S.Q. Eries's Blog

June 19, 2018

Mafuyu is a high school delinquent who wants to turn over a new leaf. So when she transfers schools, she thinks she’ll finally be able to live the life of a normal girl. There’s just one problem: her teacher  Mr. Saeki is a bigger delinquent than she is!

Oresama Teacher is a shojo manga that offers humor of the silly variety. Volume 23 has  been released, and you can read on for the review. (For those who are interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

It’s Mafuyu’s last year of high school! With Miyabi and most of the delinquents safely graduated, Mafuyu and her friends are looking forward to a peaceful final year. But a mysterious new first-year is up to something sinister, and her schemes quickly take Mr. Saeki out of the picture. Now the fate of the whole school rests on the shoulders of the suddenly advisorless Public Morals Club!

The Review

The lengthy arc between the Public Morals Club and Student Council has ended. However, Mafuyu still has a year remaining in high school, and the outcome of the bet between the Director and Takaomi has yet to be determined. And so, new challenges arise just as the majority of delinquents and former PMC adversaries graduate from Midorigaoka.

The first of the Public Morals Club’s new enemies is Toko Hanabusa, Miyabi’s younger sister. She looks like Miyabi with long hair, and like her brother, she seems to have a secret agenda no one knows about. Oddly enough, Miyabi comes to the PMC’s assistance, providing them with background information about Toko. Those who enjoyed the peculiar dynamics of Hayasaka’s family will likely enjoy the glimpse into the Hanabusa siblings’ upbringing.

While it is a hackneyed move to replace one adversary with his younger sibling, the introduction of Toko does lead to an astonishing development: Takaomi’s resignation. His disappearance results in unexpected laughs as Mafuyu attempts to locate him, but it’s really the first in an avalanche of new circumstances for the PMC. Even as they try to figure out why Takaomi left and whether Toko’s up to anything, they wind up stuck with a new advisor, confronting rumors of Midorigaoka gang activity, and drawing the ire of the Kiyama High students.

It’s a lot to take at once. While you’re getting to know newly hired teacher Mr. Maki, you’re having to recall Kiyama’s contentious history with Midorigaoka from several volumes back. In addition, there are a bunch of rumors and brawls to keep track of. While it’s great that Tsubuki-sensei is launching into the PMC’s next round of adventures, processing all these details is like trying to drink through a fire hose.

Extras include Characters and The Story Thus Far, 4-panel comics, and closing notes.

In Summary

Mafuyu begins her senior year with lots of changes and brand new challenges. Tsubaki-sensei maintains humor throughout the volume, but events stack up quickly one after the other. Between new characters stepping in, the reappearance of ones we haven’t seen in a while, and a complicated mystery for the PMC, it is a fast—and almost overwhelmingly so—start to the series’ next major arc.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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Published on June 19, 2018 13:41 • 1 view

June 12, 2018

Most romances in Viz Media’s Shojo Beat line are targeted toward a high school audience, but Everyone’s Getting Married is actually aimed toward older readers. It’s twenty-something angst instead of teen angst, and you can read on for the review of Volume 8. (For the reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Successful career woman Asuka Takanashi has an old-fashioned dream of getting married and becoming a housewife, but popular TV newscaster Ryu Nanami would rather die than ever get married. Asuka and Ryu start their long-distance relationship, but the difficulties of being apart grow day by day. Will their feelings for each other still be the same when they meet again?

The Review

Ryu’s transfer to America appears to be the ultimate challenge for our lead couple as Miyazono-sensei starts stacking difficulties hard and fast once he’s abroad. Not surprisingly, the trip Asuka’s anticipating at the end of Volume 7 gets canceled due to Ryu’s hectic work schedule, but Asuka also suffers a surprising blow to her career. A higher-up overhears her telling Hiroki she still wants to be a full-time homemaker. The next thing she knows, that higher-up removes her from the management strategy team with well-wishes that she’ll be married soon.

