Category Archives: General

Library Wars: Love and War; Vol. 6

The series has reached a point where I’m incessantly playing the, Oh no, I feel so much for this character, please don’t let them die! game.  A never ending paranoia if there ever was one…

Volume 6 finds the library force preparing in various ways for Valentine’s Day, therein keeping the storyline lighthearted and sweet. While Ika tries to finding friendly and diplomatic ways to get chocolate to Dojo, Shibazaki is busy trying to shirk off pushy co-workers and sweet, yet unwanted advances from a library patron.

While Volume 5 helped readers to gain some insight into Komaki’s background, Volume 6 marks Shibazaki’s turn. It came as no surprise to me that her friendly demeanor is mostly a facade to keep people around her from criticizing her naturally intelligent and sarcastic nature. Unfortunately, Shibazaki seems to have grown up around the sort of folks who find physical beauty mutually exclusive to intelligence and a sharp wit. Indeed, she is not the only character to have found some kind of safe haven within the people she chooses to surround herself with within the Library Force. It’s emotionally gratifying to see her attempt to keep Ika at bay, only to have the blonde penetrate that force field by accepting Shibazaki as she truly is. What’s more, is that no one even asked her to. Ah, warm fuzzies abound!

Moral dilemma comes back into play as Volume 6 moves on, when a popular news magazine is threatened by the MBC for publishing a detailed account of a teenage serial killer and his victims. Where one party claims the publication of such info is gratuitous and uncalled for, the other camp deems it the responsibility of the press to keep the public informed.

Regardless of where people fall on the issue, the Library Force remains responsible for defending the magazine from those who wish to see it banned.

In all, Volume 6 is pretty similar to Volume 5, and I mean that in a good way. Progressing character backgrounds while moving the story forward at just the right pace, I’m enjoying getting to know the layout of this society and the people who live in it. The presence of the MBC and both its blatant and discreet supporters is a great means of keeping readers on their toes while also allowing enough space to just sit back and enjoy the series.

While the day-to-day stuff is broken up nicely by detail work and confrontation with the MBC, I’d have to say that my favorite part of the series is gaining insight on each of the main characters and their private worlds. I’m going to guess that Volume 7 will have its way with Hikaru Tezuka, which I’m very much looking forward to.


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Millennium Snow, Vols. 1 & 2

After falling in love with Bisco Hatori’s amazing series Ouran High School Host Club, it was simply a given that Millennium Snow be put onto the shorter end of my to-read list. Following the lives of a sickly teen and the vampire boy who begrudgingly befriends her, the manga grabs hold of a premise that should make you want to roll your eyes, then spins it into a sound tale that is refreshing in its honesty and simplicity.

Considering pop culture’s recent infatuation with the whole vampire/werewolf storyline, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of skepticism while traipsing through Millennium Snow. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to gain trust in the originality of what sat in front of me. It seems that Bisco Hatori’s thing is to write meaningful stories where lonely and hurt people are able to find significance within themselves and others, simply by learning to trust and letting people in. And it works.

Volume 1: Seventeen year old Chiyuki is a girl whose life is dictated by a heart condition that has everyone thinking that she is not long for this world. Life gets a little more interesting when she meets Toya, an anemic vampire who prefers to live off of standard food, as opposed to choosing a human partner who in turn for being his own personal blood bank, would live as long as Toya does–about 1,000 years. Refusing to ask anyone to share such a long and lonely existence, Toya tries to maintain an arrogant attitude, as well as living by the mantra that humans are weaker creatures who will just end up dying and leaving him all alone.

Seeing through his facade, Chiyuki becomes adamant about making a connection with Toya, despite his penchant for insulting both her ditzy personality and her human fragility. Regardless of how he behaves, Toya is unable or unwilling to leave her alone, and therefore goes along when Chiyuki enrolls him into her high school. The result is oftentimes amusing, and both Chiyuki and Toya’s individual charms start to come into play.

