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Pain, Depression, Anime & Manga Part II

Where did my body go?


Why hello, Dear Readers! Remember a few months ago when your sage old granny of a writer, Ms. Shakespeare threw her back out and laid on the floor in agony while episodes of Stan Lee's Super Humans played in the background taunting her in her inability to be a super hero?

Oh, you don't? Okay. Well, maybe this post will remind you.

Around that time I was thinking a lot about disabled anime and manga characters, like, where are they? Well, guess what? I found them!

Apparently, they are all in Full Metal Alchemist and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood!

We are the Elric Brothers. We know a thing or two about pain and suffering.

It is possible all of characters in this tale are differently-abled. You've got Edward who is missing an arm and a leg, Alphonse who is missing a body, Izumi who is missing some internal organs, Havoc who ends up in a wheel chair, Roy who ends up blind, Lan Fan who is missing an arm and Hoenheim who is missing mortality. For goodness sake, Winrey's dog even has a prosthetic leg and there is a whole industry dedicated to automail.

There are more missing parts in these two parallel series than I can shake my cane at! This show is an amputee fetishist's dream!

Now, Dear Readers, because I can concentrate on one thing very very hard -- a trait some people might call obsessive, but I happen to call AMAZING -- I was able to watch both these series all the way through sometime in the last few weeks.

At the heart of both series are the Elric Brothers, Edward and Alphonse, two young alchemists who reside in a somewhat steampunky and somewhat pastoral military state that seems to be constantly at war with its neighbors. Their dad is a little absent and when their mom dies, they try to bring her back using a process called Human Transmutation. If you paid any attention in your Hermetic Studies class, you'll know that this isn't a very good idea. The boys end up paying a hefty toll physically and emotionally, and here is where our adventure begins.

I think it's probably a good idea to look at the two series as just that, two series which don't have too much to do with one another, except that they do. I really loved both of them, but if you ask me which I like more -- oh, I'm so glad you asked-- I believe Brotherhood was the superior work.

Wince, wince, wince. I know some thirteen-year-old-fangirl is out there getting ready to put me to rights about how: Brotherhood is lacking heart, and it doesn't dwell on the boys' childhood, and it is hard to understand if you haven't seen the original, to which this withered old hag of a cutey culture critic will say, "Listen, Youngster, a few years will put it all in perspective!"

Brotherhood is just a more mature story. There is less guilt and more heroism. There is more hope but also more uncertainty. It's not a tale that keeps turning in on itself like the original (which isn't bad at all). It is a story that opens up and expands until it's huge and unwieldy and terrifying. It stressed me out to watch Brotherhood, which, for me, means there was some stuff at stake there.

While Edward and Alphonse were at the center, the cast was more of an ensemble. The adults were more fleshed out. And there are some bad ass ladies:
Izumi Curtis: Just a Housewife

General Armstrong: Ice Queen

Lan Fan: F*ck Yeah!

Riza Hawkeye: Gun Expert

Winry Rockbell: Automail Goddess

But this isn't just about the ladies, there are a TON of badasses in this show! There are a ton of great fight scenes and a ton of ultra-squee moments. Even though I prefer Brotherhood I highly recommend both series, especially if you are on the mend from some dire old person injury and need something to contemplate while you recover. I'll leave it up to you to decide which you like more.

Are you listening to this old lady when she is speaking to you? FMA, either way! WATCH IT!

Ta-Ta Tuesday--Mayo Chiki! (Anime--Ongoing Series)

Mayo Chiki!



I surprised myself by actually semi-enjoying the semi-adorable, Koo-koo perversions of Mayo Chiki!. This ongoing series (I watched up to episode 8--the next episode airs in Japan on September 2nd) is a gender-bending high-school comedy that's 90% insanely hyperactive schoolgirls in ridiculously short school girl uniforms. Those uniforms alone earn Ta-Ta Tuesday acknowledgement!

The title of the show Mayo Chiki! is a shortened version of the phrase "Mayoeru Shitsuji to Chikin na Ore to" which translates to "The Wavering Butler and Myself the Chicken." That's a fairly descriptive title. The main character of the series is Sakamachi KinjirĊ (see the Chikin in his full name?) a very forthright, although slightly "wimpy," young man plagued by a a violence-loving younger sister, an absent mother who is a professional wrestler, rumors of his homosexuality and an allergic reaction towards women the series calls "gynophobia" (when a woman touches him his nose bleeds).
Jiro believes that his nose bleeds because he's associated women with violence
and his body has decided that if he bleeds then people will stop hurting him.
That is immensely sad. Someone should call Child Services.
















Our poor Jiro-kun attends a school that is full of scantily dressed girls. In fact, there seem to be only two (well, three if you count one cross-dressing butler) male students...why this is is never addressed, so I assume we should just accept it as fact? As a result, Jiro is always on guard against nosebleeds and avoids contact with his female classmates, which is what leads those around him to believe that he is homosexual. The series itself (based on a series of light novels and a manga adaptation) begins when Jiro accidentally discovers that the most popular boy in the school, Subaru Konoe, is not in fact a boy, but a girl. Subaru attends school as a student, but also serves as the attentive butler to the wealthy and cruel (almost to the point of being sadistic) Kanade Suzutsuki, daughter of the school principal.

Why doesn't every anime series start with an accidental beaver flashing in the boy's bathroom? I suppose that's a question left to the great philosophers of our times.

My junk! You saw my girl junk!


A fight ensues as a result of Jiro discovering Subaru's secret. And Jiro, used to being beaten to a semi-pulp daily by his sister, proves himself tougher than he looks (he doesn't actually hit back, but he can take a punch). He is knocked out and wakes up chained to a bed in the school's infirmary by Kanade. She reveals the reasons Subaru must hide her gender and blackmails Jiro into keeping that secret. Kanade is a bored rich kid, though, and she cannot leave well enough alone. She is constantly conniving to make Jiro and Subaru's lives more complicated. As a result of their being thrust together, rumors begin to fly that Jiro and Subaru are dating (they really DO like one another...that's the cute bit). Later, in typical (goofy-as-shit) anime-style, Subaru's fan clubs get into the fray.

Yeah, I don't even know if any of what I just wrote makes sense, because I'm not sure if ANY of the series makes a whole lot of sense. It's goofy beyond belief and pervy as all get out, but also, admittedly, a little cute. There's just enough cuteness and sincerity to mellow out the annoyance the goofiness creates. Then again, I might not be the target audience. And this supposition raises one of the most important questions I feel that can be asked about this series (other than the one about beaver flashing)--WHO THE HELL IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?

At first I thought, "Oh, it must be girls." The girls are the aggressors in the series in a few ways. They physically dominate poor Jiro, but they're also, especially in regards to Kanade, sexually aggressive. This at first led me to believe that this was a sort of backwardsly empowering bit of weird intended for high-school girls. It's certainly "cutesy" enough to warrant that audience. However, the anime also tends to use ANY excuse to get the characters naked. ANY excuse. Some of it bizarrely unreasonable. It's titty-city up in this series. There are BOOBS EVERYWHERE!

Another scene with Jiro blushing because someone has thrust
boobs in his face.















I have no idea who the target audience! None! All I can say is that they're a little pervy and enjoy watching girls mentally and physically torture, while both emasculating and TITalizing a high-school boy.


As the leader of one of the warring Subaru fan clubs I am in favor
of Jiro and Subaru's illicit love. I also have very ample ta-tas!
If I were to sum up this anime in one sentence it would have to be "GIRLS ARE SCARY!" I don't know what to make of it. I just don't. I know that it's popular. I know that audiences (whoever they may be) think it's cute and sweet. I know that it has elements I normally like in an anime: gender confusion (done much more successfully in other series like Ouran High School Host Club and Hana Kimi), a sincere main character who seems caring and loving despite their personal battles, and some funny-sweet moments. But it's just so...

TITTIES!

I'm not sure if I'll be continuing on with this series. It's cute. It's silly. It isn't complex or thought-provoking. It doesn't seem to have a lot riding on the plot. I keep finding myself asking "Who cares?" There's a little angst, alot of "will they/won't they" and some sweet moments, but I don't know that I care enough to slog through the rest of the pastel goofiness and random excuses for nudity. So, to sum up, I'll give it a solid MEH. If you're a fan of random boobies, then by all means go for it, see if it works for you. If you can handle the sort of silliness this anime entails, then this might be right up your alley. It's a so-so for me. I don't feel like I wasted my time watching it, but I wouldn't go out of my way to chase down new episodes. And I don't think I'll rush out to find the novels and manga this is based on. 

No Touching at All -- Kou Yoneda


No Touching at All is a typical office drama type of one shot Yaoi manga. Shima is painfully shy. He was hurt in the past when he fell in love with a co-worker who was straight and who eventually rejected him. It made his workplace intolerable, and he had to quit. At his new job, Togawa, the boss, has taken notice of Shima, and finds him pretty cute.

Togawa is straight. Shima is gay. They start fooling around. Togawa eventually falls for Shima. He also gets offered a promotion at the same time. Togawa tells Shima he loves him, and he wants to make it work. Shima spazzes out. After all, he was rejected by a straight guy in the past. A month passes. Shima finally gives in, and they are free to be in love.

No Touching at All is a nicely illustrated manga and solidly told. The story follows an ongoing theme in yaoi, of the sweet gay boy who was put through the ringer in the past by a straight dude who couldn't sort out his feelings only to encounter a straight man who can variety.

If you liked Our Everlasting, you may also like this. If you are a fan of pining and longing, this might be for you, though, as a reader, I didn't feel there was too much at stake. Since Togawa doesn't waffle in his feelings, its really just a matter of Shima sorting out his own and trusting the relationship to work.

One technical issue with this manga is the word and thought bubbles are very ambiguous. It is impossible to tell which character is speaking in the majority of the scenes. I had to give up on a few scenes entirely, which is too bad. It kept me from really committing to the story.

So Bad Sunday -- Don't Worry Mama -- Narise Konohara & Yuki Shimizu



Ah, another Sunday and another light novel. I promise, Dear Readers, to cover a really crappy anime or manga next week to shake things up, but let us proceed for now.

Today's So Bad Sunday is Don't Worry Mama by Narise Konohara & Yuki Shimizu. Before we get started, I'm going to admit, with some degree of shame, I kind of like this story.

You may ask, How can you like it, if it is sooooo bad?, and I can only say, I am complex like that.

Also, I should say here that this story is not for the under eighteen crowd. There is nothing on the cover to indicate this, but believe you me, there is some sticky, dirty, doing it in here. Youngsters should avert their eyes.

Yuichi a likeable and capable enough employee at a pharmaceutical company is sent on a research expedition to an abandoned island with Imakura, his disagreeable, fat boss, with a mommy complex. They are looking for an herb that could be the key component in a weight loss tea.

From the get go, it is clear, Yuichi hates Imakura with a burning passion, the kind of passion one can only have for a despised authority figure. And, really, as a reader, you sympathize with him. Imakura is whiny, tubby, grubby and sea sick.

The men spend all day on the island looking for the herb, but never find it. Worse yet, the boat that was supposed to take them back to civilization never shows. Add insult to injury, their cell phones run out of juice. The two men are trapped on an abandoned island indefinitely.

There is nothing like starvation, diarrhea and rain to breed romance! The men struggle and fight. Imakura is useless. Yuichi wants to kill him. But soon Yuichi starts to notice that Imakura has soft skin or something. Also, he is losing a little weight and becoming less of a baby. Soon Yuichi can't stop thinking about his chubby boss man and keeps running off to shoot his load under the moonlight while imagining having foxy times with Imakura.

Eventually, Yuichi does trick the naive Imakura into having foxy times. Imakura really is like a child, as he still lives with his mom, and he has never done it with anyone because he's kind of hefty but also because he has some sort of issue with his em..hrm anatomy. But that is unimportant for Yuichi's purpose, if you catch my drift. Anyway, Yuichi tricks Imakura, explaining to him that he will practice with him and teach him how to do it, and apparently they need a sh*t ton of practice, much of it not very vanilla and graphically described.

Yuichi has been around the block a few times having had his share of the fellas, but he falls head over heels for little pudgy Imakura, who, in turn, thinks he has corrupted Yuichi and made him turn gay (though we readers all know that he was all gay to begin with).

So these intrepid men learn to live on the deserted island, and they have foxy times together, and they are happy. But, one day, they are rescued, and the fun is over.

Imakura's mama takes him away and won't let Yuichi near him. They both lose their jobs, and they don't see one another for a year. Then one day Yuichi is in a restaurant with his family, and he sees a skinny little sommelier. It is Imakura. Yuichi stalks him after work. They reconcile. They have more foxy times.

The end.

Oh, not quite. There is also an extra story in here that involves a school girl uniform, a beef noodle bowl and disposable razors.

***

M is totally skeeved out by this book. I actually don't hate it, even though it is ridiculous and pretty bad. Maybe it is because it involves two consenting adults who are in their late twenties and early thirties. There is some naivety and pressure but no noncon. There is some non-disney sex, but it is also between two characters who are pretty devoted to one another. To each relationship, its own island, I guess.

Read at your own risk because once these images get stuck in your brainbox, you can't take 'em back. Fair warning.

So-Bad Sunday! Dororon Enma-Kun (Anime Series)

The title of Dororon Enma-Kun has been handily translated into the following Engrish equivalent--BAMF, It's Enma! Admittedly in electing to watch episode one of this series, I half knew what I was getting into...some fairly bad crap. Little did I know, Dear Reader, how deep the crap was. So deep. Such deep crap. Mind-boggling depths of crap!

Some of this depth can be seen in the trailer. Unfortunately the trailer has not been subbed into English, but I'd like to think you don't need to understand the language when the stupidity is wordlessly obvious.

The series begins in a bathhouse where shirtless elderly "Granny Gossip," sporting strange face paint and a beret that says "God" on it, begins swinging her pendulous boobs like propellers in order to warn main character Harumi that there are demons at the appropriately named Youkai Elementary school (youkai are demons). These demons, it turns out, will steal your face. Okay, the propeller boobs was a bit much, but face stealing demons are part of Japanese folklore tradition, so I start to think, maybe this is just a bit weird and spastic, and not bad at all. I am wrong. I am often wrong.

Expectedly, Harumi fails to heed the warning of geriatric tit-augerer Granny Gossip, and enters the school with a few exceptionally irritating friends. Their faces are stolen. I'm shocked. Harumi nearly drowns in the school pool while running from the now-faceless bodies of her friends and is rescued by a kappa (a kappa is a turtley, frogish, monk-haired, pervert demon and is a very traditional presence in Japanese demon stories). The kappa, named Kappa (inventive!) leads Harumi to the school basement where the nephew of the Great King Enma (also named Enma) has built the Hell House, doorway to hell. The magically naked Princess Yukiko invites them in and a talking hat named Grandpa Chappeau leads the "stray human" to Enma.

Then, things get weirdly pervy for a minute or two during a weirdly random discussion of panties that makes no sense. I am at a loss. I have no idea what is going on, and the small amount of knowledge of Japanese folklore that I have is only making it more difficult to understand. King Enma IS the king of hell, right? So, wtf is going on? I don't know. And every character in this anime is on a level of annoyingly hyper that has destroyed any reference point I have for such things. SO ANNOYING! Argh!

