What Makes Seraph of the End Enjoyable

People rightly point out the flaws in Seraph of the End.  The middle of the show exhibits many high school anime tropes, some facets of the animation can be lacking despite the incredibly immersive backgrounds, the plot is not so straightforward, and it may be accused of being an Attack on Titan look-alike.  However, with Attack on Titan, the story only dragged me along by way of suspense.  After nine episodes, the only character I cared for was Mikasa, the world was too horrific to be loved, the society was filled with too many treacherous and cowardly people for me to root for their survival, and the bold lines of animation and still frames bothered me.  With the exception of the use of still frames, Seraph of the End proved to be the exact opposite and provided some interesting ideas for me to chew on.

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Recently, my friends introduced me to a fascinating book called The Way of Men by Jack Donovan.  They had been prompted to recommend it by my article “The Post-Modern Fallacy on Manliness.”  (A while back, I mentioned that I was contemplating an article on the topic of manliness, and the result of that meditation seemed to fit Aquilon’s Eyrie more.)  Few works explain male psychology so well.  In particular, Donovan displays a perspicacious degree of Classical learning (he quotes Cicero, St. Augustine, Livy, and others) and knowledge of psychological and sociological studies.  Though, I will say here that his atheistic perspective gives an incomplete picture of man, and one wonders whether the tactical virtues of strength, courage, mastery, and honor are a good replacement for the cardinal virtues of temperance, courage, prudence, and justice.

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My Experience with Anime of Spring 2014 Pt. II

Here I conclude my opinions on the anime I watched from Spring 2014 with my top five shows.  Enjoy!

Black Bullet Enju and Rentaro

5.  Black Bullet – ★★★½

One might characterize this show as having all one would wish for in a shonen anime: plenty of action and brushes with death.  It also had many things one could make fun of: examples may be seen here and here.  The Joker-like villain was a great foe for Rentaro, though I must confess to disliking our hero.  Rentaro’s a little inconsistent.  Shooting someone’s finger off in revenge for cruelty and stabbing someone for threatening to run?  Fine.  Killing a parricidal brother whose actions caused the death of thousands more?  O immane facinus!  In Rentaro’s defense, he might have been more disturbed by Kisara’s conviction that she needs to become evil in order to defeat evil.  She should familiarize herself with Jesus’ sermon on a house divided against itself.  But, I have an article on that scene in the works.

This show has everything an otaku needs: great action sequences, anime lines, likable characters, and a harem with girls fitting any taste.  Worthwhile for any fan of action also.

SDSGU

4.  Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii – ★★★★

I almost feel generous in giving Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii four stars, but it had two of the strongest characters this season.  (Thanks again to Lee Relph for recommending it to me.)  Of the shows I’ve seen, I can’t find a stronger female character than Nike or a stronger male character than Livius.  Normally, I don’t watch romantic shows, but this one had a good dose of court intrigue to make things more exciting.  Nevertheless, the salient features of the show stand as the love between Nike and Livius and the many tribulations they endure for the sake of their love.  The show also has some great humor.

Whether one likes comedy or romance, one should not pass this show up.

Tonari no Panic

3.  Tonari no Seki-kun – ★★★★

This was the most popular short comedy during both this season and the last one.  Its gags are sure to provoke vehement guffaws, and the show contains some likable characters–especially Yokoi.  The way entire episodes are narrated from one point of view, usually Yokoi’s, also make this work unique.  Yokoi’s voice actress, Kana Hanazawa, does a brilliant job of narration–whether it be her thoughts on Seki’s bizarre games or her own outlandish fantasies.

Though there might not be that much to this show besides the comedy, I highly recommend it.

