Archive for the Bruce P Category


Yuri Manga: Yuritetsu Volumes 2-4 (ゆりてつ~私立百合ヶ咲女子高鉄道部) Guest Review by Bruce P

April 1st, 2015

Yuritetsu2Wahoooo! It’s Guest Review Wednesday and we have a Guest Review! Fresh from the keyboard of the always stellar Bruce P, today he looks at three manga at once (presumably because the idea of reviewing them each individually was soul crushing.) Take it away, Bruce!  

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“Make a remark,” said the Red Queen: “it’s ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!”

And there really is no other reason for a review of Yuritetsu ~ Shiritsu Yurigasaki Joshikou Tetsudobu Volume 2Volume 3  and Volume 4 (ゆりてつ~私立百合ヶ咲女子高鉄道部) by Matsuyama Seiji. The review of Volume 1 should have been quite enough. But in the face of good taste Yuritetsu has thrived, even making some minor noise out in the real world. I would hate to leave the final word to a pudding. A response is called for. Here it is:

Eww.

You might notice that this also effectively described Volume 1.

Which is not to say that Volumes 2-4 are just more servings of the same goo. The author has made a number of significant changes. Though calling anything in this manga significant seems kind of silly.

Yuritetsu3High school girls Elsie, Lacie, Tillie, and Peanut are still doing what members of the Yuritetsu (Yurigasaki Girl’s High School Railway Club) do best: looking like four-year-olds, acting like three-year-olds, and providing railway maps and information for train fans. Train fans who don’t much care where their maps and information come from, provided they come from girls who occasionally take their clothes off. Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie continue fighting over Peanut, while Peanut continues displaying no reason why they should actually want to. Maybe it’s a pheromone thing. It’s certainly not an intellect thing.

The big difference from the first volume is that the girls no longer do their interpersonal squirming in isolation from the rest of the world. Quite the contrary: in their travels they now encounter an astonishing assortment of other ambulatory pumpkin seeds—friends, relatives, and acquaintances, starting with their new traveling companion, the club’s faculty advisor Konomi-Sensei. She looks five, giving her the best of it, though she doesn’t act that mature. As a teacher, she’s just happy not to live in New Jersey, or in any number of places where they insist on background checks; at Yurigasaki she can squirm against Peanut all she wants. Pheromones, ick.

AYuritetsu4rtistically Yuritetsu isn’t so much a mess as a collage, which makes it sound intentional.  Stylistically different (but equally embarrassing) crossover characters from the small world of train-themed manga randomly drop out of the blue for a little inbreeding. Among these artistic inconsistencies are several creepy crossovers from one of the author’s own titles, Tetsuko na Sanshimai, about three sisters who travel around on trains (well, when you specialize, you specialize). One of these sisters is definitely not drawn as a Yuritetsu –style four year old, and in fact does not even constitute a structural possibility. As Elsie (or is it Tillie? Dopey?) says when they first meet: “Oneesan! Your boobs—and your camera lens—are huge!!” The art might be questionable, but the sophistication of the dialogue makes the series sparkle.

And here’s the peculiar real world part. In the final chapter the girls visit the Yuri Kogen Railway, a tiny line in the mountains south of Akita. In a clever bit of marketing, or desperation (it’s a very tiny line), the Yuri Kogen last year decorated an operating railcar in a Yuritetsu illustration scheme. All pink and yellow and oversized bubbleheads. Looks like desperation to me. The Yuritetsu railcar has actually been out there, trundling Peanut and her pals, along with confused Yuritetsu fans wondering why all the car-side characters seem so fully clothed, back and forth through the daffodils.

If there’s a special hell for railway motormen, it probably looks like this.

Toy maker Tomytec has jumped into the act with a scale model:

Yuritetsu Car

The item above was obtained for research purposes. Just being thorough.

As for the Yuri: the characters in Yuritetsu remind me of nothing so much as those tiny, rather pointless insects that form hyperactive clouds over water on summer afternoons. Among the little bugs in these mating swarms there may well be some rudimentary Yuri flirtations going on (who knows?), but it wouldn’t warrant a four volume treatment and a specially decorated swamp boat.

Ratings:

Art: 5.  Well, the train illustrations are still pretty good.
Characters: 2. Dropping in some doofus ex machina characters hasn’t helped this number at all.
Story: 2.  Starts low, falls through a hole at the bit with the strawberry.
Yuri: 2.  Don’t ask about the strawberry.
Service: 10.  No really, don’t.

Overall: 3. Somewhere between eww and ick.

It’s been a lot of fun, chewing these four volumes up. But now of course I will have to make a trip to Akita. For research purposes.

Erica here: As long as I don’t have to be seen near that train, I’m in.

Thank you for yet another fantastic review of a book I wouldn’t touch with a 15 meter pole.  This seemed like a perfect April 1 review. If you buy these books, the joke is clearly on you. ^_^

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Maria-sama ga Miteru Anniversary Exhibit Report by Bruce P.

January 11th, 2015

mgsmeventIt is my very great pleasure to welcome back Guest Reviewer, all-around amazing Okazu and Yuricon supporter and great friend Bruce P! This time he has made it to Asagaya Anime Street for the Maria-sama ga Miteru Anniversary Event and were are delighted to have him tell us all about it. Thank you Bruce, the floor is yours…

I was pleased that a trip to Japan I had planned for Christmas this year coincided with a Maria-sama ga Miteru special event in Tokyo, in Asagaya Anime Street, appropriately located close to the heart of Marimite country. The event was in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the anime, and was coupled with the release of the Blu-Ray edition of the complete series. I just had to see what it was all about.

Asagaya was a happy, bustling place when I arrived late afternoon on Christmas day. Shoppers were everywhere, as can be seen in this covered mall, which managed to contrive a Magritte Empire of Light kind of lighting effect. No doubt to make the experience more fun. And possibly to disorient you into more readily opening your wallet.

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However, for reasons probably related to storefront rental costs, Asagaya Anime Street is not located in this heavy cash flow area. It’s hidden away in a slightly sad and depressing site under the Chuo railway line elevated tracks. Definitely not prime real estate. To find it I had to work my way along and under the tracks, through tiny streets and alleys and girders, like Gene Hackman in The French Connection chasing the el train. Though he got to wreck a Pontiac. I had to walk.

But the walk was a great opportunity to take in the local sights, like this display of grimy, broken eggshells in front of a rice shop. Apparently all the surrealists were in town. An eye-catch for a rubbish disposal center.

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Finally, in the gloom under the tracks, there it was.

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Asagaya Anime Street consists of about 15 small shops selling anime related items of one sort or another. It actually seemed to be a worthwhile attempt to transform a deserted waste area under the tracks into a retail space, though the crowds were somewhat lacking. It took some effort to find, but of course that’s just what anime fans are willing to do.

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The Marimite event was in the GoFaLABO (Gallery of Fantastic Art Laboratory) Café and Gallery Space. Yes the place was small, and located in a relatively deserted spot under the tracks. And it rattled with every passing train. And the retail item shelves were mostly empty. But the thing is this – the event itself was downright fabulous. GoFaLABO consists of a small retail space with café counter, plus an event area containing five café tables. The event area was hung with about 60 beautiful framed copies of all the Marimite hanken illustrations used for the series. In addition, episodes of the series were being shown at one end of the space, which you could watch as you lingered over Marimite-themed tea and pastries, surrounded by all that gorgeous art. There were four people doing this when I entered, two guys at one table, and a guy and an exquisitely Lolita-outfitted girl at another. As I lingered myself, another guy dropped in and settled himself at a fourth table. Photography was not permitted inside the café, which was unfortunate, but not unexpected.

