Monday, October 26, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/24

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The following are the books that arrived last week at my house -- mostly unexpectedly, mostly happily -- because they were sent by the hard-working publicists of book publishing. In return, I review some of those books, some of the time. And I also list them all here weekly, so they all get at least this little bit of attention when they're shiny and new and fresh to the market. Here's what I have to tell you about this week.

This is another week with a big surge of books from Yen Press, the mostly-manga arm of the mighty Hachette Publishing Group, all of which are in final form and so are already out in the market or rushing there on trucks and railroad cars as I type. As usual, I'm organizing them by volume number. (And then, at the end, there's one skiffy novel.)

School-Live!, Vol. 1 launches a new series by Norimitsu Kaihou (Nitropius) and Sadoru Chiba, about an absolutely normal afterschool club, called School Living, composed of four absolutely normal girls (with the usual manga personality quirks) in it, living at their school after the absolutely normal zombie apocalypse has killed everyone else in the world. As you do.

Another series launch is Tsuyoshi Watanabe's Dragons Rioting, Vol. 1, in which our young hero Rintaro is going to a new school. Good news: it's a former girls' school, and the student body is 99% female. Bad news: he has some condition (unspecified on the back cover) that, well, means "sexual arousal can be deadly for him." Ugly news: the school is also one of those unruly ones with gangs vying for domination -- and the three gang leaders are the "dragons" of the title. I assume Rintaro will have something those gangs want, and the leaders will try to seduce him -- because what else do you do in high school, right? -- to get it. Wacky hijinks will undoubtedly ensue.

Our first continuation this week is the side-story The Devil Is a Part-Timer! High School!, Vol. 2, a manga by Kurone Mishima from the original light novels by Satoshi Wagahara. The main Part-Timer! series is set in the Tokyo fast-food restaurant where the former Dark Lord of an alternate world works (as a high school boy) and schemes to dominate this world -- but this side series focuses on their life in high school, because, as far as I can see, high school is the strange attractor that all manga series sit in various decaying orbits around.

Yoshinki Tonogai's latest psychological horror/torture-light story comes to a close in Secret, Vol. 3. This is another story about secrets, hidden crimes, mob justice, and crippling guilt -- I'd call that quintessentially Japanese if it weren't so deeply American as well.

I don't think Trinity Seven, Vol. 3 is primarily a series about titillation, but this ass-tastic cover does make me wonder. It's written by Kenji Saito, and drawn by Akinari Nao, and takes place at a school for magicians -- and nothing I've seen so far would lead me to the conclusion that the students there are forbidden underwear. (Just in case anyone is wondering.)

Speaking of titillation, I also have Ani-Imo, Vol. 5, the latest in Haruko Kurumatani's series about step-siblings who switched bodies and their mostly sexual tension resulting from that. In this volume, they're back in their own bodies, but the tension is still there -- since the tension, as far as I can tell, is the whole point of the series.

Turning to the classier side of romance, Kaoru Mori has a new book out: A Bride's Story, Vol. 7. I haven't read this series, and I think it's more subtle than most of these volumes I see -- so I hope I don't misrepresent it. But I believe it's primarily a series of loosely linked stories about young women, married or just about to get married, along the Silk Road through central Asia during the 19th century, linked together by a foreign merchant traveling that road and meeting them each in turn. This time out, I believe we're in Persia, with young wife Anis.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Vol. 8 comes from Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo, and continues to be a side-story to Tanigawa's light novels about Haruhi Suzumiya (and all of the other kinds of related stories, across many media). I believe this story is a romance between the hapless hero of the Haruhi stories and a secondary character from that series, taking place in a story-space not dominated by that wacky Haruhi girl.

I read the first three volumes of this series -- we're talking about Cocoa Fujiwara's Inu x Boku SS, Vol. 9, by the way, so do try to keep up -- but haven't gone further with it, so my description here may be out of date. But I think the plot of the first few books -- in which the magical-throwback scions of powerful Japanese families live in a big Tokyo apartment building and engage in minor schemes and teenagerly-strong love affairs -- has gotten mixed up with the plot of the immediate proceeding books, which had a time-jump after a Major Shattering Event. This volume talks about messages from the future, which either implies another time-jump (and MSE) is coming, or that the message is going back to the original set of characters. I'm not sure which, and now my head hurts.

Last from Yen for this week is a light novel with a title that's very hard to search for: DRRR!!, Vol. 2. It''s from Ryohgo Narita. I did review the first volume of the manga based on the light novel series back in 2012, but that was a very loose, sprawling story with a lot of different characters in it who weren't necessarily connected to each other at all. So it's difficult to say what this is about other than: a bunch of people doing very different things in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district.

And actually last for this week is the fantasy novel I promised you: The Geomancer, forth in the Vampire Empire series from Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith. (This one is also subtitled "A Gareth and Adele Novel," and the copyright page crows that it's the first such -- but I thought those are also the main characters of the first three novels. So I'm not clear what the distinction is.) Gareth and Adele have freed their steampunk world from the yoke of the vampire overlords -- well, freed England, at least, and that's all that matters in Steampunk (unless it's Seattle) -- but a new threat has arisen. In best Marvel Comics movie style, it's an evil version of Adele, someone with the exact same powers as her on the side of the vampires, and if Our Heroes can't rush around the world and do their plotty things in time, Everything Will Go Pear-Shaped. This is a trade paperback from Pyr, available on November 3rd.

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