Narrative Nerd

Category: Books

20 Stories that Changed Me in 2022

This is the last thing I write about 2022 I hope.

For Christmas I asked for and received (thanks to my mom and brother Jeff, thanks guys) Hideo Kojima’s The Creative Gene. The book (so far) is mostly Kojima’s account of stories that have influenced him, why they mattered to him, and sometimes how we can see their effects in his work.

I keep a yearly planner — a hobonichi techo — which has a “my 100” list in the back where you can chronicle 100 things. I never knew what to do with it, but in 2022 I kept a chronicle of media I consumed, whether I liked them or not, or other special memories of new places or things. So for the first time I had a reliable, localized collection of the things I read/watched/saw that were new to me. After starting The Creative Gene I thought it might be nice to share with you, like he shared with me, the things that I believe I learned something from that will help me go into the future.

So here are 20 of the stories that changed me in 2022, in no particular order.

Young Lady Albert is Courting Disaster

High on the list of “stuff I’ve been up to” is editing this fantastic manga for J-Novel Club, Young Lady Albert is Courting Disaster.

If you’re not familiar with J-Novel Club they have a very unique style of subscription service that gives you access to a chapter-by-chapter serialization of their manga and light novels. When the book is complete, they compile it into an ebook for purchase and (sometimes) make print versions. I’m a big fan of physical books so I’m hoping we’ll get a version for print.

There’s a popular trope in isekai for women/girls (josei) that involves a girl being reborn into an otome game as the villainess. The protagonist often tries to reorient her life to become a better person–but not in the case of Mary Albert. Mary decides that her future is set in stone so she might as well go ahead and drive this metaphorical train into a pit.

I’m not a huge fan of isekai, but I think I am a fan of otome isekai. There are some really delightful series out there that are all doing something a little different. As such I now feel as though Lady Albert is kind of my baby. It’s a great series with good characters, great jokes, and I’m going to do my damndest to do right by it as its editor.

If you’re interested in giving it a read, volume 1 is available now via J-Novel Club’s subscription service, and chapter 1 I believe is available for free. (It won’t be forever!) Volume 2 will be starting serialization early in January 2023.

You can read it on J-Novel Club here:

Alternatively, you can also buy the ebook which will be released in full (with bonus content) on Amazon or on BookWalker.

The volume 1 ebook is coming out on December 28th! I’ll let you know when volume 2 is coming out, too.

Manga Recommendation: Pompo: The Cinéphile

No fun screenshots of panels for this recco because I apparently didn’t save any of the PDFs.

I LOVE comics and zines that can entertain me while also teaching me stuff. A good diary comic like My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness can really scratch an itch of introspection, but my favorite are manga that go further in what an industry or hobby is like, such as Manga Diary of a Male Porn Star or the upcoming I’m a Terminal Cancer Patient, but I’m Fine. (I recommend both of these, by the way. I hope you’ll also join me in preordering Kate Beaton’s Ducks as well.)

Pompo: The Cinéphile isn’t a diary comic, but the amount of education involved in its creation is similarly as compelling. It’s a fictionalized tale that ruminates on an industry or culture from someone who clearly knows a thing or two about it. Similar recommendations for this kind of story from Seven Seas would be Blue GiantBL Metamorphosis (both which will get their own post at a later date)Young Ladies Don’t Play Fighting Games, or even My Brother’s HusbandTokyo Revengers, or Bride’s Story. Either based in personal experience or thorough education, these books speak like a teacher, and it rules. (At least, I think so.)

If you are into any of the above titles, you might also enjoy Pompo: The Cinéphile, which is a story where the titular Pompo (a producer) starts her assistant, Gene (an aspiring director) on the road of his dreams. The story walks the journey of the creation of a film from casting actors, shooting on location, cutting trailers, and witnessing a complete film as the culmination of all the work done by everyone involved.

It helps that the adaptation of the manga was done by Jay Trust, who I’ve been told is a director in their own right… though it appears they may be doing their manga adaptations under a different pen name than their directorial ones, as I can’t find them anywhere.

If you’re a nerd about filmmaking, I recommend reading Pompo. There are two volumes of the manga released so far and a third one on its way. It’s a dense read, but a joy.

