The Dark Side

Angsty much?
Sometimes it's easy to forget the awesomeness of adulthood. Yeah, I said it, but it's true. When you're an old lady, a singleton with few real obligations, you get to get to manage your own life. You define your own obstacles. You decide what's important, when to have fun, and when to be a total stick in the mud. Of course, it also means things like, you have to go to work to support yourself; you really should be available to the people that you care about and the people that care about you; you have to get groceries, pay bills, grumble about politics, and shake your fist at young pimple faced skateboarders in the park.

The last few months, I've been letting myself fall into the "being an adult sucks" version of being an adult, you know the: This commute sucks! I can't do this alone! Get off my lawn! side of being an adult. This is not awesome. I also feel like I'm always scowling and wearing black and listening to sad power music with great lyrics. I spend a lot of time goal setting and goal failing, riding trains and making up narratives about my fellow passengers while wondering if I'll ever pay off my student loans. Yuck! The fact is, I'm in a messy space. And my tastes have followed suit.

It's not surprising that I'm not reading much Yaoi lately or even just regular ol' run of the mill adorable Shonen and Shojo manga. I'm reading the French Films of manga, the dark stuff, the unhappy, tortured, arty stuff, and I LOVE IT!

My favorite manga artist right now is Yoshihro Tatsumi, and if you haven't read his collections of manga published mostly by Drawn and Quarterly, I highly recommend you do. I think my last post was about  The Push Man and Other Stories, and while this remains my favorite, I've picked up a few other great volumes since then.

Abandon the Old in Tokyo is an excellent collection. The centerpiece story resonated with me. It's about young man who grows up with an abusive mother who falls ill later in life. Forced to care for her in a way he was never cared for, the son consistently sacrifices himself for her. When he falls in love, he finally decides to abandon his mother in the most cruel way, so he can marry his girlfriend, but guilt pulls him back. Good-Bye contains some longer, darker stories. I loved "Sky Burial," a particularly well illustrated story about death and nature.

I'm also working on Osamu Tezuka's Book of Human Insects, which also seems suitably dark to match my mood. I'd love some recommendations for some great, deep, dark, angsty, arty manga! Anyone?

About Love (Manga)

Written and Illustrated by Narise Konohara
Publisher: June
Rating: YA 16+

Aw, someone's sad because they're shopping for wedding dresses.
I know that feel, bro.
Aswaka is a wedding planner and Sasagawa and his wife were his first clients. Aswaka was unsure of his profession, but this couple inspired a passion in him and he continued his career to become a highly sought after wedding planner. In his mind Sasagawa and his wife became the archetypal couple...the perfect wife, the perfect husband, the perfect couple. But when he runs into Sasagawa alone a handful of times, and the two of them strike up a friendship, Asaka discovers that not everything is as it seems. 

Sasagawa had a crush on his wife in high school, but he was far below her interest, it was years later when they ran into each other during a homecoming that they reconnected...but their marriage is a front. She had a female lover and needed to get married to claim an inheritance, and poor Sasagawa, still head over heels for this woman, agreed to the charade. In his heart he believed that if he were the perfect husband, that eventually she'd see his love and devotion and return it. 

No, there isn't, Asaka.
I worry about 30 year old men all the time.
Asaka is floored when he learns of their marriage and pities Sasagawa's situation. Like he says, "being in a fake marriage with someone you really love--it's so unfortunate, its laughable." Asaka is the accidental witness to Sasagawa's breakdowns, and their friendship deepens as they support each other emotionally over the years. Then, because this is yaoi, well, they become romantically entangled.

Here's the thing, I like Asaka, but Sasagawa is a sad sack.  Normally I love a damaged character, and the damage here seems real, but Sasagawa is weak and needy, and too ready to take a backseat to everyone around him. I suppose there's an innocence there that's a little endearing, but he's so much like a kicked puppy that it unnerves me. 
Oh, my god, nut up!!!!
This man needs a wah-mbulance!

One of the most interesting aspects of this manga is the sort of unaware love that grows between the two characters in moments when they shore each other up.  Unlike those annoying yaoi, "Oh, suddenly and without any hesitation I'm gay" moments (because that's so realistic--sarcasm), the development of love between the characters is slow paced and feels genuine.  They just enjoy one another's company; they take comfort in one another; their love grows slowly and very, very cautiously--after all Sasagawa is a wounded man.  Both of them then run from the idea that their friendship is anything more...but to no avail.

More than anything this is a story about loneliness, and the hard truths about love--that it doesn't always work out, that it takes work and patience--the gender of the characters doesn't matter to those truths. It is the timidity (and to some degree the embarrassment) of this unlikely couple, that ultimately saves this slow-paced manga. Don't go looking for sexytimes here, or adventurous/aggressive'll be disappointed. But, if you're looking for something a little more realistic, and if you don't mind a bit of drunken man-sobbing, then this might be worth a read. 

Ta-Ta Tuesday: The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (Anime?)

Ta-Ta Tuesday: The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
Written and Directed By: Rob Zombie
 Starz Media, 2009
Rating: MA (gore, sex, language, violence)

Luchadors! Bewbs! Paul Giamatti...what?!

Although this is an animated feature which is not necessarily an anime, I’m reviewing it anyway.

My brother (31 years old) put this on the tv (courtesy of Netflix) while my mom (61) and I (37) were sitting in the living room. In the first five minutes a masked wrestler, El Superbeasto, has a threesome with two pornstars and kills them mid-coitus when they are revealed to be a vampire and a werewolf. 

Here is my mother’s brief review: “Why are we watching cartoon porn? You shouldn’t be watching this with your sister and your mom. You’re gross.”

At this point she immediately vacated the living room to read Fifty Shades of Grey on the front porch without a hint of irony. When my sister (34) got home my mother announced, “They’re watching cartoon titties in there, be warned.” We weren’t. At that point I turned it off.

There are a LOT of cartoon titties in El Superbeasto…and they look weirdly like the old seventies style baby bottle nipples. They are also quite buoyant.  And they do tricks…they punch people. Titty punch! So if you like cartoon boobies, 9th grade jokes and you aren't super interested in a plot, then this is for you.

Plot: Dr. Satan has to mate with and marry a stripper named Velvet von Black marked with a 666 birthmark in order to obtain the “bubbly” power of hell. El Superbeasto, our hero who also happens to be a lucador, just wants to hump her.

Subplot: El Superbeasto’s Sister, Suzi X (voiced by Sheri Moon Zombie), and her horny robot/vehicle steal Hitler’s head before agreeing to assist El Superbeasto in saving Velvet…Suzi is being chased by Zombie Nazis, and her robot is a pervert.

Highlights: A tie between the song “Zombie Nazis Fucking With my Day Now” and “Why’d You Have to Rip-Off Carrie”

Cameos: Characters from House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Paul Giamatti, and Harlan Williams (why?)

Lowpoint: A tie between an army of rats being expelled from a cartoon anus and a Bennie Hill  montage.  

Recommendation: Watch it if you’re bored or if you’re a fan of the comic (yes, it is a comic), but avoid watching it with your brother (no matter how old he is) and/or in front of your mom (no matter what she’s reading) because it can be uncomfortable.

So--So Sunday: Curve (manga)

Written and Illustrated by Noriko Tsubota
Trans. by Allen Laney, and The Knights of the Eastern Calculus
Publisher: DMG
Rating: T
The art is nice.
I have no idea why Curve is the title...
it has absolutely nothing to do with the manga.

I feel bad about submitting this as a So-So Sunday post, but Curve really is just so-so. The artwork is beautiful, the translator seems to have done a great job (well-written),'s almost like the story isn't all there.

Tatsu works at at detective agency during the day and an art gallery at night, but he gets thrown for a loop when his two jobs collide and he ends up working for a sculptor. This manga has a lot of stuff: angry dads, jilted women, mistaken identity, cons, rich people, espionage...Hooray!

There's also a Ghost-esque clay throwing fantasy (which I highly disapprove of). 

You'd become a jug, or a vase, or a bowl, most likely. 

Oh, and neither one knows they are in lurve.

I tease, but in a lot of ways this story, despite the ridiculous mistaken identity trope, is pretty simple, and doesn't have a single scene that feels squee-worthy. It isn't the art or the translation that makes this's the story itself. The plot is weird. There are some early hints about the main character's dark past that never resurface at all. There seems to be little motivation for some reactions, like the main character running away to America. All in all...I'm left wondering why characters are behaving the way they're behaving, and not in an interesting way.

So-What Sunday: Girl’s Bravo (Anime)

1st Season
Funimation 2004

Already I am annoyed. 

In season one, episode one of Girls Bravo, we are introduced to main character, Yukimari Sasaki. Sasaki lives alone. He is also short and scared of girls because he’s bullied by them. He breaks out into a rash whenever he’s near a girl, which I am sure is a euphemism for sexual arousal along the lines of the ubiquitous “nosebleed.” 

Unfortunately, the girl next door, Kojima (who has “breasts the size of small pork buns”…yes, that is a quote), keeps bugging the crap out of him and beating him up. With the background info out of the way (establishing Sasaki as a whiny bag of beat-down), the "story" (my quotes this time, they are ironic) begins as Kojima knocks him out and he falls into the tub. Then he gets sucked into a world populated mostly by women, but those women do not make him break out in a rash. Hooray or something. In this other world he is a hot commodity and his allergy is non-existent.