KOS

2.  Knights of Sidonia – ★★★★

Much better than the manga.  This is a particularly dark story where the characters die in great frequency.  One gets the impression that no one is safe, which reminds me of how the makers of the old TV series Combat! would place the characters’ pictures on a dartboard to decide who would kick the bucket in certain episodes.  I thought that Knights of Sidonia had a slow start, which nicely described the atmosphere of Sidonia and humanity’s present existence.  The CG worked perfectly in this high technology setting with backgrounds reminiscent of steam punk anime.  The ending was just about perfect.  Unlike the series mentioned before, this suffered from having somewhat uninteresting characters though the plot and pacing were excellent.  If the characters–especially the main character–were less bland, I could easily see this show as being worthy of a full five stars.

Definitely a great dark, sci-fi, which I would watch again.

Coffin Princess Chaika

1.  Hitsugi no Chaika – ★★★★

I loved that the story was set in the world of Scrapped Princess.  Ichiro Sakaki has his usually deft touch with characters, action, and humor.  This show is much darker than Scrapped Princess, and one can see influences from Strait Jacket, a prior work of Sakaki’s.  (That OVA is not for the faint of heart.)  I must compare this show to Scrapped Princess in that the same kind of trio forms up and soldiers are again seeking to capture a princess; however, it delves more into themes of identity, loyalty, and humanity than justice, trust, and family.

If anything is keeping the show from the higher ratings, it lies in the story not being complete.  Otherwise, it’s a great anime.

Hitsugi no Chaika - 01 -4

Now, I need to figure out what I ought to watch for the summer season–besides Barakamon, Zankyo no Terror, Akame ga Kiru, and Psycho-Pass.

My Experience with Anime in Spring 2014 Pt. I

Dear readers, my overall impression of the shows I watched is coming a little late, but I can say that I found this season fairly enjoyable.  Nothing blew me away, as you shall see from my ratings, but at the same time it was rather entertaining.  The greatest disappointment of the season happened to be Gokukoku no Brynhildr, but that might be laid to the fact that the studio wasn’t able to make a second season.  Perhaps the greatest surprise for me was how high Knights of Sidonia rose in my estimation.  After all, I hate the manga.  It’s far too bleak, miserable, and God-forsaken–like Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat.”

Azusa Tadokoro, who also plays Fino Bloodstone in I Couldn't become a Hero, so I Reluctantly Decided to Get a job, does a splendid job as Kotori.

Azusa Tadokoro, who also plays Fino Bloodstone in I Couldn’t become a Hero, so I Reluctantly Decided to Get a job, does a splendid job as Kotori.

Anyway, without further ado, let me give a brief opinion on these shows, starting with my least favorite.

Funny nude joke

10.  Captain Earth – Unfinished

This show’s episodic villain of the week format worked against it.  Also, the fact that the villains could not die–at least, as of episode 10, they are still supposed to be immortal–made the fights seem less intense.  Also, of the characters, the hero, the “mahou shoujo,” and some of the new villains who popped up were the most compelling, but the scenarios in which they placed these characters were very ordinary for the mecha genre.  Not to say that some of the fights were not exciting, but, compared to everything else on my list, Captain Earth stood as the least interesting.

Watching the end of this might feel like homework, but with only three episodes to go, I’ll finish it.

Kuroneko

9. Gokukoku no Brynhildr – ★★½

After mentioning that Gokukoku no Brynhildr stood as my greatest disappointment this season, you should not be surprised to find it in last place.  (Captain Earth will either tie it or be half a star less depending on its ending.)  The beginning of the show was fun, but one cannot help be frustrated by poor execution of the anime’s plot.  Basically, the pacing should have been more rapid at the beginning to allow for a more time for a satisfying finale.  The show begs the question of why one should bother watching it when the manga is leaps and bounds better.  On the other hand, I found the characters about as compelling as in the manga with the exception of Valkyria–the abrupt finale hurt the development of her character the most.

Will anime ever do a Lynn Okamoto manga right?

Ene

8.  Mekaku City Actors – ★★★

Fortunately, the Overlord Bear encouraged me to watch this show.  Here’s an anime which explores themes of isolation and alienation in a deft manner and has likable characters; however, it suffered from an overcomplicated plot and too much talk.  The animation and verbosity of the show is reminiscent of Bakemonogatari, but Bakemonogatari did it so much better.  Despite that, the intriguing characters’ back stories and problems would have earned it another half-star if not for the ending.

Overall, I’d watch it again, and it was fun–but no Bakemonogatari or Welcome to the N.H.K. for that matter.

The anime's sort of humor in a nutshell.

The anime’s sort of humor in a nutshell.

7.  Mangaka-san to Assistant-san – ★★★

Each week, I began to look forward to this ridiculous anime about the strange misadventures of an otaku mangaka and his harem.  What really helps the show is that the mangaka, Aito, stands as a rather original character.  I can’t point to another character in anime like him.  Though a weird pervert who got into manga in order to draw women’s panties in a socially acceptable venue, he is very supportive of the people around him and is downright hilarious to watch.  Some of the humor was outrageously over the top (I shall never watch the cross-dressing episode again), but it does comedy very well.  And, as Aristotle tells us, comedy requires characters who are inferior to the general populace.  (Not to say that I didn’t love each and every character in the show!)

Basically, it does comedy well, but don’t watch it if you wouldn’t watch Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.

Nanana Pudding

6.  Nanana’s Buried Treasure – ★★★

This show was a lot of fun.  I might have given it another half-star if I knew that another season was in the works.  It suffers a great deal from feeling incomplete.  Otherwise, it boasts likable characters, exciting scenarios, and plenty of slapstick humor.  Juugo himself felt like an uninteresting main character, but his interactions with Nanana and Tensai Ikkyuu make his character come more to life.  To reverse a chauvanist Chinese proverb, Juugo is the broom while Nanana and Ikkyuu form the wall he needs to lean against.  Also, Mamiko Noto, one of my favorite voice actresses, performed well as Yukihime.

This is one of those fun shows I might not mind watching again in the near future, but it does feel rather forgettable.

Not something I would say to someone with no qualms about killing me.  But it was cool to see a pepperbox pistol, which, according to Mark Twain, worked best when all barrels discharged at once!

Not something I would say to someone with no qualms about killing me. But it was cool to see a pepperbox pistol, which, according to Mark Twain, worked best when all barrels discharged at once!

Stay tuned for my top five shows tomorrow!

 

Otaku Teacher, Overzealous Samurai and More!

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed manga, hasn’t it?  However, I have been reading a bunch of them and even finished a few.  I’m dividing my thoughts and recommendations on these manga into two parts.  Here’s the first five of them with five more to follow.

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1) Denpa Kyoushi (“Electric Wave Teacher” in English) by Takeshi Azuma

This manga is a fun comedy.  Essentially, our hero, Junichiro Kagami, starts as a NEET with an anime blog, which has just become the top anime blog on the internet.  (I sympathize with this kind of character a lot.)  Despite some initial resistance, his sister, Suzune, forces him to undertake a job as a part-time teacher–despite the negative effect it will have on his anime blog’s ratings.  Thus we follow his adventures as a high school teacher, his interior struggle with that part of him which wishes to resume a NEET lifestyle, and other forces which try to induce him to use his scientific knowledge for other organizations.

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Basically, this manga is Great Teacher Onizuka with an anime otaku instead of a former gangster as the main character.  Like Onizuka, he runs into troubled teenagers and helps them to believe in themselves–whether it be a girl who’s embarrassed of her anime girl voice or a punk who believes himself to be unlovable.  The humor is not quite outrageous as GTO, though he does pull things like teaching his students through video games or forcing a straight-laced girl to work at a maid cafe.  The characters are all pretty likable, and Kagami himself stands as a unique protagonist: the unashamed otaku teacher.  I highly recommend this series to people seeking a good comedy and some inspiring stories.

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2) Code-Ex by Ichiro Sakaki, illustrated by Yumiko Harao

This manga is related to the Code-E manga and Mission-E anime.  Both derive from the pen of Ichiro Sakaki.  I love his Scrapped Princess, Strait Jacket, and–the latest of his works to be animated–Coffin Princess Chaika.  Despite my love for these last three shows, I stopped watching Code-E after a few episodes because the plot moves at a slow pace.  Reading this short manga has inspired me to return to watch Code-E as soon as I find the time for it.

