Arata: The Legend Vol. 1, by Yuu Watase 

This Review is Spoiler Free

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Completely disinterested. That’s how I felt about this series at first. I came across  this series a few years ago, took one look at the cover, and decided it wasn’t for me. I figured that was the end, but a few months ago I was forced into a game of Jack in the Box. No matter where I went- online forums, the library, Goodreads recommendations, random book comments- this series would make an appearance. To be honest it started to creep me out, and so (of course) I became interested enough to give it a try! I have never been so happy to be stalked by an inanimate object before 😃

Synopsis: On one side you have Arata. This young adult is the next in line to lead the Hime Clan- long line of females who, every 30 years, have proudly produced a new ruling princess for the kingdom. Only thing is…Arata is a boy.

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On the the other side we have the leading protagonist, Arata Hinohara, a regular high school student with great athletic skills and the grades to go with it, seems to just be starting over from a complicated past. That is, until said past seems to follow him to his new school.

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These two very different worlds clash when Arata (the Hime Clan leader), is falsely charged with the murdering the ruling Princess during a sacred succession ceremony and chased into the human devouring forest.

This is when Hinohara (the regular school student) takes centre stage. As the mysterious forest forces a body swap between these two characters, Hinohara finds himself in a magical kingdom being hunted down by the 12 Sho (12 chosen rulers welding the most powerful Kamui– gods in the form of weapons).    

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Rating: 9/10 Unicorn Horns!

Needless to say this was an unexpectedly non-stop, action packed read. The action and adventure the series begins with only continues to increase as Hinohara finds his place in the new fantasy world, and discovers a power of his own. The characters, setting, dialogue (the humours banter was a real bonus), and touch of romance, are all things that came together to make this one of my favourite series.

A big part of what makes this series great for me is the main character Hinohara. The way he faces and overcomes his own weaknesses, quickly becoming a stronger person who does his best to actively grow and stick to his moral convictions is something that I find was approached/written beautifully (. I recommend this one to any action, adventure, and fantasy lover! 

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There is also a 12-episode anime version if you want to check it out. Though it covers only a very small portion of the manga, it does adapt most of the important parts (with a few changes of course) up until the last few episodes where events start showing up out of chronological order.

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Seiho Boys High School, Vol. 1 by Kaneyoshi Izumi

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I still question my decision to do a review on this 8 volume manga series, and not because I didn’t wholly enjoy it. In fact, my hesitation comes from the fact that I not only enjoyed it, but from time to time found myself suffering from convulsions of laughter. Normally that’s simply a good thing, but I must admit that some of the often vulgar and at best inappropriate humour may have crossed lines here and there.

Synopsis: Seiho Boys High School is more or less exactly what the name implies. Despite being a shojo manga (Japanese comic targeted for young adult girls), the story centers a group of young males at an all male boarding high school in the middle of nowhere. The POV starts with a young 16yr old named Maki, but often switches between the small group of friends as the lament and curse their fate of being stranded without any female in sight. Worrying about forgetting how to talk to girls, past issues, grades, and getting caught with their secret stashes during inspections are just some of the typical things these boys get themselves caught up in as they search for love…or simply to get laid.

Rating: I rate this hilarious contemporary 8/10 Unicorn Horns!

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This ‘crossing of lines’ is something to be expected when a genre challenging series such as this hits the shelves. This shojo challenges it’s typical predecessors in two ways; It’s entirely male centered cast of characters, and it’s incredibly ‘inappropriate for it’s genre’ type of humour. Personally, with the exception of one character’s actions when it came to women, I didn’t see much wrong with the blunt sexual humour, but can easily say that many could find the more…unapologetic and inappropriate scenes/comments offensive. So a big warning to those that would be put off by raunchy humour.

The only negative thing I have to say about this series, other than a couple personally line crossing comments, is that this hilarious contemporary read does loose momentum in later installments as things begin to feel a bit repetitive here and there, or seemed to lack direction (something I believe the author pointed out themselves). Otherwise I loved the characters and the humour even more than I did the overall episodic story of a group of boys struggling to find love and keep it (though that was pretty funny in and of itself). 

