Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews (general)
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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  • Pocast Episode 214: Biomega Volume 2 Podcast manga review of Biomega Volume 2 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Stan! Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Signature, $12.99, Rated M for Mature.

    From the back cover:

    "In Tsutomu Nihei's nightmare vision of the future, the N5S virus has swept across the Earth, turning most of the population into zombie-like drones. Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of Toa Heavy Industry, is humanity's last hope, and he's not even human! With the help of Fuyu, a digitized intelligence built into the computer system of his heavy dual coil motorcycle, Zoichi's search for the key to salvation will take him on a journey across surreal landscapes and hurl him into battle against mind-bending evil. Prepare yourself for the ultimate trip-- Prepare yourself for the world of Biomega.

    After capturing Eon Green, DRF forces are amassing around Toa Heavy Industry headquarters and have taken Dr. Kurokawa and his daughter into custody. Zoichi must attempt a rescue--Dr. Kurokawa's laboratory may yield critical information on Eon Green. Elsewhere, Toa Heavy Industry agent Nishu Mizunoe searches for Kozlov Grebnev and the secrets he knows about  the DRF's research, origins and their apocalyptic plan for the entire human race!"


    My Grade: A


    Direct download: Episode_214--_Biomega_2.mp3
    Category:general -- posted at: 4:19pm CDT

    About 3 years ago, I got a membership with Rentanime.com because my local anime/manga store, Anime Avalon, closed its doors. It's weird to think at that time there was hardly any anime online (ok, legal anime). If you were lucky, you might get to watch the first one or two episodes of a series. IF you were lucky. So I had no other way to watch anime besides buying or renting. I'm sure I wasted hundreds, if not thousands of dollars because you had to buy anime dvds without ever seeing the show. How the times have changed, huh? Was Crunchyroll around then? If it was, it was a bootleg site, and now its one of the major players.

    I still get sad when I think about Anime Avalon. But you know, even if somehow it had survived, it would surely have closed by now. Just because it could never compete with the big stores like Best Buy. It could only sell anime at list price. They did have a vast rental collection, but even mainstream rental places like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster are closing more and more stores. I think all the Hollywoods in my city are now closed. And there's ONE Blockbuster left.

    I wonder if a store specializing just in manga could make a profit?

    I still have quite a few dvds I bought at Anime Avalon during its last few weeks of being open. They were selling all their dvds for $5 apiece. I probably spent around $500 that last month it was open. So I always think about it when I play or see those dvds, almost like remembering a dead relative.

    But let's say it had stayed open somehow. It would have closed for the same reason I'm cancelling my Rentanime membership. Why are you going to rent when you can watch everything and MORE online for free. The only reason I've hesitated is because Rentanime has older dvds but now even those are looking less and less tempting. Especially due to the fact that they have a lot of holes in their inventory because a lot of people buy those out of print titles instead of returning them.

    Another positive outcome of cancelling is the fact that with that $20 I save each month I can BUY some anime dvds.

    So anyways, it's goodbye to you Rentanime.

    Direct download: rentanime.gif
    Category:general -- posted at: 10:46pm CDT

    Living In Neverland

    Goodbye CMX. It was nice knowing you. But I come here not to mourn the passing of this slightly oddball shojo publisher. I come here to honor it. Yeah, just when I was getting into their Flex titles (which i vastly preferred to their shojo), the company ups and croaks. But we all know that CMX should and would have survived had it not been for the devilish plots of their parent company, DC.

    Oh, DC, I spit at thee from the mouth of Hell! So what if the CMX imprint wasn't making any money and losing your company hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars a year. It was your god-given duty to crank out volumes of manga, whether they were any good or not! I don't want to hear the lame excuse that nobody was buying them! The fans that wanted them printed that didn't buy them are your customers, and its a well-known and truthful cliche that the customer is NEVER right.

    In my often ignored except when people bitch at me twitter account I stated that I didn't know if I really felt sorry for the CMX employees that lost or are losing their jobs. I stand by the statement. I was raised in a blue collar family and when people lost their jobs they didn't want family and friends, much less complete strangers, to pity them. They just looked for another job. Who wants to be PITIED?

    What I really meant was that anyone working at a manga publisher in this day and age should NEVER feel that their job is safe. They and their employers have been riding on the crest of a fad that has slowly, in some cases, quickly, evolved into a job threatening blood-letting. Who in their right mind would think they could be a manga translator for the rest of their life? Or work in the manga business as a career? I doubt if Viz or Tokyopop or Yen or Del Rey's manga imprint will be around 10 years from now. Or if they are,  it will be more like Viz was in the 90s with very few and more expensive titles and not many positions.

    Why are so many of the "manga media" and fans so SURPRISED by the death of CMX? That's what really ticked and continues to tick me off. Where are these manga bloggers, "critics", "experts" and "fans" living? Neverland? Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? I just cannot explain why they didn't see this coming. I've seen it for some time.

    I don't mean CMX in particular but more the End of Days for manga publishers. Manga space getting smaller in the bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble was one sign. (oh, can I insert here that Borders sucks?). The big sign of things to come for me was seeing all the local comicbook stores getting rid of their manga in the past year. (oh yeah, when they ripped the covers off their returns, where did all the unsaleable manga go? Into the garbage most likely)They only carry the most popular titles like Shonen Jump titles and some Dark Horse. Manga in comic stores is relegated to the pariah space of just maybe two shelves with Archie and kid titles now. Not to mention the closing of my ONLY local anime/manga store back in 2007.

    Was the fading into oblivion of multiple manga publishers in the past 2 years not a sign? Wasn't the number of discontinued titles by companies like Dark Horse a sign (Dark Horse, where is Reiko, Octopus Girl, Eden? Get off your asses please. Reiko, don't go into the light! I have rightly surmised that I will be in a senior citizen home, or dead, by the time Eden is completed).

    When Viz slashed 40% of its staff, I knew it was pretty much over. They have the strongest selling titles of any publisher with their Oprah Book Club-like Shonen Jump imprint (stick that label on anything and its gonna do ok for a time). When they cut back, you knew the industry was in deep doo-doo. And by the way, where the hell is Kodansha? What the F was with their cheap-ass parlor tricking reprints of Ghost in the Shell and Akira? Get out of the market. Stay out of the way. You're just making things worse. I am the Amityville Horror House---GET OUT!

    What is the cause of all this calamity, all these people losing their jobs, of fans bitching, of bloggers running from a falling sky?

    PEOPLE ARE NOT BUYING MANGA. ACCEPT IT. ITS NOT POPULAR. IT NEVER WILL BE EXCEPT IN A FAKE FAD KIND OF WAY. ACCEPT IT.

    The true fans buy it and love it. But there's not enough of us. It doesn't make me angry. It's just a fact. Do I wish everybody could get into it like I do? Yeah. Is that going to happen? No. I don't understand why some "fans" almost wet themselves when a volume of manga gets into the USA Today top 200 books. They seem to think that "This is just the beginning. Manga is popular now. We will take over the world. We're making progress. Next time, we'll make it to #198 for a week! Viva Le Manga Revolucion!" Get real. We're not making progress. We're in decline. No, we're not gonna die, but we have to live in reality.

    Is the decline due to fans or publishers? Or the booksellers even? On the publishing side, I think all of them are complete failures. Have I ever opened a mainstream magazine and saw a manga ad. Never. The marketing strategies of these companies suck. There is so much potential for manga to become popular, but I think the problem is that publishers are run by nitwits or controlled by the Japanese who don't know how to appeal to American markets. There are manga franchises that could make just as much money in movie form as Iron Man, Spider-Man, or Batman, if handled right. But instead we get 60 year old Keanu Reeves in Cowboy Bebop. Come on, Cameron and Speilberg, please succeed with Battle Angel Alita and Ghost in the Shell. DiCaprio, make Akira.

    Can you imagine the change in the manga market if Battle Angel Alita made as much money and got as much press as Avatar? A sea change.

    And what is up with the publisher's slow on the take reaction to the potential of online manga?Ok, Viz is in the forefront of it right now, and Tokyopop is doing it in their typically mediocre manner, but where were they when manga was at its highest popularity? They should have struck while the manga was hot. Netcomics had the right idea but had no hit titles. It took the majors almost a decade before they started getting serious about putting books online. Didn't they see what happened when the record industry failed to capitalize on the download debacle earlier in the decade. It's being repeated all over again.

    Are the publishers picking the right titles to print? No. Or they would be making more money and they wouldn't be in the state they are in.

    I have to love Viz though. I just do. They are putting out not just popular titles but more mature and experimental ones that don't always fit into what Americans consider "manga". I also love the balls they have to publish Japanese sci-fi. I've bought every Haika Soru title that has come out. I see the way they are handling their brand and titles as the key to the future. They seem to be merging the facets of their anime/manga/novel business pretty well, and with some forward looking vision.

    I think Tokyopop will be the next to fall if their Priest film is as crappy as I imagine its going to be. Im thinking B-movie all the way.

    Yen seems to be pretty healthy as long as it can suck on the neck of Twilight and somehow make money off lame series like Maximum Ride and Night School, which are pretty horrible. And just when OEL had finally been flushed down Tokyopop's toilet.

    Another one of the many causes of the manga decline? Generation Cake. A generation that wants its cake, wants to eat it too, and then regurgitate it for their friends to eat for free. Manga companies target most of their titles at kids. And guess what? They're not buying.  They're spending their money on other things. Phones. Videogames. Ipods. Music. Clothes. Girls. Guys. Movies. A lot of kids hate to read now. They think its boring. Or maybe their families don't have enough money to buy them manga. Again, this doesn't anger me or anything. They just don't like manga. They'd rather spend their money on things they get more enjoyment out of.

    I think the problem that manga faces is the opposite of the US comic market. American comic readers skew older, but they fail to bring in new readers because of so much backstory. They also fail most horribly with girls and women. Manga has no problem getting new readers, including of the female variety, but fails to keep them. If you start reading Marvel and DC when you're a kid, you keep reading them even when you get older. Manga readers tend to start young but the majority cast the hobby off as they age as more of a fad than a lifelong love.

    Another problem is that booksellers now encourage you NOT to buy books. You can go into Borders or Barnes and Noble and just read every book for free if you want. You can't go five feet without stubbing your toe on a couch or comfy chair and table. Bookstores have become so faux European. Like throwbacks to bookstores back in the 18th and 19th centuries where the intelligentsia met to discuss philosophy, literary works etc. Now, you just get lonely bums that don't want to buy anything. It's pretty disgusting. Throw all the furniture out of the bookstores!

    In the end I think the decline of the manga industry is from a combination of factors, but I think the economy is the most insignificant. It was in its death throes (or at least death wiggles) before any of this mortgage crisis was even a blip on the radar. In the end, it's simply supply and demand.

    The market for CMX titles was too small. There is no way DC would have shut them down if they were profitable. They were obviously losing money. The market for manga is too small. Not enough people like it. Face it. Me and you, we are the chosen few. Yeah, it could get better, but it will be a sham better. The core remains. Me and you.

    PS. And were people really CRYING over CMX closing up shop? Actually PHYSICALLY CRYING? Man up! Or in some cases, Woman up!

    PSS. If you notice I never brought up scanlations as a problem. I believe that people that read scans would never buy a volume of manga anyway, so they are a non-factor. But it DOES bring up another point. I hear all the time about hype and buzz for scan titles. "Hotly anticipated" is a cliche I see the most often. But who is doing the hype? Who is getting hyped? Manga media types who get their manga for free? Who cares. Scan readers who don't buy manga? Who cares. You need to get people that actually spend money on manga to get excited to buy a title or see it printed.  I remember seeing on a manga blogger's site that they were upset that a "hotly anticipated" CMX title, well at least hot on the scan sites, wouldn't be published. I was thinking, yeah, you wanted them to print another title that nobody would buy.

    PSSS. Whoa, CMX doesn't even have a website anymore? All that comes up is DC Comics. No mention of CMX. At least let them have a send-off DC! You know there were about 5 (or was it 5000?) people that wanted to post "You suck DC!".  You killed my Misery!

    Direct download: diamond.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 8:43pm 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

    Well, today was my first time back to Borders bookstore near downtown Houston since they moved their manga section upstairs to be sandwiched between the young adult and kid section. First up, they blundered big time. Lazy bastards like myself might not even go up to the second floor. I really had to think about it before I walked up there. The only reason I usually go to the second floor at all is to use the restroom.

    The first thing I noticed about the manga section was that it was kinda isolated in a corner, which would make it prime bait for stinky manga bums and other remora life forms that suck off revenue. Especially surrounding it with four armchairs. The second thing that I noticed was that the books were in such disarray it reminded me of a Walmart toy section. Like little punks had gotten the books off the shelf and stuck them back wherever. The selection sucked as well. But the many points of suckiness of Borders have been well documented on this site so I won't dwell on it here.  Nonetheless, I still go by on a weekly basis. Kinda like buying Otaku USA, I guess it's just a habit that no longer has any meaning.

