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First Look WT: The Blue Land

Year: 2018 – 2020 (completed)
Author: Lee Jongkyu
Artist: Haerin
Genre:  Manhwa, Action, Crime, Thriller, Drama

Today, I decided to finally begin posting “first looks” at different series. These reviews will cover free reads available for computer users rather than a tablet or smartphone users initially due to current constraints, but I do intend to change this to a tablet at some stage in the not-so-distant future given that a lot of platforms offer significantly longer previews via mobile apps.
Why start with this series? Well, it is a series that keeps popping up on my recommended reads list and I figure ‘why not?’ given that I have been focusing more on romance titles of late. Besides, a good action, adventure and/or thriller can be a heck of a lot of fun.

In this post, I will be discussing the crime thriller The Blue Land currently available at Toomics (series page). There, you will find the prologue to the second chapter available to read free of charge.

Prologue / repeat as chapter 1: flashforward of our suited, scar-faced male protagonist arriving at the funeral of a man that he recently killed. It is heavily raining. After entering the building, he makes it to the casket room where he meets one of the “victim’s” minions and the two agree to duke it out. When he leaves the front door, a sea of mobsters are waiting outside and he makes note of the date as being the birthday of somebody he used to know.

Chapter 2: Back in time, our now unscarred violent crimes detective Kang Jungwoo is waiting in a car with his partner and we are shown by his level of focus that he cares more about his job than his private life. In the background, there are numerous political signs pertaining to a politician named Lee Jaejoon who is running on an anti-corruption platform. [foreshadowing? I think so, Jim!] Kang Jungwoo is lectured by his buddy about how neglecting his girlfriend especially on her birthday will one day get him dumped. [more foreshadowing? Yessom!]
Not long after this, a woman in lingerie runs out out of an alleyway in terror with a scantily-clad gangster chasing after her. Our male protagonist engages in some police brutality in order to check the guys privileged attitude before placing him in handcuffs. After he spies some dodgy business at a hotel up the road, Jungwoo arranges for his partner to take the guy to the police station while he heads over to investigate. Making use of some basic parkour, our male lead scales and enters the building to find dodgy dealings going down.

This story leaves the blocks with a typical Manhwa beginning that gives the reader the promise of things to expect from the series. We see our hardened male protagonist walk into the funeral giving zero f*cks about all of the people around him that clearly want to do him in. Unlike a lot of Manhwa beginnings, however, this start is followed up immediately by placing at least one of those things into context rather than leaving the reader confused. We learn that Jungwoo is a cop that puts his job before his personal life, something that will likely have ramifications later. Whilst he comes off as a man of justice, we can also see that there will be a cost for that desire for justice later on.
On top of the storytelling elements, the artwork does a great job of adding further to the tone of the series, with lots of black, white and red being used. Whilst the artwork is gritty it doesn’t overdo it either. The POV angles in the beginning chapter, just as an example, give the indication of violence to come but not to the over-the-top levels of the Sin City franchise.
Something as simple as the origins of the scar on Jungwoo’s face in the first chapter provides a decent hook for reading more of this series. Whilst the story hasn’t got there yet, the first two chapters (chapters 1 and 2) give the feeling of a big-budget Asian action film. Examples? Raid and some of the later instalments of Jackie Chan’s The Police Story franchise. This is a good thing given that a lot of webtoon platforms are flooded by convoluted romantic dramas instead of series that tell a compelling, action-packed story.

So, did the free reads do a good job of reeling in this fish? Yes. I am genuinely intrigued by the storyline so far and interested in seeing the changes that the protagonist will undergo throughout the next eighty-seven chapters. I am really looking forward to some gratuitous violence in the chapters ahead as well. I want to see Jungwoo crack the heads of some bad guys, pronto.


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WT Review: Light & Shadow

Year: 2016
Author: Ryu Hyang
Artist: Hee Won
Genre: Josei, Fantasy, Romance, Action, Drama, Gender Bender

Light & Shadow is the first instalment of a book trilogy by author Ryu Hyang. I had the pleasure of binge-reading the entire 103 chapters of this webtoon adaptation this afternoon. You can find the English translation of series over at Tappytoon where you can also read the first three chapters for free.

When the maid Edna is sent to get married instead of noblewoman Anna, she comes face to face with infamous warrior Eli. An agreement is made and the two become husband and wife. However, it soon becomes abundantly clear that Edna is more than she appears.

