Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thoughts: Rumikio Takahashi great mangaka or greatest mangaka?!

Rumikio Takahashi great mangaka or greatest mangaka?!  LOL, no... I really don’t get people who think she is the greatest female mangaka of all time.  I don’t hate her works like I do CLAMP because I do think her work has merit.  In fact a lot of important merit, just not greatest of all time merit.

I can seriously argue she is not the greatest female mangaka of all time.  I mean really?!  Historically important?! Sure.  Important to otaku culture?  Hell yeah. But the best?  Hell no.  

Moto Hagio, Riyoko Ikeda, and many other members of the Year 24 Group?  Yes, I feel that many of their works have a depth from other literary sources that more otaku influenced works do not have.  Since their influences come from more outside sources where otaku works tend to come from inside the culture.  

Not that these works are not interesting and can be intelligent in their own right but they start to really cause a catastrophic feeling.  These otaku works are created by otaku for otaku and make otaku feel safe.  This is their world and outsiders can't touch it.  But much like with the gene pool you need outside influences or things start to get distorted.  

When I read works like Glass Mask and Rose of Versailles there is a feel that these works are written for everyone and they are influenced by many works not just other manga.  Works by Takahashi just don’t give me that feeling, they give me the feeling they are for Otaku.  For every enjoyable and decent title like Otaku no Musume-san there are a ton of other samey generic title filled with Otaku tropes, so Otaku can in some can indulge in a dream life without having to really work on making their own life better.

Okay, I’ve kind of gone off the subject...Rumikio Takahashi’s early work is important and did help create otaku culture as we know it but lacks a quality it make it stand on its own anymore outside the culture.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scanlation Get: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (YKK) by Hitoshi Ashinano is a title that embodies the line “It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” The story takes place after some great disaster, the seas and risen, and much of the world is in decline. People just going on living like always, living a rather laid back pace of life. The main character is a robot named Alpha and she runs her owner’s seaside café. Where her owner is, no one knows.

The story mainly revolves around Alpha and her adventures but sometimes it drifts off into stories about the side characters. It is hard to describe the plot of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou because it is one of those slice of life titles that have no real strong ongoing story. It’s just the life of Alpha taking care of the café, visiting friends, and the stories of the supporting cast. A nice laid back life that seems really pleasant. As I read YKK I kept imagining what it would be like to go to Alpha’s café and enjoy a cup of tea.

If this sounds boring to you, then this title will be to you. Action is almost none existent, YKK makes Azumanga Daioh look like Crank: High Voltage. For me what really made this title overcome the slow pace is the really great atmosphere that drives it and the likable and nuanced characters. Every character was very distinct emotionally but outrageously or in your face.

I enjoyed the art in the series it, but I wasn’t in loved with it. It has a really warm quality, the backgrounds are very well drawn, and it works well in context with the story. It is just that I wouldn’t run out and get an art book for it and I LOVE art books. I think the layouts are great, though. The panels are fairly simple but the contents inside each panel is composed incredible well. Many of the panels would make a nice framed piece of art on their own.

I enjoyed this title a lot it has a very dreamy quality that is hard to quantify. If you enjoy then slice of life genre this is a must read. If you think slice of life is boring as fuck, run as far away and as fast as you can get from this.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thoughts: Otakon 2010

Going to cons always messes up my schedule (and my eating habits) for sometime before and after the con. I'll get back to the real content soon, I kind of promise. So, I was at Otakon, this past weekend. I can't say it was too exciting, only once in the time I have been going (10+ years) that there has been a guest I wanted to see (Kouta Hirano), so I mainly go just to hang out. The problem being is most of my friends moved to the west coast this year so there was only 3 of us in our group. We had a really good time though. I got to hang out with some of my other “peeps” I know on-line which was awesome.

I love going to cons for the shopping. I think one can kind of take it for granted today just how easy it is to get anime/manga materials today. Not just in the arr I'm a pirate way either, but getting actual goods is so much easier today. It used to be if you wanted the really awesome stuff, you had to go to a con to get it. Now you can order so much stuff on-line the dealers room isn't as big of a deal. I have to say though there is nothing like instant gratification. I like going through stacks of art books finding one so awesome I didn't even know I had to have, but I have to now! Sadly, this year I was pretty cash strapped at the con, so I didn't get much, but I did get some good stuff.

Before the con I talked to on of my on-line friends who hit up a used book store in her area. She picked up these for me there (at three bucks a piece!):

Honey and Clover 4,5
The Embalmer 2
Lament of Lamb 3
20th Century Boys 4

A little out of order but the deals were to good to pass up really and they are all in great shape. It was also awesome to meet one of my on-line friends. She bought 56 volumes of manga at the con! I dream I can do that some day! I think my best was in the 20-30 range.

At the con I picked up:

Twin Spica 1
Black Jack 11, 12
Age Called Blue

Though when I got home I realized I didn't have Black Jack 10. It is not a huge deal, as Black Jack has no real reading order. It's just the were on sale for ten bucks each! That is a six or seven dollar savings! Because I bought thirty bucks worth of stuff from Vertical, they give me a really pimp bag.

The only other think I got was the Higurashi visual novel from MangaGamer (and a free boob mouse pad lol).

Probably my smallest haul from a con ever but some good quality stuff.

I sat in on the Vertical panel. They have some more surprised Tezuka stuff coming and are looking to get more stuff from the '49s out there (which would be so awesome).

During Q&A someone asked about Go Nagai, in which Ed Chavez confirmed that they would like to release some of his titles but Dynamic Pro wants them to start with Maou Dante and they feel that is to much of a risk to sink capitol into, but maybe someday. I still need to review that one (but it means I have to read it again, lol) but I can understand where Ed is coming from on that one.
I will work on a real post of next time!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thoughts: Quickie on Ikki 2

I'll Give It My All... Tomorrow
This is basically about a guy in his forties quiting his job to become a mangaka except instead of having drive and ambition he spends most of his days fucking around. His father berates him all the time and his teenage daughter is doing what she can to take care of herself. It doesn't sound like much and it is one of the slice of life titles were not much happen but there are these moments of incite about life that are really brilliant in this manga. The art is similar to Tokyo Zombies as it looks more like someone's notebook scribbles but I think it's charming.

Kingyo Used Books
Is a manga, about selling manga, that highlights a different manga in each chapter. There are several characters but so far it's be mostly introductions and light back story on them. I can't say I feel really attached to any of them. What makes the title interesting is all the different manga it talks about. Each chapter features something different from the ultra rare to to greats and give a little incite about each of them. It's a cool title if you like to learn more about the history of manga (which I do) but if you don't I'd think it would be kind of a dud. The art is nice and well done but I fine it lacking a certain appeal to be (maybe it's not very stylish?).

Saturn Apartments
This one is slice of space! This is another one of those titles with really languid pacing. The main character is a teenager who has lost his parents but the people around him have been good in taking care of him. Life on this space station though isn't all that it is cut out to be as there are lower and upper levels that divide jobs and class between the people. The main character Mitsu takes on the the difficult job of window cleaner not only does he have to learn his job but about the other people working around him, and general populous of the station. I really like the art in this one, it is very cute (every had big round head and is kind of stumpy) but had a lot of detail (there are some damn impressive backgrounds).

Hmm, this time around not the most exciting titles but they are all enjoyable if you like slice of life.  If I had to pick a current favorite out of all the Ikki titles I have read it would have to be After School Charisma.  Like I said it starts out awkward but really grows into an interesting and intriguing plot.  The slice of life titles just don't provide that and the narrative in Dorohedo isn't as strong.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thoughts: Quickie on Ikki

I’ve been feeling a little off, so though I would do something a bit different this week and give you my thoughts on some of the titles on the Ikki website. This is a website with 100% legit translated manga to read online from Ikki and Viz. Sadly they don’t leave all the chapters up, which I really wish they did. I’ve missed out on a few series because I wasn’t fast enough.

After School Charisma
I really dig this title. It starts out pretty awkward, most of the characters are clones of famous people. In the first few chapters the author really makes sure you know that this bishonen is Sigmund Freud or this beautiful girl is Florence Nightingale and such by saying his/her full name repeatedly. The basic plot is about a high school rising clones of famous people with the idea of letting go back out in the work to "do good work" (it is still a little mysterious at this point). Problems arise when some of the clones don’t want to do what their originals did, and other die just like their originals. Like I said the start is really awkward but this title really comes into its own as an interesting mystery. The art in this is also top notch.

This had been a title I wanted to read for a while. I had read Q. Hayashida’s adaptation of the Maken X video game and while maybe not the best adaptation the art and strangeness really had me intrigued. That is pretty much the case here with Dorohedo, I’m still not 100% what is going on. There are wizards who mutate people and a dude with a Lizard head who wats to find out who did that to him. But really to me the story in this case isn’t all that important. This is a title where it is to much more about the world and characters that live in it. It’s kind of steampunk if speampunk was actually dystopian like cyberpunk. The art is gritty and kind of chaotic but I really enjoy it for those reason but I know it turns some people off.

House of Five Leaves
I had really loved the anime Ristorante Paradiso based on another work of Natsume Ono which came as a surprise to me. Right now I can’t say how much I like House of Five Leaves it has very slow pacing and I feel only now in the second volume am I getting a real feel for the characters. Still it’s been interesting and I like her really strange and somewhat awkward art. Somehow it is very anime/manga style but not like any other anime/manga.  I have yet to check out the anime adaption of this but this might be one where I like the anime better as was the case with Ristorante Paradiso.

Next week I'll finish off the list but all of the titles I've listed are worth checking out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scanlation Get: Crows

I have to admit this week’s title is one of those golden little guilty pleasures for me. I’ve always loved stories about delinquents, the yakuza, and such. I also love stories where people beat the living shit out of each other. Crows by Takahashi Hiroshi is an almost perfect package of delinquents and shit beating.

Suzuran is an all-boys high school that in which the student population is total made up of trashy youth who feel society has no place for them (It might sound bad but it really reminds me a lot of clique of people I hung out with in high school). The main character is a transfer student known as Bouya Harumichi is a bit of an ass, who likes to spend his days looking at nudie magazines, and tends to wear a jacket with no shirt on (oh, so classy…). He is damn good at fighting though. Which is good since 90% of this manga is fighting. The other 10% is made up of posturing and hanging out with friends. Most of the plot involves some way to get in a fight, who is the strongest student, other school moving in on different territory, and etc. The plot never gets complicated but that doesn’t matter. This is title about friendship and beating the shit out of people. Crows does this well and manages to balance a lot of the violence with light humor (even if vast amount of it is about getting diarrhea from drinking milk).

The art is a little old fashioned as the series started in the 90s but once again this is a case where I find it very charming. It is also nice to see how much better it gets by the time the next series Worst starts. Half of the art is about the faces; from the goofy to the deadly serious they are all really well done here. The other half is all about fighting; sometimes it makes me cringe just thinking how some of the impacts in the story would hurt.

