Blog posts in Books for October 2007:

Books: Real/Fake Princess #2

The second volume of Real/Fake Princess continues to deliver admirably on the premise set up in the first volume. What if you were secretly a member of the royal family in hiding, but when it came time to be reinstated...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2007/10/10 15:45
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The second volume of Real/Fake Princess continues to deliver admirably on the premise set up in the first volume. What if you were secretly a member of the royal family in hiding, but when it came time to be reinstated on the throne, you didn’t want anything to do with such a legacy?

That’s the dilemma faced by Zhi Li, the fiery heroine of this series who’s fully aware of her status as a royal refugee. It’s the job of the imperial Seeker, Wu, to determine if she’s the real deal or not, and it’s his dismissive attitude of her that compels her to rise to the task of becoming a full-fledged princess again. Unfortunately, all this time in exile has left her without any of the good graces a princess would normally possess, and so Wu compels (shilling for commands) her to take lessons in courtly refinement.

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Tags: Japan manga review


Books: Gyo #1

Across both volumes of Gyo I kept asking myself: Where on earth is Junji Ito leading is with all of this? The creator of Uzumaki had spun out one fascinating and hallucinatory (and often depraved) variation after another on his...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2007/10/10 15:41
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Across both volumes of Gyo I kept asking myself: Where on earth is Junji Ito leading is with all of this? The creator of Uzumaki had spun out one fascinating and hallucinatory (and often depraved) variation after another on his basic theme: a wave of monsters, half-machine and half-animal, that come ashore from the sea and infest civilization. Then I got to the end of the second and final volume and realized, to my dismay, he wasn’t heading much of anywhere.

The end of Gyo is terribly disappointing, so much so that it comes close to trashing the whole series. It doesn’t so much conclude as it simply terminates, on a note of vague and unresolved hope, one that seems ill-suited to the incredible darkness that suffused the book up to that point. The second volume does take the premise that was set up in the first volume and expand on it—but only slightly, and in directions that are more for the sake of atmosphere and general weirdness than coherence. Not that this is a bad thing; at the bottom of it all, every horror story runs because it is an engine of fear, not logic. The bad news is that Gyo keeps edging towards an explanation of what’s going on, but pulls up short and leaves us frustrated.

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Tags: Japan manga review


Books: Kurohime #2

I find myself facing a bit of a dilemma with volume 2 of Kurohime. It’s essentially the same as the first volume in the series, and I suspect a lot of that is due to outside factors—for one, the comic...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2007/10/10 15:39
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I find myself facing a bit of a dilemma with volume 2 of Kurohime. It’s essentially the same as the first volume in the series, and I suspect a lot of that is due to outside factors—for one, the comic switched publications while these particular episodes were being created. For those reasons, I’m inclined to go a little easier on it, but I need to be honest: all the same problems that were present in the first book have simply been recapped.

The premise: In a whacked-out world made up of bits and pieces of Asian mythology and the Wild West, young gunslinger Zero has pledged to protect and serve the legendary gunslinger with Kurohime (“Black Princess”)—now stuck in the body of a little girl, Himeko (“Princess Girl”) and minus most of her powers. Kurohime was, and is, a legendarily heartless creature who wants nothing more than to bend the whole of the male sex to her scheming will. Heaven doesn’t suffer such overarching ambition gladly, and so she has been cursed to appear as Himeko … except for those few moments when she feels real love. As you can guess, this isn’t something that happens very often, except when she realizes the depth of Zero’s love for her. The end result is a sort of infinite plot loop: Himeko needs to do something that requires Kurohime’s power; Zero manages to get Kurohime to manifest; problem solved; Kurohime gloats at her prowess over the male libido; gloating breaks the spell of love; back to square one.

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Tags: Japan manga review


Books: Real/Fake Princess #1

Here’s a historical romance that actually gives the genre a good name. I know some people reading this are automatically going to assume “historical romance” and “quality” don’t belong in the same sentence (let alone the same lexicon). Trust me,...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2007/10/10 15:39
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Here’s a historical romance that actually gives the genre a good name. I know some people reading this are automatically going to assume “historical romance” and “quality” don’t belong in the same sentence (let alone the same lexicon). Trust me, I’m not normally a fan of this kind of material either—which is why Real/Fake Princess came as such a pleasant surprise.

R/FP is set against the period of the Southern Dynasty in China (1136 C.E., according to the notes), and is—as most romances are—a clash of wills between a man and a woman. The man is Wu, the “Seeker,” yanked off the battlefield and appointed new duties he has no particular interest in. His job is to find members of the royal family who have been displaced by the war, ensure they are the real thing, and re-install them in the imperial palace. Since there are entirely too many people out there trying to impersonate the royal family, he’s forced to sift through them all and apply heavy manners to get the job done. His main compensations include alcohol—lots of it—and a fair amount of time spent with a courtesan, Dai Xuan, who’s also growing rather attached to him.

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Tags: Taiwan manga review


Books: Lunar Legend Tsukihime #2

Fight the monsters at your own peril, lest you become one. It’s an old adage, and a terribly true one, as Shiki Tohno has discovered in volume 2 of Lunar Legend Tsukihime. His power to destroy things and kill living...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2007/10/10 15:38
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Fight the monsters at your own peril, lest you become one. It’s an old adage, and a terribly true one, as Shiki Tohno has discovered in volume 2 of Lunar Legend Tsukihime. His power to destroy things and kill living beings by cutting along their “death lines” was put to the test in the first volume when he ended up in the service of one vampire, the pretty Arcueid, trying to destroy another vampire, the aptly-named Nero Chaos. That struggle devastated a hotel floor and left Tohno badly injured, and as he recuperates in hiding with Arcueid looking over him, he learns a bit more about the creature he’s paired himself up with and the monsters they’re both fighting against.

Arcueid may nominally refer to herself as a vampire, but she hasn’t drunk human blood—not once in her over eight hundred years of existance, knock on wood. She’s a “true ancestor,” one of the original vampires who have been around since time immemorial. Nero and his ilk are “dead apostles”—humans that have turned to vampiredom and pose grave danger to everyone, human and vampire alike. Arcueid’s mission—and now Tohno’s as well—is to hunt down these abominations and terminate them. The history lesson’s interrupted when the TV news begins broadcasting word of the massacre at the hotel… and Tohno’s classmate Yumizuka, the object of his unrequired affection, may have been at the hotel that night.

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Tags: Japan manga review


Books: Lunar Legend Tsukihime #3

The third volume of Tsukihime brings Arcueid and Tohno back together for another round of wrestling with the supernatural. This time, it’s not vampires but zombies—or rather, zombie minions of sorts created by vampires from unsuspecting innocents. They’re not the...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2007/10/10 15:36
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The third volume of Tsukihime brings Arcueid and Tohno back together for another round of wrestling with the supernatural. This time, it’s not vampires but zombies—or rather, zombie minions of sorts created by vampires from unsuspecting innocents. They’re not the pushovers they look like they ought to be, partly because Tohno has that much more trouble turning his “death vision” on those who were once just bystanders.

Actually, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Most of the third volume is lead-in and build-up to this particular battle, and while it’s not the bang-bang pacing of the action scenes that peppered the first two volumes, it’s more than decently absorbing. The last volume ended with what seemed like a conclusion of sorts - Arcueid and Tohno went their separate ways after defeating the vampire Nero Chaos. Tohno would like nothing more than to put on and leave on the glasses that restrain his ability to see the points at which he can strike things (or people) to destroy (or kill) them, but there are too many other unexplained, freaky things going on around him that he's unable to just willfully tune them out.

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Tags: Japan manga review


Books: Lunar Legend Tsukihime #4

The fourth volume of Lunar Legend Tsukihime answers a few of the sticky questions that opened up in the previous volume, but it also leaves us with about as many new ones. The more we learn about Shiki Tohno and...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2007/10/10 15:35
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The fourth volume of Lunar Legend Tsukihime answers a few of the sticky questions that opened up in the previous volume, but it also leaves us with about as many new ones. The more we learn about Shiki Tohno and his strange family, the vampire-girl Arcueid he’s fighting side-by-side with, the clutch of abilities he has at his command, and the bizarre array of underworld denizens he’s pitted against, the more we worry about him. We don’t worry about him being killed, but rather we fear that he will simply switch sides to make life easier for himself. Better to be a predator and discard all fear, than to hunt other predators and never stop living in fear.

Let’s start with his family. From the opening battle that features Tohno’s sister pitted against a strange intruder in the house—it’s actually Ciel, Tohno’s “exchange student” classmate—it’s clear that Tohno’s family will go to any and all lengths to protect their secrets. Tohno’s sister has a gallery of powers of her own, something she has thus far concealed from her brother, but that secret will not remain bottled up for long —especially not after the battle that sprawls across the opening chapters of the volume. Ciel, too, ends up confounding Tohno more than a little: as you may have guessed by now, she’s no mere transfer student, and when she takes her leave of Tohno and his classmates (for now, anyway), she thoughtfully erases all traces of her presence there … except with Tohno.

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Tags: Japan manga review


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