The latest from Kaori Yuki, queen of crack, and full of all the beautiful men, id-tastic author’s notes, parrots of doom, deadly dolls, zombies, and utter WTF that one might expect if one is familiar with her work. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and if you like any of her other her manga, you probably will too. It reminds me most of Godchild, but so far without the emotional intensity – but then, Godchild didn’t have that in early volumes either. It’s very funny, completely bizarre, and makes a lot more sense than Fairy Cube. Of course, everything ever makes a lot more sense than Fairy Cube.

The first few pages are fairly incoherent, and I periodically got lost until I figured out that there are at least three different characters who are tall beautiful men with long blonde hair. One of them is named Lucille, but that did not fool me. I immediately pegged him as a man. Probably due to his resemblance to Rosiel.

I cannot even begin to summarize this beyond saying that it’s about a traveling orchestra that slays zombies with music, so I will quote bits of dialogue instead:

“You’re a man-eating doll… a guignol!”

“How dare you speak that way to me, minstrel scum!”

“When father told me we’d have visitors from the palace, I was sure they were finally sending the soldiers we’d requested to wipe out the guignols… the diseased dolls that infest the outside world!”

[Author sidebar featuring a drawing of a governess in a sexy maid outfit, with the caption, “Yes, I like big breasts! I wish mine were big!”]

“Go ahead and eat me! At last, we’ll be together!”

[Author sidebar featuring a drawing of an adorable hedgehog, and the note, “When the hedgehog isn’t visible, he’s probably under Gwindel’s hat. Aren’t hedgehogs cute? I can’t resist them. Anyway, the story is supposed to be set in the Middle Ages (sort of) with a French air – not that you’d know it! That’s okay. I like an anything goes approach.”]

“Have a look. A bird cage, just for you. Now you will sing for me alone! My canary for life!”

“Maids! You come with me! [Spoiler character name!] You stay here and infect Lucille!”

What is amazing is that this barely scrapes the surface of the glorious WTF contained within this single volume of manga. I promise you, if this tempts you read it, you will not feel like I spoiled a thing.

Grand Guignol Orchestra, Vol. 1
rachelmanija: (Bleach: Parakeet of DOOM)
( Apr. 7th, 2010 10:29 am)
I am dog-sitting at the moment and, incidentally, also parakeet-sitting. The parakeets, however, already had their food and water filled up so I basically just ignore them.

A few minutes ago I saw a blue streak flutter past, low to the floor. Simultaneously the dogs (mellow chihuahua, hysterical mini dachshund currently in Elizabethan collar) went berserk, yapping and pursuing the escaped blue parakeet.

Once when I pet-sat for these same people their lizard (which they had forgotten to tell me had seemed lethargic) dropped dead on the first night. How much worse would it be to inform them that their dogs ate their parakeet?

I pursued the dogs, which pursued the parakeet, around and around the living room. Finally I hustled the dogs into their crate (very much against their will) and pursued the parakeet by myself. It bit me. Hard. Twice. And would not let go, even when I put it back into its cage. I had to pry its beak open. OW.

I then saw that the cage door had not been left open, and there was no obvious escape route. Odd!

Upon releasing the hounds, I quickly saw what must have happened, as the fiendish dachshund, which has a back injury and is not supposed to jump, leaped up to the bird cage, popping the lever and snapping the door open! Irritatingly, the cage is too big to move to another room.

I have now constructed a giant barricade around the cage (two chairs, six pillows, one giant bean bag. The mini dachshund has been hurling herself against it and whining for the entire time it took to write this entry.

I think I may stick the dogs back in the crate and go to Starbucks.

ETA: Forgot to mention: the cage door isn't the only problem. The parakeets get hysterical if she jumps against it, and I'm worried that even if she can't release them, they'll have heart attacks. The cage, unfortunately, is in the living room.

ETA II: Decided cage wasn't too big to move and crammed it into another room. Dachshund now hurling herself against closed door and howling.

...that dog has lived with these same birds for four years but NOW they're interesting.
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.
A friend tipped me off that some crazed Baba-lover (ID'd only as Pippa17) edited the entry on my home town of Ahmednagar, where I had a brief mention as a notable person from there, to read as follows:

Rachel Manija Brown has written a book All the Fishes Come Home to Roost in which she recounts her harrowing experiences (as a child between the ages of 7 and 12) in Ahmednagar in which she was tortured by the cruel Hindu children and chased by chickens. Miraculously she survived and made a vanity website.

