So Bad Sunday - A Fallen Saint's Kiss - You Higashino

Merry Christmas! Dear Readers, even this happy holiday won't keep me from delivering today's So-Bad Sunday. Today's offering A Fallen Saint's Kiss is just straight up hentai. Hey, Pron, we have to stop meeting like this! I'd really like a So-Bad Sunday that was bad because the plot was amazingly terrible, but I just keep encountering books of such smutty proportions (even when I'm not seeking them out).

This is a rare instance where you won't see any images from this comic on our blog because, frankly, it's too graphic. I thought there was a prohibition in Japan against displaying um, to put it nicely, parts, in comics, but this one has them in spades. Ha, ha, parts...

Anyway, much like any quality pron, this comic book really doesn't have a plot. Mr. Okano, an uptight Social Studies teacher is dominated by Tokiwaa in increasingly humiliating and violent ways. A sadist falls in love with a fellow student but that doesn't cap his cruelty -- apparently, it's true romance to tell someone if they ever leave you you will kill them. And in a third tale, a student, convinced his teacher is gay, bullies him obsessively by committing a series of harassing acts bordering on hate crimes. One day the teacher, takes the student aside and is like: yup, you got me, I'm gay. BTW, I'm going to rape you. And, the student is like: oh, wow, this is horrible. But, then, he realizes he kind of likes it, and they fall in love.

I know that there are folks out there that really like this stuff. I know it. Man, on an off day, maybe I could like, no, actually that's not true. I don't have a problem with sub-dom relationships; I don't have a problem with pron. I don't really have a problem with this book (Okay, well, maybe with the last story in which the protagonist gay bashed and in which the gay character pretty much embodied every gay evil-doer stereotype ever). I really just didn't like it.

And, that is that.

I Want to Bite (light novel)

Title: I Want to Bite
Author: Isaya Takamori
Illustrator: Chigusa Kawai
Rating: 18+ MA
Fun fact: I LOVE books, but I'm not fond of light novels.

Here is a non-fiction story entitled, Dr. M's reaction to reading I Want to Bite.

 Dr. M's reaction to reading I Want to Bite.

Dr. M sat on her gray exercise ball and bounced away as she logged into eManga. There in the list of titles for review sat a vampire story entitled I Want to Bite. She clicked tentatively on the link and only got as far as the title and first name of the creator...the ever-lovely Chigusa Kawai. Dr. M grinned widely and chuckled softly as she inwardly rejoiced--"Chigusa Kawai and Vampires!" She bounced faster as she clicked on the pink "READ" button. Images of Georges and Robert from La Esperanca swam around in her head. But what was this? Kawai didn't write it, she only illustrated it. Dr. M's eyebrows lowered into her signature frown and her bouncing slowed. "That's okay," M thought, "She did illustrate it, so there will be tons of lovely vampiric wind!" She clicked "next" on the digital reader, and there were words. "Next," more words. She made a deep rumble in her throat that sounded like a growl, "Oh, man...a light novel?" She stopped bouncing and uttered a "meh," before clicking the x to close the viewer and moving on to the next selection.
The End--A story by Dr. M

Okay, I don't have anything against light novels, but I wanted a manga. Kawai did like 20 illustrations for this and nothing more. It was, to say the least, disappointing. And I may have read it, IF...IF there weren't like 20 other books waiting to be read on my actual shelves. This one gets saved for later, or maybe if we're lucky, Ms. Shakespeare will give it a read. Light novels are more her thing.

The Rule of Standing on Tiptoes (manga)

Title: The Rule of Standing on Tiptoe
Author/Illustrator: Puku Okuyama
Genre: Yaoi? I suppose incidentally it is.
Publisher: DMP
Rating: 16+ YA, but really doesn't need to be (zero sex or sexual situations)

Cover: Kosuke (Ham-chan) on Raku (Luck)'s shoulders
as Raku steals his chips. These boys are goofballs!

Okay, first of all, this is freaking one of the most adorable things I've ever read, so I am going to keep writing adorable over and over again as I review it. ADORABLE! The Rule of Standing on Tiptoes is an adorable high-school  romantic comedy/friendship story about the tallest boy in class and the shortest boy in class. Short, hyper, hamster-like Kosuke and tall, popular Raku first meet when Raku hits Kosuke with his bike on the first day of 10th grade. Kosuke, who is immediately nick-named Ham-chan by Raku, is the first to discover Raku's secret--he's only half-Japanese. The secret isn't a big deal, but Raku stands out so much already because of his good looks and height that he'd rather keep his blue eyes (he wears black contacts) and his light brown hair (he claims he dyes it) under wraps to keep him from standing out more. His personality is vastly different from loud, boisterous, pierced, bleach blond Ham-chan, but despite their differences they form a fast friendship as they make their way through the pitfalls of high-school.  Somewhere along the way each, individually, starts to form more difficult feelings of love and devotion to the other. Did I say adorable? Because seriously, this is adorable. There's no graphic sex, no weird drama, no astonishingly unrealistic beautiful boys, no big obstacles, no secret pasts (I mean unless you count Raku's heritage), no psychic powers, no conniving rivals (one standard high-school-type rivalry is pretty tame), no aggressive lusting...there's nothing but an absolutely genuine feeling, sweetly awkward friendship that turns into an absolutely genuine feeling, sweetly awkward sort of love. Adorable.

On a side note there is something about Kosuke (Ham-chan)'s gestures and personality that reminds me of Ms. Shakespeare. Some of it may be the way he hyperactively panics before over-rationalizing and putting on a stoic face. Some of it may be because she is kind of adorable. See exhibit A and B below:

On the  left the adorable Ms. Shakespeare and surly Dr. M battling for the only copy of a manga!
On the right Ham-chan and his ex-girlfriend race to school to prove who is faster!
It really does look like us.
 So, the manga is adorable, and Ms. Shakespeare and I are adorable. Facts is facts, Dear Readers.

This really is one of the most honest seeming yaoi manga I've ever read. Okuyama has really captured that swoony-sick feeling that accompanies a timid sort of love. It is well worth a read if only to re-experience that feeling again. Oh...adorable (just wanted to type it once more).

Only Serious About You (manga)

Title: Only Serious About You 1
Writer/Illustrator: Asou Kai
Genre: Yaoi
Distributor: June
Rating: Not provided...I would put it at a PG-13 (no sex, some suggestive remarks, one sweet kiss)
Fun fact: On sale at 30% off at Akadot

Okay, this is squeeworthy. Completely squeeworthy! And it has so many of the lovely things I like: older characters, character development, complex back, it's sweet. So sweet. These are the kinds of mangas that remind me that somewhere deep inside, I am still a girl (but not very often so be warned).

The main character of this manga, Nao, is like me in that his mantra seems to be "I will work harder." This mantra is my downfall, and it is his too. Nao is a single father whose daughter, Chizu, falls ill. As a single father he must take time off of his work as a cook, bartender and waiter, to care for her, but as he is alone and strapped for cash, this becomes difficult. One of the regular customers, Yoshi, who is openly gay, a serial dater and an tremendous flirt, offers to lend his help and reluctantly Nao takes him up on it. Eventually Nao too falls ill and in typical yaoi fashion the illness brings Nao and Yoshi closer together as friends. Eventually their relationship will move from close friends into romantic territory, but not in this first volume. There are obstacles in the way that must be overcome before then.
Yoshi (in bed) finally succumbs to the flu.
It is Nao's turn to take care of him. It is at this moment that Nao
realizes that he and Yoshi are alike in their reluctance to depend on others,
and that Yoshi asking for his help is actually a big deal.
They are becoming a family.
First is the fact that Nao is not gay or doesn't realize he is--that's an issue! Nao is a divorcee with a broken heart, as such he's very guarded and unwilling to get close to or rely on anyone. Chizu is the center of his life, and he sees no point in taking time away from her for selfish romance. The second obstacle is the fact that Yoshi (who Nao says is "pretty loose with his love life") never seems to be serious about the men he dates. We discover later that the string of lovers Yoshi has is his attempt to ward off loneliness he's felt his whole life (he was raised in an orphanage)...he just wants someone to love and stay with him. Both men will  find the companionship and love they desire in subsequent volumes, but in the meantime the slow pacing and development of their relationship will keep me reading. At the end of volume one some complications arise with Nao's over-protective boss, his selfish ex-wife, and Yoshi's on-again/off-again flame.

I want volume two, which comes out late this month. This is a manga I'd read again, and a manga I'd recommend to others. I want it on my manga shelf and, Dear Readers, you should want it on yours too.

So-Bad Sunday! Shocking Pink! (manga)

What? Shakespeare added this shockingly censored image!

Title: Shocking Pink!
Author/Illustrator: Yasuiriosuke (I'd use a psuedonym too!)
Publisher: Project-H
Rating: HOLY NO! XXX? Do they still have that. NC-Nobody!

Okay, first of all I cannot, Dear Readers, post any images from Shocking Pink! And even if I could, I don't know as I would post any, because it's gross. And, um, the plot, uh? Well, the plot says  it is based on the Chinese Story of the Three Kings. Sure, just the way Dragonball is based on Journey to the in, not at all except for some names. This thing is a chaotic mess and a royal (there's a pun there) hump-fest. I can't follow much of anything except that a crazy woman with very large breasts is convinced that she is the reincarnation of Lui Bei, founder of the Han Dynasty. She shows up randomly the doorstep of the main character, Takyaaki Morkuzu, because she believes that this high-school student is the reincarnation of her "tactitian," Koumai Shokatzu (their names are spelled the same in Kanji). He calls her a nut, and she humps him into submission. Then things get really confusing. Two other reincarnated kings join Lui Bei and they share their goal for world domination, which consists of getting knocked up. Also the neighbor girl is in love with Takyaaki and peeps on him before offering to become his love slave.

Then there's a wrestling match with the neighbor's one-eyed, bad-ass older sister, and that turns into some crazy orgy thing, and then...the end? I feel dumber just for having read this. I also feel dirty and gross. How can something so porny be so decidedly unsexy? Maybe that takes talent, but I'm really not interested in figuring it out.

So, in review I have three things to say about Shocking Pink!: too many juices, what the hell just happened, and the Japanese have some sort of crazy eye-patch fetish that still confuses me. In summation, no, because it isn't even good porn.

Winchester Wednesday: The Hero's Journey

Finally I have my own sign in, thank you ladies (even if you are both decidedly unladyish).
As promised you'll find another installment of Winchester Wednesday below. This one centering on the surprisingly difficult answer to the simple question: who is the hero in Supernatural?

Supernatural and the Hero's Journey

One of the things that makes Supernatural so deliciously complex is the dual protagonists viewers find in Dean and Sam Winchester. Fans of one or the other Winchester can rationalize and provide support for their favorite amongst the boys as the central hero of the storyline. I myself have had arguments over "central hero" several times, and the debate usually centers on the fact that most stories contain only one protagonist. There may be subplots and side-stories, but the larger overarching plot normally (with exceptions, of course) depends on one, and only one, lead character or hero.

Think of every epic ever written. Beowulf, The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, Lord of the Rings (yeah, I went there), Sundijata,The Epic of Gilgamesh, Paradise Lost, any number of Arthurian romances, Norse sagas, quest journeys, and even Star Wars. There is one central and primary hero in each of these epics. It is rare to see more than one protagonist--this leaves SPN fans choosing a primary hero, because as readers we expect we will be required to do so.

Were I to pick one protagonist I would, out of devotion/obsession more than anything else, pick Dean. I could make the argument that Dean's story is a knights tale, and a pretty traditional one at that. Sam is then the equivalent of either a princess (ha!), a character foil (it is possible), a replacement for a more traditional love-interest (ask me about my wincest 1 issues!), or simply a plot device.

That's not really fair to Sam though. Ms. Shakespeare, among others, has argued that the reverse is true and that Sam is the central protagonist because the story begins with him and climaxes (sort of) with his fall from grace and redemption. The most compelling reasoning for this argument is that Sam changes while Dean does not (at least not in the same drastic ways), because it is Sam, and not Dean, who needs to be redeemed. To that I say, "okay, okay."

Now Dr. M has a very different point of view--she believes that Sam is a "whiny douchenozzle" who "isn't good enough to share a hotel room with Dean," and that were Dean not "the most forgiving, tragic, beautiful and heartbreaking demi-god" to ever walk the earth he would have "shot Sam's ass in episode 20-something.2" She is certifiably nuts and incapable of most rational conversation, or thought, when it comes to Dean Winchester...which is why I am writing these posts instead of her. She also argues that Sam is plot, while Dean is character...but that's a post and argument for another Wednesday.

The truth is neither Dean nor Sam entirely fills the role of "hero" on their own, not in a traditional sense, anyway. Joseph Campbell, preeminent comparative mythologist and all-around friend to literature, outlined the stages of the traditional, cross-cultural hero's journey in several of his books, most notably The Hero with a Thousand Faces.3 This central monomyth4 has been revisited countless times across millenia and throughout wide-spread (worldwide really) areas. Supernatural seems to be one contemporary western retelling of this monomyth, albeit with an obvious twist--neither Winchester brother singularly fills the role of traditional hero. It takes both Dean and Sam to retell this foundational myth. I contend that these brothers, soul mates really, serve as fractured halves of what is usually a single hero. It is only together that they complete the journey and find wholeness.

Let's see how these beautiful boys stack up by running down the first stage of the hero's journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell 5.

In the departure stage, the first stage of the hero's journey, the protagonist moves from the known into the unknown. It is Sam who rather clearly steps into the role of hero at this point, and he begins as the story's primary hero. It is not until later on that we see how each brother fulfills various roles in the standard monomyth. It is Sam who fulfills the traditional steps in the first part of this story. He has, as many heroes do, a birth of unusual circumstance or import which serves as a foreshadowing of what is to come, or an indicator of the hero's "special nature." The departure stage consists of several subsections, or steps, but not every story will fulfill ALL of those steps, or fulfill them in the same order. This seems to be the case with Supernatural. In fact, some of the steps are fulfilled by both brothers in different ways, indicating that not only are they serving as co-heroes, but are completing individual journeys alongside the larger collective journey.

Home Culture: Sam has, despite the rigors and limitations of his upbringing into a hidden side of life as a hunter, found a home and a sense of "normalcy" through college and his relationship with Jessica. He has, prior to the series, abandoned his uncommon family and co-dependant bonds with his brother/caregiver/soul mate for one more socially acceptable. Without the rift between Sam and his previous life, the foundation for "normalcy" could not exist, and the journey would end before it even started, in a way. His rejection of the "family business" establishes him as a rebel, but a strange sort of that desires not adventure, but the mundane existence of "normal" people. This stage is important, without it there is no "beginning" to start from. Dean cannot yet be the hero in this sense, because his role is to call Sam away from this false-life he's created and set him on the hero's path.

Dean as Call to Action/Adventure...I'd heed that!
Call to Adventure: The call to adventure in Supernatural occurs immediately with the pilot episode. Dean at this point clearly serves not as a hero, but as the call to adventure personified. His pleas to Sam for assistance in his supernatural quest to find their father interrupt the normal life Sam has attempted to create. In truth, as soon as Dean enters the scene Sam's part of the hero's journey begins. But like every hero, he is reluctant to take up the mantle, or the sword, either out of selfishness (Sam is still bitter, and angry at his father and brother) or out of disbelief (Sam does not feel that he has much to offer; if Dean cannot find him, how will Sam be able to help?).

Refusal of the Call: Again, this occurs almost immediately, in the first episode, but the refusal continues in later episodes as Sam continues to look for reasons to return to his normal life. Dean faces his own calls (plural) to adventure and puts up his own (less successful, due to his character) refusals to heed that call in later seasons, especially in Season 4, when he is called from hell by heavenly mandate to become a soldier for god, and in Season 6 when he is called from his life with Lisa to rejoin Sam. The cyclical aspect of the show and its various story-arcs further complicate the question of who the "hero" might be, and further supports my view that each takes at least part of a larger role while still following their own individual journeys. Sam's story in later seasons becomes less that of traditional hero and more of a modern-day internal journey to redemption and absolution. He is certainly a flawed hero, though his will is always for good he actually succumbs to a sort of false hero's journey in Season 4, believing he is on the right track as he is deceived by Ruby and Lilith.

Supernatural Aid: At some point in every hero's journey the hero must accept some supernatural aid. The show is called Supernatural so, it's not really unexpected that some aid comes from a supernatural source. Now, for Dean and Sam this is not always a positive thing. They do find supernatural aid in the form of Missouri and the ghost of their mother early on in the episode "home," and in Castiel in seasons 4-6, but that is part of a later stage of the journey. In this stage the supernatural aid pushes the hero further into the unknown, and convinces them to accept the journey. Campbell's steps never insist that the supernatural act, character or item that pushes the hero onto the path be a positive thing. It certainly is not in Sam's case. For Sam this supernatural event is first and foremost Jess's death. It is this act by supernatural forces that returns Sam (now motivated by vengeance) back to the hunt and back to his brother's side.

Crossing the First Threshold: Joseph Campbell provides that this step is the moment when the hero moves out of their comfort zone alone, and is "confronted with an obstacle that must be overcome before s/he can finally enter the dangers of the unknown journey" 6 . For Sam it seems that the threshold comes in episode 11 of season 1, "Scarecrow," when he abandons Dean to search for their father alone. While waiting for a buss alone he weighs his love and obligations for his family--primarily to Dean--and comes to an acceptance of his role. He also arrives just in time to save Dean from the scarecrow, which is convenient if not slightly implausible. Sam's threshold is acceptance; he accepts his journey and his place by his brother's side.

Now, if this seems like Sam is clearly the hero--think again. The truth is that Dean's journey is parallel and shaped by his own inner conflict, issues and obstacles. By the time Dean leaps into Sam's life he has at least partially accepted his awkward destiny and his role in the world. His call to adventure comes early on, at age four! And his decision to heed that call is motivated by his need to protect his brother (whom he sees as a central responsibility) and avenge his mother. The obstacle he must overcome is more internal--it has to do with pride, self-worth, and trust. Dean's personality leads him to leap headlong into danger spurred on by his love for Sam.

It is in this second stage of the hero's journey, which Campbell calls Initiation, that they boys begin to take on dual roles as hero.

The Road of Trials: This is quite literal with the Winchesters, as they are knights in shining Impala. In this step of the journey the "protagonist is found vulnerable and the outcome reveals a part of him/her that s/he did not know existed." For Sam this is literal. His demon blood is a weakness of sorts and is revealed late in season 1. For Dean this becomes literal as well, in some ways, in an early episode Dean 's heart is damaged in the hunt and he seems unconcerned with his impending death (this moment also forshadows his lack of concern for himself in season 3 after the crossroads deal). It is then that we, and Sam, realize that Dean's capacity for selfless behavior hides something equally beautiful and heartbreaking--a clear lack of self worth manifesting as a tendency towards sacrifice to help others. There are multiple moments along each brother's literal and metaphorical road of trials that reveal weaknesses, strengths, personality traits, and more. Each case, each "hunt," reveals more about the brothers to each other, the viewers, and themselves. Each case that brings them close to the Yellow Eyed Demon reveals more about Sam's infancy and destiny, while at the same time revealing more about Dean's personal scars and devotion.

Meeting a Soul mate: Well, let's call it "realizing" a soul mate for the Winchesters, because clearly they belong to one another in complex ways--they are parent/child, brothers, best friends, yin/yang, confidants, and for all intents and purposes, beloveds. We'll save the whole "beloved" argument for a later be continued! Certainly they are not only willing to die for one another, but suffer eternally so that the other will survive. There seems to be no limits to the love they have for one another, although they admittedly have communication and trust issues...that's all part of the journey as well. For Dean the "soul mate" is realized most clearly when he is faced with Sam's death at Cold Oak. The subsequent deal he makes is the act of a desperate man who cannot live without his other half. For Sam this realization comes later in what I feel is one of the most revealing episodes of the series "Mystery Spot." During the Trickster's trials he comes face to face with the emptiness and desperation of a life without Dean.
Dean realizing Sam as soul mate.

Sam realizing Dean as soul mate.

Overcoming Temptation: Sam faces temptation more than Dean does in a lot of ways. Dean's temptation is selfless and temporary, finding its center in "What Is and What Should Never Be" (season 2, episode 20) when he is tempted by a Djinn into accepting a better life for both Sam and himself. Sam's temptation has to do with Ruby and his desire for power. Even though his desire for power, and his relationship with Ruby, is motivated by what he thinks is a larger good, it is deceptively evil. His nature is taken advantage of, and the temptation is only overcome by Dean's intervention and Dean's love.

Viewing the Whole Picture: This is something difficult to come by in Supernatural. The boys only have glimpses of the whole. Dean in "The End" and both brothers in "Changing Channels" in what seems on the surface like a "fluff" episode reveals a lot about the overarching plot and has strong allusions to another great epic Paradise Lost; only this time Lucifer isn't the hero at all. The view of the whole is revealed slowly in Supernatural. Pieces of the larger picture are revealed to brothers and viewers who struggle to construct some overarching plan.

The Ultimate Goal: Every hero's journey has to have one. So, what is the goal in Supernatural? Well, in a lot of ways, the goal is status quo...the goal is that the world go on, flawed as it is, as it always has, under the power of free will, and free from overt interference from supernatural forces. In another way the goal is salvation, not just of the world but of self. And certainly Sam's journey carries with it another goal, that of redemption, in the eyes of his brother, and for himself.

The third stage of the journey, Return, is when Dean takes center stage in some ways, while Sam takes up the slack as part of Team Winchester. Some of this story is left untold still, as one conflict leads to the next and the cycle begins again. It will be hard to predict what direction the journey will take in these last seasons. The Return consists of some classic literary tropes, such as The Chase, and The Rescue (these stages are fulfilled by Dean's pursuit of Sam's soul in later seasons, and in Sam's pursuit of redemption in earlier seasons). Both boys Cross the Return Threshold with a journey into the underworld. Both are called by forces outside of their realm (angels for Dean, demons for Sam) to become Master of Two Worlds in accepting or refusing (Refusing to Return) their roles as vessels for angelic hosts. The final stage of the hero's journey is yet to be realized, and I wonder if this is where the series will take a serious detour from the traditional form. The final stage is Freedom something that the boys cling to throughout the series, but something that has not yet been realized for them.

What kind of journey is this? Is it about redemption? Is it about vengeance? Or sacrifice? Or salvation? Well, it's about all of those things--each brother faces temptation, each descends (literally) into the underworld, and each is willing to sacrifice themselves (but not the other) to create a better world. Why? Well, because for the Winchesters the world cannot (does not) exit without the other in it. They act heroic, but are spurred on more by love for one another than any other emotion or incentive.

There is, in many ways, no point in saving a world without the other in it, because the "world" ceases to be, or at least it ceases to matter (that's very Wuthering Heights). As Sam says early on in season one's "Devil's Trap" some things, specifically Dean, are more important than any vengeance or closure. Both boys battle with their need to sacrifice themselves when, to misquote someone I've forgotten--the absolute worst thing that could happen to either of them wouldn't actually happen to them, but to the other.

So, neither Dean nor Sam is a hero in and of themselves, both satisfy steps in the traditional hero's journey, turning it into a heroes' journey, something plural and driven by love.

And that, Dear Readers (as our hostesses are wont to say), is some profound shit!

1. Wincest is a term invented by fan fiction writers and fans of the show that implies that Dean and Sam are not only soul-mates, but they have the hots for one another. Normally I would wince at a blatant disregard for the incest taboo, but there seems to be extenuating circumstances to their relationship. Plus, they're hot.

2. Dr. M. "You stupid c*%tface." Message to the author. 19 Sept. 2011. Email.

3. Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 3rd ed. New York: Pantheon, 2008.

4. A good outline of the heroic monomyth proposed by Joseph Campbell can be found via the History Through Literature Project pages produced by Berkeley's ORIAS (Office of Resources for International and Area Studies) program at: ORIAS. "Monomyth Home." History Through Literature Project. University of California Berkeley, 8 Nov. 2007. Web. 14 Dec. 2011.

5. A very nicely detailed chart of the stages of the hero's journey can be found at Seifert, S. "Hero's Journey Chart." Hero's Journey Defined. Earthlink, 18 March 2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2011.

6. Seifert, S. "Hero's Journey Chart."

7. Supernatural. Dir. Eric Kripke. CW. CNUV, Baltimore. 2005-2011. Television.

MEGAPOST: Blood (anime), Blood+ (anime series), Blood+ (manga), Blood+ (light novels), Blood (live action)

The story of Saya, the last vampire, has been retold and reimagined more than a few times. Saya was originally introduced to audiences in the 2000 feature length anime film Blood: The Last Vampire. The anime followed Saya, a sword-wielding teen with long braids as she battled bloodthirsty creatures called Chiropterans on a US Army base in 1966 Okinawa.  It is during her battles that we first discover, as an audience, the preternatural qualities Saya has for destroying these vampiresque monsters--she is one of them, albeit older and more powerful.
Chiropteran--the name is taken from the order of mammals that include bats.
They are ugly and big. Much bigger than bats.

As such her blood acts as a weapon against them, essentially crystallizing and shattering their blood and bodies. It is in Blood that we are first introduced to another constant among the reincarnations of this story as well, in the character of David, one of the members of Red Shield, a secret organization intent on destroying the entire race of Chiropterans.

The storyline of Blood is simple, girl kills vampires, but it leaves viewers with more questions than answers. Who is Saya? If she is as cold and ruthless as she seems, then why fight to protect human lives at all? Why not see them as inconsequential casualties in a greater war? What is this secret organization lurking in the shadows? Does it work for good or evil? Or is it powered by something else---weapons development? political gain? economic gain? Why is Saya different from the things she kills? Why doesn't she change into the inhuman looking Chiropterans she hunts?
The 2000 version of Blood.
The cover shows Saya, and displays its gritty animation style.
None of these questions are answered in Blood, but despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of specific information the audience is provided, Saya becomes a compelling character, and perhaps another version of the archetypal female warriors against the supernatural (certainly along the same lines as Buffy). The character is revisited in 2006 in an anime series called  Blood+ .  This anime is clearly not only a continuation, but a reimagining of Saya's character and destiny.  We see a very different Saya, at least at first, in this four season series.

The animation style has changed from the dirty, gritty and dark style of the film into something bright and almost confectionery at times. The skies are blue, the golden sun pours over beautiful background scenes in Okinawa. Saya has changed as well. She is a slim, big eyed (that's to be expected) waif of a girl who has very little superficial resemblance to her previous incarnation This new Saya seems overwhelmingly innocent. Where as the Saya of Blood was a loner, this Saya lives with her adopted father and two adopted brothers above the family-run restaurant and is on the track team. We soon learn that this sunny outlook is a result of severe amnesia. Saya has forgotten the brutality of her past and lives her live as a normal teen girl.  Unfortunately, a sequence of events align to awaken Saya from her dormancy. 
The cover of the 2006 DVD, shows a very different
animation style, and additional character of Haji.

The U.S. Government, conspiring with a large and mysterious pharmaceutical corporation called, Cinq Fleches, is doing research on Chiropterans in the hops of creating super soldiers. They "accidentally" release two, who head straight for Saya, attracted to her scent.  At the same time Saya runs into a mysterious man named Haji (who is hot as all get out). This injured cellist awakens fuzzy memories in Saya, but she does not awaken to her full fighting potential until she is trapped in the school with one of the rampaging Chiropterans.  Hagi, who we now see has superhuman strength and speed, saves her by awakening Saya with a bloody kiss. He feeds Saya his own blood and she supercharges--her eyes glow red as she easily defeats the Chiropteran; she then falls unconscious.  When she wakes she remembers nothing of the incident. Saya's warrior side awakens again when her family is attacked by a  human friend who has been "turned" into a Chiropteran.  Saya's awakening has consequences.  David, the (for lack of a better word) handler, from the original movie, sows up to reclaim Saya from her family.  He gives them 24 hours to say goodbye--things do not go as planned. 

Saya's family is attacked again, her father George is killed and her brothers Riku (the younger) and Kai (the elder) refuse to break apart their makeshift family further.  What results is a heartbreaking series in which Saya reconstructs her tragic past and reawakens dark memories, all the while being pursued by Chiropterans, evil corporations and a malignant figure named Diva.  Saya, it is discovered, has periods of dormancy for decades, so before her time runs out again she must defeat the evil she is partially responsible for releasing into the world.  

In the middle of tall the battle and intrigue of this story lies a story about love and family.  The central character for me is not Saya, nor her eternal demon lover (or chevalier) Haji (who is too pretty and devoted to feel genuine), but the older brother Kai. It is his story that I keep returning to, mostly because this faux bad-boy, ex-gang member turned would-be soldier refuses to part with those he loves.  It is clear that he will fight to the death for his brother and sister, regardless of anything else. It is Kai who tells the story in many ways, and Kai who allows Saya her chance at redemption, who preserves the humanity of the tale and who never  gives up hope.  He is not a sunny optimist, he is a fighter and a wounded one at that. He is my second favorite type of hero (the torn prince) again. Saya and Haji are neigh indestructible, but Kai, who is fragile flesh and bone takes risks alongside them.  And it is Kai who watches over Saya as she sleeps, keeping vigil for his sister (and the love of his life) until she awakens again.
Kai carries Saya when she has no more strength,
and keeps vigil over her as she sleeps.
(Kai is squeeworthy!)

The series ends with a tentative hopefulness and some room for yet another incarnation or sequel. I half-hope it doesn't happen myself. I like the ending as is.

If you are more of a fan of manga, live action or light novels the Blood/Blood+ franchise has you covered in those genres as well.  The manga and light novels follow along with the Blood+ storyline, although there is a novelization of Blood  as Blood 2000. The plot is followed fairly closely, with some expansion of course. The light novels do an interesting job of explaining each character's motivation, especially Saya's. Although it is sometimes nice to have this information, I don't see it as crucial to the understanding or appreciation of the storyline.  The manga and novels also seem to play ou the Saya/Kai/Haji love triangle a bit more fully. Bringing this to the forefront turns the series into more of a romance, which is fine, but seems unnecessary. I get the feeling that the changes to the relationships were added to appeal to a younger female fanbase. The romantic aspect doesn't take away from the story entirely, bit it does simplify things.  The relationships each of these characters has with one another is vastly more complex than a mere romance.  For instance, Kai positions himself as brother, friend, protector (father figure), comrade in arms, and lover--each of these roles creates tension with the others. Saya's relationship with Haji is complex as well; they are essentially soul mates of a sort, their relationship has spanned centuries, but they are also master and servant in a relationship that can never have the same equality as Saya's relationship with Kai.
Haji comforting Saya.

To boil this sort of interwoven complexity down to a "He likes, she likes, he likes" love triangle is to over-simplify those relationships for an audience of readers who, I hope, can handle a more mature discussion of love, responsibility and devotion.

Of course,  the 2009 live-action film Blood: The Last Vampire does none of this.  It centers mainly on the original 1966 storyline with some nods to the series that follows. I think it was cast quite well, and the fight scenes are spectacular, but it is missing a lot of opportunities to move beyond basic plot.

It is not an unsuccessful retelling, just a very limited one. I like to see a strong female lead kick a bunch of big-bad ass. The Saya in the live-action version is almost as brutal and incompassionate as the original anime version. A few (sadly) expected changes were made to gain audience appeal. In the original Saya was moved to protect a frumpy, middle-aged, high school nurse, who spent most of the film in flustered confusion. In the remake the nurse is replaced by a young, pretty, American army brat.  I know why they did it, and it doesn't make that big of a difference in the storyline, I suppose, but I still want to see a frumpy school nurse fighting terrifying monsters.

I would have given the film mad props for that...but alas. In truth the film doesn't do much for the franchise. There's no reimagining of the storyline or characters--they've simply been translated from anime to live action  I always wonder, well, what's the point then? I feel this way about a lot of "translations" from book to film to anime to whatever---if you aren't going to add something or explore something further or reimagining something fully in this new incarnation, then why do it it all. OR, if the changes you do make are superficial or if they oversimplify something fans enjoy already, then what the hell is the point?

I'm looking at you Hollywood! And I"m already pissed about the all-Caucasian cast of Akira. 

Saya's story has a lot of reinventions, some better than others, but that's all based on my personal desires for the story--each incarnation has strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I love the anime series Blood+. I'll admit that I sobbed quietly several times before the final episodes--where I sobbed very loudly.  I fell in love with the fallibility of the characters and their sense of responsibility towards not just each other, but the larger world. Plus, I like a, do I like a tragedy.

So, in review and to sum up this ridiculously lengthy post (which I wrote in longhand as my students took their final essay exams) here's the breakdown:

Blood: The Last Vampire : Violent and gritty anime. Not a lot of revealed story line. Bad ass female lead.

Blood+ (anime series): Complex, international, intertwined story lines, beautifully animated, emotionally draining. My favorite version.
Blood+ (manga): Very much like the anime, plays up the "love triangle" aspect. Pacing is different--a few "new" or "extended scenes." Some characters, like little brother Riku, have bigger changes to their storyline.

Blood+ (light novels): Follows manga fairly closely. Added "bonus" of seeing characters' thoughts and motivations (if you need that sort of thing). VERY heavy on the Saya/Haji relationship righ away--much faster development of this complication, much slower development of overarching storyline.

Blood (live action): Follows original anime storyline. Some nods to later series (although I may not have noticed them if I were not such a fan). Violent. Fun. Nice effects. Little to no storyline or motivation. Lots of girls with swords--cool, but is it cool enough to recommend? Nah. Not unless you're a huge fan of the original anime.

Pick your Poison!

GUEST BLOGGER: James Parker Lombard for Winchester Wednesday

Dear Readers, Ms. Shakespeare and I are rather busy ladies, but we do try to post regularly amid our complex and demanding lives. For instance, I am deeply embroiled in some international espionage at the moment and as a result could find no time to present anime/manga ta-tas for this past Ta-Ta Tuesday. I regret this, because there are so many ta-tas and so little time.

