Saturday, August 29, 2020

REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ties That Bind (book) by Makoto Inoue, translated by Alexander O. Smith, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ties That Bind is the fifth light novel starring Hiromu Arakawa's characters from Fullmetal Alchemist, a fantasy action series. I bought my copy brand new.


Do not read this book unless you've at least made it through volume 4 of the manga, episode 10 of FMA: Brotherhood, or episode 25 of the first FMA anime.

Edward and Alphonse are training with Izumi in Dublith when they spot a book, The Evolution of the Body by Balerea Dell, in an old photograph. The book was banned, and all copies of it should have been destroyed, but the brothers decide to travel to the town of Lambsear in the hope that the bookstore and that particular book are still there. It might contain a clue that could lead them to the Philosopher's Stone, or information relating to successful human transmutation. Meanwhile, there have been a bunch of chimera attacks in the area, and Roy Mustang has been tasked with investigating and putting a stop to them. 

REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: Under the Faraway Sky (book) by Makoto Inoue, translated by Alexander O. Smith, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa

Fullmetal Alchemist: Under the Faraway Sky is the fourth light novel starring Hiromu Arakawa's characters from Fullmetal Alchemist, a fantasy action series.


This book is divided into two stories, "Under the Faraway Sky" and "Roy's Holiday." I'll discuss them separately.

"Under the Faraway Sky"

Edward and Alphonse Elric have now been traveling on their own for a year. Edward ends up with a cold, forcing them to stop at a nearby town for a while. The local doctor is busy, so the person he sends to give Edward a checkup is his assistant, who turns out to be Edward's best childhood friend back at Resembool, Pitt. It's a shock - when they were growing up, Pitt was just as much of a troublemaker as Edward, but now he's mature and pursuing a career he's interested in and that clearly helps people. It makes Edward a little jealous.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

REVIEW: Bamboo Blade, Part 1 (anime TV series)

Bamboo Blade is a combination of comedy, slice of life, and sports (specifically, kendo). It's licensed by Funimation.


Although Toraji Ishida was a talented kendo student, to the point that he beat his senpai and best friend on the team, as a kendo instructor he's an absolute loser. He puts almost no effort into instructing his students and does nothing about the rampant bullying a couple of the members engage in. It's gotten to the point where his kendo club has only one member left, Kirino. Then motivation enters Toraji's life, in the form of a bet. If the girls in his kendo club can win against the girls in his senpai's kendo club, he'll get free sushi for life at his senpai's relative's restaurant. Since Toraji is perpetually poor, this is a big deal.

First, however, he has to recruit some girls to the team. He lucks out, and his first recruit turns out to be amazing: Tamaki, the daughter of a kendo dojo master. His next recruits include a couple boys (who then get shuffled to the side for the most part), Miya-miya (the cutesy girlfriend of one of the boys), and a girl who was good at kendo in middle school but quit for some reason after she entered high school. Also, one of the club's absent members returns after failing in her efforts to become a great novelist and/or guitarist.

This series is 26 episodes long, and I own it in two parts. I'll be reviewing each part separately - this part contains episodes 1 to 13.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

REVIEW: Anime Supremacy (book) by Mizuki Tsujimura, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm

Anime Supremacy is a slice-of-life workplace story. It's licensed by Vertical. I bought my copy brand new.


The book is divided into four chapters (think of them as parts, if the idea of long chapters horrifies you - on the plus side, there are scene breaks that serve as good reading stopping points). The first three are devoted to particular protagonists while the last is an epilogue.

The first chapter deals with Kayako, a producer, who finds that working with the director she most idolizes isn't exactly the dream come true she expected it to be. The second chapter deals with Hitomi, a director working on the sort of series she dreamed about making when she first fell in love with anime. She struggles with getting everyone on her team on the right wavelength - her producer seems more focused on glamor and profits than anything else, and she can't seem to communicate well with the show's primary female voice actors. The third chapter deals with Kazuna, a key animator who finds herself roped into a marketing project she resents and doesn't feel particularly suited for.

