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Why I Forever Search for the “Wow” Moments in Manga

Okay first off it has been forever since I’ve posted on Curiosities. All of my work goes on Anime UK News now, so I guess I lost the need to write posts here because anything relevant usually fits there. This time I have something a little bit more personal to write though and something I want the ability to look back on for myself.

Without realising it myself, I’ve always been a bookworm. I love games and anime a great deal, but if I step back and look at my hobbies it’s safe to say that the majority of my time is spent reading. I read a lot of on-going manga series, 102 at the current count, and I sometimes get into a rut and wonder to myself why I do this. Why I follow so many; what I’m looking for; what I’m searching for. The answer came to me today unexpectedly.

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Reading Log: June 2019

Now we’re officially halfway through the year and I can say that my ability to keep up with manga and light novels has been going well this year. Here’s what I got through in June and if you’re a first time visitor you can read the rules I set for myself here.

Manga:

  • Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Edition volume 5
  • One Room of Happiness volume 5
  • Queen’s Quality volume 7
  • A Very Fairy Apartment volume 2
  • I’ve Been Standing on a Million Lives volume 1 (reread) – Review
  • Noragami volume 20
  • Ao Haru Ride volume 5
  • Maiden Railway
  • I Shall Survive Using Potions volume 1
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm volume 1
  • The Magic in this Other World is Too Far Behind! volume 2
  • Sweet Reincarnation volume 1
  • Red Sprite
  • Marginal Operation volume 1
  • Our Dreams at Dusk volume 1
  • O Maidens in Your Savage Season volume 2 – review
  • Food Wars! (was following in WSJ)
  • Discommunication volume 1
  • Love Rush
  • The Unwanted Undead Adventurer volume 1
  • Animeta! volume 1 (reread) – review
  • Bungo Stray Dogs volume 11
  • Konosuba: An Explosion on this Wonderful World volume 1- review
  • Little Miss P
  • Blank Canvas: My So Called Artist’s Journey volume 1
  • Tokyo Tarareba Girls volume 7
  • Silver Spoon volume 9
  • Hi-Fi Cluster

Light Novels:

  • I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out my Level volume 4
  • Wolf Children: Ame and Yukireview
  • Classroom of the Elite volume 1
  • An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride volume 6 – review
  • Cooking with Wild Game volume 3
  • Side by Side Dreamers
  • Kokoro Connect volume 6 – review
  • Full Metal Panic volume 2
  • Log Horizon volume 3
  • Welcome to Japan, Ms Elf volume 2
  • Strike the Blood volume 3
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm volume 2
  • Seriously Seeking Sister! Ultimate Vampire Princess just wants Little Sister volume 1
  • Record of Wortenia War volume 1
  • The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious volume 1 – review
  • My Next Life as a Villainess All Routes Lead to Doom! volume 4
  • If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord volume 8
  • Katanagatari volume 2 – review
  • How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom volume 9

A fairly bumper month for reading with 28 manga down and 19 light novels, up from May at least! Here’s the pile of shame:

Currently reading: Woof Woof Story volume 2

DanMachi Sword Oratoria volume 9
The Reprise of the Spear Hero volume 1
Re:Zero volume 8
Log Horizon volume 4
Re:Zero EX volume 2
Strike the Blood volume 4
The Devil is a Part Timer! volume 11

Down a bit from last month, thankfully, although it has also seen some newcomers arrive…

Reading Log: May 2019

We’re now five months into the year! Time is going by too fast for my liking and I feel like I’ve read a lot less than usual, but let’s take a look. As always the rules I set for myself can be found here. Bold shows a completed series while italics means dropped. Now let’s see how I’ve done this month.

