Baccano!: 2001 The Children of Bottle

Sep. 22nd, 2017 07:59 am
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Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Ryohgo Narita and Katsumi Enami. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel.

This must have been quite startling to readers at the time, and it’s still pretty startling. The first four books in this series all took place around the same two year period, and there was no reason to expect anything else. Thus suddenly jumping forward to 2001 is jarring, even if you do know intellectually that a large number of the cast are Immortals. Furthermore, Isaac and Miria, bar a cameo at the start (which ended up being used in the anime) and the end, are absent from this book. But that’s OK, because we are introduced in this book to Elmer C. Albatross, a man with so much sheer force of personality that he tends to overwhelm the narrative when he’s in it. Having him interact with Isaac and Miria would be like eating something too sweet. Best to have moderation. That said, this is still an excellent volume of Baccano!.

The girl on the cover is Fil, and she is essentially the heart of this book. (To avoid too many spoilers, I will try not to refer to her as Fil and the Filtones.) The basic premise has Maiza and Czeslaw, who we’re familiar with from previous books, searching the world for the remaining immortals from the 1711 ship journey where they gained said immortality. The goal is to tell said immortals they can stop hiding, as Szilard is now dead. They pick up two more for this journey: Sylvie, a gorgeous women who was hell-bent on nothing but revenge on Szilard and has to figure out what to do now that someone else got there first; and Nile, a large North African man who has spent his immortality fighting in wars and wears a mask because his face no longer shows emotions when doing things like killing people. They are now all arriving at a tiny village in the middle of nowhere in Europe, where Maiza has been told he may find Elmer. He does find Elmer, but also finds what Elmer’s been doing for the last few years: trying to make everyone smile.

Elmer is one of the most awaited introductions for longtime Baccano! fans, and he doesn’t disappoint. As I said earlier, on the surface he might seem a bit like Isaac and Miria, but that’s just the surface. Elmer is a bit broken, and his quest for smiles at any cost, no matter how inappropriate the time, no matter if he’s talking about a killer, no matter if it involves selling everyone’s soul – it’s just disturbing when you dig down into it. He’s doing the right thing here, but it’s not really for the right reason, and yet in the end you can’t help but love Elmer, even as you find him vaguely disquieting – I suspect if I met him in real life he’d be unbearable. (I suspect that about a lot of Baccano! characters.) The rest of the cast also get stuff to do – Czes shows that years and years of physical, mental and emotional abuse can still affect you even almost a hundred years later, Sylvie gets to be sympathetic and sweet (mostly; she’s noticeably different when only around the other immortals), and Nile at first seems to be comic relief till an absolutely stunning speech that rips into a character’s desire to end their life with beautiful precision.

Speaking of Nile, let’s talk translation. Baccano! has a large fan community who translated many of the books before they were officially licensed. That hasn’t been an issue before this, as the first four books had fan translations ranging from adequate to awful. 2001, though, had a really good translation, so I was concerned fans would be wedded to that and object to anything different. That said, having finished the book, I think we’re good. The main concern is Nile’s way of speaking. He has a habit of prefacing his sentences with “Let me just say this:” and variations, which emphasizes his declamatory language and also shows a bit that he’s constantly asking permission to speak, something Maiza calls him out on. The fan translation had “I say this:” which is more literal but not as smooth. I think Taylor Engel does a very good job of making each character’s speech pattern distinct, which is important, as not everyone’s dialogue is as eccentric as Nile’s.

I haven’t talked much about the actual plot of the book, but that’s because it’s one of those books where I don’t want to give away the surprises too much. Suffice it to say I found it very enjoyable, and think you will as well. And if you’re annoyed that we don’t get more of Firo, or Isaac and Miria, or Jacuzzi and Nice, well, we’re back to the 1930s with the next five books.

Oh yes, and ‘Children of Bodom’ is the title reference, a Finnish metal band.

まるです。

Sep. 21st, 2017 11:00 pm
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Posted by mugumogu

 

箱に入りたいまる。でも本当は、奥ではなが入っている箱が
一番のお気に入り。
Maru wants to get into the box.
However, he actually wants to enter the box which she is in.

はな:「なんかずっとこっち見てるんだけど…。」
Hana:[He looks at me. Why?]


まる:「ひとの箱を勝手に使っているのは誰ですか?」
Maru:[Hey, this it my box.]


はな:「キャー! なんか追いかけてくる―!」
まる:「待てー!」
Hana:[Wow, he runs after me. Why??]
Maru:[Wait!]


はな:「こんなとこまで来ちゃった。」
まる:「ここまで来ればもう大丈夫。」
Hana:[I escaped at last to here…Why???]


まる:「まったくもう、油断も隙もありませんよ。」
Maru:[Because this is my box!]


まる:「危うく箱の形が変わってしまうところだった。」
Maru:[Look! I arranged this box for myself. So this is mine.]

ボロボロなのはお気に入りの証。

Manga the Week of 9/27/17

Sep. 21st, 2017 09:46 pm
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Posted by Sean Gaffney

SEAN: Another final week of the month with far more than we’d come to expect for a final week of the month. Mainly thanks to our friends at Kodansha (yeah, sorry Ash, it’s all digital again).

ASH: They may be digital, but at least there’s some really great manga being released!

ANNA: It is true, but it also makes me a little wary, having seen plenty of digital manga efforts go under in the past.

SEAN: Starting with their weekly Del Rey rescue, Princess Resurrection 18.

The first digital debut this week is All-Out!, which is a rugby manga. I’ll repeat that: a rugby manga has been licensed for North America. It runs in Kodansha’s experimental seinen magazine Morning Two, and is, I’ll repeat once more, a RUGBY MANGA. Must buy.

MICHELLE: Ooooooh. I have really appreciated the seinen difference in Giant Killing, so I’m obviously all over this one.

ASH: Yup. This one has caught my eye, too.

ANNA: This sounds interesting.

SEAN: Altair: A Record of Battles has a 4th volume digitally.

And there’s a 2nd Black Panther and Sweet 16, for shoujo fans. Also digital.

DAYS 5 reminds you that it’s not just rugby manga out there this week.

MICHELLE: Woot.

SEAN: DEATHTOPIA has a 4th volume as well.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life has a 2nd volume of, my guess is, yokai living in apartments. Elegantly. (Though not as elegantly as Michiru Kaioh.)

MICHELLE: No one could ever be as elegant.

MELINDA: I am intrigued by the title alone.

SEAN: Print at last, and the debut of Frau Faust, a josei (ish) title that runs in Itan, from the creator of The Ancient Magus’ Bride. It’s a genderbent take on the classic tale, and I greatly enjoyed the first volume.

MICHELLE: I’m looking forward to this one!

ASH: I’m very excited for this release, too! I’m really enjoying The Ancient Magus’ Bride and, well, Faust is another tale I’m quite familiar with.

MELINDA: This sounds great!

ANNA: I didn’t totally connect with The Ancient Magus’ Bride but I am intrigued.

SEAN: Genshiken 2nd Season has its 11th volume – we’re almost near the end, but not quite there yet. Expect more Madarame stuff.

ASH: I happen to like Madarame, but I wasn’t expecting the series to end up focusing on him as much as it does.

SEAN: Giant Killing says that it too is a digital sports manga with its 6th volume.

MICHELLE: And this!

SEAN: In/Spectre comes to an end with its 6th volume. I will miss its heroine especially. and hope things end well.

Princess Jellyfish has a 6th omnibus, and it too is apparently nearing its climax. Will the apartments be saved?

MICHELLE: I love this series so much. I love the realism as they come to appreciate the enormity of what they’re attempting, but gosh darnit, I want them to succeed!

ASH: I’m so happy this series is being released! The anime adaptation was delightful, but I’m glad to finally be able to get the entire story.

ANNA: Me too! I need to go on a Jellyfish binge.

