I think it took me five years to finish this book. Seriously, I've had the fan translation from Baka Tsuki on my Kindle almost as long as I've had a KI think it took me five years to finish this book. Seriously, I've had the fan translation from Baka Tsuki on my Kindle almost as long as I've had a Kindle, but when I tried to read it I stalled out a quarter of the way in. When the official English version came out, I picked that up thinking it might be a better read, but I stalled out at exactly the same point (when Kamijou comes home and finds Stiyl waiting for him). Hell, I even tried the anime and got bored at that point.
There's just something about the opening to the series that's boring.
But I love the Railgun spinoff manga, so I didn't want to give up. Finally I decided to power through the story.
And you know what -- the story finally kicks into gear a few pages after the point I gave up.
The book's never going to win any literary awards, and certainly not with this translation (which is only marginally better than the one from BT), but Kamijou is a fun hero, determined enough to be likeable but unskilled enough that he's legitimately in danger (unlike the hero of a certain other light novel series), and I'll admit that even after reading Railgun, the twist at the end of this volume blindsided me. It certainly makes Kamijou a very different character than I thought he was....more
After a slow start in the first volume, the series finally kicks into high gear here. Aladdin and Alibaba have entered the Dungeon of Qishan hoping toAfter a slow start in the first volume, the series finally kicks into high gear here. Aladdin and Alibaba have entered the Dungeon of Qishan hoping to claim its treasures for themselves, but they're pursued by the evil prince Jamil and his slaves, Goltas and Morgiana, leading to all kinds of Indiana Jones style adventure as they double-cross each other, dodge booby traps, and decipher obscure engravings. Along the way we get our first hints at the story's larger mythology, including tidbits about Aladin's nature, Alibaba's past, and the purpose of the dungeons....more
Well that's a big improvement over the last two volumes if for no other reason than the story ditches the girl-in-danger plot that plagued the ALO arcWell that's a big improvement over the last two volumes if for no other reason than the story ditches the girl-in-danger plot that plagued the ALO arc. Of course, in doing so it also ditches Asuna, who only gets a cameo at the beginning. Instead the story focuses on a new girl, Shino/Sinon, who plays the virtual FPS, Gun Gale Online.
Kirito enters GGO at the behest of the government to track down a player who can seemingly murder people in the real world by shooting them in the game. Ah, finally SAO brings back the peril. It's not like the Aincrad days when tens of thousands of lives were at stake, but the story needs some real world consequences to have any meaning....more
On the whole this is a fun fast paced read, but it suffers from the same problem as the previous volume -- Asuna is reduced to the status of PrincessOn the whole this is a fun fast paced read, but it suffers from the same problem as the previous volume -- Asuna is reduced to the status of Princess Peach waiting for Mario to rescue her from King Koopa -- who again tries to get all rapey with her. She does manage to escape once, but she's of course recaptured since we can't have a female protagonist saving herself.
That would just be lame. I mean, the damsel-in-distress trope has been with us for thousands of years. Why change a good thing? And just to make sure Asuna learns her lesson about being a strong feminist figure, she's threatened with an extra helping of rapeyness with added tentacles.
Reki, Reki, Reki.
How can you take a kick ass character and reduce her to this? Yeah, she does manage to contribute to her escape in one important way, but ultimately she has to rely on her boyfriend to save the day. Lame.
At least the other female character in the book gets to kick some major ass. Sugouha FTW. If only Lizbet and Silica had had a chance to get in on the action, it would've been awesome enough to make up for Asuna's depowering.
The other day I saw an article about how the CW is planning a TV series based upon Battle Royale. Of course, you know it's only a matter of time beforThe other day I saw an article about how the CW is planning a TV series based upon Battle Royale. Of course, you know it's only a matter of time before teenyboppers start accusing the network of ripping off The Hunger Games, never mind that BR came out years earlier.
But this is hardly a new phenomenon. Many of us who grew up in the '80s assumed that DuckTales was just Disney ripping off Indiana Jones. A very good ripoff to be sure, but a ripoff nonetheless. Ancient temples, mine cart chases, treasure hunts. Yup, just like Raiders of the Lost Ark. But the truth is the other way around -- DuckTales was based upon a series of comic books written by Carl Barks in the 1950s which in turn inspired Lucas and Spielberg (several scenes in Raiders are straight out of the comics, including the iconic one of Indy running from a rolling boulder).
And now Fantographics has undertaken to release the complete run of Barks' Uncle Scrooge comics in beautiful hardcovers, starting here with the first half dozen or so comics. (This volume is actually numbered as "12" due to the fact that Fantographics is also releasing Barks' earlier Donald-centric comics.)
If you're familiar with DuckTales, many of the stories here will be familiar, though there are more than a few differences -- the pilot who flies Scrooge to Tralla-la, for instance is just a generic guy and not Launchpad McQuack, and the Beagle Boys are much smarter than on TV -- and there are several stories that weren't adapted for DuckTales, including the titular "Only a Poor Old Man."
There are some issues with ... outdated thinking. This is very much a comic aimed at American boys -- there's no Daisy or Mrs. Beasley here, nor any female character of note, and foreign locales are depicted with exoticism. When Scrooge tries to hide his fortune on a Pacific island, there's of course a fat native who no speak good English, and the natives of Tralla-law are colored yellow and drawn in clothing right out of The Good Earth, suggesting that Barks wasn't fully aware that not all of East Asia is Chinese (and that's not even getting into the whole infantilization of the Tralla-laans as people too pure and naive to understand greed). But if you accept the book as a product of its time, it's not too bad -- there were certainly far worse comics published in the 1950s.
Fantographics did a stellar job in reproducing Barks' art -- it probably looks better than the original comic books did when they were brand new. And yet, however good the reproductions are, the art itself isn't always the greatest. Barks stuck to a standard layout of two columns of four panels each. Occasionally he'll shake things up by having one row consist of one double-wide panel, but that's as daring as it gets. The one occasion when he does a more complex layout, it really stands out. Within the panels, the art is likewise pretty staid -- everything's done in long shot, no close-ups on the character who's talking, nor extreme long shots that show the characters tiny against sweeping vistas, nor even dramatic camera angles. The action's always clear and the background's well rendered, but it's like watching a movie from the early 1930s when sound equipment was massive that the camera couldn't move.
On the whole the book is enjoyable enough, provided you can accept it's not a modern comic in the slightest....more
So the world's been overrun by the titans, giants that look like they stepped out of one of Dore's illustrations for The Inferno. And they love to eatSo the world's been overrun by the titans, giants that look like they stepped out of one of Dore's illustrations for The Inferno. And they love to eat people. What's left of humanity has constructed a huge wall to keep the titans out, and for a century that works fine. But then a super titan appears and kicks a hole in the wall and his brethren rush in like a family of rednecks at Old Country Buffet.
This is before the series turns grimdark.
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this series -- honestly, I thought the title referred to Saturn's moon -- and was surprised when the titans started chomping people in half -- very graphically -- especially since it appears nobody has any plot armor.
The one drawback to the story is the art, which is very stiff with characters who all look alike -- a problem exacerbated by the lack of anime hair, so that most blonde guys look a like, most brunette girls look alike, etc. Though TV Tropes mentions that the art improves greatly as the series goes on, so hopefully Volume 2 will be better in that regard....more
Sword Art Online: Aincrad (available in English through Baka Tsuki)
Imagine that there's a revolutionary new VR game platform -- not one of those lameSword Art Online: Aincrad (available in English through Baka Tsuki)
Imagine that there's a revolutionary new VR game platform -- not one of those lame things from the '90s where you strapped a low-res LCD over your eyes and used a primitive motion controller to play. No, this is the real thing, a helmet that taps directly into your brain, giving you a fully immersive experience in a virtual world that stimulates all your senses.
