Tag Archives: fantasy

Love Nikki – Dress UP Queen (Mobile Game Review)

Publisher: Elex

Platform: Android

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Nikki gets dragged from her ordinary life in fashion design school and dropped–along with her cat Momo–in a strange place called Miraland. There, the enigmatic Queen Nanari tells her that she has a destiny that is tied to the fate of Miraland. Not that that actually tells Nikki much. But what an odd place she’s landed. It seems that fashion design is a huge thing here; conflicts are even resolved through design competitions! Looks like her design skills are going to be tested as she meets new people, learns more about the land and its people, and tries to figure out what on earth Nanari was talking about. Now if only Momo could find a satisfactory supply of grilled fish, they might be in business.

I generally don’t play mobile games much–like, ever. But Love Nikki is one that I’ve actually enjoyed. It’s basically a fashion design/styling game, but it has a lot more to offer than it looks like at first glance. You’ve got a main storyline in which you encounter other characters and advance along a storyline. It’s not too complex, but it’s cute, and the fashion competitions there are pretty challenging–but there are plenty of tips to help if needed. There are also two levels, if you need a bigger challenge. There are also a number of other arenas in which players can engage with each other, whether competing directly against each other or teaming up in associations to complete tasks together. Plus, the publishers are really good about keeping fresh events to keep some variety. You also have several options for getting outfits–as rewards for completing levels, by purchasing them in the store(s), by completing special events, or by crafting them yourself. There’s a wide variety of outfit pieces to choose from (like, seriously huge), and they’re attractively created. Overall, the whole game aesthetic is really cute/pretty–kind of an anime sort of style. There’s definitely some strong Japanese influence (I think maybe it’s originally Japanese and has just been translated, actually). But yeah, the gameplay is pretty fun, and the style is cute. Plus, it’s free (okay, you can pay for extra stuff, but it’s entirely possible to play completely free, so why on earth would you pay for it?!). I would definitely recommend Love Nikki for those interested in an above-average mobile game.

Note: You can find more information on the game, including lots of helpful tips at https://lovenikki.world/.

 

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Deal Alert: Multi-Genre Fiction Humble Bundle

So, this is exactly what it sounds like. Humble Bundle is offering a book bundle from Night Shade Books featuring books from a variety of genres ranging from sci-fi to horror to fantasy to maybe even a little mystery. Included are a few “best-of” short story collections as well as a number of longer novels. I’m not personally familiar with a lot of the authors, although there is a collection of Paolo Bacigalupi short stories. They claim the featured authors include names like George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen,  and Orson Scott Card–I’m guessing in the short story collections. The full-length novels are mostly by authors I don’t recognize, but i looks like an interesting group of books.

If you’re interested, you can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/multi-genre-fiction-books.

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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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Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

Editor: Kazu Kibuishi

My rating: 3.5 of 5

The great thing–the scary thing–about boxes is that they can contain just about anything. Or nothing. You’ll never know until you open them. It could be something that will change your perspective for the better. Or it could be something that will wreak havoc with your life. Maybe it’s an opportunity for a second chance. But then, maybe it’s best left closed–after all, once you’ve imagined all the things it could be, perhaps whatever it really is might be a disappointment. You never know. . . .

As with Kibuishi’s other Explorer books, The Mystery Boxes is a collection of graphic short stories by various authors/artists focusing on a theme–in this instance, boxes. You’ve got quite the gamut of stories here from creepy (“Under the Floorboards” in which a wax doll tries to take over a little girl’s life), to corny (“Whatzit” in which a weird alien kid is pranked and returns the favor), to moving (notably “The Keeper’s Treasure” and Kibuishi’s own story, “The Escape Option”). Honestly, my opinions about these stories range widely, with some of them being lots of fun and others just being kind of “huh?” for me. Some of them, I just don’t quite get what the author was getting at, I guess. But then, there are stories like “The Keeper’s Treasure,” “Spring Cleaning” (goofy but amusing), and “The Escape Option” that I think still make Explorer: The Mystery Boxes well worth the time to read it.

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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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Deal Alert: Haikasoru Humble Bundle

For anyone who’s interested, Humble Bundle currently has a book bundle featuring quite a few volumes from Haikasoru, a division of VIZ media that focuses on Japanese sci-fi/fantasy novels. (Of note, this bundle is focused mostly on the sci-fi aspect, although there are one or two that I would venture to loosely consider fantasy.) I’m familiar with a few of these books personally, including The Book of Heroes by Miyuki Miyabe (which is fabulous and would be worth the cost of the bundle in itself). These books tend to be a bit longer and more novel-like that your typical light novel, which I enjoy because it gives a broader view of Japanese lit than you typically get with the manga/light-novel scene, although I love that, too. Other books include Mardock Scramble and Red Girls (which is by the author of Gosick!), as well as numerous others with which I am not yet familiar. Definitely worth the price, in my opinion.

You can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/haikasoru-books.

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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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