Manga:

  • Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction volume 5
  • Animeta! volume 2
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 – Phantom Blood
  • Silver Spoon volume 8
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel Comics – reviews
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 2 – Battle Tendency 
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 3 – Stardust Crusaders
  • Black Torch volume 4
  • Shortcake Cake volume 4
  • Anonymous Noise volume 14
  • Demon Slayer volume 6
  • Hell Warden Higuma (Weekly Shonen Jump)
  • Haikyu!! volume 32
  • Dive!! volume 2 – review
  • Emanon volume 1 – review
  • Love in Focus volume 2 – review
  • Yozakura Quartet volume 2
  • Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World volume 2
  • Natsume’s Book of Friends volume 2
  • Hitorijime My Hero volume 3
  • Blood Blockade Battlefront volumes 9-1

Light novels:

  • Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Japan – review
  • My Hero Academia: School Briefs volume 1 – review
  • Der Werwolf: The Annals of Veight volume 4
  • Konosuba volume 8
  • Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash volume 14
  • Tsukimonogatari – review
  • Seoreo Gensokui Spirit Chronicles volume 5
  • Penguin Highway – review
  • Outbreak Company volume 9
  • A Sister’s All You Need volume 4
  • Infinite Dendrogram volume 9
  • I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse volume 14
  • In Another World with my Smartphone volume 15

This brings me to 22 manga and 13 light novels for the month, so around the same as May (which was 23/16). I buzzed through a lot of JoJo this month, so I guess that’s where a lot of my reading time went…

And here’s the pile of shame for the month:

Currently reading: I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out my Level volume 4

Snow White with the Red Hair volume 1
I’m Standing on a Million Lives volume 1
Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Edition volume 5
Wolf Children
Classroom of the Elite volume 1
Log Horizon volume 3
Strike the Blood volume 3
Re:Zero volume 8
Log Horizon volume 4
Re:Zero EX volume 2
Strike the Blood volume 4
The Devil is a Part Timer! volume 11

The pile of shame has, shamefully, grown this month! Everything from Wolf Children down is a LN. I’ve been stalling Wolf Children, I’m Standing on (…) and Snow White for awhile because I’m behind on reviews for AUKN and didn’t want to read them and then forget things before I could review them. So I should be able to knock those off pretty fast once I get through my current backlog. FMA also only arrived yesterday, so just haven’t had a chance to touch it yet.

Bizarre Adventures with JoJo

Last week Viz Media added the first three parts of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to their Shonen Jump vault. Despite how famous the series is, I’ve never actually read it. The most I’ve done is watch half of the 2012 anime adaption of Part 1, but I never got back to it because I’m pretty bad at watching anime when it’s not for work or simulcasts. So with this in mind I decided I’d read parts 1-3 and having completed them I wanted to put some of my thoughts down in a post.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1: Phantom Blood was a fairly straightforward shonen story. I liked how the story progressed and changed the relationship between JoJo and Dio, his adopted brother turned evil vampire. At 44 chapters it’s a fairly easy read and doesn’t hang around on any one battle too long. It was a great starting point for such a long series and by the end of it I was excited to continue.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 2: Battle Tendency’s didn’t get off to a great start, with a new unlikable JoJo at the helm. This part started to lean a little more heavily into ‘monster of the week’ elements but also managed to keep the plot moving without wasting too much time on meaningless fights. It was difficult to enjoy it as much as Part 1 given how fond of that JoJo I was, but by the end I didn’t hate Part 2. I admit I was starting to wonder if I’d be able to stick JoJo out if Part 3 was similar, but I didn’t want to just drop it there. With the whole idea of each new Part bringing with it a host of new characters, I was confident that I’d find something to like in the future.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 3: Stardust Crusaders was a fairly mixed bag in the end. I enjoyed it a lot more than Part 2, but it also spends the majority of its 152 chapters on monster of the week battles and that took away from it. It was nice to have a JoJo where both the current and previous JoJo were still alive and could spend time together (and actually Part 2’s JoJo was a lot better in this Part than previously), but on the other hand the Part goes on too long. I have a feeling it got extended in the middle because it was doing well because JoJo manages to fight off all the enemies coming after him and then Dio mysteriously makes several more. The plot moves incredibly slowly because there is always a new enemy causing an accident of some sort and waylaying the casts progress. If you like battle of the week manga then this is by no means a bad thing and hey, some of the fights were great, but personally I wanted more of what we saw in Part 1 with a more defined story in mind. Part 3 doesn’t even give that much time to wrapping up its story! It just shows the two joJo headed back home together (and that one character is okay having defeated Dio). It’s not quite what I was hoping for, but scratched the itch for more JoJo and has kept me interested in reading Part 4 (which Viz are just starting to release and haven’t added to the vault yet).

