Fusoroi no Renri by Mikanuji

Lesbians play softball, but yes, yes, you CAN….

I have to say that my favorite things about Fusoroi no Renri (so far) is how it opens. Just like with yaoi salarymen, our yuri heroine, Tanaka Iori, gets drunk at the bar after work one night and ends up randomly sleeping with a lady (a hot lady with a tattoo, no less!)… something she has previously never done because she normally goes for unattainable married men.

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Even though most of this manga is cute and funny relationship fluff, there is family abuse both in the background and on scene. So, if that’s a trigger for you, you may want to skip this. There is also a ten year age gap between the lovers: Tanaka is 28 and her girlfriend, Minami, is 18.

That being said, the chapters are mostly cute–a lot of short vignettes about living together and such. I found the whole thing all together adorable. I am always on the look out for yuri like this, where the characters are not in high school and the drama is around grown-up issues. In fact, there’s even a bit where the punchline is that sometimes what we love about our partners is their troublesome attributes.

The only bummer of this manga was the sex.

There was a lot of it, but it was almost entirely pan to the left.

Still, this was a wonderful yuri and I don’t say that a lot.

Natsuyuki Rendez-vous by Kawachi Haruka

Before I start the review, I’d love to hear how everyone is doing. I have been physically well, but emotionally fairly anxious (like everyone, I’m sure.) However, one of the ways in which my anxiety has manifested is that I’ve been unable to concentrate enough to read or do much writing.

I have, however, been binge-watching anime.

One of the ones I recently ripped through was Natsuyuki Rendez-vous. I was happy to discover it has a manga, so I paged through that, just to see how well it lined up, and so this is a review mostly of the anime, but I think you can get the same enjoyment out of reading it, as well.

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The story follows Hazuki, a sort of hapless fellow, who falls in love with a woman who owns a flower shop. Her name is Rokka, and she’s a widow of three years. The flower shop, in fact, is in her late husband’s name, Shimao.  Hazuki is so into Rokka that he has dozens of potted plants he picked up just to interact with her and even took a part-time job at the flower shop to be closer to her.

Hazuki has been kind of hoping to make his move on Rokka.

He finally thinks he’s going to get his chance when he overhears that she’s “got no love stories to tell recently” while talking about planning a co-worker’s good-bye/congratulations on your engagement party.  When Hazuki goes upstairs to Rokka’s appartment to help with the party supplies, he’s met by a half-naked man who is clearly intimate with Rokka.

Only later, at the party, does Hazuki discover that the man he saw… is dead.

It’s the ghost of Rokka’s late husband, which only Hazuki can see…. which leads to funny scenes like this…

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But, this is not a light, romantic comedy.

Instead, things get serious when, after a drunken night, Hazuki agrees to allow Shimao to borrow his body…

And, throughout, there’s a lot of discussion of grief and getting over a lost love. I’m not sure how it would be to read (maybe more intense?), but I found it tolerable in the anime. Like, I worry about watching depressing stuff during times of crisis, but this one, for whatever reason, walked the right balance for me. I suspect mileage may vary, so approach with caution if you’re easily triggered by illnesses resulting in death or heavy grief.

It’s also a lot more supernatural than I expected it to be? Once the body-switching happens, things get really surreal and kind of edging on the verge of dark? I was never quite sure who to root for during this phase. Like, I wanted Shimao to get some closure? But, I also worried that Hazuki would end up sacrificing his own life in order to make Rokka happy.

Absolutely would recommend the anime for a fast-watch. As I said, I think your take on the manga might very much depend on how much grief you can absorb right now. I suspect the slower, more intimate pace of reading might give this particular story a lot more weight.

I hope you all are taking care of yourselves! I’ll try to post more here, since I know we are all looking for distractions right about now. (Also, I don’t normally do this, but I have a new fiction book out, too: Unjust Cause: https://wizardstowerpress.com/books-2/books-by-tate-hallaway/unjust-cause/. Feel free to check it out, if you’d like to support my work.)

Goshintou by Duo Brand

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Maybe I am. I read the whole thing, after all…

Goshintou by Duo Brand is, in my opinion, very high concept, but low delivery.

The concept could have a lot of mileage, since it involves magical swords that can transform into humans.  I have, as it turns out, a thing for sentient swords. I particularly love, too, the conceit wherein there is an aspect of compulsion, i.e., there are certain commands that the sword/person must obey. This can lead all sorts of interesting places.

For my money, Goshintou doesn’t really go there.

But, probably you’re not reading yaoi for the plot?

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The manga itself tells a series of short stories all connected to the magical swords, the goshintou–who were infused with the ability to cut down evil spirits by the Shinto priests who invented them.

The first story, “Absolute Command” follows the first swordmaker, Kikyou, and Kazuto, his creation. He apparently spends so much time “polishing the sword” that he falls in love with both it and its spirit. All that is fine until the Emperor makes a demand–give me the sword so that I might display it as a symbol of my power. The sword, Kazuto, is like, “Wait, you only want to look at me and not use me? Nope. I’m out.”

And so he kidnaps his maker/lover and away they go.

We return to them in a later volume, and discover the joys of living a life constantly on the run… and by joys, I mean, bandits trying to collect on the bounty on the Shinto priest’s head. Luckily, he is able negotiate his life for the secret to creating more swords.

The other stories involve how, after that whole kidnapping fiasco, it was decreed that swords should be made without emotions… and how well that works out. (Hint: it doesn’t, especially when sexy other swords are around to tempt sword-spirits with honeyed apricots.)

The story sort of slides through time, though, and so it’s not always easy to keep track of who is who and when everything is taking place. It doesn’t help that the swords always seem to wear pants (even in the Edo and Heian periods) and for some weird reason, glasses.

I am just as attracted to a guy in glasses as the next yaoi fan, but I do prefer it when the reason makes sense. What about being a living weapon means you’re myopic? There’s an implication in a later chapter that maybe the swords can’t really distinguish one human from the next, except when they are confronted with the one they wish to protect most. But, if that’s the case, why would glasses help if the impairment is metaphorical?

Plus, I’ll be honest, I was not particularly fond of the art. I have read one of Duo Brand’s manga before (Hakushi no Tsukurishi Inu/The Dog Created by the Professor), and I apparently had similar feelings about it. In that I loved the concept for the story, but not the execution.

There is, however, plentiful sex. My version was censored, so it was mostly invisible penises, which… I mean, I have a pretty good imagination, but it’s still always a bit of a disappointment.

Plus, as I have said, I can only take so much ‘wispy’ when it comes to my men.

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But this is a good concept, so you may enjoy it?

Houkago no Charisma / Afterschool Charisma by Suekane Kumiko

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The premise of this one is interesting.  There’s an elite high school where all of the attendees are clones of famous people…. except one (or is he?)

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As this panel shows, some of the characters include Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Florence Nightingale, and Sigmund Freud….

…and Adolf Hitler, because of course you’d f*cking clone Hitler, that’s a great idea. Also, I am a little disturbed that the mangaka has chosen to show Hitler as weirdly adorable?

As animegrlz96 nicely memed:

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Or manga, as the case may be.

I will say, however, that, even though I only read the first volume of Houkago no Charisma/After School Charisma, I am enjoying what seems to be the underlying angst.  How do you live up to your original? What if, you can’t? Maybe genius is more than a collection of cells and can’t simply be reproduced? And, what about fate? Are you fated to live the kind of life your original did?

There’s another plot that I’m feeling less–apparently there’s a group of baddies interested in assassinating all the clones, possibly simply because they are abominations, or some such. I understand why this overarching plot exists. There needs to be some way to interject drama and danger.

But, I’m honestly more interested in the fact that Marie Curie (version this) really wants to play piano and shows talent for it, while Mozart seems unable to compose….

I happen to be a huge disbeliever in ‘innate talent.’ I also am strongly nurture over nature. So, this whole idea that you can’t just clone genius really appeals to me. I hate the idea that bloodlines matter, so this works for me.

But, enough to keep reading beyond this volume?  Maybe, maybe not.

Part of the problem is Hitler (there is never a good head space for me in which I accept this character easily), the other part is the story is unfolding in an odd way… there’s a whole strange subplot about “The Almighty Dolly,” a cult (that Hitler may have started) that revolves around ‘good luck’ charms made of the first successful mammal clone, Dolly the sheep.

Plus, it’s hard to pick a favorite character when everyone is attached to originals that carry a lot of baggage.  Shiro, our main hero, isn’t all that likable to me, since he seems to spend the majority of his time running to his father (the institute’s founding scientist) to try to “fix” all the problems at school. He doesn’t really ‘protag’ in the traditional sense–at least not so far. It’s interesting to note that the mangaka seems to be a rather prolific doujinshi author and I feel, as someone who also writes a lot of fan fic, that might contribute to the sort of meandering, not-very-tight plot?  I don’t know. Maybe that’s unfair.

On the flipside, her Haikyu!! stuff looks kind of fun. I should see if any of it is available to read. I have never reviewed any doujinshi here before, so maybe I should.

At any rate, you may not have the same problems I did with the plot and, as I said, the concept behind this one could be very fascinating if it’s explored.

Bokurano: Ours by Kitoh Mohiro

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I’m not sure how to describe what I just read–all eleven volumes of Bokurano: Ours.  I’m really not even sure how I felt about it.

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The concept is very reminiscent of Ender’s Game, except somehow… more depressing.  Fifteen middle school students find a cave one day during summer vacation and get talked into signing a contract to play a ‘game,’ which they quickly realize isn’t a game at all and has real-world consequences… real multi-verse consequences, as it turns out.

Every time we ‘win’ a battle, it turns out that an entire alternate earth is destroyed.

And worse? There’s really no point to any of it, since the pilots die the second they win. So, win you lose, and lose you lose.

And, therein lies the problem for me with Bokurono. It’s kind of unrelentingly grim. At first, I was sucked in by the individual stories of the pilots/kids before they died. Some of them are pretty interesting and I even liked a few of the kids… and then they died.

So, after a half-dozen of these, my heart started to disconnect to the story. At that point, I continued reading, hoping that there’d be a twist at the end, where we’d discover some reason for all this, or, maybe even some kind of salvation, a way to bring back characters we’d lost.

Yeah, no.

Yet… I can’t deny that the story was compelling. My library only has the ten of the eleven volumes and I considered writing a review based on those, but found myself wanting to know what happened next, to know how it all wrapped-up. So, obviously, there was something there, something compelling me forward.

But, sitting here, trying to put my finger on it… I can’t articulate it.

Baka-Updates has a little write-up about this particular mangaka and apparently a lot of his work leans towards the “the tragic spectrum and focus primarily on the vulnerability and cruelty of human beings. A recurring element throughout his works are graphic depictions of violence and sex involving children.”

Huh.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement to my ears, though I do think that I was waiting for that focus on vulnerability/cruelty pathos to come to some conclusive thought, something beyond “we go on because we must.”

I don’t know.

Do I recommend it? I’m not sure. I think it depends on your tolerance for depressive stories that don’t really leave you feeling any better about the world. This was not, I should say, as awful as the Stargazing Dog one, in terms of me hating myself after reading it, but I am not left with a particularly good feeling. I would think if you had any tendency towards depressive thoughts, you might want to shy away from this.

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Bakemono to Kedamono / The Monster and the Beast by Renji

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When you say “eat” me, I may need some clarification before we proceed…

And now back to our semi (or is that”seme”!) regular programming: smut.

Believe it or not, I found this particular gem via Otaku USA.  Ah, and a what jewel Bakemono to Kedamono / The Monster and the Beast is!

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The meet-cute is… well… yeah, that’s part of what ends up being so compelling about this one.

So the monster in question, Kavo, leaps out of the forest when he hears what he thinks are sounds of distress. Turns out,  the beast (as in SEXUAL beast) in question, Liam was kinda, sorta being gang raped, but maybe was also making good on a promise?  Apparently, Liam hooked-up–in all senses of that word–with a group of traveling merchants. He’s not much of a fighter, plus he needed a shortcut to the nearest town, and he was perfectly willing to offer sexual favors in exchange for those services.

Kavo is horrified that he maybe made a mistake and killed a bunch of dudes who were… erm, having fun???  But, Liam says, nah, don’t worry about them, they were not being very gentle and, anyway, I was pretty sure they were going to rob me and murder me…

Kavo is like, “Um, Ooooo-kay???!!??”

Because, he really doesn’t understand humans at all. You see, he doesn’t get out much, and they’re talking about this, and it hits Kavo….

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…he’s been having a normal conversation with someone.

Well, not exactly “normal,” but Kavo is so fierce and ugly that no one usually talks to him. He’s tried this whole “good monster” gig before, jumping out of the shadows to help people in need. Rather than stick around to chat with him, they’ve taken one look at him and run screaming in the other direction.

Until Liam.

Naturally, that’s the point where Kavo becomes utterly smitten.

And, it’s adorable because, look at him. He’s sixteen times the size of any human, and he’s vaguely terrifying… and a total innocent.

