Book Review: Y: The Last Man (Book Three) by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra & Jose Marzan Jr.

TL;DR – The answers to saving humanity rest on the shoulders of one man, Yorick Brown, or so we thought…

Summary (warning: spoilers)

Click here for reviews of previous books of this Eisner award winning series.

Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr Mann reach San Francisco to Mann’s backup lab where they hope to finally get some answers as to why Yorick was the only man that survived a mysterious plague that wiped out every other man (and mammal with a Y chromosome) on earth simultaneously.

He and his pet monkey, Ampersand, are the only males known to be alive after this apocalyptic event.

While they undergo tests, Yorick and Agent 355 explore what has become of the city. They eventually are found by three different parties, all with different motives.

There is Hero, Yorick’s sister, who has been deprogrammed and is battling her brainwashing as an Amazon (a group of women who believe men were the oppressors and the world is better without them) and desires to find her brother to seek his forgiveness for killing a woman Yorick cared for in Marrisville (refer book two).

Then there is a splinter group known as the Setauket Ring that is looking to obtain the Amulet of Helene taken by Agent 355. There is a myth around the amulet that should it ever be removed from Jordan, a catastrophe would befall the world (refer book one). The Setauket Ring believe it is this amulet that caused the plague to occur.

Last, is a Japanese ninja named Toyota. She has been following the trio for some time but her target is not Yorick, Agent 355 or Dr Mann. She’s after Ampersand and has been hired by a mystery person named “Doctor M” to retrieve the monkey.

When Dr Mann finally obtains what she believes is the reason why Yorick survived the plague, it coincides with the above three groups colliding into them and not everyone coming out alive or unharmed. Dr Mann believes that Ampersand has some sort of mutation in him, and the monkey has a penchant for throwing its faeces at Yorick, who in turn obtained protection from the plague.

Toyota successfully captures Ampersand and heads to Japan, which results in Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr Mann boarding a cruise ship that supposedly is transporting medical supplies but turns out is tons of heroin, and they end up in a sea battle with an Australian submarine. In book one, it was revealed when 2.9 billion men were wiped out, Australia, Norway and Sweden were the only countries that had women serving on board submarines at the time.

Through all of this, we see flashbacks of Yorick and how he came to fall in love with Beth.

Speaking of Beth, we finally get to see what she has been up to in the Australian Outback since the outbreak. Suffice to say, she is going through her own trials.


The third volume in Vaughan’s series is chock full of plots and sub-plots that examines the multitude of perspectives from characters living in a world where all men except one have been wiped out.

It should be noted that while Yorick is the last man, the future of humankind does not rest solely on his shoulders as it is revealed that the female astronaut (from book two) has successfully given birth to a baby boy in a hot suite (basically, a medical bubble that provides protection from all external germs). However, the boy will most certainly die if it steps outside the hot suite, thus the need to find a vaccine.

A lot of themes continue to be examined including religion, sexuality, identity and purpose, and gender roles. One of the more interesting examinations is at the beginning of volume three, where Yorick enters a Catholic church in Cooksfield, California, and encounters a woman named Beth (no, not his girlfriend Beth who is stuck in Australia but a ‘new’ Beth). It seems Yorick wants to confess his sins but Beth reveals technically it’s no use because only auricular confessions (i.e., confessions made to a priest) can be heard and thus forgiven. This dilemma is short-lived, however, as Yorick’s conscience mustn’t be too heavy cause he ends up being seduced by Beth.

While a lot goes on, thankfully, it appears a number of sub-plots also get tied up. The Amulet of Helene turns out to be just a sandstone figurine with no magical powers. It gets smashed by the Setauket Ring who blackmail Agent 355 into giving it to them.

Hero achieves forgiveness and reconciliation with her brother, and she even manages to get over the mind games of her deceased Amazonian leader, Victoria. She ends up heading back east to tell their mother that Yorick is safe.

Ampersand is revealed as being the ‘miracle’ (not Yorick) containing a mutation that protects mammals with the Y chromosome from the plague. But the celebrations are short lived as Ampersand is monkey-napped by Toyota the Japanese Ninja.

It becomes clearer that Agent 355 is harbouring feelings for Yorick. Things get complicated when she ends up sleeping with Dr Mann because she thinks Yorick is sleeping with the captain of the cruise ship heading to Japan.

All in all though, the most interesting revelations in book three revolve around Yorick’s supposed true love, Beth (yes, the ‘Beth’ that is stuck in Australia). For the first time, we get to see her side more and the memories she has of her relationship with Yorick. These flashbacks lend much needed depth to her character, which up until now was only portrayed as an attractive blonde who looks good in a bikini and hiking boots (yes, in book one she is shown to be an anthropologist studying Aboriginals in the Australian outback, but really all you get is a character that is good-looking with a pretence at depth).

