Ongoing Investigations: Case #161

When we went to go see A Letter to Momo our little group went on a side trip to Kinokuniya. These trips are always dangerous. I did not pick up anything but my roommate purchased the Fate/Complete Material volume 5 art book which of course was of no small interest to me.This is a very hefty art book all about Fate/Hollow Ataraxia. As I have never played Fate/Hollow it is always nice to get some more insight into that game. I have to say that I was slightly surprised that Bazett was the character on the cover. While she is one of the most important characters in the game she generally tends to be overlooked in most materials.The first part of the book shows all the designs from the returning characters. I never noticed how many odd little outfits Rin gets in this game. Interestingly enough all the new characters are near the back of the book in their own section. Also apparently that trio of girls who are the stars of Fate/School Life are rather prominent in Fate/Hollow. While they are no main characters that is a still a major upgrade from barely having names to becoming reoccurring minor characters. I wonder how they got that popular. There is also an amazingly wealth of background images and production sketches. Sadly I could not read the accompanying notes but I am sure they are filled with fascinating little details. Overall like the rest of the Complete Material books this is an amazing resource. As a side note they don’t have any materials from the sex scenes. I know that is a selling point for some people and a deal breaker for others. There is a whole page of naked Saber bum but other than that it is all clean as a whistle. It is definitely something I will pick up for myself when I have money again. If nothing else it only makes me want to play Fate/Hollow Ataraxia even more.

The Knight in the Area isn’t the best soccer anime you’ll see, but it does a solid job. I have to say I was surprised about the brother’s fate, I mean it was obvious Kakeru would have to go it alone, but the details of it were unexpected. As Kakeru finds his soccer spirit again, he decides to change schools looking for a player his brother respected. The players at Enoshima are a colorful bunch and I’m really enjoying the way they play off each other. The pacing is almost too fast however which leads to people saying a lot of things rather than showing them or us feeling them. I am pleased that in episodes 9-10 Seven is getting more of story. And she is a force to be reckoned with, quickly showing she has more skill than Kakeru and the boys of the team. It was really gratifying to see her far bypassing our main character. Kakeru is a player who will struggle for each new step and that is just fine.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #159

I remember hearing about Friends with Boys when I was listening to Manga Out Loud podcast and thinking it sounded interesting but I forgot to look into the title further. But when I remembered I could read the comic online as web comic as mentioned again on the 3 Chicks Review Comics podcast I set aside some time to read Friends with Boys. The first thing that stuck me was the art reminded me of the art of Chynna Clugston. Both women have a style that is clearly manga aware but is equally informed by a wide variety of comic traditions. Faith Erin Hicks will discuss Tezuka as quickly as Bone when she is commenting on a page of her comic. She has an expressive style that lends itself equally well to web comics as well as traditional print comics. The story itself has two main layers. The first is the story of how Maggie McKay has to deal with going to a public high school after being home schooled all her life. At the same time there is a supernatural element of Maggie being able to see ghosts. The highest praise I can give the story is that if you removed all of the supernatural parts I would have found the story equally enjoyable. Maggie learning to make friends outside of her brothers with the punk Lucy and her brother Alistair was perfectly wonderful. While the ghost story tied the mundane drama together it was never forced to pick up the slack on the story. If anything it felt slightly thrown it just to make the story stand out as more than a mundane tale of friendship and self discovery. It did not detract from the story but it was an unusual addition. I will mention that not every plot element is wrapped up. If you want answers to every question the story poses you will be disappointed. The main story arc is resolved satisfactorily but certain side elements are left to your imagination. I don’t think the story is purposefully written to be a ongoing series. A sequel could be written but nothing in the book demands it. I would read more about the life of Maggie McKay and her friends and family but do not feel cheated if I never got more. The story itself is only up as a web comic for a few more days if you want to sample it but you can buy the physical book right now as well. As a side note what has Chynna Clugston been up to recently?

Avatar the Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures is a collection of short comics with mini-stories that happened during each of the seasons of the TV series. The book is divided into sections based on the books in which each story takes place. It is a little disconcerting if only because you are somewhat forced to remember what was happening at that particular moment, but you get on board fairly quickly. There are lots of different artists and writers so some are more stand out than others. I particularly liked the stylization by Brian Ralph for Momo’s adventure and the youthfulness of Gurihiru’s art. The greatest and most hilarious moments include the return of Wang Fire. It is a fun collection of mostly humorous anecdotes but nothing that screams buy this!

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #149

I had been waiting to watch Hayate the Combat Butler! Heaven is a Place on Earth since it was announced last year. So when it finally come with the latest volume of the manga I was thrilled to watch it. The movie much like the rest of Hayate is a pleasant and warm helping of comfort food. Heaven is a Place on Earth is a nice little story set right after Natsu-comi and the arrival of Kayura Tsurugino but before the beginning of the next semester. It perfectly captures the feeling of being out in the country during summer vacation. The story focuses on the Hayate/Nagi relationship so I am of course totally behind it. But there is a Hinagiku bath scene so all the fans of the pink student council president will be satisfied. The best part of the movie is it feels like a nice minor arc in the manga. While it is a bit surreal at points it feels like it was taken from the source. Too often these little spin-off movies miss any of that spark that make you love the manga but this one captures that je ne sais quoi perfectly. The oddest thing about the movie is it came out BEFORE Kayura was introduced in the manga but the movie makes no real attempt to introduce her. It goes along like she has always been a part of the cast. At this point it is clear who she is but I am sure there were many a Hayate fan trying to figure out who this strange new girl was. Kayura cosplays as Saber in the movie so she is 1000% OK with me though. I will also say that I cannot deny the appeal of Maria with twin tails in a summer dress. This movie is probably not going to win over anyone who is not already a Hayate fan. They don’t make an effort to introduce you to the plot other than showing some newly animated clips from the first episode during the opening song. Oh Ruka does not take part in the main plot but she sings a song and says a few lines of dialog during the movie’s opening. So if she appears in the 3rd season she now officially has a voice actress. I am now just waiting to watch it again when they release the extended cut on the Blu-Ray.

I went to see Arthur Christmas mostly thanks to an article about its production which also alerted me to the fact that Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame) made the film with Sony. It really was everything it should have been: a delightful Christmas adventure with plenty of humor and holiday magic plus top-notch animation. It is the story of the one present Santa forgets to deliver on Christmas Eve which causes endless trouble for everyone. Arthur, youngest son of Santa, along with Grand-Santa take up the mission. Arthur isn’t the successor to the Santa mantle. Oh, he has plenty of enthusiasm but he is also absent-minded, clumsy, and afraid of just about everything; still he has a true heart that inspires everyone in true movie fashion. It even gets a little meta at points as Arthur realizes that Santa isn’t a person, it doesn’t matter who delivers the present, Santa is an idea and a feeling. One of the highlights to the animation production is just how Santa does deliveries which is very high-tech nowadays as they attempt to explain the ways in which it is all accomplished using military precision, thousands of highly trained elves, GPS, and a “sleigh” that functions much more as a space ship with the ability to camouflage itself in many ways. But the olden ways must be dusted off and put to use to fix the gift mistake. It has that classic bridging of multiple generations as a key element along with the realization that we each have a place in the world. While the story has some bumps, I didn’t understand how worrying helped Arthur get to the sleigh or why wrapping the burglar alarm did anything at all, it was a holiday film that left me in good spirits!

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