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At least, that’s what the back of the books promise. There are seven volumes out and Alexander is still a kid and hasn’t recruited any secretaries yet. This might sound like the plot moves really slowly, but that isn’t really the case. Heck, sometimes it glosses over seemingly massive plot twists in barely any time at all. In one scene the main character has been sold as a slave on a ship, but the slaves kill their boss and taken over the ship. However in the space of two pages the author goes “and then the ship sank”, a turn I thought deserved a little bit more exploration than just a two bloody pages.
The problem with Historie is it feels very aimless. The main character references the Odyssey and how much he likes the character of Odysseus because, unlike the other war heroes who get by on sheer brute strength, Odysseus wins battles using his brain. The story does appear to be following an Odyssey-esque tale, following our main character as he thinks his way out of the situations he finds himself in. The main character is rather likable because of how much cleverer he is than everyone around him and the audacity of some of the stunts he pulls off. The story does seem to forget random other parts of his personality that I thought were going to be a big part of his story. The start introduced this idea of his struggling with his barbarian upbringing and possibly savage inner side, but the next several volumes don’t bring that side of him up again.
The main story also doesn’t seem to be able to focus on a particular side of the main character. The earlier volumes are about his barbarian upbringing and wild side. Then he goes into the Odysseus tales of valour through intellect shtick. Half of the time though things just happen to him. Sold to slavers, picked up by Macedonian King, making toys for mentally disabled kids. It all just falls into his lap with no input on his part, which I don’t feel makes a good use of the traits they were supposedly developing. Plus the latest volumes seem to have forgotten he exists entirely and have focused exclusively on Alexander, now that they’ve finally introduced this king of kings.
It’s not that Alexander’s story isn’t interesting in itself. The writing in Historie is generally very good. I just wish the author would sit down and decide what it was he wanted to this story to be about. Parasyte had a laser sharp focus with what it wanted its story to tell. Historie feels like a bunch of Ancient Greek history thrown together into a pot. Also in comparison to Parasyte, I’m starting to realise the author doesn’t have the greatest art. Parasyte was able to hide that with its bizarre and imaginative body horror. Historie is gory, but it doesn’t define the story the same way it does in Parasyte. In fact, I’m not sure what it is that defines Historie, beyond the whole Ancient Greece setting, which is exactly the problem. It’s a very well written manga. I’m just not sure what it’s writing about. read more
7 of 7 chapters read
“Don’t Cry Girl” is about a teenage girl who has crap parents so has to move in with a bloke twice her age. The bloke in question is a naturalist and doesn’t like wearing clothes indoors. He has a buddy who comes around every once in a while and they sit around and make dick jokes. Now I like dick jokes as much as the next guy. In fact, I’d say I like them even more than your average person. Nothing brightens up my day quite as much as a good dick joke. However in Don’t Cry Girl, it comes off a little like sexual harassment. The main girl is clearly distressed by the nudity and the offers to chomp on the phallic bread placed between the friends’ thighs. The whole story is about her trying not to cry and just grin and bear being sexually harassed, whether the dudes are oblivious to their actions or not.
Being one volume long, there’s not a whole lot to say about it beyond that. I really want to talk about the ending though, and it’s the entire reason I’m writing this review in the first place. I’ve seen this trope occur enough times in ladies manga that I can hereby call it A Thing. If anime aimed at dudes have taught me that all men secretly want to bone their younger sister, then manga aimed at ladies have taught me that all women want to fuck their dad.
Let’s make like a rapper from the 90s and break it down. The arc of the story is about the nudist learning to wear clothes around the girl he has just adopted and the girl realising he’s a nice man after all. Leaving aside the fact that she’s basing this judgement off the fact that he’s stopped sexually harassing her, which I would normally categorise as something every human being should do rather than just something just good humans do, this causes the girl to fall in love with the guy and propose to him. And he accepts.
The girl is 17. The bloke is in his 30s. He has become a father figure to her because her own parents couldn’t show her love. So when a father figure shows her love (again love being ‘not sexually harassing her anymore’), she mistakes this for romantic feelings. As much as I don’t like the phrase ‘daddy issues’, this is textbook definition of that. But he, being the wonderful father figure that he is, accepts her proposal. Oh sure, they say they’ll have to work on it and this is a bit sudden, but the story ends with them saying they’ll live happily together as a couple. I know the manga is a goofy comedy, but it’s still presented in a celebratory fashion.
I had a discussion with a friend of mine about this trope and they suggested that, like the imouto fetish thing, it’s not that ladies actually want to fuck their dads. There are a lot of single children families in Japan so having a little sister isn’t too common. A little sister is a way of having a close relationship with a girl without any effort on your part. Like a childhood friend archetype, the work was done before you were aware that talking to girls was embarrassing and the childhood promise was made before you they could turn you down. The imouto thing is a fetishisation of certain things a little sister represents that society can’t currently provide for you.
Similarly, the fucking your dad thing comes from the desire to have the big strong boyfriend who will protect you and you can depend on. However Japanese society doesn’t lead to very forthright men, so they adoration turns towards the one person in their life that did provide those qualities. The fact that so many of these instances include the term “but they’re not blood related” shows that it’s the idealisation of the attributes rather than the thing itself. I’m making some sweeping generalisations here, but if you have a better explanation then I would be delighted to hear it. read more
105 of 105 chapters read
So begins the tale of glorification of organised crime and laughably immature approach to politics. The yakuza is where men with honour fight for their turf. They don’t get involved with drugs or protection money. We just catch out people who are being unfaithful to their wives. And then we fuck their wives. Because we are so irresistible what with all this power and fancy suits we have. Meanwhile getting elected to a political office is easy. All you need to do is yell really loudly about how Japan needs CHANGE and the people inside are WRONG and we’re young and handsome and never mind that we literally have no policies whatsoever, we’re DIFFERENT and that will get us elected…actually maybe that’s not so far from the truth.
All right fine, I’ll drop the spitting sarcasm for a second. Sanctuary is sort of a cross between Legend of the Galactic Heroes, James Bond and The Godfather. The main appeal of the manga comes from the mind games and twists as Asami and Hojo try to claw their way to the top of their respective fields. The political battle is mostly about getting the right people on your side, uncovering scandals and proving your mettle when it really counts. The yakuza story is largely the same except with more killing. Getting people on your side, forming alliances and making speeches and shows of force to get the right people to follow you. Sanctuary is at its most fun when it embraces its more over-the-top characters and dramatic facial expressions. My favourite is the mind games between Asami and the big boss politician dude Isaoka, because there’s so much hand-wringing over every action and each twist is greeted by someone bursting into a room yelling “OMG OMG OMG DID U C WUT ASAMI/ISAOKA DID!?!?”.
The artstyle goes for a very photo-realistic approach with an incredible attention to detail on shading. Don’t let this trick you into thinking this makes the artwork great though. Because the manga is all politics, each chapter is usually just pages and pages of talking heads, with the occasional shot of someone opening a door or wielding a gun dramatically, or maybe some hot lady sucking one of the yakuza’s dicks because that happens an awful lot. After a while you start to notice that the facial expressions the characters pull don’t change a whole lot. Hojo in particular has this one pose of his head facing slightly downwards with a upturned corner of his mouth and a ‘come hither’ look on his face that I swear must be his exact same pose with exact same smile and exact same ‘come hither’ look in roughly 20% of his scenes. The art style does actually suit the story, with its masculine features enhanced and bedroom eyes, but it doesn’t have a whole lot of variety.
And then there’s the treatment of women. Whenever you see a woman, it’s because they’re prostitutes, or a sexy lady one of the main characters have picked up, or models the politicians are having sex with, or ladies the yakuza are raping. There are a grand total of 2 named female characters. One is the police officer who is supposed to be tracking Hojo but unfortunately Hojo is just so totemo sexushii desu~ that she abandons her job for him. The other is a female politician from America who’s over to tell Japan to drop their high import tax on American cars. Asami and his politician buddies are discussing how to deal with her, and one of them suggests giving her a good dicking and that solve everything because that’s how you deal with all women. And then THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT ASAMI DOES! He woos the American politician, has sex with her, and then she drops her demands and leaves the country because the sex was just that good.
The treatment of women is so baffling that it starts to create plot holes. If the police are really trying to get these yakuza on some charge, why don’t any of the women they rape press charges? Asami is trying to get the younger population to pay attention to politics, citing that they’re not connected because the diet is only full of old men. He’s gets half of the problem solved by being a young man, but what about the ‘men’ part of ‘old men’? Women consist of half of the voting public and yet nobody considers that maybe having a young woman running would get the younger female generation to pay attention? It’s here that I realised what the trick was: Sanctuary does not consider women as people. Once you realise that, everything falls into place. Girls to fuck are just part of the glorified yakuza lifestyle, along with good food, nice suits and fast cars. Women are simply not part of the political equation, and if they are you just need to give them a right hard shag amirite guys!
I read all of Sanctuary so I guess I did enjoy it on some level. The political mind games and plot twists were very entertaining in their own right, particularly because the story kept the pace fairly quick. Plus the politics got a bit better as the story went on. The policies became less ridiculous and more plausible, and when something ridiculous was suggested it was treated with the right amount of shock in-story. But it is a male power fantasy through and through. It’s the most sexist thing I have ever read, getting the otherwise completely dormant feminist side of me to go “ah come on now, this is just silly”. It also manages to cover plenty of other offensive bases like racism and glorification of violence. All those other wish-fulfilment harem, magical girlfriend, maid, super power, giant robot, chuunibyou fantasies shrivel in the wake of the amount of wish-fulfilment Sanctuary provides. read more
“It’s about bask..bas…” gaze darts around the office.
“Baske…ba…baaaaa” eyes dart from newbie mangaka sweating profusely to experienced editor in chief picking his nose to the new sub-editor who only has one leg so is in a-
“Wheelchair basketball! My new manga is about wheelchair basketball!”
One thing I was worried about going into Real was that the depiction of disabled folks would come off as patronising. There can be a bit of a tendency in stories focusing on disabilities to paint the characters as selfless heroic individuals with no faults, as though they think glorifying their achievements will somehow counterbalance the lack of respect regular society gives them. This is absolutely not the case with Real. The characters are assholes. Completely and utterly horrible people. There’s three main characters, two of which are in wheelchairs. One of them is a stuck-up, self-absorbed, weak-willed bully. The guy not in the wheelchair is a temperamental, anti-social idiot. Even the third dude, the up and coming wheelchair basketball star, is an angry whining little twit.
While this goes a long way to making the characters feel like human beings with genuine personality, dreams and weaknesses, it can also mean that watching them gets a bit difficult at times. Particularly at the start of the story. Real takes the approach that these characters will learn and grow to become better people through their interactions with others over the course of the story. To achieve that though, they really shove these characters down to absolute rock bottom. High school dropout loses his drivers licence and cripples the girl he picked up and has that looming over his conscious as he tries to put some sort of life together. Top-tier student breezing through class gets spinal cord snapped in traffic accident and realises while in hospital that none of his previous relationships are worth shit. Aspiring wheelchair basketball player tries to set up team but most of the players abandon them due to his relentless ambition.
But in US Marine style, breaking them down completely allows the story to start rebuilding their lives. It’s fucking gruelling to sit through at the start. With every breakthrough a character has, something else will knock them back. Team gets back together, instantly loses first match. Guy manages to get job, company goes bankrupt. But with each knockback, the person will learn something. They’ll draw inspiration from one of the other characters in the story and this will spur them on to go further. It’s a feel-good story about triumph in the face of adversity, which you could probably guess from the fact it was about wheelchair basketball. But in humanising the characters and knocking them down so low, it becomes that much more rewarding when they do make a breakthrough.
The artwork is fantastic. Takehiko Inoue opts for a more realistic drawing style, which works well with the story. Characters do seem to sweat an awful lot, which makes the basketball matches look like the players were all bukkake’d before getting on the court. This is compounded by the fact Inoue likes to draw the characters with their shirts off to display muscles and so forth. The author has no qualms whatsoever about drawing dicks either, which is a little bit weird. This is actually relevant material, since your own body image is a huge theme in the story. It’s both a huge part of sports and your disability. Shots of the Australian wheelchair basketball player with his humongous biceps next to his stick-thin legs go a long way to demonstrating how characters come to terms with how they body will be shaped.
Where the artwork really seemed to improve over the course of the series is the visual metaphors and panel composition. Now I admit that the panel composition thing may be just me taking time to get used to his style, given the guy is kind of a veteran at this whole manga thing. But the more the manga went on, the better he seemed to get at depicting the thought process of characters using visual cues. The moment that was an absolute standout for me was when the guy in hospital remembered the game of basketball he played against the guy in the wheelchair before he broke his back and he suddenly realises there is a sport for him. There’s a fantastic flow to the way the panels show his mind naturally wander before his eyes widen when he remembers the guy in the wheelchair. As for the visual metaphor, these increase over the course of the manga and go a long way to allowing me to understand how the disability effected people. Stand out moment here was the guy sprinting in a race and seeing his leg crash into some imaginary mud and snap off.
