Project Bungou Stray Dogs: No Longer Human, by Osamu Dazai

Original title: 人間失格 (Ningen Shikkaku)194746

Author: Osamu Dazai (太宰 治, Dazai Osamu)

Translator: Donald Keene

Genres: Literature, Fiction

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

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“Mine has been a life of much shame. I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being.”


Project BSD

No Longer Human is considered to be Dazai’s masterpiece, and it’s without a doubt one of the most depressing books that I’ve ever read. Considering the elements that relate to Dazai’s personal life, including suicide, it’s no wonder that people consider this more of an autobiography than a work of fiction.

The story follows the life of Ōba Yōzō, who feels alienated from other people and creates a cheerful facade in order to dispel his true nature. As he grows older his fears increase and prevent him from integrating into society, and he falls to smoking, drinking, drug abuse, and adulterous affairs with women. He reveals on multiple occasions that he wants to die, and considers a violent death a blessing.

During the course of my life I have wished innumerable times that I might meet with a violent death, but I have never once desired to kill anybody. I thought that in killing a dreaded adversary I might actually be bringing happiness

Definitely not a cheerful book.

This is a book where the relationship between the reader and the narrator is not definite. Even though I constantly felt sympathetic towards Yōzō’s situation, there were many times where I was frustrated with him as well. I think that was Dazai’s point, to not make him completely likeable, to emphasize how troubled he is. To create a character that is simultaneously likeable and dislikable is an amazing thing.

Overall, what this book highlights is how some people are unable to cope with everyday life, with the trials of “being human.” As a result, they are isolated and lonely beings who go through life as if in a living hell. In that aspect, although we don’t want to face such things as grief, guilt, and fear, if we avoid them we will only suffer more.

This book was dark and depressing, but a quick read, and beautifully written and translated.

Announcing Project Bungou Stray Dogs!

Project BSD

All right, guys. Here is where I announce a new project that I’m starting that is both for the public and for myself. Will it benefit anybody? I have absolutely no idea, but I feel a sense of duty.

First and foremost: have any of you ever heard of Bungou Stray Dogs?

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It’s an anime/manga by Kafka Asagiri and Sango Harukawa. The characters have supernatural powers and are named after famous literary figures in Japan (Bungō, or 文豪, means “Literary writer” or “Literary master”), and their “gifts”, as they call them, are based on their most famous work. They even bring in famous American authors as well, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louisa May Alcott, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Basically, it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread.

Naturally I’ve heard of the American authors, but my curiosity was piqued about the ones from Japan. I started researching them, and I realized, with harsh clarity, that Japanese literature in English-speaking countries is practically scarce. Despite the fact that these authors are so acknowledged in Japan, elsewhere, they are virtually unknown.

I love Japan, but I have to admit that my list of known Japanese authors is about the length of a post-it note. I felt a little…ashamed.

I’ve decided to use Bungou Stray Dogs as a guide. I want to read these works not only for myself, but to bring Japanese literature closer to other people. Many of these stories, books, and poems have been translated into English, so it’s not like it’s due to a lack of availability. It’s simply that Japanese literature is isolated, and I want it to spread out.

These posts will be a lot like reviews, but I want to focus more on the book and less on opinion. Whether or not I like it is inconsequential; it’s not about me. I’ll keep a documented list of the work that I’ve read, and hopefully this will bring it into another reader’s hands.

*phew.* That was a mouthful.

I hope you’ll enjoy them in the future! I’m excited to get started.

“What Cats Do” Book Tag!

-What Cats Do-Book Tag

I was tagged by the lovely Sophie @Blame Chocolate! This tag is wonderful. Both books and cats. How could I resist?


Rules


PURR- AS CATS DO THIS WHEN THEY’RE HAPPY OR RELAXED, WHAT IS THE BOOK THAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST OR RELAXED?

I know I talk about these books way too often, but they are really the only thing that keep me sane sometimes.


