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Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 20 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 20     

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 2, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/210 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The Ex-wires decide to throw a party—a combination birthday and Christmas party. Rin buys some cheap reindeer ears for himself and a moustache and glasses costume for Yukio, who is less than impressed. Shiemi dresses as Santa Claus and carries a large bag containing a full-sized decorated Christmas tree (it’s actually Nee). When tragedy accidentally ensues, they salvage what they can, and save the day by having a hot-pot party. As they are partying, Shima receives a call from his older brother Juzo—he and Mamushi are going to have a baby! Although they are officially married, they are going to have a ceremony for family, and they want Shima and Bon and Konekomaru to attend!

After the party, Rin and Yukio learn, to their surprise, that Shura lives in their dorm too. Shura has had a bit to drink and mentions to them that she met their mother. Naturally, they want details, so Shura tells them the story, which occurred when she was a bratty little girl being raised by Father Fujimoto. Afterward, the brothers discuss what they found out. Yukio expresses a desire to know more about their mother, but Rin doesn’t, to his brother’s surprise.

The Ex-wires all travel to Kyoto for the wedding. Everyone pitches in to help with preparations, although with his arm in a sling, Yukio is limited in what he can do. Lots of family members show up from both sides. Rin is concerned about his brother. He feels as if something is wrong with him, but he doesn’t know what.

Even from Kyoto, Bon checks on Lightning, chastising him to get out of bed. As soon as he hangs up with Bon, Lightning places another call, asking about Dr. Dragulescu’s schedule. Shima is sitting alone, away from the festivities, when Konekomaru finds him. They have a talk, and Shima starts to feel better about himself.

The Ex-Wires and a few others head to the temple for New Year’s Eve, with a stern warning to stay together, but Rin finds himself standing next to Shiemi, separated from the others. He reveals to her his feelings that Yukio is hiding something from him. Before they can really talk, though, they are discovered and the moment passes.

New Year’s Day. Bon helps his father prepare for the wedding ceremony. He asks him about Father Fujimoto, but before Tatsuma can respond, he is called away. Afterward, Bon is seated next to Yukio, during the ceremony. Yukio overheard Bon’s question, and wants to know what Lightning is investigating. Even as they speak, Lightning is making his move, but Bon tells Yukio he can’t reveal any information regarding the investigation. The situation threatens to boil over when Yukio threatens Bon with a gun, but everything ends up being put on hold when the Ex-wires are recalled to handle a dangerous situation—a Cyclops is loose in Ikebukuro Station!

There is a lot going on in this volume of Blue Exorcist, aside from the wedding and New Year’s and the baby. Yukio is trying to figure things out, such as why Father Fujimoto raised him and Rin, what is their mother’s story, and what do Bon and Lightning have to do with anything? Rin is trying to understand why Shiemi has chosen not to take the exorcist’s exam, although she assures him it isn’t because she is dying or moving or anything, but she can’t tell him the reason. She just can’t. We see Lightning in action and get a better feel for what he does. I have to say I’m liking him more than I did before. Shima is a hard person to get a handle on. As a double spy, it’s hard to say which is his true face, and which side is he truly on. Yukio reveals a surprising memory, which is a tender moment. I like seeing more of Shura as a little girl, it’s really cute.

On pins and needles now, waiting for the next volume!

 

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Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 1 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 1   

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: August 9, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/glbt/178 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Shirotani believes that the whole world is dirty and contaminated. Handling certain objects is difficult for him, at best. Even so, he considers his beliefs to be his problem and no one else’s. But perhaps it’s time to readjust his thinking when he finds himself the cause of his employer being injured in an accident. Through the accident, Shirotani meets Kurose, who makes some very astute observations regarding Shirotani’s idiosyncracies. How does Kurose know? Kurose suggests Shirotani see a counselor and gives him a card, which Shirotani surprisingly keeps.

Not sure why, Shirotani finds himself in front of the address on the card. As he’s standing there, Kurose rides up on his bicycle. It turns out he’s a counselor at the center. He’s glad to see Shirotani there. But when Shirotani attempts to bolt, Kurose suggests that perhaps the two of them can meet, outside of the center, so he can help Shirotani. They end up meeting at a restaurant where they discuss Shirotani’s problem and some of the limits of what he can and cannot do. Kurose has him make out a list of ten actions or activities Shirotani has an aversion to, with number one being the one with the least aversion and so on. Shirotani leaves the number ten spot open, and Kurose says he can fill it in later. By the time he completes everything on the list, Kurose declares, Shirotani will be cured! Kurose assures Shirotani he need never come to the clinic. When he asks about a consulting fee, Kurose says there will be none, as he’s doing it on his own time. When Shirotani asks why he would do that, he’s surprised at Kurose’s answer—he wants to be Shirotani’s friend!

And so they begin with the first item on Shirotani’s list—to touch a door knob bare-handed.

I think the premise for this yaoi series is very unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I like the way it handles Shirotani’s compulsions, never making light of them. Kurose is a thorough professional and very understanding. When Shirotani is late, Kurose usually knows why that is, what he’s gone through just to get there. But I think he also realizes he has feelings for Shirotani that he isn’t about to reveal or burden him with while they are in this current relationship of counselor and counselee. Of course I’m hoping that Shirotani and Kurose will become a couple, and I’m hoping that the tenth unrevealed item on Shirotani’s list is to be able to fall in love, and that he will do so with Kurose. Time will tell. There are five more volumes to go, looking forward to reading them.

 

Book Review: Soul Eater, Vol 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 1 

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: April 22, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Maka is a scythemeister and a student at DWMA—Death Weapon Meister Academy. Her partner is a living scythe named Soul Eater. Maka’s goal is to make him into a death scythe worthy of being used by Death himself. In order to do this, Soul must consume 99 souls and one witch. Easier said than done. Currently, Death (also known as Shinigami-sama) is using Death Scythe as his current weapon. Death Scythe also happens to be Maka’s father, who is constantly yelling at Soul, warning him not to touch his little girl. When he isn’t busy being a major horn dog, that is. Despite his many protestations of love for his daughter, Maka spurns him, which reduces him to tears. Soul already has his 99 souls, all he needs is the witch. They find a witch by the name of Blair, so now the battle is on!

Black Star is a shadow weapon meister who wields a demon shadow weapon called Tsubaki. So far, he has collected zero souls, mostly because he is an egocentric loud-mouth who can’t seem to keep from announcing his presence and his intentions even in situations that require stealth and silence. When Shinigami-sama tells them there is a special way to become Death’s weapon without absorbing the souls of 99 humans and one witch, Black Star wants to know more. This way involves humans who are stronger than normal humans. And there is such a human, named Mifune, who is nearby. He is the bodyguard for a witch named Angela. That’s all Black Star needs to hear. Off they go! Does he have what it takes to defeat Mifune and absorb Angela’s soul?

Shinigami-sama has a son, Death the Kid. He wields two weapons, a pair of demon twin guns who are sisters, Patty and Liz. Death’s biggest problem is his unswerving need for symmetry. If something is asymmetrical, it throws him off his game and he becomes obsessed with making it right. His own hair distresses him because he has three white streaks on one side that are not on the other. As a shinigami, Death the Kid doesn’t need to collect souls, but he wants to make his own weapon with his own two hands. Because he uses two weapons, that means he needs to collect twice the number of souls. He asks his father if he knows anywhere he can get a large amount of souls. Shinigami-sama sends him to the pyramid Anubis in Egypt, where a necromancer witch is creating a large number of mummies. Will he be able to find the souls he needs and defeat the witch, or will his need for symmetry disrupt his plans?

The first day of school! Maka is excited and goes to wake Soul, only to find him in a distasteful position! When she finally gets him to school, they speculate about who their new home room teacher will be as the previous one was killed. To Maka’s dismay, the new teacher turns out to be Death Scythe! From the beginning, he is very upsetting to his daughter, like when he announces he’ll only take attendance for the ladies. Luckily for Maka and Soul, their presence is requested by the Shinigami-sama, so they leave the classroom. They run into Black Star and Tsubaki, who have also been summoned. Can this be a special assignment for them? Or is it something a lot worse?

I loved the first volume of Soul Eater. The characters are interesting and the artwork is really cool. Maka’s father, Death Scythe, is pretty cute even if he can’t stop perving on all the girls. I like Death the Kid, even though he’s a little strange. There are a lot of strange people in this world, though, to be honest. We meet another one at the end of the volume, and learn what his relationship to Death Scythe is.

I like the artwork, especially the color pictures of the moon. I would say my only real complaint is the amount of fanservice in just one volume. By which I mean lots of boobage. Which is great if you’re into that, not so much if you aren’t. I just tend to ignore it and move on. I am also watching the anime, which left me a little confused, which is why I decided to read the manga too. That makes the anime clearer.

This story has a great deal of humor and a lot of soul – no pun intended. I recommend this for teenagers and adults alike. I look forward to reading volume 2.

 

Book Review: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf     

Author: Marlon James

Publisher: Riverhead Books

American release date: February 5, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Literature/fantasy/620 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

A man named Tracker has a story to tell, and such a story it is. He is called Tracker because of his nose, and his penchant for finding things. So he is sent on a mission to find a missing boy, and such a group he finds himself in. There is the shapeshifter Leopard, with whom the Tracker has a past but now the Leopard has a boy named Fumeli who carries his bow and arrows and maybe his heart. There is Sadogo, who will tell you he is not a giant. There is the Moon Witch, Sogolon, and others as well.

Their journey will take them to many strange places in the heart of Africa, and they will see many things in their quest for this missing child. Along the way the Tracker discovers many things about himself and his companions. Everything is not as he thinks, and he can’t believe everything he sees.

There is much mischief afoot and many creatures and people who mean harm, and who would prevent this group from finding the lost boy. What is the boy’s importance in the scheme of things? Who is right and who is wrong?

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first book in Marlon James’ Dark Star Trilogy. It is a book steeped in mythology and fantasy and history. But most of all, it is the story of one man, Tracker. Tracker is a compelling narrator. I found it impossible not to like him and not to root for him, to rejoice in his victories and grieve with him in his sorrows. This books takes you on a journey the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced before. I know I haven’t.

This book is beautifully written in a language that will pull you in and make you an interested bystander with a vested interest in what happens to its narrator. The writing is rich and deep and very compelling. Some of the creatures you will meet will enthrall you, others will terrify you.  I hope to never see such as the Omuluzu, creatures who come out of the ceiling and walk on it as if it is floor. The children will capture your hearts—the Smoke Girl and the Giraffe Boy, the Boy with no legs and the twins who share one body….how can you not love them? As well as the man who wins Tracker’s heart.

I cannot even begin to imagine what will happen next, but I’m certainly looking forward to finding out. In the meantime, I shall be visiting Mr. James’ other novels.

 

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 19 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 19       

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 5, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/194 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

True Cross has a new student – Ambrosius Faust. But he’s actually Amaimon, passing himself off as Johann Faust’s nephew. What’s up with that? To Rin’s dismay, he claims Shiemi is his bride, but she quickly sets him straight on that count. Meanwhile, Lightning and Suguro have been investigating in the monastery where Rin and Yukio were raised. Afterward, Lightning storms into Mephisto’s bath to confront him an unofficial contract of Morinath, which is completely against order rules. Mephisto tells him the location of the treasure he seeks, and advises he go at night, and to “place the key in the hand.” Off Lightning and Suguro go!

Shiemi has been wrestling with whether or not to take the exorcist exam, conflicted between her desire to please and her wishes for the future. Having made her decision, she approaches her mother, who asks that Shiemi hear her out before she makes a final decision.

Lightning and Suguro find themselves beneath the monastery, in the place that was the predecessor of the cram school. This place was dismantled sixteen years before, because it was ground zero on the Blue Night! They talk to one another about their backgrounds, and then they run into an unexpected blast from the past. When Lightning accuses the newcomer of signing a contract or Morinath, he tells them where to find the Section 13 they seek. Lightning and Suguro find the ruins of what was once the cram school, as well as Section 13. It seems as though someone was experimenting with finding elixirs for immortality! Worse than that, they were delving into cloning! Mephisto, you have some ‘splaining to do!

Christmas break has arrived, but the Exwires decide to stay at the school in order to study for the exorcist exam. When a discussion of birthdays arises, they decide to hold a Christmas party/birthday party for the group! The students split into groups to take care of preparations, even as they speculate on what Shiemi has just told them, trying to figure out why she made the decision that she did.

I love following the ongoing investigation of Lightning and Suguro. What they are uncovering is totally fascinating, even if I’m not sure how it fits into the scheme of things. Cloning, immortality and elixirs? We learn more about the Blue Night, as well as Lucifer, while Mephisto continues to protest that he is not the enemy, and he’s certainly not helping the Illuminati. The plot is definitely thickening, and as usual, the Okumura brothers in in the midst of it, whether they know the truth or not.

I also love Suguro’s character development. At the beginning of the series, I thought of him as a muscle-bound lunkhead, but there is a lot more to him than that. I’m dying to find out about why Shiemi decided what she did – what did her mother say to her? And is Yukio ever going to confide his fears to his brother? After all, two heads are better than one!

The beat goes on in this volume of Blue Exorcist. Unfortunately, now I have to wait for the next one to arrive! I’ve reached the end of what is already published. I’m greatly looking forward to the next volume, whenever it comes out!

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 18 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 18      

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: January 2, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/202 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Rin and Yukio have been sent by Mephisto to rescue Shura, only to find her in the clutches of the demon Hachirotaro Okami. When Rin attacks the serpent, using his Satan Bomb move, Shura realizes he has gained greater control of his flames. He’d been against the name at first, finding it stupid, but she explained to him that it would be easier for him to remember, and she turns out to be right. The brothers rescue Shura but the serpent escapes. Shura can’t help but remember when Father Fujimoto asked her to watch over the twins, although she was less than interested, and she wonders if he foresaw this day.

They use a key to get back to True Cross, and Yukio winds up in the infirmary, to his chagrin. Rin tells him to get better and then he can go back to his special training, whatever it is. Shura starts to talk to Rin about what happened to Yukio in Aomori, then decides against it. Meanwhile the search for the demon serpent is on, but unfortunately someone on the other side finds him first and turns him over to Lucifer and his forces.

After she recovers, Shura goes to see the director and learns the serpent has been given to the others. They suspect Shima, but have no proof, since he is a double agent. Shura asks Mephisto if all of this is part of some big plan of his, but as usual he is cagy, and remarks that she cares more about others than she used to.

Back at the dorm, Rin is practicing grilling fresh fish, so he can cook for Yukio in the hospital. The others tell him he won’t be allow to grill there, much less with Satan’s flame. They find Bon hanging out Lightning’s laundry and make fun of him for allowing him to use him in that way, but he explains that he is trying to attain a state of selflessness, so they let it go.

Lightning takes Suguro to the underground library of the True Cross Japan branch, which is huge. Lightning got them permission for five days of research, and he intends to investigate the Illuminati. He thinks everything that is going on began on the Blue Night. He’s sure Mephisto knows the truth and he intends to make him talk.

Things are really getting good in this volume, especially trying to figure out everyone’s hidden agenda. Since her rescue by the Okumura brothers, Shura has become more human and likeable, although I could do without the skimpy outfits. Shima is an enigma. You want to intensely dislike him for being a spy, and yet there is something compelling about him that makes you want to give him the benefit of the doubt. One of the funniest parts of the book involves Rin’s confession to Shiemi that he likes her, and its aftermath, which involves the return of someone Rin cannot stand. Lightning isn’t the punk I first took him for, and his investigation of the Illuminati, along with Bon, is becoming very interesting, especially if it leads in the direction I think it is.

Another great volume from Kazue Kato, I look forward to the next one.

 

 

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 17 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 17     

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: July 4, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/186 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

When Shura disappears, Mephisto sends Yukio and Rin to find her, telling them to go to Aomori Prefecture, as that is where she is from. Plus the most recent GPS reading places here there. Yukio claims he can handle the assignment alone, to Rin’s dismay, but Mephisto insists they work together, so off they go. He also lets Yuki know that he knows about his dangerous training, and to be careful.

They take a train to Lake Towada and find room in an inn. The old lady who runs the inn assures them they’ll have privacy, having totally misinterpreted their relationship. As they relax in a hot bath, Rin questions Yukio about the dangerous training, which his brother blows off, then reveals how he has messed up with Shiemi. He asks Yuki if he likes Shiemi too, but doesn’t really get an answer to his question. Later, in speaking with the innkeeper, they learn that Shura spent the night there and said when she left that she was sort of going home.

Meanwhile, Shura meets with a mysterious figure she calls Hachiro who is insistent that she keep to the terms of her blood contract and have a child! As Yukio and Rin search for Shura, Yukio tells his brother the story of the baba yaga of Lake Towanda, and of how Father Fujimoto rescued  Shura, who was being held prisoner there. Rin senses trouble ahead. They find an injured Shura lying in the snow, and she tells them she is going to die soon! She tells them the story of the blood contract that began even before she was born…

This volume is primarily about Shura, but it’s also about Yukio and Rin, giving them some brotherly alone time which they seldom get. Shura’s backstory is interesting, and the contract she was burdened with horrendous. Finally resigned to her fate, it takes the two brothers to make her see she can have a life of her own. I love the flashbacks of when she met Father Fujimoto. The things she said and did made me laugh, especially when she said she wanted to have his baby! I loved seeing Rin and Yukio working together. I worry about Yukio, and whatever power is coming to light inside of him. I think he’ll be all right. After all, look at Rin! He’s a good boy, just high spirited. And not likely to be swayed to the dark side.

Another great volume, look forward to more!