Monday, October 10, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/8

Hey! It's another week, and I've got a batch of books to tell you about. All of these are newly published, and I haven't read any of them. But let's not let that stop us here. Who knows? Maybe one of these could be your new favorite!

First up is Ken Liu's The Wall of Storms, a big fat fantasy novel and the second in his "Dandelion Dynasty" series. The guy who became Emperor Ragin in the first book now has to deal with an invading empire on his east, and sends his adult children off to battle the invaders with armies and stealth. This is a hardcover from Saga Press.

(Everything else from here on out is from Yen Press -- either manga or light novels related to manga. So I'll just say that once. It's also vaguely in alphabetical order, broken up by size of book, because that's the easiest way to stack them.)

Akame ga KILL!, Vol. 8 comes from Takahiro and Tetsuya Tashiro, and the back cover tells me that Akame and her team have "finally arrived at the headquarters of the religious organization." Does this organization have a name? You'll have to read the book to find out...

Aoharu x Machinegun, Vol. 1 is by an entity credited only as NAOE. The heroine, Hotaru, gets sucked into "the world of survival games" after her neighbor cons a classmate out of her money at a host club...and somehow that leads to Hotaru dueling him with fake guns and losing. I have no idea how to genre-type this, honestly.

Ningen and Yuu Miyazaki return with The Asterisk War, Vol. 2, which continues a story adapted from Miyazaki's light novel of the same name. This is a magical-school story, set in the title city, where there are a number of such schools. And I think this is also the series where people have duels at the drop of a hat.

Bloody Cross, Vol. 12 finishes up the series from Shiwo Komeyama about various demons and angels competing to be the next God (yes -- Yahweh, Jehovah, the Christian god). At this point in the series, the thirteen divine relics have been collected and "the Black Seal bearer's blood has been spilled," so everyone can move on to Round Two and actually have the big final battle for the divine throne. I suspect Komeyama doesn't intend it to be as blasphemous as it is.

Another light novel adaptation: A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 7, by Chuya Kogino from Kazuma Kamachi's original. This is yet another young-magicians-at-school story, which certainly wasn't influenced by any Scottish writers I could name. Definitely not.

The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 7 also is from a light novel series (by Satoshi Wagahara), and was adapted by Akio Hiiragi. OK, so the Devil King of some other world was deposed by The Hero, and now both of them are teenagers in Tokyo, working in a fast-food restaurant and somehow also the parents of a toddler named Alas Ramus -- that child, I'm certain, which they did not produce in the normal way. I think they know who each other are, but I'm not totally certain about that.

Horimiya, Vol. 5 comes from Hero and Daisuke Hagiwara, and is a school-romance story. (With no added demons, or world-saving, or haunted schools, or ancient prophecies, or harems. There may be a hot-springs trip somewhere in it, but nothing wackier than that.)

Kagerou Daze, Vol. 7 is another series adapted from a light-novel series. This time, the novelist is Jin (Shizen no Teki-P) and the manga-ka is Mahiro Satou. The back cover insists "the tale of Azami begins here!" which I hope doesn't mean the first six volumes were pointless. I don't know who Azami is, or who else this series is about, though.

Yet another adaptation! Mamare Touno's light novel becomes Koyuki's manga in Log Horizon, The West Wing Brigade, Vol. 4. Our heroes are trapped in a MMORPG -- as happens distressingly often in Japanese culture -- but it sounds like this one is not as hack-and-slash-focused as the online games I'm used to, since the plot of this volume revolves around a new burger restaurant opening in their neighborhood. (Yes, in the game.)

And one more -- from Tappei Nagatsuki's light novel, into Daichi Matsuse's manga, and then we have the jaw-breaking Re:Zero: Starting Life in Another World -- Chapter 1: A Day in the Capital, Vol. 2. The hero of this one was not trapped in a video game, but was thrown into an alternate world with a lot of fighting and danger in it.

Shinjiro is responsible for Taboo Tattoo, Vol. 4, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I think this one is about people who fight with magical tattoos. The back cover copy -- all about the elite troops of the United States trying to stop Princess Aryabhata from reaching "the last ruin site" and Seigi not being the only one with a "keyless Spell Crest" -- is of no help to me in understanding it.

Barakamon, Vol. 12 is by Satsuki Yoshino, and not based on anything else in any medium...except for the fact that this fish-out-of-water story (uptight professional from the big city rusticates to a tiny little remote village filled with colorful characters) will remind many of you of many other things.

The Devil Is a Part-Timer! High School!, Vol. 5 ends this spin-off series about the Demon King and his nemesis in high school -- like the main series, the story is credited to Satoshi Wagahara, author of the light novels, but the art here is by Kurone Mishima.

Handa-Kun, Vol. 4 comes from Satsuki Yoshino (yes, again), and is, I think, a satirical high-school story about a boy who just wants to be left alone but keeps getting dragged into clubs and activities and the various oddballs of his school.

Psycome, Vol. 2: Murder Princess and the Summer Death Camp is a a light novel by Mizuki Mizushiro with illustrations by Namanie. (The main title is shortened version of "Psycho Love Comedy," which would not be terribly auspicious, though it's lapped several times by the subtitle.) So, our hero somehow got stuck at Purgatorium Remedial Academy, which I think is for murderous teens -- they may be in prison, or that may just be a theme, it's not entirely clear. And, in this book, the whole school decamps for a prison-themed summer camp! There's some kind of romance, and of course most of the characters are murderers -- mostly cute girl murderers, because Japan.

Scum's Wish, Vol. 1 begins a new manga series by Mengo Yokoyari about a cute high school couple  whose "relationship is built on a single shared secret: they're both in love with someone else." I'm not sure if it's the same "someone else," or if they each have their own someone else.

And last for this week is another light novel: Sword Art Online: Progressive, Vol. 4 by Reki Kawahara with illustrations by abec. The "Progressive" books retell the story of the first book in the "Sword Art Online" series -- in which our heroes are, yes, trapped in a MMORPG where death is real -- at much greater length, apparently because the audience likes that novel better than its sequels.

1 comment:

BenTGaidin said...

On Log Horizon: West Wind Brigade -- One of the reasons I've really been enjoying this manga is because the 'game' _is_ as hack-and-slash as the usual MMO, but the story isn't about that. Part of it is because the characters are, like most modern MMO avatars, more than a match for any monster except for the rare dungeon boss, and so the story doesn't try to create drama over fights that are decided before they begin. There are some PvP fights that are more challenging, but they're also treated more as an expression of the conflict between characters rather than an end to themselves.

The real meat of the story is in how all these people react to sudden being trapped in a game world. As you noted, this latest volume is over the opening of a restaurant... because food in the game doesn't _taste_ like anything, any more than it would if you watched your avatar eat it on your computer screen. So when someone does figure out how to create food they can taste, it's a big deal, because it restores one of the human pleasures that they hadn't been able to experience inside this game world. Because West Wind Brigade is all about the human connections in their guild, it makes perfect sense for the story to focus on this.
(The original Log Horizon was in large part about recreating a system of civil governance in a world 'built' around consequence-free murder and looting, and then how their civilization deals with the 'NPC' civilizations that are also now free-willed actors. West Wind Brigade is a little smaller scale, but still really interesting for the way it treats the game as a backdrop for the drama.)

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