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Manga Review: Atashi No Banbi

Year: 2013
Author: Ozaki Akira
Genre: Shoujo, Comedy, Romance, Drama, Slice of Life, School Life

Atashi no Banbi is a four-chapter series that centres around the peculiar relationship between first-ranked student Haruko Nanase and hoodlum Hachiya. After he tries to extort money from her after she witnesses him fighting on a train, she runs away. Unfortunately, her peaceful world is put in jeopardy when she learns that he is in the same class. This begins a comedic coming-of-age tale about a nerd and her future boyfriend.

To begin with, this series shares a lot of similarities with the shoujo series My Little Monster in regards to the archetypes of the leads and to some small degree the setup. However, that is where the similarities end. As much as I adore MLM, Atashi no Banbi places higher because of how much more relatable the male and female leads of this series are portrayed. They aren’t unnecessarily “broken” and this is where Atashi no Banbi manages to surpass many in the Shoujo rom-com genre. It also manages to do so without a single kiss or “love” scene. Weird, huh?
Hachiya and Haruko are so adorable together but their growing fondness for each other isn’t dragged on beyond what it takes for them to acknowledge and express their mutual feelings for each other. There is the right amount of embarrassment and anxiety especially from Haruko as she comes to realise her feelings for Hachiya. These two characters are really fun to watch because of how well nuance is balanced with the in-your-face silliness of school life. It is easy to root for this pairing because of the way that the self-professed “idiots” complement each other.
Whilst this series uses the backdrop of study sessions to develop Haruko and Hachiya’s relationship, it provides the right amount of shenanigans to make for some entertaining scenes. They are also joined in their efforts by Misawa Akira, a girl from another class who is hoping to win the heart of her long-time crush by getting good grades. We see major character development for Misawa on account of having two friends who support her. Whilst she still remains a flawed character, seeing her view of herself change is compelling to watch. Sometimes, a simple word of encouragement can turn your life around.
It is through these relationships that Horuko realises that she really does need human connections and changes her priorities in order to be happier in her own skin. Whilst Hachiya has his own degree of character growth, it is nowhere near as subtle as that of Haruko. This is okay because people have different issues to contend with. In any case, this makes for a compelling read that I can foresee reading again in the not-so-distant future.

In conclusion, I really liked this short series. I felt that it said what it needed to say and also delivered on the promise made in the first chapter to change the dynamic between two relative strangers that happened to be on a train at the same time. I recommend this series to anyone looking for a coming-of-age rom-com that doesn’t rely on sex or fan service to tell a compelling story. It is sure to entertain those looking for a short but impactful series as well. So, if this sounds like a story that would interest you, then be sure to check it out.

 


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LN Review: Armoured Girl Monette Ch 1 – 10

Alternate Names: The Heavily Armoured Noble Girl Monette: How To Break a Curse You Don’t Remember Casting, Juusou Reijou Morenet: Kaketa Oboe no nai Noroi no Tokikata
Year: 2017 – 2018 (completed)
Author: Saki
Artist: Masuda Megumi
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy, Adventure, Drama, Comedy, Romance

The day after being called “ugly” during her first meeting with her fiancé Prince Alexis, Monette’s engagement is annulled and her sister gains her former position. She develops a complex, soon covering herself head to toe in armour as she studies magic in an abandoned castle in a secluded forest.
More than a year later, Prince Alexis and his bodyguard Percival arrive on her dilapitated doorstep seeking help with a problem. After trying to redeem himself, the prince is now suffering from the effects of a curse bent on making his life miserable. Even the simple act of sitting in a chair or sleeping in a bed ends in disaster. Desperately, he begs Monette for help.

Monette will soon embark on an adventure to find out the identity of the person behind the curse to clear her name.

This series begins on an interesting premise. What if the female lead was hurt so much that she closes herself off from society? I think most of us understand at least from a basic level how words can seemingly have power over us. In this case, it leads to Monette’s family abandoning her as well. Monette may be a flawed character on numerous levels, but her behaviour is understandable. Whilst I usually prefer characters that are more tenacious, she is still quite likeable.
When Alexis and Percival show up on her doorstep, Monette is p*ssed. She was content living alone with companions such as Robertson the spider and his “fashionable friend”. Seeing how she reacts to these human intruders, especially one with whom she has a difficult history, is entertaining due to the level of snark involved. This is coupled with some funny internal dialogue by all three characters. Through these interactions, we also get some good insight into the world without it falling into the trap of the infamous info-dump.

