Top Five Quaintest Spots in Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is a great place to be, but you gotta make the most out of their amenities when you don’t live in the local area. But you know, in this day and age, there’s- as Elton John would say- “more to do than can ever be done” in life. Sometimes, it’s worth going to Disney just for the brief reprieve from all the noise. In this post, I’ll list off the best spots to do nothing in.


5) Wilderness Lodge Lobby

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is one of the best-themed resorts on Disney property. This massive log cabin made out of real, dead trees towers almost endlessly. This place is filled with insanely accurate Native American motifs and huge totem poles. There’s nothing quite like crashing on one of the many sofas (preferably in front of the ornate fire pit), and lull off to sleep with the unending raucous of the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the background. If you can find the secret room on the second floor, you won’t be sorry.


4) Outside Davy Crockett’s at Fort Wilderness

Are you sick of standing around Fort Wilderness waiting for the Hoop-Dee-Doo to let people in? Well, don’t worry; there’s a way to sit around instead! Davy Crockett’s has a first-come-first-served set of comfy rocking chairs that you can recline on all day (or until someone wakes you up).


3) Boardwalk at the Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is one of my favorite Disney Resorts. It has the great atmosphere of an early Twentieth Century boardwalk, but now with good service, good food, and the FDA! It has a gorgeous view of the lake area and the neighboring resorts. Grab a pizza by the window if you want. Just don’t think you can laze around here at night, for street performers and other events will turn this relaxing place into a rave.


2) Pandora… at Night

Pandora in the Animal Kingdom can be enjoyed at any time of day. But it’s particularly special at night. If you wait from about dinner time, depending on what time of year you go; it gets dark later in spring and summer. As dusk turns to nightfall, you’ll see the plants slowly begin to glow one by one. When they do, chillax on an Alpha Centauri Expeditions patented bench and gawk at Pandora’s multicolored splendor while you laze off. The Wind Traders shop also has a nice atmosphere, but it gets cramped in there easily, so be wary.


1) Elvis Beach at Polynesian Village

This isn’t the official name, but it is the sole place in Disney’s Polynesian Village where they play some good ol’ Hawaiian-inspired, Elvis Presley tunes. Lounge in a hammock or a beach chair, and gaze out at the Magic Kingdom across the lagoon. And if you stay in one of the bungalows hanging off the coast, then you’ll be able to relax knowing that you now have no money.


In conclusion, Walt Disney World is truly a place where anything is possible. Despite the massive crowds, insane planning needed, and very pricey food and merch, it’s more than possible to relax and soak it all in. In fact, I think the people who DON’T do that once in a while miss the whole point of being there in the first place. So, if you ever find yourself hoofing it over to Walt Disney World, give yourself some time to take a chill pill.

Outer Ragna Volume 1 Review

What if you had complete control over someone’s body and mind? Their movements, their thoughts, their own souls… are yours. Would you do something like that to a living, breathing human? Although that’s part of the premise of Outer Ragna, the latest Overlord wannabe published in English by J-Novel Club, that train of thought isn’t even remotely explored in the plot. I just wanted to make an interesting intro paragraph *smirks*.

In Outer Ragna, a (presumably) Twitch streamer by the username of PotatoStarch plays the new deluxe edition of Dragon Demon RPG on stream. This game is supposed to be Dark Souls of JRPGs (if Xenoblade Chronicles X wasn’t already that), and your race and abilities are all randomized. He ends up with the worst possible role: a human slave girl. But for some reason, the whole game world is an actual fantasy world (of course), and he’s controlling this girl, named Kuroi. Thanks to his veteran gamer skills, the humans actually have a shot at survival in the ongoing war of the elves and vampires that normally wipe humanity clean in a normal playthrough.

Confused? Despite the simple premise, I found Outer Ragna to be kind of hard to follow at first. The structure felt very disorienting to me for some reason… I actually took my darn time to read through this volume, yet I was still confused at times. A lot of scene transitions felt very abrupt.

The author definitely put a lot of effort into the game mechanics, which is good. But it’s only introduced in chunks of exposition dump from Starch, and scattered throughout the book. What you need to understand is that elves get magic from the Dragon God, Vampires get magic from the Demon God, and humans- who can only learn lousy fire magic- have no god. Or so they thought. In the deluxe edition, the humans have the Devil God on their side, who is presumed to be Starch himself. 

