Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews
My main focus is reviewing manga and anime, but I also review Japanese literature, movies, and videogames. Basically, if it has anything to do with Japan, I'll talk about it, along with a dash of Korea and China.

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  • Manga Review: GTO Volume 13

    Manga review of GTO Volume 13 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated and adapted by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT-- Age 16+.

    So the Holy Forest class trip to Okinawa is happening. Onizuka is having fun with the trip, bunking his class co-ed in the hotel, even sometimes shacking up arch enemies together. But something else got his attention last volume. One of his students, Kikuchi, told him about a legend concerning a Christian missionary that had buried 2 billion yen worth of treasure on Iriomote Jima, a sparsely populated island which is one of the wildest and most unexplored areas of Japan, consisting mostly of subtropical jungle. Deceiving most of his students, Onizuka tells them that they will be conducting research on how sea turtle eggs taste. Yep, that's the excuse he gives to make them start digging for the treasure!

    As they trek through the jungle, Noboru gets kidnapped by Anko and her cronies and they drag him deep into the wild. They tie him up, thinking that Onizuka will get blamed for his disapperance. Instead, the girls realize they have become lost. When Anko falls into a sea cave, it's Noboru to the rescue, which sets off a chain reaction leading to one of the most unlikely romances I've come across in the series so far.  

    The cool thing about GTO is that Fujisawa always uses the characters as the focus. Yeah, he puts Onizuka in there with all his rudeness and crudeness, but in the end all the kids and teachers are human beings. Yes, even Uchiyamada, who sets out to bring Onizuka down once again, only to find himself being lapped danced and boob slapped at a strip club and then ending up dredged in a fish net! The spotlight of volume 13 is on the evolving relationship between Noboru and Anko, which goes back to the earliest volumes of GTO. If you remember, Noboru was being bullied by Anko and her crew so much, he attempted to kill himself. My, how far we've come, thanks to Onizuka. Now, thanks to their test of survival, it might be that Anko and Noboru might end up loving each other!

    In some other manga series, characters are introduced and seem major before they move back into a supporting role forever. You have the sense in GTO that any character can step up into a starring role at any time if it serves the story. It can get repetitive at times because in the end GTO's main purpose is to find a way to reach every kid in his class, no matter how much they may hate him. But finding out how he reaches them is what is fun.

    My Grade: A

    You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=319225

    (I will say this. GTO is one of the titles Tokyopop has lost the license to publish, so I wouldn't dally if you want to try this series out. The entire series is now out of print)

    Direct download: gto_13.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 7:08pm CDT

    Podcast 187: Aoi Hana, Episodes 1-4

    Podcast anime review of Aoi Hana: Sweet Blue Flowers, Episodes 1-4. Now showing on www.crunchyroll.com. Directed by Kenichi Kasai (Kimi Kiss, Honey and Clover). Series Composition by Fumihiko Takayama. Music by Takefumi Haketa (Vampire Knight).

    Childhood friends Fumi and Akira haven't seen each other in ten years, but by coencidence, they meet each other on the train commute to their new high schools on opening day. It's only later that they recognize each other. Both girls find new friends on their first day. Fumi meets Sugimoto, a basketball player, while Akira meets Kyoko, a beautiful and elegant young lady. As Fumi and Akira renew their bond, Sugimoto wants a different kind of bond with Fumi, yeah, that's right, this IS yuri after all. And then we find out that Kyoko is in love with Sugimoto, even though it's unrequited. Let the drama begin!

    My Grade: A

    You can watch all 11 episodes for free at:

    http://www.crunchyroll.com/library/Aoihana

    View the trailer below:

    Direct download: Episode_187--Aoi_Hana_1-4.mp3
    Category:Anime Review -- posted at: 4:41pm CDT

    New Inuyasha Anime to be Simulcast in US

    Inuyasha: The Final Act, the new anime series which will be adapting the final volumes of Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha manga will be simulcast on Hulu.com and ShonenSunday.com/anime beginning October 3, 2009.

    I watched the entire Inuyasha anime on DVD except for the last volume and am still currently reading the manga (I think I'm on like volume 27). I guess now would be a good time to watch the final volume. I hope this really brings back Inuyasha as a franchise in a big way. At times he seems a forgotten entity even though it was Inuyasha, along with Cowboy Bebop that really busted the US market open in the late 90s and early 2000s.

    If you've never watched the show please give it a try. It has great characters, adventure, action, comedy, and romance. You can watch the entire run of the original series at www.hulu.com. Watch the first episode below:

    Direct download: inuyasha.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 12:10pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 4

    Area 88 Volume 3: Wings of the Wind,  Episodes 10-12. Published by ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake (Captain Tsubasa). Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi (Kekkaishi, FMA: Brotherhood). List Price: $29.98. Also available in a box set.

    There are only 3 ways out of Area 88. The first is in a bodybag. The second is to serve out your 3 year tour of duty. The last is to raise $1.5 million to buy your way out. You get a bounty for every enemy plane you down, but the pilot's ammunition and maintenence of their jet takes up a lot of money so the odds are stacked against that option. In this last volume, Shin Kazuma has scaled that mountain and only needs to shoot down one more fighter craft. Then he can go home to his beloved Ryoko and live happily ever after, remembering Area 88 only in bad dreams. Shin is usually on the ball when he's up in the air, but knowing he only has to take down one more plane puts a lot of added pressure on him. He also has visions of Ryoko dancing through his mind (not literally). This distraction almost costs Kitri her life during a dogfight and Shin's jet takes some damage. Shin is resigned at first to the delay in his liberation, that is, until he finds out Ryoko is getting married to his former best friend who also happens to be the dude that got him shipped out to Area 88!

    Back in the day Viz partially published the original manga upon which this anime is based. It was before the Tokyopop innovation of cheap and original size manga so the Area 88 volumes were those huge trade paperbacks Viz put out for $16 or so. The reason I bring this up is because as I watched the anime I couldn't help but feel that it was only scratching the surface of a much larger story. I didn't think we got much time to get to know the characters or to find out more about the war they were fighting. That's right, even after the series ended, I still didn't know much about the political situation or what brought the conflict about. I don't think I ever even saw the face of an enemy soldier. I guess maybe that was the show's intention, but I doubt that it was the case in the manga. From what the cast and director said about the manga, the original creator was very much influenced by shojo character designs. I would really like to read them, but Viz isn't exactly famous for putting out old series. Maybe under their "Signature" line? I guess I'll see if I can track some of them down on Ebay.

    I wish the show had been longer. Even with its brevity, I still really enjoyed it. The mysterious nature brought about by the shortness made the characters even more appealing, if that makes any sense. There is also an OVA collection from ADV that is readily available. I guess I'll be hunting that down next.

    Volume 4 Grade: A-

    Overall Series Grade: A-

    View the trailer below:

    Direct download: area88big.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 11:28am CDT

    Manga Review: Otomen Volume 2

    Manga Review of Otomen Volume 2 by Aya Kanno (Soul Rescue, Blank Slate). Translated and adapted by Lindsey Akashi. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen.

    The irony continues to pile on as Asuka Masamune continues his reign as macho man on campus even as he secretly longs for all things cute and girly. He's even picked up a disciple, Yamato Ariake, a young boy who is constantly misaken for a girl, and has been teased about it ever since he was a kid. Ariake sees Asuka as the masculine ideal and sets out to be just like him. Of course, the reader knows that Asuka is anything but the embodiment of manly men. Ariake also wants to man up so he can confess to a girl that has stolen his heart. The relationship between Asuka and Ryo appears to be taking a romantic turn as Christmas approaches, but Asuka's mom, ever watchful for even the slightest bent towards transsexualism, arrives on the scene and tells Asuka that he has a meeting with his FIANCEE! And just wait till you see the wacko his mom has set him up with in an effort to save him from his father's fate and also to cement a business alliance.

    I will say this about Otomen. The series is hilarious. Most of the humor in this volume, and a lot of weirdness, concerns Asuka's fiancee, Iruka Sakiyama. She is like the Messiah of Cuteness and Asuka finds himself hard pressed to reject her interest. She actually lives in a life sized magic castle dollhouse in her vast room inside her family's mansion. And she sees Asuka as her Prince Charming.

    Kanno uses Otomen to parody shojo manga, actually gently poke fun at its conventions would be a more accurate description. Until you got to the Iruka section, Otomen has been pretty realistic without using many over the top elements. Kanno's main device of comedy has been the irony of Asuka's character and she has done very well with it. She is still using it, but she's coming up with more interesting situations to exploit it. I really like Otomen. It has been the biggest Shojo Beat surprise I've gotten this year.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: otomen2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 3:00pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 186: Astro Boy The Movie #1

    Podcast comic book review of Astro Boy The Movie #1. Adapted by Scott and David Tipton. Art by E.J. Su. Published by IDW, $3.99.

    Metro City floats above the Earth's surface, its daily operations taken care of by thousands of robots. They do any job that humans find to be beneath them. Dr. Tenma, head of the Ministry of Science, is in charge of their functions and their designs. Unfortunately, most of his funding comes from the military and the politically motivated President Stone. When Tenma's son, Toby, is killed during a demonstration of a new soldier/police force robot, Tenma creates a new robot in Toby's image. It comes equipped with Toby's memories as well.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: Episode_186--Astro_Boy_The_Movie_1.mp3
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 12:49pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 185: Shigurui: Death Frenzy, Episodes 1-6

    Podcast anime review of Shigurui: Death Frenzy The Complete Series, Episodes 1-6. Directed by Hirotsugu Hamazaki (Texhnolyze). Series Composition by Seishi Minakami (Paprika, Boogiepop Phantom). Based on the manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Published by Funimation, List Price: $59.98, Rated 17+.

    From the back cover:

    Two damaged warriors wear the scars of a twisted and violent past. Bitter rivals for the secrets of their master's sword and the right to his daughter, these samurai inflict wounds on each other that would destroy lesser men. The final chapter of their saga unfolds within a brutal samurai tournament, a gruesome contest arranged to satisfy the bloodlust of a cruel tyrant overlord.

    The disfigured legends of the blade must summon the strength for one last battle - a final lesson in the artistry of violence where nothing is more beautiful than the kill.

    My Grade: A-

    You can watch all 12 episodes for free at Funimation.com. Here is the link to the first episode:

    http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=video&v=330

    And here's the trailer for the box set:

    Direct download: Episode_185--Shigurui_1-6.mp3
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 8:44pm CDT

    Manga Review: Hikaru No Go Volume 15

    Manga review of Hikaru No Go volume 15: Sayonara. Story by Yumi Hotta. Art by Takeshi Obata (Death Note, Ral Grad). Supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan). Translated and adapted by Naoko Amemiya. English script consulting by Janice Kim (3 Dan). Originaly published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, rated A for All Ages.

    Sai's time as a ghost Go instructor to Hikaru seems to be up in this fifteenth volume of Hikaru No Go, but he's having a hard time convincing Hikaru of this fact. Apparently the "Gods of Go" were keeping Sai hanging around all these centuries to let Hikaru see his match with Toya Meijin. He realized this last volume when Hikaru gave him a skilled analysis of the game between Sai and Toya. At this point Sai knows that Hikaru is on the path to playing the "Divine Move". Hikaru doesn't take Sai's warnings about his limited time seriously until he really does disappear. He spends most of the rest of the book trying to find him, all while taking time to play the top ranked Japanese amateur player.

    I have to admit that once Sai disappeared from volume 15 it made me a little nervous because he is such an essential part of the story. But I was also a little glad as well because it seemed like he was beginning to suffer. For the first time in the series, Sai is reminded of the fact that he is dead. Ok, this might seem obvious to us, but I think Sai thinks of himself as a real red blooded human with needs and wants. He's saddened a bit when he remembers that Hikaru is capable of "The Divine Move" but no matter what he does, Sai will never actually get to make it or receive any recognition or fame even if he does. We've seen a bit of it in earlier volumes, but I was beginning to wonder when these two symbiotes, Hikaru and Sai, would begin to fracture and fray. To me, it would be a nightmare to be in someone else's mind for 2 years 24/7. It's admirable that Hikaru has been able to tolerate it this long. But he has no patience when Sai gets all wishy washy, so that's why he blows off Sai when he warns that he might disappear. When he's gone, Hikaru has to decide if he wants to go on playing Go for himself or whether his desire was driven by Sai's.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: nogo_15.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 12:41pm CDT

    Anime Review: xxxHolic Volume 4

    Anime DVD review of xxxHolic Volume 4. Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (Genshiken, Hare+Guu). Series Composition by Ageha Ohkawa of CLAMP and Michiko Yokote (Bleach, Naruto, Genshiken). 100 minutes, Episodes 13-16. Published by Funimation, $29.98 (Rightstuf.com has it for $7.00 and Funimation has recently released a box set of the entire series), Rated 13+.

    Watanuki and Domeki's partnership is growing stronger as the 4th volume of xxxHolic opens, even if Watanuki wants Domeki out of the way when it comes to his would-be romance with Himawari. He always seems to pop up as the third wheel just when he's about to get Himawari by herself. But first things first. Watanuki notices a girl at school with a strange feature on her back. She has a pair of small wings! At first he thinks they might be cosplay or something but they are real. Does it have something to do with the girl hanging out on the school roof, gazing at flying birds?

    Then it's on to a two parter involving two very weird twins. Well, maybe it's all in Watanuki's imagination. When he's around the the two girls, he feels a strange sort of wave effect that does not portend anything good usually. In some way the twins are impacting each other through a psychic link or by the things they say to each other.

    A comedy element of xxxHolic these days is the nine tailed fox spirit that mostly appears in a cute sort of small furry eel form that is always clinging to or wrapped around Watanuki's body. Don't get this spirit confused with Naruto's evil entity. This fox spirit is more like an affection starved dog. He starts causing trouble for Watanuki when he is changed into his full size on this volume.

    xxxHolic is an anime that always falls just a tiny bit short of being a really good show. It succeeds admirably at creating a comedic but always otherworldly atmosphere that at times can creep you out. But its Twilight Zone-like endings never seem to shock or surprise. Because the writing is a bit subpar, you can always figure out what is going to happen long before it does. So the "punchlines" at the end very rarely have the impact the writers intended. This seems to be a problem that CLAMP has a lot. They are very good at designing characters and of concocting interesting plot setups, but do not do a good job with the execution of their stories. Tsubasa is a good example of this. They had awesome characters jumping across time and space but all the worlds they visited seemed so cliched and boring! I think they would be a greater force if they just set up scenarios and supplied the art and let someone else do the actual writing. I really like the characters in xxxHolic and the comedy bits are quite good. The supernatural elements are where inconsistencies popped up. It probably didn't help that I had already read some of the stories in manga form before watching the dvd. Even though it doesn't live up to its potential and the beautiful art from the manga is simplified a bit, xxxHolic is well worth watching.

    My Grade: B+

    All 24 episodes of the series can be watched at www.hulu.com

    You can view Episode 13 below:

     

     

     

    Direct download: xxxholic_4.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 12:15pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 184: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3

    Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone.

    Accompanied by their bodyguard, Alex Louis Armstrong, our heroes seek out their closest childhood friend, Winry Rockbell, to fix their battered "auto-mail" bodyparts. Soon their quest for the Philosopher's Stone takes them to the great central library, where the Stone's formula may be hidden...if the mysterious figure named Lust doesn't get there first! But the secret of the Philsopher's Stone may be even more frightening than the beings who guard it...

    My Grade: A+

     

    Direct download: Episode_184--_Fullmetal_Alchemist_Volume_3.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:25pm CDT