Reviews: Translation

The End is Nigh

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 13

Welcome to the thirteenth review of Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō. How happy I am to have read thirteen volumes of this manga! And how sad, because that means after this one there is only one left.

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One Life Isn’t Enough

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 12

Once more into Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō! But at a cost; at my present rate I will finished the whole series well before August is over. I should have picked some lengthier manga series on which to fixate.

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This dewdrop world

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 11

Volume 11 of Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō is much like the previous ten volumes: quiet moments, mysteries, and not much in the way of answers.

Well, one answer: Ojisan is still among the living, at least for now.

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After a while, the sunflower wilted and died without thinking of our feelings.

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 10

You may have been concerned when I skipped a week but never fear! I do intend to finish reading all of Hitoshi AshinanoYokohama Kaidashi Kikō. Which brings us to volume ten. It is a very … Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō volume of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō.

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Home Again, Home Again

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 9

I had an interesting experience as a result of last week’s review of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, volume eight. Someone attending an event I was co-hosting showed up on a scooter much like the one Alpha rides, specifically because I reviewed YKK. That’s awesome! And now I am a little worried about how people will commemorate the MilSF and Cosmic Horror books I review.

Ahem. Back to Volume Nine of Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō.

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On the Road

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 8

Volume Eight of Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō covers more than a year in the lives of the character. It’s more … um, “action filled” is the wrong term… informative about the setting than were previous volumes.

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The Homunculus and the Lunatics

The Rolling Bootlegs — Ryohgo Narita
Baccano!, book 1

Ryohgo Narita’s light novel Baccano! The Rolling Bootlegs won the Dengeki Gold Prize when it was published in 2003. Translated into English in 2016 by Taylor Engel, it is the first volume in the ongoing Baccano series. Narita’s tale of criminals and lunatics, alchemy and murder is capably illustrated by Katsumi Enami.

Nothing provides results quite like foolish shortcuts. The boatload of alchemists on their way to the New World in 1711 learn this the hard way. While they may be almost immortal, immune to age and injury, they are not invulnerable. All of them can still die at the hands of their immortal companions. Since the killer absorbs all the memories of the victim, there is incentive to murder. A strong incentive, as only one of the alchemists knows how to brew the elixir of immortality. It takes less than a day for the ambitious Szilard Quates to start murdering his fellow alchemists for their knowledge and power.

Twenty-two decades later in Prohibition-era1 New York…

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Takahiro, You Idiot

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 6

I ran into an unexpected problem with the book I planned to review today. But of course, since you do not know what review was intended, you should be perfectly happy to read a review of Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book six. At least I hope you will be.

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Just one more chip

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 4

I should just admit to myself I have no self control when it comes to binging on series (novels or comics). But will I? NO. I am going to kid myself (again) with “OK, just one more volume of Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō and then I will stop. Really.” Because that could totally happen.

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We Are Both Better Than We Should Be

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 3

Well, I misspoke. Apparently I cannot resist dipping into the YYK archive at least one more time. Volume three of Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō offers more enigmas and mysteries, but not a lot in the way of concrete explanation. Ah well.

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 2

I am going to skip my usual practice of giving the publication date of the work I am reviewing because … as much as I hate to shake your faith in me as an all-knowing sage of SFF, I must admit that I am not sure when volume two of Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō was published.

In this volume, author Ashinano returns to the twilight world of his protagonistAlpha Hasseno, cafe owner and Alpha 7 M2 series robot. We are given eight short pieces; seven that show Alpha’s world as it is, and one that hints at how it got that way.

Sorry about the tiny cover art. I could not find a larger image.

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Where Time Flows Lazily

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, — Hitoshi Ashinano
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, book 1

Hitoshi Ashinano’s science fiction manga series Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō (Yokohama Shopping Trip Diary; popularly known as YKK) was serialized between 1994 and 2006.

The climate changed and the oceans rose. Humanity’s cities have either drowned or have become mere shadows of what they once were. The last remnants of humanity are slowly dwindling away into extinction. The general decline poses many challenges to Alpha Hatsuseno, proprietor of a small coffee shop some distance from the much reduced Yokohama, but she accepts them with inhuman calm.

Alpha, you see, is an android. Humans may be doomed but their technological children are doing just fine. As is the Earth.

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The Director is God

The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya — Nagaru Tanigawa
Haruhi Suzumiya, book 2

2003’s The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya is the second in Nagaru Tanigawa’s Haruhi Suzumiya manga series.

Audaciously self-centered Haruhi is determined to provide her school’s upcoming cultural festival with a movie of unparalleled quality. The fact that nobody asked her to do this isn’t going to slow her down at all. Haruhi didn’t get where she is by caring one jot about other people’s preferences!

At least the project will distract Haruhi from her failure to find the time travelers, aliens, and ESPers she is convinced must be concealed within the general population. And anyway, what could go wrong with a simple film project?

