Friday, November 5, 2010

Playing Catch-Up: Bakuman Episode 5

Okay so this is the part where I'm fully caught up with Bakuman. Episode 5, for me, was a good follow to episode 4. It was an entirely different direction, but touched on another of my favorite things in this series -- the relationship between Mashiro and Azuki and the one between Takagi and Kaya. Also in this episode Mashiro and Takagi's bromance just floruishes.

Watching the two of them discuss story ideas is where you can really see it begin. I find it weird that Takagi cries so much, but aybe he actually did that back in the beginning and I just don't remember. He's such a dramatic guy though that I'm completely willing to buy it.

Kaya spends this episode reminding me why she is my goddamn favorite character in the series. Her voice took me a little while to get used to. At first I thought it might be a little too deep, but her energy and emotion is really all there and the more she spoke the more I really felt the voice suited her. Visually, Kaya still feels the most off to me of all of the female characters. Something about her eyes seems really weird, and (as with all of the other girls) I'm still not able to deal with how her hair is drawn. I'm coping with Azuki. Slowly, her anime appearance and her manga appearance are meshing in my head. But Kaya in the anime doesn't seem to suit her at all.

However her acting is great. Even if her appearance seems a little off, her actions are spot on. Her dialog, her reactions, and her vocal inflections are ust completely Miyoshi Kaya, and I can appreciate that even if her apperance feels totally off.

As I mentioned, this episode focuses a lot on the romantic relationships of our to leads. As far as the whole Mashiro and Azuki end of things, it's msotly all in discussion. Mashiro spends time talking with Takagi about the encounter with Miho at the end of episode 4 and how they are on the same "wavelength". Takagi plays with this idea a lot, teasing Mashiro for it at first, but it later comes back and it's hard to tell if he's joking or not.

The beginnings of Takagi and Kaya's relationship (my favorite in the series) is more "active" in episode 5, as Takagi stumbles into it by accident. He had found out about Azuki's dream of voice acting from Kaya, and when Kaya confronts him about talking to Miho about it, he uses the excuse that he just wanted to talk to Kaya. She takes this as a love confession and isn't sure what to do about it. For the rest of the episode, she and Takagi keep passing by and looking back at each other in a more comedic version of Mashiro and Azuki's "wavelength" moment. Takagi mentions it to Mashiro the first time, and Mashiro proceeds to write it off as a joke.

The second half of this episode takes place over summer break and is more focused on Mashiro and Takagi making their first one-shot to submit to Jump. they move into Kawaguchi Taro's old studio to devote themselves entirely to the project. This is where the bromance really blossoms. The first night neither of them can sleep and sit around discussing manga. They talk about Dragonball and then both do the (in)famous Dragonball "fusion dance", which was without a doubt one of the most hillarious things I've ever seen. I was on my semi-daily commute into the city for class when Iw as watching the episode and I was laughing behind my hand in spite of confused looks from other passengers and a conductor.

The truly endearing part of the next two scenes is watching Takagi take care of Mashiro. He's already finished the rough drafts of the story, so there's not as much for him to do. He's watching his friend and partner work constantly and push himself to the point of losing sleep. He watches Mashiro scrap the work he's done on the finished pages to start over entirely. For a while he does his best to just make sure Mashiro is eating and sleeping, and when that's not enough he starts trying to learn how to ink and tone while Mashiro is asleep.

When it comes time to apply screentones to the pages, he asks Mashiro to help and is initially turned down until he states that he was hoping they could "work toward the moment of completion together". When it's all done, the two of them are sleep-deprived and covered in screentone, hoping for the best. The look on their faces was one that I was familiar with after working through big projects.

The episode closes with the Takagi calling Jump to set up an appointment to submit a manuscript. We're about to dive into the really nitty-gritty of the series with the two of them working toward their serialization in Jump. Next week we're being introduced to Hattori, which I'm excited for, and maybe we'll get a little more Eiji? I'd like to be able to form a better opinion of him, but I didn't see him in the preview so I'm not sure if I'll have to wait a while longer to get a better look at him.

Let's all look forward to episode 6!
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Playing Catch-Up: Bakuman Episode 4

Bakuman 4 might end up being my favorite episode, you guys. This episode was incredibly special to me for a handful of reasons, but most predominantly in how completely nostalgic it was. I've mentioned here in the past that I'm a Cartooning major, and that drawing comics is how I want to make a living for myself. This episode brought back so many memories of when I first decided that, and when I really commited to learning what went into making comics, what tools I needed, how to use them, and how to make a comic page the best that I could possibly make it.

A big focus of the first half of this episode is on Mashiro and his commitment to learning to use a G-Pen. This is a REAL type of pen nib, and one that anyone in comics and pen+ink drawing will be familiar with. It's a long-time standard for manga-ka, and has recently become a standard for American cartoonists as well.

I have to commend the animation tea for their accuracy in the first half of this episode, and for the little things they included that made the first half of this episode so real to me. When Mashiro wiped the edges of his pen on the side of his ink bottle, I actually had to pause the episode for a moment in shock. I knew that gesture. When I worked with a G-Pen, I had done the exact same thing a hundred times. The way they portrayed the motion was so natural. It was perfect.

Mashiro demonstrated the difference between the Kabura pen line and the G-Pen line to Takagi (also later breifly mentioning Maru pens), and it was such a surreal experience for me, having lived this, knowing what he meant, and feeing the same as he did. He was explaining to Takagi all of the things I've learned over the years. The degree of accuracy in the drawings of the nibs, the gestures made when Mashiro uses them, and the lines they create was just phenominal. I have to commend them on the attention to detail. I guess with this series you have to be accurate or it just seems dumb, but even just slight details of this seires that a causal watcher wouldn't know were accurate or not are perfect. And that makes this seires so much more special for someone like me, who's had to learn these things.

