Posts Tagged ‘Japanese’

Not only is this the first time I’ve read an “interactive” book, but it’s my first time reviewing one. Developed for the Apple iPad and Android, Koto ($2.99 on iTunes and Android Marketplace) takes bedtime storybooks to the next level.

It took me a minute or two to figure out that you don’t click the arrow buttons unless you want to skip ahead (or go back)–the story advances by touching the text, which is then read to you. Once each scene has been fully read, a quality video pops up showing Koto in action. Going through it only takes about ten minutes.

Story overview:
Koto is a dog that wants to sleep, but odd noises throughout the house keep him awake. With an overactive imagination, he puts on his samurai outfit, grabs a broom, and investigates the disturbances.

First, he imagines a group of spirits invading his living room. When he gets there, he finds that it’s only his television, so he turns it off. Then, a noise comes from the basement. A group of monsters digging for diamonds? Nope, just a clothes dryer. But wait, there’s a witch scratching at the window. OK, guess it’s just a squeaky hinge. The real problem is the robot sneaking outside, never mind it’s just moths fluttering against a light. The goblins stomping the yard are the bigger foe. He charges at full speed to chase . . . cats out of his garbage cans. Hold on, a group of ninjas are on the roof. Nope, just a broken weather vane.

By the time he gets to the end, a glass toothed dragon proves to be nothing more than a wind chime. Taking in the soft, pleasing sound, Koto goes back into his house. Content with winning the battle of silence, he slowly drifts to sleep.

My thoughts:
My daughter is in love with this book. She is two and a half years old and goes to bed saying, “Daddy, read dog book?” Where I’m not thrilled about putting my $700 device into her hands, I am confident with holding it and letting her tap the text. She comments on just about every page, asking why the goblin won’t put his foot down, worried that the ninjas will fall, and chomps her mouth like a dragon. She even says, “awwww,” when Koto falls asleep at the end. I have to tell her that he’s sleeping and doesn’t want to be disturbed, otherwise I’d be replaying the book for her all night long.

Things to consider:
This is rated for children 4+, though my two and a half year old finds it quite enjoyable. There is a witch and a few things my daughter points to and says is scary, but I explain that it isn’t real and she seems fine with that. Good for both girls and boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
Just about every child goes through a stage where they think there’s a monster in the closet, beast hiding under the bed, or boogieman lurking around the corner. This is a good book to show your children that there’s really nothing to be scared of. Their fears are just that, fears, and the story can help to calm them at bedtime. Share 2 Timothy 1:7 [ASV], “For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.” If your children are old enough, that message might just sink in.

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Yoshimori and Tokine are caught in a trap, and without Gen as backup. Their Kekkaishi powers have been nullified and all that remains are the abilities of two School-Aged teens.

Story overview:

Tokine executes a plan of action that uses herself as bait. Not on board with this is Yoshimori, whose main goal is to keep Tokine safe. Instead he comes up with a better plan (amazing for him), which destroys the barrier restricting their Kekkaishi powers.

Meanwhile Gen—after mostly recovering from his injuries—nearly transforms into his full ayakashi form. Thankfully for him a man named Hiba (as we discover was put in charge of watching Gen) puts a stop to this. Later we are shown Gen’s childhood and how he goes berserk and almost kills his beloved sister. (With his brothers and parents the way they were, there’s no wonder Gen acts the way he does.) Thankfully his sister didn’t die, but Gen finds himself taken away by Masamori to learn to control his power.

Back in the present time we rejoin our Kekkaishi duo. The battle goes on until all but the head ayakashi, Kaguro, is left. He himself actually kills the last ayakashi since he didn’t like the creature’s tactics. Walking away, he decides to come back and try again another day. Once the two Kekkaishi meet up with Gen, they are thankful to find the boy hasn’t been kicked out of the Shadow Organization.

My thoughts:

It was interesting to learn how there are two types of half-ayakashi: (1) Parasitic type, which can only alter a specific body part, and (2) Integrated type, which can totally transform, but in doing so they turn into a complete ayakashi and lose control. Gen is the latter form. Interesting story for sure. There’s always a new mystery unfolding and great character interactions: still a page turner even in its eight volume.

Things to consider:

Same rating as the others: thirteen plus and targeted mainly towards boys. No sexual situations or major cursing. Just typical manga violence that appeals mostly to boys (and yes, to me as well).

