Monday, March 21, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/19

As usual, here are some books -- a lot of books, actually. And, since I need to get away from the computer for some frivolity this afternoon (my older son just turned 18, which is wonderful for him but makes me feel old), so this may be a speed round.

As always: these just came in the mail, and I haven't read any of them. This time: all but one  (which will take the anchor position at the rear) came form the fine folks at Yen Press, and are translated from the Japanese. Several are "light novels" (less fat! more pictures!), but most are manga, and I'll run through each category alphabetically. If I don't say otherwise, they're all available now or on trucks taking them to your favorite purveyor of readable entertainment.

Akame ga KILL! ZERO, Vol. 1 has the rare middle exclamation point in its title, presumably because it's a prequel to the series Akame ga KILL!. It's from Takahiro (story) and Kei Toru (art), and is about the killing-machine in a short skirt on the cover before she did the things she did in the other series. (Can you tell I haven't read any of this?)

Black Bullet, Vol. 3 comes from Morinohon (art), Shiden Kanzaki ("original story," a giveaway that this was adapted from another medium), and Saki Ukai (character design, because he drew the illustrations for the original light novel). I believe this is the series where the world has been devatated by plagues, and a few people live in Tokyo, battling the nasty bioengineered creatures. But the back cover just talks about Kagetane Hiruko and Rentaro, who apparently had a battle in the last volume. There's also something about "the inheritance of the seven stars" and "promoters," so you've got that as well.

Bloody Cross, Vol. 10 is a series I did read for a while -- see my review of Vol. 3, which links back to the first two -- but I've been out of the loop for a couple of thousand pages at this point. So I'll just say this is more of the story about god candidates battling it out for the throne of Yahweh -- yes, really -- using God's spellbooks and other plot tokens that pop up conveniently for these demons and angels and mixed things in-between to fight over. It's by Shiwo Komeyama.

Chaika: The Coffin Princess, Vol. 4 is another adaptation, credited to Ichirou Sakaki (original story), Shinta Sakayama (art), and the enigmatic Namaniku Atk (Nitroplus), which designed the characters and may or may not be a post-human software construct. This is, I venture to guess, yet another cute-little-girl-kills-a-lot-of-evil-things story.

Kaori Yuki's back with Demon From Afar, Vol. 6, one of Yen's rare hardcovers. I believe this one is a moody supernatural story set in two different time periods, with the same characters reincarnated both times. Oh, and I think they're tormented. Always pretty safe to bet on tormented.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan, Vol. 9 continues a side-story from author Nagaru Tanigawa's Haruhi Suzumiya series, though I don't know all of the details of how this is different for the main story. (Maybe someone is not-dead here? Or not-evil? Something like that. A major plot point in an early book went differently.) This has art by Puyo, and the characters were designed quite some time ago by Noizi Ito.

He's My Only Vampire, sigh all of the teenage girls, who have plenty of werewolves and zombies but keep shelling out for those rare chase cards and/or blind-boxed Amiibos. (I could perhaps be slightly wrong.) The manga series of the same name has hit Vol. 6, and is, as always, by Aya Shouoto, who works hard enough that I should make fun of her work. To be less flippant, I believe this is one of those boring-normal-teen-bonded-to-a-supernatural-being-so-hijinks-and-luurve-ensue stories.

The Honor Student at Magic High School. Vol. 2 has one of those titles that absolutely places it, even more so when you learn that it's actually a spin-off from a light novel series about the Irregular at MHS. (Oh, MHS, home of my youth! In your hallowed halls did I spend my halcyon days! I could sing your song forever, but I won't.) This has art by Tu Mori, and is from the story by Tsutomu Sato -- whether Sato wrote this volume, or if Mori riffs directly of the light novel events, I can't say.

Karneval, Vol. 4 is by Touya Mikanagi, and is one of that enigmatic books that refuses to have any descriptive copy on the cover at all. So: it's a book, it's about to be published, and presumably Yen figures that you'll know what it is if you want to buy it. (I personally would not market a book that way, but it's not my line.)

Oh, hey, lookie here! It's No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, Vol. 8. I really liked the first few volumes of Nico Tanigawa's series about a sex-obsessed oddball girl who doesn't fit into her high school, no matter what she does. But the last couple of books got a little too Japanese-culture-specific for me; I didn't connect with them as well. See my review (in a round-up) of those last two, and then follow the links further back, if you're interested.

