Review – The Japanese Sake Bible

The Japanese Sake Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Great Sake – With Tasting Notes and Scores for 100 Top Brands by Brian Ashcraft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


There are quite a few good books for sake beginners that introduce concepts like how it’s made, the different classifications, and the basic history. There are also very technical books that go into the chemistry and technical details of brewing and flavor.

This might be the only book that is both.

I’ve yet to encounter such a comprehensive discussion of sake-its history, its brewing, and the figures who have guided them both.

You can start this book from zero knowledge and end up with an admirable understanding of Japan’s national drink after finishing. It’s a truly well researched, nearly exhaustive look at sake. It’s not as technical (or difficult) as Gautier Rousille’s Nihonshu, or as intimate as John Gauntner’s Sake: The Hidden Stories, but exists as a bridge between them.

The tasting notes at the end offer a look at many of the most important modern brands, but tasting notes are always exercises in subjectivity so don’t get too caught up in them.

Overall, this is a stellar addition to the English language sake library.

Jump on it.



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Kthulhu Reich (2019) by Asamatsu Ken (朝松健)

This is a thoughtful review of my first book-length translation, Kthulhu Reich by Asamatsu Ken. Thanks, Bobby Derie!

Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein

Yoth Tlaggon
A mysterious God. The first time the name was written was in a letter form H. P. Lovecraft to C. A. Smith, a close friend and associate of the American horror writer, dated April 4th, 1932. However, Father Lucio Damiani published a monograph on Ancient History entitled Visions of Kusha in which he writes that “In the days when Atlantis was still called Kusha, and Lemuria known as Shalarali, Yoth Tlaggon was named one of the Nine Princes of Hell.” Damiani could have had no knowledge of the Lovecraft letter, for it was not publsihed until 1970.
—Asamatsu Ken, Kthulhu Reich228

Yoth-Tlaggon—at the Crimson Spring.
Hour of the Amorphous Reflection.
—H. P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, 4 Apr 1932,
Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill 360

Kthulhu Reich (2019) by Asamatsu Ken (朝松健) is a novel from Kurodahan Press. It is comprised of seven interrelated short…

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Game Work – VasterClaws3

I helped do some minor editing and supplemental translation for VasterClaws3, an indie game from small Japanese studio StudioGIW. I’ve played some of the game, luckily, and find it fascinating and unique. So, I thought I’d bring it to people’s attention!

This is a fantasy game in the RPG vein, but instead of focusing on a specific player that you level up and gear, you are building a squad of soldiers that you fine-tune. Combat is essentially automatic, while you mostly just guide your squad through a level to search out treasure and enemies.

The depth of the game comes from the in-depth leveling and gear mechanics. You have a variety of skills and stats to level, and your gear also unlocks new skills as you progress. There are a variety of soldier types with complementary skills, and thus the real goal of this game is to assemble a squad with the best balance of skills and gear to keep moving forward. It’s quite deep and complex, with lots of stats to focus on, so it should appeal to fantasy number crunchers a lot.

So many stats!

Then, there are the graphics. StudioGIW makes a big deal out of their in-house engine that creates intricate pixel graphics, and understandably so. The pictures are beautiful, and complex, and unique.

In-game play screen

There is a lot going on in this game, so it definitely targets serious play rather than casual time-wasting (especially given the full price), but it’s unusual, deep, and well-made. I think there are a lot of people who will enjoy it!

Currently only on Android, but a steam version is planned.

Google Play Link

Review – Penguin Highway

ペンギン・ハイウェイ by Tomihiko Morimi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Penguin Highway

This is a coming of age novel, a story of children facing reality bending mystery, and lots of talk about boobs.

Akireta Aoyama is a young boy with an analytical mind and an obsession with breasts. Not exactly in a prurient way, but in the confused way of a young boy on the cusp of puberty who knows he’s interested, but not exactly why.

One day, his small Japanese town is set abuzz by the sudden appearance of penguins… And that is only the beginning of the weirdness.

I read this novel as a bit of exploration of Japanese SF, and I fear it did little to deepen my understanding of the first. This is a shallow, wide ranging look at all kinds of things: friendship, death, reality, love and so on. The topics can be heady, but they’re all destiny with by children, so nothing goes very far-topics are touched on, then left to wander as the children go about their adventures.

The climax mixes utter predictability (there is very heavy foreshadowing of a certain event) and utter nonsense in a vaguely unsatisfying way. The characters are memorable and enjoyable, though, and there is enough going on to keep interest going.

But in the end, this felt like a pretty rote “kids in small Japanese town have weird adventures and grow up a little” kind of story, complete with Summer festival yukatas and the bully who ends up helping the heroes when they need it.



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