Ongoing Investigations: Case #181

As a fan of Kenjiro Hata I am always interested in the older works. In fact I did a whole article about the evolution of this style two years ago. I got the Japanese release of Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers when it was reissued due to Hata’s popularity with Hayate. But sadly when I searched for any translations of Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers there were none to be found. But there was a short one shot also included in the book called God’s Rocket Punch. It as clearly a pre-Hayate work as you can tell that Hata’s style is still very crude. But unlike the longer part of the book this has a fan translation.

Tasuke discovers that he grandfather used the last years of his life to trade a goddess for a most unusual wish that by happenstance is passed down to him. Now Tasuke and his friend Kazuya are conscripted by the goddess to fight for justice now that he has a mecha styled rocket punching right hand. Needless to say this does not go well.

Wow. Even more than Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers you can tell that God’s Rocket Punch comes off of Hata working for Koji Kumeta. As I mentioned before when Kenjiro Hata started on his own you can heavily see the work of his mentor in all his art. Kazuya feels like an early prototype for Wataru especially with his snarky personality. But character design wise he looks more like Koji Kumeta’s fan art of Wataru. But the shading, page layout, and reaction shots, and overall art are still highly influenced by Hata’s old mentor. It would not be until a few books into Hayate that he would find his own style.

But even more than that Hata’s comedic beats are still much more Koji Kumeta stylized. Kazuya’s personality makes him a very at home in Katte ni Kaizo. While the idiot trio can be rambunctious they don’t have that same sort of mildly psychotic air that Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei characters have. Also a bit of the deadpan delivery and slightly absurdest moments are half way between still being an assistant and having their own voice.

I think this was clearly a pilot that just never got enough steam to get off the ground. It ends with a clear lead into the next part of the plot. It is a nifty little idea but sadly one never got a chance to shine. Such is the fate of a manga artists first chapters. If nothing else Orumuzuto Nadja continues to make appearances in the omake for the Hayate manga.

I would like to read Thunder Goddess Sofia and the early draft of Hayate where Hinagiku and Yukiji are the main characters. But I have seen hide nor hair of either. Oh well. I guess I will just have to wait for someone to translate Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers until then.

Olympos is a one book manga from Yen Press following Ganymede’s captivity in Zeus’s miniature garden. While this gives the prince immortality, he can’t leave, and so his days are spent whiling away the time as amusement for the Gods (mostly Apollo).

A lot of  questions about “life” are brought up in these pages. The Gods immortality has made them callous as well as bored and relating to humans is a foreign concept well put in this story. There are also some interesting looks at how humanity took the idea of Gods and ran with it.

As for an overarching plot, the book fumbles around a lot. It starts with a chapter featuring an early 20th century guy being asked to rescue Ganymede, but that is quickly over. Then there is a lot involving a plot to take down Zeus by other Gods but comes to naught. In between those things is an in-depth look at Apollo’s first interaction with humans which is probably the best done of any. But while it makes why Apollo treats Ganymede the way he does more clear, it doesn’t feel like it comes to anything in the end.

I gotta admit, even after being a manga reader for a long time, I thought that Apollo and Ganymede were females in this story at first. The art has a light touch making it flowy and delicate. The color pages are a real treat, too.

While I thought the art was beautiful in Olympos, the story just wanders along for a while then ends without much resolution making it a rather uneventful read.

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.

I had read a little of Wolf when I was reading Gen Magazine. So getting the collected Graphic Novel was a nice way of catching up and seeing how the story turns out. With the whole story in a single 450 page volume it is fairly easy to sit down and read the whole thing in one afternoon.

In the end Wolf is much more One-Pound Gospel than Fighting Spirit. Fighting Spirit is all about slowly building up the opponents so when the protagonist and the challenger go into the ring you know exactly what is on the line for both of them. With something that has just recently released its 100th volume such a long story build up to each fight is practically a necessity. Wolf goes by the One-Pound Gospel route by having the main story be about the character and his personal conflict outside the ring and show it play out in the ring. This means the fights are often less important than how they tie into the “real” story. In this case the real story is Naoto and his resentment for his father.

With only one volume that is the way you have to go with a story like this. You have enough time to tell one really good story and have all the other bits feed into that story. The problem is that Wolf does a decent job with this but there is a bit of excess baggage that really would have been better suited in a longer series. The one volume manga can be seen as the manga equivalent of a novella so any wasted time is a bit more apparent. Any time with the Sumo wrestler or the girl who has a crush on Naoto ultimately seem like diversions that would have been better spent fleshing out Naoto’s family or showing more of his boxing career and training. I know that they are supposed to round out Naoto’s humanity but any scenes with them would have been better folded into giving some of the side cast at the gym more personality and history. The fights themselves are fairly strong. There are just not many of them and only one of them is a decent length other than the climactic fight.

