Guest Post: Tony Cliff on Writing Strong Female Characters and Giveaway!

Today’s special guest Tony Cliff has a guest post for us, and after, you can win a copy of his graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant.

Writing Strong Female Characters by Tony Cliff

I don’t know whether she meant it sincerely or whether she was just trying to tease me, but when a notably feminist-minded female friend saw the cover for my first little Delilah Dirk comic back in 2007, she said, “oh! You made a feminist character.” Knowing how vocal this friend could be about feminist issues, it was often fun to bother her about it with a grab-bag of stereotypically misogynist remarks, so she could have been returning the favour by maligning-but-not-really my labour of love. Pointing out that the project I’ve been working on for months secretly demonstrates feminist principles would have been a sort of, “ah ha, you’re part of the club and you didn’t even know it” statement. Whatever her intentions, she was the first person to posit that Delilah Dirk might be a “strong female character.” Since then, presumably because I am a human male and the incongruity is astonishing, I am often asked why and how I have written a “strong female character.” Let me tell you!

I’ll just pass by arguing about whether Delilah Dirk is, in fact, a “strong female character.” Since that first mention, enough people have framed her as such that I’m just going to roll with it. No one that I am aware of has argued that DD is specifically not a “strong female character.” If I’m reluctant to embrace that term (as indicated by my liberal use of scare-quotes), it’s probably due to my personal tendency to be contradictory, but also because I am occasionally suspicious of peoples’ motivations in throwing the term around.

I’ll also pass by the question, “why do you write strong female characters,” because Joss Whedon has already addressed that question very eloquently. Listen to him here (http://youtu.be/cYaczoJMRhs?t=1m44s).

If possible, I would also defer to Joss Whedon about how to write strong female characters. He has more experience than I do. I’m not entirely sure what makes a “strong female character.” Others have invested years of post-graduate study in this topic – there are tests to see if your work of fiction has sufficiently fully-featured female characters, there are classifications, there are archetypes and stereotypes… I just sat down one evening to invent an adventuresome character who seemed appealing.

Here is the extent to which I considered Delilah’s gender: inspired by Hornblower and Sharpe adventures during the Napoleonic Wars, I wanted to have a sort of logistically hyper-flexible (i.e. “globetrotting”) action character, and the genre and setting were already chock-a-block full of male characters. Plus, a female character in 1810 naturally faces more obstacles due to societal norms, which I thought would present more opportunities for conflict. It would generate laughs, too, because our society has come so far since then that the gender roles are comically outdated. Feel free to roll your eyes in disagreement, if necessary – again, I am a White Male. I was also motivated by the mainstream comics I had encountered – mostly Image comics of the late 1990s. The female characters were across-the-board boring. Too serious, too bland, no sense of humour, no depth or colour.

Meanwhile, throughout my life I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the platonic friendship of a few actual human females. I have studied them – made notes, measured and analyzed their behaviours and characteristics. I have dissected their droppings and run samples of their blood through complicated scientific equipment, at great personal expense. I have made a surprising number of astonishing conclusions!

There are differences, but all you need to figure them out is a little observation, a little time, and to not be a raging garbage bag of misogynist filth. Sure, there might be subtle differences between a male character and a female character who are identical except for their gender. But the gulf is not very wide. Maybe you know how to write characters who fall all along the personality spectrum, from a cruelly selfish man to heroically brave man, to a paralyzingly cowardly man. If so, you’re more than capable of embracing the socially and physiologically imposed differences between genders. They are minor by comparison. Yes, there may be aspects of a character that are forced on them by their physiognomy and anatomy, how they think of themselves, and how your society of other characters treat them based on their perceived gender, but this is where imagination and observation come in.

So how do you write a strong female character? And is this different from a believable female character? Is there something that separates strong from believable? Is it just the addition of swords? Is it some other “empowering” trait? After all, the forcefulness of how a character represents their gender is not necessarily an indication of their strength. I am suspicious that when people say “strong female character” what they really mean is “believable female character” or just anything except “curvaceous plot device.” Assuming you want to step away from having your character serve the limited purposes of a plot device (ahem, Princess Peach, ahem, every damsel in distress), I like two simple tools for the job: contrast and depth.

Contrast is a simple idea, and it applies to anything you’re creating, at any step in the process. It is a flexible and infinitely useful fundamental concept. Follow along. When you’re reading a WHERE’S WALDO book (or WALLY, I guess, for you Europeans), it is difficult to figure out Where Waldo is because he is surrounded by other humans, some of whom wear stripy things and/or share similar colours with Waldo. This is low contrast. It’s hard to tell where Waldo is because he’s surrounded by so many things that are similar. He gets lost in the Waldo-ness.

Conversely, if you put Waldo on a flat, deserted ice floe, voila! he’s easy to see. He is the only Waldo-shaped and -coloured object that’s visible. This is high contrast. Waldo stands out because of all the not-Waldo-ness around him. Meanwhile, the polar bear behind him? Neither you nor Waldo saw it coming, because a white polar bear against a white background is the epitome of low contrast.

You can (and ought to) apply principles of contrast to everything. Readability and understanding increase when contrast increases. So it goes when you are creating a character. Their happy moments stand out in contrast to their sad moments. Their angry, intense, moments stand out in contrast to their quiet, meditative, sitting-and-sipping-tea moments. I believe this is what sets an interesting (“strong/believable”) character apart from a dull character. Certainly, if you’ve heard the term “one-note character,” this is a way to combat that, and it’s the beginning of achieving a little depth of character. Just put them in situations where they’ll be motivated to have different feelings.

It is frustrating to realize that I have just given advice that amounts to, “give the character more than one feeling,” because if you think about it that simply, it seems inconceivable that anyone could make anything even passably interesting for the maker without clearing this low hurdle. But I guess it needs to be mentioned. Those dour, guns-blazing ladies in my late-90s Image comics all had approximately two-and-a-half modes of expression: “scowl”, “scowl harder”, and “laugh derisively.” Sometimes they would look very serious while sunbathing by the pool, or on a boat, or on cloudy days. Not exactly a rich tapestry of emotion.

Conversely, in his series of novels, Horatio Hornblower is a well-rounded, fully-coloured character. The stories are no major touchstones in the history of literature, but they are solid, enjoyable, and are improved dramatically by the depth that C.S. Forester gives his protagonist’s character. Hornblower’s strength, resolve, and bravery stand out so much more impressively because they are contrasted against his worry, neuroses, and his internal conflicts.

For advice on achieving depth of character, I’m once more going to defer to someone with more expertise than me. After all, this is the sort of topic that one could write a book about, as many have. I like Lajos Egri. His excellent book THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING was written in the 1930s and is designed for the playwrights of the time. Nevertheless, it is a timeless, effective guide to building integrated characters and stories, whether you’re writing a novel, comic, movie, or even an actual play, as preposterous as that notion may be. If you didn’t know when it was written, you might mistake it for being more modern than McKee’s STORY. Egri’s emphasis is on designing stories that could not exist if it weren’t for the characters within them. Weak characters? Weak story. If that seems to you like it might be a recipe for the type of dull literary fiction that lacks the excitement of a good adventurous or romantic story, please see my earlier thoughts re: Horblower. Strong characters make for strong stories. A dull story is elevated and made interesting by entertaining characters, whereas the greatest roller-coaster of a plot is still mind-numbingly dull without interesting characters.

Much of Egri’s approach involves building a character up from their backstory. He is good at providing direction on how to do so. Now, admittedly, backstory and depth are not the same thing. But they can work in tandem. I find that one inspires the other.

Boiled down as simply as possible, depth can be found by giving your character likes, dislikes, wants, needs, preferences, quirks, and fears, among other things. Characteristics. Indiana Jones began as an homage to the heroes of adventure serials from the early 20th century. One of those is H. Rider Haggard’s character Allan Quatermain. Admittedly, I have not read a lot of Quatermain stories – maybe only three-quarters of one story – but you’d think that would be enough to give me a sense of his character. I know him only vaguely as a pith-helmeted avatar for the readers who would have revelled in what would have been exotic adventures back when those stories were written. What does everyone know about Indiana Jones? Whip, hat, competitive, and he’s scared of snakes. It’s not much, but it’s enough to be interesting, and it’s all established in the first ten minutes of his first story. The same can not be said for Quatermain. Say what you will about Wikipedia, feel free to contrast Quatermain’s “Appearance and Character” section with that of Indiana Jones or Horatio Hornblower.

