Saturday, February 28, 2009

The problem with Japanese trailers

They will, at some point, slap a sappy pop song over the thing.

Even if doing so makes a weird ass horror movie (based on an Otsu Ichi story) briefly look like a romance between a 6th grade boy and a FUCKING ZOMBIE.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Selections from the index of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis

Play along at home, won't you?

afros, desirability on samurai of, 265
al-Jazeera ninja movie, 126
desire to conquer the world, author's, 1, 53
Doctor Who, resemblance to Godzilla of, 385
Hello Kitty, as cause of military action, 288; as unlikely brand of chainsaw, 289
Holiday Inn, inevitable depression at, 105
Jackson, Michael, shitty scansion of, 232
sand, as filling for dog, 215
sorcery, as illegal hockey tactic, 101

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lariat Point 9

Excerpt from Suki, Suki, Daisuki, Cho Ai Shite Iru, by Maijo Otaro.

I stayed by Kakio's bed, still not capable of loving anyone but her. She was very, very weak, and spent the bulk of her days sleeping or throwing up. The medicine she took was no longer designed to cure her - there was nothing left that could be cured. I sat next to her bed, writing novels. My deadline has long since slipped away, and I had to write ten pages a day or the book would miss its release date. The novel I was writing was part of a formulaic mystery series, in which six girls got mixed up in a mystery; each time the girls were assigned to one of six roles - the detective character, the killer, the one in love, the one who would die, the one who'd snap, and the one abducted by her alien boyfriend. The trick lay in which would end up being which. This was the ninth in the series, and it was still cranking along pretty well. Every volume, one of their friends would be murdered, and they'd figure out who the killer was while another friend got carried off into space. I felt a little sorry for them, but this time the girl who had solved the first mystery died halfway through, or at least appeared to die, but then turned out to be the real killer before getting whisked off to a far corner of the galaxy while the girl who'd died in the third volume got resurrected and looked like she was going to be the detective this time but ultimately ended up dying again at the end, and the girl who started out pretty crazy spent the whole book like that and I fully intended to end it with her furiously pointing out that she hadn't done anything but be crazy the whole book, and the girl who'd been snatched by a UFO and vanished across the Milky Way at the beginning of the book, apparently no longer involved in the case, would appear to get herself involved in a romance with an alien even I thought girls would definitely go for, but I planned to have her unexpectedly end up solving the mystery, and because she'd ended up in the detective role would eventually have to break up with the hunky alien, while the girl who'd been the detective in the second novel would be mistaken for the real killer three times before coming out as a lesbian and falling in love with the real killer, and the real killer would spend the entire novel convinced she was about to be kidnapped by aliens. Since one of the other characters was her romantic partner that technically meant I had two characters in the romance role, but when the one had been mistakenly identified as the killer she'd been thrown in jail, unbeknownst to the other characters, and her memories downloaded into a clone grown at lightning fast speed to be the exact same age as her, so it was technically the copy that got involved in the romantic side of things...and this whole tedious mess was called Lariat Point 9: Goodbye to Imazato the Chemistry Teacher.

Copyright Otaro Maijo, 2008, published by Kodansha.
Excerpt translated and posted under the principle of fair use, representing an insignificant portion of the work as a whole.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I suddenly have a reason to actually be interested in the Street Fighter movie

Apparently Studio 4°C has created an animated short that will be run with the movie in Japan.

Easily one of Japan's best animation studios, it should be very, very pretty, at least, even if I still don't care about the "story" from a fighting game.
via ANN
Studio 4°C @ ANN : Wikipedia

Me and the Devil Blues, Volume 02

Why the hell hasn't this reached more people?!

Those who have the sense to read this book and even the good graces to discuss it have commented enough on Akira Hiramoto's imaginative storytelling and FUCKING GORGEOUS ART (the cover is not a misrepresentation whatsoever), so I'll touch upon something else first. This aspect has been neglected by all reviews I've come across so far: Me and the Devil Blues is nearly overwhelmingly dark. I don't mean that in the context of its premise -- a twist on the legend of the bluesman selling his soul to the devil, losing his wife, home and months of his life -- nor the location -- deep in the rural south of the U.S. in the early 1900s. It's a given that a none-too-happy story will rise out of that. No, this series is downright nasty and bleak, something that didn't hit me until after I put this volume down.

Even if a similar script were given to another artist, keeping the rare humorous aside and organic plotting, the same effect wouldn't be achieved. So much of the tone depends on Hiramoto's art. Unlike other seinen artists, such as Kentaro Miura and Takehiko Inoue, there is some restraint being exhibited here; Hiramoto does not shove his talent in your face on every single page. There's a gradual, though sometimes shocking build-up to chilling compositions, most frequently close-ups set at odd angles. The level of detail can reach hyper-realism at times, yet almost always remains something straight out of a nightmare.

This is aided by the setting, which deviates between two extremes: much of the book takes place at night, in jail cells or a forest, while the rest occurs during the daytime in the unnamed southern town. When Clyde Barrow is standing, breathed hitched, in the middle of the hallway as he hopes for the blind Stanley McDonald to pass on by, there is antipication, followed by relief when McDonald apparently passes him. This is immediately turned around when McDonald suddenly faces and questions Clyde -- empty space emphasizes the aforementioned high level of detail given to his frightening face. Even during daylight there is still a palpable tension, as the repetition of the alarmed, heavy-lidded eyes presents a signal for when all hell is about to break loose.

And, yeah, there's a fantastic story behind it all, but, fuck, I'm still coming to terms with the damn pictures. The book is worth reading for those alone; the pulp-ish fantasy story is just an amazing bonus thrown in. (This post is also a great reminder that a scanner would do wonders to show just what I'm talking about.)

I am worried, though, about future releases for the series. I've no idea how well the title has sold for Del Rey, but that's not the immediate concern when the author seems to not be giving it anywhere near the attention it deserves! I remember that it was being serialized up to some point early last year before going on hiatus; Hiramoto apparently creates an arc before it goes into serialization. But I haven't come across any indication that progress has been made since then, as he would seem content on drawing an apparently awful gag manga. Cannot make heads or tails of the Japanese Wikipedia entry for the series as Google translator is utterly useless. Any sort of translation and/or information would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Parasyte, Volume 06

While not devoid of emotion -- Shinichi's struggle to maintain his sense of humanity provides plenty of moments for that -- Parasyte is generally far more subdued in sentimentality compared to most manga. A certain incident in volume four that would pass for fodder in other series is detachedly presented and ended, with only a handful of references to it appearing since then. This relative sterility stays near-constant throughout the series.

Until this volume. Hitoshi Iwaaki ratchets up and maintains tension from start to finish in the aftermath of the intricate fight from volume five. All factions involved are moving, and this gradually culminates in the penultimate chapter of this volume. Here Iwaaki grants the sort of climax that has been needed, and gives the spotlight and final word to one of the most compelling and developed villains I have read in manga.

I could talk about the various problems and questions that are raised here, but no justice can be given in just a couple meager paragraphs. Iwaaki has simply created one of the most consistently well-written and ambitious manga available in English. It's a cliché, but you are doing yourself a disservice if you have not checked out Parasyte.

(Oh, and Andrew has to be commended for the translation, particularly the humorous asides.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Before Katsuhiro Otomo squandered his talent and career directing anime movies, he was foremost a comics artist. Having made over 100 short stories in addition to his serializations, Otomo's body of work remains largely unrepresented in the English fandom. I've read two of the four titles that Dark Horse brought over: his most well-knowned and well-received series, Domu: A Child's Dream and Akira. The other two -- Hipira and The Legend of Mother Sarah, both drawn by different artists -- never caught my eye. Until 2007, I was unaware that there were any other titles of his available in English, and it would not be until late 2008 that I'd finally find it: Memories (Jp. Kanojo no Omoide..., lit. Memories of Her...), published in England by Mandarin Paperbacks.

The collection contains some of Otomo's other critically-successful titles, Memories (which would be later loosely adapted by Koji Morimoto and Satoshi Kon), Farewell to Weapons and Fireball, supported by other lesser-known endeavours that range from creative to forgettable. Rather than attempt a rough summation, here's a blow-by-blow:

Sound of Sand - Otomo remarks that he phoned this one in and can't remember anything about it. Ends with a B-horror twist, but doesn't really do anything for its allotted eight pages.

Hair - A parody of one of the later shorts in the collection, Fireball. Set in a utopia with throwbacks to the 60s and 70s hippie movement and riots, with hard, psychadelic and progressive rock references aplenty. Otomo tosses in a few interesting twists in the climax.

Electric Bird Land - Almost a thematic and tonal continuation of Hair. Provides a nice chase scene and ending.

Minor Swing - One of the stand-outs. The protagonist, a fisherman, falls overboard and gets separated from his friends, left alone to swim through the tar-like waters. Can only be described as a comical horror tragedy. Also manages a rare feat in anime and manga: establishing an environmentalist stance without useless and meandering finger-wagging.

That's [sic] Amazing World, Parts I-IV - Otomo's hilarious takes on Western stories. Tackles Aladdin, the finale to Noah's Arc, Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and Knights of the Round Table -- the latter two appear as the final shorts in the collection.

Memories - Radically different from the segment in the film, bearing only superficial similarities in the setting. More of a straightforward sci-fi thriller than the surrealist take that Morimoto and Kon developed. Still manages to flow well in spite of not measuring up to its adaption.

Flower - The first story Otomo created after reading Moebius. Painted. Only appeal is the design of the isolated technology amidst the desert.

Farewell to Weapons - War story set in a seemingly deserted city, eventually growing into a life-or-death struggle between humans and an enemy robot. Ends on one of the most absurdly funny notes possible.

Chronicle of the Planet Tako, Parts I and II - The book bizarrely puts the sequel ahead of the original story. Both detail the development of the title planet's history. Cute placement of evolution and revolution, but nothing terribly creative.

Fireball - The centerpiece and most important tale here. Otomo states that the idea for Domu came while writing this, and it's easy to see how; many of the elements that epitomize that masterpiece are seen here, with psychics, tightly-designed infastructures, characters driven by more base desires rather than for the greater good, and lots of discourse and explosions.

The Japanese edition is sadly out-of-print -- though a quick check on eBay shows two copies up for grabs -- and the English version (which was also apparently released in Australia by Random House) is difficult to obtain without coughing up ridiculous amounts of cash. For those interested, I'll leave the ISBN numbers here:

ISBN-10: 0749396873
ISBN-13: 978-0749396879

Monday, February 16, 2009

Black Jack, Volume 03

The story about the Dingoes lives up to its acclaim.

The morality of the book can be a bit bewildering at times, though, such as the ending for the first Kiriko story. Then there's the occasional story that just makes me think that Tezuka would have done better just leaving the series as published, as what I would guess to be the second Pinoko-centric story makes its appearance in the second-half of this volume.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mouryou no Hako, Episodes 07-08

This series will never be licensed. That's obviously not a mark against its quality, as Mononoke, Ghost Hound and Mind Game will attest to. But when you have a fair portion of an episode dedicated to digressions on the etymology of "mouryou," gradually shifting back to box-murder mysteries and the related cult, it can be a bit much to take in.

Or something like that. For someone who has an interest in this type of material, I felt overwhelmed a couple times when watching this -- I'm sure that less patient viewers will come close to tearing their hair out if episode six has not already caused them to do that already.

Episode eight is thankfully more straightforward, definitely making me interested to see how everything will fall together in the final third of the show.

Need I repeat myself!?

Also, child labor laws are clearly OVERRATED.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Zerozaki Magashiki no Ningen Ningen

Third in the Zaregoto spin-off Zerozaki Clan series. Like Zerozaki Kishishiki no Ningen Knock, this one is a handful of short stories that bounce back and forth over the timeline. The first of these introduces Magashiki; standing in the middle of a crowded amusement park, holding a contra bassoon, and wearing a coat and tails. Fighting a woman in a cartoon bear costume armed with nunchucks.
The second involves the infamously red Aikawa Jun, with the greatest entrance line of all time. "Whoops, I was accidentally dead for twenty four hours." She follows this with, "Man, I haven't been killed since I was a baby. I thought I was never coming back to life."
This is, needless to say, a hard act to follow. The third story is largely down time, and contains some quite forgettable chunks, but all is forgiven - I had been desperately curious what the fuck happened to Iori after Zerozaki Soushiki no Ninken Shiken. After all, she did lose both hands over the course of the book, and it ends with Aikawa Jun kicking their train off the tracks.
I would totally be up for the Zerozaki Iori adventures, despite his seeming reluctance to attach the name to her - despite doing so at the end of the first novel, he's still using her pre-awakening name here. She also fails to kill anybody, but this is probably because she didn't have new hands yet.
The final story pitches Magashiki up against the Orange Violence, a bit of behind the scenes stuff from the three part final to the Zaregoto series. It was a pretty satisfying bit of fanservice.

Two great loves, together at last?

I'm not sure if this will make Andrew laugh or cry.

