spindizzy: (Be happy!)
Susan ([personal profile] spindizzy) wrote in [community profile] ladybusiness2019-01-04 06:43 am

Eight Book Minimum: The Ghost of 2018 (04/01/19)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Friends, enemies, people just passing through: 2018 is gone and I could not be happier with this fact. I took December off reading (I know) which seems to have sent me into a frantic binge of manga and graphic novels, so that's something to look forward to! In the meantime, I figured I might as well catch up on the reviews that I've started for what I read last year, and then I can yell about my reading goals in a couple of weeks when I've finally figured out what I read last year!

  1. Jem & The Holograms Volume 1 by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell [Jump]

  2. Kiss of the Rose Princess by Aya Shouoto [Jump]

  3. Rat Queens Volume 1 [Jump]

  4. Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card Volume 1 by CLAMP [Jump]

  5. My Solo Exchange Diary Volume 1 by Nagata Kabi [Jump]

  6. The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximel by KJ Charles [Jump]

  7. Mail Volumes 1-3 by Housui Yamazaki [Jump]

  8. His Sweet Restraint by Chifumi Ochi [Jump]

  9. Sweet Whispers of Night by Chifumi Ochi [Jump]

Cover of Jem and the Holograms Volume 1 Cover of Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 1

1. Jem & The Holograms Volume 1 by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell [Top]
I wasn't familiar with Jem and the Holograms growing up (Wikipedia informs me that it finished its initial run before I was born, for context), so I was coming into this almost completely blind. Like, full-on, "Oh, wait, this isn't about a high-school battle of the bands?" levels of not knowing what was going on. Protip: it is not about a high-school battle of the bands. It is in fact about a group of sisters who made a pledge to form a band once they all graduated, with just one small problem: their lead singer, Jecca, can't sing a note in front of an audience. But it turns out that their dad left them all a hologram sister, and more importantly – hologram technology that allows Jecca to become her stage persona, Jem. Armed with this foolproof disguise, they go forth and live their musical dreams! ... Sorta.

I really like the way that this depicted the music performances; it's so bright and colourful, and we all know how I feel about bright and colourful comics! The scripting is strong, I was DEEPLY emotionally invested in the secret romance between two opposing band members and all the attempted murder, and I thought it was a really fun story about sisters! I just came away from it feeling a bit... Underwhelmed? I don't know if I got overhyped about it or if my discomfort with Jecca's romantic choices and the way the whole secret identity thing is handled is affecting my read of it, but it just wasn't quite what I wanted.

I think my best bet might be to see if I can get volume two out of the library and see if it's more conclusively my thing, because in theory a story about queer pop-princess cyberpunk bands should be exactly what I need in my life!

2. Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 1 by Aya Shouoto [Top]
I don't know if any of you ever have this problem, but sometimes I desperately crave cheesy shoujo manga. Like full-on, I need at least a hundred pages of romantic misunderstandings, magic, and a love quadrangle where the designated love interest is blatantly obvious from the first chapter but we're just gonna go with it anyway. (I think Isabelle Yap summed this up really well.)

And the first volume of Kiss of the Rose Princess definitely delivered that! It was definitely cheesy shoujo manga! It felt generic and silly, and almost all of the disasters felt predictable as they showed up! Our Heroine has a mysterious necklace from her absent father, which cannot be removed (in a very real and literal sense; many have tried); when it does finally come off, she gains four cards that let her summon the Rose Knights – who all happen to be her hot but weird classmates! NONSENSE ENSUES.

It wasn't a great shoujo manga, and I didn't wail desperately at the end of the volume because "where is the rest of it?!" (No really, this is a thing that I do), but I read this one and it was just... Silly and tropey? It was practically ticking the boxes on the Shoujo Manga Trope Bingo, and considering I had no emotional bandwidth at the time I was reading it, that was about all I could take! It does set off my embarrassment squick a fair bit, which is my main criticism, but if you want something brainless, this will definitely fit the bill.

Cover of Rat Queens Volume 1 Cover of Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card Volume 1

3. Rat Queens Volume 1 [Top]
I'm gonna be honest: I'm not doing a proper review of Rat Queens because one of the creators was arrested for domestic abuser, and the other creator still supports him, so I don't think it necessarily deserves my best efforts. The most I can say about it is that while it's very well put-together and I loved the premise of subverting the tropes of adventuring bands and acceptable femininity... It wasn't for me? I like stories where women are in control of their sexuality, and I can enjoy gory and violent stories, but something about this just rubbed me the wrong way. Possibly it was the drops into the male gaze! Possibly it was the "everything is unrelentingly awful and also everyone is deliberately setting their lives own on fire," which is not my favourite combination of tropes! Either way, [personal profile] bookgazing has written an excellent and in-depth review of Rat Queens as a graphic novel. I definitely recommend reading her review, because I agree with pretty much everything she said, especially about the art, male gaze, and costuming!

4. Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card Volume 1 by CLAMP [Top]
I actually reviewed Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card #OnHere for a change! I really enjoyed it, it was cute and joyful and I loved it. Highly recommended.

Cover of My Solo Exchange Diary Volume 1 Cover of The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximel

5. My Solo Exchange Diary Volume 1 by Nagata Kabi [Top]
I reviewed My Solo Exchange Diary for The Lesbrary, and the short version is that it's an autobiographical essay collection from the creator of My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, and it's a ROUGH read. Very very good, but it talks about her (neglectful, disappointed) family, her struggles with independence, and the state of her mental health. I highly recommend it, but there is every chance it's going to kick the legs out from under you like it did me.

[Caution warning: self-harm, suicidal thoughts, neglectful/emotionally abusive family, mentions of eating disorders]

6. The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximel by KJ Charles [Top]
You know, I read The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximel last year, and I had no memory of it. I have read Spectred Isle, which harked back to it, and I'm quite excited for the sequel which KJ Charles mentioned involved a character who we apparently saw being born in this story, but I had NO recollection of it, at all. Like, genuinely had no idea which character she could possibly be referring to. But it's fine! I appreciate that a lot of the drama comes from two people being unable to communicate and having mismatched expectations of relationships, and their attempts to actually solve that? I liked that it refers to other (non-existent) stories, because that is a thing that I enjoyed in Sherlock Holmes. But apart from that, I think that my old review still stands.

Cover of Mail Volume 1 Cover of Mail Volume 2 Cover of Mail Volume 3

7. Mail Volumes 1-3 by Housui Yamazaki [Top]
Mail is another horror/mystery series from the creators of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, this time with a focus on angry ghosts instead of justice for dead bodies. It's a very episodic series, all following the rough format of "a normal person encounters (or creates!) a ghost, and gets rescued from it by Detective Akiba, a man with a gun that can only shoot ghosts."

It was exactly what I was in the mood for – something episodic and creepy, but light on the amount of emotional investment it asked of me. It honestly feels lighter than other things I've read by this author (Q: Susan, doesn't this book contain A LOT of dead people? A: And yet still fewer than any given volume of Kurosagi.). It doesn't feel as explicitly political, at least to my uneducated eyes, although it does still hint at it by bringing in war trauma and the treatment of people with disabilities. It's not a flawless portrayal by any means – some of the ghosts died in connection to their physical or mental disabilities, and at least two of them killed themselves – but for the most part, the narrative seems to be sympathetic to them, although I side-eye it for it's inclusion of disability as a horror element and the fact that I'm having a hard time telling if the bits of portrayals that are niggling at me are cultural differences or what.

Mail managed to be genuinely creepy and unsettling, and I'm giving most of the credit for that to the art. I liked the angles and perspectives chosen, and the artist's style really suits the story! I also really liked the way the chapter from the perspective of a blind character was drawn; it was white on black, and drawn in a much sketchier style to represent the uncertainty of what was around the character, and that was so interesting to me! Even if I was bemused by the results of that story arc, which I think was supposed to be a homage to the little girl in Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack? Plus, for all that the structure of any individual story followed a similar pattern, I liked the variations in how Akiba becomes involved in his cases and the different steps that are taken before the inevitable "trapping a ghost in a bullet" part.

I do like it though! This was almost exactly the sort of formulaic supernatural mysteries I needed when I read it, and now I want to see if I can find more like it!

