Archive for the ‘Anime/Manga’ Category

Hello, readers–it’s time for Top Books of the month!  Because of NaNoWriMo, I didn’t get to read as much as I usually do, but here are a few titles I particularly enjoyed!

Made You Up (Zappia):  Schizophrenic Alex transfers to a new school for a fresh start after an incident involving paint and her old school’s gym floor.   On her first day, she runs into head outcast, Miles Richter, and they instantly butt heads.  Alex thinks he looks familiar, but, when you aren’t sure what’s real and what’s not, she isn’t sure.  Anyways, she’s just trying to survive her last year.    Her experience is a lot different than she expects!  I loved Alex–she’s funny and determined, and that made me root for her as she battles to succeed at her goals. The story is engaging because Alex’s unreliability means I wasn’t sure whether what I was reading about is real or not.  I also found the romance interesting as neither she or Miles is easy to get along with, and their own challenges affect the relationship.   I recommend this one if you like unreliable narrators and unconventional romances.

Redefining Realness (Mock):  In her memoir,  Janet Mock describes her experience in transitioning while growing up as a poor person of color in Hawaii. She does a great job of blending her personal story with a discussion of broader issues that trans individuals face.  If  you are curious about trans issues, check this one out.

A Silent Voice (1 &2) (Ooima): When Shoko enters Shoya’s elementary school class, he uses her deafness as an excuse to bully her.    He leads his classmates in attacks against her, and, finally, the bullying escalates so badly that Shoko is forced to leave school.  Haunted by that time years later, Shoya seeks out Shoko in order to look for redemption and forgiveness. Bullying is a deeply personal topic for me, and I was intrigued by the premises.  I like that nothing is straightforward, and the whole plot so far is bittersweet.    Shoya is not automatically forgiven, and he has to struggle to make amends while fighting against people’s perceptions and his own self-loathing.  I am annoyed that Shoko has been relatively passive so far, so I’m hoping she will play a bigger role in the later volumes.  I have the next two volumes on hold at the library, and I’m looking forward to reading them.


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The first month of a new year has passed, and I’ve already sunk my teeth into some tasty books!  Here’s a quick recap of  some of the books I’ve read.

I must start out this post by discussing Marie Lu’s The Young Elites.  A blood fever ripped through the world–this fever permanently marks its victims and, in some cases, grants special powers.  These gifted individuals are called Young Elites.  Adelina Amoretu survived the blood fever, but endured harsh cruelty at the hands of her father.  After escaping, Adelina meets an organization of fellow Elites, who offer to show her how to control her abilities in exchange for her help in overthrowing the king.  But can Adelina overcome her own darkness?  I was sucked into Lu’s world, and she delivered a gut-wrenching tale.  Don’t miss this one!

I also checked out Pierce Brown’s Golden Son, the sequel to Red Rising (a favorite of mine last year).  Darrow has left the Institute for a position in the family of Arch-Governor Augustus.  He hasn’t forgotten his promise to his wife Eo and is struggling to support the rebellion while staying afloat in a cutthroat political arena.  However, he finds achieving this goal more challenging then he ever would have believed.  This follow-up did not suck me in as much as Red Rising did–I think it fell a bit into “second book” slump and I personally do not always find political maneuverings interesting.  Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it and look forward to reading the trilogy’s conclusion.

I also have been reading a lot of manga lately.   I just finished Naoko Takeuchi’s rewritten and redrawn Sailor Moon!  Sailor Moon was my gateway anime, so reading this manga was pure nostalgia.  While I sometimes felt like I was getting a “cliff notes” version of some of the story arcs and characters,the series has plenty of action and a real go-getter message!   I am currently working on CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura and Toshiaki Iwashiro’s Psyren.  CLAMP’s Sakura is charming and precious, and the story is action-packed and heartwarming; I can’t believe it took me so long to read this!   Psyren follows the adventure of three high school students who acquire cards that read “Psyren”.  They are transported to a futuristic apocalyptic Japan; there they must use their psychic powers to fight off monsters and solve the mystery of Japan’s disastrous future. I have been enjoying the action and mystery in this series and can’t wait to read what happens!

Okay, that’s it for this month.  I hope to be back next month with another report!

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Kaoru is a new student in yet another school.   When suffering from an anxiety attack, he meets bad boy Sentaro on the roof.     Despite his rough edges, Sentaro strangely befriends Kaoru.    After being dragged headlong into his life, Kaoru discovers Sentaro’s love of jazz, and the two begin to play together.

I was deeply impressed with this series!  I am not a huge jazz fan, nor one of slice of life animes, but this one proved the exception.   The art is gorgeous, and the directors did a fantastic job with the characterization and pacing of this series.   Each of the characters could fit into certain archetypes, but at the same time Sentaro and Kaoru were true to life.  About the only character I had trouble with was Ritsuko, just because she was sort of passive too much of the time.   However, I liked the turns her character took later in the series.   I also liked that the romance in this series didn’t play out as expected.  Kaoru’s mooning over Ritsuko would have been annoying, but the constant challenges made it very real and made it more enjoyable to watch.    Because of its slower pace, it’s a very relaxing series to watch.  You don’t want to miss this one.

