Monday, December 05, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 12/3

This is one of those weeks when the wonderful folks at Yen Press (Hi, Ellen!) have sent me boxes and boxes of manga goodies, and so I have a long list of books to get through. So I'll try to do it quickly, since I need to run off with the family to get a Christmas tree in just over an hour. (It's 8:09 AM on Sunday as I type this.)

As always:
  • these books came in my mail, somewhat unexpectedly
  • I haven't read them
  • I hope you will find something to love
  • And so here's what seems interesting
I'll start off, as usual, with the non-Yen books -- first up is a new novella from Bruce Sterling, Pirate Utopia. Chairman Bruce hasn't been as active in fiction this last decade -- with The Caryatids in 2009, something I never heard of before named Love Is Strange in 2012, and now this book -- but I hope this signals that he's back; we could use the old Sterling from the '80s and '90s to make sense of our new world. Pirate Utopia comes to us from Tachyon, and is some kind of oddball historical SF, possibly steampunk -- it's set right after WW I, in the new futurist-dominated nation of Carnaro (which I keep reading as "Camaro"), and seems to be about their power struggles as they try to build a new nation with the aid of American visitors H.P. Lovecraft and Houdini.

And from Pyr in trade paperback: Judgment at Verdant Court, the third in the "World of Prime" epic fantasy series by M.C. Planck. (Insert joke about length of this book being the "Planck distance" here.) This series is about a mechanical engineer turned into priest of a war god -- I think he's a local engineer, rather than the more typical contemporary-guy-who-walked-around-the-horses. And I gather by this point in the series, he has a truly impressive prophet-of-God beard, looking at the cover.

Everything else if from Yen Press, as previously mentioned, and is rolling out to stores and electron-vending establishments this month. I'll present them in basically alphabetical order by format.

I cannot say definitively that Akame ga KILL! Zero, Vol. 4 is full of fan-service, does come sealed in plastic and features a limber young woman doing the standing splits on the cover. So I can take a guess. This come to us from Takahiro and Kei Toru, and continues the prequel series to the main Akame ga KILL! storyline.

Aoharu Machinegun, Vol. 2 is by an entity credited as NAOE [1]. It's about a team in some kind of firearms-based competition -- it seems to be real-world rather than virtual, and regular semi-auto guns rather than the highly-engineered single-shot competition rifles I'd expect, which may mean they're shooting at each other. But the back cover is vague, and there's no list of characters, so all I can say is: competition with guns. And we're still in the training-montage portion of the story.

Starting a new series from Kafka Asagiri and Sango Harukawa: Bungo Stray Dogs, Vol. 1. Our hero is a boy kicked out of an orphanage for no obvious reason -- something about budget cutbacks, or maybe they just don't like him -- and is about to starve to death on the streets when he runs into one of the agents of a fabled "armed detective agency" that takes on supernatural cases that no one else can handle. So of course he's dragged into their next case.

Another new series, from Pandora Hearts creator Jun Mochizuki: The Case Study of Vanitas, Vol. 1. The title character is a semi-crazy vampire doctor in Paris -- both a doctor and a vampire, unlike Doctor Worm -- who is trying to save the peace between humans and vampires from some upheaval or other. There's also a young man caught up in his schemes, since every manga needs the average guy to act as a viewpoint.

Diving into the oddball long titles category, there's a new volume in Wataru Watri (original story), Naomichi Io (art) and Ponkan➇'s (character design) series, My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected, Vol. 3. This is another one of those normal-buy-forced-to-be-in-a-weird-club-at-school stories, which the Japanese have turned into a solid subgenre for their own reasons.

And then there's the manga adaptation Overlord, Vol. 3, which comes from Kugane Maruyama's original light novel and has been turned into comics by Hugin Miyama. This is a I'm-trapped-in-this-videogame story, but our hero is trapped as a super-powerful Dark Lord type for added spice. It looks like this is mostly a story about fighting, in which the characters loudly announce each move as they do it.

From here on it's still Yen, but mostly light novels -- be warned! You may have to read more words!

