Books Light Novels Reviews

Book Girl and the Famished Spirit Light Novel Review

The stories in each volume of Book Girl are self-contained, fill the reader in on important character traits and could stand alone fairly well, but even in this second book there’s a lot of development hinging on hints and background from Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime. I’d recommend starting there.

As with the first book, Book Girl and the Famished Spirit features self-styled “book girl” Tohko (a literature loving and eating goblin in schoolgirl form) and her force recruited book club junior Konoha. His job is to write Tohko snacks, and occasionally unravel strange events stemming from requests left in the club’s personal mailbox.

Describing the series’ concept and main characters is a bit of a problem because it makes the books sound different in tone and approach than what they are. Tohko’s “unusual” appetite is largely just a character trait in a sense – the stories at this point do not center around it nor explain what she is. Her love of literature is much more relevant. Also the absurdity and strangeness of the premise might seem to indicate light, whimsical tales. Not so. 

FAIR WARNING – while extremely well written, compelling, and laced with subtle touches of humor, the Book Girl series is incredibly dark and deals with very heavy themes. 

Creepy doesn’t even begin to describe the events Tohko and Konoha get caught up in this time, and it starts with a disturbing opening page description of an unknown character deciding to kill someone. A few pages of prologue follow recounting Konoha’s disastrous brush with fame in the past and the specters that still haunt him. It’s done in wonderfully direct fashion and before the fist chapter has even begun Nomura reintroduced the main character, discussed his personal demons in a way that ties to the themes of this particular story, and established a gripping, chilling atmosphere that will continue throughout the book. 

Strange notes in the club mailbox and the possibility of a ghostly presence are only the beginning. As Tohko and Konoha approach an answer from different angles they’ll each run afoul of distinct, unusual personalities and mysterious happenings. The supporting cast contains a good mix of familiar faces from the first book and newcomers, and is used remarkably well to build a multilayered mystery that gets scarier and more dangerous the more it unravels. The suspense elements are nicely done, with some pieces falling into place as the reader goes and some vital connections remaining elusive until they are explained. The clues are in place though, and the author “plays fair” with the storyline and the readers.

There is again a nice literary tie in to the themes and progression of the plot which is fully understandable even if you haven’t read the associated works. 

The writing flows well, is dripping with emotion and really establishes the proper feeling and atmosphere for the story. This is a great accomplishment both on the part of the author and the translator. The descriptions are quite detailed in parts but I never felt like the pace suffered. If fact I found the story moved along at quite a good clip while still fully conveying what was happening at any given time.

Despite being quite unsettled at times, I was very impressed with Book Girl and the Famished Spirit. But know what you’re getting into before reading. This is a very odd series that meanders a little sometimes, hits hard and isn’t afraid to deal with dark, depressing topics. What’s done with it all is top notch so if you can handle the caveats I mentioned I highly recommend checking out this strange duo’s adventures.

Japan Reviews Wrestling

Ice Ribbon Vol. 1035 Live Stream Thoughts

April 11, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Special no audience show broadcasted from the Ice Ribbon Dojo for free on YouTube in addition to Ice Ribbon’s NicoNico channel.

Tequila Saya and Chiharu are hosting and commentating. Mio is referee.

Nice video production with profile cards displayed featuring the participants for each match and a short Ice Ribbon video played before of each match (as a buffer to separate things and in place of entrances). This is being approached and produced like any of their big shows, which is not only a nice touch but also impressive given the circumstances. 

1) Maika vs Totoro

Lots of shouting from Maika and Totoro and cheering from the seconds around the ring, which really helps the energy for a no audience show.

I enjoy this pairing and this was a great little match. Both wrestlers have impressive power, making this a high impact affair.

Maika getting Totoro up in the torture rack late match was crazy impressive. She eventually transfers that into a slam and finishes with the senton from the middle rope in the corner.

Saya and Chiharu briefly interview both participants after the matches. This was another well done touch throughout the show, even if I couldn’t understand much outside of some comments in English from Yappy and Thekla.

