Whispered Words

Yeah, we don’t really talk about lesbians, do we? What? Well, we don’t! How many reviews have I done about love between two men? That’s right, practically all of them. I don’t know, I might be overcompensating.

Back in my comic class (“Graphic Novel 1” if you will), the professor announced that our next topic would be manga, and I just shot my mouth off, for some unknown reason bringing up boy’s love and girl’s love. One girl called me out on it, calling it porn. And I was wounded, deeply and uncontrollably, which is fascinating because prior to that day I only read literally one yuri, and it focused on a girl who used to be a guy who has to choose between two girls and a spaceship.

And no, it’s not “hot,” yuri. Let’s be clear: The very notion of anyone, regardless of sexual identification, being in love, sickens me. But yuri is the worst of the worst. Always holding hands and blushing, like the kind of realistic couple you might see. It’s much better in yaoi, where guys don’t usually act like human beings. I’m only partially joking. I’ve only read three yuri titles ever, and if one like “Whispered Words” doesn’t frighten me with notions of romance and drama, what will?

Here’s my problem: The back cover is amazing. Just… I believed it. I had no reason to believe it would lie, stab me in the back, shove me off a cliff made of broken hearts and spleens. It says that this manga focuses on two girls, yes, but also a boy dressed as a cute girl! And… it does, ish.

Plot? Plot. Kazama is a high school girl who likes cute girls, exclusively. Her friend, Sumika, is in love with her, but doesn’t tell Kazama a thing because friendship and obvious rejection and Japan’s taboo doesn’t extend to comics, apparently. THAT’S THE PLOT.

So where’s the crossdressing guy? Around. He’s around. Lemme explain. We have these two girls. Sumika loves Kazama. Kazama loves cute girls. Hmm, not exactly a shape. One more line, maybe? OH! Kazama loves Masaki, but only as a girl! And Masaki loves Sumika! Love Triangle! Right? WRONG. The problem is that Masaki appears sporadically, which never gives us time to care about him. I think after he was found out by Sumika, he had, like, one story focused on him, then he was bullied in a few panels every other other other story.

Look, I was really hoping this would have been a manga about the love triangle. But yes, it isn’t. See, while Masaki doesn’t have a proper recurring role, there’s almost always a triangle. Masaki’s gone, but an otaku girl replaces him! She loves Sumika. Then the otaku vanishes, but we get a German girl who Kazama loves for five seconds, until German voice. She loves-ish Sumika. So basically, we have love triangles, but they vary, from isosceles, acute, obtuse, scalene, but never equilateral. Ironic, considering how easy it would be to pull off here.

Ah, before Masaki fades from my mind, I should mention what the circumstance of his women’s attire is. No, it’s not a “trapped in a man’s body” deal, sadly, but another run-of-the-mill, “forced to by someone and hates it” plot. Huge cliche in manga, no joke. I found it extremely jarring when I found a manga that had a character “trapped in a man’s body”. And… gone.

Aside from… someone? Well, there’s other characters who serve little purpose. The girls have a friend who doesn’t know that Sumika likes girls, shows up late to the chapter, causes trouble just because of her presence, and in the last chapter on volume one, one of the characters wises up and draws a fake food poster that gets rid of her. I… I feel like she’s a leftover relic from the first chapter, like it was too late to dispose of her once the series got rolling. Don’t get me wrong, she serves a purpose, but it’s pretty low-key and could be written alternatively if she wasn’t there.

Also, the otaku girl vanished after a while. Hmm. I only read volume one, but the German girl is so far present. This is nine volumes, and this volume is thick, so take from that what you will.

There’s other “main” characters, a lesbian couple in the school. Th… they kind of fade from the focus. That’s my main issue. The leads are written realistically, but they outshine everything else. I think it’s hard to focus on the main plot when there’s so many characters come and go.

Oh, the main characters. Huuuuuuuuh. Okay. I hate Kazama. Like, she doesn’t know that Sumika likes her, and that’s not her fault. But she never expresses her emotions to Sumika. Actually, that’s not true. There’s no definitive emotions she has for Sumika. She’s huffy when she hears Sumika with another girl, and when SPOILERS INVOLVING VOLUME ONE Sumika tearfully confesses to Kazama that she loves her, nothing. Like, Kazama visits her at her house and takes care of her, but not a word is mentioned. And Kazama says nothing in the following chapter when Sumika visits her. Really? Although she never really said “I love you,” it was more “I’ll never be small and cute,” so Kazama might be confused.

Sumika, however, is fantastic. The tearful confession was heartbreaking, and she can put on a level head and a brave face. Like when she’s helping the otaku Azusa Aoi, that’s her name, when Azusa is freaking out that her mother spilled drinks on some papers, Sumika calms her down. Her father wanted her to join his dojo, but when Sumika met Kazama, that nixed it. But she realized later how much her karate meant to her neighbors and family, and (non-literally) she says, “Aw, screw women!” and gets back on the saddle! Loving this character!

The whole manga has a great balance of humor and drama, but it has a lousy translation. Just… awful, awful. One Peace Books isn’t exactly a manga company. They translate Crayon-Shin-Chan or whatever, and one or two other manga, but the rest is books. The main problem is that the translation is bad. The breakdown of that totally generic statement is not just writing “tbig” instead of “big”, but breaki-
ng lines up weird and cutting off certain words because they didn’t just shift the text down a bit.

I think the romance aspect is great (the couple has a very nice relationship), and this title entertains without a ton of gimmicks. Ish. Honestly, if Kazama were a guy who only liked cute girls, the dynamic would retain its form, albeit without the “Japan condones lesbianism only in books” cloud overhead. Sumika has over-the-top fantasies about Kazama and all that typical stuff, but it’s nice to see it done differently. I say if you’re looking for a romance, read Apollo’s Song first and you’ll never want to be in love after reading it. Or you can just check this out, I guess. It’s cool.

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BoBoBo-Bo Bo-BoBo

I have been discussing women’s issues wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too much. Chalk that one up to my Women’s History class, but lectures are over, so let’s be misogynistic!

Who am I kidding? Once a man talks about the YesAllWomen thing using Maya Angelou and a crummy manga (well, the one-shot story inside), he can’t close his eyes to the world around him. He can’t deny the abuse teenage girls take from rich jerks. He can’t deny the fact that the only woman to work in a train station has to hide her breasts because it’s against the law to be a conductress in Japan! HE CAN’T DENY THAT BOMBER GIRL EXISTS, AND THE AUTHOR ADMITS TO BEING FIVE IN MENTAL SEXUALITY AND WHY IS THE ROOM IN THE MANGA, I SWEAR TO GOD! And that was before YesAllWomen.

Naturally, I don’t want to make this blog about sexism. Well, I don’t. Look, Japan has different viewpoints than Americans, Russians, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, and Australia. Everyone has different viewpoints than Australia. And I can’t criticize Japan for the manga they have, because it’s better than no manga, or manga about poop-headed people. Good thing that doesn’t exist.

With that in mind, let’s decompress a bit and look at something very manly, very tough, very, very…

Sigh. It’s BoBoBo. There’s seven Bo’s, but good luck remembering the placement.

Hey, there’s no number on the spine? So it’s a one-shot series, huh? Okay then. So we start off with a character talking about the last of the Bald Empire’s Big Four that BoBoBo must fight. Wait. What about the first of the Big Four?

As a kid, I was naturally confused, unlike now, which is completely phoned in. Apparently, Yoshio Sawai, the creator of this charming series, hated most of BoBoBo. Instead of exporting his work, he only allowed his favorite story arc to be collected.