All of these characters' paths cross at one point or another, and by the end all of their stories become tied together.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

REVIEW: Resident Evil: Degeneration (CGI animated movie)

Resident Evil: Degeneration is an action horror movie, part of the Resident Evil franchise.

This review includes slight spoilers.


I'm going to start this off by saying that I am not the target audience for this movie. My exposure to the Resident Evil franchise is almost solely limited to the live action movies. I've seen a small part of a Let's Play video of one of the games, something where Leon was the  playable character, and I once attempted to play one of the games and didn't even survive more that a few minutes (my first instinct was to try to shoot the zombie rather than avoid it like I was supposed to). I'm sure I missed out on a lot of backstory and world-building.

The movie begins at an airport. Claire Redfield's plane has landed, and she's waiting for her ride with a little girl named Rani when she spots Senator Ron Davis, a self-important guy who's easy to hate. Senator Davis is one of the stockholders of WilPharma, a controversial pharmaceutical company that Claire opposes. Anyway, they barely have a chance to say anything before a zombie attacks, a zombie-infested plane crashes into the airport, and the entire place dissolves into chaos. Luckily for Claire, Rani, and the senator, federal agent Leon S. Kennedy has been sent to the scene for reasons (terrorist threats), and he has time for a rescue mission. His team includes two members of the local Special Response Team, Angela and Greg, neither of whom have a clue what they're in for (even though Leon tells them).

REVIEW: Inside Out (CGI animated movie)

Inside Out is an animated drama with comedy and action elements. I bought my copy new.


When Riley was born, a place inside her manifested beings that each control one of five basic emotions: Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. Each of these being loves Riley and wants what's best for her. The very first emotion to manifest was Joy, and it is Joy who generally dominates Riley's control room.

When Riley is 11, her dad's job leads to the family moving from Minnesota, where she had lots of good memories, friends, a nice house, and hockey, to San Francisco. From the very beginning, it isn't a good experience. Their new house is crammed in between other buildings, doesn't have a yard, looks shabby, and has a dead mouse on the floor. The moving truck is going to be several days late. But Joy is Riley's dominant emotion, and so she tries to make the best of things. However, something strange is going on. For some reason Sadness keeps accidentally affecting Riley's memories, including the most sacred ones of all, her core memories, the ones that define who she is. 

REVIEW: Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper's Curse (graphic novel, vol. 2) by Kazu Kibuishi

Amulet is SFF (more heavily fantasy, but with robots). I bought my copy used.

This review contains mild spoilers.


Although Emily and Navin managed to rescue their mother, she is now unconscious and slowly dying of poison. They use Silas's house to travel to the city of Kanalis, where they hope to find medicine that can cure her. Unfortunately, the main ingredient for that medicine is the fruit of the Gadoba tree, which hundreds have died trying to obtain. Meanwhile, Prince Trellis has been taken back to his father, the Elf King, who once again sends him out to find and kill (or capture?) Emily because she's a Stonekeeper. Trellis is accompanied by Luger, one of the Elf King's henchmen, to ensure that he'll do the job right this time.

REVIEW: Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Kazu Kibuishi

Amulet is SFF (definitely fantasy, although the robots could be viewed as more sci-fi). According to Wikipedia, the series isn't quite complete yet but should end up being 9 volumes long. I found the first two at a used bookstore.


This begins with Emily and her parents on their way to pick up Emily's young brother, Navin. They get in an accident, and although Emily and her mother make it out, Emily's father is trapped in the car. When it slides off a cliff, he's still inside.

Two years later, Emily's mother is moving the whole family to a rundown house in a smaller, less expensive area. The place was previously owned by Emily's mother's grandfather, Silas, who used to create machines and puzzles. They're all working on cleaning the house up when Emily's mother is attacked by a tentacled monster that traps her, still alive, inside its belly. Emily and Navin chase after the monster and somehow end up in a strange fantasy world with only a talking amulet that Emily found among Silas's things to guide and protect them.

Monday, August 17, 2020

REVIEW: Gestalt (manga, vol. 2) by Yun Kouga, translated by Christine Schilling

Gestalt is a fantasy manga. It's licensed by VIZ Media. I got my copy of this used.


