Sunday, February 28, 2010

Scanlation Get: Tantei Gakuen Q

Okay, I am all moved, though I still have a ton of boxes to unpack.  Which like 90% of them are manga.  I was hoping in the new place I'd be able to fit in more book shelves. I under estimated just how much furniture I have though (also baseboard heating is a cock blocker).  Doh!  Anyone need a microwave cart?  Maybe I can fit a bookshelf in the pantry...

This week's title is in one of my favorite genres, mystery.  It is something I didn't realize I liked so much until a few years ago when I watched the Agatha Christie anime. I was then like hot damn, now that I think about it I really like mystery.  When it comes to mystery and manga/anime it tends to be a lot of teen boys, closed room, and being trapped on islands.  There is a lot of precedents for this, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (A Drifting Life) was doing a lot of mystery one-shots,  in the 1950's, of this type before getting gekiga rolling.  It can get a bit old but in short bursts I find this style of mystery wonderfully enjoyable. I could wax on more about Japan and mystery manga (I ran a mystery manga panel at Otakon and Anime Boston one year...) but I'll stop and talk about this week's title.

Which is Tantei Gakuen Q (Detective Academy Q) by Seimaru Amagi and Fumiya Satou.  It is one of these formulaic mystery manga like Detective Conan or Kindaichi Case Files.  Though it has a bit of a twist, it's about a group of students going to detective school.  Not just any group but the top class at Dan Detective School known as class Q.  It is kind of like Scooby-doo without the dog and every one has even more of shtick.  Lets's see... super computer geek?  Check! A guy who is a martial artist and has good intuition? Check! The mysterious guy who is up to something? Check!  A cute girl with a photographic memory? Check! And a main character who is just good at everything but seems like a total dope?  Oh so check!  They never really are more then the shtick but they still comprise a fun group of characters and their strengths and weaknesses are played into the plot pretty well.  It being more about a group of people rather then a single person helps to mix it up a bit and helps build a story where a bunch of different tactics are used to solve a case. The school angle is also played in with a rivalry with another class and working to keep their spots in class Q.  It is a nice added element that helps break of the monotony that some of these titles fall into.

Titles like Conan, Kindaichi, even Murder She Wrote fall into an annoying mystery trap them selves. Who would want to meet these people?  Wherever they show up people die!  Poor Jessica Fletcher imagine all the death she must have seen her lifetime!  With Tantei Gakuen Q being a detective class it gives them a legit reason to investigate a murder, often there isn't even a murder!  Amazing!  It might just be a set up for a class test or they might just be studying a closed room crime or such.  They manage to mix up the different story arcs pretty well, which helps to keep it fresh.

The art is very anime esque, strong lines, and not to much screen tone.  It's a pleasant enough style but I don't think it will wow anyone but it is surly more well drawn then a lot of stuff out there.  Interestingly the artist Fumiya Satou is the same artist for  Kindaichi Case Files.  If you have read Kindaichi it looks almost the hundred percent the same. (Those would be two titles that would make for a good cross over).

This isn't a title that will win over new converts to the mystery genre but if you already like Kindaichi, Conan, or even  Agatha Christie it's worth a look at.  Two interesting tidbits:  The first is when my friend was living in Japan a few years ago he said the anime adaptation of this was airing and that it was huge.  It was everywhere and the middle school kids he was teaching were talking about it all the time.  The second is that apparently Seimaru Amagi  is the pen name of Yuya Aoki who wrote Get Backers.  Uh, WTF?!...Brainsplosion!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Scanlation Get: Animal X - Aragami no Ichizoku

This week is a title I just discovered not to long ago myself, a title from 1990, called Animal X by Ami Sugimoto.  This series has three parts, the first part subtitled 'Aragami no Ichizoku'.  This part is four volumes long and is what I will be covering today.

When we first meet our main character Yuuji is pretty effeminate and pretty much a living doormat.  He's engaged to get married to a his childhood friend.  She has always been the one to take care of him, since he was to wimpy to do anything himself.  Of course he couldn't even ask her to marry him, it's an arranged marriage that they are both fine with.  He works in a science lab where he has been pressured into some strange experiments.  On top of all this some strange teen shows up in his room and wants to mate with him!

This kid is Minato who is not only on the run, he isn't even human.  He is from some dying race of beings known as the Dinosauroid.  He thinks Yuuji is not only of them but a  female one to boot (he can smell it. WTF?).  Head strong and brash he is on the run because he killed some yakuza while visiting the city to see where humans live.  He is also a major dick to Yuuji in the early parts of the manga (luckily this doesn't last to long). 

From here Minato kidnaps Yuuji to take him back to his people to mate with him.  A fate Yuuji is not very happy about but being a doormat he can't seem to stop it.  This doesn't last for long though as the two of them end up on the run as a huge conspiracy of events unfolds around them.  Scientists are after Yuuji and both the yakuza and another clan of dinosauroids are after Minato.  Much of the four volumes are them on the run.  Which is pretty exciting as these types of stories manage to keep tension pretty high though out.

What is interesting is as the story progresses so do our characters.  Yuuji starts to be less of a doormat and much more of a fighting participant in his destiny. Minato matures a lot and starts to be much less of a dick.  They form a fairly believable relationship while on the run.

I was also shocked as this was one of the only manga I have ever read where someone was raped and they are really upset about it.  I'm not joking, this isn't that common.  Most of the time characters just brush it off or even fall in love with the rapist!  (Really, Japan WTF?!)  So, I have to give Animal X points for that, it also ends up being rather important for the plot later.

The best comparison I can come up for this title is Banana Fish.  It is far more sci-fi but they both are pretty hard-boiled shoujo tales.  Both have mostly male casts, and where the main characters are run for a good portion of the story.   Also, the uh... gayness.  (Apparently a really bad ass shoujo title can't be shoujo unless there is an inordinate amount of gayness.)  If you are a dude and read Banana Fish because it is awesome, (that makes you awesome also) then this title really is no worse.

The art in this is also very nice.  It's still a bit 90's but it still holds up very well do to the fact it is very detailed and well crafted.  The art doesn't really look like typical shoujo.   The panels are very solid and well formed.  The characters are detailed and don't fall into the typical bishonen style.  Also the screen tone use is very well done, something I find lacking in a lot of shoujo titles.  The art style really seems like something that would run in the seinen anthology magazine Ikki then in Asuka CL DX.

Hmm, I think that is one of my final thoughts on this title.  If you like the stuff running in Ikki, good chance you would like Animal X also.  It is a well written alternative style manga that is not pretentious.  As I also stated before it holds a lot of similarities to Banana Fish. It is well worth checking out if you liked Banana Fish.

*Note: Most likely I won't be posting anything next week, as I am moving to another state this weekend.  Weeee!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Scanlation Get: Historie

I'm in the process of moving for a job in another state so a lot of my time is being taken up by that right now.  I will still try to update weekly but I think there will only be Scanlation Get! for a few weeks.

This week I am keeping up the theme of “Serious Historical Fiction” with Historie.  A title by Hitoshi Iwaaki who is best known for for the sci-fi manga Parasyte.  This time we delve even further in the past in to ancient Greece with the life of Eumenes.  This is a man who served in many functions in his life including being secretary to a king, a general, and a scholar. Historie is told from the point of view of Eumenes who is a bright and very smart youth (something he puts to good use).  He is also friendly and kind, often willing to help those in need.  Early in the story his life takes several twists and turns from having a strong and wealthy family, to being a slave, and then meeting Philip II of Macedon which again causes his life to change drastically.  We also meet other famous historical characters such as Aristotle and a young Alexander (as in The Great) as Eumenes interacts with them. 

A lot of the drama created in the series is based on besting the opponents intelligence.   Eumenes often gets out of trouble by being smart and avoiding a fight.  Another source of drama is with the many different cultures interacting with each other and how their cultural mores cause conflict with each other. So once again, this series can be kind of dry for those who are not into that type of story, but for those who are it's great. (I find cultural sociology highly entertaining in and of it's self, so I eat this stuff up).

The art in Historie is an interesting topic onto it's self.  The characters have decent designs that are functional but nothing that will wow anyone. If you have seen Iwaaki's other work Parasyte the characters look pretty much the same just in period appropriate clothing.  What really steps up the art in the series is the amount of detail in it.  A lot of manga titles use screen tones which include pre-made backgrounds like generic modern cityscapes.  For a titles like Historie, or Cesare they are no pre-made backgrounds all of these have to be drawn in (which I give some serious cred to the mangaka for, because this type of stuff is time consuming).  There are many location framing panels or panels with hundreds of soldiers drawn in painstaking detail.  Though for Historie this is where things get kind of bizarre.  If you are reading it the from the anthology magazine it runs in often a chapters will not be properly inked in.  Everything is basically there, it just looks rough.  In the collected volumes  Iwaaki goes back and finishes all of the art and the difference is huge.  The amount of detail in some of the location panels is bewildering.  Every little building in a classical city will be drawn in and with some detail.  Over all I enjoy the art but it will definitely turn off some.  Also it may be worth waiting for the scans of the collected volume to read.

Once again this isn't a title for everyone but for those who like historical or serious stories it is a very good read.  Also if you like Iwaaki's other work Parasyte, I highly suggest reading this.  Both of very different but both handle a lot of interesting moral themes very well.