Currently Crows combined with its sequel series Worst are some of my favorite titles right now. I can’t say Crows will blow your mind but if you are someone who enjoys the something more visceral this title is a true winner. I also enjoyed the fact that while over the top it tends to say far more realistic in nature then a lot of its brethren delinquent manga. If you like manga with a lot (and I mean a lot) of fighting and story about high school delinquents this is a must read.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Scanlation Get: Glass Mask

Once again it is back to the 70's with my next pick Glass Mask by Suzue Miuchi. I kind of have a love hate relationship with shoujo. I want to love it, but I find much of the shoujo titles from today boring with flat uninteresting main characters. Honestly if the character's personality is picked from the stock of “I want a boyfriend” or “I want to be a bride” I don't want to read it. In fact it makes me want to punch it in the jeans. (Now, American romcoms I'd punch right in the kidneys.) I do love a lot of shoujo from the 70s or even the 80s, where female characters have big dreams and big goals. In Glass Mask our heroine Maya ends up with big dream of being the actress who plays the role of the goddess in the famous play the Crimson Goddess but before she can ever do so she must master thousands of roles.

I am recently re-reading this. I had read quite a few volumes but I can't remember where I left off. (I only stopped reading being the scanlator at the time got a C&D letter and took everything down. I was rather sad this was my first long term scanlation I had gotten into and I really loved it.) One of things I am enjoying is just how much I remember things. Like when Maya sat out in the rain purposely to get sick to play Beth better in Little Women. There have been titles I have read and really liked them at the time but when I go back to think about them I can't remember anything. Considering, I last read Glass Mask six years ago my memory for this is surprisingly good, which I think says something for the title. I am looking forward to rereading certain parts that I enjoyed the first time.

The main character Maya is played off as average and kind of dumb. Even her mother tells her she is useless. All Maya wants to do is watch dramas and plays. She will even go to some extreme measures to get tickets to see a play. She jumps into the Yokohama bay early on for one. It takes former Crimson Goddess actress Chigusa Tsukikage to see that even Maya has talent and with training she could aspire to be the Crimson Goddess herself. Maya then goes for a ride of a life as she trains but many things go awry often no fault of her own. Her rival wants the role of Crimson Goddess herself; the rival acting school with stop at nothing to close Tsukikage's school; and the chairman at Daito Entertainment will do anything to the rights to the Crimson Goddess play.

There is romance involved in the story but there is a lot of development even before it is seen and Maya always takes acting before she does boys. She is determined to see her dream and won't stop until she gets there.

The art is very 70s but well drawn. It relies more on strong line work then screen tone which is something I really like. (I feel to many shoujo titles insert random screen tone to fill up space.) The panel layouts are nothing amazing, but are clear and strong in conveying the story. Where it suffers the most is the clothes. They were fashionable for the time now they are really out dated. Apparently, as some point the mangaka went back and re-drew the older volumes but that seems like and exercise in futility to me. Clothes almost end up out dated (though I got to say Paradise Kiss holds up surprisingly well) unless they are the most generic clothes ever. I hate when manga and anime take the generic clothes route though, it has no personality. I'd rather watch or something out dated looking and feels like it has life rather then some lifeless and generic.

Rereading this title reminded me how much I love this title. If it ever came out in English I'd buy every volume. I like reading stories about girls and women who aspire to great heights and Glass Mask certainly fills that role.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thoughts: What is going on here?

Ugh, I am a bit annoyed. It seems Viz has listed volume 19 at the final volume of Bastard!!. Much like cake, this is a lie. Considering it is still publishing in Japan and is up to volume 26. This is a series have been collecting since 2003. (Holy, crap seven freaking years). My volumes are from so long ago that my first five volumes are in the large size Viz used to publish in (though it seems they have returned to this size for some of their signature line). It is even more annoying that recently Viz stated they would not be canceling any of their product lines. Volume 19 doesn’t even come to any conclusion.

I hope Viz hasn’t really canceled Bastard!! Even a really long delay between volumes would be better. (Though they have been close to a year apart recently). I want to give people my money for this title in a format I can read. Really!

While I don’t know any numbers, Bastard!! always did well at the comic book store I worked at. It wasn't a Naruto or One Piece but I thought it sold pretty solidly. Though said store was in a very middle class white suburb that grew up on heavy metal. Maybe some marketing in some metal mags would work for it... I just don’t want to see it go.

It's seems that few other titles from Viz have gone on a long hiatus or have stopped completely, like Oishinbo. Hopefully some new will come out of Viz. I'd rather know for sure what is going on.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Scanlation Get: My Girl

Holy crap, I don’t think I can take much more of this. Don't get me wrong I really enjoy the slice of life titles and the surprise father trope, but after several weeks of it I need a serious change of pace. This week though won’t be that change in pace. In fact this week’s title My Girl by Sahara Mizu is pretty much the bible of “by the book” on this trope. Not to say it is bad, because it’s not, but it is the least original of the bunch I have read so far.

Kazama is recently out of college, working, and living a single life. When one day news comes that his girlfriend from high school has died. At the funeral he finds that she had a daughter, which is his. Apparently, the young girl’s Mother decide to study abroad and be a single parent as not to bother Kazuma with it, who was still in high school at the time. Kazuma takes in this young girl Koharu in and takes care of her.

I can’t say much else without getting to far into minutiae. Kazuma is almost a blank slate; he is not that great at this job, he really loved Kazuma’s Mother, and he tries to take good care of this little girl. Kazuma is cute, a bit sad her Mother died, and is sweet and innocent. Personality isn't their strong suit. Events happen at a lackadaisical pace and the story has great atmosphere that draws you in when reading. The problem is afterward it didn’t leave me with really feeling anything.

