Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Blood Lad

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Anime: Blood Lad
Studio: Brain’s Base
Crunchyroll description: Staz is one of the toughest vampires in the demon world. But unlike his ancestors, he finds being a vampire to be a serious pain in the ass and prefers to spend his time watching anime and playing video games instead. When a Japanese girl named Fuyumi wanders into his territory, Staz cannot hide his excitement at finally meeting a living human from his favourite culture.
Genres: Action, Comedy, Supernatural, Seinen
Original run: 08/07/2013 to 11/9/2013
Episodes: 10

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As much as I love supernatural genre anime, I’m often put off. I’ve watched some really great shows which fall in the genre, but I’ve also watched some duds, and my search for my absolute favourite supernatural show continues (though props to Erased and Parasyte which are leading the pack). Supernatural shows can be convoluted, packed with conflicting lore and hard to follow, but done right, they can be exciting and a fun break from reality.

Blood Lad follows the story of Staz. C Blood, a vampire and the boss of his territory, one of the most powerful demons in the demon world. Staz is an otaku, fascinated with the human world and amassing a collection of manga, anime and figurines that would put most IRL weebs to shame. When a Japanese girl named Fuyumi enters the demon world by accident, Staz feels like he’s hit the jackpot – that is, until she dies. Staz vows to resurrect Fuyumi, who is now living in the demon world as a ghost.

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Straight off the bat, it’s revealed that Staz hates being a vampire, he finds it incredibly arduous and has no interest in doing ‘typical’ vampire activities, like drinking blood. He’d much rather stay indoors and watch anime, or play games. I really liked this juxtaposition and it was fun to see Staz reluctantly using his power, as well as see how he feels about other demons.

Blood Lad is chock full of fan service. All female characters have boobs that are disproportionately big, not to mention which employ their own laws of physics. There are upskirt shots aplenty, and situations where Fuyumi in particular is found in compromising positions. It’s a little off-putting, and I definitely think the show is strong enough to not have to rely on these sorts of things to keep interest. However, I’m not a fan of overt fan-service in the first place, so even if this was perfectly placed and tonally perfect, I probably wouldn’t have liked it anyway.

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Around the midway point of the season, the show introduces a ‘big bad’ who is supposed to be a super demon, the toughest ever and who noone can defeat. This turns out to be incredibly anti-climatic, and easily defeated. There’s a hint that this could develop in the future, but as I’ll discuss later, this goes nowhere.

The fight scenes themselves are really cool and well animated. With the anime being set in the demon world, each character has their own strengths and powers, and it was really interesting to see these powers being used and the different tactics of how the powers could be used to their advantages and even against them.

Blood Lad features a great cast of supporting characters, from Staz’s own allies to his enemies and beyond. I didn’t feel like there were any weak characters, apart from perhaps Fuyumi herself. She just sort of goes along with whatever everyone tells her to do, and doesn’t really ever voice her own opinions or say what she wants. I get that she’s in a strange world (and also kinda dead), but she was just sort of subservient and submissive, which was disappointing.

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Speaking of disappointing, the end of Blood Lad is infuriating. Don’t go into this anime if you like things wrapped up neatly. For whatever reason, there isn’t a second season, so it just ends with no resolution. It’s all perfectly set up for another season, but it just doesn’t exist, and the only way for me to get closure is to add the manga to my to read list.

Blood Lad is super fun, and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. I laughed out loud on several occasions throughout the series, and came to really love a lot of the characters. The lack of a satisfactory standalone ending loses Blood Lad some points, but in general it’s an enjoyable watch.

7 stars

2021 challenges, Challenges

2021 Challenges: February Recap

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February was a significantly better month than January, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. I still have that sinking feeling that my challenges are really optimistic, but I’m still going to give it my best shot. Here’s where I’m at on my challenges as of the end of February!

