Saturday, November 24, 2018

REVIEW: Hikaru no Go (manga, vols. 13, 15-23) story by Yumi Hotta, art by Takeshi Obata, supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan), translated by Naoko Amemiya

Hikaru no Go is a series I used to love and recently realized I'd never finished. Unfortunately, it's difficult for me to describe it in a way that makes it sound as interesting as it is. It's based on the game Go and stars a boy, Hikaru, who knows nothing about Go but finds himself the sudden companion of the ghost of a former Go instructor, the elegant and often silly Fujiwara no Sai. Over the course of the series, Hikaru learns about Go, begins developing his own skills and playing style, and eventually becomes a professional Go player with his own rivalries. His longtime rival is Akira, a young Go prodigy who was a bit lonely at the start of the series and then found himself chasing after Hikaru, not realizing that the person he'd really played against was Sai via Hikaru.

Sai's desire to improve his Go and attain the Divine Move (a perfect game of Go) has kept him around all this time, and he previously played via a famous Go player named Shusaku. Although Shusaku was an accomplished Go player in his own right, he allowed Sai to make all his moves for him after Said appeared in his life. Hikaru, on the other hand, did not do that, and it both allowed Hikaru to grow as a player and added some conflict as Sai began to worry about not getting to play the games he'd hoped to play.

According to this blog, I stopped reading this series at volume 12. I had a fairly good idea of what happened after that, due to having been gifted a bootleg version of the anime by someone who insisted I'd enjoy it (she was right), and I'd leafed through a Japanese edition of the final volume, matching it against text-only fan translations as best I could. Official translations were definitely a better way to go, though, and I'm glad I finally got to finish this series...even though I had to skip volume 14 because the library no longer owned it.

As usual, since this is one of my vacation reading posts, you can expect major spoilers from this point on.

REVIEW: The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vols. 2-4) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck

The Girl from the Other Side is a series I considered not adding to my vacation reading list, since I figured it'd be one I'd eventually want to buy. However, considering my complete lack of shelf space (I currently have a couple piles of books in my living room that I'm not sure how to store), I figured it might be best to read the series via library checkouts instead.

At this point, it's tough to say whether this will end up on my list of series I want to periodically reread or not. On the one hand, there are sad and chilling moments that make me suspect the series' ending will be like a punch in the gut. On the other hand, there are occasional parts that are a little hard to follow (have readers learned everything Teacher knows about the curse or not? I'm not sure), events occasionally progress in odd ways (we never see how Shiva convinces Auntie not to take her and go - the problem just evaporates), and I suspect that my ultimate feelings about the series will rely a lot on what Nagabe eventually reveals about the curse and Shiva's connection to it.

I had expected this to mostly be a slice-of-life series about Teacher raising Shiva, so the brief return to the Insiders and Shiva's aunt's fate took me by surprise. I definitely plan on continuing this, although, for now at least, it's probably a good thing that I'm doing it via library checkouts. Oof, I need bigger bookcases. If anything ever prompts me to buy a house, it will be my book collection.

Reminder: this is one of my vacation reading posts, so you can expect major spoilers from here on out.

REVIEW: Delicious in Dungeon (manga, vols. 3-4) by Ryoko Kui, translated by Taylor Engel

Delicious in Dungeon is a food manga featuring fantasy foods so delicious-looking, you'll wish you could eat them.

I was iffy about this series when I read it during my last vacation. I decided to continue on, and I'm glad I did. Kui didn't drag things out as much as I expected, and I enjoyed the combination of weirdness, humor, and occasional serious moments. I'd like to continue this series during my next vacation.

REVIEW: Black Butler (manga, vols. 24-26) by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

Black Butler is one of my long-running vacation reads. Although I sometimes wish Toboso would finally get on with it, return to the primary storyline, and wrap things up, it's been nice to have this series to turn to when I need something with clean, gorgeous linework and easy-to-follow action.

I saved these three volumes for the very end of my vacation and thought I'd only have time for a couple of them. However, considering how volume 25 ended, reading volume 26 was a must, so I bit the bullet and made do with a little less sleep. I'm still not sure how I feel about the big twist in volume 26. On the one hand, it's nice that this series can still manage to surprise me. On the other hand, I feel like Toboso accomplished this by cheating. I doubt this particular surprise was planned since the series' beginning, and I can think of numerous spots where this information should have come up in past volumes and yet didn't. It irks me.

Okay, from here on out, prepare for major spoilers. As usual, I'll be cross-posting to Booklikes, Goodreads, and Librarything, where I can make use of spoiler tags.

