Ongoing Investigations: Case #126

I finished up Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig rather quickly after my mention of starting it last week. Because, yes, it was as stupendous an achievement as I was promised it would be. Almost every episode ties into the main plot so it has a lot of momentum as it unfolds. Since I was watching it quickly, things were able to connect in my head better than it probably would have otherwise. The ending was wonderfully set up and intense and I liked that we didn’t totally know for sure if Kuze was the man we thought he was till that final moment. The scene of Battou digging with that piece of steel that looked like a cross was nice too because while the symbol itself is obvious it made me ponder the idea of the Major being Battou’s cross-to-bear. And the main story ending story ending with the Major doing what she did, very satisfying. I also loved the couple of side stories, especially Saito telling the tale of how he met the Major. And of course the Tachikoma’s rocked it like always! Most people say this is the better season, and I loved it, but the first I still hold as the best.

If anyone remembers we did a little article about the Rough Guide to Anime awhile back so I decided to check out it’s companion piece the Rough Guide to Manga as well. They are clearly in the same line as the format of the books are almost identical. It starts with a brief history of manga, the influence and spread of manga in Asia and America, 50 recommended titles, a look at manga publishers, and books and websites to help you continue your journey, and a glossary. The thing is while both a great introduction to the material, especially for anyone just getting into the hobby, I know I was learning little things I did not know from the manga guide all the time. The history of manhwa and the myths of Osamu Tezuka stood out as particularly interesting.  Apparently the manhwa industry was so strictly regulated in the 60s that men and women could not be depicted in the same panels together. Craziness. The canon section is a fairly good mix. Nothing extremely obscure but that is not the point. A decent mixture of old and new with classics like Lupin III and To Terra along side Peach Girl and Vagabond and of course Akira and Naruto. Paradise Kiss was the only josei tittle but at least they had one although I myself would have wound a way to sneak in Nodame.  But it has Maison Ikkoku so I can’t complain too much. There was no individual manga-ka section but there were some important artists like CLAMP, Leiji Matsumoto, and Rumiko Takahashi mentioned in the canon section. The book it a little outdated especially with the recent shake ups as it still list Dr Master and Aurora Publishing as functioning companies. Still it is a great resource for anyone just getting into manga who needs a guide of where to start digging deeper or where to begin looking in the first place. More experienced fans can give it a look as well as even luminaries like Ed Chavez are occasionally learning something new about the complex world of manga.

Went to see the mostly panned Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but I found it fun and amusing. Johnny Depp played Jack Sparrow as he should be played and that’s really what we all go to see anyway, don’t we? Some of his better moments include him discussing confusing a convent with a brothel, a great exchange between him and Angelica (Penélope Cruz) about lying by telling the truth, and getting very frustrated with some foliage. Biggest problem for me, and the same goes for the other iterations after the first, is that it was too long. No one cares about the side characters, no really we don’t, so the whole thing with the mermaid was groan-worthy. None of the other stories have lived up to the first film, but that can be said for most franchises. Still had a good time watching and I think I liked it better than the other sequels, but to be fair I don’t remember them too well.

I wanted to clarify when I said last week about [C]. In retrospect I felt that it might have come off as overly critical of the show. So far I have been really enjoying what I have seen of the first 6 episodes. They have had a good mixture of the financial battles in contrast to the charater and world building. The battles that long enough that you get some fights in every episode but not long enough that they dominate over the more thoughtful parts of the show that are far more important. I just have a feeling that the potential for this show to crash and burn horribly are just as likely as it to be a stellar success. Since the show gives you a little bit of how the Midas money works and the true effects of financial battles in real world every episode you never feel like the show is holding back from you. The narrative is always revealing just enough to keep you hooked. The problem is it still has not been enough for me to fully predict the ending so  the final reveals and confrontations could go in too many directions for me to give a thumbs up of thumbs down on this show until I have probably see the last episode. I am predicting that Souichirou Mikuni is Kimimaro Yoga’s father but his son cannot remember him as the cost of losing big in the financial district in the past. But I am pretty sure that is not that super surprising but I figured I would say it anyway. But overall I will hope for the best and plan for the worst with this series which is usually your best bet.

As I’ve been watching Ano Hana, I’ve started to get a funny feeling. Especially after episode 6 there are hints of a secret in Menma’s past with the mention of her calling everyone to get advice the day she died, a passing comment that her dad was mean, and finally Menma’s mom saying her father wanted her stuff packed away. And I’m growing more and more afraid this secret is abuse from her father or something equally disturbing and tragic. I didn’t really expect it to come to this, I thought and still hope this is a story about growing and moving on, not about more darkness heaped on. I want to be wrong. Maybe I’ve just read too many detective novels!

I wanted to discuss the first 6 episodes Blue Exorcist as apparently Narutaki and Mike Dent had the exact same reaction. The first episode makes you think that this series is going to be different with the teenage protagonist working for a living while fighting demons despite being the son of Satan at the same time. But the second episode ends up with Rin heading towards the True Cross Academy which means that this story looks like it will mostly revolve around school drama. That is sort of a shame because the setting of the first episode really felt different that most of your modern shonen fighting shows so when they go to school it loses a bit of vibrancy. Still the show feels like early Bleach with energy and emphasis on character development and the building of the mythology of the setting rather than monster of the week fighting. I do wonder how long this will last. I feel that they are working really hard in the beginning on all of this but they are going to inevitably fall into a fight of the week formula. My hope is that while they will surely increase the number of straight fighting episodes that they keep this level of  introspection in the characters and the world. When Bleach moved away from that it really began to lose its edge. I will comment that everyone so far has the super saddest past ever. I’m not saying everyone’s origin has to be rainbows and happy cakes but it is saying something that everyone has back stories that would make the cast of One Piece feel bad for them. And we have that impression from only 6 episodes.

Of course.

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