4 Reasons to Read Vinland Saga Before the Anime Airs

Back in March, announcements about an upcoming Vinland Saga started popping up around the web, but it’s only in the last couple months that the reality of it has started to sink in for a lot of folks (myself included!).  For those unfamiliar with the series, Vinland Saga is mangaka Makoto Yukimura’s second major work following Planetes (also highly recommended, but slightly outside the scope of this blog), following protagonist Thorfinn as his life falls apart around his ears and gets built back up again in the latter years of the 10th Century.  Although fictionalized, Thorfinn and a significant number of other characters are real figures; his companions throughout the manga include Cnut the Great, Leif Erikson and Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, among others.  If you know nothing about Viking history, it’s a great, action packed read.  If you have an interest in Viking history — like Yukimura himself does — Vinland Saga is a must read.  It’s hands down one of the best pieces of Viking or Viking-adjacent fiction I’ve read and has grown volume by volume into one of my favorite pieces of fiction, period.

But just in case that’s not enough of a sell, here are 4 reasons you should definitely read Vinland Saga.

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July 2018 Community Game-Along: JRPG July

It’s time!  JRPG July is here!  Okay, technically I’m a little late, but the first week of July was pretty well consumed by Anime Expo.  I had a great time there but thanks to that, I haven’t played or watched much for a few weeks.  I did complete a second playthrough of Vampyr (despite saying I didn’t plan to play it a second time) and after an initial, somewhat disastrous run in Hakuouki, I did successfully smooch not only Okita but also Saitou (a particular win, since I got us both killed the first time I tried to smooch Saitou).

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Anime Expo 2018 Retrospective

Although AX continues for one more day this year, prior engagements mean Saturday is the last day of AX for me.  It’s been an eventful weekend.

I didn’t talk to all these people, but it feels like I did.

The organizers made a lot of changes this year to account for hiccups and problems they ran into last year (one of the biggest changes being badge mailing, which is a great way to help ease the burden of the pick-up lines at the convention) and overall they did a good job smoothing out a lot of the wrinkles from 2016/17.  The heat slowed things down and caused its own problems, but that’s out of everybody’s hands.  Sure, Los Angeles in July is hot, everyone expects that, but it’s impossible to know weeks and months ahead of time that a massive heat wave is going to happen during the convention weekend.  That said, despite triple digit (Fahrenheit, anyway) temperatures, the organizers did their best to keep things moving smoothly so people could get out of the heat. (I don’t envy volunteers working outside, and I’m glad AX limits volunteers to working 4 hours at a time — though considering the circumstances, I kind of hope they further shortened shifts for outdoor stations.)

I wasn’t able to make it to any of the viewings this year, which I’m a little sad about (I would have liked to see the My Hero Academia movie!), but I made up for it by speaking to so many people.

Seriously.  Soooo many people.

This accidentally turned out to be the year of meeting new people, which means I spent a lot more time walking the various halls than I did going to viewings or panels (which is kind of a shame? I did want to go to several panels that I ultimately missed because I got caught up in an equally interesting conversation. So not really a loss in the end.)

Goodnight, AX! We had a good year. Here’s to the next!

The artist’s alley was top notch this year; AX usually has a wide range of excellent artists, but this year I felt very much spoiled for choice.  There were the usual prints, t-shirts, charms and so on, but I’m delighted to see that there are other goods on display as well.  Plushes and amigurumi seem to be more popular than ever and not only that, there were multiple people this year selling handmade soap as well. (My personal favorite is Nosy Dog Soaps, run by @breadborks, though I will admit to being biased, as she and I make soap together from time to time.  If you buy from her, tell her I sent you!  You won’t get a discount, but you’ll make both of our days.)

The exhibition hall was similarly great, as usual.  The larger booths were as crowded as expected, but that made it easier for me to tuck in close to some of the smaller, more niche booths, and get a chance to chat with the people involved.  At an event like AX, it’s normal to find people with similar interests, but it’s still a delight to see their eyes light up when you say “Oh, I love that thing, too!”

That’s the real joy of conventions for me, honestly.  While I definitely go to see what’s new and find out what titles I can look forward to in the upcoming year (and to buy stuff, I won’t lie, more on that over on Instagram), the real pull for me is talking to people and watching them sparkle at the chance to talk about the things they love.  And with the anime/manga industry being a multi-billion dollar enterprise, there is something for everybody to love.

Extra thanks this year to the staff at MangaGamer, Axsys Games, Volks, and Yen Press for taking time to chat with me. I had a fantastic time talking with the people I met at those booths. And now that I’m home from the convention, I’m enjoying going through the AX2018 hashtags on Twitter and Instagram — I may not be attending tomorrow, but I can live vicariously through everyone else’s pictures!

