Book Review: Forbidden Scrollery Volume 1

Forbidden Scrollery Volume 1 cover

I hope that everyone is having a good weekend, regardless of how you are spending it.

Things are going fairly well here, especially because it is a special day for yours truly, and I can still do the things that I like.

Earlier in the month, I had gotten quite a few books from Amazon, many of which were preorders, and I had recently been notified that one of them got delayed, but, surprisingly, I ended up getting it this week.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called Forbidden Scrollery Volume 1 by ZUN.

In a little-known village, people seemingly live peaceful lives, with nothing to worry about other than demons appearing from time, and some of them go to borrow books from a rental shop.

However, some of the books there are dangerous, and because the owner, Kosuzu Motoori, care much about the dangers, things start to occur that worry the citizens.

When I was trying to look through books to get, I decided to take a look at what was coming soon and see if I could preorder it, in order to make sure things like what my experience with the last book I read did not happen again, but a few of the titles were not available for preorder in the format that would arrive the quickest or in the desired format, so I thought that I would give this a try.

And after reading this, I found myself rather unimpressed.

Even though I would like to talk about both the bad and the good, regardless of my feelings towards a work, because it allows me to give the fairest judgment possible, as well as shows people, especially those that are members of the same church as me, that I am not all negative, though I do come across that way because I am surrounded by people that are too positive, but there are times where I, and many other reviewers, have our hands forced for various reasons.

Unfortunately, this is another one of those moments where I need to do what I do not enjoy doing.

From the moment that I opened up this book and start reading, I never once felt drawn right into the world, nor did I feel like I just had to continue reading it.

Now, some of you guys that are familiar with this series, as a page on Baka-Updates Manga says that it is complete at seven volumes, as of the time this review was posted, might be saying that I am being kind of harsh, as this is a completely different kind of manga from what I usually read, and there is some truth to that, but I do not think that is the entirely the case.

Like with my experience with works of prose fiction, which many of my family members would prefer that I focus on more than manga and anime, I try to give books with stories that are different from my usual a try because it not only helps me broaden my base of knowledge for small stuff, including getting a new insight to how humans work, which is why I have grown to hate some of the things my elders have been trying to tell me is the truth, but it also helps me discover what good stories have and even find more things that would have impressed me.

If I stuck with works that similar to DBZ or just focused on works in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, everything would become boring and there would be nothing to challenge me or even teach me things that I never would have learned otherwise because of where I am in life, such as what a family truly is and what binds them together and that human beings are perfect the way we are, in spite of our imperfections, and I would have eventually grown tired of those works because there would have been either nothing new, nothing unique, or there would be a lack of any feeling of being unique, which is more important than if it is actually unique or original.

Because of that, I try to give a chance to different manga series a try, so that I do not bore myself out from the monotony and remind myself that one kind of story is not better than any other kind, though there are bad ways to approach things that can make it appear generic and unoriginal.

If I had to say why this work really failed to capture my attention, it would have to be for two reasons.

First, the way things started off was not that great.

When I started reading the first chapter, things seemed to be going in the right direction, in that I thought the characters present would be fleshed out enough to make them seem interesting follow, though it did feel a bit more tedious than how these things usually go, and I thought that I would just let things continue on their merry way, seeing as the first chapter is not usually as interesting as the first chapter of Pandora Hearts was.

However, when things seem like they are about to become interesting, like rumors of books written by youkai and showing something happening at the local book shop, things play out as more of the usual than something mysterious is happening or about to happen.

The first few pages of a book are supposed to draw in the reader by providing either interesting characters or, seeing as some people categorize this as a mystery, some kind of mysterious event happening and being able to keep of that feeling of things being mysterious, and that does not seem to happen at all towards the beginning of the volume.

Instead, the characters do not seem to be interesting at all, regardless of whether they are likeable or not, and there does not seem to be any kind of mystery, no matter the kind of mystery known to exist, whether that be the usual whodunits or those using dramatic irony.

This is not the proper way to open a series at all and Zun should feel ashamed for delivering something this bad, as it does not allow people unfamiliar with the kind of work this is, which is a Touhou series, to be able to really get into it, unless they are a fan of seeing cute girls do things.

Unfortunately, the only way I see that this can be improved is if things did not feel as relaxed as they were after showing something strange happening around Kosuzu and that it was revealed that that she could read something that was difficult for people to read, instead of just casually bringing it up like it is no big deal.

If things had started out that way, I probably would have enjoyed the book a bit more, and might have been more willing to give this a chance, to see if things improve, or I get used to it, and would have help Zun get more fans.

Unfortunately, because things started out like this, I kind of felt like my time was wasted because it never even bothered to meet the minimum needed for a great work of fiction.

Not did things start off poorly, but it fails in what is needed for a good anthology.

While I was looking through details about the series, I found out that things were mostly episodic, or self-contained, which meant that I was expecting to be able to enjoy this work in the same capacity as The Innocence of Father Brown, where one of the best things about the work was that I could set the book down and continue it later, because each of the contained stories were able to pull me in, because that is the best way for an anthology to stand out.

Here, however, many of the subsequent stories in this volume had the same problems as the first story, though there eventually were things that were not blown off as casually as Kosuzu discovering her power by saying everyone has a unique ability, even though we do not see those unique abilities among anyone else.

Readers may be patient people, as we know that it takes a while for things to become good, but if an anthology of multiple stories fail to deliver any pull, there is no reason for us to continue on, and that will make people like me feel like putting down the book permanently.

Honestly, if this series cannot meet the bare minimum needed to draw people in, even the bare minimum what what makes a good anthology, I do not even see why people would put this on the same pedestal as Jun Mochizuki's Pandora Hearts or Kore Yamazaki's The Ancient Magus Bride, as if something was hidden, because giving a person reason to read something beyond the initial summary is very important.

Right now, I kind of wish that Yen Press had no picked up this series, but I will not deny the possibility that things might improve from here, seeing as it is only the first volume, and hope that it does improve, otherwise it will not generate any kind of wave in the manga community.

Another thing that I hated was how I did not really feel like even chuckling in this volume.

One of the best things that I like about manga and anime is that even though much of the comedy is slapstick, which is considered the lowest form of comedy where I live, I still feel like laughing or chuckling about what is going on because many manga creators and staff at the various studios working on the many series out there tend to still execute things in a way that they can still be funny, and that kind of humor can help establish what kind of bond the characters have or make things seem like they are actually fun.

While this book did feature quite a few of those scenes that many anime and manga fans would be able to laugh about, the humor seemed to come off as even more flat that what could be found in Girls' Last Tour Volume 1, which was at least able to make me chuckle a bit.

Really, Zun? Is this the best that you could provide, after I have read that your work is actually good?

I might not be expecting to continually get the kinds of laughs I got from Baka & Test or any of the other great comedy series out there, but I was hoping to at least get something that would make me want to give this series more of a chance, but it utterly failed, because the comedic moments felt more generic than funny.

If more time was actually put into the comedy, to time things right and such, I would at least be willing to give this as much of a chance to impress me as I gave Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid or Girls' Last Tour, but, as things stand now, I am more in the camp of just forgetting about this series altogether, which is something that writers and publishers do not want to see, as they will not be able to draw in more people to get what they need to survive.

The thing that I hated the most though was how I did not feel like I was having fun at all.

Regardless of how many flaws exist in a work, reader will not totally hate it if they feel like they are having fun, because avid readers like me read to entertain ourselves and, hopefully, be able to feel like what we are reading is actually fun, and, just like how quickly a reader's attention is grabbed to the point where they want to continue, the amount of fun a reader feels like they got from reading a work can also determine how many flaws they are willing to overlook.

Unfortunately, everything wrong with the stories in this volume came together and resulted in me feeling more bored than entertained, because there was nothing that made me feel like I had invested in something, though I did plop down the money necessary to buy this title.

When I first looked into this, people said that the stories featured were simple, rather than complex and/or meaningful, like Yukine Miwazawa's and Tomoyo Sakagami's routes in the Clannad VN, yet fun, and that is usually the bare minimum of what I expect, though I do expect some kind of conflict too, when I try out different works, but that fun was nowhere to be found within in these pages.

Maybe this book is not targeted towards people like me, who have high standards for a lot of things in life, and this series is aim at a younger audience than me, but all of the great books and stories I have encountered, regardless of their targeted age group, gender demographic, and complexity, many people can still enjoy it or have a good time, and because this book does not have anything that would seem fun for anyone other than the target audience, that makes me hate this work more than I did already.

Thankfully, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, nothing else really bothered me, so I can leave things at that, and leave Zun with some diginity.

Because my attention was never really captured enough to want to read everything in either one sitting or take my own time to finish reading all the stories, as there was nothing to pull me in, not even through the humor, and the experience was not that fun for anyone, except those familiar with the kind of work this is, this was one of the worst books I have read.

Considering that there was quite a bit to hate about this, especially with how there was hardly anything to attract those new to Touhou series, this needed up being a waste of time.

I recommend everyone avoid this like plague, as it does nothing that a first volume should, unless you are a fan of Touhou series, since those are the people from whom I hear good things about this series, but you free to give it a try if you really want to.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or, if you really want to check out the reviewed title to see if you agree with me or not, buy a copy of it from Book Depository, who offers free shipping to many countries around the world, so that I can find more worthwhile reads for you guys.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.