“Hang on!” you exclaim, “This guy can’t play this game 24/7, right?” Don’t worry; strange circumstances occur in the world that force him to play it, such as being given an indefinite paid vacation from his job. Obviously, this doesn’t make a lick of sense, but them’s the brakes with the genre.

The biggest problem so far is that I’m not a fan of the writing style. The descriptions are lacking in detail, and the many “torture porn” segments feel underwhelming (keep in mind that yours truly’s standards of torture porn have spiked recently, thanks to Torture Princess). I also had no sense of where anyone or anything was in 3D space. The writing is at its best when it strictly comes to action sequences, but those occur in rather low abundance.

Among the characters, Kuroi is the  one most worth mentioning. It’s hilarious to see NPCs react to her doing repetitive tasks from their perspective, while we as an audience know that it’s merely Starch grinding stats a la Quest 64. But otherwise, she’s just your typical deadpan loli. The other interesting character is the sorcerer, Odysson, who has cool fire magic, but is implied to have Ted Bundy’d a bunch of people in the past. But seriously… they introduce way too many characters to keep track of right off the bat. In addition to the characters I mentioned, there’s… *deep breath* The priest Felipo, the knight Agias, his brother Origis, some merchant lady, a loli named Sira, and more! What they all have in common is being boring dullards.

Outer Ragna is yet another LN with only cover art. While it is a step down from Isekai Rebuilding Project, it still has a nice, edgy style to it that makes it visually appealing all the same. Let’s just hope the series will get as intense as it looks on the cover moving forward.

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Verdict: 6.75/10

From the first impressions, Outer Ranga doesn’t seem to be anything spectacular. It sets up some good groundwork, but to what end? The structure felt very wonky, and the characters are bland. I’d recommend it to fans of Overlord and Sword Art Online. But otherwise, I might end up quitting while I’m ahead.

Karneval First Impressions (Omnibus Volumes 1-4)

I’ll never get the manga magazine industry. I do understand that whatever manga stays and goes depends on popular vote, but sometimes, it’s really astonishing when something that isn’t all that popular somehow manages to survive for a long time. Seraph of the End and Twin Star Exorcists come to mind. But what about Karneval, published in omnibus form by Yen Press?

In Karneval, a boy named Nai is captured and almost sexually assaulted by some rich woman (who is, apparently, also a mutant of some kind). He’s saved by a dude named Gareki, who notices a necklace on Nai’s person: an I.D. bracelet of someone in the secret service known as Circus. According to Nai, a friend of his, named Karoku, possessed this bracelet (somehow), and wants to find him. So, the two boys team up to seek out this dude, and inevitably get involved in a whole bunch of stuff along with Circus themselves.

Karneval is basically a battle shounen manga that tries to be story driven. There is a lot of plot that gets covered in each chapter… almost too much at once. If I may touch on the artwork early, the panel flow is very wonky, as it cuts away to scenes more abruptly than Family Guy. A lot of times, there’ll be a fight scene happening, and then suddenly, two completely separate people will talk about something that has nothing to do with the fight at all!

Despite the weird cuts, Karneval has a pretty standard issue story. Most of the intrigue revolves around Nai’s strange hearing ability, among other things, as well as what Karoku’s deal is. It progresses towards answering these questions, while asking new ones, at a pretty steady pace. The Circus spaceships are also pretty cool. They’re basically flying mansions that are managed by robot bunny rabbits. Karneval also has a cool explanation for how they get their fantasy superpowers.

The characters are, sadly, pretty unremarkable. Nai is the worst of the bunch, as he is just a weak kid who only exists for his plot relevance. He’s obsessed with Karoku, to the point where it gets super annoying, and he’s also just… dumb; not in the fun way. Gareki is just the designated cool dude, with no real personality. These two protagonists are also lacking in the power progression department. Gareki doesn’t even start his first training arc until the fourth omnibus (volumes 7-8), and Nai is pure baggage, who is incapable of defending himself in any capacity whatsoever.

