Monday, November 18, 2013

Stuff I Think - Why I Can Still Like Ender's Game (But Won't Be Seeing the Movie)

For a long time now I have struggled with my own feelings concerning Orson Scott Card and his books, most notably Ender’s Game.  I read Ender’s Game when I was a freshman in high school, and while I can’t say it had a fundamental influence on me or my writing, I did enjoy it, and read more in the series, and carried my enjoyment of Card’s writing with me into adulthood.  And then I learned that he is a terrible person.

Since then I haven’t really known what to do about having liked Ender’s Game.  It has actually caused me quite a bit of anxiety, because I suppose I always worry that by liking things like that I am somehow being terrible myself.  It’s a strange thing, but I do find I have to constantly examine why I might like or dislike a certain thing, must constantly scrutinize my choices.  Not just because I’m mostly straight and completely white and male (though that is definitely a part of it).  I don’t want to be complacent, or complicit.  I want to go through life with open eyes.

So when I first learned of Card’s views I decided first that he wasn’t going to get any more of my money.  In fact, that I was going to get some of it back.  I sold the books of his I owned and, despite having liked Ender’s Game, slew any desire I had to see the movie.  I filled the empty spot on my bookshelves with other authors whose politics I could get behind.  But I still felt this strange feeling whenever someone would talk about Card or his works, because I found I still did like Ender’s Game.

Basically, how do we handle texts like this, texts that seem to lend themselves best to readings completely contradictory to what the author believes and practices?  Because when I read Ender’s Game what I got from it was that we should not let ourselves be institutionalized into believing that anything, any sentient life, should be undeserving of compassion.  Basically, that we shouldn’t let people convince us that a person can be less than human.  And while I don’t think that sentiment is something that Card would disagree with, he would qualify it a great deal so as to make it useless, hypocritical.  He has again and again explained how he things that rule shouldn’t be applied to some while it must be applied to him.  He has warned that gay rights activists have to be understanding of religious intolerance while defending religious people’s right to discriminate against gay people.  Time and time again he has said he cannot see the parallels between racial discrimination and sexual or gender discrimination.

Yet I keep on being drawn back to making a parallel between a text like Ender’s Game and a text like the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  Obviously we can read that all people are created equally and see what a positive message that is.  We do, however, have to know that the framers of those documents, many of them, owned slaves.  To them, slaves just didn’t count as people, in the same way that Card wants to argue that gay people don’t count as people.  In the same way that certain people and species in Ender’s Game don’t count as people.  And yet the message of Ender’s Game is that those voices are wrong and must be fought against.

So does the fact that the text does not seem to line up to the doctrine of the author mean that it should not be read?  I don’t think so.  I think, in some ways, it makes a much more interesting reading of the novel to read it as a sort of return of the repressed.  That somehow what Card was and is doing by writing using these themes is expressing his own frustration with the beliefs that he had been raised with, that a part of him understands and would agree that everyone deserves equal respect, but that he himself has become indoctrinated, that he has sublimated his own yearning for acceptance into these works, but is unable to recognize and confront them as such.  He becomes then like a parody of himself, a shell by which we can all see the hypocrisy of the institutions like religions and like the Battle School that try to draw lines around what should and should not be considered human.  If anything more people should take his work and use it as a tool against his movement, against the institutionalized discrimination.  Just as the Declaration of Independence was used by the Civil Rights movement to show the hypocrisy inherent in American racism.

That said, I do not think anyone should be supporting Orson Scott Card as a person.  It is basically like supporting someone who owns slaves, because he does use his money and influence to try and promote discrimination and inequality.  So I stand reaffirmed in my resolve not to give him any of my money.  For people wanting to read his books then, I’d say buy them used from a local used book store, or rent them from the library.  Just don’t buy them from the publisher new.  And maybe don’t see the movie, or don’t pay to see it.  Because I cannot justify supporting him as a person.

But his works, those I think still might have something worth reading, and make for a complicated read for those who already know the man’s politics.  It’s not something that is easy, or that really should be easy.  I think that we should be mindful of all the entertainment we take in, because it is such a powerful tool.  I, at least, feel the need for constant examining and reexamining of those things I like.  I want to know why I like them; I want to like things for the right reasons.  And I find that I can still like Ender’s Game, and in some ways can find wholly new and rewarding ways of reading it, in the face of the author’s wretchedness.

-Charles Payseur

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not For the Faint of Heart - Colorful Harvest Vol 1 Review

So I've arrived now at the second of the Project H titles that I've gotten so far. The first, Velvet Kiss, was good if nothing spectacular, and I think that Colorful Harvest might follow in that vein, a condition I see that is more part of the genre and the relatively young nature of these titles in the US. Because I can't exactly sit here and say that the story is substantially different than one that might be found in Yaoi title, but at the same time I think that it a rather tried and true, very typical sort of romance to include. It's still nice and funny at times, and filled with some good sex, but it's just not exactly something that shines as very different or better from what you'd expect from a hentai manga.

The story centers around a loser who was shot down three years prior when he confessed his love to his neighbor. Now back from college to help with the wine fields his parents own, he finds himself very popular, and sexual hi-jinx ensue and we get a rather fun if occasionally flat romantic comedy manga. Which isn't really a bad thing, but I like my naughty stories to have a little bit more than this. I think it's great that there is more diversity of story in yaoi titles, but again I think some of that has to do with the fact that hentai manga is relatively new in the US and at first it seems like more interesting or speculative genres are not brought over first. It took a while for Crimson Spell or Tale of the Waning Moon to be released, after all, and so I suppose I shall hope that Hentai is allowed to evolve the way yaoi in America has.

But back to the volume itself, which was nice if a bit ridiculous. The most troublesome part of the manga was the main character, who is, on top of being a loser, a complete idiot and almost completely insensitive to the women who seem to fling themselves at him. He never really gets that sex means more to most of them than just sex, never considers their feelings really, and comes off as a rather selfish asshole. That he is called out on this time and again and is pushed towards considering how these women feel is the one almost redeeming part of his character, though I would have much rather seen a decent guy dealing with these situations.

That said, the manga does a fair job giving a variety of women, most of whom are fun. The busty nurse and the one friend who decides she wants sex for the enjoyment of it were fun and I had no problem with how they were portrayed, because as least they were having sex for the sex of it. The other woman at the vineyard, the not busty one, was a little problematic because she didn't necessarily seem to want sex at first and then did but obviously because she thought it meant something. And the childhood friend ends up mainly in the same boat, and the main character is an asshole to both. And that's unfortunate.

But the sex scenes are interesting and varied, though here again we don't really see everything, penises being absent and other areas being simply blank, but the forms are nice and detailed and there at least are more than one body type. Only really two, but still. And so I guess I have to say that it was an entertaining read, and at least all the sex is (mostly, I guess) consensual and fun and the characters enjoy it. I would have wanted a more attractive guy, but I suppose this is largely marketed towards guys who might not care anyway, concentrating instead on the females only, but yeah...would have liked more an even hand.

So in the end this was an all right manga. I would have liked the main character to be a better person, to care more and not be such a cliche. I guess I would have liked for everyone to be less a cliche, but cliches are okay occasionally, and that seems to be the case here. There are a few bits of humor as well, most of them stemming from the main character being hurt in some way, but there you go. With all that, I can safely give it a 6/10.

Be sure to check out my other Comic, D&D, Manga, and Novel reviews here.

Stuff I Read - The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami Review

So I do tend to like me some short fiction, now especially because I have been writing short fiction recently, and it always helps to read what you like to write. Of course, normally I gravitate toward much more speculative stories, genre stories, and this collection doesn’t exactly fall into that category. Not that there aren’t speculative elements, but there are only a handful of stories here that rely on those elements and most deal instead with more the mundane, and that makes this a strange collection, one with rather unique challenges, because the stories do tend to land softly, tend to leave with a lingering whisper instead of a sharp word. It’s different and, I must say, rather effective, though it does require more out of the reader than many other stories I have read.

The main point of many of these stories, after all, is the things that do not happen rather than the things that do. We have an abundance of characters who fail to accomplish anything, who fail to connect with their situations or the people around them. Their lives are dominated by the shadows of the things they do not do. In many of these, this takes the form of a man and a woman failing to connect, a man feeling that knocking, feeling what could be an opportunity to connect with a woman, perhaps only sexually, but avoiding it, usually in a way that leaves him unchallenged, unchanged. There is a sort of apathy to a lot of these characters, what I would call a certain flakiness (no longer just for bread) These are people without much direction, without much meaning to their lives.

The joy of the stories, then, is that it confronts the reader with these characters that challenge what we expect in our stories. I could feel the sort of build up, the connections starting, could feel a bit my own desire for these people to grow, to mature, or to only do something, to have sex or get angry. But instead they simply stay the course, drink another beer, move on with their lives. With most of these stories we have to deal with characters who give up their own agency, who decide that life is best left to other people. They exist, and that is enough for them, but in seeing that we are confronted with our own mirrors, can see our own frustrations with these characters as a bit of frustration with our own lack of meaningful power in our own lives.

