Thursday, April 9, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Mr.Flower Bride

I spent an entire month talking about Arina Tanemura so let's move on to someone different,Lily Hoshino. She's been featured here a couple of times before for her yaoi collections and after last months heterosexual extravaganza, I could use a shake up. Mr. Flower Bride is yet again a collection of yaoi stories though the volume neglects to mention the other stories instead focusing on the titular story. I can forgive it though since the other stories are far less interesting and take up space that could have been used for the better main story.

The Mr. Flower Bride chapters focus on Aoi and Shinji as they get swept up in Shinji's family tradition of marrying the youngest son off to a guy to prevent succession disputes among the children. While this could be an interesting jumping off point for dealing with people forced to love a person of a gender they have no interest in,this is never explored. It does however take a short time to show Shinji coming to terms with his attraction to Aoi despite his worry of getting Aoi involved in a tradition that people view as a punishment in someway.

The remaining chapters detail their wedding night and a few other isolated events and it works well to develop their relationship and how it affects others. I wouldn't call the characters fully developed but they work well enough for the short time we see them. Like My Only King there is the starting of something rather interesting here but it fails to follow through. The story right after that is a role reversal of the main couple's archetype and actually lends a little more to building up the setting with more insight into this tradition. Letting this run alongside the main story would actually be interesting as a way to expand the setting. However, my hopes for this story will have to wait for the sequel as it's pushed aside for more one shots.

The other two side stories are just sort of sitting there. One's about a bodyguard who needs protecting and a pretty boy in a brothel finding his true love. It's well trod ground for yaoi and seems to be struggling for a reason to exist outside of fulling a boy sex quota. The latter story breaks the mold that the book set by again putting a girly uke in it. Up till now the manga-ka had stopped drawing her ukes too girly. They were just feminine enough to work and the role reversal chapter works better because of the style. However,here he's back to being a borderline trap,and while not a bad story, it's was done better in The Seabed of Night. On there own these would be okay stories but here they are interrupting a better story and lack the interesting aspects and developments of the main story..

Like Mistress Fortune, the main story is going along with the sillier bits with a wink and a nod. Unlike that however it does try to build a setting that works and examine different facets of this relationship. The more stand alone style of the chapters could form an interesting tale given the time but this was a story shot in the legs and left for dead. Overall not worth it,unless all you want some nicely drawn guy loving.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Mistress Fortune

Reaching the end of this horrid month,we arrive at Mistress Fortune. I originally planned this as the follow up to Jojo month but for reasons lost to myself I didn't. Now I'm back with a vengeance to talk about my very first Arina Tanemura book. I have no deep story about why I picked this,it didn't call to me with a ground breaking premise or because a friend fervently recommended it to me. Nope,just picked it up because the pink and white spine looked nice. Well, now that I've outed myself as a vain idiot,let's talk about Mistress Fortune...finally.

Mistress Fortune shares a lot of similarities with the earlier I.O.N, in that both girls have psychic powers and are close to boys as a result. There is even a nice little call back to the flying scene from I.O.N as well as a few other series including Phantom Thief Jeanne. They both also feature a romance plot that slowly but surely overtakes the more fantastical elements. The only difference here is that the psychic plot is meant to play second fiddle to the main romance. Indeed everything is a side note to the romance between Kisaki and Giniro and every characters is semi aware of it.

The plot is a rather loose magical girl set-up that serves to help the main couple grow. The monsters or EBE as they are called are less harbingers of destruction and more oblivious tourists. Heck the first one the team fights, becomes a regular character and gets her own side story about becoming a socialite. The interpersonal drama between our two leads is mostly played for laughs,he's more interested in her tracts of land and this makes her angry. However when they do buckle down and get serious for a bit,there is some surprising tenderness in the relationship despite it seeming to be an aesthetic attraction. Once the apparently inevitable rejection scene comes up,it actually works this time. Mostly because again the romance is the focus so it's fairly important and she is actually rejecting him for a solid reason instead of just plot extender.

The characters themselves are not bad,more generic than anything else. Kisaki is one missing parent short of your typical shojo heroine and Ginro is the hot guy with the troubled past. Their director,Dr. Gunjo is a goofy jokester and Ebe-ko,the monster,is your wacky non-human sidekick. This can be forgiven as the cast is rather funny and likable. Ginro's love for the Kisaki's lady lumps and his inability to keep his mouth shut about them at risk of injury is funny. They all play their role well and get a few good jokes off.

This is shojo fluff through and through, attractive characters having a relationship that will be forgotten soon enough. I feel that Arina Tanemura is acknowledging her worse habits here and working with them as opposed to letting them run wild. It's just self aware enough that I can forgive the weaker elements while not being over reliant on them to the point of taking me out of the story.

