Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Shadowshaper Legacy (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 3) by Daniel José Older

Shadowshaper Legacy (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 3)   

Author: Daniel José Older

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

American release date: January 7, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA Contemporary Fantasy/432 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Sierra, the new Lucera, and Shadowhouse have destroyed the Sorrows and the House of Light, to form the House of Shadow and Light. Next on the agenda is to take care of the rising house, Bloodhaüs, which bears more than a striking resemblance to a neo-Nazi organization.  Both sides agree to a parley, but surely she didn’t expect the skinheads to keep their word? Maybe, just maybe, Sierra can salvage something positive from this meeting. Like a spy who can infiltrate the House of Iron?

Life is difficult with so many people Sierra loves incarcerated for things they shouldn’t be there for, including her brother Juan, her friend Izzy, and her new love interest, Anthony, aka the artist formerly known as Pulpo. Good thing she has so many loyal friends and family members to support her, including her father Dominic, although he really doesn’t know what is going on but he stands behind her and does not get in the way, despite his son being in jail. Even so, Sierra feels compelled to not include them in all of her thoughts and plans, which could end up being a major mistake on her part. It’s not a lack of trust as much as an unnecessary need to keep people safe who she should really be relying on more, since no man is an island, and neither is she.

Sierra also has a secret she hasn’t shared before. Namely, she’s keeping the last remaining Sorrow hostage up in her late Grandpa Lazaro’s old room. Whoa, will that cause problems when the others find out? Especially her mother Maria? From Sierra’s viewpoint, she is solving two problems with one stone, so to speak.

Juan and Anthony know they’re safe behind bars because of the protection afforded them by the House of Iron. But their unexpected release raises the concern of how far that safety lasts once they step outside the prison walls. New houses are beginning to emerge. Friend or foe? Hard to tell, even when a new guy named Mort helps put an end to a common enemy. How far can they trust Mort, if at all? Worst than that, it appears as though Anthony has gone over to the House of Iron. How can that be? How will Sierra survive such a betrayal?  When their spy Dake emerges as the leader of a brand new house and demands Sierra turn over the Deck to him, she has to weigh her options – give him the deck and its power or risk the lives of the loved ones of the people of her house. Not an easy decision to make, but so much hinges on what she chooses to do.

Wow, wow, just wow, wow, wow. Such a great story, so much going on. Impossible to describe, you just gotta read it for yourself. Sierra is growing and evolving as the leader of her house, but sometimes even she isn’t sure she likes the changes that are happening to her, and longs for the way things were. But she is strong, and she can survive anything. One of the things that is different in this volume from the other two is the multiple viewpoints. Previously, the story was told strictly from Sierra’s POV, but this one has multiple narrators. That was a little offputting at first, but I could see why this had to be, since Sierra can’t be everywhere, and important information comes from other sources. But I quickly got used to that and came to appreciate it, seeing that it gave these other characters room for greater depth and development. Loved Neville and Nydia, and now Juan and Bennie. So cute! I confess that I never did warm up to Sierra’s mother, even though her actions semi-atoned for what she did previously. But that was too little too late in my opinion, though others may feel entirely differently.

This is such a creative, imaginative tale with a lot of heart and soul. The world development is outrageously good, and so is the character development. By the end of the series, you feel as though these are people you really could know… friends, neighbors, family. There is a lot of drama here too, and sometimes I wasn’t certain which way a particular situation might go, and I found myself turning the pages rapidly to find out what would happen. This is a great story for teens and adults alike. I highly recommend it. I’m hoping there will be more stories in this universe. There is certainly room for them.

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 13: Beginning of the End by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 13: Beginning of the End     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 15, 2011

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/232 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Yoshitsune thinks back to that fateful New Year’s Eve, and the man who snapped the picture of them as they faced down the Friend’s menace, none other than Fukube. Why doesn’t he have any childhood memories of Fukube as a boy? Where did he come from and when exactly did he become part of their group? As Yoshitsune and the others try to fathom this, all hell has broken out at the elementary school where rumor has it that Friend has been shot! Kanna recognizes Maruo at the scene, and he tells her he knows a secret way to get into the school, so they can find out what has happened. Meanwhile, Manjome is wakened from a fitful sleep with the news.

