Dec 31, 2007

New Manga: High School Debut (Koko Debut )

This manga is new to the US (came out in 2003 in Japan) and is brought to you by Viz. This is the story of Haruna a high school freshman who after being a softball "jock" in Junior High, wants to find love in High School. Her obsession is driven by delusions created after reading too many shoujo mangas (let this be a lesson to us all). After miserable failure at "self study," Haruna's friend suggests that she find a love coach. Haruna does just that, seeking the services of the popular but wary, Yoh, a boy that has lived on the disadvantageous side of being a bishonen. Yoh's only condition for his help is that they must not complicate the relationship with love -- although you can tell he doesn't really mean it. And so this version of "Pygmalion" begins ... will Yoh expose Haruna's true beauty to herself and others? (Of course he will). Has Yoh already fallen in love with Haruna? (Of course he has). Oh, but here's the rub: Haruna is already in love with somebody else. How will this story continue? Will Yoh end up with the girl in the end? Well, a quick check of YesAsia, says at 10-volumes, and still going, "not any time soon." I guess we'll have to see if the mangaka can keep up the momentum.

Dec 30, 2007

Anime Review: Sokou no Strain

My husband and I watched all 13 episodes of this series over the course of two days. I have mixed feelings about this show. I think the basic story was compelling, but the execution was poor. The story takes place in an alternate universe in which mankind is split into 2 factions -- the Union and the Deague. It's never really explained what the main difference between the two factions is -- which is sad, because it could have been used as a red herring in the story. Anyhow, the story begins with the parting of Sara Warrick from her beloved older brother Ralph. Ralph joins the military to battle the Deague and Sara promises to join the military too so she can be with him. Stuff happens and while Sara is in training, her brother comes back as a traitor in league with the Deague and destroys the military academy and kills all of her friends while retrieving a mysterious little girl. And so the story begins with Sara confused about her brother's intention and her quest to find her brother and to figure out what the hell is going on.

For some reason Sara's personality is reset such that she's a haughty asshole that does not "do" teamwork and acts like a crazed recluse. There's lots of bitch-craft involved in this story which, while being typical, nonetheless, still pissed me and my husband off to see played out. There's gundam battles a plenty, a little romance, two goth-lolis, and yuriness. The "yuri" episode is quite funny, but also precipitates the end of this tragic, but fractured tale. There are a lot of story threads that are started, but forgotten, like the impending battle-to-end-all-battles between the Union and the Deague, the nonsense about the Emilys, and why any of this was going on in the first place. I give this 3/5 for a OK anime series.

Dec 26, 2007

Clannad: Episodes 7 -12

So I'm still watching "Clannad." Finally at episode 7, stuff started to happen around the story of spirit of Fuko. I guess I won't give it away since something actually happened. Anyhow, I have to admit I had a lump in my throat and I was fighting back the tears by the end of the Fuko story. I was so pissed at myself for falling under the spell of this low-keyed show.

After the Fuko stuff was resolved, they moved onto the genius megane chick, Kotomi, who hangs out in the reject library. She's socially inept and worries that everyone is going to bully her. One episode is spent with Tomoya teaching her how to properly introduce herself. And then Kotomi has a very interesting violin recital. I was mildly entertained. By the end of episode 12 things get rather messed up and interesting with her and Tomoya. I am eagerly awaiting episode 13. Personally, I would like to see Tomoya hook up with Kotomi more than Nagisa. Kyou also would be better than Nagisa. Heck, anybody but Nagisa! oh, except for Fuko -- she's an airhead too.

Anime Review: Goshuusou-sama Ninomiya-kun

Refer back to here for my previous thoughts on this anime. Episode 7 was definitely the funniest and the "ramen" episode was good too (8 or 9???). During the last 3 episodes, they finally seriously got into the main story which consists of betrayal, heartbreak, the revelation that Mayu and her brother are not the only succubi (???) around. All-in-all, this was an enjoyable anime series with gratuitous but hilarious fan service. 4/5 -- a point deduction for way too much sappiness and un-fun in the last two episodes.

Dec 23, 2007

Summary: Arakure (Wild Ones), Vol 2, Chp 6

This chapter begins with Raizo visiting his friend Ume, the innkeeper from the previous chapter. Raizo asks Ume how his health is and Ume tells him that his health is poor. He then asks Raizo to take care of his grandson, Azuma, because he will hospitalized and Azuma's parents are dead. Raizo agrees.

Meanwhile back at the house, Sachie is preparing to go out. Her yakuza protectors give her stuff to take with her like tea, a fan, and a diaper (for lengthy stays outside). Igarashi catches her before she can go out and asks if she's done her summer homework yet. Of course, Sachie hasn't, so Igarashi with a gleeful look leads her back to her room to do her homework. The other yakuza lament that they can't help Sachie because they don't know kanji (I guess this means they are illiterate). Igarashi tells Sachie if she finishes her homework today, then tomorrow they can have fun at the school sponsored summer camp (a 3 day, 2 night camp). Sachie has a hard time doing her homework and asks if Igarashi can help her understand it. Iragashi replies that he doesn't mind since it gives him an excuse to monopolize her. Sachie is startled and remembers the beach "embrace" in which she asked if he would let her be beside him and he telling her that no one but he would be beside her. When Sachie comes out of her daze, Igarashi is playing with her hair and pulls out a bit of trash to tease her. Sachie then remembers that her grandfather, Raizo, is returning from visiting Ume, so they both go off to greet him.

They welcome Raizo and Raizo introduced Azuma, letting everyone know that due to Ume's illness, Azuma was going to stay with them for the time being. Azuma introduces himself and explains that his parents have been dead since he was young. Igarashi is shocked and displeased. Sachie feels sympathy for Azuma and pledges to care for him in anyway possible to which Azuma says that when he needs to cry he will seek her shoulder and then gives Sachie a hug. This earns Azuma a "flick" to the forehead that knocks him to the ground from Igarashi, who has now taken Sachie into his other arm. Everyone sees this and wonders what just happened. Igarashi explains that they was a bug on Azuma's head and it must have run away.

Onto the summer camp ... All the girls are swooning over the new student, Azuma. Azuma immediately calls out to Sachie, calling her "Sa-schan," a very intimate nickname. Everybody is now curious as to how Sachie and Azuma know each other and what is their relationship. Azuma tells the curious girls that they live together under the same roof. Igarashi butts in and informs everyone that Azuma has barely settled in and that the three of them actually all live together. He makes some reference to some traditional Japanese clogs, and Sachie explains that it isn't often that she wears a kimono, which leads the curious girls to believe that Sachie is a princess with a boy harem.

One of the camp leaders calls out that it's time to break into teams to prepare the meal. Igarashi tricks Azuma with a colored stick pull (Azuma pulls red while Igarashi and Sachie pull blue). Sachie begins to prepare curry, when the girls stop her stating that they can't allow a princess like her to do such menial tasks. They tell her to go away and sit. Soon Sachie gets bored and ends up washing the rice and preparing curry anyway. They are amazed at her skill and enthusiasm and compare her to a bride.

As they eat the curry, one of the girls tells Sachie about he dance party tradition. She's says a proposal to be dance partners is made by offering your name tag to the chosen one. Then the girl start giggling about Igarashi and wonders who he's going to dance with because last year he danced with every girl that asked (30 of them). Sachie wonders if the dance is just a folk dance in which the boys have to dance with every girl anyway. She seems quite annoyed at the idea that Igarashi danced with so many girls last year. Sachie and her friends go off to take a bath when they come out, some girls are gossiping about how Igarashi is declining girl's dance proposals. Sachie blushes and calls herself stupid for even thinking about it. Meanshile, Azuma has been given an arm full of name tags and approaches Sachie to show his bounty. But Sachie is running off upset and in tears with her name tag in hand.

Someone sneaks up behind Sachie and covers her eyes. Sachie thinks it Azuma and reacts with annoyance. To her pleasant surprise, it's Igarashi and he tells her to cover her eyes because there's some place he wants to take her. They run off into a open field and then Igarashi tells her she can open her eyes, and there they are in the middle of fireflies (of course!!! how cliched can you be?!!!). He says he found the spot last year and wanted, this year, to let Sachie see it. Sachie, now feeling braver, offers her name tag -- she's beet red and nervous. Igarashi bows deeply, his hands holding hers, his face to her hands and apologizes that he cannot accept her offer. He explains that he is the class president and, therefore, he cannot escort her to the dance party. Sachie leaves very upset and embarrassed, but she tries to tell herself to not show her embarrassment on her face. She runs off and Igarashi calls out to her to no effect.

Sachie goes off to the sidelines of the camp hub-bub to sulk. Azuma approaches her and asks what's with her face. Sachie shakes it off saying that she didn't get enough sleep. Azuma then offers her his name tag which Sachie accepts and agrees to be his partner at the dance party. Igarashi walks onto the scene and is saddened. His face is red and he is winded from running to find Sachie. As Igarashi approaches, Azuma grabs Sachie and tells Igarashi that Sachie has agreed to be his dance partner. Sachie confirms Azuma's claim and off they go to enjoy themselves. Igarashi is not pleased. And then for some reason Sachie has taken off for the woods with Azuma following behind. Sachie's name tag gets tugged off of her by a branch and goes flying off into the distance. Sachie laments that there is no point in going after her name tag now. Azuma starts putting the moves on her and then they fall off the "mysterious anime/manga forest cliff".

Meanwhile back at the camp ground, everyone is inside because it has started to rain. One of the students reports that Sachie and Azuma have not reported to the checkpoint. Igarashi leaves to find Sachie. Meanwhile back in the forest, Sachie has landed on Azuma. They find the proverbial cave to hide in until the rain stops. Azuma asks Sachie if she likes Igarashi and Sachie denies her feelings saying that Igarashi is a cranky ill-mannered person. Azuma is overjoyed and enthusiastically adds that Igarashi seems like an sly person and eggs Sachie on, telling her to shout to the mountains what she thinks of Igarashi. Sachie shouts, "Igarashi is a pitiful prevert! ... but," now quietly talking, with her hands over her mouth and blushing, continues, "he's not inconsiderate." She remembers how he helps her with her studies and went to buy her a watermelon. "He always makes me happy," she continues, now crying into her hands. Igarashi hears this (he's close by) and Azuma starts to talk with resignation and then Igarashi calls out to Sachie and she takes off running into his awaiting arms. Igarahshi asks if Sachie is okay and tells her that he was worried (everyone has forgotten about poor Azuma -- so sad). Igarashi then lifts Sachie up princess-like, saying that it seems she has strained her ankle so he will now carry her to the medical room. Azuma whines that Sachie is his dance party partner to which Igarashi replies, "Too bad, someone else is taking her away." And the girls are all happy because Azuma is single again.

