Wed, 9 July 2008
Manga Review of Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 2 by Court Betten. Translated by Christine Schilling. Adapted by Kereth Cowe-Spigai. Originally published in Japan by Mag Garden. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+.
Souza of the North Wind still hasn't recovered his memory, and it might be a bit late anyway, as he is apparently killed by an assassin named Kurusu of the Sun. Or at least severely wounded. Kurusu was sent from the Rokka corporation, which on the surface appears to be a normal career placement business. And this is not quite a lie. In reality it takes on ANY assignment as long as the money is right. They have even gone so far as to begin making an "ultimate man" called a "Yoh", which in essence is a kind of super soldier that Rokka can use to complete its missions. Souza was one such operative until he went rogue. Of course, Chiyoharu and Kaede have no idea that Souza has been captured by the company, but they have their own problems. Chiyoharu's buddy, Tomason, has been taken hostage by a Yakuza thug named Sanjuro Araki in an effort to extort money that their teacher, Ayame, owes the mob. I don't think we really know at this point exactly what sum it is or why Ayame had to borrow it from the Yakuza. But I doubt they would be coming after her for petty change.
If you listened to Podcast Episode 84 in which I reviewed Volume 1 of this series, you know that I did not particularly care for that book. I actually had second thoughts about buying this next installment but I decided to give it one more chance. Volume 2 was more of the same, but for some reason, I liked it more. Probably because there was some explanation of what was going on. For instance, we find out what Souza is and why his memories have been lost. Since the reader can understand why things are happening now, you can begin to develop a plot, which seemed to be largely absent from Volume 1. It just seemed to be a hodgepodge of different character types and genres thrown together under one title with no rhyme or reason. This is still the basic weakness of the book. You have Yazkuza, girl detectives, evil corporations, martial arts battles, mixed in with some metamanga. It almost becomes a parody of itself, with the characters sometimes being fully aware that they are in a manga. In the end, Harukaze is just meant to be a fun diversion, and is never meant to be taken seriously, even for a millisecond.
My Grade: B
Tue, 8 July 2008
Batman: Gotham Knight is out on DVD and Blu-Ray today featuring the animation of such popular Japanese studios as Production IG, 4c, and Madhouse. I haven't had a chance to see it yet. I looked at Hollywood Video today but for some dumb reason they did not receive any copies. Amazon.com has a pretty good price for the Blu-Ray version: $21.95 which I will probably order tomorrow. I'm pretty excited about the new movie. The official site link is:
Funimation has listed some of the release dates of series it picked up from Geneon:
August 19: Black Lagoon season 1, Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage volume 1, Elemental Gelade volume 1
I definitely will pick up the Fate/Stay Night and Kamichu sets. These are both great shows. From what I understand the prices for the box sets will be in line with Funimation, not Geneon. So I would expect them to run around $50. Rozen Maiden would be a borderline purchase for me.
Lastly, on Madeleine Rosca's Live Journal, she posted a picture of a new character that was introduced in the Japanese manga Air Gear in chapter 206 who is purported to be a takeoff of presidential candidate Barack Obama. The character is named John Omaha. I can't vouch for the translation but one of the comments on her blog says the panel translates his dialogue as "Why is it on this night when I'm meeting such a lovely person, I have failed to bring my tuxedo" and the side panel reads "the candidate for the next president of the United States". Now if he would just put on some ATs! Of course, Rosca is the artist and writer of the exquisite Hollow Fields from Seven Seas, with two volumes out now. She makes me believe that OEL has a future and can be better than Japanese manga in some cases. You can click on my link to her Live Journal underneath blogs on my webpage.
Tue, 8 July 2008
Manga Review of Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Volumes 1&2. Art by Ark Performance. Story by Harutoshi Fukui. Original idea by Ryo Hanmura. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by CMX, $9.99 each, Rated T+.
35-year-old Yusuke Kashima is having a hard time finding a job that he can hold on to. Currently he's on the verge of losing his eighth one since being discharged from the Japanese Self Defense Force. In the SDF, he was part of the special marine brigade "F Unit" serving under his idol, the charismatic and now deceased Colonel Matoba. After F Unit was disbanded, Kashima became disillusioned with both the military and Matoba and has been trying to adjust to the civilian life ever since. He finds out how little his own problems matter when the military comes a callin'. They show him pictures of strange globes of black energy both large and small that have begun to appear across Japan. These black holes are replacing our space and if they continue not only will Japan be replaced, but our entire dimension. What does all this have to do with Kashima, you ask? Six years ago, his mentor, Matoba, was killed in action. Well, at least, that's what the military said. The actual truth of what happened to him is a pretty amazing tale. 6 years ago, while testing some new military technology, Matoba and his unit were somehow transported back in time to the year 1549! It is believed that these holes are being caused by Matoba changing the past. Their suspicions are correct. Matoba plans on using his technological know-how to conquer not only Japan but the entire world. Kashima is going to be part of a mission to go back in time and bring Matoba back to the present. How long is he given to save the world? 3 days!
Whenever you involve time travel in a story, you always run into questions that spawn more questions. For instance, if the black holes are caused by changes in the time continuum, it wouldn't make any difference if you brought Matoba back to the present. The damage has already been done, and any change in the past would result in a completely different reality, especially for Japan. And once the future technology was introduced by Matoba, the cat would be out of the bag as well. For example, Matoba fashions a hybrid armor for his men, blending the craft of Japanese and European metalwork. It's too much to ask us to believe that someone back in 1549 would not emulate this armor and perhaps change the course of warfare in the past. The art is pretty good if lacking soul and passion. That pretty much sums up this two volume manga as well. Since the plot only allows 3 days to complete its mission, we don't get to spend a lot of time getting to know the characters, so the writer has to paint their personalites and motivations with very broad strokes with very little room to add nuances and depth. The main theme comes across loud and clear and has been echoed through the ages from ancient Rome to current America. Namely, that there are always those who wonder if their present country is living up to the ideals of its ancestors. Matoba and Kashima are very concerned that modern Japan has lost something very vital that it once had. Could it be the fact that our consumer culture has stripped men of everything they once cherished? Is our century even capable of fostering the traits of bravery, loyalty, and sacrifice? These are questions that other nations have asked themselves when the intelligent among them believed their country had lost its way. The problem is that this manga throws the moral of its own sermonizing message directly in your face too many times, especially in the second volume. For better handling of this same plot device, I would highly recommend watching the anime Zipang. This was an ok read, but there just wasn't time to flesh it out.
My Grade: C+