Merry Christmas...Happy Holidays

I just spent the day drinking, fell asleep and woke up with a hangover. I'll probably finish watching the episodes of Blood + that I still have hanging out here and get some of my actual work done.

I'd like to take a moment to comment on Tokyopop's website. I hate it. I just hate it. I think it's got a really slick design. It looks great on the surface, but it's really hard to access information. It's jaunty. There's no flow to or rhythm to information. You can sometimes find what you are looking for if you know what you are looking for, but what's the fun in that? It's hard to learn about new things on the site, too.

So, Tokyopop gets a "Crappy Manga (Website)" Award from me this Christmas.

Go suck on that. God, I'm crabby.

What manga would you most like to see turned into an anime?

I was originally going to go with Hana Kimi a sweet, gender-bender manga about a Japanese-American girl, Mizuki Ashiya, who secretly attends an all boy's school in Japan in order to be near her idol, track and field star and high-jump champion, Izumi Sano. So, she, as fate would have it, is assigned dorms with Sano, and falls in love with him. Sano, early in the series, realizes Mizuki's true gender and falls for her as well. Neither wants to reveal the truth about the situation, for fear of losing the other person or hurting their close friendship. There are a lot of super cutey moments, a lot of close-calls and a lot of comedic situations. I would LOVE to see this manga made into an anime, but unfortunately/fortunately it has already been televised in two (YES, TWO) different live-action versions. The first version, the one I've seen, is isn't bad at all, and Ms. Shakespeare, is quite fond of it. I have not yet seen the second version, the Japanese live-action drama...but, just from the photos of the cast, I have to say: "GOOD LORD!" The super-hot bishonen cast makes me feel a little wrong...because I'm old and lame. Despite the two live action versions of this manga, I'd like to see an anime, but I won't get So, I have to redirect my answer to this question in a more likely way.

To be honest, the mangas I'd most like to see turned into animes will not be turned into animes...ever. They're pervy, or too graphic. It's the kind of girl I am. No one is going to make Desire(Too young) or Fake (there was the one episode, mind you)or La Esperanca(too young, and too catholic) into animes...although they should.

So, I feel I must be realistic; the manga I'd most like to see turned into an anime is going to surprise at least one person...I'd like to see the American manga Bizenghast turned into an anime.

Bizenghast is one of those rare American mangas that has been embraced by Japanese readers, it is published by Tokyopop, written and illustrated by M. Alice LeGrow. It's a strange little story about a "sick" girl, Dinah, orphaned (as many manga/anime/disney characters are) and being raised in seclusion by her aunt (and an especially creepy caretaker) in the abandoned town of Bizenghast, MA. She is troubled by delusions and/or sees ghosts depending on who's interpreting her "fits." Her only friend is the adorably prince-like Vincent. The two come across a mysterious cemetery and mausoleum in the middle of the night after escaping from Dinah's locked room and become accidentally bound into a contract to appease the souls locked in the mausoleum...the price of breaking the contract is Dinah's death. The story itself isn't written very well, but the artwork (something I do appreciate in manga...I won't read a badly drawn manga, it drives me crazy!) is amazing. The style is a very opulent Gothic Lolita style, with a bit of steam punk and Victorian thrown in for good measure. LeGrow's costuming and architecture is gorgeous, and I think it would make a stunning anime. Tokyopop has already created a stop motion, picture-book sort of anime short of this manga.

Is it great? No. But it would be pretty.

But, I feel bad about picking this manga in a lot of ways...why not pick something I'm absolutely in love with? Well, because the things I am absolutely in love with are a bit too much for the general public, and I don't want to back something that would be nc-17.

Other possiblities I considered:

Because it's sooooo cute and sweet. No sex, no violence, just a girl alone in the world.

Two boys working for a drug store/psychic investigation firm. This is an unfinished series by Clamp...oh, I wish they would finish it; the stories are really very interesting and the series ended abruptly after the third volume.

Why not? Who doesn't like a good gay-romance, ghost hunt, comedy/drama? I do like this series, and I think it would be cute as an's not sexually explicit and it is full of funny misunderstandings and sweet moments.

My suggestion for the next discussion:
Ouran High School Host Club--Manga v. Anime

What manga would you most like to see turned into an anime?

Great question, Shakes! <- Yeah, I'm talking to myself. What of it, huh?

The manga I'd most like to see made into an anime is "Hands Off" by Kasane Katsumoto. It's a cute, short series (If you don't count the prequel, I think it's eight volumes) about a couple of teenage psychics, cousins, Kotarou and Tastsuki, and their not at all gifted, but truly earnest friend Yuuto.

It's a treat of a story. It strikes just the right balance between humor and drama, and I think it's the kind of manga that would appeal to both sexes. I wouldn't really say it's shojo or shounen, which I think is kind of rare in manga for a preteen/teen target audience. What I'm trying to say is it has broad appeal, and I think that's important.

