Ongoing Investigations: Case #213

As a Type-Moon fan there are a lot of major parts of the company’s works that are relatively easy to find. All of the anime can be found with only minor difficulty (and a good deal of it legally), the visual novels are at least partially translated, and most of the manga has at least a few chapters available in English. But there are still a few rare gems for the truly hard-core. One of them I finally found are some translations of some of Takashi Takeuchi’s old Valkyrie Profile doujinshi Valkyria.

Valkyria, Valkyria 2, and Valkyria NEAV SAGA each focus on a different Valkyrie who follows around a chosen hero in hopes that they might be able to capture their soul to make them their Einherjar before they die. All the heroes are slightly (and often rightfully) worried that their Valkyrie might be tempted to kill them to make sure they can properly capture their soul as opposed to just waiting for them to die normally.

The Valkyrie series is interesting to see for a variety of reasons. The first is that the series is a clear look at Takeuchi’s art style before Tsukihime. While his art style has clearly evolved from this, to this, to this you do not get a full understanding of his journey as an artist until you view his even earlier work. When you realize that Ciel was heavily based on Clobette from Valkyria 2 it is easy to see a straight line of progress.

It is also one of the few times you get to see Takeuchi do his own story and artwork in a manga format. That means you see the stories that Takeuchi would tell without working together with Nasu as well as how he lays out panels when his art is not just character designs and mostly static images in a visual novel. It does make me wonder what a long running manga series from Takeuchi would look like. It also might provide some good clues into what parts of Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night are Nasu’s and which parts are strongly Takeuchi influenced.

The stories themselves have a distinctly short format. But considering these were sold at Comiket it then makes perfect sense. You have to quickly tell your story to an audience that you may never see again. Therefore all the stories are very self-contained even when they have a slightly bit of a shared story. On the other hand there is an assumption that you have at least a passing familiarity with Valkyrie Profile. But that is a common conceit in a good deal of doujinshi.

I’m not going to pretend this is the greatest work out of what would go on to be half of Type-Moon. The stories are charming but ultimately very light stories. It was nice on the other hand to see the humble beginnings of Bamboo Broom and think about how that would eventually become the larger machine it is today.

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 I was sent a review copy of the self-published e-book book An Otaku Abroad which is a travel guide for first timers heading to Japan.

There is a great overview in this book from deciding when and how to travel all the way to visiting temples. And a whole section is dedicated to studying abroad which I thought was a very thoughtful piece and a really common way a lot of young people get to Japan, too. This was the author’s ticket to Japan so she had a lot to say on the subject.

Since this book is written by an individual there were some sections that she didn’t have as much advice for such as flying domestically within in Japan. While she did research the subjects she was less familiar with, it might be helpful to have another contributor or two to add to these portions to round things out.

Since it is a digital book, one of the cool things is having links right in the text that can take you to handy supplemental sites. I learned of a few places and added them to my bookmarks for my mythical trip to Japan someday.

Even though the title says otaku, the guide doesn’t really focus on anime/manga related things which I found a little disappointing. There are a few mentions throughout the locations section and a very nice Top Ten Anime Sites list at the end. I’d like to see the anime/manga part of the guide bulked up to really give it that special hook.

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.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #212

I finished the second volume of Vertical’s beautiful release of Message to Adolf. I didn’t expect it to span well past the years of World War II.

Most of this volume involves characters caught up in a tense back and forth of who will end up with the information on Hitler’s birth and more importantly how will it become public knowledge.

Adolf Kaufman’s descent into full Aryan-superiority is, as one might imagine, unsettling and surprisingly heartbreaking at times. I guess for a good portion of the story I was expecting him to maintain his heart despite the horrible things he did. But he only further breaks down as he makes his way to Japan as an adult reuniting with his remarried mother and childhood friend Adolf. It really feels like true madness as Adolf tries to reclaim the documents because Adolf is not full-Aryan, neither is Hitler, and neither is the girl Adolf is in love with!

I really enjoy stories where minor characters pop-up again and again in important capacities that you weren’t expecting. It makes it feel cohesive and Message to Adolf has that.

And the ending? Fatefully tragic.

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The A Certain Magical Index series is one of those strange series were people make a big deal about how much they can’t stand the series but continually watch it season after season. To a lesser degree this also happens with the spin off A Certain Scientific Railgun series (it might be the yuri undercurrent that cause it to be slightly better received) . But as a legitimate fan of the series who genuinely enjoys it I was looking forward to the first two episodes of A Certain Scientific Railgun S.

I did go into this arc with a certain expectation. I had heard that this was being called A Certain Scientific Railgun S with the S being a reference to the Sister Noise arc. Apparently it is an arc that tells the original Sisters Arc from A Certain Magical Index from Misaka Mikoto’s perspective. While that seemed like an interesting idea I was a little worried it might feel a bit recycled. But so far it mostly seems like all new material. We are getting a much better idea of how Misaka got involved with the whole Level 6 Shift experiment and we have new characters like Nunotaba Shinobu who never appeared in the original story.  So far it does not just seem to be the Accelerator fight from a different point of view.

The new series begins with a one off story that proves that Edasaki Banri and Haruue Erii have not disappeared off the face of the earth once their arc has ended (to the point where like Saten Ruiko they have started to make cameo appearances in the main Index series). It is mostly an episode to bridge the last arc of Railgun with the new series and show that life goes on for everyone. The big highlight of the first episode is action scene at the end with a teleporting Kuroko and a hotblooded Railgun vs. a helicopter. It is a nice little set piece that reminds you that Railgun is mostly about psychic powers even though it has cute girls doing cute things moments.

The second story starts setting up the sisters arc in quite a unexpected way. It seems that people have been finding cash cards all over Academy City. After a bit of treasure hunting Misaka find the source of the cards and witnesses a rather theatrical fight. But this seemingly unrelated story turn to be about the Level 6 Shift experiment in the last few seconds.

I am interested to see how this all blends together. The problem with stories like this is that gaiden tales have to walk a find line between being interesting and making us wonder why we never knew about any of this in the first place. It is clear from the opening that the rest of the Railgun gang, some characters from ITEM, and Shokuhou Misaki are clearly involved in the story. While there was always a little more hinted at going on with Misaka during the Sister Arc this seems like more than some minor scenes. Thankfully they are not just showing us the same story with some minor additions but it could lead to some odd  plot holes if they are not careful.

Then again “everyone” hates trash like A Certain Magical Index so who really cares outside of the Japanese audience? I mean other than me who looks forward to the next episode.

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.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #211

I did not realize until recently that Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn episode 6 came out. The bloom has really fallen of that rose. When the first few volumes of Gundam Unicorn came out everyone was talking about it for a few days leading up to its release. It was an event. Now I see more talk about the latest episode of Oreimo. I guess the gap between episodes has really killed the enthusiasm. I think episode four did not help the matter.

Two Worlds, Two Tomorrows continues the feeling that this is the most accurate Tomino style fan fiction you will ever get without it actually be written by the Bald Wizard himself. It starts with a big battle as part of an unusual alliance, then moves into people switching sides and betraying each other, main characters go around making philosophical speeches sometimes to an audience and other times to people at gunpoint, and it ends with a race to the final location of Laplace’s Box with a familiar interrupting cow appearing at the end. At the same time all the old people in power plan to do whatever it takes to keep the status quo, all the radicals are going to do whatever it takes to realize their mad dreams, and everyone else is stuck in the middle trying to find something that does not get everyone killed. Classic Tomino.

This is a solid penultimate episode. It begins to lay down all the elements that will be resolved in the final episode. They still have not revealed what exactly Laplace’s Box is or the actual identity of Full Frontal. Those are the two big mysteries everyone watching wants to know. My other question is how much Newtype Voodoo magic is going to win the day and how much will piloting be the deciding factor. If this is a true Tomino tribute then some mystical magical psychoframe sorcery is going to be on display.

I’m really just waiting for someone to kill Angelo already. He is clearly the Jerid Messa of Unicorn so he could at least have the common curtsey to die early on in the next episode so we can get to the real fights. Marida Cruz is the only member of Team Banagher that I am seriously concerned about. Will they kill the last of the Elpeo Ple clones or will they let this one-off the hook? (Unless you consider Gundam Evolve 10 canon.)

By the way here is an article of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere if you want a better understanding of what the writers were making allusions to in this episode.

Audrey Burne is still the best character. She does not pilot a mobile suit or beat people down with her fists. She just has an immense presence which is a striking as those of the other main characters. When she talks people listen. But she is not someone who just barks orders at people. She takes in what everyone is saying and often can be silent. But when she is needed to step into a conversation she has a royal presence that is undeniable. If anything makes her a non-Tomino character it is she is such a clearheaded woman even when everyone else is losing their minds. If you are going to break the Tomino mold that is the best way to do it. With one of the strongest women in the UC timeline.

Oh well. It is going to be awhile until we get the final volume of Unicorn even if it is released without a single delay. So it will be a year before we can get Somewhere Over the Rainbow and see the end of the series. I wonder if the release of the last episode will bring back some of that initial enthusiasm or if the lag between episodes has just proven to be too great in this era where you get episodes near instantly.

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 I picked up the first volume of sci-fi mecha manga Knights of Sidonia. The aliens they are fighting have quite a horror, grotesque bent to them. The entire setting has a weird, off-kilter feeling; a pretty strange place where the food supply only allows for people to eat once a week. Everyone looks human but they all act very oddly.

The main character is purposely socially awkward for sure, and boy is he. The rest of the cast aren’t awkward per se but are written in an awkward manner. It felt so stilted that it was difficult to connect with any of the cast; they feel so artificial but that may be the point the more I mull it over.

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