Fast forward to the nurse's office ... Sachie tells Igarashi that her ankle is fine to which Igarashi says it was a "misunderstanding" on his part (meaning he said it as an excuse to pick Sachie up and take her away from Azuma and the dance party). He then, on bent knees, offers Sachie his name tag and asks to dance with her in the nurses office. Meanwhile, now the rain has stopped the dance party has begun. Outside the girls are talking about a message from the class president. He said that the class officers could now escort a dance partner. Poor Azuma is dancing with some pudgy, curly haired woman. Back in the nurse's office, Igarashi and Sachie are dancing. Sachie says she thought he couldn't dance with a partner because he's the class president. He reminds her that they aren't at the dance party. And the chapter closes with three frames: the first with a happy Igarashi, the second with a disappointed Azuma dancing with some random girl, and the third with Sachie looking embarrassed. The headline reads, "Slowly the summer night passes".

Dec 21, 2007

Summary: Arakure (Wild Ones), Vol 2, Chp 5

It's the umi (beach) chapter and it comes so early in story (6 volumes and counting from what I've been able to gather). In chapter 5, Sachie's grandfather gathers the household to go to an inn on the beach that is run by an old friend of his. Sachie worries about the nature of this friendship, suspecting that it has something to do with yakuza. But her fears are put to rest as it seems that Ume is really an old friend.

Sachie is, of course, is looking forward to spending time at the beach, but when they get there she finds it difficult to let loose because she is surrounded by her gruff looking protectors. Finally away from her "family", Sachie quickly gets into a pinch as she defends a beach food vendor from the insults of a very rude and wasteful couple. They claim the vendor's food is of low quality and don't want to pay (I think ...) and end up dropping the food on ground as they leave. Sachie stops them and tells them the food is fine and not to waste it. The couple gets defensive and confronts Sachie and then Raku comes to Sachie's side to protect her. He knocks down the male of the offending couple. Raku scolds Sachie for being reckless and says that if anything were to happen to her it would crush his heart. Sachie, as usual, thinks he's being weird and overly dramatic and walks off muttering to herself.

As she sits on some steps complaining, the young man that was running the food stand comes to thank Sachie for saving him and offers her a beverage while generally trying to flirt with her. And in comes Raku, who is carrying what appears to be a bag with food. He quickly sequesters Sachie, taking her arm by the wrist with one hand and covering her eyes with the other. (To me this looks very possessive as if to imply that he does not want Sachie to touch or ever look at another man. I feel as though I should be offended, but for some reason it seems very old fashioned and sweet in a childish way). He informs Sachie that there is food and beverage back at where they are staying and returns the vendor's drink with one of those fake smiles.

Sachie and Raku return to the inn for dinner and are introduced to Azuma, the innkeeper's grandson, who happens to be the food vendor Sachie saved earlier. Azuma and Raku face off with Sachie inbetween. There are lighting sparks between them and everyone notices it. Azuma tries to introduce himself to Sachie with a handshake, but his hand is intercepted by Raku, and it appears that some knuckle squeezing may be happening. The innkeeper requests that Azuma show them all to their rooms.

Later, Sachie has a watermelon -- her favorite. She puts it in the fridge to chill in anticipation of breaking it open later. Like a child she writes, "Sachie's watermelon" in hiragana on the skin. Then Sachie wonders off and spots Raku dozing. She supposes he must be tired from all the running around he did that day. As she was looks at him, she thinks he seems like a prince as he sleeps. He opens his eyes and tells Sachie to cheer up soon so they can go out and have fun together. He has a "bedroomy" look on his face. Sachie is surprised and Raku wakes up fully and looks as though he doesn't know how "bedroomy" he just seemed.

Azuma is working hard in the inn and Sachie is complaining as Raku follows behind her apologizing and generally acting subservient. Azuma looks upon the scene, cursing that he has to work, and declaring war against Raku. Ume asks Azuma to start preparing the meal and as he does so, he comes across Sachie's watermelon in the fridge. He decides to serve the watermelon thinking that he will score points with Sachie because watermelon is her favorite. And so everybody is enjoying Sachie's watermelon and when Sachie walks in on the scene, she is devastated and passes out. Raku instantly understands that since Sachie had written her name on the melon, she had something special in mind for it that she wanted to take the lead on.

Onto the next page ... Sachie is squatting in the waves lamenting the loss of her watermelon, when Raku shows up with a small round watermelon on which he written "Sachie-sama's" on the skin in Kanji. He approaches her telling Sachie that he has found her lost item -- a small round and easy to carry watermelon. Sachie then recounts getting a watermelon with her Mom. Her Mom teased that the watermelon was too big for just them, but then found a small round that Sachie could eat. Ah, but what about the thick skin. Child Sachie proposes they break the melon, and so goes Sachie's wonderful childhood memory. At first, jokingly, Raku offers Sachie a sword to break the melon, but then blindfolds her and gives her a stick and tells her to go at it. Sachie wanders off to somewhere nowhere near the melon. Raku directs her back towards the watermelon and when she is near it he does the old, teach a women how to hold a bat trick on her. Standing close behind her and holding her hands on the stick he directs her to the final location of the melon and helps her break it. Sachie thinks about how close they are and the possibility of separation. Somehow, magically, they end up in the water, Raku on the ground and Sachie on top. Sachie still blind folded asks if she indeed broke the melon and Raku pulls the blindfold off and tells her she really did.

Sachie then asks why Raku did this for her -- buying the melon and bringing it to her. It's as if they are going out she says. Then she nervously asks if he will let at her be at his side now. (They look as though they are reaching out to hug one another.) To which Raku replies, "This me and no other will be at your side" as he plays with her wet hair.

Meanwhile back at the inn, the "family" wonders what happened to Sachie and why Raku took off in such a hurry to get another watermelon. Azuma realizes that he didn't understand the significance of the watermelon to Sachie and that Igarashi (Raku) is probably spending some quality time with Sachie -- score one for Raku.

Back at the beach, Sachie is surprised by the seriousness of Raku's reply and blushes furiously. Raku suggests that they return and the chapter ends with narrator saying, "this year's summer seems hot."

Dec 20, 2007

Live Action: Romantic Princess

This probably doesn't belong on this blog. Oh well, I'm going to talk about it anyway.

I started watching this show a few months ago and I was really into it. The story starts with a girl, Shao-Mai, who happily lives with her parents in a run-down part of Taiwan. Shao-Mai dreams of earning a lot of money one day so she can buy a castle. Ah, but be careful what you wish for ... One day some very important men show up at her door and tell Shao-Mai's parents that Shao-Mai is actually the long lost granddaughter of the richest man in Taiwan, Huangfu, and that her grandfather wants Shao-Mai to live with him.

Huangfu has no heirs, so he brought in four brothers to raise to possibly be his heir. The front runner is Jin, a serious, intelligent, and handsome young man who does not want to handed over the position of heir. He would rather earn his position through his own hard work. Huangfu has planned for Jin to married his granddaughter. And so goes the story -- Jin and Shao-Mai fall in love, but Jin's desire to be free of the Huangfu keeps them apart.

As I said before, I was really into this show and then suddenly during the 7th episode, I lost all interest. I can't completely figure out why, but now I don't care and the show seems really stupid. I guess I was waiting for Jin to do something bright like run away with Shao-Mai so they could live the simple existence of hard work that they wanted. I'm tired of the glamour shots of boys in cars, boats, and luxury hotel rooms. Sigh ... Oh, well ... it makes me feel like I'm old and fuddy-duddy to give up this way.

Dec 19, 2007

New and Improved Coming Soon!

I'm learning html and css for work and for personal use. Tonight, I blew away the old website and replace it with a new template containg a construction message. Already it looks and loads a lot better. I love Cascading Style Sheets. It feel very natural for me to keep the formatting elements separate from the data. Using css makes designing, implementing, and updating my webpage so much easier. My plan is to move my translation efforts to the webpage and out of Blogger. I have put a link on the right sidebar of this blog. Follow along with my progress as I learn if you like :).

Dec 18, 2007

Clannad: Episode 1 - 6

I continue to watch this show hoping that at sometime there will be a point, a plot, something, anything, please, I'm begging. Here's what's going on so far: There's a young man, Tomoyo, who lives in a sleepy town. This town is exceedingly boring so Tomoyo hates his life, a sentiment he makes biting clear in the first 30-seconds of the 1st episode. Bitter main characters always hook me, so I felt some interest after the intro. And then nothing happens ...

On his way to school, Tomoyo is bitching about how much he hates the town he lives in and his life, while his classmate, and sorta destined partner, Nagisa, is thinking happy and hopeful, but lonely thoughts. They meet, and for some reason the simple minded Nagisa eases Tomoyo's boredom. Nagisa wants to be in the theater club, however, the theater club has been disbanded. We meet Nigasa's family, bread makers by trade. Nigasa's mom, Sanae, makes bread of questionable quality and Nagisa's Dad, Akio, lets Sanae know while at the same time begging for forgiveness. Nagisa's Dad also gives Tomoyo a hard time, so the scenes at Nagisa's house are mildly entertaining. And then there's Tomoyo's brother, Naoyuki, who is provokes the butch but attractive, Tomoya, into giving him daily beat downs. I think there's love in there somewhere -- or maybe not, since Naoyuki spends a couple of episodes trying to prove that Tomoya is actually a man. This, too, is mildly entertaining and I would have liked a show more around the relationship of these two weirdlings.

And back to Tomoyo ... he decided that he's going to help Nagisa form a theater club so she can act. Half-way through this "quest", Nagisa and Tomoyo happen upon the spirit of a comatose student, Fuko, who is attached to the school. She is giving out stars she hand carves out of wood to students in exchange for them coming to her older sister's wedding (Kuko). So they change their "quest" to, first, making the stars, then handing out the stars, and finally getting Kuko to see meet Fuko's spirit so Kuko will know that Fuko wants her to get married. And this is where I left off. Along the way there are references to gaining skills and leveling-up like a character would in a RPG. Only this would be the world's most pointless RPG in which you would master the skill of squirting juice up someone's nose as a joke. My gosh, can you imagine an RPG that consists of only talking to the townspeople and doing little jobs for them?! AUGH!!!

I really don't get this ... Tomoyo seems like a pretty smart guy, so I don't get why he bothers with a mealy mouthed, low wattage girl like Nagisa. An ass like him seems more natural with an ass-kicker like Tomoya. Sigh ... maybe that what I'm secretly hoping for.

Well, I'll reserve final judgment for the end (hopefully it ends at 12 or 13 episodes ... please ...). Right now I'm leaning towards a 3 because the side stories are mildly entertaining.

Dec 13, 2007

Manga: The Good Witch of the West -- Volume 5

"The Good Witch of the West" manga series and the anime track pretty closely. There is more detail in the manga, for instance the "yuriness" is more straight forward with respect to Igraine, who becomes Firiel's knight, and there are more hints about lost technology in the world of the story.

Volume 5 starts just after Rune has left Firiel to travel South. Adele is given her queenly task and Eusis must go fight some dragons (dinosaurs, apparently) for the honor of Adele. Firiel follows Eusis south in search of Rune. Along the way, Firiel gets a baby unicorn sidekick -- oh, so cute!

And on to volume 6, which will come out who knows when ...

Dec 12, 2007

Hana-Kimi: Volume 21 (FINALLY!!!)

Volume 21 of "Hana-Kimi" ("Hanazakaria no Kimitachi he") has finally come out in the US. This is the pivotal volume in the Hana-Kimi series. So far, "Hana-Kimi" is my favorite manga series and this volume is the best in the series. Gosh, it took so long to get there, which makes this volume all the more sweeter. (I have to admit that I have already read Hana-Kimi. I read it before it got the US at least a couple of years ago. If you can't wait to finish the last two volumes, they are out there in the ether. Also, if you really like this series, buy the manga to encourage publishers put out more great series. I bought this series in English and I'm considering getting it in Japanese, too. Oh, and some extra one-off stories came out too, so look out for those. Hopefully they will be included in the 23rd volume.)

Why is "Hana-Kimi" my favorite manga series? ... well, I haven't quite put my finger on it yet. I adore Sano, Mizuki, and Nakatsu and my heart really felt what each of them was going through. The most intriguing thing about this series is the way Nakatsu is dealt with. As the reader we adore Nakatsu, because the author does too. We believe Nakatsu and Mizuki would be good together, but know it must be Sano. Yet, when Mizuki makes her feelings clear, we feel deeply for Nakatsu and we understand the guilt his best friend, Sano, feels. And we understand that Sano, seriously, has no intention of letting someone else, even his best friend, have Mizuki -- not that he feels she's his to give. Love is that way. There's always somebody who is hurt in the wake of a happy couple -- whether the happy couple is aware of it or not.

The other thing that resonates with me about this series is the fear that both Mizuki and Sano feel in their love. There is a lie between them -- She is pretending to be a he, he is pretending he does know she's a girl, they are both pretending not to be in love, even though one another is about the only thing on their minds. They are so scared to lose one another that they live in this carefully crafted house of cards so they can be together. I have felt this fear -- and it's scary to give yourself over, because if that person you care so much for rejects you, you fear it will tear your chest out. And when it does happen, it does hurt like nothing else (it does get better over time, though, and eventually goes away if you don't see that person anymore).

Well, I guess I just answered my own question: This is my favorite manga series, because I feel this manga and I relate deeply to the story and the characters.

Dec 11, 2007

Anime Review: Umisho

I wonder whether the pun was intended -- "Umi" = beach + sho --> show, because this anime is one long bathing suit episode. This is the story of a high school swim team, whose student coach, Kaname is afraid of water. His fear of water stems from a childhood accident which Kaname believes was causes by a very scary green-haired mermaid. One day Amuro, a very weird girl with "X's" in her green hair who lives on a rickety house boat, shows up. Despite her unusual swimming style, she is an ace. Could she be Kaname's mermaid? The show basically follows the swim team as it works its way to the prefectural championships. As implied by the pun, this show is mostly bathing suit fan service and the fan service (mostly raunchy) is for everyone. This show was so funny that sometimes my husband and I had to pause the show to guffaw for a minute or two and then calm down enough to actually continue the show. 5/5 for a raunchy comedy that kept me in stitches.

New Anime: Goshushou-sama Ninomiya-kun

Okay, take Jason Bourne, a succubus with man-phobia, a haughty girl in a maid outfit, and an older sister who is a bad-ass mercenary and put them in a high school anime and you end up with "Goshushou-sama Ninomiya." So here's the deal, Ninomiya is a high school boy with some over- the-top military fighting training who is constantly being harassed by the female students in his school. In flies a military 'copter containing a curvaceous succubus who is very afraid of men, except for Ninomiya, who seems to be resistant to her powers -- sorta. The succubus, Mayu, gives off strong pheromone which turns males into drooling zombies who try to get next to her. Ninomiya's sister says Mayu has to move-in with them ... and ... enter the haughty girl (I've forgotten her name) who is Ninomiya's childhood friend as well as the student council president. Through some circumstances, she becomes a maid at Ninomiya's house. Ninomiya's older sister and Mayu's older brother insist that Ninomiya must help train Mayu to rid herself of her man-phobia so she can control her pheromones. The training, of course, is basically a bunch of fan-service. This anime is very funny, and that's all I'll say for now.

Anime Review: Code Geass: The Lelouch Rebellion

It's taken me a couple of months to process "Code Geass: The Lelouch Rebellion." That's because it was just plain shocking. It's not that anything particularly shocking in a weird way happens, it's more like nothing goes as expected and I can't say whether Lelouch is a hero or a villain. This story takes place in the future when the Empire of Britannia (looks like the North American continent is taken over by Britain -- or maybe it's an alternate reality in which the Americans lost the war for Independence. It's not really clear and it doesn't matter) has taken over most of the world, including Japan. Japan is stripped of its name and is referred to as "territory 11". The former Japanese, now call 11's, have become 2nd class citizens in their own country. Small terrorist groups fight a pointless battle to reclaim Japan, but faction after faction is crushed by the huge Britannian Army. Enter Lelouch who goes to an elite school for Britannians. Lelouch is Britannian, but has no love for Britannia. One day he gets mixed up in a terrorist plot and saves a girl who gives him the power of "Geass." His "Geass" is absolute order, and when used upon a person, that person is absolutely compelled to follow his order.

Lelouch decides to use this power to destroy Britannia. To start, he disguises himself and takes the leadership of one of the Japanese terrorist factions. Lelouch has a childhood friend, the son of the former Prime Minister of Japan, named Suzaku, who has decided that he wants to change Britannia from the inside by becoming an honorary citizen of Britannia, a position that doesn't grant the full rights of a Britannian, but it is better than being an 11. Suzuku, in every way, represents the good soldier, while Lelouch is a renegade. Stuff happens and Lelouch is forced to make some moral decisions and face the consequences of his decisions. How Lelouch conducts himself is the most interesting part of the show. We see the wheels turning in his head and we understand why he makes most of his decisions and are shocked at the realistic consequences of his decisions. This show holds no punches with the consequences, and that is why it's so shocking.

My husband and I were riveted to this show through all 26 episodes, wondering what was going to happen next and how Lelouch was going to get out of the tough situations presented. Lelouch is definitely a controversial character and if this were reality, his personality and actions would make for lengthy scholarly study and debate. 5/5 for another great anime series. I can't wait until season 2. And oh, BTW, it's a gundam anime!

This is also running as a manga series in "Asuka" magazine.

Dec 8, 2007

Review: Pichi Pichi Pitch: Mermaid Melody

"Pichi Pichi Pitch: Mermaid Melody" is one of those manga series that seems like it should be for 'tweens, especially considering the target audience of the anime series. This manga series, however, is not like the anime series and has more sexual themes than I imagine most parents would like for their 'tweens (an additional story in the last volume is titled "Get Nude," if that helps).

Mermaid Melody is a re-telling of the Little Mermaid ... sorta. In this version there are seven mermaid princesses that each represent the seven seas of the Earth. Some cataclysm has struck which has caused some of the princesses to go missing. The remaining princesses are sent to the land to figure out what happened so they can gather all of the princesses together to summon the Goddess "Aqua Regina." The story centers around, Lucia the pink Mermaid of the Pacific (If I remember correctly). She rescued a human boy, Kaito, when she was little and finds him again on land. Kaito is looking for the mermaid that rescued him because she is his first love. Lucia can't tell him it's her because she will turn into bubbles if any human discovers her identity. All of this is woven together with some Sailor Moonish villains that try to attack the mermaids and humans with bad singing. The mermaids fight back with singing of their own, led, of course by Lucia.

The manga series is much deeper than the anime series, which I found pleasantly surprising. Mermaid Melody isn't for everybody -- to be honest, I can't say who this was aimed at since it's more adult than would be appropriate for 'tweens. The singing and the silly side stories really threw me off. Anyhow, I give this 3.5/5 for a relatively enjoyable manga series with nice pretty pictures.

Dec 5, 2007

Manga: Tail of the Moon, Volume 8

"Tail of the Moon" continues on with the adventures of Usagi and Hanzo Hattori. For those of you not familiar with this story, it's a fluffly romp through feudal Japan in which the Ninja clans of Iga are perpetually preparing for war, each clan aligning themselves with either the treacherous Nobunaga or the Budda-like Ieyasu Toukagawa. Usagi and Hanzo are, of course, aligned with Toukagawa. The story starts as Usagi is sent to a neighboring ninja village to become the wife of the clan head, Hanzo Hattori. Her main duty is described as bearing him a strong heir. Usagi is a Rubenesque teenager, who for the most part is not good for much other than bearing children -- okay, that's worth a lot -- sorry. Hanzo is a stoic ninja who initially shows no interest in Usagi and says he will not marry her until she becomes a ninja. Hanzo, of course, is gorgeous, so Usagi and every other single female swoons in Hanzo's presence. Usagi trains hard, but it seems that she's not cut out to be ninja. She is, however, an uncommonly good herbalist, which is great addition to a ninja village. And so the story goes with Hanzo, various relatives, and villagers going on adventures with Usagi as she tries to qualify to be a ninja. As things progress, Usagi's character strengthens and Hanzo heart melts -- it's so nice :).