[Caution warnings: gore, suicide, murder, horrible accidents, child deaths, untreated mental illnesses, stalking]

Cover of His Sweet Restraint Cover of Sweet Whisper of Night

8. His Sweet Restraint by Chifumi Ochi [Top]
Hoooo boy, this thing. His Sweet Restraint is a manga about two voice actors – Tetsu, a forty-something veteran in the field, and Naruse, who's only just turned thirty – who stumble into bed together, where Tetsu is expecting a casual one-night stand and Naruse turns out to be desperately in love with him! It's a fun premise, but it falls a little flat for me. The age difference doesn't seem to really be as relevant as it could be (which even the creator seems to be aware of, as they specifically mention in the author's note at the end, and it's not helped that neither of them look their ages), and it has a problem that I think I've seen in a fair few romances of not really showing why this person. Why is Naruse the person that Tetsu wants to spend his life with, when he was apparently expecting Naruse to get bored within a couple of months? Why do they apparently not have the conversation about Naruse's feelings until several months into their relationship? Why is Naruse so weirdly controlling?!

Honestly, I think it would have been a better book if we got more from Naruse's point of view (and if there were fewer consent issues because obviously), because once we get the reason why he's so enamoured with Tetsu, his side of the story makes more sense? At least in terms of "I have a crush on this guy that can be seen from space." The main thing that I liked the way it showed the work of voice actors, but I was not invested in the main relationship at all.

[Caution warning: sexual harrassment, standard BL levels of consent issues (which is not a sentence I ever expected to write but HERE WE ARE)]

9. Sweet Whispers of Night by Chifumi Ochi [Top]
Sweet Whispers of Night is set before His Sweet Restraint and follows Gasha, one of the side characters from that, as he hooks up with his manager, who DEFINITELY wants that to be just a one-time thing, definitely doesn't have a crush, this is fine. At least, I think that's the plot, but it's hard to say because the translation and editing of the script was so awful that I'm genuinely doubting I actually got the proper gist of it! It's disappointing because Sweet Whispers of Night seemed like it was going to be a sweet story about people trying to do what is best for each other, with much less confusion and consent issues than His Sweet Restraint, but it also happens to be borderline unreadable. I'm not even kidding, there are scenes where characters' names are swapped over and no one seems to have caught it. (Plus, there's also an entire sequence about someone unrelated who tried to convince everyone that they were dating the love interest when they weren't that I'm... Not really sure of the relevance of, seeing as the end of that anecdote seemed to be "If my stalker can move on and be happy in life, maybe I can too." Which I genuinely hope I misunderstood, because what.)

Basically, don't bother picking this up unless you're in the mood to dig through typos and very odd translation choices. I can't recommend it.

[Caution warning: attempted suicide, stalking, and delusions in backstory]

Currently Reading

  • The Seven Princes of the Seven Year Labyrinth Volume One by Aikawa Yu and Atori Haruno, translated and adapted by Beni Axia Conrad and Ysabet MacFarlane — The best way I can describe reading this is that sucker-punched me right in the id, and now I desperately need the next volume but I can't find it in my house!

  • Lumberjanes Volume 3 by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Carolyn Nowak, Maarta Laiho, Aubrey Aiese, Brittney Williams, Aimee Fleck, and Faith Erin Hicks — Lumberjanes is so cute and full of friendship, I love it! And it looks like this volume is going to be Definitely More Peaceful than the last volume, and Nothing Weird Is Going To Happen.

  • Mushishi Volume 2 by Yuki Urushibara, translated by William Flanagan — I've been in the mood for spooky mysteries, so I'm going back to Mushishi! It's not quite scratching that itch, but it's enjoyable as itself.

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 107/180 (9 new this post) Prose: 62/90 (1 new this post) Nonfiction: 4/12 (0 new this post)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 24/50 (0 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 41/50 (6 new this post; Jem & The Holograms, Rat Queens, My Solo Exchange Diary, The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximel, His Sweet Restraint, Sweet Whispers of Night.)
fragilespark: (Default)

[personal profile] fragilespark 2019-01-06 09:34 pm (UTC)(link)
*waves as someone passing through!* ♥