Tag Archives: fantasy

Mononoke Sharing (Manga)

Mangaka: coolkyosinnjya

Status: Ongoing (currently 3 volumes)

My rating: 2.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience. This is at least a hard T+ with lots of fanservice. Fair warning.

Yata is an average student going to school on scholarship and desperately in need of a cheap place to stay. She finds one, but her five roommates are, well, different. As in, not human. But hey, the rent’s cheap. She’ll make it work, right?

I have so many mixed feelings about Mononoke Sharing. By the same author as Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, this story shares the messy-cute art style and the light-hearted slice-of-life comedy with a supernatural element of that manga. But Mononoke Sharing is a lot less serious–not so much the drama and deep backstories and such, more goofy slapstick and waaaay more sexual content and ecchiness and flat-out fanservice. The fanservice aspect is one reason that I didn’t like this so much; it’s just too much. Plus, I’m not so much into that sort of humor. This story has been described as “oddball,” “over-the-top,” and “raunchy,” and yeah, all of those descriptors fit. But at the same time, I love the concept–a human dumped in a house full of yokai, or mononoke as they’re called here, and just doing life with them. As with Miss Kobayashi, the whole otherworldly-beings-interacting-with-normal-life aspect is intriguing and amusing. And the relationships that are developed between these roommates can be quite sweet at times. I also really loved that, while this story included some more commonly seen beings such as a devil and a kitsune, it also included less common ones such as a kappa, a yuki-onna, and even a stretchy-necked rokurokubi. They’re interesting characters, even if some aspects of their character design are so physics-defying as to be frankly annoying and very weird. So yeah, mixed feelings. . . .

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Solstice (Visual Novel)

Created by MoaCube

My rating: 4.5 of 5

In the far north, a city rests nestled safe in the perilous snow under a magically-created dome. It’s lauded as the Jewel of the North. But as the brash young doctor, Galen, and the mysterious young woman, Yani arrive on the last caravan to the city before the roads shut down for the winter, they find that all is not as it seems. For this is a city that keeps secrets, and those secrets may just spell the end of both the city and the lives of all its residents if Yani and Galen can’t get to the bottom of things before the winter solstice.

By the same creators as the visual novel Cinders, Solstice brings us a similar sort of visual novel. You’ve got a choose-your-own adventure sort of layout, with multiple story paths depending on the choices you make–definitely some replay value there. I haven’t managed to get all the endings myself, yet. The story is described as a “dystopian mystery thriller,” which is surprisingly accurate. You’re trying to uncover the dark secrets of the city and save it, while everyone is trying to keep secrets from you, with a limited amount of time before disaster strikes and everyone dies. It’s actually a quite well-written and interesting story, although definitely kind of dark. The characters are solid, varied, and interesting, including Galen and Yani–both of whom you get to play as at various points. I will caution that the themes and content of this game are a bit more mature, probably in the region of a T+, including murder, language, and some sexual content. As for the gameplay itself, it’s text-based–visual novel, so duh–with the written story overlaying illustration, and text-box choices that you click. The illustrations are quite detailed and attractive; a similar semi-realistic style to that used in Cinders, including small animations to make characters fidget and gesture and such. The music is also quite nice and suits the story well without being intrusive or excessively repetitive. Solstice is a visual novel that I would recommend and will likely replay at some point.

Note: I played this on Steam, and it can be found here. You can also find out more at the official MoaCube website here.

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Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Kanna’s Daily Life (Manga)

Mangaka: Mitsuhiro Kimura

Spinoff of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid by coolkyosinnjya

Status: Ongoing (currently 3 volumes)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Kanna originally left her homeworld for the human world to follow after Tohru, her dragon senpai. Finding Tohru happily settled in with the human Kobayashi-san, working as her maid, Kanna moved in with them–the more the merrier, right? Now Kanna is living disguised as an (adorable) human elementary-school student, going to school, making friends (especially Saikawa, who has a huuuuuge crush on her), dealing with bullies, and generally experiencing human life . . . all without revealing her true identity as a dragon herself.

