Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sono Reviews: Kamen Rider Fourze Foodroid - Potechokin

Throwing my hat back into the toy review game with a review of Potechokin (who I more commonly refer to as "Friesmeal") from Kamen Rider Fourze! This review was very fun to do, and I absolutely love this toy!

Gurren Lagann vol. 5

So I finally bought, and the days later finally got around to reading, volume 5 of the Gurren Lagann manga. It is probably my least favorite volume just because it saddled me with a wide range of negative emotions, though it finished off with a really cute chapter.

This volume brought with it the end of the remaining 3 of the Big Four, which means we lost Adiane. Anyone who's hung around for a while, or knows me and my relation to this series, knows I adore Adiane. I cry every time I re-encounter her death. The whole reason I put off buying volume 5 was because I had once flipped through it in the comic shop, read her death, and cried in the store for about fifteen minutes.

Of course, reading it now, I cried again. In the anime, there is a lot of implied character development that the manga takes and expands on. But since giant robot battles are pretty faced paced, and therefore only take up a small amount of the manga they use the extra space to expand upon implications made in the anime. A significant one to note is the relationship between Adiane and Thymilph. The anime keeps this very vague, because there's no time to cover it. It's really only hinted at by Cytomander very briefly.

The manga really takes this and makes it into something. There is a short bonus chapter after chapter 7 that is about Adiane and Thymilph right before he goes to fight Kamina. Thymilph gives her a flower and tells her to protect the capital while he's away. Adiane demands a better gift, and Thymilph promises to return with Kamina's head for her, and then leaves.

We then get a brief glimpse at a softer Adiane, saying she'll look forward to his return. We see her briefly in chapter 15, as Thymilph and Kamina kill each other, seeing the explosion and realizing something may have happened to him, and then in the beginning of 16, enraged that Thymilph is dead. Skip ahead to chapter 22, when we come to Adiane's own death. She's fired upon by the whole of Dai-Gurren's artillery. As Sayrune is destroyed, we see Adiane reaching for the flower, encased in some sort of crystal, that she brought with her in memory of Thymilph. Thymiph's spirit grabs her hand, she looks back at him, starts to cry, and thanks him as she dies.

Viewed this way, through the manga, with a closer look at her, Adiane's death -- and her life for that matter, but that is a post for another day -- becomes so much more tragic, and completely heartbreaking. I am pretty sure that the manga is what convinced me that Adiane is easily the most tragic character in this whole series.

Of course with Adiane's (and also Cytomander's) death, the story moves forward into fighting Guame. This was significantly different in the anime, but still leads to a village full of girls being trained as servants/whores for the Spiral King. But the manga introduces another abandoned princess, Straea, who escaped death like Nia, but was caught and forced to be the matriarch of the village. She tries to convince Nia to be her successor on threat of killing the rest of Dai-Gurren, but Nia refuses.

Yoko steps in to be Yoko and pretend to play here, giving Nia words of encouragement when she almost gives in, but this is pretty unnecessary because as she's doing this, Simon regains control of Lagann and breaks out with the rest of the group. Then Guame shows up and the battle between him and Dai-Gurren begins, as does another round of me being completely fed up with Yoko and the unnecessary attention she gets.

Guame has seized control of all of Dai-Gurren's ganmen, so Simon can't combine Lagann with Gurren. Oh no. Why the hell isn't the rest of Dai-Gurren going to get them back while Simon holds off Guame? Y'know? Logical thing to do?

Of COURSE it's because Yoko has to seize a ganmen from some beastman so Simon can combine with THAT so that Yoko can give a speech about her "pride as a woman" and a lot of stuff about her feelings due to Kamina's death. This really really bothered me, you guys. More than I know words to express.

Yoko does not deserve to have a monologue like Simon got.

Simon's overcoming of his grief over Kamina is not the same as Yoko's. Disagree if you will. It doesn't much matter to me what your opinion on Yoko is, so long as you have good reasons that are something aside from "But she's really hot!". But I dislike her, and I hate that she was given this moment.

Simon's grief was over the loss of someone who was like a brother to him. Someone who, over may years, had become the only thing even close to family Simon still had. Someone who has supported him for years, and had been the only one to show Simon respect or have any confidence in him. Simon's confidence, his pride in himself, and his ability to fight for a future where he would be happy, all came from Kamina.

Losing that destroyed Simon. He was suddenly without guidance. He had the power to be great on his own, but he didn't know how to use it. Simon suddenly had nothing to fight for because the only person who believed in him up until that point was suddenly gone. The only person who had loved him for the past handful of years of his life had been taken by the very people Kamina had promised they would defeat.

Yoko had known Kamina for about a week. Maybe two? Long enough to form an attachment and become infatuated with him (which is, again, a subject for another post), but not nearly long enough to form the sort of relationship with him that would warrant her being allowed to judge how Simon grieved, or getting to have a similar monologue, as if she had overcome the same grief and pain Simon had.

Straea eventually sacrifices herself to save Nia, and there's a very sad scene between she and Old Coco (who's name is actually Theives?)and it's very sweet. Then she dies, and Nia cuts off her hair and leaves it on Straea's grave. Then there's the Nia and Yoko haircutting scene, over which Simon comments that girls are hard to understand.

The book finishes off with a chapter about Kittan and Kiyal, which was adorable. Kiyal wants a ganmen and Kittan won't let her pilot one. So she tries to form her own team within Dai-Gurren and no one takes her seriously. She then tries to hijack the King Kittan, fails, and then in an argument with Kittan, falls out. Kittan sustains a head injury in saving her.

Kiyal is afraid to face him until Yoko shows her the Ganmen that Kittan has been restoring for her and tells her what Kittan said about why he was afraid to let her pilot it. Kiyal then goes to Kittan and hugs him and apologizes, then says she's going to start piloting it and they have a cute sibling moment.

It was a very cute chapter, and I'd love to see Gainax animate it as an OVA episode, unlikely as that is to happen. This chapter was a good way to end the book, and kept me from leaving the volume enraged about Yoko, and reminded me why I love Kittan and his sisters.

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Taking another swing at this blogging thing.

Okay, so I'm going to take another stab at running this blog. Last time I tried to go back to this was a bad time. I was trying to get out of school and get my life set up, so a blog was a little out of the question. But now I've got a job and I've got some time, I'm watching some anime, so I figure maybe I should get back to this.

As of late I've been getting really into Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. So you can expect posts about Fourze, and about GoBusters when that starts! I'm also going to be doing more toy reviews and get back to reviewing whatever anime and whatever I'm watching. There will also be posts about cosplay, TV, maybe even some books and music. Whatever's going on at the moment!

So I figure I'll get back to this. Most of my watching goes on Monday nights, so updated will probably happen during the week sometime. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hopefully throwing my hat back into the ring.

Okay guys I know it's been about two and a half months since I've last posted anything here. I've been busy making my way through my last semester of school and haven't really been able to find time to blog about all of the nerdy things going on in what little free time I've had. But now that I'm graduating, I'm going to try to make time to blog in between whatever job I manage to get and doing comics.

I'm going through my old to-do list for RTQ and chucking things that are no longer relevant and adding things that I've been planning to write about. So I've got plenty waiting in the wings once I find the time to write about it. I'm also going to be putting together a full cosplay from scratch this summer, so I'm sure there will be plenty of posts about that too.

For those who have stuck around, and I know you're out there because this blog is still getting over 300 hits a month somehow, thanks for being patient with me. i'll get myself back on track soon, I promise.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unpopular But Valid Opinions: I Am Pro-Manga Piracy

I keep hearing a lot about the manga industry and how piracy is "killing" it. And I think a lot about it. I have no choice but to think about it. It's a big part of the world I'm in. Hell, I'm only writing this blog post because the topic was brought up in my Business of Comics class last night.

I am on the unpopular (as far as the industry is concerned anyway) pro-side of manga being available for free on the internet along with available for purchase. I see it as a weird, skewed, scaled-up version of the free-content model of the webcomics industry.

Let me ramble my way through this and hopefully you will see my point...

Let me first present to you the webcomics business model as I understand/plan to use it. Webcomics GIVE AWAY the main body of their content for absolutely nothing. The actual comic is generally available for free, with no restrictions on viewing, to the entire internet. Essentially, creators are giving their product away to the whole world for free. They then make money off of sales of ad space, merchandise, and often PRINT VERSIONS OF THEIR COMIC.

Oh hey, doesn't that sound kind of familiar? Free content on the internet then being available for purchase in print form? Online scanlations --> Print manga.

Very rarely these days do I stand in a Borders (which, soon, I won't be able to do at all) or a Barnes & Noble, stare at the manga shelf, and buy five or six books. I do not pick up new series on a whim anymore! I cannot afford it! Manga is a bit expensive at $10-$12 a book, and I can't drop $50 to start five series, and end up only wanting to continue one of them. That is a waste of my money.

HOWEVER! I do stand in Borders or Barnes & Noble, stare at the manga shelf, and pick up the first volumes of series I read scanlations of online. Series that I have already invested myself in, know I enjoy, and want to be able to read ANY TIME, not just when I'm at a computer. Prime examples of this are "Bleach" and "Bakuman". Both of these are series I read free scanlations of first. As soon as I began reading scanlations of Bleach, I immediately went and bought hard copies. I wanted to be able to look closely at the artwork, and to be able to plow through pages without having to wait for them to load. But I knew it was already a story I enjoyed, and that buying it wouldn't be a waste of my money.

"Bakuman" is an even more perfect example. I, and by extension several friends, began reading scanlations before Viz decided to license the series and translate it for the US market. When we found out Viz had licensed it, we all marked the release date on our calendars. Within a week of release, several of us were at our local B&N, picking up volume 1, excited about when the next volume would be released for us to buy EVEN THOUGH WE COULD READ IT FREE ONLINE.

Scanlations are great to get into a series, and follow it beyond the current English releases. when you don't want to wait a month or two for the next full volume, you can read a few chapters online. Then, when a more reliable and accurate translation comes out on store shelves, often with extras that you won't get in scanlations (such as the rough draft pages between chapters in "Bakuman"), you can buy them.

Honestly, I'm so dependent on scanlations to "try out" manga at this point, that I worry without scanlations, I'll either miss out on series I would otherwise buy, or get BORED of series I like between releases. Again, I provide as an example "Afterschool Charisma".

"Afterschool Charisma" is a rare example of me picking up a title I know nothing about off a shelf at B&;N. I had seen it, joked about it, and the more I thought about the premise the more I thought maybe it would be interesting. But I didn't pick it up for MONTHS because I couldn't find scanlations online! Eventually, I was with my friend Philip, who works for B&N and offered his discount, so I picked it up.

This series is now my guilty pleasure. I adore it. But there are still no scanlations online. this would be less of a problem if it came out monthly, or even bi-monthly. But VIZ releases one volume of "Afterschool Charisma" once every six months. That is six months of me not reading Afterschool Charisma. Six months of me not psyching myself up for the next volume. In June, will I be as excited for Volume 3 as I was in January when I finished Volume 2? Yes, Viz makes the next volume available to read on their website, but their e-reader is abysmal and impossible to use. So I just don't read it on their site. So who knows if, in five months when Volume 3 is released, I'll remember to go pick it up.

There are also a lot of series that have large followings, but are never localized stateside. (See: "Hoshi no Samidare"/"The Lucifer & The Biscuit Hammer") These are series that I would buy in a heartbeat if they were brought to the US, but my only option is to read scanlations.

Manga publishers in the US are really just missing out on the opportunity to capitalize on this model. They need to make better, more accessible e-readers, make content available, and ENCOURAGE people to read their content online. Provide online versions of first volumes that they plan to publish in the future. Maybe even the first two volumes. Give people a chance to get into the story and to WANT to buy the print volumes. They need to pay attention to what's doing well on sites like MangaFox and MangaReader instead of trying to shut them down like they did with OneManga, and then go buy the licenses for those series and provide good translations that will be available at reliable times.

All of these things have been pushed on me as important in the webcomics business model because time has shown that they WORK. Having your content be good, accessible, reliably available is a key to success in the webcomics world. If you provide that, people will read, if they read they might enjoy it, if they enjoy it, they will be willing to support it.

Why can't this free-content model be applied to the manga industry as well?

The numbers show that interest in manga hasn't decreased. Fandoms are still alive, thriving, and growing. Sales have dipped because we're in a recession. We can't buy $50 worth of manga on a whim anymore. We can't risk $10 on something we're not sure if we'll commit to.

I know this is not true for 100% of manga fans. There are always a few people ruining it for everyone. But I am the FIRST to yell at the people who say "I won't buy it, I can just read it online." and the first to tell them to go support series that they love.

The long and short of it, Manga Industry (and book/music publishing industry in general), is that if you let us find what we want, let us commit ourselves to it, we'll still buy it. We just need to know what we want first. Instead of discouraging this, embrace it and find a way to use it to your advantage.

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