2) Akane Fujita vs Thekla

The video, which was fine for the opening match, goes out of focus for this one. They can’t get it to refocus without going in close, so it alternates between being zoomed in just a little too much and being out of focus as they kept zooming in and out trying to fix it.

Hard to judge in full with the technical issues as I personally couldn’t really watched the blurred image for very long at a time, but this seemed solid with just a tiny bit of awkwardness here and there. Looking forward to seeing Thekla (who I was previously unfamiliar with) wrestle again sometime when I can better see. 

Of note: There was a second camera being operated from the balcony, so this should not be an issue on the DVD or when eventually released in edited for on Ice Ribbon’s NicoNico channel. 

3) Dropkickers (Tsukasa Fujimoto & Tsukushi) vs. Mochi Miyagi & Risa Sera

Dropkickers are the reigning International Ribbon Tag Team Champions. This is non-title. 

They fixed the camera between matches. Still not perfect on wide shots, but much better than it was, being pretty crisp on medium to close shots and totally watchable. Still a lot of zooming in and out as they test the best distance though.

Early on all the camera problems are momentarily and amusingly solved as they fight to the outside and everything becomes a closeup. Really great energy from everyone as they brawl around.

Tsukushi goes wild with Mochi’s whip, attacking her opponents as well as poor Akane who was nearby. Then with Risa & Mochi laid out Tsukka runs them over with Mio’s baby stroller while Tsukushi gently restrains the referee’s protests. But Mio draws the line on Tsukka trying to swing it like a steel chair and forcibly takes it back. 

Back in the ring this settled into an extremely good, fast paced example of IR’s midcard tag matches. It was kept brisk and energetic, and had some added amusement as Risa kept grabbing a personal camera to use, often not to her own benefit. The video selfie footage as she was getting attacked should be interesting to say the least. 

This went the full 15 minutes for a time limit draw, keeping the intensity up the whole way. I think was my favorite match of the show.

Tsukka and Risa went crazy at the end trying to get falls before time expired. They keep at it a little afterwards and a frustrated Tsukka snapmares Risa off the far ring apron. During the post match interview a future singles match seems set up.

4) Kurumi Hiiragi vs. Yappy

The semi-regular tag team XL Breakers face off against each other in singles competition here.

Yappy is continuing to improve her skills and is coming across as more and more comfortable in the ring. It’s particularly cool to see her get a bit of a spotlight in this semi-main event singles match. Yappy also does a lot outside of the ring to try and make Ice Ribbon more accessible and understandable to foreign fans, which is always greatly appreciated.

Another good match, playing to the strengths of both combatants in a straight up power battle. Yappy hung in with Ice Ribbon’s dominate monster and fought back as she could, but Kurumi’s onslaught was eventually too much and she prevailed with the top rope splash.

5) Ibuki Hoshi & Maya Yukihi vs. Hamuko Hoshi & Suzu Suzuki

Suzu has retired the Chirin Chirin gimmick for an awesome new look and a more serious attitude and is headed for a title shot against ICE Cross Infinity Champion Maya. She vaulted into title contention by defeating IR’s ace Tsukka in a singles match, which is a huge deal considering Suzu’s been wrestling for less than a year and a half.

Maya recently kind of turned her back on Ice Ribbon to form the group Rebel x Enemy with outsiders Kaichow Ram & Rina Yamashita. It appears to be mostly an attitude thing, as she stills participates in tag matches like this teaming with other members of the Ice roster. Maya’s in colorful new gear, separating this from her Dark Snow character in Oz Academy (although her Oz stablemates Mayumi Ozaki and Police recently came to Ice to set up a tag title challenge for Ozaki & Saori Anou).

The other half of the participants in this match see a mother and daughter rivalry continuing to develop as Ibuki angrily slaps Hammy’s hand away in lieu of a pre-match handshake after shaking Suzu’s (Maya ignored Hammy’s offered hand, and Suzu didn’t offer).

Hamuko and Ibuki start hot, and Hammy brings her daughter outside to the camera in short order for an extreme closeup of her chomping on Ibuki’s arm. Back in Ibuki repays it a bit by stomping her mom during the sexy pose.

Lots of intensity in this one. Suzu looks right at home in with IR’s top wrestlers and I really like the dynamic of having two people who’ve recently added harder edges to their personas feuding.

Ibuki’s also constantly upping her game and looked great. She had some incredible near fall exchanges with Suzu down the stretch before the latter pulled out the win with the Gran Maestro de Tequila.

Strong finish to a strong show. Afterwards, birthday cakes are brought out for Chiharu and Kurumi.

Ice Ribbon achieved something special here, as it really felt like a normal dojo show in atmosphere, and an extremely good one at that (the card was more along the lines of one of their larger venue shows).

The technical issues were only really a big deal during one match, and that’s not bad at all with a reduced staff and people helping with things they don’t normally do (and as I mentioned above the second camera’s footage will be available to them to clean things up for the DVD).

Great effort, energy, and execution were there up and down the card, and everyone involved should be proud of putting on a show like this under tough circumstances.

Edit 4/21/20: Turns out these shows are only available for free on YouTube for a short period, so I removed the original link from the review. But the enhanced, multi-camera version through the first match is now there and the remainder is available with a subscription to their Nico Nico Channel.

Books Light Novels Reviews

Kieli Volume 1: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness Light Novel Review

Kieli is an isolated girl in a world where everything is controlled by the Church of a God she doesn’t believe in. Driving and complicating her views and life is her odd ability to see ghosts. But soon she will meet one of the legendary Undying, perfect soldiers from the last great war made from lost technology but of no further use to Church or State, and her world will change…

The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness is an excellent, melancholy story about two complex, compelling leads in a fascinating world. I was struck right away by the illustrations at the beginning. They’re gorgeous and give a very different feeling to Kieli than the manga art did. There’s a more subdued air to her here. I like this design just slightly better, but a more energetic feel to the character was the right choice for the short manga series. Not super important – just something I found interesting.

The prose gets off to a impressive, slick start as the prologue (Why isn’t God here?) establishes the atmosphere well and conveys a ton of information about both Kieli and her world in a few short pages. The momentum continues throughout the book. There’s great intensity and atmosphere maintained and the author’s pacing and general writing style makes it a smooth, gripping read. Kieli and Harvey are perfect leads, both likable yet three dimensional and flawed. The supporting cast (most notably Becca and the Corporal) are equally intriguing and contribute a lot to the story.

Another highlight is that the author is particularly great at knowing how to reveal that things didn’t quite mean what they first seemed to earlier in the narrative. It adds a ton of depth and enjoyment to the already intricately layered stories. The chapters are a mixture of an overarching plot and side stories that flesh out the characters. It all unfolds naturally and builds to a strong conclusion that finishes this story while setting up the series nicely. 

As should be obvious I adored this first volume of Kieli. It’s right up with the Book Girl series as the best light novels I’ve ever read. Highly recommended.

Books Light Novels Reviews

Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime Light Novel Review

I’ve read things with odd premises before, but the Book Girl series is near the top of the list.

The titular “book girl” (Tohko) is a literature loving (and eating) goblin in schoolgirl form who force recruited our main character (Konoha) into joining the school book club to hand write her snacks. If this sounds too weird to wrap your head around, you’re in luck. If you find it intriguing and can’t wait to learn more, you’ll be disappointed. Tohko and her unusual existence are just background noise for this particular story, which instead focuses on the more normal (well, human anyway) Konoha, a strange request from a classmate to ghost write love letters and a mystery connected to the works of an particular author. 

Fair warning – despite the absurd elements and the great touches of humor sprinkled in the themes are quite heavy and this is not a happy-go-lucky tale.

I really liked the story. There are a lot of interwoven layers and interesting twists and parallels. The different narration techniques used really draw you in, even if it’s quite confusing at times. There’s something particularly engaging about the interactions of our two leads and the tone of the story. 

