Ongoing Investigations: Case #130

GEN Magazine is a new online offering from small publisher GEN Manga Entertainment, Inc.. The first issue features four very different stories from sumo and boxing to oddball comedy to fantasy and finally to horror. The first Wolf was a bit hard to decipher at first, I thought perhaps it was a crime series but by the end it had a dramatic sports feeling. I’m curious how the budding friendship between Shota and Naoto will affect their separate threads. Also on the curious drama end was KAMEN where a masked warrior wakes up to find himself in a war-torn countryside. This story has a familiar, kind of like Guin Saga, feeling. But as with most fantasy stories, one chapter is not enough to get a feel for the world and mythos it is building yet. The drama is finished out with Souls where a mysterious woman confronts a girl’s mother about her past grievances. There wasn’t enough time to build the tension and emotion in the story so the resolution doesn’t produce a great reaction. My reactions were spot on for VS Aliens though with its absurd humor. Kitaro is minding his own business in school when Aya approaches him saying she believes another girl, Sana, is actually an alien. What sold me was Sana’s reaction to the whole thing, I chuckled quite a lot. The art in this anthology stands out because each series is dramatically different from each other but all leaning to the more raw end. While odd at times and indie, it never comes off as pretentious. I enjoyed three out of four stories so I call this a successful first issue!

I want to be clear what it means when GEN Magazine says it is an indie manga collection. For better or for worse this is not the AX Alternative Manga magazine. These are not radically experimental manga that break with the formula and structure of traditional manga. This is your more standard forms of manga from a small publisher that you would not normally think of alongside names like Shueisha and Kodansha. These are standard story types with artists you most probably have never heard of. But this is not a bad thing. Every manga anthology tends to have a different feel. If you had three baseball manga you can pick out which one is from Shonen Sunday, Shonen Jump, and Afternoon just by their style. So even something like the boxing manga in this anthology may have manga tropes you have seen in more mainstream titles but it also has a unique vibe. Like Narutaki said the titles contained within feel a little more raw than you may be used to. You can tell the artists don’t have many (if any) assistants due to smaller budgets so the backgrounds are very infrequent and some of the art looks less polished than you would see in bigger magazines. On the other hand, the titles also seem freer structure and less merchandise controlled than selections from the big boys. The two titles that stuck out for me were VS Aliens and Souls. I just had to say that VS Aliens in my opinion feels very influenced by Haruhi without being a carbon copy. Not exactly sure where it is going but I am curious. I also did not like Souls but I freely admit that horror is my least favorite genre so very few horror manga tickle my fancy. Wolf and KAMEN were enjoyable but I would need a few more chapters before I could give any sort of definitive opinion on them. Wolf reminded me of Ashita no Joe while KAMEN struck my as a fantasy version of Parasyte. Reading GEN left like reading original concept doujinshi with the benefit of the structure and reliability of a professional magazine. It is a magazine for people who want something outside of the mainstream without going into avant-garde pretentiousness.

In Kekkaishi’s 24th volume, we start to see the emergence of Karasumori’s true nature and Yoshimori’s link increases as well. He takes further steps with his kekkai training when his grandfather tasks him with destroying the “no thought box.” Yoshimori is also determined to understand Soji despite his suspicions about him and against Sen’s advice. We know that he has a master in the Shadow Organization which furthers proves how much in-fighting is going on. Still Soji is a great warrior and I’m curious about him, besides we know it won’t be clear-cut.

I decided to finally sit down and watch the first episode of the Taiwanese Hayate Live Action series after Magical Emi said it was not as bad as I thought it might be. I will admit that the first episode was fairly close in spirit to the manga. The premise is pretty much exactly the same. You have a hard working boy who loses his job thanks to his parents and finds  left him with a huge debt to the underworld. He tries to pay it off his debt by kidnapping a cute young debutant but instead ends up saving her and becoming her butler. They use a lot of the same jokes but they add some new ones like when the thugs are initially shaking down the hero their conversation goes a little differently including a little knife fight. That said there are some major differences. All the characters have Chinese names. Also the actors in the version I watched seemed to be speaking one dialect of Chinese but are dubbed in another. All I know is whoever the dub actress for Maria needs to learn to deliver lines better as her delivery was flatter than a pancake. Also they introduced Athena in the first episode which was rather unexpected. I am surprised they did not try to throw in the Giku as well. The thing is I sense major chances on the way I noticed the opening had far more handsome male characters than female characters which I suppose is a concession for live action. Also I am sure they are going to focus more on the romance than the comedy being a live action adaption. My favorite parts of the manga are always when they go to the comedy as opposed to the drama so it makes me far less interested in watching more. So far it is not as off the mark as some other live action adaptations I have seen but I don’t think it will win over a new converts to the idea.

Finished up Ano Hana this past week. While they didn’t answer some of the more practical questions, it was really an emotional journey. I felt the resolution in the last episode was rushed and could have used just one more installment to really ground it. Because of this I found the last piece to be a bit much and only memorable for all the screaming and sobbing. Despite that, I found the rest of the series nicely done and heartfelt.

I finally sat down and finished the original season of Pretty Cure after starting it all the way back in Ongoing Investigation #4. Pretty Cure is an interesting show in retrospect. It is curious to see how innovative it was at the time yet how it stuck to the general formula of the fighting magical girl show so strongly that no one would every think it was anything but a fighting magical girl show. The fact that Daisuke Nishio directed the fight scenes like a shonen fighting show would influence the franchise forever. I could do a whole article on how the original Pretty Cure effected the franchise but I think I would want to see everything in the body of work that is Precure first. I enjoyed the series but for all its innovations is still a magical girl show and you have to like the formulas involved to enjoy the show. If you only watch one episode of the series make sure it is episode 42. The budget on the episode was clearly higher than the normal episode and the fights are lovingly animated. Also no matter how annoying you find Mipple and Mepple after the half way mark they introduce Pollun and he takes the cake. He trumps them by putting bratty kid antics on top of being a hyper-saccharine mascot character. He does not destroy the show but he hardly helps it. I will say that I was really shocked that the series end with a victory but an overall bittersweet if not outright depressing ending. They already had Max Heart waiting in the wings but if they had ended the series there it would have been slightly shocking.


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