Now imagine that all the games for the platform suck -- it's a new system, radically different from anything else on the market, so developers haven't had a chance to create any decent games. It's the Wii all over again. But then one developer announces that they're working on an VRMMORPG called Sword Art Online. The beta-testers rave about the game, saying it makes WoW look like Pac-Man.
And so on the day of release, you skip work and stand in line to get a copy. You race home, pop it in the machine, and log on.
You've just been screwed.
After playing for a couple hours, learning how the game works and earning a few XP, you open the main menu and try to log-off -- but the log-off icon is missing. You consult other players but none of them can exit the game either and PMs to the sysadmins go unanswered. And because the machine paralyzes you while playing to prevent you from injuring yourself, you have no way of physically disconnecting yourself.
Turns out the company that designed the game is owned by the next generation of Bond villain. Instead of hijacking nuclear missiles, he's decided to hold gamers hostage in this virtual world. Any attempt by outsiders to disconnect a player will result in the machine frying the player's brain. Luckily the machines have their own built in UPS which should be sufficient for players to be moved to hospitals for long term care. Because they're going to be here a while -- the only way out of SAO is for someone to defeat the final boss on the 100th level. And if you die on the way, the machine will fry your brain.
Sword Art Online started as an online novel. After Reki Kawahara won the Dengeki Bunko Novel Award for Accel World (set in the same universe several decades later), his publisher decided to put SAO out as well and it quickly became a mega-hit, rising through the ranks of the "This Light Novel is Amazing" poll until it took the top spot last year, beating out perennial favorites like Haruhi Suzumiya, Baka and Test, and Index. Both SAO and Accel World have anime adaptations airing this year.
The story isn't without its problem. In particular, the villain -- who is essentially committing a terrorist act greater than everything al Qaeda has ever done put together -- has no motivation beyond the lulz and exists mainly as an excuse for the story to take place, while the hero, who is of course the best player in the game, is a bit of a Mary Sue. However, it's easy to ignore these problems since they're coated over with sheer awesome....more
I'm a little torn on this one. Taken on its own, this is a perfectly fine book, but as part of the Gunslinger Girl series it comes up short.
The previoI'm a little torn on this one. Taken on its own, this is a perfectly fine book, but as part of the Gunslinger Girl series it comes up short.
The previous volume ended with the introduction of Petra, the first 2nd Gen cyborg, and her handler, Sandro. The two volumes of Omnibus 3 focus entirely upon those two characters, with Claes and Triela reduced to guest stars and Rico, Angelica and Henrietta only showing up in cameos. Petra and Sandro are fine characters and they're given interesting plotlines, particularly Volume 7 where they're assigned as bodyguards to the lawyer prosecuting the Croce murders, but they're late comers to the series and I don't have as much invested in them as the original five cyborgs and their handlers....more
Ise's just a high school loser who's never made it with a lady, so when the beatiful Yuuma Amano asks him out, he jumps at the chance. Their first datIse's just a high school loser who's never made it with a lady, so when the beatiful Yuuma Amano asks him out, he jumps at the chance. Their first date goes spectacularly well, except for a certain incident right at the end. Just a minor thing, but a total mood kill. You see, as she's saying goodnight, Yuuma whips out a spear of light and stabs Ise in the stomach.
Hey, we've all had relationships like that. At least Yuuma got it out of the way on the first date.
As Ise lays dying, he thinks about all the things he never got to do. These mostly involve various parts of the female anatomy. Among his regrets is that he never got to ask Rias Gremory, the most popular girl in school, on a date, and he sincerely wishes that if he was going to die, it could at least be in her arms. Suddenly Rias materializes next to him and heals his wound.
Yuuma, it turns out, is a fallen angel, and Rias is a demon. After the fallen angels were kicked out of heaven, they moved to hell and tried to take the place over from the devils who already lived there. They've been at war ever since. Yuuma targeted Ise because he has a magical power known as a Sacred Gear which could be a threat to the fallen angels. When Rias saves him, she transforms him into a demon and he must become her servant.
In broad outlines, there's nothing too original here. The first half of the novel bears a strong resemblance to Shakugan no Shana, right down to the scene where Shana/Rias spends the night in Yuji/Ise's room. But there's one important difference -- Rias isn't a tsundere. Although she gets annoyed at Ise a couple of times, it's well justified by his actions. But mostly she treats him as a valuable minion. And Ise for his part isn't a bland shonen protagonist who exists to be a punching bag for Clobberella. Much like Kyon and Konoha, he's an active player in the story who offers hilarious narration to the craziness around him. Hilarious and perverted. Where most guys might balk at being turned into demons, Ise accepts the situation the moment Rias tells him he can use his new powers to create a harem -- because, hey, what's eternal damnation as long as you get laid? ...more
For the Japanese impaired, the book is Tabi ni Deyou, Horobiyuku Sekai no Hate Made (Our Journey to the Edge of the Ceasing World by Tadahito YorozuyaFor the Japanese impaired, the book is Tabi ni Deyou, Horobiyuku Sekai no Hate Made (Our Journey to the Edge of the Ceasing World by Tadahito Yorozuya
Our Journey to the Edge of the Ceasing World is an episodic novel -- really three novellas, though they were written as a piece -- about a world in which most of humanity has disappeared. Literally disappeared. Not all at once. This is more of a plague. First the people around a victim forget his name (which also disappears from all written and electronic records), then he turns black and white like an old movie. Eventually even his shadow disappears, and then he does as well. By the time the story starts, only a handful of people are left in the world, and it seems all them are displaying at least some of the symptoms.
The narrative follows the Boy and the Girl (no names given) as they travel through Hokkaido. Why? Well, what else is there to do after the end of the world except walk the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu? Just walk from place to place, meet people, get in adventures. Actually, they have a Honda Super Cub, though when we first meet them they are on foot due to a breakdown. And "adventures" is pushing it. Really, they just meet people and have conversations.
The first story is about the Boy and the Girl stopping at a farmhouse after their bike breaks down and meeting the Director of a Tokyo company and his Secretary. They eat some corn. The boy takes a bath. That's the story. To be fair, this section of the book is establishing setting. The next tale takes place a few days later when the Boy and the Girl stop at a warehouse to escape the rain and discover the Boss there. The Boss was part of a team constructing a human powered airplane to fly the English Channel. The Boy and the Girl decide to help him assemble the plane so he can at least make one test flight before disappearing. The end. In the final story, the Girl gets sick from riding in the rain and the Boy has to find a town he heard about where survivors have gathered. Despite some suspense early on about whether the town will welcome strangers, the place might as well be Mayberry, RFD. The Girl receives treatment and the Boy meets another girl, called the Princess, who suffers a weak heart in addition to being in the final stages of the Vanishing.
Most of the interest in the stories is generated by the guest stars, how they're dealing with their situation, and how the Boy and the Girl help them. But while there are some touching moments involving the Boss and the Princess, their stories ultimately lack any momentum. Nor are the philosophical implications of the situation really explored -- what does it mean to exist, why is it important for people to remember us after we're gone, what's the purpose of living when the world is dying. Kiyoshi Kurosawa got great mileage out of a similar premise in his film Kairo (Pulse) and it's a shame Yorozuya didn't at least make an effort (the afterword claims he wrote the book in under a month for the Dengeki Novel competition, and it really shows -- if he'd had the time to revise it, I think the book would've been improved considerably). It's all enjoyable enough, but it's missing the salt and pepper. I wouldn't mind seeing further tales in this world (the book ends with two sequel hooks, though since it came out in '08 and there's been no followup yet, I'm guessing we're not going to see either), but only if Yorozuya comes up with something with a bit more narrative weight to carry the story forward.
