the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Manga’ Category

attack on titan 1AAttack on Titan, volume 1, by Hajime Isayama

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

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It’s been ages since I reviewed a Manga.  Been watching plenty of anime lately (or to be honest, half-watching. Other than Eccentric Family and Silver Spoon, much of what my household watches doesn’t interest me. But that’s a totally different blog post), but I haven’t read much new manga.

One of the animes that caught my eye recently was Attack on Titan. I had some issues with the pacing of the anime, but because I like the overall storyline I decided to give the Manga a try. One of the major reasons the anime didn’t work so well for me was the uneven pacing. Scenes that felt important to me were quickly over, and overdramatic scenes were drawn out too long.  By reading the manga, I can set my own pace. I can spend as much (or as little) time as I want studying each page and conversation.  The scripts of the manga and anime are pretty much identical, but I did much better with the manga because I controlled the pacing.

Attack on Titan takes place on what can be described as a post-apocalyptic Earth, but this isn’t an apocalypse caused by nuclear war, or smog, or an asteroid hitting. This is a monster apocalypse.  About a hundred years ago, humanity started being attacked by giant humanoid creatures, called Titans. The size of a small  building, the Titans destroy homes and cities, and often eat any humans they come across.  Humanity came up with plans to survive, which mostly included retreating behind tall stone walls.   The designs of the walled cities lure the Titans into attacking the more outlying parts of the walled complex, so they won’t be interested in the less defended areas. Pretty shitty deal for the people living in those outlying areas.

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not only was yesterday National Buy a Book Day, but I also had it as a vacation day from work. Which meant hubby and I had plenty of time to make it to two bookstores and the library before realizing that maybe we had indeed picked up enough books to hold us for a little while.  sleeping in + buying tons of books? Sounds like the perfect day to me!

here’s what we got:

Diviner, by Melanie Rawn – looks like an epic fantasy that doesn’t take place in fantasy-Europe. Sign me up!

Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher – hubby really liked the first book, and i’m interested in reading more in this famous serious too.

Embassytown, by China Mieville – one of my favorites is finally in paperback!  I’d hoped Embassytown would take the Hugo for best novel, but alas it wasn’t to be.

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I don’t always read manga, but when I do, it’s usually Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. I got my first taste of this way back in the early 2000’s, and I’ve been following it ever since.

Ten years and 27 volumes later, two anime series, a movie and more t-shirts and fake tattoos than I want to think about, my journey with the Elric Brothers has come to an end.  Nearly my entire adult life, a small part of my mind has constantly been revolving around this series: waiting for the next issue, getting frustrated when the story moved too fast or too slow, masochistically smiling when every issue ended in a cliffhanger and I had to wait 6 months (at least!) for the next one, my shifting character crushes, losing my squeamishness towards prosthetics and amputation, etc. And unlike the jerk at the grocery store who insisted on telling me what happens at the end even though I asked him not to, this post has no spoilers. Just lots and lots of background.

More than you ever wanted to know about:

The Story

Once upon a time, there were two brothers, the elder named Edward and the younger named Alphonse. They lived with their mother and were happy. Sometimes she got this sad look on her face, especially when she thought about their father, who had abandoned them. The two brothers would do anything to make their mother smile. They studied the alchemy book their father left behind, using their new found science based magic to fix things around the house, make new toys, and make their mother smile. Alchemical transmutation was so easy, all you needed was the parts of the whole – a broken toy, a bowl of sand, a lump of metal, and you could make anything of equal element and mass – a fixed toy, a piece of glass, a new frying pan.

And then she got sick. And when she died, the brothers blamed her illness on their absent father. If only he had been there, they could have afforded a better doctor. If only he had been there, her sadness and loneliness wouldn’t have led to illness.  In the alchemy books of their father was the secret and dangerous answer. Human transmutation: take all the elements and pieces of a human body, salt and carbon and phosphorus and blood and water and everything else, and transmute the pieces into the whole. Bring their mother back, see her smile again.

But there is a reason human transmutation is forbidden, a reason it is hidden in code words and secret symbols in the alchemy texts.  Edward and Alphonse were too naive to realize why it should never be attempted. I won’t go into the details of the disaster, but the alchemical accident left Edward missing an arm and a leg, and left Alphonse as nothing but a soul attached by blood rune to a suit of armor.

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, by Ranmaru Kotone

published in 2009

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: loved the movie

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Makoto is a relatively normal high school girl, she gets decent grades, she helps her Mom and her Aunty, she hangs out with her friends after school.  Too bad she’s got the worst sense of timing ever. She burns food in cooking class and does badly on an exam because she can’t figure out how much time is remaining to finish the questions.

while helping to clean up a classroom one afternoon, she thinks she sees a flash of light in the next room. But of course, it was nothing. On the way home, she loses control of her bicycle and falls into the path of an oncoming train.

And then wakes up as if nothing happened.

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I’d gotten interested in the Anime BECK for one reason: the anime was directed by Osamu Kobayashi, who also directed my favorite anime series ever: Paradise Kiss. Yes, Paradise Kiss was a manga first (reviewed here), created Ai Yazawa, and it was her characters plus Kobayashi’s graphic detail style that made the Paradise Kiss anime better than anyone could have expected. Kobayashi has this habit of putting in buckets of detail at the right moments, things like funny bumper stickers on cars, funny t-shirts, unexpected sound effects, and excellent intro and end credit sequences.

confused? don’t be. Just know that if Osamu Kobayashi has anything to do with it, I want to see it.

Thus, BECK went on the netflix queue, with me knowing nothing about it except it’s about a bunch of high schoolers who start a band, and it’s directed by Kobayashi. Just for kicks, I got the first few manga (known as Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad) out of the library as well.

A coming of age story in a working class town, Beck stars Koyuke, a bored and uninspired 14 year old. Not the best student in the world, the only thing Koyuke likes about school is that he gets to talk to the girl he has a crush on, Izumi. Most of these interactions go horribly wrong, thanks to Koyuke’s buddy Tanabe, who doesn’t understand that peeping at girls at swim practice isn’t a great way to make friends with them. Hilariously awkward, to say the least. Koyuke and Tanabe’s after school activities tend to be hitting up the arcade and avoiding the bullies who hang out in the rough neighborhoods around the school. and Koyuke can never seem to avoid the bullies, both on school property and off.

So many Japanese stories starring teenagers focus on their obsession on getting into a good college and exams and grades and such. Not this one. it was quite refreshing.

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Time for something completely different!  Work has been nuts lately, so I read something quick and easy. it had lots of pictures.

Oishinbo, volume 1, by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki

Where did I get it: the library

I’d been hearing about this title for a while “The manga that’s all about food!”,  “a bestseller in Japan!”, “everybody is reading this!”, so when I saw it at the library, of course I had to get it.  The title, Oishinbo, means Gourmet, so this had to be for a food lover like me!

The first few pages of Oishinbo are character profiles, and with a large cast, you will want to take the time to read these. The main characters are Yamaoto Shiro, a young man who was trained in the traditional culinary arts and now works at a news agency, and his father Kaibara, one of the city’s foremost experts in traditional cooking techniques.Yamaoto had originally trained at his fathers school, but the two had a falling out and are now barely on speaking terms. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Yamaoto’s friends and co-workers, and Kaibara’s business associates.

Yamaoto’s newspaper is working on an “Ultimate Menu”, and each chapter in Oishinbo covers a different aspect of traditional Japanese cooking from Dashi, the chopsticks, to the basics of sushi, to knife use and treatment to tea ceremony to the connection between environment and meal enjoyment.  This isn’t so much a plot centered story as it is a discussion of the beauty of Japanese food culture. The food culture and culinary traditions of Japan focus around presentation, and the time, energy, and love that went into creating and preparing the food, the utensils used to eat it, the plates it is served on, even the environment it is served in.

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Just so you know, this is a super long post with a funny at the end.  Not unlike an epic quest. . . .

I describe this website as offering Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews.  But going through my list of reviews, I’m seeing far more fantasy than science.  Maybe I should just describe it as a fantasy review site?  Or a gateway to fantasy review site?

