Monday, May 30, 2022

Film Review: Kagemusha


In the time just before the Edo Period in Japan, rival war lords known as daimyo were often at each other's throats, vying for supremacy. One such lord is Shingen Takeda (Tatsuya Nakadai), while his fiercest competitors are Ieyasu Tokugawa (Masayuki Yui) and Oda Nobunaga (Daisuke Ryu). One of Shingen's commanders is his brother Nobukado (Tsutomu Yamazaki), who resembles him to such a degree that he sometimes takes his place in the field. One day, purely by chance, Nobukao runs across a petty thief who is about to be crucified and looks even more like Shingen than he is. In fact, they could be twins. So he brings the thief back with him, thinking he'd be useful as a double for the war lord.

The thief (also played by Tatsuya Nakadai) grudgingly accepts his role as double. His presence becomes even more crucial when Shingen is shot in battle. It's imperative that his enemies not know. When the war lord dies, the thief is thrust into the position of the new war lord and has to learn about a whole new life. Nobunaga and Tokugawa begin sniffing around at rumors that Shingen is dead, trying to learn the truth. Shingen's son Katsuyori (Ken'ichi Hagiwara) is itching for war but cooler heads prevail. He might be a little salty since he is not his father's heir, rather his son Takemura (kota Yui) is. He realizes his father is dead but has to pretend otherwise. The angry Katsuyori heads off to take a castle on his own. When Shingen/thief discovers this, he feels he has no choice but to support his "son":

.Inevitably, the truth comes out, and now the battle begins.

This film is one of Kurosawa's finest. It's big and beautiful, with the most amazing cinematography and music. The role of the thief/double was originally given to actor Shintaro Katsu (best known for playing Zatoichi, the blind swordsman/masseuse), but creative differences ended that and Nakadai received the role instead. The production ran out of money before the film was finished, but thanks to a little help from Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, they persuaded Twentieth Century Fox to come to Kurosawa's aid, and the rest is history.

In a historic note, less than thirty years later, in 1601, the Battle of Sekigahara cemented Tokugawa's 

position as shogun, and the family would continue to rule for the next 250 years. Kagemusha is a very rich film, and Nakadai gives a stunning performance as the poor thief, caught up in a world he never wanted to be a part of, but his devotion to Shingen during the brief time of their acquaintance led him to do what he considered to be the right thing. I give this film 5 Stars

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Film Review: Shadow


An uneasy alliance exists between the kingdoms of Yang and Pei. Yang holds Jing City, which by rights belongs to Pei. The king of Pei (Ryan Zheng) has no wish to go to war, and forbids his commander to do so. However, all is not as it seems. The man who presents himself as the commander is actually another man named Jing (Chao Deng). Years ago, the real commander's father found him in Jeng City and noticed the resemblance to his son and raised him to be his shadow, training him to fight. The time has come, as the actually Commander has taken a turn for the worse, after being wounded some time before in a battle, by General Yang.

The king doesn't seem to take the situation too seriously, much to the chagrin of his sister, the Princess (Xiatong Guan). The commander's wife, Madam (Li Sun) is aware of the situation with her husband, who is hidden where the king cannot find him. She maintains the facade of her marriage to Jing/Commander, but it's easy to see there is an attraction between them, although they both fight it.

When Jing/Commander insists that they must take Jing City, and that he has challenged General Yang 

to a duel, the king strips him of his title, so Jing makes his departure, with or without the king's blessing. In the meantime, his adviser Minister Lu (Jingchun Wang) has an offer from General Yang regarding the Princess. But he doesn't want her as a wife, however he'll take her as his concubine. A very insulting offer indeed, but the Princess accepts, in order to prevent further violence.

Shadow is a beautifully crafted and directed film by Yimou Zhang. Intrigue and secrecy abound, and the truth is not always easy to see. Jing is led to believe his mother is waiting for him in Jing City, as an enticement to get him to fight. The Commander himself, although not in great shape, helps to train Jing for what he needs to do, with the assistance of his wife, who actually comes up with a clever strategy for fighting involving umbrellas. Although a color film, it employs a black and white palette that is quite beautiful. Who will remain standing when the smoke clears? Ah, there's the rub.

I give this lovely film 4 Stars.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #63 - House II: The Second Story, Phantasm: Remastered, Creep 2

 House II: The Second Story

I'll make this quick as I don't think I got through even ten minutes, put off by the horrendous acting and stupid storyline. This is not a sequel to the first House, it's not even the same house, definitely not the same characters. I wanted to kill the main character's girlfriend almost immediately because of her terrible delivery. My only regret is that I didn't watch far enough to see John Ratzenberger in what I understand was the best scene in the movie. Ironic that he's in it as George Wendt was in the first one. Coincidence? Maybe, but an odd one if so. Just avoid this one at all costs.

Phantasm: Remastered

Teenager Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) is going through a rough period. First his parents die, then his brother Tommy (Bill Cone). People say he committed suicide, but that's not even close to the truth. Now all Mike has is his other brother Jody (Bill Thornbury), and Mike's afraid Jody is going to take a powder on him and leave him all alone. To be honest, he has reasons to fear that because Jody wants to leave town, very much. As a result, Mike tends to shadow Jody wherever he goes, much to Jody's annoyance.

