Weathering With You: 2019’s Best Collection of Desktop Wallpapers

Anime movies are pretty hard to watch sometimes. While HBO Max has everything by Ghibli, they don’t have much of anything else. Streaming services are all missing a lot of movies by various people, especially Mamoru Hosoda. The Fathom Events screenings courtesy of GKids is the only option I have to see a movie when it’s new. Or… I could watch Weathering With You on HBO Max. Its famous creator, Makoto Shinkai, directed 2016’s Your Name, Japan’s highest grossing animated feature ever (unless the Kimetsu no Yaiba train movie beat it). I’m also pretty sure he’s the only anime movie director besides Miyazaki to get nominated for the Academy Awards’ Best Animated Feature (even if, like Miyazaki, he’ll never win because the Academy is the Academy). While not as popular as Your Name, Weathering With You was still immensely successful, both commercially and critically. With a new Shinkai movie in the works, I might as well watch one of his movies now to see what the hubbub’s all about.

In Weathering With You, a boy named Hodaka runs away to Tokyo. He lands a job with a single dad named Suga, who is sent to investigate an urban legend regarding the recent emergence of strange weather patterns. The source ends up being a McDonald’s employee named Hina, who has the power to make it sunny whenever she wants.

I already knew that Shinkai’s movies had impressive visuals, but seeing is believing. Weathering With You is gorgeous, sporting impressive feats such as individually animated raindrops. Even in crappy weather, Tokyo looks like an exotic paradise. No wonder why this man’s been nominated for the Academy Award.

The plot is a lot simpler than the actual animation work, though. When people start catching wind (or rather, catching sun) of Hina’s power, they pay her fat stacks to make it sunny all the time. In case it wasn’t obvious enough, her power will cost Hina her life. Oh, and the police get involved because Hodaka just so happened to have stumbled upon a loaded handgun.

The main philosophy of Weathering With You (besides “love trumps all”) is that the weather creates a placebo effect in humans’ moods. I don’t know if it’s because of the pandemic, but I found that belief to be a bit on the “dead wrong” side. There really is nothing else to the lore of the movie, except the apparent fact that cumulonimbus clouds all have golf courses atop the big flat bits that are home to magic water-fish.

Look, in case you couldn’t tell, I didn’t exactly enjoy the movie. That is also evident in the fact that I didn’t remember anyone’s surnames (their first names took everything I had). Naturally, I didn’t like a single person. Weathering With You has every appealing trope, presented in super-stock-looking characters. While Shinkai movies know how to have splendid backgrounds, these characters have the least style out of any anime movie I have ever seen. Sure, Ghibli and Hosoda’s tend to have same-face syndrome, but there’s at least a style. There is nothing in the cast that can even mildly perturb anyone.

That basically leads into my core gripe with the movie. I expected something that was at least so laughably bad, and manufactured, that I would enjoy roasting it. However, Weathering With You isn’t even that. Like Ride Your Wave, it is completely and utterly devoid of risk. Everything about the movie is precisely and perfectly set up. The commissioned musical numbers are also timed perfectly based on the mood to provide maximum emotion. Add the visuals to all this, and I completely understand how Shinkai works his magic. However, Weathering With You was still not an awful movie. I liked it more than Ride Your Wave and SIGNIFICANTLY more than Patema Inverted. The compliments end there, though. 

Be forewarned of the typical logistics issues that exist by nature in movies like this. I didn’t find them funny because… I guess I just expected them to exist, and they exist with no flare whatsoever. In essence, it’s a lot of the whole “kids constantly one-up the police” a la E.T. What makes this particularly stupid is that Japan has an uncompromisingly powerful police force when they’re actually needed, and it shouldn’t have been possible for anyone to oppose them. Also, at some point, Hodaka gets like a billion yen as “severance” pay. Yeah, sure, okay. Whatever, Shinkai.

~~~~~

Final Verdict: 7/10

Weathering With You is very manufactured and accessible, and like many mainstream things, I do not understand why people think Shinkai is a genius. Yes, he knows how to pluck at your heartstrings, but I don’t consider that a compliment. This was extremely middle-of-the-road, and I can only be glad that I saw it included with a streaming subscription.

With that being said, I will probably pay to see his upcoming movie, Suzume’s Locking Up, in theaters when it comes around. I’m at least putting faith in Shinkai that his formula has some amount of variation. If not, then I disrespect him on an artistic and professional level. You, on the other hand, may enjoy Weathering With You to an extent, because it was tailor-made that way, but if you want a better anime feature with similar philosophies and actual balls, then watch the tragically underrated Children of the Sea instead.

Weeb Reads Monthly: October and November 2021

Ugh, light novels. As you might’ve read in my “There’s Too Much” post, I’ve been getting burnt hardcore by these things. I’ve even dreaded the ones I truly enjoy and really want to finish. Every time I go through the Pre-Orders at BookWalker, I feel sick to my stomach at all the stuff I have to veto (also, I’ve become way less tolerable toward ecchi and hentai, so now I have a better moral compass I guess). I should probably make use of the BookWalker notifications. Anyway, let’s see if it’s colored how I read these newest volumes, consisting of ONLY favorites… and Re:ZERO.


Cautious Hero Volume 7

This volume continues the Warped Gaeabrande Arc! And it begins with Seiya being controversial as usual. He trains Rosalie, but is extremely abusive to her, his justification being that she isn’t real. Of course, this won’t stop Rista (or you) from being triggered. Hooray, antiheroes!

However, if you’ve somehow managed to put up with him for this long, then you’ll finally get your reward. This volume is where Seiya and Rista’s values come to a head, and it’s actually quite powerful. He actually learns a lesson for once! Seriously, every time I think this series is going to get stale, something crazy happens. Hopefully, it can stay that way.

Verdict: 9.15/10


Re:ZERO Volume 17

Okay, so what happened last time? Without context, it looked like the mummy-cult-person kidnapped a child, and used her powers to make people happy at the fact that she threw said child off of a skyscraper. And as soon as the kid died, everyone in the crowd exploded. Literally. And Subaru’s checkpoint is only minutes from that mess, meaning that he doesn’t have much time to think (not that he’s ever figured any of these plot points out on his own before).

With next to no time to plan things out, the volume had some of the tightest pacing in a while. In addition to that, some of the previously introduced Archbishops make an appearance as well. But as far as the newcomer, Sirius, is concerned, I’d say she’s one of the better villains. She’s cartoonishly evil as expected for an isekai, but that personality coupled with her mummy-like look will probably make her pretty iconic if this arc ever got animated. Also introduced is Capella, the Archbishop of Lust. She’s also very cartoonishly evil, with no shortage of personality as lewd as her character design.

This arc is off to a great start! The fights are still kind of meh, but at least they go faster than they did before. For the first time in a while, I actually find myself excited for the next volume.

Verdict: 8.5/10


Konosuba Volume 15

The main conflict of this volume is to deal with Seresdina, a dark priestess under orders from the Demon King. She has an uncanny ability to control people, and gains a large number of followers… including Kazuma! However, due to Kazuma being Kazuma, Seresdina ends up regretting her life choices.

It’s another straightforward volume, with a lot more drama than laughs. I admit I’m getting burnt out with Konosuba, which is a shame since I’ve loved it for such a long time. I’ll try to make a push for the remaining two volumes, but I’m not making any promises.

Verdict: 8.25/10


Infinite Dendrogram Volume 15

This volume is set at the same time as the previous volume. In case you forgot, another war against Altar has broken out, with the summit and Altar itself being attacked at the same time. We finally get to know what happened with the latter in this volume!

For the most part, this is a pretty standard Dendro volume. Not to say it’s bad of course; there is no shortage of high-octane battles and even more ridiculous Embryo abilities, in addition to a great fight where Tian soldiers take on a Superior player. The most important thing in this volume is that we establish, of all things, the final boss of the series. It’s a very unexpected twist, however, it’s a very light novel-y twist. To say it in the least spoiler-y way possible, the final boss is in a dormant state, which basically means the author can pad out Dendro as long as they want. Hooray… Overall, it’s a great volume.

Verdict: 8.75/10


Otherside Picnic Volume 6

