Teens

Category Archives: Reviews – Staff

These book reviews are from librarians you know!

Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese: Erased & Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus 11

Posted on April 12th, 2016 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Books, Movies, Reviews - Staff

This new installment on our teen blog includes two great titles from our friends in Japan. First, Erased, or Boku dake ga Inai Machi (The Town Where Only I am Missing, BokuMachi) is the hit new series that just finished on Crunchyroll and other anime outlets. Second, Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume 11, adds another wonderful samurai epic to the manga shelves at the Hyde Park Branch.

 

ErasedErased is a mystery-thriller with a scifi base. The hero, Sartoru Fujimuna, discovers he can go back in time whenever he experiences an intense trauma. He is falsely accused of a crime when he is older and gets transported back to his grade school days, shortly before the mysterious disappearance of his classmate, Kayo Hinazuki.  The character art work and development is strong and original in this new series. Costumes are realistic yet interesting as you might expect from a present day drama. The animation shows great virtual cinematography at many scene changes and “camera” pans. I remember seeing at least one “zoom and truck” depth effect made famous by Alfred Hitchcock in the movie Vertigo. The technique creates a perspective stretching effect while holding the subject in focus and in mid frame. The director, Tomohiko Itou, also combines vertical panning and rotation of the camera effects on particular scenes, adding to the psychological thrill. And of course, the story features a movie film reel effect that represents Sartoru’s ability to go back in time, changing history and helping his friends. But can he save himself? This series will have you yearning for more after the very first episode. There may be a spinoff, but unlike other famous titles that seem to go on forever, Erased is a “well made play” and the story is woven together tightly in 12 episodes. Some development and suspense do get lost from the manga, but this is a common situation when manga are converted to anime. Here, it is done well and for the usual reasons of time and production effort. The series is really good and I strongly recommend it for anime fans. Watch it in Japanese with English subtitles. It’s good for you to read, and the voice acting spot on! The story just concluded on Crunchyroll and we watched it faithfully at Anime Club here in Hyde Park. You can find it at Crunchyroll, Funimation, or Anime Planet.

 

Lone wolf and cubLone Wolf & Cub Omnibus 11 is a steady-paced, suspense-infused, shonen manga. This was the first time I read any of the series and I was greatly impressed. It’s the number one selling graphic novel! The story is by Kazuo Koike and the art is by Goseki Kojima. Translation by Dana Lewis. The artwork features amazing pen and ink brush technique. Pen strokes provide minute detail and brushwork adds great shadow effects, both light and dark.  The story follows a young ronin, Ogami Itto with his son Daigoro, and an aged master ninja Yagyu Retsudo. Yagyu is held prisoner by a court poisoner-tester who once saved Daigoro from horrible frostbite when he was a baby. Ogami and Yagyu are sworn enemies and have an outstanding challenge to duel to the death. Great Bushido and Ninjutsu codes of honor run deep in this epic and the contrasts among other characters are stark and varied. The pacing of the story lends to the suspense and gravity of the epic. Finally it culminates in a fantastic series of fireworks signals, dramatic sword play, self sacrifice, and a bold festival procession. There is mild gore in some spots, as might be expected, but the fantastic landscapes, cityscapes and ink washes provide a strong balance of beauty in the story. Weather and night time effects, even illustrated in black and white, enthrall the reader. I highly recommend this title for samurai and shonen manga fans out there. You can request this volume from the BPL in hard copy here or in ebook format here. And this series is set in the western left-to-right format so you don’t even have to read it backwards!

 

 

john250-150x150Did you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to anime and graphic novels online? The BPL subscribes to Hoopla, a streaming service that allows you to check out and enjoy the media you love on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can learn more about the BPL’s digital media collections here.

Want company while you’re watching anime? The Hyde Park Teen Anime Club meets on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.

 

*”Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese” features reviews of anime and manga by John, the Teen Librarian at the Hyde Park Branch, on the second Tuesday of every month.

Curl Up & Read: Symptoms of Being Human

Posted on April 1st, 2016 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

symptoms

Title: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Read by: Anna, a Teen Central Librarian

Summary: Riley Cavanaugh is attending a new school, has debilitating anxiety and a congressman father running for re-election, and hasn’t come out yet. To anyone. Riley is gender fluid, which means some days Riley identifies as a boy and some days Riley identifies as a girl. With all of this going on, how on earth is Riley supposed to blend in, make friends, come out, and survive high school?

Genre/sub-genre: LGBTQ contemporary fiction

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Length: 335 pages

Personal thoughts: 

“People are complicated. And messy. Seems too convenient that we’d all fit inside some multiple-choice question.” – Riley Cavanaugh

This book is long overdue, because until now, stories about gender fluid people have been non-existent. Real and relatable, Symptoms of Being Human is a great look into what it means to be different in a way most people aren’t used to. No pronouns are used for Riley in the book, yet the author’s writing makes it feel very natural, not forced. Preferred pronouns (of which there are a lot of options) aren’t even mentioned by Riley’s therapist and transgender support group, which felt odd to me. Yet the lack of pronouns does serve as a reminder of just how binary society considers gender, and how much we gender everything without even thinking about it.

Riley’s story is very character driven. Riley’s parents are realistic, fully-developed and caring adults, just trying to do the best they can without knowing Riley’s secret. While there were a few minor friends I wanted to know more about, I loved Riley’s two friends from school. Solo and Bec were as well rounded, quirky, and engaging as Riley and they stood out as cool people I’d want to be friends with if I could.

This is a powerful and inspirational story that won’t let you go. I highly recommend this title for anyone who may identify as gender fluid and those who want to know what it means to be gender fluid. That said, I also highly recommend this title for those people who enjoy contemporary teen fiction and are just looking for a good read. Read on!

 

 

anna250-150x150Looking to borrow this library book? Look no further!

Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow this book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.

 

*”Curl Up & Read” posts book reviews by Anna, one of the Teen Librarians at Teen Central, on the first Friday of every month.

Anime Review: Serial Experiments Lain

Posted on January 27th, 2016 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Movies, Programs, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

serial lain

Serial Experiments Lain [R 17+] is a powerful science fiction anime series from 1998.  This psychological thriller centers on the experience of Lain Iwakura and her introduction to cyber-life in “The Wired” [Internet].  After a tragic suicide by a girl in her high school class, she and many other classmates receive emails from the girl after she has died.  This mystery sets the scene for the main thrust of the story.

Other characters include Lain’s best friend Arisu Mizuki and her larger circle of friends, Masami Eiri – apparent designer and god-like figure of The Wired, Knights – “men in black” who are ambiguously involved with the wired, Lain’s family and father who is a computer expert, and a group of younger children who provide another perspective to the developing sense of cyber-life.

Masami serves as the main foil in the series.  A large portion of the plot centers on ideas of self, divinity, physical versus spiritual, real versus virtual, and other wrenching questions often faced in the teen years.  The visual palette contains strong use of “white field” contrasts and fills as well as other shadow fills using “blood pool” and collage-like patterns.  The white fields get repeated emphasis as a sunlight effect in the morning scenes as Lain leaves her house for school.  After a few appearances, the technique is familiar and the artistic style of the series is clearly set apart.  Its continued use serves to amplify the sense of drudgery and emptiness that Lain experiences going to school.  At the same time, the technique itself is stark and almost blinding, creating a confusing crosscurrent to an otherwise static and low energy scene.  It’s truly masterful.  The soundtrack is very strong with its selection of music and an audio “hum” effect that is used to represent the ever-present activity on The Wired. It is usually combined with views of power lines and transformers at scene changes.

Serial Experiments Lain has received notable praise from the critical community and I strongly recommend it for Anime fans.  You can watch it for free on Kissanime.com and Animefrost.com

Anime Review: Samurai Champloo

Posted on January 25th, 2016 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Movies, Music, Programs, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

samurai champloo

Samurai Champloo is an action [shonen] anime from 2004-2005.  Based on the original manga, this story is an adventure combined with poignant drama and comedy that follows the heroine’s search for the “Samurai that smells of sunflowers.”  We have some episodes available on DVD but the title is widely available over streaming sites.  Ask your teen librarian!

The three main characters are Fuu, Mugen and Jin.  Fuu is a teenage girl with a happy-go-lucky attitude and always seems to be hungry.  She is searching for the famous samurai.  Jin is a ronin [roaming samurai] with the classic stern character of the period.  He wears glasses which were actually available at the time but his are modern and lend a stylish flare to his otherwise quiet character.  He is of course, a master swordsman.  Mugen is another great swordsman but of an unconventional style.  He wears his hair in short crazy dreadlocks, and his sword is curved more like a scimitar with z shaped hilt.  He has a chip on his shoulder and is always looking for a fight.

The art work is quite good with strong “brush lines” and solid earthy colors.  The drawing style is slightly elongated with a linear quality that distinguishes it from other modern series such as Fairy Tail and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.  One great feature of this series is the inclusion of Hip Hop music and samples.  The theme music is a hip hop song that viewers will probably want to listen to each episode.  Hip hop culture and even Chinese kung fu are referenced several times during the series and at least once each with more focus in their own episode.  These elements as well as a few other surprises add an entertaining enhancement to the ongoing story line and themes.  Fight sequences are strong and dynamic, and character development is sensitive and engaging.  Viewers will not be disappointed.

Scholarly Books on Anime

Posted on January 25th, 2016 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Books, Movies, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

anime napier anime adapt

The Hyde Park Branch recently added two books on Anime to our Teen non-fiction collection.  Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, by Susan J. Napier and Anime and the Art of Adaptation, by Dani Cavallaro.

Napier’s work was well researched and effectively supported with lots of end notes and references to the works she examined.  She covers a lot of ground including controversial genres and the edges of popular culture.  She also provides a lot of insight on the influences of Japanese political and economic history.

Two titles she analyzed in particular were of great interest to me.  Akira, the groundbreaking film from 1988 and Serial experiments Lain, a powerful television series from 1998.  With Akira, she interprets the surrealistic and cataclysmic ending in a different way than I did.  I did further research and found corroboration for my interpretation from criticism of the original Manga and film versions by other authors.  Still, the symbolism and dramatic devices she addressed are clearly present and used to great effect in the film.  Serial Experiments Lain is a mesmerizing psychological thriller in the form of cyberspace science fiction.  Napier’s analysis inspired me to watch the series.  Lain lived up to her criticism and I was very impressed with the visual and audio effects in the series.

I have only just started Anime and the Art of Adaptation, by Dani Cavallaro.  I was pleased to see a still from Grave of the Fireflies used as the cover for the book.  It gets analyzed in chapter two under the title “The Nightmare of History.”  The atomic bombings that ended WWII had a deep and far-reaching impact on modern Japanese culture.  It’s effects can be seen in many different areas of the Anime genre and should be explored by all fans.  We Anime Otaku [Anime Fans] are all too familiar with the challenges of adapting Manga titles to moving animation and I look forward to reading more.  Cavallaro’s book is also well researched and includes a filmography and extensive bibliography.