in a couple of ways, and even though I love the idea of the story and have become very fond of Shoko's tough, neglected tomboy little sister, I may decide to abandon the series, which rarely happens with me.

First, ex-bully Shoya is trying to arrange for more friends for his former victim, Shoko. The first girl he digs up is at Shoko's request, a girl who was kind to Shoko when they were all in middle school and who ended up getting bullied herself. That works out well enough that Shoya sometimes feels a bit of a third wheel around them. So when he encounters another former middle school classmate about whom he has no definite negative memories, he assumes that she's another potential friend. Actually, she is a manipulative little schemer in a very stereotypically Mean Schoolgirl way, and I cringe away from the book whenever she's on the page. (Can you tell that I was bullied in middle school for befriending a girl who was in Special Education?)

Then, the author introduces a Profound Misunderstanding between Sho and Sho, just so things will become even sadder. It takes a really good author to do this without pissing me off. Yoshitoki Ōima is simply not on that level. See, the two of them are starting to understand each other pretty well in sign language ... so instead, Shoko suddenly decides that she has to start trying to speak aloud! And won't go back to Sign even when it's clear that Shoya does not understand the Startling Confession she has just made!

I swear, I was grinding my teeth when that happened.

Does anyone know if things improve in this series?

On an even more frivolous note, I also started reading fanfiction for Stand Still, Stay Silent.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I have finished Hidden Figures. It was interesting and I am glad to have read it, but I wasn't enthralled. I realize that one of the factors in that was the lack of images. Most histories of recent times have photos and so on. This had absolutely none. I'm puzzled. NASA could have supplied a number of them, because you can find them online (examples here and here).

Next, I should start the book I just got in preparation for the Days of Awe: This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transfiguration, by Alan Lew (1944–2009). The author was a rabbi who was also an adherent of Buddhist thought: he's been called the "Zen rabbi."

However, I am sure that instead, I will start with volumes 2 and 3 of A Silent Voice, the manga I started last week.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I finished the latest October Daye novel, Once Broken Faith. I think it had less cutesy "Gee, I'm so awkward and blunt" than the previous ones, but not by much. It sort of ended in the middle of things. I think it's that the earlier books were each a self-contained story arc that had some sort of growth or change for Toby. Now McGuire is moving into the end game, as it were. There are three more books, according to McGuire's website, but I think they will all be part of the same uber-arc (hmm, rather like Samurai Deeper Kyo's huge Mibu arc ... although that was proportionally even longer).

I read this on my Kindle. It includes a bonus novella, about some of the recent events from the point of view of Arden Windermere, Queen in the Mists. And then Great Big River suggested another short work, the novelette "Full of Briars," which has Toby's squire Quentin as the POV. I sort of liked it? But I had to agree with a couple of online reviews I read that the event and idea at the very end seemed to come out of nowhere. TVTropes actually has some pointers to where this material was telegraphed earlier, so some other time I'll check that out.

But reading these works one after the other pointed out something: McGuire doesn't seem to have very distinctive voices for these characters. If you had some general statements from Toby, Arden, and Quentin, selected so as not to indicate directly who was talking, it might be hard to tell them apart. Huh.

I'm now reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, a nonfiction book about the African American women who were the "computers" for the U.S. space program. It's interesting but certainly not involving the way fiction is for me. Part of the issue may be the scope of the story. The author is not telling the story of just one of these women, and she is also giving the sociopolitical background against which they first came to work for the government (as part of the aviation research effort in WW II). This includes the situation of African Americans in the military during the war and afterward and will later include the 1960s Civil Rights Movement events. So the pace gets a rather uneven, I think. I'm a little less than halfway through it.

If you think you may have heard of the book and are not sure why, you may have, like me, been seeing ads for the movie based on it, which is due out in 2017. Those ads showed up on F-book even before the book was released (Sept. 6). There is some really impressive talent involved in the film (official movie site).

Not sure what I'll read next. I have some more nonfiction, but I think I will want some fiction at that point. I may do a re-read of something that was new to me in the past few months: I have a lot of choices there.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

After I finished The Cuckoo's Song, I didn't feel like reading anything else substantive for a bit, which sometimes happens after I read something very involving. So I read some fanfiction, excerpts from a favorite comfort read (Rumer Godden's Thursday's Children), and magazine articles (in the Washington Post Magazine, National Geographic, and Washingtonian).

Monday (despite the holiday), I got some manga from Great Big River: Gangsta. vol. 7 (this is a hyper-violent and nihilistic seinen action series that deserves a more complete write-up) and vol. 1 of A Silent Voice.

A Silent Voice is about a restless, undisciplined young boy, Shoya, and the deaf girl he ends up tormenting and driving from their school. Actually, the most awful thing is how bad the other kids are, including the ones whom the teachers and administrators think are angelic. I'm hoping something humiliating happens to all of them eventually, especially the sweet-faced little meganeko who's the class representative. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, especially when she's saying tearfully (paraphrased) "How could you possibly think that I'd do anything bad to Shoko? You know I'm the perfect class rep!"

