Monday, February 11, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/9

It's another week full of mail! As usual, these are all books that have arrived at my house over the past week -- and, also as usual, I haven't read any of them yet. So, below I'll tell you what I can about them given that handicap -- my hope is to be both accurate and entertaining.

Vertical launches a new manga series this month with Tsutomu Nihei's Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 1. It's a far-future story, set aboard the seed ship Sidonia on its long mission to escape the nearly-ubiquitous, barely-sentient aliens that have destroyed most of the human race. The hero is a young recluse, an unmodified human male in a society dominated by new genders and where most people can photosynthesize, who is sent out to battle those hideous aliens (in, I'm going to guess, a giant robot mecha suit, because Japan). Nihei is known for dark, brooding stories, so I wouldn't expect too much slapstick or panty shots in this one -- it looks to be a more adult, serious look at some genre tropes, perhaps the manga equivalent of Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars.

Also from Vertical this month is a continuation: Toru Fujisawa's GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Vol. 7. The "great teacher" Eikichi Onizuka, on vacation in his hometown after events in the main GTO series, finds himself a "father" one afternoon, according to the back-cover copy -- though the early pages of the book see him burn down a group home to stick some girl with an arson-murder rap. (If that's what passes for "great teaching" in Japan, I'm happy to have grown up on this side of the Pacific!)

Switching gears to books without pictures briefly, I also have here Brandon Sanderson's first novel for young readers, The Rithmatist, coming from Tor Teen in May. It seems to be set in a fantasy version of America, where dangerous Wild Chalklings threaten civilization, held back only by the magical power of the Rithmatists and the controlled Chalklings they can create. The novel follows one teen boy who desperately wants to be a Rithmatist -- and I'll bet that this isn't the one YA fantasy about a protagonist who isn't magically special.

This week I also got a big box of Yen Press's February books, which will fill up the rest of this week's post. This time out, I'm not organizing them in any particular order -- we'll see what I can figure out about them as I go.

Triage X, Vol. 2 comes from Shouji Sato (artist of Highschool of the Dead), and seems to be about a group of hyper-violent nurses from Mochizuki Hospital -- though I think they're only hyper-violent against some gang lord, or something like that. It's rated M-for-Mature and comes shrinkwrapped, so I expect there's quite a bit of fanservice along with the blood.

Launching this month is Junya Inoue's BTOOOM!, with a first volume that has the word "Games" prominently displayed even though it doesn't seem to be part of the title or subtitle. My guess is that it's either a story arc or a Yen sub-imprint, though the book doesn't explain it either way. The story follows an addicted gamer, who gets kidnapped away to an uninhabited island, where he has to play a real-life game almost exactly like the one he's really really good at online in the usual death matches against colorful adversaries. Once again, Japan has really weird wish-fulfillment fantasies.

The Haruhi Suzumiya juggernaut rolls on with another side volume, The Misfortune of Kyon and Koizumi, a collection of short stories about the two male members of the "SOS Brigade" from a dozen-plus manga-ka. The book doesn't credit an editor, but it looks like all of the stories were written by Haruhi creator Nagaru Tanigawa. If you have only a slight familiarity with Haruhi, this is nowhere near the place to start; this is serious otaku territory.

Yuhki Kamatani's Nabari No Ou -- some kind of ninja-in-the-modern-world story -- returns with a thirteenth volume, which seems to focus on the mother of the series main character.

Pandora Hearts -- a vaguely Alice in Wonderland-inspired manga series by Jun Mochizuki, whose first volume I reviewed a few years back -- has a fourteenth volume this month, in which things like "the tragedy of Sablier," "the sinister blade of the Headhunter," "and "the mysteries of Fianna's House and Humpty Dumpty" are all of utmost importance.

Umineko When They Cry -- a series that's a sister (I think) to the longer Higurashi: When They Cry series, and similarly based on a series of computer games -- comes back fora second volume, again from Ryukishi07 and Kei Natsumi. This one is about a powerful family gathering on a remote island (of course), where they start being killed off one by one by either one of their own or a mysterious extra person on the island. Either way, the survivors want to stop it quickly.

One of my favorite titles that I don't understand at all is The Betrayal Knows My Name, which always sounds to me like a piece of particularly arch, over-the-top dialogue from a really juicy soap opera. I have no real idea what Hotaru Odagiri's story is actually about, I'm sorry to say, but this 5th volume features a visit to the Hidden Springs of the Giou, which has got to be good.

And last for this week is the third volume of Until Death Do Us Part, the story of a blind swordsman and a precognitive girl battling the evil forces that want to enslave her (and probably do much more than that, since evil forces rarely have small plans). It's by Hiroshi Takashige and DOUBLE-S.


Mike G. said...

I'm in awe of your mailbox, even though I'm trying to dump physical books these days instead of acquiring more.

Minor quibble, though: Sanderson published _Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians_ way back in 2008, so _Rithmatist_ isn't his first book for younger readers...

Andrew Wheeler said...

Mike G.: I believe you...but The Rithmatist came with a letter headlined "Tor is please to announce the release of Brandon Sanderson's first young adult novel this May," so I took my cue from that. Perhaps it was meant very specifically, and the Alcatraz books were officially "middle grade," or some other sub-set of the universe of childrens' books.

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