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Reviews: Furry, anthro, and animal-related books of 2013

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Roz Gibson reviews fiction of furry interest she read in 2013; her favorites included:

Review: 'Atomcat', by Osamu Tezuka

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Atomcat The last time I met Osamu Tezuka was at Daicon V, the 25th Japan National Science Fiction Convention, in Osaka on August 24-25, 1986. He was in a good mood, and told me through a helpful fan interpreter that he had just started a new manga that I was sure to like, considering my fondness for funny animals. It was a new version of Astro Boy – turned into a cat! “WHY?”, I asked. He chuckled and said something like, “Why not? It’s important to not take yourself too seriously.”

Tezuka had created Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy) in 1952 and drawn his adventures until 1968, including the five intense years of the TV series (1963-1966, with production starting in 1962). After that, Tezuka was “Astro Boyed out”, and turned down numerous requests to create new adventures of the robot little boy. He had other stories that he wanted to develop in manga and anime. So, when he got a request from the children’s Smile Comics in 1986 to produce a new manga for young readers, why did he return to Astro Boy, but as a kitten; besides “Why not?”

Well, Atomcat never pretended to be more than a humorous trifle. It was a self-parody, and also a parody of all the talking animal comics where a human little boy or girl has an animal companion to help him or her out. In Atomcat, young Tsugio is the only human who knows that Atom the kitten is not an ordinary kitten, and Atom protects Tsugio from being bullied. Yet Tsugio is such a coward and crybaby that Atom, exasperated, has to take the lead most of the time. Tezuka was very proud of having worked out the English pun Atomcat = A Tomcat, since he claimed not to speak English. He probably also delighted in naming the school bully who always picks on Tsugio, “Gaddafi”. Atomcat was published in the monthly Smile Comics for seven months, seven self-contained stories, from July 1986 to February 1987. The last couple of stories lacked the freshness of the first stories. I suspect that Tezuka had lost interest in Atomcat and was just hacking out the last few stories; he was probably glad to end the series.

I “read” Atomcat in Kodansha’s 400-volume Japanese Osamu Tezuka Complete Manga Works around 1997; that is to say, I looked at the artwork. This current Atomcat edition from Digital Manga’s Platinum Manga has enabled me to read it in English for the first time.

Gardena, CA, Digital Manga Publishing, April 2013, trade paperback $12.95 (194 [+ 9] pages).

'Alpha and Omega 3: The Great Wolf Games' - marks for effort, animation still needs work

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Alpha and Omega 3They're making these sequels fast; I think they've been working on them the past three years, ever since the first movie came out. Check out the trailer. [TheChriZ1995] The movie is in stores March 25; the Blu-ray & DVD edition is exclusive to Walmart and is currently offered for $18.96; it'll also be on iTunes for $14.99/$9.99 HD/SD.

While Alpha and Omega 2 had a very low quality, with a lack of shading and choppy animation, at least they tried to work on the issues for this one. It's a huge graphics upgrade from the second movie. Sadly the animation still needs work to be smooth like the first Alpha and Omega movie (review). Yet while the quality may not match up to the original, at least they are trying - I think it looks reasonable for what is essentially an extended TV show. For a company that isn't Pixar, they're doing a fairly good job at the moment.

I have a feeling some people on here may not like it, but this is for those who might want it, even if they never heard of it. It's great to have the fandom for this, though.

Review: 'Kairos. T.2/3', by Ulysse Malassagne

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Kairos, book 2 Kairos, volume 2 of 3, is out! (My thanks again to Lex Nakashima for making this review possible.) Volume 1 was published in France in April, with an animated cartoon trailer for the whole series by the author at his new Studio La Cachette. Niils and his mysterious girlfriend Anaëlle (whom he is trying to talk into becoming his fiancée) are camping out in the French countryside. She is kidnapped by anthropomorphic dragons dressed as Medieval soldiers, and taken “home” through a dimensional portal to the world that she apparently came from in the first place. Niils follows to rescue her, and is met in the countryside by two friendly inhabitants; Kuma, a dragon monk, and Koyot, a brown, beaky peasant.

Tome 2 begins with Niils, Kuma, and Koyot coming to a peasants’ market town, where a big political argument is in progress between the supporters of the dragon royal family and those who accuse it of becoming tyrannical, weak, and no longer in touch with the people.

Roubaix, France, Ankama Éditions, October 2013, hardcover €11.90 (64 pages; on Amazon.fr).

Review: 'Night of the Rabbit' for PC and Mac

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A white rabbit in a waistcoat Night of the Rabbit is a third-person point-and-click adventure game, developed by Daedalic Entertainment, released in May 2013 for PC, Mac, and on Steam. If you like adventure games, check it out! If you're not into adventure games, this probably won't be your thing.

What's it about? You play an optimistic young British boy named Jerry Hazelnut, living cozily next to a forest on the outskirts of a modern city. Summer is nearing its end, when suddenly a tall, talking white rabbit shows up, and you get to fulfill one of your dreams - becoming a wizard's apprentice and learning magic. To do this, the rabbit whisks you away to Mousewood, the miniature world of the forest animals. A darkness is slowly growing, but first you need to explore the area, help people out and learn some basic spells.

Animation: 'The Nut Job' is full of crunchy goodness

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'The Nut Job' poster On January 24, my sister Sherry took me in my wheelchair to see The Nut Job at the Pacific Theatres 18-Plex at the Glendale Americana at Brand “shopping community”.

The movie was released on January 17, and for over a week I had been reading reviews on animation-community websites that were uniformly negative. They did not just pan it, they hysterically reviled it. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 12% favorable professional rating:

Hampered by an unlikable central character and source material stretched too thin to cover its brief running time, The Nut Job will provoke an allergic reaction in all but the least demanding moviegoers. (RT critic consensus)

“Anyone who doubts the truth of the bromide that January is the time studios trot out films that would otherwise be unreleasable should take a look at The Nut Job, a CG feature that has all the originality and individuality of a Dixie Cup,” begins Charles Solomon’s review on Animation Scoop. “[…] Numerous, predictable contretemps ensue […] the storytelling is simply inept […] The animation is unimpressive at best. […] The Nut Job was made in Canada and Korea, reportedly in association with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea - probably because sitting through the film makes the 12-hour flying time between Los Angeles and Seoul seem brief.”

Conversely, the box office of The Nut Job has been good – fortunately, or I would have wondered whether the critics were talking about the same feature that I saw.

Wide release live action furry movies for 2014

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes In addition to the animated movies with a variety of anthropomorphics, animals and anthropomorphic animals coming out some time this year, there are four major live action releases this year that furries may want to mark on their calendar: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit: There and Back Again and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Dates listed are for North American releases. Furries in other areas of the world may have to wait a bit longer, but all four are big blockbuster type movies counting on worldwide revenue; be patient and they’ll reach you eventually.

Review: ‘Free Birds’ is a turkey

Your rating: None Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

Free Birds PosterIn movie geek parlance, a ‘turkey’ is a movie that, well, it isn’t very good.

When Free Birds calls itself “the greatest turkey movie of all time,” it’s more than a little self-deprecating. Yes, the movie is about turkeys, but there’s that double meaning right there. That’s the joke, see. Ha ha.

It opens with a disclaimer reminding the audience that this movie is about talking turkeys; though Free Birds is about an historical event (the first Thanksgiving), it indicates that you should probably not take it too seriously.

Gee, the movie just apologized to me twice before I even got to watch it; that’s not a good sign.

Review: 'All Alone in the Night', by M. Andrew Rudder

Your rating: None Average: 3.4 (5 votes)

All Alone in the Night This is generally well-written, if poorly proofread. But the science/technology seems wonky. And the main character, Dr. Cooper Barnes, M.D., the civilian Chief Medical Officer of the International Space Program’s ISP Frontier in 2065, is surprisingly negatively introduced. Most novels with a medical protagonist state their long-range goal of eliminating disease and putting themselves out of business. Cooper complains on the first page that the last serious disease, ebola, has just been eliminated, and he is out of a job. When he is asked to become the head doctor on an exploration spaceship that will land on new planets with unknown diseases, he asks for medical supplies and trained assistants that are presented as arrogant demands rather than requests.

No one had come to see him in the last few weeks, except for those particularly stupid people convinced that they were sick, and just needed a doctor to tell them that they weren’t. (p. 1)

You can guess that Cooper does not have a good bedside manner.

Novels that feature unpleasant main characters that gradually become likeable are hard but not impossible to bring off successfully. Think of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Unfortunately, M. Andrew Rudder is no Charles Dickens. You have to take it on faith, and the reviewer’s promise, that Cooper Barnes will become a better man.

Argyll Productions, July 2013, hardcover $24.95, trade paperback $17.95 (215 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $7.99.

Fur Affinity announces Project Phoenix; Weasyl traffic spikes

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (4 votes)

On January 15, Fur Affinity made its latest announcement of its intention to revamp their site. This new effort, code named Project Pheonix, is intended to bring massive updated to the site's interface to make it more user friendly, as well as incorporate a simplification of rules and decrease response time to trouble tickets.

However, the news caused a stir as it was stated that Adam Wan, known in the fandom as Zaush, would be leading the user interface development. Major controversy has shadowed Mr. Wan following the note leaks back in late 2010 revealed a private correspondence where an individual went to Dragoneer to discuss the possibility of going public with their experiences of sexual abuses committed against them by Mr. Wan. In that correspondence Dragoneer told the alleged victim they believed taking this action was not a good idea as making such public accusations would lead to public backlash against both the accused and the accuser. The victim took that advise and did not go public. Only after the security leak did the public get a hold of these accusations.

Three comic book reviews: Pull List #18 (‘Avengers Arena,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’)

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Avengers Arena #11Like I recently went with a triple feature for My Little Pony, I decided to do a pure Marvel comics Pull List. Why should IDW get all the fun? So we’re going to pretend like this is a special Marvel edition, okay? Anyway, until Beast uses bikini wax, make mine Marvel!

I’m sorry, was that weird? I read that somewhere.

Avengers Arena #11

We get a breather issue after the horrific events of issues #9 and #10, in which we had two deaths in two issues; Juston in #9 (nooooo!) and Nico in #10 (did not see that one coming). Instead of dealing with the still rampaging Apex, we catch up with Avengers Academy alumni Hazmat and Reptil, who are hanging out on a beach while the rest of the cast are running for their lives from a crazy girl who occasionally turns into her nice twin brother (it’s complicated).

Review: 'The Cat's Eye Pub', by James Robert Jordan

Your rating: None Average: 4 (4 votes)
The Cat's Eye Pub (front cover)

3 years after the events of Bound to Play, chakats Midsnow, Blacktail, and their family have made the move and immigration to Chakona the self proclaimed home world for the chakat species.

With intentions of opening their own business they are unaware of the many obstacles and challenges they will face. All while Midsnow's troubled past atempts [sic.] to catch up to hir." (back-cover blurb)

CreateSpace, June 2013, trade paperback $19.95 (308 pages), Kindle $7.99. Illustrated.

The Cat's Eye Pub, like Bound to Play and the forthcoming A Chakat in the Alley, is set (with permission) in Bernard Doove's Chakat Universe. It features those hermaphroditic centauroid felines, along with the humans, Caitians (bipedal felines), Rakshani (bipedal like Caitians but taller and more tigerlike), skunktaurs, and other species of Doove's 24th-century interstellar civilization.

Review: 'Hot Dish'

Your rating: None Average: 2.8 (9 votes)

Hot Dish can be purchased at Sofawolf.com - See also: Review by Fred Patten

Review: 'Le Bois des Vierges', by Jean Dufaux and Béatrice Tillier

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

Front cover of the R. Laffont edition Le Bois des Vierges (The Virgins' Woods) is a French comic set in a medieval half-human, half-anthropomorphic world. It was released in three volumes between 2008 and 2013, written by Jean Dufaux and illustrated by Béatrice Tillier. Originally published by Robert Laffont (who then dropped their comics division), it was picked up by a second publisher, Delcourt, who re-released the first volume with a different cover. I reviewed the first book for Anthrozine.

To be honest, this won't appeal to most North American furry fans, for several reasons. Not only is it in French, the wording is deliberately archaic, though not quite bordering on the Shakespearian. The human characters are the main focus, and the story isn't especially creative with the anthropomorphic ones. Oh, and good luck finding the set for under $75, not including shipping.

The main conflict in the story involves speciesism between four groups. The "tall beasts" (mainly wolves), the "short beasts" (including foxes), the humans, and the hybrids. The foxes and wolves are digitigrade and humanoid, but they consider themselves beasts. All the animal-people don't like humans very much, and the feeling is mutual. The tall beasts also hold the short beasts in contempt, and everyone hates the hybrids.

Review: 'Furries: Enacting Animal Anthropomorphism', by Carmen Dobre

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

'Furries', by CarmenDobre

Furries gives a candid commentary that reveals details about 'fursuits', 'fursonas' and the 'furry fandom'. Award winning photographer Carmen Dobre continues her examination of 'furries', who they are and how they perceive themselves. Documentary style portraits alongside one-to-one interviews reveal the intriguing passions of people whose human identity is challenged by their love of their chosen animal persona/fursona. The first colour illustrated book featuring an international cross-section of individuals who choose to dress as animals and why. (blurb)

Leave it to Academia to get it almost but not quite right. Furry fandom is about more than just the furry lifestylers, of course, but this artistic collection of photo-interviews with fifteen fursuiters (and their mates) does get all genuine furry lifestylers. Each portrait identifies the British, Dutch, French, or German lifestyler in an average of two pages of text, followed by eight pages of beautifully-posed full-colour photographs; two of the fan posed in his home or apartment, a closeup or two of his fursuit, and four or five of his messy home. Most of the fursuiters look like typical college students living in batchelor apartments, including those married and long out of college.

Plymouth, Devon, UK, University of Plymouth Press, October 2012, trade paperback £17 (150 [+ 2] pages; illustrated). Foreword by Valerie Reardon.

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