Soak Up the Sun the Manga Way!

Summertime makes you think of beaches, sun, vacations, and spending more time with friends and family. When I read manga with images of beaches, sun kissed green grass, and summer dresses, I can’t help but let them get me in the summer mood. With that in mind, I’m going to give you some of my favorite manga summer moments.

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Break Into Comedy: Imadoki! Volume 2

Here’s another edition of my mini-column of sorts, where I pick out my favorite scenes that best embody dramatic moments suddenly shifting into comedy to lighten the mood. My new pick this time is another manga by Yuu Watase called Imadoki! What can I say? She is the best when it comes to blending comic moments into tense and serious situations.

The basic premise of Imadoki! focuses around Tanpopo Yamazaki, a country girl from Hokkaido who gets her chance to attend a high school in the big city of Tokyo. She’s bubbly, optimistic, and a bit naive when she tries to take on her new school with the intention of making good memories and new friends. When she quite literally crashes into Koki Kugyo during her secret tour to see her new school, she decides he will be her first new friend. Antics, friendship, and love ensue in this high school romantic comedy series.

Here’s a snapshot I took from the manga, where Koki clocks Kyogoku in the face

The scene I’m choosing for this column is when Koki saves Tanpopo from Aoi Kyogoku or “Flippy” as he is later nicknamed in the series. The scene starts off a bit tense. Koki and Tanpopo are stuck in the school elevator thanks to Kyogoku’s amazing tech skills. It’s in this scene where Koki discovers Tanpopo’s fear of dark, tight spaces. When Koki finally gets them out of the elevator, Kyogoku grabs Tanpopo and claims her as his hostage at knife point. Koki fears for Tanpopo’s life, and is willing to do what’s necessary to save her. Even go down on his knees and beg at Kyogoku’s feet. This takes Kyogoku by surprise because he never expects the great Koki Kugyo to put aside his pride to save one girl. Before Kyogoku can react, he gets blindsided by a punch to the face with none other than Koki’s trusty gardening trowel or scoop, as it is referenced in the manga.

Only for it to be revealed that Koki has used his “scoop” to punch out Kyogoku

I enjoy these particular panels the most because it ends up being rather wacky in the end after all the danger and tension in the last few scenes leading up to this one. Kyogoku’s face is really priceless in the above panel, and his comment is pretty hilarious. There’s also something absurd about seeing Koki standing like a badass with his gardening trowel. Definitely not the normal weapon of choice to save a damsel in distress. But like all of Watase’s mangas, you get the sense of her wanting to not take her own characters too seriously. Even the most serious of characters, like Koki, can have their silly moments. It makes the cool, handsome shojo manga male seem imperfect, despite the appearance he gives off throughout most of the story.

When the Anime Just Ain’t Cutting It

Recently, I’ve managed to find time to slowly go through my stacks of DVDs and continue watching Season 1 of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, based on the manga by CLAMP. I’ve only gotten as far as Episode 18 of the anime, and for some reason I find myself particularly bored after each episode. The funny thing is, I really enjoy reading the manga itself.

This brings me to the topic of my post, have you ever watched an anime series which is based on the manga, and after watching a few episodes or more, you find yourself less engaged by the anime compared to reading the manga itself?

I really don’t find this being my issue most of the time. There have been many series where I’ve watched the anime first then read the manga, or vice versa. I always enjoy reading the original material and then seeing how the anime compares to the novels. I don’t often find myself disappointed. Like all book series that get turned into films, I always view the books and films as separate entities. Things will always get changed around, taken out, or added in for whatever purpose. It’s better to appreciate the two as different from each other. Most of the time, I’m more excited to see my favorite manga series as an animated series. To actually watch the manga in motion on my television screen is very exciting.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle

Going back to Tsubasa, it’s a little disappointing when I find an anime series isn’t as exciting as the manga. I think my issue with Tsubasa may have something to do with the pacing of the anime. I find the set up of events slow to uncover. The manga seems to do it better, and the action is always continuous. I also think the use of too much recap of events from a previous episode, followed by the same animation sequence being recycled in the same episode has gotten a little repetitive after watching the episodes continuously. I am aware there are anime series that use the same animation sequences dozens of times, like the sailor soldier transformation sequences in Sailor Moon, but I find those to be more exciting than what you get in Tsubasa. I also wonder if Tsubasa is a tougher manga to translate over as an anime. There are just some book series that are hard to turn into films, or just work better as book form only. I think Tsubasa may be one of those instances.

I still have the rest of the series to watch. It is possible I may be judging this series far too early. I plan on watching the anime in its entirety to see if my feelings about this series remains the same. As it stands now, I rather devour more of the manga volumes than watch the anime.

Has anyone ever felt disappointed by an anime series which is based on the manga? Do you think the series is better off staying as a manga, and wish the anime version never existed?

