Blog posts in Books for July 2008:

Books: Kujibiki Unbalance Graphic Novel 1

The manga of Kujibiki Unbalance may well be one of the strangest in-jokes ever perpetrated on any fandom. It didn’t exist as an actual product for a long time—in fact, a part of me wishes it didn’t exist, period. But...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/30 09:49
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The manga of Kujibiki Unbalance may well be one of thestrangest in-jokes ever perpetrated on any fandom. It didn’t exist asan actual product for a long time—in fact, a part of me wishes itdidn’t exist, period. But here it is all the same: a manga spun offfrom an anime derived in turn from an anime that only existed as ashow-within-a-show. If your head’s hurting at that, think about how Ifeel.

The source of the in-joke behind all this should be automatically familiar to anyone who’s read or watched Genshiken (either the manga or the TV series; the joke’s the same in either one). Kujian, as it’s called for short, is the show-within-the-show that the characters were fans of. Part of the joke was that Kujian didn’t actually exist—theglimpses we were given of it made it look like an amalgam of everyanime/manga cliché imaginable, plus a few we forgot about along theway. It worked wonderfully in the context of the show, because youdidn’t need to see the whole show to know how it worked. Anyonewho’d done any decent amount of time in otaku-dom could fill in theblanks on their own.

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Tags: Japan manga review


Books: Zaregoto 1: Book 1: The Kubikiri Cycle

Reading Zaregoto is a little like watching someone doing one of those wild juggling acts where they swap clubs for flaming torches for bowling balls for chainsaws, all without dropping anything on the floor. It’s a slick, addictive Japanese pop-literary...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/27 23:32
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Reading Zaregoto is a little like watching someone doing oneof those wild juggling acts where they swap clubs for flaming torchesfor bowling balls for chainsaws, all without dropping anything on thefloor. It’s a slick, addictive Japanese pop-literary confection, anamalgam of mystery thriller, psychological suspense, philosophicalpondering, and all-out weirdness. At first you’re reading it for thewho-why-and-how-dunit aspects of the story, but by the end you’reseeing it as a portrait of the oddball mentality of the genius.

“Genius”is a word I now hate, no thanks to being bled dry of meaning afterdecades of unthinking abuse. When Apple has a “Genius Bar” in theirstores (staffed, for the most part, by people who are not whole ordersof magnitude smarter than the rest of us, just better trainedin things Apple) and the word itself is used as a sit-com insult,there’s not much room left to sink, is there? Zaregoto, though,understands all this and uses it as a starting point. Those with geniusexpress it narrowly—through one skill, one insight, one idea—and eventhe smartest of people can be undone by the simplest and mostunderhanded behaviors and motives.

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Tags: Japan review


Books: Parasyte Graphic Novel 3

When I was younger I used to play creepy games with myself where I’d pretend that everyone else except me was an alien. Eventually the fun wore off and I turned to reading SF and comics to get my share...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/17 23:02
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When I was younger I used to play creepy games with myself where I’dpretend that everyone else except me was an alien. Eventually the funwore off and I turned to reading SF and comics to get my share of thosekinds of thrills, but the idea stayed with me: What if I am not likeeveryone else? Worse, what if that guy over there isn’t like anyoneelse except me?

This is a big part of the appeal Parasyte has held for me through its first twovolumes—the idea that something can look like a human, behave like ahuman, and yet somehow be completely alien underneath. Rather than stopthere, though, each successive installment of Parasyte hasexpanded on the idea. Assume that there are humans among us who havebeen invaded with alien beings—what then? How do they mingle among usundetected? What happens when some of them merge incompletely withtheir hosts?

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Tags: review


Books: Blade of the Immortal Vol. #3: Dreamsong

“Beautiful” and “deadly” are two words that seem fated to go hand-in-hand in most manga. They certainly apply to Makie the geisha, a woman of both uncommon loveliness and unearthly skill with her choice of weapons. A woman that gorgeous...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/13 21:12
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“Beautiful” and “deadly” are two words that seem fated to gohand-in-hand in most manga. They certainly apply to Makie the geisha, awoman of both uncommon loveliness and unearthly skill with her choiceof weapons. A woman that gorgeous and with so many talents, though,shouldn’t have such a desolate expression all the time—but that’s onlybecause she knows firsthand how all things, herself included, areterribly impermanent. And now she has been commanded by her loverAnotsu to seek out and kill Manji, the ronin condemned to take athousand evil lives before he himself will be permitted to die.

Welcome to Dreamsong, the third volume of Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, for my money the best comic running apart from one of Dark Horse’s other titles, Berserk (whichI need to get caught back up with one of these days). It’s not just theunmistakable art style or the show-stopping characters or the gut-levelstorytelling—it’s the fact that you’ve got all this side by side in thesame book, and none of them comes at the expense of the other. It’s allof a piece.

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Tags: manga review samurai


Books: The Guin Saga: Book 5: The Marches King

The best thing about the fifth book in the Guin Saga is, in a way, also the worst thing. At last, the five-volume “Marches Episode”—the first five of the hundred-plus Guin novels—has come to the smashing conclusion it deserves. But...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/11 00:44
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The best thing about the fifth book in the Guin Saga is, in a way, also the worst thing. At last, the five-volume “Marches Episode”—the first five of the hundred-plus Guin novels—has come to the smashing conclusion it deserves. But while it ends with a bang (and a roar, anda whoosh), it also leaves behind so many tantalizing hints and so manyas-yet-unanswered questions that it’s not so much an ending as a pausefor breath. We know there’s more … just not here, and not inEnglish. I could lament that fact until they carted me off, but I’drather celebrate the fact that we got this far at all.

Over thecourse of the previous volumes we’ve followed Guin, he of the body of agladiator and the head of a leopard, out of the forbidding Roodwood andinto the wastes of the Nospherus. He’s become self-appointed guardiansof the royal twins Rinda and Remus, been chased by the armies of theMongaul empire, made tentative allies out of the simian Sem to protecttheir lands against invasion, and headed ever deeper into the wastelandto find and enlist the fabled (many would say fictional) Lagon in theirongoing fight.

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Tags: Alexander O. Smith Guin Saga Japan Kaoru Kurimoto Vertical Inc. review


Books: Cowa!

“From the creator of Dragon Ball Z!” proudly proclaims the blurb on the cover of Cowa!. Not being a DBZ fan, I wasn’t sure how much of a selling point this was going to be for me. But what a...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/09 01:03
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“From the creator of Dragon Ball Z!” proudly proclaims the blurb on the cover of Cowa!. Not being a DBZ fan, I wasn’t sure how much of a selling point this was going to be for me. But what a pleasure and a surprise—Cowa! (asin, maybe, “Cowabunga!”?) is a downright charming story, asingle-volume standalone adventure that’s nothing like the work AkiraToriyama’s more famous for. It’s billed on the back cover as a“spooktacular manga for kids”, the sort of thing you can snap up as aHalloween-themed goodie, but this is one of those cases where all agesreally does mean all ages. Adults who’re in the know can savor this one right along with the young ‘uns, and not feel guilty about it.

Cowa! reminded me a bit of the kind of cheerfully jumbled, mix-and-match mythology of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas—or, closer to home, Toriyama’s own good-natured and often royally funny series Dr. Slump, also for a relatively young audience. The story’s hero is Paifu, a kid who’s half-vampire and half-were-koala (yes, half-were-koala),whose hobbies include every conceivable variety of mischief. Thatincludes everything from blowing off school to boosting neighbor’swatermelons to sneaking into un-haunted houses with his buddyJosé the ghost. They also end up making an enemy out of a grumpy humanin the area, Mr. Maruyama—an ex-sumo wrestler with a troubled past, acigarette always in his mouth and a perennially foul attitude,especially where children are involved. (I suspect a prerequisite forgrowing up in any culture is the presence of a Grouchy Neighbor Who Hates Kids.)

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Tags: manga review


Books: Dance in the Vampire Bund Volume #1

Nozomu Tamaki’s Dance in the Vampire Bund (I know, whatta title) is one of those books where a manga-ka normally known for adult material turns around and creates something for—gasp—relatively mainstream audiences. In fact, given the nature of this story...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/07 22:17
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Nozomu Tamaki’s Dance in the Vampire Bund (I know, whattatitle) is one of those books where a manga-ka normally known for adultmaterial turns around and creates something for—gasp—relativelymainstream audiences. In fact, given the nature of this story and theprevious work Tamaki’s signed his name to in both English and Japanese,such as Femme Kabuki,I’m stupefied this has only been labeled with the “OT16+” rating andisn’t sold in shinkwrap. A story about vampire princess who only lookslike a pre-teen girl but still shows off a dismaying amount of skinisn’t exactly something you want to be seen reading on the bus. Thatsaid, what’s between the rather racy covers is actually pretty good.

Saidprincess is Mina Ţepeş, queen of all vampirekind and entirely an adultnow despite her underage appearance. The age/appearance issue is aconvenient loophole through which the story manages to avoid veeringinto complete tastelessness, especially since there are a couple ofmoments—one, predictably enough, involving the application ofsunblock—where Tamaki’s wink-wink-nudge-nudge approach to that materialreally pushes the boundaries of taste. Put those questionable elementsaside, though, and what’s left is actually quite readable: a nifty premisethat has the potential to go places, provided Tamaki’s predilection forfemale curves doesn’t turn the whole thing into a mere flesh parade.

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Tags: manga review


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