Jody forbids Mike to go to Tommy's funeral, but as usual, Mike doesn't listen, hiding in the woods near the creepy mortuary where their parents and now Tommy are interred.  But after the funeral, when everyone has left, Mike sees something strange. The man who works at the funeral home, the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) single-handedly lifts Tommy's casket and puts it back into the hearse, then drives away. Mike tells Jody but his brother scoffs since he knows how heavy that casket was, having been a pallbearer. Jody's friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) tries to console Mike, but to no avail. He even offers to let Mike ride along with him the next day on his ice cream vending route, but Mike isn't interested.

Mike is determined to get to the bottom of the strangeness at the funeral home. He goes to consult with his friend's grandmother, who is a fortune teller, and she gives him some advice. Mike breaks into the funeral home and ends up being attacked by a flying ball with spikes. And he keeps seeing strange squat figures in hoods. What the devil is going on here?

This version of the movie was remastered thanks to JJ Abram and Bad Robot, and I can see the difference. The best thing about this movie is undoubtedly the Tall Man, who is the actual stuff of nightmares. I would not want that man after me. I'm not going to say it's great moments in acting, but for what they are doing, most everyone does well enough. The friend Reggie is an interesting character, and I think he's a good counterbalance to the irresponsible Jody. I've seen this movie a few times over the years and I still enjoy it. I think it accomplishes what it sets out to do and is well worth the watch. I give it 4 Stars.

Creep 2

Sara (Desiree Akhavan) has a web series called Encounters, where she provides niche services to people in search of them, such as a man who wants a mommy. But she is not particularly successful and is ready to give up when she spies an ad from someone in search of a videographer who is willing to pay $1000 for one day's work. She decides that perhaps this could be the subject she's been waiting for and contacts him so they can meet. He sends her an address and she drives three hours into the woods to find him.

The man who calls himself Aaron (Mark Duplass) greets her with a green smoothie which he jokingly claims is poisoned. And thus their encounter begins as she films him from the get-go. Aaron is self-confident and assured, and within the first ten minutes of their meeting has confessed to Sara that he is a serial killer, that he has killed 39 people, but that he will not kill her that day.  He even shows her a video of him killing his last victim. Thrown for a bit of a loop, she goes to the bathroom to regroup and film herself. She is determined she will do this and it will be great, but for safety sake she tucks a knife into her shoe.

Aaron's attempts at scaring Sara meet with failure, somewhat to his surprise, as he begins to discover that perhaps he has met a sympathetic spirit. Someone who can appreciate him for who he is. And so their day begins.

This film is, of course, the sequel to 2014's Creep, with Mark Duplass. But he had a different name 

then, having taking Aaron from the name of his last victim. What makes this film particularly interesting is that Sara is not the hapless victim the original Aaron was. She is smart and determined, and she isn't about to let this Aaron have his way. The film is a bit of a wild ride as we watch these two spar for dominance and at any given moment we are left wondering who is controlling who, and who is actually in charge.

I admit that I really enjoy this film, maybe even more than the first one. There is supposedly going to be a third film in the series but nothing has happened yet, and this came out in 2017. We can only hope Duplass comes up with another great story for the next one. An interesting note, this film was largely an outline, so a lot of what you see is the two actors playing off each other and improvising. I give this film 4.5 Stars.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Film Review: Yojimbo


A wandering ronin (a samurai without a master) who calls himself Sanjuro (Toshire Mifune) allows Fate to lead him where it will and ends up in a small town where two rival criminal gangs are fighting each other for dominance. Sanjuro has a distinct distaste for injustice, and feels for the plight of the poor townspeople, whose very livelihood as well as their existence, is threatened by these hooligans.  The only person who is making any money is the coffinmaker. So Sanjuro decides he will help the town out by pitting the gangs against one another.

Sanjuro takes up residence at the tavern, despite having no money. The tavern keeper, Gonji (Elijiro Tono) thinks he is crazy to attempt to take on both gangs. One side is as corrupt as the other. Sanjuro goes to the head of Seibe (Seizaburo Kawazu) , who owns the brothel, and contracts with him to take care of the opposition for 50 ryo, half in advance. Having struck a bargain, he overhears a conversation between Seibe and his wife in which they reveal they will kill him when the job is done and take all their money back. Sanjuro returns the money and heads to the other side, to bargain with Ushitora.

Sanjuro's plan is about to work, with both sides taking out each other, when the unexpected appearance 

by a government official in a fancy palanquin brings a halt to everything. The rivals have no wish to be perceived as having trouble in their town, not wishing to bring any scrutiny on themselves, so they decide to play nice. For now.

It doesn't take long for Tanjuro to figure out why this minor official has such a fancy ride, so decides to

take care of him himself.  Then he learns about the abduction of a woman in the town. Her poor husband, unable to help her, builds a hovel next to the mansion where her captor lives, and can do nothing but witness her nightly ravishment at his hands. Sanjuro maneuvers her escape and gives the couple and their child money with which to leave town. He is caught and beaten up, then held captive.

He manages to escape. In the meantime, a new player has entered the scene, Unosuke (Tatsuya Nakadai). He is a gunfighter, and Ushitora's brother. It's inevitable that the two face off as Sanjuro cleans house once and for all.

Yojimbo means bodyguard, which is basically what a ronin is, being a samurai who has no master and thus available to be employed by anyone willing to pay his price. I really enjoyed this film. First off, it's Akiro Kurosawa, so you know it has to be good. Secondly, it stars Toshiro Mifune, the finest actor to ever come out of Japan. The cinematography is great, and the use of the music in the soundtrack is genius.  Besides the obvious drama, there is an element of humor, especially on the part of the bemused samurai whom Unosuke nicknames the Two Bit Samurai. 

While putting on a tough front, Sanjuro reveals his tender side through his actions, first of all because he feels bad for this town and the hell they are being put through because of other people's greed. He doesn't do anything for his own gain. Even when he took money from one side, he ended up giving it to the family he reunited. And when all was said and done, he went on his way.

I will give this film 5 Stars. You can find it at Amazon

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Wednesday Briefs: Rose and Thorne 6 #24 (5.3)

 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.

Ethan's twin sister's baby daddy shows up unexpectedly and tensions rise until Vinnie reaches the breaking point and punches him! See what the aftermath is in this week's chapter of Rose and Thorne. 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 #24 (5.3)

I think the idiot was actually going to respond to what was probably a rhetorical question on my part. I braced myself to punch him again, if necessary. I was operating on an adrenaline high at the moment. I knew later I would probably be in at least a little pain where my knuckles had made contact with his nose. But right then I didn’t care.

Luckily any further display of fisticuffs was not required as Sarah herself stepped between us, standing over her baby daddy and preventing Ethan from getting any closer to him than he already was. “James, you need to leave.” Her voice was deceptively quiet, but I could hear the same tone I’d heard in Ethan’s warnings to some of the scum we’d dealt with on the job. I wondered if James had the sense to realize she meant business.

“Fine, I’ll leave. I can tell when I’m not wanted.” He rose to his feet, swiping at the blood which was pouring from his nose. “C’mon, Sarah, you and the baby can come with me. We can get a hotel room and fly back to—”

“Oh hell no.”

Oddly, Sarah and Ethan delivered that same line in stereo. Told you that twin thing was eerie and I meant it. Sarah shot Ethan a look that clearly said I got this.

I didn’t doubt that for a moment.

Ethan gave a slight nod. He wrapped his arm about my waist and brought my injured hand up to his lips, kissing it gently. I knew then that he wasn’t angry with me for what I’d done. Not that I’d really thought he would be. We stand up for each other—it’s what we do.

“James, I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with you,” Sarah continued. “I overlooked everything you did after I told you I was pregnant, including the way you ran out on us and never contacted us until recently. Against my own better judgment, I let you back into our lives because I thought maybe, just maybe, you’d grown up. I thought maybe you weren’t the immature asshole you were before, and that you loved us. I get it. People can change. And I thought things were going well, that we had something good. But then you have the nerve to come into my brother’s home. Not just my brother’s but the home of his fiancĂ©, who is a wonderful and good man, and you have the nerve… the unmitigated gall to…. Just take your homophobic self and get the hell out of here. Now!

I think the rest of us were too stunned to react at that moment. Including James. Benny (the pup, not the uncle) had taken up a defensive posture in front of Sarah and Alex, as if he intended to protect them from all harm, I have to admit that even with his teeth bared, he didn’t look very threatening.

Uncle Benny, on the other hand….

I guess James didn’t move fast enough for his liking. The next thing I knew, he held James’ forearm in a tight grip as he escorted him down the hall, headed toward the front door. “I guess you didn’t hear my niece very well, did you? It’s time for you to leave. And I suggest you don’t return. Ever.”

I thought James sputtered something, I don’t know what, but then the front door opened and closed in rapid succession, and I realized Benny had literally tossed the hapless baby daddy out.

Wow, so that happened.

I wasn’t sure what to say or do in that moment. But before I could collect my thoughts, Sarah had turned toward Ethan and me, tears already raining down her cheeks.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry…” She kept repeating the same words, clinging tightly to Alex, who was beginning to fret, which caused Benny to yip in consternation. He probably thought the child was in distress, which he probably was after that very stormy scene.

“No, don’t,” Ethan stopped her. “It’s all right. Don’t cry, please don’t cry.” The next thing I knew, he had wrapped his arms around Sarah and Alex, and then around me, and we were all hugging, while Sarah continued to sob. Then Uncle Benny joined us and we became one big hugging machine, there in our narrow hallway. Finally, Sarah’s sniffles began to decrease, and her breathing returned to normal.

“I’m okay now,” she insisted, but Ethan decided she needed to sit, so we all trooped into the living room and took our seats.

