Monday, March 30, 2020

Missed it Monday - Wish by CLAMP omnibus (Manga Review)

A young man and a young angel embrace
"Missed it Monday" is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get to read/watch when they first came out.

Wish (Omnibus version) - 5/10 (*See below for full scoring rubric)

I wouldn't exactly say I'm a fan of manga supergroup CLAMP. I've tried to get into Cardcaptor Sakura a few times, but I'm not big on manga with little kids (tbh). However, I loved the art on their series Clover. I needed some stuff to read on a long and unexpected trip so I picked up the hefty omnibus of their series Wish (Dark Horse Publishing) because the art was very much my style - the super long, lean, "older" shoujo style that you don't see as much of today, at least not with what is getting translated into English.

The story itself is a pretty classic and tropey shoujo story: a young angel from heaven (Kohaku) is saved by a tall, reserved, but super handsome young man (28 year old Shuichiro). She promises him a wish, but he can't think of anything, so she decides to live with him until he comes up with one. Kohaku is supposed to be finding a missing angel, Hisui, who turns up having eloped with the son of Satan. The four of them share a house along with another demon and his assistants who frequently drop by as comic relief. Of course, it can't last, because God has other plans. But slowly, Kohaku and Shuichiro fall in love and Shuichiro's complex past an uncertain future come into focus. Will they or won't they end up together?

Friday, March 27, 2020

Carole & Tuesday Part 1 - a surprisingly bland story and characters with uneven racial and LGBTQ+ representation (Anime Review)

3/28/20 *after a series of comments/discussion at the bottom of this post, I wanted to make revisions in my review of Part 1 of Carole & Tuesday to clarify my concerns with some racial and LGBTQ+ stereotypes that bothered me. The commenter helped me to better understand the full context of the show (since I had only watched part 1 to this point) as well as the content creation process and representation in the show. I was still bothered and pulled out of the narrative by some choices that were made, but my original review likely took a heavy handed approach in highlighting these issues. I hope this revision is a more balanced and nuanced appraisal of the effort put into this show as well as the feelings I experienced watching it. As always, this is just my experience and others will have very different ones and thus different opinions, that's what makes art art. I will try and mark my edits as I go through and revise this review with brackets and asterisks [*].

Two young women with instruments
Carole & Tuesday Part 1 - [*5/10] (see below for full scoring rubric)

I had really taken my time even starting Carole & Tuesday (something about it had me skeptical - maybe that it was on Netflix) and then it took me a really long time to watch the first 13 episodes that comprise "part 1" because while I sort of enjoyed each episode in the moment, I didn't feel compelled to whip through it like other series.

But finally, amid too much time on my hands during this work closure, I finally finished part 1. I decided to review the series in two parts rather than as a single series, since it was labeled part 1 and 2 (for some reason). I haven't seen part 2 yet [*so there may be aspects of part 2 that put things in part 1 in a different perspective.]  I also found that writing this review was very tough, because there was a lot to wade through with this show. It ended up being a very long review, so I've put BOLD headings along the way if that helps.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Still Sick volume 2 - well, at least one is an adult lesbian and that's something! (Manga Review)

Two women, in the rain, under one umbrella
Still Sick vol. 2 - 7/10 (*See full scoring rubric below)

Still Sick volume 2 (Tokyopop) shows some real promise for this series. It is a stronger overall volume than the first one, and we get a much clearer sense of each character's strengths and weaknesses, and thus the emotional trajectory we hope for them over the course of the series. It isn't perfect, but it is a series about two adult women finding themselves. They are clearly adults and at least one of them is written as such. It's refreshing to have a yuri series about adults in love. More josei yuri please!!!!

The overall plot of this volume concerns Shimizu and Maekawa's burgeoning friendship outside of the office as Shimizu supports Maekawa trying to get back into being a professional manga artist. Volume 1 ended with a kiss from Maekawa that was supposedly meant only to tease Shimizu, but it clearly confused Shimizu. In this volume, they continue exploring this meaning, Maekawa tries working on an original series, and we learn a lot about their two personalities.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Missed it Monday - Takane & Hana volume 5 (Manga Review)

Young man in suit holding a rose and pointing at the viewer
"Missed it Monday" is the regular column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get to read/watch when they first came out.