Enter into the picture Satsuki, a popular and obnoxious student with secrets of his own, and we now have the making of a love triangle. With Satsuki’s eye on Chiyuki, it isn’t long before he’s revealed to be a werewolf, albeit not happily so. Doing what he can to be normal, it’s Chiyuki who helps him toward epiphany, and he ends up falling in love with her. Toya, of course, is not too happy with it all.

The first volume of Millennium Snow ended up being short and sweet, with an entertaining ending with which to segue into Volume Two. Yes, the story might be a classic shojo setup, but I found it to be fantastic, no less.

In addition to delivering a good first series, Bisco Hatori graces readers with her manga debut, A Romance of One Moment, which appeared in LaLa DX. It’s a lovely story, but that is a post for another time.

Volume 2: Continuing on with the annoyed-jealous-guy versus confident-happy-guy love triangle theme, Chiyuki remains the diplomat of the group. The three of them head off to the Alps for a little vacation, only to end up lost in the mountains. A little arbitrary, but we’ll go with it. Mainly because that’s how the group ends up finding respite in an old mansion sitting in the middle of nowhere. As it turns out, the mansion is frozen in time due to the loneliness and anger felt by the ghost of the little girl who used to live there. It’s a nice little twist to an otherwise normal story, and again, the supernatural elements are fitting and in no way overdone.

Moving forward with the story, Chiyuki, Toya and Satsuki begin to settle into the day-to-day aspects of high school existence. Things are pretty standard until the arrival of Chiyuki’s cousin, Kei, whose been away at college in America. Having told Chiyuki that he’s been studying English, Kei’s actually studying to become a cardiologist in order to one day save his cousin. Unreasonably overprotective, Kei does not take well to these new male friends, and eventually comes to blows with Toya. It’s while dealing with Chiyuki’s slightly unhinged cousin that readers are able to really see Toya begin to come into his own. Not only are his feelings for her becoming more apparent, but his actions and words become more deliberate. Sure, he’s still throwing Chiyuki the occasional insult, but he’s also gaining comfort and insight into who he is; and while he’s still putting Chiyuki’s needs before his own, it’s clear that Toya has come to a place where he’s willing to protect and fight for what he wants (read: Chiyuki).

With a mere three volumes of Millennium Snow published, and only two of those being available in English, I am definitely left wanting for more. With a Japanese release date of 2002, it was still 2007 before Volume Two was made available in English. With Volume Three having only been released earlier this year, I can only imagine how long it will take for it to make its way Stateside.

I’m sure it will be well worth the wait. I’m excited to see the difference that a decade has made with Bisco Hatori’s artwork. Early on, the bodily proportions of characters can occasionally distract from the story, though this is just a minor setback. The range of emotions and humor that her artwork conveys definitely outweighs any negatives.

With Japan having released Volume Three of Millennium Snow as recently as August 2013, I’m crossing my fingers that it does not take five or six years for Viz to bring the series to North America.

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Library Wars: Love and War, Vol. 5

At this point, the series has established what it’s all about, and seems to be moving away from alternating between constantly insulting Ika and throwing raids into readers’ faces. But then, the manga is called Love and War, no?

The tension between Ika and her parents sees a slight decrease in pressure as her father begins imploring into “current events” (read: looking for traces of his daughter in the news), and even stands up for her when an argument with her mother seems imminent. Between his research and conversations with Dojo, it’s clear not only that Mr. Kasahara is aware of his daughter’s career choice, but also has a pretty solid idea of the sort of feelings that exist between her and the aforementioned superior. What’s more, is that he seems to approve! Well, at the very least, he’s not standing in the way…

In what ends up being a fantastic change of gears, a sizable portion of Volume Five is devoted to Mikihisa Komaki. With the introduction of someone close to Komaki, as well as the inclusion of a dire situation, things begin to feel new, interesting, and emotional all over again. As much as I love Ika and Dojo, it was very refreshing to switch directions for a while.

Admittedly, however, it was great to close out this volume with a bonus manga detailing the events of a party being put on by a publishing company. The task force attends as protection detail, and it isn’t long before Ika finds herself tackling a member of the MBC into a fountain. She ends up wearing a gown for the rest of the night, entirely unaware not only of how stunning she is, but also of the affect she has on the men around her. Or how the aforementioned has affect on Dojo.

Love and War, indeed.

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One Hundred Poems, by Blue Flute

I recently wrapped up One Hundred Leaves, which is an anthology of 100 poems written by 100 different Japanese poets, spanning from the 7th to the 13th century. I especially liked reading through this collection, as it’s presented in English, but also provides the Japanese translation, pronunciation, and calligraphy for each poem. Each poem is accompanied by artwork, and many of the poems also have additional notes on differing translations, common literary themes of the time, and info on the authors. One of the things I found most interesting is the fact that at the time, Japanese nobility were expected to convey themselves through poetry. Indeed, the authors here are mostly either former or current members of the Imperial Court at the time of the poems’ writing.

As far as the poems themselves go, One Hundred Leaves is a decent anthology, although I’m sure that traditional Japanese poetry isn’t likely to be seated on the shelf alongside my favorite reads. Still, I’m glad to have taken a glimpse at part of Japan’s literary history, and now have a better understanding of some recurring themes, traditions, and matters of importance for the culture.

I found myself enjoying the earlier poems, which seemed to flow better, were more original, and had more effective imagery; be it sad, angry, pretty, or what have you. A lot of the later poems seemed a bit repetitive in content. I’m not sure if that’s due to pressure by the Court to be writing certain things, the people going through specific events in their lives, or if it’s just me. Either way, I prefer the earlier poems.

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Someone has a favorite author…

I just finished reading Volumes One and Two of Millennium Snow. And oh, Bisco Hatori… I love you more than you can ever know… It could have something to do with Ouran High School Host Club inciting the resurrection of my fandom about a year and a half ago… But I think it’s something more than that.

She just has a certain humor and a special charm that I cannot deny. Her dialogue is spot on and hits whatever chord she’s aiming for, and her drawings–even the early stuff that clearly needs some fine tuning–is perfectly able to convey whatever situation is at hand. Bisco Hatori has a knack for creating characters who feel like they should be slightly audacious, but instead come off as both relatable and believable.

Sure, she’s not the only mangaka to do as much for their readers, but who cares? At this point, her work is just destined to always be one of my favorites.


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Library Wars: Love and War, Vol. 4

Volume Three leaves off with Ika escorting Commander Inamine to a funeral, leading to the two of them being taken hostage by a group of zealous supporters of the MBC. While Dojo is busy guilt tripping himself for putting Ika into such a dangerous situation, she’s been using her wits to help the team zero in on their location.

Action, head-patting and hugging ensue, and the day ends with everyone safe and able to sleep in their own beds.

With the hostage situation behind her, Ika must now face a confrontation seemingly worse than being kidnapped: a visit from her parents. Readers learn early on that Ika’s relationship with her parents extends beyond them not being close, to the point that they don’t even know that she is a soldier with the Library Task Force.

Her mother can be summed up by the fact that she spends her visit to the base worrying about all of the various things that could go wrong, even asking her daughter if she can simply take a few days off whenever a raid comes along. Readers also catch a glimpse of a much younger Ika asking her mother if she’s proud of her for outracing the boys, only to get scolded for getting dirty and doing non-girly things. I found myself sympathizing with the poor girl, as well as a better understanding of why she does what she does. As eager as Ika is to please, she stops short of compromising who she is, regardless of who is doling out the accolades.

Afraid of being dragged back home, Ika turns to those close to her in order to conceal that she’s a solider, going so far as to spend a day clerking in the library in order to make the lies to her parents more feasible. Dojo spends his time reminding Ika not to behave so formally around him, and Shibazaki gives the Kasaharas a sugar-coated tour of the facilities.

Their day is capped off by a meal overheard by none other than Komaki, who ironically, was attempting to escape their company so as to avoid being in an awkward position. The chapter begins with the sergeant saying, “I am a firm believer in the truth for a reason. But I’m not going to talk about it right now. The only thing I can do for Kasahara, a subordinate painfully uneasy around her own parents, is stay out of it.”

I find myself more and more interested in Komaki’s backstory. He’s such a warm and amiable presence, and militarily, he’s just as tough and sharp as Dojo. On top of that, there’s something kind of emotionally soft about him. Couple that with his penchant for teasing and his need to blatantly tell the truth, and he’s quickly becoming a very intriguing character.

For one: what is this reason over which Komaki insists he is not just a believer, but a firm believer in the truth? I must find out!

In time… In time…

Having Komaki eavesdrop on Ika and her parents is a pretty fun way to wrap up Volume Four, which indeed had its share of intensity early on. It’s a nice opportunity to see our central characters in somewhat different circumstances, thus providing a bit more insight into their personalities and intentions.

The best part? Ika relaying the story of Her Prince to her parents while Komaki tries to keep his laughter to himself.

Ah! Which leads us to Volume Four’s big reveal! The identity of Ika’s prince is none other than…

Yep. Atsushi Dojo. To be honest, I spent some time early on trying to convince myself it wasn’t him. He’s relatively close in age to Ika, but old enough to have been a part of the Library Forces while she was still in high school. A younger, more idealistic and impulsive version of himself, with a passion which he’s worked hard to extinguish within.

Or, in my opinion, that’s simply what Dojo would like to think. For better or worse, the man is no hardass. An excellent solider who is good at what he does? Yes. An intimidating hardass? Not so much.

For now, I’m crossing my fingers at the notion of Dojo revealing his more sensitive side as the series moves forward. Onward to Volume Five!

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Library Wars: Love and War, Vol. 3

High times and hard times ensue for the Library Task Force, as things begin to heat up between Ika and Dojo, and protests in favor of censorship are under way.

Volume Three starts out with the PTA protesting outside of the library for tighter control over violent material that may have the capacity to poorly influence children. Incidentally, the children aren’t buying it, and a couple of them even show up to protest the protest. Sounds proactive and inspiring, right? Unfortunately, these boys are protesting with firecrackers, in doing so opening up an entire other can of worms.

Lucky for them, Major Genda grants the boys an opportunity to speak at an open forum, therein allowing them a platform to express what is really on the minds of babes. The end result is the boys give a smart and honest report, at which point the lady from the PTA throws a fit while insisting that she knows what is best for children. She ends her tirade by attempting to throw coffee at Ika.

Alas, once again Dojo steps in, keeping Ika out of harm’s way. While he’s never exactly come to Tezuka’s rescue (not that he needs it), it seems that no burn is too severe a consequence when it comes to protecting Ika. Tezuka has certainly noticed, that’s for sure…

I don’t know. Part of me finds the scenes where Dojo swoops in to the rescue to be getting a bit stale. It’s just so expected at this point that it’s beginning to lose appeal. Ah, but what happens on the day when Dojo isn’t there?!  I’d probably rue the page… Bickering with Ika over her performance is still humorous, but mainly on account of it always being a horomone-fueled argument between them. What really catches my eye are the more sensitive interactions between Ika and Dojo. The moments where he sincerely praises or comforts her are delicious enough to make me feel a bit like a creepy little voyeur…

It’s been made pretty clear at this point that Dojo has feelings for his Corporal Kasahara. And while I do believe that he will essentially put the mission first, it’s impossible not to notice his incessant need to helicopter over top of Ika, or the occasional lack of professionalism that his feelings have caused. Particularly when dealing with the positioning of task force members for an upcoming acquirement of sensitive materials. Instead of being on the frontlines, Dojo sends Ika to escort their commander to a funeral, citing that she has, “little to offer that Tezuka doesn’t already.”

The actuality of the situation is that Ika has kept her status as a soldier hidden from her  parents, lest they force her to come home in concern of her safety.

librarywars1See, here lies another problem for me. Ika is a grown woman. A college graduate. An accomplished and impressive woman. Yet she’s afraid enough of her parents’ opinions of her that she would allow them to command her away from the job that she’s passionate about, and has busted her butt for. This seems more of a personality flaw than anything else, but it’s a bit disappointing. Then to see Dojo catering to her secret by rearranging assignments and putting the blame onto the unknowing Ika, is a bit too much.

It works, though. I suppose that just means we have an antihero and antiheroine on our hands. Nothing wrong with keeping it relatable.