For all intents and purposes, it is a demotion. What makes it worse is that everyone’s congratulating her on the marriage she desperately wants but remains beyond her grasp. In addition, the distance is hard on Asuka, and you can feel her loneliness overflowing from the pages.

Ryu, on the other hand, is doing extremely well in America. Even though he misses Asuka, he has a lot to distract him, and he clearly prioritizes his work over their time together. At one point, Asuka travels to Washington expressly to visit Ryu, and despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other in six months, he ditches her to go to New York on assignment.

It’s clear the situation is hurting Asuka while Ryu isn’t nearly as affected. In fact, you might argue that he has everything the way he wants, considering he refused to let Asuka move to America with him. As such, I’m hardly inclined to cheer their relationship on; rather I want Asuka to dump Ryu and hook up with Kamiya already.

Kamiya, by the way, looks really good in this volume. He is Asuka’s shoulder to cry on when Ryu fails to understand why losing her management team position hurts so much. He’s too much of a gentleman to take advantage of Asuka’s neediness when she turns to him for company. And he’s the one person to call Ryu out on the strain he’s placing on Asuka. While every good romance can use a love triangle for tension, at this point I’m thinking Asuka’s stupid not to snatch Kamiya up.

Extras include the story thus far, two bonus manga, and author’s afterword.

In Summary

Ryu wasn’t looking too good as a boyfriend in Volume 7, and he looks even worse in this volume. While his career is going great, Asuka suffers a setback due to a casual remark about marriage, and the emotional toll of separation makes things worse. It’s the perfect setup for Kamiya to come in and entice Asuka away from his rival. However, because Ryu’s treatment of Asuka is so dismal in comparison, it feels less like a love triangle and more like Kamiya’s stealing the show.

First published at The Fandom Post.


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Published on June 12, 2018 14:16 • 1 view

June 5, 2018

Tamora Pierce is the author of several fantasy novels, and I recently had the opportunity to review the first book in her latest series, Tempests and Slaughter. Please read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting trouble. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that one day–soon–he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

The Review

I’ve no previous exposure to Tamora Pierce’s work, but judging from the information on the dust cover, she’s written a number of series set in the Tortall fantasy realm, and Tempests and Slaughter is the first book of another Tortall series. However, Tempests and Slaughter doesn’t provide a particularly engaging introduction to the Tortall realm and falls short as a standalone novel.

At the very beginning of the book is a map of “Tortall and Neighboring Realms,” which displays the kingdom of Tortall smack in the middle. However, the setting for Tempests and Slaughter is the Carthak Empire, which the map doesn’t even show in its entirety. Actually, a map of the University of Carthak would’ve been more helpful because the vast majority of action takes place at the school, and even when characters leave its grounds, they never go far from it.

Our main character is Arram Draper. The dust cover describes him as “a talented young man with a knack for making enemies.” Talented, yes. Knack for making enemies, not really. Basically, he’s a ten-year old genius, and at the university, he’s the mage version of the whiz kid taking college level math while his agemates are still learning fractions. So he encounters occasional classmate bullying because he doesn’t fit in, but he also becomes the pet of every instructor who takes him on (and there are at least eight of them). Plus, he also wins over gladiators, clinic patients, various animals, and two deities, and by the end of the book, he’s been romantically involved with three girls, all of whom pursued HIM. That’s quite the opposite of “a knack for making enemies.”

His two best friends are Varice and Prince Ozorne, who are also prodigies, although not nearly as young or talented as Arram. Ozorne is interesting in that he’s in line for the Carthak throne and must contend with a certain political reality. Varice, on the other hand, is rather bland. Her most distinguishing characteristics are that she’s a gorgeous blonde and likes to cook so she’s always feeding the two boys.

Between the school for magic and the three-friend aspect, Tempests and Slaughter seems a not so subtle attempt at a Harry Potter type of story. Unfortunately, it falls flat. It’s not that the magical elements aren’t fleshed out; Pierce puts in plenty of detail about the workings of Gifts as Arram goes from one teacher to the next. The problem is that there’s no strong plot to carry the novel from a beginning to an end.

The book shows Arram getting an education—and that’s about it. He hasn’t come to the university to fulfill a specific purpose. He doesn’t have to worry about the practical aspects of financing his very expensive education became his instructors arrange for a scholarship plus stipend. (Not to mention, he’s always receiving special gifts from them.) He has no rival he’s competing against. His bully encounters are brief and never escalate to anything serious. He’s not seeking revenge or redemption. He has such amazing talent his teachers come to HIM for help. The threesome never turns to a love triangle, and Arram gets the girl he’s always wanted without even trying.

The story does contain a number of elements with the potential to become the backbone of an arc (i.e. the murdered mage). However, they are simply introduced and not fleshed out. It seems like the purpose of this book is to lay the groundwork for the real conflict that is to come later in the series, but I feel cheated that so little is resolved after 455 pages.

The other issue with this book is that I’m not sure what its intended audience is. Arram is ten at the beginning of the story and can’t be more than fourteen by the end of the novel. I associate that protagonist age range with middle grade readers. However, the content includes graphic gladiator-type violence and a typhoid plague that has Arram puking his guts out as well as various sexual references. These elements I associate with young adult stories. So Tempests and Slaughter creates a weird combination of YA content and a childish mindset. In addition, that childish mindset doesn’t get jaded, despite all the awful things Arran sees and experiences.

In Summary

Existing fans of Tamora Pierce’s fantasy books may feel differently, but as a newcomer to her Tortall fantasy world, I’m not inclined to explore it further after reading Tempests and Slaughter. There’s certainly a lot of magic and magic lessons, but they serve no purpose other than making prodigy Arram an even more advanced student. While some interesting events do arise, they never fully develop into a real plot, and overall, Tempests and Slaughter fails to generate enough anticipation for me to be interested in the series’ next book.

First published at The Fandom Post.


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Published on June 05, 2018 12:09 • 2 views

June 1, 2018

In the last twelve months, I’ve written stories in three settings: , Cultural Revolution China, and Joseon-era Korea. Something that each project required was suitable character names, but each of those searches sent me to very different places.

Thanks to the movie selection during an Asian flight, my husband learned about Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, a Korean hero celebrated for repelling the Japanese during Korea’s Joseon era. His story was so inspiring that after my husband told me about it, I decided to write a story based on one of Admiral Yi’s most famous battles.

Researching Yi was a little difficult because there’s not much English language material about the Joseon era and I can’t read Korean. Fortunately, I was able to access a number of books at Stanford University (although I could not check them out), which provided the names of the key characters. For side characters, however, I turned to a different source.

TV and Movies

If you’ve had any exposure to Korean dramas, you’ll know that they are highly addictive and that historical dramas comprise a huge part of that market. Pretty much every royal person of note has at least made an appearance in a K-drama. Admiral Yi isn’t a royal, but his exploits have been the subject of one movie and at least one drama.

So I asked a Korean-American friend of mine to pluck names out of Joseon-era dramas (including The Admiral: Roaring Currents, the film my husband saw on his flight). While picking names out of a TV and film might not be the most scholarly method, these entertainment media were released in South Korea, and I figure if the names are good enough for a native Korean audience, they’ll be good enough for my story.

Table 1: Character Names from Various Historical Korean dramas


돌쇠 Dol Swe
언연 Uhn Yuhn

준사 Joon Sa
숙 Sook

수봉 Soo Bong
순이 Soonee

오죽이 Oh Jookee
숙자 Sook Ja

동이 Dongee

달래 Dal Rae

소사 So Sa

육순이 Yook Soonee

Surprise Resources

My friend graciously gleaned the names listed on Table 1 above. In addition to that, she sent the following screenshot.