Anyhow, in this volume Usagi is finally earns her ninja qualification, which is quickly revoked. To get it back, she is sent on a mission with Goemon, her childhood friend and initial fiancee. (Goemon is still in love with her.) On this mission Usagi and Goemon must pretend to be husband and wife and there's some tension, mostly in Goemon's mind about the situation. Usagi ends up in the base of the enemy without Hanzo and all seems lost ...

This was yet another fun volume of this series. I like how this series manages to move along without ever taking itself too seriously, while at the same time, being packed with adventure and heart. I like the little fan service drawings between the chapters. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of this fun manga series.

Manga: Train + Train, Volumes 1 and 2

This manga series is from the same author as "Read or Die." It is the story of an unlikely couple, the raucous Arena and the mild mannered Reiichi. In this world children go off to board school trains. Reiichi and his childhood friend, Liae, travel to planet Deluca to board the general education train when, through a cultural misunderstanding, Liae pisses off a big lion-man-beast. Arena, who is on the run for various reasons saves the mild-manner pair from a serious beating before Arena's pursuers show up. Due to some complications, Arena and Reiichi get handcuffed together for 99-hours, and Reiichi is tricked and forced to board the "Special Train" that Arena has vowed to catch. Suddenly, Reiichi is faced with a life way outside the norm he thought he was destined for and so the adventures of Arena and Reiichi begin ...

So far I like this series a lot. I like Arena's spunkiness and Reiichi is turning out not to be the mild-manner wimp he had settled on being. It's nice seeing how in just two volume how much confidence and manliness Reiichi has developed. The side characters are weird, mainly for the sake of weirdness. They add to the atmosphere, but not to the story, which may be a drawback as the story progresses. Usually, I don't like it when the story take detours into the lives of the side characters, but this series is really too sparing with backstories for the accessory characters. The violence in this manga is well tempered -- not too much and not too little and it's not lost on the reader that these characters are in real danger. In the notes, the mangaka wrote he we was worried that pairing a male and female character together would eventually make this story become a romance. Personally, that is what I want to see. Well, I guess I'll just have to wait to se how this progresses.

If you like action and adventure, I highly recommend this manga series. I will give updates as I progress through the story.

Dec 4, 2007

New Manga: BlackBird

From the mangaka who brought us "Backstage Prince" comes another tale of a good hearted but weak female, Misao, and a bad tempered Tengu, Kyou, who disguises himself as a handsome guy. Misao has the misfortune of being able to see supernatural beings and now at the age of 16 has become the target of those supernatural beings who wish to eat her to gain eternal life or marry her to strengthen their clan. Kyou wants to marry Misao, but Misao doubts his sincerity and believes he only seeks to strengthen his clan. Kyou shows up in Misao's everyday life as her Math teacher at her high school (but of course). Anyhow, most of the stories revolve around various beasties attacking Misao and Kyou coming to her rescue followed by Misao asking herself why this guy bothers. Meanwhile Kyo seems to find some excuse to lick her, whether it's licking Misao's wounds to heal her, or licking her as a prelude to a kiss, or licking her in her dreams and so on ... Half of me continues to read this just to see how creative the licking can get ... (I'm sad, sad, sad person ...). Somewhere in here, there is a story, but I'm just so distracted by the licking that I haven't quite grasped it.

Anyhow, this is also being serialized in Betsucomi, which I just got a copy of today.

Review: Black God, Volume 1

When I saw this manga in the bookstore, I thought that it would be interesting. A loser of a guy gets in a fight to protect a homeless looking girl at a ramen stand loses his arm in the fight and wakes up the next morning with somebody else's arm. That was the first chapter and then from there it goes down hill fast. The rest of the manga seems to be one long and violent fight between the girl and some monstrous guy ... like I even care why. And it doesn't really matter, because the story does not give a reason for this fight other than this street thug asshole likes to fight strong opponents. It's pretty obvious I won't be continuing this lovely tale of violence and fan service, that is if you can call a panty shot while the heroine is being beaten mercilessly "fan service". 1/5 for a promising start and then a complete let down.

Wild Ones (Arakure), Volume 1

This is a delightful manga series about a girl, Sachie Wakamura, orphaned at the age of 15 who finds out she's a yukuza princess when her grandfather comes to retrieve her at her mother's funeral. She is assigned a personal body guard, Rakuto Igarashi, who also happens to be the student council president of the high school she starts to attend. Rakuto is a "princely" type guy who never really lets anybody get to know him -- so, of course, he's very popular with the girls at school. Rakuto is a orphan, too, who Sachie's grandfather has taken in and treated like family. Upon meeting, Rakuto treats Sachie very nicely which makes Sachie thinks he's weird, because, of course, normal people don't treat strangers as friendly as he does. But as you can guess, they met in the past and Rakuto has promised to protect his princess. Sigh ... it makes your heart pitter-patter. There's sweetness all around mixed with some light humor (mostly about the Sachie's new yukuza "family"), and a fair bit of action oriented violence. I enjoyed this first volume greatly enough to order the next 3 volumes from Japan. Fortunately, this is also being serialized in the "Hana to Yume" magazine, so I will be able to keep up with this series as it releases :).

Nov 15, 2007

"Zig-Zag" and "Venus in Love", vol 1

"Zig-Zag" and "Venus in Love" are two mediocre manga series written by Yuki Nakaji. "Zig-Zag", which is still currently running in LaLa magazine, is about 3 male high school students whose lives seem to revolve around flowers. One of the guys Takaaki looks like a little girl and has a crush on his older cousin Marika. Takaaki's roommate, the mysterious Sonoh, ran away from home. He's the first son of a family that is famous for arranging flowers. And lastly, Tatsuki, who is obsessed with the small and meek Mei. This first volume lays down no story and seems to serve only the function of character introduction.

"Venus in Love" gets more to the point. This manga is about Suzuna, a naive college freshman, who is living on her own for the first time. Her new neighbor, Eichi, a boy is also in love with the same guy Suzuna has developed a crush on -- Fukumi. Sigh ... Sigh ... Get over Fukumi and move on ...

Both stories, so far, are so innocuous that they are basically inert. I don't feel the need to actually buy anymore "Venus in Love" because it's not funny or daring enough and "Zig-Zag" I can read from the Lala mags I already get. I imagine the story hasn't progress very much in the past 3-years.

Nov 13, 2007

Commentary: Your and My Secret or My Barbaric Girlfriend

Only the first volume of this manga series was released in the US. I found volume 2, 3, and a bit of 4 while Lurking. This series is pretty good and I don't really understand why it didn't catch on in the US. The manga is the story of Akira and Momoi and their adventures while swapped in each other's bodies. Akira is a very quiet and neat boy and Momoi is a racous tomboy. When they switch, their personalities seem more line with the bodies they now possess. Momoi decides that she likes being a guy and does not want to switch. Akira's family rejoices that Akira has finally become a man causing the real Akira to feel pressure to remain a girl. Except there's a big problem ... Akira's best male friend, Senbongi, is activity pursuing him as Momoi. All this is well and good until sometime in volume 3 *spoiler alert* Senbongi finds out that Akira's personality is in Momoi's body and instead of being repulsed, Senbongi rejoices that the boy he has always had a crush on is now a girl so it's now okay for him to actively pursue Akira. I had a good laugh over this, especially when I think back to how lamely this situation was handled in "Kashimi: Girl Meets Girl." Anyhow, Ai Morinaga is very good with comedy and with understanding the inner workings of weird people and normal people thrown into very weird situations. So far this series is quite enjoyable.

It looks like Morinaga has three manga series currently going and hasn't written more of this series for about a year. Well, I hope that there's another volume within Morinaga that wraps this story up.

Oct 28, 2007

Manga Commentary: Kiss, Vol 1 - 5

Apparently, there are a bunch of manga out there about 16 and 17 year old girls falling in love in with a teacher and having a relationship with that teacher. "Kiss" by Matsumoto Tomo is one such manga. There are 8 volumes to this series, but I could only find 5 online and I have volume 6 and 8 on order from beNippon (I requested volume 7 too. I guess we'll see what happens). So far this manga seems to be dealing with the situation pretty fairly and seriously. Both the girl and the teacher are anxious about the age difference and the relationship is anything but easy to maintain. Again there is the same internal struggle with the teacher, Goshima, in which he is uncomfortably split between being teacher, father, and lover to the girl, Kae. Kae is clearly struggling with being a child in a grown-up's world. For me this relationship doesn't work because Kae and Goshima's minds are too far apart. Goshima seems to be distance, cold, and emotionally stoppered and Kae is a very needy child who needs to play with kids her own age. They don't really talk, rather Goshima attempts to teach Kae piano and tells her to be aware of other men and Kae gets mad because she feels the teacher is treating her like a child and then she kisses him and all is band-aided. The cycle repeats over and over. Anyway, I would like to see how the story ends -- will they get together or will Kae find someone her own age or will they part for some time so Kae can grow-up a little and then get back together, or not. I guess I really want to see Kae grow-up and the piano teacher soften (and stop smoking like chimney -- ugh, it's absolutely disgusting how much this character smokes).

Fortunately, the story is told with the simple yet deep and on target narration and dialogue that is expected of Matsumoto Tomo, so even though the cycle of Kae and Goshima's relationship repeats in action, we see that both the Kae and Goshima are slowly evolving in thought. At the point where I left off, Kae and Goshima are not able to see each other. Both are forced to take a look at themselves and to re-evaluate the relationship. Kae is trying not to let herself be hurt and Goshima is wondering whether Kae is hurt. We also sense that Goshima is taking some time away from Kae to grow up himself. It's understood as he is now, he can't sustain any kind of meaningful relationship nor provide for Kae if he were to get serious about her.