This volume starts with the tired trope of amnesia. Fortunately, Otherside Picnic doesn’t sell out like that. Sorawo’s amnesia ends pretty quickly, but this volume is about dealing with the guy who caused it: a boy who calls himself Templeborn. 

With only one big chapter, this is the most focused volume thus far. While it sounds like bad pacing to spend the entire volume hunting down one guy, don’t worry; Otherside Picnic does it right. There are plenty of twists and turns, ending off in a climax that meets the series standard. Every time I finish a volume, I want the next volume immediately!

Verdict: 9.45/10


Conclusion

Light novels are hard. But somehow, I managed to work in these volumes. One pro-tip is that it’s a lot less stressful when you handpick only the ones you actually care about. I am aware that I failed to notice the impending release of The Executioner and Her Way of Life Vol. 3, so I’ll have to cover that later. With all said and done, see you next month!

Monogatari Series Review: Part 2.9 of 3

To Part 1

To Part 2

So yeah, funny looking title, right? Well, it’s no secret that Monogatari has had its ups and downs. That much is certain. But in case you couldn’t already tell what my final thoughts on the series ended up being, let me just give you a hint: I’ve at least made my peace with it. And if you still don’t know what I’m alluding to, then… you’ll have to wait until the end of the review.


Tsukimonogatari [Pictured Above]

After taking a hundred pages to get out of bed, Araragi is feeling a bit more vampiric than usual. Instead of confiding in Meme, he confides in Ononoki, the shikigami of Kagenui, instead. As expected of the series up to this point, Tsuki spends more than half of its length getting to the crux of the issue (it seriously opens with a twenty-page rant about alarm clocks). 

And when it actually gets to that issue, it goes just as is to be expected of the series up to this point. I get that it’s like, “Haha, NISIOISIN is so whiggety whack! What a wild and crazy guy, building up to something big and intentionally not making it a big payoff!” But at this point, it’s starting to get old fast.


Koyomimonogatari

This is a collection of short stories interspersed throughout the entire timeline of the main series. It’s so long, that Vertical published it in two parts. The stories are basically the typical conversations Araragi has with the others in the setup phases of a lot of volumes… over and over and over again, but with no core narrative. Fortunately, it does pick up towards the end. The final chapter in this collection is set after the previous volume and leaves you on a cliffhanger.


Owarimonogatari Part 1

I don’t know if it was excitement over starting the final arc, but this volume felt like the best in a while. Of course, however, NISIOISIN has to be a massive troll. Instead of following up on the events at the end of Koyomi, we are taken BACK TO THE FIRST SEASON OF THE SERIES. Yes, that far. In October, Araragi and Ogi (Meme’s neice introduced a while back) are trapped in a classroom that’s crucial to Araragi’s past. That part is as trolly and bullcrappy as usual, but the social commentary is at least something with a tangible meaning, as opposed to something like “Brushing your teeth is to absolve your mouth of sin.” This is the first volume where Ogi gets to shine, and it shows that she’s one of the best characters in the franchise.

However, that’s only one chapter. After-the-fact, a girl from Araragi’s past creeps up after two years: Sodachi Oikura. Yes, a new character. All of this happened way back in season one. If any of this was referenced in earlier books, then hooray. But if not… AAAAAGH! As for Ogi, she is my favorite and least favorite character. She’s extremely charming, but she’s the anti-Hanekawa. And funnily enough, that almost makes her worse than Hanekawa. While Hanekawa solves problems in .5 seconds and claims she only knows what she knows, Ogi solves problems in .5 seconds and claims that Araragi is the one who knows the solution (when he never does). She chastises both him and the reader, yet I still like her. Ogi really helped me enjoy this series for the first time in a really long while.

In any case, while Ogi is one of the strongest Monogatari characters, Sodachi is one of the weakest. She’s kind of a whiny brat, and doesn’t have any interesting quirks. Also, the logic behind her actions make no sense, but at this point in the series, we have to suspend our disbelief.


Owarimonogatari Part 2

This is part two, but NISI is—as always—a troll; this volume isn’t set as a follow-up to part one, but in the middle of the SECOND SEASON. Uuuugh. I don’t even know anymore. Anyway, in this volume, Araragi and Kanbaru are attacked by a phantom suit of armor that has some sort of link with Shinobu. And for some reason, every time we have a Shinobu problem, we have to consult in Izuko Gaen.

And like every time we’ve had to confide in her, it takes about half the volume to get to her. I also want to say that every time we’ve confided in her, she just tells us what’s already obvious enough from context. Oooooo. In any case, this is the first volume in like forever that actually has action in it. While Owari is definitely shaping up to be a worthy ending, this volume wasn’t as fun as the last one.


Owarimonogatari Part 3

Part 1 was set season 1, Part 2 was set in season 2, and Part 3 is actually a proper follow-up to whatever happened in… one of the volumes? If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been writing each passage for this post as the books were released by Vertical. As a result, it’s been about half a year since I actually read the earlier parts of season 3. So yeah, I had no idea what was going on. But oh boy, NISIOISIN is sure a genius for writing out of chronological order hyuck hyuck!