I recommend this to anyone looking for some good romantic comedy, with an emphasis on comedy of the inappropriate kind.

Pre-Hiatus Review Highlights

Hey guys! I’d just like to do an overall highlight of some of the reviews posted before I went on hiatus. I missed doing one for the months prior and would still like to highlight a few, so here’s a condensed overview of the reviews I posted before going on break (Click on the title to read more):

Best Snowball (Series)
*By “Snowball” I mean a series/book that starts incredibly slow, but is worth the wait*

Shaman King, Vol.1: A Shaman in Tokyo by Hiroyuki Takei

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The series is about a young Shaman named Yoh, who in the first volume is starting at a new school in Tokyo…Through a series of events which involve ghosts, supernatural occurrences, and encounters with a “thug” named Ryu, Manta and Yoh become friends…In this volume we are introduced to Admidamaru, a 600-year-old samurai ghost and to a fellow Shaman named Ren who has a particularly sinister interest in Yoh and Admidamaru…

I give Shaman King, Vol. 1: A Shaman in Tokyo a rating of 7 out of 10 Unicorn Horns. Overall the story was not amazingly entertaining, but that did not bother me at all because the story quickly picks up towards the end and you can easily identify the main focus/purpose of this initial volume in the series.

Best Artwork

Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

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After their father is killed, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode move to the family estate, Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts with their mother Nina….The youngest of the Lovecraft siblings, Bode, comes across a key that unlocks a Ghost Door which separates the soul of the person who “walks” through from their body. In the nature of all good fiction the story is not easy sailing from then on and the family soon has much more to worry about than just healing and moving forward.

I give Locke and Key a well deserved 7.25 Unicorn Horns out of a possible 10. In addition to the well executed storyline this graphic novel has exceptional artwork. Gabriel Rodríguez’s illustrations in this series is mind-blowing and his art style lends itself so well to the story.

Best Character Development

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

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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. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. 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.

Most Thought-Provoking Story

The Beauty, Vol. 1 by Jason A. Hurley & Jeremy Haun

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“Two years ago , a new sexually transmitted disease took the world by storm. This S.T.D. was unlike any other that had come before. This was a disease that people actually wanted. “Victims” of this epidemic were physically changed by the virus. Fat melted away, thinning hair returned, skin blemishes faded, and their facial features slimmed. It became known as the beauty.” Pg. 1 of The Beauty

Rating: 9.5/10 Unicorn Horns! One thing I loved was the bits of real life socially controversial thoughts and ideas about beauty woven in here and there…

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! 

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.

How I Got Into Reading Manga and Watching Anime

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Art by: randyadr

For the first time I’ve decided to do a purely anime related post! I’ll still be primarily talking and blogging about books and novels, but I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for some time now. I only recently (as in a few years) got into anime so figured I didn’t know enough to comment on anything.

After reading so many enjoyable and insightful posts from fellow bloggers like Michel@ Raistlin0903Zbourie, Karandi@ 100 Word Anime, Anime_girls_NYC, and in different ways by all my supportive followers, I’ve been motivated enough to finally give it a try. P.S. Any words in blue have links attached.

Now on to the post! I’d like to start with:

What is anime?

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Art by Animalunleashed

I have come across various definitions that get into “anime” needing to fit a certain criteria in order to be “real anime”, but I’m not even going to pretend to understand all that well enough to get into any of it. I’m just going with the most basic definition. Anime, from what I understand, is short for “animation”, but when used in this context it exclusively refers to animated material originating from Japan. 

How/Why Did I Start Anime?

I grew up watching many of the same anime shows as other 90’s kids: Dragon Ball Z , Pokémon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, and Cardcaptor Sakura. But had no idea what anime was. In fact I spent years thinking anime was…it pains me to admit this… “some weird thing to be scoffed at”, and had no interest in.

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I sincerely apologize to all anime lovers/watchers and of course to Anime!

I was thankfully educated by an old friend and closet anime lover, and learned the truth: I had unknowingly been interested in anime all along lol. Now I’ll do something I generally opt to avoid like the plague, I’ll get a little bit personal:

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I’ve always been into reading (like that scene from Matilda I was that kid that would be carting home a wagon full of books from the library). I had some other hobbies/interests, but spent most of my free time between books and binge watching the latest TV show. With the exception of when I went off to school this remained true until around mid-March in 2014.

I won’t get too into it, but unfortunately I got sick. I had a bunch of inexplicable symptoms and did a ton of tests, but for about a year doctors couldn’t figure it out. For one, I had a lot of trouble focusing on anything, and worst of all I couldn’t write or read more than a few sentences without getting really dizzy. If I pushed things (which considering my love of books I did quite a bit of at first lol), I lost the ability to make sense of any of the words, along with getting a horrible migraine. At first doctors thought it was stress, then possibly MS, then about a year later they thought they found a brain aneurysm. Of course saying this was not the best of times for me is an understatement.

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But lucky for me I remembered the old conversation I had with Closet-anime-fan. So I decided, with nothing better to do since I wasn’t actively going to school and could barely handle most tasks, I’d start on some of the most popular anime series; shows I’d caught glimpses of as a kid, but hadn’t gotten the chance to watch them: Naruto, InuYasha, and Bleach, in that order

To be honest it was a bit of a rough start. I couldn’t understand why Naruto was so popular, but desperately needed something to take my mind off of everything (regular TV shows/movies just weren’t doing it anymore) so kept going. An entire 20-something episodes in my eyes were open. Once I finished those three I immediately went on to other top shonen (young male) shows:

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Art byAxelVera96

Needless to say, I was awed. Similar to how I was when I’d come across a mind blowing book series, I found myself wondering, “how did I not know about such amazingness before!? I quickly fell in lust, and moved on to shojo/shoujo (young girl) anime shows:

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Ouran Host Club: art by mixed-blessing; The Wallflower: washue; Fruits Basket: kuro-mai; Skip Beat!: alexielart

I watched a bunch of random shows before getting a bit tired of the young adult atmosphere, and eventually coming across something called seinen and josei (adult male/female) anime shows: 

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Samurai Shamploo: drodilla; Darker Than Black: talesvf; Black Lagoon: Hallucination-Walker; NANA: Alicechan

I was shocked to learn anime had so many different genres/stories, and could be so dark/psychological and thought-provoking. I pretty much became an addict for the first year, haha. 

What is Manga and How/Why Did I Start Reading It?

Manga, again in the most basic terms from my understanding, is basically Japanese comics. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but they differ from North American comics in both how they are published, and in the fact that they are always (with the exception of special editions/pages) published without colour in black and white.

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Of course, it was anime that had gotten me into manga in the first place. It ended up much like when I had started anime and had yet another shameful thought (it seems I’ve had many of these): “I’ll never watch subbed!” Then I ran out of most of the dubbed shows I had a high interest in watching, tentatively switched to subbed, and once again had my eyes opened. For manga, despite my early reservations, I ran out of patience for waiting on so many anime shows that had been dropped to possibly be picked up again by another company. So to start I went on Bookoutlet, found a couple cheap manga and bought them, because of course it never crossed my mind to just go to the library. 

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I wasn’t a big fan of either, namely Your & My Secret, but more importantly not only did the big difference in how to read it go well, but I found I could actually get through it without feeling sick. At this time my mysterious illness had been really improving, but I still couldn’t get through half a book before feeling too sick to continue so I was really hesitate to start. Thankfully my first attempts went well, and I found I could get through a few volumes before I had to call it quits. Soon enough, just like with the anime, I became a manga reading addict for almost a year lol.

I notice I’ve been kinda/pretty vague on details, but will say I eventually I got the good news of the brain aneurysm being a misdiagnosis! Yeah! As things got better I gradually started reading more and more manga at a time. Then slowly and gradually got back into reading regular novels. As you could probably tell from all the novel reviews and posts, I’ve been much better since and will be going back to school later this year or next!

So that is my story on how I started manga/anime, and ultimately how they both helped me deal with all that crazy life stuff. I’ll eventually get around to doing a post on my top favorite anime shows and movies. Thanks for reading! Now on to more anime!

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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!