Assassination Classroom OR, The Slender Manga

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Of course I bought this manga because of the grin. Look how happy that face is! Hey, if you were a genocidal maniac with tentacles every which way, teaching a class full of students trying to kill you, wouldn’t you be happy?

I guess the back cover’s description also drew me in.

Koro-Sensei teaches the worst class of Junior High students in school, Class 3-E. The students are skeptical about his teaching abilities, but over time, Koro-Sensei teaches the students the joy of education, about life and platonic love, and the value of a person, regardless of their intellect.

A value of zero.

The non-watered down version is that in the beginning of the school year, the moon was chipped down to a crescent. One eye-witness had this to say:

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Class 3-E is introduced to Koro-Sensei, who wants to teach the class under the condition of the government that the students assassinate him before the year is up. Koro-Sensei encourages them to try, although he doubts they can. If he is alive by graduation, then Koro-Sensei blows up the Earth. If not, ice cream! I mean, since Earth won’t be destroyed, ice cream will still exist.

Many questions. What is Koro-Sensei?

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So… Slender Man.

No, really, let me list the ways.

-Both have minimal facial features. Although Slendy has none, while Koro-Sensei has eyes and a mouth. They’re stuck in position, but his face changes color depending on mood.

-Tentacles under formal human attire. Also tall clothing. Koro-Sensei’s is admired by a woman in a flashback, remarking they’d make him a good teacher. So would Slender Man be a good teacher?

-Resides in forest areas. Yeah, I don’t know much about Slender Man. I know he’s a forest dweller. The school shoved Class 3-E into the forest areas, separating the rest of the students from the gunshots and Koro-Sensei.

-Transformation. Slender Man based on fear, Koro-Sensei based on the aforementioned mood trick, as well as regeneration of the limbs.

-Bald. I’m running out of stuff.

-OH! A contrast! Slender Man is bad around kids, both in mythos and reality. Kidnap kids in the mythos, have them try sacrificing friends in real life. I prefer the lovely Koro-Sensei. He’s nice to kids, even when he threatens to kill their families. Since he can’t kill the students (based on his deal), he threatens their families. Once. They got the message.

-Nonhuman sentient terrestrials. Slender Man’s probably just a mutated Q-tip that fell into Spring of Drowned Octopus choking a Businessman in Jusenkyo. That’s probably where Octodad came from. Koro-Sensei is hinted at having a past. In the flashback, he looks like a smoky humanoid.  He remarks to the students that he’s borne of Earth.

Of course, since Slendunkaroo has no copyright holder, it has no proper guidelines. Koro-Sensei is private domain, so we know he can use his tentacles, shed his skin, has honor, and does have proper weaknesses. So he’s not boring!

There’s a number of weaknesses. The only know physical weakness is rubber. Harmless to humans, deadly to Koro-Sensei. Of course, harmless to him as well if he dodges their rubber bullets, swords, and grenades, which he always does.

He has three other weaknesses, all internally-centered. Nagisa, the manga’s focal student, examines Koro-Sensei and documents his fault. As of volume one:

#1 – Messes up when he shows off
#2 – Panics easily
#3 – He’s a sore loser

See, that’s interesting! None of this “none or one” weakness junk!

So moving on from the best character, let’s talk about the others. You’ve ever read a series where the main student is a short wimp? Nagisa’s a bit blander. Blander Man. He’s there as a perspective, a means to follow events from the eyes of a student. Also he’s bullied, so when he tries to sacrifice himself for the world, believing he has nothing left to keep living for, I immediately liked him a bit more than his manga stock character counterparts. The documenting of Koro-Sensei’s traits is pretty cool too.

They have a number of teacher-drama characters. “I’ll help you play baseball and kill me!” “I’ll help you perfect your chemistry project that will kill me!” “I must stop this boy from trying to kill me so he can try to kill me fairly!” That last story is my favorite.

So each time he helps a student, so the students waver at the thought of killing him. Why go through with it? Ten billion yen in cold cash! (Or 100 Million, as the back claims. Translation, huh?) I think only the one who kills Koro-Sensei gets the money; or multiple students have to split it. Still, no small sum split all ways. If it’s the former, would the students who got nothing keep their mouths shut about Koro-Sensei? If the latter, if everyone got a portion of 100 Million, would disgruntled students still tell the public?

We must talk school dynamic. Remember “Battle Royale?” The students in that manga look like adults, so naturally I assumed they were in high school. Junior high. Here, they look like high school students. Junior high. I don’t get it.

