Ongoing Investigations: Case #238

narutaki_icon_4040 I started reading A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima, a series that apparently had a great reception prior to being put on CR Manga. I myself hadn’t heard of it, but I am much less aware of shonen romance titles. In any case, all the love that poured out from people when I mentioned reading it is well deserved.

Ishida is an ex-bully, who became bullied himself, and has given up on friends and life as he drifts through high school. Shoko is the girl Ishida and his classmates bullied due to her hearing impairment. Ishida seeks her out, all these years later, in order to apologize before ending his life. But suddenly, after years of isolation, he has made a human connection and that snowballs into another connection and another and another all which changes his course.

The beginning of the series is actually an extended flashback, things don’t really shift into full gear until the second volume. It is an angering and painful few chapters which makes the changes later so much more earned.

Despite the serious nature of that premise, and by all means A Silent Voice is thoughtful in its seriousness, the series creates people who aren’t simply downtrodden. There is light and hope in the series in such unexpected ways. Everyone is fully realized and has layers, a character like Ishida being so sympathetic is testament to this. The people from Ishida’s past, and his mistakes and how he deals with them, are incredibly complex. It isn’t so easy to dismiss people or to rebuild one’ life, and it is doubly hard for a boy who doesn’t truly believe he deserves better.

This series is lovely and brilliant.

(Read it on Crunchyroll Manga)

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hisui_icon_4040 If you have been following our Twitter feeds you will have seen the building we both live in has recently been having Internet problems. This means our normal anime viewing schedule was completely thrown out of whack. Being at the end of the season, with the massive Spring avalanche just around the corner, this is all sort of annoying. But we made due in the mean time. It has let us catch up on two series we had put on hold. We were watching Infinite Ryvius and Future Boy Conan as the result of our poll for our 200th Ongoing Investigation but we started to prioritize some of the newer shows and were saving Ryvius and Conan for the lean times. Exactly for times like this.

I’m really glad that we finally finished Infinite Ryvius from Bandai. I don’t regret watching the series. It definitely was a series that was right up our alley so when people thought we would like it was a good choice. That said I did not like ending of the series. There was some weird hiccups and odd choices in the middle but I was engaged until the ending. I was ready to give this series a thumbs up. But when the last episode ended I was just left with an unfulfilled feeling.

Now it would be easy to assume that the series had no idea what it was doing and just slapped on some random clumsy ending because they did not think the complete narrative arc out from the start. But I feel that the generally ending point seemed like the ending point they had from the start. I’m not really sure how the conflict between the crew of the Ryvius and government could have gone any other way without is just being a total downer ending. Anything else would have required total deus ex machina or some other equally underplayed power to get involved. Past that point the exact number of people who lived or died were distinctly in question. It was clear that the crew was a powder keg waiting to explode so a number of people could died either being killed by space forces as well as their fellow crew members.

I think the characters reactions to what happened seemed really … questionable. I did not need the survivors to be broken husks unable to function in society or ever forgive any transgression BUT certain characters get nothing more than a slight “those were some crazy times” attitudes for REPEATEDLY and PURPOSEFULLY trying to murder large parts of the crew whereas other people mainly either are forgotten or scorned for lesser crimes. At the same time while it is good to see most of Kouji Aiba storyline resolved (he is the main character after all) it did seem like some very important character arc just seemed completely dropped. But we get resolution on the fates of a lot of the really minor characters at the same time. I’m not saying they needed two more episodes of conclusion but a little more time devoted to the central cast and a little less time to finding out the fate and life path of the girl in the dinosaur costume might have been prudent.

Also the creepy stalker finally gets with the girl he was creeping on. And we are supposed to think this is cute. No no no no, Infinite Ryvius. You don’t get to do that.

Other than that I know the pace got to my roommate. He wanted things to go crazy much earlier on. Pretty much total Lord of the Flies ASAP without it being silly. I think the slow and meandering path to conflict was a little more realistic. The slow decent into insanity with several false starts and shifts in power seemed how things were likely to go down. There is a never a time when things become a complete anarchy. Part of this is just due to them constantly having a mutual enemy but also because anytime things slide towards anarchy someone would form some of structure to at least stem the tide for getting to the point of monstrous chaos. But it was not an appeal to some higher principle or ideal. It was just the natural tendency of nature to abhor a vacuum and fill in the empty place with anyone. That said I could see how it can feel like slog to get to the “good part” but I thought the slow decent was smarter.

