It’s the end of the year, and now that the reminiscing and navel-gazing is over it’s time for the most important year-end festivity, looking at how many books I read. In 2018 I read thirty-six, compared to 2017’s forty-two. This year, I have twenty-nine books recorded in LibraryThing, but this excludes eight volumes of Toriyama Akira’s DragonballZ because they’re part of a box set and so, from LibraryThing’s perspective, are only one book. There’s also The Bowl of Tears and Solace, which isn’t in their catalogue at all last I checked. That brings us up to a more typical thirty-eight, two more than last year.
Since I’ve already mentioned DBZ, that, Ito Juni’s Frankenstein, and the second omnibus volume of Go Nagai’s Devilman make up all nine graphic novels I read this year.
I only read three books of poetry, all by Dante: Rime, La Vita Nuova (my second time reading this one), and a collection called Dante’s Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the ‘Vita Nuova’. Of those, La Vita Nuova is the best and I can recommend Mark Musa’s translation, but Dante’s Lyric Poetry is nice because it includes ample commentary. Speaking of Dante, I also read Marco Santagata’s fine biography Dante: The Story of his Life and Dante’s prose work on vernacular poetry, De Vulgari Eloquentia, which was more tedious and less interesting, and less focused on poetry, than I’d hoped. Another great poet, Homer, was represented in The Printed Homer: A 3,000 Year Publishing and Translation History of the Iliad and the Odyssey, by Philip Young. One last work of serious literature worth mentioning was Fables françaises du Moyen-Age.
Oh yeah, I have a blog, don’t I? As I recall, I typically write annual year-in-review posts so maybe I should do that. There hasn’t been much action on Everything is Oll Korrect! in 2019, especially in the latter half, due to school, work, and other commitments (which we’ll get to shortly), and for the last couple weeks illness. As I write, my eyes itch and I can’t breathe through my right nostril, but such is my dedication to the millions and millions of the Ocelot’s fans that I’m going to write at least this one post. I’ll run through the articles I did publish this year, then spend the bulk of this article talking about one of my favourite subjects, me.
So, I wrote all of seventeen posts in 2019. For comparison, in 2018 I wrote fifty-seven. I started the year with William Cecil and his lovely New Year’s Day poem about addressed to his daughter. Several other posts would also cover poetry, including articles about Dante’s friend Guido Cavalcanti, Cavalier Sir John Denham, 19th Century French poet Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (which also features my attempt at translating her poem “Rendez-vous”), and medieval troublemaker François Villon, who I liked enough to write about in French and English. Everything also featured two articles about poets, one on Homer and one on Dante.
In the world of prose, we have a fine children’s adaptation of Moby Dick, as well as contemporary novel The Bowl of Tears and Solace. As for non-fiction, we have the helpful Confession Made Easy and John Carter’s classic book about books, ABC for Book Collectors. Graphic novels found representation in Ito Junji’s excellent adaptation of Frankenstein and Go Nagai’s original Devilman. Video games also made an appearance thanks to a review of Ogre Battle 64, and non-video games made their Everything debut with the happy game of mahjong. Content may have been sparse in 2019 but variety was not as even professional wrestling made an appearance. Finally, back in July I gave a status report for those wondering “What’s the news, where ya been?”
With such a variety of articles to choose from it’s hard to pick a best of the year, but my coverage of “Rendez-vous” was the most fun to write since translation was a new challenge for me. “The Happy Game of Mahjong” accomplished its purposes the best, and my review of The Printed Homer was overall the best of 2019.
When I pick up a story by prolific horror artist Ito Junji, there are two things I expect: It’s gonna be good, and it’s gonna be gross. There are a few exceptions at least to the latter point, but his adaptation of Frankenstein delivers on both fronts. If you’re looking for a manga to read for Halloween but want something more classic than Uzumaki or Gyo, this will be a solid choice.
Since comics are a visual medium let’s start with the art. Every panel is filled with detail, and the heavy linework and monochrome colour make the whole story feel appropriately dark and uneasy. Panel layouts are effective throughout the work, and the design of the monster is excellent. Perhaps this sentiment comes from reading it so recently, but thinking through other designs for Frankenstein’s monster, like the 1931 film or Hammer’s movie series among many others, this may be my favourite. He looks appropriately terrifying and obviously stitched-together, but also strong and agile as he is in the novel. I was less excited by the human characters, who all look good but not particularly special. I suppose that’s fine, though, since Frankenstein is best kept relatively realistic to aid suspension of disbelief, so wild character designs aside from the monster may call too much attention to themselves.
So, the semester is well underway, you have a heavy load of coursework to do, a full time job, a blog you need to update, a woman you’re attempting to woo, a library to volunteer at, all in addition to the normal errands and chores and unforeseen tasks to do. It’s a lot, so how do you deal with so much work? Obviously, you dive into the sprawling 40+ hour campaign of Ogre Battle 64: Person of the Lordly Caliber, the best game of its era and, for me, the best of any era – with one massive, almost game-wrecking caveat, which we’ll get to shortly.
I’ve touched on the Ogre Battle franchise a couple times previously in talking about the two Tactics Ogre spin-off games, Let Us Cling Together and The Knight of Lodis. In those reviews, though, I mentioned that I preferred the gameplay of the main series. It’s an RPG/Strategy hybrid, where the player forms units of highly customisable characters and in each stage uses them to capture strongholds and beat an enemy boss character, then repeat the process in the next stage. The overall flow of each mission isn’t terribly different from many strategy games, but what makes it interesting is the interaction between two levels of army customisation in the characters and units they’re part of. There are a few dozen character classes to choose from, each of which can equip different items and grow in experience like most RPGs, but in addition to this one must consider how each character complements others in the same unit, and how those combinations fare against different enemy formations. Though it is possible to build just a few super-units and overpower everything, it is, of course, most satisfying to play the intended way, and the mechanics give the game a lot of replay value despite its length (my last play-through took about forty-three hours, without doing much in the way of side-quests).…