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June 25th, 2018

How to Ginza-Musubi AF Style

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1. The following pictures I took in a MIRROR.
2. I normally tie the obi in back, but tied in front here to be able to, yes, take pictures in a mirror.



Step 1: Wrap the obi around twice (standard), fold the "te" down neatly
(I normally hold the "tare" in my other hand, but to take the photo, it is clipped somewhere to hold it in place)
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Step 2: Fold up the "tare" in a diagonal
(Again, I normally do this with the other hand, but had to hold the camera here)
At this point, I typically hold everything in place with my hand and tie a kari-himo (temporary tie), but...
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Step 3: Tying a Half-Knot
Personally, I did not normally do this (see above), but it is often done, and helpful for a floppy obi (or when taking pictures in a mirror, lol)
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Step 4: Open and neatly place the "te" in an horizontal position
(Some add another kari-himo here, but I don't bother; nor do I normally clip the "te" fast.
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Step 5: Neatening the "tare"
Neatly spread open the "tare," and make sure the outside of the "tare" is indeed on the outside. Then flip it up over the horizontal "te."
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Step 6: Tying it in place
I now tie it in place with a plain old string (non-standard, but helpful)
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Step 7: Adding the Obiage Sash
Typically a obi-makura is not used with the Ginza-Musubi, some people roll the obiage with some padding to make it firmer. (You can actually but a padded himo for the Ginza-Musubi, which I do use sometimes, but am typically too lazy.)
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Step 8: Decide the length of your "tare"
The position of the end of the "tare" is a it longer than what one would do for a regular Nagoya obi type of O-bunko bow. Beginners might want to hold it in place with another kari-himo as seen here.
Thread the loop of the bow with the obijime, flip the "te" to stick out horizontally from the body, and ....
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Step 9: Finishing the bow
Grab the bottom of the bow and the obijime at the outer edges of the bow, and flip it up under the "tare." Tie the obijime.
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Step 10: Bow Done!
If you tied it in front as seen here, stick your thumbs in the top of your obi, and while carefully holding it, twist it to your right to move it to the front of your body.
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June 2018 Kimono - Week 2

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2018-06-12 (Tue) @ Niiza
"Indigo Camellia" Silk kōbai-weave summer kimono, Polkadot ro-weave Hakata obi

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2018-06-11 (Mon) @ Tea Lesson
Umbrella Meisen-ish Hitoe, Polkadot ro-weave Hakata obi

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June 2018 Kimono - Week 1 Continued

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2018-06-09 (Sat) @ Bunkyo
Blue Ojiya Hitoe, han-haba obi

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2018-06-08 (Fri) @ Niiza
Pink cotton hitoe, han-haba obi, with vanilla lace haori

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2018-06-07 (Thu) @ Neighborhood
Pink cotton hitoe, han-haba obi

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June 24th, 2018

2018 Kimono - Week 2 and 3

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6-12 Tue
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6-11 Mon
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June 21st, 2018

Manga Review: Beauty Bunny V 1 by Mari Yoshino

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Probably Contains Spoilers

I recently subscribed to Comixology Unlimited because there are several Harlequin manga titles that I havent read yet. At 7 bucks a month, I figure if I read 2 graphic novels a month, its worth the expense. While browsing through the manga titles, I noticed Beauty Bunny. I have never heard of this one before, so I clicked the Borrow button. I think I made a mistake.

This is a high school romance. I think. I hesitate to call it that because the love interest, Iori, constantly berates Kohane, the heroine, and calls her ugly. Many, many times. In class, and in front of their peers. Thats just crappy. From the moment this pretentious prick made his first snotty appearance, I wondered at the wisdom of continuing my read through. Turns out that this beauty makeover themed story is most likely not for me.

Kohane discovers, to her dismay, that she and her mother will be moving back to Tokyo from their rural home in Hokkaido. She is concerned about having to start all over again in high school, but her mother is determined to be the best hostess in Ginza, so Kohane has no say in the matter. Mika, Kohanes mom, is obsessed with makeup and fashion, while Kohane is  not.

Kohanes first day at school turns out to be a disaster. Class hottie #1 Otohiko, is a nice guy who proves to be helpful to the new girl. Class hottie #2, Iori, turns out to be a pain in the ass. When Kohane accidently sits in his seat, Iori promptly turns the full force of his wrath on her. Iori is the son of a cosmetics empire family, so the girls in his class all line up for his judgement on their makeup every day. Kohane is not interested in makeup because she thinks shes unattractive  and because she and her mother are always over-extended because her mom is a spendthrift.

When Mika is fired from her job, and then spends their food money for the month, Kohane goes to grovel to her boss to give her job back. The boss is, big surprise, a big jerk, and he also calls Kohane ugly. Then a beautiful young woman, the daughter of the cosmetics empire family and Ioris sister, appears and whisks Kohane away. Before you can blink, Iori is there, giving Kohane a makeover. And guess what!? Shes gorgeous! Of course she is!

Okay, there are a few things that really bug me about this manga. The first is the fixation on looks and that the right expensive cosmetics are a womans best friend. Iori couldnt have cared less about Kohane until after he gives her a makeover, and then, zing. Nah, Im just not buying it.

The next is what is up with Iori pretending to be his sister? I guess Im kind of interested in that, but I am skeptical that nobody has figured out that this famous model is really a guy? And not the sister? It looks like a love triangle shaping up between Iori and Otohiko, and I am so not a fan of those, so thats another strike against Beauty Bunny. And lets not get into the whole bunny/slave thing that Kohane thinks shes tied herself up in. There were no negotiations prior to the makeover, so why Kohane thinks that shes signed her soul away is beyond me. 

I did really like the art. Its pretty and expressive. The backgrounds are pretty basic, without a lot of detail to get in the way of the story. But after finishing the first volume of Beauty Bunny, thats about as positive as I can get. This is a Kodansha Digital First title, so unless this is eventually published in print and acquired by the library, I doubt that I will be continuing it. Next!

Grade: 2.75 stars

Review copy borrowed using Comixology Unlimited

About the book:

Kohane Yuzuhara is a 17-year-old high-school student who doesnt have any interest in makeup. When her mom whisks her away on a sudden move back to Tokyo, though, Kohane gets called ugly on her first day at her new school by her hot classmate Iori Yashima. Ioris a rich boy whose family owns Yashima Cosmetics, and he can do makeup like a pro. Kohanes had it with Ioris massive ego until, one day, he transforms her by doing her makeup. Could Kohane be starting to develop an interest in cosmetics? This “makeup Cinderella love story” is the latest work from Mari Yoshino, author of Peach Heaven!

Review: Lock ‘N’ Load by Tee O’Fallon @entangledpub

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May Contain Spoilers

If you havent guessed, I added this to my TBR because of the K9 on the cover. I am a sucker for dog books, and I love K9 stories. I have mixed success with suspense in general, but I still want to read every book with police or military dogs. This was a successful read, despite some problems with the heroine.

Trista is a analytical whiz, and she works for the CIA. A genius with computers and data, she has been following a Russian spy around the dark web for months. When a power glitch blows her cover, she suddenly finds herself the victim of two unsuccessful murder attempts. After her house is set on fire, with her in it, she is forced into protective custody, against her wishes.

Sgt Matt Connors works for the CIA in the K9 division. Thanks to his timely appearances, he manages to save Trista from certain death, with the help of his Belgian Shepherd, Sheba. When Matt is ordered to take Trista and hide, he takes her to his compound, which he hopes to one day turn into a rehab center for troubled youth and homeless dogs. With his buddies in town to work during the upcoming election, he is certain that Trista will be protected while in his care.

Well, she would have been if she had just followed the rules, but, the heck, this is romantic suspense, so Trista has to put herself in danger. That particular character flaw was annoying. I just dont get it. If you have almost been murdered two times, Id think you would keep your head down for a bit. But no, Trista continues her top secret computer surveillance, on Matts unsecured computer, and just gets herself into more trouble. Whelp, go figure.

The other thing that irked was Tristas fear of dogs. I guess I get it, but I cant comprehend being that fearful of a canine, especially one that is as well trained as Sheba. Shes a CIA employee, for goodness sake! Trista finds herself in her worst nightmare, since all of Matts friends are also K9 officers for various governmental agencies, so she is surrounded by dogs. And hot men. And I want to read more about the hot men. And their dogs.

The last half of the book was absolutely a page turner, and I could not put my iPad down. The big mystery and the resolution were well done, and despite Tristas lack of self-preservation, I enjoyed Lock N Load, and I am dying to know who the hero will be for the next book in the series.

Grade:   4 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

Crack CIA analyst Trista Gold is a whiz with the computer, but not so much with people. She hides behind her job, analyzing Top Secret code and making recommendations on national security. She doesnt need a man in her life. But she will, very soon&
CIA K-9 officer Sgt. Matt Connors suspects that beneath Tristas uptight appearance, theres a sexy woman itching to cut loose. But he doesnt dare act on his attraction. Hes a loner and always will be. Keeping away from Trista is a must-do directive. Until he doesnt have a choice&
During a routine assignment, Trista stumbles across a cryptic exchange. She doesnt think much of it&until someone tries to murder hertwice. Both times, Matt had been there to save her. But now she has to hide. And her new bodyguard, Matt, and his K-9 are the only hope she has against the powerful forces that want her dead.

June 19th, 2018

Review: Stray Magic by Kelly Meding

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May Contain Spoilers

I am forever in search of new Urban Fantasy to read, so when I saw Stray Magic, I decided to give it a shot. Kelly Meding is a new to me author, and I am always game for the start of a new series. This looked interesting, and I thought that Shiloh being a Federal Marshall in the Paranormal Investigations Unit could be fun. Im always up for a good case to crack, especially if it involves missing vampires and werewolves.

Shiloh is half-djinn, and she has just gotten home from a trying case. Shes eager to blow off some steam with her lover, Vincent, but when they are interrupted by a call from the office, Shiloh has no choice but to report for duty. When she discovers that a Master vampire has had his children take over a trailer park, and take all of the humans living there hostage, she realizes the urgency of the situation. If the responding cops get trigger happy, there will be a blood bath.

With her boss missing, Shiloh is the de facto leader of her little squad of Federal Marshalls. Feeling the pressure, she reluctantly agrees to help Tennyson, the Master vampire, discover who has kidnapped some of his clan. As they are drawn further in to the case, they learn that werewolves have also gone missing, and no one knows why. With the help of her mother, her earth djinn father, and her teammates, Shiloh is determined to catch the bad guys before all hell breaks loose. Literally.

Overall I liked the setup and the worldbuilding. Shiloh is a tough nut to crack, and she can usually take care of herself. Being half djinn, she is more resilient than a normal human, and that makes her harder to kill. Unfortunately, she only inherited a few of her fathers powers, one being the ability to grant three wishes if the wisher speaks the words that will bind her to them. I thought that was really interesting, as well as the rules of wishing. I dont remember the concept of a djinns wishes being presented in a similar fashion, so this was really unique.

Tennyson is a pretty awesome guy, for a vampire. I think my biggest disappointment with the story was that Shiloh and Tennysons relationship didnt really go anywhere. Not that it had to, but I thought that they made a great team, and after Shiloh started to trust him a little more, that there was a lot of chemistry between them. I might have been mistaken, though, what with all of the nasty magic spiders that kept trying to kill everyone. Bleh! I hate spiders.

I thought the reanimated head was also unique, and I dont think I will ever look at a cake carrier again the same way. A WTF was up with the lettuce bed the poor head was resting on. I mean, really? Yuck.

Stray Magic is a promising start to the series, though I was disappointed with the complete lack of closure at the end. One scrap of the mystery was solved, but there were still so many unanswered questions. Book 2 releases in November, and I have already added it to my wish list.

Grade: 3.75 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

Shiloh Harrison was hoping for a few days off to recover from a particularly nasty assignment, preferably with the help of the talented hands (and, well, the rest of his body too) of her sexy boyfriend, Vincent. But when a group of vampires takes an entire trailer park hostage, theres nothing to do but make her apologies and get to the scene.
Such is the life of a Federal Marshal in the Paranormal Investigators Unit.
Yet this isnt like her typical track-and-nab case: something is going on that has vampires scared, and it takes all her strength not to imagine what could frighten such powerful creatures. Unfortunately, she doesnt have that option. Her boss is MIA, someone is snatching vampires, and theres a ticking clock that can only end one way: a bloodbath.
Unless she can stop it.

Manga Review: Bakuman V 11 by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata @vizmedia

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May Contain Spoilers

Forget everything I said about Yamahisa! He has taken poor Ryu and made him a hostess club deviant.  Some of the female manga artists dont help matters much, pointing out how weird he is. Right in front of him. With his new woman rage burning bright, he vows to make True Human even better, while showcasing the two-faced women in his life. Since he doesnt get out much, he really doesnt have much interaction with women to fall back on, so it is so unfortunate that Hiramarus tea party didnt go as planned. For either artist. Yoshida and Yamahisa will do anything to keep their artists working, and they are having mixed results.

And, back to Akito and Mashiro. They are desperate to make Perfect Crime Club the perfect Jump manga. They know that this is their last chance. Having earned a reputation for being troublesome creators, the editor in chief will only keep their new manga running if it places higher than +Natural or Crow in the surveys. What they dont know is that Hattori has been given a firm deadline for this accomplishment. If they dont have better survey results by chapter 25, its bye bye Shonen Jump! And worse, the first five chapters dont count! Sasaki is going to knock those survey results right out of the park, because any new series should get good results in the beginning of the run. Wow! This guy is not playing around.

This was a fun installment because Eiji and Iwase kept one-upping the guys. Eiji wants Muto Ashirogi to be the best they can be, so he has pulled off the kid gloves.  He is tough! Eiji is a manga genius, and he thrives on the challenge of his self-proclaimed rivals. Just seeing what he came up with, as Mashiro and Akito give it their all, too, was such a blast. When Iwase gets in on the action, watch out!

One thing I didnt like was that Miho decided to not do an audition for the +Natural anime. The heck? Just because Iwase and Eiji are Mashiro and Akitos biggest rivals, she decided to turn down the role. Really? Mashiro knows that he and Akito have to reach a certain level of popularity or their series will be canceled. An anime for PCP might never be on the horizon. But he and Kaya dont want Miho to pursue this opportunity? That just made me mad for Mihos lost opportunity. Its not like shes up for what is going to be a sure fire hit anime every day.

Nitpick aside, I really like how the series is progressing. Things arent easy for Mashiro and Akito, and its looking like they might strike out again with their new series.

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

By the creators of Death Note! The mystery behind manga-making revealed!
Reads R to L (Japanese Style), for audiences rated teen. Average student Moritaka Mashiro enjoys drawing for fun. When his classmate and aspiring writer Akito Takagi discovers his talent, he begs Moritaka to team up with him as a manga-creating duo. But what exactly does it take to make it in the manga-publishing world?
With Hattori, their former editor helping out again, Moritaka and Akito do everything they can to make their new series the best it can be. Moritaka works on the character designs while Akito tries to come up with the perfect names for the characters and the series itself. But when it debuts in Weekly Jump magazine, can it take the top spot?!

June 18th, 2018

Manga Review: One Piece V 6 by Eiichiro Oda @shonenjump

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May Contain Spoilers

Luffy has decided that Sanji will be joining his crew as the ships cook. Sanji declines. Luffy declines Sanjis declination, and I had to laugh. Luffy can be so simpleminded, but he is stubborn as a mule. How long will it take for him to change Sanjis mind? I give Sanji another volume to be persuaded, or run off the Baratie by Chef Zeff.

As Luffy causes chaos while trying to work off damages to the restaurant, Don Krieg and Gin arrive. Krieg is starving, but the staff refuses to feed him because of his awful reputation. Sanji, however, gives him a meal, and restored, Krieg declares that hes taking over the ship. Oh dear! Sanji, why did you feed this heartless murderer?? Chef Zeff understands why Sanji gave the guy a free meal, but the other chefs are not happy with Sanji. Who would be?

While everyone is fighting with Krieg, Nami, much to my disappointment, takes the opportunity to steal Johnny and Yosakus treasure, as well as the Merry Go. I have to admit that Nami isnt my favorite character currently, and I kind of wish that Luffy had left her stranded on a deserted island. Yes, yes, I know that she has motivations, she has her reasons, but she stole the pirate hunters treasure, as well as the crews ship. Yo, she just made off with their whole entire house! And left them to fend for themselves against a killer pirate. Thats pretty darn cold.

Hawk-Eye Mihawk shows up to give Krieg another beat-down, but Zolo, in his quest to be the greatest swordsman ever, challenges him to combat. What a silly guy. Couldnt he at least have let Hawk-Eye terrorize the pirates again, before throwing down the gauntlet? Wouldnt that have made more sense? Now that Nami is gone, none of the Straw Hat guys has a lick of common sense, and I despair at their chances for survival without Namis presence.

This was another high action installment of One Piece, chock full of villains, ridiculous situations, and menacing rumors about the Grand Line.

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

Luffy’s pirates thought they were just stopping in for a quick bite…but now Luffy’s been made a busboy on Baratie, the oceangoing restaurant, and it turns out some of the worst-mannered pirates on the Grand Line are just dying for a meal.
Always one to look on the bright side, Luffy sets his sights on Sanji, the smart-talking, skirt-chasing assistant chef on the Baratie, as the Merry Go’s new cook. But it’ll take more than a vicious pirate battle and a little sweet talking from Nami to convince him to leave the Baratie and join Luffy’s team. His oath to feed any and all pirates in need keeps getting in the way. The question is: what do you do when the very same pirates you just fed now want to serve you up for dinner?

Batman in Undies Part 3

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Steve Trevor Clothing Damage

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Shirtless Havok in Hawaii

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Casually shirtless Nightwing

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Ultimate Wolverine Shirtless

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Naked Tempest

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Bare-Chested Havok

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June 15th, 2018

Manga Review: Blade of the Immortal Omnibus 1 by Hiroaki Samura @DarkHorseComics

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May Contain Spoilers

I was first introduced to this series when Dark Horse was releasing the floppies over 20 years ago (!). That was before licensed manga was released right to left, but instead was flipped to read left to right. Blade of the Immortal was cut up and the panels arranged in an order more palatable to Western readers at the time. Boy how things have changed! Instead of taking the opportunity to release these omnibuses in their original layout, the publisher choose to keep everything the same, and just bound three volumes together for each omnibus. Since I read a digital review copy, I unfortunately cant weigh in on production quality, other than to say that the digital review copy was so clean and crisp, and a joy to read, that I wish that they releasing this in digital format as well as paper.

Blade of the Immortal tells the story of Manji, a cursed swordsman, and Rin, the orphaned daughter of a murdered dojo master. Manji has been cursed with blood worms, thousands of wiggly creatures that repair physical damage done to him. He was a murderer, a criminal who caused the death of his sisters husband. To atone for his crimes, he has vowed to kill 1000 evil men, which I dont really see as much of an improvement. Manji is the embodiment of live by the sword, die by the sword, except that because of the bloodworms, he cant be killed unless someone manages to separate his head from the rest of his body.

Rin watched as Anotsu Kagehisa, a master swordsman with a grudge against her family that started with his grandfather, murdered her father, and his men brutalized her mother. They left her alive and alone, swearing vengeance against his Itto-Ryu dojo. The main ternate of Anotsus dojo is victory regardless of method, and he looks at the rules of other dojos with scorn. He has vowed to gather other misfit swordfighters together, destroy all other dojos, and have his revenge against the people who threw his family into the cold because his grandfather had the gall to save his master using two swords. How absolutely unseemly!

The artwork is stunning. I love Samuras illustrations. Some panels are inked, some are just gorgeous pencils, with eye-catching details throughout. Grab a copy of this from your library even if you dont like historical action stories and just flip through all of pages of beautiful art.

I really like the story. Rin has hired Manji to be her bodyguard, and to help her get revenge against Anotsu and his gang of bloodthirsty followers. After over 500 pages, I dont know if I like Manji or not. Hes kind of a jerk, and hes a guy who will stab you first and ask questions later as you bleed out in front of him. Rin, on the other hand, has seen some terrible things, and even though she longs for her revenge, she doesnt always have the killer instinct or heart to achieve it. Good thing she has Manji along, who does not share these reservations.

Grade: 4.5 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

A cursed, seemingly immortal warrior aids a young girl in her quest for revenge, as the students of a brutal new sword school tear a bloody path across Japan. Hiroaki Samura’s massive manga series spawned an anime run, a spinoff novel, an art book, and a live-action film! Samura’s storytelling tour-de-force also won Japan’s Media Arts Award, several British Eagle Awards, and an Eisner Award, among other international accolades. Intense and audacious, Blade takes period samurai action and deftly combines it with a modernist street idiom to create a style and mood like no other work of graphic fiction.
“Blade of the Immortal Omnibus Volume 1” contains the first 3 volumes of “Blade of the Immortal” by Dark Horse.
“Samura’s work will thrill you, engage you, and even horrify you like no other artist working in film or print today.”
-“Geof Darrow”

June 14th, 2018

Manga Review: Bakuman V 10 by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata @shonenjump

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May Contain Spoilers

Bakuman has become one of my favorite series. Like One-Punch Man, it didnt wow me from the beginning, but gradually earned my love. By volume 4 I was hooked, after wondering if I should continue on with a somewhat boring series about two middle school kids who vow become famous manga artists. While there was a lot of info-dumping at first, the series has settled into solid storytelling, with solid character growth for most of the characters. The women still dont have much depth, but I guess I cant have everything.

Moritaka and Akito are desperate to come up with a new series that is better than Crow or +Natural. If they cant come up with something that is a surefire hit in six months, they will never work for Jump again. Miura is eager to help them, so he asks Hattori for assistance. I love Hattori, and was so glad that he and Miura started working together to bring the best out of Muto Ashirogi.

The stakes are high as the guys submit stories and are rejected by the editors. When they are down to the final submission, Akito, who is still coming up empty with ideas, drags Moritaka along on a stakeout of Hattori. And from their tailing of the editor, a new idea is born, one that they are both certain will be their ticket to finally one-upping Eiji Nizuma.

This was just a fun volume. The guys have some hard times, but they are resilient and bounce back from the disappointment of rejection. Eiji makes a few appearances, and my new favorite, Ryu Shizuka, gets a little more page time. I used to think Yamahisa was a complete douche, but hes working hard to get Ryu out of his hikimori shell, with great results. I hope we get more time with him as the series progresses.

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

By the creators of Death Note! The mystery behind manga-making revealed!
Reads R to L (Japanese Style), for audiences T.
Average student Moritaka Mashiro enjoys drawing for fun. When his classmate and aspiring writer Akito Takagi discovers his talent, he begs Moritaka to team up with him as a manga-creating duo. But what exactly does it take to make it in the manga-publishing world?
Moritaka and Akito will need to come up with an amazing new manga idea if they ever hope to get back into Weekly Jump magazine, and they only have six months to do it! But with Hattori, their former editor, helping behind the scenes, the duo might have everything in place to create the perfect story.

June 12th, 2018

Review: Born to the Blade Season One by Michael R Underwood, Marie Brennan, Malika Ann Older &

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May Contain Spoilers

Born to the Blade is currently running on Serial Box. Heres some background on the publisher: Serial Box publishes serialized fiction created by teams of critically acclaimed and best-selling writers. Serials are released through the Serial Box app, website, and third party retailers in weekly installments in both e-book and audio formats. During a three-month season, each episode is a 30 minute read or an hour listen.

I love the concept of Serial Box, but I have such an erratic reading schedule that I prefer having a complete story before I begin reading. I got so burned out trying to keep up with my manga series that I actually stopped reading them for a long, long time. Now that I am devouring them again, I give priority to completed series. The concept of reading a 30 minute serial once a week sounds great, but in reality, I dont have the staying power to faithfully read each installment, so, thankfully, Serial Box is releasing Born to the Blade in an omnibus edition on June 27, in both ebook and audio, so you read the entire story in one sitting, too!

I love fantasy stories, so when I heard about Born to the Blade, I added it to my TBR. When the publisher offered a review copy of Season One, I did not hesitate to accept it. I love Marie Brennan, and while the other authors are new to me, I was eager to give this serial a test drive. I was a little fearful that the chapters would seem disjointed, as they are written in rotation by the authors. That was unfounded; the episodes flowed together seamlessly, and all of the characters were consistent from chapter to chapter.

The story begins with Kris Denn and Oda no Michiko traveling to Twaa-Fei, the neutral islands hosting the Warders Circle. Diplomats from the six nations hold seats on the Circle, and disputes are, in theory, to be voted on by the Circle. If the Warder isnt happy with the vote, a challenge to a duel can be issued. The duels were so interesting. A bladecrafter carves sigils in the air with their sword, enhancing speed, or strength, or giving them the ability to levitate. The battles were fun to read, and I thought the magic was unique.

Kris is from Rumika, and the birthright of their island is the ability to change genders. Kris is traveling to Twaa-Fei to challenge for a position in the Warders Circle. If they succeed, it will be the first time in centuries that a new nation has been admitted to the Circle. There is a lot riding on Kris success, and they are feeling very stressed about their ability to emerge from the Gauntlet of challenges unscathed. Rumika is a nation on the rise  they have discovered a secret way to process aerstone, a substance needed to keep the islands afloat, as well as to build new ships to sail the skies between the islands.

Ojo is the Warder from Quloo. Quloo is a nation that is literally sinking. Because they stripped so much aerstone from their islands, they caused an environmental calamity. Now they have closed off their ports to outsiders, and they are trying to purchase as much aesstone to prop up the island as they can. If Rumika is admitted to Circle, they will have a new source of aestone, and Ojo and Kris can make a deal over a cup of tea. If they arent admitted to the Circle, it will take a great deal of diplomacy and time that Quloo doesnt have, to get the vital aestone.

There are a ton of politics put into play in this serial, from the Mertikan Empire plotting to enlarge their territory with more colonies, to the conquered Kakuta and their junior Warder Michiko. Michiko just wants to prove that shes a loyal subject to Mertika, and she doesnt want to cause any waves. The birthright of Kakuta is the ability to speak to their direct ancestors, and when Michiko discovers that her past is a lie, she is conflicted about her future. Will she ever fit in with the island born Mertikans? Will her worth ever be accepted?

The birthrights were interesting, too. Depending on which island you are born on, you have a specific ability associated with that island nation. The Kakutans can mediate and speak to their ancestors, something the Mertikans look down on. Why talk to an ancestor when you can remember your past lives? The most useful birthright belonged to an island nation that Quloo blew from the skies and sank into the Mists, obliterating it from future generations. What a waste! While I didnt like the Quloo government, I liked Ojo, who is helpless to keep events from spiraling out of control and preventing the outbreak of war.

This was a great read, and after about 60% I couldnt put it down. The beginning was a little bit confusing, and the cast is rather large, which occasionally left me flipping back to remind myself who someone was. I didnt like some characters as well as others, and I thought, at first, that Kris was too young and too impulsive to be the liaison for their government. Thankfully they matured by the end of this season, but tragedy and loss will do that a person.

I was kind of bummed when Born to Blade Season One ended, because I was so invested in the story, and it just kind of stops. So now I have to wait patiently for Season Two, and I am so bad at waiting patiently! This was a fun read, and if you like politics mingle with your swordplay, I think you will enjoy it too.

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

Youth. Ambition. Power. Oda no Michiko and Kris Denn have much of the first two, and crave the last. To get it, all they must do is survive.

For centuries, the Warder’s Circle on the neutral islands of Twaa-Fei has given the nations of the sky a way to avoid war, as their chosen warders settle disputes through magical duels of blade and sigil. But that peace is on the edge of crumbling, crushed between the aggression of the Mertikan Empire and the determination of the still-free nations to not be consumed.

Twaa-Fei may be neutral, but it is also home to a million intrigues, schemes, and deadly intentions. Michiko and Kris arrive in this treacherous world together, bladecrafters eager to serve their countries — Michiko as a junior warder for Kakute, a vassal of the empire, Kris as an upstart challenging to win a seat for their home, Rumika, in the Circle. But before the young bladecrafters have even settled in, a power struggle erupts, a man’s head is parted from his shoulders, and every good thing Michiko thinks she knows about the empire comes into question. The two young diplomat-warriors are surrounded by warders of experience, each with their own ambitions: chief among them Warder Ojo, whose home island of Quloo is in danger of falling from the sky, and Warder Lavinia, who represents the empire in all its contempt and brutality.

A storm is coming, and Kris and Michiko stand at its eye. Will it bind the nations of the sky together… or tear them apart?

About Serial Box

Serial Box, which NPR recently called “the HBO of reading,” produces original series that are released in ebook and audio episodes through their app(s), website, and third party retailers (iTunes, Amazon, etc). Readers/listeners pay $1.59 week by week or $18 in advance for a whole season (10-13 episodes). Serial Box brings the power of appointment-based consumption to reading for the first time since Charles Dickens & Little Nell. Visit serialbox.com for more information.

The Team

Marie Brennan (World Fantasy Award finalist, Prix Imaginales for Best Translated Novel); Malka Older (Infomocracy, Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015); Michael R. Underwood (Stabby Award-finalist Genrenauts series, the Ree Reyes Geekomancy series; North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books; Hugo Award-finalist podcaster with The Skiffy & Fanty Show); Cassandra Khaw (Clarkesworld, Fireside Fiction, Uncanny, Shimmer, Bearly A Lady, video game writer)

June 11th, 2018

Manga Review: One-Punch Man V 13 by ONE & Yusuke Murata @shonenjump

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May Contain Spoilers

This volume introduces more heroes and more villains, and slowly reveals some of the monsters plans. With the threat from Garo and the sudden appearance of all of the monsters, Atomic Samurai requests the aid of a group of martial arts masters, only to be derailed by Haragiri, who has been enticed to the side of the monsters!

Oh, noes, the monsters have come up with a plan to lure the heroes to their side. By forcing them to eat monster cells, the heroes gain unheard of strength, but they also become monsters themselves! Who would take that deal?! Turns out that there is a lot of strife between the heroes, and some of them want  power more than they want to be heroes. Or, if they refuse, the former heroes turned monsters have been ordered to kill the reluctant heroes! Things are looking really bad for the humans.

Saitamas martial art competition continues, but at this point, I dont see the point of the fighting. Of course the competitors arent aware that the monsters are destroying the cities and taking out the heroes in large numbers, so they continue with their matches, obvious that the world outside is going to hell in a handbasket.

Soon the finals match between the cocky Suiryu and Saitama begins. Saitama is more worried about losing his wig than anything else. Like Saitama, Suiryu is bored with fighting, and he believes that hes one tough guy who cant lose. Suiryu equates strength with freedom and an easy life, so he wants to be a strong as possible.

All during the start of this fight, I just wanted Saitama to forgot about his stupid wig. I mean, REALLY!! Suiryu thinks that hes being smart, always protecting his head, which is laughable, but hes only protecting the hamster on his head! Then Suiryu goes on a rant about how boring heroes are, and that Charanko shouldnt want to waste his life doing something so boring. He should strive to live an easy life. Saitama shows him what he can do with his easy life, and the match between them is spectacular. I love the fights in this manga  the fights are so much fun and are so visually appealing. It is painful to wait for the next volume!

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

Class-A heroes struggle in their fight against the giant monster Multieyed Octopus. Wait, is that Class-S hero Flashy Flash joining the fight?! Unfazed, the Monster Association continues ramping up its attacks, but its goal remains a mystery. Meanwhile, the martial arts tournament reaches the semifinals!

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