By Namekojirushi and Nao Watanuki. Released in Japan as “Ore ga Heroine o Tasukesugite Sekai ga Little Mokushiroku!?” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Lensenmayer.
Life as a parody can be difficult, especially when it’s unclear whether you are a parody or not anymore. Little Apocalypse started off being pretty blatantly a parody of all of those harems with piles and piles of women, as well as titles where the male lead goes around “rescuing” the girl of the week (hi, Index). But as the volumes have gone on I think it’s safe to admit that sometimes it tends to forget this and just tries to be a straight up harem action novel. You can usually tell by the fact that the author is forgetting to include R’s sarcastic asides for dozens of pages at a time, and it’s R that reminds us that Rekka’s frustrating indecision and waffley-ness is not actually bad writing but a deliberate decision. That said, I would not blame those who hate indecisive male leads from dropping the series, though I do wonder why they started it in the first place.
We’re back to three girls on the cover, and the author brags in the afterword about having made it to double digits on the heroines. That said, one of the previous ones doesn’t even get mentioned, and a second is only mentioned in passing. As with Negima, all heroines are important but some heroines are more important than others. New heroines this time include Rosalind, the blonde loli vampire that you knew we were going to get sooner or later, and who serves as the main antagonist (though she’s also a heroine); Silver Slayer, a homunculus trained to destroy Rosalind who has been chasing her the last two hundred years or so; and Chelsea, a mage who is desperately searching for a way to save her dying little brother. Add to all this Hibiki (from Book 3), who actually brings Chelsea to Rekka; Lea (from Book 2), who’s there to provide some muscle; and the main three heroines from Book 1, who likely always will be the top heroines.
And then there’s Rekka, who continues to be the savvy-only-when-necessary male lead. As with most of these books, the first half drags quite a bit as we set up the pieces, and the second half is much better as the pieces all interlock and Rekka can deal with them all at the same time. When Rekka is fretting about having set up dates on Sunday with all the girls at the same time, the book sadly falls into the exact cliches it’s meant to be making fun of, and is not as interesting. (Also Christ, I hope he went to buy Harissa some clothes after this.) For a book that’s so low in page count, there’s a lot going on in each one – I didn’t mention the evil genie, or the Philosopher’s Stone. The author knows how to bring a situation to chaos and let it play out. He now needs to work harder on what to do when everything is at rest. Recommended for those who can tolerate a wishy-washy male lead, written by design. If you can’t, avoid this series with great avoid.
SEAN: The Dog Days of August begin with a manga pile worthy of an entire dog show.
Cross Infinite World has been releasing some shoujo light novels digitally, something I had shamefully forgotten till now. They have a release next week of AkaOni: Contract with a Vampire.
ASH: Oh, shoujo! I’d forgotten as well. It’s great to see these being released.
SEAN: Fantagraphics has the 2nd and final Otherworld Barbara omnibus, and I really really want to get it. Sadly, I actually ordered it from Amazon rather than Diamond, and for once Diamond is ahead of the game here.
MICHELLE: Woot. Looking forward to this one.
ANNA: Can’t believe I missed the first one, well now I can get both!!!!
ASH: Likewise, I’m going to have to wait for my copy, but I’m always excited to read Hagio’s work.
SEAN: J-Novel Club will be releasing the 3rd How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom. Take a shot for each mention of Machiavelli.
And we get our monthly Invaders of the Rokujouma?!, the 5th volume in that long series.
Kodansha Digital gives us a new Del Rey rescue with the 20th Alive.
Kodansha has a 22nd volume of Attack on Titan, which finally gives us a beach episode.
ASH: Hahaha! Does it really? I admit, I’ve fallen a bit behind in reading Attack on Titan.
SEAN: GTO: Paradise Lost has a 4th volume digitally.
As does suspense title Kasane.
There’s also 2nd volumes for new series Kounodori: Dr. Stork and Love’s Reach.
One Peace has two debuts hitting comic shops next week (and bookstores a bit later). I Hear the Sunspot (Hidamari ga Kikoeru) is from Printemps Shuppan, running in the mostly BL magazine Canna. This isn’t BL, and appears to be about a student with hearing loss. It seems interesting.
ASH: My copy of I Hear the Sunspot actually arrived early. I’m very curious about the manga and hope to read it soon.
