Monday, February 28, 2011

Manga Review: Kuroshitsuji Volume One, Yana Toboso

Black Butler, Vol. 1The Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler manga is a bit darker and less angel-infested than the first anime season. (There is also a marked lack of giant hell hounds. I feel that this is generally a good thing as I can’t stand Pluto.) The relationship between Sebastian and Ciel is a little more adversarial--in the first chapter Ciel sends a martial artist after Sebastian, and then gives him lemonade that Tanaka made with MSG instead of sugar. Also in the manga for the first few issues, he has a nearly perpetual evil smirk. (Ciel in the anime is a much more somber kid, though he has his evil smile moments as well.)

White as Snow, by Tanith Lee

319 pp.

White As Snow (Fairy Tale)I tend to have a love-hate relationship with Tanith Lee’s writing. I find her to be very readable on occasion, but all of the rapes, craziness and death tend to stand between the plot of the book and my liking of it. White as Snow is part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale Series and the blurb declares that it is a “dark sensual retelling of Snow White,” and I would have to say that they were at least half right (which is to say, it is dark).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Fourteen "His Butler, Supremely Talented"--Review

This episode begins where the previous one left off. After Sebastian watches Agni leave, he goes to Ciel to report. Ciel begins to make plans to follow, but is interrupted by Soma, who reveals that he is aware that Agni is sneaking out at night, and he wants to find out what Agni is up to as well.

Everyone shadows Agni, who heads into the home of Harold West Jeb, who deals in goods imported from India. It turns out that Harold has a stake in the upcoming curry contest, and Agni is working for him. (Agni is also it turns out, responsible for the earlier attacks on various Englishmen--under West's orders.) It turns out that the attacks had been intended to take out West's business rivals. It is clear that West has some kind of hold on him--which turns out to be Mina, Soma's former servant. Hearing this causes Soma to break cover, demanding to know what West has done with her.

Read the rest of this article at Associated Content.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gosick Episode One "The Dark Reaper Discovers the Golden Fairy"--Review

Gosick is a twelve episode anime; the setting is an (imaginary) European country called Saubure during the 1920s. Our hero is Kazuya Kujo, a Japanese exchange student. Our heroine is a mysterious young girl named Veronique who cuts class and more or less lives in the garden of the private academy where Kujo is attending classes.

We open with a horrifying scene--rabbits have been set loose in the middle of the night, and a pack of dogs is set upon them. As one of the dogs leap upon the rabbits, the scene shifts, and we are suddenly shown an old woman surrounded by robed and hooded figures. She is apparently some kind of fortune teller because she makes a dire prediction of death. She orders her disciples to prepare a box to float on water, and then release eleven hares.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shiki, "Tenth Mourning" --Review

The scene before the opening credits shows Megumi running off, presumably toward Natsuno's house. After credits, we see Natsuno's mother nervously checking on her bizarre, puppet-wielding "guest." She tells the little girl that Natsuno will be home soon, she starts to turn on the light but the little girl snaps that she doesn't need light.

The following scene is a flashback. Tatsumi is giving the other okiagari their marching orders. (One of the vampires he's talking to is the little girl with the puppet.) After he gives the battle plan the scene shifts back to Natsuno, who is just coming home. Natsuno's mother tells him about the "guest." He's a little alarmed to discover that she's waiting in his room. He tells his parents not to let anyone in, and then heads off to his room. The little girl is apparently gone, having left through the window. Natsuno is not very happy to hear that his parents had also given a blanket invitation to the little girl's "brother."

Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica Episode One "It Feels as If I Met Her in a Dream"--Review

Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica (also known as Puella Magi Madoka Magica) is a twelve episode anime that takes a much darker look at the "magical girl genre." (Or more accurately, it takes the standard tropes and  then drags them sideways.) The basic anatomy of a magical girl anime involves a girl who is offered magic or who turns out to have some secret magical power. They are given the responsibility of fighting monsters and/or gathering up dangerous or merely powerful magical objects that are causing Bad Things to Happen. They may acquire fellow magical girls as companions, are often accompanied by cute magical animals that may serve as advisers, and there is generally a Romantic Interest who is either another ally or very occasionally a bad guy who needs The Power of Love in order to change sides.

Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica takes these tropes and then does very scary things with them, while initially pretending that it is just another cute magical girl anime.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Belated About the Topic: Penny Arcade and Jokes About Rape

Crossposted from another journal.

So, there was a huge controversy over Penny Arcade (a web comic I don't actually follow that often) making a joke about rape, then writers and fans of the series proving themselves to be extremely insensitive when they are told it's not funny. Then Tarol Hunt of Goblin's fame makes a joke about rape on twitter, specifically, about using hypnotism to make a woman have sex with him. Tarol Hunt did not understand why he got such a strong negative response to his joke when one of the villains of his series is a rapist, who presumably did not get the same sort of negative response. (Hint: Which of the two involves a joke about rape?)

This reminded me of a few incidents. (In no particular order, for no particular point making reason.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Which Dreams are a Headache

Cross posted from another journal.
I always, always wake up to my alarm, usually in the middle of a dream. I always, always have a headache, and most likely an earworm. (On those occasions when I don’t have the alarm on, I am less likely to have a headache.) I also wake up with headaches if I have left the radio playing, or if the neighbors are outside have an unusually loud conversation late at night or early in the morning. (It fascinates me that people use outside voices outside even though they know how thin the walls are and that everyone who might be awake can hear them talk about their love lives.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tales of the Magatama Book I: Dragon Sword and Wind Child, by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano

298 pp.

Dragon Sword and Wind Child (Tales of the Magatama)For some reason while reading this book, I kept thinking, “this reminds me of The King of Elfland’s Daughter.” Dragon Sword and Wind Child does not have a great deal in common with that novel, and by “doesn’t have a great deal in common,” I actually mean “is nothing at all like.” It did however have a very strong “feel” reminiscent of Lord Dusany. (I think the similarity might be in the narration of this novel, but I’m not sure.)

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Thirteen "Brilliant Finale"--Review

We open with Agemaki and friends rushing to Zakuro's rescue, led by Byaroku. Someone actually trusting her is apparently enough of a novelty that she has time to stop and ask, "How do you know you can trust me not to lead you into a trap?" The answer is, "Because we understand how you feel."

The next scene involves Omodaka who has reached his home. The place is in flames and there are dead bodies wrapped in webs. Omodaka realizes that Rangui is the one responsible for all of this, just as he hears Rangui singing Zakuro's personal theme song.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Summer Knight, by Jim Butcher

371 pp.

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, Book 4)As a result of the events of Grave Peril, Harry is something of a sad sack. He has not had any cases since then, he overdue on his rent, and he is occasionally a target of assassination attempts from the Red Court of vampires. On top of the war between the White Council and the Red Court of vampires, a second war is about to start--this one between the Summer and Winter Courts of the Sidhe. As usual, Harry is in the middle of it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Twelve "Looming Crisis"--Review

We begin this episode with a continuation of the "wedding" scene from the previous episode. Omodaka is wearing mask, and Byaroku is leading Zakuro by the hand up to where Omodaka is. Zakuro appears to either be under a spell or drugged to the gills. Then we go to the opening credits.

The next scene after the credits, Agemaki and company are asking Lords A and Um for help. The spirits are reluctant however--they do not want to endanger the lives of the girls or their partners.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Un-Valentine: Dumping the Kender, or I Get Sick of the Run Around

The situation as it stood, couldn’t last very long. I had managed to get very attached to the Kender, but half the time I think he had just become a habit. (A very bad one.) The formula that was the disaster this relationship was would run something like this; the Kender and I would fight. Usually about everything we disagreed with, which was everything. I was a baby liberal, he was a baby conservative, he was irresponsible and I was irritated with his lack of responsibility, we fought about everything. The fighting would come to a head when he’d suddenly say that “maybe we should see other people,” and then I would be horribly upset and then we’d eventually make up. After making up, everything would be fine, until the next time we started fighting.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Eleven "Hollow Touch"--Review

This episode is a series of revelations as Zakuro learns of her mother's past, and her connection to Lord Omodaka. (We also have it pounded into our heads with sledge hammers that Omodaka is a bundle of deeply twisted issues where Zakuro and his mother are concerned.) Meanwhile, Zakuro's friends put together a rescue party, and Rangui has plans for Daidai and revenge on Omodaka.

