Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Volume 13 Review

Last time on Re:ZERO, everyone gets attacked by Satella the Witch of Jealousy. Subaru and Garfiel (of all people) have to stop her. Fortunately, she can’t pass through the barrier due to her being a half-elf, and the trial being incomplete. But that doesn’t stop Garfiel from getting unceremoniously slaughtered by her. As she advances toward Subaru, he rejects her, and in response, her shadow swallows him to get him to love her. Fortunately, Echidna had a contingency plan: making Petra’s handkerchief a magic handkerchief that ends up saving him from the Witch. Also, the handkerchief turns into a dagger, which he promptly uses to kill himself and restart the loop. Back at the sanctuary, he’s comforted by Emilia. While Ram distracts Garfiel, Subaru recalls the memories he absorbed while in the shadow, and uncovers a secret room containing the real Ryuzu’s body. Apparently, the true purpose of the Sanctuary was to make Ryuzu clones that Echidna was able to possess, and effectively achieve immortality as a result. He also finds out that both Garfiel and himself have become Apostles of Echidna. His next task is the sitch at the mansion. He’s able to get Frederica and Petra to evacuate without a hassle, but Beatrice- as always- isn’t so easy to convince. He steals her “not-a-Witch-Cult” book and sees that it’s entirely blank inside. Apparently, Beatrice is a spirit contracted by Echidna to watch over the forbidden books in the mansion until “That Person” shows up. The moving scene that follows is, unfortunately, interrupted by Elsa’s arrival. Not even Beatrice can stand up to her, but Subaru manages to survive. Back at the Sanctuary, it’s already snowing, and Emilia shut herself in the tomb when he left. He goes in and finds her, and she starts getting unnaturally waifu-y with him. He leaves and confronts Roswaal- again- but this time Roswaal murders Ram and Garfiel before implying that he knows about Return by Death, and showing Subaru that he has the other version of the gospel that Beatrice had! He is also the culprit behind the snowfall, and it was all to break and isolate Emilia (a plan that had been in effect since the beginning, of course). Their conversation is interrupted when the Great Rabbit attacks again, killing Roswaal, and making the others burn themselves to death. Subaru flees to the tomb, where Emilia gives him a kiss… right as he dies again. After respawning, he seeks Echidna, but ends up taking the second trial instead, which involves seeing the outcomes of previous routes after he died. After all that, he encounters a spirit of Rem. But he knows better, and immediately recognizes her as an imposter, who turns out to be another Witch: Carmilla, the Witch of Lust. After almost suffocating for some reason, he ends up with Echidna, just like he wanted to! She offers to form a pact with Subaru, and all the other witches except Satellla show up! In all the confusion, Echidna has a grandiose speech detailing how Subaru’s ability to experience an infinite amount of outcomes turns her on. After her schpiel, Subaru asks her who Beatrice’s Person is… and, of course, Echidna has no clue… because Beatrice had to decide for herself the whole time. Subaru refuses the pact with Echidna, and the Witch’s tea party is joined by one more guest: Satella.

If you couldn’t tell from that paragraph, volume 12 was full of revelations and turning points. Based on my past experience with Re:ZERO, the next several volumes will be pretty boring before it picks up again. Does this volume follow the same trend?

Well… yes and no. It’s not a constant pelvic thrust of pain and torture like the previous volume, but there are definitely some highlights. One important thing is that Subaru gets some much-needed growth. He gets another helping of waifu-speech, but this time, he gains some self-worth. This is a big improvement for him, because his whole “Hey look at me I’m a martyr herp-a-derp” has been annoying for a while.

Speaking of annoying, we finally get to resolve Garfiel’s character arc in this volume! And thank goodness too; I never liked the guy. He was a whiny brat who felt like he made the arc 1.5x longer than it already was. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offset the fact that his personality is 100% abrasive and nothing else. But hey, backstory is backstory, and that’s what counts.

And speaking of backstory, we finally get some more background on Emilia. Unfortunately, that “some” is really “a bit”, since this volume loves Garfiel so much. Plus, the things we learn about Emilia only scratch the surface, and we are cliffhung right when we’re about to get the full serving.