 Sarah took a deep breath and exhaled. “I had no idea he was like that,” she said. “I mean, the subject of you… I never told him you were gay because it never occurred to me. Since we started talking again, he never asked about you. I figured we’d talk about what happened eventually, and he would ask about you.. But not like this, never like this.” She fell silent.

Ethan and I sat hip-to-hip on the couch. He’d pulled a piece of ice from the freezer and wrapped it in a paper towel, which he held against my hand. He’d also whispered, “My hero,” when we were momentarily alone in the kitchen.

I would have done what I did again in a heartbeat.

“Were you planning to fly home with him tomorrow?” Ethan asked.

Sarah nodded. “I know I shouldn’t have let him come here when you were gone. I really was going to say something about him coming, but then it turned out you had to work, so I just thought I’d let sleeping dogs lie. That was dumb, I know.” She turned her gaze to me. “He deserved that, Vinnie. I’m sorry you had to do it, though. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I assured her.

“We should all get some sleep,” Ethan said. “Tomorrow—”

His words were cut off by the sound of his cell. This late?

What could Anderson want at this hour?

to be continued

Now go hand out with the other Briefers for a bit!

Cia Nordwell

J Ray Lamb

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 61 by Tite Kubo


Bleach, Vol 61      

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: August 5, 2014

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Ichigo is confronted by a truth he isn’t sure how to handle – namely, that Zangetsu isn’t who he thought he was. He’s actually Yhwach, but he’s not Yhwach. That’s clear as mud. He’s neither friend nor foe, but he is the Quincy side of Ichigo. The two have a very heartfelt conversation, after which Ichigo receives his new blades.

Uryu arrives among the Quincies, who wonder who he is. Well, everyone but Yhwach, who announces, to everyone’s dismay, that Uryu is his successor. This is bound to upset the apple cart, at the same time painting a target on Uryu’s back by the jealous Quincies. Meanwhile, Chad, Orihime, Rukia, and Renji all continue with their training, while life goes on back in Karakura Town for Ichigo’s family, albeit without him, at least for now.

Ichigo’s friends unexpectedly encounter Shunsui, whom they recognize from the battle. He has come to tell them farewell from Ichigo. Not that something has happened, but he is looking ahead and anticipates that Ichigo might end up with such power that Shunsui cannot allow him to go back. But just in case that happens, he gives them passes so they can visit him in the Soul Society any time they want.

Back at the Seireitei, things are happening, some good, some not so much. Such as the Seireitei disappearing. And the discovery that the Quincies did not invade, they were there all along. On the plus side, some of the captains have learned to get beyond losing their bankai, but will their efforts be enough?

The plot certainly thickens with the arrival of Uryu (didn’t I say he’d have to come into this at some point? That point is here). I think there is more going on than simply naming him as Ywhach’s successor, both on his part and theirs. I have to hope they have misjudged Uryu and that Uryu will not go along with their agenda when push comes to shove. Only time will tell.

Although the captains have learned to fight harder without their bankai, that seems to have been accounted for, so what next? Ultimately, it all comes down to Ichigo, as always. Something possibly horrendous happens at the end of the volume. I have to wait until the next one to see how bad it really is.

On pins and needles until the next volume!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #62 - The Imposter, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynebee Tiles, The Institute, House

 The Imposter

In 1994, a 13-year-old blond hair, blue-eyed boy named Nicholas Barclay disappeared from his home in San Antonio, Texas. Almost four years later, the family received a call that Nicholas had been, alive and well... in Spain? Everyone was overjoyed, and Nicholas' sister Carey was sent to retrieve him and bring him home, which she did. If something seemed a little off, such as the fact that he was now a brunet, with brown eyes, he spoke with a heavy accent, and he didn't really remember his former life... well, no one really questioned that, just happy to have their boy home.

The only problem was... he wasn't their son. He wasn't even sixteen. And the reason he looked nothing like Nicholas was because he was 23-year-old Frederick Bourdin, a serial imposter.

This documentary explores the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay and his impersonation by Frederick Bourdin. Bourdi's, also known as the Chameleon, motive is pretty straight forward. He was in a predicament in Spain and saw the best way of getting out of it was to pretend to be an American, to take the place of a missing child. It was his misfortune to choose a child that he resembled in no way.

And yet the family embraced him.  

This case is not only mind-boggling, it's confusing. Did the family want so much to believe Bourdin was Nicholas that they could overlook major differences in appearance and personality? Or was it more convenient to pretend he was, because then no one would go looking for the missing boy any more, believing him to have been found. This theory was put forward by a private investigator, who did his own digging, but came up with nothing conclusive. The mother was polygraphed three times, and failed miserably the third time (according to what I read, that was the only one she was sober for)

The documentary leaves more questions than it answers. I believe Nicholas is long dead, and only the family knows where. But proving that is something else. I'll give this film 3.5 Stars.

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Mysterious tiles have been found in locations across the US, including Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis, as well as in a few sites in South America, such as Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, and Buenas Aires. The tiles speak say Toynbee Idea in Kubrick's 2001 Resurrect dead on planet Jupiter. But what does this even mean? One man named Justin Duerr was determined to find out.  And so the mystery begins...

