Sunday, September 18, 2016
I really enjoyed this series, much more than I expected. I had thought it would be a sort of Japanese The Devil Wears Prada, but it was much warmer and kinder than that. Even though Nanjo was pretty blunt with Mayuko at times, she was also gentler than I would have expected – some of the things Mayuko did when she first started working there (like talking back at the boss) would probably have gotten her fired from any other place.
Anyway, yes, a live action Black Butler movie exists and I have watched and reviewed it. Contrary to what that movie poster might lead you to believe, it actually takes place in a modern day setting.
No watch-alikes, because I figured writing the review itself was hard enough. Also, warning, this review includes major spoilers.
I watched this out of morbid curiosity. To be honest, I was expecting it to be horrifically bad. I knew that the story and characters had been drastically changed in several areas, and I vaguely remembered reading something about Mizushima Hiro (Sebastian) losing weight for the role, because obviously the most important thing about Sebastian is his thinness.
In the end, this wasn't as bad as I originally expected it to be, but it wasn't great either. It helped a lot that I already knew it wouldn't be a redo of either the anime or manga story, and that the characters wouldn't be quite the same.
So, the story. The movie is set in some kind of alternate history modern day Japan. Genpou Shiori is a girl pretending to be a boy so that she can be the Genpou family heir. Several years ago, her parents were killed and she was kidnapped. She escaped by entering into a contract with Sebastian, a demon. Since then, her goal has been to find and punish those who killed her parents. In the meantime, however, she serves as a secret investigator for the Queen of England (I think?), for reasons that make no sense unless you have some familiarity with the original series and what's been twisted to fit the movie. Anyway, people are being spontaneously mummified, and no one is sure how or why. Shiori is tasked with looking into the murders, and her investigation unexpectedly touches on her past.
Monday, August 15, 2016
No read-alikes this time, because I don't feel like it. Also, the very end of my review includes some spoilers.
This takes place in late 19th century London. Julia works as a waitress and dancer on an airship, while Georgina, her sister, cleans houses. Julia is utterly shocked to come home one evening and find her sister dead. Although Constable Aloysius (Al) Grant gives her as many updates on the case as he's able, there isn't much for him to say. The police keep hitting dead ends.
Just when it looks like Georgy's killer will go free, Lady Harriet Law shows up on Julia's doorstep and offers to take the case pro bono. Julia accepts the offer. After all, Lady Law has a phenomenal success rate, having solved 100% of her 650 cases. It's that same success rate that, in part, inspires Grant's distrust. How does Lady Law come to her conclusions? Why did she offer her services to Julia in particular? And how does the disappearance of Josh, the young assistant of the famed explorer Horace Holly, figure into all of this?
Sunday, August 14, 2016
No read-alikes for this one, sorry.
Caissa is the body-heir of Baythan, an exceptional hunter and all-around perfect specimen of manhood (no really – much is made of his excellent genetic pattern). Caissa is now old enough that she should start considering bearing her own body-heir, but she isn't happy with the man her father suggests she at least establish a temporary heir-contract with. She has a feeling that his recommendation is tied to an undisclosed clause in his heir-contract with her womb-mother, the haughty and vain High Lady Cinna.
Out of loyalty to her father, Caissa agrees to at least meet the man he recommended, but the meeting leaves her feeling so insulted that she decides to leave the city for a bit to blow off some steam. Unfortunately, she didn't bother to check her fuel first and ends up briefly stranded in the ruins of Yellow Triad City. It's there that she meets a mysterious man named Murell and learns more about coelura, beings able to spin beautiful living cloth that responds to its wearer's mood.
REVIEW: The Stinky Cheese Caper and Other Cases from the ZPD Files (book) by Greg Trine, illustrated by Cory Loftis
After reading the junior novelization, I wasn't expecting much from this. The cover made it sound like it would be composed of four standalone stories (“Four stories in one!”). Since it was only 75 pages long, I figured those stories would have to be extremely simple.
In “The Stinky Cheese Caper,” Judy and Nick investigate the theft of a very expensive and very stinky cheese. In “There's Dirt in Your Eye,” Judy and Nick investigate a report of someone dumping dirt of the Old Outback Bridge. The dirt landed on a boatload of tourists and could have hurt someone. In “No Noise Is Good Noise,” Judy and Nick investigate reports of incredibly loud and horrible music coming from a cafe. All the local shopkeepers feel it's hurting their businesses. Finally, in “The Dig's Up,” Judy and Nick investigate a prison break.
This book takes place several months after the end of the movie. Judy and Nick are partners, assigned mostly to traffic duty or cases that none of the other cops want to work on. Astute readers will guess that the four stories are probably related after finishing the first one. Readers who aren't able to figure out that the stories are connected by the beginning of the second one will probably not enjoy this book because, individually and taken at face value, most of these mysteries are pretty dull.
Monday, August 8, 2016
REVIEW: Another Episode S/0 (book and manga) novel by Yukito Ayatsuji, manga by Hiro Kiyohara, translation by Karen McGillicuddy
I was a little wary of this book. I've read or watched every version of Another that's officially been made available in English, starting with the anime, then the original novel, and finally the manga. I noticed I was burning out on the story by the time I got to the manga. Could a sequel novel work for me? Would it be fresh and new enough?
First, I should mention that this book actually collects two different works: Another Episode S, a lengthy story that takes place during the events of Another but isn't directly related to the curse affecting North Yomi's third-year Class 3, and Another Episode 0, a short prequel manga starring Reiko, Koichi's aunt. I'll write about them separately, but my final verdict is that this had some interesting moments but was largely a disappointment.
Warning: Do NOT read this review if you haven't read or watched Another. My review will include major spoilers for that work.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
So, what can I say about the story without revealing too much? Clay, desperate for work after losing his Web design job, stumbles across a little place called Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. It's in a seedy location (next to a strip club), there don't seem to be many customers, and the store itself is a little strange, but Clay needs the money. Besides, he's kind of intrigued. Most of the store's visitors never actually seem to buy anything, but rather check out mysterious volumes from a collection Clay is specifically told not to browse or otherwise look at too closely.
Clay's curiosity gets the better of him, and he starts to investigate. Slowly, at first, making a three-dimensional model of the store in order in order to see if there's a pattern to the checkouts. But then he involves other people and begins to dig more deeply.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
A synopsis feels a little unnecessary, but I'll include a short one anyway: A billionaire invites several people to his not-yet-open theme park (or is forced to invite them – the lawyer is there because a worker's family is suing and there are now questions being asked about how safe the park really is). Amazingly, the park includes real, live dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the park's tech geek decides to make a little extra money by stealing and selling some of the park's dinosaur embryos. Things go wrong, and a bunch of the dinosaurs accidentally get free, putting the lives of everyone on the island in danger.
The story: Erin is a professor who's being considered for tenure. Unfortunately, an embarrassing piece of her past, a book on the paranormal that she co-wrote years ago with her best friend Abby, has come back to haunt her. She's worried that she'll be seen as a crackpot, so she tracks Abby down in order to ask her to please stop selling the book. Abby has since teamed up with Jillian Holtzmann, a nutty and brilliant scientist, and Erin accidentally gets all three of them involved in a paranormal investigation at a museum. The team is later joined by Patty, a transit worker who is an absolute fount of historical facts and knowledge, and their new receptionist, Kevin, who is gorgeous but very stupid. The group finds themselves dealing with more and more ghosts, not realizing that all these recent incidents are due to the machinations of a nobody who feels he isn't getting all the recognition and attention he deserves.
REVIEW: Amnesia Labyrinth (manga, vol. 1) story by Nagaru Tanigawa, art by Natsumi Kohane, translation by Nan Rymer
I'll start by saying that the description on the back of the volume contains several incorrect statements. There is no evidence that Souji's sisters' clingy behavior is anything new. Also, I don't know if Souji and Yukako start dating in the next volume, but Yukako is not Souji's new girlfriend in this one. Now, on to my description.
Souji is a high school student who left his family home some time ago. He had hoped never to return, but sometimes we don't get what we want. At any rate, his three sisters are thrilled he's back. Harumi, his stepsister, is sweet and quiet and clearly has a crush on him. The real problems, though, are Youko and Saki. Youko is Souji's full sister. She possibly has a split personality, and she's certainly a vaguely malevolent presence in the household, glaring daggers at Souji even as she cuddles up to him in a more than sisterly sort of way. Saki is the daughter of Souji's father and Souji's father's mistress. She works as one of the family's maids and, when the other sisters aren't around, sleeps with Souji. And possibly also Kazushi, Souji's older brother. Kazushi, meanwhile, may be lurking somewhere nearby.
At school, Souji instantly comes to the attention of Yukako, the self-proclaimed sole member of the student council's “Intelligence Committee.” It's Yukako who tells Souji of the three murders that occurred at the end of the summer, shortly before he arrived. The school's smartest student was stabbed. After that came the track team's star runner, also stabbed. Then the student council president was pushed in front of a train. Yukako wants to know why the killer chose those particular victims, especially since she had a crush on the student council president. She basically forces Souji to join her, but Souji secretly thinks he knows who was responsible: Youko, his sister.
Friday, August 5, 2016
I opted not to include any read-alikes. Also, be warned, my review includes some spoilers.
The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince takes place primarily before Belle met the Beast or even before the Prince became the Beast. Readers learn that the Prince (who is never given a name) was, in fact, once friends with Gaston. Also, the enchantress that the Prince rejected prior to becoming the Beast was actually his beautiful secretly-a-witch girlfriend, Circe, who had three wicked witch sisters. Circe's curse didn't immediately take effect, but rather gave the Prince time to meet and court another young lady, Princess Tulip Morningstar. Although lots of familiar characters make appearances, the story fans of the movie are familiar with doesn't really start until the last quarter of the book, and even then there are some changes.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Invader picks up pretty much where Foreigner left off. Bren is barely out of surgery before he's called back to work. The starship Phoenix, the one that originally brought humans to the planet, has reappeared, and everyone is concerned. What do the ship folk want? Does Mospheira plan to deal with them and, if so, where does that leave the Treaty with the atevi?
Bren, still in a bit of pain (and, at the very beginning, foggy due to pain killers), finds himself in an extremely difficult position. Deana Hanks, his eventual successor, took over his job after Tabini stashed him away during the events of the previous book, and now she refuses to leave even though it puts her in violation of the Treaty. Hanks and her backers in the State Department believe that Bren has gone native and is no longer looking out for Mospheira's best interests. Hanks would oust Bren and become the new paidhi, except Tabini absolutely refuses to talk to her and would in fact have had her killed already if Bren hadn't specifically asked him not to. Although Bren is now getting much more information from Tabini and his bodyguards than he was in the first book, people are still keeping things from him, and he's almost completely blocked from communicating with the Foreign Office back in Mospheira.
Although he knows that he might be labeled a traitor, Bren offers to act as translator between the ship folk and the atevi. He has to convince the atevi that Mospheira won't automatically betray them in favor of the ship folk, clean up Hanks' political and linguistic messes, and figure out a solution to the ship problem that has the highest chance of being mutually beneficial to Mospheira and the atevi, all while simultaneously dealing with personal crises, terrifying gaps in his knowledge, and assassination attempts.
I'm not including any read-alikes for this one.
I found this in the clearance section during one of my used book shopping trips. The cover art reminded me of Yun Kouga, although the interior art wasn't quite as easy to follow as I remember Kouga's art being.
This was an anthology of four of Sumomo Yumeka's shorter works. I liked the second story the most, then the first story. The third story was passable, while the final story was confusing garbage. Unfortunately, the final story took up almost half of the volume.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Again, no read-alikes. I'm feeling lazy. Warning: my review includes spoilers.
Sixteen-year-old Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be accepted to Oomza University. She'll be a minority there in another way as well – only 5% of the university's population is human. As terrifying as it is, leaving her tribe behind, Binti quickly finds friends among the humans traveling to Oomza Uni – but all of that is ruined when aliens known as the Meduse board the ship and slaughter nearly all of its 500 passengers. The only ones left alive are the pilot and Binti.
The ship is headed to Oomza University so that the Meduse aboard can reclaim their chief's stinger, currently on display at one of the university's museums. Binti has to somehow find a solution that will help her survive and prevent further bloodshed.
I decided not to include any read-alikes. This review includes slight spoilers.
Tash Blumenthal, a medical student, is the only survivor when the research ship she's on crash lands on a planet swarming with the Sprawl, an alien hivemind that can forcibly take over other beings' bodies. She'd have died, maybe even been taken over herself, if it hadn't been for Soleil's help. Although Soleil was just a voice coming from Tash's comm pendant, her advice, encouragement, and general presence kept Tash alive long enough for a ship to arrive and rescue her.
Tash is both nervous and excited at the chance to finally meet her savior. She's attracted to Soleil and hopes the feelings are mutual – but can Tash's budding feelings for Soleil survive learning the woman's biggest secret?