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Ongoing Investigations: Case #183

August 31, 2012

And so ends Kamen Rider Fourze or as I like to think of it Kamer Rider Diamond Is Not Crash. Having never seen a full Kamer Rider series this certainly was a treat. The last 21 episodes (28-48) put a nice cap on everything. The series ended things pretty much how would expect them to end with a few nice little twists to make it all feel unique.

Without giving away too many spoilers I will say the best part of the writing in the series is the way they pull off reveals. They make a good use of what amounts to 2 stage method of pulling back the curtain. They set up certain mysteries fairly early on and tease you with the answers. Then when they finally give you the solution I found nine times out of ten I had figured out the answers from the clues they left. But then they usually followed it up with a secondary reveal just after that which is nowhere as easy to predict. It is a strong one-two punch that helps nicely in giving impact to the story.

I will note after a certain point they really began to focus much less on the Rider Club than in the first half. They never disappeared but their overall screen time dropped from where in was in the first half of the series. For all the trouble they have over keeping Miu and Shun in the club they don’t do a good deal after they graduate. How many times was the Powerdizer really that important?

Still it was a fun show that really never took itself too seriously. It could hunker down when it needed to but it never lost sight of how silly its overall premise could be. It remained earnest while still being fun. It also helped the somewhat hokey production vales go down a bit smoother.  In many ways I think this could be the HeartCatch PreCure! of Kamen Rider for me. While I may enjoy other Kamen Rider series this one will take a truly spectacular show to beat.

Seriously Dark Horse, I hate you for putting Blade of the Immortal on a once a year release schedule. Blade of the Immortal vol. 25 is, as always, a beautiful piece of violence. There are some really exquisite page sequences in this volume. Samura amazes me with his artful blood spatters.

It has been a while since we’ve seen Shira in action; he had mostly been slinking around once he appeared again. The confrontation between him and Manji is sooooo what we’ve been waiting for for a long time. It certain had some surprises, though it isn’t over yet, but I was glad to see paths crossing again that I didn’t expect at this point. I kind of forgot that most of the characters don’t know Shira is still alive since we the audience have known for a number of volumes at this point.

We are finally privy to some insights on Manji’s immortality and vulnerability that we could only speculate on before. Although I don’t trust the information fully yet since it is only the doctor’s theory; this might be Shira’s big mistake.

At the end of this installment are some pretty hilarious joke comics parodying characters and situations in the series. I especially laughed when Rin needed bait to fish with so she cut off Manji’s arm.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

Billy Bat is going to be a tricky series for Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki to pull off correctly. If 20th Century Boys was ten times more complex than Monster then Billy Bat is equally ten times more complex than 20th Century Boys. And that means there are a lot of complex elements being juggled in the air and an equally large number of way they could all come crashing to the ground.

The story starts off when a Japanese-American cartoonist discovers that he may have accidentally copied manga character from his youth. Soon he is embroiled is a global conspiracy as he discovers his Billy Bat character is actually linked to an ancient and sinister bat god symbol.

No matter how crazy that description sounds it does not compare to what is inside. It is like the crazy rants of a conspiracy theorist illustrated on the page. Agents of Billy Bat are part of every government, have their hands in every industry, and are behind countless historical events and figures. Everyone from JFK to Albert Einsetin is involved. Heck there is a giant Billy Bat symbol on the dark side of the moon. Billy Bat himself seems to have a light side and dark side. He might also be a god, spirit, demon, 4th dimensional creature, or some crazy mishmash of all of those things. The only thing is for certain is that wherever the vision of the bat appears things are going to be tragic.

There is also a deadly karate chop assassin. He is far more sinister than he sounds. Also Lee Harvey Oswald might be a hero and Jesus might just be a dupe of Billy Bat. So get ready for some really unexpected things beyond the omniscient cartoon bat god.

The best things about Urasawa are all here. The fact that almost anyone can die and they often do. Multiple plot lines throughout history with interesting characters and odd historical facts. And the heart pounding cliff hangers that make waiting for the next chapter such a blissful agony. Urasawa does trot out some of his start system characters. Kevin Yamagata is a bit of his classic hero and Jacky Momochi is definitely in the spunky girl protagonist role. Also some of his villains are recognizable variations of his classic bad guys. But everyone feels like they are their own character even if the might feel slightly like their similar variants.

So far this is Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki cranked up to 11. If you don’t like this team’s style than you are going to HATE this series. If  you are in the middle of the road you might want to give this one some time to breath. More than anything else I do have to wonder if this is the time they may have bitten off more than they can chew. But if you have faith in this team then there is no reason not to dig in. This has not been licensed yet but I can’t see why it won’t be picked up when 20th Century Boys wraps up early next year.

I enjoyed the straight-forward boxing story of Wolf. Father VS. son and their training up until they can meet in the ring for real feels like a classic showdown. If I’d complain about anything it would be the random points with a narrator who tends to slap you in the face with any lessons or emotions in the scene.

The art of Wolf is plain and unfettered. When there are any backgrounds, they tend to be bare bones. No screentone is used in the book, instead Nakamura Shige opts for hatching or digital flat color for darker shadows. The characters are all recognizable as individuals with their own body types and facial expressions on the positive side. And the art shines most in the boxing matches, as one hopes it would, showing a lot of promise in those tense and active moments. The bouts are very good, though I know nothing about boxing, each one seemed unique.

The print quality of this book is quite poor, I understand why this is the case with an indie manga don’t get me wrong, and it does unfortunately impact the art terribly. The paper weight is probably close to copier paper if not even lighter. This causes a lot of ghosting (you can see the other side of the page through the paper) but most of all Wolf loses all the fine black. There are no strong black lines because the ink is too light and because of the paper it bleeds which gives it a fuzzy look. This combined with the plain art style just doesn’t do it any favors. This is actually a good argument for buying these indie manga releases digitally.

While they translated all of the first book of All Around Type-Moon – Ahnenerbe no Nichijou so far no one has touched the later volumes. That is except for the 8th chapter that is the first meeting of the two Sabers. Yes. Ahnenerbe no Nichijou has a story where Red Saber meets Blue Saber.

Rin being the classic techno-illiterate wizard is trying to learn to use her new laptop at the Ahnenerbe Cafe and inadvertently summons the busty Roman version of Saber. Everyone has a bit of fun interacting with the new Saber until the natural enemy of all blonde Sabers comes in. And that man is Gilgamesh. Thankfully his less than kind Master is able to rein him in. But the inevitable has to happen. A clash between Sabers. But like all classic Japanese vs. battles between heroes a few seconds of conflict turns into fighting back to back.

After fighting some monsters from the Moon Cell and both Sabers impressing each other with their amazing skills they are able to return Red Saber home to her place by her Masters’ side. Of course this actually leads to more problems but such is the Ahnenerbe Cafe.

Overall it is a cute little chapter. It really impresses upon the fact that a lot of the new Fate/Extra characters would do well outside the game. I still think Fate/Extra Caster would make a fine addition to a full story as would Red Saber and several of the other Servants and Masters. Hopefully one day they will get their proper time in the sun.

I watched the anime movie of Alice in the Country of Hearts. With a running time a little over an hour, there was a lot of ground to cover and unfortunately it comes off very disjointed. That might sound odd considering the source material, but The Country of Hearts feels like a series of unconnected scenes. Also the series sets up some bigger world questions about the peasants, what the clockmaker is doing, and these three warring kingdoms among other things that are not really addressed.

The movie focuses on Alice with ideas of choice, happiness, and home which was thoughtful but there wasn’t a whole ton of time devoted to really looking at that. On the flip side, overly long scenes of the Queen’s trials and the Queen and the Hatter riding in the elevator brought down the middle of the movie. So yes they had a lot do to in a short time, but I didn’t think they managed the time wisely.

It just felt like it was trying to cram too much into its time constraint and didn’t even succeed in doing so with a satisfying conclusion.

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