So as I lay here at the bottom of the ravine dying slowly,alone and in pain, at least this month ended on a high note. I started this month for no real reason other than to have an excuse to read through some works of a prolific manga-ka. It's had it's ups and downs and while I won't claim I really know Tanemura's works better, I have a better feel for her when I get to her longer works. So I'll see you next time where I'll probably be a ghost or not mention that I died ever again

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Time Stranger Kyoko

Since I'm feeling pretty good after Phantom Thief Jeanne,the inevitable crash should be coming pretty soon. What's that over there, is it a great series for me to read? Nope,it's just a poorly paced and boring waste of a cool setting or as it's called in common tongue Time Stranger Kyoko. Was that playing my cards too early,probably, not that I care too much.

Time Stranger Kyoko lays out an interesting premise then proceeds to never flesh it out and throws in new elements to it without warning. The Earth has been united as one nation and we follow the princess of Earth,Kyoko. She is gathering mystical stones and their respective users a.k.a Strangers to awaken her sister Ui. That's all we get for how the world seems to work, which is lacking to say the least. It leaves quite a few more interesting aspects relegated to sidebars,such as hybrids of humans and earth's other life forms. Something that should probably be explained is mentioned once as a definition then never explained further. How this works or how people like that came to be is instead pushed aside for wacky thieves and helping a guy over come his daddy complex.

This brings up the second big problem with the story:pacing. The first volume moves at a glacial pace with little to no world building and getting involved in adventures that just happen to tie back in to the main plot. This continues well into volume two before finally getting to interesting events,involving Akira the thief and the snake tribe's political turmoil. After this stretch of still not explaining much else the plot starts running at breakneck speed to get all the macguffins needed for the ending to happen. Throwing in plot points and trying for a bit of foreshadowing that all gets lost because it never takes anytime to breath.

There are some interesting ideas that actually do work, once the main group figures out that the stones are in the hands of the various tribe's rulers they call them all to the castle instead of cavorting about to find them. Also to be fair the foreshadowing with Kyoko's true nature is actually done rather well early on but fails by being a bit ham handed once the plot kicks into overdrive. The series also plays fast and loose with the time travel aspects. Which is better in the long run since closely examining the time travel would not turn out well for this book. Since I'm being nice to the series,I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention Akira.

Normally when talking about characters I'd start with the main one,Kyoko in this case,  but in the interest of putting my best foot forward,I'll start with side character Akira. He's a lovable rouge and unlike the others flits between goofy and serious rather well. The brother of the Snake tribe's leader that commands a band of thieves in the capital city. Everything about him works: he's funny,cool,has a tragic yet believable back story and brings energy to a main cast that has none. The way Kyoko is characterized it seems to be setting him up as her love interest as opposed to her actual one. They instead just send him off in the end to do his own thing,probably for the better because everyone else is kind of boring and crap by comparison.

Speaking of Kyoko,she's all over the place in terms of character. It's clear she's supposed to be the fun determined kind of person but she keeps getting these selfish moments. The plot is kicked off by her being selfish to avoid be exposed as Earth's princess. You can have a character like this work if the balance is right, Josuke Higashikata strikes a solid mix of kindness and being greedy. It's like Tanemura is afraid to make a straight forward and honest protagonist so she shoe horns in these more selfish actions to hide it. When she has to be gone for a few chapters after she is revealed as the Time God's daughter, which is also never really explained by the way. The others miss her deeply but it seems to be because the reawakened Princess Ui is rather unpleasant.

Sakataki and Hizuki, step brothers and the body guards of Kyoko probably fare the worst as along with Kyoko get into one of the worst subplots in the book. They kick of a few plot points with the stones and establishing a monster race that seems to be here simply so the characters has something to fight on occasion. Near the end the get into a terrible love triangle that serves little purpose other than to extend the story and so that weird plot Tanemura set up has some resolution. They do get some funny bro-con moments but it's intermixed with serious angst. Sadly, this works about as well as Kyoko's characterization.

The brothers are both Strangers and Hizuki happens to be the last Stranger they are searching for and this plot point is just dropped so unceremoniously that it's laughably bad. It doesn't help that he is the Ice Stranger when there is already a Snow Stranger. Yes snow and ice are rather different but she could have used a different element or made Sakataki the Snow Stranger in lieu of him being the Crystal Stranger. It'd work better from a theming stand point at least

The reminder of the cast is forgettable,especially the remaining Strangers that don't even have their own chapters. Making their desire to see Kyoko come back to the world even more bizarre since they've known her for all of about five pages. Chronos the time god comes out of no where and like most other probably important points in this story is never expanded upon. He seems to be here again to add drama and draw out a plot that should have finished ages ago but didn't because we didn't have a romantic ending yet. Then we get an epilogue and no offense but half these characters had maybe a handful of panels. So why in the name of all the is unholy would I give a crap about what they did after this.

