Checking in On My TBR: March 2021

It’s a new year and with it comes some new books I want to add to my reading list along with an update on the books I can finally check off. *deep breath* I feel exhausted already.



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Title: Blue Giant Omnibus Vols. 1-2
Written and drawn by: Shinichi Ishizuka

What It’s About: Dai lived a normal high school life in Sendai: a city of hot summer days and rainy nights. Between basketball, part time jobs, and an uncertain future, something was missing. And that thing was music. With his days in senior year running out, Dai swears a heartfelt vow: “I”m gonna be the best jazz player in the world.”

But what do you need to be the best? Talent? Effort? A lucky break? Or maybe just a deep, pure love for music, and too much stubbornness to know when to quit.



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Title: Satoko and Nada Vol. 4
Written and drawn by: Yupechika

What It’s About: It’s almost time for Satoko to head back to Japan! After everything she’s learned and all the beautiful friends she’s made, it’s hard to leave her new home-away-from-home. But with Nada at her side, her last days in the States are sure to be some of her best yet!


Note: It’s the 4th and final volume of Satoko and Nada and it’s very bittersweet. I really enjoyed this series and I wish it wasn’t ending so soon, because I could read a lot more about them living together and being a great pair of friends. I hope to read this one soon-ish as the library has not acquired it yet.


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Title: Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1
Written and drawn by: Rumiko Takahashi

What It’s About: Yusaku Godai didn’t get accepted into college on the first try, so he’s studying to retake the entrance exams. But living in a dilapidated building full of eccentric and noisy tenants is making it hard for him to achieve his goals. Now that a beautiful woman has moved in to become the new resident manager, Godai is driven to distraction!



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Title: Barely Functional Adult: It’ll All Make Sense Eventually
Written and drawn by: Meichi Ng

What It’s About: Wielding her trademark balance of artful humor, levity, and heartbreaking introspection, Meichi Ng’s indisputably relatable collection of short stories holds a mirror to our past, present, and future selves. Featuring a swaddled Barely Functional Adult as its protagonist who says all the things we think but dare not say, this book is equal parts humorous and heartbreaking as it spans a spectrum of topics from imposter syndrome, therapy, friendships, first loves, letting go of exes, to just trying to find your purpose in the world. Prepare to excitedly shove this book in your friend’s face with little decorum as you shout, “THIS IS SO US!”

In this beautiful, four-color collection compiled completely of never-before-seen content, Meichi perfectly captures the best and worst of us in every short story, allowing us to weep with pleasure at our own fallibility. Hilarious, relatable, and heart-wrenchingly honest, Barely Functional Adult will have you laughing and crying in the same breath, while taking solace in the fact that we’re anything but alone in this world.



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Title: Fangirl
Written by: RainBox Rowell

What It’s About: In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life-and she”s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can”t stop worrying about her dad, who”s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


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Title: Finding My Voice
Written by: Marie Myung-Ok Lee

What It’s About: Seventeen-year-old Ellen Sung just wants to be like everyone else at her all-white school. But hers is the only Korean American family in town, and her classmates in Arkin, Minnesota, will never let her forget that she’s different. At the start of senior year, Ellen finds herself falling for Tomper Sandel, a football player who is popular and blond and undeniably cute . . . and to her surprise, he falls for her, too. Now Ellen has a chance at life she never imagined, one that defies the expectations of both her core friend group and her strict parents. But even as she stands up to racism at school and disapproval at home, all while pursuing a romance with Tomper, Ellen discovers that her greatest challenge is one she never expected: finding the courage to speak up and raise her voice.


Note: This short novel was originally published back in the 1990s. Now it has been reprinted with a fresh and modern cover and a foreward by Kat Cho (who is wonderful in her own right and the author of Wicked Fox. Please support her!).

When this novel was first published, I was too young to be aware of it so I am glad it has returned for new generations. I am excited to get the chance to read this story, especially because of its subject matter.



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Title: Kings Rising (Book 3)
Written by: C.S. Pacat

What It’s About: His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity—can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?


Note: I read the first two novels in this series so quickly and spent an entire summer very obsessed with Laurent and Damen. I’m ready to dive back in and finish this series though. I want to knowwhat happens. The politics, danger, intrigue, and chemistry…I really should finish this series soon.



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Title: The Magical Language of Others
Written by: E.J. Koh

What It’s About: The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters in Korean over the years seeking forgiveness and love—letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.

As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history—her grandmother Jun’s years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the loss and destruction her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre—and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words—in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language—to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love?


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Title: Pure Invention: How Japan’s Pop Culture Conquered the World
Written by: Matt Alt

What It’s About: The Walkman. Karaoke. Pikachu. Pac-Man. Akira. Emoji. We’ve all fallen in love with one or another of Japan’s pop-culture creations, from the techy to the wild to the super-kawaii. But as Japanese media veteran Matt Alt proves in this brilliant investigation of Tokyo’s pop-fantasy complex, we don’t know the half of it. Japan’s toys, gadgets, and imaginary worlds didn’t merely entertain. They profoundly transformed the way we live.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Japan seemed to exist in some near future, gliding on the superior technology of Sony and Toyota while the West struggled to catch up. Then a catastrophic 1990 stock-market crash ushered in the “lost decades” of deep recession and social dysfunction. The end of the boom times should have plunged Japan into irrelevance, but that’s precisely when its cultural clout soared—when, once again, Japan got to the future a little ahead of the rest of us.

Hello Kitty, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and multimedia empires like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z were more than marketing hits. Artfully packaged, dangerously cute, and dizzyingly fun, these products made Japan the forge of the world’s fantasies, and gave us new tools for coping with trying times. They also transformed us as we consumed them—connecting as well as isolating us in new ways, opening vistas of imagination and pathways to revolution. Through the stories of an indelible group of artists, geniuses, and oddballs, Pure Invention reveals how Japanese ingenuity remade global culture and may have created modern life as we know it. It’s Japan’s world; we’re just gaming, texting, singing, and dreaming in it.


Note: Pop-culture from Japan has been such a big part of my life. I just want to read more history and learn the context around those things I have so enjoyed and continue to enjoy as well.

Now I really wish there would be an easily book about the history of female mangaka/ or female manga creators or just a book where they are the center of focus. I would really love to read more about that.


Blast From the Past: Maison Ikkoku and Mermaid Saga

In 2020, we were lucky enough to get 2 classic titles by Rumiko Takahashi printed in beautiful collector editions by VIZ Media. I’m talking about Maison Ikkoku (last printed in 2006) and Mermaid Saga (last printed in 2004)!

When they first came out, I was very new to manga and did not have the wherewithall or ability to find them as each volume was being released. I’m glad they were reprinted again in new editions so newer generations and people that missed them the first time around could get the opportunity to read them.

I have to say these collector editions are really beautiful looking. The colour pages in Mermaid Saga alone, even though they are few, are so pretty. They would make a great addition to anyone’s manga collection.


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Title: Maison Ikkoku Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1
Written and illustrated by: Rumiko Takahashi

What It’s About: Yusaku Godai didn’t get accepted into college on the first try, so he’s studying to retake the entrance exams. But living in a dilapidated building full of eccentric and noisy tenants is making it hard for him to achieve his goals. Now that a beautiful woman has moved in to become the new resident manager, Godai is driven to distraction!


Note: This series is a romantic comedy, which is what I am always up for reading. The tenants in this housing complex are horribly invasive in each other’s lives and delight in each other’s misery. Especially, Godai’s but he honestly doesn’t help matters much with his inability to focus and his crush on Kyoko. He’s young and this is his first brush with actual love.

Despite some of the jokes feeling a bit dated, the objectification of Kyoko, and some of the men being absolutely gross, which makes the feminist in me want to hulk out, it’s still surprisingly enjoyable. I would read many more books of everyone constantly dunking on Godai.



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Title: Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition Vol. 1 (Ningyo Shirīzu)
Written and drawn by: Rumiko Takahashi

What It’s About: They say that if one consumes mermaid flesh, one can attain immortality. Unfortunately, the more likely results include becoming horribly deformed or turning into a vicious monster! Even if one were to gain eternal life, however, is such an anomaly a lucky blessing or a terrible curse?

Yuta became immortal when he unwittingly ate mermaid flesh, and now he seeks a way to become human again. Hundreds of years later, he encounters a volatile and determined young lady named Mana while searching for a mermaid. Could this mysterious woman hold the key to saving Yuta’s humanity?


Note: I was not expecting to like Mermaid Saga as much as I did. It’s a horror series that really asks the question…is living forever a gift or a curse? (Spoiler: it’s most definitely a curse.)

I have only read the first volume of the collector’s edition but I really enjoyed it. In this series, I think all the female characters that we meet, whether mermaid or human, are so interesting. Some of the chapters are also so incredibly sad and that emotional pull really makes it a more memorable series for me. I’m looking forward to volume 2!

Warnings though! There is some nudity, extreme violence, and some scenes of attempted assault in the first volume.



Future Reads: Other 2021 Manga to Look Forward To

I remember starting this year thinking that there wasn’t much manga to look forward to. I had a few titles on my list but I really wanted more.

I am so happy to report that waiting a bit longer, especially for those surprise publisher announcements, has given me those new titles to beef up this post and get excited about more upcoming manga. This is going to be fun!


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Title: I Cannot Reach You Vol. 1 (Kimi ni wa Todokanai Vol. 1)
Written and drawn by: Mika

What It’s About: No matter how much time we spend together, I’ll never become special to you.

Childhood best friends. Two halves of a whole. The cool, smart one who’s good at almost everything, and his average, dorky friend who struggles to do anything right­—Yamato and Kakeru. Always by the other’s side, but not together in the way they truly want to be. No matter how hard they try, their hearts cannot reach each other…


Note: This title is set to be released on March 9, 2021. I’m happy to see the official cover art is finally here.


Blue Giant Omnibus Vols. 3-4

Title: Blue Giant Omnibus 3-4
Written and drawn by: Shinichi Ishizuka

What It’s About: Miyamoto Dai, a student with a taste for basketball, changes his life the first time he sees a live jazz performance. The incredible music strikes a chord deep inside him, and he immediately decides to dedicate himself to the saxophone. He has no skills, no formal training, and no idea what he”s up against, but his obsession drives him to play that instrument day after day. Will passion be enough to become the player of his dreams? This award-winning manga from Shinichi Ishizuka, compiled into five omnibus volumes for its English debut, is a pitch-perfect drama about the power of music.


Note: This title is set to be released on April 20, 2021. If you haven’t checked out the first volume, definitely try and check it out.


I Think Our Son Is Gay, Volume 1

Title: I Think Our Son Is Gay Vol. 1
Written and drawn by: Okura

What It’s About: Despite belonging to a family of four, the Aoyama residence is typically home to three due to father Akiyoshi’s job. While he’s away at work, mom Tomoko and her two beloved sons Hiroki and Yuri go about their everyday lives–going to school, making dinner, doing homework, etc. But now that Hiroki’s in his first year of high school, his thoughts are turning ever so slightly to sex and romance…and his mom can’t help but notice his slips of the tongue when he’s talking about who he likes. Supportive Tomoko has an inkling Hiroki might be gay, but she’s going to let him figure it out for himself. Unfortunately, Hiroki has little talent for keeping his “secret,” so he might die of embarrassment before all is said and done!


Note: This title is set to be released on May 11, 2021. I’m very used to reading manga about teen characters from their perspective so this book is especially interesting as it is from a parent’s perspective. I’m looking forward to this release.


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Title: Ride Your Wave
Written by: Masaaki Yuasa & Reiko Yoshida
Drawn by: Machi Kiachi

What It’s About: New college student Hinako moves to a small seaside town to surf and enjoy herself, and finds herself falling in love with firefighter Minato after he saves her from a fire. Their young romance comes to an abrupt end when Minato drowns…but in her grief, Hinako discovers that singing a song they used to perform as a duet summons Minato in the nearest body of water–be it a puddle, glass, or bathtub. Will Hinako be able to reach Minato again?


Note: This title is set to be released on May 11, 2021. I have actually seen the movie this manga is related to and it is…pretty magical. I’m excited to see what the manga offers.


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Title: Mao Vol. 1
Written and drawn by: Rumiko Takahashi

What It’s About: A girl is transported to the past and encounters a Japan teaming with ghosts and demons. She finds an ally in a travelling exorcist named Mao. Together they’ll fight the supernatural creatures they meet and unravel the mystery that connects them.


Note: The cover art is not final! I will try and update it as soon as I see the official one come through. On February 19, 2021, Viz Media announced they were releasing this title sometime in Fall 2021. This series is also still ongoing in Japan as well so there isn’t a final volume count as of yet.


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Title: My Love Mix-Up! Vol. 1 (Also known as Kieta Hatsukoi)
Written by: Wataru Hinekura
Drawn by: Aruko

What it’s About: Mistaken identity leads to a blossoming romance between two boys.

Aoki has a crush on Hashimoto, the girl in the seat next to him in class. But he despairs when he borrows her eraser and sees she’s written the name of another boy—Ida—on it. To make matters more confusing, Ida sees Aoki holding that very eraser and thinks Aoki has a crush on him!


Note: The cover art is not final! Unfortunately, there isn’t much information on this series so I am not sure at this very moment how many volumes there will be. This is another title that Viz Media announced recently, which will be coming out sometime in October 2021. I’m real excited for this one as I have heard that the representation in this one is positive.


Spotlight: 2 New Podcasts I’m Listening To

Hello, folks. I’m just going to slide in across your reading list of blogs you follow to get you totally pumped about 2 podcasts I have been listening to lately. One is book related and one is TV related. I’m definitely trying to keep it fresh during my lunch hour when I have time to munch on something delicious and relax through listening.


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Title: Mangasplaining
Hosts: Deb Aoki, David Brothers, Christopher Butcher, & Chip Zdarsky

What It’s About: A podcast where three of the hosts discuss manga and force their pick for that week on their friend, who doesn’t read manga. Perfect for those who are new to reading manga or who do not read it often.



I have been following Deb Aoki for some time on Twitter and really enjoy her. It’s just nice to see another lady out there enjoying manga and sharing their thoughts. You know…besides myself just screaming about Rumiko Takahashi into the void. I actually had the thought the other day that I would listen to a podcast about manga if Deb ever decided to do one and so here we are. It’s a fairly new podcast with their first episode released last month on February 3rd. They start out big with a classic – Akira Vol. 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo.

What I also enjoy about this podcast is that it features a reader who does love comics and is a comics creator (i.e. Canadian National treasure Chip Zdarsky) but has not had a lot of experience with reading manga. He’s not alone! Many people can be into comics and graphic novels and go their whole reading life without picking up a manga series. This reader experience is definitely a point of interest for me. I also have to mention that I love the insight into translating manga and the connections to other book and trends in manga.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next episodes.


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Title: That’s Messed Up: An SVU Podcast
Hosts: Liza Treyger and Kara Klenk

What It’s About: Like the title suggests…this podcast is about Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Each week, the hosts break down the story of one SVU episode, make some jokes, reveal the true crime story the episode is based on and interview someone from that episode.



I have been watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit since I was a teen. Probably shouldn’t have considering how disturbing a lot of the episodes are and considering all the police brutality it featured, but here we are, more than a decade later and this show is still thriving.

What I like about this podcast is that it truly feels like a conversation between two friends that cannot wait to talk about the show. The hosts are also hilarious. I have choked on a french fry while listening to them. I also appreciate that they discuss the true crimes each episode is based on because…we all know that despite that disclaimer at the beginning of each SVU episode, they’re based on something.

This is also a fairly new podcast but there are already 12 episodes available. Dig in!