Another issue is that Re:ZERO once again shows its bipolar identity. It tries its damndest to subvert the isekai formula, and ends up clashing with that mindset like it tends to. There’s an emotional scene between Subaru and Emilia in this volume, and similar to his scene with Rem, it’s ripped right out of the Book of Waifus. It doesn’t help that the climax of the volume is a one-v-one of Subaru against Garfiel that reeks of the “white knight” trope. Gotta love it when a series has a great idea that contradicts itself in its execution!

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Verdict: 8.65/10

While not as turbulent as the last volume, Re:ZERO shows that it’s finally gaining momentum. This was a great volume, and it promises that the next one will be even better. If you’re reading ahead of the anime, what are your thoughts on this current arc and this volume? Re:ZERO is very complicated to evaluate, and I’d love to hear different perspectives.

Millennium Actress Movie Review

I stated in my Tokyo Godfathers review that it was the “best anime movie I’ve seen since Ghost in the Shell“. As such, it was a no-brainer that would watch another Satoshi Kon flick, Millennium Actress, on Kanopy, from a completely different license holder than GKids. Going into it, I was aware that Tokyo Godfathers was a black sheep in Kon’s career, and that this movie was going to be much darker and stranger than I could possibly expect.

In Millennium Actress, two documentarians, Genya Tachibana and Kyouji Ida, are given the opportunity to interview retired actress Chiyoko Fujiwara. The old bird gladly divulges her life story to them, and those two end up along for quite a ride.

And I mean that literally. The movie seems straightforward at first glance, and that’s because it is. Minor spoilers: it doesn’t take long before the men interviewing her are literally IN Chiyoko’s flashbacks along with her past self.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get more meta, here’s a real hum-dinger. The bulk of Chiyoko’s story isn’t just told through flashbacks, but additionally through assorted scenes in her movies. These are seamlessly integrated into the actual plot, which is quite impressive (also, it’s convenient that all of her movies had similar premises). In these sequences, Tachibana ends up inexplicably planted into each given movie as an extra, further adding to the meta aspect.

Unfortunately, the biggest issue with Millennium Actress is Chiyoko’s story itself. The main conflict of the movie involves Chiyoko trying her butt off to find a tall, dark, and handsome guy she met for five minutes when she was, like, twelve. It’s so annoying when a female character gets her heart set aflutter by these idealized bozos. Sure, she was young and dumb, but the guy looks like he’s at least fifteen years older than her, which is kinda weird. Look, I don’t hem and haw over these intentionally controversial old-on-young people romances, like the Monica and Richard thing from Friends, but at least they GOT TO KNOW EACH OTHER FIRST.

This doesn’t help her as a character either. While it’s always fun [for Westerners] to watch someone descend into madness, her issues seem cringey and annoying. At least characters like Citizen Kane had REAL issues, his case being his own mother selling him to the freaking BANK, or Mildred Pierce, whose case I won’t mention because it’s a spoiler. Overall, Chiyoko comes off as a whiny brat throughout the film.

Fortunately, the two reporters are better. They have great chemistry with each other, and add a lot of humor to the movie that very much reminds me of Tokyo Godfathers. Also, they sort of represent the audience in some way. Tachibana comes off as the self-proclaimed intellectual who is totally into whatever the movie throws at him, and Ida acts like the trend-savvy, filthy casual who wouldn’t know REAL art even if it placed his head into its bosom. The fact that I’m not waxing poetic about Kon’s “Schrodinger’s Cat, quantum-reality-warping transcendentalist genius” or whatever means that I’m CLEARLY more like Ida in this case.

When it comes to visuals, despite being only a year or two before Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress looks much more aged. But even then, it still looks better than pretty much every TV anime these days. It also seems that Kon’s movies have a signature face style, similar to that of Ghibli. I hope that I don’t get sick of it if I choose to watch any more Kon movies.

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Final Verdict: 8.85/10

While I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress was still a great movie, and proof that this Kon guy knew what he was doing. However, when you take away the whole “warping between past, present, and movie scenes” thing, it amounts to little more than a bog-standard tragic love story. This brings up the question of what’s more important in storytelling: The story or the telling? I’m a bit of a weird combination of both, but you’ll need to lean a lot toward the latter in order to enjoy Millennium Actress.

