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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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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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Fading Hearts

Created by: Sakura River InteractiveFading Hearts

My rating: 4 of 5

In the years since the Y2K disaster wrecked havoc on the small country of Sorayama, Ryou has shown an incredible amount of initiative and determination, working to support himself so that he can get away from the terrible foster care conditions experience by so many orphans in the aftermath of the disaster. He’s also shown a true commitment to his two best friends, Rina and Claire. But now that they’re in high school, things are becoming more complicated for these three friends. The girls are keeping secrets from him. Ryou has never told them about the freelance programming he does to earn his living. They’ve got an awkward love triangle developing between the three of them. Ryou’s other good friend Alex has rumors floating around that are totally inconsistent with the guy Ryou knows–yet that are just about believable. Not to mention the rumors flying about of giant monsters in the nearby forest and of a truly magical girl named Mystica. It’s hard to know what to believe, sometimes; harder still to make the right choices.

Fading Hearts is a unique video game that combines elements of several different game types: visual novel, dating sim, life/work sim, and RPG, possibly a few more. The premise is that the choices you make (point and click from a list of options, usually) will alter the direction the story is going, and even the genre of the game. It’s true, although I think a lot of people see that advertised and expect huge story-altering changes with each decision–and then they get disappointed or upset when they play it again, make different choices, and end up with similar story lines for large parts of the story. The way it seems to work is more that there are a few major decision points like that, but on the whole, the story is directed by the accumulation of the small choices you make over time, so the alterations you see are more gradual. Also, there are a lot of subtle things you can choose to do (like, with your spare time) that will make surprising differences–in other words, try random stuff and see what happens! Seriously, I liked the game mechanics, and I enjoyed the story also. You’ve got friendships and romance (if you choose to pursue it), otaku culture, work and school, and some really random mahou shoujo stuff mixed in. And yes, you can end up dying in this game; I have. I liked the characters–Rina and Claire are interesting, if stereotypical in some regards, and even Ryou (whom you play as) actually has some solid character built into him. Plus, the art is an attractive anime-style design. Minor points off for a soundtrack that can get repetitive and that seems to randomly trail off into silence and equally randomly start playing again (this tended to startle me), but it wasn’t enough of an issue to make the game unenjoyable. And honestly, I figure there’s a good bit more to the game that I’ve yet to uncover, considering the list of accomplishments I still have to unlock (all of which are story-centered). I think that for those who enjoy visual novels but would like a little more interaction and control–and for those who like sims but prefer more story–Fading Hearts would be a fun choice.

Note: This game is available on Steam and directly from the Sakura River website.

 

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