Friday, September 24, 2010

Uraboku Episode Three "Walpurgis Night"

The opening of episode three, “Walpurgis Night,” is a repeat of the ending of the second episode. Takashiro attempts to convince Yuki to come to Tokyo with him and the other members of the Giou clan. Yuki states that he wants more time to think about it, which Takashiro grants him. Yuki asks if he’s also related to Toko and Tsukumo (and Toko takes extreme offense to being referred to as “-san” instead of the more familiar “-chan,” when Yuki addresses Tsukumo with “-kun.”) Toko and Tsukumo explain that while their names are different, but they also members of the Giou clan. Yuki comments that he never expected to have relatives.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Twelve "Black Butler”

In the final episode of season two of Kuroshitsuji, Claude Faustus and Sebastian Michaelis fight a duel to the death for the privilege of claiming and devouring Ciel’s soul. What they get in the end however, may not be what either of them actually wants. Meanwhile, Ciel and Alois share a mysterious and oblique conversation from inside Ciel’s skull.

We open with Claude and Sebastian rowing a boat toward the island where Sebastian took Ciel in preparation for devouring his soul. Hanna is kneeling in the boat with Ciel’s head in her lap. She is singing a lullaby. The island generally looks apocalyptic from Sebastian’s little temper tantrum previously.

Continue reading the review at Associated Content.

Stealing the Elf-Kings Roses, by Diane Duane

401 pp.
Stealing the Elf-King's RosesStealing the Elf-King’s Roses is an interesting combination of political intrigue and police procedural, and has the feel of a “grown up” version of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series. (In fact, some of the alternate earths mentioned will be easily recognizable by anyone who has read the Young Wizard books.) This is a near-future science fiction/urban fantasy where a string of alternate Earths are connected by worldgates. (I should also mention here that the Earth the protagonist comes from is not our Earth, though you probably would have figured that out within the first few pages.) The book opens with the discovery of a sixth world, and mentions possible economic and political repercussions as a result of the discovery and possible contact with the sixth world.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Uraboku Episode Two "Eternal Investigation"

The second episode opens with a mysterious conversation with a man and woman in a car. The content of the conversation involves a war or battle. The man appears to have a very fatalistic approach to life, and this scene is very melodramatic and full of plot anvils. We switch briefly to a view of the orphanage where Yuki is living, and the tree near the house is apparently lit up with red lights...that turn out to be the eyes of scary looking monsters. Then we switch to the opening song and credits, which features Luka and girl-Yuki. From the opening credits it is clear that Luka and girl-Yuki had been in a relationship.

Enemy Mine: Hate the Movie, Love the Novella

I really, really did not like the movie. And when I say “didn’t like” I actually mean loathe. Part of the reason is that the movie did not make sense. (Especially the Davidge-on-the-conveyor belt scene. I never understood what the heck they were doing with that. Also, they don’t really explain if I recall, why the kid was growing up so fast, or make it more clear how much time was passing.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Uraboku Episode One "Set in Motion"

Uraboku is a recent anime with twenty-four planned episodes. (Uraboku started playing April 2010.) It is based off the shojo manga Uragiri wa Boku no Namae o Shitteiru.(Betrayal Knows My Name) The story is about a war between demonic entities called “duras” and the Giou Clan, a family of demon hunters with a great deal of wealth, magic and political power to back them up. They are continually reincarnated with their memories intact so that they can continue their war without any loss of memory or knowledge. A teenage boy, who had been abandoned at an orphanage as a child, turns out to be a member of this clan. In his previous incarnations, he had been female, and had been responsible for healing other members of the clan. 

The High King of Montival, by S.M. Stirling

481 pp.

