Kobato 1 and 2 (and random Canadian sakura pics)

I read the first two volumes of Kobato today, which is a new Yen Press series by CLAMP.  Kobato is a sweet but dim girl who has to learn “common sense” lessons to earn enough points for a magic jar (which is what most of volume 1 deals with – volume 2 has her trying to fill the bottle with pieces from wounded hearts) and is instructed and insulted by a weird, angry pseudo stuffed dog thingie who punishes her with his fiery breath attacks.  I expect we’ll learn more about them as time goes on, but for the most part I enjoyed easing into the series by watching Kobato figure out life in Japan.  It jumped from holiday to holiday, with her gaining experience through the year.  Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, etc. 

Each story is loosely connected by a few recurring characters that are new to the series, but as usual CLAMP threw in some familiar faces.  Supporting characters from titles like xxxHolic, Chobits, Suki, Angelic Layer and more all pop up.  I like trying to figure out if I can recognize old characters in a different art style, since the look of CLAMP’s series shift enough to make it tricky.  Yen did a good job of adding notes to the back identifying everyone so I got to see if my guesses were right or not.  The art itself makes quick shifts between pretty, cute and comical and was enough to keep my attention going through the episodic nature of the first volume.

Volume 2 deals more with Kobato trying to figure out how to help people recover from their emotional hurts.  As usual she has no clue as to how to go about it and her missteps are pretty entertaining.  (She also trips a lot, which becomes a running gag.)  She eventually gets a job helping at a local rundown kindergarten where the two new characters from volume 1 work – Sayaka-sensei and Fujimoto (the part timer who seems to have a million different jobs).  You find out why he’s so hardworking in this volume as the story runs through the whole volume, unlike the format of the first. 

Here is a bit from the Spring chapter in volume 1. 


I had to add this last scan because the first two panels are just so damn cute.  (She’s saving a spot, btw, which is very very important!)

I also wanted to talk about this chapter because I got to see the sakura trees here in Toronto this year (the trees were planted in High Park as a gift from Japan) and had meant to post some photos I took a couple of weeks ago.  Sadly we were unable to make a day of it like they do in Japan (because it was f-f-freezing!) though it probably would have been rude to try.  Even in the off time that we went (just before sundown on a Thursday night) there were a bunch of people there taking pictures before the blossoms fell.

I am disappointed to report that once again I did not witness the kind of rain of petals they are always showing in anime and continue to feel deceived.  Next year I’ll go on a windy day and see if that finally works.

Anyway, here are the pictures.  I thought they turned out well considering I took them with my cell phone.  They look just like the ones I took in Kyoto.  (Except without the elderly Japanese gentleman who kept wandering into every shot I wanted to take….)

May 12, 2010 at 9:44 pm 4 comments

Reading Gogo Monster (literally)

I have Gogo Monster signed out from the library right now. I’m dropping it off on my way home tonight but thought I’d write a bit about it since I’ve had such a *weird* time trying to read it!

First, this thing was due yesterday. I’ve had it for three weeks and hadn’t had the urge to read it (it showed up on the new book list and I threw it on hold since it’s not normally the kind of book I’d buy) and now it’s overdue. So I started out feeling like I had an obligation to read it before returning it which isn’t the best way to approach a book. :)

My reading experience went something like this:

Yesterday
-Threw it in a bag to read at lunch since I was supposed to return it to the library on the way home.
-Pulled it out on the ride to work.
-It’s a hardcover, but the only place the title is shown on the book is on the spine. Weird. I ignored the dull grey side with text and flipped to the colourful part of the book and started reading.
-Thought, “Who are these kids on the bikes and how many of them are there?” and “Why does that little girl think there’s a man in the tap?” and “Who the hell is Yuki? Is he the boy or the rabbit? Is he both? I’m so confused right now.” Flipped back towards the front and saw the words “The End” on a page I had missed and wondered if this is going to be one of those weird arty type books that’s going to be all over the place and is going to make me feel guilty for not liking it since it got such good reviews online. (This happens to me all the time.)
-Realized that I was READING THE BOOK FROM THE WRONG END!! Yes, like this was my first manga ever and I had no idea what I was doing. And I only clued in because I finally noticed the page numbers.

In my defense, I had only been awake for about 1/2 an hour at that point and I really did think that the front would be the visually attractive part of the book cover.

So I chucked it back in my bag because I was disgruntled at that point. I also ignored Gogo Monster at lunch in favour of a trip to the comic store to buy some new manga. I decided to keep it an extra day since I still had guilt (enough to ignore a $.30 overdue fine anyway), but wasn’t exactly feeling warm and fuzzy about it at all.

Today
-Pulled it out at lunch to start reading. It looked long, and I was going to take a short lunch so I figured I’d get about half way through and finish on the streetcar ride to the library.
-Started at the right end of the manga this time.
-Read the oddly coloured pages at the front of the book.
-The story seemed really random right away, but still made more sense than starting at the end did.
-That fell apart about 4 pages in. Was feeling confused again.
-Flipped forward to see if these pages were duplicated in the “regular” part of the book, like they do for coloured pages at the beginning of other manga I had read. If so, would they make more sense somehow?
-DAMNIT!!! Looking at the page numbers, I realized I was reading it backwards AGAIN!

Yes! You have to open the cover, flip to the beginning of the odd coloured pages and read left to right. Then you have to turn the pages past where you just started reading, past the title pages and the story finally starts. But since I was wondering why I had just finished page 7 and the next number shown was 9 I turned back again, because at this point I had lost all faith in this freaking volume being logical. See, in my mind logic would have page 8 be the title page for the chapter… but it’s not. Page 8 is actually the front cover of the book. Arg arg.

Basically, the right to left pagination goes like this:
Cover as page 8, then 7-6-5-4-3-2-1, then 2 black pages, the title page, table of contents, another title page, a map spread, chapter title page, then 9-10-11-etc etc etc.

At this point I didn’t even care what the plot was, I was just annoyed that I had to expend that much energy trying to figure out how the book was laid out!

Heh.

So the story itself? I ended up really liking it. It’s one of those tales that leaves you wondering if everything is actually happening as shown or if the main characters are just detached from reality. I did like that the adults let one of the students wear a box over his head at school without giving him much grief about it. :) I ended up taking not only my full hour lunch break so I could keep reading, but also snuck in an extra 10 minutes to finish it off. I could see me buying this sometime, and definitely recommending it to friends who are looking for a manga that’s a little out of the ordinary.

But only with a warning to check page numbers before starting.

UPDATE: Partial mystery solved!  bahamut has pointed out that there is actually a dust jacket for this volume which was removed by the library.  I’m so used to NOT having dust jackets on manga (even DMP stopped them) that I didn’t even consider it.  Must try to be more awake when reading in the future….

May 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm 9 comments

Resolutions are made to be broken

As I revealed in my last post, I abandoned my New Year’s resolution some time around mid-February. I wasn’t supposed to buy any new manga or graphic novels until I had finished everything on my “to read” shelf (though for some reason I kept forgetting to include my unread Naruto) but I eventually decided that it just wasn’t working out. My resolution had one fatal flaw: I hate being forced to do anything, and apparently that even applies when I do it to myself. In 49 days I had only managed to read 9 volumes from my shelf, 1 1/2 borrowed volumes during lunches at the bookstore on Saturdays and 2 from the public library. That’s 12 1/2 manga in a month and a half, which is a record low for me.

I did start watching Criminal Minds in January (watching 4 1/2 seasons eats up some time, I admit), but for the most part I was just rereading books I’d already reread. One sick day was filled with Jennifer Crusie books. I went through my Sharon Shinn novels after reading her new short story collection Quatrain. (Which is very good and I don’t think you need to have read the novels each story is from to appreciate it.) Lois McMaster Bujold got a lot of love during a mini vacation. But no manga, and at one point I even started giving my wall o’ shelves small glares, wondering why I was taking up so much room in my home for the darn things.

So eventually I grabbed my Christmas gift certificates for the bookstore and slunk over after I was done work at the library for some inspiration. I was going to get a couple of new volumes – just a couple – to get me over my reading block and refuel my manga love. I picked up High School Debut 13 (since it was the last volume), Kimi Ni Todoke 3 (because it is awesome) Zombie Loan 5 and 07-Ghost 2 (these two almost didn’t count because they were continuing the resolution manga I did manage to get through).

“But wait!” I thought. “There’s a new Baby and Me out. I can’t not get Baby and Me!” So I did some more semi-guilty slinking (with a side of glee because now I had new things to read) over to the Hairy T to pick it up. And what did I see when I got there? A new Venus in Love! I love that series and I thought the next volume wasn’t coming out until the summer! And a new book by Taisho Zaou? She’s on my “always read list!” The staff person working made a hard sell by mentioning that 07-Ghost #3 was there (we were talking about the lack of new Go Comi volumes). I think I ended up lugging home a dozen new volumes of manga that day.

I was honest with my friends about breaking my resolution and have gotten some “you failed!” raised eyebrows for it. I have, however, come to the realization that I managed to keep the spirit of my resolution even if I flunked the specifics. Here is the new tally:

January 1 – February 19 – 12 1/2 manga read
February 20 – February 24 – 5 graphic novels, 25 manga read (mostly from my backlog)

Considering that what I have left to read is batches of volumes from Tower of the Future, Nana, Tsubasa, Eyeshield 21 and Fullmetal Alchemist I’m not really worried about stopping my reading spree (though I seem to have been concentrating on manga from the library lately). I *have* lost track of how much I’ve read since then, and thankfully my love of manga has been renewed.

Next year I’m going back to my resolution to not make resolutions.

March 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm 13 comments

Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M made me feel a little silly

I decided this week that my New Year’s resolution was a bust.  It’s been a couple of weeks since I read anything on my shelf, I wasn’t bothered by not buying new volumes of my favorite series and it felt like I had completely lost interest in manga altogether.  The horror.

The focus of my reading block was falling on the shoulders of one title in particular.  After going through 8 or 9 of my single volumes hanging about I thought I should start on Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M next.  Purchased on a whim over a year ago at a convention because someone I kind of know liked it and it was also ridiculously cheap.  It seemed like a safe bet.

But! I stalled on volume 1.  I got the basics – 18 year old Daigo is the newest rookie at M Station.  He was rescued from a fire as a boy and the heroic firefighter made enough of an impression on him that he decided he wanted to be one too.  So fresh from the academy he shows up at M Station only to find that it’s a relatively quiet post.  The other firefighters seem to spend a lot of time relaxing and playing games, and the captain is a pretty laid back kind of guy.  Daigo is one of those overly enthusiastic types who likes to shout a lot, jump into situations without thinking things through and says “grr!”  I kind of cringed through his outbursts and his incredibly low opinions of his seniors (ie the lack of fires had turned them all into cowards.)

You can see where this is going, right?  It’s a common setup in manga.  Daigo was setting himself up for a huge Lesson to be Learned and it came in the form of his first call to a fire.  He started getting scared in the truck, then angry at the others because they’d infected him with their cowardice.  That’s where I stopped reading.  I figured he’d freeze in the fire or do something equally stupid and have to be rescued.  Or he’d end up humiliating himself in some other way that I really didn’t want to suffer through.  (I have a low tolerance for humiliation which doesn’t help.)  I’ve picked this damn book up three different times recently and I wasn’t able to push myself past that point.

Today I woke up, bleary and disgruntled from the aftermath of my idiotic neighbour’s decision to have a party in a building with little or no soundproofing, with the full knowledge that his downstairs neighbour (that would be me) has very low ceilings.  I figured that since I was in a bad mood from lack of sleep and feeling guilty from breaking my resolution I should just hold my nose and get through the rest of volume 1.  Which I did, but only by cheating.  I skipped the big fire scene.

I have no idea what happened, really, but it looks like he rescued someone in the fire.  Good for him.  Daigo goes on to learn that the other guys have time to play because they’re so good at their jobs and he finally starts settling in.  The last part of the volume introduces his rival from the academy and there is some tension as there’s an arsonist in the neighbourhood who is keeping the local firefighting stations hopping.  Daigo’s rival works at a nearby station and they occasionally get called out to the same fires.  Since they’re rivals, this turns into a competition to see who can snag the best water sources for the hoses.  Daigo ends up learning another valuable lesson.  (He’s still very shouty, though.)

