Starship Troopers – novel

Disclaimer: the post is not very intelligible, read the novel to understand what I am talking about. 

Want to make a short post on a novel I recently read, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. It is a military sci-fi, meaning it is a novel not only interested in the speculative tech-driven futurism, but also in the military.

The novel is about a young guy enrolling into the army and becoming a brilliant officer. There is no drama and no real tension, it is just a feels-good piece for army fans. The book is set in the future where Earth is at war with some insect-like aliens, and the protagonist is a member of the infantry which engages the enemy on the ground.

The reason why I decided to write about this novel is because, very much like Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it is full of such utter nonsense, mixed in with entertaining narrative, that it is hard to resist to argue with it. There is no real need too, the book is just cheap entertainment, but still I think I won’t do too much damage if I write a few lines about it ^^’/

The first fun fact about the happy future the book describes is that in that future only army veterans are citizens and only they are allowed to vote. Army service is no trifle either. The army happily killed a dozen people to train a few dozen, as was described in the book. And hundreds were sent home. The training as described in the book is filled with moderately-to-extreme hardships and constant humiliation of the lower ranking soldiers and aggression from the higher ranking army men. As explained in the novel, the army served as a sieve to pick only the most community-minded individuals and allowing only them to vote was good for everyone.

That is where I make my first stop. Obviously such system couldn’t last, it would be dysfunctional from the start. Such a group of voters would be hugely biased and would be easily exploited and lead astray to destroy their country. Not to mention that even in the novel there were plenty of episodes where army was brain-washing its members to follow a certain line of thinking, be it though drills or exams where you had to know the right answers for questions related to governing the planet (like, there was a right answer to a question “should you starrt a war if …”). I think even a little kid would be able to guess that this political system would result in something horrid, probably in extreme militarism.

That is an unfair criticism though. Heinlein didn’t care. He was happy with military dictatorship. Unless he was making a joke, he also believed that it is possible to provide correct answers to moral questions using mathematical proofs (shows he had no idea what math is 😅), and those were usually that you need to start wars and use other kinds of violence. That is fine, no one says that you have to have pacifist views or whatever. This is a military sci-fi after all.

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Shout-outs, 2018

I always think that there are so many people I admire, people whom I would like to show my respect. MAL gives us space to mark a few anime/manga industry creators as your “favorite”. It never felt satisfying to me though. And anime and manga aren’t the only entertainment I like. There also books, music, YouTube creators and others.

On the other hand, I am not fond of lists. And things like “the favorite writer” are temporal, and it would be too complicated to talk about all people whom I found interesting through my life. So, a while ago I thought I would write a post about people who influenced me in this year. And here it is, read at your discretion.

Let me start with simple things. This year I’ve read a few manga by authors I haven’t read before that I found interesting, namely Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano, Tetsuwan Atom by Osamu Tezuka and Nisekoi by Naoshi Komi. Each of these is a decent story in its own right, all in terms of art and Yokohama and Atom in terms of story too. I got an omnibus of Atom, an English translation, in a shop I walked by in Hague, just to pass time on the train; Yokohama I was able to read thanks to MangaTube, an excellent German manga translators community; and as for Nisekoi I bought one volume in Berlin a while ago, just to see if this kind of romance/comedy would maybe be my thing after all. Back then, I couldn’t even speak to the shopkeeper in her language, so buying German translations was partly about learning too.

Also, I can’t forget Hideo Azuma and his Shissou Nikki (thanks again, Shaurya! :) ).

A special mention goes to Souichirou Yamamoto, the author of Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san and to Rei Hanagata, the author of China Girl, both nice romance stories I started reading in 2017 and continued this year. Also, this year I changed my opinion of Hiro Mashima, thanks to his new manga Edens Zero, which I think is pretty good. I have also been reading Dragon Ball Super, didn’t find it too bad after understanding what kind of story it is.

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Next, to anime!

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A road to Shissou Nikki

Some time ago, I’ve read a short book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. The book tells a story about the titular seagull who loved flying. His attempts at learning more about flight lead him to great peaks of mastery, and at the same time alienated him from his family and his tribe. Through the book, Jonathan learns flight beyond physical limits of his body, meets other seagulls with the same love for flight, learns from them and eventually becomes a great teacher himself. Then he descends back to the world and allows his pupils to spread his teachings.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

It is an interesting attempt to describe a way from a normal being to a deity. Through learning and work Jonathan went from a bird to a higher being. The story is naïve and fairytale-like. There is a lot that can be said about it, but today I just want to point out this idea, that one can arrive at a higher form of existence through learning and training. This idea sounds a little similar to some of the teachings by Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi), at least in the prof. Puett’s interpretation.

As interesting as it is though, it is not very practical, not very real world-like. There are plenty of people who devoted their entire lives to one occupation and became very good at it. There are plenty of people who have meaningfully learned their whole lives, constantly progressing and becoming better. But it is really hard to say if any of them have arrived at “the goal”, if any of them transcended normal humans. And, it is easy to say that they didn’t become deities, unlike Jonathan in Bach’s book. So, can we have a story that is a little closer to the world we are living in? A story that would reflect on the human nature and our struggles, on the way towards perfection? A story that would tell us what that “goal”, that perfection is?..

I don’t know if we can have such a story, but we do have Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Siddhartha is a story about a young man, Siddhartha, a son of a priest, who strives to achieve perfection. In his youth when he was serving the gods he sought to learn the nature of divine and the truth about life and everything. Unable to find the answers as a priest, Siddhartha went to become an ascetic, seeking to destroy his “self” to be able to see what lies beyond. Later he would become disappointed in this practice and come to a conclusion that no teaching can ever lead to his goal of enlightenment, that wisdom can’t be taught. Disappointed in the very idea of destroying one’s self, Siddhartha seeks to learn more about his self by indulging in the worldly pleasures and desires like love, food, gambling, earning money, etc. In due time, this will also become meaningless to him, pushing Siddhartha to want to end his life.

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Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san

Some time ago, I started reading this romantic comedy manga about middle school students – Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san by Souichirou Yamamoto. You may have noticed its recent anime adaptation. It is a little weird that, even though I don’t read that much manga, it is the second time I start reading a series before it gets adopted into an anime.

But anyhow, my experience with Takagi-san is limited to the manga, and specifically to the beautiful translation by ziM and Anni from It was also my first time reading scanlators’ talk in a chat as new chapters get released. I always knew there were real people standing behind any manga scanlation release, but it was Takagi-san and its team that made me feel it.

Takagi and Nishikata 8

The pictures in this post aren’t from the release I’ve mentioned above, sorry. Thought it would be better to post the ones with English text, so everyone could also read what the characters are saying.

It is a story about two students, Takagi and Nishikata; and the gist of it is that Takagi pesters Nishikata, makes fun of him and makes him embarrassed in a variety of ways. Sounds malicious, but it really isn’t; Takagi clearly likes Nishikata in a very clear and direct way (no inner conflicts and other tsundere shenanigans) and her picking on him often does good for both of them. I’ll talk about it in a sec. Nishikata almost always falls prey to Takagi’s schemes, even though he tries his best not to.

If you have watched/read Tonari no Seki-kun you may find the setup to be somewhat similar. And it is kinda true, in both series there are two students, and a stronger one constantly “defeats” the weaker one in a funny way. Except Seki-kun is mostly just a comedy, there is no romance there. But it is not the main difference, I’d say. When watching Seki-kun you are tempted to ask yourself “is Seki going to be alright? Is Yokoi going to be alright?” They are always wasting their time at school, and Yokoi getting into small troubles is almost a theme there. You can safely say that Yokoi would have been better off if she never saw Seki, at least from the pragmatic perspective. I know this is a comedy and all, but still, it is tempting to think along these lines. In Takagi-san, this aspect is completely different.

For one thing, most of the Takagi’s jokes are aimed at Nishikata’s childish ways, like him being embarrassed to say certain words, being embarrassed to admit he secretly reads a romantic manga and so on. On the other hand, when it is something that could be good for Nishikata, Takagi would encourage it. When Nishikata started athletic training, Takagi made fun of his muscle soreness and said, “It would be good if you don’t quit after three days”. When he didn’t quit she praised him for it. Of course, she turned it into a taunt as well, but you get the picture; Takagi wasn’t just having fun at Nishikata’s expense, she was trying to make him a better person as well.

Takagi and Nishikata 1

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Metro 2033

This is going to be a bit of an unusual post. Normally we cover manga and anime, but this time it is a novel: Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky.

There are a couple reasons I want to write about it. First, unless you follow Russian sci-fi lit, the chances are you won’t even hear about this book. I might be underestimating its popularity, probably not though. Second, there are a few things to talk about in this book. I mean, books often give you something to talk about, but this one was particularly good in this aspect. And lastly, there is no real reason for you to read this book, so I feel fine spoiling the whole plot.

Metro 2033 book

The novel tells the story of Artem, a young adult living in Moscow metro (underground train network) on the VDNKh station, with his stepfather. To be more specific, they live in the Moscow that survived a nuclear war, which wiped out the whole of human population on the surface, leaving a few thousand survivors in the metro. The metro itself had fallen apart and became a total chaos. Some stations try to survive growing and selling mushrooms, some stations created oppressive communist governments, some follow neo-nazism, some exist in the state of anarchy, and some adopted a strict caste system. There are different groups of people trying to achieve different goals, from religious sects to revolutionaries, from merchants to bandits, from insane people to so-called stalkers – people who dare leave metro and go to surface to gather materials and goods people in the metro need.

The setup for the story is fairly classic and shows that Glukhovsky is aware of Tolkien’s and other similar works. At the beginning of the story Artem’s station is sieged by mutants who are not just strong, but also capable of overwhelming human’s will across huge distances, although it takes them time. For the more experienced people it was clear that these mutants will overrun the station and then spread through the rest of the metro, possibly destroying the whole thing. That would be the end of humanity in Moscow, for what it is worth.

So Artem is visited by a stranger named Hunter who tells him to go to one of the central stations to deliver a report of the situation to the people there, and hopefully to get some help. Hunter was hoping to do something about the mutants, like closing the entrance point they use, but he didn’t really expect to succeed. After Artem was sure Hunter died in his attempt, he started his long journey.

I don’t want to give a report of all the adventures Artem lived through while he was trying to get to the center. The metro was in chaos, moving between stations might be difficult for a number of reasons, from locals being extra strict about whom they allow to pass through to the tunnels acting weird and people dying for no apparent reason. Artem lived to see all of that and a whole lot more.

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Agatha Christie – Giant’s Bread

Let me begin with an apology. This is an anime blog, and you are right to expect the content be somehow related to anime. But I am not going to make another blog just to write about one book, so forgive me this one time, okay? =)

So this is a post about Giant’s Bread, a book written by Agatha Christie under the name of Mary Westmacott. Christie is famous for her crime stories, especially ones featuring Poirot and Marple. Giant’s Bread is not one of those stories though. It is not a crime story, it is not connected in any way to her other works either. It is a book about a guy by the name of Vernon Deyre who has a talent for writing music. And it is, in my opinion, a really good book, one of the best Christie’s work I’ve read. I definitely recommend it to anyone who cares about cynical slice of life stories and to everyone who likes Agatha Christie as a writer. This ends my review of this book, the rest of the post will be a filled with spoilers ramble about how I like and dislike certain aspects of the book. So feel free to stop reading here and go and get the copy of the book.

Agatha Christie

Okay, for those who are left, here we really begin. Why do I like the book? Let’s look at how the things starts. It tells us a story of a young boy Vernon who lives in a little world with imaginary friends and real people mixed together. He slowly grows up, meets friends. He grows up being distant from his mother and father, not because they are away, but because there are nurses who take care of the kid, so his interactions with his mom are limited to those sentimental moments when she wants to kiss him or tell him how she loves him. And well, Vernon doesn’t like it. He is not sentimental and he don’t want the kisses. In fact, Christie makes it quite clear that the mother doesn’t know how to handle the child and the child is not comfortable with her.

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