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

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

Into the Abyss: Fire Force Manga Volumes 7-9

Loose thoughts on volumes 7-9 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 4-6


Enter the Forge

Coming off the shocking ending of volume six with the introduction of *assumed villain* Viktor Licht to Company 8, volume seven opens with new knowledge of Shinra’s world. As it turns out, much of the habitable land known to mankind was burned to a crisp at the dawn of the Solar Era. Countries that we are familiar with now no longer exist in this period as a result of spacial distortions. The planet is quite literally falling apart. Although the actual history is still unknown to us, Viktor isn’t afraid to confirm with the reader now that Amaterasu and the Tokyo Empire are definitely fishy in origin.

Taking on the other companies will prove difficult with their current team. Thus, Obi sends the innocent trio of Shinra, Arthur, and Sister Iris to try and talk a legendary blacksmith and mechanic over to their side: Vulcan, aptly named after the god of the forge. I appreciate the way Ohkubo quickly yet thoroughly introduced Vulcan and his “family” to us; unlike most other additions Ohkubo would make this late in the game, Vulcan isn’t an annoying guy.

Vulcan’s goal of bringing back animal life to the world—another detail I had yet to realize until now—is a noble one, and his frustrations with Haijima Industries is well understood thanks to his backstory. It was honestly moving to see that underwater projection, reminding us of how hot and dry the landscape often seems. I can totally see the anime dragging Vulcan’s history to the point of tedium, but the manga remains quick on its feet and moves past his angst.

Volume seven doesn’t stop there. The drama escalates when Shinra realizes that the White Hoods set a trap for Company 8 and Vulcan. It was an ABSOLUTE double-whammy to find that not only was the WHOLE Company 3 working for the Evangelist, but also that Lisa, a member of Vulcan’s “new family,” was also an Evangelist spy. Really, this caught me off guard. I had my sneaking suspicions that Company 3’s captain, Dr. Giovanni, was actually Vulcan’s grandfather, but this conspiracy was quickly snuffed out—and probably for the better.

Oh yeah, and Princess Hibana joins the fray with some SERIOUS heat. Glad Ohkubo is keeping her relevant both off and on the battlefield.

Shinra Meets Sho

THE CONFRONTATION WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR. And honestly, it was just as short as I thought it’d be. So far, it would seem that the only edge Sho has over Shinra is his extreme speed, which is kinda lame cause I thought he’d have real nasty fire abilities. I suppose we have yet to see those, though, so for all I know Sho’s fire is just as potent as Shinra’s can be. Anyway, Sho has no wishes of joining our heroes, which was kinda already expected, just not as bitter.

To finish out the battle at Vulcan’s workshop, I found it perhaps most odd that Joker jumped in to fight off Sho from catching up to Shinra’s escape. Even more surprising was that Joker appears to be no match for Sho’s deadly speed. What is Joker’s aim? I thought he was with the Evangelist. Is he just a terrorist, or perhaps an anti-hero? I’m sure his story will come to light before too long.

As with Princess Hibana’s efforts in the previous volume, Ohkubo is really trying to keep all the characters he introduces on the table—which is fantastic. The majority of this eighth volume is spent on a mini training excursion in Asakusa. That’s right, Benimaru is back, BITCHES. I love this man, WOW, and I still don’t even know why. I just wish he’d join Company 8 more on their quests already cause y’all already know he can take Sho down.

Just as Shinra learns from Benimaru to focus his fire with traditional meditation techniques, Arthur also learns a thing or two about how to sense life on the battlefield. Arthur is such a ditz, but Ohkubo’s made this guy impossible to hate at this point. Benimaru’s wise teachings will already prove helpful as Obi takes the fight to the White Hoods in Fire Force‘s next big arc.

The Nether, a land of darkness that remains untouched by Sol’s holy light. In other words, the Tokyo subway ruins following the cataclysm many years ago. Man, Ohkubo’s world-building continues to astonish. Just when I think I have Fire Force‘s world all figured out, Ohkubo gently places new information to throw the reader off. He’s been slowly, carefully fleshing out this universe of fire and brimstone, and the results pay off when the reader can look at the lower gates to an ordinary subway and a chill runs up their spine. There’s definitely something wrong with this place . . .

Now that we’re here in the depths of the earth, it finally occurs to me that, yeah, there really aren’t that many scenes where our characters are exploring any subterranean location. Again, this obviously carries intent. The stress on Sol as a deity is really questioned throughout this volume and the end of the previous. Company 3’s Dr. Giovanni goes on a religious tirade praising the glory of the Evangelist and diminishing the light of Sol, but really, who is this Evangelist—and who or what is Sol? This self-inquisition adds so much to a world that, apparently, we still know very little about.

A Light in the Dark

At the end of volume eight we get our first fight: Maki vs. Flail. I CANNOT wait to see this shit animated, cause wow, Maki’s new gear is so freakin’ cool. Thanks to Vulcan’s handy-work, Maki’s able to utilize her little fire sputters in a much more advantageous way: they are the fuel for a set of giant floating armored hammers that can both attack AND defend with ease. The staggered armor plating on these pile-bunker-esque arms also matches Obi’s signature full-body shield, which is nice for consistency. In all, it’s just nice to see Maki shine on her own.

My favorite confrontation, however, was the explosive sniper duel of Hinawa vs. Arrow. Hinawa may just be the coolest guy in the company. His backstory is solidly written. His purpose and ties to the other characters makes absolute sense. And his abilities as a Second Generation, WOW, so fitting for him and useful on the field. Both snipers were almost willing to destroy themselves just to hit their target, which lends to itself humorous commentary in Arthur vs. Mirage (also a pleasant rematch, it’s nice to see how much Arthur has grown). The stark use of black and white during these panels also accentuates the flash of their bullets and arrows—the clash between two sharp, diligent minds.

The weakest fight was by far Tamaki vs. Assault. As opposed to her flame ability taking out her opponent, that damned “lucky lecher lure” or whatever ended up being Assault’s downfall. Gosh, my eyes cannot roll hard enough. It’s bad enough that I don’t care for Tamaki at all, but to see her fighting like this really degrades her character. I sincerely thought this was going to be redemption for the cat girl. Oh well, at least Sister Iris came in with that lead pipe to Assault’s head.

Lastly, there’s Obi and Vulcan vs. Dr. Giovanni and Lisa. This fight really shows off Dr. Giovanni’s cunning ways, but also Obi’s raw human strength as a non-powered soldier. Vulcan and Lisa do little aside from playing Romeo and Juliet, so the main draw of this fight is definitely on the ideology clash between the company captains. I just can’t wait ’till Obi rips that obscene mask off Giovanni’s head.

As Shinra frees Viktor Licht from the White Hoods, it quickly becomes apparent that something isn’t right here. Shinra has sensed Sho’s presence in the Nether since the beginning, but a strange vision of ashen demonic skeletons has me scared for Shinra’s life. I have a hunch that the grand conflict awaiting us in volume ten will not only prove hard on Shinra because of Sho, but because his own powers may decide to reveal their true colors.


We are forever beseeching the rising sun. Grant thy light to the undefiled souls.Sister Iris


Afterword

Lots of stuff happened in these past three Fire Force volumes. I have no doubt that the story is only to get a lot darker with the reveal of certain truths about the world in the volumes to come. I went ahead and ordered the next nine volumes (I know, I should moderate myself better), but I’ll be taking a break from the series until they arrive. Until then, what are your thoughts on the series so far? I’d love to hear, but no spoilers please! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 10-12

The Flame Expands: Fire Force Manga Volumes 4-6

Loose thoughts on volumes 4-6 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 1-3


A Bug in the System

Continuing where the third volume left off, volume four reveals the presence of a traitor in the Tokyo Fire Force. We also find that the secrets to spontaneous human combustion don’t lie in a fault with the Sun God, but rather are caused by man himself. Specifically, followers of the “Evangelist” are trying to track down people who are blessed by the Sun God by injecting random men, women, and children with a strange insect born from the ashes of Infernals.

Although we don’t know much, these wanted individuals supposedly possess an “Adolla Burst,” or “pure, undefiled flame,” and a great aptitude to wield their pyrokinetic abilities. Shinra just so happens to have one of these Adolla Bursts.

Enter Rekka Hoshimiya, the Company 1 traitor and a devout follower of the Evangelist. I distinctly remember disliking this part of the anime most, as it also happens to center around Tamaki and her allegiance to this terrible man. While nice character growth for her (what with the shattering of her greatest role model and her overcoming this sad reveal), Shinra’s fierce encounter with Rekka is unfortunately bogged down by more awkward fanservice pandering.

In a couple of action stunts, Shinra is thrown off balance and rolls into an abused Tamaki’s chest while she is propped sitting against a pillar of the abandoned factory setting. I get that Ohkubo likes this kind of thing in his manga and that he finds it funny, but I just think it’s awkward—and in a bad way. For one, it ruins the tension built up in this serious fight. Secondly, of all the places to land, OF COURSE Shinra has to fall into her bosom—and more than one time!

But the best part of this little setback is how it ironically propels the story forward immensely. Suddenly we know a lot more about SHC, as well as a taste of what the true enemy looks like—and it ain’t pretty.

In Good Company

I really like volume five. The book opens with the history of Company 8’s formation told from Hinawa’s sharp perspective, as well as the backstories of Hinawa, Obi, and Maki’s relation to one another. Hinawa was a diligent soldier in the Imperial Army; Maki was a general’s daughter but also worked hard as a rookie soldier; and Obi was an honest-to-goodness firefighter (and he still is, really).

This backstory serves to flesh out Hinawa’s rigid character, answering why he’s so punctual towards his company but also compassionate towards victims of SHC. His story is a sad one, but is brought into great care thanks to Obi. On that note . . .

God I admire Obi so much. What a great guy. Finding out that the reason he was kicked out of the job was because he decided to release the soul of an Infernal (despite shitty orders from the Fire Force) was totally a thing he’d do. And the fact that Hinawa was the one who pulled the trigger just SENDS me. These two really do have each other’s back.

Volume five’s second half shifts gears to the next big development: the attack on Asakusa. We meet the annoying, foul-mouthed lolita twins of Company 7, Hikaga and Hinata, as well as the stubborn dude simultaneously protecting and destroying this region of Tokyo: Benimaru Shinmon. 

A tough nut to crack, Benimaru is the exact kind of guy I CANNOT STAND in shounen anime. EXCEPT, for some reason I like him a lot. Maybe it’s because of Ohkubo’s character design, or because I remember his dub voice from the anime, but everytime Benimaru flexes his gifted pyrokinetic skills, I just gawk at the pages for hours. His signature final move, Nichirin (“The Sun Wheel”), adds a super neat oriental flavor to the different types of fire power in this series.

The world also starts to open up a lot in this volume. Like with Hibana’s Company 5, we see how Company 7 handles the Infernal cases, and it’s shockingly touching. Honoring the spirit an unsuspecting person who goes Infernal, Company 7—with their savior Benimaru at the front—parades Asakusa with cheers and destruction, celebrating their life and death in the process by lighting up the town and rebuilding from the ashes. I like the Company 7 way of things.

The Flowers of Edo

If volume five provided the build up to this invasion of Asakusa, the sixth volume adds the climax. The White Hoods have set a trap for Company 8, and it would seem that Benimaru’s poor leadership has caused his own Company 7 to fall for it as well. As citizens start mistaking one another for various crimes, a citywide spell of doppelganger sets in on Asakusa. We find that one especially potent servant of the Evangelist, Yona, has the power to reshape the human face, and boy are its effects nasty.

Even though there’s this new typed of horned Infernal revealed—which is appropriately called a Demon—the White Hoods themselves really shine as the action set piece on this one. The archer with the gorgeous yet deadly crescent-shaped bow made of flames makes HER reappearance from Rekka’s shocking death in volume four. As villains, the character designs for the White Hoods seem just as well thought out as the MCs themselves, and it’s always nice to have a badass-looking villain cloaked in white. We know very little of Arrow’s personality, but the motivation is clear: to return mankind to the inferno. 

Growing from his learned failures, Benimaru pulls off a fantastic victory thanks to Shinra’s backup. Lieutenant Konro shows more pathos than I’d have imagined a guy like him would, and it’s because of Konro’s backstory reveal that Benimaru comes across as a tired man looking for atonement. This duo nicely parallels Hinawa’s dedication to Obi from the previous volume. Perhaps the two companies aren’t so different after all.

Most interesting of all was Shinra’s strange tingling sensation in his foot when he heard Konro’s shout. Does the Adolla Link allow him to sense the passionate flames of others? I’m sure we’ll find out soon. What I did like about Shinra from this volume was his cooperation with Arthur in the White Hoods fight, but also how he literally leapt into action before he could even think when Konro screamed his name. (The acceleration shots were bursting with an energy I could feel!!)

I was reminded of Deku from My Hero Academia, and how the one thing that drew All Might to Izuku was how his legs moved before he thought about the dangers ahead. Given Shinra’s aspirations to be a hero (and the importance of his feet!), I wouldn’t be surprised if this is how they were tying it all together.

Last but certainly not least was the final page reveal: the man who was working with the Joker has made his way into Company 8 as their chief scientist. I think I got actual chills from that scene! Also, does this creep really serve Shinra’s now-evil brother Sho??? I’m not sure where this is going, but I have a feeling that Shinra and the rest of Company 8 are gonna have to really watch themselves around this eerie dude.

After all, it is always darkest beneath the lamp.


The spirit of Company 8 hasn’t changed since the day it was formed! To the dying, we give our prayers and respect . . . and to the living, we give release from the flames. We value human life . . . that’s what we’re about. —- Akitaru Obi


Afterword

Is anyone else reading Fire Force? Well, I hope you either are or weren’t planning to because I just spoiled a huge part of this developing story! Did you like this type of post where I sat down and just freely wrote about the manga I’ve been reading? I’d love to hear your thoughts—both on the series and on the post—in the comments. If a couple of you enjoyed it, I’d be happy to do reflections like this for future Fire Force volumes as well as other series I’m reading, just let me know! The story only continues to expand, and I’m eager to explore past what I’ve seen in the anime. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 7-9

Keeping Busy in Quarantine || Quarterly Update (Spring 2020)

Evening all,

I realize I recently posted an update a couple weeks back on how this whole pandemic has suddenly impacted my life, but I figured I’d keep consistent with my quarterly updates anyhow. In case you forgot how these things go, in my quarterly updates I will be reflecting on the five blog resolutions I set for myself at the beginning of 2020. This was a pretty successful system that I gave a trial run for last year, and it’s certainly less redundant than the monthly updates I used to do. Plus, it puts my resolutions into perspective each season, which helps reaffirm what I want to do better and how far I’ve come. Let’s see how 2020 has treated me thus far!

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

Ok, so I was on top of this one until about mid January when school started up again. Then I was pretty much off the WP grid until this past week where I spent a couple afternoons scrolling through the feed and checking out all the content I missed. I guess you call this one a flop on my part, but I do have intentions to do better—and with all this social distancing, I plan to spend a lot more time online. So yeah, fear not, I’ll read your stuff!!

#2 – Write More Succinct Posts

Except for my big SAO Alicization review and my lengthy Weathering With You write-up, I don’t think I’ve gone over the 1,500 word mark on any of my posts (or at least not more than a couple hundred over). I hope this helps make my content easier to stomach, as I know long posts can lead to blog fatigue (for both you and me). I realize it will “always depend on the content” yada yada, but what do you generally prefer, longer or shorter posts? I personally like short reads, but I understand it excruciatingly difficult to evaluate every single quality of a piece in a review with less than a thousand words. It’s just not possible. For now I’ll take the win, but I’ll try harder to write more frequent, quicker reads for you all.

#3 – Read & Review More Books

So I DID actually review one book this month, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, and I had a lot of fun just sorta free-writing my thoughts away. Such a cool read. Thanks to self-quarantining, I’ve done a lot more reading—and I don’t plan on stopping. I’m trying to read all the manga and light novels I’ve accumulated over the past couple years that I bought but never read (DON’T DO THAT). If it all works as it should, I’ll have several manga reviews and first impressions posts coming your way here shortly!

#4 – Write More About Me

Interestingly, this has taken the form of me trying to fulfill those award/nomination/tag posts that circulate around the community. Do y’all like reading these? Cause they’re SUPER easy to write, and lots of fun! I’ve made sure to do one of these each month, so if you’re wanting to know more about me, here’s January, February, and March’s nomination posts. Thanks to the bloggers who keep tagging me in these—I’ve got more coming, just wait!

#5 – Build Up My “Personal Brand”

Like with the blog nomination posts, I’ve found myself writing at least one non-review/analysis post each month (that is also not an award or haul post). In January, I shared some of my anime and book collecting tips with my readers (specifically, what you shouldn’t do). In February, I used a tripod that I recently bought to do a little photoshoot for my first-ever clothing try-on. It was really fun to experiment with, even if not many people read the post. Hey, something different. And just a couple days ago I did the whole social distancing and what I’d been up to update where I just kinda unloaded some of my stressors and aspirations alike for the next coming weeks. Maybe I’m not as interesting as a thought (*laughs*) but I hope they’re still posts worth reading!

What I’ve Watched


Back in January when I was on my idol grind (still am, BTW), I watched iDOLM@STER SideM and discussed the nature of idol culture and personal branding for my OWLS post. I even started watching IDOLiSH7, which I still need to finish. Then, as previously mentioned, I went out to theaters and thoroughly enjoyed Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You. Lastly, I started the K-drama Cinderella and the Four Knights on Netflix. I’ve been holding off on the end because, well, I don’t want it to end!! But, perhaps it about time I finished it LOL.

We skip most of February because I wasn’t in the mood to watch anime. This was carried over from the end of 2019 though, so I wasn’t surprised; I just didn’t want to force myself. So I took a break, which also affected my Gunbuster marathon. Don’t worry though, it’ll still happen, just at a later date!

Most of my winter stimuls joined my watchlist in March (none of which I’ve completed yet because I’m waiting on the last few simuldub episodes). These are A Certain Scientific Railgun T (watching this one subbed, but waiting for more episodes to air so I can watch it all at once), ID: INVADED, Darwin’s Game, and Smile Down the Runway. I love all these shows a lot, actually, and cannot wait to see how they end—especially Smile Down the Runway and Darwin’s Game for some reason! I already know Railgun T will be great, so there’s no worries there.

I also ended up starting a lot of random shows cause of spring break, one of those being Hozuki’s Coolheadedness. I actually had no plans to watch this until Simply Gee brought it up in a recent haul vid, but it’s alright so far. I also decided to watch the Azur Lane (review here!) anime on Funimation cause the poster art was so epic looking, and it ended up being much better than everyone was saying it was.

I even dug into my personal backlog with the first K-Project anime, which I just reviewed. Now, had I watched this series a couple years back, it’d probably be one of my all-time faves. But in 2020, it’s just a good little series. Excited to explore the rest of the franchise! Oh, and I FINALLY STARTED Shirobako—unsurprisingly, it’s GREAT SHIT. Defs planning to review it.

Just a few days ago I published my March OWLS post, which gave spotlight to Millennium Actress, one of my favorite watches of the year so far. I loved it so much that I even hung up the exclusive lithograph that my preorder from Shout! Factory came with, so that’s cool. In other news for films, I finally busted into the Code Geass film trilogy, having watched all but the third. It’s quite good, surprisingly!! I just need to pick up the final film ASAP cause I know I’ll want NO breaks between the third film and the grand finale. Looking forward to seeing how this new iteration comes to a close.

Finding Enjoyment in Solitude


That’s pretty much all I’ve been up to these past three months. I’ve learned to balance my rekindled spark for K-pop with my long-time love for anime a lot better, so expect more anime content here soon. I gotta say, it’s been immensely pleasurable just being able to throw a random watch on screen and binge it all the way through. It feels like I haven’t done that in AGES. Man, anime is good.

Beyond idols and anime, however, I’ve been trying to monopolize on this time by reading as much as I can. I’ve read all of Ten Count (boy, that was a thing), picked up Snow White with the Red Hair once again, and also started Yona of the Dawn since I bought the first NINE FREAKIN’ VOLUMES a year ago cause I have NO restraint apparently. In times like this, though, I can only be thankful that I picked up what I could, as it’s wonderful being able to read a little Yona each night with no fear of running out anytime soon. (And if I do, there’s, like, 15 more volumes I could pick up—and THEN I could justify spending more money on books.) Until that time, I’m just enjoying what I have.

I hope you’re all managing yourselves well during this time. Do you find yourself picking up any old hobbies, or perhaps starting new ones? I haven’t watched, read, and written this much since I started blogging years ago, so that’s the biggest thing in my life. Are you getting enough sleep? Enough food to eat? I hope you and your friends, family, and loved ones are staying safe.

Although spring is here, the cool weather has continued to linger. I’m fine with it though, as I love the fresh chill and cloudy skies. As we move forward these next couple weeks, I’ll try to update you on any big changes in my life—as I’d hope you would, too. Until the next post, friends, stay well. Much love for all your support. ❤

– Takuto

Expect the Unexpected: Social Distancing & Being Jobless || Update

Hi all,

I almost don’t know where to begin. It’s been a wild past couple weeks (as I’m sure you all can attest to). Here’s what’s up . . .

School & Work

I got the announcement that my university would be officially shutting down on-campus classes for the remainder of the semester just a couple days ago, but that we would still meet for this week before transitioning to spring break. Well, things change, and now all classes are cancelled starting today, extending break another week. Naturally, the pool that I work at on campus also closed.

So yeah, just yesterday I was a full-time student with two part-time jobs. Today I’m out an education AND a job. Life’s gonna be a little different for a while.

To top it off, I’m in the process of prepping myself for grad school, which has been scary as hell. Why? Well, I’m basically jumping ship on psychology (still getting my BS) and pursuing a Master’s in English. Or at least, that’s the new plan. If I can get lucky, I’d love to do something in the fine arts, maybe screenwriting? Otherwise, I’ll eventually try and take on the editing and publishing world. Any advice for a panicking undergrad?? o___o

Film Journey

I haven’t let quarantine life stop me from trying to make the best out of this all. I’ve made it a mission to watch as many films (that I bought but never got around to) as I can, and it’s been so incredibly freeing and fulfilling to just be able to sit down and watch movie after movie.

Hopefully I can muster the energy to review some of these for you all, as there’s a LOT of underrated anime films out there that kinda just went under the radar.

I’m chronicling my film journey over on my Instagram (@takutoac) for anyone wanting to follow along! ^ . ^

Back to Reading

As with my slowly getting back to anime (primarily with films at the moment), I’m also gradually creeping back into reading my manga and light novels what with social distancing and all. I blind bought all these books and series, and it’s been pleasant reading all this stuff for once. I’ll try to share more of what I’ve been reading on Insta.

Making Music

I’ve found other ways to occupy my time, one being that I started a TikTok just for the heck of it. It’s been fun covering my favorite pop songs and playing around with video editing. I’ll have lots of time to film those now!

And of course, my love for BTS only continues to grow stronger. After three years, it feels weird to finally be collecting my favorite photo cards and albums. But in many more ways, I just feel happy I can celebrate these passions I’d held mostly hidden for years. I hope it’s not too annoying for you all. >.<

Cosplay Endeavors

With Naka-Kon (and pretty much all anime conventions) getting cancelled or postponed, I’ve been left with all this cosplay and no place to show it off at. Or maybe I do . . .

FOLLOW MY INSTAGRAM. It’s where I’ll be posting all my cosplay pics, in addition to the books I’ve been reading and the movies I’ve been watching!! I’ll try to get on here and blog more, but it just seems silly to publish a post with just pictures on it. BUT, if it’s something you’d really like to see here, I’m willing to make it happen. 🙂


In these long, lonely, quiet days ahead that we’re about to have, I’ll be reading, watching, and posting more than I ever have before. If you decide to stick around with me, I’d be eternally grateful. Heck, I already am, you guys are too awesome.

I’ve missed a lot in just a month, and I apologize. As I (we) get back into the swing of things, I look forward to seeing all the great work you all have been creating!

So, until the next post—whatever it may be—stay busy, and stay well! We got this!!

– Takuto

My Experience Buying Manga at a USED Bookstore | Cafe Talk

Hello, and welcome!

On the second to last day of winter break, I took a spontaneous trip to the city with my family for a brief vacation. (Or for one last desperate breath of fresh air before diving back into school work, take your pick.) Anyhow, as we were gliding through downtown, which was still lit by glistening Christmas lights, my brother reminded us of a bookstore he stumbled upon the last time he was here. Being people of culture (and idiots for picking the coldest night of the year to explore outside), we headed for the bookstore as quickly as the slick sidewalks would allow.

The outside of the shop was quaint; a rustic little cart sat just outside the door, which held the discounted-discount books. Lying dead center on the stack was Vol. 2 of A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi, an author whom I’ve heard about as a renowned mangaka, but nothing more.

Now, this was an ancient USED book store, so I was expecting a lot of dusty old books from the previous century stacked onto decaying shelves. To find manga—and without even opening the door—this had to be a good sign. I took the manga and walked in. Immediately, I was consumed by the scent of antiquity and a touch of lemon from presumably some dust cleaner sprayed just a few hours prior.

I had been looking forward to this visit, even if just to look and not buy, so my memory of walking in is a bit hazy. But I was right about one thing: there were a LOT of books, though not necessarily old. Some of the titles that my eyes hurriedly skimmed were, to my recollection, hot off the press from a month or two ago. That surprised me.

Brown wooden shelves lined the walls of the small shop, many of these towering shelves jutting out in to the walkway so as to divide the room into a dozen mini sections, pocket universes of thought for each genre: adventure, mystery, romance, drama, classical, science fiction, young adult, self-help, non-fiction, fiction, and the like.

Numerous unique chairs of all shapes and sizes from wooden to wicker sat pleasantly within reach, as if you were invited in to pull any book to your liking off the shelf, grab a seat, and lose yourself within the pages. It was a colorful place thanks to the thousand upon thousand of beautiful book spines (which were neatly arranged on the shelves, by the way), and despite the dark brown interior of the store, hanging industrial lights from both the ceiling and the shelves themselves lit the chamber with a warm ember glow.


Simply, I was in love. If you’ve ever imagined a fantastical library with a layout not unlike a labyrinth, in that it felt quite easy to get lost in, this was the place.


They had simultaneously less and more manga than I expected; it was just two or three rows of books on these narrow two-foot-wide shelves. The shallowness of the shelf itself was a perfect look for the tiny collection, so I took mental notes about how to remodel my own room once I made or bought new shelves.

There wasn’t much there, yet I was still thrilled anyhow to skim through the used manga. When was the last time I came to a used book store? I thought to myself as I borrowed the nearby step-stool to reach the top shelf where the manga was humbly lined.

I just had to buy something, I remember convincing myself at the time, so I walked away with two others besides Taniguchi: Devil Survivor by Satoru Matsuba (story by Atlus) and Merman in My Tub by Itokichi, two volume ones that I was acquainted with by name. With both in good condition and certainly cheaper than using Amazon’s used services, I consider this small haul a steal. The young woman at the counter rang up the items, wrapped them in a brown paper sack, and we were on our way back through the cold.

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Not a particularly novel (ha!) haul, but one I thought I’d share anyway.

This experience was special to me because it allowed me to reconnect with the charm of the bookstore environment itself. It was a magnificent little shop, and had I taken pictures, I definitely would have shared them with you all—I know you would’ve loved it.

In this digital age of online shopping and even browsing for digital books, I had temporarily lost that joyous feeling of walking out of a physical store, haul in hand. It’s not revolutionary thought; I just went into a bookstore and bought books, but even still, it makes me happy.

If ever you are offered the chance to peruse the shelves of a new or used bookstore—even if your goals in mind are larger than what the store offers—consider closing out of that internet tab for a reconnection with the physical and inviting yourself to the rustic charm of a dusty bookshelf. Trust me, you won’t regret your stay.


It’s always pleasing to use something for its specific purpose. — Mrs. Crocombe, a Victorian Chef at Audley End House


Now, I ask you: when was the last time you went to a used bookstore? What were you looking for at the time, and did they have it or not? For me, it had clearly been way too long, and I’m so glad I was able to spend the final days of my break absorbing pages and panels of so, so many books. I’d love to hear your personal stories if you’re willing to share! I suppose I’ll be off to reorganize my own manga collection, so until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Hooked on Light Novels: The Amazon USED Blind-Buy Game! | Cafe Talk

Hey all,

I’m back with another “Cafe Talk” (woohoo it returns!), which is, for all my newcomers as of late, a free-flowing, comment-welcome segment that tends to lean towards anime “happenings,” or perhaps loose conversations related to my life and what’s new.

Today I wanted to discuss something that I’ve really been hammering down on in my updates (no, not my Danganronpa obsession). It’s reading, yup, I’ve gotten back into poppin’ open books and inhaling the words off of the pages. Specifically speaking, I’ve been getting into light novels more, partially to get to know them better (what they are, why they are so popular), but more so because I’ve been craving some light, short reads featuring our favorite anime characters. And what do you know? That’s exactly what a light novel is!

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I do not own this image.

Now, I have those couple series that I’ve been following on my own (Monogatari, Sword Art Online), but I was in search of something different at the time, a fresh tale featuring beautiful characters and all their cool adventures and mishaps. So I turned over to Twitter as a tool (and not just a place to retweet Yuri!!! On ICE artwork) to find out the kinds of light novels you guys are into right now. This way, I could also incorporate my Twitter with my blog more. Thank you to all who replied—it was very helpful, as I think I found some great contenders!

BEFORE I tell you the titles I plan to read, I want to let you know a bit about me: I’m a collector, a buyer of books, movies, and everything in between. This tends to put me at odds with libraries, as I find myself unable to simply rent/check out my entertainment—I NEED TO OWN IT, to hold it knowing that it’s MINE. Isn’t this terrible!? Gosh, I’m the worst, haha, but I might’ve found a remedy to my dilemma . . .

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Through Amazon’s USED books system (or eBay), if the volume I desire is available for, say, around $5 (shipping included), I’ll buy it, and hopefully review it, too! Doesn’t it kinda sound like fun? The idea just sorta came to me, and so long as I can get the books for cheap and have time to read them, well then, the more used literature, the better!

(I will ALSO be taking recommendations for single-volume/very short manga stories!)

AND SO, after weeding out the ones that didn’t intrigue me via synopsis, I present you with the following titles I picked up and the wonderful people who recommended them to me:

MelSeraph of the End—Guren Ichinose: Catastrophe at Sixteen

Simply GeeBook Girl and the Suicidal Mime

Lethargic RamblingsThe Empty Box and Zeroth Maria

MoonlitasteriaHarmony

MyselfA Certain Magical Index

As of right this moment, November 16, I’ve yet to actually purchase Guren Ichinose or The Empty Box, but I WILL, I promise!!

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So what do you guys think? Is this a great way to interact with the community, read the works that excite some of you, and give used books a nice home, or is it a terrible waste of money and a poor way to pick up new novels? You ought to let me know! If you see any improvements to this “game” that I can make, let me know those, too. And lastly, if you have a little spare cash, I encourage you to join in on the madness!

Should all of this go smoothly, look out for another spontaneous Twitter call, as I could end up reading one of YOUR favorites so long as it is daring enough to meet the requirements of the game! ‘Till next time, everyone!

– Takuto, your host

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Filling the Danganronpa Void | End of October Update 11/5/17

Hey everyone, what’s up? Another Spooktober has come and gone and very little blogging has been done. But where there’s a lack of writing there has been an influx in watching—just as much as last month, if not more!

As for school, first year of college is still smooth sailin’. With midterms out of the way, it’s now a barren wasteland until Fall break is over, after which the bomb that is “finals week” will be dropped. But until then, I’ve been trying to read more—and it’s been successful! Now if only I could feel motivated to write about it all . . .

Anyway, let’s take a look at what I’ve read/watched this past “spoop month” and see my desperate attempts at filling the Danganronpa 3 void end in utter failure. (And yes, the itch still has yet to be scratched.)

RECENTLY FINISHED:

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Tsuredure Children—My GOD, what I would have given for a continuation of this mess of high school romances. It’s not even that good, which is why I’m so confused as to how I became so addicted to it all. Maybe the 12-min per episode run-time was a key part, or that I streamed it dubbed via Funimation Now as my weekly comedy. Either way, I’m sad that it’s over—and just when it was getting sooo good! Likely won’t review, as I don’t have much to say, but it ends just as cute as it begins, which is enough for me.

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Knight’s & Magic—I should’ve taken the warnings on this one. No joke, it kinda sucked. I didn’t care for any of the characters (nor do I really remember any of them), and the story gave up on my interests. I wanted to continue learning more about the interactions and affects of combining giant mecha knights with magical forces, but instead it turned into a show “save the kingdom from the enemy evil blah blah blah.” I won’t review this either because of how little I have to say about it, though I’m glad that I did finish it.

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The Dragon Dentist—Another hyped show that turned into disappointment . . . sort of. A 2-episode (40 min each) short from Studio Khara (Rebuild of Evangelion) with Hidaeki Anno somewhere behind the desks, I was STOKED for this show. Only putting his name on two titles since Eva 3.33, this and Shin Godzilla, I was eager to see how this one played out in his journey to Eva‘s end. While episode one was quite pleasant, episode 2 unfortunately became, well, I’m not honestly sure what. It definitely had similar ideas that the OG Eva did, but didn’t have the same strong execution due to the short run-time. Eva is a big story to tell, after all, so you can’t just throw in a similar ending and call it so. Sentai Filmworks just released it with a dub, so maybe if it goes on sale I’ll pick it up and give it another go.

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SHIMONETA—AHAHAHA S-O-X, S-O-X, S-O-X!!! Funimation Peep Show host Cookie Stratford hooked me up with this little title after previewing it at last year’s Naka-kon. FINALLY it went on sale, so bought the blu-ray! (I did stream the dub in its entirety just to double-check that it was worth the money—in which it absolutely was.) I’m ecstatic to have some more “fun” titles on my shelf, as a majority of shows that I do own require you to basically analyze your existence in the universe, and that’s just no fun when I want to fool around on a late Friday night. So here it is, cock, balls, and all! And you know what? I enjoyed every second of it.

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Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (PS Vita)—Don’t be fooled by the listing of this game title on my list, as there’s no way I have the money for a Vita right now, let alone the 20+ hours it’d take to complete this massive part of the franchise. Originally, I was watching walkthroughs of it via YT, living vicariously through the silent player as they traversed the game’s ins and outs. After making it a bit over half-way in, I realized that I COULD NOT wait any longer to watch Danganronpa 3, so talked it over with the Twitter fam (thx Gigi) and was directed to some “Recapitations” of the game’s story on the YT. WHAT A LIFE-SAVER, as Ultra Despair Girls just isn’t as neat as the rest of the franchise’s entries. It is still pretty cool though—soon after finishing the recap, I quickly found myself going back to the walkthroughs to watch the “animated” portions of the end, another 5+ hrs of video, but who cares—it was still a thrill ride! I then watched a recap for Danganronpa Zero and was all set for the ultimate despair: Danganronpa 3.

Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School—The viewing of this crazy third season(s) is as follows: Future Arc episode one, Despair Arc episode one, Future Arc episode two, Despair Arc episode two, so on and so forth. As such, here are my individual thoughts on each arc:

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Despair Arc—Starting with this one because it end before Future does, Despair Arc was basically everything that I wanted from a Danganronpa prequel and more. And much, much, much more. With the knowledge of Zero (an unlicensed light novel—you can find a 20-min recap of this on YT too, bless), Despair Arc combs together all of the grittiness, backstabbing, and betrayal of the viewer’s trust that we’ve come to know and love. Simply put, it’s a story of hope that ends in despair, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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Future Arc—Though wildly unimpressed throughout a good majority of the GREAT Danganronpa‘s supposed “end,” once episode eight hit it was balls-to-the-walls insanity. Seriously, if there’s ever been an incredible comeback mid-season, Future Arc is where it’s at! I rushed to the end, eagerly anticipating each wild episode of this chase against the clock until series’ grand finale . . .

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Hope Arc—I won’t lie, it was kinda anticlimactic, hahaha, but I still love this show too much to complain, goddammit! Such a rewarding finale for all the blood that was shed, all the darkness that was traversed, and while I would have asked for another end-all situation, what we got was still excellent. It’s a shame that I’d be spending the next month or two trying to fill the void left by this show alone, but hey, it’s an opportunity to explore new shows, right? (plz send Danganronpa recs plz send Danganronpa recs)

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Chivalry of a Failed Knight—No joke, the only reason I watched this show (on YOUTUBE NO LESS BAHAHAHA) was because Luci Christian was the English voice of Stella, the female lead. I was expecting it’d be a harem story about a hero of zero somehow defeating the number one ace . . . and sure enough, that’s exactly what I got. Nothing to write home about, but I have no regrets watching, either. High production quality on the animation front, not to mention that it had a kickass OP and ED!

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Riddle Story of DevilDanganronpa knock-off #1 presents itself in this game of assassins killing each other just to off a single girl—Haru Ichinose. “Why her” remains the big question behind the game itself, and though it sounds like the perfect formula for a DR follow-up, it couldn’t have been worse. Seriously, each death is foreshadowed by that character getting the episode’s spotlight (a reoccurring problem with a currently airing title which I’ll discuss soon), leaving no fun in determining who would live or die. At least the dub was good. Morgan Berry needs to be the MC more often. Also, Jamie Marchi always plays best girl. Always.

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The Perfect Insider—Alright, we’re getting somewhere with this one. Recommended by our pal, the Otaku Judge (thanks man!), this one’s a locked-room murder in which a rag-tag group of individuals must piece together the puzzles. I remember it being a big hit when it aired a couple years back, and while I wanted to follow it, time got the better of me. Guess this was a good thing, because I got to save it for future me when I needed it most, and boy, Judge, did this one get me closer to hitting the mark! Though a bit confusing (and towards the end a bit contrived), it seeks a more philosophical, slow-burning case vs. DR‘s fast-paced madness. Both can be appreciated for their own merits, but yes, this one is worth seeing, and hopefully I’ll get to review it soon!

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Blade Runner: Black Out 2022—The last prequel short film in a trilogy designed to fill in and expand upon the world of the latest Hollywood hit, Blade Runner 2049Black Out is unique because it is the only “anime” part of the franchise, the rest being live action. Feeling an inkling to revisit the cluttered and damp world of the 2017 Ghost in the ShellBlade Runner 2049 instantly became a must, and I set aside my DR hunt to revel in the OG Blade Runner and it’s 2049 prequel trilogy. Black Out was not only epic, but absolutely stunning on the animation front. It’s no wonder considering that Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe was invited to direct this short film, as Blade Runner was his biggest inspiration for creating sci-fi during his younger days. Before I knew it, I found myself with my dad in the theaters on the last day of showing, and we had a blast. Such an incredible franchise with wondrous world-building that’ll leave you in utter awe and terror of the near future. Still thinking about this one now . . .

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Devil Survivor 2 The Animation—Aaaannnnd we’re back to Danganronpa hunting, this time for a game-turned-anime series about kids fighting against a mysterious alien force and time itself before their world reaches its end. Very cool premise, but ruined NOT due to the short runtime, but IMO because of the game’s gimmick—each of the 12 or so characters possess a smart phone that allows them to summon demons to fight against the aliens. I think it would’ve been much more enjoyable had the characters fought the aliens themselves somehow (special skills, weapons, whatever) because the demon-fighting thing just wasn’t doing it for me. Now, I realize that it defeats the entire premise of the game this way—I know—but with the demons out of the way, there would have been more room for character interaction, and the motives for survival would’ve been all the more crushing when they met their fate on the battlefield. Not a complete wreck of a show, but it EASILY could’ve been made better. Excellent animation, BTW, with a great OP and chilling ED to beat!

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Harmony—The second Project Itoh film, Harmony is set in a world where good health is king, and the hospital basically runs government. Everyone is consumed with medicine to the point where it becomes their ruler, not the other way around. People have lost their sense of identity, what with having perfect health and nothing to complain about. Tuan, a high-ranking military officer is sickened by everyone’s kindness in this age of monotony, of perfect harmony. And just when she thought she couldn’t hate it enough, a blast from her past causes mayhem in the present, as systematic killings and mass suicides suddenly take over the world. Out on a mission to stop the one robbing everyone of their utopian futures, Tuan comes to understand why she thinks the way she does, as well as what being human means to her. It’s a grossly underrated film, and though the CG action at the beginning can be a bit jarring, what is in store for the viewer far usurps any awkward animation sequences. Do not let the “meh” community rating stop you from trying out this film—it requires a bit of thinking, but it’s well worth the watch for any fans of dystopian fiction i.e. Huxley’s Brave New World. Might review!

CURRENTLY WATCHING:

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Welome to the Ballroom—Not much to say, as I’m a bit behind on this seasonal title. The addition of the new girl throws some chaos into the mix, but I think it’s slowly helping the show all things considered. Also, I’ve come to appreciate the new OP, so that helps. Looking forward to it!

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Juni Taisen: Zodiac War—Five episodes in and all I can PRAY is that it stops doing that formula thing I mentioned earlier. One of the novel’s (OG source) biggest complaints is that this formulaic system of deaths does continue as a prominent force, so I hope the finale at least has some shock saved for us. And I swear, if Rat wins, I will jump off a cliff.

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Electromagnetic Girlfriend—Ahh yes, continuing the DR hunt. Rated highly as a short 2-episode (40 min each) horror mystery show, I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about this series. Probably due to the lack of localization. Anyway, I’ve watched one of two episodes and I can say that, while short, it does have some decent twists and turns in it. Not quite scary [yet], but engaging and will likely end with a decent rating from me. And the background art is incredible, holy shit. The anime follows a delinquent teen and his little stalker friend, a mysterious girl with long black hair claiming to be his knight from another lifetime. Interesting . . .

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Ergo Proxy—In my final efforts to secure a decent sci-fi mystery show, I’ve settled on this classic anime that has sat on my shelf untouched for a good while now. Though drab in terms of color scheme and quite on the slooooow side, I can already feel Ergo Proxy shaping up to be a much better show than half the entries on this list! It almost reminds me of a crossover between Star Wars‘s setting and Avatar the Last Airbender‘s humor. IDK why, it JUST DOES. An unraveling story of what is likely to be self-discovery in a dark future without much individual identity, Ergo Proxy manages to keep me interested by leading me on with new elements to the world at every turn. It’s also a bit of a cop/detective story, much like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Overall, I like what I’m getting, I only wish it were a bit more, hmm, thrilling.

CURRENTLY READING:

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A Certain Magical Index Light Novel Volume One—This was one of those late-night Amazon pick-ups, but like I mentioned last update I’ve been in the mood for some light novels, particularly to understand how and why they are written, as well as to take advantage of what they are—fairly cheap and disposable fiction meant to be read on a whim; you follow the stories you like, and drop the ones you don’t. Having already watched both seasons of the anime, I’m glad Index continues to be interesting even in novel format, and I’m eager to pick up the second volume soon! Also, did you hear the fantastic news?? INDEX 3 IS COMING IN 2018, REJOICE~!!!!! It’s just ironic that I started reading the original source now after all these years. Oh well.

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Murder on the Orient Express—BOI, you already know. Fall’s been mystery season for me, clearly, and what a better bang to end it on than with classic Christie and her film adaptation of the same name. I’M. SO. EXCITED. FOR. THIS. FILM. Having just rewatched bits of Hyouka (and my guy Oreki bringing up Christie in a case of his), my inspiration to check out the actual book from the library shot up, and now here I am. About 1/3 into the book with no serious evidence given yet, my blind guess for the killer is . . . the maid, cause it’s always the maid LOL. I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out!


BLOGGING PROJECTS:

In regards to last month’s update, I DID not only end up reviewing Death Parade, but I used it as the focal point in my October OWLS post, WOOHOO! Such a neat show, it came just at the right time to match the month’s theme! If you want to read my thoughts, click below!

Also, prior to OWLS I FINALLY put together my thoughts on Shin Godzilla in post that has surprisingly gotten a decent amount of traffic, appreciation, and EVEN a feature on another cool person’s blog (thank you all so much)!! It was really hard putting that one together, not gonna lie, so it’s nice to see the payoff. In case you missed it, here ya go!


 

The End of Spooky Season

GOODNESS ME, that’s a lot of titles, no? And to think, I’ve also been rewatching Hyouka, Gosick, School Live, and Paprika as a part of the spoopy holidays! October has become a favorite holiday of mine, which is odd considering that I used to hate it. The cool weather and downtime have allowed me to explore reading and watching much more, and hopefully they’ll bring me back to the blogosphere soon. I’ve got two little nominations to attend to, plus a new Cafe Talk in the works, so look forward to, YES, learning even more about me!

How did you spend your Halloween season? Also, any good manga/light novel you’ve been reading lately? I want to know! Also, and last call (maybe), if you know a anime, game, or book that’s even remotely like Danganronpa (whodunnit mystery thriller survival game), PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!! I’m in quite rut, and the obsession has grown so large that I’ll even be cosplaying a male version of a certain “despairing” character in March, upupuPUPUPU!!! ‘Till next time everyone!

– Takuto, your host