Monday, July 18, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/16

Big list this week, so each one will only get a little time. First up: these are books. They came in my mail. I haven't read them. Here's what I can tell you about them.

Almost everything here is a new manga volume (or light novel) from the fine folks at Yen I'll lead off with the few that aren't.

The Stars Askew is a fantasy novel by Australia's Rjurik Davidson, the sequel to his first novel Unwrapped Sky. (And I guess that's what happens when you're sloppy while unwrapping your sky -- the stars end up all askew.) The flap copy is full of names I don't know -- I didn't read the first book -- and the factions and groups they belong to, which seem to be trying to rule a city in turmoil after whatever happened in the first book. (My bet is on overthrowing the ancient rule of the corrupt Masters, since this is a fantasy novel.) This is a Tor hardcover, and it officially hit stores last week.

And I have two second manga volumes from the scrappy, interesting company Vertical -- first alphabetically is Devil's Line, Vol. 2, by Ryo Hanada. This series seems to be about "devils" -- who drink human blood, and I don't know what other devilish things -- in modern Japan, and may be secret or semi-secret. Our hero is a devil, and of course struggling against the compulsion to drink the blood of the requisite cute girl. And he's injured as this book begins.

Also from Vertical: Maybe's To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts, Vol. 2, about bioengineered super-soldier monsters being hunted after they successfully won what seems to be not quite the US Civil War. And they're not quite as monstrous as certain people want to pretend they are, of course.

Everything else is a new book from Yen Press -- all available right now or within a week or so, since I have real books in my hands here. They're across a bewildering list of series and subgenres, and mostly later volumes, so I'll deal with them alphabetically by size, so that the pile doesn't fall over as I'm working through it.

That means first up is Akame ga Kill!, Vol. 7 by Takahiro and Tetsuya Tashiro. The back cover promises a big fight, and assumes we know who is fighting (Night Raid and the Jaegers, both of whom are "teigu," whatever that means) and why. If you do, go to it!

Somewhat easier for new readers is The Asterisk War, Vol. 1, a manga by Ningen from a light novel of the same name by Yuu Miyazaki (and character designs by okiura). It's the future, and magic has reappeared, which means there's now a floating city on an ocean somewhere with a big magic academy to train the new generation of wizards. But those wizards seem to spend most of their time dueling rather than studying, perhaps to preparing for the inevitable gigantic tournament. Our hero is an ordinary guy student who just wants a quiet life...and I bet it works out for him just as well as for every other identical manga hero.

And the Battle-Royale-with-bombs story continues in Junya Inoue's BTOOOM!, Vol. 14, this month's entry in the Inappropriate Panty Shot Sweepstakes. This volume ends the "Sanctuary arc," and the back cover promises lots of death and violence by high explosives for those readers who are looking for such things.

A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 6 is also part of a manga series adapting light novels -- this time by Chiuya Kogino out of Kazuma Kamachi with Kiyotaka Haimura as the dam, if I haven't completely screwed up that metaphor -- which has clones and espers and a murderous somebody named Accelerator on the back cover, but no mention of, y'know, magic. I have no idea why.

Yet another light-novel-derived series: The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 6, by Akio Hiiragi from Satoshi Wagahara's novel, with character designs by 029 (Oniku). Now the exiled lord of darkness -- now powerless and working in fast-food in Tokyo -- is the father of a baby, through what do not seem to be the traditional means. (The female Hero who defeated him is the mother.) I think I can safely say that wacky hijinks ensue.

If I were trying to make up a parody manga title, I probably wouldn't get something as long and convoluted as Final Fantasy Type-0 Side Story: The Ice Reaper, Vol. 5. But it exists, done by Takatoshi Shiozawa under the supervision of Tetsuya Nomura -- I love books with a "supervision" title on the cover, and would like to see more of them. This is some kind of fantasy story loosely related to the long-running series of games, in case you need me to point that out to you.

Horimiya, Vol. 4 continues what looks to be a love story by Hero and Daisuke Hagiwara, and it's deep into the "did he say 'I love you' to her or not" portion of the plotline.

I'm hoping the title How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, Vol. 3 sounds less squicky in the original Japanese, because it's really creepy to my ear. I think the actual story is more about making comics and less about grooming young girls, if that helps. It's by Takeshi Moriki from the light novel by Fumiaka Maruto, with character designs by Kurehito Misaki.

Then there's Kagerou Daze, Vol. 6, also from a light  novel series (by Jin (Shizen no Teki-P)), adapted by Mahiro Satou. According to the back cover, "this is the story of the loneliness and love of a certain boy and girl." That's enough to decide whether to buy it, right?

I'm not entirely sure where the subtitle goes here, but I'll call it Log Horizon, Vol. 3: The West Wing Brigade. This trapped-in-a-MMORPG story (seriously, it's like a serious subgenre in Japan) was a light novel series by Mamare Touno before being turned into this manga series by Koyuki. This time out, our hero is going to save the day, apparently just to impress some hot babes.

Long titles return with the middle-of-complicated series volume Puella Magi: Tart Magica: The Legend of "Jeanne d'Arc," Vol. 3, with art by Masugitsune and Kawazu-Ku from the original story (animated series? script? I'm not entirely sure) by the Magica Quartet [1]. This is a big magical-girl story, and I can't tell you much more than that.

Next up: another jawbreaker of a title. Re:Zero: - Starting Life in Another World - : Chapter 1: A Day in the Capital. (There's also a "Volume 1" in there somewhere, but damned if I know where. And I'm really not sure why there are hypens on either side of the subtitle, but they're there, so I'll put them in. This is by Daichi Matuse (art), Tappei Nagatsuki (original story, aka the light novel this was based on), and Shinichirou Otsuka (character design). A boy named Subaru Natsuki -- and I don't know if that's meant to be as everyday as John Ford or subtly odd like Ford Prefect -- finds himself dropped into an alternate magical world,where he has an unspecified "most inconvenient special ability of all time." Guess you gotta read the book to find out what it is.

It's rare that a cover gives you simultaneously underboob, exposed thong, and unbuttoned pants -- in an action shot, no less! -- by clearly Shinjiro is up to the task with Taboo Tattoo, Vol. 3. (Oddly, there's no sign of a tattoo anywhere on the lots of exposed flesh of the young woman on the cover, which would seem to this layman to be more germane.) Or maybe that thing not actually on her hand is a magic tattoo of some kind? In nay case, this book sees Seigi trying to face Shrodinger's Cat and dealing with the truth of the Void Maker told to him by the Princess of Selinstan. So there.

Those are all of the small-format Yen books; from here forward, they'll be big 'uns, with some light novels mixed in.

Kaori Yuki's Alice in Murderland, Vol. 4 continues the story of a happy rich family where the children have to murder each other to inherit their parents' wealth. (And the parents had nine of them, presumably because they liked the idea of eight of them getting killed messily.)

Fourth in the series of light novels by Ryohgo Narita is the simply named DRRR!!, Vol. 4. (On the inside, it's called DURARARA!!, but that's not what the cover says. They are consistent in the number of bangs, though, so that's something.) As I understand it, this series has a bunch of loosely intersecting plots in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district.

Fruits Basket Collector's Edition, Vol. 3 continues the omnibus reprinting of Natsuki Takaya's popular shojo series. I think this is one of those stories where people change sex for odd reasons -- they have soup thrown on them, or get a cold, or maybe turn into pandas when the humidity is high and fly south to Capistrano if thwarted in love -- but I don't know the details.

Not actually manga, but still comics, and arguably adapted from a "light novel" -- Hollow City, a comics adaptation of the Ransom Riggs YA novel of the same name with art by Cassandra Jean. Hollow City is the sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, both ways -- the novel was a sequel to the novel, and this graphic novel is a sequel to a similarly adapted graphic novel last year. Coincidentally, I reviewed the first Riggs novel, which you can read here.

If you like Fruits Basket, but already have those books, you might be interested to see Liselotte & Witch's Forest, Vol. 1, the first book in a new series by Natsuki Takaya. This is about a young noblewoman who moves to a rural area on the edge of a witch-infested forest, from whose depredations she is quickly saved by a guy who looks strangely familiar. I suspect romantic hijinks will follow.

Touya Mikanagi is back with Karneval, Vol. 5, the book that dares to have no explanations or descriptions on the outside at all. (There is a dense who-the-heck-are-these-people page in the front matter, for those who dig in.) As far as I can tell, this series is about a recovering burglar in a combination circus/police school, because comics.

Hey! here's a Log Horizon novel! Log Horizon, Vol. 5: A Sunday in Akiba is the latest in the series by Mamare Touno, with illustrations by Kazuhiro Hara. I don't know if it literally takes place all on one day, or if the title is figurative. But the front matter does have a fold-out full-color cutaway map of the Log Horizon HQ, in the style of a Fantastic Four comic from 1967, so I'm inclined to like this book. As far as I can tell, our heroes are still stuck in their fantasy-gaming world, but seem pretty happy there. (This series may use a transported-bodily idea, rather than the usual still-stuck-in-their-gaming-chairs-and-unconscious standard.)

White-haired dude wants you to go to Prison School, Vol. 4! (Akira Hiromoto, the manga-ka, concurs.) Five boys are going to a very tough, previously all-girls school! Wacky hijinks -- and dangerous ones -- have been ensuing for around a thousand pages by this point! The book is shrinkwrapped, so there's some level of naughty stuff!

Remember way up in this post, when I told you about the manga with a long name that started with Re:Zero? Well, the light novel that manga was based on is also coming out this month: Re:Zero, Vol. 1: - Starting Life in Another World. It's by Tappei Nagatsuki, with illustrations by Shinichirou Otsuka. But this book tells us what the hero's magical ability is! When he dies, he time travels -- I suppose back to a previous point in his life when he wasn't dead, from context. That sounds odd, but not horrible, particularly for a character in a story with a lot of death flying about.

Last for this week is Void's Enigmatic Mansion, Vol. 4, credited as "art & adaptation by HeeEun Kim, Original by JiEun Ha." The exact nature of that "original" is not specified, but I think it was some kind of animation. And I'm pretty sure the enigmatic nature of the mansion is vaguely horrific, though not of the slasher type.

[1] I saw them put on a all-Mozart concert a few years back -- the cellist is particularly impressive.

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