The parts of the message seem self-explanatory. Toynbee refers to historian Arnold Toynbee, 2001 is a film by Stanley Kubrick, the resurrection of the dead is obvious, as is planet Jupiter. But what do they mean together? And who placed all these tiles? Justin Duerr and his fellow researchers take us on a journey of exploration to discover the meaning of the tiles as well as the identity of the person who placed them.

The interesting aspect of this documentary is in the search itself, more than in what the tiles mean. The idea that the dead can be resurrected on the planet Jupiter seems rather far-fetched. But figuring out who was behind it is far more interesting. 

It was never explained just how these tiles are embedded in the asphalt, despite Justin's ideas of how they were laid and by whom. His conclusions regarding the person behind them seem sound, but they never obtained verification. Even so, it's an interesting mystery, and maybe someday we'll have a definite answer as to who was behind it. I'll give this documentary 3.5 Stars.

The Institute

This one will be short because I think I watched maybe 10 minutes before I turned it off. All I know is James Franco is a doctor at some institute for people who need to get away from it all or something like that, it's supposedly based on true events, and the acting is so abysmal I had to quit watching. My advice is do not watch this.


Horror writer Roger Cobb (William Katt) is having troubles. His son disappeared, and his marriage to his actress wife Sandy (Kay Lenz) has fallen apart. He moves into the large house left to him by his aunt, who apparently hung herself there, and where she raised him as a boy. He still remembers her telling him the house is haunted, but that can't be true... can it?

Roger is currently working on a new book that chronicles his time in Viet Nam, and the guys in his unit. His agent seems skeptical, but Roger feels this is the story he needs to tell. Roger's next door neighbor Harold (George Wendt) comes over to welcome him, and quickly reveals that he is a fan. He's also a bit nosy and doesn't hesitate to walk into the house at any time. There is a hot blonde living right across the street who sees no problem in using Roger's pool when the mood strikes her.

Roger had intended to sell the house, but something impels him to move in instead. That's when he 

begins to see things, and he finds himself being attacked by strange monsters, such as the one in his closet. Maybe if he keeps taking his valium, the things that go bump in the night will just go away, right? Except it's not working so far.

This was actually a lot better than I anticipated, to be honest. I know William Katt was in a show called The Greatest American Hero, but I never watched it. That should have tipped me off that this horror movie would have a comedic touch, and it did, especially when it came to the monsters in the house. They aren't your garden variety monsters. Sometimes when he was working on his new book, and reliving it all in his mind, I had to wonder if the monsters were symptoms of PTSD or something.  Or it is, like Aunt Elizabeth said, that the house is simply haunted?

Look for Richard Moll (Bull Shannon from Night Court) as one of Roger's Viet Nam buddies. And yes, George Wendt is Norm from Cheers. It's actually a fun watch, and I look forward to seeing what the sequel is like. I'll give this film 4 Stars.

Book Review: The Cat Proposed by Dento Hayane


The Cat Proposed     

Author: Dento Hayane

Publisher: LOVE x LOVE

American release date: February 23, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Yaoi Manga/256 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Matoi Souta is stressed to the max. Exhausted by his job, his life seems bleak indeed, and for one brief moment, he considers ending it. On a whim, he goes into a Kodan storytelling. The first story is about the legendary Myamoto Musashi, while the second concerns a vampire cat. The storyteller is good and draws Matoi into the story. But when it comes to the second story, Matoi is amazed at what he sees… did the speaker just turn into a cat? Or is he just that tired?  Deciding it was just his imagination, the weary Matoi stumbles out of the place only to collapse… and when he awakens he has no idea where he is or how he got there. Wait, isn’t that the storyteller?

The man’s name is Kihachi. When Matoi tries to laughingly tell him what he thought he saw, Kihachi shows him that was no illusion, he is actually a bakeneko! And by the way, humans shouldn’t know about their existence, but to get around it, he proposes to make Matoi his mate!

This is such a cute manga, I really loved it! Kihachi is the bakeneko who becomes instantly smitten with Matoi and wants him for as long as he can have him. But he is also gentle and never tries to force himself on the other man, who is bewildered enough as it is about this new world he has stumbled into. Why is he starting to exhibit cat-like qualities himself? Kihachi nicknames him his little sparrow, and is very protective of him.  But the arrival of another bakenko forces his hand and he takes Matoi to meet the others. This story is so romantic and sweet! And going after your dreams and what your heart desires! If you’re looking for hot sex scenes, move along. If you just enjoy romance, then come on in!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 15 by Koyoharu Gotouge


Demon Slayer, Vol 15     

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: August 4, 2020

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★


As dawn approaches, Tanjiro is concerned that Kanroji’s strength won’t last and the demons will get away once more. The demon tries to evoke Tanjiro’s pity and accuses him of preying on the weak. Realizing he needs to devour human flesh, the demon homes in on nearby humans. Oh no! Tanjiro attacks but his sword becomes stuck in the demon’s neck! What can he do now? Luckily, aid comes in the form of another blade, thrown to him for his use. He attacks the demons with renewed vigor. But now the sun has risen, and poor Nezuko wasn’t able to enter the shade! Oh no, she is lost forever now!

Or is she?

A miracle has occurred! Not only has the demon been defeated and Kanroji saved, but Nezuko is somehow able to walk in the sunlight safely! She hasn’t become human again, though. So is she in the process of reverting to human, or is she evolving as a demon? Whatever the reason, she now has a target painted on her back, and Muzan is determined to devour her so he too can walk in the sunlight.

Tanjiro is healing after the battle. The swordsmith village has been relocated. Luckily, they have spare villages for just such occasions. When Zenitsu returns, he is overjoyed to be able to see Nezuko in the sun and immediately expresses his desire to marry her. He is less than overjoyed, though, when she addresses him as Inosuke, as the boar-headed boy has drilled his name into her by repetition!

The Hashira meet to discuss what has occurred, but unfortunately the Master is too ill to join them just now.  They discuss the meaning behind the marks that have begun to appear, beginning with Tanjiro. Haganezuka visits Tanjiro as he recovers and brings his new weapon, which has been mounted on Rengoku’s hilt. Tanjiro admires the beauty of this blade, but Haganezuka is still salty that it was used before he was done with it.

And now begins the Hashira training!

A lot going on in this volume, but the most amazing and spectacular thing is about Nezuko being able to withstand the sun! How exciting is that? Hopefully she is on the road to becoming human again. But of course this means Muzan will be more determined than ever to catch her and consume her, so I’m sure we’ll see more of him from now on. I feel as if Tanjiro is coming more and more into his own, as he continues to rise in strength and ability. I bet before too long they’ll make him a Hashira. Is there anything stronger, I wonder? If so, he’ll be that too! I worry about the Master, hope he gets well soon!

Another great volume, looking forward to the next one!



Thursday, May 19, 2022

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 60 by Tite Kubo


Bleach, Vol 60       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 1, 2014

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Isshin encounters an unusual foe in the form of a black Hollow, unaware he is being observed by the Gruesome Trio, aka Aizen, Gin, and Tosen. Masaki senses the Hollow’s spiritual pressure and is determined to do something about it, but Ryu tells her not to interfere. He says that is the job of mixed breeds such as Katagiri, not a pure bred Quincy such as Masaki. Turns out this Hollow was created, with the use of a Soul Reaper’s soul! Masaki steps in and saves Isshin. She is concerned he might find out she’s a Quincy, considering what he is, but to her surprise, it doesn’t matter to him.

Isshin makes his report to the Soul Society, but conveniently doesn’t mention the Quincy he met. He slips away to the World of the Living, leaving a note for Rangiku, because he hopes to run into the girl again. Why didn’t he think to get her name? When Masaki returns to the Ishida household, Ryu castigates her, but suddenly she collapses. Turns out she was wounded in the recent battle after all. Thinking quickly, Ryu snatches her up and runs out to find help. He runs into Isshin, who is battling another Hollow. Isshin is appalled at what he sees, but doesn’t know how to help! Luckily, Fate intervenes in the forms of Kiskue Uruhara! (funny how that works sometimes)

Kiskue tells Isshin and Ryu what must be done to save Masaki, and only one of them can do it. Ryu knows what must be done, as Isshin agrees to bind himself to her for life, setting the two of them on their own path which will eventually lead to the birth of Ichigo and his sisters. And now his dad has told him everything… except for the night of his mother’s death. Why she was killed when she should have easily been able to defeat that Hollow. Now he can return to the palace to get his sword. But he has another truth he needs to learn.

Hitsugaya has lost his bankai, but he won’t just accept being powerless. He requests to be retrained, starting with the basics. And Captain Komamura decides to face his own past.

Wow, oh wow, this volume of Bleach is filled with all sorts of revelations, truths, and heartbreak. So much to absorb! And undoubtedly there is more to come. We finally get a picture of Ichigo’s mother, and right on the heels of that she is lost to us. And what I predicted before came to pass, but no more mention of that for now until the next volume. This explains so much about Ichigo. I can see both his parents in him. He has Isshin’s eyes and Masaki’s stubbornness, plus their combined commitment to justice and defending the weak.  If this is true for Ichigo, what about Yuzu and Karin? Will they go through the same thing? Now we know more about Uryu’s daddy too. And I got a brief glimpse of Shunsui lol

Great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Wednesday Briefs: Rose and Thorne 6 #23 (5.2)

 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 plot thickens! The baby daddy has shown up on Vinnie and Ethan's doorstep, like a thief in the night! What's up with that? How will this go over with Ethan, his one-time best friend? See what's happening in this week's chapter of Rose and Thorne. 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 #23 (5.2)

James was as blond as his son, and not bad looking, although nowhere near as attractive as Ethan. Little Alex had good genes on both sides, apparently. But of course looks weren’t everything, and Ethan had a generous, kind, loving heart, while this was the man who’d run out on his pregnant girlfriend. ‘Nuff said.

“Nice to see you too,” came the sarcastic reply to Ethan’s question. Well, this wasn’t starting out well, was it? Was I going to have to get between these two before they got into an altercation of some kind? I knew Ethan was not a violent man, but when it came to those he loved, such as me and his sister, he could be, when provoked. Of course, there was Sarah’s son to consider. Ethan would never place him in the line of fire. There was no telling what the child’s father might or might not do.

“I’m sorry, were you expecting the Welcome Wagon?” Ethan’s voice was pitched low, probably in deference to the child in James’ arms, but his tone was certainly laced with venom. How long had he been holding that back? For more than three years, by my reckoning. I was becoming more and more apprehensive that a major battle was in the offing.

“Guys…” Sarah held up a warning hand. A sudden yip answered another question I’d wondered about. Namely, where was our faithful watchdog while our home had been unexpectedly invaded by a stranger? I glanced down to find that Benny had strolled out from the same bedroom where all the action apparently was going on this evening and he’d parked himself in front of Ethan, as if demanding attention from his daddy. Who was going to tell him this was not a good time?

“I guess I was hoping that somewhere in in the back of that  normally warm and generous heart of yours there was even a small part of you that would be happy to see your best friend,” James continued in a cold voice that belied whatever sentiment he intended to convey through his words. I could have told him that wasn’t going to get him anywhere, but then no one had asked for my opinion and I didn’t feel comfortable offering it.

“Best friend?  Best friend? Seriously? You are unbelievable.” Ethan snorted. “You disappear from our lives, no, not just our lives, but the life of your unborn child. Your baby. Your son. Not one word, never a word in three goddamn years. From you or your parents. Not a penny of support, much less anything else. Not a single sign of wanting to get to know your own child. And yet, for some reason, you think you’re entitled to show up unexpectedly on my doorstep, and you think should be welcomed home like the prodigal son. After what you did to Sarah and Alex? You are not my best friend in this or any other universe.”

I noticed that as Ethan spoke, he was slowly advancing toward James in a somewhat menacing manner I found alarming. Ethan angry was not someone I normally had to deal with, and usually any anger was directed toward the criminal element we had to deal with within the scope of our jobs.  I wasn’t sure how well I could handle this Ethan or keep him from doing something irrevocable… such as murder. I laid what I hoped to be a soothing hand on his arm, at the same time turning toward Uncle Benny with what I hoped was a mute appeal for assistance.

Luckily for me, he totally understood.

“This is not a good place for a discussion,” Benny spoke up. “And surely this little man should be in bed?” He sent a questioning look toward Sarah, as if seeking her support, but I found her response somewhat lacking.

“He just wants to see his father.”

I had honestly hoped for better from her.

“His father?” Ethan echoed. “I’ve been more of a father to Alex than James has ever been. He’s nothing more than a sperm donor. Beyond that, he’s a complete stranger in his own son’s life. Sarah, why is he even here?” I could hear the pain in Ethan’s voice and it was killing me. I had to at least try to make the situation better.

“Why don’t we take this discussion into the living room?” I suggested. I hoped that once we were out of this narrow, enclosed hallway, Ethan would be less likely to pounce on James and beat the tar out of him. We could keep them on opposite sides of the room, at a safer distance. Yelling but not striking distance.

“Who the hell are you?” James turned and glared daggers at me.

I guess I’d assumed Sarah would have told James about me and Ethan, considering this was our home they’d decided to hang out in—behind our backs, I might add—but I guess that never happened. Which begs the question of why come here in the first place? Something wasn’t adding up.

“Don’t talk to my fiancĂ© like that.” Ethan’s tone was even more menacing and I couldn’t help but notice he’d balled his hands into fists. I knew he wouldn’t do anything to endanger Alex, but I was still worried about what might happen.

James’ blue eyes widened suddenly as he looked back and forth between me and Ethan. Then his gaze shifted to Sarah. “You didn’t tell me Ethan became a fa—”

Acting on pure instinct, I snatched Alex from James’ grasp and handed him off to Sarah before pivoting back toward James in the same fluid motion, my first connecting with his nose with a loud but satisfying crunch.

“Got anything else to say, motherfucker?” I dared him to speak.

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell


Monday, May 16, 2022

Book Review: Pluto, Vol 3 by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka


Pluto, Vol 3      

Author: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: May 19, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Sci-Fi Manga//200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Uran is a robot who looks like a little girl. She has the unique ability of being able to sense emotions, even from great distances. As she and Atom leave the police station, Atom notices an odd man heading into the station, but he can’t tell whether he is robot or human. Turns out he is Professor Abdullah. From Persia, he is considered to be Central Asia’s greatest intellect. The police requested he come in to discuss some of the people he met with on a recent visit, some of whom are now dead. As the Professor leaves the station, he requests directions to Central Park where something just happens to be emerging, something dark and sinister-looking.

In Dusseldorf, a family are enjoying their breakfast. The wife reminds her husband, Adolf, that it is the three year anniversary of his brother’s death, and he needs to claim the body. When he does, he requests to see the body and is shocked by what he sees.  Later he attends a clandestine meeting of people wearing hoods who all espouse the cause of death to machines, and seek to eradicate all robots. It appears his brother was practically pulverized by a particular type of weapon which few robots can wield. He is determined to find out which robots are capable. He researches reported incidents involving such a weapon and learns the only one within the last few years since the war was reported just the previous night, and that one involved Inspector Gesicht.

With the help of a friend, Hercules has “borrowed” a military battle suit, knowing this is a serious offense, one that could end his career. As he is testing it out, suddenly a second sun appears in the sky. It turns out to be a robot named Epsilon, who says he had to stop Hercules before he got himself killed, like Brando and Mount Blanc. Back in Germany, Adolf takes his findings to his group, to request their help in locating and destroying Gesicht. They tell him not to take any action as this could reveal the awful things Adolf’s brother did, but let them handle the matter. Epsilon approaches Gesicht and tells him of the children he cares for since the war. One particular little boy, the sole survivor of his village, saw something terrible, and the only word he will utter now is the name Bora.

In Tokyo, Uran oddly wakes to find what seems to be a tear on her pillow. Since when do robots cry? Leaving her building, she says she senses someone in emotional distress, perhaps an animal, and goes off to find it.  Going into a closed park which is forbidden for anyone to enter, she finds a man inside an abandoned building who is in apparent distress. Except he isn’t a man, he’s a robot. When she asks what sort of nutrient he requires, she tells him she can’t get that one but gets the closest thing to that she can find. She helps nurse him back to health and begins to piece together his story. In the meantime, Professor Abdullah has sent out a robot on a mission… and who is Pluto?

Maybe I’m late to realize this and am only stating the obvious, but it seems to me that Pluto can be seen as an allegory about the human condition, even though it involves robots. It has themes of prejudice and hate, which of course are reflected in our everyday lives with people who hate others based solely on the basis of their skin color, sexual identification, religions, etc. People fear what they don’t understand. They also fear people who know more than they do (whether they are willing to admit to it or not) So robots are a double threat in that regard. And these robots are eerily human as well, some of them. That hooded hate group looks remarkably like the KKK – imagine that. Now it seems that Gesicht has a target on his back, assuming he didn’t already just because of who he is. How many more robots have to die before this menace is stopped? Who or what is Pluto?

Another great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #61 - The Grudge 2, Unfriended

 The Grudge 2

Aubrey's (Amber Tamblyn) sister Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is being held in Tokyo, accused of burning down a house. Their mother is too ill to fly to Japan to deal with the situation but demands Aubrey do so, even though she has gone no contact with Karen. Aubrey goes and finds her sister under lock and key at a hospital. Karen is actually happy to see her and begs her to get her out of there. Aubrey meets a young man named Eason (Edison Chen) who also wants to talk to her sister. He is a journalist and he is trying to figure out what happened in that house, but Aubrey isn't receptive to the idea.

Allison (Arielle Kebbel) is the new kid  at an elite academy in Tokyo. But she quickly becomes a target by some of the popular mean girls. Two of them take her to a house which was the scene of some horrific crimes and persuade her to go inside with them. There they play a vicious prank on her, locking her inside a closet, where she sees something horrifying. But the prank backfires when one of the girls goes missing, and Arielle just wants to go home.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Trish (Jennifer Beals) has moved in with her boyfriend Bill (Christopher 

Cousins) and his two kids - Lacey (Sarah Roemer) and Jake (Matthew Knight). She wants to get to know them, but they aren't sure about her. Jake thinks something strange is going on with their next door neighbors, but he isn't sure what, other than they've come in with someone who huddles beneath their coat and can't be seen. Strange things begin to happen. Trish and Bill are nowhere to be found, and he thinks there is something wrong. He sees things he is sure can't really exist. But when he meets the girl next door, she tells him they followed her home.

The Grudge 2 picks up where the first one leaves off. There are three intertwining stories here, which sometimes makes it difficult to follow the plot. I'm still not entirely sure why these things are happening, although the film gives the same explanation as the first one. Again, not a bad film. I hope everything is wrapped up in the final installment. I'll give this one 3.5 Stars as well.


A group of friends who are Skyping find themselves with an uninvited stranger in their midst, one they cannot get rid of no matter how many times they exit and enter. As if this wasn't odd enough, someone is posting on the Facebook of a dead girl named Laura, who committed suicide... one year before. The intruder claims to be Laura and is determined to reveal all the group's secrets, including who posted the embarrassing video that caused her to kill herself.

The intruder, who calls herself Billie, but whose account is linked to Laura's, wants to play a game of Never have I ever. And secrets are being revealed that will tear friendships apart. But worse than that, breaking the rules of the game could prove to be deadly.

This film is told from the POV of the participants, as we watch them Skype on their individual screens. As the night progresses, the teens turn on each other as their secrets are revealed in the midst of this deadly game. It has a fair amount of scares and shock value to be interesting without being too obvious. In fact, at the end you can't really be sure what exactly happened. 

None of these teens is exactly innocent, they were all cyber bullies who received their just desserts. Lesson to be learned - be careful what you do on the Internet, it will live there forever. I did enjoy this and will give it 4 Stars.