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: 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)

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

Goofy, childish folklore scholar Kantarou Ichinomiya (the English translation uses Western name order) ekes out a living by writing books from his research, but his actual passion is encountering and befriending youkai. In his youth, his ability to see youkai caused him to be shunned by other children, and he became convinced that his problems would all be solved by finding the famous demon-eating tengu (a classic Japanese monster with birdlike characteristics, although the only birdlike thing about the two tengu seen so far in this series are their feathered wings). When Kantarou finds the tengu in the opening chapter of the series, he binds the creature by giving him a name, Haruka. The handsome humanoid becomes part of Kantarou's household, along with a fox youkai woman named Yoko who serves as cook, maid, and menial-of-all-work. She's the one who has to go out and earn them all a living when Kan-chan's slacking off.

The outline of the story sounds roughly like Natsume's Book of Friends, but notice that Kantarou is binding youkai, not releasing them. Also, instead of the touching, lonely little child Natsume that we see in flashbacks in that series, li'l Kan-chan is an absolute parody of a cutesy manga tot, and the English translation has him speak in the kind of twee childish lisp that Dorothy Parker parodied when she said (in her review of The House at Pooh Corner) "Tonstant Weader fwowed up." Kantarou is feckless, bossy, has no sense of boundaries, can't seem to acknowledge that he has enslaved Yoko and Haruka, and does things like drag them off to a hot springs resort (paid for by his editor) and then complain that they still look sulky.

Man, do I want to smack the living shit out of him.

I disliked him rather less on my re-read before writing this, enough so that I ordered the rest of this shounen series secondhand (Tactics was a victim of Tokyopop's demise and ends in official English translation with volume 8). The plot mainly involves Kantarou's investigations of strange phenomena that typically turn out to involve youkai. Sometimes things end relatively happily, but when they don't, Kantarou proves himself a true cousin of Yuuko (xxxHolic) and Count D (Pet Shop of Horrors) in arranging for unpleasant fates for the wicked.

Cut for more, including some spoilers )
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?

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)

What have you just finished reading?

Volume 4 of the manga Bunny Drop (re-read) and the omnibus volume 5 of Gunslinger Girls, where the mangaka is working overtime to stomp on our hearts and smash those suckers flat. (Have I mentioned that the latter series is shounen by its magazine classification? That seems weird to me. Although I am glad that young teen boys are being exposed to the concept of tough, adventurous girls, even if they are brainwashed cyborgs.)

What are you currently reading?

Still Limping through The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit and nibbling away at C.J. Cherryh's Russalka. Also some re-reading for a writing project. Plus, I have started vol. 3 of the manga A Bride's Story.

What do you think you'll read next?

Volume 2 of House of Five Leaves. volume 8 of Ooku by Fumi Yoshinaga, and volume 1 of Durarara! are in the pipeline from Amazon, along with Ashes of Honor (vol. 6 of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series).

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Seanan McGuire's Late Eclipses and One Salt Sea (vols. 4 and 5 of the October Daye series), vols. 1 and 2 of the manga A Bride's Story, and vols. 1 and 2 of the manga adaptation of the anime Tiger & Bunny.

I liked One Salt Sea better than Late Eclipses, because in the latter, Toby is back to doing impulsive stupid things that have me going "Um, no, Toby, don't do that," with the result that I knew roughly what was happening about halfway through the book. In One Salt Sea, I knew to some degree whodunnit, but not how, and it was interesting to see it play out. There were also a couple of very funny scenes.

(On the other hand, I continue to twitch from time to time and wonder what happened to the Native American spirits in this completely Euro-fae-occupied America.)

A Bride's Story is just beautiful, and I liked Amir's feistiness and mad hunting skillz. On the other hand, there's almost no exploration of how it feels to be a 20-yr-old woman married to a 12-yr-old boy.

Tiger & Bunny was cute, but after two volumes, the underlying emotional arcs are only just getting started.

What are you currently reading?

Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells, and The Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit. I am enjoying them very much.

What do you think you'll read next?

I have Throne of the Crescent Moon queued up, and also some re-reading for another writing exchange.

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

The cover of vol. 13 of the manga Black Butler, showing Ceil's young fiancee Lizzie in her petticoats, armed with a sword and a scowl

Volume 8 (the latest volume) of the manga series Bunny Drop. This tale of a little girl who is adopted by her adult nephew (yes ... you see, her father was the guy's grandfather) does a time skip after volume 4, and the viewpoint shifts from 30-year-old bachelor Daikichi to now-teenaged Rin. I'm not enjoying the later volumes as much as I did the first four, but it's still a fairly interesting slice of life series.

Also: volume 13 of the manga series Black Butler. The last couple of volumes followed young Ceil and his faithful demonic butler Sebastian as they take an ill-fated voyage on a luxury ocean liner. The cover, presented here, shows all you really need to know, IMO (although it really depicts an event that happened last volume). Yes, that is sweet little Lizzie, Ceil's fiancee, in her petticoats, wielding two cavalry sabers. She's good with them, too. What was she fighting? Zombies, basically. This is Black Butler, after all. This volume opens with a capsule flashback of Lizzie's upbringing. We also find out the Straight Dope about the Undertaker.

What are you currently reading?

The third omnibus volume of the manga Gunslinger Girl

What do you think you'll read next?

Probably John Scalzi's Redshirts. I've been going through tor.com's Star Trek TOS re-watch (this is a couple of years old), which is getting me into the right frame of mind, I think.

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

What have you just finished reading?

Lots of stuff! Rosemary Sutcliff's The Shining Company and Sword Song, vol. 3 of the manga series A Certain Scientific Railgun, and the aforementioned book I had to re-read as an assignment. I think I'm giving up on Railgun: it's just not working for me. I will write it up at some point and discuss that. This is one of the few series I've just had to drop.

What are you currently reading?

Nothing but little filler things: fanfiction, catalogs, bits of the second Bleach character book (mainly so I can sleuth the kanji in the characters' names with my basic kanji dictionary). That's because I'm processing the things I just read – always happens when I read a lot of things one after the other.

What do you think you'll read next?

I just got the third Gunslinger Girl manga omnibus (comprising vols. 7-8 of the original tankoubon): that will probably be next.

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

In modern-day Italy, a shadowy but seemingly benevolent organization takes in young girls whose futures are hopeless: Henrietta, the only surviving member of a family that was slaughtered; Rico, who was born without limbs and whose parents were increasingly unable to care for her; Triela, a child of mixed race from Tunisia who had been kidnapped and spoiler and squick/trigger warning used as a victim in a snuff film; and so on.

In truth, the Agency for Social Welfare (excellent choice of name: so bland and boring, no?) "treats" these girls by surgically altering them and brainwashing them to forget their former lives, turning them into near-unstoppable assassins that the agency calls cyborgs. This process also shortens their overall lifespan considerably, although because the program is still pretty much experimental, good data on the life of a cyborg is not really available.

Each girl is paired with an adult male "handler." Given that this is manga, this set-up could have been skeevy as hell, but although the sexual element is not totally ignored (Triela, who seems to be around 13, is definitely grappling with romantic feelings toward her handler), it's mostly a very minor element in the relationships. The pairings are called "fratellos" – that is, basically, a set of siblings.

There's an ongoing plot involving a terrorist group, which provides opportunities for the agency to use the girls' powers (although they are also involved in some very cold-hearted murders for general political expediency). We are shown the terrorists' interactions with each other, during which they discuss their political philosophies, so that they are not just faceless targets. Personalities and relationships, in fact, are the focus of the series: the girls' relationships not only with their handlers, but with each other. We get lots of scenes of their training and their down time in their dorm, when they talk about life in general as well as what they have been doing.

Despite a persistent feeling that this is all going to end in tears, I'm fascinated by this series and am enjoying it. The attitude of the trainers toward their doomed charges makes me think a bit of CLAMP's Clover, while the brainwashing and training of the girls recalls similar scenes in the childhoods of the azi (programmed clones) Catlin II and Florian II in C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen, who are destined for security work.

The artwork is more utilitarian than striking, but it gets the work done. It's very detailed and provides a lot of gun porn: wikis detailing what weapons each girls uses can be found easily online. There's a certain amount of male gaze – this is a shounen series – but it's not quite voyeuristic. We see girls changing their clothes, stretching (in spandex exercise gear), and in hospital gowns for procedures, but the treatment of these scenes mostly seemed to me more expository than exploitative. (And I was surprised to find that this was not a seinen series. The relationships between the girls and their handlers seems like prime moe.)

Read more ... with 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)

Twelve-year-old Ciel Phantomhive is an orphan and a victim of a horrific past, but he is also a special agent of Queen Victoria, a head of industry (toys and sweets), and master of a palatial estate near London. Keeping house for the young master are a set of curiously and comically inept servants - Finnian the air-headed gardener, Mey-Rin the horrifically klutzy housemaid, Bardroy the lethally bad wise-ass cook, and Tanaka the (mostly) inert steward - plus Sebastian Michaelis, the super-efficient and multi-talented butler.

The charming yet steely Sebastian is, in fact, a demon from Hell. Literally.

This beautifully drawn series careens vertiginously from horror-tragedy to broad comedy. Ciel investigates Jack the Ripper, is befriended by a feckless South Asian princeling who gets the household involved in a very serious curry-cooking battle, and most recently delves into a strange circus that may be playing a role in the matter of some missing children. Flashbacks reveal the nature of Ciel's relationship with Sebastian, why Ciel has that eyepatch, and what happened to the rest of the Phantomhive family. And Queen Victoria is not the only 19th century celebrity to make an appearance. Read more ... with spoilers! )

chomiji: Nase Asumi with a wry smile on her face, and the caption Awesomesauce (Asumi - awesomesauce)

I have been reading this for more than a year, and somehow never got around to blogging it.

Junior high school student Hikaru Shindo (the translation uses Western name order for almost all of the characters) has never taken much of anything seriously in his life until he discovers the haunted Go board in his grandfather's attic. The uneasily resting spirit associated with the game board is Fujiwara no Sai, a Go player and court hanger-on from the Heian era. Sai, a rather appealing and mostly benevolent ghost, died before he was able to create and execute the Divine Move, and under his influence (and nagging, and pleading), Hikaru begins to play Go. Unexpectedly, he turns out to have the potential to be a master of the game, and soon he is playing for his own sake, and not just to please his ghostly instructor.

In many ways, this is a story about a teenager and sports - except that it's Go, not soccer or tennis or whatever. Hikaru starts to compete in tournaments and joins a Go study group, which essentially gives him teammates (except that he plays against them as well).

Cut for more details ... nothing too spoilery )
chomiji: Hotaru from Samurai Deeper Kyp, looking horrified, with the caption OMGZWYF?! Translate plz (hotaru - OMGWTF?)

Via inkstone on Dreamwidth:

... TOKYOPOP lost the license to Samurai Deeper Kyo! But that explains why volume 35 has been impossible to find, no matter what Amazon says. I can't believe it though -- there are only 4 volumes left! (Never mind the fact that SDK is supposedly one of their better sellers. This can't bode well for TP if they lost the SDK license and the final English volume of Furuba is released soon.) On the other hand, it also appears that Del Rey has the license to the final 4 volumes and if the listing for volume 35 is accurate, they'll be released in double-sized volumes. Let's hope it's true. That'll be imminently sad if SDK ends its English run with only 4 volumes to go!

You can take a look at the Delray catalog listing here.

chomiji: Ikkaku form Belach, with the caption Let Me Explain via Interpretive Dance (ikkaku-explain)

Yes, I'm still reading Bleach, even though I haven't bothered to write it up for some time. Most of it has become pretty formulaic, with the good guys having to beat up on piles of more- and more-badass bad guys. There have only been a few scenes that would have been worth writing up: the Orihime-Rangiku girl-talk confessional, and Yumichika's reaction to Ikkakku's fight with Edrad Leones (lower left panel; be still, my shippy little heart!), and some of the Vizard stuff.

Then along comes this volume, with much, much awesomeness. The trouble is, I have seen people's complaints about things that happen further along. Oh Kubo-sensei, you nasty tease ... you're just toying with me, aren't you?

The rest is going under a cut - there's not much to say about the plot that won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't been keeping up.

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

Kyo and co. receive advice and information from Julian, the premier Mibu swordsmith, about the intensely magical Muramasa blades. Akira insists on facing Tokito alone to rescue Bontenmaru - and the bulk of the volume consists of Akira's battle with Tokito.

There was some really great art in this issue. I'm just annoyed that it involved Tokito, who is my least favorite character. The image where Tokito first draws the Muramasa blade a fraction of an inch, and the scene when Tokito uses the Seven Stars attack (a double-page spread), were both very beautiful.

On the other hand, even though I remember laughing at loud with joyful surprise at a couple of things that happened near the end, this volume faded from my mind really quickly, and I didn't have the urge to immediately go back and read it again - and again - as I did with the two recent volumes focusing on Hotaru. And like meganbmoore, I'm a little worried about what Kamijyo might be trying to tell us about social class and ability.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Kyo (SDK))

SDK seems to occupy a kind of middle ground for me between Bleach – which is probably the most shounen-ish shounen series I'm reading seriously (Hoshin Engi continues to mainly confuse me) and Saiyuki – which isn't really a shounen series at all, it just plays one on TV.

These two volumes illustrate the point pretty well. They're mostly about Hotaru, the wolf-child space-cadet with the very short attention span, double-ended sword, and deadly magical fire skills. Because SDK is mostly a shounen series, Hotaru's scenes are very much about getting stronger and mastering himself. But because SDK is SDK, there's also lashings of backstory – tasty and humorous backstory. Hotaru doesn't really do angst, so there isn't much, but parts of his story are surprisingly touching. They also involve the last big crew of new characters we'll meet in the series.

There's also bigtime angst for Kyo and Kyoushirou, a little more Mibu villainy, a tough situation for Akira's ego, Yuya fanservice, the re-appearance of someone we haven't seen for a very long time, and almost no Yukimura-san >snif!< at all, unless you count one of the extras in vol. 30.

Cut for fangirling and spoilers ... ! )

ETA: meganbmoore reviewed vol. 30 here and vol. 31 here; magicnoire writes up vol. 30 here.

chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Kyo (SDK))

Kyo must face his old foe Oda Nobunaga, who now possesses the body of the shaman Nozumo. Nobunaga's skills with the sword and his deadly demonic attacks aren't the only dangers Kyo will face. But before the conflict can be resolved, Yuya interrupts the combatants and changes the stakes drastically.

The human element comes strongly to the forefront in this volume. Although the situation with Yuya is by far the most dramatic element, this installment also ends with Kyo farther from regaining his real body than ever, and Akari continues to have to face her past history with the Mibu.

And there simply isn't much more to say without risking major spoilers.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

February 2017

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