spindizzy: Noctis holding a frog. (Frog!)
[personal profile] spindizzy posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Hello my darlings! I am back, and as always I have done EXCELLENTLY at starting my goals as I mean to go on – I have read so many comics and manga! So many! Which is very much not in line with my goals, but pssh, we have an entire year to catch up.

  1. Pandora Hearts Volumes 16-24 by Jun Mochizuki, Check Please! Volume One by Ngozi Ukazu and Bitch Planet Volume 2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Taki Soma, and Valentine de Landro [Jump]

  2. Natsume's Book of Friends Volume One by Yuki Midorikawa [Jump]

  3. Scales and Scoundrels Volume One by Sebastian Girner and Galaad [Jump]

  4. Final Fantasy FFXV Prologue: Parting Ways [Jump]

  5. Flying Witch Volume One by Chihiro Ishizuka (Translated by Melissa Tanaka) [Jump]

  6. The Old Guard Volume One by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández [Jump]

  7. And In Our Daughters, We Find A Voice by Cassandra Khaw [Jump]

  8. Manga Dogs Volume Three by Ema Toyama [Jump]

Cover of Pandora Heart Vol 24 Check Please Vol 1 Cover of Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 1

1-12. Pandora Hearts Volumes 16-24 by Jun Mochizuki, Check Please! Years One and Two by Ngozi Ukazu, and Bitch Planet Volume 2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Taki Soma, and Valentine de Landro [Top]
I also reread Pandora Hearts volumes 16-24, Check Please! Years One and Two by Ngozi Ukazu, and Bitch Planet Volume 2: President Bitch, but that was literally for the other two Eight Book Minimum posts this year, so I'm not yelling about them again! I'm just noting them here so that my numbers match up properly. :)

13. Natsume's Book of Friends Volume One by Yuki Midorikawa [Top]
Natsume is a teenager who can see yokai (Japanese spirits or demons), which has led to him being passed between relatives as they've been weirded out by him (because that's how this tropes works) until he ends up in his grandmother's hometown. There he finds out that not only could his grandmother also see yokai, she also bound them into her service by trapping their names in a book – and now Natsume is being hunted by yokai who either want their names back, or want the book itself. And once Natsume finds this out... He immediately offers to give the names back! He doesn't need to be persuaded! The drama is not from that! That is refreshing.

The first volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends is a story about loneliness and connections. Natsume's grandmother had trouble connecting with humans, so she forced connections with the yokai she fought. Natsume refuses to get rid of the book despite the trouble it brings him, because of the connection to his grandmother. And the individual stories show the desire for connection – between a god and his only worshipper, between a dead soul and the person who both saved and killed her, between Natsume and his desire to meet other people like him.

I'm not sure I'm a hundred percent fond of the art style – the yokai are very well drawn, but I don't like the human designs as much – but the stories worked pretty well because of the atmosphere and their emotional core. I want to describe them as gentle, even though at least two of the stories have really bittersweet endings and one is straight up a horror story. (A thing I did appreciate is that the author specifically says in her notes that the series is and was always intended to be episodic – I love creature of the week stories, but the format usually gets abandoned once the characters are established. It works really well here!)

... I'll be honest, this makes me really miss Tactics, and want to get around to finally reading Mushishi, which isn't a bad thing! I don't know if I keep getting Natsume's Book of Friends out of the library, but I enjoyed it.

Cover of Scales & Scoundrels Volume 1 Cover of Final Fantasy XV Prologue: Parting Ways

13. Scales & Scoundrels Volume One by Sebastian Girner and Galaad [Top]
Okay, stop me if you've heard this one. Scales & Scoundrels Volume One is a comic about a penniless rogue who teams up with an excitable prince, his loyal bodyguard, and their terrified guide as they go in search of a mysterious dungeon that will either bring them unfathomable riches or certain death, or possibly one and then the other.

It's honestly kinda generic, but the character tropes are enough my sort of thing to keep my interest – Aki, the excitable prince, is an absolute history nerd; Koro is loyal to the point of doing whatever she deems necessary, whether it's what Aki wants; and Dorma is the embodiment of "Was Terrified But Did The Thing Anyway!" Luvander, the protagonist, is... Chaotic Neutral at best, to be honest with you, which possibly makes her the least interesting member of the party? I find the way that her reactions to treasure are handled entirely through the art to be a nice touch, and I like that she gets to be a female character and an epic trashfire, but she's still honestly the least interesting person there. I like how they all interact and their conflicting goals and mysterious backstories weave together, but I'm not sure the plot has grabbed me?

I am interested in the world being built around the cast – it's somewhat generic fantasy above the earth, but the dungeon is cool and has really interesting visual designs! Even as it's one of those "I have no idea how all of these environments are existing next to each other, but it's a fantasy setting so I'm gonna go with it. (Plus: it has a canon ludicrously complicated card game, which I appreciate as someone who likes ludicrously complicated card games and spends a lot of time thinking about what fictional characters do for fun.)

I'm a bit iffy on the art itself though! I like sketchy art and flat colours, but I think the combination of those elements is clashing here a little? I mean this in the nicest way possible, but it reminds me of a less polished version of Nimona's art.

Basically, Scales & Scoundrels is the sort of generic fantasy that I like so I'm gonna keep following where it leads! Wish me luck?

14. Final Fantasy XV Prologue: Parting Ways [Top]
Final Fantasy XV: Prologue: Parting Ways is what it says on the tin – a prologue to the game Final Fantasy XV, going through the events of Prince Noctis' last days in Crown City before he leaves with his best friends to roadtrip to his wedding.

(Q: Susan, isn't this the script-prologue to a video game?
A: It's listed on GoodReads as a novella so it TOTALLY COUNTS.)

I'm not gonna lie to you: my first reaction when I finished this story was utter frustration, because the characterisation is great, it has so many story and character beats for both Final Fantasy XV and Kingsglaive – and all of it should have been in the main game. It both sets up and resolves a couple of character arcs in a very short space of time, and all of this would have been better served as an actual prologue in the game! Some of this information actually fills in plotholes in other pieces of Final Fantasy XV and I didn't even know this existed until a friend mentioned it!

My constant frustration about Final Fantasy XV as a multimedia project to one side, this is a satisfying little story with all of the context of the main game and the movie behind me; all of the characters are recognisable from other media, and I really enjoyed seeing them get them actually interact and have a tiny amount of space for development. I liked it! It has a more contained and satisfying look at the main characters than the first three chapters of the game – okay no, I lied, I'm not done being frustrated, I tap.

Cover of Flying Witch Volume 1 Cover of The Old Guard Volume 1

15. Flying Witch Volume One by Chihiro Ishizuka (Translated by Melissa Tanaka) [Top]
I picked this up entirely because I looked at the cover and went "Yotsuba grew up to become a witch!" I don't know if I even checked the blurb, to be honest, that's how much I managed to convince myself. On the plus side, I was actually kinda right!

Flying Witch Volume One is very cute and sweet, following Makoto, a teenage witch trying to balance completing a rite-of-passage journey as a witch with finishing high school, so she moves in with her cousins' family. Cute short, episodic adventures

Makoto's a bit naive and unusual, but seeing her interact with the world and the people around her filled me with warmth and joy. Everyone felt very believable, from Chinatsu (her younger cousin)'s wariness and timidity around new people and the weird situations Makoto brings with her, to her new friend Nao's reactions to discovering the weirdness around her, to Kei (her older cousin)'s acceptance of what's happening (and abandoning her in favour of his male friends) to her familiar deciding that its favourite spot in the entire town is exactly six inches outside the range of a super angry dog. It's a surprisingly sensible and down-to-earth look at the world, almost like it's a rural slice-of-life story with the magic sprinkled over the top? (Everyone who has ever wanted a creative career can probably feel Makoto's pain when she says that her family wanted her to finish studying so she has a back-up plan if being a witch doesn't work out!)

It's just warm and sweet and two worlds mingling instead of colliding, and I enjoyed it a lot! I hope the next volumes are as good, seeing as they're on my table waiting for me...

16. The Old Guard Volume One by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández [Top]
Oh boy, this thing. The Old Guard is about a group of immortal soldiers – a Grecian warrior, two soldiers from opposite sides of the Crusades, and a deserter from the Napoleonic army – who discover almost simultaneously that they've been rumbled, and that there is another soldier in the world who's just discovered that she's immortal too.

