Archive for the ‘Live Action’ Category

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #241

September 1, 2014

narutaki_icon_4040 Raqiya (vols. 1-2) by Masao Yajima and Boichi is like a yakuza manga if all the yazuka were part of obscure subsects of Christianity. The series combines intense violence, conspiracy theories, priests, destruction, demons, cults, virgins, and the impending apocalypse.

Boichi’s hyper realistic artwork is astounding. His attention to detail goes from the makes and models of guns and cars to the wrinkles on a person’s face and clothing, nothing is left unattended. Every moment of action, of which there are many, gets the same treatment. You could easily lose yourself in Boichi’s line work.

The story revolves around Luna, a young woman who, after her family dies in a horrible accident, is visited by Abraxas, a demon with the body of a woman and some strange headdress. Luna is revealed to be a “descendent of Norea” and will play an important role in the destruction of the world. A group fronted by the Nitobe corporation is kidnapping virgin women looking for “the goddess” and end up coming after Luna.

The real main character, as I like to call him, Toshiya doesn’t actually show up until chapter 4. He is the good-looking, priest-in-training, who is basically a badass and a genius. He has his best friend Isa who provides the comic relief and, of course, the super hot Luna who he must protect but can never have.

Honestly, at the beginning I kept looking names and references up on the internet. At points, the series just glosses over things as if we are all knee-deep in obscure Christian lore. But then at other times does a decent enough job of telling you what you need to know without going into full-blown exposition. I realized after a while that the series would reveal itself in due time and to just go along for the ride. I’m sure you’d get a lot out of it if you know this stuff or read Wikipedia alongside it, but that doesn’t sound enjoyable to me and shouldn’t be, and isn’t, necessary to enjoy the series.

Raqiya has the super-seinan quality that we don’t get too much of here in the U.S. One Peace Books is a very small publisher so I hope it reaches the manga audience, they need to know about this series. I can imagine this also doing well if you put it into the hands of comic readers.

hisui_icon_4040 If you read manga long enough you being to see little trademarks and tells that other people might not pick up on. You might be able to tell just by a few pages which magazine a title ran in or which manga-ka worked as an assistant for another.  After reading a chapter or two of Raqiya my first thought was, “I think this is a Korean Manhwa” just from the art alone. It turns out I was partially correct. After I read the first two volumes I went online to see if I was right about the origin of the material. At first it seemed like my comic senses were off. Raqiya ran in Kodansha’s Morning magazine. But then I remember that Morning has been making an effort to hire artists from outside of Japan. That is how we got titles like Peepo Choo. While the author Masao Yajima is Japanese the artist Boichi is South Korean.

I just wanted to pat myself on the back for figuring that out before I did any research. I was mostly able to tell because while the men and peripheral women all have a hard seinen manga feeling the heroines and important female characters have this softer ethereal vibe you usually only get from korean comics. It is closer to the way women are depicted in josei or shojo manga but it is not the same. Also the rapid shifts into super deformed even during super serious scenes was another other hint. I’m not saying that all Korean manhwa look like that. While any detailed examination of a country’s comics will show a multitude of styles there tends to be a stereotypical style that most people know that country for. Japan tends to be known for that Shonen Jump style art whereas the US is usually associated with the Marvel and DC super hero comics flavor. In that way I usually think of this style of art when I think of manhwa.

That said the art is great. In fact Boichi’s Sun-Ken Rock is currently available from Crunchyroll manga. I just thought it was worth mentioning.

I will admit that unlike Kate I read Raqiya on the train and followed most of the weird terms without the Internet but that is because I am an old school table top role player. The number one secret you learn as table top role player is your three best and cheapest sources of game supplements are history books, mythology books, and religious texts. They have everything you need for a life time of campaigns, monsters, and organizations.  The thing is the more esoteric and heretical the religious text the better it is. Everyone around your table probably knows the story of Noah and the flood but now many people are well versed in who Abraxas is (unless they are Kunihiko Ikuhara.)  So I admit while I am generally familiar with gnostic references and Vatican assassin conspiracy theories I’m going to guess that is not the case for most people.