The people in Circus that they meet are basically just various character tropes. Yogi is the aloof guy, Tsukumo is the loli, Eva is the busty older sister, Hirato is the nonchalant guy… It’s an understatement to say that you’ve likely seen this before.

As for the art, Karneval looks kind of like a shoujo manga when it comes to the shapes of the characters’ faces. Fortunately, they (at least the ones in Circus) are VERY well-dressed. The mangaka creases the clothes so much that your mother will want them to put their clothes back in the dryer. The only issue with the clothing choice is that there are at least three guys in tuxedos and top hats, and I get them very easily confused with one another.

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Current Verdict: 6/10

Is there something I’m not getting? Karneval has been running for thirteen years and counting, yet it’s kind of meh. It’s not the worst manga ever, but that doesn’t make it a masterpiece. If you just want to kick back and relax with a whacky battle shounen manga, then Karneval is there for you.

Monogatari Series Review, Part 2 of 3

In my review of the previous season of the Monogatari novels, I mostly praised its strange writing and its weird and complex characters, while showing disdain toward its slow-pacing and “smart-sounding” dialogue. But wow, this season is really where the series gets good.


Nekomonogatari: Shiro

I alluded to disliking Hanekawa in my previous review. So, naturally, I was DREADING a volume told from her perspective. Well, it turns out that I like her a lot more now. My problem with her last time wasn’t so much her personality as it was Araragi’s hero worship of her. Even when her tragic backstories and flaws came to light, he would unflinchingly maintain his preconceived image of her as Super Mary Sue 9000, and that made me resent her (and Araragi). But in HER head, we see a more down-to-earth and less pompous person than before. 

She is, in some ways, a better narrator than Araragi. The volume’s shorter chapters provide more places for readers to stop and process plot developments. Plus, her proactiveness makes it so that she tries to solve the volume’s conflict, as opposed to Araragi, who had to wait for Memelord or Kaiki or whoever to exposition dump the issue onto his clueless face.


Kabukimonogatari

Oh boy. Araragi again. Well, fortunately, he at least learned some lessons from Hanekawa. The chapters are still shorter and he didn’t take QUITE as long to get to the actual plot.

It sure jumps the shark by suddenly introducing TIME TRAVEL out of nowhere. And similar to 99.99% of time travel mechanics, it falls into modern fantasy’s “make up random inconsistent crap just for whatever would help the narrative” schtick. Not even NISI can match Steins;Gate.

The biggest issue with this volume is its ending, as it builds up to an epic confrontation that ends almost instantly. However, the suspense and tension of the scenario are enough to make Kabuki arguably one of the best volumes of Monogatari up to this point.


Hanamonogatari

I was told by my friend who’s been lending me this series that this is either their least favorite installment or widely considered to be the worst installment… I don’t quite remember. In fact, I properly remembered incorrectly, because this is not a bad volume at all!

It is, however- in good old NISIOISIN fashion- an unusual volume. Hana is the FINAL volume of the series, chronologically speaking. Starring Kanbaru for the first time, this volume is set after Araragi has graduated high school and moved to college. We get our first deep look at the weirdo as she tackles this volume’s conflict solo.

However, just because it’s not the worst or not bad, doesn’t mean it’s a straight-up masterpiece either. If actually read chronologically, this would’ve been a horrible way to “end” the series. Also, I don’t get the point of this examination of Kanbaru. Unlike with Hanekawa, where I actually started to view her differently as a person, I didn’t feel any differently about Kanbaru. Sure, we learn about an aspect of her past, but unlike with previously established characters, I didn’t understand what aspect of her insecurities was explored via this volume’s conflict. Maybe I brain-farted on this one or something. 

Nonetheless, NISI made a good call publishing the finale when he did, instead of actually publishing it at the end. He saved himself from a lot of salt that way! Unfortunately, Araragi’s presence in this volume gives him plot armor for the rest of the series. Great!


Otorimonogatari

Making her first appearance in what feels like forever, Nadeko takes the helm in the strangest installment in the series thus far. Did she always alternate between referring to herself with a lowercase “i” and her own name in the third person? I feel like I would’ve realized that sooner.

The premise is that she becomes possessed by a strange white snake, which is supposed to represent the guilt of her chopping up snakes back in the first arc. The theme seems to have something to do with how Nadeko is a horrible person who tries to victimize herself or something… I’m not quite sure. But regardless, Otori showcases just how much of a basket case she is!


Onimonogatari

A strange phenomenon threatens to engulf Araragi and the town, and it has something to do with Shinobu. The main appeal of Oni is the telling of Shinobu’s backstory with her previous thrall. 

Unfortunately, her story is kind of boring. It doesn’t really give her any meaningful character development, and the dude doesn’t even have a name. Plus, like the troll that NISI is, no information in the backstory actually contributes to solving the conflict of the volume. This is probably my least favorite volume of the second season.


Koimonogatari

I presume this is originally meant to be the final published volume, for it is set around Araragi and Senjo’s graduation; the date that the final boss is meant to kill them, which is established in a previous volume of this season. It stars Kaiki, of all people, who is hired by Senjo to trick the person into sparing our two lovebirds.

It was a great call making Kaiki the narrator for this one. For one thing, his personality and world views are so eccentric and fresh that it makes him one of the best characters in the series. The other thing is that using him saves this volume from being utter ass. The whole thing is basically Kaiki talking to the final boss over and over again until he can tell them that Araragi and Senjo already died. But at this point, I was no stranger to NISI creating big buildup just to have it culminate in the most anticlimactic way possible.

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Verdict (Average of All 6 Books): 8.45/10

Monogatari is still kicking butt. If all goes well, I should be posting the finale of this review series towards the end of this year or the start of 2021. Peace out!

Isekai Rebuilding Project Volume 1 Review

Isekai has definitely entered a new era of subverting its own tired tropes, all with varying success, and with each one seemingly more ambitious than the last. To that effect, J-Novel Club has just published the most ambitious attempt to subvert the genre yet: Isekai Rebuilding Project, the sequel of every bad isekai.

“Wait, how can it be the sequel to multiple things at once?” you ask. Well, you see, Isekai Rebuilding Project stars a successful salaryman by the name of Eiji Kazama, who’s on his way to his fiance’s when he’s suddenly summoned to another world to save it from an evil, corrupt influence that’s spreading its way across the world. “Oh boy, all-powerful Demon Lord again…” Actually, no, it’s something worse than the usual Demon Lord; Kazama has to save the world from the unwitting damage brought to it by the generic, idealized teenage boy who had saved it from said Demon Lord in the first place.

“Wh-what? What the hell’re you talking about?” Let’s use the main conflict in this first volume as an example. In the first town that Kazama visits, he notices people eating white rice, a Japanese food introduced to the townsfolk by the hero. Unfortunately, due to science, the excessive carbohydrates from the white rice is causing their bodies to lose large quantities of an essential vitamin, resulting in a fatal disease. See where I’m going now? The path to hell is paved with good intentions, after all.

Isekai Rebuilding Project is the most literal deconstruction of isekai ever. A lot of the dialogue is just making fun of isekai tropes, and how impractical a lot of fantasy business, such as adventurer’s guilds, are. Mel Brooks said something like, “You can only spoof something that you love,” and it feels like these roasts are coming from someone who deeply loves isekai.

Based on this volume, Isekai Rebuilding Project could also be called Trivia Murder Party 2: Japanese History Theme. Kazama knows a lot of obscure stuff, such as the mortality rates and lifespan of the Japanese population throughout every era. His knowledge is a bit too bottomless, to be honest, despite how “normal” he’s supposed to be.

The only characters worth discussing are the two lead protagonists, the first of which is Kazama. He is established as a wholly unremarkable man, and I don’t exactly know how to feel about him yet. Normally, I’d shut down protagonists like him, but he’s at least smart, and respects the fact that he’s engaged to get married in the real world. The other main protagonist is Tiamat, a female dragon that is assigned to help him on his quest. She’s real sassy, and the dialogue in the series is at its best when these two are firing shots off each other.

As for the art, there are only two pieces: the front over, and a landscape version of it that was shot from behind. Seriously… it is gorgeous, almost excessively so. I have no idea how this artist was able to draw such detailed and whimsical artwork, practically out of a Studio Ghibli film, when the author doesn’t even put much emphasis into describing things in such detail. If I’m pumped for anything, it’s what later volume covers will look like.

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Verdict: 8.75/10

Normally, I don’t like “grounded” stories. Nonetheless, Isekai Rebuilding Project had a great first volume. But it’s so stinking short, I have no idea what to make of the series as a whole. This is something that has potential to be really great, or really terrible. But with only one volume out, we have no choice but to wait and see. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes slice-of-life fantasies, such as Ascendance of a Bookworm.

Arc of a Scythe Full Trilogy Review

Speculative fiction isn’t my favorite genre, but I can appreciate its importance. It’s important for people’s ideas to be challenged. Some of the best speculative works I’ve ever read are Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles and Chinese SF author Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem. But for some reason, putting out something truly speculative for younger audiences seems to be much harder than for adult audiences. Works like The Giver and Chronicle of the Dark Star set the groundwork to challenge young minds into questioning the world around them, but fall short and end up ham-fisting easy answers in the end. The Arc of a Scythe trilogy, written by Neal Shusterman and published by Simon and Schuster, seems to try to challenge the young mind as well. But does it succeed?

Arc of a Scythe is set in a world where humanity has achieved total bliss; all knowledge has been learned, and anyone who dies instead comes back in fresh new bodies at a clinic. However, the population is still a thing, so they hire people called Scythes to off folks, which results in what is called gleaning: the true, final death. Two plucky teens named Citra and Rowan are recruited as apprentice Scythes, and go on adventures in life and death.

Immediately, this idea is really neat. Scythe‘s premise could’ve asked a lot of questions about morality and the greater good. Unfortunately, it’s not so much the case in execution. Murder is a horrible act, and the idea of hired killers being able to arbitrarily murder whomever they want is inherently scary, but the world in Scythe could’ve been a genuinely good solution for mankind. However, Scythe doesn’t reach that potential, at least not from what I could GLEAN off of the dialogue and worldbuilding.

The way the world is put together comes off as Shusterman going out of his way to make it as corrupt as possible, so that it can’t be interpreted in any way other than “bad”. First off, the fact that TEENAGERS become apprentice Scythes is utter bullcrap. Of all the people to give the power to commit murder willy-nilly, teens aren’t the best choice. Secondly, how come this world lacks that real-world thing called background checks? Maybe some like that might be important when hiring someone to ARBITRARILY COMMIT MURDER. And don’t get me started on the Thunderhead! This thing was built to oversee everything that happens in the world and run all machinery. It does its job well enough, except for Scythes; it is forbidden to interfere with them. You’d think that maybe, just maybe, it should do just that, especially when someone gets a BIT drunk with power? 

Speaking of drunk with power, the biggest disappointment in Scythe is the main antagonist, Scythe Robert Goddard. It’s natural to think that anyone who has the power to murder without punishment (among other ludicrous perks of being a Scythe) would be a raving lunatic, and Goddard is said lunatic. He and his lackeys save all their gleanings for the last day of their quota so that they can perform literal acts of terrorism just for fun. Like in Marissa Meyer’s Renegades, he has no motive, and he apparently doesn’t need one because “Absolute power corrupts absolutely herpaderpderp.” They wait until the third book to give him any real backstory, but it doesn’t help much.

The other characters aren’t that much better. The two leads are just classic YA tropes; Citra’s the brat, and Rowan’s the edgelord. Their relationship is a load of bullcrap because they inevitably get romantically involved despite the fact that they spend more than 80% of the story separated. I don’t mean a long-distance relationship; I mean that they hardly even communicate with each other! Introduced in book two is Greyson, who is basically the emo. Unfortunately for him, all he does is join some cult and have conversations with the Thunderhead that aren’t really that interesting IMO (at least until the third book). In fact, at least half of the series is uninteresting conversations. 

So what are the positives? It’s entertaining. The writing is solid, and when the story gets going, it gets going. There are also some good one-liners as well, and some parts that are unintentionally funny. And even though Goddard ruins all sense of moral ambiguity in the story, he’s still got some charisma as a try-hard, edgy villain.

Most of book two, Thunderhead, was a boring blur for me, except for the climax. It was a really intense string of events, and the author had done something genuinely ballsy. Unfortunately, 95 pages into book three, The Toll, he once fails to commit to that risky move. But other than that, The Toll is actually a [somewhat] satisfactory finale. It still fails to touch upon any speculative narrative themes (it damn well tries, though), but it’s definitely the best of the three.

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Final Verdict: 7/10

I wanted to give Arc of a Scythe a 5 or lower, but I couldn’t. It’s my fault for expecting something more intellectual, when that might not have been the author’s intent. But for what it is, Scythe is decent at best; not the worst YA book series out there, but be wary that it will not explore any gray areas whatsoever.

Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen Volume 3 Review

Last time on Torture Princess, Elisabeth and Co. went to Vlad’s castle to find information on the remaining demons. Kaito pockets a strange orb, but otherwise they have as much luck as two Spaceballs combing the desert. Later, they get invited to the castle of a new demon, the governor. Upon arrival, they see a gruesome scene where innocent people are gorging endlessly on poison foodstuffs. Elisabeth puts them out of their misery, and they go to the Governor’s bedroom where they find him already dead. Suddenly, the guy’s heart ruptures and Elisabeth is afflicted with some spell. Then, another new demon, the Grand King Fiore (female), shows up. Apparently, she has the ability to control other demons, and set this all up for Elisabeth. They manage to escape, but Elisabeth’s magic is heavily drained. However, the church immediately makes her fight two more demons that are attacking the same area. But before that, Kaito discovers that Vlad’s orb contains his spirit, and he teaches Kaito how to use some magic. With this, they’re able to fight the demons, but one of them is used in the same spell again, and Elisabeth is in even deeper doo-doo. What’s worse is that the Grand King, in control of two MORE demons, is attacking Elisabeth’s HQ directly. Desperate to help, Kaito forms a contract with Vlad’s Kaiser. Hina finds out, and he involves her in a plan. Hina uses a weapon that makes Kaito feel the pain of all the minions that are killed in order to power up his Kaiser. By the time he shows up, she’s got her arms and legs burnt off.  Unfortunately, Kaito’s magic isn’t enough to fight off the Grand King in her final form. But he has a backup plan. He stabs himself and uses the blood- fused with the Kaiser’s- to cure Elisabeth, and she whoops the Grand King’s booty. YEAH! YEAH! BEST GIRL ELISABETH IN THE HIZ-OUSE! However, they barely manage to restore Hina’s limbs before they get an emergency summons to the capital city, which is seriously getting wrecked.

Unfortunately, Hina’s “gears have to realign” or whatever, so she’s not actually IN this volume. But hey, given that volume 2 was all about the S.S. KaitoHina, this volume is all about the S.S. KaitoElisabeth. It’s about freakin’ time, am I right? 

Anyway, the situation in the capital is about what you’d expect. The three remaining Demons have fused together into a giant flesh blob, and it sucks in people, turning them into mutants that throw other people into it and repeat the cycle. The description of it, as well how Elisabeth dispatches the mutants, is about as excessively violent as you’d expect.

This volume gives us a new girl named Izabella Vicker, a commanding officer of the paladins who are sided with the church. She’s your typical hyper-morally-correct Mary Sue who wouldn’t be caught dead doing something dishonorable. But she’s an extreme case; in order for them to not have to rely on Elisabeth, she chooses to bathe in sin by killing the innocent people who’ve been turned into mutants. She’s my least favorite character so far, but there’s a good chance she’ll have a bigger role to play later.

Despite this volume centering around an entire battle, this is actually the least action-packed volume so far. Normally, I would be like, “Ugh… more boring crap where nothing happens,” but Torture Princess once again shows its surprising strength in character interactions. There’s an entire chapter of Kaito and Elisabeth just hanging out together, and it’s a really good chapter. Their relationship is probably one of the best that I have ever seen; much better than the BS from the actual romance genre.

But of course, what we all want to know is what happens at the end of the volume. After all, as established in volume 1, Elisabeth’s only reward for defeating all these demons is public execution. I personally saw it coming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something entirely predictable. You’ll have to read this volume and see.

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Verdict: 9/10

This brings us to the end of the first arc of Torture Princess. I have no clue of how things are going to play out moving forward. But as long as it’s edgy beyond all reason, I’ll see it through to the bitter end.

