Beautiful Dreams 2: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

As I mentioned in Beautiful Dreams, I’ve been a fan of Juri Chinchilla’s amazing art for several years and have been fortunate enough to develop a nice collection of her work. Here I’d like to share and talk about more of it (as well as ramble a bit about the stories and inspirations behind certain pieces).

 

 

Juri continues to be heavily featured in Perna Studios excellent card sets. I’ve been lucky enough to get several diverse, beautiful sketch cards of hers from sets like Witchcraft, Elementals, etc, in addition to having the opportunity to commission some incredible Artist Proofs (APs) as well.

Juri’s also done promo and base card art for Perna’s sets, and special cards including metal and spot foil chase cards and variants.

 

 

Some particularly interesting pieces of my collection include unique original works, such as Juri’s original pencils underlying her Mistress of the Night piece (the final version of which I featured in Beautiful Dreams) and colored and original art versions of her page from Sarah “Sakky” Ruth Ford’s Magical Girl Coloring Book.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been more fantastic additions to my collection, with the great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements.

As always I adore her use of color, particularly in her hand drawn work, and like with her Perna sketch cards and APs above that aspect also really shines in her PSCs. Seeing her visions of some of my favorite characters come to life has been a real treat. I’m a diehard gamer, with particular preference to RPGs and fighting games over the years. With Juri’s pitch perfect confrontation between Kasumi and Ayane from Dead or Alive and jaw dropping melding of Morrigan and Lilith from Darkstalkers joining the original sketches I got from her featuring Millia Rage, Jam Kuradoberi, and Dizzy from Guilty Gear, I now have incredible renditions of all of my favorite characters to play from each of my favorite fighting game series.

 

 

Valkyrie Profile is my single favorite RPG of all time, and Juri’s intricately detailed, soft yet strong interpretation of Lenneth Valkyire is exquisite. Favorite series honors go to Persona, and I adore Juri’s vibrant, striking depiction of a key supporting character from one of the series’ best entries.

 

One of the more unique requests I’ve made is a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move. Mitsuru’s already showing great potential and instincts even with only a little over a year in wrestling, and I adore the incredible way Juri’s captured and combined her strength, determination, grace, and beauty in this remarkable rendition.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last two pieces I’d like to talk about are anime/manga related. I’m using the word “favorite” a lot, but in explaining the inspirations for choosing these subjects across various mediums it has been appropriate and illustrative in every case. Gorgeous animation, thought provoking stories, and an incredible atmosphere come together to make Kino’s Journey my all time favorite anime. Juri perfectly related Kino’s cool, somewhat detached demeanor resting for a moment atop Hermes against a wonderful background horizon that evokes the show’s sense of traveling through a vast, intriguing world.

 

Rosario Vampire is an amusing, fan-service and action heavy harem style manga based around a high school for monsters where students regularly get into fierce battles with one another. It has solid story progression once it gets going, but is admittedly largely formulaic and trope ridden. However halfway through the second “season” of the manga there’s a side story,  introducing a relatively minor supporting character (who didn’t even make the anime adaptation), which embraces and upends cliches in equal measure to present a nuanced, emotional story that is easily at the top of the (long) list of things I’ve read. San Otonashi is a phenomenal character and (here’s that word again 😉 ) an absolute favorite of mine despite her relative obscurity. Even with being initially unfamiliar with San, Juri was able to create a gorgeous, spot on card of her, conveying both delicacy and strength and again really elevating the final work with her incredible coloring.

 

 

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

 

The Girl from the Other Side Volume 2 Review

Teacher has tried to keep Shiva isolated from the other Outsiders, but when one seeks her out it raises questions that can’t be ignored.

 

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This second volume of the self-described “tranquil fairy tale” builds nicely off of the first, with interesting, foreboding things happening around a perfectly paced snapshot of Shiva and her Teacher’s ongoing everyday adventures. The cliffhanger of last volume is handled well, with just enough answers to move the plot along and several things kept mysterious to keep reader’s curiosity high. There are moments of danger and worry tinged with genuine emotion, and as I’ve previously praised the characters are relatable despite the fantastical, dystopian setting.

I continue to adore the art style and the atmosphere it helps create, although the (intentionally) fuzzy visual detail on outsiders can make it a little hard to follow action scenes. Overall though the various happenings can be consistently tracked from a story perspective.

This installment is just as good as the first, and if The Girl from the Other Side can keep this level of quality up I’ll be reading it for as long as it goes.

The Girl from the Other Side Volume 1 Review

Inhabitants of the Inside must never cross to the Outside, on fear of being cursed by the monstrous ones exiled beyond the walls. However among an abandoned village in the forest an Outsider watches over a young child from the other side in seeming harmony…

 

 

This is a fantastically unique manga, with a slice of life feel within a dystopian setup. It features a cursed monster and a little girl he’s acting as guardian for going about their daily lives amidst more significant and perilous developments building in the background. I found it to be wonderfully told, with atmospheric, stylistic art and just the right pacing. The little touches and details of what’s depicted let this shine, and I already really care about the two leads. In some ways this reminds me a bit of the webcomic Hemlock in feel, although obviously the story and setup are quite different.

So far The Girl from the Other Side builds around a wonderfully simple core concept with an intriguing world and strong emotional context to give its tale depth. This volume ends with a rather big cliffhanger, which makes me even more curious to read what’s next. Great start.

