‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 4-8

Sugar Sugar Rune, volumes 4-8. Story and art by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Kaya Laterman. Del Rey Manga (New York), 2007. Rated Y (Ages 10+).

I previously reviewed the first three volumes of this series. Because this was adapted and translated by Del Rey, I speculated that a re-release might come from Kodansha Comics, since Kodansha more-or-less replaced Del Rey Manga. I learned subsequently that the rights now actually belong to Udon Entertainment, which planned to begin releasing the series sometime in late 2016.

That didn’t happen, so the fate of the English translation of Sugar Sugar Rune is currently up in the air. Since the series has been released in Japanese as a colorized web comic, I’m hoping for a colorized English version, but that may be asking too much. Also still in need of a release in North America is the anime, the English version of which, as I understand it, only aired in the Philippines.

More than once, I have seen Sugar Sugar Rune touted as one of the greatest of the “cute witch” magical girl stories—a reputation it probably deserves. But, perhaps because the series was largely ignored during its original North American release, I think it’s also fair to say that some of its fans have over-sold it. Is it good? Yes, but it’s not that good. Is it “the greatest fantasy comic of the last five years,” as Anime News Network claimed? Well, I’d have to survey most of the fantasy comics from the five-year block before its publication to form an opinion on that, but I doubt it. Yes, it’s a fine little manga, but calm down. Continue reading “‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 4-8”

Incoming: ‘Sugar Sugar Rune’

I have managed, with some difficulty, to acquire the rest of the Moyoco Anno’s Sugar Sugar Rune, the first three volumes of which I reviewed previously. So a final review of what some consider the greatest “cute witch” comic is incoming in the near future.

I said before that this series, which originally came out in English through Del Rey Manga and is now out of print, needs to be re-released. Something I missed at the time: apparently, according to Anime News Network, the title has been acquired by Udon Entertainment,  and was slated to see a release in the second half of 2016, though that never actually happened. Perhaps there will be a release sometime this year. It ought to be in full color, though that’s probably asking too much.

Brief thoughts: the premise and introduction, set up over the first three volumes, are stronger than the sword-and-sorcery epic it tries to become in its latter half. It appears to break its own rules a couple of times to bring about its conclusion. Still, I like its stylish goth look, and it brings an unusual attitude to the genre, being saccharine and girlish, but with an unexpected bite.

Book Review: ‘I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You’

So many missed opportunities, it’s not even funny.

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter. New York, NY: Hyperion, 2006 [Disney-Hyperion, 2016]. 284 pages. ISBN: 142310003-4. Ages 12 and up.

This novel, with its clever yet over-long title, is the first book in Ally Carter’s bestselling Gallagher Girls series, which I’d never heard of before about a week ago when it happened to cross my desk. I picked this up because it has a funny premise; since it’s thematically related to the sort of thing I usually discuss here, it seems worthy of a book review.

Upon finishing this novel, my opinion is much the same as the one I started with: it has a funny premise. And that’s about it. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You’”

Jon Del Arroz Banned from WorldCon

It came to my attention early this morning that Jon Del Arroz, author of Star Realms: Rescue Run and For Steam and Country and several shorter works, who is also slated to write two novel spin-offs for the new Alt-Hero comic book series, has been banned from WorldCon, the annual convention that hands out the Hugo Awards, apparently without provocation. WorldCon claims that Del Arroz threatened to engage in some behavior contrary to the convention’s code of conduct, but the only information available indicates that he promised to wear a body cam and record it if anyone harassed him, something that is legal to do in the State of California, where the convention is to be hosted.

In the sci fi fandom—well, actually, it’s more among writers than among fans—there is a long-running political feud over WorldCon and the Hugos. It started a few years back, spearheaded by independently successful sf author Larry Correia, who suspected political bias in the way the awards are handed out. He started what became known as “Sad Puppies,” which grew into a small group of authors writing lists of what they considered the best sf of the previous year, and encouraging people to read those works and consider voting for them, as an alternative to alleged block voting dominated by Tor Books. The write-up on the situation at Know Your Meme is surprisingly even-handed.

Although this is a relatively innocuous activity, the Sad Puppies were labeled white supremacists and smeared in major media outlets including Entertainment Weekly (which retracted) and National Public Radio (which did not). I was an observer rather than a participant in the whole Sad Puppies debacle, but I know the authors involved. There’s a lot of talk lately about media bias and whether it’s a real thing, but for me, that’s not a matter of debate. There is most definitely a problem with media bias: I know this because I have watched the media lie about, smear, and write hit pieces on people I know.

