Finding Creative Kinship in A Drifting Life


Sometimes when I'm writing, everything disappears. I go somewhere, but I don't know where, just not here. In the past, I've described it as a feeling like falling in love. When I'm working on something, really working, I'm not hungry. There's something deep and nervy in my stomach, like butterflies. I don't want to sleep. I don't want to see people. When I'm not putting my characters through the paces, I'm thinking about them, having conversations with them, wondering what they are up to.

When I'm creating, the real world, and the real people in it, hold only minimal a draw for me.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi describes a similar feeling in his autobiographical work, A Drifting Life. When he is writing something he wants to be writing, it feels something like a runner's high. What is real disappears, and he's right there, right in the story, and that is the place he most wants to be.

"There was no freedom in reality," Tatsumi writes of himself in the third person. "The creative act of making something from nothing allowed him to live in an infinitely free world."

In one scene, Tatsumi describes working on the classic Japanese comic Black Blizzard, a noir mystery that takes place during a terrible snowstorm. While working on the story, Tatsumi drifted so deeply into the creative world he had created that he found himself shivering at his drawing desk even in the infamous humidity and heat of a Tokyo summer.

Reading Tatsumi's story, I feel that creative high by proxy, like a long protracted sigh of relief. This feeling is real, this otherness, this otherly-worldness, this gone somewhere, this imagining: Imagination. It's a place creatives know. It's a place of transcendence, a place we want to bring others through our work.

Just knowing that other creators feel it in the same way, makes me not feel alone. I keep a copy of A Drifting Life and a copy of Black Blizzard along with my most cherished books on the highest shelf in my living room, which doubles, triples, quadruples and so forth, as my office, my writing room, sometimes my nap room, my cat's rec room, my dining room, and my creative space. It is the shelf just above my little shrine of happy trinkets - things I've collected in life that have important meaning just to me.

On my roughest days as a writer and a creative and on my best, I look up to those books. I feel a kind of  being in love with, a creative kinship with Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I don't know if his work is for every reader, but it really is for me.

A Drifting Life is as much an incidental history of postwar Japan and an in-depth look at the manga industry during that time as it is an artist's autobiography. It's pace is slow, and it explores the minute details of Tatsumi's career, from his first publications in seventh grade well into his adulthood. It's also about his life as a creator, his desire to rise above commercial success, to innovate and provoke and make something new.

For many, it may seem mundane, and it is. That's the life and business of a creative most of the time. It is hard grinding work towards an ever moving goal. Its rewards are those brief moments when it is just you drifting, but not necessarily lost, in the seductive, magical places only you can make and dwell in.

The Irregular at Magic High School: Class warfare and class warfare

Mahouka Koukou No Rettousei, or The Irregular at Magic High School, or The Poorly Performing Student at Magical School (my favorite) is complicated as hell. It reminds me a lot of Sword Art Online, but with a lot of jargon about technical magic thrown in. Also a lot of incest. (like a lot)
Brother and sister. Really. Look at that. Weird.

Y'all need to leave some room for the Holy Spirit damn

But in general, it's actually one of the more likeable series I've watched recently. The characters are cute and pretty well-written. There's also a dark undertone, set up from the very first episode. Essentially, society is divided into magic-users and non-magic people. This causes a lot of strain (supposedly) and the show is based in a school that is set up to train magic users. Within the school are two classes, first and second, Blooms and Weeds, respectively. Yet again, this causes a lot of strain, this time much more visible. The main character Tatsuya is a Weed, due to a non-comprehensive testing system, while his sister Miyuki who can't keep her pants on around him (literally), is a Bloom.

The action is really excellent, if a little sparse. Again, it is really reminiscent of SAO, with generally one major action sequence or battle per episode. But that one battle tends to be pretty spectacular, and the way they animate the magic is really visually complex and satisfying. 

