Star Project Chiro

I’m tired. I’m tired of shojo that appeals to the “I can change him” reader. I’m tired of “romance” being developed from outright abusive characters with little to no variation. So when I picked up Star Project Chiro, I didn’t expect much. This is because I had nothing to go on.

Another pet peeve: Manga stores that wrap their wares in plastic, resulting in consumers buying a title mostly on faith. Add that with vague descriptions and outright lies on the back cover, and that just leaves me in the dark. I mean, it was a fourth of the price, so I couldn’t refuse.

I also have stated that I’m not big on manwha. Not that manwha is bad or that the culture is uninteresting, but I’ve never really read one that I liked. Until now.

…Got you there for a minute, didn’t I? Star Project Chiro is bad, but not for the reasons I expected. I mean, a vain girl hates a celebrity boy? And even though she likes a kind cute boy, you know she’ll lose him in the end and get the jerk? Pretty done to death, I’d say. Oh, and the best part, he puts her in a situation that basically makes her his slave. My favorite abuser, because the girl involve can never say “no.”

Eun-Yo, for example, is forced by Nan-Lee to work off a debt of 8 billion won because she broke into his house and burned his place down, including a secret stash of Nan’s recently deceased father’s money. Wow, that’s a clunky sentence.

So yeah, Eun-Yo’s blameless. Okay, she was invited by Nan’s dad to come over at some point, but she did break in. Which happens to be one of the manwha’s biggest issues. Eun-Yo is set up to be destroyed over time, resulting in a turn-around and a new outlook on life. But she’s never too unlikable. I mean, I don’t like her, but I don’t slap my head when I read dumb things she does.

I can’t say that Eun-Yo is nasty and awful, because sometimes she’s justified. When she first met Nan, he was a jerk, but then again, he only broke Eun-Yo’s friend’s camera because TMZ is a thing. It’s understandable on both accounts.

So yeah, since she’s not despicable enough, I find it more mean than anything when she loses everything. Boyfriend? Misunderstands her relationship with Nan. Best friend? Turns her back on Eun-Yo because she thinks she has no principles. Brothers? Hmm.

I say “Hmm” because I didn’t actually see how Eun-Yo loses the love of her brothers. That’s in the next volume. I stress this because this is the fundamental, the biggest problem with Star Project Chiro:

It doesn’t go anywhere in volume one.

It does not. It simply doesn’t. And that’s a major issue. It’s one thing to set up the overall story of a manga in the first volume, it’s another thing to waste time doing so. I labelled this review with “gender confusion.” GENDER CONFUSION. I associate that with, generally, characters mixing up the gender of someone as a plot point. This is the point of later volumes.

Nan turns Eun-Yo into a guy, gradually. For example, he sends her to a program that PERMANENTLY RUINS HER VOICE, making sure that even her obsessive brothers can’t recognize her. People praise this element, and if I cared I might too.

BUT THE MANWHA LOST ME. I think it’s very important to grab your readers within the span of the first installment. I get that, like most manga and manwha, this series was originally published by chapter. But the pacing drags on and I’d rather not buy four volumes when I can’t get the other eight. Yep, a give-up series. I usually suggest going for online scans, but I think at the very most, there’s only scans up to volume 6. Plus, I don’t recommend it anyway.

I mean, the manwha could actually be good, since I think there’s at least a story there. But Eun-Yo’s too middle-ground to hate and relish in her misery, but not likable enough to feel sorry for her. Nan, even though her is clearly playing a long game (I was weirded out out when he watched her from his limo in his binoculars). All the side-characters seem to just exist so Eun-Yo can lose them. And for a “romantic comedy”, it’s not great on either account.

I will say one thing about the manwha: as far as back covers go, it didn’t promote the cross-dressing element for this volume. I mean, that’s the big draw, but if they advertised it here, it would be an obvious lie. Good on you, Udon Entertainment.

Although. It does claim that after meeting Nan Lee, Eun-Yo gets caught up in super-stardom. Not in this volume it doesn’t.

Also, half of the websites I go to call it “Star Project Chiro” while the other half calls it “Chiro Star Project”. I regret to admit, I thought it was the latter. Even though the copyright information in the manwha and Udon’s website calls it that, people still get it wrong. That’s not a good sign.