Oh, my bad, is this your tub?
Too bad that on his return trip a naked girl from that world is transported back to earth with him…HIJINKS! 

This anime is described as a sexy romp. It is not one. It is a ta-ta filled harem anime, and I think the intended audience is teenagers, because it’s too childishly lame for adults, and too racy for kids, but then again I am pretty immature, and my first reaction was, “This is dumb.” So, I stopped watching…take that for what it’s worth I suppose. 

The End . 

P.S. If you're into anime bewbs, you can google image the title with safe search off and there are ta-tas aplenty to be seen. Enjoy! 

Arata: The Legend (manga)--First Impressions

Arata The Legend (Manga) First Impressions

Writer and Illustrator: Yuu Watase
Translator: JN Productions
Publisher. Shogakukan, Inc. 2009
Rating: Teen, and found in the middle school section of my local library...SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARIES!

Get ready for an time-travelling, inter-planatary,
body-switching, demon sword wielding,
gender -ending, high-school dramady!

I’m about to ruin this book for you. Fair warning. 

Arata is the last descendant of the Hime clan, and every 30 years a female of the Hime clan must be enthroned as princess of the realm through a “sacred ritual." These princesses are possessed by something called Amatsuriki Power, which controls the Haygami (gods of their world who embody demonic swords).  Arata’s grandmother claimed Arata as a girl because all male Hime children are put to death by royal decree, and I guess no one notices that he's a boy (because clearly he IS a boy, and everyone knows it).  Due to this intentional switcharoo, Arata is forced to act as a girl, and is called to become princess. Arata attends the ritual and his disguise is paying off until the former princess is assassinated by a group bent on revolution. They blame the murder on Arata, whose gender is exposed during the melee (his shirt is cut away to reveal a lack of girl parts).

Meanwhile in futuretimes (like now here on earth times), a Japanese high school student who is also named Arata is finding it hard to cope with his new school. He switched schools because he was so relentlessly bullied at the last school (oddly, he is bullied because he is handsome, smart and good at sports), and suddenly his chief tormentor arrives out of the blue to make him miserable. Luckily (?) he gets sucked into Arata #1’s world and is mistaken for him (although they look nothing alike). And it turns out that the spirits of the Haygami choose Arata #2 as their warrior.

Do they look alike? Of course! They're identical!
Who wouldn't confuse Arata #1 with Arata #2?

Meanwhile in futuretimes again, Arata #1 winds up in Arata #2’s world. They communicate through a portal powered by some necklace thingie and Arata #1 refuses to switch back because he believes that Arata #2 can defeat the baddies and save the world.

Meanwhile in backtimes, Arata #2 fights a lot of people and the half-dead princess asks him to rule in her place and find her. Arata #1 doesn’t pop back up again for the rest of the issue, so who knows what kind of crap he's made out of Arata #2's life?

You get it, Dear Readers, this is a silly manga that does not seem to accept its own silliness. I'd like to tell this manga to just be itself, and stop with the serious scenes, because really...a time-travelling, inter-planatary, body-switching, demon sword wielding, gender -ending, high-school story should be a comedy (let's leave the drama to the dramas, okay?). 

One thing I did appreciate about this manga, is the discussion of belief in oneself and others. Neither Arata wants to let anyone down; both are powered by trying to live up to the beliefs others place in them. This is a rather noble little series, and provides some nice messages to its intended young adult audience about confidence, persistence, honor, friendship and kindness.  

Because I am not the intended audience here I might not continue the series, but do want to point out some of the good things. It is well written and well translated. The illustrations are very nice, but a little busy at times. The story itself is unique enough and compelling enough to have kept me reading to the end of the issue (which is a step in the right direction). The bad things have more to do with a lack of development of the side-characters…they seem to be less characters than standard types of characters. That isn’t always a bad thing, and it may be more symptomatic of a simplification of character based on audience, but the series is going to have to complicate them just a bit even for teens, I think. Otherwise, people may have a difficult time relating to them. I know I did.

I would classify this as a sort of beginner’s manga. If this were the first manga I had ever picked up I would be interested, but being an old salty lady who reads a ton, it seems a little flat and a little predictable (oh, when  a time-travelling, inter-planatary, body-switching, demon sword wielding, gender -bending, high-school  dramadies become predictable there is a problem).  It isn’t stellar, but it is readable, and the teen girls will think Arata #2 is super-cute. So, there’s that. 

Questions this manga inspired:
1. Why do all hot bad guys with swords lick the edges of their swords? Is that like a sexual thing? Oh, I’m dangerous and sexy, watch me seduce this hunk of metal!
2. Who knew melee was spelled like that? Not me.
3. Did I just pick up this manga because of the title? My housemate’s middle name is Arata.  
4. Why did I keep thinking that Justin Bieber should play Arata#2 in a live-action version of this?