Ta-Ta Tuesday! Excel Saga--Anime

Excel Saga makes my brain hurt. I won't post it as a So-Bad Sunday! post because it is kind of clever, alibet in an annoying as hell way. So, to honor the bodacious ta-tas of this series, I submit it here.

This is Excel and those are her boobs.

Excel Saga  is a parody anime, it takes (steals) from multiple genres, it intentionally attempts to be as weird, violent, and erratic as possible. For example, in the very first episode, within the first four minutes to be exact, Excel graduates from highschool and is promptly hit by a truck. KABAM! She is resurrected for the sake of the "storyline" (they said it, not me), by The Will of the Macrocosmos. She is then recruited by Ilpalazzo, to "fix the world" starting with Tokyo,  F City; but she's so annoying he shoots her in the head. I can't blame him. The Will resurrects her again. He kills her a few more times. She is annoying. Her task, to save the world, begins with the "liquidation of manga writers and artists." Because that's what's keeping the world corrupt. Her first target...the author of the manga, Excel Saga. Why not, right?

Yeah, it just gets dumber from there. The "sometimes clever" I mentioned earlier have to do with its National Lampoon like quality of poking fun at anime and manga tropes. Of course, you have to wade through the crap to get to the good stuff, and some jokes run a little too long.

This is Excel's partner Hyatt.
She dies ALL THE TIME!
Even in the opening song.
I guess it's kind of hard to explain. Let's let the trailer do my work for me?

Yeah, I know. That didn't help either. Just enjoy the boobies, alright?

La Esperanca--Manga

La Esperanca officially has one of these jobbers ç (called a cedilla). I may or may not try to remember to put it in like so: La Esperança. I'll try. And I will try...I mean it. Why? Because La Esperança  is one of my favorite manga series ever. On the surface it's typical yaoi stuff--school boys yearning over forbidden feelings in a will they/won't they sort of situation that ends all too predictably. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but La Esperança does more than just rehash the same plot as a hundred other tension-filled, angsty, boy-love manga. It actually brings up some interesting and insightful discussions of destiny, friendship, faith, kindness, fragility and vulnerability. These are heavy, literary themes for this genre of manga and author and illustrator Chigusa Kawai (this is her first, and for a long time her ONLY work) handles them with maturity, subtlety, complexity and sincerity in this seven volume series.

But first, an important confession: I read this manga as it was being released by DMP, and eagerly anticipated each new volume. I can remember counting down release dates, driving on my lunch hour to (of all places) the local Game Stop, and bringing the volumes home with twitchy fingers. La Esperança made me nervous. It still does. I often delayed reading my new volume until I had re-read all the previous ones. I was certainly anxious to know what turn the story of wealthy private school students Georges Saphir and Robert Jade might take, but I'd need to ease myself back into it. To be frank, I was nervous for the characters. I both wanted and did not want to see them break. I was nervous for me as well, La Esperança is a series I had to physically step away from on several occasions (putting the book down mid-chapter with a sigh or sharp intake of breath) to ward off the emotional heartbreak that seemed inevitable.

In short, this series is pretty powerful stuff at times, especially in terms of image, emotion, and characterization. It also has a lot of wind blown angst. Lots of wind. So much wind that Ms. Shakespeare once went on a lengthy diatribe about the amount of wind in this manga series, claiming that in order for this to be realistic each character would have to be sporting around their own wind machine at all times. Wind aside, because I don't really care either way, this is a must read. Chigusa Kawai's first work is intense, impressive and (dare I say it? ) literary. I have been looking forward to some new work from this writer/illustrator since the end of La Esperança, and Kawai has finally produced something new--a series entitled Alice the 101st, which is on my to read and to review list as we speak. I only hope the new series lives up to my expectations based on this one. I'll certainly be letting you know, Dear Readers.

WARNING ONE: Blogger may have just screwed me out of a crazy-good, long-ass essay on this manga. In fact, I know it did. I have never had this experience on blogger, and am half-furious at both it and myself at the moment. I will have to rewrite it, and I am ensaddened. I hope it is even better this time around, although I expect it will not be. Hey, blogger, what happened to the auto-save? Did you forget to do that? Because it would have been really nice in this case. SO ANGRY!

WARNING TWO: Dr. M (seriously, I have an actual PhD...don't question my ability to get all schooley) is about to wax all academic up in this mug, please bear with her, humor her and acknowledge that from time to time this sort of thing has a place.

Robert and Georges first meeting.
Georges literally falls into his arms.
Only to be dumped out unceremoniously with a
"Tsk, I thought you were a girl."

At its heart, La Esperança is a buildungsroman about the development of the inner self. The teenage boys populating St. Grollo Boy's School are coming to an awareness of the singular self at odds with the surrounding world. This awareness brings with it an acknowledgement of limitations and complications. Each character is asked to face their fears about the past and future in order to become a whole person moving in and through the world.
Thematically it deals with some very important, and sometimes heavy, topics, asking us, as readers, to consider, what we do to protect ourselves from the world as human beings.  It is very human to put up our guard against the world around us, because vulnerability leaves us exposed, but closing ourselves off keeps us from living fully in the world through connections with others. Georges, the protagonist of the novel, begins as nothing more than a pretty object--a self-effacing angel popular with all students, but close to none. Henri, the best friend, is held at arms length and longs to breach the unseen barriers Georges throws up to guard his inner self from the outside world. Robert, the antagonist and eventual love interest, hides his true self  behind the perceptions others have of him; he lets his classmates and others believe him to be cold and callous because it is easier (and safer) than having to explain or relieve past sorrows. 

Georges' Story is about acceptance:
In all of the essential ways, this is the story of Georges Saphir, orphan, half-saint, pianist, and angelic do-gooder with a tragic past he is unaware of. So, we must start with Georges.Georges has things wrong, but not on purpose. An altruist at heart Georges strives to be pure, to be kind and helpful to everyone, to live for others. But in living for others he abandons himself in many ways, and becomes less of a person as a result. The sweet-smiling barriers he constructs keep people from seeing what Georges believes is impure, or undeserving, below the surface. Robert is the first person to ever breach the barriers Georges puts up, and he does so rather cruelly in a way, telling Georges that there is a contradiction in George's actions, that Georges, who is friendly to all, but close to none, is actually cruel. He berates him, telling Georges that he spreads benevolence around, but feels none of it, that he pushes his kindness on people, and that although he seems altruistic he is in fact selfish with himself. Robert points out the "lie" in Georges' treatment of his classmates that he claims to like them, but never lets anyone know the real him. Georges, he claims, will be the one suffering in the end if he does not learn to love himself. Roberts lessons are cruelly given at first, but they belie the interest he has in Georges. Georges, over the course of the story, learns to let people in bit by bit. He also learns that to become an adult, to have real relationships, one must give of ones' self.

Robert's Story is one of rredemption:
Can I just tell you how much I love this character? Too bad, Dear Readers, I'm doing it anyway. I love Robert Jade. His cockiness covers his hidden sensitivities and insecurities, therefore he's my second favorite kind of tragic hero. My first favorite kind, incidentally is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. He is a "pain demon," seemingly sadistic, but really masochistic. Oh, Heathcliff! Robert is the second kind, the torn prince, the knight errant crippled by his own inner workings and personal tragedies, the bad boy with a secret child's heart plagued by sorrows and desires ( on a related note, I love you, Dean Winchester!). His small gestures undo me. Scenes when we get a glimpse into Robert's past, scenes when he and Georges struggle to contain emotion, and scenes where Robert breaks, showing his kindness or his haunted soul, or his fragility, leave me breathless. Georges is a pretty blank page, but Robert....Robert is a supernova: a dying star in the throws of immolation. Robert is haunted by his own tragic past, one in which he feels responsible for the death of a loved one (whom Georges greatly resembles in looks and in personality). Neglected as a child, Robert is awkward with emotion and relationships, but it is clear that he has vast up-wellings of love that need an outlet. In the climax of the book, Robert not only redeems himself, but finds closure and forgiveness. 

Side stories are about coming into one's own self, creating the individual, navigating the distance between expectations and reality, desires and needs. Each of the characters faces their own personal quests to establish a future, to comes to terms with obstacles and to make secure connections that will last a lifetime. These boys are at a crossroads in which the must choose the directions their lives will take: each struggles with very human fears, fallabilities, and even a few neuroses.

Georges kisses Robert out of the blue,
finally taking something for himself.

The story ends, not on a saccharine sweet happily ever after, but on a sort of trembling hopefulness.  Robert and Georges actually part, but with promises. They will each other to fight, to survive whatever life may throw at them and (in the immortal words of Tim Gunn) "make it work" despite obstacles.  We see a glimpse of their possible future in their determination to take initiative, address, change, and compromise WITHOUT sacrificing one's ideals, and self.

In this way the "Ending" feels more akin to a beginning. Half of me wishes for a continuation---half of me thinks that this hopeful, "non-conclusion" is the best of all possible endings for a series concerned with accepting and facing future obstacles.

I keep coming back to this manga again and again, not because it is sweet or inspiring (although it is at times) , but because it touches on what it means to be human in all of its incarnations--positive and negative. There are certainly moments where my heart is bursting  for these characters, but there are equal number of  moments when I feel afraid for them, or question their actions and reactions. Human beings are not perfect.  There are no happy endings. In fact, there are no endings at all.

So-Bad Sunday! Mr. Tiger and Mr. Wolf--Manga

That's Mr. Wolf. He looks like a people.
This yaoi manga by writer and illustrator Ahiru Haruno is about a wolf, named Mr. Wolf (inventive!). Mr. Wolf is hunting one day in the woods when he comes across what he believes is a tabby cat. For reasons that are disturbing, unrealistic and extremely random-seeming, Mr. Wolf decides to take said tabby cat home and make it his wife. The next day Mr. Wolf goes hunting again and returns to discover that the tabby cat is now a full-grown tiger-man named, appropriately, Mr. Tiger. Mr. Tiger is in love with Mr. Wolf and the two have foxy times together where, in an unforeseen role reversal, Mr. Tiger takes "charge" and makes Mr. Wolf  his wife (in this manga wifelihood seems to be contingent upon who is on top during the gettin-it-on).

I would now like to outline my reading experience and follow it with some pertinent questions.

Reading Experience:
1. I am confused for the first 40 pages.
2. I am disturbed for the next 60 page.
3. I am again confused for about 20 pages.
4. Finally, I decide that the manga is actually stupider than even I first believed and put it down.

Pertinent Questions:
1. If a writer sets up a premise (no matter how stupid) shouldn't one follow it through? For example, if the tigers, wolves, dogs, whathaveyous that occupy this fictional space are anthropomorphized to the point of wearing clothing, having houses, etc. then, at what point does it seem normal to have actual humans hunting, capturing and desiring the pelts of said anthropomorphic, clothing wearing animeaux (French, ooh-la-la)?
2. Was that wolf seriously going to abscond with and marry a tabby cat?
3. There was a lot of discussion of animal life spans in this manga, and although I do feel that it would be disconcerting to lose one's "wife" at a young age (apparently the only realistic aspect in this manga the actual life spans of wolves and tigers), should it be a central plot point? It is decidedly NOT sexy to discuss the 7 year life span of wolves mid-coitus.
4. Are tigers clumsy? I had not realized that was a thing. I expect it may be a stereotype. People are so speciesist!
5. At one point the Tiger's brother, also conveniently named Mr. Tiger (Really? Really, really? Couldn't come up with one name? Just, Mr.Tiger this, Mr. Wolf that?), is rescued from hunters by an anthropomorphic dog who proceeds to hump Mr. Tiger (brother of Mr. Tiger, and therefore not to be confused with Mr. Tiger) silly, in a dubiously consensual fashion. My question is, how big is that dog? And, a follow up: could a dog hump a tiger silly?
6. Why are there two volumes of this manga? Isn't one crappy volume really enough? Is the story so epic that it must have a sequel?
7. Is this secretly some furry-fetish thing? Did I just read furry yaoi? Why would that be a thing?

I am so puzzled on so many fronts, and yet...I don't want to look at it again to find the answers. I think I'll just let this one go.

You know you want some of this tabby cat action!
Apologies to Jim Davis, creator of Garfield.
The writers of this blog DO NOT condone any humping of cats, wolves or cats who may be tigers.
Or any animal. Don't hump animals.
Love, Squeefinity
P.S.  Furries are gross.

Flower of Life--Manga

Some days Ms. Shakespeare and I both feel that we could easily change the title and purpose of Squeefinity into the We Love Fumi Yoshinaga blog. We do love Fumi Yoshinaga. This artist and writer of us-favorites (like fan-favorites only more specific) Antique Bakery, All My Darling Daughters, and Not Love, But Delicious Food makes me Happy has written a ton...yes, a TON of other titles, and nothing Ms. Yoshinaga has written has failed to be mature, complex and honest about the struggles, insecurities, small triumphs and heart-sinking failings all human beings face, regardless of gender, sexuality, social status, finances or goals. She shies away from very little, fully acknowledging the complexities of her characters in her manga.

This series Flower of Life, centers on the complex lives of a group of high-schoolers. Traditionally her characters have been older, some even facing mid-life crises, but this time she has developed a true, and honest feeling, coming of age story. The characters Harutaru, Shota and Majima, are all high-school students facing different obstacles. The story begins with Harutaru's arrival at school. Haru arrives mid-year because he had been hospitalized and treated for Leukemia, his boisterous personality, blunt honesty and positive attitude, and bleached hair are his trademarks. He instantly befriends Shota, a pudgy little fanboy who is too cute for words (everybody thinks so), and creates a quick enemy of Majima, a pale (creepily beautiful) otaku with serious personality issues.

Harutaru and Shota
How cute is Shota? Supercute! Haru talks about wanting to eat him up.
Flower of Life makes me happy. It isn't super dramatic. It isn't a love story (although there is a fairly scandalous love affair later on between the androgynous school teacher and Majima). It's a story about kids struggling with life and decisions that will affect their future. Haru's older sister suffers from some rather intense agoraphobia. Shota struggles with self-esteem. Haru struggles with his future, and the possibility that his leukemia will relapse. Majima struggles with actually having feelings. Other classmates have their own stories and we see glimpses into their lives and their individual obstacles, some of which can be overcome, some of which will remain long-standing. It's a slice of life: sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes confusing, but always completely and utterly straightforward.

My favorite part of this series comes in the last volume. In it, Shota (writer) and Haru (illustrator) decide to take their little manga club, and their doujinshi (an amateur or fan created manga--some are original stories, and some are fan fictions) to the next level. The two make a good team, although they struggle with their egos like any duo working on a creative endeavor. The story of the two boys struggling to find success in manga writing and illustration may be a way for Yoshinaga to share her experiences as a manga-ka. Shota, even says at one point, "I'm expressing in manga what I can't explain in words." This statement may speak to Yoshinaga's approach to manga writing. Certainly her work has a subtlety and maturity that many writers shy away from. I suppose critics of her work could suggest that she is a little obscure and slow-moving in regards to plot, but I like to think that like all good writers, plot is a product of character development.   Yoshinaga is not just a good artist, she is a good storyteller. I recommend all of her work. I haven't seen anything by this manga-ka that hasn't been interesting and insightful. She speaks, even in her few yaoi titles, about the human experience: love, pain, insecurity, desire, fear...all the things that make us human.

Squeefinity Silence...

It has been a little quiet this week at Squeefinity, so what shall I do instead of providing a review? I'll point out the fact that I don't have one. Oh, I've been watching and reading, but unfortunately, my 'ol lady back is out again, so I haven't been thinking too critically due to the pain that is wracking the entire left lower quadrant of my body.

My back hurts almost as much as Eiri Yuki's soul. Almost...  

I often joke about being a granny, but I'm actually fairly young, so it can be quite humbling to limp around very slowly and not be able to lift anything and so on. Not that I have room to complain. Lot's of folks have it worse, but it's a real bummer none-the-less.

For instance this guy's life really sucks. That's not even Scar's original arm, everyone he loves is dead, and pretty much everyone else hates him.
Anyway, I will stop complaining now and will promise to bring new updates soon!

So-Bad Sunday! --Sometimes things are SO bad that they are good.

Today's So-Bad Sunday offering is actually live-action...well, it's half live-action. If you've ever wondered about the overly expressive gestures and gesticulations of anime and manga characters and thought to yourself, "Self, I wonder what that might look like in real life." Well, wonder no more.

A trio of Philippine students in the video below, created by moymoypalaboy, addresses the sometimes disturbing smirks, smiles and grimaces worn by anime characters. And although I find this video highly creative and extremely amusing, I still want to offer it as a So-Bad Sunday! post. The intentionally bad nature of the video, and the oftentimes painful faces made by the trio, draw attention to the fact that most anime would be fairly startling were it translated into live-action in a direct way. Things can be so bad that they're actually good.

I have to admit these guys are great. Fantastic even. Look at the dedication to the (near humiliating) task of syncing their actions pefectly to the trio of anime girls syncing the Backstreet Boys...stunning! And sort of shame-inducing...and creepy, don't forget creepy.

No. 6, Post Season Impressions

Shion aka Sion & Nezumi

I just finished watching the last episode of the anime No. 6 . The season was pretty abbreviated at only 11 episodes. I had high expectations and hopes from the beginning. I really loved the dystopian storyline and animation. I also very much like the two protagonists Shion aka Sion and Nezumi aka Rat. There were some very faint Shonen-ai undertones, but I figured it would be more like a "bonded for some unclear reason" type of thing, which, for the most part it was.

I watched this weekly, but would like to see it in one go, as it seemed like there were some gaps in the narrative. Is it just me or was there just not enough space for the story? All in all, the show was evocative of a feeling I like, and I looked forward to it every week.

The final episode should have been split between two. It felt like a bit like a cop out with its happy ending, apocalypse and all.

Also, I'm sure that there was a collective high-pitched squee rising up like a sonic wave from the fangirl-iverse at the very end. Watch the show, and you'll understand. In the meanwhile, cover your ears. Some windows might be breaking.

Durarara! (Anime Series) Mid-season Update

The season is half-over and I'm half-hooked, which is a good sign, because unlike our intrepid Ms. Shakespeare, I hardly ever feel obliged to continue a series if I'm not enjoying it. I am enjoying Durarara! As the story progresses, the interspersed stories of the first few episodes begin to overlap and reveal the hidden connections that exist in, Ikebukuro, a city that only feels anonymous and disconnected. The mid-season in Durarara! makes clear that, although disparate units make up the city, each of these units feed off of one another in co-dependent ways.

Each character plays a part in Ikebukuro, which itself is nothing more than a conglomeration of many selves, hitting and pinging off of one another in a seemingly endless, and intricate pattern. Every character, from the Russian Sushi Chef to the introverted Student Council Representative, seems to be on a search for some sense of completeness and connectedness that may already exist below the surface of their understanding. All of these characters express a heartfelt (and sometimes misdirected) desire to belong to something, and many, like the "main" character, Mikado Ryugamine, actively create that "something" through their actions and interactions.

It turns out, in a mid-season reveal,that Mikado is the accidental and anonymous leader of the Dollars, the "gang" of the moment that actually is more of an anti-gang, seeking out ways to act for the greater good instead of self satisfaction. His need for belonging stemming from his isolation (he is without family, and introverted) helps him create virtual connections in an online community. The numbers of Dollars swell beyond his expectations as more and more people join this "unband" of outsiders and misfits. Although they have been a latent gang (of sorts), Mikado calls on them for the first time in an attempt to assist Celty in her quest. Even he is impressed by the turn-out.

Other characters, like the siblings Shizuo Heiwajima (a self-proclaimed peace-loving man who seems anything but that when he resorts to ridiculous shows of violence)and Kasuka Heiwajima (a professional actor on the rise), keep a distance from one another despite their strong brotherly bonds, in order to assist the other in achieving their goals, and only reveal their connections in subtexts and secrecy. Other less pristine relationships like the one between Doctor and Pharmaceutical Director, Namie Yagiri and her disturbingly obsessed brother, Seiji Yagiri, have a more troubling relationship in which the co-dependency is pushed to its irrational, and disturbing, limits out of a twisted response to childhood loneliness and desperation.

Lovers like Celty and Shinra Kishitani (her old friend and current roommate) deepen their connection to one another, finding in each other someone who accepts their limitations without question (they are adorable in their sweet, simple friendship and stilted infatuation). They all struggle, in positive and negative ways, for completeness. Celty herself serves as a character who, quite literally, embodies this desire for completeness in her continuing search for her head and the memories she believes it may contain.

Out in the city it isn't only people, but incidents that become intertwined. A rash of disappearances is connected with gang activity, medical testing and even, in a rather disheartening way, with Celty's missing head. Good news everyone, Celty's head has been found…unfortunately, attached to the body of a murdered girl (one of Mikado's classmates who has gone missing—she was Seiji’s stalker and he killed her when she discovered Celty's head in a jar by his bed) by Namie Yagiri in order to satiate her little brother Seiji's obsession (I did say they had a disturbingly twisted relationship) with said head and serve as a "love gift" of sorts. Bleh. Poor Celty's head attached to that stupid girl's body. I hope Celty gets her noggin back; headlessness must be frustrating.

I love this picture of Celty and the Good Doctor Shinra
by deviantArt artist YukiYijiKusakabe.
She's captured the sweetness of his devotion to Celty,
regardless of her "incomplete" state.

Most of me wonders if I'm really just watching this series to see if Celty gets her head/memories back. I might be, but I'm also watching to see the connections play out. As I wrote in my earlier Durarara!: First Impressions post, this series has an insane number of characters who each tells/sees/experiences only part of the whole story of Ikebukuro and its residents. I like the complexity of the interwoven plots, and I hope that by the end of this series more mysteries and connections are revealed. Until then, it is on Adult Swim on Saturday nights. Check it out (try not to get confused).

So-Bad Sunday -- Shaolin Grandma

You better run, cause Gran's gonna git you!

Today's So-Bad Sunday is the 2008 movie Shaolin Grandma, the story of an old lady who was raised by a Shaolin monk after World War II to become a badass Shaolin monk of her own and the head of her own dojo. I'm not really sure how she got from Manchuria to Japan where the story takes place, but that is neither here nor there, as you will soon see.

The story starts when a mailman discovers our old lady, Miyoko, dead on the floor of her little apartment. He calls the police and while waiting with her body discovers a series of autobiographical scrolls in which Miyoko describes her life. The story is told in flashbacks and explains how Miyoko was displaced as head of her temple by a dude with an afro and a younger chic with crazy legs. Miyoko and two of her disciples wander into the city and start working for an American who owns an anything goes kind of bar, where Miyoko earns her living dancing sexily and by sexily, I mean she does a lot of hip thrusting and boob fondling, which is totally not sexy for a 70 year old, but is probably the whole point.

Miyoko's disciples leave her when she refuses to stand up for them, and she goes and lives as a homeless lady in a park. One day, this old dude, Toko, invites her to play gate-ball (which looks just like croquet to me). She falls in love with him, but there is an opponent in her way. Miyoko develops a flaming gate-ball technique and burns the sh*t out of that other old b*tch,who really is kind of a jerk, and then she and Toko proceed to do it like animals, a lot, and by a lot, I mean they do it a lot and it is illustrated. I get the feeling old people really like to do it.

One day Toko asks Miyoko to marry him. Miyoko realizes she needs to beat the crazy legs lady and get her dojo back before she can marry Toko. Miyoko does a lot of training in the mountains (or somewhere naturey and rainy). She further develops her gate-ball technique, seeks out the big meanie who stole her dojo. She takes it back, gets married, then gives the dojo back to crazy legs. As for Toko, he turns out to be a womanizer and starts beating Miyoko. I know, she's a Shaolin monk, right? But, I guess she doesn't fight back.

They get divorced, but Miyoko is happy. She has a cat. Her life is great, and she will die alone.

The mailman finishes the scrolls. Miyoko suddenly reanimates and breaks his neck.

The end.

Now you will never have to watch this wretched movie. This is my gift to you!

And, if you want to give me a present, a plate of these cute donuts would be cool.

Shaolin Grandma is supposed to be a parody of recent Shaolin movies like Shaolin Soccer and Shaolin Girl. It's kind of the Japanese version of Airplane, Hot Shots or The Naked Gun. That's Scary Movie or Not Another Teen Movie for you younger Dear Readers. These films take the themes and tropes of "serious" films in a specific genre as their source material.

I never liked these kinds of parodies. Oh, I'm all about being "meta" and self referencing and all that hipster sh*t people like me like to do. We're down with making fun of things.Oh, wait, am I too old to be a hipster? Right, aging hipsters like me, you know, people who are still brave enough to walk into Urban Outfitters, but are starting to question the appropriateness of the clothing sold there...

But, I was talking about parodies and Shaolin Grandma. Okay. These are the kinds of films are very high context (to steal a phrase from my college communication courses), in that they assume the audience has a reference point for the jokes. The parody shows this and expects you'll know it is referring to that and laughing along.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of humor, and I think that it's probably even more present in Japanese than American comedy because of the culture's tendency to have more in-group understanding. I just find these kinds of parodies boring and devastatingly unoriginal.

You know what would be great? A movie about a Shaolin Grandma, a comedy even, that wasn't making such obvious, heavy handed and awkward nods to the films it was stealing from. In fact, it wouldn't need to steal from those films because it would be its own film, savvy enough for an audience that already got it, and strong enough to stand on its own. But, this was not that movie. And, that, Dear Readers, is why we have So-Bad Sunday.

So, I'll leave you with this:

It's really just to entertain my sweet M who is very busy these days.

Galaxy Express 999 -- First Impressions

Those space train shows are so popular with the kids these days.

The other day I was at Japan Video, and it seemed like every drama cover had a couple or a couple and some kids and dogs all kinds. It was like someone had an alright idea for a show, but EVERYONE who had anything to do with producing it knew, if they just added a dog or two, that show was going to go from okay to SUPER GREAT!

Well, you get the picture. Dogs! Dogs, everywhere.

Speaking of dogs, do you know what else seems to be as ubiquitous in Japanese anime as dogs in Japanese cinema? I will tell you: Trains!

And, do you know who really likes to write about anime with trains in it? ME! Dear Readers, that's right! I love writing about the "animetrain" genre so very much!

If you remember my previous post on Miracle Train in which a gang of street tuffs, er, I mean Tokyo train stations embodied by androgynous young men help solve girls girly problems, or my even more previouser post on Galaxy Railways in which someone thought it was a great idea to build trains through space and then wondered why people would attack them, then you know, I just LOVE anime about trains. Blurg.

A space train being a train in space.

But, let's talk Galaxy Express 999 of which I have only watched one episode but am not surprised to find that it is a beloved classic of Japanese animation, long running and forever returning like Dr. Who. Though, unlike Dr. Who, Galaxy Express 999 is not so beloved by me.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: BUILDING A TRAIN TRACK THROUGH SPACE IS A VERY BAD IDEA.

Despite that, some of you Dear Readers may find the show enjoyable, so I will relate its premise to you now.

It's the future or some distant planet and a bit dystopian. Rich people have enough money to get their souls implanted in cyborgs so they can live indefinitely, while poor people have to stay human and live in unbelievable slummy poverty. The only hope for these slum dwelling human scums is that one day they might be able to get on the space train, the Galaxy Express 999, which will take them to a planet where they can get their cyborg bodies for free.

In this setting we find our poor hero Tetsuro Hoshino, a twelve year old urchin wandering though a snowy wasteland with his surprisingly pretty mom..