Now the art is where I thought this title stands out a bit more. It really fits with the atmosphere of the story. The characters are lively and have a wispy quality to them. The panel layout are also nice.  They are loose, but are laid out in an interesting manner, and have an energetic quality to them.

Like I said, at this point I’m getting to my fill with these titles. Sadly, My Girl doesn’t tread any new ground and I think it suffers for it. So much so I can easily make comparisons to the previous titles I have covered. High school girlfriend leaves to be a single mother? Otaku no Musume-san. Young single man meets a girl he has to take care of at a funeral? Bunny Drop. I could go on. The problem being is that titles like these are going to have similarities. I just feel this one doesn't have enough personality to get beyond that fact. I still enjoyed it and thought it was good, but I was left with the feeling it was insubstantial overall.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: Bunny Drop

Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita is another title that uses the surprise father trope to tell an excellent story. Here we have the bachelor Daikichi whom upon going to his Grandfather's funeral he finds out he has an Aunt he never knew about. Also she is only six years old. Apparently, Grandpa had been taking care of this girl Rin but never let his family know. What is even more mysterious is that Rin's Mother never shows up to the funeral. It's up to the family to decide what to do with her, but no one wants to bother with her. In a fit of annoyance with his family Daikichi declares he will take care of her and takes Rin home.

From here we get some of what is typical of these types of stories. Daikichi must learn to take on a whole new type of responsibilities and how to care for a child. Daikichi ends up being pretty selfless and Rin is over all a very good child. The interest comes in from a few things like Daikichi's family learning to accept Rin; Rin learning to come out of her shell; and the mystery of who is her Mother. The mystery aspect really sets this series bit more apart from the others. A lot of time is spent trying to figure out why the Mother isn't in the picture, who she is, and just where is she at and what is she doing. It helps to keep this title fresh.

I would have to fault the art in this in many of the same way I did for Hotman, but for some reason it doesn't bother me as much here. The character designs I find appealing but the character are drawn fairly simplistically and some what stiffly. Some panels have some interesting background but there then there will be pages of panels with little or no backgrounds. The panel layouts are okay, they have fairly strong structure, but they feel unnoticeable. Which can be a good or a bad thing, in this case I think it works for the title. You just feel the story and are not taken in by the art.

I really liked this title a lot. While I didn't say much about it, I'd say out of the surprise father titles I have covered so far it's my favorite. It pulls you in emotionally with out doing cheap tricks to do so. Also being a fan of mystery I like the angle of the missing Mother it adds an interesting element to the story that also has emotional impact.

Final Verdict: Cherry is my favorite flavor.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scanlation Get: Hotman

This week’s title isn't as much of the learning about little girls and how to be a good parent but more about what happens after you have managed to do those things. Hotman by Shou Kitagawa is more about taking on so much responsibility for others in your life that it leaves little time for one’s self and bringing those two aspects in balance.

Enzo is a reformed delinquent who is now working as an art teacher. Unlike other titles that feature reformed delinquents, like GTO, it would be hard to tell that Enzo had been anything but a normal guy. He takes the best of care of his young daughter Nanami and his 4 bothers, and sisters (who all have different Fathers from Enzo and each other). He works hard at school, and does whatever he can to help out everyone else but his self.

It wasn’t always like this though. Enzo who was already a big delinquent in the past, but after his mother died, he went even more wild. His mother’s home became a haven for other punks and delinquents like himself. Until one day when he finds a baby at his doorstep. His apparent partying left him with a lifelong gift, one that changes him forever.

The only thing is this baby, Namami, has serious skin problems. A problem Enzo blames himself and his past life style on. He becomes a health nut because of this, trying to make her skin problems better. In the end he becomes such a selfless person to punish himself for his perceived past sins. He doesn’t allow time for himself, and while he is interested in the school nurse he can’t ask her out because he feels that she is too good for him.

Each volume features its own story arc that features a different member of Enzo’s family. Enzo’s story goes on though each but this way it highlights each member during important events that affect them. Hotman is pure slice of life, but it is nice to see a story about a family that might have a lot of dysfunction about them working hard and functioning together. This manga really carries a pretty healthy attitude about family and how they can work together for the better.

The art is pleasant and well drawn enough but it’s a pretty typical style that I kind of find boring but not off putting. The layouts are also average, and are oddly almost shoujo like in style. A lot of the pages feature much more open panel design then one would see in the average senien manga. I’d also have to fault a bit of over reliance on screen tone for this title. A lot of panels have no background or the nebulas “it’s a screen tone” background. Fortunately it is not distracting since it is a title more about the emotion on character faces, which is done really well here. Over all the art works here but isn’t anything overly interesting.

I did have a couple of problems with some of the ways this title pulls on your emotional strings. Such as one of the side female characters being fairly motivated and punished for having an abortion in the past by not being able to have children now because of it. (How often does that really happen? After looking it up not often). I could go on a bit about this (and the treatment of women in media), but honestly I don’t want to think to hard about it. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes a plot device is just a plot device.