Quite a lot, if the auteur behind the film is an unwitting god. Which Haruhi is.

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From India

It Happened Tomorrow — Bal Phondke

The good news about having read 1993’s It Happened Tomorrow is that I can now put a push-pin into India on a map of nations whose science fiction I have reviewed on James Nicoll Reviews.

On the minus side, it was not a particularly good book.

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Trash Talk

Planetes — Makoto Yakimura, Gorō Taniguchi, Ichirō Ōkouchi

I love quasi-plausible SF set in our solar system, especially SF that tries to be at least semi-plausible. For a long time, Anglospheric SF had little interest in that particular literary niche. I was forced to look abroad. Which eventually resulted in my exposure to the 2003–2004 26-episode anime series Planetes, adapted by Sunrise from Makoto Yakimura’s manga of the same name.

Ah, the bright and shiny world of the 2070s! Space travel is, if not routine, at least common; oil has been replaced by lunar helium three 1, thus ensuring the continuation of energy-intensive civilization. Prosperity abounds!

For the people working for Technora’s Half Section , prosperity is unevenly distributed. Space is just where they happen to work. The Half Section, more correctly called the Space Debris Section, are the garbagemen (and women) of SPAAACE!

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I have no idea what was up with the post office full of kiwi fruit.

Revenge — Yoko Ogawa (Translated by Stephen Snyder)

Yoko Ogawa’s collection Revenge was first published in 1998 as Kamoku na shigai, Midara na tomurai. Under the current title it was made available in English in 2013 by Picador.

Revenge includes eleven macabre short stories. The collection is not long but it is very good.

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The Alteration

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya — Nagaru Tanigawa
Haruhi Suzumiya, book 4

Nagaru Tanigawa’s 2004 The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is the fourth volume in his Haruhi Suzumiya series.

Together with the other members of the SOS Club—alien emissary Yuki Nagato, time traveler Mikuru Asahina, and ESPer Itsuki Koizumi—Kyon assists the determined Haruhi in her quest to find aliens, time travelers, and ESPers. And by assists, I mean “at any cost, prevents Haruhi from discovering her own true nature.” Just as Haruhi is oblivious to the fact her SOS is almost entirely staffed by the very exotic beings she yearns to find, so too is she unaware of her own nigh-godlike powers or her destructive potential. It is the job of the SOS Club to keep her unaware.

Keeping the “irritating sociopathic Genki Girl” (as TV Tropes puts it) too busy to truly see the world around isn’t safe and it’s often unpleasant … but at least it is never boring. Escape from the SOS Club appears to be impossible, so Kyon may as well resign himself to his fate.

And then one day Kyon discovers the world has been transformed.

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Trouble in Paradise

Prometheus Unbound — Masamune Shirow
Appleseed, book 2

Appleseed Book Two: Prometheus Unbound picks up where The Promethean Challenge left off. While Briareos Hecatonchires recovers from the injuries he suffered in the previous volume, Deunan Knute is trying to fit into a police force made up of former cut-throats barely distinguishable from the criminals they oppose. She’s soon head-hunted by ESWAT (Extra-Special Weapons and Tactics), less for her remarkable skill set and more because the powers-that-be (or a faction thereof) want her somewhere where they can keep an eye on her. Deunan has, as she discovers, a closer connection to the founders of Olympus than she had ever suspected.

The people running Olympus (the city) and Aegis (the world government it heads) have bigger problems than one survivor from badside. The world war was horrible, but it did allow Aegis time to consider and address the issues driving humans towards global suicide. Not enough time, it seems, which leads the Council, bioroids all 1, to consider a bold strategy: apply bioroid discipline to all humans. The result may not be human as humans of the 22 nd Century define it, but at least it and the world it inhabits will be alive.

Interestingly, it’s not the humans who object to this scheme. It’s Athena, Aegis’ senior politician and a bioroid herself.

Athena finds it easy enough to deal with the council: detain them all. While they are in detention, Athena and her subordinates run the proposal through Gaea, the city’s supercomputer. Normally the council is plugged into Gaea while it cogitates, but obviously that won’t work in this case. The vast, cold intellect is free to consider the issue without human or bioroid moderation.

What could go wrong?

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Welcome to Olympus

The Promethean Challenge — Masamune Shirow
Appleseed, book 1

For many people in North America—well, me, at least—Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed series was one of the first translated manga they ever saw. First published in 1985, it won the 1986 Seiun Award for Best Manga. Between 1988 and 1992, the series was published volume by volume by Eclipse Comics, which is the edition I first read1. It was pretty addictive stuff back in the Reagan Era—no American comics I knew of explored SF themes like Shirow’s or had the same striking art—but how well does it stand up today? Does it still have the same punch in a world where many great manga are no further away than the nearest library?

