Monthly Media Roundup: December 2015

WE NOT LAZY. PROMISE.

It’s still there… The lights stopped working in that room, so I guess I’m grateful we haven’t had time to take it down… It’s like a pretty lamp..

Hi all!! I know it’s the middle of January and I’m just now getting to my Monthly Media Roundup from last month… But it’s been such a whirlwind of activity here in RI! As evening begins to fall, I switched on our living room lights… Only to realize that they’re dimmer than usual? I turned in a circle, questioningly, and then saw our tree. Our tree it still up! So—If you must know, that’s how busy I’ve been. Tree-up-Halfway-through-January-Busy. That really does need taken care of. But! Before I commit to any other things that need done, I decided that I must first look back on all the great things I read in December. …All five of them. There was shoujo love, 4-koma fun, shonen-ai tales, and one messed up sibling story! I feel positively about these books, and I need to tell the world before I end up having new ones to talk about. HERE WE GO!!

Let’s start with a softball: Kawahara’s and Aruko’s—My Love Story!! How kind of the creative team to give the title its own punchy punctuation. Not only does this title deserve those exclamations, but it also makes my job easier. This is a series that consistently gets my hopes up and does not disappoint! There aren’t too many franchises I can say that about—I’m looking at you guys, Soul Eater (anime) and Skip Beat! With My Love Story, the tension, stakes, and comedy all fit together so seamlessly that I feel as though something bad could happen—but then I’m happy when it doesn’t.

yuriko catches lady

She’s so kind– But at what cost?

In volume six, the entire first half of the tankouban is devoted to the birth of Maki, Takeo’s new baby sister. It is one terrifying ride! The atmosphere feels strangely serious for a manga that has been generally happy and lighter. While My Love Story charts the challenges of overly-masculine Takeo’s life, the overall tone is usually more casual. The parts that made me leery include Yuriko being older for a pregnant lady, her saving another pregnant mother from falling—by catching her into her chest, and an ominous feeling that felt like a setup when she told Takeo to be thankful for his life because not everyone is able to grow old. Good things don’t usually happen after epiphanies like those—let’s be real.

I was genuinely scared for Maki! I remember reading volume six in early December, curled up on my office couch while my hazu played games on his desktop… I kept yelling things like, “OH NO!” or “BABE SHE’S TOTALLY GONNA LOSE THIS BABY!” I ended up just giving him the blow-by-blow as I read the story. And for someone not very invested in the series, he also felt tense and wondered if little Maki would make it.

Yutaka confesses

The parents are just too much! Kawaii desu!

One scene that I personally enjoyed is where Yutaka talks to Takeo about how he and his mother met. Backstory is kind of my favorite part of any story. While a story usually tells something linear, the backstory tells you about why and how the characters came to be themselves, and that’s always interesting and fun. In the case of Yutaka and Yuriko, they first took note of each other at a work party, when Yuriko’s protective instincts kicked in during a really cute scene that reminded me a bit of Parasyte’s Nobuko-catching-the-tempura-pot scene. Ah, I will forever remember Nobuko’s motherly love, and I hope I can channel that someday when I’m a father.

After her birth, however, things look up. We get a few funny scenes of Takeo and company interacting with Maki, and then—of course—there’s a Valentine’s Day bit. Takeo wants a “true-love chocolate” so badly it’s all he can think about! He gets it, after a lot of waiting, and then works hard to return the favor on St. White’s Day. Watching him and Makoto bake is really a cute scene.

protect maki

Yah big lug~ You’re so gigantic the little bug doesn’t stand a chance!!

We end on a cliffhanger, with Takeo accidentally finding Makoto’s secret Valentine who’s been leaving him unsigned love notes for years. Someone who Makoto could actually go for?! She exists?! I mean, I’d always wondered if he was just gay. But that’s a gay man talking; pay no heed.

Overall volume six of My Love Story!! Is one you don’t want to miss! Everything takes on a much more urgent tone and we learn a lot of things about the characters and their personalities, backgrounds, and hopes for the future.

Next, I’d like to talk about the fifth volume of Ani-Imo, by Haruko Kurumatani. It’s technically shoujo… But I don’t get that vibe at all. It feels more ecchi. And before you judge me—Yes, it’s getting weirder and weirder, but I haven’t been able to break away from Ani-Imo. I think I’m going to ride this crazy train to whatever inane, weird conclusion is coming. I just got through the fifth tankouban, and there are only seven. I checked Wikipedia! Not much more to go before we find out what will happen to the Koizimo…step-siblings. Not siblings! I SWEAR DO NOT OREIMO ME, KURUMATANI! I WANT A REAL ENDING—Y’HEAR?!

Erh-hem. I will admit, I was definitely riding the Oreimo wave when I picked up the first volume of this odd series, but the characters are likeably complex. Even if the drawing seems a little basic, it’s a cute art style—I just have trouble sometimes telling the girls apart. On the cover of the third book, I wasn’t entirely sure which was which… Their hairstyles are pretty similar.

she's shining

Why so bright?! I’m not in love…? ME?!

Moving along—This volume finally has Hikaru and Youta making decisions and choosing to move forward with their relationship. Their parents even approve—which I didn’t entirely expect. They seem laid-back and their kids are step-siblings, but they’re still siblings who mostly grew up together—which is the sticking point for Youta.

This time around the hurdles include a crazy school nurse who tries to seduce and date “Youta”, the interfering creepy doctor is back—to help out Hikaru, and then the two try going to a hotel. It’s a lot, and by the end, Youta seems completely out of sorts.

girls are scary

…I’ve known this my whole life! No one ever wants to listen till it’s too late.

I’m glad the plot finally feels to be moving forward! For a while I was going a bit nuts with Youta’s waffling and somewhat hoping that Hikaru would just give up because I was feeling sad for her. I’m happy that Kakeru has also sorted out his feelings for Yurika. I do worry he’ll never be happy because she’s likely stringing him along, but I have a hunch things will work out in his favor. They usually do for the secondary couple.

Continuing on, we have the easygoing 4-koma by Itokichi, Merman in My Tub. Monster girls have been all the rage since… Well, forever. I was kind of excited when I heard there was a monster boys series coming out! I didn’t know such things were out there! …I mean, intuitively, I knew they had to exist, but I’d certainly never seen any books like this lining the shelves before. It was kismet!

I have always adored 4-koma. I read the newspaper comics as a kid, and one of the first manga I read was Azumanga Daioh. It’s still a favorite. I keep the four tall volumes neatly displayed in my book showcase, removing them from time-to-time for rereading. 4-koma can most always capture the essence of youthful, fun, and easy stories. Merman in My Tub definitely follows its predecessors and brings us the fun story of a merman, Wakasa, trapped in a river, who ends up being carried home by student Tatsumi.

halloween costumes

Such costumes! Much cute!

Tatsumi occupies his grandfather’s old house for his family, and consequently has a lot of alone time. After seeing Wakasa suffering in the wild, he quickly offers up his home for the merman’s use.

The stories of Merman in My Tub take place almost exclusively inside Tatsumi’s bathroom, with him bringing Wakasa food and fun. Wakasa’s friends make periodic appearances. The colorful bunch includes Takasu the octopus man and Mikuni the jellyfish man. In a few episodes, Kasumi—Tatsumi’s little sister—shows up! She’s a load of fun and I enjoyed those sections best.

wo--man

In for a shock, Imouto-chan?

In all, it’s a light series concerning odd circumstances. It’s cute and funny, but has little substance. I enjoyed reading, but there isn’t much of a story. I can’t honestly say I have any idea where the plot is going, which leaves me unsure if I’ll buy the next volume. I smiled a lot when reading, but there isn’t a storyline I can pick up on. Wakasa isn’t running from anyone. There isn’t a love interest. No threat… There is no sense of urgency. While I did like the book, there isn’t anything keeping me onboard, and this troubles me. Without being too invested in a storyline, I will only follow the series so far.

Next we’re moving on to volume five His Favorite, by Suzuki Tanaka—which is still one of my favorites. I picked up the third book as soon as I could, but didn’t get the time to read it until recently.

The start of this tankouban opens with a new guy, Murakami, giving Yoshida a drink after Sato plays a prank on him. Murakami seems pretty normal, and all the girls like him, of course. There are only two types of guys in this series: too popular and “scum”. That day after school lets out, a girl Yoshida doesn’t know asks him out. And then he freaks out the whole next day, unsure of what to do. I’ll let y’all guess who that could be.

chilling out

It’s nice to see Sato acting normal. Oh, it won’t last.

The following chapter deals with Yoshida coming to terms with Sato’s past, while Yoshida’s Makimura pesters the girl he likes. Yoshida and company get roped into a group date with three terrifying girls—one who appears psychic, another who looks like Sadako, and a third who could easily pass for yanki! In the end, Yoshida takes the time to think things through and come to important realizations.

The next section involves a new character—Nishida! He seems like a non-aggressive, fun guy… Who also likes Yoshida. This guy really gets under Sato’s skin. It’s about time he had a rival, and Nishida is perfect! I love the last panel of the story—with the two guys arguing while the class views it as a comedy sketch.

The bonus story is all about Torachin and Yamanaka admitting their feelings. It’s awfully cute, and I love the contrast between their personalities.

mandie

“That’s a lovely name!”

This book is a good one—I’ve liked the whole series so far. The story is progressing at a natural rate and the characters are becoming more complex. It’s also good that Yoshida is finally sorting himself out—it has to be done sooner or later, and it shows growth that he was able to figure out where he stands.

The last book I read was Hate to Love You by Makoto Tateno. This is one I’ve had on the shelves forever. I won it in a lot a few years back and didn’t think I’d read it. Turns out I definitely did because I could call all the twists—Or am I just that good? Probably the former…

Hate to Love You is a stand-alone yaoi playing on Romeo and Juliet themes. It’s full of drama and competing companies and cheating boyfriends… The usual. The really interesting part of this book is the short story included after the title—You Can’t Call It Love. This little beast is one outlandish, confusing disturbing animal. I don’t believe I read it the first time through, and boy was I in for a surprise!

bathroom everything

The reveal!!

You Can’t Call It Love opens with Kyoichi wandering a bookstore after school. He runs into a guy with the same beauty mark as his older cousin, who it seems he used to idolize. He becomes strangely interested in the man and starts to follow him after another chance meeting by a cigarette machine. The man takes the purchased cigs from him and forces the change into his palm, telling Kyoichi to wait to smoke till he’s older.

After that, Kyoichi’s enraptured and follows—stalks—Seiji. He says he wants to be just like him. Or maybe he likes him—It’s unclear in the text, but I get that vibe. The stalking continues, with Kyoichi’s parents wondering why he stays out late and Kyoichi pondering where it’s all going. He even steals a phone bill to find out Seiji’s number and call him—Though he’s always too scared to say anything.

Finally, Kyoichi admits this has to stop and returns to Seiji’s residence one last time with the missing phone bill. One of Seiji’s many girlfriends confronts him, freaking out that

curiosity killed the cat

But who is the cat?! NO, REALLY–TELL ME PLZ!

he’s the guy who calls and says nothing. Kyoichi turns it around and tells her she’s not the only one seeing the man. Seiji intervenes and tells Kyoichi to let it go, and the lady leaves. Seiji invites Kyoichi upstairs and divulges he could see Kyoichi the whole time; showing up and waiting, taking the mail. His bathroom window overlooks the building’s front entrance. Everything ends in a downright odd place. The two hook up and then Seiji moves in across the street from Kyoichi, who now steers clear of the man. It begs the question—Who was the real stalker?

I couldn’t get this story out of my head for days! I turned it over and over in my head, wondering what really happened. It’s a puzzler, and I love that! It takes the cake over the title story, unfortunately, but made the whole book worth buying.

I’d say I enjoyed everything I read last month. It was a good haul, and made my free time more relaxing. This time, I will not be posting all of the books I acquired because there are too many! Between gifts and an expedition to a secondhand store in Harrisburg, PA, called Second & Charles, there was just too much to chronicle! If you follow me on Twitter, I posted a few shots throughout the holiday season.

I have had several family problems that have easily eaten up my time, so I am way late on posting this! If you read, I hope that you enjoyed it~ Take the time to post a quick comment! What was your favorite book from last month? Or show or game! Have you read any of these?

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