Volume 3 of 20th Century Boys plays like a compendium of every paranoid nightmare you’ve ever had. You are in front of a hostile crowd, singled out for ridicule and aggression. You are dead certain something horrible is going to happen mere minutes from now, but you cannot get anyone to believe you. And you’re convinced there’s some tiny unremembered piece of your past which is crucially important to everything that’s going on, if you could just remember what the hell it was!
That’s been Kenji’s problem: the clues to the imminent apocalypse being unleashed by a former childhood friend are scattered far and wide through his life. What’s worse is now that he’s finally started to fit the pieces together, the one great discovery that comes to him is that he is the only one who can comprehend the full scope of what’s happening. The attacks taking place around the world are all based on the daydream scribbles he came up with all those years ago. Ergo, it’s a warning, a message aimed directly at him: Come get me. You know who I am, don’t you?Read more
Two volumes back I noted that Black Lagoon is one volume setup and one volume payoff. Volume 7 is almost entirely setup with one big dollop of gunbunny lunacy in the opening chapters to whet the appetite. But it’s good setup — it’s not just plot cogs creaking, but further definition of character. In a series like Black Lagoon the characterization and plotting are joined at the hip anyway.
The end of the last volume kicked off a new plot arc: the return of the Lovelace family’s cadre of murderous maids. Maids, plural. As it turns out, the nutjob Roberta is indeed back in town and looking for revenge. She’s convinced the folks who killed the head of the Lovelace family with a well-placed bomb are squirreled away in Roanapur somewhere, and she doesn’t care how many dead bodies she leaves behind before she finds them. The gun-toting maid we met back at the end of the last volume, though, was Fabiola — another servant of the same ilk, and the one whom the “young master” of the Lovelace clan is currently depending on most for his protection. Fabiola’s nowhere nearly as unhinged as Roberta out of the gate, but she’s enough of a handful that Rock (and by extension Revy) are persuaded to lend them a hand looking for Roberta to keep the body count to a minimum.Read more
Is it possible to enjoy a book because of its limitations, as much as you might enjoy it despite them? I’m faced with this issue right now because after all four (or two) volumes of Pale Fallen Angel, I can’t deny I’ve enjoyed the story. I’m just not sure if that’s the result of the way it was written or an unintentional by-product.
The D stories don’t lend themselves to being epics. They’re called light novels for a reason: they’re compact, fast on their feet, and trimly written. Small wonder the longer D stories end up tilting under their own weight. The would-be epic two-part Journey to the North Sea was impressive, but caused Hideyuki Kikuchi’s storytelling framework to bulge at the seams. With the four-part Angel, the framework has ripped clean open. I didn’t like seeing the brevity I associated with the D series turning into the very same ponderous, bloated fantasy that I started reading the D books to get away from in the first place. But after both volumes of Angel, I found I’d done my best to enjoy the books for what they were and not for what I wanted them to be. Read more
How do you solve a problem like Haruhi?
— with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein II
There’s a lot about Kyon’s new school that he doesn’t like. The long walk all the way uphill to get to it, for instance. The fact that he doesn’t know anyone there isn’t a boon, either. But none of that comes near the level of flabbergast Kyon feels when he meets his infamous classmate Haruhi Suzumiya.
Infamous doesn’t begin to sum her up, as he quickly learns. Infamy-generating is more like it.
“I have no interest in ordinary humans,” she declares to her astonished homeroom class on the first day of school. “If there are any aliens, time travelers, sliders or espers here, come join me.” And with that Kyon’s sucked into the orbit of what proves not only to be the oddest girl in the school but the girl who’s going to turn his life inside out and repaint it in mighty garish colors.Read more