Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Silent Voice (manga, vols. 1-2) by Yoshitoki Oima, translated by Steven LeCroy

I heard about A Silent Voice via a review I now can't seem to track down. I don't think I'd have touched this series, otherwise. The covers are, quite frankly, boring and make me think of visual novels, with static shots of the characters sliding on and off the screen.

However, I'd have been missing out, because this series is lovely and has the potential for a great deal of complexity. I'm a little nervous about how things will eventually turn out, since the series deals with some very heavy subjects, but Oima seems to be handling everything with the care and sensitivity it deserves.

Warning: my post contains spoilers.

I read a lot while on vacation

I didn't mention it on this blog, but one of the reasons why I didn't post for so long was because I was on vacation. If I counted correctly, while I was gone I read 50 volumes of manga. Not bad.

As usual, I plan on writing up posts that cover each of the series I read, with short synopses and reviews of each volume. It'll take a while, but it's pretty much the only way I'm able to get back into a series a year or so later and not be completely lost.

The 50 volumes I read were part of 18 different series. Here's what you can hopefully expect posts for in the coming weeks:
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: Ace of Hearts (one-shot)
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz (vols. 1-6) 
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: The Lizard Aide (one-shot)
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: March Hare (one-shot) 
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: Nightmare (one-shot)
  • Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Clockmaker's Story (one-shot)
  • Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar's Game (vols. 1-7) 
  • Alice in the Country of Joker: The Nightmare Trilogy (vols. 1-3)
  • Are You Alice? (vols. 1-2)
  • Attack on Titan: No Regrets (vol. 2)
  • Black Butler (vols. 15-20)
  • Chi's Sweet Home (vol. 11) 
  • Naruto (vol. 55)
  • Natsume's Book of Friends (vols. 1-8)
  • Secret (vol. 1)
  • A Silent Voice (vols. 1-2) 
  • Skip Beat! (vols. 33-34)
  • Wandering Son (vols. 1-5)
The best surprise was probably A Silent Voice, while the biggest disappointment was probably Are You Alice? As far as the Alice in the Country of stuff went, I made a huge mistake when I chose to tackle the one-shots first. I highly recommend starting with the multi-volume stories, because those cover new world rules in the best amount of detail. Also, try to start with all the Hearts stuff, then Clover, then Joker. I'm still trying to decide whether I'll review that series by title or by country, or if I should just put all of it on one giant post.

You Are Beautiful (live action TV series), via Netflix

You Are Beautiful is a Korean romantic comedy series. It's 16 episodes long.

I was actually planning on watching something via DramaFever, but the app on my TV was acting incredibly unstable, kicking me out if I so much as tried to look at the description of a show other than the one I was already in the process of watching (Tamra, the Island, which I've decided to abandon). Here's hoping it's behaving, because I'd like to try another DramaFever show now that I'm done with this one.


Go Mi Nyu is an orphan who lives in a convent and plans on becoming a nun. Her plans are derailed when her twin brother's manager finds her and begs her to pretend to be her brother. Her brother is about to become the fourth member of the popular band A.N.JELL, but he's busy recovering from plastic surgery gone wrong. Mi Nyu's brother, Mi Nam, planned to become famous in order to find their mother, so Mi Nyu decides to help him and briefly become Mi Nam.

What follows is a bit of a mess. One of the band members, Shin Woo, figures out Mi Nam is really a girl almost immediately, but hides the fact that he knows because he finds it entertaining to watch her try to keep her secret. Tae Kyung, the lead singer, also finds out but promises Mi Nam (Mi Nyu) that he won't tell anyone, for reasons I can't recall at the moment. Then there's Jeremy, who's the only one in the band who has no clue. Jeremy spends a few episodes in a homophobic panic, worried that Mi Nam has somehow seduced both Shin Woo and Tae Kyung. He then starts to fall for Mi Nam himself.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November Skoshbox

For my birthday, my sister signed me up for 6 months of Skoshbox. At the level she chose for me, every month I'll get a package that's about the size of a trade paperback. This month's package included: 1 Sakupan-Land (almond cream filled choco biscuit), 1 Ichigo Milk Candy (strawberry milk candy), 1 Hitorijime Senbei (extra crunchy baked rice cracker), 2 Goma-Dango Chocolates (sesame mochi cake chocolates), 2 Hello Kitty Marshmallows, and 1 Bisuit Saurus (milk flavored biscuit cookies). I know all of this because the package also comes with a card listing what everything is, what it would cost to re-order the snack through the site if you enjoy it, and a list of each snack's ingredients.