Takane & Hana vol. 5 - 5/10 (*See full scoring rubric below)

I must admit, I was starting to get bored with Takane & Hana as I was reading volume 5 (Shojo Beat/Viz). By now, we're familiar with their shtick. It's fine, but it is very broad comedy in a very light romance. I do like Takane's tsundere-meets-arrogant jack ass personality against her very strong, self-assured, but still very caring personality. However, what I wasn't expecting was a random transgender character from Takane's past who got introduced late in this volume.

So for the sake of brevity with the main review: The art is simple and broad like the comedy. I still have problems with an adult (Takane) being in an arranged marriage arrangement (because they aren't yet married) with a high-schooler (Hana). But nothing romantic is happening, and at least they are doing it with her family's knowledge so it's a bit less icky for that reason. If you like very very broad romantic comedies and the stuff above doesn't bother you, then Takane & Hana is sure to please. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I feel like every review I write of this series says the same thing. So let's talk about Rino, a transgender woman who appears in this volume.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Love Me, Love Me Not volume 1 too cliche'd or just enough? (Manga Review)

two high school girls in uniforms, standing back to back, smiling and linking arms
Love Me, Love Me Not vol. 1 - 8/10 (*See full scoring rubric below)

It is my distinct pleasure to bring you the start of a new Io Sakisaka (Ao Haru Ride, Strobe Edge) series with Love Me, Love Me Not volume 1 (Shojo Beat/Viz). Ao Haru Ride in both manga and anime form is simply one of the greatest shojo series ever. Yes, I really mean ever. So my anticipation was great for her new series, and thankfully, volume 1 didn't let me down.

Is Love Me, Love Me Not vol. 1 perfect? No, but what little doubt I still have is easily assuaged by my trust in Sakisaka-sensei as a creator. Ao Haru Ride is the perfect example of a series in which there are no big dramatic elements, no dramatic characters, very little that actually happens, and yet is so deeply moving, heartfelt, engaging, and sympathetic that you just want to keep living forever with the characters. Love Me, Love Me Not has a very similar feel already. The biggest question mark for me is where does it go from the big reveal at the end of volume 1.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Daytime Shooting star volume 5 - what is Shishio thinking?! (Manga Review)

Daytime Shooting Star volume 5 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

There are two saving graces with this series, 1) a regular reader of this blog assures me it will end in a satisfying and appropriate way and 2) in volume 5, the mangaka, Mika Yamamori, seems to acknowledge how problematic Shishio's behavior is and that suggests that she is aware and going to course correct. With that in mind, although I can't ignore the problematic aspects of this series/volume, I will try and relax a bit in my vehemence. On to the review of Daytime Shooting Star, volume 5 (Shojo Beat/Viz).

It's time for the school festival and Suzume's classroom is putting on a classic cafe with the girls in maid costumes and the boys in tuxes. Suzume's uncle brings Shishio, her teacher, into the cafe. Suzume is about to (nervously) seat him when Mamura takes over, and coldly at that.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Missed it Monday - Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty volume 5 (Manga Review)

A high-school girl with her eyes closed and a contented smile stretches up into the light, surrounded by roses
"Missed it Monday" is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get a chance to read/watch when they first came out.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty vol. 5 - 8/10 (*See full scoring rubric below)

I was already really liking Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty, but volume 5 (Kodansha Comics) cemented it for me. I think this was probably the strongest volume yet in the series with extremely powerful writing alternating between heartbreak, heartwarming, cute, intense, sad, warm, you name the emotion and this volume had it. And even though it had some slightly over-dramatic setups, they all worked as part of the whole and started pulling a bunch of threads together in some very interesting ways. Needless to say, I'm super excited for the concluding volume (volume 6).

Saturday, March 14, 2020

O Maidens in Your Savage Season volume 6 was polar extremes (Manga Review)

A teen boy and girl in uniform with their backs to each other with lilies
O Maidens in Your Savage Season vol. 6 - 6.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

I’m not sure where O Maidens in Your Savage Season is going as a series. In the first volume, it really felt like a fairly realistic, but comical, examination of puberty from the female perspective. However, by volume 6 (Kodansha Comics), the series is struggling to balance that realism against some very intense, and not altogether believable, drama. And it isn't so much the drama that's the issue, as the lack of story or authorial critique of that drama that concerns me. What message are we to be taking from this?