Basically the story goes as such. Kotarou is a really sweet hearted puppy dog of a teenage boy. He's kind of pretty, but he's obsessed with being masculine, and he loves basketball. He had to leave his former school because he was being bullied for being efeminate. He goes to live with his grandpa and his cousin, the dark and brooding Tatsuki.

Tatsuki is a prickly pear. He and Kotarou used to be the best of friends, but something happened and when his cousin comes to stay, Tatsuki is ice cold to him. It turns out that he can see the past of places (usually the awful past) and when Kotarou touches him, it's magnified.

Yuuto is a long haired, womenizing gem of a character. He sits in the middle between Kotarou and Tatsuki. He's not naiive like Kotarou, and he's not cold like Tatsuki. He somehow manages to hold them all together.

If you drew all of your conclusions about Japan based on this manga, you would think it was a horrible place where people frequently cross dress and criminals roam free. This trio does get in a lot of trouble. Kotarou gets kidnapped more frequently than any character I've ever met. I realize this is to showcase Tatsuki's distant dedication to him and Yuuto's commitment to them both. That could get a little tired, if the relationships weren't so strong. As a reader you want to see how the people around Kotarou react to him getting hurt and how he takes it in stride.

Anyway, things happen. These three investigate. Psychic powers are revealed. Friendships are formed. Obviously the psychic powers part is important. It informs the characters. But, it's the strenght of the relationships that make this manga shine.

I think it's a story that would translate very well to an anime series, and I hope it does one day.

Kyo Kara Maoh (Anime) The End!!!

SQUEEEEEEEEE! Well, that is how I feel right now. Have you ever finished an anime and gotten little jabs of happiness? Kyo Kara Maoh is that show for me.

From beginning to end, this has been a dorky, cute thrill ride. I loved all of the characters, and there were a ton of characters. The writers/animators made it predictable enough that I didn't feel high anxiety, but exciting enough that I found myself yelling at the screen:

"Yuri! Fight back! Fight back! Don't let the bad guys win!!!!" Do they win? Well, it's Kyo Kara Maoh, what do you think? It's kind of like asking half-way through a Jane Austen novel if it will have a happy ending.

Of course, silly.

Now this show is about 78 Eps long, and it is a 78 Ep story arc. The episodes are not self contained, so if you choose to work your way through this one, you'll want to be committed.

I really should talk about plot here. I believe I wrote before that this anime is weak on storyline. I still believe that. I mean, it did take about approximately 26 hours of running time to tell a very simple story.

One kid from earth falls through a toilet into the demon realm where he is really king. There are a lot of bishonen around. He accidently gets engaged to a boy. He finds out there used to be a great Demon King who fought some superbad guys/things but was able to seal them away in four boxes. The four boxes start showing up and the superbad guys/things start getting strong again. The new Demon King has to go on some adventures, gather the boxes, learn about himself and his friends, fight a lot and have some life lessons. There is a final standoff. The new Demon King wins and all is well.

Pretty simple. Pretty darn simple, but the show does sustain its momentum all along.

What? A Fake -- Season 2 Manga????!??!?!?

It's like finding a whole new Beatles album or something! I think I'm going to have a Squeezuire!!!! Ha! Ha! I've been writing bad copy all day, and I just heart my little puns.

I have not yet read M's below breakdown, only scanned it enough to get the feeling of a little bit of disappointment.

Hmm, I wasn't disappointed by Matoh's one shot depicting Dee and Ryo's future lives together...but who know's? Something as good as Fake can't be repeated, or can it?

I've read the series like 10 or 15 times and I always want it to go on and on and on and on. It's one of those things that could sustain itself for a long, long time, but again, we shall see.

I'm off to watch Jeopardy, read Fake part Deux, watch Blood + and maybe study up on my Japanese particles. Ugg, man, you got to watch out for those suckers.

Let down?

Waaaaaaah! Okay, it turns out that my squee-filled swoon for Fake may or may not have been premature in some respects. I've been doing fangirl research, and the good news is that there are 5 ? chapters, officially, of a bonus story...I've found four in fanslation. These chapters, entitled Fake Second Season, are running in the Japanese magazine Hug, but because of the author's sudden illness (Matoh is fine...I researched that too), it has been slow arriving. There is also a new reprint of the original Fake already released in full in Japan. The original 7 issues of the series have been reprinted in 5 issues with new side-stories in each one. There is no english language release date for them yet, but they are new...and the series is popular, so I'm crossing my fingers (but not holding my breath).

