Imadoki! Nowadays! Series Review

imadoki1Title: Imadoki! Nowadays!
Series: 5 volumes
Author: Yuu Watase
Publisher: Viz Media LLC
Genre: Manga – Shoujo

For Tanpopo Yamazaki, life at the elitist Meiô Academy seems way out of her league. The daughters of wealthy families snub her; other students make light of the fact that she actually tested into Meiô instead of relying on family connections, and the cute boy she saw tending a dandelion the day before wouldn’t even acknowledge her existence. Hoping to make friends and have some fun, Tanpopo starts up a gardening committee, but will this help her survive in a school where superficiality and nepotism reign supreme? IMADOKI follows the trials and tribulations of a budding horticulturist as she makes her way down the winding road to friendship. From Yû Watase, one of Japan’s most beloved shôjo artists, IMADOKI packs comedic charm and heartfelt antics into an adorable bouquet of whimsical fantasy.

As this is a series review there may be spoilers!

I’m going to start this off by saying: I’m biased when it comes to this series and several other Yuu Watase works. I read a lot of her works many years ago and they were some of my favorite series at the time, and still are. So of course upon rereading this series all the way through again, I loved it, but there were some things I didn’t remember that happened and when I read about them it was like I was reading with fresh eyes.

This series follows Tanpopo, a happy-go-lucky girl who moves from Hokkaido to Tokyo to join this elite school to make more friends and experience more in the world. When she first arrives, the day before school starts for the year, she runs into (more like crashes into) Koki, who was minding his own business taking care of a plant. From there it takes off and we learn many things about Koki, Tanpopo, and her serious desire to make friends.

Tanpopo is kind of a clueless person who just wants those around her to be happy because she knows what it’s like to be in a lot of pain and really sad. She’s cheerful even when she’s being bullied for being the new girl and trying to talk to Koki – who acts like a totally different person when he’s at school surrounded by others than when he was alone tending to plants. I think that she’s a very loveable character, and that she really shows her genuine feelings on the surface almost all the time. I think that’s why so many people change around her and become more friendly to her and to others, including themselves. She’s kind of the beacon of hope in this series and I think that she is a great person.

Koki is from one of the elite families in the school, and he hates it. He had a lot of responsibility dumped on him when his older brother, Yoji, runs out on the family with no hint as to where he was going. He finds that everyone in the school only wants to be close to him because of his status, and he hates that. He finds solace in plants and tending to flowers and that’s really where he shows his true colors. I think that he has a great sense of responsibility, but also a great load of guilt because he takes on the tasks of his brother that he didn’t want to take on.

Flippy is a hacker and kind of a crazy guy who can flip on anyone at any time without warning, but he’s also a fun character because not only does he cause mischief, but he really believes in what Tanpopo is trying to do and supports her as a great friend.

Tsukiko is first interested in joining the Plant Committee with Tanpopo just so she could destroy Tanpopo’s image in front of Koki, but then we learn that she just wants to be with Koki for his status and power – the way it’s handled, though, is very funny and I think that it brings a lot of hilarity to some more serious moments in the series. Also, I ship her and Flippy. Just saying.

Arisa is the last of the group to really join in and she was unwilling at first, but once Tanpopo really showed her that it was okay to do things for herself, Arisa decided to be friends with them. Also, she has a secret that they all quickly figure out, and I think that she deals with it in a very mature way.

And then there’s Erika who… I really don’t like. At all. I don’t feel sorry for her and I know she was just there to create drama, but dammit, whyyyyyyy. Ugh. She’s just… not a good person. I don’t like her. I don’t have much to say about her. I’m just glad Tanpopo doesn’t really give up on her, even after all of the crap that she puts Tanpopo through.

As for the plot, it’s a pretty simple high school drama (ahahahaha, simple?) with developing feelings of romance, budding friendships, real life problems, and more. I think that the plot is pretty simple in comparison, but it’s one that draws you in along with the characters because you want to know what happens next with them all. I love being able to see Japanese culture represented so much through manga and this is just one of those examples. I love seeing the blossoming romance between Koki and Tanpopo, and the humor used in moments that really needed it.

I also love Yuu Watase’s drawing style. It’s honestly one of my favorites of all time, so again, I’m biased in that way. But she just makes all of her characters so pretty and memorable. ;-;

If you’re looking for a fun shoujo manga with drama, romance, friendship, and fun times, then check out this series.

Overall series rating: 4.5 stars

Click on the individual covers below to be brought to their Goodreads page!

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A Silent Voice Series Review

asilentvoice1Title: A Silent Voice
Series: 7 Volumes Total
Author/Illustrator: Yoshitoki Oima
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Manga – Young Adult – Contemporary
Format: Purchased paperbacks

LEARNING TO LISTEN

Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his past mistakes, or is it too late?