The last part of volume 1 ended up on a cliffhanger (Oh no! Recent construction has moved some of the hydrants around and they can’t find a way to fight the fire!) so of course I reached for the second right away.  Volume 2 also had a pretty gripping story of Daigo coming across a car accident on his day off and he tries to help a family trapped in a car that is balanced on the edge of an overpass, a call to a fire at an abandoned building that Daigo runs into because he feels like something is off, and it ends on another cliffhanger!  A diverted river is overflowing, a nearby bridge that is under construction has partly collapsed into the water and the firefighters have just learned that a kid and his would be rescuer were swept away by the current and are heading their way!

The cliffhanger endings are deadly.  You just HAVE to find out what’s going to happen next.

Daigo turned out to be more interesting than I originally thought.  He’s shouty, lazy and doesn’t seem to be very bright, but when he’s in a fire or other perilous situation he turns into this focused guy who takes really stupid chances based on impulse and intuition.  The reactions of the characters around him help to make him more interesting because most of them seem conflicted about Daigo.  He takes these stupid, crazy chances.  He saves lives and gets results.  But he does it by breaking all the rules, generally abandons his team while he goes off on wild tears (which is a pretty stupid thing to do in a fire) and ends up in the hospital with alarming frequency. People seem to regard him with a mixture of horror and awe.

I started reading at 11:00 in the morning and was done all 9 volumes by 3:00.  It turned out to be pretty entertaining after all!  So in these 9 books, Daigo:

-meets a new member of the company who seems obsessed with fire.  Creepy or just really good at his job?  Daigo finds out!

-learns about the importance of fire prevention.
-fights a tiger. (Seriously.  And the whole time he keeps thinking, “I’m a firefighter!”  Like that means he has to tangle with tigers.)
-faces a terrible dilemma in a mall on fire. Does he trust the regulations or his gut? People might die either way!
-gets smeared in the newspapers, but fails to notice.
-goes on vacation with the other station members, but of course a fire breaks out!  Daigo gets trapped on an upper floor with no equipment and a group of civilians he must get to safety.
-works with the EMS crew which seems easy until they’re trapped on a mountain road with a patient who needs to get to a hospital before his heart give out.
-meets the Rescue Unit!  The elite of the firefighters and the first ones in when there’s a disaster.  But in the middle of an accident Daigo is the only one to notice a construction crane about to fall on an oil tanker.  (And of course he runs off by himself, the idiot.)
-decides to train for the Rescue Unit test, but only to prove that regular firefighters can handle anything that they can.
-is stuck working on an all night mountain fire the night before the grueling physical exam.
-gets called in to assist a Rescue Unit in evacuting a community centre, but a ceiling collapse leaves the Rescue guys trapped with no way out.  Daigo frantically tries to figure out a way to rescue the men he feels he left behind inside.

Volume 9 ends with Daigo in the interview stage of the Rescue Unit test and he may have just given the worst possible answer to a question!  Cliffhanger!

See?  Deadly.  I really want to read volume 10 now.

Verdict: Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M ended up being a very delightful surprise.  It’s just as interesting to watch the supporting characters get pulled along in Daigo’s wake, inspired and horrified at the same time as it is to follow Daigo himself.   I kind of felt the same way myself.

February 21, 2010 at 9:15 pm 8 comments

What happened to January?

As a general rule, I don’t make resolutions for the new year.  I always forget to keep them so eventually stopped trying.   This year was different though.  I had guilt.

Over the past year and a half I have accumulated a slowly growing stack of unread manga.  Some of it I bought as part of bulk sales at conventions, some I was saving to read in a batch and others have just slipped through the cracks.  So the resolution?  I can’t buy any more manga or graphic novels until I read the backlog.  I’ve tried this before with little success, but this is not only a resolution, but I’ve told enough of my friends that I’ll feel incredibly lame if I don’t follow through.

I'm thinking the top shelf is going to be the reward for reading the bottom one.

It shouldn’t have been a problem.  There aren’t that many, really, and if I read one a day I should have been done in no time!  Unless (of course) I shift into novel mode and stop reading manga all together.  I’m not even reading *new* books.  I’ve been rereading things.  Sigh.