In volume 6, Kasuzu and Izumi have finally started dating. They have fun together on the way to school, but are super awkward with each other when she comes over to his house. I totally remember the feeling of not knowing what I should do once I started dating my high-school girlfriend. This scene was perfectly depicted, right down to each of them thinking that theirs are the hands that are sweating when they hold each other’s.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shortcake Cake volume 7 inches things forward - but where's Rei? (Manga Review)

A highschool boy and girl back to back
Shortcake Cake vol. 7 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Shortcake Cake vol. 7 (Shojo Beat/Viz) wasn't bad, nor was it good. It was just sort of there. Given that the middle third of it was consumed with the already cute Ten feeling like she needed to pretty herself up in a way that wasn't who she normally was, I ended up being more disappointed in this volume than just bored.

Ten has just confessed to Riku. But instead of waiting for an answer from Riku, she thinks he no longer likes her and declares that she'll make him come around. He, either being sweet or sadistic, plays along even though he's still madly in love with her. She then goes through a period of trying to make herself look more desirable (ughhh), which is unfortunate because the beany-hat wearing Ten from the early volumes was totally cute as she was.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 7 (Manga Review)

Two middle school students in school uniforms hold hands in front of a wall of flower bushes
"Missed it Monday" is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get to read/watch when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 7 - 6.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

After the mixed bag that was volume 6 (great Kanata/Kazuki relationship stuff, problematic Nagai/Hinohara-sensei relationship stuff), Love at Fourteen volume 7 (Yen Press) takes a mostly calmer, lower-key stance. At least, until it doesn't. But that big emotional kick comes as Hinohara-sensei appears to finally be wrestling with just how wrong it is that she feels romantically attracted to a fourteen-year-old.

The first major story portion covers the school newspaper researching ghost stories around the school. It's light-hearted, but we get to see an interesting side of Kanata. She's actually pretty scared but won't let on for a while, instead acting quite intensely angry towards Kazuki. This level of intensity is new, but also makes sense for a teen and it's nice to see another facet of her personality (and how they resolve it together).

Friday, March 6, 2020

My Androgynous Boyfriend volume 1 wasn't what I was expecting (Manga Review)

My Androgynous Boyfriend Vol. 1 - 6/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

On first read, I was disappointed with My Androgynous Boyfriend vol. 1 (Seven Seas). It didn't in any way conform to my hopes or expectations given its title. But after knowing that, I read it again.

On second read, reading it for what it was (instead of what I wanted it to be), I found it to be enjoyable, cute, and sweet. It still wasn't what I hoped, but it wasn't bad either. That's the problem with expectations. It's also the problem when you are desperately searching for representation and mirrors in the world. It's hard not to place all your hopes and expectations into someone else's work and expect it to be what you need, rather than what they intended.

I wanted My Androgynous Boyfriend to really focus on a gender non-conforming individual and dig into the inner and social complexities of gender non-conformity and/or the non-binary experience. In many ways, I was hoping for a dramatic piece that would be a combination of the tone of "Our Dreams at Dusk" and the non-binary character Ciel from Sophie Labelle's comic "Assigned Male." I wanted to see that representation, to gain insight into their experience, learn from it, and find parts of my own experience mirrored in it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Our Wonderful Days volume 2 - who's it for really? (Manga Review)

two teen girls shopping for fruit at an outdoor market
Our Wonderful Days vol. 2 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Our Wonderful Days volume 2 (Seven Seas) really left me wondering who the target audience is. Is it for girls and women who want to explore the intimate friendships and relationships that are possible between women or is it for boys and men who like to think about cute girls getting together?

In many ways, the closest analog I can find for it is the anime Minami-ke (I haven't read the manga, so I can only speak to the show). The Minami-ke manga is a seinen manga, and the show features a trio of sisters and their female friends, with only the occasional male character. It's one of those shows about cute girls doing cute things cutely. There's no real plot to it, sort of a slice of life, but with an underlying titillating tension of knowing that you are objectifying and sexualizing the girls.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 6 (Manga Review)

A middle school boy and girl in uniform walk outside in the fall leaves
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read or watch when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 6 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric at the end)

Love at Fourteen volume 6 (Yen Press) continues the series' mix of amazingly cute relationships with some problematic elements. It has some really strong moments when it focuses on the main couple of Kanata and Kazuki. But there is a pretty concerning set of events between the teacher, Hinohara-sensei, and her student, Nagai, that detract from the volume in my mind.

Volume 6 is situated around two main events, the class trip and the school cultural festival. On the class trip, the girls are all talking about the boys, who's confessed to whom, and all that stuff. They assume that the "mature" Kanata has lots of love experience, but she's still pretty naive. On the other side, the boys are all talking about how awesome it is to see the girls in their pajamas and that sort of stuff. This gets Kazuki's mind spinning about how much he wants to move things along with Kanata.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Citrus+ volume 1 is actually really good (Manga Review)

Two teen girls in love, holding hands
Citrus+ vol. 1 - 7.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Much to my surprise, I really liked Citrus+ volume 1 (Seven Seas). It's got all the good parts of the original series, Citrus, with none of the exploitative parts. I was more than pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it.

