I remember when I first discovered Miki Yoshikawa. I randomly stumbled on Yankee-kun to Megane-chan and I started reading it on the name alone. I really grew to love her comedic sensibilities, sexy characters of both genders, and ability to keep her series feeling fresh and vibrant. I was a little disappointed to learn that despite being an assistant to Hiro Mashima she did not really have a fanbase in the English speaking world. Jump ahead to 2015 and her latest work, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, had its own TV anime, a US manga license, and enough of a fanbase to get Cruchyroll to bring her over for Anime Expo. In honor of the new found love for this manga-ka I decide to shine the spotlight on one her overlooked short works that people might have missed.
Archive for the ‘Action’ Category
It really seems like there has been a Lupin renaissance lately. Lupin has always been popular. That is not in question. It has become staple of the anime landscape. Much like Doraemon or Sazae-san it is institution that always has some sort of yearly presence. The Castle of Cagliostro is still considered to be part of the essential part of the anime canon, the three Lupin TV series are fondly remembered classics (Lupin Part III less so), and the movies have been getting some extras heavy releases from Discotek Media. At the same time Lupin was increasingly been seen as a property whose best days were behind it. While old school fans had a distinct fondness for the series it was almost all nostalgia. The recent crop of TV specials are generally considered mediocre and Green vs. Red is almost universally reviled. Lupin seemed to be moving forward mostly thanks to momentum more than anything else.
Then came Lupin the 3rd: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. It was smart, sexy, challenging, and unpredictable. (Much like Fujiko herself.) It took the characters and reintroduced them in a manner closer to the original Monkey Punch manga while updating the overall style and storytelling. Not everyone loved The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Some people did not like the ending, other people felt they changed Zenigata too much, whereas others felt the feminist message was a bit muddled. But the thing is people were talking again. Lupin was an active part of the English-speaking otaku conversation. It was no longer a museum piece or a Japanese oddity like Kochikame. When the new TV series was announced to come out this year it was anticipated like it was hot new property.
In between The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and the 2015 series was the film, Lupin the 3rd: Jigen’s Gravestone. It is not a full sequel to The Woman Called Fujiko Mine but more of a side story set in the same timeline that just happens to be set after the TV series. As it just started streaming on Hulu we decided to see if this is a worthy follow-up to Fujik or if it is something you should ignore until the full adventures of the blue jacket Lupin is unveiled.
Truth be told, I like Lupin the 3rd but I haven’t seen a whole ton of the catalog. I am familiar with the big stuff like The Castle of Cagliostro and I have seen a few specials and TV episodes over the years. I’ve also watched the Lupin the 3rd VS. Detective Conan installments because of course! And I fell in love with The Woman Named Fujiko Mine. I just dip my toe into the Lupin franchise now and again and usually enjoy myself.
It was only a mater of time before I got a proper Type-Moon manga in the Manga of the Month. (I did Take Moon but that is a total joke manga). The only problem is most of the manga based on Type-Moon properties are lesser adaptations of the works they are based on. The Tsukihime manga is far better than the infamous anime but that is faint praise indeed. I enjoy the various Melty Blood related manga but I’m not sure I would put any of them in this section any time soon. Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA is Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA. Yeah. So it is nice to get a full-fledged Type-Moon related manga in here without any guilt.
I will admit that I have only read the first chapter as of writing this post but given Fate/Strange Fake’s pedigree, what I saw of the chapter that has been translated, and the additional information I know let me be fairly confident in making it a Manga of the Month. Just in case it does all fall part in the end I will apologize in advance but so far so good.
After the initial chapter of Birdmen, I found myself scratching my head. Nothing was clear in chapter one (which is a prologue), I didn’t know what the story was going to be about at all. But there is a hook: a repeated rumor about a mysterious man with wings. Then, we get a glimpse of him at the end of chapter two (also the prologue) just as a bus containing all our main characters goes careening off a cliff. Then, chapter three returns to seemingly normal life, but something is just off as glimpses of memory and powers begin.
The way Yellow Tanabe constructs the beginning of Birdmen creates the tension and unease you might expect from a horror story, which it somewhat is, but Birdmen is more like Ms. Tanabe’s version of superheroes.
Two sets of friends, Karasuma and Kamoda, Tsubame and Sagisawa, who have only just met find themselves on the verge of death as their bus crashes. The Birdman saves them which endows them with the same powers as he. Just as the group starts to realize their abilities, a portal in the sky drops a monster into their town.
Yellow Tanabe takes these elements and combines them with a good sense of humor, popping up only at the appropriate times. There is even a classic superhero moment as Karasuma realizes he doesn’t need his glasses anymore after gaining his powers.
The entire first volume is an origin story which sets up everything that is to come. We have a five person team, each with a distinctive personality but so far it hasn’t felt like the well trodden path you might expect. Karasuma attitude feels downright out-of-place as he feels the world just doesn’t measure up and has no appreciation for his intellect. Kamoda’s shaved head and mean face make him an odd bestie for reserved and sheeple-hating Karasuma. None of the cast are particularly keen on their powers. So far everything feels right without feeling over done.
Birdmen has a winning combination of superheroes, humor, and horror. The more I read, the more I want to read.