Wednesday, October 11, 2017
With New York Comic-Con now over till next year publishers and licensors have announced new Manga titles that will be out soon So I'll be giving my thoughts on the titles I'm most excited about and other titles that will be released. Viz Media will be putting out Pokémon Sun & Moon and Pokémon Horizon: Sun & Moon I know nothing about either title but have read some of the Red and Blue Pokémon Manga and found it enjoyable. If you are a fan of Pokémon I'd recommend picking it up. As well as Pompom Pokémon a craft book on how to make Pokémon with cardboard and felt among other things for craft projects a fun idea for those that like arts and crafts if I was more inclined to crafts projects I'd pick it up. Also, Perfect editions of Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys will be out as well I've never been a big Urasawa fan finding his work "blandly competent." Also, a new One Piece Art Book which given the price of the previous editions when they go out of print this would be something a fan of the series may want to pick up when it is released. While Kodansha Comics has Princess Jellyfish Mangaka Akiko Higashimura's Tokyo Tarareba Girls about a group of thirty-year-old single women. Mitsurou Kubo's Again!! About a man who travels back in time to relive his High school years. As well as two box sets one for the Ghost In The Shell omnibus reprints and one for A Silent Voice. Vertical has more of NisiOisin's Monogatari Series of books coming out I've never been a big fan of his work so I really don't care. The Delinquent Housewife! About an inept housewife who has to live with her in-laws because her Husband gets transferred overseas for work. This could be funny or simply a painful rehashing of tired and stale old sexist jokes. Now we get to the titles I'm really excited about first from Vertical is Pop Team Epic an absurd Gag Manga about two High School girls that helped create a number of memes. While also being riddled with meta-humor and references to everything from the upgrade in quality a Blu-Ray gives a TV series to video game soundtracks. From what little I've read the series is "misanthropic Lucky Star" filled with references only Otaku would get while also having odd non-sequiturs. Making for a series some may not get but I think makes for a fantastic comedy of the odd and absurd for those that can understand it. Making for a quick often times acerbic series that not everyone will get and some may find as insufferable nonsense. Yet I think this kind of odd memetic Humor is becoming more understandable. Next is Grand Blue Dreaming about a college student Iori Kitahara who lives in a coastal city with his Uncle and two female cousins while getting into shenanigans with the hard drinking and often naked Diving Club he joins. Along with his shameless Otaku friend Kouhei and his previously mentioned cousins diving obsessed Chisa and her older sister Nanaka who unbeknownst to Chisa is a raging Siscon. Very much a slice of life series with an odd cast of characters I knew about this originally as a "cult hit" on /a/ on 4chan. Never gave it much thought but honestly, it seems like it could be a fun read a more "Broey" Honey and Clover so to speak. Still, something to look forward to as I can't really read digital Manga due to my poor eyesight.
Monday, October 9, 2017
Medaka Kurokami is the Student Council President at Sand Box Academy along with her childhood friend Zenkichi Hitoyoshi who she has roped into helping her in her promised plan to help out the entire student body by ways of a 24/7 suggestion box in which any student wanting assistance with anything can reach out to the Student Council for help. Medaka and Zenkichi quickly end up helping people with everything from finding a lost dog and lost Shogi pieces to fighting against the merciless student disciplinary council in between slice of life antics and almost romance between Zenkichi and Medaka. Although Medaka for her part is interested too much in helping others to be interested in affairs of the heart though. An adaptation of a Shonen Jump Manga penned by Bakemonogatari author Nisio Isin is an overwritten dialogue-heavy series that feels desperately in need of an editor Isin is an author that loves having his characters talk and declaim ideals, philosophy, and motives. Medaka for her part is quite content to go on long discursive speeches about appeals to the better qualities of those she wishes to reform. Or Zenkichi to monologue about his shared past with Medaka or opine about how cool he looks in his track jacket underneath his uniform coat. This love of dialogue is what draws some to Isin as a writer I personally found it tedious and dull with no real stakes although the voice acting in the English Dub is competent Andrew Love sounds far too old to be playing Zenkichi and the first five episodes make for a wooden sounding performance for all concerned. While visually it's a moderately well animated Shonen series helmed by