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