The Bibliophile’s Journal IV

I’ve decided to provisionally make The Bibliophile’s Journal a regular, probably monthly, feature of the blog. My stated purpose with the blog is to share my thoughts on what I read and watch, but with most books I don’t have enough material to justify a dedicated review, but do have a few things to say. This is especially with individual volumes in ongoing series (e.g., Gunslinger Girl this month). Depending on how it goes, I may also just start posting very short, say one- or two-paragraph posts on everything I read.

Anyway, I’ve burned through a lot of graphic novels in the last few weeks. The volume 13-14 omnibus of Gunslinger Girl is the main attraction. This volume is almost entirely action, including a climactic confrontation between the Croce brothers and Dante, the terrorist who’d killed their parents and sister. As usual, the action is well-handled, and whereas the previous omnibus spent a lot of time trying to build up a sense of dread but was so unsubtle that it turned a bit silly, this one flows much better by jumping into the action quickly and not dwelling on backstory and unnecessary dialogue.

On a totally different note, I also read a couple volumes by Mori Kaoru, A Bride’s Story vol. 4 and Anything and Something. The main draw for A Bride’s Story is the gorgeous, intricate artwork. Very few Japanese works are anywhere near this elaborate, Mori clearly loves the characters and Central Asian setting. There is a central narrative which forms the focus of the first two volumes, but Mori has spent most of the third and fourth volumes on tangents, so the series is essentially episodic.

Anything and Something is an anthology of short stories and sketches Mori has done over the last decade. They’re all enjoyable enough, but the only story to leave much impression on me was “Sumire’s Flowers,” and even there I’m unsure whether there’s actually much substance to it or not. I’d highly recommend A Bride’s Story to most anyone who enjoys comics, but Anything is probably appealing mostly to people who are already fans of Mori’s.

I also got the first volume of Thermae Romae, by Yamazaki Mari. I can’t help but love the concept, a Roman bathhouse architect travelling to present-day Japan, and the art looks great, a little more realistic than most Japanese comics. What holds the work together is our protagonist, Lucius, as he tries to conduct himself like a gentleman in every perplexing situation he finds himself in. There is a fair amount of slapstick, but it never gets too silly because Lucius is calm and intelligent enough to take a reasonable course of action in any scenario, even if his decisions are uncomfortable or wrong by Japanese standards.

Bunny Drop continues apace in volumes three and four; so far, it’s lived up to my expectations for it based on the first couple volumes.

The seventh volume of Koume Keito’s adaptation of Spice & Wolf has the misfortune of covering the same material as the volume of the novel I had just read. Fortunately, Koume significantly streamlined the events of the novel. On the positive side, this means that some of the less-interesting material gets cut and the action is more exciting. However, we also lose some context. For example, the barkeeper is a fairly important character in this story arc, and in the novel author Hasekura Isuna makes sure to give us some of her backstory and we see her interact with other villagers and get a sense for why she’s so respected. In the comic, though, she just appears at one point, but we don’t get a sense of who she is, why the villagers seem intimidated by her, and there’s no special significance to her comments on travelling far and wide.

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