It took me a bit to get into Real as the story construction requires the start to be gruelling reading. But once the characters started growing, it became a highly absorbing and rewarding read. It hasn’t ended yet. There's 11 volumes out at time of writing. But I can’t see it continuing on for too much longer because it really feels that the characters have gotten over the worst of their problems. Plus it’s about wheelchair basketball. Goddamn wheelchair basketball! How awesome is that! Go read Real, it’s pretty great. read more
29 of ? chapters read
The central joke to One Punch Man is that Saitama is so powerful that he's bored. Nothing poses a threat to him anymore so he just sort of wanders through life in a mild unimpressed sulk. He shows up on the scene of the crime a little bit late because sure what's the rush anyway, listens to the villain blabber on about how they are the strongest for a bit, before eventually getting tired of that and punching them through the nearest wall.
Just having Saitama show up and punch dudes in the face would get old pretty quickly. What makes it click as a joke is how unassuming he is. His superpower didn't come from magical beings or being rich or anything. He just did lots of push-ups and sit-ups. He's a bit of a loser really. His superhero costume is a yellow jumpsuit and red kitchen gloves. He looks like a man play-acting superhero, which is kind of what he is doing. Plus he just looks silly, with his blank bored expression and bald head, which is why it's just inherently funny to see him surprise these superpowered hyper-evolved beings with that big dopey face of his and immense strength.
That's...sort of it. For something that has been getting as much praise heaped on it as One Punch Man has, I'm surprised at how little there was to it. It feels like a Saturday morning kids cartoon, having more in common with Powerpuff Girls than anything else. Not a bad thing, but still rather shallow and hard to get invested in. It's difficult to care about anything that happens when there's no tension. Because Saitama is so ridiculously overpowered, none of the fights have any doubt about what the final result will be. The author tried to introduce some challenge for Saitama to overcome by introducing the superhero levelling system, but Saitama is so lackadaisical about life that if he can't bring himself to really care about events, then neither can I.
There's only 3 volumes out at time of writing, but you'll breeze through that in barely more than an hour. There's very little dialogue and most of the jokes are visual anyway. The artwork is pretty great. The over-designed villains and other superheroes fit with the theme the story is going for. Everyone else looks like majestic beings of frightening power and destruction, while Saitama just looks like some prat in his pajamas. But it does have a tendency to get repetitive. Yes it was hilarious the first time 10 pages in a row were double spreads of the camera swooping around Saitama as his enemy encircled him. But repeat that once every few chapters and it loses its effect. There was one chapter that consisted almost entirely of the cyborg character doing a transformation sequence on his arm to unleash its super charger laser. I appreciate the sentiment of over-dramatising what everyone does, but it loses its effect when you do it too often.
One Punch Man is very easy to like, but its shallowness and speed at which you'll fly through it makes it feel like real throwaway entertainment. The only thing that really stuck with me is the burning question of what would happen in Saitama punched himself in the face. read more
10 of 10 chapters read
Short Cuts is a reaction to this idolisation of the teenage girl. More specifically, the Kogal, a specific brand of teenage girl with their baggy socks, short skirts, Shibuya-based lifestyle. If the Kogal had existed several centuries ago, there would be giant statues of them and their baggy socks. A monk’s sutra chat would be him saying “yeah but no but yeah I saw him checking me out but he’s like so gross and like I only like men who have load of money so I can like make them buy me new clothes”.
Yes, that is a joke from Short Cuts.
Short Cuts is one of the very few anime or manga I’ve seen that could legitimately be called a straight up satire. It’s very similar to Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei in that regard, except with a narrower focus which I think works in its favour. The jokes about Japan’s fetishisation of Kogal are sharp and cutting like any good social satire should be. It’s jokes are hardly high-brow either, with plenty of jokes revolving around prostitution, blowjobs and what have you. But this style of humour fits given the subject matter is about this bizarre lust the nation has developed around teenage girls. Plus in using this subject area and general tone, they can expand to make some surprisingly clever and cutting gags about wider Japanese society too.
Let’s do the whole ‘dissecting a joke is like dissecting a frog: Nobody cares and the frog dies’ thing and explain one of the funnier jokes in the series: The author presents you with two options. Would you spend your time on a deserted island with a woman with top half human, bottom half fish (mermaid) or top half fish, bottom half human (reverse-mermaid). The answers he got were, as you can probably guess, overwhelmingly in favour of top half human.
One of the main reasons suggested for Japan’s declining birthrate is men are too scared to talk to women anymore, and visa versa to a lesser extent. This is why host bars, where you pay attractive women to simply sit around and talk to you, are popular. So the problem is people can't do social interaction anymore, right? Well as this comic astutely points out using its clever binary choice, people always choose the option they can talk to and not the one they can procreate with. Therefore we have scientifically proven that Japan’s declining birthrate is because people want to socialise rather than reproduce and all the previous scientific studies should be thrown out the window.