I Stand Corrected – Train*Train


Welcome to another new segment. This is “I Stand Corrected”, a series where I give commentary to previous posts. Today’s commentary is based on my first manga review, Train*Train. Let’s begin.

Let me start this first manga review by saying that I bought it blindly.
Yes, because I had eaten too much soap at the time. Honestly, I hate how apologetic I am in this review. Like it’s a problem that I review something written by a yaoi author.

I had gone straight from a family photo shoot to Borders.
Great day, but irrelevant. Although it does give context to the year when I specify the bookstore as Borders.

So I checked out the shelves and lo and behold there was Train*Train by Eiki Eiki, published by Doki Doki. My thought?
Well, my current thought is how I set up for a joke that never happens. Serious, I could have said “It’s It’s a a manga manga” etcetera.

“IT’S A MANGA ABOUT TRAINS!”
I do like trains, although recently my main mode of transportation is buses. I switch off.

…Well, I might not have bought it if I knew that Doki Doki produces yaoi.
I also might not have bought it if I had known that this isn’t yaoi. Like, even though Eiki Eiki has a large yaoi fanbase and specializes in the field, Train*Train is not and has never been a yaoi.

That’s right, it’s intentionally gay. But how could a manga about young male train conductors POSSIBLY be gay?
WHAT?! Someone would seriously want to be gay? Whatever for? Also, what am I implying? Are young male train conductors known to be gay? I don’t remember that in the Village People.

…You may have noticed that I said “might”. I “MIGHT” not have bought it.
Since Train*Train, I’ve made purchases that would make 2010 Me vomit. Back then I was glad that it wasn’t yaoi, but now I’m disappointed. Mostly because this and Millennium Prime Minister are by DMP ‘s yaoi division, Doki Doki, even though the only reason for this is the yaoi associated with Eiki. To be fair, Doki Doki is also a shojo publisher. This works for Millennium, but not as much for Train.

“Wait,” you ask, “but aren’t you put off by the homosexual overtones?”
You never asked that because this was the first time we’d met. I made an ass out of both of us. Also, not overtones, or even homosexual.

Well… no. When it comes right down to it, Train*Train is a pretty funny read.
Good. End of review.

Plus, it’s… not actually gay.
This is correct. Now you can end.

Truth be told, it’s a little gay. There’s one bisexual guy, a female transvestite, and a French/Japanese guy. So you see that any kind of flat-out homosexuality is eliminated with half-hearted gayity.
Uggggghhhhhh… Okay, one at a time. It’s not “gay”. If it were a yaoi, that wouldn’t make it gay, since books and stories have no sexual orientation.

Then there’s listing the cast. So yes, Hokuto is bisexual, but that’s still LGBT. He will still sleep with men. Hikari is a crossdresser, and yes, I know transvestite is outdated and offensive. Again, wild and crazy 2010. I also didn’t mention that she “crossdresses” because the staff is male and she hates skirts, so hey! Just label her as a weirdo transvestite, Me of 2010! Finally, I will still mock the French. I stand by Me.

Finally, I was misinformed. I thought, for some reason, that the series tricked me into buying it, using the “NICE TRY, HOMOSEXUALITY! I’LL ALWAYS BE STRAIGHT!” belief, and refused to really look at the manga. I read it, sure. I laughed. But I didn’t really think of it as just being some manga, instead believing it to be an attempt to arouse and confuse me with the second volume’s phallic train.

Plot: Asahi Saruta is a naive young man with the dream of becoming a train operator like his late father. When he’s hired to work at Minami-Kitazawa Station, he quickly learns that the staff is a group of hot (according to a woman) guys! Why, there’s Kaiji the ex-delinquent; Hikari the female transvestite (second closest thing to a recurring female character); Tsubasa the famous actor incognito; and Hokuto the bisexual rich guy! They have all sorts of wacky train hijinks, flashbacks, and more! …Also, Asahi cross-dresses sometimes. THAT part is as gay as it gets.
Nowadays I just don’t care about listing off all the information. You won’t remember their names unless you read it. It’s especially silly to specify the branch they run. It’s not necessary information, and I feel like this “plot summary” was more “character introduction”.

Seriously, you’d be surprised how not-terribly-gay Train*Train is.
Judge books by covers, kids.

I bought 5 volumes of manga the day I bought this. Two volumes of this, Rosario+Vampire, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and Saber Marionette J.
Plus two gallons of milk, a pint of sea water, and OH MY GOD WHO CARES?

Out of all of them, the last one was the gayest.
Saber Marionette J liked to spend time hitting on copies of Naruto.

Which is weird, because there’s so many robots with boobs in that series.
I can’t even express how mixed up that statement is.

Oh wait, the planet is entirely populated with men, most of them openly gay. But I’m getting off on a tangent. I’ll review that some other time.
Not to justify a terrible manga, but the humans have no women, so it’s either sexbots or other guys. I mean they have to get off on a tangent somehow. I used to find tangents arousing, mind you. Most guys do too, as indicated by the number of romance scenes where a girl is rambling and the guy kisses her.

This series is surprisingly good.
My, how kind.

It’s funny and actually a little charming.
I was always a flatterer.

Truth be told, this series could’ve worked just as well with a group of men and women, but I guess it’s the author’s prerogative.
And this statement could have worked just as well if I thought about grey socks. Eiki explains that she couldn’t work as a part-time staff member for a train station because she was a woman, but they did let her sell Romancecar tickets. This adds depth to Hikari, whom sadly I didn’t talk about enough in this review.

But enough about the homosexual aspects.
Which don’t exist here, but okay.

Really, how are the characters? Well, they’re all pretty basic… the rich kid, the sensible guy, the thug, the innocent childish protagonist… you know, this line-up sounds like an awful lot like most high school manga.
“I love it! Oh, but the characters suck.” Really? This sounds like a high school cast? Cromartie High has a rich guy, but most everyone else is a thug. And Freddie Mercury, so there’s your gay. I especially don’t know why I specified high school manga. Most characters fall into these tropes. But Eiki’s are more fleshed out, with goals and dreams and IF THE MANGA IS SO “WEIRD”, WHY DO YOU CALL THEM BASIC?!

But for the most part, they’re all pretty enjoyable. Excluding the actor. He’s kind of a bore.
Will also agree with that statement. I’m not a fan of one-faced characters, but he only gets focus in one storyline, and it’s really not even the best. He and the Richie Rich bi boy were childhood friends, and the actor has stayed with him because of their childhood dream. Not as good as it sounds.

Favorite Character: Generally speaking, my favorite characters are the ones who do things beyond the realm of normal human… normality. So Hokuto’s my favorite this time. The rich guy. His naive way-of-the-world misinterpretations are pretty hilarious. Also, Kaiji as a straightman is funny too.
This section doesn’t work for me. It implies that I need a favorite in order to enjoy something. When I got rid of sections, this was the first to go. I don’t disagree, necessarily, but not for the same reasons. Hokuto’s there to cause drama of sorts, so he’s important. Meanwhile, Kaiji works best bouncing off of Hikari. They have my favorite story of the series, although the back story to the station is wonderful, adding depth to something I had mocked. Right now, I like Hikari, since she rebels against the system.

Overall Opinion: If you don’t care that this manga is a lame attempt at homosexuality
WHAT ATTEMPT? Okay, this isn’t an attempt to make my past self gay. No one even forced you to read it. I will agree that it does seem misleading, but certainly not as much as, say, Bran Doll, which did lie. I don’t like misleading back covers, but this wasn’t one of them. Please, son. Just drop it. You promised.

and instead focus on the plot and characters,
He said, caring that this manga is a lame attempt at homosexuality and not focusing on the plot and characters.

I’d recommend this to you. Its simple story never gets in the way of its beautiful art. Ai Yori Aoshi. An even gayer manga than Saber Marionette J. But we’ll get to that.
The story isn’t simple, it has deep characters and great jokes. In fact, the art isn’t that beautiful. It’s pretty generic as the genre goes. Also, really? I just name drop Ai Yori Aoshi? It isn’t gay, unless I meant lesbianism or my negative association with the word gay towards things I find bad. There’s no relative scale from series to series determining how much something is targeted towards per sexual standing.

I also hate this “draw you in” line. I’ve don’t that a lot over the years, but I feel like it restricts me to doing a review of the manga soon. I should have just waited.

Rating: Two Thumbs Up, Four Out Of Five Stars, and an A-.
Which is not what I’d give this review.

Also, the rating system. If I had used it once, fine, it’s cute. But the fact that I absolutely had to stick with the initial system this review had set up… everything’s clustered. First, the system is confusing. I didn’t designate each rating with an attribute. I could have given the thumbs to design, stars signifying characters, and letter grades applied to plots. I didn’t, and it all becomes meaningless.

For a while I tried just ranking based on elements of the manga, but then I gave up, realizing that ranking manga was worthless when my reviews contradicted my statements throughout.

I feel bad about this review for one obvious reason: It’s not a review.

I don’t feel bad about my lopsided homophobic comments, because in context, I’m The Little Rascals. Did I make inappropriate comments that I would never make now? Of course. But I was a week out of my Orthodox Jewish school, and I was afraid to write this as long as I was in school. People had found things in my younger days online and threw them at me, so in a sense, this is a socially liberated me.

Plus, I was promoting Train*Train, so it wasn’t all bad. But at the end of the day, this is not a review. Most of the time spent is given to anecdotes, unnecessary details, and assurances that I’m not gay.

As such, I will give you a review.

The main problem with Train*Train is the lack of focus on part of the author. Not in the context of the series, but despite outright ending on a cliffhanger, there’s no followup to the events of the third and final volume. It’s a shame, because the characters do play off each other well in terms of humor, drama, and romance.

Yes, there is romance in Train*Train. Kaiji is trying to beat Hikari at arm-wrestling because she only likes strong men. She says. She likes Asahi because he’s cute, leading to a wonderful realization from Kaiji, then despair. Hokuto also likes Asahi, but generally he plays the field.

The French/Japanese guy is used as a counterpart to Asahi, which would be great if we could buy that. Asahi’s goal is to be a conductor like his father, but hasn’t got the skills to follow through. If that’s the case, how did he even pass the finals? And he’s poor, so how did he afford school? He lives in a broken down apartment. Basically I’m saying that he won’t be the Station Master.

The Station Master’s only there because of nepotism, but he does have hidden depths, not to mention the money to afford anything he needs. In that sense, he’s closer to Hokuto, spending money wastefully and playing the field for both teams. Yes, the Station Master and Asahi have the same train skills, but had the series lasted, I can’t imagine that route being taken.

Also, Asahi likes his boss’s daughter. So that.

I do like Train*Train, and I think of it in better terms regarding what it is and what it isn’t, but I always find difficulty recommending a manga that will never picked up by the author again. I feel the same way about this review.

Stuck In A Rut – Akira Toriyama

I don’t like being in a rut. Lately I’ve been too unmotivated to really get myself to write a review. The main issue is boredom, not obligation. I know I’m small fries, or some off-brand like miniscule potato product. This has been a hobby for me from the start.

That’s why as of today, we’re updating the format. I don’t want to review manga exclusively. Instead, we’re going to have new segments here.

Welcome to our first new segment, Stuck In A Rut! Only without the exclamation point. This segment exists to take a look at those who have made us laugh, cry, and pick up an entire series and sell it to a used bookstore out of rage at an ending. That’s right – Creators! Mangaka mostly, but creators!

Basically what I’m looking at is common ideas, narrative devices, and art design style the creator of a series likes to use. I do have a few guidelines for this, however.

1. My intention is to focus on mangaka, but I might move towards Western works and non-book based creators. When I feel like I’ve tapped out manga makers, I’ll move towards other fields.

2. I will not attack anyone, regardless of awful content. Basically, hate the work, not the person.

3. I’m working from a 3-series structure, excluding sequels, prequels, or any other series connected to a series the author has worked on. Here, Dragon Ball and Z are one series, as they’re the same continuity. Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball are separate, however, because a crossover does not apply.
I’m only using examples of works that I’ve read. This means that I’m not using Sand Land here, which I wouldn’t use here normally because it’s a one-shot. I don’t have any other series, however, so it’s Cowa!, which is a one-shot, but I’ve read it.

That’s the gist. Let’s go!

Akira Toriyama has stated his main influence to Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, which explains much of this analysis. Really think about the types of protagonists Toriyama uses. Dr. Slump is outright a series focusing on a robot child with super strength, while Dragon Ball and Z has boys with might and flight. Arale from Slump can also fly, but by farting. Yeesh. Her various friends can also fight on her level. Also, the hero from Cowa!.

This is taken a step further when we look at Dragon Ball. Until Z, it’s all about Goku as a kid (oh, and the last Budokai until Z). Once Goku is an adult, Z begins. We don’t see Goku’s married life prior to Gohan, even though it’s irrelevant to the plot. But Gohan’s presence seems to say that it’s vital to have a kid character in the series. I mean, Krillin never gets much taller, so in a sense, he’s viewed as a kid.

What that means is that Krillin, and the actual kid characters, exists to be scoffed at by adults. This happens to Arale often, but they learn their lessons. Talk about perpetually a child. I mean, Arale is a robot, so she won’t change in her looks or mindset. Although she is shown with a family in the future, so there’s that.

Back to Dragon Ball, Goku and Gohan are adults, or teenager in the latter, so it’s time for Goten! Then we get to the end of Z. Goku, Gohan, and Goten are adults now, Krillin is clearly not a boy, and the only kids are Pan and Bra, both girls. Like Dragon Ball, the series ends with possibility, but everyone involved is much older and different.

Basically, in order to ensure some kind of success, the series MUST have a super kid character. Even Dragon Ball GT holds to this, going so far as turning Goku back into a kid. It didn’t work, but it was a nice try.

This is one way I view Toriyama as the Roald Dahl of manga. Both put emphasis on children protagonists, proving themselves despite their age. The other way is the usage of an atypical family dynamic.

Let’s look at some Dahl books.

Charlie – Poor kid wins a factory despite the odds. Family – Two parents, two of each grandparent.
Matilda – Smart girl bullied and mocked, saves school. Family – Biologically two parents, brother. In the care of her teacher.
James – Orphan boy abused by aunts, flies to New York in a giant peach. Family – Two parents (deceased), two aunts (deceased), a number of insects.

Now for Toriyama manga:

Arale (Slump) – Robot girl undermined because of age and attitude, proves worth by beating evil. Family – Creator/”brother”, teacher/”sister-in-law”, nice Stewie Griffin/”nephew”.
Various cast of Dragon Ball – Goku was raised by his “grandpa”, married a human, had two saiyan/human boys. Krillin married a cyborg–uh, android. They had a daughter, but I suppose she’s fully human. How do you inherit android DNA? Vegeta had two kids with Bulma, although I don’t think they had established marriage any point after Trunks had been born.
Cowa! – Boy with a werewolf father and vampire mother saves village, size and age, etc. Meaning that whole war is over.

Basically, no one here has a nuclear family, advocating for a different idea of what a family can be. I think most would say that a group of bugs shouldn’t be a family. I like this idea of no typical family.

Quickly – His art is like, six faces. But Toriyama usually won’t age a character’s face, particularly protagonists. Arale and all the saiyans, for example.

My impression is that Akira Toriyama’s biggest rut was trying to get back out there. What I mean is Dr. Slump was his biggest work before the Dragon Ball franchise. As such, he couldn’t let himself be forgotten… thus shoehorning references to Dr. Slump. As a lad, I had no idea why a robot in a tree asked if he was in Penguin village. Mai holding poop on a stick disgusted, confused, and aroused me. Then we get that crossover. Worst. Mistake. Not. To. Print. Dr. Slump. First.

I haven’t spoken much on Cowa! because that’s just how it is. I mean, there’s the irony. Akira Toriyama is one of the foremost known mangaka in Japan, America, and the world. Yet he’s moved away from manga mostly, partially I believe because Dragon Ball Z followed him. He’s that guy. Too many rules he couldn’t take, told what storyline to taken, and now we’re getting a new manga here in the US in 2015.

Huh.

Well, it’s like Sand Land and Cowa, as in “Not an ongoing series, just a single volume”, but considering the last volume-length series he made was back in 2000 (2000!), I’d love to see where he’s been. And maybe we can see his worlds in full view once again.