Thursday, April 15, 2021

Anime Roundup

Here we are with another edition of Anime Roundup! No unifying theme this time, just an assorted grab bag of fun and awesomeness. Hajimemashou!

Code Geass
There's really no simple way to describe this one. It takes multiple genres and tropes (rebellion, mecha, magic, high school), mashes them together, and then weaves the resulting mixture into a complex, morality-questioning, socio-political narrative in such a way that totally shouldn't work...and yet it does. There's one line spoken by the main character in one episode that I think might sum it up best: "I'm trying to run a school festival and a coup d'etat at the same time!" Or I don't know, maybe not. You really have to watch it to understand the full scope, but I'll try again: in an alternate timeline where the Holy Britannian Empire has conquered Japan, an exiled Britannian prince acquires a power called "Geass" (which manifests in him as a sort of Jedi mind trick ability) and then uses it to try to overthrow Britannia as revenge against his Emperor father for letting his mother be killed *deep breath*. By the way, the prince's over-the-top mannerisms reminded me so much of Yuta/Dark Flame Master from Love, Chunibyo, and other Delusions (covered in this Anime Roundup post) that I had to go and rewatch that show. If you've seen both, you know what I'm talking about.

Kuroko's Basketball
A sports drama-comedy that reminded me a little of Haikyuu!! (also covered in this Anime Roundup post), this one is kind of about a high school basketball player (the titular Kuroko) whose only strength is the fact that he's very easy to overlook and so he can pull off these amazing touch passes; otherwise, he can't shoot, dribble, or basically do anything else effectively. However, when paired with a stronger player, this particular skill makes him really valuable. And so, he teams up with one such player and their school goes on to challenge other schools that each contain a former member of Kuroko's middle school team that was nicknamed the "Generation of Miracles" and won three straight championships. I liked how each member of that so-called "Generation" had a certain hair color, a name that matched said color, and an individual strength of cartoonish proportions - they were kind of like "monsters of the week." As with Haikyuu!!, it didn't - spoiler alert - culminate in any kind of typical final championship game, but that's because Netflix only has the first season.

Love and Lies
A rom-com-dram about a love triangle with a twist: in an alternate reality where the government forces teens and young adults into arranged marriages in order to increase the birth rate, one sixteen-year-old boy confesses his love to his childhood crush and finds out that his feelings are reciprocated, but then he receives a notice that he's been assigned a future wife - who, of course, is someone else. As you might expect, this leads to all kinds of complications. I enjoyed this one (especially with its catchy theme song), even though I felt that it - spoiler alert- didn't take full advantage of its premise and left me with some unanswered questions, like: why in the world would these girls fall in love with such a boring dude? Anyway...

The Way of the Househusband
A vignette comedy about an ex-yakuza boss who retires from crime to become a househusband, this one is so laugh-out-loud hilarious I watched all five episodes on Netflix in one sitting and I want them to keep making more and more of them as quickly as they possibly can.

Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan
This is a spin-off of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (covered in this Anime Roundup post) that features one of the characters from that manga/anime, the titual Kishibe Rohan, a manga artist with the ability to read and write people like a book (literally). The manga was adapted into four OVA (original video animation - in anime parlance, a direct-to-home-video film or series) episodes, of which Netflix has all four (yay). The simplest way I can describe this show is that it's a horror anthology, which is kind of a unique subgenre for anime but not all that surprising considering its source material. Also, I am very jealous of Rohan's ability.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Volume Six Status Update: Moving Right Along

I'm not sure, but it feels like that with this book, more so than on any of the others (except perhaps Volume One), I've really been sticking to the whole "just write whatever and fix it later" rule. Why do I say that? Because now that I'm coming up for air to assess where I'm at, I've discovered that I've made some pretty good progress, thank you very much.
As of the last status update in January, I was at 22,000 words, or about 88 pages. As of today, I've more than doubled that output, standing at 49,500 words, or about 198 pages. Of course, there's a 100% chance that large chunks of those words are piles of hot steaming garbage that will need to be immediately thrown out, but right now, I don't actually know, because I haven't stopped to re-read hardly any of it. My whole modus operandi has been "plow ahead, don't look back" for weeks now.

