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World of Keiko 2018/03/18

Ahoy there, maties! I hope that you guys had an awesome week. Feel free to let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments section. Me? I’d say that I had a pretty productive week overall.

The past week’s posts:

ANIME & MANGA
I didn’t get around to watching any anime this past week, but I did have a lot of fun reading various manga series. Whilst I reviewed several, I also skimmed through a few other series to refine my list a bit more. There were some series that I almost immediately dismissed due to various issues.

Small RANT: One big issue that I have is romance series that focuses more on physical intimacy than “coupling”. I know that I’ve said it before but romance is not just about physical intimacy. If the focus is the physical than a relationship has no long-term viability. (There is only so far that I can suspend reality when the primary element of a genre is dismissed.) If you can swing both in a story, then awesome. Alas, some folks merely want to write sex scenes due to the desire for immediate gratification. This is part of the reason why I like “slow burn” HEA (Happily Ever After) titles. This counts for both text-based and graphic storytelling.

For those interested, I changed around the Manga Reviews page to make it slightly easier to navigate. As it was, the page looked like a bunch of titles and bulleted lists were puked upon the page. That description too graphic for you? Sorry, but it seemed like the most fitting way to explain the poor organisation on the page. It sucked from a UX (User Experience) standpoint and needed to be addressed. Sorry for taking so long. If you guys have any further suggestions to make it easier to navigate, then don’t hesitant to let me know and I will consider them.

READING & WRITING
I think I have made my decision as to which project I will focus on next. It is the story that most resonates with me but this urban fantasy series will need some work to get “up to snuff”. I will have to do research, which includes consuming stories with similar elements and reading up on subjects such as magic systems and mythological creatures.
So far, I have come across three webtoons that come close to the writing style I am hoping to emulate. These are as follows:

  • Lost and Found by Amapora and Saza [complex human emotions and situations] 
  • The Lady and Her Butler by Jade [broken characters looking to start over after a bad situation]
  • Siren’s Lament by InstantMiso [attitude of main character rocks]

Feel free to look up these series on the interwebs. All going well, I will be working on the first draft of book 1 by this time next month. Fingers and toes crossed on this one.

GAMING
I didn’t play much of Path of Exile this past week. However, hubby convinced me to try out a Herald of Agony Rain of Arrows Occultist build a run. I tried it out for the first time on Friday night and seriously dig it so far. It is a seriously chill yet powerful build. I can seriously see myself enjoying and having it as my main for the remainder of the Synthesis League. Whilst the cyclone build was okay, I can’t really see myself enjoying it near as much as “Celestial Bob”. In any case, feel free to take a look at the link above for an exhaustive overview of the build. If you like it, consider giving it a run.

OTHER
It looks like my vines are truly near the end of their lifespan. I enjoyed a lot of cucumbers during the growing season but all good things come to an end eventually. I learned a lot from growing these plants and look forward to growing them again next time around.
On Friday night, I started getting a nasty headache and a toothache as well. By Saturday, the toothache (wisdom tooth related) had got worse, the headache hadn’t subsided and I started feeling other symptoms late afternoon. Hubby was suffering worse versions of most of the same symptoms as well, but to think that I would get a toothache at the same time is a real annoyance. Whenever I deal with wisdom tooth problems, they linger for a few days, being a real pain. One of the biggest problems is getting to sleep because I am a side sleeper. It would have been a lot less of an issue if I could comfortably sleep on my back. Oh well… On Saturday evening, I began to suffer from nausea and dizziness. I decided to sleep a bit on Sunday and was feeling significantly better by Sunday evening.

Anyhoo, that is it for this week’s update. I hope that you guys take care of yourselves over the next week. I leave you with the following word: machicolation.

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Manga Reread: Hapi Mari [Chapters 21-30]

Other Names: Happy Marriage?!
Year: 2009-2012
Author/Artist: Maki Enjoji
Genre: Josei, Romance, Comedy, Drama

Reviewer’s Note: This review is based on the Aerandia English fan translation project. It contains non-explicit sex scenes and adult themes. Beware spoilers below.

Chapters 21-30, we see numerous revelations. Hokuto’s ex-girlfriend attempts to sow descent between Hokuto and Chiwa. Chiwa does her own investigation into how Hokuto’s mother died ahead of her own ex-boyfriend Asahina explaining what happened in college. And finally, Hokuto and his father talk for the first time in years after it was revealed earlier that his old man has a terminal disease.

Several of the story arcs that were introduced in chapters 11-20 are continued in this week’s reading. Whilst we see some resolution in that regard, there are still the ongoing hangups of Hokuto and Chiwa. The life-changing choice by Hokuto to take over Mamiya Tourism is one that will play out alongside the main arc regarding the death of his mother. Whilst I am well aware of how this plays from my previous reading of this story, the tension and foreshadowing remain.

For those that have been following along with the reading of this manga, what are your predictions for the remaining ten chapters? Feel free to post them in the comments section along with your reasoning. Note that if it involves an alien invasion or oni attacks, I will shake my head in shame. 😀


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TV Review: Barry Season 1

Year: 2018 (ongoing)
Episodes: 8
Genre: Crime, Crime Comedy, Action

Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is a former military veteran that works as a hitman Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) as his handler. Whilst the money is good and the work is easy for him, Barry hates his life. When he gets a job to go to Los Angeles to kill a guy sleeping with the wife of Goran Pazar (Glenn Fleshler of the show Billions), a Chechnyan gangster, Barry meets with some of the people in his target’s acting class.
Suddenly, a world of possibilities is opened for him and he begins to seriously think about a life outside of being a killer for hire. However, he must first break off the shackles of his life as an assassin if he can ever pursue his dream to be an actor. It is easier said than done. He must not only contend with Chechnyans and Bolivian gangsters, but also a police investigation and his obsession with Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg), one of the other students.

First up, this HBO show is co-written, occasionally directed by and stars Bill Hader, a regular on Saturday Night Live around a decade. As a big fan of Hader’s work, this was a big selling point when I first came across trailers for this series. However, you cannot go wrong with Henry Wrinkler as Gene Cousineau and Stephen Root as Monroe Fuches. I wasn’t familiar with many of the other members of the cast, but I ended up taking a liking to Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank and Paula Newsome as Detective Janice Moss. Whoever did the casting for this show did well.
The story is an odd one but appropriately chaotic when you have a bunch of people with their own motivations gunning for you. The use of fantasy to give an insight into Barry’s headspace is a good one, giving a psychological aspect to this series. His desire for a normal life that doesn’t involve hurting people is a big motivator for the main character. Barry is a broken and easily-manipulated main character. It is easy to feel for him even though he does create many of his own problems. He also has to contend with the conflicting motivations of Monroe, who is obviously ripping Barry off.
The action scenes for this series are pretty solid, being closer to what one would expect for a series with a bit more of a focus on the technical aspects of armed conflict. The deaths of characters have a purpose and are typically caused by Barry being put into a corner by those around him or by a sense of obligation. However, it also gives us a chance to see the character and those around him a chance to shine. Pn several occasions, he is even forced to kill people that he cares about. We see the emotional impact it has on him, making him more and more desperate to get out of the life of an assassin.
However, this series is still predominantly a dark comedy and the comedic elements are done well. It accomplishes this with some good dialogue and situations where Barry has to deal with some odd and sometimes dangerous situations. Both the humor and the action elements work well in progressing the story as well without feeling like it is diminishing either.

If I had to choose an MVP for this series it would be Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank, hands-down. Whilst I love the entire cast of characters, NoHo Hank provides a counter-balance to the other members of the Chechnyan crime organization he is a part of. Anthony Carrigan delivers some really awesome lines, making his character such a delight to watch.

In conclusion, the first season of Barry was a delight to watch. Some people might raise an eyebrow when I say this but I actually like it a lot more than other crime series such as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. It might sound a bit like comparing apples to oranges but it is not necessarily a bad comparison when you consider how Barry moved along plot instead of dragging the story out like these other series did. I give this series a rating of 9/10. I dropped a point for a few strange choices in the last episode. These choices weren’t major but they dropped this series from a perfect score.

The second season for Barry begins on the 31st of March.


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Manga Review: Kare wa Diablo Vol. 2

Alternate Names: He is Diablo!, Kare wa Diovolo
Year: 2010-2011
Author/Artist: Kayoko Shimotsuki
Genre: Shoujo, Urban Fantasy, Comedy, Romance, Drama

Reviewers Note: Volume 2 covers consists of chapters 5-8 with a bonus chapter at the end. This review is based on the S2 Scanlations English translation. >insert spoiler warning here<

In volume two of this series, Asuma / Asmodeus, that douchebag fallen that appeared in volume one, makes his grand appearance after acting in the shadows. He now attempts to get back at Rui / Lucifer by trying to destroy the bond between the other fallen’s relationship with Meiko. In the process, it only “makes their bond stronger”. It also results in Asman taking a liking to her ahead of being forced into a witch contract with resident swashbuckling cosplayer Toutsu by Lucifer. After that, an arc about the cultural festival introduces two new characters. Meh…

This week’s installment is a case of diminishing returns, as the story is becoming weirder. In an effort to add in lots of things to the story, such as the cliched Cultural Festival arc, it is all over the place narratively. We do see a moment of brilliance in the form of a flashback to Rui’s past with his former witch Lillith. The form of him being cut in half by Michael whilst protecting her is sobering even if the rest of the chapters undo much of this.
This brings us to the question of how many things a series can include before the mess of ideas overpowers the story. I think that the first volume did okay even if it wasn’t brilliant. In volume two, the story is diluted to the point where the goodwill built up in the first volume is being undone. This is a shame as well because the series had a decent premise.

Verdict: I am downgrading this series from eight to seven Aguris. I cannot justify keeping my rating as high as it was because the second volume was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps the third and final volume will give this series some well-needed TLC. I suppose we will have to wait and see.


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Manga Review: Conflict Lover

Alternate names: Lovers in Conflict, Furachi ga Chishiryou, Ibara no Kanmuri, Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto, The Crown of Thorns, A Rude and Lethal Injection, Conflict Lovers, I Think About You at Dawn, Wild Rose’s Crown
Year: 2012
Author / Artist: Satoru Takamiya
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Comedy, Drama

Reviewer’s Note: My review reflects the Blue Flor and Shoujo Crusade English translation. It includes sex scenes.

For those interested, the author/artist Satoru Takamiya has about a dozen romance genre anthologies under her belt beyond this title.

Conflict Lover is a short anthology consisting of a three-chapter story (A Rude and Lethal Injection + Conflict Lovers) and two single-chapter stories (The Crown of Thorns and Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto). Unfortunately for me, the fan translation that I read was missing was the last short story called Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto.
The first of the stories, a three-chapter story, focuses on the “political marriage” of high school student Sagiri to 24-year-old Sanada Soushi after her sister who was originally engaged to him runs off unexpectedly. Sagiri now has to deal with her own hangups and concerns about whether she will make a good partner. However, her mischievous hubby is more than up to the challenge of convincing her that he legitimately cares about her. This comes off as a charming comedic romance story with a snarky male protagonist that comes off as playful and caring. Of course, this is playful and caring by shoujo comedic romance standards, which also includes “the lewds”.
As for the first of the shorter stories, I was annoyed by it but it shows that Satoru Takamiya can write something more dramatic (in this case a romantic drama set in the Showa era) than the more comedic tale of Sagiri and Soushi. In my case, I find these romantic dramas to be a tad too artsy for my taste. It is more of a personal preference thing more than anything else. Some of you might like the theatrical elements of it, however.
To the artwork, the character designs aren’t really unique and they feel slightly ugly for my own personal preferences. However, you can still tell characters apart from each other whilst conveying action and emotion. As much as I enjoyed the storytelling elements, the artwork did still let it down somewhat. This is a shame because Satoru Takamiya is obviously capable of telling a variety of different stories.

The question is: Do I like Conflict Lover enough to read more of Satoru Takamiya’s other titles? In this case, I would provide a resounding yes. Whilst I appreciate good artwork, the story is more important to me. I can forgive mediocre artwork if the storyteller put in effort on telling a compelling story with interesting characters. I do not, however, recommend it as an entry level shoujo series due to the artwork, sex scenes and adult themes therein.


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Manga Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 11-15

Year: 2011 (ongoing) [English translation]
Author/Artist: Izumi Tsubaki
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life

Reviewer’s Note: Chapters 11-15 covers the first half of the second volume of this manga, which covers material from the anime as well. Please note that I’ve also decided to provide an overview of each chapter read, leading to spoilers.

  • Chapter 11: Chiyo and Nozaki go to a shopping mall. They visit various stores eventually heading to a toy store where they meet and discuss figurines with Mikorin. After going back to his place Nozaki tries to get Chiyo to wear a sailor uniform as a reference for his manga. Yes, he does find it difficult to talk about stuff other than work – thanks for noticing!
  • Chapter 12: Ahead of a meeting with Ken, Nozaki, Chiyo, and Mikorin discuss Maeno’s editorial practices. Nozaki offers his usual scathing review of his former editor, citing examples. We see a flashback to his first meeting with Ken after being transferred to a new editor. At the current day meeting, Nozaki and Ken have a meeting about new installments of Let’s Fall in Love.
  • Chapter 13: It is a Seo and Waka chapter this time around. Nozaki, Chiyo, and Seo discuss the way that people react to Seo’s “alter ego” Lorelai. Waka shares his trauma at being targeted by Seo with Nozaki. On a visit to Nozaki’s place, he falls asleep to the music of Lorelai, not realising it actually Seo singing. Waka volunteers to become a part of Nozaki’s manga team in exchange for Nozaki’s song by Lorelai.
  • Chapter 14: In continuation of the events of the previous chapter, we see Waka discussing how to get back at Seo for her constant bullying. He makes the mistake of using one of Nozaki’s shoujo books for tips, managing to compliment her and give a gift of mittens instead of duel-declaring gloves without realizing the mistake… BECAUSE HE IS A MORON! But hey, he is an adorable moron. As for Seo, she is her usual oblivious self as well, but what can you expect?
  • Chapter 15: This chapter begins with Ken pointing out the lack of depth in Nozaki’s male and female protagonists Mamiko and Suzuki. We see Ken prompt Nozaki to think about Mamiko’s motivations, leading to Nozaki bringing Bento lunches to school, him getting into shenanigans with Kashima.

This week’s five chapters play out as they did in the anime series, but it isn’t an issue because the various moments are, at least for an avid fan like myself, repeatable. Love it! Love it! Love it! Time to let out a fangirl squeal of approval… *squee*
I’ll soon be coming to the end of the material adapted for the anime series. It feels a little bit weird but I am also oddly excited to meet some of the other characters, such as Chiyo’s younger brother and Nozaki’s younger sister. I want to see what other silliness this series can provide as well. I am really looking forward to it.

As a side note, I am considering changing my ratings for comedy categories to Aguris or Mikorins based on who the lead is now. I believe it is fitting given that these two idiots exemplify a spirit of whimsy and silliness. In any case, enjoy this adorable gif of Mikorin.


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Manga Review: Tomo-chan Is a Girl Chapters 1-100

Alternate names: Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!, Tomo-chan wa Onna no ko!, Tomo-chan ha Onna no Ko!, Tomo-chan Wa Onna No Ko!
Year: 2015
Author / Artist: Fumita Yanagida
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life

Tomo-chan Is a Girl is the story of tomboy Tomo Aizawa and her dysfunctional relationship with long-time friend and neighbor Juunichirou Kubota. It begins with her confessing to him and the object of her affections seeing it as a child and it is dismissed as the classic “I love you, bro!” So begins her attempts to make him see her as a woman, with a little help from some friends.

Each chapter of Tomo-chan Is a Girl consists of single 4-cell (aka 4-koma) “moments” tied together chronologically. It makes good use of visual gags and tropes, making for an entertaining first hundred “moments”. The plot was solid throughout, with a few more characters added over time, such as the mischievous Misuzu and the bizarre Carol. These additional characters contributed meaningfully to the story, adding a bit more conflict to this slice of life comedy without feeling contrived.

All in all, the first one chapters of this manga series that was a really fun read. If you are looking for a slice of life comedic romance than I recommend that you give this series a shot.