Ongoing Investigations: Case #076February 26, 2010
We got a copy of Foiled from First Second Books last week, I was rather excited because it was penned by Jane Yolen! Her imagination and description would surely lend itself to being made into a comic. Just as I hoped, Mike Cavallaro achieved it wonderfully. The art style is this wonderful hybrid between comics and American cartoons. Aleria isn’t a typical teen-aged girl with her kind of rye look at the world, but she is quite relateable in her semi-awkwardness, slightly odd parents, and geeky slant but no real place to fit in. In fact, all of these make her more alive than some exaggerated contemporaries, nothing is totally normal but nothing is too off the wall in her life. But what sets her apart (even more?), besides her attitude, is that she is a fencer and a very good one at that. And of course that is where the story really begins and ends as her latest fencing sword (or as she would yell WEAPON!) was a thrift store find with a weird jewel on the hilt. Throw in a new boy at school, some table top role-playing, and the appearance of a world that rests on top of NYC chockful of mystical creatures and you have a wonderful, fun, and magically little book. The magical world is such a strong element, but it doesn’t really come to the forefront till more than half way through. This was really my only complaint, yes it is important to establish Aleria’s (what she would call) mundane, every day life but with only one book you really want to have the fun of the other world sooner. So this should be remedied by making a sequel!
The first thing that popped into my mind when I read Foiled was Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (and I loved Neverwhere). Not that the average but slightly extraordinary person who learns that there is magical world underneath the mundane world is a utterly unused storyline but the allure is one that makes it an evergreen concept. Jane Yolen takes this old framework and writes an excellent story for young girls as well as a good fantasy story in general. Aliera is a great protagonist who is a strong female character but vulnerable and awkward enough to be easily identifiable. Her passion for fencing and the way it integrates into the story on both a storyline level and a symbolic level give it a smart feeling while also giving it a cool energy. I especially liked how each of the chapter titles used a fencing term with accompanying art that set the tone for the chapter. I will agree with Narutaki that for a single book story they could have picked up the pace in introducing us to the magical world. It’s not that the beginning should be cut short but I too would have liked to see the fantasy elements pop-up earlier. If nothing else it proves that the story is begging to be turned into something longer.
I received the first book of My Darling! Miss Bancho from CMX this week. The story revolves around the ridiculous (which the manga-ka freely admits) reverse harem that occurs when Souka transfers into a tech school filled with nothing but male delinquents. On one of her first days she accidentally takes down the bancho (boss/gang leader) of the school and by their rules that now makes her the new bancho. Cue wacky antics. The story so far is a fairly amusing series of sillyness mixed with some shojo cliches. I felt he pacing was a little off, especially getting the whole ball rolling, maybe it’s just personal taste but it would probably serve the story, and the humor better, to have her take out the school’s bancho right in the first few pages. Just about every guy in her class is enamored with her (and the entire school is pretty much bowing down to her and hoping for her favor) so she gains a couple of minions who act equal parts crazy and devoted. The main love interest is the leader of the sophomores, Katou, who is sort of a mother hen to the rest of the guys and vows to protect Souka. Souka is kind of a middle-ground heroine so she isn’t too engaging unfortunately. Despite the fact that she takes out the previous bancho, she isn’t particularly tough or feisty, if she were this story might be pushed to more funny heights. So really, while amusing and having its good moments, My Darling! Miss Bancho doesn’t really push its silly premise far enough to make it a rip-roaring good time.
One Piece chapter 574 really is a powerful blow to anyone reading the series but in a great fashion. So far I have been able to really predict the story of the current arc, the details have been surprising but overall I was not thrown off by anything that happened. Nothing that is until this chapter. Most people would consider some characters untouchable but this chapter proved that was not the case. Oda has repeatedly promised us that the events contained within this arc would change the world and I don’t think anyone could accuse him of making a mountain out of a mole hill. My only concern is if for any reason there is a take back on what transpired here it will sabotage everything that has built up to this moment. It would take the amazing storytelling here that was possibly much needed and squander any emotional impact that this chapter had. I would go as far as to say it might diminish any later emotional impact similar scenes might have as well. Hopefully that is not the case because this chapter really solidified why One Piece is an amazing manga.
After watching the Gurren Lagann movies and adding them to MAL, I noticed a short called Viral’s Sweet Dream. It was presented at a Japanese event where they also premiered that last two Parallel Works films and that is the recording I saw of it. It’s a funny little gag short that is shown through manga in a slide format, so there is no actual animation. But there are voices which is what really makes it hilarious. The story centers around a bunch of alternate universes involving Viral. He keeps thinking he has woken from a dream only to find out it is another dream. Since it’s short and it’s all about gag, I won’t reveal more than that but it has some great laugh out loud moments. It was also fun hearing the audience enjoying it as well.
I just finished Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth and it was SO good. If anyone was turned off by Apollo Justice then Miles Edgeworth should welcome them back into the franchise. Definitely on the same level as Trials and Tribulations which is pretty much the highest praise I can give it. Everything in the game comes together nicely; all the cases are good and tie together into one huge storyline. We don’t get the filler cases and having all plot related cases really gives the game a great cohesive feeling. They have learned that the first case can be a real case and does not need to be a hand holding tutorial which should be mandatory from now on. Kay Faraday is the obligatory Maya Fey style sidekick but making her a phantom thief pretty much makes her a automatic winner in the Reverse Thieves case files. Also we get more Franziska because only a foolish fool would foolishly leave her out of a game. I liked the new gameplay even if it is mostly just a updating of the standard Phoenix Wright formula. The investigation sections definitely seem less frustrating. The main plot is nicely wrapped up giving everything the game a satisfying flavor but they leave some good plot threads unexplained for sorely anticipated sequels. I think someone watched Lethal Weapon 2 before they wrote this game. When you finished the game you will know what I mean.