Tuesday, November 29, 2016

REVIEW: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vols. 1-3) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

I didn't know much about this series, going into it. I had heard some complaints that the romance never went anywhere in the anime adaptation, so I expected it to be a romantic comedy. I was surprised, but not displeased, to discover that it was actually far more focused on humor than anything. If I had had more volumes of this available during my vacation, I'd definitely have read them. Now I have to decide if I want to continue this series via purchases or have it be one of those series I catch up on once a year, whenever I take a vacation.

Just as I've done in the past for my big vacation manga binges, I'm going to include all the volumes I read in one post. Each volume will include a synopsis and short review. This post is technically spoiler-filled, but I don't know that any of it would really ruin the volumes for anybody, since the visuals are such a big part of the humor. Still, consider yourself warned.

Friday, November 25, 2016

REVIEW: Kobato (manga, vol. 6) by CLAMP, translated by William Flanagan

This post includes lots of spoilers (the description included).

Kobato meets with Okiura without telling anyone, but Fujimoto finds her anyway and overhears her telling Okiura that she believes Fujimoto hates her. That isn't true, of course, but that doesn't stop Kobato from fulfilling Sayaka's wish, to be free of Okiura's father, in the belief that Fujimoto would be happiest if Sayaka were happy. Fulfilling the wish leads to Kobato's death, but that's okay, because she gets reincarnated. Her new incarnation remembers Fujimoto and all the people in her past life, so she heads to them, even knowing that they probably won't remember her. What she doesn't realize is that Ginsei made a wish for Fujimoto to remember her, and so the two love birds are reunited (never mind that Kobato is 16 or so and Fujimoto is maybe in his late 30s). Suishou, the angel who helped Kobato live a little longer, is still within her until at least her next life, but after that the angel will be reunited with Iorogi.

REVIEW: Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto (manga, vol. 1) by Nami Sano, translated by Adrienne Beck

Sakamoto, a new and popular student, coolly and calmly deals with jealous bullies, a wasp, a kid who keeps getting bullied for his lunch money, a scheming girl who wants to make him her boyfriend, and a guy who uses him and other students as his slaves. There's also an extra story called “Broad Shoulders” that I think is unrelated to this series, but it's hard to tell because the main character looked an awful lot like Sakamoto. At any rate, the kid in that story was being bullied for his shoulder pads for some bizarre reason.

I found out about this series via a review somewhere, and I was really excited about it. I figured it would be humorous and weird. Instead, the humor generally fell flat, and the whole thing was weird in an uncanny valley sort of way. The characters looked just “off” enough that I was too busy being creeped out to enjoy this much. I really wasn't a fan of the artwork, which was a little too stiff for my tastes.

REVIEW: Chi's Sweet Home (manga, vol. 12) by Konami Kanata, translated by Ed Chavez

This post contains lots of spoilers (right down to the description).

The Yamadas are going to France, and they have a difficult decision to make: should they notify Chi's original owner that they have her, or should they just continue on as they have been? The decision is basically made for them when they find Chi's mom, hurt after being hit by a car (don't worry, she's fine). Although Yohei is resistant, the Yamadas eventually give Chi up to her original owner. What they didn't count on was that Chi would miss them enough to try to go find them.

I probably wouldn't have minded if this series had gone on to be as massive as Skip Beat! or Naruto, so I was a little sad to have reached this final volume. My expectations were also maybe a bit too high. In the end, I felt this volume was a little too rushed and pushed some of its emotional buttons a bit too hard.

REVIEW: Attack on Titan: Junior High (manga, vol. 1) by Saki Nakagawa, based on Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama, translated by William Flanagan

In this Attack on Titan parody series, all the Attack on Titan characters are junior high students – including the titans. Eren still hates the titans with his entire being, but his reasons are now ridiculous and viewed by his fellow students as racist. Annie, meanwhile, loathes Eren because his ridiculous reason for hating the titans has now made it impossible for her to openly say what her favorite food is, for fear that she will be mocked.

Eren hears about the Survey Club, a secret club that works to learn the titans' weaknesses, and instantly wants to join. However, since the Survey Club is supposed to be a secret, he still has to join an official club and ends up in the Wall Cleanup Club. On the plus side, at least the Wall Cleanup Club has cool vertical maneuvering gear.

Armin enters the picture when he's forced to attend school in order to give his class a chance of winning special ramen. Later, all the first years battle against the upperclassmen. The losers will be forced to go to the school's folk dance with the titans.

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Clover: Twin Lovers (manga) by QuinRose, art by Kei Shichiri, translated by Angela Liu

In the Country of Hearts, Alice thought of Dee and Dum as rambunctious little brothers. In the Country of Clover, however, they spend most of their time in their adult forms, and Alice is confused and embarrassed by her budding feelings for them. She's also worried that, at some point, they'll want her to choose between them. She likes them both equally and doesn't know how she could possibly do that.

The twins are fairly low on my list of favorite lover interests for Alice, for a lot of reasons. One, I'm not a fan of relationships involving a main character and twins – it comes too close to twincest, which I also dislike. Two, the twins are gleefully violent. Yes, a lot of the Wonderland guys are violent, but they don't all revel in that violence quite as much as the twins. And three, the twins are usually very child-like, even in their adult forms. I'd argue that it's actually a little worse in their adult forms, because the disconnect between their appearance and their behavior is so jarring.

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Clover: The March Hare's Revolution (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Ryo Kazuki, translated by Angela Liu

This post includes spoilers.

In this Alice in the Country of Clover one-shot, Alice finds herself torn between dreams of home, in which her sister is disappointed in her for staying in Wonderland, and her budding feelings for Elliot. On the one hand, the violence Elliot is capable of when carrying out his work for the Hatter family scares her. On the other hand, she loves the side of him that's protective, goofy, and sweet. She doesn't know if he feels the same for her or if he's like her tutor back in the real world, just humoring her.

Elliot has always been pretty low on my list of favorite love interests for Alice, and this volume didn't change my mind. Her attraction to him in the franchise seems to mostly be based on her fascination with his rabbit ears. His personality, ranging from childish and joyful when with Alice and cold-blooded when working for Blood, has never really appealed to me. For some reason, even Dee and Dum, who are the most similar in personality to Elliot, appeal to me more.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vacation reading summary

I didn't get through as many books during my vacation as I had during past vacations, but I knew in advance that that was probably going to happen. I still took notes on everything, though, so here's what I should hopefully be posting about soon:
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: The March Hare's Revolution (one-shot)
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: Twin Lovers (one-shot)
  • Attack on Titan: Junior High (vol. 1)
  • Chi's Sweet Home (vol. 12 - Finished!) 
  • Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto (vol. 1)
  • Kobato (vol. 6 - Finished!)
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (vols. 1-3)
  • Natsume's Book of Friends (vols. 9-10)
  • A Silent Voice (vols. 3-7 - Finished!)
  • Skip Beat! (vols. 35-36)
That makes 18 volumes total, with 3 series finished up. Skip Beat!, Natsume's Book of Friends, and Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun were the best of the bunch. The worst was probably Attack on Titan: Junior High and Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto.

Manga wasn't the only thing I read. I also got through a few pages of Helen S. Wright's A Matter of Oaths and all of M.C.A. Hogarth's Mindtouch. I think I can safely say that Mindtouch has achieved the status of "comfort read" for me, although I still wish that Hogarth had ended it at a different point.

REVIEW: Mr. Holmes (live action movie)

Mr. Holmes is drama with mystery elements.

Review:

In the movie's present, Sherlock Holmes is 93 and World War II has recently ended. He has just returned from a trip to Japan to acquire jelly made from the prickly ash plant, which he hopes will help his rapidly failing memory. While tending his bees and living a generally quiet life, Holmes strikes up a friendship with Roger, his housekeeper's inquisitive and intelligent young son. It is Roger who helps Holmes remember more details about his last case, the one that prompted him to retire to the countryside.

Viewers get glimpses of Holmes's trip to Japan (his memory so bad that he wrote his host's name on one of his sleeve cuffs so that he wouldn't embarrass himself) and also his final case. In that case, Holmes investigated a woman whose husband was worried she was being used. She'd had two miscarriages, and the only thing that seemed to help her grief was the music lessons her husband encouraged her to take. However, she became obsessed with the music and seemed to think it allowed her to communicate with her dead children. Watson's version of the case indicated that it ended successfully, but Holmes knows that can't possibly be true. If it were, why would he have quit being a detective afterward?

REVIEW: Battle Creek, Season 1 (live action TV series)

Okay, time to try to write reviews again. I'll start off with Battle Creek. After I got home from vacation, I couldn't concentrate enough to read anything except Twitter and current news articles, so I binge-watched this instead. It's a comedy-drama mystery show. It's been canceled, so these 13 episodes are all viewers get.

Review:

The Battle Creek, Michigan police department is an under-funded joke, limping along with broken or non-existent equipment. Detective Russ Agnew hopes for help and improvements, but FBI Special Agent Milt Chamberlain isn't what he had in mind. Milt is friendly, well-liked, and backed by FBI manpower and technology. Russ doesn't trust him and resents how instantly good he seems to be at everything. He knows there must be a story behind Milt's apparent demotion to Battle Creek. He's determined to find out as much as he can, and outdo Milt while he's at it.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Back from vacation

I'm technically back from vacation, but not quite ready yet to write quickie review posts for everything. Today will be all about mopping up some final To Do list items before dragging my butt back into work tomorrow.

I haven't done an official tally yet, but, between my sister's kids and my post-election funk, my reading total was pathetic. Maybe 18 manga volumes and 1 book (reread). For perspective, last year I read 50 manga volumes, and the year before I managed to plow through 44 manga volumes and 2 books. Well, at least the write-ups should be quicker and easier to get through this year.
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