banner image, art by Akihiro Yamada for the lightnovel Twelve Kingdoms

I don't remember who recommended me this or how I got to it, but man, why did I decide to read a romance manga when I wasn't in the mood for romance manga in the slightest?
Actually, you know what, it seems like I'm never in the mood for romance manga. If you saw my backlog, my huge "reading" list, you'd notice the romance genre is incredibly over-represented. I find this weird because whenever a light romance subplot is inserted into a work, I don't mind it, in fact, I enjoy it! When characters in a work are already in a relationship, or the work is a regular slice of life or a coming of age story? I'll be going feral over the romances that may or may not happen. But when I read a work and the sole purpose of it is about how two characters met and are about to fall in love and then proceed to fall in love? I sleep. It just doesn't hold my attention, at all.
Maybe it's because it's so formulaic. Two characters meet, third character is there for the mandatory love triangle, one character keeps a secret from the other, the other finds out, things fizzle out, rival is there to aggravate the situation, another culmination happens, any misunderstandings get cleared, we have our kiss, the end!
Formulaic stories can be comforting, but this one type of formula will never grip me, it just isn't for me.

Anyway, I don't have much to say about the work itself. It's sweet, there's some cute moments, but that's about it. I didn't really care about any of the characters. Femc is a smol and tiny helpless being which is only made so much more literal because she's in a wheelchair... Male lead is just there... He likes fish and stuff. The work is too short to give these characters a proper arc, backstory and personality. Even the other girl that's in love with mc, while we can understand right away she has a thing for him, their relationship is non-existent and she only exists to basically be a rival for a few pages before fading into the background.
I think I'd call this fast food romance. You know what you're going to get the moment you read the premise. It's not horrible, it's definitely digestible, and you get your satisfaction fast if you're into romance. It has all the necessary elements.

I really like Taiyo Matsumoto. The only work of his I wasn't a particular fan of so far has been Cats of the Louvre, which I thought was a bit too much style over substance and dream-like for me. Also I feel like when I read it, I wasn't really.. reading it. Sometimes that happens to me lmao.
GOGO Monster, however, hits all the right spots. Back to my regular programming, a coming of age story. How many of these have I read and praised so far... many. I never get tired of it! I'm not even the type of person that gets mentally stuck in their high school days, as I wasn't even a huge fan of them when I was going through them. In fact, I'm way happier as an adult. And I have a lot more thoughts in my head? Sometimes I feel like I was barely conscious during my teens. But there's just something man.. something about growing up and transitioning into an adult person with all kinds of fears instilled into you by your imagination or society... It's something everyone has to go through. The idea that adults lose something special as they age, that they turn rotten and black is definitely not an uncommon one, and it also appears in this manga.

The story revolves around two (three?) middle school aged boys. One of them is normal, seems to fit in with the rest of the kids but despite that he remains friends with the second kid, who is an outcast, albeit with good grades. He sees a world that doesn't exist, and fears losing it as he ages. He's friends with the third kid that wears a box on his head. He on the other hand seems to be a total outcast, choosing to mostly hang around the rabbit pen in their school. I like how the three of them represent a certain spectrum of weirdness lol. I feel like this manga is pretty thematically similar to something like Alien 9, although it's a lot less focused on the onset of sexual maturity, and lacks the fighting, of course.
One thing I really enjoyed about this manga was that, even though it wasn't a horror manga at all, it introduced such classic horror elements that were the perfect amount of disturbing.. Like when the teachers face turned upside down. Or the idea of a secret 5th floor in a building that only has 4 and a roof. God I love stuff like that. I've had reocurring dreams since childhood where I would run up the stairwell in my building trying to reach my floor to no avail, so I'm a sucker for any media with a similar premise in it. Any kind of secret space that isn't physically there but you can accidentally find yourself in, infinitely repeating spaces... I love love it.

Sunny, named after the 60's model of Datsun Sunny, is a manga about children in "Star Kids Home", a foster home. The plot is set around late 70s, judging by all the cultural references (very thankful for all the great translator notes) and also because it's based on Taiyo Matsumoto's real childhood that was partially spent in a foster home. The rusting Datsun Sunny can be found in the Star Kids Home backyard, used as a reprieve from adults and a place to play in. The main cast consists of about ~7 kids and the adult caretakers, and we get a snippet of all of their struggles, dreams, hopes or pasts through the 37 chapters.

This is very much a slice of life drama, with chapters either centering around one character or the Star Kids Home as a collective. You get to meet most of the kids in detail, and the portrayal of children is handled with a lot of care and realism in this manga. From kids with constant snot in their noses, to the liars, to the ones ashamed of being in a foster home and developing a complex about it, to the ones that desparately want their parents to take them back, to the ones with a vivid imagination, to the ones that don't want to leave, to the ones that want to drop out of high school in their last semester, to the ones that throw tantrums and disobey. The cast is genuinely so varied, and it shows a certain aspect of Japanese society we rarely see depicted in this way, parents that have to abandon their children for one reason or the other. Like yeah sure every shonen protag is a lone wolf with dead parents and a tragic backstory but how many times do you actually get to read about children in foster homes and how their parents deal with it too? More than a handful of chapters had me sobbing, frankly. I really enjoyed the adult characters as well, especially the main caretaker, Adachi. I'm a sucker for endlessly kind and understanding caretaker characters. Him being able to drive a bus so he could take kids on trips? Adorable. Amazing. I already have teary eyes.

I have a lot of personal experiences with foster kids and orphanage kids, because my school was almost right across the street from an orphanage, and for some "strange" reason my class was the designated "poor people and orphanage kids" class. No joke, in my second semester of second grade they split the class I was in - into the class for the well-off children from better neighbourhoods, and my class, visibly poorer, working class parents kids + the troubled/violent/adhd kids + adopted or children from the orphanage. You would think they split us by the neighbourhood, but no, we also had kids from a notoriously "well off" neighbourhood but their parents weren't doctors or business owners. So. Yeah! This rant aside, a lot of my friends and classmates had all sorts of family situations growing up. We didn't really bully these children because.. well they weren't really the minority lol! It was "the normal" to us. One of my classmates now actually works in the orphanage and it was always her dream to be there, which I find so inspiring... Last time I met with her she told me all sorts of stories and man... This stuff hits me hard honestly! Personal tirade over lol.

I can't single out a favourite character or story, but there was one moment I really felt was pictured perfectly. Imagine this - you find out really good news, you brag to everyone about it, you're so happy you could die, you get a goodbye party, the whole shebang, but only moments after you return in shame because the situation changed completely. Everyone welcomes you kindly, you can see they pity you, but they love you, so you join them back and know they're going to give you some space to process through everything.
This to me, is a nightmare scenario. Something akin to this happened to me multiple times in my life, and each time I feel such an overwhelming amount of shame, and for no good reason, because things like these - well they happen out of your control most of the times anyway! And your family and friends will always welcome you back with open arms! Yet, this is my personal nightmare. Reading this chapter made me feel such.. idk release, catharsis. It's silly now that I'm writing about it but, oh well. I guess I hate showing any weaknesses to people I love lol.

Anyway, Sunny easily became one of my favourite manga I've ever read. I strongly recommend this to anyone that likes chill stories with well written characters that you've probably encountered in real life before.

I actually read the manga up until chapter 40 and stopped because of a general reading slump, then I heard the anime was about to come out at any moment so I decided to wait and watch this with my husband.. It's been a year or so since then, and the anime is finally out! I know it's been in production for quite a long time.
From what I remember of the manga, the adaptation is pretty faithful. The animation, voice acting and so on are really on point too. As usual, Urasawa's storytelling is more than satisfactory and he does something many manga artists fail to do well, which is include foreign affairs and events in his work in a way that makes sense and has tact. Often when watching anime/reading manga you can tell how isolated Japan seems to be culturally from the rest of the world, and it's not like there's anything wrong with that (in fact this is what draws a ton of people into weebdom, for better or for worse) but Urasawa has a real interest in cultures outside of Japan and the USA and it shows, especially in stuff like Billy Bat and Monster... I'll mention this topic more once I get a chance to talk about MF Ghost, which comes across as the complete opposite lmao.

If you find the way I'm talking about this kind of sterile, it's because that's how I started to feel about Urasawa's work! I'm not sure WHY, I really loved Monster and 20th Century Boys when I read them in high school. I want to try reading some of his other stuff with female protags but something else always takes priority... Anyway, as great as Pluto was, with a fun plot, an amazing middle, the last two episodes didn't really grip me as much as I expected them to. I've read a lot about (even prior to the anime coming out) how Pluto made people bawl their eyes out and how they found it extremely emotional yet... it didn't go that way for me! I did cry during one scene though, the one with Dr. Tenma and Pluto's wife, without spoiling anything. Speaking of, I really loved Urasawa's portrayal of Dr. Tenma. I watched Astroboy (the 2003 one) a lot as a kid, and he was always my favourite character. Love a good tragic antagonist/anti-hero, especially in the form of a tall, slim and mysterious man lmao. I'm so simple...

This was still good and enjoyable, so don't get me wrong. Definitely one of the best seinen anime that came out in a long while, it's just that I have such high expectations for Urasawa for some reason, that I always end up bumming myself out a bit. Maybe it's a me problem...

I was thinking of reviewing the whole season in one go like last time, but fuck it, I think this works better.
I'm not sure if others had this experience, but when I was younger and newly into anime I remember it being perceived (by me, and the Internet in general) as the "wacky" and "strange" medium, you know, in that "silly Japanese cartoons where weird shit happens XDDD" lolsorandumb way. Naturally as I watched more anime that impression began to vane, since I got used to it and the novelty wore off. But if I could truly and honestly recommend you something bizarre, it would be this anime. Going in I had 0 expectations, since I never watched or read anything by Nami Sato (rip), so this anime came out of left field.

First off, this anime is hilarious. The story follows a pair of twins that are pretending to be a single child, as they get adopted into a family that lives in the town where their mother got murdered. They purposefully got adopted to solve the mystery of who killed their mom. The set-up is creepy/cute but the characters is what makes this show. Their weird mannerisms, engrish phrases, facial expressions, superhuman abilities - it all creates a very... peculiar anime. It's just so sillly, in a good way. It doesn't concern itself too much with realism and it's ridiculous in all the right places.

Despite it only being 13 episodes long, the time is well utilized, and nothing feels overly rushed. In fact the last episode wraps everything up nicely, and the ending is very satisfying. This was definitely one of my favourites this season.

Under Ninja is an anime adaptation of a manga made by Kengo Hanazawa. I'm not sure how well known he is nowadays in weeb circles, but back when I was first getting into seinen manga him and like, Asano Inio, were the most recommended mangaka if you want to read wacky and 凸( ` ロ ´ )凸 edgy 凸( ` ロ ´ )凸 seinen. He's most well known for I am a Hero and Boys on the Run. I haven't read the former, and the latter I actually reached the end and at the time the last volume wasn't translated, so I sadly never finished it. I should reread it completely...
It seems people are really split on the absurd, quirky and crude humor this show has, but I honestly liked it. It's rare that a work like this gets adapted, so my expectations were pretty low. In fact, since I didn't watch any trailers or whatever beforehand, I was fully expecting a lame fully 3d cgi adaptation because it seems like that's all that action-y seinens seem to get nowadays (Ajin, Dorohedoro, Knights of Sidonia and Berserk come to mind). It's a shame it's only 13 episodes long because it's way too expansive of a plot.. Okay so the plot. The world is set in modern Japan where ninjas are still operating, but as a secret organization with gadgets and shit. There's 2 main organizations that have beef with each other and that's what the main climax of this season is about, but you don't really get a lot of insight into this until the very end. I heard that the manga is pretty similar in the sense that the worldbuilding just keeps getting... worldbuilt, while the plot just kind of goes along, but the difference is that the manga plot is more linear (allegedly) while the anime went with a different route for the first half or so. Basically, it's all a bit confusing, but I'm glad I was in for the ride.
This wasn't a masterpiece by any means but I did have fun watching it, ngl.

This is going to be a short review because I watched it right as it came out, just forgot to review it.
I really, really liked this anime. I actually read the manga first, but then stopped at some point as translations were coming out and just... forgot. I do this with all manga that's coming out (I didn't read Jojolion since 2013, yeah it's been 11 years), sadly it's a bad habit of mine.
The animation was actually alright, I was expecting much worse. Both from netflix produced anime and studio deen lol. The best part about this show is the setting. From what I remember it is based on real life people in the edo period but then it slowly transforms into an alternate reality, where an illness wipes out most of the male population and women have to take control of men's roles. What I loved about this premise is that it took multiple generations for women to actually take hold of power, and the roles didn't swap 100%. I loved to see how the worldbuilding was handled.
I liked the court drama, and the episodes being 30 mins long really added to my enjoyment here. I know that's not everyone's cup of tea usually. I hope more will come out, since my husband got hooked on it as well so it's in my "watching with husband" list now lmfao.

Another short review because it's been a few months since I watched this.
This anime is a stylish political mystery drama with a really pleasing artstyle and a lot of handsome men (I just like droopy sleepy eyes, shoot me!). It's set in the kingdom of Dowa, a country made up of 13 states and ACCA is the inspection department in charge of keeping those states in line. The main character, who works for ACCA, is set on a mission to visit each state and report if anything fishy is going on, something like a coup. The anime is only 12 episodes long but frankly it doesn't need to be longer. The plot was wrapped up nicely and it had a lot of fun twists and turns.
Something I noticed that's becoming kind of popular in anime is this imagined country that's made up of a ton of smaller states, each with a widely different culture that draws inspiration from real world cultures. I remember 86 also kind of had it, and, shit, nothing else comes to mind but I swear I've been seeing it everywhere. It always reminds me of the hunger games, I know this setting definitely didn't originate there but I can't help myself lmao.
Anyway, I highly highly recommend this anime. It's not really super deep when it comes to the political shit, but it's fun, it's short, and it's enjoyable. Plus it has an almost completely adult cast.

Another one from the recent backlog... This anime was fantastic! A great fantasy adventure story, where all the characters were likeable and reasonable. I loved the romantic tension between the main character and her childhood friend, but also the mutual respect and love they had for each other as friends, I think it was handled really well. Sadly, this anime adapts only one out of 12 novels, but unlike the sad fate Twelve Kingdoms went through - this one doesn't feel unfinished and is a good standalone. Also hoooly shit, a female main character, but not only is she a wandering warrior, she's also above 30?!?!?? I don't think I ever even watched an anime where the main character is a woman above 30. Crazy...

I have no idea how this manga found itself in my plan to read, but I enjoyed it. It's very short - only 6 chapters long, and each chapter deals with a different set of characters, with appearances by the ones that we were first introduced to in the beginning. All the short stories deal with pretty controversial themes, such as an older woman marrying a man younger than her daughter, arranged marriage (more like in a matchmaker sense rather than forced sense but still), starry eyed staunch feminists becoming housewives, "ugly" girls forcing themselves on male teachers... Now that I laid it all out it kind of sounds like the author wants to say "hey women do controversial things too", but frankly, it's handled with a lot of grace and in a "things aren't so black and white" way, which I really appreciate. In fact, I really loved the controversial themes as a set up for great characterization. For example, the aforementioned feminist-turned-housewife. She talked the talk when she was younger, because it's really easy to say "hey I'm going to be productive and have a hard job to inspire women in the future", but her family situation never allowed her to fully realize herself, so she ended up quitting high school early to escape her parents, jumping from job to job and in the end from relationship to relationship in order to find stability and happinness. Maybe she's a bad feminist traitor, or maybe she's just a victim of circumstance, however you choose to look at it she's a person that got dealt a bad hand in life - and sadly that's just how life goes sometimes. We don't all manage to live up to our potential, and certain things take precedence over our true desires so we could survive.
Anyway, despite these short chapters I think the author managed to portray a really varied cast of characters and situations which is something commendable. I like the classic but true message, "life will never be as simple as you want it to be"...