Baccano! Novel 1: The Rolling Bootlegs—Immortal Gangsta’s Paradise

hisui_icon_4040_round I was recently at the Kinokuniya Bookstore since it is on the way to the Mid-Manhattan Library. After looking at the new English-language manga I sent out two tweets. The first was the cover of  Queen Emeraldas manga and the second was the cover of the Baccano! novel. I asked if anyone had read either book and what they thought of it. Interestingly enough the Queen Emeraldas manga got quite a few responses but I did not see any conversation around Baccano! That was not the expected reaction at all.

I say that because I always thought that American fandom (or at least the anitwitter portion) loved Baccano! Whenever Durarara!! comes up it seems like someone always has to bring up that “they are fine with more Durarara!! but what they are really waiting for is more of the far superior Baccano!” It even has all the classic hallmarks for mainstream popularity: It has a Western setting, it has lots of violence, it can be sexy but it does not have excessive fan service. Not every series that has that combination is popular, they still have to be good, but any show that has all three is far more likely to be very popular.

It seemed like a formula for instant success. Now it might have been that I posted my tweet at a time that all the Leiji Matsumoto fans were out in full force but the Baccano fans were AFK but it made me extremely eager to read the first book. Was the silence just bad timing, a sign that Baccano! fandom has sadly died off since there has been no new anime since 2007 or is the book itself the weak link in the chain.

narutaki_icon_4040_round Baccano! like its (more?) well-known cousin Durarara!! is based on a very long running series of novels by Ryohgo Narita. But unlike DRRR!!, Baccano’s anime only finished up a couple of story arcs before ending. Though many of us still hold out hope that more anime is in-store, we’re lucky enough to now have access to the original novels in case those hopes are never met.

The first Baccano! novel covers some familiar ground and characters of the anime but in a more linear fashion.

Continue reading


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)


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.

Continue reading

Ongoing Investigations: Case #117

While not revolutionary HeartCatch PreCure! was one of the best crafted magical girls series I have seen in quite a while. In many ways, Suite Precure the newest entry in the Pretty Cure franchise, has impossible shoes to fill. I have already seen some negative reactions to this series which I think is slightly unfair. With any series this long you are going to have your ups and downs and some parts are going to be so great that you could show them to anyone, some are going to be watchable only by super fans, but most will be in the middle.  Suite Precure is a simple show where evil bad guys want to capture magical notes to the ultimate song to plunge the world into despair. Hibiki and Kanade are two friends who are recruited by a talking cat to become magical girls and use the notes to make beautiful music together. To enjoy Suite Precure you must go in with reasonable expectations about it. If you are predisposed to magical girls shows I think that Suite Precure is enjoyable. The fights have the energy and fisticuffs the Precure series is famous for which is always very welcome. The main characters are simple but fun. On the other hand other than that it is all very formula and anyone who does not like or is burnt out on magical girl shows is not going to find much to be hooked on. I am curious to see if they will have the plot take any major turns. The series should run about 50 episodes so they have plenty of time to throw in a few curve balls if they want. If nothing else I am curious to see if they add any new girls as the show progresses. There is already a masked girl in the opening who looks like she could easily be a third Precure.

The first three episodes of Suite Precure are fairly typical magical girl fare done very straight-forward. Since I haven’t seen HeartCatch Precure, I don’t have any over-high expectations going into this new series. The world is all music-themed as should have been easy to guess, but it makes for some rather silly names throughout (i.e. the animosity between Major and Minor land). I was led to believe these Precures would be more like rivals and I imaged perhaps some face-offs and competition when trying to collect the notes that have been scattered across the land. But that is not the case, though I do find their strained friendship a little refreshing and not as generally displayed in these series but nevertheless important and true. I really enjoy that they have to transform together and attack in harmony. You can really see the push for understanding each other more so than normal through Suite Precure. At the moment Suite Precure is a good magical girl show, but not excelling in any direction yet. Though with a long run series that can sometimes come a bit later on.

Continue reading