Research Ramblings: Spartan Women Part 15

As noted in my January 9, 2014 post, the lives of Spartan women were completely unlike those of their Greek sisters, and I’m finishing up my series on these differences with today’s fact:

Spartan women could drink wine as part of their daily fare.

Apparently other city states did not approve of women drinking wine although I’m not sure why. I should also note that drunkenness was severely frowned upon in Sparta. Spartan men did drink wine as part of their military regimen but in severe moderation (whatever that means). So maybe the Spartan men were simply more willing to share their wine with the women?

And that concludes this series on the Spartan women! For those interested in learning more about them, these are the sources I used in my research:

Women in Ancient Greece by Sue Blumdell

Spartan Women by Sarah B. Pomeroy

The Spartans by Paul Cartledge

Manga Review: Voice Over! Seiyu Academy Vol. #04

For hard core manga and anime fans, the voice acting world has the same kind of glamor and mystique as Hollywood. So it’s no surprise that the world of Maki Minami’s manga Voice Over! Seiyu Academy portrays it as such. Viz Media has just released Volume 4 of the series and you can read on for the review. (To see previous reviews of the series, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

After days of grueling training at Yamada’s special voice acting retreat, Hime can finally bring forth her prince voice! Now she’s ready to start her next job as a recurring character in an exciting new anime. But her first day on the set doesn’t go as she’d hoped. Why do her costars and the producers seem to hate her when they just met her?!

The Review

The focus remains on Hime’s rapid entry into the voice acting world. Thanks to Producer Yamada’s training retreat, she finally finds a way to use her Prince Voice consistently. It requires the use of Mizuki’s glasses so she likens it to a magical girl transformation. The comparison is fairly appropriate as the “transformation” has a time limit and works only with one set of glasses. I’m predicting that these restrictions will come back to haunt Hime at some point (i.e. she’ll lose the glasses at a critical moment), but for now, she’s passed the test and moves on to the next stage – a new voice acting role!

Two challenges arise the instant she takes the job. One, the cast and crew are giving her the cold shoulder. Two, though she’s using her Prince Voice, her recordings are deemed unusable by the studio. Part of this is Yamada’s doing. Instead of having Hime audition for the role, he gets her the part by stipulating it as a condition in Mizuki’s contract with the production company. No one wants to deal with someone they’re forced to hire, especially a newbie, so the production crew’s attitude is understandable. But Hime’s obliviousness to her inability to act, not so much. (She is in a voice acting school, after all.) However, her terrible acting provides an opportunity to showcase another aspect of the craft: getting into character.

Her quest to breathe personality into her characters leads her back to Senri Kudo’s apartment of cats. Thus, Hime has one hot guy (Mizuki) openly supporting her on the front lines, and a second hot guy (Senri Kudo) unwittingly supporting her behind the scenes. Their cat-centric friendship is pretty bizarre, especially when Hime (dressed as Shiro) rubs noses with Senri. However, this provides Hime an excuse to interact with her standoffish classmate as well as observe the voice acting techniques that she obviously isn’t picking up at school.

By the end of the volume, Hime’s making progress. What I hope this means is that she starts living up to the promise Yamada and the school principal see in her. Thus far, Hime’s main enemy has been her own lack of skill and awareness, and it’s time she faces a challenge that’s not herself.

Extras include embedded author’s remarks, translation notes, another mini-Mitchy manga, and the bonus mini-manga Catherine’s Diary.

In Summary

Hime finally manages to bring forth her Prince Voice and gets rewarded with a recurring anime role. However, she lives up to her “super amateur” title with her appalling acting skills. Again, Minami-sensei has Hime blundering in the recording studio in a manner that’s hard to stomach, and I find myself wondering why anyone bothers with her rather than cheering along with her supporters.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Research Ramblings: Spartan Women Part 14

As noted in my January 9, 2014 post, the lives of Spartan women were completely unlike those of their Greek sisters, and I’m continuing my series on these differences with today’s fact:

Spartan women did not make a spectacle mourning the deceased.

Elsewhere in ancient Greece, the passing of a loved one was occasion for a spectacle. Women played a major role in funerals, and rites included a procession with wailing, dirges, beating of breasts, and tearing of hair.

This kind of lamentation was forbidden among the Spartans. Women did not make a show of their grief but were expected to go on with life as usual. And if a man died in combat, they were supposed to celebrate his death, not weep over his remains. Not that they’d have any remains to weep over. If a soldier fell on the battlefield, they buried him there.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartan women!

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher Vol. #16

Mafuyu is a high school delinquent who wants to turn over a new leaf. So when she transfers schools, she thinks she’ll finally be able to live the life of a normal girl. There’s just one problem: her teacher  Mr. Saeki is a bigger delinquent than she is!

Oresama Teacher is a shojo manga that offers humor of the silly variety. Volume 16 has recently been released, and you can read on for the review. (For those who are interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

After returning from the school trip, Mafuyu and the rest of the Public Morals Club learn all about Akki’s adventure with Komari. The story makes Mafuyu realize that all the attacks from the Student Council so far have been solo affairs. Why haven’t they teamed up to take down the Public Morals Club? Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, Mafuyu sneaks into Hanabusa’s lair…the Student Council Room!

The Review

I’d thought the Akki/Komari arc finished at the end of Volume 15, but it was actually a chapter short. Their story actually concludes in Volume 16′s Chapter 88, which also provides a postscript for the school trip. It’s mostly Public Morals Club silliness (I’m still not sure what Akki’s ropes and the goofy three-on-three fight are about), but it does make loud and clear the positive changes Akki has had on Komari.

Once that wraps up, the story takes on a darker tone as Hayasaka, of all people, broaches the topic of strategy in the Public Morals Club/Student Council struggle. But the question he raises about why the Student Council members haven’t attacked them all at once is valid and one I’ve wondered about myself. It’s an unusually thoughtful moment, and seeing Mafuyu and Takaomi run through tactical scenarios is a nice reminder of the street smarts that made them top-level banchos. The discussion leads to a badly timed visit to the Student Council Room where Mafuyu gets her first glimpse of the final member of the Student Council, Runa Momochi.

Momochi doesn’t seem much of a threat, but shortly after Mafuyu’s run-in with her, Okegawa and Akki abruptly resign from the Public Morals Club. Then Mafuyu receives a blackmail note in her locker, and it’s clear the club is under attack again. Tsubaki-sensei creates great tension in these pages, keeping readers guessing about the content of the blackmail notes and the blackmailer’s intent. At the same time, there’s plenty of humor to be had, all completely in character, even when Takaomi takes a hilariously overprotective stance over his two remaining Public Morals Club members.

The volume ends with Mafuyu and company starting to turn the tide and a glimpse into the truth behind the blackmailing scheme. The intrigue of Volume 16 is laying the foundation for major drama, and I look forward to seeing how the Public Morals Club handles it.

Lots of extras in this volume, including Characters and Story Thus Far, 4-panel comics interspersed throughout the book, the results of a character contest poll, and a diagram of character relationships.

In Summary

After a final wrap up of the Akki/Komari rom com, Oresama Teacher delves into the realm of intrigue. Between the Student Council’s strange solo attack strategy, the lack of intel on Student Council member Momochi, and blackmail, the plot keeps a tight grip on readers’ attention. At the same time, the comedy level remains high with Tsubaki-sensei capitalizing on our characters’ quirks as they take extreme measures to counter their unknown opponent. It’s an excellent blend of mystery and humor and the best volume of this series I’ve read thus far.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Research Ramblings: Spartan Women Part 13

As noted in my January 9, 2014 post, the lives of Spartan women were completely unlike those of their Greek sisters, and I’m continuing my series on these differences with today’s fact:

Spartan women did not have to weave.

In other city states, a woman’s main occupation after child rearing and household management was weaving. Back then, producing cloth was a lengthy process, and any idle time a woman might have went into spinning and weaving.

Spartan women also had the responsibility of raising children and managing their homes, but they also had the benefit of the slave/serf helot population. The helots took care of menial tasks, including cloth production, which freed a Spartan woman’s time for other pursuits. However, that didn’t mean the women of Sparta didn’t know how to weave. They could if they chose, and some believe that they focused their efforts on special pieces, such as those for religious purposes, rather than everyday items like towels.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartan women!

Manga Review: My Little Monster Vol. 1

There’s the type of shojo manga where a girl really can envision herself as the heroine. And then there are those where the characters are constantly going off the deep end. My Little Monster falls into the latter category, and if your taste in high school romance leans toward the improbable and wacky, this title might be up your alley.

