Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
This is a classic piece of literature dating back to the eleventh century at the height of the Heian period in Japan. The authorship of this is debated by scholars but as it’s attributed as noted above. It is concerned the first true modern novel by many as it has an actual plot. It was also written by a woman. However, direct translations have certain issues such as at the time this was written to refer to the high ranking people in the book by name would have been considered insanely rude so everyone is named by title which change throughout this book (or several books depending on how you look at it) which make reading difficult (in many translations they’re given nicknames to help the modern reader follow the narrative). Also, don’t attempt to read a copy that has very little footnotes or get yourself spark/cliff notes or something unless you’re an expert in Japanese history. You’ll need them to understand half of what is happening.
The long and short of it is, this follows the life of Genji, a younger son of the Emperor. He loved this beautiful boy so much but fearing for his life from other high ranking members of the court who thought the Emperor might elevate Genji about the heir apparent, Genji spends his childhood as a commoner.
The whole 600 odd pages are about Genji’s loves, affairs, political lives and children. Was I spellbound? No. This is not my sort of story. I wanted to read it because of its historical importance. If you like books about the loves and lives of royalty you might enjoy this. If you like books that have unique historical significance, you should give it a try. If you’re bored and looking for something to read, this isn’t for you.
Soul Eater #1 by Atsushi Ohkubo
This was one I’m very glad I saw the anime first. It took me a while to realize that this was the same mangaka who did B. ichi which I didn’t care for and twice in the book store I was warned away from this manga. I listened then and honestly if I hadn’t seen the anime this would have probably been the only one of these I got. However, I loved the anime and I read some scans online of later Soul Eater chapters since the anime varies wildly from the manga and my friends wanted me to see the manga source. It gets so much better than volume one would suggest both in art style and story content.
Not that volume one is awful but it’s a bit disjointed. This is partly because the chapters in here weren’t chapters. They were one shots that had such a good reception that a series was born. Some of the set up, however, leads to a bit of timeline weirdness and other things down the road. Also there is so much more fan service in this than the anime, a bit too much uncomfortable panty shots of Maka (who might be as young as thirteen, points to the timeline issue) and another take on tentacle almost-rape of Patti and Liz. Blair the cat is naked in both anime and manga.
So the upshot of all of this are in this alternative earth, with its anthropomorphized sun and moon, there are humans who can become living weapons (guns, scythes, knives etc) and they are partnered with another human who can wield them, known as meisters. There is a school, the Death weapon- meister academy, DWMA for short, that trains them. Their job: harvest the souls of evil humans, 99 to be exact, and the soul of one witch (default evil in this verse) and the weapon will become a deathscythe, a personal weapon for Lord Death.
It opens with Soul and Maka, who already have the 99 humans and need the witch. Soul is a scythe and Maka is his studious wielder. She’s also the daughter of Death’s current weapon, Spirit whom she’s furious with for cheating on her mother. They head out to kill Blair, the witch. The caveat is, if they mess this up they have to start all over at zero (probably something that happened once this became a series because where’s the challenge and storyline if they’re already at 100). Blair leads to a lot of naked big boobed fan service but at least Maka is normally endowed (under endowed in fact)
The second storyline followed Black * Star and Tsubaki. Black Star (I’m not putting the star in every time. Sorry no) is the last of a clan of ninja assassins and of course wants to be one usually by shouting ninja rules at the top of his lungs totally circumventing his own goals. He reminds me a lot of Naruto, who I do not like. I’m not a big fan of Black Star (not here, not in the anime, not in later chapters). He’s loud and not that bright. Tsubaki is much better in the anime than here in volume one where she is very submissive to Black Star, almost too much so for comfort. In this they are after the soul of a child witch but she has a protector, a powerful swordsman, Mifune, who may just be too much for Black Star.
The third storyline followed Death the Kid and his dual weapons, Patti and Liz (gun types). Kid is actually a shinigami just like his father, Lord Death but Kid has issues. Being OCD is just one of them. Everything must be perfectly symmetrical or Kid freaks out, gushes blood, falls to the ground and screams about how worthless he is. So he wants to forge his own personal weapons to reflect his need for symmetry. Sadly for him Patti and Liz aren’t symmetrical in human form. Liz is much taller than Patti who is far more endowed (and has the brain power of a rotted cantaloupe). Liz and Patti are street kids who still aren’t totally comfortable with a spoiled rich boy and it doesn’t help that Kid sometimes isn’t controllable (as in when he leaves them in battle to go check to see if he hung a picture levelly)
After these three ‘prologues’ (read former stand alones) we get chapter one of the series where Black Star, Tsubaki, Maka and Soul have to do a remedial lessons since they have no souls eaten to their names and can’t resonate their souls together properly (points up to that ‘weirdness’ factor. Obviously Maka and Soul should have been able to if they had been so successful before). They’re to round up a former DWMA professor, Sid, who died and is now a zombie. They have to capture him and find out who made him into a zombie. While it was nice to see them working as a team, it ended with Black Star ripping off Tsubaki’s clothing to make Sid talk and Soul pulling up Maka’s skirt. That was not cool. If I hadn’t seen the anime and knew it got better that would have been a series ender right there. I know it was supposed to be funny but it wasn’t.
So the long and short of it, don’t base your entire opinion off this volume. It’s a series that will grow in merit and complexity of the storyline. It just gets off to a pretty uncomfortable start.
Vassalord #4 by Nanae Chrono
This picks up in Italy after Charley and Johnny are reunited inside the bowels of the enemy’s stronghold for some nice erotic feeding. These are two very pretty boys. While they make good their escape, Charley has to go into hiding with Craig and Hal so Hal’s father’s people don’t end up killing them all. Charley manages to enlist the Vatican’s help because they like him, a vampire who hates his own kind and can still walk in the light. They promise protection so long as he keeps hating them but unfortunately Charles no longer hates Johnny.
In the middle of all this, Father Mailer and the fake vampires return and Barry is still out hunting and hurting Johnny. Rayfell, Johnny’s female ‘twin’ tries to seduce Charles and does fill him in on Barry and why the incubus can’t be killed by normal means. Charles is determined now to save Johnny from this.
The ending is very odd with parallels being drawn between Johnny and Charley and Rayfell and Cheryl. We finally get the truth about who/what Rayfell is and how she hates herself. Cheryl is her savior (and I’m beginning to think Craig is the only straight person in the bunch). Johnny and Charley do a Christine/Phantom of the Opera riff which Barry crashes. Will Charley kill him or fall under his spell? I still like this so much. It’s probably because of the pretty boys.