Tag Archives: highly recommended

Demon Slayer (Anime)

Title: Demon Slayer
Episodes: 1-26

Tanjiro lost his family to a sudden demon attack—all but his sister, who was infected to become a demon herself. Determined to get revenge, and protect his sister, Tanjiro trains hard to become a demon slayer. But the road to mastery is long, and the demons are powerful . . .

It’s so nice to have a protagonist like Tanjiro, whose main personality trait can probably be summed up in “big brother.” He’s kindhearted enough to care for everyone around him, and he never loses sight of the fact that the demons he’s killing were at one time victims themselves to the same curse that infected his sister. But underneath that kindness is a steel determination to save the only family he has left, and he won’t back down from anything that tries to separate him from his sister.

If I have one complaint, it’s that Nezuko, his sister, has a very small role. She’s mostly either asleep or acting cute in a way that makes her feel more like a pet than a person. Hopefully future seasons will flesh her out more.

Inosuke and Zenitsu are two other novices that eventually join Tanjiro on his missions. Although both of them have annoying traits, they also both quickly show deeper backstories, and both of them contribute a lot to the more humorous moments. (Although Zenitsu is at times extremely annoying, as his main schtick is being a wailing  coward whenever he’s awake.)

Ufotable did a wonderful job with the visuals. The fight scenes are sharp, and the special abilities are done in traditional Japanese art style, which makes them look surreal and beautiful. It’s also a real treat to see Tanjiro go from a countryside that looks like a historical drama to the electric lights and trains of the big city. The modern citygoers have no room for “demon slayers”, not even realizing that the demons are walking among them.

Overall this is one of the standouts on nearly every level. The story is compelling, the art is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see where this is going next. (A movie is already announced for the next arc.) I rate this show Highly Recommended.

Winds of Choice (Unexpected Heroes #1)

Title: Winds of Choice

Author: Marty C. Lee

Series: Unexpected Heroes #1

Ahjin wants to skip his vocational testing. He already knows what he wants to do with his life: be a skydancer, just like his parents. But when his assigned vocation is the worst thing he could imagine, a priest, he flees. Simply running away doesn’t stop him from hearing the gods . . . and the gods are going missing. Ahjin may have to fight for them, if he wants the world to continue.

This was amazing fun. I love how the rather typical earth/air/fire/water split was reflected in the physiologies of its peoples: wings, water-dwellers, shapeshifters, and the desert dwellers. Frankly, with winged people and shapeshifters it’s pretty much pegged my interest right from the start.

It helps that the writing is strong, as well as funny. Ahjin is absolutely adamant that he wants nothing to do with “his” god, and as the story goes on it’s very clear why he’s holding that position. It’s also ironic that this deep distrust is what eventually wins him the trust of the other gods, who don’t like his god much better than he does.

Overall this is an excellent story and I’m so glad the first book mostly focuses on the winged people. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Awful Truth About Forgetting (Rachel Griffin #4)

Title: The Awful Truth About Forgetting

Author: L. Jagi Lamplighter

Series: Rachel Griffin #4

Rachel is determined to fight against the demons invading her world—if anyone could figure out how. But she’s also struggling with the betrayal of one of her closest friends, and the things she remembers that everyone else forgets. Ordinary magical school life once again mingles with an adventure that could determine the fate of the world.

I like that Rachel is learning physics from Gaius. I also like the growing relationship with Vlad and the Knights—and how Rachel is now a key figure for Vlad as well.

“We are defending the world,” replied Vlad, firmly. “I am not certain that all we do keeps the entire world from spinning off into chaos. But, on the other hand, I am not sure it doesn’t. Why would I take the risk?”

And the humor is, as always, spectacular. Sigfried takes another easy first place with his many quotable moments.

“Siggy! Come and meet me in the gym. I’ve had a most superior idea! Come see!” Rachel spoke into her calling card.
“I can’t. We’re locked in.” Sigfried sounded petulant, as if the security measures had been designed to personally stop him. “Lucky and I are burrowing through the basement floor with flaming acid. But we won’t be out for another hour or two.”

The revelation of one of the major villains was a very nice surprise. Rachel can’t tell anyone who could help, because that would mean showing that she’s aware of something she should have forgotten. Rachel is also starting to run into real trouble due to her relationship with Jariel. Her trust in him is pitting her against those she loves, who still see him as an enemy.

Overall this was a fantastic fourth book, and given the secrets revealed by the end, I hope the next will not take long to arrive. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland (Rachel Griffin #3)

Title: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland

Author: L. Jagi Lamplighter

Series: Rachel Griffin #3

When a bit of dreamwalking goes wrong, Rachel ends up across the world and deep in another mess. Demons are breaking into her world—and will break her world utterly if they aren’t stopped. The only problem is that no one knows how to stop them.

The best thing about these books is still the humor. Siggy and Lucky, as always, get first place.

“Sorry,” growled Lucky. “Couldn’t resist. I mean they were just flying there… like tiny chickens. Who could be expected not to want to annihilate them utterly with super-hot flame?”

But they’re starting to get fierce competition from Gaius, whose remarks often left me in stitches.

Gaius raised his right hand solemnly, “I will keep your secret. Er… with Vlad’s standard clause of: ‘if you are planning to blow up a significant portion of the world, the deal is off.’”

Now that we’re three books in, the character development continues to improve. We finally get more details about who Vlad and Gaius were in their previous lives (well, off-planet, before-Raven-meddled lives). And the answers are fascinating, because it’s obvious neither of them have truly changed at their core, but the various factors around them may have the power to move them in somewhat different directions this time.

I especially liked the development with the Raven. He’s gone from being Rachel’s most dreaded nightmare to something closer to a best friend. It’s also interesting to see how Rachel may be unwittingly humanizing him, as his appearance has been changing from beast to angel.

I liked how history plays a bigger role in this. Certain historical references come up, and end up being very important to the overall plot. Although I’m also really amused it gives Gaius the opportunity to show off.

“In other words, we do not want any Pyrrhic victories,” said Gaius, “which is appropriate, considering that we are discussing a deity worshipped by the Carthaginians. Oh… wait. Wrong Roman war. That would be a Punic victory, wouldn’t it?”

Overall this is another excellent story in the ongoing series. If you liked the earlier books at all, this one continues to up the ante. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Shadows (Shadows #1)

Title: Shadows

Author: Sam Blood

Series: Shadows #1

Griffin has spent most of his life trying to forget the non-human friend he had when he was little. Before the accident. Before he lost his mom and his brother turned into a stranger. But a moment of rebellion sends him straight through a portal into another world—a monstrous world where none of the occupants are humans, but they have a mysterious connection to humans. Just what is the relationship between Shadows and humans? Why do so many want to kill over it? And what will become of Griffin, who has inadvertently stepped in the middle of all of this?

This was amazing. First, I just love the concept behind the Shadow world. Every occupant is nonhuman, and they range from familiar mythological creatures like satyrs and phoenixes to more unusual creatures like the half-parrot/half-dragon Cirrus. These all come together in a civilized society very like ours, with some adjustments for things like aerial traffic. And that’s before the story even gets into what, exactly, the Shadows are and why that matters.

I like how this book handles soulmates. Too often it’s a solely romantic relationship, or one free of the most serious problems. Griffin and Cirrus have a soul-deep connection, but it’s one that freaks both of them out, and as much as they both want it at some level, they’re also running from it. Watching their friendship blossom was one of the best parts of the book.

The humor is also extremely good. It felt like every few paragraphs I’d stumble over something else that cracked me up.

“I don’t want to die. And if you died, I’d probably feel like, slightly bad about that too.”

And:

“That was awesome! I thought you were as uncoordinated as I am.”
“Lots of laser force practice. You know, a shooting game back home.”
“You played this with your friends?”
“I was a bit of a loner. I just turned up and shot strangers.”
“This explains so much,” Cirrus says.

I seriously need to reread this and pull all my favorite quotes.

The characters are another strong point. Griffin is an interesting choice of protagonist, because he’s not a hero. He sort of wants to be. He deludes himself into thinking he will be. But in the end, he’s a single person contributing to both sides of a conflict that’s much bigger than himself, and his decisions, good and bad, hurt both sides. In other words, he’s a normal kid in way over his head.

Cirrus, of course, is just awesome. Awkward teenage boy, even if he is a different species. I love his snarky conversations with Griffin, and the way he’s struggling to handle his own heart. He wants his best friend back, but what happened ten years ago impacted more than just Griffin, and now Cirrus is unsure how to approach Griffin.

Hanna is another interesting addition. She’s lust at first sight for Griffin, but even he has to admit she’s got some issues that could seriously complicate their relationship.

“My Mum used to tell me something,” Cirrus says grimly. “She said be careful when trying to put a broken person back together, in case you cut yourself on the pieces.”

Which is why I liked how it worked out in the end.

Overall this was a lot of fun, and I’ve already bought the sequel. Highly Recommended.

(And one more quote, which contains small spoilers)

“Oh, and for the record: high-jacking the laboratory filled with my life’s work and trying to crash it into my place of residence: not appreciated.”

Dragon Seed (Archemi Online #1)

Title: Dragon Seed

Author: James Baldwin

Series: Archemi Online #1

Hector is dying of an artificial virus, but he’s determined not to go out quietly. When he receives a message from his estranged brother, he returns home to find an unexpected opportunity to extend his life via the first full virtual reality game. The only problem is that the game’s still in progress. Still, Hector decides it’s worth the chance, and plunges into a fantastic world with the goal of becoming a dragon rider . . .

This has amazing characterization. From the very beginning, Hector’s reckless personality shines bright, and the various humans and NPCs he runs into are equally compelling. (I’m not totally ditching the “this is actually another world” plot twist, but for now they do appear to be actual NPCs).

Hector’s start in the game is plagued by some disturbing glitches. He’s dumped straight into a nightmare-grade quest, the safety measures that the devs assured him were in place don’t seem to be working for him, and he somehow caught the interest of one of the local gods (which really wasn’t supposed to happen given the game’s background lore).

Of course, my absolute favorite character is Cutthroat, the dinosaur-like mount used to haze the newbies, which of course ends up as his gifted steed. Cutthroat has all the tricks of a bad horse and then some, and her antics frequently had me laughing out loud.

Given where this ends, the next book is going to be really entertaining.

The litRPG element is fairly light, with most of the game elements confined to the character creation scene. Most of the rest of the book plays out like a more typical fantasy adventure, just with a few skills to use during battles.

Overall this was a very fun book, and I’m eager to see where the series goes from here. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #5 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime #5

Author: Fuse

Format: Light Novel

Rimuru is off on his tour of the surrounding nations, so Benimaru and the other residents of Tempest are doing their best to run everything like normal. Only there are various plots afoot, and without Rimuru, Tempest is poorly equipped to manage them . . .

It’s really hard to summarize this without spoiling some of the best twists. This book covers some of my favorite material in the overall story.

The prologue alone sets out the more ambitious scope of this book: the Beast Kingdom allied with Tempest is under attack . . . by Milim? But explanations will have to wait for much later.

Mjurren, a magicborn working to carry out some of those plans, gets a lot of focus. I actually like the love triangle that unfolds around her because it’s so silly—one of her would-be suitors is determined to win by waiting for the other one to age to death. For her part, she views Yohm and his comrades more like a babysitting job, where she’s the only adult in the room.

And I love watching Rimuru break down and go more than a little crazy when he finds out what happened when he was gone. It’s all the little things he does that betrays his raging heart. And then he decides he’s putting his foot down. No more pretending the world is full of nothing but people with good intentions.

Raphael is another favorite. “It’s just your imagination.” The snarky little quips go almost entirely over Rimuru’s head. I love how Raphael is developing as a character, and the conflict between emotions and logic as sentience grows where no personality should even exist.

Overall this is a very solid continuation for the series, as it provides a lot of character development for everyone around Rimuru, introduces interesting new characters (and brings back one welcome old friend), and paves the way for a rather unexpected journey. I rate this book Highly Recommended.