Orange 1Orange is a story by Ichigo Takano that follows a group of high school friends. I have not seen the show but have heard about this story multiple times and it always sounded interesting. The main character, Naho, is a young woman in high school who receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. She thinks it is a prank at first until the events detailed in the letter come true one after another. The letter talks about regrets her future-self has regarding certain events that are about to happen in the upcoming school year. The letter also details what she wished she had done differently. The primary regret is the loss of one of their friends, and the letter guides Naho to make changes so as to change the future.

With elements of time-travel, the story is intriguing through to the end. The group of friends is filled with colorful, unique characters who provide a wholesome experience as they all work toward the one goal of saving someone they hold dear.

Orange 2I read this story in the two-volume Complete Collection. Though there were times where I didn’t quite understand some character interactions (the primary conflict being the inability or failure to communicate felt repetitive or forced at times), I really did enjoy the story and gave it a small pass when it tried to explain or hint at how the letters were sent back in time. I think that was actually irrelevant to the overall story and explaining it would have taken away much of what the story was trying to accomplish. The focus is the group of friends and them treasuring the lives they have with each other and the time they get to spend together. The time-travel aspect is interesting and is a catalyst to the events of the story, but the focus on interpersonal relationships and communication is what makes this story worth a read.

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you wondered if things would have turned out differently if only you had said something or taken the time to better understand someone, then this story is likely one you will enjoy. Just remember, you can’t change the past, but you can make the effort to influence your future.

Happy Reading.

A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice Collector's Edition 1I don’t know what it is, but there is something about A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima that speaks to me on a fundamental level. I first came across this story when I noticed the movie and was interested in seeing it, and then I finally watched it. This was a few years ago. I recently picked up the collector’s additions which combine the 7 volume serialization into two, hardback volumes that also includes interviews and supplementary materials. I read both volumes in two days.

This story is admittedly heavy. It covers hard topics and each volume opens with a warning label recreated here: “This manga contains depictions of bullying, ableism, physical and emotional abuse of children, depression, hospitalization, death of a loved one, suicidal ideation, and a suicide attempt.” Not exactly an enticing list, but these are also societal issues that are often overlooked, dismissed, and avoided, which is why I think this story is so important.

The main character bullies a deaf girl when they are young and he regrets this as the years pass which fuels his desire to atone for his past behavior. This development of empathy, the uncertainty of ones place in the world, and the inability to interact with others all lead to a story that I couldn’t stop reading. The core theme is communication (something I value highly). The entire story shows characters who struggle to understand each other both physically and psychologically. Even those without disabilities often cannot get their point across accurately or want to open up but shy away for various reasons.

A Silent Voice Collector's Edition 2Have you ever wished you could/would have said something to a friend or in a specific situation? Have you ever failed to speak up or defend someone who was bullied? Maybe not, but I think we’ve all encountered some barrier or failure of communication which has resulted in someone being hurt, confused, rejected, or otherwise misinterpreted to their detriment.

I think we can all work toward improving how we communicate. Some people listen to respond while others listen to understand. We should all work toward being the latter. In a perfect world, we would be able to telepathically transfer our knowledge of what we want to share, along with corresponding emotions, to another person so that they would instantly understand.

That may or may not be the perfect form of communication, but we are stuck with words. Scribbles on a page or vibrations through the air, how we communicate already includes mediums where we need to decipher what someone wishes to convey. The way we decipher communication is based on our personal experiences as well. In a way, it is impossible to truly know someone, but we can try our best to understand each other, and that is what makes this story incredible. It shows a group of people who at first cannot communicate but then work as hard as they can to understand each other.

Happy Reading.

P.S. I recommend at least watching the movie if you don’t want to give the books a shot. Even if it may be uncomfortable, I think it is beneficial.

My Hero Academia

My Hero AcademiaMy Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi is a series that focuses on a young man’s journey to become the number one hero. In a world where nearly all individuals develop a superpower of some kind, commonly called a “quirk”, the profession of hero has emerged to help maintain law and order. However, there are very few who are born that never develop a quirk. Enter Izuku Midoriya, a quirkless boy who dreams of being a hero, and who is given the opportunity of making that dream come true.

I typically try to avoid recommending a series that hasn’t been completed, but this story is in its final arc and has been simply incredible throughout. I’ve read all volumes currently available (in English) which is 33. I suspect the series will end somewhere between volume 38-40. The show has done a great job of adapting the story without really any changes or omissions which often happens with adaptations. Staying true to the source material, and even adding more content for some of the many interesting side characters, makes me appreciate the show even more.

My Hero Academia 27What I like most about this series is seeing a young generation all working hard toward their dream of being heroes which is centered around saving and helping people. So the general story is uplifting throughout, but it also covers, and questions, some key components as to what a superpowered society and the role of hero would actually look like. Obviously villains are those who use their quirks for selfish gain or to harm others, but some assume the title of hero with less-than-honest purposes.

Popular culture today may seem saturated with heroes as Marvel and DC continue to make many movies and people are talking about various other superhero movies, shows, books, etc. I’m glad this one isn’t simply following in those shadows. I think it brings some really interesting questions to light and even questions the definition of hero and villain and what it means to save someone. Seeing some heroes fall from grace and a hero-killer gain a cult following are a few things I have not yet seen in any other story about heroes (I’m sure it has happened somewhere, but I’m certain not in quite the same way).My Hero Academia 33

So, whether you are a fan of heroes or not, you may like this series that takes place in a superpowered society, especially since not all quirks are created equal.

Happy Reading.

Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood coverIt has been over a month since my last recommendation. This is partly due to my reading slump and other demands on my time, but today I am recommending a story that is one I consider top-tier. This is the manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. I first discovered this story via the anime adaptation which has two versions (which I will discuss shortly), but first let’s begin with a quick blurb to see if this is the type of story you are interested in.

“In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Their journey to restore their bodies through the power of the Philosopher’s Stone begins here.”

That was taken from the back of volume one of the deluxe edition. There are 18 volumes included in the deluxe edition and 27 in the original version (the deluxe editions combine the 27 into 18 hardcover volumes).

I hope this caught your interest, because as I stated above, this story is incredible. The Elric brothers are alchemists. Alchemy, for a simple explanation, could be equated to magic. The entire system centers on the Law of Equivalent Exchange. For example, by using the right alchemical formula, an alchemist could change water into hydrogen by removing the oxygen. The correct materials are present. They can change the chemical and/or physical makeup of things with alchemy but only if the materials are present. Alchemy cannot therefore create something from nothing. Except perhaps with the Philosopher’s Stone.

Though I recently read the manga series for the first time, I did watch the 2003 adaptation Fullmetal Alchemist and the 2009 adaptation titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The reason two versions exist isn’t simply that the latter is a remake. The first was adapted while the manga was still being written and the show went on past the published material and thus took creative liberties to conclude the series resulting is quite a few differences from the source material. The 2009 adaptation is more accurate as the series had been completed and it therefore stayed true to the source material. This is perhaps why I believe it to be the better version.

What I like about this series is the blend of comedy, drama, ethics, morality, and the questions of what it means to be human and what is the value of a human life. It covers topics such as genocide, so this series does delve into some heavy areas and there are some impactful moments, one of which stands out as a forever “too soon” reference within the fandom. If you’ve read or watched this series, then you likely know what I am referring to.

The series is rich with interesting characters both good and bad. I would even dare to call it timeless due to the nature of the worldbuilding and the fact it centers on those questions that humanity will always be considering despite the fact no concrete answer will ever be possible.

If you’ve never heard of this series, then I hope you look into it either by reading or watching. I of course recommend print format but also the 2009 adaptation if you want to watch it. Both versions are currently available on Netflix. In the spirit of Equivalent Exchange. I thank you for reading my post and I hope you got something from it that you find as valuable as the time spent reading it.

Happy Reading.

Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul Monster Edition Volume 1 CoverTokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is the first manga/graphic novel series I have read. I originally watched the show and have always heard the source material was better (as is often the case), so I recently read the entire series and it is a ride. I have a lot of thoughts about this series, but to keep things spoiler-free, I will refrain from going into details and will focus on the story and characters without giving anything away (except for the initial events that set up the entire story).

First, the premise. This series centers around the dichotomy of humans and ghouls. Ghouls look like humans, but can only survive by eating humans. Their consumption of humans increases a type of cell in their bodies that allows them to wield organic weapons that extend from their bodies (this is actually pretty cool for fight scenes). They blend into human society in order to survive and several ghouls try to live “normal” lives. Some even try to sustain themselves without killing while others throw caution to the wind and kill as they please. This is of course a problem, and the Commission of Counter Ghoul (CCG) is a specific agency aimed at eradicating ghouls from human society by tracking and eliminating ghouls.

The story follows the character of Ken Kaneki. He is a normal, shy, human college kid. After an accident, he receives an organ transplant but the organs were from a ghoul. Ken finds himself forced to navigate ghoul society once he realizes he can no longer eat human food. He is no longer human but he is not quite a full ghoul either.

Ken’s journey is a long and arduous one as he attempts to adapt to his new circumstances. I won’t go into details as this would defeat the purpose of this recommendation, so I hope the information so far has peaked your interest or maybe helped you realize this may not be a story for you.

I will add a few warnings though. This story is gruesome (if you couldn’t tell by the premise) and Ken Kaneki may have the worst luck of any character I have ever read. Sui Ishida took the “kill your darlings” idea and ran with it because this series delves into psychological aspects that are rare in any form of literature. This goes without even mentioning the physical aspects involved in this story. Another warning is that this story goes in unexpected directions and some storylines or characters may not get a clear cut resolution, meaning some things may seem unresolved. I know this can bother many readers, myself included, but I also felt the overarching story wraps up as well as it can. Sui Ishida provides a brief, personal story at the very end of the series about his time working on the story that I think contributes to providing a satisfied end.

My last warning is more a heads up about a major change that occurs halfway through. This series is split into two parts. The original Tokyo Ghoul is 14 volumes and covers much of Ken’s journey. The second part is titled Tokyo Ghoul:re which consists of 16 volumes and begins 2-3 years after the events of part one. The time gap and changes to characters/events proves to be a hard adjustment for many fans mainly because there is not much explanation as to how it happens. It does get briefly explained later on and hopefully by the time you get this far (if you choose to read it) you will be absorbed in the story and will need to know how it concludes.

The show follows the main storyline fairly well but there are significant changes to several events and some information or arcs are left out. These missing events are what cause some confusion in the show. Though I still really like the show, I will admit I enjoyed the graphic novels much more. Each volume can be read quickly and I think the artwork is fantastic.

I realize this is the first graphic novel series I’ve recommended, but I’m sure I will be exploring more storylines in this format so there will be more to come. I honestly believe great stories are available in any medium and I hope this one is not a barrier for you. If you are already familiar with this medium, I hope this story interests you. There is so much I’d love to discuss about this story and how it comments on our own society, but this is just a brief insight for you to see if you would like to read it yourself.

Happy Reading.