Final Thoughts on Ceres: Celestial Legend

The final volume of Ceres had the right amount of drama, action, and romance to wrap up this grand and blood soaked manga. This post may be littered with spoilers so please read at your own risk.

There appears to be a number of recurring themes going on in this manga. Among the themes most prevalent are power corrupts, revenge, death, sacrifice, love, and forgiveness. To be honest, these themes are the same ones you find in Watase’s other series, Fushigi Yugi. I do find Ceres to be a much darker series than Fushigi Yugi, as I have mentioned before in previous posts about this series.

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Please Don’t Stop the Music: Anime & Video Game Music

I love music. I never leave home without my iPod, and listening to a playlist of all my current favorite songs gets me through the morning commute to work. My musical tastes have always been varied. I’m the type of person who will listen to a song or artist as long as it appeals to me. I listen to the oldies, rock, pop, bubblegum pop, R&B…you name it. I have a little of everything on my iPod. When I got into anime and eventually video games, I discovered songs and artists I wouldn’t have gotten into if I didn’t become involved in these fandoms.

Kanon Wakeshima sang the ending theme songs for Season 1 and Season 2 of the Vampire Knight anime

Watching anime was my first introduction to Japanese artists. I got acquainted with the terms, “J-rock” and “J-pop.” I didn’t understand a lot of what was being sung in the anime theme songs, but I enjoyed the instrumentals and the Japanese artist who sang the song so much that I had to look for it online. There was something incredibly different about Japanese music I couldn’t help but like. A lot of these songs had a good beat and a great singer. Through anime and beyond, I began seeking out other songs a certain Japanese artist did that was separate from doing one or two theme songs for a particular anime series. In a way, I owe it to anime for allowing me to discover artists I wouldn’t have found on my own. The only music I would have mainly had on my iPod would be American music and some songs from the UK (thank you Internet radio!).

Next came video games, and I’m slowly loving theme songs and musical scores from the games I play. Songs or scores I probably never would have imagined I would have on my iPod, are now songs I can’t dream of living without. I became a fan of Utada Hikaru after watching my friend play the Kingdom Hearts games, and I heard her sing the theme songs for those games. Her voice is amazing, and she adds a very dreamy and fantasy type element to the theme songs she sings for the games. There’s a lot of emotion expressed in her songs, and I feel she hits you right in the gut. In a good way, of course. Then there’s the musical scores for the Dragon Age and Mass Effect games. I instantly fell in love with the musical arrangements, which fit well with the mood or scene unfolding in the game. Every time I listen to my favorite piece of the score, I always end up reliving the experience of playing the game, or watching a particularly moving or uplifting cutscene from the game.

Utada Hikaru from a promo for “Passion”––the theme song for the Kingdom Hearts 2 video game

What’s curious is how you can discover good music in the most unexpected places. I always thought my music would solely come from mainstream radio and the occasional song from an indie artist that gets air play time in a movie or television show. Turns out, you can discover great music in your most geeky of fandoms. I’ve also noticed how declaring your love for J-pop or J-rock, at least here in the USA, comes off as geeky and maybe “uncool” by those who aren’t anime fans, an admirer of all things Japanese, or who just don’t get the appeal of Japanese music. I think most people would find it more chic to be a lover of French or European music. That’s the sense I get anyway. You mention you love J-pop or J-rock, as a non-Japanese fan, and people look at you as if you have two heads or something. Regardless, I’m proud to have Japanese artists, anime songs, and video game music on my iPod. They fit in well between my Adele and Bruno Mars jams.

Are you an anime, Japanese artist, or video game music lover? Has being a fan of anime or video games allowed you to discover music you wouldn’t have gotten into if you weren’t a fan?

Harassment of the Female Gamer

Today I read a BBC article that reported on the sexual harassment of female gamers in the video game world. Articles like this one aren’t new. I’ve read other articles and discussions concerning the lack of respect for female gamers.

The idea of a female gamer is still relatively new even though it has been said the amount of gamers being female is growing. The BBC article says that 42% of gamers are made up of females in the U.S. Despite the growing trend of the female gamer, the article also cites that video games still remains to be a “macho environment.” Male gamers aren’t exactly welcoming female gamers with open arms.

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Game Review: Me & My Katamari

The first time I tried out the Katamari games was when I was over a friend’s house who owned a Playstation 2. This strange, but addicting game is incredibly hard to dislike. It’s a very Japanese game where they know how to combine the strange with a level of charm. Rhythm Heaven is another example of mixing strange and charm together to come up with a delightful game. The characters or the world may look weird, but you shrug it off and keep playing because you just enjoy the game too much.

I don’t own a Playstation 2, so when a friend gave me a PSP as a gift, I was delighted to find out that the developer Namco has made a PSP version of their Katamari series known simply as Me & My Katamari.

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