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review 2018-03-18 17:47
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand (book, vol. 1) by Makoto Inoue, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Rich Amtower
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand - Makoto Inoue,Alexander O. Smith,Hiromu Arakawa

This volume is composed of two stories. The primary one is "The Land of Sand." The shorter bonus story is "The Phantom of Warehouse 13." Both of these stories were adapted into episodes in the original anime series.

"The Land of Sand":

Edward and Alphonse arrive at the dying former gold mining town of Xenotime and are shocked to learn that two boys who say their names are Edward and Alphonse Elric have been living in Xenotime for a while, researching how to make a Philosopher's Stone in order to revitalize the town. Who are these imposters, and how close are they to finishing their research?

This wasn't bad, like bland but reasonably well-written fanfic. It's been a while since I watched the anime adaptation of this, but I remembered liking that more than this story. Ed and Al seemed to be pretty accurately depicted (although I've never thought of Al as being "bronze-hued" (14)), but the text did have occasional clunky moments. There were times when I could tell that the humor would probably work on-screen but was a bit awkward and weird on-page, like the time Ed and Russell transitioned from a physical battle to a verbal one.

One thing I really liked about this story was the "little brother" aspect. Both Al and Fletcher were the level-headed younger brothers, but whereas Al could talk to his brother and expect to be listened to, Fletcher was afraid to tell his brother what he was really thinking. I loved the scenes where Al and Fletcher bonded, and watching Fletcher slowly become more confident was nice.

I didn't see anything that contradicted anything I recalled from the manga (although it's been ages since I last read any of that). I agree with those who wondered why Ed didn't just pull out his State Alchemist pocket watch to prove his identity, though. I suppose you could argue that the Xenotime townsfolk were so convinced that their Edward and Alphonse were real that even that wouldn't have swayed them, but it was still a bit odd that he didn't even give it a shot.

"The Phantom of Warehouse 13":

Colonel Roy Mustang gets roped into helping his men investigate reports of nighttime ghostly activity near Warehouse 13. Several people said they heard sounds of digging and weeping. Since Warehouse 13 doesn't exist, Roy is pretty sure everything's happening near Warehouse B. He's determined to get to the bottom of it all before Eastern Command becomes both a laughing stock and a tourist attraction.

This story was goofy and ridiculous, and I enjoyed it anyway. It made no effort to even pretend that it might advance anything in the overall Fullmetal Alchemist storyline. Roy Mustang, Fuery, Havoc, Falman, and Breda were like a group of little boys taking part in a sleepover and scaring each other silly with ghost stories.

I couldn't tell whether the ending was predictable or whether I just remembered too much of the anime episode. Either way, this was a fun bit of fluff.

All in all, this volume was a quick and relatively decent read.


  • One full-page color illustration and several black-and-white illustrations created by Hiromu Arakawa.
  • A couple pages of sketches - Fletcher and Russell, plus Ed imagining how tall and suave he'll be at age 19. Also, a 4-panel comic about the planning stages for the book that's a bit horrifying if you know what happens to Maes Hughes in the series. Poor Makoto Inoue.
  • A 3-page afterword written by Makoto Inoue.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-03-15 17:18
Land of the Lustrous (manga, vol. 3) by Haruko Ichikawa, translation by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley
Land of the Lustrous 3 - Haruko Ichikawa

In this volume we get a bit more world-building and a new character. Winter is starting, which means less sunlight and therefore less energy for most of the Lustrous. While almost all of them go into hibernation, Kongo-sensei and Antarcticite become everyone's guardians. Antarcticite spends most of the year in a liquid form, but every winter they solidify and gradually grow stronger as temperatures get colder.

Phos is usually the first of the Lustrous to begin hibernation and the last to wake up, but this time around they can't seem to stay asleep, a possible side effect of their new legs. Kongo-sensei assigns Phos to Antarcticite as their new partner. Phos isn't sure they're up to the task, especially after the disastrous incident with the Amethyst twins, and then there's the issue of the talking ice floes that prey on Phos's anxieties.

Although the first volume made this series look like it was going to be a "natural discovery or Lunarian attack of the week" kind of thing, in the last couple volumes it's become more focused on Phos's desire to become stronger and more useful and eventually able to help Cinnabar. There are also hints that Kongo-sensei knows more about the Lunarians than he's told the younger Lustrous.

I wasn't expecting this volume to be as tragic as it was. The panels in which Lustrous (I won't say which ones) were broken into pieces were brutal, and this time around there was more explicit recognition of the horror inherent in the Lustrous's tendency to lose memories whenever they permanently lost a body part.

It'll be interesting to see where Ichikawa goes after this.

Will Phos be able to get their memories back, or will they just make new ones? Are they going to lose more? And I wonder, has anyone ever retrieved kidnapped Lustrous from the Lunarians before?

(spoiler show)

Although I'm very much enjoying the story and world-building details, I do still have some issues with this series. First, I'm just going to say it: the action scenes in this series aren't always very good. They're pretty, and the composition of individual panels and pages is great, but the action often requires a lot of effort to follow and doesn't always make sense. For example, at the beginning of the volume the Amethyst twins cut open another weird pod-like Lunarian. In the first volume, when a similar Lunarian was cut open there was a sequence of panels that showed arrows made out of Lustrous pieces emerging from the Lunarian's...pore things.

In this volume, it wasn't nearly as easy to tell what had happened and how. In one panel, the Lunarian's pore things were just empty holes. In the next panel, giant spiky blade-things has already fully emerged, which no obvious indication of how something so big could have fit inside the Lunarian and emerged from those holes. After staring at the image for a while, I eventually figured out what might have happened, but those pages were really jarring and confusing the first time I saw them.

After the fun I had looking up the properties of real-life cinnabar after reading volume 1, I decided to see if Ichikawa had based Antarcticite off of the properties of real antarcticite. From what I can tell, although antarcticite is just as brittle as the manga said it was, Ichikawa made up most of the character's abilities. A bit disappointing.

All in all, this volume contributed a few more interesting world-building details and continued Phos's transformation into...something. It's definitely looking like this series is going to end in tragedy, at least where Phos is concerned. I plan to continue on with Land of the Lustrous, although limited library availability may mean that I'll have to switch to buying it.


Two pages of 4-panel comics - the humor felt a little weird and out-of-place after the events of this volume. Also, a page with two translator's notes.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2018-03-14 12:03
Reading progress update: I've read 192 out of 192 pages.
Land of the Lustrous 3 - Haruko Ichikawa

Well hell, this was sadder than I expected it to be. And I continue to be torn on this series. I'm enjoying the characters and world, but the action scenes are incredibly hard to decipher. I feel sorry for the animators who, for the anime adaptation, had to somehow turn the action into something that makes sense.


How the heck did the giant blade thing come out of those tiny Lunarian pores? It literally wouldn't fit, and I couldn't see a way it might have been folded up. One panel was empty Lunarian pores, and in the next panel there was suddenly an enormous spikey weapon thing.

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text 2018-03-13 23:11
Reading progress update: I've read 221 out of 221 pages.
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand - Makoto Inoue,Alexander O. Smith,Hiromu Arakawa

A sudden project at work (which I superstitiously think was due to our Periodicals Librarian foolishly saying the words "program review" several times in the space of a few minutes) meant that audiobook listening didn't really happen much today. However, I did manage to finish this book while pet sitting after work.


All in all, this was decent. The bulk of the book was "The Land of Sand." I couldn't help judging it against my memories of the anime adaptation of it, and I preferred the anime. That said, it wasn't bad - like bland but readable fanfic. The rest of the volume was a bonus story, "The Phantom Warehouse," which was also adapted into an anime episode. The humor didn't always work, and it was a bit ridiculous, but I enjoyed it all the same.


I'm going to use it for the Antique Hunting Rifle card - Inoue begins with one of the letters in the word "RIFLE." It'll be my guess for today. (I think I finished early enough to still squeak in a guess?)


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text 2018-03-13 11:56
Reading progress update: I've read 192 out of 221 pages.
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand - Makoto Inoue,Alexander O. Smith,Hiromu Arakawa

Now it's time for a ridiculous short story in which Roy Mustang helps his men investigate rumors of ghosts hanging around a warehouse that doesn't exist. If I remember right, this was turned into a filler episode in the first anime series as well.


I should hopefully be able to finish this today, although probably not soon enough to use it for my Kill Your Darling guess. As far as that goes, I think I can manage The Murder of Roger Ackroyd in time.

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