The students outside of Class 3-E look down on Koro-Sensei’s class. Since they don’t want their grades to slip so low that they wind up in 3-E, it’s a good self-protecting system to keep things quiet. But the government has a suspended student brought in to kill him. That’s nothing compared to the volume hook, where the government official in the guise of a gym teacher (cool character on his own) receives a call of a new “transfer student.” All we see of her is her from the nose down, licking a gun, wearing a negligee, sitting on a naked man’s waist. Oh, and he has a gunshot hole in his head. Is this a lot of the future volumes?

I have one gripe about one character. The female student who names Koro-Sensei is not named in this volume. She’s Nagisa’s best friend, it seems, but he never says her name. Oh, she names Koro-Sensei because he’s “unkillable.” It’s a pun in Japan. I like her!

Don’t believe the hype? You don’t have to; it’s your opinion. Assassination Classroom has twelve volumes in Japan, has been nominated for an award with Osamu Tezuka’s name in it, an obligatory anime, a video game releasing on March 12th, and a live-action film releasing on March 14th. I would pay to see that. Or steal it online.

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AAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ll buy it, I’ll buy it!

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Jaco The Galactic Patrolman OR, How Toriyama Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Monotony

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Ah, I just moved in from Blogger. Much more room to breathe. So why not go for an Akira Toriyama newbie, completed way back in 2013? It’s got aliens, precocious youngsters, old men, science fiction, a bizarre cast, and a naive, short and mighty protagonist.

So this particular post? This one with all the Akira Toriyama discussion? Very spoiler-heavy. Which is why I’ll just spoil this major piece of information now:

Jaco is nothing more than a back story for Dragon Ball, specifically Bulma and Goku. I know, right? It was pretty obvious when they revealed heiress Tights. Like, Jaco and Omori, pretty standard names. Tights? I think I know a brief history of undergarment-named tycoons. Oh yes, Melissa Thong of the Thong Dynasty.

Turns out Bulma has an older sister. Funny how it never came up before. Bulma’s five here, and Tights is 17. Pah pah oom pah pah. Not once? “Hey, I know the world’s ending, but can someone scour the globe to find my sister? She’s probably dead, but…”

The Goku angle comes from the reason Jaco comes to Earth; to intercept a meteor-shaped spaceship that hosts a child to be raised by humans. Of course, Son Gohan finds the boy. Yeash. He’s not a baby, mind. He’s standing upright, eating SG out of house and forest. Oh, and Goku did just lose his mother. Yeppo, they show her. But me? Me, I will not.

You see? Burdock was a loving father. All the anime continuities? Wrong. Horridly wrong. Toriyama wills it. He also wills the rest of the manga, but only by his good graces. Jaco’s a Galactic Patrolman. He comes to Earth, crashes on Omori the scientist hermit’s island. Omori’s being thrown off the island by the government. BUT THEN! Jaco crashes with Omori, and crashes the governmental boat, and crashes into people when they commit crimes, and crashes the crash of the rocket he predicted would falter. Sometime in between, Tights crashes the story! And that’s it for the crashing.

Omori, a retired scientist whose wife died due to an accident involving time travel and the government, hates humanity and all the inhabitants of the world. Oh wait, Jaco kills the massive shark circling the island for the crabby hermit. Well, Jaco’s no human! He’s a hero. Of course we get the whole shabob. “You inconvenienced those government jerks! Well done!” “You saved me and the girl from thugs! Well done!” “You saved Tights from the rocket crash! I know I never say this, but well is how I’d describe your done.”

It’s a one-shot, so we never get the side characters fleshed out. The hierarchy, from top to bottom:

-Jaco: He’s an idiot, according to everyone, especially his bosses. Has a recurring gag: Hates being called short.  Wear some red ribbons, huh? Has a recurring gag: Wants the news to draw his character sketch properly, despite it being a bad thing. Has Superman-level internal biology, such as only needing a half-hour of sleep. Basically, a typical Toriyama lead.

-Omori: The only character emotionally fleshed out. His wife and assistants died, so he stayed on the island to perfect his time machine. Oh, and he meets Bulma at the end. That must hurt. Why didn’t Jaco or a different Galactic Patrolman intercede when Cell was involved? When offered by Jaco to destroy Earth, Omori vehemently protests. Pssht, I almost liked him. Omori’s more original than Jaco is, but he falls into the same role as Bulma to Goku, Senbei to Arale, Makoto to Cowa. He’s using Jaco for one reason or another (Bulma to have muscles for her journey, Senbei to prove his robot is realistic, Makoto to save the village). Eventually, Omori and the others come around to their short nonhuman companions. His design rattles me; it’s too stocky.

-Tights: Bulma’s whatever, a popstar’s doppelganger for a rocket ride, uses the money she receives from the popstar’s staff to temporarily repair Jaco’s ship (it costs zillions for the material). So she’s generous, which contrasts the popstar’s secret temper. So a popstar going on a spaceship, they can’t have her die if it malfunctions, so they use a body double. No one would notice the daughter of a multimillionaire inventor going missing? Tight’s existence makes everything feel wrong when we tie it into Dragon Ball.

-Government Jerk: He delivers the news to Omori to leave the island, since the government wants to make it a resort. At the end, he pulls a 180 and moves to the island. At least he’s shown with two sides, right? But who cares? He’s comic relief until the end, that’s all.

-Ninjas: “Look, there’s four of us, and we each have a different trait! I’m the muscly serious one!”
“I’m the fat one!”
“I’m the woman!”
“I’m the short one wearing an animal mask!”

-Pop Star Jerk: She’s there to be conflict. Not cause. Be. She never develops, but she does sing a delightfully stupid song.

Toriyama, once upon a midnight dreary, had an impossible sleep schedule to make deadlines, but as a manga professional, he no longer has to. After all, he’s retired! So the manga had a lot of delays and what what. That said, I’m disappointed with Jaco. I hoped maybe he’d be trying to prevent the inevitable J.K. Rowling curse, being stuck with one series (although Dr. Slump preceded Dragon Ball, so he was safe). But the whole manga feels like the characters exist for Dragon Ball. I guess it’s good, since that prevents fighting in the fanbase over canon, but there’s problems with it.

For inxample, Bulma’s five and Goku’s three. But remember volume one of DB? Goku thinks he’s 14, while Bulma’s 16. In the first Budokai, he realizes he’s 12. There’s a four-year age gap, not two. So what of ending canon wars? Still, it did introduce Goku’s mother. Li’l Vegeta’s there too. I say Jaco The Galactic Patrolman is a mixed bag.

Not mixed enough, considering recycled roles… He’s a great writer, just only for what he likes! I want a story where Senbei finally reveals to Penguin Village that Arale is a robot. Ngahhh.

Destiny’s Hand

YO HO HO! SHAMBER ME TIVERS AND A BUNDLE O’ ROM! HAVE ME GOT A MANGA FOR YE LAND-LOVERS! CLIMB ABOARD AN’ SAIL ME SEVEN SEAS MANGA CORPORATION FOR A TALE I CALL…

ATTACK OF THE DEVIL’S HAND!

Or just “Destiny’s Hand.” The crew of the titular ship searches for the treasure known as the Devil’s Eyes. I have confused the two more than one.

After years of lies, Seven Seas finally released a manga about sailing upon them. Except for Captain Nemo, that is. The third volume of this manga was created post-cancellation, so good news! We’ll be doing the omnibus!

Olivia is being forced to marry a man overseas. When her ship gets spotted by pirates, her father pretends to surrender, but attacks the pirates instead. Captain Blaine, a gentleman pirate (he never kills and has high morals), attacks the ship and lets the blaggards live if they give him their cargo. The cargo is, technically, Olivia, whose parents denounce her. Years later, Olivia is a pirate, fighting among the male-dominated crew. When Captain Blaine is gravely wounded, he has five of his crew members work together to search for the Devil’s Eye, a legendary and dangerous treasure. Will Olivia be able to prove her worth as a captain in Blaine’s absence?

I didn’t like this manga. I mean, it wasn’t unbearable. Just… weak.

First, female pirates existed in real life. Olivia and the others are firm on the contrary, so it’s all, “Well, why can’t a woman be a pirate?” They can. And they have. Although I assume this manga is in an alternate world, since they never state the name of the countries.

The feminist aspect is way overblown, and shatters any chance for Olivia to be more than a two-dimensional feminist. She’s tough, but she’s not a lesbian! She’s aggressive and hot-headed, but emotional and sentimental! Reduce Reuse Recycle.

Weirdly, it’s not feminism she has a constant knee-jerk about, but racism. Her bodyguard is a giant but softspoken (so original) Native Vaguemerican, and she hates when anyone calls him a savage or servant, with sharp glares. Even he can’t say it. This is what I hate about period pieces. All these people in the past with modern morals, yet we’re still on their moralistic wavelength?

Mainly, I find Olivia to be a Mary Sue. Female pirate? Rejects family’s wealth? Two guys in love with her? The captain makes her in charge when he passes? No one abuses her in all that time, even with the guard? And the guy who hates her comes around? Yeah, she’s just one of the guys.

The rest of the crew!

The Smithers: Navigator, organizer, former pirate. Kind of a different look.

