Stretch Manga, Volume 2 (ストレッチ)

May 21st, 2015

Stretch2There is no one more amazed than I am that I am still writing reviews of Akili’s weird little manga, Stretch. But here we are and the timing couldn’t be better.

Volume 2 of Stretch (ストレッチ) carries on almost exactly as did Volume 1. We first see Ran and Keiko in various setups for stretching, a little vague Yuri-ish vibe between them, a dollop of not-vague service, followed by seeing them at their worst, then ending with some insight into their past. The order all this plays out is exceptionally fascinating, as the book starts off light-hearted and forgettable, but ends with pathos and character depth so we feel sympathy…and enough interest that we’ll tune in next time.

But, the story, as it were, is mostly motivation for illustrations of various stretches, which just happen to allow the artist a chance to focus on various body parts of the women in a pretend-not-creepy way, while, in fact, being creepy. It’s just anatomy, you see.  The actual art is decent, and the illustrations of the stretches are helpful. I try most of them out as I’m reading, just to make sure he’s not making anything up. ^_^ Also because I’m trying to do a little more running and stretching is pretty high on the list of things I want to spend time doing instead of seeing a doctor. ^_^

***

Subcribe with Patreon Enjoy today’s post? Subscribe to Okazu with Patreon!

***

In the meantime, in between stretching, both Keiko and Ran are starting to fill out as people who are rather important in each other’s lives.  There is a vibe between them, but I feel strongly that that is as much service as the crotch-eye-view during the stretching…it sure ain’t for the characters’ benefit.

Ratings:

Art – 9 Very good with moments of excellent
Story – 7 When it bothers to have one also good
Characters – 7 You have to like them, or why read this manga?
Yuri – Depends entirely on your motivation to see Yuri. I see about a 2
Service – 6 A constant presence

Overall – 7 It is a decent enough read, especially if you want to learn to stretch.



Morita-san ha Mukuchi Manga, Volume 9 (森田さんは無口)

May 20th, 2015

moritasan9Morita-san ha Mukuchi, Volume 9 (森田さんは無口) is not a Yuri manga. It never has been. And yet, for a not-Yuri manga, it does everything it can to sort-of, kind-of, shoehorn little teeny drops of not-quite-Yuri into every corner. Like eking out the the last few bit of sugar glaze onto a crumb cake, the thing is plenty sweet enough, but if you just get a bit more on it…

This volume begins with the girl who is stalking Mayu stalking her. And then we drop that like the untenable plot point it is. Phew.

From that point on, we’re given the silliest possible set-ups, like the cover, group hugs, and Mayu’s cousin Yukino being weird to make our lizard brains think “girls touching!” If this manga was in any way mean-spirited, it would feel gross. But it never does. Mayu and her friends continue to genuinely like and care about one another, and so a group hug makes us smile.

The one (in)sincerely service-y bit was when Misaki nearly collapses in gym and finds her head resting on super-cool Yamamoto’s lap…at which she completely overheats. (The rest of the girls in lass also start feeling like they need some lap treatment, not surprisingly.) The how and why Yamamoto ended up there is vague, class president, blah, blah, but she doesn’t seem to mind either.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 6
Characters – 9
Yuri – 1
Service – 3

Overall – 8

There’s no substance here. It’s cotton candy. It always tastes the same, it never tastes like anything but too much sugar, but you know, every once in a while, in the right circumstances…it’s a lot of fun. ^_^



Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1, Disk 2 (English)

May 19th, 2015

SM1P1LEI have learned two very important lessons rewatching Sailor Moon from the very beginning:

Firstly, most fans of the original anime are fans of the edited versions of the characters they have cobbled together inside their heads, stuffed full of remnants of old fanfic and fanart and internalized identification, sewn together with nostalgia and softened by time.

I know this because Disk 2 primarily consists of Usagi whining, conniving, whining some more, bickering with Rei, whining and crying. She is not, at this point, a likeable character.

The second thing I realized is that, in it’s own way, Sailor Moon is a primeval tap on “girl” things, in the way that The Iliad (which I am re-reading again) is a primer on “boy” things. That is to say, it renders down an entire gender into the most superficial characteristics as if seen by an alien race, labels them essential, and obsesses over them, even if a real person might occasionally take a break from wanting a dress or a gemstone, or a fast racehorse or the most plunder.

However, there are two episodes of note here on Disk Two.

“I Want a Boyfriend: The Luxury Cruise Ship Is a Trap”, episode 12 which was the dub episode that got me interested in the series in the first place and “A New Enemy Appears: Nephrite’s Evil Crest”, episode 15, in which something important and something not important, but damned interesting, happened.

In episode 15,  which originally aired in Japan in 1992, Naru had to tell Usagi that her use of “onee-sama” did not indicate that the other girl was a blood sister, but that she was like a sister to her. The idea of onee-sama had fallen enough out of favor, that it had to be explained. This trend would reverse again  a few years later when Maria-sama ga Miteru made it not only nerdy cool, but also so much of standard anime trope that no one in, say, PreCure ever needs to have it explained to them. Not important, but kind of interesting.