This is a series that doesn't seem to want to focus on anything,squandering a rather interesting setting and neglecting to build up the world. Instead focusing on inconsistent characters that range from unpleasant to just outright cardboard cut outs whose role could be fulfilled with a ambitious batch of custard and a plot that is determined to break some sort of speed record. See you next time at the bottom of the ravine for Mistress Fortune.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Shojo A Go-Go: Phantom Thief Jeanne

Sorry about the delay,I'm a ditz some days,well most days but whatever. 

Arina Tanemura month is off to a rocky start with I.O.N and its' romance overtaking the more interesting aspects of the story. Maybe today will be better with the first volume of Phantom Thief Jeanne. I mean after all today is the greatest day of all. So by this logic this will be the greatest book if today is the greatest day. Though I could be wrong and this is the worst day ever and thus this the worst book ever. I'm not sure really anymore,so lets just start talking about this book and hope I remember which one it is.

Phantom Thief Jeanne was her first work after I.O.N and there is noticeable improvement in the short one year span. The man story is better interlaced with the romance. The love square we seem to be in actually works. Instead of relying on a ton of forgettable characters,she trims it down to three major characters and some hopefully developing supporting cast. Even the one off characters that appear during heist scenes are interesting enough.

The leads of our story are Maron a.k.a Phantom Thief Jeanne and her rival/love interest Chiaki a.k.a Phantom Thief Sinbad. Maron is the reincarnation of the historical figure Jeanne D'Arc and is tasked with exorcising demons from paintings which puts her at odds with Sinbad who is recapturing demons for the Demon Lord. Most of their core problems are laid out on the table over the course of the volume. We learn why these characters are acting the way they do and grow closer to them as a result. Maron's fears of loneliness and abandonment may hit close to home for some people,myself included. Her hesitation to trust Chiaki whose working through his own problems related to being his own person,feels natural. Especially given his devil may care attitude belying his genuine compassion. Their is the possibility that the romance can over take the main plot completely in later volumes but here it works as their tumultuous relationship adds to the plot instead of controlling it.

The rest of the main cast are not as well developed as they could be but given more time they have the potential. Maron's best friend Miyako is constantly trying to outwit and capture her Jeanne persona as an amateur police officer with her police chief father and is pursing Chiaki to no avail. The love square is rounded out by Minazuka,the student council president, who is trying to become a stronger person and maybe capture Maron's heart. Everyone plays off each other in different ways:ranging from playful to hostile to sweetly intimate etc. It also helps that the Maron and Chiaki actually have chemistry as romantic leads compared to the pieces of card board known as Ion and Mikado. Again the aforementioned playing well off themselves and their friends lends the romance some creditably. The only two characters we don't know much about are the angel helpers of Maron and Chiaki,Finn and Access respectively. This works out for the best though as going too deep into their histories may be playing some cards too early in terms of plot.

Speaking of the plot,it is stranded early magical girl plot with lack of a clear arc. The building blocks are there with a demon lord and God being background players and Sinbad in general. However the plots so far are mostly Jeanne finds demons hiding in paintings and Chiaki and Miyako try to stop her in their own ways because shes an honorable thief that announces her “ heists”. There is interconnection between stories via characters which works to develop them properly,so it's not really boring.

The one major element I'd like to touch on briefly in case I ever do a full review for the series is the concept of demons corrupting people via beautiful paintings. It brings with two possible connotation: that art is of the devil and that humanity is weak. The first one is semi dispelled by the fact that not every painting is evil. However Jeanne replaces the art with the picture of an angel once she takes the demon away. Implying that its the art itself that's demonic which is not a great message in general. Though it may be completely unintentional,as that would be a weird message to put in a book full of drawings.

Alternatively, the idea that humanity is inherently weak gains a little more credibility when realizing that it's the weakness in the human heart that invites the demon in. The obsession with the paintings and our own hang ups are what cause the problems. This is reflected in the main characters that are all hurting but at the same time hopeful that things will become better and they learn to grow. While this does paint humanity in a poor light it does offer hope in that if you can change then things will become better. Again this is more guessing than anything else based off of one volume.

Character development is the name of the game here,along with some fun plots. It does what a good introduction should do, build the characters and their world up. There isn't much in the way of an overarching plot,however there is so much potential for a great story with excellent characters that I can't help but adore it and want to read more. Well this turned out to be a good book so hopefully this correlates to the quality of the day. Hopefully this begins a plateau of better written martial for Arina Tanemura month. Next time Time Stranger Kyoko.

Till next time:Stay Positive

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Things No One Cares About: I.O.N

It's time for another theme month. These tend to work out great for me,so this will turn out awesome too. This month I'm looking at Arina Tanemura,whose books keep ending up in my collection by complete accident. So might as well clear out a good chunk of them,before more show up,and the best place to start is the beginning with I.O.N.

I.O.N is Tanemura's first published book and while the story and art are rather strong the romance is lacking. It wouldn't be too bad if the story wasn't solely about the romance. The world is fleshed out rather well for the one volume length and the story is fine till it is derailed by the romance. Enough with broad strokes and romance potshots, lets go more in depth with these potshots.