I have invited, after some rather existential discussions with Ms. Shakespeare (who in the last post called herself a mister...either way, sister), my good-twin James Parker to submit his thoughts for Winchester Wednesday.

Now, you might be asking, why have a Winchester Wednesday at all? I mean, it isn't anime (well, there IS an anime), it isn't manga (although there are plenty of doujinshi), and it isn't Japanese. Well, the answer is simple: Supernatural is about as anime-esque as a live-action anything can possibly be (except for maybe Torchwood).  So, James Parker will provide the occasional guest blog post. The first of which, can be found, Dear Readers, below. Remember, you don't have to be nice to him...I'm not.

My name is James Parker Lombard, and I am a fanboy. Or, a fanman, although that sounds, as I say it, like an altogether ridiculous term. But, it is not as ridiculous as the fact that your two fine, upstanding babblingly-girly hostesses, Dr. M and Ms. Shakespeare, have called on me to submit to this anime/manga review site. To be honest, I don’t think I can pronounce either of those words. Is it Anne-may, or Ah-Nee-may? Is it Man-Guh or Mon-guh or Mah-n-gah? Dr. M has tried to correct me on several occasions, although I keep telling her, quite clearly and in no uncertain terms, that I don’t care. I am not here for manga or anime, no matter how one wants to pronounce it. I am here by squiggly, wiggly, “squee”ing request, to participate in Winchester Wednesday.

There are some things you should know about me. I am academic to a fault. I am not keen on emotions of any sort, mine or others. Actually, I’m not super-keen on people in general, so I try to keep to myself. I drink a lot of coffee. I have been known to be a “scowly mofo” (thank you, Dr. M). I put my foot in my mouth, but it doesn’t seem to bite me in the ass very often. I watch a lot of Supernatural. I may or may not write fanfiction of a dubious nature. I have a “thing” for Dean Winchester, and I tolerate Sam because Dean loves him.

My participation in Win-Weds is purely analytical, although it is driven by perhaps a sick-ish obsession with the nuances of the show, and that “thing” for Dean Winchester I mentioned. I don’t plan on being a moon-eyed, swooning sycophant about things. I plan on keeping this old-school analytical—I would be talking footnotes and works cited whenever possible, but I know my audience, so I’ll keep it to a minimum. I’m thinking Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Campbell, Homer, Dante, T.S. Elliot, Blake and some Plato paired with some hard-core critical theory, psychology, lit crit, and sociology. See, real old-school academic shit, because that’s how I roll.

Like the ladies here, I don’t warn about spoilers and I don’t pull punches. I dig complexities and condemn stupidities. I also encourage responses. Let’s get in a conversation about the over-watched and under-analyzed brilliance that is SPN. Post some responses, argue with me (I know Dr. M and Ms. Shakespeare will…I think they only invited me here because they think they’ll get to bitch and moan about things); I like an argument. Offer up theories of your own so I can shoot them down with wild abandon. I’d like that.

Next Wednesday’s post:
Supernatural and The Hero's Journey
A little Joseph Campbell checklist and a look into who the hero of the story might be. It isn’t as clear as one might think.

A Visual Tour of Japantown

Shakespeare and her herbal liquor

There was a time when one could not get Becherovka in the US. One had to sneak it back in her luggage next to a few cartons of Czech or Swiss cigarettes. Now, one finds Becherovka at the local BevMo and Slivovice which one remembers sipping fondly one night with a friend after a drunken and giddy bike ride back from a Halloween party at Dr. M's, at Trader Joe's.

In any case, it is neither here nor there, but one Mr. William Shakespeare is a little drunk and giddy on Becherovka and fondly remembering her youth of folly, frolic and fun.

Speaking of, one Mr. William Shakespeare attended a lovely hang out time with Dear Friends in San Francisco's Japantown, and this one Mr. William Shakespeare wanted to share with the world.

It is a party if you are an action figure and a Robocop.

Who first broke the news of chair socks? This blog. Yes, Squeefinity. Get Chair Socks Today!

I'm 100% positive Disney did not actually license this. It seems more like something I'd find in Chinatown.

Cube Mickey!!!!

A little white or red wine?

Unfortunately, Shakespeare is terribly allergic to wine, which is why she is drinking Becherovka, which, she is  uncovering, just at this moment, she might actually also be allergic to, as well. Sigh. How could anyone ever love a girl who is stupidly allergic to all things fermented? :(

Someone who does eat cakes: Please, oh please, eat these cakes.

This is actually one of my favorite places in Jtown: Murata's Cafe Hana

Murata's Cafe Hana Seriously has the most adorable cakes in the whole world. And if I ate sugar, I would stuff my face with them. They also have really good coffee drinks. But most importantly, the staff here is super nice. They are very sweet, in a kind of Midwestern way.

Maybe that's why I like Jtown so much. It, oddly, reminds me of home.

Izumya all dressed up for x-mas

Izumya all decked out for x-mass. This place has some serious Japanese home cooking. YUM!

Thanks, Lani for all the great pictures. L & B let's go to Jtown again soon.

It is late, and I drank too much, and I'm feeling nostalgic and sleepy. Reviews to come!

So-Bad Sunday: Shakespeare's Insomnia

Artist rendering of William Shakespeare suffering from lack of sleep

That's it! No one gets a So-Bad Sunday from Shakespeare this weekend! I planned on writing something last night, but fell asleep whilst composing my oeuvre. Look at that fancy word, Dear Readers. I think it means complete body of work. For our purposes, we'll say it covers one blog entry. This one.

