Lenni Reviews: “Beastars” vol 2 by Paru Itagaki

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

When the onstage conflict during the school play becomes too real, Legoshi struggles with his carnivore instincts as Bill, a tiger, tempts him to slip.

This volume goes back and forth as to how serious it is, which I actually like! Given the set up of predator and prey trying to coexist in peace could be all about the angst and pain but it’s just dark enough to be intriguing and provide consequences for actions but enough levity to keep it enjoyable. I give this series a lot of credit for succeeding in this balancing act so far. Highly creative and compelling even though some of the sketchy art can be a little confusing sometimes. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Irena Book One: Wartime Ghetto” by Jean-David Morvan, Séverine Tréfouël & David Evrard

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

This graphic novel tells the story of Irena Sendlerowa, a social worker in the Warsaw ghetto in the early 1940’s who helped smuggle 2500 Jewish children out of the ghetto before getting captured and tortured by the Nazis.

While of course, this is not easy to read, it is an important story and I am glad to see it told. I’m not sure I would give this to a young person as it doesn’t flinch much from the horrors of the ghettos and Nazi torture but it’s still a great book. If I had a nitpick, it would be the ending. Spoilery but it shows her walking off into the light as if she died when she didn’t. She lived into her 90’s. 4.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “No Ivy League” by Hazel Newlevant

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*This book has been given to me in exchange for an honest review.

Sheltered homeschooler Hazel Newlevant takes a summer job clearing ivy from the forests in Portland, Oregon. At first, she’s just looking to make some quick cash for a concert but she finds her small world opened when interacting with more diverse kids.

I like this book because the main character isn’t a racist who comes around. Hazel has legitimately not interacted with anything other than other white, affluent, homeschooled kids and comes to realize there’s a bigger world out there. She has been given advantages others may not have and instead of being some White Savior or being riddled with White Guilt, she just makes friends and starts dancing. I respect that.

I do feel more needed to be done with her parents and their reasons for homeschooling Hazel. The mother does go into her backstory a bit but if systemic racism and white privilege are being addressed, more was needed with Hazel’s realization about why her mother chose this rather than a couple of panels and one trip to the library. But that’s just me. Overall, I enjoyed it. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Beastars” vol 1 by Paru Itagaki

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

*This review is cross-posted to Otakus and Geeks.

In this comic, the high school is divided into predators and prey and one student among them is selected to be a ‘Beastar’ – essentially their version of valedictorian as they exemplify the best of both predator and prey. But when a prey student is found dead, tensions are high and loner wolf, Legoshi – a friend of the murdered student – is struggling with his control with so much fear around him.

As I was reading this very sketchy drawn book, I didn’t think I would like it. I was concerned it would be to “on the nose” with the predator/prey aspect only to find it more nuanced than I’d assumed. This is one of the more original manga outings I’ve read in a long time. While the art style may feel strange at first, the characters draw you in. An impressive first volume and I do hope to continue this series.

And yup, totally got the Bella Legosi reference.

4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Manfried Saves the Day” by Caitlin Major & Kelly Bastow

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Steve’s life has really turned around since the first book. He makes a living off his cartoons, he has a great girlfriend, and he’s finally happy. But when his girlfriend’s man shelter is in danger of being bought out, Steve may be stretching himself too thin trying to keep up with his deadlines and help Manfried compete in a man show to win prize money to save the man shelter.

Much like the first, this book is just too cute. You get the classic “raise money to save the *insert thing here*” plot but it’s refreshed by having tiny men as pets instead of cats. It may be a predictable plot but the adorable art makes this a worthwhile read. I absolutely enjoyed it. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Manfried the Man” by Caitlin Major & Kelly Bastow

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Steve works at a tech support call center and has very few friends as close as his pet man, Manfried. He wants to be a cartoonist but he hates his job and he’s one of the last single cats his age. But when he ends up fired and loses Manfried, he unintentionally goes viral in his search for his best friend.

I enjoyed this little switcharro where the cats are in the human’s position and visa versa. The idea of people as pets, without being dystopian horror, was a nice funny diversion. Unless you are particularly prudish and don’t wanna see a lot of cartoony naked men, this is an adorable little story. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Ice Cream Man Vol. 1: Rainbow Sprinkles” by W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo

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This comic is a horror anthology based around our title character who is obviously a demon of some sort. It’s trippy and surreal but sometimes I got this feeling the book is trying too hard. I want to like this more than I do but after finishing it, I didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t creeped out, disturbed, or scared in the slightest. The only reason I would continue this series is to find out what happens to the demon in the long run. Overall, it’s just meh. 2 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Zojaqan” by Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Nathan C. Gooden & Vittorio Astone.

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*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

In this time jumping tale, grieving mother Shannon arrives unexplained in another world after the sudden death of her son. When she arrives in this strange world over and over, she has unforeseen impacts on the alien culture developing there.

While this book looks really pretty and interesting, it all felt incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying. I was intrigued by the concept but I didn’t feel like Shannon was learning anything as the book went on. It tries to be deep but maybe with more length, this book would have achieved what it was going for; a mother forced to deal with her child’s death through her journey in this developing world.

Mild spoilers: It was also infuriating how she kept fucking up this species. It all left me more frustrated than entertained. 3 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Days of Hate Act One” by Ales Kot & Danijel Zezelj

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*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review

Set in the USA in the year 2022, America is now a police state and teeters on the edge of civil war. Divorcees Huian and Amanda are on opposite sides; with Amanda in an extremist terrorist group and Huian and her family under surveillance due to her prior association with Amanda.

This graphic novel is a hard read, and not because it’s particularly disturbing, it’s a little too on the nose. Touching on rampant alt-right conservatism and equally extreme leftist terrorists using violence to combat them, this book feels like it’s trying to be V for Vendetta but coming off too preachy. While still sinister and foreboding, there’s this lack of depth that keeps it from being perfect. I do want to read more, however, to see how everything shakes out. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Bettie Page” Vol. 1 by David Avallone

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is recommended for older readers.

*This review is cross-posted to Otakus and Geeks.

In this collection of “secret diaries,” we follow our femme fetale, Bettie Page, as she dodges the cops, secret agents, and cult members all while trying to make a living as a model and movie star of B movies with aliens… All while helping beat the bad guys.

This book is a whole lot of cheese and I kinda love it for that. I am an absolute sucker for pin-up art and all the guest art and the comic itself is lovely to look at; even with the batshit crazy ideas. However, there’s this sensation of being in a glitter bomb; shiny, pretty, but confusing in all it’s bright colors and movement. At the end, I had to re-read it all because I didn’t remember what exactly happened. Gotta give it a 3 out of 5 for that but it sure is pretty.

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