Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

I guess this is the month where I get to redact my opinions. First I'm over at Haywire realizing that I never gave Devil Survivor 2 a chance and now I'm here to take back most of my unkind thoughts about Jojo's Bizarre Adventure:Stardust Crusaders while also adding some new ones I skipped over last time. Maybe the fact that it's animated now or that I didn't binge the show like I did the manga but I enjoyed the anime more than the manga.

Like it's predecessor, Stardust Crusaders is a almost panel perfect adaption of said arc with a few events subtly changed to match up with later events of the arc. As a result it keeps the stories strengths and weaknesses mostly intact. The plot follows Jotaro and his companions as they travel to Egypt to stop DIO. Introduced in this arc of the manga are the iconic Stand powers. Basically physic abilities that can manifest in those with a strong will or in later parts surviving being pierced by a special arrow. These powers of course manifest in the cast and more or less kick off the plot in a way. The early episodes front load most of the back-story on DIO,Stands and the Jostar family; which causes the first few episodes to drag a bit especially if you've read the manga. It's also here that we run into most of the speed bumps in the story.

The first big one is the case of Holly Kujo and her inability to control her Stand. I could write a few pages on why this is stupid in the grander scheme of the series and also within in this arc. To keep it brief, Holly is portrayed as a rather strong  person yet can't seem to wield a stand. She may be a bit frailer physically but a baby and a decrepit old lady can use their Stands no problem,yet Holly can't. Probably because Jotaro needed more motivation than simply the world is in danger. To say nothing of the unfortunate implications this brings up, I'll just leave it at insulting and a waste of a perfectly good character.

The other gripe I have is that for some reason DIO 's defeat means that Holly will be free of her Stand's influence. Despite the fact that this won't affect any other Jostar Stands which spawned as a result of DIO's theft of Johnathan Jostar's body. It's almost like Holly and DIO as less characters and more motivations. The lack of real interactions with DIO outside of the final fight fails to make him anything more than a entertaining if shallow villain. He's noticeably changed since Phantom Blood,becoming much more paranoid and Genre Savvy than before However like Jotaro it doesn't make him a particular deep character.

Speaking of Jotaro, I grew to like him over the courses of parts four and six but loathed as a lead since we had more interesting characters in the group. Then I finally noticed his much more sarcastic and dry sense of humor and more subtle character development. He serves as a nice contrast to the arcs wackier villains and supporting cast. While someone like Polnareff ,the group's penultimate recruit, is more prone to rush right in and play the fool; Jotaro seems more like an annoyed mom at the others antics and it's funny to an extent. He does learn to grow closer to the people in the group as the story progresses but not people in general as evidenced by part six. He works well within the group but still comes off as a boring lead. His stand,Star Platinum, matches his blandness and versatility.

Star Platinum has precision and super strength on his side, the latter coming standard on many a Stand later down the line. While it is basic it aids in Jotaro's versatility, many of the more creative uses of the group's powers come out of his Stand. From inhaling a gas based Stand to using it to bluff a professional con man,it never feels like Star Platinum is pulling something out its butt. That is till the end and concerns my last major problem with Stardust Crusaders and spoilers for the Final DIO fight so skip this next paragraph if you want to stay in the dark.

The anime has the advantage of being able to fore shadow events more clearly and fixing a few things related to Avdol's (first) death. However the show never really explains Jotaro's ability to move during DIO's time stop that clearly. The logical extension that Jotaro can stop time himself is hinted via the ability to move during a time stop but the initial movements nor is Jotaro's flying around like DIO ever really explained. Maybe the fact that Jotaro can fly like that is meant to mirror DIO's The World and show that they are similar Stands thus time stop should be possible for Jotaro. Yeah, no it still feels like somewhat of an ass pull on Araki's part and I'm sad that it wasn't better handled this time around.

Okay back in non-spoiler land,I said I enjoyed this part yet all I've done so far is gripe. So what works in this shows favor,everything else. The group dynamics that were present in the original are played up much stronger here. Spending time with these characters drew me closer to them as they all learned to trust one another. Deaths in the manga that left me unfazed hit me hard in the anime. Both versions of this story do fall into the formula of travel some distance then have a fight. However with the anime I was going at it's pace rather than my own and it let me stand back and appreciate the story and characters. By the end of the show I was sad that this journey had to end and I had to depart from beloved friends.

The only weak link in the Jostar group is probably Kakyoin. While pulling some cool tricks off with his Stand,Hierophant Green, is put on a bus for most of season two. He finally returns for the storming of DIO's mansion. Even then it takes to the final fight to get some deeper development for him. It could have been spread out a bit akin to Iggy's development from cold jerk to loyal team member is played out. He's still a fun character that is a bit of a walking meme and brings up the idea of how growing up with a Stand might effect a person's social skills.

Everyone else is the group also brings something to the table asides from there Stands. Polnareff and Iggy bring a bit of levity to the group while examining what it means to live for others. Avdol is half of a cool old guy duo with Joseph, while serving as somewhat of a mentor to the group. A role that Jotaro would take on in part four, he's comforting to have around in a way. Joseph while not being full blown comic relief like Polnareff, is still a lovable hot blooded goof  that has some what mellowed out since Battle Tendency.What spurs these changes for him are again a whole article by itself so I'll leave it at that.

The Stands lack the more bizarre powers that later parts have but this arc was meant to ease people into the idea of Stands,hence the stats of each one. It lays does the groundwork for what Stands can do and who can wield one. This doesn't mean the Stands are boring per se, they are used in interesting ways to build some cool battles. Such as the battle against a gorilla whose Stand is the ship the characters are on.

The one major problem the 2012 anime had was pacing,squeezing about twelve volumes of material into one season is a bit difficult. However with two seasons to stretch it's legs out in Stardust Crusaders does away with most of those problems. The first season does have the aforementioned front loading problem but once it gets going it doesn't look back. The fights move at a quick clip and never out stay their welcome. The show still drips with that signature style and compliments the crazy events on screen perfectly. The voice cast works perfectly as well,everyone sounds like they should. Takehio Koyasu reprises his role as DIO playing him in a more subdued fashion while still retaining the sinister and crazy fun aspects that made him a blast in Phantom Blood.

So I come to you a more humble person,it's a bit of a painful feeling.The pain is dulled by the fact that Stardust Crusaders is better than I first thought.While it has it's flaws,the story is one that ultimately works with a colorful cast that I felt closer to than I ever have. If you're like me and lukewarm about the Stardust Crusaders section of the manga, then I encourage you to give the arc another try with this anime. If you still haven't experienced this arc then this is the best way to go about it.


Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Odin: Starlight Mutiny

For the most part when I review any media I like to go in as blind as possible so I can get my purest impressions untarnished by the opinions of others. While this is hardly a solid rule, it is for my used bookstore purchases. Such is the case with today's feature, Odin: Starlight Mutiny,which I had never heard of. To be quite honest even had I know of this film's poor reception and the strong pedigree of it's producers; I still would have not been prepared for the true awfulness contained on this disc.

The story, if it can even be called that,is an utter mess that is littered with plot holes. Okay, I'll be nice and say that the title is indeed accurate. There is a planet called Odin and there is a mutiny on the spaceship called Starlight. Everything else like coherence and pacing are left to the winds in favor of terrible metal music and odd animation. Events seem to happen at random and there is this incessant prattling about sailors being the greatest. The sailing theme is used mostly to justify the crew acting like reckless fools.

They explain that Earth has developed space travel via laser propelled sails and the titular Starlight is unique in that it isn't reliant on such a stupid method. The technology on both sides is poorly explained and the cast is surprisingly knowledgeable about the alien technology that they've had little exposure to. Characters throw around high grade techno-babble that a person with a first grade education can tell is complete malarkey. Once the plot gets going,in a loose sense, it barrels into complete idiocy.

Apparently the Norse tales of Ragnarok were inspired by the planet Odin's destruction,yes really. These aliens made first contact ages ago and that's why we have Norse mythology, I guess. Then they made some super computer that decides organic life is useless and decides to go the genocide route on them.They blow up the MCP knock-off at the cost of a few casualties on their side and that's the end. They were clearly expecting a sequel had this movie not bombed,mostly because people realized that the latter half could have been avoided had anyone had half a brain.

The mutiny promised in the title happens due to the fact that the government called them back and they wanted to find the planet Odin. At no point is it mentioned that they wont be able to complete this mission at a later date or that they'll even be pulled from the crew. Nope they do it because they need to prove themselves. So they hijack the ship and run this dangerous mission in a ship that has the bare amount of armaments,they have to rig a few lasers to give themselves a fighting chance. Instead of going back later,better prepared against an army they know is technologically advanced with superior weapons. To say this is a stupid idea is an understatement but considering these characters this is the best they can do.

I'm not even going to mention most of the cast as they are so one note and bland that it could have been a crew of rocks and it would have made a difference. However,main character Akira is a walking example of how not to write a chracter. Our introduction to him is watching the launch of the Starlight,lamenting how he could have been on the crew had he not punched an instructor. I honestly figured he was either a minor antagonist or just a throw away character,not the hero. There is nothing wrong with a protagonist that does out of line actions provided they are justified or it's part of him growing as a character. However it isn't and his brash attitude is treated as lovable and heroic despite the fact that had he taken a minute to think about his actions; He would have realized how pointless that mutiny was,and probably avoided the needless death.

I usually don't talk to much about art anymore because I can only say it looks nice and flows well so many times,except here it doesn't. The character design is generic complementing the writing perfectly I might add. Everything glows with this weird irradiated looks, like they animated this while in Chernobyl. On the sound side, nothing works either. Many of the big set piece scenes are given this ridiculous hair metal soundtrack that doesn't work. The Japanese voice cast does as well as it can given the script, specials note to someone shouting “St. Elmo's Fire” unprovoked during a scene. I genuinly don't know if that was in the script or someone did some impromptu riffing. 

This is a movie that doesn't even know the meaning of the word “work” which is weird since this studio is responsible for the Space Battleship Yamato series. The animation is blinding to the point of almost inducing epilepsy,the soundtrack never fits, and the story  make little to no sense and hopes the techno-babble will distract you. This movie is so painfully bad I had to do three separate sittings just to be able to stomach it. Not much left to say expect don't get suckered like I did into blowing six dollars on this.


Till Next Time:Stay Positive.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Shojo A Go-Go: So Cute It Hurts!


Gender bender and cross dressing comedies are something I tend to avoid. Mostly for two reasons, first they tend to rely on gender stereotypes which are not that funny. Second is due to deep seated personal issues that prevent me from not being a sad sack whilst reading them. This is why you'll never see me talk about Kashimashi despite all five volumes occupying space on my shelf. So in an attempt to brave the very depths of my soul,here's So Cute It Hurts!, a cross dressing comedy.

The story follows the twins Megumi and Mitsuru,who couldn't be more different. I mean them having the same personality would be rather boring and give a lack of tension down the road. So Mitsuru is a wannabe playboy while his sister Megumi is a history otaku with an eye patch obsession. She starts out as the more likable of the two,mostly because she's more relate-able if a bit weird and also the fact that everything that happens so far in the plot is a direct result of her brother being an idiot.

The whole cross dressing aspect is for Mitsuru to get out of taking makeup classes so he can continue his dating schedule. His character arc is pretty clearly defined for now as he learns to actually love someone,Shino, instead of just being a skirt chaser. Shino is deaf ,which has tones of being inspirational for the sake of it,but hints at hidden depths and okay character development. Their little relationship is rather cute and solid pillar of the love “V” the story has set up by volumes end. I could say this will add tension down the road but I genuinely don't feel that So Cute! is the kind of manga to defy the norm. It's plot points are easy to guess and has no real shake ups so I just don't see anything crazy happening.

Don't get me wrong I actually enjoyed this first volume,it's rather funny and relies less on gender stereotypes and more on accidental competence for it's comedy. How the twins act in each others situation reflects heavily on them as character. Misturu's school is a crazy place that makes Hekikuu High look normal so when he goes to Megumi's much tamer school he can easily outwit the girls with their smaller time pranks and tricks. Where as Megumi is used to staying out of the way and being in a school that has a semblance of normal order is thrust into crazy land and reacts by legging it to avoid problem.

Despite getting the lion's share of character development,Mitsuru comes off as the weakest character. His character arc is so clearly defined that it's almost painful and his semi-ace status is rather annoying compared to Megumi's fish out of water character. Megumi also has a very well defined “learning to love “arc being set-up but it's slightly more subtle and her Kitano like antics are funnier than Mitsuru's verbal humiliation of nasty girls. The reminder of the cast is pretty okay with hints of actual character development especially those in the six point love “V”.

I'd like to lodge a few annoyances her that may be fixed in a later volume. First is the fact that Megumi's friends really don't notice they've switched. Which is weird as the appear to be rather close to her and would probably notice something is off.  Mitsuru's classmates are a bit forgivable since he tends to stick with girls and is supposed to be the 7th strongest in the school so he may not have many close male friends. Also I know it's common at least in manga and anime for kids to be living on their own but I'd at least like some mention of what there parents are doing,just for context.Again these may come up later and possibly played for drama so for now it just bugs me.

So after that brief soul search,it's about as deep as a kiddy pool, I've learned absolutely nothing other than the fact that I enjoyed this volume. The character development for the leads is rather blatant but has the opportunity to surprise with the decent supporting cast. The crazy love drama may eventually overtake the story but for now it's decent comedic sensibilities and great leading lady make for a fun beginning but I don't put much faith in keeping this momentum going.



Till Next Time: Stay Positive  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Things No One Cares About: The Legend of Chun Hyang

Recently there has been somewhat of an influx of manga adaptations of so called classics such as the works of Jane Austin and Victor Hugo. It's really nothing new, adapting a classic for modern times is a fairly popular practice.I don't really look into these “Manga Classics” too much,as I prefer the source material. These type of titles could be okay for all I know but I feel that the transition will lack the subtle touches of the original works. That may just be the snobbery talking in all honesty,so I'll put that aside to see if CLAMP can make a transition to manga can work.

Chunhyangga is a Korean folktale that concerns a young girl betrothed to a noble holding out for his return even in the face of immanent death. It's a short tale and is supposed to trumpet the virtues of chastity and rebellion against corrupt government. I'm not going to give a full review of that because: A. That's not the focus of this post and B. People care as little about my subjects as is,so I'm not about to start reviewing books that people probably care even less about. The Legend of Chun Hyang plays rather fast and loose with the source material. However faithfulness to the source is not really the problem here,it's more lack of depth and inconsistent tone that plague it.

The first two chapters follow Chun as she combats evil magistrates with the help of Mong Ryong. While in the original tale,she defies the magistrate through refusal of advances. Here she is a competent action girl that acts as a protector of the townspeople. She only thinks of protecting people and like her folklore counterpart stays “pure”. Women keeping their “honor” is a minor theme through out the first chapter, Chun Hyuang's mother kills herself to keep the magistrate from raping her. Women staying chaste is a common theme in folklore and I won't really go into the underlying sexist tones this brings to the part. Mostly because CLAMP was not really trying to make a statement one way or the other just incorporating elements of the original story of which there are plenty. Does this excuse it in anyway,no. It just comes off as an oddity in a story that is all about women being on even footing with the men.

The second chapter drops these connections entirely in favor of becoming a traveling adventure story with a bit of a Slayers flavor. It's a fun little story filled with mythical beasts,magical battles,some lite tragedy and confusing character development. While the first story was a semi retelling of the original tale,this feels like CLAMP was trying to pitch the book as a series that never happened. Mong Ryong and Chun Hyang have a typical love/hate relationship that has Mong Ryong being a lecherous pervert and her keeping him in line. Near the end of this chapter Chun Hyang nearly kills a second magistrate but stops suddenly because she realizes it won't bring back the dead. This comes completely out of nowhere as she does that exact thing to the last magistrate with no chastisement.Suddenly revenge is a bad thing...for some reason. If this series had more time to develop then maybe this could have been fleshed out but as a stand alone Aesop it conflicts heavily with what's presented. Chun Hyang,nor anyone really, is not given enough depth for events to mean anything and the next chapter gives them depth that they never use.

I'm pretty sure the final chapters working title was called: “Tone,what's that?”. The chapter follows young Chun Hyang as she defends the town from young magistrate's son from the first chapter. The whole thing is treated as a wacky comedy with implications the the magistrate's son loves Chun Hyang bur can't show it. First considering the horrific events of the first chapter this comes of less as charming and more chilling. Second of all why are we giving semi character development to character that are already dead. Plus Chun Hyang character development here apparently didn't take as shes just as impulsive as a teenager and a child. Though this may be because the original chapter was not written with this in mind for which it gets a free pass but this chapter has no excuse. It adds nothing to the first chapter in terms of motivations and while the first two chapters are not that serious this chapter is just too wacky.

As a straight adaption The Legend of Chun Hyang fails,as an action adventure story it's pretty average. The short length and bizarre final chapter, leaves us with a mediocre book that screams for more. It's a book that clearly wanted to be something more than it what was presented and that makes me sad to see something that may have been struck down in it's prime. It really hasn't colored my opinion on manga adaptions that strongly but I do recommend it for those looking for a fun action tale.



Till Next Time:Stay Positive. 


P.S Sorry for the lateness of this one,again I'm a ditz with schedules.

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 to 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 put 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.