The Hotheaded Chauvinist: Diego’s not a fan of Olivia, and he’s headstrong. There’s suspicion of a mole. Gee, is it him? Obviously not, since they immediately suspect him, followed by a subsequent knock-out and abandoning him.

The Lookout: A kid who loafs around and spies on conversations. Hmm. He also lies about events. But he couldn’t possibly be a mole. He’s a boy! It’s him.

The Author: Writing about Captain Blaine’s adventures. Comic relief.

The Son: Captain Blaine and the figurehead’s son. His foster father hates pirates, but he’s sought out because he can read dead languages.

The Figurehead: The woman statue at the front of the ship. Blaine had a lover who was magic. She put a piece of her soul in the front of the ship. The magic guards the ship. She talks to no one but her son. Oh, and Olivia, the Mary Sue. Yay.

Other characters!

The Fiance: Remember how Olivia was to be engaged? That’s him. And they’re in love. Paging Mr. Frost! Mr. Robert Frost! Her parents disappear after the first two chapters, mind you.

The Evil Pirates: See, Captain Blaine never kills, but they would. He’d protect his crew, but their captain makes one of them sink. And that’s about it. Extremely one-note.

Governors: They hate pirates. The end.

At the very least, the manga has an extensive cast, with everyone used properly. That said, they’ve all been done before, so it’s difficult to become immersed in their universe. All of the twists are obvious. Wow, they went to the Smithers’ mentor’s home, but he doesn’t have his piece of the map? Could he be hiding it? Captain Blaine was stabbed, but he’ll survive? WHAAAA? He’s actually going to die? Whoda thunk?

The name of the manga and the boat is “Destiny’s Hand,” so the cap’n ties hands into the manga. He makes five crew members represent a finger, such as Olivia being the ring finger (represents commitment) and the bodyguard being the thumb (strength). My favorite? Diego, the hothead, is the middle finger. That cracked me up.

For a manga about pirates, this crew only travels between two countries. It’s odd, and crowded, and no fun. I want more of the last few chapters. Those have skeletons and magic. There’s fun drama to be had throughout, but not nearly the adventure I wanted to feel.

The world they live in is somewhat vague. They have magic, they have neighboring nations. They do not have history, they do not have expressive culture. I can’t tell the difference between the two nations, so how can I care who’s right or tell them apart?

Honestly, they’re probably the worst pirates ever. Blaine steals Olivia, Olivia finds an orb that kills people and destroys it. No booty to plunder. Yet the crew stays with the gentlemen captain. I mean, they discuss how there’s the evil pirate way and the ban-the-pirates way, but Olivia suggests the gentleman pirate way of no killing and honesty. Also NO TREASURE. Would you? The killing’s supposed to be half the fun. I don’t know. If you’re not killing or cheating, why even bother robbing? Just work at the docks.

No one aspect of “Destiny’s Hand” fails; the little details make a mild collapse of enjoyment. Pirates are fun, but these don’t do anything, dissolving my need to read. I could see myself turning back to “Destiny’s Hand,” as the characters, while basic, do play well. Not to mention that Olivia isn’t the sole focus, so her Social Justice Pirating isn’t the theme of the series.

I still feel that they could have balanced Olivia to be more like a flawed human, maybe have a bit more angst about assuming Diego was guilty, but she certainly couldn’t ruin it for me. She gets what she wants, and she also gets what she didn’t want. Still cracks me up, fate. This manga isn’t my personal style, but I understand the value.

SO PICK UP A COPY AN’ PREP YOUR MIND! FOR A FLOPPIER MANGA YE NEVER SHALL FIND!
-Emily Dickinson

Anomal

Back in August of 2010, I reviewed High School Girls, a raunchy yet not off-putting manga about the lives of six high school girls. I gave it a near-perfect rating. Thing is, if I still did the rating system, I’d factor in the translation company. Comics One, later DrMaster, was notorious for sloppy translation. Two characters had their dialogue switched, another didn’t have any text in her speech bubble. I think that was one chapter alone. But Comics One and DrMaster are gone, with more professionalism in the translation of manga.

I am grateful for GEN. Don’t get me wrong. But it wouldn’t be a lie to call them the spiritual successor to Comics One. I only reviewed one manga from them, Vs. Aliens, which I had initially been excited for, but the review says what went to the wayside.

GEN collects underground manga and publishes them here in volumes, then collects each series into its own volume. They’re usually one-shots, but they do have multi-volume. Like, two volumes for one series.

I disliked “Anomal,” however, not for its translation alone, which was awful.

That text isn’t supposed to be tiny. Even if she was whispering, which she isn’t, the readers are supposed to be able to read it. “That’s why I’m going to do it for you,” she says, and in response, the guy she’s talking to says “For me?” LOOK AT ALL THAT SPACE.

And this asterisk leading to a translation note? Not there. Not anywhere. All the others are, but this one had to take his kid to a soccer game. This is not GEN’s only manga to mess up translation.

Fun fact, there’s no translation information in Anomal. There’s the Cover and Interior Design and “Nukuharu,” the author’s credit. So they knew it’s lousy and wanted to protect guilty parties?

So the manga itself is a little more ambitious than it really deserves to be. We’ll (I’ll) do (have done before you read this) a story-by-story analysis to determine “Anomal’s” overall merit (same thing but instead of “merit” replace “flaws”).

First and foremost, there’s no contents page. Navigation for an anthology is much more important than for any other genre, because without a single set of characters, there’s no event within the story to retain the location of a certain moment; i.e., it’s easier to remember Bulma’s shower scene in Dragon Ball is after Yamcha’s fight than it is to remember where a certain cutaway gag is in a Family Guy episode.

Kaeshi: A blind boy is greeted by a yokai with one hundred eyes, offering him a set. The boy, honorable, wishes to repay him, so he waits for the yokai to ask for a favor. The boy befriends a younger boy who is a sparrow painting yokai, maybe. The sparrokai runs off, and the eyokai asks the human boy to find the sparrokai so he can permanently turn him into a painting. Not willing to betray his friend, the boy returns his eyes. Then he and the sparrokai leave together, with the sparrokai as his seeing guide.

Um. Did anything really happen? It felt really short. Like, it’s a short story, yes, but it didn’t feel like it had staying power. It was, not is. Not much happened, anyway. “Here’s my eyes, I insist on repaying you.” “Will you catch my sparrow?” “Here’s my eyes. Bye!” I learned nothing for the experience. It tries to set itself up for a warm ambiance, but it has neither the artistic skill nor patience to pull it off. C.

Keiken Sosa: Two detectives try to figure out why someone died from mysterious causes, many claiming the cause to be yokai. One detective is shy, but takes on the personality of the victim of his cases to get into their psyche. The other is the Watson. The former gets too sexually agressive with the latter, apparently in an attempt to figure out the victim’s motives. The Watson pushes the other detective’s head down, revealing a spring that lodged itself into the victim’s brain and sank back down into the bed.

Oddly, the manga seems to be taking a yokai-theme, but with this, it breaks it off, for the most part. The main detective shy, could be interesting if more fleshed out. However, there are too many cooks in the manga personality soup, and I don’t mean trying to think like the victim. His default is shy, specifically around those he doesn’t know. Kind of falls into the neurotic role, like Death the Kid’s symmetrical obsession, among others. Also, sexually aggressive, even if it was for show. I don’t know; stick to one thing. The detective’s motivation for sexual aggressiveness is more clever than the actual cause of death, and the Watson has no presence. Probably the best of the bunch. A-.

Ayakashi No Kotodama: A young man has the power to use Kotodama, the soul of words. He had become an outcast at a young age, scaring his mother and driving out his father. He is friends with a female man-eating yokai who loves his Kotodama, and the man as well, who fed her his words when she wanted to eat him. He returns home to his mother, who kills him. Before he dies, however, the yokai fulfills his wish to send him back to the beginning of his life, enabling him to start over. He retains his memories, however, and changes his life to the point that his father stays. He also has many friends and a little sister. He meets the yokai, who doesn’t know him, but he feeds her his Kotodama and she falls in love.

I like this one the most, but in terms of quality, I see some faults. The idea of Kotodama is never made clear, especially why anyone would fear the soul of words. The only indication for a Kotodama is an outline. I think the relationship between the man and yokai is pretty sweet, but a bit odd when the man is reborn, still a kid. I’m huge on the rebirth. The mother was awful enough to kill her own child, the father enough to abandon them both, yet the story gives the impression of the whole thing being his fault, since he was special. That’s exactly what it is, but it’s a muddled message, since his Kotodama saved him and found him love. Also, the excessive happy ending is saccharine. B+.

The Jizo’s Mouth: An agency specializes in exorcism. A woman asks for help, believing her late child to be haunting her. Realizing she’s experiencing latent trauma, they show her, with the help of a Jizo’s mouth, that her child is truly gone.

I’m going to feel like garbage for saying this, but “Nightmares For Sale” did it better, and they didn’t even do it well. Utterly forgettable, “The Jizo’s Mouth” does not entice, nor does it give a fleshed-out taste of characters or world. So the woman thought her child was haunting her, but she wasn’t being haunted. So what? Shaped like itself, this story fails to entertain or surprise. D.

