Evangelion Manga Reading Vlog!

TODAY WE GET IN THE ROBOT

Hey guys! With the theatrical release of Evangelion 3.0+1.0, I couldn’t think of a better time to bust out Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s Evangelion manga than now! Plus, I found myself with a free weekend to just chill and read for a bit :3

Did you enjoy this manga read-with-me vlog style video? Share your thoughts about the vid or your love for Eva down in the comments!

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around!

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

March 2021 Manga Reading Log

It’s been a while since we last talked about manga! ☘️

Hey guys, today we are go over all the great reads I was able to enjoy during spring break! I was fortunate to be able to start a few new series, each of which I’ll now be picking up until they finish!

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around!

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Battle Angel Alita: The Original Cyberpunk Classic || Manga First Impressions

First impressions for volumes 1-2 (Deluxe Edition Volume 1) of Yukito Kishiro’s manga series “Gunnm” or “Battle Angel Alita,” published in 2017 by Kodansha Comics.


Saved from the Scraps

Only the few and the fortunate are permitted to live in the shining space city of Zalem, a utopian metropolis which floats high above a desert wasteland. What trash and unnecessary dealings the people of Zalem find expendable are tossed into The Scrapyard, an enormous stockpile of waste below the city which is surrounded by a clustering of ghettos and shacks. This is where the rest of humanity–flesh and cyborg alike–eke out a living, surviving by grit and brute strength alone.

While scavenging a pile of discarded android parts, Daisuke Ido, a cyborg repairs doctor, finds the head of a young female cyborg amid the scraps. Dr. Ido builds a new body for the head and names her Alita. Although Alita’s memory upon activation is foggy and lost to her, she still wishes to stay by the good doctor’s side.

The caring relationship between the two is challenged when Alita discovers Ido’s night job as a hunter-warrior, a bounty hunter working for The Scrapyard’s government, and she decides to become one herself against Ido’s warning. While pinning down wanted criminals in the shadows of the slums, Alita awakens to her forgotten knowledge of fighting techniques. As it turns out, Alita is a warrior, though her origins are still unknown. With her newfound strength, Alita determinately fights for justice, recovering bits of her fragmented past to rediscover her original identity.

Lawlessness and Chaos

I love cyberpunk. Whether the clean-cut, glowing neon feel or the technologically clustered vision (as with Alita here), I enjoying seeing how different artists approach their worldbuilding. Whereas Ghost in the Shell is more cerebral-focused–showing how cyber enhancements in the brain transform humanity’s relationship with the Internet–Alita sticks to altering the physical body. The toughest of cyborgs that enjoy fighting in the arena are equipped with metal arms capable of lifting megatons. Might makes right in The Scrapyard.

When not admiring the glorious physiques of the various strongarm hunter warriors, we can look to the background art for cyberpunk influence. Often, pages of the comic will pass with little to no dialogue, leaving the reader to simply awe at the setting artwork and detailed landscape imagery. Yukito Kishiro structures the worldbuilding aspects of the series with elements of action or moments of self-discovery, imbedding the story of The Scrapyard within key character backstories or set pieces.

I’m especially referencing the ghastly yet vast and mazelike conditions of The Scrapyard’s sewer system–a seemingly bottomless world of gross infestation and hellish living for any creature. The bubbling bog’s curious plumes of stench contrast fantastically against the arid and metallic cityscape of the surface world. What binds them, however, is a prevailing sense of lawlessness and chaos.

If You Liked the 2019 Film, You’ll Love This

Despite having come to the manga from watching the 2019 live action film, I found Alita to read incredibly easy on its own. Each story element flows to the next well enough to warrant having the series on your shelf along with the film’s Blu-ray. Both the film and the manga have their own subtle differences (mainly concerning changes to the appearances of certain characters, or their omission entirely), but again, they both hold well on their own.

Perhaps the only major crime (as a film watcher) is the sad discovery that motorball isn’t in the manga at all! Or, at least not in the first couple volumes (*cries anyway*). Kodansha’s first Deluxe Edition volume ends on the film’s climax, so I’ll have to see how that cliffhanger is resolved in the manga. I wonder if it’s anything like the cool ending of the film . . .

Alita is, by and large, one of the most important titles in the cyberpunk genre. Its influence extends far beyond the main genre it belongs to, including the realms of action, adventure, science fiction, and even dystopia. What I discovered from my read of the first 10 or so chapters of the manga, however, was that all of the praise for Alita is well-deserved. Whether you liked the film as much as I did or not, you’re bound to love the empowering female narrative of the Battle Angel Alita manga even more.


“I believe that every human can choose her own way of life! We can choose to be ugly or beautiful!”

Alita


Afterword

I’m sure you’ll hear more about my Alita journey as I pick up more volumes, but we’re off to a fantastic start so far! Now the question is whether I should continue the series in the Kodansha Deluxe hardcovers or move to digital since, you know, it’s cost-effective (and saves a ton of shelf space)! I’ve got lots to think about.

One last thing! With all the cyborg skull-crushing and limb-smashing violence, Alita does lean more on the graphic side. Just wanted to let you know in case you are entirely new to the franchise. 🙂

Have you ever tried out this classic cyberpunk manga? Let me know in the comments! So far, I love the world and the characters in it, and that’s enough to keep me throwing money at this franchise. Thanks for reading these first impressions, and ’til next time!

– Takuto

The Start of a Long Journey: Yona of the Dawn Manga Volumes 1-3 || First Impressions

First impressions and loose thoughts on volumes 1-3 of Mizuho Kusanagi’s manga series “Yona of the Dawn,” initially published in 2016 by VIZ Media. Spoilers will be present.


