Category: Book Reviews

Manga Review: I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up

Manga Review: I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up

At some point, whether it was while watching a reality television show, seeing some kind of scandal online or in the press, or hearing just from other people, we’ve all heard about some kind of fake marriage. Some have gone into fake marriages with complete strangers in order to gain citizenship in certain counties. There was even news circulating about fake public marriages in order to hide some kind of secret publicity stunt. And even in some media, we’ll see a plot of a movie or novel where two people got drunk and married in Las Vegas.

But have you heard about people who married their best friend so that their parents would leave them alone? In case you didn’t pay attention to the title of the manga, that’s actually the main plot of this new story.

Published by Seven Seas Entertainment and written by the author of NTR Netsuzou Trap, Kodama Naoko released a new standalone manga that hits the heartstrings of yuri romance fans. I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up follows the story of Morimoto, a young female professional who’s parents won’t leave her alone about settling down and marrying a man. Continue reading my review of I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up

Book Review – The Sun’s Caress: A Rayden Valkyrie Tale

Book Review – The Sun’s Caress: A Rayden Valkyrie Tale

When most people think about the word “warrior” they imagine somebody who’s strong, well suited for battle, and loves the thrill off a fight, even if it costs them their life. And occasionally, they may not always be the brightest of the bunch, sometimes lacking knowledge and wisdom.

Rayden isn’t your average warrior.

With her journey for discovery taking her across numerous lands, seeing a wide array of faces and people, Rayden Valkyrie’s latest tale has her traveling to the lands of the Far East: Yamatainu. Having befriended Timiko, the brave leader of a band of pirates, they set out together to help bring prosperity and hope to nearby villages currently suffering from the cruel grip of war. Accompanied by Mari-chan, a quick-witted ally, Rayden’s time in Yamatainu quickly becomes not only a chance to help those in need, but a learning experience for herself. Continue reading the book review

Manga Review – Machimaho: I Messed Up and Made the Wrong Person Into a Magical Girl – Volume Two

Manga Review – Machimaho: I Messed Up and Made the Wrong Person Into a Magical Girl – Volume Two

(If you didn’t read volume one of Machimao: I Messed Up and Made the Wrong Person Into a Magical Girl, it’s highly recommended that you read it. You’re missing out on the beginning of a great series.)

“I’m gonna carve your face in, Tits-for-Brains!”

A perfect line used to sum up how the latest volume of Machimaho begins.

Picking up right after where volume one of Machimaho left off, volume two opens with the continuation of the intense blow-for-blow fight scene that left me on the edge of my seat—and I wasn’t disappointed when I started reading it. On the very first page, Kayo does a spoof of a popular shonen anime/manga series that anybody would recognize.

On its own, Machimaho volume two was very enjoyable to read. The overall plot of the story continues on, giving more detail behind what happens to Kayo and her rival, Nako, when they take on their magical girl forms. Although the manga is primarily an action story, volume two throws in more comedic set-ups and situations that doesn’t deter from what the plot is trying to focus on. One such moment is when Kayo and Nako expend all of their energy fighting one another: they get hungry. Souryu, the creator of Machimaho, took this moment to break the fourth wall in a smooth, yet obvious, way. Regardless if is was a direct reference to another popular manga/anime series, or to the genre overall, it was still a comedic scene that made me laugh. After this moment, that’s when the main focus of volume two comes into play.

Splitting up into two different perspectives, the story starts to focus on Nako, showing what happened at the conclusion of her fight with Kayo. This point of the story begins to give us a small window into her own personal life, allowing us to learn about the way she thinks and her views on having magical girl powers. Just like her delinquent and arrogant rival, Nako has her own floating familiar following her around, however its origin isn’t so clear; this was most likely done as setup for a later plot development, so it’s actually an interesting thing, not a hindrance of understanding the story.

MACHIMAHO-2-cover-FRONT
(Source: Seven Seas Entertainment)

As for the second perspective, the story swaps back to Kayo, our main badass magical girl. After being escorted back home by her personal underling, Rei, Kayo wakes up from a dream and finds herself in a bed inside of the main building of her home. Grabbing breakfast on the go and escaping, she heads on back to her room underground, the one shown in volume one. Knocking out a few demons on the way, literally one-punching everything all while having a casual conversation with Myu, Kayo starts to unwind and reflect on everything that has happened. However, as she’s trying to take it easy, her memories from an earlier time becomes her focus.

This is the part of the story where we’re given small snippets into Kayo’s life. Although this portion is only one page in length, it had me wondering what kind of person Kayo’s life had been long before she was turned into a magical girl. The fact that she quickly escaped a house where she had personal maids and butlers catering to her and lived an obvious life a luxury, that’s something most people wouldn’t just run out on. I began to wonder what possibly could have happened that made her want to live in a nearly empty room, and if she had always been the violent powerhouse she’s currently known as. For now that portion of her life is a heavily shrouded mystery, one that I can’t wait to uncover as the series continues.

The story continues on, switching back and forth between Kayo and Nako until they meet up again when another demon appears in the city, this time coming from the result of what happened in volume one. As the fight goes on, we see a side of Nako that I never would have imagined; it even pisses off Kayo to the point that she has to come in and slap the living hell out of her. And I can’t even lie, Kayo’s never end of blatant disrespectful remarks and crude cursing makes me like her even more as a character—I can see her becoming a boss or a gang or illegal organization with the way she acts.. At the conclusion of volume two, we’re treated with a new mystery, one that makes me wonder just how deep this whole magical girl stuff can reach.

At the end of it all, Machimaho volume two lives up to the hype the first volume sets up and continues it, grabbing my attention throughout, all while having me laugh when I needed to. The artwork both during fight scenes and outside of them are consistent, detailed from the clothing, down to Kayo’s veins practically busting out of her face; you can even see the large amount of cracks inside a giant rock Kayo chucks at Nako. Souryu knows how to make great actions scenes and can back that up a great story. I can’t wait to see what kind of demons Kayo will have to take on in volume three!

Want to read it for yourself? Machimaho is currently out in print and digital copies on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major book retailers.


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Light Novel Review – Do You Want to be Normal?

Light Novel Review – Do You Want to be Normal?

What do you get when you have a protagonist who’s curiosity gets the best of him, becomes the vice-president of an all but normal club, and has to learn how to deal with a robot-like girl? Throw in a few comedic anime tropes, a small cast of diverse characters, and an awkward, budding romance, and you’ll get this nice little light novel.

Do You Want to be Normal? is an original story by Koji Kojou, with beautifully done cover art by Mei Lin. The story follows the high school life of William Jackson, your below-average, good-spirited protagonist who gets ridiculed by other students for being easily emotional. After seeing a poster for an after-school club called “The Normal Club,” he has his first conversation with the smartest person in their grade and a beauty to the eye, but was far from “normal.” Alyssa Silverstein, otherwise known as “Alyssa the Alien” by her schoolmates, is an emotionless, monotone, high school girl with a rather robotic personality. Always looking for what is considered to be the “social norm,” she ropes William into various experiments and trials in order to gain a better understanding about what it means to be a normal. Along the way they manage to gather a small group of people to help expand the club, conduct group activities, and help each other truly find themselves and what “normal” means to everybody.

Don't You Want to be Normal - Koji Kojou
(Source: Amazon.com)

Right off the back, Kojou establishes that the main theme in this comedic, anime-style story is what it means to be “normal.” Across eleven chapters in this one novel, we see William, Alyssa, and the rest of the Normal Club go through a number of different trials and situations to help one another grown as a person. Each chapter is broken up to parts, acting like different scenes and events, which helps control the pacing and overall speed of the novel. This allows the reader to get a little bit of everything while they’re reading it: comedy, awkward tensions, some background history, the whole nine yards. And with the way it’s written, it actually works quite well when the reader wants to visualize everything as if it’s an actual anime that can be viewed online or on television,. Kojou’s use of common anime tropes and events doesn’t make it feel like some old run-of-the-mill light novel or anime that follows the exact same story plot in the exact same order. Each character helps create each scene and event that goes down, making everything feel cohesive and unique to the story.

That being said, there are a few things that shift the story in a strange direction at times. Without diving too far into the plot, there is one specific moment where we see William take action against something. And although the story was leading up to a dramatic point, what William does and how quickly he came to that point felt a bit out of character and rushed. Another moment is later in the novel when we’re introduced to another character. Even though the character is mentioned and does make an appearance, from the way the novel was set up, this one character doesn’t feel necessary. They could have been used just to provide more background information on the overall setting of the school, but from a plot point, they didn’t really add anything to the story; they felt like an extra that needed to be in a scene. Some may like what happens, while others may agree about it being a bit strange at points, but the best way to find that out is by buying the book and reading it for yourself.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Do You Want to be Normal? The story was well-rounded light novel. By putting a spin on common tropes and anime characteristics, Kojou created a small world inside of a book that could have easily felt like it could happen in the real world or have been a small series online. And you never know: maybe you’ll have a new outlook on what it means to be “normal.”

Do You Want to be Normal? Is currently available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle formats. If you want to learn more about Koji Kojou’s works and latest projects, follow him on his Amazon Author page and on Twitter. For more artwork from Mei Lin, check out her Twitter and Instagram pages.

Manga Review – Futaribeya: A Room for Two – Volume One

Manga Review – Futaribeya: A Room for Two – Volume One

High school is the moment in everybody’s life where they start to learn about themselves and what kind of person they want to be. From meeting new friends and forming long-lasting bonds, to having to struggle with balancing academics and a personal life, those last few teenage years can be quite stressful. At least most don’t have to deal with the awkward situation of sharing a boarding room with a complete stranger.