The writing has a great feel to it and wonderful turns of phrase (doubly impressive for a translation). As an example, the narrator had me hooked two paragraphs into the prologue when I read the line “I simply dusted my dark wool in white powder and pretended I was a white sheep too.” I will admit it gets wordy, especially when Tohko starts rambling about books. So if overly detailed descriptions test your patience this might not be your cup of tea. 

While I can understand disappointment that Tohko is not the central focus and thus the promotional description is a bit misleading, it didn’t bother me. I enjoyed this as it was and there’s room for more about Tohko later in the series. 

There’s enough strangeness here between the unusual mythology being built, the lack of focus on that same mythology, and the dense interconnected plot threads that Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime is tough to generally recommend. But the writing is quite strong and if you can deal with it’s quirks it is certainly worth a try. Personally this is one of my favorite light novel series, and this entry kicked things off in strong fashion.

Comics Reviews

Order of the Stick Volume -1: Start of Darkness Review

Start of Darkness is a prequel story featuring the villains of The Order of the Stick (OotS) webcomic. It is the second “print-only” OotS book, featuring material not available on the website.

As with the other print-only collections, this trade is in greyscale due to cost concerns (except for a 9 page section in the middle).

Start of Darkness is 112 pages long, and features background on Xykon and Redcloak. It’s got light touches of humor, but is mostly a dark tale, as befits the embodiments of evil plaguing our heroes. Without going into spoilers, there is a TON of information here that gives great insight into the characters and their motivations.

Although I recommend reading all of the OotS books, I found On the Origin of PCs (Start of Darkness’s hero analog) enjoyable but not strictly necessary. In contrast, while like with Origin there’s nothing here vital to understanding the main story, there is great depth added to our villains here (particularly Redcloak) that shouldn’t be missed.

A fantastic side story to the central quest, Start of Darkness really is a must read if you’re following the main comic.

While the volume number -1 is appropriate from a “in-comic” time perspective, it doesn’t tell you when you should be reading this volume. As the author states in the introduction it can be read after Volume 2 without spoiling anything, but I’d recommend reading it between Volumes 3 and 4 (along with Origin, if you choose). 

Japan Reviews Wrestling

ChocoPro 3 Live Thoughts

April 7, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura and DDT’s Antonio Honda to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world. 

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square with no crowd. As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring. With no crowd the two large sliding windows on one wall which are left in, but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers.

The card was announced the afternoon of the show, and looked quite interesting to say the least…

ChocoPro 3

As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation of Sakura’s opening remarks and Antonio Honda is behind the camera.

Sakura explains that matches that might be held off of in Gatoh Move for special cases will be done in ChocoPro without hesitation because they don’t know how long ChocoPro will last… and also they don’t have many wrestlers. I love her frankness. So dream matches galore.  

1)  Lulu Pencil vs Antonio Honda

Akki takes over camera and Sakura is ref.

The opening sequence where they trade hammerlocks and alternately dramatically start to say “give up” and say things like “give and take” and do Abraham Lincoln impressions instead might be an immediate indication if this particular match and style is for you.

Everything is over the top and ridiculous here. Honda does a Rambo impression and other silliness using the bands of Lulu’s suspenders, then brutally flicks her forehead to firmly establish control.

Honda teases a chair shot and instead sets it down, sits in it, and eats a banana as Lulu acts horrified and Akki calls it like Mankind vs Undertaker. Once Honda is done playing with the banana peel he once again sets it conspicuously on the window sill. Then he attacks Lulu with a bag of green vegetables. Lulu manages so sustained offense but going to the window for the Pencil Splash allows Honda to get the legs up and take over again.

