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  1. The Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth [Jump]

  2. MPD Psycho Volume 1 by by Eiji Otsuka, Sho-u Tajima, and Kumar Sivasubramanian [Jump]

  3. Shade the Changing Girl Volume 1 by Cecil Castellucci, and Marley Zarcone [Jump]

  4. Blissful Land Volume 1 by Ichimon Izumi [Jump]

  5. Tokyo Tarareba Girls by Kiko Higashimura, Steven LeCroy [Jump]

  6. Our Super Adventure by Sarah Graley [Jump]

  7. Oh No by Alex Norris [Jump]

  8. Liselotte & Witch's Forest Volume 1 by Natsuki Takaya [Jump]

Cover of The Seven Princes and the Thousand Year Labyrinth Vol 1 Cover of The Seven Princes and the Thousand Year Labyrinth Vol 2 Cover of MPD Psycho Vol 1

1. The Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth Volume 1 by Aikawa Yu, Atori Haruno, Beni Axia Conrad, and Ysabet MacFarlan [Top]
You know how sometimes you find a series that you can objectively see all of the flaws of, but it scratches at just the right point of your id that you don’t care? Yeah, that’s the problem I had with The Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth.

It’s about Ewan Juno, who wakes up one day to find out that he’s been kidnapped and imprisoned in a mythical labyrinth, where one of them will emerge as emperor of the land, and the others will be advisory lords. Ideally, they would choose one person based on merit, but as someone's decided that the easiest way to win is to be the only survivor, maybe that won't go quite as planned. I'm impressed at the tension the the creator managed to build for the first half of the series, and the way that we got exactly enough about each character to make me super invested in their survival and achieving their goals, but the second half didn't hold up as well (and queer-coding your villains is a thing that we can stop doing any time, thank you.) I liked it, but it was exactly what I was in the mood for so I can't say whether that rec will have transferrable value!

2. MPD Psycho Volume 1 by Eiji Otsuka, Sho-u Tajima, and Kumar Sivasubramanian [Top]
Honestly, this was kinda disappointing to me. I really liked Eiji Otsuka’s other manga series – Mail and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service are both supernatural mysteries that manage to tell compelling stories without eroticising suffering and dead women, or making corpses into grotesqueries. MPD Psycho does not.

(Possibly I should have realised this was gonna go poorly for me when the first female character we meet gets LITERALLY FRIDGED about ten pages in.)

Seriously, the premise is that a promising criminal profiler has a psychotic break when his girlfriend is raped and dismembered (but left alive IN A LITERAL FRIDGE) by a serial killer he's been hunting, which leaves him in prison for a murder he doesn't remember committing, and with an official record that says the legal system doubts he has multiple personality disorder. When he gets out of prison, his only remaining friend recruits him into her private detective agency, and they set about solving a series of disappearances. END CHAPTER TWO.

The mystery was fine, I was interested in that, and I was invested in the private detective and her sister, but it turned out that I'd remembered the solution to it and literally nothing else about MPD Psycho. Apparently there's a mysterious cyberpunk body bank in operation that I'd forgotten about! That was a surprise! And a lot more trying to establish how many different identities that protagonist has and what their different personalities are. I think we end this volume on a count of four? Basically everything around the murder was very strange,

I think that honestly, my real problem with MPD Psycho (apart from the suspicious squinting at the mental health thing, I was assuming that could be taken as read) is that in the afterword the author specifically says that he wanted to create a story where dead bodies actually functioned as dead bodies, and I don't think he succeeded. I'm assuming that that desire is what led to Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (MPD Psycho started in 1997, and Kurosagi followed it in 2002) avoiding the titilation that is going on here.

Ugh, I don't know. If I hadn't come to this straight off binging Mail and Kurosagi, I would probably be less grouchy about it, but on the other hand, the things that I'm grouchy about are things that the author has stopped doing in his later work. I guess it's interesting to see how he originally explored the themes that appeal to him, but right now I'm not in the mood for it.

[Caution warnings: murder, dismemberment, off-screen rape, drug use, body horror]

Cover of Shade the Changing Girl Vol 1 Cover of Blissful Land Volume 1

3. Shade the Changing Girl Volume 1 by Cecil Castellucci, and Marley Zarcone [Top]
Shade the Changing Girl is, as you might be able to guess, a really weird book based on the original Shade the Changing Man run. I've written a longer review than I expected, but the tl;dr is that it's not necessarily my thing, but I do appreciate the interesting thing they're doing with legacy and inheritance and how you make amends for something that you weren't even on the planet for at the time.

