Guin Saga (#2-5): The Marches Episode, Hungry like the leopard.

Well done serial adventures like Flash Gordan and the Lone Ranger work best if they are addictive. They should engage the audience in a way that even after giving you some amount of resolution keeps you coming back again and again. Guin Saga is no exception to this rule, the first book tells a complete story but it is a very small piece in the grandiose epic of Guin discovering who he is, what he was meant to do, and being totally awesome while he does it. The next four books keeps up the constant forward momentum of Guin and his companions in the next leg of the journey. When you finish one book you will often be surprised how quickly you find yourself wanting to move on to the next.

Once I got my hands on the rest of the Guin books released from Vertical, it was a short time before I was finished and wanting more. We decided to review the rest of the Marches Episode of Guin together because a lot that is going on is very transitional especially in the second and third installments. This is by no means a complaint or a determent to the series, it is just a fact in a multiple volume story that some books will fall into this section of moving the story along without having any huge incidents. However, Kaoru Kurimoto is able to keep you on your toes the entire time with a rapid pace and varying points of view.

Like an good serial adventure we ended with our heroes in mortal peril (i.e. jumping into the churning waters of the deadly Kes River) after escaping the castle of the Black Count. They obviously survive the fall and soon find themselves with Istavan Spellsword running into the twisted wasteland known as Nospherus. Guin and company soon find themselves between the monstrous denizens of Nospherus and a large contingent of Mongauli soldiers led by the beautiful Lady Amnelis. Guin must find a way to marshal the inhabitants of Nospherus to drive off the army intent on killing them all, taking the twins of Parros, and annexing the wastelands. Guin is outnumbered and outgunned but he’s Guin, fate would not have it any other way.

It becomes quite clear as our band of heroes makes their escape from the Monguali army that Nospherus is a hellish place. However, as they start to understand it, they begin to use it to their distinct advantage with the help of the Sem barbarian tribes. Even though Guin is on the side of the Sem (and really all the inhabitants of Nospherus) it is always an uphill battle that requires cunning, supreme strategy, and a bit of fate’s guidance. The final battle still had a lot of surprises in store and while the overall outcome was what I expected, getting there and what was sacrificed was not. Once again the storytelling of Guin Saga really shines when it can lead you to understand characters but not predict the entire story to follow.

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Guin Saga #1: The Leopard Mask, And he’s watchin’ us all in the eye of the leopard!

The classic pulp fantasy adventures involve manly men with rippling muscles fighting their way through hordes of monsters to survive and carve out a place of power in a chaotic and brutal world. The first name you usually think of in the west in this genre is Conan the Barbarian. The first Conan movie is what helped Arnold Schwarzenegger become a movie star. In Japan when people think of sword and sorcery the first name that jumps to mind is Guin. There are currently over 120 books in the series with no sign of stopping. In fact Guin Saga is the longest continuing single-writer’s work in the world. There is also a manga series of side stories and an anime based on the novels. Kaoru Kurimoto is also a well respected mystery novelist in addition to writing about Guin. Even Issac Asimov would be impressed. The Guin series is clearly influenced by writers like Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber but she makes a fantasy world and characters that are her own.

I am always curious about works that have influenced creative minds across the board. This is especially true when I have only recently heard of a work that has been decades in the making and continues on (the 126th book was published just last month!). Though it seems quite suddenly Guin Saga has stepped into my line of vision not only thanks to Vertical’s publication of the first few novels (and some subsequent manga) in the series but as it has just begun an anime TV series run in Japan. Also a great love for both fantasy and adventure runs in my veins. Beyond so many other genres, these types of stories begin in an unfamiliar, mysterious world where the reader must not only discover the secrets of each character on the journey but also explore an unknown setting. So it was with barely restrained curiosity and excitement that I took up the first Guin novel.

After the Mongaul army has taken the capital of the Kingdom of Parros, the remaining twin heirs to the throne, Rinda and Remus, flee for their lives. During their attempt to escape they are accidentally teleported into enemy territory. When they are captured by enemy soldiers a man in a leopard mask named Guin single-handedly saves them. It turns out that Guin has amnesia and cannot remove the leopard mask. The three of them must band together not only to escape the deadly Marches they found themselves in but to escape the grasp of the tainted Black Count Vanon and Stafolos Keep.

Adventures can start many ways. Some may begin in a sleepy village or with an ordinary boy. Guin Saga laughs at that and fast-forwards you to where the action truly beings. This is easily one of the best hooks of the book: our narrator dumps us into the middle of the Marches only moments before Guin takes down an entire band of trained soldiers and then collapses. And this is Guin on an off day as he has only just awoken to his clouded memory and a leopard head quite unwilling to come off of his own head. These moments of intensity and calm come in quick succession like an enjoyable rollercoaster ride. Kurimoto also knows when and where to sprinkle the details of the world giving the viewer just enough to be able to fill in the surroundings with their imaginations. There are many scrapes in the next 200 pages and the body/ghoul/monster/thing count is high and bloody. However, the book is hardly a string of violent incidents. As we get more and more pieces to the puzzle, it becomes increasingly clear that this world is a complicated place.

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SpringĀ Fever: Sping 2009 Anime Guide

As we get better at this we seem to add more and more shows that we review each season. I don’t think I would ever want to review more shows than we did this season. This season had a pretty good selection for all the major anime food groups. Some selections were rather lackluster but overall it was an enjoyable selection. Look back on Wednesday because I will be looking at some shows that Narutaki decided to avoid this season. Often times with good reason.

Alright, it is worth noting that we had to do this enormous review not once but twice! It is amazing that it is done at all. Anywho! This is becoming a standard when the new season starts up. However, I think this is the first time that there are way more shows that I want to keep up with than is humanly possible. It is shaping up to be a good season. I think these first episode reviews are worth doing, first impressions are important and it’s fun to see how right (and wrong!) we are when the dust has cleared.

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