ToraDora manga. Don’t let that look fool you – she’s called the Palm-sized Tiger for a very, very good reason.
It’s holiday time, and I’m in Hong Kong, enjoying a well deserved break after a particularly stressing exam period. Within 3 days of my arrival, I’ve already purchased over $1000HKD worth of light novels and manga… someone stop me before my bank account becomes a dry, mummified husk.
Warning: All these ‘reviews’ are based on the Chinese translations of the novels.
Spice and Wolf V
As their journey to find Horo’s homeland continues, Horo and Lawrence find themselves in the trading town of Renos, where a meeting of the town’s leaders has left many merchants stranded outside the wall. The enigmatic merchant Ibu Holan offers Lawrence a chance to reap a tidy profit from the peculiar circumstances gripping the town, but Lawrence suspects a trap. At the same time, Horo makes clear her intention to part way with Lawrence…
I really love Spice and Wolf, and this volume reinforced those feelings. Three things make the series stand out for me – the immersive medieval setting, the thoughtful merchant ‘battles’, and Horo and Lawrence’s interactions. There’s more of all these in this newest volume, so even though it’s still occasionally awkwardly phrased (though I don’t know if this is the fault of the translator or the writer) and the ending made it feel like the book could use another 20 pages, Spice and Wolf continues to impress and remains – I’m sorry, Jinyamato – my favourite light novel series.
Horo and Lawrence’s conversations are so lively and clever that I find it a little hard to imagine anyone in reality carrying out something similar, but maybe I’m just too stupid. Especially in this volume, I find that I have to read over some lines twice or even thrice and rake my brains for the events in the past volumes to really understand the real meaning behind Horo’s words. Yet, it’s worth it, and the exercise just increases my love for the series. Even if I could never hope to participate in the blithe battles of wit between Lawrence and Horo, the banter between this cheery and sometimes melancholic couple has brought me far more joy and tears than a ‘light’ novel has any right to do.
Bravo, Isuna Hasekura. I don’t how you manage it, but Horo and Lawrence only become more memorable with each passing volume.
Full Metal Panic 14 and 15
My second favourite light novel series, close behind Spice and Wolf. Vol. 14 is the first Side Arms short stories collection focusing on members of Mithril, and 15 is the pivotal Tsuduku On My Own (Continuing On My Own). I’m going to skip over vol. 15′s review because it is spoilertastic, but suffice it to say, it’s a dramatic and tension filled volume.
The leading and titular short story in Vol. 14 is a piece about how an accidental meeting with his past teacher forces Kurtz Weber to re-examine his life. It’s one of the better shorts found in the Full Metal Panic series, and has a darker and heavier tone than the usual fare. Of more interest to me, though less entertaining, are two shorts that expand on the mechanical designs and operation of the Arm Slaves. Of the remaining two pieces, one is the already animated ‘Onsen’ short found in Fumoffu, and the other is a remarkably short, predictable yet still fun little piece about Weber and Sousuke’s first encounter.
Compared to Spice and Wolf, FMP’s strength lies in its large cast of characters each with their own quirky and likeable personality. Where Spice and Wolf has a very focused approach to character development, Shoji Gato’s series showcases a host of larger-than-life individuals. This particular volume introduces a number of Mithril members and how they cope with their various roles in the organisation. It’s a shame that MAJOR SPOILERMithril gets destroyed in vol.15 END MAJOR SPOILER and as such I have no idea if I’ll ever get to read about these characters again. Also worth mentioning is that the level of attention to detail given to the mechanical design should give any mecha-fan a boner, and any male who doesn’t enjoy the shorts about the ASs should have their manly man license revoked.
Since The Second Raid animated up to the end of the Ending Day by Day novels, with any luck we’ll get another 24 episodes season from KyoAni and we’ll get to see the events of Continuing On My Own come to life on screen, before a third season of Haruhi. Yeah, right *snort*.
Tora Dora 1 (a.k.a. Tiger x Dragon 1)
Imagine a cute, small girl with a shy personality and a big, tall and tough’n'rough gangster. Tora Dora is the story of two such people, except the personalities are in the wrong bodies – Ryuuji Takasu is a young man who is normal in every aspect, apart from the fact that he loves doing house work, cooking, and has a face that could make grown men cry. On the other hand, Aisaka Taiga is a 145cm tall, doll-like beauty who would bite your face off if even slightly provoked. Living next to each other and in love with each other’s best friends, Ryuuji must navigate carefully around Taiga’s vicious personality and help Taiga persue her love, while he himself comes to term with the fact that he is not a dragon, but just the pet of the vicious ‘Palm-sized Tiger’.
I found it kind of hard to read this. There’s nothing special about this light novel at all; it’s a stereotypical romantic comedy, full of the usual misunderstandings, moe-moe characters, and the rest of that School Rumble stuff. The writing style doesn’t flow as well as it should, and having just re-read the Tyrion teaser chapter on George R.R. Martin’s website, the difference between a true master craftsman and your average writer becomes incredibly apparent. This might be the fault of the translator though, as I’ve also found lines that simply doesn’t make any sense. The only thing keeping me reading is the fact that I’m absolutely in love with the characters. I don’t know what I find so alluring about Taiga and Ryuuji, especially seeing how Taiga is such a nasty bitch, but they are fast securing their places in my heart.
Oh, and the illustrations by Yasu aren’t particularly outstanding either. Good thing the manga looks absolutely fantastic. I think that will become my medium of choice for this particular pair of star-crossed lovers.
This is out in English, and has been reviewed better elsewhere, so go read that first. I can’t echo DiGiKerot’s sentiments entirely though, and I found much of the novel un-rewarding to read. It’s got its share of moments, and Victorique certainly shines throughout the book as the heroine, yet the mystery isn’t mysterious at all, and with the exception of one small, almost inconsequential twist I could predict the ending to the novel perfectly. I don’t like obtuse, deus-ex-machina mystery novels either, but there’s no tension when I can predict what is going to happen as if I’ve already seen the story. A good part of the first half is used in setting up Kazuya and Victorique’s circumstances, so maybe with more pages Sakuraba could craft a better mystery. And, as a nitpick, I found the whole “Spring of Wisdom” and “Pieces of Chaos” thing an unnecessary gimmick that detracted ever so slightly from my enjoyment of the story.
Gosick 1 is by no means a bad book, as I managed to read it to the end without effort. The prose is fluid, the conversations natural, and Victorique and Kazuya make a really cute couple. The illustrations are fantastic as well, and I found the author’s comments at the end of the volume an absolutely blast to read, even more entertaining than the novel itself… well, that may not sound like a vote of confidence on behalf of the book, but really, what it does is reinforce fact that the author can write very entertainingly. I just feel a little disappointed because it’s not as arresting as DiGiKerot’s post had led me to believe.
P.S. Victorica is the original name of the heroine, though anyone who speaks the romance languages will know immediately that this is a girl’s name. Changing it to Victorique in the English translation is a wise decision. If they ever animate this though, I’m going to laugh my ass off when fansubbers start writing lines like “What kind of boy is Victorica?”
Alright, time to break it off here, before this post itself becomes a light novel length affair.
I still have a number of other books in my possession unread, including Tora Dora 2 and Gosick 2. I’m also planning on getting a few other series, so those reviews may pop up here in the near future; or knowing my ability to keep promises about what I do and do not intend to do on the blog, never.
TS;DR SPECIAL ~Summer Season Episode 1′s One Sentence ‘Reviews’~
Sekirei – Minato isn’t going to catch them all, but he gets most of your typical moe stereotypes i.e. harems can fuck off. 1/5.
Tetsuwan Birdie: Decode – Surprisingly good, but I wish they could’ve used more frames in the action sequence. 3.5/5.
Strike Witches – In a world where pants were never invented, brave girls fight for the pride of their nations whogivesafuckingshititsfanservice. 2/5.
Hidamari Sketch x365 – Good ol’ Hidamari Sketch, but on a bigger budget, though I wish Shinbo would tone down the Shaft-ness a little bit. 5/5.
Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora – Sorry what, I fell asleep? 3/5.
Seiyou Kottou Yougaiten ~Antique~ – I almost downloaded this, good thing I checked the preview page before the torrent finished. Yaoi/5.
Yakushijiryoko No Kaikijikenbo – Even if I’ve only known them for 20 minutes, I really like the characters already, and I’m a sucker for mysteries, so I will most definitely be following this. 4/5.
Zero no Tsukaima: Princess no Rondo – I like ZnT when it’s got this balance of comedy, action, fanservice, tsun -tsun Louise and dere-dere Louise; much better than the middle episodes of FnK where it’s 90% fanservice. 4/5.
Natsume Yuujinchou – The first 5 minute was exactly like XXXholic’s, then it got kind of Mushishi-ish, and over all I got pretty good vibes from this episode. 4/5.