In fact, Kavo is really NOT AT ALL SURE about this whole kissing thing that Liam wants to do and is a bit squeamish about holding hands and cuddling, but… well, Liam is warm and pleasant and, really, he has never, ever, ever had anyone to talk to before.

Ever.

Personally, I’m pretty sure that Liam is going to break Kavo’s heart, but I’m in it for the ride.

As of the time of this review, there are only three chapters scanlated, but if Otaku USA is reviewing it, you know it’s out there officially–yes, in fact, I see that Amazon.com has TWO volumes available (link takes you to the first volume.)

I may have to break down and ask the library to buy these because I’m super curious about Liam. Is he just SUCH a beast that all he sees of Kavo is that hot, ripped body? Or is there something else that worked for him from the start? I’ll be fascinated to find out what his motives are, honestly.

The art style is… well, it reminds me of Ono Natsume-sensei, who wrote, among other things, a manga I wasn’t hugely fond of, Not Simple, but also House of Five Leaves, which I kind of loved so…. I’m not sure what to say, except, as with those, I found myself initially sort of put-off by the look of the art, but then found myself both used to it and sort of into it by the end.

I really enjoyed this one. Even though it’s not at all smutty, the relationship is fun and compelling. I’m not sure where in time this is taking place, but there’s some interesting world-building happening in the background, too, including a nifty ability that Kavo shows off at the end of the third chapter.

So, yeah, if you’re interested, check it out. Like I said, maybe it will even be appearing at a library near you, some day….

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Ultraman by Shimizu Eiichi / Shimoguchi Tomohiro (Vol. 1-4)

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I fail Otaku 101, because the first time I heard about “Ultraman”–an insanely popular live-action hero in Japan, having so many spin-offs that it made the Guinness Book of World Records–was in Ready, Player One.

To be fair to me, I don’t watch a lot of live-action TV shows or movies that come out of Japan. I think I saw the 1954 ゴジラ, Gojira/Godzilla once, because I thought I should, as it’s a classic.

Even so, I still feel kind of weird that I had no idea who or what Ultraman was. It’s like being a fan of American things and never having heard of “Star Wars.”

My only excuse is that Ultraman does not seem to be a favorite of scanlators. There are ten Ultraman manga listed on Baka-Updates, very few of which have English translation. I found a zip file of Ultraman Tiga (2003) on a scanlation site.

 

My library had the first four volumes of the new manga by  Shimizu and Shimoguichi, and it only came out in 2011 (and is on-going,) so, while I am nearly a decade behind the times, I somehow don’t feel quite as bad.

Enough excuses!

Let me tell you about Ultraman.

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I get the feeling while reading this manga that I’m probably missing capital-H History, but, despite that, the story is easy enough to follow.

As the back cover copy says, “A couple of decades have passed since Ultraman last was seen in Tokyo, and his kaiju nemeses seem to have gone back into outer space.”

Apparently, Ultraman was originally formed by the merging between a human, Hayata Shin, and an alien (wikipeida suggests that the race was simply called ‘Ultras.’) After Ultraman was no longer needed, Shin and the alien parted ways in some fashion, and now Shin has no memory of having been Ultraman, except the notion that he’d previously served in the SSSP, (basically a secret space patrol)…. and maybe there’s a clue in those pesky superpowers that he passed on to his son, Shinjiro.

You know, like, how Shinjiro can leap between buildings….

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…in a single bound.

In a surprise to no reader anywhere, of course, what happens is that the alien bad guys return.

Shin attempts to return to his role as Ultraman, but he’s, like, sixty? I mean, I’m only a decade away from that, myself, but I also am not trying to punch through exoskeletons on the regular. Things don’t go well for Shin, so, Shinjiro must decide if he’s going to take on his father’s job.

What I kind of love about this manga? We still don’t know if Shinjiro is up for it by the end of volume 4.

I mean, we know he has the power of Ultraman. We know he has a good heart and wants to help people… but what we don’t know is if he has the will to kill the bad guys.

And that does seem, at times, to be what’s required.

In fact, in an interesting turn of events, we discover that the SSSP has been developing an Ultraman suit that a regular human might use. They’ve been training this alternate Ultraman (called “Seven” because the suit prototype is 7.1 and there might be a Japanese pun going on here, too,) Moroboshi Dan.

Moroboshi has no problem with the whole murdering thing.

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Is this a feature, Moroboshi, or… a bug?

