Saturday, September 13, 2014
Kanae Hazuki continues to mine the depths of adolescence in a sweet often frank portrayal of first love and affection, while most of the first half focuses on Aiko and her continued infatuation with Yamato. While all the while Masashi pines for her dealing tactfully with the whole question teenage “hook-up” culture, nether glorifying it as some sort instant road to maturity or making Aiko into some kind of “fallen woman” who can never be redeemed. Aiko's story is solved rather neatly and she's removed as a potential rival while also becoming an “almost-friend” of Mei's after Mei sticks up for her after she overhears a guy mocking. Aiko's body due to the numerous scars and stretch marks she endured from crash dieting to try and look good, it's a is handled in realistic a scene that capture's Mei's deep sense of justice while not making her a complete “mary sue” either. While Mei and Yamato's relationship grow by leaps and bounds while Yamato is not half as forward as he was in the first chapters (some reviewers found this off putting, as it felt like he wasn’t respecting Mei's boundaries, I feel it's more a convention of writing In Shojo Manga in which the intended audience can allow themselves to imagine themselves as the heroine in short wish-fulfillment). Mei allows herself to feel happy that Yamato can rely on her when it comes to him caring for a cat and even the specter of how “far” they are willing to go. It shows a relationship in which both sides grow with Mei learning to be more outgoing and Yamato learning to be more sensitive to others feelings and boundaries since it's been pretty well established that he hasn’t been told no by many people. While also introducing Nagi Yamato's tart tongued and blun little sister who Mei reaches out to seeing much of herself in the reserved shut-in. Nagi takes an instant dislike to Mei at first for trying to steal her brother. Again this is another example were Mei's personal growth is shown and Nagi who could have been annoying and one note comes off as delightfully Moe and a little bit Tsundere. The only real bad part and I even hesitate to call it that is the introduction of the latest rival for Yamato's affections the idol and professional model Megumi, it's not even her as a character it's simply a tired plot device but it's used so well and Megumi looks to be another “full-orbed” character it's simply that this kind of thing has been done before. Yet simply because something has been done before doesn’t mean it doesn’t work as I heard one person put it writing a story is building with Legos, meaning that if the basic structure is solid than it shouldn’t mater if the form is plain or feels redundant. In conclusion this volume continues the high quality writing of the first two volumes while some have complained about the art having odd proportions or anatomy I find the art does what it's supposed do convey emotion and tell visually what can't be said in dialogue. As much about personal growth as love this is a series that I hope wins some kind of award as it's rare to find something both this bluntly honest and pure. Capturing a difficult time in anyone's life while showing that there is hope and though the teen age years may feel like a time of frustrated “almost measures” it's as if the series seems to be saying “yes it's a confusing time but keep at it you'll make sense of it some day”. I also as another bit of candor have to give Hazuki props for the conversation between Mei and Asami about Mei feeling aroused around Yamato it's not crass really none of this series ever feels crass simply honest. In capturing the burgeoning sexuality teenage girl while also giving her an inner life the balance is never precarious or unrealistic solidly written with a quiet melancholy that belies the sometimes happy exterior of romance Say I Love You strikes a bold pace that I wish other writers would take note of.
With this the entire series comes to an end while it was never in doubt that Jiro would end up with Subaru in the end the story does throw a few curve ball the reader's way be advised massive spoilers ahead. With Jiro taking up the mantle of Subaru’s dream to be a butler and Subaru finally being open that she's a girl and everyone pretty much admitting that they expected as much. This was a short sweet series that while it had a few missteps with Jiro being reduced to a mere cipher and never really explaining why Masamune had such issues with her parents beyond their apparent neglect. Or certain jokes just didn’t strike me as funny such as Japanese word play, at the end it's an enjoyable entertaining slight series that captures what it means to want to devote yourself to someone and value them. Nothing is truly profound or original and it's ultimately a solid B+ as a a whole.
With a story that harkens back to old “world of pain” Seinen series in which numerous horrible things happen to characters, the first volume is all build up with little character development with no real protagonist. Simply a collection of lost souls left to be brutally slaughtered by the enemy, although little is given in background when a character dies I felt sad and it never felt like you could see who was going to die coming. The first volume works a a self contained short story with an interesting use of future Sci-Fi technology industrial espionage, and bleak pessimism, volume two takes place twenty years after the events in volume one. It’s stronger than the first as there is no need to develop or retell excess amounts of back story, it also opens with a character killing a man-eating bear with his bare hands. It's the type of over the top hyper-masculine ultra-violence, that acts as a good pallet cleanser for those times when you want a break from the softer side of Manga such as romance or self-referential “Otaku-bait” comedies. While the characters continue to matter from Shokichi who becomes the captain of the crew in the second volume after witnessing the violent death of the rest of his crew in volume one. To the world building in volume two that introduces the new crew members of internationals and illegal immigrants and the call back of the family of those lost in volume one. Everything ties together so that while volume one is very self-contained it doesn’t feel completely unconnected to volume two. Although some of Sasuga's writing is overwrought such as battle being interspersed with quotes from The Book of Joel and The Book of Exodus to the trivia about cockroach which while textures the narrative feels like a way to fill page space than of any real importance. The overall emotion is conveyed in a grim terse writing style boarding on hard-boiled in some parts and oddly touching in others. While Kenichi Tachibana's art (with the exception of the unfortunate implications of the character design for the mutated cockroaches). Is sterile in it's backgrounds gruesome in it's gore and over detailed in it's musculature and the insect induced powers of the crew. In conclusion this feels like a “throw back” title to old Sci-Fi series like To Tera and the body horror of Parasyte, giving it all a welcome old school feel in a manga market that for both good and ill has become increasingly gender blind.
