American Comic Style Dr. M

RAAR! I kick you with shit kicking boots!

This is a fairly accurate comic book hero representation of Dr. M. Why is she posting it? Because she has papers to grade.
When one has papers to grade one has a tendency to do the least important things ever.
One of these things was for Dr. M to draw a picture of herself as a superhero.
Tomorrow she's thinking about drawing a picture of Ms. Shakespeare in anime style.
Let's see what pans out, Dear Readers.

Makoto Tateno Double Feature-- How to Capture a Martini and How to Control a Sidecar (manga)

I couldn't sleep last night, so I read some brand spanky new manga from DMP. Makoto Tateno, author of me-favorites (like fan-favorites, only more self-centered) Hero Heel and Yellow (and the less than stellar Fu Shin Ga: For Love or Money) has come out with two related manga centering around bartenders. I have a strong suspicion that Tateno really likes bar-culture and cocktails. Every single one of her manga has something to do with drinking. These two offerings center on the bartenders working at the upscale bar Maria Elena.  The first volume How to Capture a Martini is pretty standard fare for her in some ways. I always appreciate that she deals with more mature characters and themes. The main characters in Martini were former lovers in high-school who parted ways suddenly when the eldest of the two, Shinobu, graduated. Naoyuki, the one left behind without even a word, has held a torch for him ever sense. So, when the two bump into each other (while Naoyuki is with his current girlfriend) at Maria Elena, Naoyuki is shocked and pleased at first, until Shinobu refuses to give him an explanation and pushes him away harshly.

Makoto Tateno likes to write about drinking!
 Martini uses the martini (actual drink) as an overarching metaphor for the relationship between the two. The first cocktail Naoyuki ever has, made by Shinobu of course, is a martini. As Naoyuki explains, he expected it to be sweeter, but found it "much harsher and drier than I expected." The sentiment is a clear reflection of Naoyuki on Shinobu's character. He has been turned off by cocktails ever since, and yet, he forces himself into a position at Maria Elena to be near Shinobu again. It turns out that the martini Shinobu made all those years ago was intentionally extra-dry, something he knew Naoyuki would not like in order to push him away. Shinobu spends a lot of time pushing Naoyuki away, and indulging himself in a string of meaningless relationships. Ultimately, though, Naoyuki realizes that Shinobu's tactics hide his true feelings for Naoyuki. He begins to realize that the reason Shinobu ran from their relationship so many years ago was because he was scared.

Afraid of the pressure of a relationship and what Shinobu sees as inevitable heartbreak, he decides to abandon the relationship before he is destroyed. Happily the two, due to the sort of bizzare coincidences and intrigues that ONLY exist in manga, reunite and devote themselves to the love they abandoned so long ago.

Overall, it wasn't a bad manga, it was a little heavy-handed at times, but it didn't shy away from the kinds of mature issues that Tateno tends towards. The only thing I didn't like was the odd side-stories. They were weird, and incestuous, and fetishistic in a way that was fairly creepy. This should have been a sign. The sign should have read: JUST STOP HERE, DR. M!! But, I didn't stop there, did I, Dear Readers? No. I decided to read the second story.

I assumed, incorrectly, that How to Control a Sidecar would be a little bit of fun and minor angst from some of the other bartenders at Maria Elena. This time straight, super-star bartender Kousaka was in the spotlight. He was only a minor character foil to Shinobu in Martini, and seemed pretty standoffish and disinterested in that volume. It turns out that he's not so much standoffish as ridiculously oblivious to the kind of bar he works in. He fails to realize that about 90% of Maria Elena's clientele is gay. Even his co-workers find this oversight shockingly unobservant. It seems lighthearted at first; a clueless character getting hit on by all sorts of men without realizing the implications of their conversations. However, Dear Readers, it is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT that kind of manga.

This is horrifically graphic stuff, not light hearted at all. And it includes a graphic depiction of extremely non-consensual sex which although treated seriously spins into something I am entirely uncomfortable with. Kousaka is attacked, beaten and raped by a customer, and to my distaste, not only forgives his attacker, but becomes involved in his life. NOT COOL! NOT COOL! NOT COOL! Kousaka isn't just oblivious, he's an idiot. He decides to "forget" it happened. AND he eventually falls in love with the man who raped him. Everything ends happily ever after...except that he was raped and beaten. I don't even know what to say about this except...every part of me objects to this story line. Traditionally Tateno deals with some dark themes, and some complications that seem troubling, but this crosses a line for me. Dr. M disapproves.

So, by all means, read How to Capture a Martini. It didn't blow my hair back in a manga-esque wind scene, but it does have some interesting moments. Avoid the creepy side stories in it though, you'll thank me when you have avoided reading about an incestuous relationship involving cat cosplay. And be seriously cautious about How to Make a Sidecar. Neither of these manga are appropriate for readers under 17, and I don't think How to Control a Sidecar is appropriate for any audience. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

The Color of the Clear Blue Sky

Publisher: DMG
Audience: 16+

Thank goodness I read this manga right after writing my last review. It stands in clear counterpoint. The material could have been creepy, but it's not. Sakae, a student teacher struggles with the deep love and affection he has felt for his former elementary school teacher and mentor, Fukada. As adults they work side by side at the same school where years earlier they were only teacher and student.

The story is cute and sweet. Sakae is fragile but hard working. People always seem concerned with his health. Fukada is much changed by the years that have gone by since Sakae was his student. He's not as clean cut, or as visibly dedicated to his students. There are rumors that he was stalked.

Sakae doesn't struggle so much with his own sexuality as with his feelings. Is Fukada a former teacher, a father figure or a potential lover? In the past, Fukada said he would be Sakae's strength. Will he actually be able to fill that deliver on that promise? Fukada is a different person than Sakae remembers. Can Sakae accept him as he is now?

This is a cute little manga with not too much angst, appropriate longing, mutual affection and consent, not overly graphic, a happy ending, and my "I just want to read something adorable" stamp of approval.


Ai No Kusabi -- Light Novels -- Volumes 1-3

Why can't we just be two consenting adults who happen to be into some really sick stuff?

Publisher DMP
Graphic: 18+ 

A futuristic dystopia with designer humans, ghettoized youths, institutionalized homosexuality, cold blooded, pure-bred richies, and tons of graphic sex and corruption. This sort of sums up Ai No Kusabi, a classic yaoi series penned by Rieko Yoshihara.

I'm writing this review having read only half the light novels. I did see the OVA a number of years ago; it wasn't that great. I guess I was hoping the novels would somehow make up for it. They didn't do it for me.

So, I've probably said this before on the site, and if I haven't, I'll just say it now: I don't like stories where characters are underage, unless its a teenage drama and they're working through relationship in a consensual way with a person their own age.

Yep, I'm a prude that way.

I don't understand why the author just can't make the character older? She has that power. She is the writer. She can tack a couple years on there, no problem. And, that's not to say she can't complicate it with allusions to a messed up past, lurid details that enrich the story and move it forward, etc. Make there be a reason he's so young or show him some sympathy. Sure, he had to grow up early, but he's still a kid.

Ugg, I guess I should tell you who I'm talking about. Rikki, the fifteen year old leader of a gang of street toughs, Bison:

Hi, I'm Rikki, as portrayed in the OVA (as an adult).

Ai No Kusabi is focused around the "relationship" Rikki forms with Iason, a pure blooded upper crusty "Blondie" who basically kidnaps Rikki from the streets, breaks his spirit, humiliates him and forcibly does it with him a lot in graphic and painful ways. There's all sorts of explanation about castes and different groups and gambling and the underworld and human auctions and people who are pets, but these are all really just trappings for the sado-masochistic relationship at the center of the story.

Rikki's age isn't mentioned in the OVA, but I did get the impression he was much older than the character in the book, so I didn't feel as uncomfortable watching it, even given the subject matter.

I know that the world in which this story takes place is different and that the society is a lot more corrupt and blah, blah, blah but I just don't find the relationship between Rikki and Iason compelling. I feel bad for Rikki and I think Iason is slimy and gross.

Iason as portrayed in the OVA

Now let's talk about the writing. Hrm. I can't figure out if it is the original author's style to be so excessive or the translator's. Seriously, one writer to another: keep it simple. I know the writing was supposed to reflect the society's excess, but gee whiz: this is so florid. Also, this writer would benefit from one creative writing class in which the phrase "SHOW. DON'T TELL," was pounded into her brain. There is enough exposition here to make me cry and fall asleep at the same time.

Maybe this is why I only got through three books.

I will say: raise the age of Rikki. Make Iason not so gross and more sympathetic. Clean up the writing both stylistically and sex-wise. Cut the length of this by a half or a third, and it might be a good, interesting, even literary sci-fi-ish type story.