Normally I'm a fan of Greg Rucka and his penchant for hard-living, hard-fighting women who are clinging onto their compassion by their fingernails, but this one just left me cold? The story was... Fine... The villains did not make any sense and somehow it manages to make a story about choosing life (one of my favourite tropes!) into something that I wouldn't bother reading again? But it was... Fine? I guess? But oh man, the art is not for me. The silhouettes are very dramatic, but on the whole the faces just don't look right. They're often lumpy and squishy in weird ways, and seem to go hard into visual stereotypes, which really distracts and detracts from the rest of the book.

I dunno, I think I'm genuinely disappointed in this one. If it hadn't been a Greg Rucka book and I'd just picked it up off the shelf at random, I would have just written it off as a bad job, but come on Greg Rucka, I expect better of you.

Cover of Manga Dogs Volume 3

17. And In Our Daughters, We Find a Voice by Cassandra Khaw [Top]
And In Our Daughters, We Find A Voice is Cassandra Khaw's take on The Little Mermaid, and it's dark and grim and great. I'm not sure how to talk about it without spoilers because it's so short, but it has a similar theme to Octavia Cade's The Mussel Eater, where a man has convinced himself that the monstrous woman he's found can be captured and made more human and more to his taste if he only breaks off everything that makes her who and what she is – but from the point of view of the monstrous woman, and she has a plan.

I love the contrast between all the ways the prince tries to keep her docile and closer to human (I got to the teeth and recoiled from the screen) and all of the ways that she is not and never could be, and the importance that the narrative places on her sisters when the only character that places importance on them is the narrator. I love the hints of the world we get, and the patience of the mermaid to see her plan to fruition – and that the fruition is glorious and horrifying in equal measure. I also find it really interesting that it never goes into how the mermaid was captured or why she made her bargain with the sea witch

(I really, truly love what Cassandra Khaw said about this story: "If the sins of the father are paid for by their sons, are the fury of mothers fulfilled by their daughters?")

If you don't mind your fairy tales grim and a little disturbing, please read this one, then come back to yell with me.

[Caution warning: body horror, gore, sentient beings referred to as "it", implied forced marriage and marital rape]

18. Manga Dogs Volume Three by [Top]
I finally got around to finishing this series! It's a ridiculous little manga about a young manga creator and her lackadaisical aspiring manga-creating classmates studying for the first-ever manga major to be offered at their school, and their misadventures are sometimes bizarre.

In this volume, the three lackadaisical classmates finally start to draw a manga! Yes, in the last volume of the series, right before the end of the school year, at the last possible minute. I’m shocked too, I’d started to think this was going to end with only Kanna having ever actually drawn anything. (I don’t know about anyone else, but I laughed for days at the horror on all of their faces when the boys realised exactly how much work they were going to have to put into creating their manga, and that they couldn’t just ski[p straight to spending the money they’d made from it. It was a great punchline to the three volumes of daydreaming and "Well of course we’ll be amazing at it when we actually do it" that’s been their characterisation for the entire series. ... Yes, the three classmates are my motivation to not count my writing chickens before they hatch.)

I think it’s managed to be a good contrast of heartwarming (through the milestones in Kanna’s career) and funny, although some of the jokes fall flat – the (adult) manga editor who somehow thought he’d ended up on a group date at a high school missed me completely for obvious reasons, and sometimes they felt a bit mean to Kanna? But honestly it was nice to see that there are adults in this series who genuinely want to encourage the students they have, and to see that the characters of a gag manga about making and publishing manga actually grow a little? (Most of the adults are terrible and more immature than the kids.)

Basically, it's very was very silly.

Currently Reading

  • Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear — I got an ARC of Stone Mad and I am so excited! There is a fancy date happening and I am so here for it!

  • The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green — So far the only POV I'm invested in the girl who likes shoes and baits demons for a living. I THOUGHT that maybe the princess/knight Love That Can Never Be would be relevant to my interests, but it is honestly not the slowburn heartbreak that I was hoping for. ... Plus, the twist of the other character's storyline are TOO OBVIOUS and I am grouchy.

  • Murder on the Titania by Alex Acks — Steampunk murder mystery with pirates! Steampunk murder mystery with pirates!

  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde — This is Audre Lorde's biomythography (which is a word that I love but cannot spell reliably) and it is super interesting so far!

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 26/180 (18 new this post) Prose: 9/90 (2 new this post) Nonfiction: 0/12
#getouttamydamnhouse: 12/80 (12 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 9/25 (3 new this post; Check Please Years 1 and 2; The Old Guard Volume 1)
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