Ongoing Investigations: Case #025

Hitohira is an really enjoyable ongoing manga series by Izumi Kirihara. I read book one and two and third comes out in February. Mugi is an ultra-shy, high school freshman who gets roped into joining the drama club which is in desperate need of new members to remain active. The drama club president sees hidden potential in Mugi and her powerful, beautiful voice despite her having no interest in acting. She is technically joining the drama research club because there is already an active rival drama club at the school. Mugi has to struggle with her self-doubt which makes her want to leave the club against verses her want to be friends with the members. There is also a blossoming romance between Mugi and Kai, the other freshman club member. The comedy, the drama, and the romance are all low-key which makes the series quite realistic. Even the wacky characters are mostly within the bounds of realistically wacky. I might have liked the series a little more simply due to the fact that I can see a good deal of myself in Mugi. I have found myself saying many of the things she says. Word for word. Either I am a flat human being or Mugi is a well-written character. This manga is proof that something good can come out of Comic High!. Luckily there are previews for the first and second books online. Oh, there is also a 12 episode anime by Xebec M2 which I have yet to see.

I finished I Shall Never Return, a short 5 book BL series. Ken is, among other things, selling his body to anyone who’ll take him at the beginning of the story which stems from his desperate longing for childhood friend Ritsuro. Ritsuro is a good student, a considerate son and brother, and a good-looking guy. Their relationship as more than friends starts off rather oddly as we find out Ken is continually stealing Ritsuro’s girlfriends just to get his attention. However, the story quickly moves to them fully exploring their feelings for each other and the many bumps in road of Ken’s bad past, Ritsuro’s insecurities, and deciding on their futures. The amount of sex is frequent, though less so in later volumes, and semi-graphic but no full-monty to be seen. The art is well done, however people will note the early 90’s style of it. It isn’t a distraction and at most gives you a chuckle from time to time about certain characters’ clothing choices. I Shall Never Return plants itself firmly in the melodramatic romance sector early on with the classic bad boy/good girl (or in this case, guy) scenario. And while we know the idea is that a good guy can change a bad boy, it isn’t left up to interpretation as Risturo boldly declares aloud he will change Ken! The first two volumes are more shallow drama to lead to sex but it becomes increasingly more engaging after that. We get to really see the hardships of growing up, letting go, and attempting to understand another person. This all does lead us to happy and hopeful for the future ending. Take a look for  yourself as Aurora publishing puts of previews of each volume (1,2,3,4,5).

I had seen the Shikabane Hime anime and had found it very plain but Ask John kept saying how much more he liked the manga it was based on. I felt that the concept had potential and so I started to read the manga to see if it was different enough for me to get into it. I read the first 5 chapters and I have to say that John was quite correct. The anime and the manga are two very different animals that are only the same in premise and starting points of the characters. Makina is sort of the stereotypical action girl but an enjoyable one so far. She is obviously the protagonist in the manga with her taking down corpses with duel machine guns frequently. Keisei, the priest, shows up fairly often. Keisei’s younger brother, Ougi, so far has been nothing more than a minor character but it has been hinted he will be more important as the series goes on. The anime seems to try to make Ougi a more main character from the beginning which diminished Makina awesomeness in what I saw of the anime.

I watched Strait Jacket which reminded me greatly of 90’s OVAs. This was just fine by me since I was basically going in wanting some violence and explosions and not much else. Though it actually didn’t have enough action as I would have thought it would. They give us a brief rundown at the beginning of how tactical sorcerers came to be and the state of the current world with demons and terrorism. Leiot is a rogue tactical sorcerer on the wrong side of the law and completely infamous for it. When a dangerous situation threatens the city Tristan asks him to intervene despite his status. She then proceeds to become a thorn in his side for the rest of the show. He also has a weird side kick and a rival tactical sorcerer who of course he has to team up with at some point. The show is nothing spectacular but certainly not anything to moan over.

They have finally gotten back to putting Kara no Kyoukai on DVD. Movie number four is Void Shrine and mostly acts as a transitory piece between the past and the present of Kara no Kyoukai. It begins just a few minutes after the end of the second movie. We see how Shiki deals with the loss of her other personality and how she comes into the employ of Toko Aozaki. The movie is as well-animated and directed as the other three so far. Being a transitory piece it feels a little lighter than the others but it was still enjoyable. It continues the slow building up to the major fight scene at the end while having little action before hand. If this were not seven movies long I was be 100% sure some one would license it in the U.S. Anime companies usually like flashy theatrical movies with a philosophical bent while still containing supernatural action. Will the Type Moon price tag keep this from getting licensed in this harsh economic time?

Finished The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I liked it. It was good.

