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Favorite Reviewed Books of 2019

Favorite Reviewed Books of 2019

-Written by: Right Stuf Anime Crew

2019 is coming to a close. Right Stuf Anime employees have reviewed around 90 manga, novels, and artbooks this year alone! But which ones were our favorites? We asked our reviewers to pick their favorite book they reviewed and let us know why it stood out.  

Chris - Penguin Highway Novel (Hardcover)

Of all the titles I reviewed in 2019, my favorite would have to be Tomihiko Morimi’s novel Penguin Highway. It touched me personally in its portrayal of Aoyama, a boy whose curiosity led him to analyze the world around him and find the beauty in the mundane. While the book took time investigating the mysterious penguins appearing and disappearing around town, it didn’t skip the nuance of a winding stream or a clearing in a forest. It spoke to my childhood of exploring barns on my family farm and finding things I never expected. It reminded me of the complexity and wonder even the most average things hold within, and let me delight in those memories. Penguin Highway simply made me happier than anything else I read this year, and hopefully you’ll feel the same when you give it a try.

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Liv - Cardcaptor Sakura Collector's Edition Manga Volume 1 (Hardcover)

Ooh, tough choice. It's gotta be Cardcaptor Sakura Collector's Edition though. As a collector, this is something I've been waiting on for a long time (I have big problems with the previous omnibus releases). It's big, it's beautiful, and it's definitely something longtime fans would be proud to display on their shelves. Definitely my release and review of the year!

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Matt - How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift Manga Volume 1

As I looked back at the manga I reviewed in 2019, I was surprised at how easy it was for me to choose How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift Manga Volume 1 as the stand-out title. I gave a favorable but not glowing review upon its release. Over the past few months, however, the blend of humor, diverse characters, and attempts at being authentic to weightlifting and fitness culture have grown on me. Perhaps I’m feeling a bit guilty, but Sandrovich Yabako’s gym comedy deserves a read.

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Jordon - Star Blazers Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Manga Omnibus Volume 1

I did not get a chance to review as many titles as I would have liked to, but out of the six titles that I did get to read, I would have to say that Star Blazers 2199 Vol. 1 was my favorite. First off, it’s sci-fi themed (what can be better?). I am a huge sci-fi nerd, so opening this felt as if I was walking into my home—it was natural and second nature. There was plenty of build-up in the action, which made the story wax and wane, similar to real life. The character development is thought out, and the reader is given enough backstory for the character’s actions, reactions, and situations to make sense. The artwork is beautiful, and you can see the character’s emotions vividly in each panel which helps the story come to life even more. I love reading books, and I always look for a little quirk in them that will help me remember the story. For Star Blazers> that quirk was a section of diagrams and schematics of the vessels noted in the story, complete with descriptions. This enhanced the story because I was able to get a better idea of where the characters were and how they were interacting with their environment.
It is one for your shelves, and for a book connoisseur (maybe devourer would be a better word?) such as myself, that’s high praise. A definite must read for any anime fan, especially for those whom are space loving.

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Jakob - Final Fantasy XIII Episode Zero Promise Novel

My favorite book I reviewed this year was Final Fantasy XIII Episode Zero: Promise. The short stories from Episode Zero make a lot more sense without needing to know the full story of Final Fantasy XIII. You get to read more about the characters featured in the overall story, and learning about their backgrounds and motivations gets you more involved. I found it more interesting to read about the characters of FFXIII as opposed to FFXIII-2 because I cared about the characters more. As a fan of the FFXIII series, I’d recommend Episode Zero over the other novels since it takes a closer look at each of the main characters that the game may not have had time for.

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Nate - Smashed Junji Ito Story Collection Manga (Hardcover)

I haven’t reviewed a lot of manga this last year, but the ones that I have, I have loved immensely. And personally, deciding which is my favorite was a really tough choice.
Berserk Deluxe Edition is a big, lavish reprinting of a dark epic fantasy. H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness is a richly illustrated adaptation of one of my favorite stories of comic horror. Finally, Smashed is a compilation of bizarre short stories from Japan’s own master of horror, Junji Ito.
For me, Smashed is a perfect storm of everything I love about horror manga. For starters his art style is so detailed, and works brilliantly to illustrate his specific blend of weird fiction. Whether short and to-the-point, or longer and more thoughtful, there is always something for me to read, no matter what I’m looking for (or sometimes I just stop and study his art!). His stories are so wonderfully dark and surreal—at once twisted and unexpected. I envy his imagination and hope that it will inspire my own.

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Andrew - Shut-In Shoutarou Kominami Takes On The World Manga

Out of all the books I have reviewed, Shut-In Shoutarou Kominami Takes on the World by Dan Ichikawa has got to be my favorite. It truly had me laughing the whole way through. The story revolves around Shoutarou, a shy guy who doesn't interact with the public often; In fact, he is outright scared of everyone. The story takes a lot of common situations and turns them up to 11. You might get a bit nervous when attending a party, but Shoutarou can’t handle it at all. I am also a sucker for side characters, and Shut-In has some of my favorite ones in recent manga. Taiga is a smug manga artist who means well but can't help himself around Shoutarou, and Nekoguri is another shlocken who tries to act cool around Shoutarou. It is a cute story with charming characters and funny situations: everything I look for in a book!

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Quinn - Magus Of The Library Manga Volume 1

My favorite pick out of all my reviews for 2019 is Magus of the Library. I absolutely adore how accurately it visualizes how lost someone can become while reading a good book. The worldbuilding itself has a lot of depth, and I love how important books are to all the main characters! This story does bookworms proud!

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Jocelyn - The Golden Sheep Manga Volume 1

From the many books I’ve been given the opportunity to review during the year of 2019, Golden Sheep Manga Volume 1 was by far my favorite. I was easily absorbed into the distinct story and quickly fell for the colorful characters. Creator Kaori Ozaki transitions each panel beautifully from page to page, making for a fun and enjoyable read.After reviewing the first volume a few months ago, I’ve also invested in volume 2 and will order volume 3 once it’s released this coming March! I definitely recommend this series to any fans looking for a dramatic slice of life genre. Here’s to hoping this series is recognized and is given an anime adaption.

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Emanon Manga Volume 1

Who knew that a manga based on a short story would be my number 1? I sure didn’t; I never heard of this manga until I signed up to review it on a whim. But what I found was one of the most moving manga I’ve ever read. I loved the low-key sci-fi elements and the different themes and ideas they opened up for exploration. This is a manga that asks the big questions and does it with visual finesse. Kenji Tsuruta is a great artist, and he produces some of his deepest work here. I’m glad I took a chance on this manga and hope this recommendation will get more people to try this magnificent series.

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