retsuko: snarky quote :) (capital letters)
In Manga:

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Keiko Tobe, Volume 1: As I said over at GoodReads, I'm not too keen on this one.


Behind the Scenes!!, by Bisco Hatori, Volume 1: Where to begin? This is more frenetic and sillier than Hatori's previous works (and after Ouran Host Club, that may sound a little hard to believe, I know, but it's true!) It's also a little harder to get a handle on, story-wise. Shy, artistic, and sensitive Ranmaru Kurisu is trying to navigate his way through his first year at art school with little success when suddenly he meets the Art Squad, a club that specializes in making props, set dressing, and costumes for the four other film clubs at the school. The Art Squad is full of unique/weird personalities, including Ryuji Goda, the Art Squad's president/leader/resident goofy idealist who always bites off more than the club can chew. (All of the characters are named after Hatori's favorite Western film directors, so Goda for Godard, Ruka for George Lucas, etc.) The four rival film clubs on campus all bicker with each other, and with the Art Squad, and most of the drama comes from one of two plot hooks:

1) Will the Art Squad be able to fulfill the production requirements of the other clubs in time?! and,

2) Will Ranmaru grow up and find his way in the world?!

Both of these are pretty good plot generators, but I guess I don't know whether to invest in Ranmaru or not; he's not much of character beyond "diamond in the rough" yet. It's clear that Hatori already has, though, and since she succeeded in winning me over before on numerous other occasions, I'm fully willing to give her the benefit of the (silly) doubt on this one. If there's going to be romantic tension between him and Ryuji, I really hope Hatori lampshades it immediately, the way she did in Ouran, because it was so damn funny. (Bring me all the fanfic, please!) I do recommend this to Ouran fans, and anyone who's looking for silly shoujo fluff. If it gets more serious, I'll let you know.
retsuko: lady rainicorn and princess bubblegum from the pilot episode of Adventure Time (PB + Rainicorn)
For day 13 of Fandom Snowflake, we're reccing things! XD

Infinite New Possibilities, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with about a billion spoilers for the entire movie, rated General but with warnings for mentions of past torture. This work is what I go to fanfic for: it's filling in the blanks of what was missing during the movie; it gives us more character development for almost everyone who I care about, and the first chapter contains a lovely, touching scene where Poe gives Rey a tour of the Resistance base, and the two of them talk about what's to come. I haven't read the second two chapters yet, but I'm really impressed with the way the first part went, and I'm glad to recommend it.

Edited to add: The Force Awakens as an adorable manga-esque High school AU. This may just be the most adorable thing I've ever seen. It fits in with emo!Kylo Ren's twitter account nicely, too.

The Please Help Me Cosplay! tumblr is still chugging along, and there's a comprehensive list in the top entry right now that gives a ton of book and website references for everything from homemade foam armor to costume patterns.

American Captain is a diary comic about Steve Rogers' experiences in The Avengers and beyond. It's a rocky story: Steve struggles with PTSD and survivor's guilt; 2010 is alternately amazing and terrifying; and his new teammates are supportive but often confusing. I like how small it feels, and I don't mean small as in insignificant or stupid, but it feels small and right, the way things would if your universe suddenly exploded and reformed itself into something sort of familiar but not really. Such a great fan comic.

Fandom Snowflake Challenge banner
retsuko: watanuki freaking out with a pig in his hands (omgwtfbbq!)
Just thought I'd bring these links over here (they're languishing on my Google+ account, but then again, there is a lot of languishing on Google+ these days): We Are Comics, a wonderful blog that aims to show comics fandom's diversity by encouraging its readers to submit their photos and fandom origin stories. Such a lovely, positive step for fandom as a whole, after a lot of nonsense for the past few months.

