Friday, November 15, 2013

Peek-a-Boo


I'm back with a ton of goodies to recommend. I have been meaning to come on over and share some wondrous good stuff I've unearthed, but real life has a way of putting a damper on everything. But I am here. Now.

OK!

Let's not waste time with small talk and my paltry excuses! Let's get to the main course.

What do I have for you?

I wanted to write a Halloween post but didn't, but this is wonderful for any dark night: it's an anime called "Ghost Hunt." It's available in the original Japanese on Netflix and it should be watched late at night in a dark room... Think of it along the lines of a Scooby-Doo gang-meets X-files, meets Ghostbusters, but in anime and you can get mildly close to what this is about. It's awesomeness. What a cool series. Considered horror, but not too gory, this anime is about a group of people referred to as spiritualists. Based on a series by Shiho Inada, the anime consists of the adventures of Mai, a young teenage girl who is revealed to be rather sensitive to spiritual phenomena, as she works for a mysterious guy called Naru (for Narcisssist- a nickname that sticks...) at the Shibuya Psychic Research Center. Together, including an intriguing Chinese assistant called Lin, Takigawa, or simply "Bou-san," a formally trained Buddhist monk who also moonlights as the member of a rock band, sensitive spiritualist and famous medium Masako, abrasive and hilarious shrine maiden Ayako, and Australian Catholic priest John Brown (with his adorable Kansai accent), they investigate several unusual cases.

Shibuya Psychic Research Center...and associates?


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bishie Beat

So I was kind of on a manga hiatus for a little bit, having finished up some long series and wanting to take a break. I was flipping through some older volumes in a kind of "cleaning house" sting operation when I came across a few favorites.

I fell- hard- for Skip Beat. Again.

I started reading Skip Beat a while ago, but never really devoted much of my time to it because I get kind of that way when a series is long and ongoing. I enjoyed it...but only caught up to it a couple weeks ago. And then I decided to reread it, this time straight through...

And I loved it. It made me laugh pretty hard- and I really like all the characters.
Kyoko totally OWNING Love Me Division's ridonkulous pink overalls.



So what is so special about this manga, that makes it stand apart from other shoujo mangas you ask? Come closer my little fuzzy friend- and let's go on a ride together, shall we?...

SPOILERS AHEAD!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gaming Old School

So I FINALLY finished all bajillion chapters of Bakuman...And I enjoyed it a lot. I think it gave me a unique perspective into the whole world of manga, its fans, how mangakas work and the whole creative process unfolding...Very neat- it finishes up as expected, but nevertheless triumphantly.

But I'm done!

So I caught up with fluffier stuff I like to read...and while exploring, discovered, via Baka-Updates Manga, a new series I am really getting sucked into.

Chihayafuru is the story of Chihaya Ayase, a beautiful girl who instead of capitalizing on her good looks is out to become the ultimate champion in the game of karuta.

What is karuta? you ask.

Allow me to explain: Karuta is a card game that challenges your speed, reflexes, and memory. You basically play with a set of cards that contains traditional poems and you need to grab the right cards when read by the caller before your opponent does.

Spoilers belooooooow!




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Samurai Champloo

With the school year starting up again, life is hectic. I have been reading a very long manga. Very long. Oh. Man. It's called Bakuman and it is about...Manga. A manga about manga? Yeah. If you like manga and often find yourself wondering what a mangaka's life is like, then Bakuman might be for you. I haven't finished it yet, so I am not going to review it here now, but I encourage manga fans to check it out. I like the characters a lot and enjoy their brainstorming to face different writing and drawing challenges. And Eiji Niizuma, the mad, creative mangaka prodigy, bedecked in feathers and swooping between the stories in his head and real life conversations, has to be one of the best manga characters out there.

Eiji Niizuma- I wish I had half his energy...and joy for what he is doing.


Anyway, Bakuman has taken all the (almost nonexistent) manga-reading time slot. Most of the time I am so tired I just want to be passive and watch something.

I came across this fantastic anime called Samurai Champloo. I did not know if it would be to my taste, since I'm not huge into Hip Hop music and so many descriptions of this anime reference the connection.

Let me just say that the first episode hooked me in and I was done for. It's not too long a series and the premise is lovely: a young woman basically "hires" two ronin to help her find "the samurai who smells of sunflowers." The characters are Fuu (she is named after a bird, which makes some of Mugen's dreams more poignant), Mugen, a brash and impulsive swordsman who is unconventional and unpredictable, and Jin, the slightly older, more serious, introverted, and insanely skilled swordsman. Together they undertake a voyage through Japan in the 1800s running across all kinds of strange scenarios and situations. Van Gogh, baseball, outlawed Christian sects, and pirates all fit in the narrative of this anime.

The art is very good. Understatement. Sometimes I was simply reminded of Yakuza tattoos: colorful, bold, mythic and modern at the same time, and containing a certain urban grittiness. Urban grittiness, by the way, is very much a backdrop to the story as little anachronisms and nods to Hip Hop culture abound (see the episode with the spray paint rival artists or the beatbox competition, for example). It would be very easy to imagine Mugen walking the streets of some big city, despite his steel-lined geta. His despondent attitude camouflages his depths.

