Candlemas Resolutions and Joining Another Blog

For a long time, I have admired the work TWWK does on Beneath the Tangles and have been subject to equal admiration on his part.  (Much more than your humble otaku deserves.)  Our rapport has led to several guest posts, which are really quite good:

  1. How The Swan Princess Demonstrates that Lies are the Foundation of Evil
  2. Buddhist Detachment in Shikabane Hime vs. Christian Charity
  3. Suisei no Gargantia and How One’s Goal Dignifies One’s Life
  4. Contra Divitias: Kill la Kill’s Opprobrium of Wealth

Fight Another Day

For some reason, I have not guest blogged on Beneath the Tangles since the post on Kill la Kill.  This is a shame, because writing for another blog compelled me to make the extra effort to write polished articles.

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Manga Reviews for August

Rather than give a lengthy introduction, permit me to launch into these manga reviews/recommendations which I had promised back in  June without further ado:

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1) Coppelion by Tomonori Inoue

I don’t think I’ve yet reviewed this manga, the first story arc of which is now animated.  For those of you unfamiliar with Coppelion, there has been a nuclear disaster in Tokyo.  The radiation is so bad that the Japanese government has stopped sending in rescue teams to help anyone who may have survived.  But as of the start of the manga, they have developed genetically engineered clones called Coppelions who are immune to radiation for this purpose.  Our heroes are three of these Coppelions, Ibara, Aoi, and Taeko.  In Tokyo, they discover that not everyone wishes to be rescued and that some of their sisters start to run amok.

Kanon the Gunfighter

As fun as the first story arc of the manga was, the second one is even more exciting.  Most of you are not familiar with Akihiro Ito’s Geobreeders, but both mangaka have their love of action sequences and great fights in common–as well as a similar lighthearted feel.  The action only gets more wild in the second half.  Plus, there is much more political intrigue.

Want to learn the significance of this bunny?  You'll have to read the manga.

Want to learn the significance of this bunny? You’ll have to read the manga.

So, I’d like to recommend this manga to fans of the anime and those that love action-packed stories.

Don't do it. man!

Don’t do it. man!

2) Ore ga Doutei Sutetara Shinu Ken ni Tsuite by Mario Morita

This is a rather odd story for me to pick up, as may be seen from the title: “About How I Die if I Lose My Virginity.”  But, this story about time travel, escaping death, and sexual morality had me hooked for its twenty-two chapters.  It does have a fascinating concept: a playboy realizes too late the harm he causes by his Don Juan lifestyle until his friend murders him.  However, he’s given a second chance to go down to the past in order to prevent being killed in the present.  He discovers the easiest way to prevent his death is by remaining chaste, which leads to both hilarity and deep observations on the pitfalls of promiscuity.  The ecchi and sex have a point in the context of this story, but my dear readers may wish to avoid it all the same.

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I’d especially recommend the manga to those who hated the ending of School Days.

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3) Rolan the Forgotten King by Yoshino Takumi

This fantasy is dark–not as dark as Akame ga Kiru, but very dark all the same.  The story concerns a mercenary in dark clothing who saves a damsel threatened with marriage to a heartless tyrant.  (I’m a romantic, if you haven’t been able to peg me as one yet.)  This leads to a series of adventures where our mercenary and bodyguard hero, Rolan, seeks the help of a Mazoku* in making his and Etoile’s escape.  After he makes the Mazoku’s acquaintance, it is discovered that he’s the reincarnation of their king.  This leads to Etoile and Rolan’s return with several great battles and combat.  Some of the characters and situations are fanservicey, but the manga does not go overboard.

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Perfect for the lover of dark fantasy or chivalric tales.

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4) Toraneko Folklore by Azuma Mayumi

This stands as a apparition/demon-slaying manga; but, it has a good sense of humor and a punkish feel.  The protagonist, Nogi Touto, in particular is mistaken for a punk; though, he is a nice guy of the strong, silent type.  While transferring to a new school, a friend gives him a charm and he befriends two loners.  One of whom is interested in the supernatural.  This friend leads Touto into his first confrontation with an apparition, where he discovers that his charm can transform into a powerful goblin woman.  (The translators call her a goblin, and I have no better name for the therianthropic creature she is.)  The fights in this manga often rely as much on the characters’ smarts as their strength.

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This manga on several levels is quite average.  If, like me, you enjoy monster-slaying stories with a sense of humor, you’ll like this one.

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* Mazoku is translated as demons; but Mazoku are not Akuma, which is the Japanese term for what Westerners calls demons or devils.  Mazoku may be malevolent, but they might also be halfway decent like Xellos in Slayers or rather decent like certain of Maoyu‘s characters.  I also prefer keeping Youkai as Youkai.  It’s so hard to find the Western equivalents for the creatures of Japanese folklore!

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.

Progressing through New Manga

Here’s an article to remedy the dearth of manga reviews on this site.  As you know, manga happens to include some of my favorite light reading–or, if untranslated, not so light, but nevermind that!  And so, I wish to give you my opinion of one incredibly popular and four not so popular manga.

Happy Grey

1) Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima

First, let me get the hit manga out of the way.  All of my dear readers must be familiar with this manga on some level.  Somehow, I have managed to read 375 chapters of the manga.  (Before anyone worries about me being sucked into a Fairy Tail oblivion, I have decided not to watch more of the anime.  Almost 400 chapters of manga does not need to be supplemented!)  Fairy Tail has taken a dark turn, which might be expected since the villains are honest-to-goodness demons.  One torture scene made me particularly uncomfortable.  When did Fairy Tail become Akame ga Kiru? Well, that’s an exaggeration but conveys the change of mood rather well.

This manga, even if very fanservicey, still stands as one of the greatest works coming out of Japan.  But, what should one expect when the author claims to have been influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien?

The jump shot is still one of my favorite moves.

The jump shot is still one of my favorite moves.

2) Break Shot by Takeshi Maekawa

I’m sure that I passed over this manga at one point.  Probably without good reason.  Anime based on table top games, such as Hikaru no Go and Shion no Ou, count among my favorites and billiards is not too far removed.  However, the more I read the more I discovered why this manga never gained much popularity: the situations become more contrived as the manga goes on.  We almost expect the hero to win in one shot every time.  Unlike in go or shogi (my two favorite games next to chess), there are not too many opportunities for reversals.  A go game might have as much as 320 moves, and the tide can turn as much as three or four times in a nail biting game.  Not so much professional billiards.

So much for a 1987 billiard manga.  The characters are rather likable, and I like how it offers tips on how to play pool; but, the games become atrociously dull.

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3) Breath of Fire – Ryuu no Senshi by Yakumo Hiroshi

Speaking of retro manga, here’s a fantasy series based on video games of the same name.  This is a delightful fantasy romp over the course of six chapters.  Breath of Fire features a standard strong, young hero who is assisted in his quest to defeat an evil goddess by a winged maiden, some therianthropic sidekicks, and a half snake sorceress.  The message is a very simple “one cannot overcome evil with hate,” but I find few things as enjoyable as a decent 90’s fantasy anime or manga.

Hatenkou Yuugi Cover

4) Hatenkou Yuugi, a.k.a. Dazzle by Minari Endou

This is a fun picaresque tale of a young lady–fourteen going on fifteen–whose father kicks her out of the house so that she might see the world.  She quickly befriends a Model 1911 toting albino named Alzeid, who is looking for his father’s killer.  Later, a clownish fighter named Baroqueheat joins the group.  His favorite hobby seems to be teasing Rahzel, but she takes it in stride and delivers beat downs as necessary.  Some of the stories can be pretty dark, and the characters’ banter is at least as humorous as that of Spice and Wolf.

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However, I find that I cannot recommend the manga as much as the anime.  The anime eschews the manga’s Plautine tendency to make the reader laugh every other panel.  That added seriousness better balances the dark elements found in the ten episode anime.  Is a second season of this too much to ask?

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5) Shindere Shoujo to Kodoku na Shinigami by Yuki Shinkiba

The title translates loosely to “The Death-Loving Girl and the Lonely Death God.”  Sounds like a match made in heaven.  Somehow, Shinto and Sherlock Holmes must also be a match made in heaven, because the manga is incredibly fun.  Our Sherlock Holmes character, Nishigami, moves to a small island.  He tries his best not to make friends because those he loves always seem to die.  However, this does not stop a popular girl named Akira from following this baneful course.  She does indeed die, but the island’s god resurrects her, saying that she can resurrect as many times as possible as long as she remains on the island but that she cannot leave it.  A good thing too: for Akira happens to be manga’s most shindere character.

This one is a great deal of fun.  The mysteries are complex and the characters rather charming.  Nishigami has a particularly brilliant head for deduction.  If only I could find chapter 21 somewhere!

Manga for the New Year

It seems like no matter how busy one is, there is always time for manga.  Also, one occasionally finds that rather little known titles are quite good.  As such, a large assortment of manga finds itself on my reading list.  The only problem with manga is that they are the madeleines of fiction: if one’s brain is not sufficiently satisfied with heavier works, no amount of manga is going to fill one up.  I suspect that one day I shall only read manga in Japanese–as I am currently doing for Busou Renkin, which counts as my second favorite manga from Nobuhiro Watsuki, the author of Rurouni Kenshin.

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Be that as it may, I would like to suggest these eight manga to enliven your new year.  Some are a little old, but you may not have stumbled upon them.  Without further ado. here is my list of short reviews:

fuyu-hanabi-36839251) Fuyu Hanabi by Hara Hidenori

The title translates to “Winter Fireworks” and relates a romance between a washed up actress and a boxer trying to come out of retirement.  They meet at Gon’s gym, where the heroine, Maki, shall learn a thing or two about boxing.  Their relationship starts off rocky, as Gon whacks Maki on the head with a slipper for coming into the gym with her boots on and smoking therein.  They gradually are drawn to one another as they learn to respect each other’s work and to feel comfortable around each other.  This manga lasts a mere 9 chapters, making this touching and humorous manga a good way to pass the time on a lazy afternoon.

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2) Zippy Ziggy written by Kim Un-jung and illustrated by Hwang Seung-man

This manwha stands completed at 86 chapters.  Korean comics can often be about as interesting as manga if not more.  This comic features a true anti-hero whose motto is that it is better to seem good than to be good.  (Please, no one follow that logic!)  However, this starts to change after he starts falling for a girl who moves in next door and she discovers that he is not the perfect student he makes others think that he is.  In return for keeping his dark side a secret, he must train in her mother’s dojo, which becomes necessary anyway after all the enemies he rapidly makes.  The heroine hopes that the martial arts can excise the vices from his personality.  (The Japanese belief that martial arts can perfect the soul might be seen from such schools as Aikido, whose syllables, despite the kanji’s meaning of “Way of Harmonious Energy,” could also be understood as “Way of Eternal Love”–as any die-hard Aikidoka could tell you.)  This rather fanservicey and somewhat standard shonen manwha separates itself from the pack in the quirkiness of the humor and often outrageous antics of the anti-hero.

Here's your creepy image of the day.

Here’s your creepy image of the day.

3) Tripeace by Maru Tomoyuki

Before I begin this review, let it be known that I dropped this one.  I included it here, however, because the manga does not appear objectively bad–just not my cup of tea.  At any rate, it concerns an immortal human being, who joins a peculiar organization with the goal of finding a way to end war.  Somehow, cross dressing gives him extra courage in battle and makes him more liked by one particular female in the organization, who believes the male and female versions of the protagonist to be two separate persons.  The battles are suitably outrageous and the protagonist often uses his wits or good luck in order to save the day.  Some of you might like it–some.

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4) Tonari no Seki-kun by Morishige Takuma

This high school comedy has a very Calvin and Hobbes like feel to it in that one wonders whether the action does not all derive from the overactive imagination of the heroine and narrator Yokoi, who sits next to the eccentric Seki-kun in class.  Seki-kun is always playing some random game rather than paying attention in class.  He brings in mechs to form a robot family, has chess pieces face off against shogi pieces, and follows his over-active imagination wherever it leads him.  These games always become ridiculous and Yokoi interferes in them occasionally.  This one was recommended to me by Sean Bishop, the author of The Freeloader, who had learned about it from his writer.  And am I glad that he recommended it!  Read this one for a good laugh.

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5) Seishun For-get by Mikabe Sesuna

Why the hyphen?  I have no idea.  This stands as a rather short romantic comedy at only 20 chapters.  It concerns the struggles of Natsuki to make the girl he has fallen for remember him.  You see, after saving his life and hearing Natsuki’s proposal that they become girlfriend and boyfriend, she readily agrees; however–like the heroine of Ef – A Tale of Memories, she cannot remember anything which happened the previous day.  The constant struggle of Natsuki to make Hinata remember him and the reversal which occurs in the second half of the manga make this a very fun and hilarious read.

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6) Psycho Busters written by Aoki Yuya and illustrated by Nao Akinari

This numbers among standard shonen fare, but, for all that, it’s very entertaining to read.  (Perhaps why some mangaka produce nothing but standard shonen manga.)  A high school student named Kakeru is impressed into a group of psychics by a pretty girl for whom he falls.  This happens while his family is away vacationing or working overseas–conveniently fitting in two weeks and 32 chapters of manga.  Among the psychics, he discovers that he happens to have the most powerful psychic ability, which is integral to him saving the world from destruction.  Yep, this manga is as standard as they come, but the characters are very likable and the plot well orchestrated.

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7) The Breaker: New Waves written by Jeon Geuk-jin and illustrated by Park Jin-hwan

Another somewhat standard shonen, but the intrigues of the martial arts’ world adds an extra dose of fun.  Basically, a young man who had been training under a famous master leaves martial arts because his ki center gets destroyed.  But, the Sun-woo clan discovers him to be the heir to the leadership of their clan, thrusting him back into the world of martial arts.  This forces him to undergo martial arts training despite his broken ki center if he wants to survive.  A hot-headed young lady named Jinie is assigned as his bodyguard both at and outside of school, which stands as a very entertaining relationship.  The series excels at the fights and contains a moderate level of fanservice made better by the artist’s skill in describing the contours of a woman’s body.  Anyway, I highly recommend this one.

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8) Youkai Apato no Yuuga na Nichijou by Kouduki Hinowa and illustrated by Waka Miyama

(As a side note, will someone please explain to me how a Japanese person can have the syllable “du” in his name?  I checked three websites to see whether this was a mistake, but they spelled it the same way each time.)

This one falls into your introspective supernatural category.  (Something about ghosts seems to make the Japanese reflective.)  Inaba, a college student eager to be liberated from his foster family, has the misfortune of having his dorm burn down.  This would mean that he would have to commute from home and the loss of liberty if he cannot find some place with an affordable rent.  He finds an apartment for 25,000 yen per mensem; however, the catch is that the apartment is haunted–very haunted indeed.  Fortunately, most of the ghosts are rather cool.  The kinds of stories here range from sentimental to spooky to action packed.  Most have a vein of humor running through them and are very enjoyable.

Un Programme d’Articles pour Novembre

My dear readers, having taken a three day break from writing posts, I have decided to scribble one of my favorite posts: the kind which lists several prospective articles.  Looking back at other posts where I have done this indicates that I usually write about 90% of these articles if not more.  I have had the good fortune of landing some work at UPS, which means that my struggle to write daily will increase; but, as my alma mater avers, virtus tentamine gaudet.  (“Virtue rejoices in trial.”)  The order of the articles is about the same order in which I hope to write them, and they shall be divided into anime or religion–though, you know that my favorite thing to do is to combine the two subjects.

Madonna And Child

Religion

1.  An editorial or review on The Names of Christ by Luis de Leon

2.  Book of Proverbs: timeless wisdom

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Anime

1.  How Kill la Kill Demonstrates that wealth and pride breed solitude and unhappiness (might contribute this one to Beneath the Tangles)

2.  Solty Rei and Hard Boiled Anime

3.  A review of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye

4.  Tower of Druaga and the Jason-like hero

5.  Short Manga reviews of Fuyu no Hanabi, Tripeace, A Bias Girl, and Seishun For-get

6.  World Embryo and my love of Daisuke Moriyama’s work

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7.  Corpse Princess and my history with horror films and anime

8.  My fascination with Kouichi Mashima’s female assassins (Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja)

9.  My opinion of Bodacious Space Pirates

10.  Ys: an enjoyable 90’s fantasy anime

11.  A review or editorial of Soukou no Strain

Well, that’s a huge list, but it will provide me with only two weeks of articles if I’m good!  Of course, I reserve the right to include different articles, especially if they are about currently running anime.  Feel free to say which articles interest you most!

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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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