Ongoing Investigations: Case #213

As a Type-Moon fan there are a lot of major parts of the company’s works that are relatively easy to find. All of the anime can be found with only minor difficulty (and a good deal of it legally), the visual novels are at least partially translated, and most of the manga has at least a few chapters available in English. But there are still a few rare gems for the truly hard-core. One of them I finally found are some translations of some of Takashi Takeuchi’s old Valkyrie Profile doujinshi Valkyria.

Valkyria, Valkyria 2, and Valkyria NEAV SAGA each focus on a different Valkyrie who follows around a chosen hero in hopes that they might be able to capture their soul to make them their Einherjar before they die. All the heroes are slightly (and often rightfully) worried that their Valkyrie might be tempted to kill them to make sure they can properly capture their soul as opposed to just waiting for them to die normally.

The Valkyrie series is interesting to see for a variety of reasons. The first is that the series is a clear look at Takeuchi’s art style before Tsukihime. While his art style has clearly evolved from this, to this, to this you do not get a full understanding of his journey as an artist until you view his even earlier work. When you realize that Ciel was heavily based on Clobette from Valkyria 2 it is easy to see a straight line of progress.

It is also one of the few times you get to see Takeuchi do his own story and artwork in a manga format. That means you see the stories that Takeuchi would tell without working together with Nasu as well as how he lays out panels when his art is not just character designs and mostly static images in a visual novel. It does make me wonder what a long running manga series from Takeuchi would look like. It also might provide some good clues into what parts of Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night are Nasu’s and which parts are strongly Takeuchi influenced.

The stories themselves have a distinctly short format. But considering these were sold at Comiket it then makes perfect sense. You have to quickly tell your story to an audience that you may never see again. Therefore all the stories are very self-contained even when they have a slightly bit of a shared story. On the other hand there is an assumption that you have at least a passing familiarity with Valkyrie Profile. But that is a common conceit in a good deal of doujinshi.

I’m not going to pretend this is the greatest work out of what would go on to be half of Type-Moon. The stories are charming but ultimately very light stories. It was nice on the other hand to see the humble beginnings of Bamboo Broom and think about how that would eventually become the larger machine it is today.

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 I was sent a review copy of the self-published e-book book An Otaku Abroad which is a travel guide for first timers heading to Japan.

There is a great overview in this book from deciding when and how to travel all the way to visiting temples. And a whole section is dedicated to studying abroad which I thought was a very thoughtful piece and a really common way a lot of young people get to Japan, too. This was the author’s ticket to Japan so she had a lot to say on the subject.

Since this book is written by an individual there were some sections that she didn’t have as much advice for such as flying domestically within in Japan. While she did research the subjects she was less familiar with, it might be helpful to have another contributor or two to add to these portions to round things out.

Since it is a digital book, one of the cool things is having links right in the text that can take you to handy supplemental sites. I learned of a few places and added them to my bookmarks for my mythical trip to Japan someday.

Even though the title says otaku, the guide doesn’t really focus on anime/manga related things which I found a little disappointing. There are a few mentions throughout the locations section and a very nice Top Ten Anime Sites list at the end. I’d like to see the anime/manga part of the guide bulked up to really give it that special hook.

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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Death Billiards is Yuzuru Tachikawa’s contribution to the Young Animator Training Project from Madhouse. This is much darker in tone than the cute little magical girl story told in Little Witch Academia. If anything it is more of a what you traditionally think of when taking about a Madhouse production.

Two men, one young and one old, enter a mysterious but fancy pool hall with little memory of how they got there. Their mysterious hosts seem to dodge most questions but assure them that they are about to play game as if their lives are on the line but refuse to clarify what that means beyond that point. The young man begins to freak out as he is sure he will die if he loses this game. But as the game goes on it is clear there is more to this than mere life and death.

I felt like Little Witch Academia was a good pilot for a longer series but Death Billiards felt more like a stand alone Twilight Zone episode. Your thrown into a mysterious situation, as the story goes on the stakes are raised, and the end is slightly ambiguous with the hopes that you mull over the meaning of the story.

If nothing else this is a very pretty piece of work. The bar and pool hall has a simultaneously grand and yet subdued feeling to it. Also the one fight sequence has a nice pop to it and takes advantage of the scenery. Makes you wish the Marvel anime projects looked this nice.

I’m not sure I full was satisfied with how ambiguous the ending was. But it does make it something you can discuss with other people who watched it which was nice. Also it is short so you can’t feel too frustrated even if you wish it had a more concrete ending. I feel like Little Witch Academia was an easy crowd-pleaser whereas Death Billiards is more of a series you will find passed around to a more select group of people.

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 I picked up Alice in the Country of Hearts omnibus vol. 2.

After the first I really liked The Mad Hatter but in this volume he just stops short of killing our heroine. The creepy violence/creepy obsession with Alice of this series is increasing exponentially; no one really is very healthy in this world.

Ace remains the most interesting character but I was disappointed that this volume didn’t further our understanding of the world or the system very much which is what I have been most interested to learn. But maybe no one cares but me?

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Evangelion 3.33 – You Can (Not) Redo has really proved to engender the widest spectrum of responses from people I have seen in the Rebuild series. I see a lot of negative feelings, an almost equal amount of confused or conflicted opinion, and a few really enthusiastic embraces of the newest entry. The first movie got a good deal of praise but a lot of people felt it was pretty much nothing more than a quick retelling of the original series. The second movie got more praise and it mostly came down to how well executed you thought the changes were. And there were several. But this movie is pretty much all new material and so tables have been flipped.

And without going into spoiler country it is obvious that after the ending of You Can (Not) Advance there were going to be very few ways that the movies could return the status quo of the TV series without some major fugazi hand waving or just saying that nothing that was different really mattered. In that respect they don’t play that game. Everything is different. Everything you knew about the original is thrown out the window. Opinions vary wildly on how wise any and all of these changes are. I have seen everything from the changes are brilliant to this ruins everything.

You know. Your standard Internet reactions.

I don’t want to get too much into spoilers but if you pull back there are still a good deal of parallels between the original TV series and what is going on 3.33. The outside trappings have changed radically but many of the key emotional beats are still there. But even then there are one or two key shifts in decisions that make some very important changes. In many ways I see Shinji entering the classic Hero’s Journey cycle. This movie spends the bulk of its time in the Dark Night of the Soul and only starts to change with the final sacrifice at the end of the movie. Which means that if this continues Shinji has become a standard Campbellian hero as opposed to a sad sack antihero. But only if he overcomes what happened in this movie.

If that is a good thing or not is going to be the crux of a lot of people’s opinion of the this reboot as a whole. Even if they realize it or not.

So overall I still don’t have a fully solidified opinion of this movie. It is a connecting bridge. The final movie really shoulders a good deal of pressure to either pull this all together or throw everything away. But the final movie always had that burden. I just don’t think this movie helped remove any of that load. And I think it earned the series a black mark with a lot of the fandom.

I’m still curious to see the last movie. I’m just going in with no expectations. I’m not going in knowing that the series has been ruined. I not going in knowing the ending can’t be anything other than brilliant. And that is probably for the best.

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 I watched the Uncharted 3 “movie” which was a fantastic cap to the series, a very satisfying end.

I loved learning Nathan and Sully’s backstory and the entire movie really built on that father/son relationship with an ending that almost made me teary. I was also happy to see a wonderful resolution to Nathan and Elena’s relationship, it felt really mature which surprised me.

Of course the entire thing looked amazing, I am now dying to get an art book/concept art book something for this game.

Seriously, Nathan, Sully, and Elena are my peeps and I love them forever.

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