Manga review: Requiem of the Rose King

Although perhaps better known for her romantic comedy series Otomen, Aya Kanno’s skill with a pen really shines in Requiem of the Rose King.  It’s an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III and Henry VI that Shakespeare himself would be delighted by, full of drama, juicy secrets  and a touch of tasteful gore to please the shouting masses.  This isn’t a series to come to for dead on historical accuracy (there’s no evidence Richard III had a pet albino boar, for one thing, despite one being on his banner), it is a series to come to for rich Shakespearean tragedy; the kind that leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth and keeps you coming back for more despite knowing none of this is going to end well for anybody involved.

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5 Must Read Manga for the Historical Romance Fan

Once upon a time, historical romance fans were mostly limited to theoretically medieval or nominally Victorian romance series.  While those can be (and are!) a lot of fun, sometimes you want something a little meatier to dig into; sometimes you want to read something where the research shines as brightly as the heroine’s eyes when she realizes at last that she’s in love with the hero.  If you’re like me and have countless reference tabs for the little details open, here are 5 manga series you won’t want to miss.

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Girls Don’t Want Boys, Girls Want Swords (That Are Also Boys)

You’ve heard of Touken Ranbu, right?

The franchise made it’s “mainstream” Western splash with the release of Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru and a second splash later with Katsugeki, but it’s been huge in Japan for three years, starting first as a mobile game, then going on to spawn manga anthologies, multiple stage plays and musicals performed in multiple countries on multiple continents, and then two anime series.  (Filming for a live action movie recently wrapped up and a Katsugeki movie is rumored to also be in the works, in case there was any doubt as to what an absolute behemoth the franchise is.)

This isn’t the first time a franchise like this has grown so massive, but considering Touken Ranbu was ranked #4 at the end of last year’s media ranking charts as compared to Fate’s #13 and Pokemon’s #27, it’s definitely worth paying attention to.

So what is it exactly that’s drawn so many people (mostly, but not entirely women) to the series?

To be blunt: it’s not the gameplay.

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Vampyr Review: Two Games at the Cost of One

When it comes to vampires, I’m an easy mark.

Tell me something has vampires in it, and I’ll consume it.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to have actual vampires, just give me something vampire adjacent like sharp teeth or aesthetic blood spatters and I’m game.

So it’s easy to understand why seeing Vampyr on the shelves at my local game store caught my attention.  This is, theoretically, my perfect game.  Vampires. (Check.)  Atmospheric, moody soundtrack.  (Check.)  Character interactions where my actions have a tangible effect on my character and other characters. (Double check.)  Vampire is the game my 15 year old inner self has been desperate for since I started playing video games.  Or so the theory goes.

In the end, though, Vampyr is two (nominally three) good games smashed together into one merely okay one.

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Spring 2018 Anime Roundup: the Good, the Meh and the Bad

Spring is almost over and summer is almost here, so it seemed like the right time to go digging through my viewing histories and see how much media I’ve consumed over the last four months.  This might have been a mistake, partly because I watched more than I thought I did; some of it I don’t remember watching and I’m not sure if I should attribute it to abandoning the shows I don’t remember or the frankly unhealthy amount of coffee I’ve consumed recently.

Serious question: how did this guy end up being my favorite character in the end?

The first half of spring, like the latter half of winter, was mostly taken up with an ill-advised rewatch of all of Naruto: Shippuden (“all” isn’t accurate, I skipped a lot of filler.).  Ill-advised because nobody should watch 500 episodes of the same series in a row.  It will burn out your brain.  The second half of the season I tried several new(-to-me) series and re-watched a handful of old favorites (other than Naruto).

I’m still of two minds about the dramatic increase in shows being licensed, though. More titles is great, but I feel like I have to wade through an ever increasing amount of dross to get to them.  That said, I’m really pleased with some of the shows I’ve watched this season, and I’m glad that I can add a few new ones to my slowly growing list of favorites.

So: Let’s get into it.

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Don’t Read This Post if You’re Hungry: Incredible Inedibles

Source: Wikipedia

Japan’s fake food industry is pretty well known even outside Japan these days.  Nearly any travel guide (or vlog) will point out the massive array of plastic displays in restaurant windows.  From fast food to gourmet, as long as you know how to point, you can feed yourself with relative ease in most places.  These displays are useful works of art, and command a pretty hefty price tag to match (check out the catalog at FakeFoodJapan and feel your wallet flinch).  This isn’t your mama’s Fisher Price kitchen, that’s for sure.

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