A Terrible, Terrible Birthday

I’m no stranger to the beautiful and cruel world of Yona of the Dawn. I followed the anime when it first aired many years ago. Loved it. Since then, I decided to pick up the first NINE volumes of the manga to hopefully quench my thirst for a sequel we’ll probably never get. Wellll, you know how I do these things—the manga sat on my shelf for a good couple years, untouched, and the dust started to collect.

Until now! My rekindled love for manga has motivated me to tackle my shelves before buying new titles, which naturally placed volume one of this long-awaited read in my hands. And guys, what can I say that hasn’t been said already? Yona is a wonderful shoujo fantasy series with a compelling cast of characters living in an interesting Asian-inspired world. BANG. What more could you want?

But in case you know nothing about Yona, the shoujo manga follows the titular Princess Yona, whose bright red hair makes her the crown jewel of the Kohka Kingdom. After her doting father, the king, is murdered in cold blood by her childhood friend and lover, Su-won, Yona flees for her life with her faithful guard Hak. Now, Yona sets out on a journey to reclaim her country with hak, which includes tracking down the four dragon warriors of ancient lore.

Out on the Run

Right off the bat, I think the most striking thing about Yona’s world is the choice to use Korean-inspired names instead of the typical Japanese names. In fact, the series draws more inspiration from Korean culture than it does Japanese, making it an intriguing blend of both cultures. The series carries with it a heavy traditional feel, but also contains a surprising amount of fun and comedic moments despite the tragic start.

Following their flee, Hak seeks out his home village of Fuuga to avoid further pursuit from Su-won’s soldiers. The village’s chief (and Hak’s foster grandfather), Mundeok, is an admirable figure who I’m sure could’ve taken in Yona and raised her very well—but that wouldn’t be much of a story then, would it?

No, instead, Yona puts her foot down and decides to leave the village herself, demanding Hak continue to stay at her side. (The audacity, I know!!) Shortly after, Yona and Hak confront their pursers, and we get the powerful scene where Yona slashes her own hair—which she is adored for—to free herself from Kang Tae-Jun’s captivity. If that’s not symbolic of a woman choosing strength and independence over frailty and vanity, I’m not sure what is. The passing of Yona’s cut lock to Su-won leads him to believing that Yona has truly perished, which deeply hits him, interestingly enough. Like, Su-won isn’t a good guy, but, is he truly bad . . . ?

She with the Crimson Hair

Volume 3 is where we finally start to get a glimpse of the overall plot Yona is about to take up. Now that we’ve become acquainted with Yona’s rare fiery side as well as Hak’s reliability and loyalty on and off the battlefield, we are introduced to Ik-su, a lackadaisical priest who fled the capital when the regime changed years ago, and Yun, a haughty young pretty boy whose talents in cooking, fashion, and herbal remedies will prove incredibly useful on their journey going forward.

Ik-su tells Yona (and the reader) a great deal about the world, the legend of the dragon warriors, and Yona’s role in all of it. He prophesizes the assembly of the four dragon warriors, and how their coming together will awaken the monarch and resurrect the red dragon of dawn. The spirit of the dragons is passed down through four individual bloodlines, each of which still bear fealty to their beloved crimson dragon even to this day.

After a sad parting, we leave behind Ik-su, and Yun joins us in traveling to the White Dragon Village. There, in the land of the wind, we meet the first dragon warrior, a beautiful young man named Gija who possesses the “arm of a dragon,” scales and all. Although Gija bumps heads with Hak, the pain in Gija’s arm makes him realize that joining Yona is his life’s calling—and the destiny that has been passed down his family for generations. Another bittersweet parting between Gija and his grandmother sets us on the long quest to finding the other dragon warriors.

A Fantastic Historical Fiction Drama

Mizuho Kusanagi’s art style is the stuff of legends. Almost flawlessly, she recreates an era in time that dates back to the Three Kingdoms period of Korea. Mind you, it’s all historical fiction, so none of the setting is real, but Kusanagi reimagines this period from architecture and fashion style to customs traditional of this period. It’s such, SUCH, a gorgeous manga.

All of Kusanagi’s characters are beautiful (as one might expect in a shoujo manga), but also brazen and fierce. There’s a fire in Yona’s eyes that is unmatched; in Hak’s, a gaze of strength and familiarity; and in Su-won, a dark, melancholic sadness. Each cover piece alone is a work of art, as the coloring is so pretty and vibrant, much like Yona’s captivating red hair.

So, will I be reading more Yona of the Dawn in the future? Well, duh—I already bought the first nine volumes, or did you already forget? Haha! Seriously though, if I didn’t already have them, I would’ve placed an order immediately following the second volume. Yona has a lot of promise, which comes as little surprise given how highly talked about this series is. I’m excited to embark on this long journey with Yona, and I do hope you’ll be tagging along for the ride.


If it were a person . . . if this were a battlefield . . . I’d need my arrow to fly true. Drawing your bow means taking a life—or letting someone take yours.Yona


Afterword

I could talk on end for how much I love Hak, how much I love Yun, and how endearing of a protagonist I find Yona to be growing into. But, I’ll save that for future manga write-ups. After all, this is only the first three volumes, and there are well over 20 volumes available in English! I do hope you’ll continue with my reading of Yona of the Dawn. What are your thoughts on this highly beloved series? Let me know down in the comments! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 4-6

The Fires of Revelation: Fire Force Manga Volumes 10-12

Loose thoughts on volumes 10-12 of Atsushi Ohkubo’s manga series “Fire Force,” initially published in 2016 by Kodansha Comics. Spoilers will be present.

