MANGA MONDAY: Ten Count 1 – 3

Today’s #MangaMonday is coming a bit late due to a minor technical issue with my hydro, but better late than never!

Since I was horribly sick last week, I didn’t have much energy for reading, however I managed to catch up this weekend by reading the first three volumes of Takarai Rihito’s yaoi series, Ten Count. Takarai’s art is so gorgeous, that is what initially drew me to the series but I also can’t help but be intrigued when I find manga that’s shrinkwrapped.

Now, I should mention here that this is not a “boy love” manga. This is 100% NSFW and is rated for Mature Adults with explicit content. I won’t go into much detail about that aspect of the manga, but please understand that minors shouldn’t read this series.

Ten Count follows Shirotani, a corporate secretary, and Kurose, a mental health counsellor, as the two work together to help Shirotani with his OCD and symptomatic germaphobia. However, as the two see each other more and more, their professional relationship begins to turn into something more and neither of them is sure if that’s something they can handle – but for very different reasons.

I like the way the relationship starts in this series, and I do like how in the first volume Kurose isn’t pushy but rather very understanding. Volumes two and three got a little more… intense… I still really enjoyed the next two volumes, however, the explicit scenes felt actually pushy to me. For a yaoi manga, that’s nothing new but I guess I was expecting a slower burn for this series. Regardless of what I was expecting, Takarai is a wonderful artist and author and at the end of each volume she mentions how she is building a more Dom/Sub relationship between Shirotani and Kurose so I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.

I give these first three volumes an average of 4 out of five stars. And with that dirty cliffhanger at the end of volume three, I’m definitely looking forward to picking up the rest of the series.

MANGA MONDAY: Classmates「complete series review」

This week a week of love, so let’s talk real romance!

For today’s Manga Monday I read the complete three-volume series, Classmates, by Nakamura Asumiko and really enjoyed them. The series follows Hikaru and Rihito’s relationship as it goes from friends to more. Hikaru first notices Rihito when his class is told they need to sing in a musical recital and takes it upon himself to tutor the shy boy. As the two start to grow closer – along with the graduation – things get more complicated and the two need to learn to think of each other as much as they think of themselves.

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Like come on, this art is perfection.

I loved the honesty in this series, the rawness and impulsivity of teenage boys. Hikaru and Rihito get mad over things that don’t make much sense and make up just as quickly as couples do when they’re sixteen. Even the art style, which is rough around the edges and raw in parts, really captures the exact tone of the story at every moment. It’s so hyper-stylized and it’s just stunning from cover to cover. Even the goofy little doodles between chapters that are mostly just Hikaru bothering Rihito are so cute, I fell in love with the two of them right away.

The only take away that I didn’t like was their teacher Hara-sen. He came off a bit overly pervy in my opinion, but the translated jokes where Hikaru called him “Hara-ssment” were so funny I died.

At only three volumes, Nakahara’s series is a good one to pick up and is really full of sweetness and light. Another good starting point for those looking for a good boy-love series.

REVIEW: Seven Days [Monday→Sunday]

To continue on my romance manga binge for the month of February, the series review of the week is Seven Days by Tachibana Venio and Takarai Rihito.

The edition published in English is a complete collection of the original two-volume series that follows upperclassman, Shino Yuzuru, and first-year, Seryo Toji, over their weeklong romance after Yuzuru asks Toji out on an impulsive whim. Toji is the school heartthrob who never has a girlfriend longer than a week, and Yuzuru is…well he’s an idiot in princely dress that the girls break up with once they get a look at his impulsive personality. Despite their flaws, the two boys seem perfect for each other but will they both come to the same conclusion once Sunday comes?

I really enjoyed this manga. It was a fast read and the art is absolutely stunning. Yuzuru made me laugh because of how dense he can be and Toji is a total babe. The story was paced wonderfully and I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

Reading this reminded me of how much I really enjoy fluffy boy-love manga and how comforting the nonchalance of the background characters is. So Yuzuru might be dating the most popular underclassman in the school? Cool beans. It’s just so nice to read these stories without a hint of homophobia or judgement and just bask in the cute, happy vibes.

Having read this while sick, it was a real pick-me-up and I would recommend to anyone looking for a softer yaoi manga to get into.

REVIEW: The Great Pretender

Having previously read Susannah Cahalan’s memoir, Brain on Fire, I was so excited to hear that she was writing a new book about the mental health system in America.

The Great Pretender is the unravelling of the paper written by David Rosenhan titled “On Being Sane in Insane Places” and examining how it was influenced by as well as influencing in regards to the treatment of people living with mental illness. It examined the case of people posing as patients to “infiltrate” the broken system and prove the point of misdiagnosis as well as the dismissal of those who receive those diagnoses. Winding through history and even looking at the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the modern method of Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID) diagnosis.

Reading Cahalan’s previous book, I was familiar with her own experiences with misdiagnosis which I do feel was a key element in her ability to capture all of the elements of this narrative. My own experiences also gave me intense respect for those involved in the study and even for people that continue to speak out on behalf of those who are victims of the broken system that passes itself off as health care for the mentally ill.

