Tag Archives: parody

Oh! My Useless Goddess! (Light Novel)

Author: Natsume Akatsuki/Translator: Kevin Steinbach

Illustrator: Kurone Mishima

Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World, vol. 1

My rating: 4 of 5

When Kazuma Sato’s sad, shut-in life in modern-day Japan ends abruptly–the one time he actually goes out!–he finds himself presented with a most unusual offer. Proceed to the afterlife or life out the rest of his life in a fantasy-like world with the intention of defeating the Demon King who is plaguing the people of that world. Bonus: he gets to request any one special item to bring along. But rather than choosing a normal item, Kazuma picks Aqua, the goddess who is offering him this choice–surely a goddess has some pretty handy stuff when dealing with monsters and such, right? But rather than the glamorous life of fighting monsters with beautiful girls at his side, Kazuma finds himself working odd jobs in the lowest level starter town, fighting animated cabbages, and looking after three relatively useless (although admittedly pretty) girls. Not exactly what he had in mind.

Oh! My Useless Goddess! was an amusing and funny light novel that I quite enjoyed. It falls into the somewhat ecchi shounen genre, but it kind of parodies a lot of the stuff you typically see in that genre. Instead of a protagonist with a lot of drive who keeps getting better, you get a protagonist who’s lazy and average (but manages to be an engaging character in spite of that, surprisingly, perhaps because he’s relatable). Instead of big, glamorous fights, you get slimy frogs, cabbages . . . and the occasional flashy “Explosion” from Megumin. Instead of your typical shounen “harem,” you get a quirky, weird set of girls who are basically hopeless despite having the best possible qualifications and being from impressive classes–okay, maybe that’s not too different from the typical stories in this genre, but still. Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness do have distinctive (read almost stereotypical) traits, but they manage to be interesting characters in spite of that. The plot is funny, largely due to the character interactions and the impossibility of Kazuma’s task in this new world. Plus it was interesting that, while the basic plot device of having a modern-day teen dumped in a fantasy/video game world, this story used a novel method for getting him there. A couple of things I found interesting on a side note: 1) The author mentions that this originally started as a webnovel, which I thought was pretty neat. It’s cool to see web-based stories get picked up by publishers and turned into physical novels. 2) The chapters in this light novel are weird. Meaning that there are only 4 official chapter divisions in the entire book; however, each chapter is divided multiple times into smaller chapter segments. So it works out as though there were several chapters, it just doesn’t look like it at the start. Weird. Well, this light novel is weird in general, but in a fun sort of way. Recommended for those who enjoy the genre in general, mostly.

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The Cabin in the Woods (2012 Movie)

Mutant Enemy Productions

My rating: 3.5 of 5

WARNING: Rated R for basically everything. Consider yourself warned.

Five college kids get together for a weekend trip away at a cabin in the middle of nowhere. It’s supposed to be a time to indulge in scary stories, exploration, drugs, and each other without the judgement and pressures of the world. But the rush of freedom quickly changes to horror as they find themselves attacked by zombies coming out of the woods, picking off the kids one by one. What the kids don’t realize at first is that this is all part of something bigger, that there’s someone behind the scenes manipulating them and orchestrating this little calamity. And when the survivors decide to take the horror back to the source, things begin going spectacularly wrong on the end of the manipulators. . . . Will the world even survive the aftermath?

Anyone familiar with Joss Whedon’s works, particularly Buffy and Angel will find a certain amount of familiarity in The Cabin in the Woods, although this movie is quite possibly darker and certainly more graphic than those shows. There’s a feeling about it that carries over though; it’s certainly Whedon’s story. The story both is a horror story–with all the blood and campiness and creeping dread that such a story entails–and also is a satire of the contemporary horror movie, pointing out the ways that such stories have gone wrong. And I kind of both love and hate it. I’m not big on the genre in general–honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that Whedon wrote it and Fran Kranz (love his character!) and Amy Acker were in it, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Because the violence in that sort of show really feels almost pornographic to me, even in instances where there isn’t a lot of sexual content. But in this instance, that’s actually one of the things that’s dealt with satirically, so . . . yeah. I really did like the group of kids they chose; they had a good dynamic, and yeah, Fran Kranz (as a stoner idiot who may actually be the smartest of the group). The way the manipulators behind the scenes was developed was unexpected, but it definitely added a lot of interest and, while super creepy, I enjoyed that aspect of the story. The ending (no spoilers, promise) surprised me a lot, although I found it fitting. And the production of the movie itself was quite well done, with some interesting camera angles, lots of atmosphere, and tons of creepy monsters. I would definitely not recommend The Cabin in the Woods for everyone, but for those who enjoy Whedon’s work or the horror movie genre, it might be interesting to try.

Written by Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard/Directed by Drew Goddard/Produced by Joss Whedon/Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, & Amy Acker/Music by David Julyan

 

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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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CLAMP School Defenders Duklyon

Mangaka: CLAMPCLAMP School Defenders Duklyon

My rating: 4.5 of 5

As you should know, CLAMP school is an incredible place that fosters learning and fun for students of all ages from kindergarten through graduate school. But there are forces out there that would prevent the smooth operation of the campus. And that’s where Duklyon comes in. Under the leadership of their mysterious “General” and with the heavy-handed assistance of the lovely Eri, Kentarou Higashikunimaru and Takeshi Shukaido defend the school and its students from evil of all sorts. Which mostly means beating up whatever absurd creature the Imonoyama Shopping District Association decides to throw at them this time before Eri beats them up for being too slow. Fight on!

Taken as a serious sentai manga, Duklyon would be pretty much awful. But I can’t imagine actually reading a sentai manga to begin with, and this is so much better! Because Duklyon is essentially this huge parody of sentai stories. The Kentarou and Takeshi are cute and interesting characters–the dynamic between them is very amusing!–although they are also somewhat useless, as becomes more and more apparent as the story progresses. Then there’s Eri, ever ready with the big comedy hammer to pound them . . . well, except for when Sukibayashi-kun is around. Then she’s too busy acting the blushing maiden to be any good to anyone. Never mind that Sukibayashi is very obviously the villain. It’s a miracle any of them keep their identities the secret they’re supposed to be! Maybe it’s a tribute to the obtuseness of the people around them. . . . It’s fun having the CLAMP school detectives in on the fun too. For one thing, the General is oh-so-obviously Nokoru (wearing sunglasses, which totally disguises his identity). Even better (probably my favorite episode of the entire story) is when Duklyon faces off against the Man of Many Faces–the one time they are soundly defeated. I do love Akira-kun; so cute! So basically, the entire Duklyon manga is this big comedic parody, but it actually is very funny and cute–hey, it’s CLAMP. Recommended particularly for CLAMP fans and notable for being appropriate for younger audiences than most of their manga, probably fine for elementary readers and older.

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