Ayakashi-Nushi: A girl has an obsession with hugging yokai, thinking they’re cute. Noticed by two humans, they allow her to become a candidate for the position of Ayakashi-Nushi, which would allow her to control yokai. The younger one uses a demon than lives in his blood, but since he’s anemic, he can’t use the demon too long. The older one dislikes humans (other humans?), so he tries to kill the girl. But she lends the anemic one her blood, allowing him to fight back. So she’s on her way to become an Ayakashi-Nushi.

Part Two: The girl meets a yokai with a ball. She tries to hug him, but he eats her. Then the boy saves her. The girl has a few visions that show the yokai began hating humans when one promised to come back and play, but never did. He lost an eye in the war and didn’t want the yokai to see him like that. The girl tells the yokai what happened, and he fades, leaving the ball (which belonged to the human) behind. She gives the ball to the human’s grandson.

Weird that this is a two-parter, but the author must have loved it. It’s typical. There’s tons of stories like it. Even the second half, which was sweet, was typical. Ever read Yokai Doctor? It’s Yokai Doctor. And the anemic thing is from another one; I can’t recall. Also, Pokemon. Also, Digimon. The hugging yokai thing isn’t enough of a draw. Pokemon has done that. Pretty much any cliche in a “monster battler” series is in this two-parter. I can’t be bothered to remember anyone’s name in any of these, given the short length, but even the doubled length here didn’t do enough to draw me in. It does do a good job replicating the genre, but I prefer something fresher and not a one-shot. C-.

Guy Who Likes To Be Hit In The Head To Come Up With Ideas And Meets An Alien Girl Who Wears Clothing That Disappears If The Device That Makes Them Is Improperly Removed Who Ran Away From Her Wedding And Fiance Who Followed Her To Earth To Take Her Back But The Guy Has The Alien Girl Who Hits Him Best Take Off Her Clothing Device But It Strips Her And He Makes A Swan Ship That Takes Care Of The Fiance But The Girl Needs A Place So She Stays With The Guy Until She Finds A Boyfriend: They forgot to translate the title.

I don’t know if I can be kind. It’s pandering, which is odd since it’s the only one to do so. I like a good pandering now and then, but this is both out of place and extensive. The fiance is a cliched jerk fiance. The guy who likes to be hit? I mean, half of the protagonists in Anomal have a silly quirk. It means nothing at this point. They aren’t even funny. And see what I mean about dropping the yokai pretense? Most had actual yokai involved in the plot, but none were actually yokai-like. You know, fierce, a threat, an umbrella. Too much of the fake-outs. Kind yokai, not actually yokai, and no yokai deaths at all. F.

So we have a letter grade across the board. My main issue is that all of these stories feel like they’re trying to be longer or setting up for a full series. But they won’t be. Because they’re generic and deny actual human action.
“I’d like to give back the eyes I forced you to let me do a favor in return for. This sparrow is much more important.”
“He has the ability to speak the souls of words! Our family is ruined!”
“She compulsively hugs yokai? Let’s make her control them!”

I’m glad to have access to more underground manga, but not when they don’t suitably entertain. Or translate.

Love At Fourteen

See, but like, it’s cute and all, but it isn’t by any means perfect. A four out of five star rating. If this were tennis, it would be one point short of Fifteen Love, nor is it “at” Fifteen Love. It’s…

Thank you for indulging in my horrid pun. It’s Valentine’s Day on Saturday, which is always the 14th, so a mutually-sided romance using “Fourteen” and “Love” in the title is tres bien! Whatever that means, I know not; although the title refers to the two characters on the cover falling in love at age fourteen.

The catch? They’re both smart, attractive, and mature in school, making them the apple of the student body’s eye. But behind closed doors, they are…

Silly! Yes, they’re silly, and no one can know that they’re silly and in a relationship. Why? Uh… the plot wills it. I couldn’t begin to guess the reason. Excuse me, I need to compare this manga to Kare Kano (His & Her Circumstances), a classic series. So the two lovers there start off as enemies, competing for tests and attention. Why is not important, but their competition evolves into love.

The reason for the stoic facade in Kare Kano is  because of how their real selves are, and the loss of respect directed at them. They feed off of it for individual reasons, but it’s plausible why they can’t show anyone their silly side. By the end of volume one (spoiler), they drop the act, displaying their goofy sides since they no longer care what people think. Of course, everyone is freaked out by the the smartest and respected students looking like idiots.

Which brings me to my issue with “Love at Fourteen.” They constantly worry if anyone catches them, but they don’t have an invested interest in what people think. I mean, they act silly in the hallway, they risk being caught in a classroom. They aren’t taking any real precautions, so why the fear of being revealed? It comes off as self-imposed conflict, which would be fine if it was the main conflict.

But it isn’t, as hormones is the real interest. Fourteen is an awkward age, THE awkward age. So our protagonists (she’s Kanata, he’s Kazuki), who had been childhood friends, start blushing and avoiding gaze, confused as to the reason why looking at one person that they’ve always known throws them off. While a lot of this is adorable and does wonders for the story’s minute nuances, it does little for certain details. Like how in one of the “intermission” segments, one of the breaks from chapter to chapter, features the couple going to a water park, and Kazuki wants to go to the expensive one far away because he doesn’t want any other guys but him looking at Kanata in her bathing suit.

So while the bits about “Her hair, I never noticed…” or “His neck, when did he get an Adam’s Apple?” are cute, they’re still cognizant of love, attraction, and sexuality. So it is a bit counterproductive. I mean, it makes sense when they blush for any reason. After all, love can jeopardize friendship, young love is naive, and romance does not belong in a fishbowl. But personally, they’re a little too around the map.

And now, a little segment I like to call: “Romance in Manga 101: Tips and Tricks for Writing Successful Shojo.”

Today’s lesson is on feet. It’s not just for fetishists, but romantics as well. If you have a clear-cut manga that takes no swerves, such as she’s a cyborg or he’s a ghost, then this tip is for you! Injure someone’s foot. Trust me, the more blood, the better. And show whatever’s lodged in there. It’s the love interest’s job to remove that conch seashell!

Too squeamish to draw that? Not a problem! Have the female character injure her feet with uncomfortable shoes, so the male will massage them! It’s intimacy without going into-she! If you don’t want anyone hurt, then just make them lose their shoes! Not only does it it make one character reliant on another, giving the reader a deplorably sweet piggybacking scene, but it gives the reader the impression of a reckless, care-free youth. It’s muy caliente!

You can use these methods more than once. No one will notice or care! Love Com used all of them over the span of 17 volumes! Love at Fourteen used them in the first volume! Plus, they bought each other ankle bracelets, so they’re ahead of the game. The Foot: The Most Romantic Body Part!

Someone does catch the couple, a loner named Nagai, but he only informs Kazuki that he caught him making time with Kanata. So Nagai uses Kazuki as a slave. Wow! Conflict, and not just the warmhearted variety! Okay, so he’ll be a prominent threat, yes?

Nagai constantly cuts music class, but a teacher finally corners him, locking the music room and throwing away the key… in her cleavage. This teacher cracks me up, but I feel less than impressed by this resolution. Doesn’t sound like resolution? Afterwards, Kazuki tells Nagai “I saw that!” And they’re even. HOW.

That is my ultimate complaint with “Love at Fourteen,” as it doesn’t seem to follow real cause and effect. Motivation, see, is often based on something. Nagai is motivated to torture Kazuki because of his inferiority complex. That’s cause and effect. Nagai is forced to sing by the music teacher, and Kazuki catches him. Since neither one wants their secret out, it’s a stalemate and all is hushed. But Nagai doesn’t like people. And why would anyone care if the hilarious piano teacher was a bit rough on Nagai? Even if Kazuki told, since this manga does reward proper morals, it would reflect badly on him for slander. Also, if Kazuki did tell, maybe it would help Nagai. Hilarious to the reader, but the faculty might not look so kindly on the way a student was treated. Cause ≠ Effect.

Pick it up, though. For humor, cute naive foibles of love, polished artwork, and the silky-smooth cover only Yen Press can deliver, Love at Fourteen is a manga. A good, good manga.

My Neighbor Seki

YES! I reviewed a manga only two weeks afters its initial American release! So when was the Japanese release?

Oh, 2010? Oh… okay…

Yokoi just wants to focus on her school work and graduate from high school, but one thing gets in the way of her academic pursuits… her seat neighbor, Seki! Seki is unable to focus on his studies, or simply chooses not to. You know, the ability but not the interest. Whatever. Whether it’s creating games for himself to play using pre-existing game pieces (such as a giant chess piece from the others), bringing cats to school, or playing with an Ouija during lab (kind of counterproductive to the course on that one), Yokoi can’t help but get involved in Seki’s crazy distractions. Oh, and she’s the one to get in trouble! Ha ha ha!

GETTHISMANGAGETTHISMANGAGETTHISMANGA. I adored it. Plus, I’m pleased as punch that there’s more to be released. I mean, I thought this manga was just a one-shot  with a “1” mistakenly placed on the spine. Wouldn’t be the first time. And it’s a gag manga and in one chapter, Yokoi assumes she knows what will happen. He surprises her, but I’d wait to use that line in a second-volume at least.

