Sunday, May 22, 2016

Book Review: “The Strange Library”

by Haruki Murakami (translated by Ted Goossen).

All I did was go to the library to borrow some books.

Murakami has such a brilliant ability to lift the layers off the most mundane places and everyday events, and reveal a world that is so eerily fantastic. I was really fascinated by this short story of a boy who is imprisoned in the hidden depths of an old library by an evil librarian who will eat his brains if the boy cannot memorize three thick books on Ottoman tax collection.

While imprisoned, two very unique characters visit the boy - and it is through the alternating visits of the beautiful girl who only speaks through her hands, and the intriguing Sheep Man, that we find ourselves in a world that is as unreal owing to the fantasy element, as it is made real by invoking some very real human fears.

Set at the end of an enormous underground labyrinth in a world of irrational tyranny, emerges a cocoon of friendship and bravery, and - above all - a surreal mirror to a very real world.

One final word, even though this is categorized as a children's book, don't forget that this is also Murakami. Nothing he says can be taken at face value. Everything he says has endless layers of interpretations.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Book Review: “Ao no Exorcist” - Tankobon vol. 10-11

Written and illustrated by Kazue Kato

After a mighty battle that ends with Rin, Yukio and Shiemi's encounter with an ancient whale-deity, the team returns to face a new rescue mission in the form of classmate Godaiin, who sees demons against his will. Mephisto has the cure for this, but of course, in return he asks for them to deal with "The Seven Mysteries of True Cross Academy".

[Ao no Exorcist is an ongoing manga series. Individual chapters are currently being collected into Tankobon volumes. I have decided to categorize my thoughts based on adventures. In this third part of my review, I look at Tankobon volumes 10 through 11, which contains chapters 38-47].

As far as missions go, I found this section to be a little weaker than the others. The concept of timeless mysteries attached to the Academy was brilliant, and - as with all the other missions - it was wonderful to see the strength and ingenuity of the Exwires - as individuals as well as a team. However, the power of this concept got diluted a little bit, especially when confronted with such entities as a transvestite ghost with confused sexuality.

But this was also the series where a gate to Gehenna opens up, and I cannot wait to follow that story arc. And discovering that opening was one of the greatest characters in this story, Arc Knight Lewin Light. Right-hand man of Paladin Arthur A. Angel, he is an awesome combination of wit and intelligence presented in a deceptively unkempt look and lazy behaviour.

The Art, which has been outstanding throughout, goes up yet another level with the True Cross Academy Festival. Colours, events, food, people, and all the smells and sounds of the celebrations came alive in a wildly unbelievable way.

Somewhere about half-way through the 12th Tankobon, this adventure ends, and - amid rumours of a spy among the members of the True Cross Order - a fantastic new story starts, revolving around Izumo Kamiki and an ancient family curse. This, so far, has been the absolute high point of this series for me. Till the point that I have read, this story has not yet concluded and I will re-visit this review when the current saga in Hachinohe concludes.

I'm not your weapon, demon king, or savior! I'm Rin Okumura! And when I'm done, I'm going to be the best exorcist you ever laid your eyes on!
~ Rin Okumura