There's also something to be said for the "Kawaguchi Taro School Of Thought", which is Mashiro's uncle's three rules for becoming a successful manga-ka.

This rang true in the manga and it rings true now. You have to believe in what you're doing and put all your effot into it, but a lot of actually getting out there is being in the right place at the right time. You need to know people.

So, in order to get better, Mashiro spends the weekend drawing and learning to use the G-Pen and Takagi sits down and reads as much manga as he can in order to come up with a good story. They show Takagi surrounded by piles of manga, and all of the are actual series that have run in Jump! I'm actually amused by how much "Death Note" (also done by Ohba and Obata) and "Hikaru no Go" (which Obata did the art for) show up in this. There are glimpses of them everywhere, and Takagi keeps making "Death Note" jokes.

The latter half of this episode is about Mashiro and Takagi committing to being manga-ka and planning their futures around it. They make decisions about school and make the decision to try and talk to an editor at Jump. They begin making plans to do a one-shot over their summer break to try and get in to talk to an editor. The first stages of Mashiro and Takagi's fanstastic bromance begin to emerge, especially around the key to the studio that Mashiro gave Takagi.

And then we have a breif encounter between Mashiro and Azuki. This is the whole "on the same wavelength" scene, which, admittedly, Iw as worried wouldn't translate well to the anime. It was a very slow, still scene that was about reactions more than anything else. But it actually came out very well.

And finally, episode 4 gives us our first glimpse at Nizuma Eiji in the last 30 second of the episode, on the phone with his editor about moving to Tokyo todo manga. We onyl get close ups of his mouth and a shot of him from behind, and all he does is make bird noises, but it's a good sign of what's to come.

Man, this one sure was image heavy! But this episode has been my favorite so far and there was just so uch I wanted to cover!! I'll be looking at episode 5 tomorrow, and then I'll finally be caught up!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Playing Catch-Up: Bakuman Episode 3

So, I finally got my dumb ass caught up with Bakuman.I regret putting it off. I'm going to do separate posts for eahc one and finish off the week with them. I want to start off saying that when I fired up episode 3, and when I hit the end of it, the themes made me start bawling again. I really don't know why that is, butman something about those songs...

Episode 3: Parents And Children was, more than anything, about the drive to make comics. It's about the fact that it's hard work, but even if you can handle that you have to have the heart for it. Reliving Mashiro and Takagi first exploring the studio that would become such a vital location for the rest of the series was such an intense feeling. Though some of the more touching moments came after they'd done their exploring, the first of which being Mashiro calling his father to talk about his Uncle's death. Mashiro's father reminds him of a moment in "Ashita no Joe" (an old manga about boxing), and it clarifies for Mashiro that his uncle didn't kill himself or die due to stress. He just burned himself out on the passion of making comics for someone he loved.

Another moment that just seemed really special to me was when Mashiro and Takagi were reading the last letter to his uncle from Azuki's mom and Takagi was the one who started crying. It's a very Takagi thing to do. Mashiro isn't exactly the emotional one of the pair, but it just seemed a little more speical than normal because this is something that, to Mashiro, would be very personal. Takagi on the otherhand was just stepping into this situation, knowing nothing about it, and felt such emotion for someone he had never met and what his feelings must have been that it brought him to tears.

I'm still bothered by the appearance of all of the girls in this series, and I think I realized part of it during the scene in which Mashiro and Takagi visit Azuki's mother to talk about what happened between her and Mashiro's uncle. The hair on all of them looks somewhat plastic and fake. I think I discussed this before, but it seems like there's not as much detail in the hair int he girls as there is on the guys. It's really starting to bother me.

But the scene itself was wonderful, and also hillarious. The banter between Azuki's mom and Takagi on "nerds vs. bad boys" was one of the more hilarious moments so far. Satoshi Hino voices him spectacularly. I unfortuantely haven't heard the other roles he's played, so I can't compare them, but at least for Takagi, he is brilliant. Both parts are brilliantly played, actually, but Takagi's performance was just exceptional.

This episode reminded me of why I'dbeen so excited about the Bakuman anime. It was nice to relive my first experiences with this seires. Even though I knew everything that would happen, it was all in a way I hadn't seen so it was like living it for the first time all over again! That was a wonderful feeling, and it's what I love about this adaptation.

On to episode 4!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Sides To Old Stories

I know it's been a little while since you've heard from me. If you follow me on twitter or any of my other regular internet hangouts you probalby know that for me, the past two weeks have been full of sick cats, stressed moms, half-sinished comics, and pulling 3 water color paintings and a 5-minute presentation out of my ass at the last minute. I've been recovering from all of this since last Thrusday, but things seem to be calming down signifcantly now, so I'm going to try and get caught up on the things I've missed.

The great thing is that right as my schedule has calmed down two of my favorite series have entered new arcs. Chatper 424 of "Bleach" and chapter 57 of "Genshiken" both came out today and have manged to light a bit of a fire under me.

Once again, Kubo sets out to remind me why I love his goddamn manga so much. This week was full of Ichigo, his family, and his riends just hanging out, being weirdos, and implying things to come. In canon, it's been more than a year (17 months, if we're getting specific) since the end of the last arc. Ichigo's sisters are entering middle school and Ichigo is now a senior in high school. Uryu seems to have taken over fighting the hollows in Karakura, Orihime and Chad just kind of continue to exist, Keigo and Mizuiro are still dorks, Tatsuki has become hot, and Rukia hasn't shown her face once since she and Ichigo parted ways, which is to be expected I guess.

