Monday, May 30, 2016

Spice and Wolf, Volume 6

Spice & Wolf, Vol. 6Spice & Wolf, Vol. 6 by Isuna Hasekura
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The sixth volume in the Spice and Wolf series is... relaxed. I don't have a better way to describe it.

Thus far, all of the previous volumes have been fairly formulaic: Lawrence and Holo arrive in new town, a deal opportunity presents itself, Lawrence tries to make money, fails, Holo steps in to save the day, and then Holo and Lawrence end up saving each other. This formula has worked out well in the past few volumes. That said, I'm kind of glad that this volume changed things up a bit.

Starting where the fifth volume left off, Lawrence and Holo are still in Lenos. However, they come up with a course of action to chase after Eve, who, in the previous volume, betrayed Lawrence after he tried to renege on their deal. While they do go in the same direction as Eve, volume 6 isn't actually about the chase.

I mentioned it before, but this volume is more relaxed. There's no major plot in here, no person who needs saving, no deal that gets Lawrence in trouble. It's just Lawrence and Holo traveling down the river with two new characters.

One thing I really liked about this novel, and this series as a whole, is how it deals with the fact that Lawrence is a human and Holo is a wolf deity. A relationship between an immortal and a human can never last. They both know this. They both know that the journey must eventually end, but they keep journeying in spite of that.

While I mentioned this volume being very relaxed, it was still quite emotional. And of course, Lawrence still shows his ignorance. I'm actually somewhat surprised by how Lawrence still seems to get on Holo's bad side. I'm even more surprised that he couldn't figure out why he upset her and everyone else could. If there's one failing to this volume, it would be the feeling of having a forced argument for the sake of drama. It didn't feel natural this time. That said, it still wasn't enough to take away a star.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

No Game No Life, Volume 4

No Game, No Life Vol. 4No Game, No Life Vol. 4 by Yuu Kamiya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Volume 4 of No Game No Life is probably the most ridiculous, hilarious, and stupid volume of this series. It is so stupid that I felt my brain cells spontaneously combusting the longer I read it. That said, the amount of times that I laughed out loud, scaring the crap out of everyone else who was sitting at the Toyota shop waiting for their cars to be serviced, was numerous.

Volume 4 starts off with Sora trying to masturbate. Yes, masturbate. He's an 18 year old boy, you know. They do that. Masturbate, that is. So, yes, he was trying to use all of the fap material that he had painstakingly gained through excessive use of his tablets video capabilities--which he gathered with the help of Jibril--to choke the chicken, work off some tension, strangle the snake, etc., etc., etc...

Unfortunately, before he can, um, unload, he is interrupted.

And that's how this volume starts.

From start to finish, this volume was filled with ridiculous, off the wall, lewd, crass, and crude humor. Maybe it's the neanderthal in me, but I rather like lewd, crass, and crude humor, so I was laughing most of the time.

However, even though the humor was set to those of the lowest common denominator like myself, there's an intelligence about this volume that's surprising. Everything, from start to finish, is connected, even when it doesn't seem like it. Don't worry. I won't spoil how everything is connected. When you read it, you'll understand by the end that every seemingly innocuous or useless scene actually had a purpose beyond "let's do random shit because it's funny."

That said, I STILL have one problem with this series. It is this problem that has me taking away a star.

The problem is...

... Grammar.

As fun as this story is, the grammar has me throwing fits. Sometimes, the English is actually not bad. Other times, it makes me want to do the facestab...

I feel like this is a stylistic thing. It has to be. I mean, the English isn't bad in some parts. This leads me to believe that it was a conscious choice of the author to have weird, fragmented sentences all over the place.

Now, I'm not a grammar nazi. If I was, I wouldn't be reading this. That said, the choppy sentences make it super hard to follow. Sometimes I had to stop and pause, and then restructure a sentence because I didn't understand it. This killed some of my immersion.

If you can get past the grammar, then there is a truly enjoyable story hidden within these pages. I'm probably gonna buy volume 5, because despite the grammar, I really do enjoy the story, but I would understand if some people decided not to read this.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Log Horizon, Volume 5

ログ・ホライズン4 ゲームの終わり(下)(Log Horizon, #4)ログ・ホライズン4 ゲームの終わり(下) by Mamare Touno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mamare Touno has outdone himself with this one. Since this is part two of the current arc, there's no dilly-dallying here. We jump straight into a war with the goblins, who now have a king because none of the adventurers, who would have normally taken on the quest to slay the Goblin King when Elder Tales was a game, had done so this time.

