World Of Hartz

TOKYOPOP’s upcoming World of Hartz promises to be huge with the teenage crowd, blending manga-style art with a story that centers on the world of Internet gaming, a sure bet to corner the young geek market.

 Yes, at ONE volume. Obviously, this never took off. I mean, what do you expect? It’s not even close to what you expect. Sometimes. It’s everything and WORSE. “World of Hartz” doesn’t do itself any favors with its lousy artwork, mind you. But that’s the least of its problems.

I’d say the most of its problems is the characters. Han is quite possibly the least likable character they could have chosen. I say I’m getting ahead of myself, but I’m not. From the get-go, Han proves himself to be a spoiled, self-entitled jerk. All Han wants out of life is a girlfriend. Did I say “girlfriend”? I meant to say “sex object”.

Apparently a girlfriend isn’t enough, as he sees a girl (from the back) holding a gaming magazine he likes (he doesn’t see her face), so he falls head over heels for her (he just assumes the woman is hot). WHAAAAAA??? She’s ugly?! Better yell in terror, because she’s not sexy! Fortunately the girl socks him, so that goes well.

Yes, this is the life for a virtual-reality gamer. Generic fights and being the number one site for… okay. Hmm. Han and his friend, “T”, run a… something. I don’t know. This was published in 2004, when the internet was just a wee child. Maybe a preteen. Apparently, being the source for gaming news or something is a big deal in the far-off future. They get like, a thousand people on the site per day. Gee whiz!

Han, as mentioned, is a jerk. So much so that he betrays his friend for a cute girl online. The twist? It’s a guy! And an old guy, at that! And eeeeevil! T even points out that the cute girl could be a fake avatar. So basically, it broadcasts the ending. Neat.

Of course we never find out why. The volume I have has no number listed, despite the above cover having a “1”. They were also planning an “anime” to go along with it, but as you can tell, no one would watch an anime based on this. The only proof of this is in the ads at the end. Online… I’m completely at a loss. The “World of Hartz Website” gives a 404 message, and there’s already barely any information about the series as is.

Granted, I’ve gotten over a lot of my manga bias. I can like a lot of American manga, and I can even stand manwha sometimes. We’re not quite there yet. But when it comes to something like this, I just wonder what the point is of publishing it at all. It’s just dumb, and not even in a fun way like Gamerz Heaven. Skip it.

Mardock Scramble

How can it be so undeniably serious, so straight-up straight-forwardly straight, and be so goofy all at the same time?

No, wait. I lie. It’s not simultaneously both. But this solidified things:

Yup. “I’m a mouse.” You certainly are, OEufcoque.

Yeah, that’s his name. There’s a lot of weird names here. The girl is Rune Balot. Her main enemy is Shell, her savior is Dr. Easter, Shell’s assistant is Boiled. Sounds like… ah. It’s… it’s egg themes. Even the mouse and Balot. What do eggs have to do with the manga? Did you see the title? Might as well be called “Mardock Over-Easy”.

Anyway, Balot was a homeless girl, but she was rescued by Shell, who looks suspiciously like a pimp. This is because he is a pimp. NEAT! Although this pimp ain’t the type of pimp I’ve ever heard of. This one disposes his prostitutes when he no longer needs them. Why? No idea. He kills Balot, kind of, and she gets saved by Dr. Easter, who gives her technological powers. What does she do?

Yeah, that was awesome. GOD, I LOVE THIS MANGA.

I seriously haven’t found a manga I’ve unabashedly loved in a looooooong time. It’s fun and full of action, and there doesn’t seem to be any shame in what it is. And what it is happens to be awesome.

Balot has everything restored to her except for her vocal cords. She talks through a radio because of this, but she really doesn’t talk much. I don’t know, this whole thing seems vaguely like a video game to me. Mostly silent protagonist, cute sidekick character, tutorials… Maybe the original author of the novel had that in mind.

I am a bit concerned about Balot’s humanity, though. I understand that she was a prostitute, and therefore is emotionally stunted. But she lacks basic human conventions. Little things. At a carnival, she sees a boy unsuccessfully win an octopus plush. She gets it, thanks to her powers. Then the mouse has to tell her, “Psst! Give it to him!” Which is… huh. She didn’t have enough common sense to give him the plush.

Art-wise, something’s off. Sometimes, lines are really thick compared to immediate scenes. I think the worst-drawn character is the mouse, specifically when he’s zoomed into. Overall, the art is choppy, and not up to the snuff of the writing. But fortunately, that’s the biggest gripe I have.

If you want a fun, action-filled romp, get this manga. If not, get this manga. I know I will.

Suki: A Like Story

I sweat to God, the main character most likely has Asperger’s. Take it from someone who knows, okay? Gotta say, I thought the manga about the autistic child was progressive. It is, since it’s an outright stated condition. But hey, if Hinata actually is an aspie, more power to CLAMP, y’know?

“Suki: A Like Story” has your typical “here’s a thing that’s not really a thing” basis to it. There’s a big deal about bears in chapter and cover artwork, but rarely is there any focus on the teddies. It’s more of a “oh, look, our protagonist is so quirky, hee hee hee!” Which is odd, because Hinata doesn’t really need that. Let’s look at the symptoms:

-Hinata is obsessed with teddy bears. Fixations on certain things is a common trait in aspies, so it seems that Hinata chose bears as hers.

-Hinata has zero social skills. Granted, she does fine in social situations, but she doesn’t behave in the normal realm of social barriers. She’s lucky that her friends know her, because they understand what she’s going through. Plus, her chipper nature seems to be based on her awkwardness.

-Hinata is super smart. She always aces her tests, yet she’s pretty ditzy. Common symptom.

-Hinata doesn’t understand discretion, i.e., she doesn’t lie. Ties into social things.

So yeah, I’d say Hinata is an Asperger’s member. Oh, did I mention her relationship with her teacher? She has a crush on her substitute, Shiro, yet she only views this as “like”, not understanding her emotions. May also apply.

There’s not much else going on. Hinata has some back story not fully addressed in the first volume, so for curiosity’s sake alone, I may revisit this. Whatever is going on, Hinata’s friends are in on it, so there’s that. Hinata’s friends are typical. One’s overprotective, one’s playful. Think of it in terms of mother and brother.

As for Shiro, this is where they dropped the ball. Hinata gets infatuated with his over ridiculous things, like “He gave me chocolate! I love chocolate! I love Mr. Asou!” I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not, and that’s sad, because that’s exactly how I used to get crushes on girls. Many a time I assumed just because a girl lent me her pencil, I proclaimed, “I love to write! I love Meryl!”

I gotta say, apart from my speculation, the manga’s… well… decent. I don’t love it. I like it. It’s fine. This is early CLAMP work, so that’s to be expected occasionally. As far as the normalcy of the series, I’m disappointed that it never got as bizarre as Wish or Magic Knight Rayearth. No God stuff, which I always LOVE LOVE LOVE from CLAMP, but it doesn’t really apply. Still, for what it is, Suki: A Like Story is cute and seems to be building up to something more, so I say give it a look.

I feel you, Hinata. We aspies gotta be as tight as pies.