Tag Archives: drama

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (manga)

Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki/Translator: Adrienne Beck

Status: Ongoing (7 volumes currently)

My rating: 5 of 5

For her entire life, Chise Hatori has been able to see fey and spirits, beings that no one around her was even aware of. You can imagine the troubles she’s had because of it. Now she finds herself orphaned and sold at auction to a strange magus with a rather horrifying skull-like visage. But surprisingly, Elias (the magus) doesn’t want to just use her for her powers–although it turns out she has some rather rare and significant powers indeed. Rather, he invites her to live with him in his home in England and apprentice under him. And gradually, Chise blossoms, going from a sad old woman convinced she brings misfortune to everyone around her to the youthful girl she should be, capable of loving and caring for those around her with a smile. And she’s not the only one who’s changing because of her presence there.

Apologies for the cruddy summary; this has to be one of the weirdest and most difficult to summarize stories I’ve come across to date. One of the reasons I’ve not read this before–most of the summaries I’d read sounded pretty awful. The trouble is that The Ancient Magus’ Bride is different from basically any manga I’ve read before, although there are certainly elements that remind me of other stories. It has a good bit of back story that develops gradually, for one thing. Also, a great deal of the story is a gradually developing drama that reads almost like a slice-of-life story–just with magic, lots and lots of magic. I really love the flavor of the magic that’s used here; it’s heavily tinged with older English folklore, enough so that it’s easy to forget sometimes that this is actually set in contemporary England. I would say that the story’s flavor is equal parts Fullmetal Alchemist (which is totally weird, I know), xxxHOLiC, and English folklore–it sounds crazy, but it’s a really beautiful combination in practice, kind of a josei/seinen magical slice-of-life story. I absolutely love the way the characters grow and develop over the course of the story, as well as the ways their relationships change over time. It’s both heartwarming and dynamic. The art goes along with this well, being unique and attractive in a clean, seinen sort of way. I would highly recommend The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and I look forward to what the mangaka will bring with the remaining volumes.

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A Christmas Prince (2017 Movie)

Netflix & Motion Picture Corporation of America

My rating: 3 of 5

In the search for her first big scoop, fledgling reporter Amber Moore (and does anyone else find it hilarious that her last name is still Moore here?!) travels to the small European kingdom of Aldovia to cover the coronation of Prince Richard. Or his abdication.  The prince does have a reputation as a bit of a playboy, and nobody’s really sure if he’ll step up and fill his late father’s shoes or not. Through an unexpected mix-up, Amber finds herself mistaken for Princess Emily’s new tutor, giving her unprecedented access to the royal family up close and personal. And what she finds is not at all what the rest of the press had led her to expect.

First off, I can’t believe I actually watched this; it’s exactly the sort of Hallmark-y film that I usually avoid like the plague. . . . But Rose McIver is kind of irresistible, and moreover, she actually manages to make the movie palatable.  It is very much your expected cheesy Christmas romantic drama, with loads of improbability, predictability, and sentimentality. Even the music and the camera filters used scream “classic Christmas film”–as in old, maudlin film. Yet surprisingly, I found myself liking the characters. McIver does a great job (the one thing that’s not surprising) portraying her character, drawing out the uncertainty, clumsiness, awkward curiosity, and compassion of Amber quite effectively. Ben Lamb’s portrayal of Prince Richard is more expected but still well done, and I quite enjoyed Honor Kneafsey’s work as young Princess Emily and her growing friendship with Amber. Other than that, there’s not much I can say–I enjoyed A Christmas Prince, which is more than I can say for most films of this sort, but I also found it to be pretty typical of the sentimental Christmas movie genre on the whole, for what that’s worth.

Written by Nathan Atkins/Directed by Alex Zamm/Produced by Amy Krell/Music by Zack Ryan/Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb,  Honor Kneafsey, Tom Knight, Sarah Douglas, Daniel Fathers, Alice Krige, & Tahirah Sharif

 

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A Different Path (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: angel-castiel-rules-the-world

FanFiction ID: 11478940

Status: Ongoing (currently 127 chapters)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Warning: Rated T/Mild Slash & Spoilers through end of Season 10 (AU from end of this season)

In the wake of Dean’s plan with Death to save the world (again), Castiel finds himself suddenly bereft of both his best friend Dean and of Sam–both of whom are basically his family at this point. But he’s not alone. A certain King of Hell makes a point to come around the bunker and pester him in his research regularly. And research Castiel certainly does. Not content to let things end this way, the angel desperately searches for a way to bring back his friends–searches for years without result, until one day he finds a book on the bunker’s bookshelves that wasn’t there. And this book promises a way to turn back time, to see influential turning points, and to make different choices. So taking along Crowley (to maintain the balance, as directed in the book), Castiel travels back to the first time Dean (nearly) died, determined to change the Winchesters’ lives for the better. He’s not going to lose them again, no matter what.

A Different Path is a really interesting Supernatural fanfic that starts with an AU ending for Season 10 but quickly jumps back to be an AU from the beginning of Season 2 and on. We get a picture of events occurring with Cas and Crowley in the picture, Cas with his own experiential knowledge of certain events as well as the Winchesters’ stories to go from, Crowley with a much greater knowledge of events (having read the books)–not that he’s volunteering information readily. For added interest/complication, Cas refuses to tell the boys that he’s from their future, and he tries his best to keep Crowley a secret. You can imagine how well that works, with the king of snark hanging around! I really have enjoyed what the author has done with this story and the way the AU element unfolded. The characters are captured well, and I love the way the altered events and relationships play into the way their characters develop. Likewise, the adaptations to the episodes’ plots are both fitting and interesting, showing a good understanding of the characters and the storyline while still being original. This fanfic is  very much a slow-burn Destiel fic, and I enjoyed the way the author developed that; it seems to fit their characters and situation so much better than a lot of the Destiel stuff I’ve seen. But for those who aren’t big into slash, it’s all pretty mild and there’s a lot of other aspects of this story besides that (although it’s still a pretty significant focus in this fic). I will note that there are some typographical/grammatical issues (mostly wrong words, lacking capitalization, and occasionally lacking punctuation) which can make this story more complicated to read, but they’re mostly the sort of thing a good editor could quickly correct, and the underlying writing style and flow is still quite readable and enjoyable. Enough so that I intend to stick with this story for as long as the author continues to write it–which could be a while, considering that we’re still in Season 2 at 127 chapters with no specified ending point so far. I’m looking forward to where this story goes!

Note: You can find A Different Path at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11478940/1/A-Different-Path.

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Captive Hearts (manga)

Mangaka: Matsuri Hino/Translator: Andria Cheng

Status: Complete (5 volumes)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Megumi Kuroishi has been living the unconcerned life of a rich boy in the mansion bequeathed to his father when the masters of the house, the Kogami family, disappeared somewhere in China when Megumi was just a little boy. But his life is turned upside down when it is discovered that the young heiress Suzuki, the Kogamis’ daughter, survived and has been found–and is returning to the house in Japan. Because there’s something Megumi’s father has neglected to mention to him . . . the entire Kuroishi family has been cursed ages ago by the Dragon God to always serve the Kogami family. Let’s just say that he finds out most awkwardly, finding himself strangely drawn to Suzuka and going into weird, protective “manservant fits” if he looks into her eyes too long. Awkward for everyone concerned, especially since Suzuka is not the “young mistress” sort, having lived as a commoner in China for most of her life. As the two spend more time together, however, they are drawn to ask–is there something more than an ancient curse going on between the two of them? Because it sure seems like they’re falling in love.

Here in Captive Hearts we have the very first serialized manga by the author of the esteemed Vampire Knight. And yeah, it’s pretty obvious that this is a first manga. It’s relatively unplanned feeling, and the art goes through some pretty massive changes (improvements) over the course of the series. Having said that, it’s also pretty obviously the work of Hino-sensei, and if you like her work, there really is a lot to appreciate here. The art, while still developing, is still her distinctive style, and by the end of the series, it’s actually quite pretty. She does a great job of playing with themes in the chapter covers and manages to craft a style for the panels themselves that fits the shoujo yet goofy style of the story. And that’s where this story is so unique and likely to produce either a love or a hate reaction in its readers. Because it’s distinctly a shoujo romance story–fate, forbidden love, master/servant relationship, unlikely heroine, the whole gamut. But at the same time, even the mangaka acknowledges that it’s a silly story. It was really intended as a one-shot to begin with, so the whole premise is pretty absurd. And while you do get some solid character and plot development (including some nice flashbacks to the whole Dragon God story), the unlikeliness and silliness do continue firmly throughout the story. But it’s a comedic romance, so it kind of works. I enjoy the story, in any case. I would mostly recommend Captive Hearts to those who enjoy comedy/romance shoujo stories or Hino-sensei’s works in particular. (Although again, in some ways this is pretty different from Vampire Knight. More similar to Meru Puri, although even that has a lot more maturity to the writing.)

Note: It’s notable that the Shojo Beat physical copies of this manga also include several interesting one-shots of Hino’s, mostly, again, cute romance stories.

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Orphan Black (2013 TV Series)

Temple Street Productions, BBC America, and Bell Media’s Space

Status: Complete (5 seasons/50 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

Accomplished grifter Sarah Manning walks into the train station and witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like Sarah herself. Both curious and ready to take advantage of the situation, Sarah assumes the identity of the woman, Beth Childs, with the help of her foster-brother Felix. What follows is a whirlwind of monumental proportions as Sarah discovers that she is but one of many clones. Meeting her newfound “sisters” is just the beginning as they face their own dark past, those in the present who would destroy or manipulate them, a defect built into their own DNA that is slowly killing them, not to mention being completely unsure who to trust. But at the same time, they discover a new family and a strength in each other to help them face the maelstrom with defiance as they choose their own ways to live.

Orphan Black is one of those shows that, as incredible as it sounds at first, delivers so much more than it initially promises. It’s really quite amazing. Well, Tatiana Maslany is amazing, that’s for sure. She manages to pull off multiple clones with distinct styles, mannerisms, personalities, etc. and keep them all unique–sometimes with multiples of them in the same room conversing and even physically interacting with each other. Her grasp of each of the characters is incredible–to the point where you can even tell where one sister is pretending to be another sister by super-tiny but well-realized tells. Maslany’s acting in this series truly blows me away! Not to mention the sheer cinematography required to pull off some of the scenes; it’s seamless and beautiful. The characters are great as well–thoroughly developed with uncertainties and flaws and emotional subtlety and moral ambiguity and all the complexities that make people truly human. You’ve got a ton of diversity, even just among the clones, too. And the other characters are brilliantly cast and played as well. Felix is quite possibly my favorite character in the whole show; he’s the heart and the artist, the home-like softer side of things, which is kind of hilarious since he tries so hard to be defiant and brash. I love him, though. And Siobhan, Sarah and Felix’s foster-mother–all the mystery and protectiveness in her character is fabulous! As for the plot, well, again it’s so much more than we are initially promised at the beginning. I mean, you start out with a girl taking over the life of a cop who looks like her, encountering a couple other girls who claim to be her clones, dealing with trying to be a mom to her daughter–intense stuff for sure, but fairly contained and small-scale. But by the end of it, you’ve got decades-long, multinational plots and huge, interconnected organizations and hundreds of clones and major life-or-death situations. It’s all pretty overwhelming and hard to keep track of, to be honest–the main reason I can’t give this a full 5 of 5 rating, actually. Still, it all ties up better than I expected by the end, and the conclusion was enough to make me cry but also be quite satisfying. This show is definitely not for the faint of heart and is only for a mature, adult audience, but I would still highly recommend Orphan Black for many, many reasons. It’s a great show that I will enjoy re-watching many times over.

Created by Graeme Manson & John Fawcett/Executive Production by Ivan Schneeberg, David Fortier, Graeme Manson, & John Fawcett/Produced by Russ Cochrane, Alex Levine, Claire Welland, Tatiana Maslany, & Aubrey Nealon/Cinematography by Aaron Morton/Music by Trevor Yuile/Starring Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Michael Mando, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Évelyne Brochu, Ari Millen, Kristian Bruun, & Josh Vokey

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The Betrayal Knows My Name (manga)

Mangaka: Hotaru Odagiri/Translator: Melissa Tanaka

Status: Ongoing (7 volumes, although the first 5 are 2-volume omnibus editions, so really more like 12 volumes)

My rating: 5 of 5

Growing up in an orphanage, believing his parents didn’t want him, Yuki struggles to find meaning in his existence. Yet even in the midst of his pain, he brings kindness and healing to those around him, perhaps even more so as he begins to develop the ability to see a person’s emotions and past when he comes into physical contact with them . . . although not everyone takes his kind intentions well. But as Yuki’s strange ability grows stronger and other odd things being to happen around him, he encounters a beautiful, silver-eyed man calling himself Zess who seems oddly familiar. Then another beautiful man comes to the orphanage claiming to be Yuki’s long-lost older brother. Not only that, but Yuki actually has a large extended family, all of whom are delighted to meet him, and Zess is somehow connected to them all as well. But all is not well for this family as they find themselves trapped in a centuries long war against dark and evil forces, being endlessly reincarnated to fight over and over again. And Yuki himself is a pivotal figure in this was, the reincarnation of their princess, bringing healing and hope to them all . . . if only he could figure out why he doesn’t remember anything about his previous lives. All he wants to do is bring an end to this war and to the hurt felt by these people he has quickly come to love.

Love this manga soooo much! If you can imagine a mashup of Fruits Basket and Black Butler, you probably have a pretty good idea of what The Betrayal Knows My Name is like. You’ve got the gorgeous art (and people), demon contracts, and mystery/fight aspects that you find in Kuroshitsuji. Then you’ve got the super air-headed and kind MC, the oversized cast, the reincarnation aspect, and the dark family history themes that you find in Furuba. Not necessarily an expected combination, but it works. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and mysterious–but there’s a nice mix of cutesy slice-of-life segments filled with sweetness and humor as well. The cast is huuuuge, so it is admittedly hard to keep track of everyone at first, but as you get to know the characters, they become not only unmistakable but beloved. It’s rare for me to find a story in which I love so many of the characters so very much, which is one of the primary reasons that I give this a full five-star rating. As for the plot, there’s currently a lot of mystery and unknowns that could go in a lot of directions, so I’m curious to see whether it ends up some huge shounen-style fight or a hug-it-out shoujo conclusion or something else altogether. (I’m hankering for a very sappily sweet shoujo ending myself, but I’ll be thrilled just to see this story finished, whatever the conclusion. It’s been on hiatus for 4 years, and I had given up hope that it would every be continued. Soooo . . . happy dance that the mangaka has picked this series up again!) Fair warning that the mangaka is fairly well known for writing yaoi stories, but also firm clarification that this particular manga is not yaoi at all–it sits on the verge between shoujo and josei with aspects of shounen and a mild shounen ai flavor, but it never goes beyond that. So honestly, The Betrayal Knows My Name is generally appropriate–and highly recommended–for any T+ audience. Love it and looking forward to reading the rest!

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Healing Spells (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: BeyondTheStorm

FanFiction ID: 6022745

Status: Complete (27 Chapters)

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Rated T for blood, violence, & non-suicidal self-harm. (I would probably rate T+/16+, just to be safe.)

With Gaius away to help a village dealing with a mysterious outbreak of illness, Merlin has a chance to do things that his mentor would usually fuss at him for doing. And after that fiasco of a showdown with a rogue sorcerer in which both he and Prince Arthur got injured (and where Arthur found out all about Merlin’s being a warlock), it seems like it might just be time to finally figure out how to make healing magic work. Turns out, it’s not easy, nor is it something for which Merlin has a natural knack. So, being Merlin, he decides to practice on himself, stretching his abilities thinner and thinner until Arthur, Gwen, and Morgana are all worried about him–because of course it would be far too easy to actually tell them what’s going on, right?! But when Arthur is again endangered, it becomes clear that Merlin’s practicing has had more far-reaching consequences than even he originally thought.

While the idea of a Merlin fic focused primarily on healing magic didn’t initially appeal to me, I have loved some of BeyondTheStorm’s other fanfics and thus decided to give Healing Spells a try. I’m so glad I did, because I really loved the story. For one thing, the writing is just really readable and fun; it has a nice flow and a good balance of description and dialogue and such. But there are so many other interesting choices that the author made that just really increased my personal enjoyment of the story beyond just the quality of the writing. You come into the story with Arthur already knows about and accepts Merlin’s magic–there is a reveal scene, but it doesn’t come until about halfway through, where it’s presented as a flashback. So you’ve got this great dynamic of Arthur realizing everything Merlin’s done for him and who he really is, so there’s a whole new level of trust and closeness between the two that’s really great. You see a softer, more caring, yet still gruff and awkward (because this is Arthur, you know?) side to the prince which is really neat. And surprisingly (yet credibly) there’s a really interesting dynamic of Merlin having a harder time trusting Arthur and still keeping secrets even though he knows Arthur’s already accepted him. I also enjoyed that this was set in season 2, so that 1) a lot of the bad stuff that make it really hard for Merlin to trust Arthur with his secret haven’t happened, and 2) you get some great Morgana friendship (not a major focus of this fic, but it’s there and it’s nice. I miss this Morgana.). Of course, the downside of that is that you don’t get the awesomeness that is the Inner Circle of the Knights, but it works in this story. There are some great Merlin/Gwen friendship scenes; I can’t get enough of that friendship, truly! And a few fabulous fatherly Gaius moments. Plus, there’s a lot of interconnected plot, some big stuff that develops outside of Merlin’s experimentation that ends up influencing the consequences of his choices. So yeah, big plot and some pretty deep ideas are developed as well. All together, Healing Spells was a very interesting and enjoyable story, and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

Note: You can find Healing Spells at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6022745/1/Healing-Spells.

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