I think the first aspect about this volume that I really liked was how the adventurers lack of quest taking was the cause for what happened here. When Elder Tales was a game, there was a quest that would come up every so often: Take down the Goblin King. However, thanks to the catastrophe that brought them to this world, so similar to the one they knew from the video game yet very different at the same time, the quest that would have dealt with the Goblin King before he became a threat was never taken. Thanks to that, the goblins crowned a king, who then decided to send out his forces to pillage and plunder the land.

Frightening enough to do the "glasses flash," fight? However, goblins aren't the only threat. What makes Log Horizon truly interesting isn't just how the goblins have come about because the Goblin King was never slain, but how it affects the People of the Earth. The People of the Earth, formerly NPCs in Elder Tales, are a society that was based off of older European culture. It follows the conscripts of many fantasy stories, where the times are more reminiscent medieval Europe, and their politics are quite similar. This presents an interesting contrast between the People of the Earth and the Adventurers, which causes friction during the debates on what they should do about the goblin army.

I feel that it's the People of the Earth who make this LN stand out so much. They aren't just NPCs in this. They are real people, and their politics harken back to days long forgotten. It makes for an interesting story.

Of course, there is far more to this story than just NPCs becoming real people. How Shiroe and the gang handle the political situation they've found themselves, how the goblins are dealt with, the carefully constructed world building, all of it feels a lot more well thought out than other LNs of its genre. Of course, having only read SAO and No Game No Life, I don't have much to compare it to, but between the three, this one is definitely my favorite.

If this story had one aspect that I didn't like, then it's how long winded it sometimes felt. There were occasions where the story felt like it was dragging on, describing aspects that would have been interesting if not for the fact that I was more curious about the story than the world building. They were in the middle of a war with the goblins. Such a thing should have been exhilarating, but some of the excitement was stolen because, during these scenes, the author would go on and on and on as he went into the perspective of whatever character the story was being told from at that time. There were occasions where it felt like pontificating for the sake of upping word count. That said, it wasn't as if I hated these moments. I just wished the story had moved a little faster.

In all regards, this series continues to stand at the top in terms of writing, world building, and character developing. I'm gonna buy the next volume.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Utawarerumono Review!

In a world where cute girls with animal ears reign supreme, comes a surprisingly violent series about a man who doesn't remember his past... and the cute animal-eared girl who loves him... yeah. Why don't I just get this review started, eh?

Let us begin with a basic rundown of Utawarerumono... nonononono. The series starts off with a man who has no past, no name, and was found unconscious in a forest. He also likes to stroke the tails of girls, but that's a story for another time. Given the name Hakuoro by the village chieftess, this anime follows his journey as he learns more about himself and gets into a lot of epic wars along the way. Yes. I am quite serious here. The amount of war packed into this 26 episode series is off the charts. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

As an anime that was based on a strategy game, it's no wonder that this series features a lot of epic fights. That said, the story isn't all fighting. There's a surprising amount of character development and thought put into their concept. One of the greatest joys I received from watching this anime was seeing how the characters interacted off the battlefield as well as on. Furthermore, all of the characters are truly likable. Whether we're talking about the adorable Aruruu, the hot-headed Oboro, or the lovely Eruruu, there are plenty of characters for you to gush over.

Character wise, if this anime had one true failing, it would be the blatantly obvious villains. I'm not joking here. Every villain who appeared was so obviously evil that it was sickening to see how obviously virtuous and just the good guys were. The first villain was a prick with a chip on his shoulder, the second was a fat emperor, the third was insane and started a war for pleasure... basically, there's no subtlety to any of these villains. It made watching the battles a little less enjoyable. I personally would have enjoyed watching a sophisticated sociopath who used trickery instead of brute force to get his way. Even the last bad guy was pretty blatant in his "I'm the evil final last boss!" spiel.

The final villain was another problem I had. This has more to do with foreshadowing, however. While a lot of the characters were explained well and developed, this guy was never explained until the info dump at the end. It would have been better if, rather than shoving lots of information on us during the final few moments, we learned about the villain bit by bit over the course of the story. As is, I almost feel like the director introduced this guy at random, didn't know what to do with him, and then said, "ah, screw it!" in the end and did whatever he felt like.

Overall, I think there are a lot of good things about this anime. There was a solid story, excellent characters, epic battles, decent animation and artwork, and an okay romance that I kinda wish had a little more substance. This was a highly enjoyable anime, and if you like any of the above mentioned things, then I suggest giving this a watch.

Artwork: 7/10
Animation: 7/10
Sound: 7/10
Characters: 9/10
Story: 8/10
Personal Enjoyment: 9/10
Total: 7.8/10