I also found the final few chapters regarding fraudulent research and results in scientific papers to be fascinating. Tackling the disproven research from Freud all the way to the Standford Prison Experiment (which was a weird obsession I had in high school and will always find fascinating), it talked about not only creating fictitious results for the sake of being published but also how papers should really be taken with a grain of salt because not many of them age and achieve the same results when replicated.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in psychology, psychiatry, history, or even mental health in general. Whether it’s your major or you’re simply curious, Cahalan’s writing style is very accessible and attention-grabbing. Once again, Susannah Cahalan has knocked this one out of the park and I look forward to any and all future books she comes out with.

MANGA MONDAY: Full Moon「complete series review」

This February, I’m planning on exclusively romance manga for my #MangaMonday posts and I thought, what better way to start off this theme than to post about the series that started my obsession.

Full Moon by Tanemura Arina was the first every manga I read start to finish. I was 12 when I first borrowed it from a friend at summer camp and the weeb days began. The series follows Mitsuki, a young girl with a tumour in her throat that keeps her from her dreams of being a pop star. When two shinigami (gods of death) named Meroko and Takuto come to her and let her know she only has one year left, she convinces them to let her live her dream and transform her into a healthy 17-year-old singer so she has the chance.

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Takuto and Mitsuki are legit the cutest ever.

Full Moon is a beautiful story about love and passion and the things we are willing to do to make the world a happier place. Mitsuki is a sweet, innocent, caring little girl who only wants love and happiness but is willing to really work for it. And let’s be real, Takuto was the cutest manga boy I’d ever seen in my life at the time when I was reading and re-reading this series over and over again.

The elements of loss are also vital to this series and Tanemura captures the pain and the grief so beautifully as Mitsuki struggles with her own looming death on the horizon of her success as a pop star. Throw some of the most gorgeous, original artwork I’ve ever seen in my life, and there is nothing more to say about Full Moon.

The series originally ran from 2005 to 2006 and got a really lame anime adaptation (I, personally, love it, but I’m being honest when I say it is not good) so technically it’s an old classic at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was out of print these days but if you’re able to and want a sappy love story that will have you sobbing for the entirety of the last volume, I implore you to find it and read it and then email me immediately to yell about it.

REVIEW: The Test

There are very few companies that I have complete and utter faith in, but one of the companies lucky enough to have my trust is Tor Books. The novellas this publisher puts out are always so original, so out there, and so entirely amazing. I’ve honestly yet to read one that I haven’t liked.

Wanting something quick to read this week, I picked up my copy of The Test by Sylvain Neuvel. It is an understatement to say I was not prepared for it. The novella tackles a citizenship test in the not-so-distant future of England. Idir is the one taking the test on behalf of his whole family, saving his wife and his children the pressures of it, and keeping their chances high (only one in three people actually pass this test). But Idir may have signing on for more than he expected when the test goes from questions about football to a choice of life and death.

Not only is this novella very timely given the world’s political climate being more and more radicalized in terms of xenophobic propaganda and hate breeding propaganda, but it is so wild of a ride, it puts you right there in the room with Idir as he is forced to choose who lives and who dies. Reading it gave me the same emotional confusion as the film adaptation of the Stanford Prison Experiment did. It is raw and intense, pulling biases and aggressions towards anyone who is “other” to society that one might not even think of right away. It’s more than a story about racism and the way it unfolds so quickly makes for some serious edge-of-your-seat reading.

This is my first time reading Sylvain Neuvel’s work and damn do I look forward to reading more of his work. As uncomfortable as I felt at times while whipping through this novella, it was so strong and powerful that I hope to hear more of Neuvel’s voice in his other works.

MANGA MONDAY: Naruto 1-4

For today’s #MangaMonday, I wanted to do a highlight of an old classic. Of the Big Three manga titles, Naruto is my favourite and I figured it deserved to be talked about.

Volumes 1-4 of Naruto cover the first arc of the series in which we meet Naruto, his teammates, and follow them on their first serious mission as ninja.

For those not familiar with the series, it follows titular character, Uzumaki Naruto, on his dreams to become the best ninja in his village despite how much despise there is for him from the other villagers. Unbeknownst to Naruto (until the information is betrayed by a rogue ninja out for himself), he is actually the vessel for the world-killing demon, the nine-tailed fox.

Naruto doesn’t let this information drag him down as he proves himself enough to become a genin (a junior-ranking ninja) and becomes a member of Team 7, made up of himself, Uchiha Sasuke, and Haruno Sakura, and lead by Hatake Kakashi. Together, the four of them train together and are eventually given a mission escorting a builder back to his home country in the waves. But it would seem that the mission may be more than they bargained for when it comes out that their client lies about the seriousness of his request for protection.

The first arc is so much fun as we learn little bits about each of the members of Team 7. Naruto wants to be the best. Sasuke wants revenge on the person who slaughtered his family. Sakura…well she wants to date Sasuke but I promise she gets better. The bad guys of the arc, Zabuto and Haku, are incredible and I still wish we had gotten more of their stories or even a one-shot filler chapter with more of them. Cruel, deadly, and skilled, the both of them push Team 7 to their limits to show them the real uses of ninja skills and the meaning of survival.

I’ve read Naruto so many times is not even funny, but it never fails to steal my heart. I grew up with Naruto the same way I grew up with Harry Potter, being able to watch both characters grow in age and abilities as I did. The heart that is in this manga is something that I honestly don’t see much any more in any manga. There’s a reason that even at over 20-years-old, Kishimoto Masashi’s Naruto is still well renowned as one of the best manga series of all times. I will always love this series and look forward to re-reading the second arc (and gross crying over it as always).