 

Tohyo Game Volume 3 Review

Class 2-A is dwindling and the survivors are facing longer odds and growing depravity as their will to live is placed against their personal beliefs. And who is the mysterious votekeeper running this deadly game?

This is the final volume of Tohyo Game, a psychological horror story, so starting here is pretty pointless. Read from the beginning.

 

I’ll be sharing general thoughts on the series here, so while I’ll be as spoiler free for the entire three volumes as possible for plot details, I will be talking about my general impressions of the series’ strengths and weaknesses.

 

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I have mixed feelings about this finale. It’s good, keeps the tension high, and has plenty of surprises left to dish out. It also starts to suffer from “one twist too many” syndrome, leaves some major questions largely unexplained, and feels a little rushed. More context regarding certain things and more room for the story to breathe would have been appreciated.

Still, this volume provides the expected escalating stakes and continued clever twists on the voting and there is closure to the main story thread started in volume 1. The lack of details about a related, underlying plot point is somewhat unsatisfying, and to be honest I wanted something different, overall but within the established framework this is a logical, valid conclusion. The bombshells dropped last volume are resolved in intriguing ways.

There are interesting character moments as everyone reacts to things getting more dire, and the atmosphere is appropriately harrowing as events escalate to even more disturbing levels. On a related note, the series has been getting more and more graphic in all ways as it progresses, so if the first was too much too handle it won’t get any better in that respect.

With this volume Tohyo Game comes to a reasonably strong but imperfect end. It remained exactly as advertised throughout: a twisted, compelling suspense story filled with surprises, shocks, and graphic content. There are more questions than answers though, and that holds it back just a bit.

 

One side note I’ll mention: There’s an… odd “bonus” afterward that’s a few pages long and is nothing but fanservice and is even referred to later in the afterward with a comment that implies it exists because one of the creators wanted a couple of the characters drawn naked. I have no problem with fanservice or pinup art, and the nudity certainly isn’t at odds with the graphic nature of the series, but the context given here in the guise of “humor” IS inconsistent with the characters and tone of the series and is also uncomfortable (one line in particular is pretty much what’s making me write this). I was going to ignore it without comment (as I often do for random extras like this), but figured it was worth a heads up for those who may wish to stop reading when the actually story ends as this has nothing to do with the rest of the manga.

Tohyo Game Volume 2 Review

The voting game continues as the surviving members of class 2-A grow increasingly paranoid and unhinged and try to figure out if there’s hope for any of them.

 

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This installment builds directly off the tension and sense of dread achieved in volume 1. Things are getting a bit over the top as the game escalates, but there are interesting twists and turns within the established rules and framework. The suspense is kept high and the atmosphere still maintains a “no one is safe” feel as everyone freaks out over the increasingly dire situation. The art is still graphically brutal and gruesome, as appropriate to what’s happening. There are a couple of huge reveals in this volume, but what they really mean is unclear, including a huge cliffhanger going into the final volume.

Strong middle volume for Tohyo Game. I hope it can keep it up for the finale while providing a satisfactory resolution to the multitude of outstanding questions.

Tohyo Game Volume 1 Review

New year, new class, and the class clown has arranged a popularity contest to break the ice. But when the losers start dying mysterious deaths and an unseen force keeps the contest going regardless, will anyone live long enough to discover what’s really going on?

 

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This one’s intense. I’m not a big fan of gore, but well done psychological horror can be amazing. Tohyo Game has that potential, which I’m willing to deal with the violence for. This a dark, gruesome story with a strong plot and a good sense of mystery. There are several shocking moments, both in terms of surprises and the level of violence, and it all combines into something impactful and unsettling. The final verdict will of course depend on where the next two volumes end up, and the pace is a little too quick at times, but overall this is an excellent read.

 

Erased Volume 1 Review

In addition to being plagued by half remembered trauma from his childhood, twenty nine year old Satoru Fujinuma, randomly suffers from a strange phenomenon that further complicates his attempts at living a quiet life. Both aspects are about to get worse…

 

 

Let’s get this out of the way: here’s yet another manga where I’m going to suggest avoiding reading the publisher provided summary if at all possible. It’s worse than normal here, as they literally spoil the last page of the first volume (as well as other major surprises).

Another publication related annoyance is that there is no distinction being made between hardcover “volume 1” and kindle “volume 1,” where the former is actually an omnibus of volumes 1 and 2 and thus twice the length of the kindle edition. Yes, Amazon is largely at fault for combining the editions on the sale page, but the publisher does the same on their web page and creates confusion by not using different covers and titles for the two different versions. I am reviewing the kindle edition here, so the actual first volume (chapters 1-6) and not “hardcover volume 1” (volumes 1 & 2 as originally published, chapters 1-12).

With all of that addressed, Erased is a fantastic manga off to a thoroughly gripping start. One volume in and there are already several intertwined, compelling mysteries to unravel. The main character has a difficult past hanging over his head and an inexplicable, uncontrollable power that are fantastic hooks to build Erased’s gradual, tense narrative. There’s already a lot to think about and unpack, which is great.

The previously mentioned ending of chapter 6 provides a huge cliffhanger that presumably sets up the course of the story for the majority of the series. The mysteries and suspense surrounding Satoru’s story are captivating and I’m beyond intrigued to see where it all goes from here.