Probably both.

Either way, impressive for an amateur effort.
via Newsarama

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Hard-Boiled Absurd and other stories

After something like two years of having them licensed, Viz finally releases the first volumes of Naoki Urasawa's darlings of the scanlation circuit, Pluto and 20th Century Boys. I couldn't really get into his equally-praised Monster, but I did want to give him another try. I would call the experiment a success.

Pluto is basically a cover version of an Astro Boy story that I'm only vaguely familiar with via the (awesome) Game Boy Advance Astro Boy game's Tezuka mash-up storyline. So basically I'm coming into this cold, aside from the massive hype from seemingly everyone who's ever read it.

It's basically a detective story, with robots in. It's not a deconstruction of the original's shiny retrofuture, exactly, but it's making the setting's fantastic elements feel so mundane that I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. It reminds me a lot of Asimov's Robot stories, which I suppose were always an influence on Astro Boy to begin with. Not really sure what to think of it overall... I definitely appreciate it, but I'm not sure how much I like it, you know?

In contrast, 20th Century Boys is much, much earthier, which makes its own unrealistic elements all the more effective. I got much more into this than Pluto for some reason, which was pretty much the exact opposite way I expected. I may just be predisposed to let it past my barriers, since the story is all about adults looking back on their youth and wondering how they got here from there, and I uh let's just move on.

Anyway, Pluto meshes more with the somewhat detached and languid feel I recall from the first couple volumes of Monster, whereas I suppose less might actually happen in 20th Cen, larded with flashbacks as it is, but it absolutely nails a sense of foreboding, and the pacing is just killer, even on a panel-to-panel basis. Pluto may be about a detective, but 20th Cen is an actual mystery (plus, Friend's symbol is an amazing piece of graphic design that gets goofier and creepier every time it appears). I look forward to seeing where both of them go.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The awesome inanity of Princess Resurrection

Let's see... this semi-immortal warrior appears to be wearing a cape over a bikini top, cargo pants with the fly unbuttoned, a belt under said pants, a Klingon bat'leth, and some kind of giant claw-gauntlet. Fantastic.

This isn't even the best volume of the series... Hiro doesn't sustain any especially grievous wounds, nor do we have zombie pandas, dual chainsaw action or ghost shark vs chandelier, but there is a surprising and obscure B-movie cameo to go along with the more obvious George Romero references.

Sadly, this isn't one of Del Rey's more gracefully translated titles, but this was hardly art to begin with, just good trashy fun. With Hellsing almost over and 3x3 Eyes' English release in an endless limbo, Princess Resurrection is here to fill that invincible-undead-fight-manga-shaped hole in our hearts. God bless. Just stick to the manga, the anime version is bowdlerized beyond repair.

Does Viz want Taiyo Matsumoto to fail here?

I simply cannot understand their licensing choices.
Tekkon Kinkreet/Black and White is fantastic, and the obvious first choice, I'll grant that.
But they nearly killed him over here with No. 5, the worst thing he's ever done.
The reprint of Tekkon Kinkreet does well, finally, so they start to look at bringing something else out by him, but rather than do Ping Pong or Hanaotoko they bring out Go Go Monster? WTF?
Don't get me wrong, 3/4 of Go Go Monster are fantastic.
But the fucking last quarter is largely complimentary black pages. He attempts to have things happen in the dark, and basically crosshatches over his drawings so much he fucking obscures them entirely. I sat their staring at the damn things, trying to see what the fucking drawings under them were, almost making out shapes but not quite ever managing to decipher anything. Wound up very frustrated, and given the shoddy printing standards over here, I imagine it'll be fucking inkblots. Does Viz not even fucking read shit before they pick it up?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Feel like reading Paprika?

The UK publishers have, apparently, put a chunk of it up online.
Not read it myself, but hopefully someone here will.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mangajin memories

The incomparable Jog recently mentioned Mangajin, which I used to pore over as a larval weeaboo, back in the Before Times when I hated anime because I thought it was all boring crap like Bubblegum Crisis and Akira. Let's take a look at some random pages from an issue I picked mainly because the two-tone cover would scan well.

First off, we have some targeted advertising like a mother. Loooots of ads for Japanese bookstores, kanji study aids, travel guides, et cetera. Also booze!

I am bizarrely thrilled that the letters page is dominated by hot debate over whether the magazine should stop using romaji (and one guy lamenting that he can't return the camera he bought in Akihabara, even with his receipt), but I'll share a more interesting anecdote.

In keeping with recently established facts, Mangajin totally has our backs. Manga is only useful as a physical token of the mysterious Orient!

There's a smattering of general-culture articles, and the occasional book review, but clearly the meat is the manga section. It is full of shit you ain't never heard of, and that no English speaker cares about. I'm trying to remember if they ever ran Sazae-san... I know they did some Tora-san.

Anyways, we have a fairly diverse range, including some 4-panel gag strips...

...salaryman manga (or -woman, here)...

...a baseball strip...

... and even some English comics, translated into Japanese.

If you're interested in checking Mangajin out for yourself, about half of its 70-issue run is still available. Bizarrely, they offer a "subscription" deal where they'll mail out the remaining back-issue stock thrice monthly for a year. I may just take them up on that.

We aren't like other blogs

Other blogs post collections of all the times Mikoto blushes, or of Index wearing only Touma's button up shirt. We post pictures like this.
And then talk about how impressed we were that they bothered animating Touma idly wasting his mechanical pencil lead.
Or perhaps this is just me.
Either way, onto the fifth novel now, covering one of the short stories that were originally cross cut with the Accelerator side story we're apparently getting next week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Suki Suki Daisuki Cho Ai Shite Iru

Maijo Otaro is, as always, a consummate nutbar.
Tackling the theme of love - or more specifically, man in love with dead or dying girls - he occasionally seems to be taking a lurching stab at emotional voyeurism, tediously detailing the emotions of his largely personality free male leads. Maijo isn't exactly known for bland writer stand-ins, and these sections tend to come across like him marking time until something more interesting comes to mind.
The book basically consists of a three part story wrapped around three shorter stories. The three part story is the least interesting of the bunch; a novelist whose girlfriend has died of cancer, getting letters from her that she arranged to have delivered after her death. It only really shines when describing the hilariously insane garbage he writes, particularly the never ending mystery novel series which always involves a cast of six girls; one detective, one killer, one victim, one pure love advocate, one who looses her mind, and one who gets abducted by aliens.
The opening story manages to undercut the less interesting sappy love side because the girl is being eaten alive by a swarm of insects. When another girl comes walking across the ceiling and whispers in her ear, all the insects begin to glow. Which neatly plays into a story written by the writer in the main narrative, about a girl with a flashlight inside her.
The second of the stories was largely my favorite - a boy is taught the secret of dreams by a man named Mister Sister - who happens to look exactly like Disney's Captain Hook. Except without a hook. Which makes him Captain...what? Very enjoyable, except I had to actually flip through the book to remember what it was. Not a good sign.
The true mainlining of crazy comes from the third short, in which Adams extract ribs from their Eves to pilot them in the fight against God. The narrator is an Adam, and his Eve is a thirteen year old girl, and their relationship is not really working out so well. One epic snarling argument later, the Adam is quite surprised to discover that she had actually died in single combat with God, and God was just fucking with him by pretending to be her.
I think.

Monday, February 2, 2009

yoshitoshi ABe on moe

Because this needs to reach as many people as possible:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why OEL anything is a bad idea

We here at Eastern Standard strictly define the word manga as comics from Japan. It is impossible for manga to originate from anywhere else. This is not a reflection on the quality of anything non-Japanese that calls itself manga (although it is mostly shit) but - as I just now decided - rooted more in horror at what the implications of OEL 'manga' are.
When manga is just comics from Japan, all styles are supported. You can draw big eyes and small mouths, very realistic gekiga stuff, or much more stylized, unique artwork.
The moment we start defining manga as an art style, the way OEL seems to, we start to reject anything that doesn't meet that narrower definition. Certainly, there are certain stylistic tricks you see in a lot of the most successful books, but even there, you'll find people bucking the trend. Even beyond the simple visual look, the pacing stuff - decompression and the like - that other people ascribe to manga? Read a little Gintama and see how dense that fucker is.
Someone recently started a Wikipedia article on his fiction zine, which claims to be the first OEL light novel magazine. The very idea made me livid, and I wasn't quite sure why - beyond the obvious fact that light novel is simply the Japanese name for young adult novel, and a light novel written in English would just be a god damn young adult novel. But by defining light novels by what they as ignorant fans believe them to be, they're attempting to limit the definition of what a light novel can be. And we really shouldn't be limiting a demographical term by anything but the demographic.