Project Bungou Stray Dogs: Poems of the Goat, by Chūya Nakahara

2550921Original Title: 山羊の歌

Author: Chūya Nakahara (中原 中也, Nakahara Chūya)

Translator: Ry Beville

Genres: Literature, Poetry

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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The gateway to the shrine is draped in sunlight

The leaves of the elm are fluttering gently

The cobalt shade of summer beneath the trees at noon

Is working to ease my lingering regrets


Project BSD

Note: Due to length, the quotes used in this review are excerpts, not the entire poem.

Since I have started this project, I’ve learned so much about these authors and how they inspired their characters in Bungou Stray Dogs. There is something satisfying about putting a piece together, about figuring out a characteristic and connecting it with something that happened in the author’s life or one of their stories or poems. Because of this sense of familiarity, there are some authors that I have sought after explicitly in order to attain it.

Chūya Nakahara was such an author (well, poet). Because Chūya is my second-favorite character in Bungou Stray Dogs after Akutagawa, I wanted to read his work more so than others. Chūya Nakahara has been argued as modern Japan’s finest poet, and when someone slaps a title like that on a person, it makes their work irresistible. The problem is that Chūya’s work in English is extremely hard to get a hold of. I usually order books that I can’t find through Mel-Cat, but the only ones that are listed under his name are in Japanese, and I’m far from fluent enough to be able to read them.

So, of course, that meant that if I wanted to read the English translations, I had to buy them – and I finally got around to purchasing Poems of the Goat.

And it’s beautiful.

This longing that consumed me in my youth of quiet sadness

Is on its way to disappearing into the darkened night.

Even with the sentiment that there is something lost in translations, even without the visual effects of the Japanese language, even without the tone that is offered through different Japanese pronouns, these poems are so beautiful. They’re full of love and loneliness and insecurity, themes that reveal Chūya Nakahara as a person, and themes that I am drawn to on instinct. I was swept away by the haunting visuals, the elegant language, and the flowing, musical style that he was acclaimed for.

I love poetry because it feels personal. I love that the poet is free to either be vague or blunt, whimsical or dark, emotional or detached. It opens a window into their soul, into who they really are. By reading Poems of the Goat, I have glanced into the soul of Chūya Nakahara, and I love it so much.

Manga Review: Seraph of the End, by Takaya Kagami and Yamato Yamamoto

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Seraph of the End, by Takaya Kagami and Yamato Yamamoto

Genres: Shonen, Paranormal

Volumes: 14

Status: Ongoing

Favorite Characters: Mikaela Hyakuya, Krul Tepes, Shihō Kimizuki

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

“Humans will do anything for their families. We’ll happily lie, cheat, make deals with the devil, or even become demons ourselves.”

When I write these reviews, I try really hard to keep myself from gushing all over the place and to maintain an analytical, serious persona – but this time, I don’t think I can do it. I love this manga too freaking much.

I got into Seraph of the End on complete accident. What started out as a mild curiosity blew up into a frantic obsession. I usually take my time watching anime to avoid burning out, so twenty-four episodes usually takes me about a week and a half.

I watched Seraph of the End in a single weekend. I couldn’t stop.

What surprises me the most is that Seraph of the End has everything that I hate. It has fantasy elements, but it is also a dystopian, which is a genre I can’t stand. There are vampires, which up until recently I couldn’t take seriously. Also, I kid you not, but almost every person in Yūichirō, the main character’s squad has a gigantic crush on him – including the men. Then there’s Mikaela, whose obsession with Yūichirō is so intense that he has very few other characteristics. He’s a character that was built to be complex but is portrayed as one-dimensional.

He is also my favorite character of the series and my precious vampire angel.

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The story is based around the idea that in 2012, the world was supposed to end. A virus spread that killed virtually all humans over the age of twelve years old, and in order to maintain their food source, vampires rose up and took control, capturing many and taking them down into vampire cities as livestock. Yūichirō and his adopted family at the Hyakuya Orphanage were such victims, and they lived like that for four years until Mikaela, Yūichirō’s best friend, plotted an escape that went horribly wrong. The rest of the orphans ended up dead, but Yūichirō managed to escape. He enters the Japanese Imperial Demon Army in order to become a part of the Moon Demon Company, a special branch designed to eradicate vampires, in order to get revenge for his family.

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The central theme is to live not just for yourself, but for your family and friends as well. Yūichirō maintains his loyalty to his squad, to Guren – who saved him four years prior, when he escaped – to the rest of the army, and to Mikaela. He starts out as a lone wolf that doesn’t rely on anyone, but comes to learn that he can’t fight alone. I love how – even if the mission depends on him to leave comrades behind – Yūichirō will scream, bluster, and at times disobey in order to keep those he cares about safe. Stupid? Yes, but I’m a softy, and I love the concept of ‘no man getting left behind’.

Seraph of the End is both beautifully written and drawn, with intense action, slices of humor, and a whole lot of tragedy. It’s one of those gripping, edge-of-your-seat stories that I’ve come to find I adore just as much as the sweet and romantic ones.

“No matter what you become, we will always be family.”

Review: Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

7893725Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

We all got to be winners sometimes. But what he didn’t understand was that we all had to be losers, too. Because you can’t have one without the other.

Jennifer Brown’s Torn Away was the very first book that I ever reviewed on The Grumpy Librarian. It’s almost kind of surreal that, about a year after this blog began, I’m reviewing another one of her books.

The topic of school shootings is a very sensitive one. It’s multi-layered and complex. You look at the situation, and at face value, you see the victims; you dig further, and you consider the shooter’s mental state, what put them in that position in the first place. This makes both parties simultaneously innocent and guilty, and when people are murdered, everybody wants it to be black and white. What Jennifer Brown shows in Hate List is that it isn’t. It’s so multi-colored that you can’t tell where one fades into another.

In the end, Nick – the shooter – is a monster and a victim. He is his own victim; he destroyed himself. The message that Hate List portrays is that, even though Nick was bullied relentlessly, his anger and pursuit of revenge don’t equal the damage he caused – not even a fraction of it. That’s because – and as someone who just recently graduated, I can say this with absolute confidence – those things will come and go. Though I can’t speak for everyone, teenagers mature and come to regret what they’ve done and who they used to be. It was Nick’s inability to contain his anger – deal with it, find a source for it, see past it – that caused him to explode.

And although what Nick did was unforgivable, what Jennifer Brown doesn’t let the reader forget is that he was a human being. She peeks into the kind of person he used to be, before his mind became clouded with violence. She shows how kind he was and how much he loved those he cared about, and how even after what he’s done, Valerie can still grieve for him.

Valerie is a great protagonist, because when Nick blew up, she caught most of the shrapnel. She has to deal with so much guilt: over not noticing Nick’s behavior, for causing her family grief, for starting the mess in the first place. She has to look at the faces of all of the people that she used to blame for her suffering, but were actually innocent, and at what she did to them, indirectly. She has to find ways to make amends, even when people won’t let her. Hate List shows her maturity from beginning to end.

I was completely absorbed by this book. The emotions were all so tangible. One of the qualities of Jennifer Brown’s writing that I love is how she pulls out the flaws in human beings and uses them to shape her books. She shows how even the people we love the most can turn into the people we hate; how even the nicest ones we know can turn cruel. That’s what makes her books so realistic, so engrossing, and so hard to put down.

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.

Manga Review: One-Punch Man, by ONE and Yusuke Murata

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One-Punch Man, by ONE and Yusuke Murata

Genres: Shonen, Action-Adventure, Humor

Volumes: 12

Status: Ongoing

Favorite Characters: Genos, Saitama, Speed-o’-Sound-Sonic

Rating: 

 

“If the heroes run and hide, who will stay and fight?” 

Note: this series was originally published as a webcomic. The edition I am reviewing is the revised one published in volumes, illustrated by Yusuke Murata.

I haven’t written a manga review in a while, and I think it’s due to a lack of inspiration. There hasn’t been one that I’m currently reading that I feel enthusiastic enough to write about – until now.

One-Punch Man crushed Bleach for the most action-packed manga I’ve ever read. Not only that, but its artwork excels in detail, and though the plot floats around a bit with the two main characters picking up odd jobs at the start, it never wavers in entertainment because it doesn’t take itself seriously. With a protagonist that looks like an egg – and a personality to match – how could it?

Saitama was, for a very long time, just an average man. After a while, though, he got sick of his life, and an incident involving a giant crab ended up with him spurning to become a hero for the fun of it. Three years later, he is unfathomably strong, able to defeat any enemy with just one blow.

