Weird Amerimanga Of The Day: Dynamo Joe

dynamoAmerican comics done in manga style is an older concept than you’d think. The grandaddy of the idea was Ben Dunn’s Ninja High School, which parodied anime tropes before many people even knew they existed. Others came after, like Fred Perry’s Gold Digger, but one of my favorites of the time was First Comics’s Dynamo Joe, done by Doug Rice. I believe it’s the earliest Amerimanga based on an original concept out there, predating NHS by a year and debuting in 1986(!) as part of First’s Mars comic book series. What’s unusual about it is that both the art and the story are well done, being original even while acknowledging a heavy Gundam influence.

The story is the usual “mindless alien invaders against human-piloted mecha” tale, but again, this comic started almost twenty years ago. Elf-like Imperium pilot Elanian and cat-like Tavitan Pomru are the crew of one mecha under the human forces, called Dynamo Joe. They fight their own side as much as the invading Mellenareans, and it’s always a toss-up whether or not they’ll survive till their next mission. The art style is surprisingly well done, and is a nice blend of western and manga influences. Sadly Doug Rice seems to have faded into obscurity; apart from a stint on DC’s Manhunter comic book, I haven’t seen much of him.

It’s a pity, because DJ is really well done for its kind. First Comics as a publisher put out a lot of quality comics, like Mike Sable, Badger, American Flagg, and Grim Jack. Dynamo Joe had the same level of quality, and managed to be a successful Amerimanga before the concept even existed. Before most of us even heard about Gundam, we read Dynamo Joe. People like Doug Rice or Ben Dunn art part of the reason anime took off in the west; they introduced us to tropes and concepts we didn’t know existed, and primed the pump for the anime book in the 90’s.

Unfortunately DJ is long out of print. You can probably track down back issues over the net, and they shouldn’t cost much. But the series has quietly vanished from the public’s eye. Technically this isn’t a “weird” manga, because it’s well done and surprisingly up-to-date, but it’s a historical oddity given the time it debuted.  Back then you either had comic book companies adapting manga into the comic book format, or you had westerners drawing tales based on anime series, like Comico did with Robotech. This is one of the first comics to blend both, and if you’re into Amerimanga, this is a decent curiosity to own.

 


Not A Taste Test

220px-CokePepsiChallenge TWWK at Beneath the Tangles pointed out this article at Christ and Pop Culture as something I might be interested in. I am, but I had to think about my reaction to it some. While I’m in sympathy, I can’t really agree with the article for several reasons.

The first area of disagreement would be in the title. Most of my beef with Christian culture is not that we have poor taste overall. I don’t like Left Behind, for sure, but I also didn’t like The Da Vinci Code, and How I Met Your Mother makes me physically ill. Yes, Christian pop culture is a lot of bonnet and grandmother books, but it’s not a matter of poor taste to like them, or good taste to reject them. It’s more that my dislike of them comes from them being omnipresent and all other genres being ignored. It’s not a matter of taste whatsoever as opposed to certain elements dominating the culture. If there were more science fiction and fantasy, chances are we’d see a spectrum of good and bad just as much as we see it in any other genre. Taste isn’t the issue.

The second disagreement is this. The author watches a movie with his friends. He is moved. His friends however, react like this:

One of my friends thought it was too long for a movie not starring transforming robots. Another thought it was a poor film because the characters made decisions that we as Christians disagree with. He asserted it was wrong to enjoy the movie or learn from it because of these differences.

You know, objections like this are not a sign of bad taste.

“Too long” is a valid criticism. You may like long, indepth movies or novels, but some people don’t. This is a matter of personal taste with no right or wrong answer. One of the most widely acclaimed science fiction films, Chris Marker’s La Jetee, is all of twenty-two minutes long. The second answer is an informed Christian perspective. He watched the movie, evaluated the decisions of the characters, and found them lacking in Christian ideas. He thought it wrong to enjoy it based on that. Again, this isn’t bad taste. This may not be fair, considering secular films can’t always be held up to Christian standards, but it’s not a defect in the person to not get the same sense of rapture from the work the author had.

Then the author immediately follows with these judgements:

  • We superimpose our fast-food culture on art.
  • We have bad taste.
  • We misunderstand the role secular art can play in our lives.

We can strike out number two right away. The author expects people to share his own reaction to a particular work of art, and calls that good taste. Disagreeing with it is bad taste. The thing is though there really isn’t a universally agreed upon reaction to any work where we can say this.

Usually, bad taste is more about class and morality than artistic merit. Low culture is considered bad taste to enjoy; ballet and opera are good taste, professional wrestling is bad. You see this in the original article when he mentions transforming robots, which is low culture. However, a lot of upper-class culture is just as turgid and unbearable in terms of artistic merit; impenetrable literary novels about college professors being cuckolded by their wives, thousand page omnibus works which are just as unrealistic as Twilight, except they court the sensibilities of the literarti instead of soccer moms, and more. So one reaction to point two is that too often class snobbery can drive reaction to or against works, rather than taste or sensibility itself.

I do think bad taste exists though, but the true marker is morality. Jerry Springer is in bad taste because what he does is immoral; he pushes dysfunction and mockery for personal gain. People who have bad taste often prefer works that are immoral over those that are moral, artistic craft be damned. You have bad taste if you like Brian DePalma’s films despite him being an excellent director. If you gravitate to the immorality in works, you have bad taste. This is because a lot of artistically sound works can be immoral or offensive despite their skill in execution.

Point one is back to class. You have a fast food culture because people do not have time to pursue leisure. You don’t have the time to cook savory food that takes hours to prepare and a stay at home mom to watch over it. Slow food is a conceit of the rich and another status marker to differentiate between classes. Paul Fussell mentioned that the defining activities of wealthy people’s hobbies is that they are expensive, take a lot of time, and need to be maintained at even more cost. So fast food culture is in many ways a disgust at those who don’t have advantages. They can’t sit down and slowly enjoy a three hour Tarkovsky film, because implicit in truly being into the experience involves a level of leisure and self-education many people don’t have.

Point three I agree with, in part.

This flows in with his point about “bad readers.” The point is that people use art only to confirm what they already believe in, and not to be challenged by. I can agree with this, although to be honest I think people can get wounded or fatigued by always being challenged or expanded. Information is like a river; too many perspectives can flood out a person’s inner self and cause ennui and dislocation. But the point is good. We can’t always expect art to act like this.

However, Lewis was being a snob in this. There’s nothing wrong in being palliated, refreshed, or what have you by art. Not every use of art has to add to your sum total of humanity; recreational use of it is perfectly fine. To use church as an example, you shouldn’t be expected that every time you go to a service, you develop a spiritual epiphany and grow as a person. Sometimes you need comfort and not challenging; belonging and not world-expanding. Both experiences have their place.

I think my final objection is that the writer tends to spiritualize his sense of good taste when it comes to secular works.

This is a dangerous thing. Yes, Paul quoted pagan thinkers and might have been current on philosophy, but Peter was an unlearned fisherman. Each believer must serve God in his own way, and some may not gain anything or even be hurt by serious secular exposure. You can’t make a rule out of something that each believer must grapple with in his own conscience, and it’s dangerous to assume a definition of good taste being any kind of a spiritual good or an aid to the Gospel. G.K. Chesterton illustrated why in this passage from Manalive:

“At Oxford, I fear, I had the artistic temperament rather badly; and artists love to be limited. I liked the church as a pretty pattern; discipline was mere decoration. I delighted in mere divisions of time; I liked eating fish on Friday. But then I like fish; and the fast was made for men who like meat. Then I came to Hoxton and found men who had fasted for five hundred years; men who had to gnaw fish because they could not get meat—and fish-bones when they could not get fish. As too many British officers treat the army as a review, so I had treated the Church Militant as if it were the Church Pageant. Hoxton cures that. Then I realized that for eighteen hundred years the Church Militant had not been a pageant, but a riot—and a suppressed riot. There, still living patiently in Hoxton, were the people to whom the tremendous promises had been made. In the face of that I had to become a revolutionary if I was to continue to be religious. In Hoxton one cannot be a conservative without being also an atheist— and a pessimist. Nobody but the devil could want to conserve Hoxton.

“On the top of all this comes Hawkins. If he had cursed all the Hoxton men, excommunicated them, and told them they were going to hell, I should have rather admired him. If he had ordered them all to be burned in the market-place, I should still have had that patience that all good Christians have with the wrongs inflicted on other people. But there is no priestcraft about Hawkins—nor any other kind of craft. He is as perfectly incapable of being a priest as he is of being a carpenter or a cabman or a gardener or a plasterer. He is a perfect gentleman; that is his complaint. He does not impose his creed, but simply his class. He never said a word of religion in the whole of his damnable address. He simply said all the things his brother, the major, would have said. A voice from heaven assures me that he has a brother, and that this brother is a major.

How much of the sensibilities he wants are just class markers? How much of having the right opinions about a certain film or being informed in it is part of being a member of a certain knowledge-using class? Is it really growth that comes from being familiar with the works of Woody Allen, or entrance into certain class and cultural circles? C.S. Lewis says:

All this is rather obvious. I wonder whether you will say the same of my next step, which is this. I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside. This desire, in one of its forms, has indeed had ample justice done to it in literature. I mean, in the form of snobbery. Victorian fiction is full of characters who are hag-ridden by the desire to get inside that particular Ring which is, or was, called Society. But it must be clearly understood that “Society,” in that sense of the word, is merely one of a hundred Rings, and snobbery therefore only one form of the longing to be inside.

People who believe themselves to be free, and indeed are free, from snobbery, and who read satires on snobbery with tranquil superiority, may be devoured by the desire in another form. It may be the very intensity of their desire to enter some quite different Ring which renders them immune from all the allurements of high life. An invitation from a duchess would be very cold comfort to a man smarting under the sense of exclusion from some artistic or communistic côterie. Poor man—it is not large, lighted rooms, or champagne, or even scandals about peers and Cabinet Ministers that he wants: it is the sacred little attic or studio, the heads bent together, the fog of tobacco smoke, and the delicious knowledge that we—we four or five all huddled beside this stove—are the people who know.

Often the desire conceals itself so well that we hardly recognize the pleasures of fruition. Men tell not only their wives but themselves that it is a hardship to stay late at the office or the school on some bit of important extra work which they have been let in for because they and So-and-so and the two others are the only people left in the place who really know how things are run. But it is not quite true. It is a terrible bore, of course, when old Fatty Smithson draws you aside and whispers, “Look here, we’ve got to get you in on this examination somehow” or “Charles and I saw at once that you’ve got to be on this committee.” A terrible bore… ah, but how much more terrible if you were left out! It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don’t matter, that is much worse.

A person can be honest and say “I am trying to evangelize people, therefore I must understand them and relate to them.” That’s fine. But the writer isn’t doing this. He’s using “good taste” as a reason, and one of the biggest reasons to be considered as having good taste is to be approved by others. It’s a form of pride, and it’s really dangerous. For myself, I have to be careful not to view my weirdness as good taste and as a way to differentiate myself from others. “I like obscure anime X; doesn’t that show how in the know I am?” It’s a harder temptation than you think, especially if you are a loner, misanthrope, and contrarian.

These are some of the issues I had with the piece. I think my issues with Christian culture is less about taste, and more about at how it picks insiders and outsiders. I don’t want to rehash that old argument in an already long blog post. I don’t think the advice the writer gives is bad entirely, but trying to universalize it is worrisome and can lead to the issues I mentioned. I don’t think Christian maturity is a taste test.

 


Weird Anime Of The Day: Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Returns

What’s fun about doing WAOTD posts is when you find anime that are so much a product of their generation that they seem almost alien to watch. Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Returns is so 90’s its hurts, but for good and bad ways. It’s corny, melodramatic, has some horrible dubbed voices, but manages to slide into awesomeness despite the silliest premise you can think of.

Yuna is your typical genki middle school girl. However she is also the Savior of Light, chosen by the mechanical fairy Elner to wield a powered battlesuit and protect the earth. Her greatest strength and biggest weakness is how she tries to befriend her enemies and show them compassion. And surprisingly, she does; one by one, those that oppose her realize the error of their ways and become her supporters and defenders. The thirteen frauleins of darkness, the erika seven, and many others band together to watch over her. Yuna Returns happens after this, and before a new threat attacks earth in the form of the Machine empire.

This threat will test Yuna like nothing before.

At first, you’d think this is a really silly anime, and you’d not be wrong. Yuna Returns is packaged with the first Yuna OVA, with girls in funny battlesuits using giant mecha to win cooking competitons. And as the anime starts, it looks like Returns is no different. Yuna is giving a Christmas concert, and receives a present in being able to sing a duet with her idol, the Masked Maiden Polylina. Polylina is an obvious distaff version of Tuxedo Mask, and they play it up for serious humor in that its blatantly obvious she’s Yuna’s friend Lina. After some really bad dubbed singing, Yuna reveals a surprise; a giant holographic version of herself, projected high over the town. Then it starts getting serious.

Out of the blue, the giant Yuna is pierced by a red cross of light. As it fades, its a precursor of what happens next. The machine empire has landed on earth, and their target is Yuna and everything about her. First up, her friends.

This is where the series gets both odd and compelling. All of Yuna’s friends have powered armor too, and a lot of them are quite silly. You have bunny-eared golf-club wielders, a girl who uses a pair of laser-slicing stage lights, a cat-eared nurse who lets her armor do all the work, and more. But the battles aren’t all that silly; they are fast and brutal, if relatively bloodless. The first Machine Empire warrior is a little girl, and she trounces all of Yuna’s friends pretty hardcore. This is Ayako, and once she’s damaged, she throws a painful tantrum that threatens to destroy the entire city.

Of course, Yuna befriends her, but this is where the OVA gets even more compelling.

It’s still a very simple trope; the enemy who is befriended and made human by Yuna’s love and willingness to take a chance on her. But they play the effects of this brutally straight, with some serious drama to it. Just because Ayako is saved doesn’t mean she doesn’t suffer from having to fight against her own sisters, especially when its obvious that the only way to stop them might be killing them. And its obvious her sisters are just as evil as she was, if not more. You don’t expect the story to be as much about Ayako and her repentance as Yuna and her problems, but it is. And the battles still stay as intense, if not more.

Then they throw a huge gut punch.

I’m sure you can guess what happens. It’s not really an uncommon trope. But unusually, Yuna Returns plays it entirely straight. A lot of the uses of this particular trope cheapen it or use it in manipulative ways to have their cake and eat it too. They use it for a brief emotional spike, and then wave it away at the end. Yuna doesn’t do that. It takes the trope seriously, and despite how melodramatic the anime is, it packs some serious power to it.

I don’t want to die, Yuna.

It’s obvious Yuna Returns is heavily influenced by Sailor Moon, but where Sailor Moon waves away death and makes it cheap, Yuna doesn’t. It’s not a deconstruction, and its straight melodrama, but it still manages to hit you in the gut by not sugarcoating it. The power of friendship cannot always save people, and the greatest weapon against Yuna is her ability to love her enemies. And it’s not an offscreen death or a noble sacrifice either; the person is scared, sad, and full of regret at how her future is now cut short.

Yuna, please.

We’re used to easy death and resurrection with fictional characters. To break this, even in a melodramatic and hammy way, has surprising power to it. The ending too; Yuna is grieving over her lost friend, when all the others show up and console her in song. That expression…

yuna

 

This isn’t to say Yuna Returns is a masterpiece of anime. It’s not a little corny, with a dub that’s either hilarious or a mess of squeaky voices. (Best scene; Yuri, when seeing her school is under attack: “I had Girl Scout cookies in my desk. Thin mints! They were thin mints!”) There’s a lot of voice talent there that you’ll recognize in later anime too. There’s some absolutely horrible singing in the dub. You won’t understand what on earth is going on from the beginning: this awesome FAQ helps in telling us about the backstories of the Erika Seven and the other characters. It’s pretty bad at points.

But despite this, it works. The Yuna series never really caught on here, as most of the games were for Saturn or PSone, and visual novels to boot. It’s a forgotten anime, although you can find a reissue on DVD thankfully. But for a Weird Anime of the Day, it’s a surprisingly good one. Not Madoka levels of despair, nor Sailor Moon levels of optimism, but an unusual mixture of real grief and silly fluffiness.


Not Left Behind, But Spirited Away

tenchiI’m having a minor debate about the Left Behind Franchise in a post on Speculative Faith, and one of the points I wanted to make was about how unsatisfying the Rapture feels in many Christian works devoted to it. Most Christian novels tend to devolve into tracts or teaching opportunities about the system of thought the person believes about the Rapture. It’s more about imparting the correct timetable of when it happens, and then after it, ticking off the checkboxes as they are listed in Revelation. In a way, it’s strikingly similar to hard science fiction in that it’s concerned with the realistic and plausible explanation of an idea. In hard SF, that may be about the mechanics of a quantum computer, and in end times books, it’s about the mechanics of how the End Times will happen in the society of the writer at the time.

However just about all of them are unsatisfying.

Ironically, the most satisfying feeling I’ve ever had about the Rapture was in a work not even concerned with it: the movie Tenchi Forever!.

The plot involves Tenchi up and disappearing one day. It’s found out that he has been taken by the spirit of a girl named Haruna, desperate for a taste of the love forbidden her by her death on the way to Earth from Jurai. She’s captured him deep inside the body of the tree that grew from her corpse, and she’s leeching energy from him in order to make a parallel world where he and she lives on earth as husband and wife.

It’s not meant to be, of course. But it leads to an absolutely striking sequence at the end. It starts at the beginning of the video here, and ends at around 3:00.

As the alternate world begins to fade, Ryoko is sent back to save Tenchi. She’s overjoyed to find Haruna’s spell is broken, and he remembers her. It’s time for him to go. He puts on his jacket, steps up to the window, and then looks back. Two engagement rings are there, a sign of the world he is leaving behind. Then, he is slowly taken up into the air by Ryoko to vanish, as the world below him grays out and disappears.

The movie itself is striking. It’s alien to the entire Tenchi franchise in that it’s a serious story about love, loss, and despair. There’s no magical girl Sammy, no endless bickering, no fan service; instead, a very quiet and moving story is told. But that scene, that brief passage of time when Tenchi is spirited away from the illusion he was locked in, always stuck with me.

I know we all think of the Rapture as happening in the twinkling of an eye, although this isn’t actually what 1 Corinthians 15:52 is referring to. But to me, this really hit home because its honestly how I envision the Rapture as happening. You look up, and one day a very dear friend or loved one is there, ready to take you in hand and spirit you away from the life you live. Everything about the scene speaks to me; the seconds spent adjusting his hair and putting on his jacket (like he needs it,) and the brief look back at the happiness you had in the world you are leaving behind. But it’s time for that to end, and for you to go to the place where people love you. The scene isn’t even about the Rapture, but no other work I’ve read or watched has managed to capture what it must feel like or the emotions of happiness and regret that happen when it does.

I think this is why I can’t ever get behind Christian rapture novels. There is no feeling to them, no introspection, nothing more than a dry scripture lesson dressed up in a sloppy story that insults your intelligence when it isn’t actively offending you. The mystery, the alienness, the sadness, and the joy; all is missing. It makes the Rapture into an itinerary, end times by Google Maps.

I could get into more about why I cant stand Left Behind. Sixteen books. Sixteen! All in bland, mindless prose, all perfectly tuned to the CBA mindset, all merchandised and targeted properly to the evangelical demographic to make money off of. Then the spin-off series, then the horrible movies, then the reissues and the remakes. How did we ever get to this point, where something literally magical like being taken up in the sky to be with out Lord forever is a cash-cow devoid of wit, beauty or art? But in the end, I’d forgive it if I could feel the Rapture. If I could have a hint of the trumpet’s call.

But no, it’s not there. All they can offer is Left Behind. But they also forget that we are Spirited Away, too. Not stolen, but taken home. Rescued. That’s the difference.


Summer 2014 Anime: What I’m Viewing

Inspired by Medieval Otaku’s post on what he’s watching.

I haven’t been as keen to do a big preview post this season, because too many anime seem to change enough where first impressions don’t last the course of a show. So instead, I’ll just run down what is holding my interest and what isn’t. There’s no shortage of shows this season to go through.

***LIKED***

Locodol. Surprisingly, this was the first show I was drawn into. It’s the story of an average teenage girl who gets hoodwinked into being a locodol-a local idol-in order to help her uncle promote the town she lives in. I don’t usually like idol shows, but Locodol manages to tame the sugary cuteness and make a good, if sort of avearge, slice of life show. There are hints of yuri to it, but it doesn’t seem as offensive because they have a good justification for it. One character is rich and sheltered, and she focuses on friendships with an almost erotic intent. I don’t want to say its a sleeper hit, but it makes for something fun to watch.

Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun. A funny play on shoujo manga tropes. A girl confesses to the quiet and tall boy of her dreams, only for him to misinterpret it as her being a fan of the shoujo manga he writes! Now she’s drafted into helping him out, and meeting his oddball friends. There’s a lot of tweaking on genre conventions, like how a certain male friend of Nozaki’s actually is the model for his female leads. Definitely fun and filled with wry humor.

Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories 2. A short and scary series about urban legends. Managed to give me chills, and so far its without a single hint of graphic violence. I need to go back and watch the first season now.

Sabagebu!: This is Stella Women’s Academy done as a comedy, with a meanie of a protagonist and some fun scenes. Lots of in-jokes and breaking the fourth wall.

Blue Spring Ride: It’s a slow-paced shoujo that deals with relationships, public faces, and regret over the past. Good emotional drama although it suffers from a jerky male romantic interest.

GLASSLIP. So far its another Nagi No Asakura, but with a realistic setting and subdued paranormal themes. Loved more for the scenery porn at the moment.

INVADERS of the ROKUJYOMA?! is what Nanana’s Buried Treasure should have been; a light, silly romp centering around an apartment with some crazy occupants. Highlight for me is the whiny magical girl who no one takes seriously.

***MEH***

Sword Art Online 2. Not bad, but it feels more of the same. The world of Gun Gale Online doesn’t seem well thought out, and the staple “Let;s introduce a new female character to play off of Kirito” gets a bit old now that he is taken and quite happy with Asuna.

ARGEVOLLEN. I simply can’t get excited about mecha series now. They are some of the most formulaic anime made, and Argevollen seems little different. They increasingly feel like westerns, where everything that could be written about them has been written, and only deconstructions or mixed-genre shows can catch my eye.

Re Hamatora. Didn’t really care for the first series, and I’m surprised it got a second.

Sailor Moon Crystal. Going to be interesting to see how they can make a series extremely faithful to a dated 90’s manga hold your interest today. The first episode wasn’t bad, save for Usagi’s voice, but it felt very rushed and compressed. It’s not a bad adaption, but not a world-changer either. Anime comfort food.

Love Stage. For the fujoshi. Theoretically it’s boy’s love, but it cheats by making the main character the most trappiest trap that you’ve ever seen. No, literally:

trappy

Yes, this is a guy. There’s a lot that can be said about how fujoshi replace the passive male protagonist with themselves mentally, but this is the first BL that I’ve seen that does this so blatantly that it approaches ridiculous levels. It’s not bad, but male otaku aren’t the only ones with gender issues, I think.

Intrigue in the Bakamatsu Rock. Silly. Just silly.

In Tokugawa-era Japan, the government licenses male idols to sing Heaven’s Song and keep the populace in check. Enter our shirtless hero and his electric guitar preaching the power of rock. It’s like Free! but with no pretense to internal consistency or sanity. Manages to be meh only because it’s completely, honestly insane.

***DISLIKED IT***

Akame Ga Kill! Yes, I dislike it. This is Bleach for people who think they are better than Bleach. Just sprinkle in more graphic violence, and a weird tonal shift from bleak “All is darkness” to typical shounen tropes and a happy little nakama going around and killing their enemies. Having done this, now it will be absurdly popular and produce 500 manga volumes and ten seasons of anime.

Tokyo Ghoul. You’d think it would be good, but all it did for me was make me wonder at the massive plot holes and inconsistencies, all in the first episode. Like did they not know that it was a ghoul when they implanted its organs in the male main character? How is the populace not panicked or we not in a police state when cannibalistic, nigh-invulnerable serial killers walk around eating people at least once a month? Plus, again with graphic violence. Not really one that hooked me.

Blade Dance of Elementalers. Generic Anime of Animes. Lets put the female lead in from Familiar of Zero, and make the male lead a combination of Ichika from Infinite Stratos and Sato from FoZ. Add a little Demon King Daimao with hints of the MC being the Demon King, and an all-girls school with only one man able to use a formerly all girl power, again from IS. If you like that, watch it right away, but it’s painfully generic otherwise.

Rail Wars. Did you like You’re Under Arrest? Did you ever wish it was more boring, and filled with awkward fan service and weird plot holes? Do you like trains? Here you go. It’s biggest sin is in how dull it is.

Momo-kyun Sword. Breasts, the Anime. But PG breasts. Painfully stupid otherwise.

Magimoji Rurimo. Unlikable main character plus monotone witch makes for bad anime.

I missed a few here, but those I’m still on the fence on where they are in this list. You can see my tastes, though. I’m sort of an outlier; a male fan who likes what could be considered girl’s anime. What are your favorite shows so far?


Blast From The Past: Manga Edition

A new videogame/geek store opened up near where I live. They had some comics there, and I spent a couple of afternoons looking through them. The sad thing about the area where I live is that you can always identify these boxes, because we had only one comic book store with any back inventory. They’ve been sold and resold so many times to so many new shops it’s not even funny. Most of the comics in the box date back to the 80’s and 90’s, and they included a fair amount of manga.

I bet you were surprised manga existed so early eh? Well it did. Here’s some of the titles I picked up, and some notes on them.IMG_0038Before they were Shonen Jump, they were Viz.

Viz back in the day were defined by the works of Rumiko Takahashi. We knew them mostly as the people who brought over Ramna 1/2, and with their comics line they often focused on her lesser-known works. These are two episodes of Rumik world, brought over in a very handsome deluxe format. There’s not a single ad in the books, and they are printed on heavy paper with deluxe cardstock covers. At $3.25 in 1990, they were an expensive hobby; that would probably be the equivalent of $6-10 today.

IMG_0036It looks like Viz also licensed out its titles to other distributors/publishers. Eclipse published a lot of manga titles from Viz, like the ones below and others. Much less expensive at $1.50, but still decent paper quality to it. Mai the Psychic Girl is a very classic shounen book about a psychic teen dealing with Fist of the North Star styled monstrosities.IMG_0034The Dirty Pair was a common series of that time too. Artist Adam Warren, famous for his work on Gen13 and his softcore Empowered comic book got his start doing these series for first Eclipse, and then Dark Horse comics. In this book he’s very, very rough; in later books he shows a mastery of tone and detail that few american manga-styled artists could match. The Dirty Pair never really had much staying power, though. Beyond a remake in the 90’s called Dirty Pair Flash, they haven’t had the same nostalgic appeal as other works did.
IMG_0035
The best thing though about hunting through old comics is all the things you find that you never see again. There were plenty of manga adaptations that never have been picked up by modern publishers, and are wildly different from the usual kind. Cyber 7 is a bizarre manga about a young actor who is targeted by a man with a rabbit head due to his destiny in another world. His only help is from Captain Time and the Cyber 7, and it’s an odd mix of manga tropes and fairy tales.

There were plenty of other lost manga. Dark Horse Comics especially liked to bring them over. You could find comics like Version, Outlanders, Area 88, Xenon the Heavy Metal Warrior, and more.

IMG_0037 Masamune Shirow’s work was common in the era, too. It’s unusual to see it from Eclipse, though. Dark Horse again. They were probably one of the biggest reasons why his work became so accepted in the west. His lush, sexy cyberpunk style was light years away from the boring and monotonous superhero designs of the time, and many a crush on Major Kusanagi was formed earlier than you’d think.

IMG_0033

Ah, Alita. There were problems with the way manga was brought over to the USA, but there were also pluses that we don’t have today either. The downsides of manga in a comic-book format was that they reassembled the panels to read in normal left to right format. The right-to-left manga in the states was an innovation of Viz I think, and not many manga artists were happy to see their work repurposed like that.

However, opening Alita shows how great the comic book format is for manga. The pages are crisp and white, bringing out all the fine detail of the art. The larger size means you can admire it better, too, and the paper is of much higher quality than your average graphic novel. It also lasts a lot longer too; Shonen Jump magazine issues were notorious for tearing easily due to the newsprint they used. They cost a lot more, but these comics will survive a lot better than others.

I might also talk about the magazines that were released in that era too. They seem much harder to find, but Tokyopop’s Mixx magazine and Viz’s Pulp brought shoujo and seinen manga to the states far earlier than you’d think. Serious titles too; both Sailor Moon and Parasyte came over to the west on those imprints. Unfortunately I don’t own any of them, and they are increasingly harder to find these days.

The next time you see a box of old comics, make sure to look through them. You might be surprised at how many of them are manga, and how many gems were brought over the west only to be forgotten.


Much WAT, Many Prince Adventures

So they recently had a new announcement. They’re having VA Brittany Lauda do the voice of a young Jesus Christ in the short. From the deviantart page, yo Jesus.

jesus young

Okay, yeah, a bit weird. But give it some slack.Kind of fits the whole Egyptian motif. The funny thing is that Brittany Lauda’s other VA role was in Queen’s Blade Rebellion. Yes, Queen’s Blade Rebellion. As Mirim.

Wow

Queen’s Blade Rebellion is one of a rather notorious series of ecchi anime, and Mirim is hilarious even by its standards. See, she’s locked into this magical armor that she can’t get out of. Which gets its power from, well, being an armor shaped vibrator.

Yes.

Voice actors do a wide variety of roles, and this really isn’t a strike against the film. A lot of VA in anime do ecchi roles as well as normal. One hilarious example is that if you watch Devil Hunter Yohko, the main character is also the same VA that did the dub of Usagi/Serena from Sailor Moon. But this has to be the most hilarious disparity between roles I have ever heard of, because 90% of what Mirim does is NSFW. I can’t even show a picture of her. I thank God that I never heard the dub of it because then I’d have mentally uncouple my Lord and Savior having the same VA as that character. I think 50% of her dialogue was orgasmic moaning.

This isn’t to say it’s a bad choice. Again, VA often do a variety of roles. Vic Mignogna has done many BL characters, and if anything the fact that they are going full out to get experienced actors to do this is a point in favor of the film. I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on it; if anything I’m surprisingly captivated by it. But the contrast was just so hilarious I had to write this post to process it. Either this is going to be one awesome short or it will be batshit insane.

Also, much WAT with this.

jesusfish

 

Again, from the deviantartpage.

Anthropomorphic shirtless sharks with tongue studs and Jesus fishes. Yeah, WAT.

mans

This is going to be AWESOME. Whoever L.B. is, Godspeed and stay crazy, brother/sister.


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