Friday, December 8, 2017

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty Vol. 1 Review

Tetsu Misato a hard working High School student, who gets a job working as a house cleaner for a rich family the Karaswas with secrets involving their daughter a cloistered girl named Shizu who is kept in a secluded cottage by her family. Tetsu ends up meeting her after he falls asleep on a bench and she finds him dozing. Tetsu finds himself taken with the tomboyish rich girl and even confesses only to learn a surprising secret about her and why she is hidden away from her family. A series that has many plot twists and a relationship that at times mirrors that of the main couple in Garden of Sinners. Is at its heart a series about forming relationships, isolation, and learning to accept people for who they are. It does this without being heavy-handed or preachy and Morino-Sensei gracefully uses the visual grammar of Manga to convey the personality changes Shizu goes through in the volume. The opening confession felt so perfectly set with starlight, shooting stars and both Tetsu and Shizu enveloped in the trees that I could hear the opening few minutes to Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari in my head. It was just that romantic and sweet. Then the plot twist happens. The seemingly tomboyish Shizu is actually a magnet for the souls of the dead and the tomboyish personality is actually the spirit of a man named Harumichi one of many who have taken up residence in Shizu. While Shizu herself is reserved, skittish, and almost recoils at contact with others. Tetsu while put off at first by this obvious switch in personalities. Still wants to help the girl he has grown to love, it's all really sweet and makes the one descent into the dark side of Shizu's predicament all that more arresting and horrifying. Especially since that horrifying event is subtly hinted at earlier in the series through the use of a ghost story by Tetsu's youngest sister Suzu. As mentioned earlier the use of the visual aspects of the Manga is something I really want to praise in particular the subtle use of shading, facial expressions, and the cropping of paneling while when Shizu is taken over by the Haru personality she is buoyant, upbeat, and a little bit dorky in the best sense of the word. Content to lift weights and is the best boy (girl). This is shown in mannerism and a shy easy smile from Shizu. When she is actually Shizu instead it is framed with this cold alienated panel layout especially in a scene where she accidentally drills a soccer ball into a child's face while practicing penalty kicks with Tetsu's old elementary soccer team. In an attempt by Tetsu to socialize Shizu. It hurts because Shizu is simply darling in her interactions and setting it up with her in a morose mental funk reflecting on the seeming anguish of her parents. It really makes you feel and is only more poignant due to the almost wordless structure of the scene causing the audience to actually put themselves in Shizu's mindset. Engendering a bittersweet empathy for a character that could have felt underwritten or stereotypical. A large part of this is the base quality of the volume with Morino-Sensei showing a gentle hand at dropping small hints combined with character design and art style that feels warm and inviting without feeling manipulative or overly stylized. While also having realistic and human dialogue translated quite nicely I may add by Alethea and Athena Nibley being able to capture the subtilities of personal pronouns and changes in personality in English which is harder in English than in Japanese given our lack of the panoply of gendered personal pronouns that Japanese has Transgender Neologisms in English notwithstanding of course given their work on Land Of The Lustrous this is child's play. Wake Up Sleeping Beauty feels like a warm supportive hug comparable to some of the best parts of Fruits Basket it's a pity this series will only have six volumes but if future volumes continue this level of winsome empathy. This could be a series that wins if not a huge following a devoted cult. Highly recommended and a "dark horse" title for best ongoing Shojo Manga in 2018

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Waiting For Spring Volume Three: Review

Mitsuki now has to struggle with a newly-minted love triangle between her Towa and her childhood friend Aya-Chan who was revealed to be all man and all about Mitsuki while Towa is his sleepy and disarmingly charming self. While Mitsuki also tries to grow socially and gains a new friend in girl's basketball team member the thuggishly faced Sudo-San. All while Mitsuki tries to figure out what would make Towa happy and Mitsuki finds herself falling harder and harder for the spacey basketball player. Mitsuki feels like a joy to watch if volume two hinted at her attempts to grow this volume shows that the growth is very much one step forward two steps back for our girl. Mitsuki shows some real guts when Aya challenges Towa to a one on one Basketball game for the "rights" to date Mitsuki. Mitsuki intervenes at the last minute agreeing to go on a group date with both of