Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Land Of The Lustrous Volume Five Review

Phosphophyllite continues the search to find the truth about Sensei while also having to come to terms with their disintegrating mental state and quickly compartmentalized inner life while also learning more about Alexanderite and their reason for being such a Lunarian obsessive. While also being introduced to Ghost Quartz a gem who quite literally fades into the background. While also trying to learn about Lunarian speech patterns or if speech is even possible with the denizens of the moon or if it is merely mimicked vocalizations. Emotional isolation seems to suffocatingly enclose on the characters whether it is Rutile's obsessive quest to help Padparadscha regain consciousness. Phosphoyllite's wanting to uncover Sensei's true motives or even Sensei himself with a stockpile of secrets and implications from a few scenes. Making this as much a mystery and a question of the limits of trust one can have along with the question of ends justifying means. While occasionally this miasma of frustration, recrimination, and self-recrimination is broken by a sardonic, withering, and sarcastic sense of humor which fits given the often dry and stilted characterization. It's not a kind of humor for everybody but then again this series has never really been for everybody with its subtle hints at Buddhist philosophy and cosmology. To grey and shading being used to manufacture the effect of translucence in the gem's hair to the exquisite detail on the Lunarians who all look like a piece of Mahayana Buddhist devotional art or the denizens of the moon from Takahata, Isao's Kaguya-hime no Monogatari. To bleak landscapes used to show the interior turmoil of the characters. Capturing human emotions in nonhuman characters can be difficult yet Ichikawa-Sensei shows a nuance at characterization. That the characters have real feelings but never lose the otherness that always leaves the audience away from a full-hearted embrace of the characters which given the number of secrets the characters harbor to the odd stilted conversation patterns. Or even odd slightly comedic elements like Ghost Quartz phasing in and out of reality and their overall absent-minded demeanor. Continued strong characterization and simple character design contrasted with meticulous detail in the design for the Lunarians. While also showing astute insight into the interior lives of characters who are non-human. A series I am glad was given a chance in the English Langauge market as it is if nothing else a completely individual work.

To Your Eternity Volume Three Review

Fushi's journey to self-actualization continues this time intersecting with a masked physically deformed boy named Gugu who works as a housekeeper and servant for a disreputable old Moonshiner who repaired Gugu's face. After Gugu is injured by a falling timber poll after he pushes Rean the well to do but the smothered daughter of an overprotective and somewhat mollycoddling upper-class couple. Fushi slowly comes to form a bond with Gugu while Gugu has to learn not only to accept himself ut also accept help from others and that he is not the self-perceived monster that he has built his self-image up to be. With an insular focus on the interior life of a physical trauma combined with a slowly approaching narrative of almost apocalyptic proportions in the background. Oima-Sensei in some ways returns to some of the themes that where prominent in A Silent Voice with this volume having a heavy emphasis on not only the community but even learning to love the often imperfect people that make up your small personal community. while also slowly unraveling Gugu's backstory and the end results of his older Brother's abandonment. It's weighty and dark but also not without small bits of humor like Rean becoming enamored of Fushi while Fushi is completely oblivious to the girl's flirtations. Or Fushi's horrendous first attempts at making boiled Daikon. While also being unafraid to show the sometimes dark and destructive mental places those who feel powerless will go when they find someone else that is weaker than them. in short, the "hurt people hurt people" truism. With Gugu at one point hurting Fushi to test out his regenerative abilities while a single close up shot on Fushi's pain-filled face on the verge of tears says more than any dialogue could. While the few fight scenes in the volume recall the elastic acrobatic fight choreography of Hiromu Arakawa in Fullmetal Alchemist and the tense sense of forbidding of Fake Karakura Town arc era Tite Kubo. Making for a dense and thoughtful story that also can tell the story without using dialogue as a narrative crutch and rely on the visual narrative and story as told through panel layout and construction of mood by shading, character design, and as has been said the real story happens between the panels. This is a truth Oima-Sensei has grasped expertly. A continuing never dull and always original emotional kaleidoscope that leaves one both warm inside and speechless at the originality and levels of deeply seeded pain both emotional and physical that runs in the background. Highly recommended for its experimentation and exploration of the human psyche.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Anonymous Noise Volume Seven Review

Starting out with an internal cerebral look at Nino's slow growth into performing as she performs and it's effect on the crowd contrasted with flashbacks to Nino's shared past with Yuzu and Momo. While also showing a more vulnerable side to Momo and his past while also giving focus in a subplot involving Kuro and his unrequited feelings for his brother's wife. While also slowly fleshing out the newly minted almost relationship between Miou and Haruyoshi. Ending with the promise of a tour and more music experience for In No Hurry To Shout. A series I have enjoyed reading but not yet reviewed volume seven confirms my feelings that Anonymus Noise is very much "PG-13 Nana." I don't say that to slight the series but that very much the same broken and flawed relationships and longing and desire that were portrayed in Nana are in Anonymus Noise. Except with less of an emphasis on the physical aspects of love and romance. Instead, a good portion of the volume is dedicated to creating the emotional feeling of performance and the rush of a live music concert. Contrasted with the interiority given to Nino who without a note being heard is able to capture the joy, sorrow, and longing not only for performance but for Momo as well. Contrasted with Momo's hidden but still noticeable feelings for Nino. If anything Fukuyama-Sensei shows an expert hand at panel layout, composition, and the contrast between hyper-emotive wordless splash and two page spreads. With the muddled murky and unconfessed feelings. Or in Kuro's case confessed feelings which that arc of Kuro struggling with his barely repressed feelings for UI his brother's wife come spilling out of him and at least he has enough personal honor to get out of that situation. After he impetuously confesses obliquely and recognizes it as a sign of his own immaturity. It's honestly one of the darker plot threads in the series while unrequited longing is kind of a leitmotif for the series to see someone actually be that forward only to reject their own desires. Is a starling bit of honesty that is made only heavier and more poignant thanks to Fukuyama-Sensei's panel placement and character design using the height difference between UI and Kuro to great effect. As well as the contrast of the closeness of UI and Kuro with blank backgrounds and close-cropped rectangles framing the characters in this cramped volatile emotional landscape. before cutting to a scene of the still moon and Kuro reflecting on its cool beauty Making a poetic scene. Thankfully it is not all angst and pained confessions with Nino's charmingly awkward social interaction still occasionally being shown as well making for a nice light "pallet cleanser" of comedy. While not being overused either highly recommended for its emotional honesty and intensity while also showing a wonderful grasp of the visual being able to portray the aural.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Delicious in Dungeon Volume 4 Review

With six chapters dedicated to the battle against the Red Dragon and it's aftermath the first story arc of Delicious in Dungeon comes to a close in a big way while Laios, Senshi, Marcille, and Chilchuck have to plan how to defeat the dragon and hopefully save Falin. With odds against them and the seemingly indestructible dragon raging through a confined small town. Laios ends up having to make a desperate play to save his sister. While Marcille is forced to use dark and forbidden Black Magic to resurrect Falin raising ethical questions and laying the groundwork for questions about magical ethics. If volume three was the most RPG-like volume of the series volume four has the most maturity in character writing with each of the main cast growing and feeling more like real people and not simply archetypes cobbled together from a D&D player's manual. In particular, Laio's almost suicidal gambit to defeat the dragon made him rise in my esteem as a character along with his obvious concern for his sister. Falin and Laio's reunion and subsequent bonding eliciting an audible "aww!" from me at how genuine and heartwarming it was. While Marcille has been given a layer of moral ambiguity that makes for an complexity to a character that was more often than not little more than the straight man while also again making her concern for Falin all that more authentic in part thanks to the subtle character development in volume three showing their burgeoning friendship. While having tense chapters long fight with the dragon is new for the series Kui-Sensei does not forget the original hook of the series either. With Senshi's ingenious use of the dragon's corpse as a pizza oven making onion flatbread to using the deceased creature's scales as a cooking surface. Having enough for both those who want a sometimes grim but heartfelt adventure yarn but also the same sort of offbeat humor and finely wrought compositions of fictional food as well. Continues to be one of the more innovative and original series in English along with a handful of other titles mostly from Seven Seas. While Kui-Sensei's art continues to improve in strength upon strength with minute details of human bone structure small pieces of character motion like Falin absent-mindedly kicking her feet in a flashback. To the use of shading to give a sense of menace to Marcille in one scene as looms threateningly over Chilcuck. Showing an eye for detail that is impressive in its organic composition of cobblestone and buildings while also able to show subtle emotional nuance in the characters faces as well.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Saint Seiya Saintia Shou Volume One Review

Shoko a high school girl waiting for the return of her older sister is suddenly thrust into a looming battle between the forces of chaos and destruction headed by the evil goddess Eris and the forces of justice and peace headed by the goddess Athena. While also being reunited with her older sister Kyoko and learning the truth behind Saori Kido the mysterious girl who has some connection to Kyoko. That Saori is, in fact, Athena's physical Avatar and Kyoko is one of the personal cadres of handpicked female bodyguards and handmaidens who protect Athena known as Saintia. Saint Seiya released under the title Knights of The Zodiac by Viz Media never had a huge following in the U.S. although it did have a sizeable cult following in Central and South America and an outsized influence on male character design in Shonen Jump and help birth the nascent Doujinshi community in Japan. Admittedly I was never a huge fan of Saint Seiya finding it kind of hokey. Yet Saint Seiya Saintia Shou I enjoyed finding it's fast-paced action and quick and bloody fight sequences intermixed with the hard-nosed "never say die" attitude of Shoko an almost tonic experience. While simple the story feels authentic and believable while thankfully not having too steep of a learning curve for those that are unfamiliar with its parent series. Making for a series that feels in some ways out of place as it is an almost masochistic level of devotion to one's friends that may put some off due to the mild amounts of blood and implied sexualized torture. If any criticism can be made for me and even at that it's only slight it is Chimaki Kuori's decidedly old-fashioned art and character design looking like Cantarella era You Higuri. It's not bad the choreography of the fight scenes is quick and at times arresting in its onsetting gloom still for a series originally published in Japan 2013 it could be off-putting to some. Again while old-fashioned from a design standpoint it's not stuffy or trapped in backward design aesthetics as far as panel layout and framing while avoiding some of the more garish tendencies of the original.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale: Volume One Review

Nagi a small girl who lives by herself in a cabin in the woods in a post-apocalyptic world finds and later befriends a giant spider. While waiting for her wander-lust riddled father to return and living day to day life and trying to find out more about her new arachnid house guest. Replate with an disarmingly soft linework and vigorously detailed hand-drawn depictions of food. This volume sets up the story introduces the characters and simply lets the story move at its leisurely pace. There is a plot but each chapter is anchored by a particular food that Nagi makes while trying to understand the spider she has named Asa and forage for food. While charming and sweet without being cloying the post-apocalyptic nature of the story combined with Nagi being a young girl seemingly all alone. Give the story an undercurrent of melancholy. While Nagi's relationship with Asa grows throughout the volume with Asa even protecting the young girl from a ravenous wild dog at one point. In an action scene that given the series subject matter I did not expect to have been so tense and foreboding. Wich I guess can also be a place to praise how Morino-Sensei constructs the scene and while foreshadowed it never feels like one is being bludgeoned with said foreshadowing. While also having such adorable scenes as Asa getting drunk on coffee or keeping Nagi warm at night as well. If nothing else this is a series that feels unlike anything on the English Langauge market. The only slight comparison I could make is Delicious In Dungeon with its disparate genres and emphasis on cooking. Still, this is a volume that shows even if a story seems odd on the service if written so that it feels like an organic whole nothing can feel dissimilar. While the food illustrations themselves are well drawn each individual vegetable in the Ratatouille is noticeable as it's own kind of vegetable. Even the liquidity of the oil used for frying is drawn in such a way that though still motion is captured. It's the fact that recipes were included that simply has that little extra touch to the story that makes for a neat little interactive element for the audience that has seen the food would like to attempt to make it. Another fine addition to Seven Seas growing collection of odd titles such as Little Devils and Juana and the Dragonewt's Seven Kingdoms.

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Volume Six Review

Continuing its funeral meditation on the brutality of war and the struggle to keep sane and what keeps one fighting in it. The sixth volume of Gundam Thunderbolt focuses on one battle out of chronological order starting at the beginning of the present time and going all the way back to thirty-five hours before the battle and ending with its aftermath. While showing everything from Io finding a kindred spirit in fellow Gundam piolet and former professional musician the heavily tattooed Bianca Carlyle whose tattoos which cover her entire back while representing all of the previous military actions she has been involved in. In short, she carries a proverbial graveyard of her dead comrades and past battles quite literally on her back. Even at one point, the series takes time to focus on the traumatized Alcoholic Commander Kauffman in the Zeon forces who is forced to sober up and fight the Federation to avenge his dead child and carry out his mission. While the religious fanatics of the last volume lurk in the background, while Gundam units fight on frozen ice and in sub-arctic seas intense almost claustrophobic combat with often wordless panels laid out giving a sense of impending dread or the human face to the enemy in the gun's crosshair. While never a "fun" title Gundam Thunderbolt continues its strong balance of introspective character writing and meticulously crafted mech design and emotional truth. Using war less as a grand romantic adventure and more as a crucible in which the characters are broken down and either made stronger for it or irreparably damaged physically and psychologically or die ignominious deaths. Even the deaths of small secondary characters are given respect be it the simple detail of the crew of a ship all drawn to be visibly crying. Or Kauffman's transformation from lachrymose drunk to "angel of vengeance" being shown in posture, framing, and facial expression. All is not grim military battles and an extended jam session between Bianca and Io receives just as much loving detail as the Atlas Gundam and its beam cannon. Capturing the spontaneity and exuberance of two fans and performers being able to play their hearts out on stage. It's one of the little elements that continue to keep the series human as it would be very easy to reduce the cast to cannon fodder as a series like Gantz (a series I like)does with most of its secondary cast. While the super detailed art makes every Gundam look meticulously crafted the Mech can often have this cold overly processed look compared to the expressive characters while also at times seeming out of place with the backgrounds. While I liked the non-chronological nature of the story because it gave a chance to get to know and grow with the characters. Keeping the flow of time straight can be cumbersome and take someone out fo the story. Still, I think the non-linear narrative structure is an adventurous attempt none the less at telling a story that is so cut and dry and straightforward.