This seems to be the first conflict that we’re setting up, this rivalry and the question: is it better to have superpowers and lack the will to kill or be positively gleefully murderous, but not have superpowers.

Kind of a classic Superman vs. Batman thing going on.

But, it works for me?

I asked the library to buy the rest of the volumes available in English (which, at the time of this review, would take us to volume 12.) I’m not sure that what is here is enough of a compelling story to zip through it on the pirate sites, but, if the library goes for it, I will certainly read the volumes as they come in.

The art is very pretty.

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And there is some interesting world-building going on… I mean, probably most of it is being lifted from the MASSIVE history of the Ultraman franchise, but doesn’t make it any less fascinating.

For instance, there seems to be an entire alien sub-city in a tesseract portal inside the SSSP, where aliens are living their lives… as well as one human, who apparently opted out of our world in favor of theirs. I’m intrigued by this guy and his Wookie-like companion. (Actually his companion appears to made entirely of rocks, but this human is the only one who understands his gigantic companion, so, you know, it reminded me of the relationship between Han Solo and Chewbacca.)

So, I don’t know.

I think if you’re generally a fan of fighting manga, you might find a lot to enjoy in this one.

And, of course, if you read it, you’ll know everything you need to know about Ultraman and you can pass any otaku quizzes thrown your way!

Gangsta. (chapters) 46-56 by Kohske

I’ve been a terrible Gangsta. fan.

I had no idea that Kohske-sensei was back to publishing regularly.

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The good news is that this means I got to read a whole lot of chapters at once.

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If you haven’t been following Gangsta, this review is going to be fairly meaningless to you, I’m afraid. I’ve been a fan of this manga since I read the first volume back in October of 2014.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

To try to catch a new reader up to this point in the story would be nearly impossible, but, since I tend to use these chapter reviews for my own purposes, I’m going to try to at least hit some of the highlights so that I can make sense of the story so far… for myself, if nothing else.

Also, I’m going to be honest, I need to write out what happened because the first time through all I could think was: “YEAH, YEAH, FINE, WHATEVER, BUT NIC? WHAT IS MY BABY DOING, IS HE OKAY??!”

Answer: still alive.

That was my biggest takeaway from these chapters.

What?

I love this man:

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So, okay, on to the serious review.

When I last reviewed Gangsta, the site I’d been using to read it was missing chapters 46 and 47.  So, I went back and read those this time, as well. Mostly, they continued the fight between Marco (aka ‘Spaz’) and his ex-cronies, the Hunters/Second Destroyers.

Chapter 46, however, gives us a couple of important bits of information. For one, we discover that it was a decision by the Godfathers to allow the Cristianos (later run by Loretta) to take custody of Marco.  There’s also a mysterious bit that Nic seems to “overhear” about a pair of twins that Monroe wanted to adopt from the orphanage.  I presume this is a reference to Erica and Delico, since it is noted that the girl was kidnapped.

Then, of course, there’s this depressing series of panels in which Worick tells Cristino that he’ll regret taking on a Twilight.

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Mmmm, I do not like this implication, Worick. Nope. Not at all.

Since I’m not all that invested in the Marco/Striker fight, the only thing of interest to me in Chapter 47 is that once again, poor Galahad ends up carrying 9/10th of the emotional baggage of this manga.

When the Guild is trying to figure out if they need to offer back-up to Marco during this fight, Galahad ‘reminds’ Hausen that they don’t need to bother. The only reason Marco’s life was spared way back when was for this day. He’s a convicted murderer, a monster, and the only reason he exists is to kill the killers, as it were, to take out the Second Destroyers, should they ever return.

Or to die trying (which if you read my previous review, you know he does.)

We see a close-up of the fact that Galahad has Marco and Connie’s wedding rings.

That poor guy.

First Doug, now this.

Chapter 49 picks up with the only storyline I have truly ever cared for: Nicolas Brown.

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Ugh. This guy. I love him so and he has “doomed” tattooed on his forehead.

Actually, this chapter opens with a signal flare going up. All the Twilights seem to understand the significance of the flares, which is that a “third wave” is coming and that, when that starts, the entire city will be on lock down and a massacre to end all massacres is going to start.

Yay?

Then we cut to a gathering of all the Godfathers. Corisca tells the assembled families that the “main plan” is about to be put into action. Georgiana/Big Mama then presents her “gift,” which is none-other-than Worick in his new guise as “Storage.”

And…. we get another set of panels that I hate:

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Oh, Worick, I sure hope this is a long con, because I do not like the new you otherwise.

When all the of gathered Godfathers (which include several I don’t remember meeting before) argue about whether or not Worick can be trusted since he worked for Monroe for so many years, Mama pulls out the suitcase with Miles’ head in it and tells Corsica that it’s his family that Worick is most suited for.

I think the implication here is that, since, in previous chapters we discovered that Monroe was actually a kind of Twilight-hybrid that had superhuman powers without the addiction to Celebrer, Worick’s assassination/decapitation of Miles Mayer is some kind of signal that not only is Worick OBVIOUSLY not working for Monroe any more, but he’s also… maybe some kind of secret Twilight hater, despite being Nic’s contract holder?

It’s not like we never had clues about the second part (the anime, in particular, hit this idea a lot earlier)… but still. That hurts, Worick. I’m sure hoping this is all a ruse.

I’m not willing to bet on it, though.

Chapter 50 cuts to Emilio (Alex’s brother) who is apparently one of the last men standing in the Monroe organization. As he’s trying to figure out why he can’t get a hold of Miles or Worick, a car drives through an anti-Twilight demonstration and someone flings out… Miles’ decapitated head. (We get a cameo of poor, overworked police inspector Chad IDing the head.)

Meanwhile, back at Theo‘s clinic, creepy little Mikhail is freaking out about the flares. Nic, who had been staring out the window of the clinic, spots at least three Twilights who seem to be casing the joint. Turns out that when Worick went rogue he voided his contract with Nic, making Nic a stray. Now, the Guild, the organization in charge of policing the Twilights, are showing up to take Nic into their custody.

Nic doesn’t go without a fight.

A really f*cking cool fight.

At the same time all that is going down, someone kidnaps Alex.

Chapter 51 opens with Nic reminiscing about Miles and, specifically, how kind Miles was to Worick. He says a very curious thing at the end…

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“So you won’t change your mind about walking the other side no matter what, Master Wallace.” (emphasis mine.)

This is my only glimmer of hope that maybe Nic knows something about Worick’s plans here. I find it interesting, if the translator got this right, that Nic refers to Worick as Master Wallace (or, possibly just ‘master,’) here.  Master Wallace, if that’s what the original says, feels like a call back to our benriya’s earliest days together.

Did I mention that the fight was cool?

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It’s super-cool.

But, Nic loses, actually.  In the next chapter we learn that he and Theo have been taken prisoner, and now are locked up in the Guild’s facilities. They might have been killed, but ‘Sir’/Gina Paulklee put out a stand down order because she is indebted to Dr. Theo, like many Twilights, for his willingness to treat all comers.

And because she’s interested in the “fruits of his experiments.”

Clearly, that’s Nic.

As we are reminded at the end of this chapter, Nic is actually a ‘faker.’ He has the tag designation A/O,  but we learned in previous chapters that the Guild actually ranked him C/O when he first came to them. He overdoses on ‘uppers’ to maintain his higher rank. Yet, as one of Paulklee’s soldiers points out… they had a helluva time subduing Nic, and all three of them are naturally ranked A/O.

So, WTF did you do to him, Doc?

We never find out in this series of chapters, because next we skip back to Worick, who is busy charming his way back into Big Mama’s graces. We get the point of view of one of the Godfathers that I don’t think we’ve seen before, a long-lashes, sunglasses-on-head sporting fellow named Bernardo (who trips my gaydar, but does that even work in 2-D?)

Bernardo is thinking that, despite having delivered Miles’ head, Worick is fishy AF.

In the secret back hallways of  Big Mama’s place, Worick has a confrontation with Striker who survived being bombed by Connie, but who is a complete mess. Another one of the new bosses, Svetlana, tells the surviving Second Destroyers that they aren’t worth fixing up. They’re used goods–“expired inventory,” as Worick later calls them. Worick also sees two cloaked child-sized twins running down the hall and guesses that they’re the next generation, which Corsica confirms.

Another new godfather, a bespectacled salaryman type, Victor, tells Worick that he really can’t trust him. Worick agrees that he’s not very trustworthy and lays out why that doesn’t matter in a long, convoluted speech. Corsica tests Worick by giving him a book that contains all the information Corsica has gathered, Worick does his eidetic memory trick and flips through the book at highspeed, but retains all of it.

We get little clips of information from the things Corisca tests Worick on.

