About Sean Gaffney

Sean Gaffney has been reading manga since 1996, writing fanfiction in the manga and anime world since 1996, but only decided to start a manga blog in 2009. No one is quite sure why, as talking endlessly is one of his favorite things. He’s also written guest posts at Erica Friedman’s Okazu. His favorite manga things to discuss are shoujo with cheerful yet oblivious heroines, defending angry tsundere girls, and pretending he doesn’t ship. His favorite non-manga things to discuss are classic cartoons from the 1930s to 1960s, William Shakespeare (and other Elizabethan/Jacobean playwrights), and Frank Zappa. But really, he’ll happily talk about anything, even if he has to Google it first to pretend he knows all about it. He lives in Connecticut.

Clockwork Planet, Vol. 3

By Yuu Kamiya, Tsubaki Himana, and Sino. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by fofi.

Last time I said that reader sympathy was largely shifting away from Naoto and towards Marie. I’ll go further this time: Marie is why I’m reading this series. There’s actually some decent not-Naoto characterization in this volume, as RyuZU begins to actually appreciate who Marie is and AnchoR is able to realize that she is not merely there to be a giant Mass Weapon of Destruction (though she possibly wishes she learned that lesson a bit earlier). But it’s Marie who the reader follows throughout the book, as she’s now become the star far more than Naoto has. This despite the fact that, like Naoto, she too is shown to be something more than human – after she angrily rants about his amazing hearing one too many times, Naoto comes right back and mentions how Marie’s eyesight is just as ridiculous, and allows her to perform equally impossible tasks. They may not be a romantic pairing (though AnchoR calling them her parents is not helping), but together they are a force of nature.

The basic plot of this series has been the same over the three books, as this book picks up shortly after the end of the second one. Things are looking very bad for our terrorist heroes, who are up against a very crafty enemy, who knows both when to show off its amazing power and when to step back and simply watch the government fall apart. The scenes with the cabinet were viciously satirical, and you get the feeling that the authors are no great fans of politics in general. Meanwhile, RyuZU is out of commission, Halter and Vermouth are down to brains and heads, (and not necessarily both), and Marie is constantly feeling as if the end has finally arrived. Naoto gets frustrated with this, mostly as he’s no0t that type of personality (which is why his characterization suffers – where can he go from here?), but I feel for Marie, as this is indeed a horrible situation it’s impossible to get out of. Luckily, with her, Naoto and his “wife and daughter”, they can achieve the impossible with a bit of effort.

The afterword suggested that this volume was mostly Kamiya’s work, and I’m not surprised, as there are elements of the book that are rather sleazy, particularly everything involving Vermouth, who is absolutely horrible and yet absolutely hilarious. This volume is also considerably longer than the others, and is one of the longer light novels on my phone – when it hits print, I’ll estimate it may be around 300 pages. There’s a lot going on here. That said, almost all the plot threads get wrapped up nearly – in fact, a bit too nearly. If I didn’t know there was a 4th volume of the series I’d swear that this was the final one, and I wonder if their editor made it end like this just in case they were late with the manuscript one too many times. In the meantime, I understand the anime was not well loved, but fans might want to give the novels a try, as they’ve gotten very good indeed.

Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale, Vol. 1

By Kikori Morino. Released in Japan as “Owari Nochi, Asanagi Kurashi” by Mag Garden, serialization ongoing in the online magazine Alterna pixiv. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.

I suppose I should not have been surprised. We’ve seen BL titles that are really cooking manga. We’ve seen Shonen Jump cooking manga, both with monsters and without. We’ve seen dungeon crawl cooking manga where you eat the monsters, and fantasy manga where you’re eating dragons. Heck, even the monstrous Fate/Stay Night franchise, which has always had a heavy element of cooking involved in it, has given in and offered us pure slice of life foodie manga. And now we see Giant Spider & Me, which is a post-apocalyptic story of life after the Earth seems to have suffered a great disaster that left the cities flooded. Except it’s really a slice-of-life heartwarming story about a girl and a giant spider bonding and learning more about each other. Except, well, it’s really about the food. Update your recipe cards, because you’ll be adding new entries after reading this.

Our heroine is Nagi, a young girl who lives alone in a cabin in the woods, about a medium-sized walk away from a grand view of the flooded remains of a large city. Theoretically she lives with her dad; in actuality, he’s been out exploring for a long time and has not come back, so she’s living by herself, foraging, and making do. (There are mentions of other villages, and a stranger shows up in the last chapter, so there are still people around.) One day she runs into a large spider, which as you can see by the cover is VERY large – about the size of her dining room table. I appreciated the fact that she was actually terrified for a while – in titles like this, usually the protagonist is a girl who has no sense of danger or fear, and I liked that Nagi is aware that yes, this is a GIANT SPIDER. That said, it rapidly becomes clear that said spider (quickly named Asa) acts more like a puppy looking for a new home, and after Nagi takes pity and invites it back to her place, the bonding begins.

The cooking and slice-of-life war for supremacy throughout this first volume, until perhaps the cliffhanger at the very end, which seems designed to be a cliffhanger more than anything else. Nagi is sweet and elf-sufficient, and a good cook. Asa, as I said earlier, acts like a rambunctious puppy at times, knocking things over and such. That said, they’re also able to protect Nagi from more dangerous and less adorable predators, so it’s not entirely a master/pet relationship – it’s meant to be a budding friendship. There are also hints that we might eventually hear what happened in this world, and expand the cast a bit. That said, this isn’t the sort of series you want getting too complicated. It’s a story of a girl, a spider, and delicious food. Not much else is needed.

The Combat Baker and Automaton Waitress, Vol. 2

By SOW and Zaza. Released in Japan by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by Bookwalker. Translated by David Musto.

It took me a while to get into this volume of the series, but once the main plot got into gear it practically flew along. I felt uncomfortably like Sophia while reading this. She’s the soldier and childhood friend of Lud’s who wants him to return to the military rather than trying to atone for his crimes by baking bread in some town in the middle of nowhere. Lud, over the course of the book, realizes that’s not why he’s doing this, and that being a baker and seeing people happy *is* what he wants going forward. That said, I have to admit that the book really comes alive once the terrorists arrive and things turn a bit Die Hard. Lud may be a baker, but he is also an excellent soldier. That said, I was also pleased that a large amount of the saving the day fell to both Sophia and Sven, who have no need for Lud to come and rescue them.

The book starts off at the bakery but doesn’t stay there long, as fantasy not-Germany is trying to win over its conquered people and therefore is having a party on the not-Hindenburg, and the\y want Lud’s bread to be part of that. Of course, there are a few small problems. 1) Lud will have to give an interview, and his smile still terrifies people. Luckily, Sven takes over with help from some hair dye and glasses. 2) His former commanding officer/childhood friend is there as well, and she wants him to join the military again so he can be with her… um, I mean do what’s he was meant to do. 3) This is all a publicity stunt, so once Lud actually boards the airship he finds himself cruelly mocked and belittled. And of course 4) Terrorists have boarded the ship and are going to crash it into a major city, killing thousands. Add in Milly, the angry girl from the first book who now has a massive crush on Lud, and has stowed away, and you have a lot going on.

There is, of course, a bit of a harem here, but given Lud’s personality, nothing is really going to come of it. That said, I wonder how much of Lud’s obliviousness is genuine – there’s a clear moment here where he reveals he knows exactly who Sven really is, to her surprise, but it’s just as quickly forgotten. I suspect he’s trying to keep things as they are, which is always a dangerous thing to do in Japanese series – “I wish things could stay like this forever” is a classic death flag. The series also has some very interesting worldbuilding in regards to the supposed “peace” after the war, and how fragile that really is, especially if some of the soldiers who know nothing else are trying to stir up war again. I could have done without the dickhead terrorist stripping and threatening Sophia with rape, the go-to standard for “I want readers to see my villain is eeeeeeevil”, but at least she kneed him across the room and stepped on his goolies, rather than get rescued by Lud. Sophia can take care of herself.

I still wish I could change the font in Bookwalker’s app to a different one, but the translation seems much improved in Book 2. It also comes with a very short story about the world of the series. If you’re looking for a light novel that’s not quite the same as the “standard”, but still has enough tropes to be comfortable, this is an excellent series to read.