Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

I decided to be literal, like I often am, and wait until the very end of 2011 to post this, although it seems like all the cool kids posted their thoughts on 2011 a week ago. I wanted to do a post like this last year but my blog was so new that I decided against it. But since I’ve covered more stuff this year (good lord have I reviewed a lot of stuff) I think its now appropriate to have an end of year wrap-up with my favorites in each category.

Anime: This was a good year for me but honestly every year is a good year for me. I try out enough stuff that I always manage to find some stuff I like, even if I find a lot of stuff I don’t like as well, plus I saw a ton of the classics this year (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, the original Ghost in the Shell). Overall the year seemed fairly average, some great shows, some terrible shows, shows that were better than expected, shows that started out great and then crashed and burned, basically what I expect to happen every year. The only thing that surprised me was the noitaminA timeslot which magically managed to have one rather nice show and one show that just didn’t quite work every season. I have reviewed all of them so I won’t re-hash each show (just search noitaminA in the search bar) but it was frustrating that instead of getting two shows I loved I instead got one I liked and one that left me feeling distinctly unhappy by the time the ending rolled around.
So, before I put up my top five favorite shows (ie five shows I just really enjoyed) I find it amusing that nearly everyone one of them either wasn’t on my to-watch list when the season started or just didn’t catch my eye when I first heard about it. I maintain that a lot of times the best stories are the ones you don’t even know you need and this year really seemed to prove that for anime.

1. Mawaru Penguindrum: I like plot heavy shows with plenty of plot twists and lots of visual symbolism and that fits this show to a T. Not everything was explained by the very end but it gave me a full 24 weeks of ideas to speculate over which is pretty impressive. License please?
2. Steins;Gate- I expected hijinks involving microwaving bananas and instead I got a tightly plotted show which deals with time travel better than almost any other story I’ve seen. Very nice, glad to see that Funimation has licensed it and I’m now curious about the OVA episode that will be included on the last DVD in Japan.
3. Last Exile: Fam of the Silver Wing- Fam and the original Last Exile are two pretty different shows (I’m going to have fun talking about all of that and I actually don’t mean that sarcastically) and between this, the Travelers of the Hourglass manga, and all the information about the old series that is just now (re?)surfacing I’ve got a pretty great fantasy series to keep me entertained every week.
4. Tiger & Bunny-Yet another show where I was surprised to find that it had a strong central plot and it’s the best reconstruction of traditional American superhero tropes I’ve seen. I do think that by now it’s overhyped but I did genuinely enjoy the show quite a bit.
5. Un-Go: I was so worried that I wouldn’t have any noitaminA series to put up this year (I did enjoy Wandering Son, AnoHana, and Bunny Drop but they were just not quite right for this list) and thankfully Un-Go was a surprisingly solid series that really understood how to work a setting and ended up with two of the characters talking about their individual philosophies and pointing out the flaws in both of them. It’s not what I would have thought of as a traditional noitaminA series but in the end it does feel more like a senin/josei work so it’s closer than I expected.

Runners up include the other three noitaminA shows I named (and No 6 if it hadn’t had such a stupid ending), Croise√© in a Foreign Labyrinth, Chihayafuru and Level E. I’ve also decided that next year I’m going to start doing an end of season wrap up each season for anime since I’m noticing that I have a hard time remembering exactly what aired in the winter and spring seasons each year (although those are usually the weaker seasons for me as well).

Books! I found out sometime in late August that apparently some people had taken up the challenge to read 50 books in a year (which is pretty impressive when you remember there are only 52 weeks in a year) and if you count non-fiction, light novels, and re-reads into that total (but not the odd book or two I had to read for school) I just barely made that, whew. Of all those books however, not many of them were published in 2011 (not counting light novels since it’s just a headache to figure out if I should count them by their US publishing date or their Japanese publishing date), I believe I only read four that were published this year: Small Persons With Wings (which I had totally forgotten I had read too, I even have a copy of it from a contest), Mastiff, I Am J, and Huntress which isn’t enough books to make a proper “best of” list. Mastiff would be on that list for sure since I adored the setting and both Huntress and I Am J would be really strong contenders for the list but it also seems unfair to make the list since there are so many books I want to read and haven’t had a chance to read yet, mostly because they all were published during the fall and my libraries haven’t had that much time to get many (if any) of the books. So, the other books from 2011 I wanted to read but haven’t gotten a chance yet: I haven’t read any of her other works but I want to try out RJ Anderson’s Ultraviolet, I should probably track down Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Reese Brennan to finish up that trilogy. Last year I was surprised at how much I liked Star Crossed by Elizabeth Bunce (it was one of my favorite books of 2010) so I’ll be sure to find it’s sequel, Liar’s Moon, once it pops up in a library near me. I suppose I’ll check out Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (I read a little bit in a Walmart recently and it was okay, that and all the fanart I’ve seen from this artist makes me want to continue), The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima (didn’t like the first book so much but the second book grew on me). I read The Shifter by Janic Hardy earlier in the year and just found out that the final book in that trilogy, Darkfall, came out this past year so I want to check out that (plus the middle book), I adored Karen Healey’s first book Guardian of the Dead so I’m excited to read her new (albeit unconnected) book The Shattering. I tried out the 78 page preview of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson and I really want to read the rest of it, I’ve of mixed opinions on her other books but I do want to try out The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, and need to read Goliath by Scott Westerfeld to finish up that trilogy. So yeah, I already have started looking up some books that are getting released in 2012 so I don’t get slammed as much next year but I honestly doubt that it’ll help that much.

Comics/Graphic Novels/Manga/Webcomics/Dem books with da pictures in ‘em
Well, I just did just do a whole month on manga I’m reading and I plan on again having an entire month devoted to webcomics so there’s not much to talk about there. As for everything else, again I didn’t really pay close attention to when most of these books were published until only a few months ago and I honestly don’t remember if I read any from this current year or not. I have been surprised at the growing graphic novel sections in all of the libraries I go to and that I am enjoying most of the things I check out but I still just don’t find myself as engaged by plain old comics as I do by everything else.

Movie time:
Like books, there are quite a few movies coming out this holiday season that I really want to see so I don’t really want to make a list here either (plus, I’m trying to figure out what movies will come to my school and which ones won’t and that I need to see now). I want to check out The Artist and Tinker Tailor Solider Spy for sure, maybe Warhorse as well, and I know my school will be showing The Muppets, Hugo, Sherlock Holmes 2, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Adventures of Tintin. I did catch a lot of movies that came out this year but honestly none of  them really stood out to me as ones I’ll remember a few years down the road. It’s been a few years since I saw a lot of good movies in a single year, hopefully 2012 will break that cycle.

Finally, TV Series:
Oh my god, I actually saw more than one on-going tv show this year! Between Doctor Who, Once Upon A Time, and Grimm I saw three of them, still not enough for a list but unlike movies this was better than most years since I ended up enjoying all three of these shows. Unlike in the anime department I didn’t get around to watching a lot of older shows on my backlog but hopefully I’ll be able to fix that next year, thankfully my backlog here isn’t as big as the anime one.

And in a nutshell, that was my year in media. Lots of stuff and still not as much as I would’ve liked to see, curse you holiday season movie/book releases! Next year I plan to watch even more older anime series, read whatever looks interesting at the library and not kill myself doing webcomic review month, sounds straightforward enough.


Book Review: Mastiff

I remember starting to read this trilogy back in high school, almost five years ago, so I'm both happy and sad to come to the end of it. Happy because, well, who doesn't like getting all the way through a good story, sad because I think that Beka is my favorite or tied for my favorite Tamore Pierce heroine and, since her story is set 200 years before all her other stories in this 'verse, there won't be any more stories about her except for maybe a short story or two in the future. But at least this story has a strong ending and one that's satisfying enough that I don't mind the series is now over.

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
  Sadly this cover has some of the worst looking photoshop I've seen all year on it which baffles me since the other two covers look just fine. It's easier to see if you have a copy of the book in front of you but the hands show that the arm on the left is facing the viewer and the arm on the right is facing the mountains, ie one of those arms is backwards, and the way her head is twisted back doesn't look like a natural pose. I noticed something was off the first time I found the book in a bookstore so this isn't a problem you only notice if you're looking at it, this is a cover where the quality control missed a major problem and it makes me wince every time I look at it.

Summary: It's been a couple of years since Beka became a full-fledged Dog (cop) and has dealt with many other cases but none so big as the ones in the previous two books. That is about to change however, the heir to the kingdom has been kidnapped and a curse has been placed on him that is slowly killing his parents as well. Beka, her scent hound Achoo and her partner Turnstall are put on the case and it's going to take all the talent and luck they have to bring him home.

The Good: I often complain about settings in stories but here we have a magnificent setting, one that is more realistic than the kind you would find in most realistic fiction stories. The setting, a country that has had a few rough years for the lower classes and an upper class that is resisting higher taxes to help cover these costs (hmmmm, I wonder what that sounds like), ultimately affects everything in the plot (every character's motivation, it instigates the plot, ect) and the story would not work nearly so well without it. The setting is also an evolving one, there were a few ideas introduced in the previous book (such as this cult for the "Gentle Mother" interpretation of the main goddess) that comes back here and it becomes clear why the setting has changed by the next chronological set of books in this 'verse (where women aren't allowed to become knights which sets up the plot of those books). I also knew there was likely to be some romance in this book, since one of the set-ups for the trilogy is that this is the ancestor to one of the characters 200 years down the line, and I surprised at how well I liked the ensuing romance. Part of the reason I enjoy fantasy so much is that romance is rarely the main theme of the book so it can be much more subtle and exist as a side plot which is exactly what this story did and it's been a while since I was so genuinely pleased at the outcome of the romance.  

The Bad: I was spoiled about a twist when I was still early on in the book (it occurs less than a hundred pages to the end so I won't even mention what kind of twist it was) but that was rather frustrating*. To be vague about the twist, even knowing it was coming it still felt a bit too sudden and I really feel like I need to reread the other books since the moment also felt out of place (again, I plan on rereading sometime to see if it really was as out of place as it felt or if there was some foreshadowing I missed but this is how that plot point felt).


It's no secret that I love Tamora Pierce's books and this book was no different. I'm not sure which verse her next book is going to be set in (she has two, this one "The Tortall Verse" and another "The Circle of Magic Verse" and I enjoy both) but I can't wait to see whatever it is.



*and hardly the first time that tor.com has had an unmarked large spoiler like that, I thought that the post was a brief blurb about the book or I would've been more wary (especially after their Summer Wars review gave away a major event with no spoiler warnings at all). 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Manga Review: A Bride's Story (volume one)

I'm months behind all the cool kids with this review but I only got this book/got around to reading it back in November so there's not much help for it. Initially I was a bit hesitant about the book. a seven or eight year age difference in a relationship is a bit large (and I have read a story where the genders were reversed), but after seeing all the good reviews for it and flipping through the book at the local bookstore I was won over. It was the artwork that won me over, I had a few friends flipping through the book and they couldn't stop oggling all the details either, but thankfully this book isn't just a collection of pretty pictures.

A Bride's Story by Kaoru Mori

Summary: 19 year old Amir and 12 year old Karluk were married through an arranged marriage that was meant to bring their families closer to together and so far life seems to be going well. Amir is still adjusting to her new family but so far things are going smoothly, until some of her family decide that they want her back to marry off to another man that is.

The Good: This story could have gone terribly, horribly wrong with such a large difference in the couple's ages but it's handled well.  Amir acts more like a (normal) older sister (not like the oversexualized sister trope that is so common today) which works and in just a few years Karluk would be old enough by our standards to date so I'm not worried about what will happen to their relationship. The story is also filled with the same rich world building that Emma had which makes it a very satisfying slice of life series.

The Bad: There does seem to be a central plot under way, in the form of Amir's family, and I am worried at how well the story will pull that off not because of Mori's writing but at the pace that these books come out. I really feel that this story doesn't necessarily need a central plot to keep the story together, a central theme yes but not a plot, so I do worry a bit for the future of the story. 

The Art: I believe that only a single volume of Bride's Story comes out in Japan every year and, having seen videos of Kaoru Mori working on the artwork, or even looking at the book itself it's easy to see why. Every panel is filled with intricately done details, all hand inking without a screentone in sight (much like her other work Emma) and the whole book is rather lovely to look at. Because of the great art I would actually suggest reading this book in chunks or chapters instead of all the way through in one go, you really need to slow down and spend extra time on each page to really take in the art.

I always feel like I write shorter entries for slice of life stories but, without a big plot to pick at and there is never a ton of character development in just the first volume, I feel like I've stated all my thoughts and plenty of other people out there have already rhapsodized about this work enough. The artwork is by far my favorite part of the series though, I was reading this volume when I had a few days of annoying headaches and it was nice to have something where I could just stare at the pages and not have to think, gorgeous gorgeous work.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Anime Review: .hack//SIGN

The .hack (pronounced dot hack) franchise is one that I would really love to see someone do a complete retrospective of since there is so much of it and it's really hard to tell what's worth seeing and what isn't. So I did the next best thing, asked my friends if any of them really knew anything about the franchise or could at least give me a timeline of it. One of my friends did (I actually reposted it in a thread over on ANN) so now I at least have a basic idea of how the story all fits together. I've actually wanted to try out the shows for a long time now (I remember reading a bit about them in the readers corner in the magazine Cricket which I haven't gotten since I was 15 or so) but never had the chance until I found out that my current roommate had all the dvds for Sign. So they very nicely loaned them to me and even pointed out that the letters on the spines of the DVDs spell out "Log Out" which I thought was pretty neat.

.hack//SIGN




Summary: In an alternate future there is an online video game played by millions across the globe called "The World." It's an RPG where the players immerse themselves using special headsets to interact and can immediately disconnect if something goes wrong. But something has gone wrong and the character known as Tsukasa is stuck in The World. Already a withdrawn person, Tsukasa is broken and it's only due to the intervention of several other characters, some of whom think that Tsukasa's impossible condition is connected to another impossible event, the The Key of the Twilight, that he manages to keep from withdrawing from the world all together. 

The Good: Some stories that have the characters in or playing a video game like to be coy about it and reveal that it's only a game as a big twist, .hack//SIGN does not do that and I really liked that it didn't take that route. The fact that this is just a game, a game that has gotten terribly real for one person, is an interesting juxtaposition and I also liked how some of the characters were doing more research into the behind the scenes events outside of the game. There's also a lot of interesting background information about the story itself (the DVDs come with a pretty interesting timeline, detailing from when this world split from ours, right up to 2007 when The World was released), although it almost makes me wish that the show had been able to focus more on that instead of some of it's filler episodes. 

The Bad: I've seen a number of stories that involve people getting stuck in video games (both physically and mentally like here) so the idea doesn't feel as fresh anymore, I feel like I would have enjoyed this story much more if I had seen it when I was younger and wasn't as jaded about the philosophical conversations that many characters had. There were also a few small things about the story that bugged me (such as the fact that this was supposed to be one of the series that showed the characters outside the game yet barely did so and the whole deal with Balmug*). Tsukasa was also very hard to like, there were several times when I wondered why some of the characters still bothered to put up with him, and I thought that the way he eventually got out of the game was a bit of a cop-out, it was just so simple, basically an accident, that it bothered me after all the build-up that was one of the main points of the series.

The Audio: I had heard about people talking about the music for this series for years but I was still blown away by the soundtrack. There is tons and tons of music for this show, some only instrumental and some background insert songs (in surprisingly good English too) and the opening and ending songs were both great as well. I almost feel like it's a shame that it's a rather average show like this that gets such a gorgeous score, I'll be sure to see what other works the composer has done.

The Visuals: The visuals however aren't nearly as impressive as the music. The visuals aren't bad, not at all, but they make the show look very much like an early 2000s, average budget show. Despite the characters being in a video game (ie, there is no reason why their clothes have to obey the laws of physics and common sense) the clothes weren't that outrageous but the setting did explain some of the odder choices which was nice. There were also some nice settings within the show where it was clear that the creators remembered that this wasn't a standard fantasy show but a show set inside the video game (such as the upside down castle) and I thought those were nice touches.

I'm not exactly sure if I want to try out any more series in this franchise, especially since for some of them you need to see video game play throughs first and other bits are only explained in mangas/novels but I think in the end this is a franchise where I like the concept better than the execution. Hmm, that might explain some of the problems I had with Quantum's ending.... 



*they mention him in the very first episode (which got me excited since one of the characters in .hack//Quantum based their design off of him) and he even was on the cover of one of the DVDs, only to appear for a barely five minute cameo, lame! I've since been able to figure out what works he's really in and find his backstory but I was still miffed by this.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

TV Series Review: Legend of the Seeker

So, there haven't been a lot of tv reviews here for the past few months which is basically because I haven't been watching as many American/British tv shows. I did try out Angel
  months and months ago and then went "okay, this is the third episode, if this was an anime I'd be dropping this so screw it, never touching it again" and thus my "I don't know why everyone loves this guy" relationship with Joss Whedon continued. Next up on my list was this series which, while it wasn't terrible, I just wasn't driven to watch for a really long time. Combine that with tons, too many really, anime to watch in the summer/fall (10 currently airing shows seems to be my limit, plus up to three shows being streamed on a weekly basis by Nozomi plus all the shows I had borrowed from friends and needed to finish up ASAP) I just didn't have the time. But recently I did feel the urge to finish up this series, just to put it on while working on other things and, since I was pretty close to the end of the first season, I just put the rest of that on and blasted through it after all.


Legend of the Seeker

 Summary: Richard was an ordinary woodsman living a comfortable life when the unimaginable happens, a person crosses through the impenetrable barrier from the neighboring country of D’Hara and is looking for him. Her name is Kahlan, a powerful confessor (someone who can make anyone tell the truth and make them her slaves with a single touch) and she is looking for the Seeker, the only person who can wield the sword of truth and take down D’Hara’s evil ruler, Darken Rahl. They are joined by the wizard Zeddicus as they go on the run to try and prevent Darken Rahl from becoming all powerful and figure out just how to defeat him.

The Good: I was rather surprised, and it's sad that this was surprising, at how none of the female characters were ever told "you can't fight because you're a woman" (which might be due to the roles the female characters were in) and it was nice to have a fantasy setting where everyone was completely capable of taking care of themselves. I also thought that the pacing worked out fairly well, there were some episodes that felt like padding but overall it felt like nearly every episode was contributing to the overall larger plot which was great. There weren't a ton of things that stood out and impressed me in this series but it was a solid, average series. 

The Bad: I’ve said this a lot recently but, I’ve seen just so much of well, so many things that a story has to be great, not just average, to impress or even entertain me these days and Legend of the Seeker is decidedly average. It works but the story doesn’t do anything new or exciting, plot wise, setting wise, or even character wise. As for actual bad things about the series, I’ll admit that the Mord-Sith characters really rubbed me the wrong way, possibly because women wearing dominatrix-y things while wearing dominatrix clothes feels so pass√© (I feel like it is a trope but I can’t figure out which) plus I felt like the writers were trying to make the character in question likeable when they really weren’t. Finally, the ending plays with one of my least favorite ending tropes* 

The Audio: I didn’t notice much about the music in this show except for the ending theme (there wasn’t so much an opening theme as there was a five second animation of the sword of truth, anime really spoils me there). I feel like I did notice the music when I would have the show on in the background and be doing other things but again, other than the ending theme nothing really stood out to me in the show.

The Visuals: I have never seen a tv series use so much bullet time, I think it was used in at least one battle sequence in every single episode. Aside from that stylistic quirk, everything looks pretty good. The setting looks appropriately “fantasy” (lots of pristine meadows, rivers, the woods looked a bit young though), the characters actually had a rotation of clothes (instead of wearing the same ones every time) which was a nice touch and the special effects looked alright for a tv show (I liked the one for Kahlan’s confessor powers the most).

So, I won't be trying the second season of this show since it just didn't impress me enough for that but I do plan to try and get back on track to watch more American/British television. I have a few lined up that I want to try and, since a lot of anime will be taking this week or the next week off and I need to get a lot of sewing done (ie, watch stuff in English so I don't have to keep looking up at subtitles) I think I'll be able to start tackling some stuff in the next few days.


*for those curious, it’s the “oh no we went to the bad future and we must go back to the present to make it all go right!” one. I don’t like it because it always comes off as padding since the characters always do exactly what they were planning to do from the beginning, it’s just frustrating.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Booke Review: I Am J

Yaaaaawn, since this is going up close to midnight for me, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it and for those who don't, happy Sunday. I've been to too many family gatherings to think of much to say so I will just say that this book came well recommended and I was surprised that the local library already had a copy of it.


I Am J by Cris Beam

Having a cover for a book about a transgender teen is a tough thing to think of (since that would be really hard to show in a single image of a person and you really need to have the person on a cover of a book like this) and I think this is a great image for it. The cover is a bit ambiguous about the character's gender (I would have assumed a guy but I'm sure some people thought otherwise) and one of the first things J is able to do for himself is make a binder to tie down his chest. Plus there is all the symbolism about hiding under the jacket and such, I just think it's a great idea for a bit of a tough concept.

Summary: J is transgender, born in a female body but identifies as a man which understandably causes him quite a bit of grief. J has to deal the strain that this puts on his life and all the normal problems that come with teenaged life as well.

The Good: I had been a bit worried that it would be hard to sympathize with J, not because of their gender but because of the urban, more gritty setting (which has given me trouble empathizing with characters before) but that turned out to be a non-issue. J was so well written that it was very easy to sympathize with his problems, despite how little we have in common. The story managed to flesh out its entire cast and really show that there is more to a person than their gender. The plot was also complicated enough to be believable and not everything was neatly resolved but it managed to feel realistic, happy, and satisfying which is rather hard to pull off.

The Bad: We're taught that life isn't always good so it's actually a little hard to believe that J does manage to have a happy life by the end, it's realism that doesn't seem realistic which isn't bad but is odd to think about. That aside, I really didn't have many problems with the book. It did take me some time to get into the groove with it, partially since I was in the odd position of knowing a little more about transgender people than J did, but once the story got going it moved along very well. 

In short, the book is not only a much needed book (try counting the number of other prominent transgender character in YA books, I can only come up with two) but it's also an excellently written book that I would suggest to anyone who likes realistic fiction. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out to see if the author writes anymore since I would love to see what else they can cover.
 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Manga Review: Genkaku Picasso (volumes 1 and 2)


Some more manga that I checked out from the local library near my school, they only had the first two volumes sadly, I much prefer to review short series like this all in one go, and I had heard rather good things about this series so of course I had to pick it up and try it. I had actually come across the first volume a few months earlier in a local bookstore and thought about getting it but decided that I wanted to check it out first which in retrospect seems like it was a pretty good idea.
  
Genkaku Picasso by Usamaru Furuya

 Summary: Hikaru Himaru, called Picasso by his classmates for his drawing ability, and his friend Chiaki died one day in a freak accident. Chiaki makes a deal with god however and Picasso can keep on living, with her as a shoulder angel of sorts, if he uses his amazing drawing skills to see the darkness within people and help them change. The problem is that Picasso hates helping others and he isn’t very good at it, at this rate will he be able to keep living on his borrowed time?

The Good: The second volume is a bit longer than a normal manga volume which is because this series knows how to pace itself and doesn't drag out or stuff in more information than it can handle into a chapter. Most arcs are only one chapter long but some are two chapters and each time that occurs it feels like a smart choice by the manga-ka, not like their editor told them to draw something out. The inner problems the characters face are interesting, some of them made me roll my eyes but most of them seemed like realist(-ish*) problems.

The Bad: Each chapter (or two chapter arc) follows a very basic and easy to predict formula which started boring me by the end of the first volume. And, while being formulaic isn’t necessarily a bad thing being boring is. There doesn’t seem to be an overarching plot and each story seems to be resolved too quickly and neatly, in short it barely feels like there’s even a conflict in this series. Since there is just one more volume in the series I would be willing to read that to see how it ended but if there were say, at least another three more volumes then I would simply drop it instead.

The Art: The art is what I see praised about this series the most and it is very different from what you normally find in a shonen manga. Super detailed and it evokes the feeling of pencil sketches (probably intentional since the main character does all his drawings in pencil) it’s interesting to look at. The artistic representations of people’s inner selves were a bit too gruesome for my taste but regardless it was nicely done.

I started reading the final volume in a local bookstore, I believe I got through the first arc, and I am a big concerned since that seemed like the exact same thing as the previous two volumes, maybe it pulls a surprise, quick ending out of the last chapter or two? I'll try to read the rest of the series since I am genuinely curious about it but I won't be heartbroken if I don't get a chance either. 



*I say "ish" because a lot of the characters problems felt like very Japanese problems (concerning how you view/react to society and such) and I don't think like or really empathize with that viewpoint much.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Anime Review: RahXephon

Earlier in the year one of the people in my local anime club brought this in to show for Fantasy Night (yes I know, we have a very hard time figuring out what genre things belong to) which we ended up watching and I enjoyed the first three episodes so I asked if I could borrow it some time and he loaned to to me right there. Awesome, I tried out NGE earlier in the year but wasn't so keen on it so I was really curious about how much I would like this series, I've often heard it described as "Eva but with music and happy" which sounded like an interesting change and even three episodes in it had proven to be way more symbolism heavy than Eva ever was.

RahXephon

Summary: As far as Ayato Kamina knows, it's 2015 and Tokyo is the only part of the world that's still around after a mysterious barrier surrounded the city and enclosed it years ago. This isn't the case however and as he escapes to the outside world Ayato realizes just how much of his life has been a fabrication.

The Good: I was disappointed when Neon Genesis Evangelion did not have as much symbolism and such as I was lead to believe and I was happily surprised to see just how much RahXephon did have. I love it when a scene has multiple meanings for me to puzzle over and there were many things in this show that were only shown or implied instead of outright told and I liked that, it worked well with the series. The ending also surprisingly worked well, if it hadn't had the very last scene I would have been really unhappy with it but the writers took pity on the fans and threw in that extra scene. Overall I found the writing to be really good, I nice mix of everyday life and of the important matters going on behind the scenes and the story seemed to explain all of it's background without the need for extra media so kudos to the writers for this one.

The Bad: I felt like things started becoming a bit too complex by the end of the story and at points it was hard to tell what was going on. In addition, several characters either reappear or have their backstory fleshed out and I was skeptical at just how much they had changed in that time which bothered me. Unless a story spends a lot of time following a character and fleshing them out this often bothers me but it did bother me regardless. It was also a bit hard at times to keep dates and character relations (as in, who is related to whom) straight but I suspect that that was deliberate on the anime's part.

The Audio: For a show that uses music as a major theme I didn't really notice much music (either as background or produced by the characters) until very late in the show and I was listening very carefully for it. Once the musical symbolism gets going it's there all the time but I do wish it had been incorporated a little more heavily into the early parts. Didn't really care for the ending theme but I loved the opening theme, both the melody and the lyrics and now it's probably one of my favorite OPs.

The Visuals: The show is nearly a decade old so the colors aren't as vivid as something produced today but honestly that doesn't detract from the series, there's plenty of strange imagery on screen and interesting designs to make the series visually interesting. It's not so much the artistic talent that went into the show but just what was on the screen that was so interesting, lots and lots of symbolism that wouldn't work quite so well in an all print (or all audio) medium. It's a show where it makes sense that it was produced as a show and that does mean the show has succeeded on at least one level.

So the next time someone tells me that NGE is filled with symbolism and it's soooo deep I'm going to make them watch this series instead (or Utena but that comparison doesn't work quite as well). I plan on getting the series someday, it does sell really cheaply everywhere online but I'm less than thrilled that it's in two stack pack sets. Not quite as bad as my Moribito set but I guess I'll also have to make plans to deal with that when I get the set.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

ONA: Kyosougiga

This is one of those weird little categories that I'll only use every now and then, ONA or original net animation which is exactly what it sounds like, an animation that was original released over the web instead of via DVD or TV. Time of Eve is another one, although it was also combined into a movie which is why I labeled that as a movie, other than that I don't think I've seen many ONAs. I really hope this one gets rebooted and picked up as a full series however, it's wonderfully fun and a shame that it's only 25 minutes long.

Kyosougiga (Capital Craze Comic)
 
Summary: In an alternate version of Kyoto (called Mirror Kyoto in the subs) Koto and her two brothers are on the hunt for a mysterious black rabbit and after they find it they will be able to go home. But certain factions in the city seem to think that Koto herself has an important connection to the city and aren't so keen to let her go.

The Good: It's very difficult to tell a complete and satisfying story in just half an hour and while Kyousogiga doesn't pull that off perfectly it does a really good job. It was able to set up a basic plot, establish almost half a dozen characters and generally just be a really cool, half an hour distraction. There is a plot, I had been afraid that it would be a half hour of nonsense accompanying some interesting imagery, and I was interested by the characters and each of the main characters had enough screen time for them to feel at least partially fleshed out. More than anything else I feel like this story has a lot of potential but even in short form it was fun to see.  

The Bad: Earlier in the year a five minute promotional video for this was released and barely any of the scenes were used in the ONA which makes me rather sad since the PV seemed to tell a story with pieces that were missing from the end version. While the story worked for the ONA it did seem like it was missing several scenes, like an explanation for exactly why Koto and her brothers are trying to find the black rabbit/how that will send them home (I'm also curious how they can all be siblings since the brothers are yokai for sure yet Koto seems fairly human). This feels like a story that needs more time to flesh itself out and I'll be disappointed if this is all that ever comes of the idea.

The Audio: There were a number of really fun to listen to tracks that worked great with the crazy visuals. The voice acting also seemed rather solid, no overacting or flat characters, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only did this ONA look good but it sounded good as well, it's amazing what you can do with a budget and not have to stretch it as much.

The Visuals: Some people are comparing this to FLCL because of their crazy visuals and the comparison is rather apt. There's barely a quiet moment, there's always something moving on screen and it looked really good even when watching a low quality fansub. Having watched this twice now I'm amazed at the amount of detail put into the scenes, usually there's a main object of interest moving and then one or two pieces of the background moving around as well, and with such a vivid color scheme it simply looks gorgeous.

I've heard that the youtube stream (there are legal, non-region locked youtube and niconico streams, they just don't have subtitles) at the very end has a date in March with an announcement about an announcement so I have my fingers crossed that this will turn into a full anime in the spring or summer season (heck, stick this in the noitaminA slot, at least this would kinda work for it). I'm not sure what else they could announce besides a movie/tv/manga deal so I really hope everything works out!
Also, I don't know if any tropers read this blog but I just created the works page for this today and I'd really love if someone could help out and put some more examples down, I know there have to be more than what I've thought of. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Review: Pegasus

I've had an up and down relationship with Robin McKinley's works, some I've loved (like The Blue Sword), others I've thought were okay (such as Chalice) and some I had, issues with (Sunshine). So why keep reading her works? I suppose it's because her books sound interesting and I just can't tell which ones I'm going to like. But I was curious about this book, it's the first in a two book series although McKinley says it's just one story, she just writes so slow that it would take her years to write one, 800 page book (this one is 400 pages so I suspect the second is of similar size) and couldn't keep living on the money from her other books that long (which is perfectly fine by me, especially since an 800 page book would be unheard of for a YA book, I can't think of more than a few, if that many, over 600 pages). According to her website the second part won't be out until 2014 (this book came out back in 2010, I can see now why she was worried about writing it all in one go) so I'll probably have to reread this one at least once between now and then.

Pegasus by Robin McKinley
   A very nicely done cover, it follows the rule of thirds so it feels well balanced, the left and right feel balanced yet are not entirely symmetrical (and it's heavier on the left, ie, the side that most people who read left to right look first) and the characters look the way they are described in the book, I like it.

Summary: Since Sylviianel is the princess of the kingdom of Balsinland she is bound to a pegasus of the royal pegasus family, following in a nearly thousand year old tradition from when humans first settled these lands and created a treaty with the native pegasi. But she and her pegasus, Ebon, are different, they have no need for the cumbersome sign language and specially trained speakers who traditionally mediate between the races but can instead speak mind to mind, an unheard of break from tradition that sets all the human magicians on edge. As the country comes under attack from the other legendary creatures that reside there, many who have been seen in generations, the human magicians point to their "unholy connection" as the reason but the pegasi instead see them as the solution to this growing problem. 

The Good: Some mythical creatures appear in modern day fiction less often than others and, while not unheard of, pegasi fall into this group and it's always nice to read something a little different. McKinley has also created a rich and complex background for the pegasi, quiet possibly with more detail in it than she put into the human side of things, and I really enjoyed those parts. I also liked how pegasi weren't the only mythical creatures but rather that there are many that everyone has to deal with regularly*. It was also nice to see such a close, platonic female-male friendship (as opposed to a romantic one) take center stage since that's a bit rare for YA fiction and I generally prefer platonic relationships to romantic ones. Sylviianel and Ebon's relationship is certainly the heart of the story and it was paced just right to feel completely believable.

The Bad: I had a few problems with Sylviianel which I believe were similar to the problems I had with Sunshine as well, a confident character has a fairly reasonable viewpoint of the world, viewpoint changes due to events in the story (which is entirely understandable), and then they become rather wishy-washy and don't do as much. I don't like this as much since I like characters that DO things, a story is a set of connected events where something happens after all, and it's entirely possible that she will do more things in the sequel but I found the end of this book to be rather dull and it really shouldn't have been dull. So I guess what I often don't like about McKinley's books are the general types of characters she often uses and I really hate I don't hate the next book for that.

So, excellent setting and I enjoyed the central relationship but I'm not so happy with Sylviianel's character development of sorts. Hopefully I'll like the second book but since I liked Spindle's End right up to the very end before getting annoyed I won't be holding my breath.



*One of my random pet peeves is that I'm really bothered by stories where there is only one kind of mythical creatures and that's it, probably because there's rarely a good reason for it and they come off feeling more like a plot device than anything else, the exact opposite of what is going on here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Manhaw Review: The Story of Life on the Golden Fields Series

Since this is a bit of an obscure title, I had to look it up to see if this triology even had a series title, I'm talking about the manhaw books The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven. I first came across The Color of Earth three years ago at the library where I worked and thought it was okay when I read it and didn't read the other two book simply because the library didn't have them. Actually, looking at the publishing dates, the third book wouldn't have been published at this time (this was July 2009) and the second book would have been too recent to be in the library system, I was under the impression all three were already published however since the covers for all of them were on the back of The Color of Earth. Regardless, a few months back I was glancing through a post your manga shelves column and noticed these three books and remembered that I had seen the first and the third at the local library near my school. I checked out the first book and decided that if I could find the second one I would review all three and lo and behold they did have it, it was just apparently checked out every time I had gone by before. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't like the series at all since I hadn't been crazy about it before but thankfully that wasn't the case and I found myself enjoying being back home with the comfy chairs and reading for hours.

The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, The Color of Heaven by Dong Hwa Kim

Summary: Set in an earlier time, these three books chronical the life of Ewa, a girl growing up in rural Korea as she discovers love. From her first love to marriage the story shows her high points and low points and, just as importantly, shows her close relationship with her mother and her mother's journey as a widow in love with a traveling salesman.

The Good: It's unusal, but not unheard of, for a parent to have a major role in a story that focuses on their child but I've never seen a story that gives a parent such a prominate role. Ewa's mother is pratically the co-protagonist and the two of them have a very good relationship, again something unusal but something I liked, especially since my mother and I have always been close and this is the most similar representation of our relationship that I've ever found in a work of fiction. I also really liked her mother's romantic relationship as well, it was never protrayed as wrong that an older widow could fall in love again, maybe I'm jaded but I'm so used to seeing stories that say "only your first love can be your true one!" that this was extremly refreshing.  While Ewa might seem a bit mature for her age she seems realisitically mature, she never did anything that made me stop and think that a young girl wouldn't act that way.

The Bad: While I could understand Ewa's crushes (by that I mean, understand why she had them) I could never figure out why her final love came to frutation. It was clear that the two characters loved each other but I just couldn't see how their meet cute first encounter drew them to each other. There were also a few subplots dealing with side characters that either got dropped or had such a subtle resolution that I missed it which did bother me a little bit. Finally, I'm not exactly a prude but I'm also not a fan of pages and pages of sexy-times and I swear that every metaphor for sex in all three volumes was used during Ewa's wedding night, I really would have liked that section to have been a bit shorter.

The Art: The art was on the simpler side, which worked nicely with the setting, but when you really looked at a page you would see that many scenes were just crammed with details. It was a nice change of pace from the kind of art I normally see and was consistently lovely. I do wish there had been a way to print some of the colored pages that appeared in the front of each volume, I liked how the cover images were colored so I'm curious how the actual pages were colored.


When I read through a foreword in one of the books I discovered that this is considered "sunjung manhaw" in Korea which is their equivalent of shojo manga and I thought "well THAT explains why I'm loving this!" It doesn't sound like the author (a guy which really surprised me, while it's not unheard of for people to write well-written books staring the opposite sex it always surprises me, especially one that deals with a mother-daughter relatsionship at it's heart so well like this one does) has many other works, or at least many other works localized in English but I'd be interested to see what else he's done or even if there are any other translated manhaw gems like this hiding out there that I haven't seen yet.
  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Anime Review: Rental Magica

Another Nozomi show that has recently been streaming on youtube and this time they were streaming it in chronological order which actually made me interested. I read the reviews for the DVDs back when they came out and the general consensus was that there was no reason to watch the episodes out of order, unlike Baccano! or debatable-y The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimaya where it added something to the story, and previously Nozomi had only streamed the show in the broadcast order. So it was October, I was looking for even more horror/magic shows to watch and this seemed like an alright choice.

Rental Magica


Summary: Itsuki Iba is the young new president of the company Astral, a company composed of mages who rent out their services to resolve various problems. The company itself has a few problems, they never get the big jobs, several of the characters have troubling pasts, and Itsuki has a magical eye that will one day kill him but overall they manage to stay upbeat no matter what comes their way.

The Good: Lately it seems like all the magic in anime is of the same kind (or at least compared with all the YA fiction I read where I am constantly surprised at how creative authors and characters can become) so it was nice to see a show put in some effort into having radically different types of magic. I especially liked the ghost girl's poltergeist magic, I'm sure supernatural experts would say that it's all wrong but it's so unusual to see a ghost character, much less one that does something more than just talk exposition, that I liked her. 

The Bad: The last episode in the show was an odd one to end on. It would have been a weakish filler episode but as a last episode it made no sense, why didn't they end just an episode earlier after a multi-episode arc? The opening credits also spoil that arc a bit for some unknown reason which is always frustrating, it kills any bit of suspense you might have about it. I also found the love triangle the series tried to develop very cliched (I've seen plenty of much more unlikeable male leads suddenly have girls fawning over him but that doesn't mean it never stops baffling me) and wish that had either been cut from the story all together or toned down. Finally, I wish there had been some more connection between all the different arcs (the single episode stories and the multi-episode arcs alike) since a story needs connections to feel cohesive and this anime just didn't have them.

The Audio: There were some episodes where the opening song was in English for some reason, I'm pretty sure it wasn't for the later broadcast episodes and I didn't think that those episodes were really special ones, and again the ending credit song is shown over a still image instead of the real end credits. There isn't a region 1 dub for this show (I honestly don't know if there's any English dub for it) and the Japanese voices were okay. No one's really stood out, it was all just solidly average just like everything else about the show.

The Visuals: This isn't a show you watch for the visuals. Sure the designs are consistent and there was some effort made to make all the different types of magic look different but there's nothing exciting or new about any of it. No odd color schemes, unique character designs or super detailed work to keep my attention, I even used the fight scenes as a chance to change my thread or grab more fabric for all the sewing projects I was working on which sums up the series as a whole, nice enough to have on in the background while I work but nothing that commanded my full attention.

Honestly more than anything else this show made me want to go back and re-watch Ghost Hunt (which has a vaguely similar premise) which is both a good thing (I really like Ghost Hunt) and a bad thing (apparently I liked it much more than this show). So not planning on buying this one anytime soon, sorry guys, it just didn't do enough for me. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America

Sorry this is late, it's finals week for me and the USB with projects for two of my classes exploded and had to spend a few hours fixing that, fun times. Also, Christmas is coming up really soon which means I'll be traveling around so the updates might be a bit wonky. I have plenty of things to type about it's just a matter of getting my computer to agree with the local wi-fi, fingers crossed that my laptop will be in a good mood.

So here it is, the last movie I'm watching on campus for the year and there's not much else to say to introduce it. This is the last Marvel movie before The Avengers coming out this summer (it even has Avenger in the title) and was meant to introduce the last big member of the group (since the Black Widow and Hawkeye only got cameos in Iron Man 2 and Thor and no one knows what's up with Nick Fury, I've heard that even Joss Whedon, who directed the movie, knows his backstory) and it did that pretty well.

Captain America: The First Avenger


Summary: It's World War II and Steve Rodgers just really wants to go to Europe to fight Nazis on the front lines. Trouble is that he is a 4F, completely unfit for combat, and keeps getting denied until the scientist Abraham Erskine decides that he might be just the kind of man they need for their new combat project to create the perfect soldier.

The Good: I was pleasantly surprised that plot wasn't as straightforward as "Steve Rodgers becomes Captain America and goes to kick Nazi ass," it was actually a bit more complicated to get to that point and it actually worked well both logically and for the plot. I was also surprised that again there was a prominent female side character who was very competent at her job and, since her job is being a British secret agent, she also gets a chance to kick ass. In this respect Captain America is a bit more like Thor than the Iron Man movies since both of them have a bigger side cast that gets a chance to be more fleshed out, something the movies really didn't need to do since, well, if The Avengers is set in the modern day you can already guess the ending.   

The Bad: While the plot progression worked and was logical there were times it just felt too slow to me in the early parts of the movie. It probably wouldn't feel as slow a second time around but for a while I was wondering how they were ever going to get to Nazi Germany. There were also some scenes that seemed too over the top and unrealistic, even for a superhero movie (mostly the parts involving Hydra, the actual villains of the movie) and at times Red Skull was just so hammy that i couldn't help but roll my eyes. The movie wasn't my favorite of the Marvel superhero films but it was a solid entry regardless.

The Audio: One again the music in this movie stood out much less to me than the visuals. The only piece that really stands out to me was a scene towards the end where there is a radio playing in the background and I liked how the sound people had gone to the trouble to make it sound like an authentic 1940s transmission (and considering nothing jerked me out of the movie they must have payed the same amount of attention to everything else).

The Visuals: The CGI in this movie didn't look as sharp to me as it could have and some of my friends, who had seen the movie once already, noticed the same inconsistent bits in places. It's a given that a superhero movie is going to need CGI to achieve quite a few scenes but with movies as high budget as these the CGI doesn't seem to be quite top of the line. For the traditional bits on screen I rather liked them, I'm fond of 1940s clothing and style and the movie did a good job at making these things look both historically authentic and like real set pieces or articles of clothing. Nothing looked shiny and fresh, they looked aged and used which was a very nice touch. And of course, the CGI used to make Captain America's actor look like a super scrawny person at first was exceedingly well done. I was really curious to see how well this turned out since I know of another movie in the planning stages who want to use this same group for body modification CGI and now I really want to see what else they can do. 

Tangentially related to this, the other night my friends and I marathoned the two Iron Man movies back to back and after seeing this and Thor relatively recently we noticed something interesting. In Thor we are introduced to both a seemingly magical device called the tessecrat (or apparently the cosmic cube according to wikipedia) and one of the characters also figures out that the "magic" of the gods is in fact highly advanced science. This tessecrat appears in Captain America (it's the little blue device that Red Skull obtains from the monastery that powers one of their weapons and Howard Stark experiments with it) and then in the stinger in Thor (I think they had just recovered it from Captain America's plane). My friends figured out however that whatever the tessecrat is is the new element that Tony Stark created in the second Iron Man movie and it was based on plans that his father had left behind. I think this is a really neat little subplot that Marvel has woven through their movies and it also took care of some of my issues with Iron Man 2 so kudos to Marvel so putting in some serious thought for how to connect these movies in more than just a superficial manner.   

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: The Swan Maiden

I was actually looking for a completely different book when I came across this one at the school library and decided that it was probably a sign I should finally check this one out. I've seen it there before and I read one of the author's other works, Toads and Diamonds, earlier in the year which I liked up to the ending so I was really curious how well I would like this work.


The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson
Funny enough my version of the book had this picture in sephia tones, as if the picture had been painted with tea instead of ink, and I think I like that version better (couldn't find many pictures of this cover hence why I have the wrong one). I don't love the picture, it feels just a little off to me for some reason (too unbalanced?) but I like the idea and it's a unique one so it works just fine.


Summary: Doucette has always been envious of her two older sisters who are swan maidens, girls born with swan skins and magic, freedom that Doucette never had. But one day she discovers that her parents have been lying to her and that she has a swan skin as well and all the freedoms and limitations that go with it.

The Good: I can think of a few fairy tales that involve people transforming into swans but it's a slim list and I can't think of any young adult books with it so kudos to Tomlinson for once again coming up with a unique yet familiar feeling idea. There are actually a lot of nods to classic Western fairy tales here (the seemingly impossible tasks for a suitor and a few background details) which was nice and really helped with the overall feeling of the book.

The Bad: The main plot of the story revolves around the classic "person gains powers and learns responsibility with them," which is fine, but left Doucette with some major viewpoint shifts which felt too unrealistic for a teenager. A lot of the characters had extreme views (regarding the use of their magic and trusting other people) actually but they were at least older, Doucette switching between such extreme views simply felt too mature and final for someone who isn't even twenty, you simply don't finish growing until long after then. While it's not the same problem I had with Toads and Diamonds I do seem to dislike how Tomlinson's act at the very end of her stories. 


So, not quite to my taste in the end but it was still nice to see a different kind of fairy tale get re-written. Tomlinson does have one other book I know about but I think for the moment I'll try out some other authors instead. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Comic Review: Zot!

Technically I should have written up this review, eeesh, in October but I elected to put up reviews of more Halloween-ish comics, honestly I checked out this book quite a while ago from the local library but the sheer size of the book took a while to get through. Honestly my first thought when I found the book was "Holy crap, a comic that rivals the size of A Drifting Life!" although it's actually a few hundred pages smaller. I'd seen Scott McCloud's books previously, namely his ones on making comics, but after reading too many god-awful "how to draw manga" books I shy away from all kinds of how-to books that involve art, no matter how well regarded they are. But this book seemed kinda interesting and I have been reading more superhero stories lately so I figured why not try it out?

Zot! by Scott McCloud
 
 Summary: Jenny lives in contemporary, suburban America and her life feels even duller in comparison to her boyfriend Zot's who comes from an alternate Earth "in the far-flung future of 1965" where he is a superhero and lives in a seemingly perfect world. The first half of the story deals more with adventures in Zot's world and the second half deals with the more mundane journey of growing up in our/Jenny's world.

The Good: The second part of the book, while it feels very disconnected at times, also had a lot of great character development chapters. I think having a break from Jenny and Zot helped me (although I did like Zot more in these chapters than I did in the first half of the book) and I was surprised that McCloud decided to flesh out the side characters so much. Even more surprisingly my favorite two chapters had to deal with romance, I'm really not a big fan of romance, and I could see how one (maybe both of them) was nominated for an award.

The Bad: The introduction to the book promises that this is a reboot of the earlier Zot! comics and that readers don't need to have seen the originals but it neglected to cover a number of things which I suspect were in the original. Where did the running gag of Jenny's brother come from? How did Jenny and Zot meet, the story even shows that Zot's uncle is the only one to have figured out how to go from world to world so how did that come about? I feel like the comic was missing a good one to three chapters from the beginning, there's starting in medias res and then there's simply not telling part of the story. There were some other plot threads that also weren't followed up on (at one point there's a very intriguing idea that Zot's world may be a replica of ours, and idea that eventually leads to the second half of the series, yet it's never followed up on, why?!) and the ending, while it technically worked, felt so disconnected from the previous chapters that it seemed to come out of no where. I think that overall I disliked the first half of the story more since the characters and the setting came off as very flat and all the villains bugged me rather than they interested me.


The Art: It may have been the difference in sizes but I think it was the fact that this book was a hardcover that made it much easier for me to hold than A Drifting Life which was very nice. Onto the actual art, there's a mention on the back of the book that, even though the series started back in the 1980s (ie, before much manga was published in the US), McCloud was already interested in manga and I feel like I can feel a few influences on his style. The sound effects were still very much American comic style but the character designs felt a little more "anime"-esque. I thought the art worked well for the style but, while I would certainly recognize the style elsewhere, it isn't the kind of art that I'll think back on in a few months and think "yeah, that was really amazing art."


In the end, I just had a looooooot of issues with this story, enough to make me wonder both if McCloud really had an idea of where he wanted the story to go and why so many people apparently loved this story. All of which made me really sad, I really was excited to try this book out since it looked so good and in the end it just didn't work for me at all and it kinda makes me want to avoid his other works as well, oh well.