Friday, June 23, 2017
Chronicling the adventures Saichi Sugimoto a veteran of The Russo-Japanese War who goes into the wilderness of Hokkaido hoping to make his fortune in the Gold Rush only to struggle along and have no success until he learns about a mysterious cache of Gold hidden in the Northern wilderness by a convict who murdered the Ainu who had collected the gold and hid the whereabouts as to its location onto the bodies of other convicts by way of tattooing the location onto their skin. Saichi soon makes the acquaintance of a young Ainu girl named Asiripa the daughter of one of the murdered men after she saves him from a bear and they then kill a man-eating bear and agree to work together to find the gold together. Leading to further exploits in Northern Japan by the two while they learn they are not the only ones after the gold. Golden Kamuy is a throwback to the old "Beer and Curry" Anime and Manga of the 80s and 90s capturing a hard-edged machismo more at home in old Gekiga than the sometimes plastic and overly shiny world of media tie-in Manga and Otaku pandering titles. In short, it is "the most Kazuo Koike thing Kazuo Koike never wrote." Yet it is more than mere swaggering machismo or self-insert fantasies for bored Salary Men like Golgo 13.Mangaka Satoru Noda is able to show subtle nuance to his protagonist be it showing how Saichi earned his nickname "The Immortal" in a chilling scene of him killing serval Russian officers with a bayonet after Saichi is shot in the throat it's not even really the battle but the build up to it Sugimoto waiting in the trenches affixing his bayonet noticing an ant on his finger eating the ant exclaiming how sour it is than marching off into no man's land and the ensuing bloodbath It's a chilling scene that is only made more so by Noda's subtle use of tension and dramatic build up. Showing an almost cinematic attention to detail in the opening scene. It does not end just with crisp visuals Noda's writing of the relationship between Asiripa and Saichi where honestly the high point of the series from Asiripa explaining the various taboos and turns of phrase in Ainu culture to even recipes for food this use of calm and quiet character moments contrasted with the often shocking brutality of both man and nature give a humanity to the series that is sorely lacking in some hard boiled Men's Manga. With its terse dialogue, hints of social commentary, and character writing that shows a real attention to detail. Golden Kamuy will be a title to watch for as it grows and the story becomes richer and the characters more developed.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Chronicling the emotional, psychological and sexual dysfunction of its author My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is a harrowing emotionally lacerating work done in an art style comparable to Natsume Ono. This is a deep dive into the self-analysis of a woman who has been through much emotional and psychological pain parts of it rang eerily true to me. While others I could not relate to in particular Kabi's desire to be touched I myself loathe being touched finding the experience comparable to being buried in a pit of squirming earthworms. Narratively it is very stream of conscious, no real forward momentum but occasional "rest stops" to reflect on everything from the author's compulsive eating the scene of her looking at the aftermath of a blood-flecked brick of instant ramen brought me to tears. This is also the first Manga I can ever say actually drove me to pray for the strength to finish it to the end oftentimes it feels like an examination of the past wreckage of one's life or the moral inventory one takes in a 12 step program. By the end of the volume I could rejoice with Kabi in her emotional "new life" at finding some kind of closure yet ultimately this joy at seeing a woman who almost felt like a new friend to me is tinged with bittersweetness because ultimately mere determination and belief in self as helpful or as needed as that may be for the walking wounded. Will have no real lasting peace, This is the part of the review that I fear will drive many away and it is not my intention to needlessly wound anyone with these words. Yet I feel it must be said. Lesbianism will offer no real wholeness female Same-sex Attraction will not wipe away the tears of the broken and pain begrimed life that is existence in this veil of tears. It may numb the pain of living or you may delude yourself into thinking this is just who you are or happiness is found in accepting this but ultimate wholeness can only come through faith, repentance, and trust in The Triune God of Scripture and allow the family of God that is the local church to become your family. This is ultimately what happens when one comes to God in Faith and is Regenerated not the reason why one comes to faith as a Monergistic act of God. We are to Repent and believe in Christ's Atonement and receive His Righteousness while He propitiates our sin before a Holy God In short being regenerated is not for the "goodies" this new life offers (wholeness, joy, and fellowship among the myriad of other blessings). Of course, I realize this solution flies in the face of the accepted common knowledge and Japan having an infinitesimal Christina population this is very much "singing hymns to a horse." But I felt I at least needed to say this for honesty's sake as the consensecious in the reviews and impressions of this work