Beautiful Dreams 4: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been almost two years (wow 2020 threw off my sense of time) since my last spotlight on the work of my favorite artist, and I’d like to share and talk about more of her incredible work and some of the inspirations behind the pieces. See Beautiful DreamsBeautiful Dreams 2, and Beautiful Dream 3 for more about Juri H. Chinchilla’s art, including past pieces I’ll be mentioning in this write up.

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements. One of the more unique requests I’ve made was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, and I adored it so much that I’ve followed up with several more since. Juri’s done an AMAZING job depicting these previously unfamiliar to her subjects and these are in many ways the pride of my entire art collection. See Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 3 for more about the above works featuring Jenny Rose & Sareee and retired Ice Ribbon wrestler Tequila Saya.

Gatoh Move is one of my favorite wrestling companies, and it’s so wonderful to see the roster represented in absolutely stunning form on the above six card PSC puzzle by Juri. The top row of cards feature Sayaka Obihiro & Mitsuru Konno, Emi Sakura & Riho, and Chie Koishikawa & Tokiko Kirihara. The bottom row has Yuna Mizumori & Mei Suruga, Sayuri & Sayaka, and Lulu Pencil & Rin Rin.

The timing on these cards ended up being suitable in many ways. They were completed shortly after Sakura’s 25th Anniversary in wrestling and shortly before a personal favorite of mine, and the wrestler I’ve requested Juri draw the most, Mitsuru Konno retired.

Riho is Gatoh Move’s former ace, and shortly after she left to go freelance the company the core roster doubled in size with the debut of six rookies (Chie, Tokiko, Sayuri, Sayaka, Lulu, & Rin Rin). I love the encapsulation of the company’s past, present, and future around that time on this batch of cards and Juri knocked this out of the park. As usual I only specified the subjects and an occasional small detail like particular gear. The layout, poses, and incredible way these all fit together into a larger scene is all Juri and I couldn’t possibly be happier with how it all came together.  

One of the first PSCs I got from Juri was an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers “sisters” Morrigan and Lilith, two of my favorite fighting game characters to play. In the last Beautiful Dreams feature I showed a larger, equally amazingly done drawing of the former. Later on Juri revisited and completed a wonderful Lilith companion piece I am very happy to add to my collection.

Juri’s range in styles and subjects is highlighted in striking renditions of video game, comic, and movie characters such as Nakoruru from Samurai Showdown, X-men’s Psylocke & Emma Frost, and DC’s Enchantress.

I discovered Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets through Juri’s art, and her work for them continues to be incredibly perfect for the subject matter. Her hauntingly beautiful black and white ghost from the Hallow-Ink set and fantastically playful Alice in Wonderland Artist Proof (AP) from Classic Fairy Tales 2.

Iconic Creations (which I hope to write about in more detail soon) has been releasing incredible card sets based around literature and legends. Juri’s sketch cards for the sets have been wonderfully evocative of the subject matter, particularly the stunning Snow Queen and swordswoman APs I got from the Christmas Literature and Way of the Sword sets.

Iconic’s sets feature a variety of way to showcase the stunning art they include, including special cards like wood sketch cards and other inventive variants. The prize centerpieces of their sets are the oversized wooden “box toppers.” I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to get Juri’s box topper AP from the Christmas set, and pull her box topper sketch card from Treasure Hunters. Both my requested Ghosts of Christmas AP and Juri’s mermaid are absolutely breathtaking.

I mentioned another favorite company of mine, Ice Ribbon, above in relation to Tequila Saya. Their ace is featured on one of the newest PSCs I’ve gotten from Juri. It’s part of a duo of cards I’ve had planned for a while. During my first trip to Japan I saw a match between two phenomenal teams that remains one of my favorites of all time, and Juri’s renditions of the two pairs are simply incredible.

SEAdLINNNG’s Arisa Nakajima & Ice Ribbon’s Tsukasa Fujimoto, known as Best Friends, are two top tier singles competitors who are even more fearsome as a team. I adore Juri’s illustration of the pair with Ice Ribbon’s International Tag Ribbon Championship Belt.

The Jumonji Sisters, consisting of the since retired Sendai Sachiko & her sister Dash Chisako, were the epitome of poetry in motion. It was a privilege to get to see them in action live a couple of times before Sachiko retired, and the casual confidence and closeness Juri captured in their card is absolutely perfect.

Dash still wrestles for Sendai Girls and is simply incredible. She was previously featured in a solo PSC by Juri mid flight of her jaw dropping Hormone Splash (top rope frog splash).

Tokyo Joshi Pro is an incredibly fun promotion filled with a wide variety of characters and styles. I’m a huge fan of Hikari Noa, and Juri captured both her idol and wrestler aspects showing off the wonderfully cute side of the deathmatch loving Up Up Girl.