Here's my review of the Hug magazine fanslations of Fake II: First, it doesn't matter...I love it. I'll be honest, I just don't care how good or bad it is, I get to see Dee and Ryo again. But, I will try to be critical with this review, so...complaint one: not enough flirting! The nice thing about the original was that no matter what dire situation the characters were in (gang warfare, serial killers, etc.) there was always time for a sexual innuendo, or some act of agression on Dee's part. Although a bit of the flirty humor is still there at times, it doesn't tease at the edge of the story like the original. Perhaps it's because the orignal storyline felt so complete in many ways? Is this why there isn't that hint of will-they/won't-they? I don't care that they have...I just want more of it. The characters were so completely developed and real in the original incarnation...I want something more than just a detective story (although it was good), I want to see their relationship as well. When the series left off, everything was brand new, I want to see the compromises and attraction of a new relationship. I want to see the uncertainties of Ryo, the adamant insistance of Dee. This is what I loved about these characters and it seems that this is what was left out of the new far anyway. That said, there was a kiss, and I screamed and ran through the house back and forth for two minutes before returning to look at the next page. Oh, thanks to the manga-powers that be for a new Dee/Ryo kiss. I was damn-near swoony. (Perhaps I'll post soon about why Dee is the man of my dreams?) Ah, lest I get too far away from criticism and back myself into a fangirl dream corner, let's continue.

Matoh's style has changed; her characters, which were always very angular and over the top in terms of style and dress (lush and grapey? Always with the grapes! Grapes everywhere!), have somehow rounded? Now, as I was reading I could hear the imagined grumbles of one very smitten Ms. Shakespeare, but I actually like the new style. The rounder faces are cuter. Even Ted, Drake and JJ, the constant sidekicks, are cuter. Despite the style-change, all of the characters are instantly recognizable. Dee is Dee (Mr. Wonderful)--Ryo is Ryo (Sandra Dee). Matoh has taken the time to make us aware that no amount of time has passed since the last chapter of the original and the new series...I recognize outfits, rooms, everything. I recognized the couch they sit on and the shoes...ah, the very shoes tossed to the floor in the last chapter of the original series (and with that I'm on the verge of a fangirl meltdown again).

In all honesty, it doesn't matter, I'm in some sort of hopeful delirium at this point and nothing can sway me entirely from the flitters of squee that envelop me. I can only hope that there are more chapters to come.

In the meantime, there are 7 issues of Fake on my shelf beckoning me to start all over again. Then I'll write a real review of the original series (Dee heavy, of course), and ask Ms. Shakespeare to do the same. This is a very interesting and complex series, and a groundbreaking work in many ways--at least in terms of yaoi. No series that I've read has really done the same sort of things Fake has done...I don't know if they're afraid of breaking with what is now a fairly formulaic approach to yaoi manga, or if this is just SO different it's in a class by itself? There is certainly something very different about it, from the characters ages (these are 30 something cops), actions and reactions, to the very serious and realistic (no robots) situations to the artwork (angles are strange in this series) and dialog (very convincing)...there's a lot to be gleaned from this series. And no matter how many times I reread the originals, I always find something new and interesting in each read.

Sudden Onset Squee: Fake and (finally) Fake II (Manga)

I had actually planned on discussing an anime, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, in my post today, but something happened. Something miraculous and, sorry to Moribito--you are a beautiful anime and will be discussed later. Now, on to the very important task at hand:
Fake (1994) and Fake II (2007) by Sanami Matoh.

Now, Gravitation was my first real introduction to the wonders of anime/manga I had, of course, seen bad mecha in the 80s as a child, but those things were aimed at boys...still, I couldn't give two shits about battle robots...not two. My co-pilot, Ms. Shakespeare, introduced me to Gravitation fairly late in a lot of ways...I was in my late 20s when, all of a sudden, yaoi (silent squee for boy love); but not just yaoi, complicated adult plots, tensions (my favorite) and yearnings and secret hidden pasts and all that torturous sexuality...romance characters I could relate to because I'm not the kind of girl someone sweeps off of their feet without risking a punch to the face. Romance was never for me...but this yaoi-business, totally my cup of diet coke (tea is for grammas). Although Gravitation was my first squee-inducing experience with anime and manga, what came next always seems to be the most important manga milestone: Matoh's Fake. Fake is hands-down my favorite manga. I am madly and desperately in love with the characters (two NYC detectives in what must be the gayest police force EVER), the long-drawn-out romantic entanglements, the frustrations, the grit, the crime, the surprising humor and flirtations. The series was published in Japan in 1994 (a long time before yaoi really caught on), but because the last issue was released in 2003 in the US, I was able to buy the whole series at once (I couldn't help it). I have read those 7 issues over and over again; I have dreamed of Dee and Ryo (Dee in particular)...I even bought the one single episode of the (look-worthy but disappointing) Anime. Years after Matoh's last issue of Fake she released an art book with a post script to the series...I ate it all up, along with ANY and EVERY fanfic on the characters. There could never be enough Dee and Ryo in my world. When the series ended I cried. When I reread it, I cry. And just this week I was thinking...maybe I should read Fake.