What surprised me most about the experience was that, when concentrated in one place and viewed as a whole, the official Marimite images demonstrated a striking, powerful, almost single-minded obsession with Yuri (Yuri in implication, Yuri in fact, and (mostly) Yuri in fan enticement) that was really not fully representative of the multi-faceted story itself. But I’m not complaining. The images were beautiful, they were Yuri, and there were 60 of them. More tea, please.

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Eventually I had to leave to head back to Ikebukuro. There were two extremely lovely Christmas/winter themed prints of Yumi and Sachiko for sale that I would have liked very much (one at least was new to this event), but they were only available for pre-order. I did purchase all the goods that were currently available, except for the Blu-Ray series: two lidded drinking cups, a coffee mug, and a calendar.

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I’m so glad I had the opportunity to experience the GoFaLABO Marimite event. It was superb, an emerald under the tracks. And with all those cups and mugs my dehydration worries are a thing of the past. If you have the opportunity to visit GoFaLABO in Asagaya Anime Street while the Marimite event is still taking place (through January 25th), please do so. If you’ve made it this far in this report, you’ll just love it.

Well, except maybe for Ana, you freakin’ tough Marine. Ganbatte, CO!

Erica here: Ganbatte seconded. And of course I’m insanely jealous.  I thank you again for the lovely calendar! 

Thank you once more for your time and effort on our behalf! I’m glad you enjoyed the show. 

In case any of you want a glimpse of the kinds of sweets they were selling, I’ve stolen borrowed two pictures from YNN Correspondent and friend Jackie S. to give you an idea. ^_^

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This event will have had  a number of Okazu readers visit. We should do a travel special. ^_^

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34-sai Mushoku-san Manga Vols. 1-4 (34歳無職さん) Guest Review by Bruce P.

April 2nd, 2014

34-saiIt’s Guest Review Wednesday once again on Okazu and I couldn’t be happier…but that’s because I’ve already read today’s review and I can’t stop laughing. Once again it is my sincere pleasure to welcome back Okazu Superhero, longtime friend, traveling companion and amazing Guest Reviewer Bruce P Yaaaayyy!   

I picked up a copy of 34-sai Mushoku-san (The Unemployed 34-Year Old), (34歳無職さん) Volume 1, by Ikeda Takashi, with the not unreasonable thought that the author of Sasameki Koto might have included some Yuri along the way. I was wrong; four volumes later, and there hasn’t been a hint of Yuri. Instead what we are given is a viciously drawn-out interior monologue of boredom, hopelessness, and personal failure. It’s cruel, peculiar, glacial, and grindingly depressing. Plus it makes me laugh. What a great manga.

The protagonist, who is never named, is a 34-year old woman who lives alone in an apartment and who has lost her job. The first chapter starts right off with a gag–she wakes up and can’t find her glasses (they’re on top of her head). The jokes continue. She doesn’t get up in time to take out the recycling. Her vacuum cleaner falls over. And then it falls over again. What we have here is a wacky slice-of-life story, as our madcap heroine searches for love and employment in the big city! Except…she doesn’t actually ever do any searching for love, or for employment, and as the same jokes begin to repeat, and repeat, it becomes clear that they are not jokes at all. They are symptoms, and despite her best excuses she is a woman in serious trouble.

Though able to deal marginally with others, even if there aren’t many others she ever deals with, at home she lives in a state of almost total paralysis. She cannot pull herself out of her futon until late afternoon, or up from under the kotatsu – Yui from K-ON! all grown up when it is no longer cute. You get the sense that losing the job may not have had much to do with the economy after all. She’s isolated from her family (including a daughter) and has only one acquaintance, a woman she meets occasionally for dinner and who is blatantly drawn with eyes always shut. Her only real companion is her apartment. She just swirls slowly, sleepily around in the drain of her well-vacuumed world. And if that doesn’t make you want to shell out for the multi-volume set, be assured that in Volume 2 she takes dramatic steps to change her life, by contemplating possibly taking dramatic steps to change her life. Contemplation of these steps continues in Volume 3 and Volume 4.

