Tag Archives: ecchi

A Fox’s Family

Author: Brandon Varnella-foxs-family

Illustrator: Kirsten Moody

American Kitsune, vol. 4

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience (14+)

Kevin Swift has finally agreed to be the lovely kitsune Lillian’s mate–to her abundant and obvious delight. Actually, the relationship is suiting Kevin pretty well also, although he’s well aware that being with Lillian is likely to bring plenty of outside conflict (more than it already has) in the form of various yokai who disapprove or are out to get her for one reason or another. Which is why Kevin has begun training with one of the toughest yokai he knows, the inu Kiara. Ouch, for sure, but he’s actually making progress. All seems to be going well . . . until one night when Lillian’s ditzy mom, overly lascivious sister Iris, and their maid (?) Kirihime show up on Kevin’s doorstep. As you can imagine, all kinds of complications arise from that.

I have enjoyed the American Kitsune series so far; it pulls a lot of flavor from Japanese light novels, particularly the more ecchi shounen rom-com ones, while also creating its own style and niche. A Fox’s Family is no different, although it shows definite development and a somewhat darker tone than the previous volumes. Make no mistake, it definitely keeps up the humor and the sexy hijinks–at least as much as previous volumes–but there are also some pretty bad villains involved and some big fights go down. Fights are something I personally have mixed feelings about in, well, any medium actually–not from a moral sense or anything, but just because they can be hard to follow and be interested in. (Basically the only fights I have been able to make myself care about in literature are the ones in Bleach.) Having said that, I do think the author did a good job with the fights in this book; they stay true to genre, but they’re also cohesive and reasonable to follow. I actually even found myself enjoying Kiara’s big fight (because it was epic and the combatants enjoyed it so much) and Kevin’s last big fight scene (because Kevin). Which brings me back to what I really enjoy the most about A Fox’s Family: the characters. While there are many aspects of this book that seem pretty typical shounen, I think the characters–especially Lillian and Kevin–stand out as being both intriguing and likeable, which is something that just makes the entire story in my opinion. I also have to note that this volume is pretty long and contains a larger cast than any of the previous volumes–and the author handles this added complication with aplomb, keeping plotlines and individual characters distinct and easy to follow for the reader. I would say, as with previous volumes, that if you don’t like ecchi stories with lots of otaku references, this probably isn’t for you; however, if that’s at all your style, A Fox’s Family would be a great light novel to try.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the author, which in no way alters the contents of this review.

 

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No Game No Life, vol. 1 (Light Novel)

Author: Yuu Kamiya/Translator: Daniel Komenno-game-no-life-1

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Urban legends speak of a gamer with an impossible record of zero losses, a player who goes simply by “ ” or Blank. What the legends miss is that Blank is actually two players, a brother and sister pair who are as awful at real life as they are amazing at games. So when the two get sucked into a world where everything is decided by playing games of one sort or another, Sora and Shiro don’t do the expected and try to get home. They set their sights on the throne!

I really enjoyed reading No Game No Life, but I have to admit rather mixed feelings when looking at the light novel objectively. There are some things about it that are really well done and interesting; others, not so much. The concept, for instance, is brilliant–an alternate world with a fantasy flair that’s run entirely on games rather than wars and such is just remarkable. And the characters that Kamiya chose to stick in this setting are just perfect–I seriously think Sora and Shiro as a pair are about the most interesting characters you could possibly choose for this setting both because of the dynamic between them (which is intriguing in itself) and because of their mindset when it comes to games. The overall writing style is pretty average, I’d say typical for a light novel if not stellar. And I’m not even going to complain about the fanservice because 1) No Game No Life is just that kind of story, and if you want to totally avoid the fanservice, you’ll have to avoid this sort of story entirely, and 2) the fanservice in this volume is actually not that bad. What did bother me in that regard is the mild lolicon/incestuous verbal insinuations that were scattered throughout–they never amount to anything, but they’re kind of creepy still. Also, the fact that Sora uses a command that can’t be disobeyed to make a girl love him is kind of wrong, even though the author makes a point to show all sorts of ways the girl could have gotten around the command without directly disobeying. (And I know, I’m making this sound like a totally hentai story. It really isn’t that bad; I just feel the need to point out these parts since they bothered me personally.) The other notable negative is that at points (whether this is the original style or a mistake on the translator’s part, I’m not sure), the text is a series of somewhat disconnected phrases posing as sentences. . . . You can understand what’s going on, but it kind of catches you off guard and looks weird. But in spite of the negatives listed above, I would recommend No Game No Life for anyone looking for a fantasy/gamer light novel (who doesn’t mind some ecchiness); I’m planning to continue reading the series in any case.

