Ongoing Investigations: Case #084

We received a review copy of Twin Spica from Vertical books. Twin Spica’s first volume is charming almost immediately and grips you with an attachment to Asumi and her story with ease. I felt warmth and real human spirit starting with the scenes between her and her father about her decision to attend space school, the emotion portrayed is taken throughout the volume. Asumi is a bit eccentric, but the major problem she must overcome is her small stature. This isn’t particularly unique, but it is done in a believable manner and you get the feeling that while it will certainly be a hindrance at times, her small size may come in handy at some point. The friendships that begin to form in this book are well-earned complete with determination, egos, teamwork, and arguments. Everyone learns some lessons and starts to build some trust all of which they will need because this doesn’t look to be an easy trip to space. While there is a still an element of fun and whimsy to the series, the space school itself seems tough as nails and I don’t have the slightest inkling what kind of test they’ll be put through next nor whether all the characters we’ve met will get their chance in space. My only issue with this volume comes from the bonus chapters which remove much of the mysteries of the series, just seemed a bit early and loses a bit of tension in the story. However, those secrets are about the past and not the future so I’m anxious for another volume. Twin Spica is a story that will appeal to young and old alike, a real gem from the new line of Vertical books!

hisuicon Twin Spica is the series for people who want more Planetes in terms hard sci-fi space travel stories and quality manga in general. It is the story of Asumi Kamogawa who wishes to join the Tokyo Space Academy and become an astronaut despite a tragic past involving space travel. She is encouraged by a ghostly apparition she calls Lion-san whose face is hidden behind a Lion mask and seems to be linked to the tragedy as well. But the competition is tough and she seems to have more drive than natural ability. The art is a simpler seinen style that while consistently solid will not impress anyone. But it is great at conveying the emotional impact of all the important scenes which is vital as the story and the characters will consistently draw you in a keep you reading. Every chapter hooks you on Asumi’s struggle to be an astronaut while balancing between making things too bleak or too sentimental. Despite having the ghostly spirit of Lion-san everything else in the series is very hard Sci-Fi. Asumi’s first test to get into the Tokyo Space Academy set the bar pretty high for the rest of the series in term of how well it mixes develops the characters while keeping the story exiting and captivating. But the manga also excels at being able to keep us engaged during the less frenzied sections as well. I am sold and and look forward to reading the rest of this amazing narrative.

First it has to be said that the simulcasting of House of Five Leaves is indeed a feat and one that I am personally very excited about. The styling of the characters will hit you immediately, this lends a lot of expression to them even when they aren’t talking or doing anything. The visually striking pieces don’t stop there either as the use of light and shadow is lovely as well as the angles. It’s unique and certainly won’t remind you of most anime design. The way this story is told is very somber, there is action and there is drama, but the overall feeling I was left with was one of quiet melancholy. Akitsu is a talented sword fighter but more than a little mousy, while that sounds probably familiar the way he is portrayed is not. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but much of the characters are gave me this feeling of both old and new. I’m sorry this show is so hard to explain, it was almost dreamlike. I give up, watch it, I will be.

hisuicon House of Five Leaves is a refreshing show on a variety of levels. The anime captures Natsume Ono’s unique and expressive art style very well while adapting it to a TV animation format possibly even better than they did with Ristorante Paradiso. Also this is a story of mature characters on the fringe of society of historical Japan which is a refreshing change of pace. It centers around Akitsu Masanosuke who is an extremely meek but proud ronin who keeps getting fired because he does not exude samurai spirit despite having unsurpassed swordsmanship. When he accepts a body guarding job from Yaichi he quickly gets involved in the criminal syndicate the Five Leaves. Akitsu is both repulsed by the seedy nature of the group but also drawn in by Yaichi’s charisma and complex motivations. Although there is some action the main draw is the intriguing character studies and interactions on display. It seems like another great noitaminA that you can watch legally streaming.

Angel Beats! starts with a young man awakening without the foggiest idea where he is, then he sees one girl about to shoot another and he quickly entangles himself in it. Otonashi gets points for not taking Yuri at face value about why she is trying to shoot the other girl, but something about this love triangle is so contrived probably because you know it’s going to be oh-so-tragic. I’m 99% sure that everything told to Otonashi about this strange world is false and therein lies the potential of this show. It is possibly a video game world or perhaps a holding place between life and death or maybe something else entirely. But then you throw in the school setting, some rather bland characters, and some poorly done humor making it much less impressive. In kind of reminds me how I felt about Chrome Shelled Regios that came out a couple of season ago. Angel Beats!’ wacky humor, which I heard about a lot, comes in between serious moments, but unlike other shows that do this poorly because it doesn’t flow correctly from the dark premise, Angel Beats! I just can’t take seriously enough to feel the switch. The premise looks to have some potential, but the cast very little. Oh, and they were even able to shoe horn in a all-girl-band concert sequence!

hisuiconAngel Beats! reinforces my dislike of how Jun Maeda and by extension Key Games craft their stories. A young man named Otonashi awakes without any memories in a world that looks like a normal school. He finds that has died and that the only way to stay alive in the strange world is to fight a white haired angel. So he reluctantly joins forces with Yuri and her organization as they go to school in the day but try to take down a seemingly invincible foe at night. There are hints that there could be some serious social commentary in this series. We have the students who are only alive when they are rebelling against the system and the rest of the students who are cattle as they go about their ordinary lives. But the fact that the shows seems a calculated mixture of K-On! and Haruhi with some Battle Royal thrown in for good measure makes me assume this will not be the case. I am sure they are building up to some clever twist about the world but I just don’t care. I don’t like any characters, the comedy is not funny, and the story is interesting but is told in a way I do not care for. I see why people would love this show but it is almost designed to get on my nerves.

You don’t have to follow my logic, just know that House of Five Leaves also made me think of Kenshin.

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