Ongoing Investigations: Case #039

I just got the third hard cover special edition of Black Jack. It’s Black Jack therefore it is awesome. As with any episodic series you will have you ups and downs. Some stories are amazingly powerful or stunningly cool. Other are quickly forgettable or even downright uninteresting. I have yet to see a bad review of a Black Jack book and you won’t see one here. The real question is whether or not the limited edition is worth the additional eight dollars. They are but there is no reason to pay through the nose when they become rare. The hard covers are well designed and you get a little hard to find bonus story in each book. But the extras stories aren’t that amazing if you have to pay a lot more to get them. Black Jack as a whole is worth what ever you have to pay to get it but there is no need to get crazy. And unless you can’t get over Osamu Tezuka’s old school art style, there is no reason not to go out and read Black Jack.

I am slowly going through all that CMX has to offer by manga-ka Nari Kusakawa. I read the first book of Palette of 12 Secret Colors. It is about an island that houses the most beautiful birds in the world. Along with them they train wizards (called palettes) who use the birds’ bright colors to change ordinary things, like cloth and rocks, into precious treasures that are sought the world over. We follow Cello, a wizard in training, who is anything but ordinary. Her magic doesn’t work like anyone else so she has a hard time learning the basics (she is so bad she has been held back a year in school) but her unique abilities get her into some interesting situations. Cello is a great lead, she is positive, funny, and easy to love. Dr. Guell, who is obviously the love interest, is blunt but funny and caring, so much so you can’t help but root for these two to come together. It continues to show her ability to weave fantasy, romance, and a little comedy into a charming combination. This series is after Recipe for Gertrude and you can really see her art style becoming more refined. I am looking forward to getting the rest in the series.

Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa strikes me as the Oscar bait of Manhwa. It is a prestige release. You release this to win awards and to great praise from reviewers and comic experts but never get more than a handful of mainstream sales. It is a historical, slice of life comic about a young Korean girl named Ehwa and her journey towards womanhood. It depicts Ehwa discovering her first feelings for a boy which parallels her widowed mother finding a new love. It is quite frank about the physical changes and emotional changes of growing up. Overall I found in enjoyable if very sedate. The characters were enjoyable. I was slightly amused by their constant use of metaphor during conversation. It was a stark contrast the the very base matters that are often the point of discussion. The character designs are simple but effective and have a traditional ink drawing feel to them. The backgrounds alternate between being very ornate especially with some of the full page spreads to totally nonexistent during conversations. Most people are going to be captivated immediately or quickly turned off by either the slice of life nature and earthy tone of the book. Still it is a good read for people who want their comics to have the weight of more award-winning prose.

Color of Earth touts itself as a unique work and I would agree. It easily pushes itself with its matter-of-factness of learning about one’s sexuality but at the same time tends toward metaphor and innuendo in people’s conversations. As we follow Ehwa she often finds herself at a loss because of the way people phrase things. It goes to show that even though she has to learn these things, it can be hard to get people to give you a straight answer. And unfortunately that is what Ehwa really needs. But like everyone else in life, you learn about things eventually and get it all straight in your head, sort of. The mother and daughter relationship is at the forefront and the most interesting development in this book. As we go along they become more like confidants rather than parent and child. This seems to happen for a number of reasons, not the least of which is they don’t have any men in the house. The art is very classic feeling. It fits the time period of the book and makes it seem more like fine art than sequential art at times. I’d say this series is worth checking out just based on having never read anything else like it. I can’t say it is a story I would normally read, but it is has a charm that requires me to finish reading it.

After watching Turn A Gundam I decided to throw myself into one of the most unpopular Gundam series, After War Gundam X. After five episodes I really can’t see what people really hated it. It is clearly a post apocalyptic series because there is a guy with a mohawk . . . who is a bandit . . . in a mobile suit in the first episode all Fist of the North Star style. After a bitter war between the Earth and the colonies there was massive colony drop that killed off 99% of the population. We start 15 years after that in which Garrod Ran is hired to save the mysterious girl, Tiffa Adill. During the rescue Garrod and Tiffa come into the possession of a legendary Gundam X mobile suit. He soon discovers that everyone want Tiffa and her mysterious Newtype powers. You can tell this series comes directly after Gundam Wing by looking at the art designs. Garrod looks like the love child of the five Gundam pilots from Wing with a personality that is most reminiscent of Duo’s. Tifa is your stock mysterious girl with magical powers. All the other characters so far have been fine. No one in the show is in the running for my favorite character ever but no one is so horrible that they have earned the reputation that Gundam X has. Maybe the show goes down hill later on but so far it’s fine.

Finally able to pick up a copy of Swan’s first book. As you should all know by now, I have an affinity for the 70’s manga art style. Japan’s ballet is a baby compared to its history in the rest of the world, but there is plenty of talent. Great dancers from all over the nation are invited to compete, the top chosen will receive private lessons from famous dancers all over the world. This is done is hopes to expand Japan’s ballet reputation internationally. We follow Masumi, who is unexpectedly invited to the school for private lessons after being eliminated early on in the competition. She has had poor training but her staunch supporter, famous Russian dancer Alexei Sergeiev, sees great potential in her. Masumi is uneasy and has self-doubt but she is determined. I am enjoying both her and the many people she encounters including some of Japan’s best youth dancers. I am also learning a lot about ballet. Swan is as beautiful a 70’s shojo manga as there can be with lush character designs and backgrounds rounded out with sparkles and drama. I will certainly try to pick up more when I can.

Because I could not resist putting up a picture of Tifa and the Newtype Dolphin. (Yes, you heard me right. NEWTYPE DOLPHIN!):

4 thoughts on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #039

  1. Phatbhuda says:

    I think the key is: who hates Gundam X? It’s easy to hop on the Internet’s hate train. Are they people that didn’t like what they did with Wing and then adding a magical girl broke the camel’s back?

    I think I’d enjoy X for the same reasons I enjoy any Gundam show: giant fighting robots and guilty pleasure melodrama.

  2. IKnight says:

    It may be that I discuss Gundam in the wrong places (chiefly /m/), but, apart from one or two contrarians, I’m not sure I’ve read much hate for X. It strikes me as a very likeable Gundam and while the post-apocalyptic reconstruction angle isn’t used as fully as it might be, it’s a nice spin on the concept.

    I must try Black Jack one of these days. I’m shamefully lacking in Tezuka experience.

  3. lothos says:

    I need to get around to reading Black Jack. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every other Tezuka book I’ve read. I’ve already begun the massive undertaking that is Buddha, so I might as well add Black Jack to the pile.

  4. reversethieves says:

    @Phatbhuda & IKnight
    Well the more I discuss Gundam I keep getting this feeling there are two distinct US Gundam generations.

    The first generation are total UC purists that really have a hard, if not impossible time, accepting any AC Gundam shows. They usually saw a UC show as their first Gundam and have imprinted it as the best and only “real” Gundam.

    The second generation was intro is usually one of the AC shows and has an easier time accepting each Gundam show for what it is and what it is not. It is not that they will accept any Gundam show. It is they have have a higher percent chance of giving them a fair shake.

    Also I have heard that people considered Gundam X depressing and filled with unlikable characters. This review is a good example:

    I liked it well enough and that is what matters to me.

    @IKnight & Lothos
    Black Jack is really good but also episodic. So it’s a great series to read in between other things you are reading. You can pick up a volume whenever the mood strikes you.

    – Hisui

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