Well, I just happen to have Appleseed: Volume One: The Promethean Challenge to hand….

No country involved in World War Three resorted to nuclear weapons but there are other weapons of mass destruction. As the prelude puts it, “even without (nuclear weapons), the Earth became a quieter planet.”

Survivors Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires have settled in a very quiet, very peaceful neighbourhood. Before they came to town someone doused the place in sarin. The nerve agent is long gone, and so are the unfortunate inhabitants, leaving their material goods for the two soldiers to loot, and their homes for the woman and her cyborg friend to take for their own.

But someone has noticed the pair.

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The Last of Lumikki

As Black as Ebony — Salla Simukka
The Snow White Trilogy, book 3

Salla Simukka’s 2015 As Black as Ebony is the third and (if trilogy is to retain any meaning) final book in her Snow White Trilogy1.

Lumikki Andersson has returned from a diverting summer holiday in Prague to her parents and home in Finland. Her attempts to lose herself on the stage and in the arms of her new boyfriend Sampsa are doomed before they begin. She is haunted by the mystery she encountered in Prague: how can an only child like Lumikki have had a sister? Why can’t Lumikki remember her? Why are there no photos of the sister? Why have her parents never mentioned her?

And, of course, there’s the lunatic stalking Lumikki.

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Kitchener Public Library is feeding my Kaoru Mori habit

A Bride’s Story, Volume Three — Kaoru Mori
A Bride's Story, book 3

Until Kitchener Public Library’s supply of volumes of A Bride’s Story runs out, I am going to keep revisiting this series.

Unlike the previous two volumes, the focus in Volume Three isn’t on Amir, but someone previously a supporting character and info-dump facilitator: wandering ethnologist and linguist Henry Smith. In this volume the inquisitive Mr. Smith gains the answer to a question he never asked:

Just how much trouble can an Englishman traveling alone in Central Asia get into?

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Thank you, Kitchener Public Library

A Bride’s Story, Volume 1 — Kaoru Mori
A Bride's Story, book 1

I am in no way obsessive but having read volume two of Kaoru Mori’s ongoing A Bride’s Story series without having read volume one induces a mild disquiet, as though a million rats were trying to claw their way out of my brain. Luckily for my brain, my local library had volume one.

At twenty, Amir Halgal is considered very nearly a spinster by her nomadic tribe. When the chance to marry her off presented itself, Amir’s family didn’t look too closely at the deal, or at her spouse.

Which is how twenty-year-old Amir found herself in an unfamiliar town on the Silk Road, married to twelve-year-old Karluk.

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A small cornucopia

Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something — Kaoru Mori

When Yen Press sent me Emma Volume One, they also sent me 2012’s Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something. Unlike A Bride’s Story and Emma, this isn’t an installment in an ongoing series. Rather, it is a collection of Mori’s short pieces, an interesting introduction to her work if you’ve not read her before.

This will be short.

Mori provides such number of short pieces that they exceed my willingness to take this chapter by chapter. The volume is just under 210 pages and there are forty-four items listed in the table of contents. I could take them one by one, but that would result in a very long review. It has been my experience that the longer my reviews, the less likely it is that people will respond to them. As someone once said, More Words, Deeper Hole.

Mori leads with a selection of longer pieces (although if you have not noticed that the collection is to be read right to left, you may think she’s ending with longer pieces inexplicably printed in reverse). These tend to be standalone pieces, essentially short stories. The second half of the book has a selection of shorter pieces, some single page and other, like the extensive study of corsets, somewhat longer.

Although this isn’t a long collection, the number of works included means that the author can cover a fair range in terms of subject matter and tone. There’s screwball comedy, what appears to be a melancholy lesbian romance (or whatever you call it when neither person admits that’s what’s going on), something that may be intended to be to Bunny fantasies what “Hotel California” is to the American Dream, non-fiction, and more. Not bad for a book that’s not much over 200 pages.

The author also includes, where appropriate, commentary on the various pieces.

If you haven’t given Mori a try, this is a pretty good place to start. It’s not long, so you are not investing a lot of time, but the number and variety of pieces included means that a reader will get a pretty good idea of Mori’s range.

Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something is available from Yen Press.

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No shinjū featured in this story

Emma — Kaoru Mori
Emma, book 1

No, not the Jane Austen Emma. Aside from nation of origin and sex, Kaoru Mori’s Emma has almost nothing in common with the more famous Emma; neither class, occupation, personal character, nor personal history.

Emma has no money, no family, no surname, and she owes her position as a maid (and her education and her glasses) to retired governess Mrs. Stowner’s generosity. Despite her lack of prospects, she gets lots of offers, being a comely lass. But Emma has no interest in matrimony

And then one day, Mrs. Stowner’s former student William Jones comes to pay his (extremely belated) respects to his former governess….

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