This adorable, fluffy manga is exactly what it sounds like: a spinoff of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, focusing on the daily activities of the little dragon girl, Kanna. While knowledge of the original manga is not required to enjoy this spinoff, it is referenced, and characters relationships and such will be easier to understand with at least a bit of prior knowledge of the original story. But this story really does hone in on Kanna specifically. There are a lot of chapters about her friendship with Saikawa (and yes, those have an innocent but distinctly present shoujo-ai flair, much like the interactions between Tomoyo and Sakura in Cardcaptor Sakura), which are really cute and sweet. There are also several family-centric chapters, with Tohru, Kobayashi, and Kanna just enjoying life together. And for those who love the extended cast, yes there are chapters including Fafnir, Ilulu, Shouta, and the lot. The actual stories are very cute slice-of-life episodes, each one focusing on a specific topic, much like in the original manga. An interesting distinction here, however, is that each chapter is divided into single-page 4-koma comics; a nice change-up, especially if you enjoy the 4-koma style (I do, personally). As for the art, it’s similar enough to coolkyosinnjya’s in the character designs and such that it’s hard to tell a difference, although the art here may be just a smidge neater–again, it’s all really cutesy. Recommended for fans of the original manga (although do be aware that it’s by a different author) and for those who just enjoy cute, slice-of-life manga.

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Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Manga)

Mangaka: coolkyosinnjya

Status: Ongoing (currently 6 volumes)

My rating: 3 of 5

Warning: Although this is technically rated T (actually, I think the first volume may even be rated A) there’s definitely some ecchiness and partial nudity, so . . . fair warning

Kobayashi-san lived a fairly quiet, normal life as an average office worker and closet otaku. . . . That is, until one night in a moment of drunken unthinking, she invited a dragon to live with her. That’s right, a dragon–wings, scales, the works. The next morning, she finds a cute girl wearing a maid outfit and sporting horns and a tail staying in her home. Weird, but hey, Tohru certainly keeps life interesting, and her undying devotion and eagerness to help is kind of appealing. With Tohru’s presence, Kobayashi’s normal life has disappeared, but can she really find it in herself to truly regret it?

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is one of those cute, episodic seinen stories that just sort of meanders through life in its own charming way. Honestly, there are elements of it that kind of remind me of Yotsuba&!, even down to the way a lot of the chapters follow the formulaic “Tohru and this or that ordinary thing that she’s just now interacting with.” Because Tohru isn’t accustomed to the human world, you get some unique, quirky perspectives on things that seem everyday to us. There’s a lot of relationship building and re-evaluation going on throughout this story as well, so it’s kind of more of a dramedy of sorts, because the humorous element is definitely present throughout. I guess there are elements that could almost be shoujo-ai flavored, but it’s in a way that could be totally platonic as well, so take your pick there. Again, fair warning that there are parts that are a bit more ecchi; that just seems to be the mangaka’s default, although it’s not quite as much here as in, say, Mononoke Sharing. The art itself is cute and fits the story, again in a way that seems pretty typical of the mangaka’s usual slightly sloppy/loose sort of style. Recommended for those who like cute seinen slice-of-life stories but who are open to a bit more of a fantasy flair.

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The Demon Prince of Momochi House (Manga)

Mangaka: Aya Shouto

Status: Ongoing (currently 12 volumes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

When she turns sixteen, orphan Himari Momochi mysteriously receives a will stating she’s inherited her family’s ancestral home, Momochi House. Not that she thinks to question it much; it’s a true windfall, and she cheerily packs her bags and sets off into the mountains to move in. Only, once she arrives, she finds this mysterious boy Aoi is already living there, claiming to be the house’s guardian, along with a variety of yokai. Because apparently the house is on the border between the human world and the otherworld, a gateway of sorts. Not one to be so easily discouraged, Himari determinedly declares she’s the house’s landlady and tries to get the squatters to leave . . . only to be confronted with the fact that Aoi literally cannot leave the premises since he’s been chosen as the house’s guardian. Well, Himari’s not about to leave either, even if it does mean she has to share her home and deal with whatever weirdness comes through from the otherworld. And believe me, the weirdness is just beginning.

Personally, I find The Demon Prince of Momochi House well worth reading for the gorgeousness of its art alone, especially the color spreads at the beginning of each volume. Absolutely stunning. As for the story itself, well, I’m almost tempted to think of it as xxxHOLiC lite. You’ve got all these encounters with traditional Japanese yokai and suchlike, as well as other traditional folklore, all set in this mysterious house on the border between worlds. Yeah, sound familiar? But instead of this dark josei sort of flavor, you’ve got something much more traditionally shoujo. Bishounen galore–and it’s only Himari’s fixation with Aoi that keeps this from becoming some kind of reverse-harem situation–for one. A tendency for shoujo tropes, gentle romance, and a generally lighter tone in spite of going to some dark places at times. Oh, and Himari is a pretty classic shoujo heroine–innocent, romantic, stubborn, slightly blonde, and a total do-gooder. But she’s pretty likeable for all that. And Aoi’s mysterious dark past (and sometimes present) kind of counterbalances her air-headed sweetness. Shouto-sensei actually does quite a good job at making the characters more nuanced than you’d expect, especially through their facial expressions. I really love Aoi’s variety of expression in particular; well, I love his character in general, so there’s that too. Currently there’s a lot of uncertainty still as far as where the story will go, but it’s shoujo enough that I’m hoping for a sweet, satisfying end. I’m certainly curious where the story will go from here.

