Reading Wednesday

Wed, Jan. 8th, 2014 12:51 pm
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What I've read: Haven't done this for a while, so I actually have read things! I got CB the Pusheen the Cat book and volume 1 of Chi's Sweet Home for Christmas, so I read those and was suitably bowled over by the cute. Pusheen is great, but I really love Chi's Sweet Home, which is just so cat. Possibly people might get annoyed by Chi's baby talk, but given that she is a kitten, I am okay with this. Also, CAT!! (Also also, I love the fact that Konami Kanata's entire career is basically cat manga.)

I also read Allie Brosh's book, which I think I laughed at less than a lot of people? It's not that it isn't hilarious, because it is, it's just that after reading her depression posts, some of the ones on procrastination and self sabotage and etc. make me wince more than laugh in that painful, looking-in-the-mirror way. All the entries about her dogs totally crack me up, the entire thing is very worth reading (even if I do wish the one about her dead fish made it to the book), and I would have paid the same price just to get her two posts on depression in print. I'm also really impressed by how spot-on the expressions she draws are.

What I'm reading: I started Anuja Chauhan's Those Pricey Thakur Girls and have been enjoying the third-person narrative voices... I like the first-person narrators of her first two books as well, but they did sound a bit similar at certain points. Really looking forward to an expanded cast of characters, because I love Chauhan most for her various character dynamics, especially of people in small communities and large families, and read her more for that than the romance. I also started Jessica Snyder Sachs' Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death as my own brand of pick-me-up reading, and I should get back to it because it's gruesomely fascinating.

Random book-shaped space: This cover alone makes me want to read Max Gladstone. Also hoping that adding "reading" to my Dailies for HabitRPG helps me get back into it.

Next: Chi's Sweet Home, vol. 2!
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
For [personal profile] wychwood, who asked, "What would you recommend as a good starting point for someone interested in reading some manga? Coming from a Western comics background, mostly superheroes, some indies etc."

First, yay! I'm always glad when more people are thinking of getting into manga! So the following have what I tend to think of when I think about superhero comics; namely, a large cast of characters, a lot of plot, and a lot of action.

Manga by Urasawa Naoki, especially 20th Century Boys. 20th Century Boys is definitely my favorite of his works, even though it's not necessarily the most comprehensible... it's got hidden bases and shounen/boys' manga tropes and time skips and a ragtag group of people fighting against large forces, and it's incredibly fun. Monster is also good, although it's more of a thriller, and Pluto is Urasawa's take on a famous episode from Tezuka Osamu's Astro Boy. Pluto is very SF, with the protagonist for most of it being a police robot. These are actually the only three series of his I've read, and all of them are finished, which is nice.

Claymore by Yagi Norihiro is the rare shounen manga that has a nearly all female cast. The Claymores of the manga are basically a monster-human hybrid created to fight monsters, kind of like Slayers. It's a pretty dark series, with a lot of gore, but I find the worldbuilding really cool, especially as a kind of very, very twisted version of Buffy in which the Watchers are totally evil. I haven't caught up with it for a while, so I'm not sure how the past few volumes have been, and it is an unfinished series.

Fullmetal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu is really good. It's about two brothers, one of whom is a disembodied spirit residing in a suit of armor and the other being an alchemist who's lost an arm and a leg. All the body part loss happened when they were very young and tried to bring their mother back to life via alchemy, and the story starts with them trying to find a way to get Al's body back. I also haven't finished reading this, although the series is finished. I love this for the scope of the worldbuilding and the way it doesn't flinch from consequences of actions, and it actually talks about things like state militarization and genocide in a not-stupid way.

7 Seeds by Tamura Yumi is a post-apocalyptic story about the few survivors of humanity. It unfortunately hasn't been licensed, but it's being scanlated if you're okay with that. This is my new favorite series! Tamura is amazing at juggling a huge cast of characters, and this has a Hunger Games-esque part with teens getting pitted against each other, survival against giant insects, stories of what happens to people right before the apocalypse hits, and zany hijinks. It is the BEST. There are so many awesome characters, and Tamura regularly breaks my heart.