I'm only six episodes in, but I'm already very interested to see if they delve into the outer world more and explore the dynamic between magic and non-magic people, which they've only hinted at to this point. So if you like incest-y fanservice, technical magic, and really pretty animation, go find you some Irregular. (it's on Hulu Plus, fyi)

Old-School Sunday: Crayon Shin-Chan

There are currently a little over 800 episodes of Crayon Shin-Chan. Granted, they're short, but that's still a pretty prolific amount of anime on the table. Funimation brought Shin-chan to the States with a really excellent dub, the jokes all work really well, giving a Japanese feel while still being pretty understandable to the average American.

The whole gag for Shin-chan is the idea that five-year olds are making horribly inappropriate jokes, not too far from South Park, usually relying on either fart/poop jokes or on some actually pretty clever wordplay jokes. That's where the similarities end, however, because around that gag is a surprisingly heart-warming show about two young parents trying to survive in Japan, while enduring their hellish children and their weirdly mature peers, as well as a wide variety of insane neighbors. The show has plenty of room to develop deep, round characters that feel very authentic. It also pokes fun at popular tropes, including super hero shows, magical girl shows, and doesn't hesitate to take jabs at the culture of machismo in Japan. The mother Mitsi, for example, wears the pants in the family, handles their finances, and also raises the truly horrid brat Shin can be at times.

Funimation brought 52 episodes stateside, usually with three mini-stories inside each, barring a few larger episodes that span the full thirty minutes.

Shin-chan was an early anime series for me, running for roughly a month in 2007 on Adult Swim in the middle of the night. A very young Mr. Empty was enamored with this uncouth youth and his devil-may-care approach to the world, and the bounty of innuendos within. Despite its mostly spare and simple art style, the content makes it well worth the time.

Witch Craft Works: Don't Google WCW Expecting Cute Witch Girls

Wait, that's not quite right....
Witch Craft Works is a new title from the always impeccable J.C. Staff studio. It revolves around a boy named Takamiya, who goes to school with an unapproachable, perfect girl named Kagari. Kagari is the daughter of the Principal/Headmistress of the school that they both attend, and as per the ritual, she has a slave-like following of fans in the other students. In fact, much of Takamiya's time is spent falling victim to the hordes of people constantly surrounding her, getting elbowed in the face and the like.
Suck it up, Takamiya. Take that 'bow like a man.

Note: anything past here will probably spoil the pilot, and this is actually a good series, so stop here if you want to watch it first. Mmmmkay?

 However, the show takes a pleasant turn for the weird, very quickly. Takamiya finds out that Kagari is a witch, and she is protecting him from another faction of witches. Pretty much every episode showcases Kagari's magical powers thus far, and they are among the coolest scenes you can find in anime. She's a fire witch, and in this case, she is actually made of fire, and is pretty much a hardcore invincible badass. She blows people and buildings and enemies and pretty much her entire environment into charred bits. It's awesome. It's totally awesome.

So, her identity revealed, Kagari is now free to protect Takamiya throughout the day, taking a more active role in his life, much to the chagrin of her fanclub. Her fanclub comes pretty close to being turned into barbeque several times, after harassing her princess. And she does refer to Takamiya as her princess.

Good boys don't swallow, Takamiya.

As the episodes progress, Takamiya gets frustrated that he poses a constant risk, mostly due to being a helpless little bitch all the time, and he starts to train with Kagari to learn to use magic himself. So, Kagari gives him his wardrobe....which is a nice capelet and hat with a big bow. Insert middle school snickering here.

Look at your pretty bow!

Kagari is a HUGE pervert for Takamiya.

You know you love it, Kagari. Don't even play.

I've watched the first five episodes now and I'm really excited to keep watching. It seems like the story has a lot of depth, they've brought up a ton of concepts without resolving them, and the characters are both amusing and endearing, a rare mix. It's too early to call it the best anime of 2014, but if continues in this way, it will certainly be a strong contender.

Pupa: A Monster Frustration

If I ended the review right now, it would be comparable to the length of this show.

Each episode of Pupa is about four minutes long, if you include the title sequence, which is a solid minute. A whole QUARTER of every episode is the freaking title sequence. I've watched the first five episodes, which took up less than half an hour of my life, but it was a hell of a frustrating hour.

The show actually has excellent artwork, and it probably has an interesting story. (It's about monsters and it has some implied gore) However, three minutes doesn't do shit to tell you about that story, and it makes insanely huge jumps between episodes. Sometimes there are flashbacks, or something? It's just really really difficult to follow, even if you watch it in sequential order, it has the most disjointed feeling.

Until it gets about thirty episodes and some intrepid Internetite takes it upon themselves to cut out the title sequences and throw it into a single comprehensive piece, Pupa is probably not worth the effort required to try and follow the story. Just rewatch Neon Genesis for the hundredth time instead.

Pupa and neglect made him cry.

Underwater Double Post: Nati No Asukara and My Bride is a Mermaid

Okay, so today, Dear Readers, we have a double post dealing with underwater anime adventures. A fishy two-fer. A sub-surface twin-pack. An aquatic duo. A...well, they both happen underwater (and involve hijinx). UNDERWATER HIJINX!
Divine Prince Ugayafuki Aezu (1886)
woodblock print by Chikanoubo Yoshu
depicting Princess Toyotama, daughter of the dragon king of the sea, giving birth
From the Chinkanoubo and Yoshitoshi Woodblock Collection, Scripps College

And why shouldn't they? Japan is literally surrounded by water. Literally! (In the proper use of that word.) Japan has a long history of folklore and mythology dealing with water gods, goddesses, dragons and demons. They live and die by the sea as a constant and ever-changing reality. It brings life and death, destruction and plenty. In short, it makes sense that there would be anime dealing with underwater themes.

Nagi No Asukara (A Lull in the Sea)
Written by: Mari Okada
Based on the manga by Project-118
Directed by: Toshiya Shinohara
Produced: P.A. Works
Release Date: October 3, 2013--Ongoing

First up, Dear Readers, are my first impressions of Nagi No Asukara, a middle-school story that just happens to take place between the surface and underwater world.

The story begins with  our underwater characters cooking their dinner. There are flames, and magical stews in magical pots that don't just dilute and drift away in the ocean currents. It all seems very surface-like. Houses, stovetops, clothing, street, how does a viewer know that Nagi No Asukara is underwater? Because there are fish. And in the first episode an underwater girl, named Manaka, gets caught in a net on her way to above water school. Seriously, underwater world looks JUST like the surface world only there are fish. Why do people underwater need steps? Couldn't they, say, just swim up something?

Seriously, why does that stew not float away? What is keeping it in the pot?
Am I thinking too much about physics? My guess is yes, but my disbelief can only be suspended so far.

After watching the first episode, here is what I know: there are underwater people and surface people and they both know about one another, but don't like each other very much. But the underwater people don't have like fish-fins or anything, and they can breathe above water for a little while, but the surface people can't breathe underwater...what are the rules to this world? I'm so confused.

This is an underwater scene; you can tell because there are yellow fish instead of birds.
Also his clothing is rumpled. I am not sure of the purpose of steps underwater. I am over-thinking things. 

It's a good thing they provide some back story in the form of a myth. Here it goes (as retold by me):

A long time ago all people lived in the sea, but apparently they got tired of it and went to live on the land. The sea god (with awesome hair) got mad and didn't let them have any water. So, the people sacrificed maidens in a ceremony called "boatdrift" and the sea god took the maidens, humped them silly and the underwater people are their descendants. Descendants who use stairs underwater instead of swimming and have some sort of cling-wrap film skin.

Gross, dude! Get out of everyone's personal space.
Great hair, though. 
Also, the local underwater lord is a pervert (with awesome hair) who can tell by smell if fish-people are ovulating and can curse people to have farting fish on their knees if they don't give in to his awesome-haired advances. Farting fish knees naturally leads to hijinx, fish on human prejudices/fetishes, and people losing the fancy fish clear coat that allows underwater people to be on the surface.