Studio Gainax in given latter work after this 2012 project feels like a series of safe unexciting "paying the bills" projects. In short, this is a tedious and long-winded series with and "Mary Sue" for a protagonist that thinks attempting to deconstruct the motives of Medaka or her personality is a way to pass of as depth when really it makes the series ponderous. A turgid slog of something that could have at least been fun but between the writer's proclivities to overwriting overwritten dialogue and underwritten almost cardboard like characters. There is not much to recommend this to Shonen fans as the tropes here are not played with any earnestness but always with an attempt at trying to be clever and instead feels disingenuous or as if it's looking down on its audience for believing in the Ethos of "Endurance, Victory, and Friendship." Yet never offering anything of any real substance in place of the ethos the series seems to dislike to the point where the Arc Villain Myouri Unzen is almost proven right at one point until one of the very tropes the series has spent it's time casting shade upon is used as Deus ex Machina. More than the actual series its self this series is more interesting to watch as a study of seeing what has happened to Gainax from the hay day of making Nadia Secret Of Blue Water and Neon Genesis Evangelion to making Shonen Jump Anime adaptations. If anything this series could serve as a metatextual warning to studios marshal their resources soundly. Still, I can't really muster up any real bile or hatred for this series it is simply a thing that exists and I didn't like it.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Asahi now grown into young womanhood has become an object of fearful reverence to the villagers and a "golden goose" of sorts for other villagers thinking that taking possession of her will ensure fertility and the favor of the Water Dragon God. While Asahi still has lost the ability to speak she has drawn closer to Subaru. While Subaru finds himself feeling stronger and stronger desire to keep Asahi safe from those that would do her harm. While Asahi's relationship with Water Dragon God continues to be prickly and standoffish at best. With a feeling of alienation due to Asahi being unable to speak a large part of the volume are internal monologues from Asahi showing that she still feels out of place and unable to understand not only why people place such stock in her as the bride of the Water Dragon God. In short, it's very much Asahi still trying to come to terms with her place in this world that is so unlike her present-day time. While some focus on her from Subaru's viewpoint shows that he is starting to not only be a protective older brother figure but also develop seemingly romantic feelings for Asahi. Setting in motion a potential love triangle between Subaru, Asahi, and The Water Dragon God. Although for his part Water dragon God continues to be a kind of detached observer who is more interested in studying Asahi like some sort of specimen. Water Dragon God has little in the way of what would seem romantic feelings towards Asahi making him an inscrutable and cold personality even when he gives Asahi her voice back it's less out of any magnanimity on his part and more because he wants to see what will happen. for a character that out of the main three characters has the least amount of time in the volume other than as a detached observer or at one point as a literal Deus Ex Machina. His presence utterly saturates the narrative which makes his choice to try and go about wooing Asahi that much more shocking at the end of the volume. As the Water God has felt so detached for the last two volumes. Whether this will lead to a softening of his personality I don't know but it is interesting to see such a haughty and cold personality deign to incarnate himself into the world to attempt to woo a girl from another time period who doesn't even like him. With an introspective first half that allows Toma-Sensei to craft a heroine with some real interiority that has hopes desires and fears beyond which of the two male protagonists she has romantic feelings for. It creates a kind of alienated feeling for the audience seeing an average girl reduced to a mere role or totem of sorts for others to fight and haggle over. While when Asahi gets her voice back she lays out her pent-up grievances at the society she is living in and the petty and mean-spirited people that inhabit it. Amusing The Water Dragon God enough to make him interested in a level that goes beyond bemused interest. Where the series goes from here I don't know and while a love triangle feels like a foregone conclusion at least the characters feel like actual people and not approximations of people. Or fictional creations made to pander to the audience's desires. Subaru, for instance, feels understandable in his wanting to protect Asahi and that feeling turned into some kind of love that he may not be entirely aware of. That feels real, it feels human it does not feel like the actions of a two-dimensional creation in a fictional universe and honest human emotion is the cornerstone of a good story, not fantasy or wish fulfillment but the simple gift of writing with humanity it's a modest and precious jewel that Rei Yoma has polished to a glossy luster. While character design is strong and use of the cinematic effects in panel layout are strong from a scene of Asahi and The Water Dragon God discussing their impending marriage much to Asahi's consternation. The backgrounds are for the most part blank or screentone looking rushed and empty with no sense of space or place in an otherwise nicely grounded world with its villages and rivers.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Best of Summer 2017: Made in Abyss: With its cinematic touches lush backgrounds and haunting score by Kevin Penkin and often brutal depictions of natures adverse effects on the young. This was a series that seemed like a shoe-in for many best of the year lists. Made in Abyss takes the seemingly simple idea of an adventure and instead makes a cold often times hellish look into the limits of the human psyche. Made all the more unnerving considering the young age of our two young adventurers. Replete with monsters equal parts medieval bestiary and dystopian Sci-Fi Made in Abyss makes a world that it would seem easy to get lost in if not that doing so may lead to your untimely and gruesome demise, While making a strong showing in visuals voice acting is not to be dismissed either with performances that capture the slow dawning experience of Reg and Riko in ways that don't feel overwrought the emotions feel real but never hyperbolic or melodramatically delivered. Making for a subdued affair for the most part. Runner-Up: Aho Girl: A series of shorts about the incredibly stupid titular idiot girl Yoshiko and her put-upon childhood best friend Aikatsu. This is a series that is the opposite of Made in Abyss's often slow and leisurely pace. With fast rapid-fire comedy that snaps due to the performances of Aoi Yuki and Sugita Tomokazu respectively. Worst of Summer 2017: In Another World With My Smartphone: One of the most Transparent Wish Fulfillment series I've seen in recent memory with no stakes or complexities like compelling writing or basic characterization this is a series that is simply the worst of the series I finished this Summer the only things worse than it are things I couldn't even force myself to finish. Runner-Up: Love and Lies: an Anime adaptation of a Manga this was a series that felt confused as far as which characters the audience is supposed to be supporting combined with a Dystopian world that feels under-explained along with sub-par visuals that make for a forgettable adaptation. With that I now move on to the Fall 2017 Anime Season and what I plan to watch and what I'm most excited or leery about this season as concerns shows I plan to watch a good portion of these are Anime Strike exclusives which with Sentai Filmworks phasing out DVD production this may prove the only way to watch certain series for me but I digress. First up is Just Because! A High School romance about a transfer student and four students who are preparing to graduate. This is an original from studio Pine Jam and the main reason I'm giving this series a shot despite the admittedly bland sounding premise is that Tsuki ga Kirei also sounded bland and ended up being quite good. So I'm cautiously optimistic about it and can hope that it will be if not astoundingly original it can at least be a competent genre piece. Next is Himouto! Umaru-chan R the second season of the Anime adaptation of the Manga about the titular Umaru a lazy and slovenly High School Otaku girl who pretends to be the paragon of femininity and respectability in public. I originally gave up on the first season seeing it as a toothless knockoff of Watamote but after watching the first season I actually found myself enjoying the story of the slovenly Otaku girl and her put-upon older brother and their gaggle of oddball acquaintances and friends although of the characters the attention-hungry Ojou-Sama and Umaru's self-proclaimed rival Sylphinford "Sylphin, T.S.F." Tachibana ended up being my favorite character I mean how can I not love a character that comes with her own sound effects? No, but seriously I hope this season ends up being as enjoyable as season one was. Zodiac War: Based on a novel by Nisio Isin an author whose works I've never been able to find enjoyable except for a handful of episodes of Bakemonogatari. This is the story of a battle between the twelve warriors who are personified as the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac with the eventual solitary winner being granted one wish. So with this essentially being a battle tournament series, it could be easier to follow than some of the more excessive aspects Isin's writing. It's really a shot in the dark and I can hope it will be engaging at least. Girls' Last Tour: An adaptation of the Manga this has Studio White Fox behind it so I'm hopeful and what little I've seen from PVs seems to capture the alienating yet comfortably numb feeling of the Manga. I have really high hopes for this one and while it's not my most anticipated it is my second most anticipated series of this season. Osomatsu-San 2: The second season of the surprise hit based on the characters created by dearly departed Gag Manga King Fujio Akatsuka this is the series that I was most excited about when it was announced as season one was my Best Anime of 2015. I can only expect more absurd hijinks from the six anarchic siblings. Yet even the comedic majesty that I am sure this series will be does not make it my most anticipated no that honor belongs to... Land of the Lustrous!! The all CGI adaptation of the award-winning Manga about sentient gemstones that have to fight the denizens of the moon that wish to turn them into jewelry. The Manga known for its gorgeous artwork filled with fast-paced action and sometimes cerebral plot looks to be just as gorgeous if not more so with this adaptation while the cast is a mixture of up and coming talent and established female Seiyuu from Tomyoyo Kurosawa as Phosphophyllite to Rie Kugimiya as Alexandrite. With the only male voiced role being Jouji Nakata as Kongou-Sensei. This looks to be if nothing else a creative endeavor filed with possibility
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Still out in the rain after running out of the house for yelling at her friends in a fit of pique Shimana get progressively more soaked and wonders if any of her housemates will come to her rescue. Completely dismissing the idea of Zen coming to save her only to have Zen escort her back home and get a bad cold for his troubles and Shimana ends up taking care of Zen and learns his secret dream of becoming a Mangaka and also being introduced to Zen's older brother the retired semi-pro boxer Ken who is also a former classmate of Taiga. Ken ends up crashing at the house after a breakup with his girlfriend. While Zen tries to reignite his brother's passion for his dream and get his feelings out for Shimana. Shimana finds herself developing feelings for Taiga who still sees her as a kid. Wow! This volume!! I did not know I wanted to see Shimana with Taiga this badly honestly for the first two volumes I really wanted Zen to end up with Shimana but he's now confessed his feelings and been rejected. It's a well-executed scene Zen is his same awkward self and it does hurt to see him get rejected but it feels like Zen and Shimana would better friends than boyfriend and girlfriend. As Zen is often times thoughtful and he really is a sweetheart beneath his bumbling oafish Tsundere exterior. Yet as adorable as Zen's attempts at confessing are or Shimana trying to encourage him in his dream. A major sub-theme being "follow your dreams "and yes it may be a cliché but it's expressed with such earnestness. That I couldn't fault the series for it. This entire volume for me was all about Shimana realizing that she is developing a crush on Taiga. That's right our sweet little dewy-eyed school girl now has a crush on the hard drinking, chain smoking, Lawyer. This could have been a disaster of epic proportions instead it ends up feeling so natural that I actually found myself cheering on Shimana's attempts at trying to sort out her feelings for Taiga while feeling conflicted because she wants Miku to end up with Taiga as well. I really hope there is a conversation between Miku and Shimana at some point in a future volume because this unintentional love triangle is just too good to remain dormant. While Asahi simply feels like that doomed first love that was never meant to be. IT's really hard to express how much Shimana falling for Taiga knocked me for a loop and how much I ended up supporting this. It actually feels really natural. Nothing may come of it and Shimana could easily be construed as someone who loves being in love. Yet she feels all too earnest conflicted for this to be a schoolgirl crush. With a storyline, I didn't see coming and multiple themes and new characters growing the cast beyond the core domestic comedy. Volume three continues to make this series a must read Shojo Manga. While also having wonderfully expressive art that has cinematography in scenes that give a real three-dimensional feel to the proceedings. While the panel layout captures without words Shimana's feelings from wordless close-ups of her reaching out for Taiga's hand. Zen confessing his feelings seeing the embarrassment and tears in his eyes. Takano expertly captures the bitter-sweet feelings of love with only well-placed dialogue and simple un-fussy character design. A strong continuation of an already great series while also introducing emotional complexity and depth of motivation and a little bit of irony as well. It's really hard to not devolve into platitudes for this Manga but it is simply that good to see this strong amount of quality writing with no perceivable dip in it between volumes even with a controversial new element
