Archive for the Miscellaneous Category


Celebrate the New Year with Okazu Lucky Boxes! – Claimed!

January 1st, 2018

Happy 2018! It’s time to celebrate the dawning of a new year with our Okazu ritual sending of Lucky Boxes crammed with Yuri stuff to a few lucky folks! This year, the USPS has downsized the boxes a bit, so the prices have come down accordingly. We therefore have 4 boxes:

Box A – Large, $40.00 – Claimed

Box B – Large, Premium, $50.00 – Claimed 

Box C – Medium, $25 – Claimed 

Box D – Medium, $25 – Claimed

The boxes are all filled with manga, random Yuri and Yuriish goodies and each one includes a few items picked up in Japan. The candy this year is all Japanese, but the packaging is dull so you’ll have to take my word for it. ^_^; The Premium box has got a few special items in it (obviously, that’s why it’s premium, duh.)

EVERY box has more than the price’s worth of stuff. I can 100% guarantee it’s absolute pure crap, with no guarantees of any other kind. As always, I’m spending the last few moment before packing fitting more stuff in the box.

***

How to be eligible to buy a Lucky Box: Follow these instructions carefully.

1- You must live in the Continental USA (contiguous 48) only, no APO/FPOs – sorry about that, really.

2 – You must be over 18, I am not policing which books you get.  

3 -Email me at anilesbocon01 at hotmail dot com with the subject “Lucky Box”. Use an email you check regularly. *****Please include your name, age, mailing address.  Tell me which box you want.*****

4- I will contact you at that point and give you details about payment by Paypal. Please be prepared to check your email and get payment out so this post doesn’t linger like a dead animal. Thanks in advance. 

This whole process will be handled with utmost capriciousness. ^_^

Let’s start the New Year off with some luck and Yuri!

 

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Torikaebaya Manga, Volume 12 (とりかえ・ばや)

December 24th, 2017

It’s all coming to a climax in Torikaebaya, Volume 12  (とりかえ・ばや).

The penny dropped in Volume 11, as the emperor got an inkling of an idea that the person he knows as his consort Suiren is quite likely the young lord he cultivated as Sarasoujuu.

In Volume 12, Umetsubo Naishogami boldly asks the Emperor to remember that the young Sarasoujuu was injured by an arrow and to look at Suiren for that scar, which he finds. He now knows for sure that his Suiren is really Sarasojuu (and thus that Sarasojuu is really Suiren.) But, now he has it the right way ’round. It’s obvious that his lover is a woman and as she was clearly Sarasoujuu, Sarasoujuu was a woman all along.

Evil priest Ginkaku attempts to assasinate the Emperor with a snake hidden in a plant, but Sarasoujuu as Suiren is quick to suck out the poison and save him. So he’s got to be convinced that whatever the story, she is not his enemy.

But Ginkaku is not done interfering. In a last attempt to destroy the Emperor, he brainwashes poor little new heir Yuzuru-shinou. Undoubtedly to do nefarious deeds to the Emperor.

Next volume is the end of this series and I can see a couple of options here, both with and without Sara and Suiren dead. If Sara gets to be with the Emperor and Suiren with Ichinomiya-hime they’d all be happy, but they won’t be themselves. So mostly happily-ever-after. I guess.

Ratings:

Art – 10
Story – 9
Characters – 9 No matter what her gender presentation, Sarasoujuu is a hero
Service – 2

Overall – 10

One day when I grow up and my Japanese is much better than it currently is, I’m going to read this whole thing over again. ^_^

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Winter Reading: Queer-Friendly Science Fiction

December 20th, 2017

I know I usually write about non-Yuri stuff on Sundays, but I’ve read a pile of great science fiction recently that I wanted to share with you before the holiday season slams down on all of us and I spend my days slaving over end-of-year lists.

To start things off, I highly recommend the Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie. The Sad/Rabid Puppies hated this series with the burning of thousand fiery dyspeptic stomachs, which was good enough for me to give it a try. ^_^ I’ll do my best to no-spoiler synopsize the books, but no promises.

The series, which consists of three books –  Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy – follows an artificial intelligence that runs a troopship, Justice of Toren. The timeline of the first novel is split as Justice of Toren tells us of her experiences before and after a massively traumatic experience forces her to involve herself in the personal politics of the rule of the Imperium. The language of the Empire is non-gendered, and Justice of Toren is herself not really all that keyed into understanding gender, she she defaults to calling everyone “she.” (And for the moment, so will I.) This enraged the Puppies, as did some implied and actual homosexuality. It’s true that the different perspective on gendered language makes the book difficult for some folks, but of itself not enough to call the series good. That said, the story is not good – it’s brilliant. Characters, writing, world-building are all impeccably tight and extremely well-constructed. Leckie’s ability to create a society based around the principles of the Roman Empire that feel fresh and also very human, and her ability to create characters that are not at all human in stark contrast is astounding.