The important thing, though happens in that same episode. For the very first time, Usagi helps someone out of actual empathy for them. She wants to help Naru, because she wants to help Naru. This one thing may not seem like a huge shift, but it is. It’s the first time we’ve seen Usagi do thing out of pure kindness, because helping her friend to be less sad is a good thing to do. It’s the first time she doesn’t really speak about herself when talking about a “girl’s dream”. It’s the first time we see Sailor Moon, and not Tsukino Usagi in a Senshi costume.

As I reach this part of the anime I brace myself for a number of changes to come. Soon, we and the Senshi will start to understand that there is more to this series than a monster of the day. Soon, but not yet.

For those of you still not convinced to get this series – these episodes will not be the ones to convince you. The original animation is hilariously, painfully, awful, as Toei learned that it was going to get a lot more episodes, but not more budget. The dialogue is execrable and the bickering between Rei and Usagi is enough to make you want to pluck Ami out, set her in a nice quiet library and read a good book together.

Ratings:

Art – 4
Story – 5
Characters – teetering on the cusp of 5
Yuri – 1
Service – 1 on principle

Overall – 5, and I’m being kind.

Sincere and immense thanks to Viz Media for a review copy. Everytime Ami says all she can do is study, my heart breaks. In a just world, she gets to be Queen and Usagi runs cruises.



Ikki Tousen: Shugaku Toshi Keppu-roku OVA

May 18th, 2015

IKKIXX As a bonus in the Ikkitousen Xtreme Xecutor set, is a post-series OVA called Shugaku Toshi Keppu-roku. And, even with the absurd service one must expect from an Ikkitousen series, this comes very close to being a really decent story.

The three kingdoms, erm, schools; Nanyou, headed by Hakufu, Seito headed by Ryuubi and Koucho, headed by Sousou, are coincidentally headed to Kyoto at the same time. They are going, or so we are told, to collect tsuba that hold spiritual energy. (Tsuba are the hand guards on Japanese swords.)

The schools clash early on as they search, not only for individually powered tsuba, but for the master tsuba which commands them all. The first big clash is between Shimei Ryomou and Shiryuu Chouun to the bgm of Heart & Soul, the Ikkitousen: Dragon Destiny OP, sung by Kariyuki Mai. It’s a good song and a good fight. Stuff like this makes this utter crap worth watching

But the featured fight is between Kan’u Unchou, champion of Seito and Sonsaku Hakufu, the idiot leader of Nanyo. The background music is  my favorite of all the Ikkitousen OPs, No x Limit  from Ikkitousen: Great Guardians, also sung by Kariyuki Mai. (I jog to it, it takes my mind off how much I hate jogging. ^_^) The climax of the fight takes place under the eaves of  a Kyoto temple. As the two fighters collapse with their efforts, the temple rains down tsuba upon them and we are left to imagine a series exactly like Ikkitousen without the pervasive and awful service and think how wonderful it might be, in that alternate world.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 8 Fantastic fights, animated for people who don’t really care about the fights
Characters – 8
Service – Far more than is reasonable, but I guess someone likes it.
Yuri – 1

Overall – 8, because the fights are just that good, even though they are animated for the benefit of the creepiest of creepy viewers.

Last year a new Ikkitousen project was announced. And I’ll probably watch it, too. Because. But I’ll still wish it was fundamentally a better thing than it is. Because.

 



Yuri Manga: Rakuen Le Paradis (楽園 Le Paradis), Volume 17

May 17th, 2015

51bBWkEjEiLTo be very fair, the review for Yuri Manga: Rakuen Le Paradis, Volume 16 is pretty much word for word, what I’d write for this volume, too. I originally looked forward to this magazine every month precisely because it is not predictable, and so now that it has sort of developed a style, it’s a little bit of a let down.  And then it goes somewhere I didn’t expect it to, and I love it all over again. ^_^

In Rakuen Le Paradis , Volume 17 (楽園 Le Paradis) for thit chapter of Nishi UKO’s  “Collectors,” we turn to the one activity that differentiates an anything-philic and a “hoarder” which is to say, spring cleaning. ^_^

Sengoku Hiroko’s story has hit an impass. The teacher is not willing to cave to the student’s importuning please to teach her about love, but she is also not entirely making a clean break of it.

There’s a bit of BL in this volume as well, as Rakuen-kun, mascot of the magazine, finds love at the end of a decidely male arm, who feeds him in a cute chapter of  Nakamura Asumiko’s “Rakuen-kun to”.

Notable in this issue, Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei‘s Koji Kumeta makes an appearance with a very standard SZ-s chapter, including a cameo by Zetsubou-sensei himself. If you’ve ever read a chapter of the manga, you already know what it’s like. But I’m told the SZ-s manga ended “deliberately creeptastic,” so here’s a way to wash that out of your mind, if you enjoyed it initially. ^_^

Misutani Fuuka’s “14-sai no Koi” takes an interesting turn.

And it looks like we’ll be getting Takemiya Jin back for Volume 18. Check out the web previews (click the big pink button with WEB in it, then click  竹宮ジン for an idea of what we’re getting.)

Ratings:

Overall – 8

Please stay weird, Rakuen Le Paradis. I love you weird.