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Ongoing Investigations: Case #212

April 26, 2013

I finished the second volume of Vertical’s beautiful release of Message to Adolf. I didn’t expect it to span well past the years of World War II.

Most of this volume involves characters caught up in a tense back and forth of who will end up with the information on Hitler’s birth and more importantly how will it become public knowledge.

Adolf Kaufman’s descent into full Aryan-superiority is, as one might imagine, unsettling and surprisingly heartbreaking at times. I guess for a good portion of the story I was expecting him to maintain his heart despite the horrible things he did. But he only further breaks down as he makes his way to Japan as an adult reuniting with his remarried mother and childhood friend Adolf. It really feels like true madness as Adolf tries to reclaim the documents because Adolf is not full-Aryan, neither is Hitler, and neither is the girl Adolf is in love with!

I really enjoy stories where minor characters pop-up again and again in important capacities that you weren’t expecting. It makes it feel cohesive and Message to Adolf has that.

And the ending? Fatefully tragic.

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The A Certain Magical Index series is one of those strange series were people make a big deal about how much they can’t stand the series but continually watch it season after season. To a lesser degree this also happens with the spin off A Certain Scientific Railgun series (it might be the yuri undercurrent that cause it to be slightly better received) . But as a legitimate fan of the series who genuinely enjoys it I was looking forward to the first two episodes of A Certain Scientific Railgun S.

I did go into this arc with a certain expectation. I had heard that this was being called A Certain Scientific Railgun S with the S being a reference to the Sister Noise arc. Apparently it is an arc that tells the original Sisters Arc from A Certain Magical Index from Misaka Mikoto’s perspective. While that seemed like an interesting idea I was a little worried it might feel a bit recycled. But so far it mostly seems like all new material. We are getting a much better idea of how Misaka got involved with the whole Level 6 Shift experiment and we have new characters like Nunotaba Shinobu who never appeared in the original story.  So far it does not just seem to be the Accelerator fight from a different point of view.

The new series begins with a one off story that proves that Edasaki Banri and Haruue Erii have not disappeared off the face of the earth once their arc has ended (to the point where like Saten Ruiko they have started to make cameo appearances in the main Index series). It is mostly an episode to bridge the last arc of Railgun with the new series and show that life goes on for everyone. The big highlight of the first episode is action scene at the end with a teleporting Kuroko and a hotblooded Railgun vs. a helicopter. It is a nice little set piece that reminds you that Railgun is mostly about psychic powers even though it has cute girls doing cute things moments.

The second story starts setting up the sisters arc in quite a unexpected way. It seems that people have been finding cash cards all over Academy City. After a bit of treasure hunting Misaka find the source of the cards and witnesses a rather theatrical fight. But this seemingly unrelated story turn to be about the Level 6 Shift experiment in the last few seconds.

I am interested to see how this all blends together. The problem with stories like this is that gaiden tales have to walk a find line between being interesting and making us wonder why we never knew about any of this in the first place. It is clear from the opening that the rest of the Railgun gang, some characters from ITEM, and Shokuhou Misaki are clearly involved in the story. While there was always a little more hinted at going on with Misaka during the Sister Arc this seems like more than some minor scenes. Thankfully they are not just showing us the same story with some minor additions but it could lead to some odd  plot holes if they are not careful.

Then again “everyone” hates trash like A Certain Magical Index so who really cares outside of the Japanese audience? I mean other than me who looks forward to the next episode.

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.

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I should really learn to pace myself with Blade of the Immortal since there is so much time between installments. But no, the moment volume 26 showed up at my door I tore through it.

This book is primarily the (presumed) final confrontation between Manji and Shira and no one could say they haven’t been looking forward to this. I say presumed since it is Shira but the end of the battle is brutal and final if you ask me.

Also Rin lives through the ordeal of being in a lake during a blizzard and being underwater for goodness knows how many minutes because this is fiction.

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Reading the Astro Boy volume 16, that I received from Ed Sizemore, makes me realize Osamu Tezuka existed in a very interesting place as an artist. He existed in a place in history where he simultaneously stood on the shoulders of giants yet had a fairly unexplored medium to play with.  There was a plethora of artistic mediums for him to borrow from including the earliest forms of manga but nothing so defined that he could not try almost anything to see what worked and what did not.

In that respect Astro Boy really does seem like Tezuka taking from a wide variety of influences, mixing those ideas all together in a bowl, and then throwing them at the page to see what sticks. So you start with a comedic 4th wall breaking story that somehow is the prolog to a Scooby-Doo style story with an eco-terrorist. The rest of the stories are distinctly more on theme for the whole story. You have a fight with super intelligent lizards, Romeo and Juliet with robots, and a story with killer balloons. You can say many things about Astro Boy but you can’t claim it just uses one plot ad infinitum.

I noticed one thing in this book. Astroboy gets his bottom handed to him constantly in this book. In 3 of the 4 stories Astro spends a good deal of time totally out of the action when he is majorly damaged. Sometimes it makes perfect sense like when he gets shot with his chest panel open but other times when he gets stuck in a building it mostly seems to be that way to artificially make things tense. I’m not saying that Astroboy has to be invincible but it seems like he seems like a paper tiger in this book. There has to be a good middle ground between Superman and Mr. Glass.

I don’t think I would ever see Astro Boy as my favorite manga like Ed does. It feels very uneven to me. But it feels uneven in the way that an anthology collection does. The book does not expect most people to love every story. Instead it expects to throw several different stories at you and hopes that your overall takeaway from the book is a positive one. In that respect I feel it is a good series to sort of sample as a early smorgasbord of what Tezuka was trying to achieve.  There is a distinct value in the stories beyond their curiosity in experimentation but admiring rough nature of the manga distinctly helps in an enjoyment of the series.

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I watched the Uncharted 2 “movie” and it was another wild romp. They really work as movies!

As far as action and treasure goes I liked this one better than the first.

As far as characters go? Not so much. First, Sully is not in it enough. Second, Chloe is such a transparent grab at more sex because for whatever reason they think they needed it. Third, Nathan thinking with his pants instead of his head for half the game is not so much fun. At least Elena appears later and is mostly awesome but would have liked to see her go all the way to the end with Nathan instead of getting injured.

So I’d like to have the team aspect of the first combined with the story of the second. Looking forward to the third as I know it has a lot to do with Nathan and Sully’s past and partnership.

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Little Witch Academia was one of the 4 series released as part of this years Young Animator Training Project. The Young Animator Training Project is an attempt to get new blood into the anime directing pool by helping promote young directors and letting them work on OVAs with government sponsorship. For some reason more than most of the earlier contributions  Little Witch Academia has been getting a lot of attention. In fact it got enough attention that it started streaming on YouTube and Crunchyroll.

Little Witch Academia (which is not about a short female wizard trying to get tenure at Hogwarts) starts with Akko Kagari seeing the stage show of a witch named Shiny Chariot. We then jump forward to Akko being a put upon student witch who is teased for liking Shiny Chariot because she was not a “real” witch. But when her rival at the school unleashes a terrible monster during a dungeon crawling lesson it seems that no spell can stop it. Can Akko and her classmates put down this terrible threat?

This was a very fun little story that takes the well worn story of misfits at a magic school and but adds a nice little bounce to the story to make it feel fun. Akko distinctly has feeling of a shonen hero that just happens to be a girl and her two friends play off her well. The world itself is very colorful while having a nice mixture of western fantasy and anime fantasy art.

I did think the idea that people look down on Shiny Chariot because she was more of a stage magician than a proper spell caster is an interesting wrinkle in the formula. It reminds me of people who hate physicists like Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking. They are seen more as media whores and tools then real practitioners of the art. But like people looking down on Neil deGrasse Tyson we learn that you just have ignore the haters.

I’m glad to see this short is getting a good deal of buzz not only for this project but the Young Animator Training Project in general. I hope to see the further works of everyone involved in this.

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One comment

  1. I can only derive that the English world views “A Certain Magical Index” as trash because of the anti-thesis of theological beliefs presented in the series with viewing the Judo-Christian theological underpinnings through a different harsher lens while indirectly using a passive-aggressive tone towards Catholicism including a different spin to the Zen-Buddhist theological threads. Therefore, finding in conclusion that the English speaking world is involved in ethnocentrism tossing around simplistic viewpoints with “trash” as their emotional conclusion with limited or no empirical research to the series cultural underpinnings.



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