[image error]For those (like me!) who can’t read Korean, it shows a naming scheme. Apparently, way back during the Joseon era, Koreans would make up names by matching the month and day of their birth. For instance, if your birthday was on the fifth day of the fifth month, then your name would be Yong Nom. Pretty interesting!

I’ve included a translation of the table below. So if you’re writing a Joseon-era story and need some names, perhaps this will be handy for you.

Table 2: Joseon Era Naming Scheme


1: Oong
1: Shik

2: Swe
2: Gu

3: Dol
3: Sam

4: Mahn
4: Suk

5: Yong
5: Nom

6: Yook
6: Nyun

7: Chil
7: Ggot

8: Ssang
8: Dol

9: Sam
9: Min

10: Uhn
10: Guht

11: Gae
11: Dol

12: Soon
12: Bok

13: Dan

14: Nyang

15: Ddong

16: Gap

17: Sook

18: Dan

19: Chang

20: Park

21: Sohn

22: Ryong

23: Bang

24: Deuk

25: Guk

26: Poh

27: Rae

28: Guhl

29: Yang

30: Jung

31: Seum





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Published on June 01, 2018 13:57 • 1 view

May 25, 2018

In the last twelve months, I’ve written stories in three settings: , Cultural Revolution China, and Joseon-era Korea. Something that each project required was suitable character names, but each of those searches sent me to very different places.

Living Contemporaries

I’ve heard that stories set in early 2000 are now considered to be “historical.” That being the case, depending on how recent your setting is, you might find someone who lived through the time you’re writing about. When I wrote my Culture Revolution short story, I reached out to my friend Shu for help. As it turns out, her parents grew up in Communist China during that time, and the three of them graciously helped fact-check my story as well as named my cast.

Please note, English-speakers aren’t the only one with naming trends. For instance, my Chinese given name is comprised of two characters. However, my friend Shu, who is about ten years younger than me, was born in mainland China at a time when the trend was to give single character names.

In addition, Chinese names can indicate a person’s social status. One of my characters was a girl from a scholarly family that had fallen on hard times so Shu’s parents suggested that she have “Lan” (orchid) in her name. Apparently, female names with “Lan” are associated with daughters of learned families. Although most readers won’t notice this nuance, it is my I hope that those who do will appreciate it.

Next: Naming Characters in Historical Fiction: Joseon Era Korea


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Published on May 25, 2018 13:34 • 3 views

May 17, 2018

In the last twelve months, I’ve written stories in three settings: 19th Century New England, Cultural Revolution China, and Joseon-era Korea. Something that each project required was suitable character names, but each of those searches sent me to very different places.

Interestingly, my 19th Century New England cast took the longest to name. This is partly because it had the most characters and partly because I wanted to make absolutely certain the names fit the era. Trends in names are more subtle than in clothing or hairstyle, but they do exist and for various reasons. For instance, although Mildreds are rare in America today, they were common a century ago, and when Twilight became popular, boys named Edward spiked. In addition, regional differences exist.

I’ve heard some writers visit graveyards to glean names off appropriately dated headstones. Sounds like a good trick if you’re within driving distance of a cemetery near your setting. However, I’m on the West Coast, and my story takes place in Springfield, MA. So I had to resort to other resources.

Legal Documents

As part of this project I went to the National Archives in College Park, MD to dig up 150-year old depositions for a lawsuit involving my main character. This provided actual names of people involved, which I used for the majority of my cast. Unfortunately, the downside was a quarter of the men were named Charles (which apparently was a REALLY popular home then). As such, I made the decision to rename two Charleses to avoid character confusion.

Local Publications

For the replacement names, I referred to Springfield: History of Town and City 1636-1886. In addition to handy descriptions of the town’s landmarks and businesses, it includes anecdotes about prominent citizens and lists of participants of various events. I count myself fortunate that this book was scanned as a free resource on the internet. Other local publications, such as newspapers, are usually only available through historical societies and would’ve required more effort to access.