Opportunities for discussion:

Gen’s story shows how he was an unloved child. The only one that cared for him was his sister, and a misunderstanding made him think she betrayed him, which causes him to lose all hope. Ask your teen what their hopes are in life, and if they ever feel like they are totally lost. Then remind them—even though they may no longer like to hear it—that you will always love them no matter what. This means more than they may let on.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Kekkaishi (Volume 1)
2) Kekkaishi (Volume 2)
3) Kekkaishi (Volume 3)
4) Kekkaishi (Volume 4)
5) Kekkaishi (Volume 5)
6) Kekkaishi (Volume 6)
7) Kekkaishi (Volume 7)

Traditional manga reads from right–to–left in order to maintain the original Japanese style, but this one was translated left–to–right to fit into an American format. Personally, I prefer manga in its original form, but I won’t let that affect my opinion of the story.

Also not traditional to Japanese manga is the lack of clean, elegant, and eye-pleasing illustrations. The ones in Black & White are very rough, crewed, and may make one feel as if a kid drew them. This I will let my opinion be affected over.

It wasn’t until I read a little about the author that I understood the reason for his artistic approach. It appears that Matsumoto traveled throughout France to refine his techniques, and so the French comic style leaked into his own. This helped me to forgive the poor style graphics, at least somewhat . . .

Story overview:

Two young boys (I’m guessing between the ages of ten and twelve) live on the streets of a town called “Treasure Town.” Their bed is the inside of an abandoned car, and their means of survival comes from mugging those unlucky enough to cross their paths.

Their names are Black and White (resembling no skin or other features). White is a simple minded boy who is a follower of Black (Black seems to be the reason White can stay alive) whereas Black is intelligent and perceptive (White seems to be the only one who can keep Black somewhat human).

When a mob tries to move into town, Black takes it upon himself to force them out (yes, these boys are young, but brutally effective). In the process Black finds himself entering deeper into the ‘dark side’ (so to say) while White wishes and dreams of the life of a normal boy.

My thoughts:

At first, I could barely stand reading this one. The awful illustrations, the despicable characters, the poor dialog, and the confusing and seemingly pointless story had me forcing myself to turn the pages. It wasn’t until the end that I actually saw a redemptive ray of hope. Still, it wasn’t enough to make me want to read the next book in the series. Not with so many others that have more potential. That does not mean there is not a following and those who have the taste buds for this sort of thing, but this one was not for me.

Things to consider:

Warning. This is not a good manga for kids. I read it because it was on a list of popular manga, and since the story resides around children, it is easy to assume it is safe for children to read. Do not believe this. The language is adult, the situations are crude and brutal, and the drawings sometimes graphic. I wouldn’t rate this for anyone under Young Adult, and even then I’d caution them to not waste their time.

Opportunities for discussion:

The theme seems to surround the evil heart of the boy Black and the simple heart of White; a parallel to the Japanese Yin-Yang balance of good versus evil. It is hard to see the good side of White until we get closer to the end of the story when he tells an old, homeless drunk, “When I hurts people bad and when I lies then I tells God I’m sorry. I says, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I won’t never do it again. I says I’m sorry a lot, but it don’t do no good. Cuz I just keeps on hurtin’ peole and lyin’. God is probably mad at me, right gramps?” To which the old man replies, “Hmm . . . Yeah. Probably. You’re usually right.” Now, here’s the thing. Take this into a Christian perspective. As believers we often struggle with our nature as does White, and we cannot give up on saying we are sorry. The only difference here is that instead of saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I won’t do it no more! I won’t do it no more!” we say, “I’m sorry, please help me to change.” Relying on his own strength is what makes White unable to move forward, where we have the helping hand of Christ.

Sōsei became a permanent member of Squad Zero and found out the truth behind the death of his twin sister. The rest of the VIUS members are now focusing on the upcoming Exhibition Tournament, perhaps more so than the year before since Issa is now the captain elect.

Story overview:

Leila tells her Master, Shimon, that she feels like she’s always being rescued by others. He asks her if she would like to switch squads, but she tells him that she loves her squad. Catching up with Sōsei, both he and Leila watch the official opening to the preliminaries of the 29th Exhibition Tournament. Akira (from Squad One) easily defeats his opponent as does Sōsei in the next match. The following matches are with Hibiki (who wins against his opponent), and then Leila (who does not win against her opponent).

Meanwhile, Issa (along with Sakuraba (Shun’ichi)) is stuck welcoming all the dignitaries from other cities.  As everyone is distracted, two Dracules infiltrate Mikuni city. Once all the dignitaries are seated and ready for the Tournament to begin, Issa takes the first match against one of his old squad members, Lan-Lan. She tries to defeat Issa because she is worried that he is being setup for a worse fate, but after some teasing and friendly banter, Issa gets serious and takes her down.