This volume has three chapters, and for what I think might be the first time in the series, the chapters smoothly bleed together. I can’t say what happens in the first chapter because it spoils the end of… er… one of the volumes in this post. However, the second chapter is basically a non-stop splurge of Senjo and Araragi just hanging out, and it’s actually pretty cute. The third and most important chapter is about Ogi, and the biggest twist in the series.

Oh, and by the way… I couldn’t comment on Izuko Gaen’s pretentious “knowing everything” quirk because I hadn’t finished Chainsaw Man yet. If she really knew everything, she’d only be able to say “Halloween” until she dies! Eff you, Gaen!


Zokuowarimonogatari

The final, final book of Monogatari. The final book… that I didn’t read. If you couldn’t tell from how long it took for this post to come out after the previous Monogatari posts (I hadn’t even used witty titles for my posts at that time), I had put off Zoku for a long time after it dropped on BookWalker. I didn’t want to read it. I had tried my damndest to finish Monogatari, but to be real, I had way more hate than love for it, which leads into my…  


Final Thoughts

Honestly, I don’t know what to say about Monogatari. There were some genuinely good moments throughout the series. But honestly, it’s incredibly pretentious. Fans know and accept this in their love for the series. I… er… well. It’s one of those “cerebral” franchises, where no matter how well thought out and scholarly a negative opinion of it is, fans can just defend it with a “you’re not smart enough”. As much as I love being contrarian, this is a case where my own intelligence as a writer is on the line.

Speaking of writing, I can at least say that the writing of Monogatari is a heap of bullcrap (and a waste of the talented illustrator Vofan). I’ll acknowledge that it takes talent to extend some of these conversation topics to the absolute insane length that NISIOISIN does, but why? The dialogue feels like it’s this way for the sake of being a troll, yet the author is considered a genius for doing it. In fact, he’s considered a genius specifically for committing literally every cardinal sin of writing. 

You know what, however, there is one thing I absolutely despise about Monogatari. It’s what makes the series so pretentious, moreso than anything else. Based on how it’s presented, NISIOISIN seems to think that there’s nothing more fascinating than human relationships. While human relationships are needlessly complex to the point where they need scholarly essays written about them, there’s stuff more fascinating than us. Why are we so great? What about the infinite scope of the cosmos, or the intricate beauty of nature? I know I’m in the minority about this, but hey, that’s nothing new!

Over the past couple years, I’ve been learning to stop giving an eff. Since there’s no subscription service for this stuff, I have to pay hefty flat rates for the few stuff I actually enjoy (and the time I don’t ever have). People on toxic sites like MyAnimeList act all high and mighty, and I was just done with it. WordPress has been a breath of fresh air, with great bloggers like Irina and RiseFromAshes doing the unthinkable acts of being civilized. I might cover something popular like this from time to time, but what I really made this blog for is to give limelight to stuff that most people would have never heard of. Most importantly, I’m D.N.F.ing Monogatari simply because I can, and I don’t have to live by any Internet schmuck’s metric to be happy. Call me an uncultured swine if you want; at least I get to be myself.

This Final Thoughts section has been longer than my reviews of the actual novels combined. So, you know what, I’m just going to plop my final score for the whole series right down there. Read it and weep.

Final Verdict (Whole Series): 7.35/10

Gravity Falls Full Series Review

The coronavirus of 2020 ended up giving me an opportunity to do something that I didn’t think possible: binge-watch an entire television show. I was going to settle for Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it turned out Netflix didn’t have it (thanks for sucking at having any animated programs as always (oh, and for the record, it wasn’t on Hulu either)). So instead, I chose Disney’s Gravity Falls. From what I know, Gravity Falls has become a modern cult classic; almost unanimous critical acclaim, but ultimately getting overshadowed by Phineas and Ferb and other, more “accessible” Disney IPs (the damn show doesn’t even have Disney Parks merch!). In this review, I see whether or not I made a mistake watching Phineas and Ferb while it aired instead of this.

In Gravity Falls, a pair of twin siblings by the name of Dipper and Mabel Pines are sent to the titular town in scenic Oregon to live with their great uncle, Stanford (known otherwise as Grunkle Stan). They mainly laze around his gift shop of urban legend junk, until Dipper finds some weird book detailing all kinds of strange phenomena in the town. Of course, it’s inevitable that they get involved in said phenomena.

The show follows the typical, episodic formula of any American, Saturday morning cartoon, but with a sense of chronology more befitting of a TV anime. The plot of each episode tends to be stand-alone, but it also lays the groundwork for a bigger story in the process (like when Grunkle Stan enters some secret base at the end of episode 1). They also make nods to earlier episodes throughout the show, further giving it a sense of continuity. One example is a piece of graffiti on the water tower; it’s only brought up once, but its image remains throughout the entire series.

Despite them frequently getting attacked by monsters, ghosts, manly minotaurs, and an evil visual novel that predicted the existence of Doki Doki Literature Club, Gravity Falls maintains a sense of lightheartedness, and I’m thankful for that. Based on the praise I had heard of the show, I thought it was going to be an incredibly pretentious, pseudo-intellectual cartoon with weird symbolism placed just to evoke a sense of deepness when there isn’t any.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t weird voodoo at all. First off, there are secret codes that appear in the end credits of each episode that apparently either foreshadow later stuff or bark nonsense. There was also a real-life scavenger hunt while the show was airing (or so I was told), but I can’t exactly do that now. I’m glad that this was all the show does in terms of secret hidden lore, instead of rubbing its “genius” in your face like Monogatari. Of course, that will probably not stop series’ fans from calling you (or me) a filthy casual for not “appreciating the genius hidden meeting that makes Gravity Falls transcend modern media and human comprehension” or whatever, but that’s a given with any fandom.

Gravity Falls also has a great sense of humor that’s just about on par with that of Phineas and Ferb. I actually found myself laughing pretty consistently throughout, which was a pleasant surprise. There are also some great humorous details, the most notable of which is the Mystery Shack that they live in. Grunkle Stan’s job is to scam people from within the rundown cottage. The S in “Shack” frequently falls off, which both gets across the fact that the building is old, as well as the fact that Stan is a “Mystery Hack”. I dunno, little things like that are just great to me. Just keep in mind that this show is early 2010s… and that some dialogue is not up to the standards of the new resurgence in feminism. Basically, there’s a lot of gender stereotyping in Gravity Falls. It’s just your usual “boys like punching sh**, girls like boys and shoes”, but hey, I don’t know what sets people off these days.

The characters are also surprisingly solid. Although Dipper only has his frequent sarcastic remarks to save him from being a generic adolescent male, Mabel is Best Girl for sure. Her ditziness and general weirdness make her incredibly entertaining. The issue with them is that they have some “eye-roll-worthy” flaws, such as Dipper’s love for Wendy, one of Stan’s employees, along with Mabel’s annoying ability to fall in love at first sight. There are also cases of sitcom-like melodrama that occur between them, and this is where Gravity Falls feels the most trope-ish (and for the record, such tween drama is the entire reason that the final arc of the series is even instigated in the first place).

Grunkle Stan is also a very entertaining fart with great character development late in the series (even if he single-handedly doubles the length of the final episode for similar drama reasons), along with his other employees, Soos and the aforementioned Wendy. They’re pretty typical “big brother” and “big sister” archetypes, but they’re still likeable and have a lot of memorable lines. 

But hey, Gravity Falls is a town, and that means it has townsfolk. There are a number of very memorable, minor characters who appear at a very consistent rate, and make the area feel more like an actual community instead of an implied community. All these characters have quirky personalities and very distinct character designs, making their company very enjoyable. It’s amazing how much they all, including Toby, warmed up to me.

Unfortunately, the weakest link is in the antagonists. Gravity Falls has two major antagonists, the first of which is lil’ ol’ Gideon. He’s a posh, pompadour-wearing boy who is the Plankton of Grunkle Stan’s Krabs (wait, I think I messed up that analogy… ah, you get what I mean). Underneath his cheruby face is a conniving little turd who seriously wants Stan wiped off the face of the Earth.

Introduced at the end of season 1 is Bill Cipher, an Illuminati symbol with arms and legs. He has some strange motives that don’t come into play until pretty late into the series, well after his introduction. Just by looking at him, I can tell that most of the series’ hidden lore lies within him. I bet that the symbols on his “Illuminati Wheel” can be found in specific frames throughout the entire series, and reveal some sort of secret that will change all of humankind (and not at all mean what it’s intended to mean in the actual story).

Overall, these two are pretty entertaining, but ultimately fall short of beating villains like Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb (wow, I just made every fan of Gravity Falls angry). Doof comes off as a mad scientist trope, but becomes the most lovable character in the whole series as you progress through the later seasons. Gideon and Bill are just one-dimensional villains that are basically there out of obligation. Sure, maybe the “hidden lore” gives us more context for Bill than what they tell us, but it also might not at the same time.

The last point to discuss, as always, is the visual presentation. As expected, even for a TV show, Gravity Falls looks incredible. The animation is fluid (even if there are glaring cases of CG), and the color palette makes everything in the show pop. It’s definitely a nice step up from the hyper-budgeted TV anime that I’m used to.

~~~~~

Final Verdict: 9/10

It might not be quite as good as Phineas and Ferb (“Boo, you filthy casual!” you exclaim. Look, it’s only the musical numbers and the superior antagonist that makes Phineas and Ferb better, okay?), Gravity Falls is definitely a fantastic cartoon. I’m kind of glad I didn’t watch it while it was airing, or I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate it from an adult standpoint. Regardless of if there’s some hidden metaphorical message in it, it’s still fun to enjoy at face value. I highly recommend it to anyone who has Disney Plus (as it’s probably not worth trying to catch it on reruns).

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.

~~~~~

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!

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.

~~~~~

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.

For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

It’s been a couple of years since I read the manga, Erased. But from what I can remember, it was a pleasantly surprising suspense manga with a supernatural twist (although I don’t quite get why people love it like SO much). “Why are you talking about Erased?” you ask. Well, the mangaka of Erased is publishing a new series, For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams, which has recently been released in North America by Yen Press. So, I’m gonna talk about it for a bit.

In this manga, Senri Nakajou is the sole survivor of an attack on his family that results in his parents’ and twin brother’s deaths. His only memory of the killer is a series of scars on his arm that read “fire”, earning the killer the name Fire Man. Years later, he catches a glimpse of said man again, and begins a slow descent into madness trying to track the killer down.

Right off the bat, I can’t really tell what the author is trying to do with this manga. Similar to Erased, the main character’s goal is to track down a murderer… again! Also, there are abusive parents… AGAIN! I can’t fault someone for sticking with what they do best, but For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams is a bit TOO much like Erased for those reasons.

Like the author’s previous work, For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams is best when it’s strictly being an old-school suspense manga. It doesn’t take long at all for the search for Fire Man to get really complicated, as Senri isn’t the only one who’s after his head, and Senri’s family aren’t his only victims. A development at the end of volume 2 adds a cherry even more to the top of the existing mystery cake.

Unfortunately, For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams isn’t too great in the character department. Senri is just a generic angsty boy who slowly loses direction on his moral compass, and it’s not a particularly interesting instance of this character type. The female lead, Enan, seems to be someone who exists just to tell him that what he’s doing is morally incorrect (as if it weren’t obvious enough). Both kids have abusive parents in their lives, and between this and Erased, it seems that the author uses this trope to give us easily sympathizable characters. I hate assuming intentions, but that’s what my critic-brain tells me.

