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

Subaru Sumeragi is the latest head of a respected family of onmyogi (interpreted here as magicians and exorcists). He is also only sixteen years old, and what little of his life that is not devoted to either school or performing exorcisms is essentially run by his twin sister Hokuto, who bosses him around and cooks for him. The twins live on their own in Tokyo, an arrangement that seems particularly unwise in light of the fact that Hokuto believes Subaru should become the lover of their acquaintance Seishirō Sakurazuka, seemingly a mild-mannered veterinarian who happens to be nearly a decade older.

Hokuto, who never seems to wear the same outfit twice (and most of them are pretty extreme), jokes that Seishirō must be a member of the Sumeragi clan's dark rivals, who use their mystical powers in assassinations. Whether he is or not, he does seem to be following along with Hokuto's suggestions with regard to her twin, declaring his love for the innocent Subaru and cuddling up to the boy suggestively. Subaru, meanwhile, has creepy dreams about a youth who tells him that cherry blossoms owe their color to corpses buried beneath them, which does not seem terribly surprising for a sensitive teenaged boy who spends a great deal of his time exorcising the ghosts of suicides.

Cut for spoilers …  )

I see that it's been nearly two years since I've done an in-depth review of a manga (the last one was Gunslinger Girls in April 2013). Wah.

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

Maybe I can get around to this ... monthly?

What have you just finished reading?

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, at last. For a while, it seemed like everyone on my f-list was reccing this. and I got a copy for Hanukah … but kept putting off reading it. It sounded like it was going to be unrelentingly sad, and also, as a Jewish child of the 60s, I was subjected to loads of documentary footage on Holocaust atrocities as part of my religious school curriculum, so I was very reluctant to read a story involving a Nazi prisoner. When I finally did read it. I was actually charmed by some of it, and parts were really quite funny. It is tragic, and simply intensely sad in parts, but it also ends with a sort of calm joy.

The Janissary Tree, by Jason Goodwin, is a charming and yet occasionally gruesome murder mystery set in early 19th century Istanbul, with a eunuch court official as investigator. There is the potential for all sorts of cultural shenanigans (orientalism, obviously, and misrepresentations of Turkish Islamic culture) here, and I don't know enough about any of it to say what kind of course Goidwin has steered. I did enjoy the book and appreciated its representation of a spectrum of human sexuality (although there was definitely a "kill your gays" moment). I did find it rather odd that Goodwin in general represents dialog in other languages by choice of phrase and occasionally non-English vocabulary, but for some reason, uneducated Greeks are given the sort of eye dialect familiar to me from British naturalist Gerald Durrell's Corfu memoirs.

Also, I should note that as [livejournal.com profile] flemmings pointed out to me, this is a great book for foodies. Our hero, Master Yashim, loves good food and cooks as a diversion as well as for nourishment.

Finally, I read the last volume of the manga Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase, which ended about as could be expected. I was relieved that the young king didn't have a tragic ending. Also, I read volume 4 of CLAMP's Gate 7, which continues to be both pretty and pretty ridiculous, albeit entertainingly so. I understand it is now in hiatus, which rots. WTF, CLAMP publishers? People actually like your sparkly silliness. Don't you want to cash in on that?

What are you currently reading?

I am several chapters into the second Master Yashim mystery, The Snake Stone. I'm also doing a re-read for a story I'm writing.

What do you think you'll read next?

I still need to make myself start the manga Vinland Saga. Also, Fumi Yoshinaga's What Did You Eat Yesterday? has just started coming out in English. I'd read Yoshinaga's adaptation of the DC telephone book (supposing such a thing existed), so I'm definitely going to get this one. I also have a couple of YA novels lying around that I got for the holidays and never read. And who knows, maybe the put-one take-one shelf at work will produce the third Master Yashim mystery (that's where I got the other two).

 

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

Mashiro Ichijo has a big problem for any teenaged boy, let alone one attending boarding school: his body is female below the waist and male above it. Things get even stranger for him when he's told he must attend a special class in the school's basement infirmary after normal school hours each day. For one thing, he didn't know the school had a basement. For another, the class consists of lying down and dreaming.

The vividly strange dream world plays out like a surrealistic video game. Each teen involved takes a special form that relates to his or her traumas and anxieties - and it quickly becomes clear that these are some messed up kids. Meanwhile, back in the waking world, Mashiro begins a romance-tinged friendship with a cute girl named Kureha Fujishima, and is himself stalked by the school Lothario, handsome Sou Mizuhashi, who is completely unconvinced by Mashiro's insistence that he's a boy, not a girl. Other schoolmates turn up as dreamers, and the dream world becomes more and more important - and threatening. What happens to the dreamers who find the key that allows them to "graduate"? Why are they almost instantly forgotten by their classmates?

It's to mangaka Mizushiro's credit that the sillier aspects of this series never bothered me for more than a few seconds while I was reading this. The emotional realism of the story is compelling, and I'm looking forward to finding out more about how Mashiro, Kureha, and Sou deal with their rather serious issues.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

 

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

Now that Watanuki and Domeki share portions of their physical selves (no, it's not as bad as it sounds, really!), they are developing similar psychic abilities as well. The several supernatural events in this book - some disturbing, some rather cute - give them a chance to show their growth. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the boys, Yuuko is preparing for something dire that threatens both the shop and the larger world.

I've finally fallen for Watanuki. He used to drive me nuts because he was such a spaz, but in this volume, he's showing both grit and compassion - even Domeki is impressed a couple of times. Several favorite supernatural characters return as well. All in all, this is a strong volume.

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

In an anonymous U.S. city, there is a neighborhood called Chinatown, and in Chinatown, there is an exotic pet shop. The proprietor is Count D, a beautifully androgynous young Asian man with mismatched eyes - who might well be Yuuko of xxxHolic's long-lost cousin. Because, of course, this is one of those unusual establishments that include not only Yuuko's store, but also the Department Store of Heart's Desire in the science fiction classic Norstrilia. According to its proprietor, it actually sells love and dreams - to a clientele of the mentally disturbed and the emotionally wounded. Like Yuuko, Count D does his best to make sure each customer gets exactly what he or she needs - or, sometimes, deserves.

The series is categorized as horror, but only one out of every half a dozen stories is especially horrifying. Mostly, the tales are odd or whimsical, and as in the first several volumes of xxxHolic, there's no real continuity from story to story except for a few principal characters. There's the Count, of course, and also his would-be nemesis, a young blond police detective named Leon Orcot. Later on, Leon's sweet but disturbed baby brother Chris shows up to live with him - giving the Count a continuing additional role as the world's most unlikely babysitter - and there are also several continuing animal characters.

Did I mention that none of these "animals" is quite what he or she seems? I imagine you've guessed as much ... .

Anyway, the series is quite a lot of fun - creepy fun, in most cases. Much amusement is derived from the apparent cat-and-mouse game between Leon and the Count, whom Leon suspects of drug smuggling, white slavery, and every other crime stereotypically associated with Chinatown ... because the Count is also playing cat-and-mouse, but he has a different idea of who is in which role.

Read more ... with mild spoilers )

I've now got an urge to fic something involving all these strange shop owners ... perhaps Kisuke Urahara (Bleach) and Dr. Kou (Wild Adapter) should come along as well!

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

The set-up for this series is unnervingly close to that of its CLAMP stablemate, xxxHolic. We once again have the slightly timid, emotionally vulnerable teenaged boy who has lost his family and is now working for a mysterious shop owner who sends him on supernatural errands. But Kudo Kazahaya is a heckuva lot hotter-looking than Kimihiro Watanuki, and his nemesis/possible male love interest Himura Rikuo is even harder to avoid than Domeki is for Watanuki, because he boards upstairs at the shop along with Kazahaya. Finally, in place of space-time witch Yuuko and her mystical oddments store, we have the demure and lovely male owner of the Green Drugstore, Kakei, who is served by the hulking and hunky Saiga in place of Yuuko's bouncy little supernatural twins.

The Green Drugstore seems to be a thoroughly modern and ordinary place - the kind of establishment that sells everything from condoms to candy bars. At the end of vol. 3, I still have no idea why Kakei has such a connection with the supernatural, but it's pretty clear that he and Saiga are a couple - and frankly, to me, they're one of the major draws of the series. CLAMP has a lot of fun with unlikely role reversals in this pair: delicately beautiful, bespectacled Kakei and tall, threatening-looking Saiga, who wears his dark glasses even indoors and at night, look like they're made for a stereotypical uke-seme set-up - but Saiga is the one who cooks and sews, and Kakei is clearly calling the shots. Saiga otherwise spends most of his time asleep on the couch in Kakei's office, leading the naive Kazahaya to wonder why Kakei keeps him around - despite the fact that when Saiga is awake, he's frequently shown nuzzling Kakei's neck or wrapping his arms around him.

Both Kazahaya and Rikuo have mysterious pasts: Kazahaya can't remember parts of his history, and Rikuo won't talk about his. But clues keep surfacing as they run their errands for Kakei. The mangaka are being terrible teases with all of this - somehow, a number of the errands require Kazahaya to cross-dress - but it's all amusing and decorative enough to keep me interested. There is one major disappointment: the books have no notes of any kind about Japanese culture, not even the usual general information about honorifics and certainly nothing like xxxHolic's notes about Japanese customs and legends.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

Thanks to fmanalyst for recommending this series!

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

For reasons of his own, Keiichiro Tachibana, the 30-ish scion of a wealthy family, decides to quit his boring job and open a French pastry shop. His family gives him start-up money and find him the best pastry chef available: Yusuke Ono, a seemingly mousy gay man whose "demonic charm" has caused male co-workers (gay or straight) at his previous jobs to fall in love with him, resulting in fights, suicide attempts, and divorces. The shop's workforce soon expands to include pastry apprentice Eiji Kanda, a former straw-weight boxer, and waiter/errand-boy Chikage Kobayakawa, a Tachibana family retainer whose height and good looks are exceeded only by his dimwittedness and naivete.

The action of the manga focusses not only on the stories - past and present - of the four men, but also on those of the people who patronize the shop. To me, it most resembles to film Tampopo, which similarly centered on a noodle shop run by a young widow, but also covered a multitude of other little side stories. The interactions among the four shop workers keep things hopping: Tachibana, a would-be bon vivant and ladies' man, never seems to get anywhere with any of the ladies he pursues. He also seems to have a dark secret gnawing at his psyche. Ono, on the other hand, is all too successful at picking up men - yet he's nothing but a fantastic teacher to young Eiji, who in some ways has the most worldly background of the four, and who turns out to have a surprising talent for pastries. Chikage is all but useless at any task he tries to accomplish - yet his extreme sweetness of character and good looks have a definite effect on those who work with him. And all around them are little soap operas and comedies and mysteries, acted out by those who come to the shop.

This is not a series for someone seeking adventures (although there are a couple of fist fights) or huge dramas or even a lot of romance. It's for the most part a gentle little human comedy with a generous dose of food porn (the descriptions of the pastries and other foods served at the shop are amazing). However, it does have some serious adult themes: in addition to Ono's busy sex life (from which we are shown vignettes - nothing pornographic, but it's obvious what's happening), there's an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the possibility of an abortion as a solution, a single woman who gets pregnant with no strings attached because she wants a child so badly, a frank but heavily "bleeped" discussion of straight sexual practices, a nine-year-old girl who's a very early bloomer physically (but her situation is discussed from the point of view of child-rearing practices rather than sexuality), and ultimately, child abuse and murder. But overall, I found it rather appealing and a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, these four volumes seem to be all there is.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

Thanks to rachelmanija for recommending this!

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

This is a deeply silly series. In fact, it was inspiring me to filk (to the tune of the Beatles' "Paperback Writer"): "It's a silly story 'bout a silly band, and the writer dude doesn't understand ... ."

High school senior Shuichi Shindo, 18, has a great singing voice, delusions of song-writing ability, and a minimal talent for playing the keyboards. He and his sweet, long-suffering best friend and guitarist Hiroshi Nakano make up the pop band Bad Luck, which plays mostly at high school events. One night, he's taking a shortcut through a park when he drops the lyrics to a love song. As the paper blows away, it's picked up by a handsome foreign-looking man who reads it and tells Shuichi that it's utter drivel. Shuichi becomes obsessed with this guy, who turns out to be a popular romance novelist who goes by the nom de plume of Eiri Yuki. Although Yuki seems to despise Shuichi as well as his songwriting, he shows a remarkable tolerance for having his home invaded regularly by the lovestruck teen, and eventually they become lovers. Meanwhile, Shuichi and Hiroshi get a couple of lucky breaks, leading to a contract for Bad Luck. Soon Shuichi and Yuki are up to their necks in a series of ridiculous but fairly entertaining soap opera plots, involving rivalry among bands and singers, family obligations, revenge, and more.

The fact that this series doesn't take itself very seriously keeps me from wanted to kick it to the curb (as Shuichi keeps imagining Yuki will do to him), and every once in a while something with a bit of emotional punch happens. The "what in the world will they get up to next?" factor is strong enough that I'll keep reading it for now. The fact that Yuki is only 22 (when did he start writing, anyway?) keeps the squick factor about the relationship to a minimum.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

One last thought: the Young Lady loves this series, and tends to laugh aloud a great deal while reading it.

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

In some ways this is not a good set of three volumes to review together, because they contain bits of several story arcs - vol. 11 continues the story of the summer vacation by the sea, whereas the other two are about the fall term at school. But vol. 10 really did end on a rather momentous note, so it seemed OK to break off blogging there. And really, there are unifying themes among these three volumes: Kyo and Tohru are becoming aware of their feelings for each other, while Yuki is exploring his new-found strength.

As the vacation draws to a close, Akito decides to confront first Kyo and then Tohru. The deeply sad and dark scenes that follow reveal the heart of the ties that bind the dysfunctional family together, and it seems as though nothing will ever be normal - or what passes for normal with the Sohmas - again. But when Shigure's household arrives back home - to find Ayame waiting for them, as flamboyant as ever - things quickly slip into schooltime routine. Nevertheless, Tohru, inspired to action by her experiences over the summer, can't leave the subject of the Sohma curse alone, and her investigations put her into some uncomfortable situations. Meanwhile, teacher-parent conferences are in store for her, Kyo, and Yuki: as the equivalent of rising high school seniors in the U.S., they need to consider whether they're going to university or not. Their teacher, Mayu, has her hands full as an assorted succession of Sohma adults show up in turn to talk to her about the kids. Volume 13 culminates with the senior class trip.

Read more ... cut for spoilers and extensive rambling and wibbling )
chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

Takaya-sensei continues to hold me in thrall, no matter how cynical I try to be. Here I should confess that I'm not terribly good at "cynical" actually.... just one big bleeding heart, that's me. But I am allergic to emotional manipulation, and she does resort to it sometimes. But mostly, she earns her heart-warming scenes and lines honestly, as genuine payback from the characters' worries and traumas.

The playful little intro to every volume, with Tohru cheerfully telling about the Sohma curse in a way that implies it's all fun and games, is beginning to grate as the story gets darker and darker. We learn more about what it's like to be a teenaged Sohma in love - and it ain't pretty. The situation of the adult Zodiac members is just as bad, even though they can control themselves better, and we witness some more of that as well, including more details about Hatori's tragic romance of several years ago. More revelations about horrible Sohma parents are balanced with increasing tenderness of all sorts among the characters as the Sohmas and Tohru and her friends get ready for and start their summer vacation. Volume 9 also includes Hanajima's backstory and a funny little extra about the teens waiting out a rainstorm and whiling away the time by telling spooky stories.

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

Kimihiro Watanuki is a orphaned teenaged boy who can see spirits, so his life is already complicated even before he starts working for shopkeeper and "space-time" witch Yuuko Ichihara. The elegant Yuuko, a devotee of strong drink, gourmet food, and flimsy, revealing outfits, always has plenty of arcane tasks for her young employee, along with the more mundane drudgery of keeping her shop clean and her plate and glass full.

This series starts out as a string of mostly unrelated anecdotes involving the odd situations Watanuki encounters as he works for Yuuko, but about halfway through these 8 volumes (all that are available thus far), a single, stronger plot emerges, joining Watanuki's fate to that of his classmate Domeki, a handsome strong-and-silent guy who's the descendent of powerful priests. As Watanuki and Domeki are forced to work together, both of them learn a number of truths about what it is that people (of all kinds) owe each other.

Although I enjoyed this series from the start, it didn't touch my heart until the arc about the boys' shared existence got going. However, all the way through, I appreciated the elegant, Art Deco-style artwork (although I do think its nature only increased the emotional distance I felt from the story) and the many notes that the publisher, Del Rey, has included about Japanese culture and folklore.

Read more ... may include a few spoilers ... )

I do have one big question though: how do people say the name of this series? I've been saying "ex-ex-ex-holic," but that's pretty awkward!

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

This series came highly recommended. It's visually appealing, and every once in a while it hits a note of emotional intensity that strikes a chord in me - but mostly, I think this is not my sort of thing.

Two 20-year-old women, space cadet Nana Komatsu and aspiring rock musician Nana Osaki, end up sharing an apartment in Tokyo - and soap opera ensues. It's fairly tasty soap opera, but I don't identify with either character. It's me, Nana - not you. (There's bit more to it than that - if you're interested, I go into it in more detail below the cut.)

I'm slightly tempted to give it a try for another volume or so. Many manga series seem to have less-than-inspiring or even downright rocky starts: Samurai Deeper Kyo, Saiyuki, and Fruits Basket all underwhelmed me at first. And in fact, rachelmanija warned me that I'd probably have this kind of problem with this series. So have I given it a fair try with three volumes - or not?

There's more ... but mostly about me & book preferences etc., rather than about Nana per se ... )

ETA: Eeek, I got the Nanas' names mixed up! (And no one told me ...   :-(    ) I have fixed them now in the review, but I can't do much about the comments (which already have comments attached to them in turn). So please note that they're still mixed up in my answers (below) ... .

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

Help, I've been mugged by a volume of shoujo manga!

Yes, it's true. I picked up vol. 4 of Fruits Basket for cheap at Balticon over the 3-day weekend ... and that was the beginning of the end. I've been conquered by "America's most popular shoujo manga."

I have actually gobbled down volumes 4-10, but I'm forcing myself to break it up and think about it a little more. I bought 5-7 on Sunday night, and then picked up 8-10 on Wednesday afternoon. And I want more, more, more. (And so does the Young Lady.)

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

This is a pretty good fantasy, seemingly aimed at the 13-16-year-old audience ... except that in the U.S., something aimed at that age group usually wouldn't feature a warrior who changes sex frequently (although there was Dr. Occult/Rose Spiritus in the original Books of Magic, come to think of it ...) and female frontal nudity from the waist up. Takiko Okuda, an older teen (there's considerable confusion about her age, but she seems to be about 17) in early 20th-century Japan, is having an unhappy life. Her mother is gravely ill, her scholarly father neglects his family for his work, and a recent move from Tokyo to the country has landed Takiko in a new school populated by hicks who resent her. A strange series of events lands her in the middle of the story described in her father's latest book, with Takiko now in the role of the heroine: the priestess of Genbu who must gather the seven Celestial Warriors to save a nation that Takiko never knew existed.

I'm enjoying the story and am interested in how it will all turn out, but I don't feel terribly passionate about it.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

Note: Edited to correct the name of the Books of Magic character mentioned in the first paragraph.

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

Take the teenaged cast and episodic nature of the old "Archie" comics, strain them through some "Comedy of Manners" novels (I'm thinking of Kushner's Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, and Wrede and Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecelia, but their common ancestors, the works of Jane Austen, would probably be even better), add a dash of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and a generous helping of the showiest, wooziest aspects of modern Japanese life. Beat until very, very light and fluffy ... and maybe you'd come up with Ouran High School Host Club.

I actually enjoyed this quite a lot, which is extremely strange, because it has very little in common with the other manga I really love.

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

OK, this was very cute, and most of the time it wasn't too cute. Mostly it was sweet - "like a good apple" rather than "like cotton candy." I will say that I was happier when the edgier characters were "on screen" and when there were hints about things being darker than they might seem at first. But that's because I'm a worldly person who likes the Lymond Chronicles (Dorothy Dunnett) and Cyteen (C.J. Cherryh) and stuff like that ... (not to mention older teen shounen manga).

Sweet young teen Honda Tohru, a recent orphan, is living in a tent in the woods by herself so as not to inconvenience her grandparents (they think she's staying with friends). The land she's on turns out to belong to the powerful, mysterious Sohma family, many of whose members are afflicted with a strange curse. One eventful night, Tohru falls ill and her tent is buried in a landslide. She's taken in by a little sub-household of Sohmas: successful young novelist Shigure and his two teenaged cousins, Yuki and Kyo, who attend Tohru's school. I'm tempted to say "hijinks ensue," but I'd feel cruel - and it actually doesn't really begin to cover the range of events.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

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