At this point, I’ve wandered away from specifically talking about writing “strong female characters.” Though… I like to think that’s the eventual goal – some time far in the future, we might not need to differentiate between “strong female characters” and “strong characters.” Maybe you shouldn’t be writing strong female characters. Maybe you ought to write strong characters, making them ladies when that makes sense and men when that makes sense. Based on what I hear on Twitter and elsewhere, I can acknowledge that we’re not there yet, but I also get the feeling that I might be preaching to the choir: the type of person most likely to read about how to write a female character is the type who’s probably already inclined to do so, and that person is not the person who needs to be convinced of the value of a treating your differently-gendered characters equally.

So my hope is that you’ll keep writing your characters, and hopefully I’ve shared some viewpoints that complement your own. Perhaps I’ve simply illuminated some of my own biases, and you’ve encountered a type of thinking or some cognitive mistakes you want to avoid. Either way, I hope you’ll keep writing (or start writing) richly-developed characters and sending them out into the world so that, eventually, somewhere down the road, no one feels that a character’s gender requires a special approach to writing.

Thank you, Tony!!

About the book:

Lovable ne’er-do-well Delilah Dirk has travelled to Japan, Indonesia, France, and even the New World. Using the skills she’s picked up on the way, Delilah’s adventures continue as she plots to rob a rich and corrupt Sultan in Constantinople. With the aid of her flying boat and her newfound friend, Selim, she evades the Sultan’s guards, leaves angry pirates in the dust, and fights her way through the countryside. For Delilah, one adventure leads to the next in this thrilling and funny installment in her exciting life.

A little bit Tintin, a little bit Indiana Jones, Delilah Dirk is a great pick for any reader looking for a smart and foolhardy heroine…and globetrotting adventures.

Giveaway:

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Review: ZOM-B: City by Darren Shan

 

Title: ZOM-B: City

Author: Darren Shan

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

After escaping a secret military complex amid the zombie apocalypse, B roams the streets of a very changed London, dirty and dangerous and eerily quiet, except for the shuffling of the undead. Once again, B must find a way to survive against brain-eating zombies –and now also against those who have seized control of the city. With danger lurking around every corner and no one to trust, B must decide whether to join the creepy Mr. Dowling in exchange for his protection. When everyone around you is dead, where do you turn for help?


Review:

Darren Shan’s ZOM-B books are like crack.  You can’t read just one, and because each one ends on a cliffhanger, you squirm with anticipation until the next one hits store shelves.  While I normally abhor cliffhangers, the release schedule is accelerated, so you get a new installment every 3 months.  The story is also so straightforward that there’s not much to forget from one book to the next.  B, an revived zombie who managed to keep her intelligence, is fighting to keep her undead life.  The world is a dangerous place since the zombie apocalypse, even for a zombie.  Danger lurks behind every corner, and only quick thinking and luck keep B from a final, horrible death.

Told in tense, in your face prose, ZOM-B: City follows B from her escape from the underground research bunker to her journey through a devastated London.  Along the way, she encounters a handful of surviving humans.  None of these guys are right in the head, but after witnessing the end of the world, I guess everyone is entitled to their idiosyncrasies.  Some of the living want nothing more than to end her unnatural life, while others, though wary, mean her no harm.  As she wanders from one encounter to the next, she pieces together the reality of the new world after the zombie attacks.  Billions have been wiped out, the government is ineffective, and martial law is in effect.  The remaining humans have huddled together in walled compounds, and the search is on for survivors.  B thinks that she can help save humanity – since she hasn’t become a mindless monster, perhaps a cure can be manufactured from her blood.

Shan pushes the envelope with this series.  It’s truly horrific; he doesn’t shy away from gore and violence, and he paints an interesting picture of how the survivors would behave.  They have all been twisted by their experiences, B included.  They have all seen things that aren’t meant to be seen, and there is no going back to a time before the bloodshed and death of the zombie uprising.  Mr Dowling is particularly disgusting.  This sicko clown accessorizes with human remains.  I really want to know his story, and what’s the deal with the mutants?   How did the whole zombie nightmare happen in the first place?  These short novels are impossible to put down, and I look forward to hunkering down with each new installment.  While occasionally disgusting, ZOM-B isn’t so scary that I’m afraid to read it after dark, and plot advances so quickly that it’s hard not to gobble up each new installment in one sitting.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! The Quantum League: Spell Robbers by Matthew J Kirby

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café.  I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share.  More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents.  There is an allure to a beautiful cover.  Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I love this cover! It screams FUN.  Will The Quantum League by Matthew J Kirby be as exciting and action-packed as it looks?

January 2014

 

A magical crime saga filled with marvelous thrills, high action, and extraordinary adventure, from critically acclaimed author Matthew J. Kirby.
After Ben Warner is recruited to join a "science camp" led by the eccentric quantum physicist Dr. Madeleine Hughes, he quickly realizes it’s no regular science camp. Along with his new friend, Peter, Ben discovers the secret, powerful art of Actuation — the ability to change reality by simply imagining it differently.
When a mysterious group of men invade Dr. Hughes’s laboratory, abducting her and stealing her precious equipment, Ben and Peter are suddenly caught up in a turf war between dangerous actuators desperate for Dr. Hughes’s innovative technology. And as Ben and Peter are pulled into a perilous, hidden world full of impossibilities now made possible, will their combined powers be enough to save Dr. Hughes and vanquish their enemies before it’s too late?
From Edgar Award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby comes a fast-paced, boldly imagined tale of friendship, deadly adventure, and the infinite power of imagination.

Review: Paradox by A J Paquette

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

   Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

   Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth.   They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?


Review:

I was excited to dive into Paradox by AJ Paquette for a number of reasons.  First, Paquette wrote one of my favorite reads from last year, the moving Nowhere Girl.  Second, it’s a science fiction novel, and there just aren’t enough of those to go around.  And third, the premise sounded fascinating.  Was it?  Yes and no.

Ana wakes up strapped to a chair in a rocket ship.  She has no memories or recollection of her past.  She doesn’t even know what she looks like.  She only knows her name because she has a name tag pinned to her jumpsuit.  She finds a note instructing her to Experience.  Discover. Survive.  Talk about a bare-bones mission statement!  At least she’s well supplied, with a massive backpack that seems to contain her every need.  Whoever packed it must have been a boy scout.

In rapid succession, she is attacked by a monstrous, dagger-toothed worm, discovers that she wasn’t the only one on the rocket, and learns she has a limited amount of time to accomplish her goal, whatever that is.  Ana’s lack of memories and knowledge of her past made for a tense, gripping read.  It also led to a great deal of frustration on my part when it’s revealed that her companions have retained all of their memories, and that they know exactly what’s going on.  While that was crucial for her mission parameters, it’s one of my least favorite tropes in YA fiction.  It’s almost as though the other characters think the protagonist is too stupid to be trusted with the knowledge needed to know what’s going on.  Instead, our intrepid little heroine stays alive through a mixture of luck and  sheer determination, marching towards the end of the book.  I felt the same way here, and maybe it’s because the other characters make no secret that they know what’s going on, and keep insisting that they’ll fess up the details at the end of their journey.  Should they ever arrive at that destination.

Along the way, they are attacked repeatedly by that scary worm thing.  It was stalking them.  I was hoping for a guest appearance by Tremors’ star, Kevin Bacon, which would have proven beyond a doubt that all steps truly do lead to Kevin.  Ana and company are also in a race against time.  Ana awakens wearing a timer that is counting down the hours until the end of their mission.  What happens when the timer reaches 00?  Nope, we don’t know that, either, but it must be pretty awful.

