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Alethea & Athena
The Voynich Hotel volume 1 
30th-Aug-2018 09:40 pm
tired
Today we almost self-destructed! Woohoo! It's not really a big deal. We're just about to miss a sort-of self-imposed deadline and we felt bad about it, and we were also stressed out because of some indefinite travel plans, which will also be interfering with getting the book turned in ASAP. But the plans have been put in order and our editor has been warned, and I don't think this will start a domino effect with the rest of our deadlines this month, at least not if we're careful.

But anyway! I promised you a review! And this one is for a series that people who are familiar with it will never believe we agreed to translate! I don't believe it myself! But I think that's all covered in the review, so I won't get into it too much here. Anyway, here it is, our review of The Voynich Hotel volume one! Spoilers ahead!


Those of you who were familiar with The Votnich Hotel before Seven Seas licensed it may be wondering, "Wait, YOU'RE doing Voynich Hotel? Why? How?" And we would not blame you, because we're not entirely sure how it happened ourselves. They offered it to us and gave us a link that had all the information, but we overlooked some key points and just agreed to do it. I don't know why. We're already overworked anyway, and Seven Seas has that annoying-beyond-all-reason format that we hate so much, so the idea that we would just agree to do it without properly vetting it, especially knowing that Seven Seas tends to lean in an ecchier-than-Negima direction, is kind of ludicrous. I really have no idea what we were thinking. I mean, obviously we weren't. Maybe we were just too tired from overwork...which is all the more reason we should have erred on the side of no thank you.

The series isn't that bad. But there are some "mature" themes that we could do without (namely the constant pot smoking), and there are some jokes that have me going, "No." And also, "We're done." And also, "I quit." There were only about three in the whole volume, though, which is why I didn't say, "Okay, we need to tell our boss to reassign this series." There are only two more volumes, so we think we can survive it, and the story is really very interesting. I'm always intrigued by the stories behind horror stories; it's just the fact that they're presented in such a horrific way that makes me not like the genre. This series presents a horror-style series in a comedic way, and that makes it all very interesting. I just really wish there wouldn't be any crude humor. Blah.

So basically we start out with Taizou checking in to the Voynich Hotel, which is on a make-believe island named after one in Gulliver's Travels. I admit this might be part of what I like about the series; I like references to literature. Oh, but speaking of that! We were kind of annoyed before we got started, because we got an email from our boss, which was a forward of a fan email, which was basically saying, "Because I don't trust you to find this on your own, I want you to know how to spell the witches' names." Okay, so the fan was actually much, much nicer than that ("I know it's hard to spot..."), but we found it irksome. On the other hand, without the tip, we might have spelled Lachrymarum differently, and Helena might not have had an H. And we ended up checking the fanmade Voynich wiki to see if it had any other trivia that might dictate spellings (should it be Misha or Mischa? is she based on anybody or anything?), and those spellings were all way off, so now we really can't blame that fan. (The wiki did get Blefuscu, though. We were just like, "Why would you do a straight romanization for Berna when you KNOW the island is not Japanese?")

Anyway, apparently this hotel was built on a sacred burial site, so obviously you know that's not good. And it was a Japanese company that came and did it, and they also built a theme park but abandoned it when war broke out on the island. In part, the series seems to be about Japanese colonialism. And the series mostly seems to be about Taizou and the other people who are staying at the hotel. First there's Kurosawa, the hired assassin who kills a couple of people in the second chapter, then there's Haraki the manga artist, then there's the three drug dealers, and of course there are the two maids, Helena and Berna, and the owner, who apparently is also a lucha fighter? Rumor has it he even beat Chuck Norris in a fight. That's the hotel's major claim to fame--Chuck Norris once stayed there. We were amused to see Chuck Norris jokes in a Japanese series, but speaking of that! Oh my goodness, so many references! It felt like we were writing a note for every other page. Multiple times, we would write multiple notes for the same page. It was ridiculous! This series isn't even that hard to translate, but we can't get any traction on the edit, because we have to keep stopping to write more notes. It made us want to throw things, it was so bad. And! we don't have a physical copy of the book, so we couldn't even throw that. Aggravating, I tell you. [ETA: We did eventually get a physical copy of the each book in the series, and it was even before we translated the last one.]

Let's see...there are some local kids (not staying in the hotel) who have formed a team of detectives, and their mission is currently to investigate the hotel, because they know the legends about it being haunted. The one kid is obsessed with the island's guardian deities, the Three Mothers (named after a horror trilogy of the same name), who managed to rescue the island from Spanish conquest, but died in the process. It isn't long before we find out that Helena and Berna are two of the three. Later on, we find the third one, and she's kind of really gross, but it's not entirely her fault. I suspect she's extra gross to make it that much funnier that the one kid is in love with her.

There's also the serial killer, Snark. From what we can tell, she rips people apart? And it seems to be to avenge the animals on the island. There are some actual detectives looking for her, and one of them is a robot and he's gross, too. And there are two more assassins that show up. And there's the cook, who on the one hand is suicidal and on the other hand is deeply in love with the hotel manager.

So basically, there's about a bazillion characters, all with their own things going on, and yet they do seem to be linked together in a way that feels like it's all going to come together in the end? We'll see.

As mentioned before, the main character is Taizou. All the summaries tell you, but the story doesn't reveal it until several chapters in, that he's ex-yakuza and has fled from Japan, our guess is because something Went Seriously Wrong. He's trying to make a new life for himself, and meanwhile he gets really close to the younger maid, Helena. I think the funniest joke, to me, is when he went to buy her a glass eye (she's missing an eye, and her glass one got broken so she needed a new one), and the guy says, "Is it a birthday present?" and Taizou says, "Do I look like I'd give a girl a glass eye for her birthday?" and the guy says, "So you won't be wanting a ribbon." ...Maybe you had to be there.

So yeah, I guess that's that. Now that Taizou has shown an interest, Berna is really pushing for Helena to sleep with him. She keeps calling it "the ritual," and I don't know if that's just to be funny because they're witches and they talk differently than regular people, or if it would actually do something involving witch powers. We may or may not find out (Helena wants to keep it platonic).

I'm just not sure what to say about this series, because so much happens in so few pages. Each chapter is only about nine pages long. So like I said, it's an interesting story, and it has some funny jokes, but it also has some blahness that I'd rather not deal with. Hopefully there will be less of that as the story goes on. At any rate, I do want to see where it all ends up. But next time Seven Seas offers us a new series, we're definitely going to do more homework on it before we say yes.


And there you have it. Tune in next Tuesday for our review of Fire Force 11!

Today I'm thankful for getting our travel plans worked out, a sister who's willing to be the decision maker (not that we're not willing to be the decision makers, but sometimes, when you're on the verge of a nervous breakdown, you need someone to help you out; also, we're kind of in a dependent position in this whole travel thing, which makes it a lot harder to be the ones calling all the shots), getting to go to Target today, finding a seriously legit (unofficial) Harry Potter cookbook (I know what you're thinking: "But you don't cook!"; this is quite beside the point), and getting enough frozen pizza to last us until next time we need frozen pizzas.
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