Modern Shojo: Narutaki’s Most Wanted Part 2

Last time, I discussed manga-ka and their libraries of work which I want more of in the U.S., but this time I sticking with individual titles. I’m tackling modern shojo titles that were released in the U.S. but did not get a complete release. It is so sad! I don’t hold out a lot of hope for these to see further release, but they are certainly ones I’d like to own all of in English if it were up to me.

Two Flowers for the Dragon

Now I know I said I’d focus on individual titles, but Nari Kusakawa is one of my favorite manga-ka. Three of her titles were licensed by CMX (oh lord, how I miss them!) and two made it to completion. Recipe for Gertrude and The Palette of 12 Secret Colors are absolutely worth picking up if you can find them.

Anyway, my favorite is Two Flowers for the Dragon and as luck would have it it was not finished. Perhaps more torturous is that it was so close! One book away from the end CMX closed up shop.

Two Flowers is a fantasy about an oasis kingdom ruled by people descendant from dragons. The current heir is bright and mischievous Shakuya who possesses magical abilities and also transforms into a dragon when under emotional strain. We join her in the story when a few things are occurring 1) her presumed-dead-for-five-years betrothed reappears, 2) a conspiracy against her kingdom arises, 3) and secrets about her family begin to emerge. This all leads to a great journey to uncover the truth.

Romance also plays a big role in the series. Shakuya already has a new fiance since her first was presumed dead. Each of her hands sports a flower tattoo symbolizing her betrothals. Because of her dragon blood they bloom based on her feelings and she has one year to figure out which one of her suitors is to be the one.

I desperately wish another publisher would jump on the Kusakawa bandwagon.

Continue reading


Ongoing Investigations: Case #002

I just watched the second Kara no Kyoukai movie so I might as well talk about the first and the second movie. There are going to be seven Kara no Yoko movies each based on a chapter of the original series. Each chapter is partially a self contained story but they also all build to a unified story. The first story is a ghost story with a bit of a flashy action sequence at the end. We are dropped in the middle of the story with a decent amount of time to develop who everyone is. The second is murder mystery with the origin of how the main characters met. I don’t know why Ask John was so harsh on the second film. It was clearly meant to be an unfinished story. It presents a mystery that makes you wonder what happened that is clearly only meant to be solved in the last film. I think it is clearly a series of movies for fans of Kinoko Nasu. It’s his first major work so I feel the story telling is not as polished as his later works but I still found it entertaining. The visuals are certainly theatrical quality so it is a pleasure to watch. As far as I can tell without ever reading the original stories the adaptation is fairly faithful unlike previous Type-Moon series.

Macross Frontier 13 was exactly what I wanted to see. It actually started with 12 and continued on into this one. Ranka singing and saving the world with it, Alto fighting like hell to keep her safe, secrets revealed, explosions, awesome robot fights, and a good cliffhanger! YES YES YES! Throw in some cute moments between Ranka and Alto (which they did) and I’m basically set for life. I felt as if I have been waiting for this and now my love for the series has really burst forth. I also found it funny that in original Macross I really started to love it about the same number of episodes in.

I am also pretty sure one character who “died” in this episode can’t be dead because they were just getting interesting. They went from seemingly unimportant minor side character with intriguing questions hanging around them, to major conspirator, to dead. I don’t think so. I’m usually not one to complain about the ability to kill off characters but this character was just coming into their own.

I watched a few more episodes of GaoGaiGar. It is distinctly formulaic but it is still fun. I am curious how it supposedly it goes from a by the numbers kids giant robot show to something beyond that but I’m still in the formula section. This show has made me come to the realization that giant robot shows are nothing more than magical girl shows for boys. They have many of the same tropes just in different guises. They both have similarly organized bad guy organizations; they usually have the same recycled transformation sequences; they both have recycled finishing moves; also the finishing moves is usually upgraded at the exact same rate in both types of shows.

I was really worried about not getting my Nosatsu Junkie volume 6. However, TokyoPop did not fail me. I was really pleased with this volume, there is a huge turning point and then a cliffhanger so we don’t know the results of said turning point till the next volume. We are also seeing Naka moving into the spotlight with her modeling career. This effects Umi is some interesting ways including making him jealous and making him worry about losing his top spot, but inevitably he loves Naka more. Their relationship continues to amuse me and I love watching their hilarious and sweet encounters. Can’t wait for the next volume!