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The Storyteller and the Thief (Voltron: Legendary Defender Fanfic)

Author: Laura of Maychoria/Maychorian

FanFiction ID: 12404441/AO3 ID: 10239332

The Cycle of the Five Lions, vol. 1

Status: Complete (7 chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Rated T/Dungeons & Dragons-based AU

In her quest to find her missing father and brother, Pidge has gone through a lot–giving up her career to become a rogue, leaving home, going by a fake name since she’s wanted under her own. But through it all, she’s taken comfort in the presence of the green fairy lion, Holly, who has been by her side, unseen by others. Or at least, unseen until one day when an annoying (to Pidge), flamboyant bard named Lance–also accompanied by a fairy lion, a blue one, that no one else can see–reveals that he can indeed see hers. He then proceeds to drag her to the inn where he’s staying with two elf friends, Coran and Allura, only to be told that they, and their lions, are part of something big–something that just may save the world from a threat so old and so awful that Lance and Pidge had always thought was only a fairy tale.

It’s an established fact that Maychorian is an amazing writer. But it’s only just recently that I’ve gotten into her VLD fanfics, and I’ve got to say that her work in them really shines. She’s got a good feel for what the fandom generally tends to enjoy, her style suits the series well, and her understanding of the characters is phenomenal. But even in light of that, with The Storyteller and the Thief,  I feel like she does something really special. Here we get almost a retelling of the Voltron story, but set in a D&D-based universe. So, for instance, Coran and Allura get their tragic backstory of losing their whole nation of Altea and being in stasis for years and years, only they’re elves and the stasis is effected by a spell. Pidge is still looking for her father and brother, but they were lost in a mission to the Dragon Waste as opposed to on Kerberos. Lance still deals with homesickness and livens everyone around with his words, but his family are sailing merchants and he’s a bard. And of course, the lions are fairy-like creatures of mysterious origin as opposed to giant magic robots. In an interesting meta sort of way, we get some D&D mechanics coming into the story as well, like named spells, classes of adventurers, and limits on arcane energy per day. In essence, the idea behind this story is one that sounds pretty weird at first, and yet in execution, it’s basically brilliant. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of this story cycle!

Note: You can find The Storyteller and the Thief on FFnet at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12404441/1/The-Storyteller-and-the-Thief-The-Cycle-of-Five-Lions-1 or on AO3 at https://archiveofourown.org/works/10239332/chapters/22716101. You can also find some awesome art created for this series by karovie at https://archiveofourown.org/works/10239131/chapters/22715762.

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The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (Graphic Novel)

Story by  Clint McElroy,  Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, & Travis McElroy

Illustrated by Carey Pietsch

The Adventure Zone, vol. 1

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience, mostly for language

Join brave adventurers, Magnus, Merle, and Taako on their quest to fight goblins, find lost family members, and hopefully survive level one. Observe their sheer skill in BS-ing their way past obstacles–and their attempts to avoid them when possible, except where there’s treasure or items involved. Marvel as their Dungeon Master steps in to clarify the rules. In short, dive headlong into an engaging game of Dungeons & Dragons as an uninvolved observer.

First off, I have to confess that I have never listened to the podcast that this graphic novel is based on (also titled The Adventure Zone). So I’m just coming at this as a D&D player and a casual reader. With that in mind, this graphic novel is basically brilliant. It does a great job of showing you the story that the DM and the players are weaving, but never really lets you forget that this is, in fact, a roleplaying game that’s going on here. As such, there’s some meta kind of stuff that will be amusing to players but that won’t mean much to those who haven’t played D&D at least a little. Not that it wouldn’t be fun for them; there’s just stuff that will be missed. For gamers, I think this will truly strike a chord because it clearly shows oh-so-many of the struggles and quirks one tends to run into while playing and presents them in a humorous way. And yes, this graphic novel is definitely funny in a quirky, snarky kind of way. I liked the art as well; it suits the story nicely and does a great job of presenting graphically what was originally released as audio only on the podcast. Fair warning that there is a good bit of adult language here, as well as some significant violence (like, whole town destroyed violence) which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but just putting that out there  in case you either don’t game or come from an atypical group that’s always sedate and polite. Not my general experience, gotta say. In any case, Here There Be Gerblins is definitely a GN I would recommend to fellow D&D players, as well as possibly to those interested in/curious about the game. I’m certainly looking forward to the next volume.

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