Ongoing Investigations: Case #043

I finished the Contraband arc of Liar Game. It ended pretty strongly with a equal mixture of  success and failure for our main characters. I really liked that it was neither a total victory nor a total loss. Nao and Shinichi are definitely in a tight spot going into the next round but they did much of what they needed to do. Liar Game stays a smart series that challengers the reader but does not pull its plot twists out of thin air. How the game works and how the characters pull off their schemes are set up before the reveals are given. A clever person could probably figure out the answers in advance. Norihiko Yokoya has obviously been set up as a reoccurring villain which is the first in the series. Nao is still oscillating between being girl-who-needs-to-be-saved and Shinichi’s partner but at least her character is growing. I am hoping by the end she will have her own unique perception and tactics. I am a little surprised that Fukunaga is staying on as an important side character.

Picked up Key to the Kingdom a while back but just started reading it. So far books one and two have impressed me, it is a wonderfully put together shojo fantasy. We start with Asta, the youngest prince, who has no desire to rule nor to hold a sword. So when the country’s rule lies in the hands of whoever can find the “key to the kingdom” it seems he will be free of such troubles. However, fate has other things in store as Badd, a retainer, drags him into looking for clues to its whereabouts. When a Dragon Man appears on their path it becomes clear that everything is not as it seems. A diverse cast emerges along the road as Asta resists but gets caught up in the complexity of the country’s history. There are many things going in this story including action, politics, mystery, and love. I was surprised that the series is only six years old because the art certainly has a late-80’s or mid-90’s feel to it. A great start to the series, highly recommended!

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Manga of the Month: December

Yoroshiku Master by Sakura Tsukuba

I picked this story with the holiday spirit in mind! It is by a manga-ka that I really enjoy and have talked about on occasion. She writes really spunky females and good-hearted romantic leads. This series is ongoing and she writes a little of it now and again. In this story, Sagara has a chance meeting with a guy named Kaito who all of a sudden transforms into a reindeer?! Not only that, he informs her that she is one of many santas. Funny, sweet, fluff ensues as Sagara gets to know Kaito (and his hilarious family) and as they prepare for the most important night of the year, Christmas Eve! There is no major drama here just light-hearted romance that is a perfect match for the season!

Liar Game by Shinobu Kaitani

Liar Game starts with Nao Kanzaki dropping of a 100 yen bill that she finds to the police to show us that she is stupidly honest. So when she gets involved in a game about being a great con-artist she is without a doubt up a creek without a paddle. She comes home to a package that reveals she has been chosen to take part in the Liar Game tournament. The briefcase contains 100 million yen and a set of rules. When the round is over she must give back the 100 million yen. Any money she takes from other players is hers to keep. Any money she loses she must pay back. Soon enough she winds up loosing all her money to a fellow player. Out of despair she teams up with a brilliant con-artist named Shinichi Akiyama,who has recently been released from prison. The Liar Game tournament is much bigger than they might have guessed. Also learn the organization behind the tournament seems to have some greater but unknown designs behind their games.

Whenever Liar Game comes up in conversation it is almost always compared to Death Note. This is not an unfair comparison since the core appeal to both series is the psychological games of cat and mouse. In each stage of the tournament, it is Nao and Shinichi trying to figure out the underlying strategy needed to win the game while deducing their opponents strategy. Shinobu Kaitani has been good at building up the tension until the end of each round of the game. There was also a 11 episode live action version made and was rather well received.

Ongoing Investigations: Case #003

Gurren Lagaan is a tongue-in-cheek love letter to manly giant robot shows. It’s always about being a MAN! The whole world and its evil, beast-men robots may be against you but you fight on with manly pride and manly courage! You shout your attacks at the top of your lungs and fight for what you need to protect with guts and grit! Kamina is your standard balls to the wall, fiery robot pilot. He is mostly there to be cool, gain a huge fan following, and motivate the spineless but spark of potential Simon. Simon is easily compared to Shinji especially since they are both from Gainax shows, but I think it is way too easy to ignore Simon as his own character that way. Simon has potential to grow whereas Shinji was always meant to break down. Yoko is pretty kick-ass or at least as kick-ass as your going to get being a woman in a manly giant robot show. So far they have not given her a useless Aphrodite A style robot. Episode 4 definitely earned it’s infamous reputation. If this is the cleaned up version I would hate/love to see the original episode.

On a side note: Bravo Bandai. I really approve of Bandai’s plan of releasing nine episode sets sub only with minimum extras and then releasing deluxe sets with dub and additional extras later on.  I love getting nine episodes for 20 dollars at Best Buy. If you release Hayate or Gundam 00 like this Bandai you have my money. I will slap you with the twenty like I was Mask the Money.

Gurren Lagaan is one of those shows that I knew would probably be good, but just never got around to seeing. Now I have and now I know what the fuss is all about, finished the first five episodes. This show is so good and hilarious! GAINAX you shock me! It has been much too long since I enjoyed one of their new shows. Everything about it is over the top, from the way the robots look to Kamina’s hilarious names for the different attacks (Combustion of Manly Souls Cannonball Attack!). And Kamina’s dealings with Yoko are a laugh a minute! But on a more serious note I really enjoy the sibling closeness and protectiveness between Simon and Kamina, it feels right. Looking forward to watching more!

I normally don’t like slice of life, but I am always looking for the next Azumanga Daioh. So I tried out Hidamari Sketch. I thought the premise had potential, it is about four girls who are going to art school. Upon viewing, can’t say I found anything special about this show. It was rather boring, not very funny, and the animation is really weird. These types of shows live and die on whether or not you connect with one or more of the characters because there is no plot to speak of. I didn’t and so I found nothing to warrant continuing on.

Liar Game just pissed me off. Nao finally has the chance to grow as a character and do something without Kazuo and she utterly fails as life so Kazuo has to come bail her out. I thought since the revival round was all losers from other rounds she would finally have opponents that were weak enough that she could handle them on her own. She could finally stand on her own two feet and win a round without her guardian angel. But as far as I can tell her purpose is to be useless and a liability. I know sometimes it is asking too much Japan but could we turn the misogyny down to a manageable 6 or 7 as opposed to the 11 where you normally have it.

Picked up Dragon Eye volume 5 as soon as I could. This book is mostly transitional, we just came off an intense battle and a lot of plot from the last couple of books. We are moving toward a tournament, but the end of the book boasts an awesome confrontation in the coming chapters. My only qualm about it is Issa is currently injured so I’m not sure how the fight will play out or if even if it will get a good momentum before it is over. In any case, I am certainly looking forward to it.

Banana Fish is like baby’s first BL. It has all the homosexual tension of your favorite BL work but none of the graphic nature of anything but the tamest works. I can definitely see why this did so well in Japan. It has a good mixture of action, political intrigue, and melodrama. It’s BL romance mixed with a seinen thriller. I do have two criticisms though. The first is that the author certainly researched New York City but never lived here. I am sure the average Japanese person did not notice anything but I know people like to complain about it here in the States. It was amusing but nothing that made me not want to read anymore. Also Ash Lynx is a huge Mary Sue at times. He is super beautiful, genius IQ smart, and good at EVERYTHING that counts. Ash got a score of 171 when I put him into the Universal Mary Sue Litmus test.

Continuing to play Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced 2 and atleast a real plot has now appeared. We moved on from the “The book wants you to fill it up and then you can go home” plot. Still not bonded with my main character though. But I’m willing to still keep going besides more characters will be appearing as well. The game play continues to be awesome and I can’t stop playing! I get very obsessive about mastering new abilities and getting new jobs! I do have to complain that it is endlessly annoying to have people want to join your clan but they have not learned any abilities or skills. They are level 27 but know nothing? Interesting.

That’s it for this week’s investigations! Look for a new case file every Friday!