Mostly this is mildly amusing malice, but I was not happy with the implication that my book was a slam on Hindus. The majority of the mean kids probably were Hindus, but that was due to the demographics of the town as a whole. I was also harassed by Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Baba-lovers, no doubt in proportions relative to their own percentage of the population.

Also, I note for the record that there is nothing in my book about being chased by chickens. Pippa17 is either misremembering my account of being chased by humans, monkeys, and a swarm of bees, or else is mixing me up with Terry Goodkind's Kahlan, who is indeed menaced by an evil chicken.

The friend who noticed this and re-edited the page to make my mention a bit more neutral also added a sentence on my book to the highly worshipful Wikipedia page on Meher Baba, in the section that cites books and other media that mention him. But it was removed within seconds! Perhaps the evil chicken did it.
This is the most appropriate use of my cockatiel parakeet of D00M icon since I posted about the Bleach episode where it first appeared, for this series prominently features a cockatoo. And not just any cockatoo! A cockatoo with a secret.

Karasu is a scruffy blonde agnostic angel with glasses and a soul-patch. As seems to be usual in manga, Heaven is some cross between a totalitarian dictatorship and an uptight beaureaucracy. Karasu has been sent down to Earth to retrieve a devil who's been living with humans. This is forbidden, as is devil-angel sex and other fun stuff.

The devil, Shirasagi, is really cute, incredibly sweet, loves God, wants to do good, and is currently helping small children as a pastor. With a cockatoo. He has black hair and wears a cross.

Sparks fly. Karasu gets in trouble with Heaven. Shirasagi is kidnapped by Beelzebub, who used to keep him as a sex slave in a giant birdcage in Hell. Karasu gets knocked out trying to protect Shirasagi, and the cockatoo flutters around his unconscious body looking both mournful and strangely fierce.

Two miscellaneous notes of interest:

1. If you look closely at the last panel of the first page of chapter three, you will see that some anonymous dude is giving Beelzebub a blow-job.

2. Beelzebub is the Archduke of Hell. The typeface made me repeatedly read this as "Artichoke," ie, "The Artichoke is waiting for you underground."

Most hilarious spoilery reveal ever )
See post below for context, ie, if you guys don't entertain me, I can't guarantee I won't flee into the cold night in my jammies.

Last week [livejournal.com profile] lady_ganesh asked me to name and briefly describe the five worst books I'd ever read. I replied:

Oh God, SO MANY! How to choose?!

1. Robin Hobb's Forest Mage. Almost 700 pages worth of people abusing the hero for being fat. About every 150 pages some plot peeks in, gets abused for being fat, and flees in terror.

2. Spider Robinson's Star Seed. Deus ex machina via enlightenment, space hippies, Chinese people as the symbol of evil-- and it's even worse than I'm making it sound!

3. Jack C. Chalker's "Changewinds" trilogy. Stupid ungrammatical self-conscious creepy misogynist sex fantasy. Women are magically transformed into sex objects and love it. Other women are transformed into fat baby machines as punishment. A woman climbs naked through the sand wearing nothing but a diamond-studded holster and a six-gun, thinking "This is ridiculous... and yet, damned sexy!"

4. Terry Goodkind's stupid books. Unsexy S&M, terrible writing, clonk-you-over-the-head libertarianism, and the heroine is terrorized by an evil chicken.

5. Whichever was the last Xanth book I read. Lame puns and a leering preoccupation with the panties of little girls. EW.

Also books by Leo Frankowsky and S. M. Stirling -- misogynist tirades and violence-porn, respectively -- but I didn't read enough of those to really be able to put them on the worst list, though I feel that they belong there.

God, I'm sure I've traumatically repressed many, many more. You should also click my "awesomely bad books" tag.

Gentle readers, please name and describe the five worst books you have ever read.
rachelmanija: (Fowl of DOOM)
( Feb. 17th, 2008 10:28 am)
Last night I dreamed that my Dad had a career writing Firefly AU tie-in novels in which Mal and Zoe solved cozy mysteries. The main recurring villain was an evil chicken.

In related news, I am amazed that I completely forgot that the very first few episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist contain a flock of zombie parrots, a giant attack parrot, and a giant zombie attack human-parrot chimera.
Godchild volume 1, demented manga by Kaori Yuki. The first panel is more cracktastic than entire multi-volume runs of some series.

Narration from the first panel: "Perhaps to ease his lonely soul, Cain starts collecting dangerous poisons. While living with Riff, his manservant since childhood, half-sister Mary Weather-- daughter of his father by a maid-- and Oscar, who wants to wed Mary, Cain meets Dr. Jizabel Disraeli, an assassin of the secret organization 'Delilah.' He wants to rip out Cain's eyes to add to his collection."

Barking mad Gothic horror, made even weirder by the tone-deaf English translation (that should be Merriweather and Jezabel), full of over-the-top horror, Gothic Victoriana, Lewis Carroll allusions, mad killers who wear rabbit masks impregnated with exotic hallucinogens, and disturbing sexual undertones and overtones such as a half-naked pubescent Cain writhing in his sheets, saying to his sexy valet/butler/true love Riff, "I didn't want that guy helping me dress."

Volume 2 contains the Parrot of Doom.

ES (Eternal Sabbath) volume 3, manga by Fuyumi Soryo. Gorgeous, spooky, and smart manga about a young man who can enter the minds of others, and the woman scientist who gets entangled with him. This volume is especially creepy, with great use of white space and silence to induce a sense of paranoia and tension. I continue to be very engaged by the main characters.

The Empty Empire, volume 1, manga by Naoe Kita. From page one: "Beyond the year 2500 AD, he appeared to unite the world: the Emperor Idea."

The telekinetic amnesiac clone of the dead (or is he?!!!) Emperor Idea escapes and is found by an ass-kicking young woman and a strange scientist who looks a lot like Hakkai. There is a sexy butler/valet, and a missing body, and two missing eyes from different people. Everyone's heads are strangely bulbous, and I laughed every time someone referred to Idea, but the characters were growing on me by the end of the volume.

Thud, by Terry Pratchett. Very funny, very smart. Vimes tries to stop Ankh-Morpork from exploding via ethnic tension between the dwarves and the trolls, and also to meet the equal challenge of getting home every night at 6:00 PM to read "Where's My Cow?" to his son. I particularly liked the bits with Mr. Shine. And the Gooseberry. And the girls' night out. And the guy who's supposed to audit the Watch. And I continue to love Vimes.

What the Lady Wants, by Jennifer Crusie. Early romantic comedy, slight but funny. My favorites of her earlier books are still Getting Rid of Bradley (the green hair!) and Manhunting (the terrible fates that befall every man the heroine meets).

Niccolo Rising, by Dorothy Dunnett. I only just started this, but it already makes more sense than A Game of Kings.
This weekend Oyce and I were eating lunch at the Ferry Building, overlooking the bay, when we began perusing the discount book rack that was outside the bookshop, on the pavement next to us. It was an odd mix of pretty good YA (like Nancy Werlin and Paul Fleischman), decent-looking gay lit, and horrible self-help books, like Healing the Amazon Wound and Cry of the Soul-Daughter.

And then there was God is Gay.

It was a slim, yellow, self-published paperback. The back cover quotes (which we decided were sock-puppets) were decidedly strange:

Ah, it is marvellous... I read and read and then ponder over it.
--Dr. K. D. Chauhan
Jagdishnagar Society
North Gujarat, India

I just read your book and I felt 'happiness creeping over me.'
G. Rommersheim
Munich, West Germany

['Happiness creeping over me' turned out to be a quote from GiG; the narrator, Bob, feels that sensation when he talks to his soon-to-be cult leader, Daniel.]

The chapters are all headed with peculiar drawings reminiscent of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, but with more animals, some with faceted eyes and all a disturbing cross between cute and evil, like the subliminal octopus in Serenity.

It's the swinging 70s. Bob, along with God, is gay. He lives in San Francisco with his lover, Steve. Then Bob meets Daniel, who is obviously a crazy cult leader. Only Bob doesn't think so. GiG is a love letter to Daniel, Daniel's superb musculature and gentle smile, and Daniel's whack-job philosophy, which consists of crazed nattering about androids and mouseries and "the sound of hearing, the music of the spheres," not to mention "the sight of seeing, the vision of the third eye." (No, there is no scent of smelling. Alas.) Daniel points out that Asia and Asians are spiritually superior to non-Asians. (A concept which, in addition to creating many awkward encounters between obtuse Westerners and unfortunate Asians, ruined my childhood.

Bob is overwhelmed by Daniel and his circle: A very handsome, muscular man let us in. As I was introduced to him, any doubts about his gayness were resolved when he cruised me. Plus, there is gay boxing (normal boxing, gay boxers), and Daniel takes Bob out for a banana split.

But Steve, whom Bob describes in phrases like an ugly sneer crossed Steve's face, cannot appreciate the wonder that is Daniel. In fact, he accuses Daniel of being a cult leader. But Bob finally drags Steve to a meeting, where Daniel goes on for pages and pages of gibberish, including Isn't it obvious that male gays are men, with the understanding of women; who understand instinctively that war, violence, and hatred are wrong. Bob is sure this will make Steve see the light. But Steve takes Bob aside and tells him that Daniel reminds him of Charles Manson.

Horrified, Bob runs to Daniel and says, "You won't believe what Steve said about you!"

Daniel says, "Did he say I reminded him of Charles Manson?"

Since Daniel wasn't there, this convinces Bob that Daniel is clairvoyant and telepathic, because there is no other way Daniel could have known Steve said that. It does not occur to Bob that perhaps Daniel often reminds people of Charles Manson.

Needless to say, Bob dumps Steve and runs away with the perfect and telepathic Daniel. That was the point when we noticed that the book was coauthored by Ezekiel (who presumabably used to be known as Bob) and... Daniel!

There is a clearly fictional chapter in which Steve later apologizes for not being wise or brave enough to embrace Daniel. Oyce and I think that Steve is now happily working for Google, and he and his handsome live-in lover sometimes do dramatic readings from GiG at dinner parties.

Having finished Gig, we then picked up a novel by bestselling fantasy author Terry Goodkind, and opened it to a six-page scene in which the heroine is menaced by... an evil chicken.

No, this is not played for laughs. There are more excerpts at fandom wank if you don't believe me.

The bird let out a slow chicken cackle. It sounded like a chicken, but in her heart she knew it wasn't. In that instant, she completely understood the concept of a chicken that was not a chicken. This looked like a chicken, like most of the Mud People's chickens. But this was no chicken. This was evil manifest.

She is terrified! For six pages! This is the heroine-- scared of a chicken.

Kahlan frantically tried to think as the chicken bawk-bawk-bawked.

In the dark, the chicken thing let out a low chicken cackle laugh.


In between being terrorized, Kahlan remembers her perfect boyfriend, Richard. Brilliant, strong, probably omnipotent, Richard comes across as a cross between Daniel and Diego. Did I mention that he is wise, too?

Richard had been adamant about everyone being courteous to chickens.
rachelmanija: (Bleach: Parakeet of DOOM)
( Oct. 3rd, 2006 03:41 pm)
[livejournal.com profile] oyceter has kindly offered to make me a much-needed "Manga fowl of DOOM" icon, starring the giant robot chicken from Planet Ladder, the floating research chickens from Yami no Matsuei, the garuda/giant chicken from Genju no Seiza, and the parakeet cockatiel from Bleach.

Can you suggest to me any significant chickens in manga or anime that I missed or have forgotten?

Also, I can only find images for the research chickens and the parakeet. Can anyone supply me with an image of the giant robot chicken and the garuda/giant chicken? Thanks!
No, the headline does not refer to Harlan Ellison.

But being linked in fandom wank regarding Harlan Ellison's refusal to keep his hands to himself reminded me to check the rest of the community. When I did so, I found one of the most hilarious wanks ever, Terry Goodkind and the Chicken of DOOM.

The origin of the wank was a squabble over the wikipedia entry for Terry Goodkind, author of enormous libertarian fantasy tomes featuring non-consensual S&M and a great deal of political posturing. I think these are the ones with the magic cock ring, but I could be wrong; I could be confusing them with a series by Anne Bishop. (There can't be more than one series featuring magic cock rings, can there?) Anyway, I was never able to get past the first chapter of the first volume, but clearly I missed out.

In that instant, she completely understood the concept of a chicken that was not a chicken.

The Evil Chicken.

"Richard gets captured by an Evil Communist Empire and gets put to work as a slave building monumental architecture. While doing this, despite having no prior training in either art or masonry, Richard builds a magnificent statue. When he unveils his statue, the onlooking crowd is so won over by the purity of his artistic genius that they are instantly converted to Randian free-market capitalism.

If he wrote anything more masturbatory, it would just be 800 pages of 'FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP'"

In the vortex of this torrent of tortured life, this cataclysm of corruption, this depravity and debauchery, rose up Richard's statue in bold, glowing opposition.

Richard's Glorious Statue
[livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes attempts to make chicken stock:

"Putting it v, v charitably. I tried to make REAL chicken stock once in our first apt here from the leftover carcass of a (boughten) roast chicken, bones fat scraps and all. It looked like Hannibal Lecter's apprentice had been carefully preparing for a life of extremely unappetizing crime in our kitchen, practicing on pullets while Working His Way Up. I wound up with this horrible watery-yet-gluey mess with a visible inch-thick scum of frothing fat on top with horrible bobbing mangled things occasionally poking through it only to be drowned again in the percolating ooze. The cats hid from the smell. (The landlady upstairs said "What is that?" I said maybe her cat had left a dead bird in the hedge, or something.) T wanted to decontaminate the pot by leaving it in the back yard to get rained in. You remember when Meg's jelly won't jel in Little Women? It was like that, only extremely gross."

This reminds me of the biology class assignment I got in tenth grade, which was to boil a whole chicken, until the flesh fell off the bones, then dry the bones and reconstruct the skeleton. We were given a month and a diagram of a chicken skeleton to do this. I put it off till the night before because I was so terrified of the assignment, then made shamefacedly confessed and made my Dad drive me to the grocery store to buy a whole chicken.

Several hours of boiling (the chicken), yelling (Dad's), and weeping (mine) later, the meat was not off some bones, while others had turned to jelly or even dissolved. Dad, having refused to go to bed and leave me alone with the chicken, suggested that I put the bones in the oven to try to dry them out. Several hours later, we had a pile of bones that were more-or-less dry enough to glue together. That was when we discovered that the bones did not match the anatomy diagram. It was like a jigsaw puzzle... FROM HELL.

By 3:00 am, we were pretty much randomly gluing bones that looked sort of right to other bones that were sort of in the right place. Eventually we achieved a chicken-like object, although there was still a pile of bones that we didn't know what the hell they were or where they should have gone, and went to bed.

The next morning we awoke to see the Frankenchicken lurking there atop the tabletop, lopsided, mutant, malevolent. I burst into tears and said I wouldn't turn it in at all, because I'd done such a bad job and I was embarassed to be seen with it. Dad, who is a very wise man in some ways, said that on the contrary, he had no doubt that everyone else also left it to the night before and probably gave up well before we did. Not only did he drag me and the Frankenchicken to school, he accompanied me into the classroom because he was so curious to see what the rest of the kids had come up with.

Some kids had their very own Frankenchickens, which much like ours were lopsided, wet, smelly, only vaguely chicken-like, and sometimes with extra vestigial limbs. Some kids had partial chickens. A few despondent folk carried plastic bags of bones, with maybe a leg or a wing glued together. One boy had taken all the bones and glued them into a solid ball, like Darth Vader's prototype Chicken Star.

And then there was Elizabeth Sugar. Elizabeth Sugar was clearly the only person in the class who had actually bought a chicken and boiled it the day the project was announced. I suspect that she went through several chickens before getting the hang of the project. Her bones were polished and gleaming and wired together. Her anatomically perfect chicken skeleton was mounted handsomely on a polished wood base, and was posed as if poised for flight.

Elizabeth Sugar was chosen as valedictorian, to no one's surprise, and went to Harvard to study genetics. I believe that even as we speak, she is mapping the chicken human genome.

Me? I became a writer.
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