Destiny Lovers and The Elder Sister-Like One First Impressions (Volumes 1-3 of Both)

Destiny Lovers

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been on a kick with very… scandalous manga lately. It’s either the adrenaline of consuming media that society considers taboo, or imagining what morally uptight people who can’t separate reality from fantasy would think if they saw something like this (or what they would do, in the case of Interspecies Reviewers (link to my manga review of it here)). So, let’s dive right into ANOTHER hentai manga, Destiny Lovers, published under Seven Seas’ good old Ghost Ship imprint!

In Destiny Lovers, a boy named Kosuke Fujishiro promises his childhood friend, Sayaka Ibu, that they’ll meet again someday and become lovers. He’s held onto that promise for years while waiting for their reunion. But one day, he’s thrown into a prison full of sexually aggressive women… and Sayaka is the warden?!

The manga comes off as a knock-off of Prison School, but that would be only half correct. It’s actually a combination of Prison School and World’s End Harem (link to my manga review of the latter here (don’t you just LOVE shameless plugs?)). The female jailers in this prison want to get Kosuke, and the other male prisoners, to have sex with them “for the sake of humanity”. And sure enough, the ending of volume one shows that the world seems to have indeed ended in some fashion.

Of course, it’s not going to be easy. If girls have learned anything, it’s the quickest way to a man’s heart… or rather, his little general. They pull out all the stops, from turning up the AC so that they’d be forced to cuddle up, or act as maids to let their guards down. For some reason, there’s some sort of appeal to watching men have to struggle against powerful women… maybe because it’s more often that the shoe is on the other foot? As appealing as it is, Destiny Lovers doesn’t have the same level of suspense as Prison School, but it works.

However, similar to World’s End Harem, the characters don’t have much more than what their… physical bodies have to offer. The only interesting characters are Sayaka, who tries to help Kosuke behind the other girls’ backs, and this one really smart and calculated dude whose name you don’t even get to know. Other than that, we have some basic character tropes and not much in terms of interesting personality quirks.

Overall, my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t show everyone’s age. The men go from their teens to early thirties, but they don’t tell you much about the women. In a hentai, it’s important for me to know if the girls are legal adults, otherwise I would feel less-than-good about myself if I enjoyed it.

The art is as spicy as expected. The sex isn’t as theatrical as World’s End Harem, but it still… works. Unfortunately, it seems to prefer nudity and underwear over sexy clothes, which kinda disappoints me. The character designs aren’t too remarkable either.

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Current Verdict: 7.45/10

Destiny Lovers is a good hentai but I can’t fully enjoy it since I don’t know which women are legal adults or not. But hey, it does what it sets out to do well enough. I recommend Destiny Lovers to any fans of Prison School and others like it.


The Elder Sister-Like One

Sometimes, I wanna read a naughty manga just because. However, The Elder Sister-Like One (published in English by Yen Press) is a rewritten version of a doujinshi. While both versions are by the same mangaka, my immediate concern was that some of the… finer details would be watered down in the not-doujin edition. Let’s see what happens, since this version is the only one legally available to us ‘Mericans!

In The Elder Sister-Like One, a boy named Yuu is basically at the bottom of the barrel. He has no friends, and all of his relatives resent him, except for his uncle… who’s in a coma. When he unwittingly summons a powerful demon woman, his wish is for her to become his older sister. The demoness, who names herself Chiyo, accepts his offer, and the two of them live together.

We all know that Japanese media has not been afraid to tackle some “questionable” sexual themes, and in the case of this manga, there is a lot of… er… chemistry between Yuu and Chiyo. During the first volume alone, Yuu’s head is in Chiyo’s bosom, her feelers rub every inch of his body, they French kiss, Yuu lays on her lap, and he gets a good look at her underwear. Typical hentai stuff.

But of course, one decisive thing must be considered when it comes to The Elder Sister-Like One. It is a question that will make or break the entire manga for you: Is Yuu and Chiyo’s relationship incestuous? She was summoned with the express purpose of being his older sister. Furthermore, they developmentally consider each other siblings. But biologically, they aren’t (it is the Elder Sister-LIKE One, after all). But what also must be considered is whether or not Chiyo is considered a legal adult. This is probably something that’s up to interpretation. Personally, I want to consider them siblings (with her as an adult) because that would make more people profusely offended and cause heated debates.