ANNA: Huh, that does sound interesting.
SEAN: They also have a light novel debut, Mikagura School Suite. It seems to be a Battle School title, based on a series of Vocaloid songs.
Seven Seas has a 3rd Magical Girl Site, which despite its title is dark horror.
And there’s a 3rd There’s a Demon Lord on the Floor, which is comedy fanservice just as its title implies.
Udon has a 6th volume of Persona 3.
Vertical has a done-in-one manga debut. She and Her Cat is written by Makoto Shinkai, so expect a bittersweet ending, but it should be very good.
ASH: As many Shinkai manga are, I suppose.
MICHELLE: Of course I am entirely down for this.
ANNA: Done in one manga are certainly nice sometimes!
SEAN: And now it’s time for Viz. The 17th Assassination Classroom has the kids arguing about whether they should assassinate in the classroom, fittingly.
There’s a 4th Behind the Scenes!!, which I continue to be a bit lukewarm on.
And an 8th Black Clover, which will feel even more like Fairy Tail now that Fairy Tail has ended.
Bleach’s 3-in-1 release hits Book 20.
And Food Wars! has a 19th volume – will things continue to be ‘darkest just before the dawn’?
Haikyu!! continues its monthly release with its 14th volume. The Japanese release is around Vol. 27 or so, so we’ve a ways to go before we catch up.
MICHELLE: I’m eager for both Food Wars! and Haikyu!!.
ASH: I’m still loving this series, and loving that it’ll continue to be released monthly for a while yet.
ANNA: I clearly need to go on a big volleyball binge.
SEAN: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has another hardcover of its least impressive arc with a 4th Stardust Crusaders.
ANNA: I love these hardcovers and the insane action of JoJo’s.
SEAN: Rejoice! August means Kaze Hikaru, which may be only one volume a year but it tries harder!
ASH: I plan on picking it up!
ANNA: I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!!!!!!!
SEAN: Kuroko’s Basketball has its 13th/14th volumes out in this omnibus, which will involve the characters playing basketball.
ANNA: I thought they were all pastry chefs!
SEAN: Maid-sama! has come to an end with this 9th omnibus. Will Misaka be able to kick ass and take names? And how much blushing will we have? (Answer: so much.)
MICHELLE: I’m looking forward to the finale.
SEAN: My Hero Academia is one of Jump’s biggest hits, containing a cast filled with characters everyone loves, and Mineta. The 9th volume ships next week. (Seriously, everyone hates Mineta.)
One Piece’s 83rd volume will continue to develop Sanji’s predicament and upcoming marriage.
Platinum End’s 3rd volume will be there for hardcore fans of this manga team.
So Cute It Hurts!! is almost over, as the 14th volume is the penultimate one.
Toriko is also almost over, though the 39th volume shows we have a few more to go.
Vampire Knight: Memories is the debut from Shojo Beat. It’s nice to see the author return to her most popular world, I guess, though I worry it’s because she wasn’t able to duplicate that success.
Yona of the Dawn’s 7th volume continues our PIRATES! theme, though I do not believe ninjas, zombies or robots feature.
ASH: I think I’m okay with that.
ANNA: I so enjoy Shojo Beat’s fantasy manga.
Yu-Gi-Oh! never quite ends, as this is the 11th 3-in-1 and we’re still not near the end.
Lastly, Yen Press has one straggler, as the third Twinkle Stars omnibus finally shuffles onto the scene, looking furtively at its shoes as it apologizes for being so late.
ASH: I quite taken with the first two omnibuses, so I’m glad the third is finally here!
ANNA: Maybe I will finally read the first two volumes that are stacked up on my to-read pile!
SEAN: Which of these titles dog your footsteps?
Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler resists easy labels, combining elements of a tournament manga, high school drama, and instructional comic. The plot focuses on Yumeko Jabami, a wealthy girl who transfers to Hyakkaou Private Academy, one of those only-in-manga institutions where the curriculum emphasizes poker and roulette instead of reading and writing. Although Jabami seems demure, her pleasant demeanor turns to maniacal resolve at the first mention of gambling. Within hours of arriving at Hyakkaou, she’s engaged in a high-stakes game of rock, paper, scissors with another student, betting ¥10,000,000 on the outcome. (When in Rome, I guess?)
To make the contest more exciting, author Homura Kawamoto adds a few novel rules, transforming a simple set of challenges into a complex game of chance involving cards, ballot boxes, and voting. He also raises the dramatic stakes by initially portraying Jabami as impulsive — even foolish — in her decision to stake ¥500,000 on a single face-off. By the end of the game, however, we realize just how cunning and observant Jabami really is, as she not only triumphs over her snotty opponent Saotome, but does so by figuring out how Saotome was cheating and using that information against her.
What really puts this chapter over the top is the artwork. Toru Naomura stages the contest like an extreme sporting event, using his entire bag of tricks to convey the intensity of gameplay: dramatic close-ups, nervous onlookers, speedlines, split screens, sound effects. Complementing these gestures are fluid, inventive layouts that artfully incorporate information about the rules of play and the odds of winning a match. Naomura’s most effective gambit, however, is the way he draws Jabami’s eyes. When Jabami is playing her cards close to the vest, her eyes resemble dark, placid pools, but when she’s trouncing the competition, her eyes go supernova, turning into a set of concentric, pulsing rings. If anything, these panels irresistibly reminded me of the linework in Saul Bass’ iconic Vertigo poster:
For all the swagger with which Jabami’s first match is staged, it’s clear that Kawamoto is more interested in the mechanics of gameplay than in the development of three-dimensional characters or the introduction of new plot twists. Each of the subsequent chapters follows the same basic pattern as the first, with Jabami besting her opponent by blowing the whistle on her for cheating. Then there’s the fanservice: Naomura never misses an opportunity to draw an extreme mammary close-up or a glimpse of underwear. And ugly underwear, I might add; Naomura’s artwork is solid, but his application of plaid screentone is so clumsy that it screams MacPaint.
Despite these shortcomings — or perhaps because of them — Kakegurui is a fun, trashy read that has the good graces not to take itself too seriously. The basic structure of the story, however, is too repetitive to sustain my interest for more than a few volumes; it’s hard to invest in a cast of two-dimensional schemers, cheaters, and sadists, however entertaining Jabami’s antics may be. I put my odds of continuing with Kakegurui beyond volume four at 3 to 1.
KAKEGURUI: COMPULSIVE GAMBLER, VOL. 1 • STORY BY HOMURA KAWAMOTO, ART BY TORU NAOMURA • TRANSLATED BY MATTHEW ALBERTS • YEN PRESS • 240 pp. • RATING: OT, FOR OLDER TEENS (16+)
Neural networks are a type of computer program that imitate the way humans learn. If you give them a long list of examples of anything - paint colors, Broadway musicals, cat names, and even guinea pig names - they’ll teach themselves how to generate similar examples.
Last week, I tried giving a neural network a list of Star Wars planets and sure enough, it was soon producing plausible planets that (mostly) would have passed without comment as part of the Star Wars universe.
Now, I try the same thing with Star Wars character names, thanks to another list from blog reader Chris Jones. It turns out that it works pretty well.
You’ll notice there’s a “captain” at the end of the list… the neural network would occasionally produce captains and commanders and admirals, but it’s rare that it would spell them correctly. This is because I was using some pretty aggressive dropout settings to prevent the neural network from memorizing entire names from the tiny input dataset. I was essentially forcing it to learn to function with only a small fraction of its neurons working at a time, so it had to stick to very simple rules that could be implemented with just a neuron or two. The upside: the neural network began to work with short Star Wars-y letter combinations rather than entire words. The downside: lots of “Cammanders” and “Anmirals”.
Inquisisor: Sarth Bertor
Grand Andiral Chenge Shelte
Anmiral Carn Daralo
Anmeral Teeran Salan
Some of the other names were also less than successful, but that’s not the neural network’s fault. It only knows about the words on its own list, not the rest of the English language. If a word sequence is pronounceable according to its rules, it’s perfectly valid as far as it knows.
Granter Matter Broth
But my favorite part was the Sith lords.
There were enough Darths in the list that at the very lowest-creativity settings, everyone was a Sith lord. Here are some of my favorites:
Dorth Darth Darth
Grand Moff Darth Salt
I would like to see the costumes for some of these.
Want more Darths? Sign up here and I’ll email you an 8-page pdf of output straight from the neural network.