(LATE) MANGA MONDAY: No Longer Human

On Monday, I mentioned I was swapping things around and doing a regular book review so that I could share my review of the manga adaptation today.

The book in question is Dazai Osamu’s novel, No Longer Human, but adapted to the manga format by Japanese body horror king, Junji Ito.

Before I continue, this review contains trigger warnings for suicide, infanticide, violent imagery, and sexual assault.

So similarly to the novel (the review of which you can read here), this was a difficult one to get through. While I am very familiar with the content and the story of No Longer Human, Ito took this one to a whole other dimension. The story, itself, is heavily inspired by Dazai’s own life and there were certainly more elements of truth in the manga as well as far more fantastical horrors.

Unlike Ito’s other major works, his adaptation of No Longer Human was less focused on body horror and far more tuned into the psychological trauma that comes with the tortures Yozo faces. What was merely implied in the source material, was presented without apologies in the manga, and I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or not. The sexual assault in the beginning and even throughout the story was intense and felt like it was too much given the format of the storytelling, however the ways Yozo is consistently taken advantage of is still so important to his story arc and the way his relationships (or lack thereof) are formed.

On top of that, there was far more death, far more suicide, and a lot heavier darkness. Dazai was not a happy man, and it can be seen throughout his short life by reading his novels and his stories. But the way that Ito really needles out the underlying sadness and turns it into something so solid and real it’s impossible to ignore as he beats you to death with it. Again, I’m conflicted by the emotions this manga drew from me because on the one hand it was a lot to process and manage, but on the other hand, it felt so real when it comes to how dangerous unchecked mental illness can be. It shows how important it is to really care for those who are suffering.

I loved the inclusions of Dazai himself as a character. I loved Ito’s artwork as I always do. But this was a rough one. Junji Ito is one of those mangakas who I rarely recommend because of how tricky it can be to navigate horror tolerance thresholds, but if you’re already familiar (and unbothered) with his work this is one to check out for sure.

 

REVIEW: No Longer Human

#MangaMonday has been shifted to Wednesday, because the title for this week is actually an adaptation of the amazing, semi-autobiographical novel No Longer Human by Dazai Osamu.

I also would like to mention trigger warnings for this novel include suicide and sexual assault (both implied and actual).


No Longer Human is the story of the narrator finding lost journals from a man named Oda Yozo, and following him through his struggles at simply existing around human beings. Yozo has never felt he fit in with the world, let alone just the space he occupied. He was easily taken advantage of and quickly found himself in barely escapable failures.

The novel is a complicated one, at first reading like little more than a depressing tragedy of a time where mental health care didn’t exist at all, resulting in the sad existence of Yozo. I actually had to read this a few times for the words to sink in, and upon re-reading, feel that the true meaning of the story is to be more aware of the people around us. It’s a story about loneliness and how that feeling is exacerbated when you can’t understand the social cues that berate you every waking moment. The lines about depression, about what it means to long for non-existence as opposed to outright death (which is the way I personally read it – suicidal ideation over suicidal intention). Yet our protagonist is so overwhelmed and sad that his ideations actually become failed truths again and again and again.

In a weird way, I find this novel surprisingly comforting in that it gives voice to some very real feelings that I’ve had to deal with myself. While I was reading a translation, I feel that Donald Keene did an incredible job of capturing Dazai’s essence and his emotion in the words and one day I really do hope that my Japanese reaches the point where I can read the original.

While I wouldn’t recommend this book to a single person I know, it is just so touching and important to me.

RE-READ REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name

The first time I read this book, I found myself getting hung up on the minute details of the book rather than focusing on the story, the writing, the beauty of the novel. Having re-read it via the audiobook, read by Armie Hammer, I was able to lose myself to it entirely and drift away into the Italian countryside of the 1980s.

The word choices, the long flowing sentences, that Andre Aciman makes throughout the novel are so heartbreakingly beautiful and make even a child prodigy like Ellio feel like the more relatable boy in the world. His pain is my pain with every time I read this book and I just live for his romance and his suffering. And reading through it is one thing, but the emotion that Armie Hammer puts into his voice while narrating brought me to tears several times throughout. The only narrator who could make it any better would be Timothee Chalamet himself.