Will Yorick and Beth reunite? Only two volumes remain to find out.

4.5 out of 5.

Anime Review: The Cat Returns (2002)

TL;DR – Haru saves a cat from getting hit by a truck and triggers a journey into the Cat Kingdom where she unwittingly discovers cats that act like humans in more ways than one.

Review (warning: spoilers)

The Cat Returns (aka Neko no Ongaeshi) sees the return of Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, a handsome cat that dresses up in a suit and uses a cane. The Baron is a cat figurine that is used to inspire the main character in Whisper of the Heart to write a novel. In The Cat Returns, the Baron comes to life to help a young girl named Haru trapped in the Cat Kingdom.

Haru is a quiet, unassuming girl who often sleeps in, is late for school, and has an affection for cats. She has a good heart though is a bit unlucky in life and secretly pines after a boy named Machida in her class even though he already has a girlfriend.

One afternoon, while walking home from school, she spies a cat carrying a little gift box in its mouth. The cat attempts to cross the road, but Haru sees that an oncoming truck will run the poor feline over. Spurred into action, she rushes over with a lacrosse stick, scoops up the cat, and scrambles over to the opposite side crashing into the bushes. There she watches amazed as the cat stands on its hind legs and brushes himself down with his paws and then thanks Haru using human words for saving his life.

The cat she has saved is Prince Lune of the Cat Kingdom, and later that evening, Haru receives a visit from a progression of cats (all walking on their hind legs) down her street carrying the Cat King who gifts Haru with a program as thanks for saving his son. The program will bestow upon her unlimited happiness, but Haru discovers the next day that happiness is all relative.

She wakes up with her front yard overgrown with cattails, and receives gifts of catnip and mice in her school locker. All this would be heaven if you’re cat, but for Haru it’s nothing but trouble. She is visited again by one of the servants of the Cat King and is invited to his kingdom along with a proposal to marry Prince Lune.

She, of course, expresses that she can’t marry a cat but briefly ponders the idea of living a life as a cat and thinking it would be much easier than being a human. This is interpreted as acceptance of the marriage proposal and leads her down an Alice-in-Wonderland type adventure into the Cat Kingdom.

Thankfully, there are those who are willing to help her return to the human world including the Baron and Muta (a giant fat cat with a penchant for eating everything in sight). Though Haru slowly begins to transform into a cat, she escapes with the aid of the Baron, Muta, Prince Lune (who didn’t realise that his father had tried to arrange this marriage) and Yuki (a white cat that Haru saved from starvation when she was a little girl).

The Cat King reminded me of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. A rambunctious and volatile character that doesn’t hesitate in having any cat in his court kicked off the highest balcony in his castle. His attempts to prevent Haru from returning to the human world include a maze that gets Haru lost and a tower that has a portal to the human world loaded up with explosives.

In the end, Haru succeeds in persevering through her transformations and returning home. She learns to stand on her own two feet, which is the key transformation that sticks with Haru. By story’s end, she has grown and understands who she is better.

When she is told that Machida has broken up with her girlfriend, she reacts nonplussed and you realise her transformation is complete.

Not necessarily as impactful as other coming-of-age Studio Ghibli films (e.g., Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away are two masterpiece coming-of-age Studio Ghibli creations that come to mind), it still ticks all the boxes and is a delightful journey into the discovery of one’s self.

7 out of 10

Movie Review: The Gray Man (2022)

TL;DR – when the CIA seeks to disband a program of government elite assassins known as “the Gray Men” in order to retrieve stolen intel damning the agency itself, they put in charge a mercenary with sociopathic tendencies. Really smart move…not.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling) has been incarcerated since he was 15 and is serving a 36-year prison sentence for killing his father.

Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) waltzes in, gives some watermelon bubble gum to Court, and tells him he’s there to commute his sentence.

The catch? Court has to come work for the CIA and be part of a black ops unit called the Sierra program and “exist in the gray” serving his government masters indefinitely but at least free to move on the outside instead of being stuck behind bars.

Fast forward 18 years and Court (aka “Sierra Six”) is in Bangkok at a raucous party of the rich and criminal kind and assigned a job to assassinate a bad guy. Things go sideways when Court refuses to fire because of collateral (a child is near the mark). Court is ordered by his Center Chief, Denny Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page), to take the shot and permitting him to incur collateral damage, but Court feigns his gun jamming. He pulls the fire alarm and in the ensuing chaos, attempts to get close enough to his target and kill him direct.

His target turns out to be Sierra Four. Sierra Six is never told the identity of his targets, and so Sierra Four tells Court that he’s been sent to kill one of his own. The ensuing fist fight among fireworks going off leads to Four being killed but not before he hands Six a pendant containing a USB stick with sensitive information showing the agency has corruption within and that he’ll be targeted next.