But! This is only the first volume of a series that has seven volumes out. At the end of the volume, there's a time skip. Shoya, now old enough to leave school, is totally aimless and (for lack of any other focus) obsessed by what he did. He cuts all his ties to his current life and travels to find Shoko. He encounters her again on the last page. So I clearly have to order some more of the series!

(Fact: it seems to be a shounen series. Huh.)

Then the latest October Daye installment, Once Broken Faith, arrived on my Kindle. I'm now about a quarter of the way through it. It starts with a very silly, enjoyable pajama party for the teen fae contingent at Toby's house, but in no time we're up to our ears in dirty court politics and new types of fae and Toby is defying royalty in her typical headstrong fashion. Some of the people she loves are in danger and others are not speaking to her. You know, the usual!

chomiji: Kio Kaedo from Loveless, licking a lollipop.  Caption: Life Is Sweet (Kio - Life Is Sweet)

This Vote Is Legally Binding

She's also the author/illustrator of Digger (which won a Hugo a few years ago) and under her pen name, T. Kingfisher, the author of The Raven and the Reindeer.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I have been reading TONS and need to blog all of it, sometime, somehow.

But specifically, I stayed up way too late last night and the night before reading The Cuckoo's Song by Frances Hardinge.

Man, was that spooky and haunting!

It's in the family of scary atmospheric fantasy, usually aimed at girls, that I used to get into from time to time when I was a young teen: stuff by Penelope Farmer (Charlotte Sometimes) or Joan North (The Whirling Shapes). Most of these have identity as their core theme, and it's no wonder I found them so scary and yet enchanting.

Thirteen-year-old Triss is usually ill, but right now, she thinks something even worse has happened to her. She usually doesn't get along with her younger sister, Pen, but now Pen says she absolutely hates Triss and that Triss is not really her sister. What happened the night before the story opens, and why is Triss now ravenously hungry, and why are all the pages ripped out of her diaries?

The opening scenes and the book's title, together, make it pretty obvious what's up, but the how and why and what's necessary to resolve the situation make an intriguing page turner.

Zen Koi

Aug. 28th, 2016 07:25 pm
chomiji: Saiyuki's Hakkai with a pile of clean laundry and sparkles (Hakkai - fresh & clean)

I got myself hooked on a mobile/phone game, Zen Koi. It's very pretty and relaxing.

Cut for screen shots )
chomiji: Yuya and Mahiro hugging each other and laughing - from Samurai Deeper Kyo (Yuya & Mahiro - friendship)

So, yeah, I'm kind of forgetting how to LJ/DW. Like, that I should post things that might be of interest to my circle/friendlist.

[livejournal.com profile] lady_ganesh and her daughter came to visit me and The Mr. as part of a trip to tour the DC/Baltimore area. Mostly we showed off our town, [the People's Republic of] Takoma Park.

I had intended eating dinner in town as part of the total Tacky Park experience, but The Mr. wooed our visitors away from the hyper-local joints in favor of A & J, a favorite of his (and mine, too) up in Rockville, the county seat: about a 25-minute drive. This is a place that serves authentic northern Chines dim sum: lots of noodle dishes (including ones with wonderful housemade noodles) and none of the bready buns that most people associate with dim sum. They also (obviously) serve dim sum in the evening, unlike most places in the area.

It was a lovely visit.

chomiji: Hakkai from Saiyuki, smiling forcefully, with the caption I'm so happy I could just puke! (Hakkai - so happy (not!))

The day before a primary election is NOT a good day to stay home sick and try to get some rest.

The constant get-out-the-vote robocalls are the direct cause of the mini-tantrum I just had where I manually shredded the Official Democratic Party Poll that showed up in the mail.

chomiji: Sue from CLAMP's Clover series, with the caption Growing (Sue - growing)

We have had beautiful weather this weekend, but I haven't taken that much advantage of it. We did walk out for gelato (the Mr.: dark chocolate and hazelnut) and sorbet (me: grapefruit) yesterday afternoon at the neighborhood place (Dolci Gelati), and today we walked to Busboys & Poets for brunch (which has become a near-weekly habit).

I have just finished making 6 quarts of chicken stock. I think this is the best I've made. I used more or less this recipe, which I have bookmarked for later. The main difference between this and what I have made previously is far more carrots (6 instead of 2 or 3) and peppercorns (2 teaspoons); also, leaving the skin on the halved onion, which has an effect on the color. And darn I should have known that (it's one of the common natural fabric dye ingredients, for a golden yellow), and in fact, I remember my late mother doing the same.

The chicken stock is for matzoh ball soup for second seder at my sister's place this coming Saturday. I am the official Matzoh Ball Maker on our side of the family. The first seder will be at our friends Michael and Sharon's. They have asked me to bring a fruit platter, which should be easy, except that I will be working most of Friday. I will try to pick up fresh fruit the night before, I think.

And the Mr. is upstairs doing the taxes, because yes, it's spring. *sigh*

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