the boys. It's a big step for a girl who so often wants to simply please people often to her own detriment. Yet ultimately Mitsuki's adorably naive even her romantic dream involving Towa at the beginning of the volume is a chaste hug. Only to have that tension broken by Towa walking smack into a door with the pain feeling palpable partially due to the onomatopoeia of the sound effect. Still, this volume is more than affairs of the heart as winsomely crafted as those are some of the best parts of the volume are simply Mitsuki struggling to put her self out there and be involved with Towa and the other boys on the Basketball team. Giving Mitsuki the feel of someone perpetually on the outside looking in socially speaking. Intentionally or unintentionally Anashin-Sensei has written a rather accurate portrayal of a socially anxious person with some introverted tendencies who can end up feeling like their very presence and existence is an inconvenience even to those they love. This is only more impressive because it is told visually when the boys are having a meeting at the Cafe and Mitsuki holds off on in her mind "interfering" hiding in the back of the cafe and even leaving at one point content to sullenly text message her well wishes to Towa. It's painful to see but it feels honest and true to life in a way that can often get lost in the more wish-fulfillment heavy aspects of Shojo Manga. Not to say there are not some internal squeeing moments of romance be it Towa letting Mitsuki lean on him when they're in a crowded train. Or pretty much any moment Aya is alone with Mitsuki Aya having a determination and a frankness that is refreshing partially due to his bluntness but also because while he is interested it never crosses over into possessive or stalker-like behavior. Also, this does not devolve into some kind of "Mary Sue" self-insert fantasy either as Mitsuki gets a good amount of emotional growth throughout the volume and is shown to have different facets to her personality. Making a girl that can be equal parts admirable and relatable but not in the sense of her being an empty husk that the audience can impose their own will on. As relatability can sadly become only a synonym for a self-insert protagonist. Equal parts bitter and sweet with a sweetly chaste heroine who I want to see not only find love but gain more friends as other than the obvious romantic tension parts which have a well-honed understanding of Mitsuki's characterization contrasted with Towa and Aya. It's the friendship scenes be it Mitsuki gaining a new friend in Sudo-San or Mitsuki having a temporary falling out with Reina. These moments had me silently cheering on Mitsuki as she forged new friendships and strengthen the bonds that seemed frayed with Reina. Heartwarming is a cliche but that is what this series is a heartwarming cup of something hot on a cold day. Anashin continues to show a Yuu Watase like knowledge of character psychology as an aside I think Yuu Watase-Sensei has written some of the most nuanced female leads in modern-day Shojo so this is high praise from me but I digress. Waiting for Spring makes the social hardships of High School friendships and burgeoning romance speel binding cheering each small victory and encouraging and motivating for each small setback Mitsuki is involved in. Big-hearted, kind, and realistic while also modest and grounded. A lovely little idyle of a series.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Best and Worst Manga and Anime of 2017 and Most Anticipated Manga and Anime of 2018

With the end of 2017 only one month and a few days away I felt it appropriate to write out my picks for best and worst Manga and Anime of 2017 and the titles I am most excited about that is being released in 2018. Also, note I have no worst Manga of 2017 as even the titles I was not exactly the biggest fan of I still enjoyed. The worst Anime, on the other hand, are all disappointments or showcase a level of incompetence that is staggering, to say the least, but more on that in the article proper. Also, note I'm not including movies or Second Seasons of series. So no In This Corner of the World, Osomatsu-san 2nd Season or Himouto! Umaru-chan R as deserving as those titles are. Also, my Worst of 2017 list only includes series I watched to completion so I won't be including series I dropped without finishing as I think it's unfair to list a work I did not finish as one of the worst things of 2017. While my Best of List includes series that as of today's date have yet to finish but I feel confident that the quality will not dip and I'm simply placing my seal of approval on them. with that preamble out of the way onto the list with explanations proper. Best Manga of 2017: #1. Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa: This title with as strange sometimes confusing as the first volume's narrative structure was. It found it's voice in volume three taking the story of a post-human and post-apocalyptic world inhabited by sentient gemstones and made it an impactful character study of meaning, loss, and what it means to have memory. As well as greater mysteries yet to be revealed. Combined with an art style that captures movement and shows Manga's ability, unlike any other medium to capture the flow of movement and thought on the same page. While also being able to engender honesty sympathy and emotion for a group of sentient gemstones as it would have been so easy for the series to plummet off into the uncanny valley and have the audience unable to understand the gemstones feelings. For writing such emotional and relateable non-human characters Ichikawa-Sensei deserves praise beyond the expertly crafted action scenes and the emotional tightrope of humor and melancholy the series walks. #2. Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda: A two-fisted pulp action adventure story that I've taken to calling "the most Kazuo Koike thing Kazuo Koike never wrote". Is a meticulously researched study of the slowly dying culture of the Ainu the Indegiionous people of Japan. While also showing the after-effects of war and the growing industrialization of Japan. Golden Kamuy captures not only a sense of family with Sugimoto and Asirpa but also the heartless brutality of nature and man. The entire series is cast in a pall of death be it the death of Ainu culture and tradition or the state of seeming death the forgotten and shell-shocked veterans come back to in an now rapidly modernizing Japan. Casting an ethos of Fin de siècle in-between lovingly detailed battles between men and enraged bears in all its limb-rending and face-ripping gory glory. #3. Dreamin' Sun by Ichigo Takano: It's hard to say anything new about how much I love this series and it's sweet awkward heroine Shimana Kameko. Dreamin' Sun shines as an example of great emotional insight on the part of the title's creator. This is only more impressive due to the fact that this was the series that came out before the Eisner nominated Orange. While it may be tempting to go and look for rough drafts of the characters from Orange in this series. Everyone in Dreamin' Sun is so bursting with life, complexities, and little character moments that it is hard to have the time to do that kind of connecting the dots. As this story is so much it's own. A kind story that captures difficult life circumstance and new feelings in a way that while old it is more lived-in or authentic rather than one of cliche or tired repetition of hackneyed story tropes. #4. Generation Witch by Uta Isaki: More a collection of short stories than one long serialized story. Generation Witch is a series that simply oozes kindness and consideration for its characters. Even when one of its stories ends on a bittersweet note. This is one that has qualities that make it feel much like Dreamin' Sun. In a word a chicken noodle soup of a Manga that is simply fun to luxuriate in a fictional world that has so much more humanity than sad to say our current world in reality in 2017 does. #5.To Your Eternity by Yoshitoki Ooima: This title is not last because it is loved least it is simply such an adventurous turn from what could have been a safe carrier for its creator Yoshtoki Ooima. Instead of trying to replicate the formula that led to the deserved success of A Silent Voice. Ooima created a series that is based on fundamental questions of humanity in fact if you noticed all my choices for best Manga this year either have a theme of alienation or some kind of post-human or non-human character or setting. To Your Eternity shows the slow growth of a non-human sentient being. Throughout its first volume learning not only basic self-care but more complex emotions as well. With this, I feel Oooima has cemented her place as one of the best new Mangaka currently being published in English. I can only hope this gets some sort of greater recognition as future volumes are released fingers crossed this will get an ALA Best Graphic Novels for Young Adults Award or an Eisner Award nomination in 2018. Honorable Mention: Girl's Last Tour by Tsukumizu: The Anime adaptation has been described by Youtube Anime Reviewer Anime Everyday as a cross between K-On! and the grim existential series Texhnolyze. Girl's Last Tour captures a truly alienating feeling with its backgrounds and world scapes combined a soft and fluffy character design. Making for a series that will have you smiling at simple everyday occurrences while also pondering grave existential questions in equal portion. Best Anime of 2017: #1. Land of the Lustrous: The Anime adaptation of my best Manga of The Year is also my Best Anime of the Year this is not simply a cold scene for scene shot for shot workmanlike adaptation of the source material the crew uses the medium of Animation to create a full textured world using almost primarily CGI except for a few hand-drawn scenes that give a deeper sense of warmth and emotion that while not impossible with CGI is harder to be expected. Combined with a wonderful grasp of lighting and the caustic given off by the gems. Yet for all of the beautiful backgrounds, fluid animation, and the wonderful musical score by Fujisawa, Yoshiaki as well as superb Sound Direction by Nagasaki, Yukio. It is the all-star voice cast that makes this so memorable for me from relative newcomer Kurosawa, Tomoyo as