Archive for the 'review' Category

House of Five Leaves GN4

by dm00

No, the new character is not the girl from Ristorante Paradiso

Volume four of Natsume Ono’s wonderful House of Five Leaves manga finally leaves the anime behind. A new potential leaf appears for the gang of kidnappers — a go-between, who offers his negotiating services to kidnap victims’ families to negotiate with the kidnappers. Meanwhile, on the sly, he’s part of the kidnapping gang. Or that’s his proposal, at least.

But Masa is the only member of the gang who takes a liking to him. Yaichi, in particular, does not like the fellow — a case of like repelling like, as it develops.

The series is starting to take a darker turn, and Yaichi, in particular, reveals more about the darkness in his nature and his willingness to betray old comrades. Future volumes promise to skirt tragedy.

If you’ve been waiting for new material, or if the anime left you curious about Yaichi’s true nature, now might be a good time to start in this series. If you’ve been reading the series all along, I think you’ll find that Natsume Ono has decided to step it up a notch.

It’s still slow, with little action, but you can feel the tension building. Something is going to happen soon.

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Book Girl and the Captive Fool

by dm00

Let the book fairy be your guide

This weekend I read the third Book Girl novel: Book Girl and the Captive Fool.

In this book, Tohko discovers that someone is cutting pages out of library books. This offends her (despite her own habits where books are concerned), because the person is taking some of the best parts — like taking the strawberry off the top of a cake — and leaving the rest.

She drags Konoha into an investigation, and they catch the culprit, red-handed. As penance, the culprit must take part in the play the Book Club is putting on for the cultural festival — a tale of love, friendship, and betrayal. Soon, it becomes clear that the play and the situation of some of their classmates is similar….

My gosh, these things are dark: suicide, murder, assault, childhood trauma producing warped psyches. And throughout, charming book-fairy Tohko flits among the bloodshed and misery.
Continue reading ‘Book Girl and the Captive Fool’

Book Girl and the double-layered mysteries

by dm00

Watch out, Yomiko, here comes Tohko Amano

I was prompted to pop these two books to the top of my reading queue after reading this review of the second book at Erica Friedman’s blog. I’m glad I did, and I can’t wait for the third volume in the series to come out in August.

Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime

Tohko Amano is a “book girl”. She lives on books — devouring them. Literally and literately. She will read a page, then tear it out and chew it slowly, relishing the flavors and describing them in terms that would make a gourmet blush. The narrator of this novel teases her for being a “book-eating goblin”, but she is a charming one.

To feed her habit, she has ensnared Konoha Inoue, a first-year student as the only other member of her book-club. Every day after school she challenges him to write an improvisational story on a theme of her choosing, which she will then consume. To feed her taste for romantic adventure, she has installed a mailbox on the school-yard, with the note that “describe them for us, and the Book Club will solve your romantic problems”. Their first customer is a clumsy duckling of a first-year student who has a crush on a member of the archery club.

After hearing her story, Tohko tells her that the club (meaning the long-suffering Konoha) will provide her with love-letters that she can copy and send to her crush. The price: she is to write a report on how things go.

Konoha writes the letters, but soon grows curious. He asks a classmate, also in the archery club, about the boy the girl has a crush on, and finds that there is no one like that in the archery club. When he confronts the girl, she insists that the boy exists.

On further investigation, Tohko and Inoue discover that the boy committed suicide ten years earlier.

What follows is a mystery that resonates with ghosts in Inoue’s own past, that culminates in a harrowing scene dangling from a rooftop.

For Inoue does have ghosts, and they serve to make him a much more interesting narrator than seems common in light novels. The characterizations are well-done and believable (a far cry from the wordy affectless artificiality of Nisio Isin’s Zaregoto books, despite Tohko’s supernatural nature). Inoue can be almost as snarky as Haruhi Suzumiya’s Kyon, but with Tohko a far more charming character than Haruhi, I think the books may wear better with succeeding volumes.

Tohko is a delightful nerd, a book otaku.

The translation is superb — indeed, I ceased to be aware that I was reading a translation.  Yen Press recommends the books for fifteen and up, probably because of the discussion of teenage suicide, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate for anyone over 12.

Continue reading ‘Book Girl and the double-layered mysteries’

Secret Santa 2010: Bartender

This is the second post of 2 from DMAB participating in the Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project for this year.

“In happy times, one cocktail is enough, because anything you drink will taste good. But, if there a hundred shapes of unhappiness, I want to be a bartender who will make a hundred cocktails to soothe unhappiness.”

When Bartender first came out in 2006, I watched the first episode, felt like I’d get back to it, and never did until now. Probably because around that time I was still one year away from legally being able to drink. To be honest, I feel like it was a good thing that I waited to watch the show, since I’m not sure that I really could get it back then. And I’m not even sure that I totally get it now, since I don’t even really drink that much (I can count on my hand the amount of times I’ve had alcohol this year. That’s more than usual, and always a little bit of alcohol that was never enough to even give me a buzz. But I digress). However, I could get the general idea at the time; the experiences of a young bartender at a secluded bar in the Ginza strip known to produce a Glass of the Gods. With this ability, the bartender, Ryuu Sasakura, from his interactions with the consumer was always able to think up and execute creating a drink (with godly skill) that managed to suit the customer’s needs. From this main point, we get a show that has definitely increased my respect of alcohol and of bartenders.

The man in action.

The man in action.

Continue reading ‘Secret Santa 2010: Bartender’

Secret Santa 2010: Armor Hunter Mellowlink

This is post 1 of 2 posts from DMAB participating in the Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project for this year. Enjoy Link’s review of  Armor Hunter Mellowlink.

By Link

Armor Hunter Mellowlink is the 1986 OVA spinoff and companion piece to the much-celebrated Sunrise real robot franchise Armored Troopers VOTOMS, telling the story of the ages-old conflict between the Gilgamesh Confederation and the Balarant Union, and the many lives affected by it. VOTOMS is known for depicting sci-fi war drama in a “hard” or semi-realistic manner without completely far-fetched technology for the most part.  Per director Ryosuke Takahashi’s vision, the VOTOMS universe does not feature souped-up Gundam style mecha and alternatively utilizes the small, mass-produced Armored Trooper VOTOMS (Vertical One-man Tank for Offense and ManueverS), sans beam weapons, ridiculous armor, superpowered beings, etc. The protagonist himself goes through countless units, bucking the status quo in both super and real robot anime. Mellowlink is the only entry in the long-running VOTOMS universe that does not star perennial stoic wonder boy Chirico Cuvie. He is nowhere to be seen here. Every other animation in of the franchise is a prequel or sequel of sorts to the original TV series, while Mellowlink is an independent story taking place in similar, or in some cases, nearly the same locales. Oddly, while VOTOMS has several follow-ups, Mellowlink currently has none. That could be be intentional, considering how its story is wrapped up definitively, though I’ve always been of the opinion similarly with the franchise itself. I never understood why Sunrise saw it fit to endlessly milk their classic to pointless ruin, which sadly continues to this day. The only tenuous connection between the two series is how the events of Mellowlink slightly lead into what occurs during VOTOMS initially.

Armor Hunter Mellowlink’s protagonist is Ality Mellowlink, of the title’s namesake, a former hardened Gilgamesh AT pilot. Mellowlink mysteriously has his infantry unit’s, the Schweppes Platoon, mechs stripped from them near the end of the war and supplied only with outdated anti-AT rifles and little armor or other armaments. He ends up as the one and only survivor of his squad after the enemy gradually wears his mates down and is later utterly betrayed and killed by their own corrupt Gilgamesh commanders. This incident is deemed the Planpandoll Scandal. After he lives through the ordeal, Mellowlink is framed for stealing military supplies and realizes that he and his men were sent to die. On the run, he vows revenge on the military leaders who orchestrated this crime, going from planet to planet finding his targets. Naturally, as per genre conventions, Mellowlink meets a mysterious woman with connections to his plight, Lulucy, who becomes a recurring character and gradually supports him in his efforts. Other genre tropes rear their heads in regards to the rest of the cast, as assumed.

The notable, and dare I say, badass quality of Ality Mellowlink is how he chooses not to use an Armored Trooper to fight his opponents, a cue to how the same men supplied him with merely a rifle in war, many of which who do use robots in combat against him. Much of the battles showcase Mellowlink using his brains and brawn to outmaneuver and typical brutally execute his perpetrators, who are often piloting (variants of) the Gilgamesh Confederation’s signature mech from VOTOMS, the Scopedog. I love how Sunrise shows off many custom Scopedog units and our protagonist destroys the driver in satisfying fashion. I’ll admit that much of my enjoyment while partaking in this cartoon was watching this, for a better phrase, mechanical porn. The OVA certainly details its action scenes with Mellowlink’s rifle and various weapons he uses to surprise his prey. If nothing else, Armor Hunter Mellowlink is an example of high quality, purely fun action done right by 80s standards. On that note, the only very minor weak point of the show is how the writing and characters are fairly two-dimensional, a strong contrast to its VOTOMS lineage. But it doesn’t strike me as a significant factor, considering how Mellowlink doesn’t aspire to be more than enjoyable battles, light and free of baggage or drama. A manly man exacting vengeance on those who ruined him. Ality Mellowlink achieves this by the end in fitting fashion, surely.

I have to say that Armor Hunter Mellowlink was what I expected and I was not let down in any areas. Japan doesn’t produce shows like this anymore and it was a treat for that alone. All VOTOMS fans should watch it as soon as they can spare the time, if they haven’t before. Heck, watch it again for a grand old time. I can’t recommend this to others that have never seen the original TV series because it does somewhat spoil it. But hey, isn’t everyone a VOTOMS aficionado deep down inside?

Novel: The disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

by dm00

Kyon awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a mundane.

Haruhi disappears and a familiar face returns

The sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya nearly drove me away from the Haruhi novels.  In it, Haruhi’s personality was so awful, and so unavoidable, that it was unpleasant to read about her. But that’s the way Haruhi is, at least in that point of the story, and portraying her that way is the right thing to do, even if it is unpleasant to read.

Continue reading ‘Novel: The disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya’

Yoshitoshi ABe creates Yotsuba’s evil twin

by dm00, not quite so cranky

 

Ryushika ponders the nature of personal identity and our place in the universe

 

I’ve been reading Yoshitoshi Abe’s Ryushika Ryushika, in which he creates a character who is half Yotsuba, and half Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes

.

 

...before going inside to yell at her brother to come see the sky that only she sees

 

Like Yotsuba, Ryushika is encountering the world for the first time. Like Calvin, she sometimes has an odd way of seeing things. In the chapter that concludes with the images here, she’s noticed that the world looks different when viewed from one eye or the other (parallax) — and wonders which world is the real one, and if the world looks this different to each of her eyes, it must look very different indeed through the eyes of other people. Another chapter sees her vowing vengeance on the world for a missing takoyaki, and suspects each of the people (plus a dog) she met on the way home of having snatched it (it was stuck to the lid of the box, as it happens).

Continue reading ‘Yoshitoshi ABe creates Yotsuba’s evil twin’


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