The story follows Ion Tsuburagi, a girl with minor physic abilities when the story starts. As events progress her powers increase and she gains the attentions of a boy, Mikado. with an interest in physic powers. We've somehow stumbled into the shojo counterpart to Sussano,with less craziness. The central conflict stems less from we can fly/lift objects and those ramifications and more from does Mikado view Ion as a girl or a experiment. I could forgive what seems to be a glorified romance subplot taking over the plot if the main players had any chemistry.

Ion and Mikado really don't play well off each other and seem to be in love because the plot demands it. She claims to love him because he says his mind,no matter how cheesy. He loves her because I guess they worked together for a while and to spite his ex. Once he starts returning her affections,it derails the more interesting physic powers plot,for romance drama. Ion herself is a bit all over the place in terms of her affections,being aggressive but chickening out,then going back to being aggressive in time for Mikado to be stupid.

The other characters fare no better in they all tend to blend into one big forgettable ball. Both main characters have a rival for their partners affections. Kouki is the eternally rejected suitor of Ion and him and his lackey can be funny but add little to the plot outside of drama with club formation that goes away quickly. Mikado's ex,Ai, is nicely realistic for a love rival in that she doesn't try to do anything really crazy to Ion and when she accidentally hurts her feels genuinely remorseful. Her presence does bring up something that infuriates me. She has physic powers as well,weaker ones but still powers. The story brings up the fact that there is research on physic powers and people clearly have them but that is never really addressed in terms of how this could affect the world. I know this is a shojo manga and romance tends to reign supreme but come on don't leave me hanging on the better plot or at least don't let it all crash down.

The final chapter train wreaks due to having to follow the boneheaded rejection that is there to create drama rather than actual add to the story. at the end of chapter five. The plot sets up that a weird substance is amplifying Ion's powers but the final chapter throws in the fact that it is breaking apart and her powers will diminish. I get that it's aiming for a bit of a symbolic loss of her connection to Mikado but the guy just rejected her and she's genuinely heartbroken,so why does she care. Mind you I think the other characters are just as perplexed at her bounce back but the whole chapter seems to be here because we can't have a sad ending.

For her first full book that,going by the author notes, was wrote with very little knowledge of how many chapters she would have;the world is well fleshed out barring that final plot point. The romance could have worked if the leads weren't together solely because of a red noose or the cast wasn't for the most part shojo stock chracters. Arina Tanemura month is off to a poor start but I'm not one to stop after a bad start,I'm kind of stupid that way. So see you next time for the first volume of Phantom Thief Jeanne.

What's Going On.

I realize I've been neglecting this blog as of late just now putting out a review almost three months into the new year,I'm turning into a less funny Jonton. I have no excuse for  January for not doing anything besides the writing for Hawyire. It did help with some issues plaguing my mind at the time and getting to write that article did allow me to move over the mental hump blocking the way. Mind you on the way over that hump my laptop decided to go kaput so February was marked with me wanting to actually write things with no ability to do so. I realize that too is a pretty lame excuse,but I can't really do much about it now but apologize while laying on a bearskin rug by the fire.

So for those of you who did miss me,sorry and for those of you who were glad I've been mostly silent,sorry to you too. In the spirit of not being a layabout,we're doing a theme month for Arina Tanemura. I won't go into too many details as the first review covers most of it. It'll probably extend into April because I'm bad with timing. where I'll go after that remains to be seen as me making plans tends to go down in flames rather easily. Expect the first review to follow after this shortly and the rest to follow in the weeks to come, shooting for Wednesdays like the old times. I'm not covering Full Moon or The Gentleman's Alliance Cross this month but will probably be back to those at a later date. Instead we'll start where she started to gain fame and then go from there to sort of see how she has progressed in terms of story and characters.

For this month:

3/10: I.O.N

3/18: Phantom Thief Jeanne vol.1

3/25: Time Stranger Kyoko

4/1: Mistress Fortune,for real this time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Things No One Cares About:Gokusen

I'm back after battles with myself and technology to write about more shows and books that no one really cares about. So to highlight me actually doing work outside actual obligations, I'll be looking at the interesting and original: Gokusen. Oh did I say interesting and original, I meant boring and uninspired. My apologies it's been a while, I may have forgot how words works. So here are words that you may enjoy or not.

Gokusen is often touted as the Josei equivalent of Great Teacher Onizuka, I.e a tough and crazy teacher helps those that people view as unteachable. Maybe the manga does live up to this comparison,however the anime can not hold a candle to it. It's part comedy that forgot to bring the jokes and part drama that forgot to bring the engaging characters. It can't decide what it wants to do and has a hard time committing to a plot line. Which may be for the best as the plots that do happen are awful and make little sense.