I really hope my cyborg body is more attractive than my human one!

Pretty mother and not-so-pretty son are on their way to the Galaxy Express 999, when a group of cyborgs led by a fellow named Count Mecha decide to go on a human hunt and kill his mom intending to skin her and make a trophy out of her.

The less attractive prey, Tetsuro, escapes and lays down in the snow to die but is saved by the mysterious and also very pretty Maetel:

I'm pretty and mysterious.

She tells Tetsuro she will give him a pass on the train if he takes her with him. Tetsuro agrees, but they aren't going anywhere yet, not before he takes an automatic weapon and goes and blows the sh*tballs out of Count Mecha and his buddies and burns down his manor. Then the cyborg police come after him with their crazy cyborg dogs, but Maetel saves Tetsuro with her cyborg horse and sleigh.

Long story short, they get to the city and rent a hotel. Tetsuro hears Maetel talking to someone in the bathroom, and he walks in on her while she is showering...wouldn't it be great if I stopped right here? Hee, hee!

Oh, but it keeps going. Shower scene over, the two are confronted with more cyborg police, and they escape to catch the Galaxy Express 999, a train that leaves its tracks and makes its way for the stars.

I won't knock this show too much because I know it is really loved, highly acclaimed, and I have not seen the whole thing. I will give it another go despite my train prejudice.

I just wonder if there will be any episodes involving dogs?

Geekend Round-up!

Dear Readers, Hello!

While M is an ant and writes her posts weeks in advance, I am a grasshopper and I fly by the seat of my pants! It is Labor Day Weekend, and thus, this bard has not yet labored in service to anything that might have the word "productivity" attached to it.

No, no work, indeed, for that would be an affront to this special holiday that so many workers of the world toiled to beget, so that I could lay down and do nothing. Still, there is no holiday from being a geek. At least not yet.

I spent most of my weekend in the city (The City being San Francisco, and not The Town, my dear Oakland, where I hang my hat). Scrabble was played, and I was put to shame. Yesterday, my friends and I took a long walk through Pacific Heights and the Presidio, which is so restful and smells so fragrant the experience can only be recreated by putting on a New Age music CD whilst sniffing a satchel of potpourri.

Then it was off to breakfast in J-town. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries to start the day, followed by a very fresh and very tasty red bean taiyaki and a Diet Coke! CRAZY! Someone call the paddy wagon, for I have gone B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

This display of gluttony was followed by a small shopping spree, and I am now the owner of some Relax Bear folders, a kitchen backsplash, some scarves and a darning needle! Luckily, my pockets were empty by the time I got to the manga shop and all the things I was thinking about reading became a little less essential in my mind.

For those high-density urban residents who have not yet gone to Daiso I recommend a trip! There are many cheap items (upon which my eco-centric self usually frowns), which can be very useful in the postage stamp sized apartments of us city dwellers. From Tupperware all kinds, to space savers, compact drying racks to cleaning supplies and candy, this store literally has everything, and it is all about $1.50 a pop.

Additionally, you can find great items like this swan shaped inflatable penis:


Or, your very own set of novelty breasts as described on this blog

I somehow managed to practice restraint with the above items and left only with what I could reasonably carry back home on the bus.

Today, I'm taking a cue from my cat and celebrating the holiday with a nap. I hope you all are having a wonderful long weekend, too!

So-Bad Sunday! KissXSis (Anime)

Okay, first, don't click play on the video below at work, in front of grandma, or...well, don't click it until after you read the review. If you do, please be informed, Dear Reader, that I warned you. I did! It's right here, in writing...DON'T CLICK THAT PLAY BUTTON!

If you did click the play button, Dear Reader, I would like to apologize. It was gross, right? I know. And those are just the opening credits. Do you feel scandalized? I do.

Today's So-Bad Sunday offering is the ongoing anime series (what channel would air this?) called Kiss X Sis. And I'd like to begin my discussion of this series with a question posed in the first episode by the main character, Keita, who asks--"In what sort of world do people enjoy looking at their sister's panties?" Good question, Keita, you pervert!

The basic plot of this series is that graduating middle school student Keita is being wooed rather aggressively by his older twin step-sisters. They have lived together since he was three, and are as close as natural siblings, but the girls, Ako and Riko, have both (hurk) fallen in love with Keita and now want to do "stuff" with him.

I watched the first episode. In my defense, the summary of the series did not imply the absolute, pervy/grossness it should have. There was no warning that this series would have full-frontal gropage and a lot of up-skirt panty shots. Allow me to remedy the omissions from that misleading summary in my review by offering the following information: GROSS!

I nearly barfed at one point. No really, I gagged and did that little head-shaking barf face to keep it down. Yeah, they aren't related by blood, but COME ON! They ARE siblings in a contemporary setting. That's pretty frowned upon.

At this point of my anti-incest/"this anime is gross" rant Ms. Shakespeare is no doubt laughing uproariously at the hypocrisy of my railing against it. Why? Because maybe, just maybe, I have a sick fascination with the Winchester boys. To that I say...DOESN'T COUNT! And that's an argument for later! And I don't have to justify myself to you (except I probably should at some point because I just outed myself as one of those crazy wincest readers)! And lastly, James (who may be posting here if we can talk him into it), made me read it, so it isn't technically my fault! Oh, man! Seriously! It's not the same thing...I have so much shame. So much shame!

Personal Supernatural-related shame aside, this anime bothers me, and not just because it's got a weird, underage, incestuous, love-triangle plot (that should be enough, though). It bothers me because everyone (EVERYONE!) in this anime, including the parents, seems to be not only entirely (ENTIRELY!) okay with the weird, underage, incestuous, love-triangle plot, but actively encouraging it. The entire neighborhood (they all need more hobbies) is taking bets on which of the twins, Ako or Riko, will ultimately seduce poor confused Keita. The parents are all, "Oh, you girls, don't be too rough on Keita!" Blargh! Gross! Gross! Gross!

This is actually a popular anime...why? People actually LOVE this anime...why? So much of it is so wrong that I almost don't know where to start or finish. So, let me end this review as I began with poor confused Keita. At the end of the first episode (which is about as far as I was willing to watch), poor Kei-chan is confronted with dual love confessions in his middle-school classroom. He becomes angry. Okay. I get it. But, the reason he becomes angry is confusing to me. He believes that his lovely, older twin sisters are just messing with him, and that their intentions are not genuine. Oh, Keita, if that's really the thing you're concerned about, You see, I thought the problem would be something different; something more akin to "gross, my sisters keep flashing me their panties and trying to rub on my junk. I could use some serious counseling and an intervention from a trusted adult!" Oh, Dear Readers, WTF? It's not cute. It's not "romantic." It's not arousing...I hope. It is simply uncomfortable and off-putting, and painfully, unavoidably, gross.

Now, Dear Readers, click play if you must, but be ready for nudity and disturbing incestous images. Remember, I warned you.

Awaken Forest - Yuna Aoi

Publisher: DMP - June
Audience: Mature - 18+

Hello Everyone and Thank You for buying my book. I'm Yuna Aoi. That is a pen name, but I use another pen name, too..., writes the author in the postscript of the one shot Awaken Forest from DMP's June imprint.

Pen names, I get that! Some people claim I, the great William Shakespeare, am actually Sir Francis Bacon! No way. I've never met the scalliwag! Others, like the wayward author of this blog--who claims to be I, the great William Shakespeare--will pick from any number of personas on a given day.

I may not know Yuna Aoi's real name, but I do know that she also wrote one of my favorite Yaoi series of all time, Jazz, under the pen name Tamotsu Takamure.

Why am I so fond of this mangaka of many names? Well, to be honest, her stories are twisted, so twisted she makes use of a number of pen names in case someone from her family sees her work. She employs themes that in the hands of any other mangaka might really upset me: nonconsensual sex, incest, pathological jealousy, domestic abuse, etc. In fact, these stories do upset me, and I still like them.

Like authors who use pen names to hide their true identities, the characters populating the short stories in Awaken Forest are hiding who they really are from the world and from those who would love them.

In the first, a young, beautiful, wheelchair-bound author lives in a remote mountain mansion, where he writes award winning novels under his brother's care. From the outside, the brothers seem honorable and dedicated to one another. When a young editor from the publishing company arrives to pick up a draft of the author's new novel and is exposed to their secrets, we learn there is much more to this brotherly relationship than first meets the eye.

In the second story, the protagonist is driven into the arms of his lover through dishonest means. The protagonist sees only what his lover wants him to see: an innocent affection, deep dedication and desire to protect, but beneath this mask is something much more selfish.

In the third story and its associated nubbin of a story, two lovers never seem to connect because the selves they show one another are not true to what they actually feel. Only when they drop their masks are they able to find happiness.

Awaken Forest is drawn in Yuna Aoi/Tamatsu Takamure's distinctive style. Her characters tend to be a bit bigger, blockier and more masculine than other yoai artists' pretty boys. When characters blush, they blush with their whole face. They show their feelings with their whole bodies. They are forceful and expressive and they yell a lot. Some people don't like this mangaka's style, but I happen to appreciate it.

Before you read this book, ask yourself:

Am I eighteen or older? You better be, kid! This has some adult themes. Hence, the explicit content warning on the cover.