Finally picked up books 3, 4, and 5 (along with 6 through 14) of Swan and am happily diving in deep with it. Even just a few books in, the competition has really been upped a notch as our dancers compete in Russia for both the chance to prove the Japanese have talent and also for a spot in an upcoming Russian revival. All of the rivalries so far have been fair, on the level, but fierce and make each push themselves harder than before. However, they have not leaped into sabotage or foul play which is a easy direction to take such things especially in a series that is as highly melodramatic as Swan is. It is rather amazing how much emotion, suspense, and progress Ariyoshi Kyoko packs into these volumes. Even the tragic downfall of a key player is handled deftly and while Masumi’s fate seems sealed in her future those spinning around her are a different story. Its a beautifully rendered story with some of the most dynamic page layouts I’ve ever encountered. Swan is a highlight of shojo manga that shouldn’t be missed and that I can’t personally put down.
Since I was not doing anything this Labor Day Sunday and Scott kept talking about it, I decided to go see one of Reni’s Japanese “Maid” Shows at Top Tunes. When I got there there was a line to get in and Scott mentionedit was one of the better turn outs. I think being a lazy Sunday before Labor day helped a lot. There was a one drink minimum as a charge which was reasonable, plus Scott and his friend finished off enough drinks that I was covered. Top Tunes itself was distinctly a bar with karaoke as opposed to a karaoke bar so there was a bit of crowding to get up front but nothing unmanageable. Reni sang a mixture of her own songs and anime songs. I got to hear Let Me Be With You from Chobits, Tonari no Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro, and Interstellar Flight from Macross Frontier. Of course she did the Ranka dance because otherwise it would not count. She also did three of her own songs one of which Scott helped write. She also had backup maid dancers for some of her songs which was amusingly odd. Overall it was a pleasant experience, the songs were cute and I got to hear Interstellar Flight which is always great. I definitely would not travel too far to see such a show but anyone in the NYC are might want to give it a look if for nothing else curiosity. I have never been to Akihabara so I don’t know how authentic the experience was but I assume if you went to a similar event in Japan it would be quite the same.
In the fourth installment of Two Flowers for the Dragon we see Kuwan make a much awaited move closer to Shakuya while Lucien finally regains his memories. Though the last volume contained a lot of shocking revelations, this one still keeps things flowing with suspicion without revealing exactly who and what we are dealing with it yet. It was also great to see the handmaid Lupina get a bit of a story here and show her strengths. This is laced with the background humor found in the other books which is just delightful. Also the tiger cubs consistently entertain in side panels or in their random thoughts while in scenes. Another great piece in the series that is quickly climbing the charts as something I wait impatiently for another book of.
I have been keeping up with the One Piece manga and decided I would throw in my current feeling on the plot. I have mixed feelings but overall it is still my favorite shonen manga around. The humor is still very funny and the action is always epic when it needs to be. My main problem is Luffy had been separated from the crew for too long. I really enjoyed the Amazon arc, it was hysterical and well executed but I assumed right after it Luffy would reunite with everyone. However, we went into the Impel Down arc and the Execution arc. So far the story has not slowed down, the action is still great, the fights are awesome, and we are even learning important world building back story. But the rest of the straw hats only appear in the slash pages stories. If the rest of the crew were minor characters it would be fine but they are just as important as Luffy so I am anxious to have them back. So part of me wants to see this wrapped up ASAP but part of me is really enjoying watching the top pirates and the top marines duke it out in grandiose fashion. I mean as much as might complain I not going to stop reading One Piece as long as it stays this strong and fun. I just want to see the crest of the crew soon in the story proper.
Watched Akagi episodes 8 to 13 and there is just more to love. Akagi is now an adult but don’t worry folks, he is still beating up street punks. They try to fool us with a fake Akagi, and I will admit for a moment I was appalled, but then thought of better of it. And when he comes face-to-face with the real thing of course he is blown out of the water. Akagi also takes out some jerks from his crummy job who like to hustle people in Mahjong. Then if that wasn’t enough, Akagi continues to battle the worst looking people the Yakuza can find, hello teeth-sticking-straight-out guy, in high-stakes Mahjong. And then when Akagi does overcome him (this is not a spoiler because if you didn’t know Akagi would win . . .) it takes an entire episode to explain just HOW he did such a thing. As one would hope the reactions to the plays Akagi pulls is the highlight of the show along with the narrator who is increasingly in awe of Akagi’s skills. And don’t forget folks, to win at Mahjong you need amazing intuition and to not play fair.
Having been a long time fan of Lucasarts adventure games, in particular Monkey Island, I decided to download Tales of Monkey Island for the Wii. Having played through all the previous games I was curious to see what Telltale Games would bring to the mix. I was a little hesitant to buy an episodic content game but it was Monkey Island so I decided to splurge. It starts with a familiar scenario: Elaine has been kidnapped by the ghost pirate LeChuck and Gubrush must construct yet another root beer powered voodoo device to stop him. Of course they invoke adventure game legal statute: Nothing simple is ever easy. Therefore something goes wrong and you are forced to improvise which ends up with LeChuck being brought back to life and you stranded on a island with an evil ghost hand. Your first order of business is to find a way off the island. I found the puzzles decently challenging without being the neigh-impossible-to-figure-out-so-buy-the-hint-book headbangers that killed off the genre in years past. I did find myself doing the old pixel hunt to find items or areas to interact with and just throwing my inventory at it once or twice but nothing was unfair. I liked the callbacks to the old games and the general preserving of the humor style of the previous games. There is even a reference to Stan. My only criticism is that I basically beat the game over the course of three nights. There are still four more chapters with one up for download as I write this so I will see how much the series keeps my interest.
Because even Luffy’s angry face makes me laugh, this is the pic of the week: