Ongoing Investigations: Case #115

I am not exactly sure what I was expecting with Amnesia Labyrinth 1 but I know it was not this. The story was by Nagaru Tanigawa who wrote the Haruhi Suzumiya books. Narutaki and I were interested because it was being sold like it was a creepy murder mystery. And the book does not lie about that. The fact of the matter is that it probably underplays how utterly messed up this book is. If you go in expecting the happy-go-lucky antics of Haruhi Suzumiya you will be in for a shock. The story has two faces. There is the mostly lighthearted investigation of Souji Kushiki and Sasai Yukako trying to discover who has been killing the most gifted students at school. While there is a dark undercurrent in this half of the story it is mostly upbeat. But the second half of the story resolves around  Souji Kushiki and his family and that is always hyper sexual in the most disturbing way possible. All three of his sisters are clearly engaged in some form of sexual relationship with him. It is really odd in the fact that I am not sure how much these scene are played for the purposes of titillation and how much they are just supposed to be flat-out creepy. They are always seriously creepy. Whenever one of his sisters is flirting with him (or in one cases sleeping with him) there is a distinct feeling that everything going on is very unnatural and sick. But at the same time there is also an air of eroticism in these scenes. I don’t know if it is going for both at the same time or if I am selling short the nudity and sex for just being there for the sake of nudity and sex. But you have to be aware that this is present in the series before going in. There is an intriguing possibly supernatural mystery going on but some people are going to be turned away but the omnipresent twisted sexuality of the manga. The art is oddly variable. At times backgrounds are detailed and complex and other times they are utterly non-existent. Also for some reason the art remind me of a really professional done doujinshi in the character designs and page layout. Overall I can’t place my feelings on this manga. All I do know is that this is not Haruhi.

I had heard of Amnesia Labyrinth probably for the same reason as anyone else has, it is written by the Haruhi author. I also knew it was a mystery series so of course I was curious about it. The book starts with the death of a third top-of-the-class student who we learn later was a friend of Yukako who runs the The Intelligence Committee (which has exactly one member). Souji has just transferred back to the school and also is readjusting to home life and eventually gets swept up in Yukako’s desire to find the culprit. That sounds all well and good, but everything about this series is creepy and it makes you suspicious of everything and everyone involved; I know you wouldn’t think it from that top picture but it is true, in a certain way it is playing with your expectations. Though I won’t say the series doesn’t start out with a not-quite-right vibe, it only becomes more pronounced as the volume continues. Despite things like the clear harem aspects of the series, an enticing mystery is woven in the first volume that made me want to know the answers but kind of afraid to find out. Why did Souji leave previously? What’s with this crazy incest family? Who is that guy who looks like Souji? Why is Yukako so attached to Souji? Does Harumi have multiple personalities? Some of these are actual questions and some of these are my speculations, but I like a mystery that is this meaty. I won’t lie though, the sexual situations in this title made me very uncomfortable, but at least for the moment I’m giving Amnesia Labyrinth the benefit of the doubt because I think we are supposed to be uncomfortable. So turn those pages quickly! I really had to mull over my feelings on this book, but I came to the conclusion that at least for the moment I want to continue. Continue reading

Ongoing Investigations: Case #109

After a full year Katanagatari comes to a close and it has been an interesting journey. Nisio Isin is still very obviously Nisio Isin no matter what he does. That means playing the with genre, winking at the audience, bizarre and sometimes immensely annoying characters, and metric tons of dialog. With 12 swords and 12 owners we have gotten a good deal variation in how the episodes felt. Some of the owners and swords were far more interesting than others but that is expected with having to create 12 pairs of antagonists and weapons. Also some of the later swords only count as swords because the author says so. I am going to assume that the episode that completely threw out the formula completely and had Nanami as the main charter was a highlight for most people.  The ending has parts that will either be very shocking or super obvious depending on who you are. It starts with a  speech that exemplifies the fact that characters do not stop talking no matter what happens. The final episode also has the prerequisite Boss Rush that seemed inevitable from the beginning. In the end everyone who had a plan involving the swords had an immensely elaborate Rube Goldberg styled plan that could have been simply solved without the swords in reflection. In fact there is some extremely sketchy logic that will probably annoy the daylights out of anyone not drawn in by the story. I enjoyed the story and like the Monogatari Series it proves he can write something I don’t utterly despise like the Zaregoto Series. But his style is still a hard pill to shallow and I can easily see why people would avoid his work like the plague.

I read Natsume’s Book of Friends vol. 1 which I was very excited about since I loved what I saw of the anime. This is the story of Natsume who can see yokai and who has felt isolation because of it. When he moves in with yet another set of relatives he starts to learn more about his long gone Grandmother who had the same power and used it to dominate the spirits. Things get hectic as spirit after spirit comes after Natsume to get back their “name, ” which his Grandmother had collected into a book. So far the stories have all been ones I watched on screen. Each has a little humor, a little nostalgia, and most times a very quiet and melancholy feel. Natsume is a really gentle soul and its wonderful to watch him listen to the stories of the yokai while also learning about his Grandmother. The artist’s lines are quite loose which adds the whimsy I am so found of to the stories. Though I have to say I enjoyed the anime just a bit more, the soft color palette and light music really added to the stories. Nevertheless, I want more Natsume and hope to find stories that weren’t animated in its pages.

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