Accel World, Vol. 8: The Binary Stars of Destiny is by the prolific Reki Kawahara, with illustrations by Hima. This is about people who aren't trapped in a big online game, but spend most of their time there anyway, just like many of us in the real world. Apparently, though, you can be permanently polluted by evil online -- I think Jimmy Swaggart warned us of that -- and our hero is fighting to save his friend from that in this volume.

Yuu Miyazaki brings us The Asterisk War, Vol. 2: Awakening of Silver Beauty, with illustrations by okiura. This one is about a school that trains people to duel, because of all of the jobs in the duel sector available to graduates.

Then there's Ryohgo Narita's Baccano!: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Express, Vol. 3, which has an extra colon in its subtitle for no obvious reason. (Unless there will be a Baccano!: The 1931 Grand Punk Railroad: Local coming along later, to be followed by Baccano!: The 1931 Grand Disco Railroad: Express and Baccano!: The 1932 Grand Punk Railroad: Express for maximum variety.) This is a story of '30s gangsters on a strain in America, with possibly less emphasis on historical realism and plausibility then you would think could be possible.

More secret societies protecting the world from mysterious hidden threats! Shiden Kanzaki (and illustrator Saki Ukai) are back with Black Bullet, Vol. 5: Rentaro Satomi, Fugitive. No points for guessing the main character's name, or the major plot event that happens to him in this book.

And we're back to manga briefly with the 4-koma series from Satoko Kiyuduki, Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Vol. 7, usually just referred to as "GA" unless you're trying to google the darn thing. The group of girls at an art college are coming up to graduation, but there's room for another hundred or so pages of jokes first.

Satoshi Wagahara's light novel series continues with The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 6, with illustrations by the creature designated 029 (oniku). The devil is still working in a not-McDonald's in Tokyo, but it has now opened a coffee shop upstairs, which he sees as his stepping-stone to management and then TOTAL POWER!!!!!!! (I may be slightly exaggerating. Or maybe not.)

Natsuki Takaya's popular manga series in being reprinted in handsome double-sized volumes, and the latest is Fruits Basket Collector's Edition, Vol. 8. As I recall, this is one of those series with a family of supernatural folks who transform when various things happen in their vicinity -- the see butter, or trip over a rug, or sneeze, or maybe experience existential ennui.

Another light novel about kids at magic school, because we all know how popular that idea is: Tsutomu Sato's The Irregular at Magic High School. Vol. 3: Nine School Competition Arc 1 (with illustrations by Kama Ishida). I believe there is a competition here among nine schools, and that it's not done in this book. (You're welcome!)

Fatter than most light novels: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, Vol. 7, by Fujino Omori with illustrations by Suzuhito Yasuda. In this volume, our hero Bell comes out of the Dungeon and to the city of Oratorio's pleasure quarter, presumably to spend some of his hard-earned loot enjoying himself. (Why he has to go there when the entire rest of the cast seems to be attractive women who love him is a question I cannot answer here.) Sadly, it seems the pleasure quarter just gives him intrigue rather than reasonably-priced love.

And here's a new 4-koma manga series, Yui Hara's Kiniro Mosaic, Vol. 1. It seems to be about a girl who loves Japan so much, she moves there from England to go to high school. Which is...a thing that actually happens in the world? Maybe, I guess. Certainly a decent set-up for jokes.

Yet more light novels about gaming! Yuu Kamiya's No Game No Life, Vol. 5 is, I think, not about people trapped in a specific online game, but is about regular Earth-people transported to another world where everyone is obsessed by games. So entirely different. (And, yes, this is what the publisher's website has up right now for a book that I have in my hand. Oopsie.)

Back to people trapped in games with Reki Kawahara's Sword Art Online, Vol. 9: Alicization Beginning. In this one, the series hero wakes up amnesiac -- presumably in yet another game -- and starts to pursue the just-recovered memory of his childhood friend Alice. (I would not bet against this being yet another Japanese retelling of Alice in Wonderland.)

And last is a big fat manga volume with a particularly unpleasant-looking character on the cover: Wataru Watanake's Yowamuchi Pedal, Vol. 4. Our hero dreams of being a great cycling legend, but can he stand the training montages and backstabbing from supposed allies? (Well, he's the hero, so obviously he can.)

[1] Nanotech Assembly Organized for Extermination, perhaps?

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