Phos to veteran Rie Kugimiya as Alexandrite. The amount of range and different tones and affectations the Seiyuu have to give to characters that can come off as at best sterile sounding and inhuman. Giving warmth to non-human characters. While the voice cast is what stood out to me the most. It is really the entire cast and crew that deserve praise for this effort. As without the direction, series composition, and other roles this could have very easily turned into a soulless "tech piece" with superb voice acting. Instead, this series builds upon the already sound source material that is Ichikawa-Sensei's Manga and makes it it's own thing and not merely a pale imitation of the source material. #2. Made In Abyss: This series reminded me of a comment I had heard about Film Director Lars von Trier in that he is a Director that enjoys hurting his audience psychologically. This could just as easily be said of Director Kojima, Masayuki who has given us some truly stomach-churning scenes of transformation along with the seemingly primordial monstrosities that wish to devour the main cast thanks to his Storyboards and the Animators. As well as with Sound Direction You Yamada and the haunting soundtrack by Kevin Penkin add only to the forboding descent into the unknown titular abyss. While originally thought of by some as "Minecraft The Anime" and derided as Pedophiliac and only that by some detractors. Made In Abyss makes for a disturbing look into what looks to be at first a simple child's adventure only to turn into battles for survival and uncovering mysteries of the Abyss. While keeping a cinematic level of Animation quality and unflinchingly portraying the horrors that reside in the Abyss. At times profoundly uncomfortable and even tragic Made In Abyss has the most haunting ethos of any series this year. #3. Inuyashiki: An adaptation of the Manga by Gantz creator Oku, Hiroya this series while trading in the blood splattered Nihilism Oku is known for also chronicles the deeper existential questions of humanity and consciousness. While also pointing an accusatory finger at Modern Japan. Some of the best scenes are where our now robotic protagonist Ichirou Inuyashiki and antagonist Hiro Shishigami reflect upon their humanity. Or in Hiro's case how his lack of humanity has now led him to embrace a philosophy similar to the one Jouichirou Nishi espoused in the early chapters of Gantz. It's a chilling study in sociopathology made all the more chilling given the loving detail to the murder scenes in some episodes. Walking a fine line between idealism and nihilism the series respects its audience enough to not make the series simplistic. #4. Tsuki ga Kirei: An original TV Anime from Studio Feel (Mayo Chiki!, Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!, and Oshiete! Galko-chan) chronicles the story of two introverted teenagers bookish and sensitive Kotarou Azumi and socially anxious track team member Akane Mizuno as they begin to date and develop a relationship. This was a series that while sometimes hard to look at due to the CGI background characters had enough charm and warmth in the character writing to make up for the sometimes lacking technical execution. Making for a quiet and poignant look at the burgeoning feelings and tribulations of first love without sacralizing it. #5. Youjo Senki: The first work of the new studio Nut staffed mostly by old Studio Madhouse alumni chronicles the military exploits of Tanya Degurechaff a small pre-teen girl who has worked her way up the ranks of the Military. Only the seemingly malevolent little girl has a secret in that she actually a reincarnated Salaryman being tested by God due to his lack of belief in God. Youjo Senki had the potential to be really offensive yet ended up being a rather interesting look at military strategy, speculative time travel, and capturing the very muck and blood of combat. Honorable Mention: Demi-chan wa Kataritai: Chronicling the quest of Teacher Tetsuo Takahashi to understand the titular Demi-Chans that are now his students this series captures not only how hard it can be for those with special needs to get or ask for help. It also shows the support that one can receive from others. Making for an overall kind and good-hearted series while also realistically portraying problems the various Demi-Humans face. A sweet slice of life with a little bit of social commentary making for a hidden gem. Worst Anime of 2018 #1. Hand Shakers: Created to celebrate the Anniversary of the Animate chain of Anime goods and merchandise stores and produced by studio Go Hands. This is less an artistic statement of intent and more of a rambling discursive artistic suicide note. With nauseating overuse of photo effects painting everything in a patina of psychedelic colors that at times make the world looks like it's covered in one of those color schemes used in tests used to check for colorblindness. Camera work that actually gave people motion sickness in the first episode and a protagonist so bland and nondescript that he makes Kirito from Sword Art Online feel as if he was written by Dostoyevsky in comparison. Not to mention the horrendous one note secondary cast from the Class President who is romantically interested in her Tsundere little brother to the legal Loli OL. The series never try hard enough to be considered failure it simply is one that finds new ways to become even more visually revolting and narratively stillborn. Calling this an artistic abortion would mean there had been some life in this dead shambling zombified chimera of a series. Truly the worst thing I have seen all year. #2. Re: Creators: This series was nothing but wasted potential with a competent director in Ei Aoki and what looked to be a fun metatextual story from the hands of Black Lagoon Mangaka Rei Hiroe. Instead, this devolved into a string of badly choreographed twists overly long fight sequences and an anti-climactic defeat of the villain that robbed said villain of any narrative importance. Instead of feeling like someone just took Cold Steel The Hedgehog and turned him into a hopelessly brokenly overpowered Anime girl. Not to mention that it all feels like some incomplete half of a story by the time it is over. While being guilty of some worst sins of Anime screenwriting. Things that Fate/Stay Night is rightfully criticized for in being overwritten is kind of truism but that franchise is at least going for some kind of grandeur even if in the second season of Unlimited Blade Works the attempts at profundity sound confused or nonsensical but I digress. Re: Creators characters simply never shut up long enough for the audience to form their own opinion about anything instead feeling like Nisio Isin at his worst. Consider this a waste of potential that had flaws some were unwilling to see due to wanting to be on the crest of the next big thing. #3. WorldEnd: An adaptation of a Light Novel series with an interminably long title this is a series that is bound and determined to manipulate an emotion out of the audience be it through the music the use of child voice actors the protagonist's "sad and tragic" backstory. Yet all of this pales in comparison to the fact that by the end of it this series felt like a glorified commercial for the original Light Novel series. making all those attempts to gin up sympathy for the doomed children in it rings hollow and as cynical attempt by a corporation to advertise it's product. #4. Hajimete no Gal: An unfunny and at times try-hard offensive sex comedy that keeps returning to a diminishing well of bad pedophile jokes and "men sure are perverted am I right" wink and nod kind of humor. Not even mentioning the dub that while it injected some life into the otherwise stiff and lifeless Japanese performances, ended up inadvertently setting off a tempest in a teapot on social media. While design and animation wise Hentai from the 90s has better animation and character design. This is a series that will go on to the slag heap of bad Romantic Comedy series along with Indian Summer and Eiken. #5. In Another World With My Smartphone: A ridiculous harem power fantasy that makes for a great study in how not to write fiction. Dishonorable Mention: Saiyuuki Reload Blast: The last gasp of a long thought dead franchise in an attempt to extort money out of its remaining fan base of Fujoshi and franchise completists. I liked the original series but this had none of what made the original series enjoyable. Instead, it all feels paint by numbers caper of the week storylines with nothing of any real note and simply retelling stories that older fans already know while grinding the current timeline's plot to a halt to hold the hand of newer fans in a way the feels frankly insulting to the media comprehension skills of newer viewers. Most Anticipated Manga of 2018: #1. Fire Punch by Fujimoto, Tatsuki: Set in the future of a world that is nothing but bleak perpetual winter thanks to mysterious empowered being called The Winter Witch. Live two young orphans Agni and Luna who have the ability to regenerate body parts and supply their village with “meat” taken from their own bodies.Until the village is torched by an invading army with Agni being the only survivor and turning into a literal human torch powered by hatred and revenge and unable to die and in a constant state of pain remembering only his hatred, thirst for revenge, and loss. It has beautiful art but it makes Berserk look like Strawberry Marshmellow in comparison. I look forward to this one not only for its strong draftsmanship but also for the fact this seems like it could be the most depressing thing I've ever read and I've read Gundam Thunderbolt. No, but seriously much like how Golden Kamuy ended up being a shot across the bow for me. Fire Punch looks to have that same potential to be something that could impress those looking for dark pulpy action. #2. Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs by Miura, Tadahiro: which is about a homeless high schooler with supernatural abilities named Kogashi who ends up moving into a hot spring inn populated by supernatural beings. including his new roommate a friendly ghost girl named Yuuna along with other residents being an Oni, a girl possessed by a cat god, and a Zashiki-warashi. An enjoyably salacious Harem series that feels like it was written in the late 90s or early 2000s. Feeling like a cross between Love Hina and Early Shaman King. A harem romance series that has a bit of a Monster Girl flavor attached to it while also having a protagonist that feels equal parts helpful and haplessly stuck in poverty while trying to help his new friends. While honestly, the art is so cute it's hard to sexualize any of the characters not that it stops the fans tough. If anything I can hope this is a fun romp that can focus on the girls equally and not end up feeling like the focus is on them because of a popularity poll. #3. Teasing Master Takagi-san by Yamamoto, Souichirou: The story of the titular Takagi and her quest to tease her classmate Nishikata and his stymied attempts to fluster her. It's a simple concept but it's effective and also seems to be the crest of a new wave of "cute girl teases male protagonist" series that seem to be gaining some sort of cult following on 4chan. Which is where I heard about this series first. In short, I'm expecting light comedy slight romance but overall an enjoyable series. #4. Pop Team Epic by Ookawa, bkub: Despite what some Trump supporters may think I believe this series getting licensed in English is the epitome Meme Magic. A collection of almost nonsensical Japanese pop culture, Anime, Video Game references, and nonsequiturs. Pop Team Epic is like Lucky Star if it were mentally unhinged and violent. I can't wait for this series to come out next Fall and either gain a cult following or severely confuse a number of people. #5. My Boy from Takano, Hitomi: Chronicling the friendship and growing closeness of an adult Office Lady recovering from a bad break up and a timid, kindhearted, and an effeminate looking neglected boy who bond over there mutual interest in Soccer. Vertical Comics who have had no problem licensing controversial material be it the ultra-violent historical series Wofsumund or Keiko Suenobu's Limit. This, however, is a title that I can see generating arguments that generate more heat than light. Most Anticipated Anime of 2018 #1. Pop Team Epic: While this was supposed to come out this Fall it got pushed back to Winter 2018 and will be released in January. I sincerely hope this ends up being the Andy Kaufman style comedy of Anime. A sort of throwback to the absurd nonsense humor of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. #2. Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These - Kaikou: This is the long promised and to some fans dreaded remake of the beloved Scifi Space Opera OVA. While cautious I do hold out some hope for the series although I doubt it will go into as much depth as the exhaustive 110 episode OVA series. I still want to support a new iteration of a formative work and not fear it simply because it is new. #3. Record of Grancrest War: Another swords and sorcery epic from Ryo Mizuno the mind behind Record of Lodoss War with the direction of Mamoru Hatakeyama (Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Storyboard (ep 1-2, 5, 11, 13) and Episode Director (ep 2, 11) of Arakawa Under the Bridge). With Kito, Akari as Siluca Meletes this has the potential to be an old school sword and sorcery tale the likes of which we haven't seen since the 80s and 90s. #4. Basilisk: The Ouka Ninja Scrolls: I liked the original hopefully the quality of the original will still be present in this sequel. #5. Hakumei to Mikoch: A slice of life series about the lives of what look to be female gnomes I can only hope this is as relaxing as it sounds.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Children Of The Whales Vol. 1 Review

In a planet that is suffering from almost complete Desertification, Chakuro works as an archivist for Mud Whale a floating city that survives by scavenging wreckage and other cities. With the small community divided into two groups those who wield a Psychic ability called Thymia who are forced to suppress their emotions and doomed to die by the time they are thirty and a ruling class of unpowered people who work as the ruling class due to their comparatively longer lifespans. Chakuro while going on a scouting mission with others to investigate a city only to find a strange emotionless girl he names Lykos setting in place the slow unraveling of the hidden mysteries of not only the floating city of Mud Whale but the wider world as well. The universe of this story is a bleak world of hidden secrets, psychic powers, and war. Feeling fully realized and never losing its perspective from Chakuro's point of view making the conclusion so sad. From a naive innocence to what looks to be a soon to be the hard realization of the cruelties of man. It's a volume bookended by death and suffering and the cultural inability to express that emotion combined with being kept ignorant by those in authority. Who are seemingly scared of the power the Thymia users wield. While also showing that sometimes self-preservation is for everyone's own interest. As interesting as the strange cultural and burial practices of Mud Whale village are. Feeling like the carefully kept notes of an Anthropologist or a less intensively detailed version Nahoko Uehashi's The Beast Player Erin. It's when Lykos the laconic and lachrymose "Cassandra" that Chakuro finds on an abandoned island that really makes the story all the better taking what could have been a well-written story about a town in a dystopian distant future and introduces themes and plot elements more horrifying than the seeming caste system and prejudice on Mud Whale. Especially when it's revealed how Lykos became the way she was. It's heartbreaking partially due to seeing a character who has been portrayed as an almost shell-shocked emotional husk. Come to find some kind of companionship with Chakuro and his friends. While a strong story to its very core filled with little moments of joy at simple pleasures or real emotional impact. It is the latter half filled with the revelations about the true history that those in power on Mud Whale are unable to fight against. That turns the story into a truly great work of sympathetic fiction. Characters that are nominally developed die horribly and it affected me. Which is saying something because usually when I can tell it looks like a character's death is telegraphed. I check out emotionally and lose any kind of empathy for the characters. This did not happen I deeply moved sad last words and halting confessions of love before the final moments are said. Only to end with what looks like a fate worse than death for the survivors. Simple and impactful in its storytelling and wonderfully dreamlike and wistful in art Children OF The Whales looks to have an expansive story ahead. Yet I shudder to think about what might happen in future volumes and exult at the opportunity to read more of it as well.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight Vol. 2 Review

Picking up from the end of volume one Nana and Kaede now they begin dating officially after Kaede's manager tries to trick Nana into breaking off the relationship by making Nana think that Kaede is a womanizer. While also having to juggle the secretive nature of their relationship, finding time for each other. and what looks like a potential rival in Nana's childhood friend Akira. All while Nana finds herself becoming more and more attracted to Kaede physically and acting on those desires. Much to her chagrin as she tries to keep up her straight-laced appearance while secrets from her past are also revealed as well. Volume two continues the almost narcotic-like dream with Nana while seemingly plain personality wise is slowly becoming a bit of a minx by the end of the volume with Kaede more than willing oblige Nana's burgeoning womanly desires. Yet it's still charmingly awkward and chaste despite Kaede's more overt interest in the more physical aspects of a relationship. It's salacious a will they or won't they until the end and. I found it all positively infectious to read from superstitiously stole indirect kisses to Nana admiring Kade's sleeping form. Mikimoto-Sensei's art does not disappoint when it comes to the fanservice, to say the least. If the first volume felt like a dream this volume is more the dream realized and now living in the reality of that fulfilled dream. Combined with coming to terms with burgeoning desires, petty jealousies, and unknown rivals. In short still, very much a give the audience what they want title which does lead to some rather cliche story elements. If anything this was never a dull read from the dates to questions of fidelity to Nana's burgeoning sexuality it's a story that is briskly paced and never breaks the spell of the narrative. So it can be said while not highly original it is highly immersive story partially due to the use of internal monologue and the surreptitious conversations and dates Nana and Kaede are forced to have due to Kaede's celebrity status. Giving the feeling of a personal emotional "cocoon" of sorts for the young couple making me almost drunk on the sexual tension. It's this longing the interior life of Nana's sexual awakening that made the most substantial impact on the volume. While not also shying from the comedy that showcases Nana's awkward stumbling attempts at intimacy such as when over at Kaede's apartment so she can study Nana sees him playing with his dog while he gets ready to feed it. She dreamily wishes to be showered with affection like Kaede's dog. Only to cut to a scene of Kaede giving Nana a snack and telling her to eat it. Cue Nana handing her balled up hand and barking at Kaede partially out of nerves. It's a scene that shows the awkward tension that Nana has while also highlighting aspects of Kaede's personality beyond the fairy tale prince Nana thinks him to be earlier on. While also capturing the growth their relationship has taken. Slow steady relationship progress and character development combined with other possible stories in future volumes having the groundwork for those stories laid down as well make this a good continuation of an already strong first volume.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Delicious In Dungeon Volume Three Review

By far the most fantasy-like of the dungeon crawling and cooking Manga series with Laios and his party further entering into the deeper realms of the Dungeon in hopes to save Laios's sister Farin. While still occasionally focused on cooking the various creatures for sustenance. This volume has some of the most creative meals in the series so far from Tentacle Gnocchi with Giant Frog meat to tentacle and Kelpie Stew prepared with Undine. This is mostly a volume focused on developing the characters and building up not only the dangers of the dungeon be it from the monsters, boobie-traps or even an undercooked giant parasite that sets Laios low with food poisoning. While also fleshing out the ecosystem and strange magical properties of the dungeon. Volume three not only shows the growth of the characters be it an entire chapter dedicated to Marcille as a student and her friendship with Farin and Marcille's goal to create a "safe" dungeon to raise magical herbs. While growth continues for the characters normally level-headed Marcille desperately trying to go on with her raid party despite depleting her Mana reserves in a battle with an Undine. Is an impressive bit of character observation. Made only more powerful due to the fact that we now know what Farin means to Marcille thanks in part to the flashback chapter. While Laios is still dense in a lot of areas he does show some quick thinking such as when fighting the Ivy Tentacles or making suits out of the Giant Frogs so the paralyzing venom of the Tentacles does not affect the party. Kui-Sense has also shown an improved sense of space, motion, and use of panel layout especially true in the utterly tense almost claustrophobic battle Marcille has with the Undine fighting against not only the mystical creature but her rapidly depleting Mana reserves and blood loss. It's a well-executed fight scene in a Manga known more for its almost photorealistic depictions of food. Even the impending dread of the Kraken as it rises from the depths and that battle on water. Shows that the series is more than one joke repeated ad infinitum but can have compelling fights that feel like real stakes are involved be it survival or simply trying to get the next meal. Showing a maturity in characterization and a vast improvement over the stiff art of the first two volumes being able to convey emotion and take by surprise at the sometimes savage actions of the Dungeon's monsters. In particular when the Undine snipes a character in all its gory detail which is stomach churning but also shows an eye for detail found more in a Takao Saito Manga.

My Monster Secret Volume 8 Review

The comedic stupidity misunderstandings and people who are the worst at what they do continue unabated in volume eight. With chapters dedicated to trying to celebrate Akari's birthday without depressing her too much over her spinster status and age. To Aizawa being put in a full-sized body in her actual form and having to come to terms with her feelings for Asahi. To Youko and Asahi slowly but haltingly growing closer to each other and Youko questioning her feelings. All the while self-professed "Fallen Angel" Shirogane Karen tries to be bad and ends the nicest person in the entire series. Even though she is on the cover and is only intermittently in the volume Karen ends up being the star of the entire volume with her attempts at trying to be bad backfiring into showing what kind and an altruistic person and the good-natured but often failing attempts to help Youko and Asahi grow closer. Or help Aizawa's ne'er-do-well older brother "pass on" when she thinks he is a female ghost only to almost have the school destroyed when Aizawa thinks it's Akarisummoning the King of Terror. As much as Karen steals the show for me so much other humor is in this from overblown reactions to an entire storyline where Shiho loses her Nympho abilities and ends up having a fantastic character arc that shows she can be more than the token fanservice character while also giving her some interiority as well. While the comedy is front and center and thankfully so for if this was nothing more than eight volumes of will they or won't they romance it would have grown irredeemably stale. Instead, the spare moments of romance are more like an accent or seasoning to the comedy enhancing the sincere moments of introspection Aizawa has in her story arc or Youko's own flustered and awkward growing feelings for Asahi. Not to mention the three friends of Asahi get a small character arc as well although most of the focus is on Shimada and him being exploited in a "honey trap" by Ryo who now has a new female mech unit. Although the one I'm most interested in is Okada and what seems to hint at some sort of relationship with Mikan. Continues to strike a right balance with its episodic comedy and overarching story if anything this volume will be most memorable for me as Akane has now been dethroned from Best Girl status by Karen. Still, this series has not grown stale jokes never ceases to charm and when Yuko and Asahi end up together the flustered affection they are obviously trying to sublimate for each other is adorable. I also have to say the entire story arc of Akari's Birthday was funny but also painful on many levels. Simply put the best Shonen Romance currently in print in English.