Leila goes to apologies to her master for losing in the preliminaries. On her way back she gets lost and stumbles across the path of a Dracule (Daraku), which/who just so happens to be the one she hid from in a closet in a former volume. Needless to say she is captured. Sōsei gets concerned that it is taking Leila too long to return, so he goes and looks for her only to end up being captured himself. Meanwhile the anticipated battle between Hibiki and Akira commences—with the current outcome not looking so good for Hibiki.

My thoughts:

As the author says, “A new story arc has begun! During these chapters, someone will mature, and a certain mystery will be cleared up . . .” Just as one mystery unfolds another takes its place. This is the kind of story that keeps one wanting more. Top notch.

Things to consider:

Ratings stay the same: thirteen plus. As mentioned in a former volume, Issa has a weakness for breasts. And Lan-Lan takes advantage of this weakness to try and defeat him. It is done in good humor, but I can see some parents thinking of it as inappropriate. The relationship between Lan-Lan and Issa is, as the author describes, “they were apparently close as superior and subordinate . . . or rather, like tormented older brother and cheery younger sister.” So don’t take it too seriously.

Opportunities for discussion:

This volume opens the Exhibition Tournament, which the story had been leading up to for awhile. A topic that comes to mind is competition. Ask your teens what they like about competition and what they dislike about it. Then ask them if they think Leila handled her loss well. Half the battle is knowing how to lose—something we could all probably become a little better at.

Past reviews in this series:

DragonEye_6We leave off in Volume 5 with the start of a tremendous one-on-one battle between Sōsei and Issa. We knew this day was coming, and now it is time to sit back and watch.

Story overview:

Issa and Sōsei face off in a one-on-one duel. Feeling like he was becoming too comfortable, Sōsei goes all out to get his revenge. He would no longer betray the memory of his sister. Sōsei knows that under normal conditions he cannot beat Issa, but he has a chance since the Squad Zero captain is wounded.

The fight continues on in a brilliant array of swordplay and wordplay. Issa does not try to prove his innocence, but rather tries to get Sōsei to desire living. The battle finally ends with both combatants tired and Issa close to losing control, but thankfully Sakuraba comes in and breaks it up.

While packing up his bags to leave the VIUS, Hyuga comes and tells Sōsei that he was there on the mission where his sister was killed. Hyuga tells Sōsei that his sister was infected from pills given to her by a merchant (that looked like Ciara.) His sister begged Issa to kill her before she became a Dracule. Her desire was to go on record as not being infected so that her brother could still become a VIUS. She asked Issa to keep it a secret. This news devastates Sōsei, but he decides to still hand in his discharge request, only to find that Issa transferred him to a permanent role in Squad Zero. Not happy about the idea, Sōsei realizes he has no choice but to obey.

My thoughts:

This volume is full of explosive action, heart wrenching dialog, and powerful images of compassion. Absolutely amazing. A+, five stars, one of the best so far.

Things to consider:

Unlike the last volume, there are no references to “breasts.” I chuckle saying that because the references are so silly that I cannot see anyone taking real offense over it. Still, I have to point it out. As said, this volume has no questionable content other than the standard action violence, and the disturbing death of Sōsei’s sister. Mainly for boys ages thirteen plus.

Opportunities for discussion:

During the duel, Sōsei shouts out, “Futaba’s soul will never be saved! She’ll never rest!!” He was referring to his sister whom Issa had to kill because she was infected. It brings up a good discussion topic though. Sōsei felt like his sister could not rest in peace until her death was avenged. Outside of the fact Sōsei didn’t know the details of her death, this idea was still impressed upon his heart. Christians believe that the soul lives on and that justice is upheld by God at the time of judgment, but Sōsei twists these two together and makes himself judge, jury, and executioner. Ask your teens what they think brings rest to a person’s soul, then share with them the true rest which each individual must acquire on their own (John 3:16.)

Past reviews in this series:

1) Dragon Eye (Volume 1)
2) Dragon Eye (Volume 2)
3) Dragon Eye (Volume 3)
4) Dragon Eye (Volume 4)
5) Dragon Eye (Volume 5)

kekkaishi_v6Getting back to one of my top manga of all-time, we look back at Volume 5 where we experienced the mysterious visit of Lord Uro, learned a little more about Toshimori (Yoshimori’s brother,) and found our two Kekkaishi in a battle against a powerful three-team ayakashi.

Story overview:

After defeating the ayakashi–which formed into a large owl–Tokine is tipped off to the presence of the one observing the fight. Yoshimori goes after him, but the man gets away. In the process, Yoshimori discovers that he is not a man at all, but an ayakashi hiding in a man-skin.

Paranoid about the possibility of ayakashi walking around the day disguised as humans, Yoshimori suspects a new student named Gen Shishio. But the obnoxious Gen turns out to be an agent of the Shadow Organization, sent by Yoshimori’s older brother (Masamori.)