I just read One Piece chapter 506 and wow did we get some major revelations. We finally learn a good deal about the capture and execution of Gold Roger. There was something that was never quite right about the whole deal and it is finally explained. One Piece has been making a good effort to get to explaining some of the mysteries of the series as of late. I know that Daryl Surat had complained that he stopped reading One Piece because he could not get over that they kept bringing up plot threads but never resolving them. I never really was too distressed at any unresolved plot threads. I never got the feeling that they would not be resolved but I can’t say I’m unhappy that they are starting to be tied up.

Read the latest chapter of NANA. I love Ai Yazawa with all my heart but I am a bit put off by the things going on in this story recently. It seems like the longer it goes on the less she knows where she is going with it. What with the forward flashes not seeming to connect with the current arc. And funnily enough that character I have been loving and care the most about currently is Reira. She is driving things to happen and she also seems to care about the people around her. I find myself wishing for a conclusion and soon. Oh and as usual I hate Yuri, FREE NOBU!

For some reason I see Narutaki flying to Japan and starting a sit in protest outside Ai Yazawa in the way one would start a free Tibet protest. That’s it for this week’s investigations! Look for a new case file every Friday!


Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2007

This is pretty self-explanatory, we are looking at what we loved or hated from 2007. There was a lot going on, even with the decline in licenses in the U.S. there were still some great shows released! And Japan hasn’t been letting us down either. Not that is any surprise.

The Harold and Maude Award or Favorite Classic Manga Release:
To Terra
It is so rare to get older, 70’s titles. But I feel it is even rarer to find old shojo titles,
hopefully this will be changing in the next few years. It was nice find a serious, sci-fi story that had a solid story and characters. While looking at real world issues, it doesn’t losing any of its charm coming from the fantastical elements.

Ode To Kirihito
“Ode to Kirihito is moving, tender and engrossing. Also very, very odd.”
Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman and Anansi Boys
If Neil Gaiman likes it, it has to be good. At 832 pages for $25 you definitely get your money’s worth with this classic Tezuka work. One of Tezuka’s more mature works, it follows the story of a doctor who contracts a disease that makes him more bestial than human. It then becomes his quest to restore his humanity and at the same time is a examination of what makes someone human.

Burn this Book or Worst Thing I Read:
Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon
I think I was a bit spoiled because the first translated light novel I read was Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow, and it was well done. This one was either translated horribly or just not good to begin with, unfortunately I will never know. The characters seem odd in prose form; the movements were very stilted and awkward; the fight scenes were boring and matter-of-fact. There seemed to be zero that reminded me of the greatness of the manga series.

Pretty Face
“Rando struggles to be a good “big sister” to Rina as fate conspires to put him in one disastrous situation after another. When pants start coming off, and half-naked women start crawling all over him for the thinnest of reasons, Rando must use all his karate wiles to avoid being exposed as a complete weirdo. Meanwhile, will the mad Dr. Manabe succeed in his plan to remove the last remnants of Rando’s manhood…or will Rando remove Dr. Manabe’s brains with his fist? It’s 7.5 inches of manga heaven!”
-Ad copy for Pretty Face Book 2

I admit I have not read this per-say but all the ad copy for it makes it seem so very bad. It’s like the most messed up shonen romance show premise I have heard in a while. Even Boku to Kanojo no XXX and Midori Days seem sort of cute compared to Pretty Face. Maybe it’s really good but everything about it makes me not want to give it a chance.

Hot, Wet Nobu or Best News of the Year:
Death Note Movies
Death Note movies have been licensed and the third movie (all about L) is coming out in Japan! They may even get a big screen release here in the states. Really loved these two films and am anxious to watch them again and own them for myself! Also can’t wait for the new movie, surely only made because they realized too late that everyone really loved L in the series and not Light. Yay for L fan service!