One thing to call “My Neighbor Seki” is “creative.” One thing not to call “My Neighbor Seki” is “deviating.” While I love the humor and the bare-bones cast, the series begs for more substance. From what I understand, later volumes introduce a new character, but I know not how they are employed.

This volume does try to take advantage of other school settings towards the last few chapters. I appreciate this, because even if the author could come up with a new classroom gag, audiences would likely have tired of it.

Okay, I’m done. I mean, what else do I say? I don’t want to spoil everything, so I won’t go chapter-by-chapter. Um… Seki never talks, but he appears to be able to off screen. He’s “the unexpressive”. Yokoi constantly talks or thinks in her head, which means she probably has less focus than Seki, the guy who makes his desk reflective; the guy who knits in class. Bet he gets good grades regardless, amirite?

No, what am I supposed to say? I love pre-internet manga reviewing or manwha discussion, since not every other schmo can pick up a copy and read and review. You’re reading a special schmo review right here, guys. I’m not used to this “everyone else has trekked this land, son” stuff. This “What territory your have chosen to trod across is not our way, understand? You review old and more obscure works, child of the noodle cup,” stuff isn’t what I’m used to.

Um… okay, let’s have a discussion of the essential elements of the two-person comedy. Yokoi is the straightman and Seki is the funnyman, right? This is because humor needs two roles: One to make jokes, the other to be surprised by them.

The reason something like Bobobo doesn’t work for me with Bobobo and Beauty as the Funny and Straight is because of their world. Everyone is “The Funny,” so no one can be too outlandish. So Beauty or the mook-of-the-week overreacting feels weak and falls apart.

By the same vein, there’s Tori Koro, which has characters overreact for mundane things. “Wow, four people in one house??? That’s insane!!!” Credibility is lost, as is reader investment.

So how do we counteract this issue? Well, My Neighbor Seki counteracts it quite efficiently. Since only Yokoi is privy to Seki’s activities, the world appears normal only when the manga begins each chapter. The teacher teaches, Yokoi has a thought, it’s our world. Then, perspective shift! Seki is fooling around! Progression of madness! Our universe fades in favor of a new one where anarchy reins! Then, perspective shift! Final page, the madness goes to bed in favor of reality, as the teacher berates the poor, oddly white-haired Yokoi. Then we’re ready for our next adventure!

What kind of world works or does not? Too much madness with few detractors or too little madness with too many detractors don’t work, but the flipside is a world with nothing but madness with a single visiting detractor. Maybe a cat, some playing cards, it’s Alice and Wonderland. Also, kind of the Wizard of Oz, as Dorothy flows with the madness, so it resonates with readers. Alice and Dorothy are probably the best straight characters out there. While Dorothy never really asks about the world she’s in, just enjoying the ride, Alice doesn’t care for foolishness and wants to leave quickly. Yet she has fun commentary and watching her get teased is wonderlandful that it’s hard to be annoyed by her.

Thing is, the straightman role, that’s not what Yokoi is. Sure, she plays the role of pointing out apparent madness, but she often causes it. When she watches a battle with a tyrant character, she destroys the tyrant, much to Seki’s violent inner rage. Or when Yokoi loses her conctration and patience when her Seki unintentionally challenges her superb knitting skill. Yokoi is not a bystander of madness, she’s a cause of it. I appreciate this, since I don’t believe making Yokoi one-note would have done the manga any favors.

As for the progression of humor, what would you expect to be the number one aspect of a gag manga? Original jokes, rephrasing old ones, getting one big laugh out there? Nah. It’s knowing when your audience knows the gag, and you follow it up with a reversal. Each time we expect Seki to go a path, he changes gears. When your audience guesses  the punchline, you’re in trouble. Sometimes the mundane can supply greater humor than going all out. Those who shift in and out of the extreme are wise, since the Afterlife is the limit.
Joke–Joke in a City–Joke in the White House–Joke in Multiple Foreign Countries–Joke in the Ocean–Joke in the Sky–Joke in Space–Joke in Time–Joke in Alternate Dimensions–Joke in the Afterlife
OOPS! Joke literally died because that’s as big as they go! Granted, most series might put a Heaven episode or joke in like, Season Four, but it’s hard to manage if your goal is “bigger and better.” We all rot, Joke, it’s just how long we can preserve it.
So I hope that compels you to buy My Neighbor Seki. Oh, and the series is free to watch on Crunchyroll, so go for it.