Ashes of Honor (October Daye Book 6) Review

“Nothing is ever simple or easy when Faerie meets the mortal world. There are just times when I find myself wishing it didn’t have to be quite so hard.”

October Daye may have avoided a war, but the heavy personal costs continue to haunt her as time inexorably passes in the Summerlands. But she isn’t the only one with secrets and regrets, and she may be the only one who can help her friends find an overpowered missing changeling who’s existence could be a threat to the foundations of Faerie itself.

This is the sixth book in the October Daye series, and it addresses the aftermath of major events from the prior book, One Salt Sea. Best to start with Rosemary and Rue (book 1).

“We were winging it again. That’s my favorite way to deal with crazy.”

“Winging it” is the exact opposite of McGuire’s carefully layered stories, and Ashes of Honor is incredibly well balanced. It seamlessly progresses long running story threads underneath a tense and dire current story that itself deals with major implications from One Salt Sea while introducing new concepts and complications. The adventure presented here is intriguing and captivating in its own right, and both new and old supporting cast members really shine in the spotlight.

“I’ve stood by and watched you throw yourself against the walls of the world, because I hoped the impact might shake sense back into you.”

As I alluded to above the development of story threads across these books as a series really is fantastic. There’s growth and change in both characters and environment, with real effects of the fallout of past books. McGuire knows when to let her characters breathe a bit, and when the emotions and problems they’re dealing with are too urgent to avoid or ignore. The handling of the progression of time throughout the series is masterfully done, and even the most dramatic of changes are deftly built to and executed.

As usual I’m going to avoid specifics and spoilers (and believe me avoiding talking about some of my favorite characters and their actions/antics grows more difficult book by book), but I really enjoyed this installment of October’s adventures. It both calls back to several subplots from prior books and, as with the rest before it, lays a lot of groundwork for some major things to come.

Merry Joshi Christmas 2019: Gatoh Move 12/22/19 Live Thoughts

December 22, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

This was the go home Ichigaya show leading into Gatoh Move’s last big show of the year tonight at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring.

As I’ve mentioned before, in a wonderful move to grow their visibility Gatoh Move has been uploading a significant number of matches with English play-by-play on their YouTube channel. two of the three matches I’ll be discussing here are impressively already up, and in such cases I’ll add a hyperlink to it in the match title.

And as I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

1) Cho-un Shiryu vs Sayuri vs Sayaka

Sayuri & Sayaka will be teaming tonight to face fellow rookies Chie Koishikawa & Tokiko Kirihara, but here it was everyone for themselves in a 3-way also featuring regular visiting wrestler Cho-un.

This had amusing overtones, with the rookies insisting on working together to start but still largely unable to withstand Cho-un’s vast experience and strength advantage. And what momentum they were able to generate evaporated when they started getting in each others’s way and wanting the individual victory. Eventually Cho-un was able to pin both of his opponents simultaneously for an emphatic win after a double diving stomp.

With Sayuri & Sayaka going in to a battle with two other largely unestablished rookies the double pin bothers me less than it normally would, illustrating a bit of how far they all have to go. Cho-un’s enough of a force that it made sense, they did get to show some fire on the way, and this was a solid little 3-way that packed a fair amount of story into a short, energetic six minutes.

2) Calamari Drunken Kings (Chris Brookes & Masahiro Takanashi) vs Emi Sakura & Lulu Pencil

Clash of two teams both in action tonight against other opponents.

The structure of this one was particularly fantastic. Lulu was thrilled to be teaming with her teacher and had herself introduced as “Emi Sakura’s student” and vice versa to Emi’s barely maintained patience. But as the match progressed Emi encouraged the struggling Lulu, and whenever she was tagged in herself she was in full bore no-nonsense mode. Her first exchange with Chris had her going for a lockup and Chris LEVELING her with a big boot instead, and the war was most definitely on from there.

Another highlight saw Sakura pick up Lulu (in full pencil pose/mode) over her shoulder and charge Chris, who sold the hit like he’d been impaled by an actual spear. And of course Takanashi was his usual masterful self throughout as well.

End here saw Chris attempting to apply an arm bar when poor Lulu, already immobilized by Chris’ legs and unable to withstand it, tapped out to give CDK the win. A confused (or perhaps just sadistic) Chris continued to pull the arm a bit as Takanashi tried to explain they’d already won and to please let Lulu go.

This was great. Strong win for CDK (even considering Lulu’s weaknesses), and there was just enough to make one hopefully that Lulu might defy the odds and win with her mentor tonight.

During the post-show roundtable Chris said this victory (his first in Ichigaya) taught him that CDK’s previous troubles in 6-person tag matches were all Rin Rin’s fault. I feel he got lucky that the statement went by so fast Rin Rin and a good portion of the audience didn’t register it enough to be properly outraged.

3) Mitsuru & Rin Rin vs Mei Suruga & Saki

In addition to having the two wrestlers facing in tonight’s main event across from each other, their partners here were one half of the reigning tag team champions and one half of the team that will be challenging them in tonight’s semi-main respectively.

Rin Rin continues to be impressive beyond her experience level, and was great here showing no fear against Saki before their title match. The interactions of Mitsuru and Mei were also a great preview for tonight as well as a solid anchor for this match to build around.

It all escalated wonderfully and was naturally paced to the point where I didn’t feel the time limit draw coming at all. Nicely done and a really strong lead in to tonight.

For one final awesome bit of fun, after Gatoh’s traditional post-show song Chris spoke up and suggested to Sakura that with a number of foreigners in the audience and the proximity to Christmas they should also do an English song, then led wrestlers and fans alike in singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

This was as usual a total blast, and I thought a particularly strong show all around. There really isn’t anything else quite like Gatoh Move and I can’t recommend checking it out live if at all possible.

Gatoh Move 12/7 and 12/14/19 Live Thoughts

December 7 & 14, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

As I’ve mentioned before, in a wonderful move to grow their visibility Gatoh Move has been uploading a significant number of matches with English play-by-play on their YouTube channel. Some of the matches I’ll be discussing here are impressively already up, and in such cases I’ll add a hyperlink to it in the match title (also, the 6-person tag from 12/7 is up on DDT’s subscription service).

As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

12/7/19

1) Lulu Pencil vs Yasu Urano

Yaso was involved in one of my favorite intergender matches of all time, a no-rope contest against Gatoh Move’s former ace Riho at Basara’s 12/28/17 show, and has faced Lulu before.

The story here was Lulu drawing inspiration from Emi Sakura and wanting to make use of certain counters she’d learned/copied… so she kept setting herself up for moves and holds. A confused and tentative Yasu didn’t know what to make of it, and kept putting on the “wrong” move, repeatedly preventing her plans from working.

It all eventually builds to a persistent Lulu finally executing one successfully into a rollup, but not having the power or weight to prevent Yasu from reversing into his own pin for the win.

This was different and silly in a way that enhanced the story told, and a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. Lulu’s gimmick of being a pro-wrestler who’s too weak and awkward to be pro-wrestler is rather genius in the way it’s being executed, and makes her a natural and easy to cheer for underdog. Perhaps most importantly, the comedy and weirdness of her matches still relate to the idea of her trying to win, and it all compliments a wisely chosen remaining card consisting of more competitive/serious matches.

2) Cho-un Shiryu vs Chris Panzer

Chris is his home promotion PWR (Phillipine Wrestling Revolution)’s Champion, and this is his first appearance in Gatoh Move.

Once they got going Cho-un heeled it up to provide the match’s backbone, and they had a really good, fast paced and hard hitting encounter. Chris prevailed in a strong Gatoh debut. Would love to see him back sometime.

3) Calamari Druken Kings (Chris Brookes & Masahiro Takanashi) & Rin Rin vs Mei Suruga, Saki, & Sayaka  

I’ve been dying to see Brookes in Ichigaya, and as expected it was a lot of fun. His building feud with Mei is awesome, and the two have a ton of chemistry in the little things they do to egg each other on.

Rin Rin looked great and totally at ease, and the play off of what happened last time she teamed with CDK was highly amusing. She had gotten on Chris’ shoulder for a double team, and when he stood up her head banged on the ceiling. So this time when he and Takanashi tried to put her on Chris’ shoulder she freaked out, fought her way down and slapped them upside the head in admonishment. Awesome.

I have yet to see a trios match at Ichigaya that I didn’t love, and this certainly continued the streak. Innovative and fun, with the Gatoh regulars showing their usual mastery and the new faces fitting in well (in addition to Chris and Rin Rin this was also my first time seeing Sayaka since her Gatoh debut). Mei pinned Rin Rin to give her team the victory.

Side note: I need to see MUCH more of Rin Rin & CDK as a trio.

12/14/19

1) Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi vs Tokiko Kirihara & Sayaka

This was incredibly fun, with lots of the little cool little touches Gatoh Move does so well to elevate each match and fully drawn the audience in.

Sayaka & Tokiko kind of kept outsmarting Sakura & Takanashi at times to stay in the match until the veterans’ experience got the better of them. Again, the rookies played their part really well and put on performances beyond their limited experience. Strong opener.

2) Lulu Pencil vs Taro Yamada

Lulu’s freelance writer name is Yamada, so it was explained that a battle of Yamadas (in a building where the landlord’s name was also Yamada). Everyone was encouraged to constantly chant for Yamada.

Every match Lulu gets a few more small successes and moral victories. When she’s eventually able to put it all together, perform more moves than not without hurting herself, and pick up a win the crowd is going to erupt. Until then this was another fun little chapter in one of the most unique and relatable acts in wrestling.

Taro’s taking/selling of Lulu’s rollup into the wall was particular impactful and got a huge pop as it felt like a real advantage for everyone’s favorite underdog writer. As is becoming a theme in this write up all the little details were really well done here.

3) Hagane Shinno & Mitsuru Konno vs Mei Suruga & Yuna Mizomori 

Yuna had handed out a few denden daikos in celebration of Tawara! 2’s DVD release and encouraged their use to cheer her during the match. Mitsuru looked offended by their their mere existence, which was a great bit of character work.

Hagane’s another Gatoh mainstay guest that really knows how to make the most of the environment. There were so many great counter variations and near falls in this one, really building the drama and captivating the crowd. This was an incredible little tag team match and a real testament to the skill of all involved and the potential of the Ichigaya environment.

With Mei vs Mitsuru main eventing the impending show at Shin-kiba, Mei’s pinfall victory over Mitsuru here gives her all the momentum.

Gatoh Move has a really good grasp of how to vary things enough to keep it all interesting while always capturing the aspects that draw people to their shows in the first place. These were two excellent efforts, and the general quality and enjoyment level of seeing Gatoh live never ceases to amaze me.

Sareee 12/3/19 Live Thoughts

Decmber 3, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Sareee’s been having an incredible 2019, and as the year heads towards a close she had her first self produced show, titled Sareee’s Special Night.

The whole show looked like a lot of fun, and with the added bonus of seeing a dear friend in Japan again I was extremely excited for the night.

In an awesome touch, since Natsumi Maki is currently out injured and thus unable to wrestle at the show Sareee instead included her as a special ring announcer.

1) Zap I & Zap T vs Madeline & Miyuki Takase 

In a heartbreaking bit of bad luck Marvelous’ Mio Momono, scheduled to team with Madeline here, required surgery on her elbow just a few short weeks after returning from knee surgery. On the positive side it went well, and she was in attendance (in a sling) helping sell tickets for her home promotion Marvelous’ upcoming shows.

While certainly bringing a different style and energy to things than Mio would have, reigning Actwres girlZ Champion Miyuki Takase was a great replacement none-the-less.

This was my second time seeing Madeline (after catching her debut last May) and she’s a joy to watch. Her mannerisms are so expressive and she was a natural fiery underdog for the Zaps to push around.

I’m admittedly not a big fan of the way full heels are handled over here (with referees simply watching and making disapproving noises as they use weapons without any actual attempts to, you know, STOP THEM FROM CHEATING and the faces hardly ever responding in kind).

But outside of that particular common aspect of wrestling in Japan/pet peeve of mine this was a really fun battle between a pair of looming, dominating bullies and faces who just refused to stay down to the last. The assault of the masked veterans was too much in the end, but Madeline and Miyuki put up a hell of a fight. Great start.

2) Hibiki vs Jenny Rose 

Marvelous’ rookie Hibiki is the former Meiko Tanaka (of Diana). I was quite impressed with her when I saw her a few years back and it’s great to see her back in wrestling. Also beyond awesome to see Jenny back in Japan.

So this was a reunion of the former Diana rookie and a mainstay foreign wrestler of theirs at the time. The familiarity and chemistry showed, with a nicely competitive match wrestled at a good clip and a strong showing for Hibiki before losing to the veteran.

3) Aj Kong vs Nanami

Diana’s newest rookie, at 13 years old and having debuted just two months ago, draws the monster here.

There’s an art to having a much bigger, dominating veteran bait an upstart and have it remain interesting, and Kong’s a true master. She was never losing this match, but it was compelling all the same and Nanami’s infrequent advantages were perfectly done. In one extended sequence Kong egged Nanami on to deliver over TWENTY dropkicks, yelling at her to hit harder and higher each time. When Nanami later got Aja down to a knee and nailed her in the head with a dropkick the crowd erupted.

Excellent example of how to do this particular formula right (as always with Kong), and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Nanami in the future.

4) Haruka Umesaki & X vs CRYSIS (Jaguar Yokota & Ayako Sato)   

After everyone else was introduced Haruka called for X … and Sareee’s own music played. With the woman of the night already ringside something was clearly up, and sure enough after a moment out came Kyusei Sareee as played by the glorious mimic herself Sakura Hirota.

This was WAY over the top, but amusingly done and Jaguar’s barely strained patience awesome. The real Sareee eventually got involved, and this was just a well done bit of comedy supported by bursts of heavier action and continued the excellent pacing and balance of different styles on this show.