The manga takes place in Nyallywood, which is obviously a fictional stand-in for Hollywood, but there are a lot of funny little Japan things all over the story. This manga has also been made into an animated film, which I haven’t seen! But maybe that is more your speed.

Either way, this is a definite recommendation from me. These are books I’m proud to have in my collection. I hope you check them out.

Manga Spotlight: Level 1 Demon Lord & One-Room Hero

Hello all! Long time no post. I started a new full-time job after 35 years of freelance in 2020, and I’m now a Senior Copy Editor at Seven Seas Entertainment! I read manga all day on the lookout for forgotten sound effects and other such things.

I love my job, but I have to read a lot of stuff I don’t like. But it also fires me up because there are a lot of comics I like a lot, and you will probably never read. So I’m going to make these Manga Spotlight posts now and then to highlight really special manga that I think you should check out. Some of these might be NSFW but this one is not. I need everyone to know about Level 1 Demon Lord & One-Room Hero.

I have to read a lot of isekai for work (and if you don’t know what isekai is, that’s a whole other blog post) so one of my favorite new tropes is “playful subversion of isekai and the fantasy genre.” Level 1 Demon Lord is one such book.

Ten years in the past, a classic RPG party went to save the world and killed the demon lord to save the day. The world settled into a comfortable peace, but demons have seven lives. The demon lord awakes ten years since his death, far too early and in an extremely weakened state. He runs off to find the hero that killed him years before to see what kind of future he’s made for himself. Instead, he finds a deadbeat who sleeps all day in his bachelor apartment, a man who has given up on life.

Our hero, Max, is living a regular life in what appears very similar to modern-day Japan, but is still the fantasy land that was saved ten years ago. Our demon lord asks questions and struggles to understand why the hero isn’t living large in the way that he deserves. Max is cagey about answers. It becomes clear before long that the media has taken advantage of Max for his fame, twisting all of his actions into a scandal. He does as little as possible so he can stay out of the spotlight, but with a demon lord in his company, trouble has come to find him again.

This manga is mostly a gross fanservice comedy, but Level 1 Demon Lord doesn’t shy away from inter-country politics, corruption, and the tempestuous relationships of shitty adults who once were friends. It’s a bit about how fame is a double-edged sword, a bit about wrangling with depression and disappointment, and a little bit about how your idols are real people.

Not only that, but there’s a weird little romance going on between the Level 1 Demon Lord & One-Room Hero. Is it gay? The demon lord, when pressed, won’t clarify whether or not he’s a man or not, though he proceeds to present as a woman more and more as the series goes on.

I feel like it’s difficult to express the charm of this series because I’m trying to spoil as little as possible. But I look forward to every volume that passes my desk. It’s one of my favorites. I find the artwork charming and the story funny, and this post-fantasy land is devolving into war and terrorism with neighboring countries. Old allies struggle to get Max to take a stand politically, but he avoids it while also keeping his new allegiance with demons a secret. If the public finds out about the new company he keeps, he will be seen as a traitor to humanity and kick Max while he’s already down.

The stakes are high and hilarious… until they aren’t! Please read Level 1 Demon Lord & One-Room Hero. It rules.

Stephen King, The Dark Tower V


TCAF & Fancomic Reviews

A friendly reminder that I’ll be mooching some table space from the lovely Anayte Delahay, one half of the creators of Feral Gentry, at TCAF next weekend. Please come visit me to peek at Broken Birds and let me talk to you about Those Without Shadows.

Since reading lots of Doing in the Wizard and making my own doujinshi I’ve decided to take up doing some fair zine and fancomic reviews. It’s going to be a tricky thing since a lot of fancomic makers are little people having fun and I don’t want to crush any dreams or anything, so I’m going to need to think hard about how to make a review that’s truthful without being mean. Hopefully you’ll be seeing some of these in the coming weeks as I review books that I already own. The focus will be on English-language publications.

Two Releases

As I mentioned last time I’ve been working on a few things. One is Broken Birds, a Hatoful Boyfriend doujinshi about Nanaki and Yuuya. It’s been officially released on Gumroad for $2 as a PDF. You can pick it up here:

Secondly, Those Without Shadows is live.


It would mean a lot to me if you could check it out!

Onward, to the Dark Tower!



Enjoying it way more than expected and I’m still on the first book.

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