Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ushio also fucks shit up

Another thing we have obviously been remiss in covering.
Ushio and Tora is some fucking ludicrously bad ass awesomeness.

Joe once told me the anime as Calvin and Hobbes, but Hobbes kept trying to eat Calvin.
The manga is more like a Youkai encyclopedia, if every single god damn youkai was as BAD ASS as the human hand could draw.
Penchant for goofy comedy aside, the 33 volumes of the manga largely consist of Fujita Kazuhiro blowing your god damn mind.
But since his art contains liberal use of the color black, it is obviously not vapidly pretty enough to actually get translated.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dorothy fucks shit up

I do not believe I've pimped Toto recently.
This is an obvious oversight.
I just spent five seconds on Google image search, and apparently nobody has bothered to scan Dorothy kicking ass, which means you have all failed me yet again, and I really wish I had a scanner. A picture definitely speaks a thousand words here, since something like 90% of Osada Yuuko's appeal comes from his fucking kinetic art. Yet literally every bit I can find is either a cover or a cluttered page that doesn't really show off the magnificence at full power.
I mean, you certainly don't read him for the plot. Every fucking manga he's done has been canceled, regardless of quality. His short stories are fantastic, but his longer works have all been a bit rocky, honestly; the good outweighs the bad, but coupled with his unconventional art style and he's somehow not managed to find any traction.
His obsession with the Toto plot line doesn't help.
The version of Toto Del Rey is bringing out is actually the second - the first one was pure pulp adventure, this one is shonen battle with a pulp adventure flair, and Tribal 12 is the same damn thing as a Fullmetal Alchemist style ensemble cast.
So there's stuff that doesn't work at all. I think it's worth pointing that before I go all bombastic and assure you it doesn't matter at all, because when shit starts clicking, Osada makes everyone else Del Rey publishes look like a god damn amateur.
I have much love for Me and the Devil Blues, for Parasyte, for Alive - three wildly disparate direction. Serious seinen, pulp seinen, serious shonen, and Toto takes the pulp shonen slot and rams it as far over the rainbow as possible.
The Oz references are intentional; the 30s Boys Adventure trappings equally so. Dorothy being a master of the Tornado Kung Fu style is just fucking icing. Or gravy, if you're Guder.
I dunno, after being overwhelmed by the fucking sameness of shit in Magajin (a fucking ghastly magazine) you end up snatching up anything that looks different. Toto! ended up actually being a god damn blast, and sometimes that's enough.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Black Jack, Volume 04

I don't know if I'm acclimating myself to Tezuka's insanity, or whether this volume is simply less convoluted than the one prior.  Either way, this is a more accessible outing, featuring a growing pet theme of skin transplants along with the usual amputations, bombings, world leaders and intelligent animals doing miraculous things that are not understood by humans until the climax of the story.

While there's far too many highlights to speak of, one particular chapter features a fart joke in one of the most unsuspecting (though somewhat logical) situations possible.  That Tezuka makes this work is even more astonishing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ping Pong for LOVE

First chapter of a new manga by the author of The Law of Ueki.
Does not look good, but I do have to admire the basic premise (which it takes it's sweet ass time getting to -- the main reason I think it doesn't look good).
Essentially, boy meets girl, they fall in love, totally ready to go out, but one little problem...they are not legally allowed to go out unless he can defeat her in ping pong. And she's, uh, violently good.
She actually murders him.
With ping pong.

Law of Ueki was never exactly good, either, but it has a certain madcap thrill to it since it was so clearly being improvised. Plus he somehow managed to tie everything together into a really satisfying ending.
Law of Ueki Plus was less fortunate, and pretty much got shitcanned early.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

So, um, yeah.

Where did that week go?
Two big anime trailers for you; first is the new Kenji Kamiyama, slated for the Spring noitaminA slot; trailer is slightly too focused on the melodrama and eyes widening in wonder, but the Bourne-like shit is all good, and Kamiyama has earned some trust.

Bakemonogatari is less a trailer than a staff roll with a couple of character designs attached. Still, these were some of Nisioisin's best books, and Shinbo, for all his crimes, may well be an ideal match.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jesus is a pedophile

So sayeth Araki Hirohiko.
Steel Ball Run 16 is, uh...well, he reaches heights he had never reached before. I'm pretty sure someone mentioned to him that being in Ultra Jump now means there are less content restrictions or something.
So 14-year-old child bride Lucy Steel (still a virgin, a quick flashback hastens to add) has been in disguise as the psycho lesbian First Lady for a while now, Jesus' Turbo eye in her pocket, trying to locate the rest of Jesus' body, which the President of the United States has stolen.
To her horror, upon their arrival in Philadelphia the President makes some private time for them, intent on sharing a romantic interlude. As she sits on his lap, the Turbo Eye of Christ pops out of her pocket and starts thumping against the door to his study. She attempts to distract him by asking why he takes such an interest in the Steel Ball Run race, and he explains that, in society, the one who first picks up on of the napkins on either side of their plate at a metaphorical banquet determines which napkin everyone else is forced to use. Then he tosses all the napkins off the table and orders her to strip.
He himself sheds his tearaway frock coat, revealing hideous battle scars beneath his curly golden locks, and declares that he will need an heir to ensure the continuation of the power he is about to obtain. As he begins tearing the dress off Lucy, she grabs a table knife and tries to stab him. "I knew it!" he says. Doesn't seem terribly interested in what happened to his real wife or anything; he likes her a lot, and quickly jams the knife between her lips to keep her from biting her tongue.
But when he leans in to kiss, her disguise peels away - she only looked like his wife because Hot Pants used her Flesh Spray. Lucy enterprisingly takes this moment to stab him in the neck. He reels backwards, and falls over onto the knife, jamming it farther into his throat. Then he sinks into the shadow of an overturned chair.
Clutching the remains of her dress to her chest, Lucy turns the chair over, and his body comes up from inside the floor - the wound has vanished.
She runs and hides inside the study, but the President sits up and comes after her, ready to break the door down. She reaches up the chimney and the body of Jesus slides out, and she is enveloped in light.
When the President smashes through the door, he finds her huddled in the corner, babbling about someone in the light, and when he grabs her arm she sprawls backwards, revealing a very large baby bump with the dessicated face of Jesus superimposed upon her belly.