I hear a thirteen episode anime is coming out in 2012. Will it redeem this tale? I do not know. I do not care to guess. Now I am off to write and ponder tomorrow's breakfast.

Thanks, M, For Holding Down The Fort :)

Hi Everyone,

Ms. Shakespeare here. The last month and a half has definitely been rough. If my life were the panel of a manga, I'd be all wild hair, head down, headphones on, gritty look on my face, fists clenched and wind, wind, wind.

But this isn't a manga, and the truth is, I'm just a nice Midwestern girl who is only super bad-ass in her own mind. I live in a great place and have enough to eat and though things have been difficult, I'm lucky.

Thanks, M, for holding down the fort while I go through my stuff and also for letting me yell at you. You're the best friend and co-blogger this lady could have!

I think I'm back!

William (Sir Francis Bacon) Shakespeare

So-Good Sunday! Cosplay at the New York Comicon

Check out Senen Llanos' fantastic portraiture of cosplayers at this years New York Comicon.

Some impressively made and worn costumes from the worlds of comics, anime, manga, video games, film and pop culture.

One of my favorites:
Ciel Phantomhive...nice!
Ciel wasn't the only Black Butler character in the portraits; scroll through to see a very impressive Sebastian. Also worthy of note: an awesome Alucard from Van Helsing.

These folks may have spent $1000 worth of time (and maybe even a lot of cash) on their cosplay gear, but I still respect their singular efforts to impress. Much more impressive to me than that ready-to-wear Akira  jacket. These are some talented fans!

And Llanos is one talented photographer as well. I love how he isolated the images from the busy backgrounds of the convention floors in order to highlight the characters, and the people who play them.

So-Bad Sunday! Cosplay/FanCollectable Quandry--how much is too much?

Akira is groundbreaking stuff!
Do you love the anime film AKIRA? Lots of people do.  The future-dystopia, sci-fi classic, released in 1988, is pretty groundbreaking stuff. The film is based on a manga series began in 1982 by Katsuhiro Otomo, the manga series is one of the first to ever be translated in its entirety, and is certainly one of the forerunners of cyberpunk as both a term and a genre of post-modern literature. AKIRA  is a big deal. I am a careful fan of the film, and have had the manga series on my "to read" list for a million years. The problem is, it's pretty disturbing stuff. Post-apocolyptic, Neo-Tokyo, is not a pleasant place. It is overrun by gangs, espionage, government corruption, scientific exploitation...just about every negative path the future could take. Amidst it all the Capsule Gang, riding some pretty bad ass bikes, attempts to survive. Main characters Kaneda (leader of the Capsules), Tetsuo (burgeoning psychic heading towards destruction) and Kei (a member of an anti-government terrorist group) become embroiled in government espionage. Meanwhile there are psychic experiements going on, and the group learns about the mysterious Akira (a psychic rumored to be a biological weapon to have the power to stop or change the tides of the conflicts taking place in Neo-Tokyo).

To sum things up...this is a groundbreaking piece of literature that spun a groundbreaking film, it is a fan favorite, and it has a pretty important place in the world. If you haven't read/seen it, go do it.

So why is this on So-Bad Sunday!? Well, it isn't the film, or the manga, it's this:

For only around $1,000 US you can own your very own cosplay jacket
based on the Kaneda's Capsule jacket.
Bike, pants, boots, gloves, not included.
 I don't even necessarily think this is "bad," in fact it is more than half-awesome, but I am still taken aback by it. This has been put out by Bandai as part of a celebration of the manga's 30 year mark. But, $1000 dollars? Seriously? I'm really bothered by this. Maybe it's because I spent two months convincing myself that it was okay to be a $25 dollar (75% off...I was lucky there was still one left) jacket last spring. Maybe I have a skewed sense of the world? Or a skewed sense of priorities?

Am I wrong in thinking this is bizzare? Now if this were a display item, or a piece of art (not to be worn), or hand-made cosplay attire, or even part of the wardrobe of some live action Akira...then I would be all "Holy hell, that's awesome." But, nerd-friends, this is meant to be sold to fans. This crazy piece of decadence has my head in a twist. By all means, if you have the money for such things, Dear Readers, indulge, but if you don't...please don't. I am the voice of reason, "YOU DO NOT NEED SUCH THINGS!"

And by all means PLEASE don't listen to the advice of Comics Alliance who said, "We urge you in the strongest possible terms to purchase this jacket at once. There is no downside whatsoever. Just do it. And then send us the photos." Bad, bad, Comics Alliance, don't encourage nerds like me to part with our money for your amusement. I guarantee that the first photo that comes in is quickly met with a "I can't believe someone spent that much money on a jacket like that."

At least that will be my response.

Winchester Wednesday--First Impressions SUPERNATURAL (anime)

Okay, first I have to admit something. I love Supernatural. I don't just like it. I don't want to be friends with it. I LOVE it. Like, love-love. I love it in a way I haven't loved a television series since Buffy...and that, Dear Readers, is saying quite a bit. But, to be honest, Buffy didn't have Dean Winchester.

Dean Winchester (played by Jensen Ackles)--
I admit to blushing just looking at him.
The car helps.
Now, in order to resist babbling on and on (and I could at length) about Dean Winchester and my insane love of yet another fictional character, I will now slowly scroll down the page as I post, so as not to become distracted by him. And I will say, only briefly, that I would like to be Dean Winchester when I grow up. Pain and all. I'll take it. Ah, he's my second favorite kind of hero...le sigh.

When I heard, almost six months ago, that two of my favorite things: anime and  Supernatural  were going to make a baby...I squeed so loudly that I think I may have pulled a muscle. How often does that sort of thing happen? It was like a gift from Chuck (who art in heaven). Maybe, just maybe, my hopes were too high?

Not that Supernatural: The Anime is bad, mind's just not...I dunno. I have concerns.

My first concern has to do with the storyline itself. Now, being a Dean-obsessed, theory-driven, research nerd, I know my SPN. I might know it too well. The storyline of the anime follows the original, yet it feels a little sketchy or "holey." I find myself wondering if I would be able to follow theise first episodes as part of a greater story arc were I not such an idiotically huge fangirl.  I know the backstory, so I feel like maybe I'm filling in gaps that unfamiliar viewers may not be able to fill so easily. That IS a concern.

The selections of episodes are strange so far, and I wonder about their order and the decision-making process behind that order. It began with an episode entitled "Skins" which was fed almost directly by the live-action version, with some alterations. The next two episodes ("Roadkill" and "Home") were also inspired by the series, and shared titles with the original live-action versions. Then we start to get some new episodes, which are meant to fit within the original story line. The original episode I watched was entitled "Ghost on the Highway," and I have to say that it wasn't what I expected from the typical live-action Supernatural  episode. I hate to say it, but it wasn't as well written, as complex or as interesting. And it should have been, because it was about the Impala (which may be this secret gear-head's favorite thing about the show...even moreso than Dean). I appreciate that the writers of the anime didn't  just rehash the live-action series. I think that's important, and I applaud them for their efforts to create new episodes that seasoned viewers can appreciate. It's a great opportunity to add to the Supernatural  storyline by creating side-stories and in-between stories to expand on the series. I just hope the rest of the new episodes are a bit more complicated and a bit more engaging.

Although Ms. Shakespeare has heard me rant ad infinitum almost about this already, I have to say it again...Jared Padalecki isn't a great actor. He's pretty to look at (not as pretty as Ackles), but he's not a great actor. He has a hard time delivering lines with believable emotion, and as a result of this sort of (dare I say) deficiency, his voice-acting becomes even more wooden and awkwardly delivered. It's almost like I can hear him reading off of cue cards. In once scene he laughed, and it was the most awkwardly delivered fake laugh I have ever experienced. I felt physical shame for him, because (as most people know) I am nothing if not overly empathetic at times. I cringed. My heart sank. Oh, it was so forced and uncomfortable that it hurt me. But, at least he's doing Sam's voice.

Jensen Ackles, who is an incredible actor with an uncanny sense of delivery (especially in funny or poignant moments) hasn't made a peep yet in the episodes I've seen. I know he's a good voice actor because he rocked his role of Jason Todd in Under the Red Hood...he made that film. It was stunning. Plus, his voice is at least half the charm of Dean's character. Although voice actor, Andrew Farrar, does a passable job...he just isn't Dean. In fact, he comes off a little less tough, and a little more goofy in a way I don't like. Dean is equal parts both, and Ackles walks a fine line in the live-action version between lovable goof-ball and angst-ridden knight in shining muscle car. I've seen reviews that say that the two episodes he voiced are far more emotional and effective than the earlier ones, but we'll have to save that for a later Winchester Wednesday post.