Watch 45 anime

February end total: 1

My anime watching in 2021 has been abysmal. I definitely took on too many seasonal shows, and everything else has suffered as a result. I’d like to say I’m up-to-date on the seasonal stuff too, but that would be a colossal lie. Anyway, I have managed to watch Blood Lad (review pending), so at least I’ve got one under the belt!

Read 50 complete manga

February end total: 1

It felt like in 2020 all I did was read manga, but 2021 is not proving the same. I’ve read one complete manga – Haru’s Curse. I’m definitely going to up this, but I’m focusing on reading novels for now whilst I seem to be in the swing of reading.

Watch 30 films

February end total: 1

I cannot believe I haven’t watched any more films so far! I still only have Jojo Rabbit on my list!

Watch 30 anime films

February end total: 0

Unbelievable and embarrassing.

Get 35 platinum trophies

February end total: 4

I had a much better month for platinum trophies in February than I did in January. I picked up a few cheap indie games in the current PSN sale, which proved very quick to get. On the list for platinum trophies obtained in February are We Were Here, Road Bustle, Chickens on the Road, and JigSaw Abundance. 

Clear 30 games from my backlog

February end total: 0

I am very much working on this, but games take a long time, you know?

Play 12 Switch games

February end total: 0

I am also working on this, but there’s only so much time in a day!

Read 12 books

February end total: 2

I felt like in February I got back into my reading groove – I read The Last and The Poppy War. I also started reading another book, but it’s still ongoing. My aim is to smash this target early, and then free up myself to work on other challenges.

blog, Unboxing

Unboxing: February Inku Crate

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I think I’ve really developed a stationery habit in 2021. I’m not complaining, as it gives me lots of cute items to use both in every day life and when I’m working on my journal! I love the practicality of having stationery subscription boxes, and I’m finding I’m getting much more out of them than the regular subscription boxes I was getting, so I’ve continued!

IMG_8765 In February I got a few smaller subscription boxes via Etsy, which I didn’t do posts on, but I also got an Inku Crate as I have done in previous months. It was a little smaller than ones I’ve had before, but still jam-packed with cute goodies!

 

 

 

 

IMG_8766First up, I got this pencil case with Taa-chan on, who I believe is an established character (I’m actually not a cat person at all, so I don’t generally check out many cat characters, sorry everyone!). A pencil case was definitely needed, what with all the pens I’ve been getting in these sub boxes! Speaking of, I also got a Pokémon pen which I’ve already used in my bullet journalling! I also got a pencil that made me very nostalgic – it’s one of the ones that you take out from the bottom and then put in the top to change the colour you’re using. A rubbish explanation but I hope you know what I mean!

IMG_8769Next, the most adorable mini memo pads which came with their own pouches. It says they’re pocket sized – I’m not sure I can think of a situation I’d be in where I need to carry memo pads in my pocket, but you never know!

 

 

IMG_8770I also got a Sumikko Gurashi paper pad and a gluestick – again, both perfect for bullet journalling! I’m going to use the paper for a theme for a future month as it arrived a little too late for me to use for this month, but I’m thinking of cute ideas I can implement when I use them!

 

IMG_8767Finally, I got these stickers! They’re all chocolate themed, and were supposed to be for Valentine’s day, but that’s obviously been and gone now. They’re still really cute, and aren’t overly themed so it’s no big deal they weren’t here in time for Valentine’s.

 

 

 

A pretty decent haul, I think you’ll agree! What was your favourite item in this month’s Inku Crate?

