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 ├╝ber 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.