Fortress of Ice by C.J. Cherryh

402 pp.
Fortress of IceFortress of Ice is a difficult book to pin down--I find myself liking the book, but not liking it enough. (Which no, doesn’t make sense. There are books I love and reread endlessly, there are books I like but only read once. This book falls somewhere between those two categories.) The feeling and tone is entirely different because all the primary characters have become secondary and tertiary, and the next generation is new and very wet behind the ears.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Ten "Creeping Shadows"--Review

This episode is full of revelations and mystery as an outing to a festival ends with a kidnapping. Zakuro discovers who her mysterious enemies are, and terrible secrets are revealed. The story takes a turn for the
 extremely disturbing at this point, though it somehow maintains its more 'romantic comedy' aspects.

The episode opens with Riken, Agemaki and Ganryu waiting for the girls to get ready for their visit to a festival being held at a shrine. There is some traditional complaining of the "why do girls take so long to get ready" variety, and then Lord Amaryoju gives them pocket money. (Agemaki complains because this is something you would do for kids.)

Darwin's Children, by Greg Bear

357 pp. (hardback) 
Darwin's ChildrenIn this sequel to Darwin’s Radio, Mitch and Kaye are in hiding with their daughter Stella, who is one of the “virus children,” who had been born as a result of “Herod’s Flu.” Mitch and Kaye are in hiding because most of the world is deathly afraid of the children and have been rounding them up and confining them in special “schools.” (They may have reason to be frightened, since a handful of the carriers of the original plague are living disease factories and have to live in complete isolation.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Un-Valentine: How Dating Ruined my Gaming Life

I met the Kender at a roleplaying game. He was one of those boys who assume that eye contact means you like them, I unfortunately made eye contact, and he decided to persistently ask me out. I eventually caved under pressure and went out on dates with him. We eventually became a couple. Our dates were generally dinner and a movie--and I am generally a hard sell on movies because I have trouble figuring out what’s going on and the character names. (The only reason I can do the occasional movie review is because of Wikipedia--it’s the only way I’ll learn a movie character’s name, okay?) Some of the dates were actually fun, some of them were deathly dull, and some of them were in between.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear

Ballantine (Del Rey)
430 pp.(hardback)

Darwin's RadioI generally have a mixed reaction to books by Greg Bear, a “the ideas are interesting but the characters are not,” sort of reaction. From the books of his I have read, there tends to be more focus on the idea (whatever gimmick or concept he’s introducing) over the actual story, or the characters involved with the story. Add to this the tendency for his male-female interactions to resemble something from a Venus/Mars date book, and my general reaction to a Greg Bear novel more often than not involves backing away slowly.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Otome Yokai Zakuro Episode Nine "Joy of Love"--Review

In this episode, the tanuki maids working at the Ministry of Spiritual Affairs join forces with Bonbori and Hozuki. Their goal is to find out whom exactly, Zakuro likes. (There had been some question about this, due to  the fact that Riken and Zakuro are on friendly terms.) Meanwhile, Lieutenant Hanadate turns up with a case for the Ministry of Spirit Affairs. Apparently, a divination game called "kokkuri" is accidentally summoning some variety of spirit.

After Hanadate leaves, Zakuro is mobbed by the tanuki and the twins, because they want to try the divination game out. While participating in the game will serve the purpose of the mission, Zakuro is less than pleased about the reason why the maids wanted to try the game in the first place.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

378 pp.

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, Book 3)Grave Peril is the third book in The Dresden Files. In this book, Harry has to deal with his fairy godmother (no, believe me when I say that is not actually something to laugh about) problems, an enemy that is raising the dead, and an invitation to a vampire ball. We are also introduced to Michael, a Knight of the Cross and the bearer of one of three magical swords. (Apparently, Harry calls on Michael in cases where he needs a paladin in his party.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Un-Valentine: “No, You Are NOT a Short Hyperactive Kleptomaniac!”

Note:This story is more or less true, though events have been conflated and condensed due to my having a very bad memory for exact dates and times. Also, I am very sarcastic about what happened. Those involved, particularly my parents and other relatives will claim that I made this up. Sadly, they are mistaken.

I have to say that this one was definitely my fault. I didn’t want to date him in the first place, but I had allowed myself to be worn down by a combination of persistence and a mother slightly freaked out by my intense lack of interest in dating. (I’d only been on one other date at the time, the experience was less than satisfactory.) As a result of my weakness I soon found myself with a problem on my hands, one I had no idea of how to deal with.

The second person I had ever dated in my life was an irresponsible idiot.