Ongoing Investigations: Case #184

I finally caught up with Motorcity (2-12) not that I had fallen too far behind, but it is nice to be current. Though there is no word when the next episode is due out yet. This show has really gotten some traction as the later episodes focus on individual characters and developing parts of the world.

From the Duke of Detroit to mutant terrorists to crime bosses, Motorcity has its share of seedy characters. This really brings flavor to the world under Deluxe and thematically works to highlight Deluxe’s true price for clean, streamlined perfection. And in the world of Deluxe the force of its army and machines against The Burners and Motorcity is steadily increasing.

The last aired episode was a stand out as we learned about Dutch’s family who still live in Deluxe. And in a lot of ways the series went out of its way to make me not really think about who the Burners were related to and how they were affected by what’s going on. Up until this point, not much has been said about people’s home lives with the exception of Julie.

Speaking of. I definitely request more Julie! She has the greatest conflict of the series but we just don’t see her enough.

There is a special quality to a one book manga. Sometimes a story needs more room to breath than a one shot but is not suited for a long 10+ books run. Romantic stories can really suffer because of this. There is enough meat to their story as to need some time to for a relationship to develop but if the series goes on for too long you start having to add in unnecessary complications just to keep thing interesting while delaying the inevitable conclusion. The pointless rival character (or characters), the silly misunderstanding, or the unnecessary delayed confession can all extend a story by several books but can frustrate the reader at the same time. If you have a strong tent pole beside the romantic conflict you can extend a story with far less effort but then the romance becomes a background element. But being one book long sometimes gives you exactly what you want without leaving you feeling frustrated.

While Sakuran is hardly focused on romance it does have a story that I think is perfectly suited to being one book. There is some romance in the book. In fact the whole climax is centered around it. But it is more of an accent on the story than the raison d’être. I think that Moyoco Anno was wise to tell the story she wants to tell in one go. Sakuran mainly focuses on the fact that Kiyoha’s life utterly stinks. She can’t escape the life of being a courtesan. Her life is better than being a simple prostitute but in the end it is just that she is in a slightly nicer prison cell. No matter how she rises within her little world she can never really break free.

A single chapter does not fully show her struggle. You really need to see her trials as she rises in the ranks. You need to see that she keeps rising in her little world but her problems just change but never go away. She is always property and she is always chained to her destiny. But I think that beyond maybe another book or two the story would feel claustrophobic and mostly just misery porn. It is not really a story that can be episodic like say Bartender. Although if someone wants to write a story about a prostitute who always finds the key to their client’s problems with some unusual sexual act I assure you there would be an audience for such a title. You could also focus on the politics of the brothel but it would have really changed the tone of the story. It was just the right length for the story that was told.

I will say that on of Moyoco Anno’s real skills is letting characters shine despite adversity. While Hiroko Matsukata’s life in Hataraki Man is infinitely better than Kiyoha’s they are both women who are brilliant as they rise to a challenge. They both have a unique beauty as they defy their position. They both try to find happiness in places that where it can be hard to see. But obviously Kiyoha’s battle is a much more desperate one. And on some levels it makes it more beautiful if somewhat depressing at the same timel. She is someone who could have been so much if she was born in different circumstances.

I was also impressed with the delicate use of paradox. Being a courtesan she is an extremely glamorous prostitute but in the end she is still just a prostitute. Now matter how fancy her dress or elegant her manner she is still beaten if she steps out of line. She still has no real freedom. Also she is in a sexual and sensual profession but there is nothing sensual about it. All the sex is technical. A means to an end. A show and a game. All the intimacy is a deception and everyone involved knows it but props up a lie.

Overall this is a great mature story with some good bang for your buck. If you want a short series to read in one go it is something to check out. One and done. Just don’t read this anywhere where you would have people looking over your shoulder that you don’t know too well. When the book is graphic is unabashedly frank. But if you are in a safe space it is a strong tale for adults.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

Continue reading

Ongoing Investigations: Case #180

I am still rather dubious about Otome game adaptions, with the exception of Prince-sama of course, so it took me a while to pick up the Alice in the Country of Hearts omnibus vol. 1 manga. But with so many different manga series based on the game coming out in English I became really curious about it. It also helped that I have a weakness for Alice in Wonderland.

Alice is in her garden when she falls asleep, upon awakening she is dragged into a gaping hole in the ground by guy named Peter White (who happens to have bunny ears). After he forces her to drink a potion (by forcing a kiss on her) she enters the Country of Hearts where she meets all kinds of quirky and cute (mostly male) characters. As the story progresses, you and Alice begin to realize the world isn’t a simple one and things are not always as they seem. Three kingdoms are at war with each other over territory; there are mysterious shadows roaming the land; people are heavily armed; and of course Alice is told time and again it won’t be too easy to leave.

All of the storybook characters are here, plus some new ones, but they are reworked to be very different. My favorite is easily the Mad Hatter who is a mafia boss. If the very fact of this series being an Otome game didn’t give you a clue, there is every kind of guy with all kinds of personalities to pick from as a favorite. There is also the Queen of Hearts who may or may not have a crush on Alice as well.

One thing that I have to give the story props for is not trying to shoehorn in any big plot reasons for the guys falling in love with Alice. Nightmare clearly tells her that that is simply what will happen in this world. And Alice’s way home turns out to be refilling the vial of potion she drank by making friends and interacting with the inhabitants of the world. And actually the world does setup some intriguing mysteries which I am invested in which helps a lot.

That being said, this story only stays good if Alice doesn’t end up with creepy Peter White. His obsession with her is not attractive and most of the time he comes off as a sociopath. Luckily, it seems rather likely that Ace is “true path guy” because he is the only one not for fall in love with Alice right away. He is also carrying around a lot of secrets and mentioned wishing to leave the world.

I had a lot of fun reading this and will be picking up more.

There is no clearer sign the Witch Hunt has gone as close to pro as you can get without leaving the realm of fan project than the fact that they have been given the official permission to release the Rose Gun Days demo by 07th Expansion. I have to say that is extremely impressive.

Rose Gun Days is the newest series by Ryukishi07 who most people probably know as the When They Cry guy. The series is set in its own universe as opposed to the supernatural murder mystery setting he is more famous for. It is set in an alternate post WWII Japan were a major earthquake devastated Tokyo letting a joint Chinese/American task-force radically transform the country. This new Japan is more like a mixture of poverty of the depression era and the zeitgeist of prohibition era in the US. The opening gives you a distinct impression of the visual novels style (It also lets you know someone really liked Cowboy Bebop). There is also a concurrent story happening in an alternate version of the present where someone involved in the adventure is telling the tale to a reporter as a way of setting the story of those chaotic times straight for the public.

The story centers around Leo Shishigami who is a down on his luck former solider who gets caught up being a bodyguard in the middle of gang war when he saves the life of a beautiful bordello madam named Rose. The demo mostly seems to be an introduction to the setting and the characters. Knowing Ryukishi07 there will be a bigger plot but for now the demo mostly wants to just show you how Rose and Leo come to trust each other.

It is also there to show off the new fighting mini-game mechanic. Since Leo is a rough and tumble guy he and his associates are constantly getting into fights. The mechanic itself it fairly simple. Not losing the fights in the beginning is fairly easy. The thing is there is an attack and defense mode of the mini-game. The defense is fairly straight forward. You block all the attack on the screen with the mouse before time is up. The attacks however can be pass fairly effortlessly with 3 hits BUT you can try to rack up points by getting in as many hits as you can before time runs out. This leads to points chicken where you can get a ton of extra points or none at all if you get greedy.

But if you get enough points you can get higher fighting ranks for Leo. I do have to wonder if the ranks are just there for fun or if they have some greater plot relevance. Maybe you have to be a certain rank to win later fights or open up new story paths. Maybe you can only get the good/true/best ending if you do so well. Unlike other 07th Expansion games you can only save at certain checkpoints instead or at any time. I am curious to see how this plays out.

Other than that I am so glad to see that Ryukishi07 has finally learned that maybe art is not his strong suit and that he finally has enough dinero to let someone else to the heavy lifting when it comes to character design and art work. Claudia Kurosaki and Alfred Akagi still have that distinct Ryukishi07 feel at least they have been cleaned up a bit.

The story itself as I mentioned before is mostly set up. They give you a good idea of how desperate people are in this era and what it at stake for all the players. I did notice that more than any of his other works there is a good deal of nationalism almost to the point of jingoism in the story. It is not Hiroyuki Yoshino’s Guilty Crown level but it is hard to miss. Looking back Higurashi and Umineko had that at brief points but in this game it is fairly close to the surface. It does not really turn me off from the game but it is worth bringing up. It would make an interesting point of examination when the full game is out.

All in all I had a good time with the game. It gave me a good taste of what is to come. I am partially curious if a supernatural element is going to creep in later or is this all going to be played straight. Either way I look forward to the full game soon.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

Continue reading