Manga Monday #5: Absolute Boyfriend (vol. 4-6)

*Warning! This post will contain MAJOR spoilers!*

Last week, I re-examined volumes 1-3 of Yuu Watase’s shojo manga Absolute Boyfriend, and this week, I’ll be tackling the end, volumes 4-6!

I went into the tail end of this series expecting to be blown away, and in all honesty, I wasn’t – I kept both feet planted firmly on the ground. But a few key points still stuck out, and I still find this series just as charming and funny on the second go-round as I did on the first. I do, however, now realize why a part of me prefers the Jdrama to the manga, when the opposite is usually true.

20171001_2145091421252900.jpgFirst of all, I am immensely glad that the series retains the humor factor the entire way through. The little bits of comedy, especially regarding Gaku and his “job,” and Night’s tendency to nearly expose his secret to others, make for a nice break from the more dramatic portions of the story, especially as the main narrative barrels toward the end and the emotional scenes become a priority. The art remains fantastic as well; totally pleasing to the eye and continually engrossing.

Of all 6 volumes, I think volume 4 is the weakest. First of all, I TOTALLY FORGOT about the “Mini-Night” story-line. While some meaningful revelations and interactions occur during that particular plot, it still feels like “filler.” Even the side-plot that occurs concerning Miyabe, one of Riiko’s friends, during this time didn’t strike me as vital to the plot. I understand the genre of this manga and what the standards are for this type of story, but I think the latter half of the plot seems to fall victim to the preoccupation with the love triangle, and it’s more of a detriment than a strength. It’s present in the first half of the series, but as the story builds and the love-triangle plot starts to take center stage, it began to bug me. And, as I said in the last post, I am all for a good love kerfuffle, but this one started to grate on my nerves. I mean, at least Riiko straight up admits she doesn’t know who she “really loves,” since she has feelings for both, but the pettiness between Night and Soshi and Riiko’s constant, “I don’t know” mentality gets a little stale after a while.

The pacing suffers a bit in the latter volumes; certain parts, like the finale, feel rushed, while others seem aimless. I didn’t realize volume 6 takes up only half the tankobon, and the other half is two little one-shot stories totally unrelated to Absolute Boyfriend. BUT, they are both pretty cute, and well worth a read!

My biggest beef on this read-through is Soshi’s character. I hated the way Soshi behaved when he found out about Night’s “figure” status, as he amped up the jealous/forceful factor to about a 9 on the “he needs to calm the eff down” scale. It’s understandable for him to be frustrated, of course – the girl he loves is torn between him and a man who is not technically “real,” and if that were me, I’d feel like a grade-A loser – and his reaction is… less than pleasant, to the point where it does teeter a bit over the “too intense” line. And while Riiko can be a bit of a waffle sometimes, and wishy-washy like a lot of heroines tend to be, I think Soshi genuinely needed to chill. He does, eventually – but my opinion on his character really soured in the latter half of this series. Especially when he kisses Riiko while she’s sleeping. Not cute, Soshi. Not. Cute. And the “YOU DON’T DESERVE HER… no wait, I don’t deserve her… BUT YOU DON’T DESERVE HER EITHER” got old real quick.

Though I’m older now, and some of the events and decisions made in this manga no longer resonate with me or stand out as something I can relate to, I do still massively appreciate the way this manga ends. Even when I was a teenager, I didn’t expect Riiko/Night to be endgame. It was just not realistic, and I applaud the mangaka for not taking some absurd, Pinocchio-esque “I’m a real boy!” twist to make it so that Night will be able to remain in Riiko’s life permanently, without consequence. And I will admit, I got a little choked up when Night’s body fails and Riiko desperately tries to wake him, only to realize that he’s gone forever. I remember openly sobbing over it when I read it the first time, so I’m not surprised it still yanked at the ol’ heartstrings. Boy, that pummeled me right in the feels, even so many years later. Their relationship was never going to last, but that doesn’t make the ending any less significant, and by the end, I felt as though I had witnessed real growth in Riiko (and, to some extent, Soshi ) thanks in large part to her relationship with Night, and her experiences with him seemed to make her a better person overall. It’s a bittersweet ending that is handled exceptionally well, which seems difficult to pull off for a series of this nature.

All in all, Absolute Boyfriend doesn’t hold quite the same allure for me as it did when I was a teen, but it still contains messages and stories that are relevant today and it is an entertaining read all the way through, despite some parts that gnawed at my nerves. Through a tedious love triangle and a bit of inconsequential “filler,” Absolute Boyfriend still nails the comedy and packs an emotional wallop where it really matters.

Next Monday, we’ll tackle either Tokyo Mew Mew by Reiko Yoshida and Mia Ikumi, or Tsubasa: Those With Wings by Natsuki Takaya. Until then!

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What Could Have Been

As I’ve mentioned before, my debut novel I’m With You underwent many changes from inception to publication. The original story I envisioned was vastly different from the final version, and, just for funsies, I thought I’d list some of the things that “could have been” had I kept on along the initial route…

Minor spoilers ahead! You have been warned!

1.) Ciarán did not exist.
Ramus was originally intended to be the narrator, but his role was also different than his final incarnation (see below). I added Ciarán because I wanted to show the main characters through the eyes of a different party, and did not want Ramus’s perspective to paint the narrative. I thought the themes and the lessons would be better portrayed through the eyes and in the voice of a teenager, especially since I was aiming for a YA audience, so Ciarán was created to fill that role. And I’m glad it was his voice that told the story.

2.) Ramus (and Valkyrie) were hit-men.
The original plan had Ramus and Valkyrie serving as hit-men from the same nefarious organization. Ramus is hired to eliminate Remiel by her paranoid grandfather, but Ramus ultimately turns against his employers and decides to save Rem instead, and he recruits Valkyrie to help him get her to safety with some family members across the country. So, there are some similarities, but I nixed the hit-man idea when some other plot elements were changed and new characters were introduced. Also, there would have been a lot more violence and fighting. The Ramus/Valkyrie relationship was mostly the same, however, though instead of being established before their introduction, it would have been over the course of the narrative.

3.) I’m With You was intended to be a trilogy.
Back when I had very lofty ambitions for the layout of the story, I figured it would take about three books to tell the whole tale. However, there were several different sub-plots going on that were eventually discarded. Valkyrie was going to become a “villain” of sorts, and there was an arc that would feature a “world war” type of event… but in the end, it was way too convoluted and confusing and I couldn’t quite scrape up enough plausible detail to weave all the events I wanted together into a cohesive tale. The main story was supposed to be “get Remiel to safety” and as I kept adding more and more, it strayed further and further from the point. After I sliced down the scope of my ideas and shuffled the remaining elements together, I was left with enough content to fit within the pages of a single book. And I’m super glad that it ended up as one novel instead of 3.

4.) Kaz and Kia were originally twins…
…and both were villains. Kia was originally envisioned as an acrobat in a circus, and Kaz, her brother, was still a fire-juggler. They were to be villains in the second main arc of the story, enlisted by the second main antagonist. That is why their names and origins are similar; both got an age-change in the final version, as Kaz is 30 and Kia is 25ish.

5.) Dahlia was the main villain.
She was also known by the moniker “The Boss,” as she ran the organization that the hit-man versions of Ramus and Valkyrie were involved in. Markone also did not exist in the original plan. Dahlia and Valkyrie also would have ended up having a child, though they weren’t in a “relationship” – Valkyrie was more or less forced into a liaison with her. Long story. Obviously, that changed quite a lot.

6.) Most character descriptions were changed.
Camilla originally had black hair and brown eyes, but ended up blonde and blue-eyed. Valkyrie had two-toned hair; brown and red, but he ended up with auburn. Kaz was bald, I believe, and Dahlia was a little older and had red hair. I think the only characters who kept the same exact appearance/physical description were Remiel and Ramus, though Remiel was younger in previous plans.

7.) Mitzi was a minor character.
The original “party” for the story was Ramus, Remiel, Valkyrie, and Camilla – as previously mentioned, Ciarán didn’t exist, Kaz was a villain, and Mitzi was a minor supporting character in what I envisioned to be the second book of the trilogy. She had a very similar temperament, but was employed by a government organization and would end up working against her employer to help the main crew. When the plot shifted around, I decided to include her in the main party because her personality added a bit more balance to the rest of the characters.

Shameless plug: My book tour for my YA novel, I’m With You, is still ongoing! Check it out here: LINK! Plus, the ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 on Amazon Amazon UK. 

 

Writing Rewind #11: Wings of Fate Chapter 7 Part 2

It’s been a few weeks since our last jaunt into the world of my hideous past writing, and I was only just starting to recover… but it’s time to go back and knock out the rest of chapter 7.

Last time, we were introduced to two new major players in Major Leiter and Major Tango, and, after being busted for hiding Shirotaka in his room, Heiwa has been led to meet with General von Schneider. What suffering is store in wait for him? Let’s find out, in pat 2 of Chapter 7: The Mission Revealed!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe
Green highlight – switch/move

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Starting strong, as always.

Verbose, verbose, verbose. Much like my hair, this selection is in need of a good trim. And a good re-work.

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Also, for a man who is meant to be so cold and intimidating, General von Schneider’s dialogue does not lend itself to that idea. He needs to be less wordy, more cutting. And also, the build up to the big reveals in this chapter is way too long. It draws out the suspense, but not in a good way.

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Same ideas conveyed in a more efficient manner. Moving on, Heiwa gets taken to Dr. Black’s quarters, which are covered in pictures of a mysterious woman…

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Ugh. I really fail at descriptions. Admittedly, I still struggle with it, but I do like to think I’ve gotten at least a little better since these dark days.

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I do wonder if I can go an entire chapter without mentioning eye color. Somehow, I doubt it…but that one red bit in there is certainly overkill.

Also, this section is just wordy and awkward. So it’s time to trim and tame!

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Now, the set-up to Dr. Black’s motivations is a bit more streamlined, without losing any of the actual content. Less clunky, and with improved flow, so it doesn’t drag… at least, not as much.

Moving on, Heiwa is reunited with Shirotaka, and Dr. Black starts to get into the real nitty-gritty of what the mission is about. He shows the pair some artifacts, and the explanation begins…

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*sigh* This… is… awful.

I guess because I thought the explanation was going to be confusing, I had to cram every little detail into Dr. Black’s little monologue. But really, it’s not necessary to bog the explanation down so meticulously.

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Really, that entire block is a massive cringe, and needs a massive overhaul. Other than that, it’s just the usual nit-picks and recurring problems. Also, Heiwa doesn’t need an overload of “How can this be?” “Can this be true?” “How is this possible?” wondering every single time he gets an info-bomb dropped on him.

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Look how much shorter this is! And, at least on my end, the explanation still seems fairly clear, at least for the time being. The info-dump is not as drastic, which allows for a less overloaded chapter. It’s still overloaded, of course, but I can at least lessen the damage.

Next, Dr. Black’s explanations continue…

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So, Shirotaka’s people, the mysterious Seijaku, can bring the dead back to life. What a twist! But this portion still requires a bit of a makeover.

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Dr. Black’s dialogue is still too wordy, and that eye-reference needs to go. Far, far away, never to return. The reveal in this passage, that the Seijaku can resurrect the dead, loses some impact when it’s surrounded by so much fluff.

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There; less talk, more… I don’t know, moving forward?

After this, Dr. Black explains that Shirotaka likely has amnesia, but he expects her memories to eventually return. However, when he asks Heiwa for help, Heiwa declines, as he feels something “off” about the mission. Therefore, Dr. Black needs to persuade him. So, if the Seijaku’s incredible power is divided in two, obviously, the second part is…

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Ah, the old “using terminally-ill mother as a bargaining chip” trick. What a low blow!

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The use of “she” and “his mother” also needs to be tweaked, as it gets muddled during Heiwa’s inner monologue. Overall, though, this passage needs the usual treatment. A little snip and polish!

Here’s the result:

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Heiwa obviously agrees to help Dr. Black in order to potentially help his mother. So, Heiwa will now be serving as the “go-between” for Dr. Black whenever Shirotaka remembers something that could be useful for the mission.

But where will Shirotaka stay? The room next to Heiwa is occupied by Major Tango (which was news to Heiwa) so alternate arrangements must be made…

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Such a “funny” turn of events loses the humor when it’s too long-winded, which means some changes must be made.

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Hopefully, cutting out some unneeded tidbits and reworking some awkward phrasing will make this passage flow better.

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And there we have it! Chapter 7 is at a close, and the mission has been revealed! Heiwa might get to uncover an ancient civilization, and save his mother all at once! Though, of course, it won’t be so easy…

Next time, we depart from the mission-based focus and get more into the psyche of the commanding officers, as well as the  lamentable romance subplot from this travesty of a story. And is that a love triangle I hear in the distance? Or could it be…a love square? Rhombus? Trapezoid? Idk. There’s four people in it. Next time is Chapter 8: The Hated Day.

Shameless plug: My book tour for my YA novel, I’m With You, is still ongoing! Check it out here: LINK! Plus, the ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) on Amazon Amazon UK. 

On Monday, we have another Manga Monday, this time about Full Moon O Sagashite by Arina Tanemura. I own the entire series, but I don’t think I ever finished reading it for some reason, so I’m looking forward to it!

 

I’M WITH YOU on the road…

I’m taking my YA novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour starting TOMORROW!

Here’s the LINK for the tour, if you’d like to keep up with the stops! I wrote up some fun guest posts and there are a couple of interviews, which I hope folks will look forward to reading. And in conjunction with the tour, I’ve got some additional news…

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I’m With You is now only $1.99 in ebook format (down from $4.99) and $9.99 in paperback (down from $12.99)! Check it out if you haven’t yet!

Here’s the Amazon LINK if you’d like to take advantage of the deal!

Summary: When fifteen-year-old Ciarán Morrigan eavesdrops on a conversation between his father and two mysterious strangers, his life–and the life of his little sister, Remiel–is changed forever. After their father makes a startling decision, the Morrigan siblings are forced to flee the only life they’ve ever known and embark on a dangerous adventure across the nation of Empirya. With the help of a disinherited vagabond, a cynical violinist, a fire-juggler with a fierce temper, an aspiring mechanic, and a cheerful librarian, Ciarán and Remiel must fight to escape those who have been hired to hunt them. But will Remiel’s dark secret prevent the Morrigan children from finding a place they can truly call home?

A Couple of Announcements…

In lieu of an actual blog post today, I’ve got a couple of future matters to discuss.

The first, is that I’m taking my YA novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour via RABT Book Tours later in August, and for most of September! I’ll be doing interviews, guest posts, etc. on a number of different blogs for about a month.

Here is the link to the upcoming tour if you want to have a peek: LINK! And check out some of the other tours on their sidebar, as well! I’m very excited to kick off the tour in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be posting updates about it as it comes nearer and while it’s going on, so stay tuned!

Other than that, I’ll also be starting a new blog series in September called Manga Mondays. I used to be a pretty big collector and have shelves of manga that I haven’t read in several years, with numerous completed series and a few incomplete series. As a bit of an “experiment,” I’m going to re-read (and, in a sense, re-review) them and see how my perspective has changed now that I’m older.

Some of the series I will be looking at:

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
Godchild by Kaori Yuki
Beauty Pop by Kiyoko Arai
Kingdom Hearts (I&II) by Shiro Amano
Love Com by Aya Nakahara

The first installment is tentatively scheduled for September 4th, 2017, but I haven’t picked a series to start with. Not entirely sure if it will be a weekly post, every other Monday, or on random Mondays – it all depends on how quickly I can read.