Monday, September 8, 2014
The most "talented" Sailor Scout makes her appearance! Again this episode was a win all around from Ami Koshimizu's turn as Makoto capturing the strength and vulnerabilities in her inner life, to Makoto's transformation into Sailor Jupiter it's an episdoe owned by Koshimizu's performance but honestly no one is a slouch in this series from the Sailor Scouts, The Four Kings, and Queen Beryl all the roles feel well cast. While action has well paced and the fight choreography continues to be superb, five episodes in and this is still the best thing I have seen this summer season I can only hope that this ignites a new generation of "Moonies"
Friday, September 5, 2014
Written by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by his son Goro Miyazaki, From Up On Poppy Hill, is at times bitter sweet at other times melancholic and above all competent and economical in it's story and writing. It’s also depressingly unoriginal the story set in 1963 era Japan with Umi a high school student who sets up signal flags as a memorial to her Father who died in The Korean War she soon makes the acquaintance of the devil-may care Shun who she quickly befriends and develops romantic feelings for. Only to have their future romance threatened by a long forgotten secret, it's the melodramatic plot twist that sinks this movie for me, as if it had simply been about Umi and Shun's romance or even her attempts to save the club house Shun and other students use for club activities it would have been a slight but well done story of adolescence. With the plot twist it feels like two completely different stories with unfortunate implications that are solved to neatly to be believable. While the score almost drowns out the Seiyu, who are mostly a restrained almost whisper quiet delivery except for the occasional emotional outburst, while the few songs capture the mood and are sung with vim and vigor. I didn’t love this movie or hate it I was simply amused by the good parts, and disappointed by the cliché plot twist and overly “neat” ending I know Hayao Miyazaki is capable of better and this will go down as one of the lesser Ghibli films. A tired exercise in sentiment and melodrama trying to pass off as a wistful story of the fleetingness of youth and botching it horribly
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Four Volumes! This is a series that easily could have turned into a “one joke” series but from the world building, eye for detail, and overall fun this series has even if certain parts are cliché. Monster Musume continues to be entertaining, and occasionally insightful, with this volume another Monster Girl get introduced bringing the total harem up to a total of six. With the introduction of Rachnera the “feme fetal” of the group. Her introduction also allows for Okayado to hammer away at the core moral of the series that of not judging other based on how they look. With Rachnera holding a lot of bitterness towards humans after being rejected by her first host family due to her having the lower half of a spider, which is just fine with Kimihito because she's got legs (eight of them). It's a nice little bit of character development, To see Rachnera change while Centorea has to come to terms with Rachnera's overly “forward” ways, again this allows for some good character development with Centorea unloading her emotions from behind her facade of honorable stoicism. This story line is the strongest part of the volume. A storyline involving a trip to the gym and the introduction of the super perky Kobold Monster-Girl Port (a nice RPG/D&D reference), is slight but entertaining and has some good action scenes in the race between Miia and Mero and shows the world that everyone inhabits in little ways that make it enjoyable. From little details such as the effect chlorine has on Mero or Mero's misplaced complement in comparing Miia to an eel. While finally the last storyline is the girls following Kimihito while he's on what looks like an date with Ms. Smith, it's a cliché romantic comedy trope that's been done before but throw in a moisture hungry Suu and the various girls personal quirks and it's more than enjoyable. Especially so is Mero's love of the tragic doomed romance in The Little Mermaid, while it all ends on an ominous note, this continues to be one of my go to “fun” series, asks very little in the way of investment from the reader but pays huge dividends when the emotions are hit right. In short it's a series I care about a lot as every character is bounding off the page with life and emotion, while Okayado's art has strong points from backgrounds, clothing, and oversized reaction shots. Faces tend to be weak looking for the most part the same yet it's the only real flaw. While the translation by Ryan Peterson or at least Peterson's attempts at humor, fall flat for me such as Rachnera's use of the phrase “itsy-bitsy” is too “on the nose” to be an enjoyably bad pun but thankfully this speech pattern is almost non-existent by the end of the volume. I get that translation is an art and not a science so my sense of humor just may be too different to find certain aspects of this volume funny, but that's more a personal preference and not an actual mark against the series it’s self. As an aside I liked the choice of “magical garment girl” in Is This A Zombie? While others found it grating same here it's a simple matter of taste. Still a fun read that I keep in my “pull rack” of Manga because it handles it all so well and most of the fan service is handled with a kind of winking acknowledgment that never crosses over into rapey or distasteful. The one acceptance being one a pack of goons almost take advantage of Centorea but like all the other cretins in this series swiftly get their comeuppances, so it ends up kind of being a “wash” for lack of a better term as I always feel if the potential assailant “gets it in the end” I don;t have a huge problem with it but if it's “mind break” or “rape fetish” than I do . It's also good to have a male lead in a romantic comedy that isn’t a complete cipher or “Marty Stu,” Kimihito is a nice guy who takes care of people and worries over the girls simply because he has a good heart not becuese he's flawlessly perfect. Still fun and fun in and of itself is good as allowing your enjoyment of something to become too cerebral or intellectual is the sure death of any kind of real enjoyment of entertainment or art.