But it's all good, because that's how books get written! At least, that's how my books get written. And I think most writing advice will say the same thing: for your first draft, just get words down on the page, and worry about editing and revising and rewriting afterwards (believe me, there will be lots of that going on).

And while I don't know which parts will need the most help (I'm guessing mostly all of it except the first act, which is sort of solid?), I do know that I'll need to be doing a lot of filling in of the middle section, because at the previously-mentioned 49,500 words, I'm already well into the third act, which - according to my outline - wasn't supposed to start until about the 60,000-word mark or so. I sort of expected this to happen (something similar happened with Volume Three), because I've just been speeding along plot-wise, trying to move the story forward without stopping for things like description and exposition. It's like, so here's a new character from an alien planet and a different timeline, what does it look like? Who cares! We'll figure it out later.

Anyway, that's where things stand at the moment. According to my self-imposed schedule, Volume Six isn't due out until 2023, so I'm making good time...for now. As always, stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Glorified - Great News!

This week, I have good news, even better news, and great news. Okay, first, the good news: Glorified the comic book is going to be adapted into an anime series!
Actually, it's not (yet). April fools! Wouldn't that be cool, though? Anyway, on to the REAL foolin'.

First of all, the Kickstarter campaign for Issue #4 of Glorified was a success!

Much mahalos to all the awesome backers who supported it. We look forward to producing the issue, which will contain the likenesses of the backers who chose the packages that gave them the opportunity to appear as characters. Right now, we're looking at a launch date of sometime in July, so stay tuned for that.

And now, the great news: we've made the decision to donate 50% of the profits from the sale of any issue of Glorified in any format to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. Since I was already donating $1 for every sale of a Joel Suzuki book to Autism Empowerment, we figured that it just made sense to do something similar with Glorified in order to help make a positive difference in the world. We hope you'll join us in supporting these great causes, either by purchasing copies of the comic book or by simply making direct donations to the organization. You can find the first three issues of Glorified for sale in either print or digital format at the links below (none of which are rick rolls, I promise):

Arigatou! Gracias! Thank you!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Adventuring For Autism Empowerment!

Exciting news! Tomorrow evening, starting at 5pm Pacific, Dan (bass player for Second Player Score) and I will be participating in a livestreamed Dungeons & Dragons campaign on the Punky's Mixtape show on Twitch. Best of all, one hundred percent of all donations, subs, bits, and cheers will be going to benefit Autism Empowerment!
It's been ages since I've played D&D, but I've armed myself with the 5th Edition manuals (borrowed from my daughter), multiple sets of polyhedral dice, and various how-to YouTube videos. My character is a 3rd level high elf bard named Nairb, and Dan's is a 3rd level half-orc bard named Leinad. We're two-thirds of a traveling minstrel act called "Staging Plate" (long story, inside joke), and have found ourselves in a bind after our third member ("Elyk") challenged and defeated a powerful wizard in a drinking contest only to have said sore-loser-wizard polymorph him into a small animal of a yet-to-be-determined species. Now, we're following the trail of the wizard to a distant continent and having random adventures on the road while learning more about our adversary and trying to grow stronger in preparation for eventually facing them again. How will we fare? How long do we have to turn Elyk back? What kinds of allies and enemies will we make along the way? Tune in here to find out!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Interview With DJ Dex

Hey there! Just an announcement that tomorrow, Friday, March 19, from 3-6pm Pacific Time, I will be a special guest on 99WNRR radio with the illustrious DJ Dex as part of their 8th Annual Radiothon benefitting FACES4AUTISM Family Support Group, The Children's Air Ambulance, and David's Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation.
I'll be talking about the Joel Suzuki series and other stuff in between DJ Dex playing requests and taking donations to support the aforementioned organizations. $5 gets you one song, $10 gets you three songs, $25-50 gets you a special commemorative shirt and 5 songs, and $100 gets you two shirts, 10 songs, and the chance to be a guest DJ and announce your requested songs on the air! More details are at this link.

