Ongoing Investigations: Case #234

narutaki_icon_4040 There is only one thing we like almost equally much as detectives: phantom thieves. Bandette (vol. 1) by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover is a delightful adventure set on the streets of Paris featuring (mostly) good Samaritan expert thief Bandette and her band of merry followers.

Bandette’s goals are a light mystery, her attitude is fresh, carefree, and yet she comes off as knowing everything before it happens. She is really quite a wonder, never seeming affected by all the trouble she runs into and never worrying how she will manage. One thing we do know is she has quite the affinity for rare, and first edition, books. Also candy. She has an oh-so-necessary secret lair and seems to have money and means.

Her friends come off as kind of Baker Street Irregulars, essential to getting her out of jams, setting up means of escape, and alerting her of any information they might find.

Colleen Coover’s art is so lively with a range of facial expressions and reactions which give the story such levity even when assassins appear. Her paintings of Paris give it all the mystique and romance that it deserves so much so I’d like to have her just make a travel guide for the city!

The first installment of Bandette does everything right; it is a bright, whitty, fun jaunt while introducing a villainous organization out to get Bandette, presenting a rival thief who begrudgingly helps her, tip-toeing around a possible love interest, and painting Paris as both light and dark. There are many mysteries and adventures ahead, I can’t wait for the next volume!

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hisui_icon_4040 Yankee-kun na Yamada-kun to Megane-chan to Majo is a delightful cross over comic letting the cast of two of Miki Yoshikawa’s most famous works have a bit of a meeting. Since both series are goofball comedies it is clear that their combination would be equially flippant but just as amusing. The plot uses the body swapping powers from Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches but most of the story revolves around the cast of Yankee-kun to Megane-chan.

Due to your standard meeting of characters running in the street while late to school there is the toast being carried in the mouth. But instead of the normal boy-girl collision this leads to Daichi Shinagawa and Ryu Yamada kissing and thereby changing bodies. This means that they are both desperately trying to find the other one to get back to where they belong.

For the most part this is a Yankee-kun to Megane-chan story. They definetly get the lion share’s of the attention in the story. Even Ryu spends most of the chapter in Daichi’s body which makes him practically a character who is half Yamada-kun and half Yankee-kun. Then again Ryu’s series is still ongoing while the Mon Shiro High School has not had a chance to shine in a while.

Also I accept any excuse to see Rinka Himeji again.

The story does highlight the fact that Daichi and Ryu are similar enough that no one at Mon Shiro High School can tell there is someone else in his body. If Adachi and Shiraishi had switched bodies that would not have been the case. You can tell that Miki Yoshikawa really likes a certain type of male delinquent as her main character. But I don’t think Kate would disagree with her choice of protagonist.

It is a fun little story that should be a treat for fans of either series. If you like both series it is even better.

Also is has a whole bunch of guys kissing.

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 library finally got in their copies of Mouse Guard Vol. 3: The Black Axe by David Petersen. To say I was anticipating this for some time is an understatement as I was the one who personally requested the library carry said volume.

As the title suggests, we finally get a story centering around the mysterious object known as the Black Axe. In the last installment we found out who the current wielder is. Volume 3 is a prequel and although we do learn the origin of the the Black Axe as well as its keepers, the real focus is where it should be on the one keeper who matters most to us Celanawe.

The book perfectly portrays the long, and ultimately tragic, journey of Celanawe who traverses an unknown ocean, risks life and limb, and leaves behind his life in the name of family and duty. You feel every loss of Celanawe’s, and there are many, as this is not a happy tale. But while you won’t finish the book with a smile, you will come away with even more respect Celanawe.

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hisui_icon_4040 I purposefully put off playing Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward until I was sure I was ready. I knew it was going to be one of the cases where I threw myself into the game until it was done. So when I was sure it would not throw off my schedule too much I dug in. After that I played whenever I has a second of free time for a week until I finished the game.

The game starts with someone starting the Nonary Game again with a mostly new crop of abductees. Nine people have been kidnapped and placed in a large sealed complex. They have to solve puzzles while playing a deadly game centered around the prisoner’s dilemma. They all have locked bracelets that will kill them if they break the rules or refuse to play. If the group can work together they might all be able to escape before they die. But if someone betrays their partners they up the chances that they can escape early leaving the others behind. Who can trust who when the quickest way out is betraying everyone else?

If Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is Back to the Future than Virtue’s Last Reward is Back to the Future II.  999 ended with a fairly complete story with a few pieces at the end that hinted that there could be more story to tell. Virtue’s Last Reward tells one book of a story that clearly needs to be complemented with an additional volume to be complete. There is a definite arc of a story that completed here but the overall story is only half done. Plus a whole slew of mysteries are still unsolved while new ones pop up at the end. If you never got a game after 999 you might have been a little sad. If we never get a sequel to Virtue’s Last Reward then Shenmue fans will have people to commiserate with.

And the heart of it the Zero Escape series is a puzzle game series. There are some visual novel elements to the whole affair but they are mostly a framing device for the puzzles. It is a puzzle game with a story more than a visual novel with some puzzles. The puzzles themselves are decent but there is one odd piece of disconnect.  There is an archive system in the game that stores certain notes and clues. But only certain ones. There are some puzzles that distinctly require you to use a pen and paper (unless you memory is far better than mine.) Later on there are some passwords you have to remember to complete the game that don’t get stored anywhere.  It just feels slightly arbitrary sat times. I admit sometimes you will need to use pencil and paper to solve certain puzzles anyway but it does seem distinctly old school to do things this way.

The plot is sort of crazy in the way that Metal Gear games can be. There is time travel, everyone being secret old men, killer AIs, and psychic powers. So if you can’t take a huge dose of the strange then your going to be sitting through a lot of text as you hit the A button to get to the next set of puzzles.  I found it to be entertaining but it can be a bit wonky at points. But all time travel stories sort of head into strange territory by their very nature.  This just has some equally bizarre points alongside craziness inherent when travel along the 4th dimension comes into play.

There are some returning cameos if you played the first game. Clover is back in the game because the fans LOVE LOVED her. If she is not in the third game I would be shocked. Alice is also technically a reoccurring character but not in the way most people would assume from the last game. I still wonder if she could be tied into the original theories about her in 999 but that would require spoilers that are not worth going into here. Some other characters appear in the game but I won’t go to much into who they are as their mere presence would blow some major plot twists.

The biggest improvement over the old game has to be how quickly you can jump onto other paths. My biggest criticism of 999 was how much you had to replay old sections of the game to get to new parts. After the 5th time you played the opening puzzles you were sort of sick to death of them. It was not that they were that hard but it just became a bloody chore. Now there is a convenient map that lets you jump around in a flow chart of what has happened. It was instantly more convenient and really should have been implemented in the first game.

The simplest endorsement of the game I can give is how quickly I blazed through it. Whenever I had free time I was doing what I could to get to the next piece of the puzzle of the plot. Past this point I will just have to wait for the next game to get all the answers. But that is a wait I don’t mind.

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narutaki_icon_4040 We finished up BBC’s Sherlock S3 last night, thank goodness PBS didn’t care about the Superb Owl!

This season really ended up being more about the personal relationships between Sherlock, John, and Mary than the seasons past (and obviously Mary did not even appear until this season). What starts off as very  broken, thanks to Sherlock faking his demise and letting John morn, cope, and move on from his best friend’s death; becomes cemented as an unbreakable bond that can weather anything.

I really enjoyed how the writers toyed with all the fan speculation of just how did Sherlock fake his death? The opening scene, with the most ridiculous scenario we see, was fun and able to set a more light tone to Sherlock’s return to London. This mirrored Sherlock’s own attempt, and mistake, to make it seem like no big deal to suddenly show up in John’s life again. I also appreciated that we never actually find out how Sherlock did it; the only thing we know for certain is that Molly helped him.

Speaking of Molly, I loved her being Sherlock’s sidekick for a day! The cast interactions were definitely up to snuff in season 3.

However, I do feel the season lacked a superamazingstupendous mystery! It certainly sets up an intriguing one in the ending though.

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hisui_icon_4040 I totally admit I picked up the Cute Girl Network just because of the name. I’m 90% sure that is why it was named that way but if it works it works. It is not as if it is false advertising. There is distinctly a Cute Girl Network so it is all good. I just wanted to mention how much the title stands out.

The story is about the romance between Jack and Jane. Jack is slacker getting by with a job working a soup cart. Jane is a skater who starts a conversation with him after she falls off her board in front of his cart. After instantly hitting it off they soon start casually dating. But Jane’s friends quickly tells her that Jack has been tagged as an undesirable by the  Cute Girl Network. This organization of women in the big city have formed an informal club of women who warn each other whenever one of them sees them dating a sleazy guy that someone in the network has had the misfortune of dating. Can Jack and Jane’s relationship stand up to a string of Jack’s exes talking about all the douche bag things he has done in the past?

In a way there are two connected stories going on here all around Jack and Jane burgeoning relationship. The namesake story is about Jane’s friend Harriet’s attempt to find anyone in the network who can dissuade her from dating the schleppy soup seller. It is a cute examination of the idea that one person’s trash is somebody else’s treasure. It is an easy enough concept to understand but equally easy to forget in how it applies to love. It also remind me of one of my favorite cut scene from High Fidelity.

It was a wise move to make it that Harriet never dated Jack. If she was a vengeful ex-girlfriend the story would have been fairly easy to cast in black and white. Jack is the good guy who is being disparaged and Harriet is the evil harpy. Even if that were not the case it would be easy roles for the characters to fall into in the reader’s mind. Here Harriet comes off as having good intentions even if her methods are a bit draconian.

At the same time it is an examination of poor people dating in a big city. As a man who has a shitty job in NYC I fully empathize with hardships of trying to see people when your income is low but your cost of living is high. Nothing makes it clearer what a convenience money is and what a burden being poor is as when you try to have any sort of relationship beyond something purely physical.

This is still a romcom with many of the little shortcuts and hand waving. Heck, I learned the term meet cute just from writing this review. This book starts with an almost prototypical meet cute moment. You can tell from the whimsically effervescent character designs that this is not supposed to be a grim piece that reflects on the dark side of the topics it covers. It is supposed to be a light-hearted romp that has you making happy noises at the end.

If it makes you contemplate some of the more serious topics broached than all the better.

It is a fun book that is easily a one-and-done read. If you want a light romantic comedy it is an easy recommendation from the American comic scene.

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