I don’t really have much more to say outside of this is one of the most touching love stories I have ever had the joy of partaking in. I have the words of this book on my skin in the author’s own handwriting, and I will cherish them forever. I will cherish this book forever.


Note: Script work tattoo was done at Grim City Tattoo Club by Kristian

DNF Review: Infinity Son

So my first fresh read of 2020 (meaning I didn’t start it in 2019) was meant to be Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. I’m a big fan of Adam’s contemporary work, so when he said he was releasing a fantasy novel I was so excited! However, I’m sad to say that this was not what I was hoping for at all and it’s also become my first DNF of the year.

Over the last several months I kept seeing tweets referring to it as an “epic fantasy novel” which I took to mean high fantasy (think Lord of the Rings) when it turns out the use of the word “epic” was meant to be used as a word for “cool” and in reference to the book rather than the genre. Part of this is my own fault for not looking more closely at the back of the ARC, but I’ve got to say I was disappointed at the “urban” level of the genre.

On a good day, I’m not a fan of urban fantasy. It takes a lot for me to be interested in a fantasy novel that is set in the real world, so that was already a mark against this novel. Strike two was that not only was it urban fantasy, it was a superhero story; yet another subgenre element that I’m not interested in. Had I known that’s what this book was going to be I wouldn’t have requested the ARC in the first place.

To me, the biggest problems were in the first two chapters. And by problems, I mean the entire plot of the book is so easily guessable. In this world, it seems that people have until their 18th birthdays to discover if they have superpowers or not. It is also mentioned that there are “villain” characters who do something with phoenix blood to force superpowers on themselves. Now, this is a decent enough concept (with more PG-rated Vicious vibes) but quickly becomes boring when you consider that the main characters are twin boys, one of which just wants to be a normal boy and the other who wants to be a hero. I didn’t even make it past 13 or so pages but I can basically guess that Normal Boy Twin gets powers on their birthday while Other Twin goes after phoenix blood to become a hero.

I’m so sad that this book is miles away from what I was hoping for, but as a result, I will be hosting a giveaway on my Instagram for this ARC. I’d really love if it went to a good home with a reader who would actually enjoy a book like this.


Giveaway post
(Giveaway open to North American residents only, see post for details)

MANGA MONDAY: Jujutsu Kaisen

A new series I want to do here is Manga Monday, a day dedicated to manga reviews to introduce new readers to some good series as well as keep up to date on titles for current readers. I’m hoping to talk about old and new series and look forward to spreading the love for manga of all kinds!

For this first Manga Monday, I decided to read a brand new title that was just released in English in December 2019. The series opening volume of Jujutsu Kaisen follows Itadori Yuji after the death of his grandfather as he and a mysterious student from Jujutsu High School seak out a cursed talisman before it can cause mass destruction. While trying to save his friends, Yuji takes an incredibly dangerous risk and becomes a vessel for the hyper-powerful being known as Sukuna, and ends up tangled in a bigger mess than he originally signed up for.

I really loved the key idea of this series focusing on fear and loss and how those negative and worrying emotions are typically the route causes of supernatural activity around Japan. The way the curses (depicted as slimy or hairy monsters) manifest was really neat as the different levels – both in terms of danger ranking and general intelligence – are determined by how the curse was originally formed. Volume 1 is definitely an introductory volume, but what I will say about it is that while I really appreciated that it wasn’t full of info-dumping, I would have loved a little more background about the Jujutsu Sorcerers and how the academy scouts their students or how the students even get their abilities in the first place.

That being said, for a debut manga, mangaka Akutami Gege’s style is wonderful. The character designs are reminiscent of early Kubo Tite (best known for Bleach) in a way that is both wonderfully nostalgic and yet still very new. I really am excited to see this series grow in both content and style and would recommend it to fans of BleachParasyte and maybe even Tokyo Ghoul.

