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review 2020-06-07 17:16
Satan's Secretary (manga, vol. 1) by Kamotsu Kamonabe, translated by Jennifer O'Donnell
Satan's Secretary, Vol. 1 - Kamotsu Kamonabe,Jennifer O'Donnell

When a child is born with the Crest of Light on the back of his hand, it's a signal that Satan, too, will soon become unsealed and threaten world domination. Satan's a bit of a heavy sleeper, though, so it takes another 13 years for him to drag himself out of bed. After he finally gets up, he demands that a female human scholar be brought before him, so that he can torture her for her knowledge of other humans.

The human his minions find for him is a secretary. She came willingly and has, in fact, been planning world domination for a while now. Not long after being brought before Satan, she negotiates herself from "human slave" to "paid employee with a conveniently nebulous position in the demon world's new organizational chart." As she completely reworks the Demon Lord's army to her own specifications, the Demon Lord is left wondering what happened and how he can somehow keep himself from becoming a mere figurehead.

Satan's Secretary was originally created in 2014 and first published in Japan in 2016 or 2017, so the parallels I saw between several things in the first half of this volume and current events and the Trump administration were probably accidental. But this volume was first published in English in 2018, and the translator had to have known what they were doing when they had one of the human characters say "We need to make the kingdom great again." Between that and one of the secretary's more detailed plans eerily resembling what's going on in the US right now, the first half of this volume occasionally made for uncomfortable reading. Oh, and then there was the way both the human king and Satan were so easily manipulated, and the king proposing the annihilation of some demons as a way to distract his subjects from his bad leadership and decision to use tax money for his own personal benefit.

So 2020 may not have been the best year to read this. But even if I had read it at a different time, I'm not sure it would have worked much better for me. Layout-wise, this volume was a bit of a mess. Panels were crammed with text and tiny art, making this a more exhausting read than I was expecting. And the comedy wasn't particularly funny. It was one part corporate humor, one part satire about bad leadership, and one part experimentation with conflicting tones.

The secretary tackled everything from new hiring practices for the Demon Lord's army, to improving the morning commute, to the complexities of providing financial aid to demonic families. It was clever, and I suppose it was a little amusing watching the Demon Lord struggle not to be overshadowed by his new secretary, but there was nothing that really made me laugh.

The Demon Lord and his minions were terrible but, despite mentions of torture and rape, were largely presented as jokes. It was no wonder they never succeeded at world domination. The secretary, on the other hand, was true evil. She came to Satan with multiple detailed plans for accomplishing world domination, and, if the demons hadn't had more of a conscience than she did, she'd likely have managed it by the end of the volume. While I liked her efficiency, her competence, and the fact that she didn't take crap from anyone, she was so coldly evil that I found her impossible to root for. There was a single moment when readers were given a glimpse of her motivations, but even that didn't make her more sympathetic or relatable.

One last thing before I wrap this up, more of a note for my own purposes than anything: there's a scene involving a lust spell that confirms that the secretary is canon asexual and aromantic. I still wouldn't recommend this for that reason, though, because it's not like the world needs another evil aro ace character. Also, it makes the moments when Satan imagines the secretary as his sex slave even slimier.

I didn't think this was completely terrible, but it wasn't to my tastes and I doubt I'll ever read more of it.

Extras:

Single-page extra scenes in between chapters, five pages of the original 2014 doujin version, one full-color page, and an afterword by the author.

 

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

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review 2020-06-06 11:05
Department of Mind-Blowing Theories
Department of Mind-Blowing Theories - Tom Gauld

This was a Birthday gift which was somewhat delayed due to Corona, but it was definitely worth the wait! I really enjoyed, as I always do with the comics of Tom Gauld.

They are funny in such a nice way, I cannot help but get a little smile upon my face whenever I think of them, or send them around to friends. This one being focused on science in a broad way, was something that made me like it extra.

Only small downside was that I already knew some of the comics, which can not be helped as I like to browse his social media.

Definitely recommended!

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text 2020-06-04 14:03
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 180 pages.
Eve and Eve - Nagashiro Rouge

I decided to go with this for BL-opoly since it was the one sci-fi book I currently had checked out from the library. Very first page tells how the apocalypse came about: First a comet appeared in the sky that caused all that saw it to go blind. Then a virus from the comet started wiping out the population and turning the dead into zombies. Then the survivors decided to build an AI to help survive, but it decided to save the planet by nuclear fire. Then aliens invaded. But they ended up fleeing when natural disasters kept wreaking havoc on the planet. And that's how the apocalypse went down.

 

I like how, instead of going with just one reason for the apocalypse, the author threw in all the reasons. I just kept laughing when it continued to escalate and then aliens suddenly appeared and just as suddenly decided they didn't want the planet after all since it was such a disaster.

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review 2020-05-31 00:15
Nyankees (manga, vol. 1) by Atsushi Okada, translated by Caleb Cook
Nyankees, Vol. 1 - Atsushi Okada,Caleb D. Cook

This series stars a bunch of stray cats who are usually depicted as tough human thugs and gang members. Ryuusei is a newcomer in Nekonaki, the territory ruled by Taiga and his gang. He doesn't always think before getting into fights, but he's tough and has the scars to prove it. Taiga and the others think he might be looking to steal some territory, but in reality the only thing he's interested in is finding a mysterious calico tom with a scarred eye. There's a chance that the cat Ryuusei wants to find is the new leader of the Goblin Cat Tails, but in order to meet him he'll first have to fight his way through a bunch of cats trying to create a cat utopia.

The main reason I got this was because of the cats. And also, the "cats depicted as people" aspect reminded me a little of Hatoful Boyfriend (although I suppose that was "birds briefly depicted as people"). Based on what I've seen of the cat politics around my apartment building, depicting cats as thugs duking it out for pieces of territory seemed like something that would work well.

The art was decent: nice clean lines, cats that were usually drawn well (the legs were occasionally weird), and easy-to-follow action. I liked the way Okada worked aspects of each cats' fur pattern into their clothing design. For example, Taiga, an orange tabby, wore a jacket with tabby stripes on it. Design-wise, Madara was my favorite, both in his human and cat versions. As a cat, he was a tortoiseshell (which would probably be hell to draw consistently if Madara became a regular character). In his human form, his tortoiseshell pattern became a coat with a camo pattern.

The humor was so-so. A few crass moments, like when Ryuusei tried to hit on Mii, or when a panel focused on Ryuusei's jiggling feline balls (so many cat testicles in this). There was also the bit with Ryuusei and the box. Honestly, it's amazing he's survived this long.

The whole "cats depicted as people" thing seemed a little inconsistent. It wasn't quite that these were cats sometimes shown as people but still 100% cats - Okada occasionally drew them in poses that weren't natural for cats but were natural for their human depictions. But behavior-wise, they also weren't just cats with people's minds. It was a bit weird.

Unfortunately, the characters and story didn't capture my attention at all. The characters did a lot of shouting and posturing but didn't otherwise stand out much. The one moment Ryuusei really stood out, for example, was when he demonstrated a willingness to show his belly to humans in order to charm them into giving him food. Otherwise, though, he was mostly Main Tough Guy Who Shouts a Lot and Is Occasionally Silly. Taiga was Leader Tough Guy Who Shouts a Lot. Then there was Kinbi and Ginbi, aka Tough Villain Guys With Dreadlocks Who Shout a Lot. And Mii was The Girl. I assume this world has more than one female cat in it, but you wouldn't know it from what you saw in this volume. I liked that it was noted that the volume's male calico and tortoiseshell were both rare, but it would have been nice to see more female characters.

It was a little confusing, but it sounded like the male calico Ryuusei was looking for was maybe someone he looked up to at some point. Other than that, I have no idea why finding this particular cat was so important to him. I also don't know that I care enough to buy any more of this, although there's a possibility I might check out a library copy of the next volume one day.

Extras:

A page of translator's notes, which for some reason is included just before the final chapter in the volume, and a couple full-color illustrations.

A missed opportunity: the volume was peppered with cat-related terms that readers might not necessarily know, like clowder and molly, so a page devoted to those might have been a good idea.

 

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

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text 2020-05-29 08:21
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Ouran high school host club vol 7 - Bisco Hatori

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