SEAN: Real Girl has a 3rd volume, and I keep meaning to catch up with it but haven’t yet.

Shojo Fight is the other big digital debut that I can’t quite believe is out over here. Women’s volleyball! It runs in Evening magazine, and is filled with kickass women. Buy this AND the rugby manga. Splurge.

MICHELLE: I literally have geekbumps right now.

ANNA: Sounds good! Crimson Hero was not enough volleyball manga!

MICHELLE: And those final six volumes will probably never be released here. :(

SEAN: Lastly for Kodansha, we have a 3rd Tsuredure Children, whose anime just wrapped up.

SEAN: One Peace has an 11th volume of Maria Holic, which I still dislike but its fans are happy.

Seven Seas has several titles, starting with a 5th 12 Beast.

Otome Mania!! has its 2nd and final volume, as we see if this game can get released.

Re: Monster has a 3rd volume of male power fantasy.

And Species Domain has a 3rd volume of quirky fantasy slice-of-life school manga.

Lastly, just when you thought the fanservice was gone, it’s back bigger than ever: The Testament of Sister New Devil STORM! debuts.

ASH: Hmmm, usually there’s at least one Seven Seas release I’m reading, but haven’t been following any of these.

SEAN: Udon has a debut as well with Infini-T Force, a Shogakukan title from Hero’s magazine (yes, that’s how they spell it) that’s essentially a giant superhero crossover.

Vertical has a 3rd Flying Witch, which continued to be cute and weird, in that order.

MICHELLE: It’s a low-key charmer.

SEAN: And we have some Yen runoff, starting with their digital titles, new 12th volumes for Aphorism, Crimson Prince and Sekirei.

In print, we have the 7th How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend.

And the 8th Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, which will no doubt entertain and confuse me, not in that order.

ASH: I need to catch up on this series, but I’ve been liking it!

SEAN: It’s a digital world, folks. Sorry again, Ash. What are you getting this week?

ASH: It’s okay, at least there’s some great print releases, too!

Beasts of Abigaile, Vol. 1

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:25 pm
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Posted by Anna N

Beasts of Abigaile Volume 1

I make no secret of the fact that I’m generally a shoujo enthusiast, and I also enjoy reverse harem manga. Though the plots may be thin, and the characters may never vary from their highly specific and formalized roles, I still find manga of the genre trashy fun to read, even if there might not be much depth to the stories. As I started reading Beasts of Abigaile I was struck with a strong sense of deja vu, because something about the aesthetics reminded me of some of the older series that were published by Go! Comi. Sure enough this is an Akita Shoten title, so maybe that’s why I felt a bit of pleasant nostalgia as I was reading Beasts of Abigaile.

The set up for the story in this volume is so fast-paced, I got the sense that the author wanted to rush through any logical explanations and world building, and just get to the gorgeous wolf boys. Nina is the predictably outspoken but likeable heroine of the story, and she finds herself on the mysterious country of Ruberia, which is famous for its beautiful roses. There is also a mysterious prison school where it turns out adolescent werewolves live! Nina is bitten and starts exhibiting some werewolf traits, and she’s promptly sent to Abigaile to live among her own kind, except she has to keep her human origins secret.

Nina has a headstrong tendency to stick up for the little guy with little regard for her own self-preservation and this causes her to have multiple run-ins with fellow students and school administrators. She falls in with a pack (literally, ha ha) of art kid werewolves instead of joining in with the popular kids or school rebels. As far as handsome werewolf boys, there’s Roy, the surly leader whose bite originally turned Nina wolfish, Giles the nice guy who appears to be under the thrall of the mean female student council president, and the list goes on and on. I suspect that Roy, Giles, and Nina will be the main triangle explored in the rest of the manga.

With lackluster art, this series would be much less enjoyable, but Aoki’s illustrations are expressive, and there’s a dark gothic vibe about the art that also make the title stand out a bit from the other shoujo series coming out currently. Nina’s continued refusal to allow herself to be intimidated by hulking wolf boys is entertaining. If you enjoy paranormal romance shoujo that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, Beasts of Abigaile seems like a promising series.

Nichijou, Vol. 10

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:53 am
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Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Keiichi Arawi. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

I haven’t reviewed Nichijou in full since its first volume, it not being the sort of series that lends itself to deep discussion. This is the final volume, though, and I think that it’s worth looking at to see how far the series has come and how abstract it is now. The creator almost seems to be hiding it with the final cover, which features the cast in class paying attention stoically, but it’s meant to contrast with the first volume, which had a random deer on Yukko’s desk. The cast does still feature, and there is, believe it or not, character development of a sort, particularly in the ‘flashforward’ chapters, but for the most part Arawi has honed his surrealist art skills here, and knows what his audience wants: randomness and reaction shots from Mio. We get those in abundance in this volume.

Let’s look at that character development. Some of it can be seen at the start, where Mai and Yukko team up to prank Mio over and over again in a game of musical chairs. But then this is followed by a chapter, seemingly set moments later, which features Yukko rapping for pages on end and embarrassing her friends. Nichijou is not a title you want to read if you get frustrated by randomness – it never stays in one place too lo0ng, it’s quite happy to toss aside reality when it wants to, and in the ‘short panel collection’, sometimes the stories are only a panel or two long. The flashforwards, however, are a bit more developed. We saw one of them in the prior volume, showing a Professor who’s actually attending school, and Yukko apparently returning from America. Here we see more, as we have Mio as an actual manga artist, with an overworked assistant, begging for last-minute help from Mai, who now teaches preschool. This is mostly fascinating because of Mai, who has always been the quiet stoic “troll”. She’s still quiet here, but seeing her smiling and showing genuine emotions is both startling and heartwarming.

In the ads afterwords, Vertical mentions Helvetica Standard, the two-volume series coming out in the fall that’s connected to Nichijou (it’s the manga Yuna is reading all the time), but it’s apparently more of an artbook with occasional comics and diaries. The “successor” to Nichijou is Arawi’s current work City, which Vertical has also licensed. What these licenses tell me, besides the fact that Nichijou must have sold better than I expected, is that it’s Arawi’s art that seems to be the big pull. There are some startling frames in this volume, particularly in the aforementioned “Mio reaction shots”, where he really goes the extra mile in making things weird yet fascinating. In the end, Nichijou oddly reminds me of Short Cuts, the old manga series by Usamaru that Viz released back in the day. The characters are fascinating, and we like them, but in the end you tend to read Nichijou for the art and the really, really weird humor. It’s been an experience.

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Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Your Social Parabola" - originally published 9/20/2017

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まるです。

Sep. 20th, 2017 11:00 pm
[syndicated profile] maru_feed

Posted by mugumogu

 

さっきまでテーブルの上にいたはずなのに、猫用の歯ブラシを
手に戻ってくるとまるが姿を消している。
Maru was on the table certainly.
But when I brought a toothbrush for cats, he hid somewhere already.

まる:「こんな完璧に隠れれば見つかるまい。」
Maru:[I hide perfectly.]

はな:「ねーそこで何してんのー?」
Hana:[Well, what are you doing there?]

まる:「しっ、あっちへ行きなさい!」
Maru:[Shh! Go away!]

あのー、まるさんはどこへ行ったんでしょう?
Hey, do you know where is Maru?

まる:「さあ、どこでしょうね?」
Maru:[I don’t know…]


そろそろ観念して歯磨きしちゃいましょう!
The hide-and-seek is over.
Let’s brush your teeth!

Annalee Newitz Recommends The Mount

Sep. 20th, 2017 07:58 pm
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Posted by Gavin

The Mount cover - click to view full sizeToday on Bookriot’s Recommended podcast, Annalee Newitz (whose novel Autonomous drops this week!) recommends Carol Emshwiller’s Philip K. Dick Award winning novel The Mount.

We love this novel here at Small Beer. Every now and then I go back to it and realize again how weird and great it is. Our edition is in shortish supply at the moment so it’s back to the printer it’ll have to go — in the meantime, you can pick up the Penguin mass market edition or the ebook. (Will there ever be a movie edition? No recent news, but never say never!)

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Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

Over the last year, a once close friend of mine and I have been experiencing the African Violet of broken friendship. We had been through a very intense multi-year creative work project together, and after the project finished and she moved onto another job, we kind of drifted apart. For my part, I felt that sometimes she could say very unkind or cruel things. I noticed about two years ago that I was working very hard to win her approval, and felt very anxious if I didn’t get it and recognized that this friendship had become a bit unhealthy. I still valued many things about my friend, and thought that by setting some boundaries I could change the dynamic. After any incident where she said something unkind (for example, that half of the work on my part of the project was not my own work, which really hurt my feelings) or been judgmental (for example, negatively commenting on the dynamics of my relationship with my partner or how much I was eating and snacking during the intense project), I would take some space. Over the last couple of years my confidence has grown, not just in this area but in many other areas of my life, and I have been able to deal with some anxiety issues I had and learn how to set boundaries.

She started mainly hanging out with some different friends, and although we were still in touch, our conversation was becoming more and more surface-level. Anytime I suggested meeting up she would be really vague or say no. I was quite hurt at the time that she didn’t seem to want to hang out with me anymore, but I knew that we had just been through a really intense period in our lives and maybe she needed her space. There was always room for our friendship to get renewed further down the line. Before yesterday, we hadn’t been in contact for about four months. There wasn’t anything particularly negative about our last contact, it just tailed off.

I recently got a new job that I am very excited about and yesterday, in a whatsapp group she is also part of, someone congratulated me on my new job. About an hour later I got an feelingsemail from my friend. It’s not a nice email. It’s basically a bitter rant about how I have changed as a person. She said she didn’t recognize me anymore and how she had become fed up of what she perceives as my faults, and me being distant, over the last two years. She said that she didn’t deserve this kind of behavior from me and that she had never thought I would cut her off like this, although she had seen me do it to others (I don’t know where this comes from, I haven’t cut any one off apart from one girl back in high school which was 15 years ago!). In her mind, I am the bad guy, and it doesn’t sound like she is open to listening to anything else. She did say congratulations about the new job at the end.

I want to reply in a kind and compassionate way, because there were many things I valued about our friendship. We were so close, and I miss her. However, I don’t know what to say or how to respond to this email. I understand she sent it in a fit of overwhelming feelings, and underneath the accusations and manipulative statements, really she’s just sad about the loss of our friendship. I am open to being friends again, and rebuilding our relationship but it can’t be like this. I want to acknowledge the email, but I don’t want to get caught up in back and forth about who did what, or act in a way that says I think this email is acceptable, or apologize for things I haven’t done. How should I respond to this feelingsbomb? Should I even respond? How can people respond kindly and compassionately to feelingsmail in general?

Best wishes,
I’ve got feelingsmail

Dear Feelingsmail Receiver,

Your friend is projecting all over the place and all over you, a behavior where you take the stuff you are doing (especially stuff that you feel guilty about or ashamed of or upset about) and assign that behavior and the blame for it to someone else. Like the thing where you kept trying to make plans and she rebuffed you is now all about how you’ve abandoned her. Interesting.

Also Interesting: The less time you spend with her, the happier and more confident you’ve become over time.

Interesting Indeed: A really happy moment for you (congratulations on your new job!) has become the catalyst for her to criticize and accuse you of being a bad person and a bad friend. Not cool.

I don’t know how you repair that. It sounds like the way you’ve been drifting away from each other has been organic, with you taking care of yourself by taking space when you need it, and her choosing the company of other friends over you when she needs that.

Now she wants you to apologize and accept all the blame for the fact that your friendship isn’t as close as it was, and she also wants you to chase her. Do you want to do any of those things?

In your shoes I might just write back “Wow, okay??? Thanks for the good wishes at least. As for the rest, I miss spending time with you, too,” and just ignore the steaming pile of Feelings and Accusations. And then I’d let the ball be in her court to follow up, either to apologize or to suggest a time to get together.

I predict she will find this answer from you somewhat maddening and not see it as the face-saving mercy that it actually is, but that’s not your fault or your work to do to deal with. You don’t owe her a point-by-point response to her projection or the emotional catharsis she sought at your expense. (Note: You don’t actually owe friendship or any response at all to someone who sends you such a mean, rude message!) If she comes back with an apology or invitation to grab lunch or coffee, that will give you some useful information and if she comes back with renewed vitriol about what a terrible friend and person you are that will also give you some useful information.

If you do eventually sit down and address the issues in the friendship someday, you could say “Well, I’d been feeling like you didn’t want to hang out with me, so I stopped pushing and gave you space. I guess we’ve been mirroring each other.” It’s true and is neither an accusation nor an apology.

You can also ask her “Well, in a perfect world, where we have exactly the kind of friendship you want, how would you like this to work out?” and see what she says. In a difficult conversation where there’s a risk of getting stuck in a back-and-forth “It’s your fault”/”No it isn’t” about the past, this question can prompt people to stop and articulate a positive vision for the future. What’s the best case scenario where you get to recover a friendship that works for both of you? This “workable” version may be a very tiny, small-doses thing or no friendship at all, but I think this is your best chance for finding out if anything here can be saved.


Workshop waitlist

Sep. 20th, 2017 01:10 pm
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Posted by Nicola Griffith

The one-day workshop I’m teaching for Clarion West on Sunday, 8 October, is full, but it’s still possible to add a couple of names to the waiting list. Given that there’s almost always a cancellation or two due to the vagaries of life, the first couple of people on that list stand a very good chance of getting in. Apply here for the waiting list.*

The workshop is called What Readers Like—And Why:

Why do readers respond more strongly to some fiction than others? How does a writer immerse a reader into the protagonist’s world and persuade them to feel as the protagonist feels, see what she sees? Using examples, you’ll discuss the neuroscience behind what makes a particular word, sentence, or paragraph more likely to evoke empathy in a reader. Then with writing exercises and discussion you’ll learn how to analyze fiction—yours and others’—to discover how to make it more powerful. Prepare for this workshop with assigned reading and viewing, and come ready to learn how to make your readers’ hearts beat faster.

Only a bit of the workshop will be neuroscience; there’ll be a lot of stuff about genre and reader expectations, about awe and joy and reversals, about the sense of recognition. Also many other things I haven’t figured out yet. Most of it will be learning what makes great fiction gripping, and how to check your own work to make sure you’re enticing your reader rather than repulsing them. So it’s not just about what makes great story but also what makes a reader think, Ugh! and throw the book at the wall. We’re all different, though, so I’m expecting some of the discussion to be, y’know, lively…

One more thing. Until Clarion West commits to a timetable for accessible summer workshops, this will be the last thing I teach for them. This may or may not have any bearing on whether or not you apply.


* There’s still space in two other workshops, taught by J.M. Sidorova and Kij Johnson.


Accel World: The Carbide Wolf

Sep. 20th, 2017 07:49 am
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Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.

After last volume’s short story collection, we’re back to the main plotline, as Silver Crow is (finally) cleared of the accusation of hosting the Chrome Disaster. Of course, now that they know he’s not evil, the leaders all get together to try to use Silver Crow for their own purposes. It’s a very Haruyuki-centric book as he tries to gain a new ability, learns his companion’s tragic backstory, prepares for the upcoming culture festival at school (yes, Accel World has a real life aspect as well), and worst of all, deals with getting utterly humiliated in a duel against a Level 1 who has super strength hard armor. This lets all his previous doubts and self-hatred come to the fore, though thankfully he has allies now who won’t let him slip too far into that. Essentially, it’s a good, solid volume of Accel World.

Kawahara does apologize in the afterword for Haruyuki getting all the character development so far in this series, and promises to work on developing the others soon. It’s a fair point – even Sword Art Online paid more attention to its other cast members than Accel World does at times. We do get to learn more about Utai here, and as a drama major, I appreciated the fact that she came from a family of Noh theatre performers – though that also meant that I could guess why she was so upset as a child, Japanese theatre being very male exclusive. The death of her brother is one of those freak accidents that sounds a bit more ridiculous than it probably was, but once you learn about him, the way he died, and the life she grew up with, almost everything about Ardor Maiden comes into clear focus. If this is the sort of character development we’ll get in the future, I’m looking forward to it.

And then we have the titular Carbide Wolf, aka Wolfram Cerberus. No, he’s not related to Wolfram and Hart from Angel, but he does seem to be related to Accel World’s big bads, the Accelerated Research Society. I enjoy the themes between personality and armor that Kawahara gives us – the name is wolf-themed, the armor has a wolf’s head… and the actual player sounds like a big friendly puppy when he’s dueling other people, or rather when he’d kicking other people’s asses. It’s hard to fight against something when you can’t do damage to it, and that also gives us the opportunity to dwell on various metals – this had also come up earlier, when Haruyuki was being asked to learn about mirrors in order to master a new ability. Haruyuki being who he is, of course, he grows and learns, with the help of some harsh training, and the rematch, though it ends in a cliffhanger, is another solid fight scene.

Accel World has always been the more consistently written of Kawahara’s two series, and that remains the case here. There’s occasionally some tortured exposition (the animal club member teaching Haruyuki about the different kinds of reflective mirrors really seemed like a reach to me), and Haruyuki’s self-deprecation can wear on the anime fan who wants all cool all the time, but overall this is another very good entry in the series.

Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 30

Sep. 19th, 2017 07:49 am
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Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Kenjiro Hata. Released in Japan as “Hayate no Gotoku!” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by John Werry.

This is the first volume of Hayate the Combat Butler to be released in North America after the manga has already ended in Japan, and it will be interesting to see how it does going forward. (ominous thunder rumbles in distance) We are, of course, nowhere near finished here in North America, where Hayate is not quite Kaze Hikaru, but pretty close. Last time we were discussing how long Hata would drag things out before Hayate’s true gender was finally revealed to Ruka, and we get an answer here. It’s actually a good question when you’re dealing with Hata, who is a master – for good and ill – at dragging things out long past when you’d expect the punchline or point to be. Sometimes this works well for comedic effect, sometimes it feels like his editors are forcing him to extend things forever, and sometimes you sense he’s a bit of a troll.

The missing suitcase of money is dealt with fairly quickly at the start (and does a good job of inserting Fumi and Sharna, everyone’s favorite characters (it’s a shame sarcasm is hard to show in text), into the narrative. The majority of the volume, though, continues the interlocking narrative of Nagi and Ruka’s doujinshi competition. Ruka gets the benefit of a stern critic in Hina, who not only gives her honest opinion about what’s wrong, but goes on to do research into popular kinds of manga so that she can give better advice. Hina is a good, honest girl who I sometimes feel deserves better than this comedy harem manga. Speaking of girls who deserve better than this, Nagi has Ayumu giving advice, and while it’s not nearly as good, it does seem to inspire her. Whether this will actually lead to good manga remains to be seen.

And yes, Ruka does eventually find out that Hayate is a guy. The reaction is more low-key than I was expecting, but then Ruka in general tends to be more low-key than I’d expect. As a late arrival harem girl, you can’t avoid the sense that she’s being added to the narrative because the series is too popular to wrap up this quickly – Hayate may be a twice-a-year series here, but it did really well in Japan, and there are references in the volume to the movie Heaven Is a Place on Earth, which was due out in 2011 when this volume came out. (Yes, we are now six years behind.) I like Ruka, but there’s not really much she adds as a romantic lead that Hayate could not also get from Hina, or Ayumu, or Maria, or Athena. Or Nagi, I will reluctantly add, but we’ll get to that 20 volumes down the road.

And so Hayate the Combat Butler’s strengths remain its humor, and its romance can be a strength or a weakness depending on Hata’s writing. We get a bit of both in this volume, making it a fairly average volume in the series. See you in the winter for Vol. 31.

Also, the back cover says that Ruka is ‘plumb worn out’, and I feel sad that they didn’t go whole hog and say ‘plumb tuckered out’.

Bookshelf Briefs 9/18/17

Sep. 19th, 2017 03:18 am
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Posted by Michelle Smith

Akashic Records of Bastard Magica Instructor, Vol. 1 | By Hitsuji Tarou, Tsunemi Aosa and Kurone Mishima | Seven Seas – Combining a magical academy story with the ‘eccentric guy who ends up being a good teacher’ story that manga likes so much isn’t a bad idea, and Akashic Records does a decent job of it, though it gets off to a sluggish start. Frankly, Glenn is far too irritating to bear, and this one of the rare times where you are 100% behind the angry tsundere from the start. Of course, what he really needed was something to snap him out of his funk, and once he decides to actually turn on his brain and start teaching, things get exponentially better. It’s still a standard light novel adaptation, but I’m interested in seeing where it goes next. – Sean Gaffney

Anonymous Noise, Vol. 4 | By Ryoko Fukuyama | Viz Media – A good deal of this volume is devoted to a flashback showing us how the band In No Hurry came to be, and while a lot of the narrative points I was expecting were absent (why were they all hospitalized long-term?), the emotional beats were there. Certainly it was more entertaining than the love triangle we’re getting here. Not that it’s not well-written—in fact, the reverse may be the case. I’d rather go back to the standard shoujo cliche of having one person have it all together while the others flail. Seeing all three characters do stupid things and then immediately castigate themselves can be exhausting. On the bright side, we get more of Nino screaming, which remains the book’s high point. – Sean Gaffney

Anonymous Noise, Vol. 4 | By Ryoko Fukuyama | VIZ Media – I think I may only enjoy this series when Nino is performing, because the best moment in this volume is the brief one in which she accompanies herself on Momo’s guitar. The rest of it involves romantic angst from the two boys who have appropriated Nino’s voice as their personal property, unsuccessful attempts at comedy, and some (vague and improbable) backstory about how the band came to be. I did appreciate that Nino comes to see herself as a caretaker of her bandmates’ dream, and the parallel that while Nino has been hoping that her singing would bring Momo back to her, Yuzu has been hoping that his music would do the same with her. While this volume was a little on the meh side, I do look forward to the rock festival performance coming up in volume five. – Michelle Smith

Bloom Into You, Vol. 3 | By Nakatani Nio | Seven Seas – The first half of this volume is far more light-hearted than the rest of the series to date, which is fun but may be to its detriment. When it’s relaxing and showing the characters being happy, Bloom into You is like any other yuri series. But when Touko is being so aggressively forward that you want to slug her, or when Yuu is once again reminding us that she may very well be asexual (though that does not stop her from being lonely, as someone else pointedly notes), the series takes it to the next level, albeit a very uncomfortable one. There’s also another pairing casually introduced here that startled me, but I suspect the reason for it was more to have more adult ‘mentors’ the kids can ask for advice. Good stuff. – Sean Gaffney

Complex Age, Vol. 6 | By Yui Sakuma | Kodansha Comics – Complex Age has been pretty upsetting at times, so I confess that I totally looked at the last page to make sure Nagisa looked happy before I committed to reading this final volume. Its pace is somewhat accelerated, covering about a year after Nagisa’s meeting with her mother’s loli-loving friend as she tries to figure out what it is she loves best about cosplay and what kind of new shape it might become in her life. True, her conclusion is somewhat bittersweet, but it’s hopeful too, and I think that’s just the right combination for this series. If you were put off by the rough going in the middle volumes, take heart that this final installment remains realistic, but isn’t gloomy. I’ve really enjoyed this series. – Michelle Smith

