Search This Blog

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Book Sprites: It's A Fight To Survive, Fools!

Some times, you have time to write a 1,000+ word review of a single book. Some times, you just don't. For those times, we have Book Sprites, compact book reviews for the discerning reader with no time to lose. No major spoilers lie here!
In this post, we have volume 15 of Soul Eater, volume 15 of Natsume's Book of Friends, and volumes 2 and 3 of Attack on Titan. There's evil spiders, lurking ayakashi, and colossal wall-smashing titans. 
Spoilers for the above books lurk within!
Soul Eater volume 15 by Atsushi Ohkubo: The Baba Yaga Castle saga is over! The Baba Yaga Castle saga is over! Do the Excalibur dance and rejoice, because the Baba Yaga Castle saga is over! Not because it was a bad story arc - in fact, it's been the strongest arc so far in the manga - but because it exposed so many continuing plots beyond the walls of Arachne's castle that you just really want to go beyond it already. And in this volume, we do!

But not before the final battle between the witch Arachne and the improbable team that is Maka/Medusa/Soul. It's a brutal, bloody battle but wow, is it awesome. Maka and Soul are immensely on point during this fight. We also see the evolution of Arachne's powers, as she eschews physical form for pure energy and unleashes a psychological horror show upon the entire castle. Too bad Maka can easily break through that sort of thing!
Volume fifteen is immense in plot stuff. We see advancements on the fronts of Soul's black blood infection, Chrona's location, the capture of Death the Kid, the presence of non-evil witches, and the murder of B.J. among other things. Also, if you inner radar was screaming bad things about Medusa's true intentions: congratulations! You were (unfortunately) correct about her!
PS - See? This is why the last 10-something episodes of Soul Eater's anime are whack. They completely screw up the Baba Yaga Castle arc and FIGHTING CITIES WHAT THE HELL IS THAT NONSENSE. Someone, please set the script writers of those episodes into a corner for time out. Or a thousand years dungeon, whichever fits best. Yes, dungeon - staying with Excalibur the whole time. Fools!
Natsume's Book of Friends/Natsume Yuujinchou volume 15 by Yuki Midorikawa: Meanwhile, on the slice of life/supernatural front, Natsume and his faithful companion (who would absolutely bristle at such a description) Nyanko-sensei once again get caught up in a matter that goes beyond basic human comprehension. Bonus: it involves Natori, everyone's favorite actor/exorcist, and his yokai servants.
In volume fifteen of Yuki Midorikawa's long-running series, Natsume and Natori work together to help a young woman's father, a retired exorcist who has lost the sight and can no longer see yokai, not even his own servants who have followed his orders for years. What starts as rocks hitting the roof evolves into something bigger, as Natsume realizes that the man's servants are still trying to answer his call.
What could have been a fairly typical volume of Natsume Yuujinchou is heightened by Midorikawa's sense of drama, as well as a heightening awareness of Natsume's ownership of the Book of Friends by people who quite frankly would be better off not knowing he has it. Natsume also learns that the spells his grandmother Reiko cast so casually in her youth - the spells that make up the bulk of the Book of Friends - were not exactly legal. Even Natori won't use them. Also, this book contains a delightful short story featuring Toko and Shigeru and how they eventually take in Natsume into their home.
Fifteen volumes in, Natsume still has the power to effect readers' hearts. I'd like to see how the relationship between Natsume and Natori evolves beyond this point, as well as the ever complicated relationship between Natsume and Reiko, a woman he only knows through stories and retrieved memories from the yokai she fooled into taking their names. I hope that Natsume can eventually find peace and resolve his issues with his heritage and the powers they have bestowed upon him, for better or for worse.
Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin volumes 2 & 3 by Hajime Isayama: I've had these two books of Attack on Titan sitting on my shelves since last year. Since everyone is talking Titans this past year, it makes sense to return to the world of a humanity cowering behind walls, living in constant fear of the Titans who could at any second knock their defenses down and eat their loved ones. Thank goodness for the Survey Corps, who fight to protect the human race as well as reclaim land lost to the Titan forces.
In these two volumes, Wall Maria has been breached by a Colossal Titan, and more titans are coming in through the gap. Those who have been trained to fight Titans are doing their best, but already several lives have been lost - including Eren, the main character. Mikasa, his childhood friend, fights on without knowing the truth, her fighting ability making her the number one fighter in her division and the best hope for the citizens' safety. 
But Eren isn't dead - and when he returns, his appearance turns the entire world of AoT on its head. And now Eren's special new ability has made him the target of his superiors. Will he be used as a secret weapon or killed as a threat to humanity?
If you've been around anime fandom online for more than a quick second, you've heard about Attack on Titan: its abstract, off-kilter artwork, its terrifying Titans, the various characters of the Survey Corps who protect the walls, Eren's secret. It's not much of a secret though, is it? He is a Titan. No, it doesn't make much sense right now, although it can be assumed that it's linked to whatever his father shot into his veins and what lurks within the poor boy's basement back in Wall Maria. 
There's a tragic quality to Eren's newfound powers, and that is Eren has become exactly what he has vowed to destroy. He'd better master his abilities quick, however, because I'm sure there are many people within his corps who would rather see him dead than risk Titan!Eren turning on them in the middle of a fight.

Yes, the art style is wonky. But somehow it works - especially with the Titans, who look more grotesque with their atypical physiognomy. It's a bizarre world of human-like Titans who eat flesh and a human who can turn into a monster and a young woman with a terrible bloody past and secrets hiding in basements and a guy named Levi whose resting bitch face could freeze boiling water in less than a second. And it's awesome. 
There's really no question why Hajime Isayama's creation has taken anime/manga fandom by storm. Don't resist the urge to join in. You'll soon be scaling the walls and flying through the air on gas-powered engines with the rest of us.