Helter Skelter by Kyoko Okazaki is as riveting as it is bizarre. Liliko a top model is as the height of her stardom which makes it a long way to fall as the physical abuse of her body begins to take its toll on her looks as well as her mind. She tries to escape her bitter loneliness with sex, drugs, degradation of her employees, revenge, and even more procedures which all lead her further and further down a spiral. Along side this is the morally depraved and unethical practices of the clinic she and others frequent as well as a commentary on our youth- and celebrity-obsessed culture.
Ms. Okazaki’s artwork hones in perfectly on the freakish extremes of beauty. Liliko looks unlike anyone else in the book, and all characters revere her beauty, but as a reader she looks so other worldly that it is often disturbing. This is double so when we meet her little sister who she has for the most part abandoned.
I hardly found Liliko sympathetic but she was fascinating, which very much felt like the point. Just as people get caught up in the rise and fall of celebrities, so too was I caught up with Liliko much like many of the characters in the book. I simply had to know where it would all end.
I’m very much looking forward to Ms. Okazaki’s Pink coming out in English.
Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something is a special little book if you a fan of Kaoru Mori. I remember asking about this book a while back on Twitter and Lazerhosen said it was a fun book for established fans. That that is a great assessment of the book. It remind me a lot of the Hayate no Gotoku! no Mae book for Kenjiro Hata. Anything and Something is a collection of one-shots, failed pilots, extras, sketches, promotional materials, and anything else that would not make a full book on its own. These types books are a bit of a hard sell but they are invaluable resources to anyone who wishes to see the development of one of their favorite artists. Since materials in these books come from all over the manga-ka’s history you really can see their style develop over the years.
Since it is a Kaoru Mori there are of course lots of maid stories. Some pieces are fairly early in the career like the Miss Claire’s stories, some maid tales are utterly goofy like Welcome to the Mansion, and there are also stories that seem much more in the vein on Emma like Maudlin Baker. All the comics in that niche have an obsessive attention to detail about the costuming and history of the time with some bending of the era for story purposes. But unlike Emma and Shirley most of the stories have a whimsical nature that make them more suited for one shots than a dramatic story that can sustain several volumes.
There is also a good deal more cheesecake than you might normally expect from Kaoru Mori. I distinctly remember sexy scenes from Emma but they were mostly little treats more than the standard fare. So it is not like her main work does not show that she can do this sort of work. But stories like the Burrow Gentleman’s club, the Fellows cover story, as well as some of the promo art shows that she can do straight up sensual quite well. But she does one to keep an air of class about her sexy material. She can do sensual, sexual, and provocative without having to cross the line into vulgar. When she adds nudity it feels like it is part of the overall seduction of the material and not just the end goal.
There are also some modern tales which show that she is not bound to working in historical settings. It is interesting to see her stories in a more contemporary setting. A historical setting adds an element of the exotic even to an otherwise mundane story. So if you wish to examine Kaoru Mori’s storytelling without a layer of the past in between you and the story than these would be the tales to focus on.
The story that stands out the most is probably Sumire’s Flowers. The fact that it was written by Satoshi Fukushima explains why it feels so different from her normal work. There is darkness and cynicism that you just don’t see in her normal work. But it does show how her working with an author sort of transforms her artistry into something else. The art is mostly the same but the tone of the story makes it take on a very different life. It is interesting to see her work exist outside its normal boundaries.
There is also just a little section on maids and Agatha Christie. So there is even something for Kate in here. But besides that there are a good deal of little asides and story notes which give you a little insight into the author herself and the research she does for her stories. It also has a good deal of material that would normally only see if you had bought the original magazines that ran her work.
But as I said in the beginning this book can be a hard sell. It really feels like a fan book more than anything official. A somewhat scatterbrained scrapbook of the works of an artist more than a guided tour of their career. If you have enjoyed Kaoru Mori’s work in the past you can get a good deal out of this book. If you have not it can be an interesting way to experience her but it won’t have that same hook.
But everyone should at least try Emma so there is that fundamental truth to understand before anything else. Emma and A Bride’s Story are not for everyone but they are something that everyone into historical manga should at least sample as part of their education. If you enjoy either it is worth going back to Anything and Something and seeing where it all started.
The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.