Back Cover Blurb

Mizutani is a self-absorbed overachiever, concerned only with maintaining the highest grades in school. Haru is an impulsive short tempered brute, who scares everyone with his explosive bursts of violence. Haru gets suspended on the first day of school when he encounters some bullies harassing a student and dispatches the bullies with great bloody violence. Mizutani is tasked with delivering school materials to Haru who interprets this as an act of friendship and latches on to Mizutani, much to her dismay. And so begins a strange and potentially combustible relationship!

The Review

The back cover touts this manga as an-opposite-attract high school romance, but it isn’t exactly. It’s more accurate to call it a story about the gradual socialization of two people with different forms of dysfunction. The heroine, Shizuku Mizutani, is an extremely driven student who studies to the point of obsession. While she functions perfectly well among other people, she has no desire to make friends or cultivate a social life. As a character, her personality is boringly simple. Contrast that to the male lead, Haru Yoshida, who is a bewildering mix of contradictions. He’s a whiz at academics but can’t tell when people are taking advantage of him. He’s strong enough to beat up the school bullies, but he’s terrified of other students. When he first meets Shizuku, he flees from her, jumps her, and declares her his friend in quick succession.

The events of Chapter 1 that bring them together are a bit of a stretch (I can’t really see Shizuku standing up for a weirdo that poured soda on her head), but if you can swallow those first pages, you can enjoy the subsequent journey of two awkward teens changing one another and expanding their horizons together. Coming alongside them on this endeavor are Asako Natsume, a super cute idiot who’s struggling to make female friends, and Sasayan, a member of the school baseball team who attended Haru’s middle school and the one normal person in this cast of misfits.

While this is a romance, Robico places a higher value on comedy than tender moments. The first kiss takes place in Chapter 2 and is a laughable affair rather than the stereotypical shojo fond memory. So while our couple does grapple with the newness of love, Robico-sensei generally uses those feelings to spark some kind of crazy outburst, usually on the part of Haru.

For those familiar with the anime, the manga covers the same general territory with some minor rearrangements. It also provides additional commentary and details not included in the anime. For instance, it spells out the reason Haru drops his pants when he hears about gym class, which wasn’t clear at all in the anime.

Extras include four-panel comics interspersed through the book and translation notes.

In Summary

It’s the angst of adolescence with a healthy dose of impulsive insanity. Haru and Shizuku may be at the top of their class, but when it comes to human relationships, this duo is way behind the pack. While there is an element of first love, this story’s more about the characters exploring beyond emotional boundaries that have been in place for years. So if you like unstable behavior with lots of internal introspection, give My Little Monster a try.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Research Ramblings: Spartan Women Part 12

As noted in my January 9, 2014 post, the lives of Spartan women were completely unlike those of their Greek sisters, and I’m continuing my series on these differences with today’s fact:

Spartan daughters could inherit property.

Half the amount their brothers received, to be exact. Actually, Sparta was not unique in this respect. Inheritance laws of Gortyn (Crete) also allocated that amount to their daughters.

In contrast, an Athenian girl received nothing. If she were her father’s only offspring, she was actually considered part of the inheritance. In that case, the property would go to her father’s closest male relative, who would marry her to seal the deal.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartan women!

Manhwa Review: Goong Vol. #14

What if modern Korea was a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s? That’s the backdrop for Goong: the Palace, a manhwa that got turned into a wildly popular drama and musical.

Set in an alternate world where the Korean monarchy still exists, the story follows Chae-Kyung Shin, an strong-willed commoner who attends the same high school as Shin Lee, the crown prince. After accidentally witnessing Shin proposing to his girlfriend Hyo-rin and being rejected, Chae-Kyung unexpectedly learns that she will marry Shin and become crown princess due to a promise between the former king and her grandfather.

Yen Press has just released Volume 14 of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of Volume 13, go here.)

Back Cover Blurb

When a leisurely hot-springs trip with the Queen Mother intended to bring the future royal couples closer throws Prince Shi, Hyo-Rin, Yul, and Mi-Roo together, fireworks are on the horizon. It quickly becomes painfully clear to all involved – especially Hyo-Rin – that Shin has his ex-wife, Chae-Kyung, on his mind. And when Yul and Shin find themselves alone, Shin confronts Yul, asking him to come clean about his part in Shin’s divorce from Chae-Kyung! To make matters worse, Shin isn’t the only one with sneaking suspicions about the divorce. The king is about to throw himself into the fray by taking Yul to task!

