FAKE (Vol. 1) by Matoh Sanami

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I picked up this volume at a garage sale years ago.  It’s been sitting in my pile of manga forever, which is weird because I rarely buy manga that I haven’t already read. Most of the tankōbon that I own are of series that I loved so much I wanted to collect them (in order to re-read) and to support the mangaka (Bleach, Blue Exorcist, Bakuman, Full Metal Alchemist, Gangsta., Samurai Champloo… and I think a few early Attack on Titan. Mason has also picked up random copies of One Piece, Toriko, and Naruto.)  So, that single volume FAKE sitting there among those was an anomaly.  It finally bugged me so much to see it there that I read it.

Perhaps not the best reason to decide to read something, but there you have it.

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I can NOT stand the art.  I feel like FAKE has the kind of art that gives yaoi a bad name. The eyes are beyond ‘big’ into disproportioned and a little terrifying, and everything is so… wispy that a strong wind could blow the characters right off the page.  I suspect this is a big reason why I had this manga volume in my possession for so long before I pushed through to read it.

To be fair to Matō-sensei, she was drawing in the mid-1990s into the early 2000s, and I think her style reflects her era.

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So… the story.  Our hero Randy McLean, is a rookie cop in the 27th district, New York City, who gets partnered with the brash homicide detective Dee Laytner. As they solve crime, sparks fly and they fall in love.

Of the two of the characters above, which one would you expect to be INSTANTLY RECOGNIZABLE by everyone he meets as ‘half-Japanese.’ Like, literally, someone will see this person and say, “You’re half-Japanese, aren’t you? What’s your Japanese name?” Yeah, the dark-haired one? No, that’s not him. It’s blond one, Randy (Japanese name: Ryo).

That’s the guy everyone instantly pegs specifically as half-Japanese.

Okay, one, Americans are racists, for sure, but I feel like in New York City saying, “Are you half-Japanese?” is not how this would go down, especially since the clue proffered is “Whoa, your eyes are so dark!”  I think what you’d get from people would be both much worse and far less specific.

Let’s just say that “What’s your Japanese name?” is not likely the very next thing out of people’s mouths. (And, seriously, EVERYONE does this to Randy.) So, I found this particularly… well, I’d say ‘jarring’ but I’ve seen this sort of odd take on American racism before in manga (see: Under Grand Hotel) and so, while it was noticeable and a little odd, I mostly rolled with it (because, let’s be honest, it’s far more culturally sensitive than what would probably really happen in America.)

Speaking of jarring, though, I don’t think that Dee waits more than five pages before coming on to Ryo.  I have to admit that with the back cover copy–“Meet Ryo and Dee, two New York City cops with an attraction for action, and for each other! When Ryo, a soft spoken officer, joins the NYPD’s 27th precinct, he’s soon partnered up with Dee’s a cocky, confident cop with attitude to spare.”–I was expecting SLIGHTLY more of a slow burn: more action and then attraction.  I totally expected that the title would be part of story, too.  Like, that they’d have to fake being a gay couple to solve a crime and then fall madly in love for real.

That kind of happens in one scene, but it’s more like that Captain America/Black Widow moment from Captain America: Winter Soldier, where  in order to evade capture by the bad guys they kiss, you know, because people only see ‘kissing’ and not the droids they’re looking for.

And, in this case, double-plus “eewww-DON’T LOOK” because: gay!

I will say for a manga written in the late 1990s, Dee’s casual acceptance of his own bisexuality is sort of refreshing.  At least here, unlike, say, in 10 Dance, the bisexuality isn’t used as a weird sort of ‘no homo.’ In fact, at one point, one of Dee’s ex-paramours JJ shows up and causes some friction because, despite all the kissy-kissy and the sort of mostly living together, Ryo has not accepted his feels for Dee.

That’s not to say that bisexuality perfectly handled here, however. There’s a very creepy  ‘I’d totally hit that in ten years’ line from Dee, when talking about Carol, a prepubescent/teenage street girl that Ryo has semi-adopted.