These were delicious! The package included eight little cookie spheres. Each sphere had two halves - one half was a cookie with one of several pandas faces stamped on it, and the other half was almond cream-filled chocolate. The chocolate part was amazing, very rich. If I were to get more of one of the things in this month's box, I'd be getting more of this.

This particular snack also included a four-panel comic on the inside of the box (all in Japanese, so I'm not sure what it said), as well as a tiny pack of sticky notes in the shape of a heart with pandas at the bottom.

Ichigo Milk Candy:

This was probably my least favorite snack in the package. It contained little triangular strawberry-flavored hard candies. They were fragile enough that I could crunch them to pieces sooner than I expected. Maybe they had some kind of filling? The first one I ate made me think so, but I'm pretty sure I was imagining it.

Hitorijime Senbei:

This is not like rice cakes' Styrofoam texture - the crunch reminded me more of pretzel bites. The taste was a blend of rice and a hint of soy sauce and slight fishyness. This little package wasn't bad, although I could see myself growing to dislike the fishy aspect if I were to eat it more.

Goma-Dango Chocolate:

The first square of this that I tried had a mostly black wrapper, and I had seen the bit on the card that said this was chocolate, so I was surprised when I unwrapped it and saw that it was white. I bit it in half to see what was inside. It's basically a layer of clear/white-ish stuff that I think is the mochi part, with crunchy black sesame on top, all covered in white chocolate. If it hadn't been for the extremely chewy mochi layer, I would have said that the texture of this was a lot like a Nestle Crunch bar.

Hello Kitty Marshmallow:

It's been a while since I've had Peeps, but I think the marshmallow in this was firmer and more pillowy. There was a very tiny bit of chocolate in the center. I think I like this a bit better than Peeps, although, if I'm going to have marshmallow candy, I'd still prefer it to be chocolate-covered. The chocolate in the center just wasn't enough.


This tasted extremely familiar, like maybe animal crackers. The little dinosaurs on each of the cookies were adorable.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ancillary Mercy (audiobook) by Ann Leckie, narrated by Adjoa Andoh

I enjoyed Adjoa Andoh's narration of Ancillary Sword enough to want to listen to her narration of Ancillary Mercy, and I loved Ancillary Mercy when I read the paperback version a short while ago. There isn't much I can write about the story that I either didn't already say in my review of the paperback version or don't want to write for fear of spoilers, so I'll stick to writing primarily about Andoh's narration.

Like Ancillary Sword, I feel that, if you have no preference for one format or another, it would be best to read Ancillary Mercy in print before listening to it in audiobook format. Although I loved most of Andoh's voices, I continued to dislike her Translator voices, and a particular Translator character is included in a large portion of this book. While I didn't love that character in the paper version of the book, I also didn't really mind her. In the audio version, she grated on my nerves somewhat. To be fair, Andoh's voice had the opposite effect as far as the Ghost Gate ship was concerned – I think I came to like her more in the audiobook than I did in the paper version.

As usual, there were a few songs that clearly weren't meant to be sung aloud, which made listening to them a bit painful. However, I did think that the “peep peep peep” song reached new heights of hilarity in the audiobook. I wonder, did Andoh really mean for it to sound that intense? Between that and Anaander Mianaai's tantrums, poor Andoh's voice really got a workout this time around.

There was one bit in the narration that was either a mistake or a choice on Andoh's part that I didn't agree with. At the beginning of the book, Mercy of Kalr spoke through Seivarden, and Andoh used Seivarden's voice to say those lines. Later in the book, Mercy of Kalr spoke through Seivarden, but Andoh opted to use Mercy of Kalr's voice. The inconsistency bugged me.

I'm sure I'll be listening to this again, but I prefer my paperback copy, if only because it's so easy to flip straight to my favorite parts. I tried to remember to bookmark my favorite parts as I listened, but it's not quite the same.

K (anime TV series), via Netflix

K is a 13-episode fantasy (urban fantasy?) series. I wanted to watch it after seeing clips of some of its battles in various anime AMVs, so I was thrilled when Netflix picked it up.


K stars a carefree young man who goes by the name Shiro. Although he acts a bit like a stray cat sometimes, begging for food from his fellow classmates and wandering in and out of just about everywhere, he appears otherwise normal. That's why it's such a shock when HOMRA, an infamous group of thugs, airs a video clip that appears to prove that Shiro killed one of HOMRA's most beloved members. Shiro finds himself on the run with a skilled swordsman named Kuroh and Neko, a Strain who, besides being able to appear as either a cat or a human, has other mysterious abilities. Kuroh has sworn to kill Shiro, who he believes is the corrupt new Colorless King, unless Shiro is able to prove that he is innocent.

The Decagon House Murders (book) by Yukito Ayatsuji, translated by Ho-Ling Wong

The Decagon House Murders (Jukkakukan no Satsujin) is a mystery. I got it via interlibrary loan.


The one other book by Ayatsuji that I'd read, Another, was interesting enough that, when I heard The Decagon House Murders (originally published in 1987) had been translated, I knew I wanted to read it. In some ways it turned out to be better than Another, but in some ways it was worse.

In The Decagon House Murders, we have a setup in which seven friends who are all part of their university's Mystery Club decide to spend a week on Tsunojima Island. They stay in the Decagon House, a house built in a decagonal shape. It had been designed by the island's previous owner Nakamura Seiji (the translator left all Japanese names in their original order).

Just as Seiji had designed the Decagon House so that it and everything in it, including the mugs in the kitchen, was decagon-shaped, so had he also designed the Blue Mansion. It and everything inside it had been entirely blue. However, it had burned down a while ago. The way the story went, Nakamura Seiji's gardener had killed Seiji's wife and cut off her hand, then killed Seiji and a servant couple that lived in the house, and then burned the entire house down. The gardener had never been found. The Mystery Club thought it might be interesting to stay on an island where such a thing had occurred, just a harmless thrill. However, on the second day they discover seven plastic plates with “The First Victim,” “The Second Victim,” “The Third Victim,” “The Fourth Victim,” “The Last Victim,” “The Detective,” and “The Murderer” painted on them.

Meanwhile, Kawaminami, a former member of the Murder Club, has received a strange letter claiming that Nakamura Chiori had been murdered by “all of you.” Chiori, another Murder Club member, had died over a year ago, from a combination of alcohol poisoning and a bad heart. Kawaminami learns that another club member got a similar letter, prompting him to begin investigating. Was it really sent by Nakamura Seiji, Chiori's father? And if he's still alive, then what really happened in the Blue Mansion?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

iZombie, Season 1 (live action TV series), via Netflix

iZombie is a TV series based on a comic book series of the same name. I have yet to try the comic book, so I have no idea how the two compare.


The series stars Liv, a medical resident who reluctantly agrees to go to a boat party only to end up in the middle of a scene straight out of a zombie apocalypse movie. Liv falls overboard, but not before she's scratched by one of the zombies. When she comes to, she's inside a body bag and experiencing a strong craving for brains. Some time later, Liv has abandoned her efforts to become a doctor and has begun working at the morgue instead, because it gives her easier access to brains. None of her family members know her secret – she even broke things off with her fiance rather than explain to him what she had become and risk turning him into a zombie as well. However, Ravi, her boss, figures things out. Rather than being shocked or disgusted, he's actually pretty delighted (by the way, Ravi is probably my favorite character in the whole series). He thinks that he might be able to find a cure for Liv's condition.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Part Two, Episodes 14-26 (anime TV series), on DVD

Just a short review this time, since I don't want to give too much away and don't yet know how the rest of the series will turn out.

If you manage to make it through the first 13 episodes and their super-condensed depiction of events that were already covered in the first TV series, you're set, because this boxed set is when things really take off. Episode 14 is the point when this series and the original TV series begin to seriously diverge.

This boxed set made me happy I continued watching this series, despite the somewhat disappointing first bunch of episodes. The action, revelations, and twists were tons of fun.

According to my blog, the last volume of Fullmetal Alchemist I read was volume 16, way back in 2008. This FMA: Brotherhood boxed set didn't get as far as the events from that volume, which meant I should have been familiar with everything that happened. However, I was not. Apparently I've forgotten quite a bit in the past seven years, because Mustang's battle with Lust (which was amazing, by the way) rang no bells for me. Neither did Wrath's past. However, I did remember the bit where Edward and Ling Yao ended up trapped inside Gluttony.

It's actually kind of nice that I've forgotten most of this, since it means I can watch everything like I'm finding out about it for the first time. I'm looking forward to seeing what else this series throws my way, and how things turn out for the Elric brothers in the end. I'm also looking forward to rewatching this stuff with the Japanese dub turned on, since this boxed set introduced several characters that never had a chance to be in the original TV series.

  • Disc 1, Episode 14 commentary with Mike McFarland (Havoc, although here he's speaking more as one of the show's ADR Directors), Chris Patton (Greed), and Vic Mignogna (Edward) - There's a good bit of discussion on the ways that this episode differs from the same one in the original series, as well as the effects that this has. In the original series, Greed got a bit more screen-time and became a very popular character among fans.
  • Disc 2, Episode 23 commentary with Mike McFarland (Havoc)m Todd Haberkorn (Ling Yao), Monica Rial (May Chang), and Trina Nishimura (Lan Fan) - For this commentary they brought together most of the people voicing characters that didn't exist in the original TV series.
  • Disc 2, Second clean opening animation - I enjoyed the song, although the actual closing animation wasn't as wonderful as the animation for the first opening song.
  • Disc 2, Second clean closing animation - I didn't like this one as much as the first, but it wasn't bad.
  • Disc 2, Trailers for The Slayers, Initial D, Nabari no Ou, Soul Eater, Kaze no Stigma, Dragon Ball Z, and Full Metal Panic!
  • Four full-color illustrated postcards - These are actually only postcards in terms of size - the stuff printed on the backs of them prevents them from ever being used as real postcards. These aren't bad, although I've seen better FMA: Brotherhood artwork. It's too bad the image on the boxed set wasn't used on one of the cards.

The Martian (book) by Andy Weir

The Martian is sci-fi. It's also Andy Weir's first novel.


The Martian is a near-future look at what might happen if an astronaut were accidentally stranded on Mars.

NASA had already previously sent astronauts to Mars on two separate occasions, so Mark Watney's mission, while not danger-free, was supposed to be relatively uneventful. Then the sandstorm happened. The rest of Watney's crew had every reason to believe he died in it, and so they left him behind. Except that he didn't die, which meant that he had to figure out how to communicate with Earth in order to let everyone know he was still alive, and he had to figure out how to go from 300 days worth of food to enough food to last for four years, the amount of time it would take for the next scheduled Ares mission to arrive.

Goong (live action TV series), via Dramafever and Viki

Goong is a 24-episode K-drama set in an alternate universe in which modern-day Korea is run by a constitutional monarchy. It's based on a manhwa by Park So-hee – I haven't read any of it yet, so I have no idea how it compares to this show.


Shin Chae Kyung is an ordinary girl who dreams of one day becoming a famous designer. She happens to attend the same school as Lee Shin, the Crown Prince of Korea. However, other than the time she overheard him proposing to his girlfriend, their paths don't really cross much. That's why it's such a shock when she learns that she and Shin are engaged. As it turns out, Chae Kyung's grandfather saved the previous king's life, and so the two of them agreed that their grandchildren would get married when they were old enough. This marriage will save Chae Kyung's debt-ridden family and give the royal family the stability it needs, as the current king's health gradually worsens. Unfortunately, Shin's still in love with his girlfriend, and Chae Kyung's not sure she's ready for the restricted and closely-watched life of a royal.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Sign of Four (audiobook) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, narrated by David Timson

The Sign of Four is Doyle's second Sherlock Holmes novel.

I bought this audiobook when it was a Daily Deal on Audible.

I reviewed an e-book version of this way back in April, so I don't plan to write another synopsis or very much about the story itself. My feelings about the story didn't really change, although I was maybe more keenly aware of the giant pile of mush that Watson became every time he thought about Mary. Even though they'd only just met, and he barely even knew her. In his eyes, she wasn't so much a person as she was an angelically ideal vision of womanhood.

Another thing I noticed was that the racism even more cringe-worthy when read aloud. Christians could be trusted to keep their word, while Hindus were untrustworthy liars. Tonga was called a savage for killing people with poisoned darts in order to help the man who saved his life, whereas Jonathan Small was just a rough man who'd been wronged and carried a grudge. And I still can't believe Holmes couldn't see the logical fallacy in supposed cannibals killing with poisoned darts. Well, I suppose I can believe it, but it disappointed me nonetheless.

The main thing I liked about this audiobook was the narration. David Timson's voice worked well for both Watson and Holmes. I would gladly buy his narration of another one of the Sherlock Holmes stories.


The audiobook comes with a downloadable reference guide that includes a short essay about the story, English translations of the Holmes' few German and French remarks, and a list of the music used in the audio production.

Ancillary Sword (audiobook) by Ann Leckie, narrated by Adjoa Andoh

Ancillary Sword is the second book in Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy.


I wrote a review of my paperback copy of Ancillary Sword a couple months ago. Since my feelings about the story haven't changed, I'm not going to be writing about that here. I'm also not going to write another synopsis. Instead, I'll stick to the audiobook narration.

Adjoa Andoh did a primarily wonderful job narrating this book. I most loved the voices she used for Breq, Mercy of Kalr, and Tisarwat. Seivarden's somewhat creaky voice took some getting used to, but I came to like her as well. My least favorite of her voices were probably Captain Hetnys, Raughd, Fosyf, and Dlique. Considering how things turned out with Captain Hetnys, I thought that her German accent was an overly stereotypical choice, although I admit that my being half-German may be a factor in that. Raughd and Fosyf's voices were just plain annoying. I'm sure this was entirely intentional, since they weren't supposed to be anywhere near likable, but it did make listening to them a chore. As far as Dlique went, I liked her well enough when I read the paper version of the book, but I found that her oddly nasal voice in the audiobook made me dislike her somewhat.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ancillary Mercy (book) by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Mercy is the third book in Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy.

No read-alikes section in this review, since I wouldn't be putting anything in it that wasn't already in the read-alikes sections for the first two books. Also, I seem to be running out of steam as far as reviewing goes, and I'm hoping that skipping read-alikes sections whenever I feel like it, at least for a while, will help me get some momentum back. Or at least help me not lose what momentum I have left.


This is not a trilogy you can read out of order – if you haven't read the first two books, I highly recommend you do so before reading Ancillary Mercy. And if you're not a fan of the pacing in those books, you probably won't be a fan of it in this one. Also, a note: I've found that I need to reread these books in order to catch everything going on. I haven't reread Ancillary Mercy yet, although I definitely plan to. I'm just so far behind on my review writing right now that I decided I wasn't going to wait to write this one too.

Ancillary Mercy begins not long after the events in Ancillary Sword. For some perspective: Queter hasn't been interrogated yet. The part of Anaander Mianaai that is angry at Breq has taken Tstur Palace and has almost certainly sent a portion of herself after Breq. Meanwhile, someone who may be an agent of that part of Anaander Mianaai is interfering with the efforts to repair the Undergarden and allow the Ychana who lived there to go back to their homes.

It's tough to know what to say that wouldn't count as a spoiler. However, I feel I should also mention that readers finally get to meet the ship from beyond the Ghost Gate, a Presger Translator makes an appearance, and there is “AI stuff” and “messy relationship stuff” (“romance” isn't really the right word) galore.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain (audiobook) by A. Lee Martinez, narrated by Scott Aiello

Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain is humorous sci-fi. I got it on Audible. It's almost seven and a half hours long.

Again, no read-alikes. I'm finally making progress on this review backlog.


Emperor Mollusk is a squishy super-intelligent cephalopod. He spends most of his time inside robotic bodies he built for himself, and he does not handle boredom well. He took over the planet Earth just because he could, but then found himself at a loss. His mind control turned all human beings into peaceful Emperor Mollusk fans, leaving the planet defenseless against outside attacks. Or Emperor Mollusk's inventions run amok. When you're constantly busy creating new things, it's easy to lose track of the occasional enraged genetically modified creature.

Mollusk is now a retired supervillain. He's not looking for forgiveness and doesn't particularly feel bad about what he did (except for maybe Saturn, that went badly). He just wants to continue inventing things and keep Earth as safe as possible until the humans have completely gotten over his mind control and are ready to take care of themselves again. Unfortunately, someone seems to be trying to kill him. Zala, a Venusian warrior who looks like a feathered reptile, becomes his reluctant bodyguard.
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