Ongoing Investigations: Case #228

narutaki_icon_4040 The Legend of Korra from Nickelodeon Studios returns! I had been actively avoiding all the preview clips and such before the actual release of the show. The double-episode premier moved at a very quick pace (which I’m feeling currently neutral about) and we saw the gang head off to the South Pole.

I liked that the show carried over Korra and Tenzin’s rocky student-mentor relationship. There was growth for both of them but that doesn’t mean things are all peace after the first season. The same can be said of Korra’s feelings towards her father. It is very clear that Korra feels like rebelling and that is only compounded, quite understandably, after some secrets are revealed about the past. I have a feeling more and more secrets are going to be dropped this season.

Korra’s uncle is so transparently evil that I hope they surprise us with his story and training of Korra. I would like to find out that he truly does have a positive connection with the spirits but his zealous attitude has taken things too far. I don’t want to see Korra get used but at the same time her impatient attitude has to catch up with her if we’re too see major changes for her.

I’m really curious to see Kya’s story!

Needs more Asami. Needs more Naga.

hisui_icon_4040 While the end of the first season of the The Legend of Korra suffered a bit then it tried with breakneck speed to tie up any and all loose ends before it ended I enjoyed the experience greatly. So I looked forward to see what would happen with the 2 episode hour-long special of the second season entitled Spirits. The first season was an extremely self-contained story, as it was originally supposed to be the only season, so one of the main questions was where they would go from the previous conclusion.

In many way the new season starts with everyone rather settled into the calm after the defeat of Amon. Some people are doing well like Mako and Korra while others are struggling to stay aloft like Asami and Bolin. But none of them are really worried about major world events or dire problems. All their current projects are personal but not necessarily trivial.

Korra is the most lackadaisical of the cast. Having learned the basics of air bending and touching her spiritual side she seems to have adapted an attitude of, “I got this.” Tenzin wishes to continue deeper into the spiritual side of air bending but Korra is all out of cares in her caring pouch. But before Tenzin can take her on a tour of the Air temples for a journey of self discovery and spiritual awakening as a compromise they agree to go to a festival at the South Pole first.

It should be clear from the title of the season that while Korra has gotten a good feel of the physicality of being the Avatar now the she can use all four elements she has only really taken a single step on the path of the world outside the material. When she encounters hostile spirits she can throw a good deal of damage their way but the subtleties unique to dealing with the immaterial is a complete unknown to her.

At the same time she is also dealing with her father and uncle. Her father is a well-meaning guy but is clearly someone who has made several poor decisions in his life. It is interesting in the fact that the bad things that happened to him  were not just misfortunes beyond his control but disastrous decisions that either came from poor judgement or an overprotective nature. Tonraq is clearly not a bad guy but someone who clearly flawed while trying to do the right thing. Her uncle, Unalaq, on the other hand is a well-informed and spiritual man. He clearly understands the world of the unseen and the proper rituals to deal with it. At the same time he seems inflexible in his beliefs. He is definitely the type to burn a village in order to save it without a second thought.

I am slightly tempted to ask my RPG group to watch this season if for nothing else they just started a storyline in-game that is dealing with spirits so it seems extremely relevant.

The episode ends well with a strong hook for the season. It shows the direction ion which a majority of the plot is going to revolve around at least for the time being if not the rest of the season. I’m glad to see a storyline that could be as interesting as the Equalist storyline from last year. There is also a major emphasis on the original progenitor of the Avatar concept as well. I am curious to see how his origin will tie into the larger story.

So far I like how the first season is going.  The last season was almost exclusively set in Republic City. This season seems to be focusing on the North and South Pole with the distinct possibility of doing some globetrotting to the mundane and spirit world as well. We have already seen that the Water Tribes have advanced since we last saw them as well as the Air country has begun to reform if they don’t really have any benders beyond Tenzin’s family. That exploration of the world alone should make this season worth watching.

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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Ongoing Investigations: Case #213

As a Type-Moon fan there are a lot of major parts of the company’s works that are relatively easy to find. All of the anime can be found with only minor difficulty (and a good deal of it legally), the visual novels are at least partially translated, and most of the manga has at least a few chapters available in English. But there are still a few rare gems for the truly hard-core. One of them I finally found are some translations of some of Takashi Takeuchi’s old Valkyrie Profile doujinshi Valkyria.

Valkyria, Valkyria 2, and Valkyria NEAV SAGA each focus on a different Valkyrie who follows around a chosen hero in hopes that they might be able to capture their soul to make them their Einherjar before they die. All the heroes are slightly (and often rightfully) worried that their Valkyrie might be tempted to kill them to make sure they can properly capture their soul as opposed to just waiting for them to die normally.

The Valkyrie series is interesting to see for a variety of reasons. The first is that the series is a clear look at Takeuchi’s art style before Tsukihime. While his art style has clearly evolved from this, to this, to this you do not get a full understanding of his journey as an artist until you view his even earlier work. When you realize that Ciel was heavily based on Clobette from Valkyria 2 it is easy to see a straight line of progress.

It is also one of the few times you get to see Takeuchi do his own story and artwork in a manga format. That means you see the stories that Takeuchi would tell without working together with Nasu as well as how he lays out panels when his art is not just character designs and mostly static images in a visual novel. It does make me wonder what a long running manga series from Takeuchi would look like. It also might provide some good clues into what parts of Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night are Nasu’s and which parts are strongly Takeuchi influenced.

The stories themselves have a distinctly short format. But considering these were sold at Comiket it then makes perfect sense. You have to quickly tell your story to an audience that you may never see again. Therefore all the stories are very self-contained even when they have a slightly bit of a shared story. On the other hand there is an assumption that you have at least a passing familiarity with Valkyrie Profile. But that is a common conceit in a good deal of doujinshi.

I’m not going to pretend this is the greatest work out of what would go on to be half of Type-Moon. The stories are charming but ultimately very light stories. It was nice on the other hand to see the humble beginnings of Bamboo Broom and think about how that would eventually become the larger machine it is today.

sep-books

 I was sent a review copy of the self-published e-book book An Otaku Abroad which is a travel guide for first timers heading to Japan.

There is a great overview in this book from deciding when and how to travel all the way to visiting temples. And a whole section is dedicated to studying abroad which I thought was a very thoughtful piece and a really common way a lot of young people get to Japan, too. This was the author’s ticket to Japan so she had a lot to say on the subject.

Since this book is written by an individual there were some sections that she didn’t have as much advice for such as flying domestically within in Japan. While she did research the subjects she was less familiar with, it might be helpful to have another contributor or two to add to these portions to round things out.

Since it is a digital book, one of the cool things is having links right in the text that can take you to handy supplemental sites. I learned of a few places and added them to my bookmarks for my mythical trip to Japan someday.

Even though the title says otaku, the guide doesn’t really focus on anime/manga related things which I found a little disappointing. There are a few mentions throughout the locations section and a very nice Top Ten Anime Sites list at the end. I’d like to see the anime/manga part of the guide bulked up to really give it that special hook.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #183

And so ends Kamen Rider Fourze or as I like to think of it Kamer Rider Diamond Is Not Crash. Having never seen a full Kamer Rider series this certainly was a treat. The last 21 episodes (28-48) put a nice cap on everything. The series ended things pretty much how would expect them to end with a few nice little twists to make it all feel unique.

Without giving away too many spoilers I will say the best part of the writing in the series is the way they pull off reveals. They make a good use of what amounts to 2 stage method of pulling back the curtain. They set up certain mysteries fairly early on and tease you with the answers. Then when they finally give you the solution I found nine times out of ten I had figured out the answers from the clues they left. But then they usually followed it up with a secondary reveal just after that which is nowhere as easy to predict. It is a strong one-two punch that helps nicely in giving impact to the story.

I will note after a certain point they really began to focus much less on the Rider Club than in the first half. They never disappeared but their overall screen time dropped from where in was in the first half of the series. For all the trouble they have over keeping Miu and Shun in the club they don’t do a good deal after they graduate. How many times was the Powerdizer really that important?

Still it was a fun show that really never took itself too seriously. It could hunker down when it needed to but it never lost sight of how silly its overall premise could be. It remained earnest while still being fun. It also helped the somewhat hokey production vales go down a bit smoother.  In many ways I think this could be the HeartCatch PreCure! of Kamen Rider for me. While I may enjoy other Kamen Rider series this one will take a truly spectacular show to beat.

Seriously Dark Horse, I hate you for putting Blade of the Immortal on a once a year release schedule. Blade of the Immortal vol. 25 is, as always, a beautiful piece of violence. There are some really exquisite page sequences in this volume. Samura amazes me with his artful blood spatters.

It has been a while since we’ve seen Shira in action; he had mostly been slinking around once he appeared again. The confrontation between him and Manji is sooooo what we’ve been waiting for for a long time. It certain had some surprises, though it isn’t over yet, but I was glad to see paths crossing again that I didn’t expect at this point. I kind of forgot that most of the characters don’t know Shira is still alive since we the audience have known for a number of volumes at this point.

We are finally privy to some insights on Manji’s immortality and vulnerability that we could only speculate on before. Although I don’t trust the information fully yet since it is only the doctor’s theory; this might be Shira’s big mistake.

At the end of this installment are some pretty hilarious joke comics parodying characters and situations in the series. I especially laughed when Rin needed bait to fish with so she cut off Manji’s arm.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

Continue reading