Ongoing Investigations: Case #051

In preparation for seeing Frederik Schodt at Otakon, Narutaki and I decided to read The Astro Boy Essays. The title might say The Astro Boy Essays but this book is just as much a detailed look at Osamu Tezuka as it is a look at Astro Boy. The essays cover the production of Astro Boy as both an anime and manga, its effects on Japanese anime and manga, as well as on Japanese culture in general. The book also covers how Astro Boy was localized in the United States. Throughout Frederik Schodt gives us a look at the man himself, Tezuka. I now realize that many of the smart people who I consider well-versed on Osamu Tezuka are merely stating what they know from this book. My only criticism is that at times this is obviously a collection of essays written over the years. This means that some parts will be redundant as he has a tendency to repeat certain aspects in one essay to the next because all the essays were originally stand alone pieces. Still it is one of the definitive pieces on Osamu Tezuka and one of his most beloved and well-known creations. It is a must read for anyone interested in anime and manga’s history and one of its greatest contributors.

YAY! I got my copy of The Astro Boy Essays signed! After recently reading Dreamland Japan also by Schodt, which showcased a bit of Schodt’s friendship with Tezuka through his interpreting for him in the United States, I needed to pick up this collection of essays as well. Astro Boy and Tezuka are highlighted in his previous books, and some of the tidbits are the same, but the thinking of Tezuka and his own interactions with his creation are fully fleshed out in The Astro Boy Essays. It is written in a conversational manner and not bogged down with so many dates, facts, and figures as to come off dry. This is apparent in all of Schodt’s works and is the reason it is so accessible and a joy to read. The Astro Boy Essays also helped me appreciate that so much of the Tezuka library is finally being published in English. While I have not read much of the original Astro Boy manga, I soon will be. This was an all around quick but informative read that is necessary for anyone who appreciates the history of anime and manga.

Since I watched the anime I figured I would mention my feelings on the 4 episodes of the Umineko no Naku Koro ni games before they started the solution arcs. I’m am trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible because I feel the sometimes colony drop level plot twists are some of the biggest elements of fun. Every time you think you know where the plot is going they organically twist what you know several degrees. At first you don’t get a great feel for some of the characters but they have built up everyone’s story pretty well by chapter 4. The most important thing for me is no matter how much craziness is going on with Beatrice and the island, I want all the murders to have a rational scientific explanation. If it turns out any of the murders can only be done with magic then I think the game is going to slide down a few notches in my eyes. I will say the insanity of the people playing this game and then making theories can be truly outrageous. Case in point the character Juza Amakusa. He is a minor but fascinating bodyguard for a character introduced later. It has gotten to the point where I think that the only theory I have not heard is that he is secretly a cross-dressing Shion Sonozaki from Higurashi or the fact that HE IS JUST A GUY WITHOUT SOME CRAZY PAST! Still it’s fun playing a game like this as it comes out because you can participate in the mass wild guessing of what is going to happen next.

For many moons people have suggested I watch Eureka Seven and while I haven’t been opposed to it be any means, I haven’t done it. But that all changed when I heard the movie was coming to U.S. theaters in September, I love seeing films on the big screen! So far I have watched the first half of the series at a rate of about 2 episodes a night. The series has some great hooks with its characters, style, and robots right from the get go. One thing I found striking was how Renton’s love for Eureka is immediate and connects with the audience even if she is unsure of what is happening. It is presented as a focal point not a game of will-they-won’t-they which is refreshing. Holland was the driving force for my excitement of the show in the beginning and while he remains my favorite to watch, I have a great appreciation for everyone on the screen and look forward to their interactions especially between the crew of the Gekkostate. When I like all the characters it really adds to a show. Starting around episode 13 or so we begin learning a lot more about characters’ back stories and also the overall plot though it is still quite fuzzy. Around episodes 19 and 20 is where I decide I really loved the show, there were some really well done character moments as well as realizations in these episodes. So far Eureka Seven is all I’ve heard it is, I am looking forward to the last half. 

After reading Guardian of the Spirit I was curious if Scholastic was going to continue to license and translate books in the series. I was pleasantly surprised when they released Guardian of the Darkness. After Balsa successfully protected Chagum she goes back to her homeland to finally make amends with the family of Jiguro the man who raised her and had to kill his former friends to protect her. After she saves two children in the caves she eventually learns that Jiguro has become a national villain because of the twisting of said events to make it seem that her mentor was a thief, a traitor, and a murderer. She then also realizes that who ever has revised history also wants the only living witness to what truly happened to disappear. Balsa must save a homeland she barely remembers and help people she hardly knows in order to survive and clear his name. Balsa is still a strong and dynamic character and the addition of new faces keeps things interesting. This book continues in the first’s footsteps by providing a good mixture of action, drama, and politics that does not talk down to the reader. I hope this book does well on it’s own without a direct anime tie in. I would really like to read the rest of the series.

In Dragon Eye 7 we see the beginnings of the tournament plus the introduction of many high level officials in the world government. There was a lot of tension in this book from the new characters who immediately create suspicion and from the battles leading up to the final round against Kazuma. I was glad to learn about some of the old members of Squad Zero and also to see a magic user worth his salt. There are some major conspiracies going on and really I have no clue who all is involved, the players keep spreading. As usual I am looking forward to the next installment!

I may occasionally talk about Jessica but without a doubt Kyrie is the sexiest woman in Umineko no Naku Koro ni so this is the pic of the week:

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