Ongoing Investigations: Case #232

narutaki_icon_4040 Mao no Kyoushitsu is a one-shot by Miki Yoshikawa done with her usual zany flair. This time she takes us to an elementary school class whose teacher just happens to be Satan.

The class is of course terrified at first, then they come to think it is all an act but is it!? Manami and her friends set out to find the truth, she being the only one who believes he must truly be Satan. I really enjoyed the repoire between all the kids from their over the top reactions to young cynicism. A wonderfully bizarre setup and fun romp that I wouldn’t mind reading more of.

Surely the best part is when The Devil commends Manami for attempting to burn him alive (it was an accident!).

hisui_icon_4040  It was nice to be able to track down a one shot story from Miki Yoshikawa in the form of Mao no Kyoushitsu. All too often we never get to see little stories like this from even well-known authors let alone lesser known artists like the author of Yankee-kun to Megane-chan. It can even be hard for the Japanese audience to read some of these stories let alone us Yanks.

Before I get into anything else I would like to mention that I thank goodness they translated chuunibyou as poser “nutjob-itis.” I feel like we are just getting out of the grips of small segment of people throwing around the term Chuunibyou all the time. So a somewhat silly English version fits with the scene were the kids are trying to figure out Mr. De Mon’s deal all the better. I don’t feel you have to translate every word into English for a good translation but here the adaptation of a complex word here adds a lot to the scene.

Other than that the strongest part of the story here is the characters. Manami is a great protagonist. Her desire for school to be more fun if Mr. De Mon’s story is true is really infectious. At times it makes her an unreliable narrator but that makes the story even more enjoyable.  You are sort of wondering if Mr. De Mon is really a hell spawn the whole time too. Also her reaction faces are great.

Mr. De Mon is equally fun. In a way he is the type of character that Miki Yoshikawa excels in. She knows when to play him for laughs really well but is not afraid to pull back for a little emotional softness when the time is right. The key is to go for the emotional moments at just the right time or they come off as lame. Also too much serous emotion makes the character overly dramatic and weighs down the comedy.

I also really like the delivery of the line, “”He likes pretty girls. Earth shattering.” A wonderful use of deadpan.

And the story ends nicely. You get the feeling there are more stories with Mr. De Mon but that is where the curtain closes. I feel that Miki Yoshikawa is a good enough author to continue the story of The Demon’s Classroom. She is really good at creating new avenues in a story that other authors would just use to tell variations on the same story. But at the same time this is a great place to end the story as a happy short story.

If you never read anything by Miki Yoshikawa this is a great place to get to know her as an artist with a minimum time commitment. It is a story that showcases some of her best features in a single story. If your already a fan I’m sure your hunting down this story as we speak.

Bonus: If are a fan of Miki Yoshikawa you will see an elementary school version of Hana Adachi in the last panel of page five.

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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narutaki_icon_4040 The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was so good it made me want to cry. Maybe I even did cry! I was amazed and thrilled that Nintendo was able to make a sequel to my favorite Zelda game and actually do it justice. Having to compete with my nostalgia (and neigh uncountable number of playthroughs) is no small feat.

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hisui_icon_4040 The Legend of Korra book two seemed not to win the series the same praise as the first series. There were lots of complaints about the end of the first season but overall the reaction was that it was a good follow-up to Avatar: The Last Airbender even if it did not hit the full heights of its progenitor. But the reaction to the second season was not as kind.

I know Kate stopped watching the show. I saw a lot of fans seemingly hold on mostly out of momentum. There were problems. The pacing seemed breakneck, some of the character progress was thrown away, and the main villain seemed to have weak motivations after the more nuanced Amon.

I think I know where the whole story went wrong. I had a theory which was reenforced with the ending of the season. The writers REALLY wanted to get to the end of the season. They came up with an idea they loved and everything just became a race to get to point.

Imagine you had a video game you loved playing everyday online. Then one day you get new game at the same time your scheduled to play with some people on the old game. You might easily see what was normally enjoyable instead as chore to get through when it is blocking what you really want to do. When the consumers of a product feel that way it is just a fact of life. When the creators a of a product feel that way it makes the product suffer.

