Monday, April 13, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/11, Part One

Some weeks the mail brings only a few books, and I'm happy because any books in the mail are good. Some weeks the mail brings a bunch of books, and I'm happy because, hey, more books!

And some weeks the mail goes into overdrive, and I end up with more than fifty things to write about here, which makes me happy and overwhelmed and in danger of having books fall on my head. (Which I would like to avoid.)

On top of that, the hard drive in my computer decided to suddenly die this Saturday, which means (as I write this) I've spent most of the past twenty-four hours installing Yosemite on an external hard drive [1] and restoring all of the lost data from a Time Machine backup. (My Windows partition was completely hosed, though, and I think I'm not going to be able to boot this into Windows until or unless I get a new internal hard drive installed -- and that might be overkill for a mid-2010 iMac. Sadly, my primary gaming lately was in Windows, which is annoying.)

So I'm going to take the traditional path of a SFF person with too much content and not enough time: Reviewing the Mail is turning into an epic trilogy this week. Like most epic trilogies, the date for the first installment is fixed, and the other two will follow as soon as I can get them done. And, also like a traditional epic trilogy, the stuff I expect most of you are most interested in will be in the third part.

This, then, is Part One, covering over two dozen manga volumes, in the traditional size. Part Two will include about eighteen manga-ish or light novel-esque things, thus serving as the transition between pure manga and pure prose. And Part Three, the exciting climax, will have novels and other prose stuff (and anything else at the very bottom of the pile I've forgotten about).

As always, I haven't read any of these things -- I've glanced at them and kept them from falling over, but not much more -- but I will look at them now and attempt to say true and amusing things about them. (I may well in either or both of "true" and "amusing" -- no promises.) Since there are so many, I've arranged them alphabetically for my convenience. Also, everything in this post is from the fine people at Yen Press, and was recently published -- mostly March and April, but probably a few stragglers from prior months.

So first up is Accel World, Vol. 3, drawn (and probably adapted) by Hiroyuki Aigamo from the original light novel by Reki Kawahara. It's about a fat unpopular kid -- yet another example of the manga audience-insert character in one of its most unflattering forms -- who is vastly cooler and more competent in an online game.

Takahiro (just Takahiro, like Cher) and Tetsuya Tashiro bring us Akame ga KILL!, Vol. 2, a story about big fights with ancient magical weapons, each of which has very specific and weird uses and effects. (Giant scissors, tiger claws, power armor -- the kind of random stuff that presumably the artist likes to draw.) One band of weapon-wielders is trying to clean up the modern corrupt government -- by killing lots of people, naturally -- is coming up against defenders with similar weapons, making ever bigger and more spectacular battles.

Haruko Kurumatani's Ani-Imo has two volumes -- numbers two and three -- continuing the pseudo-incest body-switch comedy. (Older brother Youta and little sister Hikaru discover they're not actually related and then immediately switch bodies, with the ex-kid sister then becoming creepily hands-y immediately.) I have to read this to see if it's really as squicky as it sounds.

Ikumi Katagiri continues his adaptation of Ai Ninomiya's "drama CD" (which I think means it's like a radio play, but I suppose that could describe a game as well) series in Are You Alice?, Vol. 8, about a young man in a mysterious land and all the people who either call him Alice or try to kill him or both.

Haruki Ueno's Big Hero 6, Vol. 1 looks to be a manga adaption of the recent animated movie, which itself was a very loose adaptation of a Marvel comic of the same name from the '90s. I look forward to the light novel based on this manga, which will then be turned into a video game, which will then be adapted by Marvel to bring it full circle.

Yuuki Kodama is back with Blood Lad, Vol. 6, the latest thick volume (350+ pages, twice the usual otakui duke of hell and his family trouble. I haven't kept up with this series, but I did read the first volume, which was weird and distinctive and bizarrely energetic.

And then there's Shiwo Komeyama's Bloody Cross, Vol. 6, a deeply blasphemous supernatural romp through plot coupons and various demonic and angelic creatures as they all battle to become the next Christian God. (Of course that's not how it works: do you think Japanese mythology works the way it does in stories by Americans?) During my book-a-day sojourn last year, I reviewed volumes one, two, and three.

Junya Inoue has another installment in his story about people murdering each other with complicated explosive devices -- entirely because they're being forced to, a la Battle Royale, for maximum angst -- in BTOOOM!, Vol. 9. I did review the first one, but I've missed the rest, mostly because being-forced-to-murder-each-other is one of my least favorite genres.

Starting a new series: Chuya Kogino adapts Kazuma Kamachi's light novel into A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 1, about the one guy without magic in Academy City and the manic pixie dream girl who upends his life.

Another adaptation of a light novel: The Devil Is a Part-Timer, Vol. 1, by Akio Hiiragi from Satoshi Wagahara's original, about a demon lord who had to flee Hell and is now living as a normal, powerless young man on Earth, working at a fast-food place, plotting revenge, and hiding from the hero that deposed and nearly killed him in the first place.

Out in the farther reaches of Haruhi Suzumiya-land, there's The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Vol. 7, written by Nagaru Tanigawa and drawn by Puyo. It's a side-story of some kind, focused I think on a very mild budding teen romance.

I have to admit I really don't know what's going on in Suu Minazuki's Gou-dere Sora Nagihara, Vol. 2, but I expect it's at least mildly steamy, since the book is sealed in plastic. (I still have the first one on the to-read shelf; I sometimes like to pile up manga series and read 3-7 volumes all at once.) I think it's about a manga character come to life and causing the usual humorous complications for the life of the schlubby guy who invoked her.