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The plot of Code-Ex revolves around the plight of a young man sent to live with a martial arts practitioner named Saihashi.  She is already training Ebihara, the protagonist of Code-E, to control her power of emitting electromagnetic waves.  Her powers become unleashed whenever Ebihara loses her cool, which makes this training necessary.  But the boy, Katsuki, has a different problem: his nerve signals at random moments shut down, leaving him paralyzed for a time.  Unfortunately for Katsuki, an unscrupulous scientist realizes that his problem is related to the Type-E phenomenon whereby women, like Ebihara, are able to emit strong electronic signals.  He wants to use an unwilling Katsuki in a perilous experiment to create a male Type-E.

The manga offers the likable characters we usually find in Ichiro Sakaki’s works.  It’s a exciting and brief manga of only twelve chapters with which to while away a rainy day.

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3) Dogs: Bullets and Carnage by Mira Shirow

The anime version far outshines the manga.  A friend advised me to watch Dogs: Stray Dogs Howl in the Dark, and I found that to be  fun four episode OVA.  However, the anime made the right choice in limiting it to four episodes: though the stories are fun and exciting, they lack depth.  In the manga, the only character who still retained my interest after fifteen chapters was the swordswoman, which wasn’t enough to keep me reading.

Dogs B and C

The action is set in a city rife with criminal activity.  Our heroes are all connected to the underworld somehow, except the swordswoman.  Instead, she’s looking for the killer who murdered her parents after having been raised by an assassin.  Each story examines a character’s history and how their history has impacted what they’re doing now.  Trust me: watch the anime, don’t read the manga unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool fan of yakuza manga.

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4) Mushibugyo and Jouju Senjin!! Mushibugyo

A random commentator recommended this one to me, explaining that it was a fun samurai manga with minimal fanservice.  The fanservice was not what I call minimal, but the manga is great fun!  I placed both titles above, because Mushibugyo seems to be the pilot manga for Jouju Senjin!! Mushibugyo.   They both start in the same way with a few differences as regards to the details, but that is all.  One sees Mushibugyo‘s eight chapters again in the ongoing Jouju Senjin!!

Fanservice Alert!  But, it's not too bad really.

Fanservice Alert! But, it’s not too bad really.

The manga is set in Edo era Japan, but enormous bugs called–without much imagination–Mushi terrorize the populace of the capital city.  The five members of Mushibugyo are in charge of exterminating the bugs.  The last member to be recruited is Jinbee, who rapidly rises in the estimation of the other members of the group through his zeal.  Jinbee’s naivete stands out, but his overzealous simplemindedness make him a fun character.  All the characters appear rather unique and likable, and the action’s great.  Give this historical fantasy a shot.

How I’m Enjoying the Season Thus Far

You’re probably wondering how I’m getting along this season.  My list of shows is still at nine, but that comes from me dropping two and adding two more.  Ranking them from favorite to least favorite, the order of shows would look like this:

  1. Hitsugi no Chaika
  2. Gokukoku no Brynhildr
  3. Black Bullet
  4. Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii
  5. Nanana’s Buried Treasure
  6. Mekakucity Actors
  7. Knights of Sidonia
  8. Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to
  9. Captain Earth

SDSU

Compared to my old list, this one has lost the sumo wrestling anime and Fuun Ishin Dai-Shogun.  The latter was particularly bad, and reading about the former deflated any desire I had to watch it.  What’s new to this list are Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii and Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to.  I am greatful to Lee Relph of MIB’s Instant Headache for recommending the former.  This comedic fantasy boasts some of the most likable characters this season.  The ups and downs of Nike and Livius’s romance, Nike’s exuberant behavior, and the intrigue surrounding Livius’ court make for a fun show.  Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to is hilarious, though I can see some people turning it down for the outlandish themes in its comedy.  If it were not so funny, I doubt that I could have made it through the panty episode, i.e. the very first episode.