This makes no sense.
I don't even know that it's funny. It's just odd.
Check out the look of horror on Manaka's is not nearly horrified enough.
Also, dude should not be laughing at this. 
In short, and this is just my first-impression, this anime is fairly predictable despite being utterly confusing beyond belief. I predict: a love quadrangle, more human and fish-people distrust, some sort of sports competition, the pervy sea god to make cameo appearances, and just general misunderstandings. I could be wrong. Other than the underwater us v. them situation, I don't even know that there is a reason for the underwaterness of the series. I don't think this is the anime for me.

I'm a little more fond, however of the next underwater anime...My Bride is a Mermaid which is a little more inventive with it's mashing of genres. Is it a yakuza tale, a mermaid story, a sort of Romeo and Juliet or Wet-side story (HA! I PUN!)? It is all of these things.

My Bride is a Mermaid
Written by: Tahiko Kimura
Based on the manga of the same name/author
Directed by: Seiji Kishi
Produced: Gonzo
Release Date: April 1, 2007- Sept 30, 2007 (26 Episodes)

The story begins with Nagasumi Michishio drowning in Seto bay. Passing mermaid (why not?) Sun Seto takes pity on the boy and saves him from a watery grave, but her secret is revealed. Later that night both Nagasumi and Sun learn the consequences of her actions. They must marry.

Sun's father is the head of an underwater Yakuza, the Seto Group (I told you there were yakuza). She is also her father's pride and joy. There is a law of the sea which states that there is a steep price for any mermaid whose form is revealed to a human: either the mermaid or the human MUST be executed. That is a crappy sea-law, and would have doomed Tom Hanks in Splash.

Sun impulsively saves drowning Nagasumi, revealing her deadly secret. 
The only solution (clearly) is for Sun and Nagasumi to get married. Anime-logic! I love it! Clearly hijinx ensue, with Sun moving into Nagasumi's house and attending his school. Sun's father is furious and not only repeatedly makes attempts on Nagasumi's life he also "arranges" for the entire Seto gang to become teachers at the school they attend. 

What do you do when your P.E. teacher is a ravenous shark bent on killing you?
Flail around and panic! 
Yes, this is silly. But, it's also fun. The side-characters are hilarious and range from a strange, panty-melting ladies man named Masa (who "accidentally" gives Nagasumi his first kiss), to Shark Fujishiro (a member of the Seto gang who speaks in questions and constantly tries to eat Nagasumi), to Nagasumi's best friend Chimp (who inexplicably looks like a chimp). 
The appropriately named "Chimp."
Why is this even?
He is supposed to be a human...from what I gather. 

The action is a little frenetic, the running gags are predictable after a while, but I still laugh. I can't handle Shark Fujishiro and crack up every time. It is a comedy for sure, but there is something sort of charming in the story nonetheless.  
Nagasumi with smitten-eyes gazing on Masa.
Masa has some sort of uncontrollable charisma that effects everyone around him,
but especially, it seems, Nagasumi's mother and Nagasumi himself.
Oh, the power of a first kiss (even if that kiss is technically life-saving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). 
The relationship between Nagasumi and Sun is based, at first, on circumstance. Both attempt to make the best of it, but during their struggles a real relationship grows. They are partners in life, and come to depend on one another. It's...dare I say it...heartwarming? They are engaged, but they still seem frightened of is clear to viewers that the two are deeply in love, and yet they miss all of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) clues. In some ways this story reminds me of other animes I love like Fruit's Basket with its never ending cast of strange characters and (less-literal) fish out of water themes. Nagasumi enters a world he was never supposed to know about, and his actions are admirable, tender, and thoughtful. 

Even when sharks are trying to eat him. 

Girls Und Panzer : Wha???? Huh????

