Ongoing Investigations: Case #168

I picked up The Story of Saiunkoku vols. 1-7 recently and my goodness has this only renewed my passion for the series. I fell in love with the anime a few years ago, so far this manga has followed it quite closely (both being based on a novel series which I have no way of reading, I don’t know if it follows the books closely as well).

Saiunkoku, put simply, is about a kingdom and a romance, but the series is far from simple.

In these volumes, we meet a large cast of nobles and get caught up in assassination schemes, courtly politics, syndicate wars, and various governmental situations. Shurei is a smart, hard-working, but poor, noble who is brought to court in the hopes of helping the new emperor. She not only forms a close relationship with Ryuki the emperor, but also many others in his circle. Shurei not only helps guide the emperor but begins gaining friends and influence in the politics of this large kingdom.

And that is what is so special about Saiunkoku; the political and societal struggles of Shurei and women in this ancient land. A good portion of the series after the first two volumes is Shurei dreaming and applying herself to become a civil servant which no woman has been allowed to do.

While the series also wears the hat of reverse harem, to its credit all the men are fascinating characters with their own places in the court and politics. And by and large they are not in love with our heroine. The story is pretty clear this is about Shurei and Ryuki. But on that note, it is amazing how little time these two actually get to spend together because of their stations and duties.

The story has a clipped pace never lingering too long on any one thing. At times I found myself really yearning for more time for Shurei and Ryuki to no avail. There are moments with a bit too heavy exposition but they seem to lessen as the volumes go on. All in all, it is a great world with a great cast that you want to know more about.

I will say that they wrapped up the first season of Young Justice quite nicely. I did feel that one or two of the slow building plots were quickly resolved in the last 2 episodes but that is more of a stylistic issue than a major complaint. Over all they did a good job of having everyone one in the main cast having some noticeable character progress while at the same time tying all the episodes together into one cohesive plot. I do find it a bit odd that all the new animated DC series seem to be utterly in love with Vandal Savage. While he is decently old character I myself had never heard of him before recently. But he makes for a good foil to teams as opposed to some villains who are better off as either pawns of a bigger villains or as the nemesis for solo heroes. I also have to applaud them for adding more women to the team with the addition of Zatana and Rocket. At the same time while Zatana gets a decent amount of screen time for a late addition Rocket sort of gets thrown in at the last second. So I thought, “Well she can get more screen time and character development when they come back for season 2.”

Then very surprisingly the next week went straight into season 2. And people HATED it. While I can’t say I was in any way as angry as other people I do feel their pain. The season starts after a 5 year time skip. Most of the Young Justice team is new, half the old team is nowhere to be seen, and most of the team that we see is remarkably different with no explanation.  I recognized all the new team additions but is mostly because I have a solid albeit firmly intermediate comics education. Well I recognized everyone except for Lagoon Boy. But all those underwater guys who are not Aquaman are super-duper high level nerd territory anyway. I am sure the average viewer would at least need some explanation for who the Blue Beetle is. The problem is unlike The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes they don’t do the greatest job of introducing people without exposition.

I get that they are going for the risky payoffs of the in medias res plot revelations but the execution is somewhat off.They did such a good job of building up the first team. If they just skipped ahead but kept the team the same it probably would not have felt so jarring. Both changes combined really throw off the flow of the story. I will continue to watch but I feel that the choice was a major misstep and apparently most of the audience agrees. Hopefully they payoff for the reveals of what happened during the time skip will make this all worth it.

The ending to Twin Spica is unsurprisingly a very emotional one. It has been a long road for all the students; they’ve all faced challenge after challenge but now they are facing their futures which is seemingly insurmountable without each other there. A lot of decisions are made in such a way that I simultaneously felt happiness and loss.

I was very pleased though that the manga does not stop where many other might and instead gives us important and thoughtful falling action, albeit in a condescend manner.

I’ll really miss these characters, I’ve carried their hopes in my heart for quite a while.

Twin Spica has been quite a journey and the final volume is no exception. The volume very much proves that it was the journey that was the most important piece and not the destination. That is not to say the destination was overlooked. The book has the natural climax you would expect. But it is merely a sharp punctuation on the story as opposed to the bulk of the last volume. What is more important is what leads up to that ending and what the ramifications are on the cast. The ending has a wonderful mixture of joy and sorrow as the cast exuberantly revels in its victories and tearfully mourns their losses. But you will note even in the biggest successes there is some regret likewise there is still hope even in the darkest tragedy. In a way that can be seen as a solid summation of one of the major themes of the manga as a whole. A spectacular ending to a spectacular series. It is a crying shame that this series is only going to get one printing.

I’ve started watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars CG TV series from the beginning. I’ve previously only seen an episode here and there on television when it was on.

What I noticed and liked best in these first 4 episodes is the changing focus. Yes, a good portion is following Anakin but there are of episodes, in fact the very first one, where he is more of an aside. We’re really getting a big picture story and a better understanding of the complex universe.

And so another season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic comes to an end. Some people celebrate while others curse the heavens. Yet the sun keeps on rising and setting as if the presence or lack of ponies did not dictate the proper flow of the heavens. It has pretty much become a “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia” situation for both sides. The content has long since cease to be important. Both sides both want to win some greater philosophical battle that is no longer tied to the issue at hand. And overall the extremists on both side are incredibly horrible to listen to.

That nonsense aside the season was pretty fun. I still say that the shows is missing a certain a je ne sais quoi now that Lauren Faust left the show. It is still entertaining but there is a different sort of charm to the show now that she has moved on. That said there are now at least 2 stories Narutaki could watch as they bookend the season with fantasy adventures as opposed to having nothing but slice of life stories after the initial adventure. Other than that there has been a shift toward more individual stories as opposed to ensemble pieces. While episodes might focus heavily on one character in the first season it was a rare occurrence for any of the main five characters not to have a role to play in any episode. But many of the episodes in the second season zero in on a single charter or pair of characters and will often leave out the rest of the cast.

The best episode was probably the train mystery episodes but considering the blog I write for I maybe biased. A Murder on the Orient Express homage episode was not the first thing you would expect from this show. I also really enjoyed the Iron Will episode. It was extremely quotable. When somepony tries to block, show them that you rock! But overall most of the episodes usually had at least one or two amusing sequences. Overall it is still a fine show for little girls that just has an unusual but mostly harmless (but sometimes very annoying) older fan following.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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