And it is an interesting conclusion to the season. It certainly opens up new possibilities for storytelling and adventure. But that is no excuse to ignore 14 episodes worth of story to get to one really cool change. If the momentum up the big events is mediocre you could easily lose the fans that would have loved what came after. One of two less than stellar episodes for a great payoff can be acceptable but a whole season does more harm than good.

I can’t be sure that is what happened. Maybe they just botched this season and thankfully just had a good plot point saved for the end. It happens. But I just have a gut feeling that I’m right about my conjecture. It is not like I had that though as I watched the finale. I started seeing it about half way through the season and everything past that point seemed to confirm that.

I’m going to continue watching the series. The last episode gave me hope that now that they have gotten tot the point that they wanted things might be a bit stronger. But they really need to stop making Lin Beifong a moron and use Asami Sato more. They were both great characters that seem wasted this season.

I have not given up on the series but it needs to show it can bring what it used to in season three.

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narutaki_icon_4040 Finally had a chance to see Thor : Dark World. I really liked the last half of the movie but the beginning was rough. It started off slowly and kept feeling all over the place and disparate. The first 20 minutes especially lacked presence, surprise, and drama in the way it was structured. I actually think the movie would have been better starting at the awkward date then continuing through to Jane discovering the Aether and Thor arriving. Then once they were in Asgard giving us some backstory which would have also given more interest to Jane’s time in Asgard. I loved the breaking Loki out of jail part quite a lot as it had a heisty feel. Although I would have liked to see more of Thor’s friends, and felt the same way in the first movie as well. I’m glad they dropped the weird Sif is jealous vibe though I’m not sure why they bothered throwing it in at all.

I’m glad the movie was able to right itself in the end, but I certainly didn’t enjoy it as much as the first.

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hisui_icon_4040 I find it interesting that My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic season four seemed to come with almost no fanfare. In the past Friendship Is Magic would cause endless chatter on the Internet. Fans of the series seemed to talk about nothing else. People who hated the series talked just as much about how they never wanted to hear about the show. But after the series three finale it seemed like the show mostly disappeared. You occasionally hear people talking about the series but it has mostly gone silent.

That has to do with two interlocked factors. First the backlash to the ending of season three. Making Twilight Sparkle an Alicorn was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I don’t think the show was horrible but the loss of Lauren Faust was noticeable. She show had a different je ne sais quoi after she left and that seemed to slowly make people a bit less fanatical about the whole phenomenon. With fewer people talking about the show the people who hated the show calmed down as well. Even My Little Pony: Equestria Girls game and went with 80% less fanfare and controversy than it would have gotten at the height of season two mania. And that is saying a lot.

The new season seems OK. That is about it. Nothing is terribly wrong about it. It started with John de Lancie which is never a bad thing. It did help give the idea that Twilight Sparkle is an Alicorn is not huge change to the dynamic of the show but also not inconsequential. They have seemed to have started their first big all season long storyline. It seems like the standard find six hidden objects quest. But those are not necessarily bad. They can be used as a simple framework to tell good stories. It can be used for lazy storytelling but only if you let it be. Great stories about getting six MacGuffins as well as poor ones but it make the show seem a bit more grand.

My biggest complaint so far is about the Daring Don’t episode. The original episode, Read It and Weep, was all about Rainbow Dash leaning about how reading and using your imagination is cool. This episode starts as if it were written George R. R. Martin after getting one too many letters about how he needs to speed up his writing. It is a great start. But by the end it is more like a self insert fan fiction. It seems to miss what was great about the first episode for some sort of odd and unnecessary shout out.  Making the author of Daring Do actually Daring Do sort of robs the orignal of some of its sparkle. I’m also a little worried about that upcoming super hero episode. Why is there an upcoming super hero episode?

At this point you are either in it to win it or have stopped reading this part of the Ongoing Investigations long ago. For anyone else I can’t say that season four is a good place to start. While the episode have not been bad the material before it has been stronger. Hopefully that is just Daring Don’t sticking out in my mind and the rest of the season be lots of fun.

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