I spent half of June with a sprained ankle that confined me to my bed with my foot resting on an elevation of three pillows. Any other time, and I probably would have crossed off at least ten books on my TBR. However, my partner had just recently gifted me Animal Crossing for my birthday. … You can guess what happened. The only full novel I read in the month of June was Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones. Apart from that, I finished three volumes of a manga, Jujutsu Kaisen by Akutami Gege.
Castle in the Air by Dianna Wynne Jones
I picked up this book since it is the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. The Studio Ghibli movie of the same name is one of my favourites to have playing in the background as company when I’m doing something else. Though the book and movie differ substantially, they are both amazing in their own ways. The eponymous Howl is a cowardly wizard who owns a moving castle powered by a fire demon. Deeply dramatic and overtly obsessed with his hair, Howl Pendragon (real name Howell Jenkins, but that hardly sounds like a proper wizard’s name, does it?) slithers away from any hint of responsibility or duty. He is a truly delightful character, and I picked up Castle in the Air with high hopes, wanting to meet him again.
And I did. Meet him again, I mean. Sort of. Castle in the Air follows a different character, Abdullah, and his quest to save a princess, the evocatively named Flower-in-the-Night. The book is rife with djinns, cats, a magic carpet and an obnoxious genie. However, I spent most of the book scanning ahead, waiting for Howl’s name to pop up. It is his castle that is referenced in the title, so you know he’s around. Where is he though?
In my opinion, this book is more of a spiritual sequel than a true one. It is set in the same universe. You recognise certain places and certain names. Of course, towards the end of the book, you do meet Howl and the rest of the characters from the first book. But it is hardly enough. The story is average at best and props itself up using the reader’s desire to revisit the characters they know and love.
Recommendation: Skip. However, do read the first book, Howl’s Moving Castle.
Jujutsu Kaisen vol. 1-3 by Akutami Gege
The anime Jujutsu Kaisen first entered my field of vision (via Pinterest) through multiple beautiful fan art of a smirking white-haired man occasionally wearing a blindfold. White-haired anime characters are somewhat of a recurring theme in my life–Sakata Gintoki, Makishima Shougo, Hatake Kakashi. I was willing to add another name to the list, Gojo Satoru apparently, and so, I started watching the anime.
To say it blew my mind is an understatement. The anime blended adventure, comedy and dark fantasy without missing a beat. Personified ‘curses’, a sorcerer academy, and a protagonist who goes around eating cursed fingers–what’s not to love? I devoured the first season in less than two days and was immediately disappointed that the second season was planned for release only in 2023! Well, no matter. One brilliant fact about anime is that you typically have a manga that it’s based on, and more often than not, the manga will have progressed quite further ahead as well.
I started reading the manga, and I was pleasantly surprised the anime was a faithful adaptation. I’ve heard so many people over the years deriding several anime because they strayed too far from and ruined the original story, but Jujustu Kaisen is one that has stuck close to its source. After reading quite obsessively on the iPad, I gave in and bought every volume published until now (despite my already overflowing bookshelves). And if there’s one reason that justifies this massively impractical purchase, it’s a certain pink-haired king who slowly worms himself into your heart and replaces Gojo Satoru.
Recommendation: 10/10; definitely read the manga! However, there are 16 volumes to get through currently, and the manga is still ongoing. If you don’t want to spend too much time on it, I would suggest watching Season 1 of Jujutsu Kaisen on Crunchyroll.