Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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This post is going to be a bit different from my usual style and content, as I’ve finally- for those that have been suggesting it for quite some *cough* decided to also write a little on anime. Now this doesn’t mean I’m turning this into an anime site, I’ll still be doing the regular bi-weekly book review posts (excusing times where things get busy and there isn’t any *ahem*). This just means I’ll occasionally be doing an extra post here and there on anime, or something like this one- where it’s mainly a manga review, but I add in some of my thoughts on the anime adaption if I’ve watched it. 

Last year I decided to go outside of my comfort zone with anime and tried out a few shows in the Slice of Life genre (similar to but not quite contemporary for those of you who don’t know). Some went more or less like I was expecting- I was bored out of my mind- but a few others were gems and made me change my mind about Slice of Life in general. Barakamon, not to be confused with Bakuman (am I the only one that did this?), was one of them.

Synopsis:

Barakamon follows the life of a 23-year-old professional calligrapher, Seishuu Handa, after he moves out to the booneys on a small island. The calligraphy bit got me interested, but so did his reason for moving in the first place: as a much needed getaway following a… let’s call it “mishap” with the Exhibit Hall Director at a showing over some publicly dished out criticism.

Exhibit A:

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Naturally this all led to him having some…issues in his work and social life, so he readily agreed to being sent off to the middle of nowhere. But, of course, his hopes of getting some peace and quiet to focus on his work are quickly crushed by one trouble making first grader: Naru.

Exhibit B:

 

My Rating (for both): 9/10 Unicorn Horns!

The hilarious interactions between main characters Handa and little Naru are definitely the selling point of this series. I found myself bursting into laughter every chapter/story at their antics, the many resulting misunderstandings, and Handa’s often immature reactions to Naru’s actions and logic. The characters and humour are part of what made this series so enjoyable for me. Even the side characters that make small appearances had their place and made themselves memorable in some way. 

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In the first volume, along with a handful of villagers, we only meet Naru, a couple of her classmates, the two middle schoolers Miwa and Tama, and high school senior Hiroshi. Things don’t get too in-depth with them seeing as this is the first volume, save for maybe Hiroshi, but there is just enough to get a grasp on each character. I was taken back by how well Yoshino was able to make a cast of characters with such varying ages work. And equally surprised I didn’t find the kids really annoying. Of course the anime goes further than what I’ve read, but I’m seriously looking forward to going through all the craziness again in later volumes (especially the bits when Tama’s secret hobby and future dream come to light).

Then there’s the out-of-nowhere-gut-punching (a.k.a metaphoric life messages that really hit home). They’re nothing incredibly mind blowing, just some words about everyday life and hurtles most (meaning me) have forgotten had such simple answers somewhere along the way. Naru and Hiroshi did this very well through their interactions with each other, often giving insightful advice and encouragement just by being themselves. Coupled with the humour this made it become a solid and unforgettable series for me, which was unexpected considering my strong preference for an overarching plot. 

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Since this story takes place on a remote island, the inhabitants actually speak a different dialect (Kansai dialect). In the manga the translator used an old country sounding accent for all the characters living on the Island to represent this, save city raised Handa of course. While the anime does the same, reading it in the manga was a slightly different experience. This wasn’t a negative thing, just took some getting use to. 

The taste of small town life was another surprising enjoyment, and actually made me want to give it a try sometime. That and of course my introduction to the world of professional calligraphy. Naturally I won’t be taking this as a how-to-guide, but it did get me thinking, and also broaden my world by making me stop and really take it in as an art form. Especially a particular scene in the anime…which I can’t actually show cause it would definitely count as a spoiler. 

(Poor) Non-spoiler substitute: 

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Lastly, I never say much about it in any of my reviews unless I found it mind-blowing, but will say I like the art style. It’s good as far as I’m concerned and easy to follow, but noticeably changes (in a good way) from the first chapter to the last. 

I watched the anime a few months ago, and have only just read the first volume so can’t compare them much without spoilers. But so far the adaptation did a very good job. I’d recommend checking out either one since the anime seems to have done a fairly good job at capturing the essence of the manga, and the characters in it. Both were hilarious, charming, and overall very enjoyable.

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Find it On:

MAL;  Goodreads

Stream/Buy the Anime On:

Crunchyroll;  Funimation

Buy the Manga At:

Indigo/Chapters;  Amazon;  Barnes & Noble;  Right Stuff Anime

 

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Arata: The Legend Vol. 1, by Yuu Watase 

This Review is Spoiler Free

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Buy it from Barns & Noble

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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: 8.5/10 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.

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

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Buy it at Chapters/Indigo

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To be completely honest I had actually completely forgotten I had this book in my collection. I was doing a major bookshelf dusting and was on the shelf holding my graphic novels when BAM! I got to this cover and was unnervingly surprised. I lovingly…and possibly a little creepily…consider all my books “my children”, so to come across one I barely remember receiving as a gift was quite the shock. So of course considering I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately (hence the recent overabundance of manga/comic reviews lol), but am almost always up for a bit of horror I decided to give this neglected volume some much needed love. 

Synopsis: I like to put things in my own words, but the opening first few pages honestly sum things up quite perfectly so I can’t help but just quote it (Pgs 1-2 of The Beauty):

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. The beauty quickly became a fad. Suddenly, perfect skin, flawless features, and a gorgeous body were only one sexual encounter away.

The only downside appeared to be a slight fever, but that didn’t seem to slow many people down. Now, over half the population has the beauty, and the other half of the country hates them for it. Anti-beauty cells have popped up around the nation. The majority teach preservation, reminding everyone that the beauty is still a disease. A few, however, have taken a more aggressive approach to stopping the spread of the beauty…

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Image from Pg 3. of The Beauty

Rating: 9/10 Unicorn Horns!

A page after such an intriguing introduction to the modern world setting of The Beauty, we meet detectives Foster and Vaughn of the local city’s Beauty Task Force as they respond to the possible anti-beauty murder of a young woman. Only once they arrive at the scene it’s clear things aren’t as they appear as the young woman, by all appearances, looked instead to have spontaneously combust while traveling on the train. Things are quickly complicated even further when the case is quickly pulled from them by the Center for Disease Control by “Federal mandate”. This leads both detectives Foster and Vaughn (an unwilling carrier of ‘the beauty’) to look into the buried secrets behind the mysterious STD and those seeming to keep this horrific secret from the general public.  

Honestly…I don’t have much negative things to say about the first installment of what looks to be a very promising adult series. The story had a really good flow to it and was riddled with action, thriller, conspiracies, and a great diverse group of characters. One thing I loved was the bits of real life socially controversial thoughts and ideas about beauty woven in here and there. The art was visually appealing, and though I can’t say the main characters were personally among my favorites they were very well created and felt pretty genuine. The only reason it’s not a 10/10 is purely because of personal reasons. I would recommend this to just about every story loving adult, but warn about explicit violence, language, and a couple nude and censored sexually explicit scenes. This was an amazing start to a series with such a unique idea I couldn’t praise it enough!

Zeros by Scott Westerfeld

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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I can’t say I love all his books, but I will say I am definitely a fan of Scott Westersfeld. So I was genuinely excited about his new series Zeroes…well new at the time seeing as this was published late in 2015. Aside from the author the premise seemed pretty interesting as well so, like with many of his books, I added it to my collection.

Zeroes is YA about a group of diverse teenagers born with special, and somewhat unique/original abilities. The story bounces from each of  six main character’s POVs, but starts off with just two, Ethan and Kelsey. Ethan (code name Scam) has just come from a date and using his unique ability- he thinks of something he wants, walks up to a person, and a foreign voice comes out of his mouth with enough intimate knowledge about the person to charm them into just about anything- tries to get himself a ride home. Unfortunately for him his ability appears to have a somewhat dark side, and ends up getting him into a very complicated situation where he’s forced to call up his old friends (Crash, Flicker, Anonymous, and Bellweather A.K.A Glorious Leader) each with there own special ability. 

Kelsey (A.K.A. Mob), a mysterious girl with the ability to feel the pulse an flow of a crowd and influence it, pulling or pushing them along with her moods, is mainly focused on just enjoying this crowd riding feeling at parties. Though all this fun comes to a screeching halt the night she crosses paths with Ethan and finds her father in deep trouble.

I honestly can’t tell if I really liked this group of characters or not. Watching them as they learning to use and control their abilities was pretty compelling, and I found myself anticipating the moments when they learned new aspects of their gifts, questioned their abilities, and revealed snippets of their childhood struggle with what they were and could do. But other than a few moments here and there, I can’t really say I loved any of them. The flow of the story and the diversity (race, economic background, gender, physical abilities, and overall personality) of the characters kept things interesting enough that even with less liked characters I didn’t feel the usual need to skip right over someones POV. The story line wasn’t action-around-every-corner interesting, but had a really nice flow going for it, balancing action with character insight and development.

Overall this was a good start to an interesting series. 7/10 Unicorn Horns

Half Bad by Sally Green

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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When I first picked up this book I knew nothing about it, all I cared about was the gorgeous hardcover look. The series was a gift from a friend who also had no idea what this series was about, but knew I’d love it just for it’s look (a blatant case of judging a book by it’s cover but in this case? I care not lol). After admiring it’s beauty on my shelves for almost a year, I finally admitted to myself that the many, many books I’ve collected and not read deserved more than just outward admiration. It was long past time to get to know my books on a more personal level and love them for what’s on the inside as well (yes I’m aware I’m speaking of my books as the living beings they are =p). So Half Bad by Sally Green is one of the many I’ve got lined up on my to-read-this-year list. 

Though I really enjoyed going into this story with absolutely no expectations or having any idea what it was about, for all those who aren’t up for spending time and money on a book they may have no interest in- Half Bad is set in the U.K. and is about a young boy named Nathan. Nathan, our main protagonist, is a witch, more specifically a half White and half Black witch. This very rare fact in the world of unseen magic users is something that brings Nathan a lot of trouble and a lot of pain- “a lot” being an understatement here. The story starts off with Nathan thinking of ways to “survive” the mental and emotional burden of being locked in a cage every night, and his jailer’s physical and psychological abuse. After we’re introduced to Nathan and his current circumstances, the story goes back to his family and how he came to be in a cage in the first place. 

I have to say I love this story. It’s not the best or most original out there, some things could have been done better, and many things were (to be completely honest) very predictable. Even so, I still loved this story. I loved the contrast- more like prejudiced and abusive discrimination- between Black and White witches despite them having very unoriginal powers. Despite some mild annoyances and repetitive behaviours/thoughts, I really liked Nathan. He has his good qualities of course, and I liked the fact that he’s a diverse character (has a learning disability he struggles with throughout the series). He is also angry with the world, distrustful of people, and makes some stupid choices. Even so I really liked him, and would say his anger is more than justified. I also loved or liked most of the other characters who come into play- most of his family, a handful I can’t name, and even his jailer I found myself liking (couldn’t help being interested in her personality). With few exceptions (three to be exact) I found most characters enjoyable.  

I’m on the 3rd book and, even despite my avid hatred of love-triangles and near-enough-to-it-insta-love (not actual inst-love since the romance happened over time, but quick and serious enough to feel a bit off), I still really enjoy this series as a whole. I genuinely liked the whole idea where White (supposedly good) witches and Black (supposedly bad) witches where quickly revealed to have equally good/bad personalities. It’s a pretty good read if you don’t expect an amazing and epic tale. The first book started off amazingly well, but did start to drop off a bit towards the end. If it wasn’t for that I’d rate this book 9/10, but deserves an honest 8/10 Unicorn Horns overall

I Hate Fairyland Vol. 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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LMAOOO!!! I’m still slightly new to the American comic book world -as much as I love the stories I’m admittedly a little afraid of all those Marvel volumes- but had started picking up and collecting some Image Comics to start with. I don’t have much to compare it to, but as a fan of comedic TV shows and movies I have to say that this is a good pick that caters to my type of comedy- sarcastic, a bit witty, crude and unapologetic. I’d recommend this to any fan of satirical comedy shows like Futurama, Family Guy, or Robot Chicken. I look forward to the 2nd installment and give it 8/10 Unicorn Horns

The story, pretty self-explanatory considering the title, cover page, and opening quote:

It was a nightmare. Nothing but the green of her hair…and the blood of my people.

– Thaddeus J. Star, R.I.P.

Is basically a parody of fairy tales in general, so on occasion you’ll recognize themes/elements from scenes of well known fairy tales. All within the first 6 or so pages you get a bit of an Alice in Wonderland parody where a young 6 year old named Gert is whisked away, yelling and screaming, into a fairlyland. After a brutal and very bloody landing, the Queen of Fairyland sends her on an epic journey with an optimistic looking fly named Larry as a guide to find the magic key that will open a door to her way back home. On the 7th page, 27 years later, we have a now alcoholic looking Larry and an angry and psychotic looking Gert floating on a magic boat, flipping off and threatening the moon (in creative curse words I have to say) for insulting her. After she successfully…and very, umm, violently expresses her feeling for the moon the story goes on to follow the hilarious and always eventually violent adventures of the certifiable 47 year old woman trapped in a 6-year-old girl’s body.

I enjoyed this comic quite a bit. Gert is an incredibly insane and violent character that was a lot of fun to watch, and Larry, the straight man and unwilling side-kick, well…there’s not much to say about him to be honest, but his stoic ways do compliment Gert’s expressive homicidal ways quite nicely. The story line is nicely creative in some places and predictable in other ways, Gert will always do something crazy/stupid, but even then I was often surprised with the “how”. You may be able to tell she’s about to demolish a town, but really anything goes when it comes to how she’ll do it. I enjoyed meeting the host of other random and often hilariously creative characters and creatures, but more than that I loved the art. I’m a big fan of the style and have to say I really loved all the vivid colours used as well. 

Updates Going Forward

Hello Everyone! So, as I mentioned in a recent post (I Have Returned!) there will  be a few changes here on Maniacal Book Unicorn going forward and I want to go into further details about those changes in this post.

While I was on hiatus I re-evaluated a few goals that I had set for myself when I first started this blog. There were a couple of things that I had set out to accomplish each month in order to have a wider variety of the types of Book Reviews that I posted. I had met most of the ‘variety’ related tasks I wanted to accomplish with the exception of two…which I will go on to bore you with 🙂

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1. A Romance Book Review each month – I don’t tend to read very much romance related content so this is something that I have to remain conscience of so that there can be more variation in the genres/sub-genres of fiction that I review. So far I have posted a few romance related book reviews, mostly New Adult novels, but it’s something I have to hold myself accountable for.

2. A New Release Book Review each month – I have not been nearly as disciplined with this goal. A good portion of the reviews that are posted here on MBU were not read very recently before writing the review. And in cases where I have recently read the book I am reviewing it’s generally not something that was published within the past 60 days. So, going forward I want to ensure that each month I post one book review of a novel/graphic novel/manga that was published within the 60 days before I post the review.

There is also a couple things that I want to have posted each month that are not book review specific and that are also fairly new ideas that I mulled over while I was gone, and have decided to go ahead with doing. Once again allow me to bore you with aforementioned ‘things’ lol. 

1. A Post that is not a Book Review – Each month I want to make sure that there is something that goes up throughout the month that is  not a book review. I grappled with this idea before I had started this Blog, but I never felt confident/comfortable enough to actually put myself out there like that. Although I am still very nervous and apprehensive about doing this, many a people wiser than I have said that a person must take risks. So in the spirit of taking a leap of faith I will be posting a D.I.Y., sample of writing, discussion post, etc. each month.

2. A ‘Monthly Wrap-Up’ Post – Now that I’ve aired out all that self-doubt lol…I will let you know about this next goal, which I’m actually pretty excited about. Some of my favorite types of posts on book-/reading-centric blogs are those of the ‘Monthly Wrap-Up’ variety, and I want to try my hand at doing one each month as well. The way that I have decided to do this is to feature four picks from what I have read/reviewed that month that best matches four questions from a list of about 20 that I have created. I plan to post the list of questions sometime before I post the first Monthly Wrap-Up this month, I just have a bit of ironing out to do because some of the questions are quite similar at the moment.

Thank you for patiently reading through this post and I look forward to exploring new territory and having new experiences on Maniacal Book Unicorn! Happy Reading! 

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