Yuka Sakazaki is arguably the best high flyer in all of wrestling, and always a joy to watch. I love the sense of motion Juri achieved in her beautifully detailed depiction of TJPW’s Magical Girl.

The last card I’ll talk about here card is special, as well as sad. Hana Kimura was an incredible young wrestler who tragically passed away last year due to suicide amid a myriad of online harassment and other factors. Hana was one of my favorite performers in her home promotion and had striking charisma. She was always fun to watch in the ring and always seemed to go out of her way to be friendly to fans and make sure everyone was having a good time

Juri wonderfully captured Hana in a gorgeous card that is a great remembrance to someone dearly missed.

Rest in Peace Hana.

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her wonderous creations for a long time to come. 🙂

The Girl from the Other Side Volume 8 Review

Choices, prophecies, and consequences…

The Girl from the Other Side is a slice of life tale in a dark, fantastical world but also has significant overarching plot threads that are coming together in these recent volumes. Best to start reading with volume 1.

After the intense, dread filled tension of last volume things continue with a different kind of crisis. I continue to be amazed at the skill with which Nagabe continually weaves meaningful revelations large and small about both current and prior events seamlessly together without any unevenness in the pacing and presentation of his tale.

There’s a lot to this volume, and the emotional impacts can practically be felt. It’s packed with meaningful character moments and development while moving the plot along quite a bit and introducing new levels to ongoing mysteries. There’s enough here to feel satisfying while also greatly ratcheting up anticipation for the next installment. One of the best volumes so far. Going to be pondering the themes here for quite a while.

The Girl from the Other Side Volume 7 Review

The past will not be forgotten…

This is an intense, fast paced volume that revolves around the confrontations hinted at by the end of the last one. The way things unfold and the level of palpable dread maintained is incredible.

Desperation once again leads to extreme action, but with a gripping and needed twist this time around. The underlying conflict of wanting to live in peace and needing to deal with unfortunate realities resonates. There are a lot of significant implications to the developments of this volume, both regarding the past and future, and the building narrative continues to evolve in a natural way without ever losing any momentum.

Of course we end on another cliffhanger, and with even more ambiguity than usual to this one it’s going to be a really rough six month wait for the next installment.

The Girl from the Other Side Volume 6 Review

Facing an adversary who won’t be deterred, Teacher makes a choice…

Under dire circumstances, an interesting new direction is taken. There’s a touch of hope in the new journey which is needed and again speaks to the excellent balance maintained as the story grows and progresses.

As the manga goes on it’s really interesting how consequences, both of the characters’ own actions and decisions and of others’ influence, interact and come into play. The storytelling in this volume is particularly well done, with brilliant intertwining of escalating danger and important character developments.

I love the scope and pacing, and while slightly more frequency to the fleeting glimpses of the larger world would be appreciated the current focus on what’s going on outside with a core group of characters is pitch perfect.

Another tense, ominous end leads perfectly into the next volume. The Girl from the Other Side continues to be an excellent series.

Kalyx Volume 1 Review

“It’s easier to live, when you don’t think or feel anything.”

In 2050, amid the vast dessert that was once Japan, Soshi Sawamura became a soldier for one of the four nations that wars over food in order to stay fed himself. One day he meets one of the mysterious “Flower Girls” by chance, and the true nature of her condition might just change his life.

I’ve enjoyed manga in the past dealing with some of the more everyday aspects of life among war filled, post-apocalyptic settings, so the cover and a quick read of the premise intrigued me enough to check this out.

And a quick sense of the premise was certainly all I retained, as this one takes some odd turns I was totally unprepared for. The affliction plaguing the Flowers Girls and the way it manifests is WEIRD, and the consequences that arise naturally from the premise are quite grim. So far though it’s all well utilized and capitalized on, with appropriate emotional weight being given to the situation, no matter how absurd the initial idea.

The world building is interesting, and the dessert ravaged Japan our leads inhabit feels lived in and relatable despite it’s fantastical nature. The dessert world also heavily ties into the themes of the manga that relating to the flower aspect of Nadeko’s condition.

Several individual elements here have been done before, but this is a decent spin that pushes the tropes a bit in slightly new directions. Given the romantic themes of the manga and Soshi being an adult soldier I do wish Nadeko had been made a bit older (say at the very least late teens rather than early), but so far the execution has been fine and there are thematic reasons for her youth.

Soshi’s lack of ambition and drive is a perhaps obvious and cliched choice, but it works as a baseline since he can’t continue to be apathetic as Nadeko’s partner. There’s a real darkness simmering beneath the surface as the Flower Girls know exactly what awaits them in exchange for certain choices, and Nadeko and Soshi both having to face these realities in different ways seems a strong central plot anchor going forward.

All in all this is a decent start to a nicely character driven story in a well realized dystopian setting. I’m definitely curious enough to read more.

The Promised Neverland Volume 7 Review

“My family is not useless!”

The Promised Neverland features an overarching story with a terrible, previously revealed underlying secret. Best to start reading with volume 1.

Volume 6 ended with the first major step towards the escapees larger goal of unraveling the mystery left by Minerva, which has now become the central focus of the manga, and here the realities of what they find in the shelter take center stage.

The story progresses nicely and continues to excel in character driven conflict while taking a little bit of a breath here to give fleeting glimpses of lighter things in middle of their struggle. The children’s reaction to being aggressively confronted with a conflicting viewpoint allows for needed affirmation / exploration their own as the harsh world wears on them.

This is a solid installment in The Promised Neverland’s larger story that serves mostly as setup for what’s to come, and by the end things are rapidly escalating again.

The Girl from the Other Side Volume 5 Review

The depths of the curse’s true horrors hit home.

The mythology of The Girl from the Other Side’s world is gradually building, and it’s continuing to be a wonderful ride. There are more mysteries than answers, but in a constantly shifting manner and enough information is provided to keep the reader’s attention. It’s masterfully done. The more that’s revealed about the curse and its horrors the more questions about Teacher and Shiva arise. Of particular interest is the follow up to last volume’s cliffhanger and the contents of the long referred to revelation, which will have major ramifications going forward.

Parts of this manga are admittedly getting harder and harder to read. Desperation and terror leads to horrors in the name of survival, which is understandable and extremely important to the story and themes, but the repeated interactions of characters pleading uselessly against blind hatred or prejudice is emotionally exhausting.

Teacher (justifiably) worries constantly about his decisions and their effect on Shiva, and the consequences of those decisions is a big focus here. It’s well done and really resonates as an authentic feeling exchange between people with legitimate, different views on a situation leading to conflict. In a similar vein on those themes, Teacher being repeatedly forced into action is another great, intriguing aspect of the ongoing story.

Another strong volume in an excellent series.

The Girl from the Other Side Volume 4 Review

Shiva’s choices seem to have had disastrous effects, and Teacher learns more about both the horrors of the curse and Shiva’s tragic past.

Back outside with Teacher, Shiva eases into a new status quo while being haunted by the events of last volume.

As the full effects of the curse start to be experienced and revealed, the reasons behind Inside’s rash actions become clearer. Nothing excuses them, but a deep and complex web of people’s very real fears emerges entangled with the seeming machinations of greater beings. There are a lot of heavy themes and happenings, and it’s all done so well. The pacing and balance exquisite, with the author knowing when to pause and let emotions sit for a minute and when to keep up the pressure and tension.

As I mentioned before the art does make it a little hard to follow certain things, but overall the gist is usually clear and the incredible atmosphere enhanced by the art style is worth the occasional bit of confusion in my opinion.

There’s definitely something lurking beneath the surface of this story, beyond the things the reader can see thus far. It gives a nice building sense of unease. Many things here could be as they seem… or not. As always I’m eager to find out.

The Promised Neverland Volume 6 Review

“Everything began with this promise.”

The Promised Neverland features an overarching story with a terrible, previously revealed underlying secret. Best to start reading with volume 1.

I admittedly harp on this point, but as an avid mystery fan and reader of hundreds of stories with suspenseful twists, battle of wits, etc, it is SO IMPORTANT for characters to be smart and capable without being infallible, and The Promised Neverland does this SO WELL. It allows the reader to both marvel at the ingenious measures and dogged determination that allow characters to stay a step ahead while understanding things could wrong at any moment and feeling dread that they’re only a step ahead.

There are major revelations and a big shift in perception here, but it all feels logical and earned. The outside world Emma and friends find themselves in is filling in nicely, and the series continues to do an excellent job sprinkling in interesting characters with individual motivations and agendas among the general conflict and situation driving the children’s actions. Also, the author is particularly good at knowing when to revisit said motivations and goals amid ever changing situations and shifting circumstances.

This manga continues to be a gripping, wonderfully tense read.

The Girl from the Other Side Volume 3 Review

The day Shiva’s been waiting for has come… but not without questions to be asked.

From the second volume’s subtly ominous ending The Girl from the Other Side continues full force and a complicated overarching narrative is forming with events moving rapidly out of Teacher’s control and Inside forces taking actions that will have significant effects.  

As will no doubt become a running theme in my reviews for this manga, it does a particularly incredible job of balancing the multitude of contrasts aspects it contains.

It still retains its deliberate pacing and the “slice of life feel,” but main story elements are escalating and major developments starting to be sprinkled in. The way everyday life intersects with the more dire aspects is quite masterfully done, and the line of providing enough new information to keep readers engaged while continuing to have intriguing underlying mysteries is being walked perfectly.

This volume ends with another significant revelation, and it’s impressive how well the atmosphere and tension is being maintained without losing the relatable engaging nature of the characters amid this strange world. Both Shiva and Teacher will no doubt come away from the events of this volume significantly affected, and as usual I can’t wait to see what’s next.