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Those Not-So-Sweet Boys vol. 1

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Story and art: Yoko Nogiri
Genre: Romance, School, Shoujo
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Midori drops her wallet on her first day of high school, but her new classmate Ichijo swoops in to help. She wants to thank him, but he’s part of a tight-knit trio and none of them are ever in class! Rumour has it that they all got expelled for acting up, and studious Midori’s actually at risk of expulsion, too… In order to help support her family, she has a part-time job, which is against the school rules. When the chairman of the school board catches her leaving work, he says he’ll let it go—but only if she’s up to the task of bringing the three boys back to school. Well, why not? It’ll be a piece of cake…right?
Publication date: 16th February 2021

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Midori Nanami is your typical shoujo protagonist. She’s sweet, well-meaning and kind of an airhead. On her first day of high school, Midori drops her wallet with her family’s weekly food budget in, only for it to be reclaimed by one of her new classmates, Ichijo. Ichijo and his two friends Ieiri and Goshima keep themselves to themselves, and there are tonnes of rumours swirling round school about them, some true and some not so much. When Midori is caught coming out of her part-time job, the highschool chairman strikes her a deal – get Ichijo and co. to attend school regularly, and he’ll help her find a school-sanctioned job.

I’ve read the mangaka’s other work, Love in Focus and That Wolf-Boy Is Mine!, and Those Not-So Sweet Boys does bear some similarities. This is more obvious with That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! with the inclusion of a group of boys that the protagonist gets close to, some more willingly than others. Those Not-So Sweet Boys isn’t a cut and copy though – for one thing, none of the boys can change into animals, or haven’t done yet anyway! The mangaka’s previous two manga feature wonderful characterisation and deep relationships, and Those Not-So Sweet Boys is no different.

Whilst it certainly feels that Ichijo is being set up to be the canon romance, Ieiri and Goshima are also awarded the same development. Whilst the opening volume admittedly focuses on Ichijo primarily, there’s a lot introduced which will open up Ieiri and Goshima in future volumes, making it more difficult for the reader to decide who to root for.

The title of the manga is an interesting one to me, as none of the boys seem particularly ‘not-so sweet’. Once you know a little about their backstories, they all seem to have their reasons for wanting to isolate themselves, and whilst they act a little distant towards Midori, none of them are outwardly cruel to her.

Midori is very aware of the effect the boys have on her early on, which is interesting to see, as normally it takes shoujo protagonists a long time to realise they have feelings for anyone. I hope that future volumes focus on Midori understanding her feelings, rather than rejecting them, and there’s certainly a lot of promise for romance in Midori’s near future.

Volume 1 of Those Not-So Sweet Boys was a great introduction to the story. It made me really care about all of the characters, and I look forward to continuing the manga in the future. Those Not-So Sweet Boys offers the perfect blend of romance, drama and comedy, and was a joy to read.

4 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Star-Crossed!! vol. 1

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Story and art: Junko
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Shoujo, Supernatural
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Has a concert ever changed your life? Azusa adores Chika-kun, the cutest and most popular star in the idol group Prince 4 U, and she’s thrilled to get front-row seats to his latest show. She would do anything for him. So when a stage light falls, Azusa leaps onstage and…fails to save Chika’s life. The two are off to heaven, where God gives them a second chance—except a mixup resurrects Azusa in Chika’s body, and vice versa! What on Earth could be in store for this odd couple of pampered celeb and drooling fangirl?!
Publication date: 16th February 2021

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

High-schooler Asuza is obsessed with idol Chika, star of the band Prince 4 U. Her room is adorned with posters of him, she gets up at 4am to get in line for his concerts, and she makes her family watch television performances.

At the latest Prince 4 U concert, Asuza lucks out and manages to nab herself a front row seat – any fan’s dream come true. Disaster strikes when a light fitting falls on Chika, killing both him and Asuza who has leapt into action to save her idol. In heaven, God reveals this was an error by one of his staff and the pair shouldn’t be dead, so he sends them back to earth where they are accidentally switched into each other’s bodies.

Now, I love a good body swap comedy as much as the next person, but the first volume of Star-Crossed!! felt a bit flat. The body swapping happens really early on in the manga, and I think it would have benefitted from some more characterisation of Asuza and Chika to establish them as individuals before the body swap happened. All we as readers really know about them is that Asuza is a Chika fan-girl and Chika is an idol, we know nothing else. Other characters later comment that they’re acting strangely or addressing them in different ways, but we really only have their say so on this. I think some preamble would have been good so as a reader you could identify that Asuza and Chika were acting out of character without having to have it pointed out.

What sets Star-Crossed!! apart from other body swap stories is that Asuza and Chika swap back and forth several times. It seems God hasn’t quite got his powers down, and the pair are in their own bodies one moment, then each others the next. This makes for a fairly interesting concept, and does help to develop the personalities of each protagonist more and give you an insight into their true character and habits when they are in their own bodies. As mentioned before, I do think some of this sort of content would have been beneficial before the first body swap instance, but it does get into it eventually which is good.

As a first volume, Star-Crossed!! does a good job of setting up the plot for future volumes. It’s not particularly exciting on its own, but it does end on a cliffhanger of sorts which has made me want to continue reading, and I think there’s the potential for the series to be quite amusing and heartfelt. Though I didn’t find it riproaringly funny, I did chuckle along at times, and can definitely see how Asuza and Chika will be put into some funny situations in future which lends itself to some more laughs to be had.

3 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Haru’s Curse

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Story and art: Asuka Konishi
Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life, Psychological, Josei
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Natsumi’s little sister Haru was her whole world—and now she’s gone. After the funeral, Natsumi reluctantly agrees to date her sister’s fiancé Togo. But as their relationship develops with the passing seasons, Haru’s memory lingers over them like a curse.
Publication date: 16th February 2021

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Haru’s Curse is the story of Natsumi following the death of her sister, Haru. Natsumi believes that she will be cursed by Haru because following her funeral, she has started dating Haru’s fiancé, Togo. Natsumi agrees to date Togo on the condition that she wants him to only take her to places that he took Haru, so she can feel closer to Haru after her passing.

Though the manga starts with Haru’s funeral, there are a lot of flashbacks to events prior to the funeral which really help establish the relationships between Haru, Natsumi and Togo. I really liked the change between past and present day, and I felt it worked especially well to show the contrast between Togo and his relationship with each of the sisters.

Haru’s Curse is a very real and raw portrayal of death and grief. As a reader, you see a lot of Natsumi and Togo struggling with their own feelings about Haru’s death, as well as their extended families. Haru’s Curse doesn’t shy away from a serious subject matter, with many serious and often dark subject matters touched on, but in a very respectful way.

As expected, there are a lot of hurdles throughout Haru’s Curse. Not only do Natsumi and Togo have to wrestle with their own guilt and emotions surrounding Haru’s death, but there are also a lot of outside influences interfering in their relationship and

The characters of Natsumi and Togo feel incredibly nuanced, whilst also feeling very realistic. Natsumi is hardworking, excitable and cheerful, but to Togo she seems the total opposite. Togo, who comes from a prestigious family, has his whole life mapped out for him according to his family traditions and expectations. As Natsumi and Togo’s relationship develops, the reader beings to see the effect they each have on each other and how they each change as a result of their relationship.

What I really liked about Haru’s Curse is that characters actually talk to each other. I’ve read a lot of manga where miscommunication is key, or characters bottle things up, but in this there is none of that. This helps all of the characters feel a lot more like the adults they are meant to be, and also a lot more realistic – this is what real people do after all! Well… for the most part anyway.

There’s a lot to like about Haru’s Curse, and it poses really interesting questions about how to honour the dead and how to move on after the death of a loved one. Haru’s Curse does seem to go too far at times – I did feel like it could have been left that Natsumi and Haru’s relationship was just sisterly, but the manga edges slightly further this and Natsumi declares at points that she was in love with Haru. Fortunately, this isn’t really a main area of focus and you can easily move past it and focus on the many great parts of Haru’s Curse. 

4 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.

