Category Archives: Book Reviews

JP reviews books and other sources of interest to otaku and those interested in Japan.


Fanfiction Review: The Heart of the Ocean. Chapter 2.

Alex continues her review of Mystrade in this mashup of Titanic and BBC’s Sherlock. For those who are not familiar with Mystrade fanfiction, the story concerns a yaoi pairing between Mycroft Holmes and Gregory Lestrade. The original fanfiction is written by somebodyswatson. You can read it here.

Starting off, you immediately share in Mycroft’s displeasure and lack of enthusiasm. Even though the air is humming with excited emotions, (trust me, you can feel them,) you feel as bored as a bookworm at a sporting event. In the middle of wanting to hit your head off of a wall, there is a pause. You can’t help but feel your chest swell with awe and wonder. Almost able to see the magnificent ship rising up in front of you in all her glory and splendor.

Moran is introduced in this chapter, (he is from BBC’s Sherlock for those who are unaware). He is the valet for, of course, one James Moriarty, (also from BBC’s Sherlock). Who struts in as a wealthy pain in the rear. (For our poor Mycroft at least). He flashes his wealth, is openly an arrogant jerk, and you feel the urge to either sock him in the face, or recoil and hope his slimy, high and mighty attitude doesn’t rub off on you. And he just HAS to be the one who says the infamous line, “God himself couldn’t sink this ship”. (…..thanks Moriarty. Thank you very much. Future deaths and tears that I will undoubtedly shed will be on you. A$$).

You continue to share in Mycroft’s unimpressed attitude. Possibly even frowning in slight disgust at the way Moriarty behaves. (He really takes the place of the wealthy, slimeball jerk role quite well. Way to go with that somebodyswatson, thumbs way up from me). You honestly keep swapping emotions throughout this chapter. Switching between bored, unimpressed, feeling trapped and caged, to excitement, awe, wonder, and bittersweet feelings from farewells of every sort. It’s done beautifully, and the feelings don’t overpower the details. And vice versa.

When they’re boarding the RMS Titanic, you’re in absolute awe. The details, the electricity in the air, the grim aura surrounding Mycroft, you’re completely sucked in. It’s like you’re actually there with him, experiencing everything. The throngs of people, the happy laughter of children, the hum of the ships engines and the sounds rising above it, you’re living it all. And the details, oh the details! You glance up from reading, and you half expect to be standing among the passengers outside waiting to board, in the halls of the Titanic, or in the suite the trio will be staying in. It’s amazing, it really is.

predestination_by_beginte-d5b2d00

( Predestination by Beginte on Deviantart.com )

Sherlock is mentioned again, and here a frown returned to my face once more. Poor Mycroft didn’t really have a choice with whatever is going on. (Well..I mean, he did. But he really didn’t). If you weren’t feeling bleak about his situation before, whatever his situation is, you should at this point. This ship is a prison. Basically a golden cage. From the moment Mycroft stepped from the automobile, boarding the Titanic, viewing their rooming arrangement, it was all a downhill tumble. Whatever happened with Sherlock, it wasn’t good. And it seems to have only gotten worse for our Mycroft from there. This ship is suffocating. This cruise is not a vacation or something to be enjoyed. And I can bet their destination isn’t something to be looked forward to either.

Mycroft is depressed, unimpressed, and living in a mini Hell. And, when he’s mentioning Sherlock, your heart aches. He loves his brother dearly. He did this, whatever this is, to save him. No regrets are held about saving his little brother. Mycroft loves Sherlock. Always has. Anything that has ever needed to be done to protect his brother, he has done. Anything that will ensure Sherlock’s safety, Mycroft will do. But..it doesn’t mean that Mycroft can’t mourn the loss of his freedom. Of his life. And you feel that. With all the excitement going on, through the events slowly unfolding, you share in Mycroft’s distress. His despair. His loss. But, Sherlock is alive. And Sherlock is safe. Losing him would have been worse than this Hell and the future that it seems to hold. And so, it’s on that note, that we continue on to chapter 3. (Impatiently awaiting the appearance of our dear Gregory).


Fanfiction Review: The Heart of the Ocean. Chapter 1.