The truth is, I didn't read anything bad this week, and I have what seems to be some really good reading on the horizon. The person behind my persona has another project going, which is a music oriented, so the next few reviews will follow that theme. Expect some ramblings on 20th Century Boys, Detroit Metal CityAi Ore, and the ever iconic and classic, Gravitation. Oh, Eri Yuki, finally I will pay homage to you in the only way I know how.

Eri Yuki, you seem more like a Cramps guy, but I guess it's Bad Luck that you love.

So-so Sunday!: Kemonozume (anime)

Directed by Masaaki Yusasa  (who also did Crayon Shin-Chan and Samurai Champloo...both of those are awesome). Madhouse Studios, 2006.

Admittedly, I selected this show to review because it was rated so poorly on the site  Sometimes I find it difficult to find bad things to discuss, and it isn't because there isn't quite a bit of bad anime and manga out there, but because I don't have the patience to sift through the crap long enough to figure out if it is bad or not. So, this week I looked at the lowest rated series on to make my selection. I was a little surprised to find an anime by Masaaki Yusasa on the list. I mean I love Samurai Champloo--which reminds me, that should go on the "to review" list. Long story short, I was was a good director, with a big fan base, and a very low 45% rating from viewers. I wanted to know what made this anime so unpopular, so I started to watch.

First off, I can't call this a So-Bad Sunday! post, because I don't know that Kemonozume IS so bad. It certainly has some obvious things that could turn off viewers, especially viewers looking for anime that meets their expectations. So, it's not bad--but, it isn't good either.

One of the things bothering viewers may be the animation style. Yusasa doesn't do your average slick, super-beautiful, boys and girls with big sparkly eyes kind of style. Those of you who have seen Samurai Champloo or Shin Chan  know this already. And the angles of the work in this particular anime are visually strange as well. There are odd close ups and unexpected perspectives...this, I think, is a good thing. It isn't pretty, but it is interesting, and artistic. Unfortunately, strange and artistic doesn't work in every panel of this anime, and it may be part of what's warranting this series such low acceptance among viewers.

The good news is that the story seems interesting enough, at least on paper--Our hero, Tohihiko is the heir to a familial duty to destroy cannibalistic yokai (demons) called shokujinki, or flesh eaters. He does this with his "ogre sealing sword." His family runs a training academy for would-be shokujinki killers and he is next in line to take over the family business. So far so good, but here's where the conflict arises. Due to a monkey/skydiving fiasco on the beach, Tohihiko is introduced to pretty blonde Yuka.

Just your average night time monkey/skydiving fiasco leading to love-at-first-sight situation.

He, of course, falls in love with her instantly. Then he starts seeing her face everywhere (even on a monkey). She seems to be having similar "love at first sight" feelings about him and the two wind up making out on the beach in a rainstorm. Then they have sex, during which we, the audience, realize that Yuka is a flesh eater. WHAT? NO! Things play out as expected and the story evolves into a Flesh eating Ogre version of Romeo and Juliet. This isn't horrible, right? It's actually pretty interesting. A standard sort of lovers conflict pitting family, destiny and love against one another. I'd watch that. But there are some problems I feel I must address, Dear Readers.

-Well, there's a lot of crazy monkey as plot device, which I can't say I approve of in an otherwise serious series.
Weird looking monkey likes butt fruit!
-There's also a big issue with our hero pooping his pants during battle scenes. I'll give you a second to let that sink in before I say "Um, no, Dear Readers, I'm not kidding, and I wish I were."

- Grandpa has a robot hand! (Why is this on the problems side? I don't know.)

- The bad guys, flesh eaters, are almost cute when they change from their human form into their blood-thirsty, rapey-death-machine forms.

Oh, my god, that thing is precious, even if it does have a half-dead woman
hanging off of its junk as it runs.  Don't worry, it stops and eats her in the
next scene. So cute! It reminds me of Captain Caveman!
- The weaponized "buster suits" Tohihiko's creepster (yes) brother invents are also kind of precious looking.

- The music is weird as hell (although that is kind of to be expected give the director's style).

This isn't enough to make me definitively say this anime is bad enough for So-Bad Sunday!, though. I mean it has some good things going for it.

Good Things:

- The story is still strangely compelling, although it does seem pretty standard and predictable in some ways.

- The first scene of each episode is really stark and beautiful. A stylistic depiction of the mythology behind the flesh eaters and the warriors pitted against them.

- The mythology is interesting. That alone makes me want to watch more.

- This director takes risks that usually pay off very well in the end. His work is not conventional, but that's part of what makes it almost always interesting and inventive.

Would I watch more? Yeah, if I was bored. I give this a So-So. There are things that make me want to turn it off, but there are just as many things that make me want to keep going. It isn't bad, but it isn't everyone's cup of monkey butt fruit juice. Maybe take a look and see for yourself?

AVATAR Anime to Graphic Novel/Manga in the works, the other one. Yes, The Last Airbender, not the cheesy glow-bowl imperialistic snoozefest (am I seriously the ONLY person who hates that film and finds its colonial message unsettling? Oh, wow, a "noble savage" argument, that's not condescending, right? Sorry, back to the subject.

Someone is saving Avatar: The Last Airbender after that sad, racist, live-action disaster. Oh, man, it was horrible. I mean, everything was wrong. Where was the humor? The love? The non-white people...oh, wait, the non-white people were the bad guys...I shake my head. And how I loved Avatar. I mean...Aang rules. Sigh. We should just collectively agree that that film never happened. 1, 2, 3...okay.

So, someone is finally doing something with Avatar!
Here's a link to the story by Kelly Chung Dawson of China Daily:

Hooray! I anxiously await Avatar: The Last Airbender--The Promise. The article states that it "will be released in early 2012 through Dark Horse Comics." Dark Horse is no stranger to the manga community, and has even collected some of their American comics in very manga-esque formatting in the past.

Now, if only someone would consider making it into a live-action film, THAT would be awesome.

(Selective memory is my friend.)