Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Shojo A Go-Go: Wild Ones

I'll admit I have a soft spot for gangsters/punks in anime and manga,especially in comedies. One of my favorite anime is Baccano! due in no small part to most of your characters being crazy mobsters. Maybe it's he mash up of big tough guys doing goofy things or manliness to the point of parody. Either way goofy Yakuza guys are pretty fun and feature prominently in today's work Wild Ones. Though it does deliver on the funny Yakuza front it is DOA on every other count.

The volume's main problem is in its' failure to convey it self properly. We're told everything yet the story does not reflect the facts given. For example,we're told that our lead,Sachie,was chosen by the men of her grandfather's gang but at no time does this seem to be the case. Yes she does show some very admirable traits but this is long after she's gained these men's admiration and most of them only happen in front of her love interest(?), Rakuto. Over all it comes off as a lazy, instead of having events shown that back up your statement,just tell us the statement I mean it's not like we're in a visual medium or anything.

That aside the story doesn't seem to be going anywhere really and seems to be okay with standard plots albeit with a yakuza flavor. Sachie has to deal with moving to a new school and the loss of her mother among some wacky guys who just don't understand women. It's by no means bad and if you're like me and are okay wacky yakuza shenanigans then you'll be fine. It just lacks substance and doesn't seem to be wanting to go much further in terms of plotting or character development

Sachie and Rakuto are the only two characters of any real note her as the rest are either goofy gangsters or shojo stock jerks. If you noticed my confusion about Rakuto being a love interest,it's because the volume doesn't know what Sachie thinks about him either. Sachie constantly calls him weird but he's not that weird. He has a little more formal speech and aside form one instance of personal space invasion is not that bizarre. He's not that interesting so I can see why she falls in and out of love so easily with him;He's the generic cool guy that attracts crazy girls and can do it all.

Sachie on the other hand is the spitfire girl that tougher than she is letting on. When she does go into full on scolding mode it leads to some of the funnier sections as the guys stand bewildered at her. Again it's not exactly ground breaking comedy but it's still enjoyable and works for the most part. Her history with her mother is probably the only thing that has potential to be interesting or it could just turn out to be Tohru Honda's back story but with Yakuza.

I actually enjoyed the Wild Ones quite a bit despite it's laziness and weak story. Does that mean you'll like it,probably not. Unless you're a fan of gangsters and comedy then you'll probably be left wanting,hell I like both of those things and I'm left with that cold emptiness. Though I always feel that so it may not be the book's fault. It offers little incentive to continue and is only worth it if you're desperate for a romance story.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Things No One Cares About:Tomodachi No Hanashi

Last time I checked people liked having friends, I mean I'm a bitter anti social misanthrope so I don't but I heard other people do. Many a shojo work likes to explore relationships of a romantic nature usually leaving platonic friendships holding the bags so to speak. Not so much with today's feature, Tomodachi No Hanashi,where friendship is on full blast and the romance is secondary.

Tomodachi No Hanashi or The Secret of Friendship revolves around two girls: The beautiful yet caustic Moe and the plain push over Eiko. Moe easily attracts the boys but most are turned off by her condition for being with her, Eiko must be put first by them. While the book never attempts to portray it as anything but unreasonable it does take the time to flesh out why Moe thinks this is a reasonable request. The story is split into 3 sections each from a different characters perceptive and how they deal with Moe or in the last sections case how Moe sees everything. It still forms a cohesive story that contemplates what friendship means to different people and how it affects them.

The first section follows Eiko as she deals with Moe's relationship with Tsuchida, a guy smitten enough to go along with Moe's requirement. Eiko is really embarrassed by the fact that she's being dragged along but she is way to nice to actually say no. Instead she starts lying to Moe,which is a stride forward in her development to being a stronger person. She's growing because of her friendship's with the other two as the other two learn that they can be themselves around her. Eiko's development after this is rather down played as the story shifts focus to the other characters but it's done rather well regardless. This part ends on Moe dumping Tsuchida for her perceived callousness towards Eiko. The events here do make both girls come of as a bit selfish is some regards but it serves to highlight how deep this relationship really is. This is more deeply explored in chapter three once we get Moe's side of things.

The second part follows Tsuchida's friend Narugami as he deals with the fallout from the previous chapter. His role for most of the part is that of vengeful jerk,the part usually filled by random bitchy girls. However the major difference is that the book explains his feelings, Moe hurt his best friend so he's going to go after her best friend. He has his own hang-ups with women and his arc concerns learning that women are people too and that the way he treated Eiko was wrong.

The advantage of his perspective is that we see an outsider's take on Eiko and Moe's friendship. To him it seems terribly lop sided but as he starts to talk to Eiko he sees how similar it is his friendship with Tsuchida. It fits in with the books theme of friends are forever and to hell with what others think of them. Through out the book the characters are shown as awkward around others but it doesn't matter to them since they have each other. While it does get a little heavy handed it never veers into preachy instead just showing how these friendships affect the characters.

The final part is told from Moe's POV as Narugami attempts to make up with the girls and dealing with his love for Eiko. It is some what side lined as a huge part of it is Moe's perspective on why she is friends with Eiko and why they are so close. With all this back-story laid out it paints the previous parts in a new light. Moe's reasons for her crazy actions are much more clear now: Eiko gets her like nobody else does and she only wants Eiko to be happy because then she'll be happy

It's here where the more yuri inclined fans can read Moe's actions towards Eiko as slightly lesbian in nature. I don't particularly feel that way as its more about Moe reacting to her best friend changing than actual romantic jealously towards Narugami. The romance is playing out and again we are on the outside looking in as Moe struggles with abandonment issues and her friend changing. It gives Moe much more depth as a character and adds an interesting side we don't see that often.

The only real weak point to me is that Tsuchida falls off the face of the earth for most of the final part. Which given how deep his and Narugami's relationship is supposed feels weird. Especially when Narugami is trying to date his ex's best friend. Given that friendship is the major theme and Moe and Eiko's has such much nuance and depth; it's odd that Narugami and Tsuchida's relationship is hardly explored past chapter two. Again more of a nitpick since Narugami's character development is solid on it's own.

There is a side story in the book about a girl trying to catch her friend's boyfriend cheating on her. Along the way she meets the guys friend and it blossoms into to romance. Very sweet navel gazing chapter that ponders how far are people willing to go for friends. A nice compliment to the main story but nothing special over all

Tomodachi No Hanashi is an interesting little book that digs in to the exploration of friendship without being cheesy. The three different perspectives really help make the relationships work and give the story some more interesting facets . Featuring way more character development than I would expect for a manga of this length and a very tight if minuscule cast. It's a sentimental journey that you shouldn't miss out on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Shojo A Go-Go:Demon Love Spell

I could say Demon Love Spell is a supernatural romance and we could all go home. It has sexy otherworldly guys,girls attuned to that kind of thing and hints of danger. However that's selling it short in a way. The first volume really does show some promise, drawing me in with some okay characters and trying to stand out. Does it maintain this dubious level of quality or go downhill? I don't know and for this post that's not the purpose,since volume one is all that matters.

The story opens up with Miko,a shrine priestess accidentally sealing Kagura due to thinking that he's a demon. Luckily for her he actually is one and after fighting a demon the pair form a relationship mostly because Miko forgot how to unseal Kagura. Other than that the plot goes on about as one would expect,they get into hi-jinx involving demons of the week and start to form a more romantic relationship. Getting there is where things get a little more interesting.

Miko's defining traits for the volume is being accidentally awesome and having a stupid name. It makes for great comedic bits with Kagura and other demons as the can't believe they've been defeated by a girl who can barely see them. After a while Kagura and her father do more of the heavy lifting so to speak as a way to curb the shtick and allow Miko to lay down ground work for her own character development. It would fall into chickfication but it's more taking her pure luck and turning it into talent for latter volumes. Also she is a shrine priestess whose name means shrine priestess,that's like if a plumber was named Piper. It's possible its a nickname for Mikoto but the book never indicates as much so we're left with a really stupid name.

Kagura is an incubus and gets to bypass the genres normal love for girls with that sexy blood and instead has him feed of sexual energy. It's still a Macguffin substance but it fits with the incubus
aspect better. He can really get it from any girl and while it's hinting that Miko's energy is special it's more about forming a deeper bond that her actual energy. Being sealed leaves him to be the butt monkey for Miko and her parents which again leads to some decently funny moments. He's going through a slight character arc here and given time to flesh out his back story as the strongest demon it may have a bit more impact.

It does seem to be keeping with Incubus lore to an extent,making it more than just a simple palate swap for another creature. Such as the aforementioned feeding of sexual energy to survive and being able to enter dreams. Many scene in the book involve Kagura visiting Miko's dreams to garner by making her love him at a subconscious level. It is rather creepy and is treated as such and Miko does put up barriers to prevent it allowing her to decide how much she actually cares for him. The use of his limited powers and Miko sharpening hers could lead to some interesting conflicts.

The only real problem that I see at this time is that the rest of the cast is rather weak. Miko's parents are the only real stand outs by being funny and seem to be subjecting Kagura to humiliating tasks for no real reason .Again more on Kagura's past and possibly Miko's father could help this problem. Her classmates are just sort of there right now with no real defined personalities yet. On the demon side of the cast,we have no one really, most of the demons are just cannon fodder and the only real other creature is a fox spirit that seems to be setting up a love triangle with our leads in the final chapter of the volume.

For a first volume,it puts it's best foot forward. The main relationship is rather fun and has potential for some interesting power dynamics. The story is nothing special but it works well enough to keep me interested. Is it going to draw in people who would never read this type of story...probably not. However if you're a fan of the genre then you'll probably enjoy it especially if you enjoyed Kamisama Kiss.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Happy Hustle High

Rie Takada has gained a bit of good will back with me via Gaba Kawa. It was well written,had decent characterization and an okay ending. Was it amazing,not particularly, but compared to Takada's other popular works it is brilliant. That may be a bit too harsh to Happy Hustle High,it's insulting but over all just sort of generic.

The story is your typical girl meets boy,boy ignores girl, and then guy and girl fall in love. The basic plot concerns an all girls school going co-ed and how that affects the students. It works for the most part but the plot point never comes up that much after our lead, Hanabi gains rank in the student council. Instead focusing on Hanabi and Yasukai relationship,which is okay, it is a romance story after all. Up till around the mid way point everything is going along fine then Hanabi and Yasuaki finally get together and it all goes down the tubes.

The second half has no idea where it wants to go and like me trying to fill space,and I realize I didn't care about the characters at all. They aren't bad characters per se just boring stock shojo characters. As a result of this revelation,I can't be asked to get invested in the story and I'm left questioning why I even cared in the first place. The problems are a result of the characters being stupid and not in the too broken to fix things way. It's more like The World God Only Knows making up problems that shouldn't be an issue but suddenly are.The story is trying to have an underlying theme and this is where the book goes from meandering idiocy to full blown flaming train wreak of insulting.

Love can change is a common theme in shojo and Rie Takada is rather fond of it in her works. Unfortunately, her use of it is rather insulting and is the biggest problem I have with this book. Hanabi starts out as the brash protector of all her friends and her entire character arc is moving away from this image and style. Becoming less impulsive is fine but however quite a few of the boys have this same problem or similar problems and it's never treated as bad. So it comes off as Hanabi is too boyish and needs to become more girly to be a happier person. 

Hanabi's problems that are less problems and more she's not a girly girl, how dare she. The book has no respect for girls in general, the only girl with any not is Hanabi and her personality is too boyish to be respected by the book. They are all a nameless mass that can't resist the sexy boys that they are now cohabiting and therefore are useless. The boys are just as interested in the girls of the school but are treated as cool people who can look above base urges. The one time the girls stand up for themselves in what is the Shojo equivalent of Rape Squad they are all berated for being silly and that the guys should handle the girl's problems. The way Yasuaki is portrayed does not help the book's case.

Yasuaki arc concerns his fear of women but it's never given much time outside of a few chapters and I genuinely forgot it was a problem till it's magically solved by  having sex with Hanabi. Other than that anything he does is treated as right and Hanabi is being silly for not trusting him. Had he actually expressed his thoughts then they could avoid most of these issues. This could actually be a problem that needs addressed but it's never treated as such and his only change that happens is him stating he's happier. I'm sorry I didn't realize you were unhappy,as you enjoyed surfing and that's about it.I mean he could be, he's not that deep or nuanced.

Sadly these problems are not exclusive to Happy Hustle High but it is a more blatant example of how this can easily fail. It's insulting in what the author thinks of her own gender and her idolization of men. Had they balanced out both sides and making them equally flawed and I could forgive it but it doesn't. It's by no menas a bad series,and got a laugh form me on occasion, but it doesn't excuse the utter banality of the whole mess or the dim view on the female gender.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Things No One Cares About: In a World

I don't often feel compelled to talk about live action movies, I mean I barely talk about anime/manga competently. I guess maybe I'm just waiting for the right movie to talk about and this movie seems to be it. In a World is a horrendous pseudo feminist piece that undermines it's own ideas and crams romance subplots in because women wouldn't want to watch a movie about the struggles of a woman trying to make it in a very male dominated industry. No, we need to know if Demitri Martian gets to stick his boom mike in our lead,Carol. It's insulting in ways that I didn't expect and this is why I was compelled to talk about it: bitterness about having watched this garbage.

I'll start with the good just to prime you for the bile. Up till the end Carol's struggle to make in the very male dominated world of movie voice overs is nicely done. From struggling with having to even break into it after her voice over father,Sam Soto, kicks her out to be treated inferior for simply being a woman in the business. It is shattered at the end where she is picked up for the big movie job over her father and the entitled jerk,Gustav, not for being the best but because her voice sounds good for this weird feminist revolution the director is trying to pull. The work Carol has put in seems to be all for naught,and the straw feminist director comes off as a massive hypocrite. I'll admit, I'm not well versed in feminist theory but I know enough to see that this is complete malarkey that undermines everything the movie was aiming at and weakens the overall product.

The romantic sub plots that pop up could honestly be exorcised from the movie and we'd lose nothing. The first and most prominent focuses on Carol's sister and brother in law, Dani and Moe and Dani cheating on him. The long and short is Dani may or may have not slept with a sexy Irish man,implied that they may have done more than make out as she claims. However she never directly apologizes to Moe about it,just an indirect tape recording Carol composes. So she gets off scot free while Moe has to do the big romantic gesture to get her back. That's like if I killed a man and then his family invited me to Sizzlers to apologize. This really has no bearing on the plot and seems to be here for padding and to get Carol out of the house for her own romantic sub-plot near the end. When your function in a story could be replaced by busted pipes, then it's probably not worth putting in the movie.

This brings us to out lead,Carol, who gets by with being okay. As stated her struggles are very relate able but she her self is not. She's a bit of a free loader and her obsession with different accents is what kicks off the aforementioned romantic plot tumor. She's more a compilation of weird character traits than an actual person. She also sleeps with Gustav despite hating his guts,for no real reason. She seems fascinated by this weird room he has but after the sleep together he's treated as a joke the rest of the movie. There is no hint of foe yay up till that point and none after words. It sort of happens and again has very little plot relevance outside of a minor character moment for Sam later. Outside of that wall banger,she's mostly forgettable just like her love interest.

Louis is meant to be her love interest and honestly it seems mostly one-sided on his part. She does say she likes him but were given little to no hint about this. She just seems to like him because she's in a romantic comedy and she need a guy to fall for. Loius is a big ball of awkward quirks and to be fair Demitri Martin does manages to give the character some funny moments but like Carol is forgettable and characterless. He is unique in that he is one of the few male characters who's not a jerk like Sam and Gustav.

Sam Soto is the only one to get any visible character development and it's mostly a reason you suck speech from his young wife at the end of the film.The wife by the way is treated like crap by Carol and Dani despite caring about them and being very kind. The treatment might have been meant to show how strained their family's relations our but makes the girls come off as petty jerks. Gustav is a bit of a designated villain who's main crimes are being cocky and having consensual sex with Carol. There's not much more too him despite the attempts at hidden depths that make him come off as more snobby than anything else.

When I started watching this movie I was actually enjoying it but as it went on the flaws became more and more apparent. Once the ending rolled around and lost any good will I had for the movie, it became apparent this was a sinking ship the whole time and I was in an icy arctic sea of disappointment. It meanders around avoiding the actual interesting parts,focusing on romance that has little bearing on the main plot,and insulting the audience with a terrible understanding of feminism and bland characters. Also it contains one of the most insulting use of Tears for Fears I've ever seen.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

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