Ongoing Investigations: Case #177

As I was going to Kinokuniya to pick up my ultra vital max priority #1 ultraviolet volume of Fate/Zero for Gen Urobuchi to sign at Otakon. While I was there I decided to also look at their English manga section as well. I was really hoping they had a copy of Rohan at the Louvre but that sadly was not there. (In fact I have yet to see that at any New York comic shop.) But since I wanted to pick up at least something to read on the subway since I was traveling around a lot that day so I picked up a copy of Drifters. I figured I would see what Kouta Hirano has been up to since Hellsing. I would have also picked up Blood Blockade Battlefront but I don’t have that sort of disposable income.

The story is set in a dark fantasy world with elves and dragons. Two god like entities pluck famous humans from Earth as they are dying and use them to fight their battle to control this high fantasy realm. The theoretically nicer god summons Drifters to save the world and the seemingly evil god summons Ends to destroy it. The Ends all have some magical gimmick that deals with their historical background where as the Drifters just tend to be insanely skilled. The story starts with Shimazu Toyohisa apparently dying during the Battle of Sekigahara and then appearing in this strange fantasy world to fight alongside his fellow Drifters.

It is the distinctly the Kouta Hirano we all know and love. Lots of action and blood but not much gore. Very stylish fighting with an emphasis on sword play but some guns thrown in for good measure. Bad guys vs. not nearly as bad guys (although the Drifters are a bit more on the side of the angels than Alucard.) His art style is generally unchanged with a heavy use of inks and shading as well as a love of crazy eyes.

Shimazu Toyohisa is a reckless swordsman who seems to be a nice guy at heart but never hesitant to indulge in his bloodthirsty nature. We also have rare instance of an almost kindly Oda Nobunaga. I mean that in the sense that he is actually a Drifter and not the demon leading the enemy. For Oda Nobunaga that is practically making him saintly compared to 95% of his usual portrayals in anime. The main party is rounded out by Nasu no Yoichi who I swore was gender swapped for his historical basis. But apparently he is just an amazingly feminine dude. There are some other drifters as well but finding out who pops up is half the fun of the manga.

The Ends are led by the mysterious Black King. He is a cloaked figure whose identity is clearly being kept as a big surprise. He commands historical figures like Anastasia with the ability to summon icy winds and Joan of Arc who can burn others while she burns herself. They all seem a bit more crazy than the Drifters who are hardly on the sane side of the spectrum as it stands. There are also the native fantasy inhabitants like the elves and some other strange organizations who seem independent of the Drifters or the Ends.

Drifters is a fun little action series. A nice mix of fantasy fun with some very liberal interpretation of historical figures. It will be a fun romp much like Hellsing. This seems like the sort of series that would sell like gangbusters in the US if it got an anime adaptation. It has the storyline of a shonen series that American audiences are most comfortable with but with the grit and bloodshed that really hooks them as well. But until that anime comes along the manga is fluffy but easily recommended choice.

Finally got my copy of Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part 2! I was really impressed with the first volume, it slows down a little with this installment but is able to hit an upswing as it goes on.

In Part 2, we learn more about what Toph has been up to at her training school and meet her new students. They haven’t really come into their metalbending abilities yet so that becomes the primary focus for a good deal of this volume. Sokka tries to help out this ragtag bunch so it is a mostly comedic arc. I’m curious how Toph’s students will play into the plot further, if at all.

Meanwhile, Aang is goofing off at his fanclub on the a detour from going to see the Earth kingdom king. So again this section has a lot of comedy elements. This part feels very Aang like to get wrapped up with these girls, though we’ve sort of seen this before. Still, they surprised me in the end with an important contribution.

As for Zuko, we see him only a little as he tries to connect and understand his father. It doesn’t go so well as can be expected and sadly we don’t hear another word about his mother. More interesting was probably the small relationship pieces that occur in this volume which have me very curious about some things we’ve been assuming in The Legend of Korra.

Even though Part 2 doesn’t feel as tense as the first, this is the middle section of a trilogy, you still get some insights. Plus, it ends with some real wheels turning.

On the 4th of July I went over to a friend house and we were looking for a movie to rent that would prevent us from having to go outside in the sweltering heat. We decided on John Carter mostly because it seemed to get a good deal of mixed reviews but seemed like something worth taking a gamble on for a rental.

John Carter is a fun little action romp. It starts off a bit slow as they have to set up how the main character gets his ass to Mars but after that it considerably picks up speed. It then finally sets itself up as an adventure that has its feet firmly in the sandbox that is fantasy like a good deal of old pulp science fiction. It tells it tale of swashbuckling tale fairly well with some nice set pieces.