In Futaribeya, that’s how it all begins: awkward.

An original story and art from Yukiko (@aoiyukiko) and published by TOKYOPOP, Futaribeya: A Room for Two is a simple, light-hearted, slice of life comedy that follows the life of two girls entering high school. When the sensible, level-headed Sakurako Kawawa eagerly begins unpacking her stuff in her assigned boarding room, her roommate enters, and is thrown for a loop. The stunning, attractive Kasumi Yamabuki strolls in without a care and changes out from her pretty street clothes into nothing but a t-shirt and underwear, and starts lounging around the house. To anybody, this would be a strange first meeting, especially when you realize that you’ll be sharing a room with this person.

On the surface, the story follows a common plot found in your typical yuri comedy: two girls entering high school are forced into circumstances where they’re always near each other, both inside and outside the classroom. Having opposite personalities would cause some kind of conflict between them, eventually opening the door to similarities and leading to developing romantic feelings for one another. With Futaribeya, it has this plot, but on a much more simple level—and that’s totally fine. Sakurako is the responsible one of the pair, always making sure that the room is well-kept and organized, cooking for the both of them. Adorable, bubbly, and friendly, she’s the complete opposite of her roommate. Often complimented for her beauty, Kasumi is the lazy food glutton. Usually seen with some kind of food or snack in hand, she’s always taking it easy, whether it’s wrapped in a blanket, sleeping on her desk, or hiding under a kotatsu. Early in the plot, you learn about the main reason why she has a part-time job: to buy more food.

Futaribeya_Vol1_Cover
(Source: TOKYOPOP)

Seeing as how this is the first volume in the series, most of the volume is used to set up the overall feel and vibe of the story, giving insight into the backstory between each of our protagonists, fleshing out their usual school life with friends and grades, and the various kind of interactions that occur when they’re home. Yukiko uses a nice, cute art style to portray everything, switching between the detailed, well-done shading seen in most manga, and changing to the big head, solid-black eye comedic use of chibi style. Even though the art style switches fairly often, it doesn’t diminish from the overall enjoyment and story; it’s actually a nice touch to the simple comedy manga. However, between chapters we are gifted with additional illustrations and drawings of the pair, depicting them in various situations. At the end of the volume is an afterward from Yukiko, thanking the reader for picking up the manga and doing a small Q&A.

Overall, Futaribeya is on the lighter side of the yuri spectrum, not pairing the protagonists in explicit and suggestive moments. It’s more focused on the comedic side of two high school girls rooming together. Taking that into consideration, this review is focused on volume one, so it is possible that those kinds of moments could pop up as the story continues. If you’re looking for a nice comedy, this would be a good read to pass the time.

Futaribeya: A Room for Two is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Right Stuf Anime, and other book retailers.


Copyright © 2019 by Luka Tatsujo

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Manga Review – Machimaho: I Messed Up and Made the Wrong Person Into a Magical Girl! – Volume One

Manga Review – Machimaho: I Messed Up and Made the Wrong Person Into a Magical Girl! – Volume One

Magical powers, bow-filled outfits and hair, and a small, flying creature to overlook the protagonist—all common things found in your usual magical girl series. Destructive punches and kicks, chain-smoking pack after pack, and rage-filled attitudes with the dirty language—things usually seen in a gritty action series. Ever seen what it’s like when there’s a magical girl who loves punching things through walls, doesn’t like going to class, and can burn out a cigarette with a single pull?

That’s what Machimaho does.

Following the life of Kayo Majiba, an obvious delinquent who constantly needs a smoke, Machimaho blends the two different genres together. After a random encounter with a mythical creature, who’s job is to monitor the appearance of the Atasunmo, evil creatures who love to feast on the negative energy of others, Kayo must now take up role of protecting the universe from these evil beings. However, being the delinquent that she is, Kayo doesn’t care about any of this.

Both the art and story were done by Souryu, and publishing by Seven Seas Entertainment. Through the use of dynamic angles, detailed expressions and constant action to keep the reader’s attention, Souryu gave a great first volume. Across the first few chapters, we are introduced to a small cast of characters who each have a unique personality that either provides comedic relief, helps establish the overall story, or even helps add to the dramatic and over-the-top fight scenes. We’re given a small glimpse into Kayo’s schooling and her home life, which is anything but the ordinary life a high school student should want or have.

machimaho1-cover
(Source: Seven Seas Entertainment)

The art style is also a very good strong point. In casual scenes there are moments when a character loses their temper, and the detail, and sometimes over-exaggerated expression that are use are either scary or hilarious, based on the emotion being shown—Kayo’s face can get pretty terrifying. But when the fight scenes happen, that’s when the art is at its best. There’s extra emphasis when Kayo sends her fist flying into an enemy, forcing them to go through the walls of a building. Seeing the crater left behind in an enemy’s head and the destructive power of what they’re capable of is very well detailed; of course, that if they manage to live through Kayo’s fists and heel kicks.

