Ongoing Investigations: Case #233January 7, 2014
The Flowers of Evil was a series that seemed to either be on peoples best anime of 2013 list or something you acknowledged existed but had a strong reason it was absent. Quite a few people just could not watch because they hated the look of the rotoscoping. In their defense it is rotoscoping. It is one of the few animation techniques that I can think of that you either just accept (and maybe even enjoy) or gets under your skin like nothing else. Interestingly enough after reading volumes one through four of the manga my critique would be much different.
The more subtle difference between the anime and the manga is the pacing. The Flowers of Evil anime has an almost glacial movement in the story. It spends so much of its time building up tension that the actual story seems secondary. I expected the manga to have that same ponderous weight to its cadence. But I was surprised by what I read.
The Flowers of Evil manga seems to have two paces. It can be almost breathlessly frenetic but in contrast it can also be meditatively ponderous. When Takao Kasuga is caught up in things the flow of the pages are almost delirious as events seem like they are out of his control. But when he is a master of his own fate the pace slows down. It clearly highlights when Kasuga could escape the spiral he is in but refuses to do so due to either cowardice, fear of being hurt, or plain desire. That anime seems not to care much for that first mode.
It is not to say the anime is doing things incorrectly. It is clearly made decisions to revel in one half of the story and downplay the other. When you adapt a title to another medium you sometimes have to change things to make them work. Other times you can modify things to make them your own. I feel like the anime is somewhere in the middle in this respect. Some of the changes are out of necessity and others are a personal flourish.
I will mention that I read through more of story what was in the three volumes of manga than the time it took to watch three episodes of the same 13 episode anime. While there is not necessarily a better version there is one that is in fact more expedient.
In that respect I feel that anime and the manga of The Flowers of Evil are the beginning of discussion and maybe even some insight into what different people want out of pacing and adaption of manga. It seems like people who would normally despise such a reduced speed in a translation love this series. There is clearly a greater alchemy at work here worth looking into.
As you might gather from the cover of Blade of the Immortal vol. 27, we finally get the return of a familiar face (actually faces!) as we draw ever nearer to the final showdown. The volume focuses more on the greater cast as Rin and Manji recover from their latest clash with Shiira and slowly start their journey again.
We finally get to see Habaki’s daughter show her skills in some competent sword work but much more in her ability to think ahead. A good portion of the book is taken up by her and Ban (one of Habaki’s woefully underdeveloped death row soldiers) fighting in the woods against one of the Itto-ryu’s oldest members. Ban uses a gun which takes the ridiculous nature of the fights in BotI to a different level.
Remember those familiar faces I mentioned? Well, don’t get too excited since they literally make a 8-page appearance. Still it bodes well for things to come.
Magatsu had my favorite moment in the volume though as he lays down some wisdom about the path of revenge:
“It’s like the wheel of fate rolling right over us. All we are required to do is accept being hated our whole lifetimes by the relatives of those we’ve killed. Even thinking about wanting to forgive or wanting to be forgiven is foolish.”
The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.
Thanks to the library I was able to read the first two volumes of Thermae Romae. It is such a strange story. You always here the saying that there is a manga about ANYTHING you can think of but it is far too easy to assume that manga is all just shonen fighting and high school romance. Just as you begin to get complacent like Thermae Romae reminds you exactly how esoteric manga can be.
The only problem is the Yen Press release is fantastically lavish release. Hard covered, oversized pages, with 2 volumes worth of material in each book. It just obviously costs as much as a manga that lush would cost. So if you know you want to buy the series it is the nicest version you could probably ever own, you can do so. But if you wanted to just randomly buy the series you better have a good deal of disposable income. That is why the library is always so nice.
For anyone who did not see the noitamina anime when it was on the series is distinctly unique. It is about a Roman bathhouse maker who has the power to accidentally travel back and forth between his own time and modern Japan whenever the starts to drown.He takes this trips to the future to inspire him into making revolutionary baths in the past.
Also there are assassins, divorces, forbidden love, Latin otaku, and the very fate of the Empire itself all swirling around these baths. Because that is how manga rolls.
The author freely admits that Thermae Romae was only supposed to be a one shot story and that makes sense. The magic is that Mari Yamazaki is able to find ways to continue the story for several books. After the string of one shot stories (many, but not all, of which appear in the anime) the story seems to break into an actually long term story with Lucius Modestus getting a bit of an ongoing romance with modern Japanese woman obsessed with Rome named Satsuki. He seems to be staying in Japan for a while going into the next volume as opposed to warping home after a short time like he usually does.
I do remember hearing some grumbling that the live action movie threw in a romantic subplot. If you only watched the anime that seems like a valid complaint. But it is clear from the second volume of the manga that it is not something shoehorned in. It is clearly present in the original text. It just take a bit of time to get there. Clearly Mari Yamazaki realized she needed to add some meat to this bone to keep the series going.