I feel like I'm pretty liberal when it comes to anime. I have a high tolerance for bizarre things, for dumb storylines, nonsensical dialogue, flat characters.

But then we come to Girls Und Panzer, which translates to Girls and Tanks. Just, just sit there, read that title, and think about it for a minute. Girls And Tanks. Girls. Tanks. And.

I have no idea who this series is for. The girls are really cute and there's a lot of girly stuff and girly jokes and that's all good and well for a show that's for young girls. BUT there's that "and" which leads to tanks which is just so freaking random. Basically, the girls are all driving tanks as some sort of after-school activity??? What the hell??? Did anyone who made this show know how much a tank costs?????? What the hell kind of school can afford a half-dozen tanks???? WAIT A MINUTE, they just made me forget how frickin' crazy it is that TANKS ARE AN AFTERSCHOOL ACTIVITY in the first damn place. There's this really bizarre sequence where they watch a propaganda tape about how these tank games are the best thing for women! Men don't like women that don't drive tanks! ???????? what?????? Who made this show? What tank fetishist got his hands on a production license? Who is a tank fetishist??? Why? Also, if they are a tank fetishist, why throw all these random little girls on the tanks? And why make them spout off random tank minutiae? Wouldn't you just want to glare lustfully at old World War footage on the History channel???

I literally don't think there are enough question marks in the world to express my confusion at this series. I have no idea who it could be possibly be for. I don't really understand what it's about it. I can only hope that someone, somewhere, is getting their jollies from it. If not, I don't think there's any hope left for mankind.

Buddy Complex : Complex, Not Many Buddies?

Just having recently downloaded the first episode of BC, the only one available at the moment, I have a whole bunch of questions and no real answers. Some of these may be due to terrible subs on my version of it, but I'm guessing it's just kind of confusing.  It appears to be an anime about slice-of-life Japanese high school kiddos, the main character a floppy-haired boy named Aoba. He's starting high school (maybe) and there's a cute girl with black hair that blushes constantly and stalks the shit out of him. Adorable. (His name makes me think of the baobab tree)

See? Basketball, stalking. Typical day at a Japanese high school.
*announcer voice* BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE. Not only is it a slice of life, but also...MECHA!!! Mecha everywhere. Literally. From the sky...under the ground...mecha mecha come out whereever you are.
It's pink because girl pilot. Gender stereotypes are alive and well in anime.
*announcer voice* BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE. Apparently one of the mecha, and some characters, have traveled through a wormhole and time travel is possible!!! Wow, it's turned into some kind of Terminator-cum-Gundam thing with awkward high school stuff going on. Surely that's plenty, right? Surely we don't need yet another facet on this diamond of a PILOT EPISODE.

Wormholes and such. Jake Gyllenhaal may or may not be involved.
*tired announcer voice* BUT WAIT, APPARENTLY THERE'S EVEN MORE. To wrap up the whole episode, they go through the damn wormhole they came in, except this time the future people drag the protagonist with them, and he wakes up in some new mecha in the midst of a massive firefight, looking for Dio. Why is he looking for a dead rock singer who tried to fill the massive, heroin-splattered shoes of Ozzy and ended up just singing Holy Diver? Why would you make such a complicated episode for a pilot? Why are Japanese sweeps in the dead of freaking winter? Why can't I find torrents with quality subs? I don't know if Buddy Complex will answer these questions, but we can only pray and watch.

Who even are these people? You sure don't know from the pilot. Except floppy-haired Aoba.

Ta-Ta Tuesday: Popotan (anime series) First Impressions

Written by: ??? No one is claiming it!
Based on the visual novel adult game by: Petit Ferrit
Directed by: Shinichiro Kimura
Produced: Shaft/Sentai Filmsorks
Release Date: July 17, 2003--October 2, 2003

I found Popotan on Amazon Prime this month and decided to watch the first episode during some down-time a few weeks ago. I debated doing a review of it because it isn't very remarkable, but finally decided that for several (paired) reasons this would be a perfect post for Ta-Ta Tuesday and we haven't had one of those in a while. 

Apparently Popotan the anime is just the latest in a series of games, novels, manga and drama cds of the same name. There are a lot of variations in stories between these different mediums and retellings, but a few things stay the same. There is a moving house (that's cool), and three sisters named Ai, Mai, and Mii of various ages and degrees of weirdness. There is a stoic, perhaps roboty, maid named Mea (because those names aren't confusing enough). And there is a lot of nudity and sexual innuendo that has been heavily criticized as stereotypical, or obviously blatant appeals to male audiences who are more interested in the characters' physical appearances than their development. I have to say that on first watch...I can't see much need for the kind of nudity that is displayed. But, I don't see much need for this anime as a whole either. I found it hyperactive, confusing, and wondered (while watching) when the first episode would be over. To be fair, I feel like I should give this series a chance, but...uuuuurrrrrrggggggghhhh. I just don't care. 

Here are my first impressions: 
1. That is a lot of boob exposure for a show whose first episode featured middle-schoolers. Like seriously a lot of boob. I don't know that I'm comfortable with that level of boob being used in that way. I mean, yeah, it's just boobs, but...something is unsettling here. Do we really need a "whoops, someone was bathing" scene? I'm siding with the critics on this whole nudity's pointless, and gratuitous. On a side-note (about side-boob), the breasts in this series come in all shapes and sizes from "those enormous breasts should not be that perky...are they defying gravity?" to "I'm not sure of the age of this character, but I feel like we both need a adult." So...ewh. 

OOH! BOOBS! (Censor bar by Dr. M)
Let's watch this badly written, confusing anime
because the need for cartoon boobs overrides any need for sense,
good writing or plot.  (That was sarcasm.)

2. Weird and perverted magical sisters who live in an eternal Christmas-house powered by dandelions that transport it through time and space! Okay, why not? It's not the dumbest thing I've ever watched/read (See: Prince of Ramen for that distinction). Of course none of it made sense in the first episode, but I'm going to assume more is revealed later about why/how this magic transporting Christmas-house works and who these strange, seemingly unrelated, boob-tacular sisters are. I am guessing time-travelling Christmas-witches. 

3. The title is clever. Popotan is an inversion of the Japanese word for dandelion: Tampopo. Speaking of Tampopo, Tampopo is a favorite film in my house (it is a really good film). Popotan, sadly, will not achieve that matter how clever the title. The world of Popotan is an alternate universe, and there's something magical going on (what? I don't know). So speaking backwards seems very appropriate in a winder-shins kind of way. Magic! WOO! 

It is cute, I'll give it that.

4. It is colorful and cute, when it isn't being pervy and weird. That may be 99% of the problem with this has an identity crisis!! This seems like an anime for kids in terms of art, plot, goofiness, EXCEPT for the nudity and perviness. It's like it is confused about its audience. Either go full-perv (which means I'll avoid it) or full-kid-show (which would make the most sense). This in-between thing is off-putting and being flashed by Barney the dinosaur, or learning that Oscar the Grouch is into bondage. I don't like it. 

Conclusion: Not for me, thanks. The whole things is a mess...there are some very strange choices that have been made, and I honestly cannot figure out who the audience is supposed to be. 


I have been putting off watching Bee and Puppycat for roughly two months now. I heard nothing but good things about it, so of course I was extremely wary. I resisted for so long, and now I've seen it, and the infection that is the adorable B&P is now consuming my soul.

I really don't want to say anything specific, because it would spoil what precious little there is of it. At the moment, there is a part 1 and a part 2, and no apparent plans for more. I can't even warn you enough, you will get to the end of part 2 and scream at the gods for making such an unjust world that would not offer forth a third installment. But I can say that the art style is super-cute and well-done, the animation is pretty great, and the writing is A+.

Without belaboring this point anymore, go watch it and make your own decisions. And then come back and tell me when you love it.

Bee and Puppycat Part 1