The story follows new teacher Kumiko Yamaguchi,the acting head of a Yakuza family. She's teaching the students that others have given up on while also keeping her Yakuza side a secret for reasons never clearly explained. The lack of explanation of really anything in the story till way too late makes it hard to get invested. Why she doesn't want people knowing about her life is not really explained till half way through the series and even then it's rather poorly explained. Up to then we're just supposed to take her word for it that it'll be bad if she is found out. Without a sense of the consequences that an action will have it kills all tension that could possibly be there. Though it's not like she is doing a good job of hiding it with here hammy acting attempts in the dub. I think the facade she is using is an attempt at a joke on the shows part but it's less so bad its good and just bad. The plot fares no better;trying to set events up and having anything interesting going on.

The bigger plot outside the duel life aspect is about a gang called Nekomata screwing with the other Yakuza families. You'll can be forgiven for not noticing this as the episodes seem busy just meandering around doing nothing but having bad jokes and nonsensical character changes. One episode has the main group of punks decide near the end that “hey lets go to the remedial class” because the teacher waited for them. It makes sense in a way but the lack of any clear or really any visible character development muddles what it's trying to say. The boys just seem to trust her despite none of them,bar the silent but cool guy, knows what she does for them. So once that main plot comes to fruition and the boys come to her rescue it has little impact emotionally. At this point she also lets her crazier side that she's been trying to hide come out in front of them. So either she forgot that that was a plot point or they just didn't care.

The characters themselves are all rather boring and remind me of better ones. Angel Densetsu managed to take stereotypical punks and make them into likable characters that rose above the usual one note archetype. This is sadly not the case here,with every boy being defined by two traits: one unique to them such as being fat or ugly and being decently moral. They seem to be moral less because they have deep reasons for it and more because the show feels characters like that sell better. They end up coming off as less likable and more morally superior despite being massive jerks.

Kumiko and her family of thugs fair somewhat better in that they are crazy thugs but fall prey to the same problems as the school kids. They fanatical devotional to Kumiko is rather funny, providing some of the shows sparse laughs. The family gets the lions share of the character development and if her students had even this level of back story then their loyalty would actually make sense. The thugs are still pretty one note overall so and what little development Kumiko gets is all over the place. Ranging from wanting to reel her class in to letting them run wild. With the aforementioned lack of explanation it makes her or really anyone hard to care about.

So much of more mediocre elements could be forgiven if the show was actually funny but it's just not. Most of the jokes range from tired slapstick and punchlines to the just plain bizarre. Kumiko has a dog who seems to be a pitbull version of Scooby-Doo that doesn't talk yet he gets lip syncs like he's talking. It makes little sense and like most every other joke is unfunny. Also the head of the Nekomata Group looks like a cat for some reason. Also before you start that email,I'm aware of the pun they are going for. However in-universe no one else has a look like this and you think it's something at least one of the characters would comment on. Nope, there is zero explanation and the design seems to be here for the stupid pun.

Gokusen lacks anything memorable or funny about it. Calling it bad would imply that it tried something besides trying to be a poor man's Great Teacher Onizuka. It's a boring show that can't be bothered to explain itself and just faffs around for 12 episodes. Maybe this is just a poor representation of the source material that was made as a cheap cash in or maybe the manga is awful as well. I don't know,but I do know that we should probably just let this one fade into darkness of the collective unconscious and never speak of it again.  

Till Next Time: Stay Postive

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Things No One Cares About: My Only King

 I”m going to take you back to a simpler time, when my jokes made some sense and I actually had a semblance of a schedule, to remind you of that time I talked about Yaoi. More specifically the forgettable Alone in My King's Harem by Lily Hoshino. I mention that book again because Night Circus section of that book is still pretty great. Oh, and because today’s subject,My Only King, is yet another collection of yaoi shorts by the same manga-ka.

My Only King drops the more fantasy based art and feel of Alone in My King's Harem(AMKH) in favor of a more realistic feel. All the stories take place in what can be considered the real world outside of the last story which is more fantasy like. It seems to be the opposite of AMKH,which ended with the more real life based Flesh chapters. My Only King carries over some of the other titles problems while also improving on a few. The art is still down right beautiful even if the uke characters are even more girly than before. It lacks the dream like aspect that kept the first book from being totally forgettable but in turn improves the story telling quality to an extent. My Only King manages to give the stories some more depth and delivers a more solid collection.

The book begins with the titular story that takes up half of the book's eight chapters. The plot is a a simple set up with a normal guy getting the a crest meant for a king of another world and the boy sent to find it. The set-up is rather interesting and the whole time I felt like it was establishing a world with it's own rules for magic. Then it does nothing with it,apparently just an excuse to get our two leads into some mildly steamy kissing. This could have been so much more,the world and characters are there to make this into a half way decent comedy or even action series. Heck,this would have been a perfect way to start a reverse magical girlfriend show. Nope they kissed so might as well call it a day. What's that about magical crests,probably not important. It's a fine story but it wastes it's potential in an infuriating way.

Twinkle Twinkle Horoscope and The Ghost in the Bath take the idea that brevity is best and run with it. The former concerns a boy recently broken up with falling in love with his male friend. As the story plays out the boys are in a constant struggle with why they are exactly doing this,mind you mostly through sub text. Are the boys using each other to stop their own loneliness or just using the pretext of the horoscope to make the love they have acceptable in there mind. It ends after a kiss,which seems to be a connector for these stories. This is probably one of the stronger stories and the uke actually looks like a guy and not just a rejected Prunus Girl lead

The Ghost in the Bathtub sort of comes and goes so fast that I'm not sure what quite went on. A business man is haunted by a ghost possessing his bathtub. It plays out like a scene from a much larger work yet manages to feel like a complete work in way. The scene is the two talking about how they came to this and what there feelings are. It's adorable and feels like it could be expanded if the manga-ka anted to. However it feels like a complete story regardless. The fourth story Mixed Chocolate is an extra episode to another series not featured in the book and is short ad fluffy. Not worth talking about due to lack of knowledge and depth so I'll skip to the final stop,King and Rune.

This one is the second longest and while going with a three way relationship between two guys and a girl leaves no impact asides from some minor squik factor. We watch the main boy grow up as he is sold off again and again by a king he claims to hate. Yet he keeps getting sent back to the king's home to see an albino girl who no one wants to buy. However the eventual pairing ends up with the two guys together-in a yaoi manga,shocking I know-with the girl being a platonic third party. The younger boy's actions are trying to vilify the king so he doesn't have to admit the loves him and the king plays along with it. However once they do do the deed, it has this squiky feeling of raising yourself a young husband. It's not too bad and the actual relationship dynamics are interesting. It's saved from being the weakest story by Mixed Chocolate but even if it was it's still pretty great.

So another set of stores that were beautifully drawn with most of them on about the same level as Night Circus. It is a marked improvement outside of the Mixed Chocolate story that is rather out of place. It's an interesting collection that is more focused on the love aspect and not just sexy boy/boy action. Definitely worth checking out unless you have some personal vendetta against yaoi.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Gaba Kawa

I can be a bit cynical at times,but overall I try to be optimistic and go into everything I do with some semblance of an upbeat attitude. I'm also one for giving people second chances,and usually third and fourth chances because I tend to not learn. This usually extends to my reading as well, everyone has a bad day or in the case of Rie Takada, a few bad volumes. I've already talked about Punch! a few months back. Long story short: it's not very good but there was some potential hiding away. Then one day I stumbled upon a copy of another of her works,Gaba Kawa,and decided that I might as well give her a second shot.

Punch! and Gaba Kawa were published around the same time and as a result they do share some basic similarities in that both have girls giving up one dream in favor of guy related dreams. While Punch!'s Elle was giving up freedom for a cool guy, Gaba Kawa's Rara is giving up on the dreams of one guy for a cooler guy. This does make her seem goofy and flighty at first,she does become grow more and more as she loses her demonic powers,probably should back up for a moment and explain.

This is a supernatural romance story with the nice twist of having the girl be the other worldly entity. Rara is a demon who travels to earth to cause trouble and catch the eye of a supposedly hot demon guy. It does give her the impression of being shallow and vain,which is what we're supposed to be feeling. Once she starts losing powers due to helping a human,she starts to mature and goes through a rather simplistic character arc. She's not giving up independence or a promising career,rather she's changing for the better. Yeah, it's for a guy but the change is for the better and her final sacrifice is genuinely sweet and sad.

The guy she is growing and changing for is Retsu Aku, a jerk with a heart of gold. Yeah he has some similarities to Punch!'s lead guy but with the gold shining through the jerk more clearly. He's the kind of person who just wants to have fun and not be tied down to anything. It's akin to Jotaro Kujo, it's a bit hard to figure him out but he does genuinely care. He does bizarre punk like things but it's for good reasons. Once the love does get confessed,he drops the colder demeanor and is rather sweet. It makes the love all the cuter and his actions in the final pages more believable.

The rest of the characters are there but don't serve any purpose other than to be comic foils or plot exposition. The other demon girl,Bibi, does have a little development in that she changes after she sees Rara's sacrifice but the rest of the cast does not fare as well. Restu's best friend is just sort of there to be an idiot. The guy she's originally pursuing is turned into a one-off joke that Bibi is forced into dating...for some reason. The more minor characters do at least succeed at building the world,it's a bit of an average world but it establishes the rules to an extent. The world is believable and given more time it could been more interesting.

The ending is sort of a mixed bag in terms of tone and actually trying to make sense. The whole work has a undercurrent of forbidden romance that seems to overtake the plot near the end as Rara is forced to choose between disappearing forever and killing Retsu to stay alive. The whole chapter elicits genuine emotions and I'll admit I was close to actually crying at her final act of sacrifice. Then the final few pages hints at her reincarnation that was never really set up. The page where she does disappear is reminiscent of a ghost going to heaven from earlier in the book. It seems like something that was thought up last minute and minimizes the previous self less act.

I'm happy I gave Rie Takada a second chance. The jokes more or less work,the characters feel a little more developed and likable. Funnily enough,it has more development in one volume than Punch!'s three. It's rather fun and worth a look.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shojo A Go-Go: Kiss of the Rose Princess

While I was reading Kiss of The Rose Princess,the phrase “ Diamond in the rough” popped into my head again and again. Every time a cliché event occurred, I felt like the book knew that. The boys had basic personalities but felt they had hidden depths. There just seems to be something more going on just beneath the surface. I should step back for a moment and expand slightly on what I'm talking about instead of making vague allusions.

The story is a reverse harem with a supernatural bent,nothing new. Our main heroine,Anise, gains a foursome of hot guys for her to control and summon at will. They give her a vague goal of defeating a demon lord but she's more concerned with finding a choker that she lost right before she met them. The rest of the volume is more concerned with the latter goal as a means to introduce the boys. The main plot as it were is pushed to the side with only a vague hook for it near the end. The story told in the volume is rather silly but does serve to make the character introduction chapters flow better.

The boys that make up this lovely harem cover your stock personality types: the brooding loner,the sick boy,the class president and the blunt main love interest. The aforementioned introduction chapters are a both a blessing and a curse. On one hand they show off the boy' powers in a bit of a contrived way. On the other hand it also hints at everyone's relationships and gives us an idea of those lovely hidden depths. Yes they are cliché but they still get comedic set pieces that work and the ending whilst ridiculous is over the top enough to make it work. In part because these characters are just fun to watch. The student council president’s over blown mentality on love or the brooding loner's determination to be just that against the more wacky back drop makes them enjoyable.

The art does fall flat in that the eyes on certain characters do not look right. This can range from simply off putting to straight uncanny valley. Also two of the boys,Kaede and Kurama,are somewhat hard to differentiate. On the other hand the rest of the art has a very dream like quality that is drenched in a rose motif. Flower motifs in general are nothing new but the way it's used invokes Revolutionary Girl Utena rather than just a generic shojo story.

Stepping forward again, I really enjoyed this book and I'm excited to see what's to come . The whole volume feels rather silly but not in a “we're a silly gag manga” way. Rather it's setting up everything that it needs to while it's still has time to mess around. Everything seems to be playing at something bigger in an interesting way.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Things No One Cares About: Another

I'll admit that when it comes to horror, I'm a huge wuss. When I was ten I was unable to sleep in my own bed for a few months after watching the Are You Afraid of the Dark movie. I have since found a love of the cheesy B-Horror movies that wont keep me up at night for fear of my soul being taken. The only other horror I can watch with that same sense of security is horror anime. Something about the few I have watched just don't scare me,sure I get grossed out a little bit. I can never look at fingernails the same way after watching When they Cry. I think it might be the distance, since it's happen to animated characters instead of real people, I can't be that scared. However, Another is possibly the closest any anime has come to truly scaring me.

Another concerns the cursed Class three and their struggles to end the disasters that befalls the class every year. The set up is done well and leads to some rather disturbing moments. The Calamity as it is referred to is less a person,though it is caused by a person(i.e a ghost) who should not be there,and more a force. The Calamity never speaks or has a physical form,it's akin to a spiritual bookkeeper that has to get rid of the extra student. Unfortunately it's no better at figuring out who the extra is than the students are so it just kills till it finds the right one.

The fact that it can't be reasoned with and the measures taken to appease it are often fruitless keep things tense and scary. It allows for a creepy atmosphere to build up over the series that never truly fades. Even the ill advised beach episode keeps the atmosphere going somewhat even if it indulges in all the beach episode cliches. When things go completely off the rails in the last few episodes and devolve into more of a slasher movie style,the Calamity never loses it's scariness. We'll leave ending for a little later, and instead move on to characters.

The characters for the most part work as pieces in this chess game of a series but as characters ultimately fail. Everyone is a stock anime character,that you can can easily sum up at a glance. The Hero,the oddball,the sporty guy,the nerd,the go-getter,the weak willed one. It saves us the time on all the pesky character development that some shows like. Yet it does take some time to characterize the odd ball girl,Mei,just not very well. She is the one who has become an unperson, a sort of charm used by the class to keep the Calamity from starting. She takes this well and almost seems to be sad that she has to give it up mid series when it's clear it isn't working. There in lies the problem,we're never given that great a reason why. Sure they highlight her poor home life and general asocial tendencies but nothing really substantial.

Her oddball tendencies do serve a purpose,in that it's clear that this lead to her being the unperson. It allows the show to insert an anti-bullying message with out beating us over the head with it. The class shuns her and making her an outcast. Yes,they do have good intentions with said plan but had this not been a cursed class, things would still not be the best for her. She looks odd with her eye patch and has an unnerving demeanor. Even once she's exists again,everyone is still on edge around her and the climax of the series couldn't go as far as it did if there wasn't some residual malice directed towards her. Our hero,Kouichi, is the only person to get close to her and even presented with the opportunities to get close to her no one else even tries. They all rely on faded memories of what they think she was like when she was young to judge her or just avoid her altogether. Had they even attempted to get learn about her, things would have turned out much better. Everyone's bias' just got in the way and leads to one heck of a downer ending.

Okay,time to stop dancing around the ending and actually talk about it. If you care,spoilers ahoy and I'll see you in a four paragraphs. Everyone else hop on the spoiler train.

Leading up to the end,we've had some okay if over the top death scenes. I'll admit death by umbrella was silly if a bit hard to watch. The death scenes really don't take away from the eerie atmosphere or the Calamity's looming presence. Then the school trip happens,where everyone finds out how to stop the Calamity once it's started: Kill the extra student. If you kill the right one,then no one remembers them and the Calamity is stopped. Once this information is spread through out the place Class three is staying in,everything goes crazy. Everyone is dying left and right in a vain attempt to find the extra student which leads to a massive witch hunt for Mei.

The death scenes before didn't shake the atmosphere too badly,but this ending breaks it over it's knee. People going Ax crazy can still be scary,if you have the right casting. Sadly the voice cast doesn't quite pull it off and it goes straight into cheesy territory. However even if we had a more experienced cast,the deaths are still goofy looking and the face animation is just entertaining in all the wrong ways. I'll admit some of the death scenes are still a bit disturbing but the escalation of events diminishes the impact.

The other major revelation is that Ms. Mikami,is Kouichi's aunt and the extra person. The fact that she is the extra is decently foreshadowed but brings up a bigger problem of why. They mention that Class 3 had the perfect number of desks but it was the faculty who was short a desk. Why did the curse seem to move to the faculty room when we took the time to establish that Class three is closest to death. I was okay with most of the more unexplained things:the curse itself, Mei's eye,the ghost pictures. They added to the creepiness,this just seems like more of a cop-out. A well planned cop-out but a cop-out none the less.

The last few scenes do manage to recapture some of the fear and ends in a satisfying way. They've only stopped the Calamity this year and while they left a way to revised way to stop it should a future class need to,it may not stop an event like the lodge incident. Kouichi is also going to have to come to terms with the fact that he will eventually forget his aunt and what she meant to him. There is a bit of hope in that Mei and Kouichi  may be able to form a meaningful relationship but the more downer tones balance that out. It makes for a nice ending that fits the series.

With everyone back at the station, lets throw out some parting wisdom. Another is a show that whilst not quite sticking the landing,does quite well. The Calamity being keep as a faceless force actually sort of scares me. It builds up an oppressive and genuinely scary world but populates it with generic characters. This is not really a knock against the show since the characters are still likable,just you won't probably remember them. If you're looking for something scary to watch this Halloween,this will tickle your fancy.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shojo A Go-Go: Black Rose Alice

If you want to know what's going on here,then go here and read that. If you're too lazy to do that then stay confused because I'm not going to explain.

Black Rose Alice is a vampire manga sitting squarely in that stale genre of supernatural romance. I was not going to pick this up because the only genuinely good thing to come out of this craze is Diabolik Lovers. Then I read a short review in a certain magazine that praised this and bashed Diabolik Lovers. In my incredibly petty mind that sounded like a challenge and I was all for accepting it. So I picked this up and was going to give it a fair a chance as I could,. Too bad it's an awful introduction to a series.

The story concerns a very unattractive man,Dmitri, becoming a vampire and him accidentally killing his lover because they need something tragic for him to dwell on for hundreds of years. Then we fast forward to 2008 and get involved in a tragic and dull student/teacher romantic relationship that gets to tie into Dmitri's sure to be convoluted plans.

Dmitri is your brooding anti-hero, that looks conventionally like the teacher's,Azusa, student lover. No doubt this will make events more complicated down the road,if I cared to travel that road. We do learn a bit about the bigger players but nothing suggesting more depth or personalty outside of what we see. I'll give it credit in that it actually starts with Dmitri pre-vampire and explains how we arrived there. However it takes too much time to explain how we got there that Dmitri loses an air of mystery about him that could have kept interest in him. We're left wondering nothing about how Dmitiri become who he is or what makes him tick. We're left with characters that aren't fun to follow and offer nothing to suggest that this will change.

The story as mentioned sucks out what little mystery there is to go on with a dry set-up that just flat out explains everything. From the author's set of vampire rules to Azusa's long drawn out motivations for dating a high school boy. Yeah the whole mess ends on a crazy Faustian bargain that could add something interesting but since everything is laid out clearly it leaves no suspense. You know how this is going to play out,so why read?

Nothing much else to say about this one,it has nothing that hints something interesting is ever going to happen nor does anything interesting happen in it. Diabolk Lovers actually used a vampire plot to showcase the inner workings of abusive relationships. Black Rose Alice does nothing with what could be an okay idea. Go ahead and skip this one.