Sunday, February 19, 2017
There's a new escape game that came to Kagoshima in mid-Feb. - "Escape from Labyrinth." I'm thinking that Monster Strike is the name of one of the companies that put this game together. Anyway, the kanji right above the game name is Jikuu Oojo (Space-Time Princess). The timing of this is funny because the American comic strip, Brewster Rocket ran a gag series on escape games the same week that I saw this poster. Anyway, I didn't try it, because it's expensive, and I would have a lot of trouble understanding the Japanese clues without outside help. The artwork is very manga-esque, though.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
High Score Girl Continue, vol. 7 (SquareEnix, 2015-16), by Rensuke Oshikiri. Grade: B+.
And, we're back. These chapters actually ran in 2016, rather than being the older reprints of the earlier volumes. When we last saw our heroes - Yaguchi the slacker gamer, Hina the over-worked rich girl, and Koharu the bookworm smitten with Yaguchi - Yaguchi was still mooning over Hina, Hina had established a certain level of freedom from her tutor, and Koharu had suffered a humiliating loss against Yaguchi in her cage match to win a date with him. It's now 1996 and all three kids are first years in different high schools. Yaguchi's friend, Miyao, is attempting to get him emotionally involved in his own life, but Yaguchi really has no interest in anything beyond playing video games. Miyao guides them to the convenience store that Koharu's parents own, and Koharu initially shows contempt towards Yaguchi, but allows herself to be talked into going to his house with them. Guile tries to block them, but Koharu just blows past him and into the viper's pit. Turns out that Hina and her older sister, Moemi, are in his room playing word games with his mother, which is what Guile was trying to warn Yaguchi about. This leads to an awkward couple of hours as no one talks to each other, and Miyao and Moemi crack under the pressure and run screaming from the room. Hina and Koharu play a duel Street Fighter game against each other and Hina wins easily. Everyone leaves, and Hina and Yaguchi's mother blame him for all the troubles they had.
(Guile is no match against Koharu.)
The next day, Yaguchi is at a game center, when the Mizunokuchi gang (the ones that are training Koharu) show up and kick him out of the arcade. Stewing, Yaguchi takes the train into Shibuya, where he finds himself surrounded by Shibuya Girls (high school students with excessively heavy make-up and bad attitudes) and various street punks. He goes into an arcade, where three boys are unable to defeat the final boss, General, in Kaiser Knuckle. They browbeat him into taking over the game in the expectation that he's going to be easily defeated as well, and when he wins they enlist him in their gamer group. To fit in, Yaguchi starts hanging out in Shibuya, wearing a black stocking cap and a skull t-shirt. This causes his mother and Miyao to get concerned about him, and word gets back to Hina about Yaguchi's sudden weird behavior. Moemi decides to visit Shibuya herself for the first time, and after a day of harassing the boy, comes back to the Ohno estate wearing a black t-shirt of her own, getting the tutor to chase her around the house, yelling all the time. Afterward, the tutor lays the law down about Hina not being allowed to go into Shibuya herself. So of course, the next day, that's what she does.
The Mizunokuchi gang shows up in Shibuya to drive the Shibuya gang out of their own turf. This results in a 10-on-10 duel on one of the machines. One of the Shibuya gang girl hangers-on starts flirting with Yaguchi just to mess with him, and Koharu gets so angry that she faces all ten of the Shibuya players, and beats everyone by herself. She uses this victory over Yaguchi to get him into spending the day with her, but just as friends. She makes a point of saying that while he's paying for the both of them, this isn't an official "date".
(Koharu wins, then tells the hanger-on to leave her boyfriend alone.)
They go to an amusement park, and play games in an arcade. Night falls, and Koharu refuses to go home. They're stuck at a train station, as Yaguchi notes that they've missed the last train for the night. It's raining hard, and the boy suggests calling their parents to let them know where they are, and possibly have someone come get them in a car, but Koharu would rather go to a love hotel and cuddle. Yaguchi instead gets her to go to Guest (a parody of Gusto, a family restaurant). She'd bought an umbrella that was intentionally too small for 2 people, and panics when she sees that Yaguchi is holding the umbrella over her so that his shoulder is getting soaked - she doesn't want him to come down with a cold again.