Monday, September 25, 2017
Plum continues to have to deal with Snowball's constant bullying Mom gets separation anxiety when Snowball is boarded with their neighbor's cat Princess. While Snowball continues to be an enfant terrible while the social hierarchy of the cats is further expressed and the days blend together with the cats continuing to interact with each other. Volume two has much more dialogue than volume two but continues to be an enjoyable read as it looks at the social dynamics of the cats and even shows how Plum became a member of the family and that while she can be exceedingly patient sometimes frustration gets the best of her. In one scene in which she knocks over Snow Ball's food bowl in a fit of peak only to have it backfire by making it look like Plum noticed a small metal shard in it. Being praised effusively for what is perceived as a good deed makes the poor cat feel exceedingly guilty it's a nice little piece of character writing that gives depth to Plum's character. A number of short Four Panel style Manga are included as well. This does give the cats an interior monologue with the choice by the translator giving Snowball a childish lisp and ending things with "Nya" the Japanese Onomatopoeia for meow. Making for quick paced light humor pieces in between the slice of life chapters. Overall a continued strong showing for the cat Manga with its detailed old-fashioned art and excellent panel layout. A relaxing work that is a simple respite from the more complex and haggard reality of life. Still highly recommended for cat fanciers and Slice of Life addicts. Not for those looking for a complex story or multifaceted nuanced characterization. Yet the simplicity works one would not expect byzantine character arcs in a Cat Manga and for keeping it simple the series succeeds. While also showing how a pet owner has to juggle their affection for pets as one does not want to be guilty of favoritism.
Hinana Hanazawa a seemingly straight-laced High school honors student harbors a secret desire to be swept off her feet by her very own prince charming into her life enters Kaede Ayase the former pop idol now working at becoming an actor. Kaede ends up shooting his latest movie at Hinana's school and Hinana finds out that the seemingly princely Idol is also a bit of a pervert with a fixation on girl's panties and butts. Yet Hinana still finds herself smitten by Kaede for his serious interest in acting and his often little moments of charm. While also agonizing over her own feelings of inadequacy next to the bright young celebrity. In what is now Hinana's own Cinderella story. Capturing the dichotomous nature of one's public persona compared to the private life and feelings one has. Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight Rin Mikimoto writes wish fulfillment in a way that does not insult its audience's intelligence nor sink into the more uncomfortable elements of a series like Sensual Phrase. Hinana is a sweet girl with insecurities and who desperately wants love in the abstract but doesn't really know what to do when her fantasy when Kaede turns that into a reality. Especially when Hinana's prince turns out to be a major pervert thankfully this never crosses over into uncomfortable borderline rape and for the most part it's mostly Kaede being a little too blunt but never pushy or making the admittedly sheltered Hinana feel overly uncomfortable. While Kaede is also shown to be serious about his wanting to be an actor and also a little more withdrawn than the beautiful Idol seen in advertisements and TV Interviews would appear at first sight. Also despite his proclivities towards certain parts of the female anatomy, It's a couple burgeoning on a new love and the sometimes difficult places that those feelings go. Such as Hinana wondering if Kaede is simply being flippant or keeping another woman this thankfully gets resolved end of the volume. Overall this is a fun series that makes for a wonderful mental oasis of those sometimes bittersweet feelings of first love with a heroine that has layers and a love interest for her in Kaede that is often blunt and forward but thankfully never scarily aggressive or forward. While Rin Mikomoto is to be commended not only for writing a semi-realistic romantic fantasy but also in having good backgrounds in the art this may seem like a strange compliment but the amount of Shojo Manga I have read that have blank backgrounds or screentone put in the background making it look rushed or unfinished. Not so here building interiors, floors, all are displayed giving the series a grounded feel. While what use of screen tone is used for emotional effect instead of what feels like a corner-cutting measure. A sweet and sometimes ribald love story that knows how to make you feel the inner life and emotions of the characters while also painting a wonderfully escapist fantasy for the audience.