This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

Compared to Skim, This One Summer makes for a rather milquetoast affair. That is not to say that is bad but I did find the story and characters to be bland and very much been-there-done-that. This could have worked if the narrative had presented us with a more compelling protagonist than Rosie who is a painfully generic teen who yearns to be seen as one of older teens and not a kid. Every summer she and her parents stay at a lake house in Awago Beach. There she reconnects with Windy, her childhood friend, who is a year younger than she (a fact which rosie is low-key embarrassed by). Rosie’s parents are going through something and Rosie acts like an entitled brat. She begins renting horror films in order to impress a boy who is clearly a bad egg, going so far as to slag-off other girls. Windy, however one-dimensional, was a much more likeable character. Rosie’s angsting, however ‘understandable’ given that her parents are fighting and she’s currently traversing those painful & awkward teen years, still irked me. She elicited very little sympathy on my part. Whereas the story in Skim never bored me, here I found many scenes to be redundant and repetitive. There was something vaguely moralistic about the ending too and Rosie’s ‘growth’ didn’t entirely ring true. Still, the illustrations, while a bit more conventional than Skim, are lovely and if you are a fan of the Tamaki duo, well, you should consider giving this one a chance.

my rating: ★★½

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The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #1 by Ram V.

A Neil Gaimanesque sort of comic (think Good Omens & Sandman) set in contemporary India and featuring Hindu gods. Death is fired from her job and takes up residence in the recently deceased body of Laila Starr. There is a prophecy of sorts involving a child who apparently is destined to make humans immortal. Once in Laila, a vengeful Death decides to kill this newborn but her resolve falters once she has the opportunity to do so.
The writing was better than the average comic and the art, wow, the art is something else. I am head-over-heels in love with the artwork. The colours & the character designs are chef’s kiss. The storyline is fairly fast-paced and doesn’t delve too deeply into any one topic or character so I’m curious to see if the next instalments will add more dimension to this story.


my rating: ★★★½

In the Clear Moonlit Dusk by Mika Yamamori

This mangaka’s style was chef’s kiss. Alas, the story reads like a very generic high-school shoujo. うるわしの宵の月, translated as In the Clear Moonlit Dusk follows Yoi Takiguchi, a high school girl whose princely appearance has earned her the nickname of ‘Prince’. Often mistaken as a boy, Yoi is not used to being seen as a ‘girl’. This premise did ring a bell as I remember reading a manga years ago in which the heroine had a masculine appearance and the hero a feminine one. There it kind of worked as the two leads (as far as i can remember) were comfortable quite comfortable with the way the looked. Here, sadly, Yoi isn’t keen on being seen as a ‘prince’ as seems to be indifferent to her female classmates’ attention (they routinely confess their feelings to her or simply stare at her in awe). Then she meets Ichimura, who is also nicknamed ‘Prince’ (i guess they couldn’t come up with something more creative?), and he seems to see her as a girl. Shocking. The guy calls her cute and Yoi becomes all flustered in a “who me?” way.

I found the both leads quite bland. I wish Yoi hadn’t been so easily taken by Ichimura. That the other girls become jealous of Yoi does not bode well as it promises a classic girl-on-girl hate side-plot that we could well do without. The main male lead is boring and so far his personality revolves around his beautiful appearance and his ‘ability’ to see Yoi as a girl.
The art is lovely, the story & characters mediocre. Maybe those who haven’t read many shoujo manga will be able to enjoy this more.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

my rating: ★★★☆☆

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The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Once upon a time…
The Magic Fish is quite possibly one of the most beautiful, poignant, and awe-inspiring graphic novels I have ever read. The story takes places in 90s America and we follow Tiến, a young boy, who loves reading fairy tales with his parents. Tiến’s parents are refugees from Vietnam and cannot speak English as fluidly as he does. This language barrier makes it hard for Tiến to confide in them that he is queer.
The mother/son relationship in The Magic Fish is complex and moving. The bond between mother and son is rendered with empathy and sensitivity. The three fairy tales Tiến reads in the course of the narrative allow him to connect with his parents, in particular his mother.
Although each story is inspired by an existing fairy tale, Trung Le Nguyen presents us with three unique takes which perfectly complement Tiến and his mother’s stories. The first two tales are based on variants of ‘Cinderella’ (the German ‘Allerleirauh’ and the Vietnamese ‘Tấm Cám’) while the last one is a reworking of ‘The Little Mermaid’. I loved the different aesthetics of these tales: the first one has a Europeanesque setting, the second one seems to take place in 1950s Vietnam, and the last, this according to the author, juxtaposes the mermaid’s realm, which has elements from Hong Kong wuxia films, with the human one, 1980s San Francisco.
Trung Le Nguyen’s illustrations are stunning (they reminded me of Moto Hagio and Daisuke Igarashi). I loved the way in which each narrative had a distinctive colour palette.
Trung Le Nguyen set out to tell a specific story and he definitely succeeded in doing so. The Magic Fish is simply stunning and I will definitely pick up whatever Trung Le Nguyen writes/draws next.


my rating: ★★★★★

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