Naruto is a long-running series with all the power of hype that that entails. It begins as the story of a clumsy, none-too-bright boy who wants to bec...moreNaruto is a long-running series with all the power of hype that that entails. It begins as the story of a clumsy, none-too-bright boy who wants to become the greatest ninja ever. This is, as one might expect, not terribly easy.
I was more than a little leery of venturing into such a well-publicized manga. I’ve been burned before by popular works that have all the texture and depth of fast food, but I figured I’d give it a try. Fortunately, it is a long running series, so the initial toilet humor was easy to breeze past until the plot and characterization started kicking in. Even then, I don’t think there’s a moment where it passes the Bechdel Test. If a lack of strong female characters is a deal-breaker, I’d probably give this a miss—even when they’re supposed to be strong, they’re relegated to the background or otherwise dismissed—but if that doesn’t matter to you, or you can deal with it, then the guys are worth sticking around for.
The titular character, Naruto, starts out as a loud, obnoxious child of twelve, but slowly grows into an oddly charismatic boy due to sheer persistance and positive outlook. His teammates, Sakura and Sasuke, start out respectively as a flighty, mooning, tempermental girl and a brooding, taciturn boy, but both develop in their own ways. Assorted teachers, companions, and enemies gain depth and sympathy throughout the series, to the point where Naruto is actually consistently not the most popular character in his own series (the honor frequently going to Sasuke or their teacher, Kakashi).
While this is insanely popular with young teenaged boys, the series as a whole offers a lot to anyone who likes fast-paced action mixed with touching character development.(less)
Tiffany Aching's fourth adventure brings her up to the level of her predecessors. She's previously taken on the Queen of Faerie with a frying pan, con...moreTiffany Aching's fourth adventure brings her up to the level of her predecessors. She's previously taken on the Queen of Faerie with a frying pan, contended with an immortal spirit out to give her everything she could possibly want (and nothing at all that she needed), and melted an amorous Winter, but now she has to face life as a jilted lover...oh, and deal with the persistent idea that keeps cropping up every few centuries: witches must burn.
There's a lot of detail about what witches do that's old hat (no pun intended) to longtime Pterry fans like myself, but will likely be deeply insightful to newer readers. On a similar note, there's a lot of cameos from recurring characters (Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, for two) and a few brief appearances from someone that hasn't been seen in Discworld for many, many years. In this case, it's a sort of sop to long-time readers, and probably a tad confusing to new ones.
In summary, Tiffany proves herself a strong, capable witch who knows to do what needs doing, and that "good" is not the same as "nice," much like Granny Weatherwax before her, but also allows herself to be a social human being, precisely unlike Granny Weatherwax, and, as usual, the Nac Mac Feegles provide comic relief, unasked for (and explicitly forbidden) assistance, and an unhealthy dollop of violence. Not Pterry's finest work, but damn good all the same.(less)
First thing: for those of you reading this in email form, follow the link and check out the cover showing Ed practicing his unique form of unarmed com...moreFirst thing: for those of you reading this in email form, follow the link and check out the cover showing Ed practicing his unique form of unarmed combat. I'll wait.
Back? Done giggling/wondering what's wrong with me? Okay, now for the volume eight character review!
There are a lot of people I'd love to cover, and some of them I don't want to mention until later, to save some spoilers for those who haven't yet read any/all of the books (but do intend to do so), so after much deliberation, I've settled on Maes Hughes.
Lieutenant Colonel Hughes works for military intelligence. He lives, however, for his wife and daughter, to the point of annoying everyone around him with his effusive praise—and frequent photo sharing—of them. He's also Roy Mustang's closest friend and strong supporter, incredibly fond of the Elric brothers, generous, kind, deceptively intelligent, and a skilled knife-fighter.
Like so many others, he served his time in the war with Ishbal and, although not guilty of the wholesale slaughter committed by State Alchemists, he fired his share of bullets and was complicit in the murder of an incompetent superior officer. He was also good for keeping morale up and liaising between the regular soldiers and the alchemists—the former of whom were as terrified of the latter as the Ishballans were. Following a specific moment in the war, he was completely disillusioned by his country. Consequently, he and Mustang decided to work toward changing it so that more young men and women couldn't be forced into becoming murderers.