This morning I was putting off work, and thought I would check to see if the new fansub of Ouran High School Host Club Chapter 66 was up yet, because I needed something to break the ennui of grading and the end-of-semester blues. Ouran is at a crucial point very near the end of the manga series, so I'm a bit obsessed and look for new updates every day. There was nothing new, and no news about when the new fansub would be posted. So, I don't know what lead me to this, but I thought..."Maybe I should see if there's anything new by Matoh." I was looking for another series, anything by this funny and remarkable manga-ka. After all, Fake had been on my mind.

Then...SQUEEEEEEE! Just this year, Matoh has taken up the Fake saga again and is working on a new ongoing series: Fake II. It's been almost 15 year since the original series was released in Japan, and now I get new stories, new dramas, and new make-out scenes with Dee and Ryo! Bubbling over with squee, and unable to contain the outpouring, I called Ms. Shakespeare who was posing as a mild-mannered, very red-haired, office worker on the other side of the country (2,200 miles away) to share the news.

So far, I have read the first chapter, 39 pages, and can bring myself to read no more. I am too overcome with squee. It's too much for one girl to handle. I have to say that despite the subtle changes in Matoh's style over the years, these characters are still the same lovely, awkward and quick-to-respond characters from the old series: they have remained true to those "selves" in remarkable ways. So, this fangirl is ecstatic...please let there be more Fake II on the horizon and never let it end. The series, on Mangafox, is labelled ongoing...I can only hope this is true.

In the meantime, although my life cannot be put on hold, I plan to read these cherished new chapters slowly...painfully order to savor this new bliss, and preserve that squee for the trying days of composition papers ahead.

Earthian: The Angelic Collection (OVA)

There comes a time in every fangirl's life when Earthian must be watched. I've been putting it off for years now.

Here are my reasons: 1) Yun Kouga is one of my favorite mangakas. I've talked about Loveless here in glowing tones. It's a truely amazing manga and all around story. I don't want to be disappointed by a grand failure. 2) I've heard that Earthian, the manga, is better than the OVA. Nope. I haven't read it yet. I know, I know, I should. How can I call myself a yaoi fangirl if I haven't read such a "foundational" work? Well, like I've said before, I'm more of an academic fangirl with a lot of inner squee, but I haven't quite crawled to the top of geek mountain nor have I fallen off of it yet (and no, I don't expect that to mean anything to anyone). The point is, I've always planned on reading it, but never seemed to find the time...Oi. 3) The OVA animation has always looked terrible to me. Yes, Yes, I do love the crap anime, but I have to be in the mood, and I always seem to be coming off the tail end of some other crap anime. Boy was Earthian lucky though, because last night I found some time to watch the first two of four OVA episodes.

And, here is my biggest observation: they are "the suck." I hate the animation. I find Chihaya to be about the most annoying uke I've ever had to watch onscreen. It's just painful. He's weak and overly "sensitive" to the point of pure stupidity. I can't relate to him.

And, I can't relate to his partner, Kagetsuya, either. He spends much of the first episode acting really annoyed with Chihaya, too, but instead of just leaving him to molder and die (like I would) he continually follows him around on his painfully boring adventures.

So, they're angels, these two, and they investigate the good and the bad parts of human/Earthian society. Chihaya claims to love humans, but as far as I can see, he mostly hangs out with humanoids who have been created by mad scientists and junked out rock star Lucifers (fallen angels). These angels don't have any superpowers. They just have wings. And, in what I am certain is the surest indication that an anime will be a crap anime, when they reveal their wings, their hair grows and they get angel outfits. I'm sorry but long hair and fancy outfits don't fight crazy monsters and henchmen.

Whenever these two encounter henchmen, and that is often, Chihaya almost immediately gets captured and starts calling out Kagetsuya's name. Kagetsuya dodges some bullets, punches some people and rescues Chihaya. Yawn. Totally boring, but this seems to be the gist.

I've heard there are some sexy bits, as these two are also gay for each other. And, man or man, do I love gay sex --I'm not being sarcastic at all -- but I've been around the yaoi block enough to not have much patience for a story that lacks payoff. So, I guess there's probably some kissing and stuff. Yeah! I just don't know if I have the heart to sit through the rest of this and find out.

Guess I'll just have to read the manga.

Bleach (Anime) Thru 68

Yes, you can call me obsessive. I don't mind at all. I'm now on Bleach Ep 68. And, yes, that's 10 Eps since yesterday, but hear me out.

1) I slept a good night's sleep

2) I went to work today, got caught up in the commute, watched Jeopardy and ate plenty of food.

In conclusion: though I obsess, I still manage. It's all good.

Anyway, in the most recent 10 episodes, the show has finally gone back to being more of a teenage, highschool Soul Reaper "dramedy." Well, it did or it had for a couple of episodes, and I was really happy about that. I love the hard core fighting and the kind of heroic desperation that comes along with that, but I also like enjoying a few laughs and just catching a glimpse of the everyday realities that make the characters so endearing and well, so awesome when they do step it up.