    I was greeted by an even more depressing sight at Nan's Comics and Games right down the road from Borders. They have their manga at the back of the store, but I would say 1/3 of their stock had been moved to make way for comic books. There was even manga stacked haphazardly on top of the comic boxes. To add insult to injury they didn't have any lighting in the manga section. They really never have. They rigged up a flourescent light tube that hangs from the ceiling by chains but it wasn't on. The only other light is a desk lamp sitting on one of the shelves. A DESK LAMP? Come on!

    I could have told the managers of the comic store and Borders that their manga sections sucked, but what would it have mattered? Borders is a dying dog anyway. And Nan's, well, it's just the typical attitude of American comic store owners towards manga.

    Category:general -- posted at: 9:57pm CDT

    A cool time lapse video of the sights and sounds of Tokyo:

    Tokyo Timelapse from nubero on Vimeo.

    Category:general -- posted at: 10:29pm CDT

    Summer Is Here!!

    School is out and summer is in session. I'm looking forward to taking it easy and not dreading Mondays for about 2 months. I also hope to catch up on a lot of reading and dvds. And I'm not just talking about manga and anime. Of course, I will be podcasting and reviewing much more now that I have a lot of free time. In the Houston area, the weather is perfect to hit the beaches down in Galveston!

     


     

    Electronic Gaming Monthly is making a comeback. In exactly what form is anyone's guess. The founder, Steve Harris, has bought the rights to the magazine and plans to relaunch it. Here's the link to the article on 1up.com:

    http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3174453

    It was the most honest game review and news magazine out there until it got cancelled. I was under the impression that part of the reason it got cancelled was because they dared to say negative things about sorry games. I remember they would have an award each month called something like "stinker of the month" and it would should show a little pile of poo with flys buzzing around it. It was pretty funny. Now a lot of the mags are afraid to even put a rating like a number or a grade for fear of reprisals from the game companies. But they mask it behind an elitism that says they are above giving a simple qualitative and easy to understand rating.  A lot of the time, you read a review and then are left wondering, "are they saying this is a good game or not?" There was no doubt with EGM, whether it was negative or positive.

     


     

    Also, I've added a Twitter link over there on the right side column under my XBOX tag, so feel free to follow me. I'm trying to beat Oprah. I like to start small, so right now I only have 3 followers. I just created a Twitter account about a week ago, and tonight was the first time I really started exploring it, mainly finding people I would like to follow, mainly in the fields of manga and anime. Lori over at Manga Xanadu had an article with links to many manga bloggers and publishers in an article at this link:

     http://manga.jadedragononline.com/?p=917

     

    Direct download: resize_jessica.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 12:35am CDT

    Kairi-Moon, A Great Talent

    I've started a new category on the side panel, "Artists", where I will post links to artists that I like. I've put a link to Saelee Oh over there, but there's also another artist I'd like to bring your attention to. Kairi-Moon was featured in the February issue of Neo Magazine. Her real name is Karen Yumi Lusted. She's half Japanese and is in her final year of Animation study. She's currently learning Japanese so she can talk to her family back in Japan and has plans to teach there (she currently lives in England). She would like a job in animation but would enjoy any job where she could be involved with art.

    You can find her webspace with more art and info at:

    http://kairi-moon.deviantart.com/

    Here's a link to some previews for a comic (manga) she did for Itch Publication, entitled "Final Blossom":

    http://www.itchpublishing.com/news/final-blossom/

    Direct download: Music_from_the_Heart_by_Kairi_Moon.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 2:52pm CDT

    Check Out Saelee Oh's Art

    I've been meaning to link to to some Asian and Asian-influenced artists for some time now, but have just never got around to it. Giant Robot features one every issue. So I'm taking the plunge with Saelee Oh, who was featured on the magazine a couple of months ago. Of Korean descent and hailing from California, Saelee isn't one of those moody types that likes to stew in solitude. She even likes to invite friends over while she's working, even though she might not be very attentive. She also likes to collaborate with other artists. Her art is very beautiful, with a childlike whimsy mixed with the danger of the adult world, surreal without being unnatural or inorganic. Her art is inviting and makes you smile. Saelee doesn't stay in one place long, preferring a free life, moving among cities. You can check out her blog and more art at:

    http://saeleeoh.blogspot.com/

     

    Direct download: CatchHerBeforeSheFalls.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 1:56pm CDT