I'm wondering if Karin will end up as a shinigami or something given that it was pointed out how much stronger her abilites have become since Ichigo lost his. I'm also excited to find out what is going to go on with Ichigo's deputy shinigami badge. I was fairly certain I was the only one who even remembered he had the damned thing, and all of a sudden it's a plot point. I'm curious about this new villain, who seems to have inherited Aizen's evil mullet.

I'm hoping that next week that Urahara/Yoruichi or the Vizard start poking their heads back into the story. I doubt Ichigo is going to give much thought to his missing badge, but I anticipate one/all of them sticking their noses in and forcing him to go get it back for whatever reason. Still also anticipating Urahara injecting Ichigo with reishi and being "LOL YOU'RE A SHINIGAMI AGAIN!". Seem slike his kind of thing.

As I mentioned, this week also brought the long awaited return of "Genshiken". I think it was my sophomore or junior year of college when I sat down and read all nine volumes of "Genshiken" straight through. It is one of two (the other being "Gurren Lagann") that lived up to the hype I'd heard about it from friends before getting into it. Rumors circulated about it for a little while, and then a few months ago the first chapter leaked. This week brought us further in and I am looking forward to the things to come.

Old favorites Ohno and Ogiue are running the Genshiken now, Kuchiki still hanging around and being a creeper, the American transfer Sue still being totally insane and amazing, and a few new members coming in to give new life to the group we all know and love. Familair faces like Sasahara, Saki, and Madarame are also popping up as needed and I'm excited to see how they'll play as now-supporting members of the cast.

In a very out of character turn for me, I've already got a crush on the new member Hato. Hato is a cross-dresser. He goes to school as a boy, but whenever he goes to the Genshiken he changes clothes and makes himself up as a girl. He also seems to avoid the other members during regular school hours and wantes them to see him as boy as little as possible. A few other members are uncomfortable about it, but Ohno and Ogiue, from their past experiences, are already used to this sort of thing and make Madarame give them a key to his apartment so Hato can change clothes there after school instead of having to do it in a bathroom at the school.

There's somethign that I find very endearing about Hato, and I'm interested about all of the new interactions that the members of the Genshiken, new and old, will have. Sue seems to have taken over Madarame's place, even if Ogiue is the chairman, often proclaiming meetings to be the Nth meeting on whatever topic.

I'm still two or three weeks behind on the anime episodes for "Bakuman", but I promise I'll get caught up with those as soon as possible and blog about them. I have caught up with the manga though, and I'm really excited about the direction it's taking. I love Shiratori and I'm looking forward to seeing how Mashiro and Takagi will do working on seires spearate from each other while also still doing Perfect Crime Club. Kaya also continus to just be my favorite character in the damn series.

I'm headed to New England Webcomics Weekend, so I'll be sure to write a post about that as well when I get back!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pleading My Case for Alcyone

WARNING: This blog post contains a metric fuck-ton of spoilers for CLAMP's "Magic Knight Rayearth". This series is 15 years old, so I don't feel bad spoiling it, but I figure a warning is only fair.

So, a while ago I found out that there's going to be a Dark Horse re-release of the Magic Knight Rayearth manga this December. Being a long time fan of the series, I was excited to hear this. I have their omnibus for CLAMP's "Clover" and it's nice to hear they've gotten another of CLAMP's titles from the declining TokyoPop. In honor of this, I've decided to write another opinion piece, regardless of how unpopular this opinion may be.

It's time for an article about my love of Alcyone.

About ten or twelve years ago my cousin bought the fourth VHS tape in the MKR series. It took me a little while to get into, but then I fell head over heels for it. I still own the entire series on VHS, and own both of the original memorial box sets, then followed up in getting the manga and making my way into the fandom. There were a handful of fan-sites and a small but active community on that I'm proud to have been a part of since back then it actually meant something.

But back then, Alcyone was not a well liked character. Even the fan-sites that praised the rest of the antagonist cast showed a strong distaste for her. I don't know if this has changed, since in the middle of my high school career I sort of fell away from being active in fandoms to deal with my own life. But back then she was sort of the black sheep of the Rayearth cast. I liked her, but even in fandoms there was peer pressuer and I never really expressed it. I had started a fanfiction about her early life that was going to go up until she began fighting for Zagato, but I never finished it or made any of it public. This isprobably for the best since, at age 12, I was a terrible writer.

Honstly, the only other Alcyone fans I've ever met are the Super Cosplay Kazoku group when I ran into them at Otakon '10. This is really hard for me to understand, since I think Alcyone is one of the most sympathetic, tragic, and amazing characters in the series. She does things and has ideals that are't far off from lead heros and heroines in other series. But for some reason, coming from her, these traits are bad. I see her modern equvalant to be, hoenstly, Adiane the Elegant from "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann" and even she is looked on more favorably than Alcyone.

So here me out on this one, and let me plead my case for one of my favorite characters of all time.

I want to start with the fact that not only does Alcyone have the best intentions, she is also more honest with the Magic Knights than any other character in this series. I can (and probably will) write an entirely separate post on how Clef spent this whole seires lying through his teeth to everyone and he's supposed to be the mentor/guide/all-around good helpful guy. Emeraude also ies to the girls about what she needs them for, and Zagato never really explains to them what's going on when they fight him. Mokona obviously knows but doesn't try to alert them. Even the mashin, who must have known what purpose they were created for, didn't bother to tell the Magic Knights that they were on a fantastic epic journey to commit a murder.

Of course, Alcyone doesn't fill them in on this either, but she doesn't need to. Any time the Magic Knights ask her a question she answers them honestly. Why is she fighting them when they are "saving" her world? Because she loves Zagato and he wants them dead. She is blindly fighting in the honor of the man she loves. Shonen and shojo protagonists do this all the time. Hell, the second half of Gurren Lagann awas about Simon disregarding the laws of time and space to save his girlfriend who was trying to end the world at the time. So why, coming from Alcyone, is this trait viewed so negatively?

Can we stop for a second and break down exactly what Alcyone is doing? Because I think when you strip it down to bare bones it says a lot for her character.

Emeraude is, essentially, trying to kill herself by summoning the Magic Knights because she can't be in love with Zagato and also support Cephiro. Zagato is trying to kill the Magic Knights because he loves Emeraude and he doesn't think it's fair that she has to sacrifice herself jsut because she wants to love someone. Alcyone, because she loves Zagato, threw away her ties to Clef and her career as an Ile (a magic user) for the royal family and attendant to Emeraude, to serve the man she loved knowing that he loved someone else. Okay lets strip this down. Alcyone is fighting for the man show loves who is fighting for the woman he loves.

Alcyone is fighting to protect the woman who took the man she loves.

She loves Zagato so much that she will fight for what he wants, even if it means she'll be unhappy in the end. She wants his happiness above all else, even her own life and the lives of every single other person in the world. Guys, that is a beautiful beautiful thing. I don't know many people, real or fictional, who have it in themselves to make that choice. Certainly no one else in the cast has that level of devotion.

Another thing about Alcyone that I think made her unpopular is the fact that she fails multiple times and then begs Zagato to let her try again. On the count of her failings, let me point out that no one the girls fought actually succeeded against them and got no closer to it than Alcyone did. She had the girls on he ropes several times before they would power up and defeat her, just like any of the others Zagato sent after the Magic Knights.

As for her going back to Zagato begging for another chance... I find that far more appealing than Ascot and Caldina turning tail and defecting to the other side. Lafarga is an exception in that he was brainwashed. This also says nothing of Inouva (who is an anime-only character) who died when he fought the Magic Knights and therfore didn't get to choose what he did after he failed. But getting back to the point, Alcyone stuck to her cause. She devoted herself to Zagato and fighting for his happiness. Even if she knew he wouldn't love her, she still hoped to earn his respect.

In the manga she goes, literally, crawling back to him after her second fight to ask for his forgiveness. A lot of people might look down on her for this, even though she lost her life (to Zagato) trying to earn his respect. This is, I guess, another problem people have with her. First of all, she was set on fire and then nearly drowned in quick successon. I'd love to see anyone else walk around unscathed after that.

In the anime, Alcyone survives into the second season where she's corrupted by Debonair and, for a while, goes completely bat-shit mother fucking insane. Pardon my language, but that's really the only proper way to describe it. The female cast briefly sits and discusses her in a group-bath segment though they don't discuss more than her chest size. Otherwise she spends the maority of the season trying to kill everyone and mistaking Lantis for Zagato.

But in the last episode, Slcyone makes the choice to sacrifice her own life in order to try and help the Magic Knights locate Debonair. She does not claim she made the wrong decisions (which earns her my admiration in even THEN sticking by her ideals and her love for Zagato), but does express regret that she had to hurt people for those choices. She repents, and suffers what seems like a very painful death while trying to give Umi, Fuu, and Presea's sister the information they need. Again, how many would do that without hesitation instead of having to hide, consider it, and then maybe sacrifice themselves?

I know this was a long one to get through, but I hope that if you had a low opinion of Alcyone I've managed to raise it a bit. And if you didn't have an opinion yet, I hope that when Dark Horse's release of "Magic Knight Rayearth" is released you'll read it and take what I've said into consideration when judging Alcyone.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Old 97's: "The Grand Theatre"

So I spend most of my time here at RTQ talking about anime and manga, occasionally about something else involving cartoons and comics. But today I'm deviating slightly from my normal model to talk about music. As far as music goes, I have a very eclectic taste that cecenters in the realm of Rock and Country. I grew up on, primarily, what my parents listened to. I am lucky in that both of my parents have amazing taste in music.

When I was in middle school, my mother discovered the Old 97's. This discovery was passed on to me, and both of us have been huge fans ever since. I have an oddly distinct memory of sitting in my middle school cafeteria humming "Jagged" while I waited for the rest of my table to come off the lunch line. Mom and I have seen the Old 97's, and Rhett Miller solo, several times when they've been in New Jersey or NYC and have loved every show we went to. We still reflect fondly at the absolutely stellar show they did at Styuvesant High School in June 2006.

Recently, the Old 97's released "The Grand Theatre: Volume One". A friend of my mom's gave it to her, she brought it home, I burned it onto my laptop, and listened to it on one of my train rides up into the city for class. Since the Old 97's are so near and dear to my heart, I thought I'd cover this newest album here and hopefully spread word of them a little further out.

The Old 97's started as an Alt. Country band out of Texas and have gotten progressivly more "Rock" over the years, thus their appeal to me. The opening track, "The Grand Theatre", really reflects how much Rock has infused into them over the years. But even as soon as track 3 and 4, "The Magician", there's a bit of a throwback to the rock-infused-country energy from earlier albums, and track 4, "You Were Born To Be In Battle", and track 6, "Let The Whiskey Take The Reigns", hold a lot of their old country spirit that proves that they haven't thrown away their roots but have simply grown from them. They even pay a bit of tribute to their Texas roots with "A State of Texas".

Favorite tracks include "The Magician" and "Champaign, Illinois", which both seem to echo a bit of what I loved about earlier albums. Least favorites include "You Smoke Too Much" and "Love Is What You Are". They're both still great songs, but they'd drop to the bottom if I were to rank the tracks from favorite to least favorite.

Over all, "The Grand Theater" is a good album. Not my favorite, but still very enjoyable from start to finish. If you're already a fan, it's a great album to add to your collection, and if you haven't heard them yet it's a good place to start.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Samurai Girls and Detective Girls

So, I spend several days a week at the apartment of my good friend Downtown Otaku, since my class hours are kind of ridiculous and he's the kind of awesome dude that will let me crash at his place if I need to. We've taken to watching a few episodes of anime every week as a break from our homework and there are two series that just started that we're really getting into.

-- Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls --

I'm not going to lie. We came to Samruai Girls for the fan service (And there is a LOT of it. Constantly.), but we're staying for the plot. the first episode was actually aired weeks ago as a leaked preview of the series, and we watched it then and picked up with episode 2 this week.

The series has something to do with a school full of samurai women, and some guy arriving to meet with the student president or something like that. He runs into a couple students getting changed, and they bicker about that before ending up getting into a bit of trouble with the student council and being pursued by a ninja-maid, before our real lead female arrives, falling out of the sky. This girl is apparently some kind of "master samurai", and in certain situations is incredibly powerful and fairly terrifying, but out of battle is weak, air-headed, and kind of ridiculous. So far we're not sure what triggers this change in personality.

The thing that really kept me attracted to Samurai Girls was the visuals. If, like me, you played and loved the visuals in the Capcom/Clover game "Okami", you'll be sucked in by the visual style of Samurai Girls. While the characters themselves are done in a fairly traditional style (though they have some weighty linework), the backgrounds and settings are very artistic, graphic, and stylized. Espeically in episode 2, theya re very reminicent of the feeling brought by the settings in Okami.

-- Tantei Opera Milky Holmes --

Another friend and I have frequent discussions about how the anime market is currently over-satruated with "moe" lolicon series that are all cute girls and no sustance. It sells, and right now with the world economy the way it is, studios are just making whatever they can market to large audiences.
At first glance, Mily Holmes might seem like one of these series. But underneath there seems to be more substance to it than that. The entire time we were watching, DTO and I kept asking each other "Is this really episode 1? Are we sure there's not more story before this?" And, upon research, there is a PSP game and a TCG that probably have the backstory, but in subsequent episodes, I have faith that I'll learn everything I need to know.

Milky Holmes is set in "the age of great detectives and gentleman theives", and focuses on a school full of budding detectives. It centers around four girls who make up the team known as "Milky Holmes", four girls (all named after great detectives) who were taught by a famous detective and are said to be the best in the school. There adversary is a female theif (who is undercover in the school as the student president) and her three henchman (who disguise themselves as personell and students at the school).

In order to "be a detective" you have to have and be able to control a magic/psychic ability called a "Toy". In the first episode, the girls lose the ability to use their Toys and thus lose all of their privileges at the school such as special meals, private luxury rooms, and being allowed to skip classes.

So far, the four girls of Milky Holmes sort of blend into each other a bit (in the way that a group of girls in a "moe" series tend to), but they do all have very distinct personalites, and the mosre I watch I'm sure the more i'll be able to pull them apart from one another. In contrast, the four antagonists of the series are all strikingly different from one another, and play off of each other and Milky Holmes in ways that are quirky, hilarious, and incredibly fun. The antagonists quickly and easily became my favorites and I can't wait to see how they use the lack of Milky Holmes' toys further to their advantage.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Hub: Bringing Back The Classics

All over NYC, I've been seeing ads for a new children's/family station called "HUB" that went on the air on October 10th. I didn't think much of it. From the ads, it seemed like it was all just new rehashings of old franchises. New Transformers and Strawberry Shortcake, plus some original things that just didn't interest me at all.

On the 10th, I was at Downtown Otaku's, and we were channel surfing in the middle of the night. I was half asleep when he came across Hub, and spent several seconds staring at the television before I blurted out "Is that the old Men In Black cartoon?!"

It was.

We scrolled ahead through the lineup and saw a million things from our childhoods lined up. Men in Black the Animated Series, Atomic Betty, Batman Beyond... Not just rehashings, but the old cartoons and shows we had grown up with and loved. I saw Fraggle Rock on the line up and nearly cried.

In an age when children's programming is heavy-handed, all Nickelodean airs in "Spongebob Squarepants", Cartoon Network is starting to rely on live-action, and Disney Television has lost every entertaining bone in it's body, it's good to see that someone is still here keeping entertainment alive.

I've been watching Hub for a few days now, and those following me on twitter will have seen me proclaim multiple times that it is the best network ever. In the late morning I can watch Fraggle Rock, in the afternoon I can watch Men In Black and Batman Beyond, and in the evening I can watch Laverne & Shirley and old live-action Adam West Bataman.

This channel really has something for everyone. Kids who want Strawberry Shortcake or Transformers, parents who want Doogie Howser M.D. and Laverne & Shirley, twenty-somethings in between who want the cartoons they grew up with in the 90's. When Hub says they're a network for "Kids and their families", they are not lying. Anyone could find a good hour or two worth of programming to watch on Hub.

So, Hub, I'm sorry for doubting you. You're keeping good television alive, and I give you points for that. I hope you've got the chops to keep up as you are right now.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Bakuman EP 2 - Keeping the momentum.

Right off the bat, I've got to say, I love the opening song and ending song more and more every time I hear them. I maybe the only Bakuman fan I know that lie the opening, but this week even more than last week it really felt appropriate. Same with the ending. when I heard it start, it only emphasized the energy of the situation and pulled me into being eager for next week and watching episode 3.

I really kept my ear to the ground this week and tried to actively listen for the background music in episode 2 so that I could comment on it. In doing so, I noticed that in many scenes they don't use any background music at all. Even in scenes that are just conversation, the ambient background is often very quiet until some great revelation is point of thought is made. These choices on when to start and stop the background music are brilliant. It brings importance to certain mmoments that might not have come through as well if there had been a musical underscore the whole time.

The music itself is stunning. The tracks I most noticed were the slower, more sentimental ones, but in the final scene, during Mashiro's running montage there is a more upbeat, lively song that I also found to be absolutely wonderful. As soon as I can, I want to get my hands on the soundtrack and just listen to it straight, without having the anime along with it to distract me.

Right now, we are still in the fledgling stages of Bakuman, so it's really hard to comment on it as I would the manga right now. We haven't gotten to any manga creation, the comradere and rivalry in Jump, the first appearance of Niizuma Eiji, or even all of Takagi's lady troubles. However, Takagi's lady troubles WERE beautifuly foreshadowed in episode two in his conversation with Iwase about the exams they were about to take, punctuated by Kaya passing by telling Miho how she didn't study at all.

I'm still very iffy on the visuals in Bakuman. It's not Mashiro and Takagi that bother me, as I said last week. It's the girls. Iwase, now that she's come in, feels as equally off as Miho and Kaya. I don't know why, but Miho and Iwase have been given brown and purple hair respectively, when in the manga both of them had black hair. That is throwing me significantly.

Mashiro's blue isn't bothering me, mostly because his hair is blue in all of the color spots, and I'm accustomed to it, but even in the color spots, Miho and Iwase's hair is dark and near-black. It may have a tint of the colors they were given in the anime, but it's not nearly as blatant. Kaya's hair is also more red in the color illustrations than it is the light brown in the anime. Also her hair seems to have a lot more texture in the manga than the anime. I don't know why it was simplifed, or if I'm just imagining it, but it really pulls me out of her character.

One thing about the episode that was incredibly strange to me was how every time that Mashiro flashed back to his conversation with Miho in the previous episode, he flashed back to the moment he aske dher to marry him, and only up to her runing away afterward. The flashback never includes where she agrees and the terms that go with it, even if they are acknowledged in conversation. Also he never looks back on it and smiles.

I understand that he's feeling determined and wants to prove himself to Miho, but isn't that something to smile about? If he can accomplish his dream, he'll be with the girl he loves. Instead he looks very somber and serious, as if he's been rejected and the only way to redeem himself to her is to become an accomplished manga-ka, which isn't the case at all.

Next week looks like we're getting into the history between Mashiro's uncle and Miho's mom, and the parallels to Mashiro and Miho they draw. Hopefully we'll also start leading into Takagi and Kaya, since I'd obviously love to see more of them given that they're my favorites in the series. After that we'll likely start getting into Niizuma Eiji and the nitty-gritty manga side of Bakuman.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Bleach 423 - The End Of An Era

So, this week in "Bleach" the conflict with Aizen finally, after four or five years, came to a close. I promised myself that when this happened I'd blog about it since it's a pretty big turning point in the nerd world. Even if you're not into "Bleach", if you hang out even marginally in the anime/manga fandom circles you're bound to be at least aware of how long this has been going on.

And anyone who follows me on twitter, or talks to me on LiveJournal or on instant messengers or even knows me offline, knows how frustrated I've been for a while now because all of this constant random fighting just bores me to tears. Especially since they just go on forever, happen simultaneously, and make it damn near impossible to figure out how much time has passed.

But this week has reminded me why I love this series and why I keep reading it. Because there was no fighting this week. this week was the whole cast being dorks.

I love "Bleach" for it's characters. It's story is decent even if it's sometimes poorly handled, but it's characters are what make it shine and why I believe it's so popular. It's cast is larger than it has to be, but no one member of the cast is just like any other. "Bleach" presents a vast range of characters with an equally vast range of personalities and motivations. This, unfortunately, gets lost in the grunting shouting man fights that occupy about 75% of this series.

But that other 25% that is comprised of characters hanging out together being sarcastic and witty and weird and showcasing their crazy personalities. We really only get this between arcs, which means right now we're in for it for a little while and I can enjoy this series like I used to.

I think my favorite part about this chapter was how Aizen was handled. Last week Ichigo tried to sympathize with Aizen. He theorized that Aizen was doing all of this because he was "lonely" because no one could match him, or some shit along those lines. Me and several of my friends got very annoyed by this. There has never been anything "sympathetic" about Aizen. The dude is just batshit. I don't care how "lonely" he is, it isn't an excuse for multi-planal genocide.

But this week Aizen decided to remind us that he's not sympathetic. He takes his sentencing, and laughs in the face of those condeming him.

Does anyone remember my post on Bleach running on the DBZ principal? Because this week it was finally proven by Rukia.

His hair was getting longer because he had more power. Now that he's lost his power, it got short again.

This lead into Rukia and Ichigo parting ways again. I've read this chapter about three times since it went up, and I cry every time. These kind of goodbyes always get me. However, I know this isn't the end. I've heard that we're getting two more arcs (one 6-8 months long, one 2-3 years long). And even if I didn't know that for sure, Ichigo and Rukia have had to part ways twice before and look where that got us? She'll be back.

Given the state Ichigo's in, I'm curious as to how things will pick up again. Kubo Tite has once against it up so that I have to come back in two weeks when Bleach's hiatus is up to see where this story goes.

I'm still predicting that Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi is going to be the next big bad, since he's still running around in Hueco Mundo when he gets bored, and he was making some threats at Ichigo before he left Hueco. I'm also wondering if, in this new arc, Grimmjow and Nel will make their way out of the plot-sink they were sucked into, since we're still involving Hueco and all.

So, in two weeks, Bleach will come back and we'll start whatever new story Kubo's going to string us along into. Once we're into that, I'll do my best to let you all know what I think. Because my opinion on this is clearly incredibly valuable to you all.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Bakuman" episode 1: Starting strong right out of the gate!

Ah you guys!!! I just got through watching the first episode of the "Bakuman" anime! I've been excited about this for months, and the last few weeks my friends and I have really been building up to it. This morning I watched raws of the opening and ending sequences, and a little bit of the episode, then decided to wait for fansubs to watch the rest!

I was confused when I started and got the opening for "Super Hero Legend", in my mind I recognized what it was but I kept wondering if I was watching the wrong thing by mistake. But when it faded to a young Mashiro reading the manga for "Super Hero Legend", I laughed.

Then the real opening sequence began...

I instantly fell in love. Especially given the context of the early story, which focuses mostly on Mashiro and Miho, I felt that this opening was really appropriate. It focuses mostly on Mashiro and Miho, with a backtone of Takagi and Kaya. It really sets the tone for the start of the story, and I am just in love with the song, "Blue Bird" by Kobukuro.

So far it's pretty faithful to the manga. The "Death Note" joke was retained, and that was great for me. As of episode one, I have no complaints about how the anime is following the manga. Still, this is episode one so it's a little hard to tell just what direction the anime will roll in.

As for the visuals, I'm about 75%. I like the way Mashiro and Takagi are presented. They feel very natural and they look like themselves. Takagi pulled out some really great expressions, though as of now some of the comedic faces don't seem to have come through in the anime. I'm not sure how many really showed up this early on, so I'm hoping that they just haven't gotten a chance to really make those expressions yet and will pull through on it in the future.

But the girls... The girls are my sticking point right now. Kaya doesn't feel like herself to me at all. Of course we've seen almost nothing of her, so it's hard to really say what the problem is. But as for Miho, it's her eyes. In the manga, and even in Mashiro's drawings of her in the anime, Miho's eyes are very wide, bright, and expressive of the fact that she's a very hopeful, dreamy character. In the anime, her eyes don't always express that, and it's a little disappointing to me. I hope that as the anime progresses I lose this feeling and Miho's eyes begin to feel more natural to her character for me, because I really love Miho and those qualities about her.

The voice acting completely wins my support. My favorite is Takagi, who is being voiced by Hino Satoshi. I'm not familiar with any of his previous roles, even though he's had some major ones. But he really gives Takagi the energy, cunning, and personality that the manga always made me believe he has.

I'm really excited about some of the other voices (which are all listed on one of Wikipedia's "Bakuman" articles) for supporting characters who haven't appeared yet. Fukuda is going to be voiced by Suwabe Junichi, who voiced Grimmjow in "Bleach", and I feel like this is a perfect fit.

The background music is hard for me to comment on, as I tend to lose track of it while watching. But I suppose that is a good thing. It makes me comfortable watching the things going on and doesn't jar me or pull me out of the story at all. It feels natural to the events occurring while it plays.

As for the ending sequence, I'm just as in love with it as the opening.

Here we get to see a lot more of the backbone of what "Bakuman" is and will be. We get to see our supporting cast done up in manga panels, showcasing their personalities. The song is "Bakurock: Outline the Future" by Ya-kyim. The song has some drawing puns in it, which I think is fantastic, and the tone of the song just really fits the overall tone of "Bakuman".

Out of the gate, "Bakuman" gets a solid "A" from me, and I'm really really looking forward to episode 2 next week! I'll do my best to follow through with reviews on each episode if I have time and remember to!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Getting started with Pokemon: Best Wishes

So, I sat and watched the first two episodes of "Pokemon: Best Wishes" just now as a break from my nearly-completed homework. I have to say, it's following the model pokemon has set for itself pretty closely so far.

I watched it entirely for Araragi, but I might stick around for Iris and Dent. (Dent hasn't shown up yet but I'm looking forward to it.) Araragi seemed pretty standard fare for professors who aren't Prof. Oak. She didn't get much of a personality, but I'm hoping this will change in the future. She got excited over Pikachu since he's not from Isshu, but otherwise didn't come across as anything special, which is a shame.

Iris on the other hand is adorable. She does a lot of making fun of Ash, but I think my favorite thing about her is that her Kibago lives/rides in her hair. I'm looking forward to what she brings to the series since she seems very different to Ash's previous 3 female side-kicks. she's is excitable and not as egotistical or vain as the past three.

I am less impressed with Shooti, who seems to be the basic douche-canoe rival, this time with the "exciting" twist of obsessively taking pictures of everything. His only redeeming quality is that he chose Tsutarja as his starter pokemon. Though, I really don't blame him for being kind of a jerk to Ash. Shooti was trying to pick his starter and get his journey started, and Ash was kind of up in his space and being a pain in the ass.

Shooti and Ash had a battle in the first episode which Ash lost because Zekrom broke Pikachu's electrical abilities... And then... fixed them? I'm really confused by this event. I'd heard about it before I watched the episodes, but it sounded like it was something that was going to go on for a while. But it was cleared up in like five minutes. And while it was hilarious to watch Ash tell Pikachu to use all of his electrical attacks on him, I'm bothered by this. Unless it's going to be something that happens regularly (which may just get annoying), it is a really unnecessary plot hiccup.

Though, so far, I think my favorite part is Mijumaru...

Don't be fooled by his cute face. This little guy is the craziest stalker. He was disappointed that Shooti didn't pick him as his starter, and I guess decided to follow Ash around. He saves them all from Team Rocket, who surprisingly would have finally gotten away with stealing Pikachu (and Kibago) if Mijumaru hadn't stepped in. I'm sure eventually Ash will catch him officially, but for now he's just following them around, akin to that crazy old stalker Jigglypuff.

So, I'll keep watching to see where it goes, but for now it seems like Best Wishes is following the set-up that the previous seasons have created. I'm hoping that Best Wishes will break out of it a bit in the near future. We'll have to see.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Clone High: The Manga

Ages ago, Suri and I were in our local B&;N and we found a manga called "Afterschool Charisma". The cover featured a fairly standard teenage boy alongside teenage... historical figures. On the front was Marie Curie, on the back was Sigmund Freud, Napolean Bonaparte, and Florence Nightingale. Flipping through, it seemed to be about this boy going to a high school full of cloned historical figures.

I turned to Suri and said, "I just found Clone High: The Manga".

Last Friday I went out with my friends Hillary and Philip (or Letao. I'm not sure what he prefers to be called at this point) to finally see Scott Pilgrim. I guess that should have it's own write-up, but it probably won't since you've likely all seen it already. That's what I get for being late to the party.

But after lunch and before the movie we stopped at the big-ass B&N in Union Square. Now, I've made jokes about this manga to everyone I've been in a B&N with since I first found it. But this time I actually worked up the nerve to buy it.

As anticipated, it's so bad that it's spectacular. It's pretty ridiculous, but if you're willing to not take it seriously and ignore the fact that it is basically kicking history in the balls it is a pretty entertaining read. Basically, if you have an opinion on "Axis Powers Hetalia", you pretty much already have an opinion on "Afterschool Charisma", because you are going to think the same things. You're going to enjoy it because it's ridiculous (though AC is not a straight comedy like Hetalia), or you're going to hate it for being dumb about history.

Like I've said, the basic stripped down plot is basically the same as Clone High. Various historical figures have been cloned and are in high school. There is also Shiro, the son of the man who cloned all of the historical figures, attending high school with them. Many of the clones have a bias against him since he is not a clone like them, but he's still managed to amass a group of friends, so really it's just like normal high school except he calls his friends "Queen Elizabeth" and "Joan of Arc" or by their full or last names, which is really kind of weird if you think about it.

He was apparently pretty close with Marie Curie, but she's out of the picture before the first volume even starts, her departure setting up some of the conflict within the story. Mostly with Mozart, who is mostly a complete tool for all of the time we spend with him. He has his reasons for this, but still he comes across as a total jerk.

There's also the fact that the first clone, of JFK, is assassinated when he announces he's going to run for president, leading into a plot involving a mysterious group planning to kill all of the clones. On top of that, a few of the clones have formed some kind of cult worshiping Dolly, the first successfully cloned mammal. This hasn't amounted to much yet, but I'm hoping something interesting will come of it.

My favorite characters so far are Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, Napolean Boneparte, and (as tasteless as it may sound) Adolf Hitler.

I know, I know. It's Hitler. Hitler is bad and everything he did is bad and heaven knows I will never try and argue that. But that is exactly what makes Clone-Hitler so interesting in this manga. No one likes him. Well, Shiro does, but only because they had a conversation about everyone hating both of them based on their circumstances. (Hitler being Hitler and Shiro being not a clone.) Hitler is willing to accept not having any of the clones as his friends and being alone most of the time, and claims it is "punishment for his sins".

As Hitler puts it, they are the "clone and non-clone odd-men-out". I find this to be incredibly interesting. If he's handled well as a character he could make for some very very interesting storytelling. I like the potential that he has, and that they just outright acknowledge that "Hitler = As bad as it gets". It makes Clone!Hitler sympathetic without making Real!Hitler sympathetic. (Because he's not.)

When Suri and I first found the manga and flipped through it, we founds a scene with Hitler and Joan Of Arc arguing (after reading it, I learned they were arguing over whether or not Shiro can understand their feelings as clones since he is not one) and declared that I shipped Joan/Hitler. After reading it, I still kind of do. Joan unfortunately gets minimal face-time in the first volume, but is shown to have some really interesting insecurities involving being a clone.

But Joan of Arc makes the cover of volume 2, so I'm hoping that means that in vol 2, we get to see a lot more of her and that the whole "Dolly Cult" (which is run by Rasputin and some girl who was unnamed) will be further explored.

Unfortunately it seems that Volume 2 isn't hitting stores until mid-January, and I can't find it online anywhere. So I'm left hanging for the next four months until it finally comes out.

As a warning, there are some nude boobs in "Afterschool Charisma". It s a manga, so really you shouldn't be surprised. I was more shocked that I missed it when I was flipping through with Suri than the fact that it was actually there. It only happens in two brief scenes, and both end in hilarity.

So if you're a mature reader who can handle that sort of thing without getting OMGOFFENDEDATBOOBS and are willing to laugh at historical inaccuracy, definitely pick up the first volume, enjoy it, and wait with me until January when we can read more!

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