I was happy to see that Renji was assigned to "the real world." I like him infinitely more than Rukia. Listen, I like Rukia too, but she did get kind of wussy in the last half of the Soul Society/execution story arc. I suppose she had every right (she was facing death), but I liked her so much more when she was just a bit more bad ass and self-confident. Few things are more annoying to me than strong women who just kind of disintegrate. I'm sure she will recover and return as awesome as ever, but like I said, I like the foil of Renji just fine.

The story is taking another turn I'm not so sure about. Just as we leave the turmoil of the Soul Society (along with the introduction of about a kigillion new characters), the plot is complicated by the introduction of three Mod Soul characters who play psychological tricks on our motley crew. Meh, I don't like these episodes at all. They are kind of high stress with little payoff, and I'm hoping the story line doesn't go on forever.

I'm way more interested in seeing Ishida deal with the loss of his Quincy powers. I'm sure that will come up soon.


In other news, I passed my Japanese class, and I still barely understand anything. Boo.

Happy Thanksgiving = Bleach (anime)

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm currently on Ep. 57 of "Bleach" an anime that may actually take me a long time to watch. With something around or over 200 Eps and counting, I don't see it going away anytime soon.

This is not a crappy anime. In fact, it's pretty alright. I really liked the first season the most so far because it did a good job of mixing "ordinary" teenage, highschool life with something supernatural. Now that all of the characters' special powers have been activated and they are hanging out fighting in the Soul Society, it doesn't feel as much like my kind of anime.

Before there were a lot of reasons behind things. The show was slower and Ichigo was discovering himself, and even fighting against becoming a Soul Reaper. Things have changed, and he is coming into his own.

There is a lot more fighting in the second and third season, well a lot more different kind of fighting. Instead of the fights being between Soul Reapers and Hollows. It's mostly Soul Reapers vs Soul Reapers or Souls/Humans vs. Soul Reapers. I love me some awesome fighting in my anime, but this is getting to be a bit much. If I hear the word "bankai" one more time I think I will scream. It took about 50 Eps before it was mentioned (this is the second, higher incarnation of a Soul Reapers sword), and now everyone is just crazy about bankai.

The thing is, I love Ichigo because he is different. I want him to be the great undiscovered, misplaced and superpowerful Soul Reaper, and I also like to see him struggle. It's not nearly as interesting when everyone around him is nearly as powerful, except maybe for Itsuda, who is powerful in a completely different not Soul Reaper kind of a way.

So in order to understand this post, you will probably have had to have seen a little bit of Bleach. I'll likely write some more detailed stuff later.

Wow, has it been that long? I'm still watching Mushi Shi!

So, I had to take a little detour. The elections really had me in their thrall for a while. And, why not? They had all of the thrill of a truly Squee-worthy anime: Good V.S. Evil, nations in peril, vorpal swords. Well, maybe not the last bit. My candidate won, and now I can slink back into fantasy.

I'm currently taking Japanese classes (Yes. I am THAT anime fangirl. Well, intellectually at least. You won't catch me at cosplay or anything), and although I consider watching anime "practice," it really isnt at this point. Last night I had a dream that I was trying to speak Japanese, and I kept slipping up, and I said," I really need to study more." And, someone said, "Yes. Yes, you do." It's not an easy language. Well, it's not easy when you're of a certain age. A lot of the younger students seem to pick it up just like that. I have to really work at it.

Regardless, if there is one anime that actually does seem to fit nicely into language learning it is Mushi Shi. The stories and narration are very slow. The words and topics aren't too complex. There is a lot of vocabulary associated with nature, people, and actions that a beginning or intermediate learner can pick up pretty easily. At the same time, the stories remain beautifully written, solitary and part of an larger arc, and simply lovely.

My semester ends, for better or worse, in about two weeks, and I'll have spare time to dedicate to anime and manga as that happens. Keep your fingers crossed that I pass. I'm kind of not sure right now if I will, or if I will have to repeat the course before moving on. Eeeek.

Kyo Kara Maoh! - God(?) Save Our King! (Anime & Manga Vol 1.)

Kyo Kara Maoh!: The Male Harem, a guilty pleasure.

I'm something like a billion episodes into the anime version of Kyo Kara Maoh! -- a show that should be just this side of crappy, but somehow manages to hold my attention none-the-less.

It's basically a "Male Harem" story, which I've come to learn means that most of the characters are good looking dudes, something the manga points out right away when Yuri Shibuya, the story's main protagonist, is flushed down a toilet by some bullies into another dimension.

There is something for every one here. All the squee-worthy masculine archetypes are present and done well (and maybe that's why this show/manga captures my attention so much better than Weiss Kreuss could even dare).

You have some main players: There's Yuri, your (a)typical 15 yr old Japanese high school student with average grades and a love for baseball. There's Wolfram, a blonde haired, blue eyed, high strung, nearly feminine bishonen; Contrart/Conrad a gentle warrior-swordsman with good looks, the very embodiment of honor and loyalty, with a mildly angtsy past that gives him a little bit of an air of mystery and allows for some really dark moments (girls just love guys like him); Gunter who is an ethereal long haired, modelesque type beauty, not openly gay but not shy about his "love" for Yuri; And, Gwendal, a big fellow with a dark demeanor, who also likes to knit cute little animals.

Then there are any number of minor/major characters. And, there are women, too, who play main roles, like the Cecile, the former demon queen and Annisiah and Sussanah Julia (Yuri's former incarnation) to name a few. I like this kind of a balance in a Male Harem anime, because it allows for the fact tht women do exist. The central male characters are often sexually ambiguous, but there are relationships of all types around them. This, I think, lends some balance to the story.

The plot of this anime/manga is pretty much paper thin, which is why I'm so amazed that I am as charmed by it as I am. Basically, Yuri is flushed down the toilet into another dimension full of warring demons and humans. It turns out, he is the Demon King there, and he has a lot of work to do. So, there is some tension with some guy named Adalbert, but he is snatched away to his castle where he gets to know his retainers and staff. He accidentally gets engaged to Wolfram, who isn't absolutely unwilling, and also accidentally challenges him to a duel. Wolfram who kind of hates Yuri at first, plays dirty and uses magic and an innocent person gets hurt. Here we see the Demon King come out full force. He hates injustice. It really pisses him off. His magic uses water, and it's on a large scale. Everyone is amazed. Whoo, hoo. This applies to both anime and manga.

Later in the anime, we see Yuri's power's develop and the "storyline" emerge. There are some boxes that have some bad forces in them that are hidden around the kingdom and the guys need to get to them and reseal them so that everything will be peaceful. Also, Yuri wants peace between demons and humans. This "plot" is basically a vehicle for any number of adventures, flashbacks, comedic, action filled and angsty episodes. I know I keep knocking on the plot, but really, it's a long arc with a lot of detours and it seems less important than the relationships between the characters and the little things that happen along the way -- as in, as a viewer, I'm invested in the characters and that feels like enough. There are some cute and funny moments, but it is basically a dorkish endeavour. Anyhoo, my main issue with the show is that whenever something really terrible is about to occur, Yuri just goes into his super Demon King trance, kicks ass and saves the day.

This, unfortunately, is what tears down any semblance of storytelling because there is always, always, always and easy out. Big scary monster attacks town? Yuri goes into demon form. A box is about to be activated, and it will destroy the world? Yuri goes into demon form. Stuff's on fire? Yuri goes into demon form. Wolfram's life is in danger? Yuri goes into demon form. So, you get the picture.

That said. It's a cute anime. I have about 10 more episodes or so to go. We'll see what happens.

Mushi Shi (Anime)

An emo Anime I might be able to get behind.

I just finished watching the first two episodes of Mushi Shi an "Award" winning anime. I don't know what award(s).

Hey, I give spoilers, but I don't like to be spoiled.

So far, Mushi Shi is slowish, quiet and mystical, a departure from my normal anime fair. I tend to be rather attracted to -- hmm, how can I put this? --"less serious" stuff. It's definitely the kind of show that wins awards, because it's the kind of show that can attract an audience with tastes more mature than mine.

It opens with a brilliantly melancholic emo/folk song by a Scottish singer and closes with what reminds me of the night music for "Animal Crossing" (Gamecube) -- very soothing.

The animation style is based on the original manga by Yuki Urushibara and reminds me very much of mangaka Yukine Honami illistration ("Desire," "Only the Ring Finger Knows," "Sweet Revolution," "Rin," and many more). If you like that drawing style, setting aside any feelings you may have about Yaoi, you will like the animation of Mushi Shi. The landscapes are lush and invoke a feeling of feudal/traditional/imagined Japan.

The main character Ginko (pictured above), with his Western style clothing stands out in this environment, but he's meant to be different. He, so far, is the tie that binds these quiet little stories together.

Each of the stories is like a sigh.

In tone I'm reminded quite a bit of the more serious moments of "Fruits Basket." I'm not sure there's much room for levity in this anime, but I'm only a few episodes in. It's slow going, and though lovely, I don't get that "squee" kind of feeling, like I must, most absolutely watch the next episode immediately. This, I must admit, is kind of nice. I have a lot to do, but I'll often ditch it all, if it brings me closer to the end of a good cartoon. I feel like I can pace this one out a little more and take it episode by episode.

"Mushi" seem to be some kind of spirits or moreover a spiritual energy that sometimes gets involved in the human world. Ginko travels from place to place "invesitgationg" and helping people solve their "mushi" problems. This makes the anime sound very "monster of the week." However, I don't think it will devolve into that, but I'll update you as I watch more.