Meanwhile, Yoshimori’s grandfather visits an acquaintance named Heisuke Matsudo, who is a seventy-year-old retired university professor that does not look seventy-years-old. They discuss the possible origin of the man-skin that Yoshimori recovered from the battle.

Elsewhere, Gen’s bad boy attitude does not fit in well with the two Kekkaishi, but the three of them end up working together to take down a tough ayakashi. Gen realizes he was sent to join the group because he has more in common with Yoshimori than he first thought.

My thoughts:

Gen’s character brings out more of Yoshimori’s personality and it is fun to watch them interact (and butt heads.) It is also obvious that Gen has more to him than meets the eye. Good stuff.

Things to consider:

The entrance of Gen brings in some gory depictions as he does not terminate ayakashi into nothingness like the Kekkaishis. Still, this is nothing inappropriate for thirteen-year-old boys. There are no sexual references or offensive language. So far this is one of the cleaner manga series I’ve seen.

Opportunities for discussion:

Gen makes the comment how he cannot restore or fix anything; that he can only destroy. We see a conflict here in his character, which will be interesting to see unfold; however, we also see a good opportunity for discussion. Ask your teen what they think of Gen’s attitude, and the ask them why they believe he can only destroy. From there explain how destroying is much easier that creating (or maintaining,) and how important it is to be one who observes and understands which to do and when.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Kekkaishi (Volume 1)
2) Kekkaishi (Volume 2)
3) Kekkaishi (Volume 3)
4) Kekkaishi (Volume 4)
5) Kekkaishi (Volume 5)

DragonEye_5In the last volume, we saw a gimps of Issa’s past and how he used to be on the side of the Dracules. We then learn how Hibiki from Squad Six is after Issa’s Captain’s position—as if the issue with Sōsei wanting revenge isn’t enough. With this we open into the next volume.

Story overview:

On an infiltration mission, Squad Zero assists Squad Six. The purpose is to find the Yara Clan’s inside contact within the Mikuni government. During the mission Issa follows his special orders and separates from the group only to find himself at a dead end. Hibiki from Squad Six shows up, and at first Issa thinks this is an accident, but he soon learns it was a setup. Hibiki uses this opportunity to attack Issa (which is forbidden to do against a captain.) Unfortunately for Issa, his injury from before led to his downfall.

Later the Squad goes out to assist in a cleanup of spell notes, which have gone rampant when a VIUS truck turns over. Issa ends up getting separated (again) when following evidence of an escaped creature that has the same kind of restrictive collar that Issa and the dog have. He finds the creature (called an Igunido) in the sewer and ends up protecting it from a Dracule that snuck in.

Later still, Sōsei joins his old Squad on a mission of a possible virus infection within the city limits. He is faced with children protecting their supposedly infected mother and is reminded of his sister’s situation; where Issa had to kill her before she became a Dracule. It scares Sōsei when he almost comes to justify Issa’s actions that lead to her death. Thankfully for Sōsei, he did not have to make that decision, but this triggered Sōsei’s blind vengeance and so we end the volume with him pointing a sword in Issa’s face; challenging him to a fight to the death.

My thoughts:

I laughed out loud when the “Dog”—that lurks in Squad Zero’s ready room—accidentally said “Thanks” to Leila. Yes, that’s right, human words. They both freaked out. Later, the dog shows up—in a short time from a far distance—after Issa called it to help him with the mysterious Igunido. There’s more going on here and I can’t wait to read more to find out what. If this series has not hooked you yet, then the comedy, tension, and character situations of this volume are sure to do so.

Things to consider:

As is the other books in this series, the rating stays at ages thirteen plus. There are two things that may be taken as inappropriate. (1) When Issa is asked what he likes about Aoi, he dreamily says he likes her breasts. (2) Later, when trying to get Leila to stop hounding him about the condition of his injury, he starts to say “Broken” and changes the “Br” to “Breast” then lightly pokes her breast with chopsticks. Of course she pounds him silly, but it worked: it changed the subject. Now, this is Japanese humor, and quite honestly, when read in the context, it’s pretty mild and pretty funny. Get that? Funny, not serious. But still, I have to warn the sensitive parent.

Opportunities for discussion:

It is sometimes unclear what the right thing to do is. As Sōsei discovers when confronted with the children protecting their mother. This is a good lesson for life, as things are not always so black and white. Ask your teen what they would have done in Sōse’s place. Now, sit back and listen without interrupting. The more you listen, the more your teen will feel like they can confide in you.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Dragon Eye (Volume 1)
2) Dragon Eye (Volume 2)
3) Dragon Eye (Volume 3)
4) Dragon Eye (Volume 4)