Radiant First Impressions (Vol.1-7)

I’m not a very good artist. What’s worse, whenever I’ve tried to draw manga, it somehow comes out looking Western, even though I don’t like how most Western GNs look! Maybe I should take lessons from Toni Valente, a French mangaka, whose ongoing series, Radiant, actually managed to get an anime adaption in Japan. Viz Media has brought us English speakers this series, so let’s see if it’s any good.

In Radiant, the world is plagued by Nemesis, who is not a hungry waifu, but a hungry race of demons. These demons are repelled by wizards, who sadly, only earn blatant disrespect from citizens and the Inquisition. But hey, Seth has a dream, and it’s to defeat the Nemeses at the source; the mythical, titular realm known as Radiant.

It’s not surprising that Radiant is a battle shounen, which is the most internationally recognized (and almost synonymous with) anime genre of all time. Fortunately, Radiant actually manages to capture the spirit of the genre in a way that doesn’t come off as mockery.

In fact, it feels almost too shounen-esque, as in- say it with me- it’s a bit generic. Valente doesn’t really put any “French”-ness in this manga at all (I know that Hiro Mashima said that there is in one of the afterwords, but I have no clue what he’s seeing that I’m not). The comedy and personality are all there, but it’s stuff you’ve seen before. I guess I’ve learned that humans really, truly all have the same desires and interests when it comes down to brass tacks.

Some of the characters are pretty uninspired. Seth is a generic battle shounen boy, Doc is comic relief, and Grimm is the mysterious guy. The series is at least graced by the presence of Best Girl Melie, who is a spiritual successor of Lunch from Dragon Ball in that she has a crazy good and crazy mean split personality. She’s just about as much of a hoot as Lunch was, and she’s still pretty powerful even when she’s in nice mode. Strangely enough, most of the minor characters seem to have the more interesting personalities, such as the conman headmaster of the Artemis Institute, or this old guy who can never list off two reasons for anything without mumbling the second one. 

At the very least, Radiant is set in a lovely world. Every town is situated on a sky island of some sort, like in Zelda Skyward Sword, and each island has its own distinct personality. There are also some fun setpieces down on Earth itself, such as a forest which acts as the hyperbolic time chamber from Dragon Ball.

The art in Radiant is great. Valente clearly understands the subtle distinctions that make a manga a manga and a comic a comic, and is able to make something that is clearly the former while also giving it its own style. The character designs are great and their faces are super expressive. If only I could be just as good…

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Current Verdict: 7.75/10

Radiant is a good manga from an unexpected source, but said unexpected source is really the only thing it has going for it. If you just handed this to me with no context, I would’ve seen a fun but typical battle shounen manga. Read it if you want, but there are many better works from Japan: the country that understands manga better than anywhere else.

Dead Mount Death Play First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

Edgelords are a really popular market no matter where you’re from. Regardless of how kids are raised, a primal urge that goes back to when people would pay to watch Romans slaughter each other makes us yearn for media with wonton violence, gratuitous sexualization, and morally incorrect protagonists, all against our better judgement. It’s such a big market that I feel like I’ve tagged at least twenty of my posts as “edgy”, and I’m running out of insightful ways to describe the genre. So let’s turn off our lights, put up our hoods, and dive into Dead Mount Death Play, the newest manga by the creator of Durarara!!, published in English by Yen Press.

In Dead Mount Death Play, a powerful necromancer called the Corpse God is engaged in battle with his enemy. Right when Mr. Corpse is about to be slain, he uses reincarnation magic to be reborn in the body of Polka Shinoyama, a boy in modern Japan who has just been murdered. The new Polka has a run in with his killer, Misaki Sakimiya, and after killing her and turning her into a zombie, he joins her in her exploits (i.e. killing people for money).

Well, what else can I say? We have literal villains as the main protagonists; it doesn’t get edgier than that. Sure, they have tragic backstories, but who doesn’t these days? 