Maes is among the most popular characters in the entire run of the series, very likely because there is passion, dedication, loyalty, and a fierce desire to better life to everyone buried beneath a doofy exterior, and he can flip between the two with absolutely no warning.(less)
I've spent two volumes of reviews talking about the plot, and four more talking about assorted characters; it's time to tackle the protagonists.
Edward...moreI've spent two volumes of reviews talking about the plot, and four more talking about assorted characters; it's time to tackle the protagonists.
Edward and Alphonse Elric. For all that they have their own personalities, they pretty much have to be discussed as one entity. About a year apart in age (the author never quite specifies), Ed has vague memories of a blond man walking out the door, whereas his little brother doesn't remember their father at all. Having grown up surrounded by their father's alchemy texts that he left behind, they educated themselves at a very young age. After their mother's death, they decided to throw themselves into alchemy in order to revive her, certain in the way of young people that impossible, forbidden things are just sour grapes on the part of those that failed.
They are, of course, proven wrong.
The horrific, inside-out thing they recieved in lieu of their mother was paid for in their own flesh and blood when they inadvertantly opened the way to Truth, A.K.A. God, the Universe, the All and the One, and a mirror of all who interact with it. All unasked, they were granted intimate knowledge of alchemy and the universe, and the understanding of how to perform alchemy without an array. In exchange, Al lost his entire body, and Truth claimed Ed's left leg. Ed immediately made another bargain in order to get his brother back: his right arm for the knowledge of how to bind Al's soul to their world.
When Colonel Roy Mustang comes by in search of the Elric brothers he's heard rumors of, in the hopes of recruiting them for the military, he's terribly surprised to find an eleven-year-old boy down two limbs and silent for the guilt, and his ten-year-old brother inhabiting the empty shell of a seven-foot-tall suit of antique armor.
The driving force of Ed's life becomes the quest to rectify his mistake (he won't hear a word of Alphonse's culpability—he's the older brother) and regain his little brother's body and, a distant second, to get back his own missing limbs. He decides to get automail limbs, regardless of the detrimental effects it has on a growing body, and in spite of the pain of the surgery, which involves wiring directly into the exposed nerve endings without aenesthesia, and, furthermore, determines that the standard three-year adjustment period of physical therapy will only take one year. He makes good on his word, too.
Edward is determination in a tiny package, with a hair-trigger temper in regards to his height (the weight of the automail having stunted his growth), a strong sense of justice, and an inclination to massive attacks of guilt when it turns out that he can't fix a given situation.
For his part, Al is the calm, collected, responsible one. He's also the one desperately grateful for anyone (other than his brother) treating him like a child, as a seven-foot-tall suit of armor is quite intimidating, decidedly weird, and has people avoiding him. Consequently, he's terribly lonely.
He's more interested in repairing his brother's missing limbs than in regaining his own body, as he feels guilty for having gone alone with Ed's plan. He's also a soft touch, and has a tendency to rescue cats when his brother isn't looking, no matter how often Ed makes him get rid of them because they can't care for a pet while they're traveling.
His respect for life is intense, probably as a result of not being able to experience his own, and manifests in some odd ways. He cautions people not to shoot at him for fear the ricochets will injure his attackers. He'll defend the people attempting to attack him because he doesn't want anyone to get hurt. Al is an insanely good person, but still betrays the odd human quality that keeps him grounded and real.
Between the two of them they make amazing main characters; I challenge anyone to read this series and not fall in love with these boys.(less)
When Edward and Alphonse were looking into how to revive their mother, they concluded that they needed a teach...moreVolume six character love: Izumi Curtis.
When Edward and Alphonse were looking into how to revive their mother, they concluded that they needed a teacher. Circumstances delivered a traveling alchemist who, unlike any other alchemist, didn't need to draw an array to perform alchemy. Instead, she merely clapped her hands and shored up the dyke about to break and flood the boys' hometown. She collapsed shortly thereafter, vomiting blood all over the place.