I found Paradox hard to put down.  It is a runaway freight train of adventure.  Danger! Danger! Will Robinson! It’s everywhere!  The writing is tense and in the moment.  At first the third person present tense narrative turned me off, but I quickly grew accustomed to it.  It kept me engaged in the story, running frantically with Ana and Todd as they navigated the strange, deadly world they found themselves on.  I wanted to know what the heck was going on, and how Ana was going to survive, given her massive deficiencies.  And the counter was always there, steadily ticking toward…what? Doom?  Rescue?  Dinner??

There is one caution I will give, and that is that Paradox reads more like a middle grade novel than YA.  Since I enjoy reading both, I wasn’t put off by the fact that I thought this book skewed to younger readers than I had expected.

Looking for a frenzied summer read?  Paradox flies along like a summer action flick, offering tons of adventure and excitement.  There’s running!  There’s mountain climbing!  There’s a scary jaunt through a dead forest!  And did I mention – killer worms?  Yeah, it’s got those, too.  So, my verdict for Paradox by AJ Paquette is just one word – FUN.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Rockstar Blog Tours

Interview with Cole Gibsen, Author of Senshi

Cole Gibsen is visiting the virtual offices today.  I loved Katana, so I’m delighted that she could drop by to answer a few questions about Senshi, the next book in the series.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Cole Gibsen] I’m a wannabe superhero who loves sewing, comic books, and Chinese food. My nail polish is always chipped.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Senshi?

[Cole Gibsen] Senshi is the sequel to my debut novel and ohmigosh, did I have fun writing it. Not only does Rileigh accept the role as a warrior, but Quentin gets a chance to prove his worth, too!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Cole Gibsen] It was my love of martial arts and Bruce Lee movies that inspired me to write the first KATANA.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Rileigh?

[Cole Gibsen] Fearless, snarky, and stubborn. So I guess that would be fenarkorn. You know, I think we’re on to something here. I’m calling the people at Webster to get this recognized as a word!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Rileigh had a theme song, what would it be?

[Cole Gibsen] When I wrote the first book I had Rebirth by Skillet playing on loop. There couldn’t be a more perfect song for Rileigh.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Quentin won’t leave the house without.

[Cole Gibsen] His sunglasses. I always imagined him to be very much like me in that respect. My eyes are super sensitive to light so I have to wear my sunglasses at all times or else I have to do the squinty eye thing while I drive which is really no fun.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Kim’s pockets?

[Cole Gibsen] 1. A pocketknife—really, why bother with anything less than a sword?

2. Gum—Rileigh makes him clench his jaw enough, no need to add to the strain.

3. Fast food receipt—As focused as Kim is with training, I don’t think he’d eat anything that wouldn’t keep him in optimum condition. Rileigh on the other hand…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Cole Gibsen] Stan Lee. Comic books were my life growing up. And I’m not ashamed to admit I still read them.  My goal when writing KATANA was to see if I could take a comic book concept and put it into book form.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Cole Gibsen] 1. A mug of hot tea.

2. My kitty thinks I need her on my lap.

3. NO INTERNET

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Cole Gibsen] Does comic book count? I just read Amazing Spiderman #700 and the ending, I won’t go into it because it’s a major spoiler alert, made me cry. When you invest so much time into a character, they become almost like family. So when they die, it makes an impact.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Cole Gibsen] When I was seventeen I found myself homeless and living out of my car. Back in those days there were no cell phones so my only source of entertainment were the books I checked out from the library that I read in my car with a flashlight. I remember the first book I ever read that really transported me to another world so viscerally was Deerskin by Robin McKinley. I’d loved how this poor girl who suffered and was abused terribly by her father, was able to rise above her past and become so much more than she’d ever dreamed. To this day, that book still haunts and inspires me. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Cole Gibsen] So many things! I like to sew and craft things out of felt. I also play the harmonica and sing in an eighties –themed rock band.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Cole Gibsen] My website: www.colegibsen.com

My twitter: www.twitter.com/colegibsen

My facebook: www.facebook.com/colegibsen

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Senshi from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the link below.

