Sep. 1st, 2008

oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
(possibly shelved under Merovingen Nights: Angel with the Sword?)

Altair Jones is a canaler in the under-city of Merovingen ("Merovingen lived, which was its own misfortune, just well enough not to die"). One day, a rich young man falls out of the sky from a bridge, and against her better judgment and all her instincts, she rescues him. She's soon drawn into some city-wide intrigue involving Mondragon, the aforementioned man.

I actually found the beginning of this book extremely accessible, which is unusual for me with Cherryh, largely because it's told in Altair's voice. She's not snarky exactly, but she's tough and a canal rat and a bit young in some ways, and I like her a lot. I was afraid that the book would end up moving to the high-class circles of Merovingen, in which Mondragon would have all the advantages of knowing the turf and Altair would be a fish out of water and stop being as proactive, but thankfully, this is not the case. While we do get to see a fair amount of Mondragon, he's very clearly The Boy and the damsel in the distress, which I love.

Does anyone know if Altair is POC or not? The book describes her as having a "dusky tanned face," and I can't figure out if the dusky is part of the tan or not.

Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea how the book ends, possibly because I read the latter half when I was severely sleep-deprived, uncaffeinated, and allergic to everything. (Speaking of which, Bay Area ppl, have the past few days been particularly bad for allergies, or is it just me?) So take it with a grain of salt when I say that it felt very fast and not entirely resolved. Also, I would have liked a bit more incluing about the world, though I suspect Cherryh didn't and left everything in a giant appendix because it was planned as a shared world (? is this standard practice for shared worlds?).
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I really need a manga/manhwa/manhua icon instead, huh?

Spoilers )

All in all, not as good as the first volume and the series ended a little too fast for me—I could have actually read at least a volume or two after the ending. Still, the art is absolutely gorgeous, and I still like the slice-of-life-ness and the stillness that the manhwaga likes to focus on.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Ashitaba Hanayu is the daughter of a pastry chef who wants to be a sushi chef. Hyuga Hayato is the son of a sushi chef who wants to be a pastry chef. Together, they fight crime!

Well, not exactly. The bit about Hayato is actually from the back cover, as he has said nothing to support it in the first volume. Also, they sadly do not fight crime, though I think it would be extremely awesome if they did. They could fling raw fish and pastry cream at assorted villains!

Anyway, Hanayu has decided that the best way out of her family's patisserie and into the sushi world is to marry someone who will inherit a sushi restaurant! As one does! Alas, Hayato doesn't seem to impressed by her at first, despite all her vows to win him over with her knife skills. But soon, they begin dating, and Hanayu finds herself in a dilemma: what if she actually likes Hayato for himself and not for his sushi restaurant? Woes!

If you can't tell, I love this manga out of proportion to its actual quality. Though I will say that Hayato seems to be the quiet and angsty type, not the pushy and grumpy type, and that there haven't been many misunderstandings... yet! On the minus side, I am guessing that Hayato's angst will end up overtaking the manga.

But still! It is shoujo manga about food! They go to a cooking high school! One of their exams involves slicing 80 slices of cucumber in 30 minutes and having to line said slices up on a piece of paper numbered from 1-80. The slices, of course, must be whole, but they also must be thin so the numbers are visible through the cucumber! The heroine fantasizes about slicing up all sorts of fish! There are twins named Sato and Kato (granulated sugar and fructose)!

I also love the author's notes, which either go on about how the mangaka is a giant gourmet fan... of instant ramen! Or have notes like: "It's the rainy season!! Hence, the rain on the title page. Also, the netting in the panel above is made of radish." And there are nice end notes going into all the food-related details. Really, what more can you ask for?

Again, this is so not a brilliant series, but it's relaxing and fun and just what my brain needed.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Sunbi is the granddaughter of a powerful shaman, although she's never really learned to exercise her own powers. But when her grandmother dies, she moves into the big city with her father, stepmother and stepsister. But this doesn't mean she's left the spirit world behind.

I had a very hard time getting into the first volume a year or so ago because the art style put me off; the spirits and monsters are appropriately scary, but there's stiffness to the human figures that I found annoying. But after trying a reread, I was fascinated by the world in the first volume, particularly of Sunbi and her grandmother's connection to their village. This may be why I wasn't as enthusiastic about latter volumes, which are set in the city. Also, though this may just be because my brain is on vacation, I could not for the life of me figure out a plot arc. Sunbi has to deal with the spirit world influence even as she's trying to do mundane things like stay awake in class. And then the whole "bride" part of the title came in, only more as comedic relief, and I was even more confused.

I do like the exploration of Sunbi's mother and how she died, and when the manhwa focuses on that, it's wonderful and creepy and strange. But I'm not overly fond of the new dokebi hanging out with Sunbi, and I still can't figure out what's going on, so I'm not sure if I'll keep reading.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Rakan's a fairly normal high school student with an unusual affinity for plants, until one day, he comes across an unconscious man in his garden who then proceeds to wake up and threaten him... with a flowering gun. As it turns out, Rakan looks exactly like the (evil) imperial prince from Chigusa's world (the formerly unconscious guy), but instead of being evil, Rakan is a sanome, or someone who has power over plants. Soon, they're joined by Narushige and his talking snake Koh, both also from Chigusa's world, while some politics go on back in Chigusa's world.

The worldbuilding so far isn't entirely new (parts of it remind me of Nausicaa, and for some reason, I feel like I've seen the plant thing before), but it's still fascinating and inventive. But the part I love best so far is the characters. Chigusa is protective yet shy, Rakan is confused and attempts to cover it up by feeding everyone, Narushige is also protective and sweet, and Koh is proof that talking snakes are made of win (see also: Fire Dancer, The Hollow Kingdom). I feel I should be more into the worldbuilding, which is cool, and I am, except again, my brain, it is on vacation. As such, I am left with the impression of a lot of UST between Chigusa and Rakan and tons of hilarity involving the snake.

Seriously, people! Characters from other worlds being confounded by modern-day life, a la Rukia in Bleach and the juice box, are always hilarious, and even more so when they are talking snakes exclaiming, "The sky is blue!!"

In conclusion: funny, sweet, charming, yet epic-feeling, with pretty art and nice production values from TokyoPop to boot.

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