Ongoing Investigations: Case #064

I already loved the second Professor Layton game merely because so much of it takes place aboard a steam train! And quite nicely the scope of the mystery is much broader than the first though there are still some strange towns and townsfolk about. All the great things from the first game are in tact with some nice new additions. Once again I don’t find myself overly concerned about the mini-games but they are fun. However, it can’t be denied that I have done a small bit of complaining about this game. Most annoying is how the game treats you like a complete and utter moron. There are literally times when you look at the map and it says in big letters “GO HERE” and this combined with the constant conversations about “let’s go such and such” or “now let’s go back to so and so” takes a toll. The only other big trip up I’ve had so far is that a major puzzle required me to look at the instruction booklet. This is a portable game for crying out loud, how many of us carrying the instructions with us? But these things aside, I am finding it quite enjoyable and look forward to solving this mystery.

Deka Kyoshi is a manga Kindergarten Cop with a twist of the supernatural. Toyama Narita is a gentle giant of an undercover cop sent in as a new homeroom teacher. The teacher he is replacing committed suicide and the police feel that it is linked to something more sinister happening at the school. On Toyama’s first day he finds that one of his student named Makoto is being bullied. It seems that Makoto can see demons that make people do bad things has become labeled as a liar and a weirdo. Toyama helps Makoto and comes to believe that Makoto has an odd form of synethesia that lets him see emotions as physical forms. So Makoto starts to help Toyama with his investigation but is there a simple scientific explanation or can Makoto see actual demons? The formula for manga seems to be that someone in the class will be emotionally distressed with a after school special problem. Makoto will see the demon that is haunting them and Toyama and Makoto work together to help the student who is in trouble. There also seems to be a sinister boy who is promoting the growth of said demons and is most probably tied in with all the problems at the school. The art feels like a 80s Shonen Jump series despite the fact that it came out in 2006 in Flex Comix. I don’t mind it but I know that is a turn off for some people. The stories themselves are cute and entertaining thanks to Toyama and Makoto being a good team. Toyama comes off as bad-ass when he needs to be and we are slowly seeing Makoto grow as he works with Toyama. The series is not a must read but it is an excellent choice if you want a light supernatural mystery.

I tested out Winter Sonata episode one even after feeling very disappointed by the 0 special. The special, minus the first moments at the airport which were very nice, came off as a bunch of fairly pointless scenes that one could only care about if you already knew the characters, perhaps that is what they are banking on. Also I found that sometimes things seemed stuck together back to back without any real follow through or sense of timing. That being said, the first episode is much better so much so that I suggest not watching the special (and wishing I hadn’t because it gave me a bias). We start in the present and then go back to when our leads meet in highschool. There is an air of mystery as Joon Sang looks for his real father and how each of the people he encounters fits into that. The friendships start budding rather naturally, as if Joon Sang is powerless to stop it. And of course there is a sense of melancholy since it is being told in a “if we had only known” fashion. As far as recent romance shows goes, this seems to be on a more mature level and will probably have a bittersweet ending to it all.

Winter Sonata is based on a insanely popular Koren drama that is one of the shows that spawned the Korean WaveJoon Sang Kang leaves Korea for America leaving behind Yujin Jung. Yujin Jung then goes to Paris as both of them spend time thinking of each other and being sad. The animation is brilliant. The live action drama was a smash hit all over Asia so this is obviously a high budget production. To capture the feel of the original drama the dialog is in Korean with Japanese subtitles. Despite all the care that was put into this goodness this was just plain boring. I am not someone to casually throw that term around but nothing interesting happened. If this is what we are going to get if we get more mainstream anime then I will take my horrible niche stuff. If they had connected me to either of the characters I might have cared more but they really told us nothing of importance about these two people. It conveyed a melancholy mood well but with no human connection it was exciting as watching the snow fall on a barren field.

We didn’t have a chance to review the first episode of Blue Literature in the Fall Review, but here it is not too much later. We are thrown into a story about a young man who really has no purpose in life based on the best-selling novel, No Longer Human. While spending the night with a working girl we learn some of his past trauma. It was quite apparent that the character designs were by Takeshi Obata (of Death Note fame) but what was more was the actual animation direction took queues from the Death Note anime. I can honestly say it was the most creepy and depressing piece I have watched in a long time. That being said, it was well-crafted. Though I have no intention of watching anymore in this series, it certainly is another unique piece to add to the anime library.

Blue Literature is an intriguing series. It is the adaption of 4 classic books of Japanese literature done with character designs by famous manga-ka. The first is No Longer Human, if the title sounds familiar it is because Nozomu Itoshiki from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is based on the main character from it. Yozo Oba is a lost young man who is floundering about as an art student and a revolutionary but not really being committed to anything due to trauma in his childhood.  While on the run from the police a he starts a relationship with an equally broken hostess. Well if nothing else this is proof that Japan loves tragic stories of depression and suicide in its fine literature. This is obviously a prestige release because they have sunk a good deal of money into the animation and gathered together some huge names for the project. A good pick if you want to a have glimpse into the Japanese literary tradition or want more high brow anime watching.

More Professor Layton goodness:

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