Loveless (Manga) Vol. 8, Post Game Show

"No matter what happens, you still get sleepy, and you still get hungry, and the sun still rises."Semei and Ritsuka and Soubi reunite in Loveless Vol. 8. Like most everything in Loveless, it's not a happy occasion.

As readers we've spent a number of volumes believing along with Ritsuka and Soubi that Semei was dead. From Ritsuka's perspective, we also believed that, when alive, he was essentially a good person, Ritsuka's savior in times of abuse and neglect. If we only watched the anime, this image of Semei essentially never changed. But, the story arc of the anime ends around the time Vol. 6 of the manga does, and what we find is a whole other villainous and possibly mentally ill Semei lurking just beyond the credits, a cunning sadist who finds self-satisfaction in torturing the ones who are closest to him.

What we get in Vol. 8 is a better understanding of the relationships of all of the players involved. We get a lot of back story and learn more about Soubi's relationships with Minami Sensei and Semei and Kio. We learn more about Nigisa and her relationship to Minami Sensei and Zero as well.

It's implied that Minami Sensei was the one who "took Soubi's ears" at an abnormally young age, though not shown outright. Whether this was consensual or not, we don't know, but we do know that Minami Sensei was in love or hate with Soubi's mother. We know that he could not stand to look at Soubi, and he could not stand to look away. "I brought you here to be my slave," he tells Soubi, but in truth, he has simply taught Soubi to be "a" slave. Soubi does not even have the personal power to call some one or some thing his own. We know that Minami Sensei is a Sacrifice and that his Fighter Unit died, that he could have had Soubi for his own, because Soubi was born nameless, but instead he chose to "give" Soubi to Semei, who proceeded to abuse him, first by carving his name "Beloved" into Soubi's neck.

We learn that Soubi, as physically powerful as he is, is only a secondary fighter unit...whether it's true or not, his self-esteem and sense of personal autonomy have been worn down to nothing by Semei and by Minami Sensei (and has only recently begun to heal through his exposer to Ritsuka). He has been abandoned and abused and shaped into someone else's image his entire life. It seems only Ritsuka is able to treat Soubi like an individual person.

Well, Ritsuka AND Kio, his best friend -- a real friend -- a person who seems to be only a minor distraction, but we're learning about the strong bond he shares with Soubi more and more.

But, Soubi's self is still very weak. Though he is able to tell Ritsuka to not believe Semei's lies, he is unable to ignore them himself. After Semei blinds Minami Sensei and generally reeks havoc on the Academy, he orders Soubi to help him escape by shattering the glass of window in the library. Soubi does so without hesitation, and though no one blames him -- Zero says it can't be helped: A fighter must respond to his sacrifice -- he can't forgive himself.

Soubi understands that he is Ritsuka's fighter unit (even if it is at Semei's orders); he gets it that Semei is not a good person; he is afraid of what Semei might be intending for Ritsuka, but he is still physically and/or mentally ruled by Semei. He can't let go of what he percieves to be his own betrayl. He goes into a kind of "toddler" state, as Ritsuka says.

Here we see an example of the role reversal of this pair. Ritsuka, a twelve year old, who has als been abused mentally and physically most of his life, becomes the adult. Like a parent, he takes Soubi to task, tells him matter -of -factly to listen to his own advice: Semei lies, to not beat himself up (because no one else is) and to go to bed. Soubi, who in so many ways is still like a child, responds. In the last scene of the main storyline we find him fast asleep next to Ritsuka and there is something safe and comforting about that scene.


Of course the other thing I really love about Loveless are the quieting side stories. The main story is painful and heart wrenching, but Yun Kouga is able to lend it some levity by showing "normal" episodes in the character's lives. In this edition we find a split story of Yuiko and her and Ritsuka's teacher. Both stories take place at home, and they become more firmly grounded as "real" by the end of each.

The second side story is of Ritsuka and Soubi on New Year's Eve. It's cute and pedestrian and gentle.

Vol. 8 of the English language edition does not have an essay at the end. Too bad. I really look forward to those.

Loveless (Manga Vol 8 - preread) Yun Kouga

Uncomfortable Reading: Thoughtful Reading

Tonight, before I fall asleep, I'm going to crack open the latest English language release of Yun Kouga's beautifully rendered manga Loveless.

I'll give you fair warning: you're going to read a lot about Loveless here at Squeefinity, both the manga and the anime. M and I are big fans. We're both writers. We're both readers. We love words, and we feel, or at least I do, that this is a manga as much about language as it is about anything else. It's interesting for a graphic genre is so centered in language, or maybe not at all.

M and I also like to read things that make us uncomfortable, works that force us to fall in love with a character who may, to outside eyes, be despicable. Loveless can be very uncomfortable.

There is no doubt that the central relationship of this work is highly questionable. Soubi, a "Fighter Unit" is much older than Ritsuka, his "Sacrifice." The relationship is sexualized to some extent. Ritsuka may be exceptionally mature for a twelve-year-old, but the fact remains, he is twelve. Soubi's advances, though I'm not quite sure that's the right word, are confusing and comforting and Ritsuka is subtly aware that he can exert control over Soubi through what can sometimes be an uncomfortably adult affection, or a mimicry of adult affection. Soubi is an adult, and as such, should know better than to relate to Ritsuka in this way, but to be fair, he's lost and confused and in terrible pain himself.

In the context of any other narrative, I would find Soubi creepy --at the very least. However, Yun Kouga is a master story teller. She creates characters of such depth and complexity that what would seem like a clear cut taboo becomes something beautiful and forgivable when nestled in its framework. The relationship, which just isn't quite right from the outside, is the most stable and gentle in the entire work. It invokes a kind of a desparate feeling, a sad passion. It feels a little like a late Autumn day --you'll understand when you read it.

It's a manga worthy of intellectual discourse, because it is smart and elegant and beautiful and strange.

More to come...

Weiss Kreuz: Knight Hunters (Season 1)

Florists by Day: Assassins by Night.

I was really excited about the premise of this anime. Four androgynous fellows run a peaceful flower shop by day. At night they are part of the elite killing squad, Weiss Kreuz. I figured that this was going to be a goldmine of sexual innuendo and angsty imagery.

One thing you ought to know about me from the start is that I have high tolerance for anything that might be considered aesthetically bad, not artful, you know "the suckage." I can sit through almost anything and find some kind of perverse pleasure in doing so...

That said, I made it through most of the first season of Weiss Kreuz and halfway through the first episode of the second season.

Season One's animation is just bad. It's clunky and not really not streamlined enough for an elite killing force. There's little continuity. One thing I noticed is that before a fighting scene the characters suddenly change out of whatever they are wearing and get into their battle gear. I know, when I have a crazed tentacle wielding science freak on my tail, a wardrobe change is number one on my mind. It's annoying, but, I can get past that. I've enjoyed badly animated animated shows, like, like, like...Well, I'll check into that and get back to you on that, Katie...I digress. It's really the plot, or lack there of that makes this my top pick for "crappy anime" this month.

First off, I watched something like 25 or 30 episodes, and I can't remember the characters names. Well, maybe one...Persia, WK's answer to Charley in Charley's Angels. But let's see, there's the tall, waify haunted one, the slightly more muscular and manly ladies man, the soccer star, and the orphan. They are all supposed to embody some kind of Bishonen archetype, but I can't connect with any of them. They all have some kind of dark past and were forced to join this band of assassins to vindicate themselves. No one really explains how they gained such mad skillz or how they were vetted by Persia, the shadowy leader (police commissioner) and Manx (look I remember another name) his lady sidekick. There's also no explanation of why they use the flowershop as cover. And, it's not like they are very low key. There are always a million girls hanging out vying for their attention.

Each character has or had a special lady, and the show dedicates some excruciatingly slow episodes "developing" these story lines, only to end them just as quickly. After all, these men are hardened assassins who don't believe they deserve to settle down with the ladies they love.

Some stuff happens. Really, some stuff, nothing you'll care about. It's kind of monster of the week, well, bad guy of the week and it generally goes this way: 1) Some innocent person is blown up, kidnapped, downs some bad sports drink, or buys a hypnotic CD that makes him/her want to kill people. 2) Manx gathers the members of Weiss Kreuz in the basement of the flower shop. Persia appears on a t.v. tells the boys about the bad things and asks them to assassinate people 3) There are some angsty moments, maybe a couple flashback scenes, 4) The boys go and kill everyone.

You know, I did really actually watch this show, but I can't tell you in detail about any one episode. It's quite forgettable. I got excited for a moment when the show started to get a little science fictiony with some psychic bad guys and some genetically altered chic fighters, but that all kind of went away in service to some plot about a military coup of Japan. The members of Weiss Kreuz reform (they broke up at some point in the show) and solve that problem by killing a lot of people. Then Persia gets killed and everyone is sad. Something else happens, totally forgettable, more people die, and then the season ends.

I realized that there was something wrong with this show or me when I decided to watch it at 2x its regular speed. I figured I could get through the season faster this way. What I realized is that watching this torturously slow and poorly plotted anime in fast forward actually made it kind of normal. However, it was still really boring and didn't get any better.

I tried to watch the beginning of the second season, as I had heard the animation was much improved. I'll give it that. The second season animation gets a thumbs up. The storyline does not. There's some kind of private school on an island where the kids are into mind control and "the orphan" enrolls to check it out. Anyway, it was bad, really bad and exasperated, I finally gave up.

My advice: don't watch it. It doesn't get any better. You don't want to make the mistake I did.