Due to his strength, however, he is also bald and emotionally stunted. He longs to feel the rush of battle again, to go toe-to-toe with a strong enemy. Then Genos, the teenage cyborg, comes along and completely flips his life upside down by becoming his disciple. The two of them end up joining the Hero Association together and face off against a stream of monsters.

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What I love the most about One-Punch Man – besides all of the action, of course – is that it’s basically a long-running gag. It mocks superhero cliches constantly, the biggest one of course being Saitama’s lackluster appearance versus his unmatched strength. No one believes his power. It isn’t helped by the fact that Saitama doesn’t care about fame; as he is constantly saying, he did not do this for glory or for justice. He did it because he thought it would be fun.

Even in the fiercest of battles, jokes are being cracked and tension is being broken, all by Saitama, who refuses to bend to superhero standards. It makes the story refreshing and hilarious.

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The point of One-Punch Man, as the author, ONE, has pointed out, is to not base heroes off of their appearance. Saitama may be quirky, but he’s the strongest of them all, and to top it off, morally sound. There’s corruption in the Hero Association among fellow heroes – after all, being a hero in this story is treated the same as a regular job, with everyone in the figurative building fighting for that big promotion. Saitama doesn’t care. He will fight evil no matter what it is, because that is what a hero is supposed to do.

On another note, I love the master/student relationship with him and Genos. Saitama has absolutely no idea how to train him, since he himself doesn’t know how he garnered his immense strength, and poor Genos takes everything that Saitama says directly to the heart. (Or whatever the hell he has inside of his chest. A furnace?) Genos’s quick temper, badass incineration skills, and affinity for his master are what makes him my favorite character of the series.

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I ship the egg with the toaster.

One-Punch Man may have started off as a webcomic, but it’s quickly surpassed some of the most memorable action-adventure manga/anime out there, including the iconic Dragon Ball series. It’s bound to become legendary. It’s a rocket that shot up to the top of the charts, and at the rate its going, I doubt anything will be able to stop it.

One More Kind-Of Review: The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater

173785271The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery-Thriller

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

“The head is too wise. The heart is all fire.”

Part of me wants to squeal. Part of me wants to cry. Part of me wants to flip a table.

Another, very large part of me wants to curl in a ball, because now it’s over and I don’t know what to do.

You know what The Raven King has that the previous books don’t have? A shitstorm. It is the creepiest of the books by far and would make one hell of a horror movie. It also the book where everything starts to come together – meaning everything is falling apart, of course. With a demon awoken, Cabeswater is dying, and that affects everyone tied to it: The Gangsey, Henry Cheng, the women at 300 Fox Way, the Gray Man, everyone.

I honestly didn’t expect it to end like this. I didn’t have an image in my head, but if I had, it wouldn’t have been anything like what happened. Everything ties together perfectly, but with knots that I didn’t know existed – does that make any sense? It does in my head. And the best part is, it still doesn’t feel finished – and it isn’t. The end of The Raven King leads up to another series that is already in the works, based around Ronan and Adam.

You hear that? It’s the sound of thousands of readers shrieking with joy.

His feelings for Adam were an oil spill; he’d let them overflow and now there wasn’t a damn place in the ocean that wouldn’t catch fire if he dropped a match.

Pynch. Is. Everything.

I love this series so much. That’s really all I can write: it’s what draws the line between books that you like and books that you love. You lose all coherency; everything is just emotion. I couldn’t explain it if I tried. Such a delicately structured series should not be tampered with or dissected, just enjoyed. Besides, the writing is beautiful but full of oxymorons, constantly looping around to contradict itself, which although I enjoy, it also makes me extremely dizzy. I think that’s the point, though.

You will never find anything like The Raven Cycle, ever. It is unique, fresh, and alive, full of mystery and unexplainable magic. Describing it doesn’t do it justice. What I thought was another flimsy paranormal romance dug into a deep, deep obsession of mine, full of emotionally complex characters and mystical intrigue. It has left a legacy.

If you have not read The Raven Boys yet, I highly recommend doing it. Now.

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Another Kind-Of Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater

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Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery-Thriller

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Earlier that year, when Blue had first met the boys, there had been a moment when she had suddenly struck by how she was being drawn into their tangled lives. Now she realized that she had never been drawn in. She had been there all along, together with this woman, and all the other women at Fox Way, and maybe even Malory and his Dog. They were not creating a mess. They were just slowly illuminating the shape of it.

I have finished the third book and I am now officially terrified.

I’m having a really hard time finding words. The Dream Thieves might still be my favorite, but Blue Lily, Lily Blue would be next. It’s not at all because Pynch is becoming even more evident the further we go along, I swear.

Yet again, this series mystifies me. Everything is one thing and then it’s another. Things happen, impossible things, like the daughter of a Welsh King is awoken without ever being asleep. Ronan can control his dreams, Adam can communicate with Cabeswater, and Gansey might have a power inside of him that’s going to be revealed in The Raven King.

He also is probably going to die, but I’m trying not to think about that.

In Blue Lily, Lily Blue, it is all about the search for Maura, Blue’s mother, who disappeared underground for reasons that are left unknown. To make matters worse, Greenmantle has arrived in Henrietta as the boys’ new Latin teacher and is lying in wait, waiting for his chance to strike.

I have said from the very beginning that I love how connected this story is. Instead of feeling like separate installments, The Raven Cycle feels like a book that was split into four parts, which really works in its favor. This really draws me in and feels makes me feel even more invested in this series than I already am. (There is a Murder Squash Song t-shirt on Society6 and I swear to god, I’m going to buy it.) Like in Harry Potter, I didn’t feel any shift from book to book; I merely finished one and fell into the next.

This series is dangerously addictive. I think I need help.

“Mirrors,” Gwenllian cooed. “That is what we are. When you hold a candle in front of a glass, doesn’t it make the room twice as bright? So do we, blue lily, lily blue.”

If you’ll excuse me, I will continue to look up massive amounts of fan art, kill myself while I wait to read The Raven King, and maybe or maybe not write a fan fiction that might or might not have Ronan and Adam driving around Henrietta and aggressively listening to Twenty-One Pilots.

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Review: Death Note: Another Note – The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, by NisiOisiN

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Death Note: Another Note – The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, by NisiOisiN

Genres: Light Novel, Mystery-Thriller

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

“Naomi Misora, I cannot overlook evil. I cannot forgive it. It does not matter if I know the person who commits evil or not. I am only interested in justice.”

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I am never going to read anything related to Death Note without it leaving me completely mind-fucked.

(Spoilers ahead!)

I read Death Note back when I was fourteen. To this day, it stands as my favorite manga. Even so, it never fails to confuse the shit out of me. The logic behind it is completely irrational; how Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata managed to weave it all together is beyond my comprehension. The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases feels just like that. There’s missing books, word puzzles, a body made to look like a clock, locked doors that might or might not be possible, and numbers that are one thing and yet something completely different.

It’s all so ridiculous, yet it all works – because with someone with an intelligence identical to L, it has to be.

I have to clarify something: I knew that BB looked like L. Perhaps not as exact as the fan art claims him to be, but I’ve been inside of the fandom long enough. I knew who BB was, I’d heard of these cases before.

Yet this book still got me.

I am usually pretty good at mysteries. Once I start analyzing something, I can’t leave it alone until I’m one-hundred percent certain I’m correct – and I always have to know why before I can move on. I thought I had this book all figured out, but I made one crucial error: I assumed that L was Ryuzaki.

Those that have read or watched Death Note are very familiar with L: his many oddities, his mannerisms, his startling appearance. When Rue Ryuzaki is introduced in The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, it is made to look like he is L. Even knowing that BB and L were dopplegangers, I never suspected anything, simply because I didn’t have any reason to – and that’s what the creators wanted. They didn’t want to create any suspicion on that front. Instead, what they wanted was to focus on how Ryuzaki’s behavior affected Naomi Misora. While we all thought that Naomi was being stupid and missing Ryuzaki’s obvious identity, we were being fooled ourselves.

It was pretty genius.

I had a lot of fun reading this little book. I feel a little nostalgic, reading new material on an old fandom of mine, but perhaps this is a chance to dive into it once again.

Manga Review: Bleach, by Tite Kubo

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Bleach, by Tite Kubo

Genres: Shonen, Action-Adventure, Paranormal

Volumes: 74

Status: Ongoing

Favorite Characters: Byakuya Kuchiki, Ichigo Kurosaki, Yoruichi Shihōin, Ulquiorra Schiffer

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

We fear that which we cannot see.

            I think that if this manga were a person and it walked into a crowded room, everyone would stop what they were doing and bow.

Bleach is that manga you’ve heard of even if you’ve been living under a rock. It’s been serializing since 2001, has over 70 volumes in print, and generally just kicks ass.

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I remember that, at the beginning, it was really confusing. I couldn’t grasp what a Zanpakutō was, what the hell bankai met, and where the Soul Society was located. It all came at me in a rush, and around volume 13, I stopped reading it for a long time, simply because I thought I would never understand it.

Then one day, I decided to read volume 14. And I realized, yet again, that I’d been an idiot.

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So trust me, if it seems confusing at first, it won’t for long.

Ichigo Kurosaki, the main character, has been able to see ghosts for his entire life. When he meets Rukia Kuchiki, a soul reaper, he’s accidentally granted her powers in order to protect his family from a Hollow – a malevolent soul – and ends up becoming a soul reaper himself. Not long after, Rukia is arrested and swept back to the Soul Society to be executed for giving her powers to a human, and Ichigo – along with some of his friends – race to save her. Little do they know the plot that brews behind the scenes, one that will blow up and follow them far into the future – putting not only the Soul Society, but the World of the Living at risk.

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When you think about it, 74 volumes seems excessive. Most manga reaches twenty, maybe a little less or more. I once thought, is that really necessary?

It is.

Tite Kubo does not cut out the fat. The battles that take place in Bleach last a volume or more. I think this is brilliant. Not only does it pack action on every page, but it also puts us in the point of view of the people that are fighting. From their eyes, every detail counts; they have milliseconds to think fast or die. Prolonging the fight brings out every part of it, allows the reader to be in their shoes. And honestly, there is nothing more that I love in a story than a grisly, heart-pounding battle.

Tite Kubo is also a master storyteller. He takes the littlest details and spins them back in your face eons later, connecting strings that you didn’t think led to anything. He brings out every aspect of a character, or of a setting, until you know them better than your own name. He knows how to make your heart pound – and especially how to make you scream in terror.

Too many of my favorite characters have been fatally wounded, only to rise again and kick some ass.

This is a detailed, complex world, and it includes quite a few characters. There’s everyone in the World of the Living, the members of the Soul Society, the Arrancars in Hueco Mundo…and probably a whole bunch of other places that I’ve forgotten. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love characters so much when most of the time I can’t even remember their names – but Tite Kubo attaches you to them. Even the villains.

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(*Sobs.* I’m sorry, it’s still too soon.)

My two favorite characters in this series – Byakuya Kuchiki and the main character, Ichigo Kurosaki – have one thing in common, I noticed, and I’m not sure if it’s relevant, but whatever.

They are both older brothers. And they are also both very protective over their little sisters.

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The reason why Byakuya is my favorite, and not Ichigo – or, like the rest of the fandom, Tōshirō Hitsugaya – is because of his evolution. When we first meet him, he’s cold-hearted and is willing to send his own sister to be executed. Later, though, after Aizen lifts his illusion and tries to kill Rukia, Byakuya saves her. After that, we see him become a bit more bendable to the rules of the Soul Society, even though he’d still cut you down without a blink. I’m a sucker for characters who have a cold demeanor, but hide a soft spot – however small. I’ve become really close with my older brother as well, so it brings me warm fuzzies.

Ichigo’s character is another one of my favorites. It’s the kind that others may consider naive, but I treasure. He doesn’t give a shit about laws or orders; he’s going to do what he knows is right. Even if it means he has to do it all by himself. That’s what I treasure the most about him: he is a good person to the very core of who he is. He does not manipulate or lie. He doesn’t want to win if it isn’t fair.

That’s the kind of person I want to be around.

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Bleach is not my favorite manga – but it’s damn close. I kick myself all the time for not getting into it sooner. It has one of the best stories I’ve ever seen, and not just in manga: novels, comics, movies, plays, whatever. Bleach is a king sitting in a throne room full of admirers. It is what perfection would look like if it had a face.

It is as beautiful as it is invigorating.

     “If I were rain,

That joins sky and earth that otherwise never touch,

Could I join two hearts as well?”