Monday, June 06, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/4

This is a week with a couple of boxes full of Yen Press manga goodness, so it'll be a long post. So I won't wast time on preliminaries: these books came in the mail this week, I haven't read them, but I'm going to tell you about them anyway.

First up is the first novel from World Fantasy Award nominee Kat Howard: Roses and Rot. Two young women escaped a toxic mother, and are seeing the beginnings of professional success -- one as a dancer, the other as a writer. And so it seems like a wonderful opportunity to be together when both are accepted to a prestigious program at the artists' retreat Melete. But that wouldn't make for much of a novel, would it? Melete is creepier and more mysterious than expected, and -- since this book was sent to me, and since it's being published by Saga Press -- I expect something supernatural is at the bottom of it all. For a clue to the particular kind of supernaturalism, note that the publisher's cover letter uses the phrase "fairy tale" quite a few times. Roses and Rot came out on May 17th, and should be available everywhere.

The other novel -- you know, those old-fashioned books without pictures? -- I have for you this week is Laura Lam's False Hearts. It's a near-future SFish novel that calls itself a "speculative thriller," which usually means we're not supposed to do any math when thinking about the SF aspects. Two young women, conjoined twins ho shred a heart, grew up in an Amish-esque sect that refused modern technology, but ran away in their mid-teens for the separation surgery that saved their lives. Now, a decade later, one of them may have committed murder under the influence of a new designer drug, and the other is pressured by someone-or-other to pose as her sister to help roll up the drug ring. Thrills then ensue. False Hearts comes to us from Tor, available June 14.

From here on, everything is manga, everything is published by Yen, and everything is coming out this month. So take that all as read.

Akame ga KILL! Zero, Vol. 2 continues a prequel story to the main Akame ga KILL! storyline, written by Takahiro and drawn by Kei Toru. I believe this focuses on the title assassin during her days as an assassin, before she did her face turn in the main series to be a good guy.

Ani-Imo, Vol. 7 comes to us from Haruko Kurumatani, and continues what looks like a really wierd body-swap sex comedy (though I admit I haven't read it). Teen step-siblings Youta and Hikaru swapped bodies back in the first volume, and the girl-in-a-boy's-body has been stalking her/his sister/brother ever since. Wacky! By this point, there are also several other body-swapped folks, since that's how serialized fiction works: everything has to get bigger and more complicated.

Black Bullet, Vol. 4 is drawn (and probably somewhat written) by Morinohon from the light novels by Shiden Kanzaki. I believe this is one where most of humanity is dead, but the few survivors huddle in Tokyo, protected by a couple of superpowered folks who battle weird alien monsters. (Possibly not "alien," possibly not officially "monsters.") Will they survive? And, more importantly, what about their complicated interpersonal relationships?

Shiwo Komeyama continues with Bloody Cross, Vol. 11, a series that does to Christianity what Frank Miller did to Shintoism in Ronin. It's only fair, right?

The front cover of Aya Shouto's He's My Only Vampire. Vol. 7 features two yearning pretty boys, which may make readers think it's yaoi. My understanding is that the main character is a girl -- mousy, "ordinary," etc., as manga protagonists are required to be -- who was stuck as the eternal servant to a vampire because he saved her life. (Japanese society has just so many rules, you know?) But the cover guys may be an important subplot, so this may fill your boys-in-love fix for the month, if you're lucky.

Another book adapted from a light novel: The Honor Student at Magic High School, Vol. 3, by Yu Mori out of Tsutomu Sato. And it's honor student at a high school for magic. Honestly, sometimes it's like you folks aren't even paying attention. The school is in Tokyo, of course, because the rest of the world barely exists in manga.

The most pretentious manga title I know is back with Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Vol. 3, now and always by nanao and HaccaWorks*. (The title is only medium-pretentious, but add that to a lower-case single-name creator and a co-creator with a non-letter character and a '90s conglomerate's lack of internal spaces -- like BigHugeInternetCo -- and the reading shoots way up.) In this book, more things continue to be red, to be light, and to be ayakashi.

Hey, something new! Another light novel -- from Kugane Maruyama, who I'm going to pretend both you and I know well -- is turning into manga. This time, it's called Overlord, Vol. 1, and it's at the hands of Hugin Miyama. (And I have to wonder if he has a twin named Munin.) This is yet another trapped-in-an-online-game story, featuring a normal guy who gets stuck as his high-level lord-of-death game avatar when he's still playing as a game shuts down.

And then there's Rose Guns Days: Season 1, Vol. 4, by Ryukishi07 and Soichiro, which might be another "Tokyo is the only habitable place left on earth" story, or it just might seem that way, because all manga is set in Tokyo. (See below for an exception; I immediately contradict myself.)

Space Dandy, Vol. 1 is based on the anime, and if it seems to have similarities to Cowboy Bebop, it's because it comes from the same team (or some of it). The book is credited to Bones (original story), Sung-Woo Park + Redice (art), and Masafumi Harada (adaptation). So it's about a hugely self-confident guy with Elvis hair having adventures in space and hanging out with scantily clad women -- like the 1970s never ended!

More people trapped in video games! Here's Sword Art Online: Mother's Rosary, Vol. 2, with art by Tsubasa Haduki from Reki Kawahara's original story (i.e., adapted from a Kawahara light novel). I have to admit I don't remember which permutation of this story is which: is this the retelling-of-book-one-from-the-girl's-point-of-view? Or is it the gosh-we're-trapped-in-another-video-game-why-does-this-keep-happening-to-us story?

Hey! Here's a manga series that takes place in Japan but not in Tokyo! The fish-out-of-water comedy for the twenty-teens returns with Barakamon, Vol. 11, from Satsuki Yoshino. Check out the hot hoe action on the cover! (I apologize for that, but can you blame me?)

Spin-off fever grows in The Devil Is a Part-Timer! High School! Vol. 4, in which the original light novels (by Satoshi Wagaharas) that were already adapted into manga directly are re-adapted into a wacky what-if-all-of-the-characters-were-high-school-students new version by artist Kurone Mishima. (Note: it probably wasn't Mishima's idea, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was mostly written by Wagahara, or by the faceless manga editors who rule all.) If you don't know the story: Satan (or his rough equivalent) lost the big battle and fled to Earth, powerless. The head of the forces of good chased him. Both now work in a fast food restaurant in Tokyo, powerless. Wacky!

And last for this week is Satsuki Yoshino's Handa-Kun, Vol. 3, the cover of which features four people looking at you quizzically. (I hope you haven't done anything to annoy them.) It's another high school story, and this one -- maybe the whole series? -- is a battle of the sexes.

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