One Piece 53

Man, volume after volume of ever increasing awesomeness topped by a thundering climax followed by...
Island of the Amazons.
What the fuck, Oda?
The first half of this was just DUMB AS HELL.
It improves - there're some seriously great moments later on - but certainly the first misstep in a long while.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ring ni Kakero 1...season THREE!?

Leaked on the singer's blog, the Feb 25 entry - lyrics for the "World Arc" of Ring ni Kakero.
"Flap your wing, get you kicks" indeed.

For those not in the loop on ultra obscure shit barely even fansubbed, Ring ni Kakero 1 (so named because the dude wrote a sequel manga, Ring ni Kakero 2, years later, and the anime of his older series only came out this decade, slowly, a season at a time) is the Giant Robo of boxing anime.

Winner of the Joe and I Cried Jovian Tears award.
Which is prestigious, I will have you know.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Garu Garu 2

The longer half, this wraps up the series and does manage to pop out some pretty bad ass final moments that justified some of the slog.
The killer's overclocked mind generally worked; the Warren Ellis wet dream surveillance hacker hive mind utterly failed; the likable characters generally wrapped up the way they needed to, but the two characters from Bow Wow! didn't work at all.
I got totally blind-sided when the dumb detective character suddenly reveals that the master of disguise villain has been disguised as her brother for two months. That bit alone made the climax, although the psycho killer getting to tag team the villain with the girl he loved (who totally just swings her sword, confident that he'll back flip over it) was pretty sweet as well.
I've occasionally argued that an author's failures sometimes help you to understand why their successes work so well, but I can't say I gained any useful knowledge from this series. I don't think I even managed a post that makes any fucking sense to anyone but me.
Time to read something good. Or time to dig into the pile of manga that threatens to overwhelm my coffee table.

Birth of a Zerozaki

From Zerozaki Soushiki's Human Test.