Up until a week and a half ago I managed to read:

-the last 2/3rds of the first One Piece omnibus.  I really like One Piece, but wasn’t buying it for some reason.  I figured with the 3-in-1 books coming out it would be a great place to start collecting.  I still enjoyed reading them, but man, those collections take forever to get through!  I started it while on vacation at Christmas (which included many failed atte

-Happy Cafe 1 during my lunch at the bookstore.  I had a lot of fun reading this one, but sadly it is published by Tokyopop.  I’ll probably buy it once all the volumes are out if I like the rest of the series as much.

-half of All My Darling Daughters.  I figured if anything was going to get me through my manga stack it would be the knowledge that this was coming out in mid-January.  Nope.  I read most of it at the bookstore – again, during lunch which isn’t long enough to read a manga like this.  You need time to savour it!  I’ve decided to wait until I can read it properly.

So now it’s February 1st, I’m officially missing another batch of Shojo Beat releases (Baby and Me! Kimi Ni Todoke! Beast Master!) and I’ve only read about 8 volumes.  I’m not even going to mention what I did to myself by maxing out my hold list at the library.  I’ve got some vacation days coming up for which the plan is: no plans!  I think the new plan is to lug some manga to a coffee shop and get reading before I’m whining about not being able to buy March’s new manga!

Mental note: no more New Year’s resolutions!

February 1, 2010 at 11:23 am 5 comments

Class is over, so are the crafty posts…

As of Wednesday, my stained glass class is over!  (Just in time for Glee to be done too, darn it!)  All in all, I liked the experience but I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to.

So here’s what I did in the last two classes.

I finished wrapping each piece in the copper foil and assembled it all in the proper order.

After that I had to tack each piece in place (I forgot to take a picture of that part again!) which turned out to be quite challenging as I didn’t have pins to keep everything from moving around.  I ended up using my fingers instead.

(BTW: NO injuries during the soldering process!  I’m so thankful for that!)

This is the flip side of the panel. You can see some of the solder coming through from the other side.

I just finished filling in the gaps here. I thought it looked pretty good just like this! It was nice to be much better at soldering this time. Apparently practice is important. (Pretty good = the interior edges, NOT the gloopy edges or random solder beads.)

 You might also notice that some of the glass is out of order.  I ended up moving some squares around so that everything would fit together a little better.  I think this is the first time I managed to make something with colours non-symmetrical.  I never would have put those two green swoopy pieces so close together if I had planned it!  This is where I left off last week.  All assembled and most of the bubbling soldering done.  The edges are kind of uneven, but I’m still happy with it!

This week started out with touch ups of the front and getting rid of some of the mess on the back.  It turned out that every time I spent too long in one place in the front, the solder would leak through the cracks and spread out in the back.  Oops! 
I also discovered that I had cracked two of the little pieces on the edge.  Probably from the heat.  I think it’s one of those things that people will only notice if I point it out, but knowing me I probably will.  :)
All I had left to do was tarnish the copper and wax the panel.  Important step: using gloves or plastic to hold the rag when tarnishing!  Otherwise you end up with nasty discoloured fingers.  Sigh.  At least I only ended up with really dried out hands instead of bleeding…

I'm done!

Here’s the panel held up to different lights, which changes the effect a bit.
It’s interesting that a couple of people who were looking at my earlier pictures didn’t realize that the rose is pink. 
And gosh, those edges *are* uneven, aren’t they?  Oh well.  If it ever starts to really bother me, I’ll find a frame to put around the panel.  :)
That’s it!   The odds of my feeling this crafty again before next year are slim, and if I do then my project is going to involve wool and safety scissors!

December 10, 2009 at 11:01 pm 3 comments

Manga is even better when it’s on sale

Someone at a certain Canadian bookstore chain (that shall remain nameless) thought that it would be a good idea to send out a coupon by email that gave the recipient $5 off of their purchase.  No minimum purchase required, but you were only allowed to use one per transaction.  At this point I will mention two things.  One: I’m suddenly grateful I was sick this weekend and missed my Saturday shift and two: I was tremendously generous and only printed out three copies of the coupon for myself.  Well, either I was being generous or there were only three manga I felt like buying.

And yes, I paid for them each separately.   Heh heh heh.

So what did I buy?

Honey and Clover 8
When I first started reading this series, I thought more of the focus was going to be on Hagu.  She was the new arrival and a couple of the guys seemed enamored of her so it seemed like a logical conclusion.  Happily the story so far has been equally fair to each of the characters as they go to and graduate from art school, try to figure out what’s next or make their way into the working world.  Volume 8 really focuses on Yamada working her way through her love for Hayama and Nomiya’s growing feelings for her, we learn more about Hayama and Rika’s relationship and get a glimpse into Rika’s past with her husband.  Honey and Clover isn’t a manga that I seem to really look forward to the way I do other titles, but every time I read it I’m struck by how much I like the story.  I thought I was going to get relationship drama, but ended up with multiple coming of age type stories.  I’m more than happy with that.

Junjo Romantica 11
I’m not sure if I’ve ever written about Junjo Romantica before.  I can believe I haven’t simply because of how much I love this series.  I tend not to write about the stuff I really love because I would get gushy and it would be too long and take too much time to write.  (The Baby and Me post that I occasionally compose in my head has now reached epic status.)  This volume starts out with a combination Valentine’s Day/Usagi’s dad story.  Usagi’s father has been pretty open about how much he disapproves of Misaki as a mate for his son and in this first story that conflict finally gets resolved.  (Not telling you which way, though!) 

Next the story takes a rather odd leap into the future as Misaki is suddenly 21 (from 19) and a senior at university.  I’m assuming they’ve had a lovely and peaceful life together in the meantime.  :)  But as Misaki gets closer to finishing school a new set of problems come up.



Yeah, maybe they should have told Misaki’s brother exactly why they’ve been living together all these years…  You’d think this is a fairly easy fix, but no one ever really communicates very well in this series (in one volume Nowaki moves to America to study which takes Hiro completely by surprise, even though they live together.  Like Nowaki never mentioned it once while he was getting ready to go??  Arg.  And that’s not even unusual in manga!)  After a good dose of angst and yet another Usami cousin showing up to throw another wrench in the works, the volume moves on to a sweet story about young Misaki excited about Christmas and wondering if there’s really a Santa.  If you’re unfamiliar with the backstory, Misaki and Takahiro’s parents died when they were younger.  Takahiro dropped out of university to raise his little brother and the end of each volume usually has a little story about Takahiro bragging to Usagi about something his baby brother did.  This is usually the most we see of Takahiro, so it was really nice to get a glimpse of their past and the caring relationship between the two brothers.


Aw.  This chapter was my favorite.

Butterflies, Flowers 1
Ah… finally.  A new josei title.  Purchasing this one was a no brainer, but thankfully it also turned out to be pretty good.  Choko is a woman from an aristocratic family that lost all of their money and land about 13 years back.  While the family runs a soba shop, Choko opens the volume with an interview at a company.  The interviewer is a jerk who sexually harasses her, but since it’s her only job offer she ends up having to go to work for the company.  She immediately gets pulled out of the regular trainee program to work upstairs with the jerk from the interview who turns out to be the director of the administration department for the company executives.  He decides to train her himself and Choko’s personal hell pretty much begins there.

That’s typical of a day at the office.  However!  It comes out pretty quickly that Domoto is actually a young boy who served her family back when they were wealthy.  So while he’s a sadist at the office, he switches between that and protective servant mode which involves things like playing chauffeur for Milady and running errands for her family.   Choko quickly develops a crush on him despite the mood swings and has to figure out how to get Domoto to see her as a woman instead of his Milady.  She has a few personality quirks of her own though, and can go from the timid, unsure woman she usually is at the office to a take charge leader in times of crisis.  It was nice to see she has a side other than the typical subdued woman in love I was expecting.

I found her younger brother to be the most entertaining character, however.  He hasn’t quite let go of his high class past yet.

Ha.  I like the way Yuki Yoshihara sets up gags.

All in all I was very happy with volume 1 and am looking forward to the next installment (which will be in March 2010.)  I thought there was a good balance between the romantic tension (does Domoto really care for Choko or is his kindness towards her only because of his past as her servant?) and comedy.  It’s also quite nice to get to read a romance manga with adults in it.  (Though I have to say that Choko’s office uniform looks way too similar to a school uniform.  It threw me off a couple of times!)

So not only were all of my new manga cheaper than usual, they were also all really good reads.

December 3, 2009 at 1:02 am 6 comments

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