Medieval’s Manga Recommendations for February

Here is the first article to derive from my Candlemas Resolutions.  You might expect the article on C. S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image soon, which shall meet another of these resolutions.  By the way, comment not only on the manga, but if you feel like there’s a better way for me to write these recommendations.  I’d like to make these posts as interesting as possible now that I’ll be doing them on a monthly basis.

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1) 81 Diver by Shibata Yokusaru

You can read my thoughts on the series in this post.  (Incidentally, it seems like that post influenced D. M. Dutcher to do his own version of Quick Takes.  Click here for his post.)  Unfortunately, a Japanese person uploading 81 Diver was arrested.  If he was the only one, who knows if more chapters shall ever be released.  Actually, looking at the copious numbers of Japanese arrested for this crime is appalling.  Check out all the links under that article too!!!  Almost makes me want to stop reading manga online.  At least, Crunchyroll has a decent selection of legal manga.

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2) Cerberus by Fukui Takami

This stands as the only horror anime on my list.  Certain elements of the manga remind me of Bleach, but it has a darker mood than that popular show.  Evil demons/monsters/youma/youkai/whatever-you-prefer named kuzure (Never heard of them before) are intent on devouring human beings.  Our hero, Kei, and a childhood friend suffer the misfortune of meeting one of these monsters while exploring a grave site.  But, within that graveyard is a grave protector named Yukifusa, with whom Kei makes a contract in order to save the life of his childhood friend.  Now, Kei becomes tasked with the mission of destroying kuzure lest his powers deplete, which will cause his demise.

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Two Year Anniversary!

Well, dear readers, somehow I have managed to keep writing about anime and religion for two years.  This blog has narrowed its focus from all my hobbies and interests to mostly anime and religion.  After all, you won’t find articles like this on here anymore: Exploring the Brews of the Victory Brewing Company.  Though, you might find me writing about tea again.  And a couple of my reader’s favorite posts were on literature, but now I write about that in Aquila et Infans.  Here are two examples:

1) Fiction’s Raison d’Etre

2) Encore Une Autre Raison D’Etre pour Fiction

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Reading Froggy-kun’s post about what he looks for in an anime review made me think about my favorite type of article.  I prefer to pick up a thread in a particular anime and run with it rather than giving a thorough review.  When I try to give a review covering all aspects of a show, I usually miss some aspects or the article becomes scatterbrained or dull.  My “Hidden Gems of Anime” series shows this: Gokudo and Innocent Venus.  (You can see that I wrote them back at the time when I didn’t believe in using pictures.  My opinion on that changed a great deal!)  On the other hand, the articles focusing on a particular theme of a show feel like they’re written better, as is shown by the following:

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1) Applying the Feminist and Mimetic Lens to Iria: Zeiram the Animation (My favorite post which hardly anyone read.  Every blogger has at least one.)

2) Mirai Nikki: The Heretic Successor of Elfen Lied (A favorite post which everyone seems to have read at least once. xD )

3) Kiba and Cheza’s Love as Symbolic of Jesus and Mary’s

4) The End of Samurai Deeper Kyo: All About Heart

5) Is Sexuality Natural or Aquired?: No. 6’s Take on the Issue

6) Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

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But, this site also finds itself dedicated to Christian spirituality–specifically Catholic spirituality, but I hope my articles profit my Protestant and Orthodox readers.  (Do I have any Orthodox readers?  Not to my knowledge, but maybe.)  I doubt that Medieval Otaku would be unique without articles such as these:

1) The Problem of Evil and Spiritual Envy

2) De Liberalitate et Peccato

3) Prayer Maxims from a Novice

4) Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker

Ah!  But, I must confess, my dear readers, that I fall so short of my own advice!  I ought to study my old articles again and reapply myself to the devout life!  Along with St. Jerome, I must exclaim: “Hypocrite reader – my fellow – my brother!”  Whatever is good in them is the result of grace rather than from my sinful mind.  I can say without much vanity that some of the articles are indeed very good.  To aid the process of my conversion, I’m going to confession today–perhaps the best way to mark a birthday:

5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51)

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Then, I am also grateful to this blog for introducing me to Sean Bishop.  I hope that his cartoon will be ready by the end of this year or the beginning of the next.  And then, I am especially grateful to those who still slog through so many of my lackluster articles to wait for the gems I occasionally produce; especially, TWWK of Beneath the Tangles, Genki Jason of Genkinahito, D. M. Dutcher of Cacao, Put Down the Shovel!, John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin, The Overlord Bear, David A, Zionista, Nami of The Budding Philosopher, Foxfier of Head Noises, Lee Relph of MIB’s Instant Headache, Japesland, Anime Commentary on the March, Naru of What is this “Culture” you speak of?, Cajun Samurai, Michelle Joelle of Soliloquies and GoodbyeNavi.  I suppose that’s all the people who have frequently commented on my blog.  I hope I didn’t miss anyone!  Anyway, without the interest shown by all my readers, I should never have continued writing for two years.

But, what would an anniversary post referring to all the above articles be without mentioning How to Weather the Anime Doldrums?  Even if that medium of anime, capable of producing some of the most extraordinary tales, begins to tire us, life is full of many other things to enjoy.

Freeloader on Facebook

My long time readers know how enthusiastic I am about the upcoming cartoon based on Sean Bishop’s The Freeloader.  After all, I’ve written about the comic on four occasions (The Freeloader to be Animated, A Little Review of The Freeloader, Retractio Tabulae Proximae, My First Foray into a Con) and mentioned its creator on one other occasion.  For my hard work, Sean Bishop and his writer, Clover SH, have decided to make me administrator of the comic’s Facebook page.  I encourage anyone who has an interest in American cartoons–particularly cartoons influenced by anime–to like the page and take a look at some of his fine artwork.

Yes, you read that right.  They just flat out and named one of their characters Mary Sue.

Yes, you read that right. They just flat out and named one of their characters Mary Sue.

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.

Retractio Tabulae Proximae

Well, tabula is the closest Latin word I can think of for “post.”  Also, before anyone thinks I’m about to do something as horrible as take back all I said in praise of The Freeloader, let me note here that retractio means “reconsideration” rather than the English word it most nearly relates to: “retraction.”  St. Augustine, for example, was famous for writing multas retractiones, both during and especially near the end of his life.  That most humble of Church Fathers had a great desire for the exact truth as well as a thorough knowledge of human ignorance and errancy.  However, I wonder how many people read his retractiones, which must make his other writings that much more clear?

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What I need to reconsider is my error in not including an important figure in the development of The Freeloader.  If you guessed the writer, you’d be right.  Writers are the most ignored people in Hollywood, but is it not deplorable that a fellow writer should be guilty of the same fault?  For shame!  A most literate young woman by the name of  Clover SH is responsible for putting The Freeloader into cohesive form.  Sean Bishop actually asked me to place her name in the article, but it slipped my mind as I delved into the possibilities of the series.  Having read the treatment of the first episode and other documents, Mr. Bishop is most fortunate in having Clover SH on his team.  Good luck to the both of them!

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The Freeloader to be Animated

Well, the happiest result of me visiting the Baltimore Comic Convention was to learn about Sean Bishop’s The Freeloader comic, which I have since reviewed here.  We struck up an internet friendship, and I have been learning of Sean Bishop’s adventures and efforts to publish The Freeloader ever since.  With eager ears, I learned that he pursued his dream to the Golden State, where he met many people in the animation industry.

Here's some older designs for the Freeloader.

Here’s some older designs for the Freeloader.

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But, why I am speaking of the animation industry?  After all, Mr. Bishop is a comic artist.  The reason lies in that he is trying to make his comic into a cartoon, which pleases me to no end.  Modern American cartoons have rather paled in comparison to those of the good old days and now are relegated to the extremes of children’s cartoons and the vulgar fare intended to adults.  The sole exception to this recently has been Avatar and The Legend of Korra–both profoundly influenced by Japanese animation and wonderful examples of the potential for American cartoons to be great again.  Mr. Bishop is well versed enough in American comics and cartoons as well as anime to create a truly unique story featuring the best of both animation cultures, and his comic, as well as the information Mr. Bishop has shared with me, gives every indication that it shall.

Remember how I noted that Sean Bishop was influenced by Japanese anime?  Here's the original design for Aegea.

Remember how I noted that Sean Bishop was influenced by Japanese anime? Here’s the original design for Aegea.

The original Aegea and the Freeloader.  I really hope that he can use these designs one day.  They're beautiful!

The original Aegea and the Freeloader. I really hope that he can use these designs one day. They’re beautiful!

For example, sarcasm is rampant in American cartoons, which is funny on occasion, but tends to sicken the viewer when used with much frequency.  Avatar stands as an example of a cartoon which was sincere in its aims and eschewed overdoing the sarcasm.  The Freeloader‘s humor more relies on slapstick (tsukkomi and boke, actually), and one sees that same sense of sincerity found in anime.  The plot concerns a rather screwy kid trying to make a living as a bounty hunter.  He captures a woman named Aegea for breaking curfew, who turns out to have a criminal record worth a $50,000 bounty.  The officer in charge gives her the option to work off the bounty by helping Freeloader, Aegea’s nickname for her new cheapskate partner, in hunting criminals.  Unfortunately, Freeloader’s methods anger the powerful, and he soon gets into trouble with both sides of the law.

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This will make for a great story.  I can hardly contain myself as I wait for a studio to announce that it has accepted his story.  I’ll be sure to keep you all posted when it happens!  For now, here is a link to the author’s website: http://freeloader4hire.blogspot.com/p/legend-of-freeloader.html.

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.