That said they seem fairly well researched. Being that most of the Christian mythos here is based on heretical and apocryphal texts it is really hard to call any of it wrong. There is no real King James Version of Gnosticism or Hermeticism. So there is not that much you can get “wrong” but everything I have read so far seems “right.” You are not getting any One-pound Gospel misunderstandings of Christianity. The story is centered around real fringe groups and crazy offshoots and it does that well.

The character dynamic is not what you might initially suspect. At first the story seems firmly centered on Luna. She is the key to either mankind’s salvation or doom. She is the one possessed by Abraxas. She is the one all the crazy cults are looking for. But overall she quickly seems more like a MacGuffin. While she is not totally just a plot device that moves along with the flow of the story she more often than not carried by other character’s choices more than her own. Isa then look like he might be the hero but he quickly seems to move into the side-kick position. It is clear that while Luna is the main character it is Toshiya who is going to be our hero. He is the best fighter, the most well read, and has the most character conflicts. They could surprise us if Luna gets more control over Abraxas’ power but I somehow doubt that will be the case.

The action is really the selling point of series. You get a lot of gun play, explosions, super natural powers, and assassins of all stripes. Also because the series deal with crazy cults and gnostic magic there is a whole lot of sex and nudity (although not usually of the consensual kind). I think Kate put it best when she said this was a real manime title. It distinctly scratches the itch of people who want the testosterone of Mad Bull 34 mixed with the conspiracy elements of The Da Vinci Code.  If that seems up your alley than you might want to check this out.

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.

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The Speakeasy #051: Upside-down Pineapple, March Movie Madness

March 31, 2014
Drink #051: Upside-down Pineapple
March Movie Madness

Unlike all the other East Coast anime fans, we didn’t head to Anime Boston this month. Instead, we talk about all the movies we saw during March. Okay, yeah, fine we couldn’t come up with a real, all encompassing topic, okay? But hey, you get two anime movie reviews (Patema Inverted and Giovanni’s Island both of which played at the NYICFF) and our thoughts on the Veronica Mars movie (have we ever sounded this ridiculously happy in a podcast before?).

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And now your helpful bartenders at The Speakeasy present your drink:

Upside-down Pineapple

  • 1/2 oz. Vodka, vanilla
  • 1/4 oz. Grenadine
  • 1 oz. Pineapple Juice

Shake vanilla vodka and pineapple juice with ice and strain into shot glass. Add grenadine. The grenadine will sink to the bottom and will give this shot a very sweet conclusion.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #234

February 3, 2014

narutaki_icon_4040 There is only one thing we like almost equally much as detectives: phantom thieves. Bandette (vol. 1) by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover is a delightful adventure set on the streets of Paris featuring (mostly) good Samaritan expert thief Bandette and her band of merry followers.

Bandette’s goals are a light mystery, her attitude is fresh, carefree, and yet she comes off as knowing everything before it happens. She is really quite a wonder, never seeming affected by all the trouble she runs into and never worrying how she will manage. One thing we do know is she has quite the affinity for rare, and first edition, books. Also candy. She has an oh-so-necessary secret lair and seems to have money and means.

Her friends come off as kind of Baker Street Irregulars, essential to getting her out of jams, setting up means of escape, and alerting her of any information they might find.

Colleen Coover’s art is so lively with a range of facial expressions and reactions which give the story such levity even when assassins appear. Her paintings of Paris give it all the mystique and romance that it deserves so much so I’d like to have her just make a travel guide for the city!

The first installment of Bandette does everything right; it is a bright, whitty, fun jaunt while introducing a villainous organization out to get Bandette, presenting a rival thief who begrudgingly helps her, tip-toeing around a possible love interest, and painting Paris as both light and dark. There are many mysteries and adventures ahead, I can’t wait for the next volume!

sep-manga

hisui_icon_4040 Yankee-kun na Yamada-kun to Megane-chan to Majo is a delightful cross over comic letting the cast of two of Miki Yoshikawa’s most famous works have a bit of a meeting. Since both series are goofball comedies it is clear that their combination would be equially flippant but just as amusing. The plot uses the body swapping powers from Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches but most of the story revolves around the cast of Yankee-kun to Megane-chan.

