the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Manga’ Category

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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This review only covers the first 6 or 8 volumes of Deathnote, because that’s how far I have read. 

Light Yagami is a normal high school student with a normal life. His father is the chief of police , his little sister drives him nuts, and he’s worried about exams. Depressed by what he sees as a rise in corruption and crime, he idealistically wishes he could something about it, and that something should be done about it. 

Meanwhile, in the spirit world, Ryuk realizes his deathnote is missing. He must have left it on earth last time he was there! If a human touches the notebook, Ryuk won’t be able to get it back until the human dies or voluntarily gives it back! If the other Shinigami in the spirit world find out he’s lost another notebook, he’ll really be a laughing stock! Ryuk decides it’s time for an extended vacation in the human world. (Shinigami are death spirits who gain strength from the deaths of the living, be it a natural death or not) 

And who should find the notebook but Light? In the manga, each chapter starts with another “Rule” of the Deathnote. Early on, we learn if you write someone’s name in there and a time of death, that’s when they will die. You also have to know what the person looks like, and you can add in other details as well, such as how they die. Ryuk tells Light much of what the Deathnote can and not do, and although Light keeps waiting for Ryuk to be all judgmental, Ryuk just says he’s there to watch, to see what will happen. Light immediately pays much more attention to the local and national news. Someone arrested for some horrific crime and the person’s photo is shown on tv? They mysteriously die of a heart attack in jail. 

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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.
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