Ongoing Investigations: Case #135

The BEST series of the year is shaping up to be Mawaru Penguindrum. So far in the first 6 episodes Kunihiko Ikuhara has proven that Utena was not a fluke. The show has stayed as consistently excellent as the first episode and I look forward to a new episode every week. The animation, imagery, and direction remain high quality and imaginative every week. The Rose of Versailles style fantasy imaginary in episode 4 is just scrumptious. Also the laser guided slingshot is both goofy and bass ass at the same time. The plot remains mysterious but we are always getting enough information that we never feel that the show is spinning its wheels. I get the feeling that Ikuhara is more of an “I got this all planned out” sort of guy so it is more a matter of seeing the tale unfold then see him make it up as he goes along.  Kanba and Shoma’s antics in trying to find the Penguindrum are always amusing but retain a creepy vibe without either feeling hurting the other. That said I need to know what is going on with Kanba’s ultra shady deals. Ringo has that same mixture of very funny and very disturbing. I am curious how popular she is among the American and Japanese fans. Narutaki seems to think she would be insanely popular. I cannot disagree. And I know there is more to Himari than meets the eye. She is too innocent for a Ikuhara anime. There has to be more going to with her than you see on the surface. If you don’t have a moral objection to watching fan-subs then you need to watch Mawaru Penguindrum. Otherwise you should get this the second it gets licensed. Because it will get licensed. Fabulous Max!

The most anticipated arc in recent Detective Conan anime TV series was the London case, the 11th OVA happens concurrently featuring Ai and the detective boys back in Japan. It starts as just a cute mystery involving peanutbutter and jelly, a mistaken starlet, and kick the can. But the kids discover kidnappers in an abandoned building and things turn more dangerous when they themselves become trapped. The real treat for this OVA is seeing Ai’s smarts at the forefront since Conan is a world away. Her use of the cellphones as well as the detective boys badges is nicely done. It combines the kid antics at the beginning and a more tense situation later well. The ending has a couple of surprises in store, though nothing too earth shaking. A fun and nice OVA if not remarkable.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #125

Seven Seas Entertainment seems to like to go after supernatural manga and manga that carters to certain fetishes. Blood Alone hits both of those categories while adding the popular vampire angle to the mix. The story revolves around Kuroe Kurose, a writer with the ability to see and be unaffected by the supernatural, and Misaki Minato, a preteen girl who was made into a vampire.  They run a detective agency together while Kuroe peruses a career as a writer on the side. The detective agency takes mostly mundane cases like finding lost relatives and pets but they also help the police and private clients with supernatural cases. The book distinctly has two very different tones. Some chapters are serious business with cases like a body jumping serial killer or vampire assassin. These are very story driven and have a distinctly standard panel layout and usually have some information about the overall story of Kurose’s search for his missing sister. There are also slice of life stories about Kurose and Minato going to the pool or the amusement park. Sometimes Masayuki Takano will throw out the conventional panel layout and have everything flow in an almost dreamlike fashion. This is especially evident in the 6th chapter. Unlike Gunslinger Girl where it was a bit hard for me to tell how much they were playing to a lolicon crowd there is no mistaking what they are doing here. Thankfully there are not panty shots or overly gratuitous sexualization of Misaki but the manga unmistakably knows that it is doing. At first I was wondering how much they were going to tease this relationship. It did not seem that bad until we learn that  Misaki and Kuroe sleep in the same bed together every night. The series constantly mentions that NOTHING HAPPENS but the fact that keeps coming up as a joke says volumes in of itself.  The fact that Kuroe comes home one drunk night and gives Misaki and hickey was clearly the straw that broke the camel’s back. This series could be worse. Much worse. Anyone who enjoys the story of a young girl trapped in time by a curse and her relationship with an older man will enjoy this series. There is more story to the series that just the fetish aspect. But everyone else should not let their Blood Alone loving friends to trick them into reading this series with that fact. This is a fetish manga and it has a hard time working for anyone who is not into that fetish despite the story built around it.

I have finally started watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, I know it’s been a long time coming. The series throws you right back into the thick of things in the opening episode with a hostage situation already well under way. And it has an incredibly happy surprise at the end that had me grinning from ear to ear. But I felt the next three episodes were a bit weaker. Nevertheless “weak” SAC episodes are still very high-caliber overall. It also took me a while, and a conversation with someone else, to really grasp the refugee plotline that dominates the season. In the first 12 episodes we’ve already had two Togusa centric installments which is nice to see. I was also thrilled to actually start learning more about the Major and her past; or that she has this rich past at all! This addition is what has won be over most of all. Or perhaps it was the totally awesome opening. I do wish they would stop mentioning the Laughing Man lest it just make me miss him more. Still the Individual Eleven are interesting and really starting to take form now. I’m sure to finish this series off quickly.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #121

I know I could have talked about the shows that ended with the Winter 2011 season but this week I decided to talk about three really odd things and save my feelings on the shows wrapping up for next week.  My first pick is My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic because I had to understand the strange cult of the Bronies that has formed around this show. Let us get the most important detail out-of-the-way first. This is a cartoon for little girls. It is a very well made cartoon for little girls but make no mistake it is a cartoon for little girls. As someone who watched and loved HeartCatch PreCure! I have no problem watching cartoons for little girls but let us call a spade a spade. There seems to be this odd Touhou Project effect where fans have this strange obsession with filling in all the details of a world. It also creates this strange phenomenon where the fans of the show seem really proud of how ashamed they are of watching the show. That said there is a lot to like about the show. The animation is wonderful and really shows how far flash animation has come over the years. They do their best to make everyone extremely expressive which makes this show infinitely screencapable. The humor is often actually funny. The stories are often super simple considering its target audience but it is rarely patronizing though they do  restate the lesson at the end of every episode in standard kids cartoon style. And now some random observations. As One Great Turtle so succinctly pointed out Fluttershy is the most moe pony ever and I noted that Rainbow Dash is the Tomo Takino of the show. Overall it is a wonderful show to watch with any younger female relatives you have as it is a show you can enjoy together. Apparently it also appeals to older nerdier male audience and there is nothing wrong about that but it is so so very odd.

Twin Spica vol. 5, you surprised me! In a good way. This installment starts giving us some history and the revelation in it, while not totally clear yet, was not on my radar in the least. On that note, this book deals a bit less with Asumi though we do see the continued developement of Kiriu the boy protester she met in the last volume who is focused on quite a bit this time. At this point we know who Asumi is so branching out is nice. And the game of survival they are thrown in during the last couple of chapters adds some great tension while bringing the past and present back together.

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