Okay, this is not an action manga whatsoever, but it's probably a pretty good gen thing if you aren't opposed to cute kids. Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba& is a slice-of-life manga based on the exploits of 5-year-old Yotsuba, who does stuff like paint her hands blue or get confused by air conditioner. I find it incredibly charming without being twee, and it's one of the things I always read when I'm down because it invariably cheers me up.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
SO MANY FEELS!

Not listing out the trigger warnings, because they are a little spoilery, but assume a lot of triggers. PM or comment if you want to know more!

Spoilers are traumatized )

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Aug. 28th, 2013 01:31 pm
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
Woe, it's been a while since I've had a Reading Wednesday post.

What I've read: I thought I had already made a post about reading Meljean Brook's Guardian Demon, but apparently not! Anyway, I'm hoping to write this one up in more detail. Like many of the other books in the Guardian series, I don't completely buy the romance and the plot doesn't always make sense, but somehow the books are greater than the sum of their parts. Possibly it's Brook's clear affection for worldbuilding along with romance. And of course, after I finished, I went on to reread bits and pieces of various other Guardian books.

I did not read for another week or so after that, but then I got the Kobo Aura HD, and I have now resumed reading 7 Seeds (currently in the middle of volume 14? 13?). It continues to be awesome, and I am especially glad to see certain characters reappearing.

I also caught up on the latest Skip Beat chapters! I think I am withholding judgement until I see what happens next. Also, the translation for some of them is terrible.

And I skimmed The Mammoth Book of Hot Romance, most of which I cannot remember, save the Victoria Janssen short story that I liked a lot. POC hero AND heroine! And a relatively unused romance time period (for the genre, not for the author) with a lot of period detail.

What I'm reading now: Finally found my places again in Spillover and Feed after uploading them to the new ereader, but I haven't made much progress in either. Also in the middle of a 7 Seeds volume. Also I am a few pages into Samit Basu's Gameworld trilogy book 1, but I don't count that as officially reading it yet.

Random book-shaped space: I miss reading manga! Being able to do it on the ereader is awesome, and the new one's larger screen makes them so much more legible. Anyway, I got Silver Spoon and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou to read, but I feel like I'm completely behind on stuff, especially shoujo manga. Any good new shoujo series around?

... also, I should grab whatever Yuki Kaori is working on now.

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Jun. 19th, 2013 10:23 am
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What I've read: As people have probably noticed, I have read a fair amount of Tamura Yumi's 7 Seeds! It's a great post-apocalypse story about people trying to survive, and while it's extremely harrowing, I love a lot of the characters. I also like that it makes it clear that the will to survive doesn't have to strip you of your humanity or compassion. I would especially rec it to people who are not getting what they want from the current trend of YA SF dystopias (a la [personal profile] rachelmanija, "X is banned, and the government controls Y!").

What I'm reading: Still in the middle of 7 Seeds volume 11, since it has now been banned as before-bedtime reading.

What I'm going to read: Volume 12? Also, hopefully, volume 2 of Wandering Son, since it's very overdue at the library.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Note to self: Do not read this before going to bed, as it has narrative drive like whoa, and you will also be afraid to go to sleep for fear of APOCALYPSE.

Mildly spoilery note about amount of bug content )

Spoilers will see you in the future )

Anyway, if people couldn't tell, I am very much into this now and rec it for those of you looking for good post-apocalyptic stories! I think people who want something like the Hunger Games could just read volumes 7-9, though of course I encourage reading everything. It's not light and fluffy reading by any means, but as apocalypses go, this one is very good.

Does anyone else have links to 7 Seeds reviews? Hook me up!
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
In lieu of Reading Wednesday, since this is basically what I read. I am so sad that I have to actually make myself sit and read manga again. *shakes fist at casual computer games*

16-year-old Natsu remembers eating dinner with her family, then wakes up to find herself on a raft with seven other people, none of whom she knows. They all have a little in terms of supplies, but it's clear they will soon have to forage and find water.

Later, we find that as insurance against a catastrophic meteorite hit, various governments have selected teams of people to be cryogenically frozen, only to be woken if the environment is once again habitable for humans. The series follows the five Japanese teams after an unspecified amount of time has passed from the presumed meteorite hit.