Without much explanation or huge digressions, except where strictly necessary (Mugen's whole backstory), the characters develop gracefully and you begin to piece together who they are, where they come from, and begin to grasp their complexities. By the end of the series, I loved all three characters: Fuu is feisty and stubborn, but kind and sympathetic. And she can kick butt at all-you-can eat restaurants... Mugen is volatile, prone to lash out without much warning and is filled with good old-fashioned trash talk. But he is also fair, and even loyal. Jin is the quiet one: stoic, reserved, holding on to a past way of life that is no longer honored...or practical. He is heart and soul, idealistic to the core, kind and selfless. But this isn't suddenly revealed; you catch glimmers of it and have to build your own opinion and make your own conclusions. It's wonderful!

There is plenty of humor, such as the meeting with "Musashi," or my favorite episode, Artistic Anarchy, which introduces the daffy inspector character who tries to solve certain disappearances. There is also so much heartache, such as when Jin falls in love (in Gamblers and Gallantry) or when Mugen crosses paths with people from his past (Misguided Miscreants). The narrative even shifts to different storytellers as it does in Beatbox Bandits, making each episode interesting and fresh.

And the music works beautifully. I don't know if I would like the music as a stand-alone as many of the fans of the series do, but together with the images, the effect is awesome: you feel immersed in that world.

The series can be viewed on YouTube under the Funimation channel.

Check out the opening credits:



Good stuff...Enjoy!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

More Girls Who Pwn


So I haven't been very good about blogging, but I will spare you my lame explanation as to why I haven't because there really isn't an explanation.

BUT! I have been reading a lot of manga recently and a lot of it is...crap. Some of it, though, is pretty amazing.

I want to write about 1/2 Prince, a Chinese manhua by Yu Wo and Choi Hong Chong. It's the story of my life.

If you have ever played MMORPGs like WoW or Second Life, you will appreciate the references.

Basically the story takes place in the year 2100AD. Feng Lan is a university student who makes a bet with her brother that she can succeed in this brand new fantasy MMORPG (also called Second Life) without using her female wiles. No getting a free ride from burly strong male players by batting her pretty eyelashes. Detail: it seems players are fully immersed in the game's universe, so they feel what their characters feel (Can you imagine having to lug around that sword or mace forrealz?). Anyway, Feng Lang manages to be the first player to log into the game, and as a reward gets to have a wish fulfilled. She wishes to play as a male character (which isn't allowed- no gender bending, according to the rules of the game) and thus becomes "Prince," an Elf.

As Prince Fen Lang basically pwns the game. She is ruthless, immune to the charms of female players, and slowly makes a name for herself, acquires quite a fan following, and inevitably runs into people she knows in real life...

I've been enjoying this a lot because I enjoy gaming and I find Feng Lan/Prince funny, engaging, and the relationships and friendships formed amusing and sweet. It reminds me of the old saying, "Sometimes you have to lie to tell the truth." Feng Lan is at times over her head, but through Prince she helps people in all kinds of interesting ways.

It's an ongoing manhua, so I am waiting to see what'll happen next...


Prince, aka The Blood Elf is really...



adorable Feng Lan...


Monday, October 17, 2011

A Manga for the Sweet Tooth

I've just started reading a very adorable manga that I am thoroughly enjoying.

Kitchen Princess is the story of an orphaned girl, Najika Kazami, who is able to cope with her grief thanks to two things: her love of and talent for cooking and the cherished memory of a little boy who showed her kindness during the darkest moment of her young life.

Brought up in an orphanage in Hokkaido, Najika has always been cherished and well-loved among her friends and the orphange director, who writes a personal recommendation that gets her into the prestigious Seika Academy in Tokyo. I liked this portrayal of her childhood- while the loss is very present in Najika's life, there are moments of warmth and joy, and kindness. It is an idyllic situation, of course, but I like that she wasn't someone who was mistreated and unloved during her childhood. The nurturing she received at the orphanage made her strong- and she will need that strength for what awaits her in Tokyo.

Enter that annoying trope: the petty and jealous girls who immediately resent Najika because she captures the attention of the school's two most fabulous guys...who are brothers (of course). The petty girls do not understand why she is placed in Class A, along with the most talented and impressive students. They don't realize that Najika has an incredible talent: she knows how to cook very well. Not only that, but she understands the importance of good and satisfying meal, and all the pageantry associated with the ritual of eating well (ambiance, presentation, etc.). At Seiko she hopes to find the boy who showed her so much kindness years ago (she suspects he is there because years ago he gave her his flan dessert along with a silver spoon with Seiko Academy's crest), but while she searches, she shares and develops her culinary talents further.

I've just started this manga, so I'll report back when I finish reading, At this point, Najika reminds me so much of another manga heroine with a culinary gift: Fujiwara Momoe, from Oishii Kankei, one of my favorite mangas ever. She has an inner radiance and joy that give her grit and strength to move forwards. I really like it when manga heroines are stronger, determined, and have other goals in life other than falling in love and dedicating their lives to their beloved one...




 
Najika, I blame YOU for making me need a serving of flan right now.