Ongoing Investigations: Case #231

hisui_icon_4040 Anomal by Nukuharu in an interesting little book from Gen Manga. As Kate had mentioned in the past, anthology books like this are hardly unheard of in Japan but we so rarely get them in English expect for extremely popular authors and usually only when demand for their work is not being sufficiently met by the number of titles currently on the market. This is from a generally unknown artist so it is more outside the box than most single author anthologies we get. Then again Gen Manga tends to do things that most manga publisher don’t do.

While we might not be in the grip of the Yokai Craze like in The Monstrous Turnabout case in Dual Destinies it is hard to ignore the number of Yokai related stories lately in anime and manga. Not all the stories have various Japanese monsters but the majority of the stories are focused around them. There is one story about a detective and his new partner that is a bit of a BL tease but other than that is all tales of spirits and demons. I guess the last story is about an alien but she feel more like a goddess or kami than an alien.

The stories about yokai tend to be on the lighter side of the spectrum. This is not the uber-dark tales of Requiem from the Darkness or even the moody heavyhearted feel of Mushishi. The best anime equivalent for the stories would be the Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods or Kamichu! anime. It is a little litter than Natsume Yuujincho, which can get fairly melancholy when it wants to, but the stories can have a bit of bite to them. That said is would say it is not more than a bit of an edge. They are at most the medium salsa of Yokai tales. They are a bit if zest to them but not the harsh burn of human critique like some spicier shows.

Other than maybe Ayakashi-nushi none of the stories here really felt like series that needed to be longer series. They came in, told their story, and then the closed the door on their way out. But with a short story book like this that is often for the best. Stories that overstay their welcome can be a real pain in book like these. Also in general Yokai tales lend themselves to one shots equally as well as long form stories. Even many long form yokai series are often small stories inside of a larger framework that mostly exists to tell those small stories.

Anomal is an interesting little curiosity. I can’t say that any of the stories were the strongest things I read this year but they are light, breezy,and fun. With only one book it is a pleasant one shot that can satisfy an itch for less than spooky stories with a nice bit of heart. They are more candy than a full meal. Sometimes that is exactly what you need.

narutaki_icon_4040 Anomal by Nukuharu was a rare treat I got in the mail, thanks Gen Manga! I liked the small format of this short story collection and it fit with the quiet but odd nature of the tales within. This collection features yokai or other supernatural elements in different settings and with very different main characters. Each also had various relationships as a focus. Even though it says horror on the back, none of the stories are super dire. In fact, some have a stronger comedy bent and I found these more successful.

The 3-part story Ayakashi-nushi made me laugh because their personalities were well realized. It is about a partnership between girl who finds yokai so cute she is always trying to hug them and a boy who has a demon in his blood. It had a bit of what we’ve come to expect from things like Natsume Yuujincho: a spirit has a problem and our lead helps resolve it while we get their little backstory in the process.

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.

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hisui_icon_4040 When Patz was over for NYCC he persuaded me to watch the first episode of Kamen Rider Gaim. It was not like I was completely opposed to watching Gaim before he suggested we watch it. I did know it was written by Gen Urobuchi so it was distinctly on my radar. But at the same time tokusatsu is real low on my priority list when it comes to watching things. With a bit of fire under my butt I finally watched the first four episodes.

This is a rally weird series. I mean Fourze was bizarre show but it had a fairly consistent theme: space. There was also some John Hughes movie High School styling but it was mostly about space. Gaim on the other hand is about dance fighting, monster cock-fighting, evil corporations, alternate dimensions, the Warring States, and fruit. Those are the 6 major themes of the series. I kid you not. It is like someone took a handful of words from a Japanese magnetic poetry set and made a Kamen Rider show with whatever 6 words they picked. No matter how odd the combination.

Where to begin? There is the Yggdrasill Corporation. They pretty much run the town where Gaim takes places. At the same time there are gangs of kids who battle for turf in dance offs. Also they sometimes battle using Pokemon like monsters that come from fruit themed Lockseeds in a competition called the Inves Games. But it turns out that the monsters in the game are actually from another dimension and can escape out of the game and terrorize people in real life. On top of ALL of that some people can get special belts that let them use Lockseeds to become super powered Sengoku warriors. Who also happen to be fruit themed. Because that is the kind of show this is.

The show is ostensibly about Kota Kazuraba who used to be a part of the Gaim crew but had to drop out to make money since his parent’s died. But when the Gaim Team leader goes missing Kota finds a Sengoku Driver while looking for him and get pulled into this conflict involving the mysterious secret of the Inves. There is also Kaito Kumon is obsessed with social Darwinism and is the obvious bad guy who becomes a dark hero and ally. Mitsuzane Kureshima is on team Giam, and had become a rider as well, but has ties to the Yggdrasill Corporation so it shall be seen where his loyalty falls when push comes to shove. There is also a mysterious white-haired girl, some losers on loser teams that seem like jerks, and Sid who is obviously the not-so- secretly bad guy arms dealer (only he sells lockseeds and not guns.)

The thing is the show is a real stone soup of a show so far. It seem like they just took any idea that came along and threw it in the pot hoping that it would make a tasty dish. But the individual items have not really meshed into a coherent whole. They are sort of floating around in the mix sometimes looking like they might work together and other times just being very separate but in the same episode. They have not been conflicting but they always feel like unassociated elements sown together into a Frankenstein style quilt that just looks a bit off.

So do I like this show? Do I hate it? I don’t know. It’s odd enough that I keep watching it. You can’t say it has a completely slavish devotion to the franchise’s formula. But at the same time unlike Fourze it feels a bit too uneven to casually recommend without seeing more of it. If you’re looking for something different it is worth checking out to see how odd it is. But it really needs to start harmonizing with itself a bit more to be really good.

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narutaki_icon_4040 Sailor Moon Stories Stories vol. 1 by Naoko Takeuchi starts off with a bunch of tales of Chibi Usa so your milage may vary. Still, the later chapters focus on Makoto, Ami, Rei and Minako which all give you bits of insight into their personalities. With Ami stealing the show in her own story as well as Makoto’s with this line (re: homework): There’s no time to waste on dying! Let’s tackle these problems head-on and solve them! Minako stalking Rei at high school is also a pretty hilarious interlude. Usagi actually features very little in these stories which makes sense and is a nice change of pace. I look forward to volume 2.

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hisui_icon_4040 I picked up A Bride’s Story volumes four and five by Kaoru Mori at the library recently. Mind you I have not read the first three books of A Bride’s Story but I have read enough reviews of the series to know the general gist of the story (I mean Ed Sizemore loves to talk about it.) I really wanted to start the series for the beginning but these were the only books there at the time. I’m sure I could have gotten the first three if I wanted to wait but I figured I would jump in and work backwards. Counterintuitive but expedient. Plus it was coincidentally a good place to start as the story moves away from Amira and Karluk and goes looks at two young twins named Laila and Leyli for a spell.

Unlike the more sedate story of Amira and Karluk we have the little spitfires of Laila and Leyli. They are twin girls who dream of marrying rich handsome brothers. But being little whirlwinds of chaos they of course try to take things into their own hands because fate works slowly and slip shoddily. After try to woo (aka trick) several hapless gentlemen Laila and Leyli’s father engages them to the two sons of one of his friends.

From thereon in it is all the chaos that leads up to the festivities that is the wedding. Sarmaan and Farsami mostly seem slightly put upon but not unsatisfied with the arrangement. They know that the twins are hellions but are good women when push comes to shove. They have an almost Zen like acceptance of situation but you can tell they also have a genuine affection for their future brides. They have long since accepted their brides warts and all. Marriage won’t be easy but also won’t be unrewarding.

Probably the best way to approach marriage in general.

At the same time there is the looming story of a Russian invasion and Henry Smith being the eyes of the reader in the region for places where the main characters would not be able to see. I feel if I had read the first three books certain lines might have a little more impact but it was very clear that there was a distinct weight behind even the few off-handed comments made in book five about people’s apprehension surrounding current events.

The books ending with the focus shifting back to our original leads in a story about Amira taking care of an injured hawk. While it is mostly a tale of Amira and Karluk there is a part at the end that bring the Russian conflict into even sharper focus. It is clear that Karluk tribe will soon be sucked into the conflict in one way or another.

Overall it was what I expect out of a great Kaoru Mori series. A well researched setting, strong and bright character based comedy and romance, a more somber historical plot in the background, and a mature feeling that resists being overly heavy or melodramatic while still having a good amount of gravitas in otherwise mundane lives. I suppose it is time for me to putting a hold on those first three books before I continue forward.

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narutaki_icon_4040 Tiger & Bunny manga vol. 1 by Sakakibara Mizuki is a well-executed adaption of the anime. Ms. Sakakibara’s art captures the characters perfectly with clean lines and plenty of energy. But if you’ve already seen the anime, there isn’t much here in the way of new material or new perspective. At least not in volume 1.

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