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.