Besides having a powerful art style, the dialogues and interactions between characters are actually well thought out. Although it may seem like everything just has some kind of rage or anger behind it, there are parts where we learn more about each character’s thought process instead of just seeing what they do. Well, aside from the use of panty shots after Kayo kicks or gets caught in an explosion, which I personally don’t mind, as some of the poses she’s in are pretty funny. Aside from the main story, there are single page little side stories after each chapter, focusing more on Kayo’s off time, a nice little touch in between fight scenes.

On the surface of the story, Machimaho will come across as a renegade magical girl story, which is totally fine. But do keep in mind, it’s not Sailor Moon or Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica; right of the back, that’s noticeable. Souryu took a popular theme and put a new spin on it, and it’s pretty solid. And after reading it all the way through, to the introduction of Kayo’s potential rival, I can’t wait to see how much more ass she’ll be  kicking.

Want to read it for yourself? Machimaho is currently out in print and digital copies on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major book retailers.


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Book Review – Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster’s Daughter

Book Review – Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster’s Daughter

Organized crime, forceful loan sharks and debt collectors, drug deals gone wrong. These are some of the things people think of when they hear the work “yakuza.” Often depicted on the large screen as well-dressed men who want to rise up through the ranks, those who call themselves yakuza are part of Japan’s organized crime ring, involving themselves in various kinds of criminal activities that would lead them to doing heavy jail time if caught or sold out. However, even when heavily involved in the underworld of crime, many of them still paid attention to their lives outside of the ring.

Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster’s Daughter is a woman’s life story during the 70’s and 80’s of Japan how her life changed all because she was the daughter of a yakuza boss. Ever since she was just a child, Shoko Tendo had to deal with the lifestyle that followed her, from hearing nasty and malicious rumors about her family, being shunned and tormented by both students and teachers while she was at school, and enduring the countless abuse from those she loved, including her own father. In her early teenage years Tendo told the story of her rebellious and delinquent ways as a yanki, and her experiences getting high off of paint thinner and hard drugs. As she got older, her life would seem to be on the right track to improvement, but then reality would hit her in the face, literally, in the form of various kinds of abuse she endured from different men.

Tendo left nothing to the imagination, getting right to the point when she shared her experiences, both the heart-warming and the dirty and gritty. Her writing style is raw and harsh, often going into detail about events that would make one’s shoulder shudder and send an icy cold tinge through their body. Many who’ve read it found it uncomfortable to read at times because Tendo practically took her life and written it onto paper, but that’s what kept me wanting to read more. From describing how debt collectors came by and destroyed her childhood home, to the bloodied, bruised and scared damaged she suffered at the hands of her lovers, those who like reading about one’s journey from hell and back will truly enjoy Tendo’s tale.

It was the height of summer, and there were days when the heat was enough to melt the asphalt on the street. The heavies sent by the loan sharks couldn’t care less. They ripped out all the air-conditioning units in the house and piled them up in the garbage along with a bunch of other household appliances, all in full view of the neighbors, of course. Our large-sized American refrigerator was left lying on its side, its doors hanging open to reveal nothing but empty white racks. The wooden parquet floors were so damaged that they didn’t lie flat anymore, creating a kind of bizarre optical illusion that the ground was moving.

Every day without fail, the debt collectors would fling open our doors or windows and yell in at us. I knew there was no point in arguing, but one day I cracked under the pressure. After one thug had just hurled a string of abuse at my mother, I brought my fist crashing down on the kitchen table.

“Who the hell do you think you’re threatening? If you keep on talking to my parents like that, you stupid assholes, then that’s it.”

“Fucking kid!” he spat back.

So this was what is was like to have no money. I wanted to cry with frustration.

Without wanting to give away major points and details about the emotional and complex life, the moment Tendo decided to have a tattoo done by a traditional Japanese tattoo artists, that’s the moment when she took her life in her hands and began to take control, not letting her past come and haunt her anymore. Accompanying the book are photographs submitted by Tendo herself, giving us a small window on what parts of her life actually looked like, including a photo of her tattoo.

After reading Yakuza Moon, it personally gave me a deeper understanding about exactly what kind of life a yakuza would be involved in, and what kind of torment and suffering their family may have to go through.

Yakuza Moon: Memories of a Gangster’s Daughter by Shoko Tendo is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major bookstore. For those who like visuals and images, there is also a manga/graphic novel adaptation of Tendo’s life story. Regardless of which one is purchased, it’s still well worth the read.

(Image from Amazon.com)