For those who somehow missed the original series, Citrus, Yuzu's mom marries Mei's dad and the two become step sisters. Yuzu is rambunctious and loud-mouthed and full of joy and Mei is serious, reserved, the president of the school council, and hell-bent on taking over for her grandfather as the chairman of the company (and their school). Naturally, these two step-sisters fall in love with each other and (SPOILER) the original series ends with them coming out to their family and getting the grandfather's blessing for their relationship and "engagement" (which is actually sort of an amazing sequence for a manga).

All that is wonderful plot, and the growing affections between them, and the cuteness that follows when they finally get together make Citrus worth reading. However, it's also an extremely salacious series with way too much fan service. There were also some very questionable and manipulative side characters, particularly Matsuri, and lots of overly dramatic plot created by her and other sketchy characters. But I found myself so liking Yuzu and Mei that I tolerated the rest of what was a very problematic series overall. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Kase-san and Yamada volume 1 is sure to please (Manga Review)

Two college girls with their arms around each other on a background of flowers
Kase-san and Yamada vol. 1 - 8.5/10 (* see below for full scoring rubric)

Do you like kind, sweet, yuri? Did you like the Kase-san series? Did you wait with baited breath for the Kase-san OVA? Then you'll be happy to know that Kase-san and Yamada volume 1 (Seven Seas) continues in just the same sweet and rewarding fashion.

I for one really liked the prior series and so I was bound to like this too. What's nice, and what I'm excited about as this series continues, is that it is set in college. It's rare enough to have a manga set in college, rarer still for it to be a quality yuri manga, and even more rare to get a series that follows characters long enough to see them grow and change from adolescents into adults. Kase-san and Yamada is poised to cover all that. Will we even get to see them as post-grad adults some day? (yes, I'm already planning their wedding and raising kids, etc...)

In the first half of the volume, Yamada makes a friend at her horticulture school. She's invited to attend a group date and decides to go in order to strengthen her new friendship. As she's telling Kase-san about it, Kase lets her know that she's going on a sports trip during the week. Yamada also hears Kase-san's new roommate in the background. Getting jealous, Yamada insists on going on the group date over Kase-san's objections.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow volume 2 - is it teasing me? (Manga Review)

Two school girls, surrounded by fish. One smiling, one concerned
A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 2 - 6/10

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 2 (Viz) has the same cute insignificance as its prior volume, but because volume 2 doesn't go anywhere or develop anything, it feels more like I'm being teased than getting any real relationship development out of the characters. I'm not sure I really know what type of yuri series this is yet.

Background: Konatsu has moved to a small rural town and entered school where she meets Koyuki the head of the aquarium club. I think they're middle schoolers, and I'm going to treat it as such, because that's how they look and are presented emotionally. Koyuki is a loner without friends but talks to Konatsu. They become friends and Konatsu even joins the aquarium club. 

Before discussing volume 2 specifically, I feel the need to take a segue and talk about some of the different types of yuri manga and manga about lesbian relationships.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Missed it Monday - The Water Dragon's Bride volume 1 (Manga Review)

a young girl with red hair and a blue dress smiles in front of a handsome god in a field of water
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

The Water Dragon's Bride vol. 1 - 3.5/10

This will be a short review. I thought The Water Dragon's Bride (Shojo Beat/Viz) might be a cute/romantic story of a god and a young woman falling in love. Maybe it will become that over time, but I will not be reading past volume 1. Between bland art, bland writing, bland characters, gratuitous violence against a child, and the setup being about a young girl (and not a young woman) and the god, I'm just not going to waste more money on this series.

Asahi is written like an elementary school-age child (I did not know she was so young when I bought this volume), but I don't know her age for sure. She is transported to another world where she meets Subaru, a young boy, also probably elementary school age. Subaru lives in a time-period reminiscent of something from a few hundred years ago, maybe middle-ages-ish. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Ao Haru Ride volume 9 - Kou's really botched it now (Manga Review)

Teen boy on the cover with his shirt collar open and tie loose
Ao Haru Ride vol. 9 - 8.5/10

Ah Kou, silly silly Kou. JUST TELL HER YOU LIKE HER YOU IDIOT!!!!!! Should really have been the title of this entire series: Ao Haru Ride.

But in all seriousness, Ao Haru Ride Volume 9 (Shojo Beat/Viz) is the next step in the slow burn will-they/won't-they story of Kou and Futaba, two teens who just can't get their timing right. And with this volume, it looks like Kou may not get the chance again.

At the end of volume 8, Kou hugs Futaba at the shrine where they had met in middle school. He's still not being completely clear with her and she pushes him away. So when volume 9 opens the next day, she's quite visibly, and comedically, angry at him for constantly confusing her.

The art in that one panel alone is hysterical, but I also love that the author allows Futaba to be a blunt person and actually say what she's feeling to Kou, that she's mad. Futaba has never been the delicate flower, and I think the balance of her outgoing, expressiveness mixed with her introspective qualities makes her one of the great manga heroines. She's just written much more like a real, complete person, rather than an object of adoration.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Missed It Monday - Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty volume 4 (Manga Review)

Two male teens and a female team holding hands walking through falling purple roses
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty vol. 4 - 8/10 (*see below for full scoring rubric)

"Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty" volume 4 (Kodansha Comics) is my favorite so far in what has been a surprisingly solid series. This volume gives you everything you might want: great art, an amazing "moment" or two, a solid cliffhanger into the next volume, and some real momentum to the story. If you've liked the series to this point, you won't be disappointed in this volume (particularly after a slightly lame 3rd volume - too much Tetsu and soccer in that one!)

Backstory: Shizu is possessed by ghosts. The current ones are benevolent and they keep other ones out of her when they can. In exchange, more or less, they get to have some time living using Shizu's body. Her father is away on business, but clearly runs the family and has insisted that his wife, Shizu's mother, keep her locked in the house and away from society.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Throwback Thursday - Tokyo Tarareba Girls volume 1 (Manga Review)

Three women in front of imagery of Tokyo
Throwback Thursday is a riff on my column Missed It Monday where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out. Nothing new came out last week for me to review this week, so I'm starting a series I missed when it was released in English in 2018: Tokyo Tarareba Girls.

Tokyo Tarareba Girls vol. 1 - 7.5/10 (*see scoring rubric at the end)

I'm so excited to finally be reading Tokyo Tarareba Girls (Kodansha Comics). Akiko Higashimura is a wonderful mangaka and I've loved both Princess Jellyfish and Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist's Journey (her auto-biographical manga). I'm pleased to say that volume 1 of Tokyo Tarareba Girls gets off to a very strong start that is reminiscent of all that I've loved about her other series.

In volume 1, we meet Rinko, a young woman in her early thirties. She's a screenwriter for web series and other small productions. She's also single and very aware of that fact. We are also introduced to her two single female friends. The three spend their time drinking, complaining about being single, and supporting each other emotionally.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Missed It Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 5 (Manga Review)

Two middle school students in uniforms look up surrounded by fall leaves
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 5 - 5.5/10 (*see below for full scoring rubric)

I know you are all tired of hearing me rant about child/adult relationships in manga/anime. But sadly, there are a lot of them in many of the series I'm reading (which I didn't know at first). Rest assured I'm starting some other series soon so hopefully we'll have other stuff to talk about.

With that in mind, Love at Fourteen vol. 5 (Yen Press) gives us more great stories with our lead young couple, but also gives us one adult pursuing a child and four children crushing on adults. It's that focus on adult/child relationships that drives the score so low on this volume. Thankfully none are explicit, they are mostly crushes from a distance, otherwise the score would be lower.

Before we talk about the bad stuff, let's talk about what this volume does right.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Hatsu*Haru volume 10 is fine, fun even, so that's all this series is going to be from now on then? (Manga Review)

A high-school girl jumps into a highschool boys arms with flowers in the background
Hatsu*Haru vol. 10 - 7/10* (see full scoring rubric below)

When Hatsu*Haru first hit, the initial couple volumes were really strong. Kai was relatively complex as hot-stuff teen boys go. Takanashi was cute, feisty, ass-kicking, and clueless about love (ie the perfect shoujo heroine). AND they were long-time frenemies so you KNEW they would end up together after a whole bunch of complex hi-jinks and almost kisses - which was exactly what the series did!

But then, it suffered what nearly every rom-com in the history of rom-coms has suffered: what to do once they do get together? And so Hatsu*Haru volume 10 (Yen Press) continues with their relationship (and a strong focus on another pair of friends who might become a couple) in fine, but by-the-books, manner. They're still cute together, it's still fun, at least everyone in the series is exceedingly kind to each other (something I LOVE about this series). But it isn't super special as a series anymore. It's still above average, for sure, and I'll gladly keep reading it. But it's just doing its nice thing now.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Beloved by Toni Morrison - maybe the most important book you could read (Book Recommendation)

I should have read "Beloved" by Toni Morrison a long time ago. There's no good reason I hadn't. But this is a book whose story and writing clearly was deserving of it's Pulitzer and Nobel prizes. It should be required reading in high school. It should be required reading for all white Americans. There may be no more important book about our country than this one.

I won't do it the disservice of a review. I am in no position to be able to offer any remotely useful thoughts about it other than to champion it. So many others have written so elegantly and impactfully about it, that all I want to do is encourage others to read it.

It stands alongside the greatest literature and adds a deeply moving and painful entryway into better understanding how we are where we are. During a time with renewed hatred and marginalization coming from our own government, there could be no more appropriate time to remind ourselves of the way individual humans, and societies collectively, have dehumanized others in the past, and of how the legacy of that dehumanization continues to burn through our country destroying the lives and hopes of millions of black and African American mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and strangers in myriad ways.

Read "Beloved" because it is beautifully written literature. But own "Beloved" in your heart so that you become an active fighter for equity and liberation of all people starting first and foremost with the neighbors at your door. We don't have to look far, to other nations and continents, to find rampant human rights abuses, the denial of fundamental human rights, and attempts to strip vulnerable people and groups of their rights, because those egregious personal and social offenses are being driven by the government of our own country, championed by its leader. 

It wasn't so long ago that it was legal in our country to own (think about that word - to OWN) another human being. Read "Beloved" because our president and too many of his followers seek to reduce black, African American, brown and Hispanic and Latinix peoples, migrants, asylum seekers, LGBTQ+, Muslims, and so many others to something less than human, undeserving of the protections of law, healthcare, education, safe food, a healthy climate, property, voting, work, and dignity. Read to remind yourself and light the fire in your soul that will spur you to action.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Missed it Monday - Takane & Hana vol. 4 (Manga Review)

A well dressed man and a young woman in a maid costume surrounded by white and pink roses
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime or manga that I didn't watch or read when they first came out.

Takane & Hana vol. 4 -  7/10 (*see full scoring rubric at the end)

My review of Takane & Hana vol. 4 (Shojo Beat/Viz) could continue my trend of warnings about, and bashing of, recent series which concentrate on adult/student relationships (see If I Could Reach You, O Maidens, Love at Fourteen, Daytime Shooting Star, etc...). But you are no doubt bored of those reviews and my kvetching.

So yes, Takane & Hana is about a high-school girl and an adult (25-ish) man. And yes, you should see that as problematic. But, this series seems deserving finding value in what the series does well while acknowleding the problems it does present. So instead of bashing Takane & Hana volume 4, let's talk about what it does right. Since in many ways, it does so much more right than those other series I mentioned, both relative to the relationship as well as overall.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

New Review Rubric

I've always had in my head how I arrive at my review scores for manga and anime. But I wanted to find a way to make it more explicit, consistent, and transparent.

With that in mind, I'm going to be trying out the following new rubric. I've tested it against some of my past reviews and it seems to be consistent with the way I've been scoring works. This way though, I'll be able to highlight how I arrived at my score for each review.

I'll give it a try and see if it helps. I'd really love your feedback on this, so let me know in the comments what you think of this proposed scoring rubric:

BASIC SCORE:
Story interesting (0-10)
Characters interesting (0-10)
Quality prose/writing (0-10)
Emotionally plausible (0-10)

BASIC SCORE will be the sum of the above divided by 4 and rounded to nearest 1/2 point.

BONUS POINTS:
Emotional insight/depth (0-5)
True LGBTQ+ representation (0-5)
Female agency (0-5)
Character growth/change (0-5)
Quality art (0-5)
Other bonus (specify) (0-5)

BONUS POINTS will be the sum of the above divided by 8 and rounded to the nearest 1/2 point

PENALTY POINTS:
Homophobic/transphobic (0-5)
Misogynistic (0-5)
Fan service (0-5)
Child/adult relationship (0-5)
Exploitative (0-5)
Other problematic (specify) (0-5)

PENALTY POINTS will be the sum of the above divided by 2 and then negated (ie negative points)

FINAL SCORE:
(Basic Score + Bonus Points - Penalty points)/10 (ie a total score out of 10 possible points)

For example, a manga might have a basic score of 6.5, then 1.5 bonus points, and -2 penalty points. This would give it a total score of 6/10.

What happens if a manga or anime exceeds 10 points after all this? Well, it still gets a 10/10 and is clearly a genre defining masterpiece!

So the basic score makes sense, it's just an average. But what about the bonus points and penalty points? Why is one divided by 8 and the other by 2? I came up with these in order to weight the benefits and drawbacks of each in light of what makes or breaks a manga for me. The things that get penalty points are really deal breakers for me, so they are weighted greater (divided by only 2).

I'll give this a try for a little bit. Please let me know your thoughts on this new system. Thanks!
🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Don't forget to read my original yuri story

Just a reminder, my original yuri story, "In the Morning, I'll Say Hello" is being serialized on this here blog at: https://www.yuristargirl.com/p/in-morning-ill-say-hello-original-yuri.html (or you can click the "original yuri" link in the navigation bar).

We're up to chapter 19 out of 82!

It's about a high school girl with no memories and another with no voice, who have some sort of shared past. There's even a little divine interference. Will they fall in love? Will they heal their wounds? (probably because it's yuri after all!). I wrote it in the spirit of my favorite manga. I hope you enjoy it.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

If I Could Reach You volume 3 is emotionally detached (Manga Review)

An adult woman holds a sad teen girl in a uniform
If I Could Reach You volume 3 - 5/10

I've been really on the fence with "If I Could Reach You" as a series, mostly because it's about a high-school girl in love with her older sister-in-law and I don't dig child/adult relationships.

But volume 3 (Kodansha Comics) barely addresses that and is quite bland and emotionally distant compared to the prior volume. For all it's faults, volume 2 added an interesting relationship between two female side characters (high-school friends of Uta's) and really used that to explore our lead's, Uta's, feelings. Volume 3 does practically nothing so interesting (and leaves that couple mostly on the sideline).

Background: Uta is in high-school, no parents, living with her brother and his wife, Kaoru, who she's known her whole life. At some point, Uta realized her feelings for Kaoru were romantic, but obviously Kaoru is married (to her brother) and unavailable.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen vol 4 (Manga Review)

Two high school students get ready for the sports festival
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime/manga that I didn't watch/read when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 4 - 5/10

It really really hurt me to rate this volume so low. In many ways, Love at Fourteen vol. 4 (Yen Press) was just as cute, sweet, and uplifting as the prior volumes. But in other ways, I've really had to rethink the series in light of a side couple's story.

Love at Fourteen follows long-time friends Kazuki and Kanata, who are seen as more mature than the rest of their third-year middle-school peers, and who begin secretly dating. They are incredibly sweet and kind to each other and model students. Theirs is a simple and cute story but that has some surprising emotional resonance. Their story in volume 4 is just as wonderful as in the prior volumes.

It's uniform changing time and Kazuki and Kanata can't get on the same page. They both want to wear the same uniforms as the other, but they keep getting it reversed. The other part of their story focuses on preparations for the school athletic festival where their time is split away from each other but the ways they find to connect anyway. Cute!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Daytime Shooting Star volume 4 is making me question continuing the series (Manga Review)

A headshot of a high-school girl with braided hair and pink flowers in the background
Daytime Shooting Star vol. 4 - 4/10

Why such a low score you ask? Daytime Shooting Star vol. 4 (Shojo Beat/Viz) takes a teacher's inappropriate affections for a 15 year old up another notch. And that simply isn't okay. While nothing has actually happened between them, we have a 25-year-old-ish man openly flirting and courting at 15-year-old. This is the volume where Daytime Shooting Star appears to fall off the respectability cliff.

In volume 4, Suzume (our heroine) finds out Shishio (her teacher) is really not getting back together with his ex-girlfriend. His ex-girlfriend conspires to get the two of them together instead, and she's unwittingly helped by one of Suzume's friends (Yuyuka) who really does want Suzume to get with her teacher. The two end up alone at the aquarium. We also see that Yuyuka really likes Mamura (the boy Suzume should be with), who really likes Suzume, but that Mamura isn't paying Yuyuka the time of day.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Emanon volume 3 is a partial conclusion (Manga Review)

A young woman, smoking, sits on rocks in a forest
Emanon vol. 3 - 8/10

A fourth volume of Emanon is (or has) been released in Japan, but the licensing contract for translation to English only covers three volumes. While it is unclear if we'll get the fourth volume in English, volume 3 "ends" with enough of a resolution as to be satisfying. This is sort of ironic given that the main character is a woman who has existed since before time and who carries her prior live's memories with her through each new birth and so therefore the story has no beginning or ending.

In Emanon volume 3 (Dark Horse), we start in 1973 with Emanon sick and collapsing in the rain in a forest only to be found by a young man who takes her to a hospital. When she awakens, she has none of her memories: not of her current life, and not of any of her previous lives. So instead, the two slowly get to know each other, and slowly fall in love. The story culminates in the birth of their child. For those who have read volumes 1 and 2, you may be able to guess the bittersweet changes that brings about. I won't spoil it here, it's well worth the read.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Missed it Monday - Wake Up Sleeping Beauty volume 3 (Manga Review)

A high school boy and girl, her arms on his, leaning in close, surrounded by small flowers
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty vol. 3 - 7.5/10

Volume 3 of Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (Kodansha Comics) keeps up the cute, slightly overwrought, but sincere burgeoning romance between a girl possessed by spirits of the dead and the boy who cleans her house to pay the bills while his mom is sick in the hospital. (Yup, shoujo!)

To catch you up: Shizu is possessed by several spirits of the dead including her grandfather and a 10 year old boy. They take turns inhabiting her body and protect her from being inhabited by evil spirits. Tetsu's mom is ill and to help pay the bills he works, against his father's wishes, and has given up soccer (his passion) to do so.

Volume 3 begins with Tetsu sneaking Shizu out of the mansion where her mom keeps her locked away (hence one of many Sleeping Beauty references) for fear of what others might think of her possession. He takes her to his school on a Sunday and he plays teacher while she plays student in an attempt to give her some of the normal experiences she's missing. It's a really sweet and kind scene.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

In a Word: Trans - an autobiographical comic collection (LGBTQ+ Comic Review)

pink book background with white text with a male and female logo in scratchy white
"In a Word: Trans" by Justin Hubbell
Today's column is a bit different. Rather than giving a review, I want to highlight a very cool collection of comics by a non-binary transgender person, Justin Hubbell (they/them pronouns) called In a Word: Trans. Like my other columns discussing autobiographical works, I will not give a numeric rating because it is not for me to judge another person's life. Instead, I just want to talk about what this work includes so you can decide if it is something that interests you (and it should!).

In a Word: Trans is a collection of comics, by Justin Hubbell, many of which had been posted online prior to this collection. Others in the collection were done for personal reasons by the artist as part of their own processing over the course of exploring their gender and gender expression.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Missed it Monday - Fireworks (2017) is a gross male fantasy (Anime Review)

A highschool girl and boy at night with exploding fireworks overhead
Missed it Monday is the recurring column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Fireworks (2017) - 3.5/10

It turns out I had already tried to watch "Fireworks" once. When I started watching it the other day, the first few minutes seemed familiar. And terrible. I now remember starting it and refusing to finish it because it was so bad. This time I plowed through just in case it got better. It didn't. It got worse. It is an overwrought male fantasy that masquerades as a coming of age, time-travel, love story. "Your Name" or "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" it is not.

In order to do justice to this review, I will be spoiling the whole way through, particularly when talking about the absolutely awful ending. You've been warned. But the movie sucks so bad that at least I'm saving you from needing to watch it.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

O Maidens in Your Savage Season volume 5 gets conventional? (Manga Review)

A school girl surrounded by lilies
O Maidens in Your Savage Season vol. 5 - 7.5/10

I read volume 5 of O Maidens in Your Savage Season (Kodansha Comics) twice before writing this review, and also started watching the anime adaptation. Both confirmed my hunch that the series is starting to get a bit more conventional from the thunderclap that was the first volume.

That's not to say this volume or series is bad (quite the opposite), but it hasn't been able to maintain the crushing realism and mind-f@ck of puberty the way the first volume expressed it. To be honest, that's the main reason the rating for this volume isn't higher. It really was a great volume in a great series. But I'm worried that I'll forever feel let down after that first volume's bravery, exuberance, and explosive realism for the topic.

In volume 5, the five girls in the literature club continue to move forward through puberty in its many varied ways. Probably the best way to discuss this volume is by taking each character's arc separately. Although they certainly interweave, they each have their own unique journey of self-realization.The entirety of the volume concerns preparations for, and the actual, school festival where the club will put on a dramatic reading of a legend about love at the festival. Light spoilers to follow, but I've tried to avoid any big reveals.