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.