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 7-9


Shinra vs. Sho

Ok, ok, so I take back everything I previously said about Sho’s powers just being boosted speed. The kid can stop time. STOP TIME. WITH FIRE. THE PHYSICS. MAKE LITTLE SENSE. BUT I LOVE YOU ANYWAY OHKUBO. For real though, this is going down as one of my favorite fights in manga EVER. (Which doesn’t say much saying that I don’t read much shounen manga, but whatever, it’s freaking cool as hell.) And, having seen it all animated, I can confirm that the fight is even more glorious in the anime, WOWZA.

More than the combat, we also get a glimpse of the other side—the world that the White Hoods are given permission to see. This is the stark landscape that the Evangelist resides in, which is hell itself. Words cannot describe how ethereal the Evangelist looks. Like, she/it feels divine through the panels. Certainly, the Evangelist is an otherworldy being capable of great and terrifying powers. I mean, if the Evangelist is where Sho gets his spark from, there’s NO WAY in hell that Company 8 will be able to stand up to this deity of the flame.

Shinra accelerating to the point of self-destruction and then reconstructing himself thanks to his link to Sho (who is blessed by the Evangelist) is also SUCH an intriguing concept. Having Viktor off to the side rambling on the physics of Shinra’s and Sho’s abilities is helpful, but only so far in the way of a scientist trying to rationalize ridiculous phenomenon in a super-powered shounen action series. Children with Adolla links really are on a whole ‘nother level, you know?

I love how this climactic, highly anticipated fight ends with the introduction of a new trickster-type character, Haumea, who supposedly possesses powers on par with Shinra and Sho. It really gives us a peak into what the second “season” of Fire Force will bring. As Captain Burns approaches Shinra with the truth, suddenly, everything comes to light.

The Truth Revealed

If volume 10 wasn’t full of enough revelation, volume 11 shatters the illusion Shinra has held since the terrible accident that scarred his youth: not only his brother, but his mom is also alive and somewhere in the world. I kinda figured she was the horned infernal from his memories, but to think that she’s lived this whole time, it’s crazy. We also get another peak into the Evangelist’s world and more haunting imagery of Adolla. Oh, and Captain Burns’ abilities are also revealed in a weirdly timed fight with Shinra (who was just HOSPITALIZED)! If he is constantly controlling a flame from deep within his being, it would make sense why he’s so strong and revered—really, the dude’s flexing 24/7!

This is also a transitional volume for the series. At this point, the world and story are entirely different from the first volume’s humble origins. We are onto a new story now with different goals and new faces to encounter. And it starts with a  . . . nude calendar shoot!? BAHAHAHA!!! This shit had me CRACKIN’, yo, I kid you not. I love how Ohkubo still includes customs like this that are part of the normal firefighter tradition. Obi’s cobra/gun show arm flex left me gasping for air, and seeing all the other companies engage in this stupid calendar was hilarious. As for Company 8’s picture for this year, LOL, I’m deceased.

We also get more Hinawa getting made fun of for his nonexistent fashion sense, which even Obi acknowledges. The girls dress him up in a ridiculous bunny suit, and Shinra pays the price for mocking the lieutenant. It’s fun stuff like this that make transitioning to the next big story easier. Speaking of . . .

Ohkubo continues to expand the world by revisiting Shinra’s academy days at Company 4, the branch which focuses on training new recruits to be deployed out in the force. Some old faces to Shinra (but new to us) make their debut, but most odd of all is the Company 4 Captain Hague, who is so obsessed with Adolla to the point of begging Shinra to burn him alive just to feel the flames of the Evangelist. He’s an oddball, but an ally for sure, and a valuable resource for intelligence on this world of fire and ash. Just when things get interesting, however, Haumea brainwashes Shinra and sends him into a demonic frenzy!

The First Pillar

A lot happens in volumes 10-12 of Fire Force, which includes wrapping up the first big story arc and developing the beginning of the second. Volume 12 opens with Arthur’s attempt to quell Shinra’s scary brainwashing. We finally get Arthur’s backstory, how his parents raised him loving knights and castles, and how they eventually abandoned him, leaving the house behind with him in it as its sole king. WHAT THE FUCK OHKUBO, I’m crying FR. This was so, so sad—and not to Arthur, my poor onion baby. ;__;

Once Shinra finally snaps himself out of Haumea’s spell, Shinra remembers a mysterious girl trying to take over his urges and desires—the “First Pillar,” whatever that means. She whispers that a fifth Adolla burster is about to awaken, which sets Company 8’s sights on recovering the “Fifth Pillar” and protecting them from the Evangelist. As Obi tries to reason with the chief of the fire defense agency—the very man who created Company 8 under Obi’s command—Obi spills some incredible truth about what it means to be an adult. I’ll leave it below.

As always, though, things move fast in Fire Force, and Inca—a young girl who can sense flames before they erupt—bursts onto the scene. She pilfers from fire sites out of a thrill for danger, and that puts her in inevitable contact with the Haumea, her dangerous partner Charon, and the enigmatic First Pillar. As Shinra fends off Charon’s unbelievable strength, the Fire Force companies begin to assemble. But for how long will Tokyo burn? Perhaps Inca’s powers hold the key to mankind’s salvation . . .