It is said that men kill people according to plan, women kill people on impulse. No matter how impulsive an action it might be, when men murder there is an element of planning to it, and no matter how carefully they have planned when women murder this is something impulsive about it. But this is a ludicrous, infantile prejudice that Muto Iori did not believe a word of...or at least, would not have believed a word of if she had actually been aware that the theory existed.
Iori had once heard baseball referred to as an unscripted drama. There was no telling what would happen next, nobody could tell what would happen, nobody knew what the outcome would be -- there was no script. It was completely ad libbed. This made a lot of sense to her now, even though she felt it was a strange thought to be having.
An unscripted drama.
How was that fun?
"...this is a joke, right?"
Muto Iori, a high school girl, had just faced the first great crisis of her life. This is, perhaps, not the most accurate way of putting it; a more objective way of describing it was that the crisis that had been nipping at her heels for quite some time had finally caught up. Thinking back on it, every moment of her seventeen years had been spent running away from it. Rather like the games of basketball they played in gym class; while everyone else would have described basketball as a game in which the goal was to get the ball and throw it into the basket, Iori viewed basketball - and any other sports involving balls - as games in which the goal was to run to a place where the ball would not come. Volley ball, soft ball -- even catch or bowling. If she managed to avoid touching the ball the entire game, then Iori considered that a great victory. She did not bother wondering what it was she had defeated. But all her life...
She had been chased.
She had been running away.
The latter phrase felt a bit more accurate, but now that it had caught up with her, the distinction ceased to matter. Endings always arrive unexpectedly. Just like when your watch battery dies -- or when lightning knocks out your electricity. Things just ended - abruptly, even impulsively (in the sense that there had been no plan involved) with no script or foreshadowing.
"It's life is over! Or did it ever start?"
This idea had been with her for a very long time. Since she was a child. Not a premonition or anything she'd learned, just a certainty -- a hazy thought she she would never really amount to anything. In elementary school they'd had to write an essay on what they wanted to be when they grew up, and Iori had written two pages along the lines of "I want to work in a cake shop, but if I can't I want to be a nurse," without once thinking she could ever really be either. (She hadn't even wanted to be either of those, really. She had just copied the one her older sister had written. Originality was less important than the arrangement of ideas in essays.) On the practice test a few weeks ago she'd gotten a perfect score in four subjects, and her teacher had said, "I can count the students like you on my eight fingers. You can get into any college you like with these scores," Iori had just wondered why she was being counted like an octopus or spider, absolutely sure there was no college on earth she would ever be able to attend. She was still sort of stunned she'd managed to finish her required education and move on to high school. That was an endless source of confusion for her. This morning, before she left for school, she'd read an article in the newspaper that had resonated with her. In the train that ran past her school, a twenty seven year old man named Sawagishi Tokuhiko had been found murdered, the article said. He had been cut to pieces with something very sharp. It was a very shocking case, but there was no reason she should particularly care about it -- it had nothing to do with her, she didn't know anyone named Sawagishi, and even if he hadn't been killed, it was extremely unlikely that she ever would have met him -- there was no connection to her life in the past or the future, but even so, Iori had felt this murdered twenty seven year old was like her. Like this man who had been killed for no reason in a train in the country, Iori felt she would never reach any destination, like she would always be traveling on a one-way ticket.
She would never get anywhere.
She would always be on the way.
It was like she was flailing about in a bottomless bog, and had run out of breath, so that even though she had plenty of strength left, she was done for.
"...but...uh...this really isn't my fault..."
It was currently four thirty in the afternoon.
School was finished, and she was on her way home. (She had no club activities.)
She was under the bridge, and every few minutes a train would rattle by overhead with an unpleasant sound. There was no one around. It wasn't even worth calling a deserted area - this was the kind of Lagrangian point you can only find in the country. And here Iori stood, all alone.
Except for the body of the dead high school boy at her feet.
" this is really bad."
She was pretty sure this boy in uniform with the butterfly knife sticking out of his throat was her classmate. But he hadn't made much of an impression. Iori didn't ascribe any more meaning to "classmates" than "people her age who sit in rows in the same room studying." They were all entirely interchangable, and indeed, they did change once a year, so she hadn't bothered learning their names. Learning them wasn't going to help her get anywhere.
So she was forced to lean down, careful not to get blood on her sleeve (school uniforms were expensive) reach into his breast pocket, and pull out his student ID. It had a picture of him, and his address and all kinds of other information, and the name Kagawa Yasumichi. She remembered him now. Iori clapped her hands together. His nickname was Yasuchi. An awfully cute nickname for someone as thuggish looking as he was, so it had stuck in her mind.
", Yasuchi, what are you doing here? Being dead? This is the problem."
That was certainly part of the problem, but she didn't have to think long to come up with the answer. After all, it was Iori herself who had stabbed him in the throat with the butterfly knife. There was really no way to turn that answer into some sort of narrative trick. She didn't need to be careful about getting blood on her sleeves, since she was already completely covered in it, and her hands remembered exactly how it had felt.
"I finished him off..."
She had been heading home like normal when he'd called out to her, and she'd followed after him until they reached this deserted area. Was he going to ask her out? Ah, youth! To be so young! She had been thinking when Yasumichi suddenly yelled something she couldn't understand and pointed the butterfly knife at her. But even then Iori failed to register that the crisis was upon her, and had simply thought, What a tiny knife. Yeah, right, how are you supposed to kill anyone with that little Swiss army knife? You might break the skin but not get through the muscle...and while she was being randomly, inappropriately amused, Yasumichi was lunging right for her, aiming the tip of that tiny knife at Iori's heart. Iori was quite surprised, but this action seemed extremely logical to her - once he'd produced the knife, it was only natural for him to use it - and it was her that was out of synch with the situation. But even at the height of her surprise, she had not been aware of any
It was the exact same crisis she had always been aware of.
...she didn't really remember what had happened after that. All she knew was the fact that she had stolen the knife from him, and thrust it into his throat.
"Augh, I've done it now."
I did it.
Open and shut.
This was really bad.
She was like the killer on a Wednesday night suspense drama. But in that case, there must be someone watching her from the shadows who would try to blackmail her later. And then she would be forced to kill again. Or like that killer on Columbo (an episode about an actress who had suddenly killed someone) should she try to hide the crime? No, no, thinking seriously, this might be perfectly legal self-defense. Yasumichi had pulled the knife on her first, so that was obvious. Yay for self-defense. Viva! But was it okay to kill people in self-defense? She was pretty sure it was okay, but she'd learned that from TV. But wasn't this a little straight forward for a TV show? Oh god, how far could this unscripted drama go? Was there going to be another fuss about kids today?
But she felt like that wasn't the real problem. Too bad for her classmate, but the important thing here was not that she'd killed him. The critical point was that this thing Iori had been fleeing, avoiding like the basketball, had touched her at last. She had been safe as long as she was running, but if it ever touched her, then she had lost.
She had lost.
Something she had barely been holding together had suddenly broken.
That's what it felt like.
"Ew...all because you had to go and attack me, Yasuchi!"
For lack of anything better to do, she tried blaming him, genuinely meaning every word. He had already been weird the moment he had called out to her in the classroom. As his nickname suggested, Yasumichi was an outgoing, cheerful person, but today he had seemed a little hollow, and when he had spoken to her he hadn't made eye contact. She had thought something seemed a little strange, but how was she supposed to guess that he was going to attack her with a knife? Iori wasn't psychic.
"But...this is weird. There's no way I could do something like this."
She tried saying it cutely, but this proved meaningless.
She had stolen the knife and stabbed him with it. Easy to say, but not anything a frail, weak, adorable girl (self-described) could do to a sturdy, athletic boy. Using the magical phrase, 'a series of miraculous coincidences' was not going to work. Iori had stolen the knife from Yasumichi exactly as she had intended to, and stabbed him with it exactly as she had meant to. That much, she remembered. Her hands...her body remembered. It was no unpredictable coincidence. Obviously, as her basketball survival technique suggested, Iori was quite bad at sports, and had no interest in any kind of martial arts. Even as a child none of her fights had ever progressed beyond insults. But her body had moved in response to Yasumichi like it was following practiced motions, like she was putting a song she knew only too well on repeat. Just like standing up, bowing, and taking a seat in class.
"Like the hero of a shonen manga, when my life is in danger the ability sleeping within me awoke? In that case...could I possibly have a previously unforeseen talent for killing people? Ah ha ha!"
She tried laughing, but it didn't help.
Oh well. There was nothing else she could do now but turn herself in. She was a minor, and if she turned herself in they might lighten the sentence. Or should she talk it over with her family first? If they heard their youngest daughter had been arrested from some third party the shock might seriously kill them, and that would be awful. Or should she take responsibility for her actions by herself? They always said so. Trying to figure this out, Iori went to move away (even though she had killed him herself, she still didn't want to look at the corpse of someone she knew for long) turned around, and froze in her tracks.
There was a man looking at her, leaning against the concrete wall so normally it was as if he had been standing there since long before Iori and Yasumichi got here. He was abnormally tall for someone Japanese, but so thin he didn't really seem like a big guy. His arms and legs were extremely long, even allowing for his considerable height. He wore a suit and necktie, with his hair combed straight back, and a pair of silver framed glasses, but this rather normal fashion fit him astonishingly poorly. His silhouette was like some sort of wire-frame model.
Iori tensed. He had seen her.
If he called it in, instead of her turning herself in, then the punishment would be stiffer. (Self preservation.) Why was he staring at her? If someone was watching, they should be lurking in the shadows! Then there would be nothing she could do...or wait, if he saw the whole thing, then he knew Iori wasn't guilty -- he knew it was self-defense. How could he blackmail her? He might even testify in her defense. In that case, she would be very grateful. No, no, don't panic. There's nothing to suggest he arrived conveniently in time to see the whole thing. He might have arrived just after she stole the knife. Just as likely.
But while this ordinary series of reactions were running through her mind, another part of it -- possibly the main part -- was busy feeling like something was wrong.
This man...
Had she met him before?
"Just now," the wire-frame model said without any warning. It was hard to read any emotion in his voice. "Just now you said something very accurate indeed. Like the words of the Buddha himself."
"Eh? Ehh?" Iori said, taking a step backwards. What? What did he mean? Like the Buddha? That was a hell of a way to start a conversation. "Wh-what?"
"But if -- while according the accuracy of that statement the utmost respect -- I must point out a single mistake, I would prefer to use the term 'nature' rather than 'talent.' 'Talent' and 'nature' are rather similar things, but the former is developed while the latter is repressed, and we should not ignored this fundamental difference. A careless mistake, but one that is all too common - nothing to beat yourself up over."
"What? You? Hunh?" she asked, confusion robbing her of coherence.
Ignoring Iori, the wire-frame model moved his legs, strode past Iori, and squatted down beside Kagawa Yasumichi. He proceeded to chuckle in a sinister fashion.
"One stab to the, splendid work. Much too splendid. Goes right past splendid and becomes a bit of a negative, frankly. Perfect things, it turns out, are unexpectedly dull. They lack any trace of individuality. Somewhere, somehow, they lack individuality. Certainly, individuality is a illusion, but without illusions, everything would be boring., what was your name, cute little girl?"
"Eh? Ah, um, Iori. My family name's..."
"Oh, who cares about family names? I only needed your given name. Hm, Iori...same name as Miyamoto Musashi's adopted son. I could not be more envious. I have never in my life met anyone with such a magnificent name."
"Um, nice to meet you, I guess..."
"Nice to meet you indeed. Presupposing the all important theory that something indeed is about to come of our meeting, and then this is indeed the beginning of that thing."
A thought appeared to strike him, and the wire-frame model took the hilt of the butterfly knife, pulling it out of the body. Like pulling out a cork, dark red blood began pouring out of the hole. Iori yelped, and averted her eyes from what now looked even more like a corpse than ever.
"...very impressive that you managed to bring about a person's death with this toy-like knife. So surprising. Look, the blade broke! Not even because it struck a bone, the muscles alone snapped it in two. This is why I can't stand western knives. They are far too brittle," the wire-frame model said, showing the blood stained knife to Iori. Iori averted her eyes again. The wire-framed model, observing this, tilted his head in puzzlement. "Mm? Oh! Iori! Is this your first time killing someone?"
"Eh.....ehh? What do you mean?"
"I am inquiring if you do not make a daily habit of killing other people."
"O-of course not! Obviously!"
"Of course you're killing people?"
"Of course I'm not!"
"I see, I see. I thought so," the wire-frame model said, nodding. "Obviously," he muttered, a little irritably. "Then I was absolutely correct to use the Buddha in that simile. And now I've used the word correct a second time! No matter who you are, everyone is a little nervous their first time out, so nothing to be worried about. When was my first? I suppose I was too young to remember."
", um, um," Iori stammered, with all her might. This was bad. Bad bad bad bad bad. This guy was really weird. "So, it's been really interesting talking with you, and if possible I would love to talk with you all day, but I think I'd probably really better go to the police...but please, carry on by yourself if you like! Can I go now?"
"The police? Whatever for?" the wire-frame model asked, standing up as if he genuinely couldn't comprehend this. Standing this close to him, Iori, who was not terribly tall, looked like a child. She remembered the idiom "high enough to touch the sky" from class. Free association brought the phrase "sky high" into her mind as well, but that had nothing to do with the current situation. Iori considered attempting to run away from the wire-frame model advancing towards her, but despite the more bizarre aspects of her personality, she had a reputation in school for being friendly. If she ran away from the wire-frame model her, it might damage that reputation. This thought was enough to stop her body as she started to twist away, and make her face him again.
"Oh, no, Iori! Come now, come now, come now, Iori! Hold it right there! Surely this can't be true, and I ask with fear of being thought a fool so great my knees are literally knocking together, but Iori, you can't possibly be considering turning yourself in, can you?"
"Yeah, I am. Of course I am!" Iori said, waving her hands in front of her chest. "This isn't some stupid mystery novel, and there's no way I could ever hope to cover up the crime! I don't know where you came in, so I'd like to make it absolutely clear that Yasuchi attacked me first, and I'm standing on fairly firm ground here."
"I do recommend that you reconsider. If you go to the police, you will only end up killing policemen," the wire-frame model said firmly. Weirdly firmly. "Likewise, avoid consulting your family or friends or any school teachers. You don't want to kill your family or friends or teachers, do you? You might have other opinions on your teachers so I shall avoid mentioning them again, but Iori, you have already taken that step, and if you meet people again, all you will be able to think about is killing them."
"That...that's not true. I'm not a psycho killer, or anything..."
"No, no, that is exactly what you are, a psycho killer," he declared.
Firmly declared.
"Just a little soft, having just been born. But the sheer strength of the evil in your aura...I thought for certain you were my brother, but apparently I was wrong. Oh dear. Heh heh. This certainly is a surprise. So unexpected. Like an amusement park about to go bankrupt! Whatever shall I do? Whatever is expected of me?"
The wire-frame model threw up his hands, spinning around. "Augh! A big star right in the center of my time table! Honestly. Heh heh. Heh heh heh."
Iori had no idea what these metaphors could possible mean.
He proceeded to pace furiously around the corpse, thinking things over.
"," Iori said, folding her arms and trying think as well, though not in imitation. First, this situation. She had been rudely accused of being a psycho killer (and however much she might deny it, having undoubtedly killed someone, she wasn't that much different) so what exactly should she do about this wire-frame model man? He was wearing a suit, but despite this, no one would ever mistake him for a traveling salesman, and his complete lack of reaction to the dead body was weird (not that she was any different.) Was it safe to assume he did not plan to call the police (she certainly hoped he didn't.)
He was strange.
A very strange man. matter how strange a man he was, her feelings right now were weird. More than weird -- positively mystifying.
Being around this wire-frame model...

She was starting to feel like killing someone wasn't that big a deal, wasn't anything at all...

But that was stupid.
She had killed someone.
So why wasn't she...
Why was she so relaxed?
Or was it always like this? Was killing people, once you actually went and did it, just like this? Not that big a deal? This was just like the girls in her class boasting about what they'd done with their boyfriends, nothing more than that. Once you actually tried it out...same thing every child said when they first learned to ride a bike.
Even though she'd killed someone.
What that okay?
Even though...she'd murdered someone.
"Hmmm...oh well," the wire-frame model said, shrugging off-handedly. Sliding his heels, he walked backwards towards Iori till he was about five centimeters away, and only then did he spin around. Five centimeters. A very...forward distance.
"And...and, Iori...there is absolutely no need to feel upset about killing him. You can't feel upset, so there is not reason to feel guilty about that. And it was all his fault anyway."
It was like he was speaking right to her heart, and even though she knew this must be a coincidence, it was several moments before she could respond. But on second thought, the wire-frame model's words were very good news.
"S-so you saw Yasuchi attack me?"
Oh good, oh good, what a relief. A smile started spreading across Iori's face, but the wire-frame model heartlessly shook his head.
"I didn't see anything. All I saw was the result, here. When I arrived it was all over. 'All over'? ....heh heh. So, I do have one question for you, Iori. Did your boy here say anything strange?"
"Er..." Iori hesitated. "Yeah, he did shout something...what was it?" She couldn't remember. What was it? "Oh, right, something about reading about a family of dog gods..."
"Okay, okay, very okay. Your memory appears to be a little faulty and not at all reliable, but if you say that much then as far as I'm concerned that is more than sufficient."
The wire-frame nodded, as if it all made sense now. But then he crooked his head, and frowned. "Hmm...incidentally, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about me, Iori. I am not Moguro Fukuzou, and what's going to happen next will not be very much like Yousuke's Bizzare Adventure, so please resign yourself to that fact."
"In other words, I have not appeared to save you in your hour of needs, nor have I come to help you develop that talent for killing that you mentioned. I may have scissors but I am not carrying a bow and arrow. I would not have you think of me as that kind of person."
"Mm? The comparison does not compute? You look puzzled. Hmm...thanks to the influence of a certain individual, I now often read manga. I am quite the fan. I am first and foremost a history buff, but a comparison from history would be even harder to follow, yes? I was doing my utmost to communicate with the young, but it seems my efforts have been in vain."
She admired the effort, but it had been rather pointless.
And patronizing.
"I realize they are not exactly the latest trend, but the influences of a poverty stricken home or bad friends causing them to veer off track, or perhaps self-defense or hatred have caused a young blonde girl to do something regrettable at which point a man in a suit calls out to her from behind and pulls her into an underworld of assassination...this was quite a common motif in foreign films a while back. The girl does not need to be blonde and the man does not need to call out to her from behind, but I have no intention of imitating that type of agent. As proof of which, I said absolutely nothing until you turned around. The notion that someone will appear at a turning point in your life is beyond arrogance into absurdity. And not only me; there is no one in this world who could possibly guide you. Why? Because you will no longer be arriving anywhere."
"I won't be..."
"Of course you seem to have already given up all hope of that, so in your case, you might well never have intended to get anywhere."
The way this man talked was both decisive and aggravating. But Iori understood what he was trying to say. Certainly, she had vaguely hoped that at this moment of crisis a hero (whether of lightness or darkness) would appear to save her, and it wasn't like she hadn't wanted someone to step in and save her, and it wasn't like she hadn't prayed that someone would...but all of those were wishful thinking. Angels offering salvation or demons offering to grant your wishes were not so easily encountered. So she nodded.
"Yeah...and no matter how you look at it, I killed Yasuchi. It's my fault."
", it's not your fault at all."
He disagreed with her again.
And this time rather grimly. There was a weight behind his words that did not brook argument. The wire-frame model continued, firmly, "Like I said, the only one to blame here is the one you call Yasuchi."
Once again, Iori froze in shock. Without any warning whatsoever, the wire-frame model had produced what appeared to be a gigantic pair of scissors from behind his back. They looked basically like scissors, and there was no other word handy to describe them, which is why they 'appeared to be' scissors, but in reality they were not scissors at all. Compared to them, the butterfly knife really was nothing but a toy. But more than the scissors, what really made Iori freeze...
Behind the wire-frame model...
With blood still flowing from his neck, Kagawa Yasumichi had stood up, and was gazing at them with hollow, empty eyes.
"Exactamundo! This is all Yasuchi's fault!" the wire-frame model sniggered, spinning the giant scissors on his finger tips. "The very fact that he must stand up and kill his target even though he has received a fatal knife wound to the throat, and is at this very moment dying!? If this is not 'fault' then what on earth is? Just like the man I met on the train! Not worth feeling sympathy for at all!" he said, addressing Yasumichi, so pale from loss of blood that he was looking ever more corpse like.
Why? Iori felt herself turning pale as well.
How could he be alive?
That wound could not have been more fatal.
He should not have been alive, he should have been long since finished dying, yet...
"Yasuchi-kun. You 'fail.' I have no more hope for you at all."
The scissors gleamed.
The very fact that they appeared to gleam was miraculous. They had been twirling around the fingers of his right hand a moment ago, but somehow they were spinning on his left hand now.
Then the hole Iori had made in Yasumichi's throat vanished. To be more strictly accurate, the entire head, hole and all, vanished.
Kagawa Yasumichi's head had been cut clean off his body.
The head hit the ground with a wet thunk like a watermelon, and a moment later the body fell as well. Despite her confusion, Iori knew that this time it would not rise again.
Despite her confusion.
No...that wasn't it.
She wasn't confused at all.
This tingle, this shiver...

Was excitement.

The man in front of her had cut off another person's head without so much as flinching, and she was...impressed.
His movement, his skill...
Compared with that, her own movements when she had stabbed him were like a child's prank. So much for her movements being practiced. They had been pathetically, comically clumsy, desperate struggling.
He was so far ahead of her.
"My name is Zerozaki Soushiki," the wire-frame model said, introducing himself at last. "Iori!"
"Y-yes!" she said, straightening up.
There was a fine tension from her head down to her toes. She had been completely, utterly wrong. At the least, this man was not any ordinary strange man. He was far, far more advanced than Iori. Looking closely, he was quite handsome, as well. The thin eyes behind his glasses seemed impossibly attractive to her. Oh. This man was not strange. He was...
"Will you be my little sister?"
...a freak.

Copyright Nishioisin, 2006, published by Kodansha.
Excerpt translated and posted under the principle of fair use, representing an insignificant portion of the work as a whole.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Boogiepop: The Phantom Menace

Not in the mood for a polemic tonight, so you're getting the nice version, not the FACTS version.
Boogiepop and Others has a flashy, gimmicky structure that exists because it serves the story Kadano Kouhei wanted to tell. The particular mood he wanted to capture was served equally well by the horror elements - and neither structure stunts nor horror elements play a significant role in the other 14 novels.
Kadano essentially writes whatever kind of narrative he damn well pleases; while there are some themes that unify the novels, they're pretty much young adult fiction's greatest hits, and I find it hard to claim they define the appeal of the series.
Boogiepop Phantom - which, as I keep strenuously reminding people, refers only to the anime - commits three major errors in adapting the source material.
1. It's a horror series. And one heavily reliant on the tropes of J-horror, which have not aged well. Boogiepop is not a horror series. There are moments of personal horror within the stories, but I ultimately feel the genre is closer to whatever-the-fuck we're claiming Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is.
2. It lifts the structural stunts and themes from Kadano without lifting any of what he actually did. I mean, I respect the idea of doing your own thing, but it's pretty rare that this actually works. And in this case it seems pretty clear that they did this because they utterly missed the point; it makes the series about the structure, and about the mystery of what the hell is going on.
3. There are no characters. Every single one of them is a one-note, one-dimensional cardboard cutout designed entirely to communicate the theme as clearly and as boringly as possible. Compared with Kadano's own characters, who are maddeningly complex and prone to unexpected behavior just as you think you understand feels all the more sad.

I suppose Boogiepop Phantom is probably still a perfectly decent series - I mean, I did like it enough to pick up the first novel a few years later - but we're talking an entertaining Sci-Fi channel adaption of a novel series that LITERALLY changed publishing history - 'light novels' only exist because it sold a shit load and dragged the label out of RPG novelization hell.
It deserves better.

I refuse to get excited about Madhouse adaptions anymore

But they are, apparently, doing Souten Kouro this Spring.
I vaguely recall them announcing this and concluding that it must be some other Souten Kouro, since King Gonta's name was nowhere to be found, but apparently it was the real Souten Kouro after all.
Which makes the staff listings all the more terrifying. Nothing like "From the director of Initial D! And Trouble Chocolate!" to inspire confidence. Nothing like a stealth air date announcement a month before it fucking starts to suggest it has the kind of budget it needs.

On the other hand, Souten Kouro is so filled with bad assitude it stains your hands. It retells the Romance of the Three Kingdoms with Cao Cao as the hero, and every single panel is dedicated to being as ludicrously awesome King Gonta could actually draw it.
So even if the anime turns out to be shit, perhaps people will actually know the god damn name and be able to read it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I thought Ronny Yu was directing this

Apparently not.

It does have enough flashy shit in it to make me interested. Hopefully it won't be as stunningly bad as the source material.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Alan Moore's Continuing Plight

Given that IMDB may very well crash tomorrow, those of us who aren't in that great of a hurry to rush to our local theaters to catch Snyder's efforts may content ourselves with a reading of what we wouldn't see tomorrow if we actually saw the movie. People who have not read the original Watchmen book nor wish to spoil themselves on the adaption would do well by not clicking on the link.

Though in Moore's ideal world, we may see something like this:

Time for this week's "Jonathan Clements is awesome" meeting

This time, with complete sentences.

Jonathan Clements is a longtime translator and industry insider, and more importantly, an informed and witty writer. In the '90s he edited the fantastic magazine Manga Max, home of many thoughtful reviews of translated and untranslated material (many later recycled into the Anime Encyclopedia), and his regular columns in Neo and the defunct Newtype USA were and are the best reason to read either. And now a few hundred pages of those columns have been rescued from stacks of periodicals and collected in one place.

"Schoolgirl Milky Crisis" is a long-running gag, a generic Engrish series title Clements uses to protect the innocent in a variety of blind items (usually; there's at least one very amusing incident involving a "Kazuhiro Domu", famous for creating a manga and anime about psychic teenage bikers). Most of the material in this book of the same name is kind of inside-baseball, but frankly, if you're the kind of person willing to read a blog about anime and manga, let alone this one, it's pretty much unmissable. The essays, interviews, and lecture transcripts are breezy, knowing, sometimes self-deprecating, but rarely arch. It's a book that sees and promotes the respectable heights anime and manga are capable of, but understands and has affection for what they usually are. I mean, look at that cover.

Overall, it's a bathroom-reader kind of book, easy to jump in and out of and with essays conveniently grouped by topic, as the scope ranges widely, with occasional entries on other Asian animation and film, but mostly focused on anime, manga, and the business of translating them (not unlike this blog, and I'm interested in A. Cunningham's response to Clements' stories of teaching English abroad, and adventures in pro translation). The reviews of themed manga magazines are particularly amazing (with subjects ranging from golf, to gothic romance, to pachislot), and being who I am I can't resist quoting this bit from "Five Girls Named Moe: The Anime Erotic":

"Modern developments in Japanese animation reflect a mildly disturbing trend in these dating sims and moe games. Which is that some girls come in and out of fashion. [...] Today, the fashionable girl reflects the increasing isolation of the audience. She is young, perhaps even underage, she is stupid to the point of being retarded, and hence goes along with everything. She is submissive, to the extent that she will fuss and cook and clean for a lazy boyfriend like she's some kind of doormat-mother substitute. And she is so shallow and so needy that she will have paroxysms of joy if her love object so much as says a kind word."

For further information, I refer you to Clements' blog, which he was kind enough to set up for the express purpose of reprinting columns that didn't quite make the cut for reprint.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gospel's The Moon is a Dead World

And around the corner tonight / My man, he's sleepin' out on the street
"Someone should go tell him it's cold outside" / I don't think he's listening

Hardcore and progressive rock/metal are somewhat justifiably misaligned: the former's modern incarnation delivering as much trite navel-gazing and homogenized sounds as it promises experimentation and refined introspection; the latter a pseudo-genre, frequently meant for bands, with little exception, to become as self-indulgent and aimless as they damn well please. (People are quick to point out Dream Theater, Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, Porcupine Tree and Tool as the representatives of this kind of nonsense, even though it stems back further to the egomania that led many British bands of the 70s not named Pink Floyd and King Crimson). These traits of excess trap artists into pandering to established niches while never carving one out on their own, with few exceptions -- Gospel being one of them.

However, the influences of The Moon is a Dead World are still clearly visible. Harsh vocals painting a portrait of depression and hardcore breakdowns are an integral part of the record. Aggressive riffs and a frantic keyboard are supported by bouncing basslines, all hung together by one of the greatest drummers outside of jazz. There are even subtle post-rock crescendos -- no tremolo picking here, though -- that have been popularized in screamo by the likes of City of Caterpillar, Daitro, Envy and Sed Non Satiata. Yet these are ultimately meaningless when truly trying to describe Gospel's distinctive sound.

The album alternates between psychedelia and hardcore, seamlessly flowing from one song to the next; even the seemingly abrupt anti-climax three minutes into "What Means of Witchery" subverts expectations and works as a smooth transition upon further listening. Longer tracks never overstay their welcome or venture into the realm of pretentiousness, such as "Golden Dawn" which ratchets up to a furious roar in its climax despite the near-constant vigor the band maintains throughout its nine minutes. "Opium," one of two instrumentals on the albums, would be a throwaway track of forgettable ambience that just sits there on any other progressive rock record, but manages to remain consistently engaging throughout. It serves as a bridge that allows the listener time for introspection before plunging back headfirst into the nightmarish sonic-scape the album creates, which is where the greatest appeal lies beyond the creativity and tight song-writing: the claustrophobic atmosphere.

Hey you, you got a cigarette man? You know, I know you got one on ya
I usually keep mine in the backseat / But it's buried behind all the rubble
You know after a few months / I figured all this shit would be easier
No wife, no kids, nothin', man / But my monkey sure is breathin'

The lyrics are refreshingly free of the aforementioned navel-gazing that plagues nearly all that is punk. Aligning themselves with the music, they are more comparable to a first-hand account of a dreamed up apocalypse: the narrator resigned to humanity's fate as his world crumbles around him. Yet as much potential melancholy this can create, there is a self-awareness to counterbalance because, above all else, Gospel just rocks the fuck out.

Sadly, Gospel would become a victim of an overarching trait that many screamo bands face: break-ups that come far too soon. Just before they went to the studio to record their second LP, they broke up. They left the world with only one 40-minute album (which, as I have recently searched, seems to be dwindling in availability) and an interesting 23-minute live track which presumably would have later surfaced as material on their next record. Given the time there is little doubt in my mind that Gospel could have become one of the most consistently original and greatest acts in modern music.

So let's hold this close / And we'll fall back to what's ours
I've got enough pills / To last us both a couple of hours
And we'll count our stars it won't come too soon

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Garu Garu! Dancing Beast Night (1)

This series simply does not work for me. Everything else Narita Ryohgo's done is the god damn bee's knees - even Vamp, which has an awful first volume, rocked pretty hard across the second and third.
And yet...
Bow Wow! Two Dog Night left so little impression on me I don't remember anything other than a vague impression of the main cast.
Mew Mew! Crazy's Cats Night, which, on balance, I quite enjoyed - largely because of crazy chainsaw girl - still failed to actually make enough impact for me to remember many details.
I initially went with a theory that the setting was so crucial here that the abject failure of the artist (Suzuhito Yasuda, of Yozakura Quartet fame) to even attempt to draw the fucker actively undermined my ability to visualize the place and get a sense of how cool it ought to be. (The series is set on a floating island in the middle of a giant bridge abandoned a few months from completion - it's become a lawless no man's land the government refuses to acknowledge.)
But over the last couple I've come to the conclusion that it just doesn't work. That he's essentially trying for a Violence Jack grim and immoral edgy tone that clashes with his comedic instincts and...and frankly, he doesn't have a knack for it, never quite hitting the unhinged glee that makes that sort of shit palatable. It just ends up unpleasant.
Like the detectives introduced in this volume - the girl is dumb as a post and in an Isaac and Milia style wacky comedy vein, while her brother is angsty and smart and looking after her while apparently feeling guilty about some half-assed incest theme. Which feels like an accident, and ends up being a giant wet blanket on every scene with the two of them.
The other main thrust here is the bridge's urban legend psychopath/serial killer falling in love with a girl I do not even remember existing. He works reasonably well - he can overclock his mind at will, and his lengthy attempts to rationalize all his behavior and logically prove to himself that he is still sane are mildly interesting, if not all that entertaining.
But it hits the problem I had with the first Vamp volume, and that exists with the wacky detective girl as well - it feels like he's deliberately playing a variant on something he's done before. He's done crazy man in love and played it as working out this time he tries to make it turn out very badly indeed, and all he really finds is that there was a reason he had it work out well the first time. That there was a reason he had the wacky comedy character teamed with an equally wacky one.
Shit just doesn't work.
And Christ, this was largely setting up the longer second volume. Argh.
About the only thing I really enjoyed here was evidence of a writer artist feud - there was an extremely minor character in Mew Mew! that the artist apparently liked, since she featured prominently in three illustrations, far more than major characters. Her role here is non-existent, but Narita does off-handedly mention that she looks young but already has two kids. Interpreting that as his gleeful revenge was the highlight of the volume for me. Which probably means I shouldn't bother reading the second half.

Death Note: Another Note - The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases

Our esteemed Andrew Cunningham did a wonderful job translating this novel. Feel free to take that as indicative of editorial bias, but since he's not going to promote it here, someone else has to.
Spin-off products for wildly successful properties tend to be toss-away attempts to cash-in on popularity before a fickle audience moves on. Rarely, something actually good does fall out of the orgy of capitalism, however. Nisioisin's Death Note novel is one of those surprises.

The decision to frame the novel as a tangential prequel to the manga and anime series gives it the space to develop. Even so, it is the limited scale of the story itself that allows it to feel like a natural addition to the family instead of cheap exploitation. There are no ridiculous cameos or strained attempts to touch on characters that have no place. Instead, the reader is given a remarkably grounded, intimate story in the Death Note world. Even if there never is any actual Death Note in it.

That story is remarkably simple: L has a personal stake in a serial murder case in LA and he recruits FBI agent Naomi Misora to serve as his agent in the hunt for a warped, rogue genius from the orphanage that was set up to groom his successor. The writing style is similarly simple and straightforward; very fast and easy to read but capturing the overwrought and almost baroque plotting and counter-plotting atmosphere of the manga. The book's real strength and power, however, is in context when compared to the original source. The mystery itself isn't the most compelling, it is framing of the characters against those in the manga and the expectations that the reader brings with them from the manga that really makes the novel work.

The physical production of the book also makes it stand out. A slick hardcover with striking design, beautiful slipcover and cloth bookmark, the Death Note novel stands out. Each chapter also features a quasi-abstract piece by Takeshi Obata and the book itself opens with a color plate prefaces by translucent paper. The whole book has an air of dignity that fits very well with the pseudo-gothic aesthetic the manga and anime maintain.

Marrying the over-the-top spectacle and self-aware ridiculousness of the manga with an intimate scope and grounded writing style, Death Note: Another Note is highly recommended for anyone familiar with either the anime or the manga.
Wikipedia : Andrew's write-up on the old Eastern Standard wiki : Amazon

Faust, volume 1

First, it should be noted that our very own Andrew Cunningham translated a good chunk of this book. Feel free to interpret that as indicative of a deep-seated editorial bias. Hopefully he can provide some insight into the behind-the-scenes production process.
With a bright, vibrant cover, Faust collects a number of very divergent short stories (and excerpts from longer works) into one volume. Names like CLAMP and Takeshi Obata draw some attention and recognition while the reader is introduced to wonderful gems from Nisioisin and Otsuichi. In addition to short stories, it also includes a handful of brief manga stories. It's mission statement is to collect "the best in cutting-edge Japanese fiction" and, for the most part, it succeeds.

In many ways, Faust is a collection of "anime short stories," carrying both the good and bad connotations one would expect. "Drill Hole in My Brain" by Otaro Maijo explodes with manic energy, its incredible sexual symbolism only barely contained by a surreal Moebius strip of a story. "Outlandos d'Amour" by Kouhei Kadano (Boogiepop) is all that one would expect of the author, delivering a story of weird creatures and magical powers hidden in the shadows of the world, with hints of some larger conspiracy looming over everything.

For all the good stories, however, the are others that fall a bit flat or, in the translation from a visual anime medium to prose on the page, reveal in stark relief the tired cliches near-endemic to the hobby. The excerpt from the xxxHOLIC: ANOTHERHOLIC novel is somewhat interesting as a counterpoint to the anime and manga, but carries too many of the same affectations to really be compelling. Some of the other stories (like "The Garden of Sinners") read like a typical, generic anime concept.

In addition to the short stories, there are also a few rather dry essays and a handful of manga, most of which are printed both in color and grey-scale. All the included manga are brief and self-contained, almost impressionistic. It is an interesting glimpse at kinds of manga that are rarely brought over to the US.

Ultimately, Faust would be worth the price of admission for "Drill Hole in My Brain" alone, but the collection as a whole provides a sampling of Japanese pop and genre fiction that is more than the sum of its parts. While each story might not be amazing, they constitute a slice of the fiction and "light novels" that anime fans hear about in relation to some of their favorite anime but rarely get to actually see for themselves. For that reason alone, it is highly recommended to everyone.
based on one volume : Wikipedia : Amazon