Aito-san exclaims "Light!" in Japanese as he makes light of the master manga assistant, Sena Kuroi.

Aito-san exclaims “Light!” in Japanese as he makes light of the master manga assistant, Sena Kuroi.

There are two reasons Hitsugi no Chaika tops the list: 1) it’s based in the world of Scrapped Princess, one of my favorite shows and earliest anime in my career as an otaku; and 2) my ignorance of its story.  Otherwise, Gokukoku no Brynhildr is about as strong a show, but I’m familiar with the manga.  The anime sticks like glue to the manga’s story line, though it is fun to see it animated.  My last anime post pointed out a flaw in the action of Black Bullet, but for all that it well deserves the number three spot.

Akari Acura

Another blogger whom I need to thank for a recommendation is Overlord Bear for suggesting Mekakucity Actors to me.  It’s a very interesting show, animated in the vein of Bakemonogatari.  (Watching this is making me consider trying to watch Nisemonogatari again.)  Overall, the characters and action are only a little less enjoyable than those of Nanana’s Buried Treasure.  But, I’m greatly looking forward to the direction the plot takes us.

Momo of Mekaku City Actors

Along with Gokukoku no Brynhildr, I also decided to start reading the manga for Knights of Sidonia.  After ten chapters or so, I dropped the manga Knights of Sidonia, and found my enthusiasm rather killed for the show.  Basically, I came to dislike both the characters and the world in which Knights of Sidonia was set.  Why is it still on my list then?  I felt that it would be unjust to drop the anime because I didn’t like the manga.  After all, it is possible that the anime studio outdid the mangaka.  In this case, they certainly did: the characters feel more lifelike and the situation less grim.  (Not much less grim, but sufficiently so.)  The show could easily vault higher into the rankings.

If not for the threat of giant monsters, the future presented by Knights of Sidonia would consist of varying degrees of monotony.

If not for the threat of giant monsters, the future presented by Knights of Sidonia would consist of varying degrees of monotony.

Captain Earth owes its low position merely to the fact that I have not made time to watch it beyond episode two.  I was very excited for this show in the beginning and enjoyed the first couple of episodes before becoming distracted by other shows which seemed more interesting.  After all, mecha is not my favorite genre and we’ve seen the plot where a teenage boy suddenly becomes a giant robot pilot before.  But, the hero has guts and doesn’t appear two dimensional, so I’m going to start watching it again.

Well, that’s my situation this season.  I’m not sure whether any series will equal the classics of anime, but I hope that they will offer as much food for thought as they already have fun.

Black Bullet and the Difficulty of Expressing Noble Sentiments

While watching Black Bullet last night, the hackneyed quality of some of the lines in episodes three and four struck me.  Don’t get me wrong: I find the show very enjoyable.  It boasts likable characters and some brilliant animation, especially in the way they draw the characters’ eyes.  Seitenshi has some of the most brilliant blues I’ve seen anywhere in anime.  (Yes, I’ve fallen in love.)  Still, the hackneyed quality of some of the lines and impossibility of surviving certain wounds bother me: having both kidneys pierced and a hole as wide as the Grand Canyon made in one’s abdomen are lethal even in most other shonen anime.

Kage_confronts_Rentaro

Which brings us to the question of the difficulty of showing noble deeds and sentiments in a way which does not strike the audience as corny.  The difficulty is actually quite extreme: authors must be as noble as the ideas they wish to express.  Otherwise, these ideas come across as trite–rather than the writer being an authority on nobility, he thieves from the annals of heroes.  For example, those lines and scenes concerning the ostracism suffered by Enju, Rentaro’s insistence on her value and the value of other cursed children, and the gratitude for Rentaro’s acceptance shown by Kayo struck a chord with me.  Those times where Rentaro exclaims his zeal for saving the world, his condemnation of Kagetane’s actions, his perseverance in suffering through essentially mortal wounds, and risking transforming into a giant monster did not.

