Where’s the Anime Gone?

Some of you may be wondering whether I still watch anime or if I have become disenchanted with modern anime and started to focus solely on manga, like xxxHolicWing of Chronical Holic.  May she find reasons to get excited about anime again, since I have always enjoyed reading her articles–though I admit having to catch up.  Fear not, my dear readers!  I have a tidy list of shows which I happen to be watching on and off.  You may expect some reviews in the near future.  Also, a few more for manga: Bartender, Break Blade, Fuyu Hanabi, Guardian Dog, Gunka no Balzer, and Hinekure Shisho no Mikaiketsu Jikenroku have caught my attention in particular.  I might have reviewed Break Blade already though.  I’ll check later.

My favorite current manga for its dynamic characters, period detail, and political intrigue.

My favorite current manga for its dynamic characters, period detail, and political intrigue.

At any rate, Girls und Panzer and Future Diary provided excellent entertainment with the later raising some interesting moral questions.  I rather enjoyed both, though I admit to Future Diary being somewhat of an acquired taste.  At least, the points where I disagree with it furnish apt material for editorials.  Unfortunately, I can’t write anything else about Girls und Panzer besides what people have already written: it’s a unique show which excels at action.  Watch it!

Who knew that a show combining high school girls and tanks could be so fantastic?

Who knew that a show combining high school girls and tanks could be so fantastic?

Having been intrigued by a review of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia written by Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime, searching for a good comedy yesterday finally led me to watch it.  Three episodes into the show, the comedy has remained spectacular, the fanservice not over the top, and the overall tone wonderfully touching.  So, you can expect an article from me on the show in the future.  On a friend’s recommendation, I have started to watch the Break Blade movies.  As a fan of the manga, I was happy to see that they have kept the story faithful to the original story and that the animation is quite stunning.  Then, there are a couple of other shows which bloggers’ articles have led me to watch: Charles of Beneath the Tangles recommended Kotoura-san, and John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin’s series of articles on Bodacious Space Pirates drew me to watching that show.

Another surprisingly good show led by high school girls, the ambassadors of Japanese culture.

Another surprisingly good show led by high school girls, the ambassadors of Japanese culture.

Then, there are a few others which I’m currently enjoying: Gintama, Hunter x Hunter, Inuyasha: the Final Act, Psycho-pass, and Ys.  Gintama rates highly among comedies, as its six season run attests.  It’s a rather frenetic show, going everywhere from high-class, dramatic series of episodes to episodes of low-brow toilet humor.  Sometimes I wonder whether a different show has insidiously taken Gintama‘s place.  I’m watching the original Hunter x Hunter, and just can’t seem to find the time to finish it.  If I did, I’d probably turn to the remake, which has received a lot of good press.  Inuyasha: the Final Act shows remarkable improvement from the original show in regard to animation quality, and I can’t wait to see the demise of Naraku in color.  Psycho-pass has frequently horrified me by the bloodiness of the crimes, and, in the last episode I watched, outraged me with the scene showing a brutal murder in a crowd with the onlookers merely spectating.  Yet, it offers an interesting view of human nature alongside its utopian society.  I should pen an article for it pretty soon.  Lastly, the fantasy Ys deserves a very harsh, mocking review.  It proves that not every anime from the 90’s is as good as I’d like it to be.  The characters’ actions are so artificial that it makes me feel like I’m watching video game cut scenes!

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Oh, and I have also been watching Shin Sekai Yori.  That sums up my anime watching history over the past few months.  Look forward to some nice reviews!

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Fantasy, Vikings, and Gunslinging: Manga Reviews!

Here’s some reviews of the manga I’ve been reading recently.  The first part will contain three manga and the second part, which will be written this weekend, three more.  All of them may be recommended without exception–unless you can’t endure fanservice.  Then, I won’t recommend Zero-In to you.

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The manga Superior and its second part Superior Cross were delightful to read.  This series had great fights and the plot some nice twists.  Yet, the most appealing things about this fantasy are how the mangaka, Ichtys, works in a Christian worldview, how likable and dynamic the characters are, and the often gut-wrenching situations in which the characters find themselves.