Sure enough, mercenary Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) is hired by Carmichael and sent to take Sierra Six down. Chris Evans plays the sociopathic mercenary with relish, but it is a challenge to see him as anything other than an evil Captain America. The character Lloyd is a sick, torture-loving, rack up the body count as much as we have to, kind of guy and Evans delivers this role with guns blazing and biceps flexing in the kind of one-dimensional way that is sadly lacking any depth or complexity.

It is clear early on that Denny Carmichael is the corruption within because no sane person would utilise a loose cannon like Lloyd unless they had no scruples themselves. When Six eventually is able to decrypt the USB stick, it is shown there are videos of all the corrupt dealings that Denny has been involved in and the kills he has committed (or got others to commit) in order to further his own ends.

Through flashbacks, we discover that Court committed murder because his father abused him and his brother. This includes his father dunking his head in a tub of water and nearly drowning him along with using a car cigarette lighter and burning his arm. The breaking point is revealed when Court has to stop his father from killing his brother. It’s not any more layered than Lloyd’s character, but Ryan Gosling does his best to portray some level of complexity to his character in flashback scenes where he is assigned to look after Fitzroy’s niece earlier on in his career as Sierra Six.

The film is jam packed with action sequences that show why The Gray Man is the most expensive film ($200 million budget) ever produced by Netflix to date.

But does combining cash-draining action with a star studded cast equate to a great film? Or even an enjoyable one?

The answer is no. The problems lie in the plot. Even if you accept both Carmichael and Lloyd’s carte blanche power to seemingly be able to do whatever they want, which results in kidnapping, torture and murder of high ranking officials, destruction of cities and enough civilian casualties that you think that countries have somehow declared war on each other without knowing, there are huge problems by film’s end.

For example, when Lloyd and Court face-off in one final macho fist-fight, Lloyd actually has Court exactly where he wants him. Prior to said fight, Lloyd has Fitzroy’s niece at gun point and forces Court to lay down his weapon. Lloyd should have shot Court at this point and that would be game over. But instead, he goes on a short monologue about how he wants to test himself against Court in a fist-fight. After spending countless resources, hiring numerous hitmen, and causing death and destruction, Lloyd finally has the upper hand on Court and instead decides he wants to go toe-to-toe with him instead. Inexplicably, he lets Fitzroy’s niece go, lays down his own weapon and essentially challenges Court to a UFC match to the death. It’s moronic and silly.

And then in this same scene, Court (who has an earpiece and is working with non-corrupt CIA agent, Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas)) is told by Dani that she is in sniper position and can take Lloyd out. Why she didn’t do this once Lloyd willingly releases Fitzroy’s niece is baffling. Court actually accepts Lloyd’s UFC death match challenge and tells Dani to stand down. Idiotic.

The film also suffers from this sense that the story moves for the sole purpose of jumping from one action scene to the next. It is almost as if the Russo brothers who directed this film couldn’t care less about a coherent story and just wanted to show off how they could do these eye-watering action sequences. “Forget plot, more action!” I can hear them shout.

This could have been the next Bourne Identity, a spy thriller that reveals conspiracies in a genuine mysterious and gripping way rather than this over-the-top bombastic affair.

When Court and Lloyd duke it out, I was exhausted by all the previous action and numb from any sense of gravity of the situation. Not that any of it made much sense anyway.

If you’re after a mindless (or mind-numbing) action fest with no need for depth then The Gray Man will be right up your alley. Action without the thrills.

5 out of 10

Book Review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

TL;DR – a companion piece to Rowling’s hugely successful Harry Potter series.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

A collection of short stories that have been passed down through generations of witches and wizards that demonstrate that for all the benefits magic can bring, it can also cause just as many problems.


I have been debating for some time whether to write a review of each of Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Their success and reach worldwide (along with the multitude of reviews already written on the series) has held me at bay. I devoured the seven-book journey of young Harry when they were first published; the first book alone I have read at least eight times. But venturing into writing a book review seems somewhat superfluous when I’m sure millions have already dissected the series.

So, while I continue to have this inner monologue with myself, I decided instead to write a review on The Tales of Beedle the Bard which is a collection of short stories written from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. The introduction outlines its genesis. The collection was read at bed time to young witches and wizards as often as fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty have been read to Muggles (i.e., us non-magical folk).

For centuries they have been told and re-told, and this latest incarnation has been “translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger” and has the added benefit of having additional notes written by Professor Albus Dumbledore himself.

One particular distinction between Muggle fairy tales and The Tales of Beedle the Bard are that in Muggle fairy tales, magic is usually the source of the hero/heroine’s problems, while in Beedle the stories tell of characters that can perform magic themselves but discover it is just as hard to solve their problems with magic as we do without magic.

In this way the morals in The Tales of Beedle the Bard are similar to parables and cautionary tales that have been written and shared through human history.

What makes this read a little different are the added notes by Albus Dumbledore after each story. He provides insight into how these tales link to the world of Harry Potter, Voldemort, the Malfoys and other famous witches and wizards and the historical prejudices that exist between the magical and non-magical worlds. It also underpins the division between those witches/wizards that believe they are superior and should rule over Muggles versus those who believe they should co-exist with Muggles.

Of the tales themselves, “The Fortune of Fair Fountain” is probably one of my favourites along with “The Tale of the Three Brothers” which is prophetic in nature and will be familiar to those who have read the Harry Potter series.

For die-hard fans who can’t get enough of all things Harry Potter, The Tales of Beedle the Bard will be a necessity for answering those obscure Potter trivia based on Rowling’s creation.

3.5 out of 5.

Anime Review: Tales from Earthsea (2006)

TL;DR – in a land where dragons and magic exists, there is a delicate balance. A balance threatened by a warlock seeking immortality.

Review (warning: spoilers)

When sailors aboard a ship witness two dragons fighting in the sky, it is an omen that the balance is being attacked. When one of the dragons gets killed, misfortune begins to fall across the land of Enlad. Crops fail, livestock die, and a disease starts plaguing the country.

For Prince Arren, he is also being plagued by some unseen shadow. It causes him to be possessed by a violent spirit, leading him to assassinate his father, the king, and stealing his sword.

Arren flees from the castle and ends up crossing a desert where he is chased by wolves. He is saved by the archmage Sparrowhawk, and together they journey to Hort town ruled by Lord Cob, a powerful warlock that has historical animosity towards Sparrowhawk.

In Hort, the prince and archmage briefly part ways. Arren discovers the inhumanity of the town. Slaves are bought and sold; a drug called hazia is peddled to the desperate; and most of the market stalls sell weapons. When he encounters a girl named Therru being chased by a slaver, Arren intervenes and saves her but reveals he does not care whether he lives or dies (guilt riddles him for murdering his father, and he doesn’t see the point in living), which upsets Therru who doesn’t want to be around someone who doesn’t care about life.

Arren later gets ambushed by the same slaver who wanted to capture Therru and ends up chained in a wagon with other slaves. The prince is saved by Sparrowhawk and taken to a small farm outside of town owned by a woman named Tenar, another mage who has worked previously with Sparrowhawk. It also happens that Therru is under Tenar’s care, and it is here that Arren reveals to Therru that he killed his father and stole his sword because of this shadow that pursues and possesses him.

Existentialism comes to the fore as the twist is that the “shadow” is the true Arren. What the prince is afraid of is living a life that will eventually end in death. Arren’s greatest fear is mortality.

And it is this fear that is used against him by Lord Cob who seeks to open the door between life and death and obtain eternal life. Lord Cob convinces Arren that Sparrowhawk has been manipulating him and wants to achieve immortality by using Arren for his own ends.

Lord Cob also kidnaps Tenar and uses her as bait to lure Sparrowhawk to his castle. There Cob unleashes Arren to fight Sparrowhawk, and though the archmage is able to save Arren and disarm him, the archmage is captured.

With the execution of Sparrowhawk and Tenar at hand, it ends up being Therru that saves the day. She manages to reach Arren, give him his father’s magic sword and convinces him that life is worth living because of its mortality. That’s what makes it precious.

The climactic scene sees both Arren and Therru defeat Cob and revealing that Therru is a dragon.

The wonders of Studio Ghibli animation are on full display and every scene is filled with sumptuous detail, and the characters animated with love and care.

The story itself is a bit of a dog’s breakfast. There’s a lot of stuff that gets mashed together that doesn’t quite make sense. For example, both Arren and Therru have ‘real’ names that if known can be used to evoke power or be used against them by a mage. This is never clearly explained but that’s how I interpreted these scenes where Arren reveals his true name to Cob, and the warlock is able to take control of him.

Then there’s the fact that Therru is a dragon and a princess, yet at no point does she reveal her power or royalty when she’s attacked by slavers. It’s kind of illogical and how and why she is with Tenar on a farm is a mystery.

Another mystery is why does Arren kill his father in the first place? Initially, I thought it was because he was possessed by some sort of evil spirit but that’s not the case. Loosely one can infer by film’s end that he killed his father to obtain the magic sword that might somehow grant him access to eternal life because Arren feared death. But I can’t help feel that that is a stretch because at no point does the sword display anything other than being… well… a sword. Sure when Arren finally unsheathes the sword, it displays a magical light but otherwise all it’s used for is slicing and dicing.

And the battle between the two dragons at the beginning… what was the point of that? Are we to infer that Therru is the dragon that got supposedly killed? That she somehow resurrects herself in human form and doesn’t reveal her true self until Cob tries to kill her?

It’s all a bit convoluted and messy. Add to this that the only well-rounded character is archmage Sparrowhawk and the film struggles. Cob is one dimensional with only glimpses of his own fears about death and his desire for immortality. Why he didn’t just open the door between life and death first before trying to kill Sparrowhawk is a real puzzle. He even tells the archmage that he’s found the key to unlock the door but doesn’t obtain immortality straight away. Instead he wants Sparrowhawk dead first. Bizarre move.

Tales from Earthsea was directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki. I really feel for him. The expectations of trying to live up to a man who is a master storyteller and created a canon of brilliant and magical Studio Ghibli films would be daunting to say the least. As his first film, Goro probably bit off more than he could chew.

On the flip side, Goro Miyazaki didn’t give up and subsequently directed From Up On Poppy Hill which is a far more effecting and moving story. I highly recommend watching that one over Tales from Earthsea. This film could have been much more than just being visually stunning, but in the end it’s a disjointed affair that loses its magical lustre.

6 out of 10

Movie Review: The Sea Beast (2022)

TL;DR – “How to train your dragon” for sea monsters.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Little Miss Maisie Brumble is an orphan. Her parents were monster hunters but perished out at sea, and she now lives with other orphans in a home funded by the king and queen of the land. She’s a plucky soul, tells tales of famous hunters at sea to the children and makes several attempts to escape the orphanage.

Her latest escape sees her stowaway the ship “Inevitable” run by Captain Crow who has been hunting his whole life for his “Moby Dick” (a giant sea monster they call the “Red Bluster”).

Maisie convinces the Captain to allow her to stay aboard and develops an unlikely bond with Jacob Holland, who has been anointed by Crow as the next Captain of the Inevitable once they capture or kill the Red Bluster. Crow wants the legacy of the Inevitable to live on, and he sees Jacob as the most suitable to take over once he retires since Jacob displays the leadership, courage and charisma to handle his crew.

When they finally encounter the Red Bluster, the battle is fierce, launching a number of harpoons to hook and reel it in. The Red Bluster, however, is smarter than it looks and swims in a circle causing a whirlpool that threatens to sink the ship.

Against Crow’s instructions, Maisie cuts the ropes that connect to the harpoons, thus freeing the Red Bluster, but also preventing the Inevitable from going under. The ship is released but Maisie and Jacob are thrown overboard.

This is when you realise the Red Bluster is like “Toothless” the dragon in How To Train Your Dragon. The Red Bluster saves Maisie and Jacob by holding them in its giant mouth and swimming to an island. Though Jacob initially denies that the Red Bluster might actually not be evil, he soon comes to realise that the creature has only been killing hunters because it is being hunted.

All the stories that Maisie read about sea monsters raiding coastlines and destroying villages are false. Myths written by the ruling king and queen’s ancestors to generate prestige and wealth through the destruction of sea monsters and the lives of past hunters to create safe trade routes across the ocean.

Though Jacob and Maisie attempt to convince the Inevitable crew that they’ve been wrong about sea monsters all along, Captain Crow refuses to believe them.

The eventual capture of the Red Bluster and the bravery of Maisie and Jacob to reveal the lies of the king and queen to the people of the kingdom in order to save the creature are straight forward story telling.

The strength of the film is in its gorgeous animation and distinct character designs. Every character is engaging and some of the funniest moments come from the Red Bluster itself with dour and deprecating expressions at Jacob’s shortcomings.

The animated battle scenes at sea are stunning, and the detail from the ocean waves to the sky and every little bit of the Inevitable is pure eye candy.

And while the story will engage younger audiences, adults will likely be left with a feeling of wanting more.

The climax fizzles because when it becomes obvious even to Captain Crow that the Red Bluster is not naturally bad, the Captain’s reaction is one of stupor and there’s no resolution for Crow’s character. His lifelong “Moby Dick” nemesis is nothing more than a giant red fish wanting to live out its existence undisturbed.

While Jacob and Maisie embrace their new lease on life, we never find out what happens to the Captain, who arguably is as much a main character as the other two.

Story with a simple moral that holding onto hate and anger is not a way to live, The Sea Beast will delight young audiences and is a marvel in beautiful animation.

7.5 out of 10

Book Review: Y: The Last Man (Book Two) by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra & Jose Marzan Jr.

TL;DR – Yorick, Dr Allison Mann and Agent 355 are heading to the west coast to Allison’s lab where they hope to find the answers to how Yorick survived a plague that wiped out every man on earth except him.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

Click here for review of book one of this Eisner award winning series.

Yorick is trying to make his way to California with Agent 355 and Dr Mann. Along the way they bump into a Russian secret agent, a group of Israeli troopers, a travelling theatre troupe called Fish & Bicycle, a Japanese ninja, a posse of rangers, and a militia group that has taken over Arizona and cut off transport from east to west and vice versa. And then there’s Agent 711, friend to Agent 355, who turns out to be a dominatrix psychologist (I’ll let all that sink in for a moment).

And last, but certainly not least, there’s also the crew of three astronauts returning from the international space station… two of them men…


There’s a lot of people hunting down Yorick including:

  • Alter, the new chief of the Israeli army, is wanting to kidnap Yorick and keep the last man in the country of Israel. She views wars as a means of control. In her mind, a country not at war with another country will implode by fighting itself.
  • The Amazons, a group of women who believe that the world should be rid of all men. They think the world would be a better place without the testosterone, but they rule with a matriarchal iron fist, which shows they’re not any better than their deceased Y-chromosome counterparts.
  • His mother, congresswoman Jennifer Brown, who actually reunited with Yorick briefly in book one before sending him off with Agent 355 to the west coast. She now believes that the Culper Ring (a mysterious US government agency) that Agent 355 works for has its own agenda and she has placed her son in danger.

However, it is not these encounters that drive book two of Y: The Last Man. The psychological, emotional and physical impacts of 2.9 billion men dying in an instant on the remaining female population along with somehow immune Yorick and his pet male monkey, Ampersand, is what makes this series riveting.

While the dystopian reactions of the remaining female groups are expected, the surprises come in the form of moments where more backstory is revealed for Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr Mann.

Agent 355’s encounter with Russian agent, Natalya Zamyatin, leads to the discovery that three astronauts are returning from the international space station, and the possibility that Yorick will no longer be “the last man” on earth. Unfortunately, the astronauts suffer complications in re-entry and only the female astronaut survives. Also turns out that the female astronaut is pregnant and later we find out it’s a boy. While these implications are yet to be fully explored, we learn that Agent 355 appears to be a decent woman trying to do the right thing (in contrast to Congresswoman Brown who thinks she has an alternative agenda).

Dr Mann confesses she has been lying to Yorick and Agent 355 all along, revealing that when she was pregnant she was actually carrying a clone of herself. She has serious doubts that she will unravel the mystery of the plague and somehow save humanity. We also learn she has a serious attraction to Agent 355.

The best bits, however, are saved for Yorick. The biggest revelation being that his reckless desire to jump into danger stems not from his clueless and goofy attitude but something far deeper. Something that only arises to the surface when he is tortured and seduced and put through the wringer by dominatrix psychologist Agent 711. This is by far the most riveting sequence in book two where Yorick is left in Agent 711’s care while Agent 355 and Dr Mann take an injured Ampersand to a hospital in search of meds.

Agent 711 is given a journal that Agent 355 has been keeping and learns about Yorick’s adventures to date. Adventures that have spanned over a year and a half now. Through this she identifies that Yorick, for some reason, has a desire for self-destruction (even though he supposedly wants to get to Australia and find the woman he loves, Beth).

Through her unique method of “therapy”, Agent 711 gets Yorick to dig deep into his soul much to his objection. His memories and experiences revealing scars and how he would have no trouble in simply giving up. He confesses as such to Agent 711 who grants his wish by shoving his head underwater. However, it is in this near death moment that Yorick sees something (not revealed to us) that gives him a reason to want to live, and he fights back.

Book two is not without flaws though as I found the chapters relating to the Fish & Bicycle travelling troupe not as strong. Still, there’s plenty going on. Enough to keep you eagerly turning each page. Engrossing.

4.5 out of 5.

Anime Review: Whisper of the Heart (1995)

TL;DR – coming of age drama about a girl trying to find her calling through books, stories and a small statue of a cat in a suit called the Baron.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Shizuku is a voracious reader and a lover of books that spark her imagination. She enjoys writing songs and can even hold a tune even though she doesn’t think she can sing. She’s mindful of the small things in life, and these fascinate her to no end. For example, a cat that sits next to her on a train, an antique store that holds a cat statuette with eyes made of sparkling stones, a restored grandfather clock, sun rises, and watching a boy craft a violin out of wood.

It’s the attention to detail that Shizuku notices, and so, when she discovers that many of the books she borrows from the library have been borrowed previously by someone named Seiji Amasawa, she starts wondering who this boy might be.

Along the way she goes through the trials and tribulations any young girl goes through at high school including the joys of a love triangle when she discovers the boy her best friend, Yuuko, has a crush on, actually likes her. The whole situation compounded when she identifies that Seiji Amasawa is a boy at her school that teases her relentlessly, which she fails to realise until later is ‘code’ for ‘I like you’.

Slowly, she comes to know the real Seiji and falls in love with him, but not before she realises that his lifelong goal is to be a violin maker, and he will be travelling to Italy for a two-month study. Shizuku feels the pull to achieve something of herself during this time and invests all her energy into writing a novel.