Not to mention, Dojo may have underestimated the overzealous MBC and its supporters when he decided Ika would have a safer place alongside their wheelchair-bound commander… Clouded judgement, much, Dojo? Hm…

All in all, part of what keeps me interested in Library Wars is my refusal to take it too seriously. A fantastic premise, and likable characters, to be sure. But at the end of the day, I’m left feeling that the dialogue and attention to detail stay a bit too close to the surface. Though ultimately, I see nothing wrong with that. What Kiiro Yumi has to offer here is a fast reading story that allows me a quick break from reality. Akin to a quick Vegas marriage between fleeting romance and political what-ifs, I feel as though I’m indulging in a mass market romance novel while listening to CNN.

And that is alright by me.

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Library Wars: Love and War, Vol. 2

The inception of Volume Two sees Ika training for the uber elite Library Task Force, a group for which she is one of only two people to be handpicked for the job. The other slot is occupied by Hikaru Tezuka, a handsome young perfectionist who seems all too aware of where his strengths lie.

As if constantly being shown up by Tezuka weren’t enough, Ika also gets to deal with his coarse opinions of her, which are topped off by Dojo’s oft scathing remarks on how she simply isn’t doing well enough. At least with Dojo, Ika has the odd, if not confusing benefit of understanding that his rough remarks come with an underlying sense of encouragement.

No worries, however, as Ika is served well–especially in the eyes of Tezuka–by her physical strengths combined with her ability to think ahead during intense and spontaneous situations.

The latter comes especially in handy as the library becomes the target of an MBC raid for the first time since Ika and Tezuka have become task force members.

Two different aspects of trust are presented, as task force members learn to rely on each other within dire circumstances; and again when it becomes apparent that not everyone employed by the library has the integrity of the mission at heart. Helping to make the difference throughout these tough situations are a few more characters that I’ve left previously unmentioned.

First is Ika’s roommate, Asako Shibizaki, a corporal training as a library clerk. Kind of a discreetly sexy librarian type, Shibizaki is an intelligent young woman who seems to know how to take advantage of the assumption that she’s “simply a clerk.” Flirtatious and blunt, Shibizaki is both a good friend and an intelligently stealthy attribute to the Library Forces.

Then there’s Ika’s other boss, Mikihisa Komaki. He may very well be my favorite of the bunch. In addition to being an awesome foil to the ultra-serious Dojo, Komaki provides readers a reliable cadence throughout the manga. Tezuka and Dojo are being jerks. Is it okay to laugh? Look for Komaki. Ika is having doubts about her abilities as a soldier! Is it all in her head? Look for Komaki. Want to see an attractive blonde male playfully riling Dojo’s feathers over his unspoken feelings for Ika? Look for Komaki. The man just does it all.

While on the topic of important secondary characters, I’ll also mention Major Ryusuke Genda. Captain of the Library Task Force, he’s a good-natured grizzly of a man. He’s got as much faith in Ika as one can have, and has been around long enough to remember when Dojo was essentially in her position. Which makes him interesting to me. While I’ve got nothing to indicate as much, I’m very  afraid for the well-being of this character. Considering that he’s this lovely, capable, enormous man who can also instill the fear of God into his soldiers, I just have a feeling that he’s going to be the one major tragedy that really pulls this team together. Let’s hope I’m wrong!

Moving away from the well fleshed out character development, Volume Two also brings a bit of ethical dilemma to the table.

With the capture of a young serial killer, we see blame geared toward violence in the media and a call for some measure of censorship. On top of that, the commander of the library base is asked to assist police by providing a record of the serial killer’s library records. Now, Commander Inamine, who lost his wife and right leg during what is considered to be the worst MBC raid ever, could easily be expected to sympathize with the notion of breaking protocol in order to help convict a proven killer. Alas, he refuses to aid the police, in doing so sets the stage for an unpopular public image for the library.

When he’s called into question for not doing the “right” thing, Inamine is quick to call the police out on their own actions, “So you’re implying that criminals don’t deserve to be protected by the law? That the rules ought to be compromised on a case-by-case basis? We have an obligation to uphold the law. The library is built on it. And as police, you certainly shouldn’t be trying to circumvent it.”

Indeed, the police’s request of the commander is in itself criminal, and readers are slapped with the concept that good intentions do not defend one’s actions.

Or do they?

I hope future volumes of Library Wars maintain this underlying theme of whether or not rules should ever be broken. An always relevant concept in any society, it’s a great way to gauge where our own beliefs lie, and a chance to assess how the world we live in functions.

It should be pretty good for the story, too.

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Library Wars: Love and War, Vol. 1

I happened upon this series while perusing the shelves at Barnes and Noble one day. Simply seeing the words library and war thrust together into a single title was enough to catch my attention. While uncertain as to whether or not I felt committed enough to buy it, after paging through the first volume, I just couldn’t get the story out of my head. Fast forward a few months later, when my own library began partaking in the miraculous interlibrary loan system, you’ve got one manga-happy girl on your hands.

So. Library Wars.

Twenty years before our story begins, a government entity known as the Media Betterment Committee has taken to restricting public access to free media. This includes any potentially offensive or questionable reading material, which the MBC will stop at nothing to attain. Being government establishments themselves, libraries are protected under the Library Freedom Act, making them sworn enemies of the MBC. An impulsive and violent organization, the MBC often shows blatant disregard for the law, and has been known to cause situations wrought with fear and tragedy.

Fast forward to the very near future, and readers are introduced to Ika Kasahara. A current trainee with the Library Forces, Ika is an adept soldier whose participation in the Library Forces is largely due to an encounter with a member of the LF during her youth. In the midst of training that will transform her from idealist college graduate into a capable defender of books and against wide scale censorship, Ika endures her rigorous training with both a charming sense of naivete, and a ferocious need to defend people’s rights to information and imagination via literature.

Living in a world that would have Ray Bradbury engaging in a well deserved I-told-ya-so dance, the story is lightened up by the emergence of Ika’s aloof nature, as well as a handful of characters significant enough that my mind has officially dubbed them the gang.  Then there’s Ika’s boss, Atsushi Dojo. Seemingly a hardass with a penchant for insulting her every chance he gets, the reality of the situation is that he probably sees her potential as an agent better than anyone else. His knack for resorting to schoolboy antics in her presence makes their interactions very entertaining, to say the least.

All in all, Library Wars is proving to be a worthy investment of my time. A quick read, the series has the potential to offer both substance and a bit of happy frivolity as it provides readers a political message with substance, while lightening the mood with a flirtatious setup between characters. Seriously, the scenario between Ika and Dojo is far less of a Will they? Won’t they? and much more about when they will confess their love. Not gonna lie. My sentimental fool is lying in wait in the corner, just waiting to cue it all up to Berlin’s Take My Breath Away.

Ah, but I digress.

If action oriented shojo manga is your thing, Library Wars just might be able to sate your palate. While I wouldn’t quite call this groundbreaking work, there is still plenty of good to be had. On top of having an interesting premise, the story has managed to leave questions on politics and ethics within my head. It also has me rooting for its likable characters whose feasible balance between their strengths and weaknesses is to be appreciated.

Not to mention, living in a world with such a touchy political climate as we do, something like Library Wars is bound to be a timeless concept for readers to come.

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So we meet again, and I offer my hand…

Boy howdy, has it been a while!

I’m excited to announce that Dynamo Penguin is-at the inception of a few big changes. Even though this blog has technically been around for about a year, I still consider it to be in its infancy, as its two writers–Dynamo Penguin and Rhetoric Femme–have been sporadic at updating, at best, as both real life and other interests have often caused the blog to take a backseat.

Alas, no more! The near future will see both an update in layout and content, as Rhetoric Femme begins to gear the blog largely toward Manga reviews. I’m sure there will still be anime reviews spread throughout, as well as future writing on other areas of Otaku interest.

For today, though, consider this a nice little, “Howdy Ho!” to all the rest of the lovely and enduring Otaku community out there in Internetlandia. I’m really hoping to create something enjoyable for both myself and you.


Just another occasion to throw some Ouran at the world.

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