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A Fox’s Maid

a fox's maidAuthor: Brandon Varnell

Illustrator: Kirsten Moody

American Kitsune, vol. 3

My rating: 4 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

Kevin and Lillian have forged something of a workable compromise between the two of them–to the extent that Kevin can actually admit (at least to himself) to enjoying Lillian’s company. She has managed to back off on the extreme advances that make him so very uncomfortable, and he’s finally able to be around her without crazily nose-bleeding or passing out every 5 minutes . . . not that either avoids these things entirely, but it’s a start. Kevin’s still in a conundrum though; he’s very aware of how much Lillian cares for him and wants a long-term committed relationship with him. But seriously, he’s 15! How’s he supposed to know if he feels the same way? Or if he’s even capable of making that sort of commitment at this point? And if that weren’t troubling enough, Lillian’s super-beautiful but super-scary maid Kotohime shows up to push him to decide quickly . . . or else.

I really enjoyed the first two volumes of this series, but I have to say, I feel like the author really came into his own in A Fox’s Maid. It’s consistent with the former books in its combination of crazy fourth-wall-breaking humor, over-the-top ecchi shenanigans, ominously looming plots, and excessive otaku references. But I feel like the balance was better in this volume. All of these things were still there, adding a lot to the story, but also keeping out of the way enough to allow the characters to shine. I think Lillian and Kevin (as well as numerous other characters) were developed a lot in this story as individuals, and that was really enjoyable to see. Also (personally), it was very satisfying to see the romantic development between Lillian and Kevin advance, and in a way that works well for who they are as characters. I think that, for those who have enjoyed the previous volumes of this series, A Fox’s Maid is a follow-up light novel that will exceed expectations.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the author, which in no way alters the contents of this review.

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A Fox’s Love

Author: Brandon VarnellA Fox's Love

Illustrator: Kirsten Moody

American Kitsune, vol. 1

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

Kevin Swift is what most folks would call a good guy–decent grades, athletic, responsible enough to live on his own while his mom’s away on work, but with enough of a geeky (even otaku) side to not be a total square. Poor guy really does have some of the worst luck though, or maybe he just has some unfortunate weaknesses. Like his soft spot for small, furry animals. Or his inability to talk to girls (including his crush/childhood friend Lindsay) without blushing and stammering, insane nosebleeding, and possibly passing out. Unfortunate, and likely to get worse when in an act of kindness Kevin brings home an injured little fox . . . that has two tails and a remarkable healing ability. Because the next day, in place of the adorable little fox he finds a naked, gorgeous young woman by the name of Lillian who proudly declares herself a kitsune–and his mate. Poor Kevin!

Having already read the second volume of this hilarious series, A Fox’s Tail, I was definitely looking forward to enjoying the first volume, which I did. A Fox’s Love is an amusing American take on the Japanese ecchi shounen romcom (think stories like To LOVE-Ru and Rosario + Vampire). It definitely follows in the footsteps of these stories, complete with hapless but relatively normal protagonist, improbably sexy and clingy female, tons of humor, and at least an equal part ecchiness and fanservice. Not to mention lots of fantastic references to anime, manga, games, and other geeky stuff. The flow of the writing fits the story very well, having the easy-to-read light novel sort of feel while still being distinctly American in tone. I also love that, while the story obviously references lots of other stories, sometimes even parodying them, it never loses itself; Kevin and Lillian are always very distinctive characters, however improbably those characters may be. And that very improbability is a lot of what makes the story so very funny. That and the various manga/anime tropes and fourth-wall-breaking that get thrown in. A negative (for me; others might find it a positive) is that this volume is very full of fanservice, some of it kind-of explicit–which is kind of promised on the cover, so no surprises there. Just be aware of that going in. One final note is that Kirsten Moody’s accompanying artwork is fantastic, accentuating the light-novel style of the story beautifully while presenting the characters in a way that is very consistent with how they are shown in the story. On the whole, I think that for those who enjoy stories like To LOVE-Ru and Rosario  + VampireA Fox’s Love is a very amusing and enjoyable venture into this sort of story in an American, slightly parody-like flavor.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the author, which in no way alters the contents of this review.

 

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A Fox’s Tail

Author: Brandon VarnellA Fox's Tail

Illustrator: Kirsten Moody

American Kitsune, vol. 2

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Kevin Swift’s once-quiet (and relatively normal) life has been thrown into havoc by the intrusion of the kitsune yokai girl Lillian, who has made herself at home in his home and who boldly declares her affection for him at every opportunity. He’d probably be more accepting of her advances if he didn’t already have a crush on his friend Lindsay. . . . And a crippling inability to talk to girls without, oh, stammering, blushing, and passing out from embarrassment. Kevin’s starting to get used to having Lillian around though–probably just from overexposure, but whatever. In any case, he’s got enough coming to keep him busy, what with rivals for Lillian’s affection, suspicious teachers, a big track meet coming up, and a new enemy out for revenge (?). Definitely more than Kevin signed up for, not than anyone really asked him to begin with.

Reading A Fox’s Tail was an interesting experience, especially since I enjoy reading Japanese light novels quite a bit. This story is an American book in the light novel style, with numerous (overwhelmingly so) allusions to Japanese LNs, manga, anime, and games. I would almost say that it’s a parody of the style . . . or rather that on one level there’s a legitimate, enjoyable story that can be read for itself, and on another level there’s this huge, hilarious parody of all sorts of manga tropes. It’s definitely very funny, however you read it. There are distinct ties back to the classic ecchi romantic comedy genre–stories like To LOVE-Ru and Urusei Yatsura, for instance. Kevin is just the sort of guy you would expect to find in such stories (the best sort of guy to find in them)–sweet, innocent, and too kind for his own good. Just the sort of guy to get pulled around by everyone, right? And Lillian is the perfect character to throw at him–sexy, assertive, but ultimately concerned for Kevin’s well-being more than her own satisfaction (if a bit oblivious as to what Kevin actually wants). Plus there’s the added bonus that her extended presence seems to thrown the reality around her a bit (a lot) off the norm, to interesting effect. I give the author kudos for making the story genre-appropriately ecchi (warning for those who don’t like that sort of story!) while keeping it relatively free of inappropriate detail for the most part, considering that the genre is usually shounen (and thus, read by younger teens). On the negative side, there was more swearing than I prefer, more than was necessarily genre-appropriate, although that’s more of a personal preference for me. I think, because of its strong ties to otaku culture, that readers unfamiliar with that culture will largely be lost. However, for people familiar with anime and manga, I think A Fox’s Tail is likely to be seen in one of two ways: either an annoying American intrusion into the genre, or a funny, refreshing parody of the genre. Depends on the reader, but personally I enjoyed this story quite a bit.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the author, which in no way alters the contents of this review.

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Miyuki-chan in Wonderland

Mangaka: CLAMPMiyuki-chan in Wonderland

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

There are plenty of girls who would love some excitement in their lives. Miyuki-chan? Not so much. She’d be happy to be able to just go to school, work her part-time job, and hang out reading and playing video games like a normal girl. But Miyuki-chan has . . . a unique sort of problem. Adventure just seems to find her–and drag her into the midst of it, whether she wants to go or not. Whether it’s falling down the skating bunny-girl’s hole into Wonderland on the way to school or getting dragged straight into her video game to be the heroine, Miyuki-chan’s been there and done that. And probably will again. . . .

I may have mentioned before, but I love CLAMP’s manga, always. Having said that, Miyuki-chan in Wonderland is a bit different from anything else they’ve ever written. It consists of a series of short chapters (7 in all, fitting into a single manga volume), each focusing on a single, bizarre episode in Miyuki-chan’s life. I really like the character of Miyuki-chan; in a lot of ways, she’s your average high-school girl, only I’d say that she’s generally just a bit more blonde and go-with-the-flow in character than most. Overall, a nice kid though. The folks she runs in to on her adventures . . . not always so nice. And I must give the warning: this whole story is kind of yuri. I mean, there are some pretty sadistic individuals that Miyuki-chan encounters, all of them female. So, the end effect can be sort of hentai. One of the reasons I don’t like this one as much. But . . . Miyuki-chan always makes it out okay, so it’s not as creepy as it could be. And the situations she ends up in are certainly varied and imaginative–you kind of get the impression that the CLAMP members were just having fun and went with whatever they felt like writing at the time. On the plus side, there are some fun references, including references to other CLAMP works. (Oh, and I’ve mentioned this before, but check out Miyuki-chan making cameos all over the place in Tsubasa!) I guess I would mostly recommend Miyuki-chan in Wonderland to older readers who are familiar with CLAMP’s work and who enjoy something a bit off the wall (a more limited demographic than usual, I know).

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To LOVE-Ru

Author: Saki Hasemi

Illustrator: Kentaro Yabuki

Middle-school student Rito Yuuki is having love troubles–he thinks he’s in love with the adorable Haruna Sairenji, but he’s too shy and awkward to do a thing about it. The truth is, his troubles are just beginning! One evening as Rito is in the bath, feeling sorry for himself, a pretty girl rockets out of nowhere into the tub with him–a girl with a tail and not wearing anything! Turns out, this girl is Lala, princess of Deviluke, and an alien. Lala is on the run from all the “fiancés” who want to marry her because of her position, and she’s decided to declare her affection for Rito, make him her defender, and move in with him and his adorable sister Mikan. Poor Rito–even if he survives dealing with all the scary aliens who want to get to Lala through him, how will he explain the situation to Sairenji?!

I initially picked up To LOVE-Ru because it’s a fairly established and recognized series about which I was curious. Having read it, I have mixed impressions. First of all, I think comparisons with Urusei Yatsura are inevitable as both stories are essentially boy-meets-alien love stories. And there are definitely similarities, like the way poor Rito keeps getting dragged into situations because of people Lala knows or questionable alien tech she brings into the house. But the fact is that Ataru Moroboshi and Rito Yuuki are really different people, which definitely flavors the story differently. To LOVE-Ru ends up being sweet, cute, funny, episodic . . . and really ecchi/harem. It’s probably the most ecchi thing I’ve ever read. Which is honestly just weird, because Rito’s, like, the most innocent, non-ecchi person ever. He just keeps getting thrown in situations beyond his control–a fact that is underlined by the inclusion of a couple truly ecchi people who serve as foils for Rito’s noble but unfortunate self. I’m honestly kind of surprised that I stuck the story out for all 162 chapters because the ecchiness bugged me quite a bit, but I found the cuteness, humor, and relative innocence of the underlying story and the interesting range of characters sufficient to keep me interested in spite of that distaste. Having said that, I’m not sure that most people would concur; if you enjoy ecchi harem manga, To LOVE-Ru is probably a great choice for you, but otherwise, it’s probably best avoided. Your call.

Note: I think the word play in the title is fun; it’s a pun on the Japanese pronunciation of the English “love” (rabu) and “trouble” (toraburu). Fitting for all Rito-kun’s love troubles, ne?

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