So I didn’t explicitly say it in my opinion on vol. 1, so let me say it now, Wolfsmund by Mitsuhisa Kuji is not for the feint of heart. The second installment makes that absolutely clear. What started out as seemingly about the rebels is now beginning to feel like a twisted obsession with the evils done by Wolfram. Indeed the ending of the volume made me very sad, and surprised, to the point I am unsure of where we are headed next.
Chapter 427 of Hayate the Combat Butler finally had the big climax of Nagi and Ruka’s doujinshi battle that has been building since all the way back in chapter 268 (Or really chapter 266 but that is petty matters of semantics.) Anyone who has been watching the anime knows how everything turns out in the end. In chapter 400 Nagi even mentions this fact in their little fourth wall breaking side story. We know that Nagi triumphs, Ruka stays in the music business, and that everyone finds a way back to the Sanzenin Mansion while retaining the crew of the Violet Mansion. So all these events are almost fated to happen. The question is how do they happen. What links
One of the biggest complaints about Nagi as a character has finally been definitively addressed. Anyone who says that Nagi never experiences character growth can just shut up from now on. You can still complain that she does not experience ENOUGH character growth. But that is a super subjective idea that can never be countered. This storyline takes the complaint that Nagi is a static character off the table once and for all.
I myself have always said that Nagi has been a character of slow and subtle growth but Chapter 427 shows how far she has come. She had to hit a wall of utter despair and break through it. She still has help from people like Chiharu, Nishizawa, and Kayura but she finished the manga without Hayate carrying her or Maria letting her off the hook. She finally faced a hard to accomplish but easily avoided task and tackled it for herself. Her work needed a good deal of improvement to be anywhere near a professional manga but it was her first honest effort that was more than just armature scribbles that could only be enjoyed by her and Isumi. It was her major step to actually being a manga artist and generally self reliant.
Despite the conclusion being set in stone by the anime the real journey is how she gets there. They do have a few good fake outs and most of the tension comes from how Nagi triumphs in the end more than if she does. I had assumed that Dr. Kurosu was Ruka’s mother but that turned out not to be the case. At the same time I know a good deal of people assumed that the person in the suit at the end of the chapter was Hayate. But I knew that was a red herring.
But now that the doujinshi arc is over I am curious to see where they go next. They clearly have to deal with the fact that Maria feels like Nagi no longer needs her. This is something they could resolve very quickly or over the course of the arc. There is still all the business with the King’s Jewel, Yozora Housen, and Akane Himegami that has not been touched upon for a while. Plus I wondering if Dr. Kurosu still has any secrets. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
Children of the Sea vols. 1-3 by Daisuke Igarashi is breathtakingly about the pull and mysteries of the ocean. He has an amazing hand at showing the enormity of these bodies of water despite the page size. Not one for a lot of screentone, you can see every line used to fill in the dark skin of a whale or the depths of the water. Simply amazing to hold in your hands.
I foolishly picked up Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. I say foolishly because I tend to have a hard time doing anything else after have picked up a new Phoenix Wright game until I have finished it. So there are several other things I could be doing that get preempted by trying to solve cases. I suppose that makes me a real member of the Reverse Thieves.
Dual Destinies comes at an important point in the series history. The original trilogy of games is very well-regarded but Apollo Justice is far more of a divisive title. I know a lot of fans felt that Apollo was not as strong a character as Phoenix. That and the humor and the cases were not as fun. I actually liked the new cast although I do agree the last case of did feel quite like a very elaborate Rube Goldberg machine mixed with a Batman-Gambit to a point were even the normal crazy logic of the world seemed a bit stretched. I did not have a major problem with the case but it I see why it might have upset some people.
But there seemed to be a buzz that this game was going to go out of its way to pretend that Apollo Justice never happened. Overall while they don’t constantly bring up references to the previous game they also don’t totally sweep it under the rug. So far it has come up as much as any previous game has. Klavier Gavin and Trucy Wright are back. They are in smaller roles but they are distinctly there.
I will say I am probably in the minority of people who was sad that Maya is still absent from the series. I know enough spoilers to know that Pearl appears again, and I’m glad for that, but I felt like Maya was always an important heart of the game and it is sad that she has remained off-screen ever since the third game. I’m hoping that she makes her full reappearance in the next game. On a similar note I was a bit shocked that Ema Skye has not come back but I wonder if people did not like how her character changed in the last game.
I am a good way into the third case so I should be able to give a full review of the game by the next Ongoing Investigation. I guess I will talk about the new characters and all the cases then. But so far I like that I see.