The Fiend with Twenty Faces: Many Masks Hiding One True Face

narutaki_icon_4040_round Reading the Boy Detectives (or the Detective Boys) by Edogawa Rampo (or Ranpo) is like picking up the American classics Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. Various people might have different reactions to hearing the name Nancy Drew, but we can probably all agree it conjures the idea of a bygone era. And yet these stories endure and are still childhood classics; the same is true of the Boy Detectives. Well-worn copies of the Boy Detectives books will always be found in Japanese libraries.

The Fiend with Twenty Faces is the first of the Boy Detectives stories and became a mega hit. The story cements not only the Boy Detectives, but also phantom thief Twenty Faces, and even the already known Detective Kogoro, as characters that would remain popular for generations.

hisui_icon_4040_round “This time I have them for sure.” says the detective. This time will be different. Each time this thief has made law enforcement a laughing-stock by boldly send a letter to the victim in advance as if daring anyone to stop them. The phantom thief has gotten past the police several times but now they think they understand their criminal mind. The thief is part spy, part magician, and part strategist all blended together in a villainous package. Every precaution has been taken. The museum has been swept for surprises that may have been planted there. Every staff member and officer are known to the detective so no flimsy disguises can be used. And this time there is an unexpected trap in place to catch the thief unawares. Tonight will be different. Tonight justice will triumph.

If you have been reading manga and watching anime for more than a few years that story should be very familiar to you.  The great battle between the phantom thief and the great detective has played out many times over the years in Japan media. The Lupin Gang vs. Inspector Zenigata. Detective Conan vs. the Kaito Kid. Cat’s Eye vs. Toshio Utsumi. Saint Tail vs. Asuka Jr. The list goes on but you see a pattern there. Each of those rivalries is a little different. One might add a romantic angle while another might sprinkle in a magical girl twist. How evil or benevolent the thief is can vary from story to story. Sometimes the thief and the detective are even forced to work together. But no matter the iteration they all have a common ancestor. They all trace their conflict back to the battle of Detective Kogoro and his Boy Detectives vs. the dastardly Twenty Faces.

The Fiend with Twenty Faces has become part of the very DNA of Japanese storytelling. While the concept of the Phantom Thief is older than the book it is clearly the story that took an idea that was somewhat popular in Japan and made it a part of the cultural lexicon. Any book that influential to detective fiction in Japan seems necessary reading to us on the Reverse Thieves so with decided to give this book a long overdue look.

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Anime Tamago 2016: Post-apocalyptic RYB Time-traveling Seiryu

hisui_icon_4040_round I feel it is best to start with a brief introduction of what Anime Tamago is. If you’re a longtime reader of the blog you will have seen our previous reviews of the Young Animator Training Project films. Since 2010 four short animated films are funded by the project in hopes of encouraging new talent in the anime industry. If you have ever heard about the project it was most probably because of either Little Witch Academia or Death Billiards. They were the biggest titles that the project has produced. Both of them have their own TV series and developed a dedicated fan following. Since then due to a number of factors, nothing else has really taken off like those two shows from 2013. For the last four years the entries for the year were known as the Anime Mirai shorts but this year they were re-branded as the Anime Tamago shorts.

While these shorts have fallen off the radar of a sizable amount of the fandom we still think they are worth examining. Most of these titles either come from either relatively fresh-faced crews or people who have been in the industry for a while but have been promoted to higher positions than they might normally have. Not all of these are spectacular or even good. Actually, some of them have been downright awful. But these titles are a good way of seeing who might very well be an up and comer in the anime industry. Today’s random Anime Tamago director or animator might be tomorrow’s superstar.  

One of the major downsides of this project that keeps it from being well-known in the English-speaking world is that fansubbers have an extremely varied interest in the titles. Some shorts from Young Animator Training Project get subbed near instantly. On the other hand, I only recently discovered that someone got around to subbing Parol’s Future Island despite the fact it came out in 2014. It really all depends on the tastes of whoever is still out there doing fansubs. None of these are guaranteed to ever get subbed. Therefore we watched two of the films without subtitles. We had no subtitles for Colorful Ninja Iromaki and Kacchikenee! and were forced to watch them raw.

So far we have yet to have any Young Animator Training Project films that had a super dense narrative and at the same time was not subtitled. I can’t guarantee we caught all the nuance of the shows we watched raw but I am fairly confident we understood the broad strokes thanks to anime being a visual medium and the stories being fairly simple. I do wonder when we will collide with a show like Kuro no Sumika: Chronus where we would miss major parts of the story without the translated dialog. But I suppose we will figure out how to cross that bridge when we get to it.

narutaki_icon_4040_round This project is always full of surprises and that’s what holds my interest year after year. While these shorts aren’t indie projects, they are still a little off the beaten path most of the time. What I really enjoyed from this time around was that three out of four were more in the children and family category. And even the fourth one wasn’t especially far from that.

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Manga of the Month: To Your Eternity

To Your Eternity by Yoshitoki Oima

narutaki_icon_4040_round In both a A Silent Voice and To Your Eternity, Yoshitoki Oima explores emotion, and holds the readers’ emotions in her hands. She takes a deep look into the human soul. In her new series, To Your Eternity she brings to life a fantasy landscape rife with danger, sacrifice, and beauty.

A mysterious all-powerful being sends an orb known simply as “It” into the world to observe. It can take the form of anything first inhabiting a rock, then a dog, then a boy, then . . . so on. It is immortal and can heal any damage done to it though it may take a little time. As it moves through the world It begins to learn more about human language, emotion, and motivations.

March, a happy child who dreams of being a mother one day, and Parona, an ostracized young woman warrior, have become close in their village. But Parona is wary of the tribe’s beliefs. Things come to a head when March is carted off as the latest child sacrifice to their god. March, then Parona, encounter It while in the midst of trying to escape this fate.

In a brutal world of superstition, gods, and miracles It, March, and Parona become bound together. To Your Eternity explores what it means to truly be alive and to live.

“They way you live isn’t something given to you! It’s something you win for yourself!”

At only eleven chapters in, To Your Eternity is absolutely compelling. However, I’m finding it hard to predict what this story’s goal will be. Will It, March, and Parona be the story? Will everyone die and It move on to some here-to-unknown scenario? Will It continuously meet people, observe their stories, then travel onward? Any of these scenarios feel possible.

~ kate