In his afterword Williams mentions the words gothic and space opera, which immediately brings to my mind the Warhammer 40k universe. Saturn Returns is also a space opera in a far removed future, but has quite a different feel. And as much as I tried to see it, nothing of the style or atmosphere of the book evokes anything gothiclike to me.
Still, this doesn’t make this book bad, far from it. It’s a nice starting point for Williams new Astropolis series. An amnesiac main character who tries to puzzle out who he is and why some people try to kill him. A human expansion that is limited to STL and yet has, at least in the past, successfully birthed a galactic civilization. The main idea of the novel is to either slow down or speed up your perception of time, to make incredibly long journeys among the stars pass in days or even minutes or overclock in certain situations to live in seconds. Combine this with immortality and other trans- and posthuman modifications and you’ll get an interesting future where the perception of time and identity is always in flux.
One problem of the book is that the history of this far future seems to lacks depth and with the main character and his companions having participated in those important moments of nearly a million year history that we get presented, it feels like there’s not much more to it than we already now. I’m aware that you can’t fully work out a million year history, but some details here and there that make it clear that more than just three or four major things happened in all this time would give the setting more texture and not allowing the main character and his companions to have taken a part in those would make it feel as if the setting is more complex than just a playground for the characters.
The book picks up with the main character having been recreated at the edge of the galaxy and finding out that the galactic civilization he knew has been shattered. As this is just the first novel, you won’t find out everything. What the book provides is a journey of self-discovery for the main character, who does find out what kind of person he has been and realizes that he doesn’t actually like what he learns about himself. The climax of the book is not so much about saving and restoring the galactic order, but about the main character making an important choice about who he wants to be.
As this is just the first novel, I can’t yet say whether this will turn out to be another Geodesica (excellent) or another Orphans trilogy (disappointing conclusion). Still, I have high hopes. So far it’s been highly entertaining, both conceptually and plotwise.
When I started reading, I must admit I expected something similar to Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a slow transition from the mundane and realistic to the magic of some hidden fantasy world beside our own. TSB just throws the reader into the cold water, from the starts it’s fully fueled by magic, reading like a feverish dream and letting the reader puzzle everything out. Definitely not user-friendly.
Also, and is this more problematic, one of the main characters, the Bride, doesn’t participate much in the story for the first half of the book. But as soon as you’ve passed a certain mark and get a feeling for how the book works, it gets more interesting. Toward the ending the style felt more accessible to me, even if the book never abandoned its dreamlike feel.
directed by Eiji Suganuma
The first scenes of Ninja Cadets (a two episode OVA from 1996, that feels conceptually a bit like a prototype for Naruto) can make the impression that what follows will be a violent and bloody action movie like Ninja Scroll, but soon it becomes a light-hearted action-comedy. You’ll have the standard youngster characters, the serious one, the goofball and so on, who train to become ninjas and have to complete an important task. One of them is a princess (the one surviving the attack on her family from the beginning of the first episode) and some assassins follow the group to kill her, but prove to be rather ineffective at doing their job. Since there are only two episodes, the story feels unfinished, even if the two episodes comes to some sort of finish. It’s like watching the first two episodes of an unrealized TV series, which is quite unsatisfying, since you expect more to come. Still, it’s entertaining.
directed by Tatsuo Sato
While this series does not completely match the atmosphere of the movie – it feels less sophisticated in execution and writing and some of the secondary characters have a tendency to become a bit annoying – it is quite entertaining and Jubei feels and acts like the Jubei you know from the movie. The plot is rather thin, mostly you’ll get the feeling this series is just one action scene after another, not that this is much different from the movie, but in a series it can become bothersome. Some episodes try to tell a more serious story only to completely miss the mark and feel ludicrous. But I couldn’t help but feel entertained. I just love movies with well done action sequences and some of the enemies were as imaginative as the enemies from the movie.
What makes Ninja Scroll work so well is not just the perfect pacing and the imaginative action sequences, it’s the main character. Jubei Kibagami is neither a lone wolf or an idealistic hero so commonly deployed in action movies, but an everyday guy who just happens to be damn good at using a sword. But instead of getting all moody when facing setbacks or spouting some inane proclamations about justice to his enemies, he just does what needs to be done (if he can’t help it). Often he just tries to find a place to rest and sleep.
