Ambitious, weird, metafictional horror-fantasy set in a magical city where all but three faeries have fled post-war. It’s now occupied by tightropers who spit out ropes and live in the air, and gnomes who live belowground. Faeries are immortal and every part of their body has its own sentience; they shed glitter constantly and each speck of glitter has its own awareness, which they tune out because otherwise they’d lose their minds. They are not considered dead until there is literally nothing of them left, so the heroine carries her father’s ear and eyeball in a jar; it presumably is still able to see and hear, though not speak. Pre-war, faeries had a wary co-existence with the gnomes, which eat faeries, usually bit by bit. Each eaten limb stays aware until digested. I think. It’s a little unclear what you have to do to a faerie part before it ceases to be aware.

And that is just one of the many, many, many things which are unclear in this odd, frustrating book. The ideas are intriguing, original, and horrific; the execution often uses that maddening trick of excusing its flaws by pointing them out and saying that they’re deliberate. The plot makes no sense? Well, real life often makes no sense. The emotions are weirdly distanced? The narrator is traumatized and emotionally numb. Key incidents are incredibly confusing or elided altogether? The narrator is traumatized and doesn’t want to think about them. Basic facts like how the body part sentience is actually experienced, how big faeries and gnomes are relative to each other (the gnomes can eat a faerie in one bite, but can also have normal-sounding sex with them), what the tightropers look like, the characterization and relationships of major characters, how any race survives when almost all females are killed by the act of giving birth to their first child, etc, are vague or confusing or contradictory or make no sense? It’s because the narrator is a traumatized teenager writing about experiences they don’t understand or can’t face, not a professional writer.

Here’s an example:

Once upon a time there was a writer who couldn't write a fucking book.

I don't know what comes next. That whole chapter's going to need to get thrown out anyway. You completely forgot halfway through that you'd said it was raining at the beginning.

Was it raining?

No one's ever going to know and it's all your fault.

Put a fucking map in the next draft.


The novel held my attention and is certainly plenty weird and ambitious, but using “in real life a traumatized teenager would write an incoherent mess of a book” as excuse to write an incoherent mess of a book did not work for me. The novel was too realistic to work as surrealism, too inconsistent to work as fantasy, and the whole “everything makes no sense because the narrator is a traumatized teenager” device didn’t work for me. These are the exact same problems I had with Moskowiz’s other novel I read, Break, so this is clearly her signature style and I’m just not her audience.

The worldbuilding is really interesting, which made it all the more frustrating that it had so little focus and what we did get didn’t make much sense. However, the novel also does some unusual (spoilery) things with narrative and metafiction, so if you like that sort of thing and don’t mind the issues I had with it, it’s worth a try. The horror is more conceptual than graphic, but dismemberment is crucial to the plot. (One of the things I found most frustrating was that I was really intrigued by the concept of having scattered awareness via shed glitter, eaten body parts, clipped hair, etc, but because the characters tune this out, you rarely get a sense of what that actually feels like.) Note that it contains underage (late teens, not children, but still) sex work (not graphic, but still).

A History of Glitter and Blood
Mea culpa: "To yard sale" is real slang meaning "to fall down." However, it comes from skiing/snowboarding, when a violent fall scatters your equipment like junk spread out on a lawn for a yard sale. Very witty and intuitively clear in that context! The context in Ward's book was a guy who was stumbling around his apartment either naked or in pajamas, I forget which. Nothing would have scattered had he keeled over.

Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 4) is the one with the human cop hero and the sad virgin vampire heroine. I actually liked the heroine, Marissa. The hero, Butch, was a total jackass. You could not have come up with a better example of how "alpha male" traits taken to extremes are actually asshole traits.

Butch had one of the stupidest conflicts I've ever come across in a romance novel. He's human and if his vampire girlfriend drinks his blood, he'll DIE. So she drinks from a vampire friend instead, which is how vampires normally feed. Butch is jealous because feeding has sexual overtones, and demands that she drink from him instead, even though it will KILL HIM. He gets so demanding about it and furious at her drinking from someone other than him that his poor girlfriend, who doesn't want to KILL HIM, starts starving herself!