The boys cornered her in the hospital and demanded that she teach them. Then begged and pleaded and generally made a nuisance of themselves until she caved in and offered them a trial month.
Kind-hearted soul that she is, Izumi left them on a deserted island for that month with the instruction that they must survive, and answer the riddle that she posed before leaving. (As her own training regimen involved being dropped, alone and with only a knife, into a frigid wilderness populated with vicious animals, she was going easy on them.)
Challenge passed, she then shaped the brothers into what they become. She trained them, body and mind, taught them to fight, to think, to steer away from the military, and to stay away from forbidden transmutations. Needless to say, when they show up years later having corrupted her training, performed human transmutation, and joined the military, she was less than pleased. Murderously so. She knew right away, because she knew how array-free transmutations were acquired: when she had tried to revive her stillborn child she lost a number of internal organs, getting off rather lighter than Ed and Al managed, but still rendered incapable of having another child.
All of this are things she did. What she is is even more interesting. She and her husband (a massive man of Major Armstrong proportions) run a butcher shop, and are sickeningly sweet in their affections to each other. Izumi invariably claims to be "just a housewife," usually when terrified people cowering in corners ask what she is after she kicks down walls, strolls in, removes obstacles between herself and her goal by blowing them up (inanimate objects) or throwing them aside (living ones). Amazingly strong—physically and otherwise—fiercely protective of her loved ones (even when she wants to kill them, herself), and unflappably stolid, Izumi makes me squeal with glee every time I catch a glimpse of her dreadlocks, because I know that awesome will encompass the next scene.(less)
This volume's character gushing is devoted to Winry Rockbell.
Oh, Winry. Girl-next-door, wench with a wrench, childhood friend to the Elric brothers, a...moreThis volume's character gushing is devoted to Winry Rockbell.
Oh, Winry. Girl-next-door, wench with a wrench, childhood friend to the Elric brothers, and blushing love interest for Edward...if only either of them would admit to it. A dedicated automail mechanic, in the tradition of her grandmother, Pinako, and inclined to minor medical treatment in homage to her doctor parents.
Having had her own share of tragedies, she remains positive and cheerful, caring and sensitive, and quick with a wrench to the skull if you dare cross her the wrong way. What's not to love? Sure, she almost shot somebody once, but she got over the impulse.(less)
In lieu of a plot summary for each of the volumes (as they do tend to run together in my memory), I've decided on a brief character summary. Perhaps t...moreIn lieu of a plot summary for each of the volumes (as they do tend to run together in my memory), I've decided on a brief character summary. Perhaps the character will be relevant to the volume in question, but perhaps it won't. It's anyone's game.
This time, I'll go with the simpler of the two characters on the cover: Alex Louis Armstrong, AKA the big shirtless guy in the background.
Major Armstrong, the Strong-Arm Alchemist, the third child and only son of the venerable Armstrong family, is a walking mountain of a man. He has incredible pride in his heritage, intense loyalty to country, family, and comrades, a propensity for removing his shirt at the merest suggestion of an opportunity (all the better to display his insane musculature), and a tendency to burst into tears at the slightest provocation. He remains merely a Major because he's too soft-hearted to pursue promotion, a trait which not only results in waterworks when faced with another's misfortune—or joy, or displays of solidarity, or pretty much anything that might evoke an emotion—but also led to a nervous breakdown during his stint on the front lines of the Ishbal war.
While he does have serious moments, mostly in his backstory, Armstrong is largely played for comedy. In case the shirt-ripping and extravagant tears weren't enough of a clue, the odd muscle-flexing competition and several (literally) crushing hugs of relief point that out quite nicely.(less)
Volume two is where the meat of the overarching story puts in an appearance. Meeting Shou Tucker, the Sewing-Life Alchemist, is life changing for the...moreVolume two is where the meat of the overarching story puts in an appearance. Meeting Shou Tucker, the Sewing-Life Alchemist, is life changing for the brothers, and the introduction of Scar is very nearly life ending for them.
Scar remains one of my favorite supporting characters. His personal quest to murder all State Alchemists is never justified, although it's explained quite sympathetically, and is the highlight of any number of morally grey actions featured in the series.(less)
The first volume of the series serves as an introduction to the character, world, difficulties, and companions of Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemis...moreThe first volume of the series serves as an introduction to the character, world, difficulties, and companions of Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist. Orphaned at a young age, the eleven-year-old prodigy and his younger brother, Alphonse, attempt forbidden human transmutation in an effort to resurrect their mother. They learn the hard way why it’s forbidden, when Al’s body vanishes along with Ed’s left leg, shortly followed by his right arm—the price to keep his brother’s soul and bind it to a suit of armor. The series opens four or so years later, after Ed’s debased himself by joining the military in exchange for access to resources in his efforts to restore his brother and himself.
The four chapters (of the series’ 108) in volume one expose different aspects of the brothers and begin the world-building that will continue throughout. The first, two-part story exposes their motive and desire for the Philosopher’s Stone—which can bypass the laws of Equivalent Exchange—as they confront a cult leader who claims he can bring back the dead. The second story reveals both their integrity and the general corruption of the military—as well as the hatred people harbor for it and its “dogs”—when they pass through a small, coal-mining town run by a corrupt official. The third story demonstrates Ed’s hair-trigger temper, Al’s intrisic concern for others, and the ingenuity and resilience of them both when the train they are on is hijacked and a vacationing general and his family are taken hostage. Also important in the train chapter is the introduction of Ed’s commanding officer: one Colonel Roy Mustang, Flame Alchemist, renowned hero of the Ishballan civil war (or genocidal butcher, depending on which side is talking), highly ambitious leader of his intensely loyal personal staff, and the first of many richly-detailed supporting characters.
FMA is a rollercoaster of a series, alternating horrors with the absurdly silly, setting up loveable characters and killing or otherwise maiming them, and otherwise mixing up tear-jerking existential dilemmas and slapstick comedy. The artwork is clean and readable, even in the action sequences, which is fairly rare for this style of manga, and all the more appreciated for that. This volume is an excellent beginning to an outstanding series, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.(less)
There is absolutely nothing I can say about this book without spoilers. It's simple: if you've ever read this series, read this book. Also, a box of t...moreThere is absolutely nothing I can say about this book without spoilers. It's simple: if you've ever read this series, read this book. Also, a box of tissues might be handy at a couple of points.(less)
While I love Squee as much as the next girl, I just couldn't get behind this compilation of all things left out of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Filler...moreWhile I love Squee as much as the next girl, I just couldn't get behind this compilation of all things left out of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Fillerbunny wasn't even remotely entertaining, the "autobiographical" comics had some entertainment value, but they didn't really grab me. About the only (non-Squee) one I really enjoyed was the wannabe vampire finding out that it's not all it's cracked up to be, but that even rubbed me the wrong way given the nature and message JTHM.(less)
Cute, amusing, clever jokes in the illustrations, but overall it just felt like fluff to me. I suspect that's more of a personal failing than the auth...moreCute, amusing, clever jokes in the illustrations, but overall it just felt like fluff to me. I suspect that's more of a personal failing than the author's, though.(less)
Dear Die-ary, I stared, motionless, before the mirror. As always, I stayed until I'm convinced that there is no glass, nothing, separating me from the...moreDear Die-ary, I stared, motionless, before the mirror. As always, I stayed until I'm convinced that there is no glass, nothing, separating me from the room I see on the other side. I imagine that everything is different over there. Better. There are people, in that world, who I would like. But, like always, my hand hits the glass. I know that if I'd only waited just one more second... Shit. I'm gonna go kill a party clown.
Johnny—call him Nny—has problems. Nobody gets his humor, Mr. Eff and Mr. Z debate over whether Nny should kill himself, callous, self-centered people stand in judgement over others, it's impossible to get a BrainFreezy after 2 AM, the blood on the wall keeps drying out, his Happy Noodle Boy comics depress him, and the girl he liked kicked him in the head and ran away. It's a good thing he has Nail Bunny and his Die-ary to keep him company, not to mention the boy next door that he's got a soft spot for and inadvertently terrifies on a regular basis.
A (frequently heavy-handed) screed against judging others by their appearances, Vasquez (best known for Invader Zim), has, in JTHM, created a morbidly hilarious look at life, consumerism, and the worst in all of us. And, of course, Happy Noodle Boy, or, as he might put it, "No! Don't leave me, intestinal gas! Please! Don't go!! I thought you loved me!!" (less)
I enjoyed the premise of the original, although I was bothered by the smug, self-congratulatory feel of it all. This one...was more of the same. With...moreI enjoyed the premise of the original, although I was bothered by the smug, self-congratulatory feel of it all. This one...was more of the same. With every joke, I could almost feel the author leaning over my shoulder and saying, "Didja get that?"
There were a few chuckles to be had, but the entirety is entirely too self-aware to be much fun.(less)
I seriously waffled over my rating for this. On the one hand, Terry Pratchett is my all-time favorite author, but on the other hand this lacks some of...moreI seriously waffled over my rating for this. On the one hand, Terry Pratchett is my all-time favorite author, but on the other hand this lacks some of his unique sparkle. It still has his trademark insight into the human condition, his exquisite use of bizarre metaphor, and a heady dose of sideways humor, but the cavalcade of cameos seemed shoehorned in and several parts of the story felt oddly unfinished in a nonspecific way.
If you're a fan of the series, then this should definitely be on your must-read list. Lord Vetinari and Lady Margoletta in the same room. Drunken Vetinari. Vetinari surprised into laughter. These events must be read to be believed.
If you're not a fan of the series, this is a terrible book to start with. While the main cast is almost entirely new, there are entirely too many scenes with and/or references to established characters. The way it was going, I was actually surprised when Granny Weatherwax didn't show up.
The main problem I have with Unseen Academicals is Pterry's increasing anviliciousness. People are people are people, we get it. Really. Next subject please. The secondary problem I have is probably more of a fault with the reader: I know virtually nothing about football (soccer, on this side of the pond), so there were doubtlessly any number of things that went over my head.
The things that were wonderful are too many to list, but the highlights include the crab bucket metaphor, Pepe the fashionista, Mr. Nutt's poetry, and the allusions to—and mockery of—Romeo and Juliet.(less)
It's a fun read, but the conceit wears thin after the first few chapters. It's been long enough since I've read Pride and Prejudice that I enjoyed the...moreIt's a fun read, but the conceit wears thin after the first few chapters. It's been long enough since I've read Pride and Prejudice that I enjoyed the book for the base story considerably more than I did for the additions. There's something wonderful about the very English attitude toward the zombies, or, rather, the victims of the Strange Plague, which was actually dimmed for me by the emphasis on Japan- or China-based martial arts. All in all, a fun read, but not so great as I'd ever bother reading it again—unlike the original.(less)
The final volume of the Jig trilogy was not quite up to the previous two for me: a solid three stars, rather than the three and a fraction I felt abou...moreThe final volume of the Jig trilogy was not quite up to the previous two for me: a solid three stars, rather than the three and a fraction I felt about the others.
The connection between Jig and his god was as good as ever, but I felt that the backstory seemed a little forced. Sure, it's nice to know exactly why he was a Forgotten God, but shoehorning Tymalous AutumnShadowstar into Jig's pre-godding days just didn't work for me.
There were any number of sly references and shoutouts that made me giggle or groan, depending, but the biggest markdown for this is for the ending. It was logical, made sense, yet was deeply unsatisfying. On the plus side, Darnak the dwarf was back, and he's always fun.(less)
Jack the Ripper is out in London, and he's not the only one. Unfortunately, he is the only one trying to stop the be-tentacled Elder Gods from coming...moreJack the Ripper is out in London, and he's not the only one. Unfortunately, he is the only one trying to stop the be-tentacled Elder Gods from coming out and destroying the world. Well, him and his loyal guard dog: Snuff. Narrated from Snuff's point of view, and sprinkled with delightfully twisted illustrations, this is a hilarious, charming, and utterly wonderful romp through a month like no other.(less)