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Cirque du Freak Manga

As with  many things that gain some type of popularity, Cirque du Freak has had a comic based off of it. More specifically, a manga by  Takahiro Arai.  After spending some time with it, I can safely say Arai has done a decent job with it.

As with making anything into a comic, there’ the whole “does this character look like how I imagined him/her to be?” The thing is Darren doesn’t have that much of a description. He is essentially described as any normal teenager. You can’t blame Arai for that. What you can blame him is giving Steve white hair. On top of that, Mr. Crepsley and the other vampires have this weird skin tone. It’s sort of silvery and unnatural. They are supposed to look like normal humans and not stand out at all except if they’re the Vampaneze.

Beyond that, the art is above average manga fare. He manages to make every scene as close to the novels and possible and he does a good job of it. He doesn’t take any advantages except to make the scene work in a comic setting. Remember, what works in a novel does not necessarily work in a comic.

You can chock this up to Arai being a huge fan of the novels. He even says to himself and that’s the only reason he made the manga in the first place.

For the people who complain that it looks way too much like a typical shonen manga, remember that the series is YA and thus the manga will be shonen. There’s nothing wrong with shonen at all if the series is well written and has nice art. Look at One Piece of Attack on Titan (even though AoT’s art is pretty bad, the story is still top notch.) Also, just like the novels, it’s lots of fun so there really is no need to expect Dickens or Shakespeare here. Hell, even Shakespeare wrote for the audience of the day. He had no intention of being “literary.”

One thing that the manga does better than the novels is pacing. The pacing seems much better written and it keeps your attention better than the novels. It’s either because manga tends to be father paced or Arai is better at pacing than Shan.

In all, if you’re a fan of the Cirque du Freak series, the manga is a nice addition to your fandom. Just get used to the shonen style and it’ll be enjoyable.






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The Giver Review

Pop quiz: What’s one book every American school kid reads that’s not Shakespeare or written in the 19th century? If you said Of Mice and Men, well, you’re right. I was, however, thinking of The Giver by Lois Lowry. Don’t judge me.

 You remember reading this sometime in your school years, right? If you don’t, you had a terrible school. If you did, isn’t it awesome? No? Well, as the saying goes, everybody’s a critic.

 I’m brining this book up now because there’s a movie in the works set to release on August 15, 2014. So let’s dive into this book.

 The Giver is about Jonas, a typical eleven year (as in, he’s eleven years old) in his community. He goes to lessens, helps out at the house of the elderly and is waiting to become a twelve in order to get his job title. He is told he will become the next Keeper of Memories. What that entails is he’ll be with the current Keeper, who he tells Jonas to call him the Giver and thus Jonas the Receiver, and receive memories that no one else in the community has.

 This book starts out as a utopian novel given that everything seems perfect. Everyone has their own house, everyone is given a job and money is not an issue. Instead, this world is really dystopian. You see, this society was founded on the idea of sameness. Do what’s right for the community, all children are born from birth mothers, no sex, no war, no personal possessions and everyone wears the same clothes. Get out of line and you’re “released.”

 Released means to get executed. Thing is, this is done in a very private room where only certain people perform the killing. This society has no notion of death, so being released to these people means they leave the community.

 There is also a sense of thought police here though not as extreme and scary as in 1984. The difference here is that everyone here accepts these rules because this is what they’re used to. There is nothing else out there. This is normal and what life is.

 Another thing this book has is that everyone sees in black and white. So when Jonas sees the apple he and his friend Asher are throwing turn red it amazes him. He has ever seen red until that instant. The black and white is also part of the sameness this society created. Why make people see in black and white? Simple: Black and white is neutral. Look at all other colors. They all have different meanings and convey different emotions. Black and white conveys nothing. No emotions + no opinions = easy to control.

 I will admit that this book is essentially a PG rated version of 1984. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s rather excellent. The writing is superb, the characters are well thought out, the plot execution is grand and it’s one of those books that have so many layers you find something new each time you read it. If you haven’t given this book a chance, do it now before the movie comes out. Let’s hope they don’t screw this movie up, especially since they are headlining Meryl Streep even though 1. She’s not the main character and 2. Her character only appears in one scene.

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Earthsea (2004) Review

This movie sucks. This term gets thrown around a lot nowadays to the point where it’s an understatement. SciFi Channel’s (now SyFy) Earthsea is an abomination unto good cinema and good fantasy books everywhere. Everything that can go with a fantasy adaptation goes wrong here.

 Sometime in 2004 SyFy announced they would be making a TV mini series based on Ursula K. Leguin’s first two Earthsea books A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan. Earthsea fans, myself included, rejoiced at this. As can be expected excitement built while more news came out.

 Then we got our first screenshots. The movie looked like any generic fantasy movie that SyFy makes and, what fans consider an insult to the source material, everyone but one character was white.

 Let’s step back a few paces a talk about what these books are about. A Wizard of Earthsea is about Ged, a boy from the island of Gont goes to the Wizarding School in Roke to study magic. As an FYI, this book came out in 1968. Harry Potter came out in1998. One day Ged accidentally summons a shadow and his magic becomes less powerful. He then goes after the shadow in order make things right.

 In The Tombs of Atuan Arha becomes “the eaten one,” a sort of high priestess on the island of Atuan. Her life is basically routine until Ged enters the fray. He’s there looking for the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, a talisman that will bring peace to Earthsea.

 So, not very typical fantasy fare, huh? In fact, these books are some of the best written and original fantasy books ever (remember, these books CREATED a lot of clichés. There was nothing like them before.) How can SyFy mess this up?

 As mentioned above, make the entire cast white. Leguin even wrote an essay called A Whitewashed Earthsea on her website detailing this. As anyone who read the books would know Earthsea’s inhabitants have copper-red skin, brown skin or black. The only white people are the Kargs (Arha.)

 Second, create a villain. Yes, make a movie based on two books with no villain because there’s no need and create one.  A cliché evil king bent world domination at that. The only time anyone would know his name is if you look at the IMDB page because he has that much of an impact on the story.

 On top of that, switch Ged’s true name and common name. HOW THE HELL DID THEY MESS THAT UP? Also, the Atuan priestesses WORSHIP those shadows behind the door, not protect the world from them. Oh right, they needed clear good guys and bad guys.

 They also call it the AMULET of Erreth-Akbe instead of ring. Why the change? There is no reason to change something like that.

 Also, Roke getting sacked would never happen in the books. The winds around the island would never allow it.

 If those major changes weren’t bad enough the movie is filled with typical SyFy original movie staples. There’s terrible acting, terrible editing (in one scene on Gont we see Ged’s dad talking to Ged and it’s mid-afternoon. The camera cuts and we see the evil king’s goons marching and it’s nighttime. It cuts back to Ged’s dad and it’s mid-afternoon again,) goofy, poorly choreographed fights and some very basic fantasy sets.

 So, if you want to get into Earthsea, go ahead read the books. Just remember the first three (Wizard of Earthsea, Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore) are excellent while the second two (Tehanu and The Other Wind) and short story collection (Tales from Earthsea) are hit or miss depending of the individual. This movie should be thrown into the deepest, darkest pits of hell. If you want a decent Earthsea movie, watch Studio Ghibli’s Tales from Earthsea. It may not be up to par with other Ghibli films but at least it’s miles better than the crap SyFy made.

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Fortunatley, the Milk (Neil Gaiman) Review

Neil Gaiman is considered to be one of the greatest writers of our day. Not just a great fantasy writer, no. He is a writer that many people believe transcends literature altogether. His most recent book, Fortunately, the Milk, proves just why he’s something else.

The story goes one day a boy and a girl wake up one morning to find that there is no more milk in the fridge. So the boy asks his dad to go get more milk. The dad takes a long time to come back and when he comes back he makes up this outrageous tale as to why he took so long.

What happens in this outrageous tale? He gets abducted by aliens, gets kidnapped by pirates, meets a talking stegosaurus inventor who has a time machine that’s a hot air balloon and other stuff I can’t say without spoilers.

Now, many of you are reading that and are probably doing that whole take a toke gesture. Yes, there’s a lot of weird stuff going here, but that’s the beauty of the novel. What Gaiman is doing here is he’s making the dad tell a story that’ll both entertain his little kids and make them think he had a great day. On top of that, look at the dad’s personality. When we meet him he seems like this laid back goofy guy. So it’s pretty obvious he’ll come up with something crazy to tell his kids.

This isn’t the first time stuff like this happens. Plenty of parents tell kids these outrageous stories. Yes, they may not be outrageous as this but they exist. Parents could tell kids they fought off a dragon which explains why they’re late when instead they were stuck in traffic for two hours. It’s these kinds of stories parents tell their kids to not only worry about them too much but also to enhance imagination.

 Yeah, what you the parent are unconsciously doing is bringing up your kid to have complex thoughts. It’s not like telling them Santa Claus exists, this is more along the lines of making them come up with these insane and creative ideas. Look at some of the greatest writers out there. These people had insane stories told to them growing up and they even experienced things that are nuts. This could be anywhere from entering a contest where you eat twelve ultra spicy chicken wings in three minutes (me. Yes, I ate all twelve in time, but that’s for a different time) to extremes like getting captured by Al Qaeda. Humans need these crazy stories and experiences to be interesting.

 That is why this story, on top of Gaiman’s brilliant writing, stands out among the other kids books coming out today. Think about it, do we really need another book based on a Disney Channel show where the story is so lazily written, the characters are “oh my god, kill me now” Stupid and tell even stupider jokes?

 Skottie Young’s illustrations really bring this book alive. They are as weird as the story, but are so enjoyable to look at that it’s brilliant. He even took Gaiman’s alien description, which is just a blob with eyes and tentacles for arms (not THOSE kinds of tentacles. Get your head out of the gutter you pervert) and make it look astounding.

 So, is this literary? Well, yes. It can be classified as literary. Is it a masterpiece? I wouldn’t go that far. But if you want a book that’s a joy to read, even with your little ones, then pick this up. It sure to be a family favorite.

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