I had to fit her in somewhere. :)

I had to fit her in somewhere. 🙂

Everyone would like to write an epic; but those who have not suffered agony, strove nobly, or found their hearts aflame with great ideals cannot be expected to produce epics.  Emperor Augustus asked many poets to write an epic for the glory of Rome, but most excused themselves.  This developed into a tradition where Roman writers would publish their first work of poetry with an apology for not writing epic.  Only Virgil undertook the task, painstakingly composing an average of two lines per day.  And then, as Virgil lay dying, he begged his friends to burn the manuscript, because he thought that the manuscript lacked polish and stood as an inferior work–Virgil’s magnum opus, the Aeneid!

Rentaro

Virgil’s self-doubt points to the second thing necessary to generate sublime thoughts: humility.  As we see Rentaro shrugging off mortal wounds or ripping off an artificial arm bound to his nervous system without hesitation, we become vexed at seeing the unreality of these actions.  These heroic acts lacked the aura of heroism because Rentaro does not display human weakness.  A good shonen anime does show that its characters struggle to overcome human weakness whether it be Kenshin’s temptation to give up living toward the end of his duel with Shishio, the doubts constantly assailing Kiba’s mind, or Inuyasha’s self-hatred and thirst for power.  And we cannot forget the hero of the greatest modern epic, Frodo Baggins, whose determination would have been vain had he not been supported by so many and Providence saved him from his own folly at the critical moment.

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One has difficulty identifying with Rentaro as a warrior.  He’s at his best while he supports Enju; but, in combat situations where he should have to struggle with human weakness, he proves to be an Übermensch having no weaknesses to overcome!  Would that the authors have added their own experience of physical suffering into Rentaro’s battles!  They would have been far more moving!

Long Awaited Manga Reviews

Remember how I promised  that other half of manga reviews a very long time ago?  Here they are!  My promise of that time and the one made just a few hours ago doubly bound me to write these reviews, and I hope that they shall be to your pleasure.  If not, may you enjoy your displeasure.

Picture of good ol' Revy.

Picture of good ol’ Revy.

The titles which I propose to review are Genshiken, Kurenai, Sengoku Youko, and Hanako to Guuwa no Tera.  The last one is a horror manga which I highly enjoyed.  Horror stands as one of my least favorite genres nowadays.  In the past, I used to get a kick out of watching Hammer Films’ Dracula films and werewolf movies of all sorts.  It was fun commenting on how the movie makers would mess with the lore attached to these creatures.  I loved the Gothic style of the vampire genre, and the fright of a big bad wolf coming at one with your only hope being a well placed silver bullet.  Now, horror movies are overly gory, and I find myself less intrigued by them.

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Hanako to Guuwa no Tera by Sakae Esuno attracted me from the start because they melded horror with the private eye genre.  Our hero runs  an agency dedicated to ridding the world of harmful “allegories.”  These allegories are based in Japanese folklore or the fads of popular culture.  The interesting thing about the monsters here are that they derive from people’s unbalanced states of mind.  The detective, Daisuke Asou, has collected a couple of allegories in his line of work, some of which give him power.  One, named Hanako, acts as his information gatherer.  Our story begins when Kanae Hiranuma seeks Asou’s help in ridding an allegory which has been haunting her: the axe man under the bed. For this reason, she has not been able to sleep in days and is petrified to stay in her own room.  Doesn’t it sound childish?  This haunting begins a long, happy relationship for the two of them.

Don't worry.  It's available in English.

Don’t worry. It’s available in English.

This story really shines in the way the author delineates relationship between the characters.  This draws one into all the struggles which they endure against allegories, and the wide variety of opponents keeps the reader turning pages.  This manga has ended in 2010, and consists of just nineteen chapters.  The manga also really shines in creating a likable couple.  Too many series have rather annoying couples, which make one wish that the author had not bothered with a love interest.  But, Kanae is quite capable, and there is the right amount of tension between the two to make for an interesting dynamic.  I recommend this better than average manga to you horror fans out there.

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Now to review the most problematic manga for me: Genshiken.  As many of you know, this manga focuses on the otaku lifestyle of the club members of a club known as Genshiken, which means Society for the Study of Modern Visual Porn–I mean, Culture.  My biggest problem with this manga must lie in that I am not otaku enough to relate to any of the characters.  As a matter of fact, Saki is my favorite character, and she only joined Genshiken so that she could hang out with her lover, Kousaka.  I can’t help but feel sorry for her in that Saki must endure the porn and ero-game loving ways of her partner.  Now, this makes for great comedy, but a guy has absolutely no excuse for using pornography if he has a lover.  After all, is not having the thing better than a mere vicarious experience?  Anyway, Saki herself brought up this complaint.  She has the patience of a saint when it comes to dealing with the idiosyncrasies of her boyfriend.  (Not that  I approve of sex before marriage, but such relationships at least offer the chance of leading to marriage, while pornography is engaging in an empty activity.)

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At any rate, a college freshman named Sasahara is brought into the group and enmeshed into their otaku lifestyle of ero-games, anime, conventions, porn, and video games.  The story often succeeds in being hilarious; but there are too many problems of identification for me, and their preoccupation with porn irritates me.  So, I won’t be getting the second omnibus volume.

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Even bald men deserve to be loved.

Kurenai is a real joy for me to read.  The fights are very well done, and the humor driven off of the harem situation is most amusing.  Women can’t seem to help falling for the strong, modest, reliable Shinkuro.  But, the author presents us with some very likable characters, even if some characters are rather stock–heck, all of them might be stock characters to tell you the truth; but, that only speaks to how well the humor and plot are executed.  This show also uses a favorite trope of mine: a young man is in charge of taking care of girl much younger than himself.  (Perhaps the reason for my predilection lies in that I have a sister 10 years younger than myself, so identification is easy.)

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Shinkuro works as a dispute mediator–more like a dispute finisher considering most disputes are ended with his fists–for a capable, mysterious woman named Benika.  At the start of the manga, we already know that he’s been taking care of Murasaki, a young girl from a powerful, incestuous family.  You see, she’s been destined to marry his older half-brother.  She warms up to Shinkuro because of his gentle and strong nature.  However, her family comes after her, and Shinkuro must display all his martial skill to finally free Murasaki from this fate.  Then, the action turns toward a criminal syndicate, which decides to make Shinkuro himself a target.

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Besides the fights, this manga excels in delineating the relationships between the characters, i.e. Shinkuro and his ever expanding harem.  The manga manages to balance the romance and slice of life chapters very well with the action packed ones, which means that the reader is never bored.  Everything works to keep the reader turning pages, and I look forward to each new chapter of this ongoing manga.

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Lastly, I was fortunate to find the manga Sengoku Youko.  This is another ongoing manga, but it’s set in fuedal Japan as a historical fantasy.  This manga is a very character driven work, the fights and the plots are rather simplistic.  The characterization goes a long way to make up for these flaws though.  I must comment that the setting feels much like Inuyasha: youkai and samurai are juxtaposed to each other during the Sengoku Era.  Also, traveling is a major part the action, and the side characters all display prejudices of some kind or another, human-hating youkai or youkai-hating men.

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Our heroes, Jinka, Tama, and Shinsuke, meet while the first two were on a bandit hunt.  Tama unsuccessfully tries to convince the bandits that they are leading an immoral life.  At which point, Jinka, a hanyou, is forced to beat them all down.  Jinka has a strong prejudice toward human beings, while Tama, a fox youkai, believes humans and youkai must be judged on an individual basis.  Their adventures lead to them picking up one more party member and discovering an insidious plot by Tama’s mom and her human lover.  This is a great manga for light reading, especially if you liked Inuyasha.

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I hope that you enjoyed these reviews.  Pressing work will deter me from blogging for at least a week.

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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