The nifty manga blogger, Kethylia, allows me to post her weely reviews every Monday here on the blog, to share with you good folks. Here is a link to her site, which she describes as "an informal brain-dumping ground for off-the-cuff book and manga reviews, news commentary, leftist political rants, half-baked pretensions of intellectualism, and lots, lots more!"
Here is a description of her rating scale.
Gatiss, Mark. The Devil in Amber: A Lucifer Box Novel. 2006. New York: Scribner, 2007.
Summary: Lucifer Box series #2. During a trip to the United States, Lucifer Box is told to infiltrate the fascist group led by Olympus Mons. But as it turns out Mons is more interested in freeing the Devil than purifying the race, and he needs Lucifer to fulfill the prophecy. Fortunately, this means that Lucifer can also foil his plot--which he does by "making himself alone in the world" (i.e. killing his sister).
Comments: After thoroughly enjoying the first of the Lucifer Box parody mystery novels, The Vesuvius Club, I was most looking forward to the subsequent volume...though I was quite willing to wait until I could get it remaindered. I'm glad I did and did not pay something approximating full price for it; this book was so terribly disappointing! Too much revelation early on and waaaay too much at the end is the sort of plot that fails to hold my interest. And Lucifer's voice, which oozes along so smoothly in the first novel just sounds tired and overstrained here. You couldn't ever take him *ahem* straight, but you don't even like him anymore. Meanwhile, his antagonist Mons was a tiresome, one-dimensional villain and bully who checked his Awesomely Evil Factor at the door. I was also especially unimpressed with Lucifer's (mostly sexual) relations with the stereotypical damsel in distress Agnes and his apparent lack of regret over the murder of his sister Pandora (who, to my mind, didn't deserve her fate...she underestimated Lucifer, which I suppose is the ultimate sin in this world). But by far worst of all, the humor was a empty as everything else. I didn't laugh once.
Notes: trade paperback, 1st American edition
Rating: 4/10 - Don't bother, even if you're a fan of Gatiss' other endeavors. 'Cause if you are, it'll just hurt worse.
Ishizaki, Hiroshi. Chain Mail: Addicted to You. Trans. Richard S. Kim and Rachael Manija Brown. Los Angeles: TOKYOPOP, 2007.
Summary: Armed with cell phones and Internet connections, four teenage girls dissatisfied with the life they're living decide to create a new one--a collaborative work of fiction called "Chain Mail." But as the real worlds and the virtual worlds start to blur, it turns out that life's troubles aren't so easily resolved...
Comments: Okay, so it turns out that Sawako actually invented the Chain Mail game herself, intended to play all four parts herself, and ended up playing both the heroine and the stalker. It also turned out that Mayumi assumed Sawako's heroine character after the real Sawako disappeared briefly. While both of these pivotal plot twists are interesting, they were not, I believe, sufficiently foreshadowed and came too abruptly. This is the novel's primary flaw. Otherwise, it's reasonably entertaining and even a bit intellectual. The characters quote and paraphrase Nietzsche extensively, although the main mental exercise involves the social uses and implications of technology (a.k.a. cellphones and the Internet). The eventual conclusion advocates social cohesion in a very Japanese (but profoundly un-Nietzsche-ish) way and implicitly argues that the Internet, though it may seem to lead to escapism and fracture of the social fabric, in fact reinforces it. Isn't that comforting to all you (over)wired people out there?
The English prose of this novel is the most lucid and literate of any of TOKYOPOP's Pop Fiction releases that I've read thus far. I'm sure credit goes to both Ishizaki and Rachael Manija Brown. My main gripe with the translation--and it's a biggie--is that it reads too much like overwrought fanfiction, and I don't know who takes the blame for that. By the way, this is not a light novel, which may also go a long way toward explaining the relatively high quality...and all that philosophizing. In any case, Chain Mail is a decent niche title--especially those interested in contemporary Japanese fiction and/or youth culture.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Kodansha in 2003
Rating: 5.5/10 - A solid addition to the Pop Fiction line; I'd like to see more. (I know, I know. Fat chance of that, right? *sighs*)
Ubukata, Tou and Kiriko Yumeji. Le Chevalier d'Eon. Vol. 2. Trans. Ikoi Hiroe. New York: Del Rey, 2007.
Summary: Chevalier Sphinx dispatches yet another poet, this time with the help of his would-be lover. Next up is an orchestra conductor who aspires to the top of the poet hierarchy--and cries foul because Lia has been partway there from birth! So she's a poet, too...?!
Comments: I really wanted to like this series, really I did. Gorgeous art by a talented newcomer that looks like a cross between vintage CLAMP (think early X) and Nightow Yasuhiro (think Trigun)? An otherwise wimpy French guy who fights evil in a big wig, bodice, and bodacious amounts of lace, wielding a sword of downright phallic proportions? What's not to love? Alas, plenty. The series thus far has been painfully episodic, the standard "enemy of the day" romp that manga (and especially anime) does when it can't think of anything better. The humor's half-hearted. And plot such as it is has been thus far is hardly worth speaking of; the first serious point of attention focuses on Lia's ambiguous relationship (and possibly kinship) to her worst enemies. How predictable. I was also hoping against hope for some eroguro (yes, that's short for "erotic-grotesque") since the series seems like a prime site for it...but no dice. Just a bunch of slobbering uglies up for a round or two of hack 'n slash as opposed to a round or two of *ahem* never mind. I should have known. This is Del Rey, after all.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Kodansha in 2006
Rating: 4/10 - The decidedly limp excuse of a hero Beaumont is pretty representative of this decidedly limp excuse of a manga series.