Lenni Reviews: “The Drifting Classroom: The Perfect Edition” Vol. 3 by Kazuo Umezz

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

The kids find train tunnels filled with horrible creatures that turn humans into their own. These things actually have a record of what happened to humanity. Sekiya manages to take over the school but has no clue what to do when those tunnel creatures attack leaving Sho to be the hero again.

I know all the kids are scared but… They really jump to some fantastic conclusions when the finger-pointing starts. The constant infighting and constant splitting up is starting to get old. I was hoping for more of Sho communicating with his mother or perhaps some progress being made to get them home? I’m sure it’ll happen but after three volumes of hundreds of pages, I’d like to see some real development here. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Elfen Lied Omnibus” Volume 2 by Lynn Okamoto

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In the continuing adventures of “Everyone is Awful” Bando gets some upgrades and devotes himself to hunting down Lucy; who’s past is revealed more in this volume; specifically when she met Kouta.

In this volume we meet Nana and Nozomi, to add to the makeshift family Kouta is forming around him. And again, I reiterate my statement that “Everyone is Awful” should be the tagline of this series. I mean, YIKES.

At least at the end of this one, we get a much more lighthearted story about a violinist and a pianist coming together for their music. It was actually uplifting but compared to the rest of the omnibus, that’s not saying much. It’s a good series if a downer. 4 out of 5.

 

Lenni Reviews: “Elfen Lied Omnibus” Volume 1 by Lynn Okamoto

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The Diclonios, Lucy, who we come to call Nyu, escapes from a research facility that kept her prisoner; helpless against their viciously cruel experiments. She is injured in the process and loses her memory, happening upon a boy she once knew as a child, now grown. But the facility won’t stop hunting her.

I am not gonna lie, I actively avoided this manga for a long time. This is because the anime was mentally… I won’t say scarring but more jarring. All your anime tropes are turned on their head when someone’s head is graphically ripped off. In some admittedly fantastic sound effects (and this is coming from someone who was mentally scarred by the radio play on NPR; specifically the episode about the fog that turned people inside out);  my brain is marked by gruesome blood curdling crushing wet sounds that permeate this anime…

So, here we are at the manga!

What bothers me the most about this – and other media like it – is that people are objectively terrible. They see a weeping girl with bloody feet and look at her like garbage. They hit a random person and don’t care. They rationalize disgusting experiments that wouldn’t be ethical to perform on any species we know of under the guise of progress. I mean, what did any of these people expect but for their subjects to eventually rise up to destroy them? No wonder Lucy kills so readily… This manga comes from the thesis that everyone is awful.

The side stories are also dour but they are bittersweet; giving some much-needed light in the darkness of the rest of the book. 4.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: “The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition” Vol. 2 by Kazuo Umezz

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

Sho and his remaining classmates and friends are still desperately trying to get people to stick together to survive. But while internal conflicts about, now disease threatens to wipe them all out.

Like I said in the first review, these characters are almost comically deranged. They seem eager to start killing each other for any reason they can find! It’s a wonder any characters are left for a book 2, in my opinion…

What sets this apart for me is the connection between Sho and his mother. She can somehow hear him from the future in random places and I wish this angle was explored more. But I guess that’s for the third volume. It’s hard to say I like this because it’s so violent and depressing but I do and I want to read more! 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection” by Junji Ito

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and us suggested for mature readers.

In another Junji Ito collection, I am once again impressed, frightened, and confused as to why I keep inflicting these nightmarish stories on myself. But Ito is true to his usual macabre, gory self in this series of short stories that will send shivers down your spine. I never get tired of this guy and love his work. I don’t want to go too deep into all the stories but my favorite was “Earthbound.” 5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Shiver” By Junji Ito

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

In yet another collection, Junji Ito continues to simultaneously impress me all while wondering why I keep chomping at the bit to read his work. Some of these stories feel a tad clipped but when you’re trying to keep things short, it can’t be helped. Ito really is a master of what he does even if I have to read happy things for awhile whenever I pick up a book of his. 4.9 out of 5.

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Finally Watched It: “House” (1977)

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Having seen this movie mentioned dozens of times on crazy movie lists, I finally had the chance to check it out.

We have our set up of a bunch of high school girls (I have nicknamed them The Sailor Scouts) all go to this old woman’s house and of course, shenanigans ensue. Typical right? Hoooooo boy, ladies and gentlemen, this movie I have to come right out and say is either the scariest funny movie I’ve seen or the funniest scary movie I’ve ever seen. Everything feels otherworldly and off kilter even when things are “normal.”

When it starts, all the main characters are so damn happy and go lucky all you can think is “well, hey there, Cannon Fodder. I’m sure nothing will go wrong here.” But even as old as this movie is, gods is it refreshing to have a cast we actually root for instead of a collection of unlikable assholes you WANT to die. You actually feel for the characters as they go through all this horrific shit; all done with effects that are creepy in some parts, and ‘pause the movie because you’re laughing so hard’ parts. If done with skill, I wouldn’t mind seeing this movie remade with updated effects! As it is, I’m half tempted to watch it a few times just because it was so much fun. This movie BEGS to be watched with a bunch of friends and booze if you got it.

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Finally Watched It: Ringu

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As if this even needs a summary, this is the original Japanese movie about a woman who is investigating a cursed videotape that kills you a week after you’ve watched it.

This movie is damn creepy. It may not have aged very well in some ways but, yikes. There were plenty of moments that freaked me out. And it certainly made me feel old because heck, who has video tapes anymore?

Now that I’ve seen the original, I actually find the remake to be on par with it. They’re both creepy, both have this great tone and lingering uneasiness. I can’t say definitively one is better than the other. I like them both. It’s a shame it took me so long to get to watch this one.

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Finally Watched It: One Missed Call

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Whenever there’s an American remake of a foreign movie, I make it my business to track down the original; which is how I found out about the REC series. When I heard about the American movie, I skipped it and went for the Japanese version. I just assume it’s better on principal now.

The premise of this movie is that this group of young people start getting calls from their own numbers. Upon listening to the voicemail, its the audio of their own deaths; essentially making it a call from the future bout how they will die. Obviously, they all run around trying to avoid their fate and solve the mystery.

What I like about films like this is the slow build, the quiet, the dark lighting, and thoughtful dialog. It is just simpler and – to me at least – more frightening than all the fancy CGI, slow-mo, and dramatic music. It makes everything feel so much more unsettling. It can drag a little sometimes but it’s nice to see any media take it’s time with you rather than inundate you with images for instant gratification.

I don’t particularly want to inflict the American version on myself to compare the two but if repeatedly asked, I may do so.

As I work through these movies (I have a list!) I am hitting more good movies than not, and I’m grateful for that. I’m sure I’ll come across some duds but seeing these has been awesome.

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Battle Royale Final Thoughts

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After finishing this book AND reading the end interviews in the edition of the book I had, all I can say is… WOW. I did NOT expect a happy ending by any means but it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so satisfied by an ending. Reminder, thar be spoilers.

Noriko, Shuya and Shogo are still teamed up as the students around them battle one another or straight up implode. And by “implode” I am directly referring to the events which take place in the lighthouse; where Yukie Utsumi and her friends have hunkered down. Yukie is a great character, managing to wrangle five of her friends to ally with her; Yuka Nakagawa, Satomi Noda, Chisato Matsui, Haruka Tanisawa, and Yuko Sakaki. This group finds Shuya injured and nurse him back to (comparative) health. Yukie is in love with Shuya and convinced her friends to let him stay, albeit under lock and key. Who can blame them, really.

Yukie is the class representative, which in Japan means you are in charge of roll call, moderating meetings, and act as a liaison to the school counsel. She’s a natural, kind leader and you like her immediately. So, you pretty much know she’s gonna get dead.

Enter Yuko; a skinny, frightened thing who believes Shuya killed Tatsumichi in part one on purpose. If you recall, Tatsumichi came at Shuya, they fell down a hill, and the axe (Tatsumichi’s assigned weapon) ended up in Tatsumichi’s head in the struggle. Yuko was hiding in the bushes and this is the first death she sees upon fleeing the school building. As her little group is happily making stew with whatever happens to be left in the lighthouse, she gets it into her head that poisoning Shuya is the only option to protect herself and her friends. Yuko’s assigned weapon was a bottle of poison; some “half-transparent powder” that’s never identified.

See? Here’s the problem. She sprinkles the powder on the plate meant for Shuya and just sorta trusts in fate that nobody else will taste it. Yuka takes a bite, dies in twitching agony, which rightfully frightens the room full of hyper-stressed, paranoid, gun-toting teenagers. Hell, even if the poison made it to Shuya, the others would have been suspicious when his body started convulsing despite his wounds healing up.

Gee, Yuko, I can’t imagine why your plan didn’t work.

Accusations are made, shots are fired, and before you can say “Randomly spilling poison on shit is a bad idea,” Yuko is in a room full of dead girls.

When Shuya goes to investigate, Yuko continues to flip right the hell out and makes him chase her up to the top of the lighthouse where Shuya has to save her from falling from the ledge. As Shuya tries to save her at the expense of aggravating his injuries, she suddenly realizes she might have been mistaken in her assumptions and decides to let herself fall to die on the rocks below.

This scene is the most disturbing to me out of the whole frikking book. Things go so far south so quickly, you get mental whiplash; similar to at the beginning where all of a sudden two students are dead and the game haddn’t started yet.

I’m not gonna take  you through every death at this point. Suffice it to say Kiriyama runs amok til it’s just him and our favorite trio remaining. The final battle between our three intrepid survivors and Kiriyama is fantastic. I was chewing my lip as I read. You got a gun battle, car chase, explosions, and the final glorious moment when Kiriyama finally is out of the picture.

Shuya isn’t happy about having to really buckle down and kill someone but Kiriyama was a legit psycho. There was no reason, no rhyme, no pattern to Kiriyama’s behavior. Other’s could have been reasoned with to a certain extent, but with Kiriyama it was truly kill or be killed.

As for the end? Shogo, you ingenious bastard you. Turns out he was researching the collars since the last time he got trapped by this game and not only knew they were wired for sound, but how to disable and remove them. He fakes out Noriko and Shuya and gives himself up as the winner to Sakamochi. All of this is a plan to get Noriko and Shuya on the boat with him so they can take it over and escape. It’s a great plan and Sakamochi (if EVER a character needed to die) is killed by Shogo. Sadly, Shogo doesn’t survive long after the three of them take the boat.

The ending is exactly what you would expect from a totalitarian government that would make such a game in the first place; effortless spin. According to the government, Shuya and Noriko killed the winner of the game – Shogo – and the honorable government employee – Sakamochi – and are both branded as traitors and wanted fugitives. They vow to bring down a system where it’s acceptable to put kids in death games and make them murder their friends.

We end with the pair running from the cops. Two students remaining. “But of course they are a part of  you now.”

They sure are.