07-Ghost 1-10 aka The Trend continues

14 06 2009

07-Ghost - copyright Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara, Studio DEEN

07-Ghost - copyright Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara, Studio DEEN

When I started watching 07-Ghost I was pretty excited about it – the military theme was neat, the visuals were shiny, the characters bishounen … and then it got boring.

From episode 2 to around episode 8 nothing happened.

Seriously, nothing happened. There were mermaids for some reason, and that was about it.

Teito is an action!bishounen for two seconds - copyright Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara, Studio DEEN

Teito is an action!bishounen for two seconds - copyright Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara, Studio DEEN

The “daring” escape from the first episode made me think this would be an exciting anime with a unique fighting system, or at the very least a suspenseful cat-and-mouse game with the main bishounen fighting for his life against an all-powerful enemy.

Not so much.

Continued after the cut – contains spoilers! Read the rest of this entry »


Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Vol.1 (Manga)

30 05 2009

SZS is a niche manga. Period.

Just the title alone is enough to send casual manga readers packing, with its unapologetic, multi-syllabic Japanese, chock-full of consonants and an abundance of ‘u’s.

Once past the cover, first-time readers will be impressed by the artwork and confused by the dialogue. If they make it through to the daunting 11 pages of translator’s notes at the end, they’ll have gotten a small introduction to the ironic, sardonic, cynical, reference-filled, parodying world of bizarre characters that is Class 2-F, led by Mr. Despair himself.

SZS is bound to have another set of readers, however, and I have the feeling that Del Rey is counting on the hard-earned (or not) cash of the second set: the socially inept yet strangely socially conscious, black-humor loving, translator’s notes reading, anime/manga completionist Otaku. (Yeah, this is definitely where I fit in, I won’t deny it.)

Zetsubou-Sensei & his class - copyright Koji Kumeta, Del Rey

Zetsubou-Sensei & his class - copyright Koji Kumeta, Del Rey

The first volume of SZS sets the stage and introduces the main characters with short vignettes that explain each girl’s background.

Nozomu Itoshiki is an incredibly negative person who constantly despairs and dreams of suicide. Kafuka is an intense and oddly cheerful person who refuses to believe in negative events, even when they are happening before her eyes. Itoshiki ends up being the homeroom teacher in Kafuka’s class, and the story unfolds from there.

Kafuka works as Sensei’s foil, constantly thwarting his suicide attempts and refuting his rants against society. The series focuses on Sensei’s exploits in a classroom full of students as bizarre as he is. Five other characters are introduced in Volume 1, each with a quirk or characteristic that defines them and sets them apart (for instance, Meru, who only communicates through email – her name coming from the Japanese pronunciation of “Mail”).

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei Vol 1 - copyright Koji Kumeta, Del Rey

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei Vol 1 - copyright Koji Kumeta, Del Rey

Readers like me will have seen seasons 1 & 2 of the anime, as well as the 3 OVA’s that have been released in Japan; For these readers, SZS Volume 1 does not disappoint.

Del Rey’s adaptation preserves the strangely gorgeous full page spreads, as well as the extras such as attendance file inserts for the class members, the mock “sneak preview” that was released before the first chapter, the author’s ramblings in his “paper blogs”, the full text of Meru’s hateful email to Sensei, and more. Fans will recognize most of this material from the anime and appreciate its inclusion.

Japanese-language purists will appreciate Del Rey’s use of honorifics, and the reference-nuts can’t help but be pleased by the translator’s notes at the end (11 pages worth! Though I honestly wonder how much was cut for space …).

Even the cover pleases me as a fan of the series – the simple design with Sensei standing at attention holding his briefcase portable suicide kit is set against a cheerful pale pink, flowery background with lively pink lettering. It’s the perfect way to undercut the black humor of the series with it’s deceptively cute characters and artwork.

For all his craziness and generally dark view of society, Kumeta is also an excellent artist. His style is crisp and clean, with his lines so sharp that the anal-retentive, OCD character would undoubtedly approve. His art is incredibly detailed without becoming cluttered, and his contrast of white space with solid black is striking. First time readers may be put off by the bizarre characters or abundance of in-jokes and references, but they certainly won’t be by the art style.

The manga version of SZS won’t disappoint readers already familiar with the sociopathic 2F classroom, but it is a niche title whose black humor and extreme parodies will not appeal to everyone. Kumeta’s artwork is beautiful and bizarre, as are his characters.

Del Rey’s version certainly did the best it possibly could with this complex source material, but I don’t expect SZS to be a best-seller by any stretch of the imagination.

Our first introduction to Despair-Sensei - copyright Koji Kumeta

Our first introduction to Despair-Sensei - copyright Koji Kumeta

I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly Hetalia reminds me of…

22 05 2009

Hetalia! Copyright Hidekaz Himaruya, Studio DEEN

Hetalia! Copyright Hidekaz Himaruya, Studio DEEN

Hetalia: Axis Powers is like this:

You know that guy you knew in high school that was way into History, specifically WW2?
Maybe he was a teacher, maybe Government or Politics or even History, something like that?

He collected WW2 memorabilia in his garage and talked about the decisions that the US made like he was there – even though he’s only 35. He knew every battle, every concentration camp, every army division’s position, every bombing of London, knew the names of the grandkids of the guy who painted the design on Little Boy.

You know that guy?

Hetalia is what would happen if that guy dropped a bunch of acid and totally spaced out – and Korean animators drew everything he saw on his wacked-out trip through history.

And…uh…he knew Japanese, so the whole thing was in Japanese.

That’s what Hetalia reminds me of.

Just one hell of a butler … har har (it’s a pun in Japanese, you see)

26 04 2009

My thoughts on Kuroshitsuji, or Black Butler. I had read the first chapter or two of the manga a while back and thought it was pretty amusing (and the artwork was gorgeous) but there wasn’t quite enough to keep me reading. I feel pretty much the same about the anime, though I did really enjoy parts of it!

Sebastian Michaelis - copyright Yana Toboso, A-1 Pictures

Sebastian Michaelis - copyright Yana Toboso, A-1 Pictures

Kuroshitsuji has all the elements of an anime that I generally like, as if it were tailor-made for fans like me. But even knowing this, it still failed to live up to its potential completely and didn’t grab me as much or as quickly as it should.

I’ve used a lot of pictures in this review, so I’ll cut it … also, obviously contains spoilers for all of the series, so read at your own risk! Read the rest of this entry »

Books: Twilight vs. Sookie Stackhouse

25 04 2009

I love vampires. They’re a really fun supernatural trope to play with, and I love to read vampire books. My all-time favorite vampire book is, hands down, “The Vampire Lestat” by Anne Rice – I know, it’s a cliche, but it’s also a really good book.

Lately, I’ve been reading the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris and really enjoying them – the fact that each one is a self-contained mystery is really fun, and Sookie herself is a hoot.

In reading “Dead to the world“, I noticed a some similarities between events in this book and “New Moon”, the second book in the Twilight series. I won’t even link anything to Twilight because really, everyone knows the tweeny vamp series by now. I love to hate Twilight, and someday I’ll go on a huge rant as to why.

So anyways, here is my mashup of “New Moon” vs. “Dead to the World”!

Copyright Stephenie Meyer, Charlaine Harris

Copyright Stephenie Meyer, Charlaine Harris

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: PeaceMaker Kurogane Volume 1

17 04 2009

PeaceMaker Kurogane Volume 1 is not actually the first volume in this series – though ADV did license and distribute this one a couple of years ago without ever doing the first series. This is a new version by Tokyopop. Confusing!

PMK Volume 1 - Copyright Tokyopop, Nanae Chrono

PMK Volume 1 - Copyright Tokyopop, Nanae Chrono

In Japan, the first set of volumes to the story by Nanae Chrono was called “Shinsengumi Imon PeaceMaker” – which Tokyopop shortened to “PeaceMaker” – Ok, fine.

But then the series switched magazines in Japan, and became known as “PeaceMaker Kurogane” – which Tokyopop kept as is. Ok, fine. But ADV actually did a version of PeaceMaker Kurogane a couple of years ago … without ever doing the first series (“Shinsengumi Imon PeaceMaker”). So there are now two versions of the second part of the series (the new, Tokyopop one is what I’m reading) but only one version of the first series, by Tokyopop.


So, instead of stating the fact that PMK comes after PeaceMaker 1-5 … Tokyopop just calls it PMK Volume 1 and lets readers figure it out.

This is probably not the way I would have done things, but then again, I’m obviously not paid to do these things. So, confusing even loyal PeaceMaker fans, we have PeaceMaker Kurogane Volume 1, by Tokyopop.

Since it isn’t made completely obvious – PMK is a continuation of PeaceMaker and should be read after PeaceMaker volume 5. NOT BEFORE! The entire gag of the first chapter depends on previous knowledge of the characters – without knowing how ridiculous and juvenile Tetsunosuke is, or how hard-nosed and downright cruel Hijikata is … the joke would sail right over the reader’s head.

This volume jumps straight back to the story (after a brief time-skip of 3 months – which actually seems too short…) and builds on the incidents of PeaceMaker volume 5, which Japanese history buffs (and anime fans who pay attention) will be familiar with – the Ikedaya incident.

Dealing with the aftermath of the bloodbath at Ikedaya, the series turns a little darker, a little angstier, and adds a dash of the supernatural. I enjoyed the darker feel of the volume, but it may turn off fans who were simply looking for sword-fighting bishounen. The comedy is still there, as are the awesome sword fights – but there are also severed heads, pedophiles and creepy cat-children.

The mangaka even apologizes at the end of the volume for the “unpleasant scenes” and states that she is “mindful of the growing angst.” Even though this volume does deal with a lot of pretty disturbing subjects, it also adds character to Suzu (who had been pretty flat before, simply worshiping his psycho master Yoshida but lacking any personality of his own) and makes Tetsunosuke a little more interesting and a lot less annoying (taking away some of the Naruto-ness of his character).

The darkness of PMK Volume one adds a sort of spooky, doomed atmosphere to the story – which fits right in with the story of the Shinesngumi, not exactly a happy chapter in Japanese history.

One problem I had with this volume is that I’m really getting into the story – and yes, that’s a problem. Because I know that it’s going to end, and abruptly. The series never got a satisfactory ending in Japan, ceasing publication before the story concluded. The fact that I’ll never get to read the ending is leaving me in despair!

I’m really starting to dig the creepy atmosphere, and Suzu as an evil villain, gearing up for Yamanami’s betrayal and the upcoming drama with Itou – along with the introduction (finally!) of Sakamoto Ryoma, the weirdly awesome character with inexplicable dreadlocks. But I know it doesn’t have an ending! Despair! Despair, I tell you!

Taking a look at the various Spring ’09 Anime Previews around the web…

2 04 2009

…and these are the two that I think I’ll be interested in the most:


From Studio DEEN, directed by Norihiro Takamoto, and adapted from the manga by Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara.

This looks to be pretty standard shounen action/fantasy fare – complete with the military, best friends torn apart by … something (maybe the military?), amnesia, confronting the person that killed your father, and some sort of magical combat.

But! It looks pretty cool from the trailer, and I’m a huge sucker for Mitsuki Saiga, the seiyuu playing our main hero. Not to mention Sho Hayami as the villain – and I think his best roles are his villainous ones, Aizen-taichou wouldn’t be quite as evil without that evil, sexy voice.


Pandora Hearts

From Studio Xebec (don’t know much about them), directed by Takao Kato and adapted from the manga by Jun Mochizuki.

I don’t know anything about this one, but it looks shiny! It’s got sortof a gothic-Gankutsuou thing going on, with all the wacky colors and textures. Then it collided head on with CLAMP, or something. Anyways, I think it looks kinda neat!

And! According to ANN, Akira Ishida is in it, as … someone (Xarxes Break). And Akira Ishida means an instant watch as far as The Cat is concerned. The Cat likes Akira Ishida. To an unhealthy degree.

…oh, and of course there’s always the new Full Metal Alchemist. Will anyone not be watching that?

T.H.A.T Animeblog’s Spring Preview is here, it’s definitely worth a look!