I wasn't particularly drawn in by the first volume, largely due to Natsu, who is terrified of everything. I feel kind of bad about this, since on an intellectual level, I actually appreciate having a character in a post-apocalyptic universe who is too embarrassed to ask people to stop so she can go to the bathroom. That is probably who I would be in those circumstances, as opposed to the survivalist characters who quickly learn to deal with lack of material comforts and killing things. Some of it is that her primary relationships with fellow team members are romantic/sexual in nature; she has a crush on teenager Arashi, who just wants to see his girlfriend again, and jerk Semimaru keeps sexually harassing her.

But! We are introduced to more characters later on, one of whom I already adore.

Spoilers I guess? Mostly for who is on another team )

I hadn't picked up Tamura Yumi prior to this, despite the praise that 7 Seeds and Basara get, mostly because her artwork is much older in style. I think I'm getting less put off by that in general, as I very much liked the art in Hagio Moto's The Heart of Thomas after I got used to it. And Skip Beat's art is a bit retro as well, though the recent volumes look more modern. Maybe it's the line work? Or the tones? Who knows. But I find myself really loving the giant sparkly eyes in 7 Seeds, especially when contrasted with the monster bugs.

Warning: there are a lot of monster bugs. They aren't rendered in nearly the same loving detail as in Black Rose Alice, but they're still pretty realistic and gross. Also, there are gross bug details that would have been even grosser if I hadn't already read a fair amount about parasites and insects and the creepy things they do.

... I like reading about them! But reading is a little different from seeing it illustrated!

Aside from the giant insects, I like the setting, especially once they get to the ruins of civilization. The look of skyscrapers overgrown with moss and trees reminds me a lot of the post-apocalyptic visions in X, and now I'm wondering if the same imagery appears in English language post-apocalyptic SF? Most of what I've read has been more along the line of barren landscapes and civilization buried under dirt, as opposed to drowned cities covered in greenery, but I don't know how much I've read.

I'm not at the "OMG LOVE!" stage, but I am very much anticipating getting to know the other teams, as well as watching interpersonal dynamics and more scenes of post-apocalyptic Japan.
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What I've just finished: Yotsuba 11! It is as cute and cheerful as all previous volumes in the series, and it encompasses dramatic events like Yotsuba's first experience with pizza, Duralumin getting slobbered on by a dog, Yanda bringing over bubble blowers, and bugs.

I also read Aliette de Bodard's On a Red Station, Drifting, which I enjoyed. I didn't really see the Dream of the Red Chamber connections until I read the author's notes, with the exception of a spaceship named after one of the characters. There's a comforting familiarity to the importance of magistrates and government officials and civil service that reminds me a lot of Chinese literature—I know the world is Vietnam-based, not China-based, but Wiki notes that the civil service examination system was modeled on China's. I also love the mention of fish sauce brewing as a fine art, and that one of the key conflicts happens while a character is writing poetry at a banquet. I didn't entirely understand all the shifts in the two main characters' attitudes, but overall, I prefer this to de Bodard's "Immersion," which won the Nebula. "Immersion" strikes me as being a little too on the nose, and while it makes a good point, I prefer how On a Red Station, Drifting incorporates more Vietnamese themes and background.

What I'm currently reading: I started book one of Alis A. Rasmussen's (aka Kate Elliott) Highroad Trilogy, but I haven't been able to track what's going on very well. I got a bit annoyed right off bat when I realized the martial-arts-practicing heroine is the lightest person in her brown family (I think she is POC? But she is described as pale so I am confused?), as well as when she rescues a robot early on and it devotes itself entirely to her. Still reading, and hopefully I will figure out what's happening soon.

I also started Jeffrey Brantley's Calming Your Anxious Mind, which is about using mindfulness to help with anxiety and fear. So far it's mostly been explanation of what mindfulness is and how it's effective as opposed to actual instruction, so I have no idea if it works or not.

I also started 7 Seeds volume 2 but am not very far into it.

