Posts Tagged ‘Sailor Moon’

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #231

November 18, 2013

hisui_icon_4040 Anomal by Nukuharu in an interesting little book from Gen Manga. As Kate had mentioned in the past, anthology books like this are hardly unheard of in Japan but we so rarely get them in English expect for extremely popular authors and usually only when demand for their work is not being sufficiently met by the number of titles currently on the market. This is from a generally unknown artist so it is more outside the box than most single author anthologies we get. Then again Gen Manga tends to do things that most manga publisher don’t do.

While we might not be in the grip of the Yokai Craze like in The Monstrous Turnabout case in Dual Destinies it is hard to ignore the number of Yokai related stories lately in anime and manga. Not all the stories have various Japanese monsters but the majority of the stories are focused around them. There is one story about a detective and his new partner that is a bit of a BL tease but other than that is all tales of spirits and demons. I guess the last story is about an alien but she feel more like a goddess or kami than an alien.

The stories about yokai tend to be on the lighter side of the spectrum. This is not the uber-dark tales of Requiem from the Darkness or even the moody heavyhearted feel of Mushishi. The best anime equivalent for the stories would be the Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods or Kamichu! anime. It is a little litter than Natsume Yuujincho, which can get fairly melancholy when it wants to, but the stories can have a bit of bite to them. That said is would say it is not more than a bit of an edge. They are at most the medium salsa of Yokai tales. They are a bit if zest to them but not the harsh burn of human critique like some spicier shows.

Other than maybe Ayakashi-nushi none of the stories here really felt like series that needed to be longer series. They came in, told their story, and then the closed the door on their way out. But with a short story book like this that is often for the best. Stories that overstay their welcome can be a real pain in book like these. Also in general Yokai tales lend themselves to one shots equally as well as long form stories. Even many long form yokai series are often small stories inside of a larger framework that mostly exists to tell those small stories.

Anomal is an interesting little curiosity. I can’t say that any of the stories were the strongest things I read this year but they are light, breezy,and fun. With only one book it is a pleasant one shot that can satisfy an itch for less than spooky stories with a nice bit of heart. They are more candy than a full meal. Sometimes that is exactly what you need.

narutaki_icon_4040 Anomal by Nukuharu was a rare treat I got in the mail, thanks Gen Manga! I liked the small format of this short story collection and it fit with the quiet but odd nature of the tales within. This collection features yokai or other supernatural elements in different settings and with very different main characters. Each also had various relationships as a focus. Even though it says horror on the back, none of the stories are super dire. In fact, some have a stronger comedy bent and I found these more successful.

The 3-part story Ayakashi-nushi made me laugh because their personalities were well realized. It is about a partnership between girl who finds yokai so cute she is always trying to hug them and a boy who has a demon in his blood. It had a bit of what we’ve come to expect from things like Natsume Yuujincho: a spirit has a problem and our lead helps resolve it while we get their little backstory in the process.

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 #191

November 23, 2012

Rental Magica seems like a fairly solid premise to me. The anime is about a magical organization that hunts down case of abnormal magic in the modern age. It seems to have a decently eclectic number of magic users and the school of magic seem well researched. The original light novels were written by Makoto Sanda who worked on the original Record of Lodoss War series and is working on Red Dragon with several other artists. It really seems like something that would be in my wheelhouse. But sadly the actual show itself does not live up to its promise. The show itself in not really bad. In fact it is extremely inoffensive. It is just not really interesting as well. It is like plain rice with boiled tofu. It is not totally tasteless but at the same time it is hardly exciting.

The main problem is that characters don’t really have any spark to them. Itsuki Iba is the head of the Astral company and he is just a milquetoast weenie. The sort of guy that bland harem heroes push around. It does not help that his running shtick is that he passes out every episode. He has a magic eye that when unsealed makes him super competent but that moments are few and far between. And even then he is sort of boring when he is in Glam Eye mode. It does not help that Naruatki and I could not stop snickering when ever they said Glam Eye despite the fact that I know that Glamour is the name for faerie magic. The main girl is a mix of the childhood friend and the angry girl. Her Celtic Magic is fairly cool but it hardly makes her character interesting. The rest of the company is a cat obsessed Onmyoudou expert, a little Shinto Priestess, and their mysterious secretary. There is also a blonde foreign sorceress who uses the Key of Solomon. Again there is nothing wrong with using well-worn archetypes. But you have to breathe some life into them.

The stories have a spark of possible interest to them. You have haunted hospitals and cursed shires which have some good story seeds in them. But like that characters the potential is there but the execution never capitalizes on what is there. It’s never boring. It just never engages you like it needs to.

I will say the show is interestingly fan-service free. There are plenty of opportunities to flash some panties, have girls popping out of their uniforms, or walk in on people changing. But so far no boob grabs or learning cameras. It seems like the type of show that would revel in such tactics but oddly enough it keeps itself inline.

The main problem with Rental Magica is not that it is a hard show to hate. In fact I would say it is super hard to hate it. The problem is there is not much to love as well.

I recall watching the first episode of Rental Magica when it was first coming out in Japan and feeling very negative about it. Watching eps. 1-6 now, I found it rather inoffensive because the show is just rather bland more than bad.

Our lead hero, the president of Astral, is so unassuming that I’d forget he even existed if the girls didn’t make such a fuss over him. He is always fainting or getting injured, and when I say always I mean it. In these episodes he passes out at least seven times, falls off a bike, falls down a flight of stairs, breaks his leg, and I’m probably forgetting some stuff. This is supposed to make him incredibly noble and whatnot.

The two lead girls are more interesting. Honami working for Astral and Addie working for Goetia are rivals fighting for magical jobs. They are also both fighting for the love of Itsuki, I try to say this in the most monotone voice possible. I truly think the series missed its moment to shine by making this show about the love between these two rival witches instead. Their interactions have the most bite in the show.

Rental Magica comes from that era of anime that decided to broadcast its episode out of order, riding on the coattails of Haruhi. They of course do this without really thinking it through or with a greater reason for changing the order of things. Maybe it shows greater purpose for it later, but in these first episodes it is just confusing. There were no grand surprises because I didn’t know certain information or any “aha” moments. If I didn’t know about the broadcast order VS. chronological order, I would have thrown up my hands in frustration wondering why people didn’t know each other among other things.

There is nothing special about Rental Magica. The story, the characters, their interactions with each other, even the animation are all mediocre and unmemorable. Can’t hate it, but there is nothing to recommend here.

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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From the Earth to the Moon

September 3, 2012

On August 25, 2012 we lost a man who was a not only a real American hero but a symbol to all mankind. Neil Armstrong, the first man to ever step foot on the Moon, passed away at the age of 82.

We are rather enamored with the idea of space and space travel. Our article in May was a love letter to space and two series dealing with space travel. While the space program has been in decline for a while projects like the Curiosity rover prove there is still some life in the project.

While the Moon is closer than anything else in the universe, it is still so far away. Even at its closest it is 221,600 miles away from Earth. At times it seems so close that you can touch it and at other times it seems completely unreachable. But it has been reached. And it will be reached again. The shows we picked are all visions of that future. Each of us picked three shows the deal with the Moon because while we have reached it, it is still a very mysterious place.

So instead of mourning what has vanished, we will instead celebrate the Moon!

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #180

August 10, 2012

I am still rather dubious about Otome game adaptions, with the exception of Prince-sama of course, so it took me a while to pick up the Alice in the Country of Hearts omnibus vol. 1 manga. But with so many different manga series based on the game coming out in English I became really curious about it. It also helped that I have a weakness for Alice in Wonderland.

Alice is in her garden when she falls asleep, upon awakening she is dragged into a gaping hole in the ground by guy named Peter White (who happens to have bunny ears). After he forces her to drink a potion (by forcing a kiss on her) she enters the Country of Hearts where she meets all kinds of quirky and cute (mostly male) characters. As the story progresses, you and Alice begin to realize the world isn’t a simple one and things are not always as they seem. Three kingdoms are at war with each other over territory; there are mysterious shadows roaming the land; people are heavily armed; and of course Alice is told time and again it won’t be too easy to leave.

All of the storybook characters are here, plus some new ones, but they are reworked to be very different. My favorite is easily the Mad Hatter who is a mafia boss. If the very fact of this series being an Otome game didn’t give you a clue, there is every kind of guy with all kinds of personalities to pick from as a favorite. There is also the Queen of Hearts who may or may not have a crush on Alice as well.

One thing that I have to give the story props for is not trying to shoehorn in any big plot reasons for the guys falling in love with Alice. Nightmare clearly tells her that that is simply what will happen in this world. And Alice’s way home turns out to be refilling the vial of potion she drank by making friends and interacting with the inhabitants of the world. And actually the world does setup some intriguing mysteries which I am invested in which helps a lot.

That being said, this story only stays good if Alice doesn’t end up with creepy Peter White. His obsession with her is not attractive and most of the time he comes off as a sociopath. Luckily, it seems rather likely that Ace is “true path guy” because he is the only one not for fall in love with Alice right away. He is also carrying around a lot of secrets and mentioned wishing to leave the world.

I had a lot of fun reading this and will be picking up more.

There is no clearer sign the Witch Hunt has gone as close to pro as you can get without leaving the realm of fan project than the fact that they have been given the official permission to release the Rose Gun Days demo by 07th Expansion. I have to say that is extremely impressive.

Rose Gun Days is the newest series by Ryukishi07 who most people probably know as the When They Cry guy. The series is set in its own universe as opposed to the supernatural murder mystery setting he is more famous for. It is set in an alternate post WWII Japan were a major earthquake devastated Tokyo letting a joint Chinese/American task-force radically transform the country. This new Japan is more like a mixture of poverty of the depression era and the zeitgeist of prohibition era in the US. The opening gives you a distinct impression of the visual novels style (It also lets you know someone really liked Cowboy Bebop). There is also a concurrent story happening in an alternate version of the present where someone involved in the adventure is telling the tale to a reporter as a way of setting the story of those chaotic times straight for the public.

The story centers around Leo Shishigami who is a down on his luck former solider who gets caught up being a bodyguard in the middle of gang war when he saves the life of a beautiful bordello madam named Rose. The demo mostly seems to be an introduction to the setting and the characters. Knowing Ryukishi07 there will be a bigger plot but for now the demo mostly wants to just show you how Rose and Leo come to trust each other.

It is also there to show off the new fighting mini-game mechanic. Since Leo is a rough and tumble guy he and his associates are constantly getting into fights. The mechanic itself it fairly simple. Not losing the fights in the beginning is fairly easy. The thing is there is an attack and defense mode of the mini-game. The defense is fairly straight forward. You block all the attack on the screen with the mouse before time is up. The attacks however can be pass fairly effortlessly with 3 hits BUT you can try to rack up points by getting in as many hits as you can before time runs out. This leads to points chicken where you can get a ton of extra points or none at all if you get greedy.

But if you get enough points you can get higher fighting ranks for Leo. I do have to wonder if the ranks are just there for fun or if they have some greater plot relevance. Maybe you have to be a certain rank to win later fights or open up new story paths. Maybe you can only get the good/true/best ending if you do so well. Unlike other 07th Expansion games you can only save at certain checkpoints instead or at any time. I am curious to see how this plays out.

Other than that I am so glad to see that Ryukishi07 has finally learned that maybe art is not his strong suit and that he finally has enough dinero to let someone else to the heavy lifting when it comes to character design and art work. Claudia Kurosaki and Alfred Akagi still have that distinct Ryukishi07 feel at least they have been cleaned up a bit.

The story itself as I mentioned before is mostly set up. They give you a good idea of how desperate people are in this era and what it at stake for all the players. I did notice that more than any of his other works there is a good deal of nationalism almost to the point of jingoism in the story. It is not Hiroyuki Yoshino’s Guilty Crown level but it is hard to miss. Looking back Higurashi and Umineko had that at brief points but in this game it is fairly close to the surface. It does not really turn me off from the game but it is worth bringing up. It would make an interesting point of examination when the full game is out.

All in all I had a good time with the game. It gave me a good taste of what is to come. I am partially curious if a supernatural element is going to creep in later or is this all going to be played straight. Either way I look forward to the full game soon.

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.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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