Friday, March 22, 2019

OtakuAThon, Round 1 Wrap-Up

This really cute Sailor Moon background was purchased from BeatPaperDesigns, who has a lovely Etsy shop!

The first round of OtakuAThon has come and gone, and friends, it was incredibly fun! I had already suspected that Kristin and I would truly enjoy the weekend even when we were still in the planning stages. But it totally exceeded any of my wildest expectations! So many people joined in (which was so exciting and made my list of manga to read and anime to watch even longer), and the sheer enthusiasm and joy was so very overwhelming (in the best way). I’m happy we decided to collaborate on an event that celebrated something we truly have a passion for, and we can’t wait to do it again!

(Before I continue, PSA, we’re doing another round of OtakuAThon from June 7-10, 2019. Honestly, we’re never going to run out of manga to read or anime to watch, and it’s so fun to just dedicate time to specifically tackle both things!)

Anyway, I thought I’d do a wrap-up of all the manga I managed to read over the weekend! (Spoiler alert: It’s a lot, and some were better than others.) But prior to that, let me mention three other things that were a part of my OtakuAThon weekend.

Anime OSTs | Listen, I didn’t get the chance to properly read until Friday night, but I had a very intense need to get my fandom feels satiated while I was at work. The solution? Listening to a variety of songs from anime shows and films that I’ve loved. I’m still obsessed with the Kimi No Nawa OST (not a surprise, obviously), but I also rediscovered my love for a lot of the Naruto opening and closing credit songs (especially Closer, which is my all-time fave) and History Maker will always make any anime playlist I ever make.

Kingdom Hearts III | I’m going to count the hours I spent playing this video game, even though I didn’t intend to play it all over this weekend. I just can’t help the fact that it was so fun to be back in the (very convoluted and almost impossible to properly explain) world of Kingdom Hearts with Sora, Donald and Goofy, and to be embarking on all these new adventures. The animation is beautiful, the gameplay still simple (though there are a lot of upgraded moves that took some getting used to) but I will say that the story is still hard to follow and certain worlds (*coughs* Corona *coughs*) were less impressive than others. I still love this franchise though, so I can’t complain overly much about it. (And I’m nearly done too!)

Snow White with the Red Hair | Oh, hello, hi, new anime obsession! I’m so grateful Rachel binged this and then immediately told me to watch it too (and that Kristin had recommended this before as well), because this show is so damn brilliant (and I’m only a couple of episodes in). The characters are such standouts (especially main character Shirayuki, who is a female lead that I love so damn much), the story is interesting, the animation is gorgeous, and I cannot wait to continue watching the show.

And now, it’s time to talk manga! In total, I managed to read 21 different things. TWENTY-ONE. I clearly enjoyed myself a little too much over this weekend (which is entirely the point anyway), but damn, even I didn’t expect to get so much read. (I will say that I got lucky and we had a ‘snow day’, which gave me even more reading time!). Here are a few thoughts on what I read:

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol.1 by Kiiro Yumi | The main character in this series wants to work for the Library Defense Force in order to help protect the books she loves so much from censorship and confiscation by the federal government. The first volume is an introduction to the world and the characters, as most of them tend to be, but it also is written in a compelling way. It focuses heavily on actual training, but I found it all super interesting! I’m already very interested in how it plays out and will continue this series!

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 1 by Aya Shouoto | This series is about a girl who inherits a house that happens to be on the border between the material and spiritual realm, and that’s inhabited by a couple of spirits and the house’s chosen omamori. She has her first couple of encounters with spirits in this volume, as well as trials as she tries to figure out her place in this house. I liked it, and thought that it was entertaining overall, but I’m still unsure how invested I am in continuing this series. We shall see!

Anonymous Noise, Vol. 1 by Ryoko Fukuyama | I had high hopes for this manga! The main character has a childhood best friend who moves away, and another childhood best friend who also leaves, and the one thing that she believes will lead them back to her eventually is her voice, and so, she keeps singing in the hopes that they will hear her. Cute premise, right? While it does have its merits, I ended up just finding this one okay. While nearly all first volumes of manga obviously lean heavily towards introduction, this one felt a little more heavy-handed for that than most. (Plus, I couldn’t help comparing it a little to Nana, which is obviously very different and geared towards an older audience.)

