By Drew D. / December 23rd, 2021
Though gaming is a major pastime of mine, as I’m sure you could’ve guessed by now, it’s not the only one. I’ve read and watched aplenty over these five years as well. I tend to read a bit of manga, follow a few manhwa, and, to a lesser extent, watch anime and keep up with a light novel or two.
My fondness for iyashikei hasn’t wavered, as I still keep up with a few series that emphasize that definitive relaxing, soft mood inducing style. Unfortunately, Non Non Biyori, the manga and anime series at the top of my list, has recently concluded and, in all honesty, it hurts. I was not ready for this to end and I already find myself missing it. The captivating, heartfelt stories of its grade school cast made for some wholesome entertainment. The charming backdrop of Asahigaoka, and the adventures had within, were a wonderful reminder of the beauty and magic that can be found all around you. And of course, how can I not mention the brilliance that is Renge Miyauchi. I will never forget her. I knew the end was approaching, though, as one of the major themes of the later chapters and Season 3 of the anime is maturity and growth. I know, I know, all good things must end, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet.
Another series I’ve followed that saw its end is a manga called Danchigai. This told the everyday stories of a group of siblings, four girls and one guy, as they attend school and share a small apartment. The premise isn’t anything special, yet the interactions between the siblings is always sincere. Haruki, a gamer who can be a bit lazy, but never fails to pitch in when needed, is often the butt of jokes, target for pranks, or a bystander swept up in his sisters’ troubles. Yet, whether he’s receiving it or on the offense, there is always a sense of good nature and family togetherness. Lighthearted and easy to read, this series has been one that I’ve loved since its start, never failing to put a smile on my face.
Sticking with slice-of-life and school-life, I’ve been revisiting Azumanga Daioh for months now, as it’s one of the first manga I’ve read. This 4-koma manga always gets a laugh out of me with its mishmash of personalities and blunt style of humor. Sakaki-san and her obsession with cute things, Tomo and her energetic, yet crass personality, Chiyo and her smolness, the cast is brilliant and memorable, and the troubles they mostly cause on their own is always amusing.
Another school slice-of-life comedy manga I’ve come to truly enjoy is Hitomi-chan is Shy with Strangers. This follows the everyday stories of first year high schooler, Hitomi Takano, who just moved to the neighborhood and who has some trouble socializing, given her shy personality, yet domineering presence. She soon meets second year student, Yuu Usami, who, though is at first intimidated by Hitomi, befriends her and joins in her everyday attempts to open up to other people and have new experiences, while also revealing her sweet and sincere sides. The manga is a cute romantic comedy showing the interactions between these seemingly mismatched pair or high schoolers. And the interactions and humor, often drawing on the contrast between the intimidating Hitomi and the comically short, innocent looking Usami, is always fun to behold.
But it’s not all iyashikei and slice-of-life for me, as I’ve also been following the manhwa adaptations of Second Life Ranker and Solo Leveling for some time now. Although many recent manhwa, and their light novel counterparts, have incorporated themes such as leveling up and interacting with the world around them through RPG-esque stylings like stat screens and inventories, these two in particular have stood out to me. Second Life Ranker puts the theme of revenge-at-any-cost at its forefront, and the result is relentless ferocity. Solo Leveling is that classic story of a nobody ascending to godlike levels of power, with an overarching story of the fate of the world on the line. Both are pure, unabated energy with plenty of violence and touches of personality and dry humor thrown in. Action with glimmers of character, these two titles have hooked me.
Lastly, a light novel that I wish to mention is Cooking with Wild Game. When I first heard about this, I didn’t think much of it, as it’s an isekai following a young chef in training. Usually, the “rebirth in another world” genre usually has fantasy or sci-fi elements that changes the core of the character, but here, the story is about how Asuta Tsurumi, the young trainee chef, joins a primitive tribe with next to zero concept of the culinary arts. He makes it his goal to improve the overall quality of life for his new family and tribesmen through the deliciousness of food and the teaching of his skills, while also improving his own skill set, way of thinking, and himself as a person overall. The story can be slow and exposition heavy at times, but its character development is impressive, as is its humble world building. It’s such a departure from the more common isekai themes, and it’s modestly well written too, making it surprisingly immersive and entertaining. This is one of the few light novels that has thoroughly captivated me, as I find myself looking forward to each new volume just as soon as I’ve finished reading a new release.
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