Archive for the ‘Manga’ Category

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Manga of the Month: GTO – Paradise Lost

September 2, 2014

GTO – Paradise Lost (GTO パラダイス・ロスト)
by Tohru Fujisawa

hisui_icon_4040 He’s back because there are always new delinquents that need a lesson from teacher.

Tohru Fujisawa’s career really took off with Shonan Junai Gumi. (Unless Adesugata Junjou Boy was some sort of critically acclaimed masterwork that no one ever talks about in the US.) In Shonan Junai Gumi we find Eikichi Onizuka and Ryuji Danma as two rough and tumble bikers trying to lose their virginity while fighting the worst delinquents in Japan. The series was popular enough that it got spun off into a sequel series, called GTO, where Onizuka becomes a teacher and Danma makes some guest appearances. While Shonan Junai Gumi was popular it never even dreamed of being the smash hit that GTO was. Since GTO ended Tohru Fujisawa has drawn other manga like Rose Hip Rose and Animal Man, just been the writer on manga like Eyaminokami – The Plague Princess and Shonan Seven, and even tried to spin-off other Shonan Junai Gumi characters into stand alone manga like Danma and Saejima Despite all of that in the end it seems like the character he always come back to is Onizuka.

If you remember GTO Shonan 14 Days was a Manga of the Month on the blog all the was back in 2011 but it was technically not a sequel. It is actually a side story that improbably takes place in two of the weeks between the penultimate and final chapter of the original GTO manga. But this time we get the true continuation of Onizuka’s mythos.

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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 August 2014 Line-Up

August 31, 2014

narutaki_icon_4040 A little bit of everything this month. It is nice to see Crunchyroll consistently adding new manga to their catalog.

hisui_icon_4040 Yen Press is really being aggressive about these light novel licenses. I like some of their titles but I’m wondering if their ambition outweighs what the market can currently handle.

The Line-Up is a monthly rundown of new anime, manga, light novel, artbook licenses, streaming/broadcasting announcements, crowdfunding projects, anime/manga projects, and live-action anime/manga adaptions.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #240

August 13, 2014

narutaki_icon_4040 Android Angels by Kosuke Kabaya is the story of a future where androids in the home are normal. The accepted practice is for the androids memories to be wiped every four years and for their owners to change in order to prevent attachment.

Each story deals with different pairs of androids and owners looking at the inevitable connections human create with these “objects.” There is also a fetishistic nature to seeing them as non-human which is explored. And finally the fact that the memory wipes don’t seem to work 100% and whether they are ethical.

I found the last chapter strongest because it shed the premise of the android being a fantasy or sexual object and delved deeper into the human connection.

Android Angels is the type of story that gets me curious about the premise but then ends before really satisfying me fully. Perhaps there will be more stories in this series?

I really liked the oversized format of this book, it is nice to enjoy manga this way once in a while.

hisui_icon_4040 There was this obscure little title by a small group of ladies who usually like to write slash fic about Jojo’s characters and their tale of android-human relations. That title was Chobits from CLAMP. For me, at least, it is hard to talk about this series without bringing up that title. CLAMP is hardly the only manga artists to examine the nature of the relationships between man and machine. You have anime and manga like Time of Eve, DearS, Saber Marionette J, Key the Metal Idol, Mahoromatic, Ergo Proxy, Casshan, or even a classic like Astro Boy dealing with the topic in their own ways. Androids are great ways of examining technology, the nature of humanity, and how we interact with the other in equal measures. So they are very useful story telling devices in that respect so not every story about androids is just a Chobits clone. At the same time most of the stories in Android Angels deal with the androids in a romantic fashion and the artificial lifeforms are usually obviously non-human due to them having animal ear like accessories. At that point it comes down to what does Android Angels do to make itself feel distinct instead of just a collection of Chobits fan fictions.

The answer is that what Android Angels has is the added gimmick of the androids getting their memories wiped every four years. They will work for one human for four years and then when their job is over they have their memories wiped and then start a new job somewhere else. This radically changes the human/android dynamic. Usually the human is the organism with the limited lifespan and the android is the near immortal being. The machine is the one who is faster, strong, and more skilled. If they fall in love with a human they must helplessly watch them age and then pass away like a subservient god. If a human falls in love with them they must carry that love long after the person who loved them is gone. The memory wipe turns that on its head.

While the android is still functional after the memory wipe it like it becomes a new person. This makes the human the one who must remind behind with the memories of what once was. It does change the types of stories you can tell. The android can be more of a metaphor for a fleeting love, a dying person, or someone with a fading memory due to illness. Also since the android never really dies but just becomes a new person it is also an interesting way of tackling reincarnation. While it might be a gimmick it does change and expand the types of stories you can tell and what is said with them.

That said the execution in Android Angels is a bit hit or miss. It is an anthology story so it is mostly just a collection of vignettes so those are usually fairly broad in appeal. None of the stories were bad. They never were annoying or poorly told. They did err a little into creepy at times especially with Taisuke trying to force himself on his android at a point and Yoneno and the pomegranate scene. Nothing really horrible happens but it is worth noting those scenes are sort of conformable. At the same time I can’t think of any of the stories really exploring the premise as much as I would have liked. The last story was probably the strongest in my mind but it still fell short of truly hooking me.

I don’t want to come off as overly harsh on this book. If anything I might be just a bit more disappointed it did not fully reach the potential it could have had more than it failed to execute the idea properly. The twist of the normal sci-fi formula was an interesting one. It definitely played with the idea but left a good deal of it unexplored. It does seem like a world that Kosuke Kabaya or perhaps someone else could come back to and expand upon. That desire to see more is probably worth your time. It is far better to want more than close a book and never wish to revisit its world ever again.

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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