Hana-Kimi 3-in-1, Vol. 1 by Hisaya Nakajo | I feel like a broken record stating this, but it feels appropriate to introduce my thoughts by telling you that I’ve seen the Korean drama adaptation of this story. I’m confident that it contributed to my overall enjoyment of this manga! It’s fun to revisit this premise (a girl transferring into an exclusive all-boys high school in order to meet her favorite male high jumper and all the shenanigans that ensue), and I love that we are now far beyond the original set-up and having other things happen to our cast of characters. I’ll definitely read more of this series!

Paradise Kiss, Parts 1-3 by Ai Yazawa | ParaKiss is the first full manga series that I finished this round, and it was so, so good. I expected it to be, considering how much I enjoyed Ai Yazawa’s other series Nana, but it’s always still wonderful when something lives up to your expectations. ParaKiss centers around a main character who isn’t entirely sure if taking entrance exams for university is what she wants to do and has her entire life upended when she’s approached about being a model for a student atelier for a fashion show. The drama is very much of soap opera caliber (but I lived for it), the relationships are so complicated, and the fashion in it is eye-catching. But the characters are truly what made this story impossible for me to put down! So complicated, so real, and I absolutely enjoyed getting to know them all. Such a great series, and I’m glad I finally read it! 

Happy Marriage?!, Vol. 1 by Maki Enjoji | I’m going to mention right now that this premise is likely not going to be for everyone – the main character ends up agreeing to an arranged marriage with the president of the company she works at in order to get help paying off her father’s debts. The couple are wary about each other initially, but they’re slowly starting to develop a relationship… and I’m personally living for this story. I wasn’t entirely certain I would end up feeling this one, but I was flat-out wrong because now I’m incredibly invested and want to know what happens!

Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden, Vol. 1-12 by Yuu Watase | I’ve said it many times on many platforms (and I even have a full post about it), but I love Fushigi Yugi. Macky introduced the anime to me when I was still in college, and I fell head over heels for it! I’ve seen it multiple times, and loved it even more each time, and I always find a way to mention it whenever I’m talking about anime. So, it’s likely not really a surprise that I binge read and loved the entirety of this manga series, which focuses on a third priestess – Takiko, priestess of Genbu, who is the first to travel into the book. It has many of the same hallmarks as the original, but the political situation and backstories succeeded in making it unique from its predecessor (which tackles Seiryu and Suzaku and their priestesses). I loved it so damn much, friends, even when it made my emotions go haywire and made me yell or cry (or both). You can clearly see how much Yuu Watase has improved her storytelling with this series, and I am HERE for it. 

We Were There, Vol. 1 by Yuuki Obata | Of all the things I read during this first round, this is my least favorite. It centers around a main character who finds herself developing feelings for a classmate of hers that she can’t fully understand, and who still seems to be grieving over the girl he was in love with who died in an accident. I didn’t get on with the art style, nor did I find the storytelling compelling, so I didn’t end up really vibing with this manga. This is one where I can’t see myself continuing the series for sure!

And there you have it – all my thoughts on all the things I consumed over the course of the first round of OtakuAThon! I had a really good time, and I’m still shocked at how much I read over this weekend. It fully cemented my love for these mediums too, and I can’t wait to do it again in June (and hope you’ll join us too)!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Table for Two #27: LRoom Cafe

Rachel of Hello, Chelly and I have teamed up to bring you a collaboration that involves two of my favorite things: New York City and food. Welcome to Table for Two, where the two of us will be highlighting restaurants and dessert spots in New York City! I get the delightful honor of talking about LRoom Cafe today (with a surprise appearance from our friend Kristin!), while Rachel features Kung Fu Kitchen.

Where | LRoom Cafe, 41 W 14th St.
Cuisine | Dessert, brunch
Price | $$$$ Splurge

What We Ordered:
  • The Rose
  • Rose Garden (Egg Waffle)
  • Bing Bing Rose Latte
  • Matcha Taro Latte

What We Thought:
I've always wanted to visit LRoom Cafe! Yes, it was primarily because of the aesthetic (which is something that really appeals to me). But before we get to that, I have to mention that I was only moderately pleased with the actual location itself. It's a bit plain, with tiny areas that are great highlights (and photo ops) and very minimal decor otherwise. Plus, the lighting was a little odd and the music (at least while we went) was a bit too loud for my liking! But the food items we ordered definitely added more pop to the aesthetic... which might just be the point. But not only do the drinks and dishes look good - they actually taste great as well, particularly if you're into earthier, floral, natural flavors in all forms and fashions! We devoured all the stuff you see in the photos... and then saw other people ordering other things, so we definitely plan to go back in the future for another visit.

Rating: 🥂🥂🥂 Really good

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Friends with ARCs: You'd Be Mine + Descendant of the Crane

Clay is a popular country singer that has all the girls swooning… and all the tabloids and gossip sites hungry for his latest bout of bad behavior. Given an ultimatum by his record company, Clay convinces the Annie, the reclusive daughter of two country superstars known for their work and their double suicide, to be a part of his summer tour. Neither one expects to encounter something more to the other person; neither one expects the sparks that instantly fly between them. But will their attraction flourish beyond the perils of life on the road and the demons of their respective pasts that threaten to overtake them?

You’d Be Mine, y’all. It was a book that I had a real good time reading, even though it touched on some difficult topics (trigger warnings: alcoholism, drugs, addiction, suicide) that made my heart ache. On the surface, this is the story of two young country artists who team up to embark on a summer tour. But this is also the story of a young man who is running from his grief and anger by donning a persona on stage and by drowning his feelings in alcohol and drugs and meaningless hook-ups. It’s also the story of a young woman who is trying to find her way forward to embrace the life of music and performing that she’s always known she’s meant for, even as the demons of her past try to drag her down. If that sounds like a lot to tackle in one contemporary read, well, it is. However, I do think Hahn does well in weaving these plot points together (though we might have benefited from the book being a touch longer). She strikes a great balance between the fun and the hard, the romantic and the real, and crafted Clay and Annie’s stories into an easy-to-read, engaging novel. It also helps that she did well bringing her cast to life on the page, from our main couple Clay and Annie to their friends and support systems. You’d Be Mine certainly lived up to my expectations, and it’s a contemporary YA read that you’ll want to get your hands on!

Favorite country song? I admittedly do not listen to a lot of country music, but Carrie Underwood has always been an artist whose work I've really appreciated. I love a lot of her songs, but So Small is definitely one of my all-time favorites from her! The theme of the song is really resonated with me.

You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn | Publisher: Wednesday Books | Publication Date: April 2, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Princess Hesina finds her ascension to the throne happening much sooner than she anticipated when her beloved father is found dead. Her first order of business as queen? To find out who murdered her father. But the further Hesina digs into the mysterious circumstances surrounding her father’s death, the more political corruption, societal and magical deceptions she discovers within her court and her kingdom. Faced with opposition on all fronts, Hesina will soon have to decide just how far she’s willing to go in order to obtain justice for her father.

I’m always nervous when it comes to YA fantasy these days, because my tastes have started shifting enough that I find this kind of fantasy to be very hit or miss. Unfortunately, Descendant of the Crane was very nearly a miss – which simply translates to the fact that it was just plain okay, in my humble opinion. It earns marks for being a quick read (I was seriously nearly halfway through it before I realized I’d gotten so far already), and for having a story that kept me just interested enough to see how it would all unfold. But having had a little distance from the novel, I can easily pinpoint the thing that really bugged me: the underdeveloped characters (and relationships), which invited no emotional attachment from me as a reader. Having no emotional investment meant that the story fell flat for me, instead of being the exciting high stakes fantasy mystery filled with twists and turns that it seems like it was meant to be. It also doesn’t help that there are numerous plot threads woven all throughout, and it ultimately felt like a messy reading experience as we moved from one to the next. Descendant of the Crane was just fine overall, which is personally disappointing since I wanted to love it so badly. 

Favorite proverb or motto? I'm going to have to go with a Biblical proverb for this one, specifically Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to him and he will make your paths straight."

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He | Publisher: Albert Whitman Company | Publication Date: April 2, 2019 | Source: e-galley downloaded from NetGalley (Thank you!)


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