It sounds grimmer than kidneys on toast. Why read it?

(1) Asymmetric though she is, her character is strikingly realistic, and in more spots than are comfortable I can see, in her, a reflection of some of my own unlovely edges. This is both disturbing, and of value when I’m trying to get out of bed in the morning.

(2) It’s beautifully and brilliantly drawn, which nicely counters the subject; some chapters contain no words at all, but are simply picture plays as she bleakly and languorously contemplates her empty life. It’s like mime, in two dimensions, though not as depressing.

(3) Ikeda-sensei has a nice comic touch, and it really is quite funny. Even if laughing at all the pratfalls feels somehow misdirected, like appreciating the Hindenburg disaster on account of it being all bright and sparkly.

(4) Nothing has changed in four volumes. I’m still waiting for the thing to happen.

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Ratings:

Art: 9. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Story: 5. Not so much a story as a slowly deteriorating situation. I’m betting on something happening; it eventually did in the classic gently-paced series Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou when Kokone reappeared. My suggestion is to add robots.

Character: 18. She’s not honestly sympathetic, but credit for every year over the age of 16.

Yuri: 0. Unfortunate, but ideally Yuri requires a second character.

Service: 2. A few sponge bath scenes, if you’re desperate enough.

Overall: 8. 34-sai Mushoku-san will not be to everyone’s taste. However, I have never been a fan of action series, and with this one I hit the jackpot.

 

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YuriTetsu ~ Shiritsu Yurigasaki Joshikou Tetsudobu Manga (ゆりてつ~私立百合ヶ咲女子高鉄道部) – Guest Review by Bruce P

June 19th, 2013

“Once upon a time there were three little sisters,” the Dormouse began in a great hurry; “and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well—”‘

This Alice in Wonderland line effectively describes the manga YuriTetsu ~ Shiritsu Yurigasaki Joshikou Tetsudobu (ゆりてつ~私立百合ヶ咲女子高鉄道部) Volume 1, by Matsuyama Seiji. The story involves three little girls (though not sisters) who live at the bottom of a well. They are the Yuritetsu—the Yurigasaki Girl’s High School Railway Club. They recruit a fourth little girl to their club, and go on train trips. But the whole time they never leave their well. Which is to say they travel all around Japan without ever interacting with or even seeing another person, except for one old guy in one panel on one page. Not another living soul in 191 more pages. There are occasionally dim outlines of other people, but these are drawn as indistinct phantoms. Their isolation is truly bizarre. It’s almost as bizarre, though not quite so head-banging, as seeing high school girls drawn as four-year-olds. And these are just two of the many short circuits in Yuritetsu.

The author isn’t inept, he just knows his audience. This isn’t a manga for folks looking to read a good story; that crowd will be somewhere off in the approximately real world reading Aoi Hana, or maybe Asagao to Kase-san. This is a manga for fanboys who like girls, without knowing too much about them, and who like trains, and who pretty much live in wells of their own. Logical consistency can be a major annoyance when all you really want is to see drawings of four-year-old high school girls in swimsuits. And trains. For some, of course, even the trains get in the way.

The story goes like this—Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie, three typical character types (tsundere; food-obsessed wack; quiet computer geek) are the members of the Yuritetsu. They meet Peanut, a new student at Yurigasaki High, and convince her to join the club. Peanut, the girl whose odd pose in the cover illustration suggests she’s just finished reading the manga, is the usual character type that stars in these kinds of quartets, the clueless klutz. Idiocy, so endearing. The girls take trains. They eat ekiben. They go to the beach. They never attend school. The end.

It’s not much of a story, but the story isn’t the point. Yuritetsu is really a travelogue of railway lines in Japan with little girls as your guides and as your companions (isolated as they are from the rest of the world, you don’t even have to share them with anyone). You ride to Hokkaido and stand in the snow; you explore the newly reconstructed Tokyo Station; in a chapter titled “Tetsu-on!” you ride the train to Toyosato and visit the high school where K-ON! was set. And so on. And at the end there are the swimsuit scenes. Ewww. It’s a bubbling stew of fanboy fetishes. It’s probably selling nicely.

So is there Yuri, as vaguely implied by the title?

Oh come on, these high school girls are four freaking years old. But for wellish fanboys the Yuri couldn’t be more obvious. Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie fall hard for Peanut, and who can blame them, she’s such a stammering, wide-eyed dope. So before you know it, they are fighting to stand next to her. They stand next to her a lot. They can’t get enough. And it’s not just two of them at a time – sometimes three, and occasionally all four girls will brazenly defy the conventions of 21st century morality and stand together in, as the French would say, though they would say it atmospherically in French, a group. Who knew it was that kind of manga?

Ratings:

Art—5. Well, the train illustrations are pretty good.
Story—2. Not so much.
Characters – 2. Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie are actually named Mamiko, Maron, and Hakutsuru; Peanut is Hatsune. For the record.
Yuri—2. All girls, so it has to be there, right?
Service—10. The reason it exists.

Overall—3. Of all the short circuits in logic contained in this volume, the oddest may be that this manga could actually be used as a little reference guidebook when visiting different railways, as it includes handy maps and information. The disconnect is that in reality, this would mean opening it up in public, and… ewww.

Scary fact #1 about this manga: there are two more volumes.

Scary fact #2 about this manga: the author has another series involving trains and girls titled Tetsuko na Sanshimai that is creepier than Yuritetsu.

Erica says: Happy Guest Review Wednesday, thanks Bruce and hahahahahah!

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Yuri Manga: Lesbian III – Kyuketsu Reijo (レズビアン3 吸血令嬢) Guest Review by Bruce P

November 1st, 2012

I said “reviews will resume” but I did not tell you that they would resume with a veritable masterpiece. Today, Guest Reviewer Bruce P offers up what I sincerely believe to be the most masterly review I have ever read, just in time for Halloween!

Lesbian III: Bloodsucking Women, (レズビアン3 吸血令嬢) is the latest volume of Senno Knife’s manga centered on lesbians, but not really. As was stated in a review of Volume I there have typically been no lesbians in these lesbian stories. And there are none in Lesbian III. There are only female vampires living in a world unaccountably devoid of men, so their targets are necessarily also female. And although they do seem to enjoy the lovemaking that takes place before getting down to business, those naked preliminaries appear to be of somewhat secondary interest to the women involved (if not to the intended audience). Unlike stories in previous volumes, Lesbian III is pure melodrama with a lack of actual love between any of the characters.

While the previous volumes consisted of short stories, Lesbian III is one long epic. This provides the author with less room for creating different artistic atmospheres, one of Senno-san’s strengths, but provides a chance to see if he can expand a simple idea into a sustainable narrative. Does he succeed? Heavens no. But it’s a pretty ride.

Asari-san, a beautiful woman, is in the vaguely 1930’s-style Capital City looking for employment, but has had no success. It’s dark. She’s despondent. And then an expensive limousine pulls up, from which a mysterious, beautiful woman emerges, offering Asari-san a ‘job’. In the live-action movie this is the point at which the audience yells “Don’t get in the car.” She gets in the car. She’s blindfolded. New to the workforce, she figures this must be what they call commuting. Arriving at a very gothic Japanese mansion she is led to a padlocked tower and informed that the beautiful woman’s daughter is languishing within, suffering from a mysterious medical condition. With a bit of a shove and a ‘good luck,’ Asari-san is locked inside. It’s only now that she gets a sense that something dreadfully peculiar is going on. And you wonder why employers were not terribly keen on hiring her.

The girl in the tower, Saya-san, is very beautiful. Actually, every character in the manga is either a beautiful woman or a beautiful girl, except for a few grumpy looking nuns who don’t get much page time anyway. Saya-san is charmingly straightforward about the situation – she’s a vampire, Asari-san’s a buttered scone, and it’s way past tea time. It seems that Saya-san has been bitten by one of those beautiful Eastern European piano teachers of whom you must be so careful. Asari-san is horrified by this declaration of hellish intent and thinks: oh such pretty eyes. So they undress and fiddle around a little before Saya-san gives her eternal life and all the issues that go with it. Recoiling at the enormity of her fateful actions, Asari-san thinks: pretty lips, too.

Existing now in a timeless, twilight world, undead and never-aging, Asari-san has no need for a pension plan and is much more employable. She is given a job teaching at Saya-san’s pseudo-Catholic school where she and Saya-san begin systematically seducing other girls to the ranks of the undead. Incidentally the type of vampire in this story, while preferring the night, has no real problem with daylight. Or with crosses, or presumably with the garlic in the refectory’s lobster bisque. This is most fortunate for a vampire teaching day classes at a Catholic school. Asari-san and Saya-san soon enough have their hands full. Teachers and students, each one prettier than the last, form a line to the couple’s door, eager to shed their clothes and join the army of the damned. It’s great fun. It’s a long line.

So everyone’s becoming a vampire. But like a plague that begins spreading and killing millions in a crowded city, eventually somebody’s going to notice, what with all the blood everywhere. The nuns turn for help to the dormitory guardian, a literally 10 foot tall armored woman who leads an elite troop of jack-booted hall monitors. Meanwhile Eliza, the piano teacher who started it all, reappears. She surprises ex-pupil Saya-san with an urn of ashes, the remains of that famous literary vampire Carmilla, who in this version had been burned at the stake by hooded executioners from the Vatican. Eliza intends to revive Carmilla in the crypt beneath the school.

Inserting Carmilla at this point is a little like when they put Dracula into an Abbott and Costello movie. You have to feel a little sorry for the old bloodsucker. The story of Carmilla, like Dracula, is of course relatively old, in a literary sense, with roots going all the way back to the Sakura Taisen Dramatic Card Game Series, and, um, possibly even earlier.

While it sounds very much as though the story has long since merrily degenerated into bad farce, you don’t notice this so much as you are reading. In fact if your reading consists of just looking at all the naked vampires you won’t see any problem at all.

Anyway at this point a great deal of swashbuckling hurly-burly takes place, naked vampires vs. sword-wielding storm troopers with pretty eyes. Carmilla is being revived with vampire blood, Asari-san has escaped the school dungeon but is about to be impaled with the dorm guardian’s two-handed longsword…

And then she wakes up. It was all a dream. Or was it? As she rides off in the moonlight with Saya-san and Eliza and an urn of Carmilla ash in Eliza’s expensive 30’s-style roadster she takes a nibble at Saya-san’s wrist. While you can argue that this ‘it was only a dream’ type ending is a lousy way to end a story, the greater disappointment, for the majority of folks who have made it all the way to the end, will be that as they disappear into the night they still have their clothes on.

Ratings:

Art – 8.  Precise, Paul Delvaux inspired mannequin-like characters and sharply drawn gothic backgrounds.

Story – Are you kidding?

Characters – 7.  They may chew on each other, but they’re very nice about it. Good vampires and bad pseudo-Catholics.

Yuri – 9.  100% women, but despite all the lovemaking, there’s little love in all that vampirism.

Service – 10.  It would be 9.9 because of the fully clothed ending, but when closing the book, the back cover probably gives it that extra tenth.

Overall – 6.  A fine example of the fact that just because something is bad – and this one is bad – there’s no reason that you can’t say what the hell and enjoy it.

Erica here: Bruce, you’re killing me. Please write all my reviews so I can just read them….!

 

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