I fucking love this type of humour and could go on ruining jokes by explaining them all day, but I won’t. Instead let’s go over the areas the manga doesn’t do so well in. The author admits he has no idea how to do panel layout and doesn’t even try. All layouts are simply square boxes. It still works though as an extended 4-koma gag style. Because its pure satire, there isn’t any running story whatsoever. OK there’s a few re-occuring characters like Panty Flash the trainee detective whose contributions to the police team are only recognised once she flashes her underwear, a cutting satirical take on how young women are only valued for their sexual characteristics…ok sorry I swore I’d stop explaining jokes. When a joke doesn’t work, it has no story to fall back on so it just feels drab.
Jokes can fail for a few reasons. Because it’s so culturally rooted in Japanese culture and society, I’m sure there were plenty of jokes that flew clean over my head. Also because my knowledge of Japan is mostly through anime and manga, my perception is massively skewed so maybe I’m grasping the totally wrong end of the satirical stick. The biggest problem of all though is that it simply runs out of steam. It’s only 2 volumes long, but frankly it should have stopped after the first one. The second is noticeably weaker with way fewer satirical gags and a much greater focus on puns and fourth wall breaking. I’m not a particularly big fan of puns anyway, but when they’re crossing a language barrier they’re basically doomed to fail, no matter how hard the poor translator tries.
The fourth wall breaking jokes fare better. I particularly liked the one where a pretty Kogal starts reminiscing about what great attention to detail the drawings in her school textbook are and how dedicated and wonderful and sexy the man who drew them must be because the author of Short Cuts used to do illustrations for school textbooks on the side. But the satire side takes the worst hit of all. There’s still the occasional gem, like the salarywoman who makes a living selling used schoolgirl socks to salarymen after capital punishment was brought in for touching underage girls. However when your jokes devolve into a children’s TV presenter getting bum-fucked by his stuffed animal sidekick, you know you’re running out of good jokes.
Falling quality aside, Short Cuts is still one of the purest examples I’ve seen of anime/manga doing satire and doing it well. If you think most anime jokes are just people yelling loudly and doing that tired manzai routine, and providing you’re not turned off by incredibly crude humour, I highly recommend checking Short Cuts out. read more
And then, when Kitano is barely 5 metres away from him, he lets out a blood curdling scream and draws the knife from his pocket. The lackey can't move! He's like a rabbit frozen in the headlights. He can't even bring himself to look at the knife Kitano drew from his pocket. Then Kitano, without warning, lets out a second screech like a banshee and suddenly the lackey can feel life in his legs again. Without looking back, he turns and runs faster than he has ever done in his life before the demon can attack him.
Kitano, meanwhile, wipes his nose with the handkerchief he drew from his pocket and mumbles something about how his cold is acting up and making him sneeze a lot.
Legend of an Angel is a delinquent story about a kid called Kitano who has the face of the devil, which causes everyone to think he's plotting to kill everyone and eat their faces for brunch. In reality, Kitano is a nice, if a bit oblivious dude who is just trying to make friends in his new school. What's great about the set-up is that making the scary-faced guy normal doesn't detract from the inherent awesomeness of watching the supposed mind-games taking place. All the mind games are worked out through the victim's mind rather than scarer-in-chief, so we get to see his brilliant yet ridiculous plans unfold regardless. Watching the legend of Kitano build is just as hilarious whether the stuff happens is intentional or not.
It's not admittedly the cleverest humour in the world. The claim to satire about appearances is pretty shallow and never really evolves beyond that. But the scenario is changed around enough that it continues to be funny. Plus it has that good quality every running joke has in that one of the biggest parts of the humour is waiting for that inevitable to happen. When someone new claims they want to hunt down this Kitano guy they've heard so much about, I honestly got excited at the prospect of seeing someone new react to Kitano.
There are a few problems. For one, the art is shit. It doesn't necessarily need to be great for what is a gag comedy, but even so it shouldn't be quite this bad. Consider how much more effective Kitano's devilish glares from the shadows could look if under the pen of a more skilled artist. A lot of the time Kitano looks more derpy than scary, and characters don't really have a wide array of facial expressions. It does marginally improve over the course of the series, but not in any meaningful way.
A far bigger problem is that the author clearly had no intention of having the story go on for that long. It's 15 volumes of a gag manga that really only has a single gag. Kitano does meet a few friends and they go some way to establishing his personality and why he ends up drawing people close to him, but fairly soon all the characters grind to a halt. The more characters they introduce, the more abundantly clear it becomes that the author is just trying to keep the status quo intact.
