Monday, June 28, 2010

Proof there is no god

Spaceships! Melodrama! Amazing hair! YAMATO!

Yukito Kishiro vs. the PC police

Battle Angel: Last Order has apparently gone on infinite hiatus.
According to Kishiro's blog, as he was busy drawing the 100th issue, and the accompanying magazine cover, he received a phone call from an editor asking to make three small changes to dialogue in the upcoming reprint of the original Battle Angel series. Specifically, to instances of the word "hakkyo" (to go mad) and one use of the English word "psycho." Their reasoning being that these words were associated with schizophrenia. Kishiro asked if they realized that this request could lead to him missing his deadline for the 100th issue, and refusing to allow them to reprint the old series. His editor said yes. Despite this being a work that has already been published twice, this was considered important enough to overturn all the publication plans. Kishiro decided to be professional and meet his deadlines, and allowed the changes to go through. He now regrets it, but admits he would have regretted not allowing them too.
Either way, he posted on his blog that there might not ever be an 101st issue.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Return to Zaregoto

Thought I'd use the bunko cover, just for variety.
After wrapping up the Zerozaki novels in style, I thought I'd head back to where it all started and reassess.
I've often stated that I liked the first enough to buy the second, and the second enough to buy everything he'd written at the time.
A bad mood could have changed that story. Man, does the opening to this book drag. I'm not saying everything before the first murder is dire, but it is certainly a focus-free meander, vaguely trying to introduce his cast but none of them really managing to make of an impact. Except for Kunagisa, who...hasn't aged well. Treating a character with a litany of moe traits as if she were a legitimate character was relatively novel then; I'm not sure it's been all that widely imitated even now, but the louder moe traits have come to grate a lot more, and I wound up finding her a lot harder to like.
Nisio's explained at some length that this first book was the toughest novel he's ever completed; something like three page one revisions that dramatically changed the book, shifting it from a novel intended to launch a series of mystery novels with Kunagisa as the detective, to an oddball sort of fake mystery novel that accidentally reads more like a character study of Ii-chan. Every now and then they sit down and make charts of alibis or attempt to solve locked room puzzles. He has a few amusing stunts hidden here -- the three puzzles ascend through the dimensions from paint on the floor, to a high up window, to an incident that could not have happened at the time it happened -- but by and large these bits accomplish little, and are there to be skimmed till something more interesting happens.
Ii-chan initially presents himself as minimally as possible; he's almost a mute video game protagonist, he has so little personality, and so little involvement with anyone he talks to. The people around him are complete in themselves; they could have the same conversations with a stump, and be just as happy. Even the few bits of personality he does show off just encourage us to identify with him; he's befuddled by the crazier things people say, capable of making the odd self-deprecating joke, and resigned to letting himself be led around by everyone else.
It's a trap, of course. A disquieting flash of anger from him at dinner is the first sign that he might have been lying to us. With increasing frequency, the other cast members stop talking to stumps and start projecting themselves onto Ii-chan's careful blank slate. Each of them believes themselves to be describing his personality, and Ii-chan agrees -- or tells us he does -- with every scathing evaluation unleashed on him. That these descriptions contradict each other doesn't seem to bother him.
The climax to this reading of the novel comes well before the mystery is resolved and the killer caught; the emotional climax of the book comes in a scene where a berserk bodyguard triplet maid breaks her omnipresent silence, drags Ii-chan into a room, feeds him a pack of lies a mile high -- lies so ornate he can't even begin to work out if there's a kernel of truth to them anywhere -- and prompts Ii-chan to take what feels like the one moment of genuine emotional honesty he displays anywhere in the volume. He asks her a question -- a question phrased as a metaphor, the subject of the metaphor ambiguous, his meaning buried in a lie. The closest thing we get to peeling back the layers of what he tells us and seeing what he's trying so hard to keep from us, and it makes no damn sense at all.
Coming back to that scene after the whole series and it blew my mind again. There's something hidden at the center of this inexpertly presented, amateurish, awkward first novel that rewards rediscovery.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sympathy for Mr. Vampire

So I'm flicking through Netflix's streaming catalogue, and see a vampire movie by the director of Oldboy. I bet that'll be really visceral and extreme! Wow, I could not have been more wrong. Thirst turns out to be inspired less by Rice or Stoker than by the Coen Brothers and Zola (Emile, not Arnim or gorgon-).

Apparently I sold Chan-Wook Park's range short; Oldboy had moments of black humor, but there's a definite Raising Arizona or Big Lebowski quality to the proceedings here. Perhaps I should have remembered he directed a romantic comedy set in an insane asylum.

I don't think I would have enjoyed Thirst as much if I hadn't gone in cold, so I won't go into much detail, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I'll chop your head off! And then eat it

So yeah, Toriko is pretty much the Axe Cop version of Yakitate!! Japan, just a pure unfettered appeal to the oral stage id. Of course he lives in a house made of candy and eats chocolate bannisters for breakfast. Of course he's the biggest, strongest dude in the world who can beat up anything with knife-and-fork style kung fu. Why wouldn't he be?

The main thing this has going for it is the pure, absurd, manic energy. The actual plotting and writing is the same thing we've seen before in a thousand other rowdy shonen series, and the art is just crude enough to look unpolished, but not crude enough to actually look like a deliberate style (and the fact that Shimabukuro can't seem to decide if he's channeling Go Nagai or Tsukasa Hojo doesn't help). Based on this first volume, it's not the kind of thing I'll be rereading like Yakitate or Iron Wok Jan, but I will probably keep an eye on it.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Embedding is disabled, but shiiiit. Now angry that the lame ass Seattle Film festival failed to book this AND Yatterman.

Gantz live action

It has to be better than the Gonzo version, right?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I need a consult here

This can't possibly be as amazing as it sounds, can it? Because it kind of sounds like Iron Wok Jan with even more actual animal murder. Either way, sounds like I need to check it out.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Never Forget

Professor Go is completely useless.


I'm not normally big on writing about half remembered books read six years ago, but there's enough misinformation running around about Shiki I felt the need to try and get things straight somewhere. Shiki is a novel -- not light novel -- by Fuyumi Ono, author of the Twelve Kingdoms books (which were actually light novels. Confusing!) The hardcover edition was two massive volumes, and the bunko edition was FIVE volumes, each of which ran for five hundred odd pages. It took me two months to read (although I was reading other books in between each volume of Shiki to keep myself from getting burned out.)
Fuyumi Ono intended Shiki to be an homage to the Stephen King novel Salem's Lot; the story is essentially a Japanese version of that basic concept. A very old fashioned, traditional Japanese mountain town is plagued by a mystery disease; it eventually transpires that the new residents in town are vampires, and are attempting to convert the entire town in the hopes of creating a safe haven for their kind.
While the story is an ensemble cast, and frequently changes the point of view as different characters play their roles -- I wound up writing down people's names and roles in a massive map scrawled all over the book cover, just trying to keep it all straight -- the two primary characters are the town doctor, and a Buddhist monk who writes surreal fiction in the style of Edogawa Rampo.
The novel is a very slow, creeping dread that takes a thousand pages to even reveal the vampires and goes on for another volume well after the point you'd have expected it to end. Ono's dense, literary prose can be a bit of a slog at times, but incredibly evocative at others, and it's well worth a read if your Japanese is up to it.
It's a very strange choice for a manga and anime adaption. I haven't read the manga, but it's by Ryu Fujisaki. I read the first volume of his Hoshin Engi and found it pretty dull, but at least coherent; I then read his Waq Waq when it ran in Jump and found it completely unintelligible. While his design sense can be extraordinary at times, the flow from panel to panel is gibberish, and he's prone to fits of stylization so extreme you can't even figure out what he intended to depict in individual panels. He's an incredibly poor choice for the material, and the garishly lolita gothed out character designs are about as far removed from the source material as it is possible to be. Judging from the ads from the Shiki anime, and the covers of the manga, he's also shifted the focus to the two high school characters; relatively major characters among the supporting cast, and if the storyline in general were stripped down to just their stories it would probably still be a coherent whole. I'm cautiously voting this as actually a pretty smart move on Fujisaki's part. I'm definitely curious about the Noitamina anime, and hoping they can manage to meld the manga art style to some of what made the original novel work for me, but it's very much an unknown quantity at this stage.

Thursday, June 3, 2010