My own opinion on Sad Puppies, if anyone cares, is that the Puppies’ complaints were legitimate if sometimes exaggerated. Hugos and Nebulas have in recent years gone to garbage in short fiction, but that is in large part because the short fiction market is garbage. The Hugos for best novel have remained considerably less awful. Nonetheless, it is certainly true that the social justice cult (and it does deserve to be called a cult) has wormed its way into sf as surely as into every other area of life, and this has affected who can get published, and what authors can say in public, as the present case illustrates.

Complicating the matter with the Sad Puppies was the involvement of Vox Day, who used it to further his personal feud with author John Scalzi and the Science Fiction Writers of America, which had ejected Day in violation of its own bylaws after he finally responded in kind to an authoress who had been insulting him for years. After being kicked out of the SFWA, Day took his ball and went home: living in Italy, he is the one-man show in charge of the Finnish publisher Castalia House, which has gathered a stable of talented yet disaffected authors, published numerous Amazon bestsellers, and is now planning a move into comics. While the Sad Puppies merely encouraged people to read, buy WorldCon memberships, and vote, Day’s “Rabid Puppies” created a voting block that skewed the award’s nominations; his greatest (and funniest) triumph was getting the self-published niche porn “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by Chuck Tingle on the ballot for best short story. In subsequent years, however, changes to the voting rules largely defanged the Rabid Puppies.

Meanwhile, the Sad Puppies gave up because they have jobs and families and insufficient interest in being repeatedly libeled. Also, the Puppies have largely decided to ignore the Hugos in favor of the new Dragon Awards, given out by DragonCon, which have recognized authors that WorldCon and the Hugos have shunned for their political opinions.

Although the Puppies thing is mostly over, Vox Day has more than one prong to his attack: he has recently published Moira Greyland’s The Last Closet, which chronicles Greyland’s childhood sexual abuse at the hands of celebrated sf author Marion Zimmer Bradley. This publication follows up on several years that Day has spent shedding light on the long-running sheltering of pedophiles in the sf community; see especially the Castalia House blog series Safe Space as Rape Room. Day’s Rabid Puppies got Safe Space nominated for a Hugo, but WorldCon refused to put it in the voting packet on the tenuous grounds that its content might be illegal in some countries—thereby furthering the impression that WorldCon shelters child molesters.

Anyway, Jon Del Arroz is something of a latecomer to all this, as his name wasn’t made yet when Sad Puppies was at its height. Nonetheless, he is is openly right-leaning in his politics, which has made him a target for abuse by other sf writers and high-level fans, as indicated by his feud with File 770, whose creator Mike Glyer seems to have a hate-crush on him. After Del Arroz was banned from WorldCon for no apparent reason, Vox Day naturally followed up with the provocatively entitled blog post, “Worldcon doesn’t ban pedophiles.”

In the interest of Twitter sniping, I made the same the same point in a Twitter thread and suggested that Del Arroz was banned because he might catch someone grooming children on video. After I made the comment, I was within seconds kicked out of my Twitter account, and my comment disappeared—maybe coincidence, maybe not.

A Visit from a Magical Girl (revised)

A poem

The previous version of this was doggerel I whipped out in about ten minutes, but this version (with some fudging) uses the anapestic tetrameter of the original.

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the town,
Lots of girls were a-stirring, to beat monsters down.
So they stalked all the baddies that threatened mankind,
For to blast them with magic and kick their behinds.

They crouched in the dark by the chimneys with care,
Or slipped across rooftops—villains beware!
One might wear a kerchief, and one has a cap,
But they all got short skirts, what you think about that?

Then at City Hall, there arose such a clatter,
That Plum Fairy Lyssa soon checked out the matter.
A monster showed up with a roar and a flash,
So Lyssa transformed and got ready to bash!

When what to her wondering eyes should appear,
But a slavering, fanged, and bloodthirsty deer?
T’was Rudolph! Whose terrible, powerful nose,
Had at last warped his mind with its horrid bright glow!

Our Lyssa, however, so eager to brawl,
Quick leapt like a gymnast atop of a wall.
“Stop there, evil monster!” she said with a scoff,
“You’ve attacked us on Christmas, and that ticks me off!”

The Moon Princess blest her with power and might,
That she might be quick to kick butt in a fight,
To halt evil crooks in the midst of a crime,
Or to battle vile creatures beyond space and time!