There is some really interesting stories that did not make it into the anime here. The whole subplot with Lucius Modestus’ wife as well as a group of assassin out to kill our hero are some of the highlights of the manga original material. That alone is reasons for fans of the anime to give this a look.
The real question is if this is worth the money. I have to say the quality is excellent. One of the main reasons it always took me a while to read the volumes I got was because the books were so heavy. I usually read manga on my commute to work but this was a bit too much for me to casually throw in my bag. It is a great coffee table book or something to display on your shelf but not casual picnic reading.
The author notes on each chapter are huge and fairly detailed. They really add to the feeling that this is a prestige release. It gives the reader a good deal of insight into the research the author did for the series as well as her love of the subjects involved.
Thermae Romae is just not something I can recommended you buying blind. It is a really odd title at a very high price. I would recommend just watching the anime but it is not streaming anywhere legally. You can buy from on DVD but not every manga reader loves anime. The real choice comes down to how much are you will to risk on unusual manga. Thermae Romae for better or for worse in not based on a standard manga formulas. You have to judge for yourself how much that means to you.
You may have heard me mention that wild west settings are regaining popularity in American comics, Pretty Deadly is one of such titles. Using the well-trod setting, Pretty Deadly sets up a new tale full of mysticism and violence.
Emma Rios will knock you silly with her artwork on this book. Her quick, dark line work lend a grit to characters and landscape alike, making it a perfect fit for the story. Jordie Bellaire captures the rich and harsh coloring of the Southwest with beautiful results.
Our story features Death’s own daughter Ginny is loosed upon the world by wanderers Sissy and Fox but what Ginny is after in this world is not quite clear yet.
A little while back there was quite the brouhaha when Jesse Schell said video game demos often hurt sales more than help them. It certainly costs quite a bit of time and resources to create a demo so if they don’t help sales they seem like a huge waste. But I have noticed some demos recently that have decided to be smarter in how they present themselves. I went on about how much effort and thought went into the Dual Destinies demo that provided an experience that showed you how the game played but did not spoil the full game. Bravely Default takes that to the next level.
The whole demo is a side story that ties into the main game. It therefore introduces you to the world and its mechanics but lets you experience the main game without spoiling much of anything. So you don’t feel like your retreading what you played in the demo when you play the main game. You see some of the classes you can switch between, combat game play, town building mechanics, and various other systems. You don’t get all of them. Take the classes for example, you only get half of them and you only see four levels out of fourteen on any of them. That is enough to get a good sense of what the game has to offer without giving it all away.
The game also lets you transfer over some of your content to the main game. Your levels, money, and times don’t transfer over but you go get some special items and you can keep your street passes. That is a clever little physiological trap. Since you invested time into the demo as long as you were mildly interested in the game you now are more likely to play the main game just to get your rewards. I don’t have a problem with that but I certainly see what they did there.
I will say that even in New York I have not gotten many street passes for this game but I have not really tried to get them. I just feel that it must be even worse for anyone outside of a major city. I’m sure if I went to an anime con with would not be a problem but that is a very narrow window to shoot for.
If you have a 3DS and want something with a bit of an old school Square RPG feel it is not really any skin off your nose to try it out. If nothing else any RPG with a class system has the inherent bit of fun that comes with such a combination mechanism. It is not the heights of Final Fantasy Tactics but it is also a hard concept to botch. It seriously interested me in playing the full game which is the best thing a demo can do.
I was gifted Animal Crossing: New Leaf for Christmas and I can assure you that it has ruined my life. It is the worst best present I ever got. I was hooked to Animal Crossing was back on GameCube but have mostly stayed away from other iterations since. So this new game seems like a huge leap from the first, I’m not sure how the changes were implemented over the series.
This time around I decided I wanted to adhere to a theme so I’m trying to create Halloween Town or rather something spooky and similar to it. My town is called Hallow’n and my mayor is Sally. It is a very slowly process to say in theme, but at the same time it gives me clear choices when options arise.
There are a few things I’d like to see further refined in the next game. First, I’d like to be able to trade or at least give items to townspeople directly; as it currently stands you can only send things in letters or give them on birthdays. Second, I’d like to have the ability to design patterns for shoes and pants; I have no idea why this was excluded. Third, it would be great to have an indication in your encyclopedia if something has been donated to the museum. And last (for now), I’d like to have a bit of control over the look of the other residents’ homes. Think neighborhood association type of thing, so perhaps I could limit the colors of their roofs or say their fences must be stone, something that could be controlled by the mayor’s office. Maybe this would even extend to main street so each person’s town would be wholly different.
Anyway, I have only been playing the game a week. I’m curious to see all the new stores and residents that will pop-up over the course of my game.
P.S. I really enjoy making clothes in the game much more than I should. So far I’ve created Sally’s dress, Jack’s tux, Emmy’s outfit from Professor Layton, and Kagami’s Seirin high school basketball uniform.