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Flower of Life 1-3, Yoshinaga Fumi

Flower of Life 1-3, Yoshinaga Fumi published on

My response to this manga is a string of little hearts.* My favorite is the chapter about the girl who has a crush on Yamane. I want more stuff with Yamane in it. She is perfect and I love her.

This particular Yoshinaga manga’s Horrible Relationship is so deep into horrible it comes out the other end. It’s like Edward Gorey or something. I can’t figure out whether to cringe or laugh at it. It’s very, very horrible.

* But I’m not putting them here because I’ve developed an anal-retentive habit of avoidance of special characters due to fear of problems with my WordPress database. Though I feel that this dysfunction has on occasion damaged the integrity of my writing, it persists nonetheless. There is a small fearful twinge close to my heart when I switch on the Japanese IME, an almost tactile thing, as if UTF-8 character encoding was a physical organ within my body.

(I have such awesome problems.)

A review of Vampire Game, by JUDAL

A review of Vampire Game, by JUDAL published on 2 Comments on A review of Vampire Game, by JUDAL

that will totally make you want to read it.

Once upon a time, the Vampire King Duzell got a bit grumpy and decided to kill all the humans. He came close, but was finally defeated by King Phelios, who destroyed him with a spell called La Gamme, which takes the life of both the target and the one who cast it. In his dying breath, Duzell curses both of them to be reborn again in one hundred years, to repeat their battle.

Phelios is destined to be reborn into the body of one of his descendents – but Duzell forgets to specify what he’s going to end up. The broody vampire king finds himself trapped in the body of a newborn kitten, and the pet of Phelios’s descendant, the irresponsible and manipulative Princess Ishtar.

Ishtar holds Phelios in contempt for 1) being the sort of person who would throw his life away, and 2) marrying his cousin, something that afterwards became a royal tradition. Ishtar does not like her cousins. Sometimes they try to poison her. Though disconcerted, the scheming vampire king sees certain obvious possibilities in his situation. Duzell, eventually regaining enough of his power to transform his cat body into that of a human (with great restraint, the mangaka refrains from giving him fluffy ears), reveals himself to Ishtar.

And Ishtar, to Duzell’s bewilderment, joyfully takes over the entire project, sweeping him off on a tour of the country to meet all her cousins and kill whichever of them he wants. “And hey! Maybe I should give this world domination thing a shot, too!” It quickly becomes clear that Duzell is no longer the one in control of this intrigue. Ishtar particularly enamoured of his ability to shapeshift into a (male) body that looks just like her – she can make him deal with her suitors!

Duzell, whose social skills are stunted from centuries of talking only with his brainwashed servants, is no match for Ishtar. It’s particularly great when he starts falling for the suitors.

In case it is not clear, I really, really love the Ishtar-Duzell dynamic. Particularly the Ishtar half. She is possibly my favorite shoujo heroine ever. She’s smart and self-absorbed and lazy and lies a lot, and her occasional acts of heroism are perfectly in character, because the shallowness and meanness are how she protects herself from people who want to use her. She understands her own motivations perfectly. And she has actual relationships with female characters! They get whole plot arcs, even! (One of those plot arcs is extremely tedious, but let’s set that thought aside for the moment.) Duzell, by comparison, is extremely straightforward, and not much good at self-analysis – he wants to find Phelios and kill him, and he wants Ishtar to stop embarrassing him, and he has no idea how to accomplish either of these things.

The manga is not perfect. For one thing, it has some of the worst art in the universe. People have weird shoulders, I don’t even want to talk about it. There’s the problem of Darres, Ishtar’s bodyguard. It’s consistent with her character that she fall for someone like him, but his characterization is inconsistent, and it’s hard to get a handle on him. There are things he does at the end of the series that just don’t work.

Also, JUDAL either hadn’t thought the plot out very far in advance, or couldn’t bring herself to go through with some of what she’d planned – the pacing is bad, plot threads are dropped and never picked up, and character arcs are either too short or too long. You can literally feel her switching gears when she gets too attached to canon-fodder-type characters to kill them off. I can see where she’s coming from, but her reluctance to let the main characters get hurt seriously damages the ending.

And this isn’t exactly a problem with the manga itself, but there are major issues with the Tokyopop adapation. As in, worse than usual. Worse than with Kare Kano. Recent English manga translations often err on the side of fidelity, and the dialog ends up suffering from a tone-deaf literalness that damages its impact. (“Do you think he is the kind of person who would let his body be possessed for no reason?!” “No, I don’t.”)

With Vampire Game, Tokyopop made the opposite mistake. The adaptation’s tone is very crude, lots of potty-humor and smart-assery even when it’s wrong for the scene and the character. While it’s fine for Ishtar to make filthy jokes (and this is part of why I love her so), it usually isn’t for Duzell, and definitely not for Darres. It haven’t read the Japanese version, so I can’t be sure where and how severely liberties were taken, but if Darres wasn’t speaking very careful formal-style in every single scene in the original, I will eat some item that is generally applied topically, such as for instance shoes.

(Seriously, Tokyopop, if you guys are thinking about re-releasing this series for Twilight-related reasons – because it is so the anti-Twilight – I would be happy to write you a less South Park-ed up adaptation. I’ll leave the Vaseline line in there if you’re really attached to it. Just let me wash Darres’ mouth out with soap.)

…uh, in conclusion, read the manga, and write me fanfic where Ishtar embarrasses Duzell, but be prepared for a vague sense of dissatisfaction?

I think I’m not very good at making people read stuff.

Things that are nerve-wracking.

Things that are nerve-wracking. published on

The suspicion that I’m going to get an offer for a job I only sort of want on Friday, when it’ll be next week before I hear anything from the people with the job I really want. (I’m 90% sure the guys I talked to today want to hire me, but the interviewers aren’t the ones who make the final decision – there’s a shadowy, mysterious Board out there somewhere, possibly they’re the Shin-Ra, and thus on the Plate, I don’t know.) Even were I unethically-inclined that way, it would get my visa in trouble if I said “yes” to Company A and then went with Company B if I get an offer.

It’s obviously not the worst problem to have, but still. (And now watch as they both reject me with extreme prejudice and anime smilies.)

On the plus side, the guy who conducted most of the interview gave me an explanation as to why, when I’ve been interviewed by native Japanese people, they’ve always gotten kind of stiff and weird when I’ve asked if they have any specific procedures for dealing with kids with discipline problems. His reasoning was that Japanese people don’t like to think that “good kids”* ever act up in class, and therefore dislike the idea of outright disciplinary action – or at least dislike discussing it with someone they feel to be an outsider, even one they’re considering, you know, hiring as a teacher.

The default tactic for kids who act up is assuming that social pressure from the other kids will calm them down eventually. When that fails, there’s no backup system in place. And by this guy’s estimation, it’s failing now more than it did a decade ago, and was failing a decade ago more than it did in the 80’s.

This actually syncs pretty well with my observations – now that I think about it, even Doom-sensei and Sensu-sensei, who generally will talk about anything and have spent a lot of time abroad, have issues discussing anything approaching “kids behaving badly.” Doom-sensei once got really uncomfortable when I asked how the Japanese school system deals with disabled kids. And I’m pretty sure the Master’s she’s working on’s in Sociology.

So maybe it’s not the way I ask that’s rude, but the question itself that’s off-limits.

* And obviously there are only good kids in Japanese schools. The bad kids go to other schools. Schools in other dimensions, like in After School Nightmare and Drifting Classroom. (And now I totally bet that the relative prevalence of “weird school” stories in manga relative to in Western YA fiction is a reaction against social uniformity in Japanese school culture. And maybe the stigma against scolding kids is why manga loves angry, over-the-top abusive teachers so much, and why you so rarely see the “good” teachers get angry at anyone for anything. (Mayu from Fruits Basket seems intended to be read as being unusually harsh on her students, and seriously? She’s a creampuff. She’s got Kyo freaking out and climbing out windows and stuff, and does she ever do anything about it beyond making fun of his hair? (Though maybe this is partly gender-based – there’s a good-guy male teacher in early volumes of Yu Yu Hakusho who gets to yell at Yusuke…)))

Challengers and Koi Suru Boukun, by Takanaga Hinako

Challengers and Koi Suru Boukun, by Takanaga Hinako published on 6 Comments on Challengers and Koi Suru Boukun, by Takanaga Hinako

Challengers is a four-volume yaoi manga about a dorky sarariman named Mitsugu who meets a dorkier college freshman named Tomoe and falls in love at first-dorky-sight. It’s one of the few yaoi manga I’ve read with a major age difference (Mitsugu is 25, Tomoe is 18) that doesn’t creep me out, largely because Mitsugu seems to have done some reading in the genre and knows the pitfalls. It starts out with the unfortunately common plotline where one guy offers the other a place to stay while being dishonest about his intentions – but Mitsugu realizes this is fucked-up immediately, and instead of sitting around being broody and tragic about it, tries to clear things up. He admits his attraction to Tomoe, promises not to put any pressure on him, and actually doesn’t.