Tis the season so that is why this is the pic of the week:

Ongoing Investigations: Case #024

My first thought upon finishing the first story in Object of Desire by Tomoko Noguchi was this is certainly a series of Redikomi stories. This means that it is josei with graphic sex. We get the Full Monte from both sexes and pretty graphic intercourse. It’s certainly not traditional hentai but it’s not censored in any fashion. There are four one-chapter stories and one two-chapter story. The title of the book sets the tone about girls falling for guys who might not be the easiest or best choices for them. Almost all of the men cheat on the women they are with and are usually jerk-faces to their girlfriends at some point in the story. In fact, the author mentions that in retrospect even she found the guys to be tremendous jerks even if they were lovable jerks. The art is rather pleasant and cute where it needs to be cute and sexy where it needs to be sexy but the author seems to have an odd policy about hands. She either draws them extremely well and detailed or so horribly that even I noticed it. She does the same things with mouths to a lesser degree. I think Oil and Water and With Lemon were may favorite stories in the series because we get a little more insight into the main characters than in the others. I was most interested in Shizuka and Kimura’s weirdly developing relationship and their coming to understand each other and themselves. Maid for Love was my least favorite story because although the main guy was the nicest and coolest guy in the whole book his girlfriend was sort of a ditzy-subservient-maid-girl. Overall they are short little stories about trying to find a little connection with someone else in sexual relationships. I found the stories enjoyable but extremely fluffy as you would expect from what is essentially girl porn. You can see for yourself if this collection is for you because Aurora has a preview of it up.

I watched the first episode of Basilisk. I got it along with three other first episodes from a Funimation deal with iTunes for free. I had heard good things about it, mostly about the crazy warriors and the fighting. I really enjoy the opening fight between a guy who used wire verses a guy who used sticky goo. Oh a side note, guy who uses sticky goo, not the most attractive fellow. There is also this guy that works for the shogunate that has the craziest chin. I think his secret ability must be hidden in it. This short half hour had a good balance of action and political drama. I enjoyed the fierce rivalry of the two clans mixed with unattainable love plot as well. I am curious to see more of it.

Bartender is without a doubt healing manga. While the stories are warm, touching, and fascinating there is also nothing close to action in them. The story revolves around Ryu Sasakura who is, oddly enough, a bartender. Customers come to various bars where he works and he is able to size them up and give them just the cocktail needed to solve their problems. This neigh magical ability has given him the nickname the “glass of God.” Does anyone know if there is some connection between Bartender and Yakitate!! Japan. Did the artists of both series study under the same guy or is it all in my head? They both have similar character designs and personalities to their main characters. Also, while the comedy is over the top in Yakitate!! Japan the comedy in Bartender can be reminicent of it in style. The Bartender manga seems radially different from the anime but conversely the essence is the same. Ryu uses his Sherlockian attention to detail and empathy and dispenses an expertly served bit of alcohol as he solves their problems. The chapters also end with recipes for all the cocktails presented.

Watched three more episodes of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I really enjoyed the two part murder mystery on the lonesome island. I liked how it established a limit upon Haruhi’s desires because she always seems so boundless. So I am just a few short episodes away from finishing this show.

In anticipation of the upcoming Maria†Holic anime, I decided to read some of the manga to see how much it lives up to our expectations. Kanako is so repulsed by boys she breaks out into hives whenever one touches her. So she goes to an all girls school to meet the girl of her dreams. On her first day, Kanako runs into a beautiful blonde girl named Maria and falls head over heals for her. The problem is that Maria is actually a boy. So Maria uses his influence to become Kanako’s roommate and watch her 24/7 to make sure she does not reveal his secret. Most of the comedy comes at Kanako’s expense because Maria and his maid are horrible human beings. I find this highly amusing but it might turn some people off. It’s a solid anti-romantic comedy. I eagerly await the first episode of the anime. On a side note the reaction shots remind me on Pani Poni at times.

Read a short BL manga collection called Red Blinds the Foolish by est em. The main story is about a famous bull fighter and his lover, a butcher, we get to see their quiet passion for each other but also a loving resolve to try and understand the other. The focuses in all the stories are some unique, and sometimes a little odd, relationships. The manga-ka gives us just a glimpse into the lives of these characters which starts in the middle and doesn’t end in finality. I found this approach appealing and a little abstract but I never felt hindered by not knowing every detail of these characters history. Most of the stories contain some amount of sex however it is not graphic with just a little nudity and none of it frontal. I liked that they kept alot of the Spanish words in the first story and gave us footnotes, however many of the footnotes were close to the spine making it difficult to read or even notice. The art is well done for the most part and made me think of my many hours in figure drawing classes. An added bonus at the end is the manga-ka talking about a trip to Spain to see real matadors. It is a very amusing couple of pages and she draws herself as R2D2. This manga-ka is great a creating quiet little vignettes and also helps to show the range found in BL manga. A preview of Red Blinds the Foolish is also avaliable!

I bit the bullet and watched Revenge of the Space Pirate aka The Just for Kids version of Arcadia of My Youth. It was bundled at Wal-mart with Defenders of Space and Protectors of the Universe for three dollars. While Arcadia of my Youth is considered a classic, less people feel the same way about Revenge of the Space Pirate. I have seen less wooden acting in a marionette show. Half the time the voice actors seem like they are on qualudes and the other half they are just plain terrible. The dub script looks as if someone who did not know Japanese read a quick summary of what the movie was about and then wrote a script based on their best guess of what was being said. I know that Arcadia of My Youth is not the quickest moving movie, but Revenge of the Space Pirate moved at a glacial pace despite cutting out parts of the original film. I am still interested to see original because if you look under the deck you can see there is a well-made manly Harlock movie. There was also two episodes of Robo Formers (Getter Robo G) and two episodes of the lusciously well-animated Fleischer Superman cartoons from the 40s to fill-out the DVD. Robo Formers makes Revenge of the Space Pirate look like a masterpiece. I’m not how much the “quality” has to do with Getter Robo G being garbage and how much is just a terrible dub but my goodness was Robo Formers painful.

Because there can never be too much Alice in Wonderland fan-art, this is the pic of the week: