Tv Show Rant: Netflix’s Shadow and Bone – Episode 2: We’re All Someone’s Monster

Note: These reviews discuss the episodes in detail and might contain slight spoilers for the books Six Of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

We see the fallout of episode 1, thanks to some Grisha still being able to use their powers the ship returns to the military base where it came from with Alina and the others.

In a flashback we see more of the scene at the Meadow and the orpahanage. We learn that Mal and Alina both skipped the Grisha test as kids – it is not clear if Alina noticed her powers before, only that she didn’t want to chance being separated from Mal.

Zoya gets Alina sent to the General and we change to Ketterdam again. The fight between Inej and Kaz is very interesting, Kaz already shows that he cares about Inej’s opinion but he is still very cold and guarded at this point. We learn that Inej still have ties to Tante Heleen and can’t leave the city without her permission.

Then Pekka rolls up and.. this was the first scene that really made me go “hmm, that doesn’t seem right”. Kaz is in his room when he fights with Inej, we see the window and the painting from episode one. When Pekka and his men arrive we can see the stolen painting again, meaning this should still be his room. Yet these men just appear there so casually… not only are these members from a rival gang and the boss of a rival gang.. but Kaz’s room is also supposed to be in the attic of their own gang run bar/casino. Did they change his room’s location in the the tv show? Because the little window where he looks out onto the bar makes it seem like he isn’t in the attic after all but somewhere lower.

And that leaves me to my second question: where are the rest of the Dregs? Where are the Dreg guards from the doors? Did they just let the Dime Lions waltz in through their own bar? Kaz does send Jesper to guard the door later, which already happened in episode one, so it raises the question if they only have one person at the door at all times, and if Jesper is just really terrible at his job? If this was his fault I feel Kaz would have been way more pissed at him. Kaz also signals another crew member who is inside the bar later so if he is supposed to be a lookout.. it is implied they’d have multiple people inside to spot trouble. Unless this is a commentary on how lax their security is under the current boss, this doesn’t add up.

And the second thing that really felt out of place is how easily they took hold of Kaz. In the books it is clear that while he isn’t quick as Jesper or stealthy as Inej, Kaz can hold his own in a fight due to his troubled upbringing. He is good at a scrap, injured leg or not, and his cane packs a bunch. And most of the time he can just talk his way out of fights without even having to lift a finger because that’s his own specialty. So being beaten down so easily, and the scene making it look like even the cane isn’t doing much is really weird.

I really love Inej and Jesper casually hanging out at the bar and both of them being worried/pissed at Kaz. And the way Jesper immediately offers his help to Inej is very lovely. The way Kaz just trots out of his office/room so quickly to the bar also makes the whole Pekka thing even weirder.. why did no one else notice Pekka just walking through the Crow Club? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

It’s interesting how early they are peppering in the clues that Pekka and Kaz have history.. and even Jesper seems to know more. I wonder if this means that Kaz already trusted him enough to tell him about what happened, which only happened in book two of Six of Crows.

I do love that Kaz immediately catches sight of the woman who is from East Ravka and can tell when she’s lying, that and his whole scheming is very much in character. I am starting to feel however that they softened his character up a bit, Kaz in the books (or at least in the first one) would most definetely tell the woman that he was after her family to get the information, while the reader knows he is just pretending to be cruel to save face in a world full of criminals and would never hurt those people. Netflix Kaz though immediately says nah, we’re not after you.

Back to Alina and General Kirigan.. I actually like the fact that she doesn’t know why she is being taken to the General. Her reaction when Kirigan tells her to come closer and Alina barely stepping a foot closer is so funny. And her immediate sass in “well what” and then adding “sir” at the last minute is just so funny to me. Her thinking that she is gonna be punished for getting the cartography team on board makes a lot of sense since she kinda sorta passed out and didn’t even realize using her power.

I know people are shipping her with Kirigan because he is.. uh, dark, handsome and controlling or something and that’s supposed to be hot? But I am just so uncomfortable with their scenes.. This is a man who is clearly holding power over her and who also sorta looks like he has at least 10 years over Alina.. Now I don’t know how old Alina is but since these are young adult books I have to guess she is around or under 18 which just makes this ship all the more yikes.

Also can I just say, what are you has to be one of the rudest things to ask someone yet it seems so common in young adult stuff when someone with incredible powers appears? It feels like the asker is stripping them of their humanity in some way.

Moving on, the light show looks really amazing and I cannot wait to see more scenes where Alina gets to use her sun powers! And how sweet is it that Mal immediately just wants to go to her.

I love the transitions between the two storylines so much. It is so ingenius to connect the scenes with the same word/convo. Isn’t it funny how people keep saying Alina is Grisha now, while she was one all along she just (supposedly) didn’t know.

Inej’s knife moment has to be the funniest one so far – and rivals my all time favorite un-equipping moment from the Shadowhunter movie adaptation where Jace spends a good minute just taking out all his hidden weapons. I am pretty sure Inej wins in total count, I just hope she has more hidden that Tante Heleen isn’t even aware of. Not like she can pull out a metal scanner on her.

Honestly, I kind of expected Heleen to be more impressive or threatening. But I have to say she did make a good attempt at trying to cross Kaz’s plans by tricking Inej.

Jesper, supposedly on guard duty, is just playing in front of a mirror and practicing his gun showmanship. I love him so much. It is so funny that Inej surprises him when he has probably the best reflexes of their entire crew. And the way he just immediately wants to help Inej and calls her love.. I love these two.

I love the two Grisha in the carriage. Until now most Grisha we met were really full of themselves and looking down at the First Army, but it finally feels like Alina can make some friends. It actually make some sense while the Grishas act the way they do after you learn that they are behind the Little Palace’s walls not just to be separated from others but for their own protection as well. And it is understandable for Alina who already went through so much to not want yet another thing that would make her stand out. But it doesn’t seem like she has any choice in this matter. The keftas being bulletproof is pure genius.

The Drüskelle is also here of course, and it is astounding how easy the Grisha can go down if they aren’t great at combat training and don’t work together. Can we also take a moment to think about how close they got to loosing the only one Sun Summoner they ever got? And if Kirigan’s presence is a Drüskelle anti-repellent why didn’t he just go with Alina in the first place?

I love how the dramatic horse galloping scene is broken because Alina cannot handle horse riding. The way she keeps her distance from Kirigan but also isn’t afraid to sass him is something amazing. He does not look like a man who can handle being said no.

It’s great that they repeatedly address the fact that even though he is so powerful and has shadow powers he isn’t able to destroy The Fold because his powers just don’t work like that. If his powers only amplify The Fold does it mean he never crossed it?

The First Army General is actually making a lot of sense when he tells Mal that the Grisha aren’t ever powerful. And I am glad this is addressed because even though they have all these powers, and some are more rare than others, they still had casualties on their side in these two episodes. And I reallt like the fact that Mal has other friends not just Alina, friends that look out for him and stop him from doing soemthing reckless.

Jesper asking for a demo man and Six Of Crows readers knowing he has to wait like two more years until he finds the one that fits the team.. I’m loving all these foreshadowings. I also love how he isn’t afraid to complain to Kaz.. Jesper the handsome decoy was amazingly funny.

And god, can we just talk about my new favorite character, Poppy. I love his fashion sense and the sass. By the way they talked, if I didn’t know better about Kaz, I would have thought there was something more that happened between them and not just the club shares. I love how much the Crows trust each other, Jesper and Inej have each other’s backs already and they both choose to trust Kaz when the time calls for it.

I don’t feel this is very clear from the show so far, how deals work in Ketterdam and how important they are. Without context it might even seem foolish just how much Kaz stakes on getting Inej free of Heleen. She’d be worth it obviously, but that’s not really what’s happening here. Ketterdam does not have a proper government and is ruled by the Merchant Council. The only hard rule they have is that all deals are sacred and must be kept, if one breaks a deal it can cost them their live’s work. So by accepting Kaz’s deal Heleen is actually forced to honor it. As everything with the Crows, Kaz hesitating to take Heleen’s hand is also a foreshadowing.

I do wonder though, we knew Kaz has shares in the Crow Club but the way Heleen says it.. it implies Kaz put up the entire club as collateral.. which he shouldn’t be able to since he isn’t the big boss. So once again, what is going in at the Dregs and where is their boss?

The little palace is beautiful and remarkably Hungarian. It’s interesting how many European and mainly Russian inspired works are shot at Hungary. Alina remembering their two rules, and only starting crying once she is alone is some amazing characterization. And her immediate action after that is rule two, looking for a weapon. I like that it is easy to understand why she acts the way she does and it is easy to understand her reluctance as accepting her fate as a Grisha. I really liked this episode and I cannot wait for more!

Tv Show Rant: Netflix’s Shadow and Bone – Episode 1: A Searing Burst Of Light

Note: These reviews discuss the episodes in detail and might contain slight spoilers for the books Six Of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

I have been excited for this tv show adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s books since I first heard about it. I kept hearing how good her Grishaverse books are but never read any of it myself until last year. As people kept recomending the Six Of Crows duology I gave in and.. I had so much fun with the books! I admit I still have not read the Shadow and Bone books – which are chronologically set before the Crow books but that did not stop me from getting hyped about the Netflix adaptation.

I love this new trend of book adaptations sticking to the source material rather closely and even the authors getting involved in the production, we have seen some wonderful examples of these in the recent years – just think the Lemony Snicket books. So I was really excited to learn Leigh is on board as executive producer.

And the Shadow and Bone show’s adaptation is a bit unique in it’s own way, since the writers wanted to tell us the Shadow and Bone story while also bringing in the Six Of Crows characters in season one. While the two series are set in the same universe, the three Shadow and Bone books are set two years prior to Six Of Crows. While there are characters that show up in both series, we only had vague ideas about what the Crows characters were up to when Shadow and Bone’s main story played out. The tv show writers alongside with Leigh had to flesh out more backstory for these characters that we wouldn’t be aware of if we only read the books.

Now with the backgrounds explained, let’s see head into episode one! Please read with caution as I talk about the episode in detail below and it can contain occasional spoilers for the Six Of Crows books. I will attempt to explain some things for people who have not read the books yet, without spoiling too much.

The series starts with our main character, Alina Starkov, introducing Eastern Ravka to us and The Fold. The countries in this universe are fantasy countries with some real life roots to European countries. Other than the city and country names you can see these influenced in the clothing styles, languages and in the variety of the country’s indigenous people.

In Ravka I pick up on Russian influences, their language looks a bit like the cyrillic alphabet and their furry winter hats and coats remind me of the country as well.

As Alina informs us Ravka isn’t a very great place to live currently, not only are they at war with both their Northen neighbours, Fjerda, and their southern neighbours, Shu han, their country is also split in two. No, this is not just a metaphor, a great blackness literally separates East and Western Ravka. This is the so-called Fold. (Marked as the UnSea on the below, official map.)

The Fold is said to have been man-made, well Grisha made. Which is were one of the most important concepts of the stories come in. Grisha are people born with abilities to manipulate certain elements. Think Avatar The Last Airbender benders but on a smaller scale.

In some countries being Grisha is equal to a death sentence. The Fjerdans for example call them witches and abominations and don’t treat them as human. In Ravka however an entire army is made up of Grisha. They test the children at a young age and those who posess the power are sent to the Little Palace to train and become part of the special Grisha unit of the military, the Second Army.

Those who don’t make it, like Alina and her friends end up in the First army as either soldiers or mapmakers. Alina and her best friend, Mal, grew up in an orphanage and they knew that the only way they could make a life for themselves was to join the army. Their childhood was rough, bullies found them in the orphanage and in the military as well. Mal would run away from fights as a kid but he grew up to be a great fighter. Alina would be picked on all her life because of her looks – her mom was from Shu Han, who are considered enemy of Ravka – so she had to grow a thick skin.

While life is though Alina and Mal have each other, at least. That is until Mal is drafted for a mission through The Fold. The Fold is not just a supernaturally dark place; monsters, creatures also live there. The army cannot go around the Fold due to their warring neighbours, so they send missions through it, but only a few ships make it to the other side of Ravka. While The Fold is a sandy terrain, and not water, the Ravkan ships are steared by Grisha so they are able to use ships for transport.

Alina dreamed of finding a way around The Fold as she studied to be a mapmaker, but as she grows older she has no choice but to accept the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any way around. Since The Fold was made by Grisha, people talk about a mythical Grisha who will make it disappear one day, the Sun Sumonner.

When Alina panicks about loosing Mal, she makes a selfish decision. She destroy’s the army’s maps so she can convince them to put her on the ship as well. One thing she doesn’t count with is that they would put her entire cartographer team on the ship. You can tell by Alina’s face that she did not expect this, though she cannot really do anything about it. These are orders and confessing to her crime would just remove her from the mission.

The Second Army’s General, Kirigan also shows up to see the ship off. So far we only heard rumors of him, he supposedly has power over shadows and while he is one of the strongest Grisha, he’s powers aren’t able to make The Fold go away either.

The ship enters The Fold under the Second Army’s command. They reach 2 markers out of the thirty something they have to pass along the way when the creatures get close to them. The ship operates with blue lights, to not bring too much attention to themselves. When these flicker out one scared cartographer lights a lantern and that is when the horror show starts. The creatures start picking the crew off one by one, Grisha and soldier alike. Mal is also attacked and Alina surprising herself manages to shoot the creature and save him. However as she heads to help the injured Mal.. she herself if attacked. As she is helplessly dragged away from Mal she thinks of their promise and suddenly, she is enveloped in searing burst of light.

On the other side of The Fold the army is waiting for them, but no ships shows. As they are ready to give up, someone runs out of The Fold – Alexei, a cartographer who jumped off the ship somehow made it through, alone, on foot.

I really like the casting for the main characters. Alina was easy to relate to from the start. It was interesting to see an orphanage during war times, how the strict headmistress was but still trying to protect Alina in her own way: by saying if she didn’t want to fight she’d better get really good at cartography since there was no other way out.

I like the flashbacks as it helps build up the characters and we get to know them and relate to them. The flashbacks were my favorites from the Crow books so I am glad we get them in the tv show as well. The flashbacks are not random and always build on what is going on around the characters and how they feel. It is a great balance of show and tell – when Alina says she is picked on we immediately see it hapenning; Mal mentions that the Grisha picks on the regular soldiers after we could already see it happen. There are also great transitions used hand in hand with the dialogue, whenever Mal mentions that he would love to see Ketterdam, it gives an opportunity for the story to switch over to the Crows. When the cartography girl mentions that Mal is not afraid of anything, it is a great way to connect it to Alina’s flashbacks about their childhood and to show us how Mal changed in the present time.

I loved the moments between Alina and Mal, the two were genuinly happy just to be able to talk and walk together. There are hints that they might like each other romantically but it is all built on years of trust and memories and I really love that. I love their talk of their shared childhood traumas where Mal chalks up three important life lessons this gave them. First is to hide your emotional breakdown and never cry in public, second is to always carry a weapon. He does not recall what the third one is but I have a feeling this conversation will be continued later on as it feels to foreshadow some future events. Their goodbye before Mal boards the ship was really heartfelt and a great moment between two people who really care about each other.

It was funny to be introduced to characters who will become important later on, such as Zoya. She is absolutely gorgeous and I love her confidence. I was surprised to see her hitting on Mal, but the scene told us a lot about both of their personalities through their reactions.

I have some questions though, about the transport through The Fold. I find it curious that no one is able to cross to the other side but somehow the people knew to expect the ship. This ship was attacked and picked apart so quickly, so how did all the others make it through? Twice no less, since people also had to get back.

While this plays out, we get glimpses into Ketterdam, where our Crows reside. The Crows characters are members of a criminal crew, the Dregs. They reside in Ketterdam which is inspired by Amsterdam. Ketterdam is a place where brothels and casinos thrive on guileless people who are too poor to make a proper life for themselves so they turn to gambling and crime.

The Dregs mainly run their own casino, the Crow Club. We are introduced to Kaz, one of the higher ups in the crew. He is not the big boss but gained a name for himself during the years he has worked for the Dregs, despite being fairly young. I have to admit when I first read about these kids, because they are around 16-17 in the books, I was baffled. How could a teenager threaten a grown ass man even if he is a criminal? But I don’t feel this way watching the show.

The actor for Kaz conveys really well the character’s seriousness and why he is considered ruthless. He is a cold, calculating man who always looks out for himself. He is also introduced as a great thief to us: he is told of a great painting robbery from a rich merchant that sounds almost impossible to pull off, and the next minute you see the painting hanged in his room. There are a lot of things already peppered in episode one that will become important later on. Kaz wears gloves and walks with a cane and he also seems to have some history with other crime crews. It is really great to see a main character who has some disabilities but it is not a defining trait for them and also isn’t something that stops them from doing what they want.

Next we are introduced to Inej. She works for Kaz after he bought her from a brothel. Inej is a great spy who mainly gathers intelligence for the Dregs, she is great at climbing literally every available surface and she is very quick on her feet. She also has a gorgeous collection of knives that are literally covering her entire body. She is of Suli origin, which is a nomadic nation inspired by South Asia. She often wears a cloak that looks a bit like a hijab which I really adore. It is great to see a character who is considered a criminal but has her own values, she immediately shows sympathy for the injured and helpless. She follows a religion that is made up for the universe and there is a cute moment where she hears something unbeliveable and you can tell by her reaction that she is just shaken and immediately praying in her head.

And the third member of our Dreg trio is Jesper the sharpshooter. Just like Inej he is also a poc character, from Novyi Zem. He loves flirting, gambling and has an incredible way with guns. Despite his carefree attitude he surprisingly doesn’t have a huge issue with the criminal life and all it holds.

The trio are trying to get in on a job with a great pay, a rich man wants a crew who can go through The Fold and get something for him from the other side. Since we learned this is a really dangerous thing, that even the Grisha army has trouble completing, the Crows need to make a plan first.

Kaz is famously great on making plans in the books, this doesn’t seem to be any different here. I love the montage we get where they go around town talking to different people and gathering information. While we know Jesper and Inej are mainly interested in getting this job for the money, it is implied Kaz has some other reasons.

While they go around town we learn a lot about Ketterdam and the people here. This is a place where people don’t really care where you came from or who your parents were, which is something Alina would definietely appreciate.

I like that you can tell how a character feels about something by paying attention to their reactions, and that they also pay attention to the people around them. The actors are doing a great job portraying how their characters are feeling, or in Kaz’s case, when they are trying to hide something.

I love the little jokes and the small moments that show the personality of the Crows, like Inej playing with her knives while being bored at the table. Jesper loving to show off his marksmanship but taking it very seriously when Kaz tells him to do something for him is very in character.

I love the little moments where you can immediately tell there is a trust and understanding between Kaz and Inej – Kaz noticing Inej being in his room even though most people wouldn’t. And the fact that Inej showing up uninvited in his room is just being treated as a casual everyday thing where they talk about all the intel she gathered is great. While Kaz calls her an “investment” at one point, and it could seem cold, you can tell he holds her to a high esteem. There is an explanation for everything Kaz does and says even if it doesn’t make sense now.

While Kaz and crew are definitely criminals, they are introduced as people who are in for it for the money and the narrative makes you interested in learning more about them. Jesper seems to be a fun guy with questionable morals, Inej follows a religion and avoids killing people even if people would pay her for it, and Kaz seems more focused on scheming and getting a job that would be too hard to pull off for most people. However, one of the rival gang bosses, Pekka Rollins is immediately introduced as someone who plays as dirty as they get and has no issues with using violence to get what he wants.

As the Crows learn more about the job, the story reveals that the events with Alina on the ship happened two weeks ago. Now the word is getting out that something weird happened on the Ravkan ship and as people start calling Alina the Sun Summoner, a bounty is placed on her head.

The job the Crows win is this: enter the fold, kidnap Alina and bring her to Ketterdam.

Since these books are focused on Alina and her story, the Crows don’t seem to get any flashbacks in this this season. I am okay with this since I honestly didn’t expect them to have such a big role in Shadow and Bone at all. The narrative seems to move the two plotlines almost in paralell which is more than I could have ever asked for.

I would have been happy to only see the Crows in the background as cameos only. The way the multiple plotlines are played out gives me the same kind of rush I had when reading the Crow books. The Crows always get themselves into some crazy fun adventure with lots of scheming and planning and it felt like an adventure/action movie – which is now reality!

I already watched episode two and three and I cannot wait up to write up on those and to continue the show! What a great start!

My review on Six Of Crows

Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! 01 by Yuu Toyota

Rating: 💜💜💜💜💜

Genre: boy’s love, romance, LGBTQIA+

Content warnings: none

Once in a blue moon I stumble upon a book that completely blows my expectations away even though I went in with none, and as such immediately makes it to my all times favorite list. That was the case with Cherry Mahou as well. It is a gem among boy’s love titles, standing out mainly by the fact that it shows us that you can write an engaging romance that you want to root for with healthy boundaries and unproblematic characters.

At first sight I was wary of this title – our main character gains mind reading powers due to his virginity after all. As an advocate for healthy romances and asexual coded characters I was worried the main character would be mistreated or ridiculed even. But the story never makes fun of Adachi due to his virginity or never implies that he is less in any way. He is treated with respect, and consent and communication are a huge part of the story. This alone made me really appreciate this manga and let me tell you about all the things I loved about it.

Oh and don’t be worried about the explicit warning, this volume and volume two contain no adult scenes so far, the author however stated they would like to include some later on.

Adachi, turning 30, suddenly finds himself being able to read other people’s minds – people that he touches, that is. He finds the power more bothersome than anything and tries not to pay a lot of attention to it. That is until thanks to a crowded elevator ride, he realizes that his super handsome, kind, popular co-worker likes him. After confirming that he isn’t just hallucinating and loosing his mind, as one could when turning 30 and living a lackluster life, Adachi starts to think about how he never had a relationship before.

He never dared to act on it even if he had someone he liked, due to a fear of being rejected and being afraid of not being able to meet other’s expectations. Surprised but not entirely put-off Adachi finds himself pondering if he possibly could like kind, sweet Kurosawa back. The two suddenly find themselves spending time together more often than before which let’s Adachi learn more about Kurosawa.

I also find it very refreshing that Adachi doesn’t even have a gay panic moment – he is surprised by Kurosawa’s interest in him because he has no romantic experience and he is awkward around people but he is super chill about gay things otherwise. There is also an added humor in how Adachi can read other people’s unfiltered thoughts such as Kurosawa noticing a mole on Adachi’s neck and finding it super sexy. While there is no way to top the live action adaptation’s perfectness the manga is also super sweet. I love that the story deliberately avoids falling into any of the time-tried and frankly problematic BL tropes.

While the mind-reading brings up the question of privacy, it is due to be addressed in later volumes. It is not something Adachi can control, and even when he uses it on purpose it is mostly to serve as a social aid of sorts since he struggles with social anxiety.

Kurosawa invites Adachi to stay over after he misses his train home and they spend some time alone together but he never tries to take advantage of him. There is another instance when drunken coworkers egg them on to kiss just for fun, but the moment Kurosawa sees that Adachi is uncomfortable he backs off. I really appreciate this, especially since it is clear Kurosawa is interested in more but he never wants to risk pushing Adachi too far. Thanks to his magic Adachi can hear Kurosawa’s conflicting thoughts about wanting more but not wanting to force himself on Adachi. The fact that Kurosawa being considerate of him is one of the major reasons Adachi starts liking him is just something we rarely see in romances and it makes this story so refreshing.

The fact that Adachi has no prior experience in romance is also treated so amazingly, he is not treated badly or any different because of this – if anything Kurosawa reacts respectfully when he tells him, and vows to be even more careful in how he tries to woe him. A lot of thinking happens in this volume, and I am excited to see more as Adachi will continue to realize his feelings towards Kurosawa.. the below is just the closing thought of his for this volume and it sums the sweetness of this series up perfectly.

We desperately need more boy’s love titles like this where the focus is on communication and mutual respect. Relationships that are built on both parties being interested in romance and treating each other as equals. Characters that care about consent and don’t push their partners out of their comfort zones.

The manga moves slowly, and this is a slow burn romance built on the characters getting to know each other.

For now only two volumes are available in English (6 in Japanase and still running). The third English translated volume will drop in May. If you can’t wait to see more of the story though there is an incredible live action adaptation with amazing writing and really cute actors. The live action keeps the main themes and central plot lines and polishes the writing and character interactions even more, it is clearly a love of work. You can read my detailed review on it here. You can watch it on Crunchyroll with a free account.

Also can we just appreciate the fact that the author drew the first few pages of this story for fun and posted it on twitter (@toyotayou) and when the post went viral a publisher reached out and that’s how we got this manga! Let’s go and support this title! 💜💜💜

Where to find:

The manga on Goodreads

The manga on Amazon / Kindle available

My review on Goodreads

The tv show on Crunchyroll

My review on the tv show

TV Series Review: Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?! aka the most wholesome boys’ love show ever

While I have been a big consumer of boys’ love titles in high school I have rarely watched anything from the genre in the recent years. The reason is simple: the older I got the clearer I could see how terrible some of the reoccurring tropes are in the genre and the titles could rarely meet my expectations.

That is until I met Cherry Mahou and it completely blew me away with it’s characters and writing.

When I first read about the Cherry Mahou manga, I was dubious that I would like it. After all, the premise of the story is an adult who gains the ability to read other people’s minds on his 30th birthday for no other reason that he is still a virgin. Adachi never dated anyone because he was too afraid that he wouldn’t be liked back. He has his work and lives a quiet but somewhat lonely life.

Immediately, I could see in my head all the scenarios on how the usual bl tropes would take advantage of Adachi being a virgin; the story and the characters trying to “fix” him, like being a virgin is anything to be ashamed of. We’ve seen Galavant and how they turned Richard’s possible-highly-hinted-at demisexuality into yet more virgin jokes.

Surprisingly though, most of the feedback on the Cherry Mahou manga was positive and talked about wholesome characters and storytelling. Then by an accident I found the live-action adaptation on Crunchyroll. If I wasn’t such an advocate for stories that feature asexual coded characters I probably would have left this alone.. but I figured I would take a look at it for myself.. and well, everyone, watching this show was the best decision of my life.

I went in with zero expectations, trying to steel myself for when all the terrible tropes start to pop-up, and even the main character was worried about a coworker jumping him, which made me worry even more.. but they never do.

Adachi finds his new ability to read anyone’s mind he touches really annoying, commuting has become a nightmare and even an elevator ride can be super stressful. After an accident at the feared elevator, our Adachi learns that his super good looking coworker has a crush.. on him. Adachi has trouble believing this, Kurosawa is his perfect opposite in every way: social, handsome with a blinding smile, kind, well liked by all the women in the office, trusted by their coworkers and bosses.

After a late night shift Kurosawa offers Adachi to stay over at his place. Adachi is worried that Kurosawa might try something with the two of them alone so he keeps his guard up.. they go have their separate baths and since Adachi is afraid of further socialization, he pretends to go to sleep. That is when Kurosawa walks up to him and Adachi fears for dear life, except, well, nothing happens.

Because dearest Kurosawa is literally the best love interest anyone could dream of, and he just came to get his phone from next to Adachi. It is a small bonus that he also got to peak at Adachi’s sleeping face, but the fact remains, that he never tries to take advantage that night. Or literally any other time after that. Because, believe me, the story offers him plenty of scenarios where any lesser love interest would claim they cannot control themselves anymore due to lovesickess and would force themselves on Adachi.. but Kurosawa passes all of these tests with flying colors and these scenarios are played off for jokes instead.

Instead, with Adachi being able to read his mind, Kurosawa’s selflessness and considerate nature turns out to be one of the major reasons why Adachi starts to think it might be nice to date him or at least get to know him better. And we learn that the reason Kurosawa likes Adachi is not for some superficial reason either: while Adachi thought no one really noticed him at work, Kurosawa could see him all along and knows how much of a hard worker Adachi is and likes Adachi for who he is.

domestic bliss

For the first few episodes I couldn’t believe it.. but the fact remains that while Kurosawa actually wants to have a romantic relationship with Adachi, he stops himself every time from overstepping Adachi’s boundaries. This is something that we desperately need to see more of in romances. I cannot remember the last story where you could see such a selfless love interest who supports and cheers on the main character while also paying close attention to how the main character is feeling and reacting to his closeness. No, this is not something he should be given a medal for, and it should be the base requirement for any mature relationship yet.. can you name the last series that actually did this? Any boys love stories?

look at Kurosawa not taking advantage yet another time

And it is such a game changer for all the boys love (but also all the romance) series out there that Cherry Mahou does not work with a one-sided romance. This story is not about a couple where one party is constantly vying for the other’s attention and pushes them until the other gets tired of being pursued all the time and gives in..

Sure, it is Kurosawa who initiates a lot of their contact at the beginning, but every time Adachi visibly feels uncomfortable he takes a step back. And the relationship between them only progresses when Adachi is actually ready to take a step forward as well and voices this to Kurosawa. In fact, Kurosawa would have been happy to be friends and angst about his one sided feelings. The only reason this changes is because Adachi learns about his feelings and actively seeks Kurosawa out and tries to get to know him better.

Adachi struggles a lot with peoples expectations towards him and he is super scared of a relationship of any kind, but once he starts to like Kurosawa he goes out of his way (and his comfort zone) to talk to him or ask him to go out for dinner. And seeing how much Adachi struggles with feelings of self-worth and the fear of disappointing people, it makes all these gestures from him even more meaningful.

Later on when they get to know each other better, Adachi even takes the initiative to make sure Kurosawa has fun when they are together and that he knows he can depend on him. Something that would have seemed impossible for Adachi from episode one to do so.

The series does a wonderful job showing how the two of them being together allows them open up and improve themselves for the better. And not only do we see them date, we also see why these two like each other and how they fall for each other more and more. There is also quite a bit of flirting happening later on ensuing in the cutest workplace rom-com scenes I have ever seen.

And this is not rocket science really, it is just how a healthy relationship should work: both people working on it together because they like each other. Yet I see this dynamic so rarely in media especially among manga/anime inspired titles and that is what makes this show so special. I cannot remember the last time I could watch a tv show squealing and rooting for a couple without having to ignore some deeply disturbing tropes in order to enjoy it.

And I love the fact that Adachi, while occasionally uses his mindreading ability, it is never to trick someone or use it for his own gain. Instead it acts as sort of an aid-for-social-interactions to him, and at the end of the series it is discussed in detail what would happen if he lost this ability in the end. And I loved that while a romantic relationship is in the focus, it is not the only thing the story is about. Adachi also makes some friends, learns to be a better friend and even spends time thinking about his career.

You can just really tell how careful the writing is for all the character interactions and the way the focal themes of the story are being handled. We see people who jokingly mock Adachi for being a virgin, yet the narrative is always very clear that they are the rude ones. We see characters who identify as gay (they actually used the word and I was really surprised!) and the narrative is very clear that anyone who would think less of them because of their preference is in the wrong.

We have important conversations with coworkers and Kurosawa, and everyone who matters tells Adachi there is nothing wrong with him being who he is. That whether he has any kind of relationship or when or with who is absolutely up to him.

After Kurosawa learns that Adachi has never dated anyone before, he could have been thrown off or surprised but the only thing he says is that whoever gets to date Adachi for the first time will be the luckiest person in the world. Can he get any sweeter?

And I couldn’t believe it for a while that Kurosawa was for real such a sweet guy, there is always that other shoe dropping in stories.. but literally the most selfish thing Kurosawa does in the entire show is when he insists on taking over cooking duty from a coworker because he wants to be the one Adachi praises for the food.

I loved that we got to see Adachi’s side on how hard it is for him to open up to people, how scared he is that people won’t like him.. or that he won’t be able to get along with others if he looses his telepathic ability. And the show handles it in such an incredibly wholesome way, it teaches us that what is most important in any kind of relationship is mutual respect and communication. It was great to see someone dealing with social anxiety in such a real way, without being dissed for it. Sometimes Adachi gets scared and runs away, which is something absolutely relatable for someone who has anxiety. But every time he is given enough space and time to process things and when he is ready and brave enough to take a step forward he is rewarded with Kurosawa’s smile.

look how happy these boys are!

The story is also incredibly well paced and the last episode loops with the first episode perfectly (serving some Futurama realness) and I just love to see how much care and love went into creating this series.

If the show had any issues, and that is a very small spot on an otherwise perfect run is that the side couple and their relationship seemed a bit less.. polished. It was still enjoyable but it felt like they were the more chaotic, comedic duo to Adachi and Kurosawa’s mature foil.

There are also some really funny scenes as well, and some slightly depressing but relatable thoughts from Adachi. I will never forget the time when a high tension scene was broken by the elevator door closing in on Adachi. Pure genius. I also loved the little details put in the show, like Kurosawa carrying a big binder that is in rainbow colors. For anyone wondering he is probably bi, in the manga he mentions that he dated women before falling for Adachi.

Also, did I forget to mention that one of the returning tropes in the series is the boys just, literally running to each other?For no real reason? It is so funny and so extra yet something really sweet that whenever they have a revelation about their feelings and they need to talk to each other immediately they just.. start running like crazy.

And there is literally a five minute scene with Kurosawa just wrapping a scarf around Adachi’s neck.. for no other reason that he cares for Adachi and likes the excuse to be close to him.. that is the gayest shit I have ever seen.

And I have to praise the actors for the show as well. Kurosawa’s Keita Machida just has the sweetest smile and it is so easy to like him as Kurosawa. He really suits the popular handsome guy role and I love the little characteristics that come with the role, his smirks and the winks and whatever it is that he does with his eyebrows. Eiji Akaso is great at portraying Adachi’s adorkableness, while he is lacking experience in dating and sometimes appears younger than his age once he gets serious about something you see that Adachi is not a person to babied.

And something that is thanks to these amazing actors and the writing is how believable it is to see Adachi and Kurosawa go from awkward coworkers to two people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company. At the beginning Adachi is jumpy and keeps a bigger distance from Kurosawa but as they grow closer he visibly relaxes around him and just cannot stop smiling whenever they are together.

The manga the series is based on is currently being translated to English and I wholeheartedly recommend it as well. It might be a little less polished on the conversations than the tv show but it has the same principles in focus and the same wholesome feel to it. The tv show also seems to follow the main plot rather closely so far and you can tell where things are headed if you watched the show (I only read until volume 3). I cannot wait to grab volume 3 & all the rest in English. The original series is still running with volume 7, I think, dropping soon.

The story also has two extra episodes – and very confusingly these are listed at the beginning on the episode list at Crunchyroll. It is best to leave these for the end, since they would be a bit spoilery otherwise. They were super sweet and really funny – Kurosawa using the work phone had me laughing for weeks.

Tldr; Cherry Mahou nominated for best boys love romance series ever. Please do yourself a favor and watch it on Crunchyroll (you can register for a free account and watch it online).

Buy the manga (Kindle available)

Watch the show on Crunchyroll

Read my review on the manga

January Book Haul (Or Not!)

Happy New Years! I am excited for this year. I have titles from my favorite writers coming out all throughout the year, starting with Across the Green Grass Fields by SeananMcGuire. It is the 6th book in the Wayward Children series. A new volume is published every January so it is always a little treat for myself when the year begins 🙂

I was super tempted to order it physically and will definietely do at one one point, but it is just too tempting to buy the digital version instead of fretting when it will finally get to me from the UK! Plus it is half the price now on Google Play compared to the hardcover version.

I am ordering some physical copies too though. It seems the shipping and prices didn’t change a lot at BookDepository, I do wonder how Brexit and the lockdowns will affect the shipping time. It is crazy that the UK is now considered non-EU while being in EUrope. (And according to some work info I got not even all of GB left, what a mess!)

First to order is this beauty, Making Comics by Scott McCloud. It is a legendary book for artists and also never published digitally as far as I know. I will need the physical version to be able to absord all the knowledge too.

And gosh, I had my eyes on this release years ago, To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North. Then it went out of stock for years and I thought I’d never be able to get a copy! All this hype because this choose-your-own-adventure game lets you play as Ophelia, Hamlet or asexual Hamlet. A thing of absolute perfection.

What are you excited to read this month? Any new releases, orders or pre-orders?

There are so many things I want to pre-order this year!

Update:

Wow, okay. Forget all about that because as I was about to place my order and post this I realized BookDepository removed all EU countries from their shipping options for the time being. Well, I guess that’s that! I have no idea how to order from any other place in Europe that sells English books. At least I will still have Across the Green Grass Fields. Any recommendations?

Doodle It All by Boutique-Sha

Rating ✨✨✨✨✨

Genre: non-fiction, arts and crafts

Content warnings: none

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is just the cutest! Have you ever wanted to draw cute things for yourself or a child? This book is the perfect place to start. You don’t need prior art knowledge to be able to start.

All of the tiny items are drawn in a simplified way using base shapes and they are super adorable. There are some stationary recommendations at the beginning of the book but really you only need a pen or pencil and a piece of paper to start.

There are several topics that are shown: animals, people, food, kitchen utensils, household items, clothes, hobbies, vehicles and so on! Every little illustration is shown step-by-step. Just flipping through this book makes me want to grab a piece of paper and start drawing again!

And my absolutele favorite are the special lessons at the end, we get some cute ideas for collage by using masking tapes. Recommended for all of your artsy needs! It would make a great gift for kids, especially if you end up drawing a bit together after opening the book.

Where to find:

The book on Goodreads

Buy on Amazon

RWBY: The Official Manga: The Beacon Arc, Vol. 1 by Bunta Kinami

Rating 🌹🌹🌹🌹

Genre: manga, fantasy, magic, adventure

Content warnings: none

Thank you to VIZ Media for providing me an advanced copy in exchange of a honest review.

RWBY is a popular animated series that has been running for over 7 years. The series is an American production by Roosterteeth and works with 3D animation and motion capture. It became so popular that now it has an official japanese dub (with some pretty famous voice actors) and it inspired several manga anthologies, adaptations and even some novels. I have been following the show from the early seasons and I was really excited to be able to read this new manga adaptation!

The manga is a retelling of the first few years of the show, as the subtitle “The Beacon Arc” indicates. We are introduced the main characters and we get some explanations about the world, so if you never watched the show don’t worry.

The first chapter felt a bit rushed, at times it was hard to tell what was happening or where our characters were, there just wasn’t a lot of background environment drawn. I knew where these scenes took place and I knew Ruby was in the store, so it didn’t bother me, but I felt it might be a bit of a confusing start for new people. However, from chapter two the story and the paneling really picks up and I enjoyed the story a lot.

We follow Ruby and her sister Yang as they are headed to their new school, Beacon, and we learn a bit about the world of Remnant, and the monsters that exists there, the Grimms. The Grimms are usually drawn by negative emotions and are a threat to humans so people train to fight them. Our protagonists are future huntsmen and huntresses.

This volume covers our introduction to the two main teams the story will follow, team RWBY (“Ruby”) and JNPR (“Juniper”) and we see how their teams get assigned. The fights and the action scenes are written really well and they are really dynamic. Since the focus is mainly on team RWBY here, I felt that some characters didn’t get a lot of time to shine. Such as, Jaune, one of my all time favorites. He is present yes, but one of his defining moments was cut really short. Originally, he is the one who comes up with a plan to win the fight we see and that is why he gets assigned to his future team, this felt glossed over, with only a short mention. One of his funniest scenes was also cut, where he runs screaming from a monster.

The characters were a lot of fun. Each character uses their personal aura to help them fight, and these manifest in unique ways. Some are granted speed, some gain super strength. Other than this, they all also have their own style of dressing and fighting and have their customized weapons. These are represented well in the manga and I appreciated where we get a little bit of explanation about auras and powers in the story.

The character’s colors, weapons, clothes and names are also fun games. Each character is a reference to something (mostly fairy tale characters, but not always) and their teams are also picked to fit a common theme. It can be fun to try and guess on your own, but the wikia pages also have all the info on these. The team names fit this as well, the acronyms stand for the team members’ initials but also refer to their theme.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable read after the rocky start. The art is great and the pacing is really good once the action starts. I am surprised how little progress we made in terms of the story, but since there was a lot of lore and plenty of characters that needed introduction I can understand that we only got to see the initiation.

I feel like this is a great read if you feel nostalgic about the early RWBY days or if you want to see if the story is something you could be interested in. As this is an introductory volume, it barely hints on the character developments and the complex and engaging story the show has. I will keep an eye out for the next volume, hopefully it will cover more of RWBY’s plot.

Where to find:

The book on Goodreads

Buy on Amazon

ps. As a new addition now you can find affiliate links to Amazon on my blog posts. If you buy the book (either physical or digital) through these it costs you nothing and I do not get any of your personal information, but it helps me continue buying more books and running the blog!

Given Volume 1 by Natsuki Kizu

Rating: ✨✨✨✨✨

Genre: manga, boy’s love, LGBTQIA+, romance, slice of life

Content warnings: suicide mentioned, and while most characters are pretty chill there is a slight homophobia and bad intentioned rumors

Thank you to VIZ Media for providing an advanced copy in exchange of a honest review.

In high school I used to read a lot of yaoi or boy’s love titles. A lot of those were full of bad and harmful tropes, which I only realized as I got older. Nowadays, because of this I have a much higher standard for the genre and I tend to be very picky. So, when I heard about Given getting an anime and that it is a boy’s love title with music I was very wary. Fortunately, Given turned out to be a pretty solid story overall and I was happy with it. When I have seen that the manga is getting an English translation I knew I wanted to read it.

I feel that the story works better in the original manga format because of one main thing: the narration. A lot of the manga’s subtle feelings come through by being able to glimpse into our main characters thoughts and that seems to work much better in the manga than it did in the adaptation.

Our main characters are Mafuyu and Uenoyama. The story starts with a vague glimpse into Mafuyu’s past and then we get to see how these two become friends, by mere chance. Uenoyama likes to take naps during the school day in a remote stairway. One day however he spots another students at his usual spot, Mafuyu, who is taking a nap while hugging a guitar. Mafuyu is seemingly out of it and doesnt talk much, but it turns out he broke the strings on his guitar. Uenoyama, who is actually in a band and plays the guitar, ends up fixing it for him.

Mafuyu is absolutely star-struck and begs Uenoyama to teach him how to play the guitar. Uenoyama refuses, because he doesn’t know this weird kid and has no idea how to teach someone else. As such their unlikely friendship starts. Mafuyu seems really stuck on the idea of Uenoyama teaching him, and Uenoyama can’t get Mafuyu out of his head for some reason. When Uenoyama discovers that Mafuyu has a really great voice he invites him to join their band.

The two spend a lot of time together and grow closer. We learn that Uenoyama used to be really excited about music but he seems to have burned out. There also might be some explanation on why Mafuyu seems to space out a lot and why he talks so little. I really like the flow of the story and how the characters inspire and push each other to change. The side characters are also great at supporting and they have their own things going on in the background as well. Uenoyama’s passion for music reignites thanks to Mafuyu, and Mafuyu in turn takes some steps to recover from a past that haunts him.

Uenoyama and Mafuyu are both branded as kids who are bad at communicating, and when Mafuyu has trouble expressing himself it frustrates Uenoyama. This is understandable but the one thing I didn’t like is that at such moments and the only way he can tell his feelings to Mafuyu is by.. shouting at him. Of course, this is more for a dramatic effect and not used as a way to force him to do anything but it is not the best way to get someone talking. At least the characters speak up that this bad way to communicate and he is told to learn to communicate better so I will expect better progress in this aspect.

As mentioned I really like our supporting characters. First we have two more members in the band, college boys Kaji and Akihiko. They are great mentors to the boys, offering advice on how to pay for their instruments and even life issues. They also seem to have their own romantic crushes and issues going on. The characters are well developed and their interactions with each other propel the story forward.

Then we have our less important side characters who despite their small roles seem to propel the story forward in unexpected ways. We meet some of Uenoyama’s classmates and old friends of Mafuyu and through them we learn about some rumors regarding Mafuyu’s past and a possible ex. While I don’t condone people gossiping about other’s personal issues it is an effective way to have both the readers and Uenoyama learn more about Mafuyu. And I really appreciated the fact that he said nothing about those rumors to Mafuyu, instead he just let Mafuyu open up to him on his own terms.

The art is gorgeous throughout the manga. At the end of the chapters there are character profiles of our main characters. I really appreciate all the thought the mangaka put into the characters defining features, like their face and eye shapes. At the end we even have some funny short stories in 4-koma style.

I like the slow build of the relationships in the story and the relaxed pacing of the story. I enjoyed this volume immensely and I am really looking forward to the next one!

Where to find:

The book on Goodreads

Buy on Amazon

Whisper Me A Love Song 1 by Eku Takeshima

Rating: 4 of 5 ✨✨✨✨

Genre: manga, girl’s love, LGBTQIA+, romance, slice of life

Content warnings: none

This manga is beautiful! The blurb refers to Bloom Into You, which is only the best written yuri, even lgbtqia+ manga ever, so I knew I had to read this one.

Our story starts simple, Himari is starting a new school and on her first day she and her friend go to the school concert that is held by upperclassmen. At first sight she falls for the vocalist and keeps praising her voice to her friend. Before the school day is over she accidentally bumps into the same girl in the hallway and Himari, blurting out whatever comes to her mind, immediately tells her that she fell in love with her. The upperclassman, Yori, confused, but definetely flattered tells about this to her classmates. As her classmates tease Yori whether the girl is her type she starts to let herself think about dating Himari.

Himari doesn’t waste too much time either, she learns that Yori is often practicing her singing on the rooftop so she coaxes her into letting her join and listen. As Yori confesses that she also fell for Himari at first sight, she realizes Himari fell in love.. with her perfomance, not her per say. She decides this is fine as well and vows to make Himari actually fall for her. As the two navigate this volume and grow closer, the misunderstanding between them clears up slowly and their true feelings come to light.

This was a funny and cute first volume. It was funny how oblivious Himari was, especially of her own confession. And how she managed to confuse literally everyone around her. I am glad though that the misunderstanding was cleared and I cannot wait for the next volume where they work things out between themselves. It was adorable to see these two grow closer and fangirl about cats. I hope for a quicker pace in the next volume, now that things are out in the open. Recommended for anyone who likes to read a sweet, slow paced romance.

While there are similar ideas to Bloom Into You, this manga focuses more on the two main characters and their relationship. The story is more lowkey, there are no big overarching plot points and the supporting characters remain more in the background as well.

All in all this is a very sweet story, recommended if you just want to read something light and fluffy. The art is gorgeous and full of cute blushing girls.

Huge thank you to Kodansha for providing an advanced copy in exchange of a honest review.

Where to find:

The book on Goodreads

Buy on Amazon

Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Rating ✨✨✨✨✨

Genre: young adult, fantasy, magic, fiction

Content warnings: violent fights, deaths mentioned, sex workers, indentured workers

Please note that there are a few book series set in this universe, called the Grisha-verse. This book is part of a duology, there is no third book so far. This book was my first from this author and I did not feel like I missed anything important, so you should be fine to start with this as well. As far as I know there are references to the other books but those are only fun easter eggs for readers who are already familiar with the Grisha-verse.

This book was a huge surprise for me. It is rare when I cannot pinpoint it what exact moment makes me fall in love with a series, but that is the case with this book. The first few chapters did not convince me, however once the action starts there is just no stopping. I don’t know how the writer managed it, but the constantly changing POV and the twists made the book so dynamic, that it was a joy to read.

The setting is a world where people with minor magical powers exist – the Grisha. The story starts in Ketterdam, where most Grisha are not powerful enough to have the upper hand and they are practically kept as slaves by rich merchants. In the first chapter we learn a bit about them, then we are introduced to one of the city’s crime band, the Dregs. The story follows a smaller team who are attempting the heist of a life time – go beyond enemy lines, infiltrate a military base and get out with the prize. The crew members come from different backgrounds, the only thing they share is that they currently reside in Ketterdam and have nothing to loose.

I loved that this was a character focused book, every chapter you learned more about them and about their feelings regarding the other members. Now, most of them are not good people, they work in a line where killing people is part of the job. However, each of them has a different view on this, and everyone’s backstory is explained very well. It was great to see how they overcame their fears and their pasts. We have soldiers who were brainwashed from a young age, kids who were kidnapped and sold as slaves, kids who left their family for totally unrelated reasons. At first it was very ludicrous to me, but also to the people in the books, that we are talking about literal 17 year olds threatening adults in a lot of scenes. But damn man, after learning what these kids have been through they get to be as extra as they want. I appreciated that there were romantic undertones but it never took over the story. At times we were also kept in the dark about the details of the heist, or quite simply the plans had to be changed and improvised on the spot, which just made everything more exciting. I loved the female friendship in this book, it was one of the most stable relationships in both of their lives based on respect and trust. The book ends on a surprisingly hopeful note and I am excited to see how things turn out in book two. 

One thing that made me a bit sad was when a character who is clearly touch averse due to trauma was rejected, partly due to this. Now this was not discussed in detail and I hope this gets a bit more cleared up in book two but this is not a good look so far especially since the other party knows abuse and sexual abuse well enough. (Note: yes, this does get resolved in a satisfactory way in the next book.)

Where to find:

The book on Goodreads

Buy on Amazon