As with the opener the treatment of weapons took me out of the match at moments, but again that’s personal preference and otherwise this was exactly what it meant to be and should have been (I do have to mention a rather humorous whiff by Jaguar with a tray when Haruka hit the ropes and instead of hitting the rookie the tray went clear through the air/ropes next to her, which somehow kind of fit in with the kind of match this was 😉 ).

4)  Kaoru Ito vs Kyoko Inoue vs Chihiro Hashimoto 

My goodness this was an awesome little war. It featured three heavyweight Joshi competitors just laying into each other full force until one couldn’t kick out. Kyoko pinned Ito after one big lariat too many for the win, and all three of them looked great along the way.

5) Sareee & Syuri vs Mayu Iwatani & Takumi Iroha

This was billed as a dream match, and with reigning top champions from three different promotions that don’t all generally interact and a recently returned MMA competitor involved I’d say it fit the description.

With her time in MMA I hadn’t seen Syuri wrestle in years. And while Stardom’s NY show was quite good a crazy 8-woman tag with a broken bottom rope isn’t the same thing as a concentrated singles or tag team match, so this was also my first time seeing Mayu in this type of contest in about as long. Add in Marvelous’ ace and reigning Regina di Wave champion Iroha and Sareee herself and this was quite an exciting matchup on paper.

Of course again the benefit of dream matches is seeing these unusual combinations of wrestlers squaring off with a big fight feel, and this had it all in spades.

Top notch work from all four for the full duration of the time limit draw without every feeling like it was headed that way, this was a treat on so many levels. Great way to wrap up a great show.

This show was interesting matchups that were well booked and fun up and down the card. Stellar effort from Sareee, and a thoroughly enjoyable night.

A Good Decade for Wrestling, and a Good Few Years for Writing

A friend recently shared statistics on the companies and wrestlers he was able to see live most over the last decade. In addition to finding the idea of looking back intriguing, it also seemed a fitting topic for the 600th entry of this blog, itself largely growing out of my wish to share my thoughts and memories of wrestling events and other things I enjoy.

My tastes, viewing habits, and opportunities have changed a lot over 10 years. A five year examination of either half of the decade, or even going back a little farther, would feel quite different. Other limiting factors such as geography, etc have also contributed to a couple of curious omissions.

I didn’t keep careful track of shows as they happened at the beginning of the 2010’s so don’t have access to wrestler specific stats (nor do I have the incredible amount of time it’d take to retroactively compile such data). So I’ll only be looking at most seen promotions, not performers.

I’m counting the shows I’m fully expecting to see in the rest of this month, as it does change a couple of positions. Sub- or co-promotions will be grouped in with the associated promotion. Finally, I’m going to let this list largely stand on it’s own, providing the number seen and a favorite show from the company with no further commentary.

Now then, without further ado:

10- SEAdLINNNG
Live shows seen: 7
Favorite: Arisa Nakajima Produce 4/18/18

8 (tie)- Ring of Honor, Tokyo Joshi Pro
Live shows seen: 9 each
Favorite: ROH- War Of The Worlds 5/17/14, TJPW- 8/26/17

7- Wave (including Young OH! OH!)
Live shows seen: 10
Favorite: 12/29/17

6 – WWE/NXT
Live shows seen: 11
Favorite: Takeover Brooklyn II

5- Marvelous (including Marvelous USA)
Live shows seen: 12
Favorite: 12/25/17

4- Evolve/DGUSA
Live shows seen: 33
Favorite: Evolve 79

3- Shimmer
Live shows seen: 36
Favorite:  Volume 67

2- Ice Ribbon (including P’s Party)
Live shows seen: 38 
Favorite show: Ribbonmania 2015

1- Gatoh Move (including DareJyo)
Live shows seen: 45
Favorite show: 10/4/18 (special mention to 4/27/19, which likely would be the entry here if I hadn’t missed the first half live.)

——-

Here’s to another great decade, and perhaps another 600 crazy ramblings of mine. 😉

Knives Out Review

“This is a twisted web, and we are not finished untangling it, not yet.”

I adore a good mystery, so between a strong cast and a playfully intriguing trailer I was really excited for Knives Out. And a damn good mystery is exactly what I got.

I’m going to say pretty much nothing in terms of details to avoid spoiling the ride, but this was a compelling journey that I didn’t quite know what to make of until it was done. I cannot overstate what an important and truly wonderful quality that in a mystery/suspense story.

It’s not quite as madcap as the trailer makes it look (when I first saw the trailer I actually thought it was a Clue remake), but that’s not a criticism. There’s just the right touches of quirkiness, as it tweaks and pokes fun at the genre as much as it embraces it to wonderful effect. Sly touches of satire and commentary along with a phelthora of pitch-perfect performances all fully support and flesh out, rather than detract from, the unfolding drama.

Simply put, Knives Out was fantastic.

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.