Ongoing Investigations: Case #066

I received a copy of the first book of The Lizard Prince from CMX last week. It seems to follow in the footsteps of many of their shojo fare of late, not bad but not great and a bit forgettable.

In this short (just two books) story, we follow the misadventures of Sienna a Prince who was turned into a lizard only to have the spell (semi)broken by true love. And we and his new love Canary find out quickly he can still transform into reptilian mode though getting back to human is a bit dodgy. This is a running gag and makes up for a good portion of the incidents in the book. Woven into these frantic moments are some cute trials and growing affection between these two young members of royalty.Though they keep trying to make Canary into this tomboy princess it rarely comes through. Sienna’s kind of a weenie but very trying and sweet though he a lot more amusing in lizard form.

The humor, like the love story, is kind of just middling without really making you laugh out loud nor moving you to cheer.

There is also a one shot about a girl who is always burning hot and a boy with nice, cool hands. This story I liked a bit better than the main but that might owed to it being just a one off.

As a whole The Lizard Prince is cute but nothing that seems all that special.

With the gentle urging of a fellow Hitohira fan I finally decided to go and watch the anime. I prefer the manga but the anime is a wonderful adaptation.

Hitohira is the story of a painfully shy girl who after being roped into joining one of the two competing drama clubs learns to be more confident and peruse her dreams.

The anime captures all the powerful moments of the manga with the added force of voice acting for any of the scenes where they play is taking place. I enjoyed the manga a little more because I feel it was a tighter story. Everything happens pretty much the same they just take more time to do it in the anime.

Also Mugi Asai seems less hopeless when we spend less time with her running away from her problems. I was glad to see a bit of resolution to things that were only coming to a peak in volume three of the manga, which is the last volume of the manga that has been released in English.

The anime has a good stopping point but I know that the manga continues the story. I wish that we could finish the manga in the U.S. but I am not holding my breath until that happens.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #051

In preparation for seeing Frederik Schodt at Otakon, Narutaki and I decided to read The Astro Boy Essays. The title might say The Astro Boy Essays but this book is just as much a detailed look at Osamu Tezuka as it is a look at Astro Boy. The essays cover the production of Astro Boy as both an anime and manga, its effects on Japanese anime and manga, as well as on Japanese culture in general. The book also covers how Astro Boy was localized in the United States. Throughout Frederik Schodt gives us a look at the man himself, Tezuka. I now realize that many of the smart people who I consider well-versed on Osamu Tezuka are merely stating what they know from this book. My only criticism is that at times this is obviously a collection of essays written over the years. This means that some parts will be redundant as he has a tendency to repeat certain aspects in one essay to the next because all the essays were originally stand alone pieces. Still it is one of the definitive pieces on Osamu Tezuka and one of his most beloved and well-known creations. It is a must read for anyone interested in anime and manga’s history and one of its greatest contributors.

YAY! I got my copy of The Astro Boy Essays signed! After recently reading Dreamland Japan also by Schodt, which showcased a bit of Schodt’s friendship with Tezuka through his interpreting for him in the United States, I needed to pick up this collection of essays as well. Astro Boy and Tezuka are highlighted in his previous books, and some of the tidbits are the same, but the thinking of Tezuka and his own interactions with his creation are fully fleshed out in The Astro Boy Essays. It is written in a conversational manner and not bogged down with so many dates, facts, and figures as to come off dry. This is apparent in all of Schodt’s works and is the reason it is so accessible and a joy to read. The Astro Boy Essays also helped me appreciate that so much of the Tezuka library is finally being published in English. While I have not read much of the original Astro Boy manga, I soon will be. This was an all around quick but informative read that is necessary for anyone who appreciates the history of anime and manga.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #033

At NYCC, Yen Press was giving away all the books they had brought to display on Sunday. It was mostly picked clean when I got there. I had to take what was interesting but not owned by Kohaku, Narutaki, or me. I picked up Black God book three based on the first episode of Black God anime which had potential to either be very good or very bad. I heard there were significant differences between the anime and the manga. It is a bit odd reviewing the third book in a series but here I go. The main character is out of school and works as a computer programmer in the manga. The pace of things is different because the girl killed at the end of the first episode does not die until the end of the second book. We start off with a guy having sex with a loli (so right there Narutaki is not going to be a fan). We soon learn after a fight and some exposition that Steiner (the previously mentioned loli-toucher) and Excel (the previously mentioned fake loli) are allies if morally flexible allies. The fights are generally enjoyable and one of the strongest reasons to keep reading. I don’t know why by my favorite character in the series is Akane but Kuro and Keita have yet to really sell me. If I had not watched the first episode of the anime I think I could have generally figured out what was going on although seeing it definitely helped. I can’t say that the book made me rush out to buy the rest of the series but if I saw it on sale I would pick it up. It’s not exactly original but it seems interesting. I am curious how Keita’s mother plays into the evil organization and if they have the cojones to kill of Akane despite me liking her.

My friend lent me the graphic novel Skim after we were admiring Jillian Tamaki’s artwork in a another project. Her style is certainly Japanese print inspired and she had the ability to draw characters who aren’t beautiful looking but rather charismatic anyway. Skim takes place during a period of change in a young girl’s life. It follows “Skim” as she falls in love for the first time, loses and gains a friendship, and as she discovers change is okay. Skim has a sense of humor about herself and her thoughts on the world around her are a breath of fresh air. Mariko Tamaki is able to capture a teenager’s thought patterns without coming off as trite or overly angsty. 

I picked up Translucent number one from a Dark Horse RighStuf sale after hearing people talk about it on the The Anime Roundtable. It a cute little love story about a girl who has a strange medical condition that is makes her partly transparent and the boy who loves her. I think is a series destined to be loved by critics and manga otaku and ignored by the masses. It has cute characters and a lovely little story that is only five books long. Mamoru is a nice goofy guy and Shizuka is a sympathetic girl much like Mugi from Hitohira. The side characters like Okouchi are quite charming. For some reason, the atypical art style and fact that the two are in a relationship reminds me a lot of Love Roma. I do admit while the unusual art style in Love Roma was a stylistic decision, here it is more of odd because it looks so amateur. I have noted that seinen series are more willing to artists who tell good stories but less artistic skill. While I enjoy that fact, I feel it further ghettoizes seinen manga in the U.S. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and we might do an article when it wraps up.

I love VIZ’s release of 20th Century Boys. Check out the abundant spot gloss all over the place! Not to mention the cover design is really nice! I had actually read a few chapters of this series a mighty long time ago. I am glad to be reading it again. In this first book we really get to know Kenji, I wonder if he will remain at the forefront or if we will get to see more of the group as well. I am certainly intrigued by the strange goings on as well as “Friend.” I do feel that an entire group of friends completely forgetting an incident is rather far fetched, but I have accepted this as part of the story. And I hope it will be explained as the story goes on.

I started reading Hero Tales in Yen Plus recently. Coming from Hiromu Arakawa of Fullmetal Alchemist I am sure this series already has plenty of buzz. Though I have not heard anything about it other than its existence before I started reading it in Yen Plus. I did not even realize that there was a 26-episode anime. Is there some reason no one talks about this series despite it coming from such a high profile artist or am I just not talking to the right people? It’s an enjoyable martial arts adventure so far. You have an oppressive empire and a young hero with a mysterious power tied into his destiny. I like Taitou and Laila’s brother/sister relationship. The general plot structure reminds me of the Suikoden series due to Taitou being one of the stars of the Big Dipper. He therefore has to find the other stars to accomplish his task. The main character has a much more powerful berserker form which could lead to lameness. Looks fun and worth following in either Yen Plus or graphic novels.

My love for Dragon Eye seems to be shared by few, but nevertheless (or perhaps because of that fact) I grabbed up volume six as quickly as I could. For whatever reason, this volume really drove it home for me that Issa is more of an in-between shonen and seinen hero, as opposed to his looks and attitude that imply he is the typical shonen protagonist. The beginning of this volume somewhat clears up a mystery (with a very good fight) and then pushes us fully into a new one involving the upcoming tournament. We are also introduced to some of squad one and specifically Akira, who seems to have a major problem with Hibiki. Incidentally, Hibiki remains one of my favorite characters and continues to be a mysterious guy. Aoi’s, his squad captain, interest in him is intriguing. It doesn’t seem romantic so I suspect they are related in someway. Looks like the tournament will be starting in the next book, can’t wait!

If you were curious about the three main characters Hero Tales, this is the pic of the week: