2022 Quick Reviews

by Rakka   Tags: review anime manga books

Quick reviews of 2022 media, excluding films and anything that I decided to write more about individually. (For films, see see my 2022 film ranking.) Will be updated throughout the year.

Scale used for reference:

  • 1/5: not really worth looking into; you won’t see many of these because I’ll just drop it without bothering to review it.
  • 2/5: probably not worth the time, but you may enjoy it regardless.
  • 3/5: an average to above-average series; may be a 4/5 to fans of certain genres or themes.
  • 4/5: a strong recommendation with some flaws or shortcomings.
  • 5/5: a universal recommendation; one of my favorites. Not necessarily flawless, but has something extremely compelling.
  1. Anime
    1. Deaimon (2022 Spring)
    2. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (2012 Spring)
    3. The Case Study of Vanitas Part 2 (2022 Winter)
    4. Dennou Coil (2007 Spring)
    5. The Executioner and Her Way of Life (2022 Spring)
    6. Girls’ Last Tour (2017 Fall)
    7. The Heike Story (2021 Fall)
    8. IRODUKU: The World in Colors (2018 Fall)
    9. Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House (2021 Winter)
    10. Life Lessons with Uramichi Onii-san (2021 Summer)
    11. Love Live: Nijigasaki School Idol Club (2022 Spring)
    12. Love Live: Superstar!! (2021 Summer)
    13. Love Live: Superstar!! Season 2 (2022 Summer)
    14. Lycoris Recoil (2022 Summer)
    15. My Dress-Up Darling (2022 Winter)
    16. Planet With (2018 Summer)
    17. Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997 Spring)
    18. Sarazanmai (2019 Spring)
    19. Symphogear (Series)
    20. Tokyo Mew Mew New (2022 Summer)
    21. Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song (2021 Spring)
    22. Ya Boy Kongming! (2022 Spring)
    23. The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting (2022 Summer)
    24. Dropped Series
  2. Manga
    1. Series
    2. Dropped Series
    3. Oneshots
  3. Novels
    1. All the Lovers in the Night (Mieko Kawakami)
    2. The Apothecary Diaries (Natsu Hyuuga)
    3. Babel; Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution (R.F. Kuang)
    4. Beautiful Country (Qian Julie Wang)
    5. Bliss Montage (Ling Ma)
    6. Cross Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie (Hiroro Akizakura)
    7. Daughter of the Moon Goddess (Sue Lynn Tan; The Celestial Kingdom Duology #1)
    8. Disorientation (Elaine Hsieh Chou)
    9. Endo and Kobayashi Live: The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Liselotte (Suzu Enoshima)
    10. A Deepness in the Sky (Vernor Vinge; Zones of Thought #2)
    11. Fevered Sky (Rebecca Roanhorse; Between Earth and Sky #2)
    12. A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge; Zones of Thought #1)
    13. Four Treasures of the Sky (Jenny Tinghui Zhang)
    14. Goodbye Otherworld, See You Tomorrow (Kazamidori)
    15. The Holy Grail of Eris (Kujira Tokiwa)
    16. I am Blue, in Pain, and Fragile (Yoru Sumino)
    17. I’m in Love with the Villainess (Inori)
    18. Joan Is Okay (Weike Wang)
    19. Legends of the Condor Heroes Series (Jin Yong)
    20. Light from Uncommon Stars (Ryka Aoki)
    21. The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady (Piero Karasu)
    22. My Happy Marriage (Akumi Agitogi)
    23. People from My Neighborhood (Hiromi Kawakami)
    24. Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology (Various Authors)
    25. The Memory Police (Yoko Ogawa)
    26. The Middling Affliction (Alex Shvartsman; The Conradverse Chronicles #1)
    27. ROLL OVER AND DIE: I will Fight for an Ordinary Life with My Love and Cursed Sword! (kiki)
    28. The Shining Sea (Koji Suzuki)
    29. Speaking Bones (Ken Liu; The Dandelion Dynasty #4)
    30. Termination Shock (Neal Stephenson)
    31. Tokyo Ueno Station (Yu Miri)
    32. Tower of the Sun (Tomihiko Morimi)
    33. The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes (Mei Hachimoku)
    34. The Veiled Throne (Ken Liu; The Dandelion Dynasty #3)
    35. Wait for Me Yesterday in Spring (Mei Hachimoku)
    36. The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories (Various Authors)
    37. A Witch in Time (Constance Sayers)
  4. Short Stories
    1. “The Feminist” (Tony Tulathimutte)
    2. “Nonstandard Candles” (Yoon Ha Lee)
    3. “Timekeepers’ Symphony” (Ken Liu)

Anime #

Deaimon (2022 Spring) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

A comfy, down-to-earth slice-of-life show that fully differentiates itself by featuring adults as main characters and depicting a different kind of familial relationship than simply parent-child (as opposed to something like Usagi Drop or Sweetness and Lightning). As a bonus, we get a lot of focus on wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionery) and that delightful Kyoto accent.

Rating: 4/5

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (2012 Spring) #

Stream on HIDIVE

A somewhat ecchi romcom series that gets presented as a horror series, since the main love interest is a ghost. The contrast helps distinguish it from all the other romcoms, though if you weren’t a fan of the basic genre template, then this probably won’t change your mind.

Rating: 3/5

The Case Study of Vanitas Part 2 (2022 Winter) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

A continuation of the 2021 series. The basic premise is that Noé, a vampire, and Vanitas, a human, team up to investigate a rash of vampires going insane and attacking people. Vantias happens to possess the legendary Book of Vanitas, giving him the power to actually cure these vampires, though many distrust him.

Take a mystery/action anime, add in Yuki Kajiura’s slick soundtrack, a lot of Victorian and steampunk flair, make everyone essentially bi, and you get Vanitas: an often-steamy steampunk adventure that’s engaging and fun. Note, however, that Vanitas absolutely does not respect boundaries when it comes to his crush Jeanne, and that may be uncomfortable for many (-1 point).