So far this is a very good manga series, but it's not something that can be easily understood by teenagers. Actually, I'm a little disturbed that there are so many manga on this subject. I wonder is it good to give girls under 18 the thoughts that this sort of relationship is one they should try to pursue. Obviously, this sort of thing is against the law in the US. Although it's not against the law in Japan, I would imagine, it's still not something that is not accepted. I don't necessarily feel that this manga is advocating or warning against this type of relationship. It's merely telling the story of two people in a relationship in a rather objective manner. This brings me to that matter of "Faster than a Kiss" which I don't have a problem with because they are married. Although, it was a snap decision, the teacher in that manga series is fully taking responsibility for his 16-year wife and her little brother. The same is true for "Onegai Sensei." They are married, so as far as I'm concerned it's okay.

I will reserve final judgment for "Kiss" when I've completely read the series.

Oct 26, 2007

Manga Review: You are My Girlfriend

"Your are my Girlfriend" is a short 4 chapter series about a girl, Hatsune, who is unable to make female friends because of her foul mouth and uppity attitude. After all of the clubs in the school reject her, she meets Kirie, the president of the "Maiden's Club." Kirie comes from a family with all girl siblings, so he's into girly things and has a make-over fetish. Kirie is able to see past Hatsune's foul mouth and attitude and becomes her first friend. Hatsume, of course, assumes Kirie is gay and so the fun begins. This is very nice and compact story and I'm glad it was limited to 4 chapters because there wasn't anymore story beyond that. I give this 4/5 for being very good, but it wasn't provocative or funny enough for me to feel that I would read the series again.

Oct 24, 2007

Manga Review: Eensy Weensy Monster

I read "Eensy Weensy Monster" in Japaneses from "Lala" magazine. This is a very cute 12 chapter story that I actually wish went on a little longer because I enjoyed the characters so much. The story is about how Nanoha and Hazuki fall in love and become a couple. Hazuki is a prince type character who every girl drools after and Nanoha is a very plain and small girl. Due to some past conflict between them, Nanoha harbors some resentment towards Hazuki and has formed a little angry mental monster that occasionally makes Nanoha say some nasty things to Hazuki. Hazuki finds Nanoha and her little temper tantrums irresistible and sets out to make her his, despite the other girls practically throwing themselves at him. (I really resonated with Nanoha and her description of the little monster that lives inside her, because I have a similar little demon within my own personality. It was really fun seeing the little demon personified and I understood, completely, how difficult it can be to confine and pacify the little devil within.)

I hope this short manga series gets translated into English (it would be no more than two volumes -- very nice!) so lots of people in the US can enjoy it. This series was written by the same mangaka, Tsuda Masami, who wrote "His and Her Circumstances" and like that series, "Eensy Weensy Monster" is told from both Nanoha's and Hazuki's perspective. I give this 5/5 for an excellent little story of high school love and the little monsters that some guys come to love. :).

Manga Review: I Hate you More than Anyone, Vols 1 and 2

Volume 1 of this manga starts promising with the tall and boyish female lead, Kazuha, having a crush on her little brother's pre-school teacher, Mizushima. Enter Mizushima's hairdresser friend, Sugimoto, who falls in love with the much younger Kazuha (7 years difference, Kazuha is 17 and Sugimoto is 24). To complicate matters, Kazuha's best friend is in-love with Sugimoto. The problem is that Sugimoto teases Kazuha, so Kazuha feels that she hates Sugimoto the most, but, of course, she's in love with him too, but she doesn't realize it. This would have been a good story it the mangaka had decided to wrap it up in 2 volumes like the story seemed it was going, but no, it continues on, despite not having any story left. I've decided not invest anymore money and time on a 3rd or more volumes because the main story and the side stories are flat and uninteresting. It's too bad because I wanted to see a good romantic ending for Kazuha and Sugimoto. 2/5 for a promising start and a lackluster continuation.

Oct 19, 2007

Manga Review: Tenshi Ja Nai

"Tenshi Ja Nai" is a very soap opera-like manga. It follows the story of a girl, Hikaru, who comes to an all girl's boarding school instead of going abroad with her mother. Her roomate, Izumi, is a popular idol, who Hikaru soon finds out is really a boy. Of course, Izumi falls in love with Hikaru, but Hikaru is having a relationship with one of the teachers -- it's a big awful mess, but nonetheless compelling. Fortunately, this manga only runs 8 volumes, so it ends before the gimmicks get too stale. I give this 4/5 because, although being good, I think it did the school teacher wrong. It would have been more interesting and realistic if the teacher had not accepted Hikaru's advances and I could have done without the drama with the teacher's sick cousin.

My Heaven Hockey Club, Vol 1

"My Heavenly Hockey Club" is basically a clone of "Ouran Host Club." Of course "Ouran" is better, but this has its own charm. In this version, dimwitted Hana Suzaki gets run over by equally dimwitted and outrageously rich Izumi Oda, denting Izumi's car. Izumi blames Hana for the damage to his car and tells her to pay him back she must join the Ground Hockey team. The Ground Hocket team is, of course, composed of 5 bishonens, including a pair of twins (but no twincest), who have never actually played ground hockey. Rather, they use the club as an excuse to go to Onsens and eat local food. Hana being very much into eating, sleeping, and onsens goes with it. And on goes the story, culminating in a hilariously 4th chapter about a mountain retreat and a bear. I was in tears laughing at this chapter. So, so far so good and I'm wait for volume 2 to be released.

Manga Review: Metamo Kiss

"Metamo Kiss" is a cute 3 volume long manga about a boy, Konahamaru (no, not the kid from "Naruto"), who comes from a family that can exhange bodies with their destined mate, either human or animal, by touching in a certain place on the body. For Konahamaru, his certain place is his lips and his destined mate is a girl, Nanao, a very popular classmate who happens to have a crush on Kohamaru's twin brother. The story is pretty innocuous with accidental little kisses here and there and gender switching that leads to nothing provacative. I enjoyed it for what it was. It ended abruptly, though, as if funding was pulled rather rapidly. 3/5

Manga Review: Fall in Love Like a Comic, Vol 1

This is worst manga I've ever encountered. I hope it's just a poor translation, but I'm not going to waste my money on the Japanese version to find out. I could not get passed page 2 because it was way too juvenile and shallow for me to even feel the need to move forward. I can't even recommend this for the intended younger set because it's so bad. There are much better manga out there about elementary school puppy love ("Kodacha" and "Crescent Moon" are examples) -- 0/5 for a sad, sad manga that never should have even seen the light of day.

Oct 15, 2007

Manga Review: Omukae vol 1

This is a manga about a high school turned college freshman, Madoka Tsutsumi, who one night, after studying too much, starts to see ghosts and a shinigami (grim reaper) dressed in a pink bunny suit. The first chapter is pretty cute but this is not a manga for me so I quit after the first chapter. I'd have to say overall this is mediocre manga. There's no conflict to drive the story along and the characters aren't interesting enough to care about. Actually, I'm rather surprised that someone took the time to translate this series when there are much better series out there from Meca Tanaka and other mangaka. 2.5/5 because there must be someone out there who likes this series.

Oct 7, 2007

Anime Review: History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi

This 50-episode series could have run astray like all those animes that start off good and then don't know when to end like "Naruto", "Inuyasha," and "Bleach." Fortunately, this anime has a definite story arc and it does conclude in a satisfying matter. "History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi" is the story of a wimpy teenage boy, Kenichi, who aspires to be an ally of justice who stands up for the wimpy like himself. One day he accidently walks up behind a girl Miyu, who uses some over-the-top martial arts move to bring him to the ground painfully. It's love at first-sight for Kenich and to further his desire to become a hero and to get close ot Miyu, he moves into Miyu's home to become a disciple of the the "Ryozanpaku" (forive me if I have gotten the name completely wrong), a group of insanely over-muscled martial artists with "god-like" skills. Most of the story is spent on Kenichi learning various styles of martial arts from his masters which is quite entertaining because the masters have nutty eccentric personalities and they put Kenichi through training that would kill real people (Muy Thai master Appachai is the runaway favorite for me and my husband). Along the way, Kenichi gets unwillingly wrapped up in the machinations of Najiima, a former bully, who decides that Kenichi is the way to fulfill his ambitions of -- well, I'm not really sure what Najima is up to other than pot stirring. Either way Najiima looks like an evil Vulcan and it often refered to as the "alien" or the "Dark Lord." Anyhow, as Kenichi gets stronger, stronger and stronger opponents seek him out, of course through the urgings of Najiima. And so the story goes as Kenichi fights his way through thug after thug, converting a few on his way to the side of good, until he gets to the head of local fight club.

My husband enjoyed this anime more than I did. It was stupid, but I have to admit that I got a lot of laughs out of the show. I give it 4/5 for great fun.

Anime Review: Claymore

"Claymore" is an anime series that runs 26-episodes. It is the story of a Clare, a Claymore as she quests to avenge the death of her mother figure/mentor, the top ranked Claymore Teresa of the Faint Smile. Claymores are warriors who are crossed with demons, or Yoma, to create super warriors who can draw on their Yoma powers to defeat the maneating Yoma that roam the world. Clare rescues an extremely emotional teenage boy named Raki who she makes her cook and for some reason falls in love with. And that's pretty much it without giving away too many details about Clare and the story. This show is quite bloody, but it's all in good fun (depending on your POV, of course). Clare is interesting, Raki is annoying, and the rest of the Claymore cast is fun too. My husband and I both enjoyed this one. The backstory about Clare and Teresa's relationship is particularly moving and gives the viewer a good understanding of Clare's admiration for Teresa and why Clare's lust for vengence is justified. I give it 4.5/5, with a .5 deduction for the inclusion of the painfully whiny Raki who really doesn't get it when the final boss tells him, "Impotence is a sin."

Sep 30, 2007

LaLa DX vs LaLa Magazine

I've recently found an online store that sells manga magazines from Japan for a decent shipping rate. The store is called Akadot. Anyhow, so I bought bought LaLa and LaLa DX not knowing the difference (apparently the sellers I contacted didn't know either). Anyhow, so here's the difference that I can detect (without having translated anything): LaLa DX is a compilation of one-off stand-alone stories and special stories from running or completed series and LaLa is mostly a compilation of manga series, although, there is the occasion one-off stand alone story.

