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: Crazed Oda Nobunaga from SDK, with the caption Manga saved my sanity! (manga sanity)

Do y'all think I would like Tokyo Ghoul?

chomiji: Revy, the violent yet appealing lead in Rei Hiroe's manga Black Lagoon: two guns, no waiting! (Revy - gun)
OMG, you guys! Volume 10 is out! Why didn't anybody TELL ME?
chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

Partners Shiro Kakei, a mostly closeted and uptight lawyer, and Kenji Yabuki, a genial and talkative hairstylist, live their lives in the pages of this seinen series, interacting with coworkers, neighbors, friends, and relatives as they face a variety of everyday complications and crises. As in Not Love but Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy, Yoshinaga's focus is actually food, but where that good-humored parody of the mangaka's own life emphasized restaurant dining, What Did You Eat focuses on modern Japanese home cooking. After a day at the office, Shiro likes to unwind by preparing dinner for the two of them, narrating his cooking to himself in a way that results in near-complete recipes for the reader. If you are any kind of a cook at all, it's likely you can follow his preparations in your own kitchen (given that you can figure out and obtain some of the convenience ingredients: "noodle sauce," for example, is a common flavor enhancer in his recipes).

Yoshinaga, honored with multiple awards for her beautifully drawn alternate history Ooku: The Inner Chambers, seems to me to be using this series much the way Shiro uses his cooking: a less stressful challenge with which to unwind. The artwork is pretty (although nowhere as elaborate as Ooku's) and the events diverting (although neither as humorous as Not Love nor as poignant as Flower of Life or Antique Bakery), but for me, this series lacks a certain something.

Cut for more, including some spoilers )
chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Yeah, I seem to be doing this monthly. *sigh*

What have you just finished reading?

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. YA fantasy with a Slavic-based setting. The heroine is a prickly, skinny girl who is a cartographer with the army, but she turns out to be The Chosen One and gets swept off for special magical training. She's a duck out of water in a way that reminds me a little of Menolly in the Harper Hall in McCaffrey's Pern books, with the queen bee girls being rude and prickly to her. About midway through she suddenly becomes healthier and prettier because Plot Reasons, and then she starts to like to try on dresses, and I realized that I didn't like her nearly as much. I then had to castigate myself for this, because I'm sure lots of the intended readers would love that part. There was some silly romantical stuff too, which I also disliked. And then Bardugo completely confounded my expectations about what the last part of the book was going to be like. Well done, author! I still don't think it's a great book: too many things happening with too little run-up (for example, Alina's relationship wth her childhood friend Mal would have been better with more showing, less telling, of their shared history), but I think I'm invested enough to get the sequel.

The Snake Stone, by Jason Goodwin, is the second Master Yashim book. I begin to see what [personal profile] flemmings was saying about the hero's sex life. It's annoying because Yashim might as well not be a eunuch, except that it means he can visit the seraglio in the palace. He's starting to read more like a man with a slightly low-ish sex drive instead. The cultural and culinary details remain interesting, and I liked the info about pre-Victorian archeology and book-collecting.

The Little Death by Michael Nava is the first volume of a mystery series about a gay lawyer, Henry Rios. It features a tragic Boyfriend in the Refrigerator and lots of Evil Plotting by the rich and the famous. I like Henry, although his situation is somewhat depressing. I will probably try the next one as well.

Four British Fantasists, which is a critical study and comparison of authors Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, and Diana Wynne Jones. The author, Charles Butler, is a member of the DWJ online mailing list. The book was interesting, and now I'm wondering whether I should fill in some of the books that I haven't read that are discussed, especially by Lively and Garner. Although I remember bouncing off Garner's Red Shift, and the things he wrote after that are apparently even more experimental.

What are you currently reading?

Another re-read for a writing challenge, and also volume 10 of the manga Bunny Drop, which basically short stories about Daikichi and Rin that didn't make it into the main series (which ended, plot-wise, with vol. 9).