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Of particular interest is the Demon Queen, Sheila.  She starts off as a rather bloodthirsty, callous, ruthless character with a sense of humor.  After running into Hero, who has a strong sense of justice and made a vow not to kill anyone with the sole exception of the Demon Queen (He’s like Kenshin Himura, but less cool), Sheila falls in love with him, managing to keep her identity in the dark.  This allows her to tag along with Hero and his company.

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This series is rife with Christian symbolism and theology.  They quote Scripture on a few occasions.  That neither humans nor monsters are ontologically good or evil indicates that all rational creatures possess free will.  At the same time, several characters confess to having a wounded nature (very Catholic there)–particularly Sheila in the very powerful ending to this series.  One scene basically shouts the concept of doffing the old man and putting on the new.  If Christian manga are of interest to you, you can’t let this one go without reading it.

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Vinland Saga is a favorite of mine.  (The image in the header gives that away.)  Unfortunately, they release chapters at a snail’s pace.  The drawing style feels more like Prince Valiant than manga, even though there are certain characters who definitely have a manga-ish appearance.  All the weapons, armor, and backgrounds are beautifully done.  (Maybe that’s why it takes so long for the mangaka to write chapters.)  The characters range from being lovable to despicable.  Overall, the story is quite compelling, even though certain parts can be too drawn out, especially around chapter 80.  Until around chapter 54, the manga is a true page turner, and the pace slows down a bit afterward.

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The first section of the comic deals with the antagonism between Askeladd and our hero, Thorfinn.  Askeladd leads a company of Vikings on raids, Thorfinn included, and is the one responsible for the death of Thorfinn’s father.  In exchange for good conduct on the battlefield, Thorfinn is allowed to duel Askeladd and try to avenge his father.  The comics take a very interesting plunge into history when this company is assigned to guard Prince Canute, the man who would become king of Denmark and Britain, during a war with Britain.  Askeladd and Thorfinn must protect their charge against all enemies, hostes et inimici.  (Forgive my indulgence in Latin.  Hostes = enemy of one’s country.  Inimici = personal enemies.)

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This series stands out among manga for a variety of reasons.  It shows a very interesting conflict between Christians and Pagans–reminiscent of Tokugawa period Japan.  Some of its views of Christianity are inaccurate (a corpse is not the highest symbol of Christian charity!), but it shows this religion in a favorable light, especially when compared to Viking paganism.  I also enjoy how historically accurate and unusual the characters all are for manga–as a matter of fact, some characters relate much more to figures found in sagas than those in Japanese manga.  Though, I am disappointed with what the mangaka did to King Canute’s character–even though it makes the story more compelling.  (Canute was a good guy from everything I’ve read.)

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You have no idea how hard it is to find decent pictures of this manga–and by decent, I don’t mean well done!

Here’s a fanservicey, action-packed shounen for you: Zero-In.  Again, we have a series with very likable characters and the cool and absorbing action draws in the reader.  It feels a little like Gunsmith Cats: an almost perfectly entertaining series if you can ignore the scenes of nudity, especially a few which go further than that.  Zero-In concerns a privately owned Japanese police company called Minkei.  Our two main characters are the experienced and powerful Mikuru and her love interest, Kou.  (I cannot see Kou as much of a lead, but this series falls in the harem genre.)  The plots tend to be episodic, and many interesting characters are met along the way.  Overall, this manga excels in providing the reader with great fun–if only they would translate the chapters faster!  (I’m very close to reading it raw, which I find a bit time consuming these days.)

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Found a Great Page on Padre Pio

It seems that everyone except me is busy posting this time of year.  (The certain result of my lazy nature.)  I don’t know where I’ll find the time to read them all.  At any rate, I’d like to share a page on Padre Pio which I found recently.  It has more pictures than I thought possible of this great saint as well as several amusing stories.  I confess that sometimes when I’m feeling particularly down, seeing Padre Pio often brightens my day.  It makes me wish we had photographs of more great saints, and wonder how great a consolation it would be if we even had one photograph of Our Lord.

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Anyway, I got to work on a paper now.  Hopefully, I’ll have an anime article up by this evening.

A Little Review of The Freeloader

It’s been a while, hasn’t it, dear readers?  Classwork and all the activities which happen at my university have kept me away from writing for a while, but take solace that you are not the only ones with whom I’ve lost touch: my family rarely hears from me, my friends from college never do, and one of my pet cats still looks longingly out of the window as it awaits my return.  But, this article will at least reach those who are in the first two groups–my cat will have to wait until I visit home next weekend.

As some of you may have noticed, the artist whose comic I marked at the Baltimore Comic Con, Sean Bishop, commented on my article and kindly offered to give me a free signed edition of his work.  (I tell you, as surreal as it was for him to see his work blogged about, it was even more so to see one of my writings produce an effect in the physical world.)  His generosity even extended to him sending two posters–one in color and the other in black and white–of his Rurouni Kenshin drawing, which may be seen in the prior blog post.  Both of these are exquisite to behold; though, I find myself gravitating to the one in black and white, which no doubt shows to how full an extent I have immersed myself in Japanese culture.  As I promised him, here’s a little review of his work.

The story concerns a criminal with a $50,000 dollar bounty on her head, who finds herself forced to cooperate with a lowly bounty hunter in order to work off her debt to society.  This female misfit, named Ms. Aegea (An interesting name.  Make me wonder whether I’m supposed to compare the character to Queen Aegea of the Amazons or King Aegeus of the Athenians–but that’s just my classical mind at work), was captured by the bounty hunter for staying in a park past curfew–this bounty hunter had no idea of the bounty.  Judging from the scenes which show them working together, the two make a great pair.  We’ve yet to learn the bounty hunter’s proper name.  Since he makes Ms. Aegea pay for everything, she just calls him “freeloader.”  The bounty hunter pair, in which we have one rather gung-ho character and another who is laid back, reminds me of Black Cat.  I’m expecting some interesting things from the story.  I’m especially curious what the freeloader’s background is, which will probably be revealed along with his name.

One of my favorite series.

This style of drawing seems to be a pleasant mixture of the kind found in Japanese-style manga and American Sunday Comics.  This allows the characters to be very expressive, increasing certain scenes’ comedic impact.  However, one does wish that the backgrounds held more detail, but the characters draw in the reader’s attention sufficiently to render this defect negligible.

Yet, this comic book has one flaw which makes me almost prompts me to break out into Juvenalian indignation.  That Mr. Bishop realizes also it makes my complaint more justified: he committed the great and nearly unforgivable sin of making this comic too brief.  I want to know what happens next!  In particular, the final scene abruptly ends with a dark figure bombing a mailing facility as the freeloader says “That guy just…jaywalked across the street!”  The desire to know how this scene continues practically makes the reader want to scream!

Another infamous bomber. If you haven’t seen Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, you really need to.

So, Mr. Bishop is writing a wonderful comic, which I encourage everyone to either buy or eagerly wait for its page length to increase before getting it.

My First Foray into a Con

Sorry that this articles is a little delayed, dear readers. My memory of events may be slightly fuzzy, but there’s enough left for me to write an amusing account of this trip. The dearth of anime paraphernalia disappointed me a little, and I felt somewhat lost among the various American comic books—but, I still enjoyed the convention.

A friend of mine drove me over in his car. I count it fortunate that he intended to become a comic artist at one time in his life. He actually spent a semester at college for the study of art. Among the comics he described to me, Valiant comics seemed to offer the most interesting stories. (The one concerning the Visigoth invasion of Rome in which aliens help the Romans in defeating the Visigoths particularly caught my attention.) With this tenuous background, I hoped to be able to navigate the convention to a certain extent.

When we arrived in Baltimore, we were chagrined to find that parking cost seven dollars an hour at both of the parking garages we found—at least, for the first two hours of parking. I was hoping that the Old Bay garage, being owned by a prosperous company, would be cheaper than the other one. And this was true after the first two hours, but we still wound up paying $17 for three hours of parking. After this experience, I began to understand how Dante could place usurers in hell.

