Ongoing Investigations: Case #187

Cross Manage is an interesting choice for a new manga to appear in Shonen Jump Alpha. Right off the bat it is a sports manga. While the Japanese love sports manga it is consistently one of the worst selling genres in the U.S. So I am slightly surprised by Viz deciding to run with a lacrosse manga in the online publication. I’m not saying it is a horrible idea. If your going to try to test the waters with an unpopular genre than a lower risk medium like an online magazine is definitely the way to go. Plus the only way that sports manga will ever succeed in the US is if a title is there to change people’s mind. It might not be Cross Manage but at least Cross Manage is getting a chance to see if it could be that manga.

The other unusual factor is that it is about a girl’s lacrosse team with a male manager. So far it seems to be in a general vein of a shonen sports manga only the genders of the cast have been flipped. This is hardly the first manga to do that but there are somethings that makes it stand out from your mainstream sport manga that does this. The first is that the team hardly seems to be moe girls. We only really see Misora but I am getting the impression that the lacrosse team falls more into the mold of standard shonen roles than moe character roles.

So that means that the standard BL support for a sport series is pretty much torpedoed. There might be additional male characters besides Sakurai but the cast is not the normal smorgasbord of hot guys waiting to be paired up like it usually is. I’m not saying that girls can’t get aboard a show without guys to ship. If the female characters are good I am sure it can easily gain a female fanbase. But it will not have the automatic fujoshi fanbase your standard shonen sports manga would have.

At the same time you don’t have the standard K-On! with lacrosse outfits audience as well. So I am left wondering who (if anyone) will latch onto this series. It is not like there is nothing to like about the manga. The characters seem fun and the lacrosse is hardly an overused sport for manga. I will say the plot, characters, and even art style almost seem a bit more Shonen Sunday than Shonen Jump but maybe that is just me.

I have to say I was impressed with one minor factor. Sakurai is very clearly afraid of girls. He goes out of his way to avoid contact with women all together. You have to be particularly dense to miss that point. They show it constantly. The thing is no one directly says it. None of his friends go, “Man that Sakurai sure is gynophobic. He has been afraid of women for as long as I have known him.” I know that some people have a problem with modern manga being a bit too heavy of the tell and not the show. This nicely proves that is not always the case even in a simple sports manga.

I don’t think I would have casually guessed girl’s lacrosse manga as what replaced Barrage in Alpha even if you had given me 100 guesses. So I am very curious to see how this pans out the U.S. and Japan. It could be a quickly forgotten fluke or it just might slightly shake up the world of shonen sport manga. Only time will tell.

I couldn’t have been more excited to hear a sports manga would be appearing in Shonen Jump Alpha! I’ve been hoping for something like this, but honestly I know how far most American publish turn away from sports titles. In addition, Cross Manage also ended up being a rather unexpected story for Jump.

Sakurai starts the manga in the photography club and we quickly learn that he has been making his way through the clubs at school without much passion for any. Still he is determined to find something but out right rejects sports as an option. I found him likeable and root worthy as it is hinted at that he got a bad injury that has put him off playing sports despite a love for them.

Misora is a basically energetic and happy character, but she doesn’t feel one-dimensional. If I could complain about anything, it’s be Sakurai basically learning how to hit the ball in Lacrosse in under 5-minutes. He then proceeds to show Misora, who’s been practicing nonstop, how to do it right. It just felt a little patronizing towards her. On the other hand, it fleshes out his competence with sports and again makes us wonder about his refusal to play.

What is most interesting to me in this setup is that Sakurai can’t become a sports star if we are focused on a girl’s Lacrosse team. And that rather excites me. Lately I’ve seen more series focusing on or at least highlighting super awesome managers or coaches so this could follow in that line.

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.

 

Uta Koi much like Chihayafuru feels like an anime that was supposed to be on the noitamina block even though it was not. A series of historical josei romances based on the Hyakunin Isshu seems about as noitamina as you can get. It is certainly a unique show that fill an interesting niche.

The major upsides of the show are threefold. The first is it has mature love stories. The cast is involved in all sorts of romances from messy  doomed affairs to sweet supportive relationships with a good deal in between. The stories tend to veer towards the tragic mostly because complicated and bittersweet love tends to make better poetry than simple “I love you and you love me” stories. But if you looking for your anime to have more sex while not really having any erotica this is the perfect show to watch.

The second is for all the liberal interpretation of the poems the actual history of the era they are portraying feels fairly faithful. The comedy segments before and after the stories might being as anachronistic as all get out the actual stories themselves bathe in the time period. They go out of their way to root themselves in the period in terms of dress and manners. It is definitely a fun piece for anyone who likes historical drama.

The last part is simply that it feels classy. When you work in poetry a show that might otherwise feel just like a historical josei soap opera instantly has a bit more weight to it. It gives a nice bit of context to Chihayafuru by showing how the poems are not just syllables for karuta players to wait on. Kanade Ooe would be proud. I know Ink from Ani-Gamers loved it as a poet for that reason as well.

As for the downsides I know some people were uncomfortable with the fact that while the stories are often historically accurate that also means that the lot of women in the stories often leaves much to be desired. There is hardly a glorification of women being hemmed in by a strong patriarchy. We see several women unfairly hamstringed by their lot in life despite otherwise being brilliant and vibrant women. But just because it is historically accurate does not make it any more easy to watch.

Also there is that wacky sixth episode in which the show basically becomes the Heian period version of  Hetalia: Axis Powers. It becomes all deep level 4-koma comedy. I know that some people ate it up but to others it was a bit of major break in the flow of the series. It is one thing to have the silly intros but a whole episode of that comedy was a bit much. Still it was a single episode. It hardly dominated the run of the show. Plus I did not really mind it.

The show also has a nice bit of style to it. While I don’t think all of the stylization worked as well as some bits it did help the show feel vibrant. The small splashes of modern visual flair helped keep the show from feeling too stuffy while still letting it be otherwise historical.  I think it was a smart piece of directorial flourish.

It think Uta Koi is another one of those series that everyone should watch at least a single episode of especially since it is streaming for free. Not everyone is going to like it. There is nothing wrong with that. It has a bit of a niche appeal. But it is different enough that you should at least see if you are going to like it.

 

I read the short two book manga Kingyo Sou which is a sweet little story about a girl who falls in love with a hear-impaired Taiko player.

Masami slowly lost his hearing while in his teens and is now deaf. His outlet has become Taiko and he tends to stay away from too much social interaction until he meets Asuka. Asuka saw him playing the drum at a festival and fell for him as he slowly opened up to her.

They become an unofficial couple at the end of the first chapter so the manga deals with them getting to know each other better and their struggles in the relationship.

Communication is central to the story, it is heartwarming to watch them connect, support one another, and fall in love. I felt myself tearing up at points, it was just so cute!

 

It turns out that members of the Mendez family are genetically predisposed to playing Dynasty Warriors games. I think my brother Daniel owns every one of the games in the Koei‘s Warriors video games series. So when I heard they were digitally releasing One Piece: Pirate Warriors I had to pick that up.

Lets make no mistake. This is a Dynasty Warriors game. They do a little to spice up that formula. The main story around Luffy tries to add in some minor amount of puzzle solving, platforming, and varied mission types in the main mode which is appreciated. But the main bulk of the game is still cutting down a bunch of little guys who are cannon fodder with only bosses and sometimes mid-bosses posing any real challenge. Also the platforming is sort of annoying. But most games that try to work in platforming that are not platformers are usually annoying. Also there is a Nami escort mission but for an escort mission it is more of a puzzle section than anything else.

Overall they do a good deal to make things feel like this is a One Piece Game. You can play as all the active Straw Hate Pirates and a few of their more prominent allies like Ace. Everyone has some fairly iconic moves and the monster trio is distinctly more powerful just like they are in the show. There is also a coin system for powerups. You collect coins and can set them in a character’s inventory to get boosts to certain stats. But when you join three of the right coins you can get additional little perks. So the coins for the three Marine admirals might power up super attacks whereas Zoro’s three swords increases your attack power for every 100 enemies you kill. It is almost a little game in itself of figuring out all the connections between the coins.

They very clearly left out big parts of the story to add into later games. The whole Skypiea arc does not get as much as a nod and characters like Kuro and Foxy are pretty much ignored. Clearly if and when they make a sequel some of those characters and plot lines what were skipped will be added in later. Also a bunch of the more prominent characters in each arc was not included. They had most of CP9 but no Kalifa and Fukuro or some of the Arlong Pirates but not all of them. I was a little sad to see that Vivi barely gets a cameo. For someone who is a Star Hat Pirate (even if not an active one) she does often get the short shrift. But this game sold extremely well in Japan so there is no reason they won’t make more of them.

I like One Piece and I know a good deal of other people do as well. But all in all this is still a Dynasty Warriors game. So even with the nice amount of One Piece feel it is not going to win over anyone to the formula with mere style alone no matter how much style they add. That game play is too pervasive to ignore. But if you like Dynasty Warriors and One Piece it is a wonderful combination.

 

I watched the first three episodes of the new American TV show Revolution.

It takes place in the near future in which the entire world has lost the use of all electronics and batteries 15 years prior. All governments have collapsed so the United States has become controlled by a tyrannical militia. But there may be a few people left who know how to turn the power back on.

We start the series outside Chicago in a small town which the militia are harassing and things don’t end well. They take a hostage because they believe he can bring them the person who knows what happened to the power. Charlie along with some of the others from her town go looking for her uncle Miles hoping he can help her find her brother.

Miles is definitely the best part of the series, he is a total badass. He’s ex-military, rough and tumble, fights with a sword or anything reall, and has a mysterious past.

Charlie’s naivete is annoying at first, but she redeems herself as she is quick on her feet and smart. She remains too trusting but you need a little balance with a cynical character like Miles. I’m more worried about the militia boy who falls for her, that could end up being really annoying.

The body count in this show is high and they are not shy about it. With the militia controlling most of the guns, the fights are more creative which is nice.

It has been fun so far and has had some good surprises in each episode. With such a clear goal, it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes as mysteries are revealed and accomplishments stack up.

One thought on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #187

  1. gordanham says:

    I am happy to see your takes on Cross Manage, despite the fact that your avatars always make me confuse one of you for the other…..stupid genders…….But yeah. I thought Cross Manage was totally refreshing. I think there is a ton of series you can compare it too, but I also think that it feels like no other series I have ever read. One of the things I liked most was that one scene, which you can probably guess, where something totally fanservice-y and cliche trope-ness happens, but it doesn’t feel like that at all. When it happened I felt it was genuinely embarrassing and uncomfortable. I hope you guys talk about the series as it progresses :)

    Also, favorite typo of the investigation, “Star Hat Pirate”

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