4. Blissful Land Volume 1 by Ichimon Izumi [Top]
Blissful Land reminds me a little of Bride’s Story; the settings are very different (18th century Tibet versus 19th century Kazakhstan), but they have a similar premise of a young bride being brought to her fiance’s home and introduced to a life that she’s not necessarily familiar with, and adopted into her new husband's family and his community. (If you haven’t read Bride’s Story I can recommend at least the first three volumes – the art is beautifully intricate and detailed, especially when it comes to clothes or woodwork, and the afterwords about the creator's research are really cool.)

But yes, returning to the book I'm supposed to be reviewing; I thought Blissful Land was really sweet! I liked the little details worked into the story of how the characters made medicine or dyed wool, and Khang Zipa's relationship with his family and his fiancé worked quite well. Both of them are shy and awkward around each other, but determined to help! It's nice! And all of the drama is low-stakes and resolved through people talking to each other properly! Yes, this is content I'm here for, whether it's a family making medicine and crafting materials, or trying to resolve a fight between children.

Honestly the only complaint I really have about Blissful Land is that I don’t like the way that the artist sometimes draws the faces like they’ve got googly eyes stuck on, because it’s REALLY DISTRACTING! Especially when they do it in serious scenes! Apart from that one thing, the art is fine, good at the animals and details of the village, the differences between communities clearly shown through the characters' clothes – but I keep turning the page and finding the googly eyes waiting for me and it throws me off!

So yes, I liked Blissful Land. I don't know what the plot is going to turn out to be, or if it's going to be following two teenagers getting used to and having crushes on each other until the day of their wedding, but it's peaceful and I think I really needed a book like that.

[This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley.]

Cover of Tokyo Tarareba Girls Vol 1 Cover of Our Super Adventure Vol 1

5. Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volume 1 by Kiko Higashimura, Steven LeCroy [Top]
I've written a proper review of Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volume 1, but the long and the short of it is that it's not really my cup of tea. It's about three women in their thirties resolving to get married before the Tokyo Olympics, and I admit, I am kinda sitting here going "But... You have a job... And good friends... Why do you want to get married when you're not even dating anyone...?" I think it's definitely a me-problem, not a book problem, where I'm reading it in a different cultural context so the

6. Oh No by Alex Norris. [Top]
Alex Norris' Oh no collects some of the gag comics you may have seen pop up on your twitter feed about a pink blob whose life is never going to plan. It's consistent art-wise – there's only so inconsistent you could get when all of your characters are different coloured blobs – but the quality of the jokes varied for me. Some of them were quite meta, such calling out the fact that there is only one punchline in the entire comic, which mostly left me cold (you know how sometimes you see someone make a joke, but it feels like it's trying to pre-empt you critising them? That's what those felt like., but there were some that were quite relatable in their "oh no". I would DEFINITELY keep this "I have finished a book. Oh no." comic as a good summary of my life, is what I'm saying here.

My suggestion is to check out [twitter.com profile] dorrismccomics, and then you can decide whether a consistent punchline is worth you getting the book for! You won't get all the book's material – I think that there's supposed to be a lot of new stuff in here? But you can at least decide whether or not the sad pink blob is worth your time! I think this is another one that I'd probably get out of the library rather than buying for myself.

[This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley.]

Cover of Oh No Cover of Liselotte & Witch's Forest Vol 1

7.Our Super Adventure Volume 1 by Sarah Graley [Top]
Our Super Adventure is a cute diary comic about the author's relationship with her body, her partner and her five cats, and I'm going to be honest with you: I was not expecting this many fart jokes. Which is fair enough – there are a lot of comics in this collection that are just sweet or silly, and some where I went "Oh hey, my partner and I do that!" and the fart jokes probably balance it all out, I was just... Not expecting that. The art style is cartoony and cute, and I really liked that she included some direct redraws to compare and contrast her old art style with her new one. If you want to check it out before you decide whether to pick it up or not, it is from the webcomic of the same name – I can't say advise you on that one because I feel about it the same way I do as Sarah C. Andersen's work – I would follow this on twitter and retweet that sweet relatable content, but I don't know if I'd ever deliberately seek it out in hardcopy.

[This review is based off an ARC from Netgalley]

8. Liselotte & Witch's Forest Volume 1 by Natsuki Takaya [Top]
Liselotte & Witch's Forest Volume 1 follows the titular Liselotte and her two servants as they settle into their new home in a peaceful valley, far from civilisation but close to the forest where the witches live. Things are mostly fine, until an attack from a witch leads to more people joining their household, which is definitely going to end well.

It reminds me a little bit of Princess Principal in Liselotte's determined, hard-fought cheer; they has people to keep safe, skills to learn, and a life to live, and the fact that they're doing it with a smile on their faces is a mark of their courage. (Don't @ me, I'm right.) But where Princess Principal is full of darkness, moral choices, and boarding school antics, Liselotte & Witch's Forest is a funny, sweet series with a tiny family trying to protect each other, and a smidge of darkness in the form of witches and the complicated backstory that is slowly being revealed. For once, a comedic fantasy actually makes me smile, because most of the humour is based on bombastic reactions and genuine affection! Or incompetent curses, whichever you find more amusing.

(If you need inspiration for curses that are slightly less bad than stepping on lego, this has some good ideas;"may every handle you touch fall off in your hand" is going into my roster now.)

The relationship between Liselotte and her servants, and her confusion around En and Yomi are both really well done, and I'm very excited to see how those developments play out.

The art is cute – I like the way that the artist portrays the magic effect, and the silent pages that are seeding clues and foreshadowing throughout, but I was sitting there going "This looks like Fruits Basket," because I didn't clock that this is from the same creator as Fruits Basket. ZVARRI, THE TRUTH IS ONCE AGAIN ELEGANTLY REVEALED TO ME. My expectations have now been adjusted to expect a lot more heartbreak and a darker-than-expected core hiding behind the mask of kindness. Good to know.

I enjoyed it, it felt like a good set-up for the rest of the series. Now I just need to find out if my library has the rest of it, or if I'm going to actually have to buy it.

Currently Reading

  • On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden — So far, this is a scifi story about rebuilding an abandoned temple, but the main thing that I'm taking away from it is look at those fish-spaceships!

  • RG Vega Omnibus 1 by CLAMP — I have no idea what I'm reading but it appears to be pretty and hopefully will give me some context for things in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles somehow.

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 46/200 (11 new this post) Prose: 10/100 (0 new this post) Short fiction: 8/10 (0 new this post) Nonfiction: 2/12
#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks: 18/100 (2 read this post)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 19/75 (0 new this post)

Date: 2019-04-06 03:37 am (UTC)
ealgylden: (Old Hamlet's Ghost)
From: [personal profile] ealgylden
Bride's Story is 19th century (if the Crimean War hasn't broken out yet, it's about ten minutes away), and much/most of the action takes place in what-will-be Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (Mr. Smith wanders, of course, giving us Vol. 7 in Iran and so forth). I've been eying Blissful Land, because it did remind me of Bride's Story, so I'm glad to hear that it's good. I'll have to check it out.

Date: 2019-04-06 10:47 pm (UTC)
ealgylden: (Old Hamlet's Ghost)
From: [personal profile] ealgylden
Okay, I did end up picking it up from Comixology, and oh my gosh! The googly eyes! You're 100% right; boy, are they googly. The rest of the art is beautiful (the scenery and buildings and clothes, gorgeous!), but those eyes are hilarious. *g* Thanks for reviewing it and helping me make up my mind!

Date: 2019-04-06 05:47 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] hippogriff13
Actually, I think the problem with "Tokyo Tarareba Girls" is at least as much with the author as it is with the differing cultural context. Akiko Higashimura says in the afterword that she got the idea to do this series because she had a bunch of female friends who were freaking out over not being married yet the same way Rinko & Co. do in the manga, and she wanted to show them how silly they were to think that they were incomplete without a man, or something like that. But in practice, the series too often turns into endless rounds of allegedly comical victim-blaming, with the entire universe conspiring to rub Rinko's nose in what a mistake she supposedly made in not settling for the then-gawky TV producer from some hick town back when he proposed to her ten years ago, since he's now become much more suitably sophisticated--but, of course, has moved on to fall in love with a much younger woman.

It would probably be possible to spin a lot of the same basic plot points to emphasize the absurd behavior and expectations of a number of the men (especially in volumes 2 and 3), as well as the "the deck is so stacked against these women that you don't know whether to laugh or cry" aspect of the situation. But with the Petruchio-esque bleached-blond idol Key repeatedly showing up to harangue Rinko and her buddies about how badly they suck at womanhood ("how dare you thirtysomething hags keep indulging in girls' nights out instead of spending all your time knocking yourselves out to make nice to suitable men!"), and then actively making efforts to sabotage Rinko's screenwriting career--not to mention those obnoxious talking bar snacks materializing to taunt her about how it's probably too late for her already every time she drinks too much--it seems more like Higashimura (who was only in a position to strike "oh what fools these mortals be" poses at her single friends in the first place because she herself had already gotten married [however briefly] and had a kid) keeps unconsciously backsliding into endorsing the established-Japanese-society view that it's a woman's job to do everything she can to avoid becoming a leftover "Christmas cake," and if she doesn't make sufficiently frantic efforts to do so, whatever miserable fate befalls her serves her right.

That certainly seems to be the way a lot of Japanese readers read it, since in subsequent volumes it turns out that "aging" female readers have been writing in to the magazine bemoaning how they're in much the same situation as Rinko and friends, and basically asking for tips on how they can make themselves more marketable to the unpromising crop of available men. Of course, the editors evidently responded to this by encouraging Higashimura to do a recurring dating-advice mini-manga featuring the bar snacks(!) providing gleefully misogynistic responses to actual letters from readers. Unsurprisingly, this inevitably turns out to be an exercise in masochism for those readers who were incautious enough to give permission for her to print illustrated responses to the letters in which they poured their hearts out, since the bar snacks are usually even harder on them than they are on the characters in the story. And, since they're shorn from their usual fictional framework, it's pretty much impossible here to rationalize the snacks' gloating doomsaying as merely the characters' own self-sabotaging subconscious fears, and/or a salutary warning that maybe Rinko should be more concerned about her hallucination-inducing drinking problem than her difficulties in finding a husband.

The actual storyline does begin to take a somewhat more hopeful turn (at least for Rinko) toward the end of volume two, but "Tokyo Tarareba Girls" is more textbook case of "my [formerly] fave author is problematic" than "Princess Jellyfish" for the more socially high-functioning thirtysomething set. If you're interested enough to keep following this recurring train wreck of a manga, I'd definitely recommend checking it out from the library rather than buying it.

Date: 2019-04-16 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] hippogriff13
Sure you can link to it. To be fair, Key does eventually seem to start experiencing some pangs of conscience over having gotten Rinko kicked off her screenwriting gig on the web series he was appearing in, and arranges for her to be offered another (admittedly much less glamorous) job writing a web series set in a smallish rural town whose local tourist board is attempting to drum up interest. Key even shows up there and is relatively nice (in his own tsundere[?]-on-steroids way) to Rinko when she spots him among the onlookers. So Higashimura may have decided that her previous hardcore "bastard boyfriend/potential love interest" portrayal of Key had gone too far, although it's a bit late for that, if you ask me.

Yeah, I doubt the readers who wrote in asking the mangaka for advice expected to have their heartfelt pleas answered by the snarkily unhelpful bar snacks. It beats me why anyone continued to write in with such requests, much less authorize Higashimura to print their actual letters, once the first "bar snacks stomp on readers' hearts and egos" installment had appeared. But the columns are a recurring feature in volumes two and three, so at least some people were desperate or foolish enough to voluntarily participate even after they'd seen what kind of answers they were likely to get. Frankly, the Amars "sisterhood" of obsessive female otaku housemates in Higashimura's previous hit, "Princess Jellyfish," would probably have given better--or at least less unamusingly soul-crushing--advice than those damn bar snacks. (I can just picture Mayaaya going on a rant about the fatal unworthiness of any man who takes the wrong side on certain feudal-era political issues in "The Three Kingdoms"--or, worse, is totally unfamiliar with that work--while the train otaku suggests going to a railroad enthusiasts' meet-up. Of course, in real life most of the Amars are so allergic to the very concept of men and dating, or intentionally associating with anyone of any gender who falls into the dreaded "Stylish" category, that short of the extraordinary circumstances that keep dragging them into the outside world in an attempt to save their home, they'd probably never socialize with anyone they don't already know outside the confines of some sort of online chat group.)

Date: 2019-04-06 09:28 pm (UTC)
lokifan: black Converse against a black background (Default)
From: [personal profile] lokifan
Review #5 seems to have been cut off? All interesting as ever, though!


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