  1. Erica and a number of other Twilights were given a ‘dezanfectan’ drug of some sort. After being subjected to which, she was the only one to “function normally.”
  2. Through continued administration of an improved form of this drug, training began to make a Twilight (Erica? Another?) into a Hunter (Second Destroyer). This was dubbed “Project Instant.”
  3. New research that follows on “Instant” and that includes a Celebrer-resistant candidate allows for the scrapping of the previous Hunters, and a large-scale Twilight extermination unit will purge the entire city of Ergastulum.

 

Fortunately for my heart, as he’s reciting that last line, Worick has flash of a memory of baby Nic… which could be a sign of sentimentality???? I CAN ONLY HOPE!?

By chapter 55, things are quite grim.

Sunglasses-on-head sporting Bernardo drops in on Worick who is consuming all the information he can get his hands on.  Bernardo informs Worick that sh*t is about to hit the fan and their job is going to be “foreplay,” i.e. scattering Paulklee’s guild forces and destroying their hideouts along the way.  Worick is all, nice, nice, but so when does the normal army roll in?

Right now, apparently.

Ironically? In the way of a full circle? The mercenary troop that is using Big Mama’s bordello as their main base is none other than that of the North Gate, which, you may recall is the one that Nic was… born? into.

The ladies working at Big Mama’s are initially freaked out by the arrival of all the mercenaries, but they actually beg Corisca to kill every last one of the Twilights for them. Worick looks on at this weird, quasi-religious scene with… dead eyes.

Not sure I like that much.

Corisca, for reasons of evil glee, decides to give Worick command of the Third Destroyers, the final wave of Twilight killers. So… that should be fun. It’ll be interesting to see just how much of this “other side” Worick is willing to actually walk.

Meanwhile, at the Paulklee compound, Alex is reunited with Nic and company and they have a very odd discussion about where Alex might go next. Nic keeps referring to Worick as ‘master,’ which is a creepy (new?) development. Particularly, since no one corrects him or seems at all startled by it. I really don’t remember him calling Worick ‘master’ before, honestly, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. (Is it sexy? …  how much do I hate myself that that answer is… kinda?)

Loreitta Cristiano shows up in the middle of the night, interrupting Gina Paulklee and Ginger in flagrante delicto to discuss the situation.

Specifically, she and Galahad seem to have to come to try to spring Alex from jail, as it were.  Loreitta would really like Gina not to use the small army of low-level Twilights who are camped outside her compound as canon-fodder when all hell breaks loose, but Gina’s very “Nah, I’m good with sacrificing them. They’re weak and would only slow me down.”

When they seem to come to an impasse regarding all this, Gina says something like, “Look, do what you want.”

Loreitta gets all excited about that because she was planning to do that anyway. (Weird kid, that one.) She wants to provide a “better” shield with the people Gina feels are canon fodder. Turns out, she’s got a private army of B class or better Twilights, whom she’s willing to lend to Gina in exchange for all four of Gina’s captives (which I believe are Nic, Theo, Nina, and Alex.)

This group of chapters ends with Loreitta promising to do far better “a dance” of skill than her father ever did.

Weirdly, I believe her.

So, it seems our only hope in all of this is a tiny, super-odd gangster kid.

I guess I’ll take it, because it’s better than no hope at all?

Maybe?

Who knows. If I have any reservations in my deep and unabiding love for this manga is that the relationship between Worick and Nic has been telegraphed as so f*cked up from the beginning that it’s really, really hard to imagine a happy ending for Gangsta.  I’m honestly not even sure if a happy ending would be RIGHT for these two.

So, as each chapter brings us inexorably closer to the final curtain… I find myself dreading it.

At least we get art like this:

002 (1)

Dogs: Prelude by Miwa Shirow

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I’m running out of titles to read at my library.  In desperation, I picked up both Dogs: Prelude (aka Dogs: Stray Dogs Howling in the Night) and Dogs: Bullets & Carnage (volumes 1 and 2).

What was strange to me is that I ended up sort of enjoying Prelude, but then couldn’t get into the actual series at all.

SPOILERS

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I think what I liked about Prelude was that is was basically just a series of character sketches that was fairly heavy on character.  Viz Media’s site actually has a pretty decent description of the shorts, so I’ll quote it here, in full:

MIHAI, the “Weepy Old Killer”: A former hitman now trying to live a quiet life but haunted by the deaths of his victims and his lover.

BADOU, the “Gun Smoker”: A chain-smoking “information broker” and hired gun whose reckless façade hides a serious intent.

NAOTO, the “Blade Maiden”: A preternaturally skilled swordswoman with a single desire: revenge against the assassin who cut down her family.

HEINE, the “Stray Dog”: A cipher with a metal collar bolted to his neck, a disturbing talent for mayhem, and a childhood sacrificed to the thing known as “Kerberos.”

Driven by their ghosts–both dead and alive–and their desire for truth, all are struggling to solve the secrets of the past while surviving the dangerous present–by gun and sword and courage and luck.

Individually, I liked them all.

In particular, I liked Badou the information broker who ends up accidentally getting a picture of a mob boss in the middle of an SMBD session (where the boss is definitely not the role you’d expect) and ends up having a Very Bad Day. I think that I liked that chapter/story because it was sprinkled with a lot of humor. Plus, who can’t relate to going LITERALLY ballistic when you can’t get your drug of choice.

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Me, just substitute caffeine.

Meanwhile, as for the others, I’m super curious about Heine’s past–he’s clearly been genetically engineered so that he can’t die unless shot in the head.  There’s a hint of someone who maybe once controlled him or experimented on him, that I would potentially have read more about…

However.

I just couldn’t get into it.

Perhaps, had I liked the art style of the manga better, I’d have been able to get into the series. Alas, I ran off to YouTube and found the anime instead–which, if you’re interested, is an excellent adaptation of Prelude. (Also, one of my favorite voice actors plays the part of Mihai, who is also endearing as a character, particularly where he interacts with Badou.)

But… so, I don’t know if I can recommend this one or not?

I feel like this is the second manga that I’ve read lately where I’ve ended up saying, “Mmm, the anime is better??” which is not really why I started this blog.

 

I may have to go back to yaoi, if I keep striking out like this.

Not that that would be a hardship.

Psycho-Pass Inspector Kogami Shinya by Gotou Midori/Sai Natsuo

 

I’m a huge “Pyscho-Pass” fan.

I’ve never talked about it here before because the anime is not based on a manga.  Fortunately for me, I found this prequel manga at Barnes & Noble that follows the life of Inspector Kogami Shinya: Psycho-Pass – Inspector Shinya Kogami / Psycho-Pass – Kashikan Kogami Shinya.

SPOILERS

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The thing that is interesting about this prequel  manga is a spoiler to the first season of the “Psycho-Pass” anime.

We meet Kogami in the first season as an Enforcer. Enforcers are latent criminals, people whose coefficient has risen above an acceptable range. I will explain the world in a moment, but all you have to know is that normally, Enforcers are not former cops. Kogami used to be an Inspector.

Something went terribly wrong.

This is that story.

One of the things first attracted me to the anime was the world-building. “Psycho Pass” exists in a world where Japan is one of the few countries in the world at peace because they instituted a massive surveillance system called Sybil that can predict a person’s likelihood of committing a crime. If a person’s numbers rise above 100–for ANY reason–that person is pursued and apprehended.

Exposure to violence is one of the things that can cause your hue to darken.

As does almost any kind of stress, really.

So, the incentive to do good and reduce stress is REALLY high… and sometimes even the stress of having to be aware of how much stress you’re under can trigger a rise in co-efficiency.

Despite this draconian system, crimes still happen.

Fighting crime is stressful, so the police system needs people capable of doing the dirty work.

Enter the Enforcers, a group of latent criminals ( those people with dark hues/high criminal co-efficiencies) who are tasked with hunting down the bad guys.  Seems like a good deal, except that Enforcers are completely under the command of their Inspectors. Their lives are not their own. They are forced to wear trackers, follow orders or face their own execution, and live inside a compound, which is basically a luxury prison.

Still, it’s still better than being stuck in hue jail most latent criminals go to, which is grim, or being gruesomely blown up by the Dominator guns that Enforcers and Inspectors are allowed to use to stun or kill.

Any story with a created underclass always piques my interest. It’s a similar vibe in my mind to the Tags and their contract holders in Gangsta., IMHO.

As much as I love the anime (and I just discovered that season three is available on Amazon Prime!!), I’m not entirely sure I can recommend that anyone start with the prequel manga.  A really big part of the appeal, as I said at the start, is knowing Kogami’s future.  This is an already beloved character’s descent into obsessive madness, and that kind of emotional arc isn’t nearly so satisfying on its own as it is when you know that character already as someone you sympathize with/like.

So, I guess go watch “Psycho-Pass”??

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