Ongoing Investigations: Case #184

I finally caught up with Motorcity (2-12) not that I had fallen too far behind, but it is nice to be current. Though there is no word when the next episode is due out yet. This show has really gotten some traction as the later episodes focus on individual characters and developing parts of the world.

From the Duke of Detroit to mutant terrorists to crime bosses, Motorcity has its share of seedy characters. This really brings flavor to the world under Deluxe and thematically works to highlight Deluxe’s true price for clean, streamlined perfection. And in the world of Deluxe the force of its army and machines against The Burners and Motorcity is steadily increasing.

The last aired episode was a stand out as we learned about Dutch’s family who still live in Deluxe. And in a lot of ways the series went out of its way to make me not really think about who the Burners were related to and how they were affected by what’s going on. Up until this point, not much has been said about people’s home lives with the exception of Julie.

Speaking of. I definitely request more Julie! She has the greatest conflict of the series but we just don’t see her enough.

There is a special quality to a one book manga. Sometimes a story needs more room to breath than a one shot but is not suited for a long 10+ books run. Romantic stories can really suffer because of this. There is enough meat to their story as to need some time to for a relationship to develop but if the series goes on for too long you start having to add in unnecessary complications just to keep thing interesting while delaying the inevitable conclusion. The pointless rival character (or characters), the silly misunderstanding, or the unnecessary delayed confession can all extend a story by several books but can frustrate the reader at the same time. If you have a strong tent pole beside the romantic conflict you can extend a story with far less effort but then the romance becomes a background element. But being one book long sometimes gives you exactly what you want without leaving you feeling frustrated.

While Sakuran is hardly focused on romance it does have a story that I think is perfectly suited to being one book. There is some romance in the book. In fact the whole climax is centered around it. But it is more of an accent on the story than the raison d’être. I think that Moyoco Anno was wise to tell the story she wants to tell in one go. Sakuran mainly focuses on the fact that Kiyoha’s life utterly stinks. She can’t escape the life of being a courtesan. Her life is better than being a simple prostitute but in the end it is just that she is in a slightly nicer prison cell. No matter how she rises within her little world she can never really break free.

A single chapter does not fully show her struggle. You really need to see her trials as she rises in the ranks. You need to see that she keeps rising in her little world but her problems just change but never go away. She is always property and she is always chained to her destiny. But I think that beyond maybe another book or two the story would feel claustrophobic and mostly just misery porn. It is not really a story that can be episodic like say Bartender. Although if someone wants to write a story about a prostitute who always finds the key to their client’s problems with some unusual sexual act I assure you there would be an audience for such a title. You could also focus on the politics of the brothel but it would have really changed the tone of the story. It was just the right length for the story that was told.

I will say that on of Moyoco Anno’s real skills is letting characters shine despite adversity. While Hiroko Matsukata’s life in Hataraki Man is infinitely better than Kiyoha’s they are both women who are brilliant as they rise to a challenge. They both have a unique beauty as they defy their position. They both try to find happiness in places that where it can be hard to see. But obviously Kiyoha’s battle is a much more desperate one. And on some levels it makes it more beautiful if somewhat depressing at the same timel. She is someone who could have been so much if she was born in different circumstances.

I was also impressed with the delicate use of paradox. Being a courtesan she is an extremely glamorous prostitute but in the end she is still just a prostitute. Now matter how fancy her dress or elegant her manner she is still beaten if she steps out of line. She still has no real freedom. Also she is in a sexual and sensual profession but there is nothing sensual about it. All the sex is technical. A means to an end. A show and a game. All the intimacy is a deception and everyone involved knows it but props up a lie.

Overall this is a great mature story with some good bang for your buck. If you want a short series to read in one go it is something to check out. One and done. Just don’t read this anywhere where you would have people looking over your shoulder that you don’t know too well. When the book is graphic is unabashedly frank. But if you are in a safe space it is a strong tale for adults.

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.

Ultras is a BL collection from est em. The main story is about two rival soccer hooligans in Spain who fall into bed together and then try to make a relationship work. It is a fun story with a bit of humor to it. And it had a nice theme of how your hobbies can bring you close to someone and disagreeing doesn’t automatically make it worse. It was cute when they decided to make a jar they have to put money into when ever they talk about soccer. The two little bonus stories of them at the end of the book were even funnier.

The only story I really didn’t like was about the creepy stalker guy watching another guy through a window.

This collection like all the BL I’ve read from est em varies in its explicit content from story to story, but this collection is slightly more graphic than some of her others.

When you are part of a long running franchise you don’t want to have to follow-up a super strong piece. While I don’t think Kamen Rider Fourze was super well received in Japan I know a lot of people who loved the series in the English speaking world. In that regard Kamen Rider Wizard has some big shoes to fill. And I don’t think that Wizard is going to be able to have the same pizzazz. It seems like a solid show that will make longtime fans of the series happy but it just does not have that unique spark that its predecessor had.

In this iteration of the series there was a time when magic and science were equal in power but as science rose in prominence it seems that magic went into decline. But those who can tap into magic still exists but they live a perilous existence.  If they are corrupted by despair they turn into phantoms. Haruto Sohma almost turned in a phantom but was able to resist falling into despair to become Kamen Rider Wizard. Now he uses his magic to fight those who would turn others into phantoms.

Is it just me or does Wizard seem overpowered? He just comes out of the gate seemingly like he knows his craft inside and out. He dispatches the first villain without breaking a sweat. I assume that later villains will pose more of a threat but this first fight seems utterly effortless. He is throwing around spells like they were second nature and he already has four elemental forms to switch between. I suppose they want to sell Wizard as being super cool so they want him to do his thing right out of the gate. I wonder if for a while it won’t be the monsters but the victims that will be the real challenge. Since Wizard has to go inside the victim’s mind to save them from being phantoms I have to wonder if helping them overcome their demons will be the real challenge.

I am not Narutaki so little details about style and graphic design don’t bother me as much but every once in a while certain things get under my skin. For some reason the palm based pieces of Wizard’s costume really tick me off. There is just something very silly about the huge hand that is incorporated into this costume. Kamen Rider inherently has a bit of cheesiness in it but they usually go out of their way to overcome that fact. But that darn hand is just so goofy compared to everything else. It just draws too much attention to itself and sort of shatters the illusion.

There is nothing wrong with the series. The singing belt is rather amusing as most people mentioned. The magic motif is interesting. But it seems to be a return to the more serious business tokusatsu that does not interest me as much. It seems to be a worthy entry into the franchise but nothing that I am compelled to watch.

I have happily continued on with The Dreamer (chs. 5-9). Things are starting to get tense with Bea in the real world. She tries to stay away from the dream world but that isn’t fully possible. It is messing with her friendships and her getting close to Ben but how can she expect to stay away from sleep forever?

Meanwhile in the past Bea is traveling and trying to keep the peace between Alan and Nathan. But what’s worse is that their being fired upon without any clear way of escaping the red coats and heading back home. Also Alan is clearly sick and I’m not sure what this will mean for all involved.

This series really has a love triangle I can get behind because I like both guys a lot. It would seem sensible that she’d end up with Ben but this is romance fantasy so who knows!

I finally got to the true ending of the Persona 4 anime. The orignal game had three endings. A bad ending, a good ending, and a true ending. They avoided the bad ending but the original TV series ending was the normal ending. They saved the true ending for the final DVD as a bonus. Now that it is out I finally got to see the true culprit.

I think that the main killer being the who they are makes enough sense that you could figure it out. There were enough clues that you could solve the mystery conventionally. But the big mastermind behind the killings is basically just “and this is how the magic works” reveal.  If you thought the man behind the man was an important mystery then you generally figured out that in the end it was not that vital from a detective’s point of view. It was more a piece of world building lore for the mystical side of Persona.

Having not played the game I don’t know exactly how the end goes but from what little I do know they did change it a quite bit. They explain away the ending of the TV series by showing that Yu Narukami is trapped Groundhogs Day style looping the same day over and over. It seems that went he went to confront the final boss and he got caught up in a mental attack that just lets him stay in the happy memory of spending his last day in town with his friends. They incorporate the optional battle with Margaret as the event that breaks him out of the loop and lets him go toe to toe with the big bad of the show. In a way this lets him confront his own inner demons like the rest of the cast already did.

In the end it mostly is a bonus for those who played the game. I think that the normal ending pretty much answered almost everything you would have wanted to know. This does wrap up a few loose ends and gives the people who played the game a nice nod. I just wish they ha included it in the initial run but they got to add bonuses to sell that physical media nowadays.

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