So he would rather DIE by forcing the woman he supposedly loves to KILL HIM, thus leaving her alone, heartbroken, and horribly guilty, than have her perform a mildly sexual act with a friend that she needs to do TO LIVE.

Admittedly, this is called out as stupid in the book. But it's also portrayed that it's totally natural for Butch, a MANLY MANLY MAN, to prefer death to having his girlfriend have a relationship with another man which she has no choice over and does not regard as sexual (though Butch does.)

There was a nicely effective bit of body horror when Butch is infected with eevil and his come turns black. YIKES.

Bad medicine: Do not cram stuff into people's mouths if they're having a seizure!

Quote chosen by randomly opening book: "I threatened the king's life to ahvenge your honor!"

Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 3) was my favorite. The hero of this one, Zsadist-- just pause to admire that-- is not an asshole. He's a physically and emotionally scarred survivor of kidnapping and repeated rape, who thinks he's too damaged to be anything but a killer and has some serious hang-ups about sex. Within the completely over the top context of the book, I have to say that this was handled pretty realistically and sensitively. And also milked for maximum angst. The heroine, Bella, is sexually assertive and mostly rescues herself. Very nice!

Zsadist's twin brother, Phury-- just pause to admire that-- has possibly the all-time best "how I lost my leg" story. Incidentally, a number of the male vampires are disabled, sometimes with magical compensation but often not. I liked this aspect of the series.

Bad medicine: If you've been injected with a drug, vomiting won't "get it out of your system." It's in your bloodstream, not your stomach.

Quote chosen by randomly opening book: Before Zsadist left, he took one last look at the fish tank. The food was almost gone now, snipped off the surface by little gaping mouths, mouths that came at it from the underside. (I like this, actually. Zsadist is feeling triggered and unsettled and not consciously noticing it, but everything around him has taken on a slightly sinister tinge.)

In Lover Unbound (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 5), we learn that Vishous-- just pause to admire that-- is canonically bisexual and has a crush on Butch. Sadly, this is the book about his romance with a woman, Jane, a doctor who gets kidnapped to tend Vishous' wounds. The romance made no sense in this one. Vishous is traumatized by early noncon same-sex encounters so now he can only have sex by dominating women in completely consensual BDSM settings, and he and Jane have sweet banter and then he repeatedly dubcons her but it's OK because she consented, sort of, and then he subs for her in penance for... something. What? It also turns out that he knows how to resurrect the dead, which may have been set up in previous books but seemed out of the blue in this one. Bonus WTF "happy ending."

Bad medicine: You STILL don't stuff things in people's mouths if they have a seizure!

Quote chosen by randomly opening book: Butch's jaw dropped and he pulled a bobble.
To set the scene, I spent a day last week in Kelly and Elisa's charming but extremely cold home. Here I am, watching anime while huddled for warmth in a fox hat, with Elisa doing a ninja-like vanishing act beside me:

Read more... )

Yukikaze

Kelly and Elisa described this as "men who love men who love planes." Kelly added that it seemed like an attempt to capture two large markets at once: people who like fighter jets, and people who like gay love stories. Unfortunately, it ended up appealing to the much smaller market of people who like both fighter jets and gay love stories. Luckily, I like both.

Mysterious aliens known as JAM attempted to invade the Earth, but were beaten back to a planet called Fairy. A number of years later, the general population of Earth doesn’t much care that a completely pointless war is still being waged over the skies of Fairy via fighter jet. On Fairy, Rei Fukui is the pilot for the amazing plane Yukikaze, who talks to him and protects him. His commanding officer is in love with him - well, there’s no on-screen kissing, but if they were a heterosexual couple, there would be no doubt whatsoever in any viewer’s mind that their relationship is romantic. But Rei, who is socially impaired to say the least, doesn’t quite know how to deal with this strange thing called love, especially when it emanates from one of those strange beings called humans rather than from his beloved plane.

Yukikaze is beautifully animated and designed, with a lot of shots that evoke the loneliness of a futuristic Edward Hopper painting. The details of how the planes work are very realistic, given that they’re super-jets. Despite the many aerial battles, the series has a hypnotic, meditative atmosphere, aided by the unsettlingly mysterious nature of the war and the JAM: no one has ever seen a JAM, only their jets.