The whole thing loses its shine and I ended up not actually finishing the manga. That's not as harsh an indictment as it sounds though. It was still relatively enjoyable. I just realised I had gotten the most I was going to get out of it and carrying on further would just dampen my enjoyment of what had been a decent comedy manga. I probably would have enjoyed this more if I was a teenager, as Kitano has that Nice Guy quality that we all like to think we have when we're that age. He is a genuinely nice guy who wants nothing but the best for others. His only real character flaw is his social anxiety and major gormlessness, which is miles more personality than some Yuji Everylead. I don't mean this to sound degrading or anything, but if you're a teenage boy I would highly recommend this. read more
Look, basically it’s moe anthropomorphised battleships.
For a concept created simply so the mangaka had an excuse to draw both cute girls and giant battleships, Arpeggio of Blue Steel has a remarkable amount of thought put into its world. The politics behind how the world reacted to the appearance of the Fleet of Fog is explored in quite a lot of detail, and the manga focuses on how the politics and alliances work after that. The early volumes are about the politics behind which country the main character has to sail to because they can’t necessarily trust other countries, or even differing political forces within Japan itself. The science going on behind the ship battles in incredibly in-depth. You can tell the author is a massive navy-nerd with the amount of technobabble that goes on.
I just wish I knew what was going on in those battles sometimes. There will be these massive two-page spreads of a battleship firing its supercharged interdimensional laser, with the ocean splitting like they’ve got Moses on board and giant explosions and waves crashing into the sides of the ships. It’s pretty impressive to look at, but there’s so much detail I can barely tell one ship for another. For the first battle in the manga, I genuinely didn’t realise until after that there was apparently 3 ships taking part rather than just 2. I admit this my own fault as I’m terrible at reading manga and can never tell what’s going on in action scenes.
I’m not going to take the blame for struggling with the tactics though. The technobabble is not just there for its own sake. All the terms they throw out actually mean something. You need a bloody glossary to keep up with the battles, which the manga does helpfully provide. Remembering them all is difficult since fuzzy science like nanomachines and interdimensional lasers are mixed in with sonars and torpedos and resonance and actual real science, but you still need to know your acoustic torpedoes from your corrosive torpedoes. There is a lot of thought put in though, so I do kinda like digging into the broader concepts of their weird science fiction, even if I am rather confused by the fact they still use sonar when they can literally part the sea.
The world building and politics are a little easier to follow, and since the science usually ends up tying into the world, the two sides complement each other quite well. The actual main story is a bit of a let-down in comparison. It’s about this gang of college graduates who have taken command of the one Fleet of Fog battleship humanity have commandeered and how they play into the much larger role of the world politics. It could be interesting certainly, but again the author has trouble conveying all that information in an understandable fashion. The manga starts halfway through the story for whatever bizarre reason. They already have the ship, one of their crew members have left, and all sorts of other things have happened by the time the story begins. I really don’t understand why they did this, since it means you have to get used to a boatload (hur hur see whut i did thar) of characters right off the bat while trying to piece together the timeline of events at the same time.
On the character front, I love the main character’s dad because he’s basically Gendo Ikari. I also like that the Prime Minister of Japan is a mute in a wheelchair. However the characterisation can be a bit all over the place, particularly with the battleship girls. The idea with them is they’re supposed to be not used to their human form and start developing emotions but don’t know how to deal with them. The one girl they do this properly with, the one with the massive coat, is probably my favourite character in the series precisely because of how they explore this side of her. On the other hand, a bunch of the other girls appear with their personality already in place, which neither makes a whole lot of sense and can also be super annoying when the girls fall into tired stereotypes.
If I’m feeling cynical, I’m willing to bet the stereotypes evolved out of the author wanting to appeal to popular archetypes for easy popularity growth. As the volumes go on, the less shots you get of massive battleships and the more it focuses on hot girls. Don’t get me wrong, the tsundere heavy cruiser does have a fine ass (now there’s a line I never thought I’d type). But if I want hot girls, I can go pretty much anywhere. However if I want a manga with massive battleships, I go to Arpeggio of Blue Steel (and maybe Zipang).
