Saturday, April 30, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #59 - Ju-on, The Forgotten


Rika Nishina (Megumi Okina) works as a volunteer for a senior health center. She is dismayed to find herself being sent alone to a client's home, believing she is not ready to go alone. But she ends up going anyway. The house is a mess, and the woman she was sent to care for seems to be nonverbal.  While cleaning up, Rika hears a noise upstairs and goes to investigate. She finds a strange little boy, who says his name is Toshio. Wait, did he just turn into a cat?

Kazumi (Shuri Matsuda) comes home to find a messy house. She is annoyed because her husband's sister, Hitomi (Misaki Ito) is coming for dinner. Kazumi's husband Katsuya (Kanji Tsuda) is acting strangely, and he's being no help. When Hitomi arrives, she can't find anyone, and her brother's mother-in-law is non-communicative. When she does find her brother, he is acting strangely and practically pushes her out the door.

Something strange is happening at Hitomi's work, and it's unnerving her. Late at night, most people gone for the day, she encounters a ghostly figure in the ladies room and hurries to tell security. The guard assures her he will check it out and to wait there. She watches in horror at what she sees on the cctv.

A young girl, Izumi (Misa Uehara) is walking home from school with her friends when she becomes frightened of a poster of three missing young girls. She hides away in her room, and tapes her window and draws the curtains, claiming that all three of them watch her! Turns out she knows more about the disappearance of her three friends then she lets on.

Ju-on is the original Japanese film that The Grudge was made from.  As the story unfolds, we see the story of this house from several different viewpoints until we get all the way back to where the grudge began. I think it's more well-made than the Grudge, to be honest, and has a higher creepiness factor.  I plan to watch the sequels of each and will keep you posted. I'll give this one 4 Stars.

The Forgotten

Although it's been fourteen months since his death, Telly (Julianne Moore) just can't let go. Every day, she goes to his room and looks at the things he left behind, looks through his photos and watches videos of him. But then one day, the pictures are gone, and the video has been erased.  She confronts her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards), who  refers her to her therapist, Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise). They both tell her that there is no child, she miscarried her pregnancy and what she thinks she knows are false memories.

Telly encounters Ash (Dominic West) in the park where her son Sam and his daughter Lauren once 

played together. Lauren was also on the plane crash that killed Sam, but Ash claims he has no daughter. A baffled Telly goes to his apartment, and uncovers evidence of Lauren. Suddenly he remembers.

Telly and Ash find themselves on the wrong side of the law. They try to convince Detective Pope (Alfre Woodard) that they aren't crazy. When she goes to investigate, two men from the NSA try to take her case but she isn't having that. What has the NSA to do with anything? Nothing federal here.

A strange man seems to be everywhere they are, and he tries to take them in, but they manage to escape. Telly and Sam come to the conclusion that no one would go to such lengths concerning dead children, so their kids must be alive. What is going on though?

For having such a good cast, and an interesting premise, this film simply falls flat. It isn't bad, per se, but it really isn't particularly good either. I believe these stars have given better performances, so I have to wonder what drew them to this script to begin with,. because it isn't very good. Let's look at this in some context. In 2004, Anthony Edwards was still starring in ER, so perhaps he was already anticipating his move to the big screen and didn't care how he got there.  Julianne Moore had already done Hannibal by that point, as well as The Hours, so she shouldn't have been exactly desperate for work. Maybe Gary Sinise wasn't in big demand back then and thought why not?

I did watch the extended version with the alternate ending, which I have to believe is better than the theatrical. Still, the premise is somewhat predictable and yet leaves questions. Mainly exactly who and why. Unless you're just a fan of these particular actors, I wouldn't rush to watch this. I'll give it 3 Stars because I do like Julianne Moore.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Book Review: Skip Beat! Vol 10 by Yoshiki Nakamura


Skip Beat! Vol 10       

Author: Yoshiki Nakamura

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 4, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Shojo Manga//216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


The remake of Tsukigomori is getting a lot of attention. Kyoko is worried about the director. He seems so frail, as if the weight of producing a better film than the original is getting to him already… and they haven’t even begun shooting! Kyoko makes the mistake of asking Ren if he is nervous, and he gets irate with her. She is reluctant to admit that one reason she took the role was for a chance to act with him and watch him act. At a press conference for the film, a reporter asks the director why he changed his name and he passes out!

Kyoko shows up on the set on her first day as Mio, having already been transformed for the role, complete with scar. Her make-up is so realistic, she frightens some of the actresses playing school girls! Mr Yoshiro praises her for acting so scary only to discover she was being herself. Ren wonders when she changed, and speculates that it’s all Sho’s fault. The actress who played Mio originally, Miss Iizuka, who is playing her mother in the remake, arrives on the set, and she is clearly angry with their choice of Mio. She thinks Kyoko is a no-one and doesn’t deserve to play Mio. She decides she needs to test Kyoko on the role, and if she doesn’t perform to her satisfaction, Kyoko will have to step down! Meanwhile, Sho’s agent is trying to keep Sho from learning that Kyoko has landed a role in Dark Moon. Luckily, he is often oblivious to his surroundings. The trouble is they are headed to the very station that is producing Dark Moon!