Unlike Durarara!!, DMDP seems to have a more focused narrative so far. But at the same time, I don’t know what the author wants to do with it. The main conflict revolves around issues in Polka’s family, as well as the exploits of various criminals, such as the bandage-covered Lemmings. It’s a pretty simple plot, but I found it really difficult to tell who’s working for whom (maybe that’s the point?). The intrigue ramps up at the end of volume 3, so maybe it’s just hit its turning point.

But hey, this is our boy Narita, the creator of Durarara!!, here. That means the best part of DMDP is the cast, right? Eeeeeeh… sadly, not quite. Corpse God/Polka is basically your generic, emotionally insecure edgelord, who only stands out thanks to the slit in his throat. I forgot most of the other characters’ names, such as Occulus-wearing guy who is basically the brains of the people that Misaki works for, and these two police officers who are kind of just there. Misaki’s supervisor, Clarissa, is basically your fanservice character (who sometimes has uncensored sex with some of her other employees. Watch out for that). The best character is definitely Misaki herself. She is both ditzy and insane, with by far the best character design out of the lot. Also, she’s a zombie, which makes her extra appealing for those with a monster girl fetish.

The art varies a lot. Most of the time, it’s your standard manga art. But sometimes, it’s like, “Oh hey, here’s something with a lot of linework in it!” Overall, it looks good, but I’ve definitely seen better.

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Current Verdict: 7.6/10

No writer has to worry more about topping a popular series than that series’ own creator. I likely expected a bit much from Narita, especially given that he’s working on other stuff at the same time as this. Furthermore, Durarara!!‘s greatest strength is in it’s prose, which naturally, would end up being lacking in a manga. DMDP is your typical edgelord fare. You’ll know if you’d like it just by looking at the cover art.

Her Majesty’s Swarm Volume 1 Review

Many isekai lately have been trying- and failing- to have genuinely dark undertones. The most successful attempt thus far is probably Torture Princess. But as much of a masterpiece as it is in its own right, it is essentially a typical wish fulfillment fantasy with a slathering of blood on it. J-Novel Club has just published a new Overlord wannabe called Her Majesty’s Swarm. Will it be able to handle dark themes well? Let’s find out.

Her Majesty’s Swarm stars an unnamed girl who gets summoned to an alternate world. This world, similar to Overlord, behaves like her favorite MMO, which has players build armies and conquer their enemies. This girl is the queen of the evil Arachnea, a race of spiders that serve her.

So far, Her Majesty’s Swarm seems to be how I described it in the beginning: an Overlord wannabe. Instead of immediately launching a merciless world conquest, she decides to build her army “properly”. She negotiates with locals and only kills criminals. Fortunately, the spiders all share their thoughts with her, so she has no need to be Ainz, who must pretend to be evil in case his loyal minions stop being loyal even though their programmed to be that way.

But all that changes around the one-third mark. Certain individuals attack other certain individuals that she cares about, and as a result, she declares an all out war. Suddenly, she’s building an army with the express purpose of killing, murdering, and slaughtering. While the writing in the fight scenes aren’t as good as Overlord, it looks like it will at least be more consistent. 

But like Overlord, the characters have a lot of room for improvement in the everything department. The Queen is definitely meant to be the fan favorite. While she is a very smart and cunning leader when it comes to RTS, her shift from a sympathetic queen who buries and mourns one dead spider to a heartless queen who doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice thousands of them is VERY out of left field. She also has an existential crisis somewhat similar to Ainz, in that she doesn’t know if her ambitions are her own or that of the Swarm’s eroding her conscience, but it becomes a non-issue pretty quickly.

The only other character worth mentioning is Serignan, a special type of spider with a human torso (and a female one of course). She’s about as loyal and bland as any of Ainz’s minions, and comes off as a knockoff of Hina from Torture Princess.

The art in Her Majesty’s Swarm is lacking. And by that, I mean literally lacking; there are no illustrations in this thing! The only artwork we get is the cover and a bare-bones basic map. The cover art has a nice desaturated color palette, and the honeycomb pattern in the background looks cool (even though she’s with spiders and not bees).

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Verdict: 7.8/10

So far, Her Majesty’s Swarm is a decent enough slaughterfest. The story can go either way moving forward, so I’ll have to give it another volume before I really know what to think. You can read it if you like edgy fantasies, but something like Torture Princess beats this by a long shot.