have been that Lesbianism is a moral good or at least a morally neutral "thing" (for lack of a better word). With that being said still this is a work that ought to be read widely as it is that rare honest exercise of emotional honesty in Art that makes the medium as a conduit for human empathy. Often times while reading it I found myself thinking "my goodness it's like the second coming of Okazaki, Kyoko!!" Who I should note as an aside is my favorite Mangaka of all time. A pure and raw work of an artistic voice that has a bravery that astonishes and yet I still can't help but feel a deep aching sadness for Kabi both because her struggles are human, all too Human but also because I having been in some similar circumstances and having been regenerated by the Triune God of The Christian Scriptures. Now know where true peace comes from it doesn't mean that I'm "fixed" or that everything is perfect I'm still very much a work in progress but I have something more than the will o the wisp of my own personhood and self-belief to hang on to. But I digress and I hate to be so didactic in a review but it's out of love and concern because I think mollycoddling people in their sin is ultimately the most unloving thing someone can do. In conclusion, this is a masterpiece and is possibly the best Manga I have read all year. Brutal, joyful. sad, and sweet My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is a must read for Christians who want at least a little bit of a "peak" into the mind of a Lesbian and learn to love this particular Lesbian in her shared humanity and Image Of God. While more generally it's simply an honest story I'd recommend to anyone who loves good writing. I may have cattily mocked Seven Seas licensing of this as a brave act when it was first announced but no this is indeed a brave act even if ultimately the fulfillment found within its pages is an artificial paradise. Post Script: I don't normally attach post scripts to reviews but I figured since this could be a discussion that generates more heat than light I thought I'd at least list a few Christian books that deal with Same Sex Attraction if anyone is interested in learning more about Human Sexuality from a Christian standpoint that is beyond my own limited capacities. Or dig deeper than the sometimes superficial clichés Christians parrot at people who have Same Sex Attraction my listing these books, however, is not an unqualified endorsement. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith and Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God. A Broken Mother's Search for Hope by Christopher Yuan and Is God anti-gay? (Questions Christians Ask) by Sam Allberry Also not specifically dealing with Homosexuality and Lesbianism but helpful spiritual resources none the less are these books: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen and Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification by Sinclair B. Ferguson If anybody reads this and disagrees with the more Didactic parts of this review know that I am trying to live out Ephesians 4:15 and if I've wounded you or made you angry I ask your forgiveness for I am still a halting and stammering son of Adam before anything else and only want to say there are hope and peace for those that struggle with Same-sex Attraction and 1 Corinthians 6:11 thankfully is still scripture.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Putting a new spin on the Red Riding Hood story Red Riding Hood and the Big Sad Wolf takes the story in an unconventional and often times dark way with Red Riding Hood being a sadistic pyromaniac who wants to keep the sensitive wolf around her because she wishes to make him her personal plaything while also dealing occasionally with the adventures of Wolf being beat down by life or being the victim of life wther it is by Red Riding Hood or a Bishōnen hawk who has taken a liking to Red Riding Hood and wants to stuff and mount her on his wall. Or a group of quadruplet hunters who can't hit the broadside of a barn and constantly fight with each other. Or Wolf's attempts to get Hawk's besotted lackey Crow in the good graces of their boss or having to deal with a Yankee Rabbit from his past. Red riding Hood and the Big Sad Wolf is a mean series with the wolf's introduction to Red Riding Hood being her torching his house because she thought it was an abandoned property and she loves fire. That is until she sees our poor Wolf-San's crying face and decides to love him "her way." The humor is very based upon the Manzai dynamic of Tsukkomi and Boke unless it's the quadruplet hunters than it's a "let us laugh at these fools derisively" kind of humor. While the overall tone is a mean-spirited look into the mind of comically nasty people inflicting themselves on a hapless straight man. How much you find this funny will depend on how black you like you're humor and seeing how my sense of humor is as black as the center of a black hole I love this series from Red Riding Hood's daydreams of married bliss to wolf consisting of her keeping locked in a cage or forcing him to eat his meals off a floor. Even little things like Crow being obsessed with shiny things made me smile the only part I could say I found unfunny was an extended look at the Hunter Quadruplets and that's more because it felt like it went on for too long than it actually was not funny. Arata's art ranges from slick and polished to rough and loose gag manga reactions. Even a small bit of fussy clothing design in one scene with Crow but I love fussy clothing design consider it a holdover from my days as a Clamp obsessive. While the dialogue... The banter in this is "God-Tier" I don't normally shine a light on translators or Adapters but Beni Axia Conrad and Shanti Fader deserve a raise or some kind of award for this as the dialogue had me laughing almost constantly not to give short shrift to Arata's writing though. In conclusion if someone wants a odd series that is not afraid to get bleakly funny than this is a great series while also it's release harkens back to the days when Josei Manga licenses were kind of a free for all being everything from Tramps Like Us to The Embalmer. A great little find that may not get a big readership but if nothing else it makes me smile (evilly. In short this is very much a "laugh at my pain" Manga a great read for the black hearted and those that appreciate the darker side of romantic comedy.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Kazamori and her group of not quite friends struggle to get their club off the ground in a battle with the Equestrian Club with events that have everything from hair wrestling and Arm Wrestling to a Sympathy Contest in the beginning. While the rest of it is odd interactions or "wink and smile" references to Shonen Manga clichés. Still, the heart of the series is Kazamori coming to terms with the fact that she does not have to be special to be liked by others and letting her defenses down among her friends with the last half dedicated to doing something nice for Hanei. I really enjoyed this volume from its little characters moments to Noro's grasp of how to write character interactions such as hyperactive Rika playing off of reserved Kazamori. Rika honestly stole most of the scenes she was in with her loud personality and no sense of tact or personal space making her for me the second coming of Tomo Takino from Azumanga Daioh. While Kazamori's stiff, rigid and overly formal way of acting contrasted with Ohki's clueless and bumbling personality. Made me laugh mostly because you are in Kazamori's head for most of the series unless it changes perspectives and it's all a very awkward series not because it's badly drawn or written Shunsuke Noro has the grasp of the cringey bumbling often times hormone-addled adolescents down cold. Especially when Tanaka loudly declares he likes getting beat up and healed or Dowa having anxiety over crushed rocks. Honestly, this is less monster girl harem series or slice of shenanigans than it feels more like Eiji Nonaka's Cromartie High School with occasional flashes of almost-romance. Making for a monster girl series that feels steeped more in the sometimes mean-spirited and anarchic comedy that Shonen Champion was known for in earlier generations than the cheesecake that Monster Girls as a genre have become notorious for with certain titles. Then there is the hidden gem of the volume the absurd gag manga God & Dog & Yamashita's Species Domain Board a two page gag manga about a girl an anthropomorphic dog and a demonic looking samurai who break the fourth wall try to insinuate them into the main story and overall make for a weird anarchic end to the volume. This continues to be a strange title full of humor that feels painfully real in its awkwardness.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
The almost plotless adventures Slice of Life adventures of two girls thoughtful and philosophical Chito and dimwitted Yuuri who travel around in the remains of an unspecified future after the collapse of civilization and all it's infrastructure. Chronicles everything from finding food and fuel to washing clothes and using snow melt to wash clothes. While sometimes having reflective moments on the meaning of existence in this cold and seemingly barren wasteland of a world. Chito for her part feels more like a mother burdened with a overgrown child but also seems to care for the oafish Yuuri while Yuuri is capable of both animal cunning and child like wonder. Making for an interesting paring in the bleak wasteland of their continued existence. If anything can be said of the series it is an haunting look into the world after the end. That captures the mood of a series like Night on the Galactic Railroad or Galaxy Express 999. Making for an almost meditative experience in it's quieter moments with long drawn panels of silent snow covered debris. While the loose sketchy art style gives the entire series a rough hewn lived in quality nothing has a cold or inorganic computer aided look to it. I also have to give credit for working in a sly reference to Ryunosuke Akutagawa's Novel The Kappa. It feels dismissive to call this a "mood piece". As that seems to make it all about the emotions the work of art creates. No it is very much a story with stakes ranging from the small to the great and allowing the characters to be multifaceted without feeling like a cobbled together Chimera of archetypes. Chito can be short tempered and even snappish at times. A haunting travel through a post-apocalyptic future with two unlikely friends this is a series that is a bleaker more world weary slice of life Manga while still able to enjoy life Chito and Yuuri are also hampered by basic survival needs. Making for a grounded look at after the end, not a series for those who like sprightly pacing. Yet a volume the luxuriates in the little moments of intimacy and the stark beauty of the landscape.
Friday, May 26, 2017
The story of the hungry and unlucky party of Knight Laius Thorden, Halfling Lock pick Chilchack, and Elvin mage Marcille who are in a race against time to get to a dragon that has eaten Laius's sister Farlyn before she is digested. Only problem is they have no food or money for food. So Laius comes up with the plan to eat the monsters in the dungeon. Marcille is aghast at eating any of the assorted creepy crawlies that exist in the dungeon on top of sensibly stating that none of them know how to prepare the various monsters. That is until they meet Senshi a Dwarven adventurer who knows how to prepare innumerable monster based delicacies who helps them know how to prepare the various creatures while tagging along with the hopes of getting some of the Dragon Laius and his band hope to slay to save Laius's slowly digesting sister. The amount of humor one finds in the idea of eating monsters taken from a D&D Monster Manuel will depend on not only familiarity with the monsters but also tropes associated with them. Particularly true with the Basilisk and Mandrake these are helpfully explained and the ensuing dishes are delicious to look at which is sad that no such dishes as Mandrake and Basilisk omelets or Roast Basilisk will ever exist in reality. It's odd to find the idea of something like Giant Scorpion and Walking Mushroom Hot Pot made with Slime drawn so tantalizingly but it is a testament to Kui's draftsmanship from glistening slabs of Basilisk Bacon to fresh and crispy deep-fried Mandrake Kakiage with Giant Bat tempura. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water. Yet this series is not just a odd cooking Manga it is also a Slayerssque middle brow fantasy yarn with all the snappy repartee one could expect from a close group of adventurers. Making for an interesting hybrid of a series that simply is the most fun I've had reading a Manga in recent memory that also made me hungry. In short this is a series one can savor and just feel relaxed watching Laius and crew slog through the dungeon and discover new unknown Epicurean delights while they try to save his sister. This is a series that makes me hungry thinking about the dishes and how I could make approximations of the dishes in this volume in real life. If one seeks a fun read with a touch of whimsical tweaking of Fantasy tropes look no further it will be a rollicking good time but bitter sweet because you can't reach into the book and eat the monster based cuisine so lovingly drawn therein.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Adapted from the Romantic comedy Manga serialized in Shōnen Jump with the troubled history due to the disintegration of artist Kentaro Yabuki's first marriage. To Love-Ru chronicles the story of Rito Yūki and his unrequited love for shy girl next door Haruna Sairenji and his quickly growing unwanted harem including his unwanted fiancé space alien and crown princess of the planet Deviluke Lala Satalin Deviluke and a number of other girls who are won over by Rito's decent and kind nature which does not stop him from being punished severely for getting caught in accidently perverted situations. In short the first two seasons are pretty much boiler plate Harem Comedy with a blandly nice but indecisive lead and a gaggle of girls for the lead to get caught in shenanigans with. Yet the fan service in the series is so over the top that I honestly couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous it is yet behind all the prat falls and panty shots. It's still a series with a good heart and really improves writing wise in Darkness with a bigger focus on Yami the withdrawn Assassin who grows to feel emotions and value friendship and a darkening tone as well in between the same zany episode premise. While Darkness does crank the fan service up to nearly Pornographic levels comparable to Seiji Matsuyama's infamous Eiken. contrasted with the "Frisker" elements of the series are some really good character writing with Yami's whole arc showing a softening to the taciturn former murder machine that feels subtle for a series that has it's male lead fall into the crotch of or accidently grope one of the female leads. To Love-Ru captures in sense a feel for how series in 2008 looked as opposed to Darkness which wrapped in 2015 with what would become a heavier reliance on CGI giving the series a more washed out look in Darkness and the characters and over all more plasticized look. Actual direction though improves while To Love-Ru is very often shot like a sitcom Darkness has to have an camera eye with focus on action often feeling more like a kungfu movie. In conclusion the series capture both a time capsule for Anime as a medium and the progress of a story that has a very warm heart behind it's seemingly libidinous nature. For a fan of Harem Anime this is a must watch series as it is very much a crystallization of it's best elements with out any of the faults of an cipher like male lead or girls that have no stake in loving the lead except for the reason that he is the main character. As a final note if you watch it on Crunchyroll both seasons of Darkness are censored and the last two episodes are not included. Also the OVA's are not available legally so read a Wiki to fill in the holes in who certain characters are. A classic of it's genre To Love-Ru and To Love Ru-Darkness feel earnest when need to and frisky when the mood strikes it. Never hateful but also a little kinder than you would expect it to be.