Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 18 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 18 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 18 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the eighteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The fights just keep coming. Doma and Shinobu are still going at it, Tanjiro takes center stage as he and Giyu face off against none other than Akaza, the very demon who killed Rengoku. To beat Akaza, Tanjiro will have unlock a new ability.

Character: Shinobu steals the show here. Tanjiro’s story is more worldbuilding than character building. We also learn more about Akaza (if I remember right). What’s nice is the back stories don’t interrupt the fights. Sure, we see the flashbacks common in any mana, but they are brief as opposed to half the volume. These volumes allow us to learn more about the hashira, and the stories are worth it.

Exposition: Maybe there is some exposition hidden in the dialogue, but there’s not too much to notice. Sure, we get a flashback that teaches us a new technique (you should read this volume for that part alone), but the story moves at a blinding pace, which is probably the strength of this series.

Worldbuilding: So this volume expands on new techniques. What happens in manga is not surprising. There’s no secret to manga. Main character fights new, stronger bad guy. Main character must unlock a new technique. So the art isn’t in the surprise of the new move, but in how the new move is revealed and helps the hero win. This manga does it well. It also expands on the overall magic system. To be clear, there is no “magic” per say. I use this term describe the fighting styles and techniques which are (obviously) unrealistic, but cool to see.

Dialogue: Despite the common hero/villain banter I’ve discussed in other reviews for this series, the dialogue is pretty steady. While it’s true that it’s a bit campy, it’s pretty much what one would expect from a manga like this. It gives me plenty of chuckles and witty phrases. So it’s not a lesson in how to write natural dialogue, but it is fun.

Description: So the art depicts the new technique in a great way, and that’s cool. The real distinction of manga is that it uses the art to fill in the gaps writing just couldn’t fill. Writers use fight scenes as more highlight reels because reading every punch and attack would actually get pretty boring. Making those fights visual removes that concern. When you add the techniques unique to this manga, it just gets better.

Overall: This volume just continues the the heart-attack worthy pace of the last volumes. This volume is actually pretty extreme emotional roller coaster. The action is non-stop, and it’s simply impossible to put down.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 17 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 17 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 17 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the seventeenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. This is pretty simple to understand. That fight we’ve been waiting 16 volumes for. Here it is. Upper Ranks vs the Hashira. It’s a freaking royal rumble and the awesomeness, heartbreak, and joy are just starting. It starts of with a (literal) bang, and before you know it, we’re in Infinity Castle. First two big names is Shinobu vs Doma, Upper Rank 2, and another recently promoted upper rank faces off against Zenitsu.

Character: Just when I think the main cast is as rounded out as they can be, we see a side of Zenitsu we’d never imagined. Not only are these fights awesome, they reveal parts of these characters we didn’t know. I’ll probably do a character arc study on Zenitsu after this. His story is icing on a cake though. If you haven’t read these yet, wait another few weeks for the next (and what I assume will be the last) Demon Slayer volume. Then read them all at once. You’ll thank me later.

Exposition: Nope. No time for that nonsense. Sit tight, and hold on! I don’t remember a bit of exposition here.

Worldbuilding: We learn a bit more about how the big bad has adjusted to his latest losses, and we honestly start to get a picture for just how much stronger in magnitude one upper rank is from the previous. It’s not much in expanding the world, but it does expand on the hierarchy and lore of the bad guys.

Dialogue: Well, ok, so the 1980s cartoon banter is back, but I don’t care. While that is part of it, there’s another conversation (see above) that is so powerful. I didn’t mind the corny throwback stuff anyway, but this conversation I’m referring to makes it so worth it.

Description: We se way more of Infinity Castle and the fights are so stunning. There’s no way this final battle isn’t done as an epic movie. Heck, each fight could be an epic movie and I’d watch (but I’d rather not wait three years for each fight).

Overall: While the last volume was a bit of a letdown for me, this volume gave me everything I wanted and more. These fights probably aren’t as epic as a few before (and one to come), but they’re up there. If you’ve read this volume, feel free to tell me how these two fights rank against the rest of the series for you. No, they aren’t my favorites, but they’re in my top ten. Before you get all angry at me, I’m pretty sure each future volume has between one to two fights, and they’re all epic. I imagine I’ll have to do a top ten once I finish these reviews. Just trust me. Buy volumes 17-22; sit down, and enjoy!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Back From Vacation With A 5-Star Review to Share!