Fanfiction sits in an important fandom niche. Fanfiction can encompass anime or, as in this case, Western stories. Alex reviews a fanfiction based on BBC’s Sherlock. While you may wonder what this has to do with Japan, Japanese culture has inspired modern fanfiction of all types. This story, “The Heart of the Ocean,” involves a pairing called Mystrade, a contraction of the names Mycroft Holmes and Gregory Lestrade. This story is essentially Western yaoi. You can read the fanfiction here.

Dang-cap-cua-Heart-of-the-Ocean-NecklaceThis fanfiction is based around the 1997 movie of Titanic. (The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and other actors and actresses who all make this movie come alive. I highly recommend it. But, I digress). Mycroft takes the place of Rose, (Kate Winslet’s character), and our dear Gregory replaces Jack, (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character). Others from BBC’s Sherlock take over roles that are in the movie. And while somebodyswatson follows details and scenes from the movie beautifully, some details are changed up a bit to help this amazing fanfiction flow more smoothly with it. But I’m not going to spoil everything.

The feeling of wonder and nostalgia is almost immediate. The events of April 14th, 1912, are known to many. The lives that lived, the lives lost, feelings, memories, almost nothing but history now. Pictures, words on paper, tales told and retold. For those who have seen the movie, and lovers of Mystrade, this tale will certainly not disappoint. Somebodyswatson wrote gold with this, they did a marvelous job.

Looking for stories to read, I go by what I’m feeling at the time, and by what catches my eye. Scrolling through Mystrade and Johnlock fanfics, the title caught my eye instantly. The tragic tale of the Titanic caught my attention at a young age, and I am a huge fan of the movie. I absolutely love it, and I cry my eyes out every time (But, back to the topic). Right away I grumbled to myself, because the death of one of my precious babies is something I do not enjoy reading. (It was also well past 1 in the morning when I stumbled upon this multi-chapter work of art). …but Mystrade. And Titanic. I needed this in my life. The curiosity would just kill me if I didn’t give in and read this. So, much as my grumblings tried to talk me out of it, I gave in. (As if I actually had a choice to begin with once I saw it). To cut off my personal ramblings, I continue with the review of this wonderful story. (Really, I can’t give it enough love. It’s fantastic. ..anyway).

*Review Start*

Infiltration

( Infiltration by scigirl451 on Deviantart.com )

Somebodyswaton did a bloody great job of blending characters in, following the movie, and making the feelings and emotions..the reader really feels everything from the get-go. Especially if you love the pairing and have seen the movie. As far as characters who are introduced in the first chapter, we have Mycroft and Anthea, (BBC’s Sherlock), and Lovett and Bodine, (Titanic. While Lovett is a real person, I believe Bodine was just a created character for the movie). Sherlock is briefly mentioned, as is Moriarty, (both from BBC’s Sherlock). But Moriarty will definitely be seen in this story from the sound of things. Our lovable Lestrade is also mentioned. (Also from BBC’s Sherlock). This being a Mystrade story, we will most certainly be seeing him later on.

Having seen the movie, I can hear the music from it as I’m reading this. (That’s how close somebodyswatson kept to the details of the scenes). The emotion started right off for me. It was like looking at an old photograph and reminiscing. Mycroft is spot on. His wit, charm, elegance, he’s all there. And it’s all shown beautifully. Anthea, ever loyal with her phone glued to her hands, is right by his side. This is just the first chapter, and I was glued from the first line. It starts off where the movie does, of course. Somebodyswatson didn’t miss a detail. (Seriously. If you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it. Now). And it cuts off right before Mycroft begins his tale of being aboard the luxury cruise liner.

Through the majority of this chapter, I was chuckling and grinning. Mycroft was being his usual classy, subtly sassy, genius self. (Just a few reasons why we love him). But the moments where he’s remembering, where he feels..the reader feels too. You see his face, you hear his thoughts, you experience everything. You are right there with him. And you remember. It happened. And, for this story, it happened to him. The heartbreak, sadness, pain, fear, you’re going to feel it, to experience it. But, along with all those feelings, there is also love, happiness, joy, living. You’re going to be pulled into it all. The curiosity of the crew, even if you know the details, read the book, watched the things, you’re going to share it. To sit in front of Mycroft, waiting, preparing yourself to hear his life. You’re doing that by reading the first words of this chapter, this tale. And that’s where you’re left. Waiting. Wanting to listen. Wanting more. And so, one chapter ends. But the story is merely beginning.


Dragon Ball–The Freeza Arc, Book 1

20160320_194730Dragon Ball Z is one of those series that I’ve evolved on over the years. It was big among the geek crowd in my middle and high school years, but at the time I was more into shows like Inuyasha and Full Metal Alchemist. Then, after Chris started this blog, we attempted to watch the original Dragon Ball Z series, and while I could see where it had potential, the vast amount of filler in the show turned us off.

But then Toonami added Dragon Ball Z Kai to its line up, and I decided to give the series another chance. Now the show has become the highlight of the week. It is a vast improvement over the original, not only in terms of art but the story as well. From what I understand, the Kai series is closer to the original manga than the first anime was, so was happy to find that the original source material wasn’t as ponderous as the anime became. I don’t want to sound like I’m downing on the original anime–if I had grown up with it, I’m sure I’d love it as much as some of you do. But for someone trying to get into the show who didn’t grow up with it, well, it’s a tall order.

Long story short, while I was once skeptical of how good Dragon Ball Z was, now I’m a believer. So when Chris asked me to review a full color copy of a full color version of the manga we received from VizMedia, I jumped at the chance. The book covers the beginning of the Freeza Arc. After his defeat at Goku’s hands in the first arc, Vegeta returns to Freeza Station to recuperate from his injuries, intent on going to Planet Namek to gather their Dragon Balls and use them to wish for immortality once he recovers. However, Vegeta is beaten to the punch by the evil emperor Freeza, a powerful being who also wishes to use the Dragon Balls to achieve immortality. Vegeta rushes to Namek, hoping he still has times to get his hands on the Dragon Balls.

20160320_194850Meanwhile, back on Earth, Son Goku is recovering from the wounds he received fighting Vegeta. Many of his friends died in the battle with the Saiyans, and now the remaining Z Warriors want to gather the Dragon Balls from Namek to revive them.

The book is beautifully illustrated, with vibrant colors and detailed artwork, more akin to Kai than the original anime. All in all, the story and dialog is similar to Kai–I believe there were a few small differences, but those may have more to do with my faulty memory than anything else. Manga is new to me–I’ve never been big on comics, and manga in particular throws me off since it reads backwards to what I’m used to. Even so, I enjoyed this book, and based on my limited knowledge of the genre, this volume is a solid addition to any manga lover’s collection.

 

Available at Amazon.


School Judgment Review-First Impressions (Volume 1)

school-judgment-v1School Judgement is a new manga series being released stateside by VIZ Media. The series–created by author Obuaki Enoki and illustrator Takeshi Obata (Death Note, Bakuman)– tells the story of a world where, in order to curb crime, schools hold trials for students accused of crimes. The crimes can range from accusing someone of cheating on a test to accusations of murder. Trials have a judge, lawyers, prosecutors; pretty much everything a real court does. While the trials may seem mundane, the punishments actually have real world implications. Students can be given jail time or even the death penalty.

The story tells of Tento Nanahoshi and his lawyer Abaku Inugam. Abaku transfers to Tento’s school in order to defend him in a case in which he’s accused of murdering the class pet. This also introduces the prosecutor of the trial(s) and Abaku’s rival: Pine Hanzuki.  After the completion of Tento’s trial, both Pine and Abaku decide to stay at the school as permanent students.

For the most part, the manga is a very interesting take on a shonen story. Like many shonen, the story is a “battle” manga, but unlike many other stories such as DBZ and Naruto, the battles in this story are one of wits and words. It’s similar to how Death Note is a battle of wits between Light and L/N. School Judgment falls into the typical shonen formula though. Each battle happens, where the “good guys” win with little to no trouble, and the volume ends on a cliffhanger of what seems to be a much bigger battle with higher implications than before.

My biggest gripe with the first volume: while the smaller trials are unimportant other than introducing characters, they were solved far too quickly. Each trial was solved in about two and a half chapters each (SPOILERS: And two of the cases were solved the exact same way. Very boring). I really hope this changes later on and the story has more complex cases.

Overall, the series is very interesting but I’m not too sure if I’ll continue reading. While the art-style (which is something I’m very picky on when it comes to manga) is very nice– as I’m a fan of Obata– the story seems pretty predictable. There’s a certain mystery about Abaku’s past, but I really have a feeling that anyone can predict what his story is a mile away. Personally, I may read it if I have nothing much going on, but it’s not a series I’m going to make a point to continue. It’s not bad by any means, just not my cup of tea. If you like Obata, shonen stories that are a new twist on the genre, or want something interesting check out School Judgement: 7/10

You can purchase School Judgement at the following sites:


Naruto: Kakashi’s Story

kakashi's storyOne of the perks of being an anime blogger, especially as a librarian, is the opportunity to review new books. Viz Media sent me Naruto: Kakashi’s Story, a novel that takes place after the events of the original manga series. I was surprised to see the novel. I wasn’t aware of Naruto novels. Akira Higashiyama captures the feel and the humor of Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto universe.  The story follows Kakashi on a mission to protect the first flight of an airship made by the Land of Waves. Only a year has passed since the Fourth Great Ninja War had ended. The war had allowed the Land of Waves to prosper as a transport hub for supplies, but all wealth comes at a cost. A group of ninja seek to free the lower classes from the debt and work imposed on it by the wealthy. Kakashi and an injured Guy must stop their plan. In the process Kakashi must face himself and his future appointment as the Sixth Hokage.

Higashiyama does an excellent job conveying the feel of Naruto. The novel weaves fights with introspection and observations about society. Kakashi’s Story spends a lot of time in Kakashi’s mind, giving the reader a look at a sometimes enigmatic character. Of course, Naruto and friends also appear. Higashiyama mixes horror with whimsy in a way that balances and keeps the story from slipping too far either direction. The story is spare of description and assumes the reader already knows how everyone looks. For fans, this works well. Although I haven’t see all of the anime series, I had no trouble envisioning the characters. Action sequences are written clearly and convey the fast speed of shinobi conflict.

The novel is the size of a standard manga, which works well for those who like consistency in their library. The pencil cover art is attractive and reminds me of traditional Japanese ink drawings. Jocelyne Allen’s translation lacks most of the awkward phrasing you sometimes see in translations. The phrase “The problem is that” was the only stand out. While grammatically correct, it is awkward. But I am being a little nitpicky here. The prose flows well if you know how to pronounce all the Naruto words like hokage and kunai. I’m not a devoted Naruto fan, but I did notice some of the jutsu were different from the anime. Some fans may find this distracting.

While this isn’t what I normally read, I quite enjoyed spending an afternoon with this book. At 188 pages, it is a fast read. Fans of Naruto should give it a go, especially if you like Kakashi. You can find it at Viz Media’s Naruto Shop and Amazon.


Dharma Delight: a Visionary Post Pop Comic Guide to Buddhism and Zen

Dharma Delight reveals the key tenets of Buddhism with bright, vibrant illustrations. I received a review copy from Tuttle Publishing. The author’s illustrations leap from the page with cute monstrosities and humor. Each drawing contains layer of meaning. Unfortunately, Dharma Delight assumes you know Zen and Buddhist philosophy. Many of the illustrations contain multiple layers of meaning that may make the paintings appear strange if you don’t understand the symbolism. The author explains some of this symbolism, but the explanations are clearer if you have a Buddhist frame of reference. The painting style has strong Indian influences.

Dharma Delight teems with bright, cheery illustrations like this.

Dharma Delight teems with bright, cheery illustrations like this.

Dharma Delight contains jataka, or moral stories, and a handful of koans. The moral stories are simple and fun. They are modern retellings and original moral stories. The koans are modern versions from Zen masters. A koan is a contradictory riddle that doesn’t have an answer. Koans are designed to shock us from everyday thinking. They don’t try to teach morals like jataka. The koan section is my favorite part of the book, but I tend to enjoy them in every Zen book I read.  The author also provides an introduction to meditation at the end of the book.

dharma-delight-lionTo get the most from Dharma Delight, you need to understand some aspects of Buddhism. If you are a beginner, the information may not make sense to you. Explanations of key Buddhist concepts like the Eight-fold Path and the nature of suffering are sparse. If you’ve had no exposure to Buddhism, Dharma Delight isn’t the best introduction. It is meant to show practitioners and those familiar with Buddhism the whimsical side of the philosophy. Dharma Delight supplements sometimes dry and dense Buddhist philosophy books.

yakshaDharma Delight is a book of visual koans. The  book dances with vibrant colors and playfulness. It is available through Tuttle Publishing and Amazon.