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Yamiko Readman is a book-loving substitute teacher.   Her entire tiny apartment is crammed with the books, which spill out into the rest of the building.    She also possesses the ability to control paper.    Someone has been trying to get a rare manuscript by Beethoven, and Yamiko (Code Name: the Paper) and the rest of Library Special Operations must protect it at all costs!

It took me awhile to actually watch this series, but I’m glad I did.   This three-episode show was quite fun.    The action scenes were exciting, and they did a good job of incorporating the characters’ abilities without making it seem like a Dragonballz power display.  I think the greatest part of the series for me was Yamiko.   When I first saw her in her ditzy, bookwormish state, I had my doubts.   However, the director balanced that out very well; it maybe didn’t make her the strongest overall fighter, but she nevertheless had strong skills and was focused when the situation called for that.     Her ditzy, bookwormish nature did affect what she was able to do–for instance, she’s not necessarily a highly trained fighter- but she was still effective in her own right.   It was actually sort of nice to have an “ordinary” character who nevertheless contributed strongly.   Overall, it was a short, fun series, and I recommend it.

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Kouchi is a new student at Yomi North; he meets a reserved girl named Misaki Mei.   However, none of the other students seem to acknowledge her existence.   He finds himself drawn to the mysterious one-eyed girl and begins to talk to her.  However, school takes a dark twist.    When another classmate dies, things begin to heat up.    Who will die next?

This series is a short, intense thriller!   The story and characters are plotted so that things are challenging to figure out.   The person that I initially thought was responsible for the deaths did not in fact turn out to be the killer.   I actually guessed wrong several times, but the series kept me engaged enough to want to keep guessing.   I liked that the directors built up an impressive and intense situation and then ended it spectacularly.   The plot was superbly carried out!

Another thing that I liked was that heroine Misaki didn’t turn into some helpless damsel at the end; I also liked that she was smart and didn’t become sexualized or helpless at any point.  She may not have been a popular individual, but she’s one of the better female anime characters I’ve seen in a while (exception being Balsa, from Morbito).    If you’re into bloody who-done-its, this show is for you!

(*a note: the gore in this series is impressive.   If you’re squeamish, don’t watch this.   Also, this show is definitely not for kids.)

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In this world, there is no such thing as coincidences.  Watanuki is a high school student with an unusual ability: he is able to see spirits and is frequently pursued by them.   Watanuki stumbles upon an unusual shop.    The shop’s owner Yuko tells him that she can grant any wish in exchange for payment.     Somehow, Watanuki gets hoodwinked into working part-time in the shop to pay off his debt.   Watanuki, with his friends, enter Yuko’s strange and fascinating world.

Overall, I enjoyed the series.   The art is overall very pleasing to look at; it is highly stylized and angular, and that’s what makes it so cool.   As a result, I enjoyed most of the character designs.   The setting was rich, leading to interesting stories for each episode.   The concepts behind each episode were strange and fascinating, and it was a lot of fun to figure out what the different problems represented.   Also, it was neat to see Watanuki grow as a person, even if I did find him annoying some of the time.

My one real complaint was that the supporting characters–as well as sometimes Watanuki himself– seemed really flat.   Himawari, Watanuk’s love interest, was so blatantly clueless that it drove me nuts.  That being said, Yuko was intriguing as I devoted some part of my brain to figuring who/what she represented (and I have theories!), and Watanuki, I think, would  be a sympathetic character to many teens.    Fortunately, the lack of solid supporting characters wasn’t enough to completely detract from my enjoyment of the show, but I think that fact hurt the quality and kept it from being as amazing.   That being said, I think xxxHolic is worth a viewing.

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So readers might remember when I reviewed the first volume Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son as part of my recent graphic novel binge.   For those just joining us, Wandering Son follows the story of grade-school students Norita Shuichi and Takatsuki Yoshino.  Norita wishes to be a girl, and finds that Takatsuki wants to be a boy.  Drawn by their common identity questions, they set out to explore and support each other.   In these next two volumes, tensions heighten as their classmates began to uncover their secret.

I simply cannot get enough of this series.   Shimura is doing a superb job of exploring this topic.  I admittedly have read very few LGBT books (must change this), but the one I did read was so emotionally intense throughout the whole book that, as a reader, it pushed me from out of the story.   Shimura eases you into Norita and Takatsuki’s lives and problems, and, as a result, the emotional effect is extremely strong once things heat up.   The artwork is simple and well-rendered; I am awed by how much Shimura is able to convey.   I can’t wait for volume 4 to come out in January!

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