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Ongoing Investigations: Case #057

September 4, 2009

I recently attended the Student Anime Film Screening & Discussion with anime scriptwriter Dai Sato at the Japan Society. There, 25 students attended the A*NI*ME: Japanese Animation Production class for two weeks to learn the basic philosophy, theory, and techniques behind anime production. They were split up into 5 teams which had to create a full write up for an anime series or movie complete with character descriptions, plot outline, and a small trailer for their pitch. After the trailers, Dai Sato and the other instructors mentioned what they liked and what could have been worked on. They were always very polite and kind but Dai Sato did give them legitimate feedback in a constructive manner. The first group did a pirate adventure very similar to One Piece called Casa Dulce in which a band of pirates are looking for the legendary Utopia but instead find family through their crew. The students in group two did an adventure series called Floreixen about a society were peoples’ destinies are determined by the eggs they are hatched from. The third group did a western horror influenced series called Scindo in which a mad scientist calling himself Grandfather kidnaps a group of teenagers and injects them with a drug called Scindo. The fourth group proposed a title called 99 where everyone is a partial conversation cyborg but one day a man who is 100% human is found and he is quickly draw into a conflict. Our last group was the only on to pitched a movie, it was called Hybrid where a half human/half robot boy goes on an adventure that makes him wish to seek peace between the warring human and machine sides. We were then shown a dubbed episode of Samurai Champloo about a graffiti battle. After the episode each of the groups was given an award. The first group won the grand prize but all of them got some award of recognition for what they did best. Even though the projects were clearly amateurish they were enjoyable considering they only had 2 weeks to complete the project and much of their time was spent learning how to do the writing and the philosophy behind it. Kishotenketsu the 4-part structure for Chinese and Japanese narratives seemed to be an important part of the classes and was mentioned by each group. After the award ceremony I got my Eureka 7 case and Narutaki’s Cowboy Bebop case signed by Dai Sato.

The Walking Man by Jiro Tanaguchi is a simple, short piece about a man exploring his new town which emphasizes the beauty of noticing the little things in the world and taking a minute to appreciate them. It also seems like a great excuse to draw incredible backgrounds and environments. In fact this is one of the few times where those take precedence over our character so much so that he doesn’t even have a name. The dialogue is sparse with some chapters having none at all. It doesn’t even come across as slice-of-life but just these very brief, serene moments in time.

So Ed Chavez of Vertical recommended I try reading Go! Tenba Cheerleaders. When someone that powerful in the Force makes a recommendation you follow it. Maki Kazuki is the last member of the male rooting club. Despite going on an intense recruiting drive the cannot dig up anyone to get to the minimum number of members to keep the club alive. But then and angel appears. Saki Sonoda is so moved by his passion that she all but demands that he join the cheerleading squad. before he realizes what is going on Maki is a remember of the cheerleading squad with all the hi-jinks that implies. He must use this manly strength and manly guts to lead the cheerleader to the top. Let me get this right out of the way because it is unavoidable. This series is chock full of fan service. I literally think the manga does not go for two pages with some panty shots, cleavage shot, or just plain nudity. Considering the majority of the cast is always either in cheerleading uniforms or short skirts this is not very hard. But beyond that Go! Tenba Cheerleaders is a pretty funny comedy. Maki is a likable guy with his fiery passion. I do find it slightly odd that despite the large female cast about 80% of the fan service comes from Saki. The manga-ka almost seems reluctant at times to give us a service shot of anyone else. I’m not exactly sure what to make of that. So you either come in wanting the service or your are going to need a pretty high fan service acceptance threshold. It does have a bizarre combination of old school mans path honor with eechi comedy. But if you can tolerate/enjoy the service there is a bunch to enjoy in this manga.

I started readying a manga called +C Sword and Cornett on a whim when I was randomly looking up fantasy manga. Belca is a bastard prince living in the castle but desperate to leave those who look at him coldly (i.e. almost everyone except his half brothers) and almost gets his chance when his brother Hector returns home. However, Hector comes home with not only the intent to help elevate the race of Amontel to equal level as the humans but also to take one as his bride. Though before anything can really be set in motion, Hector is killed, which in turn sets a whole series of other things in motion. Belca and his other brother Orcelito uncover a dubious plot which sends Belca on the run and Orcelito into a dangerous game. While fleeing, Belca runs into a carefree bard named Eco who intends to follow him because he can sense a good story! So far in the first book we have run into some royalty, some murderous plots, and some amusing antics. The covers a very beautiful and the interior art is pretty decent for the most part. Its been a good ride so far and am happy to have found a bit more fantasy manga to enjoy.

Kidou Senshi Gundam-san is a strange but amusing series of 4-koma comics based on the original Mobile Suit Gundam. I bought one book in Japanese awhile back becuase it had Sayla on the cover. The manga mostly contains either gags based on events in the series, little vignettes with the characters, or war stories with anthropomorphic version of mobile suits. All the characters are slightly different for the sake of comedy although some are changed more than others. Amuro is still Amuro with all his quirks turned up to 11 while Char goes from devilishly charming schemer to a loud goofy slacker. The author does go out of his way to show how the original characters and the 4-koma characters are different in the sections between chapters. They oddly play the parts with the anthropomorphic mobile suits rather straight with the main joke being they are MOBILE SUITS playing the otherwise dramatic parts. It’s a pretty funny manga although some of the jokes are over my head given my limited Gundam knowledge. One odder than normal note is the manga seems obsessed with the Acguy mobile suit for some reason I am clearly unaware of and may never understand.

I finally started playing the Professor Layton and the Curious Village, my only excuse is that there is just so much good stuff in the world I just have to get to them one at a time! Now that the second game has come out, and the ads on the subway have been taunting me, I am now enjoying it fully. So far the puzzles have mostly been challenging enough to give me pause but not so frustrating that I can’t figure them out. I love the art style which really lends itself to this sleepy village full of colorful characters (who are always carrying around puzzles for you). Layton is awesome with this cool top hat and gentlemanly demeanor where Luke is a bit feisty. The dub of this actually seems to work really well to considering the setting. And the European feel is just wonderful! This also makes me doubly excited for the upcoming movie.

In “honor”of Kidou Senshi Gundam-san’s obsession with the Acguy it’s a picture of Mineva Lao Zabi with a plush Acguy.

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