Back From Vacation With A 5-Star Review to Share!

Greetings all,

I know it’s been a few weeks. As my vacation got more fun, I decided to take it easy more and more. Of course I’m motivated to get back at it, and I’m happy to be sharing with you all again, but it was nice being with family and focusing on that for a bit.

Not only is it good to be back, but I was happy to see a new review for Bob Drifter, and that means I have the honor of sharing that with you now. You can read that review here.

Discovered is coming along pretty well. I’m about six or so chapters from being done. I’ll have some things to clean up in this draft, but I’m confident that this first pass is laying all the necessary groundwork for a great finish to the Oneiros Log.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 16 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 16 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the sixteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Tanjiro is training to become a Hashira, but that means training with several others, one of whom is Himejima, the Stone Hashira, whose tasks seem every bit as impossible as they are rediculous, but is ther ea method to the madness?

Character: This is (what I think of as) the last training volume before the big (BIG) fight. The training is comically ridiculous, and it’s fun to see the characters interact. With the main characters already developed (as far as character goes), it’s nice to see some of the other characters.

Exposition: This manga (and a few others in the later books) is probably heavier on exposition than th rest of the series as a whole. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s to an annoying degree, but it was certainly noticeable. On one hand, it’s nice that we don’t have volume after volume of back story (I actually like that), but on the other hand, the sudden exponential jump in exposition jarred me a little.

Worldbuilding: This confused me a bit. I thought one became a Hashira the moment they killed on of the upper twelve and the training isn’t really anything truly unique, just extreme. I guess one could say it was unique in how extreme it is, but I’ll admit it was a bit of a double disappointment. I expected the training, but I wish it had more content value than comedic.

Dialogue: Where the exposition and worldbuilding probably left a lot to be desired (in comparison to the other volumes), this is probably improved if not as drastically as the others shifted. The conversations are a bit more natural than normal.

Description: The art is wonderful as always. It was nice seeing more of (what I call) the training complex. So we get to see more of the landscape and world, which is nice.

Overall: This is a pretty amusing training volume that sets everything up, but I do think that it failed to meet its potential. Yes, it was fun to read and watch the characters get physically stronger, but I think this had more potential to have more depth than it did. Maybe it was too loyal to the pattern. However, it was still good to read and didn’t frustrate or annoy me. So though it could have been so much better, it wasn’t exactly bad.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 15 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 15 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 15 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the fifteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Tanjiro is on the cusp of victory, but the sun is about to rise, and he’ll have to choose between killing a demon, which would save hundreds of people, or saving his sister from the sun. Even as this choice arises, Tamayo is starting to understand why Nezuko is so different from other demons. How is this secret related to Tanjiro’s plight? The answer unlocks the door to the climax of the story.

Character: This manga is unique because it reveals a lot about Nezuko, not just her secrets, but her character and mindset. In other issues, we’ve seen Nezuko protect her brother and his friends, but here we learn the depths she herself is willing to go through to save others, and it’s beautiful.

Exposition: There is some exposition here, but it is only to the degree to explain some of the events that simple art couldn’t or dialogue couldn’t do without becoming wooden and obvious. It’s honestly a great volume in the series.

Worldbuilding: This is the issue that reveals what the big plan is. It’s sets the stage for the final battle and the stakes of that battle. Everything about this issue opens doors that are awesome. There are so many rewarding moments in this volume that make the journey worth it.

Dialogue: I’ll say there were some hokey parts in this dialogue. In fact, I’d accept it if someone said this was Gotouge’s weakest area. They’d probably be right. There was a moment that was touching. I was crying while it happened, but the dialogue really chopped a significant portion of the emotion out of it for me. Does it kill the story overall? Not in the least, but it can get pretty cheesy here and there.

Description: This is still more about the end of the fight, so the panels are mostly cool art that is rendered beautifully. The detail in the other panels is outstanding as well. Most the of the description is revealed in the art, and that’s always top notch.

Overall: I hope I’m consistent (I’d have to go back), but I’m pretty sure I’ve been teasing for a while that my favorite in the series is coming. This is it. Even having caught up on all the remaining available volumes, this one still stands out as the best in so many ways. I hope the animators make this arc a movie to give it the justice it deserves, but as long as it gets animated, I’m happy. It’s the best in the set, and it provides the landscape for the final epic battle, which comes after a few more “training” chapters.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 14 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the fourteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Kizuki members Hantengu and Gyokko are attacking the swordsmiths. Each has an ability that tests their members. Are they more than our heroes can handle?