If I didn’t have Springfield: History of Town and City 1636-1886, I likely would have resorted to Louisa May Alcott’s books. They’re classics today but were contemporary at the time they were written, and they coincide with my time frame. Better yet, they’re set in New England. Although I didn’t use Little Women to search for names, I’ll probably be using it to check my vocabulary and speech patterns.

Next: Naming Characters in Historical Fiction: 1950’s China

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Published on May 17, 2018 10:10 • 1 view

May 15, 2018

The Saga of Tanya the Evil anime was a surprise favorite for me in 2017. With a title like that, I was almost too scared to give it a try, but conniving little Tanya turned out to be nothing like I anticipated. Yen Press has released Volume 01 of the manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other Tanya the Evil works, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

At the very edge of the front lines stands a young girl. She has golden hair, blue eyes, and pale, almost translucent skin. This girl soars through the skies, mercilessly cutting down her enemies. She barks crisp orders with the unmistakable voice of a child. Her name is Tanya Degruechaff.

But her true identity is that of a 40-year-old Japanese elite salary-man who was forced by god to be reborn in the vessel of a little girl who must live in a tumultuous world racked by war. Concerned with being ultra-efficient and desiring self-promotion above all else, Degurechaff will join the ranks of the Imperial Army’s Military Mages and become one of the most feared existences in this new world…

The Review

The Saga of Tanya the Evil is categorized as a light novel, but it actually makes pretty heavy reading. Anyone who’s familiar with the anime or manga knows the story has a complicated set-up. On top of that complex plot, the novel delves deep into the sci-fi and military aspects, which means readers won’t be breezing through this one.

Our main character is a highly intellectual human resources manager from our modern Japan. However, we meet him just as he suffers an untimely death at the hands of a freshly terminated employee. Upon his demise, he comes face to face with God, who, frustrated by the faithlessness of our main character and humanity as a whole, decides to inspire faith by reincarnating the man—memories intact—as a female in a parallel version of World War I Germany.

The novel’s opening is somewhat difficult to follow. It introduces our main character as his consciousness is transitioning into his reincarnated form Tanya, and then it delves into an overview of the Stanford Prison Experiment before transitioning into social commentary. If I wasn’t already familiar with the Tanya anime and manga, I’m certain I’d have gotten utterly confused.

Compounding the problem of conveying the main character’s complicated circumstances is the writing itself. Dialogue is annoyingly short on tags, so I was often guessing at who said what. Combat scenes rely heavily on dialogue to paint the action, but unless you’re well versed in military jargon, you may have trouble understanding what’s happening. Verb tense constantly shifts between past and present, sometimes within the same scene. There are a lot of POV shifts, which can be disorienting, and our main character simultaneously uses “I” and “Tanya”/ “she” to refer to self. I’m not sure how much of these issues stem from the original Japanese manuscript and how much from the translation process. Either way, it makes for a difficult English text.

However, things are much less problematic if you’re acquainted with the anime or manga and understand from the start that Tanya is a modern salaryman trapped in a child’s body whose ultimate aim is a safe, cushy job. In that case, the value provided by the novel is detailed explanations of key points of the story. For instance, all the Tanya works portray the Type 95 computation orb as an impractical contraption that only works with divine intervention. However, the novel describes at length the scientific/magical theory behind computation orbs, why the Type 95 is both revolutionary and unstable, and its functional value to a mage. Regarding the military aspect, the novel includes maps and diagrams of the unfolding war. We also get a prolonged look at the war room conferences that decide army movements and the discussions among higher-ups that determine Tanya’s military career path. Unlike the manga and anime, there’s less comedy derived by juxtaposing Tanya’s conniving thoughts against those of the people she’s trying to manipulate; what we get instead is a better picture of the personalities within the cast.

One of those personalities is Major von Lergen, seeming the only person in the Imperial Army to question Tanya’s suitability as a soldier (and a human being). At every step of her career, he raises objections, and the novel spells out the reasons he’s so concerned about her rise in the ranks.  I’d hoped for a better rationale from this supposed unbiased Personnel Officer than his gut feeling, and his main criticism of Tanya (the way she objectifies people as resources) is rather hypocritical. After all, the Imperial Army does that all the time as evidenced by the way Tanya gets shoved into her first combat situation at age nine. However, double-standards are certainly common among humans, and the novel seems to be setting von Lergen as an eternal obstacle to Tanya’s goals.

Another aspect detailed in the novel is the impact of the Type 95 computation orb on Tanya’s psyche. As in the anime and manga, it forces her to utter praise to God when in use. However, there’s more to it than just embarrassing instances of worship. In the novel, its side effects include memory lapses and a sense of brainwashing, which makes Tanya doubly resentful of the divine.

Extras include map and fold-out illustration in color; appendixes explaining military strategy and history timeline; author afterword; and six black-and-white illustrations.

In Summary

For a light novel, The Saga of Tanya the Evil is a pretty hefty book. If you have no familiarity with the Tanya the Evil anime or manga, there’s a high chance you’ll get confused if you read the novel first. However, if you’re already a fan of the series and want to understand more about that world’s geopolitics or mage technology, this book will provide you with an abundance of background information as well as a range of character viewpoints.

First published at the Fandom Post.




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Published on May 15, 2018 17:06 • 3 views

May 8, 2018

While there are scores of spectacular animated films, it’s a rare one that attains mainstream success. But in 2016, Makoto Shinkai’s rose to meteoric success and rightfully so. Now for those who can’t get enough of the universe, Yen On presents your name.: Another Side: Earthbound novel.

Back cover Blurb

This hardcover edition tells the story of the hit novel your name. from the perspective of Mitsuha’s friends and family as they deal with her strange new quirks–and avoid disaster. Featuring side characters Tak, Tessie, Yotsuha, and Toshiki, Mitsuha’s father.

Mitsuha is a young girl living in a rural town named Itomori and is fed up with her life. One day, her family and friends notice she’s suddenly acting strange. Little do they know, a high school boy from Tokyo named Taki Tachibana found himself randomly switching places with her when he fell asleep. But he has no clue how to act as a high school girl in an unfamiliar place!

The Review

your name.: Another Side: Earthbound is not so much a novel as it is a collection of four stories, each from the POV of a different resident of Mitsuha’s hometown Itomori. Earthbound reads very much like fanfiction in that it expands upon details glossed over in the original works and offers alternate perspectives of the story’s events.

Earthbound begins with “Thoughts on Brassieres.” Those who loved the hilarity of Mitsuha and Taki switching bodies will get more of the same with this story, which delves into Taki’s struggle to live as a girl. As you might guess from the title, it’s got a LOT about boobs and bras throughout and, yes, more self-groping from Taki. It also expands upon the movie’s glimpses of Taki (as Mitsuha) playing basketball and confronting classmates talking smack about Mitsuha. In addition to the body-swap comedy, the story also includes Taki’s growing fondness for Itomori and his reflections on the girl whose body he inhabits but whom he’s never actually met.

Next is “Scrap and Build,” where we get the perspective of supporting cast member Tesshi. The movie presents him as Mitsuha’s friend, but this story makes clear that he’s more than a childhood buddy. He, like Mitsuha, has certain responsibilities because of his family’s standing in Itomori, which means he understands her position better than most. So while there’s the comedy of him baffled by Mitsuha’s periodic “fox possession” behavior, he also shows how the pressures within Itomori can lead to a real love-hate relationship with the tiny community. In addition, we learn about the influences that enabled him to help Taki (as Mitsuha) evacuate the townsfolk the day of the disaster.

After that is “Earthbound,” which follows Mitsuha’s little sister Yotsuha. She provides observations of the body swaps from the perspective of a family member and a grade schooler. For some reason, breasts feature largely in this story, which strikes me as odd. It’s one thing for Taki, a teenage boy, to be obsessed and baffled by them, but it feels like a tired old joke when Yotsuha also goes on about them. However, a unique thing in Yotsuha’s narrative is her perspective on Miyamizu Shrine. As a shrine maiden, she shares her sister’s intimacy with its traditions, and that intimacy allows for a surprise encounter with a long forgotten past.