At the restaurant, the two talk for a bit, and Koharu gets around to saying that Yaguchi has been really horrible to her. She's been having dreams of him holding her, and she's tired of them just being dreams. When they leave the restaurant, the rain has stopped and the sun is coming up. Koharu suddenly throws her arms around the boy, crying, and pleading with him to hold her just this once. Yaguchi is trying to figure out what to do when he sees Hina standing a little ways to the side, watching them.
Summary: The main focus of High Score Girl is the series of video games that came out in the 90's at the game centers. We not only get to see each of the games, and some samplings of characters, but also what the arcades and small towns around Tokyo looked like at the time. So to that extent this is a nostalgia manga. Woven over this, though, is a story of young love and the trials of the boy stuck in the middle of a triangle he didn't know was forming. The writing and pacing is very good, and it's highly recommended if you like arcade games and don't mind the chunky-face character designs.
Friday, February 17, 2017
(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
Area 51, vol. 14, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A
Whoo boy. I finally get this volume in my hands, and it takes maybe two hours to finish it. But now, it pretty much looks like the series is going to end in volume 15 this Summer. Sigh. I was afraid of that.
(Amaterasu the Nue arrives to stop the fighting.)
H58) Go to Stop That War
McCoy has exhausted her strength, and as she leans against a tree, she bids the giant super chimera, Amaterasu, to go finish the war. At the moment, the full Japanese and Egyptian armies are arrayed in the middle of Area 51, facing each other, waiting for the order to fight. Anubis is overjoyed with how his plan is working out, while Zeus and the other gods stand and watch, ready to punish the first side to take action. Meanwhile, Son Gokuu is being harassed at his bar by some guards, when Amaterasu arrives and scoops him up. She asks him to do something about the fires raging across the city, and he happily obliges, jumping down to the street and first rescuing Kishirou and the monster children the kappa is protecting. Kishirou the kappa runs over to a fire hydrant and opens it, magically directing the water up into the air, where Gokuu catches it in his teapot head (the replacement he's been using since his original head was used to create the chimera). He punches holes in the teapot and sprays the city with the water, quenching the flames.
Amaterasu arrives at the battle field, and is unhappy at being told that her general, Tsukuyomi, had almost gotten the Japanese gods and monsters banished from Area 51. She flattens him into the street, then cajoles Anubis into taking off his protective space suit. The jackal still bears the burn scars from when he was swallowed while unsuccessfully trying to save his beloved goddess from the First Snake. He also has a message burned into his left shoulder where Ra had touched him before dying in their last encounter. Amaterasu and Ra are both sun gods, and all sun gods are familiar with each other's techniques. She shoots a beam of light at Anubis, and his shadow hits the wall behind him, with a burning message in Egyptian visible within the darkness. Sekhmet reads the handwriting - "The one who killed me is Anubis."
(The death of Anubis.)
H59) Draw the "Iwato"
Anubis admits to the murder, turns into a giant, and attacks Amaterasu anyway, saying that he is doing this for Egypt. Sekhmet refuses to have anything to do with the Jackal anymore and orders her troops to retreat without another word to Amaterasu or the 10 gods. Anubis attempts to pummel his hated enemy in the face, but she replies that this is nothing compared to how hard McCoy hit her. Eventually, Anubis is no longer able to maintain his huge form, and his body becomes brittle and breaks apart. Ultimately, he dies. Amaterasu tells Tsukuyomi that the same thing is going to happen to her, and she wants him to take over from her in caring for the Japanese monsters. She gets Zeus to not hold anyone on the Japanese side responsible for the death and destruction so far, and apologizes for the suffering people have had to go through because of her decisions (i.e. - McCoy being killed by the doppelganger and turned into a sheath for Kusanagi.) She apologizes to Gokuu, too, but he's happy with his new head, because he can now make tea with it. Then, before she can fall over and damage more buildings, she turns herself to stone with her medusa tail, and one of the other Japanese gods blows her body to harmless little bits.
In the end, Zeus visits McCoy in her office, and warns her that because she contains Kusanagi, and the sword is capable of destroying the 10 gods, and Area 51 with them, her movements are probably going to be restricted until they can decide what to do with her. There are more than a few people that want her banished or imprisoned. She changes the topic and comments that she's heard that Zeus has had to play "politician" and asks him if he feels lonely (i.e. - without his brother, Hades, by his side). He replies that he does now, then leaves.
(Baba rescues Keiron from the assassin.)
H60) Reward will be given after their "Winning Run" - Honeymoon
This is a short side story. Keiron, McCoy's centaur doctor, has fallen in love with an old crone named Turbo Baba (baba = old woman). Turbo had been struck by the chimera's medusa beam and her leg was turned to stone. Keiron is treating her, and he has succeeded in healing her leg, but the old woman has lost the will to run anymore. He asks McCoy for help. Soon after, Keiron starts receiving phone calls where a spooky voice on the other end says that it's getting closer and closer to him. McCoy had told Turbo about an assassin that had been sent after the doctor, and when the next call comes in saying that the creature is just outside the office, Turbo panics, grabs Keiron and runs out to the streets. Turns out that Baba's problem was that she'd fallen in love with Keiron, and hadn't known how to tell him.
(The creature from the meteor destroys the TV news helicopter before turning its attention on the rest of Earth.)
H61) I can be a Superman!
Another side story. Kishirou is feeling useless. He really wants to be able to help McCoy with her personal problems, but he lacks the strength. He'd rescued a genie (Lamp no Mashin) back in volume 11, and he wants to use his second wish to become stronger. Lamp is able to grant this wish, but he warns the kappa that this kind of wish would come back to haunt him. Later, Kishirou finishes his errand (locating a lost pet lion ant - an ant the size of a small dog with a lion head - and returning it to its owner) and he comes back to the office to sleep on the couch. Then, an alien comes to the office and asks McCoy to help him. The night before, a meteor smashed into the ocean nearby, and the American Navy has been trying to find it. The alien claims that the meteor is really a monster that has destroyed his, and a couple other planets, and he wants McCoy to buy a large water pearl from him for $38,000 as payment for defeating the thing before it destroys Earth (McCoy tells him to go away). While, in the next room, Kishirou's dream is interrupted by a ghost that gives him a magic rod that will turn him into a giant that can defeat the threat. Kishirou wakes up, holding the rod in his hand. He races out to the docks, only to discover that the ghost was a victim of the monster, now holding a grudge, and that the rod doesn't do anything. The alien ends up defeating the monster, and is revealed to be another ghost, which dissipates after completing his mission. The story wraps up with Kishirou using his second wish to get the money to buy the water pearl as a gift for McCoy.
(McCoy doesn't like doppelgangers. Shizune is unable to argue with her.)
H62) I also Liked You, Major
McCoy is at the Four Legged Clinic, getting her routine treatments from Keiron to help keep her body together. The centaur says that the latest surgery is the last one he can do for her, and that she's probably going to fall apart soon. She replies that until she destroys the doppelganger that killed her and stole her baby, she can't afford to die. She leaves the clinic, and is stalked by Shizune, the kappa that had tried to kill Prince Charming before. Shizune manages to stab McCoy with a kappa death needle, but loses the papers she's holding before running away. One of McCoy's friends (the spider woman, Sonya) finds her in an alley and gets her back to the clinic. McCoy recovers enough to grab Pike and have him shoot her with a yokai bullet that rips the needle out. Kishirou arrives at the clinic, and identifies the needle as having belonged to his friend, Kirimaru, and that the attacker was Kirimaru's younger sister. McCoy recovers, and looks at the papers she'd grabbed from Shizune. They are the notes Kirimaru had compiled when he was trying to get closer to her. In with the papers is a second needle, the needle of life. McCoy gets Kishirou to track down Shizune. When the female kappa is brought to the clinic, she's infuriated that her brother's killer is still alive, then horrified at seeing all the bullet and sword scars all over McCoy's body. Shizune collapses into a chair and meekly answers McCoy's questions. Apparently, while Kirimaru was following her, he'd encountered someone "that looks exactly like McCoy, but isn't". Additionally, the notes place this "McCoy" somewhere that the real one had never been to before. McCoy takes Shizune out to the edge of the city, while telling Kishirou to stay in the office to wait for her to get back.
McCoy drives to the Nikola no Ori (Prison of Nikola), and tells Shizune that in fact, Area 51 is the prison and this tower here is where all the guards live, along with the original god that created this place. The "guards" are angels, and the tower is off-limits to all other residents of the Area. Which is why it's kind of hard to believe that the doppelganger would be inside. Everyone else knows about this place, except that Kirimaru had been a newcomer and was unaware of the rules when he saw "McCoy" there. Eventually, Major Felix drives up and orders McCoy to back off NOW. Even though Pike is a possessed object (having become sentient after being owned for 99 years), McCoy doesn't think that he could hurt an angel, but Felix doesn't want to take the chance. However, she asks him why a doppelganger would be allowed in the tower, and he says that some years ago, there had been a zombie invasion that killed off 20% of the population (that's when he'd lost an eye). The angels used the doppelganger's ability to control its blood to develop a weapon to use against the zombies. The invasion was repulsed, but just in case there was a second attempt, the angels decided to keep the doppelganger there as "thanks" for its assistance.
McCoy asks if Felix had been in the tower at some point, and he says yes, once. He'd been a regular grunt in the army, but he was killed in battle. He was saved by the angels, and he's now one of them, as a half-breed. She then asks if anyone else, angel or otherwise, knows that the doppelganger has her face right now. He says "no," and McCoy kills him with a bullet from Pike. She then tells Shizune that the reason she's there is to spread the word that McCoy has murdered an angel, with the intent of forcing the doppelganger out of Nikola's Cage. Shizune is shocked that McCoy would risk her life like this.
Summary: Great art, great art, great art. Love the story, love everything about Area 51. Highly, highly recommended.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
We got a little snow overnight on the 9th. I had to get up early and rush out of the apartment that morning, so I only had time to take a couple quick photos on my way out the door.
While this winter has been cold for Kagoshima (near-freezing temps for the last few weeks), there's been almost no snow. We did get small pellet-sized hail at one point a couple weeks ago, but that melted after hitting the ground. This snow here was the first to stick on the trees, but mostly at higher altitudes.
It wasn't until later that I realized I had the camera on night scene, which is why it's monochrome here. It does give the shots a much starker quality, though...
On Saturday, I was walking to the school, and I couldn't see the volcano because of all the buildings. Finally, when I'd gotten down by the port, there was a break, and I stood in the middle of the street to take 2 quick photos. Then, I had to hurry because my classes were going to start in a few minutes.
I had a 1-hour break between classes at 3 PM, so I went down to the port to take a few more pictures.
I hate the fact that the top of the mountain is closed to hikers because of the dangers presented by possible flying rock from the volcano. Sigh.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Tenmonkan had a love note stand in the middle of one intersection.
For when you want to write a note to someone you love, but don't actually want them to read it.
Meanwhile, Amu Plaza had their annual Choco Pakku sales event.
They had a lot of people window shopping, but most of the products (chocolates, bread, ice cream, snacks) were very overpriced. Still, on Sunday, some of the places were almost sold out.
In Japan, Feb. 14 is when women give chocolate to the men they have to live or work with. For co-workers, this is usually just a cheap chocolate bar, called "giri choco" (obligation chocolate). For family members, it may also be giri choco. Then, on March 14th, White Day, the men are supposed to give return gifts, but most of them don't. Which is why most office women hate this day.
Monday, February 13, 2017
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Coke owns Georgia Coffee, which is currently running a vending machine campaign for the Dragonball character toys. The machine says there will be 900,000 winners, but so far I haven't been one of them.
Since this is another one of those random things where there may only be one can with a figure in the entire machine, you're really better off only buying the coffee if this is something you normally drink, and consider winning the figure as a bonus, rather than throwing $40-$50 dollars away in trying to actually collect one of the seven figures in the series. Especially since it's 130 yen (approx. $1.10 USD) for one tiny 6-ounce can and the coffee isn't all that great.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
I received the Breathless (A bout de souffle) (1960) DVD as a Christmas gift. It was directed by Jean-Luc Godard, and starred Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. It represents the start of the French New Wave movement in cinema, and has a lot of weird jump cuts, and a wandering storyline. The dialog is in French, and the DVD, which was bought used from a Japanese rental shop, only has Japanese subtitles. That made it kind of hard to follow the storyline.
The story revolves around Michel, a young criminal that wants to be like Humphrey Bogart. He steals a car, kills a policeman that gets too close to him, and then spends the rest of the movie alternating between trying to seduce Jean Seberg and getting some other con to pay him back on a loan so he and Seberg can run off to Italy to avoid the cops.
Overall, Breathless is an interesting film if you like film history, or French films in general. Otherwise, I can't really recommend it to anyone that prefers Star Wars and the Avengers.
Friday, February 10, 2017
During the weeks leading up to the last Christmas, I'd occasionally hear the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version of Ring Christmas Bells, and I'd watch a bit of their performances on youtube. Eventually, I got to wondering what else they've done, and how well they did it, so I requested a CD of their music as a Christmas gift. What I received was "Beethoven's Last Night."
TSO is an American prog-rock band formed in 1996 by Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva, Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and Robert Kinkel. Of the 9 albums listed in the wikipedia discography, 5 of them are Christmas related in some form. The orchestra is big, and the performances are staged as rock concerts, complete with pyrotechnics and massive banks of lights. Which brings me to "Beethoven." This was a rock opera, released in 2000. In 2012, it was reissued as "Beethoven's Last Night: The Complete Narrated Version," including the narration that was used in the live performances.
The basic concept is that Beethoven is dying, and he's not happy about it. Mephistopheles shows up to make an offer - "you can live longer, but your music will be erased from human memory." As Beethoven considers accepting this deal, he's then joined by Fate and her son, Twist, who more or less try to help him make the better choices. There's some similarity in presentation and solo singing that reminded me a lot of the Jesus Christ Superstar Broadway play.
Overall, the main male actors are very hammy, particularly the one playing Beethoven. Some of the music is good, but I was put off by the more weepy, self-pitying lyrics. I wouldn't recommend BLN as an introduction to TSO's music, but's it's not that bad of an album. On the other hand, if I want rock opera, I'd go immediately with the Jordan Rudess Dream Theater albums.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
One of the weirder forms of fraud that took place in Japan a few years ago was the "Ore, Ore" scam. "Ore" means "me." In Japan, when people make phonecalls, they don't give their names at the beginning of the call. They just say "It's me," and expect the other person to figure out who it is from their voice. The scammers would use this approach when calling older people, adding that they have a cold which makes them sound different, then demand that the person they're calling transfer money to their account because they're strapped for cash. The victim assumes that the caller is a sick relative and does the transfer without ever asking for the caller's name. This scam has gone on for years, and one of the local banks has a manga-like poster warning older people to call the police if they receive a suspicious call. Not sure this has actually helped at all. On the other hand, I haven't heard any statistics lately indicating that the practice is still an on-going problem.
Then again, a nearby poster warns that it's against the law to steal people's bank account numbers if you're a demon. Banks have joined in the fight against demons. They don't like the competition.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Setsubun is the Japanese holiday that marks the day before the changing of each season. But the Spring Setsubun is the one that everyone celebrates. This year, it fell on Friday, Feb. 3rd. Terukuni shrine observed the event at 4 PM by having various business leaders and/or their representatives throwing small packets of candies and snacks (for the children) and dried beans (for the adults) to the crowd. Things started out with a Shinto priest blessing everyone. Then the group shouted "Demons out, good luck in".
Last year was a little more interesting, in that the leaders took turns, with four people throwing out the snacks at one time. This year, everyone threw out the snacks all at once.
I had to work Friday, and my lesson ended just before 4 PM. I arrived at Terukuni as things were about to start. There were already a few hundred people there ahead of me, and none of the packets were even getting close to the back of the crowd, so I left a few minutes later.
Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Monday, February 6, 2017
Cortanu is a thingie located in a building near where I work. Recently, I noticed a poster for them in the display cases along the main Tram street, apparently promoting an art class, or something.
Actually, the place is hard to describe. They're in a loft apartment building that houses an organic bakery and non-plastics clothing shop, but Cortanu itself is "A place for women", with an online shop selling shampoos and skin creams, but with a school that teaches PC and software classes. They seem a bit schizophrenic.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
At Home is an apartment finder service. The two guys pictured on the outdoor banner here are generally treated as a pair of goof balls. But it turns out that they don't actually work alone.
Their car does a better job than they do.
And it looks better in the photos, too.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
Melmoth was the poet/writer from Jaka's Story who presented to the reader Jaka's childhood, as related to him by Rick, Jaka's husband. He's loosely based on Oscar Wilde, although the events in this volume are lifted largely from correspondence between Oscar and his associates at the end of Oscar's life. Jaka's Story ended with Melmoth's arrest for writing fiction without an artistic license, and his subsequent imprisonment on a 2-year sentence. In this volume, Melmoth has been released from prison, but he looks 20 years older, and his health is fading fast, spurred on by his insistence on drinking too much. Most of the story concerning him is told by the people closest to him as they try to raise money to pay for his doctors.
At the same time, Cerebus is in shock. He arrives at the same town Melmoth is at, and he spends his days on the patio of a cafe, and his nights in a room he's paid for in the same building. He gave the owner a gold crown, which pretty much is more money than the guy has seen before in his life, so he decides to have the place remodeled. Cerebus had found Jaka's doll, and he's hugging it as if it were Jaka herself. In the end, a pair of Cirinist soldiers arrive at the cafe, and one brags about being the dungeon guard that had been in charge of Jaka while she was a prisoner there. When she laughs about ripping some of Jaka's hair off, Cerebus kills her in a rage, then is forced to flee as every other Cirinist in the city gets alerted and runs out to cut him down.
If you're familiar with the life of Oscar Wilde (who had taken the pseudonym Melmoth at one point), then you'll either love or hate this book (either because you agree with Dave Sim's interpretation of events, or want to argue them loudly). If you're a Cerebus fan, you may be disappointed that Cerebus is still not the central character again. Still, it's a great book, the story flows fast, and the artwork is fantastic. Highly recommended.
Friday, February 3, 2017
I received both this phonebook, and Melmoth, for Christmas. Actually, they arrived in separate boxes and out of sequence, so I accidentally ended up reading Melmoth first. But, I just want to record a couple impressions in volume order, so here we are.
Being in Japan, it's not really that easy to read the Cerebus collections, so I wait 6-12 months to make a request from family for one or two books at a time. This means that it's been more than a year since I read Church & State II. One thing that's interesting about comics, compared to books, movies or TV shows, is that if they're drawn well and have highly developed characters, when you pick up the next comic book after an extended period, it's like getting back together with an old friend. You know that they're waiting for you, and when you're finally ready for them, they start the conversation up right where they left off.
If you haven't read it, Jaka's Story is kind of a multi-threaded tapestry that revolves around the title character, Jaka, the dancer that Cerebus fell in love with. After surviving the destruction of the Black Tower in C&SII, Cerebus locates the tavern that Jaka and her husband, Rick, are living at. The main backdrop is the matriarchy that currently controls the country following the destruction of Cerebus' army, and they've imposed martial law and banned most forms of entertainment sans an artistic license. Men are terrified of being punished if they attract the wrath of the Cirinists, and try to avoid any form of silliness. On the one hand, we then have Cerebus moving in with Jaka and Rick under the name "Fred" to keep the Cirinists from suspecting that he is the former Tarimist pope, and he's hoping that Jaka will take him back. Therefore, Rick is jealous of the attention Fred is getting from Jaka. On the other, Jaka is disgusted with both Rick and Cerebus because she's the only one with a job, as a dancer at the inn, and she's still doing all the cooking and housework. But, while she is dancing, there are no customers coming in because of the ban by the Cirinists. The inn owner, Pud, has been giving treats and almost-free rent to Jaka, but he's been getting impure thoughts and is thinking about forcing himself on her.
Mix in with all this, Melmoth. Melmoth is a poet/writer loosely based on Oscar Wilde, and he has his eyes on Rick. Rick, meanwhile, has been telling Melmoth all about Jaka's childhood, which Melmoth is writing up and preparing for publication as a "read." Cerebus ends up heading out of the inn to go down to the city below the tower on a shopping errand, and when he gets back, Pud is dead, and Rick, Jaka and Melmoth are all missing.
The entire story is hilarious and sad in turns, and the ending is a shocker. It's a very fast read, even though it's a couple hundred pages long. There is additional history for Lord Julius and Astoria as well, but we're left hanging regarding Cerebus and Astoria's past lives as mentioned in C&S II. The "Jaka's Story" part of Jaka's Story is Melmoth's take on what Rick tells him about her growing up in Lord Julius' mansion as one of his nieces. It's a great book and highly recommended.