Tag Archives: drama

Frau Faust (Manga)

Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki

Status: Ongoing (Currently 3 volumes available in the U.S.)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

The old stories tell of a man named Faust who sold his soul to the demon Mephistopheles in order to gain his heart’s desires . . . but what if the stories don’t tell the whole tale? Marion finds himself intrigued when he encounters a mysterious woman by the name of Johanna Faust who first rescues him and then blackmails him into helping her in her search for a piece of, yes, the demon Mephistopheles. It’s impossible, but this vivacious, smart woman claims to actually be the Faust, the one who sparked all the old legends. Only, even if she were, she should have been dead ages ago. Intrigued, Marion finds himself unable to let her go, so he follows her as she continues on her journey to reclaim Mephistopheles from the inquisitors.

I’ve only fairly recently discovered Kore Yamazaki’s work, but this mangaka’s writing is rapidly becoming some of my favorite. It reminds me a lot of the things I love most about Fullmetal Alchemist–great characters, interesting plot, a sense of mystery, vibrant art.  It has a josei flavor, and I like that it’s a bit more mature without being unnecessarily M rated; it’s actually pretty clean. It’s more that Johanna herself is old, like impossibly old–while still appearing young and having an insatiable curiosity about the world–so you get some of that depth that comes from experience playing out in her character. I enjoyed having Marion placed alongside her character, since he is in many ways like a young version of herself; their characters sort of mirror each other and provide some interesting character insights. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the characters that have shown up in this story, and much like Fullmetal Alchemist, it looks like we may end up with a pretty extensive cast. I’m interested to see how that develops, since this series is still in its early stages (I hope, since it certainly has potential to be pretty long). So far, there’s a nice balance of present-day action and flashbacks/explanation of things that happened in Johanna’s past. There’s a lot of mystery involved in said past, which is pretty interesting; I’m very curious to see how that is developed in future volumes. Also kind of random, but I liked the author’s choice of setting for the story–a somewhat medieval Germany (of a country based off of that). European settings just work really well for Yamazaki’s stories, or rather, Yamazaki does European settings quite well. In any case, I’ve enjoyed Frau Faust a lot so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

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Psych: The Movie (2017)

USA Network

Sequel to Psych

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Shawn and Gus have properly settled in to life in San Francisco (having been there for three years already). They’ve opened a new office in Chinatown, which Shawn has cleverly (in his own opinion) named psychphrancisco. Yeah, not the most successful psychic detective agency ever, but whatever; Gus has a full-time job to help support their rent and such when they don’t have cases. Oh yeah, and Shawn and Juliet still aren’t married . . . which may actually have something to do with why Shawn is snooping around shady areas of town wearing Gus’s Hagrid costume. Looking for a stolen ring perhaps? But it quickly becomes clear that the gang have more important (or at least more immediate) issues to handle when Juliet becomes the target of a mystery killer–one that will require all their combined skills to bring to justice.

The best way to describe Psych: The Movie is that it’s an extended episode of the show. So if you like the show, you’ll probably like the movie and vice versa. I have to say, it’s fun to see the gang back together again. The Shawn/Gus dynamic is going strong. I honestly think they sat down and figured out how they could cram as many of the classic running gags for the series into one episode as possible–and include some new plays off the old bits as well. As such, the movie is funny. Very funny in a goofy Psych kind of way. And did I mention random? Because it’s definitely random, right from the get go. On the negative side, I really, really wish we had gotten more of Lassiter than a video call offering support. I miss having him be a part of the gang–if for no other reason than that no one else is as good at picking on Shawn. But we did get a good cast, including Shawn, Gus, Jules, Chief Vick, Shawn’s dad, and (randomly but welcomely) Woody. The villains were kind of annoying more than actually menacing (other than the whole kidnapping thing), and the main plot didn’t really stand out to me. But let’s be honest, how many of us watch Psych for the plot, anyhow? We do get some cute Shules action here–including some resolution to the end of the TV series. Yay! So yeah, basically if you like the show, I would recommend the movie.