I just feel there had to be something in between the ending we got and bleak unending nihilistic despair that could have finished the series in a satisfactory ending. Infinite Ryvius main problem is it brought up some fascinating scenarios and dilemmas but at the same time constantly resolved them in a manner that was usually one or two marks off of fulfilling. It never totally botched things but at the same time I was never happy with the way anything turned out. The ending was far too happy for the moral grayness that came before it but at the same time if was far too pleasant for a relentlessly dark ending. I could see how people rated this show very highly but at the same time it failed to win me over in the end. It was not a single poor or unsatisfactory turn that lost me but a thousand tiny paper cuts in the ending that turned me off.

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 Finally, finally, finally had a chance to read the first issue of the new ongoing series Ms. Marvel by Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona. Count me among those who were impressed with the new direction.

Kamala is a fun teen to see become a hero (The woman writes Avengers fan-fic!) who isn’t too broody or dealing with some horrible trauma.

I am not all that familiar with Muslim culture here in the states so these characters are a learning experience for me. There were words I didn’t know, and that was good! Right away the series establishes a wide range of mindsets within Kamala’s family and friends which felt authentic.

I especially liked Kamala dealing with defying her family but not hating them. The issue had really smart writing: “Zoe thought that because I snuck out, it was okay for her to make fun of my family. Like, Kamala’s finally seen the light and kicked the dumb inferior brown people and their rules to the curb.”

She doesn’t hit Ms. Marvel-ness until the end of the issues but I’m looking forward to how she takes it all in.

This series is on my pull list now!

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hisui_icon_4040 This disconnect from the Internet also let me finish off something else with the time I would normally devote to shows streaming on the Internet. I finally completed Pretty Cure Max Heart from Toei Animation with episodes 21 to 47. Overall it was a pleasant experience.  It feels more like the second arc of the story than a sequel to the original. I’m not sure it was always meant to be so long but it feels like it was. There is a metric TON of filler but it is the standard Sailor Moon style filler that all but a select few fighting magical girls shows have.

Lets get this out of the way. The mascot characters are the worst part of the original PreCure. Bar none. As much as Hikari Kujou might be a bland character when she starts and is mostly a support character as opposed to a warrior. That said she can never hold a candle to the black hole of joy that is Mepple and Mipple. I don’t care what you think of Hummy, Candy, or even Potpourri. They are nothing compared to beast that is Pollun. All other PreCure mascots are a cake walk after those three. Then came Lulun.

To tell you the truth she was not as bad as she was made out to be. Don’t get me wrong. She is dreadful. Simply the worst. BUT everyone made it seem like she was leaps and bounds worse than Mepple, Mipple, and Pollun. In the end she is merely as horrible as the three of them. Part of me wonders if I have just been broken by Pollun. It is a possibility but I honestly think she is just the standard level of miserable that the original PreCure has made the bar and not some new level of hell.

It is worth noting that there are some genuinely unnerving parts of Max Heart. If you are an adult and even a teenager there is nothing that is going to even remotely frighten you. It is still Pretty Cure Max Heart. But some of the scenes like when Baldez resurrects himself, the Dark King rattles his chains, or the Boy from the Mansion and Hikari Kujou interact are actually creepy. There is nothing bloody, depraved, or sexual about the scenes. They just have a cold unnatural feeling that is well executed.

A few words about the villains. For all the build up with Baldez and the Boy from the Mansion the main last boss is the Dark King and all in all he is a boring antagonist. I’m not sure why they do this. PreCure keeps building up interesting villains and then have the biggest bad guys just be these generic monsters who don’t really have any depth beyond a generic hate for all life and love. Baldez might be a somewhat formulaic general of darkness but at least he has a flair and theatrical sense to his actions. Circulas, Uraganos, and Baldez do make an unexpected “heroic sacrifice” for their cause. They go out like champs even if it is for the side of darkness.

I am a little surprised they never brought back Kiriya even for a little cameo. Even if they did not use him as a love interest for Yukishiro Honoka he still could have come back to inform them about something of the Dark Zone. I wonder if the writers did not care to bring him back or if there was just a problem with his voice actress.

One quick note: It does seem like it takes them forever to find the first few Heartiels but near they end they practically can’t walk down the street without running into them. That was just an odd bit of pacing in that respect.

I think the question most people want to know is if Pretty Cure Max Heart is worth watching in the greater PreCure continuum. I would say overall the original Pretty Cure is still a rough version of what it would later become. Like Gundam 0079 it still has it feet half in the genre it sprang from and half in the future it would forge. It is probably the most choreographed the fights have been in the series. There is some good fighting in later iterations but this is a level above. The plot is still fairly formulaic and filled with filler but if that annoys you then you picked the WRONG genre to be intrusted in. Max Heart itself is pretty much part 2 of the original series. It would be weird to watch on its own but if you want to whole story you have to watch this part.

So overall if you in any way interested in the greater discourse of PreCure you have to watch this series. It is a bit of a slog when you realize it is a 96 episode journey for a single PreCure show. A dedicated person could probably put together a list of less than 20 episodes that would give you the whole story with little loss of fidelity of story if they were so inclined. It is a good show but still very rough around the edges. If you really just wanted to watch one show your probably better of with Smile or Heartcatch but if you want to grok the franchise as a whole or want a bit of a more old school fighting magical girl show this is a good choice.

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narutaki_icon_4040 When the news hit that more Durarara!! anime was in the works, it spurred me to finally watch Baccano! from Brain’s Base. As many predicted, I think I ended up liking Baccano! more than Durarara!!

I really enjoyed the way the story was told. Overlaying the two stories, which take place at different times, was at first confusing but intriguing, then it became a fun game of trying to piece things together. I don’t know if this could have been pulled off quite so well if they weren’t working from two completed novels, but it works really well. The more I watched, the more I fell into the pace of the show more easily.

Honestly ya’ll, if you wanted to sell me on this show you could have just said steam train mystery and I’d have been there in an instant! If I have need for it (oh, I’ll make a need!), I’m sure to end up naming something The Flying Pussyfoot.

Damn, what a good ride.

(Watch Baccano! on Hulu for Free)

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hisui_icon_4040 The library is a great place to pick up things you might never have heard of otherwise. I randomly saw Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale on the shelf of books recommended by the librarians. It was history in a comic format: SOLD. The fact that we are going to be watching the AMC show Turn soon makes this extremely relevant.

The author of the comic is named Nathan Hale so starting with telling the tale of Nathan Hale and some of the first American spies seems the most logical place for him to start. Nathan Hale is about to be executed for a spy just before he says his iconic line of “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country” as he is chatting with his executioner. This leads to a magical American history book swallowing him, transferring the history of the country into him, and spitting him out (in makes more sense in context). That strange vents leads to him debating his executioner and a provost about various point of the war for independence in a comical fashion.

The Nathan Hale setup is mostly there to introduce the premise while adding a bit of humor (and a personal touch) to the stories of American history. The stories in the book focus on Nathan Hale’s life as well as the other spies of the American Revolution. Nathan Hale may have been a patriot he was not much of a James Bond. There are also tales of The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga and The Boston Massacre to round things out. Benedict Arnold comes up but it is clear that they are saving the details of his life for a later book.

Also for getting Furniture Store named after him Ethan Allen seems like a bit of a whack-job. Not that he did not do some great things but he might have been a bit looney. Although with any brief rundown of a personality one wonders how much that is just a few tidbits presenting an unbalanced picture and how much that is the fact of the matter.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales on a certain level begs comparison to Hark! A Vagrant. In many way they seem similar. They are both comedic looks at history. But when you get down to the brass tacks they are different animals. Hark! A Vagrant is short punchy little jokes mostly made for people who are already into history. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales is more a teaching tool. You can enjoy the book if your already a history buff but the comic does not assume you are one. There are a lot more notes on what is real and what was done for dramatic effect. Hark! A Vagrant occasionally has notes but it mostly assumes you are good at historical research for anything more you might want to know. Then again Hark! A Vagrant is distinctly funnier because it can go in deliver a joke and swoop out only staying as long on a topic as Kate Beaton wants to.

It is a fun little series so far. There seem to be already three more books in the series and more on the way. They are a short but informative read. Worth picking up if you like history or perhaps want to spark such a love in someone else.

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