I got really sucked into this title. Enzo is a really fun and sympathetic character. I find truly caring fathers something lacking a lot of the time in pop culture entertainment where they are often played off as jerks. Over all I really liked this title and if you liked the other surprise father or slice of life titles this is totally worth checking out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: Aishiteruze Baby

This week’s title is about as far as one can get from last week’s Otaku no Musume-san and still have strong similarities. Aishiteruze Baby by Youko Maki is a shoujo manga about a high school student named Kippei. He likes to spend his time macking on girls and being a lay-about. He has never been serious about anything, even the girls whom he flirts and makes out with off and on. He comes home from school one day to discover a young girl he doesn’t know. His family convenes in a meeting and informs him that this girl is his cousin Yuzuyu. He has never meet her before but is now in charge of taking care of her. It’s an odd choice but no one else in the family wants to deal with this responsibility. They all feel a little put upon by this burden thrust upon them by Kippei’s Aunt who has mysteriously ran off.

Early on in the story is about Kippie adapting to having Yuzuyu in his life. When I first heard of the title I thought most of it would be about how he begrudgingly takes care of her and hates her for ruining his life. In fact this is not the case at all. He takes the whole situation quite well, perhaps charmed by Yuzuyu's sweet nature and cuteness. I felt this was a refreshing move. The early parts consist of learning how to dress Yuzuyu, make her bento, making sure to pick her up from pre-school, and such. Atop this there are a few minor story lines in the beginning but the main meat of the story is about Kippie balancing his life with Yuzuyu with the first girl he has ever taken seriously, Kokoro.

I had watched the anime before I read the manga and I can say they are not very different. There are a few minor things that were toned down from the manga. Like a knife becomes a bike chain in the anime. Yuzuyu's Mother is also far less sympathetic in the manga. Not that she is out right terrible but damn does she do some dumb stuff. I was hoping that the manga would go past the ending of the anime because I wanted more. I wanted to see the further adventures of these three characters as they grow up and together. The end almost feels like it just stops but when I think about it the stopping point makes sense. This story is really about Kippei's journey to being mature and at the point where it ends he has achieved that.

The art is about as typical shoujo as I can think, but in this case I rather like it. The panels are the less structured style that prevails in shoujo, but they are very full of large characters, and there are lots of actual backgrounds. It does depend a lot on vague screen tone backgrounds but they are handled very well and are are not distracting. The characters are very well drawn and have a much more substantial feeling to them then a lot of other shoujo titles. If you like shoujo style art then I can't imagine not liking the art in this series.

Over all I really enjoyed the story. It's a slice of life but it does have some serious dramatic moments in it and does raise a lot of questions about responsibility without being depressing about it. I also appreciated the fact I found the main female characters relatable in some way. I often find it hard to relate to the main characters of shoujo manga because more and more they tend to be boring doormats that have no interest in anything but in romantic relationships. I was happy to see that wasn't the case here. If you like shoujo or stories with really cute and moe characters Aishiteruze Baby is worth looking at.

Final Verdict: Yummy Lollipop

Monday, May 17, 2010

Scanlation Get: Otaku no Musume-san

So from now until (at least) Father’s Day I am going to write about titles that feature surprise Fathers! “What is a surprise Father?” Well, a surprise Father is a man living the single life until one day a daughter shows up out of no where. This might seem pretty far out but there are a lot of manga titles in many different genres that cover this. Generally it happens one of two ways, a guy who either finds himself suddenly taking care of a young girl because no one else will, or finding out suddenly that he has been a Dad for some time and didn't know it. It’s always a little girl also. Part of it can be chalked up to moe pandering, but some of it may be because it's a concept pretty ingrained into witting. When a child only has one parent in stories, it's almost always of the opposite gender, no?

The weeks title is Otaku no Musume-san (Otaku's Daughter) by a mangaka just known as Sutahiro. Now a title with the word Otaku in it basically means it’s for Otaku. (No one who isn't is going to read something with that word in the title). There is also little doubt the Otaku is who this title is for. Besides name dropping a lot of other titles, it iss about an about an apartment complex of full of Otaku, and has some very fan service-y moments in it. Basically though it is a sitcom dramedy (how many portmanteaus can I write in one post?). With all that factored in I could still imagine this title as a live-action sitcom (minus some fan service) that most people could enjoy.

It’s about a man in his mid-twenites know as Kouta Morisaki . An Otaku of course, just eking out a living working as a mangaka’s assistant. This biggest plans he has ever made for the future is what to do at the next Comiket. Kouta would like make a debut as a manga artist but won't accept anything that isn't cool and non-mainstream (which may mean it never will happen). While he doesn't live the lifestyle of a true shut-in he does live in a crazy apartment complex that over time has developed into an Otaku heaven.

Then one day a young girl shows up alone with a note and stating that she is his daughter. At first he can’t believe it but things do add up once she reveals she is the daughter of his high school love (It also helps they look a lot alike too!). So, this girl Kanau comes to stay as this crazy apartment building filled with weirdos.

What I liked a lot about this title as opposed to a lot of other titles with this gimmick is the father Kouta messes up quite often. And not the “Oh, I forgot to pack her a lunch!” and more like the “Oh, shit my foolish behavior landed her in the hospital!” This helps to keep a title that could easily go off the deep end in ridiculous Otaku crap more grounded as in some ways it is more realistic then other titles in this trope. In many of these titles the new parent becomes almost instantly selfless individual. It’s nice to see a character that doesn’t adapt to it that well. It’s obvious he cares about her and in the end feels terrible about the stuff he has done, but after living his whole life for him self, he finds it hard to adjust to the needs of another.

The daughter Kanau is a bit of a breath of fresh air when it comes to the “surprise I’m your daughter“ in these kind of titles. A lot of time the girl with be either so young that she don’t have much personality beyond “I’m a young girl” or will be very emotionally deficient. Kanau seems like a fairly normal girl who has to adapt to not only new and strange circumstances, but the fact that being an Otaku’s daughter isn’t going to win her any friends at school. Her Father isn’t quite she had be dreaming of. She has a lot of spunk and manages to adapt to this pretty well. Kanau manages to maintain being a normal girl but still understanding about and to all the strange people around her.

The art in the title wasn’t bad but it also didn’t do anything for me. It did its job and it is happy with what it got done, even if what it got done wasn’t really anything special. Still its better drawn then a lot of other titles out there but it’s a style that won’t be igniting the world on fire anytime soon.

I started this title out of curiosity (Really another surprise parent story?! Sure, why not?). I was thinking it was going to turn into some pedo-loli Otaku wankfest but what I got was a cute semi-dramatic sitcom. Sure it talks about “how crappy it is to be an otaku” but it also makes it pretty clear that life as an Otaku is only as bad as one makes it and that having friends and interacting with others is a worthy affair. There is some loli type fan-service but nothing that bad (even with a character who is a Loli Otaku in it, it's got much less questionable content then Kodomo No Jikan). If you like slice of life stories especially ones about Otaku take a look.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Scanlation Get: Oniisama e...

Now for something far less manly but equally 70's-tastic as my last few posts with the title Oniisama e... by Riyoko Ikeda. This author may sound vaguely family with some, as she was the creator of Rose of Versailles, which is her most famous title. (Apparently the anime version of Rose of Versailles still airs today in France). She has written a number of historical titles but Oniisama e... is not one of them. This title oozes with the 70's from every single page, in ways only a shoujo manga can also. Shoujo tends to have more fashionable looking clothes and as times change, often these clothing designs don't age so well. I can think of a few exceptions (Paradise Kiss being one of them) but this makes many of an older shoujo manga special...very, very special.

This is the story of Nanako a normal young girl who comes for a fairly well to do, but down to earth, family. She and her best friend Tomoko end up going to an elite all girls high school together. This school in true classic shoujo fashion is filled with beautiful but nasty evil bitches. (Thought your high school had malicious cliques? It's just peanuts compared to these girls and their spiteful backstabbing). What these girls are obsessed with in this school is the "Sorority". Only the schools top elite are asked to enter this club. Nanako mysteriously receives and invite to Sorority and in an “offer you can't refuse” situation she joins. This starts a roller coaster ride of melodrama as Nanako is sucked into this world that she doesn't fit into and doesn't necessarily like all that much.

This is the manga that has a huge check next to the trope of the lesbian all girls school. Nanako develops a serious crush on upperclassmen Rei Asaka nicked named "Saint-Just sama" in the school. Rie is a bit butch and is often seen smoking and skipping school. Rei has some serious emotional probables which are part of the fact because of the person she is infatuated with. Nanako also has girl who is infatuated with her named Mariko. A lonely girl with some serious issues because of her strange home life that clashes with the girls at school.

At this point in my mind the story is a bit of jumbled mess because I read the manga over a very long period of time and I had watched the anime first. I think this is one of the cases where the anime out does the manga. The anime from 1991 directed by Osamu Dezaki (he also directed the Rose of Versailles anime and many, many others...look him up) adapts and expands the story. You really get more of a feel for the characters and their motivations in the anime. It is almost like the manga is the abridged version, smashing everything together and speeding up the pacing. Also notable for the anime is the look has been updated and while it is still dated looking it is far less so as more generic clothes were chosen for the girls to adorn then in the manga.

I also can't get away without mentioning this series must have heavily influenced my favorite anime Revolutionary Girl Utena. Nanako is a girl pulled out of her depth into a world she can't even begin to understand. Much like Utena's experience with the student council. Her friend Tomoko is the normal girl of the story, much like Wakaba, who begins to feel left out as her friend flies into a society she can only dream of. I can even draw more comparisons with the anime, but this is a manga blog so I must digress. If you are a serious fan of Utena though, I highly suggest checking out either version of this title.

Now have said the art is dated, and it is, but that doesn't mean it isn't well drawn. The clothes and such are very “retro” and the art style is “classic” shoujo but it still looks very pretty. Everyone is drawn well, are fluid looking, and make great melodramatic faces when called for. The girls who are supposed to be boyish push a great androgynous line. The layout is very shoujo with less defined panels but the pages seem to be much more full then in a lot more modern titles. If one can get past the dated look it really is a great treat to look at.

Oniisama e... is worth taking a look at for so many reasons, if you liked Riyoko Ikeda other works; if you are a fan of Revolutionary Girl Utena and want to see some of its roots; if you wanted to read on of the classics; or want to read some shoujo that has some female characters with back bone (and are not boring doormats for men). I'm sure there are many others also. As it has been fully fan translated and it is only three volumes, just o do it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Scanlation Get: Cutie Honey

Continuing on the Go Nagai theme I figured I would talk about Cutie Honey (sometimes spelled Cutey Honey) this week. Now, I love Cutie Honey my first look into the series was the OVA Re: Cutie Honey. I really love this anime and have gone on to watch some of the 70’s series, some of the 90’s OVA and TV series, the live-action movie, and the live action TV show. I’ve enjoyed each in their own way (Ok the 90’s OVA is kind of boring) but I still really like Re: Cutie Honey the best out of all of them. Though, with so many adaptations I was really interesting in seeing the source material that has spun off so much entertainment. When the Cutie Honey manga finally got a fan translation, I was very excited. Sadly, I was left a bit disappointed.

The original manga seems like it can’t make up its mind if it wants to be a full on parody or not. Honey goes to an all girls school where the teachers are creepy looking, mean, and lesbians who are hot for their students. The students don’t fare much better. Some of the girls look like they beat the ugly into the ugly stick. One even looks like a hulking man. Ideally this would be hilarious given the trope of the girl’s school with all the pretty girls who are evil conniving bitches. Here they are all ugly, delinquent, bitches. Just hilarious...oh wait's not at all, not at all. Moving on…

The main story element seen in all the adaptions is Honey’s father is a scientist who is murdered by a mysterious organization known as Panther Claw. It also turns out Honey is an android and can change into different forms for fighting. Now she is out to get Panther Claw who are creating all sorts of havoc.

I did like in manga she only had several forms, over the years it’s just come down to Honey can change into pretty much anything. We also meet a few of the re-occurring characters in the series like her friend Aki, sometimes love interest Seiji, and a few others. It was interesting to see that in this version Honey needs a lot of help from her friends to fight off Panther Claw. In some ways I like this but it also makes here seem so much less of a strong female character. Which is what I liked about Honey so much.

My main complaint of the is with the evil group Panther Claw. They are evil for evil’s sake and I’m fine with that but they just seem so stupid. They killed Honey’s father and want Honey herself because she has a device (which has a different name for every translation out there) that can turn air into pretty much anything. So what do they want to do with it? Make diamonds…yeah really. I know they are a group of female criminals. but that is so lame. At the level of over the top this manga has you need bigger goals. Also, as with villains who want to make tons of gold all you do is make it worthless and destroy the world economy. Now, if destroying the world economy was the goal, or to make an über death ray, I could get behind it. The, I just want to make diamonds and that is why I am doing horrible things and murdering people, just isn’t reason enough for me. Now, even though this manga is full over violence and titties it was done for young boys so I can be a bit forgiving but I don’t think it would have taken much more to make the villains’ reasons less dumb.

I was also disappointed with the art and panel layouts. I thought the art wasn’t the same quality as Devilman which was a year earlier (and which is saying a lot). The panels and layout are much more generic and nowhere as interesting from what I have seen in other Go Nagai titles.

I didn’t hate Cutie Honey but I think I had built it up so much over the years I was expecting great things, which I did not get. It is worth a read to see the origins of a character that has had a lot of evolution in 30 plus years. I was expecting Devilman caliber of work and what I got was interesting fluff. There are a number of different manga series for Cutie Honey that take place after this one. I would really like to check those out someday and see how they compare.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Scanlation Get: Shin Devilman

So, this week is another Go Nagai title, Shin Devilman! (It was what I was “feeling” the most this week). So Shin Devilman is like Doctor Who if the Doctor and his companion where both male, and kind of gay. Say, if Captain Jack and Ten went on adventures without any female companions (I know there are fan girls shipping that!). Also if everything that went wrong in history was because of demons instead of aliens.

This is a odd-ball volume from all angles. First of all this came out after the original Devilman was done, so you would think it to be a sequel. But no, it is a story that gets retconned (long before there was even a term for it) into the original series. Oddly, though this volume would not only ruin the pacing in the original but also the ending. This title really kind of awkward and where I thought the original Devilman series was kind of a pulp masterpiece this is just kind of crap. Really amusing crap, but crap none the less.

Akria and Ryo manage to some how to travel back in time (really it's not explained) it just happens. Each chapter focuses on someone famous from a different time period. In one it's a young Hitler; another it's Joan of Arc on trial by demons; and in yet another it's George Armstrong Custer just being a bastard. There is a chapter devoted to Versailles and Marie Antoinette which seems like it must have been done only because Rose of Versailles was popular at the time. This title is almost like those PSA's at the end of G.I. Joe. We showed you something violent so here is something educational to make up for it!

As I mentioned this volume is pretty...uh gay. I love my yaoi but Devilman is not where I am expecting any “extra special” boy bonding. It never goes “there” but there are a few scenes which have the boys in oddly suggestive positions. If this were done today I would say it was done for utter fan girl fodder. This is from the 70's though, so I am left really scratching my head. I know part of this volume is to have a chance to expand the boys friendship and have them bond more. (In the original series you don't know all the much about their friendship before story starts.) Expanding their friendship would ideally give the ending more impact, but really it just makes this volume oddly uncomfortable.

The art is on par with the original Devilman so if you hated that, you are going to hate this also. Everyone is still drawn very awkwardly in typical Go Nagai fashion (which I kind of love). I think it has a lot of great and well design page layouts with panels that are very dynamic and more avant-garde then you see in titles today.

This is such a peculiar title, it's like a good bad movie. You know what you are watching is bad but you can't help but be entertained by it. As with anything Go Nagai it isn't for everyone but if you like his stuff it is worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Scanlation Get: Koi Kaze

Koi Kaze by Motoi Yoshida is this week's title. If you haven't heard about this title before, it's about incest. If you already feel uncomfortable stop reading now. Before I read the manga my strongest memory of Koi Kaze was at a Otakon where Geneon (which I think was still Pioneer at the time, damn that was like forever ago...) they announced they were releasing this title in the U.S.. They also showed a promo trailer for it. I remember sitting next to my friend going “What the fuck are they thinking?” My friend was just as baffled. From all accounts the anime version of this bombed pretty hard in the U.S.. I've never really understood the Japanese fascination with banging your sister (or in some cases and perhaps more creepy your daughter). Some things I can make some sense from other culture references, but this is something I can't make heads or tails of. Especially at the pervasive level the topic has in anime.

All that being said, I have to say this title is really good. It manages to take a topic that is pretty squeamish for most and make it an entertaining and delightful read. Perhaps it is the fact the story starts out with a brother and sister who haven't seen each other in over ten years and don't realize that they are related when they first meet. Also it might help that the characters actually both feel a bit bothered by the whole thing themselves. The story is written in a very slice of life style and focuses in on the characters emotions and personal relationships. The feelings pour out of the page as if you could feel them yourself.

The art is a delightful change of pace with a light breezy style with a lot of sketchy lines. It really helps make the story feel more warm and relaxed. Everyone is drawn more “realistically” in the sense that while no one is ugly they are also not smoking hot. It has a very cute style to it but doesn't fit the moé by todays standards.

Koi Kaze is defiantly not for everyone, incest is a squeamish and taboo subject. What makes this title special is the fact that it handles it so well. It is told in a very mature manner and never gets in the realm of tasteless as is often the case in stories involving this subject matter. What make this title so remarkable are the very strong character interactions. Everyone is relatable in some matter and the emotions while high are still on a very natural level. For those who are up for it, this is a surprisingly captivating read.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scanlation Get: Hotel & Present

This week I am going to do a little double-feature of one-shots by Boichi.

The first being a title called Hotel. This is a very interesting piece as it almost exclusively inner monologue. The inner monologue is something almost entirely absent from manga genre. Which is interesting as manga is modeled after cinema and while the inner monologue isn't as popular as it used to be, it's still around. Perhaps it was felt that the inner monologue took the reader out of the action to much, as spoken about in the title A Drifting Life?

In this case the inner monologue is an intergeneration part of this sci-fi story as we learn humanity has caused world ended global warming. While some struggle to build an ark to send human DNA out into space, others are working on building a tower to house the DNA of all the species of life on Earth. A hotel of sorts, where the manager is a computer AI. With it's inner monologue we learn what befalls humanity.

The second title is a story titled Present. What happens when a student who has fallen in love with her teacher a present for Christmas? What happens when she falls incredibly ill? What will the final gift to all involved be? This is pretty simple story with a sci-fi good twist that is just told very well. It also has a very small connection to Hotel.

Both of these titles have wonderful art. Lots of little details are really what make it great. The humans are drawn well, and have good line work but they don't come off anything astounding. It's the detail in the sci-fi elements that make the titles feel so rich. All the mechanical designs are very details and feel very realistic. The color pages in both are also great, with some very fluid feeling CG to them.

Both of the titles this week are only 40 pages each, making them quick fun reads. They make good toe wetting titles to some more serious sci-fi stories. If you are into the one-shot format, these are must reads. They are shinning examples of what can be done in this form to draw you in emotionally.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Scanlation Get: Devilman

Somehow up until this point I haven't written anything about Go Nagai. I must rectify this issue. If you don't know who Go Nagai he is a mangaka known for Getter Robo, Cutie Honey, Mazinger Z, and a ton of other titles including today's Deviman. He is also responsible for a lot of violence and boobies in anime an manga.

Devilman is considered one of his really enduring classic titles. There have been several anime adaptations, a (terrible) live-action movie, even his own re-imagining in Devilman Lady (which somehow went on way longer then the original Devilman manga did). Devilman is a pretty simple story that is wonderfully creepy and cracktastic at the same time. It's also full of important moral lessons and WTF?! plot twists.

Our hero is Akria a normal dude who is kind of a pussy so much so that when he and his pseudo-girlfriend Miki are corner by bullies all he tries to do is walk away. Miki ends up getting in a fight with them! Only they get a hold of her with the intent to rape her! Akria poorly tries to talk his way out of it but it isn't until his friend Ryo shows up with a shotgun do the bullies leave.

Then Ryo briskly rushes off with Akria to his home telling him his life maybe in danger and that his father has been taken over by demons. Ryo then tells him about an ancient and frighting race of demons that have come back from pre-history to destroy humanity. Only one thing can stop it, Devilman! A man and a demon combined but still retaining the human heart. Ryo chooses Akria for this, but of course Akria refuses being a chicken. It is only after they are attacked by demons that Akria goes for it and apparently the only way to do this is to have an orgy?! Sure, why not. During which most of the participants get killed and Akria joins with a demon to become Devilman (and much less of a pussy, for realz).

From here the story takes a lot of interesting twist and turns as demons start to outright attack humanity and we fine there are others who ended up like Akria as Devilmen. It also has a twist ended that could give CLAMP and M. Knight Shyamalan explosive diarrhea. Honestly I can't decide if the twist ending is genius or terribly stupid. I do remember it getting an audible reaction out of me though, which I give any manga points for.

Now, I really love the art in this title. I did from the first moment I saw it. For most though the super seventies, and really wonky human forms are going to be a turn off. Someone once described Go Nagai's art like fan art, which I can see. It has a very rough sketchy line look, plus all the humans have really odd proportions that just don't seem right. For those who give it a chance though, it can really grow on you, and has a lot of charm.

What I do think is great about the art in Devilman (even over a lot of other Go Nagai titles) is the panel work. It's fucking fabulous and moody. When everyday things are going on the panels are very normal. When stranger and weirder things go on the panels getting stranger and weirder. Lots of black negative space is used, extreme close ups of eyes (ha, take that Lost!), and really cinematic spreads. In terms of layout and panel design this is one of my favorite titles. I think it does a really interesting job.

Overall Devilman is a really interesting title for several reasons, as a very influence title that is still popular in Japan today, as one of great works of Go Nagai, as a title that deals with moral dilemmas as an integral part of the plot, and it is a damn fun title to read. My advice, give it a try, it's a fun ride.