Romance Read: Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

*This Review is Spoiler Free* 

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This story, wow, I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns within the first couple chapters. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. This was intended to be a novel review but… I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and haven’t been able to finish/pick up most of the books I’ve set out to read. So have totally been coping out of doing intended book reviews with tons of manga and graphic novels! It still counts right? Yes? Well let’s pretend it does even if it doesn’t! Hahaha! Anywho, as someone who isn’t a big fan of shojo (manga for young/teen girls) in general I never really thought I would not only pick-up the manga Yona of the Dawn, but begin collecting it. Despite my continuing overall apprehension towards most romance this is now one of my very few shojo favorites. 

Synopsis: Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy set in a kingdom called Kohka. The story centers around main character princess Yona as she prepares for her 16th birthday. Yona, the only child of widow King IL, is a pampered young lady but things quickly change. Very quickly. As most know nothing good happens for royalty on their coming-of-age birthdays. 

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

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To be honest, I was considering dropping this after the first couple pages as even though I was enjoying the comedy. The whole love struck pampered princess scene really wasn’t doing anything for me. But then came the plot twist and suddenly I’m 4 volumes deep and searching up the next release date. I loved this story and the unexpected action. The fight scenes were really well done and nothing I’ve ever come across in shojo (the art in general was really good). And the characters! I loved even the antagonist as a character, the character dynamics, and the often hilarious bantering and interactions. So far the major players are complex, and each had a side to him/her that was mysterious and at times unpredictable. For some what most caught my attention was the revelation of past or hidden thoughts/motives, for others it was major character development, and for the main protagonist Yona it was both in leaps and bounds.

As the 1st volume mainly dishes out the events that lead to her transformation so you won’t get to see the real results till the second volume. But I can promise watching this fiery spirited princess transition into a determined warrior with open eyes to the reality of her kingdom is every bit worth it. I can’t get too into it without spoiling something, but I loved the deeper fantasy aspect that arises once the mystery behind Yona’s red hair is revealed, as well as love how this questions the idea of right and wrong (Vol. 2-3). Safe to say I’ll be checking out the 24 episode anime adaptation available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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As for the romance…well, there are some tantalizing scenes here and there, but overall I’d say this actually doesn’t have a strong enough overall romantic theme to actually be considered a straight up “Romance Read“. It plays an important role, but Yona’s adventures with new/existing comrades soon take center stage most of the time. Yet…once again- cop out. Since I’m technically only reviewing the first volume, which has a stronger focus on the romantic elements, I’m going to conveniently pretend it still counts! Yay me! 

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A Silent Voice By Yoshitoki Oima

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Bullying, miscommunication, and atonement. This is by far one of my all time favorite manga series: 10/10 Unicorn Horns! I’d been a little hesitant to review this series, but this is such a powerful story. With the movie now out (depending on your region) I decided to finally review the manga that I found so incredibly moving. So in my unashamed attempt to convince you that “you need this series in your life“, here’s a link to the beautiful, short, spoiler free trailer of the movie- I CANNOT WAIT to see- on YouTube, and of my review:

A Silent Voice- Official Trailer

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Synopsis: In the first volume A Silent Voice (a.k.a Koe no Katachi), before jumping ahead 6 years, surrounds young and very adventurous elementary student Shoya. Jumping off bridges, play fighting, getting into trouble, Shoya is a typical crazy daredevil whose friends join him in his everyday “battle against boredom”. While trying to think of the next great adventure they get a new transfer student, a young girl named Shoko Nishimiya. Being new isn’t what catches Shoya’s attention, it’s the way she introduces herself- using a pen and notebook. Nishimiya is hearing impaired. This of course leads to a ton of curiosity from classmates. Unfortunately this lighthearted curiosity quickly begins to take a turn for the worse as misunderstandings build into a frustration that results in deeply scaring both Nishimiya and Shoya.   

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It is narrated from the point of view of Shoya, the one responsible for instigating the bullying and harassment that eventually forced Nishimiya to transfer schools. And that, the POV, is something that I found so incredible about this series. To be completely honest, as someone who has been on the receiving end, I may have never picked this up if I had known it would be from the point of view of the bully, but after some internal struggling I came to really like the 17yr old Shoya in spite of everything. 

This story manages to bring up a ton of important themes, strong emotions, and issues- depression, self-loathing, shame, a bit of social anxiety, etc.- but more than that I think this story is also about unheard voices. The rest of the story really starts when six years after the so very incredibly infuriating events in elementary Shoya, using the same sign language he scorned, reaches out to Nishimiya, making a tentative attempt to apologize for what he did. This leads to an emotional journey that had a real impact on me, where characters struggle to develop the ability to truly listen and to make their voices heard.

Through the diverse group of characters, personality wise, that come to surround Shoya and Nishimiya you get to see a side of each person’s painfully real and unique voice, as well as dive into the issues with human communication/ miscommunication and of bullying- primarily dealing with the aftermath of it. There wasn’t a single character, major and minor alike, that felt out of place or unrealistic in their emotions. I recommend this all-feels-train of a series to just about everyone.

NEW RELEASE: Anonymous Noise, Vol. 1 by Ryoko Fukuyama

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Two words: The. Cover. Once again in my complete predictability I picked up a book, without even reading the premise, for no other reason than that I liked the cover. In my defense before buying it and taking it home using one of my now many gift cards, I did notice that there was a guitar on the front. I like guitars. See! I call that progress. Ahem, now to talk about this new shojo-shoujo?- (see, even more progress, now I’ve reviewed two of them. Ha!).

Thankfully my not-so-random manga pick worked out, as this story is was better than I expected considering my usual aversion to shojo. I can’t get too into things, but this is primarily about a high school girl named Nino, two male childhood friends named Momo and Yuzu, lost connections, romance, and the music they share. MUSIC THEME!! Happiness all around! After seeing the anime for NANAYour Lie in April and recently starting up Nodame Cantabile I can say I now have a realllyy strong interest in music themed things. The story begins with 5-year-old best friends Nino and Momo singing through the noise of his parents arguing. The manga shows a few humorous scenes of the inseparable pair together when one day, without a word, Momo moves leaving Nino confused and alone with the pain of the sudden separation. It’s this that leads her to meeting another young boy named Yuzu.

The scenes of how they meet as kids deeply ties into their relationship with music, and I was impressed with how Fukuyama conveyed their thoughts and feelings. I have a few early concerns with Nino’s character, but there is something about the way Fukuyama tells this story that has drawn me in. I liked the premise, the characters, and the art- namely the way panels were arranged for some scenes. I can’t say I got to know the main characters too well yet, but will say I genuinely like them so far, especially Yuzu and the humour he shares with Nino. There is quite a lot left unanswered by the end of the volume so I’m looking out for the next release!

Overall 6.5/10 Unicorn horns!

Romance Read: Say I Love You Vol. 1 by Kanae Hazuki

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7/10 Unicorn Horns

Say I Love You by Kanae Hazuki is a fairly popular 17 volume on-going shojo manga series (Yes!! I finally got around to reviewing one! Lol) that surrounds the life of a 16-year-old high school girl named Mei Tachibana. It has gotten a 13 episode anime adaptation by the same name that, so far, follows the manga fairly well, though if memory serves (I recently re-read the first volume, but read the series up to volume 10 or 12 early last year) the anime starts to leave out a fair bit of good information as well as makes changes here and there later on in the series. Even so I’d definitely recommend checking out both (but of course more so the manga, especially since it goes a lot further than the anime did). 

I could say this series is pretty generic in terms of the whole overdone popular boy falls for unpopular girl bit, which isn’t entirely untrue, but I still really enjoyed this series on a whole. This isn’t because the series did so well with developing the main characters relationship, which is actually done quite well, but mainly because of the main character and how she struggles to develop. Mei Tachibana is the typical high school outcast who has no friends and rarely speaks to her fellow classmates, but not for the usual reasons I’ve come across so often. Mei is an outcast primarily by choice. Within the first chapter we find out that due to her negative past experiences she has closed herself off from others and refuses to make any new friends, something she had been adamant about until a rather funny and unexpected encounter with the popular high school playboy Yamato Kurosawa. Of course this encounter leads where you’d expect based on the title and cover page, but what has made this story stand out so much to me is the struggle Mei goes through as Yamato abruptly begins to lead her back into having a social life, and the hard, albeit good, realizations she makes about others and primarily herself along the way. 

As this development doesn’t really start to take off till later volumes I can’t say much about it, only that it was, for me, a real highlight to this series. As for the romance I have to say I really have been enjoying watching the relationship between Yamato and Mei grow. It’s a bit troublesome at some parts in the beginning as Yamato is often pushy at first when it comes to developing their relationship (though never even close to the level of most BL manga lol). Though I wouldn’t call anything he does blatant harassment or abuse, as he backs off the moment Mei becomes upset with his actions (one instance being the exception), and Mei isn’t the type of character that is afraid to tell him to back off, these scenes could be off putting for some. After that their relationship was one of the healthier I’ve come across in books as they slowly learn about each others personalities as well as weaknesses- resulting in some hilarious, emotional, and dramatic moments- and then work together to overcome past and present emotional issues.

One other thing I loved about this book was the author’s note at the end of each volume. This is where the author talks a bit about her own negative experiences with others (primarily bullying) and how that warped her view of the people around her, and her struggles to overcome the trust issues and insecurities that came from those experiences. You can see a lot of the things Hazuki, the author, talks about reflected in the main character Mei, something I believe she has mentioned doing in one of the volumes. That is something that made reading these volumes an even better experience for me, especially with how reluctant I was to pick it up in the first place. Safe to say this was a good start to a very good series. There is a host of other characters Asami, Nakanishi, and a couple others that come in later in the series that all, in one way or another, very relatable in their struggle with various things from crushes, gossip and unrequited love to more serious problems like self-esteem issues and eating disorders. Reading this has actually been pretty enlightening at times and has on numerous occasions hit me on a personal level. So it’s at times offered, indirectly or otherwise, me some pretty great advice through the characters interactions and actions. Though there was a couple other minor things that I did find a bit off putting (for example some of the teasing Mei puts up with in the 1st chapter and the fact no one addressed it), most of it was admittedly realistic in comparison to how high schoolers typically react, and as a whole didn’t take away too much from my enjoyment of this series, especially since these scenes were usually part of building the story. 

Toradora! Vol. 1 by Yuyuko Takemiya (Story) & Zekkyo (Art)

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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8/10 unicorn horns so far!

I initially meant to write a Holiday themed book review but have been really strapped for time this past month- things have been pretty hectic and work and busy at home- so that didn’t work out. I figured I’d just go with something new, something outside of my usual reading preferences, after seeing that I have actually never written a manga review on any shojo (manga intended for young girls). Though I’ve come across a few great series in the shojo genre, I have to admit it’s been more miss than hit so I unfortunately tend to avoid it altogether. Only after reading and pre-posting this review did I notice my mistake. Turns out this is yet another shonen (intended for young males) manga. But since I truly enjoyed this series so much I decided to do write a review anyway (I swear I’ll write at least 1 shojo review next month). 

Toradora!, a fairly popular romantic comedy based on a light novel series, is narrated by a 17-year-old high school student named Takasu Ryuuji who struggles to fit in and make friends with his classmates due to a series of hilarious, over dramatic misunderstandings. These misunderstandings actually have nothing to do with his personality or even his actions, but simply because of his natural expression. No matter what he does, he almost always appears to be glaring at others. This doesn’t make it easy for him to get to know others, especially his long-term crush Kushieda, but the new school year gives him a better opportunity when his crush ends up in the same class as him. Well, should have been, except for an unexpected encounter with fellow classmate Aiska Taiga (a.k.a. The Palmtop Tiger). As the name suggests, Aiska is a tiny girl with a wild temperament and terrible personality- rude, demanding, ungrateful, very talented at all things klutz, and the best friend of Kushieda. After things take an unexpected and hilariously embarrassing turn, Ryuuji uncovers Aisaka’s secret: she’s in love with his (only) best friend. And so, these two end up working together in an attempt to confess their feelings to their respective love interests. 

This, as you can probably tell, is all very generic: boy meets girl + host of hilarious events= love. But that’s not quite the case. I considered dropping this series after seeing that this would likely take an incredibly predictable path, and also because I wasn’t too interested in sticking it out when I didn’t really like the other main character Aiska; but since I’d already taken the first two volumes from the library, was going to to a review on it (my main reason) and was really loving the humour I figured I’d at least finish them both. Now? I’m definitely collecting it. Not so much because I love over done story-lines, but because, incredibly, the main characters’ personalities and uniqueness are turning this story into an amazing experience so far. I expected both to follow common archetype but they surprised me. Ryuuji, generally the clueless, slow to action, and/or initially inconsiderate male lead, was considerate, kind to a fault, and emotionally mature (for protagonists of this genre that is). Aisaka, though at first got on my nerves despite all the jokes and making me laugh, really does have a bad personality but quickly comes to own up to her faults and later expresses complex, all too human emotions. Safe to say she grew on me (especially in the 2nd volume). The two love interests, Kushieda and Kitamura, haven’t been given much time to shine, but so far (by the 2nd volume at least) have made some insightful choices and judgement calls uncommon for side characters with their personality. I’m looking forward to getting to know them more. 

As of now there are 7 volumes available in English with the 8th volume scheduled to be released late November 2017 (the wait is going to kill me!). I can’t tell how faithful the novel adaptation is since it’s not available in English, but since the story is credited to the same author as the novels I’ll assume it doesn’t branch too far from the original work. There is also a 25 episode anime adaptation of the series available on Crunchyroll that, at least so far, follows the manga incredibly well. I’d recommend this series to any fan of comedy or romance. 

On a separate note:

Happy Holidays everyone!! 😁🎉🎁