So there’s a couple of things to look forward to on the blog! See you on Friday for a new Game of Thrones post!

Writing Rewind #9: Wings of Fate Chapter 6

On the previous installment of Writing Rewind, Heiwa got into trouble with his superiors for spacing off during training aboard the UNMEI. Will he be able to get it together in this upcoming chapter? Nope! But will something dramatic and life-changing happen? Yes! Let’s dive into Wings of Fate Chapter 6: The Girl.

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe
Green highlight – switch/move

First off…

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That first bit and the last bit aren’t awful, but that middle section…. dear GOD. The shame I currently feel is insurmountable.

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More of the usual. Reworking and cutting out. And removing that entire atrocity in the middle. It is an entire paragraph of unnecessary dithering and a pitiful attempt at humor, and it must be DESTROYED.

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There; the chapter is still being set up, but it isn’t bogged down by pointless blabbering. No gingerbread houses. I don’t even know why I put that in there in the first place, considering I hate gingerbread.

Next up…

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So, Heiwa has continued to get in trouble with his commanding officers because he can’t stop spacing off during training. Honestly, at this point, it’s a bit ridiculous that he can’t focus when the situation calls for him to pay attention. I actually agree with his superiors – he needs a good smack upside the head.

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Lots to cut and lots to rework! This is still kind of a “set up” portion of the chapter, recapping the difficulties and frustrations Heiwa is having, but it still doesn’t need to be so long, since the real “meat” of the chapter hasn’t happened yet.

So here is the result…

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There; the fat has been trimmed, and the passage still conveys Heiwa’s irritation and impatience, as well as the concern his friends have for him.

And now… the real adventure starts…

So, to set up this part, Heiwa is out “swabbing the deck” as a punishment for his behavior, when all of a sudden, something, or someone, falls out of the sky…

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Alright! Things are getting real! Real ridiculous, that is…

Anyhow, this portion of the story is where Heiwa’s dream of “adventure” starts to come true, but this set up and description of the mysterious girl is still mega tedious and needs to be adjusted.

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These character descriptions can be so much more succinct and far less clunky, nor do eye colors needs to be mentioned seventeen thousand times. It’s an introduction, not her life story.  So the usual rework/trim, plus a sentence needs to be moved to another point in the passage.

And here is the fixed version:

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There; we’ve introduced our new character and got a physical description that’s a bit less wordy, so it doesn’t detract from the actual point of the chapter, which is the mystery of the girl, not what she looks like.

Next…

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Okay; clearly this girl is going to be tied to Heiwa’s thirst for adventure, but I think the reader can put those pieces together without it being stated outright.

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Okay, so I want to punch myself in the face for using the phrase “cloudy gray yonder” to describe the sky. That is a thousand different kinds of terrible.

Otherwise, it’s more of the same. Awkwardness needs to be addressed and needless words and sentences must face the axe.

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There – the changes help to improve the flow of Heiwa and the girl’s first interaction with one another, and Heiwa’s not monologuing about fairytales and such, since the reader can understand that well enough by the circumstances. And “cloudy gray yonder” is GONE, NEVER TO RETURN!

For our next selection, Heiwa has named the girl “Shirotaka” and has decided to sneak her inside the UNMEI and keep her in his dorm with Daisuke! Because that’s a great idea.

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I mean, Heiwa’s poor decision making skills aside, this portion could use some sprucing up. It’s not as bad as some previous segments, though, which I consider a tiny, near-minuscule victory.

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Dare I say, since I only pinpointed a few major changes, this section shows minor signs of improvement? Nope, it’s definitely just a fluke. The usual issues with awkwardness and wordiness are still popping up and must be fixed.

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There; for some reason, Daisuke agrees to Heiwa’s ridiculous plan in a less awkward and wordy fashion.

Lastly, after successfully smuggling food to their dorm for Shirotaka and Heiwa;s first night sleeping on the floor of his room, our heroes get a surprise the following morning…

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Ah, yes… how could the boys forget about Inspection Day? Because the plot demanded them to, so we could fabricate some suspense!

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Really not much to do with this portion either, at least compared to previous selections. The cringe is at a minimum! What a nice way to close out this post… but obviously, it’s not perfect and still needs some tweaking. What would one of my old passages be without some awkwardness to fix?

So, here’s the fixed version…

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And there we have it! Chapter six is at a close, and a new character has been admitted to our ranks. Next time, we’ll meet some majors… both officers and problems, that is. Will our brave heroes be able to keep Shirotaka hidden during their inspection? Probably not! But will her presence on the UNMEI be a vital key to discovering the secrets of the mission? Who knows, but the next chapter is called, “A Mission Revealed,” so I’m thinking it’s probably a safe bet that Shirotaka is somehow involved.

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m taking my YA novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour with RABT Book tours at the end of August! Info HERE.

Writing Techniques: Multitasking

I’m going to admit this straight up; I cannot multitask. It is a persistent challenge for me.

I also don’t know how people can multitask. I’m not talking about multitasking in everyday life. Like, I can juggle laundry and chores with life stuff and all that…. on a good day, anyway. But I cannot do other things while I’m writing. Like, this is my screen right now:

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I’m watching a UK panel show while writing this blog post. As such, it is going to take me approximately 489 hours to finish this post, because I will inevitably watch something else after this video is done, which will reduce my writing pace to a crawl. And for maximum productivity, I have found that I cannot multitask like that if I want to accomplish anything.

I used to watch TV or Youtube or Netflix or whatever while I was editing or working on a manuscript, but I’ve come to realize that I can’t do that if I want to get things done. I end up paying too much attention to one thing and not enough to the other, and it flips back and forth and back and forth until it destroys my concentration. Even if I do manage to slog through an editing session while catching up on my stories, my attention is never focused 100% where it needs to be, which makes for less than satisfactory results. I can pop on some music to help fuel the inspiration; anything else and I’ll be working at a snail’s pace with frequent distractions. Some people might be able to multitask like that, or watch a movie while working on writing, but I cannot divide my attention in such a way and still produce my best work.

Multitasking by juggling multiple writing projects at the same time, however, is a different story – but still a challenge. Inspiration is fickle, and the well of ideas can run dry after being dipped into too often. For example, I currently have a primary project that is in the revising/pre-query stage, but there are times where I feel burnt out on it; like all my motivation is spent and I can’t muster the right level of attention needed to achieve my best work.

To combat this, I can’t throw myself into a massive new project – if I do that, I’ll get too focused on something new, and alas, I am not an octopus capable of extending eight limbs to divide my efforts in multiple directions. When motivation starts to fray, I either walk away for a bit to clear my head, or I’ll draft out some blog posts. Sometimes, to help encourage myself to return to that main project, I’ll jot down some freewrites about the characters to examine situations in a different way, especially when I hit a wall and don’t know which way to take a particular plotline. Sometimes I’ll re-imagine a scene from a different perspective, to gain new insight on characters and relationships. Occasionally, I’ll work on preliminary stages or snippets for a new project, but I won’t go too in-depth with it – just the framework, to try and get creative juices flowing again. It’s like being a spider with multiple webs, but more work is put into fortifying one web until it is complete, while the others come together at a different pace.

Even if I am juggling multiple projects at once, which is generally the case, the majority of my focus remains on one of those projects… the danger of multitasking can stretch my attention too thin, and have a negative impact on my writing. I do wonder how other writers deal with multitasking – it might be a challenge for me, and effortless for another. But I do know for sure that if I want to do my best, I need to put emphasis on focus, and must minimize potential distraction in any way possible.

SIDE NOTE: I’m taking my novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour via RABT book tours next month! Stay tuned for updates!