Kyoko has a sudden inspiration and tells Mr Yoshiro she’ll be back soon, dashing away. He chases after her but to no avail. This sudden departure just feeds into Miss Iizuka’s prediction of failure if they continue with Kyoko as Mio. But Ren is confident that she will return, he has faith in her. The director prays that he is right. Three hours pass before Kyoko returns – with dyed hair and a new haircut! One that exposes Mio’s scar! What can she be thinking? Will the old battleaxe get her way and have Kyoko removed from the cast?

I love to watch Kyoko grow as an actress. She is so intent and so serious, and determined to give everything her best. It was hilarious when Mr. Yoshiro told Kyoko that Ren loves her but she wasn’t even listening! Watching the director of the film grow a backbone and tell that old witch he’s in charge was great! Kyoko’s interpretation of Mio is going to put her on everyone’s radar, I’m sure! I’m curious to see what Sho’s reaction will be, now that he’s seen the Dark Moon poster. Will he want what he can’t have? He did say that he considers Kyoko his!  Looking forward to the next volume!


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Book Review: Pluto, Vol 2 by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka


Pluto, Vol 2     

Author: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 17, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Sci-Fi Manga//208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Investigators called to the scene of a collapsed old-style Japanese house find a dead man has been strung up there, two horns affixed to his head.  The victim is a professor of law, the same man who came up with the National Robot Laws. Superintendent Tawashi recalls there have been other recent cases involving horns, and decides they need to talk to the lead investigators on those cases. But, as it turns out, there is only one, Detective Gesicht.

Gesicht has gone to Japan to talk to Atom, a robot who looks like a little boy. The detective tells him that someone is targeting the strongest robots in the world, thus placing him in danger. Atom offers to swap memory sticks. At first, Gesicht is reluctant, then decides to trust Atom. Having seen Gesicht’s memories, Atom excuses himself to go the bathroom, to pretend to be more human, but once there he cries because of what he saw in Gesicht’s mind. On his return, he encourages Gesicht to take the trip to Japan he’s been planning with his wife, and he will gladly show them the sights. Gesicht says he might just do that.

Atom shows up at the police station, where Tawashi and Inspector Nakamura are examining the 3-D image of the ruined house. Atom offers to sift through the rubble and discovers something the others missed – two tea cups. Tawashi admits that traces of tea leaves and yokan were found in the stomach of the victim. Atom explains why he thinks there were two people, and at least one of them was human. Witnesses  reported seeing a huge tornado that seemed to target just that one house. Atom speculates on various gods of death and ends with Pluto. Finding a trace of ink on the victim’s hand, Atom investigates until he ends up with Professor Ochanomizu. He knew of Tasaki, the legal expert, and he had met Lanke when they were both part of the Survey Group! Atom warns the professor that he is in danger.

During the war, a group was formed to search Persia for weapons of mass destruction, but none were ever found. What they did find was thousands of discarded robot bodies buried beneath an old mosque. What did this mean? Meanwhile, in Istanbul, Brando manages to get ahold of his pankration suit, even though it’s not allowed for him to do so, but he gives the man a story of why he needs that and the truck and off he goes. Gesicht is in Greece, speaking with Hercules, when the latter realizes something is happening with Brando and urges Gesicht to quickly patch in, and also Atom. Brando! A monstrous tornado is attacking! They rush to help him.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Gesicht decides to go ahead and book his travel to Japan. But something the travel agent says bothers him and he begins to doubt his own memories.  He goes to see Brau 1859, even as Hercules vows to find out what happened to Brando and to avenge his friend.

This is such a great story already! I know it has its origins in Astro Boy, but I’m unfamiliar with that so I can’t tell you in what way it was influenced. I might have to find that too and read it. But I do know Urasawa is a genius in the depth and complexity of his plots and characterizations. Only two volumes and I feel as if I know his characters, and I mourn the ones who have been lost. I hope there is justice in store and retribution against the perpetrator of these crimes.

Great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wednesday Briefs: Rose and Thorne 6 #21 (4.7)

 Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts. 

The Hamilton Arms is on fire? What's going on? See what's happening with Vinnie and Ethan and Uncle Benny in this week's chapter of Rose and Thorne 6. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Rose and Thorne 6 #21 (4.7)

The staff and guests of the Hamilton Arms milled about outside of the hotel, congregating in groups as they speculated as to what was going on inside. A light drizzle had begun to fall, which only added to everyone’s discomfort at being unceremoniously rousted in the middle of the night. Emergency vehicles were already onsite, their flashing lights adding an eerie glow to the scene.

As late as it was, most businesses had closed for the night. Passing traffic was sparse. Even so, vehicles slowed to gawk before moving on.

“Think we could get an umbrella?” I muttered to Ethan. He and Benny and I stood together on the sidewalk. Benny didn’t seem unduly inconvenienced by the weather. He seemed to welcome the wetness, his face upturned to the sky, appearing quite content to be out in the fresh air. Maybe he was.

“I don’t think so,” Ethan said. “Here, get under here.” He opened up his coat and beckoned me to huddle inside. Who was I to argue? Any excuse to get closer to my Ethan. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Taking advantage of our proximity to enjoy his warmth, I closed my eyes and released a contented sigh. Much better. I relaxed for a moment before belatedly remembering we were on a case and I should probably be more aware of my surroundings, I reluctantly opened my eyes again, only to find Ethan’s uncle regarding us with a very fond smile.

“You two are cute,” was all he said. He glanced back toward the hotel. “I don’t see any smoke or flames or anything. Think it might have been a false alarm?”

That thought hadn’t occurred to me, to be honest, and I had to admit I didn’t like it. The very notion that there was no fire to begin with, and we were all standing out here getting wet for no reason, was definitely rubbing me the wrong way. Not just for what we were having to go through but because the alarm had interrupted a very intimate moment between Ethan and myself, one we would probably find difficult to get back considering the lateness of the hour. Never mind that we would have plenty of time for all of that later, and in a more comfortable location, I just wasn’t in a mood to be reasonable at the moment.

A rather bedraggled looking man in a suit caught my attention. He was talking to some of the hotel employees, huddled together not far from where we stood, and he looked far from happy. He must be someone, I surmised. Someone other than a guest. It was far too soon for this guy to be an insurance adjuster. I supposed he could be from the arson squad, but I dismissed that idea as there was no visible sign of fire, much less one that reeked of deliberation. My best guess was this was the hotel’s general manager, dragged out of bed to deal with the situation. Maybe we could get some answers from him.

I straightened up with the intent of confronting the man. Ethan caught my eye, glancing between me and the man in my line of sight. He latched onto my arm before I could stalk off in that direction. But before he could say anything, Benny spoke up.

“Looks like he might be the guy in charge,” he commented. Great minds think alike.

“Why don’t I go ask for an update?” Ethan injected smoothly. “Keep an eye on Benny, will you? Just be a minute.”

If I’d had any objections to make, those were forgotten the next moment when he kissed me lightly and gave me his best I’m counting on you look. I knew he was probably right to do this himself as I was feeling rather irascible and might not be very polite in my approach. Note that I said might. I could play nice when I had a mind to. Ethan, on the other hand, was always very diplomatic and knew just what to say under most circumstances.

“You know, I really would like to meet little Benny,” Benny was saying, probably to distract me from my impending anger. You could see where Ethan acquired his charm. It ran in the family. Even his father was full of it… and yes, pun intended.

I released a long breath before turning to Benny. “I know he would love—”

I quickly lost my train of thought at the sight of a red dot bouncing across Benny. No time for a warning. I flung myself at him, catching him off guard as I tackled him to the ground. Just seconds later, a shot rang out.

 to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell

J Ray Lamb





Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 58 by Tite Kubo


Bleach, Vol 58      

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 2, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Captain General Yamamoto’s battle with Yhwach is done, the foe defeated. So why is the man apologizing… to Lord Yhwach? Because, as it turns out, this man is a mere double, not the terrible Quincy king. Lord Yhwach is alive and ready to continue the battle. But first he admits that he has been a busy boy, visiting the underground great prison, where he made an offer to Aizen, which was refused. And now the battle is done, and Yhwach instructs his Stern Ritter to destroy the Soul Society!

Ichigo is finally able to break out of the cage he was being held in. He makes his way to what is left of the Soul Society, where a seemingly dying Byakuya begs him to please save the Soul Society. Ichigo comes face to face with Yhwach, who doesn’t want him killed.  Yhwach hints to Ichigo about information he doesn’t possess, about himself… and about his mother. He plans to overcome Ichigo and take him back with him. But thanks to a trick of Aizen’s, he is out of time and is forced to retreat… for now. He promises Ichigo he will return, though.

The Soul Society begins to licks its wounds in the aftermath of the onslaught, finally able to bring the wounded indoors. Ichigo visits Rukia and Renji in the infirmary but claims he is fine. The issue is tabled when he learns Captain Kurotsuchi wishes to speak with him. Meanwhile the Captains are in disarray themselves, receiving news that while Byakuya and Kenpachi are alive, they may never be themselves again. Sai Fon is beside herself with fury and grief, and the captain are at each other’s throats, until Shunsui calls for their attention and calmly tells them to stop fighting.

Ichigo is devastated when Kurotsuchi tells him his zanpakuto cannot be fixed, although the captain claims that are circumstances.  An unexpected blast from the past shows up, but before Ichigo can fathom what happened, Kurotsuchi announces that the Zero Squad have arrived. Who the heck are they?

Turns out they are five captains whose combined strength is greater than that of the entire Thirteen Court Guards! They’ve come to rebuild the Thirteen Court Guard Squads. But first they want to take Ichigo back to the palace! They have four items on their list that they intend to take back with them – Byakuya, Rukia, Renji, and Ichigo.  Just then, Kiskue manages to open communications and Ichigo is happy to see that Orihime and Chad are fine. But then Ichigo hears a familiar voice and wants to know what they’re doing with him. Kiskue blows him off and breaks the connection. When Ichigo learns that the Zero Squad can fix his zanpakuto almost as good as new, he’s more than willing to go with them.

This arc is just getting worse and worse. Captain General Yamamoto gone?  Yhwach and his cohorts alive? And now these Zero Squad clowns who seem to think they can do whatever they want? I don’t know if I can survive this arc, it’s so depressing. The best thing in this volume is watching Shunsui step up to do what needs to be done as he becomes the new Captain General. Unfortunately, it looks like he has to give up Nanao and has no choice in the matter. His seconds have been chosen for him. Be that as it may, he has business he intends to get down to, including teaching Kenpachi zanjutsu. He can’t be sure the others will return, so he can’t take any chances.  But when he comes face to face with Captain Kenpachi, he is in for a surprise.

What will happen next? More heartbreak or the beginning of healing? I don’t see how, not until the Quincies are dealt with. What’s the deal with Ichigo’s mother? And when will Uryu finally make an appearance. Also, are we going to see Aizen’s return? That’s twice now he’s been mentioned, and I have to believe that means something. Looking forward with trepidation to the next volume.


Monday, April 25, 2022

Book Review: Pluto, Vol 1 by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka


Pluto, Vol 1      

Author: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 17, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Sci Fi manga//200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


A wildfire in Switzerland leads to a horrific discovery – the body of beloved robot Mont Blanc! People are in shock. How could this have happened? Robots are commonplace in the future, and some resemble humans while others are more mechanical in nature. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which are humans and which are robots. Detective Gesicht of Europol is disturbed by what he saw at the crime scene. When his wife tells him he works too hard, he suggests they take a vacation, just the two of them.

Gesicht is sent to the scene of another murder, this one a human. Bernard Lanke was a key member in the movement to preserve robot laws. He tells the local police that robbery was not the motive, but they are skeptical. Then he asks them to explain why there are two horn-like objects that were shoved into the victim’s head… and strangely enough the same thing had been perpetrated on Mont Blanc. Are the two cases related somehow?

As he’s investigating, there is a disturbance in the street outside, one of the police robots having been attacked. Gesicht chases down the suspect and then goes to see the wife of the dead robot. He offers to wipe some of her memories, to relieve her pain, but she says she would rather have them. When Gesicht happens to run into a maintenance man about to throw out what is left of the robot cop, he is horrified to hear him refer to the parts as just junk. He retrieves the memory chip and takes it to the robot’s widow. She seems disturbed and he wonders if he did the right thing, but she tells him no, it’s what is in the video that is disturbing—what distracted her husband for just a moment, enough time to get him killed. The video shows something apparently leaping between two high rise buildings, and that something is… human? How can that be?

After making travel plans to go to Japan,  Gesicht goes to an AI Correction Facility to interview a dangerous robot, Brau 1589. He wants Brau’s take on the murders. The robot keeps suggesting they trade memory sticks, but Gesicht tells him that isn’t happening. Brau tells him his theory, and says there will be six more murders.

In Scotland, a blind film composer lives alone, except for his robot servant. The man has been through a number of robots from the agency already and expects no more from the new one, whose name is North No 2. North was once in the military and served in the 39th Central Asian War. The composer gives whole meaning to the world surly. He is very difficult and bitter. Frustrated with his apparent inability to compose, he takes it out on North, who refuses to be shaken. He also rejects North’s offers of assistance, when he says he thinks he knows what the problem is. North tells him he wants to learn to play the piano, and he wants to never go to war again. When North detects an approaching anomaly, he goes to investigate.

This is the first volume in this series, and I am already hooked! So good! Urasawa, of course, is the genius behind Monster and Twentieth Century Boys, both of which series I have reviewed. I can already tell I am going to greatly enjoy this one too. Obviously, the man likes robots, but this goes beyond the giant robot in Twentieth Century Boys, envisioning a future in which they are commonplace, and some can’t be distinguished from humans. This implies great leaps in AI research. Also I imagine laws would have to be changed to allow for such intelligent beings. So much to think about. And of course there’s the downside – what to do when something or someone goes horribly wrong. Does intelligence/consciousness equate to responsibility and culpability? What if someone manipulated AI to the point where they could take over the world? So many questions.

Another observation – I couldn’t help but compare the scene with Gesicht and Brau to that of Clarice and Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs. Like the old saying goes, it takes a thief to know a thief. In this case, it’s a robot murderer.

Looking forward to the next volume!


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #58 - Zombieland: Double Tap, The Grudge(2004)

 Zombieland: Double Tap

Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have banded together in the face of the Zombie Apocalypse into a family of sorts. Columbus and Wichita are a couple, and Tallahassee is like Little Rock's protective father. They decide to take up residence, at least for a while, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, aka the White House. But nothing lasts forever. When Columbus pops the question and presents Wichita with a huge blue rock surrounded by diamonds, and Little Rock decides she's being stifled, the sisters do what they do best - they leave.

 While exploring a mall, Tallahassee and Columbus run across another person, a ditzy blonde named Madison (Zoey Deutch), who attaches herself to the, particularly Columbus, who is nursing a wounded heart. Wichita returns unexpectedly to restock her weapons, but she also tells them that Little Rock has left her as well, stealing their vehicle and leaving a note. Karma indeed. Before she left, they'd picked up a hitchhiker, a peace-loving hippie named Berkeley (Avan Jogia), who leaves with Little Rock.

The group hits the road, their new destination Graceland, home of the King, hoping to catch up with Little 

Rock there.. However, when they arrive, they discover that the mansion is ruined, and they end up instead at The Hound Dog Cafe where they meet Nevada (Rosario Dawson). Nevada is more than capable of taking care of herself, and sparks fly between her and Tallahassee.