SLEEP- WHAT IS A BOOK THAT PUT YOU TO SLEEP OR WAS JUST BORING?

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I’m sorry, guys! I tried to read this, and I kept passing out. I don’t think J.R.R. Tolkein’s books are for me.


TWITCH WHILE DREAMING- HAVE YOU EVER DREAMT OF A BOOK YOU READ?

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*happy sigh.*


SEEMS TO PLAY NICE…UNTIL THE CLAWS ARE OUT- WHICH BOOK HAD THE BIGGEST PLOT TWIST(S)?

I’ll have to pick these two! I definitely didn’t see the twist coming, that’s for sure.


 CUDDLES- WHICH BOOK CHARACTER WOULD YOU GIVE A HUG TO?

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Wesley from Victoria Schwab’s The Archived! He’s so adorable, funny, and kind. Definitely one of the best love interests of all time.


CATNIP- WHAT’S A BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAVE WARM AND FUZZY FEELS?

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There’s a lot of controversey over this book, but I really liked it! There was a lot of romantic tension, and I kept squealing. Plus, it’s set in Paris, so the setting was very beautiful. ❤


CAT BREEDS- WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS?

These two! The rest of them can be seen on my favorites shelf.


GETTING THE CAT- HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR FAVORITE BOOK(S).

Through Goodreads! I’m always searching lists and checking out what other people read in order for my next favorite. I don’t have many people to recommend me books in real life, since most of the time, our tastes are very different.


THE VET’S OFFICE- YOUR LEAST FAVORITE  BOOK:

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I literally cannot stand the sight of this book.


BEING IN PLACES THEY SHOULDN’T- LEAST FAVORITE CLICHÉ:

Bitchy mean girls/girl-hate/slut-shaming, etc., etc.


FINAL QUESTION: THE GOOD OLD CARDBOARD BOX- MOST UNDERRATED BOOK SERIES. 

I received this book from Netgalley, and I really enjoyed it! I haven’t read the rest of the series, yet, but I want to.


I will tag….

Tiana @The Book Raven

Stephanie @Between Folded Pages!

As always, feel free not to do it if you don’t want to. (Though this is a cool tag, so you should!)

Until next time! ❤

Seven Deadly Sins Book Tag!

I’ve been doing so many tags lately. I think I’m procrastinating.

I found this over on Blame It On Chocolate! I wasn’t tagged, but I almost never am, and I wanted to do it anyway. 😀


Greed

What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?

My copy of Animal Farm was originally 50¢ back in 1956, and I bought it for 10¢ at a garage sale! That makes it my cheapest book by far. My most expensive book is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, since it’s the original hardcover edition. It’s $35.00, which makes it even more expensive than some of my reference books. (Lucky for me, it was a gift from my brother. Thanks, bro! ❤ )


Wrath

What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

 

The identity of Tsugumi Ohba is unknown, so I don’t know who he/her/they really are. As much as I loved Death Note, I have a massive problem with the misogyny. It’s something that appeared in the series Bakuman, too, which Tsugumi Ohba also wrote. And I love Poe to death, but he was a pretty big kind of a narcissist. I mean, he wrote anonymous reviews of his own work. Come on, man.


Gluttony

What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?

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Simon is my spirit animal. ❤


Sloth

What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

I really, really want to read Anna Karenina, but the 900+ page length scares the crap out of me. The same things goes for David Copperfield, but even more so because it was a gift (a gift!) from a beloved teacher. It’s just that every time I start a Charles Dickens novel, his writing style throws me off. I find it so cumbersome and melodramatic.


Pride

What book do you talk about in order to sound like an intelligent reader?

Pick one.


Lust

What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?

Well, I like blondes.

I like my male characters two different ways: sweet and caring (think Zeke from Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules) or bad-to-the-bone and twisted AF, with a tiny soft spot that shows they’re not a complete monster. With my girls, I just want them to kick ass, whether that means with physical or mental ability. I don’t want them to be petty or self-absorbed. They don’t have to be Lara Croft, but in some way, I want them to be strong.


Envy

What book would you like to receive as a gift?

I’ve been reading a lot of V.E. Schwab lately, and I really want her Shades of Magic trilogy! I’d like The Lost Prince and the rest of the Call of the Forgotten trilogy to complete my collection of The Iron Fey. Finally, I don’t own a lot of manga (just because it can get really pricy), but I’d love to own all of the volumes of Haikyuu!!, since it’s my favorite.


All right, and that’s it! This one was a lot of fun. I don’t usually tag, but this time I’ll nominate Emma @ The YA Hunt and Olivia @ Heir of Glitter, since I love their blogs so much! (Of course, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Don’t mind me.)

Have a good day, everyone! See you soon.

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Review: A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab

Genres: Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

“Everyone’s immortal until they’re not.”

(Spoiler-free review for both the first and the second book! There’s a couple of minor things, but for the most part, I have exempted all spoilers.)

Dear Victoria Schwab:

I already thought that A Darker Shade of Magic was fantastic, but A Gathering of Shadows is incredible. It manages to pull off the impossible: it is a middle book that is obviously a middle book, and yet it is still entertaining from beginning to end.

I’m sure many of you have encountered “middle-book syndrome”, when the second book in a trilogy (or perhaps more, depending) suffers due to the fact that nothing monumentally important happens. There isn’t a sense of urgency or danger, and as a result, there’s this sense of idling, and the book suffers from a slow pace. A Gathering of Shadows feels like one of those books, those “spaces between”, as I like to call them, and yet, it is never boring at all.

This is probably due to the fact that in A Darker Shade of Magic, the world is being introduced to us even as the plot moves forward, but in A Gathering of Shadows, we have settled in comfortably, and the pace picks up. It’s still a magnificent world full of magic that continues to surprise and excite, and V.E. Schwab doesn’t let it grow dull. Everything is still developing. We begin to learn about the different countries that neighbor Arnes, about what’s inside of Black London, about magic itself. It’s a world that continues to grow and grow.

The characters are getting more complex as well, and I love it. Kell’s dark side is revealed, showing him a bit more hot-headed and temperamental; Lila, though still reckless, is learning to control her magic; and even Rhy, my precious ray of sunshine, is multiplying, exposing different sides to himself. He’s still the flirty boy that I remember, but he’s darker around the edges, and I didn’t realize how much I needed to see him as a flustered schoolboy until Alucard arrived.

Rhy hesitated, unsure what to say next. With anyone else, he would have had a flirtatious retort, but standing there, a mere stride away from Alucard, he felt short of breath, let alone words. He turned away, fidgeting with his cuffs. He heard the chime of silver and a moment later, Alucard snaked an arm possessively around his shoulders and brought his lips to the prince’s neck, just below his ear. Rhy actually shivered.

“You are far too familiar with your prince,” he warned.

“So you confess it, then?” [He] brushed his lips against Rhy’s throat. “That you are mine.”

Dear Victoria Schwab:

My poor fujioshi heart.

I tend to hate it when books save most of the action for the end, then leave me hanging on until the next book, since it feels like bait, but A Gathering of Shadows did just that – with the best cliffhanger ever, I might add – and yet, it doesn’t feel like it was misplaced, or all shoved into one area. The danger is being built up behind the scenes, and as the ending draws closer, it builds a sense of dread, which is a far more effective method than just having everything blow up in the last few chapters. If I didn’t have A Conjuring of Light waiting for me on my bookshelf, I would be screaming. But I do. So ha.

Dear Victoria Schwab:

Your books are the work of gods.

Mystery Blogger Award 5.0/6.0!

mystery

Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.
Okoto Enigma


THE RULES:

1. Put the award logo/image on your blog.

2. List the rules.

3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog!

4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link to their blog as well.

5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.

6. You have to nominate 10-20 3 people.

7. Notify each of your nominees by commenting on their blog.

8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify).

9. Share your link to your best post(s)


 

I can’t believe I was tagged. Holy shit! Thank you so much, Emma! 😀 (Check out her blog, she’s amazing.) ❤

Facts:

  1. I’m learning Japanese! It’s my favorite subject, and though it’s difficult, once you understand the structure, it’s a bit easier to understand. I want to live in Kyoto when I’m older, so learning the language was a necessity.
  2. I play the piano. Not well, mind, but I do play and I love it. There’s something really relaxing about a piece coming together. I also really want to learn the violin, but I can’t afford the lessons at the moment. 😦
  3. My best friend introduced me to BBC’s Sherlock and now I’m in hell. Help.

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Emma’s questions!

What quote has changed your life (name the book it’s from!)?

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my favorite books, and it’s very quotable. The one above is the one that stuck with me the most, though, because it’s so simple, yet it relates to something we all feel: the complexity of human emotion, how we can feel multiple, contrasting things at once. I thought I was the only one that had ever felt like that until I read that quote.

What’s the best book you have ever read?

I’m going to have to nominate Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, since it’s my favorite, but also because I’ve never read anything like it, and that’s not something that I can say very often, you know?

Favourite character from a book/movie/anything?

Tobio Kageyama from Haikyuu!! I should actually make a list of these, because I think it would be interesting.

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Do you buy books knowing you’re never going to read them?

Oh yes. All of the time. It’s a bad habit. I’ll buy a book because I’ve heard of it, or because it’s a classic and I just have to have it in my collection, but the truth is that I’ll probably never get around to it, especially if it’s really long.

 I’m going to steal Kayla’s question. What song is stuck in your head right now? (Link it if you can!)

YES! I love this question. Right now, it’s “カンタンナコト” by The Oral Cigarettes. (That roughly translates to “Something Simple.”)

I listen to too much J-rock.

Have a look!


Okay, my turn!

If you could go back in time to any period, which one would it be?

Do you have a song that reminds you of a person/place?

If you could slip inside of a book, which one would it be?

Which book/TV character would you marry, and why?

What’s your favorite inside joke?


I tag….

Sophie @ Blame Chocolate

Crystal @ Lost In a Good Book

Gretchen @ ChicNerdReads

That’s if they want to or if they haven’t been tagged already, of course. 😛 *Has no backbone.*

(Yet another) Get To Know Me Tag!

Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful break. Mine was uneventful, but I got to read a lot, and that’s all that matters.

To welcome you all back, I’ll post another Get To Know Me Tag that no one is interested in, nor was it ever asked for. (Insert quote about humanity’s narcissm here.)

I stole it from Lost In A Good Book! Please check out her blog. It’s amazing. 😀

Vital Stats:

Name: Alicia.

Nicknames: Doony, England (as in Hetalia), Bambi, and Sunshine.

Birthday: February 16th.

Star Sign: Aquarius.

Occupation: Student, but I plan on becoming either an author or a translator. (Maybe both!)

Appearance:

Hair Colour: Reddish-brown. A bit more red than brown, though. 😉

Hair Length: Medium-long, I think. It’s a little ways past my shoulders. I like it when it’s short, but I think that it looks better when I grow it out. Sigh.

Eye Colour: Green!

Best Feature: Definitely my eyes.

Braces: I probably should’ve gotten them, since my teeth are slightly crooked, but it’s too late for them now.

Piercings: I have the general pierced ears. I’d like to get a cartilage piercing or something, but for now, it’s just the two.

Tattoos: None, but I want some!

Right or Left: Right.

Firsts:

Real Holiday: Apparently I was in Chicago when I was really little, but I don’t remember it, so I’d have to say when my family went on a trip to Sandusky, Ohio. (Yes, I went to Cedar Point.)

Best Friend: Myka! She’s the John to my Sherlock, and likewise.

Award: I used to bowl on a league, and my team won first place! We won many times, actually.

Sport: Bowling. It was a family thing, so that’s how I got into it.

Concert: I’ve never been to a concert. 😦 I’ve always wanted to, though.

Favourites:

TV Show(s): Sherlock.

Colour: Black/teal/pastel pink.

Song: It’s always changing, but now I would have to say Namae Wo Yobu Yo (“I’ll Call Out Your Name”, though it translates literally to “Call Out The Name”), by Luck Life. It’s the ending theme to Bungou Stray Dogs.

Restaurant: Eh, I don’t know. Pisanello’s, maybe?

Shop: Barnes & Noble and FYI.

Shoes: Boots. BOOTS.

Currently:

Feeling: A little sleepy, like I need coffee.

Single or Taken: Single. Currently fishing.

Eating: Nothing, but now I really want some coffee.

Thinking About: The piano, and I’m running through vocabulary in my head for my Japanese class.

Watching: This!

Wearing: Black leggings, boots, and my favorite navy hoodie that keeps me warm, since I have a body temperature of -30 degrees.

Future:

Want Children: Maybe. I’ve thought about adopting, but I don’t like the idea of becoming pregnant.

Want to be Married: Yes. To the right girl, of course.

Careers in Mind: I’d like to either write for a living or translate books from/into Japanese.

Where You Want to Live: KYOTO.

Do You Believe in:

God: Nope.

Miracles: Yes, I think so.

Love at First Sight: No, no, and no.

Ghosts: YES.

Aliens: A little, but that’s a scary thought.

Soul Mates: I think I do. I’m very romantic, so I like the idea of finding that one person who makes you feel complete. I believe in fate, anyway.

Heaven: Since I don’t believe in God, no.

Hell: No.

Kissing on the First Date: I think that would be rushing things, but it depends on the circumstances/how well they know each other.

Yourself: I am trying really hard not to pity myself and to not dwell on things that I can’t change. So to that, I would say yes.


That’s all! And because I don’t like to tag people, I’m not going to. 😛

For those of you that are interested!

Review: The Immortal Rules, by Julie Kagawa

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The Immortal Rules, by Julie Kagawa

Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Paranormal

Rating: ✮✮✮

“You will always be a monster, there is no turning back from it. But what type of monster you become is entirely up to you.”

In her acknowledgements, Julie Kagawa mentioned that she thought she would never write a vampire book. Likewise, I thought I would never read a vampire book. Vampires, for the longest time, have failed to interest me, whether they were sparkly or not. (Especially if they were sparkly.)

Then I saw this:

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And I was like, okay. Vampires.

Julie Kagawa is the author of my beloved Iron Fey series, which I have praised over and over again for its fantasy action, depth, and a heterosexual romance that I can actually get excited about. The Immortal Rules is a completely different ballgame. It’s dark and gruesome, and of course, very bloody. I love the take on vampires, how twisted and cruel they are, and their elitist attitude towards humans. I love the rabids as I love all flesh-eating monsters, and I even enjoyed the gloomy dystopian world. As always, Julie Kagawa never bores me. She allows the characters to go off and develop on their own, but never strays too far from the original storyline.

My hesitation, however, is derived from a couple of things, and the first one is Ruth. Ruth is a member of the group that Allison joins up with that are searching for a city called Eden, which is supposedly run by humans. Her only notable character trait is that she is infatuated with Zeke, the love interest, and gets insanely jealous whenever Allison interacts with him in any way. She verbally attacks Allison and spreads rumors about her to the rest of the group, and whenever she’s in a scene, she is always trying to get closer to Zeke. This character type – the bitchy mean girl – is the reason why I used to avoid paranormal YA books in the first place, because usually their only purpose is to make the heroine look better. However, Allison is fierce and strong all on her own, so I don’t understand why Ruth exists, or why she wasn’t converted into a best friend. (Spoiler) : I could understand if she were carried over into the next book and underwent some massive character development, or perhaps served some higher purpose, but instead she dies – quickly, I might add, and in the last 25 pages – furthermore implementing her worthlessness.

The next thing regards vampires, and that is mainly that I want more of them. Though I agree with some of my friends on Goodreads that it’s strange that only Allison and Kanin – her creator – aren’t viewed as completely evil, I love my vampires that way. I love them villainous. And the thing is, is that Allison may be morally-questionable, but she’s not a monster. She goes on and on about her “demon” and how she struggles to control her thirst, but it seems weak. This is due mainly to Julie Kagawa’s bald, straight-forward writing style, which is fantastic in battle scenes but not so much with emotion. It’s hard for Allison’s angst to ring true when it doesn’t feel like she’s battling with anything, since everything she feels is told up front. Because of this, I’m eagerly anticipating more vampires, and hopefully they’ll be a lot more vicious.

The Iron Fey will still stand as my favorite of Julie Kagawa’s series thus far, though I admit that The Blood of Eden has its charms. Everything that I expected of The Immortal Rules came to me and more – I just wish that a couple of things had changed.

Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul, by Sui Ishida

23353593Tokyo Ghoul, by Sui Ishida

Genres: Shonen, Horror, Tragedy

Volumes: 14

Status: Completed

Favorite Characters: Juuzou Suzuya, Ayato Kirishima, Touka Kirishima

Rating: ✮ +½

“If you were to write a story with me in the lead role, it would certainly be… a tragedy”

I have two recurring questions about Tokyo Ghoul:

1. Why is it so popular?

2. If I hate it so much, why am I still reading it?

The answer to both of those questions is this: I don’t know.

My relationship with Tokyo Ghoul is very strange. I talk trash about it, I criticize it from every angle, and yet I still pick up each new volume from the library and keep a running board of it on Pinterest. (Though that’s mostly because the fanart is freaking awesome.) Technically, it finished a while ago, but the English volumes are still being published, and as someone who is a bit of a purist when it comes to books (meaning that I like physical copies), I don’t mind waiting to finish it.

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My general opinion about it is that it reminds me a lot of myself when I was thirteen. I was so obsessed with all things bloody and gory that I lacked any real personality. I was so concerned with my self-image that I never figured out who I actually was or what I was about. (Precious, wasn’t I?) Tokyo Ghoul has a lot of violence, cruelty, and torture, but it all seems like a front to hide the fact that the story is very, very boring.

The dynamic reminds me a lot of Death Note. There’s the complex of good vs. evil, whether ghouls are really monsters because they eat humans or if they’re just like any other animal, and whether the investigators are evil because they are hunting the ghouls when they’re just trying to survive, etc., etc. Personally, I’d like to believe that the ghouls aren’t at fault, but the problem is that I don’t give a single shit about them. The world of ghouls bores me to death, as does the team of ghoul investigators. I feel no condolence to any of the characters, even Kaneki, who is the “tragic hero” that becomes trapped between both worlds, and also happens to love books. The only one that is remotely interesting is Juuzou, and that has more to do with the fact that I have a thing for simple-minded characters.

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The story is so dry. Behind the investigator killings and turf wars, it feels like it took too long to get anywhere important, and by the time the Aogiri Tree showed up, I had completely lost interest. I have a hard time taking this world seriously when it seems like all it is is a test to see just how violent it can get. I remember that I started to watch the anime, and when Kaneki and Touka first faced off against Tsukiyama, I was laughing. I was laughing.

I’ve also given up trying to tolerate the artwork. Though Ishida has undoubtedly improved, I still think that it’s mediocre at best. While reading through the fight scenes – and there are a lot – I became really confused on what was going on. The edges are too soft and their limbs mesh together, and somehow, there’s just an absence of any impact. The way they hold their bodies seems unrealistic. For the most part, I wait until it’s over to figure out who won, because watching it in action, I can’t tell. This is the only thing I can give the anime props for.

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Perhaps I’m a masochist, and that is why I’ve continued to read Tokyo Ghoul. Perhaps it is morbid curiosity. As I said, I don’t know, and it is still beyond me how this series is so popular when there is nothing in its plot that could hold water. Every aspect of it feels flimsy and insubstantial.