“Ah,” you say. “But wasn’t there a BoBoBo series that was ongoing in the states?” Yeah, but that wasn’t from the beginning either. So you have to wonder, why didn’t he want to release BoBoBo from the beginning?

I mean, this series focuses on a man that uses his nose hair to fight an evil empire that wants everyone to be bald. He also has an afro that contains a variety of random things, including Yugi of Yu-Gi-Oh!. Not even joking, it’s really him.

You have to admit, this might be the best manga crossover actually in manga. Dragon Ball Penguin Village, go sit in the corner. His regular allies are Poppa Rocks, known as Don Patch in all canon but here. Donpachi is the name of a Japanese candy similar to Pop Rocks, which makes sense because he’s the sun. Yup. Also, a guy with poop for a head, but he’s totally serious. And Beauty… ugh.

She exists to be weirded out by all of the strange events that occur around BoBoBo. But it’s not like she came from our world to this world. How is she still weirded out by everything? Her friend Gasser… eh… fart attacks aren’t much by me. Ehhhhhhh, and reverting into a baby… no thanks. There’s also Torpedo Girl and Service Man, but they’re minor.

And then there’s Jelly Jiggler. Oh, Jelly Jiggler. My personal favorite? Check. Winner of the “Sexiest Man of the Month” award by Anime Insider? Check. Mackin’ on princesses from outside his series?

Okay, I drew that six years ago, but you see my point. I had no idea crack pairing existed. But it works! Jelly’s kind of bullied by the others, but he’s blue, and he’s jelly, and… doh, I adore him!

So all that is pretty weird, and I’ve proved that I am too. What could be so awful that it has to stay in Japan?

WARNING. THE IMAGE HAS BEEN REDUCED FOR THE INNOCENT. CLICK AT YOUR OWN RISK. 

Oh. Kay. Then. To be… fair isn’t the right word. To have further information, the underwear is a duck. It’s like, underduck. But it’s still not funny. It’s even more crass than anything like poop head or fart attack. Honestly, I’m glad we never got it.

What about the other arcs? Well… yeah, Sawai was right. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great moments, like BoBoBo’s various fusions. One time he merges with Jelly, and ends up a hypocritical pacifist. Another time he fusions with Dengakuman (don’t ask), and becomes a female pop star. She also uses nose hair. But really, it’s not as good as Hallelujah Land Arc. The jokes hit, it represents the best of the franchise, and it’s one nice volume.

The series had a sequel. It… wasn’t very good. Koala? No thanks. It ends with Gasser and Beauty leaving, so I’m okay with this.

The humor is random, but not overdone. The art can be great, but because it’s a gag manga, it’s usually not. The best way I can describe it is a cross between Dr. Slump, because of its immature gag humor, and Dragon Ball Z, because at times, the action can be pretty cool.

Yeah, I think that’ll be the last clip. Scott McCloud believes that there are six types of panel transitions, with non-sequitur being virtually unused. As random as the humor is, it doesn’t apply from scene to scene. Things are mentioned in more than one panel, so the search for the non-sequitur transition is still on.

Also, fun fact: The first time I heard of BoBoBo was when Anime Insider reviewed Japan-exclusive games, and stated that BoBoBo was simply too weird for the US. Well, look who voted for Jelly Jiggler! Cracks me up each time.

It’s pretty gross as a concept, but it’s not as bad as… something I can’t read or review. Look, it’s Octopus Girl. I read five pages of Octopus Girl and almost threw up. Fuhget it. BoBoBo finds a good medium, where it’s not annoyingly clean or unreadably grody. Yes, aside from the beginning.

We now return to your regularly scheduled feminism.

THEY MADE THREE FEMALE CHARACTERS! BEAUTY’S A KILLJOY, TORPEDO GIRL IS SOMEHOW OVERLY FETISHIZED, AND I CAN’T REMEMBER ANYTHING ABOUT THAT OTHER GIRL!

Huh. That went relatively well. Maybe I can work with my new evil powers.