When Madison becomes infected, it becomes Columbus' job to put her down before they head to Graceland. But now that Madison isn't there, maybe they'll find them at the hippie haven of Babylon.

The sequel to Zombieland has less emphasis on zombies and more on the relationships within the group, although there are zombies, especially at the end. And, as Columbus explains at the beginning, the zombies have changed, and some are even harder to kill. I think the narration at the beginning got on my nerves. Also, I didn't like Wichita and Little Rock in the first film, and I'm not more inclined to like them in the second. Now there is a very annoying ditzy blonde who got on my nerves too.

The sequel doesn't have the charm of the first film, but I've seen worse. It's worth one viewing, wouldn't watch either one again. Look for Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch as clones of Tallahassee and Columbus. Also, I recognized Avan Jogia from a show I used to watch called Now Apocalypse. I hope there isn't going to be a third film, to be honest. I'll give this one 3 Stars.

The Grudge (2004)

A house in Tokyo, scene of an horrific event, is the starting point for a number of mysterious deaths. Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is sent to the home to care for its stricken inhabitant, Emma (Grace Zabriskie). The regular caretaker, Yoko (Yoko Maki) is a no-show. But Karen quickly discovers all is not right in this house, including a mysterious boy. Or is he a boy? Sometimes he seems like a cat.

The woman's son, Matthew (William Mapother) and his wife Jennifer (Clea DuVall) have barely moved into the house when strange things begin to happen. Jennifer sees strange things she can't explain. Is there someone else in the house, someone who means them harm?

Matthew's sister Susan (KaDee Strickland) is concerned about her mother. She also lives in Tokyo. And her brother is acting weirdly, making prank calls during which he only makes strange noises. Working late one night, she hears strange sounds and then sees a strange otherwordly woman who means her harm. She reports her dilemma to the security guard who goes to check out, and Susan watches in horror on the CCTV as the woman seemingly manifests from nowhere.

Inspector Nakagawa (Ryo Ishibashi) has been assigned to the case, and he tries to make sense of what 

Karen has told him. He realizes something foul is afoot and goes to the house with the intention of burning it to the ground. But something prevents him from carrying this out.

This Sam Raimi movie is a re-make of a Japanese film, Juon. I haven't seen that yet, but I intend to. The story is good, but sometimes I found the acting lacking, mostly from the Western actors. Almost as if they didn't belong in what feels like a Japanese story. I like Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I think she came off a little wooden in this role. That's just my opinion, of course. I am going to keep watching the series and will let you know when I view The Grudge 2. I have to say that I did like Ted Raimi in his role, and I remembered Ryo Ishibashi from watching him in Audition.

Not a bad film, it just felt a little off. I'm looking forward to seeing Juon, and hope for better things. I will give this one 3.5 Stars.

Book Review: Skip Beat! Vol 9 by Yoshiki Nakamura


Skip Beat! Vol 9      

Author: Yoshiki Nakamura

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 4, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Shojo Manga//216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Kyoko has an ongoing role as a giant chicken named Bo, but very few people know that, thank goodness. What are the chances that the same bratty child who said that Moko’s career is done should be the guest on the show? Kyoko sees it as her chance to find out what happened, but ends up being told her career is done too! Kyoko refuses to be intimidated by the child. Even when he threatens to out her to the world as Bo! (Unfortunately clever that one is!)  Kyoko engineers a meeting between Hio and Moko in order to find out what really happened, and why this brat is so vindictive. Turns out that on the set, Moko threw Hio, who claims to have suffered grievously at her hands. Why would she treat a child like that? And why doesn’t she see anything wrong with her behavior? In order to clear up the mystery, and explain why she did what she did, Moko takes Kyoko and  Hio to her home. Kyoko is excited to see Moko’s family, but she is in for quite the shock!

Ren is called to an early morning meeting with Lory, who is curious about the reason Ren’s phone was broken, assuming it had to do with a woman. But Ren denies that. Ren becomes confused when Lory brings up the lack of romantic gossip concerning Ren, like that’s a bad thing. But Lory finally comes to the point and tells Ren that “his acting of love sucks!” Ren is shocked as Lory explains that he’s hidden it so far because his roles haven’t called for it, but it’s obvious he’s never really loved. Ren tries to deny that, but can’t prove it and is dismayed at the way their conversation is going.

Kyoko and Moko have finally figured out what Hio’s problem is. Well, mostly. And Moko confesses to Kyoko what she has been doing for extra money, which is simply acting and nothing horrible at all. But Moko calls Kyoko out for not telling her own secrets, despite having confessed to her. Kyoko is terrified that Moko won’t like her anymore and she’ll lose her only friend! So Moko walks away!

Kyoko is shocked to learn she is being offered a part in a drama! She was even recommended for the role by the producer of Sho’s video! The drama is the remake of one that was very successful twenty years before. And oh, the lead actor is going to be Ren! She tells them she has to think about it, suddenly terrified of being around Ren like that. Meanwhile Mr. Yashiro is trying to find out what is bothering Ren, and for some reason he keeps linking Ren’s bad mood to Kyoko.

Kyoko meets Moko at a karaoke box and confesses her past relationship with Sho Fuwa. Moko is shocked, having believed Kyoko to be a mega-fan of Sho’s. They discuss Kyoko’s options regarding her acting and the offer of the drama. And then Moko drops a bombshell when she dares to suggest that maybe Ren actually likes Kyoko.

Ren is disturbed after leaving Lory. Maybe the man is right, maybe he shouldn’t accept the role. But a familiar scream draws his attention. And yes, it’s Kyoko, who has just read the script and realized she is not being cast as a rich nice young girl but a disturbed one. She has just run into the director of the drama, who is pleading with her not to change her mind, that she is the one he wants ever since he saw her play the angel in the video. Ren is caught unawares by the knowledge that Kyoko is to appear in the drama as well. And suddenly he accepts the offer to be the star!

So much going on in this volume! At least the mystery of Hio has been solved (even if he is still somewhat of an entitled brat) and also we learn a lot about Moko’s home life (egad, that would drive me crazy!). Now on to the drama! Both the series and the behind-the-scenes drama! I wonder how Lory would react to the knowledge of Ren as Corn, and his past relationship with Kyoko. After all, his current one is very complicated. I think he would not only understand, he would see through both their protestations. Of course, Kyoko doesn’t know Ren is Corn, and the longer he waits to tell her, the bigger the explosion, I’m sure. Especially if they manage to draw closer in the meantime.

Love, love, love this series, so awesome!  Until next time!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 57 by Tite Kubo


Bleach, Vol 57       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 2, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Word spreads throughout the Seretei – Ichigo Kurosaki is on the way, and his bankai cannot be stolen by the Quincies!  Everyone rejoices until Akon notices that Ichigo’s presence in the Garganta is gone, and Ichigo has to inform him that he has been trapped in a cage and is currently unable to escape. Unfortunately, his message doesn’t get through. Things are really starting to go haywire now!

Byakuya is facing Quincy Äs Nödt. Renji wants to attack but his captain warns they need to identify his ability first. Byakuya begins to feel an unfamiliar sensation, as if his arms and legs are freezing. Although he fears poison, the Quincy tells him that it is only fear that he feels, an unaccustomed sensation indeed. An indignant Renji attacks when the Quincy steals Byakuya’s bankai and dares to use it on him. Renji is put out of commission just before he is about to use bankai by an overzealous Quincy who assumed only Captains could do such things, irritating Äs Nödt.

Just after the so-called Majesty learns of the death of the Captain, Kenpachi arrives, carrying three Quincies he has defeated, and he’s glad to tell how he did it. Kenpachi announces he wants to battle His Majesty, even as things are falling apart for the Soul Reapers, and Ichigo is still contained in the cage, put there by Quilgie Opie J! Apparently, J stands for Jail!

In an unexpected twist, things are looking bleak for Kenpachi, when Captain General Yamamoto steps in to face the so-called majesty, whom he addresses as Yhwach. Turns out he’s known him for a thousand years and foresaw this day. But can he defeat this megalomaniac?

Things are only getting worse. In fact they’re downright horrifying. First Kira, now Byakuya. Where will this madness end? Is no one safe? I fear even more for my Shunsui. There is a great deal of back story here for the Captain General, which has been a long time coming, as I think he’s the least known of the Soul Reapers. Gives a lot more dimension to his character. The ending threw me off a bit, and I admit to being a little confused, but hopefully that will be cleared up in the next volume. I know this fight is far from over, as this thousand year bloodwar arc has just begun. I am afraid to find out who will be lost next.

Looking forward with trepidation to the next volume!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 56 by Tite Kubo


Bleach, Vol 56       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 2, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


An army of Quincies known as the Stern Ritter (Star Knights) has attacked the Soul Society. Meanwhile, one of them, Quilgie Opie, is facing Ichigo in Hueco Mundo. Ichigo went there, along with Orihime, Chad, and Urahara, after Nel informed him that it was under attack. When Ichigo tells Quilgie that his arrows are stronger than Uryu’s, the Quincy is confused and begins to say something but decides that silence is golden instead. What was he about to say? And what does he know of Ishida?

The Quincy keeps talking about His Majesty, but when Ichigo presses him for information, he just tells him that His Majesty has said Ichigo must die. Quilgie changes into his Holy Form and the battle continues, while the others search for Nel’s companion, Dondochakka. Their fight is interrupted by three female Arrancars and their monster, Aon, who was created using their three left arms. Since their fight is not with Ichigo, they tell him he can go so he doesn’t die. Like that would ever happen.

Back at the Soul Society, pillars of light have descended upon them, leaving the captains and lieutenants to wonder what is going on. Captain General Yamamoto announces he is stepping out and leaves the defense to his third seat, Genshiro. Sensing spiritual pressure, some of the Soul Reapers attack, and they suffer a devastating loss in the death of one of their own, a lieutenant. The newcomers announce they have orders to kill everyone, and it’s time for the purge.

Each Stern Ritter has a letter after their name which corresponds with their ability. The Soul Reapers are quickly dismayed to learn that the enemy can seal their bankai so they are unable to use them. They determine to find a way to break the seal. Byakuya is the first to realize the bankai haven’t been sealed, they’ve been stolen! The order goes out to not use Bankai. But this is a problem, because the Bankai are their only means of defeating the invaders. What to do? “Then how are we supposed to fight them?” Renji cries. Akon realizes they need Ichigo, and on his own he determines to contact the Deputy Soul Reaper.  But he is surprised to learn he is not in the Land of the Living, but in Hueco Mundo. He gets through to Ichigo and explains the situation, and tells him he needs to come immediately. Ichigo agrees, but things don’t go exactly smoothly. What’s he going to do now? As things stand, he can’t possibly get to the Soul Reapers to help them, and without him, they are doomed.

Things just got real. One Captain and one Lieutenant dead? Just devastating. No access to Bankai? And Ichigo contained in a cage, prevented from reaching the Soul Society. As usual, he is their only hope, but unless he can free himself, they are doomed. A heartbreaking volume. I fear for my Shunsui, who was injured during the battle. He’s alive, yes, but who knows what will happen next? Nervously looking forward to the next volume.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Wednesday Briefs: Rose and Thorne 6 #20 (4.6)

 Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts. 

As you'll recall, Vinnie and Ethan had said good night to Uncle Benny and were engaged in serious... conversation in their room when all hell broke loose. See what's happening in this week's chapter of Rose and Thorne 6. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Rose and Thorne 6 #20 (4.6)

“Guys, come on, fire alarm!” Benny continued to pound on our closed door, his voice rising above the sound of the alarm. Ethan and I pulled on our clothes in record time. We holstered our weapons as well and emerged fully dressed to find Benny had had the presence of mind to do the same.

“You get used to dressing quickly in prison,” he explained as we three bolted toward the exit. “You never know when you’ll be turned out for something.”

One of the first things I remember being taught in training in Illinois was that in any given situation Don’t panic. Keeping a level head could mean the difference between life and death. I imagine that had been ingrained into Ethan as well during his similar training in Georgia. To be honest, though, my boy didn’t tend to panic no matter what. Being by his side was an inspiration to me to stay calm as well.

We moved cautiously into the hallway, unsure of what we might find. There was no visible sign of a fire, neither smoke nor flames. Maybe a dozen or so guests were in the hall, most of them staying close to their rooms, as if unsure what they should to, as if they wanted someone to take charge and give them direction. When I noticed a few of the guests had broken away from the others and were headed toward the elevator, I yelled out, “Take the stairs!” One of the worst places to be during a fire was an elevator, for a number of reasons. What if the power went out? You’d be stuck inside an immobile metal box, with no way out, and you could very possibly die. Stairs, although more work because you had to climb them, were safer and didn’t require electricity.

Ethan and I automatically took charge. We began to herd everyone toward the stairs in as orderly a fashion as possible. An old man in his pajamas grumbled about people making a fuss in the middle of the night, moaning that he wanted to go back to sleep, but his feisty little old wife smacked him and told him to get his skinny ass down the stairs before it got roasted. He mumbled something that might have been yes dear and meekly followed her out.

I glanced at Ethan, whose glance was fixed on me. I knew just what he was thinking, without having to ask, and I shook my head vehemently. “That is not us!” I protested. “Never will be.” That produced a smile from him.

“That is exactly us, in fifty or sixty years, Vinnie.”

“You have a high opinion of yourself, Mr. Thorne, if you think I intend to put up with you for the next fifty or sixty years.” The last of the guests on our floor had just disappeared down the stairwell, and Benny held the fire door open, waiting on us.

Ethan’s smile only grew bigger. “Don’t worry, I’m gonna love your skinny ass forever,” he swore before giving that same ass a quick swat. “Even if it gets fat.”

“Get fat? What?” I complained. “I’ll have you know—”

But whatever I’d intended to have him know was lost in the kiss he laid on me, just before he slung his arm about my waist and we made a quick exit of our own.

 to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell

J Ray Lamb


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 55 by Tite Kubo


Bleach, Vol 55         

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 5, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Hollows are beginning to disappear at an alarming rate. This is especially bad news to those in the Soul Society who monitor such things because of the delicate balance that exists between the Soul Society and the World of the Living. Should this balance be disrupted, well, the result would not be pretty. And Kurotsuchi has an idea who is responsible for this imbalance.

It’s Yuki’s first day on the job but he’s very tired, having been too worried to get much sleep the night before. He is yelled at by Shino, who tells him he has nothing to fear while she’s around and to pull his act together! They travel to Karakura Town to begin making their rounds. Yuki is dismayed that they are patrolling separately, especially when he runs into his first Hollows! And oh dear, they’ve got Shino on the ground, unconscious. What’s a new guy to do? Luckily for him, the Deputy Soul Reaper arrives to save the day!

Yuki awakens a day later to learn he missed the battle. While Ichigo is trying to get the new Soul Reaper out of his bed, other people assemble – Orihime, Chad, Uryu and some guy named Ebern. Ebern? Who the heck is that? Ichigo realizes this new guy, who he believes to be an Arrancar, has come on account of him so he decides to handle him quickly. Except Ebern is not an Arrancar, not at all. And what he is is surprising.

Meanwhile a situation is developing in the Rukongai. Entire villages of people are disappearing.  Even as the Soul Reapers investigate, Captain General Yamamoto is visited by a contingent who have come to declare war! Even as he faces them down, Ebern taunts Ichigo to use his bankai and defeat him. However when Ichigo does as he wishes, Ebern seems frustrated that Ichigo’s bankai doesn’t disappear. What does that even mean? He departs in a huff, leaving a confused Ichigo.

