Light Novel Review: BERSERK OF GLUTTONY Vol 1. by Isshiki Ichika & Fame (2020)

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Year Release in English: 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Abuse, violence, fantasy violence, dismemberment, death of a parent, poverty

Welcome to my first ever light novel. It came up on my radar because two of my friends had worked on the editing and localization, but I was not prepared for the fun time to be had.

Fate Graphite has an ability called Gluttony, which grants him massive power at the expense of, well, starvation. He’s a commoner who happens upon a snarky sword named Greed who helps him enhance his abilities at the cost of leveling up. He also comes under the employment of Lady Roxy, with whom he has very oblivious romantic feelings.

What surprised me is that despite the very RPG-esque descriptions of abilities and leveling, this isn’t an isekai. This light novel starts and stays in its secondary world fantasy. It’s a bit cheesy and takes some getting used to but Ichika uses it to great effect to establish stakes.

The art is great. Loved seeing the depiction of key scenes and getting to know Fate and Roxy a bit better. Seeing Greed transformed between sword and bow helped put it together better than my mind’s image could supply.

Overall, fun dynamics between characters, interesting world-building, definitely will continue reading.

Manga Review: THE KINGDOMS OF RUIN Vol. 1 & 2 by yoruhashi (2020-2021)

Genre: Dark Fantasy Seinen
Year Release in English: 2020 – 2021

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Gore, violence, public execution, internment camps, mass destruction

Witches and humans lived alongside each other until an industrial revolution ushered in an era of distrust, and the witch hunts begin. Adonis was only a boy when his mentor, Chloe, was publicly humiliated and executed. As a human who uses witch powers, he captured and hidden away for ten years. Until he wakes up as does a ferocious thirst for revenge.

This series is intense. It’s very grimdark and the precise art does not pull any punches. Some pages are just hard to look with the hyper violent content on them, but if that’s your thing, you’re in for some delights.

The set-up of a very capable anti-hero protagonist and the oppressive government he’s up against are evenly matched. This kingdom defeated the witches despite their magic somehow, and it’s internally consistent as far as the world-building goes. Plus, the magic system with Adonis using a pen to summon spells really works and renders beautifully from panel to panel.

I am definitely going to keep reading because I just have to know how these battles between magic and science play out and the twists that lay ahead.

Content warnings: Gore, violence, public execution, internment camps, mass destruction

In Volume 2, it seems all is lost for Adonis, until he’s rescued by other witches planning a resistance…from their base on the moon. It is here he discovers a way to review Chloe using magic and his memories.

This series in two just volumes achieved big Code Geass energy in that you know the unexpected is going to happen, but in which direction, you have no idea!

The world-building continues to be great, the art gorgeous. I really loved the design and concepts upon the lunar base. Adonis is consistently angry and bitter, but he’s not impulsive and I think that’s what makes him so interesting. It’ll be good to see him interact with other characters in future volumes.

Manga Review: MADE IN ABYSS Vol. 4 & 5 (2018-2019) by Akihito Tsukushi

Genre: Dark Fantasy Seinen
Year Release in English: 2018 – 2019

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Maggots, immolation, body horror

Riko and Reg bring Nanachi along as their new companion into the Abyss’s Fifth Layer. The landscapes are gorgeous and inventive, and I love the dynamic among the three of them.

But at the bottom of the Fifth Layer is the Ido Front, stronghold of Bondrewd. He is irredeemable, but as a villain, he is so good. Charismatic and hateable, I won’t say anything more because spoilers.

The reveals that unfold between the two volumes are also incredible, so you’re in for a treat if you can also ride through the upset.

Content warnings: Body horror, so much body horror, dismemberment

I have no idea how to review this without spoilers.

It’s upsetting. The questions raised by the world-building are disturbing at best.

Bondrewd still sucks.

I cried for over an hour when I finished.

Manga Review: THE PROMISED NEVERLAND Vol. 9-11 by Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2018-2019
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Click here to read my review of Volumes 1-3, and click here for my review of Volumes 4-8. Major spoilers for the anime. General spoilers for the manga.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: hunting of children, gun violence

My lord, is the Goldy Pond Arc just ramping up the tension. We think we’re getting to the bottom of the mystery of Mr. Minerva and all we get is…a literal golden pond. It’s so disappointing, and opens up so many questions. But the questions don’t come in a way that obfuscates everything that came before. The thread remains and the kids’ search for Mr. Minerva continues.

I do love the relationship between the older kids and Lucas. The dramatic irony of knowing the fate of “the man,” and Lucas thinking he is the sole survivor tugs at the heart strings.

We also find out what’s going on with Norman. The poor boy has landed himself in yet another farm-like facility, this time without any other children around. He’s being prepared for something, and those questions are left up in the air, but it is nice to get confirmation of his fate. Which only makes Emma’s recollections of him hit differently.

It’s tender in a way that draws a straight line to everyone gathering together to finally take down Leuvis and his team of demons. I blitzed through these chapters because the action leaps off the page, and you’re rooting for everyone to survive. Everyone has their own strengths, but together, you’re desperately hoping they’re unstoppable.

Content warnings: Gun violence, body horror, cannibalism (demonic), impaling

The internal screaming and stress continues as Emma faces off one-on-one against Leuvis, counting down the minutes for the other teams to take down the other demons. These fights are tightly-paced and the action leaps off the page. On one hand, you’re cheering the kids on, but on the other hand, you’re a little concerned how proficient they are with firearms. But the demons fall, and hope rings. Until the fight with Leuvis, who is the strongest demon we have seen so far.

What I greatly enjoyed here is how balanced the battles are. The demons aren’t completely overpowered. While the kids have their weapons and their cleverness, there is still a real sense of danger and tensions are through the roof.

So, I read these pages while my boyfriend showers. It took all my energy to not cheer out loud when two familiar faces show up. The gang is kind of back together, but there’s still the problem of seemingly-unstoppable Leuvis to deal with.

Content warnings: Gun violence, gore, blood

The way my eyes watered during this volume sure was something.

The kids defeat Leuvis, and Lucas reunites with the man, named Yugo. The tenderness between them borders on romantic, but it is cathartic given that they haven’t seen each other for thirteen years. The relief across both their faces and the use of flashback throughout this volume as so evocative.

There is much healing and reunion to be had. One arc closes and another begins. A happy found family lives in the bunker, and there is no way this happiness can last. Peter Ratri and his clan show up at the very end and the stress kicks up once again.

Manga Review: MADE IN ABYSS Vol. 1-3 (2018) by Akihito Tsukushi

Genre: Dark Fantasy Seinen
Year Release in English: 2018

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Body horror, illness, vomiting

A journey begins when a plucky cave-raider-in-training, Riko, finds a robot named Reg, during one of her training expeditions into the first layer of a giant cavern called the Abyss. It goes down seven levels, with the consequences of ascension getting more and more severe the further down you go. In this world, only White Whistle cave raiders can go far below. Riko’s mother is such. Her Whistle returns and Riko sets off to find out what happened to Lysa the Annihilator.

The tone of this manga is interesting. There is so much that lures you in with the promise of something wholesome with a positive, adventurous spirit. But there are so many details strewn throughout that might suggest that this series will be darker than initially thought. This first volume of introduction is so well done in that it lays the ground rules of the Abyss for the reader. And much like Riko, there is much wonder around the secrets to be found. But at what cost, and what horrors await?

Well, we’re about to find out as this first volume ends with Riko and Reg making their descent to the depths of the known world.

Content warnings: Child abuse (traditional punishment), bed-wetting, corpses, body horror, vomiting

The wonder and majesty of the first two layers of the Abyss can only be matched with the fresh hell found within as Riko and Reg make their way. Riko’s uncle tries to stop them, but it ultimately convinced by their determination. Reg’s mission is to keep Riko safe, but that gets called into question when they meet Ozen the Unmovable, another White Whistle.

The lore of this world blows my mind. There are so many details that Tsukushi weaves in the background, with both intricate art and the pause-pages which explain a relic or a new beast.

Most fascinating, to me, are the White Whistles. Each new one we meet has been more unhinged than the one before it. Are they like that before going into the Abyss or have the various ascents through treacherous layers damaged them? Guess we’ll find out next volume when they arrive at Ozen’s Shelter.

Content warnings: Child torture, attempted amputation, poisoning, bleeding from every orifice, execution, disfigurement, body horror

Volume 3 concludes the anime. And, oh boy, is it a doozy. Riko and Reg complete a messed up training regiment with Ozen before setting off again. Between the third and fourth layers, they’re attacked by a creature. The suddenness of the ascent and a poisoned puncture wound almost spells the end for Riko, but the two are saved by an adorable fluffy named Nanachi’s whose entire backstory is one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever read. Complex and emotional charged, Volume 3 covers so much ground that I need to recover after a bit.

With regards to the depravity of the White Whistles, we start with Ozen dealing out corporal punishment to see how powerful of an Artifact Reg is. She also puts the kids out to wander without any assistance for 10 days as part of training. And then we meet Bondrewd through Nanachi’s flashbacks and just…

As I mentioned before with Volume 1, it lays out all the rules of the world. You’d think that one would be prepared for the tragedy, pain, and suffering. And yet, seeing it unfold in real time with the attention to detail in the gorgeous artwork. My eyes wouldn’t stop leaking during the last scenes with Nanachi before the volume’s end.

Bondrewd can take a hike, but I need a bit of distance before diving into this story again, because wow does my heart ache.

Manga Review: THE PROMISED NEVERLAND Vol. 4-8 by Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2017-2018
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Click here to read my review of Volumes 1-3. Major spoilers for the anime. General spoilers for the manga.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Child abuse

Correction: this is the chapter that ends with the explosion.

There’s still a bit of a lull as the kids plan their escape. But the mortal chess game they’re playing against Mom tightens its deadline as Norman is the next kid to be sent out for “adoption.”

What I really enjoyed was the way the reveal was handled about the greater structure of the world. Shirai definitely trusts the readers a lot more, much like in the previous volume. It’s also fun as a reader to learn details as the kids discover them.

Content warnings: Attempted self-immolating, arson, corpses

This volume is an absolute delight. From the pacing to the planning to the world-building.

We finally see the world on the other side of the wall around Grace Field House and, ho boy, is it a forest full of terrors. It’s not just demons, but also man-eating carnivorous plants and a brief glimpse into the hierarchy of the demons.

The art in this volume is just so dynamic. And I really liked how the stakes don’t just end at whether or not they will escape. It’s not even as simple the group of older kids who escaped surviving. At some point, they’ll have to go back for the younger kids, and I’m reading more to see how that unfolds.

I am thoroughly enjoying the demons’ complexity. We have our main villain set, but in this volume, the kids are rescued from a feral demon by two pious demons who reveal that the world was actually split in two. It gives me major Tales Of vibes, which was a treat.

This throws another wrench in the plan to rejoin the human world in a twist that couldn’t wholly be predicted. It does work, and it’s great that Emma proves to use her powers of endearment to learn additional secrets.

The volume ends with them arriving at B06-32 which looks like a temporary reprieve.

Content warnings: Attempted murder, guns, body horror

Of course the kids wouldn’t be alone at B06-32. Why would they be? They’re met with a formidable deuteragonist in the form of Mister. He too has a brand like the kids, and he reveals that Mr. Minerva, a figure who left clues in the kids’ books that led them to the shelter, has not been found.

Ray and Emma elect to go out with the man to find the next destination. The reveals here reminded me of certain moments in Attack on Titan where we get glimpses of the human world outside the context of the farms. Emma and Ray discover a cache of weapons and have to do battle against symbiotic demons. The battle is fierce and the body horror is exquisite.

Content warnings: Hunting children, gore, dismemberment, child death

The next destination, Goldy Pond, is nothing what it seems to be. It’s a secret hunting ground for demons called Poachers, who are not affiliated with the farms.

Emma, of course, true to character, wants to save the other kids trapped there. But the dangers are on a whole other level. The Poachers are on the same level of villainy as Mom, with Emma on her own facing off against this new enemy.

She’s not alone, though. There’s another group of escapees and their adult leader, Lucas, knew the man from the bunker. It’s emotional and gives an uncomfortable cyclical nature of the orphans’ plight, and I fear it’s only going to get worse.

Manga Review: THE PROMISED NEVERLAND Vol. 1-3 by Kaiu Shirai

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2017-2018
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

As with most things, this blog is a work in progress. I’ve decided that instead of spamming with multiple blog entries if I read a whole bunch of chapters at once, I’m going to do a compilation post instead. The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Child murder, gaslighting

What an idyllic start to a dark fantasy. Kids with serial numbers on their necks live in harmony at an orphanage with a Mom who takes care of them, a daily test, and entire afternoons spent playing. Things are a little strange, with the gate, the smooth wall, and lack of other humans around, but it’s fine (for now).

When one of them is picked to be adopted, the children are elated. Emma and Norman notice that the child left behind her beloved bunny. They go to the gate. Instead of a loving family, there are demons waiting to eat the child. The kids are not to be adopted at all; they are meant for a feast.

The tone shifts with a snap and instills immediate dread. If things seem too good to be true, they likely are, and this manga so far leans into that energy spectacularly. The kids start planning an escape, but it seems futile. I’m very invested in what tricks and secrets are revealed to get these kids out this nightmare.

Content warnings: Child murder, gaslighting, caricature of a Black person

In Volume 2, the children continue planning their escape. This one was a bit of a struggle for me on a few fronts.

The first being the introduction of Sister Krone. Her design and depiction were certainly a choice, in that she is a Black character with exaggerated features reminiscent of caricatures of African-Americans. It is pretty uncomfortable to look, but in terms of her characterization, it was interesting to see someone who’s also interested in taking down Mom, but not for the benefit of the children. This execution of a third party conflict really works, but it’s really difficult to appreciate it with the depiction on-page.

The second point of struggle is the pacing. This volume gets interpersonal between Ray, Emma, and Norman with some fascinating reveals. I just wished that things moved along a little bit more quickly. It feels at times as if Shirai does not trust readers to keep the facts in their heads.

Content warnings: Child murder, gaslighting, caricature of a Black person, death of a Black character

Finally, there is plot movement as the kids get closer and closer to escape they. But Mom knows all and uses her influence to both literally cut the escape plan at the knees and eliminate Sister Krone. The tension amps up, and I am so relieved that it is less dialogue-heavy. It seems that Shirai is finally trusting the reader more, and I hope that momentum continues

The ending ends on an explosive note, but wow do these kids need to get out as soon as possible, for all our sakes.

ARC Review: THE MEMORY THEATER by Karin Tidbeck

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links:| Unabridged Books |

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: violence against children

Intricately weaving together three parallel plot threads in one neat package, The Memory Theater is an inventive little package about a sister protecting her brother, that brother trying to get his name back, and a frightening noblewoman who discovered time.

Creepy and gorgeously atmospheric, this is a must-read for fans of Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore with darker tones.

Author Karin Tidbeck will be featured in a blog interview on release day, February 16th, 2021.

Continue reading

Manga Review: REQUIEM OF THE ROSE KING Vol. 1 by Aya Kanno

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2015
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Transphobia, misgendering, medieval violence

The premise of this manga is that it is Richard III but instead of having a hump, Richard is intersex, with elements of Henry VI woven throughout. This cover kept coming up on recommendations and feeds, so I had to dive in.

Dear readers, this is going to ruin my life and I am excited.

We’re introduced to the conflict of the Lancaster and York families which has lasted for a while. It looks like the Yorks are winning, but things take a turn for the worst when York retreats. I love the relationship King Richard has with his son. His death is completely telegraphed, but its depiction on the last page pulled me right in. It’s moving, it’s brutal, and I went two days before I caved and got the last volume.

Richard’s mother, Cecily, is a piece of work. She hates her son for being intersex, even though everyone around him otherwise accepts him. The other character who’s an asshole is the ghost of Joan of Arc, whose sole function seems to be to terrorize Richard. I’m invested enough that I definitely want to know more about her and the context for why she has latched onto this goth prince.

Manga Review: CHAINSAW MAN Vol. 3 by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Genre: Dark Fantasy Shonen
Year Release in English: 2020
Source: Viz Media Shonen Jump Subscription

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Blood, gore, monsters, vomiting

This volume gets a bit gross on several fronts. Tensions are high as the eternity devil goes specifically after Denji. Half the gang wants to feed Denj to it. And he learns the taste of devil’s blood. Fujimoto does a great job introducing new rules and mechanics of this world through action sequences. This segment, however, also features moving flashbacks from Himeno, and dives deeper into possibly Denji’s psyche. It’s direct and moves the plot nicely along.

The drinks scene gets a little uncomfortable, with boundaries all the way down. Himeno comes onto Denji and promptly vomits on him. They go home together and nothing comes of it. Instead, they establish a mutual understanding of romantic goals. It’s quieter and less dire than Denji’s conversations with Makima and Aki. I can’t wait to see this friendship deepens.

And then the assassins show up with what looks like a new villain, and I am appropriately eager for how this unfolds.