[What does being a grown-up mean to you?] It means caring more broadly and deeply. I will never give up on protecting this world. — Akitaru Obi


Afterword

This shit only gets better. MAN, who would’ve thought that this is the kind of ride Ohkubo would be stringing us along for? If it keeps up this consistent quality and world-building intrigue, I have absolute confidence that we’re looking at the next Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood right here with Fire Force. What do you guys think of these new developments? Oh, and since this overlaps with the latest couple episodes, what do you think of the Fire Force sequel anime that is currently airing? Let me know down in the comments! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

Projects, Projects, Projects || Quarterly Update (Summer 2020)

Hey guys,

I’d been blogging non-stop all of June that I nearly forgot to do another quarterly reflection on my 2020 blogging goals, as well as update you on what I’ve been up to in my personal life. I teach a few weekly cello lessons as a side hustle, but I’m still technically unemployed for the the next month. It’s not all bad, however, as this time has allowed me to read more, watch more, and of course, write more. (I’m just trying to look on the bright side.) I also did a huge unhauling of parts of my collection that I knew I wasn’t going to re-read or re-watch, so that gave me a little extra cash. But let’s check in on those goals again, shall we?

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

This one comes and goes for me. Naja recently gave me a shoutout in the OWLS livestream for loving the way I come in and read all her posts at once (LOL). It’s not exactly my preferred method of keeping up with everyone’s posts, but it’s easy for the days to get ahead of me. I’ll try harder still!

#2 – Write More Succinct Posts

I CAN say that most of my recent posts have been shorter. However, that could come as a matter of subject, as it’s generally easier to write manga reviews (or first impressions) than it is to write anime reviews. From creation to production, a lot more goes into anime. Naturally, it takes longer to capture the entire essence of a show than it does a single book. So yeah, I win this time, but we’ll see how things turn out in the coming months.

#3 – Read & Review More Books

Ummm, have you been around my blog the past month? Hahaha! Well, in case you genuinely haven’t, I spent ALL of June writing about manga—and even then I’ve started doing manga recap posts for some of my fave ongoing series (like Fire Force) that I hope becomes a regular thing. I’ll have links for everything in the section below!

#4 – Write More About Me

I WAS responding to blog reward and nomination posts to fulfill this goal, but have since fallen off the track (except for that fun light novel challenge post). I’ll get back to those. In the meantime, I did address some of the new anime I picked up for my collection, as well as share the joys of having new shelves. Then I talked about my first experiences with EVA foam in the making of a cosplay sword. Lastly, I celebrated 600 blog followers with a month of giveaway codes (thank you to all who joined me). Still, I’ll try to post more about my personal life with some short loose-thoughts posts. Thoughts?

#5 – Build Up My “Personal Brand”

I’ve tried to shift this goal to my YouTube channel, Takuto. I’ve posted eight videos and already have 40 subs (largely thanks to my blog community following me there), but you should totally subscribe if you want to see me face-to-face! I do much of the same stuff there that I do here, but there’s more focus on hauls, collecting, and K-pop, whereas the blog is more for reviews and random musings. I hope you’ll continue to support me on both platforms. ^ . ^

What I’ve Read


Let’s talk manga! As previously stated, I’m trying to chronicle my rekindled manga-reading experience here on the blog, starting with a second “first impressions” of Haruko Ichikawa’s Land of the Lustrous. I was actually planning on selling off the first five volumes, but thanks to an analysis vid I saw on YT, I decided to not only keep the series, but also buy the next FIVE volumes, haha! I’ll get back to the series here soon.

Then we’ve got Atsushi Ohkubo’s Fire Force, which hardly needs an introduction thanks to the anime’s explosive popularity. I did post recapping my thoughts on volumes 1-3, volumes 4-6, volumes 7-9, and I’ve got volumes 10-12 coming very soon. Fire Force started off as a generic shounen action series with a little bit of flare, but quickly grew into a wild story full of conspiracies and hidden intentions not unlike that of Fulllmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Fire Force is seriously kickass, so be sure to check those out if you’re also reading the series!

All the other manga I’ve covered thus far fell under my Pride Month celebration. Also included in the month were a couple LGBTQ anime. June was incredible for me, as I’m sure you all read about from this post. Here again are those links just in case you missed something:

Ten Count: My First Yaoi Manga Series || Review

Seven Days: Will You Still Love Me When Monday Comes? || Review

Candy Color Paradox: Sweet Yet Sour || First Impressions

Claudine: Sexuality, Tragedy, & Growing Up Transgender || Review

Melting Lover: The Shadowy Side of Affection || Review

That Blue Sky Feeling: Preciously Queer & Wholeheartedly Delightful || Review

Love Stage!! – A Coming-Out Worth Celebrating || Review

Escape Journey: Chasing After Love in a Heteronormative World || Review

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up: Gentle Romance & Silly Humor || Review

Hitorijime My Hero: Unrequited Feelings & Forbidden Love || Review

Goodbye, My Rose Garden – A Poignant Victorian Romance Between Women || First Impressions

Our Dining Table: Growing Closer One Meal at a Time || Review

Our Dreams at Dusk: Ending Pride Month on a High Note || First Impressions

What I’ve Watched


Aside from the couple Pride Month anime, Love Stage!! and Hitorijime My Hero, we do have a couple throwback watches to this past spring. I was feeling in the mood to tackle my backlog (and watch something mediocre, apparently), which led me to watching Karneval. I thought it was meh, but I can easily see why some may like it. I probably won’t review this one, though. One that I am sitting on a review for still is Princess Principal, however, the epic steampunk spy series starring a cast of young English girl. This series was GOOD.

I also turned my energy to review Shirobako into April’s OWLS post, and while I may not end up reviewing it now, just know that it gets the full recommendation from me! Speaking of OWLS, I decided to rewatch ID:INVADED immediately after finishing it because it’s a super neat sci-fi series. It ended up becoming the subject of May’s OWLS post, so check that out if you haven’t. In a similar vain, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was my OWLS spotlight for the June tour, which I still need to finish!!

