Ginga Nagareboshi Gin

April 19, 2009

I knew going in that this was a manly manly man story about men except they are actually dogs. Which is why I watched it. Because it has talking dogs. Except the first quarter of the show, which has talking humans and non-talking dogs (then they just start talking when the plot becomes more about them and less about the humans). I can forgive a lot of the violence in this show in light of the fact that it is basically an over-the-top fighting show, but the beating-the-month-old-puppy for no apparent reason near the beginning, not so much. Also, the part where Daisuke accidentally shoots a bird, but the narrative is that the act of taking a life makes him into a Real Man — blecch.

This show is like one of those old samurai movies, except that since it is animated, it can have talking dogs and huge amounts of blood pre-CG (it is an old show). I don’t actually object to dogs getting horribly killed in a story about dogs. It’s when dogs are just extras in a story about humans that it really bothers me to see fictional dogs get hurt. Like the preview of that scifi spider movie I will never ever see where the aliens kill a cat and it is supposed to be funny? Death to that movie.

Anyway, mostly these dogs run around impressing manly dogs with their manliness so that they will help them go fight a big evil bear (dogs are people but bears are monsters — well, only this bear and his bloodline [in the beginning] except maybe also all other bears [at the end]). These are manly, manly dogs who value honor and manliness over their lives. Like Klingons! There is a girl dog, and the DVD insert says she is totally recognized as an equal fighter just like all the others. However, she does way more than her share of getting rescued, and in the actual show it feels more like she is Ben’s girlfriend who is manly enough to tag along but still mostly just acts as the resident girl. (Like Klingons! Women are our partners in battle. Wild cards are for women because they are weak and need more help!) She fights bravely now and then but doesn’t win very much. I only remember one fight in which she played a major role and she totally lost. She is the first and often only dog to cry out with concern when someone else gets hurt. She nearly gets killed saving a puppy and then attributes it to her femaleness that she was moved by the puppy’s cries. She sits out the final battle because she has just given birth to puppies. (Maybe being pregnant was a hindrance to her fighting earlier. I’m not a doctor, but I can’t say I’d recommend running all over the country and making war while pregnant.)

Also, the henchman of the bad traitorous dog appears to have feminine-looking eyelashes.

Now I can watch/read the sequel, Weed, with context! Yay. (They did publish at least the first 3 volumes of the Weed manga in English, which is how I got into this manly manly dog series.)

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New Anime Season

April 13, 2009

I have a bad habit of watching the first episode of things that I don’t know what they are. This is how I ended up seeing the first minute of Saki: bizarre breast-clinging shirt and a girl worrying about her breasts being too small, all before the opening credits. No thanks.

A couple things I will be watching this season (if I can stay on the anime ball): Fullmetal Alchemist. Otherwise I would lose my geek cred. After the first episode, I am really confused how this fits in with the previous anime (and/or the manga, which I also read, which just adds to the confusion). Is it a retelling or, like, a midquel–a story set in between events of the story we already saw? 07 Ghost. I have been reading the comic, but I don’t really know what’s going on. If it’s anything like Amatsuki (also from Zero Sum magazine) watching the anime will not help at all.

Tears to Tiara sounds like a story about an upwardly mobile girl or something, but apparently it isn’t. The first episode didn’t capture my attention at all, but I might give the second episode a chance as it ended on a cliffhanger and we have only met a few characters compared to the number in the opening credits. But for epic fantasy battles I have higher expectations of Guin Saga. It features a capable princess and a random leopard head man. (A very muscular one; I get the impression that a lot of Japanese furries like muscle-bound types.)

Disappointment

April 11, 2009

In the category of things that I was looking forward to that turned out to be extremely disappointing: Monochrome Kids (Monokuro Shounen Shoujo) in Hana to Yume. It looks to be by the same person as – what was it called – Nousatsu Junky? I never really got that comic, because everyone is so angry all the time, especially male lead. And it has models. Reading Ciao for a while left me really, really sick of models, idols, fashion designers, and hair stylists (which of course are the only things girls want to be when they grow up, except maybe florists).

Monochrome Kids is about a girl who goes to a school for princes and princesses of animal kingdoms. One thing they are studying is how to resist the urge to eat humans. (Way to present the image of wild animals as bloodthirsty monsters, huh?) So she is disguised as a rabbit, the only non-carnivore present, but apparently less irresistible than delicious human. (Whut?) So far so good. I don’t really buy the portrayal of carnivorous animals, but hey! People with dog ears and cat ears and tails! Add cat ears to anything halfway decent and I will love it forever.

Unfortunately, I kind of hate it. The animals are all jerks, but Protagonist Girl seems to be falling for the one with the most severe case of Bishounen Jerk Syndrome that I have ever seen. Last issue, he very nearly got her killed, and he calls her “chibibusu.” (Chibi = small, busu = ugly.) Obviously they are destined to be together, and he is totally a really nice guy underneath all the being the hugest asshole in the world. It’s the polite and kind ones you have to watch out for: half the time they end up being a spy for the villain or something. In fact, you should probably just preemptively punch in the face anyone who says anything not rude to you. It’s like shoujo manga is propaganda for the Nice Guy (TM) conspiracy (the one that says girls only like assholes).

That issue was just not fun for me. The comic version of S.A. (also an anime) ended, and I thought I’d peek to see if I found it as infuriating as ever, and I did. (This is subjective. I identify too much with the protagonist’s competitiveness or perfectionism or something. If I ever decided to kill myself, I’d just overdose on this series without first ridding my surroundings of pointy things.)

And Cyboy (Cyborg + Boy) did a volleyball plotline which I found both tedious and infuriating, because it used that plot device where the protagonist is goaded into letting the outcome of a sports competition determine whether his relationship with his friend has any worth or not. At least he didn’t bet the farm, but really, don’t feed the volleyball champion trolls. Then he got injured, but then he won anyway, against the reigning champion team. I hate it when protagonists win against all odds for no reason (although of course two tendencies of fiction are that the protagonist goes up against near-hopeless odds and that the protagonist wins; but in this case my rooting for the protagonist to win was far outweighed by my annoyance at how stupid he was being). I am annoyed that he didn’t have to face how stupid it was putting his estimation of his friendship on the line like that.

This comic is about a guy who used to be geeky and unpopular but his friend has given him a total makeover and helps him maintain his image so now he is popular (but the love interest doesn’t like that type of guy, oh irony). This sort of “be careful what you wish for” plot tends to focus on the less desirable consequences of getting your dream come true, but sometimes I feel it’s a bit too uncritical of how differently people get treated based on appearances. There isn’t any indication that maybe people should have been nicer to him before he got made over. No one’s entitled to chocolate on Valentine’s Day, but some of the pre-makeover treatment was actively cruel. It also leaves me bitter and cynical when the only way to get shallow people who only value appearances to shut up is to have a friend who is attractive enough to garner their respect swoop in to the rescue (a la the latest issue).

In other news, I’ve been watching Kenshin again! It’s been 8 years since I first saw this show and said “Hey, they all have funny sleeves!” I have more context to judge it now and it’s not beyond reproach (although I still love it). Particularly, Yahiko says Kaoru is strong (when he’s saying he’d still rather learn swordsmanship from Kenshin, which is understandable because Kenshin is the best in Japan, except maybe Shishio and Hiko Seijuurou), but Kaoru, despite having her own dojo, is highly ineffective against all the low-level thugs Kenshin beats up in the first few episodes. (I think she does beat up some of Takeda Kanryuu’s low level thugs later. Why are these disc 1 thugs so awesome?) These first few episodes really don’t have much plot (I noticed this even 8 years ago): bad guys do bad stuff until Kenshin finally shows up and hits them with sword. Kaoru and Misao really should have had more opportunity to kick butt. Yahiko defeats more bad guys than them. Yahiko. (Also, I wish Kenshin had been forced to fight that German ninja lady in season 3; it might have almost justified season 3’s existence.)

Body Image Fail

April 11, 2009

Wings is running a comic called Gakuen Tengoku (wait, wasn’t that a yaoi anime? No, that was Gakuen Heaven — totally different) about a high school kid with supernatural powers and his twin brother and various supernatural beings who want his supernatural powers.  This month he has gotten the hang of his powers enough to try and help the werewolves, who are going extinct because they have no females of child-bearing age.  So they’re going to turn some of their male members into females.  Hilarious sex change magic!  (I’m kinda concerned that playing this for comedy is offensive to transgendered people, but hey, what do publishers care about minorities in the audience?)

wings1

So, the kid screws up a bunch of times before he gets it right.  The first failure is that he makes this man into a woman, but OH NOEZ, he didn’t change her body-type to “petite hourglass” and therefore HILARIOUSLY there is a large square-ish-shaped woman!  Oh how droll!  Not like a REAL woman at all.  Fortunately, all his subsequent failures result in proper feminine appearances, because no matter what you would look like with a Y chromosome, having two X chromosomes means you are TINY AND SLENDER.  (He just screws up the genitalia and presence/absence of breasts — because primary and secondary sexual characteristics are comedy gold.)

Of course, the first failed transformation looks much more like me than most women in manga.  Yes, the Japanese population has a much lower percentage of large or fat people than, say, the US.  But it’s not like they don’t exist at all.  I have seen them on the train.

Speaking of this comic, the fat guy who runs the occult club is one of the most positive portrayals of a fat character I have seen recently.  He is kind of weak-willed and geeky (being the head of the occult club and all) but generally nice (as opposed to a bad guy in need of beating up or something).  A girl even likes him — but it’s problematic, because she is very verbally abusive, and her attraction to him is based entirely on a fat fetish she didn’t realize she had and doesn’t involve anything like respect or mutual interests or anything.

You know what would be great? A theme that didn’t use this stupid font that makes a dash look, if anything, shorter than a hyphen [edit: unless you type spaces around it, but my habit of typing a dash as two hyphens is hard to break].

State of the Sunday

April 8, 2009

Comics currently running in Shounen Sunday and what I thought of them in general and this week.  Romanizations may vary.

Artist Acro: A world where people called “artists” have special magical abilities to manipulate matter.  Most of them have gone over to the dark side where they have no qualms about practicing their craft on people.  The bizarre fantasy powers come off rather kiddy, but it’s not bad if you don’t mind that.  This week, Acro is fighting an evil dude–pretty standard.

Arata Kangatari: By the author of Fushigi Yuugi, Yuu Watase.  She is a great story teller.  Since this is shounen manga, the guys get to do all the cool stuff and the girls are all cute and supporty, but I expect there will be a certain level of not-gratuitous-male-fan-service maintained.  This week, doubts are cast on the circumstances behind the assassination of that priestess girl.  Maybe what’s-his-name (Kannagi?) is not pure evil after all.

Itsuwaribito Utsuho: Utsuho makes it his business to help people using the medium of lying.  Cute tanuki mascot.  So far so good; this week’s wrapping up of one plot line and setting up a new one seemed a little abrupt.  Is that guy already recovered from falling in a pit full of spikes last week?

Ocha Nigosu: Scary-looking guy in the tea ceremony club -> comedy.  A while back there was a scene with a corn dog that I found immensely hilarious.  Occasionally the sheer stupidity of the characters becomes tiresome but overall it is entertaining.  This week Kaho (I think) defeats bad guys, although by running away rather than by fighting.

Kami nomi zo shiru sekai (The World God Only Knows): A romantic comedy about a boy who is a master of romance games, who must get various girls to fall in love with him in order to evict demon things from the empty spaces in their hearts.  Interesting from a geek perspective, cute visual style, sometimes prone to annoyingly stupid philosophy/psychology and general messed-up-ness, traditional gender roles–one girl does martial arts but her problem in the story is that her feminine side is repressed.  I can’t think of an example of a story about a similarly geeky female character, which is too bad (although I can think of one or two shoujo stories about geeky guys; what the heck).  This week… I think it was taking a week off.

Defense Devil: New this week.  And lots of color pages, I was impressed–they’re only obligated to make two or three and there were, like, five.  A demon who lost his power as punishment for being too nice has a scheme to get it back by proving the innocence of humans who are being wrongly sent to Hell.  Not bad so far.

Traumeister: This comic was kind of messed up and then it got more and more messed up, with the monster-birth symbolism and this Da Vinci guy molesting his pre-school Mona Lisa Artman (think Artman = patronus).  Bleah.  Fail.

Maou Juvenile Remix: I am still peeved at the one scene some time ago where Protagonist Boy and his brother remarked how EWW they didn’t want to be like that gross old guy who bought a soda in a fast food restaurant because his being alive was totally meaningless.  What do they know about this guy?  Where do they get off judging him by his appearance like that?  This week, I found cute-assassin-girl’s twice-repeated crotch-grabbing attack to be gratuitous, especially since she had her fingers in her mouth two panels later.  Overall, it’s an engaging suspense story.  But sometimes it suffers from enough fail that I don’t think I’d pick it off the 105 yen shelf.

Others: I don’t read them because they are about sports*/I tried them but I got bored after one or two chapters/I flipped through them and they looked boring.  Except Kekkaishi, which looks interesting so I want to read it from the beginning.

*If people are going to take competitions that seriously, I want them to be life or death.  So I read fighting manga but not sports manga.