Rating: 4/5

Dennou Coil (2007 Spring) #

A story about loss and loving on that gets framed through a cyberpunk lens. While it takes a while to really reveal what’s going on, and the AR technology that it all revolves feels both quaint and futuristic at the same time, it manages to use its fancy technology to tell a story that is still grounded in the real world—it’s what Belle should have been. It also feels strangely nostalgic to watch, like a 90’s or early 00’s kids anime.

Rating: 4/5

The Executioner and Her Way of Life (2022 Spring) #

Stream on HIDIVE

One of my favorite shows so far this year (June 2022). I don’t want to spoil things, so: go in blind. It’s a riff of isekai tropes, and while it can be corny at times, I think this is to its benefit. The worldbuilding behind the series hints at a grander plot that sadly the anime doesn’t have time to fully explain, but makes me want to grab the original novels ASAP.

My main complaint is that Momo, the protagonist’s sidekick, is a little over-the-top, and the fanservice in this series feels wildly out of place with everything else (but is thankfully mostly minimal).

Rating: 5/5

Girls’ Last Tour (2017 Fall) #

Stream on HIDIVE

A slice-of-life with a post-apocalyptic, philosophical bent—kind of the same vibe as the OG Kino’s Journey.

Rating: 4/5

The Heike Story (2021 Fall) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

A retelling of a historical epic from the perspective of a biwa player with a supernatural eye. Like IRODUKU below, I didn’t enjoy this show as much as I thought I would because it just doesn’t work with the way I watch anime now—mostly on the side while doing other things, which is a little unfortunate (for me) given the pedigree of this show.

Rating: 4/5

IRODUKU: The World in Colors (2018 Fall) #

Stream on HIDIVE

I feel really conflicted about this one since I really adored the premise, art style (Fly is the best character designer, BTW), music, and ending. But the show itself had trouble holding my interest; the episode-to-episode events were just on the border of not quite moving fast enough to be a proper drama, but too much to be a proper slice-of-life. If I had the time to watch this by itself and in fewer sittings, like a movie, it probably could have been one of my favorite shows; but instead it’s merely very good.

Rating: 4/5

Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House (2021 Winter) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

Another food-oriented slice-of-life based on Kyoto (like Deaimon above), this time showing what it means to be a maiko (an apprentice geisha). While a relaxing watch, this show suffered from releasing once-per-month and hence de-emphasizing any actual story to instead be a kind of variety show, with a little self-contained plot and some standard “talk about food” segments in each episode.

Rating: 3/5

Life Lessons with Uramichi Onii-san (2021 Summer) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

A comedy featuring the adult cast members of a children’s variety show, showing the contrast between the effort they put into their jobs and how much of a failure they are at everything else.

Rating: 3/5

Love Live: Nijigasaki School Idol Club (2022 Spring) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

A fairly standard (but well produced) idol show with a large cast and lots of songs. I personally didn’t find it all that interesting (though Lanzhu Zhong at least made for a fun foil at first), but the songs are enjoyable (particularly Eutopia).

Rating: 2/5

Love Live: Superstar!! (2021 Summer) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

Another entry in the Love Live franchise. Unlike Nijigasaki School Idol Club above, there’s only one group, there’s fewer members, and all the members are new to the business—I think this worked out much better, since each character gets more screen time. On the other hand, I didn’t like Liella’s songs as much as the ones put out by Nijigasaki. So this one was a better watch, but I’m not going to listen to the songs afterwards.

Love Live: Superstar!! Season 2 (2022 Summer) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

Season 2 introduces four new cast members, bringing the total up to 9. I think they rush developments a bit much as a result, trying to give everyone enough screen time, but I still liked the season overall. I still think Liella’s songs don’t hold up very well, though. Season 3 was announced, along with a recruitment contest for one new member, so hopefully that will give everyone some breathing room (it appears there’ll be a total of 11 members, possibly 12, in the end).

Rating: 3/5

Lycoris Recoil (2022 Summer) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

The plot is rather messy, but if you’re not overly fastidious about that sort of thing, Lycoris has a lot of charm and a lot of heart…and a lot of explosions and guns. Chisato and Takina’s dynamic definitely carries the show here.

Rating: 4/5

My Dress-Up Darling (2022 Winter) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

An otherwise standard ecchi rom-com that benefits from characters who are more straightforward about what they want (in the case of the girl) and being an interesting character in their own right, not a generic self-insert (in the case of the guy). Still suffers from the Maniac Pixie Dream Girl trope (“I have no self-confidence but the most popular girl in school happens to be really into (an adjacent) hobby”).

Rating: 3/5

Planet With (2018 Summer) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

While some of the visuals are a little janky, this sci-fi action/mecha show somehow makes a large cast and complicated plot work despite a standard 12-episode runtime. The large cast could easily have led to things feeling unfinished or unsatisfying, but good use of tropes made everyone feel reasonably fleshed out, and the main characters get a good amount of development on top of that. The oddball premise and cast makes this a fun watch with a worthwhile ending.

Rating: 4/5

Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997 Spring) #

Stream on YouTube

A hugely influential cult classic for good reason, Utena is a highly metaphorical anime that deals with surprisingly heavy content. Though I probably understood less than half of what was going on, it was still definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 5/5

Sarazanmai (2019 Spring) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

I…don’t even know how to describe this. A fairly abstract show about three teens processing their emotional trauma with the help of kappas and…butt stuff. But don’t let that turn you off! There’s apparently Buddhist connections if that makes you feel better.

Rating: 5/5

Symphogear (Series) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

A mash-up of an idol show, magical girls, and mecha where the plot is absolutely bonkers, the fanservice is gratuitous…and the songs are actually pretty good. Definitely a surprise favorite, even if I admittedly didn’t pay attention to the plot.

Rating: 3/5

Tokyo Mew Mew New (2022 Summer) #

A decent magical girl show, with a few problems. On the plus side, the plot moves quite quickly, because it’s been compressed down from the original, and the updated character designs are adorable. On the minus side, the male love interests are…handsy, and the opening theme kinda grates on the ears. If you like magical girls, though, this is a solid choice.

Rating: 3/5

Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song (2021 Spring) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

Sort of like Plastic Memories, Vivy centers around bringing emotion to something that definitionally and philosophically can’t. But instead of a slice-of-life drama, Vivy follows the centurylong journey of an idol singer android who is unexpectedly tasked with saving humanity. While I feel like the songs weren’t super interesting, the point isn’t to be an idol anime, and incredible animation more than makes up for it.

Ya Boy Kongming! (2022 Spring) #

Stream on HIDIVE

My other favorite show for this season. Zhuge Liang (courtesy name Kongming), legendary tactician of the Three Kingdoms period, wakes up in modern Shibuya after passing away. Restored to his youthful self, he wanders through Halloween festivities into a club, falls in love with Eiko’s singing, and decides to accomplish his goal of world peace by bringing her singing to the people.

An addictive opening song (and other songs), bonkers plot, and a well-rounded set of side characters and antagonists make this fun even if you aren’t necessarily into “idol” series. And you can’t miss the multiple rap battles through the season.

Rating: 5/5

The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting (2022 Summer) #

Stream on Crunchyroll

A reasonably cute show with a twist on the father-daughter dynamic, sort of in the same vein as Usagi Drop or Sweetness and Lightning. But while the contrast between the yakuza business and the slice-of-life moments are funny at times, more often than not it doesn’t quite land right, making this show feel a little all over the place.

Rating: 2/5

Dropped Series #

  • BanG Dream!: I didn’t like the bands enough for this to really hold my interest. 2/5
  • Date a Live: supernatural battles aren’t enough to make this bog-standard harem romcom stand out, and the ecchi makes it even worse. 1/5
  • Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya: not a very engaging magical girl series, too much slice-of-life, and way too much fanservice, with the artstyle making it awful and uncomfortable. 1/5
  • Love Live! Sunshine!!: Nijigasaki and Superstar have better music, and Superstar has more interesting characters. 2/5
  • Yuuki Yuuna Is a Hero: while this series seems well regarded for how it develops, I couldn’t get past the first few episodes since it took itself way too seriously but didn’t really have anything interesting going on. 2/5, though maybe it’s worth revisiting later.

Manga #

Names will be given in English if licensed, Japanese otherwise. I’m not going to bother listing everything; unnotable oneshots in particular will get skipped.

Series #

  • 5 Seconds Before a Witch Falls in Love by SUMIYA Zeniko: see the manga recommendations
  • 50 Tea Recipes from the Dutchess by Lee Jiha: see the review.
  • アフタースクールメイト (After School Mate) by @umino90: see the manga recommendations
  • 愛と呪い (Ai to Noroi) by Fumiko Fumi: a haunting account of the author’s childhood growing up in a religious cult, with the contrast between the rough—almost childish—art and the raw emotions standing out in particular. (TRIGGER WARNING: sexual abuse, suicide) 5/5
  • Cardcaptor Sakura by Clamp: a classic magical girl series, and for good reason. Of course there’s some filler, but some of the twists caught me off guard, and it goes without saying that Clamp’s art is fantastic. 5/5
  • Cats and Sugar Bowls by Yukiko: a collection of spicier yuri oneshots covering several scenarios and fetishes. 3/5
  • 大学ではじめて恋人ができた人の話 (Daigaku de Hajimete Koibito ga Dekita Hito no Hanashi) by @iemaki: a rom-com about two college couples of quite different types. Note it can be somewhat spicy. 5/5
  • Daily Report About My Witch Senpai by Maka Mochida: a two-volume story about a witch in the workplace. While I really like the concept, I wish it hadn’t burned its entire runtime on relationship drama and explored the world a bit more instead, sort of like Flying Witch. There’s a continuation, currently only available in Japanese. 3/5
  • Days of Love at Seagull Villa by Kodama Naoko: an alright yuri series with a bit too much handsy-ness and not enough runtime to really flesh out the emotionally manipulative antagonist. 2/5
  • エリオと電気人形 (Erio to Denki Ningyou) by @shimazakikazumi: a short series about the travels of a former android soldier and a girl who can recharge her with a kiss. 3/5
  • 犬と屑 (Inu to Kuzu) by @asg_iori: a fairly melodramatic romance drama about childhood friends as adults. While it wrapped up rather quickly, that’s to its benefit as it really couldn’t keep up constant dramatic reveals forever. 2/5
  • Don’t Blush, Sekime-san! by Shigure Tokita: a cute romcom that actually establishes its main couple early on. It feels like it could have run for longer, though maybe it was best to end it before it got stale. 3/5
  • Earthchild by Hideo Shinkai: while a strong initial chapter (superheroes who protect the earth) had me interested, the series quickly went off the rails and wasted its potential. 1/5
  • Eniale & Dewiela by Kamome Shirahama: a short series about an angel and demon who come down to Earth and compete against each other. For me, the humor didn’t really always land, but the author’s detailed art is nice to look at—perhaps check out her other series, Witch Hat Atelier, instead though. 2/5
  • A Fake Affair by HIGASHIMURA Akiko: an amazingly dramatic romance between a quickly aging woman and a dreamy young photographer, where she ignores all the obvious flags. 4/5
  • ガールズインザヘル (Girls in the Hell) by @kawai_roh: a collection of yuri oneshots with varying themes, trending towards darker or bleaker. 4/5
  • ご機嫌ナナメの吉岡さん〜福地翼短編集〜 (Gokigen Naname no Yoshioka-san ~Fukuchi Tsubasa Tanpenshuu~) by @fukuchi_tsubasa: a collection of short stories, of which the titular story follows a girl who comes off as much colder than she feels. 4/5
  • 初恋 (Hatsukoi) by Harumi Chihiro: a collection of oneshots about love, often featuring offbeat premises. 4/5
  • Here We Go Again by Goeun: two grandparents who are always at odds are suddenly made young again and get a fresh start. While extremely melodramatic, the way they bicker is just like Last Game turned up to the max. 4/5
  • 一番星のそばで (Ichiban hoshi no soba de) by SENGOKU Hiroko: a one-volume story about the bond between a twin brother/sister, and the ghost who shows up one day. (Out of print, never digitized) 4/5
  • 妹の友達が何考えてるのかわからない (Imouto no Tomodachi ga Nani Kangaeteru no ka Wakaranai) by @rayrei1414: a fairly cute series about a budding young romance, though it ended a little abruptly due to the author’s health problems. 4/5
  • Isaki Uta Short Stories by ISAKI Uta: two bittersweet short stories that roughly revolve around flawed parents. (The original Japanese appears to include four stories, however.) 4/5
  • からっぽのアイネ (Karappo no Aine) by KOMAKI Maria: while it’s tempting to compare it to Your Lie in April, this series isn’t entirely the same. At only two volumes long, and with its time divided between a cast of six, Karappo no Aine is one part supernatural mystery, and one part celebration of all the ways that we make music fun. 4/5
  • 君にしか教えない (Kimi ni shika Oshienai) by SHIMA Tokio: an age gap/childhood friend rom-dram with an unusual structure, being told mostly as flashbacks. 3/5
  • 君の足跡はバラ色 (Kimi ni shika Oshienai) by SENGOKU Hiroko: see the manga recommendations.
  • 帰宅部活動記録 (Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku) by @kx_rx_hx: a fairly meta wacky school comedy manga. Jokes don’t always land. 3/5
  • Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World by Keiichi Sigsawa & Iruka Shinomiya: an adaptation of a light novel revolving around the enigmatic traveler Kino and their companion and talking motorcycle Hermes. They visit new countries constantly, never staying more than three days. Each visit is a vignette often making some philosophical point. Also has an anime. 5/5
  • Kitchen Princess by Miyuki Kobayashi: while a very stereotypical shōjo in many ways, love triangle and plot twists and all, the indefatigable protagonist and her mouthwatering recipes make this a delectable read. 3/5
  • 告白びより (Kokuhaku Biyori) by NAKAMURA Hinata: a cute collection of oneshots about confessions. 3/5
  • 今夜僕らはお泊りをする (Konnya Bokura wa Otomoari o suru) by @rierioto: see the review.
  • 吸血鬼ちゃんとメイドさん by @yuruyunaZNK: a collection of master-maid yuri stories. Cute, but there’s not much substance; mildly sus at times (though never explicit). 3/5
  • 魔祓井さんは僕を狩りたい (Mabarai-san wa Boku o Karitai) by @ma_trii_: . 3/5
  • マギの贈り物 (Magi no okurimono) by Yoshizuki Kumichi: see the manga recommendations.
  • The Makeup Remover by Lee Yone: see the manga recommendations.
  • Marry Me! by Miku Yuki: a fairly sweet romance with two major issues: a fairly problematic premise/setup (involving government-arranged marriages) and passive lead characters that make the story still feel rather underdeveloped by the end. 3/5
  • My Future Self Is Persuading Me to Become a Woman by @trans_shojo: exactly what the title says. It ends very suddenly, but it’s still an interesting, if short, read. 3/5
  • 南北スピンオフ_ (Nanboku Spinoff): extremely spicy spinoff of 大学ではじめて恋人ができた人の話 for fans of the original series. 3/5
  • My Monster Secret: see the manga recommendations.
  • My Wandering Warrior Existence: see the manga recommendations.
  • 泣き顔百合アンソロジー (Nakigao Yuri Anthology): a forgettable yuri anthology revolving around the face one makes while crying. 1/5
  • 夏色の君へ 少女アラカルト2 (Natsuiro no kimi e: shoujo à la carte) by Niichi: a cute collection of oneshots about youthful romantic love. 4/5
  • No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai (adaptation by Junji Ito): a psychological…horror?…autobiography brilliantly rendered by a renowned horror author/artist. 4/5
  • 呪われた少女が幸せになる話 (Norowareta Shoujo ga Shiawase ni Naru Hanashi) by @shimazakikazumi: a quick story of an exorcist and a cursed girl. 3/5
  • 泥濘のミネルバ (Nukarumi no Minerva) by @shinobu_amanoo: a brilliant woman of the stage and the man who’s always chasing after her. 3/5
  • おねだりしてみて (Onedarishitemite) by Yukiko: a collection of yuri oneshots, which trend towards the spicier side. This keeps it interesting, but the sexual assault would probably give you pause. 2/5
  • 男友達と女友達 (Otoko tomodatchi to onna tomodachi) by @annonanam: a fairly hilarious short series following the antics of a young maiden in love. What helps this one stand out: distinctive, full-color art, and getting the internal monologues of both characters so you can watch them hilariously shoot past each other. 4/5
  • Qualia -Envy- by various authors: a set of yuri oneshots revolving loosely around the theme of envy. Not as edgy as its sister volume Qualia -Jealousy-, but still has some relatively spicy content. 3/5
  • Qualia -Jealousy- by various authors: a set of yuri oneshots revolving loosely around the theme of jealousy. Trends towards darker, more mature themes. Some NSFW content/Mikanuji’s oneshot depicts sexual assault. 2/5
  • 両片想い、集めました。世界一もどかしいアンソロジー (Ryoukataomoi, atsumemashita. seikaiichi modokashii ansorojii): a collection of oneshots about one-sided love, of uneven quality. TW: suicide 2/5
  • 最強かわいいアイツ(♂)にドキドキさせられちゃうアンソロジー (Saikyou Kawaii Aitsu (♂) ni Dokidoki Saserarechau Anthology) by various artists: a collection of oneshots about crossdressing boys getting their friends flustered. 3/5
  • Sakurai-san Wants to Be Noticed by Sora Akino: a fairly bog-standard wish-fulfillment romcom between a forward and positive girl and a self-insert boring guy. 2/5
  • See You Tomorrow at the Food Court by Shinichiro Nariie: a comedy revolving around a pair of unlikely friends at a food court. Honestly, I liked this most for its faces. 4/5
  • 背伸びして情熱 (Senobishite jounetsu) by SENGOKU Hiroko: a collection of oneshots, some bitter, some sweet, some strange, some everyday. (Out of print, never digitized) 4/5
  • シャッター街のさくら姫 (Shattaagai no sakura-hime) by MIYAMOTO Reimi: a fairly standard setup with a short runtime. Cute art and good vibes carry this story and paper over a lack of depth (or time to develop): a rural genki girl breaks the shell on an introverted artist who lacks confidence after an incident at his past school. 3/5
  • Spirit Circle by Satoshi Mizukami: see the manga recommendations.
  • Someday’s Dreamers by Norie Yamada: a short, charming slice-of-life about a novice witch. 3/5
  • Stellar Witch LIP☆S by Hana Kagami and Kotoko Ichi: an alright magical girl series with amazing art but a fairly boring, straightforward plot. While rated 16+, it feels like it was targeted at a much younger audience. 2/5
  • The Stories of Those Around Me by OMYO: a slice-of-life about a group of women in their mid-twenties. The art is adorable, and it’s a relaxing read. 3/5
  • サーマーゴースト (Summer Ghost) by loundraw: three not-quite-friends investigate the legend of a ghost who only appears if you light fireworks during the summer. Adaptation of a film. 4/5
  • Syrup HONEY First Night Yuri Anthology: a set of spicier oneshots about the first night. None really stood out to me. 2/5
  • Takopi’s Original Sin by TAIZAN 5: an alien arrives to bestow happiness on mankind, but finds only sorrow and pain. While a tad melodramatic, it ends before becoming overbearing. 4/5
  • 友達の姉ちゃんに恋した話と姉ちゃんの友達がうざい話 (Tomodachi no Neechan ni Koishita Hanashi to Neechan no Tomodachi ga Uzai Hanashi) by @kinq_ko: a compilation of short 4-page comics about a pair of friends, one who falls in love with the other’s older sister, and one who falls in love with said sister’s friend. Cute, but there’s not much substance for their relationship in a single volume. 3/5
  • 关于被班上绿茶威胁那件事 (Guānyú bèi bān shàng lǜchá wēixié nà jiàn shì) by 闲君: a yuri romance mostly revolving around an overly strict Chinese mother. The family dynamics are interesting, but the aggressive pursuit in the start is rather uncomfortable. 3/5
  • A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow by Makoto Hagino: a fairly sweet and generally low-key slice-of-life series about two socially awkward girls who bond over a love of aquariums. 4/5
  • Tokyo Tarareba Girls by Akiko Higashimura: see the manga recommendations.
  • Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Fumiyo Kouno: a slice-of-life story about survivors of the atomic bombing of Japan, depicting the horrors even the survivors faced, as well as survivor’s guilt. 5/5
  • Whenever Our Eyes Meet…A Women’s Love Anthology by various authors: an anthology of various yuri stories featuring adults (for once), though nothing really stood out. 3/5
  • Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita: see the manga recommendations.
  • 夜にとろける (Yoru ni Torokeru) by SHIMA Tokio: a collection of various stories about love and relationships. While there’s a lot of iffiness displayed (e.g. age gap relationships), one of the mini-series is a nice peek at relationships, friendships, and growing up (as it follows them well into adulthood, albeit via time skips). 3/5

Dropped Series #

  • Coffee Moon by Bota Mochito: a supernatural mystery about girls trapped in a time loop in a city of endless rain. While it had a strong start, the art and story quickly fell off after the first volume or so. 2/5
  • Hello, Melancholic! by Yayoi Ohsawa: while it has a strong pedigree (written by a notable yuri author) and a strong recommendation from Okazu, I couldn’t click with this wallflower-turned-bandmate yuri coming-of-age. 2/5
  • Hoshi no Samidare: Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer by Satoshi Mizukami: while Spirit Circle is one of my all-time favorites, the author’s other series was unfortunately rather uninteresting—I felt like it had too large of a cast, and too slow pacing, for what it was trying to do. Planet With has a similar idea but works much better due to having to fit in a single season. 2/5
  • からかい上手の(元)高木さん (Karakai Jouzu no (Moto) Tagaki-san) by Yamamoto Souichirou: a spin-off of Teasing Master Takagi-san featuring the characters as a married couple. It’s basically the same, except the words say they’re married now. 2/5
  • 舞妓さんちのまかないさん (Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san) by 小山愛子: like the anime (above), it was just a little too slow for me. 2/5
  • マリッジグレー (Marriage Gray) by 轍平: lots of wish fulfillment and fanservice, not much in the way of an interesting story (plus, why would you marry someone while admitting to yourself you don’t know why they want to marry you). 1/5
  • Monologue Woven for You by Syu Yasaka: I fully concur with Erica Friedman here. 2/5
  • 娘の家出 (Musume no Iede) by Shimura Takako: there were just too many characters I didn’t care about, plus drama that didn’t really suck me in. While I normally like Shimura-sensei’s works, this one was a miss. 2/5
  • semelparous by Jun Ogino: a wildly ecchi yuri action series that doesn’t really have much other than skin paint and balloon-size boobs. 1/5
  • Strawberry Fields Once Again by Kazura Kinosaki: a time-travel premise isn’t enough to save this yuri romcom. 2/5
  • We’re New at This by Ren Kawahara: while it’s refreshing to see a romcom featuring grownups, the way they act like middle schoolers is off-putting. 2/5
  • 我家老婆来自一千年前 (Wǒjiā Lǎopó Láizì Yīqiān Nián Qián): a potentially interesting premise (a woman from ancient China wakes up in the modern day) gets derailed by a self-insert and scummy main character. 2/5
  • Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games by Eri Ejima: didn’t stand out enough for me to keep buying this among all the other series coming out. 2/5

Oneshots #

  • 相生若葉といたひと月について (AIOI Wakaba to Ita Hitogetsu nitsuite) by 小形朱嶺: a shinigami watches over an stouthearted young woman. I didn’t enjoy the somewhat predictable ending, but the story overall was comforting. 3/5
  • 普く通る (Amaneku tooru) by @umino90: the most ordinary man in the world saves all the universes. An absolutely hilarious look at an average man superhero. 4/5
  • 朝比奈くんのひみつ (Asahina-kun no Himitsu) by @suzuki_cb: a wild oneshot about a guy who wears a bra and a girl who can see women’s underwear through clothes unless she wears glasses. 3/5
  • バイトの女の子に「お店潰れちゃいますよ」と言われながら、客の来ない喫茶店のマスターがしたい人生だった。 (Baito no Onnanoko ni “Omise Tsuburechaimasu yo” to Iwarenagara, Kyaku no nai Kissaten no Masutaa ga Shitai Jinsei datta) by @shimazakikazumi: a quick romance between a shopowner and an employee with a twist. 3/5
  • 忘却のカノジョ。 (Boukyaku no kanojo) by @muko_2020: a girl who forgets whoever she touches, and a boy who falls in love regardless. 3/5
  • Dancing in the Void by @utsue_k: a drama about an aspiring author and her friends and foes. 3/5
  • どうにか吸いたい吸血鬼ちゃん (Dounika Suitai Kyuuketsuki-chan) by Niichi: a short comedy about a salaryman encountering a vampire, with a side of medical lesson. 3/5
  • ガラスの靴はいらないの (Garasu no Kutsu wa Iranai no) by @sgin001: a gentler, comedic reimagining of the Cinderella fairytale. 4/5
  • 母を捨てる (Haha o suteru) by @kuso_demodori: a short story about what it means to honor someone who passed away and what it means to move on. 4/5
  • はじめての星栽 (Hajimete no Seisai) by 高橋拡那: a cute oneshot about a witch who grows a planet. 3/5
  • 花の季節 (Hana no Kisetsu) by Niichi: a different tack on what love between a witch and a human might look like. 4/5
  • ハイカロリーアパート (High Calorie Apartment) by @tori_the_tomato: an absolutely bonkers oneshot about a struggling mangaka and a recently dumped woman who bond over and derive power from high calorie food. 3/5
  • 一目惚れ (Hitomebore) by @54110yu: a quick classroom comedy/romance. 3/5
  • 放課後の誘惑 (Houkago no Yuuwaku) by 守架野吉: a guy wants to get stronger via strength training, but keeps getting distracted by a girl always eating lots of food. 3/5
  • #妹兄パパ活 (Imouto Ani Papakatsu) by @masayoshi224: a brother runs into his younger sister on a paid date. 2/5
  • 自販機 (Jihanki) by @iroha_kohinata: when you do something good, something good will happen in return. A quick, magical oneshot. 3/5
  • JK彼女と男子中学生 (JK Kanojo to Danshi Chuugakkusei) by @masayoshi224: a cute oneshot about the mutual insecurities and admiration of a dating high school girl/middle school boy, retelling the story from each of their perspectives. 3/5
  • 女装教師 (Josou kyoshi) by 佐藤夏: a student and a teacher open up to each other due to the teacher’s cross-dressing hobby. 3/5
  • Just Listen to the Song a quick & simple comedy from a renowned author and an up-and-comer. 3/5
  • カリスマ(男装)猫カフェ店員と常連(女装)お姉さんの話 (Karisuma (dansou) nekokafe tenin to jouren (josou) oneesan no hanashi) by @shimazakikazumi: a quick skit about a crossdressing cat cafe employee and a regular of theirs, a crossdressing salaryman. 3/5
  • 可愛かった幼馴染みの話 (Kawaikatta Osananajimi no Hanashi) by @sensiya_sensya: generic moe rom-com oneshot; pretty much anything by Senshiya is the same, the only question is how pervy it is (this is one of the non-pervy ones). 2/5
  • 可愛いことをしてくる幼馴染み (Kawaii Koto o Shitekuru Osananajimi) by @sensiya_sensya: generic moe rom-com oneshot; pretty much anything by Senshiya is the same, the only question is how pervy it is (this is one of the non-pervy ones). 2/5
  • キミの手には (Kimi no te ni wa) by 小形朱嶺: shaking hands with Hinata is guaranteed to bring you good luck, but does she really enjoy it? A quick oneshot about standing up for yourself. 3/5
  • 恋はシャローフォーカス (Koi wa Shallow Focus) by @mitsuki_nagata: this romance begins with a love of movies. 3/5
  • まぶしい光 (Mabushii Hikari) by @umino90: a girl whose eyesight is slowly fading finds light in the childhood friend by her side. 4/5
  • 魔女の国、人間の島 (Majo no Kuni, Ningen no Shima) by 宮沢明: a longer oneshot about three childhood friends who become enemies due to a conflict between witches and humans. 2/5
  • MAKE HERO by 松永参悟: when wallflower Hanada finds out that his flawless classmate is actually into crossdressing, they form an unlikely mutually supportive friendship. 4/5
  • 無口な留学生の正体は俺だけが知っている (Muchiku na ryuugakusei no shoutai wa ore dake ga shitteiru) by @shimazakikazumi: a short story about an outwardly-flawless weaboo. 3/5
  • なつのうみ (Natsu no umi) by 小形朱嶺: a summer love set on a nearly-submerged Earth. 3/5
  • ワンルーム (One room) by @mfmfsti: an illustrated version of the song “One Room” by Novelbright. 3/5
  • 俺たちの非日常はこれからだ! (Oretachi no hinijichou wa korekara da!) by Masao Ohtake: a fairly unusual take on the “supernatural powers” trope. 4/5
  • 男の子が「おまえ女だったのか!」をやりたくなってしまった結果… (Otokonoko ga “omae onna datta no ka!” o yaritakunatteshimatta kekka…) by @yoouhaaa: one childhood friend decides to trick another during their reunion. 2/5
  • おとなりさんはストーカー (Otonari no stalker) by @nononazu_1108: a…romance?…with a stalker. 1/5
  • おつかいテレポーテーション (Otsukai Teleportation) by @syk0kys: a brother watches over his little sister running her first errand…except she has the power to teleport short distances. 4/5
  • 侍舞-サムライブ- (Samurai Mai -Samuraibu-) by @AKAmagenta: an absolutely bonkers samurai/idol crossover oneshot. 4/5
  • サウダージにくちづけて (Saudade ni kuchidzukete) by @oknhtj: a bittersweet reunion years after a failed love. 4/5
  • Silkscreen by Isaki Uta: a bittersweet romance about two people who don’t quite see each other for who they are. 4/5
  • 社畜ちゃん (Shachiku-chan) by @masayoshi224: the life of a corporate slave. 3/5
  • 死にたい社畜と吸血JK (Shinitai shachiku to kyuuketsu JK) by @masayoshi224: a comedy about a corporate slave who wants to end it all and the girl he happens to run into who wants his blood in particular. 3/5
  • 天使の輪 (Tenshi no wa) by @avogado6: a hauntingly terrifying story of people buying angel halos to put on. TW: suicide 5/5
  • 図書室のにいる女の子の話。 (Toshoshitsu noni iru onnanoko no hanashi) by @hoshida_kana: a supernatural tale of love. 3/5
  • 父さんがギャルになってた (Tou-san ga gyaru ni natteta) by @shimazakikazumi: a guy comes home to visit his parents, only to find that his dad has turned into a gyaru. 3/5
  • 嘘つきフレンドシップ (Usotsuki furendoshippu) by @kosmy8588: two classmates find themselves unlikely comrades-in-arms in romance. 3/5
  • 勇者になれたら (Yuusha ni naretara) by 小形朱嶺: a nearly-textless romcom where three candidates face off to win a maiden’s heart. 3/5

Novels #

All the Lovers in the Night (Mieko Kawakami) #

Rather an odd book with an “empty”, emotionless narrator. Admittedly I had trouble keeping up interest in the book, but it’s fairly short and it may resonate better with some.

Rating: 3/5

The Apothecary Diaries (Natsu Hyuuga) #

Rating is for volumes 1–4.

Rating: 4/5

Babel; Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution (R.F. Kuang) #

I don’t even know where to begin.

I don’t think I would’ve appreciated this book without having done fan translations, since this is a book about language. But this is also a book about belonging; about being part of a society you can never be a part of, about revolution, about linguistics, about supply chains, about the fragility of the foundations of society, and so much more. Along with Disorientation and Light from Uncommon Stars, this is one of my favorite things I’ve read this year, and one of my favorite things I’ve ever read.

Rating: 5/5

Beautiful Country (Qian Julie Wang) #

A memoir about immigrating from China to the United States in the ’90s. This one was interesting: while my own parents arrived around the same time, they never seemed to have had such a hard time, or did they ever really talk about anything like all the explicit and casual racism that Qian faced. Part of this is that my family was much more fortunate: instead of fleeing a country due to adversity, my father came for postgraduate education and to find a job, and had more familial support. But I think for many Asian-Americans, Qian’s story of not quite fitting in, not quite growing up the same will find its mark even if our own individual experiences are all across the spectrum.

I’m also quite glad I had the chance to live in New York; being able to see and imagine the places Qian describes, having walked through many of them before, made this memoir much more visceral than it would otherwise have been.

Rating: 5/5

Bliss Montage (Ling Ma) #

A fairly bizarre set of short stories that somehow feel connected, even if I can’t actually articulate how. Each story has something that defies reality, whether it’s a recreational invisibility drug or a baby’s arm poking out of the womb, yet in every case the narrator just rolls with it, making it all the more strange.

Rating: 4/5

Cross Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie (Hiroro Akizakura) #

Rating is for volume one.

An unfortunately extremely standard isekai/villainess light novel that doesn’t really do much to stand out in either shaking up the usual formula or executing well.

Rating: 2/5

Daughter of the Moon Goddess (Sue Lynn Tan; The Celestial Kingdom Duology #1) #

Rating: 4/5

Disorientation (Elaine Hsieh Chou) #

I can’t exactly recommend this book, because it slams violently against so many touchy subjects, but that’s exactly what I enjoyed so much about it. By the end I think I had copied down half the book as interesting quotes. It’s absolutely worth a read…just be prepared to be confused and, potentially, rather offended.

Rating: 5/5

Endo and Kobayashi Live: The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Liselotte (Suzu Enoshima) #

Rating is for the complete series.

A villainess story with a twist: the characters are actually characters in a game, and our two protagonists are players commentating on the game…except one of the characters can hear the commentary and thinks it’s God talking to him. While extremely tropey, tsundere villainess and all, the unusual setup keeps it interesting, and as a bonus, it wraps up neatly all within two volumes.

Rating: 4/5

A Deepness in the Sky (Vernor Vinge; Zones of Thought #2) #

Rating: 4/5

Fevered Sky (Rebecca Roanhorse; Between Earth and Sky #2) #

Rating: 3/5

A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge; Zones of Thought #1) #

Rating: 4/5

Four Treasures of the Sky (Jenny Tinghui Zhang) #

Rating: 3/5

Goodbye Otherworld, See You Tomorrow (Kazamidori) #

Rating is for volumes 1–2.

Rating: 3/5

The Holy Grail of Eris (Kujira Tokiwa) #

Rating is for volume 1 and volume 2.

Take the classic “dual protagonists” trope (think Yugi & Yami Yugi in Yu-Gi-Oh, or Sora & Shiro in No Game No Life), make one of them the villainess trope, and mix them up in a Victorian-style political drama/mystery. Unlike many of its peers, the plot keeps moving at a brisk pace, and Scarlett (the villainess) and Constance (the purehearted one) complement each other well. As a bonus, it’s a non-isekai villainess story—no Main Character Syndrome here.

There’s also a manga adaptation, which does move a little slowly as it tries to keep most/all of the details—but it’s also worth a read.

Rating: 4/5

I am Blue, in Pain, and Fragile (Yoru Sumino) #

See the review.

I’m in Love with the Villainess (Inori) #

Rating is for volumes 1–5.

See the review.

Joan Is Okay (Weike Wang) #

Rating: 4/5

Legends of the Condor Heroes Series (Jin Yong) #

Rating is for the complete series.

Rating: 4/5

Light from Uncommon Stars (Ryka Aoki) #

See the review.

Rating: 5/5

The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady (Piero Karasu) #

Rating is for volume 1.

Rating: 4/5

My Happy Marriage (Akumi Agitogi) #

Rating is for volume 1.

Rating: 3/5

People from My Neighborhood (Hiromi Kawakami) #

While it starts as a lazy Sunday read about the unremarkable happenings of a quiet neighborhood, the strangeness of the events slowly escalates as you realize not everything is quite as it seems. (Or are these just the memories of a child with a wild imagination, Calvin without Hobbes?)

Rating: 3/5

Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology (Various Authors) #

Rating: 3/5

The Memory Police (Yoko Ogawa) #

Rating: 3/5

The Middling Affliction (Alex Shvartsman; The Conradverse Chronicles #1) #

A fun urban fantasy book revolving around the middle-class version of “magical Batman”: Conrad can see magic, but can’t use it except without the help of artifacts, leaving him more vulnerable than most—especially since his very existence is an affront to most other magic users. It has a few too many deus ex machina moments for my liking, but it gets lots of points for being very much set in New York City, Q train and all.

Rating: 3/5

ROLL OVER AND DIE: I will Fight for an Ordinary Life with My Love and Cursed Sword! (kiki) #

Rating is for volumes 1–2.

Rating: 2/5

The Shining Sea (Koji Suzuki) #

Here, the story of a pair of lovebirds gradually unfolds. One is dead to the world at a psychiatric facility, while the other is running from his troubles on a fishing boat in the Pacific. I’m not sure I really could sympathize with the leads—but it is interesting to slowly find out exactly what troubles they had, and it did come together unexpectedly at the end.

Rating: 3/5

Speaking Bones (Ken Liu; The Dandelion Dynasty #4) #

What’s most impressive about this series is that so many different plot threads, spanning two continents and dozens of characters, managed to get brought into a reasonably satisfying conclusion. And on top of that, the conclusion isn’t obvious, nor is the way we get there. And at only four (very long) books, a lot of much more popular authors could learn a thing or too…I do have one complaint. While the silkpunk constructions in the previous books were cool and still somewhat believable, by now, they’re sophisticated beyond belief, especially the ones that are basically computers. At some point, it basically becomes divine intervention.

Rating: 5/5

Termination Shock (Neal Stephenson) #

In classic Stephenson fashion, the characters and writing are questionable, but the scenario is interesting—in this case, he explores what it might take to “solve” climate change via geoengineering.

Rating: 3/5

Tokyo Ueno Station (Yu Miri) #

A now-homeless retiree looks back on the tragedies that defined his life, mixed in with a look at what homeless life is like. A fairly short read.

Rating: 3/5

Tower of the Sun (Tomihiko Morimi) #

Another novel by the author of The Tatami Galaxy and The Night is Short, Walk On Girl, dealing with similar themes. It predates these two, and it shows—while not exactly being sympathetic to its main characters, it feels like it just ends without them really learning a lesson, either. The Tatami Galaxy will be published in the U.S. soon, and at least its anime is a better watch with the same ideas.

Rating: 2/5

The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes (Mei Hachimoku) #

While a supernatural tragedy would normally be up my alley, I found this story rather boring—there’s basically nothing between the two leads, and the narrator was unconvincing and wooden. It might be better in anime film format, which should be arriving this year.

Rating: 2/5

The Veiled Throne (Ken Liu; The Dandelion Dynasty #3) #

Rating: 5/5

Wait for Me Yesterday in Spring (Mei Hachimoku) #

A supernatural mystery involving time travel in 1-day steps, all occuring on an isolated Japanese island. Overall, I think an interesting story got somewhat cheapened by the use of suicide at the end as a plot/drama device, but if you’re OK with accepting that (also: the whole “broken man just needs the right woman” thing), it’s not the worst light novel.

Rating: 2/5

Rating: 3/5

A Witch in Time (Constance Sayers) #

Rating: 3/5

Short Stories #

“The Feminist” (Tony Tulathimutte) #

Read Online

I…don’t really know how to feel about this one. At the very least, read it all the way through before making up your mind. To me, this story is skewering the “incel-adjacent” mentality of “I’m doing everything right, so why don’t women like me still?” In the end, even if you do everything “right”, relationships (romantic or otherwise) aren’t about checking off boxes, and this is true whether you put your partner up on a pedestal or down in the gutter. It’s rather…blunt…in how it goes about this, and I can’t decide whether this is to its benefit or detriment.

Rating: 4/5. I…don’t know how I feel, but check it out regardless.

“Nonstandard Candles” (Yoon Ha Lee) #

Read Online

A dreamlike sci-fi short that melds the supernatural with outer space. Yoon Ha Lee is a brilliant author, and this is another example of why.

Rating: 5/5.

“Timekeepers’ Symphony” (Ken Liu) #

Read Online

A series of stories about different ways of looking at time.

Rating: 4/5.