Now punch him, now bludgeon! Now blast him with pow’r!
And yet his eyes glowed with a menacing glow’r!
Now kick him, now stab him, now strangle and blitz ’im!
That deer is no match for this young doe-eyed vixen!

At last Rudolph gasped and lay dead at her feet,
As his bright ruby blood ran out into the street.
“I’ve vanquished the creature,” the Plum Fairy mused,
“But why then do I feel as if I still should lose?”

In leapt Marionette, the famed robot girl,
With her magical pencil, which she gave a twirl.
“Young Lyssa, my dear, you have fought well and brave,
But killed poor Rudolph, whom you know you should save.”

“Well, no one has once taught me any of that,”
Said Lyssa, perplexed. (On the ground she now spat.)
“To fight off the monsters that threaten our world,
Is the constant hard job of a magical girl!”

“We fight for mankind, that is certainly true,”
Said Marionette, whose cold fingers turned blue.
“But always remember that we serve the Light—
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a clean fight!”

The Night before Christmas in Urbanopolis

A Poem

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the city,
Lots of girls were stirring, and all of them pretty.
They stalked all the baddies that threatened mankind,
To blast them with magic and kick their behinds.

They crouched beside all the dark chimneys with care,
And slipped across rooftops—evildoers beware!
One might wear a kerchief, and one has a cap,
But they all got short skirts, what you think about that?

Then at City Hall, there arose such a clatter,
That Plum Fairy Lyssa went to see what’s the matter.
A monster appeared with a roar and a flash,
Lyssa called up her powers and got ready to bash!

But what to her wondering eyes should appear,
But a slavering, fanged, and bloodthirsty deer?
T’was Rudolph! Whose powerful nose,
Had at last warped his mind with its sinister glow!

Lyssa, however, was ready to brawl,
So she leapt like a gymnast to the top of a wall.
“Halt, evil monster!” she said with a scoff,
“You’ve attacked us on Christmas, and that ticks me off!”

The Moon Princess blest her with power and might,
That she might be quick to kick butt in a fight,
Whether to halt evildoers in the midst of a crime,
Or to battle vile creatures from beyond space and time!

Now punch him, now bludgeon! Now blast him with power!
And yet his eyes glowed with a menacing glower!
Now kick him, now stab him, now strangle and blitz him!
That deer is no match for this doe-eyed vixen!

At last Rudolph gasped and lay dead at her feet,
As his bright ruby blood ran out into the street.
“I’ve vanquished the creature,” the Plum Fairy mused,
“But why do I feel as if I should lose?”

In leapt Marionette, the famed robot girl,
With her magical pencil, which she soon gave a twirl.
“Young Lyssa, my girl, you’ve fought well and brave,
But you just killed poor Rudolph, whom you should try to save.”

“Well, no one ever taught me any of that,”
Said Lyssa, perplexed, as on the pavement she spat.
“To fight off the monsters that threaten our world,
That’s what it means to be a magical girl!”

“We war for mankind, that much is too true,”
Said Marionette, whose cold fingers turned blue.
“But we must always remember to serve only the Light,
So merry Christmas to all, and to all a clean fight!”

Merry Magical Girl Christmas

“All this fuss over a little fat man in a red suit.”

The time has come to celebrate a holiday that most magical girls observe but know nothing about. Since I gave up alcohol for Advent, after getting back from Christmas Vigil Mass, I poured myself a tumbler of salted caramel-flavored Ole Smoky. Salted caramel, in case you don’t know, is the new pumpkin spice.

All I can say is … too much salt and not enough caramel. Blech. It’s not good in eggnog, either. 2/10 would not recommend.

But aside from that, merry Christmas and all. I’m going to go indulge in my annual tradition of daydreaming about what a remake of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians might look like if Sean Connery played Santa.

Comic Book Review: ‘The Courageous Princess’

The Courageous Princess, written and illustrated by Rod Espinosa. 3 vols. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-61655-722-5 et al.

I am something of a fan of Rod Espinosa, a Filipino draughtsman, former submissions editor of Antarctic Press, and creator of Amerimanga, who has upwards of fifty titles to his name. Years ago, on my previous blog, I reviewed his Neotopia, Battle Girlz, Chronicles of the Universe, DinoWars, and the first volume of the series we’re about to discuss.

The Courageous Princess was Espinosa’s Eisner-nominated breakout title. He originally created it as a self-published, illustrated storybook, and then he converted it into a comic and released it through Antarctic Press. The series, still incomplete, was collected and published in paperback in 2003, and that’s what I previously reviewed. For a long period, the series remained unfinished as Espinosa worked on other projects, but he at last completed the story and released the entire series through Dark Horse in 2015, now as a trilogy of graphic novels. The original collection, which is now the first volume, has been subtitled Beyond the Hundred Kingdoms, followed by The Unremembered Lands and The Dragon Queen.