Hope you can check it out!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

April and Lydia Predict The 2021 MLB Season

In what is now becoming an annual (or biannual, in last year's case) tradition, we welcome some very special guests to the blog: our in-house baseball experts/die-hard Seattle Mariners fans April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez! They'll be giving their thoughts on their predictions from last year, what they expect from the M's and baseball in general during the upcoming season, and more.
Brian: Hello, ladies.
April: Hello.
Lydia: 'Sup.
Brian: So - 
Lydia: I know what you're going to ask.
Brian: You do?
Lydia: Yeah. Something about Mather-gate.
Brian: Well, I was planning to bring that up at some point, yeah.
Lydia: Just more evidence that there's still a curse on the Mariners.
April: Well, now that he's gone -
Lydia: Thank goodness.
April: - maybe things will start to turn around.
Lydia: Let's hope so.
Brian: And that brings me, sort of, to what I was going to start off with - the M's record from last year's pandemic-shortened season. Let's see... (checks notes) April, you predicted that they would finish at 23-37, in last place. They actually ended up in -
Lydia: Third place, at 27-33. Ahead of the Angels and Rangers.
April: You really should let him finish his sentences.
Lydia: Oh, you're so polite.
Brian: No problem. But yeah, they seemed to have exceeded expectations.
April: And almost made the playoffs!
Lydia: Too bad the Astros didn't finish at 8-52, like I wanted.
April: Well, they did have a losing record. And the A's won the division.
Lydia: True.
Brian: All right, moving on - you folks thought, both in March and in July, that the Dodgers would win the World Series.
Lydia: And they did! We're psychic.
April: Well, I mean, with a roster that stacked, it was an obvious prediction.
Lydia: I still say we're psychic.
April: Okay.
Brian: What are your psychic predictions for this year? Let's start with the Mariners' record.
April: I'll go out on a limb and say 83-79, third place.
Brian: So, still no playoffs?
April: Yeah. Unfortunately.
Lydia: I'll see your limb and raise you: 92-70, AL West Champions. Shock the world, baby!
Brian/April: Seriously?
Lydia: Sure, why not? I mean, the bullpen looks better, the Big Maple is back, and we have the reigning Rookie of the Year. 
April: But -
Lydia: I know what all the projections say, and I don't care. Besides, aren't you the one always saying that we need to have hope?
April: Yeah, I guess.
Lydia: Also, I'm gonna say that Marco Gonzales, Kyle Lewis, and J.P. Crawford will be All-Stars. And Jarred Kelenic will be Rookie of the Year.
Brian: Wow.
April: This is certainly a big change from last July when you didn't want to predict anything.
Lydia: Well, I thought about what you just said about things starting to turn around, and I figured maybe you're right. Heck, maybe Mather was the curse!
Brian: I guess we shall see. So, what about the World Series Champs?
April/Lydia: Dodgers.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Haiku Hour

Yes, it's time for another Haiku Hour! To recap, a haiku is a Japanese poem that consists of seventeen syllables divided into three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Traditionally, they include references to seasons and/or have nature as a topic, but, well, whatever. Hajimemashou!
What the heck is this?
Snowstorm in February
Can't drive anywhere

(bonus points for the seasonal/nature reference)

Neko nihiki
Means "two cats" in Japanese
Warm lap on Sunday
Look, homemade hot sauce!
Red is hot, green not as hot
Thanks to Punky B.
Awesome custom lamp
Joel and SPS logos
Thanks to Daniel D.
Even more hot sauce
Carolina Reaper, yikes!
Thanks to DJ Dex

If you enjoyed that and you missed my previous two Haiku Hour posts, you can check those out here and here. Or not.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Anime Roundup: Big Name Edition

That's right, it's another edition of Anime Roundup! This time, I'll be talking about some heavy hitters that, if you're even on the periphery of anime fandom, you've probably heard of before.

Attack on Titan
This one could also qualify for my previous Anime Roundup post in which I listed shows that I initially gave up on but then gave another chance to, because I actually tried watching it back when I first really started getting into anime but then stopped because of what I at the time called its "unrelenting bleakness." After I finished watching the Korean horror drama series Sweet Home, however (which you can hear me discuss with my bandmates from Second Player Score in Episode 69 of our podcast), I decided that there was no way this show could be bleaker than Sweet Home, so I restarted it, and behold! It was so much fun that, like a Titan eating humans, I consumed the whole 25-episode first season (which is all that's available on Netflix) in a matter of days. I now see why it's so popular, and I may have to sign up for Hulu just so I can watch the rest of it, dangit.

Demon Slayer
I had heard that a movie based on this series (a direct sequel to the first season) became the highest-grossing anime film of all time after it was released in Japan in late 2020, which is even more impressive when you consider that it happened IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC when going to the theater is generally not a thing. So, naturally, I was excited when I saw that it - the series, not the movie - was coming to Netflix. And wow, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. About a boy who wants to become a demon slayer after his family is killed by a demon (except for his sister, who is turned into a demon), its particular blend of action, drama, humor, and gore is right in my sweet spot (although the supporting character Zenitsu is more than a little annoying at times). Also, the whole "nine Hashira" and "twelve Kizuki" thing makes my inner nerd squeal with delight. So now my only question is HOW CAN I SEE THE MOVIE??

One Piece
This show, about a boy with Mister Fantastic-like powers who wants to become the next King of the Pirates, is based on the best-selling manga of all time. Personally, I don't quite get it (I know, all you One Piece fans out there are like, whaaaa?), but I've only watched a relative fraction of the zillion gajillion available episodes so far, so perhaps it's a slow burn like many other shows I grew to love over time. I'm still plugging away at it, because if and when it ever does really take off for me, I will have an enormous catalog to enjoy.

Neon Genesis Evangelion
A classic from the mid-nineties, I'd heard that this show basically jumpstarted the entire anime industry at a time when interest was starting to wane. I thought, "but it's just a standard mecha show with giant kid-piloted robots fighting giant monsters, right?" Uh, wrong. After watching stuff like Kill la Kill, Gurren Lagaan, and Madoka Magica, you'd think I would have learned my lesson by now. Anyway, once I realized that this particular edition of Anime Roundup was starting to take on the "big name" theme, I decided to check this show out, since it (and a couple of related feature-length films) was readily available on Netflix. And...well, holy cow. HOLY COW. Not to give anything away, but from the early episodes where the show was just establishing its premise, you could already tell there was something different and groundbreaking about it. Even moments that were supposedly lighthearted still had a subversive undercurrent of dread and foreboding - a sense of "there's something not quite right here." It's also so thematic that you could probably write a college dissertation about it (and I'm pretty sure some folks have). On top of that, great pacing, terrific character development, lots of action, and some downright trippy sequences make this one required viewing for any anime fan.

Your Name
This is a full-length feature (not a series) that is the third-highest grossing anime film of all time, behind only the aforementioned Demon Slayer movie and Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away. And also, it is positively mind-blowing. Ostensibly a romantic dramedy on the surface, it blends a bunch of other tropes and genres in a way that you think wouldn't work at all, but it totally does, creating something that is far greater than the sum of its parts. I won't spoil anything even a little bit, but let me just say that watching this film was like a religious experience for me. It's only 107 minutes long but it feels like the journey of a lifetime (in a good way). My one complaint is that I could only find it in either English dub or Japanese with no subtitles, so I went with the dub version (curse my limited Japanese-language skills). By the time I was halfway through, though, I was so enthralled that it didn't matter. If you've been following this blog for a while and you feel like your taste in movies is anything similar to mine, do yourself an immense favor and watch this film as soon as you possibly can.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Glorified Issue #4 Kickstarter

Hey there! Just wanted to let everyone know that the creative team behind the Glorified comic book series has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for the next issue in the series. I know that this is a tough time financially for many folks out there, but for those who can afford it, we have some fun rewards available, including the chance to appear as a character in the issue!
Issue #4 ("Liberty's End") shows Gloria and Gage stopping in a town called Liberty's End that is being terrorized by a local gang. In exchange for supplies, Gloria offers to train the townsfolk to defend themselves. But will they be ready in time? The answer might surprise you...

Anyway, the Kickstarter campaign can be found here, and Issues #1, #2, and #3 are available from the good folks at IndyPlanet. You can also find more information on the series itself here and here. Cheers!