While I'm on Dean (which is something I would never pass up), I have to say that the animation leaves a little less to be desired. Padalecki already looks a bit like an anime character, but I was imagining Dean much differently than the way he was presented in the series. I believe I said, ALOUD to the tv, "Come on, Dean is hotness personified...draw him better."

Dean and Sam animated. Sam looks good. Dean looks...weird with dark brown hair.

I will, because I am obsessed, complete the series, and I'll try to keep an open mind. As it is, I don't think this series has done a poor job with the translation from live action into anime, it just hasn't been all I expected. I will enjoy the monster of the week feel, and found myself laughing at the COMPLETELY awkward live introductions to each episode done by Padalecki and Ackles...again, I got these weird pangs of empathetic shame-facedness when they came on the screen to introduce each episode; they are so obviously uncomfortable that it hurts me. Maybe my concerns will be aliviated as the series progresses--I promise to give it a fair shake.

If only out of my love for Dean. (It's like a sickness really.)

**Don't skip over the closing song when you watch this series. The J-pop version of Kansas' "Carry on My Wayward Son" is something to be heard...not admired, mind you, but heard nonetheless. Really, really funny stuff!

Ta-Ta Tuesday! Amaenaideyo!! (Anime)

GROPERY! It's all for a good cause...I swear!

Amaenaideyo!! with two, count'em, TWO exclamation points appears to be about a 16-year-old Shinto priest-in-training named Ikko.  Ikko gains spiritual superpowers when he becomes aroused, and in his super-charged, power-up state can defeat all sorts of supernatural chicanery, shinanigains, no-good-nik-ism and scallywaggification. It's a good thing for everyone involved that Ikko is surrounded by a group of teenaged nuns-in-training with plenty of bodacious ta-tas for viewing.

Fondling! Also for a good cause, maybe?
Either way, it's booby exposure every other minute in just the first episode. The pilot, cleverly entitled "Don't Make Me Come." (Bwahahahah?) centers on a yearly Shinto memorial ceremony for "retiring" old dolls and stuffed animals who have absorbed human feelings over their lifetime of love. Unfortunately, someone snuck in a uppity British porcelain doll, who seems to be posessed by an uppity British bitch who is unaffected by the sutras for purification because she's foreign...although she still speaks Japanese, so...? Anyway, BOOBIES!
Some are intentionally exposed to power-up poor Ikko, who is kind of a pervert.
Some are exposed as a result of "unfortunate accidents" in typical, "Oops, I saw your whatnots!" moments.
Some are the result of those frisky, underaged nuns-in-training trying to annoy each other.
Some seem just randomly to pop out...blam, boobies!

So, I don't think I'll continue this series, but if you are interested in things like perverted underaged priests, sexual innuendos, scantily clad teen nuns, or really, really stupid puns, then you might like it, Dear Readers. It honestly isn't bad, it's just not my cup of tea (served by an uppity British porcelain doll).

So-Bad Sunday! All Nippon Air Line (manga)

Oh, hohoho! All Nippon Air Line...I see what you did there A.N.A.L.!

Dear Kei Azumaya,

Your manga nearly made me cry. No, not in a good way.

Could you please advise me on your publication process and experience, because, quite honestly, if this made its way not only into publication, but translation as well, then I'm pretty sure I could make it big on the manga scene with very little effort, zero plot and no discernible story line.

What disturbs me the most about your work, though, is not the stupid punny title (A.N.A.L.), or the blatant stereotyping of gay men as sex-hungry droids only interested in looks, money or satisfaction, or even the very obvious lack of any cohesive story line or characterization...what got me was this: for something entitled A.N.A.L. there was zero graphic sex. Not that I wanted to see it, mind you. In fact, I more than half-appreciate its absence, but I still find the lack of graphic sex rather disturbing. Had this manga been nothing more than scene after scene of porn quality plot and writing coupled with some graphic artwork, then I'd be all..."Okay, not my thing, but whatever. It's just porn," and then I'd move on to something else, hardly having noticed anything at all. But it didn't even have I found myself wondering, "Self, what IS this?"

Thankfully, because I am clever, I was able to come up with an answer...IT IS BAD!

Very, very bad.

Seriously, did you get paid for this?
Dr. M