I like Espinosa’s work, and this now-complete series is overall satisfying, but I can’t help but think it’s a bad sign. Espinosa showed a lot of promise when Courageous Princess first appeared, but has not shown much development since. He has a tendency to squander his talent on derivative and gimmicky projects such as steampunked fairy tales or a Rule 63 version of A Christmas CarolI’m also beginning to see that even his original work is limited in range … like, I really enjoy that one Espinosa story about the teenage girl who is initially uncertain, but through her pure-heartedness and fortitude leads a motley band of misfits to topple an evil empire. Really, I do.

Anyway, the story of The Courageous Princess is a fractured fairy tale reminiscent of, if less zany than, Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles or the musical Into the Woods. The story takes place in the land of the Hundred Kingdoms, where characters from various fairy tales (and a few modern fantasy works) intermingle, though most have by now grown old and moved on with their lives. Continue reading “Comic Book Review: ‘The Courageous Princess’”

No.

I will not be seeing Star Wars: The Last Mary Sue, just in case anyone might have thought to ask. The special editions deeply wounded my enthusiasm for Star Wars, and the prequels killed it. I don’t expect the House of Child Molestation Mouse to be capable of treating the franchise with any respect, and all the buzz I’ve heard about the sequels and spinoffs has been consistently negative.

The very fact that the sequels’ creators have decided to make Star Wars about Grrrl Power shows that they don’t understand the original films. Taking what is at heart a boys’ adventure serial and girl-powering it up is as tin-eared as redoing Ghostbusters with an all-female cast, or redoing Sailor Moon with an all-male cast.

And by the way, there is, in fact, a version of Sailor Moon with an all-male cast, but it’s done as a self-aware joke. That’s one of the differences between America and Japan: in Japan, they say, “Ha! We took your beloved franchise and gender-swapped it! Isn’t that FUNNY?” But in America, they say, “Ha! We took your beloved franchise and gender-swapped it! And if you don’t like it, you’re a BIGOT!”

I am reminded of an interview with Patrick Rothfuss from a few years back, in which he said he found it, and I quote, “fucking creepy” (these writers are so eloquent) that The Hobbit has no female characters in it. That’s where we’re at now; we have a generation that doesn’t simply dislike boys’ adventure fiction, but actually can’t comprehend it. He doesn’t merely say that he finds The Hobbit not to be his cup of tea; he finds it creepy. It’s an adventure story for boys about a group of boys who go on an adventure, and Rothfuss can’t wrap his head around it.

Similarly, I remember an argument I had a few years back with some bronies who were grousing that My Little Pony doesn’t have enough male characters in it. I patiently explained to them that it was a cartoon for little girls. They didn’t get it.

The original Star Wars trilogy is about a farmboy who discovers he’s a prince (of sorts) with a great destiny, and who rescues a princess and saves the galaxy. It’s a boys’ adventure story in space. Those who’ve tackled the franchise since then (Lucas himself included) don’t understand that, and they may be incapable of understanding that.

That’s where we’re at. Just look at this comment:

I especially love the part where he says the movie “backs love over hate” after saying it “mocks and burns down.” Note also that he says nothing about whether the film is well-written or well-directed or entertaining. All he cares about is whether he sees his politics in it.

Note also that he speaks of mocking and burning down traditions with the assumption that this must be a good thing. He doesn’t pause to ask, or describe, exactly what traditions it mocks or burns down, nor does he ask, or describe, why those traditions deserve to be burned down. He simply assumes that mocking and burning are good, and traditions are bad, and if you think otherwise, why, you must have voted for Trump.

This too reminds me of something. Some years ago, I saw Luc Besson’s pro-pedophilia movie The Professional, starring a skin-crawlingly sexualized twelve-year-old Natalie Portman. Afterwards, I went looking for movie reviews. I don’t remember how many I read, but I read only one that condemned the film for glamorizing child-molestation. The rest praised the movie for being “subversive”—assuming, again, that subversion is good in and of itself, without pausing to ask what is being subverted, or whether that thing should be subverted.

So that’s where we’re at. But at least we are seeing greater honesty now than we did ten or more years ago: they are openly admitting that they want to burn it all down. Men like Baz McAlister didn’t used to state their intent so plainly.