Kanna is amazed to find that so many people she believed to be dead are very much alive, working to rid the world of Friend. But not only is Friend dead, his identity has been revealed. Who would have thought it?

Friend’s group assemble, but they are one short – Yamane, who betrayed them. What are they going to do now? Will a successor to Friend be appointed? If so, who? Everyone accuses Manjome of wishing to take over, but he assures them he has no such aspirations. A new member arrives, whom they refer to as Number 13, claiming there is now room for him at the table, and counseling that they continue with Friend’s plans to end the world. Not everyone agrees with this course of action… and suddenly some of the high ranking members wind up dead!

While the others seem content to rest on their laurels now that Friend is dead, Otcho is far from convinced that the threat he represented is over. Kanna says she wants to go with him, since what is happening is her mother’s fault. But Otcho has a story to tell her, one that Yamane told him, about what happened in 2003.

Meanwhile, in 2015, people are starting to die…

Wow, now we know who Friend is… or was. Not at all what I expected. Him? Seriously? How the heck did he become Kanna’s father? What could Kenji’s sister ever see in him? There must be more to this story than we know.

Friend’s followers are divided on whether to continue with his plan or not, but there are fanatics among them, determined to set a dangerous course. I loved finding out the truth about Kanna’s mother, who has been a shadowy figure up until now but who has finally stepped into the spotlight. And in the far-off United States, a player long since forgotten has taken the stage once more.

So much going on, and so many threads to follow. I keep hoping at the end of one of them that Kenji will emerge. Guess we just have to wait and see. Great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 14: A Boy and a Dream by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 14: A Boy and a Dream

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 19, 2011

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/232 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The mourners of Friend are many. Griefstricken people wait in line for hours to sign the register and file past his masked body. It seems as if all Friend’s predictions are coming to pass. Manjome is dispirited himself, and confused, and decides to take a trip into Friend Land to find answers to his questions, such as why is this happening.

At the same time, Kanna wants to send Koizumi with Yoshitsune  into Friend Land to find their own answers. Kanna would rather go herself, but he tells her she is too emotionally involved, since Friend is her father and all.  On their arrival, Yoshitsune shows Koizumi around to all the familiar places he remembers from 1971. But when they come to the location that was once their secret headquarters, they find a bowling alley there… one which Koizumi insists wasn’t there when she visited. What’s going on? She’s sure she’s right, but Yoshitsune remembers the place that destroyed their secret clubhouse. How can that be? Yoshitsune is having a difficult time remembering what he was doing that summer. While they are in the bowling alley, he comes face to face with the owner, the man he refers to as the King of Evil. Koizumi is shocked to discover that the man is actually Kamisama!

As they monitor Yoshitsune and Koizumi in the game, Kanna realizes they have been joined by another player, who is quickly headed toward them. They are unaware that it is Manjome, and he wonders if he is going to learn the real truth about 1971. As Manjome “sleeps”, his lover takes control, and she is ruthless.

Yoshitsune thinks the key to what happened lies in what happened at the science lab one particular night, and hinges on what Donkey saw, so he and Koizumi head there. And a fourth player has entered the game, and this person is swiftly descending upon Yoshitsune and Koizumi! Kanna asks to be placed into the game in the spot where they are, but winds up in Kenji’s room instead. She gives him some words of wisdom and heads to the school. And now they are all there…

The more I learn, the less I know. Nothing is what it appears to be, including 1971. Why the deception? Why hide the fact that a bowling alley was built where the boys had their secret headquarters? What is real and what isn’t? As for what Donkey saw that night… how does that even work? And why?

And the fourth player… could it be….

So many questions. Can’t wait to keep going on this crazy rollercoaster ride. Love it!

Book Review: Skip Beat! Vol 4 by Yoshiki Nakamura

Skip Beat! Vol 4   

Author: Yoshiki Nakamura

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: January 2, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Shojo Manga//200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kyoko shines in an exercise at the LME acting school, at the same time helping the president’s granddaughter, Maria, grapple with issues she has with her father. Maria fears her father doesn’t love her and thinks he blames her for her mother’s tragic death. Kyoko helps her to learn to communicate with him, thus earning Lory’s trust, even if he doesn’t always understand her methods. But he realizes his initial assessment of her was correct. She has something… something definitely worth cultivating.

Lory tells Kyoko that, as a minor, she needs her mother’s signature to make her debut with LME. But he isn’t prepared for what he sees in her eyes when he brings up the matter. Is there a way to work around this, for her sake?

Kyoko has a special stone that is very important to her. She keeps it with her at all times and relies on it in times of stress. So when she drops it, she is afraid she’s damaged it, or worse, she’ll never see it again. Ren Tsuruga finds it and returns it to her, but in the process a memory is awakened…

Kyoko and Moko receive an assignment as seat fillers for the first variety show of a popular rock band that LME is very proud of called Bridge Rock. At the last minute, a supervisor asks if they can help out with something else, as a cast member can’t make it. Moko enthusiastically agrees, until she finds out what the part is and leaves that to Kyoko, who suddenly finds herself thrust into a giant chicken suit!

As if this isn’t bad enough, she learns that the band’s first guest is none other than Sho Fuwa! Talk about awkward. But she comes to appreciate the fact that he won’t even know it’s her in this suit. So, what can she do to sabotage him?

After the debacle of the show, while still in costume, Kyoko runs into a distraught Ren. As she instinctively tries to help him, she begins to discover a whole new side of the actor she never knew existed. But can she keep him from taking off her bird head and revealing who she really is?

I loved this volume, as we get to know Kyoko more and more. She is developing, both as an actor and as a person. Of course she isn’t perfect, and her vendetta against Sho is still very much alive. But watching her with Maria is priceless, and of course her interactions with Ren, who is worth far more than that trashy Sho. Now the question is, what does Ren remember, and what is the story here?

The story is both humorous and dramatic. You gotta love Kyoko’s little voodoo dolls, she is so serious about them. And my heart aches for her as she tries to gain Moko’s friendship. This is a young girl, on her own in a big city, taking care of herself the best she can. How can you  not root for her?

Can’t wait for the next book!

Book Review: Monster, Perfect Edition, Vol 3 by Naoki Urusawa

Monster: The Perfect Edition, Vol 3     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: January 20, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Horror/434 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

An old classmate of Tenma’s interviews and analyzes serial killers in order to get into their heads and mindset. The last thing he expects is to receive a visit from the wanted Tenma. Tenma needs his help. He shows him the handwritten notes left by Johan, and tells the story of the boy who became a monster. The classmate, Rudi, is skeptical due to his perception of Tenma when they were in school together, but takes the tape of his story to a serial killer, Peter Jürgens, to get his opinion.

Jürgens urges Rudi to go to the scene of his last murder. Not sure what he will find, Rudi goes down into the basement, where the killer was found to be hiding. There he finds evidence to support what Peter had said, that he’d been told to kill his last victim by a so-called friend.

Rudi and Tenma agree to meet to discuss the notes, but Tenma is unaware that he has been sold out to the police. Will Rudi turn him in? Or will what he  has seen persuade him that Tenma is not a serial killer? If Frau Kempf, the victim, was childless, whose pictures are these in the basement? Pictures of a faceless little boy…

While hitchhiking, Tenma and Dieter are picked up by an older couple who speak no German. The wife asks Tenma’s help in translation. Unfortunately, the car runs out of gas, so Tenma volunteers to go for some, taking Dieter with him. The husband, who was once a detective, seems to look at Tenma rather oddly, as if he’s suspicious of him for some reason.

A well-to family with a child live in a beautiful home, enjoying their life, but there is something odd about the house next door. The husband gets weird being-watched vibes from one of the windows.

So much going on here! Tenma is determined to find and kill Johan before he can hurt anyone else. The former BKA agent, Lunge, is still hot on Tenma’s trail, convinced that Johan doesn’t exist except as an alter personality of Tenma. When he finds evidence that someone else killed a couple that Tenma is accused of having killed, he wants nothing to do with it because it doesn’t suit his agenda. Nina is determined to find her brother as well and continually puts herself in harm’s way in order to get to the truth. She knows that sooner or later they will bring her to Johan, since her brother seems to want to see her too. And why does Jürgens remind me of Ed Kemper?

And let’s not forget Tenma’s ex, Eva Heineman, who blames him for all her troubles. Can she sink any lower? Raging alcoholic floozy, she alternates between wanting Tenma back and wanting to see him in prison for life. She is a loose cannon who could prove dangerous in the long run.

The volume ends with the Thursday’s Boy story, which is fascinating itself, and we finally get a bigger glimpse of Johan. Nothing negative to say about this series, love it to death. Such intricate plotting, coupled with great characterization, and wonderful artwork. Who could ask for more? Looking forward to the next volume.

 

 

Book Review: Shadowhouse Fall (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 2) by Daniel José Older

Shadowhouse Fall (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 2)     

Author: Daniel José Older

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

American release date: September 12, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA Contemporary Fantasy/368 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

A lot is going on in Sierra Santiago’s life. After learning she was a shadowshaper, and so is Robbie, a guy she likes but never really talked to, Sierra discovers the existence of the Deck of Worlds and then is made the new Lucera by her dead grandmother. A whole lot to absorb! Sierra has initiated some of her friends and family as shadowshapers as well, and now she needs to find out what’s going on with this deck, and who does she need to fight to keep it from falling into the wrong hands? Sometimes it’s impossible to tell who can be trusted.

A girl named Mina shows up unexpectedly and tries to give Sierra a card – the Hound of Light, but Sierra wants nothing to do with it. Does the card represent someone to be feared? Where is this person? Could it be Mina herself? And why is Robbie so often as not MIA? What’s going on with him, and what about their feelings for one another? Were those real or were those just shadows too?  When she learns Tee has accepted a different card from Mina, Sierra suddenly feels that maybe she should retrieve the first one before it’s too late.

Sierra finds that the Deck of Worlds is being brought into play, and that houses are forming which could be dangerous to her Shadowhouse. Maybe even more dangerous than the Sorrows.  She ends up with the deck and different cards begin to connect to various people in her life, including her mother! Who saw that coming?

Sierra finds herself growing closer to one of her brother Juan’s bandmates, Pulpo, except now she thinks of him as Anthony, and she is definitely attracted to him. Things are so complicated without adding that to the mix. And what about Robbie? She has no idea. But things are escalating, and the police are a large part of what’s going on, and Sierra fears for the lives of everyone she loves. If she’s gonna be the Lucera, she might just have to kick some butt and take numbers…

There is a lot going on in this second book, no lie. Forces are coming into play that threaten Sierra and her family and friends. How can she stop this? Can she stop this? There are so many dilemmas Sierra is facing, not least of which is not being able to tell Bennie she’s seen his dead brother. I love the part about her uncle Neville and Nydia – so cute! And I am thrilled that Izzy can shape with her words. I have no idea what will happen in the triangle of Sierra, Robbie, and Anthony. I don’t think anything is settled yet, far from it.

Parts of this book will make you laugh, parts will make you cry, and others will make you gnash your teeth in rage, while others are pure page turners as you rush to find out what is going on. A splendid second volume for the series and I can’t wait to read the next one.

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 38 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 38         

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 7, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The battle of the lieutenants versus the Fracciones continues. Kira is unimpressed by his opponent’s steel wings. It’s time to show this guy what Kira’s Wabisuke can do. Hisagi’s opponent is Findorr, who keeps dumbing down his skills in order to match Hisagi’s level, which he finds infuriating… and not necessary. Also, Hisagi is beyond tired of the way Findorr keeps saying Exacta. Time to end this thing.

To the Soul Reapers’ dismay, one of the four pillars collapses. Have they lost a comrade? Yumichika wishes to rush to his friend’s side, but Hisage stops him.  Ikkaku is not down for the count, as his opponent, Poww, learns. But Poww isn’t done either, and he is a very big boy, even bigger than Captain Komamura. But the captain has a trick or two up his own sleeve.

Iba berates Ikkaku for his loss and accuses him of holding back and deliberately losing. Of course, Ikkaku doesn’t take the accusation well. Meanwhile, as King Berrigan prepares to send in the next group, to replace those who have been defeated, he is confronted by more of the Soul Reapers, and the battle begins anew! Old man Yamamoto exhorts them to “Defend this ground with all your might! Even if your flesh is torn from your bones, the enemy must not enter!” To which, Shunsui’s response to Ukitake is “Oh dear, it makes me tense to be around old man Yama when he’s like this….”

This volume of Bleach continues the battles from the previous book and then some. Definitely action-packed! One thing I like about Bleach is that it’s not an automatic win for the good guys, ever, and sometimes they do lose. And sometimes they do stupid things. That only goes to show how well Tite Kubo draws his characters, fleshes them out until they become real people.  I love that he infuses his writing with a great deal of humor, such as Shunsui’s comment above, and the banter between Matsumoto and the three female Fracciones she faces, as well as the relationship between Sai Fon and Omaeda. I guess my only real complaint is his tendency to draw most of his women with exaggerated busts, which I find unnecessary. But in all fairness, I am probably not the target demographic he is aiming for.

Another great volume of Bleach, even with no sign of Ichigo. But you’ll remember we left him rescuing Orihime so it’s just a matter of time until we return to that. Looking forward to the next one!

Book Review: Spy x Family, Vol 5 by Tatsuya Endo

Spy x Family, Vol 5   

Author: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 8, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Action & Adventure/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Yor is coming home later and later. Twilight is concerned but doesn’t feel he has a right to ask, all things considered. He’s alarmed to notice multiple cuts on her hands and fingers! As it turns out, his fears are groundless. Yor is learning how to cook, in order to keep her family, but it’s safe to say this is not her strong suit. And guess who just joined her class? Her little brother Yuri! He is her biggest cheerleader, even when her dishes are less than stellar. However, he also wouldn’t mind seeing her “husband”, Loyd Forger, taken out of the equation.

It’s almost time for midterms at Eden Academy, and Anya is still determined to get in good with Damian Desmond, whom she calls Sy-on Boy. She brings a picture of Bond to school, thinking he will be her way in, and surreptitiously drops it where Sy-on Boy can find it. Becky finds it instead and develops an instant crush on Loyd Forger.

The housemaster is taking charge of Anya’s art class since the teacher is sick. Everyone is to pair up for a project. To Anya’s delight, and Damian’s dismay, they are assigned to be a team. Everyone in the class is limited as to what supplies they can use. The theme is “animals” and they must create a three dimensional model. Anya is hoping to both get closer to Sy-on-Boy and to finally win a Stella star.

Yor tells Loyd she has asked her brother to help tutor Anya for the midterms. Loyd isn’t sure about this, but what can he say? It’s vital that she does well. Anya is shocked, when she reads Yuri’s mind, at the ill will he harbors for her father. Plus he’s a secret policeman. Anya is concerned about the tests because she realizes due to the moon she won’t be able to mindread on that particular day. But Yuri’s teaching methods are confusing at best. How will this work?

Twilight is concerned that Anya’s grades won’t be good enough, so he’s decided to do something about it. But the test results are strictly guarded.  As a master of disguise, it’s easy enough to assume the identity of one of the faculty. But wait, who is this other guy, someone he doesn’t recognize, who seems to be doing the same thing Twilight is intent on doing?

One of Anya’s classmates, on learning his father’s company will soon cease to exist, and that it’s because of Si-on Boy’s father, vows to get him in trouble. But Anya can’t have that, and sets out to avert that crisis at all cost.

Anya’s next assignment is to investigate an occupation that interests her, and she can interview her parents or a local business. Hmm, should she choose Papa or Mama?  As she discovers, shadowing Yor is rather gruesome, so she goes the next day to watch Papa (who besides being a spy is a psychiatrist).

Twilight receives a new mission… and a new partner. This can either be a wise move, or a very dangerous one.

I never get tired of reading this manga. It’s hilarious and heart-warming too. I just know the Forgers are going to end up as a real family someday! The more things go wrong with them, the more they go right. Becky’s crush on Twilight is funny, as are Anya’s attempts to get on Sy-on Boy’s good side.  But beware, trouble might be brewing in the form of Twilight’s new partner. She seems to have her on the prize, namely Twilight! Will Yor catch on to the danger she presents in time to do something about it?

Another great volume of Spy X Family, can’t wait for the next one!

 

Book Review: Shadowshaper (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 1) by Daniel José Older

Shadowshaper (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 1)       

Author: Daniel José Older

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

American release date: June 30, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA Contemporary Fantasy/239 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Sierra Santiago is a mural artist. She, along with other artists, work on murals at the Junklot, owned by Manny the Domino King. Her own mural, which is going to be awesome, lies on the side of an old brick building which already contains other murals. One day Sierra notices something odd. The murals seem to be fading, but not with time or weather. And one of the figures seems to be crying. How is that even possible?

Things start to get stranger when Sierra’s stroke-ridden abuelo, Lazaro, apologizes to her and warns her of shadowshapers. What does that even mean? He tells her to contact Robbie, a boy at her school she doesn’t really know but wishes she did. And then at the first party of the summer, a corpse walks in… and life for Sierra will never be the same.

Sierra and her friends, as well as Robbie, and Sierra’s family, including her rock star brother Juan, have been plunged into a world they never imagined existed. But they better figure it out quickly, because something wicked is definitely coming their way.

This is my first time reading this author, but it certainly won’t be the last, even after I finish this series. He has a very smooth, easy-to-read style that draws you in even as he develops intriguing and interesting character. He has created a new world with new entities in the form of the shadowshapers. Sierra is a great heroine, and Robbie her match. I like the way he creates whole characters, neither wholly good or wholly bad, but some of each. Nobody is one way or the other, and even characters you dislike may have redeeming qualities.

I’m greatly looking forward to the next book and highly recommend it!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 12: Friend’s Face by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 12: Friend’s Face     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 21, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/232 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

2014 is drawing to a close. Fourteen years since Bloody New Years Eve. A new year, new beginnings. But what will 2015 hold?

A large gathering is being held for the occasion in Friendship Plaza, with Haru Namio singing the “Hello, Hello Expo Song”. Watching the events on television, Yoshitsune and his group are celebrating in a much quieter way. Kanna has gone to where her uncle used to sing, and is listening to a street singer. Finishing his performance, Haru leaves for home, accompanied by his right-hand man…. Maruo!

The next day, Haru goes to make a New Year’s visit to Friend, Maruo by his side, although Maruo has to wait in the outer office. Admission to Friend’s presence is strictly limited. Maruo tells Haru that he has explosives strapped to his body, but that isn’t entirely true. As he sits in the outer office and waits, Kenji’s words keep going through Maruo’s mind: “Try to make sure ordinary people don’t get caught in the crossfire.” And “If you ever feel your own life is in danger, turn and run like Hell.” Can Maruo do what he feels needs to be done to rid the world of Friend?

Acting on an old tip, Otcho and Kakuta go to the last known address of Dr Yamane. It’s a long shot, sure, but what else can do they? They believe he holds the key to what is going on. The house is deserted but a neighbor is able to give them useful information. Otcho is startled to realize the address she gives them is in the neighborhood where he grew up. Suddenly Otcho remembers a conversation he had with a classmate many years ago, and says it’s imperative he go to his old school. The conversation included the New Book of Prophecy and germ warfare!

Otcho and Kakuta find Dr Yamane at the old Science Lab. As he waits for what he feels is Friend’s imminent arrival, he tells them a little about Kanna’s mother and her involvement with the group. Yoshitsune and his group are studying the infamous Bloody New Year’s Eve photo. Koizumi claims it’s photostopped, clearly, but Yoshitsune says it isn’t, that is actually them facing the monster. But then, who took the picture from behind them?

The moment we’ve been waiting for has arrived… or has it? Now I’m not sure that what we think happened happened, but I have to wait for the next volume to know for sure. The face of the Friend has been revealed. Maybe. So much going on, like threads being woven together to form a complete picture. This series just keeps on getting better. Can’t wait for the next book to find out what’s really going on.