Overall it is a decent little story. It is not going to win over anyone to sports manga. It does not have that hook. But if you just want to have a small sport manga snack it is a good place to go. So many sports manga are absurdly long so reading them is a serious commitment. This is a 100 calorie snack pack. You eat it, it fills a craving, but it hardly sticks with you.

I love the 5 Centimeters Per Second movie so I was very curious about the manga based on it, especially given the reputation of most manga based on an anime instead of the other way around. But the 5 Centimeters Per Second manga blew me away and made me experience the emotions of the movie just as strongly.

The story follows Takaki at three points in his life and a love he just can’t give up on. It starts with his meeting and falling in love with Akari as children. Both are from families that transfer a lot so they find an instant connection. But Akari has to move again when they start middle school so they begin to write letters. The second part while Takaki is in high school is from the perspective of Kanae who is trying to get the attention of Takaki. And the last part follows Takaki into his adult relationships that he seems so distant in.

Each section carries with it a piece of melancholy. It goes from being sad that Takaki and Akari had to part to being sad that Takaki just can’t let go; making it hopeful and cynical at the same time. There are a lot of recognizable emotions at play in this story and they are told with amazing skill and robustness. It challenges the idea of first love, childhood love, and true love. It is like it believes in romance and questions it all in one breath.

Though probably most impressive to me is that Shinkai’s film got the same story across in his film with so little words.

When you think of Code Geass you normally think of melodramatic mental chess battles with magical powers, crazy ultra-nationalistic alternate history politics, and fanservice. Nunnally in Wonderland definitely has one of those down pat and it is not the chess battles or the politics. The story is in the picture book style they use for comedy extras with the Code Geass DVDs. They have a bit more animation than those omake bits but it is mostly just still scenes with a little bit of movement and a whole lot of dialog. Since this story is all comedy it is not that distracting but other than some jiggle and a cardboard cut out fight scene there is often not much moving. Since the episode is essentially Lelouch telling Nunnally his very own version of a storybook tale the art style works for it as opposed to obviously being just a cost savings measure.

When Nunnally asks Lelouch to tell her a story he does so in the grandiose way possible. He uses his Geass power to make the cast act out his own special version of Alice in Wonderland. Nunnally become Alice and runs into all the major characters in roles like the Carpenter and Walrus or the Queen of Hearts. Nunnally being a natural trouble magnet even in a storybook means that many a kerfuffle along the way. But where is the Mad Hatter? I know that was Narutaki’s question.

This is a pleasant little diversion. Nothing super substantial but it never promised to be. Since Code Geass has some scenery chewing characters it is rather easy to do very little at all and have them work in comedy. Everyone has the standard exaggeration of their personalities you would see in any Code Geass comedy. That means that Lelouch is a total sis-con, Suzaku is a complete white knight, and Euphemia is hyper naive.

Of course as I mentioned before there is also a bit of fan service. They rarely forgot to point out in the original show that characters like Kallen had ample amount of boob and bum. So if they can now put them in fantasy outfits then hey only go a bit crazier. Shirley’s fawn outfit is a testament to this.

Overall it is a nice little diversion. It is a completely fluffy piece of nonsense so if you were someone who was always watching for the robot fights and raging during the school sections you probably want to skip this. But if you enjoy the comedy omake than this will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Finally had a chance to watch Nunnally in Wonderland which was a mostly entertaining if very odd experience. But then the premise should make that clear from the get go.

Since it is a picture drama the voices are really important to get everything across to the audience giving the actors a chance to really ham it up which was fun. The figures remain mostly static, especially since with the exception of Nunnally and Lulu, most characters make very short appearances. This created a really weird image at one point where Kallen is in front of Nunnally; Kallen’s pose pretty much looks like she would be mooning anyone behind her. There is a little animation here and there mostly for extra fan-service.

Lulu is really over the top protective brother in this little drama, much more exaggerated than in the actual series, and I was trying to figure out if that was service for girls or guys! Still not sure.

It was fun seeing which characters everyone ended up as in the story. The Mad Hatter is a nice surprise at the end that makes sense.

One thought on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #181

  1. Justin says:

    Finally had a chance to watch Nunnally in Wonderland which was a mostly entertaining

    I could only last nine minutes into it. I…I couldn’t go any further -_-

    It is a completely fluffy piece of nonsense so if you were someone who was always watching for the robot fights and raging during the school sections you probably want to skip this.

    I guess that’s all I liked the original series for >_<

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