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review 2020-03-08 01:17
A Man and His Cat (manga, vol. 1) by Umi Sakurai, translated by Taylor Engel
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 - Machiko Sakurai,Taylor Engel

Fuyuki Kanda is a widowed music teacher who decides to buy a homely one-year-old cat at a pet store. The cat, who he names Fukumaru, is worried that his new owner will take him back or abandon him, but luckily for him, Mr. Kanda adores him.

This series is sweet, gentle, and warm, and I absolutely love it. I found out about it via a review on The Manga Critic, and then I kept coming across it via other sources until I finally broke down and bought it. I'm so glad I did.

This had some of the usual things you'll find in cat manga: a newbie cat owner who has to learn some of the basics, shopping for supplies at the pet store, and kitty antics, like scratching on things they're not supposed to, being goofy, and inadvertently making a mess. However, this first volume was as much about Kanda as it was about Fukumaru, and watching these two lonely characters love each other, become accustomed to each other, and form a little family together was a treat.

There were flashbacks for both Fukumaru and Kanda. Fukumaru's showed him as a kitten - remembering his mother and gradually realizing that no one wanted him. Kanda's showed him and his wife, and what their lives had been like over the years. They'd intended to get a cat together but never got around to it. They had children, and readers haven't yet been given enough information to know whether they just live too far away to regularly visit or whether Kanda's estranged from them. At any rate, he lived alone, and it was apparent that both the cat and the man had become a little depressed before they came into each other's lives.

A few other character POVs popped up here and there: Kobayashi, Kanda's dog-loving childhood friend, Yoshiharu Moriyama, one of Kanda's energetic young coworkers, and Miss Sato, the pet store employee who assisted Kanda. They all provided different views of Kanda and/or Fukumaru, which I appreciated. For example, Moriyama saw Kanda as the epitome of cool elegance and idolized him, while Kobayashi knew the loneliness his friend had been going through and appreciated the joy that Fukumaru added to Kanda's life, even if he didn't personally understand what Kanda saw in Fukumaru.

I loved the artwork. Fukumaru's cartoonish looks were initially a bit odd, but I got used to it. And oof, Kanda. It was easy to believe that his younger male coworker would idolize him and younger female coworkers would crush on him a bit.

I absolutely plan on preordering the next volume. I'm looking forward to seeing Fukumaru and Kanda make each other happy, and I'm interested to see what Sakurai plans on doing with this series.

Extras:

A couple pages of full-color artwork and a full-color four-panel comic, as well as a one-page comic-style afterword by the author.

 

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

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text 2020-03-07 23:30
Reading progress update: I've read 145 out of 145 pages.
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 - Machiko Sakurai,Taylor Engel

::sniffle::

 

I'm absolutely preordering the next volume.

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text 2020-03-07 21:32
Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 145 pages.
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 - Machiko Sakurai,Taylor Engel

I need to sit down and write a couple reviews, and instead I'm risking being drowned in my review backlog again by reading this. OMG, it's adorable.

 

A lonely widower (who happens to be a hottie - I'm pretty sure at least one of his younger coworkers has a bit of a crush on him) buys a homely cat at a pet store. The cat, who he names Fukumaru, is well aware that no one wants him and is worried he'll be abandoned again, but he slowly starts to become comfortable in his new home.

 

It's a slice-of-life series, so there isn't much going on, but I'm looking forward to getting to learn more about Mr. Kanda, the widower, and seeing him and his cat become friends. Man, I wish this volume weren't so skinny.

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review 2019-09-02 02:02
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World (book) by Mamare Touno, illustrated by Kazuhiro Hara, translated by Taylor Engel
Log Horizon, Vol. 1: The Beginning of Another World - Mamare Touno

The basic premise of the series: right after the release of a new expansion pack, all players currently logged on to the MMORPG game Elder Tales woke up to find themselves living in the bodies of their avatars, trapped in what appeared to be a blend of the Elder Tales world and the real world.

This first volume introduces Shiroe, an Enchanter who's an incredibly gifted strategist, Naotsugu, a Guardian with a bad habit of talking about panties, and Akatsuki, an Assassin who's really into roleplaying her character, right down to referring to Shiroe as her liege. The three of them figure out how to use their magical and fighting abilities, learn the rules of this new world, encounter player killers, and go on a quest to rescue a young girl named Serara from a town that has turned hellish ever since the Catastrophe that resulted in everybody getting trapped in the game.

I really wanted to like this book. I loved the anime so much that I ordered the first few volumes of the light novel series before I'd even finished it. Based on my feelings about this first volume, that was probably a mistake.

I still love the premise, and that Touno opted to focus on the nitty gritty details of rebuilding a functional society rather than on battles and action, although the series certainly still has some of that. And this book provided some interesting details that either weren't included in the anime or that I'd missed. For instance, I loved the class and subclass table. And the detail about abusive players using the game's "friend" function to aid their harassment of other players made me wince because it was such a perfect example of the ways people will take something that was intended to be a helpful feature and figure out how to use it to hurt others.

Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love this, it was bogged down by its massive amount of detail and bad writing/translation. The writing problems ranged from unnecessarily obvious statements to just plain awkward phrasing. A couple examples:

"Online games are played over the Internet." (15)

They are indeed. I suspect that this painfully obvious statement was the result of some of the translation issues discussed in Clyde Mandelin's "Redundant Translations in Games & Anime."

Later on, Shiroe was referred to as the "Tea Party strategy counselor" (25). The Debauchery Tea Party used to be a well-known party filled with high-level players who took on difficult enemies. It would have been better, and less awkward-sounding, to refer to Shiroe as their strategist, rather than strategy counselor.

I could come up with other examples, but what it basically came down to was that I much preferred the anime's English subtitling to the book's English translation. Still, I soldiered on, hoping for some good additional content that didn't get included in the anime.

From what I could tell, the anime was actually a pretty faithful adaptation of the book. It inherited the book's pacing problems and initial lack of a decent story, but managed to improve upon the book by cutting down on its panty jokes and level of Elder Tales world details. Yes, the book somehow had even more panty jokes than the anime. And boob jokes, once Marielle was introduced.

I'll continue on, since I already own the next few books, but I doubt I'll end up reading the full series, especially since it looks like nearly all of the currently available light novel content has made it into the anime.

Extras:

A couple color illustrations on a large folded sheet, several black-and-white illustrations throughout, character profile information (Shiroe, Naotsugu, Akatsuki, Marielle, Serara), tables listing many of the various Elder Tales main classes and subclasses, and a short afterword written by the author.

 

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

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review 2019-06-23 22:21
Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local (book) by Ryohgo Narita, illustration by Katsumi Enami, translated by Taylor Engel
Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local - Ryohgo Narita,Katsumi Enami

The year is 1931, and the Flying Pussyfoot, a limited express train bound for New York, has just acquired several groups worth of dangerous passengers, nearly all of whom think they'll easily be able to take over the train for their own ends. There's crybaby bootlegger boss Jacuzzi Splot (best name ever) and his misfit band of delinquents, who plan to steal some secret cargo. There's the Lemures group, a bunch of terrorists determined to take some hostages in order to free their leader, the immortal Huey Laforet. There's murder-loving Ladd Russo, the nephew of the head of the Russo mafia family, his bride-to-be Lua, and his group of fellow killers. There's the mysterious monster known as the Rail Tracer. And then there are a few less dangerous passengers, like the thieves Isaac and Miria.

All of these passengers have their own goals and motivations. Only some of them will make it to New York alive.

First, a disclaimer: I have seen (and enjoyed) the anime, which adapted several books in this series, including this one. I suspect it helped my ability to follow along with the characters and story. Normally, I'd suggest watching the anime prior to attempting these light novels, but the anime has gone out of print and, as far as I know, isn't legally streaming anywhere (to anyone who wonders why I still buy so much anime when streaming is an option, this is why).

As far as reading order goes: Although Narita wrote in his afterword that he planned to keep each volume as self-contained as possible, that doesn't mean the books can be read in any order - definitely read Volume 1 before starting this one, even though only a few characters from the first book make appearances in this one. Also, if you make it past Volume 1 and plan on reading Volume 2, you might as well buy Volume 3 as well, because Volume 2 isn't self-contained. It doesn't end in what I'd call a cliffhanger, but it does leave a good chunk of the story untold. Multiple characters show up, only to disappear again, the details of their fates saved for Volume 3.

In my review of the first volume of this series, I wrote that the writing/translation was bad but that this somehow didn't interfere with my enjoyment. That was sadly not the case with Volume 2. I don't know whether it was actually worse than Volume 1 or whether I was just less in the mood, but there were times when the writing literally ground my reading experience to a halt as I tried to figure out what Narita meant. One example:

"Nice objected to that idea. Since she was talking to Nick, even under the circumstances, she meticulously parsed out casual speech and polite speech to the appropriate listener; Nick received the latter." (147)

It would have been simpler to say that, even though she objected to Nick's idea, she still did so politely. Not only is the phrasing incredibly awkward, I'm not sure that "parsed" is the right word here. "Parceled out" might have been more appropriate.

Here's an example that just made me shake my head:

"Without giving an audible answer to that question, Lua nodded silently." (48)

Can we say "redundant"?

As in Volume 1, the writing was almost completely devoid of descriptions. Nearly all of the book's historical and setting details were limited to pages 61 to 62 - otherwise, it was all character introductions, dialogue, and action, pretty much in that order.

It's a sign of how excellent Ladd Russo's English-language voice actor was that I kept hearing him every time I read Ladd's dialogue. Of all of this book's many characters, Ladd and Jacuzzi probably stood out the most. Jacuzzi was a relatively fun and interesting character, a young man who tended to cry and panic about everything but who nonetheless inspired intense loyalty within his group. Ladd, unfortunately, just came across as an excuse for occasional mindless bone-crunching violence.

Isaac and Miria were a disappointment this time around. They continued their role as the series' comic relief, but instead of being oblivious to the violence around them, they were presented as being well aware of what was going on, but so used to it that they were unfazed. Honestly, it made them seem more creepy and disturbing than, say, a more in-your-face monster like Ladd.

I don't expect the series' writing to improve, but I'm hopeful that I'll like Volume 3 more than this one, because all of the fantasy elements that Narita only hinted at in this volume will actually be on-page in that volume. Also, my favorite character from the anime, Claire, will finally get more than just a few vague mentions.

I'll wrap this up with a couple things that made me go WTF. Was the fingernail thing in the anime? I can't remember, but in the book it made me wince. Fingernails don't work like that - I don't care how you shape or cut them, you're not going to be able to saw through multiple ropes with them, and certainly not quickly enough to do any good. Also, if you did arrange to have one of your nails shaped like a tiny saw, you would constantly regret it as you accidentally cut yourself or other people or even just got the nail caught on cloth or whatever. And then there was the thing under Nice's eye patch, which I know was definitely in the anime, although I'd completely forgotten about it. So much wincing. Just a bad, bad idea.

Extras:

Several color illustrations at the front of the book (with text that will likely only confuse readers who haven't yet read the volume and haven't seen the anime), several black-and-white illustrations throughout, and an afterword by the author.

 

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

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