I liked this a lot, though I was glad to have Kelly and Elisa on hand to explain some of the more confusing moments. It’s understated in the extreme, but gathers a lot of emotional force by the satisfying end.

This is a short series, of 6 episodes. Four are thirty minutes long, and the first and last are about forty-five. Yukikaze

The series was based on a book series, Yukikaze, which is out in English from Haikasoru.

Texhnolyze

I only managed to watch the first episode of this, and I liked it less than any anime I’ve seen yet. There was no background music, and almost no dialogue. In episode one, in a moody dystopian landscape...

- A boxer stares zombie-like into a mirror, then has zombie-like sex with a creepy woman with a prosthetic arm. She pokes him in the eyeball with her sharp nail while having an orgasm (I had to look away) but luckily, he has a prosthetic eyeball.

- A CGI ceiling fan gloomily turns.

- A man gloomily cooks boiling glop.

- A girl with a fox mask stares at people and has visions of people getting killed.

- The boxer lurks gloomily in a sewer littered with prosthetic limbs.

- People hack off the boxer’s arm and leg.

End of episode one! Also, end of me watching any more of this. Don't blame Kelly and Elisa for it - it was one of a handful of random anime DVDs I bought for a dollar at a garage sale. I was robbed!

Texhnolyze
To set the scene, I spent a day last week in Kelly and Elisa's charming but extremely cold home. Here I am, watching anime while huddled for warmth in a fox hat, with Elisa doing a ninja-like vanishing act beside me:

Read more... )

Yukikaze

Kelly and Elisa described this as "men who love men who love planes." Kelly added that it seemed like an attempt to capture two large markets at once: people who like fighter jets, and people who like gay love stories. Unfortunately, it ended up appealing to the much smaller market of people who like both fighter jets and gay love stories. Luckily, I like both.

Mysterious aliens known as JAM attempted to invade the Earth, but were beaten back to a planet called Fairy. A number of years later, the general population of Earth doesn’t much care that a completely pointless war is still being waged over the skies of Fairy via fighter jet. On Fairy, Rei Fukui is the pilot for the amazing plane Yukikaze, who talks to him and protects him. His commanding officer is in love with him - well, there’s no on-screen kissing, but if they were a heterosexual couple, there would be no doubt whatsoever in any viewer’s mind that their relationship is romantic. But Rei, who is socially impaired to say the least, doesn’t quite know how to deal with this strange thing called love, especially when it emanates from one of those strange beings called humans rather than from his beloved plane.

Yukikaze is beautifully animated and designed, with a lot of shots that evoke the loneliness of a futuristic Edward Hopper painting. The details of how the planes work are very realistic, given that they’re super-jets. Despite the many aerial battles, the series has a hypnotic, meditative atmosphere, aided by the unsettlingly mysterious nature of the war and the JAM: no one has ever seen a JAM, only their jets.

I liked this a lot, though I was glad to have Kelly and Elisa on hand to explain some of the more confusing moments. It’s understated in the extreme, but gathers a lot of emotional force by the satisfying end.

This is a short series, of 6 episodes. Four are thirty minutes long, and the first and last are about forty-five. Yukikaze

The series was based on a book series, Yukikaze, which is out in English from Haikasoru.

Texhnolyze

I only managed to watch the first episode of this, and I liked it less than any anime I’ve seen yet. There was no background music, and almost no dialogue. In episode one, in a moody dystopian landscape...

- A boxer stares zombie-like into a mirror, then has zombie-like sex with a creepy woman with a prosthetic arm. She pokes him in the eyeball with her sharp nail while having an orgasm (I had to look away) but luckily, he has a prosthetic eyeball.

- A CGI ceiling fan gloomily turns.

- A man gloomily cooks boiling glop.

- A girl with a fox mask stares at people and has visions of people getting killed.

- The boxer lurks gloomily in a sewer littered with prosthetic limbs.

- People hack off the boxer’s arm and leg.

End of episode one! Also, end of me watching any more of this. Don't blame Kelly and Elisa for it - it was one of a handful of random anime DVDs I bought for a dollar at a garage sale. I was robbed!

