Monday, December 10, 2012

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 12/8

There is a tide in the affairs of books which, when taken at the flood, leads on to a big stack of stuff on the corner of my desk. And that flood occurred this past week, with a big box from the fine folks at Yen Press and several other notable publishing concerns, leaving me with more than a dozen things to write about today.

As always, I need to emphasize that I haven't yet read any of these books -- many of them, in fact, are volume eight, or twelve, or fourteen, or twenty in a series that I'm mostly unfamiliar with -- but that I'll tell you what I can about them, attempting to be both mainly positive and as accurate as I can.

I'll start off with a book I've already seen twice before (and still not read), besides getting the sequel a few weeks back. Yes, someone in this world really wants me to read David Wong's novel John Dies at the End, the humorous interdimensional invasion novel originally serialized online and then republished as an old-fashioned ink-on-paper "book." This newest edition commemorates the upcoming movie starring Paul Giamatti and directed by Don Coscarelli (famed in legend and lore as the man who brought us The Beastmaster). The movie hits video on demand on December 27th, the Sundance film festival in late January, and actual movie screens a few days after that, but you can read the movie tie-in edition of the original novel on December 24th. (Or track down one of the earlier editions, which are widely available now.) If you like your Lovecraftian horror with bro-humor, this is the book you've been waiting for.

Vertical sent me a couple of manga volumes this week, both of which are (coincidentally?) the second volumes in their series:

  • Keiko Suenobu's Limit, Vol. 2 continues a dark story of high school cliques pushed to the, um, limit, as the five young survivors of a bus crash continue to fight and struggle for power and survival in the wilderness.
  • Ai Yazawa's Paradise Kiss, Vol. 2 is much lighter in tone, centered on a young woman working  on a career in fashion and her various personal, school, and professional travails.
It seems odd that I've got a copy of the long-awaited novel A Memory of Light -- the fourteenth and final book in Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series, written from his notes by Brandon Sanderson -- since I've never read the series and there are a few hundred thousand fans slavering for it. But I guess that's just the glamorous and exciting world of blogging. Memory publishes on January 8, and everyone else (besides my fellow bloggers and probably a few hundred traditional journalists and other tastemakers) will have to wait until then to read it. But, since I like you folks, I'll give you two tiny previews:
  • the very last word of "The Wheel of Time" is "ending."
  • and the first word on randomly-chosen page 349 is... "Mandragoran."
To read the rest, you'll have to wait until January 8th.

The bulk of the books I got this week were in the aforementioned big box from Yen Press, which are all coming in December. As usual, I'll organize those in order of volume number, so I can get more and more confused (and, perhaps, more entertaining to you) as I go along.

So I'll start with a standalone, Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something, a collection of short manga stories, illustrations, columns, and other short pieces by the titular manga-ka, best known for the series Emma.

Then there's Blood Lad, Vol. 1, launching a new series by Yuuki Kodama about a vampire (boss of a sizable territory in "demon world" but still, since he's a manga hero, a media-obsessed slacker) and the human girl he gets obsessed with when she accidentally wanders into demon world and gets killed. (This isn't as dispositive as you might expect, since she just turns into a ghost.) It looks quite self-referential and mildly goofy rather than deeply serious.

Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit, Vol. 1 begins a new series in the world of the original Alice in the Country of Hearts series (though both of them are line extensions, since the original properties are games). The story is credited to the game studio QuinRose, the art is by Delico Psyche, and there's also a credit for scenario to Owl Shinotsuki. As far as I can tell, this is more cod-Alice in Wonderland adventures -- and the hook this time is that the March Hare character (another creepy but well-dressed young man, I expect) has showed up for the first time.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Vol. 3 is by Magica Quartet and Hanokage -- it, too, is from a different medium, adapting an animated TV show -- and continues the self-conscious magical girl story, with the usual fabulous costumes, hairstyles, and powers.

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 7: Side Colors is not a manga at all! (I have to throw in a curveball every so often to make sure you folks are awake.) It's the seventh light novel in the series by Isuna Hasekura, with illustrations by Jyuu Ayakura, and has more adventures of a traveling merchant and his companion, a minor wolf-based pagan harvest goddess. Actually, this is more of a light short-story collection, since the back cover describes it as "a series of short vignettes focusing on the series' favorite characters." (And that raises the question: can a series have favorite characters? How do you ask it which characters it likes best? And will it necessarily like characters from its own story?)

Chocolat, Vol. 8 is the end of the manwha series by Shin JiSang and Geo about a boy-band-crazy teenage girl and the second-choice boy-band she got caught up with. It looks like there's at least one love triangle here, and probably much more exotic shapes as well.

Raiders, Vol. 9 is also the last volume of a manwha series, but JinJun Park's story is as firmly for boys as Chocolat was for girls: full of fighting and supernatural vampires powered by the Holy Grail, the preserved blood of Christ, and other things probably just as blasphemous in Alabama. (And I'm sure certain conservative segments of Japanese culture feel exactly the same way about some Western re-interpretations of their own religious practices.)

Jun Mochizuki's Pandora Hearts hits its lucky thirteenth volume this month as well -- I reviewed the first volume a few years back, if you want a sense of where this vaguely Alice-inspired story began -- but I have to admit I have no idea what's going on in the story at this point.

Hitting its fourteenth volume is the well-known The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, about a literally irrepressible girl and the club of secretly superhuman folks she unknowingly gathered.

And last for this week is the twentieth volume of the proliferating Higurashi: When They Cry uber-series -- this one is Massacre Arc, Vol. 2, and it's by Ryukishi07 and Hinase Momoyama. As I understand it, each arc is really a separate horror-mystery story --- though all set in basically the same place and time -- so this is, in a way, only the second volume in its series.

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