Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter Stream: Kancolle: Episode 8

The girls survive the battle from last episode only to have to restock and recuperate at an island that houses the legendary Yamato the named fleet girl for the ridiculously overpowered and resource sapping ship. Large parts of it are Yamato feeling useless while Fubuki finds a kindred spirit in the overpowered battleship. While Nagato is having to juggle resources and strategy as it seems like the victory last episode may very well end up being a Pyrrhic victory. Also a cute moment of Nagato squeeing and cuddling a squirrel while inconsequential was adorable. This episode seems to have struck the right balance of humor, moe and historical notes. The first uniformly good episode of the series.

Winter Stream: Parasyte The MAxim: Episode 20

The special forces move in and a blood bath ensues through shadowy and murky hallways while parasytes are indiscriminately killed with high-powered shotguns. The amorality of the execution is chilling with a few civilians getting killed as either collateral damage or in Parasyte's attempts to use them as human shields. It's chilling seeing the ruthlessness of the action but the fact that none of it is ever heavily commented on and instead the audience is forced to weigh the moral arithmetic of the situation I think is a better choice than a moralizing narration or hammering the older thematic questions of humanity's cruelty to other species. In short it feels like a more mature derection before the final few episodes wrap the entire story up not much happens but at least some food fr thought is given instead of mindless action.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Yatterman Night: Episode 7

Another episode where attempts at humor are more befuddling than funny, this one involving an masochistic named Ryu that the Gang saves from the Yatter Men along with a rather long and involved plan by the forces of the Yatter Kingdom to capture the Doronbow Gang using the myth of Urashima Taro which is a nice cultural note and leads to some really impressive under sea animation. The attempts at humor with Ryu's masochism and unhealthy love for sea creatures is another miss the series is at it's best when it tries to develop the relationship of the Doronbow Gang or commits to world building. Humor feels like a distraction. Visually this is a strong episode with detailed Mecha design and the stratagem used by Galina is ingenious. Another nice visual touch is the haggard and emaciated look that everyone has at the beginning of the episode (even Oda) showing their extreme nutritional deprivation. It's a solid show don't tell story telling device. I just wish the series would have less throw a way gag characters and focus on it's main storyline which is strong enough. This trend of one-off characters hastens to derail the series yet but threatens to if it continues or proves to be inconsequential to the plot.

My Love Story: Volume 3 Review

Takeo and Yamato's whirlwind romance of first love continues unabated while also establishing Takeo as the Kenshiro of Shojo Manga from back flipping rampaging boars to coming to the rescue of the defenseless. Takeo is a gentle giant who while a little dense does the best he can to support his friends. Yamato also is interesting thoughtful but also hyper-self aware of her sometimes obsessive impulses. Meanwhile Sunakawa continues to be the best character in the series as he is very much the snarky troll of the series with the last story being one long joke on Takeo's part by Sunakawa due to Takeo's being clueless. It's this kind of knowing humor combined with Yamato's self-awareness that keep it from being a giant insubstantial pile of Shojo sugar. While the art continues to be barren in it's backgrounds. Expressions and emotions are superb I can feel the joy Yamato and Takeo have when Sunakawa says he likes his birthday presents in one story. Or the mixture of emotions Takeo has in trying to be respectful of Yamato yet noticing her as a woman for the first time when everybody goes swimming at the beach, it's good when a a visual art form can be allowed to be visual and doesn't have to rely on narrative or exposition as a crutch to get emotions or feelings across. This is as much a series about the love one has for you're friends as for that special girl or guy in you're life. The relationship between Sunakawa and Takeo is a real friendship of opposites. Yet it never feels fake or inauthentic given the events of last volume this is made even more clear. I'm also glad that there hasn't been an attempt to “pair up” Sunakawa, with anyone this may change in latter volumes but I like him more as the relationship outsider willing to dispense advice as best he can yet also willing to admit his own uselessness when it comes to matters of the heart. This is still a goodhearted series that while very much a “blue sky” Shojo title never feels fake or idealized to a point that I'm left thinking “life isn't like that” and check out emotionally.

WataMote: Volume 6 Review

Tomoko now has to deal with her long forgotten middle school classmate and mutual friend of Yui Komiyama, of course through flashback it's revealed that all the resentment and anger Komiyama has towards Tomoko is not misguided in the slightest. As Tomoko ended up completely humiliating Komi in front of Tomoki (who it's hinted that she has a crush on him). This volume shows Tomoko at her absolute worst from interpreting the few bits of human kindness as smutty come ons from the few people that are kind to her. To trolling Komi for no reason other than a serious case of the pot calling the kettle black. While it's nice to see some sort of separate peace struck between Komi and Tomoko, it still feels like Tomoko has learned little to nothing content t lean towards the worst presumptions of people. While everything is run through a filter of memes, sexual frustration, and Otaku Culture. It's as always an unflinching honest look at a often times unlikable charcter and it never really condemns the media it's self that Tomoko is consuming. As it would be very easy to castigate the Anime and video games she lays but the series is perfectly fine with ridiculing vocaloids and half baked dreams of stardom. As this is the strongest aspect of the volume and the series has been at it's strongest when poking gentle fun at the obsessions of the implied audience for this series. While other parts of it are almost impenetrable Japanese pop cultural and 2chan references that thankfully some foot notes where included and it doesn't come off as horribly dated as Lucky Star ended up becoming toward the end of it's run. It's humor that's referential without making the punchline it's self the reference in question. Which is often the kiss of death for any kind of pop culture related humor. The story doesn't feel weighted down with extraneous dialogue, it's a quick clip with jokes coming fast and characterization being established and showing some change and growth in other parts. In the end Tomoko is a relatable protagonist but not very sympathetic, seeing her flail about in attempts to gain friends or popularity is often a painful reminder for me of how I was and to a certain extent still am. Yet the psychological insight of the duo of Nico Tanigawa is as always astute. What little enjoyment can be claimed in Tomoko's small victories are quickly lost by her own rash misunderstandings and the constant self-knowledge that “yep that was me and still is in many ways.” Watamote is pitch black comedy from the vary darkest places of comedy almost anti-comedy.

Say I Love You: Volume 6 Review

Volume Six has to be my favorite volume of Say I Love You so far while I like each volume very much and each has something special in them. Volume Six brings so many things to a head and is so unflinching in it's portrayal of first love, friendship, and the ugly side of human nature that I think I'll be hard pressed to find a better Shojo Manga currently being printed in English. While the story dithers with side plots involving Megumi and her broken emotional state or Mei and Aiko coming down like the “hammer of the gods” on Nakanishi (this was, also my favorite scene from an art perspective with the use of screen tone and shading build the mood. While tightly cropped panels mixed with the free flowing page layout create and arresting unbalanced mental ethos.) When it's thought he might be cheating on Asami. Even Kei gets the best writing in the volume when he tells Yamato what he really thinks it's bitter sweet and also shows a painful amount of both resentment and gratefulness that Kai has for Yamato. From Kai thinking of Yamato as shiftless and sneaky trying to be on every one's good side and that he can't possibly understand what Mei's been through unlike him to even a veiled reference to thoughts of suicide if Yamato hadn't been there for Kei. While Kai's love confession to Mei earlier is bold it's this argument with Yamato that feels more raw and nakedly emotional, many of Kai's thoughts are thoughts I've had about various Shojo Manga male leads in the past. While a large part of the series is a look into Megumi's past and her emotional life, it'd be easy and cheap to accuse Hazuki-Sensei of writing Meg structurally the same as Aiko. Yet Meg is completely different Aiko is blunt and often crass yet a loyal and stalwart girl at heart. While Meg thinks of friends as accessories she can trade in and out like the fashions she models or buy people's loyalties by throwing money around or trying to impress them with her celebrity. At one point Meg tries to butter up Aiko and Asami while also backhandedly excluding Mei. Aiko knows when she's being played and refuses to be Meg's pawn, or when her oldest friend Momo calls her out when Meg snaps at some fans and Meg tries to get her other friends to shun Momo and that fails. The repercussions of what Meg has been doing blows up in her face leaving her ostracized by the end of the volume and smarting from her own duplicitous ways. Meg is a highly unlikable character and yet she's so human in that feeling that you have to put on your best public face or be constantly “on” for the sake of gaining the praise of others. All while still feeling like the ugly girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” deep inside Meg's a complex character and a little more developed than Aiko as far as motivations and inner life. If I were to compare her to a character from another Manga it'd be Yukari from Paradise Kiss some one who is adept at playing a role but unsure of what part of her is real and what part is mostly pretense. The more obvious choice would be Sae form Peach Girl but Sae was always kind of played as being bad because she somehow enjoyed it or got something out of it Meg plays her role more out of a deep seeded insecurity or misplaced shame about her upbringing. Mei meanwhile is having to struggle with the fact that she's been going out with Yamato for over a year and now Kai has expressed his interest in her as well. The few moments were Mei and Yamato get to be alone are sweet from stolen kisses and dubious romantic advice from friends to a trip to the Land Amusement Park. Although of all the scenes with Mei and Yamato it's not the ones where they are together or when Yamato reflects on how much he's grown more in love with this brusque and awkward girl. No my favorite is when Nagi shanghais Yamato and Mei's date and we see how much the unsociable hurt little girl has grown from gaining real friends and even a boyfriend seeing this was a moment that made me extremely happy. All I can hope is that I hope volume seven brings some closure to Meg's story and that Mei and Yamato continue to grow, however I think it will be hard to top a volume as heartfelt and honest as this one. If you aren't reading this series now what's wrong with you?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Nurs Hitomi's Monster Infirmary Volume One

Cute monster girls and broad comedy, are the order of the day in this series about a Cyclops School nurse named Hitomi and her student patients. Who all have their own problems from Shitara who has a 320 centimeter tongue to childhood friends Oogi (who can't stop growing topping out at 295 centimeters) and Osanai (who can't stop shrinking and is now down to 105 centimeters). Most of the stories are someone has a problem and Hitomi helps them out by giving advice or simply letting the person vent. Given the strange and unique difficulties many of her patients things get plenty odd in particular with the tomboyish and genki Fujimi Yomi who is an almost zombie that's always loosing body parts and having to have nurse Hitomi stitch them back on. Aside from the revolving cast of regulars the world everyone inhabits is one filled with winged humanoids and even beast people. Hitomi herself is likable if sometimes adorably klutzy due to her depth perception being skewed to having only one eye. Each girl is a moe archetype in a sense and it's all cute but also blackly humorous It'd be easy to compare this to Everyday Life With Monster Girls due to this running in the same magazine as that title. But where as Mon Musu is based around fan service and harem romance. Monster Infirmary, is about world building and a sort of real world logic in a reality filled with people with unique physical make up and simply adolescence being a hard time to endure and made doubly hard by the unique circumstances of the students. There really isn't any kind of fan service to speak of implied or sub textual things but nothing overly overt, large parts of it feel like an occupational Manga for what goes into being a school nurse while the fantastic elements are like sugar to make the drier parts go down easier. Art wise Shake-O's use of blacks shading and a thick line work give it a look more comparable to an 90s independent comic like Ghost World, that modern Manga are with a art style more influenced by Anime and video games. Giving the series an old look that is refreshing. This is a volume that invites the audience to a world filled with unique people and to re visit the awkward moments of youth with a kindly big sister in Nurse Hitomi. Hitomi's enthusiasm for her work and simply wanting to help is what makes the series so enjoyable for me when you get past the side show freak afflictions of the students it's a very simple message at the heart of the story that resonated with me. In conclusion this is a series that says “it gets better” and sometimes that's all someone needs to hear.