Tag Archives: Fantasy

Fantasy Novel Review – The Riyria Revelations

Today, I will be writing about my thoughts on a fantasy fiction trilogy that I just finished, The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan. So yeah, this is going to be another English fantasy novel review, instead of an anime/manga one. I will probably get back to those soon. Cross my fingers on it.

Goodreads Link

riyria2btrilogy

THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY.

There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.

Before I dig into the books, I want to say something about the current, “grimdark” trend of English fantasy novels, spearheaded by George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Suffice to say, I am not a big fan of the current trend. Before you guys label me as blasphemous for not being a fan of novels like A Song of Ice and Fire, let me explain myself. Yes, I don’t like books that just spew out cliched concept good defeat evil, hero wins the day and get the girl stuff anymore than you do. Certainly, a lot of books haven’t that much imagination and it seems that they are just using a template to write. However, that doesn’t mean we have to swing to the other extreme direction and have heroes always be the fodder, always suffer, and characters that readers like never getting any sort of good ending. I don’t know about you guys, but I am reading these mainly for escapism purposes (If you are looking for a great tragedy, try books like The Crucible, Antigone, 1984, etc. I read them in my high school English class). It’s a good thing that this series, The Riyria Revelations, is neither so fairy-taled nor such a grimdark-wannabe that likable characters always experience hell.

One thing that I have to admit is that The Riyria Revelations series does contain a lot of setting that is considered cliched in the fantasy genre. Nevertheless, that does not mean the series handles its setting in a cliched way. For an epic fantasy novel, tropes like elves, a powerful church authority, the lost heir, banned magic, a mysterious distant history are mixed together and combined in a new way that made the story seems fresh, so that the series feel familiar and new at the same time. Of course, there is also a good, continuous story, a good character cast, and nice pacing.

The biggest treat offered by this series is exactly its plot-twist factor. There are so many plot twists that you never know what to expect next. Every time you discover something new, you are faced with even more mysteries and unknowns. This series ground its plot twist on well thought-out foundations in that usually there are numerous seemingly unimportant details to foreshadow any mysteries unveiled later. There are six chronological and very-much related episodes working together to tell a cohesive story. Unlike most books that loses its momentum as it veers toward its conclusion, this series culminate into an ultimate plot-twist toward its ending.

da908be026a41871fb7669943d9aa8b6

Of course, it is not without its flaws. The series start off slow in its first book, and make it seem that the story might be told in an episodic fashion.  Although it starts off with mainly just the perspective of the main character duo thieves and the princess, as the story progresses more and more POV are introduced. Like many other books, sometimes reader do not care for the other POV as much as the protagonists’ because there is hardly time to feel attached to the new narrators. Luckily, the three main characters’s perspectives always take the spotlight and the majority of the story-telling. The other perspectives serve to giving additional information to the main story line, rather than telling a story of its own.

Finally, the characters cast is great. The cast is humorous, round, varied, quirky, and all of them are flawed in different ways. Yet despite their flaws they try to overcome them, and to become better persons. I am not going to lie and say there is no character death, but trust me in that it is a relatively happy ending. Oh, did I mention that there is several adorable romance sub-plot as well.

Overall, The Riyria Revelations takes numerous tropes from the epic fantasy genre and melted them into a new, fresh story, supported by a good pacing, interesting characters, and one whole story told by a trilogy. Of course, the greatest strength is its ability to drive home the surprise factor produced by its well-foreshadowed plot twists that slowly reveal the truth of the present and what happened in the distant past, hence its name Revelations. I would give the whole series a score of eight out of ten (8/10), which is a pretty good score from me.