Tragedy strikes the Soul Society with the death of one of their own, although the Captain General is safe. Yuki receives the news and relays it to Ichigo and the others. Suddenly, Ichigo spots something hurtling toward the earth and hastens to catch it, only to discover it is none other than Nel! Hueco Mundo has been attacked!  Naturally, Ichigo feels the need to help, as do Chad and Orihime, and even Kiskue. But Uryu has to sit this one out because he cannot conscience saving Hollows.

There is a new villain on the scene, and he has subordinates who seem to be as evil and crazy as he is!  They call themselves the Vandenreich, the Invisible  Empire… and the most surprising thing about them is that they are an army of Quincies! Now Soul Society and Hueco Mundo and the World of the Living are all in danger. These guys have a trick up their sleeves – they don’t just seal the Soul Reapers’ bankais – they can steal them! How does that even work? And why does Ichigo seem immune to that? Will Ichigo once again be the key to everyone’s survival?

I’m reminded of that old saying – be careful what you wish for. I wished for the end of the Fullbring arc and the arrival of the new arc. Well, it’s here, and I have a feeling we’re in for a bumpy ride!



Saturday, April 16, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #57 - Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire, Evil Dead (2013)

 Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire

Nine years after the tragic events that transpired at the Abaddon Hotel, the hotel is slated to be torn down. But the last minute intervention of billionaire Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytry) saves the hotel. He has decided it's to be the site of his successful audience-interactive show Insomnia.  He invites journalist Vanessa Shepherd (Elizabeth Vermilyea) to bring a crew and film a behind-the-scenes documentary of the grand opening.

Russell's team sets up as Vanessa's crew films. Everyone has been given cameras which they are encouraged to use for additional footage for times when the crew isn't around. Of course, everyone is familiar with the stories surrounding the hotel. But they're just stories, right? And stories can't hurt you.

It begins not with a bang, but a whimper. Glimpses of half-seen figures. Movement where none should be. And of course, everyone is scared of the basement, where the horror occurred. Not to mention the creepy clown mannequins, which are still there and still creepy. Russell has given explicit instructions that no one is to go into the hotel at night. But some of the crew get to drinking, and dare each other to go into the basement. The only one brave enough (or is that drunk enough) to accept the challenge is Jane (Bridgid Abrams). But she quickly learns what a foolish mistake that was.

Russell's show Insomnia is a modern-day rendition of Goethe's Faust, which a man sells his soul to the 

devil by making a bargain with him. People make such deals all the time, for different reasons. Does Russell Wynn have such a reason? Does it have anything to do with the horrific car crash he survived just a couple of years previously which left him with the large vertical scar on his face?

As the night of the opening of Insomnia nears, some of the cast and crew back out, afraid of what they have seen. But Russell is determined that the show must go on. However, at what price?

This is the third installment in the Hell House trilogy. Again, it consists of found footage from various sources chronicling the events leading up to one particular night. Compared to the first two films, it doesn't have the same level of bloodshed (at least not until the end). But the creepiness factor is definitely there. Also, look for some by now familiar faces. I think the actors did a good job. All in all, it was worth watching. Is this the end of the series? I would think so, but you never know. I'll give this 4 Stars.

Evil Dead (2013)

Mia (Jane Levy) has a problem with drugs, one her friends intend to help her with. Mia's brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and three other friends all take Mia to a remote cabin in the woods. Unbeknownst to David, they are determined not to let Mia leave, even if she wants to go home. They plan to see it through until the end. David doesn't like that idea but he isn't being given a choice.

The cabin hasn't been used in a very long time. From the moment she enters, Mia complains of a bad

smell that no one else can smell. But then David's dog scratches at a rug. They move it only to discover bloodstains and a trap door leading to a basement. And yes, something smells. They go into the basement only to discover that some sort of Satanic ritual was performed here.

As the friends predicted, Mia wants to back out shortly after arrival, but they aren't having it. Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) discovers a strangely bound package in the basement. Cutting through the wire that binds it, he discovers a book, bound in what seems to be human flesh. Opening the book, he makes out a few words, which he reads aloud. Huge mistake on his part. Now the trouble begins.

Enter the demons!

Mia is battling her inner demons, outside in the rain, when the summoned demon arrives and ends up possessing her. But her friends can't tell the difference from Mia suffering from withdrawal issues and Mia possessed by a demon. And so people begin to die...

Let me start by saying Sam Raimi did it better. His movie was campy, sure, but it was funny, and you had to root for Ash (Bruce Campbell). I didn't care about any of these people, to be honest. Now, if you like your horror filled with blood, then this might be for you. It's full of it. In fact, I'd say this is not for the squeamish. At the same time, I have to ask how people keep losing limbs and never seem to go into shock or die from blood loss or anything, and in fact seem to take each amputation in stride.

Watch through the end of the credits (if you're still watching by the time the credits roll) for a ten second cameo. All in all, I hope they don't make a sequel. If they do, I don't think I'll watch it. I'll give this 2.5 Stars, and a Razzie for worst performance by a demon.