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Wednesday, 31 July 2013 | 02:02 am - Businesses and charity
Flash crash
Ages ago I wrote that businesses weren't charities and they shouldn't expect fans to prop them up. This was in relation to publishers who blamed self-entitled fans ignorant of copyright for the decline in manga sales.

But now I think I was wrong. In my suburb, I have seen firsthand what happens when shoppers no longer shop local. The shops close down. The main street has so many empty premises with ominous 'closed by order of landlord' signs. The closure of a little French style patisserie brought it home to me. I used to buy pain aux raisins there once upon a time. I hadn't been back for many years, but I saw that the shop was still frequented by the odd customer. But many had flocked to newer, fancier, more heavily hyped shops...and eventually the old patisserie closed.

I felt bad about the closure. Maybe I should've shopped there more. Sometimes having one customer can be a magnet of sorts to attract others inside to take a look and buy. But I didn't, and I regret that now.

Businesses need customers. If we are happy with a good or service, we should go back and give them repeat business. If we don't do that, then they won't survive. It applies to online businesses too. And yeah, it applies to manga publishers as well.

The problem for manga publishers is that manga is a niche product. It had its boom in the early 2000s, and I get the feeling people are moving back to more accessible media such as novels and TV. Interest is on the wane. The decline of JManga, an official source for online manga, was a warning sign. Despite regular weekly series in a multitude of genres that would put a scanlation group to shame, they couldn't survive either.

Meanwhile, manga aggregators replicate online like rabbits, seemingly unstoppable. Is anyone still reading? The adbots don't care. C'est la guerre.
Tuesday, 30 July 2013 | 01:16 am - I work for the garbage bin
couch potato
This will be my new motto. It comes from an interview with Karl Lagerfeld I read in the local paper:

Appetite comes when you eat, no? The brain is a muscle and the more you do, the better it is. I don't believe in endless vacation, waiting for inspiration. No, I work for the garbage can. It doesn't look okay? Pfft! I do it again, no?


I had to replace 'can' with 'bin' (Aussie English) but apart from that, the line is wonderful. Aiming for perfection is futile. It only leads to disappointment and self-fulfilling failure. I need to simply DO. Stop ruminating and moping and feeling sorry for myself.

Doing is everything. Badly or well, it doesn't matter.

If I fail to do at all, then I may as well be dead.

It's annoying how one wrong keystroke can lead to a whole post being deleted. I'd written a lot about how I want to write fanfic but I can't because I'm too busy feeling envious over fanfic writers who have become NYT bestselling authors and gee, why can't I do that too etc. But I am using a netbook to type, and I keep making mistakes in my post. So maybe I should quit while I'm ahead.

But no! I don't want to quit! I'm not even ahead. I'm behind, woefully behind.

Which is why I need to write in LJ again. The topic doesn't matter. Anything will do for the garbage bin. I need to rediscover the writing muse before she drowns in an orgy of self-pity.
Monday, 24 December 2012 | 12:22 am - Christmas grouch
Flash crash
I had plans to update my interminable Mu/Tsu fanfic, Blossoms and Blood, at Christmas. I thought that I would have enough time. I was wrong. Apologies to anyone who may have been waiting for it. It is in the works...but I probably shouldn't set a deadline I won't be able to make in future.

My only excuse is that RL stuff derailed my plans. It's hard to write when your mind is filled with so much useless clutter. I'm normally not the most organised person, but lately I seem to be getting worse.

I'm often annoyed with myself. Why can't I be more competent and less careless? I start using each mishap in my life as evidence of my inadequacy, which only fuels my self-frustration. It builds to the point that I perceive any minor criticism as nasty insults and trivial slights as cruel affronts. So I lash out in hurt anger, then feel guilty and angry with myself for being such a mean-spirited grouch - which only reinforces my self-frustration and sets the whole cycle in motion again.

I know the cycle has to stop or I'll end up pushing away the people I love. I know - but it's hard to break the habit of a lifetime.

My Christmas wish for you is that you do not become like me. Don't be so hard on yourself. Mistakes and mishaps are all part of being human. It's okay to mess up, to commit embarrassing blunders, to appear foolish, to try and fail. It's not the end of the world if you are not perfect at everything.

And if you do meet a Christmas grouch, go easy on them. Their outward negativity may well be a manifestation of the self-frustration and sadness they harbour within.
Thursday, 11 October 2012 | 10:14 pm - Half-baked and slowing down
Flash crash
My computer is slowing down. The hard drive creaks and groans, the sound stutters, and flash-based applications crash on a regular basis. I personally blame Firefox. I obediently install each and every one of those security updates and I swear it's making my computer performance worse. I'm convinced that each of these software upgrades is part of a grand conspiracy to make my poor computer redundant.

I do not dare upgrade any other software apart from Firefox and my antivirus, in case it brings the entire platform crashing down.

If things get any worse, I may have to stop levelling and cleaning, and simply slap the translation onto the raws. Levelling and cloning out text is such a pain. To make things worse, the last few chapters of Nanahikari has text on textured background. Arrrgh!

Takaguchi-sensei has some interesting commentary about Nanahikari and working with publishers Chara. From a quick skim using Google Translate, the mangaka expresses some of her frustration with the constraints of the BL genre. I think I will translate and include it with the final chapter instead of working on the afterword.
Thursday, 2 August 2012 | 01:32 am - B&B Christmas special 1/2
couch potato
Blossoms and Blood, a very long YnM fanfic, hasn't been updated for a while. I could give a list of excuses as to why, but basically it comes down to procrastination. I dread writing the next chapter. At the same time, I know I need to write something before the dread becomes full-on writer's block.

So I came up with the idea of writing a Christmas special. Christmas has a lot of familiar tropes to play with. I could visualise Tsuzuki in a red cape and matching hat, eager to play Santa. The more I thought about it, the more it grew on me. However, I also knew the 'special' did not fit in the B&B timeline because B&B takes place in summer over a finite number of days.

After mulling things over for a while, I decided to write it anyway and hope readers would be kind enough to indulge me. I'm posting it on ff.net as a way of road-testing the site after the spate of story deletions a few months ago.

This is part 1 of a two part story:
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/1673537/34/
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 | 11:09 pm - FF.net purge
poland
A number of people have told me that FF.net is 'purging' MA-rated fanfics. This appears to be triggered by the action of a group of fans known as Critics United, who report fanfics that violate FF.net's terms of use. Some of my fanfics might be affected.

Then again, I update really slow and I'm not writing in a busy active fandom. I'm assuming that these 'critics' aren't going to read any fanfic - they'll want to target popular fanfics in their fandom/s of choice. If they want to make waves - which I'm assuming is their true aim - then that's the best way to do it. I don't think the stuff I've done would be a big enough target. Why track down a fic based on an obscure anime/manga fandom when you can go after fanfics in the latest big US TV show or movie blockbuster?

If you're going to purge FF.net of gore and filth then you ought to aim big.

Of course, there are other fanfic archives out there for those who like MA material. I have tried a few of them out...but it just seems easier to stick with FF.net and my own site. If the FF.net material gets pulled, fine. I'll keep it on my site. One less thing to look after.

There is a petition about the purge, although it appears to erroneously attribute the purge to FF.net itself. As I understand it, FF.net is only acting on complaints issued by readers. The staff don't have the time or inclination to read through every fic for MA material. So I don't think the petition will achieve much. But I did sign it and promise to spread the word:
Stop the destruction of FF.net!
Tuesday, 3 April 2012 | 03:21 pm - Kimiko/Shrouded Dancer and the 2010 Libre crackdown
banana slip
I made some accusations about Kimiko/Shrouded Dancer and her role in the 2010 Libre crackdown on scanlation groups in Nakama's website and Megori's DMG discussion thread.

I know it looks like I am launching some kind of personal vendetta against Kimiko by bringing up the past. Megori even states in her LJ that the past is irrelevant. To her, perhaps. But it has relevance to me, as it points to a disturbing pattern of behaviour. And it sure has relevance to the many BL scanlation groups who have been affected by her actions.

I kept silent about Kimiko's role in 2010 because I was scared. I thought if I kept a low profile, she would go away and things would go back to normal. Well, so much for that idea. As a DMG member, Kimiko has only become more brazen as shown by her DMCA notices to Mediafire and misrepresentation of herself as a copyright holder of certain manga.

Someone asked me for evidence. The evidence I have of Kimiko's involvement in instigating Libre's crackdown comes from her tweets. I admit it is only circumstantial evidence. Kimiko herself argues that she was caught in the middle. You can read the tweets yourself and make up your own mind.

Below is a montage of tweets dated 5 Sep 2010 to 8 Sep 2010. I've done my best to place them in chronological order. Names of people Kimiko were corresponding with have been blacked out to protect their privacy, with the exception of Deb Aoki. She is a respected manga commentator, and she makes some interesting observations about the unusual nature of the C&Ds at the time.

Tweets dated Sep 5-8, 2010Collapse )

On Sep 11, an individual involved in a scanlation group confronts Kimiko about her role in the Libre crackdown. By this time several BL groups had received C&Ds for scanlations of UNLICENSED titles. Kimiko responds, and flatly denies that she initiated contact with Libre.

Tweets dated Sep 11, 2010Collapse )

Yet Kimiko tweeted on Sep 5 that she "pointed the mangaka to them" (them being the Love & Voice scanlation group). At the time Animate had just set up the All About Nitta Youka website. I believe that Kimiko used the Contact Us form to inform the mangaka (i.e. Animate), which resulted in the details being passed on to Libre. Libre then contacted Kimiko, and she gave them links to manga aggregators, MangaUpdates - the works. Admittedly, I have no solid proof - this is just my theory based on the tweets. Only Kimiko herself knows what she really did. The rest is history.

Sure, it would be nice if we could all move forward and put the past behind us. But the events of 2010 are repeating themselves in 2012, and I've come to the conclusion that remaining silent in 2010 was a mistake. Kimiko has not gone away as I hoped. As a member of the DMG, she is still making a major nuisance of herself with BL scanlation groups. If speaking out makes me a bully, then that's fine by me. I'd rather be a bully than a doormat this time.

ETA May 23: hai_ne has sent me a screencap from a journal entry in which she criticises the DMG editor (Kimiko) who deleted the LJ of a scanlation group working on a licensed manga (Only the Flower Knows). Kimiko tracks down the entry, and makes a series of comments intended to change hai_ne's mind.

Screencap of LJ entry

Kimiko does come across as a nice person in her comments. She is persuasive and pleasant as she lays on the guilt trip about the evils of copyright infringement. But some of the claims she makes in her comments are suspect. DMG do not have much in the way of quality control. Translations are not checked by the publisher - Digital Manga have admitted previously they simply don't have the staff. So her reference to a mangaka giving their 'personal approval' for her work is somewhat ambiguous - it seems to refer only to the thank-you card she received for her localisation. It's hardly a guarantee that the work has been accurately translated or subjected to any kind of quality control.

The reference to the Japanese tsunami probably goes a bit too far though with the guilt trip. If you accept her argument, then buying ANY Japanese good or service is helping the tsunami relief effort! Surely the best way to help the tsunami relief effort is to donate directly to the relevant charities. Manga publishers, worthy businesses as they are, are not my idea of a charity.

The most important thing to note is how active Kimiko is in monitoring the scanlation community. She will search LJ and forums for comments mentioning her localised works. She will hunt down scanlation groups that are working on manga projects she considers to be 'hers.' As she freely admits on Twitter:
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Monday, 5 March 2012 | 12:22 am - New Blossoms and Blood chapter | Scanlating again
poland
Blossoms and Blood, a very long YnM fanfic starring Tsuzuki and Muraki, has been updated. This new chapter is really a long talk-fest. I guess it's a reflection of how my imagination works. I find it a lot easier to imagine characters talking. Dialogue helps me to establish character. I probably depend on it too much though.

Chapter 33: Song of the gold raven
Muraki reveals Watari's dark secret, and his ties to Enma. Tsuzuki offers Watari an opportunity to break free.
FF.net | website



I'm going to scanlate again. I still have to finish the last chapter of Nanahikari vol6, plus the rest of Kechonpa. My computer has been struggling a lot lately, but I find that if I am very patient, it does get the job done - eventually. So let's see how long it will take.

BTW, the Nanahikari series is finished at last. I read on Takaguchi's website that vol7 is coming out in late March, and it will be the final volume. Phew!
Monday, 1 August 2011 | 02:36 am - Tour de France 2011 & Cadel Evans
Flash crash
I began watching this year with a sense of fragile optimism nurtured by the ever-hopeful commentators on SBS, and found myself glued to the screen. Stage 4 made me so happy - a narrow win at last. The BMC Team were always prominent at the front, working hard. The signs were really good.

Stage 14 to Plateau de Beille was when I started to get excited. Frank Schleck accelerated to come third. But there was this brief but impressive aerial shot showing Cadel accelerating around Contador, Andy S, Basso, Voeckler to come fourth - and he was finishing much stronger than Frank! I couldn't sleep after seeing that. I am no cycling expert, but I was in awe of the way he charged to the line. That was when I started to believe he could do it.

Stage 16 to Gap was pivotal. Pouring rain, a technical descent...and Cadel Evans proved himself to be a mudlark, thriving in the wet. It was a joy to watch. Andy Schleck got much flak for criticising the dangerous descent, but Evans freely admitted it scared him too. The media, keen for a juicy news story, have a bad habit of blowing things out of proportion.

Andy Schleck had conceded more than a minute. So he had to go on the attack on the way to Galibier in Stage 18. It was incredibly daring to launch so early. I was terrified Evans would crack in his lone pursuit. Voeckler became a villain in my eyes for not allowing teammate Rolland to take turns leading. Arrrgh! Why didn't anyone help? Because they couldn't. Rider by rider fell away. Only Frank Schleck had the energy to make a final attack and claim 2nd ahead of Evans. But the way Cadel doggedly charged up Galibier, grim determination etched in every crease of his face, left an indelible impression. Forget panache. Forget brilliance and talent. This was true grit and indomitable willpower striving at the very limit of human endurance.

I think that's when I fell in love. Give me a steady diesel locomotive over a flashy sports car any day.

Of course, there was more drama in Stage 19. Cadel suffers a mechanical that was a blessing in disguise. It saved him energy that Andy wasted in a wild goose chase after the mercurial Contador. I saw some amazing footage of Cadel descending Galibier. He leans back so far off his seat that the front wheel lifts off the ground. Another memorable moment was Cadel organising the chase, directing others to take turns at the front. He reminded me of a sheepdog snarling at recalcitrant sheep. I half-wished he had a stock whip to urge them on.

I could go on, but there's no need. The rest is history.

Now that it's over, I'm elated yet sad. I've been scouring photo galleries and cycling blogs to satisfy my desire for more. The photos below are a selection of my faves (make sure to visit the links for oversized originals). Photos with captions included are from PezCycling.

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Evans with ever-reliable George Hincapie, BMC teammate, during Stage 3. Hincapie seems unflappable. Even when he admitted to being nervous prior to the stage 20 ITT, he still sounded cool as a cucumber: "I don't even know if I can watch (Cadel's ITT) tomorrow. I might just sit back and drink some beers while he's racing, and hear about it afterwards." Photo from BMC Pro Team Picasa

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"Big" George Hincapie's varicose veins. In Australia, he was nicknamed 'The Leg' based on this photo. From Boston.com

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If looks could kill... Evans glares as Contador raised his hand in victory after Stage 4 to Mur-de-Bretagne. Contador did cross the line faster, but Cadel got there first in a photo finish. As some fan quipped online, El Pistolero Prematuro! Photo taken by Sirotti, from CyclingTipsBlog.

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Cadel during Stage 5. When asked him what goes through his mind when he's in 'the zone' during a race, he tweeted back: "Oh s&@t - Oh f$&k - You idiot - This is nuts - I'm hungry - Are we there yet? - Oh s&@t - Oh f$&k - You idiot - This is nuts - Are we there yet?" Photo from ABC online.

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From one World Champion to another: Evans congratulating Thor Hushovd on retaining the yellow jersey after Stage 8. Hushovd had a great Tour, winning two stages and wearing yellow for a week. From steephill.tv

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Thomas Voeckler making sheep eyes at a podium girl after retaining the yellow jersey at the end of Stage 10. Hmph! French or not, he's supposed to be a married man! From The Atlantic.

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Cadel leading Andy Schleck (left) and Ivan Basso (far left) during Stage 14 to Plateau de Beille. Believe it or not, the agonized look on Cadel's face is how he normally looks during a climb - even when he's keeping up nicely with the other GC contenders. The sudden acceleration he unleashed at the very finish was thrilling to watch. From ABC online

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All eyes on Alberto Contador as he begins his merry 'dancing on the pedals' in Stage 16. Note the collective jawdrops from the peloton. From steephill.tv

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Cadel with Contador and Sammy Sanchez (rear) breaking free of the peloton during Stage 16. Shortly after he launches an attack on the descent that gives him valuable time over the other GC contenders. From PezCycling News

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Cadel after his mudlark turn in Stage 16 to Gap. He has a great smile, but he rarely shows it during a race. I really like the wet weather gear with the long sleeves. If I could draw, I'd draw him in this outfit, but with the rainbow stripes on his cuffs as well. From PezCycling News

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Andy Schleck climbing his way up Galibier in Stage 18. By the end of it, he was a wreck. It was a miracle he had enough energy left to follow Contador the next day. Then again, maybe Contador was leading him on a wild goose chase. From steephill.tv

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Cadel leading the charge up Galibier in pursuit of Andy Schleck in Stage 18. Gorgeous alpine scenery, but everyone's in too much pain to appreciate it. Photo from BMC Pro Team Picasa

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Cadel Evans descending Galibier in Stage 19 as he pursues Contador and Andy Schleck. As Age journalist Martin Flanagan describes him, Evans is 'like the horse in Banjo Paterson's The Man from Snowy River, he's "something like a racehorse undersized... hard and tough and wiry, just the sort that won't say die."' Photo from steephill.tv

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Alberto Contador punching a spectator dressed as a surgeon as he climbed Alpe d'Huez in Stage 19. The spectator had tried to put a stethoscope on his chest. In no other sport are spectators allowed to get so close to the action. From The Atlantic.

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From left to right: Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck, and Cadel Evans doing battle on Alpe d'Huez during Stage 19. From ABC online.

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Cadel Evans in wet weather gear warming up on the Grenoble circuit. The rainbow bands on his wrists and upper arms are a nice touch. From steephill.tv

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Doing the individual time trial for real. I'm reluctant to post more photos of Cadel racing because he looks as if he's in agony most of the time. At least here he looks absolutely focused and in control. From Oakley

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Cadel hugging George Hincapie (left) and Marcus Burghardt (right) after crossing the finish line. Cadel credits the team, but makes special mention of both men for their efforts in his Stage 4 win in Velonews:
"My hero today is Marcus Burghardt. Someone ran into my rear derailleur, and (after a bike change) Burghardt brought me all the way through the peloton right to the front. I didn’t even know if I would see the front again."

(...)

Evans, who said the "gears were changing on their own," drifted back to his team car, where the mechanic leant from the back window, spraying lube on the chain to try to stop the chain jumping. That seemed to solve the problem, but once he was back in the fast-moving peloton he spoke about it with team captain George Hincapie, riding his record 16th Tour.

"At the moment, my bike worked, but you have to have everything perfect for the finish so I took a moment and George, with his experience, told me, 'Change bikes now!'"

(...)

When Zabriskie pulled to the side, after pulling for 16 minutes straight, six Omega-Lotto riders took over and then world champion Fabian Cancellara went to the front for Leopard-Trek’s two leaders Frank and Andy Schleck. It was during this rapid pursuit — which closed the break down just inside 5km to go — that Burghardt was pulling Evans through the splitting peloton, working his way from group to group until delivering his leader to the head of affairs as they reached the streets of Mur-de-Bretagne with 4km to go.

Evans said, "I didn’t think it would be possible for the final because the effort we made was a big deal to come back and pass 180 riders at those speeds on the narrow roads. But the team did a great job to tow me back to the front. And everyone saw George Hincapie there [Ed. note: pulling at the front like a man possessed] with 3km to go."
Photo from PezCycling News


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BMC Team celebration. Cadel is being hugged by Italian teammate and friend Ivan Santaromita. Quotes from Velonews:
Evans’s triumph makes it nine Tour wins for the team’s road captain, George Hincapie. For two weeks critics doubted the team’s strength and accused them of working too hard in the race’s opening stages.

"We love to hear that," said Hincapie. "They only talk about other teams and when they talk about us, they say we worked too much in the beginning. For us it’s kind of motivation to hear that our tactics aren’t right, we’re working too much, but I think I have a little bit more experience than the journalists saying that we’re working too much because I have won a bunch of Tours.

"I’m really proud of the way the guys rode. Sure, maybe we worked more than others at times, but that’s what it takes to keep Cadel out of trouble and keep him up front and confident in his team."

Italian strongman Manuel Quinziato took a harsher line with the team’s critics.

"I think somebody has to think about that and shut up next time, maybe," he told VeloNews. "It’s true. We worked really hard; we were a really strong team in the flats. We were so dangerous in the first part of the Tour de France. We spent a lot of energy, but we kept Cadel in a safe condition, which was really, really important."
Photo from MSNBC


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The Schleck brothers celebrate their podium finish, while Cadel and Tina Arena look into each others' eyes and...awwww! Words cannot describe how much I love this photo. Just look at the way they are staring at each other! There are other more widely-circulated shots that show Cadel with his head bowed, as if he's too embarrassed to return Ms Arena's adoring gaze. It's just too sweet for words! Why the hell didn't France TV film this instead of zooming in so early, dammit?! If it wasn't for the fact they're already attached to other people, I'd be pairing them up in het fanfic!

This photo was nicked from www.cbgphoto.com. It's actually a watermarked flash image I had to photoshop. I contacted the photographer about using the image legally...and it was going to cost me $50USD for 'editorial use.' Now I adore this photo, but my LJ is no editorial. Still, I really want this photo to be circulated more widely - it's too gorgeous to be hidden away. Maybe I can leave a message in Tina or Cadel's guestbook with a link to the photographer's site. They may know about it already, but it doesn't hurt to give it a plug. (ETA: It was published in Woman's Day!)

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Evans from a SMH interview: "In the Tour de France you start with 180, and one wins while 179 lose. Whether you're on the second step or the 179th, it's...cycling can be a bit mean in that regard. So there I was on the top, enjoying it." Photo from Daylife.
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 | 12:40 pm - Inu ga Arukeba done
banana slip
It's finished. I already x-posted it to free_manga and yami_no_matsuei. I also tried to include it on MangaUpdates, but they initially refused it because they don't accept unscanlated oneshots. When I told them I had scanlated it (as an Oriya/Ukyou scanlation - visit the site for DL links), they told me to announce it first then add it to the database - and they'll approve it when they're good and ready.

So it might appear on MangaUpdates, or it might not.

Although it's only 40 pages, it felt like a lot of work because it was crammed with a lot of text. A few of the sfx struck me as redundant, because the images spoke for themselves. So I left them out. But it was only a couple. The majority are in there, and most of those had to replace the original Japanese. It would've been way too cluttered otherwise. As it is, it's already very cluttered due to page count constraints.

I think Shinri's battle to prove himself equal - and eventually superior - to Iruka has echoes of the lines from YnM vol 8, when Tsuzuki assures Hisoka that one day he will overtake Muraki (I think). So to me, the Shinri/Iruka battle of wills is a tamer version of the unresolved Hisoka/Muraki conflict - a younger character defiantly doing his best to prove himself better than an older manipulative bully, yet driven by a gnawing sense of insecurity.
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