The main problem the movie has is it feels so very derivative of almost every other fantasy adventure film you have ever seen. The plot elements often just seems like a mishmash of about 20 more famous movies you have seen before. And there is the irony. The original Princess of Mars was written by  Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1917. Edgar Rice Burroughs  is far more commonly know today as the author behind the Tarzan series. The Princess of Mars was the inspiration for countless series that came after it. Nine times out of ten anything that seems lifted from another film only feels that way because it comes from a second or third generation copy of the Barsoom series. The problem is that most people going into the movie have no idea that is the case. There are just going to see a cliche thief and not the origin of said tropes. I’m not exactly sure what they could have done to change that perception but even knowing that fact going into the film it was a hard perception to shake.

I was a bit surprised that John Carter spends an unexpected amount of time as a reluctant hero. If you want to be all Joseph Campbell with the Hero’s Journey then John Carter spends a good 3/4 of the movie in the Refusal to the Call stage. The movie moves on with the Hero’s Journey but John Carter only resolves his conflict with the Call to Adventure until around the time of the Reward. Most of the rest of the movie is him being forced in situations where he only very reluctantly goes along with the plot let alone helps anyone else. I think that Han Solo was a secondary character in Star Wars for a reason.

Apparently this was originally slated to be a trilogy of movies.  But considering how much it bombed in the box office I assume everything and anything associated with this title has turned rather radioactive. That is a shame because while it was not the best movie ever I had fun watching it. It is definitely something to watch if it is streaming free on Hulu or Netflix. I don’t think I would ever buy it unless it was on deep discount but it was a fun watch once.

Kekkaishi vol. 32 is most notable for it finally telling us (most of) the backstory to how Karasumori came to be and just who is its guardian. It is simpler than one might imagine from reading so far. There is still one more piece for us to understand what is happening at the site however and it looks like all will be revealed in 33.

A good deal of the beginning of this volume is about Shichirou as the Ogi family’s lands are invaded by the head of the Shadow Organization. This guy has been appearing a lot lately, it is pretty clear he will have to break from his father and help Yoshi but Shichirou is still a clouded character.

I feel as though Yellow Tanabe likes this character a lot. And her new one-shot stars a guy that looks a lot like him.

Masamori also has much going on as war starts raging at the Shadow Organization headquarters.This is the first volume where I’ve actually seen Masamori genuinely at a loss as far as a plan goes. For once I wasn’t thinking he had an evil trick up his sleeve.

Surprisingly with a lot of flashbacks as well as the looks at what is going on with the Ogi family and Masamori, Yoshimori appears very little in the installment. This volume starts tying everyone together for the final battle.

I finished Saki Achiga-hen episode of side-A. The show itself did not really end. There are just no more episodes to watch. Side A really sprints through the few episodes to get the gang together and have them rip through the first few rounds of the finals to show how these girls worth together. Just before the semi finals they face their first real competition and come in 2nd place which allows them to still advance to the semi finals. But when they hit the semifinals things slow down and they only cover Kuro’s match. Then the episode basically ends with a To Be Continued. To continue my metaphor for when I first talked about this show it is like the side story about the villains who fight the heroes of the main story did not even get to starting the match where they fight.

I feel like the Achiga Girls club is the Jubilee of the Saki universe. Everyone else has powers like regeneration and commanding the elements and they have the ability to make fireworks. Kuro and Yuu have very selectively useful abilities and often seem mostly there to lose points for the other girls to have to win back. Arata and Ako don’t really have a signature strength as much as a bit of style to their game.  Shizuno seems to just has a wild girl unpredictability. They all have the mediocre trumps when they are facing the gods themselves. When Toki comes along with a legitimate crazy ability the author seems more interested in her than the main characters. During her match with Kuro you would assume Toki was the main character of the manga. During that match there are episodes when Subara! girl said more than her.

All that being said I enjoyed Saki Side A. It is still a fun series about cute girls playing mahjong. It was never a deep show to begin with. I think it would have been a better idea for them to wait to animate this. If they had them JUST get up to playing Nodoka it would have been a perfect place to stop. Now the anime just feels like someone stopped telling a story mid sentence. It will probably never be a good as the main story (they don’t have Yuuki) even if it had finished at the proper spot but that does not mean it was not enjoyable. It will always just be a side story though.

Barrage is really starting to grow on me after five chapters. Thanks Shonen Jump Alpha!

I feel like I get a little surprise in each chapter, just a small thing I wasn’t expecting. Like, I was prepared for Astro’s true identity to stay hidden for a while and end up being a huge climax later on, but that isn’t how it goes at all.

As Astro (and us) get a better picture of the world outside the capital, I’m feeling more invested and curious. The traveling is a smart move as it allows lots of interaction with different allies/enemies and is ever changing. The world is what has sucked me in more with its aliens and various people.

Because all we really know is this a “warring planets” period, there are plenty of mysteries ahead. The way that unfolds and hopefully doesn’t reveal itself too quickly will add a lot to the story.

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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