The only other anime I have watched AND reviewed this summer was Netflix’s Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, which was alright at best. I passed it with the “Coffee” rating, but only if the second half (whenever we get it) will be better than the first half.

As for anime I watched but have yet to talk about, I did tackle a huge backlog title with Mawaru Penguindrum! I feel weird for saying this, but did anyone else think it was . . . just ok? (PLEASE don’t hit me!) Maybe I’ll need to watch it again sometime, but I thought the second half was waaay too melodramatic. IDK, y’all let me know.

On the subject of beloved anime, I DID watch the first half of My Hero Academia Season 4 and EVERYONE LIED TO ME. THIS SHIT WAS SO GOOD, WHY WERE YOU ALL COMPLAINING??? Aside for the first halves of seasons 2 and 3, I thought this was EASILY the strongest arc yet. Sir Nighteye is a legend, and Mirio continues to be KING. Looking forward to the second half. Oh, and I watched the first half of Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld as a refresher before reading the last volume of the light novel, which I also completed! It didn’t end exactly how I thought it would . . . but I am totally hyped to see how the anime decides to handle this epic finale!

That just leaves me with what I’m currently watching. When I have free time, I’ve been slowly going through the final season of Sailor Moon, Sailor Stars, now that I have all of the DVDs. Such a beautiful, timeless story, even if the production can be so-so sometimes. I’ll always love Sailor Moon, and FYI I’ll probably be an emotional wreck once I’ve finished Stars because that’ll mean I’ve finally seen ALL of it!!

If you’re interested in my summer simulcast line-up, I’ll be posting that here shortly!

Summer Projects Never End


I dedicated all of June to Pride Month content and posted just about every day for the cause. After taking a week off to refresh myself, I’m back for some odds and ins (like this update) before I back off again to work on my OWLS Mini Con project. (Did you peep the teaser?) I’m absolutely looking forward to it, but it’ll take time, so expect another potential silence before I return on the 22nd.

Following my OWLS project’s completion, I’ll be moving into the final phase of this summer. I can’t say much now, but let’s just say it’ll be BIG. Like, two weeks long, bridging July and August. I’m SO excited for this as well! But again, it’s gonna take a lot of work and time to put together. If I go quiet, just know that it’s because I’m giving my all to this amazing summer project! 🙂

When I’m not working on projects or filming new videos for my channel, I’m either reading manga, tackling backlog anime, or playing Persona 5 again. Yeah, I took a year or two off the game (whoops), but I’m back, and I’ve already burned through a couple chapters since starting a week ago. Loving it now that I’m back into the swing of things.

It sounds like things are well and good on my end—and they are for the most part. But, being stuck at home with family due to the pandemic and suffering from unemployment haven’t gone without their mental toll. Some days I’m exhausted even after waking up, and I just want to take this moment to remind you that your mental health matters just as much as your physical health does during this global pandemic. Don’t neglect yourself. Take time for yourself. Play games, read books, watch movies—whatever makes you happy. Please make sure you’re getting adequate sleep, too, and don’t forget to stay hydrated—your body needs it!!

Peak summer weather is here. It’s hot, some days scorching my skin in the triple digits. As I continue to work hard on my blog and YouTube, I also hope you are enjoying the summer season and some of the good things a warm breeze can bring. Let’s keep in touch, ok? Until the next post, friends, stay well. Much love for all your support. ❤

– Takuto

Pride Month 2020 Recap + Aftermath (WE DID IT!)

Hey guys!

I decided to take a week off following my last Pride Month post to refresh myself after reading and writing for 30 days straight! While on my little holiday, I also filmed, edited, re-filmed, and re-edited a YouTube video recapping my month’s reads and watches for you all. YES, after much exporting headache, WE DID IT, and I can finally rest having delivered on my promises! If you haven’t seen it yet, you totally should! 😉

I’ve had a lot of fun recording videos this past month. To think that 39 people have already subscribed makes me so happy! I put a good deal of work into this one, so if you have watched it, I’m extremely grateful. (Thank you!!!)

What started off as a small feat of tackling my shelves (mainly to validate having bought all this LGBTQ manga) ended up becoming a journey of self-searching and enlightenment. This past month brought with it lots to read, of course, but also lots to learn. These characters and mangaka come from all different walks of life, and as such tackle LGBTQ themes in slightly different lights. No two stories were the same; similarly, I found that all of these reads were worth having on your shelf. Truly, I had an amazing time!

Here is a list of everything I reviewed for Pride Month 2020:


Ten Count: My First Yaoi Manga Series || Review

Seven Days: Will You Still Love Me When Monday Comes? || Review

Candy Color Paradox: Sweet Yet Sour || First Impressions

Claudine: Sexuality, Tragedy, & Growing Up Transgender || Review

Melting Lover: The Shadowy Side of Affection || Review

That Blue Sky Feeling: Preciously Queer & Wholeheartedly Delightful || Review

Love Stage!! – A Coming-Out Worth Celebrating || Review

Escape Journey: Chasing After Love in a Heteronormative World || Review

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up: Gentle Romance & Silly Humor || Review

Hitorijime My Hero: Unrequited Feelings & Forbidden Love || Review

Goodbye, My Rose Garden – A Poignant Victorian Romance Between Women || First Impressions

Our Dining Table: Growing Closer One Meal at a Time || Review

Our Dreams at Dusk: Ending Pride Month on a High Note || First Impressions


Every like, comment, share, and follow gained over the last month became fuel for me to try my best and to not give up. Some days I just woke up not wanting to write, but it was reading your kind and supportive words that encouraged me to get the next post out. Really, we did this together. THANK YOU for following me on this journey!

Lastly, I want to let you know that I’ll be archiving these works (in addition to their respective review category in the menu) under the “Projects” tab for future reference. (I mean, it is a series of 13 posts PLUS a 28-minute recap video!)

While I’m here, what can you expect next? Well, I’ll be posting my big quarterly update in the next day or two, which will tell you everything that I’ve been doing behind the scenes, as well as what big things I have coming right around the corner. It would seem that now, at the end of a wonderfully long month, new things can finally start to take root. Please look forward to it, as you have my June Pride Month posts! Thank you again for reading this, and ’till next time!

– Takuto

Our Dreams at Dusk: Ending Pride Month on a High Note || First Impressions

First impressions for volume 1 of the manga series “Shimanami Tasogare” or “Our Dreams at Dusk,” story and art by Yuhki Kamatani, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment. Minor spoilers will be present.


“My Life Probably Ended That Day”

As the new kid, high schooler Tasuku Kanama was able to slip by his first semester thanks to having friends in the table tennis club. But, his world quickly starts spiraling out of control when the other kids find out that he may be gay. Teased and outed for being found with gay porn on his phone, Tasuku prepares to commit suicide when he sees another woman off in the distance jump off a cliff. Panicked and startled beyond belief, what he find upon rushing to the sight of her fall was not what he expected . . .

At the peek of this steep countryside hill, Tasuku finds a “drop-in center” with a lounge open to all who enter. The people there are unusually friendly, but what catches Tasuku’s eye first is seeing woman who jumped off the cliff there, completely unharmed from her fall. The others introduce her as “Someone-san,” and remark how although she’s mysterious and keeps to herself, she is in fact the owner of this fine communal establishment.

Drawn to her presence, Someone-san offers him an ear only if he is willing to talk about his problems. Through speaking to her and reflecting on his own actions, Tasuku realizes that what hurts the most is his own inability to accept his sexuality. An emotional introduction to a much larger story, Our Dreams at Dusk follows Tasuku and all the other gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people he encounters as he tries to come to terms with his sexuality.

our dreams at dusk chapter 1

“Why am I Like This . . . ?”

This first volume does a beautiful job at illustrating Tasuku’s pain and anguish as a closeted gay kid. Anyone who’s ever been in his shoes know the frustrations of having to hid their sexuality from others. Whether to parents, friends, or even simple acquaintances, it doesn’t matter—in a society that shuns the notion of being gay, coming out can be the most relieving OR excruciatingly painful thing, and Tasuku knows this. He’s constantly weighing the relationships he’ll have to give up in order to gain what he wants, and it’s that toxic mindset that haunts Tasuku day-in and day-out.

Tasuku is gay, no doubt about it. He’s in love with a classmate on the volleyball team, or so we are led to believe in this first volume. I’m sure we’ll get more on this in the next volume. Until then, we just have Tasuku and his new friends at the drop-in center. We don’t know much about them either, except for Daichi Haruko, a young outgoing woman who greets Tasuku everyday with a smile. She invites him on her non-profit work, which involves tearing down dilapidated buildings and renovating them for the city.

He likes working out in the summer sun, and he likes Haruko, too. But what throws him into a bit of shock is finding out that she’s a lesbian. Not only that, but Haruko also has plans to marry her girlfriend, a kind gal named Saki, whom he meets one day during their outdoor work. I loved hearing Haruko’s story, especially how she left her old job and moved out to the countryside where she met Someone-san (and eventually created the drop-in center we know today). The place really is special, even down to its foundation.

our dreams at dusk haruko

“There’s a Guy I Like”

Yuhki Kamatani’s Our Dreams at Dusk is a highly expressive and emotional read. This first volume demonstrate’s Kamatani’s strong art style, including her stark use of black in blocking out spaces, using a warped lens view and dramatic lighting for effect, and emphasizing the power of eye contact. Eyes can tell a lot about people, and Kamatani uses strong gazes like such to convey mood and inner turmoil.

Kamatani’s panel construction is also genius; sounds, textures, and feelings carry from panel to panel seamlessly, as if this were a movie printed onto the page. The story moves, even in pages where there is no dialogue. Sometimes the most fantastic or simplest of gestures can be enhanced by the absence of dialogue, like when Tasuku daydreams about touching another man’s face. Even in silence, Kamatani’s magical realism invites supernatural imagery to convey intriguing feelings and ideas (like the sparks that fly whenever Someone-san leaps into the air). These really are some of the most impactful and striking images I’ve ever seen in a queer drama manga!

This is going to be a thought-provoking, psychological read—I can already tell. Looking at Tasuku, I am reminded of the same kind of self-torment that plagues Shinji Ikari of Evangelion fame (the two also look similar). Volume one alone is full of serious meditation and self-reflection, highlighting the importance of inclusivity with Tasuku finding the drop-in center and Haruko extending her job invitation to him. Where the story goes from here, I have no idea. But, I already know for a fact that Tasuku’s coming out will bring with it a powerful coming-of-age tale.

our dreams at dusk imagery


I’m a kid. I’m not brave. I’m always confused. But I felt pretty glad that I didn’t kill myself. I felt that at Someone-san’s drop-in center . . . as the heat of August scorched me. — Tasuku Kaname


Afterword

It’s a shame I didn’t get my rear in gear during the first week of June. Otherwise, I would have been able to provide for you a full series review of Shimanami Tasogare today instead of just a first impressions post. If and when I get around to writing that full review, I hope you will come back to see how my thoughts on this fantastic series have changed. Should my hunch prove correct, I definitely think Yuhki Kamatani’s Our Dreams at Dusk is a masterpiece in the making. Again, I’ll be able to confirm that later, but I DO have the other three volumes and plan on reading them ASAP! I’d love to hear your thoughts on these gorgeous publications, too—just no spoilers, please!

Well there you have it, friends. My Pride Month celebration has officially concluded with the publishing of this post. It’s been an absolutely incredible month full of amazing reads, and I’ve learned so much through reading all these different stories. I WILL be writing a follow-up post (and filming a video!) wrapping up all of June’s Pride reads and watches, so stay tuned for my proper reflections with that. Thanks for reading—it was a sprint to the finish, but we did it! Haha! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

Our Dining Table: Growing Closer One Meal at a Time || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the standalone BL manga “Our Dining Table,” story and art by Mita Ori, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment.


Boys’ Love for the Soul

Despite his excellent skills in the kitchen, salaryman Yutaka has always struggled with eating around others since he was little. This changes when he encounters a hungry little boy named Tane and his much older brother Minoru. Eager to eat more of his tasty onigiri, the two brothers invite Yutaka over to teach them how to make his delicious food. Slowly, Yutaka starts developing an appetite for their warmth and acceptance around the table—as well as feelings for Minoru and his little family. This is the story of love that starts at the stomach, and gradually grows more heartwarming one meal at a time.

This slice-of-life shounen ai manga made waves in the manga community when it was announced for release by Seven Seas Entertainment. At the time, I wasn’t reading much BL, but even I heard about this highly anticipated title and was eager to pre-order my own copy the minute it went on sale. As a one-shot BL manga, Our Dining Table reads quick, closing out the story in just eight chapters. It even includes a short epilogue that, well, I won’t spoil for you. But it’s great, and it brings adorable closure to a story that I otherwise could’ve kept reading for decades.

To make the deal even sweeter, Mita Ori’s art is stuff to drool over. She draws food well. Very well. Too well. I grew envious of Minoru and Tane whenever Yutaka brought his cooking supplies over to their house. Right off the page, you can practically smell the delectable dishes they make together. The characters themselves are also drawn with a soft aesthetic to them, Tane in particular being the cutest little rugrat I’ve ever seen in manga! The way his eyes light up upon seeing whatever they’re having for dinner is an image I’ll never forget. I also love how Mita Ori used Tane’s childish stick-figure drawings as a transition to telling Yutaka’s backstory. Very clever and effective.

yutaka meets tane

Bonding Over Food

In both his personal and professional lives, Yutaka is a character who seems deeply misunderstood by those around him. People can be shallow and selfish, not to mention non-inclusive, and over time, being an outcast just becomes commonplace. We should always care for our friends and family, but things happen, and sometimes you find yourself eating alone at the dinner table each night. This is Yutaka’s life. Or perhaps, I should say was, as now he has Tane and Minoru in his life, and they really do change everything for him. Tane and Minoru aren’t just good company for Yutaka—they’re companions, the kinds you’d want with you your whole life, and I’m so glad they met.

Minoru and Tane aren’t without their sad family story either, though. Their mother passed away when Tane was just a baby, and Minoru has had to step it up as a parental figure to raise Tane in her stead. He loves his baby brother, but not everyone takes kindly to a 23-year-old who drags his 4-year-old brother with him wherever he goes.

It’s a good thing Minoru isn’t alone in his efforts, however; the brothers also have their loving father who makes a living as a potter, and their grandmother who looks after them by sending them off with nutritious meals whenever she can. Not everyone accepts or respects each others’ family lives, so the fact that Minoru and Tane can come from a place of understanding and accept someone like Yutaka into their home really is a delightful thing. It’s like seeing two lost souls find each other in the dark—their own glimmering light complements the other, and as they grow closer, they only radiate with a brighter glow and comforting presence.

yutaka and minoru

A Gentle Foodie Read

Mita Ori’s story about food, family, and friendship takes pride in the little things. Enjoyed are the quiet moments of tender living and merely existing with others, but celebrated are the joys of cooking and the sheer happiness that can come from cuisine when it’s made from the heart. Although Japan’s winter draws closer and colder, the bond between Tane, Minoru, and Yutaka only grows warmer and more wholesome.

Our Dining Table is just about the sweetest, most gentle foodie manga you will ever read. Yes, it is BL, but don’t let that label send your mind down the gutter. Through soft gestures, Mita Ori’s story is wholly dedicated to building meaningful bonds that capture the day-to-day life of two men from very different families, and how they intersect at the crossroads of food.

From cover to cover, this standalone slice-of-life BL manga promises to deliver pleasant vibes and positive energy, even when addressing the loss of a loved one. This is BL manga for the soul, and easily one of the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. It is an honestly written manga with solely pure intentions, and however wonderful and filling the ending is, I assure you this—you will only be left hungry for more.

our dining table


I’m so happy. So stupidly, totally happy. To think eating with someone could bring me this much joy. — Yutaka Hozumi


Afterword

Guys, I’m speechless. Really, this is the fastest review I’ve ever written, and while it’s also one of the shortest, I can’t think of anymore praise that I can give this manga. THIS is what a “Cafe Mocha” manga title looks like. It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. The story, characters, and art style just have to speak to me in a way that I not only connect with but love unconditionally, faults aside. Sure, Mita Ori could’ve elaborated more on Minoru’s father’s job, their mother, or Yutaka’s job. But she didn’t need to—the characters feel alive enough as-is, and the story speaks for itself. I really, really loved this manga, and if you did too, please let me know your favorite part about this endearing little title! I honestly can’t recommend this book enough!!

We’re almost at the very end. Tomorrow, I will at last be diving into Yuhki Kamatani’s critically acclaimed Our Dreams at Dusk. Although it will likely not be a full series review (due to time restraints), I hope nonetheless that you will enjoy my final Pride Month post. Besides, I’ll probably return and do a full review anyway, just not in June. ‘Till then, friends, I’ll be looking forward to it!

– Takuto

Goodbye, My Rose Garden – A Poignant Victorian Romance Between Women || First Impressions

First impressions for volume 1 of the yuri manga series “Goodbye, My Rose Garden,” story and art by Dr. Pepperco, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment. Minor spoilers will be present. 


A Victorian Romance

England, the early 1900s. Hanako traverses the great seas to England to follow her dream of becoming a novelist. Things don’t work out quite as planned, however, and she finds herself saved by Lady Alice Douglas. The noblewoman offers Hanako a position as a personal maid, and their relationship is fairly normal . . . until the day Alice asks Hanako to kill her. Confused and distraught by her fair lady’s most unusual request, Hanako tries to figure out why her mistress would make such a shocking plea. As she reads deeper into the situation, Hanako and Alice grow closer until something miraculous begins to blossom between them.

Goodbye, My Rose Garden is a historical shoujo-ai drama that is certainly more than your average Victorian romance. Contained within this first volume are the initial attempts made by Hanako to understand her mistress, the reasons for Alice’s wish, and the struggles the two face living in 20th century England. Even with her bountiful library of books, vast intelligence, and enviable presence, Lady Alice still feels a pain that few other upper-class woman could even begin to understand. It is a pain of the heart, feelings of forbidden love: Alice likes women, but she cannot let anyone know or else risk tarnishing her entire family’s distinguished name.

Dr. Pepperco (interesting pen name) handles Alice’s situation with wonderful delicacy and respect. We see not only how Alice’s hidden desires stretch her to the breaking point, but also how her stress starts to take a toll on those who care about her, namely Hanako. One can tell just by the first few pages alone that creation of this manga was also incredibly well-researched. Dr. Pepperco nails the social nuances and public affairs of the time, down to the very stitch styling of the maid outfit’s shoulder fabric. I love the Victorian era for its aesthetics, but I would agree that it wasn’t the best time in history to desire a same-sex relationship.

Alice hug

A Passion For Literature, And Also . . .

The maids of Rosebarrow House are each fun and quirky on their own, but Japanese-born Hanako is by far the most interesting asset to Alice’s fine staff—it’s no wonder Alice takes a liking to her. What drew Alice to Hanako in the first place were her golden eyes. If Hanako’s eyes shine like the sun, Alice’s eyes reflect the deep sapphire blue of the endless sky. I love their character designs so much. (I’m a particular sucker for long blonde hair, so . . . ) Alice and Hanako really do make a cute, complete couple.

Throughout this first volume, we come to see some of Hanako’s hobbies and character traits. For one, she’s an avid reader of English literature, and aspires to be a novelist despite the limitations of the language barrier. Hanako is also innocent, hardworking, and very grateful to Alice for giving her a home in this foreign land. She may be a little naive (as in when she proclaims that “love is free” to a local bookshop owner after Alice tells her that first), but she means well, and only wishes for Alice to be free from her own pain.

To me, though, Alice carries the true heart of this series. To the public eye, she is everything a gentleman would want out of a mistress—what they don’t see is how lonely and sad her expressions become whenever her heart pains her. She calls herself a sinner, but her soul is beautiful and kind. Alice is well-read, well-respected, and highly valued within her elite circle of noblemen and women. But, she’s nothing like those greedy, wealthy pricks who think of nothing but their own reputation. Alice extends her grace to those in need, as she did Hanako, and always holds the value of others before her own well-being. I mean, she would rather choose death than risk ruining her family name. Always holding her head high, Alice is the rarest breed of royal, exhibiting authority and integrity just as much as she does compassion and empathy.

Alice library

Love Among the Thorns

Surprising things can blossom in the garden. Dr. Pepperco paints a vivid, highly detailed painting of Victorian England where, naturally, not all flowers are allowed to bloom under the sun. Historically, things like same-sex love must be kept in the dark. It’s unfortunate, and it’s sad. But it’s true to life, and whatever ending Dr. Pepperco has in store for Lady Alice and her handmaid Hanako, I’ll be in this one until the very end.

This is perhaps one of the most compelling and sincere historical dramas I’ve ever been invested in, and I can’t wait to see what feelings may unfold as the story goes on. Will it end as tragically as its dire, foreboding title tells, or will we perhaps be blessed with a saccharine sweet conclusion? Only time will tell for this poignant tale about two women falling in love in historical Britain.

alice umbrella


You have nothing to thank me for. I merely wish to believe that love is free. — Alice Douglas


Afterword

The first volume of Goodbye, My Rose Garden was even more lovely than I thought it’d be. And yet, it would seem to me that no one is talking about this yuri manga! Why is that?? It’s a wonderful title, even from this volume alone, and I can’t wait for the second to be released in July. If you’re one of the few who have decided to pick up this book, please do let me know what you thought about it in the comments. Surely I’m not the only one reading this marvelous series!

My next Pride Month post will be over Mita Ori’s highly anticipated Our Dining Table, which has been recommended to me like no other these past couple months! I look forward to reading it, and I hope you will stick around to read my thoughts. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto