Sunday, May 13, 2018

REVIEW: Black Butler: Book of Murder (anime OVA)

Black Butler: Book of Murder combines fantasy, mystery, and historical elements. It's approximately two hours long.

Review:

This OVA is based on Black Butler manga volumes 9 through 11. I read them way back in 2013, so I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the OVA was very faithful to the manga.

I highly recommend that Black Butler newbies not start with this OVA. At the very least, watch Black Butler: Book of Circus first, since Book of Murder references it and parts of the story depend heavily upon it.

Okay, in Book of Murder Ciel is confronted by the "Double Charles." The Queen suspects Ciel lied about the circumstances behind all the deaths at the Baron's home back in Book of Circus, and she's giving him an opportunity to reaffirm his loyalty. He has been instructed to hold a party. She has selected the guest  of honor, Georg von Siemens, to be accompanied by her butler, Charles Grey, and has allowed Ciel to choose the rest of his guests on his own.

The party seems to be a relatively ordinary affair, up until Georg is found stabbed to death in his room. After that, several other guests die. Only one guest could not possibly have committed the murder: Arthur, a struggling young writer who has so far only published one book, a detective novel. Arthur is asked to investigate the deaths and determine who the culprit is.

REVIEW: Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light (live action TV series)

Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light could be called a slice-of-life series, or maybe a family drama. It's very short. Each episode is only 25 or so minutes long, and there are only 8 episodes total, with the final episode partly devoted to an extra story involving two minor characters from the series.

This post includes slight spoilers.

Review:

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I had it in my Netflix queue for ages but only started watching it after I stumbled across several enthusiastic recommendations for it. Each recommendation talked about how surprisingly good and heart-warming it was despite essentially being a game ad.

The main characters are Hakutaro and Akio, a father and son. When Akio was very young, he and his father bonded over their mutual enjoyment of Final Fantasy. However, as Hakutaro was given more responsibilities at work, he ended up with less time to play video games. He became sterner and more unapproachable, to the point that grown-up Akio realized that they hadn't really talked in longer than he could remember.

One day, Hakutaro comes home with a shocking announcement: he has decided to retire. It was assumed that he'd become his company's next CEO, so this is a huge change. Although Hakutaro never discussed his decision to retire with his wife, she just rolls with it. Akio, meanwhile, decides to take this opportunity to try to rekindle his relationship with his father. He gives his father a gaming console and Final Fantasy XIV as a retirement present and begins his secret plan to befriend his father via the game. After they beat the final boss, he'll confess his true identity. However, things don't go quite as planned.

REVIEW: All Systems Red (e-novella) by Martha Wells

All Systems Red is science fiction.

Review:

Murderbot is a SecUnit that hacked its own governor module a while back. Instead of using its newfound freedom to go on a killing spree, it's been quietly putting a bare minimum amount of effort into its job in order to hide the massive amount of time and effort it's putting into surreptitiously consuming movies, serials, books, plays, and music. Its favorite serial is Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon.

Murderbot's current job, acting as security for a small group of scientists, is fairly easy, up until a large carnivorous creature that wasn't mentioned anywhere in the region's hazard report tries to eat one of the scientists. The gaps in the data could be the result of corporate cost-cutting, but Murderbot soon suspects sabotage.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

REVIEW: Yukarism (manga, vol. 4) by Chika Shiomi, translated by John Werry

Yukarism is a fantasy series with historical elements due to the way the main character keeps getting transported back to his past life as an oiran. This is the final volume in the series.

Parts of my review might be considered spoilers.

Review:

It has become very clear that if Yukari can't figure out how to break his, Mahoro, and Satomi's connections to their past lives, then history will repeat itself whether they wish it to or not. Yukari learns that Yumurasaki's death was much more terrible and tragic than he realized, and he becomes determined to find a better solution than Mahoro/Takamura killing Satomi/Kazuma.

This is one of those rare short manga series that's actually pretty decent. It's a bit inconsistent throughout, and the first volume is, unfortunately, probably the weakest, but this final volume was excellent.

REVIEW: Due or Die (book) by Jenn McKinlay

Due or Die is the second book in McKinlay's Library Lovers Mysteries series.

Review:

This book takes place only three months after the last one - Briar Creek Library seems to attract murders. At any rate, this time around Lindsey's concern is the Friends of the Library. When they voted for their next president, they overwhelmingly opted to go with Carrie Rushton over their current president, Bill Sint. Lindsey silently approves of the change, but there's no denying that Bill's upset.

Unfortunately, not long after the vote Carrie's husband Markus is murdered in their home. Carrie doesn't have the best alibi, and Markus was known to be difficult to put up with. Did Carrie kill him so that she could finally be free of him? Lindsey's gut says no, and there's certainly no shortage of people who disliked Markus. A possibility that worries her: that Marjorie Bilson, a woman obsessed with Bill Sint, killed Markus as a way of getting back at Carrie and forcing the Friends to make Bill their president again. Unfortunately, Marjorie seems to blame Lindsey for Bill being voted out at least as much as she blames Carrie.

REVIEW: Paheli (live action movie)

Paheli is a Bollywood fantasy movie that stars Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji. Netflix has a ridiculous amount of Shah Rukh Khan's movies at the moment, so I decided I should try another one. I selected Paheli because Netflix's description called it "charming."

The movie starts with Lachchi marrying Kishan, the son of a rich merchant. She wants it to be a good marriage, but things are rocky right from the start. Kishan insults her for eating berries they found on the way back to his home (only "illiterates" would do that), spends their entire wedding night working on his accounting, and then tells Lachchi that he'll be leaving early in the morning to do some work for his father. He plans to be gone for the next five years.

Lachchi is deeply unhappy, but, luckily for her, she happened to be spotted by a spirit on the way to her husband's house. The spirit is madly in love with her and, upon learning that her husband would be gone for the next few years, decides to take his place. He uses his illusionist powers to take Kishan's form and take over his life, but he can't bring himself to lie to Lachchi. However, she's more than happy to accept the man who loves her and is currently with her over the man who abandoned her in order to go off and make money. Unfortunately, Lachchi and the spirit's happiness might be destroyed by Kishan's return.

Monday, April 23, 2018

REVIEW: The Cat Returns (anime movie)

Ghibli Fest 2018 continues with the next movie in its lineup, The Cat Returns. Once again, I decided to turn this into a little event for myself and spring for popcorn and a drink. I attended the first of the English-dubbed showings.

Review:

I knew I'd seen The Cat Returns before, but I couldn't remember what it was about or even whether I'd liked it. Still, cats are always nice, so I figured I'd enjoy at least that much.

Haru is a high school girl who has trouble getting up on time in the morning and is nursing a crush on one of her classmates, a cool-looking guy who's already dating someone else. One day, Haru saves a strange cat just as it's about to get run over and, to her shock, it speaks to her. The cat, Prince Lune, tells her that he has to go but that he'll be back to thank her properly later.

Haru learns that this isn't the first time she's heard a cat talk. When she was a child, she fed a stray kitten who also spoke to her. However, rescuing Prince Lune turns into a much bigger and more annoying event, as Haru keeps getting showered with unwanted gifts designed more for a cat's tastes than a human's. Things go from bad to worse as Haru finds herself accidentally engaged to Prince Lune. The only one who can save her from being forcibly brought to the Cat Kingdom and married off to a cat is the Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, a cat figurine with a soul, and his two friends, Toto and Muta.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

REVIEW: I Am Here! (manga, vol. 2) by Ema Toyama, translated by Joshua Weeks

I Am Here! is a romance manga. I got this omnibus volume via interlibrary loan.

Review:

The first omnibus volume introduced Hikage, Hinata, and Teru. Hikage starts off practically invisible to everyone around her except Hinata and Teru. In the first volume, we learned that Hinata has a crush on Hikage. Hinata's jealous fans - one girl in particular - start bullying Hikage for spending too much time with him. In the end she's able to stand up to them.

Whereas the first omnibus volume was focused more on Hikage and her efforts to make friends, this omnibus volume was focused more on Hinata and Teru and the mystery of Black Rabbit's identity. Hikage is convinced that Hinata is Black Rabbit, a possibility that's initially appealing but then fills her with horror and embarrassment. Black Rabbit is her kindest and most supportive online friend. If Hinata is Black Rabbit, that could mean that her "friend" was really laughing about her behind her back as he was encouraging her to talk to him more. Hinata keeps denying that he's Black Rabbit, but he's clearly hiding something.

Things become even more difficult for Hikage when Teru realizes that he has a crush on Hikage too and the two best friends, Hinata and Teru, ask her to choose between them. While Hikage tries to figure out what to do, the wedge between Hinata and Teru starts to tear their entire class in two.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

REVIEW: Books Can Be Deceiving (book) by Jenn McKinlay

Books Can Be Deceiving is a cozy mystery, the first in a series. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

Lindsey used to be an archivist at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale until about six months ago, when she was laid off. She's now the director of the Briar Creek Library. She's just starting to feel more comfortable with small town life and her new position. It helps that one of her employees, Beth, is also her friend from back when they were both getting their library science degrees.

Beth is a children's librarian who's been working on a children's book of her own for several years. Lindsey thinks Beth should show her work to a New York editor who's vacationing in Briar Creek, but Beth is hesitant - her horrible boyfriend, Rick, keeps telling her it isn't good enough and needs a lot more work. Since he's a famous author whose first book won the Caldecott Medal, he'd know, right? When Beth tells Rick about her plans to meet with the editor, things rapidly sour between them. They break up, but the situation only gets worse after Beth hears what the editor has to say. She attempts to go to Rick's island and give him a piece of her mind, only to discover that he's been murdered. Unfortunately, Chief Daniels seems to consider Beth his top suspect.

REVIEW: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (book) by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano

Moribito is Japanese fantasy.

Review:

The last time I read and reviewed this book was back in 2010, when my posts included spoiler-filled synopses that were as long or longer than the reviews themselves. I figured that a new review was in order, especially since my opinion of this book has improved.

After Balsa, a female bodyguard, rescues young Prince Chagum from drowning, she finds herself being roped into being his protector. Chagum is believed to be possessed by the same creature that once caused a terrible drought. It's thought that the drought will be averted if Chagum is killed, so the Mikado himself has ordered several assassination attempts against him. Chagum's mother, the Second Queen, enlists Balsa's help to save him.

While Balsa attempts to hide Chagum and keep him safe from his pursuers, she also seeks out several friends in the hope of figuring out what's going on so that she can somehow both save Chagum's life and prevent the drought.

REVIEW: When Dimple Met Rishi (book) by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi is YA romance.

Review:

Dimple Shah has a plan: she's going to attend Insomnia Con and win the grand prize with her app idea, and then she's going to go to Stanford and become an amazing web developer like her idol, Jenny Lindt. She has no desire to get married, despite her parents' wish that she find herself the Ideal Indian Husband.

Rishi Patel is looking forward to meeting his future wife, Dimple Shah, at Insomnia Con. Both his parents and her parents think it's a good match, and Rishi is a devoted son who genuinely likes the idea of an arranged marriage. He has romantic visions of his marriage working out just as wonderfully as his parents' marriage. Sure, his mom beat his dad with an umbrella when they first met because he'd taken her seat on the bus, but they'd eventually fallen in love. Unfortunately, what Rishi doesn't realize is that no one has told Dimple about him.

Monday, April 9, 2018

REVIEW: The Graveyard Apartment (book) by Mariko Koike, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm

The Graveyard Apartment is Japanese horror. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

Review:

The Central Plaza Mansion apartment seems like too good a deal to pass up. Despite its location in the Tokyo metropolitan area, it's both cheap and spacious. It's also conveniently located near schools, shopping, and public transportation. Its only drawback is that it's surrounded on three sides by an enormous graveyard. Also, there's a very active crematorium nearby.

Almost immediately after Misao, Teppei, and their daughter Tamao move in, the family's pet finch, Pyoko, dies. Pyoko was young and seemed healthy and happy, but Misao and Teppei bury the bird and try to put it out of their minds. Unfortunately, there are other signs that moving into this building might not have been a good idea. Odd things keep showing up on their TV, and more people seem to be moving out of the building than are moving in. And then there's the basement, which somehow has an occasional chilly breeze despite having no windows.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

REVIEW: Tabula Rasa (live action TV series)

Tabula Rasa is a Belgian mystery/thriller series. I feel like it needs major content warnings but, at the same time, the most necessary ones count as huge spoilers. My solution to this problem is going to be to include them in the LibraryThing version of this review, hidden by spoiler tags.

Review:

Seven or eight months prior to the series' present, Annemie (Mie) was in a car accident that left her unable to create new memories. She and her family were forced to move to her parents' old home after Mie forgot that she had something on the stove and set their old place on fire. In theory, Mie's parents' old place should at least be familiar to her, and she and her husband arranged things so that she could live as normal a life as possible - an alarm on the front door to remind her if she forgot to close it, a tracker on her cell phone so she could call family members if she got lost, a panic button, a GPS to help her go places on her own, etc.

However, in the series' present Mie is in a mental institution. She can't remember how she ended up there and her family is forbidden to discuss potentially upsetting topics with her. A police inspector, Wolkers, regularly visits her to ask her questions about Thomas De Geest, a missing man. Mie was the last person to see him alive and may know what happened to him, if only she can unlock her memories.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

REVIEW: Yukarism (manga, vol. 3) by Chika Shiomi, translated by John Werry

Yukarism is a short fantasy series with a few historical elements due to the whole reincarnation thing. I got this volume via interlibrary loan.

This review contains spoilers.
 
Review:

In this volume we learn that Kazuma is Yumurasaki's brother. Their mother sold Yumurasaki when she was a child, which allowed Kazuma to survive. When he meets Yumurasaki again years later, she doesn't recognize him, but he recognizes her and decides to devote the rest of his life to protecting her.

In the present, Yukari has decided to try breaking free of his past life by purposely learning more about those around him and allowing himself to grow attached to people. In particular, he'd like to grow closer to Mahoro. Unfortunately, Yukari, Mahoro, and Satomi have all become so bound up in the patterns of their former lives that breaking free might not be possible. Mahoro and Satomi have a habit of blanking out and attacking each other every time they spend more than a few minutes together, and Yukari can't seem to stop being drawn back to the past.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

REVIEW: Ponyo (anime movie)

Normally when I hear about Fathom Events showings I'd like to go to, the closest ones are at least an hour and a half away. Not this time. The movie theater in my town is doing Studio Ghibli Fest, one Studio Ghibli movie a month with three showings (2 English dub, 1 English subtitles). I'm so happy! I'll probably skip Grave of the Fireflies because I don't like crying in public, but I plan on seeing all the rest of them. Spirited Away is a particular favorite of mine, so if my schedule permits, I plan on attending both a dubbed and subbed showing of that one.

This month's movie is Ponyo, and today was the first of three showings, one of the English dub ones. I had not seen it before and wasn't really sure what to expect.

Warning: this review includes spoilers.

Review:

Sosuke, a 5-year-old boy who lives in a little fishing town, finds and rescues Ponyo, a goldfish with a human face. The two quickly become friends, but they can't stay together - Ponyo's father is looking for her and is determined to keep her with him forever. A magical goldfish girl living with a human boy would disturb the balance of nature and potentially threaten all life everywhere.
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