Texhnolyze
I read this while I was at horse camp, where I found it on the shelf and picked it up because I had enjoyed some of Friesner’s comic fantasy when I was in high school. (She is probably best-known for the “Chicks in Chained Mail” series.) This was not comic. I read it in mounting amazement, recounted plot points to a fascinated [personal profile] coraa ([personal profile] coraa: “And then they ate her?” Me: “No, the cannibals show up later.”), and then promptly forgot about it entirely until it came up in conversation recently.

It is a feminist dystopia, which is a genre which has thankfully become less popular of late, but was relatively common up to about fifteen years ago. I’m not saying that it’s a bad genre. Many examples are good. But they are nearly universally awesomely depressing, often with addition Cement Truck depressingness slapped on to an already inherently depressing set-up, and if you read too many of them in a row, you will get the impression that the future is wall-to-wall rape, broken up by cannibalism, oppressive religion, slavery, and sex with horses.

(Before I go any further, I have to note that the book with horse bestiality is not only one of the well-written ones, but is, remarkably, not awesomely depressing. (Though it’s the second in a series of four, and the first one is.) The society of hard-riding lesbian clones for whom sex with horses is necessary to make the parthenogenesis work is surprisingly functional, and the characters even sometimes have fun. But it’s impossible to have a discussion about feminist dystopias without someone saying, “And then there’s the horse cock book!”

Those books are by Suzy McKee Charnas, and if you can get past the slavery and the horse sex, they are actually quite good. The third and fourth books are about rebuilding society, which is an unusual topic and one I like quite a bit.

The Slave and The Free: Books 1 and 2 of 'The Holdfast Chronicles': 'Walk to the End of the World' and 'Motherlines'

The Furies (The Holdfast Chronicles, Book 3)

The Conqueror's Child (The Holdfast Chronicles, Book 4))

I also read I Who Have Never Known Men, in which women are locked up for no reason, then an apocalypse happens and kills all the men, and then everyone mopes around until the heroine, the last woman on earth, ironically gets cancer of the uterus that she never used, having never known men, and commits suicide, and, of course, The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library). Sheri Tepper practically made a career out of writing feminist dystopias.

I read all these because at that time it was more-or-less possible to read all the sf that was published that year or at least was available where I was, and I did. They did not make me feel like the future was anything to look forward to.

On to Esther “Chicks in Chainmail” Friesner’s cannibal apocalypse rape gang book!

The Psalms of Herod

Spoilers contain rape, sacred blowjobs, rape, mutant women, rape, lost legs, rape, cannibalism, and rape, and an annual rape festival. And rape. )

These books were part of a fictional rape trend, especially in fantasy. If a female character had a dark secret, it would inevitably turn out to be rape. Even today, especially in TV and movies, a female character’s dark secret is typically rape. (If it isn’t, it’s probably child abuse or a Secret Baby.)

Why all the rape? In some novels, it's a lazy shortcut to trauma: what else bad could possibly happen to a woman other than something sexual? In a few, it's pure exploitation. But in the feminist dystopias, and in many other books, the thought behind seemed neither lazy nor sleazy. These writers are clearly deeply concerned about sexism. The ultimate expression of sexism is rape, so if you're writing a book about sexism... The problem, or one of the problems, is that while the intent of the books individuallly is to say that rape is bad, considered as a group, if practically every fantasy you read with a heroine has her getting raped, what tends to come across was that rape is inevitable.

I eventually made the conscious decision that my female characters’ dark secrets would not be rape, just so there would be some island of sexual safety in the middle of the sea of fictional rape. In my efforts to avoid it, I have resorted to everything from “my sister was killed in an accident and I blame myself” to “I killed someone in a fit of rage when we were both kids and I will never forgive myself” to “I became a cannibal to save my life (and I blame myself.)” I especially like giving female characters trauma which didn’t occur because they were female. Which is not to say that I’ll never write about rape ever. But probably not till I run out of other dark secrets.

On the other hand, Robin McKinley’s Deerskin is one of my favorite books of all time. So is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures). I am a hard sell on fictional depictions of rape, but a soft sell on fictional depictions of trauma and healing. I’m less bothered by rape when that’s a large part of what the character’s journey is about than when it’s just lurking in the background or is a large part of what the setting is about.