AND, an amazing Kickstarter campaign here for a video game based around ritual dance combat. This one looks like it's in danger of not meeting its goal (although it did have a very ambitious fundraising goal, all things considered), and I'm really hoping that someone will come out of nowhere with a lot of money, because this game looks like so much FUN. I wish I could back for more, but that's not feasible right now. Check them out!
retsuko: antique books (books)
In Books:

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb: This book is the definition of a vital read. It's not easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, to read Malala's account of being shot in the face by a Taliban soldier and her recovery, or to hear the story of how the Taliban temporarily forced her family (and many, many others) to relocate twice in a very short amount of time. But this work a testament to Malala's vision of what an education can bring her, and so many girls like her. It's also a testament to her family as a whole, who weathered this whole storm with amazing resilience. In particular, Malala's father stands out as a brave man who believes in his daughter's rights and intelligence, and never lets her down. I hope many people will read this book and have it renew their dedication to fighting for social justice and education for all, worldwide. Heartily recommended.

In Manga:

Sweet Rein, Volume 1, by Tsukuba Sakura: This is an adorable manga with perhaps the silliest premise I've ever read: high school student Kurumi discovers that she's a Santa Claus (yes, that Santa) and that a handsome boy named Kaito is her servant, a magical reindeer bound to do whatever she orders him to. (Now that I type it out, it does sound pretty ridiculous.) I bought this out of sheer disbelief more than anything else, and what sells this story is the sincerity that Tsukuba puts into almost every panel and line of dialogue. Like many shoujo manga heroines, Kurumi's a good-hearted girl who wants to do what's right, and this story gives her ample opportunity to do just that. The threadbare will-they-won't-they-fall-in-love romance subplot between her and Kaito gets played more for laughs than any serious conflict; it's pretty clear that they'll be a couple by the end of the series, if not sooner. The only remaining problem is how to construct any other obstacles for Kurumi to overcome, since there doesn't seem to be a Grinch-like character lurking on the horizon. Honestly? It's adorable and sweet, and I liked it despite myself. Definitely be looking for Volume 2.

Angelic Layer, Volume 1, by CLAMP: Somehow, I missed out on this classic CLAMP title a while back and am only now just getting to it. It's not my favorite work of theirs (at least, not yet, but I do have a full second volume to get around to) and in some ways, it highlights what's weakest about their work: characters who little to no clear motivation; ridiculously fast plot that comes, seemingly, out of nowhere; and the barest excuse for conflict (in this case, a televised game between psychic toys connected to their owners.) On the other hand, though, it's tremendously entertaining despite all these problems, and I'm looking forward to the next installment, even as some plot twists loom (in a highly untwisty manner) over the story as a whole. Our erstwhile heroine, Misaki, finds herself drawn to the game Angelic Layer after arriving in Tokyo and seeing it on TV for the first time. She's aided in this by an eccentric genius who counsels her on how to craft her own doll (or, Angel), who, of course, is not what he seems. For plot reasons, Misaki is an able controller/fighter and quickly finds herself in the midst of a high stakes tournament, making allies and enemies along the way. CLAMP brings their trademark gorgeous artwork to all of this, particularly in varied character design for humans and Angels alike. There's also a lot of amazing, dynamic artwork for the battle sequences, which are surprisingly exciting and very easy to follow. So, even with the poor points, this is still an entertaining, fast-paced read, and I did enjoy it rather more than I expected.

In Comics:

Octopus Pie: There are No Stars in Brooklyn, by Meredith Gran: As an antidote to the shoujo sweetness above, I read this delightfully subtle story about Brooklynite misanthrope Eve Ning, her roommate Hanna, and a handful of other characters who inhabit the newly-college-graduated, still-sorting-out-their-lives scene in NYC and its environs. I'm betting that a lot of the New York jokes sailed right over my head, but fortunately, there are plenty of other jokes that ring true. Gran's artwork is perfect--distinct and funny, and with an eye for just the right details to make the story ring true. A lot of fun.

Yay, Frozen!

Friday, December 20th, 2013 09:22 am
retsuko: (hugs)
Last night, my Mom and I went to see "Frozen" and I was not disappointed!

But, before that was an animated short that I have very mixed feelings about. )

Fortunately, the movie itself was even better than I'd anticipated. Spoilers ahead! The songs were great, the imagery imaginative, the characters compelling, and the snowman was not annoying after all. )

Note: if you stay to the end, there's a cut scene after all the credits that's very short and funny, and within the credits themselves, there's one joke that's almost hidden amongst legal boilerplate. Check it out!

Also funny side note: next to me, there was a woman who was Really Into the movie, gasping in surprise at some plot points, pointing frantically at the screen at others, and at one dramatic juncture, whispering loudly, "Hurry up!" It was actually kind of sweet to observe out of the corner of my eye.
retsuko: (moko sake!)
In the stand-alone book department, I finished Who Could That Be At This Hour?, the Lemony Snicket sort-of-prequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It was an odd read: familiar themes were hit on (adults being utterly indifferent/unhelpful to children, wacky definitions of "difficult" words, vague conspiracies tip-toed around) and at least one of the characters was made of win. (For the record, 'Ellington Feint' is my new favorite pseudonym.) But the whole affair never quite congealed properly, at least for my tastes, and at times felt overly forced. Still, there are some very funny bits, and perhaps the sequel will illuminate some (most definitely not all, this being Daniel Handler's work) of the odd conspiracies and contrivances that this volume hinted at.

Switching genres, I have finally gotten around to seeing the live-action Rurouni Kenshin movie, and I am most pleased. Spoilers, although if you've read the manga or seen the anime all the way through, you won't really learn anything new. The good news is, you don't need to read or seen it previously to appreciate it as a movie. )
retsuko: antique books (books)
In Books:

The Incense Game, by Laura Joh Rowland (Sano Ichiro mysteries, #16): Beginners beware, this is not the place to start this excellent series; you'll spend too much time wondering who is who, and not enough marveling at Rowland's ability to spin a murder mystery in the middle of a tale about recovery from terrible disasters. The story opens with the murder itself, which takes place just prior to the earthquake of 1703, also vividly described. Rowland deftly juxtaposes the small tragedy against the backdrop of the larger one, as people scramble to recover from the disaster that's leveled much of the city. I think one of the strongest testaments to her storytelling power is that even sixteen volumes in, I still remember and care about each of the characters. I think she only needed a sentence to remind me of who they were and the problems they're facing. I often wish these books had a larger fandom and/or could be made into a compelling mini-series; there is so much rich plot and character development in them that they would catch on like wildfire. What an excellent read, and with a plausible but completely surprising twist about three quarters of the way through.

At the Movies:

Les Miserables: Funniest overheard dialogue prize of the entire holiday season goes to my Dad, who overheard the following sentiment about this movie, while at Ralph's: "Why would anyone go see a movie called 'The Miserables' during the holiday season?!" another shopping earnestly asked another. There's a longer answer, of course, but the shorthand one that I came up with long after hearing this story (and therefore unable to use it to actually answer the original, overheard speaker) is that suffering is part of this story, but it's not the whole, and the whole is a beautiful, uplifting thing. Read more, with... uhm, spoilers. Can I really spoil for this story? Anyway, more beneath this cut. )

Wow, two great starts for 2013! I like how this is going so far.
retsuko: (cool yuuko)
In Books:

The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold: This was an excellent book, although reading it felt, at first, felt like a real slog. Bujold is a highly accomplished storyteller, of course, but her prose is so dense that the first quarter of the book felt like an overstuffed lasagna. Just when I thought I'd finished with one layer, bam! There was another, and it had more meaty detail than the last! And once I got used to this, then it was fine. I enjoy lasagna-books, even if they're a little slow to get into. At times, though, it was so dense with personal politics, royal intrigue, and character development that I forgot that I was reading a fantasy novel. Mentions of magic would eventually make their way back into the story, and about halfway through the book, when we came to the titular curse, I finally got into my stride with the characters and the setting and it was a fantastic read. I loved the scope of the conflict, and I was highly impressed that minor details, mentioned only a few times in passing, turned out to have a large influence on the plot as a whole, and that no character was forgotten. Greatly enjoyable overall!


Happy: This popped up on Netflix, a documentary that neither Yebisu nor I had ever heard of. It turned out to be a solid piece of short filmmaking, although there were still a few sequences that were overly long. The ideas and questions the film asks ("what is the nature of happiness?"/"why are some people happy and others are not?") are simple, and the answers they produce are incredibly interesting. My only problem with the story was somewhat problematic depiction of African tribes, a sequence that made me worry that the writer and producer had never taken any sort of anthropology courses in their lives and were romanticizing the events they saw in an irresponsible fashion. But the rest of the movie was so interesting, and the people profiled are highly compelling. The individual stories of happiness reveal some amazing people who've overcome tremendous odds or are giving of themselves in a wholly beautiful way. (The European banker who quit his job and moved to India to minister to the sick and dying in one of Mother Theresa's charity homes brought tears to my eyes. This is compassion at its absolute best and most essential.)

On TV:

Doctor Who, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" & "A Town Called Mercy": Cut for any spoilers... but mostly general thoughts here. )

In other, random notes, I have seen two horror movie trailers recently that involve people moving into a house, finding a box of old movie reels/VHS tapes and watching them to REVEAL HORRORS that happened to the previous residents of said house. Besides "twisting" (read: sneaking around it in an effort to appear clever) the found footage convention that is making its way onto so many people's bad lists right now, I can't think of any narrative reason for any character to watch these movies. If I found any movies/photos/personal memorabilia from previous residents of a place we were living, I don't know what I'd do, but it sure as hell wouldn't involve nosing through any of it. I mean, who says, "Oh, hey, let's watch these old, unlabeled movies! For kicks!" What if it was gross amateur porn? You'd sure regret that choice in a hurry.
retsuko: antique books (books)
In Books:

Embassytown, by China Mieville: Mieville has so many ideas in his books that I sometimes worry that the story is going to explode in a metaphorical spring-snake-out-of-a-can-of-"party-nuts" surprise ending. The plot in this book wasn't like that, exactly, but I began to feel like all the fabulous ideas came at the expense of something else. Read more here... )

Spindle's End, by Robin McKinley: A birthday present from [personal profile] orichalcum, and well chosen. I like McKinley's matter-of-fact, wry authorial tone, and I like the way the characters grow and thrive in her words. I did find that a lot of the suspense was suddenly deflated at a particular plot point, and after that, it didn't build again in the same way, but that's neither here nor there, and more a fault of the story she's retelling than this book.

The Prisoner of Heaven, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: I adore the previous two books (The Shadow of the Wind & The Angel's Game) in this loosely affiliated trilogy, but I'm sorry to say that this one fell a bit short. The A-Plot, set in the story's present, feels oddly weak when held up against the B-Plot, a Count of Monte Cristo-esque prison escape story featuring someone who's ostensibly not the main character of the book... except that he is, and the A-Plot main character's motivations (other than being the best friend in the whole damned world, apparently) are unclear for the bulk of the story. I still recommend the first two whole heartedly, and maybe this one would read more strongly if I'd just read the first ones... huh. I may try that sometime and see if my opinion changes.

Polterguys, Volume 1, by [profile] psychoe: It's no secret that this work is done by a friend of mine, the afore-tagged Laur/psychoe. I'm pleased to report that this first installment of her manga work is just spectacular, from both the art and storytelling standpoint. I'm not saying this just because I'm her friend, but because it really is that good! )


Jiro Dreams of Sushi: This was an excellent movie, although perhaps just a tad overlong. No matter: the food porn in it was beyond compare, and the people being profiled were open and honest. If you like sushi at all, you need to see this film. If I weren't sick, I'd be out eating sushi right now because of it.

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