So having dived into this JoJo rabbit hole I’m happy I now understand what the fuss is about. I might not adore it as much as many of my friends do, but I can certainly appreciate it for what it is. Reading so much of it at once also gave me the opportunity to see how its popularity and how that changed it, like the progressively amping up of the random weekly enemies. I’m really interested to see if it does even more of that going forward or if it starts pulling it back a bit. I don’t actually know if we’ll see Dio more either or if Part 4 will skip that particular encounter. I feel like Dio works best as the ‘big bad’ of the series, so I’d certainly prefer he not be cast aside again. For such a popular series I’ve managed to stay surprisingly uninformed about what happens in the story, which is probably for the best.

Overall I guess I come away from this with an appreciation for JoJo even if it’s not outright like yet. I certainly like it enough to binge through each part, but I feel like a lot of that is born out of curiosity. I certainly won’t be seeking out volumes of it to own, that’s for sure. It’s a wild ride that leaves me with a lot of different feelings, but I guess in the end the overwhelming feeling is that I had fun and that’s what matters.

Here’s hoping I won’t have to wait too long to delve into more!

Reading Log: April 2019

Another month, another reading log. I’ve managed to keep these going for four months now so I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. As always the rules I set for myself can be found here.  Bold shows a completed series while italics means dropped. Now let’s see how I’ve done this month.

Manga:

    • Clockwork Planet volumes 1-5
    • Nano Hazard volumes 1-3
    • Candy Colour Paradox volume 1
    • As Miss Beelzebub Likes volume 5
    • Hitorijime My Hero volume 2
    • Eromanga Sensei volume 2
    • Fire Force volume 2
    • Tokyo Ghoul:re volume 7
    • O Maidens in your Savage Season volume 1 – review
    • Lofty Flower, Fall for Me volume 7
    • If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord volume 3
    • Himouto! Umaru-chan volume 5
    • Yozakura Quartet volume 1
    • Ne0;Lation
    • Tokyo Tarareba Girls volume 6
    • Ao Haru Ride volume 4
    • Pumpkin Scissors volume 1
    • The Master of Ragnarok volume 1

Light Novels:

  • An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride Volume 5 – review soon
  • The Unwanted Undead Adventurer volume 4
  • Durarara!! volume 12
  • Campfire Cooking in Another World With My Absurd Skill volume 1
  • Kokoro Connect volume 5 – review soon
  • 86 volume 1 – review
  • Full Metal Panic! volume 1
  • My Next life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! volume 3
  • Re:Zero volume 7
  • In Another World with My Smartphone volume 14
  • I Shall Survive Using Potions volume 2
  • The Devil is a Part Timer! volume 10
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm volume 1
  • Vampire Knight: Fleeting Dreams
  • The Greatest Magicmaster’s Retirement Plan volume 1
  • Re:Zero EX volume 1

So my counts for this month are 23 manga and 16 light novels, which is down for manga from last month but also up in light novels. Light novel reading raises and falls a lot depending on when J-Novel Club finish books, so I’m not as interested in how that number raises and falls as my manga reading does.

Also worth noting that my count for manga is off by one because I don’t count Ne0;Lation as a volume, I was reading it simulpub’d but I didn’t want to give it its own header for finishing. It’s always a shame to see a WSJ series come to an end, but no real surprise with this one either.

To finish off, here is what’s sitting in the pile of shame:

Log Horizon volume 3
Strike the Blood volume 3
Re:Zero volume 8
Log Horizon volume 4
Re:Zero EX volume 2
Strike the Blood volume 4
The Devil is a Part Timer! volume 11

It’s not growing at least!

Reading Log: March 2019

The third times the charm or something like that! We’re now into April and I’m still sat here writing this log, so things are going well. As always the rules I set for myself can be found here. Now let’s see how I’ve done this month.

Manga:

    • Mushishi volumes 7-10
    • We Never Learn volume 2 – review
    • Record of Grancrest War volume 2 – review
    • Lofty Flower, Fall for Me!! volume 5 – 6
    • Black Torch volume 3
    • Demon Slayer volume 5
    • After Hours volumes 1-3
    • Love in Focus volume 1 – review
    • Anonymous Noise volume 13
    • Haikyu!! volume 31
    • To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts volume 7
    • The Ancient Magus’ Bride volume 10
    • Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction volume 4
    • Voice of a Distant Star
    • Flying Witch volume 5
    • A Very Fairy Apartment volume 1
    • The Magic in This Other World is Too Far Behind volume 1
    • Bloom Into You volume 3
    • Silver Spoon 7
    • Bungo Stray Dogs volume 10
    • So I’m a Spider, So What? volume 5
    • That Time I got Reincarnated into a Slime volume 5 – 6
    • How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom volume 1
    • Tomo-chan is a Girl volume 3
    • Spirit Chronicles volume 1
    • Hiro Mashima’s Playground

Light Novels:

  • The Devil is a Part Timer! volume 9
  • Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases – article
  • 5 Centimeters Per Second – One More Side – review
  • Seirei Gensouki Spirit Chronicles volume 4
  • Cooking with Wild Game volume 2
  • Outbreak Company volume 8
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Sword Oratoria volume 8
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? volume 13 – article
  • I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse volume 13
  • Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks volume 2

So this month I’ve read 33 volumes of manga and 10 light novels. Down a bit in terms of manga from Feb, but I did have my birthday this month so I’m still reading a lot more manga than I usually would. Anyways here’s what’s in the pile of shame:

Re:Zero volume 7 (currently reading)
Durarara!! volume 12
Tokyo Ghoul:re volume 7
The Devil is a Part-Timer! volume 10
Vampire Knight: Fleeting Dreams
Re:Zero EX volume 1
Log Horizon volume 3
Strike the Blood volume 3
Re:Zero volume 8
Log Horizon volume 4
Re:Zero EX volume 2
Strike the Blood volume 4
The Devil is a Part Timer! volume 11

The pile has been slightly rearranged due to new purchases and wanting to break it up to prevent me reading the same series in a row. Tokyo Ghoul is the only manga in the pile, the rest are light novels…

Infinite Dendrogram’s Ray Starling is a Hero Among Heroes

For the people who are know me it will come as no surprise that I’m writing a piece on a VRMMO light novel. A fan of the fantasy genre and the Isekai and VRMMO stories that fill it (especially here in the west), I spend a lot of time reading stories about heroes and other worlds.

One of the series I’m fond of is Infinite Dendrogram, a light novel series being published in English by J-Novel Club. They’ve just started releasing the 9th volume (the latest in Japan) and the opening battle got me thinking about how great main character Ray Starling is.

If you’ve not read the series before then I highly encourage you to and you can find out more at J-Novel Club’s page here. I’m not reviewing the series so I don’t really want to stray from the meat of the article by getting into what the story is about right now.

Now over the course of nine books we’ve seen Ray tackle a number of awful and testing situations. He’s defeated powerful bosses and brought down plots to do harm to the kingdom he belongs to, but he’s never felt like a true hero in the way he does in this volume. Always the main character but never quite breaking out of that mould, I’ve been fond of Ray but now he’s won my respect. As an orphanage is about to be burnt to the ground, by an enemy who I won’t name, Ray bursts onto the scene dressed like a demon but with a heroic shine in his eyes. When they say looks can be deceiving they certainly had Ray in mind, that’s for sure…

The thing is, generally speaking characters do good things because they’re in the right place at the right time. Either that or they’re just OP enough where there is no real risk to their lives and thus are always willing to take up a challenge. In Ray’s case none of these are true – well, except that his life isn’t really at risk because Infinite Dendrogram is not a death game. Anyway, Ray races onto the scene with no real guarantee that he’ll make it through the fight alive. If he dies he’ll be given a death penalty and unable to log back in for a set amount of time, at which point there is no one to save the orphans. Knowing this he runs into danger to put everything on the line to accomplish his goal. It’s life or death but Ray will do his best and put up a fantastic fight for his beliefs. This all comes with a heroic speech about how standing still is the worst thing you can do, naturally.

Honestly reading this back makes Ray sound kind of insufferable, but he’s actually not. In fact I’d go so far as to say he’s one of the protagonists I like best in this particular genre and certainly from among the books J-Novel Club publish from it. He’s down to earth and modest while also being a little dense. Honestly author Sakon Kaido has done a great job crafting him into a really likeable hero, someone who isn’t OP or too unrealistic. Credit is also due to translator Andrew Hodgson, who does a great job at giving Ray a distinct and fitting ‘voice’. That goes double for this volume, which is shaping up to be one of the best yet.

In a genre filled to the brim with unlikable and or likeable but cookie-cutter protagonist, it’s just nice to have someone a bit different. Ray certainly shares similar traits to these other protagonists, but he’s also better than them. A hero to send shivers down your spine and truly make you believe in the concept. I never thought that I’d be this excited about a volume of Infinite Dendrogram, but there is something special about the way its written and how things are progressing. I’m not sure Ray is going to be overcome all the tests ahead of him, and frankly the series isn’t shy about meddling with some dark concepts so it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s made to suffer – but that’s again. A true hero will raise again and so Ray will too.

Ultimately I just wanted to gush about how much I’m enjoying this book already, but I’ve never really talked about Infinite Dendrogram before either, so this seemed like a good opportunity, I really hope that the forthcoming anime adaption of Infinite Dendrogram does the series justice so you can all join in with my love for it!

NISIOISIN Is At His Best When Writing Mysteries

So my first interaction with NISIOISIN’s writing, like many, was with his Monogatari series. I’m up to date with the English releases of Monogatari and after more than ten volumes, I’ve grown attached to the way in which NISIOSIN crafts his stories. So attached in fact, that I’ve sought out some of the author’s other works.

For AnimeUKNews a few months ago I got the chance to review Vertical’s first omnibus volume (volumes 1-3 of the Japanese release) of Katanagatari, which I found to be fairly similar to Monogatari in terms of how its written. Nothing really happens until the end and it’s very comedy driven. Ultimately I think I’d been hoping for something more, especially after reading the second season of Monogatari. 

The second season of Monogatari is special because almost every book is narrated by a different member of the cast. This works out well for NISIOISIN because it shows off his abilities as a writer at great length because every story is so different. Some characters are more serious than others, some are purely comedic and some treat their tales almost as mysteries. It showcases NISIOISIN’s ability to dip in and out of various styles and do them all justice and I guess that’s what I wanted to see more of and ultimately ended up seeking out.

While reviewing NISIOISIN’s other works I was vaguely aware of the fact he’d once written a Death Note novel – Death Note: Another Note – The Los Angeles BB Murder Case. Now I’m not the biggest fan of Death Note’s manga, but I have read it all and enjoyed it for what it was so I decided I’d give the novel a try. I bought it before Christmas and it sat in my pile of books for awhile, but this week I finally got around to giving it a read and I realised how much I like NISIOISIN’s writing all over again.

Another Note takes place before Death Note itself, although it does assume you’ve read Death Note and know what happens to L. As the full title of the book suggests, it’s a murder mystery story and as readers familiar with my work probably know – I love mystery novels. After all, my favourite book this year so far is Eiji Mikage’s Masquerade and the Nameless Women. 

Anyway, what I found from reading Another Note is that NISIOISIN tells a mighty fine mystery. Unlike in Monogatari and Katanagatari, the story of Another Note was always moving and making progress. Most crucially for me, I never worked out the twists and turns until I was meant to. The book is very well written and it was satisfying to figure out the answers just as the protagonist did. The book leads you in the right direction and gives you just enough to reach a conclusion before the main character does, leaving the smugness of being right and cheering when you realise you solved the problem in a similar way to the protagonist (as all too often I reach the answer in a roundabout way and get disappointed by the actual route to solving a puzzle).

I’m really glad I gave Another Note a chance, but it does frustrate me how little of NISIOISIN’s work can be read in English. I’m not necessarily talking about the popular series like Monogatari and Zaregoto, but all the one offs. Surely among them there are more gems like Another Note that would keep me turning the pages and refusing to put it down. Some of the Monogatari books share in this quality, but I’d love to see NISIOISIN unchained from the mountain of franchises and instead write some more one-off mystery novels. He has a talent for it. In fact not just mystery novels, I’d love him to take on a variety of different genres that perhaps aren’t fantasy or driven by comedy. I guess some of this probably already exists in Japan, to which I can only hope that the English publishers license more of his work to bring over. At least until my ability to read Japanese has improved to the point where I can work around the problem.

Anyway this has been a long post to say that Death Note: Another Note – The Los Angeles BB Murder Case is a great read and if you like NISIOSIN’s work (and Death Note) it’s definitely worth a look to see how good his writing is when he’s not busily talking about panties through Araragi-kun.

Reading Log: February 2019

It’s time for the second instalment of my reading log! I’ve managed to commit myself for more than a month, so things are looking good. The rules I laid out for myself in the first month can be found here. With that said, let’s found out how I’ve done this month!

Manga:

  • Dreamin’ Sun volume 8
  • Behind the Scenes volumes 4-5
  • Cells at Work volume 1-4
  • Heaven’s Design Team volumes 1-2
  • Tokyo Ghoul:re volume 4-6
  • Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World volume 1 – review
  • Anonymous Noise volume 12
  • Tokyo Tarareba Girls volume 4-5
  • I Want to Eat Your Pancreas volumes 1-2 review
  • Record of Grancrest War volume 1 – review
  • Fire Punch volumes 1-2
  • I’m standing on a Million Lives volumes 1-4
  • Infinite Dendrogram volume 1
  • Lofty Flower, Fall for me!! volume 4
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime volumes 2-4
  • Land of the Lustrous volume 1
  • Mushishi volumes 1-6
  • Animeta! volume 1
  • Shortcake cake volume 3
  • Ao Haru Ride volume 3
  • Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Edition volume 4
  • My Solo Exchange Diary volume 2

Light Novels:

  • Welcome to Japan, Ms Elf volume 1
  • Kokoro Connect volume 4
  • Der Werwolf: The Annals of Veight volume 3
  • I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level volume 3
  • Re:Zero volume 6
  • In Another World with My Smartphone volume 13 (no I don’t know how I’ve survived 13 volumes either…)
  • Koimonogatari – review
  • Woof Woof Story: I Told You To Turn Me into a Pampered Pooch, Not Fenrir volume 1 – review

This month my reading has grown for manga, with having read 41 volumes compared to 24 last month. With less J-Novel Club titles rolling over, my count for light novels has fallen with only 8 read this month compared to 19 last month. At this point I’ve gotten through the backlog of manga I was given for Christmas with only light novels left, but I did buy the Kodansha humble bundle which gave me a lot of books to read! My birthday is also coming up next week so my to-read pile will probably ballon…

Currently reading: The Devil is a Part Timer! volume 9 (LN)

In the pile of shame (all light novels atm):

Death Note: Another Note
The Devil is a Part-Timer! volume 10
Re:Zero volumes 7-8
Re:Zero EX volumes 1-2
Vampire Knight: Fleeting Dreams