Possibly the very most pretentious title of a manga I've ever seen: Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Vol. 2. It's also credited to nanao (art, and, yes, all lower-case) and HaccaWorks* (story, and yes, no spaces and a star at the end). I have trouble thinking anything could live up to that, but the story seems to be about three boys in a weird provincial town investigating those local weirdnesses.

Pandora Hearts, Vol. 24 is the finale of Jun Mochizuki's manga series, which means this is no place to start reading. I think this one of the many twisted manga retellings of Alice in Wonderland that proliferated for no apparent reason about three years ago.

Prison School, Vol. 3 raises a huff from a million cynical highshoolers -- "how is that different from any other school?" they slyly ask. Well, Akira Hiramoto's series is about an all-girls school that just started accepting boys, leading to the Shadow Student Council leading an Expel the Boys operation...which doesn't sound hugely prison-like to me. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding.

Rose Guns Days, Season 1, Vol. 3 comes to us from Ryukishi07 (story) and Soichiro (art), and the description on the back cover is just about people fighting, without explaining who they are or what they're fighting about. (I think it's more sneaky-plans fighting than stab-the-demon fighting, but those things often blur in manga.)

A series that I've enjoyed quite a bit, despite feeling like I'm missing important context, returns: Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro, Vol. 5. It's about this girl, walking through a fantasy landscape with several odd companions and a coffin on her back -- her coffin, to be precise. See my review of Vol. 3; I think I still have #4 around her somewhere, so I should read both of them.

Yet another series adapted from a light novel: Spice & Wolf, Vol. 12, by Isuna Hasekura (story), Keito Koume (art) and Jyuu Akakura (character design). He's a itinerant merchant! She's a retired harvest goddess! They fight crime! Well, they don't fight crime, exactly, but they do wander around, having adventures and engaging in profitable trade.

Sword Art Online: Mother's Rosary, Vol. 1 begins a new arc in this story of virtual-reality online games (which amazingly still exist, despite the fact that the first arc was about one of them trapping people in the game world and killing large numbers of them, which would usually be a Bad Thing for any new industry). Art is by Tsubasa Haduki, story by Reki Kawahara, and the characters were designed by the entity called abec.

And the last manga is another piece of the Sword Art Online saga: Sword Art Online Progressive, Vol. 4 (Somewhat threateningly styled as "004" on the cover). This bit is also written by Kawahara, and has art by Kieski Himura. I believe this one is the first (most popular) story retold from the POV of the female main character.

Starting off light novels is Accel World, Vol. 6: Shrine Maiden of the Sacred Fire by the seemingly ubiquitous Reki Kawahara, with "illustration" (I checked the book; there's definitely more than one) by Hima. This is a different story about virtual-reality games; it's the one where the fat loser in the real world is a powerful dude in VR, which is not at all condescending to the expected target audience, no sir.

The next book appears to be called DRRR!!, Vol. 3, but any searches online for that will not help you: the series is really called Durarara!!, which is on the cover in the tiniest possible type. Again, the marketer in me wonders if it is a really good idea to make a book that difficult to find, but it's not my property. This is written by Ryohgo Narita, and the series is about a loose sheaf of vaguely intersecting plotlines in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district.

And then we have the interestingly titled Log Horizon, Vol. 4: Game's End [Part 2], from Mamare Touno with illustrations (credited as "illustration" here as well, though there's more than one of 'em) by Kazuhiro Hara. This one is another "people trapped in VR" story, and I'd be very surprised if this really was the last volume.

The last light novel is No Game No Life, Vol. 4, by Yuu Kamiya. This one is about games you play in real life -- like canasta and cribbage -- which of course are the sole culture and obsession of the world Disboard. (It's not clear if it's "world" as in space travel or "world" as in connect to a different server.) A brother and sister team arrived there, bent on beating everyone at their own games, and we all know how well that usually works out.

Last up, I have a book that isn't from Yen, isn't by a Japanese person, and isn't manga. It's not even SFF! Hap and Leonard collects all of the short stories to date about the eponymous duo -- also the heroes of about a dozen novels -- by Joe R. Lansdale. It's coming out at the same time as a TV series about the duo, for which I've been seeing a bunch of ads in the subway. So it collects six old stories (including one co-written with Andrew Vachss), one brand-new story, an "interview" conducted by Lansdale with Hap and Leonard, and an afterword by Lansdale about the series. How could you want more than that? It's a trade paperback from Tachyon, available right now.

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