About the book:

Is Rileigh’s only hope for salvation to team up with her sworn enemy?

Rileigh Martin just wants to do normal teenage things, like go on romantic dates with Kim, her boyfriend and past life soul mate. Although that seems impossible when she’s the reincarnation of Senshi, a fifteenth century samurai warrior. After a ninja ambush leaves her unable to control her ki powers, Rileigh vows to get them under control before her friends lose more than their eyebrows. But when Kim leaves her for his past life betrothed and the other samurai stop talking to her, Rileigh realizes she doesn’t have any friends left to worry about.

As the ninja attacks increase, Rileigh learns that the reincarnated kunoichi, a powerful female ninja, wants to kill her in order to reclaim her destructive powers. Alone and with increasingly unstable powers, Rileigh’s only offer of help comes from Whitley, her sworn past life enemy. Rileigh knows she doesn’t stand a chance against the kunoichi by herself, but Whitley’s sudden allegiance might be hiding a much deadlier agenda.

Weekly Shonen Jump–January 28th Edition

This issue clocks in at 171 pages.

First up is Toriko Chapter 219- I guess there is nothing as intimidating as group of pissed off chefs.  As the Gourmet Corp launches a fearsome attack during the cooking competition, Toriko and his buddies counter with some powerful, yet ultimately useless attacks.  Oh, my!  Komatsu is in trouble!  I don’t think all the cooking skills in the world are going to help him save himself from the freaks attacking him.  It’s a good thing the other chefs seem more competent at defending themselves.  Plus they will probably get pissed if their carefully prepared dishes are ruined.  This series is still not one of my favorites, but at least there were lots of speed lines and attacks to keep me somewhat entertained.

One Piece – chapter 696 – Lots of eating and celebrating their escape from the island.  The rescued kids are going to go with the Navy, and Luffy has big plans! He’s going to crush all four emperors! Hopefully this wraps up all involvement of Caesar, because I thought he was obnoxious and I’m not going to miss him much.

Naruto – Chapter 617 – Naruto hands out chakra like it’s candy.  The ninjas get ready for an all out attack.  Naruto’s shoulder is dislocated!  But wait! Now it’s not!  Can Naruto’s buddies keep Neji’s death from being a tragic waste?  Maybe we’ll find out next issue!  Nah, probably not, but maybe the fighting will start again?

Nisekoi - Chapter 59 – Christmas chapter! Chitoge’s mom is coming home for the holiday!  She’s a terror, too.  Everyone is terrified of her, despite her less than imposing appearance.  When her secretary collapses, she quickly lassoes Raku in to handle the job until Christmas Eve.  Poor guy!  She wants to see what he’s made of, and I think his work experience with her won’t be pleasant.  I am curious to see just how bad Chitoge’s mom can be!  If he can stick it out, she’ll reward him with a stay for two in a penthouse suite at a deluxe hotel.  Can he make it that long?

One-Punch Man – Chapter 2 – Another short chapter, giving more background on Saitama.  He became One-Punch Man after taking on a crab dude, and then trained like a fiend, losing his hair (as well as his good looks) in the process.  I am a bit disappointed with the length of the chapters so far, and the lack of a story.  Maybe we’ll get a story next issue?

Bleach – Chapter 524 – Oh MY!  The battle between Unohana and Zaraki rocks!  That is all.

Cross Manage – Chapter 18 – Soccer team manager Chiumi drops by to watch the lacrosse teams’ second game, and she has a crush on Sakurai!  She’s studied up on lacrosse, and she’s all ready to wow him with her knowledge of the game and  the team.  She knows Sakurai has some problems communicating with girls, and she’s going to help him with that, and earn some brownie points at the same time.  This chapter was bogged down with lacrosse rules, and it didn’t hold my attention like previous chapters. 

Kintoki One-shot – Cute color splash page!  Though I enjoyed this one-shot, it’s more a throw away chapter than anything else.  Great art but not much substance.  It did get a few chuckles from me, and that’s saying a lot since I am sick as a dog today.

Oh, they will start running a colorized DBZ starting next issue!  And there will be new series announcements next week, too!

