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text 2019-01-11 01:46
Movie Review: High School Musical

 

Title: High School Musical
Release Date: January 20, 2006
Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Corbin Bleu, Ashley Tisdale
Length: 1h 38 min

 

Favourite character: Kelsi
Crush: Growing up I had the biggest crush on Chad, but now I don’t like any of them
Least favourite character: Sharpay
Favourite line: Evaporate, tall person

 

Mini-Review: I got to play my favourite game called “Find the Choreographer.” See, the choreographer, Charles Klapow, plays one of the Wildcats and I always entertain myself via finding him. It’s fun — for me at least. This movie brings back memories of me and my friends on the playground, one wearing her Troy Bolton t-shirt, reading our Tiger Beat magazines about the latest Zanessa news. Ah, good times… I’m trying not to complain about the typical things, like how unrealistic it is or whatever. One thing I did see this time around is that it’s very similar to Grease. Kids meet, then she ends up at his high school where he’s king of the school and they’re separated by cliques. See what I mean? Otherwise, this movie is my childhood.

 

 

 

Gifs not mine. Credit to creators.

 

 

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review 2019-01-06 04:20
Gakuen Prince (manga, vol. 1) by Jun Yuzuki, translated by Harumi Ueno
Gakuen Prince 1 - Jun Yuzuki

I bought this and the next two volumes while bargain bin shopping a while back. The cover made me think it might be some kind of "bad boy + nerdy wallflower" romance. It's not.

Jyoushioka High School used to be an all-girls' school until a few years ago. Although it's now co-ed, the school's girls still vastly outnumber the boys. All the boys are placed in S-class, which only the richest and brightest girls are assigned to.

Azusa Mizutani is the school's newest male transfer student. He has no idea how the school works, and he soon realizes that he'll have to learn fast. Since boys are few and far between, nearly all of the girls are sex crazed. S-class gets first dibs on raping the boys, after which they're fair game for anyone who can get at them. Munechika, the school's most powerful guy, has learned how to make the system work for him, and his advice to Azusa is simple: just accept it and don't get anyone pregnant.

Azusa doesn't have many options. He can take control and actively seduce girls the way Munechika does, keep running until he's finally cornered and raped, or find a girl who's willing to date him and thereby stake her claim on him. When he accidentally comes across Rise Okitsu, a girl who just wants to make it through high school without getting involved in any trouble, he decides to declare her his girlfriend.

I always liked Del Rey's manga releases because they all had pages of useful translator's notes. Those notes are probably the best thing about this pile of garbage.

This series is basically just an excuse for lots of on-page abuse and near-rape. Within the first few pages, Azusa spots a guy in tears because a gang of girls ripped all his clothes off. During his first class, he reads a note being passed around in which all the girls are talking about how hot he is and what it'll be like when they tie him up, take embarrassing pictures of him, and rape him. (I don't recall the word "rape" ever being used in the volume, but it's pretty clear that's what the girls intend to do.) After Azusa forces Rise to help him,

she's bullied and set up to be raped by a lesbian who she initially mistakes for a man.

(spoiler show)

There are a couple instances where girls try to drug Azusa -

in fact, they actually do manage to give him something near the end of the volume, which leads to Azusa almost forcing himself on Rise (she punches him).

(spoiler show)


The brief quiet period after Azusa initially announced that he belonged to Rise bothered me on multiple levels. Both Azusa and Rise started to relax, thinking their fellow students' sudden friendliness was genuine, and all I could think was how gross it would be to smile and laugh with students who were only behaving like decent human beings because of a necktie (students who are dating each other exchange neckties).

There are a few gender-flipped instances of the sorts of things women often encounter. For example, when Azusa first finds out how the girls treat the boys, he tells himself that the boy he saw on his way to his first class must have had a problem (had done something that led to the girls attacking him). That kind of thing wouldn't happen to him because he's different. So we have victim-blaming as a form of self-comfort (which doesn't last long in this case). Then there's the whole "ownership" aspect of dating - guys gaining some measure of protection by declaring that they "belong" to one particular girl. The gender-flipping didn't make any of it less gross, and I have a feeling that, in the end, Yuzuki was aiming more for "titillating rape fantasy" than some sort of commentary on rape culture.

There was also some "not like other girls" crap. Rise was the only girl who wasn't involved in the boy-hunting and the only one who seemed to be even slightly bothered by any of it. There were also multiple instances of her fuming about the "heifers" and "sluts" at her school.

If I continue on, it's because I already own the next couple volumes and it's always hard for me to force myself to offload stuff I haven't read. I can't get the "what if it gets better?" voice to shut up, even in cases like this, where odds are really good that it won't get better and might even get worse.

Extras:

Four pages of translators notes, a couple pages of honorifics explanations, a few author freetalk sections (including the postscript, in which the author writes "Well, to tell you the truth, I've been drawing manga just by my instincts, so I don't know the basics of building up a story." (175)), and at least one humorous four-panel comic featuring characters from the series.

 

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

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review 2018-11-23 18:54
Review: "Adulting 101" by Lisa Henry
Adulting 101 - Lisa Henry

 

~ 4 stars ~

 

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review 2018-09-10 08:39
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Killing Mr. Griffin - Lois Duncan

Brian Griffin is a strict high school English teacher. He doesn't accept late assignments for any reason. He considers an "A" grade to indicate perfection, meaning that even his best students don't get more than a B in his class. He once humiliated one of his students, Mark, making him beg to stay in his class after an incident with one of his assignments, only to tell him "no" and force him to take the class over.

Mr. Griffin's kidnapping starts with Jeff's frustrated and angry mumbling: "That Mr. Griffin's the sort of guy you'd like to kill." From there, Mark hatches a plan to scare Mr. Griffin by kidnapping him and making him think he might be killed. Jeff, Betsy (Jeff's cheerleader girlfriend), and David (senior class president and one of the most popular guys in school) also get involved, as does Susan. Susan is one of the Mr. Griffin's best students. She doesn't exactly like Mr. Griffin, but she doesn't have any reason to want to scare him. She does, however, have a huge crush on David, and it doesn't take much for him to convince her to help. Susan's job will be to make sure Mr. Griffin is in the right place at the right time to be kidnapped, while Jeff, Mark, and David do the actual kidnapping. Betsy is supposed to provide the guys their alibis. Unfortunately for everyone, the kidnapping does not go as planned.

I had hoped to check out Duncan's I Know What You Did Last Summer to read for my "Slasher Stories" square in Halloween Bingo, but my library didn't have that. Killing Mr. Griffin sounded interesting, though, so I decided to give it a go.

Killing Mr. Griffin is on the American Library Association's list of frequently challenged YA books. While trying to track down information about why it was challenged (for "violence and sexual content," according to the ALA), I came across a 2015 article describing a group in Collier County, Florida trying to get it removed from school libraries.

I didn't know any of that going in, but the title did a good job of signalling that Mr. Griffin was at least going to be in peril, and quite possibly end up dead. After Chapter 5 and its depiction of Mr. Griffin's home life, his true thoughts about his students, and his motivations, I was hopeful that the book would end up being a thriller in which readers would frequently worry that Mr. Griffin would end up dead but that he'd somehow make it until the end. Duncan dashed those hopes much more quickly than I expected.

I really liked the first few chapters of the book, which gave readers peeks at several of the main characters and the things that drove them. Susan was a shy girl who enjoyed writing, secretly had a huge crush on David, and felt overshadowed by her beautiful family members. Although David seemed perfect and untroubled at school, his home life was a different story. His dad left without a word a while back, and his mom probably saw too much of his father in him. His grandmother on his dad's side lived with them and had him at her beck and call whenever he was home, even though he strongly suspected she moved around just fine when he wasn't there. Mr. Griffin, meanwhile, had a happy life with his pregnant wife. He'd quit his higher paying job at the University of Albuquerque to teach high school students, hoping to give them the foundation they needed in order to thrive in college.

It was good stuff, even if the language was a bit dated. Unfortunately, I began to enjoy it less and less as the characters struggled to cover up what they'd done and, in Susan's case at least, deal with their crushing sense of guilt. This was not the kind of book where the cops were idiots, and these teens weren't criminal masterminds. In the end, I felt like I was just waiting to see which aspect of the crime would fall apart first. It wasn't so much suspenseful as it was frustrating.

The ending was both a bit over-the-top (the big confrontation) and depressing (the note). Although I didn't particularly enjoy the direction the story went after the kidnapping, and how things turned out, the last chapter would make for an excellent group discussion on guilt, peer pressure, and how the adults' interpretation of the events differed from how Susan likely viewed it all.

Additional Comments:

Apparently this book was "updated" at some point to include references to more modern technology, such as iPods and DVDs, without updating the dated feel of the dialogue and overall language. I read the original version of the book and, from the sounds of things, that's the best way to go if you can manage it.

 

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

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review 2018-09-10 03:16
Honey So Sweet (manga, vol. 2) by Amu Meguro, translated by Katherine Schilling
Honey So Sweet, Vol. 2 - Amu Meguro

Onise's words at the end of the previous volume cause Nao to wonder whether her feelings for Sou really are romantic. As she puzzles through the concept of romantic feelings and how to recognize them, Onise suddenly brings things to a head. He

kisses her while she's dozing and she wakes up and catches him at it. He's utterly horrified with himself and sure that this will be the end of their friendship, while she experiences an epiphany after the kiss: the one she has romantic feelings for is Onise. She wants to tell him, but how?

(spoiler show)

The volume ends with the introduction of a new character, Ayaha Futami, a classmate of Onise's who takes an interest in him.

I still think the entire "Nao has a crush on her uncle, who has been raising her since she was six" thing was weird and off-putting. And while I appreciated the way she started questioning how to recognize whether her feelings are romantic or not, I thought she figured things out awfully fast considering she'd spent years interpreting her love for her own uncle as romantic love.

I also didn't like the way Nao's epiphany happened.

What Onise did could be considered sexual assault. He kissed her while she was sleeping. From his perspective, Nao thought of him as a friend - no romantic feelings whatsoever. He knew he didn't have her consent for what he'd done, and it was part of why he was so utterly horrified when she woke up, caught him at it, and made him realize the line he'd crossed. I don't consider Onise to be a bad guy, but I wouldn't have blamed Nao if she'd been uncomfortable around him from that point on and kept him at arm's length.

If this had all happened in real life, that's probably what would have happened. However, this is a romance manga, so instead the kiss helped Nao figure out her true feelings. Again, I wish Meguro had figured out some other way to give Nao her epiphany.

(spoiler show)


Meguro included some moments showcasing Nao and Onise's budding friendships with Yashiro and Misaki, although they always referenced Nao and Onise's romance. The moments were cute, but I found myself thinking about the friendship storyline early on in Kimi ni Todoke that explicitly focused on Sawako, Chizuru, and Ayane, with no reference to Sawako's budding romance with Kazehaya. Yashiro supported Nao while she wondered what to do about Onise, and Misaki supported Onise as he decided to pursue Nao more actively. I thought the relationship between Onise and Misaki was slightly better done. It felt like they had a firmer foundation, in large part because Volume 1 had already done some of the work of breaking down Misaki's defenses on-page. Yashiro was a bit friendlier in this volume, but it came more out of the blue than Misaki's transformation.

Once Nao and Onise officially became a couple, I tended to like Meguro's efforts at "sweet" moments more. Onise turns out to be the sort of guy who moves both fast and slow, originally asking Na out "with marriage in mind," but worrying that by holding hands they're moving too fast. And Sou doing the "dad" thing, telling Onise that he'd better appreciate the cookies Nao put so much time into, was nice. I kind of hope Sou gets a romantic storyline at some point (with an adult! You have no idea how much I hate that I have to specify these things).

I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. I hope Futami is the good guy he appears to be and that Onise figures out a way to hang out with this new friend of his without making Nao feel like she's constantly being left out. But I worry that Meguro actually plans to make Futami a secret villain. I suppose I'll find out.

I'm still iffy about this series. Although the art style is cute and there are lots of cute moments, there are lots of aspects that I'm not wild about. I'm hoping the next volume is better.

Extras:

Author sidebars and a few extra AU (alternate universe) comics in which Meguro depicts Sou as a teacher and all of the series' other characters as small children.

 

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

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