Thursday, July 30, 2009

Clover Pt. 1 - "I wish for happiness. I seek happiness." (Volumes 1 & 2)

-- Warning: There's some spoilers here. That's why this blog is named what it is. --

So recently I picked up CLAMP's "Clover". I have wanted to read "Clover" for ages, but before I ever got a chance to pick it up, it went out of print. But the wonderful people at the manga division of Dark Horse put out an  omnibus edition of all four volumes and couldn't resist grabbing it last time I was in the Borders in our local mall.

It seems like that borders is where all of the Monmouth County otaku work, because everyone in there will talk to me about what I'm buying. the woman I spoke with that day was very excited that I was picking up "Clover" and warned me that it was probably the saddest thing that I would ever read. I laughed it off and replied "I've been reading CLAMP for years. I can handle it."

I should have listened to her warning.

When I finally decided to read it, I read it all in one go. It's a four volume series, but today I'm only going to cover the first two since they make up the main story.

I'd expected this, because I hate to leave a manga unfinished. It was slow to get started. They introduced a lot of things right off that I did not really understand, and it kept me from getting absorbed into the world at first. But I trust CLAMP to deliver, so I pushed on.

The first two volumes focus on the story of Sue and Kazuhiko. The retired government agent who lost his right hand, Kazuhiko, must transport the mysterious young Sue to a location that only she knows. Along the way is the repeated theme of a song about seeking happiness. This song is sung by Kazuhiko's deceased girlfriend, Ora.

They receive help from Gingetsu, Kazuhiko's former C.O., and Ran, a boy as mysterious as Sue who is living with him. They run into trouble along the way in the form of people trying to capture Sue, as she is something called a "Four Leaf Clover". The biggest adversary is some guy named Bols, who knows Kazuhiko -- but for the life of me I have never figured out how.

Bols seems to be the leader of another country/group/something's army. He's the one who cut off Kazuhiko's hand on his last mission, but there's no more about that that's ever discussed. The relationship between Bols (who really seems like he wants to molest/do bad things to Kazuhiko) and Kazuhiko, and the mission that lead to Kazuhiko losing his hand is the only thing in this story that they never really go into. You'd think since Kazuhiko is the focus of the story, they'd discuss it but apparently not.

As we go on, they arrive at the destination that Sue wanted to be taken to, a defunct amusement park called "Fairy Park". (Readers of Tsubasa may recall Fairy Park from the end of the "Oto" saga. ;D) 

It is then that we learn about the "clovers". They are children sorcerers who were taken by the government to be isolated and controlled. They were labeled from one to four "Leaves" by how powerful they were.  Ran is a three leaf, one of two still alive. Sue is the only Four Leaf Clover.

We also learn about the song, titled "Clover", that Sue has been listening and singing along to over the course of the manga. It was actually written by both she and Ora, and is sung by both of them. She and Ora knew each other, and Ora told her all about singing and Kazuhiko.

Sue confesses her love for Kazuhiko just before they are attacked, apparently by the people who originally locked Sue away. Sue uses her power to save Kazuhiko as they are attacked by Bols again. Gingetsu stops Bols as Sue destroys Fairy Park and herself. Ran is sad, but seems glad that Sue managed to free herself from the life she'd been living, even if it meant her death.

Kazuhiko realizes that this had been Sue's intention all along. It's easy to see on his face that he's sad, but we don't spend enough time with him to learn if he's really heartbroken about it and loved her as well.

This first part of the story was tragic, and very sad, but in the next two volumes we get into the background of "Clover" and that is where my heart really broke.

Its like one of those "Breaking News" stories, except no one but me really cares.

- Me to Suri about 5 minutes before watching episode 230 of Bleach.


This is something that I never thought I would be talking about here -- the Bleach anime.

As much as I love the manga, I declared the anime dead to me months ago after the "replacement captain/lieutenant" filler arc in which Sora form Kindgom Hearts was the new Captain of the 3rd division (It was a fucking keyblade, goddamnit.) and his lieutenant was the bastard offspring of Sosuke Aizen and Szayel Apollo Grantz. no matter how untrue that statement may or may not be, that's how I feel about it and I lost all desire to ever go anywhere near the anime ever again.

Aizen is the daddy and Szayel is the mommy, and together they spawned this horrible abomination against God.

I'm not a big fan of Bleach's filler arcs. The Bount arc didn't do much for me, but it did bring about the line "Everything it touches turns to snakes!", which has lead to some great moments hanging out with my friends in which we've randomly shouted that out in public. But the latest filler (Which, according to what I've heard, will only be four or five episodes?) is focusing on one of my favorite aspects of Bleach -- Zanpakuto.

For those not familiar with Bleach's cosmology, Zanpakuto are sentient swords belonging to the shinigami. They are spirits born from their master's soul and are the force of power behind all of the sword's abilities. There are a few other things that were brought up in the second movie that I think are bullshit because Hitsufag likes to make up his own rules, so we won't go into that.

But I've loved this concept from the beginning. I've been absolutely fascinated by the idea of learning what the appearances of everyone's swords were. And as soon as we came out of the Soul Society arc and were shown Sode No Shirayuki, Rukia's Zanpakuto, in action for the first time, I fell head over heels in love.

So when it was announced that the Zanpakuto would be the focus of the new filler, I became intrigued. I still had no real plan to watch, but I was curious, and a little excited to see what might become of it. The idea that the zanpakuto were rebelling against their masters interested me. And the nest part was that we would get to see them, even if they were all forced into humanoid forms. But there was one thing I was worried about...

I've always had a very clear mental image of what I believed her to look like. Anyone who's read the short CLAMP manga "Shirahime-Syo" may remember the story "Hiyoku no Tori" and the Heron woman in them. That woman has always been my image for Sode No Shirayuki. Would this arc, shatter my perception of her?

Left: Heron ("Shirahime-Syo") // Right: Sode no Shirayuki ("Bleach")

Surprisingly, no! Sode no Shorayuki is presented here actually very similar to how I pictured her to be. This helped a lot in getting me to want to keep watching. I was very worried about this, because I am resistant to change and didn't want to have to rethink my entire perception of her as a character.

So I torrented the episode, sat down, and watched...

My opinion so far is pretty neutral to the story as a whole, but as for the characters, my head is racing around trying to keep all of my perceptions of them in line.

Haineko was the most hilarious little bitch in the world. I loved when she shoved Rangiku aside and told her to get out of the way. I'd love to see her also have a more kindhearted side to match Rangiku's but I think she is perfect. and oh my god those pants. Wut.

I like Suzumebachi's appearance (especially that she's so fucking tiny), but I can't say I'm too thrilled with her personality. She is way too bubbly, happy, and excitable. Even before Soi Fon was an angst bucket, she did not act like that. Zanpakuto are meant to share many of their master's personality aspects and Suzumebachi doesn't act like Soi Fon at all. 

Kazeshini... I have never liked Kazeshini. Ever since his shikai was revealed and it was shown that he was a dual wield, I've hated him. It was established in the Soul Society arc that the only dual-bladed shikai were Katen Kyokotsu (Kyoraku Shunsui) and Sogyo no Kotowari (Ukitake Juushiro). I refuse to believe his shikai was a secret, since he's a lieutenant. It's possible Kubo hadn't thought it up yet, but for the love of god, Kubo, stick to your rules.

Anyway, the zanpakuto arc has proved that Kazeshini is a dick. this was hilarious to me because I just dislike him so much and how his personality just fell into me continuing not to like him. I'm not a fan of Hiyorinmaru either (gay Chrsitmas trees, wut?) for various reasons, but all he's done so far is stand around and stare at people so I can't really judge him yet.

But oh man the opening and ending? Hot shit, yo. I actually watched the opening twice before I started the episode because Iw as just so fascinated by Orihime and Rukia dancing. I want to dance with them so bad. XD Also everyone was just hanging out and being really hot. What the hell? SDid everyone suddenly realize how sexy they are?

The ending was fantastic. I'm completely addicted to "Mad Surfer" now. that's the kind of song I will hang out alone in my house and dance to in my underwear. I liked the kind of retro feel to the visuals and how it really depicted the personality aspects of all of the zanpakuto.

My big worry about this arc? That it's going to end up focusing on Hitsugaya and Hiyorinmaru. With the way they were introduced in the first episode of the arc, they seem to be getting special attention, and I'm really worried this is going to be another one of those instances of undeserved attention for them.

So I guess there will be followups to this as the arc progresses, because I anticipate having very strong feelings on this. We'll see where it goes.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Otakon 2009

Last weekend Suri and I, along with several other friends, made the long trip down from central New Jersey to Balimore, Maryland for Otakon 2009. It's our one big convention of the year and we're usually pretty psyched to rock it out. It was great this year, as always.

General reports for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday can be found via their respective entries in my LiveJournal.

But overall, it was a great con. This was my second year cosplaying Simon form Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and this year I got to be accompanied by Suri and my best friend Cass as my Kamina and Nia. We all hit up the Saturday photoshoot which was a lot of fun. Cosplay is about 50% of the reason I do Otakon, and it was really great to get to see other cosplayers and join in on photos and things.

We are the bitch-sassiest pair of Simons ever.

In an amusing twist, a friend of mine form high school who writes for Japanator ended up writing a short entry about when the Gurren Lagann shoot and the Super Smash Bros. shoot decided to wage war against each other. I ended up in a few of the photos he posted and we had a laugh a little later about what a small internet it is.

The better part of the weekend was spent in the Artist's Alley and the Dealer's Room, which is the other 50% I do Otakon. I got to see a lot of good friends in the Alley. These are people that I only really get to see once or twice a year at Otakon and NYAF, so it was really great to see them and catch up for a while. I also bought a few posters and prints, and a comic from the amazingly talented Hilary Florido, who is maybe one of the coolest people I know.

The Dealer's Room was fantastic this year. I bought two figures (Urahara Kisuke and Kuchikir Rukia) and an old Magic Knight Rayearth doll (Hikaru. I already have Fuu. Now I'm on the hunt for Umi.), and a really fantastic Sailor Moon pencil case.

I also got myself a few doujinshi, though I was only really satisfied with one of them -- an Ukitake/Unohana bleach doujinshi that looks like it's really cute. I may have to eventually try to translate it. I somehow ended up with another Ukitake/Kyoraku doujinshi, but while sitting outside of one of the panels we were waiting to go to, I decided to narrate it with hilarious dialog for my friend Jess and it turned out to be the best purchase ever.

"Blah blah blah I have cancer."
"No you don't. You have lupus."
"Well shit..."

I really don't have the slightest idea what was going on through the whole thing other than that Ukitake and Kyoraku kept fighting and bitch-slapping each other, but it made for an amusing little tale. I also got another Bleach doujin about Kon and some members of the female cast, and a FullMetal Alchemist Roy/Havoc doujin that also includes Riza somehow. Again, I need to learn to read Japanese so I can know what the hell is going on.

But the real prize for the weekend was buying a replica of Sode no Shirayuki, Kuchiki Rukia's sword, for $25. Anyone who knows me as a member of the Bleach fandom knows the crush I have on Shirayuki. So when I found it, I was sure it was really expensive and made Suri lead me away. But then he kept suggesting going back to ask how much it was, so we went and found out it was cheap enough for me to buy!

The unfortunate part is that she'll probably remain in her box until the spring when I either move back down to central NJ for good, or move in with my good friend Boomer over at Downtown Otaku. Then she will be proudly displayed on my wall where I can admire her.

So over all, it was a great con. I may switch up my cosplay next year, or I may not, but either way I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Suri's Intro & King of Bandit Jing

Well. I'm not quite sure how to start this off properly, so I'm just going to talk until something coherent comes out. I'll be posting for this as often as I feel the need to (Read: Whenever Sono threatens me bodily harm for not posting) and will likely discuss many different things.

I am very tempted to simply give angry reviews of things, like my other blog. But honestly, I'd rather not. I try to think of things in a positive light and thus, will likely be more cheerful. So, I really doubt I'll talk about stuff I don't like... that is, unless I dislike it so much that I NEED to vent the rage. But I don't normally watch anything that makes me rage like that long enough to really care. So, let's talk about something. What, you ask? One of the first anime I saw after I had really started to get into it, King of Bandit Jing.

When I say "really started to get into it," I mean actively seeking it out as opposed to just what was on Toonami at the time. Don't get me wrong, Toonami had tons of great stuff. Dragonball Z was mindblowing for me when I first started watching, Yuyu Hakusho is still one of my favorite series ever and I LOVED Outlaw Star, even if the ending confused the hell out of me. I probably would've watched Sailor Moon when it was on, but I usually watched Dragonball Z with friends and therefore we could not watch Sailor Moon because they were MEN and anything even remotely girly was GAY. Truly, they were enlightened beings far beyond the scope of anything humankind could ever- they were idiots. But they were also the only people within walking distance who would spend time with me.

But anyway, when I first started to seek out anime, the best I could usually manage was a DVD every month or so. And then, I tended to go with Yuyu Hakusho because Cartoon Network had stopped airing it immediately before the final round of the Dark Tournament, which had been going on for something like 30 episodes already. I didn't really start to get a broader view of anime until we got a digital cable box. The On Demand service had... Anime Network on Demand! I was intrigued and thus, started watching. I watched episodes daily on it daily, even if I had already seen them. I checked again and again for new episodes, since each series usually had no more than 2-3 episodes available at at time. There are a number of series I was introduced to like this that still stick with me. Sure, I didn't like everything I watched (Gravitation still haunts me. ;___; ) but it did help me learn what exactly to look for. GetBackers is still one of my favorite series ever, for example. And another example, which I have taken so long to get to, is King of Bandit Jing.


King of Bandit Jing (or the less Engrishy title, Jing: King of Bandits), is short. 13 episodes (with a 3-episode OVA, but I'll get to that another time) and that made it somewhat ideal for me and the Anime Network on Demand. Because it was short, it didn't take very long for me to see all 13 episodes. Longer series, like GetBackers, had 3-4 episodes up at a time, but would frequently revert back to episode 1 and 2 after getting far enough into the series, ranging anywhere from episode 12 to 28. And some series only went a few episodes before they were replaced with another show. Usually something I didn't care about, like Mezzo.

Jing is great though. If I had to pick a word to describe it, it would be "Breezy". It's lighthearted, colorful, whimsical and weird. It also has the single greatest opening scene in anything ever. It's a slow panning shot of a rising sun. A skeletal figure in a carriage drawn by a skeletal dinosaur. It slowly zooms on his face. "I..." you hear. It zooms closer. "I..." again. It zooms right to his glowing red eye. "I...". You get a shot from the side as he loudly shouts "I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS STORY!" he then laughs as he is knocked aside by a GIANT DESERT WHALE BOAT, while screaming "FAREWELL". And he is never seen again.


This is when I knew I had found something great. In fact, I recently showed the first episode to a friend of mine. After this, his jaw dropped. He grabbed the remote, paused it and demanded I give him every DVD of this series I own immediately. This is also the best possible way to frame how odd the world Jing takes place in is.

So, what is the series about? It's about Jing and his bird, Gilbert Go... I mean Kir. Jing, as one can surmise from the title, is the Bandit King. He can steal anything and everything, from the stars in the sky to the heart of a woman. And he does that a lot. Every story has a Jing girl, that he usually wins the affection of. Think of them as Bond Girls, except Jing is like 15 so he's not screwing them left and right. He's too classy for that, anyway.

Every Jing story is self-contained and usually revolves around the theft of a single object. There are only 3 recurring characters. Jing, Kir and Postino. Postino shows up once per story on a Motorcycle for about 20 seconds, says something cryptic to Jing that will inevitably help Jing with the theft and then rides off. He's awesome and is never explained, like most things in this weird, weird world.

Oh, there is one more recurring thing in Jing. The Porvora. That pink thing on the first image up there is a Porvora. They're adorable. Also, highly volatile. If jarred too much, they will explode like a cluster of mines held together with C4 around a jellied napalm center. They appear in two of the stories, if I recall correctly.

I could go into detail of the plot, but... like I said, the show is episodic. Each story (each of which spans 1-3 episodes) has its own plot. It's not intensive watching, but it's enjoyable to watch and quite memorable. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

*phew* I'll try and make my posts shorter from now on. Anyone reading this, I hope you continue to do so.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The first of many posts in which Sono blathers about music.

[EDIT: I went back into this entry and put most of the songs in so you can know which song I'm talking about when I'm talking about it. You're welcome.]

Well I'm gonna start this blog of by scaring away about half of our potential reader base by making my first post here about a topic very dear to my heart --

Music from the Sailor Moon anime series.

There may be a followup to this, as I've suddenly realized I haven't sat and listened to any of the background tracks for, literally, years, but I think the best place to start covering bases would be the theme songs. Granted there aren't a whole lot of these because Sailor Moon, unlike most series, stuck with it's same opening theme song for 3 out of 4 seasons.

So where else to start but the beginning? "Moonlight Densetsu". This is probably the song everyone knows best, because they used the same musical track for the english version. Granted, that version of the song was very very different lyrically. I'd like to call it "terrible", but it did it's job of getting 6-10 year old girls watching it so... I guess good job, DiC.
None the less this song is very very catchy and to this day I know what I'm hearing right from the opening notes, even if the 8 year old in me still starts singing the english version at the top of her lungs. Then the 21 year old version of me tells her to shut up and get it right.

Then there was "Tuxedo Mirage", which is a gorgeous song. I still have the translation of first few lines memorized, and when ever it comes on to play on my iTunes I just cannot turn it off. Actually, hearing it come on was what inspired me to write this blog post. Another line that I keep translating in my head every time I hear it is the end of the refrain, "Motto motto aishiteru, Tuxedo Mirage" (I love you more and more, Tuxedo Mirage.) I don't know why that has always stuck out to me but I just love that one moment when you first hear it in the song.
I don't have much to say about "Kaze mo Sora mo Kitto". But it's a catchy little song and I remember being fascinated watching the "puzzle" of Princess Serenity come together while it played while watching the ending credits.
And now the song that I could talk about forever (I'll try to restrain myself), "Sailor Star Song". This is easily my favorite song from the series. I didn't know until recently that Takeuchi Naoko actually wrote the lyrics to this song for the last season of Sailor Moon, and it only made me love it even more.
"Makenai" (Don't give up!) has sort of become my rallying cry over the years because of this song. Times when I was depressed, I'd listen to this and feel better for one reason or another. Maybe it was because Stars was my favorite season (no Chibiusa or Mamoru), or because I'd remember hanging with my cousin Rachel as a kid and watching Sailor Moon, or maybe it's just because it's a really happy song. But this one is catchy and uplifting and I just love it to death.

So now that I've covered the theme songs, I guess I'll move on to some of the other songs from Sailor Moon. One that I have always really adored was "Kaze ni Naretai" ("I Want To Be The Wind"), one of Haruka's songs sung by Ogata Megumi.

kaze ni naritai - ogata megumi

For the life of me, I cannot remember what this song is about, but I'm going to take an educated guess form the title and say it's about Haruka admiring the wind and wanting to be like it? None the less, this is another song I can never turn off when it comes on.

And on a related note, there is Michiru's "Fate Is So Beautiful", which for some reason doesn't seem to be in my iTunes anymore. I never liked this one as much as Haruka's, but it was an interesting song to listen to. I think it was a lot darker sounding of a song than it sounded.

And I suppose, even though I will be gutted for it, I must write about the english Sailor Moon tracks because I actually kind of liked, and still like, a lot of these songs. "My Only Love" is very very campy, but it was the first (and one of the only) song I ever learned to play on the piano and I still think, ins piste of how dumb it is, it's pretty romantic.

"The Power Of Love" is about as campy as they come but I will love this song forever. This, along with "Nothing At All" represent a time in my life when I got to see my best friend of a billion years on a more regular basis. And believe me we were as nerdy as they come. But it was fantastic and these songs, and Sailor Moon in general, were a big part of our friendship.
Though one thing about the english tracks that kinda of irked me was that they were sort of thrown into the dub of the anime with very little care as to where they were put. The best example is "Give Me The Strength To Carry On", which was in the original battle against Beryl, and also was used in the first movie even though it had very little to do with that battle.
I think the last song I'll talk about is "Sanji no Yosei" (3 O'Clock Fairy) from the Super S movie. this is the catchiest goddamn song on the face of the earth. After more than a decade, I can still sing the translation of this song.
Though it bothered me that DiC or 4Kids or whoever it was that dubbed the Super S movie was too lazy to dub this song. So for the first like 2 1/2 minutes of the movie, you have these kids singing in Japanese, with no subtitles, and no idea what the hell is going on. Especially with hoe much foreshadowing this song provides. This song and the resulting pied-piper-esque sequence pretty much sets up the entire movie. So... Epic fail.

So I guess that does it for me rambling on and on about music as if I actually know what I'm talking about. I may come back and talk about Sailor Moon in general and it's affect on me one day, but that's and entirely different animal.