Friday, November 23, 2018

REVIEW: Assassination Classroom (manga, vols. 1-2) by Yusei Matsui, translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki

Another post-vacation review post. When it comes to my manga posts, I'm going to write about each volume but collect them all together in a single post. Be warned, these are going to be particularly filled with spoilers.

Assassination Classroom is a series I've been wanting to try for a while. I think I own the first season of the anime, although I haven't gotten around to watching it yet. Since I was able to get hold of a couple volumes of the manga during my vacation, I figured I'd give it a shot and see what I could expect from the anime.

It's tough to say whether this series will continue to work for me a few more volumes down the line, but I mostly liked these first two, as long as I didn't think too hard about the setup.

REVIEW: Khoobsurat (live action movie)

Khoobsurat is an Indian romantic comedy. This is another one of the movies I watched during my vacation.

A royal family hires Milli, a sports physiotherapist, to help King Shekhar Singh Rathore learn to walk. He was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident and has since refused to do anything that might help him regain the use of his legs. Milli becomes determined to somehow convince him to help her help him. Much to the queen's displeasure, she can't seem to help befriending Divya, the princess who'd like nothing more than the become an actress. Then there's Vikram, the handsome prince she begins to fall for...who happens to be engaged.

I really wanted to like this. The movie was bright and pretty, and Sonam Kapoor and Fawad Khan were a good-looking couple. Unfortunately, Milli got on my nerves. Her clumsiness and complete inability to adapt to social situations that weren't "hanging out with my close family members at home" were so overdone that I initially thought she was deliberately being awful. I eventually realized that this was supposed to be an indicator of natural cuteness on her part, but it didn't really help me like her much.

Vikram was good eye candy, but that's basically all he was. I strongly disliked that the plot hinged on him falling in love with Milli even though he was already engaged to someone else. And the thing was, his fiancee seemed to be perfectly decent. She wasn't given enough screen-time for me to judge her personality (less than five minutes), and I got the impression that the main reason she and Vikram never spent any time together was because, if they had, Milli would have had to do more than trip and smile to keep his attention.

This was decent enough to watch during a plane ride, but I wouldn't otherwise recommend it.

REVIEW: Death Note (live action movie)

This is the first of my post-vacation review posts. If you're not familiar with those, they tend to be filled with spoilers because most of them are for series I only read once a year in large chunks, and my spoilers are the best way for me to keep track of what happened. The best place to see my reviews if you're really worried about spoilers is Goodreads, LibraryThing, or Booklikes. My movie reviews, like this one, are only cross-posted to LibraryThing.

All right, on to the post. Death Note is a live action loose adaptation of Tsugumi Ohba's Death Note manga. It should be noted that a live action movie adaptation of the manga already exists. I reviewed it way back in 2008 (be warned, my reviewing style was much different back then) and, although it differed from the manga in many ways, it was still a much more faithful adaptation than Netflix's version.

I wasn't originally going to watch and review this movie due to its issues with whitewashing and my suspicions that it would be a terrible adaptation, but since Netflix decided to go ahead and make a sequel, I figured I'd finally take a look at what they were working with.

This adaptation stars Light Turner, a loser white kid who thinks he's much smarter than he actually is, as opposed to the original work's Light Yagami, who, as I recall, was respected, reasonably well-liked, and genuinely smart. This new Light comes across something called the Death Note, which he almost immediately uses to decapitate a bully. Although Ryuk, the demon (I don't recall the movie using the word "shinigami," but I could be mistaken) tied to the notebook, terrifies Light, that doesn't stop him from using the notebook some more. His next victim is the man who killed his mother.

After Light excitedly lets his cheerleader crush in on his new secret, the two go on what is essentially a killing spree with the notebook, killing hundreds of criminals. But of course that can't last forever - Light finds himself with some hard decisions to make after a task force is put together to catch "Kira" (the name Light gives the media, in the hope that people will think this mysterious killer is Japanese), headed by his own father. Light's father's efforts are aided by a mysterious investigator known only as L.

Long weekend plans

I got what I think might have been mild food poisoning a couple days ago, which miraculously wrapped up in time for me to enjoy turkey and pie. I don't go out for Black Friday shopping and only do a little checking for online deals because finding too many good things overwhelms me, so my plans for the next few days include playing games (at the moment, Cattails, Backstage Pass, and Memoranda), watching more Love 020, and writing a few of my post-vacation review posts. Let's see how much I can get through...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Studio Ghibli Fest 2018 ends with a whimper

I was going to attend the last movie in Studio Ghibli Fest today, Castle in the Sky, but it's been mysteriously canceled without warning at my local movie theater, so I guess that's the end of my Studio Ghibli Fest 2018 adventure.

That makes the second cancellation in this Fathom Events series, which isn't a good look for the theater. The last time this happened, it was due to them having agreed to another showing of a different movie and having to find space for it. I suppose I can understand that, but it's still annoying that they decided to cancel a movie that literally only had three showings scheduled. I was told this wasn't going to happen again, which makes me wonder what happened with Castle in the Sky. If they try to claim it was cancelled due to low attendance at the other Studio Ghibli Fest showings, they only have themselves to blame, since they made zero effort to market it. They didn't even have movie posters or signage at the theater announcing the showings - you had to have checked the Advanced Tickets section of the Cinemark website to know they were happening.

Back from vacation

I don't think I announced it here, but I went on vacation for a couple weeks. I visited my family and read a lot, although not as much as I did in previous years. If I recorded everything correctly, I managed to finish 37 manga and graphic novel volumes and 1 novel. I also watched three movies (the new Fahrenheit 451, Netflix's Death Note, and Khoobsurat) and way too many episodes of Seasons 1-2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I don't recall disliking Xander when I first watched the series, but I loathed him this time around) and a Chinese drama called Love 020.

The graphic novels and manga I got through included:
  • Assassination Classroom (remember all those inspiring teacher/delinquent students movies in the '80s and '90s? this is a bit like that, only the teacher is an alien planning on destroying the Earth in a year and the students are trying to kill him)
  • Black Butler (which took a shocking and not altogether welcome turn, although maybe this means the series is finally inching towards its endgame)
  • Delicious in Dungeon
  • Fence 
  • The Girl from the Other Side
  • Guardians of the Louvre
  • Hikaru no Go (I realized I'd never actually finished the manga, although I've seen the anime and remember matching up the dialogue bubbles in Japanese editions of the manga to terrible fan translations)
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
  • Natsume's Book of Friends
  • Skip Beat!
  • The Tea Dragon Society
I purposely concentrated on things I was pretty sure I'd enjoy, so there wasn't anything I hated, although my least favorite of the volumes I read was probably Guardians of the Louvre. It was very pretty, and there were certain sections I liked more than others, but it wasn't really to my taste. I don't know that I can pick a favorite out of everything I read, but the artwork for The Tea Dragon Society was lovely, Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun made me laugh, and I could easily have read 10+ more volumes of Natsume's Book of Friends. Fence was a bit rough around the edges but appealing all the same - although it isn't Japanese manga, it could be a great series for fans of sports manga/anime.

The one novel I read was Christina Dodd's Because I'm Watching, which I didn't realize was the third book in a series. My mom signed both of us up for a reader conference called Book Bonanza, and Christina Dodd is one of the authors who's planning to attend. Over the next few months, I'd like to read more books by other authors going to this event.

You can expect my usual spoiler-filled short takes on everything I read in the coming weeks. I can't spoiler tag things here, but I'll be making use of spoiler tags when I cross-post to Booklikes, LibraryThing, and Goodreads, if you're interested. I'd also like to post a bit about the movies I watched, although those will only be cross-posted to LibraryThing.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

REVIEW: Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime (book) by Ron Stallworth

Black Klansman is a memoir. I purchased my copy.

This review technically contains spoilers.


In this memoir, Ron Stallworth writes about becoming the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department and doing a bit of undercover work investigating the Black Panthers before eventually becoming deeply involved in an investigation into local KKK activities. And by "deeply involved," I mean that he accidentally ended up in an undercover investigation as the voice of a white man named Ron Stallworth who was supposedly interested in joining the Klan. He communicated with KKK members over the phone, while a narcotics officer named Chuck acted as the face of white Ron Stallworth when face-to-face meetings were necessary.

REVIEW: Anna Dressed in Blood (book) by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood is YA urban fantasy. I purchased my copy.


After Cas's father died, killed by one of the ghosts he hunted, Cas inherited his athame and began following in his footsteps. Although his mother knows what he does and does her best to help him with any protective magic she has at her disposal, Cas has never told her his ultimate goal: he wants to become skilled enough to find and kill his father's murderer.

The ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood will be his final one before confronting the ghost that killed his father. She's powerful - if Cas can beat her, he should be able to handle anything. But Anna isn't like other ghosts Cas has gone up against, and there are things going on in Cas's new city that he is unprepared for.

REVIEW: The Haunting of Hill House (live action TV series)

Netflix's new The Haunting of Hill House TV series is supposedly an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. In reality, they have very little in common, despite the writer's frequent inclusion of lines straight out of the original book. Honestly, I'm not really a fan of the book and even I'm kind of mad that this series got to call itself an "adaptation."

The story: Hugh and Olivia Crain are a house flipping couple who decide that buying Hill House, flipping it, and selling it would be a great idea. It'll be their last job before setting down with their kids and building their dream home. Unfortunately, their time in the house starts to sour almost immediately. Their youngest daughter, Nelly, keeps having nightmares about the "Bent Neck Lady." Her twin brother, Luke, has seen terrifying things in the house as well, and he keeps seeing a mysterious girl in the nearby forest. Then one night something happens. Hugh, terrified, packs up all the kids and takes them to a hotel, leaving his wife behind. When the kids next see him, their mother is dead and the tabloids are plastered with news about the haunted Hill House.

Years later, their last night at Hill House and the horrible days afterward have burned themselves into the Crain siblings' lives. Nell still wakes up from nightmares about the Bent Neck Lady. Luke is a junkie. Steven, the eldest Crain sibling, makes money by writing books about hauntings he doesn't believe in, including the family's time at Hill House. Shirley is a funeral home director, "fixing" the aftermath of death the only way she knows how. Theo is a skilled child therapist who works hard to keep anyone from getting too close to her.

REVIEW: My Neighbor Totoro (book) art and story by Hayao Miyazaki, text by Tsugiko Kubo, translated by Jim Hubbert

My Neighbor Totoro is a Japanese Middle Grade (I think?) novel with fantasy aspects, based on the movie of the same title. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Mei, Satsuki, and their father, Tatsuo, move into a crumbling old house in the country in order to be closer to the sanatorium where their mother, Yasuko, is recovering from tuberculosis. The girls adapt to their new rural life pretty quickly, although four-year-old Mei doesn't respond well to being left with their neighbor while Tatsuo is at work and Satsuki is at school.

Both girls realize there's something a little strange about their house when they first arrive. They briefly spot little beings called soot sprites, and Kanta, the boy who lives near them, tells them that their house is haunted. Then Mei starts talking about having met a being she calls Totoro and who Tatsuo believes is a forest spirit. Satsuki longs to see Totoro too.

REVIEW: In the Miso Soup (book) by Ryu Murakami, translated by Ralph McCarthy

In the Miso Soup is a little difficult to classify. I suppose you could call it a mixture of horror and mystery. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

This review includes spoilers.


Kenji is a "nightlife guide" for English-speaking tourists in Japan. Basically, he takes guys on tours of what the Japanese sex industry has to offer. Although Kenji gets quite a few customers via his little ad in Tokyo Pink Guide (a magazine about the sex industry in Tokyo), the work isn't as good as he expected it to be. He can never seem to save up enough for that trip to America he wants.

Kenji has seen a lot of foreigners, but his latest client, Frank, is different. On the surface, he's a loud and friendly New Yorker who wants to go everywhere and have some sex along the way. There are moments, however, when something dark and ugly peers out of Frank's eyes. Frank hired him for three nights, right up until New Year's Eve, and by the end of their first night together, Kenji becomes convinced that Frank is the serial killer who's been raping girls involved in compensated dating, killing them, and dismembering their bodies (not necessarily in this order).

REVIEW: The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún (manga, vol. 1) story and art by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck

The Girl from the Other Side is a fantasy series. I purchased this volume.


My vacation is coming up, which means it's almost time for me to read massive amounts of manga and then write short, spoiler-filled takes for each volume. One of the series I requested is The Girl from the Other Side, despite my suspicion that I'd enjoy it enough to wish I'd just bought the whole thing instead of reading it via the library. A few of the later volumes have come in, but volume 1 is still checked out by somebody, so I decided to read my personal copy prior to going on my trip. (I don't own any of the volumes after this one.)

In this first volume we meet Shiva, a little girl, and the being she calls Teacher. Any day now, Shiva expects her aunt to come pick her up and Teacher, unwilling to make her sad, doesn't tell her that she was abandoned. Her aunt will never come for her and is possibly already dead.

According to humans, Outsiders are cursed beings belonging to the God of Darkness, and anyone who lives outside their walls must, by definition, be an Outsider. Teacher, an Outsider, tells Shiva that she must never touch beings like him (?). If she does, she'll become cursed and will turn into a hideous beast.