Review: Darker than Black

This is one of those anime series that I'm very sad to see end. It had a great theme song and the main characters were really well written!

Anyhow, "Darker than Black" is a 25-episode anime series that is based in the future after some catasphrophe has hit Earth making most of South American "inaccessible" to humans. The human race has spit, and now there exist humans call "contractors." Contractors have various super powers and are now used by governments and crime syndicates as spies and assassins. This is the story of one such contactor, Hei or "BK-201." I don't want to give anyway any of the story, since this is one of those series in which most of the fun is watching the situation unfold. Unfortunately, there are a 2 or 3 filler episode featuring a pitiful detective and his cheery sidekick which throw the story completely off. Ignoring those episode, I'd have to say this was a great anime.

I give this 4.5/5, with a half point deduction for crappy filler episodes.

Sep 25, 2007

Review: Toward the Terra

"Toward the Terra" is one of the best anime series I've watched. It's tough to talk about what the show is about with ruining it, so please bear with me. Anyhow, the show is set in the future when after human have fled Earth for other planets. The story revolves around two main characters Jomy and Keith, who eventually fulfill their destiny of becoming the head of the two warring factions of humans, the Mu and humans, respectively. What's great about this show is both of the main characters are not perfect and both perform act of heroism as well as acts that could be considered atrocities -- it's a war afterall and the show makes it very clear that war isn't pretty nor moral. Anyhow, the characters of Jomy and Keith are so well written and complex -- I was absolutely delighted. The other side characters are wonderful too. This is definitely a character driven show that also happened to include some great action. One of the last scenes in the final episodes poignantly shows off the skill of the story writers and the animators. I was moved by both the sadness and the hope this scene as well as the care taken to draw Jomy and Keith in their last moments. Oh, so good!!! There are actually a few scenes in the series that are like this and each time I was moved to tears. It's lonely to be the leader even though the leader is loved by many. It is tough to be a leader and to live with the atrocities you've committed and to feel the weight of each and every life you feel responsible for protecting. Who is good and who is bad -- or in fact are they sometimes the same? This series deeply probes this question and in the end I'm am left to say that Jomy and Keith acted in the best interests of the people they served. I think this comes through best when Keith asks Jomy, "Do you still have the power to destroy planets?" Jomy replies, "yes" and in response Keith says, "Then it is still my duty to eliminate you." The irony is that Keith has this power too and uses it, but it's in the form of a machine. 5/5 for a truly great series.

Sep 10, 2007

Pearl Pink: Volume 1

I finally got around to reading the first volume of "Pearl Pink" yesterday and I was quite surprised. What's laid out in the first volume is actually rather sweet. I ended up reading the manga twice. Anyhow, "Pearl Pink" is the story of Kanji and Tamako. Kanji is 16 or 17 and Tamako is 13. Long ago Kanji made a promise that if Tamako would quit being a crybaby he'd marry her. Ten years have passed and Tamako enters Kanji's life again. Instead of being a crybaby, she is now a rambuctous tomboy who turns Kanji's life upside. The back drop of the story is entertainment. Tamako's mom is a moderately sucessful actress and Kanji's father, who is delightfully perverted, runs the studio she works for. There is also a fun side character named Raizo who stirs things up every once in a while. Kanji has a little perverted streak too, which is nice because we wouldn't want our main male character to be too perfect.

I have the 2nd and 3rd volumes on order and I'm a little worried because the preview at the end of volume 1 indicated that they are going to focus some attention onto Raizo and have Tamako possibly emerging as an idol. Well, I guess I find out Wednesday.

Preview Pack of Fall Season Anime

There were 15 - 20 previews in this pack I downloaded and absolutely NOTHING looked like it would be worth my time to watch. I was kinda sad. I guess I'll just wait and see.

Sep 4, 2007

Yurara Volume 2

Volume 2 of Yurara is much better. The characters still aren't very well developed, but at least there isn't so much mindless fan service. There are three short stories featured in this volume and each is pretty good in a light comedy sort of way. If the manga ended at volume 2 that would be great. Yurara has choosen her man and her man has acknowledged her affection and returned it, so it seems like this is a good place to stop. If the story goes forward, then the mangaka really needs to work on character development and give a good explanation about how Yurara's guardian spirit came to be and why she's with Yurara. It would also be nice to know the origin of Mei and Yako's powers and their connection to one another and ultimately to Yurara.

I've decided that this manga reminds me a little bit of "Your Majesty's Dog" but the characters are much more interesting in that series (but the ghost stories are about on the same level). I'd say the series is readable, but definitely not worth paying full price for the manga, so buy it used or buy the Japanese version which cost about 1/2 the price.

Aug 24, 2007

Comments to My Blog

I appreciate all comments to my blog, however, I will only publish comments that are constructive. I did receive a comment about the anime series "Kiba" which I liked up to the point in which the commenter criticized me personally. I am entitled to my own opinion as is each and every person. Because I felt this person gave valuable feedback and a valid review of his or her own, I will publish their comment below sans the inappropriate off-topic and non-productive personal criticism. I, also, would invite that commenter to continue the conversation with me, but to please remember to keep his or her criticism to the anime or manga and not of me personally. I would encourage this commentor to be similarly courteous with writing comments in other people's blogs and on forums.

The comment:
Hmmm... i dont think that is a fair review, i thaught it was a decent anime and is way better than a lot of crap out there. One thing i liked about this series is, unlike a LOT of animes, the main character is not a complete happy-go-lucky pussy and really does not like to take a lot of shit. I think the ending was particularly good also. Animation and Music were mainly the weak points for me but the art work was very solid throughout and i found the characters to be quite realistic and well thaught out. I would give Kiba a 3.5/5

My response back to anonymous:

Yes, I agree with you that Zed is a very likeable anti-hero and his character was the reason this anime was barely watchable :).

About your personal, comment -- I don't get paid to write a blog, so this isn't my job. I do this for fun and to communicate with fellow anime lovers like yourself :).

Aug 6, 2007

Manga Review -- Last Book of Jing: King of Bandits, Twilight Tales

The last the Jing: King of Bandits, The Twilight Tales manga finally came out recently (sometime in July). The Twilight Tales follow Jing in his teens. The previous volume of this manga series came out over a year ago, so I don't remember what happened previously. I do remember, though, that the second series begins with "Seventh Heaven," the story used for the OVA that came after the anime series.

Anyhow, this last volume was like any other Jing manga, strange. As usual the prose is poetic and the landscapes are surreal. This time Jing steals the Holy Suit, which takes off and flies him and Kir to "The Capital of Clothes and Ruin" where they meet the very petite Princess Picon (a liquor aperitif that is bitter-sweet with a hint of orange -- source: Apparently, this destroyed land was a place where highly sought after clothes were made. Now there are zombies about that are controlled by the clothes. And the weirdness escalates ...

I didn't feel as though this was the end of the Jing stories, so I hope that there are more when Jing's in his late teens or 20's (third series please). I'd like to see him go back for that girl he fought at the end of first series and promised to come back for. They could marry and then continue on with stories of their adventures, or maybe the adventures of their children. Eventhough the Jing manga are esoteric, I still enjoy them a great deal, especially the detail that goes into creating the strange landscapes and characters. 5/5

Jul 30, 2007

The Devil Beside You -- Live Action Taiwanese Version

I honestly tried watching this drama since it came highly recommended from the Crunchy Roll drama forum. The first 5 or so episodes were really good and then the show went to repetitive suckdom and I became bored. I read the manga a couple of years ago and I remembered the basic premise -- high school deliquent who is also the son of the school's director decides he "wants" the main character who's mother is going to marry the school's director, the result being a pair of "dangerous" siblings. For whatever reason the two don't realize since they aren't blood related that it's okay. I remember reading the manga and getting tired of the main female character asking "what should I do?" every other page as repeated misfortune and misunderstanding followed one after another. It felt the same way watching this too and to a greater extent since the actress playing the main character is really good at pouting. The main male character is played by an actor with lots of charisma, but even his charisma isn't enough to keep me hooked. Oh well ...

Jul 28, 2007

Anime Review: Himawari Season 1

Himawari is the story of a girl, Himawari, who was rescued by a ninja and, therefore, decides to go to ninja school in order to learn how to protect her savior. Himawari only knows her savior by the tattoo on his neck, so when a teacher shows up at her school with the same marking, she decides that he is her savior and declares him her master. The problem is the teacher, Hayato, is not a ninja (or so it seems), but rather a teacher hired to teach general education. I suspect, though, that Hayato is a bad-ass. Like bad-asses in other anime he's able to look like a clumsy bumbling idiot who luckily escapes from danger (Trigun and Trinity Blood for example). I think the closest the anime gets to admitting that Hayato is a bad-ass is during the last episode when he leads a group of good natured but misguided ninja children away from Himawari, thus giving her chance to escape from danger. It's implied that he's never reacted to the wayward ninjas actions because they posed no real threat, and Hayato so much as says that he was about to open a can of whoop-ass on the boys if Himawari hadn't shown up to the scene at the end. There are also a few teasers about Hayato's abilities in the episode involving the teacher who is a master of disguise. Underneath this there is some untold back story about Himawari's origin which appear to have something to do with a science lab. There's also some back story for Hayato, who is most likely not the ninja that rescued her, but rather he is a part of some secret organization and he was sent to keep an eye out on Himawari and the ninja school in general. But that's just my speculation. Or he could be the savior ninja and the nice face he wears is just a disguise -- saaa ...

This anime feels like Ken Akamatsu-lite in that there's a somewhat bumbling guy with hidden strength in the midst of some very strange young girls. I call it "lite" because the characters are not fully developed, the fan service is pretty well contained, and there is barely any sexual tension between the Hayato and Himawari. To me it felt as though Hayato regards Himawari as a daughter. This is okay and makes the show easy to digest. I think it would take some skill to make this full on Akamatsu-like.

I give this a 3/5 because it's a likable enough show, even though it's shallow. Hopefully, the second season of the show will have a story line to propel things forward.