Due to your standard meeting of characters running in the street while late to school there is the toast being carried in the mouth. But instead of the normal boy-girl collision this leads to Daichi Shinagawa and Ryu Yamada kissing and thereby changing bodies. This means that they are both desperately trying to find the other one to get back to where they belong.

For the most part this is a Yankee-kun to Megane-chan story. They definetly get the lion share’s of the attention in the story. Even Ryu spends most of the chapter in Daichi’s body which makes him practically a character who is half Yamada-kun and half Yankee-kun. Then again Ryu’s series is still ongoing while the Mon Shiro High School has not had a chance to shine in a while.

Also I accept any excuse to see Rinka Himeji again.

The story does highlight the fact that Daichi and Ryu are similar enough that no one at Mon Shiro High School can tell there is someone else in his body. If Adachi and Shiraishi had switched bodies that would not have been the case. You can tell that Miki Yoshikawa really likes a certain type of male delinquent as her main character. But I don’t think Kate would disagree with her choice of protagonist.

It is a fun little story that should be a treat for fans of either series. If you like both series it is even better.

Also is has a whole bunch of guys kissing.

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.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #232

December 9, 2013

narutaki_icon_4040 Mao no Kyoushitsu is a one-shot by Miki Yoshikawa done with her usual zany flair. This time she takes us to an elementary school class whose teacher just happens to be Satan.

The class is of course terrified at first, then they come to think it is all an act but is it!? Manami and her friends set out to find the truth, she being the only one who believes he must truly be Satan. I really enjoyed the repoire between all the kids from their over the top reactions to young cynicism. A wonderfully bizarre setup and fun romp that I wouldn’t mind reading more of.

Surely the best part is when The Devil commends Manami for attempting to burn him alive (it was an accident!).

hisui_icon_4040  It was nice to be able to track down a one shot story from Miki Yoshikawa in the form of Mao no Kyoushitsu. All too often we never get to see little stories like this from even well-known authors let alone lesser known artists like the author of Yankee-kun to Megane-chan. It can even be hard for the Japanese audience to read some of these stories let alone us Yanks.

Before I get into anything else I would like to mention that I thank goodness they translated chuunibyou as poser “nutjob-itis.” I feel like we are just getting out of the grips of small segment of people throwing around the term Chuunibyou all the time. So a somewhat silly English version fits with the scene were the kids are trying to figure out Mr. De Mon’s deal all the better. I don’t feel you have to translate every word into English for a good translation but here the adaptation of a complex word here adds a lot to the scene.

Other than that the strongest part of the story here is the characters. Manami is a great protagonist. Her desire for school to be more fun if Mr. De Mon’s story is true is really infectious. At times it makes her an unreliable narrator but that makes the story even more enjoyable.  You are sort of wondering if Mr. De Mon is really a hell spawn the whole time too. Also her reaction faces are great.

Mr. De Mon is equally fun. In a way he is the type of character that Miki Yoshikawa excels in. She knows when to play him for laughs really well but is not afraid to pull back for a little emotional softness when the time is right. The key is to go for the emotional moments at just the right time or they come off as lame. Also too much serous emotion makes the character overly dramatic and weighs down the comedy.

I also really like the delivery of the line, “”He likes pretty girls. Earth shattering.” A wonderful use of deadpan.

And the story ends nicely. You get the feeling there are more stories with Mr. De Mon but that is where the curtain closes. I feel that Miki Yoshikawa is a good enough author to continue the story of The Demon’s Classroom. She is really good at creating new avenues in a story that other authors would just use to tell variations on the same story. But at the same time this is a great place to end the story as a happy short story.

If you never read anything by Miki Yoshikawa this is a great place to get to know her as an artist with a minimum time commitment. It is a story that showcases some of her best features in a single story. If your already a fan I’m sure your hunting down this story as we speak.

Bonus: If are a fan of Miki Yoshikawa you will see an elementary school version of Hana Adachi in the last panel of page five.

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.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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