Although I understood that my friend was unable to purchase a ticket online because he was uncertain whether he would be able to attend the convention, buying a ticket here turned into an adventure in itself. You see, even though I had a ticket myself, I did not desire to explore the convention floor on my own. (Another friend of mine was down there, but I possessed doubts whether I should find him among the throng of people.) So, I waited on line with my friend—at which decision, one of the staff marked on how good a friend I was. The magnanimous quality of my decision finally impressed itself on me after I waited forty-five minutes on line! (I believe I told some people that the wait was one hour and twenty minutes, but I’m convinced that this is an exaggeration. At least, I hope and pray that is an exaggeration, but it sure felt that long at the time.)

But, standing on line had certain benefits: several interesting cosplayers passed by, we discussed comics and anime some more, and Stan Lee himself passed right next to us! I think that might have been worth the price of admission alone. It has been several years since I found myself so close to a celebrity—unless Catholic bishops count as celebrities anyway. So, I enjoyed seeing the man responsible for Spider Man, the Hulk, the X-men, and others, even if I could not afford the ticket to attend the special panel he headed.

After our friend and I were squared away, we on a short round of the booths, specifically looking for #1805, which contained the illustrious Scott Snyder. (My friend informed me that he was a very down-to-earth guy and everything, but one had to wait on line for over an hour before seeing him!) In this short round, I felt rather lost: very little anime or manga in sight besides the copies of Usagi Yojimbo. (Nevermind: I thought that this counted as a manga, but it seems to have been created in America. At least, it made me feel a little less lost.)

Due to my excellent navigation skills, we soon found the exorbitantly long line leading to Scott Snyder. Fortunately, my other friend was on a nearby line to another famous comic artist. So, I chatted with him for a little. He had purchased a poster of Batman from the aforementioned Scott Snyder, and I could not but marvel at the fineness of the detail. Rarely have I seen the musculature of a strong man’s back portrayed so perfectly.

This friend, being unable to guide me himself due to having to attend a previous engagement after getting some more signatures, realized that the thought of waiting on any of these lines was repugnant to me—especially after waiting on line for the ticket, so he directed me to the part of the con which contained the anime. The thought that somewhere there existed some anime products which I had missed delighted me. I hastened to search the area where he directed me only to find that I had been there previously, and, like everywhere else, it rather lacked the presence of anime. During my search, I did see a booth containing stuffed anime dolls, but I’m not into that element of the fandom. (I did consider purchasing a Kirara doll for my sister, though.) Anime was so lacking that the sight of a Naruto shirt made me happy—the only time that has happened.

I did enjoy seeing the variety of American comics. Somehow, I could never get into American comics, yet the artwork has always fascinated me with its attention to detail. There were also plenty of comics from which I had to turn my eyes. Among these, however, there was one comic which caught my eye: Freeloader by Sean Bishop. A strong urge to speak with this gentleman came over me, but my Nakajima nature prevented me. After looking this gentleman and his work up, I realized how silly I was: he’s a Rurouni Kenshin fan, from New Jersey, and his story contains two disparate bounty hunters who are forced to work together. I rather enjoy the humor that derives from such scenarios. If only I had spoken to him! I might have actually purchased a comic from the Comic Con.

Also drawn by Sean Bishop.

At some point, I consumed some food and sat around until my friend finally obtained an audience with the renowned Scott Snyder. At which point he returned to show me a poster stand were I found several anime posters. On our way there, I saw someone cosplaying as Yoko from Tengen Toppa Gureen Lagaan. She did a great job, but one doesn’t have to work very hard on putting together that costume. 🙂 So, posters of Trigun, Hetalia, and Neon Genesis Evangelion are now offering something more interesting to look at than my room’s white walls. In return, I showed him the booth selling stuffed anime characters, where he contemplated buying someone a joke gift. At this point, we were thoroughly exhausted by the convention and returned to our dormitory.