I have literally one complaint about this series and it has nothing to do with the series itself, but entirely is about my own needs as a reader. We – unfortunately, IMHO – do learn the sex of several of the main characters, when gendered language is used. I felt that to be a bit of a betrayal of the core concept. Other than that one thing, I found the entire series to be compelling reading. I’ve got Leckie’s next book, Provenance on my to-read list.

My next book of interest was Martha Wells’, All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries. This follows an artificial intelligence security bot, who refers to itself as “Murderbot” assigned to protect a scientific expedition. When it appears that they are being sabotaged, Murderbot teams up with it’s humans (despite it being generally uninterested and incapable of dealing with humans all that well) to find out what the heck is going on. 

Based on the size of this book and it’s font, I assumed it was an YA novel. I certainly could have read it easily in one sitting had I had the time. Even so it only took me two evenings to finish it. It was amusing, rather than compelling. I found myself fascinated by the behaviors of the protagonist who, despite calling itself Murderbot, seemed a peaceable enough being. There is also homosexuality in the story and gender and sexuality are topics that are covered within the story. Murderbot was, like Breq in the Imperial Radch series, not interested in sex for themselves, although it understood the concepts, and was, unlike Breq, not very good at relating to humans. More and more as the story unfolded I started developing an idea about AI behavior being patterned after or reflecting our understanding of neuroatypical thought. I can totally see the behaviors associated folks on the Asperger Spectrum reflected in these characters. I am not saying “ASD folks are like robots” or that they are inhuman. I am saying neuroatypical folks might see themselves reflected, as I did. These AIs were empathetic for me and they allowed me to see my own neuroatypicality reflected as I watched them process human relations. It seemed to me to a useful lens with which to understand my own processes.

I’m wrapping up a third book about an AI tonight (I’m still not sure if the trend here is with stuff that’s being published or just me, honestly). Autonomous: A Novel by Annalee Newitz is good, but I have some reservations about it. It follows a pharmaceutical drug pirate and biotech engineer, a woman who goes by the name Jack, as she seeks to stop an outbreak of a deadly adverse event in a reverse engineered drug she’s bootlegging. The powers that be have sent a human-AI team to track her down.

Sexuality and gender are part of the plot in this story. Jack is bisexual and that’s a non-issue, but the human detective Eliasz and his AI partner Paladin have a sexual relationship, as well. And this is where my reservations come in. Paladin is a military-grade bot, and is therefore gendered by humans as male. Eliasz has a very self-loathingly homophobic reaction to his own attraction to Paladin. When they commence an actual relationship, Eliasz ask Paladin whether he should refer to it as a he or a she. Paladin chooses “She.” I 100% support Paladin having a choice and the choice she makes, but, by making it, she allows Elisz to skip over his very serious issue with homophobia. And Paladin realizes this. So she appreciates the act of being able to consent and the fact that she is an active participant, not just a receptacle, but also thinks this is more complicated than Eliasz realizes. I agree. I’m not done with this book, should be wrapping it up tonight, so maybe I’ll feel differently in a few hours…but I don’t think so.

Also queued for me is Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, which I am told also deals with gender in an intelligent way. It’s worth noting that Tor is really reach out to find and publish interesting books on sexuality and gender (and by women,) and so are getting a lot of my money these days. ^_^

If you’ve read anything you think people ought to know about for their winter reading, throw it out in the comments! We can all always use a good book recommendation.

 

 

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Ichigo Mashimaro Manga, Volume 8 (苺ましまろ)

December 17th, 2017

Barasui is consistent, I’ll give him that. The last volume of Ichigo Mashimaro was 4 years ago, and the previous one was four years before that. Nice work if you can get it.

Unfortunately for us, a lot of what made Volume 7 so brilliant is gone in Volume 8. Miu has stopped playing to Chika’s intelligent straightman and has returned to playing to Matsuri’s tiresome gullibility.  I’m not sure why Ana just doesn’t get up and walk way at this point. Chika can’t, they’re in her room, and she clearly likes the background noise.

In Volume 8 of Ichigo Mashimaro, we have Miu pretending to be an alien, and Chika subtlely undermining her, but it’s mostly Miu saying ridiculous stuff and watching Matsuri being amazed. This wears thin in a short time.

The best chapter by far is one that begins with Nobue face down on the ground.  Miu concocts a complex and fascinating series of rebuses that send the other four on a quest for something. The puzzles are complicated and erudite, which meant that it was Chika and Nobue doing the heavy lifting. It turns out that the something in question is Chika’s diary. Nobue shows us that cruel streak she occasionally has and reads passages out loud until Chika snaps and knocks her lights out. It wasn’t a feel-good story, but once again, I find myself on team Chika.

The final chapters hinge on the classmate who is always being sent out to stand in the hallway and his particular forms of cluelessness, and a Q&A game played by the gang while at a hot spring. 

Not the funniest issue, but possibly the most emotionally complicated. The best thing to come from it were definitely the t-shirts I got in Akihabara.

Ratings: 

Art – 7
Story – 6
Characters – 5 for everyone else, 100 for Chika
Service – 6 Not as much, but still….

Overall – 7

Amusing rather than funny. I think Barasui’s a little tired of doing this.

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Winter Reading: “Abyss” Novel Series by Emily Skrustkie

November 12th, 2017

 It’s kind of obvious to most people interested in and embedded in pop culture that we are going through a massive cultural cramp right now as previously silenced and controlled voices find that they don’t actually have to be quiet to protect other people’s fragile sensibilities.

The folks who have decided that gaming and perverting the awards systems to fuel their egos; Gamergate, the few people left arguing that Jane Foster as Thor or female Ghostbusters destroys their childhoods and the Sad and Rabid Puppies are, in a nutshell, pathetic. But they, and their political counterparts, have done the rest of us a service. They serve as a sign post to a miserable, regressive position on the future.  And by being those signposts, we can just as easily look in the opposite direction for inspiration.  And so, I have been spending my days reading science fiction and fantasy again as I had not in many years. I’m using the puppies’ “Do Not Want” lists as my to-read list, and it’s been great.I don’t think I’ve been this happy reading science fiction and fantasy in decades. It’s not suitable for Okazu, but I finished Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor last week. If you have a YA reader of any age who liked Harry Potter or who wished not all magic users were white or male, have them start with Akata Witch. Brilliant stuff. I’m also reading Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series, which I’ll be reviewing here. 

But today I want to talk about a different kind of monster than those who inhabits the Internets. Today we’re talking about giant monsters. Giant Sea Monsters.

Emily Skrutskie’s The Abyss Surrounds Us follows sea-beast trainer Cassandra Leung on her first day testing her skills in controlling the giant monster, the Reckoner, she has trained to fight pirates. Instead of taking down the pirates, Cassandra is captured and forced to train a Reckoner that will belong to the pirates themselves.  

The dialogue and plot are pretty-high tension, as befits both Cas’ character and the situation. There’s violence which is wholly appropriate to the story. And there’s a sexual tension and relationship that builds up between Cas and her captor Swift, who is one of four trainees’ being groomed by their strict, strong and openly manipulative captain, Santa Elena. Swift wants to be captain someday and she’s probably going to be.

The two best things about the series are the way that pirates are portrayed as pretty much terrible people and the Reckoners. There’s alliances, rather than friendships among the pirates…even within a crew. And Santa Elena plays the trainees off of one another, so none of them know enough to take over individually and they don’t know enough to gang up on her and take over together. Skrutskie takes the kind of manipulation and maneuvering we all know from school and work and lays it out as the actual standard operating procedure of the ship.  The beasts are portrayed as beasts. No warm fuzzy mammal-bonding here. These are giant sea-going creatures like squids and whales and turtles, trained to be ship-destroying machines. They are terrifying.

Edge of the Abyss begins a few weeks after Cas has been captured and has negotiated her place in the crew. It opens the world of the pirates up a little larger, and we can see the symbiosis between the pirates and the oceans and their prey, the ships from the land countries. The story swirls more tightly around Swift and Cas’ relationship and how it affects their work, the crew and the larger political relationship with the other pirates, and their relationship with the boats they attack.  But mostly, it’s about Cas and Swift. Their relationship is tempestuous, to say the least. 

The ending of Edge of the Abyss is abrupt, however, I felt it was the right choice to make. Stretching this book into a third story would have been forced and exhausting. By ending it the way she did, Skrutskie left room for a third book without needing cleanup of leftovers, and equally, she could leave this book where it is, wrapped up tightly without need for a sequel. 

Most importantly, Skrutskie has given us a more modern, more realistic, and yet still futuristic idea of pirates and piracy that fails to glorify the lifestyle, even as it is embedded within it. And it gives us an image of women and men as pirates on more or less equal footing without explanation or handwave. And, for us, it provides a same-sex young female couple without  coming of age or coming out clogging up the larger story.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

I found these two books to be enjoyable. Perfect for teen or older reader looking for a more realistic image of pirates and less historical fantasy. No Johnny Depps need apply, but Natalie Portman would make a damn fine Santa Elena. 

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