Books I Did Not Finish (DNF) | no. 1 | Jan 2018

I’ve talked a lot about the books that I finish reading in the month. But I never actually talk about the books I don’t. I’ve said in YouTube videos that I’m a huge user of my public library. Every month I check out dozens of new(ish) graphic novels and comic books to peruse. I’ll usually take them home (or bring them to work), read a chapter or two, and then if they don’t grab me, put them down.

I pick up too many books to read them all. But, I still want the opportunity to look at as many books (especially the art) as I possibly can. I love sequential art! Did I tell you that?!

I find that the few chapters I read are usually enough to inform me on the series. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time, and I get to do the thing that I love most… look at as much art as is humanly possible. The only real problem (and I have yet to solve it) is that books weigh so much. I hate the hassle of carrying them to-and-fro!

Anyways, here’re some of the titles I picked up this month that I didn’t read until the end, and WHY I chose not to.

What was the last book you DNF’d??

 

The Bloody Monday Murders, volume 1 : All Hail, God Mammon / by Jonathan Hickman: I read about 1 chapter/issue. Intriguing concept: it starts with an alternative “suggestion” to why businessmen were “jumping” to their deaths after the stock market crash. But, the font was too small, the art too dense for my liking, and it’s occultism/science fiction-y-ness are things I’m rarely interested in reading about. This gets high ratings on GoodReads, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it at the time. I might pick this up again in the future.

Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag: I read about 3/4 of Shattered Warrior (and so counted it “read” on GoodReads). Shattered Warrior unfortunately had an immediately weak showing as a “graphic” novel being obviously written by someone more practiced at writing prose (this is NOT necessarily a bad thing). But having no previous exposure to the author before picking this up, I could tell immediately (this IS a bad thing). There is a different pattern or cadence to writing for graphic novels that prose novelists seem to have the hardest time in figuring out — they’re too close to the art form. They try to do too much using words that the art should be able to handle — this, for example, had an immediate case of “tell” instead of “show” which is never a good sign in the first couple of pages. Your art is the “show” — it shouldn’t require the “tell.” The art was fair, but felt static, likely due to the prose it was attempting to highlight.

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook / by Joe Ollmann: I didn’t know this was going to be a biography about a cannibal. It looks interesting, but I think will require more concentration and mental strength than I’m willing to offer it at the moment. I might pick this up in the future though.

The Best American Comics 2017 / edited by Ben Katchor: I read a selection — a disappointing (and often illegible) curation. Also, the statement by the editor inferring Canada and Mexico as inferior countries is enough to make me avoid any of his future work. This statement (even as satire) was out of place, and completely devalues and demeans the artists from those “inferior” countries that were selected for this publication. I was unimpressed, to say the least.

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Novel Review: Strange Weather in Tokyo / by Hiromi Kawakami

strange weatherStrange Weather in Tokyo / by Hiromi Kawakami

Translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell, ©2012

Published by Portobello Books, ©2014

Originally Published in Japan in 2001 under the title センセイの鞄 (Sensei no kaban) by Bungei Shunju, Tokyo

978-1-84627-510-4

Stars: ★★★★ / 5

 


From GoodReads:

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.


This was a wonderful first novel to read for the year!

I had received this book for my birthday… and less than a week later, I’m writing a review for it. I haven’t read a lot of prose novels in recent years, so this is a pretty big deal for me.

I had actually requested this. But, I had no previous exposure to this author and her writing. I just was intrigued by the cover design of a girl seemingly floating in what appears to be a “convenience store.” I’ve been to a store that looked like this when I visited a friend in the countryside of Chiba prefecture. It was part convenience store, part grocery and part ice cream stop. We had chestnut soft-serve, and fishcakes from Fukushima and the experience was entirely surreal and floaty like this image. This image is sublime. [FYI, According to the back cover it is called “Today’s Levitation” by Natsumi Hayashi]

I was pleased to find this to be exactly what I look for in a romance. It feels nostalgic, lonely and bitter-sweet. It focuses on the meeting of minds, or an emotional sense of ease with someone and NOT on merely physical attraction. It features my favourite couple relationship of a student and her teacher! And even more importantly at a time in the student’s life where she’s old enough that this large of an age gap doesn’t make the teacher feel lecherous or predatory in any way.

This really checked ALL of the boxes for me!

This is a very short novel (or is this a novella) at just under 180 pages. So it is very quick to read. The language is simple, yet lyrical. Kawakami’s writing is so easy to get into. I was really impressed with this translation by Allison Markin Powell. In my opinion, the writing retained some of its Japanese qualities while also sounding completely natural in English.

I think the only reason this doesn’t receive 5 stars from me is that I found it in some 34236751places too long (which is strange to state for such a short book). Right about the 100 page mark, I fell out of the story for about a chapter. I don’t know if I was just tired, or if the writing was too dry… I don’t know but, I will definitely be reading this again in the future and I may, at that time, go back and re-rate this. But for now, I can at least say that this was a wonderful novel – and I would recommend it to someone who is looking for a quiet, understated and less conventional romance.

 

I’ve already placed an order on Hiromi Kawakami’s novel The Nakano Thrift Shop and can’t wait to read it as well!

How I Will Study Japanese in 2018

One of my major New Year’s Resolutions this year is to study Japanese. I want to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) in the summer.

I’ve been thinking about my Resolutions for several months now, and the thing that I keep coming back to is what I want out of my “manga-reading” life. I’ve become frustrated with the lack of titles in English that I’m actually excited to read – and find myself settling on things that I’m less interested in.

51JNWB37QFLI’m ravenous for 60s, 70s, and 80s shoujo manga! But, we’re lucky if we get 1 or 2 titles a year in English. It’s entirely frustrating.

I NEED to learn Japanese in order to read the books and series that I actually want to read.

That’s what this year is for! I’m going to spend the next 7 months studying for the JLPT in July. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll try for the N5 or N4 exam yet, that’ll come later. But, I figure the JLPT is the FIRST step that I need to take in order to become reading-fluent. I’d love to also be speaking and listening-fluent… but reading is my ultimate goal.

I’ve decided on a few study strategies that I will employ to study over the next 7 months… and beyond.

  1. I will keep going to Japanese classes for the listening and speaking practice.
  2. I will review my old textbooks. Just enough to get my grammar back to where it needs to be. It’s always a good idea to review old grammar… otherwise it’ll be impossible to learn new grammar.
  3. 51fOzhuUUbLI will go through the JLPT practice and study books that I’ve purchased over the years. This isn’t the first time I’ve considered taking this test. I’d actually registered a few years ago, when the testing was in December. It was blizzarding here that week… and I decided to stay home rather than take the chance driving on a treacherous highway to another city.
  4. I will study vocabulary using the Leitner box method. You can check out tutorials on YouTube about this. But basically it’s a particular technique to help you learn new words and concepts in a reasonably short period of time. It will take quite a bit of my free time to do, though. I’m not super thrilled with that. I don’t have that much free time to begin with.
  5. I will write key sentences as well as construct my own to help solidify the meanings of words and the use of grammar.
  6. I will memorize the required Kanji. I have a few ideas how I’d like to accomplish this, but I’ll have to test them out before I commit to anything.
  7. I will translate manga. My ultimate goal is to be able to read manga.

51OBMkbzS1LI might as well get some regular practice in… even if it is incredibly difficult to translate manga when you actually don’t know the language…

I would also like to start listening to some Japanese podcasts, Radio programs, YouTube videos, and Japanese dramas. I need as much practice to listening to Japanese as I can get. If you have any suggestions of good and interesting titles/shows/etc. to listen to in Japanese, (without English subtitles) I’d love to hear about it!

Manga Review: Flying Witch, Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka

31172294Flying Witch, volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka

Translated by Melissa Tanaka

Published by Vertical Comics, ©2017

Originally Published in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, Kodansha Ltd., ©2013-

978-1-945054-09-9 

Stars: ★★ / 5

 

Flying Witch is a slice-of-life shounen manga about a 15-year-old witch, Makoto Kowata, who has left her home (with her black cat familiar); as is the “right-of-passage” custom to become a fully-fledged witch (think Kiki’s Delivery Service). I loved the characters in this series – they are so fun, quirky and just like-able. I particularly love the way the characters react to Kowata upon learning she is a witch and even more so, Kowata’s naivety in adjusting to her new surroundings. I think a lot of people will really love this cute, calm, and cheerful slice-of-life manga.

BUT… there are some major issues with it for me.

I hate this art style! I don’t know if I will ever get behind fully digitalized illustration. The background scapes suffer enormously in this style, and the screen tones leave me feeling cold. I can’t see a creator’s hand in this type of work. You can’t learn anything about an artist who hides behind their computer… it’s incredibly dissatisfying.

And, the translation: The translation itself is fine. But, I HATE the choice used in translating the thick accent of Kowata’s uncle. Her uncle is a rural Aomori farmer(?) — so, of course the natural conclusion is that he be written sounding like Foghorn Leghorn?! This feels incredibly lazy. Instead of trying to seek a more natural translation, we have an incredibly generic cartoonish, and out-of-place sound.  In an otherwise quiet story, this loud, and brash type of accent doesn’t match the quiet tempo, this ‘lifeless’ art style, and it certainly didn’t match the uncle’s character design. I’m not from the U.S. so, my experience of this accent is limited to television, but the stereotypes that I’ve gleaned from that at least ruin my expectations of what this character should actually sound like. An invented accent with the same or similar characteristics and cadence of a rural Aomori prefecture dialect would have been a much better approach. This cheapened the experience for me; more work would have been appreciated.

This could have been better: the story is there, but the art and packaging is missing. I’ll continue borrowing and reading the series from the library as it’s released but, it won’t be joining my own collection.

Meta-Manga! Recommendations #MangaMonday

If you haven’t heard the term “meta-manga” before, it’s probably because I made it up. The modern use of the term/prefix “meta” generally refers to “x” about “x.” I am very familiar with this concept because I work closely with “meta-data” which is “data” about “data.” In the case of manga, a meta-manga would refer to “manga” about “manga.”

I LOVE meta-manga! There’s something so exciting about reading a manga that is completely self-aware. It’s a bit like watching a movie and waiting for that moment when someone actually speaks the line that is also the title of the movie. It’s a strange and fantastic moment.

There are SO MANY meta-manga to choose from. What manga-ka (manga author) wouldn’t want to write or illustrate something they know about as intimately as their own job? Here are some of my favourites:


ONE. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun by Izumi Tsubaki.

51c7g+4RaAL

This is a shoujo 4-koma manga (4-panel comedy manga originally marketed to girls) about a high school student named Nozaki who draws shoujo manga for Monthly Girls’ Magazine.

It begins with his cute classmate confessing her love to him and Nozaki, being so completely clueless and unable to focus on anything but writing manga, thinks she is asking for an autograph – and later convinces her to help him work on the actual manga itself.

Throughout the series you meet many other quirkly classmates each with distinct personalities and each with a hidden link to Nozaki’s manga.

The 4-koma format is a little jarring to get used to, as the story doesn’t flow like regular manga. It is really based on a “punch-line” format… similar to say…”Foxtrot.” But, over time as you get used to the format, the flow, the comedy, the characters, it becomes more-and-more enjoyable.

If you’re not sure you’ll like reading the 4-koma format I would highly recommend watching the short anime adaptation of this BEFORE getting into it.


TWO. Flower of Life by Fumi Yoshinaga

51PAW0rZ74L

This one has been out of print for a while, and will be a little bit hard to find if you’re interested in reading it. But, I really wanted to include it on this list because it’s wonderful!

This is the story of three boys who become friends in high school due to their mutual interest in manga.

Harutaro Hanazono has recently recovered from illness, and is returning to school a year behind everyone else in his class. He becomes fast friends with the shy manga fan Shota Mikuni and the antisocial otaku Kai Majima. Together they form a manga creator’s club with the hope of getting published.

This is a sweet story with one of the best depictions of pure friendship that I’ve read in manga. I highly recommend it!


 

 

THREE. I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow / by Shunju Aono

This follows the pursuit of a dream to become a manga-ka (manga artist) by a 40 year old slacker. This is a wonderful drama.

FOUR. Insufficient Direction / by Moyocco Anno

Get an inside look into the life of a real manga-ka and her famous anime director husband. This isn’t recommended to new fans, the pop-culture references are constant and obscure. But, it’s a delightful story.

FIVE. Genshiken / by Shimoku Kio

This is easily one of my favourite series. It follows a college otaku club in their pursuit of everything nerdy! Shimoku Kio has written likable and believable characters, in obsessive detail. A fun story that follows the passion and pursuit in both consuming and creating self-published (dojinshi) manga.


 

SIX. Kingyo Used Books by Seimu Yoshizaki

71NgzWH7-bLThe meta-manga to lead the way for all other meta-manga, Kingyo Used Books features a used book store that has everything any person could ever need… manga!

Though it is much longer in Japanese, it only made it to 4 volumes in English, which is an absolute shame. This is a must read for any manga fan.

This manga is your mantra!

This is a series of short stories featuring a used manga shop. Patrons don’t always know why they’ve entered the shop, but there is always something they are looking for… and before they know it, they’ve found it in manga.

I won’t say that every story in it is great. Actually some of the short stories are a bit contrived, and even boring. But, there are a few gems in every volume that make this worth picking up. Plus, as a manga fan, nothing makes me happier than finding a manga that preaches the very thing I do “manga is for everyone.”

It’s a cheerful collection that proves the merits and value of reading manga. If you’re a fan of manga, I would urge you to pick up this series!


AFTERWORD:

Something new that I’ll be doing on this blog (as well as my YouTube) is post a list of themed manga recommendations every 2nd and 4th Monday of the Month (I hope). I’m going to be calling this series #MangaMonday. I know other people have used #MangaMonday as a themed “thing”… but frankly, I didn’t know what else to call it… and so many different people are using #MangaMonday for different purposes that I didn’t think it would hurt to add another voice to this particular hashtag.

Like I said, I’ll be posting twice a month. If you’re looking for content for your blog/youtube channel and want to participate in this too, let me know. I’ve been considering sharing my list of topics ahead of time for others to join in.

Or, alternately, if you want manga recommendations on specific topics send me your suggestions! I have a list of topics I’d like to talk about, but I can easily change them and talk about titles that people actually want to hear about!

じゃ、また

12 Manga I Want to Read in 2018

 

There are so many unread titles in my collection (mostly owned by my sister) that I haven’t read yet. Every year I like to give myself a list of titles to read to make a tiny dent into that massive, and overwhelming TBR. The following are the titles I hope to prioritize reading in 2018.

I’ve given myself 12 titles to choose from. Ideally, I want to read one per month… but knowing me… I’ll be happy if I read more than 50%.

I’ve given myself a secondary challenge as well, in addition to reading them, I also want to review them all! This is a much bigger challenge, but I hope I’m up to the task. I’ve been putting these titles off long enough — 2018 is the year!

Are there any titles you’re planning on prioritizing in 2018?

 


Check out my video, if you want to hear more thoughts on why I picked these particular titles:

Graphic Novel Review: Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

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31145178A wonderful graphic autobiography for middle-grade readers by one of my favourite contemporary authors. Shannon Hale focuses on her early experiences making friends… from the ease of friendship as a pre-schooler, to the complicated social pecking order of grade school.

Shannon’s mother is convinced that everything will be all right if she just has 1 special friend. This friend is Adrienne. But as they grow older, Adrienne becomes friends with the popular “the group” and as they move from grade-to-grade Shannon must now traverse the treacherous landmines of what being associated with “the group” means.

This story deals with mental health (particularly anxiety), bullying, friendship, and even religion. But mostly, it is a common tale of growing up and making friends. I basically found myself nodding my head to just about every scenario… especially the sibling relationships.

The situations feel real to someone who had a relatively boring/happy childhood; they are so reminiscent to my own childhood it’s not even funny. It doesn’t feel preachy or didactic in any way. At least it didn’t feel that way to me. And, I loved the slightly ambiguous ending, a proper depiction of how someone “would” act in a situation, rather than how they “should” act.

LeUyen Pham’s art is bright, and youthful – and serves the story well. The storytelling is grounded in reality, but also fluid enough that you could easily forget this is a biography (if you wanted to).

I highly recommend this story to any child — and better yet, reading this with your child!

10 Reading Plans & Goals for 2018

I’ve already talked a little bit about my plans for this blog, but I also wanted to talk a little about my other goals (mostly reading) for 2018.

ONE. Read Less (and not worry about it).

In the past I’d average about 1000+ manga read in a year. But, my reading has changed, and I don’t have the time or the inclination to read that much anymore. It was fun to go for a number goal, but this no longer important. Instead, I’m interested in reading broadly, and picking up titles I just want to read. I’ve set my GoodReads goal at 100 books, which will let me track what I’m reading throughout the year, but take away the stress of having to reach a certain number.

TWO. Get back to the shelf challenge.

This was a challenge that my sister and I had posed on ourselves in 2017, but had fallen off course during the summer. It’s a way to choose books for ourselves to read every month, and showcases our collection on YouTube. We randomly select a shelf from our manga room every month, and then construct our TBR from that shelf. I really like this challenge as it narrows my focus to certain manga I may have been neglecting, while also giving me the freedom to read something that I might actually be in the mood for.

THREE. Participate in fewer readathons.

I participated in tons of readathons last year. Some I was very successful at, and some, not so much. I was finding, especially closer to the end of the year, that I was over-doing it. As much as I like participating in readathons, I just don’t have the time to dedicate to reading that much every month. So, I will be participating in less. I’m hoping, no more than 6.

FOUR. Host the Manga-thon in June.

I created a readathon last year that I hosted in July with my sister focusing on reading manga. We were pleasantly surprised by how well received it was. We had a lot of fun doing it, so we’re excited to do it again. There will be a few changes to the readathon, based off of some suggestions we received last year.

If you are interested in co-hosting with us next year, or want to host your own “event” during the readathon, please send me an email!

FIVE. Stop buying other books.

I have had a rule for a long time, that the only books I was allowed to buy before I read them were classic fiction or manga. I broke that rule a few times this year as I was looking for titles to fulfill readathon challenges, or just getting too caught up in the hype. I absolutely regret every single one of those purchases… I will be getting back to my strict collecting plan.

It’s not actually that strict. It just will go back to being required to borrow and read a book from the library before I’m allowed to buy it. I do make allowances for our local “library sale” that happens once a year. But, I’m usually buying books for $2… I don’t feel quite as bad about my buying at that price.

SIX. Buy Less Manga.

I’m not buying less because there is less I want to own. But, just that I have to be practical with my budget. I have some other things that I want to be doing with my money (mostly home repair… ugh, boring…) next year, which requires dipping into my manga portion of my budget. My budget has to decrease. And this in turn means less manga.

I’m also going to try and do a bit of concentrated purchasing and actually hunt down a few out of print titles that I’ve been meaning to read. I still refuse to pay more than cover price for manga, so this will be difficult, but I want to be a bit more deliberate with my collecting this year. I’ll still be adding a lot of manga to my collection, it’s just going to be slightly different this year.

SEVEN.  Read 12 specific titles/authors in 2018.

I’ve created a list of 12 categories that I want to read in 2018. They’re titles that are either older, and I just haven’t gotten to them; are bodies of work by a single author who I haven’t read from yet; or are brand new releases that I really want to finish. I’ve already made a YouTube video about this if you’re interested. But, I’ll probably also include a list here in a few days.

EIGHT. Read my new releases 2017-2018.

I don’t like to get too far behind in reading my new books. I like to at least have an idea of the stories that I’m currently collecting. So, I do have a yearly goal to read the first volume of all of the new releases that I’ve bought (or am buying) within a year of buying them. I would also like to review all of these new titles either here, or on YouTube or both.

NINE. 52 Manga Reading Challenge.

I’ve created a year-long challenge with 52 reading prompts to participate in. I’ve also made a YouTube video about it. I sort of made this because I am reducing the number of readathons I am participating in, but still wanted to participate in challenges. Plus, the readathons and challenges that I have been participating in really didn’t cater to reading manga in any way. I made this to challenge my own reading, but you are certainly welcome to participate as well if you would like. The link can be found at the top of any page of this blog.

TEN. Unwrapping Novels TBR Challenge.

Something I haven’t mentioned on my YouTube videos, is that I have created a TBR of prose fiction and non-fiction to read over the course of 2018. I only read about a dozen non-graphic works last year and I’d like to read more. So, I went through my TBR shelves, pulled out about 35 books and wrapped them in 3 different wrapping papers. Each paper indicates a different category: non-fiction, classic fiction, and literary fiction/modern classics. I am going to unwrap books to read randomly. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to unwrap monthly, or quarterly but, I think it will be a fun way to read some of the books I’m still very interested to read — or finally give up on certain titles.

 

So, that’s everything that I’m planning on doing with my reading in 2018. And just think… these are just my resolutions about reading.

I love making resolutions at the beginning of the year — even if I tend to fail at most of them. With the few that I don’t fail — it’s just so satisfying to actually achieve something that I had actually planned on doing.

Will you be making reading resolutions for 2018?

And So It Begins… Again.

2017 was a terrible blogging year for me. So in around October and November when I had begun to think about what I wanted to do in 2018 I realized that I either needed to start over with this blog, or abandon it completely.

chaos bedroom
I’ve basically had a blog since about 1997. And back then, before YouTube was a thing, I was happy to devote my creative energies to it. After blogging for nearly 20 years, I wanted a chance to try something new, and discovered making YouTube videos. I have been doing that now for 2 years — and even though it hasn’t always been easy, I’m enjoying it more and more.

But now that making YouTube videos has become a regular feature in my life, I wanted to shake things up again; partly with my YouTube channel, and partly (and especially) with this blog. I’ve always found I could express myself much better in writing than I could ever do in speaking — so I actually don’t want to abandon this format after all.

It’s going to take time to get back into the “swing of things” and figure out how to add yet another thing into my already busy schedule. And as a matter of course, this is just one of about half a dozen things I’m attempting to add into my busy schedule. That is at least until I start abandoning some of my New Year’s resolutions. I usually succeed at 1 or 2, but I always set at least a dozen. Let’s hope that blogging isn’t the thing I fail at this year!

Barring that… here are a few of the things I’m hoping to do on my blog in 2018:

  1. Post every week. Some original content, and some content will duplicate what I’ve been talking about on my YouTube channel.
  2. Reviews! I’ll also be attempting to increase the reviews I post on YouTube, but I find it so much easier to actually write about a title than I do talk about it. I wonder why that is?!make it hot
  3. Monthly wrap-ups. I’m going to abandon monthly wrap-ups on my YouTube channel and move them over here. Basically this will be a list of everything I read in the previous month with a short description of the title and my thoughts.

I’m sure I will have lots of things to say on my blog that just wouldn’t work on a YouTube channel. I know I’ve come across a few topics over the last year that I think would work substantially better in writing. Hopefully, I’m right.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to a great year of reading manga… and blogging about it!

For those of you who have been following me all of this time, just wanted to give you a huge shout out! Thanks for your support!

Happy New Year!

-Laura the Manga Hoarder

Graphic Novel Review: A Castle in England / by Jamie Rhodes

A Castle in EnglandA Castle in England by Jamie Rhodes
Illustrated by: Isaac Lenkiewicz, Briony May Smith, Will Exley, and Isabel Greenberg.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There is so much potential in this title, from the concept showcasing the history of the residences of a single castle (I love histories); the artist contributions (showcasing 5 different creators/whose styles matched beautifully the historical context they each represented); to the unusual peach and tan colour palette (which I actually thought was quite splendid). I was pretty excited about it — but it fell so very flat. Where could this have faltered?

The biggest detriment to this comic was the commission status of it: paid for by the National Trust and Arts Council England. A commissioned work where money issued furthers the idea of arts and history. This isn’t a bad thing, but in the context of comic books and graphic novels greatly affects the creation process and henceforth, the reading experience. It was not written for the public, but FOR its commissioners.

As a Canadian I often pick up comic books commissioned by the Canadian Arts Council. And this same sentiment holds true. But at least in these instances, they are telling the story of my country, and they are expressing it with a Canadian sensibility. These works are more innately understood when it is your own country paying for it. But this isn’t. It’s foreign to me. And any potential subtle “cultural-isms” are lost on me.

The reading experience of this is like a friend returning from vacation and I’m now stuck watching a slide show of the experience. Looking at a photo of people standing around. Having to listen to an explanation of what is happening not in the picture, but behind the camera. This is not a good time.

Each of the five stories that make up this book require extensive explanation to be understood. The illustration isn’t doing it’s job. One of the first questions I ask myself when I’m evaluating sequential art works is “If I take away the text, can I understand this?” The answer is a fervent “no”. And this work has FIVE sets of text: The family tree to start, a quote at the beginning of each story to set the mood, the text represented in the comic to give the characters speech, the brief history of the events to give context to the story, and the brief history of the family history currently residing at the castle to explain the action.

All but the family tree and quote at the beginning are essential to understanding this work. Remove any of the others, and this work crumbles into nonsensical gibberish.

If you think about it in the reverse… “If I take away the art, can I understand this?” The answer is definitely “yes”. But who would want to read the scant historical summary that remains?

There are so many good things about this comic, but the fact that the art requires instruction at this intense of a level is a problem.

And then… to rub salt in that wound…

The formatting of this text! Each story has the text handwritten in the style of the art/artist (wonderful). The histories unfortunately do not follow in the same style. Instead they are presented using a small textbook-like font on blank white pages (from a graphic novel stand point is incredibly boring to look at), each paragraph numbered (for no apparent reason but to perplex me greatly) with one small illustration from the preceding comic (for no apparent reason but to remind me that the summary has some relationship to the previous story). It just didn’t make sense, and didn’t match in the slightest the graphic portion of the work.

If you want to read a work that gets it right, I’d recommend going for 750 Years in Paris by Vincent Mahé instead.