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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  • Podcast Episode 196: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 5

    Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 5 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.

    Ed, Alphonse, and the mechanic Winry go south in search of Izumi Curtis, the master alchemist who taught the brothers how to use alchemy. But in the boomtown of Rush Valley, an encounter with a pickpocket turns them down a different path in search of an auto-mail blacksmith whose handiwork is the best that Winry has ever seen. Then the action flashes back to show how Ed and Alphonse first learned alchemy...

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_196--_Fullmetal_Alchemist_volume_5.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:30pm CDT

    Manga Review: Negima! Volume 5

    Manga review of Negima! Volume 5 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated and adapted by Douglas Varenas. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT 16+.

    Now that Kazumi, the leader of the Journalism Club, has decided to keep Negi's secret, she's in kahoots with resident weasel pervert Chamo in an effort to increase Negi's probationary contracts. She instigates "Operation Kiss Negi-kun Passionately on This School Field Trip". She splits the girls into pairs and tells them that whoever kisses Negi without getting caught by the other faculy members gets them on the limited edition trading cards that are a prize among his class. Of course, MOST of them don't know that they will also be entering into a magic contract at the same time to help Negi in battle. Unfortunately for them, there is now more than one Negi. Negi made some paper doll copies of himself so he could go out on patrol without being missed. But some of the copies are defective and want to get it on with his students! Meanwhile, elements of the Kansai Magic Association that do not want peace begin to make their moves to stop Negi from fulfilling his mission to deliver a letter of conciliation from his magic school.

    Negima is nothing if not entertaining. Again, the art is great, with Akamatsu making sure that things never get too serious. Even when Negi battles with a powerful fox spirit and gets the snot beat out of him, it never gets to the Naruto stabbing and cutting off heads realm. Akamatsu is about showing pretty girls and panties and he never misses an opportunity to showcase them. He really is a master of character design even if his plots steal from other better known Japanese and Western franchises. I enjoy each volume of Negima, but see little reason to ever pick up the new Negima Neo series. One time around with this story and characters is quite enough for me.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Negima.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 12:02pm CDT

    Somehow, when I saw a headline on MSN.com titled "Man Marries Virtual Wife", the first thing that crossed my mind was "he's gotta be Japanese". I don't know, there's just this weird sense of unreality that pervades Japanese weirdos that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. I mean, where has all the machismo gone? These dudes used to test out their katanas on live convicts! Now they're practicing perverted acts with moe throw pillows. Apparently, a Japanese man decided to marry Nene Anegasaki, a character from a Nintendo DS game called Love Plus. Here's a video report from Boing Boing editor Lisa Katayama:

    And here's the promo for the Love Plus game:

    Category:Video -- posted at: 11:35am CDT

    My Apology to Tezuka and His Fans

    Just because someone is important doesn't mean they can't suck. I recognize Tezuka's importance and influence, but yeah, what I've read by him sucks. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is seen as the Great American Novel and he is seen as the Great American Writer, but you know what? I think that book was boring and I find his humor unfunny and that it is a tragedy that he represents the US. Do you have to like Elvis to enjoy current pop and rock? Or can you just laugh and point at him because he is so ridiculous? In other words, he sucks. My point in writing my blog entry was that it's ok to think Tezuka's work is worthless. In fact, hate it because it IS deemed important by so-called authorities.

    I'm trying to read Dororo right now and am encountering the same stumbling blocks I encountered with his other works:

    1) Boring character designs. Everyone pretty much looks the same. Cartoony and lazy. Tezuka's art never seemed to evolve beyond a daily cartoon feel as though he didn't have much time to spare. Or that he was more interested in telling a story with words and action than with making his characters have any visual appeal. And anytime an animal comes in, bring in the Walt Disney copyright for anthropomorphic animals!

    2) Spacing and pace reign triumphant. I will say this. Tezuka is an expert at pacing his panels and also how he spaces the action and characters within each one. But again, the actual ART inside them is really unimaginative. He never evolved. You could say the same thing about Rumiko Takahashi but she tells much better stories.

    3) Vertical continues the questionable translation of Dark Horse. What do I mean by this? The inclusion of current slang and catchphrases (and outdated ones as well). Do Japanese people actually use words like "Yowza" and "Yoiks"? "Doofus"? "Bro"? This is exactly why I couldn't get into Buddha. The Buddha walked around talking like he was at a New York Mets game. Ok, the vocabulary is already out of context because the book is set in Japan hundreds of years ago. But then putting in odd Americanisms, some from the 1920s, is even more jarring.

    4) Tezuka is a clumsy storyteller. To me, Tezuka never seemed to solve the problem of juggling comedic and dramatic elements. I think part of this lies in the translation, but most of it has to do with Tezuka himself. He can't get out of the way of the story. His ego was too important. Early on in Dororo, he even includes himself in all his goofy beret glory getting hit by a hail of rocks as he tells about Hyakkimaru's childhood. It totally ruins the flow. It's like having Oprah putting her ugly mug on everything she does or M. Night Shymalan inserting himself forcefully in every movie he makes. It smacks of ego trip. Or Osihii's bassett hounds. Look at a master like Hiromu Arakawa. She is able to balance humor, great character designs, drama, and real to the bone human interactions. Or Hiroki Endo, who takes it to even a higher level. Tezuka is a baby compared to them.

    5) His pulp sci-fi explanations. Back in the old days sci-fi writers didn't have to explain things. But people are smarter now. Even if it's magic fantasy, audiences demand at least a cursory explanation of how an imaginary world works.  Because Tezuka is so old school, he hardly ever throws the reader a bone. Hyakkimaru has no eyes, but he can "see" intuitively? How does that work exactly?

    So hopefully, this entry clears up things as to why I think what I do about Tezuka's work...up to this point (I'm still attempting to appreciate him). Just because Japanese manga artists are AWARE of Tezuka doesn't mean they are influenced by him. The anime/manga establishment makes it seem that EVERY SINGLE person in Japan loves Tezuka and that any American fan has to recognize his deification. I say you don't. It's all a myth. In my opinion there are much more important and talented manga artists at work today in the here and now. Even a title like Death Note, with all its improbabilites and flaws, is far better than anything I've read by Tezuka so far. Whatever issues he took on back in the day, there is someone doing it better.

    Direct download: Astroboy.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 7:23am CDT

    Why I Don't Give a Crap About Tezuka

    Today when I was in the Barnes and Noble manga section I noticed a book about Osamu Tezuka that kinda pissed me off when I saw the title. The book was titled The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga . It was written by Helen McCarthy. The part that stuck in my craw was the whole “God” thing. I admit I am not much of a Tezuka fan. I TRIED to read the first volume of the Dark Horse Astro Boy, but found it so incredibly dumb I couldn’t finish reading it. I also tried reading Metropolis with similar results after I enjoyed the anime. Unfortunately, the manga had almost nothing to do with the anime. Tried reading Buddha, but was put off by the odd New York Bronx accents being spoken by Asians thousands of years ago.  The only work by Tezuka that I have actually liked is his Phoenix saga. I think the guy is overrated. From what little I have read, he seems to have produced a lot of crap titles and and a few really good ones.

     

    Maybe I’m just overreacting to McCarthy’s implication that there can never be anyone as good as Tezuka. Thinking like that disgusts me because if you buy into it, there can never be any progress in the manga field. It rankles me as much as Tom “The Sanctifier” Brokaw saying that the soldiers that fought in WWII were “The Greatest Generation” as though no other soldier ever fought for higher stakes or ever will again. I guess I hate it anytime someone says an artist is “definitive”. Because it is an attempt to put up a wall to block the course of the future. McCarthy’s book is a polar opposite apologia for Chip Kidd’s Bat-Manga, in which the manga artist wasn’t even given credit for his work on the front cover as though he were a leper. Now we have a second rate manga dude being compared to a divine being. Come on. He isn’t Christ.

     

    You can judge Tezuka’s impact on American culture by the whopping box office take of the Astro Boy movie. Nobody was interested. Tezuka no longer matters. If he ever did. He’s just been pumped up by the older generation of manga and anime elitists over the past 20 years. I say screw Tezuka and his pseudo French intellectual beret. Give me Kishimoto, Endo, Arakawa, Tanaka, Tatsumi. Give me the future. And when the hell is someone going to start printing Leiji Matsumoto’s manga works? He is much more important to anime and manga than Tezuka.

    Direct download: ArtofTezuka_500.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 10:06pm CDT

    Play Magazine Big Anime Giveaway

    Play Magazine, my favorite literary game mag, is having an anime giveaway contest in which 5 entrants will win the following 4 anime dvds and sets:

    Claymore: The Complete Series

    Evangelion 1.0 (You Are Not Alone)

    Blassreiter

    Dragonaut

    Plus a copy of Girls of Gaming 7


    Entries must be received by December 10, 2009. You can submit an entry at:

    http://playmagazine.com/index.php?fuseaction=SiteMain.Contest&conid=39

    Direct download: clay.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 9:31pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 195: Happy Mania Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Happy Mania Volume 1 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    From the back cover:

    Watch out, Bridget Jones-- here comes Shigeta, a 24 year old woman-about-town who is obsessed with the right man. The only problem is that the guys she meets are all duds, not studs. Case in point: Takahashi, a geeky co-worker who is head over heels for our heroine. But she'd rather eat nails than be with that loser!

    After Shigeta reads her love horoscope in a magazine, she's convinced that the right guy is just around the corner. But the next guy she meets just wants to bonk instead of bond. When Shigeta's doomed romance comes to its inevitable conclusion, she runs to her best friend for solace and a much-needed reality check. But it's not long before another Mr. Wrong enters the picture, and Shigeta is hooked all over again!

    They say love happens when you least expect it-- but if you expect it 24/7, then what? Join Shigeta and her gal pals in their hilarious hunt for love, romance, and together-forever commitment.

    My Grade: B-

    (I am giving away a free copy of Happy Mania Volume 1, still sealed in the original shrinkwrap. Write me at seshos@hotmail.com by 11/24/09 if you want it.)

    Direct download: Episode_195--Happy_Mania_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:21pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Magical Lyrical Nanoha Box Set, Episodes 10-13

    Anime review of Episodes 10-13 of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set. Published by Geneon. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Box Set contains Episodes 1-13. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo (Moonphase, Negima, Maria Holic). Written by Masaki Tsuzuki.

    Fate has once again failed to capture Nanoha's Jewel Seeds, so yes, it's time for  a sadistic whipping from her mom, Precia Testarossa (why are the Japanese obsessed with naming their female characters Testarossa?). But this time, Aruf gets pissed and attacks Precia. For her trouble, she is almost destroyed and has to flee to Earth, where she again encounters Nanoha and her pals and decides to switch sides in order to rescue Fate from her mother. Meanwhile, the TSAB are closing in on Precia's space travelling rock for a final confrontation. Nanoha, Yuno, and Chrono have to go in after Precia wipes out an assault team.

    Magical Nanoha comes to a satisfying if uneventful end. Ok, a big battle happens at the end, but what I mean is that while Nanoha has been entertaining and fun, it never really succeeds at seperating itself from the mob. All of the characters were just a tad bit too shallow and one dimensional. The animation, especially on this last dvd, is first rate and rarely reverts to shortcuts, even during the battle sequences. But Nanoha could never cast off its indebtedness to Cardcaptor Sakura, even though it succeeded in its own kinda clone way. Definitely worth watching if you're a magical girl fan but isn't going to ever break into the greatness realm.

    My Grade for the Series: B

    Watch the first part of episode 10 below:

     

    Direct download: nanoha.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 7:02pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 194: Ghost in the Shell 2.0

    Podcast Blu-ray review of Ghost in the Shell 2.0, directed by Mamoru Oshii. Screenplay by Kazunori Ito. Based on the manga by Shirow Masamune. Published by Manga, List Price: 29.97, Not Rated (Features nudity and graphic violence).

    From the back cover:

    A film that has spawned a thousand imitations but never bettered-- Mamoru Oshii's legendary anime film GHOST IN THE SHELL returns in a stunning new edition remastered by Oshii himself. For this definitive edition, all the original animations are re-produced with latest digital film and animation technologies, including 3D-CGI.

    Set in a reimagined Hong Kong at a time when cyberspace is expanding into human reality, the story follows top cyberwarrior Major Motoko Kusanagi as she hovers on the border of total immersion in the digital world.

    The definitive 2.0 also features new voice recordings from the original cast, a brand new score from Kenji Kawai, and 6.1 channedl sound created with the help of Skywalker Sound.

    My Grade: A+

    Watch the trailer for the movie below:

    Direct download: Episode194_Ghost_in_the_Shell.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:06pm CDT

    Check out this music video by Asobi Seksu, a New York based band, entitled "Walk on the Moon". By the way, "asobi seksu" is a Japanese term meaning "casual sex".

    Category:Video -- posted at: 9:52pm CDT