ImaginAsia getting into Anime
ImaginAsia really seems to understand how to pick up and distribute older and/or niche series and actually make a profit. If anime companies are going to continue to license older series and distribute them on DVD, they just might have to do it how ImaginAsia has been doing it.

DearS Season 2 or Worst News of the Year:
Geneon closes down
Bye, bye Geneon. I for one am very sad to see you go. Especially in mid-release of some good shows! They did a quality job and picked up some beautiful, but not super marketable shows.

Okiku Furikabutte made into anime
I guess it would be too easy for me to pick Geneon’s death as well; so I’m going with Okiku Furikabutte being made into an anime. What I have seen of this show makes it seem like moe for girls. It is nothing but shota yaoi doujinshi fodder and a side order of actual baseball manga. The main character is a useless crybaby and everything seems to be designed to be eaten up by horrible Fujoshi.

Just Shut You Mouth Already or Things I Wish People Would Stop Talking About:
Nymphet Controversy
Kodomo no Jikan! It is a horrible thing but seriously what else is there to say about it that hasn’t been said yet? Could there be a week gone by where this topic isn’t broach yet again.

Why fan-subbers are saints and heroes
I know that part of the industry’s problems come from their inability and refusal to adapt to the fact that the internet changes everything; but that does not make every fan-subbing group a bunch of faultless white hats and untouchable heroes. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Fan-subbers can be cool and do a service to the American anime community but that does not forgive the bad groups that don’t follow the rules of proper fan-sub etiquette. It also does not mean that fan-subs are only good and that they don’t sometimes hurt American fans on certain levels.

Peanutbutter and Relish Sandwich or Show I Unexpectedly Liked:
Hayate the Combat Butler
Hayate no Gotoku! It just sounded kind of “eh.” But after a friend of mine described the first episode to me, I was laughing out loud, and I had to see it for myself. It’s so wacky and ridiculous that it infectiously makes you laugh. So, while it isn’t some earth scattering series that will change your life, you can bet you will have a lot of fun watching it.

I expected Kekkaishi to be a generic shonen fighting show. But I think it takes the tried and true shonen formula, then tweaks it enough to make it something that stands out from the pack. Kekkaishi’s focus on the romance while not making it overbearing is refreshing. Also every episode seems to add to the world and plot without seeming like a stall for time. Then the fact that the female character is not just a damsel in distress or eye candy. Added to them not pulling punches and killing characters. All this and more makes it a very unusual and refreshing show. Too bad no one cares.

Can You Stop Playing That Please or Favorite Opening:
“Sha la la -Ayakashi NIGHT” by Saeka Uura
This is a tough one. I really love the song in the Gundam 00opening (it is L’arc-en-Ciel afterall) and also loved the catchy tunes from Lovely Complex. But overall awesome? Guess that would have to the Kekkaishi opening. It was one of the first things that got me curious about the show, so it was good enough to draw me in. The song is really fun and since I have sought out the artist to hear more of her stuff.

“Brand New World” by D-51 (One Piece opening 6)
The opening to kick off the Ennis Lobby section of the Water 7 Arc is an upbeat and fun opening for One Piece. I think the opening really gets you pumped while really encompassing the spirit and flavor of the series. I’m just warning you that the opening is sort of filled with spoilers so if you have not finished Water 7 you might want to hold off on watching the opening.

Wowza! or Hottest Character:
The Men of Saiunkoku
The majority of the male cast from Saiunkoku. Unless they are an old guy, there isn’t a bad face to be seen in the court! And even the old guys were good looking when they were younger. Not only is this series full of historical type drama and romance it also boasts lots of eye candy!

Revy from Black Lagoon
Damn! Revy would probably kill you as soon as you look at her, but who cares? She is HOT. She is a very competent mercenary and the way she handles herself just makes me think that she is a goddess drenched in a gown of blood. She is also built like a brickhouse and that never hurts. In a time of moe, she is the antithesis of helpless and under-aged; she is a breath of fresh air. Or more like a breath of smoky spent shells and cigarettes.

All Those Sacrificed Goats Were Worth Something or Best License Announcement:
NANA TV series. PERIOD. Awesome story, awesome characters, awesome music. My only really complaint about the series is it doesn’t finish the story since it is an ongoing manga. But it was a delight seeing my favorite characters moving and to hear the music. Any music series is obviously made better by having an anime counterpart.