When I was a kid, I was an adamant SF fan. Much of my youth was spent building spaceships out of legos and watching PBS shows about astronomy.  I craved scientific explanations for everything.  I wanted to know how everything worked

While my friends were reading Lloyd Alexander, I was reading Interstellar Pig.  As they moved onto Tolkien and Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz, I moved onto David Brin and Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

To me, Fantasy was wizards with long beards, royals who went on quests where their soldiers and magical armor protected them, and elves and dwarves who spent the first half of the conversation telling you their lineages, and embarassingly rediculous cover art. really nothing else. I had no understanding that “high fantasy” was only the tip of the iceberg of the genre.  My limited experiences with high fantasy let me know quickly that I didn’t care for it.

And then I started reading manga, a form famous for mixing genres. Cyborg mechas using laser guns against a castle and fighting flesh and blood dragons that guarded hoards of treasure? no problem. Kids who get wisked away from their regular life to fight demons and spirits and collect magical shards? piece of cake.  Vampires, martians, aliens, dragons, time travel, often in the same series. And it worked, like magic.

Wait, wasn’t this, um, fantasy?  It sure was fantastical, and it sure wasn’t hard scifi. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m half way through two books that just aren’t doing it for me, so no review for you today.  If I don’t finish either of these books by Monday, I may write my first DNF review, because I really, really, really want to get to something else.

no review tomorrow either, as I’m sure I’ll still be ranting about my hatred (ooops sorry, my severe dislike!) for e-books and e-readers.

In an effort to read what I’ve got next year, I finished catalogued all the books I own!  Ok, I catalogued all the fiction, I cheated and only counted the non-fiction.

Crammed into our one bedroom apartment we have 437 fiction titles and 200 non fiction titles.

of the 437 fiction titles I have read 62% of them.  that means there are 164 unread fiction titles in this home!

More useless facts about my home library, after the jump!

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At first glance, I wasn’t sure what to make of Masahiro Totsuka’s Bamboo Blade. An abnoxious, impulsive, selfish Kendo coach? A diminutive high school girl who beats up bullies? Slapstick comedy? Sports? 

Was this going to work for me? Talk about genre mixing! 

Welcome to the manga genre called “Slice of Life”. We do it in American comics and literature too, but maybe not to the same extent. Slice of Life manga usually follow the day to day lives of young adults. Sometimes there is comedy, sometimes drama, sometimes relationships, sometimes all or none of the above. They are typically modern day pieces, with emphasis on everyday Japanese culture. Slice of Life stories push the boundaries of shonen (manga designed for a male audience) and shojo (manga designed for a female audience), and are often appreciated by a wider audience. 

When Kojiro was high school, he was a Kendo star (Kendo is a Japanese sport, somewhat similar to fencing. The sword is made of bamboo. Kendo is very popular with young adults). These days, he barely makes ends meet as a high school teacher. He runs the laxest after school Kendo club in the country, lives on instant Ramen, and dreams of his glory days. The members of the club barely show up, and when they do, they are usually beaten up by the two school bullies, who are also in the Kendo club. Sounds a little serious, but this is pretty much a slapstick comedy.

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We can’t finish out Graphic Novel November without a traditional historical Samurai tale. Ok, so maybe Blade of the Immortal isn’t super traditional. Or very historical. But it is damn good.

Manji has a problem. He can’t die. Infected with bloodworms, he recovers from injuries nearly instantly. After years of mayhem, and thieving, Manji finds himself directly responsible for his brother-in-law’s death. His little sister loses her mind in grief, and Manji vows to take care of her. When she is killed, Manji vows the only way to make up for having killed one hundred “good guys” is to kill one thousand “bad guys”, starting with the gang members responsible for killing his sister. Once he has killed one thousand bad guys, Manji will finally be able to die in peace.

But how to tell the good guys from the bad guys? Everyone suddenly wants to hire the bodyguard who can’t be killed, and Manji turns everyone away. Eventually he is approached by Rin. Rin was only fourteen when her swordsmaster father was killed right in front of her by the members of a rival dojo. She wants revenge and is a pretty good swordswoman herself, but even Manji can tell she’s no match for highway bandits that prowl the countryside. He agrees to help her, joking the whole time that he needs to protect her so she’s in good shape to sell to a Geisha house later.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.