 

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan vol. 1

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Story and art: Gaku Kuze
Genre: Comedy
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Uramichi is a 31-year-old host on a kids’ show who leads exercise routines and teaches life lessons colored by one main theme: Adulthood sucks. Alongside mascots played by a couple of bushy-tailed twentysomethings and a singing duo whose music embodies the notion of being kicked while you’re down, Uramichi wades through the misery of working life, one sardonic comment at a time.
Publication date: 8th December 2020

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’d seen screenshots of panels of Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan floating around the internet for a few months prior to getting my hands on this copy via NetGalley, and it instantly resonated with me. Uramichi Omota is a former gymnast who works as a host on a children’s television show, but he is the total antithesis of what you’d expect from someone in his position. He’s pessimistic and sarcastic, and probably one of the most relatable characters I’ve ever encountered.

What I really loved about Uramichi as a character is how matter of fact he is. He really tells it straight, even to the children appearing on his show. The children themselves are also extremely funny, and they’re like the antidote to Uramichi. They’re also very mature, and hearing the children say things which seem much older than their years is also very amusing.

Uramichi seems totally disillusioned with life, and so do his co-stars. I think this is really good to see and makes a great change from endlessly optimistic shounen protagonists, and as an older person (I’m actually the same age as Uramichi!), it makes the manga much more relatable to see someone who is dealing with everyday things but has become fed up with life – haven’t we all, especially in lockdown!

Uramichi manages to simultaneously be depressing and cynical, but at the same time the way he delivers his message and interacts with his co-stars is also whimsical and hilarious, so the tone of the manga manages to remain positive and upbeat despite the outlook of its characters.

Generally speaking, I’m not much of a fan of manga (or anime!) that are a series of skits or vignettes. I much prefer a good story arc, with a continuous plot. Whilst some chapters do reference back to other events, mostly Uramichi Oniisan spends a chapter on a different skit or event which are reasonably standalone. I feel like had it been more of a developing plot it would have given more chance for the comedy to escalate, but as it stands Uramichi Oniisan is still really funny and has plenty of laugh out loud moments.

By the end of the volume, some jokes do feel a bit well worn – things I was laughing heartily at at the beginning of the manga seemed a bit overdone the more things went on. That said, there are plenty of positive things going on to make Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan a really fun read.

4 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.

2021 challenges, Challenges

2021 Challenges: January Recap

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January feels like one of those months where time has just totally got away from me. It seems like I’ve had barely any free time, despite having not really achieved all that much. It’s been a weird one!

This is also going to be the shortest post I’ve ever done, because I have made barely any movement on the challenges. I’m off to a really poor start, and I’m starting to think maybe I was a bit optimistic about things!

As a reminder, my challenges were:

  • Watch 45 anime
  • Read 50 complete manga
  • Watch 30 films
  • Watch 30 anime films
  • Get 35 platinum trophies
  • Clear 30 games from my backlog
  • Play 12 Switch games
  • Read 12 books

I’ve done slightly more than nothing – I watched one film, Jojo Rabbit. Here’s hoping for a better February!

blog, Unboxing

Unboxing: ISpyKawaiiSuppliesKawaii Mystery Box

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My childhood stationery obsession has come back full force, and I cannot stop buying stationery mystery boxes. I had bought one from ISpyKawaiiSupplies at the tail end of 2020, and really loved everything I got in it. I didn’t do an unboxing so you’ll just have to take my word on that one. ISpyKawaiiSupplies is UK based, so I was really happy to be supporting a local seller and knew that the shipping would be quick (well, as quick as it can be in a pandemic!). ISpyKawaiiSupplies has an option on their Etsy that you can pick a character or theme for the smaller boxes, or you can pick a larger box. I think the boxes are the best value for money for any subscription box that I’ve got so far – the smaller boxes are £15 plus shipping, and the larger boxes are £30 including shipping. A bargain!

IMG_8641The first thing that struck me when I opened up my mystery box was how many things were in the box. I could immediately tell that the items were easily worth over how much I spent on the box, which is always a good thing. It was also really colourful and had a big visual impact as soon as I opened it, and I could instantly see some items that looked really exciting! Let’s get into it.

 

 

IMG_8642First up, some really cute pens! I love the design on them. The ones on the right have a highlighter end and a fine felt-tip pen end. They’re actually a lot darker in tone than the pastel outside would let you believe, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as I have plenty of pastel pens as it is! The pens on the left are blue fine-liners, and so cute!

 

IMG_8644Next I got some stickers! The ones on the left came with a couple of pencils too, and are all cat themed and very cute. The right hand ones are Molang, which isn’t something I really know too well, but I also got some Molang stickers in my last box from ISpyKawaiiSupplies, and I thought the characters were really cute then and I still do! As I said before, I really love getting stickers so I can jazz up my bullet journal!

IMG_8645I also got a Sumikko Gurashi PVC wallet file. At first I wasn’t totally sure what to do with it, but I realised it’s the perfect size for a pencil case! Again, I’m not too familiar with Sumikko Gurashi, but I seem to get something in every subscription box I get so I should probably get into it more!

 

 

IMG_8647I’m getting quite the collection of sticky notes! I got these two in my box this time. I love the shiba one, I have used it already for some work reminders that I have stuck up on my desk and every time I look at it I smile, he’s just so cute! I actually just did a quick online search for the pack on the left, and I found out that sadly it is counterfeit art stolen from a Korean artist, so it’s a little disappointing that it’s in the box, but I will give the benefit of the doubt and assume that the seller didn’t know. The original artist is Studio Dalgona, and here is a tweet about the stolen artwork! I will do my best to support Studio Dalgona in future and place an order with them when I can to make up for this as I don’t want to be in the habit of supporting art theft.

IMG_8648To end on a much lighter note, my two favourite items in the box! The item on the left, believe it or not, is a Pikachu themed pair of scissors! They’re just so cool, I’m amazed by them. You pull the top half off, and then the actual scissor mechanism is spring loaded. I’ve used them at every available opportunity this weekend. On the right is some My Neighbor Totoro washi tape, which is something I use a lot of for journalling, so I’m very happy to have it.

 

 

You’ll notice I’m a huge dummy, and there are a couple of items that I forgot to photograph. Firstly a Rilakkuma rubber (eraser!), and secondly some correctional tape. Both very useful items to have!

I hope you liked seeing what I got in my box. I hope you’ll agree that it was really good value for money, and I got a lot of really cool items! What was your favourite thing that I got?

 

 

 

blog, purchases

January Purchases

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Collecting up everything for this post, it looks like I had a sensible month. My bank balance would say otherwise, but I think that’s mostly due to paying for preorders and I bought a lot of stationery which I’ve already talked about in previous posts.

IMG_8659We’ll kick off with my new anime additions. If you remember back to the Anime Limited mystery box I got, in the box was Welcome to the Ballroom part 1. You’ll all know by now, I can’t leave a collection unfinished, so I bought part 2 with a code for 20% off. I also added O Maidens In Your Savage Season to my order, as I’ve heard really good things about it.

 

IMG_8661I started the year by playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and it reignited an interest in mythology within me. I wanted to read more about Norse mythology so my knowledge wasn’t just formed from Valhalla and Marvel movies. I also bought a book on Japanese folk tales, which was on my Christmas list but actually became really difficult to buy around that time for some reason, but I managed to get my copy on eBay for pretty cheap!

IMG_8660And finally (I know!) rounding off the post with some manga. I bought the latest volume of My Dress Up Darling despite still not having read the previous volume. I wrote a quick review of the first volume and I really liked it a lot, so I’m looking forward to cracking on with it. I also started to buy a new series, The Kingdoms of Ruin. I haven’t read this yet either, but I really liked the general premise and I thought the cover art looked really cool. I’ll write up a review of it when I’ve read it!

A pretty short post this month, but I have a lot of preorders due to arrive in February so the next purchases post should be a lot more exciting!