Fate/Zero

Today, I present Fate/Zero from the highly acclaimed studio ufotable, produced during 2011-12. Fate/Zero is the prequel of Fate/Stay Night.

noFla

Fate/Zero takes place 10 years prior to the events of Fate/stay night, detailing the events of the 4th Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City. The War of the Holy Grail is a contest in which seven magi summon seven Heroic Spirits to compete in a deadly game with the aim of obtaining the power of the “Holy Grail,” which grants a miracle. After three inconclusive wars for the elusive Holy Grail, the Fourth War commences.[Wikipedia]

Fate/Zero, alongside with Sword Art Online, is among the most hyped anime to watch during 2012. There are a lot of things to like about f/z, since it is notably different from the trend of anime today consisting of teenagers saving the world or managing their harems. Instead, fate/zero offers a cast of older men, most of whom are willing to abandon their morals in order to achieve victory in this deadly tournament. Each person wants to win for a different reason. Even though all of the motives are arguably well-intended, but good fortune rarely accompany good will in fate/zero.

The most enjoyable part about watching fate/zero for me is seeing the clash of ideals among participants of the holy grail war. By participants, I meant both the magi and the servants. The 14 characters experienced different things in life, due to the particularities of their era and social surroundings. Ufotable has done a great job in giving a big part of story-telling to dialogues between characters. These exchanges are intelligent, philosophical, and allow us to peek into the characters’ past, without becoming overly pretentious and hard to follow.

fatezero2

In terms of production quality, Fate/Zero is top notch. Ironically (or not so), LiSA, Aoi Eir, Luna Haruna also performed in OP ED music for Fate/zero, same as Sword Art Online. However, the addition of Kalafina makes f/z slightly superior than SAO in terms of music.The animation … well, let’s just say that ufotable is amazing in this aspect.

However, fate/zero is not without flaws. This occurs in two levels, in terms of enjoyment and story. Allow me to explain a bit more. Storywise, f/z is amazing up to the ending. While the whole thing did not fall apart, the ending did not lived up to the epicness shown throughout the story. I suppose this is inevitable, since the story has to end in a particular way as the prequel to Fate/Stay Night. As for entertainment, for most people, f/z may present a world that is too dark for people to handle. As soon as you become attached to a character, bad things happen to him/her.

All in all, Fate/Zero deserve its hype during 2012, and presents a complex retelling of the 4th holy grail war. I award fate/zero with a 9.3/10.

RECOMMENDATION

For all viewers looking for a mature story.

For people unsure of whether to watch this, try the first episode and then decide.

For ultimate recommendation try Kara no Kyoukai movie series also produced by ufotable. Also, don’t miss Fate/Stay Night 2014 remake by ufotable that will be aired soon!

 

 


Ookami to Koushinryou (Spice and Wolf)

Today I will be reviewing the first season of Spice & Wolf, a highly popular and well-received romance-fantasy-adventure anime that was aired back in 2008.

spice and wolf cover

The peddler Kraft Lawrence travels through the world selling all kinds of things. After visiting a village, he discovers a sleeping girl under the pelts in his cart. She has wolf ears and a tail. The wolf girl explains that she has been called a “god”, but now her name is Holo and nothing more. Lawrence teases the girl a little, but after hearing more of her story, he decides to accompany her further north. On their travels the pair of companions have many adventures, often getting into trouble, and the bond between them grows stronger. (MyAnimeList)

Do not be deceived by the cover. S&W is not another generic ecchi fox girl anime. It is an unique and intelligent show that focuses on the interaction between our leads, Holo and Lawrence, and revolves around the subject of economics.

The story can be best described as slow-paced, nonetheless very well-written and well-timed. Audiences are treated to myriad of dialogues revolving around bartering goods, negotiating contracts, exchanging favors, etc. Being an Economics major in college myself, I recognize a lot of valid cases that are smarted adapted into this medieval, church-dominated scenario. As I warned earlier, however, while this is nicely done, this drags down the pacing of the story. Fortunately, a few more dramatic incidents do happen during the couple climaxes of the show, and characters are placed in mortal danger, giving main characters a chance to experience life-and-death situation together and surviving only with their wits.

If you haven’t realized at this point, you must know that the strongest aspect of this anime is characters. For someone as mystical as a “wolf god”, Holo is a very realistic individual who shows a wide spectrum of emotions, the same with Lawrence, the male lead. Both main characters are very mature in that they behave and act like adults. The development of relationship between the two characters are amazing. Through their daily interactions, they flirt, exchange witty words, act as partners, and comfort each other if the other gets hurt.

horo 1

The sound and animation are just as subtle as the show, in a good way. The opening, Tabi no Tochuu, is something that I would put on my top OP countdown. Although I didn’t like the ending at first, it actually fits nicely into the story as I hear it more. The soundtracks consist of mainly classical string pieces, though the kinds that are fast-paced and not so melodic. However, there are points where I feel that there is a lack of background music. The animation is just what you would expect of an peaceful adventure anime. What must be mentioned here is the subtle expressions of the characters, for they are extremely well-done. This aspect further illustrated the MC’s maturity in the tiny details of their actions. If you have to pick some bones, the backgrounds could be more detailed at times and the characters look sometimes distorted from a distance. These are only small problems though.

.

So far, I’ve listed nothing but good points of this show. However, at least to me, there is a major flaw in this show: the lack of plot twists. For me, the only thing that can make up for a lack of plot twist is witty dialogues exchanged between charming characters. While the dialogues should be praised for their realism in S&W, they are far from being witty. Then, the lack of plot twist where climaxes don’t happen (half of the show) can sometimes be boring, especially if you gradually get tired of watching them scheming their next way of making a profit. I was only pumped up again when I entered the next climax in the story. Of course, for other people, this may not be a problem at all.

Overall, Spice & Wolf is an intelligent show that tells a wonderful tale of a pair of merchant travelers in the medieval era. It features some nicely done script on how merchants cleverly make profits and also the blossoming romantic relationship between our MCs. I award this Spice & Wolf with an rating of 8.1/10.

RECOMMENDATION

Recommended if you are into business (economics, marketing, finance, etc), or if you want to watch a good (non school setting) romance show.

Not recommended if you can’t survive an anime without action and/or fan-service.

For ultimate recommendation watch Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, also a anime series heavily focused on economics and romance between leads.


No. 1: Rave Master

By Hiro Mashima

Rave Master 1

Genres: Adventure, Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Shounen, (Romance), (Mystery)

Status: Completed!

The Continent of Song is in chaos. The sinister secret society known as Demon Card is using the power of Dark Bring to destroy everything in their path. The only things capable of stopping Dark Bring are the Rave stones. Unfortunately, the Rave Stones were scattered around the globe in an explosion 50 years ago, so now they must be collected by the Rave Master in order to stop Dark Bring once and for all. This new task has been given to Haru Glory; a sixteen-year-old boy from Garage Island. The World’s fate now rests on the new, young Rave Master. (Source: Tokyopop)

Thus begins the epic adventure of our favorite rave master, Haru Glory!

So, what factors compel me to pick this one above all other Action Shounen manga (ie. Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Psyren, Fairy Tail, Black Cat, Soul Eater)? Indeed, after thousands upon thousands pages of manga experience, the best I can do is to pick a Shounen manga? Allow me to enlighten you.

Exemplary Shounen-ness

First of all, Rave Master is Shounen. There is no dispute about it. It is also a good Shounen, and that means that every once in a while, readers starts to feel blood rushing into their heads. Or, as I would like to put it, it is epic. In this regard, it is on par with Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, etc. As we will soon see, though, Shounen is definitely not the only strength it possesses.

Amalgam of Genres

Another noteworthy trait about Rave Master is that expands its territories to encompass more elements than what a standard Shounen would include. Of course, all topnotch (popular) Shounen has shown this characteristic to some extent, but rave master has done this especially well. Other than action, fantasy, and comedy, RM puts a heavy emphasis on adventure (much like One Piece), drama, and even romance. Granted, the romance aspect is nowhere as explored as it is in romance-oriented manga. It is still a respectable amount of other elements added to this epic Shounen saga without ruining the Shounen aspect of it.

Moreover, while RM has more in variety, it cuts down on fan-service. This is a fantastic news to most of the readers who are tired of freakishly common occurrence of boobs on manga pages, but maybe bad news for those of you who find an excessive fan-service enjoyable. Nevertheless, the romance in RM makes up for a lack of fan-service.

World Construction

It is among some of the best world construction pieces ever found in fantasy manga, probably because the mangaka is a huge fan of Eiichiro Oda, creator of One Piece. Readers who appreciate a frequent change of setting throughout the narration of a story will surely love this.

Art

Depending on how much the readers like the art in One Piece, or a more direct comparison, Fairy Tail, there will be different opinions on the quality of art. Personally, I found this kind of a style quite different from a majority of other manga, in a refreshing and enjoyable way.

Rave Master 2

Character

Instead of talking about all the characters, I will only talk about the male lead, Haru Glory, which is, again, what sets this manga apart from all other Shounen.

Typically, male lead (in Shounen) is a bold, determined, adventurous, righteous individual in the manliest way. Obviously, there is an underlying flaw to this setup. It requires the male lead to be also a bit slow in the head and sometimes an EQ way below that of an average person. If I have to state one reason that a lot of people hate Shounen, this is why.

Fortunately, Haru Glory defies this rule. Sure, he has the typical boldness, an adventurous spirit, and determination, but in moderation. On the other hand, he is thoughtful, sensitive, and knows when to give up. Somehow, he seems like more like a person one can relate to instead of just an icon of justice (like Naruto).

Story

Where this manga truly shines. I said in previous posts that Psyren is a case of good brain-storming. Then, RM must be an incidence of phenomenal overall planning.

Let me remind you of another illness that befall most popular Shounen, the story will slow down between different arcs, and will almost come to a halt before the grand finale. For the most parts, this doesn’t apply to RM.

I will give you a succinct summary of my experience reading this manga:

Slow Start –> Gradual intensifying plot –> Epicness –> building up intensity –> Epicness

… … [repeats cycle]

(A few slowdown in between)

… … [repeats cycle]

FLASHBACK -> MIND-F*CKED in an amazing way -> Grand Finale Battle -> Epic Ending!

And this, readers, is why Rave Master is number one on my list. 
 
Rave Master 3
 
 
Much thanks. It’s been a ride writing this countdown/recommendation/review series.

No. 1(.5): Tower of God

By SIU (Slave. In. utero)

Tower of God 1

Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Mystery, Action, Webtoon

Status: On-going

Summary:

What do you desire? Fortune? Glory? Power? Revenge? Or something that surpasses all others? Whatever you desire, ‘that’ is here, at Tower of God. Join Twenty-Fifth Baam as he climbs each level of the Tower to find his beloved friend, Lahel. Not daunted by anything, he is determined to reach the top.

Sounds epic? Hell yes. This webtoon is every bit as epic as its introduction. In fact, it had only taken four chapters to have me completely captivated, and only thirty-two chapters (at that time it was the newest update) to have me fallen in love with webtoon in general. Indeed, after that, Tower of God only becomes better and better.

What’s more amazing is the writer/artist of this webtoon. He is actually a college student in Korea. Yet, he manages to release a new chapter almost every week, always fraught with twists, turns, and refreshing yet familiar ToG-styled art. Here is a person who knows how to do great brainstorming before drawing. The result? A mixture of remarkable story design, colored-panel pages, awesome characters, and many Sundays spent waiting for the new update of ToG to come out.

So, with all those praise about Tower of God, exactly why is it so good?

 

ART

If you have read some of my previous reviews on manga/manhwa so far, you might have noticed that I don’t usually factor in art quality as a large part of my evaluation. In the case of Tower of God, I must make an exception. For full quality whole-strip webtoon of ToG, please go to www.batoto.net to read The Company’s translation of Tower of God. Not only is the background beautifully and vibrantly designed, but the characters designs also are effective and never adhering only to any one type of character models. Tower of God is a prime example of how the panels of webtoon can be supremely elegant and entertaining if the coloring scheme and perspectives’ angles are chosen thoughtfully.

Having said all that, it is not surprising that I give a score of 10/10 for art.

tog art

a snap shot from chapter 1

 

PLOT

I am not claiming that Tower of God is perfect in terms of plot by any means, since it is a little bit long (150 chaps) and would probably be on-going for quite a while yet. However, if you are looking for a plot that …

A)     Takes place in a purely imaginative and immensely creative world

B)      Shows outstanding consistency in that every arc moves the story closer to the next step (so far)

C)      Twists and turns and coils and bends and unwinds, and still manages to proceed smoothly like it was all planned beforehand

D)     Starts out from one of the most used tropes in any medium, that of a powerless guy who is “somehow special”, and create an original story out of it

E)      Has hot-blooded, awe-inspiring fight in an epic proportion that rivals even major Shounen manga

Give the story section a solid 10/10.

CHARACTER

Tower of God has a large and well-made character cast. It is hard to not like the main characters. One little problem stands out, though, that the webtoon introduces too large of a cast in such a small period of time. A lot of characters have preciously little “screen time”. Still, many characters made a large impression on me, always a good mark of well-built characters.

9/10 (so far)

Tower of God 2

Overall

An amazing piece of work! It’s a relief seeing the artist and his work being more recognized now than when I just started reading.

Would recommend this to most everybody, except for people who absolutely hate anything having to do with fantasy.

Note:

Here is a link to Tower of God Wikia: http://towerofgod.wikia.com/wiki/Tower_of_God_Wiki

I used to be involved with writing articles on this Wikia. It has great information on Tower of God, and would help answering any questions that you still have about this webtoon.


No. 7: Fairy Tail

By Mashima Hiro

fairy tail 1

Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Ecchi, Fantasy, Magic, Shounen, Super Power

Status: On-going

Synopsis:

Set in an imaginary world, the Earth Land, there exists a Mage Guild called “Fairy Tail”. Fairy Tail is stationed in the town Magnolia, residing in the Kingdom of Fiore, and is currently governed by Makarov, Guild’s master.

Lucy Heartfilia, a 17-year old girl, wishes to become a full-fledged mage and join one of the most prestigious Mage Guilds in the world, Fairy Tail.

One day, out of pure coincidence, she meets Dragneel Natsu, a boy who is transportation-sick, but very cheerful in nature. However, the thing she does not know is that Natsu is actually a mage of Fairy Tail.

[Written by MAL Rewrite]

To start off, let me tell you that Fairy Tail is currently ranked 1st place on Manga Here, 2nd place on Manga Fox, 3rd place on Manga Reader, 5th place on One Manga (apparently One Manga is back!). Evidently, this title is one of the most popular titles out there. In fact, if you have browsed through any manga sites or stores in the past few years, you have probably heard of Fairy Tail! What makes this manga so good?

1.       It captures the essence of Shounen manga.

Yes. Fairy Tail follows the typical Shounen formula, and did a marvelous job of it. In every arc of the manga, there is guaranteed to be some hot-bloodedness oozing out of the pages. Much like One Piece, a manga that Hiro tries to “copy”, Fairy Tail places simple-to-understand values like friendship and integrity as its central theme. In other words, it is inevitable that the reason for fights boils down to something like “I gotta save my friend!”, “for preserving the justice!”, or “I can’t lose!” . This is not a bad thing. This manga can be really poignant in conveying these values and creating stories that naturally draws out all kinds of emotions from the readers.

fairy tail 3

2.       Plot Complexity

Of course, what else is there? If a manga (or any fiction for that matter) is good, most likely it have a well thought-out story and an amazing character cast. Then, it comes as no surprise that the story in Fairy Tail is awesome. Like any good story, there are numerous plot twists that readers can never predict how the story progresses.

3.       Great Character Cast

I have to admit. The characters are not constructed to have complex personalities. That is not what you read Shounen for anyways. What I can say is that the main characters are extremely likeable because they are compassionate, determined, courageous, and have the single-minded goal to never give up to adversity. They have shown these qualities in various ways, even in the most desperate situations. Mashima has illustrated these qualities superbly.

4.       Slap Stick Comedy

Pretty funny, and only thankfully happens in the comic relief part of the story.

Unfortunately, as an extremely popular manga, it suffers from the “never-ending-gotta-make-more-money” syndrome. Published in 2006, it’s been ongoing for 7 years now, and who knows when it is going to end.

Moreover, the quality of the story (in my humble opinion) has declined drastically recently. Put it this way. If I were to reconsider my top 30 manga again, Fairy Tail might not be in top 10, as epic as it was for the first 200 chapters.

To summarize, Fairy Tail is the epitome of Shounen genre manga, with an amazing plot and likeable characters. Its popularity is not unfounded, as few titles of the same genre can contest its epicness.

fairy tail 2

Now, for those of you who have read a lot of shounen already, you would probably disagree with almost every point. True, Fairy Tail is filled with cliches in every way. Also true, most “typical” shounens get tiring as readers read more and more, ultimately to a point that the plot in shounen manga becomes “formulaic” (whether that is actually true is up to debate). However, can you honestly say that you had not been overwhelmed by the hot-blooded epicness the first time you marathoned through Fairy Tail (or another really good shounen title)? In the end, isn’t that feeling of epicness what counts, and what makes certain shounen manga awesome?


No. 10: Witch Hunter

By Jung-Man Cho

witch hunter 2

Genre: Manhwa, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, (Comedy), Supernatural, Ecchi, Romance

Status: On-going

Synopsis:

Witches suddenly declare war against humans, causing two-thirds of the world to fall apart. They summon monsters called “Supporters” and devastate human residences… but why?

Survivors gather people with the power to combat the witches and called them Witch Hunters! Tasha Godspell is one of the strongest nicknamed “The Marksman” along with his “Jack-O-Lantern” looking Supporter. He fights the witches but cannot really bring himself to hate them…
(Source: MU)

Witch Hunter is one of the few Korean Manhwa that enjoy popular reception from the general populace of manga readers. The biggest reason is that WH leaves readers in suspense of wanting to see the answer in the next chapter. At the beginning of the manhwa, readers are thrown into a world of witches and witch hunters, and of course, war among various factions in power. Many facts and deeply buried secrets about this world are revealed along the way, but as always, more questions just come popping up. What happened to Tasha, our protagonist, in the past? Who exactly is “Halloween”, Tasha’s supporter or somebody else? How is Tasha important to the great witches’ big plan?

Witch hunter 3

Cliff-hangers aside, the true strength of WH lies in its great narration. The narrative focuses most of the time on Tasha (though with some chapters focusing on another character later). Even though he would probably be an extremely annoying person in real life, readers tend to be so pulled in by the mood, emotions, and thoughts of Tasha that he becomes cool nevertheless. Given that Tasha is a stubborn and strong-minded individual who would not shirk from fighting opponents stronger than him for the cause that he believes in, the result is a series of epic magic fights that will leave you gasping for air. (the difference between this and typical shounen manga is that “the cause” is definitely not some abstract idea like protecting “nakama”, but more personal in nature)

Lastly, I want to comment on the art style of this manhwa (for those of you who put a strong emphasis on art style). The characters generally look childish, and a little bit emo, too. At first, I had trouble getting used to the art style, but it become acceptable after a few chapters. Cho draws all the characters differently. Therefore, there is a nice range of designs in the characters cast. However, the background is simple with black and white fill-out.

witch hunter 4


THEANIMEMAN

Anime Here. Anime There. Anime Everywhere.

Gonzo's Anime Love Shack

Here to teach you the ways of anime and cute 2D girls

Haru's Anime Blog

A blog about anime, manga and japanese culture

Animetics

Shine On Till Dawn

Bulgogi Chan

Hand feeding you delicious fandom feed

atelier emily

for me, in full bloom