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Kyoto Animation fundraiser exceeds US$2m; fans demand happy ending for “The Rise Of Phoenixes”.

Anime fans and publishers raise over US$2m for Kyoto Animation’s arson attack victims; new authors from Romance Novelists’ Association writing programme get shortlisted for award; Cindy Sherman bursts our romance bubble at the National Portrait Gallery; The Rise Of Phoenixes lets fans down with alternative (sad) ending. It’s another Week In Book News.


US$2m raised for Kyoto Animation arson victims

Story Of Books editors are suckers for romance.  We really think love will save the day. That’s why we’re big on romance fictions, and the idea of heroism and chivalry. It doesn’t matter if they’re books, anime, graphic novels, photobooks – we consume them all. So we’re very saddened to hear that Kyoto Animation, the publisher of romance anime series such as Violet Evergarden and Hyouka was subjected to an arson attack last week.

The arson attack on 18 July 2019 claimed the lives of 34 people and injured 35 others. The 41-year-old suspect, Shinji Aoba, allegedly claimed that Kyoto Animation plagiarised his novel. This claim is still being investigated by police and is denied by the studio president, Hideaki Hatta. Aoba was previously convicted for robbery in 2012 and served three and a half years in prison for the offence.

Anime fans and publishers wasted no time in helping Kyoto Animation. More than US$2 million has been raised by US licensing company Sentai Filmworks via GoFundMe to help victims of the arson attack.

Fans and industry colleagues are also encouraged to support Kyoto Animation financially by purchasing their products online. Although the physical shop is suspended until further notice, digital products can still be purchased and downloaded.

Kyoto Animation, based in Uji in the Kyoto Prefecture, publishes light novels targeting teenagers and young adults as well manga and animation. One of its most popular light novel titles is Violet Evergarden, which was adapted into an anime series. The TV series was premiered at MCM Comic Con London in October 2017.

Yasuhiro Takemoto, a storyboard editor, one of the directors of Violet Evergarden and also the director of Hyouka, is still missing.

Kyoto Animation has appealed for the press and public to provide its staff and their families some privacy whilst investigation is being undertaken.

How to support Kyoto Animation

Sentai Filmworks based in the US organised a GoFundMe page to help their anime colleagues in Kyoto.

Contenders announced for national award recognising new writers

The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) has been running a writer’s programme for years where it discovers, nurtures and supports new writers from various backgrounds. The New Writers’ Scheme also receives funds from diversity and inclusion bursaries so that writers from low-income backgrounds can be included.

Each year, the RNA offers 300 places to unpublished writers in the romantic fiction genre. As part of the scheme, they can submit a complete manuscript for critique by one of the Association’s published authors as well as attend RNA events which offer opportunities to meet and network with publishers, agents and other published authors.

The association has recently announced the line-up for its prestigious Joan Hessayon Award for new writers. The contenders for this award are all authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the New Writers’ Scheme.

This year’s competing novels include epic historical romances, contemporary suspense stories and uplifting romantic comedies, and explore themes including the atrocities of war, living with mental illness and women’s suffrage.

The full list of contenders for 2019 is:

Commenting on the contenders for 2019, Alison May, RNA Chair, said: “The New Writers’ Scheme epitomises the RNA’s commitment to supporting new writers. It’s incredible to consistently see so many NWS members achieving publication and this year is no exception. The novels in the line-up for the Joan Hessayon Award demonstrate the huge talent of this group of authors and show that romantic fiction is as exciting a genre as ever.”

The Award will be presented at the RNA’s York Afternoon Tea on Saturday 14th September at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, Aldwark, York.

About Romance Novelists’ Association


Cindy Sherman’s bad romance

If you’re looking for romantic inspiration, the Cindy Sherman exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, isn’t the place for it. But you can still bring your date there and see what he or she thinks of Sherman’s commentary on the place of women in society and visual culture.

The show, which runs from 27 June to 15 September 2019, features Sherman’s work from the mid-1970s to the present day. It features around 150 works from international public and private collections as well as new work never before displayed in a public gallery.

We think the closest Sherman is to being a romantic in her works is via the Untitled Film Stills. In this series, Sherman plays various roles inspired by famous Hollywood noir films. Each frame was beautifully shot. Looking at each story, you know it’s not going to end well. Ok, it’s more like Sherman portraying failed romance: things that could have been but didn’t happen for some reason.

Nope. Not romance. Image: Story Of Books.

Also available at the show are photography books on the master of disguise herself. If you’re feeling dystopian but still want to have a laugh and don’t mind having your romantic illusion shattered, this is the show for you.

About exhibition


Fans demand Chinese drama to follow book’s happy ending

We have just finished watching 70 episodes of The Rise Of Phoenixes, the lush and wonderfully filmed Chinese historical romance drama currently being shown on Netflix. The series was based on the novel Huang Quan by author Tianxia Guiyuan.

It tells the story of an emperor whose remaining four out of ten sons fight each other for the throne. The protagonist, the highly unstable but well-meaning prince, Ning Yi, stops at nothing to eliminate his brothers in the name of revenge. Even if it means sacrificing the ones he loves. Central to the story is a renegade princess-turned-commoner, Fang Zhiwei, who passes herself off as a man to survive the imperial court. Unfortunately, she becomes one of Ning Yi’s collaterals in his fight for power.

The Rise Of Phoenixes got a fair amount of swashbuckling action and love stories to keep the younger audience satisfied. But what makes it stands out is the great acting, the long drawn-out dialogue-heavy scenes that we’re sure theatre fans would appreciate, the beautiful cinematography and the storyline.

Fans wants another season of The Rise Of Phoenixes because the book the series is based on has a happy ending. Image: ©Tang City Film Studios

When it was first aired on terrestrial TV in China in 2018, the audience initially found it slow. But once The Rise Of Phoenixes hit Netflix, the global audience – thankfully more discerning and don’t mind the pace of this lengthy whodunnit –  went mad over the series. It also showed the acting prowess of actors, in particular the lead, Chen Kun, who in the past was more known for his good looks and, er, daring bedroom scenes. We’re only too glad to see this level of depth in his acting.

But of course, fans felt let down because the series’ ending, unlike the book, is sad and not satisfying romantically. It’s not like The Rise Of Phoenixes is an unfinished book like Songs Of Ice and Fire. The book has a happy romantic ending. Fans are now asking for Season 2 so that the TV series can reconcile its storyline with that of Tianxia Guiyuan’s novel.

We also think it’d be great if Tianxia Guiyuan publishes an English translation of the book. It’s a good romance.

More on The Rise Of Phoenixes