The art is no different from Erased, which is good or bad depending on how you feel about it. The girls still have those nice, full lips; your mileage may vary on that. Admittedly, this artstyle really isn’t the best for a suspense manga, but it at least has a distinct look.

~~~~~

Current Verdict: 7.3/10

I don’t know what it is, but For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams just doesn’t quite seem to cut it for me. Maybe my standards for suspense have grown too high after reading some of Naoki Urasawa’s stuff? Well, if you love Erased as much as the next guy, then this manga should be just about as good. 

Otherside Picnic Volume 2 Review

Last time on Otherside Picnic, Kamikoshi Sorawo finds a doorway to another world, where she is henceforth attacked by a strange creature called the Kunekune. She is saved by Nishina Toriko, a cool girl who came here in search of a missing friend, Uruma Satsuki. They return to the real world, where she meets Kozakura, another friend of Toriko’s and a researcher of the mysterious world, called Otherside. They go back to fight another Kunekune, but get afflicted by it; Sorawo in her eye, and Toriko in her hand. However, they still manage to fend it off and obtain its core. They have other adventures (one of which involves the American military and a haunted train station), and learn that they have been given some strange powers: Sorawo can change realities with her eye (which, in Layman’s terms, means that she can see through illusions), and Toriko can touch strange things in the Otherside with her hands. After the incident with the military, the two girls have an argument, and Toriko goes to the Otherside on her own to find Satsuki. Sorawo and Kozakura end up searching for her, despite the warnings from some strange, middle-aged men who seem to act as guardians of the Otherside. While postulating the existence of the Otherside and about the science of fear, they find Toriko in a weird, abandoned village full of plants. Using the power of her reality-shifting eye, Sorawo manages to save Toriko from an illusion of Satsuki, and they make it back home safe and sound.

It felt like I’ve been waiting a year for this volume to come out. In the time leading up to it, I was more scared of it sucking than of the disturbing imagery in the actual story. And perhaps… I could’ve scared myself into not enjoying it as much as the previous one. But at the same time, the first volume was likely to have been exceptionally good for the same reason that caused Made in Abyss to become popular; the element of surprise. I don’t know about you, but this series definitely did not LOOK scary on the cover. So, when we read volume 1, it was like, “Holy sh** this is so freaking scary!” Now that we know what to expect, it loses the chutzpah from before.

Anyways, let’s actually talk about the content, shall we? One review I read of volume 1 (don’t worry, it has to do with the matter at hand) called Otherside Picnic a yuri series, and I was like, “Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, dude?” However, this volume definitely seems to be where the yuri stuff comes in. I kinda realized it when they pulled the classic “here-let-me-caress-you-with-my-entire-body-while-I-instruct-you-on-the-proper-posture-for-using-this-thing” schtick that they do with romantic couples. I know that yuri can get pretty contentious in this community, so proceed with caution if you’re sensitive to fanservice and stuff.

Similar to the previous volume, the chapters are all self-contained episodes that slowly build up a semblance of an overarching story. The first chapter is a rescue operation of the US soldiers from the first volume, and the chapter after that is the “beach-vacation-so-we-can-see-the-girls-in-bathing-suits” trope. The third chapter introduces a new character Akari Seto, whose main personality quirk is being good at karate. I don’t know if she’s going to become plot relevant or what…

But if there is anything relevant, it’s the continuing escalation of intrigue in this volume! More signs of Satsuki start popping up, but only we and Sorawo catch wind of them. She elects not to tell Toriko about any of this, presumably under the assumption that she’ll go after Satsuki alone and almost get wrecked again. But if this really is a yuri series, it could also be because Sorawo doesn’t want Toriko to be in another woman’s bed. My biggest concern is that this could get escalated to sitcom-like proportions, but we won’t really know that until the future.

~~~~~

Verdict: 8.5/10

While it might lack the fire of the first volume, Otherside Picnic’s second volume proves that this series is still one of the best new isekai on the market. With so many new plot threads established, I need to have the third volume yesterday. Hopefully, the wait won’t feel as long this time around.

There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One Myself! Volume 2 Review

Last time on There Was No Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!) so I Made One Myself!, Kimemitsu Sago gains some phenomenal cosmic power. He decides to use those powers to form both a crime-fighting organization, as well as said organization’s enemies, which he fashions out of telekinetically manipulated water. He meets up with a rich chuunibyou named Shiori Kubaragi, and she helps fund the project. They name their group Amaterasu, and set themselves up in a bar that they buy and name Ama-no-Iwato. They recruit the Buddhist fanatic Touka Hasumi, the cocky Shouta Takahasi, and a monkey. After a battle against a large water blob of Sago’s creation, the CIA catches wind of what’s going on…

…as well as some aliens. Specifically, one alien, named Lonalia Linalia Baba-Nyan. Despite her name, she is neither a cat nor an old lady; she’s a straight-up elf loli. On her world, demon Lord’s are an endangered species, and she yearns to fight a real calamity-type one instead. So, she goes to our world and catches wind of Shouta fighting a water blob, and ends up getting roped into the whole thing.

The big irony with her character is that, despite being a fantasy person, Earth’s lack of magic makes her unable to actually do anything magical in the first place. It really showcases how cynical modern society is (or maybe it’s just a way to keep the series relatively grounded). 

In other news, the occult is experiencing a big boom thanks to Sago, with Tokyo’s population getting a big boost due to tourists. The police and other investigative organizations are getting involved too, and it naturally becomes a big issue for him.

Unfortunately, Secret Organization seems to still be stuck on the exposition-heavy writing. Once again, words- and not action- govern the progression of the plot, making it still pretty tedious to read. It’s a real shame, considering that the actual scenes, as opposed to the montages, are where the story is at its best.

At the end of the volume is another episode with Nicolas Stallone, the CIA agent from before. I assume that his role will be limited to these bonus chapters, until he ends up getting roped into the main story later. It just stinks that his sections are the most tedious of all.

~~~~~

Verdict: 7.5/10

There is some charm to Secret Organization, but in execution, it’s really tedious. Like I said in my Ascendance of a Bookworm post, I don’t have the time or money to read just anything. I gotta pick and choose what I want the most, and sadly, I might have to abandon Secret Organization someday. But hey, if you love it, more power to you.

There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One Myself! Volume 1 Review

Cover of volume 1

There are SO MANY isekais out there, that it can become a reflex to assume that every new light novel is automatically an isekai. I read through the first chapter of There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One Myself!, published in English by J-Novel Club, constantly asking, “So when does this guy get sent to another world?”, just to realize that it’s set in THIS world. Earth? What’s that?

Stuck in our own crap-ass world, Sago Kinemitsu suddenly develops telekinetic powers. But it kind of sucks;  he’s only able to lift a lousy potato chip. However, after several miserable years of his unremarkable life, his abilities get stronger and stronger, but now he’s just a salaryman with “phenomenal cosmic power, an itty-bitty living space,” and no big bads to save the world from. So, he decides to form his own organization to fight an evil menace of his own creation (confusing enough?), and he gets help from the rich and busty Shiori Kaburagi.

So, bizarrely enough, this is a chuunibyou slice-of-life comedy with a rare occurrence of adult main protagonists. However, unlike most chuunibyou, these two actually have powers (well, technically, Shiori gets hers later). As previously discussed, the whole thing is about forming an evil-fighting organization, and then later forming the enemies of said organization, all for the sake of these two living out their own power fantasy, or more specifically, allowing kids to live out their own power fantasy.

With this being a slice-of-life, the main appeal is the cast. Sago, while having a lot of funny dialogue, is kind of a generic mid-life crisis guy. Best Girl Shiori, on the other hand, is great. While she comes off as a hoity-toity, “ara-ara” type, she’s actually a serious chuunibyou, with stacks of research papers on Magical Girls and anime superpowers.

Later in the volume, they gain some recruits. Touka Hasumi is a petite girl who gains fire abilities, but her most interesting trait is that she’s a Buddhism extremist. She’s constantly chanting sutras while also carving the image of Buddha on rocks. It’s pretty good timing that I started reading this while studying Buddhism, among other things. In addition to her is Shouto Takahashi, my least favorite character. He’s the designated cocky brat, who gains ice abilities. Fortunately, Sago at least has his own ways of snapping the kid into shape. Lastly is Ig… whom I won’t say anything about because of spoilers. Just know that she exists.

If there’s any real flaw with Secret Organization, it’s in the exposition-heavy writing. The reason being that there’s a lot of stuff that happens over a ridiculously long course of time. So what’s better, that the author cut out the middleman, or show every single tedious step? 

On a final note, the art has a very manga-looking style. It definitely has a very Clip-Studio-y kind of vibe. However, our girl Shiori is the only one with an interesting enough character design to catch my interest.

~~~~~

Verdict: 8.5/10

Secret Organization is looking to be an interesting change of pace in the light novel market. The thing that concerns me is that Sago seems to be limited when it comes to the scenarios that he can craft. The volume implies that the CIA will be getting involved, but there’s no telling where it’ll go from here. For now, Secret Organization is a perfectly solid series opener that puts a good twist on the deceptively abundant slice-of-life genre.