/end commercial

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Four-D: The Winter Suite Launch Party And Other Interviews

In case you missed my band's virtual launch party for our new four-song EP Four-D: The Winter Suite, you can catch it at this link. It's nearly four hours long, but it's a whole lot of fun (especially as we get drunker and drunker as it goes along).
Huge thanks to host Punky Bruiser for having us, and for being a good friend and big supporter in general. We've been on his show a couple of times before (once for a general interview and another time to discuss our thoughts on Marvel's Wandavision), and we're planning on being on again in the near future, this time to play some good ol' D&D. I recommend checking out his other non-Second Player Score episodes as well, as he covers a lot of fun stuff from the worlds of music and pop culture.

We were also lucky enough to be recent guests on a bunch of other cool shows: the Beers With Bands podcast, New Rock City, and No, This Is Mattrick! (hosted by Matt, the guitarist from No, This Is Patrick!) Check out those episodes at these links:

And, of course, you can hear our new EP (as well as the rest of our catalog) on Spotify or basically anywhere else music is to be found online. Cheers!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Four-D: The Winter Suite EP

Today is the official release date of Four-D: The Winter Suite, the new EP from my band Second Player Score!
The EP, which is only available digitally, consists of four songs: "The Flow," "That Escalated Quickly," "Winner Takes It All," and "Dark Night of the Soul." It will eventually, when combined with the Summer Suite, Autumn Suite, and Spring Suite (all of which have been written but are yet to be recorded), be part of the full-length 16-song album titled, naturally, Four-D - of which there will be a physical CD and, hopefully, a companion card game and novella.

Four-D is, of course, a concept album, one that tells the story of a boy who chooses to compete in an interdimensional game for the prize of a single wish, only to find that the game is much more than he bargained for. Musically, we took on the challenge of making every song on the album just four chords, after we noticed that a lot of the best songs in pop music history are constructed in exactly that fashion.

We had also noticed that "four" seems to be sort of a magic number not only for music, but for the universe in general - four-chord songs, 4/4 time signature, four elements, four seasons, four compass points, four blood types, four mathematical operations, four DNA components, four forces of nature, and so on (in some East Asian cultures, the number four is actually considered bad luck, kind of like thirteen in the West, because the word for "four" - shi - is also the word for "death." But, well, death is just a natural part of life, right?)

So, since this was our fourth album, we decided to try to incorporate as much of that as we could into it. Along with having sixteen songs divided up into four EPs of four songs each, each EP would correspond to a season of the year, with the predominant key signatures for the songs representing that particular seasonal element - F# for fire/summer, A for air/autumn, E for earth/spring, and D for winter/water (D standing for water's chemical name, dihydrogen monoxide).

Basically, it's next-level nerdiness.

But while the songs together tell an overall story, individually they're grounded in common emotions that anyone can relate to. "The Flow" is a short and speedy rocker about when you're in the zone, whether it be creative or athletic. "That Escalated Quickly" reflects the feelings you have when things are getting out of control. "Winner Takes It All" is an inspirational ska-influenced number for when your back is against the wall and you have to pull out all the stops. And "Dark Night of the Soul" is for when you feel like all is lost, but some small light at the end of the tunnel keeps you going.

Anyway, you can now find all four songs on Spotify, Apple Music, and all other streaming outlets. We're also going to be having a virtual release party TONIGHT on the Punky's Mixtape show on Twitch from 5 to 5:30pm PST, so be sure to tune in to that!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Volume Six Status Update

With Volume Five now officially out in the world, I have turned my full attention (or, at least, the part of my attention devoted to writing stuff) to - gasp - Volume Six.
That's right, work on the next installment of the Joel Suzuki series - which will, of course, be "The Indigo Book" (official subtitle to be announced later) - is well underway. I had actually started on it earlier, while Volume Five was in editing, and as of October 1st of last year I was at 5500 words, or about 22 pages. So far, there's been the usual amount of false starts and early rewrites, but since I now have five books - and a bunch of other projects - under my belt, I know that this is just standard operating procedure and that I just need to keep plugging away. As a result, I am now up to (drum roll)...

22,000 words, or about 88 pages!

(Some of which will get thrown away and/or rewritten, but like I said - standard operating procedure. Either way, it's progress, folks.)

To give you a little advance taste of what it's about, suffice it to say that while Volume Five took place mostly on Earth, this book will not only return the series to its otherworldly origins, it will expand it greatly, delving into multiple timelines and alternate realities. Because, of course, it's the penultimate chapter in the main seven-book arc (Volumes Eight through Eleven - remember when I announced them? - will be "post-adventures"), so naturally it needs to escalate things pretty dramatically.

Anyway, it's coming along quite nicely so far, and I'm having a lot of fun writing it, which is always a good sign. Stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Glorified Issue #3 Now Available!

Great news - Issue #3 of Glorified (titled "Broken Ecstasy") is now available for general sale on IndyPlanet!
In case you don't know, IndyPlanet is an awesome online store that offers titles from indie comics creators from all over the world in both print-on-demand and digital download formats. To order copies of Glorified's new issue (and the previous two as well), just go to these links:

Also, a little bit of status update news - work on Issue #4 ("Liberty's End") is well underway, with all of the thumbnail sketches complete and preliminary line art for the first five pages in progress. A new Kickstarter campaign for the issue will be launching soon, which I will announce here when it does!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Anime Roundup: Second Chance Edition

I'm a firm believer in second chances. My band Second Player Score - the second major musical musical project I've been involved with - is an example of that. And, as I've mentioned before, sometimes with anime you just have to stick with a show before it gets good. A few that I've revisited that have paid off big-time include Fullmetal Alchemist, Saiki K., and Seven Deadly Sins, and so for this roundup I decided to go back and check out a bunch more, such as:

Kill la Kill
I starting watching this show back in the summer of 2018, when I was still a relative anime noob. I think it was because I was a noob that I was kind of caught off guard by its quirky and, yes, racy nature, so I stopped after three episodes. But now that I am a grizzled anime veteran, I know that quirky and racy are standard operating procedure! So I revisited this one and, well, I fell in love with it. Deeply. What starts off as a simple revenge tale quickly builds into something far more deep, epic, and unique than I could have ever expected or imagined. Even the raciness, instead of just being there for so-called "fan service," is actually an integral part of the overall plot! The pace is fast (they even call this fact out in a fun meta moment), the action is intense, the writing is amazing, the twists are twisty, there's drama, humor, suspense, intrigue...I just can't say enough good stuff about this show. They even made it so that when there were relatively long passages of expository dialogue, instead of feeling bored, I hung breathlessly on the characters' every word - and sometimes even replayed those sections to make sure I got everything. Oh, and if you watch this show, trust me - you will never look at your own clothes the same way again.

Gurren Lagann
After finishing Kill la Kill, I discovered that its writer (Kazuki Nakashima) and director (Hiroyuki Imaishi) also did another show called Gurren Lagann a number of years earlier (they also did Promare, which I watched and talked about in another post). As it just so happens, I had also tried watching Gurren Lagann back when I was an anime noob but gave up after only three episodes thinking that it was a dull and generic mecha show. But so, since I loved Kill la Kill after giving it a second chance, I figured I would try this one again, and...boy, was I wrong about the "dull and generic" thing. Sure, it does start off a little slow and at first it seems like just a bunch of big robots fighting each other, but if you stick with it, it does the same thing as Kill la Kill (although I guess I should say Kill la Kill does the same thing as Gurren Lagann, since the latter came first) and evolves into so, so much more, complete with a few shocking twists. Also, a lot of the stuff that happens near the end will definitely provide inspiration for the sixth and seventh volumes of the Joel Suzuki seriesOtsukaresama deshita, Imaishi-san and Nakashima-san, you guys are brilliant geniuses.

Violet Evergarden
Another one from the summer of '18 that I had given up on, this time after only two episodes. What the heck was I thinking? Sure, it starts off a little slow, and the overall tone of the show is pretty melancholy, but if you stick with it, it gets really powerful, poignant, and heartfelt. Oh, and the artwork is fantastic - probably among the best anime art I've ever seen (and by now, I've seen a lot). It's also kind of neat that the protagonist - a young woman named Violet Evergarden, naturally - is similar in a lot of ways to Gloria Sin from my own comic book series, Glorified. They both have backgrounds as emotionless soldiers who had the ability from a young age to take out entire troops singlehandedly (the show never explains how Violet got her training, but it doesn't matter) along with prosthetic limbs (Gloria has one to replace a lost hand, Violet has two mechanical arms that reminded me of the automail from Fullmetal Alchemist), and both of their journeys involve them trying to gain or regain their respective versions of humanity.

Children of the Whales
In the fall of 2018 I watched this one and said in this previous post, "I watched the first few episodes and couldn't figure out why it was rated TV-MA. I believe I stopped right before I was about to find out." Sure enough, in episode three, I found out (Netflix has since changed it to TV-14, but - spoiler alert - there are some pretty intense scenes of violence). It's hard to pin down how I feel about this one because the tone of this show is kind of all over the place, bouncing from gentle and reflective one moment to dark and grisly the next with moments of standard anime-style levity sprinkled in between. The world-building, while unique, is also a little confusing, although that's probably my fault for not paying better attention (there were a few times when I said out loud to my TV, "I have no idea what's going on here"). Still, though, it was very watchable the second time around, and the twelve episodes (which - spoiler alert - only adapts part of the original manga) went by pretty quickly.

Inuyashiki Last Hero
I actually started on this one fairly recently after seeing it appear on some best-of lists. Then, for whatever unknown reason, I stopped after one episode. I have no idea why. Was I distracted by some bright and shiny object? Was I put off by the slightly-uncanny-valley computer-generated art style? Who knows. Anyway, after seeing it on yet another best-of list, I decided to give it a second chance. Which was a very good decision. I mean, you have to love it just based on the premise alone - a middle-aged man (he's 58 but looks 78 or maybe even 88) who has terminal health issues and is treated with utter contempt by his kids is accidentally killed and then turned into a superpowered cyborg by extraterrestrials (who had apparently taken a wrong turn) and then he goes off to save people before eventually facing off with a teenage dude who had gained the same powers but uses them to be a mass murderer instead. As a middle-aged man myself, I approve of this concept. Even the teenage guy - named "Hiro" with obvious on-the-nose irony - says at one point (mild spoiler alert), "wait, you mean I'M the villain, and this old guy is the hero??" Bonus points awarded for the hilarious meta moment when the teenager makes an offhand comment about what a terrible manga Gantz is (the writer of Gantz is also the writer of this show).

Anonymous Noise
This was not one I had to give a second chance to, but I'm just including it here anyway. It's a rom-com/dram with rock bands and love triangles and all that sort of stuff, so it was right up my alley. And at only twelve episodes, quick and easy to get through. One of the lessons learned from it is: beware, because random students at your local high school may actually be secretly moonlighting as famous rock stars in their spare time (while also engaging in immature and melodramatic romantic attachments typical of that age).

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Volume Five Is Here!

On Christmas Day 2010, I sat down to write what would eventually become Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell. Now, over eight years and hundreds of thousands of words later, my little sci-fi/fantasy series about an autistic boy who travels to a world where music is magic is now up to five volumes.
That's right - Joel Suzuki, Volume Five: Ballad of the Bluerock, has been officially launched into the world!

Thank you so, so much to everyone that has helped make this journey possible so far: Karen and John from Autism Empowerment, my editor Susan DeFreitas, cover artist Jill Colbert, my fellow authors in the Northwest Independent Writers Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and Willamette Writers, all the fans, readers, teachers, media, bookstores, schools, nonprofit organizations, and everyone else who has supported the series, and, of course, my two amazing kids.

If you want to get your hands on a copy, it's available online from these sources:

Barnes & Noble - Paperback Edition

You can also ask your favorite brick & mortar bookstore to order it for you. Some fine establishments that already carry the Joel Suzuki series include:

Of course, there are no in-person launch parties planned at the moment, but I will definitely make an announcement as soon as such a thing is possible once again.

And in the meantime, you can catch up with the entire series by binge-reading the first four volumes: