Today I woke up to the news that the mangaka of Berserk, Miura Kentaro, passed away on the 6th of May. And I was devastated.
I grew up with Berserk when it was released in 2003 by Dark Horse, together with Blade of the Immortal, it was my baptism in the world of Japanese comics. I was blown away by the work of detail in this dark fantasy world. The story was gripping, the style made you crave for more. Miura-san had me hooked on manga.
The joy I felt whenever a new volume came out and when I read the last page the tension harsh waiting game began for the next release. I wasn’t that active on the internet and the community in the Netherlands is very small, because I am not a big fan of going to anime-cons. The crowds just do me in. But I had a coworker with whom I could chat and speculate about the story’s progress.
When I grew older Berserk stayed with me. But you also find out the dark side of being the mangaka of a popular series. Your publisher wants a steady schedule in which you deliver quality work. And these schedules in Japan are insane. Look at Shonen Jump that comes out weekly, which means if you are serialised in that, you need to deliver a new chapter once a week. It’s crazy. Sadly, so many mangaka had to take a long period to recover their health. And with Twitter these days, they are exposed by the disappointment of their fans when their favourite series is on hiatus. Some comments are outright vile.
Miura-san struggled with his health and trying to keep fans happy. And now he is no longer among us. I have a deep respect for this man. Mangaka’s have assistants to help them but this is not an easy life. They often crunch together to make the deadlines pulling many late nighters. He wanted his staff to be able to have a family life and he gave them the chance. Just wished he looked out a little bit more for himself.
I shouldn’t read the comments on Twitter under his respect posts, but sadly I did and still some fans don’t understand and called him lazy for not keeping up with the schedule or taking breaks. Crying about what will happen to the story. For me the story ended when Miura-san passed. I don’t need more. I’ll cherish what he has given me.
It reminded me of the time the wonderful Terry Pratchett passed away. I was blessed to have met him in person, we had a little chat about how his books gave me joy. I didn’t want someone else to finish his books, I was fearful that they couldn’t carry the spirit he had. So when I heard that in his last will he asked for his hard drives to be destroyed by steamroller my heart made a little jump. That’s the Terry Pratchett I know and love.
I have a few mangaka left on my list that give me the same joy as Miura-san. I hope they look out for their health.
I’m a sucker for good love stories. It really doesn’t matter is it straight, gay or lesbian love stories. And with good love stories I do not mean Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, that shit is trash.
Doukyusei or Classmates is such a love story focusing on the budding love of two male students. As characters they are completely the opposite with Sajo being the diligent studious type and Kusakabe who is an airhead and has a streak of a rebel in him. They have been in each others class for a while but haven’t noticed each other until the class is setting up a choir. Sajo is only mouthing the lyrics but no sound is coming out which makes Kusakabe wonder why he does this. After school he rushes back to the classroom to retrieve his items and hears Sajo practicing by himself all out of tune. Spurred on by the moment he offers to help Sajo master the song for the school recital. Over the weeks they grow closer and Kusakabe assumes that Sajo is only doing this for their teacher, jealousy growing inside. On the day of the recital Kusakabe suddenly realizes their connection is gone and tears roll over his face. He flees mid performance only to be chased by Sajo.
I read a lot of BL (Boys love) but sometimes struggle with how the relationship develops. There are some books out there that didn’t start innocently, the main character is sometimes even harassed into the relationship. Just with real relationships I don’t think it’s possible to have a happy relationship if started with forms of harassment or even abuse. But Doukyusei starts off as a teenage love and develops into a long lasting relationship going through the trials and tribulations.
Another thing that I like about this series is the art style. It’s not like most manga’s out there with more of a fluid art style. I know that there’s 6 volumes published in Japan and just 3 volumes translated to English so I hope the other 3 will be picked up soon.
I was looking through Good Reads app while assembling my 2019 to read list for the challenge. I categorise my read books in there and also add new books that I wish to read when visiting the book shop. It’s hard for me to walk out of a book shop without a new book.
When I lived in Belfast and had access to Amazon Prime, I bought a Kindle. I already had an e-reader but the Kindle also let’s you watch their movies and series. I’m always on the fence with e-readers. You can bring as many books that you want on holiday or trips but on the other hand I miss the feel and the rustle of pages. One of the perks of ordering with Amazon, they give you vouchers and I bought the first novel of The Murder Squad because of my interest in Victorian Times and the tale of Jack the Ripper. There is a lot of Jack the Ripper pulp out there but it was a free book, so no harm done if it sucked.
For me the book was a real page turner and I devoured it in a week and ended up stalking the bookstores for the next book in the series to come out. In 2016 when Lost and Gone Forever came out I lost track of reading. I had to move back to the Netherlands in a hurry, packing up 3,5 years worth of life in one month so I could be home with my family again. The stress I had with my mother hospitalised and not being able to book a direct flight to go see her made the experience living abroad terrible all of a sudden. Being stuck in Liverpool airport for 8 hours gives you a lot time to rethink your decisions in life.
It wasn’t until 2019 when I picked up the last installment of the Murder Squad series: Lost and Gone Forever. The previous book, Harvest Man, left us with the protagonist being kidnapped by Jack the Ripper. While Jack was only known for killing women, his imprisonment and torture by a mysterious society made him very angry and bent on revenge. After his escape he kidnapped Inspector Walter Day in order to get back at everyone who had done him wrong. You’d almost feel sympathetic for Jack’s torture but he is still a mad serial killer.
Lost and Gone Forever is set on year after Harvest Man. Walter’s partner, Nevil Hammersmith, ended up being dismissed from the Murder Squad. He then formed a detective agency where he took up small cases while searching for his lost partner. He does not know that Jack has his hands on him and that he is the pawn for his revenge on those who took away his freedom.
Again this book is a real page turner, also due to the fact you want to find out if Walter ever gets home safe to his friends and family. You also want to find out who will get caught up in Jack’s mad desire for revenge. Some writers tend to become extremely focused on the gore of Jack’s killings but Alex keeps the focus more on Jack’s genius but twisted mind while he kills in style. In a terrible way he became in artisan in killing.
I’ll keep it spoiler free but this fifth and last installment of the Murder Squad series left me with a satisfied end of the series. I didn’t expect this ending but it works. The writing style is nicely paced and there is a good balance between the two stories intertwined in one book: Hammersmith’s search for his partner and friend and Jack’s road down revenge and madness. I’m a bit sad it’s over but dragging the story on would have not made future books enjoyable to read. All good things come to an end.
I started the Reading Challenge on Good Reads a couple of years ago. I think I started with 20 books to be read per year and now I already up to 30. I already enjoyed reading but this does help broaden my English vocabulary (since I only read English books). One day I hope to write a story of my own. But the downside of the challenge is that I am picking up too many books which are outside my taste. I am open to new stuff but lately I’ve picked up too many pulp that took me even longer to finish than I had planned.
Worst of all, reading feels like a chore to me because the competitive part of my brain is telling me to hurry up and pick up the next one. This is something I don’t want. The challenge is supposed to be fun and I’ve been pushing myself to read more and more every year. I’ve lost sight from what I love the most, which is a good story.
It’s not bad to reread your classics. Every year I reread a couple of Discworld novels because the stories are true gems to me. I shouldn’t feel bad that I can’t add them to the list because they aren’t new books. It’s better for me to stick with what I like, instead of buying a new book because the cover looks interesting. If I don’t like the writing style, the book will never interest me even if it’s about Victorian times, thieves and murder mysteries. I learned that the hard way spending €20 on a book and not even being able to finish a quarter of it.
I don’t know if I am going to finish the Reading Challenge this year. I’ve lost interest in the competition, but I am not going to stop reading. I’ve done better research with my other purchases and picked some new novels by writers I already know. Got to finish the story line one day. At least I am returning again to why I love books. Don’t need to make a competition out of it.