Ongoing Investigations: Case #177

As I was going to Kinokuniya to pick up my ultra vital max priority #1 ultraviolet volume of Fate/Zero for Gen Urobuchi to sign at Otakon. While I was there I decided to also look at their English manga section as well. I was really hoping they had a copy of Rohan at the Louvre but that sadly was not there. (In fact I have yet to see that at any New York comic shop.) But since I wanted to pick up at least something to read on the subway since I was traveling around a lot that day so I picked up a copy of Drifters. I figured I would see what Kouta Hirano has been up to since Hellsing. I would have also picked up Blood Blockade Battlefront but I don’t have that sort of disposable income.

The story is set in a dark fantasy world with elves and dragons. Two god like entities pluck famous humans from Earth as they are dying and use them to fight their battle to control this high fantasy realm. The theoretically nicer god summons Drifters to save the world and the seemingly evil god summons Ends to destroy it. The Ends all have some magical gimmick that deals with their historical background where as the Drifters just tend to be insanely skilled. The story starts with Shimazu Toyohisa apparently dying during the Battle of Sekigahara and then appearing in this strange fantasy world to fight alongside his fellow Drifters.

It is the distinctly the Kouta Hirano we all know and love. Lots of action and blood but not much gore. Very stylish fighting with an emphasis on sword play but some guns thrown in for good measure. Bad guys vs. not nearly as bad guys (although the Drifters are a bit more on the side of the angels than Alucard.) His art style is generally unchanged with a heavy use of inks and shading as well as a love of crazy eyes.

Shimazu Toyohisa is a reckless swordsman who seems to be a nice guy at heart but never hesitant to indulge in his bloodthirsty nature. We also have rare instance of an almost kindly Oda Nobunaga. I mean that in the sense that he is actually a Drifter and not the demon leading the enemy. For Oda Nobunaga that is practically making him saintly compared to 95% of his usual portrayals in anime. The main party is rounded out by Nasu no Yoichi who I swore was gender swapped for his historical basis. But apparently he is just an amazingly feminine dude. There are some other drifters as well but finding out who pops up is half the fun of the manga.

The Ends are led by the mysterious Black King. He is a cloaked figure whose identity is clearly being kept as a big surprise. He commands historical figures like Anastasia with the ability to summon icy winds and Joan of Arc who can burn others while she burns herself. They all seem a bit more crazy than the Drifters who are hardly on the sane side of the spectrum as it stands. There are also the native fantasy inhabitants like the elves and some other strange organizations who seem independent of the Drifters or the Ends.

Drifters is a fun little action series. A nice mix of fantasy fun with some very liberal interpretation of historical figures. It will be a fun romp much like Hellsing. This seems like the sort of series that would sell like gangbusters in the US if it got an anime adaptation. It has the storyline of a shonen series that American audiences are most comfortable with but with the grit and bloodshed that really hooks them as well. But until that anime comes along the manga is fluffy but easily recommended choice.

Finally got my copy of Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part 2! I was really impressed with the first volume, it slows down a little with this installment but is able to hit an upswing as it goes on.

In Part 2, we learn more about what Toph has been up to at her training school and meet her new students. They haven’t really come into their metalbending abilities yet so that becomes the primary focus for a good deal of this volume. Sokka tries to help out this ragtag bunch so it is a mostly comedic arc. I’m curious how Toph’s students will play into the plot further, if at all.

Meanwhile, Aang is goofing off at his fanclub on the a detour from going to see the Earth kingdom king. So again this section has a lot of comedy elements. This part feels very Aang like to get wrapped up with these girls, though we’ve sort of seen this before. Still, they surprised me in the end with an important contribution.

As for Zuko, we see him only a little as he tries to connect and understand his father. It doesn’t go so well as can be expected and sadly we don’t hear another word about his mother. More interesting was probably the small relationship pieces that occur in this volume which have me very curious about some things we’ve been assuming in The Legend of Korra.

Even though Part 2 doesn’t feel as tense as the first, this is the middle section of a trilogy, you still get some insights. Plus, it ends with some real wheels turning.

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A Season of Friendship

I don’t know if I can pin down other season of anime as having a theme. And it probably isn’t intentional, but nevertheless this season has a lot of shows that seems to fit together in a special way. This season celebrates friendship in so many different ways that it heightened my awareness to it in each show. From new friendship (Tsuritama) to teammates (Kuroko’s Basketball), from unexpected connections (Kids on the Slope) to brothers (Space Brothers).

The Internet keeps telling me that friendship is magic and so it seems that this season of anime is here to reenforce that notion. It is not as if anime is unfamiliar with the power of friendship. Most of  modern Japanese society is almost obsessed with the harmony of the group and working together so shows emphasizing solidarity among peers is not unheard of. But I think Narutaki was inspired by this season because even the common place can seem extraordinary if done correctly. This seasons shows have been very good and the bonds of comradery have been shown superbly as well. This article will look at relationships beyond the standard shonen “I beat you up so now we are blood brothers” but at people who form real bonds.

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Secret Santa 2010 Project Reveal

And now the part you have all been waiting for. The Secret Santas are revealed, the ancient conspiracy is foiled, and the destined couple finally consummate their relationship. This is the master list of all the participants, what they reviewed, and who gave them their recommendations. I know that several people are not going to finish on time because of various mishaps during the holiday season. So I will do my best to update this list at least once a day as reviews come in. Hopefully everyone watched something a bit unexpected and maybe learned something new about the range and scope of anime. Other than that Happy Holidays and I wish you and yours the best of luck in the upcoming year.