Warning: this review includes spoilers for volume 1.

Although Takara wants to beat Ouri, she doesn't want it badly enough to risk the death of her beloved Raimei. Ouri arrives and manages to save the day, although Dark Olivier's appearance is neither explained nor 100% dealt with. Then it's time to figure out the next step in the party's journey to the island of G. It turns out that there's a boat that leaves from Diohaan to G, but landmark gold pieces are the only things accepted as payment for that trip, and Ouri unwittingly sold the group's only landmark gold piece. Luckily, there's a way to get another one: a tournament that's only held once every five years, and that conveniently happens to be starting soon. The winner gets a landmark gold piece. Unfortunately, one of Ouri's siblings is also in the area and trying to get a landmark gold piece.

REVIEW: Get Out (live action movie)

Get Out is a horror movie. I bought my copy new.

This review includes spoilers.


When Chris's girlfriend, Rose, takes him to meet her family, he figures it's going to be awkward. He's black, Rose and her family are white, and Rose didn't bother to tell them she was dating a black man because she's 100% convinced they aren't racist. And yeah, it's awkward. Both of the family's employees are black, nearly the only black people in the area. Rose's brother is a bit hostile, and everyone else acts weird and/or brings up the first famous black person they can think of as a way to try to connect with Chris and prove they aren't racist. Chris loves Rose and figures he can put up with this, but the longer he's there, the more unsettling things become.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

REVIEW: Gestalt (manga, vol. 1) by Yun Kouga, translated by Christine Schilling

Gestalt is a fantasy series. It's licensed by VIZ Media. I bought this volume used.

This review includes slight spoilers.


According to the creation myth of Salsaroa, when the world began there were eight gods. Salsaroa commanded the other seven, and they all shaped the world. It was a happy time, until one of the seven gods, G, betrayed Salsaroa and was banished to a remote island along with his few human followers.

In this world's present, Father Olivier is a young priest who has left the Order (which he's not actually allowed to do) to seek out the island of G in the hope of getting his wish granted. Suzu, a dark elf, is sent by Father Messiah (lol) to bring Father Olivier back. However, by the time she tracks him down, Father Olivier has acquired a traveling companion, a mute slave named Ouri who he was reluctantly forced to accept as a gift. Ouri turns out to be sorcerer with some pretty big secrets, and she has become utterly devoted to Father Olivier.

REVIEW: In the Walnut (manga, vol. 1) by Toko Kawai

In the Walnut is contemporary BL manga with occasional mystery elements. It's licensed (or was licensed? not sure, seems like it might be out of print) by Digital Manga Publishing under their Juné imprint.

I usually try to list translators when I can, but for some reason this doesn't seem to have a translator credited anywhere on the volume, not even a translation company unless Juné did it in-house.

This review includes spoilers.


Tanizaki runs his grandfather's old art gallery, In the Walnut, which specializes in restoring and selling artwork in instances where the artwork's owner might not be interested in attracting too much attention or answering too many questions. Nakai is Tanizaki's lover, an aspiring filmmaker whose only subject is Tanizaki.

The volume is very episodic. In the first story, a piece of modern art by Lui Shiina is stolen from a gallery. Later, a young man named Kusama brings Tanizaki a painting and asks him to strip it down to it undercoat, no questions asked. If you think that sounds fishy, you are correct.

In the second story, "Liar Angel," Nakai hits his head and is taken to the hospital. When Tanizaki goes to pick him up, he meets a young boy named Ryota who desperately wants to buy Paul Klee's "Forgetful Angel," his sister's favorite painting. His sister has always had bad eyesight and is beginning to go blind. Ryota wants her to be able to see the original painting before her surgery. 

In the third story, "I'm Not Hamlet," a mysterious client wants to sell a painting she inherited. It's supposedly by Thomas Gainsborough (spelled primarily as "Gainsboro" in the text, but also "Gainsborough"), but it isn't any of the ones listed in his body of work. The client has paperwork identifying it as the real deal, but Tanizaki still can't decide whether to take this risk - it would mean taking out a large loan, and if he can't find a buyer it would go badly for him. Then the situation is complicated by the arrival of one of Tanizaki's grandfather's old rivals.

The volume ends with several extras (almost a quarter of the total page count, which is why I'm reviewing it as part of the whole) that reveal how Tanizaki and Nakai first met and became a couple, how Tanizaki became a model and why he stopped, and how the two of them ended up where they were at the beginning of the first story.

REVIEW: Karneval Omnibus (manga, vol. 1) by Touya Mikanagi, translated by Su Mon Han

Karneval is SFF with mystery elements. I'm pretty sure I bought my copy new but steeply discounted, as part of the closure of my town's only new bookstore.


This starts with a child-like teen (young man?) named Nai being handed over to Lady Mine, possibly for sex but more likely for food (or, you know, both). They're interrupted by the arrival of a small band of thieves. The leader of the group, Gareki, sees Nai's bracelet and recognizes it as something valuable - it's the ID used by Circus, a special group devoted to hunting Varuga. He helps Nai escape in the hope of getting his bracelet and selling it. Nai, meanwhile, would happily give it to him but wants to ask permission from its owner first, someone named Karoku. Karoku is an important person to Nai, and he badly wants to find him again.

Gareki figures that Karoku must be a member of Circus, so he focuses on getting Nai to them. Unfortunately, Nai is a bit stupid and requires constant supervision. When they do eventually get in touch with Circus, there's no Karoku, but a little investigation results in some shocking revelations about Nai's identity.

Friday, August 14, 2020

REVIEW: Better Love (book) by Daisy Prescott

Better Love is the fourth book in Prescott's Wingmen series. It's a contemporary romance. I bought my copy brand new at the author's table at Book Bonanza 2019.

This review includes spoilers.


Dan is now known as the "Pizza Man," the semi-reclusive owner of Whidbey Island's best pizza place. However, once upon a time he was the head of a corporate empire devoted to bread. Back in those days, he dated his PR specialist, Roslyn, and probably would have married her if their paths hadn't gone in different directions. At some point, he realized that the corporate world and all his money were doing things to him that he didn't like, so he gave it all up (except his Porsche, and more than enough money to live comfortably) and escaped to Whidbey, where he could be an ordinary guy. Unfortunately, Roslyn hadn't wanted to leave her own life and career behind.

A friend of Dan's needs some PR help, and Dan knows just who to call. After all these years, he's never forgotten Roslyn or gotten over her. But does she feel the same? And will they be able to make this second chance work out?

A more personal post

The university I work at had some layoffs a few weeks ago. My library managed to escape without any losses, but that's mostly because we're already understaffed - one person got a job someplace else, one of our librarians passed away, and we've just plain been understaffed for a couple years now, even though not everyone's willing to admit it.

I knew there was a chance I could lose my job, but I figured there was more of chance I'd lose my relatively new employee. I was grateful that neither of those things happened (this time around, anyway - we've all been warned there's a good chance there will be more layoffs in the future), but the work situation is taking a rapid turn for the worse. Our director is retiring, and after weeks of being told that her boss would be taking over as interim director, it was just announced that someone completely different would be doing the job instead.

The news was a gut punch, because that particular person is one of the reasons we're understaffed in certain areas and have high turnover in others. I know for a fact that several incidents this person was involved in have been documented, reported, and/or witnessed by lot of people. At the moment, it's only an interim position, so hopefully the person can behave themselves for a bit and not act abusively towards others (I'm not holding my breath considering what the last couple weeks have been like), but interim positions sometimes become permanent.

I've known for years that my workplace wasn't healthy, but I didn't think it was irredeemable. Now I'm not so sure. Well, I'm crossing my fingers that the next few months are survivable and hoping that there really is a search committee for a new director (we haven't gotten any updates and no one seems to know who's on it, so I'm doubtful). And in the meantime I guess I'll start preparing to abandon ship. My anxiety is going to be an issue, but hopefully I can push through it.

In the meantime, there might be a higher than usual number of reviews of things I dislike, as I try to gradually downsize my collection. Or no reviews at all, if the stress at work gets to be too much and I end up in a reviewing slump.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

REVIEW: Management (live action movie)

Management is a romantic comedy. I'm pretty sure my copy was gifted to me.


Mike (Steve Zahn) is a directionless loser who works as the night manager at his parents' motel. One day the motel gets a new guest, Sue (Jennifer Aniston). She's clearly way out of Mike's league, but that doesn't stop Mike from falling head over heels for her. He awkwardly (and creepily) attempts to flirt with her, bringing her a "complimentary" bottle of wine that was actually swiped from a storage closet. Although Sue sees through his efforts, they inexplicably work, she lets him touch her butt, and they end up having sex in the laundry room before she leaves. This results in Mike imprinting upon her, and suddenly Sue can't go anywhere without him eventually showing up.

REVIEW: Animation Runner Kuromi 2 (anime OVA)

Animation Runner Kuromi 2 is a comedy. I reviewed the first Animation Runner Kuromi way back in 2009 (when my posting style involved many more spoilers - I pretty much lay out the whole thing, so beware if that would bother you).


Kuromi is still at Studio Petit but now has more experience. Unfortunately, this time around she has been given an impossible task: act as head of production for three anime series at once, all done by Studio Petit, with no corresponding increase in staff. As usual, most of the animators continue to make excuses and leave before all of their work is done. There's no way they'll manage to simultaneously complete three series when they could previously barely manage one.

In steps veteran producer Takashimadaira to show Kuromi how to handle the situation. Unfortunately, his way of doing things involves drastically speeding up the schedule and cutting lots of corners. Everyone at the studio is unhappy, and the animation quality is suffering. Is there some way the situation could be saved?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

REVIEW: One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta (anime movie)

One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta is a fantasy action movie, part of the wider One Piece franchise. I bought my copy new, albeit from a bargain bin.

This review includes spoilers.


When the Straw Hat Pirates rescue a cross-dresser named Mr. 2 Bon Clay, most of them are surprised and amazed by his ability to take on the appearance of anyone he touches with his left hand. However, Vivi is shocked and horrified, because she recognized him and one of the appearances he used in his demonstrations - he works with a villain named Crocodile, and the appearance he took on was that of Vivi's father, Cobra, the king of Alabasta.

Vivi and the Straw Hat Pirates travel to Alabasta and learn that Crocodile is setting the stage for the kingdom to destroy itself. He's using a special powder to mess with the area's weather and make it look like Cobra is stealing neighboring areas' rain, and he's using Cobra's face (with Mr. 2 Bon Clay's help) to fuel a rebellion against the king. Meanwhile, the real Cobra thinks a group of his own people (the rebels) are attacking for no reason. Vivi wants to clear everything up, but the situation is so messy and tense that no one's willing to listen. Plus, Crocodile has other plans up his sleeve.

Monday, August 10, 2020

REVIEW: Searching (live action movie)

Searching is a mystery/thriller movie. I bought my copy brand new.


This movie is a technology's eye view of its characters - everything happens on a screen. It starts with family movie video clips and searches that paint a picture of Margot Kim's life: her childhood and the years up to her mother's eventual death from lymphoma. Almost two years later, Margot's relationship with her father, David, has deteriorated. They still talk to each other, but not about anything important. This becomes a problem when David wakes up one day to find that he missed three calls from Margot. 

He doesn't think anything of it, at first, but he gradually comes to the realization that she's missing. A detective is assigned to help find her, and David quickly finds out that he knows almost nothing about what was really going on in Margot's life. But he has her laptop, and he's determined to chase every lead it gives him if that's what it takes.

REVIEW: Ready to Fall (book) by Daisy Prescott

Ready to Fall is a contemporary romance. I bought my copy brand new from the author's table at Book Bonanza 2019.


John Day is understandably concerned when he hears the smoke detector going off in his neighbor's house - as far as he knows, Maggie's in Portland. He heads over to check things out and is surprised to find a skittish brunette named Diane trying to light a fire in Maggie's fireplace. It turns out that Diane is going through an ugly divorce, and a mutual friend helped her arrange to stay at Maggie's place while she's gone. Diane's a city girl, but spending time on this quiet little island might be a good way for her to figure out what she wants to do with herself after her divorce.

Although she intrigues him, John initially figures he'll steer clear of Diane. He's got enough on his plate as it is, what with his own messy relationship with Kelly, an old high school crush of his who barely knew he existed back then but who likes him a lot more now. Unfortunately, although Kelly swore she was in the process of getting divorced, it's now looking like she might be getting cold feet. 

John isn't interested in risking his heart again, and neither is Diane, but they do get along pretty well. Surely they can be friends, and maybe flirt a bit but still stick to a "no sex" rule. Right.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

REVIEW: So I'm a Spider, So What?, Vol. 1 (book) by Okina Baba, illustrations by Tsukasa Kiryu, translated by Jenny McKeon

So I'm a Spider, So What? is yet another isekai (basically, portal fantasy) light novel. It's licensed by Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

This review contains minor spoilers.


A battle between a Hero and a Demon Lord in another world somehow results in a spell entering our world and killing off an entire Classical Literature class in a Japanese high school. Every single person in that class is then reborn in another world. This book's primary protagonist (who thus far has not been given a name, unless I missed it) is reborn as a spider. Specifically, as a Small Lesser Taratect, a type of monster.

This new world is set up like a fantasy RPG. Literally. Everything anyone does gradually levels up their stats and can potentially give them special skills and titles, just like in an RPG. Unfortunately, Spider MC (the name I'll be using for the book's heroine) has no game guides she can consult - it's all trial and error in a quest to survive, because she's unfortunately stuck inside one of this world's biggest underground labyrinths with a bunch of other beings who want to kill and/or eat her.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

REVIEW: Beast Blood, Vol. 1 (book) by Sato Fumino, illustrations by Akira Egawa, translated by Charis Messier

Beast Blood
could either be classified as sci-fi romance or science fiction with romantic aspects. As far as this first volume goes, I'm leaning towards the latter. This is licensed by Cross Infinite World.


(Content warning for on-page attempted rape, "rape as backstory," and a villain who gets off on watching videos of women getting raped and murdered.)

This is set on another planet, one that's been colonized for a while but that still has lots of dangerous and relatively lawless areas. Euphemia is a botanist who specializes in a plant called Night Bloom, the seeds of which can be used to produce a highly addictive narcotic known as Nightz. Specifically, Euphemia's goal is to eradicate Night Blooms from the face of the planet. No more Night Blooms means no more Nightz.

This unfortunately brings her and her sister Erica, the mayor, to the attention of some of the area's worst criminals. At the start of the book, Euphemia falls into a trap and would have been raped and murdered had it not been for the arrival of Zelaide (Zel), a Beast Blood. Beast Bloods are commonly known as animalistic murderers, but Zel turns out to be surprisingly kind, and Euphemia is drawn to him. She finds herself wanting to see more of him, and gets her wish when her sister arranges for Zel to be her bodyguard.

The status of Booklikes

It might not actually be possible to start a new account on Booklikes, but just in case, I thought I'd advise anyone considering it to steer clear. The site was really great a few years ago, a solid competitor for Goodreads in the world of book social media. Then about four years ago it started having problems, and it's now basically unusable. Even worse, it doesn't seem to be possible to delete your account anymore.

Various other folks who used the site have theorized that its massive influx of spammers are responsible for the site's recent slowdown. The few contacts people have had from Booklikes staff indicate that Booklikes folks have worked on it and done everything they plan to do...which amounted to nothing. The site still works like crap, barely anything loads, and spam bots multiply like bunnies. Another Booklikes user noted that they may have started using ads on the site that are known for being a source of spam, so that doesn't help either. That was part of the last straw that prompted me to try to delete my account.

Except that I couldn't. Every time I tried, the site timed out. The best I could manage was changing my profile picture to a blank white square. I'm not even sure I can delete individual posts.

So at this point, there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about my Booklikes account. It'll have to remain as is, but I no longer plan to post there or check how things are going. Booklikes is essentially dead. From here on out, I'll just be posting my reviews on this blog, Goodreads (books only), and LibraryThing (all reviews from my blog, with the added bonus of spoiler tags).