What I'll read next: If I manage to finish book one of the Highroad Trilogy, probably book 2. Also, I keep meaning to read the latest Skip Beat chapter, so maybe that.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
[personal profile] coffeeandink and I are trying to do a series of posts that are conversations about specific works. We decided to kick it off with a conversation about Hagio Moto's The Heart of Thomas.

This is the first of what hopefully will be a series of conversations about narratives of assorted kinds. In each, we’ll attempt to give enough background about the events of the narrative to enable people unfamiliar with it to follow the discussion, but we’re aiming for critical readings rather than reviews. There will be many spoilers.

[...]

The Heart of Thomas (トーマの心臓) by Hagio Moto (萩尾 望都) was published in 1974. It is one of the first works of shounen ai (a genre now often called "boys' love" or BL) and is considered a manga classic. The first English edition was translated by Matt Thorn and published by Fantagraphics in 2013.


Read more

Come read and discuss! Especially because we couldn't think of a conclusion and are thus depending on commenters to do so ;).

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Apr. 24th, 2013 10:10 am
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Sigh, I have been reading (and posting) much less of late.

What I've just read: I feel like I haven't had much brain the past few weeks. Anyway, I finally figured out how to split up a single epub file into several so I can split up several compilations I have—they mess with my series numbering! And I hate it when a compilation of romance novellas has novellas in several series I'm keeping track of, so I don't know which series to count it as. My quest for book organization perfection will never end... This is the long way to say that in the course of splitting up novellas, I came across Sharon Shinn's "Nocturne" in Angels of Darkness, reread it, and was struck by a desire to reread some of her Samaria books. And lo, I was down in South Bay over the weekend and found my copy of Jovah's Angel.

"Nocturne" is a light, enjoyable read that doesn't feature issues about faith. This is good, because I feel the Samaria series overall doesn't do very well with those. I like the first-person voice, and the fact that the heroine is past thirty (iirc). There's a bit of "hey disabled person, stop moping around," as the heroine finds a recently blinded angel, but I liked how they found a way for him to fly again.

Jovah's Angel was less light and less enjoyable, alas, and it reminded me of why I am not a Samaria fan. I vaguely remembered it having more engineering stuff and more crises of faith and was sad to find that this was not so. Anyway, this is the one where Alleluia discovers that their god Jovah is actually the orbiting spaceship Jehovah. I didn't remember the subplot regarding former Archangel Delilah at all. Overall, I like that there are two female Archangels here, and that they aren't pitted against each other, but I would have liked seeing them together more. I also didn't quite buy how quickly the Alleluia/Caleb romance progressed, and of course, I still want more deconstruction of the whole Jovah-picking-your-perfect-mate thing. Overall, the book isn't enough of a romance to satisfy, and it's not enough of sf to satisfy on that front as well.

I also read volume 1 of 7 Seeds. So far, I am unimpressed by the heroine, though I am sure I would be the extremely frightened and nervous one if I randomly found myself in a boat with strangers and no memory of how I got there. Plus, she probably develops into a badass later on, so I am content to wait and watch. On a more random note, EW BUGS. I'm glad Tamura doesn't draw them in great detail.

What I'm reading: Just started Lilith in preparation for Wiscon, which hopefully I will continue. I am feeling rather meh lately, and the dystopic situation weirdly makes me feel better.

What I'm reading next: If I am being optimistic, more Xenogenesis! Also, more of 7 Seeds. Though I am tempted to start on a Fruits Basket reread because CB has just started on the anime. And I just got Yes, Chef from the library, which has POC author + food + easy reading in its favor.

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Apr. 17th, 2013 10:50 am
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What I've read: Finally finished review copy of Tokyo Demons and reviewed it! And because last week, I was craving fantasy + romance, I naturally blazed through Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo's Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art. It's a fun book about how con man John Drewe got artist John Myatt to forge hundreds of paintings. The difference in this con, though, isn't the techniques used to make the canvases pass scrutiny, but rather how Drewe created the provenance of each painting—the record of ownership, sales, location, and etc. of a painting. Since it can be difficult to tell a forgery via art style, dealers and auctioneers and buyers rely on a dependable provenance, and Drewe took advantage of this to sell off some paintings that would otherwise never have passed as real.