This will be a series review, so I will be covering all seven volumes of this series. There may be spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep this spoiler free.

This manga series is, in a word, stunning. I love the art and the characters and the story, and I’m so glad that it was so critically acclaimed in Japan because of the heavy subjects that it undertakes and how it’s executed in the story itself.

The story itself is about a boy named Shoya who always wants to have fun and never be bored. He often takes dangerous risks with his friends (such as jumping off bridges into shallow-ish water) in order to find those moments of fun and adventure. When his friends decide to cool it with all of the dangerous stunts, that’s when Shoko, a deaf girl, is transferred to his class and he thinks of her as kind of like a boss he has to beat in a video game.

Of course, that doesn’t exactly turn out well in his favor. He bullies Shoko without realizing he was being a bully by yelling at her, ripping out her hearing aids, and just causing chaos for Shoko. His other friends join in and eventually she has to transfer again.

That’s also when Shoya’s friends turn against him and he pretty much becomes a loner for the next six years.

I love how the story uses X’s over people’s faces because we’re seeing everything through Shoya’s point of view, and he doesn’t think about or care about anyone. Only when someone does something nice to him does that X fly off of their face and he sees who they are and becomes friends with them. I thought that that concept was demonstrated really well and that it was very important to the story itself.

When Shoya runs into Shoko six years later in high school, he returns the notebook she used to communicate with the other students to her and, to her surprise, he also learned sign language so he could communicate with her.

He tries very hard to redeem himself and make up with her and show her that he’s extremely sorry for the way he was as a kid, and though I thought this was sweet I oftentimes found that it became overbearing the way he was going about it. I did see immense growth in him, though, and I was glad to see that he was also affecting others around him in a positive way.

Shoko was a very defining character as well not only because she was deaf, but because she always tried to be kind to everyone and not let things get to her – at least on the surface. There are a couple of darker moments with her that made me want to reach out and comfort her. I thought that she was a very generous and warm character and I’m so glad to see some sort of deaf representation in manga (which I’ve never seen before).

There were also characters who were fat, or had a very ugly personality, or who was once bullied, or who tries her best in everything. Even Shoko’s younger sister is “different” in that she takes pictures of dead animals and dresses like a boy. I loved that there were so many varied personalities, body sizes, and disabilities shown in this series.

The plot, overall, was one that gripped me and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It was cute in many places, and there were a few times where I felt some things were unnecessary or were just too extreme, but the main story was very gripping and I loved it to bits.

If you’re looking for a diverse manga set in Japan, then I highly, highly recommend A Silent Voice.

Each volume has it’s own rating, but for my series rating I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

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Hobby Corner: August ART Edition

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Hey peeps, so I wanted to do something a little different and talk about hobbies other than reading. I KNOW, it’s weird, right? Well, when I think about what my other hobbies are, I seem to always to defer to the usual: writing, drawing/art, and playing video games. Each have been a huge part of my life almost my entire life, and I can’t see myself without any of them in my life at all.

How is it going to work? Well, I’m going to be introducing a bit of different things to the blog once a month that will include artwork, poetry, writing (which I’ve already introduced), video games, anime, etc. Whatever my hobbies are, that’s what I’m going to talk about that month! It’ll become more detail and focused on certain topics and other things after the initial introductions are out of the way, but for now, I’m just going to talk about why each of these hobbies are so loved by me.

So, for this month I’m going to talk about ART!

Now, for those who don’t know, I love to draw. I always have, so I can’t really pinpoint a time where it really began, BUT I can tell you that my love for drawing grew after my introduction to manga in sixth grade, around the age of eleven or twelve. I loved manga and anime styles, and my friends who introduced me were also very much into them.

As I got older, though, and continued to take art classes every year throughout my schooling, my art began to improve more and more, but I feel like I’ve reached a sort of plateau when it comes to certain styles of drawing – my style – and though I’m okay with that, of course I’d like to improve still. In fact, I love art so much that I took AP Art in high school (and got a 0 for the AP score, but an A for the class, oh well) and I minored in art in college.

The picture above on the left was drawn using only charcoal pastels. I’ve always loved drawing flowers, especially roses, and when I have a model to use it makes it much easier to draw. The picture on the right was drawn free hand, but I did use a little help from online sources for the placement of the hands.

I know my strengths lie in still life, pencil, pastels, and charcoal. My favorite medium is in graphite pencil, with charcoal being a close second. But I also draw digitally.

I love drawing and creating cute chibi characters for people on other websites or just for fun (I did a whole bunch when I was still on Gaia Online, which is where the above pictures were drawn for: people on Gaia). They’re the easiest to me, especially head shots, and I just have a special place in my heart for this style of drawing.

I haven’t drawn much since I graduated college, though. I’ve been in sort of a rut since having to work full time, but when I participated in the Biannual Bibliothon, I did a challenge where I let a character take over my channel and I chose be Feyre from A Court of Mist and Fury and paint three paintings.

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And it was marvelous.

The paintings didn’t come out spectacular, but it was the first real kind of art I had done in a long time and it felt amazing. I had a blast! And I’d totally do it again, too.

Being able to touch and hold paints, paintbrushes, markers, colored pencils, sketchbooks, tablet pens, and more just bring a whole other level of happiness into my life and I don’t know why I don’t just do it more.

I think having hobbies that you love and cherish are important, especially when they’ve been so part of your life for as long as art has for me. So pick up that paintbrush, get those colored pencils, and make art!

If you want to check out more of my work, you can visit my deviantART account. I don’t post a lot any more, but I might start doing so if I pick it up more again.

Let’s Chat! ≧◡≦

Do you like to draw or paint or do any kind of art? What’s your favorite style and medium? What are some of your strong points? Are you better at still life or creating from your imagination?

Orange: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 & 2 Manga Review

orange1Title: Orange: The Complete Collection 1
Author/Illustrator: Ichigo Takano
Publisher: Seven Seas
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Genre: Manga – Teen – Sci-fi, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Purchased Paperback

A Plea From the Future

On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she recieves a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter’s predictions come true one by one Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. Who is this mystery boy, and can Naho save him from his destiny?

When my best friend suggested this manga series to me, I knew I would love it. She knew I would love it. And frankly: I did love it. It was heartwarming, very touching, and it reached all of the places inside of me that I try to not touch – and I needed every minute of it.

There are trigger warnings for depression and suicide and there are spoilers below.

From the characters to the story to the art, I found that each part was expanded upon and really thought over carefully as the story grew and we got to learn more about these characters and just why it is they have to save Kakeru.

Naho, our leading lady, was kind of like your typical shoujo heroine who’s very modest, easily embarrassed, but has a big heart. She cares very deeply for her friends and doesn’t want anyone to get hurt – emotionally or otherwise. I thought that she was very cute and that she did her best to help her friend (who she obviously developed feelings for). I wish she had been more brave at times and had acted as the letters suggested, but I also know that it’s not in her nature to be as brave as she was sometimes.

Kakeru, the main focus of the story, deals with a lot of depression and suicidal thoughts after his mother commits suicide on the day of the entrance exams when he doesn’t return home right after school. He blames himself and, as a result, he holds in his feelings, not sharing with his friends. In the future world (10 years in the future), he is no longer there with them, and they all reflect back on him not being there and what they could have done to save him. In the past life, his friends are changing the future, and as a result he ends up enjoying life a lot more, but he’s still very depressed and puts on a smile so his friends don’t worry. But when they do push and ask him very serious questions, he does eventually break down and tell them some of what’s bothering him and I think those were some of the most important parts.

Suwa, Hagita, Azu, and Takako, the other friends in the group, all try to cheer up Kakeru even though they don’t fully know why they’re doing it just yet. I love that they all try their best to be supportive in whatever way they can and that they don’t back down and let Kakeru drown in a spiral of darkness.

The plot of the story was one that had me reeling from so many emotions. I laughed, I cried (more like sobbed), I was angry, joyful… So many emotions were packed into this first large volume that I felt like this was a story written for me. I loved seeing the progression from the past and the future, to see where they were ten years in the future, how they were living their lives, why they came together, and how they wanted to fix it. And then their past selves, though doubtful at first, really took the letters’ advice to heart and implemented as many changes as possible. It was so inspiring and beautiful.

There was, of course, romance as this is a shoujo manga (girl’s manga, aka, here there be romance and cuteness), and though it was subtle, it was still there and so darn cute. The feelings grew slowly and steadily, and just like any school crush, it was difficult for either party to really speak their feelings. I feel that, if they had, it would have made it just a little bit easier overall.

Overall, my favorite aspect of this book was the friendship because it is such an important element in this story. Not giving up on your friends or taking sides or anything like that. It was all about trying to make one friend happy, yes, but they were all doing it because of how much they care for Kakeru.

This first volume is definitely 5/5 stars and I extremely, highly recommend it.

orange2Title: Orange: The Complete Collection 2 Publication Date: May 31, 2016 Pages: 384 Format: Purchased Paperback

Everyone has regrets in life. So who wouldn’t take the chance to change the past if given the opportunity? When sixteen-year-old Takamiya Naho receives a mysterious letter, claiming to be from her twenty-seven-year-old self, her life is suddenly thrown into flux. The letter informs her that a new transfer student by the name of Naruse Kakeru will be joining her class, and to keep her eye on him. What is Naho to make of the letter’s contents and its cryptic warning?

Orange: The Complete Collection 2 also includes a bonus story, Haruiro Astronaut. This five chapter story is about a pair of twins who discover that they can’t share everything in life – or at least not an alien that suddenly becomes a part of it.

In this second volume, we pick up the story right where it was left off and we find out that all of the friends received letters from their past selves. They all work hard and come together to try to make Kakeru’s life as happy as possible. Of course, sometimes they couldn’t rely on the letters because the events happening in their timeline was different from their future selves’ timeline. Sometimes it would make things worse, but other times it would make things better, and sometimes events would align and they could follow the letters’ suggestions.

Naho really tries to make an effort to express her feelings to Kakeru in this novel, and it does make him happy, until a slip up that causes his thoughts to spiral and he doesn’t want to hurt her anymore and, therefore, turns away from her. This causes a downward spiral that they were hoping they could control, but it ends up happening anyway.

These times were the toughest to read because, as someone who has had similar experiences, once we dove into Kakeru’s point of view and saw his thought process, it was very similar to ones I have had before. When we relived the past Kakeru’s life, it was very saddening, but it also showed just how much the group of friends had come to that point to really make their Kakeru happier and change the outcome to the best of their abilities. I thought that this was a very powerful move and one that was well handled.

The ending, of course, made me burst with happiness. It was so beautiful and heartwarming and it shows just how strong friendship can be; how strong love can be. I absolutely loved this series and thought that it was really well done and showed accurate representations of depression. It’s easy to put on a smile for the world when really you feel like you’re dying on the inside. For Kakeru, this was all too true, and I’m so glad that the friends were able to help him in one timeline even if they couldn’t help him in another.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. 5/5 stars.

Also, there was a a bonus five chapter story with different characters called Haruiro Astronaut.

This short story followed twin girls, Chiki and Mami, and how Mami always has the boys falling in love with her, and Chiki’s never really had a crush on anyone before. It’s a cute, hilarious story about the girls’ falling for guys, but it mostly focuses on Chiki and I loved it!

I felt that Chiki and Mami were very different personalitywise even if they were very similar in looks. Chiki was more like the mother hen, always looking out for others – especially Mami – whereas Mami is much more like a child and needing to rely on others.

When Mami introduces Chiki to a hot, smart basketball player, Yui, Chiki finds out that Yui likes her sister. So when those two start going out, we’re introduced to two other characters: Tastuki – Yui’s best friend from childhood – and Taskuoki – a kid from Chiki’s class who claims to like Mami, but really…

Let’s just say: hilarity ensues, there was a lot of laughter (A LOT), and it was adorable and really helped to lighten the mood after reading Orange. It was very cute and heartwarming, and I need a whole series just about these characters, please and thank you. This short story is a definite must read and I rated it 5/5 stars, too!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Every Magic Lover Should Read

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday as hosted by the lovely people over at The Broke & the Bookish. Today’s topic is books that every ___ should read. We got to pick the kind of person we wanted to recommend books to, and I chose people that enjoy reading about magic!

 

1 . Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. Honestly, did you not expect this to be on the list? I find that the magic in this world is something that we, as children, definitely wanted to have when we were younger. And we’re all still waiting for our letter.

2. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. This story has a different sort of magic that relies on wishes and incantations. Though it’s mostly magic of a different kind, there are still elements and hints of a deeper kind of magic throughout the world.

3. The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. This trilogy has a different kind of magic system that focuses on Allomancy: the use of metals and the different types of metals having a different effect.

4. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. I think that the magic in this world is so complex and so interconnected to everything around it that it’s just really kind of cool. A lot of it is elemental, but there are some that are different and deeper like truthwitches, bloodwitches, threadwitches, etc.

5. Air Awakens by Elise Kova. This series has a lot of elemental magic of varying levels and degrees and I just love, love, love it.

6. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. You guys know me by now. Though the magic doesn’t really appear until the third book I find that when it’s used by people that it’s intimidating and strong.

7. Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi. I haven’t read or watched Sailor Moon in a bagillion years, but this classic magical girl story is one that should definitely be appreciated by anyone who wants silly, fun magic in their lives based off of the planets.

8. The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. If you love faeries and fey magic then definitely pick up this series. I need to reread it soon because I remember loving it and the magic in it.

9. Fushigi Yuugi by Yuu Watase. As my all time favorite manga series, I had to include this. The magic in this book is subtle and not too often, but it involves the main character being sucked into a book and having to live through a lot of things. Some magic does happen, but it’s a mysterious kind.

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10. Stardust by Neil Gaiman. The writing itself may as well be magical, but this is another faerie story with a lot of faerie magic, tricks, and turns. I love this book and the beauty within it.

There you have it! Ten books that I think people who love magic should take a peek at. Some have more magic than others, and some vary in the kind of magic used, but I definitely think all of them are definitely worth checking out.

What books did you recommend today? What kind of magic books would you recommend to me? Let me know!