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review 2019-09-29 06:38
Ao Oni: Vengeance by Kenji Kuroda, illustrated by Karin Suzuragi, translated by Alexander Keller-Nelson
Ao Oni: Vengeance - Kenji Kuroda,Karin Suzuragi,Alexander Keller-Nelson

This review assumes you've read the first book, Ao Oni. If you haven't, be aware that I include major spoilers for that book.

Ao Oni: Vengeance takes place only a week after the events of the first book. Shun is the only one who remembers what happened. He has completely stopped going to school, instead choosing to focus on the next version of his game while keeping an eye out for any signs that someone else has been snared by the Jailhouse. He asks Hiroshi to make sure no one else enters the house, but it's already too late: two of their classmates have gone inside and met horrible fates. Takuro, with Takeshi and Mika in tow, goes as well. Hiroshi finds the building's European architecture too interesting to resist (yes, really) and ends up trapped inside the building with all the others.

As in the various versions of the game, the overall setup feels familiar, but there are enough differences to keep it from feeling like a rehash of the first book. Shun and Anna are safe at Shun's home, desperately trying to help the group trapped in the Jailhouse using the knowledge Shun gained from his time there. Meanwhile, the situation in the Jailhouse initially plays out similar to the way it did in the first book, but quickly goes a different route.

Parts of this book were almost more gory than I could take. The very beginning was particularly awful, and I wasn't sure my stomach was going to be up to the task if the whole book turned out to be like that. It seemed like the Oni was more inclined to savor its kills this time around, although thankfully the gory bits weren't all as lovingly detailed as the book's first scene.

It may sound like I hated this, but I actually thought it was better than the first book, even if I wasn't fond of the increase in the level of gore. I had worried that this book would basically be the first book with slightly different deaths. Up to a certain point, I suppose it was: Takeshi was still a scared kid hiding in a closet, Mika was still too desperate to be loved and needed to see Takuro for who he really was, and Takuro still sucked. The overall level of tension was better than in the first book, however, and the parts of the house and story that no longer matched up with the first book's Jailhouse had me on the edge of my seat, wondering whether any of the characters would manage to make it out this time around.

I found that I liked Hiroshi a little more this time around. The bits from his POV helped, as did the fact that, this time around, he didn't spend a good chunk of the story staring at a fellow classmate's severed head like it was no big deal. I wasn't as thrilled about Kuroda's attempts to humanize Takuro, however. I don't care what Takuro's father was like, or what Takuro told himself about how he needed to approach life, or how he felt after he realized he'd betrayed maybe the only person in the world who actually cared about him. The fact of the matter was that he bullied a classmate to the point where the kid committed suicide and then, instead of feeling any sort of guilt or horror, proceeded to bully another classmate the same way. Takuro's sudden change of heart and ability to empathize with his victims was unconvincing.

The

"time travel + reality manipulation + ghostly vengeance"

(spoiler show)

explanation for the series' events was weird and messy, and I still don't understand why Shun, who knew his game was connected to the horrors at the Jailhouse and possibly even causing it all, created an updated version of his game. Hiroshi would have had a much easier time if Shun hadn't gone and changed things around. Even so, I enjoyed this entry in the series and plan on reading the next book. From the sounds of things, Takeshi might be its focus. Here's hoping at least one of the remaining books features Mika successfully cutting herself free from the emotional hold that Takuro has over her.

Extras:

An afterword written by the author, a character guide, textless color illustrations, one scene from the book included at the very beginning in manga form, and several illustrations throughout.

 

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

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review 2019-09-13 06:33
Ao Oni by Kenji Kuroda, illustrated by Karin Suzuragi, translated by Alexander Keller-Nelson
Ao Oni - Kenji Kuroda,Karin Suzuragi,Alexander Keller-Nelson

Content warning for the book: suicidal ideation, gory descriptions of severed body parts, on-page bullying.

Shun, Hiroshi, Takuro, Mika, Anna, and Takeshi are all students at the same middle school. Takuro is one of the most popular kids at school. He's also a bully who may have been involved in a past student death and who is currently tormenting Shun. The few bright spots in Shun's life are the computer game he's creating in his spare time, his friend Hiroshi, who's smart and doesn't seem to care what anyone thinks of him, and Anna, the class president and one of the few people who's friendly towards him and encourages him. Mika and Takeshi are Takuro's friends (or, more accurately, his lackeys), although they're not usually involved in the worst of the bullying. Takeshi is a coward, and Mika secretly wishes her emotionally distant parents would spend more time with her.

One evening, Takuro, Takeshi, and Mika cart some boxes over to an old mansion that Takuro's father supposedly bought. The mansion, now nicknamed the Jailhouse, was supposedly last inhabited 20 years ago by a young couple and their daughter, who used a wheelchair. Shun, Hiroshi, and Anna all end up going inside with Takuro, Takeshi, and Mika, and the six kids suddenly find themselves trapped in what appears to be a haunted house. If they can't figure out how to escape, they may all end up as food for the giant blue monster that roams the halls.

I haven't played any of the Ao Oni game versions, although I did watch parts of a few "let's play" videos. I didn't really expect all that much from this, but it actually wasn't bad. I'm curious as to the intended audience, though - it read like a Middle Grade book, and yet included gory scenes that would have been a better fit for older readers.

As seems to be the case with pretty much every J-Novel Club title I've tried so far, the writing was occasionally awkward and clunky. One example:

"Shun noticed that the bags under her eyes - something he ordinarily found charming about her - were darker than normal." (34)

This sentence is structured in a way that makes it seem like Shun found the bags under Anna's eyes to be charming, when in fact it was probably her eyes that he found charming.

The overall story might have been scarier had the writing been better, but there were still parts that I thought worked extremely well and were genuinely creepy. My top two favorite moments were the "this is why you can't hide in a closet forever" scene, which featured a really effective use of illustrations, and one of the last deaths, when the few survivors tried to figure out whether the person was still alive (even though they almost certainly were not, and it was foolish to check).

Takuro was 100% horrible - of all the characters, he was the one I was most hoping would end up dying. Takeshi didn't really make much of an impression on me, Hiroshi struck me as being fairly creepy (although it turned out that there was more going on than I realized), and Anna was annoyingly underutilized. I cared most about Shun, who'd been ground down by Takuro to a depressing degree, and Mika. Yes, Mika had opted to side with a sadistic bully, but she'd done so because she'd convinced herself that he could provide her with the love her family didn't give her. I felt bad for her, even though her willingness to forgive Takuro just about anything made me grit my teeth a few times.

The ending was...weird. Most of the book was slight creepiness, gore, and occasional appearances from a ridiculous "blueberry-colored" monster. Then it all took a sudden "very special message" turn at the end, morphing into a suicide prevention story. This would have been fine, although heavy-handed, but the steps the story took to get there felt like a cop-out. I had been wondering how the series was going to continue, despite everything that had happened, and I wasn't pleased with the answer.

Still, I liked this well enough to want to continue on. I also tried to hunt down some "let's play" videos of Ao Oni version 3.0, the one this book was based on. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one done by someone whose voice/sense of humor I'm able to stand.

Extras:

  • Prior to the start of the book, there are a few manga pages depicting a later scene.
  • Several black-and-white illustrations.
  • An afterword written by the author.
  • A brief note written by the illustrator.
  • Two pages of the illustrator's initial character designs.
  • A couple color illustrations.

 

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

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text 2019-06-29 02:55
Shopping spree plus ILL

Do I need more books? No. Do I have room for more books? Eh, not really. But I got some more anyway.

 

I'm posting images because most of these are new enough that I'd probably have to add them to Booklikes, and I don't have the patience for that right now.

 

First, the one ILL book I just got. Not a purchase, and therefore not something I have to find shelf space for. Yay!

 

 

A post on Booklikes reminded me of the existence of the Manga Classics series, and I realized that I have yet to actually read one. I own the Scarlet Letter one, but I haven't read the book on which it's based, so I decided to put in an interlibrary loan request for one where I've read the original work. It's been a few years, but I'm hoping I'll remember enough to be able to tell how good of an adaptation it is.

 

 

Manga in which feral cats are occasionally depicted like human thugs. So you have turf wars with tough guys and then occasional switches to cute kitties trying to squeeze into boxes or convince humans to give them food. Or weird humans trying to squeeze into boxes.

 

 

More manga. An impulse purchase because the title amused me. I've flipped through it, and it seems a little more angsty than I expected. Since the heroine's mother would have preferred her to end up with a guy, she does not, in fact, shut up.

 

 

My manga collection has almost no yuri (f/f) in it, so this and the previous one were an effort to branch out a bit.

 

My next area of shopping concentration: light novels, with a particular concentration on ones by women (as best as I could determine).

 

 

The heroine is considered gifted in school but, as a result, doesn't have anything even vaguely resembling a social life. When she dies, she requests to be reborn as someone with average abilities. Apparently this doesn't go at all like she planned.

 

 

I haven't seen the anime because, in the clips I've seen, the heroine always looks an awful lot like a pouting and/or angry child. I think she's actually supposed to be a high school student? Supposedly this is one of the better light novels available in English. I'm willing to give it a shot.

 

 

The heroine is under some kind of curse that requires regular ingestion of bodily fluids (blood, spit, etc.) from humans of the opposite sex. It sounds terrible. Here's hoping it's the entertaining kind of terrible.

 

 

This and the one right above it are published by the same publisher, Cross Infinite World. Guys, I found a unicorn: a publisher of English translations of light novels that doesn't DRM their e-books. The prices are higher than I'd like, and paper versions allow me to donate or sell them whereas e-books don't, so I'll still prefer their paper editions over e-books, but it's nice to know that I can at least consider getting their e-book-only works.

 

This is a twist on the "fantasy school" genre. In this case, yes, there's magic, but the school is focused on curing magical diseases. And of course the heroine is surrounded by good-looking guys who join her disease research team.

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text 2017-06-30 01:10
There are Vocaloid novels, and now I have one!
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku - Yunagi,cosMo@BousouP,Muya Agami

A couple weeks ago, I learned that several light novels featuring Vocaloids (singing software) had been licensed and translated into English. I was obsessed with Vocaloids a while back, so of course I wanted them. I picked this one out first because Miku is an android in it. I'm not a huge fan of Miku in particular, but I don't dislike her and I'm resigned to the fact that she's the most popular Vocaloid in the fandom.

 

This book is based on one of the sadder Vocaloid songs, so I imagine I'll need to brace myself for a tragic ending. Crossing my fingers that it isn't totally faithful to the song and Miku survives.

 

 

*If you want to listen to the song, there are lots of versions available on YouTube. Here's one with English subtitles.

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url 2017-04-30 16:54
Japanese light novels: Where to start if you want to skip what the anime covered

Ooh, timely and helpful.

 

I'm sure I'll start with volume 1 for everything I want to read, but it's still good to know when I'll finally be past the events I already know about. For example, with Baccano I'll have to wait until volume 4, although I can already see some of the chronology differences between the novels and the TV series. For example, in the book the panhandler scene happens prior to Firo drinking the wine. In the anime, that scene had to have happened after he drank the wine, or his fingers would definitely have been a loss.

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