Honey and Clover
Even though I have mixed feelings about the ending of Honey and Clover, it is an excellent josei manga and a well done anime. We get so little josei in the U.S. that any of it is welcome. Very well done josei is even better. I really want this show to have a vocal fan-base because the more diversity there is in the U.S. market the better it is for fans in general. Hagu is love.

The Micky Rooney of Manga or Best Short Manga:
Penguin Revolution
I actually wish more series were in the 5 to 7 book range. I am always anxious for a storyteller to tell their story, in a complete fashion, but then to move on to the next great story! I want to say Penguin Revolution, but it hasn’t finished in the U.S. yet and I haven’t read the last 3 books (out of its 7). But I really like the story thus far, combining hilarious capers with a bit of mysticism and romance. Her other series Land of the Blindfolded, also released in the U.S., was along these lines but the mysticism was more prominent.

is a collection of short stories by Eiichiro Oda. These were written before he started One Piece. There are 5 different stories including the second version of Romance Dawn that was the prototype for One Piece. It’s an interesting look into how his style and storytelling has developed. You can also see that Oda takes certain aspects and characters from his earlier works that later incorporates them into One Piece.

Sometimes Shipping From Japan is Worth It or Favorite Piece of Merchandise:
Bandai’s Athrun Zala 1/8 figure
My brand-new Athrun Zala 1/8 figure. It is all mine! MINE! The loveliness of his face made only better by his perfect pose. Okay, maybe I’m bias.

Max Factories’ Fate/Zero 1/8 Saber
It’s Saber. She is wearing a Suit. She has an awesome sword. If you don’t like that then I’m not sure we can be friends.

Here is My Room Key or Favorite Convention Guest:
Tomokazu Seki
Tomokazu Seki who was at Otakon was so great! He did so many voices and gladly did special parts from the series for the audience. He was super kind and gracious. I almost injured myself getting his autograph and after I go it he even said something that I requested! He was all around an awesome dude who also happens to always be voicing characters I love.

Katsushi Ota
If nothing else, it’s a sure sign that we are one step closer to getting Kinoko Nasu as a guest at a U.S. anime convention. He seemed a likable guy and to be an interesting, well articulated guest. The fact that he gave me two book of DDD just because I was was a big fan was really gracious. And that he took my picture and promised to pass it on to Nasu made my day. I really hope Faust does well here in the U.S.

Mr. John Holmes Award or Best Packaging:
Beck Box Set
It would have to be BECK. The box for the DVDs looks like a mini-amp! It has some weight to it and the top of the amp opens to put the DVDs in. I just love it. It also came with stickers and all the DVDs come with guitar picks. How fun and appropriate. I don’t buy boxes much anymore unless they have some unique feature and this definitely has that.

Saiunkoku’s box set case
It’s a classy little box for a very classy show. It is shaped like a jewelry box and it has a ornate red ribbon on the front. I like how it folds open and has the fan-like disk sleeves. It also just looks very nice on a self or a desk. I’m not sure I would buy a box like this for every series I pick up, but it seems very right for this series. It’s a shame that Saiunkoku is in limbo right now. If anyone else picks up the series, I would probably still put them in this box.

Spewing Milk Out of my Nose or Funniest Manga:
Nosatsu Junkie
Nosatsu Junkie is definitely a shojo romance but it is surpassed by its hilarity. Between the dual personalities of Umi, our male lead, and the serial killer expression that our main character makes whenever she tries to smile and look cute, it is a laugh a minute.

Nodame Cantabile
Nodame is such a fun character that she could be in any manga and just make it funnier. Combine her with Chiaki and it makes comedy gold. They play off each other very well. The best part of Nodame is the characters are real enough that you feel that they could be actual people you could meet. I guess in part that comes from Nodame actually being based on a real person. I’m sure that Narutaki will agree with this assessment almost as if it seemed that parts of Nodame were based on parts of his life.

I know there haven’t been many articles this month. But with the end of the semester, holidays, and whatnot it just wasn’t possible. Next year will be a whole other story! Look forward to it.