spindizzy: Alice in chibi mode looking really confused, with the text "curiouser and curiouser" above her. (Curiouser and curiouser)
Susan ([personal profile] spindizzy) wrote in [community profile] ladybusiness2017-09-08 08:33 pm

Eight Book Minimum: Escaping a Reading Slump

Update on my goals-making update: so apparently I had character development, and managed to prise fifty library books that I knew I wouldn't have time to read out of my house and back to the library where they belong. This feels weird. I think this is what character development feels like and it's awful.

But yes, this week wasn't supposed to be All Manga All The Time, but I was having a reading slump, and there is nothing like a stack of manga to solve it. Even if some of that manga is not very good. ... Possibly especially if some of that manga's not very good! Let's get started.

  1. One Piece Omnibus One by Eiichiro Oda [Jump]

  2. The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume One by Kore Yamazaki [Jump]

  3. Until Death Do Us Part Volume Thirteen by Hiroshi Takashige and DOUBLE-S [Jump]

  4. Tale of the Waning Moon Volume One by Hyouta Fujiyama [Jump] *

  5. Pandora Hearts Volume Seven by Jun Mochizuki [Jump]

  6. Pluto Volume Four by Naoki Urasawa [Jump]

  7. Tale of the Waning Moon Volume Two by Hyouta Fujiyama [Jump] *

  8. Pluto Volume Five by Naoki Urasawa [Jump]

Cover of One Piece Omnibus One by Eiichiro Oda Cover of The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume One by Kore Yamazaki

1. One Piece Omnibus One by Eiichiro Oda [Top]
One Piece is honestly one of my favourite manga, and I have theoretically started re-reading it to follow along with [personal profile] renay's Everlasting One Piece Readalong. Last time I tried to read One Piece, I made it to volume 52 before I hit the limits of what my libraries stocked, and rereading One Piece from the beginning, now? Is an exercise in "... OH, oh wow, Eichiiro Oda set that plot point up from THERE?!"

The story behind One Piece is theoretically very simple: Luffy wants to be the pirate king, but he accidentally ended up trading his ability to swim for a body that stretches like rubber. He sets off in his little boat to find adventure, and ends up finding new crewmates (however they feel about becoming his crew) and a whole bunch of pirates to get punched!

I wasn't sold on the art style the first time that I tried to read One Piece – it's very cartoony and exaggerated even for a shounen manga, and I wasn't sold? But it's perfect for the story it's telling (especially with Luffy being a man whose body stretches like rubber; if it was literally any more realistic than this, it would look too weird. ... Ask me how concerned I am about the live-action adaptation.), and once I got used to it I started to realise how much detail was in there – especially when literal background characters from one scene show up again as named characters.

I am seriously struggling to work out how to talk about this volume because there is so much going on – seriously, Nay has that entire post series and I'm pretty sure even she's not getting everything – and things change so radically from this point to where I left off. We only get the basics of people's characters (and in some cases, what we get is super misleading), but it's really compelling! It has a really strong focus on friendship and loyalty – not just between Luffy and the people who are going to be his crewmates, but between side characters! ... There is a storyline about a dog that is heartbreaking, okay, don't even get me started. Plus, it's... Weirdly kind, for a manga with this many pirates. (I'm thinking about the chapter with the treasure chests, if anyone else has read it, and the way Luffy leaves Koby and the village.)

Basically my main problem with this omnibus is Alvida; sure, manga, have a punchline be that the fat lady thinks she's beautiful, that sounds great. (It does not sound great.) But the rest of the manga made up for it, for me, and I really enjoyed revisiting the Strawhat Pirates at the beginning of their adventure.

2. The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume One by [Top]
I have talked about this volume before, but art is still really cute and seeing Chise's world here, before it really opens up the way it does in later books... Fills me with hope, really. Seeing her now, and knowing who she's going to become and how many people are going to actually value her in the way that she doesn't value herself here – I have a lot of feelings about that. (Plus, having a refresher on the basics of the series before I fling myself face-first into volume six is always a good plan. *eyes it nervously*)

Cover of Until Death Do Us Part Omnibus Thirteen by Horoshi Takashige Cover of Tale of the Waning Moon Volume One by Hyouta Fujiyama

3. Until Death Do Us Part Volume Thirteen by Hiroshi Takashige and DOUBLE-S [Top]
I am still angry about this one, not gonna lie, but I'm mainly angry because I have only myself to blame. What a disappointing end to the series!

I'm not sure there's a good way to briefly summarise a thirteen-omnibus-long series, but the quickest version is this: Mamoru Hijikata is a blind modern-day swordsman working for a vigilante crime-fighting organisation, who accidentally ends up teamed up with Haruka, a teenage girl with precognitive powers. The scale of their problems leaps from street-level crime to international terrorists, to a four-way crossover with three other manga series that never actually ends, to... Going to a small country in Africa to overthrow its leader because that seems the most efficient way to get all of these assassins to back off and stop trying to kill Mamoru and kidnap Haruka for her precognitive abilities? Because the villain, whose name escapes me, is running a eugenics experiment with his own bloodline, and wants to harvest Haruka's eggs to bring her abilities into his bloodline?

(... Legitimately, the fact that this did not leap straight to rape was both a relief and a massive surprise.)

But yes, regardless, Until Death Do Us Part got a bit too messy and complicated for me a few volumes ago, and I've stuck with it mainly because I was so close to the end and I was convinced that it was going to pull a "live by the sword, die by the sword" thing with Mamoru so that he could die while a) the greatest swordsman in the world, b) achieving his goal of protecting Haruka, and c) thwarting her prophecy earlier in the book that she was going to marry him.

(... No really. That is A Thing.)

Instead, we get... *sighs* It's an ending where everyone sort-of gets what they want, but also it makes very limited sense and doesn't stand up to the promise that the early volumes of the series had. And I am so mad about the relationships; Mamoru has tried (very badly) to be a good guardian to Haruka in the past, which gave me hope, but everything goes in a very Bunny Drop direction anyway! My disappointment has pretty much erased everything else from my memory of this volume, guys, I'm sorry. Hikaru does her best to keep everyone alive, even if it means betraying her team, which is really interesting in terms of her priorities; there is the potential for a battle royale (the fight scenes are where Until Death Do Us Part shines) that is thrown aside, what is going on with the politics of this country is awful – but I can't get past the relationships to talk about that, I'm too mad.

Basically: mates, no matter how fond I am of the early volumes of this series, give this one a miss.

4. Tale of the Waning Moon Volume One by Hyouta Fujiyama [Top]
If you look at the reviews for this on GoodReads, you're going to see a lot of people yelling "STOP BEING MAD, IT'S A PARODY!" and I don't think I believe them one single bit.

Q: ... But Susan, do you not remember the premise?
A: What, you mean "Dude gets drunk after his girlfriend leaves him, makes a wish on the wrong hill, and ends up magically bound to the spirit of the waning moon – who not only rapes our protagonist on page one, but enchants him so that he feels compelled to seek out the moon spirit and possibly fall in love with him?" Why would that have helped?
Q: What about The Horny Catboy of Poor Life Choices? The fact that every man appears to be magnetically attracted to the protagonist and/or a rapist?
A: Yeah, that was weird and kinda gross, but honestly it was still within the bounds of what I expected.
Q: No, seriously, did the servant who is cursed to be a horse by day and only able to be with his lover by night not clue you in?
A: ... Honestly that was the most sensible part of it.

I appreciate that I am bad at recognising parody – seriously, if you're recommending a parody to me, please tell me in advance because I am not going to notice – but if all of the events and tone of the story are squarely within bounds for a played-straight BL manga? Yeah, nah, I am sticking to my initial reaction of "What in fuck did I just put in my eyes?"

(... I have READ SOME THINGS in my time, okay.)

The bits of it that are good are... Fine? The art is pretty good – it is the same creator who made Lover's Flat which I remember enjoying? – although the pages feel a bit busy; the RPG trappings, like the protagonist levelling up are fun; and the story arc with the rich guy and his cursed servant is actually kinda sweet? But the rest of it is seriously too rapey for me (I am NOT KIDDING when I say it's nearly every guy they encounter), the emotions make no sense, and, just... Uggggh. I like a lot of the secondary characters and relationships, but my overall reaction is still that all of this is within the bounds of "things I will read in a BL manga" where the bar is low and the drama is high, but it still made me mad.

Cover of Pandora Hearts Volume Seven by Jun Mochizuki Cover of Pluto Volume Four by Naoki Urasawa

5. Pandora Hearts Volume Seven by Jun Mochizuki [Top]
Okay, in this volume: we meet Duke Barma, who is intensely bizarre even by the metrics of Pandora Hearts; Break's backstory is laid out for us, and Oz manages to mentally destroy a man through the medium of having character development.

The thing that I realised while reading this volume of Pandora Hearts (probably because I'd just read The Ancient Magus' Bride) is that all of the manga that I love are melodramas with really good things to say about looking after and valuing yourself, and growing into a better person. Who knew. But that really is the theme of this volume of Pandora Hearts! Oz realises that he's not as strong or selfless or together as he thinks he is – but as Elliot says, he's realised that now, and knowing is the first step to moving forwards! And Oz makes a deliberate choice to care about himself and learn what he can do to move forward! ;______;

The effect that this realisation has on others is fascinating to me. This development later causes a man to literally explode through sheer fury! And Oz makes a specific point to Raven that he's choosing to not lean on him, which emotionally guts him. (Seriously, Break makes a point of asking Raven "Does it frighten you? That Oz-kun is going ahead and changing on you? That you alone are left behind?" I am here for this.) But it's not all negative reactions – Alice is determined to find out who she is and what she's forgotten even though it's scary, and this is my favourite thing. Basically she commits to finding out how she got to where she is, to help her commit to being who she is now, and I find that really admirable? (Of course, her and Oz agree to be comrades based on the shared goal of finding their true selves, and who authorised these found family feelings?! This is terrible!)

(Speaking of terrible: I don't understand how or why Oz hasn't told Alice about the memory that he saw?! That's awful!)

As for the rest of the volume... The sequence with Duke Barma is definitely weird, especially for the realisation that after all of the palavar, Duke Barma has actually shown up to in several scenes before as a background character. But yes, he deliberately lures them all into a trap (that Break knows they're walking into!), and his introduction is definitely unsettling. It's very strange to me that this man joins the main cast, and yet he is the vehicle for so much information coming to us, the audience.

But yes. Kevin Legnard, the Red-Eyed Spectre. (I can't get over his name being "Kevin" in a fantasy setting, what on earth.) I'd like to take a second to talk about scale: Kevin Legnard killed a hundred and sixteen people and still got dropped into the Abyss. I'm not sure that anyone could avoid that fate, if that wasn't enough. ._. (Also: holy fuck, Break.) But also, the Intention of the Abyss is terrifying. She flips between rational and irrational in the space of a panel; sweet and cruel; powerless and powerful. She turns a Chain into chunks with a glare, but also throws a tantrum when Vincent shows up at her door! It's weird, is what I'm saying, and probably ties into a whole host of tropes about tiny little murder girls.

The other things that I like about this volume: Sharon adopting Alice, and also modelling her life about a romance series with a dominating woman; Oz finally showing interest in the last ten years; Break cutting Barma in half; Reim and Break leaping in front of each other to protect the other one. Whoops, content I'm here for. >_>

But yes, this volume is definitely an odd one, which I enjoyed a lot for the character development being set up! Everything else is on the scale of alarming to horrifying.

6. Pluto Volume Four [Top]
In this volume: THE DEATH OF ATOM.

... No, seriously, I was not expecting that one either, especially not in volume four of an eight book series. (I've also been instructed to warn people that there is a dog that dies, which... I don't warn for people dying, so it seems odd to warn for animals? But I defer to the preferences of others. Also in this volume: a lot more cockroaches.) I kind of assumed that he'd be the one robot who was safe, and Pluto managed to completely turn that on its head.

(I find it very odd that those are literally all of my notes; the death of Atom apparently only made me feel surprised. I don't know if that's a flaw in execution or in my reading.)

I think that I would really like to read the original Astroboy story arc that this volume is based off, because it would be really interesting to see how much of the little asides here were carried over from the original and how many were added in by Naoki Urasawa. Specifically, I want to know if the section about the history of the most recent war was Urasawa's addition; the United States of Thracia provided information that the Kingdom of Persia was building robots that could serve as weapons of mass destruction that a survey team found absolutely no evidence of... And the United States of Thracia went to war anyway.


Apart from that, I find it interesting how much of this volume hinges almost on a coincidence? Gesicht is assigned to protect the human supremacist who has been trying to kill him for weeks, which leads to the man accidentally revealing some of the most vital information in the case out of... Guilt? An attempt to brazen out this problem? I also find Tenma's insistence that only negative emotions (specifically hatred and other emotions that could drive someone to kill) are proof of success in AI to be deeply weird. Like, I will allow that there is an interesting philosophical debate to be had in the conflict between the goal of "make robots as human-like as possible" and "restrict their allowed emotional range to exclude any emotion that could lead to harm", and also that Tenma has Many Issues – I believe in the original run of Astro Boy he actually sold Atom to the circus for not being an exact duplicate of his son – but understanding the underpinning of his argument doesn't mean that it makes any more sense to me. Does anyone have input on that?

Tale of the Waning Moon Volume Two by Hyouta Fujiyama Cover of Pluto Volume Five by Naoki Urasawa

7. Tale of the Waning Moon Volume Two by Hyouta Fujiyama [Top]

Q: Susan, weren't you really mad about the first volume, like, five seconds ago?
A: ... Yes...
Q: Why are you reading the second one?!

(I am being a little unfair here; like I said, I was having a reading slump and flinging myself into things that I knew would annoy me seemed like a better way to dig myself out. Look, it worked!)

The secondary characters continue to be my favourite characters here; the family and workers in the inn from the end of the last volume show up again to a) give warnings about doom caves, or b) follow their crush and drag them home, and that is a story that I would be interested in? And there is actually an onscreen female character in this BL manga! For the first time! Who is smart and capable and robbing bandits! Yay! (Ugh I would read about all of these secondary characters, why is the manga not about – I KNOW, I KNOW.) And we get to meet Aldin's (the rich guy's) family! The villain of Aldin's story arc is TOTES NOT BLATANT AT ALL.

But there is also a new guy, who apparently takes the mind-control aspect of being a moon spirit to its extreme and just... Uses it to kidnap hot guys and keep them as sex slaves? UGGGGGGGH. *throws book across a room* This whole story arc! Is gross! And I say this in the full context of the main love interest being a rapist!

The best thing I can say about this book is that it managed to successfully aggravate me out of a reading slump, but I don't think that's actually a selling point. If anyone wants official recs of BL manga, I will try to hook you but, but please trust me and give this one a miss.

8. Pluto Volume Five [Top]
In this volume: Gesicht finally remembers and understands the reason that the human supremacist hates him, and Hercules gets that face off against Pluto he wanted.

CAUTION WARNING for the volume (but not this discussion): child abuse and murder.

This volume is one of interesting contrasts.
  • The police trying to assure the human supremacist that "[Gesicht] didn't kill your brother out of hatred," while Brau asks "It was hatred, right?"

  • Hercules and Epsilon; Hercules as a robot specifically built for battle, while Epsilon chose to be a pacifist.

  • The contrast in human and robot displays of grief.

  • Tenma is an awful mess of a human being; he attempted to build a robot replacement for his dead son, then abused Atom when he wasn't spontaneously exactly like him... And then spent eighteen hours trying to help Atom to recover.

These are especially interesting for what they mean. The police's argument seems to be based on hope rather than fact. Hercules, whose purpose is battle, thinks Epsilon was right to refuse to fight. The robot families have been "allowed" to create families by humans to encourage genuine feeling, and the robots in this scene find they almost regret it. And Tenma... Well. Tenma.

I'm going to start with Tenma, actually, because I want to point out a couple of things. Like: "Oh my gosh, you absolute fucking madman, why would you need a robot that can simulate six billion personalities simultaneously, that's ludicrous." And "While I understand that it has to be a negative emotion to focus the robot from a thematic point of view and in the context of Tenma; why on earth does it have to be a negative emotion? Would a positive one not be easier?" ... I think I've seen too many manga where they use the power of positive emotions to save the world, actually, because him saying negative emotions weirded me out. I just... Tenma, guys. What the fuck. Like, this is without even getting into the idea that Atom could come back as a monster, even with Tenma's interference.

Similarly, the scene where Darius XV refuses to participate in his own trial is kinda chilling (and similarly the fuck), and the mix of colour and black and white after that is really well done. But also the scene where Gesicht discovers that his own child has been snatched is awful to read.

My favourite arc in this volume however is Uran's. She is sad and quiet for a change – and then goes back to helping people with even more fervor than usual, because there is always something out there that is sadder than she is. It's a nice touch, and I really appreciate seeing her bringing good things to the world. Especially because we're going to back to the contrast here; hers is a story that has a fair amount of positivity in it, compared to how bleak or harrowing the rest of the volume is. (Considering the subject of at least some of the volume is someone kidnapping children: it's bleak. Very well done, but bleak.). It's a good look at the repercussions of everything that's happened so far, but I'm not sure I'm ready for the rest of the series.

Currently Reading

  • Full Metal Alchemist Volume Three by Hiromu Arakawa — I have a lot of feelings about the Elric Brothers and the Rockbells, this is terrible. But we're on our way to Central to the library, so that should be fine, right? No more heartbreak coming up, right...?

  • Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith — I'm not sure I rank this very high as advice, but it's an interesting look into how being an author in the mid-twentieth century worked. Except for all of the internalised misogyny of course. :\

  • Zodiac Starforce Volume 2: Cries of the Fire Prince by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau — Okay, this is a little cheating because I'm reading it in issue form, but! The art continues to be super cute, and I'm really invested in the relationships between the girls (Highlights: Kim and her super-supportive boyfriend, and Molly helping Lily train. Lowlights: Emma's date.).

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 40/150 (8 new this post) Prose: 13/50 (No new books this post)
New-to-me female authors: 6/75 (No new books this post)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 23/90 (5 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub: 11/40 (2 new this post: Tale of the Waning Moon Volumes 1 & 2)