The Review

The Queen Mother takes the future royal couples with her on a hot springs trip, but her plans to spark romance between the pairs fall flat. There’s angst on Hyo-Rin’s part as she yearns for Shin’s attention, but Mi-Roo is the one who dominates the trip and, actually, the first half of the book.

Mi-Roo is hardly endearing, especially when she bickers with nasty Eunuch Kong, but she’s the type of character that makes things happen. She’s bold enough to knock Yul off a yacht, sly enough to manipulate the Queen Mother into doing as she wants, and clever enough to use the resources at her disposal (we finally find out why she wanted that pharmacist and mimic) to create an otherwise impossible opportunity for Shin and Chae-Kyung to meet. Her meddling’s rather entertaining, and when Chae-Kyung realizes what she’s up to, it’s pretty funny watching her try to wriggle out of Mi-Roo’s trap.

But once Shin and Chae-Kyung lay eyes on one another, the humor drops out, and it’s emotion and romantic tension all over again. Mi-Roo succeeds in taking Shin’s attention away from Hyo-Rin, but her meddling has an inadvertent and explosive consequence between Chae-Kyung and Yul.

The royals have been desperately pursuing the mastermind that demanded Chae-Kyung and Shin’s divorce. First the Queen, then Shin, and now the King joins the hunt (though it’s rather convenient how he just happens upon the mention of Yul in the Royal Annals). Now Yul and his mother are the ones backed into a corner. The Queen’s confrontation of the Daebi, which has been a long time coming, is quite satisfying, but the King’s visit to Yul is a complete surprise. It’s a dramatic moment, and even more dramatic is what follows between Chae-Kyung and Yul. Still, even though Yul deserves what he gets, you can’t help feeling sorry for him when he goes crying to his mom.

Despite this revelation, things can’t just go back to where they were for the victims. A royal divorce isn’t easily undone, and making public the how and why behind it would plunge the royal family into deeper scandal. However, the truth strengthens Shin’s resolve to get Chae-Kyung back. His drunken appearance at Chae-Kyung’s mansion isn’t his best moment, but Chae-Kyung/Shin fans should appreciate the passion and determination that drove him there.

Included as extras in this volume are Words from the Creator from the Korean Volumes 19 and 20 and the short story The Crown Prince’s Secret Diary, a humorous glimpse into the first days of Chae-Kyung and Shin’s marriage from Shin’s perspective.

In Summary

Mi-Roo dominates the first chapters of this volume with her outrageous yet solidly devised plan to bring Chae-Kyung and Shin back together. However, royal family drama swiftly follows on the heels of her rich-girl meddling when the King realizes that Yul was behind Chae-Kyung and Shin’s divorce. Our lead couple is still separated, but Shin/Chae-Kyung fans will be gratified with two emotional encounters between the pair and one fiery confrontation between Chae-Kyung and Yul.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Research Ramblings: Spartan Women Part 11

As noted in my January 9, 2014 post, the lives of Spartan women were completely unlike those of their Greek sisters, and I’m continuing my series on these differences with today’s fact:

Spartan women could own property.

In this case, property meant land as well as horses and household goods. Sparta did not mint its own coins, but its citizens sometimes used the currency of other city states, and I would guess Spartan women could own this money as well.

Athenian women could not own property. Any dowry that accompanied a bride was controlled by her husband. A woman might have been able to call small personal goods, such as a comb or cosmetics, her own, but that was about it.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartan women!

New on the shelves: Winter’s Regret!

Winters regret comp 2 (440x640)It’s finally out! My fourth short story is now available in the Winter’s Regret anthology.

The final volume in Elephant’s Bookshelf Press’s “Seasons Series,” this anthology explores that very human tendency to question decisions, even doubt our own abilities and capacities. Whether it’s because of a path not taken or a decision made for selfish or – perhaps worse – unselfish reasons, we all have had moments and decisions we regret.

My contribution, One Hundred Nights, features the legendary Japanese poet, Lady Ono-no-Komachi. But though the Heian era setting may seem far removed from our modern world, Komachi’s inner conflict between ambition and love is one anyone can relate to. Please check it out!