Incest aside, how’s the actual content? The Elder Sister-Like One is basically a slice-of-life romance. The bulk of the story is just Yuu hanging out with Chiyo and the pair having cute interactions with each other. While it seems like a typical wish fulfillment fantasy, Yuu showing her the ways of the human world and stuff gives Chiyo a form of happiness that she didn’t even know she wanted. 

The sort-of-siblings are basically the only characters in the whole manga. Yuu is as generic and self-insert-y of a male protagonist as you can expect. But nobody reads a hentai manga for the guys (unless it’s yaoi)! The person we actually care about is Chiyo, and she’s about as waifu-able as you can expect. She’s very fun for a demoness, and she loves Yuu to pieces. It’s also cute to see her overreact to little things like mosquitoes and other things that cause minor abrasions. 

But there’s a curveball that gets thrown in around volume 3. Said curveball is named Haru, and she has some strange connection with Yuu’s uncle. I have no idea what her role is, but it seems like it’s going to add a core narrative to the story.

Like any hentai manga, the most important thing is art. I knew of the mangaka’s talents thanks to Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?, and I was not disappointed in The Elder Sister-Like One. Chiyo is gooooooooooorgeous, and the sexual content is exquisitely well-done. It’s even more *insert sexy cat growling noise here* if you interpret their relationship in the most controversial way possible.

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Current Verdict: 8/10

While curious as to what changed from the doujin, the manga version of The Elder Sister-Like One is a simple and relaxing romance that doesn’t think it’s something bigger than what it actually is (unlike SOME YA novels). It’s a wish fulfillment fantasy, and that’s that. I recommend it if you’ve always wanted a hot older sister in your life.

Otherside Picnic Volume 3 and Cautious Hero Volume 3 Reviews

Last time on Otherside Picnic, Sorawo and Toriko decide to rescue the U.S. soldiers trapped at Kisaragi Station. They lead the entire battalion of men through a forest and fight a giant snake lady, and the men are able to return to base in Okinawa. The girls take the opportunity to chillax at the beach, but end up on a beach in the Otherisde. After barely avoiding an assault from green babies and grey lumpy crabs, they escape by using the Hasshaku-sama hat from the previous volume to form a portal, whereas Sorawo sees the silhouette of Satsuki on the beach just as the portal closes up. Sorawo then encounters a weird girl named Akari Seto, who’s had ninja cats pursuing her. The two of them, and Toriko, end up fighting said ninja cats in the space between our world and the Otherside (similar to when the Time-space Man showed up), and escape when Sorawo uses her power to spot a strange doll inside Akari, which Toriko pulls out of her. After returning to the real world, they ask where she got it from. It turns out that she was another student of Satsuki’s, and this breaks Toriko’s heart. Later on, they get invited to the organization that Kozakura works for, the DS research lab, where Satsuki used to work. When they investigate her old room, Sorawo uses her right eye to decipher the strange glyphs in Satsuki’s journal, which causes Satsuki herself to appear and drop a cursed box on the floor, which erupts into red birds that attack Toriko. Sorawo barely manages to save her, but we still have no idea what the deal is with Satsuki, assuming that we’ve been seeing the real thing. Also, Sorawo not telling Toriko about any of these sightings is sure going to put a dent in their relationship later.

This volume starts with the title drop: an Otherside picnic! In this part, we learn more stuff about the girls than before, such as the fact that Toriko apparently had lesbians for parents. But yeah, this light novel is getting more yuri every volume. I just hope it doesn’t get so wrapped up in yuri stuff that it dangles the whole Satsuki thing like a carrot for a cringe-tastically long time. That would be very sitcom-like.

Fortunately, that has yet to occur. Otherside Picnic still maintains a sense of overall intrigue when it comes to story progression. This volume brings up a mysterious figure named Lunaurumi, who may or may not be Satsuki. But she is one thing, and that’s some Internet troll who’s been spreading the Otherside’s influence to innocent people. 

Unfortunately, I don’t care about Akari any more than I did last time, even with the character development she gets in this volume. We see her relationship with her friend, Natsumi Ichikawa, but it’s kind of just there for the sake of the genre. I might have said this before, but Sorawo and Toriko’s chemistry is the only thing making the yuri aspect of this series anything above baseless girl-on-girl sex.

Based on what I’ve read up to this point, the first halves of each Otherside Picnic volume are very slow and very inconsequential. The first chapter in each book can be pretty boring, and seems to serve no purpose but to reacquaint us with the characters. But  the ball always gets rolling real fast in the second half, and the fact that one chapter takes up the entire latter half of this volume shows that sh** goes DOWN. The climax is a massive turning point that I’m glad happened now instead of later, that’s for sure.

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Verdict: 9.25/10

While I have some concerns, Otherside Picnic is still one of the best isekai- and perhaps one of the best yuri- on the market. I need volume four yesterday, because after what happens here, I honestly have no clue what direction it could go in.


Last time on Cautious Hero… hoo boy! Seiya defeats a big fly-like Demon with the new attacks he learns from the pervy archery goddess, Mitis, and the yandere war goddess, Adenela, and saves Rosalie Roseguard, the whiny and reckless daughter of the emperor. He is then instructed to go to a village to obtain some sacred armor, but that village has been destroyed by another Demon General, who summons an indestructible monster named Death Thanatos to kill Seiya and his friends. They run back to the spirit world and lure it to the goddess of destruction, Valkyrie, who uses an awesome absolute-surefire-kill move called Gate of Valhalla to destroy it, but at the cost of almost all of her HP. Seiya asks her to train him on all of her moves except for that one, but it’s cut short when Rista walks in on them… doing it?! After that… incident… they’re called to the capital city of Orphee, where the last Demon General is attacking. However, the emperor, Wohlks Roseguard, defeats it himself (despite being senile and reverting to the personality of a baby every so often). Double-however, the emperor, who was seduced by the Demon Lord’s words and his own envy of Seiya, tries to kill Seiya using the God Eater Sword, forged with the power of the Demon Lord’s Chain of Destruction that permanently kills a soul with no chance of reincarnation. Seiya barely manages to defeat the guy, so his team rests up for the final battle. Or DO they? Seiya breaks out of character and goes off to fight the Demon Lord himself with the Gate of Valhalla technique (which, incidentally, him and Valkyrie’s doing it was her giving him the ability in the first place). When Rista rushes over to Ishtar to ask what the hell’s wrong with him, she tells her that Seiya was previously summoned to save a different world. Triple-however, he was the exact opposite of cautious, and thus he failed (also, Rista is the reincarnation of his lover during that time. Now Seiya is officially a waifu guy. Great). Rista breaks the rules and teleports straight into the Demon Lord’s castle right in the midst of the final battle and restores Seiya’s life with her divine healing powers to offset the Gate of Valhalla’s punishment. QUADRUPLE-however, the Demon Lord is able to attempt a last-minute screen-nuke, forcing Seiya to summon a second Gate to consume him and the first gate, finishing him off for good. This breaks him (literally) beyond repair, and Rista returns to her world awaiting punishment. Her punishment… is to save the world that Seiya could not save, now an SS-ranked Dark Souls-ian world. And who better to accompany her… than the reincarnated (through some Deus Ex Machina BS) Seiya himself? 

“Well that’s all well and good,” you say. “But this is just an excuse for the author to pad the series out long after it should’ve ended. Things in this arc are going to be EXACTLY the same as the previous one!” I shared your concern. But things change VERY radically right at the start of this volume.

Seiya trains for the new challenge when a werewolf appears and attacks him. It only gets one hit in, but it’s enough to give him amnesia and make him VERY reckless. Doing this effectively turns him into the same Gary Sue protagonist that tends to make isekai absolute cringe, but this version of Seiya is good cringe. By robbing us of what defines him as a character, the story expects you to yearn for him to be cautious again. Conversely, if you hated him up to this point, this version of him will probably irritate you even more.

This also puts the shoe on the other foot. With Seiya making rash moves, Rista now starts acting cautious around him. This causes a new set of reactions between them that wasn’t at all possible in the past, and is by far the best aspect of this new predicament.

Unfortunately, the amnesia ends up being resolved very early and very unceremoniously, which also increases the rift between him and Rista. This makes the whole situation seem like shock value. But there’s a silver lining! In order to face his new enemies, Seiya goes for a class change. This allows him to continue to bamboozle us (and his enemies) with even more utility than before. 

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Verdict: 9.3/10

This new arc shows that the author of Cautious Hero has yet to run out of steam. With Seiya’s ever-expanding arsenal, only the final boss could have a ghost of a chance of stopping him. Oh, and speaking of the final boss, I’m hoping that it ends up being just as cautious as Seiya. A battle between cautious hero and cautious demon would be a perfect way to end this series (or this arc?). But Seiya will have to GET to the final boss in order for us to know for sure.

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.

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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.

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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.

Lockwood & Co. Full Series Review

Covers of the books

The U.K. has had a history of really popular writers: From William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens all the way through to the late, great Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. So, is it any surprise that also-English Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series is fan-freakin’-tastic in every way? It was a surprise for me, actually. I read Stroud’s claim to fame, Bartimeaus, over ten years ago. I loved it at the time, but since I was an impressionable teen and a completely different person then, I didn’t expect too much out of Lockwood. However, I ended up falling in love with it.

Lockwood & Co. is basically a British (therefore better) Ghostbusters. A mysterious event called The Problem (it’s got a capital letter, so it’s a big deal- Discworld taught us that much) has occurred. As a result, ghosts have been popping up everywhere at the spots where they died in life. Fortunately, there are agents who investigate the sites that ghosts appear in and send them back to the other world by capturing their Source; a physical object that they’re tied to. This series revolves around the titular Lockwood & Co.: consisting of agents Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins, and Lucy Carlyle.

The basic narrative structure of Lockwood & Co. follows the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson formulas: Self-contained arcs within each individual book, which all help build on the overarching plot that comes together in the final book. Each one makes our cast investigate some haunted sites throughout Britain in two distinct phases: mystery and action. In the mystery phase, they need to study up on the history of the area and the people involved in order to deduce what the Source could be. And in the action phase, they need to go over there and neutralize the Source. 

Stroud’s writing talent makes this stuff really enjoyable. His worldbuilding is well thought-out, really keeping in mind how people would live everyday life with ghosts running around (and the rules are also very simple, unlike something like Keeper of the Lost Cities). He makes the encounters with ghosts genuinely terrifying and suspenseful. He’s also able to spend multiple paragraphs just describing stuff, while not making the pacing feel slow at all. 

But in the end, the real Source of Lockwood’s greatness is in its cast of characters, and this Source cannot be neutralized. Lucy Carlyle, our narrator, is a tomboyish and proactive girl who gains strangely exceptional communication skills with ghosts. The head of Lockwood & Co., Anthony Lockwood, seems to be an aloof idiot, but when sh** goes down, he knows what’s up. George Cubbins is the comic relief guy, but he’s really good at researching stuff. Interestingly enough, these characters’ greatest traits end up playing into their biggest flaws. Lucy’s excellent communication skills cause her to empathize with ghosts, perhaps a little too deeply for what it’s worth. Lockwood, on the other hand, feels the exact opposite way, and there is most definitely a good reason as to why. George’s fascination with ghosts from a scientific point causes him to make some rather stupid and life-risking decisions as well. But despite their different viewpoints, their interactions- for the most part- are amazing. Stroud comes barreling right out of the gate with that nonchalant, sarcastic British humor. However, there is also some drama between the agents. While some of it made sense from a story standpoint, a lot of it felt sitcom-levels of contrived. A particularly sitcom-y development at the end of book three made me roll my eyes, and as a result, the fourth book, The Creeping Shadow, ended up being the weakest in the series for me. 

Other characters outside of the main crew include agents from other companies, like Lockwood’s rival, Quill Kipps, and the salty spirit of a skull in a jar. There is also Flo Bones, Lockwood’s connection to the black market, and Holly Munro, who joins the agency in book three. Overall, this is one of the best casts of characters, of this genre, I’ve ever come across. Their chemistry is priceless, and it felt bittersweet to have finished all of their adventures. And best of all, no cringey romance!

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Final Verdict: 9.5/10

This is one of the best pieces of non-Japanese literature I have ever read. From its strong writing, to its amazing cast, to its British humor, Lockwood & Co. is an underrated treat. If you love Ghostbusters or Goosebumps, then I daresay that this is a must-read. Otherwise, I highly recommend it to anyone who just wants flat-out, high quality literature.