Written by Steve Franks & James Roday/Directed by Steve Franks/Starring James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, & Corbin Bernsen

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The Invisible Museum (Manga)

Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki

Status: Complete (Oneshot)

My rating: 4 of 5

She’s the daughter who was left, unwanted, with her drunken mother after the divorce while her father took her brother with him. Sometimes she just wants to escape, to disappear. One day, she finds herself in front of a building she’s never seen before, and curious, she enters to find herself in what appears to be a museum, complete with display cases . . . only the cases are completely empty.

The Invisible Museum is a thought-provoking oneshot by the author of the popular The Ancient Magus’ Bride. It’s a strange tale, almost reminiscent in a way to CLAMP’s xxxHOLiC with its strange building that’s not visible to everyone, its enigmatic proprietor, and its strange, mystical creatures. I like it. It deals with a challenging emotional situation in a way that raises good questions without claiming to have all the answers. (Fair warning that it sort-of deals with the topic of suicide/suicidal ideations, but in a generalized, non-graphic sort of way.) I love the back and forth between the girl and the proprietor–even in this short oneshot, their personalities shine through. I could totally see this story being developed into an actual series, and I would be thrilled if it ever came to pass. The art is classic Kore Yamazaki, but in a sense only parts of it (like the butterfly) seem like it at first glance–because it’s really strange to see Yamazaki’s work set in contemporary Japan as opposed to somewhere in Europe, in a highly fantasy-like setting. I really enjoyed The Invisible Museum and would recommend to anyone who likes a solid, slightly fantastic manga.

Note: I read this as an omake in the first volume of Frau Faust. I’m not sure if it’s available anywhere else or not.

 

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Thicker Than Water (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: Mousme

FanFiction ID: 6266954

Status: Complete (1 Chapter)

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Spoilers through season 5/Mature Audience (officially rated T, but I’m pretty sure M would be more accurate)

Sam and Dean get hit with a spell that sticks them in each other’s body, but it’s only supposed to last a couple of days, so they figure they can just ride it out. What’s the worst that could happen? At first, they’re a bit awkward getting used to the feel of a different body–and the weirdness of seeing their own face looking back at them with their brother’s facial expressions. But as time passes, Dean becomes more and more aware that something is off with Sam’s body. There’s a hunger, a craving, that he just can’t place, and the big, unhealthy meals that he loves just seem to make him feel worse. . . .

Thicker Than Water was a very enjoyable and thought-provoking SPN fanfic. The premise is just fabulous–both the body-swap itself, and the use of that to force Dean to see the whole demon-blood addiction thing from Sam’s perspective. I loved how well the author wrote the whole family/bromance thing that the boys have while still highlighting their differences and being honest about how much they keep from each other. Because really. Major kudos to the author for writing a third-person, present-tense story that not only doesn’t feel stilted and awkward but actually has a great flow and feels really natural to read. It’s rare to see present tense written with any kind of skill, so I found this particularly impressive. I also liked how much the phrasings and mood of the story feel like both the show in general and Dean in particular (since it’s mostly from his perspective)–including the use of concepts like seeing one’s face in a mirror with a bitchface filter. Well written and very credibly Dean. I enjoyed Thicker Than Water a lot and look forward to reading more of the author’s work.

You can find Thicker Than Water at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6266954/1/Thicker-Than-Water.

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Island (2011 Movie)

Soda Pictures with Finite Films and Tailormade Productions

My rating: 3.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience (This is technically not rated, but if it were, it would be at least PG-13, more probably R)

Nikki Black travels to an isolated island, giving the story that she’s there for a human geography research project. While staying in this small, insular community, she takes a room with the terse Phyllis and her son Calum. Although their interactions are awkward at first, Nikki soon strikes up an unusual friendship with Calum, a young man who is different–magpie-like with his collection of island treasures, full of wonder with his fairy stories, yet hesitant from living under his mother’s possessive control. But there’s much more going on here than a research project and a random friendship, something deeper and darker by far.

Island is one of those rare films that I probably would never have found if not for my attempts to watch everything Colin Morgan’s in (not to be confused, by the way, with another 2011 film, The Island). It’s really a beautiful movie, although not for everyone, I would think. This is a British psychological thriller/drama that is based on Jane Rogers’ book by the same name. It is a very indie production, which I personally found to be a good thing. The lighting, the camera techniques, the use of music, all of it is different from what you’d find in a mainstream movie, but I found it to be refreshingly so. Still, if you’re all about epic scores, fast-paced action, and big explosions, this is not the film for you. It is spare, quiet, and slow-paced. There are moments where you get simply silence, with the characters just standing there or sitting and thinking. It works here, though, and it suits the story and the bleak but beautiful island setting. The pacing allows for gradual but thorough character development, which is beautifully done through both the scripting and the excellent acting. I had never seen Janet McTeer in anything before, but her portrayal of Nikki is brilliant and nuanced. And Colin Morgan’s acting is, as usual, outstanding, bringing us a (I’m figuring, although it’s never specifically stated) high-functioning autistic young man who quickly becomes a sympathetic and beloved character. All the fine details of expression, posture, everything are just perfectly done, and I loved his work here. The plot itself is a gradual unfolding of mystery, touched with just a hint of magical realism which was surprising. All in all, Island was a well-done and interesting movie that I would recommend to those who have the patience to make themselves sit and listen.

Directed by Brek Taylor and Elizabeth Mitchell/Produced by Amy Gardner, Clare Tinsley, & Charlotte Wontner/Screenplay by Elizabeth Mitchell/Based on Island by Jane Rogers/Music by Michael Price/Starring Natalie Press, Colin Morgan, and Janet McTeer

 

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Men of Legend: The Butterfly Effect (Merlin/Supernatural Crossover Fanfic)

Author: hells_half_acre

AO3 ID: 7506826

Men of Legend, vol. 2

Status: Complete (3 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

When Sam and Dean Winchester were in Camelot–summoned there by Merlin himself to help handle a supernatural threat dragged over from their world into his–they gave Merlin some advice. Sound advice, probably, but advice he’s having an awfully hard time following through with, nevertheless. Because the brothers told Merlin to take fate into his own hands (yay, Team Free Will!), trust Arthur, and tell the king his secret–that Merlin has magic. Only, telling Arthur goes against everything Merlin’s been raised to do since he was a child, against everything the Great Dragon has told him to do. Not an easy decision to make. . . . So when Merlin does decide to go to Arthur about his magic, he is understandably nervous about the whole thing.

loved this short fanfic exceedingly, as I did the previous volume in this collection, Men of Legend. Unlike the first volume, The Butterfly Effect is really just a Merlin story, with the SPN part limited to references to Sam and Dean’s time in Camelot–although those references are important since they influence not only Merlin’s decision but also Arthur’s and Gwaine’s reactions. I love the way we get a chapter each from Gwaine’s, Merlin’s, and Arthur’s POV, with each bleeding into the next a bit and giving a different perspective on the events as they unfold. And I love (and this is something I love about this author’s work in general, not just in this story) the insights into the characters that we get–the motivations behind Merlin’s fear, the loyalty and insight hidden behind Gwaine’s usual goofiness, the wisdom and understanding of Gwen, the uncertainty of Arthur and the tiny things that shape his decisions. It’s those insights that transform this from just another fanfic to something powerful and lasting. Another thing I loved about this story is the fact that Merlin actually tells Arthur about his magic. Like, that never happens. In almost every magic reveal I’ve ever read, as well as in canon, Merlin is forced to reveal his magic, shows Arthur by accident, something along those lines. He almost never willingly trusts his friend with his deepest, scariest secret, even though that is the way that it should happen. So it’s nice to see these friends getting it right. Fabulous story, and I’m hoping for a sequel!

You can find Men of Legend: The Butterfly Effect on AO3 at https://archiveofourown.org/works/7506826/chapters/17064571.

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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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