The attention to detail that Shizuku’s character exhibits is also captured in the detail of her surroundings and the detail of animation that one would expect from Studio Ghibli. Somehow, animating the simple things adds layers to what is essentially a drama that could be filmed in real life. The way Seiji rides his bicycle with Shizuku on the back, the detail of the grandfather clock when it strikes midnight and reveals mechanical dwarves that tell a fairytale story, the hustle and bustle of trains and in classrooms, the cityscape views from atop a hill, the many hidden treasures in an antique shop… you take the animation for granted because it’s so effective.

Magical in its simplicity, gorgeous in its detail, and a story written by Hayao Miyazaki himself, this is a journey in appreciating the small things and learning to believe in yourself.

9 out of 10

Movie Review: Love and Leashes (2022)

TL;DR – Korean rom-com with a masochistic twist.

Review (warning: spoilers)

The opening line of Love and Leashes is “no relationship in the world is perfectly equal”.

Ji-hoo (Jun) has moved over from the business team to the PR team where he meets Ji-woo (Seohyun). Immediately, a fellow colleague remarks that their names are very similar and could get confused. The pair are teamed up by their boss after Ji-woo takes issue with a YouTuber who displays homophobic tendencies but works on an educational program, so their boss (who often puts his foot in his mouth with sexist remarks) asks them to work together to come up with a casting list. The friction between Ji-woo and her boss is obvious as he passive aggressively leaves his empty takeaway coffee on her desk and walks away. Ji-woo proceeds to crush the plastic cup in one curled fist with Ji-hoo noticing and looking on curiously.

Ji-woo is attractive but her colleague comments that she has a look in her eyes that is stand-offish and puts men off. However, this doesn’t stop Ji-hoo (who attracts a bit of a fan club from the women) coming up to Ji-woo and expressing that he’s looking forward to working with her.

The next day, Ji-hoo stops by the mailroom to pick up a package but discovers, to his horror, that the package has been accidentally given to Ji-woo (because their names are so similar). In a panic, he rushes to the elevator and frantically races to Ji-woo before she opens the package. It’s a funny sequence as Ji-woo opens the box to discover a spiked dog collar. Ji-hoo grabs the collar and tries to convince Ji-woo that it’s for his dog, but it becomes obvious that’s not the case when Ji-hoo tries to grab the box from Ji-woo causing it to fly up in the air, raining down foam packaging and a pamphlet that shows the purchase was from an S&M shop.

Ji-hoo freaks out on the inside that Ji-woo now thinks he’s a pervert. When he’s back at home, he talks in an online group chat with others who are into S&M and they say he needs to be careful otherwise he could lose his job.

Later in the evening, Ji-woo is going for a jog and stops at a shop displaying S&M gear. She imagines Ji-hoo confronting her and trying to put the spiked collar on her, which she refuses. Her day-dreaming is caught by her mother, who amusingly says she should go into the shop and even offers to buy her something (her mother is obviously much more up with the times than the bosses working at the PR company).

As things develop, there are humorous exchanges and misunderstandings, which reach the point where Ji-hoo asks Ji-woo to be his master (she would be the dom to his sub). What is interesting is that Ji-hoo asks this in a manner that is a contract rather than some romantic attraction, and Ji-woo initially reacts against the idea but becomes curious by it.

The cultural stigma of BDSM in a country like Korea is examined to some degree, and while the two leads capture the comic moments quite well, it is actually their deeper exchanges that are engaging. For example, Ji-woo asks Ji-hoo why he wants her to be his master, and he expresses an inner awkwardness that he has to pretend to be someone that he’s not so people will like him (which is ironic given he is very popular), yet he thinks Ji-woo is authentic and speaks her mind rather than being pigeon holed into an idea of how women should be in Korea. Likewise, Ji-woo is surprised at Ji-hoo’s own anxieties and is moved by his honesty.

The sexual tension that you would think exists in a film about BDSM is actually far more touching and poignant than expected simply because it is clear that Ji-woo is attracted to Ji-hoo in a romantic, falling-in-love kind of way when Ji-hoo believes Ji-woo could never feel that way towards him (due to his proclivities) and thus views their relationship as a business contract.

This is not “Fifty Shades of Grey”. This is a film that is surprisingly more moving and insightful about the connection between two people, and examines what is the basis of love. It also makes you ponder about the opening line of the film, and the idea of ‘power’. It’s the moments in-between the actual acts of S&M that elevates this film. The fact Ji-woo is confused about how she feels after she inflicts pain willingly received by Ji-hoo demonstrates how ‘power’ confuses the desire for loving kindness.

Great chemistry between to the two leads, and a story that is both funny and touching in equal measure.

8.5 out of 10

Book Review: Y: The Last Man (Book One) by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra & Jose Marzan Jr.