The High King of Montival: A Novel of the Change (Change Series)In The High King of Montival, Rudi has gained the Sword of the Lady, been declared High King by his companions and now is ready to build an army and make alliances with the groups he has encountered on his quest. His first recruits are an Asatru community that formed itself up in Maine. As he works his way back along the way he traveled, he picks up more people and establishes the eastern-most boundary of his notional kingdom. Meanwhile, people back home are meeting envoys from the various groups Rudi encountered, and continuing their war with the Church Universal and Triumphant (while also waiting for Rudi to turn up with the Sword in classic Big Fat Fantasy Novel fashion.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Post Is Filler for the Essay I Want to Write

Which is to say, I have an idea for an essay about my general feelings about David Eddings' handling of race and ethnicity, but I don't have anything written down yet. I can point out various instances of his writing that have disturbed me to a greater or lesser extent--but I can't narrow it down to "here is what seems like a problem to me." The general argument/response to an essay that deals with issues of race (especially where a popular writer like Eddings is concerned) is that you get the people who use the "but it makes sense in context!" argument, and the "how dare you call [writer] a racist!" 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Eleven "Crossroads Butler"

Many interesting things happen in this episode, and there are many revelations. In addition, Grell is a fifth wheel, Ciel gets some answers, and Alois has a nervous breakdown.

Hannah and Alois force Sebastian and Claude to take part in a competition. The game is a race through a maze, which is apparently a physical representation of Alois’ heart. Various questions need to be answered at certain points, and the wrong answer result in various violent penalties.  Sebastian and Claude are disinclined to play, but have to go along with the game, because Alois is in control of Ciel’s body. (They are definitely not happy about this.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Sword of Winter by Marta Randall

271 pp.

It is difficult to say whether The Sword of Winter is more of a fantasy with science fiction elements, or a science fiction novel with fantasy elements. The technology is steam-level, with telegraphs. It’s a book that is strong on character interactions and political intrigue, with some fascinating worldbuilding elements. I first read this book back in junior high, and it has been one of my on again, off again favorites for years. It doesn’t seem to be in print, but it’s a relatively easy book to find.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Review: The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee

341 pp.

The Gaslight DogsThe blurb for The Gaslight Dogs makes it sound as if it is going to be another case of “white Guy learns native ways and saves the day,” but this is not the case. This would normally be fine with me, except that the story is also “people who hate each other an awful lot flop around and don’t do much of anything.” I am not a fan of this kind of story, but the world building was interesting so I continued reading it.

The background of the story is very much like the American Indian Wars of the 1800s. The Circacusans are at war with several aborigine tribes, while also being allied to a few others. The aborigines use various kinds of magic, and a general is scheming to acquire this power, though the Circacusan religion and Circacusan law believe magic is evil. The general manages to get his hands on a “spiritwalker” from a tribe that is vaguely reminiscent of the Inuit, and railroads her into teaching his son. His son is an officer in the army. The son wants nothing to do with his father, or with magic (though he does appear to have a talent for it). However, since his father is apparently his superior officer, he has no choice but to obey. Meanwhile, the Church would like to put an end to the general’s experiments, and a spiritwalker of an enemy tribe has acquired an obsession for the general’s son.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Door into Sunset by Diane Duane

383 pp.
In The Door into Sunset, our leading characters go through many evolutions and “power ups” as their efforts to depose Cillmod come to a head. This book focuses mainly on Freelorn as he tries to find a way to become a true Initiate in the royal magics that protects the country from the Shadow, (and which also ensure that the land doesn’t turn back into wasteland like most of the continent seems to be). We also watch Hasai and Segnbora become Very Important Persons among the Dragons, and Herewiss learn to cope with being the First Man in Centuries with the Blue Flame.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Door into Shadow by Diane Duane

298 pp.

A recurring theme in The Tale of the Five involves characters overcoming or otherwise acknowledging the flaws in their personality that prevents them from becoming more powerful, and defeating The Shadow (a fallen power created by the Goddess accidentally letting entropy into the universe she created).

The primary character of The Door into Shadow is Segnbora, a young swordswoman who has the potential to be one of the most powerful Rodmistresses in the history of the Middle Kingdoms. Her natural ability to use the Blue Flame is so powerful that apparently, she has broken every rod she has tried to focus with. Because of this failure, she has tried to excel at many other professions, and while she keeps acquiring new skills and honors, she is eternally restless and unhappy because the only ability her parents seem to care about is her potential to wield the Blue Flame. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Ten "Zero Butler”

In this episode, Claude is a creeper, we find out who really made a contract with Luka, and Grell is a shutterbug.

The episode opens with Ciel waking up and Claude in general being a fan boy over Ciel’s grumpy and imperious manner. Everything he says is very clearly heard by Sebastian, who is outside in the forest, blowing up trees with his rage. Ciel questions the sound and Claude claims that a cat is making it. Ciel is understandably skeptical. Claude tries to kiss Ciel’s foot, and gets kicked in response, which just makes Claude be even more of a fan boy.

An Accidental Experiment

I recently put up some reviews for a shojo anime called Uraboku on Associated Content. The story involves a young man named Yuki with strange powers who discovers that he is a member of a clan of demon hunters. His particular abilities are related to healing. Members of this clan reincarnate with their memories intact, but Yuki for some reason doesn't have his full memories, also, in this particular lifetime, he's male instead of female.

What I didn't mention in the review was that Uraboku is a shonen-ai, or homosexually themed anime. I did however mention that the framing story for the plot involves a prior relationship between Yuki's previous (female) self and the other male lead.

There is no sexual content, and Yuki isn't even aware that the other male character had been "his" lover in a previous incarnation. The other male lead is (at episode 21) under the impression that Yuki's incarnating as male is "her" way of saying "we can't have a relationship." (This does not stop the other male lead from being in love with Yuki, or with wanting to protect him.) 

I did not specifically state it was shonen-ai, but I didn't have any particular reason for doing so. It will be interesting to see if I get any comments about it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tangled Webs by Anne Bishop

Tangled Webs: A Black Jewels NovelI have mentioned that I have tried to read this book previously, but did not like it very much. It doesn’t have the same appeal of the original trilogy, and the antagonist of the piece was extremely annoying. Since I liked The Shadow Queen and Shalador’s Lady enough to re-read the entire series, I decided to give Tangled Webs a second chance.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman

 360 pp.
MoonwiseThis is not a book review. It is not even the opposite of a book review. It is a sideways book review that takes a trip into the unknown lands of Faery, but not too far in because the reader is unable to figure out what the heck is going on, but the words look pretty so she keeps trying to delve deeper into the book. Unfortunately, she is soon brought up short by not being able to follow what the heck is going on, because the prose is not only purple, its purple in a completely different language. I first read the Roc edition of this book in the 1990s, not long after it had come out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

101 Tropes 31-60

Here are some more tropes and concepts that I like. Previously posted on LJ 03-14-10 and 04-13-10 My previous post is here

31. Practically Perfect in Every Way--This character is the Jeeves to Bertie Wooster, the Alfred to Bruce Wayne, and possibly also Sebastian Michaelis from Kuroshitsuji. She is Mary Poppins or Fiore from Chrono Crusade...and also Polgara from the Belgariad/Mallorean. A classic adventure novel version is the mother in Swiss Family Robinson who has apparently has everything you could ever want or need if you were ship wrecked in her luggage.

32. Speaking of Swiss Family Robinson--I really like the minutia of daily living, and the descriptions of what characters do in situations where survival is a factor. (Menolly and Piemur in the Harper Hall trilogy for instance, are good examples of this.) I like the world building and the description of the steps taken in order to survive comfortably in an environment with few resources.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Nine "Hollow Butler"

This episode advances the plot in some major ways. We get some more revelations on the connection between Alois and Sebastian, and Claude makes a major move in his war with Sebastian. (Well, if it can be called a war. We could call it a food fight, maybe.) This episode has a lot of disturbing content, from brainwashing to references to child abuse.

We open on a staff meeting of sorts between Claude and his allies. He asks the footman trio and Hannah what they think he is going to do with Alois soul, which is currently occupying a ruby ring surrounded by diamonds. (I am wondering if there is anything particularly significant about the setting of the ring.)

The Door into Fire by Diane Duane

290 pp.

The Tale of the Five, is an early fantasy series by Diane Duane which isn’t complete yet. It is the first series I read that had homosexual and bisexual characters who were just characters instead of stock humor characters, hateful villains or Afterschool Special-style protagonists where we learn important lessons about accepting others. Herewiss, Freelorn and Segnbora are three of my favorite characters in the series, followed closely behind by Sunspark (a fire elemental) and Hasai, a Dragon.) Duane creates an interesting world here, and the juxtaposition of “medieval” setting with a surprisingly non-standard-medieval society was something I really enjoyed. The final book in the series, The Door Into Starlight has been in the works for a long, long time.