Plotwise it’s about a group of über-ninjas trying to get their hands on something, with Jubei and others standing in their way. The movie has some nice plot twists and quite many eye-catching and gorgeous to look at choreographed action-sequences. The whole thing takes place in old Japan, but don’t expect much realism. As I said, Jubei as the main character is well done, but so are most of the others, friends and foes as well. Especially the conundrum of Kagero, the female main character, makes her into an interesting character and a good counterpart to easygoing Jubei.
anthologized by Kazu Kibuishi (Preview)
This is more than twice as big as the first volume. But while the quantity has increased, the quality hasn’t suffered. Like I wrote about the first Flight anthology, I didn’t like everything, but with that much more space there were more pieces I really liked. One positive thing was that most contributors seem to have abandoned the attempt to make their pieces fit the flight theme, which in my eyes was a smart step and has improved the overall quality.
Again there’s a diversity of styles and themes. There’s everything from slice of life to science fiction to high fantasy to fairy tales to whatever. Reading it felt like watching the Saturday morning cartoons as a kid, when you hadn’t yet known the TV program by heart and every hour gave you something new to wonder and amaze about.
by Hope Larson (Online)
When you’re a kid the forest near were you’re living can hold a world full of magic. In the evening shadow monsters haunt it, in daylight other wonders can be found there. When you’re a kid, the names of foreign countries promises places full of magic. For some people it seems obvious that when you grow up, when you’ll outgrow these childish ideas, the wonder and magic will cease to be.
Salamander Dream makes the case that while things inevitably will change when you grow up, magic can still have a place. Only because you’ll know more about the world and some things turn out to be mere shadows or places not filled with the magic of your youth, doesn’t mean you have to give up to look at the world with open eyes and acknowledge everything around you is full of interesting things that hold worlds, small and big, full of wonder and amazement, even under the more experienced and scientific scrutiny of the eyes of a grownup.
Nice, clean art and a very pacifying atmosphere. At times the narrative is a bit too sparse on details about the characters, but overall this is one well done comic.
anthologized by Kazu Kibuishi (Preview)
Compared to single-author offerings anthologies always suffer, there’s not one strong voice that you either completely like or dislike, but a diverse lot of writers/artists. Still, diversity like this can also be a strength, if are open to experience something new again and again. I can’t say I liked everything in Flight One, but I liked seeing a different drawing style with each story, each distinguished and unique in its own way.
One problem that I often find popping up in comics is that few artists are good at both writing and drawing, often the writing and plotting is inferior to the art, which is also a problem in this anthology. While non of the stories were really bad, many were also not distinctly good or great. This may have also been a problem of trying to fit a story to the theme of the anthology, some stories connection to the flight theme is rather flimsy. All these problems are easy to forget while enjoying the art, but they are there.
Some of the stories I really enjoyed on both fronts (art and narrative) were: I wish…” by Vera Brosgol, Paper and String by Jen Wang and All Time Low by Dylan Meconis and Bill Mudron.
Every medium has it low and high points. This is a low one for anime, but its attempt to cram as much plot as possible into merely twenty minutes gets a point for trying. There are some monsters, called Ancients, who suddenly appear and seem to have a relation to the fragments of a destroyed human space explorer. The Explorer got destroyed when entering Earth’s atmosphere after coming back from Mars. To counter these Ancient there’s this group of young armored girls (whose armor still doesn’t look very armor-like, you can’t get around fan-service in some animes) and one guy (whose whining reminds me not positively of the main guy from Evangelion) in some super-duper fighting suit.
There are two battles with the enemy boss. After losing the second one and dying, he comes shortly back to life to reveal that humans are the real invaders to Earth and the Ancients are the real Earthlings. Stretched out over two hours or even a series this all might have made much more sense, but this compacted it comes over like nothing more than awful, derivative crap. Also the animation looks really cheap.
The main character is a photographer who takes pictures of grisly occurrences and tries to chronicle various mass murderers with his camera. One day one of them appears in his office and tells him of his next murder. This starts out with a passage that gives the whole text a dreamlike, nightmarish quality, furthered by the real nature of the mass murderer. The final passage of the story is a clumsy attempt to make an important point about human nature, that doesn’t feel as if it has naturally evolved from the story but like a moral Egan wanted to tack on to give the ending more importance. Doesn’t work well, thought.