Weekly Shonen Jump–January 21st Issue

Last week I was dealing with a house full of sick people (including me!) so I didn’t get a chance to read the January 14 issue of WSJA until today, so I’m just going to skip a recap of it and jump right into the January 21 issue.  This is the first issue of the simulations release with the Japanese magazine, and the magazine has been renamed Weekly Shonen Jump.  Good-bye Alpha and good-bye waiting for an English translation! 

This week’s issue is 185 pages, and introduced One-Punch Man to the line-up.  I have also discovered, much to my chagrin, that my by beloved Kenshin will only appear monthly as it is actually published in Jump Square.  Boo hoo!  But let’s put that disappointment behind us, and dive into this week’s issue of WSJ!

Naruto Chapter 616 – Nice color spread this issue and a congratulatory message from creator Masashi Kishimoto for going simultaneous!  After getting a pep talk about not letting Neji’s death be in vain, Naruto gets a second wind (or probably 4th or 5th with as long as this battle has been going on).  His chakra recharges and he quickly shares his renewed energy with the other ninja.  Yay!  We also get brave, determined declarations that he will never give up trying to save his comrades, and that despite loss and heartbreak, ninja will endure!  Very motivating!  These last two chapters have been my favorite since I have been reading the magazine, and the plot is starting to make more sense.  All of these quick battle chapters can get confusing when you just get dumped into them, and they last for, what, over 2 months now?

One-Punch Man Chapter One – New series!  Uhhhh.  Short chapter.  Saitama is a hero for fun, and he’s looking for an opponent who he can’t beat in one punch.  Uhhh…  Not sure about this one.  I like the art, but I don’t like Saitama’s character design.  He looks like a dork with an egg for a head.  This chapter was so short that I don’t think it was a good intro to the series.  Maybe next week’s chapter will knock my socks off?

One Piece Chapter 695 – Finally!  Luffy and the gang has escaped from the lab!  They are out in the fresh air and they won’t be victims of the poison gas!  Buffalo and Baby 5 scoop up Caesar and try to make a break for it, but no-uh-uh!  Usopp isn’t having any of that!  This is a quick, fun chapter with lots of great art and great poses.  I was getting bored of the lab drama, so I am looking forward to their next adventure!

Nisekoi Chapter 58 – Miyamoto has lost her glasses!  Ichijo and Onodera help her look for them, and Ruri, frustrated that they like each other, but won’t confess their feelings, tries to get them together.  Since Ichijo is so dense, her efforts don’t pay off.  Not a very original chapter, but the expressive art and the clueless Ichijo made it a fun read.

Bleach Chapter 523 -  Very cool color page get things kicked off.  Ichigo and Renji get to play with Oh-Etsu Nimaiya, the creator of Zanpaku-to!  More accurately, he gets to play with them.  He throws them in the middle of a horde of angry Asauchi, which are the ultimate Zanpaku-tos that can become anything.  They are pissed at how Ichigo and Renji have been using their Zanpaku-tos.  Quick shift to  Yachiru and Zaraki, who are facing off in the Soul Society’s underground prison.  These guys are so serious!  Someone is going to get hurt!  And then – the chapter ends!  This is a great setup for next week, and has  me re-engaged in the story.  I love Ichigo, but I am intrigued by Yachiru and want to see her and Zaraki cross swords.  I am sure it will be an epic confrontation!

Cross Manage Chapter 17 – I love this one.  The team is playing their first match, and after a motivating (more accurately, embarrassing) pep talk from Sakurai, the girls have been given the confidence to play all out!  This is a feel good series, and I have enjoyed it every week.  I keep gushing about it, but I love sports manga and wish there were more series available for me to read.  When are we going to get more Crimson Hero? 

Toriko Chapter 218 – Gourmet Corp is invading!  Their giraffe birds and other weird creatures are out for blood!  Starjun tries to make a grab for Komatsu, but Toriko is there to save him!  While this hasn’t been my favorite manga, this week’s was pretty good, probably because I wasn’t inundated with a billion new chef’s and their specialties.  The constant character intros has been driving me nuts!  Wow, I might not cringe next week when I come to the next chapter.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Chapter 26 – I just don’t get this one.  It is boring and I can’t force myself to get interested in the plot.  I like the art and the character designs, but the story itself – yawn.  I don’t get the rules of the game, and so I find myself just skimming this one every week. 

And that’s it for this week!  Next week there’s a one-shot by Akira Toriyama!

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha–January 7th Edition

Let’s take a peek through the pages of this week’s WSJA!  I had a crazy busy week so I didn’t get a chance to read it until today!  This week’s issue clocks in at 153 pages, and once again, my favorite manga, Kenshin, is not included.  Boo hoo! Maybe next week?  There’s an announcement at the beginning of this issue that previous issues of the magazine will no longer expire.  Previously, WSJA was subject to a one year rental.  Now, your issues will never expire!

One Piece Ch 693 – Luffy and the gang are still in deadly danger!  They are still trying to escape the lab with the kids.  Baby 5 and Buffalo are performing weird morphosis to try to retrieve Caesar.  Just let him go!   I have only been reading WSJA for a few issues, and I am already sick of Caesar!  He is gloating with his weird wavy hair, delighted to have Smoker’s heart.  Shu ho ho!!!  Stop stealing page time and just go away!  If Luffy could take you out with one punch, you are unworthy of so many weekly panels!  But since Luffy was supposed to capture him, not punt him into next week’s issue, I fear that we will have to put up with his clowny face for several more chapters!  And, oh, yeah, Luffy, you had better run, because someone is planning on blowing up the lab and the island!!

Naruto Ch 614 – The battle has gotten grim!  Naruto and the ninja forces can’t catch a break! Ten Tails is obliterating the good guys!  Obito and Madara are sniping at each other, and it appears that Obito has the upper hand for the time being.  As Naruto’s allies fall all around him, he finally gets the “look’”!  That look that promises defeat to all of his enemies!  Just wait, Obito and Madara! You will soon be toast!!  Well, okay, probably not for another handful of chapters, but your downfall is now only a matter of time, because you have royally pissed on Naruto’s Wheaties!

Nisekoi Ch 56 – It’s that dreaded time in the lives of Japanese school kids – class grade point rankings have been revealed!  Tachibana has done terribly, and she recruits Raku to help her study.  Chitoge tags along, not happy with the thought of Raku and Marika having an all nighter together without supervision.  This chapter was a disappointment.  I feel like I have read it a hundred times before, and there was nothing new added to keep it from being stale.  Hoping for better next time.

Toriko Ch 26 – Phooey.  After sitting through the endless character intros for the cooking battle, the preliminaries are covered in just a page.  One page!  Instead of seeing how Komatsu rises to the challenge of his first cooking festival, we are told that he made it to the finals.  Ugh!

Cross Manage Ch 15 – The bet with Ryo wraps up, and Sakurai finally discovers Misora’s strong point!  Just in time, too, because the tournament starts in one week.  I love this series so far.  Clean, expressive art, fun characters, and plenty of sports angst!  I didn’t even mind the explanation of the tournament rankings and rules.  The tension is cranked up for the lacrosse team’s first game, which kicks off in the next chapter!  Yay!!

Bleach Ch 521 – Okay, so Ichigo and Renji eat in this chapter.  Yes, yes, they do.  They eat a lot.  They stuff their faces with tons of delicious, though weird looking, food, to prepare for their next phase of training!  So, yup, that’s about it for this one.  Sigh.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal  Ch 25 – This series, unfortunately, doesn’t interest me at all.  Reading about  kids playing a dueling card game just doesn’t do it for me.  Some of the illustrations are cool, but the whole concept bores me.  The rules make no sense, the stats don’t impress, and I usually flip through these pages as quickly as possible to reach the end of the chapter.  The numbers game as begun!  Kaito is dueling a numbers hunter brought by Kyoji, so he’s after both Kaito and Yuma!  Cards are destroyed!  There are lots of special effects!  We are on the last page!  Maybe it will make more sense next time around?

One more week until the simultaneous release with the Japanese version of WSJA!