Ongoing Investigations: Case #189

It was time to return to the Code Geass universe with the first Akito the Exiled OVA. It is a side story set during the original series that takes place on the mostly neglected European front. While the European Union was mentioned several times in the series there were no significant scenes that ever really take place there. So it is a good setting as a good deal can go on in that area and not have it contradict the original series.

The only real consequence is that the cast is limited in what it can accomplish. The overall defeat of the EU is an inevitability. So the cast cannot become super heroes who single handily turn the tide of the war or kill the Emperor. But at the same time the can accomplish smaller goals so it is not like there is nothing they do in this time period.

The first thing most people will notice is that no matter where Japanese people go in the Code Geass universe it is a hard knock life. The Japanese hoping to escape a terrible life in Area 11 find that being refugees in other countries is little better. The crazy European commander of a Japanese unit starts sending his subordinates suits their self destruct codes as he sees them as subhuman mongrels whose only value is to die completing their missions. So the not so subtle themes of prejudice are echoed here as well.

The single survivor of the unit, named Akito, is helped by another commander named Leila Malkal. It seems Akito has some sort of Geass power but other than using in ambiguously in combat a few times it seems the writers are keeping what exactly his ability is under their hats. I also get the feeling they imply Leila has a Geass power but they only tease its existence more than show it.

Other than that most of the episode is just showing the setting as the European Union that was barely fleshed out in the original series. We mostly learn that they are a different sort of corrupt government as opposed to a noble force that fights against the wicked Britannian empire. The leadership of the AU is mainly made up of haughty nobles who live in luxury while a good deal of the citizenry lives in poverty. Leila seems to be a rare expectation although she seems less concerned about reforming the system and more about just being a decent human being to the people she meets.

I was a little surprised that for a Code Geass series there was almost no fan service. The original series all but left you voice mails every episode reminding you about how stacked Kallen and C.C. were. So other than a pair of bunny girl waitresses (who barely appear on-screen) there is almost nothing else close to fan service in the series. I wonder if that makes this an easier sell to certain people.

The next episode preview seems to indicate that some major players from the original series are going to stop by next episode. It seems that C.C. has some tie to Leila which backs up my theory that she has a Geass power.

This is an easy recommendation to anyone who enjoyed the original series. It is fairly short but fills in the universe without trying to carve out too ambitious of a niche in the greater story. Hopefully they will keep the scope ambitious but not to the level in which they forget how small their canvas is.

I was looking forward to the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled OVA and the first episode didn’t disappoint me. Though admittedly a lot of the surprises were in the next episode preview, I thought this episode set up things well and got me invested in the characters.

I really warmed to our lead Leila right away. She seems like a soldier and able to take care of herself. She has her head on right without being conventional, her unit is ending up being a unique team. The hints at her past got more interesting as the episode went on.

Akito is not a cold fish which was a pleasant surprise. I liked that they didn’t reveal what exactly his Geass does yet. He uses it in battle at the start but he doesn’t use it in a later battle so it remains a mystery. The movement of his robot at the beginning is crazy! Very animal like in its agility, it was actually a little unnerving.

I enjoyed everyone meeting in this installment and happily there was no romantic agenda being pushed. They do introduce a lot of characters and a lot of characters with Geass powers but hopefully they’ll be able to balance all of them.

It doesn’t seem like a story that is going to end in happiness though I’m guessing it won’t be all bad. Still I expect Akito to die by the end.

The only real problem for me was the characters’ hair and clothing designs, bleh. Also some of the characters had tiny heads! Oh wait, and there was also super creeper fiance brother. So some minor missteps.

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 #181

As a fan of Kenjiro Hata I am always interested in the older works. In fact I did a whole article about the evolution of this style two years ago. I got the Japanese release of Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers when it was reissued due to Hata’s popularity with Hayate. But sadly when I searched for any translations of Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers there were none to be found. But there was a short one shot also included in the book called God’s Rocket Punch. It as clearly a pre-Hayate work as you can tell that Hata’s style is still very crude. But unlike the longer part of the book this has a fan translation.

Tasuke discovers that he grandfather used the last years of his life to trade a goddess for a most unusual wish that by happenstance is passed down to him. Now Tasuke and his friend Kazuya are conscripted by the goddess to fight for justice now that he has a mecha styled rocket punching right hand. Needless to say this does not go well.

Wow. Even more than Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers you can tell that God’s Rocket Punch comes off of Hata working for Koji Kumeta. As I mentioned before when Kenjiro Hata started on his own you can heavily see the work of his mentor in all his art. Kazuya feels like an early prototype for Wataru especially with his snarky personality. But character design wise he looks more like Koji Kumeta’s fan art of Wataru. But the shading, page layout, and reaction shots, and overall art are still highly influenced by Hata’s old mentor. It would not be until a few books into Hayate that he would find his own style.

But even more than that Hata’s comedic beats are still much more Koji Kumeta stylized. Kazuya’s personality makes him a very at home in Katte ni Kaizo. While the idiot trio can be rambunctious they don’t have that same sort of mildly psychotic air that Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei characters have. Also a bit of the deadpan delivery and slightly absurdest moments are half way between still being an assistant and having their own voice.

I think this was clearly a pilot that just never got enough steam to get off the ground. It ends with a clear lead into the next part of the plot. It is a nifty little idea but sadly one never got a chance to shine. Such is the fate of a manga artists first chapters. If nothing else Orumuzuto Nadja continues to make appearances in the omake for the Hayate manga.

I would like to read Thunder Goddess Sofia and the early draft of Hayate where Hinagiku and Yukiji are the main characters. But I have seen hide nor hair of either. Oh well. I guess I will just have to wait for someone to translate Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers until then.

Olympos is a one book manga from Yen Press following Ganymede’s captivity in Zeus’s miniature garden. While this gives the prince immortality, he can’t leave, and so his days are spent whiling away the time as amusement for the Gods (mostly Apollo).

A lot of  questions about “life” are brought up in these pages. The Gods immortality has made them callous as well as bored and relating to humans is a foreign concept well put in this story. There are also some interesting looks at how humanity took the idea of Gods and ran with it.

As for an overarching plot, the book fumbles around a lot. It starts with a chapter featuring an early 20th century guy being asked to rescue Ganymede, but that is quickly over. Then there is a lot involving a plot to take down Zeus by other Gods but comes to naught. In between those things is an in-depth look at Apollo’s first interaction with humans which is probably the best done of any. But while it makes why Apollo treats Ganymede the way he does more clear, it doesn’t feel like it comes to anything in the end.

I gotta admit, even after being a manga reader for a long time, I thought that Apollo and Ganymede were females in this story at first. The art has a light touch making it flowy and delicate. The color pages are a real treat, too.

While I thought the art was beautiful in Olympos, the story just wanders along for a while then ends without much resolution making it a rather uneventful read.

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 #127

Taking another item from our Seven Seas review pile I am so glad to be able to recommend one of their books without the qualifier “as long as you into this rather bizarre fetish.”  A Certain Scientific Railgun is a fun spin-off from the main A Certain Magical Index universe. Unsurprisingly Mikoto Misaka turned out to be one of the most popular characters from A Certain Magical Index but what was a little shocking is she got spun off into her own series. The Railgun series revolves around her involvement with the student run police organization called Judgement in the city-wide psychic school known as Academy City. Although she is not officially a member of Judgement Mikoto often gets involved with cases due to her roommate Shirai Kuroko. The first major story arc involves a mad bomber who is targeting members of Judgement but that soon leads to a much bigger mystery of a strange item called the Level Upper. Supposedly the Level Upper can exponentially increase your psychic power but it may have sinister side effects as well.  For better or for worse the Railgun series focuses entirely on the science side of the Index universe. Considering how certain people tend to dislike parts of the magical side this might be a strong selling point for the series. The stories are light and fun with Mikoto infusing any story she is in with her energetic and strong-willed self that made her popular enough to get a spin-off in the first place. Saten Ruiko and Kazari Uiharu are good supporting cast who are colorful enough to be distinct without being too loud even if they occasionally come off as the most interesting refuges from all girls slice of life manga. Shirai Kuroko’s over the top crush on Mikoto Misaka is silly enough to either make you chuckle or groan whenever she is on the page depending on if you enjoy her shtick or not. The series wears is yuri undertones on its sleeve. They are strong enough that they are mistakable but not enough to turn anyone away from the story. If you have watched the anime the stories are pretty similar but the manga is all killer and no filler. We there are some breathers most of the time we jump from plot point to plot point pretty quickly. You can tell that the anime threw in quite a good deal of filler material or extra complications to the story. You still get to know the girls of Railgun but they remove most of the slice of life manga feeling that the anime added. So if you liked the anime but wish they just got on with it then this is the version for you. The art is pleasant and captures the characters and action well. Overall it is a welcome addition to Index universe. It just makes me wish that someone would license the light novels but considering the light novel market in the US I realize that is tantamount to asking a company to go out of business. Such misfortune.

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society was the obvious next title to watch once I finished 2nd Gig. I didn’t realize it would take place two years after the ending of the second season with the Major (mostly) MIA from Section 9. A conspiracy involving missing children, dying elderly, refugee suicides, and a hacker called The Puppeteer combine with the Major right in the thick of things to once again take us on an intense ride to an unexpected end. Both Battou and Togusa are stepped up a little in this movie, which is only a good thing. The scenes in the hospital with Togusa’s daughter are great. And I gave a big thumbs up to the last moments of the film with Battou and the Major looking out the window together. After finishing this I more than ever want a Stand Alone Complex 3rd Gig.

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