Of course, I could be wrong. The collection is very solidly Japanese, which could account for some of the differences in tone and narrative. But it is equally obvious that the author can write strange and more straight-forward stories as well, beautifully written pieces like The Dancing Dwarf, which was my favorite of the collection. The stories that involve the most speculative elements seem to be the ones that hit the hardest, and these were the ones I could enjoy both for their strangeness and their meaning. There is just a sadness that pervades these pages, a sense that there is such potential in people that is squandered. And I suppose I like that optimism, if that’s what it can be called, of positing that we have so much more to ourselves, that we are so much more capable of being agents in the world.

That’s not to say that the collection was without problem, though perhaps I am less qualified to find them because I am not a part of the specific place these stories came out of. As they speak to a common human condition, though, I think that I can say that a few of these stories drag a bit in places, and while that might be part the point of them, it was nonetheless a little boring in some of the stories. And again, this was a little less striking as it could have been, a bit difficult to deal with because it does require more from the reading at the end, requires us to examine why the stories leave a bit of a sour taste in our mouths. I found I did have to struggle a bit more to get meaning, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but made it perhaps less enjoyable.

The characters, too, suffered a bit from being very similar. Again, this is probably a difficult thing to avoid given the nature of the stories and the themes involved, but I had a difficult time remembering any of them after I had read the stories. None of them were incredibly distinct, none stood out vividly. This didn’t ultimately make the book unpleasant, and I understand the necessity of it, but I still wasn’t always entertained. In the end, though, this is a very good collection, worthy of being unpacked. I’m sure that it’s the sort of thing that deserves a second read, that almost requires it, but I’m moving onto other things right now, so that will have to wait. Until then, this collection merits itself an 8.75/10.

Be sure to check out my other Comic, D&D, Manga, and Novel reviews here.

Stuff I Play – Adventure Time Hey Ice King Why’d You Steal Our Garbage? First Impressions Review

And yet another game with a ridiculously long title. The DS is really good at that, apparently. In any event, I got this game for Christmas, and as I am a huge fan of all things Adventure Time (and part so that my wife could play it right away as well) I decided to sit down and play through this game right away. And this is a fast game to get through. Used to as I am RPGs and such that take some serious time to get through, this Adventure Time game was hardly here at all, taking less than ten hours to charge through. It is a very fun game, though, filled with the small jokes and situations and characters that make the show, the comic, and now the game enjoyable.

And it is the story and setting where the game excels, capturing the feel of the show almost perfectly. The familiar faces are there, Finn and Jake and BMO all heading out on an adventure after the Ice King shows up and steals their garbage. What ensues is a quest to find the Ice King and retrieve said garbage, a rather hilarious premise given what you’re rescuing is garbage, but so it goes. So you’re off, first to find your sword, then to find the various traps that the Ice King sets up for you. It’s an interesting mix of humor and action, definitely safe for kids but offering up enough strangeness and Adventure Time humor to make things fun for anyone who’s a fan of the show. Which, really, should be everyone. The tale unfolds, Jake learning new skills to navigate the world map and Finn leveling up along the way. Side stories kind of pop up, but really there are sadly no side quests. Everything must be completed in order to move on, and while it is all very good, I would have liked a bigger world.

What is given and what I must content myself with, is a game that’s a bit like Zelda, with Finn and Jake questing around, getting items, and beating up monsters. There are boss battles along the way, but nothing too terribly difficult. The most annoying parts come when there are areas accessible to the characters that cannot be moved through because certain abilities haven’t been unlocked, and knowing that you’ll have to back track later to find them. Because the back tracking is quite heavily used in the game, with later quests requiring travel throughout the world map and though a lot of low powered areas that cannot be skipped. It’s a little frustrating at times, but then the game is fun enough and the areas short enough that it’s normally not too bad a thing.

The game is, however, very short. Which means that a a lot of the time playing through it is going through the same few locations over and over again. With the same enemies. I mean, it means you get very good at certain levels, but I wish they would have just made the map bigger and added some more stories to it, making it seem like a series of episodes perhaps instead of just one. There are a number of smaller events to get through, but it all comes back to the Ice King. As it should, I suppose, as with the Ice King is when the game is the most genuine, and the most funny. His attempts to be friends with Finn and Jake and his twisted vision of how to accomplish ring very true, and it is fun to be Finn and Jake as they bring him down.