Character: This volume is battle oriented. We do get to know more about Tokito and his past, and that’s cool, but if you’re not in love with the main cast at this point, you’re probably not interested in this volume no matter what I say. The author knows this. Sure, we get a bit more (and we always will) because Gotouge is a master, but these volumes at this point are more about rooting for characters we’ve already come to love than giving us stories to make us love them.

Exposition: I don’t honestly remember much exposition in this volume to begin with. The story is moving along, so there’s just no real need for any explination.

Worldbuilding: While there’s a touch of character development in this volume, I wouldn’t say the worldbuilding had much. This is much more about sitting back and enjoying the fight to see if (or how) the heroes win.

Dialogue: This actually doesn’t have the 1980s cartoon banter the other volumes have (either that, or I’ve gotten used to it). Sure, there’s some banter, and it may be a bit more on the cheesy side, but I’d say this is an improvement on what has been the trend.

Description: There’s really not much more to say about the art in this volume. A few issues back, we had a new scene (setting/location) to fawn over, and we’ll get more, but for now, it’s just well-illustrated fight scenes.

Overall: Like the last few volumes, I’ve read this one twice. I tend to re-read one right after my wife so I know what I’m allowed to talk about and what I’m not allowed to talk about. This battle has a lot of drama and great peak moments. I think this is where we see the heroes come into their own. This volume continues the freight train that is the last third of the series.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge
The cover image for this manga was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 13 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the thirteenth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. Two more members of upper Twelve Kizuki have started an all-out attack on the sword smiths, which just happens to be where our heroes and a few Hashira happen to be training. It’s been more than 100 years since any one upper Twelve Kizuki have died, so what are any number of slayers going to do against two?

Character: As the cover suggests, we finally dig deeper into one of the quieter side characters. All of these characters have satisfying back stories, and this one is no different. Don’t blame the writer because I can’t remember the name. I really struggle to remember names. The world is expanding quickly, and as a fight of this magnitude begins, it’s cool that we still take a bit of time to get to know some of the other characters more.

Exposition: There were a few exposition boxes in this issue, but only to give context. I feel like this volume did a great job only relying on those boxes when there wasn’t another way.

Worldbuilding: This volume doesn’t do a ton to expand the world, but it has a few subtle points that a discerning reader should look for (no spoilers). The safe thing to say is those Kizuki all have unique traits that make the simpler methods of beating them unreliable if not hazardous.

Dialogue: I think if there’s a knock on this manga, it’s that the fight dialogue is pretty dated. I’ve mentioned this a few times, and I still don’t mind it personally, but I can’t deny it might rub some readers the wrong way. In fact, this particular manga has a few 1980-cartoon habits that wouldn’t work if the characters were any less appealing or the fights weren’t that interesting. Still, I have to tell potential readers they have to be ready for those kinds of things.

Description: The art is fantastic as always. I love the way the different breaths (as I call them) are illustrated. I could stare at any page for hours and just enjoy it (if I had hours to spend looking at art).

Overall: I’ve already read this volume twice. Honestly, every volume from 12 up is just amazing. I’m so glad I had most of the other issues out before I started this. I’d be so mad having to wait months for the next volume. This is the kind of binge read action manga and anime fans should love. I know I do.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown is a self-help book that bases its assertions on 10 Pillars of Whole-hearted Living. She bases her pillars on research, as that is her field of expertise. Through the interviews she’s conducted and her research, she’s narrowed down this pillars and created terms that describe them.

The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

What I appreciate is that while I may not like some of the terms she uses, she’s careful to define those terms through the context of her research.

The basic premise is to help people let go of unhealthy thoughts and pursue healthy thoughts, which I aggree with. However, i can’t necessarily get behind everything she says.

Listening to this audiobook, I found myself nodding my head a lot, and then a second later I would jerk back because I disagreed so strongly with at least a part of what I heard.

I have to contextualize that last comment. I’m not one to simply deny research because I don’t agree with it. Most of my issues come not from the research or what I felt the ultimate points were but instead how they were presented or defined.

The example I’ll go with here is Brown’s distinctions between sympathy and empathy. Without getting into too much detail (and therefore debate), she speaks as if sympathy is bad, and empathy is good. She overgeneralizes sympathetic behavior. It’s frustrating because her overall point is that people want to connect. There are some good ways to do so, and there are ways that don’t succeed. I wouldn’t go so far as to lump the non-successful techniques and wrap them in a box labeled “sympathy,” and that’s what Brown does.

There are things here in this book I think are very important. And what I love most about this book is that Brown provides ways to stop bad habits and cultivate good habits. I think some of her pillars taken literally and applied in excess can actually create the opposite effect. I’m not one to practice a lot of “self” anything, but that’s where there’s some interesting overlap.

Brown believes in God, she speaks often of that. Her denomination or even specific religion are harder to pin down, but she speaks about it here and there. She also includes faith as an aspect of her pillar. But here we find another area where I feel an odd contradiction. It’s difficult for me (and I can only speak to my personal challenges) to see life through any other filter than my faith. Sometimes Brown refers to a person’s self in a manner I don’t feel is profitable, especially for one of my specific faith. This isn’t a critique on her faith whatsoever. This is instead a perspective on how I struggle to wrap my head around her 10 pillars through the lens of my faith.

This portrait of Brown, taken by Jose Tutiven, was taken from Brown’s About Page on her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

What I generally like about her book is that even if I don’t agree with the whole of everything she says. There is something out of each pillar I found helpful. What this means is even someone who doesn’t completely embrace every word of Brown’s book can find some value in the book. I appreciated the “letting go” portions more than the cultivating portions, but she provided actionable methods to apply these principles and exercise them into daily life, which is very good.

For me, listening to this book made me want to buy her dinner (in a professional manner) and just talk. I had a lot of “Well you say you mean this, but what about this?” or “When you talked about this part, did you consider?” or “How does this pillar apply in situations like this?”

Despite the fact that there were some parts I couldn’t get behind, I found a lot of the information helpful. I even found some ways to contextualize her information into my mental framework that alleviated those issues. What this book does best is talk about the hangups most people have and provide ways to counter those hangups.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A 5-Star Review for Repressed!

A 5-Star Review for Repressed!

Greetings all,

This review has actually been waiting a bit, but with all the news I’ve had lately, it just took this long to post it.

Did I mention that Betrayed is finally out!? I’d be grateful if you gave it a try.

Anyway, I’m happy to share this five-star review that was posted on both Goodreads and Audible.

As always, I humbly request that you leave a rating and review on any of the books of mine that you’ve read. It really does mean a lot to me.

In other news, my 2021 April Book Cover of the Month poll is still up. If you like books, click on over and support your favorite.

As always, I’m so honored that anyone chooses to take time to read something that I’ve written.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 8 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 8 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 8 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the eighth volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The battle on the train concludes, and our heroes are forced to live with the aftermath. But from sadness, hope arises, and Tanjiro finally has the chance to learn what Hinokami Kagura is. Just as answers seem near, a new mission begins.

The cover image for this manga was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use docrine.

Character: Tanjiro is still the star of the show, but like all truly amazing anime/manga, even the side characters with just a sliver of screen time have deep arcs that touch the heart. This entire volume is more about the heart of those side characters. Learning about others through the compassionate and loving eyes of Tanjiro is all the more special.

Exposition: This manga probably needed a bit more exposition than most given that this particular volume is more setup and worldbuilding, but it’s not an offensive amount.

Worldbuilding: This volume delivers on the promise made by the previous one. We do indeed finally gain some relevant, meaningful information about Hinokami Kagura. On one hand, the information is awesome in it’s scope, but it isn’t very functionally revealing. Think of it like a history lesson without the current applicational use. Still, it expands the worldbuilding and teases real cool things to come, also hinting at why Tanjiro’s family was targeted.

Dialogue: The dialogue is where a lot comes to light. It’s not as thinly veiled as it could have been, but it’s pretty on the nose. Still, the characters each have a unique voice, and that makes watching the story unfold fun. The conversations are charming, touching, and sad at all the appropriate times.

Description: The art is still great, but there’s not much that will change here in regard to description. If you’re reading the manga by this point, you probably already like the art and, therefore, the description.

Overall: This volume does what all great setup volumes do. They yank you along from volume to volume with great cliffhangers that make you want to rush out and buy the next however-many volumes are available. Where Volume 7 gives the reader action and cool fight scenes, this volume gives you context and worldbuilding while setting up the next big showdown.

Thanks for reading,

Matt