Light and Shadow is the story of a young princess forced to pretend to be a man (“Crown-Prince Eden”) up until the castle is attacked. She has her share of guilt because she took a backseat, as did many others, whilst her horrible dad King Ducaine III did horrific things and neglected his people. When she has a chance to help the people that suffered under her father’s rule, she takes it. She never makes excuses and even courts the danger of discovery as she attempts to improve the lives of the people within the duchy. During this time, she becomes an equal partner in her marriage to Eli and vice versa.
Eli is blunt and used to being on the battlefield. When his brother King Cayden asks him to get married, the man is ticked off because it is intended to tie himself to a place, and even more so given that Anna’s family were loyal to the horrible previous king. This creates immediate conflict between himself and Edna. However, he is also a man with an innate feeling of justice after seeing the many sins of his father and the actions of the nobles constantly running about trying to sate the king’s perverse desires. The story doesn’t paint Eli as a perfect man, but as a man trying not to follow in the footsteps of his evil, abusive father.
The relationship between Edna and Eli at the beginning of this series is understandably messy. A strange woman is sent by a devious duke instead of the duke’s equally horrible daughter. Eli’s first choice was certainly not Anna because she was part of a family that supported the former king. The maid that was sent in her stead is immediately viewed with suspicion and with good reason. However, the early interactions between these two leads offer some neat dialogue that does an excellent job of conveying who they are as individuals. It also solidifies them as partners because they can contend together. Their affection for each other feels genuine rather than contrived nonsense because they both make an effort to get to know each other rather than flail around helplessly. But most of all, they don’t beat about the bush for ages about the whole “being in love” thing. With the addition of their first child Alex, the happy couple starts a family.
Along with the male and female lead, there is a host of other interesting characters that I soon found myself invested in the lives of. This ranged from resident bishounen Sir Kian to the scarred healer Rina, Povit’s psychotic son Sir Monde to our lead couple’s small but feisty son Alex. The people of the duchy, even the unnamed commoners, also allow the reader to see the impact of the changes made by Eli and Edna’s efforts.

The major conflict of this series relates to Edna’s identity as “the prince”. However, it soon becomes apparent that a former supporter of Dulaine III named Count Povit is looking to invade Eli’s land. The grand finale occurs years later in the form of an attempted invasion by a coalition of both Count Povit’s force and that of another kingdom.
I really like how rational the reaction is to the uncovering of Edna’s identity. There is no unnecessary drama when Eli finally discovers the truth, more annoyance that his beloved wife hadn’t told her sooner because then he could have supported her. Other characters that become aware of the truth early on also provide us with some idea of the lives that she impacted during her time disguised as a male.
As for the several arcs where Count Povit is involved, we get to see some really nice action sequences that showcase the battle prowess of both Eli and Edna but other characters as well. These battles also provide a feeling of danger as people get injured and even die. And yes, there is plenty of gratuitous violence where we get to see the occasional head being lopped off.

To art style, Hee Won did an amazing job of bringing the world and its characters to life. It does a great job of portraying a town that is undergoing major infrastructural changes due to the Duke and Duchess caring for their people. The various other settings are pretty good as well. And on top of this are the inhabitants. The character design for Eli, as an example, is pretty damned good. His physique matches his physical capabilities – he is a big, strong dude with broad shoulders, square jaw. Edna is more petite, in line with her agility and speed. I could go on with some more examples, but I think that you already get the gist.

One of the big criticisms from some fans of this series is perceived “dubious consent” during the first sexual encounter of Edna and Eli. However, whilst there is obvious messiness to that first encounter, I would argue that Edna also made Eli agree to some terms before they have sex for the first time. Eli also attempts to make future couplings significantly more enjoyable for his wife because he doesn’t want to be a bad husband which provides a huge disparity between the male lead in this story and male leads in several other series that I’ve dipped my toes in recently.

Did I enjoy this series? Yes, I did. The plot was solid, characters compelling, romance satisfying, action sequences delightfully flashy and the payoff at the end was gratifying. All in all, I am happy with how this series panned out and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a mature, action-based fantasy romance.


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Movie Review: MacGruber (2010)

Genre: Comedy, Action
Online: IMDBWikipedia
Cast: Will Forte (MacGruber), Kristen Wiig (Vicki), Ryan Phillippe (Piper), Val Kilmer (Dieter Von Cunth), Powers Boothe (Colonel Faith), Maya Rudolph (Casey)

MacGruber is a parody of 80s and early 90’s action films and shows such as MacGuyver. It includes lots of references to both common and obscure material. Expect lots of lowbrow jokes and gags as well, sometimes involving celery-butt distraction techniques.

Years after his wife-to-be Caset is killed in an explosion at the altar, MacGruber is approached by Colonel Faith who informs him that archenemy Dieter Von Cunth has reappeared with a warhead. Quickly putting together a team together however soon results in an unfortunate C4 explosion killing each member. He puts his dignity aside to convince Piper to help him with the mission. MacGruber also brings along Vicki, the best friend of his deceased waifu for a series of misadventures until their final showdown against Dieter Von Cunth.

Years ago, I came across a clip of the first scene of this film. The obvious spoof of Rambo II worked reasonably well but has been done to death since the second instalment of the franchise came out. Anyhoo, I was somewhat surprised when my hubby voiced an interest in watching MacGruber. But boy was it an amazing piece of cinema. The level of second-hand embarrassment was high for this film. Subtle jokes about removable car stereos, the really disturbing sex scenes and the pure spectacle of this dumb movie was enough to keep us laughing awkwardly for the entirety of the ninety minutes that we spent watching it. Whilst I loved it, the level of mockery of certain franchises will likely piss some people off. (aka Rambo, MacGuyver, No Retreat No Surrender, etc….)
To the casting, this film includes a few people from the Saturday Night Crew where the film originated: Forte, Wiig and Rudolph. The addition of Phillipe’s character made for some really hilarious scenes, such as one where he was used as a body shield against firearms. Powers Boothe was awesome as Colonel Faith and Val Kilmer knocked it out of the park as the film’s unfortunate, screwed-over villain.
The storyline held together even if it was quite silly. The scene in which Piper gets peeved at being used as a body shield by Mac was a great moment and kept with the linear nature of the storyline. Whilst the movie didn’t do as good a job of referencing tropes as Freddy Got Fingered, the storyline was still easy to follow and provided plenty of amusing, lowbrow moments.

Did I enjoy this film? Yes. However, the crassness and referential humour of this film will likely be a barrier to entry. For those interested, a sequel is set to be made and released next year. I am curious as to how much the second instalment of the series will be toned down given the level of political correctness these days, but I am crossing my fingers.


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WN Review: The Emperor and the Knightess Ch 1 – 82

Alternate Names: Emperor And The Female Knight, The Knight and her Emperor, Kaisar dan Ksatria Wanita, Koutei to Onna Kishi
Year: 2019 (ongoing)
Writer: Glasses Monkey
Genre: Josei, Manhwa, Fantasy, Action, Drama, Romance

Over the past few days, I haven’t posted any reviews as I was binge-reading the web novel version of The Emperor and the Knightess. I first became familiar with this series, along with numerous others, through the webtoon adaptation over at Tappytoon (series page). You can find links to my periodic reviews of the webtoon adaptation as well as other webtoons and manga here. This review reflects the first 82 chapters of the English translation of this series over at Webnovel. This series is NSFW due to heavy themes and depictions of violence.

When twelve year-old noblewoman Poliana Cranbell is sent to die on the battlefield by her father and stepmother, she has to grow up really quick in order to survive. Six years later, she discovers that the emperor of the Acreian Empire is about to invade her kingdom. Her attempt to alert superiors is dismissed due to her being female but the invaders soon attack her base. She attempts to lead her men out of harm’s way. However, after eluding capture for several weeks, she makes the fateful decision to use herself as bait in order to give her subordinates a change of survival.
The young, charismatic Acrean emperor soon comes face to face with the newly captured knightess. After a rocky start, she soon becomes a contributing part of the Acreian military under the new name of Poliana Winter. After ten years, his forces have conquered the entire continent with Sir Poliana now the head of his personal security. And it is in this moment, that Emperor realises that he is in love with the most unlikely of candidates, Poliana Winter.

As mentioned above, I’ve read quite a bit of the webtoon adaptation of this series. When I started reading this web novel yesterday, I had a goal of reading until we reached the iconic moment where Lucius’ forces finally reach the other side of the continent after ten long years… that moment when he finally realises that he is in love with Poliana. I needed to know how the author wrote this scene in the web novel because it was so impactful in the webtoon. What I didn’t realise was just how much better it is in the web novel. Holy crap! It well and truly surpassed my already high expectations of how it would play out. It was just so gratifying reading Lucius’ point of view in that heartwarming moment.

The heart and soul of this story is the importance of having a purpose in life and in duality found in each human being. For Poliana, being thrown into the Aehasian army to die by her family puts her in a precarious situation. However, the guidance and training provided by her mentor allow her to push on until she meets Emperor Lucius. She swears fealty to him and his goal of uniting the entire continent (her purpose). Whilst she doesn’t dwell on the past, she still acknowledges it.
The duality that I refer to is in how human beings are complex creatures. We can be capable of both great kindness and horrific acts of violence. A good person can do bad things and a bad person can do good things. At the end of the day, we have to live with both the consequences of those actions and try to learn from them. The realness of the characters in this series makes the story more engaging because it shows people trying to do their best in an ugly, unkind world. This is also what draws people to Lucius, a man with a tremendous, inspirational goal.
Most people inherently understand that solutions aren’t always easy and sometimes our goals come in conflict with what we can achieve, such as in the case of the female lead of this series. Poliana’s desire to be a good soldier is, for example, limited by how much muscle she can put on, which makes it difficult to keep up with her male comrades. This forces her to think outside of the parameters of what a normal soldier is expected to do. She starts reading books on the art of warfare as well as learning how to read maps. She still tries to improve her sword skills but doesn’t rely solely on them due to pragmatism. Her realism makes her a compelling character.
To worldbuilding, the layout of the world is quite easy to understand. As time passes, the Acreian military conquers different countries. The descriptive conveys some of the cultural differences of each region along with the conditions that the army has to navigate in order to win. Whether it is a problematic river, swampland or a fortress, these short war arcs are impactful and give a chance for certain characters to shine. It forces the army to adapt in a positive way. It also gives us a chance to see just how much Lucius hates liars, corruption, the mistreatment of civilians by leaders and backstabbers. Whilst he is not perfect, the comparison between his acts and those of the leaders that he is fighting is like night and day.
The way in which this series deals with timeframe is of some note. The campaign occurs over the span of years, heavily dependent upon seasonal changes in order for the army to access supplies, gather sufficient information troops to recover from injury, and wait for appropriate conditions for a battle to be met. The Acreians also have to traverse large distances during this period of time as well. Due to this flow of time, we get to see characters such as Donau grow up during that time. In one scene, Lucius remarks on the scars upon Poliana lessening due time and better living conditions.
The translation of this series is really good. The curious, almost fairytale-manner in which this tale begins does an excellent job of emphasising the nature of both the world and its characters in spite of the heavier themes covered therein. It was spot-freaking-on!

Unfortunately, some people will have issues with this series due to the depiction of sexual assault. However, the world in which the story is set is not flowers and rainbows. It is a world in dire need of good leadership which is where Emperor Lucius comes in. As rocky as their first meeting was, it is his dealings with Poliana that help place things into a unique yet appropriate place.
For example, the commentary offered by Poliana about being sodomised by her Aehas commanding officer Sir Batre is one where predatory behaviour goes beyond gender, where young men and women are equally forced to endure the sexual violence of a corrupt leader. Does it make it any less confronting? No. The webtoon didn’t include this or the whole “ghost virgin” thing during Pol and Lucius’ first meeting which is a real shame given how important they are to the overall story.
It is also shown to be part of everyday life for members of the corrupt Aehas army during the six years that she served there. When Poliana tells Lucius of it years later, the revelation makes him the only person aware of the moment of her life. He is also a man dealing with the guilt of what happened during their first meeting. Poliana is still loyal to him because his ambition to bring stability and peace to an entire continent has given her purpose where she had none before. It is an odd dynamic but it makes a lot of sense given the way in which she views the world. It reminds me of the Serenity Prayer.

Whilst I could go into further detail about this series and the first eighty-one chapters, in particular, I will have more opportunities to do so in future as I continue reading this series. Suffice it to say, that this series has far exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a series with a dramatic tone in the early stages and adding in lighter moments as the story progresses.


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TV Review: Stargirl Season 1

Year: 2020 (ongoing)
Episodes: 13
Genre: Superhero, Action, Crime
Online: Wikipedia, IMDB

Hubby and I decided to give the CW show Stargirl a run after watching some of Thorias Unlimited’s episode by episode breakdown of the series. Sure glad that we did because it actually turned out to be good. I never expected to say that about a CW show given my long-time hatred of the weak-*ss, phone-it-home plots and bizarre attempts at pandering, but I am willing to admit that there might be hope for the network.

Pat Dugan, aka Stripesy, is the sidekick of Starman (Joel McHale). However, an attack on the JSA superhero team leads to numerous casualties, including the passing of Starman. Pat takes Starman’s staff in the hopes of finding somebody to take up the mantle.

Ten years later… Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) has just moved to the small town of Blue Valley with her mother Barbara (Amy Smart), stepfather Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson) and stepbrother Mike (Trae Romano). When she awakens the Cosmic Staff of Starman in the collection of her step-dad’s stash of old boxes in the basement, she thinks that she is the daughter of the now-deceased Starman who Pat used to sidekick for.
As she begins to hone her skills with the sentient staff, she gains the attention of villain Henry King [Brainwave] (Christopher James Baker) and by default the Injustice Society of America (ISA). As he lays in a coma inside of a hospital, Courtney begins to rebuild the JSA to deal with the ISA. However, the new JSA will need to up their game if they hope to unravel the plan that the ISA is hoping to enact.

This DC Comics series offering from the CW begins with the relatable circumstance of two single parents getting married and relocating to a new place with their merged family. The culture shock of moving from California to the northern mid-western town of Blue Valley is bad enough. However, it soon becomes apparent that there is something menacing happening just below the surface of this friendly country town.
Courtney makes for a solid female lead. She has an in-built sense of justice. However, the emotional baggage of being dumped as a child by her deadbeat dad creates a bit of conflict for her. She has to step up, dispelling the notion that she has to be the child of a hero in order to be a hero. This is a good message, one grounded in the reality faced by many in the armed and emergency services each day.
Both Barbara and Pat are good people trying to do the right thing by their kids and by each other. However, the awakening of the Cosmic Staff sets in motion events that will test and eventually strengthen the bond of their family. It makes for some heartwarming scenes that fly in the face of many shows that try to drag out drama unnecessarily. It is their shared values as a family that allow them to pull together and work towards the goal of stopping the ISA alongside troubled Yolande Montez [Wildcat II] (Yvette Monreal), socially-awkward Beth Chapel [Doctor Mid-Nite II] (Anjelika Washington), rageaholic Rick Tyler [Hourman II] (Cameron Gellman) and psychically-tortured Justin [Shining Knight] (Mark Ashworth).
The villains of the series are a mish-mash of different mindsets and ambitions. The ISA is helmed by Jordan Mahkent [Icicle] (Neil Jackson), a man looking to change the world to a cleaner, more equitable place by any means necessary. This includes the use of morally questionable members such as Sportsmaster (Neil Hopkins) and Tigress (Joy Osmanski) as well as the willingness to murder innocent people. The conflict inevitably leads to the offspring of some of these villains, such as Brainwave’s son Henry Jr (Jake Austin Walker) and Dragon King’s psychotic daughter Cindy Burman [Shiv] (Meg DeLacy), being dragged into the conflict.
To the visuals, the series makes use of some high-res yet cartoonish CG. This was a really good choice because it adds to the fun factor of the series. It allows the viewer to immerse themselves more readily into this adorable yet action-packed series about superheroes. It also manages to bring out the cheeky nature of the Cosmic Staff with relative ease.

Did I enjoy this series? Yes. It was fun, logical and consistent. The acting was spot on, with Luke Wilson leading the way with an awesome performance as the everyman character Pat. Whilst I was initially worried that it would be yet another teen drama, the series managed to deliver episode after episode. There were no filler episodes or nonsensical drama, vying instead for meaningful progression of both character development and story. In the immortal words of somebody on the internet, “I came looking for gold, but I found a diamond.” Well worth the view!


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WN Review: Release that Witch Ch 1 – 25

Year: (completed)
Author: Er Mu
Genre: Seinen, Fantasy, (transmigration) Isekai, Drama, Action, Adventure, Romance

I first came across Release That Witch via a webtoon adaptation last year. Given how much I enjoyed that adaptation, I was intrigued when I discovered that it was based on a web novel. It was a no-brainer to check out a series that reached its conclusion after nearly fifteen-hundred chapters that range between a thousand and two thousand words in length. Yep, that is a LOT of instalments. In any case, here are my thoughts on the first twenty-five chapters.

Chen Yan is a hardworking engineering that finds himself transmigrated into the body of fourth prince Roland Wimbleton who is currently overseeing a backwater border town (aptly named Border Town) as part of a competition between the royal siblings to prove themselves worthy of the throne. As the loser prince, he has one of the worst starting positions. However, the newly reborn Chen Yan sees an opportunity to turn this seemingly bad situation around. He saves a young woman named Anna sentenced to be execution for being a witch and employs her. With her abilities as well as his management skills and knowledge of science, Chen Yan begins to shore up the defenses of the region ahead of the hibernal raid of monsters. This soon leads to him making contact with the enigmatic Nightingale, a member of the Witch Cooperation Association.

PLOT & CONFLICT
This series begins with Chen Yan about to oversee the execution of the young woman who he will later employ. Delaying the execution in order to grow accustomed to his new body, the young engineer begins impersonating Roland using merged memories in order to avoid discovery. He is also curious about the world with his innate scepticism about the nature of a witch and his lack of trust in a church dragging people off to be executed on weak allegations informs some of his decision to employ Anna. The desire for justice and to follow the line of evidence makes for a compelling reason to butt against the system. This inevitably puts the entire region at odds with the kingdom that enforces discriminatory laws as well as the church in the midst of an inquisition.
The first twenty-five chapters put in place several ticking clocks. The first is the five-year deadline for the competition for the throne that pits each of the royal siblings against each other. The second is the upcoming raids of tainted creatures upon Border Town and other nearby communities. The third is the change that occurs to most witches when they turn eighteen years of age – something that will soon affect seventeen-year-old Anna.
The competition for the crown provides its own share of possibilities for future storytelling and I really look forward to seeing how the four candidates compete with each other. The conflict has already affected the lives of many, with something as simple as an egg having a huge impact on those living under Roland’s jurisdiction. A lot of authors take these small details for granted. However, these tell us very human stories in the harsh reality that is the wretched world that Chen Yan has transmigrated to.

CHARACTERISATION
The male lead Chen Yan / Roland 2.0 is a lot of fun to see in action. Chen Yan is essentially trying to “stay in character”, whilst staying connected with his identity as the modern-day engineer with a knowledge of science and progressive ideas such as “three meals a day”. He is a character that follows the evidence rather than being led by the nose. This simple trait makes him an admirable trait because he is appropriately sceptical. He is also a character that looks for solutions rather than wallows.
The female lead of Anna (a flame witch with an eidetic memory) is so well-placed and we see how the little things that her employment offers impacts her life in major ways. Something as simple as a soft bed is a big deal. Chen Yan’s faith in her is rewarded by her trying to do her best. She is a character looking for a purpose and a place to call home. And yet, she is also somebody that tries to adapt to crap situations. Simply complaining won’t get you anywhere, after all. In addition to this is the obvious affection that Anna has for Roland and is becoming more irritated with him as he is treating her as a younger sister. Yep, a bit of an anime/manga convention, but it does a good job of showing rather than telling us that she wants to be his waifu.

The other cast members are impactful, providing information (sometimes flawed), expertise and advice without it feeling convenient or like an infodump. We also learn about the world through the eyes of various side characters. This ranges from the often-anxious finance minister Barov (suggests killing witnesses to Anna’s release early on) to the straight-forward yet just Knight Commander Carter Lannis, Anna’s sceptical teacher Karl to Iron Axe the valiant hunter. These characters have their own strengths and weaknesses that make them feel authentic.
We also get to meet the heavily-motivated (and murderous) third princess Garcia Wimbleton in the first twenty-five chapters. As a major rival to the competition for the throne, she focuses much of her efforts through investment into maritime fleets used for plundering, all the while working on ways to remove any rivals permanently. Whilst we saw a bit of this in the webtoon, there is a lot more detail in the web novel, which emphasises what she is willing to do to win the competition.

MVP of chapters one to twenty-five? If I had to choose then it would hands-down be the witch Nightingale, a woman seeking a safe haven for witches. This desire initially puts her at odds with Roland because she isn’t convinced that he can protect Anna and Nana from the church’s teachings. However, she is also willing to be persuaded, which makes her both a reasonable and caring leader of a witch association.

One thing that I did notice in the web novel is that Roland and Anna have different coloured hair from in the webtoon.

  • Webnovel
    • Roland: silver / grey hair (Wimbleton family trait)
    • Anna: “flaxen” hair
  • Webtoon
    • Roland: brown hair
    • Anna: light orange hair

Whilst not necessarily a big deal, it seems odd to change hair colour for the webtoon adaptation. *shrugs*

Another character that has been treated differently in the web novel is the witch Nightingale. In the webtoon, she is easily brushed over. However, we learn a lot more about her in the latter parts of the first twenty-five chapters of this web novel.

WORLDBUILDING
The worldbuilding for this series provides an expansive sandbox for storytelling, mixing science with magic. The mystery regarding the origins of the witches and conflict pertaining to their persecution offers plenty of room for future conflict. We also see the mystery surrounding how Chen Yan got transmigrated as well. Will this have wider implications for the world setting? I suspect that it will, but I will have to wait and see.
On another note, this series also places great importance on lineage. Whist the more blatant example of this is with the royals, characters such as the hunter known as Iron Axe show how much family history plays a part in how the inhabitants of the kingdom are viewed. It is subtle but it is there nonetheless.

CONS???
Any issues? I only detected a few typoes in the English translation I have had the pleasure of reading. It is well within acceptable levels, not enough to hurt my enjoyment of the story. Apart from that, I haven’t noticed anything else of note.

CONCLUSION
So far, this series is proving to be an entertaining read that blends mystery, smarts and good character development in an interesting fantasy setting. I’d best describe it as “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court meets Game of Thrones” but with more science, magic and romantic elements. If you are looking for a fantasy setting and/or are Isekai trash such as myself, then this series will be right up your alley.

If you are interested in checking out this series, I’ve been reading it over at NovelFull (series page). I chose this site as it is easier to navigate compared to several others I found the translation project on. Also, the group that originally translated this series no longer has it on their website otherwise I would direct you to them instead.

 


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LN Review: Return of the Female Knight Ch 51 – 64

Alternate Names: RFK, RotFK
Year: 2016 / 2018 (depends on where you look)
Author: Lee Halin
Artist: Jiyan
Genre: Josei, Fantasy, Action, Romance

Continuing their outing, Elena presses Carlisle on when they first met. It turns out that he first met her at the palace when he was thirteen, leaving a great impression on him. He also offers a solution to the ruined dresses. We soon learn that there was not one but two people spying on Elena. The second of which is Batori the jewelry guy who we met previously. He is apparently looking for the “dragon’s magic orb” for Elena’s favourite dude Puvalec. #sarcasm [it seems that the ring might be the cause of Elena’s reset] Carlisle and Elena enjoy a romantic horse-ride in the moonlight before parting company.

The following day, Elena informs Mirabelle of a benefactor providing premade dresses that only need to be altered. When Mirabelle mentions an event involving an upcoming festival involving the Flower Bridge where Carlisle will be in attendance, Elena is put on edge. The memory of the bridge collapsing plays on her mind and she fears for her husbando’s safety. In an attempt to stop a repeat of the disaster, she informs Carlisle and once again dons her mother’s black armour. #hype When the moment arrives, Elena discovers further knowledge of a conspiracy to undermine a noble family. However, this also ends in an argument leading to a tender moment between her and Carlisle.

We then move to Helen Selby who now has Sophie and Tilda working for her. Sophie is being a huge suck-up to the noblewoman. Whilst cocky due to the ruining of the Blaise sisters’ dresses, Helen is annoyed that her spy (that dude who was straight-up murdered by Kuhn Kasha) hasn’t returned from his task. #houseselbyproblems

Elsewhere, Elena is going stir crazy due to being stuck at the mansion in the capital. The young butler Michael informs her that there is no trace of Sophie other than the last sighting involved an apparent kidnapping. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Carlisle’s ‘care package” of shinies. Unused to the bling, Elena once again summons intermediary Kuhn. #firstwaifuproblem

So, this week sees Elena once again don her mother’s armour in order to deal with some minions. I was really looking forward to seeing some action… then that opportunity was squandered by the sequence being abruptly cut off before a time skip where our female lead defeats them. This was a wasted opportunity given the build-up. That being said, we do learn more about Batori and what became of the two maids that used to live at Blaise Castle. This is also coupled with some sweet moments between Elena and Carlisle.

Whilst I did feel that some opportunities were breezed past, the story is still progressing nicely. We are seeing some romantic tension between Elena and Carlisle, but our female lead has a way to go before she can be called “best girl”. That title is still on Mirabelle. The “best husbando” title goes to the long-suffering Kuhn, making for a very awkward shuffling in my chair as I type this. Sure, I’ve read a lot of series where a lead wasn’t “best” material, but both the male and female lead? *shrugs* In any case, the story is still somewhat entertaining in spite of my complaints this time around.

If you are interested in checking the series out, visit the SG Translations (series page) and maybe consider supporting their efforts over at Patreon.


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Anime Review: Kemono Michi: Rise Up

Alternate Names: Hataage! Kemono Michi
Year: 2019
Episodes: 12 (English dub version)
Genre: Shounen, Fantasy, Isekai, Action, Comedy, Ecchi

>queue dramatic music< Just when you thought that Isekai was becoming stale comes a story about a wrestler and his dog trying to start their own pet shop in another world. Also… panties…

Ahead of his last match, Professional wrestler Genzou Shibata (aka Animal Mask), is looking forward to a retirement where he and his canine manager Hiroyuki run their own petshop. However, in the middle of the match the duo are summoned to a fantasy world to deal with its current Demon Lord problem. However, he would much rather petting and cuddling monsters than beat them up, leading to him unceremoniously doing a wrestling maneuver on Princess Altena who summoned him. He heads off in search of a way to make enough money to start his own petshop for beasts, He is soon joined on his quest to open his very own petshop by a bizarre cast of non-humans. It will be a never-ending quest to keep their funds in the black.

When I first heard about this series ahead of the first episode being released, I was intrigued. Being Isekai Trash, I was looking for another spin on the concept and this series also promised lots of comedic shenanigans. Then I watched the first episode… Holy crap, it was freaking hilarious and unapologetic in its low-brow silliness. It was an easy choice to continue this series given the strength of that first episode.

The series revolves around a summoned hero whose desire to open a pet shop to provide furr-ever homes for cute animals seemingly comes into conflict with the goal for summoning him in the first place. He will soon be joined in his quest by three female characters, but this series avoids the harem tag expertly whilst at the same time pokes fun at the concept. Let’s face it, he is more attracted to the female unicorn and married kobold woman up the road, than the wolf-girl Shigure, low-rank large-breasted idiotic vampire Carmilla (my favourite character) and voracious dragon loli Hanako.
Whilst Genzou’s “preferences” are a running joke, each of the characters is mocked heavily, ranging from the bishie hero that keeps “losing” his new swords to the monetarily-focused Shigure who keeps “finding” and reselling his swords. No character is safe from mockery, which makes for a fun ride. Various running gags and jokes are sprinkled in just enough to avoid becoming repetitive. Whilst it straddles the line between funny and stupid on many occasions, it is consistent and holds to the promise made in the first episode.

I bet that Genzou would want to keep Yoda at his pet shop…

Time and time again, we see Genzou being the catalyst for change in those around him, whether they are male or female. Most of these changes involve them either taking up wrestling or signing onto his quest to start a pet shop. He is the perfect impact character, placing him in good company.

The end of this series felt satisfying and also leaves things open to a second season. I would love to see the continuation of the show but it might be a tall order given the niche nature of the series. It would also have to step things up a notch by introducing the real demon lord as well, someone that hasn’t been introduced as yet. Sure, Joanna has some magical power, but it would be interesting to see a wrestling match (complete with fake rivalry) between Genzou and a new character, preferably one that isn’t as moronic as Joanna. Maybe give our summoned hero a chance to engage in a cage match with Mao (aka Macadamian Ogre) against the Demon Lord. There are plenty of possibilities. ❤

Whilst I loved this show, this series is not for anyone. Some folks might not enjoy the childish silliness of this series and the wrestling themes might also be annoying to others. However, it is not meant to be for everyone and that is okay as the variety of different types of Isekai available these days provides more than enough choices.

If you don’t mind a series that pokes fun at each character, enjoy wrestling culture, and/or is unapologetically “childish” then I recommend that you check out this series. (Yes, I do fall into each of these categories.)


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LN Review: Return of the Female Knight Ch 45 – 50

Alternate Names: RFK, RotFK
Year: 2016 / 2018 (depends on where you look)
Author: Lee Halin
Artist: Jiyan
Genre: Josei, Fantasy, Action, Romance

After discovering that the dresses that she and her sister ordered for the ball have been ripped to shreds, Elena investigates. She soon discovers a now-missing maid that spent time alone with the dresses. She also learns that former Blaise maid Sophie (also happens to be Tilda’s BFF) sent a letter days before. (da dum dum) The search is now on for Sophie. (Is Elena gonna have to slap a bitch?)
Elena once again summons Kuhn Kasha. They discuss the recent shenanigans. Elena is more aware of how closely she is being monitored by Carlisle’s flunkies now. It then ends with her being given an invitation to the opera, with a pickup time. (How to Pick-Up Ladies 101) She deliberates on the expense before parting company with Sir Kuhn. Elena breaks the unfortunate news to a p*ssed off Mirabelle, also going over the specific details of the situation.

Elena soon heads to the opera, with the intention of looking for a dress shop afterwards. As she travels to her first destination, she realises that she is actually looking forward to seeing her future husbando and comes to the conclusion that it is a good thing that she doesn’t have any negative feelings towards him. [all of that hand-holding is obviously having an affect on his waifu] Elena arrives to a wall of banners shielding her appearance from aristocrats, just before she is taken to some VIP seats. Reunited with Carlisle in the best booth in the entire building, she is subjected to a barrage of compliments and his handsome face. [Oh, what a problem to have…?]
After a minor argument about the expense for the booth, Elena and Carlisle watch the show. She is, unfortunately, distracted by his presence the entire time. The show closes with an awkward conversation between the duo and they soon leave in order to reduce the rush of people that would inevitably be caused by the rush to leave. Elena soon gets treated to some fine cuisine at a trusted establishment. The dinner conversation moves to the issue of the spoils of war which reminds her of his commoner lineage.

Outside of the dining establishment, Elena’s male stalker from House Selby is about to leave to inform Helen Selby of the scandal of Elena being with some unknown rich dude when he is silently assassinated by Sir Kuhn.

Chapters forty-five to fifty didn’t yield much in the way of major events. However, we do get to know more about Carlisle’s attitude towards spending and a not-so-subtle explanation of how the illegitimate child of a maid and the emperor managed to gain as much power as he has. On top of this, we finally get to see Kuhn kill somebody. This time, it is a spy for Helen Selby. With this, are also told that Crown Prince Carlisle is getting more serious about the way in which his waifu is being treated by Helen. Over-reaction? Not really. After all, the future mother of the empire needs to be respected and anybody that interferes with her needs to be dealt with in order to avoid problems in the future. It just needs Helen to be dealt with as well, not just her minions.

Anyway…

Begone, Thot!

If you are interested in checking the series out, visit the SG Translations (series page) and maybe consider supporting their efforts over at Patreon.


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Anime Review: Cautious Hero

Alternate Names: Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious, Shinchou Yuusha, Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore Tueee Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru
Year: 2019
Episodes: 12 (English dub version)
Genre: Fantasy, Isekai, Action, Comedy, Ecchi

I had a little bit of fun with this parody of series where a hero must defeat a Demon Lord. I also recommend that you guys check out the 100 Word Anime blog for Karandi’s episode by episode take on the series.

When a certain low-level Goddess Ristarte is given the job of helping an S-class world Gaeabrande defeat the resident Demon Lord, she is in over her head. So, she does what every self-respecting Goddess in her situation does and searches for hero candidates from Japan. Little does she know that the hero that she choses is insanely cautious, nor of their past connection.

Given the massive amount of series pitting a hero against Demon Lords in recent years, there has been a lot of people trying to do something unique with the premise. KonoSuba challenged people to parody the idea. Cautious Hero is a series that has managed to do something unique with this, by making the male lead not only overpowered but also insanely cautious.
The series itself tells in an entire story arc of a hero saving a world. There is plenty of epic battles, lots of foreshadowing and some interesting twists. The gut-punch in the last few episodes also puts into perspective what can happen when heroes do not have sufficient caution as well. Whilst this might be called a tonal shift by some, I found it quite appropriate given the foes that Seiya had fought up until that point. With monstrosities that like to turn people into “fireworks” and those that are willing to sacrifice their own family to summon powerful demons, it does a great job of pointing out stakes.
As for the characterisation, this series does really well in messing with archetypes. The world-building and backstories also do an excellent job of making these characters make sense within the fantasy setting. I found myself laughing at the dialogue and situations more often than not as well.
Whilst my own particular tastes mean that I could easily rewatch this series, I know that it probably won’t have much replay value for others. For some, the visual gags and jokes are only good for the first watch, which is perfectly fine. The stakes were high in the series as well, with the conclusion feeling very much like it was parodying the tendency for series to try to escalate things.

Whilst I love this series, it is not for everyone. However, if you are after a series that unapologetically pokes fun at the oversaturated “hero summoned to another world to defeat a demon lord” premise, then I highly recommend this series.