Obviously, Tomoe eventually realizes he’s in love with Mitsugu, too. By eventually, I mean “the beginning of volume 2.” The other three-quarters of the series is sort of an ensemble comedy wherein Mitsugu and Tomoe attempt to be gooey-eyed and domestic while various less-fluffy characters inflict wacky hijinx on them. These include Mitsugu’s pushy best friend and pushier mother, several horrific gay stereotypes (Gay guys are creepy and vulgar and gay bars are terrifying! Mitsugu and Tomoe aren’t really gay, they just happen to be in love with other men! Oh, yaoi manga.), and Tomoe’s homophobic and permanently furious martial artist older brother.

Also, the manga contains much educational information about Americans.

It becomes obvious pretty quickly that Tomoe’s angry brother Souichi is Takanaga’s favorite character. It is obvious because he gets beat up a lot. Like, every single chapter in which he appears. He is also the only character in the manga who is threatened with rape. (No, it’s a yaoi manga, this is incredible.) His best friend/favorite victim Tetsuhiro, a sweet, dorky guy who tries to redirect his rage away from Mitsugu and Tomoe, is secretly in love with him. Obviously, these two will get their own manga. This manga is Koi Suru Boukun/The Tyrant Who Fell In Love.

Tyrant is not much like Challengers. Despite that he and Mitsugu look and act almost identically in Challengers, unlike Mitsugu, Tetsuhiro is not, it turns out, as nice a guy as he looks. (I’m going to cut here.) Continue reading Challengers and Koi Suru Boukun, by Takanaga Hinako

Matt Thorn has a blog now, and you will read it.

Matt Thorn has a blog now, and you will read it. published on

That is all.

(He posted an image gallery of pre-war yuri illustrations from his top-secret Matt Thorn sources!)

Though I worry he will get all tired and burned out from making all these insanely content-heavy posts. That is a lot of stuff, there, for a blog that’s been up three weeks.

Hoshi wa Utau, Takaya Natsuki

Hoshi wa Utau, Takaya Natsuki published on

Might this be even angstier than Fruits Basket, and have an even froofier heroine? I think it might!

No, I mean. Apparently it’s possible to create a shoujo manga heroine even more sweet and pure and self-sacrificing than Tohru. Or at least, I don’t remember Tohru giving me a sugar-headache in the very first chapter. Ow.

The scanlations I’ve seen are deeply dreadful. Even if you’ve never heard the phrase before, is it really that hard to figure out that “has a light rear end” means “is promiscuous”? I don’t think that one’s hard.

Sleep.

Sleep. published on

Last night I dreamed I went through what I’ve read of Detective Loki, found that there were no scenes of Narugami without his shirt on, and came to the realization he had to be a cross-dressing girl. Because that’s the only possibility? This is what manga does to you.

And now I’m totally convinced that that would be awesome. It is not, however, going to happen. (Now that I’m thinking about it awake, I think he is shirtless for a second in the wedding story.)

Encyclopedia of Manga Tropes: The Wispy Clairvoyant Albino Agoraphobe

Encyclopedia of Manga Tropes: The Wispy Clairvoyant Albino Agoraphobe published on
Mytho and Fakir, Princess Tutu
Mytho and his “keeper” Fakir, from Princess Tutu. Many Agoraphobes enjoy spending time in bed, looking sad. (Image stolen from here.)

Now with helpful illustrations!

The Wispy Clairvoyant Albino Agoraphobe bears some type of strong psychic or magical power, is the key to unlocking such power, or is in some other way vitally important to those around him, but is in some way too “weak” to make independent use of this power. He or she may be physically disabled by some injury or illness; physically disabled due to imprisonment; emotionally disabled by a tendency towards passivity and a willingness to be led; or, usually, some combination of all three. He or she will be constrained to a fairly limited physical setting that nonetheless gives off an air of wealth and privilege, often a palace, temple, hospital, or laboratory.

He or she is usually, as the name suggests, very thin and pale, with white or silver hair – though blond, blue, and purple hair are also permissible if styled appropriately limpidly. (Green is uncommon.) He or she is required to be young (-looking) and attractive, and may be a small child. The Agoraphobe may be either male or female, though I’ll say “he” from here on for simplicity’s sake.

Continue reading Encyclopedia of Manga Tropes: The Wispy Clairvoyant Albino Agoraphobe

Yu Yu Hakusho up to ch 162

Yu Yu Hakusho up to ch 162 published on

Wow. Hiei and Kurama’s backstories are actually pretty hardcore.

I just want to show this to Kubo Tite and go, like, “THIS IS HOW YOU DO THE MORALLY-AMBIGUOUS DUDE’S FLASHBACK SEQUENCE.”

No, seriously, Kurama’s backstory is more badass than most of the villains in Bleach. Kurama. Do you know how sad that is? ’cause that is eight points of sad on the shindo scale. (Note: The shindo scale goes up only to seven.)

More brilliant Yu Yu Hakusho dialog

More brilliant Yu Yu Hakusho dialog published on

(I’ve gotten past the part where I stopped reading in Shounen Jump now. The phallic stadium is completely new to me!)

“The Ankoku Bujutsukai. The evilest people who run rampant in the dark spheres organize an annual tournament where they bet on teams fighting each other for the occasion.”

“You’re going to become a simple foetus!! And I’ll crush your head!!”

“Now is time to finnish this fight! You’ve made me very angry!!”

“Usually, armor is for the protection of the one wearing it. Mine is a bit different. I wear it in order to control my power. It’s a terrible power that I can’t even control.”

“Aaaaaahhhh!!! What the —- !? The power is acting like acid!!! See — we’re melting!!”

“It looks like a lot of flowers are flying around as if to protect Kurama! But… Karasu doesn’t seem bothered by them at all!!”

(Otherwise-immobilized Kurama attacks opponent with his hair.)
Opponent: What… With his hair!?
Kurama: Sorry. I can also use my hair.

I swear to god, Kurama is the most exploitive shounen-manga bishounen ever. He gestures dramatically with roses, and attacks people with his lovely long hair, and sometimes wears a cheongsam, and (spoilers up to volume 13 under the cut) Continue reading More brilliant Yu Yu Hakusho dialog

The Big Questions

The Big Questions published on

There comes a time in one’s life when one must to ask oneself: has the Takarazuka Revue ever done a production of Torikaebaya Monogatari? This time does not last very long, because obviously they have.

They have also done The Great Gatsby. And Gone With the Wind repeatedly. Moustache technology had not yet been perfected in the 80’s.

(And also Black Jack. Pompadour technology, however, was already quite advanced by the mid-90’s.)

These pictures are all so insanely awesome. I bet they have to glue new glitter on those period costumes after every show.

Edit A Minute Later: According to what appears to be one of the Revue’s official websites, the Torikaebaya one’s based on Kihara Toshie’s manga adaptation, rather than directly on the original book. This would explain the differing titles (Torikaebaya Ibun).

Alert

Alert published on 2 Comments on Alert

I am the sort of person who is capable of unironically enjoying something called “Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok.” It is about how the Norse god Loki did something bad and got banished from Asgard to modern-day Japan, in the form of a seven-year-old-boy, ordered to dispel the demons of darkness from human hearts, which he is to accomplish by opening a detective agency.

This premise was selected by means of throwing darts at someone’s manga collection.

YUKITO KISHIRO WHY DO YOU HATE ME

YUKITO KISHIRO WHY DO YOU HATE ME published on

“Well, that looks like the final boss, I guess.”

“It just looks like yet another giant robot to me… Honestly, it lacks the impact it had before.”

Given that the “before” was A GIANT PENIS FROM MERCURY

Chapter 69

This is what “Kishiro writing himself into a corner” looks like. No, there’s a difference! You know what this means!? He planned all that crap before! The “overclocked dual-core brain” and the “Kung Fu Planet” and the “thumb wrestling so hard it leaves a crater”! That was a plan!

Chapter 71

This is so stupid.

Chapter 74

EXCUSE ME WHAT

Is this supposed to be some kind of commentary on laissez faire economics and – and patent law?! Mr. Kishiro, you just had a chapter where this guy fought a giant robot penis from Mercury. And now he’s coming out against libertarianism and gene patents? This is not a good way to make a point!

Chapters 76 – 77

NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE “SPACE KARATE” GUYS. DO NOT DO TWO WHOLE CHAPTERS ABOUT THE “SPACE KARATE” GUYS.