And that’s the other thing. If all you have ever wanted from life is a gay/bi cop rom-com kid fic, Fake is ready-made for you.  Ryo manages to collect a little family around him, a troubled orphan named Bikky and Carol, the pickpocket.  Not being a huge fan of kid fic, I can’t say this aspect entirely works for me, but I can kind of see how this has been very popular/enduring in BL circles. (And FAKE is not explicit, at least not in the first volume.)

If you’re curious and want to read it, MangaHere has it: http://www.mangahere.co/manga/fake/ .  If you’d rather try to consume this in another way, there was a one-hour OVA produced that’s on KissAnime: http://kissanime.ru/Anime/Fake-Sub/OVA?id=68734, which I watched several minutes of as well, and is based on the second volume.

Ao no Exorcist #89

Sorry that it’s taken a while for me to get around to reviewing this. I read it right away when it came out, but there’s not a lot to say about it.  If you missed it, however, you can find it here: http://www.mangareader.net/ao-no-exorcist/89

 

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The birthday/Christmas party is off to a rough start. As Izumo (Fox Girl) points out, they manage to from zero to total destruction in about 30 seconds.  But, they salvage what’s left and have a hotpot, which looks more fun to me, personally.

In the middle of the festivities, pink-haired Shima gets a call from his brother with big news: they’re going to have a baby.  A big celebration is planned back home around the New Year.  Brother wants to know if everyone is coming home for the holiday. Bon makes noises like he might be too busy, but Light tells him to go, after all, “I’ll just be sleeping.”

When everything is said and done and they’re all heading back, Plant Girl (Shiemi) pulls out a present for everyone: four left clovers for luck on their exams.

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At this point, Rin officially loses it and confronts Shiemi about her decision. He demands to know if this is her “final farewell,” is she DYING or WHAT?  She confirms “or what” and tells everyone she’s not going anywhere. She won’t say why, but she’s decided to be support to the troops.

Back at the Okumura brothers’ apartment, Rin is still complaining about Shiemi.  Shura (Boob Lady, dressed, naturally, as a slutty Santa,) busts in (as it were) and asks for a glass of water. Rin is literally like, “Go home, you’re drunk,” but we find out Shura has an upstairs apartment.  She decides to give them a “present” since they’re all grown up.  Of course, they both assume it’s sex, but she tells a story about their mother, instead.

We find out her name was Yuri Egin.  Apparently, Shiro (the boy’s foster dad) had no idea how to “raise a girl” and so he took Shura to Yuri.  Yuri is very domestic and even offers to play house with Shiro, suggesting they could raise Shura together like a family.  Priestly Shiro says they can’t do that can calls Yuri a “weirdo.” Meanwhile, tiny Boob Lady is jealous because Yuri is so pretty and compassionate.

After Boob Lady leaves and the boys are tucked in bed, Yukio tries to talk to Rin about his burning desire to know more about their birth. Rin, meanwhile, is very… Rin.  He’s just happy to know his mother’s name and that she was pretty and kind.  He’s fairly certain anything else would just be depressing. (I think he’s right.)

Yukio is having none of this lassies-faire attitude.  He jumps out of bed and gets all up in Rin’s grill and calls him a coward for not wanting to know.

Chapter end.

Normally, I feel like Kazue Katō hits all the right notes in her work.  But, for me, this chapter’s end was a little off somehow.  I think maybe the issue is in how I’m reading these chapters, once a month, because I suspect when read in tankōbon, all at once, the connection between Yukio’s attempted suicide and this desire to understand his origin story, his birth, will be stronger.  I mean it’s not that many chapters ago Yukio was throwing himself off buildings and trying to shoot himself in the head to see if he could trigger his Satanic powers.

With luck, the opening of the next chapter will give me what I’m looking for: that connective thread between his birth story and Yukio’s source of angst/pain, as in like, what he hopes to gain from knowing it.

Because, frankly, I think that far from being cowardly, Rin’s attitude is healthy.  Thing is Rin has to find ways peace with his Satanic side every SINGLE day.

In case we’ve forgotten, Kazue-sensei gives us this visual reminder when Rin get’s up to pee:

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Dude has a f*cking TAIL.  He’s tried hiding it, but there’s really no point.   Unlike Yukio, Rin has never been able to pass as “normal.”  I think this whole “it is what it is, dude,” attitude comes from that, not from a place of fear.

So I’ll be curious to see where things go from here. I suspect that if knowing is something Yukio really wants, Rin will capitulate because he loves his brother.  I feel like Kazue-sensei has nicely set up that Rin will do it, even THOUGH he knows it will only lead to heartbreak.

So, while I’m not entirely satisfied by the ending of this chapter, I can see what it may be setting up.  Good strong set-up chapters are important.  I also continue to love the way Kazue-sensei writes her light character moments and weaves them in between these emotional key notes.

Women mangaka rule.


P.S. I’m still getting notifications about Shingeki no Kyojin even though I rage quit some time ago. If you’re still reading the new one can be found here: http://www.mangapanda.com/shingeki-no-kyojin/93/

Ten Count (Vols. 1 – 3) by Takarai Rihito

My public library had this yaoi… yeah, seriously.  I noticed it because it was in the NEW! section of the adult graphic novels.  I don’t exactly know how the purchasing decisions get made at the library, but I can’t help but think that maybe, in this case, someone thought they were buying something else.  Because, why, of all the yaoi out there, did the library decide on this one?

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Ten Count is billed as the story of someone with OCD, Shirotani, who falls in love with his therapist, Kurose.  I don’t know a lot about OCD, but a quick scan at the Wikipedia entry on it, tells me what Shirotani really is, is probably more of a germaphobe who has an intense desire to wash his hands. Outside of the hand washing, there doesn’t seem to be any other kind of repetitive thinking or need to obsessively check things.

The therapist meets Shirotani by accident, when he leaps in to save the president of Shirotani’s company from a car accident.  Shirotani has guilt about this because he feels if only he could have touched the car handle maybe he could have warned the president of the impending car crash himself.  So when the president wants Shirotani to hunt down Kurose t in order to thank him properly, Shirotani is all over that.

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Kurose is a weird one, though.

For a long time I wasn’t sure he was really a doctor. There a moment when Shirotani shows up at the clinic when Kurose is working late, and I totally expected the big reveal to be that Kurose was just the secretary or the janitor.

But, apparently, he’s a real therapist, though mostly works with kids.

When Kurose and Shirotani (oh… I see it now, they’re like black & white! D’oh!) meet up, Kurose is like “I see you are OCD. How about, I give you free therapy, and you be my ‘friend.'”

Shirotani is a little taken aback by this, but, dude has the kind of serious medical issue that keeps him from having a lot of friends himself so he agrees.  Cue: romance.

The title of the manga comes from the list that Kurose wants Shirotani to write, a list from 1 to 10 of the things he absolutely hates to do, with one being the least awful and ten being unthinkable.  Shirotani can’t think of the worst thing, but Kurose is very intense yet casual about it, and says, “You can tell me that one later.” This tenth thing becomes a kind of promise between them.

A lot of the early volumes are Shirotani making little break-throughs on the things on his list. Most of them, unsurprisingly, happen because Shirotani really wants to impress Kurose.  Several times, he goes too far, and ends up collapsing, like the time they try to take the train to a restaurant.

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Luckily, you have a strong man to catch you.

At least once, after this point, Kurose leans in like maybe he wants to kiss Shirotani, but then pulls back last minute either citing some bullsh*t reason like, “Oh, I thought there was something on your eyelash” or complete honesty, “Well, since you can’t drink water out of someone else’s cup, no way we can swap spit.” (last part is paraphrasing, of course.)

Kurose has fairly sh*tty boundaries, all while talking the talk of consent.  Shirotani explicitly says, “Don’t, that’s gross,” more than once, and Kurose is like, “Yeah, except, you can keep your pant on so you can’t handle it, right?”  To which Shirotani ALWAYS capitulates and demurs. Since a lot of this stuff happens when he’s aroused and Kurose has already used that classic “If you continue to see me, I can’t promise I can control my desire to touch you” line, this could be very triggering for some people.

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Because… is it “therapy” or is that dubious consent?  You can be the judge.

Of course, being a well known pervert, I liked it.

My only squick in the entire thing is the couple of very odd moments when Kurose says things like, “Oh, with your hair down you look childish.  You should wear it that way all the time.” Shirotani is even like, “Um, childish? At our age, shouldn’t you say ‘younger’?”

THIS DOCTOR WORKS WITH CHILDREN. CHILDREN YOUNG ENOUGH TO GET CANDY TREATS AFTER APPOINTMENTS.  RED FLAG! RED FLAG! CRIMSON! LAVA-COLORED!!! DANGER! DANGER! BACK AWAY SLOWLY!!!

If only Takarai-sensei could have just skipped those couple of moments, I would have been pretty enamored of this series.  You know me, gentle reader, I love me a slow burn with a kinky twist.  Ten Count is totally gearing up to be that.  In fact, when the third volume ends, Kurose is introducing Shirotani to the idea of a butt plug….

AND Takarai-sensei has these asides at the volume endings, which make it sound like she’s studying up on BDSM relationships, which… well, that would be right up my alley.

BUT… I don’t know. Baka-Updates tells me that Ten Count is up to five published volumes.  I suspect that my interest in this is only casual enough that I will read them if the library continues to buy them, but I’m not sure I want to seek out the scanlations.

Anyone else reading this one?  Got any idea why my library thought it was popular or “important” enough to purchase?

This Seems to be New: Gangsta. 42

Oh, gods, fingers crossed, this chapter actually seems to be new!  MangaTown has Chapter 42 up. Go read it!

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This chapter open with… someone…. Emilio(?) hanging out on a stoop, watching the world go by as the fight with Galahad, a bunch of people from the Guild (Lancelot in the goggles,  Arthur, and, the randomly named, Hausen,) and the Hunter/Executioner Colt (? Maybe?) rages nearby.

When Emilio sees Galahad overhead, he freaks out.  He seems upset that the fight is taking place in Paulkee territory (why that matters, I’m not sure.) Apparently not having much faith in his colleagues’ ability to win this fight, perhaps, he starts worrying about what will happen if they’re forced out of the city.  That, he tells us, would be “bad” for him. “That,” he said, “I absolutely can not have.”

Emilio takes off running and the scene shifts to the the action inside.

Wherein, I find myself weirdly attracted to this guy:

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Hausen, I mean. Arthur is interesting, too, but there’s something about Hausen…

So, he’s probably doomed. We apparently don’t know his rank (though I thought I had vague memories of him being ‘S’ class,) but he’s pretty bada$$. At one point he tosses a tiny vial of gasoline on Colt and then flicks his lit cigarette at him.

The fight ends when Emilio throws a bomb into the fray.  In the smoke and confusion, Colt hauls Emilio away and they make their escape through a hole in the roof.

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Hausen tells Lancelot and Arthur not to give chase. He’s going to make a report to the Guild Headquarters. Hausen seems to be under the impression that the Hunters only got into the city because the Guild’s security was lax, and so it’s their responsibility to take care of them.

Galahad seems… uncertain (and I really like this shot of him):

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Hausen notices a pair of rings on the floor and thinks they’re Galahad’s.  Galahad instantly recognizes them as Marco and Connie’s, however, and is very upset because he knows the only way they’d come of Connie’s neck is if she’s dead.

We flash to Connie and Beretta.  Connie is in a bad way and it looks like Marco might be dead…? Especially since the page crawl reads: “Losing the meaning of life.”

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Yeah… so that’s not good.

I think I would be more upset by this potential death if the Gangsta. spin-off Gangtsa. : Cursed didn’t make me loath Marco. I mean, maybe the story got better, but I quit after about the second chapter when Marco was wandering around slaughtering entire families of Twilights. It was kind of a gore fest, so I see this moment as a bit of divine retribution. You died as you lived, Marco. I’m sorry for Connie’s loss, but… you? Everyone in this manga, even Nic, has a dark past, but yours was pretty awful.

But this does make me wonder if anyone we like is going to survive this mayhem.  I am still holding out hope that newly minted “Storage” (aka Worick) has something up his sleeve beyond betrayal. The hard part of holding out that particular hope is that, well… Worick has a decent reason to betray Nic. We know Nic killed his father and, pretty much the entire estate, and that Worick has never entirely made peace with that–even though he must acknowledge that Nic was attempting to ‘save’ him from continued abuse.  Even so, we know that moment still haunts Worick and there have been moments, recently, when Worick has shown hostility towards Nic’s darker tendencies (even as he drags him back to Theo’s to be patched up). So, I feel like there’s a real tension there. I hope, however, Worick will only use his complicated past with Nic to fool other people into believing his betrayal is real… when it isn’t.

Fingers crossed.

Also, fingers crossed that Kosuke is back? Does anyone know if this is a thing now?

Gangsta. 41 by Kosuke

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

It’s back, you guys! It’s back! I think some of you über fans out there have already seen these panels in ‘the raw,’ as we say, but I’m extremely excited to see them in translation over at MangaTown because I hope to all that is holy that this is signaling the long-awaited return of Kosuke.

Pleasegodpleasegodpleasegodpleasegod…..

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Gangsta. 41 picks up where 40 left off, mid-flashback, mid-fight between Striker and Marco. (If you’d like a quick refresher of the events in 40, you can read my review from Jan. 2, 2016. Yes, it’s really been THAT long.)

The fight is canon-typically brutal. The only thing we learn is that apparently Striker and Marco once discussed what they would do if they eliminated all the Tags.  Marco thought they should all die, and offered to be the one to take Striker out, in that eventuality.  Striker, being a sociopath, thought that seemed like a pretty nice promise.

So, he’s disappointed in how weak Marco is now, how he’s fallen for a normal (Connie, in case you’ve forgotten), and, worse yet, has allied himself with Monroe, who is the main source of Celebrer  for the Twilight/Tag community.

I still think Spas is the most ridiculous moniker in the history of time, and hope there is a future scene where we get to hear the line: “The name is Marco!”

Fingers crossed.

Then, we flash to Beretta (?) who has one-armed Connie hostage. Beretta apparently has rape on her mind. Connie, despite being only human, is having none of that bullish*t. However, despite her plucky nature, I have absolutely ZERO hope for Connie’s survival, given that when she stumbles down the stairs in her desperate attempt to escape, what she knocks off the table (and, of which we get not ONE, but TWO close-ups of) is this:

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Semtex… welp, that there’s a seriously POWERFUL explosive… oh, and look, all the wire you’d need…. things gonna go boooooom

Speaking of suicidal, back at Dr. Theo‘s, Nic* wakes up and rips the curtain off its hinges trying to get to his mother’s katana…

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OMG, I’ve missed that face!

Once Nina shows him the blade is there and gives it to him, Nic seems to be mollified. He at least collapses into her tiny arms.

His collapse is followed by this really poignant scene with Alex* that I’m really not sure what to make of:

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The close-up on his A-1 status tag really freaks me out.  Is it because we recently learned that Nic hypes himself past this true ability level?? Regardless, it seems ominous in a way that makes my stomach clench.

Then we get a really short (probably deeply important scene) between creepy-ass Ivan and another boss that we haven’t really seen all that much of, Tag-hating Uranos Corisca (who happens to be the owner of Big Mama‘s brothel, The Bastard [“Pussy” in the anime].)  Daniel Monroe seems to be in this scene, too, and he’s giving advice to Corisca about someone who “will appear” who will be a big help, but “tends to bite.”

Cue: Worick* arriving at The Bastard.

A lot of naked boobs say hello, excitedly, to Worick.  Only one of the girls seems to be aware that there is something really, seriously off about Worick’s behavior.  Big Mama tells Worick that she can’t talk business with him–they’re not supposed to be friends, after all, but she assures him that she’ll continue to take care of Veronica.

Worryingly, Worick says, “I don’t need her any more.” The power is shifted, the Benriya are dissolved–and, oh, and by the way, I’m now known as “Storage.”  He wants Big Mama to tell Corisca that he’s brought the head of Miles, the Monroe lieutenant, as a “present” (people keep offering body parts as “presents.” I do not think this word means what you think it means.)

And that’s where the chapter ends.

The thing I’m most fascinated by is Worick’s codename. “Storage.” I mean, obviously, this is a reference to his hyperthymesia (sometimes called ‘photographic memory.’) I’m also a little concerned because I half-remember Monroe (or maybe Ivan) suddenly having a kind of mind-control power over Delico (who he convinced to shoot Yang in the back.) I don’t know how this could have happened, but I worry that Worick is under the same spell.  (A friend of mine and I are hoping this is actually a double-cross on Worick’s part and he’s playing along and not REALLY under the influence.) I guess I’m just especially worried since Monroe seemed to know that Worick was coming….

So, now, I guess we really have to wait and see if we’re getting more Gangsta soon-ish, or if this was just a giant tease, because maybe the tankobon finally came out? (I did notice page numbers on the scanlation, so maybe this is just someone being completist and getting out the chapters we officially have translated now.)

I’m going to cross my fingers that Kosuke is making a return. I really, really love Gangsta. I was an early fan, and I remain very devoted to this world (minus the gory spin-off with Marco)—okay, actually, no, I could kind of give no craps about anyone else, JUST GIVE ME ALL THE NICOLAS BROWN!


* if you don’t remember Benirya, Nicholas Brown, Worick Arcangelo, and Alex Bendetto… I don’t know what to say.  It’s been a long time, but they are the core of this story. Literally, everyone and everything else, I will forgive. I have a terrible memory myself, and I’ve notice that names don’t really stick for me until I start writing fan fic in that universe.

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon by COOLKyoushinja

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A friend of mine started watching this anime, so I thought I’d check out the manga.  She described it this way, “O.M.G. It is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a semi-lesbian harem anime about a dragon who falls in love with an office worker and decides to become her maid.”

Yep, that’s pretty much it.

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I’m discovering something about myself.  As you know, gentle readers, I often have trouble with comedy manga.  I bounced out of two really popular manga because of humor: Assassination Classroom and One-Punch Man.

But, here’s the thing, I decided to try watching One-Punch Man to see if I had more tolerance for humor/parody when it’s animated (as opposed to static).  Turns out?  I do.  In fact, I’m on episode 10 out of 12 already and quite enjoying it–and I could barely get through volume one of the manga!

I think that’s going to be the same for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.

I read the first five chapters of the manga and… well, let’s just say I’m not surprised to discover that COOLKyoushinja-sensei has also written a number of ecchi titles, since Tooru (our dragon maid) ends up stripped naked in public randomly, and there’s at least one cup size joke (D for Dragon!)

There are a LOT of boob wiggles both in the anime and the manga.

Apparently, COOLKyoushinja-sensei is most famous for something called I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying/Danna ga Nani o Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken and Komori-san Can’t Decline / Komori-san wa Kotowarenai (both of which also have anime.) So, if you decide you really, really like his work, there’s a lot more to choose from.

Even though I’m poo-pooing all the boob wiggle, I’m absolutely willing to try watching this.  I mean, why not? After I finish the next couple episodes of One-Punch Man, I’ve got nothing in my queue, especially since I’m not willing to try season 2 of Attack on Titan, given how much I ended up LOATHING the manga.

Humor works much better for me when it’s moving by me quickly, I think.  I’m too judge-y when I have time to ponder and consider, alas.

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