Demon King Daimaou, Vol. 2 | By Shoutaro Mizuki and Souichi Itou | J-Novel Club – It’s finally happened: I’ve come across a light novel with so little to say about it that it’s only getting a brief. The light novel world is not exactly littered with deep, meaningful stories, but even among the fluff Demon King Daimaou is still pretty throwaway. That said, it’s not actively bad, and reads quickly—I don’t feel a need to drop it, I just feel no need to worry about what happens next. It’s at its best when at its least serious, such as Akuto’s constant desire to not seem like a villain, and the fact that he always does. (He’s desecrating hundreds of hero’s graves… but for good reasons!) As for the girls, we get a new one here, whose first scene amused me, but they’re as forgettable as anything. Only if you really liked the anime. – Sean Gaffney

Everyone’s Getting Married, Vol. 6 | By Izumi Miyazono | VIZ Media – This series is in somewhat of a holding pattern, despite a few changes. Asuka keeps coming into contact with Kamiya, who keeps trying to wear her down on marrying him despite the fact that she’s told him in no uncertain terms to back off and that she isn’t interested, and Ryu continues to be troubled by this. There are a few new elements in this volume with the introduction of Asuka’s protective 18-year-old brother Kanade and the fact that she and Ryu officially move in together, but since a) Kanade puts forth Kamiya as an alternate candidate and b) oopsies, they moved into Kamiya’s building, it’s really just more of the same. Everyone’s Getting Married is still fairly entertaining, but it’s not at all surprising or exciting, even with the possibility that Ryu will be transferred overseas. – Michelle Smith

Golden Time, Vol. 8 | By Yuyuko Takemiya and Umechazuke | Seven Seas – Linda returns in this volume… though it’s more about Banri returning, as he goes with her to a class reunion. The reunion itself goes off fairly well, and doesn’t really bring back too much. Unfortunately, he does have a bit of a breakdown later on in the middle of a festival dance, which leads to disaster. (And holy crap, that festival guy yelling at the cast was appalling. I really really hated him.) As for Banri and Kouko, it seems they’re doing very well, though I suspect both are trying just a little too hard—I have a nasty suspicion the next volume will be even more dramatic, especially after the medication discovery. Golden Time is heavy-duty romantic drama, but worth the slog. – Sean Gaffney

Haikyu!!, Vol. 15 | By Haruichi Furudate | Viz Media – Answering the cliffhanger from last volume, we get a few chapters showing us who Karasuno will be facing in the semifinals. The actual winner is not a surprise, but the author does a good job at keeping things tense anyway. As for the main event, it’s what you’d expect from a sports manga. Our heroes have shown off that they’re not the team they were before, but their opponent also has a few tricks up their sleeves, and so things could go either way. I like the constant emphasis on how important momentum is to a game. And of course things end with Yamaguchi, on the sidelines, desperate to make up for his earlier play. Classic Jump sports manga, and you should be reading it. – Sean Gaffney

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 27 | By Karuho Shiina | Viz Media – Credit to Pin, he is doing his best to make sure the ship with Ayano does not get further—something Ayano is tearfully aware of as well, though at least she’s started to openly admit her feelings. That said, Pin is up against the author here, and so I’m not sure how things will go. I’m not… TOTALLY against the ship, but I want it to wait till he’s not her teacher in any case. The other big news is that Kazehaya finally confronts his father, and the two learn a lot more about their similarities. They both communicate poorly, though Kazehaya has gotten better now that he’s dating Sawako. As for Sawako, after a long sweet date she admits she’s applying to the educational university, and he can how happily cheer her on. Sweet stuff. – Sean Gaffney

No Game No Life, Please!, Vol. 2 | By Kazuya Yuizaki and Yuu Kamiya | Yen Press – This is pretty much exactly what hardcore NGNL fans would want out of a spinoff manga, which means about half of it is not my cup of tea, because heavy fanservice and fetishes just don’t do much for me. I’m also not fond of the suggestion that Fi and Chlammy is a yuri pairing, and this book really loves to suggest it in unsubtle ways. It’s at its best when developing the characters, be it Steph thinking on her feet (or with her bladder) to escape a dungeon that Jibril has created, or Izuna continuing to learn from the masters—our sibling heroes—on how to both improve her gaming skills and also have more fun. Lacking a proper manga version, this is a decent alternative for those who want pictures. – Sean Gaffney

One-Punch Man, Vol. 12 | By ONE and Yusuke Marata | Viz Media – The tournament is perhaps the least interesting part of this volume. In that, it’s not dissimilar to many other tournament battle manga, though those lack the deadpan blaseness of our hero. Fortunately, there’s also a slew of monsters and villains attacking outside the arena, which allows Genos to remind us he’s still really tough despite being Saitama’s self-appointed lackey. The best scenes, though, involved Blizzard and her sister Tornado, whose family issues certainly seem to be deeply seated—Blizzard’s almost jaded “don’t worry, she’ll be coming to save me anyway” is well done, and you really sympathize with her here, especially with Tornado at her most arrogant. Essential, despite the tournament. – Sean Gaffney

Water Dragon’s Bride, Vol. 3

Sep. 19th, 2017 03:46 am
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Posted by Anna N

The Water Dragon’s Bride, Volume 3 by Rei Toma

The story in The Water Dragon’s Bride has been unfolding at a measured pace, in the third volume Asahi and Subaru are almost all grown up. As they become more adults, this results in some increased tension with Asahi’s eventual destiny as the bride of the Water Dragon as well as her role as priestess for Subaru’s village.

The volume opens with a little bit of backstory showing Asahi filing her role of priestess as she moves through adolescence. Every year, there’s a ritual designed to gain the favor of the water god, and Asahi disappears under the waves for three days. Her encounters with the water god are first limited to staring, glaring, and finally smiling. The elemental gods still are fundamentally alien when compared with humans. The Water Dragon at least has figured out that he needs to feed his young human bride, so he calls over the Tree God to give her some supplies. I enjoyed seeing these visits from the perspective of both the Water Dragon and Asahi.

I think a lot about clarity of art when I read a Rei Toma series, but I’m always struck by how much she is able to do with simple character designs and sparse backgrounds. It is expected that expressive eyes count for a great deal in shoujo manga, but she’s able to convey so much in just a couple pages. Subaru, aware that both his mother and his sister are prejudiced against Asahi, turns away from his family thinking “…don’t disappoint me more any than this.” His face is half in shadow, and blank in a way that shows he’s hiding the tension and disgust he feels inside. As he walks away he smiles and waves. All of this is accomplished with just one line of dialogue and some great sequencing and paneling from Toma in a two page spread.

For a series with such lovely illustrations and a seemingly fantastic premise, one of the reasons why I enjoy The Water Dragon’s Bride is that it explores some dark territory, particularly focusing on the way humans are capable of great cruelty. While the first volume also lingered on Asahi’s inhumane treatment by the Water Dragon who was absolutely ignorant and uncaring of the ways humans can suffer, humans seem like the real source of evil in the world. In addition to the leering gazes and jealously in Subaru’s village that Asahi has to isolate herself from, her capabilities as a priestess attract the attention of a neighboring village and a war is launched. Watching these events with Asahi, the Water Dragon thinks all the humans are fools.

While for most of this volume Asahi seems to be placed in a Persephone role, going back and forth between water and the human world, there’s a narrative turn as Water Dragon decides to dwell with humans for a time. Toma is able to pack an incredible amount of story in a single volume of manga, making this a shoujo fantasy series that is extremely rewarding to the reader.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life, Vol. 1

Sep. 19th, 2017 02:58 am
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Posted by Katherine Dacey

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life suffers from multiple personality disorder, lurching awkwardly from one situation to the next without comfortably settling into one storytelling mode long enough for the reader to decide if it’s a sitcom, a soap opera, or a horror show.

In fairness to creators Hinowa Kouzuki and Waka Miyama, few stories purely embody a single genre; the labels that the publishing and entertainment industries have coined — “rom com” chief among them — give ample proof that hybridization is a common strategy for enlivening familar plots. For such hybrid forms to work, however, the tonal shifts must be intrinsic to the story, arising naturally from the interactions between the characters and their environment. Elegant Yokai‘s narrative swerves, however, feel more like a desperate attempt to appeal to as many different constituencies as possible: there’s fanservice for guys (including a female ghost who wears only panties and a well-placed towel) and girls (including a hot onmyoji with a ponytail), yokai drawn from folklore and urban myth, a potential love interest for the hero, a raft of comic-relief characters who get brief turns in the spotlight, a subplot borrowed from a 1983 Afterschool Special, and tragic backstories for several characters just in case the idea of a “ghostly boarding house” doesn’t tickle your funny bone.

The most frustrating part of this narrative abundance is that so much of it feels… extra. Any one of these elements could be excised from the story without fundamentally changing the premise, making room for more character development. That point is crucial: Elegant Yokai‘s lead is less a person than a reader surrogate, walking from one situation to another in a state of mild befuddlement about his supernatural neighbors. Author Hinowa Kouzuki has saddled Inaba with motivations that explain how he ended up rooming with yokai, but hasn’t actually given him any discernible personality traits. Kouzuki and Miyama’s few attempts to flesh out Inaba’s character are clumsy and, frankly, illogical: what well-adjusted person marks his graduation from middle school by having a celebratory fist fight with his BFF in an abandoned lot because he’s “always wanted to do that”?

The artwork suffers from a similarly overdetermined quality. The human characters are less drawn than assembled from bits and pieces of other artists’ work — a dash of CLAMP here, a bit of Yuu Watase there — while the yokai have been shamelessly copied from Rumiko Takahashi and Hayao Miyazaki’s oeuvre. Making deliberate allusions to other artists’ work is, of course, a time-honored tradition, but here, these nods feel less like tribute and more like theft; readers tempted to compare Miyama’s art with Miyazaki’s are bound to find hers a poor substitute.

It’s only in the final chapter of volume one that we get a glimpse of what Elegant Yokai might have been. The story trains the spotlight on Inaba’s fellow apartment dwellers Kuga and Shiro, a boy and his dog who were murdered by Kuga’s mother. Once a month, Kuga’s mother — also a ghost — shows up at the apartment building to reclaim her son. Over time, however, her human form has deteriorated and memories have faded, reducing her to a pitiful demonic state. (She looks like a scribble monster.) The frankness with which Kouzuki and Miyama depict her crime prevents these scenes from descending into bathos; these moments are the only ones that elicit an authentic emotional response from the reader, not least because Kuga and Shiro’s predicament has a demonstrable effect on the other characters. Too bad the rest of volume one is such a frantic, disjointed mess.

ELEGANT YOKAI APARTMENT LIFE, VOL. 1 • STORY BY HINOWA KOUZUKI, ART BY WAKA MIYAMA • TRANSLATED BY ADAM HIRSCH • 206 pp. • RATED T (13+)

まるです。

Sep. 18th, 2017 11:00 pm
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Posted by mugumogu

 

まるさん、こんな可愛らしいピーマンがあるんですけど。
Hey Maru, this is a pretty sweet pepper.

まる:「いらん!」
Maru:[No, thank you!]

じゃーん、増えましたー!
Ta-da! That increased.

まる:「増えてもいらん!」
Maru:[No! thank! you!]


はなさん、これーー
Hey Hana,


はな:「それいらないやつー。」
Hana:[No, thank you!]

珍しいものがあると、ついまる&はなにお披露目してしまう。

 

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Posted by Ash Brown

My News and Reviews

Last week at Experiments in Manga I posted August’s Bookshelf Overload which lists the manga, comics, and other media that found their way into my home last month. Otherwise, it was fairly quiet here at the blog, but I did come across some great interviews elsewhere online: Paul Semel interviewed author Kazuki Sakuraba whose novel A Small Charred Face will be released in translation this week. (I actually recently reviewed the book; it’s well-worth picking up.) Susannah Greenblatt interviewed Motoyuki Shibata, one of the cofounders of the Monkey Business literary magazine, discussing translation and Japanese literature among other things. (I’ve previously reviewed some of the early issues of Monkey Business.) And for something a little more manga-centric, Brigid Alverson interviewed manga editor Yumi Sukimune who works with Akiko Higashimura on Princess Jellyfish (which I greatly enjoy) in addition to other series.

And then there’s the licensing news from last week. Udon Entertainment, for example has plans to release Yuztan’s Dragon’s Crown manga adaptation. Most of last week’s manga and light novel licensing announcements came from another Seven Seas’ sprees, though: Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter manga by Reia and Suki Umemiya; two companion volumes to Kore Yamazaki’s The Ancient Magus’ Bride (which I’ll definitely be picking up); Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest manga by Ryou Hakumai and RoGa; the original Cutie Honey manga by Go Nagai; The Dungeon of Black Company manga by Youhei Yasumura; Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! light novels and manga by FUNA, Itsuki Akata, and Neko Mint; Go For It, Nakamura! manga by Syundei (probably the one I’m personally most excited about); Himouto! Umaru-chan manga by Sankaku Head; How Not to Summon a Demon Lord manga by Yukiya Murasaki and Naoto Fukuda; How to Treat Magical Beasts manga by Kajiya; Hungry For You: Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night manga by Flowerchild; If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord manga by CHIROLU and Hota; Little Devils manga by Uuumi; Mushroom Girls in Love, a one-volume manga by Kei Murayama; Precarious Woman Executive Miss Black General by Jin; Satan’s Secretary manga by Kamotsu Kamonabe; The Voynich Hotel manga by Seiman Doumanv. It’s an interesting mix!

Quick Takes

Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 2Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 2 by Ryoko Kui. I absolutely loved the first volume of Delicious in Dungeon and after reading the second volume my opinion of the series hasn’t changed–I still find it tremendously entertaining. The conceit of Delicious in Dungeon is fairly simple and straightforward. Basically, Kui has taken a dungeon-crawling adventure and turned it into a food manga. It’s a brilliant combination of subgenres with endless possibilities when it comes to the sheer variety monsters that could end up as a meal for the manga’s protagonists. While this alone could carry the series a fair distance (especially considering the immense creativity Kui exhibits in how fantasy creatures might be used to either directly or indirectly support an adventurer’s diet), Delicious in Dungeon also benefits from having a main cast that largely consists of a bunch of endearing goofballs. Kui has also started to expand on the actual worldbuilding of the series, too. While the manga still relies fairly heavily on the well-established tropes of fantasy role-playing games, small details are being introduced that make the setting of Delicious in Dungeon a little less generic. Of course, part of the series’ humor and charm is firmly based on Kui taking familiar fantasy elements and twisting them just a bit. It’s all great fun.

Sweetness & Lightning, Volume 6Sweetness & Lightning, Volumes 6-7 by Gido Amagakure. Although I love food manga, I never generally read a particular title thinking that I’ll actually make any of the recipes that might be contained within it. If I ever did, though, Sweetness & Lightning is probably the series that I would turn to. Since the main characters are in the process of learning to cook (and one of them is a preschooler about to start kindergarten), the dishes that they tackle typically tend to be within the reach of a beginner and aren’t usually overly-complicated. The fact that Sweetness & Lightning is a food manga is what initially brought the series to my attention, but at this point it’s really the characters which keep me coming back for more. I’m particularly impressed by the portrayal of the father-daughter relationship between Inuzuka and Tsumugi. Amagakure is also incredibly successful in depicting little kids in a convincing way. Sweetness & Lightning is in turns adorable and bittersweet, and these two volumes have some especially poignant and heartbreaking moments. Since Tsumugi is so young she still doesn’t entirely understand the death of her mother and Inuzuka still grieves the loss of his wife. But the sixth and seventh volumes also introduce more members of their extended family which was lovely.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 12What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga. The English-language edition of What Did You Eat Yesterday? has essentially caught up with the original Japanese release so the individual aren’t published as frequently as they once were, but I’m always very happy to get my hands on the latest installment in the series. The food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? is beautifully illustrated from start to finish. The individual ingredients, the techniques used, and the resulting dishes are wonderfully and realistically rendered. Visually, the people in What Did You Eat Yesterday? aren’t nearly as detailed as the food they are eating, but the believably complex and nuanced characterizations in the series is exceptional. The characters certainly have their personal flaws and Yoshinaga isn’t afraid to reveal them; rather than portraying some sort of romanticized ideal, Yoshinaga captures the messiness of real-life relationships in the series. It’s an approach that I particularly appreciate. What Did You Eat Yesterday? follows the day-to-day lives of two adult men who are in a committed, long-term relationship with each other which of course is something that I also greatly value. At times the food aspects of What Did You Eat Yesterday? seem tangential to everything else going on, but it’s still a great series.

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Posted by JenniferP

Video description: The Bangles cover Big Star’s September Gurls in Pittsburgh in 1986.

It’s time for the monthly thing where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are actual questions. This feature is generously funded by Patreon supporters.

1 “How to stop a neighbour and hubby putting me down every time I walk past
.”

Ugh, your husband is being a giant asshole, and it’s time to tell him straight up to knock this behavior off. “Stop doing that. It’s rude, disrespectful, and it hurts my feelings.” If he won’t, you’ve got Husband-problems more than you have Neighbor-problems.

2 “What does it mean when a girl says focusing on school right now after you say your feelings
.” 

It means she did not enthusiastically say “Yes, I feel the same way, let’s definitely date each other!” It means she’d rather focus on school than go out with you. Interpret it as “No.”

3 “Anonymous STD notification letter.”

National treasure website Scarleteen recommends InSpot  for sending an anonymous e-card and has a good how-to guide on doing this kind of notification. Australia has a service called Better To Know that lets you notify partners of possible Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) anonymously via text or email. In both cases, you enter info, the person gets a message that lets them know that they may have been exposed to an STI (+ there’s a way for you to enter which ones) and should get tested. There’s a good roundup of similar services in this article.

If you’re feeling blue and alone in this, the Netflix show formerly known as “Scrotal Recall” (now renamed Lovesick) is a romantic comedy about a man who must notify past sexual partners about possible chlamydia exposure.

If you don’t want to go anonymous, a simple text or phone call that says “Hey [Sex Friend] I recently tested positive for ________. You should get checked out, too” is a very kind and ethical thing to send. The more we all remove stigma and shame around STIs, the better job everyone can do taking care of ourselves and each other.

4 “My boyfriend mom prophesied that we are not meant to be together.”

Translation: Your boyfriend’s mom does not want you to be together.

What do you and your boyfriend want?

5 “When some knocks on door and says the Lord compelled them to stop and talk to you.”

Translation: The someone wanted to stop and talk to you.

What do you want?

6 “How to decline a neighbor asking us over

.”

“How nice of you to think of us, but no thank you.”

7 “What to do when your friend sets you up on a blind date and the guy’s interested in her.”

Acknowledge the awkwardness, have a good laugh together, tell the guy “good luck, dude, tell her how you feel and maybe we can avoid this sitcom nonsense next time” and go home with your dignity. You didn’t do anything weird.

8 “Should you invite girls of interest to your party

.”

Throwing a party is a great reason to invite someone that you might be interested in romantically over. That person can meet your friends, see your place, everyone can see how everyone gets on together, you can get to know each other better without having it be a DATE date, etc. Why not?

Now, girl(s) plural is an advanced move, but again, why not?

9 “What do you do when your daughter owes you money and is not paying you back but takes vacations and spends a lot
.”

Ugh, this is a hard one. Here are some steps for dealing with friends and family members who are not good/prompt/conscientious about paying back loans,

a) Assume that you won’t ever be repaid. Take whatever steps you need to shore up your own financial well-being so that you’re not depending on that money. If you do manage to collect it it will be a happy thing.

b) Ask the person to repay you what they owe. If you bring up fancy vacations or their other spending they will get automatically defensive, so skip that part in your request (even if it is relevant to the issue). Why skip it? You don’t need the story about how she bought the tickets long ago or how they were really a gift from a friend and you don’t want to give her a reason to feel judged and aggrieved (even if judgment is warranted). The vacation money is spent. It’s not coming back. She knows that you know that she knows that she owes you money. Just be simple and direct and ask for what you need:

Script: “Daughter, you still owe me $______. When can we expect repayment?” or “Daughter, you still owe me $_______. Can you repay me by (date)?” Brace yourself for the wave of defensiveness and excuses that is coming. Do not, I repeat, do not get into the details of her spending or her excuses or reasons. Just repeat the question. “Okay, so, when can you get the money to me?

c) Don’t lend this person any more money. You may or may not ever get the money back, but you can definitely control whether you lend them more. You now have a lot of information about how they’ll behave when you lend them money and you both have a hard, awkward lesson. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior here, and “I’m sorry, Daughter, I don’t feel comfortable lending you money since you didn’t pay me back” is a situation your daughter created, not you.

I hope you get a good result. Also, general thought, if you are going to lend money to friends or family, it’s a good idea to put something in writing: How much, what it’s for, when & how will it be paid back. Your script can be “Let’s just write it down so we all know what the agreement is and I never have to bug you about paying me back.

10 “Etiquette of peeing when surfing.”

We are people of action and lies do not become us: In the unlikely comedy of errors that lands me on an actual surfboard in an actual body of water, there is no way on earth my enthusiastic and prolific middle-aged bladder is gonna be able to wait until I swim to shore, find a land-based bathroom, and peel off my wetsuit in time to pee decorously in a toilet. This seems like a “it’s a big ocean” and “that’s between you and your wetsuit” issue to me, but maybe an actual surfer has insight?

11 “How to make girlfriend move out to Colorado.”

You do not make. You ask, and then she either moves or she doesn’t.

12 “I have to leave the Midwest or I will die but my husband thinks it’s all in my head.”

Ok, this seems like a REALLY specific situation and we are DEFINITELY missing context here but what if I said “Even if it were in your head, is your need to go so great and so urgent and so necessary that it’s worth going alone, even if that’s a difficult & sad decision?”

13 “Dating female academic awful
.”

It certainly can be, since the prospect of relocation is always hanging over the whole deal.

14 “He said he wants to do his own thing and maybe see other people.”


Translation: “I am planning to see other people and have less energy/focus/time/interest for a relationship with you.”

It’s a prelude to a breakup, possibly one where “he” either wants you to be the bad guy and actually do the breaking up or where he’d like you to stick around in his life but in background/low-priority mode.

15 “My 23 year old son looks so unattractive, but he won’t shave or cut his hair
.”

[Bad Advisor] Well, it’s definitely 100% his job to make sure his face and body look attractive and acceptable to you, his parent, at all times so definitely be sure to bring this up as often as possible! Your concern, constantly expressed, will only bring you closer together as a fellow adult human strives to please you in all things, including and especially the hair that is growing on his personal face and body where he lives and you do not.

Also, to be on the safe side, hide all of your copies of the musical about this very question, lest he get ideas about fur vests, naked dancing or protesting the Vietnam War.

It is not only your business but your duty to set this young man straight. [/Bad Advisor]

16 “What does it mean if you ask for a guy’s phone number and his response is he is antisocial
.”

He did not want to give you his phone number, or, if he does/did, he is warning you that he doesn’t want to actually hang out. Try again, another dude, another day.

17 “Fucking past due invoices.”

Fucking the worst.

18 “Girlfriend of 11 years is leaving me
.”

Wallow. Fuck Around. Do The Thing.

Repeat the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear to yourself.

(Or not, as it suits you).

19 “Angry that my husband allows his parents to come whenever they want
.”

This would make me angry, too. His family may have a drop-in culture or agreement and expectations, but you do not, and therefore the family that you and your husband make together does not. There are several conversations/actions that need to happen if they haven’t already (and maybe they have and need to happen again):

a) “Husband, I want your folks to feel and be welcome in our house, but to make that happen I need some advance notice. Please ask them to call first and ask if we’re free, and please check with me before you say yes.” 

b) “In-Laws, I really want you to be and feel welcome in our house, but I need more advance notice than you’re accustomed to providing. Just dropping by, even when I’m happy to see you, really stresses me out. I know this is different from how you do things in your family, but I need you to call first and ask if I’m free or if now is a good time. Thanks!” 

c) “Husband, I know I’m somewhat ‘changing the rules’ on your family, but I really need some consideration here. Back me up.” 

d) When they just drop by anyway and your husband isn’t home try: “Oh, too bad this isn’t a good time, I’m just stepping out” + LEAVE (go to the library or run errands or something, just take a drive around the block on principle). Btw if they have keys and are in the habit of just letting themselves in, put the chain on when you’re home alone. Teach them that you won’t drop everything because they came over.

e) When they just drop by anyway and your husband is home, “Oh, too bad, this isn’t a good time, I was just about to take a nap” + HIDE (in your bedroom with the door shut  – keep books handy – and let him do whatever work of entertaining them). Risk seeming unwelcoming and unfriendly. You ARE unwelcoming…to people who invite themselves over.

This didn’t start overnight and won’t go away overnight but in my opinion it’s a battle worth picking.

20 “How to agree a girl for fucking if she dislikes doing it.”

Find someone else to fuck. Someone who likes doing it. Someone who enthusiastically likes doing it with you.

What the fuck, people.

21 “Got an apology from my ex after 15 years
.”

That had to feel weird.

Whether this was welcome or unwelcome contact, there’s one important thing you should know:

It doesn’t obligate you to do anything or feel anything or re-open any kind of contact with this person. If you want to talk to them, ok? You could say “Thanks for the apology, I forgive you and wish you well” if that is true of how you feel.

But if you’d rather let the past stay in the past, you can 100% delete the weird Facebook message or whatever and go on with your life.

22 “Did the date go good or bad?”

This is a great question. You can’t control whether another person will like you, so after a date ask yourself:

  • Did I enjoy myself?
  • Was I relaxed and comfortable with this person?
  • Could I be myself around this person?
  • Did the conversation flow?
  • Did I feel like the other person was on my team, helping the date go smoothly and laughing gently at any awkward moments? Or did the awkward silences turn into awkward chasms on the edge of the awkward abyss?
  • Did the other person seem at ease and comfortable with me?
  • Was the actual time we spent together fun/enjoyable/comfortable/pleasurable?
  • Was it as good as spending time alone doing something enjoyable or with a good friend or do I wish I’d just spent the evening at home?
  • Was I bored? Checked out? Apprehensive?
  • Was it easy to make plans?
  • Do I feel like the person was listening/paying attention/engaged?
  • (If kissing is a thing you’re interested in) Can I picture myself kissing them?
  • Am I looking forward to hanging out again?
  • Were there any red flags?*

If the date went well for you, where you enjoyed yourself and felt good, ask the person for another date. The rest is up to the other person.

If you can get in the habit of checking in with yourself about your own comfort and enjoyment levels during and after dates, even a “meh” date can be useful because you’ll know more about yourself and what you’re looking for.

*Bonus list of some of my personal First Date red flags from back in the day when I bravely put on clean shirts and lip gloss and met strangers from the Internet for drinks:

  • Was the person I was meeting generally congruent with the person presented on the dating site and during any prior conversations? If you’re “single” on the dating site and suddenly “planning to get divorced btw we still live together and no one at work knows we’re separated so I’d appreciate your discretion” when we meet, if you’re 28 in all your dating site photos and 58 in person…it was not going to work.
  • Did the person monologue the whole time?
  • Did I feel like I was monologuing the whole time at someone who just shyly stared at me and nodded? (The Silent Type is a great type and it may be your type but experience tells me it was not mine).
  • Did I feel like I was an unpaid nonconsensual therapist while someone shared everything about their life?
  • Did the person constantly talk about their ex & exes?
  • Was literally everything they said a complaint about someone or something?
  • Were these complaints at least funny and entertaining?
  • In these complaints was nothing ever their responsibility? Was it just a long list of Ways I Have Been Wronged By Others with a subtext of Surely You Have A Duty To Not Disappoint Me Like Everyone Else Has (Now That You Know My Tale of Woe)?
  • Ugh, mansplaining, especially politics or philosophy, how movies get made, the “authenticity” of whatever food we were eating, the makeup & history of the neighborhood where I lived and they did not (for example when I failed to pick the “most authentic” taco place in Pilsen or Little Village), telling me why everything I liked was actually overrated.
  • Talking during movies. No.
  • Taking me to some sort of performance and then critiquing how much it sucks into my ear in real time. No.
  • Overfamiliarity, over-investment. “I can’t wait to introduce you to my son, he’s going to love you!” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing innuendo & sex talk too soon, like, “I just got a new bed, it’s very comfortable, you’ll have to come test it out with me later heh heh.” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing it with the touching. If dinner and a movie remind me of how my cat likes to constantly crawl all over me and make annoying biscuits everywhere it’s too much touching!
  • Negging of all sorts, especially “I don’t usually date ________, but you seem really cool.” (Bonus Nope!!!!! if the blank includes fat people, feminists, “women who seem really smart”)
  • Constant contact, expecting constant texts/calls/emails before we’ve even met in person, all up in my social media biz, “liking” every single photo/comment going back through the archives. It feels good to be seen and not so good to be surveilled.
  • Neediness  – We literally just met, so, surely there is someone else in your life who can drive you home from dental surgery or hold your hand while you put your dog to sleep or fly home with you to your father’s funeral or weigh in with you about whether you should accept this job offer? (All true stories of actual things actual men wanted me to do after a few emails and one hour-long bar or coffee date). I will move mountains to take care of people I love, when, you know, I have had a chance to figure out if love them.
  • Casual, “ironic” sexist or racist comments, dropping code sentences like “I hate all the political correctness these days, I feel like I can’t say anything.
  • Bringing your feature screenplay to the date for me to read.

Your Mileage May Vary, as the great saying goes. My list doesn’t look like anyone else’s and I may have had stuff on there that is not necessarily a problem in itself or not a problem for you, or where there are exceptions to be made (I did drive the guy home from dental surgery as a human favor for a fellow human being, I just didn’t date him more) or that are just differences in styles and interest levels. It’s not meant to be universal and it’s about compatibility with you vs. any one thing being Good or Bad.

I’m including the list because I developed it over time by paying attention to what made me feel good, comfortable, safe, relaxed, happy, excited and what made me feel the opposite.I stopped asking people “Is this normal/cool/okay thing when you date?” and started asking “Am I good with this?” and “Am I delighted by this?” Those experiences (and the decision to be picky about second and third dates) helped me avoid some entanglements that would have been fleeting at best and draining at worst, and it helped me know “Just Right” when I saw it.

We focus so much on the auditioning aspect of dating – Am I good enough? Does the other person like me back? – that our own comfort and needs and pleasure can get lost right when we need them most. It was a good date if you enjoyed yourself and felt good and did your best to be kind and considerate. It was a bad date if you didn’t enjoy yourself. Whether a good date will lead to another one is up to more than just you.

 


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laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)
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