One person’s deeply felt exploration of trauma and recovery is another person’s trashy exploitation, of course. But there is a place for rape in fiction so long as it exists in real life. That being said, I am rather relieved that I haven't read much written after about 1995 in which the apocalypse inevitably results in state-sanctioned rape, state-mandated rape, rape festivals, or roving rape gangs.
Note: No disrespect is intended to actual victims of swine flu or other real illnesses. This is about illness as metaphor in fiction.

Thoughts to ponder:

Is there any relationship, either direct or by similarity, between modern hurt-comfort and Victorian fictional illness fetishization?

What is the most current manifestation of illness as metaphor? Do tragically sensitive and artistic characters still always die of heart disease, cancer, leukemia, and/or AIDS, or is there a new preferred disease?

Remember all those YA novels where someone always died of cancer (or occasionally drowning or bee sting) by the end? Are current YA novels less death-laden?

What is the most cracktastic anime/manga/romance illness?

[Poll #1392575]
Note: No disrespect is intended to actual victims of swine flu or other real illnesses. This is about illness as metaphor in fiction.

Thoughts to ponder:

Is there any relationship, either direct or by similarity, between modern hurt-comfort and Victorian fictional illness fetishization?

What is the most current manifestation of illness as metaphor? Do tragically sensitive and artistic characters still always die of heart disease, cancer, leukemia, and/or AIDS, or is there a new preferred disease?

Remember all those YA novels where someone always died of cancer (or occasionally drowning or bee sting) by the end? Are current YA novels less death-laden?

What is the most cracktastic anime/manga/romance illness?

[Poll #1392575]
This is exactly what I've been dying to find for ages: a shounen manga with all the shounen tropes I love - martial arts, personal growth and pain written on the body, "I will get stronger," the truest expression of love being "if I go berserk, I want you to be the one who kills me," warrior camaraderie, character development expressed via fight scenes, training sequences, and heartbreaking flasbacks - but with female protagonists.

Claymore, I love you and hug you and squeeze you!

In a generic European medivaloid world, monsters called yoma impersonate and infect humans, sometimes taking over one member of a family, only to transform into monsters and eat everyone's guts. Only one force can stop them - the warriors called Claymores for the huge swords they carry. All Claymores are female, and have gained their powers at a dreadful price: they are part yoma themselves, and must constantly fight their own demon side. Eventually, they lose the battle, and must be killed by one of their own.

This is a story in which women and girls get all the fighting and angst and "am I becoming a monster" and same-sex soldierly bonding usually reserved for men. There's a moment late in the series when they're reading the roll call of Claymores, and it's something like "Alicia... Pamela... Kathy... Rafaela... Dorothy..." Just seeing all those women's names made my heart grow several sizes.

The women are not objectified in any way: no panty shots, no peek-down-the-cleavage - there are even some non-sexual nude scenes which are not fan service-y.

It's pure awesomesauce with a side of swordplay-induced limb loss. See tags to get a sense of all the parts that go flying. I probably missed some, even.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Claymore, Vol. 1 (Claymore) (v. 1)

Spoilers!

Read more... )
This is exactly what I've been dying to find for ages: a shounen manga with all the shounen tropes I love - martial arts, personal growth and pain written on the body, "I will get stronger," the truest expression of love being "if I go berserk, I want you to be the one who kills me," warrior camaraderie, character development expressed via fight scenes, training sequences, and heartbreaking flasbacks - but with female protagonists.

Claymore, I love you and hug you and squeeze you!

In a generic European medivaloid world, monsters called yoma impersonate and infect humans, sometimes taking over one member of a family, only to transform into monsters and eat everyone's guts. Only one force can stop them - the warriors called Claymores for the huge swords they carry. All Claymores are female, and have gained their powers at a dreadful price: they are part yoma themselves, and must constantly fight their own demon side. Eventually, they lose the battle, and must be killed by one of their own.

This is a story in which women and girls get all the fighting and angst and "am I becoming a monster" and same-sex soldierly bonding usually reserved for men. There's a moment late in the series when they're reading the roll call of Claymores, and it's something like "Alicia... Pamela... Kathy... Rafaela... Dorothy..." Just seeing all those women's names made my heart grow several sizes.

The women are not objectified in any way: no panty shots, no peek-down-the-cleavage - there are even some non-sexual nude scenes which are not fan service-y.

It's pure awesomesauce with a side of swordplay-induced limb loss. See tags to get a sense of all the parts that go flying. I probably missed some, even.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Claymore, Vol. 1 (Claymore) (v. 1)

Spoilers!

Read more... )
Yuri Narushima is the mangaka who created Planet Ladder (Volume 1), a fantasy series noted for the extreme complexity of its background-- and by extreme, I mean that two volumes in, there was a diagram of seven planes of existence, their political set-ups, and the ways in which they were related to each other that looked like a circuit board and was just as easily comprehensible-- and the fact that the character with the most poignant and tragic backstory was the spirit of a Japanese engineering student who was swept out of the Earth during WWII, and eventually transplanted into the body of a giant robot chicken.

Planet Ladder, apparently loosely based on a Japanese folk tale, loosely follows a basic quest framework, in which a Japanese girl is swept into a fantasy world because she's the Chosen One who has been prophesied. (For those of you who hate Chosen Ones, note that this is satisfyingly upended later on.) She meets an emotionless constructed boy with a gold hand (I think he has a twin, but I forget the details) and has a femmeslashy relationship with a bad-ass woman named... er... Bambi.

In an interlocking plotline, a young man rules a world which succumbs to a horrifying disease which makes your limbs, including your head, suddenly fall off. He is saved only by being put in total isolation. By the time the heroine meets him, he is so traumatized that he passes out if anyone touches him. His sole companion is the giant robot chicken. This is because a scientist was trying to save the population by transplanting their souls into robots. But before this plan could be launched, almost everyone was dead, with only one robot finished, so the last dying man's soul had to be popped into that one. That prototype robot happened to be a giant chicken. Just go with it.

There's also a complicated cross-dimensional political story which I found almost totally incomprehensible. It did not help that in an early volume, when I was still trying to remember who was who, Tokyopop's handy character guide switched the descriptions of the hero and the villain.

Complete in seven volumes, with a somewhat rushed finale but pleasing conclusion. Dense epic fantasy with angsty men, tough women, and a giant robot chicken -- what's not to love? The art's good too.

Young Magician, The: Volume 1 (Young Magician (DC Comics)) also uses the narrative strategy of dropping the reader directly into the middle of the action and letting us try to put together the sense of the quite complex story as we go along. One does get the sense that there is a coherent story, but the fly-on-the-wall viewpoint makes us work to understand it.

As best as I can figure out, the Guino clan of magicians adopted a traumatized, amnesiac little boy during the Crusades and attempted to teach him magic. The boy, Carno Guino, bonded with another magician, Rosalite, whose body stopped growing when she was a child.

It's now modern times in Hong Kong (the magicians are either near-immortal or operating out of a timeless dimension) and Carlo and Rosalite are trying to stop a magician from another clan who is imitating Jack the Ripper in order to read the future in human entrails.

Insanely complex, with tons of largely-untold backstory. The foreground has an unusual amount of social realism, with a sub-theme about the difficulties of racial minorities in Hong Kong. (One character is a Filipina maid, and another is East Indian/British.) The conclusion alternates rather gory magical battles with lengthy infodumping about the relationship of magic and genetics. The tough-talking Carno is apparently one of two main characters, and the other one doesn't even appear in the first volume.

I await the arrival of some sort of Fowl of D00M.
Yuri Narushima is the mangaka who created Planet Ladder, a fantasy series noted for the extreme complexity of its background-- and by extreme, I mean that two volumes in, there was a diagram of seven planes of existence, their political set-ups, and the ways in which they were related to each other that looked like a circuit board and was just as easily comprehensible-- and the fact that the character with the most poignant and tragic backstory was the spirit of a Japanese engineering student who was swept out of the Earth during WWII, and eventually transplanted into the body of a giant robot chicken.

Planet Ladder, apparently loosely based on a Japanese folk tale, loosely follows a basic quest framework, in which a Japanese girl is swept into a fantasy world because she's the Chosen One who has been prophesied. (For those of you who hate Chosen Ones, note that this is satisfyingly upended later on.) She meets an emotionless constructed boy with a gold hand (I think he has a twin, but I forget the details) and has a femmeslashy relationship with a bad-ass woman named... er... Bambi.

In an interlocking plotline, a young man rules a world which succumbs to a horrifying disease which makes your limbs, including your head, suddenly fall off. He is saved only by being put in total isolation. By the time the heroine meets him, he is so traumatized that he passes out if anyone touches him. His sole companion is the giant robot chicken. This is because a scientist was trying to save the population by transplanting their souls into robots. But before this plan could be launched, almost everyone was dead, with only one robot finished, so the last dying man's soul had to be popped into that one. That prototype robot happened to be a giant chicken. Just go with it.

There's also a complicated cross-dimensional political story which I found almost totally incomprehensible. It did not help that in an early volume, when I was still trying to remember who was who, Tokyopop's handy character guide switched the descriptions of the hero and the villain.

Complete in seven volumes, with a somewhat rushed finale but pleasing conclusion. Dense epic fantasy with angsty men, tough women, and a giant robot chicken -- what's not to love? The art's good too.

The Young Magician also uses the narrative strategy of dropping the reader directly into the middle of the action and letting us try to put together the sense of the quite complex story as we go along. One does get the sense that there is a coherent story, but the fly-on-the-wall viewpoint makes us work to understand it.

As best as I can figure out, the Guino clan of magicians adopted a traumatized, amnesiac little boy during the Crusades and attempted to teach him magic. The boy, Carno Guino, bonded with another magician, Rosalite, whose body stopped growing when she was a child.

It's now modern times in Hong Kong (the magicians are either near-immortal or operating out of a timeless dimension) and Carlo and Rosalite are trying to stop a magician from another clan who is imitating Jack the Ripper in order to read the future in human entrails.

Insanely complex, with tons of largely-untold backstory. The foreground has an unusual amount of social realism, with a sub-theme about the difficulties of racial minorities in Hong Kong. (One character is a Filipina maid, and another is East Indian/British.) The conclusion alternates rather gory magical battles with lengthy infodumping about the relationship of magic and genetics. The tough-talking Carno is apparently one of two main characters, and the other one doesn't even appear in the first volume.

I await the arrival of some sort of Fowl of D00M.
In the near future, a huge earthquake destroys Tokyo, as all manga catastrophes are wont to do. Well, parts of Tokyo anyway. Rescue worker Rei, who rides a motorcycle and is possibly the most ass-kicking shoujo heroine ever, and her hot partner Uozumi go to the rescue, but are shot at and then bombed. Uozumi is trapped and surrounded by flames. Rei rescues him by shooting the debris trapping him with a bazooka; his life is saved but he loses a leg.

They are presumed dead, so they go to work as mercenaries for a bar with really good potstickers which is a front for a mercenary rental joint. As one does. And then they rescue hostages and contemplate their love lives. Rei loves Uozumi, but he loves his girlfriend Mika. I think Mika is doomed.

This seems to be an older manga, based on the retro art style (Rei's eyes are humungous, even for shoujo) and the fact that my edition, from Animerica, is flipped. There's only two volumes, and I look forward to the next. I don't love the art but it's not actively offputting, Rei is awesome, it has sexual tension between partners, and the writing style has a nice indie-noir edge.

I believe that Tamura's famous work is an epic fantasy, Basara. How's that?
In the near future, a huge earthquake destroys Tokyo, as all manga catastrophes are wont to do. Well, parts of Tokyo anyway. Rescue worker Rei, who rides a motorcycle and is possibly the most ass-kicking shoujo heroine ever, and her hot partner Uozumi go to the rescue, but are shot at and then bombed. Uozumi is trapped and surrounded by flames. Rei rescues him by shooting the debris trapping him with a bazooka; his life is saved but he loses a leg.

They are presumed dead, so they go to work as mercenaries for a bar with really good potstickers which is a front for a mercenary rental joint. As one does. And then they rescue hostages and contemplate their love lives. Rei loves Uozumi, but he loves his girlfriend Mika. I think Mika is doomed.

This seems to be an older manga, based on the retro art style (Rei's eyes are humungous, even for shoujo) and the fact that my edition, from Animerica, is flipped. There's only two volumes, and I look forward to the next. I don't love the art but it's not actively offputting, Rei is awesome, it has sexual tension between partners, and the writing style has a nice indie-noir edge.

I believe that Tamura's famous work is an epic fantasy, Basara. How's that?
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