Life: Declining Social Events Politely

I’ve invited some long-time friends to dine with me, but don’t want to pressure them to attend. Long time friends can always decline – we’ve known each other forever, after all – and I’ve invited them to say they aren’t in the mood if that is true. Historically, some of them won’t decline, but then bounce during the event, or agree to attend, but cancel at the last moment, which is less fun.

To prevent bouncing and bailing, I’ve invented a list of excuses they may use at any time with me, which I will accept without challenge. This list includes:

  • attending an appointment for plastic surgery (giving or receiving)
  • having tires rotated (must pretend to own car)
  • entertaining out of town guests
  • filming porn
  • engaging in crimes on behalf of the Republican National Committee
  • washing hair (must not be bald)
  • having hair cut (same)
  • cutting hair for others
  • attending pet therapy.

I hope to update this list seasonally, so none of the excuses become worn out.

Life: Working too much, reading too little

So, the usual.

I’ve been entertaining myself during times when I can stay awake. I took a ferry ride, and observed that the usual boat was in the shop, so one of the giant commuter boats took its place. I texted a friend about this, with the note, “I like big boats and I cannot lie,” and he found it hilarious. (This is a Sir Mix-a-lot reference, for you young people.)

I am enjoying pleasant cross-employer camaraderie during my commute, and enjoy speaking with my solution-oriented allies at the office.


I’m reading multiple new manga which are published serially and are incomplete, so it is difficult to know WHEN to write about them. I may invent a rule about reviewing them at the end of each season, or perhaps 100 chapters? (I’ll need a similar rule if and when I ever write about The Second Sex, which is complete but very, very long. And filled with book flags/darts that I’ve left there for points I want to dwell on.)

I continue to avoid comics which are creepy about female characters’ bodies (groin close-ups on underdressed female characters during battle scenes? No, thank you!), while the men are covered to such an extreme that you can’t see their hands without gloves. That is just weird. If men are that uncomfortable with men showing skin, they should really work on their issues.

The drama and fantasy stories often have women softening/improving violent male characters, even to the point of turning depots and recluses into engaged authority figures who actively attend to the needs of their subjects, and I don’t think that is a very safe theme to promote. The hashtag for those is #charactergrowth, and I find that funny.

I’m still mystified by the many story tangents relating to agriculture. There is a drama, someone is trying to prevent their own execution, and then there are many pages devoted to growing a crop. I… I… What?

There is a running manga in-joke that still surprises me, sometimes 100 or more chapters into a story:
a main character enters a room covered in blood
others characters express concern
the bloody character then says ‘it’s not my blood’ (the actual wording varies), suggesting that they just won a battle of some type that is not being illustrated here.
It is… very funny, in these stories – unexpected, as there hasn’t been a lot of violence until that point, or there was but it was distant. The fact that I find this funny means it is well done, but also that I am living in a culture that has normalized violence. (Oh-oh. True. Yes.)

Please be sure to work on your own #charactergrowth without waiting for a new romantic partner, and avoid being covered in ANYONE’S blood.

Books (Manga): The King’s Beast by Rei Toma

Cover of the King's Beast volume 1 by Rei Toma
Cover of the King’s Beast volume 1 by Rei Toma

The King’s Beast
by Rei Toma
published by Viz (ongoing)
2021 –

This is the most beautiful monochrome manga. Toma’s art is INCREDIBLE. And her people, especially her men, are SO GORGEOUS!

I am 61 chapters into the story (!), and there are more to come, but I’m impatient to gush about it. (I also want to say that the ears on the Ajin characters are not some fetish thing, so read without fear.) Viz has lovely previews of each volume on their website, linked above.

The story: our hero(ine) is Rangetsu. She is one of the Ajin, an human-oppressed group of people who happen to have some animal features like furry ears and tails. Ajin women are forced into prostitution; Ajin men have limited options as exploited laborers, but the most accomplished among them can work for the Imperial Family as personal servants or soldiers.

Rangetsu is a young girl; her twin brother went to work for the Imperial family, and was brutally murdered. Rangetsu vows to avenge her twin, but the only way to access the Imperial palace and investigate his murder is to present as a boy, become physically powerful, compete for a job there as an imperial beast-servant, and win. Only then, after devoting years of her life to this purpose, will she have a chance to use her position to avenge herself against the likely culprit, Prince Tenyou.

Rangetsu is hired into the palace, only to find Prince Tenyou to be (a) crushed over her brother’s death, and (b) shockingly beautiful. Tenyou wants to help Rangetsu (who is successfully passing as a boy despite being really, really pretty) find out what happened. How awkward it is for Rangetsu that the prince is so tender toward [her]. How awkward it is that the other (also gorgeous, ofttimes bitchy) princes are so… handsy.

The scenery is beautiful.

The architecture is beautiful.

The characters are beautiful.

Single panel from Rei Toma's The King's Beast, showing the gorgeous characters being gorgeous.
Single panel from Rei Toma’s The King’s Beast, showing the gorgeous characters being gorgeous. (The conversation where this collection of character is being imagined made me laugh.)

I love the way Toma draws eyes. Many of her best eyes are subtle trapezoids, and the details in their irises are subtle washes. The main characters all have shapely eyebrows. Everyone of import also has good eyelashes, while their flowing hair goes on and on…

The story is high stakes – Rangetsu may be killed before she can discover who killed Sogetsu. And the other princes of the palace are shady. (Hot and shady.) Plus, the beast-servants of the other princes also have special powers, called arcana, making them extra-dangerous.

The vengeance story arc is a long one, but is very solid. This manga is a huge accomplishment, and is lovingly drawn. I’m looking forward to future issues.

Cross-dressing, palace intrigue, physical powers beyond those of humans, danger, Chinese palaces and gardens, eyes so deep you want to swim in them, confused longing, gorgeous men in flowing robes… Yes, I’m raving here: I highly recommend this manga.

Life: Spring

We are still having rain, somehow, as if the brief rainy season grew accustomed to making national news with its excesses, and is performing an encore.

I am… tired. Late last week, I had the experience of nearly fainting for the first time ever after donating blood. I believe I deserved this for scoffing at others’ need to rest afterward. (Foolish and unwarranted pride is fun to try on, but not fun to wear outside the store – do not purchase it!)

The world is big, but my tired thoughts after work feels small, and I am unaccustomed to this smallness.


It’s been about 10 weeks since I relocated, and I still can’t find everything. I am too tired from work to unpack much on weeknights, and some of my furniture where I could put things away remains in storage, so my progress is slow. But it is progress, and I’ll take it!

Construction has resumed, and there is a fresh trench outside. (Yaay?)

I know where I am when I wake up. I’m delighted to be back at home.


Despite my long to-read lists of very long books, I remain preoccupied with Korean manga. (It is satisfying in small doses that I can consume before falling asleep!) I remain impressed at how many terrible traumas the heroes and heroines of these stories must overcome. I was summarizing one for my guy friend, telling him about how this young woman had survived her mother’s suicide and family’s abuse, only to escape into feudal poverty, raise her dead best friend’s children as her own, narrowly avoid the children’s trampling deaths, and be indebted to a bloodthirsty nobleman who requires her to become his live-in woman.

The increasingly horrified look on my friend’s face as I described this was superbly dramatic. And THIS IS ONE OF THE MORE CHEERFUL BACKSTORIES! It’s not all bad: she has access to a library, has a loving aunt, and remains impertinent (her spirit is unbroken); the nobleman grows fond of her, is warm, and has abs-for-miles. (That’s ‘abs-for-kilometers’ for those of you outside the U.S.) I’m rooting for her to come into her own in Season 2.

The NOVELTY of all of these Grimm Fairy Tales backstories in illustrated contexts impresses me. Also: perhaps we should send therapists to Korea.

Books (Manga): Yakuza Lover by Nozomi Mino

Cover of Yakuza Lover volume 12 by Nozomi Mino, published in English by Viz
Cover of Yakuza Lover volume 12 by Nozomi Mino, published in English by Viz

Yakuza Lover
by Nozomi Mino
published in English by Viz (complete 12 volumes)

Volume 12 was just published this month, so I can write about this breathless, living-dangerously fantasy of an assertive college girl who falls in love with a handsome, high-ranking professional criminal.

Yuri wants a boyfriend, and after a stylish organized crime boss gets her out of a bad situation at a party, she seeks him out to return his coat… And is dazzled by underboss Oya’s good looks, pretty tattoos, wealth, henchmen, aura of power – and his DRAMA!

If you want an obsessive older guy who says he’ll see you next week IF HE IS STILL ALIVE, this is the series for the impressionable and unwise young version of you!

Yuri doesn’t have non-guy goals, so she gets purpose and unusual experiences out of this relationship. Oya is a possessive / obsessive boyfriend who is wild for her, providing immature intensity, approval, good sex, excessive gifts, and access to luxurious places she would never ordinarily experience. Their relationship also puts Yuri in sketchy situations, gets her kidnapped, leads to being threatened by thugs, alienates people close to her, and requires her to make adjustments to accept his criminal underworld and its drama.

Hardships only bring Yuri and Oya closer together. The more people in their circles object, the tighter they hold each other, and the more delighted they look together in bed.

The drama, danger, Yuri’s giant-eyed-open-mouthed surprise at everything, and Oya’s lovey-dovey excessiveness make for an over-the-top, entertaining story.

Books (Manga): The Legendary Fossil by Abyu, Besi, Chung Jong

The Legendary Fossil
published in English by Tappytoon (80 chapters – complete)

This is the story of a warrior… going back to high school! Ashleigh Lute was tasked with a quest by the emperor, but once she completed it, the authorities wouldn’t allow her to admit that SHE was the one who killed the Demon King of the north.

Worse yet, while she was away for three years on her heroic quest with fellow adventurers, she missed three years of school – and now must complete her education, mingling with (UGH!) YOUNGER PEOPLE. Ash feels like, yes, a fossil, and can’t even really tell them why she was gone. Or how she became such a strong swordswoman.

Ashleigh Lute, the warrior heroine of the story who knows her way around a sword (two images); plus a quiet guy she is fond of from The Legendary Fossil, published by Tappytoon.

Typical for the Korean manga I’ve read, many of the characters have traumatic backstories they are trying to overcome: dead parents, abusive parents, murdered siblings, switched birth orders, sibling rivalries, and (oh yes!) MAGICALLY CURSED ITEMS.

The characters are cute, and the artists like to either remove facial features entirely in some scenes or have transparent versions of the characters’ eyes showing through their hair, which is kind of neat (see first character illustration – the characters all have softly draped hair in their eyes).

The last twenty (?) or so chapters introduced new characters and intrigue. The story had been more straightforward in a talk-to-the-sword way, but became more political. To my relief, the story still achieved a sword-centered ending. I was relieved that a betrayal I anticipated did not come to pass.

Recommended if you like: talented women with swords & secrets at school.

Books (Manga): Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase

Cover of volume 1 of the manga Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase
Cover of volume 1 of the manga Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase

Absolute Boyfriend
by Yuu Watase
published in English by Viz / Shojo Beat Manga (33+ chapters)

Riiko is a lonely young woman who orders a “boyfriend” from a sketchy company based on a sketchy ad. And what does she receive? A human-sized box with a human-sized, very charming android with superhero-like powers! Night, as she names him, is programmed to perform intimate services… which Riiko is not actually ready for. And the company she ordered him from wants their money, or at least some data about Night’s seduction abilities, which Riiko doesn’t want them to have….

This is a comedy with high levels of silliness, plus romance elements. This story involves jealous childhood friends, androids who can cook, fantasies of what makes the perfect bf, sketchy salesmen prone to cosplay, forbidden technologies, elaborately drawn hair, one way tickets to Europe, and possibly first love. It was initially too silly / over the top for me, but I came back to finish the main story arc, and was entertained.