Tag: Review

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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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)