The group decides to round up the bad demons as part of a Demon Patrol. Hooray, a plot? They decide to use Harumi as bait, but (get this!) everyone falls asleep while waiting for the Face Stealer to attack. And our heroine almost pees herself when the demon comes for her. Really. There's a huge monologue about having to pee, during which her face is stolen. I shake my head at this.

Finally Enma wakes up and there's a battle with the monster, one involving, of all things, Dick SWORDS! Hooray, Enma breaks the monster's dick off. How do I know this happens? Well, they show it, AND the monster says, and I quote, "Oh, No! My dick broke!"

This, Dear Readers, is the moment I turned the anime off. Sometimes, as the great Kenny Rogers (another face stealing demon? Perhaps! You decide!)said, you have to know when to walk away (silently shaking your head in confusion).

Tales from Earthsea--Anime (Film)

I hate to say this, because this is a Studio Ghibli film, and therefore something I should adore, but...um...I fell asleep watching Tales from Earthsea. No, literally, I fell asleep. That's not a metaphor. And then, when I woke up the next day I tried to convince myself to watch the end, but it turns out I didn't care. I don't know if this lack of caring is a result of my general tiredness and malaise, a result of the Ursula K. LeGuin novel series this film is loosely (very loosely) based on, or a result of the film itself. Usually I am all gung-ho for Ghibli films. But, to fall asleep? That's not a good sign.

I'm not one to fall asleep at movies. Not at all. Mostly because I'm not one to fall asleep. Period. I have the insomnia and a lot of what I like to call "sleep fetishes," so falling asleep on the couch has only happened a handful of times in my life. Overwhelmingly those times have been when I was ill. So, to fall asleep during a movie when I'm perfectly fine when the film began is more than a bit odd.

It's not that the movie wasn't beautiful, because anime fans know that pretty much everything from Studio Ghibli, if nothing else, is stunningly beautiful.



The music is outstanding, and the panoramic scenes, in true Ghibli fashion, are breathtaking, but it just didn't come together for me. The last thing I can remember thinking about the film before I conked out on the couch and drooled all over my arm was, "How much longer is this film?" It just didn't hold my attention at all. The characters lacked development, the central crisis was poorly explained, and the whole film (at least the parts before I fell asleep) was void of the sort of emotional complexities and appeals (pathos) I come to expect from Studio Ghibli's writers and animators.

I suppose at some point I will have to attempt a re-viewing of this film, if only in hopes that somehow the ending was so magnificent and powerful that the whole film is redeemed. That re-viewing is way on the back burner. I'd much rather watch Howl's Moving Castle for the 26th time.

In a way, as a result of my interrupted viewing, this review isn't much more than a first impression. But, first impressions are important. My first impression of this film is that it is cinematically beautiful, but otherwise mediocre. It is certainly worth a watch, but don't expect a lot from plot or characters, this is not an award winning film like many of Studio Ghibli's films have been in the past. It's an admirable attempt to translate the LeGuin novels onto the screen, but it fell short in a lot of areas. As a result, it was unable to hold my attention until the end, and to be honest, I will watch some fairly boring and horrible things just for the sake of watching them. So, take my review for what it's worth. This film may be fantastic in some way I overlooked--I honestly hope it is! Or, it could be a dud. My first impression didn't leave me with enough interest to want to discover which it might actually be. Keep your expectations low, Dear Readers, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Strait Jacket--Anime (film)

When I grow up I want to be a few things:
1. Dean Winchester! (Or Sam, if I have to. I'd be a little disappointed though...so close to perfect, yet so far away.)
2. Part of an evil travelling circus akin to the one Bradbury writes about in "Something Wicked this Way Comes."
3. A priest who is called upon to advise church leaders in instances of supernatural phenomena as a result of my occult research.
4. One of a small group of intrepid folk who fight for survival during the coming zombie wars.
5. A secret rock star like Hannah Montana (well, maybe not that one).
6. A tactical sorcerer like the characters in Strait Jacket (as long as I don't turn into a gross blobby monster thing).

The film is set in a steampunky alternate future/past (I can't tell which) where scientists from the Potter-esquely named Magic Administration Bureau have successfully brought magic (in the form of a sort of laser alchemy?) "from myth into reality." After this "scientific" discovery the government and private sectors began utilizing magic in everyday life to aid public welfare, medicine, agriculture and, most inauspiciously, in connection with the military. Surprise--things go wrong!

People using magic are occasionally transformed by something referred to as "The Curse," turning into gross blobular demons who do things like cut people in half with their demonic appendages before eating them. And a terrorist group known as The Ottomans starts using magic to run amok in the city. But I guess it's not like they could, let's say, STOP USING MAGIC IF IT MAKES PEOPLE INTO MONSTERS! Jeesh! It turns out it isn't that easy. People are addicted to magic and the power it brings...it's like crack. There are even children being born with "hereditary magic poisioning" which the MAB calls Child Sorcery Addiction like a sort of otherworldly supernatural Fetal Alcohol Syndrom. These kids are magic crack babies. Something must be done!

The MAB creates Tactical Sorcerers to combat the growing numbers of demons and counter the terrorist magic attacks. Tactical Sorcerers are protected fro their own tranformations by sigil body paint and charmed armor called "The Mold" which keeps them from turning into the demons they battle. It is this "mold" that earned these warriors the nick-name, Strait Jackets.  Unfortunately, "The Mold" isn't infallable the Strait Jackets are always risking their own lives in more than one fashion when the battle these demons.

The film begins as Junior Agent Mary Simmons is called to a hospital under siege from a doctor who transformed mid-surgery into a blood thirsty monster (and a gross blobular one at that). The city itself is in dire straights, so many people are transforming as a result of sabatogued molds (by terrorists) or irresponsible magic use that there aren't quite enough Tactical Soldiers to go around. Without options and with the death count rising inside the hospitals wards, Mary finds herself suddenly calling on the assistance of unlicensed (and illegal) Tactical Sorcerer Reiotto Steinberg. Rey is hot as hell and kind of a grumpy bad-ass who spends his time atoning for past sins. He seems callous on the surface, but has a weakness for kids coupled with an admirable sacrificial/suicidal streak. These are all of the things I like in my reluctant heroes.

A sinner looking for redemption. Oh, tortured Rey...mmm...














The animation is a little graphic, but quite beautiful. The spell-casting battles against demons are dramatic with a whole lot of interesting shouting. "I defy all laws and transcend reason!" I think that's a great battle cry.  I kind of wish that were my battle cry.

The story of Rey's attempt at redemption is touching and unnerving at points. He is a sympathetic character who pushes himself closer and closer to the breaking point in every battle. Mary proves herself to be more than the annoying petty beaurocrat she seems at first. One of the side-characters, a very heroic Tactical Sorcerer named Hammond, serves as a foil to Rey, and his life, like the lives of others before him, ends badly. In fact, everything ends badly. But, like the Winchesters say, "it all ends bloody or sad," Dear Readers, sorry. Strait Jacket ends  bloody AND sad,  but it's still worth a watch.



Winchester Wednesday Vs. Full Metal Alchemist



Dear Readers, I have been watching A LOT of Full Metal Alchemist lately, A LOT. And, by that I mean I just finished the original series, and I am already halfway through FMA: Brotherhood. All this week!

I've read some reviews regarding these two complementary series arguing one is better than the other. I'm going to go out on a limb and say: I really like them both. I think the background story from the first series informs how I see the characters in the second series, but I see them as very separate stories.

Maybe because I just finished up a five season marathon of Supernatural, I think it's easy to draw comparisons between the Elric brothers, and the Winchester Brothers.

1) Brotherly Love: Both stories focus around a relationship between two brothers, which transcends mortal life.

2) Absent, enigmatic fathers: John Winchester and Hoenheim of Light are both mysterious figures who love their kids but neglect them in pursuit of shadowy things.

3) Mother obsession: The Winchesters go back in time to try and save their mom from death. The Elric's try to transmute their mom and bring her back to life after death.

4) Return from death or the great unknown: The Elric brothers face the Gate of Truth, a portal that resembles the entrance to Hell. The Winchester brothers face Hell and Heaven. Characters in both series are tormented behind these gates.

5) My Brother the Freak: Sam is full of demon blood. Alphonse's soul is bonded to a suit of armor. They both question their own humanness.

6) We only have each other: Each series leaves you with the understanding that the brothers are so linked, each only has the other.

7) Out of the ordinary professions: The Elrics are Alchemists. The Winchesters are Hunters

8) Evil is out to get us!: The Winchesters have demons after them. The Elrics have Homunculi.

9) Vessels: Alphonse is the vessel for the philosopher's stone. Sam is the vessel for Lucifer.

10) Epic battles of good and evil: neither show would be any good without them.

So-Bad Sunday -- Equus?


Ha, ha, I don't even know!

I was in J-town today with a dear friend who is neither a Dear Reader or an anime / manga fan. I told her I had to do an entry for So-Bad Sunday, and she plucked this fine manga off the shelf at the book shop. I really wanted to buy it, but my Japanese is not that advanced.

All I know is that it is a yaoi tale of love between a human and a centaur. No, no, nope, no, no...I guess I did just judge a book by it's cover!

My freak flag is not flying, and my prude colors are showing. But, maybe someone will enjoy this tome?

So-Bad Sunday! Yaoi Hentai (manga)

First, this is the worst manga I've ever read, and it causes me deep, personal shame to own it. Second, no, I'm not going to talk about it in detail because it is disgusting. Third, there is no way I am posting scans from it. So, just trust me on the horribleness of it, please.

Yaoi Hentai  is a collection of four stories by different artists/writers that center on...horribleness?  It's yaoi, which is male/male, and it is hentai, which is porn--and I bought it for three reasons: because I might be a little bit of a pervert, it was cheap, and it was wrapped in plastic wrap. Had it not been wrapped in plastic I might have been able to judge the horror of it, and would never have purchased it. Of course, had it not been wrapped in plastic with the words "ABSOLUTELY NOT FOR CHILDREN" in all red caps on the cover, then children would have absolutely looked at it. I mean, I would have. And it would have scarred them for life. The big words on the cover should have read "ABSOLUTELY NOT FOR ANYONE," but then who would have bought it? Me, most likely. I have so much shame.

The four stories contained in this cheaply bound, and poorly translated manga, are each rather horrible in their own right, but collectively they are astonishingly awful.

Story one is about a student who "works" for an A for their art teacher. It illustrates some rather unsafe uses of paint, and skeeves me out to no end.

Story two is a charming buildungsroman (coming of age story) about a soccer player being gang raped by his teammates and a group of well-endowed sumo wrestlers.

Story three is about a group of jerks who DP ( I cannot believe I just wrote DP) what at first seems like an innocent high-school student. The student (surprise) turns out (what a twist!) to be a demon who turns the tables on his attackers in a fairly sadistic way. So, it's a morality tale?

Story four is tentacle porn. That's right...TENTACLE PORN! And I have just posted about tentacle porn on this blog. Who doesn't like a good tentacle porn story? Me, for one. I don't like it. No thank you, cephalapodic aliens with phallic appendages, I'm just not a fan.

In summation: BAD! BAD! BAD! GROSS! AWFUL! UNSANITARY! Kill it with fire!
The last one, "Kill it with fire!" is something I will ultimately have to do with this manga, because there is no way I am just throwing this in the trash where some innocent person could stumble across it (becoming scarred for life)...that would be bad karma.

Blue Exorcist -- Episode 18

Hi Everyone! I'm Konekomaru, and I'm featured in this episode!

And, Welcome to my Blue Exorcist Blog. Actually, Squeefinity is an all things anime, manga and otherwise blog, but I'm currently just feeling super squee about this show!

The last few episodes have focused a bit on Rin's place in the academy and has been all "big picture" stuff, you know, Holy Sh*tballs, Mina-san! Rin's a Demon! Can we reforge the Kurikara Sword?, Should the Vatican execute Rin? kind of stuff.

Anyhoo, this week's episode brought the show back to its heart; it focused on Rin's relationship with his friends. And, it even made me a little teary.

When last we saw Rin, his friends learned he was the son of Satan, and they saw him kick the crap out of the King of the Earth, another big time demon kin. Needless to say, this was a bit of a shock, considering a number of their family members were killed during Blue Night, when Satan murdered a ton of righteous people with his blue flames. Rin's buddies are a bit non-plussed by his own blue flames.

Konekomaru, the little, raised by monks looking Ex-wire, is downright terrified. His parents were slaughtered on Blue Night, and he was brought up on tales of death by demon. A mid-level Demon known as a Hurricane or Tornado or something sneaks into the academy and starts taunting him, basically playing on his weakness, fear and doubt; it tries to get Konekomaru to allow it to possess him.

Everyone knows there is a demon on the loose, but no one realizes it is attached to Konekomaru. All of the Ex-wires, except for Rin, are given the task of searching for it. Rin is supposed to stick to his studies and learn to control his blue flames. Konekomaru shows up; Rin does see the demon attached to him, but no one else does. When Rin tries to attack the demon, everyone thinks he is after Konekomaru, and they get super-pissy about his flames and being the son of Satan, and it pretty much sucks for him. Poor Rin!

Konekomaru gets sent to the infirmary and Bon hangs out with him. While mentally struggling with his demon buddy predicament, Konekomaru asks Bon about Rin. Bon is a gruff guy. As the audience, we understand he's just really motivated by friendship. Even though he talks a lot of trash about Rin, and lays the law down on him, he doesn't hate him. Bon just doesn't want to see anyone hurt. Konekomaru takes Bon's trash talking at face value, and he let's the demon in.

Transformed into a super powerful bird looking thing with Konekomaru's cute little face protruding from its beak, the demon immediately goes after Rin, but Rin works his My Little Demon Friendship is Magic Awesomeness, and he convinces Konekomaru he can believe in him. This breaks the possession. Konekomaru jumps into Rin's arms, while Rin simultaneously slays the demon. Everybody Wins! Hurrah!

Of course, there is some more cute friendship stuff, and then some ties to the bigger story. Questions remain, like, how did the Demon get in to True Cross Academy to begin with? Why is there a secret bombed out artificial life lab in some snowy woods that can be gotten to through a magical opening in an abandoned kidnapper van? Who is that man? Why do I get the feeling that Rin's brother, Yukio, is hiding some kind of demon power / sickness something-thing?

Until Next Week...

***

Also, I don't know if I mentioned this before, but somewhere around episode 13, the show got a new beginning and ending song. I liked the old ones a lot, but I like the new ones, too. Here's the ending theme:

No. 6, Episodes 4, 5 & 6

Safu feels the winds of change.

This anime is getting more interesting, maybe because it becomes more obscure as it moves forward. There is a melancholic feeling.

For three episodes, Shion and Nezumi's relationship progress. We still don't know why Nezumi wants to see No. 6 wiped off the map, except that it exemplifies excess at the expense of others. Shion grows more and more dedicated to Nezumi by the day and seems to defy the disturbing and violent reality of the land outside No. 6.

The death bees seem to be getting ready for an all out assault, much to Nezumi's pleasure. Shion wants to forestall the bee virus by offering his blood as a serum. Nezumi believes they will become enemies if Shion remains attached to the city.

Meanwhile, Safu returns from No. 5 because her grandmother is dead. She learns that Shion has been marked as a felon. She visits his mother to learn that he has escaped the city. Safu vows to follow Shion, because she loves him.

Before she gets very far, she is picked up by police and detained.

I like Safu, but for some reason, I feel like she is going to end up coming between Nezumi and Shion who are clearly bound to each other for some mysterious reason.

Black Butler 5 & 6 -- Manga


I watched the anime for Black Butler a while ago, and I thought it was really great. I know that Yana Toboso did the character designs for the show, and it follows much of what I've read in the manga. I should like them both equally, but I think the manga is superior.

Firstly, Yana Toboso's illustrations are lovely. The panel layouts are inventive and seamless. Often when I'm reading manga, I flip back in order to catch something I missed, but with Black Butler, I flip back to examine a scene and its drawings and to ask myself why did the mangaka choose to show this or that to lead up to this or that? The characters are always in motion and nothing seems wasted, not a facial expression, a movement, an artifact.

Secondly, there is something lighter about the manga. Ciel and in Sebastian seem more gentle and more affectionate despite their contract.

Thirdly, the story lines are also imbued with this gentleness.

For instance, the curry cooking contest featured in Volume 5 and in the anime are different. The queen is funnier in the manga; no one gets possessed by an errant chef's evil curry. The story focuses on Agni and how far he will go to serve Prince Soma, well, what great curry he will cook. It lingers on Soma's desire to mature. And, these characters, who I really adore, actually stick around in London, after their story is complete.


Volume 6 diverges from the anime altogether and follows Ciel, Sebastian and one of the reapers to the circus to investigate missing children. All of the original members of the circus are amputees, with custom made prosthetic from a workhouse they were all conscripted to as kids.

Sebastian is terribly adorable in this story line, as he can't stay away from the trained tiger. And, Ciel seems more vulnerable.

If you're not reading this series yet, I suggest you get started!

So Bad Sunday! Little Darling - Matsuri Kouzuki


The first thing I noticed about this light yaoi novel is that it was illustrated by, Naduki Koujima, the mangaka who did Our Kingdom, a series that M happens to really like. When I saw Little Darling hanging out on the shelf at a bookstore in J-town a couple of years ago, I figured I would pick it up, give it a read and then send it on to M to enjoy.

The word "enjoy" is relative, I guess, and after reading this book, I decided it wasn't worth the price of postage to send.

The back cover of the book says "Matsurie Kouzuki's two-part comedic romp takes into a world full of beautiful angels and sensual demons." If you have not figured out by now, I love things about angels and demons. The cover goes on to say, "Making hilarious use of some of the staples of the genre we've grown to love, Little Darling is a silly and steamy tale that is sure to entertain yaoi lovers looking for a bit of fun!" The phrase, "bit of fun," is also relative.

I guess the cover didn't lie per se. In someone's mind, this book is fun and whimsical, but I guess I am too broken in my soul to understand.

The story centers around an adolescent demon, Kaie, who is a hermaphrodite. He is dude identified and he wants to grow up to be a fine example of a man. One day, his body will decide for him, and one set of parts will go away. Kaie is really looking forward to that day.

So, one evening, Kaie and his demon buddies are hanging out when they get an a call over demon radio or whatever, the heir of heaven has gotten loose, and the demons need to find him. They find the kid at the top of Tokyo Tower, and by kid, I mean, kid; he's somewhere around 8-10. His name is Daine, and he falls instantly in lust / love with Kaie. Daine happens to have some issues, too. During the day he's a little kid, but after his evening bath, he turns into an angelic teen, roughly the same age as Kaie.

He spends the first half of the novel pursuing Kaie relentlessly to make him his wife, which he finally does. Then he spends much of the rest of the novel trying to convince Kaie to bump uglies with him while he's in his child form.

Okay, still with me? Well, that's pretty much the story with "humor" and adult scenes mixed in, and there in lies the problem. Daine's predicament is supposed to be funny, but he really is in a little kid's body for half the story, so a lot of the jokes and innuendo and angst are centered around this.

Of course, the author can say that Daine is hundreds of years old, but it doesn't matter. I still felt skeevy and uncomfortable reading this.

Am I a prude? Maybe. Probably. But, I'm okay with that.

So-Bad Sunday! Ramen Ikaga?!(Prince of Ramen)-Manga

Ordinary high-school student and "The School's First Ranked Bishonen," Shirafugi Sumire, likes ramen. That's not odd. I freaking love ramen. I prefer good ramen (real imported ramen that is not 5/$1), but I'm not one to put on airs, I'll eat poverty-ramen and I'll like it. So, a reliance on ramen as plot-device doesn't really make this a manga deserving of So-Bad Sunday! status. In fact, I don't really know that Ramen Ikaga?! is a bad manga...it's just a little stranger than most things I read. Nah...nah, it's bad. Bad and goofy and random and just..."really?" We'll get to the story soon, I promise, but first I want to talk about ramen some more.

Here's my favorite kind:


Ooooh, so tasty. The price above is for a case of it--$17.95 for one packet would be almost as ridiculous as the plot of Ramen Ikaga?! Even with the good ramen (or udon) you have to doctor it up--I suggest green onions, a little carrot, some thin sliced celery, a can of those little salad shrimp and maybe even an egg. Freaking awesome! Sooo spicy good! But my favorite thing about the Nong Shim Neoguri Spicy Seafood Udon Type Noodle is that I have never had to marry an extraterrestrial pervert as a result of making it.


Sumire is waiting for his Prince!
Ramen Ikaga?! begins with Sumire making ramen, the instant he pours hot water in the bowl he discovers that things are not what they appear to be. The bowl itself is actually the spaceship of the Second Crown Prince of Cup Ramen, Kanmen (his name actually means "dried noodle"...eyeroll), who hails from the planet of Cup Ramen on the far side of the Andromeda Galaxy. When Sumire adds water to his ramen he unwittingly proposed to Kanmen according to their planet's customs. The men on Cup Ramen are actually miniature and only grow to human size when their partner pours water on them, intending to "couple" (their words, not mine). Sumire refuses, but Kanmen is pretty persistant (despite the fact that he already has an arranged marriage back on planet Cup Ramen), and the  miniature Prince Charming harasses Sumire by flying around in his ramen space ship and wooing him in all sorts of "comical" ways.

I think it's trying too hard. There are "panda bombs" and a dominatrix disguised as a "dangerous infirmary sensei" (I think they mean school nurse...to top off the weirdness, the translation is pretty bad as well), boy/boy one-sided love obsessions, and then it gets, surprisingly, weirder. There's another prince from planet Spagettina (named, appropriately, Carbonara, and whose spaceship is a giant floating version of Michaelangelo's David) who wants Sumire for his own, and uses an impossible to defeat fighting style called "al dente" to steal Sumire from Kanmen whle they're on a date and the amusement park, and later Kanmen is snatched by his fiance Princess Rainmen, a uber-cute yandere (""sweet outside-crazy inside") girly-girl weilding a mace....and then there's body-switching, and everybody (EVERYBODY) falls in love with boring Sumire...aargh! This shit is just stupid. I mean, okay, okay, "look at the imagination!" I guess?  Here's my question: how dumb is too dumb? I mean, I would give a little lea-way if this were for kids, but it isn't. It's yaoi, and it's a little pervy at points. I just cannot imagine what was going through a publisher's head when they thought, "You know what? This is brilliant." It isn't. It isn't brilliant, and no amount of puns or quirky tongue-in-cheekness is going to save this manga from being anything except bad.

Despite that, I'm kind of glad I read it, because it is the kind of thing that makes and impression. Not a good impression, mind you, but an impression nonetheless. So, Dear Readers, Ramen Ikaga?! deserves a place on Squeefinity's So-Bad Sunday! list. Man, is it bad. Just...phenomenally bad.

Winchester Wednesday?

Oh, man, I'm so sorry to have missed Tuesday's Ta Ta post. I have been caught up in a little Supernatural time loop and have not been thinking so much about lady parts.



We are the Winchesters, and we will you to think very hard about guy parts.

If you know me, you know I am like a obsessed and rabid dog when it comes to series. I finally decided to start Supernatural, and apparently cannot stop or function until I am done watching all of it, and by all, I have decided the first five seasons. I enjoy the show, but will stop shy of writing fan fiction like a certain person named James Parker Lombard who I happen to have the pleasure of knowing, and you would be lucky to know this person, too.

In the meanwhile, I will direct you to my earlier post on knockers in Blue Exorcist, which I have big plans to catch up with this week. Just a little more Winchesterness first.

Ta-Ta Tuesday! Bleach--Anime

I've written about Bleach before, so I don't want to do a full recap, but I do want to offer it as the first installment of the (hopefully) ongoing edition of Ta-Ta Tuesday!

Chizuru Honsho is a lesbian, with a major boob fetish. She's a minor character in the series, who spends most of her scenes practially drooling over the ample chests of her classmates. There are a lot of boobs on display in Bleach...so, today's Ta-Ta Tuesday! will point out two (four?) of the "biggest" characters in Bleach.


Here we see Chizuru using a hug as an excuse to cop a feel on Orahime's VERY ample bosom.
That looks like it hurts...ouch.

Bleach is about soul-reapers, fighting-spirit, friendship, sacrifice...and really big breasts. There are a lot of characters, aside from the super-voluptuous Orahime, who have more than their fair share of anime-boobosity.

Oh, do I have really big boobs? I hadn't noticed because
I am super-sweet and innocent.


Despite her appearance, Orahime is rather demure. She doesn't pay much attention to them, but I do. In nearly every episode I cannot help but say something about her melons. Usually along the lines of, "Man, look at those things! They're ridiculous!"

Other Bleach characters with large breasts are less demure, and some have breasts so large that seem as if they could hinder their fighting ability:

Rangiku Matsumoto is a lieutenant of the 10th division of the Soul Society, and she is a pretty bad-ass fighter, so it's sort of confusing how her boobs don't get in the way (mine get in a way of a lot of things, and hers are bigger).


Well, hellooooo fanboys! Rangiku is in a school-girl uniform,
and she is going to be staying at Orahime's house.
Let the wild speculation begin!
Quite a few of the Arrancar ladies have big boobs as well, including Nel (centaur boobs). Seriously, how do these ladies fight with those boobs? I mean...really? Now, boobs aren't the main focus of the series, but I"m sure they do help attract a male viewership. Who doesn't want to see those things bouncing around the screen? BANKAI! (Gross.)

Immoral Darkness -- Miyu Matsuda

This is definitely an 18+ explicit content type thing.

Dear Readers, I do not know if M likes to read light novels, but I love to read light novels, maybe as much as I like to read manga. Did I say that? Yes, I did.

When it comes to these things I'm kind of like a housebound middle aged bifocal sporting hickerbilly, with a waterbed covered in stuffed animals holding heartshaped pillows, Nascar playing softly in the background, a bag of Cheetos and a stack of bodice rippers so high you can't see over them.

I'm simple. I like words; I like reading; I like yaoi. When I want to escape, give me an afternoon, a mug of decaf, and a sweet light yaoi novel with a happy ending, and I'm all set.

What sets light yaoi novels apart than say common every day truck stop erotica or rough trade? Well, funny you should ask, Dear Reader. A light yaoi novel should contain all the elements of a yaoi manga, unrequited love, romance, emotionally tortured bishounen, etc. It should leave a girl feeling all squee and starry eyed, and it's often a little more graphic than a manga, but less graphic than erotica/porn. However, that doesn't mean that some, if not many of these books are just poorly translated, fetish laced pornography that leaves one feeling a little dirty inside.

So, let me tell you a tale, Dear Readers, of the baddest, worst, most detestable light novel in my collection: Immoral Darkness. I would offer it as a prize for anyone requesting a review of an anime or manga, but I'm afraid some state or federal laws might prevent its transport via post. In any case, I did buy it at Borders (RIP), and it was hanging out, explicit content warning and all, next to a stack of Fruits Baskets and FCCL manga.

Some things do belong in a case, or in a brownpaper bag, or in the 50 cent pile at the local Velvet Touch (Ha ha ha ha, do I have a story about that), and this is one of those books. Normally, I don't condone book burning, but this would make wonderful kindling.

Shiina Jun is a highschool kid with some family problems. Mainly, his family ignores him in almost a torturous way. He lives in their house, but his mother, father and brother don't acknowledge him except to make him feel like crap. They often take trips without him and act unfairly toward him. Shiina is lonely, and really mind-f*cked. He sleeps with older women for money after school, where he is also lonely and ostracized.

Shiina has a teacher, Sasaqawa Tetsuya. He's a dirty thug. His clothes are always unclean, and he doesn't have good hygiene. He also torments Shiina when he is in his class. There's nothing good about him.

One day Shiina is waiting for a train, and these kids on the platform start messing with him. This guy appears and "saves" him. The guy is Sasagawa. Sasagawa lures Shiina into one of the bathrooms where he sexually assaults him.

Now let's stop here. I'm just not a fan of noncon. It's a horrible attempt to make rape sexy, and rape is not sexy.

Basically, you have this story about this really broken kid, who has a teacher in a position of authority who is years older and assaults him. This is just the beginning of the story, which gets worse and worse and worse, and involves, I'm not kidding, scenes in Sasagawa's dirty old man kidnapper type van and the revelation that not only is he sleeping with high school age Shiina, he is also doing a fourteen-year-old girl because "normal women don't satisfy him." And, he's supposed to be the big love interest in the story. It's written in a way where you feel like you should be rooting for Shiina and Sasagawa, but I just couldn't. In fact, I kept reading, hoping that Sasagawa would get shot or something and Shiina would get some therapy and love from someone with a f*cking heart. But, that does not happen.

I feel so dirty for having read this. The book cover says, this is a "must-read!" But I say, this is a must toss on top of the fire and bust out some smores the next time I go camping type of book. Ugg.

Squeefinity: So-Bad Sunday! -- Almost Crying (Manga)

First, Dear Readers, welcome to this historic occasion. Ms. Shakespeare and I have been discussing the blog and have decided that we need some "days." These "days" will be something to both motivate us towards regular updates, and to create some structure to our rambling reviews (delicious though they may be). You have stumbled on the first of these "days," which shall henceforth be known throughout the land as "SO-BAD SUNDAY!"

So-Bad Sunday! reviews will be the worst of the worst in anime and manga, as decided upon by your hostesses. My very first offering for So-Bad Sunday! is Mako Takahashi's Almost Crying. A yaoi (boy/boy) manga with such stunningly (barfy) cutesy artwork that it makes me feel like...well, it makes me feel gross. Exceedingly gross. Why? Well, friends, I'll show you.



Nothing wrong with that video, right? I mean other than the crappy music. Maybe it looks a bit "precious," but it's about kids, right? NO! It's not about kids. The manga itself is a collection of eight short vignettes about first loves, and all of them have the same chibi (adorable cute) illustrations...regardless of the content. Do you see where I'm going with this, Dear Readers? Yes, there. This is rated 16+ for young adults because it contains sex. Sex. And ALL the characters look like six year olds, regardless of their age. The back cover says "Artwork so cuddly cute-looking you'd wanna take these boys home to start a harem!" No, back cover, I don't even want to own this, because it is gross! I feel like in order to appreciate this manga, and the mediocre/inappropriate stories it contains, I will first need to grow a 1970s pedi-stache. This manga would be sort of skeevy anyway, even without the disturbing art, because it contains some incest, some human/merman sex, and some weird twin-swapping story. None of the stories make sense, all of them are absurdly simplistic despite their creepiness, and well...in general, this is bad, bad stuff. DO NOT WANT!

In a related note, in honor of So-Bad Sunday!, I would like to offer up a contest to you, Dear Readers. If you are the first person to make a recommendation for a review on our blog (just post it in the comments), I will send you your very own free copy of Almost Crying. I know, I know. How can I be so generous? Well, I'm just a giving person. So, recommend away! And you can read this horribly uncomfortable manga in the comfort of your own home (and get it out of mine).





Be on the lookout for the very first Ta-Ta Tuesday post in a few days. Ta-Ta Tuesdays will honor all things booblicious about anime and manga. There are a lot of large breasts in anime and manga--why not celebrate/lament that fact with a weekly post about the most boobtastic manga and anime we can find. Hooray for boobies!

In The Walnut


M and I were talking the other day. She likes stories about longing. You know, books with couples who can't get it together? They spend months, sometimes years trying to sort it out. They usually go a little like this:

Character One: Oh, I like him so much, but I can't say anything. I mean, we're both boys. It's probably wrong. I love him. I need to run away and be all tragic and sort my feelings out.

Character Two: (Nothing -- He is the strong silent type. His eyes do all the talking. When he does speak, He never says the right thing)

About a million pages pass where Character One has an internal ongoing monologue about all of his feelings. Character Two does something that makes him jealous and sad, maybe he goes on a date with a girl or Character One spots him with a cuter sempai or something. Anyway, something happens.

Finally, someone breaks. Feelings are shared. There is blushing.

Sex happens.


Okay, so this is super simplified, but kind of true. I enjoy these stories, but I always find myself just skipping ahead to the sex part. Now before you call me a pervert (I can tell you are thinking it, Dear Readers!), it's not about that (Well, only a little.). I just happen to like it soooo much more when the characters are already a couple.

I don't like all the hemming and hawing and wringing of hands and does he likes mes? My favorite couples are semi-establish/fully-established. They aren't worrying about whether they like each other. They are so next level.

No, the conflicts in established relationship stories often come from the upheavals that come as the members of the couples mature and really get to know each other as people not just objects of affection. There's more contact between established couples all through the story than in an unrequited love story.

That's a minor breakdown of how I feel, so now, let's talk about a manga starring an established couple, In the Walnut by Toko Kawaii. I like this mangaka. Her art isn't the best, though it has gotten better. She wrote a manga a few years ago called Our Everlasting, which I absolutely adored, mostly because I can totally be all full of anxiety and bratty like Shouin, one of the main characters (but more later, later on relating to characters in yaoi). In that manga, the main character studied French and had a dog named Proust. That's enough for me.

Anyway, at the end of both volumes of Our Everlasting were a couple of smart one shots that took place at an art school, and one of the couples from those one shots were the basis for In the Walnut. The original story was a little longing and pining. Sohei, a film student, trades foxy times with this artist, Hideo, who looks absolutely fabulous on film, and like a wreck most of the rest of the time. Sohei, is a little strange; he can't stop filming Hideo, and Hideo is kind of disgusting. He smokes while he's brushing his teeth. He wears the same clothes all week. He doesn't bother with underwear. He rarely bathes. Still, he's smart, and I like him.

In the Walnut takes place after they graduate from art school. Hideo has inherited his grandpa's art gallery, The Walnut, and Sohei works for a small production company. They love eachother. They date. They are a couple. The manga isn't really about their relationship at all. It focuses around a set of people who come to Hideo's gallery on somewhat shady business. The biggest drama comes when Hideo wants to keep Sohei out of the shady business, but Shohei insists.

Honestly, I felt very neutral about this manga. I liked the characters so much when they were in the one shot that I was willing to read both these volumes. I kind of felt like they were mellower versions of the characters as students. They were nice and settled. The actual plots of the different stories just weren't super compelling to me. It was kind of art + mystery + a very little relationship action. Readers, don't expect any foxy times. There really aren't any. Still, I liked it. It's not a super squee. It's a lazy afternoon read.

I like Toko Kawaii because she always seems to tell stories that involve art or liberal arts, and her stories always feel comfortable and sweet. Though I would recommend Our Everlasting first.

Basilisk--Anime

Basilisk: The Koga Ninja Scrolls centers on a battle between two rival ninja clans during the Azuchi-Monoyama era (1600). A sort of non-agression pact betweent the two clans was put in place generations ago by Hattori Hanzo (not the Kill Bill Hattori Hanzo...jeesh, the samauri) which helped Hanzo rise to power. When Hanzo dies a power vacuum is created among his grandsons, the political tensions in this early Japanese government run high, as each candidate sets off a string of espionage-style tactics to defeat their rivals and fill that vacuum. One of these tactics entails recalling the treaty between the Kouga and Ida ninja clans, and setting their best 10 ninjas against each other in a kill or be killed battle to the death. Two grandsons want the shogunate, each is backing a different clan, whatever clan wins the backing grandson earns the title...a very odd way to remedy the situation, but it is fun!  So, it's sort of historicial, but not really. The basis of the story is actually rooted in Japanese history, but then it gets very anime with some fairly impressive ninja skills and a Romeo and Juliette love story between the heirs of each clan, Gennosuke and Oboro, whose marriage (arranged prior to Hanzo's death) was to unite the two clans permenantly.




I did enjoy this series--it had a lot of fighting, some heavy symbolic gestures and repeating images/metaphors, and a rather sad/poignant focus on loyalties (does one honor love above all else? And if so, which kind of love? Filial, romantic, familial?).  As the plot twisted around itself amidst some heavy betrayals and deceptions, I would become interested in characters only to be shown their tragic demise. This is not a light-hearted romp! It is, in fact, one of the more violent and brutal animes I've watched. But, there does seem to be some rather skilled story-telling here as well. I enjoyed the pacing of the series, and the way characters' special ninja skills, backstories, connections, etc. were revealed. Although, I did enjoy it, I don't know as I'd put this on the list of my favorite animes of all times. It was good, it was thoughtful, but it stayed just shy of becoming something I could see myself watching again--perhaps due to the violence? Or perhaps the animation style (which does seem older and grittier)? Or maybe it is the guy who fights with his nose hairs?

If you are interested, as many people are, in warring ninja clans, this is well worth a watch--it is rooted in at least SOME historical reality and does not shy away from serious brutality and heartlessness. Just don't expect a feel-good romp.

DMP/Akadot Retail --Site/Store

http://www.akadot.com/


In honor of their 801 line of Yaoi manga, Digital Manga Publishing and Akadot are celebrating Yaoi Week with some fairly good sales. All this week 8/01 to 8/08 discount bundles of random yaoi will be available. Plus if you buy $30 dollars worth of books they'll throw in some mystery gifts. (I like a mystery gift!)


Your mystery gift will not be a fruit tart, I can almost guarantee that!
But it could be some yummy food-centered manga!



Although they are pushing Yaoi this week, remember that DMP doesn't JUST produce yaoi manga.  They do have a wide range of other titles for those of you who aren't as into the boy/boy as perhaps...um, me?

I usually wouldn't be pushing you, Dear Readers, to part with your well-earned money, but after the sad/slightly-expected demise of TokyoPop in the spring, it seems important for us anime-junkies and manga-philes to support the industry. While it is true (I remember seeing a t-shirt that said this, so it MUST be true) that crack is a cheaper addiction than anime/manga, please consider giving back to the those publishers/distributers/manga-ka who form the supply line for your addiction...and lay off the crack. DMP isn't a huge company, but they are prolific, and they do produce (mostly) decent translations (there have been a few glaring exceptions) of Japanese-language manga into English. They also carry quite a few of the titles Ms. Shakespeare and I have reviewed, including some of my favorites Yellow, Little Butterfly and Love Song for the Miserable and Ms. Shakespeare's favorites from Fumi Yoshinaga (Antique Bakery). If you've been tempted to purchase some of the titles we review, think about doing it now while there are deep discounts to be had--I saw a copy of Antique Bakery listed for $4.00...that is cheap!

So, go support these distributors who so kindly feed the addiction for your hostesses here on Squeefinity.

More reviews to come!

Witchblade--Anime

"Sought by the greed of men since the dawn of human kind, but only bestowed upon the women whose fate it forever scars... The Witchblade. Is it the righteous sword of God? Or hand of the Devil himself? Now a new bearer has been chosen. And she must discover the answers for herself. As she stands on the brink of destiny, she is forced to seek the balance between ecstasy and ruin."--Witchblade

BOOBIES! No, seriously,  boobies!

Check out Masane's boobs! They are powerful!
RAAARRR! BOOBIES!
Any of you, Dear Readers, who are fans of the original Witchblade comic series from the mid-90s, or the television series of the same name, might find yourself confused by  the futuristic boobosity of the anime reincarnation (good word...punny) of Witchblade. The only connecting factor between the different retellings of the Witchblade's story is the insistance on the witchblade itself and its dubious history. The witchblade, a gauntlet-type cuff when not in use, transforms into a symbiotic weapon that is both blade and armor for the woman who weilds it.  It, and the female warrior who carries/bonds to the blade, has capabilities for both good and evil. I think the "history" of the witchblade (as a dispenser of justice passed down from female to female in a line extending through time) is interesting, as is its insistance on bonding ONLY with strong, female characters...but that's the comic book and tv series, not the anime.

It isn't that I don't like the anime, I actually do think it is interesting, bit just isn't what might be expected in terms of evolving from the pro-feminist mythos of the other series. The main character of the anime series is a clumsy, goofy, single mother living in a post-apocolyptic Japan. As the series begins we realize that Masane has no recollection of her past, or the father of her child. She was found miraculously unharmed (and holding her newborn infant daughter) after the apocolyptic earthquake in what has come to be called Year Zero.  Once activiated the witchblade transforms Masane into a savage warrior, almost impervious to harm. The downside of the witchblade is that it takes control in this symbiotic relationship and ultimately burns through the life-force of the bearer, killiing them.

Couple this with an evil corporation intent on copying or cloning the blade (and a group of genetically engineered "bearers" with psychotic tendencies) and you have a very action-packed series...with a lot of boobies. Do not worry, butt fans, there are butts too! In fact, there was so much skin showing  on the bearers in their witchblade states that the Japanese censors blocked many of the scenes with those ubiquitous black bars. The American cable channel Chiller (does Chiller still exist?) however saw no problem with the prodigious ta-tas and bare-assed battles. Hooray, America!

Boobies aside (although they ARE a big, BIG part of the series), there are some things that make this series worth watching. The devotion Masane feels towards her daughter, her "fighting spirit," and her sense of right and wrong make her a sympathetic character, but the vascilation between horror and obligation she feels towards the witchblade and her duties as its bearer make her closer to tragic. Althought the plot is far-fetched, the outfits are ridiculous, and the story-line is sometimes convoluted to an extreme, it is the small moments when the characters interact with one another that kept me watching. That and trying to figure out exactly how she was keeping that outfit on...seriously. Baffling.

Eerie Queerie--Manga




Okay, again, I feel bad reviewing an older manga with limited availability, but Eerie Queerie! is worth discussing, at least a little bit. This four-volume series by Shuri Shiozu was an early addition to my manga collection (I have a lot of manga...a bookshelf of manga), and it remains one of my favorites. Not because it is exceptionally complex (it isn't), not because it is well illustrated (it isn't), not because it is angst filled and character driven (it isn't...not really), not because there are possessed masks housing goat-demons who try to seduce high-school mediums, or embittered ghostly servants forced into cat cos-play by perverted bisexual priests, or cross-dressing shrine "maidens" who woo lost-loves with funny faced frogs. Ah, I'm such a liar, it's totally those last three things.

Eerie Queerie! is adorable and ridiculous. I wind up "ooh"-ing and giggling aloud every time I read it. It's just so...cute? Certainly the main character, Mitsuo Shiozu (same last name as the author...on purpose!), a high-schooler who can see the dead and is extremely susceptible to possession, is a goofy, giggly teen with a heart of gold and a deep connection to his few friends. He has spent a lonely life, but due to some unforeseeable hijinks involving a dead school girl, he forges a close friendship with (super hot) Hasunuma who is interested in folklore and the occult. His first, best and most-devoted friend, Hasunuma, obviously has strong feelings for Mitsuo that go beyond friendship and a willingness to protect innocent Mitsuo from the world. However, confused Mitsuo fails to make the connections between Hasunuma's feelings and their affectionate interactions...Mitsuo realizes his own feelings of love towards Hasunuma later, and is appalled that HE might be taking advantage of his "innocent" friend (Hasunuma uses every ploy in the book to get Mitsuo closer to him, or lay "claim" to him in front of rivals). As a reader I cannot help but laugh and laugh at Mitsuo's confusion and the entire comedy of errors that is Eerie Queerie!.

Here is a typical Hasunuma move (with a typical Mitsuo response):


Hasunuma is kissing Mitsuo as he leaves to go on a school scavenger hunt. Mitsuo is at first alarmed by Hasunuma's overtly affectionate ways, but Hasunuma tells him that "that's just what friends do." Mitsuo, having no experience with friends (and secretly desiring all that yummy affection) is reassured and begins to accept the "normalcy" of Hasunuma's touchy-feely-ness. Ichi, the third man in their group, is constantly bothered by Hasunuma's advances on Mitsuo...he thinks Hasunuma is taking advantage of Mitsuo's ignorance and naivete...Ichi is right--he is.  

Hasunuma is my favorite character in this series. His devotion to Mitsuo, his playfulness (despite the serious nature of his feelings), his sweetness, his sacrifices and his infinite patience make him a little swoonworthy. Everytime I reread E Q! I find myself rooting for Hasunuma (he's the biggest flirt in the world), and rolling my eyes at the baffled reactions of Mitsuo. Hasunuma is not the lead in the story, but he is the romantic lead...it makes for an odd and compelling will they/won't they situation (actually more of a will Mitsuo realize/won't he realize) which all works out happily (and goofily) in the end.

Eerie Queerie! isn't deep and profound. It isn't soul-shattering. It isn't much more than a ridiculously amusing supernatural comedy, but it is really, really cute without being annoying or precious. Ultimately, it is worth a read, especially if you like aggressively perverted Shinto priests...and it turns out I do.

Note: the rating on E Q! is 16+, but there is NO graphic sex in this. There are sexual situations and a crazy amount of innuendo, but no actual sex. As far as yaoi goes, it is pretty tame, and sweet without being smutty. The only risky character is the Shinto priest who does get a little "handsy" at times. I would say that this might be more of a PG-13 series than a restricted one, but that's just liberal ol'me.