Jul 23, 2007

Anime Series Review: Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge

The last episode of "Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge" finally came out yesterday. I was surprised that it was still being fansubbed as I thought the series was licensed. Well, thanks to those brave fansubbers! Anyhow, Shichihenge is the story of Sunako and the 4 bishonens she shares a house with. The premise of the story is that the bishonens can live in the fabulous house with Sunako so long as they turn Sunako into a lady. Sunako is a Goth-chick who gone over the edge, relying on the company of various life size anatomical figures rather than actual human beings. The anime has lots of elements of the manga. The very funny
Goth-Loli sister (yonin) are given an expanded role for added comic relief ("Goth-Goth-Loli-Loli"). The anime, as in the manga, is both hilarious and touching. Any girl who's ever been told she's ugly or believes that she is ugly knows exactly where Sunako is coming from. And it's nice to watch Sunako's transformation from an isolated girl to one that is well supported by and supports her friends. Her friends manage to find Sunako's real inner beauty and it is hinted that Sunako, herself, is not physically ugly. She just has low charisma and weird hobbies. As for the bishies and the two other bishojos, they are good characters too and show some growth throughout the series. Of note is the Kouhei character which illustrated the reality that some bishonens face, that is mobs of overly excited girls. Yes, we've all seen it and the cat fights and the hair pulling that occur over pretty boys. The ending was satisfying too, as we find out that being a lady has nothing to do with outer beauty, but is instead a personal statement of inner strength. The bishies, indeed, have fulfilled their end of the bargain. I really enjoyed watching this series. 5/5

Jul 17, 2007

Series Review: Hanazakarino Kimitachi e -- Taiwanese Live Action Version

I finally finished this series last night and it was good until the last two episode. This series follows the manga pretty closely and concluded with the photo shoot. It seemed, though, as if the screen writers didn't know how to end the series, so there was a lot of filler and Rei Xi (Mizuki) and Shu Yi (Nakatsu) became louder, shriller, and more over dramatic as things wore on. I got so irritated with the actors that I fast-forwarded through a lot of the hystronics. I, also, still was bugged by the appearance of the actress who played Rei Xi. No matter how I looked at her, she was not cute. Her way of moving and her expressions were not that of someone who is a girl or of someone 16/17 year old. In the outdoor photoshoot scene I finally figured it out. She looks like a chubby cheeked ten year old, very much like the curly headed Coke-girl from about 10-years back. She also acted like a very loud and very hyper 10-year boy, which made it hard for me to believe that her character could feel romantic love -- which may have actually been a reflection of the heart of the actress, because she had absolutely no chemistry with Jian (Sano) so the sexual tension the two experience while living together doesn't get expressed (or rather it's expressed one-sidedly by the actor that plays Jian, but comes off all wrong because of the Rei Xi's actress). The actor that played Jian is very good and definitely looks the part. I felt so bad, though, that he had to act like he was romantically in love with a chubby-cheeked androgenous child. It felt more like a big-brother looking after little brother more than anything. I did like that they added the extra element of Shu Yi falling in love with Julia. I had hoped that that would happen in the manga and I was disappointed when it didn't. It seemed that the way that they argued indicated an underlying attraction, or so I had hoped.

Anyhow, I think this version of the story really understood the craziness of the situation of both Mizuki and Sano holding on tightly to an illusion so they can be together, but at the same time using the illusion to protect themselves from hurt. I think it also dealt well with Sano's internal struggle against himself with regards to high-jump, keeping Mizuki's secret and how he uses her secret to toy with her. I think though, I would have like to have seen this actor go through the emotions of finally breaking down and his efforts to finally get he and Mizuki to move toward to confess their feelings. Instead, they left them in the illusion. I also like the way they handle the doctor and his gayness in such matter-of-fact and straightforward way.

I give this 5/5 for Jian and doctor and an overall 3/5 because Rei Xi wasn't convincing and the last two episodes were really annoying. They really missed the point that Mizuki in no way looks like a boy or acts like one, but rather she cuts her hair, puts on boys clothing, goes to a boy's school and convinces herself into believing that everyone takes her as a boy. And most everyone believes she's a boy because they assume that a girl wouldn't choose to go to an all boys school. It's a circle arguement.

Jul 15, 2007

Hanazakarino Kimitachi e -- Taiwanese Live Action Version

I have watched the first 5 episodes of this 15 episode long version of Hana-Kimi and I find it quite good. At first I didn't like that the actress that plays the Mizuki character (Mizuki is called Rei Xi in the version) because she actually looks like a chubby unattactractive boy -- well more like a "Pat" type from SNL -- but I think I've gotten used to her (and her overacting). The other characters are well played and well cast, especially the Sano character (Jian or Quan depending on the fansubber group) and the Nakatsu character (Shu Yi). This version, so far, follows the manga very closely, so it's very satisfying to watch. There are some deviations that had to be made to account for the casting of the Rei Xi. Instead of Jian inspiring her when she was being teased at home for being Asian, Rei Xi was teased instead for being fat. It's a change that doesn't affect the story at all. Anyhow, I'm really enjoying it and I'm wondering at what point in the story it will end it since at the end of episode 5, the story is at the beginning of the 3rd volume of the manga. Hmm ... we'll see ...

Jul 12, 2007

Hanazakari no Kimitachi e -- Japanese Live Action Version Continued

I found a fansubbed version of the new Hana-Kimi series on Crunchy Roll. Basically, this live action version is, indeed, very loosely based on the manga. The basic scenario is the same -- girl disguises herself to enter an all boy's school to be with the boy she admires. The characters are present, but they are not like the manga. There are elements of the scenarios in the manga, but they had been chopped into small bits and rearranged. Mizuki's reason being at Ousaka is changed too. In this version, she comes there knowing that Sano no longer does the high jump and she has the goal in mind of making him jump again. It also seems that Sano does not realize right away that Mizuki is a girl (or maybe he could know who she is since in this version he gets the injury that ends his high jumping while saving her from street thugs a year before she enters the school). There are lots of other things changed too, which is frustrating if you compare it the manga, so I've decided not to associate this with the manga and take the show for what it is. Once I did that, I have decided that the show is watchable. The scenes between Ashiya and Sano, Ashiya and Dr. Umeda, and Ashiya and Nakatsu are charming but the scenes with the accessory characters are mostly pathetically silly fan service. I imagine as I continue to watch this series, I will be fast forwarding through the fan service. I also find the St. Blossoms girls to be very annoying. Sigh ...

Jul 10, 2007

Hanazakari no Kimitachi e -- Japanese Live Action Version

There's a live action version of "Hanazakari no kimitachi e" (For you in Full Blossom) this season. I watched the raw of the first episode and it is VERY loosely based on the manga. There is no coherence in the activities and the show appears, so far, to be a bunch of fan service for teenage girls (male and female -- 'nuff said). I'll give the second episode a chance to see if they attempt to do something more than fan service. If the second episode is equally as crappy or crappier than the first, then I will not following this show. The first episode, though, was truly disappointing.

I did some digging around and there's also a live action version that came out of Taiwan. I'm going to see if this version is any better. Fortunately, this version is subtitled in English.

I'd love to see an anime version or a live action version of this come out that is closer to the manga. I realize that would difficult, though, considering that the manga is 23 volumes. I think, though, if there is a savvy screenwriter involved, they story could be satisfactorily told in ~13 - 24-episodes. There's lots of stuff to cut or abbreviate like the story around doctor and his lover, the scavenger hunt (or whatever that was), the appearance of Hajima's little twin bothers, the lake story where Nakatsu is possessed, ... to point out a few. Sigh ... oh, well, ... I love the manga, so I guess it's alright that it's not been made into anime.

Jul 8, 2007

Emma: Victorian Romance the Second Act

I finished watching the raws last night. The ending is nothing like the manga, rather there seems to be some business dealings going on (I could not understand because I don't know many business words in the Japanese) and a lot of shots of Emma pausing and thinking very hard or William on the verge of tears. SUCKED!!! Read the manga! It's got a lot more going on and it is more explicit about the burning passion between William and Emma. Them two are on fire! (Okay in a very victorian way ...)

Anime: 2.5/5 -- it started off good and then quickly went to SUCKED
Manga: 5/5 -- that's the kinda of romance I like to read :).

Anime Review: Nodame Cantabile -- Anime Version

This series ran 23-episodes long and covered Volumes 1 - 9 (a little bit of 10) of the manga. The series, overall, was faithful to the manga, although, a couple of tidbits were trimmed to keep the story moving. I've written quite a bit about this series in the past, so I won't go into more. They decided to end the series when Chiaki goes to Nodame's home to convince her to come to Europe with him. The last scene is the hug when Chiaki finally finds Nodame while she's talking on the phone with him about their future. I suppose that was a good place to end things and from the looks of it, they could or could not make a second season. 5/5

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the second season of the live action version :).

Jul 7, 2007

After School Nightmare Volume 4

It came out in English before I could finish translating the manga. I managed to translate the first 20 pages or so and it looks like the US translation dumbed things down a little. I was having trouble myself translating because a lot of what was said didn't have a good English translation. Oh well, this volume leaves Sou in a pretty sad state. He finally gets his hands on Ichijo only to have her flatly reject him again in favor of Kareha, who Ichijo promises to take care of as a final request of Shinbashi. We also get a taste for how scary and possessive Sou's sister is. From glancing at the next volume it seems that Ai loves her brother in a most un-sisterly-like fashion and there's also some girl-on-girl action between Ichijo and Kareha ... Ah, but what would this twisted story be without incest and lesbians. Poor Ichijo, caught in the middle of two triangles because she can't accept that she's a girl.

Jun 24, 2007

New Manga Review: Yurara

"Yurara" by Chika Shiomi is a manga under the Shojo Beat brand from Viz in the US. The first volume introduces the main characters, Yurara, Mei, and Yako. Yurara is an innocently dense high school girl who can see see ghosts and sense their emotions. Mei and Yako can also see ghosts and they have fire and water "magic" that can elimate ghosts. Yurara is protected by a guardian spirit that comes out and covers Yurara in the body of a tall beautiful woman when Yurara in is danger. The guardian spirit is fiesty and rowdy, the very opposite of Yurara. This guardian can also point lost spirits to "the other side." Mei is a very flirty with Yurara and her guardian spirit while Yako is more reserved. Of course, since there are three main characters, there is a triangle relationship between the three. This, though, is more like fan service than an element that furthers the story along.

After reading the first volume, I would say that this is not a compelling manga to me. There's no depth to Yurara or the male leads, although, they are trying with the sensitive Yako character. There also appears to be no underlying story arc, but rather a series of day-to-day accounting of ghost stories. I will read the second volume when it comes out to confirm this. I think, though, "Her Majesty's Dog" is a better series if you like shojo ghost-mystery manga.

Initial assessment: 2.5/5

Anime Review: Kiba

I finally finished "Kiba" yesterday. "Kiba" is the story of fated two best friends, Zed and Noa, that end up on a strange world, each with the destiny to be the world's savior or destroyer. This anime series was 27 episodes too long due to numerous filler episodes that did not advance the story. In the new world they are transported to, there are humans and spirits. The spirits are used by the humans in combat and are contained with little balls called shards. Therefore, the humans that are spirit users are called "Shard Casters." Both Zed and Noa have special extra powerful spirits, Amil Gal and Sachira, called key spirits. There are 6 key spirits in all and it is legend in this world that when the 6 key spirits are brought together within one Shard Caster, the great spirit of creation and destruction "Tasker" will be reborn. These 6 key spirits align with the 6 lands in this world, so, of course, there is an endless war to gather the key spirits to further the ambitions of each land. The lands of Task and Jimoto are the evil lands in this story. The leader of Jimoto, though, is the best villain in the story. As the series comes to the end it seems that almost everybody becomes an enemy to Zed, including Noa, and Zed is continually asking "WTF?" The animation itself isn't anything special and neither are the characters. There's no witty dialog and no scene in particular stands out as being good. I'm actually surprised that I managed to stick with this anime over the past couple of years, but once I had downloaded all 51 episodes, I felt obligated to finish the series (sigh ... I should get back to "Kara Maou").

This series gets a 2/5 for being barely watchable.

Jun 20, 2007

Emma Second Act: Episode 10

What on Earth is going on with the Emma anime? They've turned William into some creepy stalker. I'm pissed!!! The whole thing has gone way off track from the manga.

Jun 19, 2007

Next ...

Next, I will read Houkago Houkenshitsu (After School Nurse's Office or in the US "After School Nightmare"), Volume 4. I'm not sure whether I will write a summary since this manga is so weird (in a very not right way) that I may not have the nerve to actually write about what happens. I guess I'll just have to see how weird it gets ...

Fortunately, this manga has furigana, so it shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks to get through it.

Nodame Cantabile: Volume 10, Part 2

And so the conducting competition starts. There is some ongoing joke about Chiaki's bed-head and various characters keep asking him whether he's a late sleeper or sleeps a lot (the translation to English is a little unclear here). Some musical stuff happens and since I'm not very familiar with musical terminology, it's not clear to me what a lot the translated Japanese means. Anyhow, the first round of competition seems like the contestants choose from a box two pieces to conduct. They study the song and then get up in front of the orchestra and tell them how to play it and then the orchestra plays while the the contestant conducts. Chiaki, Jean, and Kitahira pass the first round. The second round looks like it involves the contestants taking the same two songs, studying them for 15-minutes in a solitary room and then coming out to tell the orchestra how to play the piece and then conducting the piece as the orchestra plays. At the end of this round the judges and the musicians in the orchestra converse about Jean and Chiaki, saying that Jean is very colorful (expressive perhaps) and Chiaki is solid and dignified. The next day Chiaki and Kitahira encounter each other in the morning. Kitahira is shocked that Chiaki is calmly having breakfast and asks Chiaki if he's going to watch the other competitors during the third round. Chiaki informs Kitihira that his turn is the next day in the evening. After thinking about it a little, Chiaki decides that he will watch the other competitors with Kitahira.

Before the third round, Nodame tells Frank that she's worried about Chiaki and is going to the 3rd round. Frank accompanies her. She kisses a poster of Chiaki, much to the embarrassment of Frank. The first part of the third round doesn't go well for Chiaki. Displeased with the performance, he stops the orchestra in the middle of the piece and tells them to start over from the beginning. After the performance, Nodame parts ways with Frank, explaining to him that she needs to talk to Chiaki. So she goes to Chiaki's hotel, and Chiaki is in a really bad funk and says he doesn't want to see her. She manages to go to his room anyway. She gives Chiaki a pep talk, telling him that nothing has been decided yet and that he should be like her and not give up. Chiaki asks her if she's come to rub salt in his wound with that lame speech. Nodame then suggests they go eat. At the restaurant, they encounter Jean and Youko. Youko rubs in Chiaki's poor performance and sets Nodame off. Jean stops the ensuing cat-fight by telling Youko's he's tired and wants to leave, despite the fact that they have ordered dessert. They leave and Nodame takes their dessert (so Nodame-like).

Chiaki and Nodame leave the restaurant drunk and Nodame says she has to go back to where she's staying with Frank. Chiaki informs her that the trains have stopped for the night and then grabs her hand and invites her to sleep in his hotel room. Nodame asks if it's okay, and frets about not having a change of underwear. Nodame ends up sleeping on the sofa and she looks quite uncomfortable, disappointed, and angry about her situation. In the morning, Nodame has to wake the heavily sleeping Chiaki, reminding him that the competitor is still going on. (I guess Chiaki is a sleepy-head.) Nodame and Chiaki go to the competiton to watch the other competitors. It's Kitihira's turn and he's so taken by the music that he appears to fly off the podium. Chiaki worries about himself, but then reassures himself that this is his chance. End of Volume 10.

Jun 18, 2007

Nodame Cantabile -- Volume 10 Summary, Part 1

Phew! I finally finished mucking my way through the untranslated version of the 10th volume of Nodame Cantabile. It sucked that there is no furigana next to the kanji's so it took an extra long time to wade through the manga. In total it took 8-weeks for me translate the manga. I think I understood about 85 - 90% of it. There were a few phrases that no matter how I thought about them didn't make sense in English. It will be interesting to see what the professional translators come up with.

As for the story, we follow Nodame and Chiaki through their last days in Japan (nothing exciting happens in Japan), their arrival in France, and the preliminary rounds of the conducting competition Chiaki has entered. Chiaki and Nodame move into an apartment that Chiaki's family owns. Their rooms are next to each other separated by a "salon". In their new apartment we meet Frank and his roomate (come to think of it, I don't remember her name being mentioned). Nodame and Frank know each other from the entry exam for the conservatory that Nodame is going to enter. Chiaki seems surprised and is a little bit jealous that they know each other. Frank and Nodame hit it off well and bond over anime until Frank can't stand it anymore. Nodame on the other hand is using Frank's Puri Gorota tapes, which are subbed in French, to improve her French (after an embarrasing earlier scene in a restaurant in which Nodame orders snails and tells the waiter that Chiaki stole her purse and calls for the police).

Next, Frank tells Nodame that there is an anime festival in his home town and invites her to go. Chiaki protests saying that his competition is occuring at the same time. Chiaki takes back his protest, but Nodame decides to go since the place where Chiaki's competition is being held is on the way to Frank's hometown. Chiaki asks Nodame what's more important: his competition or an anime festival. Nodame answers the anime festival. And off they go on a train to the competition and the theme park where the anime festival is going to be held. On the train they see various coplaying weirdos on their way to the festival and meet Jean, one of Chiaki's competitors, and his girlfriend Youko, who is a loud mouthed bitch to everyone but Jean. Jean is the hope of France and has won the preceeding year's contest. Nodame counters that Chiaki is Japan's hope and starts a loud bitchcraft session with Youko. Chiaki and Jean stop the girls telling them to shut-up so they can sleep. At the station where Chiaki gets off, he boots Nodame back onto train. Nodame said she wanted to watch over him, but Chiaki protested saying the first 2 rounds of competition are not open to the public. However, Chiaki sees, after Nodame has already left, that Youko is going to accompany Jean to the competition. There's a small look of regret on Chiaki's face.

At the competition Chiaki meets a fellow Japanese competitor (Katahira Hajime) that has a family he left back in Japan. Katahira has some self confidence issues, but is glad that there is another Japanese person there because he can't understand French. Meanwhile, Nodame and Frank appear to be enjoying themselves at some place that looks like a Disney theme park. tsuzuku ...

Jun 17, 2007

Anime Review: Otomewa Bokuni Koishiteru (The Maidens Love Me)

This is the story of a boy, Mizuho, who must disguise himself as a girl to go to an all girls school so he can inherit his grandfather's estate. His grandfather's intentions are never explained, so I guess the will is just a McGuffin to place a boy into an all girls school. Mizuho, of course, looks beautiful as a girl and because of his easy-going attitude, elegance, and general niceness becomes very popular amongst his female classmates. Early into the story he is voted to be the "Elder" in the school. The elder is the girl that all of the girls respect and refer to as "Oneesama" or "Big Sister." This is against the school president, Takako, who is also Mizuho's best friend's (Mariya) rival. And so the series lightly skips along through the adventures of Mizuho's school life. There a debate on whether a hair ribbon is too big for Mizuho's "little sister" and, of course, the school festival where Mizuho and Takako are cast in "Romeo and Juliet" with the two playing the lead characters as requested by the student body. By the end of the series, Mizuho has built himself a nice harem of girls, including a ghost, who seems to be quite happy that Mizuho is a boy. Towards the end a "girl" triangle forms, as expected, between Mizuho, Mariya (who is also Mizuho's childhood friend), and Takako. Mizuho indicates, though, that he has always kept some distance from Mariya and seems to be leaning towards Takako who he chooses to dance with him at the last dance and actually kisses during the "Romeo and Juliet" play. Overall this is a pleasant show to watch. There's very little drama, the characters are cute but unoriginal, and the ecchiness is well contained. I give this show 3/5. I would have liked to have seen more tension between Mizuho and Takako. I did like, though, that they didn't make Takako into a bitch for the sake of bitchiness. She seems to be a nice girl who was very concerned with the traditions of the school and doing her best for the student body. Her character is truly a girl the Mizuho character could really like :).