Anime & Manga of the Month: October

Anime of the Month
Urusei Yatsura by Studio Pierrot

Urusei Yatsura is based on an obscure manga by an even more obscure manga-ka named Rumiko Takahashi. Ok that is a blatant lie. But for the amount that people still talk about Urusei Yatsura in the U.S. you would assume this was the case. Which is a shame because it is one awesome anime.

Urusei Yatsura starts with the lecherous and unlucky Ataru Moroboshi getting engaged to the alien Lum Invader after saving the earth by defeating her in a game of tag. Despite Lum being drop dead gorgeous Ataru wants to date all the other women in his life while the super jealous Lum wants to keep her darling faithful…by any means possible. Ataru might be the world’s greatest girl chaser but Lum can fly, shoot lightening blots, and has bevy of gadgets of alien super science. Ataru and Lum lives are only more complicated by various aliens and human who are drawn to Lum.

Urusei Yatsura’s greatest strength is its delightfully twisted cast of characters. Lum herself is an immortal anime icon to Japan and other parts of the world. You will see echos and allusion to the cast in every other Rumiko Takahashi work and a good deal of any other manga as well. From the spoiled over the top richest boy in the world Shuutaro Mendou to the manipulative split personality Alice in Wonderland themed alien Ran all of  Urusei Yatsura’s characters are iconic. Urusei Yatsura is also the most Japanese of all of Rumiko Takahashi’s works. Most of the aliens are based on creatures of Japanese mythology.

So with 195 episodes, 11 OAVs, and 6 movies where do I start. Or rather where should youstart? The answer is slightly unexpected. Start with the last disk. It has episode 194 which has the top 10 Urusei Yatsura episodes in summary with the most popular episode in its entirety. It will give you a good idea if this series is for you. You could also start with the first movie. It jumps right into the action and is consistent in tone with the rest of the series. The second movie might be the pinnacle of Urusei Yatsura but much like Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro it might give you the wrong impression of the series. The 5th movie is also excellent but it’s very silly to start with the end in my humble opinion.

Also Rock the Planet (the 5th opening) is without a doubt one of the greatest anime openings of all time.

Manga of the Month
D.N.Angel by Yukiru Sugisaki

Daisuke is a short, artistic, and energetic, if a bit clumsy, 14-tear-old boy but he has a bit of problem. In his family, all of the first born boys inherit the ability to turn into the phantom thief Dark who is a bit of handful. Hiwatari, a classmate of Daisuke who is hiding some secrets of his own, is determined to catch the thief that hasn’t appeared since almost 40 years prior. Dark has been stealing artwork from the Hikari clan for 400 years but for what purpose and reason? Dark emerges when there is artwork to steal but also when Daisuke’s emotions surge, especially those of love. To make things more complicated Risa, the girl Daisuke has a crush on, falls in love with Dark while Riku, Risa’s twin, starts showing feelings for Daisuke. Not to mention Dark being in love with Riku himself. Plenty of drama and comedy ensues with the help of Daisuke’s family. So begins a game of cat and mouse, art theft, action, magic, mystery, and quite a bit of romance. It has a good pace mixed with artwork that continues to evolve as the series goes on. The relationships are a high point pulling you first one way, then the next, making the complexity very dynamic.

D.N.Angel is a series that garnered popularity in Asuka magazine and has only recently come off hiatus for long-waiting fans. With 11 volumes released in English and just 13 in Japanese everyone who reads it is anxious for its, more than likely bittersweet, conclusion.

Ongoing Investigations: Case #012

We started watching D.N.Angel with the misguided belief that we would review it for the blog. Well, that ain’t happening. I also read all of the manga that has been released in English, this was a much better experience. The manga is fun, cool, sweet, and even a bit heartbreaking. The anime was a weird mix of fan-service and super-filler. There were good episodes and good moments, but there was too much space between these instances. They don’t explain much and some things just plain don’t make sense. They also seem to throw out the whole phantom thieving at one point. Uh? And yeah I’m still pretty bitter that Dark is in love with Riku in the manga but not in the anime. Read the manga and don’t watch the anime!

I liked the Riku and Daisuke solo dynamic but I feel that adding Dark into the mix makes it interesting to read. Since the manga was not completed they decided to simplify the story in order to adapt it. The problem with that was two fold. First they simplified it too much so you were left with large amounts of filler, wasted space, and uninteresting new additions. I’m looking right at you Mio Hio. Ironically several of their attempts to simplify things made several points more complicated or just plain confusing. Secondly we are cruising along the story pacing highway speed limit at 30 MPH and then the anime original ending cranks up the speed to 110 mph. The last two episodes feel rushed and somewhat unexplained at crucial points. It’s not a bad anime but it’s clearly an anime that is inferior to the manga it was based on.

Ghost in the Shell SAC first season finished! Really amazing show, jumped up into being one of the best things I have watched lately. It had a great climatic ending with some serious emotions emerging. I have heard that it is debated whether or not Batou has feelings for the Major, not sure how this could be debated unless you are blind. Whether the Major actually reciprocates is a different story. Seriously though, the sexual tension in the room (you know the scene I’m talking about) was so intense I thought it was going to crack the windows! As for the Laughing Man, I was pleased though I would love to see him again. And as promised I have a Laughing Man wallpaper.

I want to meet the cool dude or lady who fully got Ghost in the Shell SAC the first time through. I wish to shake the hands with such a genius. I got most of it but I am still fuzzy on several of the details of side cases. I thought everything involved with the Laughing Man was awesome. He is such an awesome character. It was well written and well executed. They could have thrown in some more complex episode in between Stand Alone episodes in the middle but that is a minor flaw. The Stand Alone episodes were often as good as the main plot. Good filler, will the wonders ever end? Oh, I would go as far as to say blind and deaf to miss Batou’s feelings.

Read Kekkaishi volumes 13 and 14. The latter ends the first arc of the series and wraps it up quite nicely while leaving a few lingering villains to show up later on. We also get a glimpse of the tremendous power that is housed in Yoshimori. This is also where the anime ends so I am now reading totally new material. I love that the first thing Yoshimori does when he gets home after this whole ordeal is to bake a cake. I am glad to see this aspect of his personality in tact. The rest of book 13 and most of 14 is mostly short adventures but the end of the book looks to be the start of something.

I read Parasyte book 4. Even though it has a high school student as the protagonist it clearly straddles the line between shonen and seinen that makes it hard to categorize some of the titles in Afternoon. It seem like a shonen manga with it’s high school love story. On the other hand it can be placed in the seinen category just by the number of gory deaths of several important characters and countless unnamed ones. I was a little saddened by the death of the major character in this book but I can’t say it was not interesting.

So when you go to the Live-Evil fan-sub group’s website, the top banner changes and I kept seeing this cute picture but it didn’t say what it was. Finally decided to go through a process of elimination to figure it out, turns out it was a show called Ask Dr. Rin. Watched the first couple of episodes so far. It is essentially a magical girl show with Feng-Shui. Meirin has incredible fortune-telling powers using Feng-Shui, she has a secret identity of Dr. Rin who is becoming famous thanks to her website. Her fortune-telling seems to be dead on for everyone but herself. But when the guy she likes is in trouble her power manifest themselves into a dragon like spirit and she is able to save him. Looks like a major baddie caused this and his motives are yet to be revealed. Cute and fun show that promises nothing more than that.

I watched the Dirty Pair OAVs this week and they are just so much fun! I really like that the science fiction elements are there each and every time to make the story cool. Science is not there to be explained or deus ex machina. It’s just there to enhance the story. I like my hard sci-fi anime like Planetes but some times you need to kick back with two hot girls with big guns and watch them kill God in one episode and upper cut children in the next. Kei and Yuri have a fun dynamic that makes them like sexy versions of the stereotypical buddy action movie characters.