And then there's Aya Shouoto's He's My Only Vampire, Vol. 2, about a schoolgirl who has only one vampire when all of her friends have dozens. (Wait, that's not right, is it?)

Hiroji Mishima continues the adaptation of Ichiei Ishibumi's light novel series with High School DxD, Vol. 4, about a teen boy who got accidentally killed and resurrected -- you wouldn't believe how often that happens in Japanese pop-culture stories -- and now is part of a gang reporting to the hottest girl in his school, who is of course also a demon. (If generally true, this would explain a lot.) See my review of the first one for more details.

Inu x Boku SS, Vol. 7 continues a series with a complicated setup -- all of the rich families of Japan are secretly descended from mythological beings, and have at least one "throwback" a generation, all of whom live in a boarding house in Tokyo, half of them as personal servants to the other half for no stated reason -- by Cocoa Fujiwara, and this part of the series follow up on a major change that happened in volumes I didn't read. (See my reviews of one and two and of number three.)

Kagerou Daze, Vol. 1 is another adaptation from another media -- the manga is by Mahiro Satou -- but it seems to be adapted from a concept album, or maybe from the light novels based on that concept album, and maybe there are videos somewhere in that development stream. In any case, the original story is credited to an entity called Jim (Shizen No Teki-P), and it's about one of those Japanese guys who never leave their apartments -- because, the one day this one did (to get a new computer after his old one died), he got dragged into a gang with eye-based superpowers.

Yet another adapatation: Log Horizon, Vol. 1 is a manga by Kazuhiro Hara, based on a light novel series by Mamare Touno. It's set in the MMO Elder Tales, which trapped all users online -- I assume in some kind of virtual-reality setup, since current MMOs might be immersive, but you can always close your eyes or walk away -- which our heroes are desperately fighting to escape.

And here's Nico Tanigawa's No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, Vol. 7. See my reviews of the first five volumes for more details of this weird, quirky story of a girl who knows what she thinks she wants but hasn't realized it will never work.

I'm not really clear on the whole "Puella Magi" series -- there are a lot of books with different names, and some of them are alternate-world versions of the others. They also all seem to have come out of anime in the first place. And the writing is always credited to "Magica Quartet," which is pretty opaque, too. But I have two new books in that series, for those who understand it. First up is Puella Magi Tart Magica: The Legend of Jeanne d'Arc, Vol. 1, with art by Masugitsune and Kawazu-Ku. Did you know Joan of Arc was a magical girl? Apparently, she was.

And then there's Puella Magi Oriko Magica: Extra Story, with art by Mura Kuroe. This is, as far as I can tell, an alternate-world version of the main Oriko story, in which everyone is friendly and happy and loves bunnies.

Hey! Yet another light-novel series jumping into manga! This one is adapted by Sho Okagiri from Pan Tachibana's original, and it starts in So, I Can't Play H, Vol. 1. There's a Grim Reaper -- the redhead on the cover showing more thigh than you'd expect, obviously -- out in the human world trying to find someone to reap, when she attaches herself to our horny young hero, who unwisely says he'll do anything for her. (Manga for boys seem to teach the lesson that they should be frightened of and completely avoid girls as much as possible.)

And here's the last volume of Atsushi Ohkubo's entertaining shonen manga: Soul Eater, Vol. 25. It's still about the supernatural agents who destroy witches -- or, more as the series went on, the kids in training to be agents -- and about their shapeshifting intelligent weapons. But, presumably, the really important stuff happens in this volume.

The Sword Art Online series is about a near-future virtual-reality MMO that -- as inevitably happens -- goes wrong, traps everyone inside, and kills them if they die in the game world. I have three books in that series, all of which are a bit further along in the story -- in the first light novel (or manga sequence), our heroes escaped that particular nasty MMO, and in the later stories, they go back to similar MMO, because they clearly don't have the sense to come in out of the rain. (I kid, I kid.) First up is Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance, Vol. 3, which completes the adaptation of the second novel. It was adapted by Tsubasa Haduki from Reki Kawahara's original.

Then there's Sword Art Online: Girls' Ops, Vol. 1 which is a side-story about some of the female secondary characters, off having adventures by themselves. I'm not sure what, if anything this was adapted from, but it's created to Kawahara as well, with art by Neko Nekobyou.

And then there's Sword Art Online Progressive, Vol. 2, which I think retells the story of the first novel from the point of view of the damsel in distress. It's also credited to Kawahara, with art by Kiseki Himura.

Another last volume: Sesuna Mikabe's Tena on S-String, Vol. 7, which is about some sort of musical/magical apocalypse and the girls in knee-high boots and short skirts who battle it. Presumably, that apocalypse is averted in this volume -- or at least I hope so.

And last for this installment is Shouji Sato's Triage X, Vol. 9, continuing the story of the very busty crime-fighting nurses of Mochizuki General Hospital and the scantily-clad evil folks they defeat. (And, sometimes, the long hot sensuous baths they take together.) The intrigued can see my review of the first five volumes, and then individual looks at numbers six and seven.

And that concludes this thrilling installment of Reviewing the Mail! Our epic trilogy will return soon in the pulse-pounding second installment!

[1] Lesson: always have a second way to boot your computer that relies on a completely different medium than your main hard drive. This is more difficult now that they don't come with install discs, of course.

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