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A Samurai is never too old for Honor

By Shaeor, author of Chosen Shackles

Jun 9, 2019: Early chapter spoilers.

Fuji follows a middle aged man named Kenshi. This man clearly has had an important role in past history, and it would seem his time is not yet done. As we enter into the story, Kenshi is there to witness a small boy violently transform. Though seemingly a nobody on his way through the market, Kenshi is quickly revealed through his ties to the shogunate, in the wake of this monstrous transformation, to have been a past political player. He is thus not treated very nicely in the court.

We see that the land is sunless and monsters stalk the dark, waging an eternal war against humanity. And now we find out that those monsters are infecting humans? Cue imprisonment and the plot has got itself rolling, pulling Kenshi back into the war. Well that’s that. We have the setup for a great quest!

I’ve been following the story since the start. This means that I have seen Admiral’s notable improvement as a writer (including a strong rewrite of the first five chapters), and I can vouch for his potential. Though the story is not yet done, my review could be summarized just by this: I am genuinely excited to see it through.

Fuji has a solid aesthetic and always paints a pretty picture in my mind’s eye. It’s a snowy, fuedal japan, with all the colorful and cliched beauty. Its characters, with their mannerisms and dialogue being well described, are interesting and entertaining to follow. Sometimes they can be a little hard to track and make sense of, but overall, they are distinct.

The author has been largely consistent but, including both the break for rewrites and others, he does sometimes miss an update. I feel confident the story will be completed regardless, but I would appreciate the same criticism of my own work. Consistency is king, as they say.

Now! Any major flaws? Things can sometimes meander. There may have been one or two unnecessary chapters spent at camp when the plot could have been moving along. Though they were utilized for character building, the plot has, overall, suffered from a small degree of directionlessness, as Kenshi is swept along just to survive. While it has become apparent later on in the story that Kenshi has a mission of personal significance that we can root for, at first he is merely afloat on the wind. But perhaps this is fitting for a first act? All that matters is that he is, you guessed it, going to regain his honor! If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a solid redemption arc.

I give the story a mechanical rating of 3.5, with emphasis on the fact that a 2.5 is what I would consider a solidly written book on a technical level, including prose and whatnot. Anything below is actively unreadable. What I list on my actual review-rating is the amount I would recommend this story, among all others. This is more subjective and based in the credit that I give to its uniqueness and world. 4/5. Keep up the good work.

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How strait the sunless road

By Snuggle Squiggle, author of Endless Stars

Feb 25, 2019: If my review of Fuji were one word, it might be “straightford” or “eager”. No one likes to have their writing called “simple”, but one of the first things you notice about Fuji is that is doesn’t easily get bogged down or distracted. It knows what it wants to convey, and it gets right to it.

This isn’t necessarily a good thing, or a bad thing. Fuji seems to value the destination over the journey, but there are roses I wouldn’t mind stopping to smell where Fuji insistently pushes on.

Fuji is a action fantasy serial following one Kowereta Kenshi in a world inspired by Japan and Japanese mythos. The world is quite intriguing — without getting too deep into the weeds, there’s a conflict between the sun god and some demon creatures, and by the time the story kicks off, there’s no day anymore, the world locked in eternal twilight.

It’s a coal mine of a premise, but to the author’s credit or detriment, he doesn’t dig too deeply into the consequences of it. There is worldbuilding (it’s fantasy), but it hardly distracts from the plot or characters.

So how do those aspects hold up? The plot is lackluster. While it proceeds logically and hardly a chapter goes by without some development, at few or no points are you truly struck surprised by the developments. Kenshi’s motivation is weak and reactive for the first stretch of the story (though at the time of this writing, this has just changed; time will tell how it develops).

More crucially, stakes are not worrying. There are times in the story where you can be guinuinely concerned about how things will turn out for Kenshi, but it’s rarely strong and commonly absent. Fuji has the usual air of protagonist invulnerability, but misses the usual remedies — at the start of the story, there is little to nothing Kenshi cares about, and no one he has to lose in any sense.

However, it’s again worth stressing that the latest chapter (XIV) this is looking to change: Kenshi has a new sense of purpose, and has gained many allies he cares for.

Which calls up a discussion of theme, and it may put paid to my plot critique. I mentioned the literals, but what Fuji is really about is the story of a man disgraced and defeated regaining a sense of purpose and honor. It’s a theme that echoes in the story — Kenshi’s own musings on honor, a secondary antagonist who rants about his higher purpose, a naïve foil character who lacks Kenshi’s cynicisms, and of course, an influence character who condemns Kenshi on exactly these lines.

Really, when you look at Fuji through a thematic lens, the asserted plot “flaws” look almost designed — of course Kenshi lacks motivation, of course he has no one to care about — that’s the point of the story. Is it all a matter of taste?

Perhaps. I’m a firm believer in stylistic compensation. Hemmingway wrote stripped-down prose with little variation in diction or complexity, and that was good because it compensated in other, subtler ways, like with repetition or subtext. If you’re going to write a story with a plot that’s not quite viscerally engrossing, you compensate and sustain interest in other ways.

And Fuji does not wholly fail at this; Kenshi himself remains an enigma from beginning up till this latest update, and that curiosity, coupled with the interest of the setting and other characters, will keep you reading as the plot comes to its own.

What of those other characters, though? On the whole, they have yet to grow beyond familiar archetypes, but aren’t offensively generic. The side characters have appreciable chemistry with Kenshi, and really, those interactions are half of what keeps me reading Fuji.

But that’s tempered by the dialogue, which invites comparison the amateurness of fanfiction. Not that Fuji dialogue is that bad, but there is the same poor grasp of diction or voice that similarly gives it a subtle, awkward feeling. The characters all have a the same somewhat informal, almost stilted tone, even when it chafes against the impression of the character. Everyone sounds the same.

I’ve gone this far without mentioning the prose, but it belongs in the same breath as the dialogue. The prose like a half-unpolish stone glittering with hints of gems. It’s quite readable, but the occasional typo or strange usage remains for readers to trip on. Not enough to resist immersion though, and nothing a proofreader couldn’t solve.

Aside from the typos, the prose is largely plain with the odd bit of poetic flair or subtly beautiful line. I hesitate to call it good, but it’s above average.

Which, I think, is the story in itself. Not yet good but still above average, and certainly a good first serial.

Would I recommend people read it? Yes. Try out a few chapters (they’re short things), and see if anything speaks to you. It’s not yet a must read, but there’s always room for someone doing something a little different.

Fuji has a promising future ahead of it, and it’s worth settling in for the ride.

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Like A Rising Sun

By Hejin57, author of Music Masters

Dec 21, 2018: Fuji is an interesting, if not fully developed story about a man named Kenshi, who leads a storied life on a mystical island known as Nihon.

There’s a lot of promise to this story, and it particularly borrows from samurai fiction and other eastern works in stride. The prose is simple and to the point, which can be sometimes underwhelming especially at points where you find yourself just wanting to know about Kenshi as a character.

The story also suffers from a bit slow pacing early on. We have to wait to find out about Kenshi’s run in a prison camp, the degenerates he has to deal with there, and the existence of dangerous yokai that can kill anyone at the drop of a hat. It is only after said prison camp arc, when Kenshi meets the Shogun, that the story begins to go to interesting places.

Of all things, I often feel that the issue with Fuji is that there’s simply not enough of it. Nothing wrong with the writing and characterization per say, but I want to know more about Kenshi. His surroundings, the settings, his fellow samurai, everything that a vibrant Japanese-inspired setting like this offers.

Maybe it’s just me being impatient, but to me, this is the major thing that holds the story back from being fair to great.

I think with some more detail, perhaps editing of the earlier chapters to further solidify the world and Kenshi himself in particular.

It’s worth reading, and has great potential for sure. It just needs tweaking and editing to truly shine like the katana blades its characters wield.

Final score: 3/5.

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