And in the end that’s what the game is all about; fun. It is a fun game, fun in story and fun in execution, without too much to complicate it or get in the way of the experience. That said, there’s not a whole lot here. There is a leveling up system but it is very simple, and doesn’t really give that much customization. The level design is simple, the boss battles are relatively simple, and yet I really liked the game. Most likely because I really like Adventure Time, and that’s the key. For those looking for a great game full of innovation, look elsewhere. For those wanting to play through a genuine Adventure Time story and get some laughs, then look no further, your wish is granted. For me, that means that this game earns an 8/10.

Check out other game reviews here.  

Stuff I Read - John Dies at the End by David Wong Review

Oh boy, where to start on this one? I guess I should just jump right in, because wading around trying to pad the beginning seems a disservice. I must say, I did not like this book. And I do like, I do like some of the author’s writing there, but it did not translate into enjoyment of this book. And perhaps it is because this is his first novel, but the book starts with a sort of promise, a potential, because this book came highly recommended to me and I just found myself disappointed by it. And it’s not that the sentences are themselves written poorly, or that the plot of the book is the worst I have read. More than that, it’s that the book becomes typical, cliché, and while trying obviously to be both horrific and funny, managed to be neither to me.

And I shall begin with the horror aspects, because there at least the book is not outright offensive. The horror here is a bit obvious, though, a bit tired, a rather obvious attempt to portray something like H P Lovecraft, with the incomprehensible horrors everywhere, lurking just under or over normal human perception, able to be seen only through special circumstances, in this case the ingestion of a drug called soy sauce. Now, that turns out not to be the only way, but I’ll get to the inconsistencies later. In any event, the story sort of ramps up, with the main characters Dave and John getting pulled into some crazy happenings involving this soy sauce and exposing them to a lot of weird stuff. And credit to the author, he can write some strange things. Not exactly truly horrific, but definitely weird. And as Dave and John learn more, they find a whole separate dimension of things wanting to destroy the world.

Which is where all of this falls apart as far as horror goes, because while this is supposed to be something like Lovecraft (going as far as to use Lovecraftian as a word in the book), this is a long way away from anything that Lovecraft would have written, for the main reason that in this book the struggle is very much good vs evil. Dave and John are the good guys. As much as the author might want to say that they are the only guys capable of standing up to evil, they are portrayed as the heroes, as action heroes who bring down the boot on these demons. Because, it turns out, they are demons, or maybe not, maybe something else, but more on the inconsistencies later. They are burned and repulsed by religious iconography. And that label of evil falls so far short of Lovecraft, who knew that the horror came not from evil but from benign power, beings that could not even perceive humanity even as they destroyed them and drove them mad. As much as the characters in the book tell me that the demons there are unknown and unknowable, they are very human evils, very tied to what we do know and can see.

It’s like the book doesn’t really know what it really wants to be, like it wants to be Lovecraftian but needs the more familiar setup, needs the humanity of evil in order to make jokes, and the jokes are the other part of this book that really don’t work as well as they could have. The humor of this book is supposed to come largely from two sources, the slapstick insanity of John and the way both Dave and John face the “horror” of the situations they are put in and how the horrific becomes for them the mundane. In the opening they defeat a meat demon by getting it on the phone with a more powerful priest. Something mundane (a phone conversation) defeats something crazy (an almost interesting meat demon). That’s the basis of a lot of the humor, and yet it’s a humor that doesn’t really work that well, or at least that fails to engage at book length. In small doses this is the same sort of thing that deals in, but this is a book, and the whole thing has to be running on a bit tighter of a ship.

There are simply too many convenient inconsistencies for the humor to truly work here, like with religion working some of the time, with the soy sauce being the only way to see the unseen only some of the time. Characters change, from Big Jim who starts as a very religious, fairly simply big guy but then is ret-conned into being a sci-fi nerd and sculptor later. The unknown monsters that we can’t possible understand are demons. The humor fails because it seems like it arrives because it has to, as a punch line. The internal logic of the setting is set aside to make jokes. If the phone thing works once, then why aren’t they finding priests to help them? I get that they’re supposed to be stupid, Dave and John, and yet I also get the feeling throughout that these are the real cool people, that they are true heroes for doing this because they are the ones who turn out to be right. In the end everyone else that doesn’t believe them is stupid and wrong and they are alone and right and righteous.

And the book changes its mind on what these things are perhaps three times, and changes its mind not only in that it changes what John and Dave think the things are, but in what they actually are. At first they are just things, Things out of the dark. Then they are more than that, more organized, and they become Evil Things. And the rules change along with that. Then they become Evil Demon Things, and again the rules change, and now holy water and Bibles work, though guns and such still work as well. It’s…odd. But then, in a huge curveball towards the end, they turn out to be not Evil Demon Things, but Cross-Dimensional Evil Demon Things, with no attempt at justifying how. They just are because that was the joke at the time. Because each change is a sort of punch line, and by the end it’s so tired that I just wanted off the ride.

The book is also less than stellar in its treatment of female characters. First there’s Jen, the slut cliché, who can’t give Dave the time of day at the beginning because she’s busy making out with other guys, but who, after the first adventure, is really into Dave suddenly, despite Dave being the same pathetic loser he always was. But she is his reward at the end of the first story, though she isn’t cool enough so she is shuffled away. Next is Krissy, the manipulative ice queen cliché, who uses Dave to save her more attractive boyfriend. She is shown as using Dave’s want to have sex with her to get him to do things. But she isn’t cool enough so she is shuffled away. Then there is ???, the virgin cliché, who is hot and yet missing a hand so all the “cool” guys are jerks to her and only Dave, who is such a nice guy, can win her over by treated her like a real person, though throughout he treats her like a princess, needing to be rescued, needing to punch people on her behalf. None of these characters have agency on their own. And then there’s John’s hordes of women, all hot and not all that bright and sleeping with John despite him being the world’s biggest idiot.

So yeah, this book has its share of problems. Perhaps the biggest problem I had, though, came at the very end, in which Dave and John play basketball and a strange portal appears. They go in, learn of a dire situation, get bored, and go back to playing basketball. A different group of more attractive people come along and go into the portal and save the world and it’s all shown to be boring and cliché and bad, and yet that is the very story this book uses. It claims to be different while doing the exact same thing, using just as attractive people with maybe one obvious defect and saying it’s all better. But it’s not. And that is what ultimately bothers me, that this book claims to be subversive while being the same played out story and characters as all the rest of the typical books out there. It is not enough to have a meat demon or for the beautiful girl to be missing a hand. It is superficially different, but really the same.

So in all conscience I cannot recommend this book. I mean, it starts out all right, but the further it goes the more typical and hypocritical it became. I get the humor, and some of the jokes aren’t too bad, but if you think about them too much you will realize that this book really makes fun of itself, and by extension anyone who would read and enjoy this book. It is a horror with a happy ending, a horror where all the terrible things are explained away, where you know who is good and who is evil. There are some mysteries that are never answered, but they are the frustrated kind, the kind where you know the author is choosing not to reveal it because it’s going to be some sort of twist later. I just…well, I didn’t really like it. And with that in mind I give it a 4.25/10.

Be sure to check out my other Comic, D&D, Manga, and Novel reviews here.

Stuff I Read - The First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen Review

So not that recently (for my last birthday way back in June 2012), my wife was awesome enough to give me the complete Book of Lost Swords series, collected in three large hard cover books. I had bought the original Book of Swords books from a library book sale way back in the day and read them and enjoyed them in that they were fun and feature magic swords and a strange setting and Roman gods and a number of other things, and then I had found those first three books collected in a single hard cover not too long ago (again at a library book sale). At the same time I had found a single paperback of one of the Book of Lost Swords books, which I didn’t even know existed. Lo and behold there are actually seven of them. So, thanks to my wife, finally in possession of all ten books of the series (unless there are more I don’t know about), I have begun reading through them all to review and such.

Just to be perfectly honest, I’m reading this in the hard cover I have so as not to further stress the old paperbacks, but I will review all of the series individually. And I have to say that this first book holds up fairly well despite the time that’s passed since I first read it. It’s not the most engaging of fantasy series, but it’s solid and interesting and does things in a way that is new enough. I suppose that, at the time, this might have been a bit more common (and persists today with things like The Wheel of Time) but the series is set in a time after our own but still on Earth, or Earth enough. The idea is that something happened in the past, a battle between the god Ardneh and the demon Orcus, which led to some large changes. Now there are some shady gods lurking around making magic swords and playing games with kingdoms and people’s lives.

It is an interesting setting, one that is rather unique and has the feeling that there is a vibrant history here, and I’m told that there are books the author wrote before this that tie into these series, but as I have not read those, this is all I got. Still, the setting is deep and well done. And the idea of these magic swords that the gods are using in some sort of game is, while not too original, at least an interesting idea to see play out. And even in this first book we get to see a number of the swords in action, and each is impressive. Of course, the setting alone can’t completely defend against some less than stellar characters, most of whom come off as rather cliché. The main character is Mark, the son of a smith and a boy on the run from an evil Duke. He gets into trouble, falls in with a band of misfits, and adventure happens. It’s not a bad story, but it’s not exactly all that gripping. It serves its purpose and remains light and fast and fun, but there are some aspects that hold it back from being great.

There is a bit of inconsistency, after all, with some of the characters, who aren’t all that fleshed out at this point. They act and move, but we don’t get a whole lot of deeper motivations and thoughts. Most of the characters operate on the whole good and evil spectrum, which is never the most challenging, and while it fits for a story about magic swords, it can’t seem to get beyond the simple. There are also some moments when you’re not sure whose head you’re supposed to be in, and the narrative can’t always make up its mind on who it wants to focus on, ditching Mark for the greater part of the second half of the book to show the Duke, the dragon hunter Nestor, the kind Sir Andrew, the beast lord Draffut, and a few others. It makes it a little difficult to become invested in the characters then, especially because this is a short book.

In the end, though, this is a fine book, a fun read, a decent fantasy. The setting is far and away the biggest draw, but the characters show some promise if they were only developed more, and the story itself alludes to a lot of things that might be happening in the future. Really the plot is just a series of mysterious events, cool in their own rights but not really doing much more than that. And don’t get me wrong, I like this book. It’s fun. But it doesn’t exactly satisfy on all levels, and that holds it back from being something I would recommend everyone run out and read. So as is, I give it a 6.75/10 and call it a day.

Be sure to check out my other Comic, D&D, Manga, and Novel reviews here.

Not For the Faint of Heart - Tale of the Waning Moon Vol 3 Review

Hi all and welcome back to another installment of Not For the Faint of Heart, brought to you today by Siner's Holiday Cheer, a lovely peach beer for your winter enjoyment. And here we have the glorious return to Tale of the Waning Moon, one of my favorite Yaoi series to date, a tradition that is proudly continued with this third and slightly longer volume in the series. Ryuka and Co. are back and the series remains charming and romantic, with a return of some sex and the unfortunate realization that the series cannot last forever.

The series feels like it should be running longer than I'm sure it will, though I suppose that's not a terrible thing, as it would be a shame for the series to become stale, but I just feel that there is so much to explore here, especially with some of the secondary characters. To point, this volume takes a much tighter focus on Aldin and Ral, Ryuka's star crossed friends, as they deal with Aldin's possessive brothers and the curse that has been placed on them. I have to admit that their relationship is a little more interesting in my opinion than the one between Ryuka and Ixto, and so I was disappointed that this volume resolves their journey and shuffles them off the board. I would have been more than happy to see Aldin and Ral continue journeying with Ryuka, but I guess it is not to be. Still, we learn a lot about Aldin's family and his brothers and we learn why the spell was cast and then get to see the curse broken and the two finally be able to consummate their relationship and find some measure of hope.


Really, the saddest thing is that it ends, and that they have to be apart from not just each other for a while, but don't get to continue on with Ryuka. Still, it is rather satisfying to see them get to be with each other and it is super cute and sweet throughout. The situation with Aldin's brothers is a bit odd, though, and a little off-putting (and very Japanese, it seems), but so it goes. Otherwise, the story does move on in this volume, with yet another instance of Ryuka being kidnapped and nearly raped. This time, however, it is the sorcerer who almost raped him last volume that saves him, and we move onto the next phase of the story, with them trying to get Ryuka to the moon to now save Ixto who has been imprisoned for helping Ryuka too much.

But this is a solid volume, retaining the same humor that has been so refreshing throughout the series and injecting a bit of sex back in, with Aldin and Ral sharing a tender moment and Ixto and Ryuka once again getting together. And I could complain that these scenes are too short, that I wanted more, but they were still very well done and rather touching (teehee). The art is great and the story has been consistently well done. And, despite the repeated instances of almost being taken by strange men, this is another volume that has no rape, so very hurrah to that. And in the end it means that I have a good romantic comedy fantasy that makes me hope that the series doesn't end too soon. I'm afraid now that things will wind down and there's only one more volume left to go, but I'm hoping I'm wrong, because this volume again gets high marks, earning an 8.5/10.

Be sure to check out my other Comic, D&D, Manga, and Novel reviews here.