What do you think you'll read next?

I just got an Amazon order that includes volume 1 of Fumi Yoshinaga's manga series What Did You Eat Yesterday? Also, volume 3 of the hard yaoi manga Crimson Spell (by Ayano Yamane), and the latest volumes of Marjorie Liu's Hunter Kiss series (Labyrinth of Stars) and Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series (Broken Homes). The Aaronovitch has been getting mixed reviews, but I have to at least give it a try because the earlier books were so awesome. (These are both urban fantasy, for those unfamiliar with them, but very different in tone and scope.)

 

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

Guys, I have not done this since November. I will try to get back on track!

What have you just finished reading?

Marie Brennan's ([livejournal.com profile] swan_tower's) historical fantasy A Star Shall Fall. I liked it fairly well. I'm not sure what would have made it better for me. I need to think about that. I got this copy from last year's Con or Bust auction, so it's taken me a while to decide to read it.

The latest volume, 9, of the manga Ooku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga. I really liked it and found it much less grim than this series usually is, so I expect the other shoe to drop and the series to go back to normal - or worse - by next volume. There's a great new character, Hiraga Gennai. I will not spoil you about Gennai and what makes Gennai great. XD

The first two volumes of the manga Thermae Romae, which is awesomely silly and beautifully drawn. (The book production values are spectacular too.) It's about a Roman engineer who keeps being transported off at random intervals to present-day Japan, where he encounters various modern-day Japanese public and private baths and invariably returns with new inspirations to try out in Rome. Some of the inspirations are relatively believable, and some are wonderfully absurd in a Flintstones-cartoon sort of way. (Wait'll you see his shampoo shield and shampoo hose.) His interpretations of what he's seeing in Japan are really funny.

What are you currently reading?

I just started Marjorie Liu's The Fire King, which is one of her Dirk & Steele paranormal romances.

What do you think you'll read next?

I grabbed Jason Godwin's The Janissary Tree from the take-on leave-one collection at work. This is a historical mystery set in the early 19th-century Ottoman Empire. I seem to recall reading a favorable review of it at one point, and it won the Edgar Award in 2007. Also, I have the first two volumes of the manga Vinland Saga, but it looks awfully grim. It may be a while until I can get myself to read it.

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Some more odd serial art stuff from the Small Press Expo, most of which didn't make much of an impression. The one exception was Bread & Wine: An Erotic Tale of New York, by Samuel R. Delaney and Mia Wolff. As most of you probably know, Samuel Delaney was one of the first successful African American science fiction writers. This is an actual, biographical story of how he met his life partner, Dennis, who was a homeless man living on the streets of New York. It's very explicit and frank; in parts it's very sad and in others, it's very tender and joyful.

Also, the latest National Geographic, which had a rather disturbing story of a storm chaser who was recently killed by one of the tornados he was pursuing, along with a colleague and his own adult son, an accomplished photographer.

I am all caught up with the webcomic Yellow Peril. I have made an LJ feed for it, yellowperilcomi. LJ needs longer names for the feeds. :-(

Finally, I read vol. 4 of House of Five Leaves. I think I'm starting to get used to the mangaka's drawing style. However, I can't agree with the comments I've seen online about how wonderful it is.

What are you currently reading?

Still reading Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead, which is getting really, really good. Things have taken a massive turn for the worse in the story; I'm mentally biting my fingernails.

For some reason, I have also started a re-read of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, which I had downloaded onto my phone sometime ago. It's a pleasant enough diversion, except when the author goes off onto a spate of Rebecca-worship.

What do you think you'll read next?

Still haven't started [personal profile] ann_leckie's Ancillary Justice. Also, I've got my Yuletide canon re-read stacked up and ready to go, plus I need to do a canon review for some beta reading.

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Not nearly such a busy reading week as last week!

I think the only things I actually finished reading were the latest volume of Blade of the Immortal (vol. 27), and the first couple of volumes of an indie comic, Tales of the Night Watchman, that the Mr. picked up at Small Press Expo. I was rather underwhelmed by it: just not my thing.

Volume 27: Mist on the Spider's Web was awesome. I should do an entire post on these most recent volumes of Blade of the Immortal sometime. Some people have noted that Rin is not much of a fighter and that Hyakurin and Makie are much more typical female characters, with Hyakurin as the femme fatale spy-type and Makie as the amazingly skilled woman with Major Issues. But then we had Ainu swordswoman Doa, and shinobi Meguro and Tampopo (I thought they were just comic relief at first — Samura's version of C3PO and R2D2 — boy, was I wrong!), and then this current volume had a marvelous arc for Ryo, the kenshi who's the illegitimate daughter of an important man. Even though it turned out badly in the end, she was fantastic.

What are you currently reading?

I have started Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead, and I am enjoying it, but it's not grabbing me hard the way that the Dirk & Steele books were. I'm also trying to catch up to the current storyline on the webcomic Yellow Peril. With the Mini, I can read webcomics in bed! (Yes, cho, welcome to the 21st century.)

What do you think you'll read next?

I have volume 4 of the manga House of Five Leaves. I should probably blog the series properly after I finish that, since I can usually tell whether I'll continue with a series somewhere around vol. 3 to 5. Also, I bought [personal profile] ann_leckie's Ancillary Justice, which has been getting great reviews.

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Marjorie Liu's Dirk & Steele books are beginning to become like potato chips for me: bet you can't read just one!

On [personal profile] oyceter's rec, I tried Shadow Touch next. Suddenly, for me, Liu has gone from the rather tentative romance author about whom I was "Eh … OK" in Tiger Eye to being very recognizably the author of the Hunter Kiss urban fantasy series (which I have enjoyed very much thus far). I really enjoyed this book, although it was so much harder-edged (particularly in the early scenes in the mysterious research facility) that I got a bit of mental whiplash.

Oyce's other rec was Eye of Heaven. About halfway through it, I suddenly remembered a series of RPG characters I played in my early 20s who were very much like the heroine of this story. Oh yeah! Anyway, the male lead in this book was one of the secondary characters whom I had especially liked in Tiger Eye. There is a lot of complicated Plot Stuff that's building up across the entire series and that is reminiscent of some of the plot elements of the Hunter Kiss series, making me wonder whether subsequent books in Dirk & Steele are going to have transdimensional world hopping and demons too. I'm amused by some of the reviews I'm reading of these: apparently people who like the more typical sorts of romances find these not romantic enough and too violent. Oh well … de gustibus non disputandum est.

I was at Small Press expo for the last 90 minutes of the event the other week, and one of the things I picked up on a blitz through the dealers' room was Back to the Grind, the first collection of Jamie Noguchi's webcomic Yellow Peril. I was attracted initially by the picture of lead character Kane on a recognizable Metro train on the cover and ended up talking to Noguchi, who drew me a cartoon on the inside of the book to go with his autograph. I enjoyed this and will have to catch up on Kane's more recent adventures online.

AND … I finally finished E. Nesbit's The Wouldbegoods! Arrrgggh. Nesbit generally seemed to respect her juvenile characters, but not in this volume. The kids are constantly getting into scrapes that are, to me as an adult, completely transparent. You can see the foolish errors coming from the first couple of paragraphs of any given adventure, and the eventual denouments are equally predictable. Also, I get tired of narrator Oswald's constantly put-downs of the girls in the little gang, and even though tomboyish Alice is usually described more kindly than the others, she still comes in for a lot of criticism and patronization. It's quite different from the children in the Five Children and It and its sequels, where eldest sister Anthea was a valued member of the group and little Jane's pouting and lack of fortitude were attributed to her age more than to her sex.

What are you currently reading?

Fanfiction, mostly. As noted elsewhere, I've been loading a lot of old favorites onto my iPad Mini.

I'm also about halfway through volume 3 of the manga House of Five Leaves. I'm enjoying it to some extent, but the art style is driving me nuts. I'm having a lot of trouble telling about half of the male characters apart, and that means I lose a lot of the impact of the various little criminal episodes and character revelations.

What do you think you'll read next?

I have downloaded Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead, which I had on my Amazon wish list (I don't remember whose review got me interested) and which was on sale for $2.99, as well as (free) The Count of Monte Cristo, which (shockingly, I suppose) I have never read, and which [livejournal.com profile] lady_ganesh recommended. Also, [livejournal.com profile] smilaraaq just passed me a steampunk romance to try ... it's by Meljean Brook, whom [livejournal.com profile] lawless523 was just recommending the other week.

 

chomiji: Legal Drug's Saiga and Kakei, snuggling, Saiga's sunglasses have a gleam of light (Saiga-Kakei - gleam in his eye)

So does anyone know of a good place to read the new manga for this online? Does anyone know whether there is a book deal involved?

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

What have you just finished reading?

Busy week!

C.J. Cherryh's Russalka, which had a more interesting and touching ending than I remember. As is common with Cherryh, I could see ideas and issues that she has tried again or previously in other works, which doesn't bother me: they're interesting ideas.

Also, vol. 8 of Ooku by Fumi Yoshinga. This is still a cool series, and beautifully drawn, but I want more slice-of-life Yoshinaga (like Antique Bakery and Flower of Life) or yaoi Yoshinaga (like Ichigenme … The First Class Is Civil Law). I wonder whether she'll ever go back to her roots that way?

Then I read the first volume of the manga version of Durarara!. My reaction is basically "What the hell was that?" The story thus far has seesawed back and forth between cheery high school comedy and urban dark fantasy. I imagine it will take a couple more volumes before I can even tell whether I like it or not.

Volume 2 of House of Five Leaves was interesting, although the mangaka's distinctive drawing style is beginning to wear on me a little. Although it couldn't be more different in style from Fruits Basket, I'm having the same sort of difficulties telling characters apart.

Finally, I just finished Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire, the sixth October Daye book. I really liked it. I think it's partially because it is now definitely an ensemble cast. Given that it's written from Toby's POV, she has to be the center, but she has collected an extended family-of-choice that I very much like. So now there's only one more book available: Chimes at Midnight, which just came out a few weeks ago. And then I'll have to wait for one volume a year, according to her website: three more volumes, coming out 2014 - 2016.

What are you currently reading?

And still limping through The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit. I only read bits of it when I have nothing else to read, but I am determined to finish it.

I downloaded the first Marjorie Liu "Dirk & Steele" book, Tiger Eye. It's my first straight paranormal romance (as opposed to Liu's harder-edged urban fantasies about demon hunter Maxine Kiss), and for about the whole first chapter I wanted to thrown it against a wall for what I assume were romanticism elements. As an example, when Our Heroine is retreating through a crowd, and the whole scene has been from her POV, she's suddenly described as getting through the crowd "gracefully." Because, you know, when someone is worried about retreating from potential danger, she of course spends time thinking about how gracefully she does it. (Mary Sue, phone home.) But I'm getting much more interested in it as we get into the heart of the book, including everything from the comedy of trying to make a very tall exotic-looking man inconspicuous in Beijing (and trying to find normal 20th century cosmopolitan clothes to fit him, since he showed up looking like an extra from a Conan story) and the family-of-choice aspects of the firm. And the constantly broken-off almost-sex scenes aren't any more over-the-top than a lot of fanfiction. It's like Liu was really unsure of what she was doing for the first couple of chapters and then got into it more whole-heartedly.

What do you think you'll read next?

Uhhh … another problem for another day. I do have two novels in hand that I got off the bring one-take one shelf at work, but I'm not itching to start either one: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which was recommended by a colleague. Anyone have opinions on either of them?

 

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

It's been three weeks since I did this. I'm not going to list everything I've read since then!

What have you just finished reading?

Nail Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I enjoyed it; it was a comfortable fit for me. Even the scary parts were comfortable somehow: Gaiman has a real feel for what actually scares kids. The reviewers have been mostly talking this up like it's the second coming of goodness-knows-what. I think it's an effective piece of writing and in some places, very beautiful, but it isn't wrapping around my brain like, say, American Gods. On the other hand, I liked it better than Coraline or The Graveyard Book. It also reminded me in some ways of Jo Walton's Among Others, in that it's a tribute to the place that books create for introverted children.

I also read volume 1 of The House of Five Leaves, a manga that had been recommended by [personal profile] smillaraaq and that had caught my eye on the Viz site a while back. I liked it and wanted more.

I'm re-reading the first several volumes of the manga Bunny Drop (note: spoilers in the post at the link), probably because last week I read the final volume. All my series seem to have run out. *is sad* Anyway, I've finished re-reading volumes 1 through 3.

I also just finished Jim Hines' Codex Born, which was a total page-turner for me. I also really liked the way Lena's character developed. I think this is the book where I can officially say that I am a Hines fan. I was very underwhelmed by The Stepsister Scheme, and although Libriomancer was fun, it didn't grab me the way this most recent book did.

What are you currently reading?

Limping through The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit, which I don't dislike enough to quit entirely. Also re-reading volume 4 of Bunny Drop and C.J. Cherryh's Russalka, which I first read years ago, and which I have downloaded to my new tablet from the author's Closed Circle site.

What do you think you'll read next?

Hmmm, I really don't know! Someone on the f-list was reviewing some private investigator mysteries with gay protagonists (this author and this one); maybe I'll try one of those.

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Bound in Blood (vol. 5 of the Chronicles of the Kencyrath by P.C. Hodgell), vol. 2 of the manga series 21st Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa, vol. 11 of the manga series Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase (and boy, is there a style whiplash between those two series ... ), and Redshirts by John Scalzi. The Hodgell was a re-read of an old favorite (and hmmm, where's my copy of Honor's Paradox, the next volume?); the other three were new. I'll write up the Scalzi at some point: I enjoyed it, but it was fairly slight for the most part.

(Oh, and the mysterious re-read I was doing earlier was The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, by Neal Stephenson.)

What are you currently reading?

I'm mostly reading bits and pieces of C.J. Cherryh's Regenesis (the sequel to Cyteen), for something I'm thinking about writing.

What do you think you'll read next?

Good question! Somewhere around the house is a copy of Among Others by Jo Walton: that's the last of the books I got for the winter holidays that I have not yet read. Or I could re-read N.K. Jemisin's Gujaareh books (The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun) so that I could write them up ... and the same with Jim C. Hines' Libriomancer. But there's an equal chance that I will dig out some old favorite to re-read, because that's my usual response to having finished something new.

 

chomiji: Badou Nails from DOGS, with the caption And that's the truth (Badou - truth)

In a futuristic dystopian world, it's always winter. The government seems to have no interest in anything but the basic utilities and transportation. Rival crime organizations war in the streets and in tunnels underground, and genetic manipulation is common enough that random citizens in the street won't blink at seeing a person with cat ears or a pig' snout.

Four characters - Mihai Mihaeroff, an oddly compassionate middle-aged assassin; Badou Nails, a red-headed young information broker with a missing eye and a dangerous addiction to nicotine; Naoto Fuyumine, a young swordswoman with a tragic past and a horrific scar on her chest; and Heine Rammsteiner, an hyperviolent albino gunman with an inhuman ability to recover almost instantaneously from physical injuries - form the core cast. Their attempts to find missing information about their pasts and what is currently going on in their world are the strands of this extremely violent and occasionally very grisly seinen series.

Read more ... with some spoilers )
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Default)

[personal profile] theskywasblue was kind enough to give me the letter T, for which I now have to name five favorite characters whose names start with that.

I have here four manga characters and one lonely person from mainstream fiction. (Actually, it's amazing that I'd have anyone from mainstream fiction!)

Tracy (real name: Eustacia) Quinn is the shy, brainy modern-day heroine of Rumer Godden's China Court, a romance in which the most prominent character is really China Court, the Cornish house in which the Quinn family have lived for the better part of a century. Tracy's only happy memories from childhood were the few years that she lived at China Court with her grandmother. The very ending is problematic, but I have always sympathized very much with Tracy's shyness and her love of the house and the garden.

Tenpou Gensui (Field Marshall Tenpou) is an ancient Chinese god who ends up on the wrong side of a political struggle in Heaven, in Katsuya Minekura's manga Saiyuki Gaiden. He's a brilliant man but also a slob and a bit of a space cadet. He has a keen sense of justice and right. In Minekura's main series Saiyuki (with its continuations: Saiyuki Reload and Saiyuki Reload Blast), Tenpou is reborn as Cho Hakkai. His lover Kenren Taishou (General Kenren) is reborn as Sha Gojyo.

Tokine Yukimura is the female co-lead of Yellow Tanabe's manga series Kekkaishi. She is a teenaged 'barrier master," the current heir of one family of skilled magicians who can protect others from demons by creating magical barriers. Tokine is intense, loyal, studious, and skilled, but the series constantly contrasts her finesse with her male opposite number's magical strength.

Tokito Minoru is a troubled and brash young man with a strange clawed and furred right hand and hardly any memory of his past. In Kazuya Minekura's Wild Adapter, he becomes the friend - and likely more - of the nihilistic young criminal Kubota Makoto. Together, they are trying to find out the secret of the strange drug Wild Adapter, which may have something to do with Tokio's weird hand. Tokito is frank, almost fearless, down-to-earth, and fiercely loyal to the very few people he trusts.

Taki Tooru is a middle school girl in Yuki Midorikawa's manga series Natsume's Book of Friends (or Natsume Yuujinchō). She is able to draw a magic circle that will allow her and others to see youkai, spirits/monsters that are usually invisible to most. She becomes one of the closest friends of Natsume Takashi, a lonely boy who has been tormented by his ability to see youkai. Taki (usually referred to by her family name, as are all the school-age characters in the story) is remakably brave. At first she is quiet and withdrawn as a result of a curse that was placed upon her; later, she becomes lively and more talkative.


Let me know if you would like me to give you a letter too! (It may not be until tomorrow morning, though.)

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

I actually thought I had blogged Yumi Unita's manga Bunny Drop, but it looks like I haven't (I can't find a review here, anyway). Basically, for the first four volumes it's a surprisingly deep "slice of life" manga about a bachelor, Daikichi, who adopts a four-year-old girl who is, in strict family tree terms, his aunt. Little Rin is serious, intent, and surprisingly independent, and the relationship between the two grows in a way that's heart-warming without being cutesy. [personal profile] rachelmanija wrote it up here.

The current volume marks the point at which this series, for me, basically jumps the shark. ==> Spoilers spoilers MAJOR spoilers: It time skips ahead to where Rin is 16 years old, and most of this volume was just the sort of high school teen manga that I avoid like the plague. In the last third, it went on track again for a bit with the heart-warming slice of life, but I understand - my husband's fault, he read ahead online - that in fact, Rin and Daikuchi are going to become an item in the future, and ewwwww! Anyway, if I continue further with this series, it will be merely from "OK, how do they get there?" curiosity and not from the affection that I felt for the first four volumes.

I was really happy to see Eiji Ōtsuka and Housui Yamazaki's Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service back in business. The volumes always come shrink wrapped and with Parental Advisory stickers, but usually all that is because of one or two grotesque scenes of nude corpses. This time, the protective measures are made to earn their keep thoroughly in the first story - and I realize that any more details would blow a reveal, so I'll stop right there. I like the second story, which is about a couple (male and female) of aspiring comedians, best: it managed to be spooky, grotesque, and sweet, a feat that Kurosagi pulls off every once in a while. The Asian-inspired doll collecting fad shows up in the final story. And in the notes at the end, volume 13 is mentioned, so yay! I was afraid that the hiatus had meant that the series was ending.

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys has been getting more and more grim. This volume is a bit of a break, but I imagine it's just a false dawn before the ultimate crisis. Still, I'll take it: I enjoyed this one quite a bit. The mysterious guitar-playing wanderer "Yabuki Joe" (yes, I knew who he really is, as do most readers long before this point, I'm sure) and naif police office Chono try to cross a deadly checkpoint on their way into Tokyo. Yabuki Joe has a confrontation with a slimeball character that we haven't seen for many volumes, and it turns into a Moment of Awesome. All in all, a welcome breather from the ongoing disasters of the series.

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

High school kendo instructor Toraji "Kojiro" Ishida (English name order is used) is perennially out of money, and he's also threatened with the loss of his job because his team never seems to get anywhere. When his former kendo upper-classmate, now also a kendo instructor, challenges him with a prize of a year's worth of sushi if Ishida's team can beat his in a year, Kojiro is galvanized into action. When he manages to convince petite, unworldly kendo prodigy Tamaki Kawazoe to become part of his five-member girls' team, he figures that he's well on his way to winning.

Although Kojiro's situation starts the series off, the vast majority of the screen time is given to the girls on his team. In addition to Tamaki (who is also a huge fan of the imaginary anime series Blade Braver, which becomes significant from time to time), the girls' team features "Team Mom" Chiba Kirino, a cheerful, hard-working girl from a family that runs a deli; her best friend Sayako Kuwahara, the tallest and strongest girl on the squad, who wants to become a rock guitarist; sweetly pretty Miyako Miyazaki ("Miya Miya"), who is actually a bit of a thug (and has "pink" and "black" sides, similar to Hatsuharu's "black" and "white" sides in Fruits Basket); and later on, Satori Azuma, who is very talented at kendo but a complete ditz and a failure at just about everything else. There are also two boy kendoka: Yuji Nakata, who is a pleasant, athletic kid, and Danjuro Eiga ("Dan-kun"), who is played as complete joke. Dan-kun is Miya Miya's boyfriend, but after the first volume or so, he is always drawn as a simplified, unattractive chibi super-deformed figure ... and this fact actually gets mentioned from time to time in the story, smashing the fourth wall to bits.

The overall story arc is about the girls' getting better at kendo, of course, and in the first couple of volumes, especially, the manga explains a lot about modern sport kendo and how team tournaments work. Several arcs cover actual tournaments, where the girls are challenged not only by the skills of their opponents but also by some less-than-sportsmanlike behavior. But the heart of the manga is "slice of life" mini-arcs about the girls: Kirino's attempts to keep things going when there's an illness in her family, Miya Miya's problems with her female stalker-with-a-crush from middle school, Tamaki's efforts to save enough for a boxed set of her beloved Blade Braver, and so on.

The striking thing about this, to me, is how girl-centered it manages to be without being terribly "girly." OK, Miya Miya's part-time job is in a cutesy boutique; in the latest U.S. volume, the girls go on an expedition to a big shopping mall; Kirino and Saya insist on giving everyone cute nicknames; but otherwise, their concerns and activities were very approachable to geek-tomboy me. The girls talk together about schoolwork, kendo, their families, and each other - almost never about fads, clothes, or boys. Dan is the only boyfriend in the picture, and he's part of the squad - and played for laughs. The whole thing passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.

This seinen series has become a complete comfort read for me. The artwork is loose and sloppy (rather like Gravitation but with a more shoujo flavor), but it has a lot of heart.

 

chomiji: Crazed Oda Nobunaga from SDK, with the caption Manga saved my sanity! (manga sanity)

When Endo Kenji was a kid, he and his friends had a clubhouse in the middle of a grassy field, where they played an elaborate let's-pretend scenario in which they were heroes who prevented a worldwide holocaust involving germ warfare, laser guns, and giant robots. Later on, he dreamed of becoming a rock star. Now that Kenji is grown, his life revolves around his dreary job managing a chain convenience store - which used to be his family's liquor store - and his beloved infant niece Kanna, who was abandoned to Kenji and his mother by his older sister Kuriko. But when Kenji hears of the mysterious death of his childhood friend "Donkey" - who had been leading a happy life with a wife, child, and enjoyable job as a science teacher - he discovers that the club's childhood daydreams are becoming real-life nightmares.

Who is the mysterious cult figure known only as "Friend," and how is it that he is using the gang's special symbol as the badge of his movement? Why are leaders of other cults dying mysteriously? What happened to Otcho, another club member, who went abroad to work and disappeared in Thailand? How can world events be following their childhood game so closely? As Kenji gets deeper into the mystery, he discovers that even someone leading a life as uninspiring as his still has a lot to lose.

The mystery itself is engrossing, and the series seems to be developing the team/family themes that I need in fiction. There is a certain amount of physically repulsive stuff depicted as a result of the germ warfare incidents, but the gross-out level is nowhere near the level of, say Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. The lead cast is mainly male at this point, but Kenji's old friend Yukiiji, who as a girl used to beat up bullies much larger than herself and who now works as a customs official (with a massively goofy sniffer dog), is a strong character (although I wonder when we're going to see her again), and Kuriko has several poignant scenes in flashback.

The artwork is very good - much less stylized than that of many manga, yet not as realistic as that of Vagabond or Blade of the Immortal.

Read more ... with spoilers! )
chomiji: Revy, the violent yet appealing lead in Rei Hiroe's manga Black Lagoon: two guns, no waiting! (Revy - gun)

Volume 6 contains the complete "Greenback Jane" arc. Revy and Rock are back in Roanapur. Revy's cracked-out girl-talk reunion session with Eda at the Ripoff Church (featuring cards, booze, and guns) is interrupted by a frantic fugitive from violence: Jane Bai, master counterfeiter, who turns out to be the hottest piece of contraband in play in Roanapur at the moment. The rest of the story is a crazy caper that seesaws between frantic Loony Toons chase comedy and a building-destroying level of violence. There's a little romance (for one of the most unlikely characters), the return of Shenhua (as part of a quirky miniboss squad that puts Black Lagoon squarely over the line into fantasyland for the first time), and some very nice scenes for Eda, ranging from the wacky to the rather sinister.

Volume 6 also starts a new, longer arc, "El Baile de le Muerte" ("The Dance of Death"), which continues in Volume 7 and beyond. Given the name of the arc, no one should be surprised to see the return of Roberta the Maid (a/k/a the "Hound of Florencia") to Roanapur - but she's not the only interesting visitor to come back to the Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy. Her young master, Garcia Lovelace, shows up, trailing the hyperkinetic and well-armed teenaged domestic Fabiola Iglesias, who learned virtually everything she knows from Head Matron Roberta and has a similarly bad effect on bars and other criminal hideouts. Everyone's assuming that Roberta is out to revenge Garcia's father - but he was killed back in South America, so why is she in Thailand?

Read more ... with spoilers! )
chomiji: Crazed Oda Nobunaga from SDK, with the caption Manga saved my sanity! (manga sanity)

Revy and Rock's Japan experience continues as they ally with Ginji, the sword-wielding yakuza enforcer, to rescue Yukio, the young leader-apparent of the Washimine-gumi, from the hands of the thugs associated with a rival family. Later, Rock's feelings about Yukio's situation lead him to a terrifying confrontation with Balalaika. The arc ends - as one might expect from a yakuza story - in tragedy, but not until there have been a couple of really incredible fight scenes, and some surprising ... well, given who's involved, I can't call it tenderness. But it got me where I live.

Read more ... with *serious* spoilers! )

May 2017

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