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

My, it's been a while since I've done this.

Last week and the first of this were spent having the flu, followed by bronchitis. This would have seemed a great opportunity to read, but I was too miserable. I read fanfiction and magazines and that's about it. The new manga series I meant to start (bought the first few volumes of each at Katsucon) remain untouched.

I did do a bit of manga series catchup:

Natsume's Book of Friends vol. 21 remains Natsume-ish: poignant little stories with gentle humor. There is one chapter with a young Natori/young Matoba flashback that is likely responsible for the lashings of Matobe/Natori slash and pre-slash fanfic I've been seeing. Matoba is the kind of dark, perhaps evil character that many fangirls love to love (like Ukoku in Saiyuki, yuck), but I'm not one of them, so the mangaka is going to need to give me more reason to like Matoba.

Behind the Scenes!! Vol. 5 explores high school crushes with a keen eye and much tenderness. We usually see Goda through Ranmaru's eyes as a charismatic and even brilliant leader, but at the end of the day, he's just as much of a geek perfectionist as rest of the Art Squad. It's unsurprising that he's not terrible perceptive about the nature of Ruka's reactions to him lately, nor that he's awkward in responding to her when he finally gets a clue. Mangaka Bisco Hatori (Ouran High School Host Club) is so sensitive in portraying these situations that I really wish se would cover even more groups of geeky teens. Still, I guess one series at a time, done well, is all I can reasonably demand.

Also, Goda's superpowered multifunction watch invention is all kinds of hilarious, especially to a former theater crew geek like me.

BTW, does anyone know the proper genre category for this manga? I would guess shoujo, like its elder sibling Ouran HSHC, but I can't find any such info.

And I remembered that my bro-in-law gave me (at my request) for Xmas the first of the "Rivers of London" comics volumes, Rivers of London: Body Work. The depictions of the characters aren't bad (although Nightingale really doesn't look like my idea of him), and the main story (about a strange sort of haunting involving an automobile junk yard and chop shop) was decent. Not enough Beverly, IMO (but Sahra Guleed does play a large role). But I really enjoyed the little one-shot side scenes at the end, There's one involving Molly, Toby, and an old car that never would have worked from Peter's POV, but as a comic, it's just delightful.

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

I finished All the Birds in the Sky. It wasn't bad, but it just sort of ended: too much build up, not enough resolution. And now I'm annoyed by the title, because although it sounds really nifty, it doesn't have all that much to do with the story. This is not going to be my top vote for best novel, I'm afraid.

Also in Hugo reading, I read through Ursula Le Guin's Words Are My Matter, a collection of recent short non-fiction pieces. I love Le Guin as an essayist, and the first part of the book contains some good examples. But the back half-and-a-bit is introductions to books and book reviews, and I found those less interesting. A number of them were for non-genre literary or magical realism works that didn't sound as though they'd appeal to me. She did mention a couple of Western (as in, Western U.S.) novels that I might want to look up, which I will mention here partially for my own reference: Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols and The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Also, although Perdido Street Station pretty much put me off China Mielville for life, her review of Embassytown is making me reconsider.

Overall, unless the rest of the Related Works are very mediocre, I don't think this will be my top pick in that category.

I have just started Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, which is short-listed for Best Novel. A number of the readers on File 770 had trouble with this book, but I'm not finding it problematic thus far. Possibly the fact that I actually like Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford (link goes to Kirkus review), which was also purposefully written in the style of an earlier era, has something to do with this. I'll have to see where the book goes, of course.

Finally, I'll be re-reading some of Fruits Basket, Because Reasons. Does anyone recall the number of the exact volume in which Machi shows up? It's when she wrecks the student council room, if the Wikia is to be believed.

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

So actually I have been doing quite a lot of reading, much of it trying to get caught up to make Hugo nominations (which I did do, yay).

I'm going to be doing really quick write-ups here, because I'm covering several weeks. If anyone wants to discuss any of this in more detail, I'll do my best!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Enjoyable ensemble cast SF: an accountant/business manager joins the crew of a small, independent working ship and finds a family of sorts. The setting is vaguely reminiscent of David Brin's Uplift series, in that Earth is a backwater planet joining a larger universe of many other sentient beings.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – Nominally, the sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, although it follows only two of the characters from the original book. A ship's AI ends up in a humanoid (robot/android) body and has to learn to live with all that this implies; alternate chapters follow the backstory of the AI's new mentor/engineer as she grows up as a child slave in a robot-run factory. I actually enjoyed this more than the first book, but YMMV.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Interesting fantasy of an emerging industrialized world (trains are pretty well established, but rifles are new) that until recently featured living, active gods. The action takes place in the lands that used to be god-protected, now conquered by its former slaves. The equivalent Earth civilizations used for the cultures seem to be Eastern Europe (formerly god-protected) and South Asia (former slaves), which gives a different flavor from the usual Extruded Fantasy Product. Diplomat and operative Shara Thivani, of the now-ascendant culture, investigates the murder of an academic in the central city of the former ruling nation and discovers something very disturbing. Strong female characters, including the lead. Warning: the opening scene is deadly dull … but it's meant to be, I think.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett – Takes place a few years after the previous novel. Former general Turyin Mulaghesh, an ally of Shara in the first book, is pulled out of her increasingly inebriated retirement to investigate the disappearance of an operative in backwater Voortyashtana, where an important new harbor is being built by the conquerors. Mulaghesh finds that the mysteries of what's happening in Voortyashtana have more significance to her than she could ever have imagined. I like Mulaghesh even better than Shara.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 20 by Yuki Midorikawa – This series remains its usual comforting, mildly spooky self, bless it. I do wonder whether the mangaka is ever again going to pick up the threads about the sinister exorcist Matoba, but he doesn't make an appearance in this volume.

Right now, I'm re-reading The Secret Garden as a break. Reading lots of new things tires me, even when I enjoy it. I have Cherryh's latest Foreigner book on my Kindle, and I'm still trying to make myself finish volume 1 of the manga A Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki, which looks like something I *should* like (but as you can tell, it hasn't really grabbed me).

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 [ 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! )

April 2019

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