Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of October 3: "Regular" Manga

And so we come to the conclusion of this epic trilogy of "Reviewing the Mail" posts. Today, I've got more manga, in the usual size (paperback, roughly mass-market trim). All are in final book form, so they're all either already published or in the middle of distribution right now -- you should be able to find them all very soon from your favorite purveyor of book-like objects. They come from two different companies, so I'll lead off with the three from Vertical.

First up is a book with more credits that usual: Ninja Slayer, Part 1: Machine of Vengeance is credited to Yuki Yogo (art) and Yoshitaki Tabata (script), but they're working from an original novel by Bradley Bond and Philip Ninj@ Morzez, and the book also credits Yu Honda and Leika Suigi with Manga Adaptation Supervision and Character Design to Warainaku and Yuki Yogo. All this to tell the hyperviolent story of a guy in a red outfit who kills ninjas in a corrupt city full of them. If you like seeing ninjas get killed -- and who doesn't? -- this is for you.

Slightly more straightforward is Tokyo ESP, volume 1, which is by Hajime Segawa and features the blond girl on the cover, who discovers that she has secret superpowers and has to team up with similar good-guy types to save Tokyo from the inevitable evil superpowered folks.

Last from Vertical for this installment is Ryu Mizunagi's Witchcraft Works, Vol. 7, which continues the series insistence on having unreadable covers. (A bold move, I think you'll agree.) This volume seems to be set in the aftermath of the big boss fight -- the boss's name is Weekend, which is an odd choice -- as our heroes head home to "uncover the secrets of their past." That could mean the series is wrapping up, or that it'll run another three dozen volumes -- your guess is as good as mine.

Everything else today is from our friends at Yen Press, presented (as usual) starting with series-starters and moving onto later books.

Strike the Blood, Vol. 1 is yet another series adapted from a light novel -- in fact, I saw the light novel itself last week, also from Yen -- and this time, the novelist is Gakuto Mikumo, the character designer (aka illustrator of the novel) is Manyako, and the artist of this actual manga and visual storyteller is Tate. (Is this Little Man Tate grown up and moved to Japan? Who can say?) It's about a seemingly normal boy who is actually, secretly the most powerful vampire in the world, and the cute girl in a miniskirt sent to kill him by the usual shadowy forces.

Take a deep breath before reading this next title: Final Fantasy Type-0 Side Story, Vol. 2: The Ice Reaper. Luckily, that title explains itself pretty clearly: Type-0 is the new Final Fantasy game, and this is a side story called The Ice Reaper. So if you have ice you don't want to be reaped, make sure to keep it safe. This is by Takatoshi Shiozawa and also credits Tetsuya Nomura with supervision. (Supervising books sounds easier than editing them: I'd like to get into that game.)

Continuing the ever-proliferating series about magical girls, here's Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura's Revenge!, Vol. 2. As always, the story is from the Magica Quartet (whoever they are when they shed their robes of office and become ordinary people again) and the art this time is by Masugitsune and Kawazukuu. This one seems to be angst-filled, with back cover copy all about tragic fates and revenge.

And then there's First Love Monster, Vol. 2, from Akira Hiyoshimaru. It seems to be the story of the love between a mousy high schoolgirl and a demanding fifth-grade boy. I am seriously hoping that "fifth-grade" is some kind of translation error -- that they mean "fifth form" or "fifth year" or something like that -- because otherwise this just looks creepy. (Clingy older boyfriends of teen girls are bad enough; clingy younger boyfriends might at least be novel, but that's because it's a bad idea.)

Back to the light novel mines for Kagerou Daze, Vol. 3, adapted and drawn by Mahiro Satou from the novel by Jim (Shizen No Teki-P) and the character designs by Sidu,Wannyapuu- [1]. This one's about a master gamer teen girl, the one other student in her class, and their lackadaisical teacher -- but, somehow, they have to put on a show for the school festival in this volume. (Yet another data point tending to agree with my theory that there's a Big Wheel of School Plots in a manga office somewhere in Japan, and everything is generated by spinning that wheel.)

Light novels rule! Kazuma Kamaxhi's series is adapted by Chuya Kogino (using Kiyotaka Haimura's character designs) into A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 3. I believe this is about a school for superpowered kids, but the back cover just focuses on Mikoto Misaka (perhaps the girl on the cover?) who is a "Level Five esper" whose "DNA has been harvested to create a series of clones." This is, clearly, not entirely a good thing.

If Satan were deposed from his extra-dimensional throne in a massive apocalyptic battle, and reincarnated on Earth along with the hero who defeated him, they both would be teenagers working in a Tokyo fast-food restaurant, right? (It's only natural.) This is the premise of The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 3 (, which was also adapted from a light novel series (writer: Satoshi Wagahara, character design: 029 (Oniku)) by a manga artist (Akio Hiiragi).

I have no idea what Akame ga KILL!, Vol. 4 is about, but it has a blue-haired girl wearing high boots and hot pants, so it's got to be good, right? The back cover copy goes on about General Esdeath (how very subtle!), an emperor, and something called Night Raid, which seems to be the good guys. It's written by Takahiro and drawn by Tetsuya Tashiro.

And last for this week is Accel World, Vol. 5, which has the three-part credits -- art by Hiroyuki Aigamo, original story by Reki Kawahara, and character design by HIMA -- that you should instantly recognize by this point. (Light Novel alert!) Accel World is about a schlubby fat kid who is actually a superstar of online gaming, and this volume sees him interact with the characters from author Kawahara's other major series, Sword Art Online (about teens trapped in an online game) -- even though the two take place twenty years apart.

[1] Yes, I did type that correctly. No, I have no idea why what I assume is a human being would present a name like that.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Business Models I Don't Get

Every morning, coming out of Penn Station in lovely midtown Manhattan, I pass a bunch of guys with signs touting their bus trips to the outlet mall in Woodbury Common. These trips seem to run about $35.

And I can't understand why this is a viable business at all.

If you're already in Manhattan, one of the pieces of land on Earth most densely packed with retail opportunities -- and which is very well covered with mass transit to get you to those retail opportunities -- why on earth would you pay that much to take a bus an hour north to a wind-swept plain where you can buy things at very similar prices to the place where you already are?

Maybe people enjoy the bus, but it looks to me like a tax on not realizing the actual opportunities in the city itself. I find it hard to believe you can't get 99% of the products for sale there as cheap or cheaper in the city itself. (Yes, if you're spending thousands of dollars, the extra NYC tax probably adds up. But if you're spending thousands of dollars, you're a) not doing it in an outlet mall and 2) not riding on a bus.)

(Note: I have been to Woodbury Common, more than once, because I live in the suburbs and own a car. But I'd be blissfully happy never to go there again. It has no appeal besides the raw ability to spend money on goods: it's generally cold and windy and mostly outdoors.)

Reviewing the Mail: Week of October 3: Large-Format Manga

Part two of this week's epic trilogy of "Reviewing the Mail" posts collects all of the large-format manga books currently on my desk. With the exception of the first book, they're all numbered volumes in fictional series, telling stories about normal teenagers and demons and blind assassins and housemaids and Satan and magical girls. And they are all from Yen Press, either very recently published or very soon to be published, so look out for them wherever you prefer to buy books.

The outlier is Yana Toboso Black Butler Artworks 1, which has a title that explains it very well: it's a book of artworks by Yana Toboso, creator of Black Butler, and those artworks all relate to that series. If you like that series, or Toboso's art, you'll want this.

The rest are all manga collections, which I'll organize in my usual way: start with first volumes of series, and move on through higher numbers, getting more complicated and less friendly to new readers as I go.

So that means The Devil Is a Part-Timer! High School!, Vol. 1comes first -- and, yes, it does have two exclamation points in the title. This is related somehow to the regular The Devil Is a Part-Timer! series, in which the Lord of Demons is reincarnated as a young Japanese guy after an apocalyptic battle in his home world, and starts working in a fast-food restaurant as part of a long fiendish plot to conquer the world (as you do). In this one, the devil and his nemesis are in high school -- so I suspect this is the same story, but focused differently into school comedy rather than workplace comedy.

Speaking of refocusing, that's exactly what Puella Magi Homura Tamura, Vol. 1 does: it takes the characters of the various "Puella Magi" series -- the magical girls, their very short skirts and shiny giant eyes, and their battles against witches -- and drops them into a 4-koma comedy series. I find these kind of stories are the hardest things to translate, since they're all about cultural assumptions and everyday life in a different country, but comedy is fun, so I hope it works.

Emma, Vol. 2 continues the reprinting of Kaoru Mori's well-loved series about a maid in Victorian England in larger hardcover editions. I still have hopes to read this series one of these days.

Ubel Blatt, Vol. 3 is a dark fantasy from Etorouji Shiono, with some very Elric-y touches (arrogant weakling with a creepy black sword most prominently). I reviewed the zeroth issue -- yes, zeroth, this series comes in 400+ books and still needed a running start to get to number one -- last year.

Kaori Yuki's series is only up to Demon from Afar, Vol. 4, but there's already a complex backstory listed in the character pages that I don't think I entirely understand. There's a guy with a weird hand emblem who will bring about the end of the world, his servant (who is actually the devil, and scheming to get loose), and an evil Baron with unspecified sinister plans. All of this takes place in an unspecified "Imperial" time, and then in the modern day -- this volume says "Modern Day" on the table of contents, so maybe it bounces back and forth.

Fuka Mizutani is back with Love at Fourteen, Vol. 4-- I've already read, though not reviewed, the first two, and the third one is probably around here somewhere -- which is a nice, low-key story of two mostly realistically depicted teenagers and their tentative, halting first love. So far, it's cute, and the narration is only slightly intrusive, with its endless repetition of how advanced these kids are. (Which seems to mean something different in a Japanese context -- the words used imply to this American that they're screwing like bunnies, which is not at all what Mizutani means.) [1]

I've got two volumes of this Satsuki Yoshino series: both Barakamon, Vol. 6 and Vol. 7. (See my review from last year for the first volume -- I'm sure it's gotten more complicated since then, because that's what series fiction does, but it seems to be the same fish-out-of-water premise, a Japanese take on Northern Exposure.

I've explained this at least a dozen times, but I'm still not sure if I've ever gotten it exactly right. The Higurashi When They Cry and Umineko When They Cry series of manga are loosely related to each other and all based on a series of text-based video games, all about variations on the same story. And now we're up to Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 5: End of the Golden Witch, Vol. 2. It has a story by Ryukishi07, art by Akitaka, and what I really hope is not a pre-teen girl in an inappropriate costume on the cover.

Last for this post is Until Death Do Us Part, Vol. 10, about a blind swordsman -- they're the most deadly kind, you know, like the spindly old men are always the most deadly opponents in karate movies -- and the cute little precognitive girl he protects from the usual sinister forces. This one is written by Hiroshi Takashige and has art from something that calls itself DOUBLE-S.

[1] For some reason, Blogger doesn't like the cover for this book -- it refuses to upload the image, in two different versions saved as two different files. So you'll have to guess or google to see what it looks like.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Inadvertently Telling Quotes

"It will also require that the business people understand the long-term advantages to the company of not violating laws and regulations, including avoiding the extensive costs that come from those violations in the form of legal fees, monetary penalties and the monitor’s fees."
 -from this article in Corporate Counsel

Oh how slender is that "including," and how how little it seems to include anything other than "not getting caught and having to pay some money."

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/3: Skiffy

Some day, this blog will turn into something other than a weekly list of books that showed up in my mail box. (Really -- this has happened before, a couple of times.) But it won't be this week, and it probably won't be this month.

But you do get this, at least. This week, I'm catching up on the backlog, which is nice for me (closure!) and nice for you (a longer list!). As always, I haven't read any of these books, and I won't promise when or if I'll get to read any of them. Nevertheless, I can tell you they exist and try to find the most intriguing things about each of them.

To make it seem like I'm posting more, I'm splitting this week's "Reviewing the Mail" into an unprecedented three posts! (Note: this is not unprecedented. I've done it at least once before.) And, in honor of the field I worked in, once upon a time -- and still have vague dreams of getting back to, some day -- I'll lead off with SFF books.

A Borrowed Man is the new novel by Gene Wolfe, one of the greatest and trickiest writers in SF. (Seriously, if you haven't read his four-book "Book of the New Sun" series, what have you been doing? And if you did read that, you need to find the loosely related "Book of the Long Sun" and "Book of the Short Sun," the latter of which is possibly Wolfe at his very sneakiest. The other major contender for that crown is his novel Peace, which I also recommend.) I'm already two books behind on Wolfe, because I'm not reading as much SFF these days, but this one is short and has a neat hook: the narrator is a library copy of the downloaded brain of a now-dead mystery writer. checked out of that library to help a young woman investigate the mysterious disappearance of her wealthy father. It's a Tor hardcover, coming October 20th, and any Wolfe book will exercise your brain while you read it.

Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper is the third in a steampunk series by David Barnett about the young adventurer who went from reading fantastic adventures to living them as Hero of the Empire. (As usual, steampunk means Queen Victoria Uber Alles.) This one is the inevitable amnesia plot, with Smith thrown into London's seedy underbelly (TM) and bereft of his memories. Can! He! Fight! Back!? (Of course.) This is a Tor trade paperback, clanking its way onto shelves October 13.

An Apprentice to Elves is the third book in Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear's fantasy series about a Viking-esque society and the wolves they telepathically bond with. (There are elves, too, as the title implies, but they seem to be more saga-style and less Tolkien.) This time out, we follow the daughter of the original series hero as she runs up against all of the things her society says women can't do...and she calmly accepts that all lives have limitations, and makes the best of her situation. Ha! Of course not -- fantasy novels are entirely about destroying all limitations and becoming the most special person in all existence, because the book is about YOU. This one's a Tor hardcover on October 13.

And last for this installment is Radiance, the new novel from the inventive and surprising Catherynne M. Valente. This one is set in an alternate past in which Golden Age SF-style rockets ships ply the old-fashioned solar system (ancient desert Mars, jungle-shrowded Venus, and so forth) but the movies are still silent due to a stranglehold by Edison patents. Our heroine launches on a career to make talking documentaries about the wonders of those strange planets, and Valente tells her story in what seems to be a multiplex way, with a novel in different fonts for different kinds of texts and first-person narration alternates with excerpts from gossip magazines and screenplays. Radiance looks deeply weird and idiosyncratic, which I appreciate, and I hope you will, as well.