January 2023 Reading Recap

Happy 2023! January feels like it was many things. I wrote over 15,000 words of fanfiction and short fiction for deadlines. I re-outlined all of my novel code-named AquaShame. I did a lot of reading and watching movies, and honestly, it’s been a pretty good time. The biggest thing, however, is that I dropped the title of my forthcoming novella! I made a handy dandy press kit that has all the information you need: content warnings, links to goodreads/storygraph, pre-order information, and more.

Blog Interviews are resuming next month with Freydís Moon (who is also showing up on the blog tomorrow with a cover drop).

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Manga Review: BARBARITIES Vol. 1 by Tsuta Suzuki (2023)

Genre: Historical Yaoi Seinen
Year Release in English: 2023
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Political corruption, sexual harassment, explicit sexual content

People call this a historical fiction inspired by Renaissance Europe but I’m pretty sure it’s a secondary world fantasy minus the magic and monsters (I would love for someone to correct me if this is not the case).

Viscount Adam Canning is hired to be the bodyguard of Lord Montague, who has several secrets up his sleeve in order to maintain the efficiency of his station. But tensions between church and state brew in the background, and while a romance between a playboy and a sexually inept young man play out in the forefront.

I kept this manga on my radar when an artist was drawing Luis and Gil, one of the other couples in this work (they are very gay and absurd in their affection). The characters are charming with very quick work done by Suzuki to establish their backstories. I am pulled in hard by the political intrigue unfolding in this work. There’s a tension between the main religion and the more secular monarchy, plus Adam’s entanglements with the queen and her cohort. Joel seems to have several tricks up his sleeve, including eluding an assassination attempt. Who sent the killers? What does he know? I’m invested in the story as well as seeing when (if?) the insta-love and the slow-burn crush will even out in their attraction.

Manga Review: GUNBURED X SISTERS Vol. 1 – 3 by Wataru Mitogawa (2022-2023)

Genre: Fantasy Yuri Seinen
Year Release in English: 2022 – 2023
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I thought I had reviewed the first two volumes of this high octane manga about a religious order who fight vampires, but apparently not. It is sexy and little perverted, it’s over-the-top, there are girls in love, girls in rivalries, and knights who use she/they pronouns. The series is fun and irreverent with really fun fights and so many ulterior motives among people supposedly working together.

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Manga Review: THE KINGDOMS OF RUIN Vol. 5 by yoruhashi (2022)

Genre: Dark Fantasy Seinen
Year Release in English: 2022
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series. Click here for my reviews of the previous volumes.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Gore, violence, blood, robot necrophilia (aftermath), beheading

After the levity of the previous entry into the series, Adonis and Doroka continue on their way through the wastes with Redian special forces hot on their trail. They come across several abandoned towns, each ruined by technology in different ways.

Despite Doroka using her love powers to defensive means, it’s charming to see that she hasn’t lost her faith in humanity (in the spiritual sense) while Adonis works extra hard to maintain his edge. Their rapport is so good, giving necessary levity to the bleakness of their surroundings. The landscapes are chilling, especially with the ways that decay is evident and what becomes of the people left behind. What’s almost as frightening are the super-powered humans chasing the witch and boy-witch, and that fight introduced at the very end of the volume is bound to be a doozy.

Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 8-14 by Sui Ishida (2016-2017)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2016-2017
Source: Viz Media Digital Subscription

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series. My review of the first half can be found here.

My review starts with me cupping my face with my hands and yelling into my palms. The journey beyond the anime is incredible and definitely something that will stay with me as I keep growing into my dark fantasy/horror self. It’s definitely making me want to go further and explore more within my work, but also the stark differences between the anime and the manga are making me appreciate manga as a medium a lot more.

The standoff between the CCG and the ghouls comes to an end with casualties on both sides, more deranged characters with their own ends and ideas of ghouls vs humans, with a deep thread of defining the boundaries of goodness, kindness, and the things people are willing to do to protect those they care about. Amid the blood and the gore, there is so much compassion that left me somewhat shaken.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 1-7 by Sui Ishida (2015-2016)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2015-2016
Source: Viz Media Digital Subscription

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

Tokyo Ghoul is an anime that I watched early during my creative journey. The aesthetic, the music, the character journeys, the violence, the world-building—it all has stuck with me since 2015 when it first aired. Unfortunately, the story never finished getting adapted (do not talk to me about Root A, though it will be mentioned when I finish the second half).

This series comes with hauntingly beautiful art, compelling characters, and a unique exploration on what makes people good told both through monstrosity and monstrous humanity, this is going to continue being one of my influences and series to return to moving forward.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Manga Review: FIRE PUNCH Vol. 1 & 2 by Tatsuki Fujimoto (2018)

Genre: Horror Seinen
Year Release in English: 2018
Source: Viz Media

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fire Punch is the first manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, best known for Chainsaw Man. This dystopian horror in which certain humans are blessed with elemental powers feels scoured directly from the litany of things I like in my fiction. It’s hyperviolent, it’s bleak as all get out, there’s an ice witch who destroyed the world, there are people with powers and completely irresponsible ways of using, it’s complete Jo bait.

I’m only two volumes in, and I am definitely continuing with the series as the need for treats come in because wow.

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Manga Review: THE ROKUDO ROUNDS by Serina Oda (2022)

Genre: Science Fiction Seinen
Year Release in English: 2022
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

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

In an underground world, the only way to achieve any kind of social mobility is to participate in the Trial of the Six Realms (which also happens to be an alternate translation of the series’ title). En is a street rat living in a literal trash heap, until he’s betrayed by a beloved mentor and discovers he’s actually a cyborg with lightning powers. There are many like him and they all fight in the Trials. He enters and it’s a bloodbath with uncertain outcomes and even more unpredictable characters.

If you’re searching for a seinen anime with the trappings of a shonen battle saga complete with over-the-top powers and people shouting their abilities before using them, give this a read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Light Novel Review: OUR LAST CRUSADE OR THE RISE OF A NEW WORLD Vol 1 by Kei Sazane & Ao Nekonabe (2019)

Genre: Seinen Fantasy
Year Release in English: 2019
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Fantasy violence, war

One of the greatest pieces of Jo bait are stories in which a technology faction is at war with a magic faction and neither seems to be winning. Throw in, specifically, ice witches and an enemies-to-lovers romance, and I’m hooked.

A mechanical utopia, The Empire, is at war with a paradise for witches, The Sovereignty. Iska is the youngest to rise to the rank of Saint Disciple in the military, on a mission to capture the Ice Calamity Witch, Alice. Epic fights ensue while intrigue and plotting unfold in the quieter moments, culminating in a literally earth-shattering fight against a originator witch possessing multiple elemental powers.

There are some beautiful turns of phrase throughout this novel that makes the prose as exciting to read as seeing the illustrations. The world feels lived in, with one of my favorite details being the culture present within the neutral cities. It’s where main characters Iska and Alice get to know each other, specifically attending an opera and seeing an art exhibition together. They can’t attack, and that forced proximity and peace makes for some charming awkwardness that brings the characters together almost as efficiently as their weapons and magic clashing in battle.

There are more powers that be than just the Empire and the Sovereignty, and I’m eager to keep reading.

Manga Review: COLORLESS Vol. 1 by KENT (2022)

Genre: Science Fiction Seinen
Year Release in English: 2022
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: Gun violence, kidnapping, body horror

This science fiction requires much suspension of disbelief in order to work. Basically, the premise is that a solar flare knocked out all the color on Earth, and all humans are monsters now. A bunch of technology got wiped out as well. So, when hitman are going after a café waitress, it’s up to a rogue Professor to get her back, until everyone realizes she has a pre-solar flare human visage. Mysteries unfold, but Chie’s life is still very much in danger.

I really like the art in this one. The lines are crisp and the monster designs are unique. The city designs are also rad, the urban landscape feels very much lived in with its own sets of rules and curfews that really fit where the story kicks off. But, most importantly, I’m a sucker for the trope of a character who only knows her name and not much else, so I’m super invested in how she fits in among the different groups at war.

Like, there’s a color-worshipping cult that I want more insight about and, more generally, how Earth adapted and evolved into the world as established in this manga.