Ongoing Investigations: Case #144

Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors issue 1 starts with a brief and amusing history of how the school came to be through the bumblings of a not so great villain who was defeated by a totally way better villain who used the name “Gladstone’s” ironically. The rest of the issue introduces us to many of the current students the likes of which cocky Kid Nefarious, awkward Mummy Girl, trouble makers the Skull Brothers, and a bunch of other students and teachers. And it hints that the villains and heroes dynamic isn’t exactly what it seems. While this spend most of its time settling up the story, it still has good looks at characters personalities and stays humorous and fun all the way through knowing just how much to make fun of itself.

There are somethings that you read and you instantly know your opinion on. I hated this or I loved this. You just have a gut reaction that dictates your opinion. Other times you get a more middle of the road reaction and then with a little digestion you can give a thumbs up or down. But then you have a book like Breathe Deeply by Doton Yamaaki. Even after a day of contemplation I can’t tell you if I thought it was good or not. I clearly see the books strengths but I just as clearly see the books weaknesses. They are both equally obvious to me and neither really makes forget about the other. So the best review I can give this book it to put both sides of the coin on the table and let anyone reading decide for themselves which half they consider more important. The main thing is that the book seems to think that subtlety is for losers when it comes to story telling. So when it is doing well its success is as bright as the sun and when it is annoying it is like nails on a chalk board through a sound system and your right next to the speaker that is on MAX. The story is a tale of two boys who fall in love with the same girl who is dying from a heart condition. One is a cold genius the other is a hot-headed punk. When she passes away after declining a transplant for ethical reasons both boys fall into a deep and angry depression in their own way. But they both attempt to find a method of creating an artificial heart that would not require a donor to prevent a similar tragedy. Both men are haunted by the loss of the woman they love but at the same time are irrevocably bound to each other by their loss. There is a lot to like about this book. You have older working adult characters. We have some major flash backs to their childhood but the bulk of the story is about their present day medical research and politics therein. There is also some serious looks at the ethics of research, transplants, organ donors, and medical politics. There are also some solid character study and romantic moments. The problem in Breathe Deeply never attempts to do anything in subdued tones. It throws the medical issues at you with the force of a rail gun round.  It is obvious what the authors stance on the issue of organ donors is except for 1 scene at the end that sort of tempers his view. Also everything is soap opera levels of the theatrics. Everyone has dark secrets that they spring on the rest of cast at the worst possible moment, drunk dads are always drinking and abusive, anytime anyone learns a weakness of another character they immediately intact a fiendish blackmail scene, and every conversation is some sort of game be it political or emotional. There is even beating and interrogation by a group of doctors using sodium thiopental. The problem with that is that Breathe Deeply wants you to take it very seriously. When Team Medical Dragon does the same thing I am OK with it because it mostly want to be a crazy medical drama with action and boobs. If you think about some medical issues as well than all the better. Breath Deeply wants you to take its love story and its ethical concerns with a somber gravity. But it is hard to do so with the theatrics surrounding them. The art is very seinen and the characters are fairly realistic looking which reinforces the feeling the series wishes to give off. I can’t really tell you if you will like this book or not. I am still not sure what my feelings are. But it is only one book long and is not like a good deal of the shonen and shojo in the English market today. Take what I have said and see if it sound interesting to you. There is a lot to enjoy and just as much to turn you off.

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L: Consulting Detective and Other Great Anime Spin-offs

hisuiconA common complaint I hear about series is that the main characters are bland but the side characters are far more interesting and nuanced. It seems almost epidemic in shonen fighting. In fact Shonen Jump just started a spin-off magazine whose whole purpose is to put the spot light on some of the more popular minor characters in their magazine. The announcement of Super Strong Jump was just the catalyst we needed to bring out one of our post ideas from the back burner about our favorite side characters who would do just as good if not better in their own feature title. Remember that Gunsmith Cats’ Rally Vincent is a spin-off from the original Riding Bean series and look how far she has come.

This post has been brewing for a while, and is by no means a complete listing. But before it got totally out of hand, we had to think of which characters could really use their own stories beyond the fact that we just like them a hell of a lot. This is mere sampling of some of the great side characters that we’re pretty sure could hold their own in a series. Eventhough the title of this post mentions L, he already has a spin-off albeit a bad one, so we’ve come up with a list of other great spin-off options! Oh, yeah, 1/3 of our picks are still detectives though!

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #104

I have happily been engrossed in the latest Professor Layton game the Unwound Future for the last week. The plot is the most fun and lively yet and we even get to learn a bit about Layton’s past and relationships plus see a (gasp) top hat-less Layton! This is also the most personal and emotional installment yet, which makes sense since it is the end of trilogy. Still I was pleased to see myself tearing up at the ending of the events. The puzzles were about the same difficulty level as the second game, which means that overall they are tricky but not overly hard. I still admit to missing the really challenging puzzles that appeared at the end of the first game. In this case even the end puzzles, worth a lot of picarts, were mostly harder versions of puzzles you had already conquered earlier in the game. But my true reason for playing the game is plot, plot, plot so I was indubitably pleased with how it came together. My only complaint is the constant hand holding that started with the second game and only seems to have escalated in the third. There is a journal that I can read if I forget anything, there is a mystery section that I can review, and when I turn on my continued game it reminds me of where I left off. Those things are all fine, what I don’t need is the game to prevent me from wandering and a plot recap every couple of chapters. These things don’t make the game less fun it just takes a bit of mystery solving out of it.

hisuiconProfessor Layton and the Unwound Future is a delightful capping off of the 1st Professor Layton trilogy. As with most the previous games we start with an odd event that spirals into a larger adventure with Layton discovering the grand conspiracy behind everything as he solves puzzles. I did notice some recycling of older puzzles beyond using some of the work horse types of puzzles that are in all three games. But they change them enough that they don’t feel like you are replaying an older game with a new story. I am never usually one to comment on voice acting but the new woman who does Flora is quite awful especially considering how good everyone else has been. I don’t know what circumstances prevented them from using the original Flora but they need to get rid of this lady and fast. The ending of the game was bombastic where is need to be and in contrast heartfelt, touching, and a bit melancholy where it needed to be as well. I will say the giant robot at the end of the Eternal Diva is much more inline with the series now that I played this game. I look forward to the adaption of the prequel trilogy as well as the Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney game.  With all the new material taking place before this trilogy one wonders when they will get to that letter and the end of this game.

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