To the subject of forgiveness, Alexis is a person that is desperately trying to redeem himself because he acknowledges that a simple word held so much power to destroy somebody that didn’t deserve it. Unfortunately, his attempts to make amends haven’t worked so far and he also gets cursed by persons unknown. It is easy to feel for him, just as it is easy to understand that Monette is still p*ssed at him. I have no doubt that Monette’s forgiveness will have some effect on the direction of this series as this seems to be the promise made in the first chapter.

Did I enjoy the first ten chapters of this series? Yes, I did. The humour works well and the tone of the series is playful. It very much feels like it could easily be adapted into an anime series as well, which is another selling point. I liked the characters, plot and premise. Based on what I’ve read so far, I recommend it to anyone looking for a comedic fantasy adventure with the promise of some drama and romance to come.

If you are interested in reading this series, there is an English translation offered by Experimental Translations (series page). Please note that the first seven chapters are slightly modified versions of some translations done by Kamimami.


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Manga Review: Mission of Love Vol. 3

Alternate Names: Love Mission, Missions of Love, xx Me!, Watashi Ni Xx Shinasai!
Year: 2009 – 2015
Author/Artist: Ema Toyomo
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Comedy, Drama, Slice of Life

Yes, it has been a while since I read this series. Volume 3 covers chapters ten to fifteen of this series.

After Akira’s decides to finally act on his feelings for Yukina, it is the fully-fledged beginning of a love triangle. The return of Shigure’s girl-pal Mizumo Mami further complicates matters as Yukina misunderstands Shigure’s relationship with her. In lieu of this, Yukina decides that it is better to quit with the silly love missions. However, Shigure gets p*ssed and declares that he wants to continue in order to jerk her around. It is abundantly obvious that he likes her but is in denial, because… shoujo… In any case, Yukino finally manages to create a mission that makes Shigure hilariously uncomfortable… for about ten seconds… A peeping Mizumo decides to crush Yukino because… bitchy and manipulative shoujo love rival… Hmm… She kicks up her attempts to be “friends” with Yukino in order to make it easier to find a weakness and even begins messing with Akira.

Well, this series is a good example of what to expect from the era in which it was published. The time since I last read it allowed me to gain a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, it means that some of the elements that are standard for this series are just plain annoying.
An example of this is in the form of Mizumo. She is so two-dimensional that it hurt reading scenes with her in. We get it, she likes Shigure all to herself. But that is about it for her character. She lacks even a minor amount of depth to the point where she just comes off as a plot device. Akira is better but he doesn’t fare better.

So, what does this mean going forward? Well, I think I will give the series one or two volumes to see if it improves. If it does, then I will continue. And if not… Well, you guys get the gist anyway. I do not want to waste my time on a series that I feel is subpar to others within the same genres.


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LN Review: Akuyaku Reijou wa Danna-sama wo Yasesasetai Vol 1 Ch 0 – 5

Alternate Name: The Villainess Wants to Make Her Husband Slim Down
Year:  2017 (completed)
Author: Haiaka
Artist: Kurodeko
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy, Comedy, Romance, Drama

This review discusses the first chapters from the first of six chapters for this comedic fantasy series.

Camilla, daughter of Duke Storm, fell in love with the second prince Julian of the Sonnenlicht kingdom. Unfortunately, jealousy led to things getting out of hand and she is subsequently tagged as a villainess. She is abandoned by her friends and family and punishment by the royals to become engaged to the most ridiculed and despised bachelor in the land, the twenty-three year-old Duke Alois Montchat of Mohnton. Lord of a large area of swampland where rare magical reagents are mined, he is extremely rich but is isolated from high society due to his appearance and is dubbed the “Toad of the Swamp”.
Seeing that Alois is a member of the royal family, Camilla can easily imagine that with a bit of effort, he can shed the pounds to become a figure of admiration. She sees it as a waste for a man of such breeding to fall into such disrepair. She decides to make his health a project to be worked on. She doesn’t, after all, want to wed a man who has let himself go so badly.

The enabling of an eating disorder by those around him has led to Alois becoming morbidly obese and has been ostracised from high society as a result. Given how others in the court treat him, it is much easier to stay at home within his own duchy of Mohnton. The kind young man is now engaged to a woman who is trying to help him lose weight for her own selfish reasons. However, it is easier said than done to get over habits built over long periods of time.

Given Alois’ keen intelligence and unhealthy relationship with food, Camilla has her work cut out for her. She also has a long way to go before she can find the happiness that she seeks. [poor life choices]

This story is an odd one so far. The male and female leads are such a deviation from the norm but it really works. They are both outcasts that have something to offer each offer. However, it is sure to take time for either to realise it yet. I really like both characters and it is easy to understand some of the reasons why they behave in the manner that they do. This is such much room for growth for both as well, which gives plenty of opportunities for storytelling.
Seeing the frustration that Camilla has with the situation is hilarious as well. However, it is also apparent that the people that she was dealing with at court (and certain family members) are just… terrible. Unfortunately for her, it will require extra effort to make new friends given the rumours spread about her. That being said, she does need some struggle given that she arranged to have a person assaulted. However, it also shows how poorly Alois is treated for it to be seen as a punishment for her to marry him. But I suppose that is the point of this series.

Conclusion? It is a promising start to the series, with two interesting leads that have a long way to go. I especially adore Alois, who shows intelligence in the face of his dealings with Camilla. I look forward to reading what sort of person he becomes with the right influences in his life.

If you are interested in this series, you can find it over at Mistakes Were Made (series page).


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Webtoon Review: Empress of Another World Ch 21 – 40

Year: 2015 (completed)
Author /Artist:  Lim Seo-Rim
Genre: Manhwa, Shoujo, Isekai, Fantasy, Drama, Comedy, Romance

{Please note that there is a naming error in the previous review of this series. The name of the female lead is Sa Bina. “Sa” is the family name and “Bina” being her first name. From here on out, I will be using “Luke” to refer to Emperor Lucrentius as it appears that he likes to be called that by his waifu.]

Luke offers to let Bina see the Saintess at the upcoming Grand Banquet in order to give her to make the decision to stay of her own accord. As the arrangements are being made, she sees the chance to learn about the neglected daughters of the Emperess Dowager as well as subtlely begins looking for a future companion for Luke in the event that she is able to go back home. In the process, she learns that Agnes has been leaking information to the Emperess and threatens to send her away. Agnes offers her complete loyalty in order to see the Emperess Dowager suffer for the death of her adopted sister, Luke’s mother.
Bina and the emperor enact the greatest “thot begone” plan of all time towards Lisbeth whose childish behaviour has hit new lows. We soon get confirmation of Luke’s plan for wooing her. However, Bina has already clued into his methods and is staying wary because it might interfere with her returning back to her family.
Bina meets her two top picks for Luke’s future companion. Learning that one is already engaged, she picks the younger of the two sisters as a new attendant, Julia de Maximilian. She later makes herself accessible to the daughters of the Emperess Dowager and meets the youngest, only to learn that she is a tough nut to crack. Bina also manages to get some more allies, in the form of the older daughter of the Emperess Dowager and her beloved cousin.
After various shenanigans, there is an attempt on Bina’s life whilst horseriding, leading to the death of multiple people. The Emperess Dowager, arranges for the deranged Lisbeth and her mother to be burnt alive before either can testify to the villainess’ part in the attempted assassination of Bina.

Chapter forty ends with the beginning of the Grand Banquet… [foreshadowing of shenanigans??? probably…]

This week’s chapters saw several significant side characters get killed. Luke is beginning to kick up his campaign to convince Bina to stick around into high gear. However, she hates herself more and more due to all of the crap that she’s had to do in order to deal with the machinations of the villainess Emperess Dowager. Whilst we have been told about what the villainess woman has done in the past, we finally got to see her in action, arranging for the murder of Lisbeth and her mother, as well as numerous others in order to get away with attempted assassination. As far as foes are concerned, she is a terrifying one that understandably causes fear in those around her. All in all, chapters twenty to forty did an excellent job of increasing the stakes by showing the cruelty and intelligence of the main villain. We also learn that the woman will be kicking up her efforts to kill Bina up a notch.

A little escalation never killed anybody!

If you are interested in checking out the series, you can find it on Tappytoon (series page). Please note that there is allow a light novel of this series, an English translation of which can be found over at Webnovel (series page).


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Webtoon Review: The Knight and Her Emperor Ch 1 – 10

Alternate Names: Emperor And The Female Knight, Kaisar dan Ksatria Wanita, Koutei to Onna Kishi
Year: 2019 (ongoing)
Writer: Glasses Monkey
Artist: Team Iyak (Winter & Heyum)
Genre: Shoujo, Manhwa, Action, Drama, Romance

On the day that Luxos I of Acrea achieves his goal of conquering the entire continents he realises that he’s fallen in love with his female knight Pollyanna…

Twenty years earlier…
With each noble family of the kingdom of Ehas required to provide a member for the military, lower aristocrat Duke Kellenbell sends the daughter from his previous off to die on the battlefield thus solidifying her younger half-sister Ryanna’s position as heir of the Kellenbell duchy. Pollyanna is put into the care of a veteran who takes it upon himself to train her ahead of the teenager being conscripted into the war between Ehas and Cukda at fourteen years of age. (seems that the two countries have a long history of fighting each other)
Luxos is the son of the King of Acrea. Father and son discuss the state of the continent due to battles such as the conflict between Ehas and Cukda. When his father passes on during the following winter, he is coronated. He takes on that promise that he made to his father and begins plans to unify the continent for the sake of those within it.

By the sixth winter of the war, Pollyanna has worked her butt off to eventually become commanding officer of her own platoon. She ponders her future, then petitions to take time off of. A visit to her family home reinforces the fact that she is not welcome there. So, she decides to gather information. Based on odd troop movements, she eventually comes to the conclusion that the Acrean Empire will soon invade. However, her report is quickly rejected by the higher-ups on account of their own cockiness and sexism. Not long after that, Acrea attacks.

Now in the midst of his campaign to unify the continent in order to become the first emperor, Luxos has been busy creating strategies for taking over various regions with Ehas being one of the first targets. When he hears of a young commanding officer from an enemy unit that has managed to escape during an ambush, he is intrigued and commands the commander to be taken alive. However, when that officer is eventually captured, the “man” before him exceeds his expectations and he asks if offers her a place as one of his knights. Unfortunately, the realisation that she is a woman results in the command of an execution by beheading and he leaves. Knowing that she will be raped ahead of being killed, she begins to fight.
Meanwhile, Luxos is in his tent reading reports on a certain young officer named Pollyanna Kellenbell who was demoted after making a certain report… Regret over losing a potential resource, his musings are disturbed by the sound of a scuffle nearby. After fighting off Acrean soldiers for three hours, Polly is bloodied and bruised. Yet another request on her part to be executed is promptly denied by Luxos and she is again asked to join the Acrean empire out of recognition for her talents. She accepts and is asked if she wishes to retain her last name. She declines and Luxos gives her the name Pollyanna Winter.
As talk about how Polly is treated spreads, we meet Donau, Sir Baopalro’s son. Resenting the fact that he might have been overlooked to become a knight because of a random female soldier from the enemy, he begins to resent her. We also get to learn more about Luxos’ advisors via their attitudes towards Pollyanna and her ideas and they discuss giving her a piece of land after conquering Ehas in order to remove her from the equation as they do not trust her due to her defection.
As Pollyanna is sufficiently recovered from her wounds to do light duties, she tries to make herself useful to the army. Repeatedly rebuffed, she is eventually asked to cook by Sir Baopalro because he thinks that she might be able to cook good food. (positive sexism – you betcha!) She then shows her expertise by preparing a nutrient-rich yet nasty soup. (come to think of it, it sort of reminds me of an infamous soup that my mother cooked back when I was still dating hubby…) She has officially proven that she is a sh*tty cook and Donau is asked to assist her, much to the dummy-spitting idiot’s chagrin.

I came across this series by chance about a month ago. I found the premise interesting enough to give it a read. I quickly found myself drawn into the tale of Pollyanna and Luxos, two characters that I couldn’t help but root for. As for the romance aspects, it appears to be a slow burn series. So far, the male and female leads barely know each other. Their relationship status is currently that of boss and loyal employee.
This series begins with an endpoint, showing how Luxos will view Pollyanna by the time that his army reaches the other side of the continent. [the promise with a ticking clock of sorts] Knowing that he will eventually develop feelings for Pollyanna tells the reader the direction that this series will take. However, what it doesn’t tell us is how they will get to that point, which is the entire point of the series.
The first ten chapters give background on the main characters, establishes the situation that they find themselves in and what challenges they will likely face in future. It is also a new beginning for Pollyanna after she is captured by the Acrean military trying to take over her idiotic kingdom. Why? Because her talents will be acknowledged by those that actually care about the welfare of their own soldiers. Contrast this with the Ehas commanders tendency to rely on the “choke the enemy with our dead” method of warfare. It is an understandable and logical reason for the female lead becoming a knight of Acrea. There is also the prospect of seeing new places as Luxos’ campaign to take over the continent progresses.
Both Pollyanna and Luxos are exceptional individuals from significantly different backgrounds even though they are of noble blood in their respective countries. Pollyanna is the child of a first wife (parents are divorced) who is treated poorly by her father and stepfamily. On the other hand, Luxos was close to his father. In spite of this, both are intelligent, perceptive and knowledgeable. Seeing the duo act separately is fun enough. However, seeing them working them together is sure to be so much better.
Another point of note is how the author portrays military discipline. Pollyanna is tough as nails because she lived and breathed the military life. The mentorship of the veteran that her father left her with played a huge part in her abilities and knowledge. If she hadn’t persevered, she would not have got as far as she had during her time as a soldier for Ehas. Certain concepts have been drilled into her, and those concepts have allowed her to survive. She is disciplined and stands up for herself without being a b*tch. However, she still needs a purpose beyond simply living your life day to day. This is where her desire to help Luxos achieve his goal of becoming an emperor comes into the equation. A soldier needs a good leader to provide a further purpose. Most people need to be conceived that the purpose is meaningful as well. In the first chapter, Polly’s mentor also touches on the importance of a purpose. In any case, she looks the part of a bad*ss military officer.

To the subject of rape in the first ten chapters…

Looks like its time for Polly to stab a bitch

Whilst I absolutely adore this series so far, I do find the artwork somewhat curious. Whilst the characters are easy to distinguish from each other, the eyes weird. They either fit into the pinpoints or medium-sized category, contrasting with a lot of Manhwa series that have either tiny or large eyes. Does it hurt my enjoyment of the story? No. I just think it is a weird choice.

I recently discovered that this story is based on a text-based novel. Given what I have currently read of this series, I will likely read the novel at some stage.
If you are interested in checking out this series, new chapters are released every Friday at Tappytoon (series page).


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Manga Review: Okobore Hime to Entaku no Kishi Vol. 3

Alternate names: The Leftover Princess and the Knight of the Round Table, The Leftover Princess and the Round Table Knight
Year: 2013
Author / Artist: Kaori Katsuki and Rinne Ishida
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy, Romance, Reverse Harem

Reviewer’s Note: Volume three consists of chapters 11 – 15 of this 18-volume series. This review reflects the Aqua Scans English fan translation.

Princess Leticia learns of a fire on Mount Gran that can devastate three nations if they do not join forces in order to get it under control. Further discussions result in a collaboration that she believes will be beneficial in the present and future. However, she soon finds herself injured after trying to save young Astrid when a trap sends him toppling into a ravine. With Leti being heavily injured, the two of them attempt to evade those trying to track down and kill them.

I have dragged my feet on this title as I knew that it would soon come to an end due to the series being discontinued after only seventeen chapters. However, volume three proved to be more than worth it given how much it progressed the story. The betrayal by those within the White Knights was foreshadowed in a volume one when a close ally was magically controlled by an enemy to attack Leticia. A natural disaster is an interesting setting for the shenanigans of an enemy bent on harming Leti and her allies during a time when they are trying to protect so many. It makes for compelling reading.
We also see how Leti’s first knight accepts his position as her servant, putting into question whether the creators ever intended to turn them into a couple in the first place. In volume three, he’s become less and less relevant to the story. This is further supported by her being referred to as “queen of hearts” in volume two, as well as the fact that she agrees to review marriage candidates again in volume three. Any suggestion of a romantic plot between them has all but evaporated. It feels like a broken promise. That being said, a lot of people didn’t like him as a character for some reason. I wonder…

It seems that there are actually 18 volumes of the completed series. Unfortunately, very little has been translated into English so far. Here’s hoping that some more peeps decide to do so because it is a fun series. It also turns out that there is an English translation of the light novel floating around the interwebs which I intend to read at some stage.