I give this volume a solid 4.5 out of 5, with points only docked for my want of more background information on the characters and the rules of their powers, but I’m sure all will be revealed in the next volume or two.

2020

We’re back to the roaring 20’s and I am so honestly thrilled that 2019 is officially in the past.

It was a really tough year for me where I was kicked a lot during the times when I was down, but there were good times too. I went to my first blogger events, I took my mom to see Michelle Obama on her birthday, I got an apartment all to myself! But the tough times weigh heavily still so I’m very excited to be moving past them.

Now that it’s 2020, the start of a new decade means it’s time to set some goals regardless of whether or not I actually complete them. For my GoodReads Reading Challenge, I want to read 65 books at least and unhaul any and all books I don’t finish. I have a bad habit of putting books down and saying “Now just isn’t the right time for this book” and not picking them back up. Well no more! Life is too short and my shelves are too jammed for books that don’t interest me. The same goes for ARCs. I have so many ARCs that I was dying to get my hands on, and yet they all still sit on my shelf. I don’t plan on doing much “influencer” blogging this year, at least not until I can get through the ARCs that I already have.

I want to have a more regular posting schedule on my blog, and I’ve got a relaxed schedule all planned out in my bullet journal to stay on top of it all. So stay tuned for weekly reviews every Wednesday with a manga feature on Mondays!

In personal goals, I want to quit smoking and use the money I’ll save to get a cat. I want to finish writing my book. I want to really live my life as myself, for myself, and stop being so concerned with how other people see me. I try way too hard to try and make other people happy or to get them to like me without taking care of myself. It’s time I think about how I want to live MY life and let’s hope a brand new decade will help me do that.

So here’s to 2020 and all the lovely books I’ll have to share with you all! Below is the list of books I’m hoping to read this January!

Pastel Vintage Bike Facebook Cover

REVIEW: Young Jedi Knights 1: Heirs of the Force

One of my favourite characters when it comes to the old Star Wars canon was always Jacen Solo, so what I’ve been doing is slowly collecting the now out-of-print Young Jedi Knights series that was published for the middle grade/young adult market to get more of Jacen and Jaina while also learning a little bit more about Luke’s Jedi Academy on Yavin 4.

Heirs of the Force, the first book in the Young Jedi Knights series, follows Jacen and Jaina Solo as they train at Luke’s Jedi Academy. Right away we get to know that the twins are incredibly close and that Jacen has a knack for animals while Jaina takes after her father (and grandfather, Anakin, in my opinion) with her talent for mechanics and technology. We also get to meet their friend, Tenel Ka, who is a total badass from Dathomir. The trio quickly becomes firm friends with Chewie’s nephew, Lowbacca, who has been gifted an old speeder to put together. With the help of his new friends, Lowie completes the speeder and goes off on something of an adventure…where he finds the remains of a TIE Fighter from the first Battle of the Death Star. When their curiosity winds them up in under fire from the long-abandoned pilot, things take a nasty turn.

This book was a quick read but was honestly so much fun. It requires very little knowledge of the original extended universe of Star Wars (which I know can be an intimidating run of content) and makes sure to fill in a lot of gaps newer or less-intense fans to Legends might have in their knowledge. Jacen and Jaina are so lovely and wonderful, with the original hopeful and kind quality that made Luke such a sweetheart in the original films. I loved getting to know the newer characters as well like Tenel Ka – who is so cool I wish I had read these when I was younger – and Lowie – who is basically an awkward version of his uncle.

The tension and the pacing of the story is so well done, it reaffirms that Kevin J. Anderson is incredible and has definitely put Rebecca Moesta on my radar. And seriously, what’s not to love about a rogue TIE pilot stranded for years trying to single-handedly overthrow a school full of Jedi?

Heirs of the Force is clearly meant for a younger audience but that doesn’t take away from the writing at all. If anything it makes it an even better jumping in point because it’s not as technical as Star Wars books can be. Since the series – to my knowledge – has never been re-released as formal Legends titles, they’re difficult to get ahold of these days, but if you’re willing to search I’d definitely say this first book is worth it.