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 :).