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 :).

Anime Review: Kashimashi -- Girl Meets Girl

This is the pitiful story of a boy, Hazamu, with an effeminate face who actually gets turned into a girl after being hit "Dead-Like-Me-style" by an alien space ship. Before getting hit, there are some flashbacks of him and his crush, Yasuna, happily tending to the school garden and of Hazamu's friends encouraging him to confess to Yasuna. Hazamu does shyly confess to Yasuna only to be rejected. Of course it turns out that his childhood friend (and, yes, there's a promise between these two), Tomari, likes Hazamu too. And so when Hazamu turns into a girl, what's everyone supposed to do? I know, start a bizarre girl love triangle. Sigh ... not that this doesn't happen to adolescent girls who generally have this kind of relationship with their female friends before progressing to girl-boy relationships. Anyhow, Yasuna is nutz and Tomari is a tomboy who can't accept that Hazamu isn't a boy. Then there's are the accessory characters, the level headed Ayuki who decides to stay out of the mess, and the poor neglected male in the group, Asuta, who now finds himself attracted to his former a boy but now a girl bestfriend. I spent the entire show rooting for Asuta because I felt he was the sweetest and most honest with his feelings and given that Yasuna and Tomari are crazy pains-in-ass, it would be best to go with the sane guy. But no, this is a girl triangle drama, so the pitiful story of indecision, bitchcraft, and bitchslapping must go on. In the end, Hazamu chooses Yasuna out of guilt, of course , because by the end of the story she is in a state of complete mental breakdown (ARGH!!! Never choose the crazy one out of guilt, dammit!!!) and of course as soon as Yasuna recovers she starts showing some interest in boys and rejects Hazamu again. And so Hazamu goes back to Tomari out of guilt, again! (who, if the story continued, would eventually accept that Hazamu is a girl and drop her too). Sigh, ..., needless to say, I was pissed. I wanted Asuta!!! He's big and protective and there's no guilt between him and Hazamu!!! Anyhow, this is all rediculous anyway because the characters appear to be in Junior High and in junior high, there really is no such thing as a romantic relationship and I imagine at some point Hazamu would try out Asuta too.

I give this 1/5 -- because there are much better gender changing stories out there like "Afterschool Nightmare", "Tenshino Konamaiki" ("Cheeky Angel"), and "The Day of Revolution."

Jun 11, 2007

Reideen Update

I have just finished episode 12 tonight and I must say the show has gotten a little better despite that fact that Juunki is still clothed while piloting Reideen (the whole thing is so inconsistent because his clothes get blown off when he enters Reideen and then suddenly there's that lame red suit ... so irritating). Anyhow, we find out that Junnki is supposed to be some kendo bad-ass, although, he doesn't show it when he's fighting with Reideen. We also find out some more about the aliens hovering above Earth and a new giant robot pilot shows up names Roxell. Roxell is white haired pretty-boy with horns, an eye-patch, a tight fitting black suit and a cape -- I like it! He pilots a giant silver robot called Godeon. Godeon seems pretty slick to me, so I don't really understand why Roxell wants Reideen. Anyhow, it doesn't really matter, because Roxell is mad at Juunki and I expect that some the hilarality will ensue when Roxell figures out some way to get to Earth and hide his horns in order to infiltrate Junnki's high school. It's gotta be that way or else it's no good. Of course they'll become allies and kick the ugly space aliens butts. I'm also waiting for Juunki to realize that the girl he likes is actually his robot's human disguise, although, I really don't know why a giant robot needs to fall in-love with it's pilot and go to a festival -- maybe the writers felt the need to add a Shoujo angle to increase the show's appeal. I wonder what Godeon's disguise is? Are we going to pull in the Shonen Ai folks too -- unless Roxell is actually a girl? Hmm ... my husband, though, still complains about the abundance of gundam porn.

Jun 8, 2007

Anime Rview: Sumomomo Momo: World's Strongest Bride

I finished "Sumomomo" this week. I thought it ended well with the Inuzuka realizing he's totally dependent on Momoko and that he has been severely neglecting her. The final battle was pretty good because Momoko, in her great sadness, let loose some ancient power. I'm not sure what Inuzuka's glowing red eye power did other than maybe clear the poison from his body (???). Well, whatever ... at least we learn why he doesn't want to be a martial artist, but I wonder now that his power has been restored, will his childhood memories be restored too. Hmm ... and what of the other people who want to kill him? It seems that they let plenty of room for the series to continue. Overall 3.5/5

Jun 5, 2007

Emma: Victorian Romance Season 2

Okay, I admit it, I got anxious and went ahead and read the manga. The ending is good, but not as I expected. I figured that Emma and William would end up in America where status wasn't so much of issue and Emma is unknown. They do stop in America but only briefly and the circumstances under which this happens are very bad. Anyhow, I'm very excited about the anime again and I can't wait to see how they adapt the story.