Honda tries the windup for the Dusty elbow and they go back and forth, but when they’re both doing it and Honda is distracted with his own dancing Lulu disappears under the ChocoPro banner. Honda gets lonely and scared because her thinks she’s become a nobody like in the Ghibli film Spirited Away (no, I’m not making any of this up). She sneaks behind him and sings as a ghost. She applies a sleeper and Honda’s arm goes down twice before he powers up and tries the fox strike. Lulu knocks it away towards Emi, who pushes it towards Mei, who bumps it volleyball style to Mitsuru, who sets it to Lulu, who spikes it back on Honda himself. This is perhaps the oddest paragraph I’ve ever had to write reviewing a wrestling show, and I’ve watched everything from hot dog eating contest matches to UFO deathmatches.

Lulu goes to the window and this time it’s her who slips on the banana peel Honda tries to capatalize with a stretch which Lulu reverses into one of her own… but it’s Lulu so Honda simply stands up to counter and Lulu ends up tangled around him. Honda closes his hands together to apply pressure and Lulu has to tap.

There were some really cool moments in this and I appreciate them (and Akki) going full in on the concept. Some of Honda’s stuff gets on my nerves personally but I found it fun overall and it was extremely good for what it was.

Honda resumes camera duties afterwards.

2) Mitsuru Konno vs Yuna Mizumori

I always really enjoy when these two get to face off. This is one of the matches Sakura was talking about as being rare normally, so was really excited to see it on the card.

Yuna starts in a fun mood but Mitsuru takes exception to Yuna’s saying she’ll win and is all business. Her intensity quickly catches on with Yuna and they lay into each other.

This was full throttle all the way and they absolutely battled at an impressive pace and energy level for every last second of the ten minute time limit. There was some great use of the lack of crowd format, like Mitsuru directing Honda over to the side for a proper view of her posing submission, a super closeup of poor Yuna’s face later in another hold, and Yuna using the wrestlers on the sidelines for running momentum in places of ropes.

One great sequence saw Yuna struggle to complete the bridge out of a pin spot, fail to quite stand all the way up… and fall back onto Mitsuru for a fortuitous consequence.

They were both still going strong when time expired on them, leaving the match a draw. I want a rematch ASAP.

I absolutely loved this match. Well worth going out of your way to see.

3) Emi Sakura & Baliyan Akki vs Apple Calamari (Mei Suruga & Chris Brookes) 

Mei & Chris is a hilariously awesome first time team here, as they’ve been constantly sniping at each other online and whenever they cross paths in Gatoh Move. So naturally Sakura pairs them up and puts herself opposite lol. 😉

Yuna takes over for Sakura as referee.

Chris says he came because he thought Masa would be there, and instead this.

Emi starts a Sakura chant among… well Mitsuru and Lulu. Mei tries to convince them to cheer for her instead, and when that doesn’t work attacks Sakura, which is probably more effective anyway.

Mei messes with Chris here and there. Early on she lets go of her opponent too soon while holding for a strike so Chris misses. When Honda & Emi have Chris immobilized and drag Mei on top for the pyramid pose she very quick gets over her surprise and goes along with it. Later Mei asks Chris to get in the window then goes into her rollup instead of holding Sakura in place for a strike. And so on. All it naturally folded into the match and executed without any loss of momentum or tension regarding two teams trying to win.

One really great part about Gatoh Move and ChocoPro in general is how seamlessly they can integrate story like that into matches without sacrificing pacing or action. This was on full display. Other examples include Mei panicking when getting on Chris’ shoulders for a double team because he’s so tall and has threatened to put her through the ceiling in the past, and Emi stoping for a moment to mock Mei’s height, Chris responding in kind, then Emi revealing she suckered them in just to elbow them both. It was all so well done.

The action was of course also top notch throughout, including really great spots with Emi and Akki grabbing Mei out of the air at points and a sweet doubleteam with Akki dropkicking Chris against the wall with Emi simultaneously splashing Mei at his feet.

Late in the match Chris repays Mei’s earlier antics by asking her to get in the window, then pushing her outside and closing it. I’m dying of laughter as Mei can be seen pressed against the window in the background trying to get in while Chris goes back to attack Akki.

The bickering pays off however when Akki goes to the other window for a splash and Mei is able to foil him from outside.

Mei & Chris keep pressing their advantage, leading to Mei going for the propeller clutch on Akki. Chris floats over into a jackknife for the double pin AND THEY WIN! Simply amazing.

During a post show chat with Chris and Akki, Akki says he’s been beating by Chris twice but is getting close and will win eventually. Chris says he’ll never get that close. Nice, good natured rivalry building.

Akki then turns to the team of Mei & Chris, and reveals a rumor that Chris actually requested the match. Chris claims maybe he and Mei got off on wrong foot and could get long better. Then presents Mei a gift… of a basketball, because he saw on her social media that she plays. Mei’s relly excited. Hmm, I was expecting a joke gift. Oh wait, they’re playing basketball with Chris as basket. Yep, there’s Mei hitting Chris in the face with the basketball. But they still seem ok. We’ll see how long it lasts.

We finish with A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney 2! LULU WINS HER FIRST SINGLES MATCH EVER! Such as it is anyway. 😉 Then goes on to win the tournament!!! And devours her prize chocolate in short order. To the victor goes the spoils.

As I said before I’m really grateful for Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro to be doing so much to provide good natured content aimed connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed. 

This was another really fun show in general, but also continues to show what makes ChocoPro unique even compared to Gatoh Move. They are really embracing the no audience format and the unique characteristics and advantages it offers. Creative window spots, running commentary from whoever’s behind the camera, and being unafraid to use dramatic close ups, etc all really enhance the experience. Bravo.


Watch the replay of ChocoPro 3 on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel.

Comics Reviews

Order of the Stick Volume 4: Don’t Split the Party Review

Don’t Split the Party is the fourth volume of The Order of the Stick (OotS) webcomic and contains strips #485-672, plus a number of new comics and author commentaries.

** Note: there are no spoilers for Don’t Split the Party in this review but are MAJOR spoilers for the first three OotS volumes. **

This being the fourth volume I am going to assume anyone reading this review is familiar with the basic concept of OotS. If you are not I highly recommend going back and starting with the first collection (Dungeon Crawling Fools). 

The events of War and XPs cut our heroes to the bone (and further) and this volume picks up following their defeat at Azure City, with Haley and Belkar left hiding out in the city and Durkon, Elan and V having escaped with the paladin fleet (and Roy… well, you’ve read War and XPs. RIGHT?). Their stories move in parallel, highlighting the difficulties the Order has when forced apart and the toll events up to this point have taken on them. Some of the supporting cast grow into more prominent roles, and most of the Order have pivotal character moments within these pages.

Don’t Split the Party has a somewhat different feel than the rest of the strip up to this point, since the team is not working (nor even adventuring) together. This doesn’t hinder it though, as the personal journeys are important to the characters’ growth and their ability to function when rejoined, and as usual everything is OotS carefully lays groundwork for future events.

Familiarity with D&D will add depth, but is not necessary to read and enjoy. The humor grows fairly organically out of the characters and situations, and by this point readers should have an idea if it’s to their tastes.

As always OotS’s art uses “fleshed out” stick figures. See the cover for an example. This “simplified” art style is used to great effect and fits the comic perfectly, and even with this style you can see the evolution and refinement of the art as time progresses.

I highly recommend Order of the Stick in general, and Don’t Split the Party continues to reenforce it’s excellence.

Comics Reviews

Order of the Stick Volume 0: On the Origin of PCs Review

On the Origin of PCs is a prequel story featuring the heroes of the Order of the Stick webcomic. It is the first “print-only” OotS book, featuring material not available on the website.

As with the other print-only collections, this trade is in greyscale due to cost concerns.

On the Origin of PCs is 72 pages long, and features a short tale (or two) about each of the members of the OotS, as well as their formation as a team and first mission together. It’s a well done, humorous set of stories, but there’s nothing here vital to understanding the main story (nor anything all that important or illuminating really). But the background for Roy, Durkon and Haley is interesting, the trade as a whole is enjoyable, and it introduces some characters that would later appear in the “proper” trades (ie the thieves guild).

All in all this is a solid and enjoyable, albeit not totally necessary, addition to the OotS library. I wouldn’t call it “only for completists,” but you could skip it without losing much if you were so inclined.

While the volume number 0 is appropriate from a “in-comic” time perspective, it doesn’t tell you when you should be reading this volume (although the author somewhat does, in the introduction). I’d recommend reading it between volumes 3 and 4. This will prevent anything here from spoiling elements of the main story, and will allow you to get to know the characters before learning about their backstories. 

Comics Reviews

Order of the Stick Volume 3: War and XPs Review

War and XPs is the third of The Order of the Stick (OotS) webcomic and contains strips #302-484, plus a number of new comics and author commentaries.

** Note: there are no spoilers for War and XPs in this review but are some for the first two OotS volumes. **

This being the third volume I am going to assume anyone reading this review is familiar with the basic concept of OotS. If you are not I highly recommend going back and starting with the first collection (Dungeon Crawling Fools). 

Wars and XPs is, as the author relates in the forward, the first OotS book entirely plotted with the overarching story in mind. This really comes through in the pacing, ebbs and flows of the plot, and sense of scale present in the story across these strips. 

We resume our tale in Azure City, and after the revelations from Shojo last volume Roy and company set out to find a new lead on Xykon. Other long running plot threads will also take center stage, including Haley’s speech impediment and the Linear Guild’s nefarious plans. 

The story as a whole is magnificent in War and XPs. There are consequences for actions and oversights, well developed character arcs, and incredibly escalating stakes for our heroes. 

Familiarity with D&D will add depth, but is not necessary to read and enjoy. The humor grows fairly organically out of the characters and situations, and by this point readers should have an idea if it’s to their tastes. 

As always OotS’s art uses “fleshed out” stick figures. See the cover for an example. This “simplified” art style is used to great effect and fits the comic perfectly, and even with this style you can see the evolution and refinement of the art as time progresses.

I highly recommend The Order of the Stick in general, and War and XPs is where the comic truly begins to feel epic. An outstanding volume of an already impressive comic.

Comics Reviews

Order of the Stick Volume 2: No Cure for the Paladin Blues Review

No Cure for the Paladin Blues is the second collection of The Order of the Stick (OotS) webcomic and contains strips #122-300, plus a number of new comics and author commentaries.

This being the second volume I am going to assume anyone reading this review is familiar with the basic concept of OotS. If you are not I highly recommend going back and starting with the first collection (Dungeon Crawling Fools). 

Particularly since Paladin Blues is where our story starts really starts to build. While humor remains a vital (and generally excellent) part of the comic, there are less “D&D jokes for the sake of D&D jokes” than in volume 1 and the humor is intertwined more tightly with the escalating story. Volume 1 was a dungeon crawl, and while it had a decent progression it was in some ways a prologue. We’ve met the main players and now the Order leaves the dungeon and begins to face a much larger world (with much larger threats).

Roy has to find a reason to keep his party together now that they (incorrectly) think they’ve accomplished the task he hired them for, and various consequences from volume 1 will plague our heroes. This leads to Roy starting to learn what it really means to be a leader, as well as the expected rip-roaring adventures. The Order (and the readers) learn a great deal about their world, a major threat, and what their next mission should be.

We also see glimpses of other characters and forces putting their own plans into motion. The threads and conflicts that will be woven together in future volumes begin here.

Familiarity with D&D will add depth, but is not necessary to read and enjoy. D&D parody humor is still used, but less so than the first volume and the comedy grows more organically out of the characters and situations from here out. 

As always OotS’s art uses “fleshed out” stick figures. See the cover for an example. This “simplified” art style is used to great effect and fits the comic perfectly, and even with this style you can see the evolution and refinement of the art compared to volume 1.

I highly recommend Order of the Stick in general, and No Cure for the Paladin Blues is an excellent follow up to Dungeon Crawling Fools that raises the stakes for our heroes considerably and gives the first glimpses of the sprawling epic it would become.