On a final note, the novel hasn't recieved (and probably never will) a proper English translation. I had to settle for a fan translation. Fan translations are hit-or-miss, and this one is mostly miss. It's readable despite some typos, but it's stiff and over-literal. Since the afterword mentions the book was a finalist for the Dengeki Novel Award, I'm prepared to admit that the quality of the writing might be better in the original Japanese, but I doubt it's enough to counter the narrative weaknesses of the story....more
According to Wikipedia, Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir wrote for Kim Possible. This makes sense as Amazing Agent Luna is in many ways a mangafieAccording to Wikipedia, Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir wrote for Kim Possible. This makes sense as Amazing Agent Luna is in many ways a mangafied Kim Possible.
The story is standard fare -- Luna is a genetically engineered super-agent whose never known anything remotely resembling a normal childhood. But after uncovering a vague but nefarious plot involving Count Von Brucken, ruler of a small Ruritania somewhere between Latveria and Underbheit, she's sent undercover at an elite private school where the Count's minions are conducting scientific experiments that presumably involve taking over the world, though from what we see in this volume, it would seem the Count is employing Underwear Gnomes as strategic planners.
So of course Luna must conduct her investigation without blowing her cover as an Ordinary High School Student, but wacky complications involving her social life keep cropping up. It doesn't help that von Brucken's son attends her school, and he's super dreamy.
The story's light but enjoyable, nothing particularly noteworthy. The art is competent but doesn't stand out -- at least Shiei made all the major characters distinctive. Although this is an American comic, it's being marketed as manga, and as such it's being published Japanese right-to-left style. This strikes me as a silly affectation, but then I read enough manga that I often find myself reading Western comics the wrong way, so I can't complain too much....more
This is the third book in a trilogy zombipocalypse novels, following The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves. I really enjoyed the firThis is the third book in a trilogy zombipocalypse novels, following The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves. I really enjoyed the first of these despite some serious tonal problems, mainly because Carrie Ryan created a fascinating setting -- a small village, surrounded by chain-link fence in the middle of a vast, zombie filled forest. So far as the villagers knew, they were the last human settlemnet on Earth -- until one day a strange girl appeared outside the fence being pursued by zombies. The book had great atmospherics and a well-thought out world run by crazed nuns. The second book was a major disappointment for me because it merely retread the first (despite the promise of the title for water-logged zombies) and the setting was much closer to traditional zombie stories, which made the manifold flaws in Ryan's writing so much more apparent.
The Dark and Hollow Places is a major improvement but it still falls short of the first book. Annah lives in the Dark City (the ruins of New York), on her own since her protector Elias left her for the Protectorate's military. Elias did this in the hope of finding Annah's sister, Gabry, whom they had abandoned in the woods years before (all this is the subject of the second book). This volume opens where the previous one left off, with Gabry, Elias, and a young man named Catcher who is immune to the zombie infection, returning to the Dark City. After numerous tribulations they're reunited with Annah, just in time for the city to be over-run by zombies. Since Catcher's immunity is of interest to the Protectorate, all of them are taken to an island fortress, at which point the plot devolves into a retread of Day of the Dead and 28 Days Later.
Well, with one significant difference. Annah and company are all teenagers. Now, you might think that teenagers growing up in a post-apocalyptic world would be pretty different from the spoiled brats spawned by modern bourgeois society. Well, you're wrong. These kids behave like they grew up in a Hot Topic. The Dark City, the last major human settlement on Earth, falls to a zombie horde, and what's Annah's biggest concern? She's worried that Catcher might like Gabry more than her. Kid, with survival instincts like that, it's no wonder the human race is losing. The necrotic grey matter in the zombies' heads has more neural activity than these self-centered ijits.
Despite that, the book isn't too bad, but since you have to wade through The Dead Tossed Waves to get here, I recommend just reading the first volume and stopping -- that one is pretty well self-contained and can be read on its own without any unresolved questions....more