Finally, we have “What You Joined Together,” which dives into the memories of Mitsuha’s father Toshiki. Included in the initial part of the story is a conversation between Toshiki and his future wife Futaba about the purpose and meaning of the Miyamizu rituals. Unless you’re acquainted with Shinto folklore or academic analysis, this dialogue —although it does point to the coming comet strike—is a slog. Fortunately, after this first meeting, the narrative simplifies to that of a man falling in love. For those curious about the Miyamizu family, it provides an extensive look at Mitsuha’s mother, who receives only brief mention in the original works, and the circumstances that estranged Toshiki from his daughters.

By the way, regarding the translation, it flows satisfactorily for the most part. However, there are parts where the formatting (specifically punctuation and italicizing) gets awkward, and a couple sentences seem to be missing a word. In addition, the Itomori residents speak in dialect, but for some reason, Futaba speaks normally for her initial academic conversation with Toshiki and then drops into dialect for the remainder of the story.

Extras include fold-out color illustration, character sketches, and nine black-and-white illustrations.

In summary

This book was written expressly for fans of your name. so if you haven’t seen the movie or read the light novel, do that first. Then if you’re hungry for more details about the town of Itomori, Mitsuha’s family, and the traditions of the Miyamizu Shrine or if you just want to revisit the your name. characters, pick up Another Side: Earthbound. There are bits that do get tiresome, but overall, it balances comedy and drama as well as the original.

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Published on May 08, 2018 14:11 • 3 views

May 1, 2018

For many Hayao Miyazaki is synonymous with the award-winning Studio Ghibli. However, Ghibli has another director from that family: Goro Miyazaki. Tales From Earthsea was his directing debut, and I had the opportunity to review the Blu-Ray/DVD set for the film.

Cover Blurb

In the land of Earthsea, crops are dwindling, dragons have reappeared, and humanity is giving way to chaos. Journey with Lord Archmage Sparrowhawk, a master wizard, and Arren, a troubled young prince, on a tale of redemption and self-discovery as they search for the force behind the mysterious imbalance that threatens to destroy their world.

The Review

Although I’ve heard of Le Guin’s novels, I’ve never read them so Ghibli’s film is my first encounter with the Earthsea universe. Unfortunately, I can’t say it was a particularly positive experience.

It’s not that the animation was bad. Ghibli, as usual, delivers breathtaking landscapes, thrilling action, bustling urban scenes, and cozy intimate moments. And although Therru’s Song isn’t that inspiring, the overall orchestral score is pretty good. The main issue with the film is the storytelling.

It opens with dragons battling over the ocean. Shortly thereafter, we see dragon artwork, plus the packaging has a dragon prominently displayed on it. So I’m thinking the story is a fantasy epic about dragons.

It’s not.

It’s really about humankind struggling with a world imbalance, and the brief glimpse of fighting dragons is merely an indicator—like rising ocean levels—of how bad things have gotten. And the imbalance doesn’t just affect the external environment; it’s also degrading people’s magical abilities and the fabric of society as a whole.

It’s a multifaceted problem, but the film doesn’t do a very good job of presenting it. After the brief excitement of watching a possessed Prince Arren kill his father, the pace slows to a crawl as he and the mage Sparrowhawk journey across the ravaged lands of Earthsea. And while those images deliver a sense of external decay, the narrative provides little background on the inhabitants’ original mental and spiritual state. As such, when characters fuss about how far humanity has fallen, I, as a newcomer to the Earthsea world, have no idea what standard they’re using to measure it. We also never learn what Arren’s “shadow” is exactly or the significance of “true names.”

And for a complex worldwide problem, it has a surprisingly simple cause. Everything gets tied to the actions of one bad guy. So the solution boils down to “defeat the bad guy,” and while the resulting duel is visually stunning, it comes out of nowhere.

Also coming out of nowhere is the romance between Prince Arren and Therru. As someone who vacillates between a violent maniac and a paranoid emo, Arren isn’t very compelling as a main character, let alone a romantic lead. As for Therru, her burn scar aside, she has all the appeal of a hissing alley cat. She rebuffs Arren after he rescues her from slavers, and when he and Sparrowhawk get invited to stay at her guardian’s home, she threatens him with a stick. But then Arren catches her singing alone in a pasture, and suddenly, they’re besties. As a romance, I find their relationship more baffling than captivating.

Extras include an exclusive booklet, feature-length storyboards (on Blu-Ray disc only), Birth Story of the Film Soundtrack (on Blu-Ray disc only), Birth Story of Therru’s Song (on Blu-Ray disc only), NTV special (on Blu-Ray disc only), TV spots, and the original theatrical trailers.

In Summary

Tales of Earthsea has the look and sound of great Ghibli film, but the storytelling is lacking. The narrative fails to explain the complex setting adequately, the hero is difficult to relate to, and there’s no chemistry between the main couple. The film feels as if it’s trying to encompass adventure, social commentary, spirituality, and romance but winds up falling short in all aspects.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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Published on May 01, 2018 11:50 • 3 views

April 24, 2018

Sword Art Online was undoubtedly one of the most popular anime of 2012. Based upon a series of light novels by Reki Kawahara, SAO’s near-future characters, gorgeous fantasy setting, and life-or-death stakes drew an enthusiastic fan following. Yen Press has released Volume 6 of the Sword Art Online: Progressive manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of  other Sword Art Online manga, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The war between elves rages on, with Kirito and Asuna caught in the middle! The forest elves seek the dark elves’ Secret Key, but to what end? Though Kirito tries to stay detached, Asuna can’t help being swept along for the ride. Kizmel is supposed to be just an NPC, right? But then why does she seem so very human?

The Review

Now that Kirito and Asuna have had their chance to introduce the third floor and interact with the NPCs of the Elf War quest, the other humans return to the stage. Here, the narrative gets complicated. As Kirito explained in the previous volume, players experience the Elf Quest differently depending on their choices, but they still share the same space. Thus, Kirito and Asuna see the reappearance of the forest elf they killed when Lind’s group triggers the quest.

In addition to multiple versions of the quest running simultaneously, we get a glimpse of Heathcliff and other nefarious elements that have nothing to do with the SAO programmed monsters. Also, the first official guilds form, bringing along the beginnings of rivalries. While there is still the urgency to escape SAO, it feels less like a “death game” with players trash-talking each other and getting jealous of Kirito’s partnership with Asuna. One really interesting scene is when the guilds express their desire to recruit Kirito (after all, who wouldn’t want him on their team?). Indeed, Kirito is popular enough to form his own group but chooses to remain solo. This is a significant departure from the anime where Kirito was ostracized and hid his beater status, and in my opinion, Progressive’s version makes much more sense.

However, this volume does have its nonsensical points, usually when it’s trying to lighten the mood. As in previous volume, much is made of Asuna’s smarts, and she even berates Kirito at one point for being dense. However, when they reach the third floor’s main town, she completely forgets the social implications of sharing a room with a guy and blithely checks the two of them into an inn in front of everyone. As for Kirito, there’s fanservice aplenty when he confides a secret plan to Kizmel—while they’re naked in the bathhouse.

Extras include a special bonus manga and illustrations.

In Summary

There’s a lot to keep track of in this volume between the differing versions of the multi-stage Elf Quest and friction between the newly formed guilds. While there’s no boss battle, the simultaneous quest storylines lead to a different kind of clash. The setup for it, however, is complicated because of the various elements being manipulated, and understanding it requires an attentive read.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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Published on April 24, 2018 12:11 • 5 views