Despite all my belly-aching, I do quite like Arpeggio of Blue Steel. I wouldn’t have read 6 volumes if I didn’t. But I definitely prefer the ideas to the execution. If they did make an anime of it, there’s a lot of things I think could be improved. They could make the fights easier to follow, the story start at the actual beginning rather than halfway through, cut out some of the less important characters, and while I’m wishing for the improbable I’d also like a dakimakura of the tsundere heavy cruiser please. read more
64 of 64 chapters read
What drew me to Parasyte originally was seeing the body horror pictures of how peoples’ bodies mutated and warped and started growing tentacles and teeth and occasionally dick hands. I’m usually a pretty queasy person so I’m not sure quite why this drew me in, but there’s a definite fascination with how alien the mutations the bodies undertake. Once you get over the original shock, it’s not even that scary anymore. The mutations are so alien and cartoonish they go into this area of scholarly fascination. The only times I would actually get a bit perturbed were the more ghoulish deaths of actual humans rather than the parasytes. This cartoonish nature of the body distortions could have undermined something that was only trying to shock you, but thankfully Parasyte is cleverer than that. It’s got a real dark sense of humour, one that’s willing to laugh at itself, what with the aforementioned dick hands and so forth. Plus the comedy segments don’t detract from the moments the deformations are supposed to shock you. It’s a delicate balancing act, but one that Parasyte pulls off remarkably well.
Parasyte does have more to it than just some alien horror story. Its larger theme is about humanity and what makes someone human. Migi, the parasyte that co-inhabits the main character’s body, is very Kyubey-esque in how he thinks. He has no empathy but endless curiosity driven mostly by a self-preservation instinct. Through his conversations with Izumi, they explore both sides of each character and broader concepts of what it means to be human and why it is that one might perform a selfless act. It’s got that perfect duo combination where the two sides’ conversations force both characters to develop. Migi’s development is more subtle than Izumi’s, but that’s because Migi slow development is reflected in the attitude of all the parasytes as they evolve and and start to change their approach to fitting into society. Their change becomes a way to explore what makes humans tick.
Izumi starts off as a bit of a Yuji Everylead, but he changes pretty quickly into a more fascinating character who struggles to find what it is that makes him human. Fairly early on in the manga he absorbs part of Migi into his bloodstream and it starts to change him in little ways. He doesn’t get emotional, can’t cry at friends and family’s deaths, and some of his actions start to reflect Migi’s apathetic nature. You get the feeling that the times he does show kindness and emotion is him trying to force himself to act human so he can reclaim his identity as a human. It mirrors how some of the more advanced parasytes try mimicking human actions in order to understand them and fit into society better, such as trying to smile, having children and laughing. This in turn causes them to start experiencing much more human emotions. It might sound like this is all heavy stuff, talking about the nature of humanity and all that, but it isn’t really. The last volume definitely gets a bit preachy, but otherwise the dialogue all feels very natural and goes about things with a sense of humour. Plus at the moment it really counted, when they really needed to bring everything to the table around both the parasyte’s increasing selflessness and Izumi’s own struggle with his humanity, they nailed the scene so well that it made me cry.
Let me repeat that for effect: I cried at Parasyte. Fucking Parasyte. The manga with dick hands made me cry. Do you know how often I cry at entertainment? Never! And yet somehow Parasyte made me cry? With proper tears streaming from eyes, so overcome with emotion that I had to stop reading and walk for a bit? The only other time in my entire life I cried at media was at Grave of the Fireflies, which is kind of to be expected since that is basically the only point of Grave of the Fireflies. Plus I’ve kind of gone off Grave of the Fireflies over time, as its method of drawing emotion is to have everything be shit and then everyone dies, which is kind of a cheap almost Jun Maeda-esque way of drawing emotion. Meanwhile Parasyte managed it by being positive. It’s key scene was the fulfilment of 8 previous volumes of thematic buildup and re-affirmation of the main character’s humanity that was so tragically beautiful it caused me to break down.
Sorry, is this all a bit serious?
I picked up Parasyte because I figured if I was going to jump into manga, I’d want to read something that would at least draw a reaction from me, but I ended up absolutely loving it. It keeps the story tight and focused on a small cast of characters. It’s paced excellently, comes to a conclusive ending and doesn’t drag on longer than it needs to. It has depth while keeping a sense of humour, and the body horror is shocking without being an obstacle to enjoyment. It’s a bloody great manga and highly recommended. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
The story, for those uninitiated, is set in a world where everyone owns humanoid computers called persecoms. That is, apart from our shmuck lead Hideki because he's a poor farmboy who failed to get into college and now has to live on peanuts while taking cram school to retry the entrance exams. On his first day in Tokyo he finds a persecom in the trash who he names Chi. Chi turns out to be a ~magical persecom~ called Chobits. It's a ~magical persecom~ because it's capable of ~love~ and shit. It's rather important here to note that the story isn't really about Chi falling in love, or debating whether persecoms can fall in love. She's just programmed that way. It's a fairly handwavy explanation. The main focus of the story is whether people can fall in love with persecoms. Or to break it down a bit further, is our romantic love for non-humans worth as much as romantic love for actual humans. Or to break it down further again, do you really love your 2D waifu, like really?
Chi is a perfect moeblob, programmed to be as such. Her cuteness and innocence are really played up, and those are the parts of her personality that draw Hideki towards her. She has no purpose beyond to fall in love and serve that one person. She spends most of the anime waiting at Hideki's apartment so she can greet him when he comes home, and spends her time when he's away thinking of what to do when he gets home. Even when Chi gets a job, the only thing she can think to spend the money on is things to buy for Hideki to make him happy. She is the quintessential stay-at-home wife whose job it is to look cute and make the husband feel relaxed when he comes home from a hard days work. Even Hideki responds to Chi's cuteness by promising he'll work hard and buy Chi the software she needs. Chi literally cannot learn anything without input from Hideki.
The actual human women in the show have things like aspirations and jobs and real life stuff, which gets in the way of them being the perfect waifu. One of the guys literally forgets his wife even exists because he's too absorbed with his persecom. I don't think it's accidental that all the persecoms are made to look like women. They represent the old view of the ideal wife who stays at home and does anything for their husband, while also maintaining the innocence and cuteness and loyalty that make up the idea of moe. The guy who forgets his wife exists because he's too absorbed with his persecom has many similarities with the stories of break ups happening because the boyfriend was too absorbed with his Love Plus girlfriend. In Chobits, the people spend their time walking around the streets with their persecoms, rarely interacting with other people. The show really likes to drill that point into your head with the whole "this town is empty, everyone is inside with It" meta-story that it had going on.
So why would you want to spend time with a real woman with their own lives when you could spend your life with a persecom instead? They are the perfect waifus with all the benefits of real women without any of the drawbacks. The ultimate evolution of this is the Chobits model, who are literally built solely to fall in love with you. The women in the show are rather depressed at their total inability to ever live up to what a persecom can do for the men. Clamp have a running theme of the Powah of Lurve in all their stories, so obviously it comes up in Chobits by saying that yes, your love for this non-human object is just as real as any love. So continue to love your precious 2D moe waifu for your love is as real as anyone's love. Which is kind of a ballsy statement to make, and I kinda dig it for going that far.
Which is all fascinating and everything, but it's rather overshadowed by the fact that Chobits is really fucking boring.
Because Chobits approach to providing a critical eye to this genre is positive rather than destructive criticism in the vein of Madoka or Evangelion, it means you have to sit through scenes of this stuff actually taking place. Chi tries to buy underwear. Chi learns how to cook. Chi tries on different dresses. It's just as tedious as it sounds. Some of this can be attributed to the anime having a bunch of filler, but the actual manga content isn't much better. Chi is not a character. She has nothing interesting to say and has no personality beyond acting like a shy toddler. That doesn't change whether you're watching her in plot related episodes or not. It's much the same problem I have with Jun Maeda moeblobs in that their dedication to being brainless and cute means they have no actual depth and are too stupid to say anything of worth. While what Chi is supposed to represent may be fascinating on a deeper level, the show still tries to make her carry entire episodes on the force of her personality which, as I said, is non-existent anyway.
None of the other characters are engaging either because their dialogue is so stilted and wooden. God bless you Clamp, I love your power of love stories because I am a hopeless romantic at heart. But you guys can't write dialogue for shit. Their vocabulary is so limited it forces the characters into having limited personalities and limited ways their interactions can play out. Because the show takes forever to get anywhere, the characters have to prop up scenes by themselves and they get very repetitive very quickly. That's not just the persecoms either. The humans in the show have such bland samey dialogue that I just zoned out over their chit chat for the most part. Hideki is nothing more than a 'Nice Guy'. His flatmate is nothing more than a 'Nice Guy'. All the women in the show aren't much more than 'Nice Girls' either. And while I wouldn't call the show misogynistic because it's not presenting persecoms as how women should be or anything, watching the persecoms be so blankly subservient and unthinking and lacking in goals of their own make them just as boring to watch as if they were real humans anyway.
I can see why it was I used to like this anime so much. I too used to think I was a nice guy who liked cute girls because I was a teenager and could actually watch this inane dialogue and find it charming. To provide on top of that a message about the power of love added on top of the base level enjoyment. Now that I find that sort of writing tedious and irritating, I struggle to even sit through Chobits. There is something genuinely fascinating at the core of Chobits, but to make that point you have to sit through a dull magical girlfriend comedy about how you can be the perfect hard working husband for your cute mentally deficient waifu. Even if it is making a point with that set up, it's still as tedious to watch as a show that's doing that set up un-ironically. read more