Drewe isn't a con man that I'm secretly rooting for; instead, even if Salisbury and Sujo's description of his compulsive lying and his terrible treatment of his common-law wife hadn't been there, I would have hated him just for sneaking into all those archives and doctoring so many documents. My morals, somewhat subjective...

And of course, now I want to read fast-paced non-fiction about cons or robberies or other elaborate schemes, which I am sure I will take recs for and them promptly be in a different mood in about two days. (I like the recs! Please keep it up! I might not get to them soon, but I do take note.)

I also read the latest chapter of Skip Beat, minor spoilers )

What I'm reading: I started Sherwood Smith's Once a Princess—good lord, she's published a lot lately! I didn't realize she had so much self-pubbed/small press stuff out; I hope it's going well for her. Lost some interest once it hit the secondary world due to not having enough processing power for worldbuilding. I'm also in the middle of Martha Wells' Wheel of the Infinite, which I am enjoying but cheated on with an art con book. And I started my Con or Bust review book. I got a few chapters in Bruce Schneier's Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive after reading Provenance, but then decided it was too research-y and less narrative than I was looking for.

What I'm reading next: A genre I have not talked about in this post? Hopefully I will keep going on Con or Bust book, along with starting a reread of Octavia E. Butler's Xenogenesis in preparation for Wiscon.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Oh man, much as I am sad about not reading a lot of manga in the past few years, it does mean that binge catch ups are very fun!

This reading spree also included a reread of volumes 12-23, all prompted by CB starting to watch the Skip Beat anime. I really wish they would animate more of the manga!

Anyway, the series consistently cracks me up, and it was really fun tearing through so many volumes at once.

Spoilers must regain their precious human emotions! )
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Exclamation point! Even though I actually haven't read that much this week.

What I finished reading: Finally! I read some manga—vols. 4-6 of Ooku, which I've had out from the library for who knows how long. 4 and 5 were rereads, since I think I meant to post on them after the Ooku panel during Wiscon in 2011 and never quite got around to it. Now that the story has gotten to where the shoguns have become established as female, the story reads more as a historical recounting, although there are still some interesting bits on gender and gender roles. I'm not sure what I think about Yoshinaga's tendency to introduce one male true love per shogun (at least, per shogun adult enough to have one), and now that I think of it, it's odd how het-focused the relationships seem to be. Obviously there's the whole producing an heir bit and that Yoshinaga seems to focus mostly on relationships between the shogun and members of the Inner Chambers, but aside from one or two instances, there's not much mention of f/f or m/m, despite the Inner Chambers being nearly all male and most of Japan being 75% female. I find this particularly odd considering who the mangaka is. Anyway, hopefully I will be inspired to write an actual post later.

(Also, I keep looking up actual Tokugawa history in Wiki, and I love how the male pronouns for the shoguns are weirding me out now.)

What I'm reading now: Er. I basically started and fell out of various books: Courtney Milan's The Duchess War, the Con or Bust book, Ankaret Wells' Firebrand.

What I'm going to read: Hopefully I will get started on a light novel (my very first!), though I suspect I will actually be reading Ooku 7 as soon as I get it. I am ordering books and getting them in the mail again! I've mostly tried to stop buying physical books, since I still haven't unpacked a ton of boxes in my apartment, but there's no good eink substitute for manga, so physical copies it is.

I was browsing through my Amazon wishlists (which I have finally updated), and I feel like I have missed a generation's worth of manga. Sigh. I also really really really want to do a Skip Beat reread and catch up since CB started watching the SB anime and I am happily watching along with him. Kyoko! I forgot how hilarious you are!

I am also so tempted by the FMA manga boxset, as well as the remastered Utena DVDs.

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Jan. 16th, 2013 12:37 pm
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What I am reading now
Started Kate Elliott's Cold Magic so I can catch up to the rest of my dwircle. So far, it's a bit slow, and the AU history bits in combination with bits of our world's history (i.e. the Napoleon equivalent) make my brain very confused. I think the plot has finally kicked off though, so yay.

What I just finished reading
Melina Marchetta's Quintana of Charyn, which I need to write up, and Hagio Moto's The Heart of Thomas. Thomas is a beautiful edition, but the size makes it a little hard to read now that I am accustomed to my light ereader. Also, I spotted some typos and etc =(. Still, SO HAPPY it is now available in a translation I can read!

What I plan on reading next
Who knows?! Probably Cold Fire once (if) I finish Cold Magic. Manga-wise, I have no idea. I feel so behind on everything that I'm overwhelmed, so I'm tempted to start a reread of X, since I got some of the shiny reissues for Christmas, or Fullmetal Alchemist so I can finally finish it.

(no subject)

Thu, Jan. 10th, 2013 03:27 pm
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  • [personal profile] staranise has a brief guide to telling doctors about psychological symptoms. I kind of knew how I talked about depression has changed after years of therapy and when I compare it to how CB talks about it, but this really crystallizes it.
  • I've been having a ton of fun reading [personal profile] 12_12_12's posts on Avatar and Korra.
  • [personal profile] skygiants has been bookblogging her read of Les Miserables, which is really fun to read, especially after seeing the movie.
  • Captain Awkward has a really good post on depression being contagious; i.e. what happens when you're in a long-term relationship with a depressed person. The relationships in the letters are romantic, but I feel it applies to any long-term relationship. (Probably there is even more for when you are a child dealing with a depressed parent.) The comments in particular are great.
  • [personal profile] laceblade is hosting a discussion on potential anime/manga panels for Wiscon. It'd be great to get input from tons of people, even if you aren't interested in Wiscon!
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I feel a bit stupid introducing this series. Anyway.

When Gol D. Roger, King of the Pirates, was executed, it ended a golden age of piracy. Many years later, Monkey D. Luffy (Oda says in a note that "Monkey" is the surname) wants to grow up to be King of the Pirates, but he swallows a Devil Fruit called the Gum-Gum, making him sink in water, as well as giving him rubbery limbs. Undaunted, he decides to put together his own crew, traverse the Grand Line (a sea route with good piracy), and become King of the Pirates!

So far, volumes 1 through 8 are about Luffy acquiring his core crew, as well as their backstories. Volume 8 finishes the Restaurant Baratie arc and begins the arc with Arlong and the fish men. As with much manga, especially shounen, the first few volumes are more one-offs with short arcs, and although I like Roronoa Zolo, I was bored by the Usopp arc and annoyed by the requisite damsel in distress in it. I also have a difficult time following Oda's artwork. Much of it is my general inability to read action sequences, but I think some of it is because everything is so exaggerated and over-the-top that there's no resting place for the eyes yet. I suspect this is one of the things that will get better over time, and at least Oda's panels aren't as horrifically crowded as early volumes in other series are. The first 5 volumes or so were a bit tough going, since it was a lot of shounen tropes and fight scenes, and while I didn't enjoy the first half of the Restaurant Baratie storyline, the second half got me excited.

Snarky blond guys smoking cigarettes seem to do that to me, even if they aren't gun-toting priests.

Spoilers )

Reads a bit young so far, but the plot arcs have been getting larger and better.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
(original title: 海獣の子供/Kaijuu no kodomo)

I read volume 1 of this last April, so my recollection is extremely fuzzy and bolstered by Wiki.

Ruka, who has never quite fit in at school, chances upon an odd, dark-skinned boy named Umi ("ocean" in Japanese) one day. Later on, she meets him at the aquarium her father works at, where she also meets Umi's protector Jim Cusack. Meanwhile, odd things are happening around the world, such as ocean species being discovered far from their natural habitats, or reports of animals like whales dissolving into light. Umi's brother Sora ("sky" in Japanese) eventually shows up. We get a little backstory of how Jim came across the two boys, as well as what he thinks might be happening and why he thinks Umi and Sora are different from other people—they can stay underwater for longer and seem to be able to communicate with sea creatures.

Overall, this feels like a Honored Piece of Work that I don't quite get. Don't get me wrong; it's lovely. I particularly like the sketchy quality of the drawings, as well as how broad the world in the series feels. Umi and Sora are connected to events around the world, and I like that we get practical looks at Tokyo trains and mom-and-pop convenience stores along with more evanescent imagery of manta rays and undersea happenings. I also like that Ruka's parents are divorced (I think), that her mother is not the standard stay-at-home mom, and that there are many alternative family structures in the series.

I wish Igarashi's larger view of the world extended to race and racism. Unfortunately, Umi is so far the main non-Japanese POC character, and I have issues with how Igarashi portrays the more "primitive" island villages where Jim Cusack connects with the sea. Although Jim believes more in what the "natives" believe, there's still the divide between the white and Japanese world (the Japanese world, unsurprisingly, allies itself with the white world), which is science-y and has aquariums and is about Saving the Whales, and the superstitious brown people on their islands, who have mystical rituals and old folktales that might be Wiser Than Our Science.

I'm not sure how much Igarashi is going to deconstruct this in later volumes, but so far, it doesn't seem like there's much deconstruction. It more feels like the scaffolding he's building his tale on, which is rather unfortunate.

Overall, interesting, outside the usual shoujo and shounen areas, but I'm not sure if it's outside enough in some ways.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
(original title: うさぎドロップ)

Daikichi's grandfather has just died, and at the funeral, his entire family discovers that the strange child in the garden is his grandfather's illegitimate daughter, and no one knows where her mother is. No one wants to take care of Rin (the child), so Daikichi steps up to the plate, despite many misgivings.

The first two volumes are about Daikichi adjusting to having a young child in his life, and I love the manga for how it looks at parenting. Daikichi finds that he has to make quite a few sacrifices, such as going with a lower-paying job with less chances of promotion so he can make it home on time to pick Rin up from day care. I also like him reflecting back on his mother and the difficult choices she had to make, as well as how his father never had to make those same choices. It's not necessarily a feminist work, but I think it takes a real look at the inequities in parenting and how society in Japan (and I think in the US too) is not set up to help single parents and is set up so that parenting is solely the mother's responsibility.

Rin is a cute six-year-old, but she also comes with her fair share of problems, which I didn't feel as though the mangaka trivialized. Daikichi gets frustrated with her, but you always get the sense that he cares for her, and my favorite part of the manga is watching the two of them bond and watching Rin slowly learn to depend on Daikichi for the support she never really got.

So far, the art is charming but a little rough around the edges; I especially felt as though the mangaka was still figuring out how to use screentones. Sometimes the stark black-and-white art works, but more often, it feels empty and unfinished to me.

Cute, and I will keep reading it. I wish there were more stories about single fathers out there. I also like how the series hasn't been demonizing single mothers, from Rin's missing mother to other mothers Daikichi meets along the way.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
(original title: 夏目友人帳/Natsume Yuujinchou)

(OMG posting about BOOKS YAY!!!)

Natsume Takashi has always been able to see strange things, and because of this, people think he's lying, and he's been passed around from foster family to foster family. Currently, he's been living happily with his distant relatives the Fujiwaras, but because of that, he doesn't want to let people know about his spirit-seeing abilities and get kicked out yet again. Unfortunately, he's recently found a book of names. Apparently, his grandmother Reiko was also a bit of an outcast because of her spiritual abilities; to compensate, she basically enslaved spirits by writing their names in her book.

So far, I like this series, but I'm not in love with it. I like Natsume and the looks at his distance from everyone else, and I find Nyanko-sensei particularly amusing, but I keep comparing this to Mushishi, which is a bit more otherworldly, though Ginko is less sympathetic. I suspect things will improve once we stop getting a "This is what the Book of Friends is!" every. single. chapter.

Also, unsurprisingly, I wish there were more girls and women, especially since the one major female character (Reiko) is both dead and not a great model, given that whole enslaving of spirits thing.

That said, I really like the looks at Natsume slowly reaching out to people, and unlike Mushishi, I very much like that the spirits of the week aren't just cases to be solved. I also like that Natsume seems to have more of a connection with the spiritual world than the human one, and I especially like his sympathy toward the spirits, particularly when contrasted with the other exorcist guy.

Pretty, and I will keep reading it, but it is not on my best-of list yet.

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