TL;DR – a plague strikes the world instantly killing every mammal with a Y chromosome except for Yorick. The last man on earth.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

In 2002, an unknown plague wipes every sperm, foetus, and mammal with a Y chromosome except for Yorick and his pet (male) Capuchin monkey. Approximately 2.9 billion men are now dead.

Welcome to the new world…


Y: The Last Man is the winner of three Eisner awards and has a quote from Stephen King on its cover that simply states, “The best graphic novel I’ve ever read.”

High praise equals high expectations. Brian K. Vaughan has imagined an intriguing and gripping premise. The story begins in Brooklyn, New York where a mother runs up to a police woman saying her boys are sick. The police woman says it’s too late. She says the same thing has happened to her husband, and it’s happening across the entire city. All the men are dead. The police woman then pulls out her Glock and points it at her head.

The story then jumps to twenty-nine minutes prior to this cataclysmic event. We meet Yorick, an unemployed young man, hanging upside down in a strait jacket, talking on the phone to his girlfriend, Beth, who is on a holiday in the Australian outback. Yorick is a bit of a budding magician and manages to get out of the strait jacket before chasing after his pet monkey, Ampersand. Yorick applied for Ampersand from some group in Boston who are seeking to train the monkeys to help with quadriplegics.

As the countdown continues, we jump to different parts of the world and meet other characters including:

  • Yorick’s mother, Congresswoman Jen Brown who is in Washington D. C. She’s a Democrat, who has a heated debate with a Senator in her own party about amendment 1646. Senator Marty wants her to vote against the amendment which would prevent State Departments providing foreign aid to organisations that perform abortions. Jen doesn’t want to vote against it and is accused by Senator Marty of being pro-life.
  • Alter, a female colonel fighting in Nablus in the West Bank. She actually doesn’t know her first name (‘Alter’ is a nickname given to her by her friends). When two of her siblings died at birth and she came along, her parents decided not to speak her name out loud as a way of deceiving the angel of death from finding her.
  • Agent 355, an American female spy/assassin working in Al Karak, Jordan. She confronts a Dr Frozan Hamad and tries to convince Dr Hamad to escape with her. The doctor refuses stating that Jordan is her home, and she will continue to fight for the rights of women in her country. But Agent 355 tells her the threat against her is not because of her political beliefs but because of the amulet she wears around her neck. The amulet of Helene, which was given to her by her father. The story behind the artefact is that if the amulet was ever removed from Jordan then a catastrophe comparable to the Trojan War would take place. Unfortunately, Dr Hamad gets attacked and though Agent 355 manages to kill the assassins, the good doctor dies. Agent 355 takes the amulet and hops on a plane back America.
  • Bioengineer, Dr Mann, who has been rushed to hospital because she is in labour even though she is six weeks early. Michael Gilman is the doctor on site and happens to be one of Dr Mann’s previous students (he took her biotech class). In a weird exchange, Dr Mann reveals to Dr Gilman that she is pregnant with her ‘clone’.
  • Hero, a female paramedic in Boston, Massachusetts, who is having a quick romp in the back of her ambulance with a fire fighter named Joe. Seems Hero has a bit of a reputation and is sleeping her way through all the guys in the fire fighter department. There’s also hints in the opening pages that she is the daughter of Congresswoman Brown and brother to Yorick.

When the twenty-nine minutes expire, scenes all around the world are shown of men (and male animals) dying including Congresswoman Brown’s male aide, the male reporters working with Alter, the male pilot that Agent 355 is flying with, Dr Gilman and fire fighter Joe who dies in Hero’s arms.

A page of text is then presented outlining a number of statistics such as 495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead; in the US alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died… as did 92% of all violent felons. Internationally, 99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction works are now deceased… though 51% of the planet’s agriculture labour force is still alive.

Of particular note, it states that only 14 nations including Spain and Germany, have women soldiers who have served in ground combat units. None of the United States’ nearly 200,000 female troops have ever participated in ground combat. Australia, Norway and Sweden are the only countries that have women serving on board submarines. And in Israel, all women between the age of 18 and 26 have performed compulsory military service in the Israeli Defense Force for at least one year and nine months.

And all of the above is only in part one (of five parts in book one) of this dystopian journey for Yorick Brown who seeks to find his mother and sister and reunite with Beth (who he proposed over the phone to before chaos erupted).

Craziness abounds as Yorick encounters a female ex-model who now drives a garbage truck and collects all the deceased males from houses and buildings in exchange for food; a group of women calling themselves Amazons who believe Mother Earth has rid the planet of the scourge that is man; wives of Republicans who seek to wrest the power of the White House from the Democrats; a small country town that is self-sufficient called Marrisville run by a group of women who are hiding a dark secret; and Alter and her Israeli soldiers who are being helped by an unseen ally trying to hunt down Yorick.

Plus there’s a huge surprise on the last page.

Crikey! This is brilliant stuff.

5 out of 5.