philippos42: (manga)
I found this manga series at my local public library: Wandering Son by Shimura Takako. I'm reading the Fantagraphics translations, which are in hardcover and pretty nice.

I took a chance on it, and am actually enjoying it. The author has created a good cast of diverse personalities. It's a manga about children, at least so far--they've aged over a year since it started--but written for an audience of adults.

More specifically, you might say it's about transgender 11-year-olds in Japan. >.<

Well, yeah, that's sort of what it's about. It's realist, not fantasy, in case you're wondering. Not recommended for those who have little tolerance for pubescent drama, genderbending, or Japan.

One of the main characters, the "Wandering Son" if you will, is a boy with apparent transsexual tendencies. He gains a few friends who are also trans in their own ways. The characters don't have the vocabulary to define their queernesses as all the different categories of QUILTBAG a progressive Westerner might use, and they are still figuring themselves out. But it seems that the author has made them several slightly different flavors of odd.

Nitori Shuichi (Nitori-kun) is a small, timid boy who mostly has female friends. Some of his friends encourage his transvestite tendencies early on in the series. This was a little uncomfortable for me, in that it almost seemed like he was being pushed into it by the odd girl who has a crush on him. But he does seem to have transvestite/transsexual fantasies on his own. One of his sister's colleagues mocks him for looking at himself in the mirror and being (she surmises) turned on by himself. At one point he decides he "like likes" Takatsuki-kun.

Takatsuki Yoshino (Yocchan to her mother, Takatsuki-kun to her buddies) is so far mostly your basic girl who wants to be a boy, and can actually pass as a boy pretty well. At one point she dresses like a girl and one of her classmates thinks it's really funny that Takatsuki-kun is "in drag." Four volumes in, what we've seen of her sexuality is more about what she doesn't want (as makes sense at that age).

Ariga Makoto (Mako-chan to Nitori-kun) wants to be a girl, can't pass as well as Nitori, and is clearly attracted to men, as opposed to Nitori and Takatsuki's sort of avoidance of clear homosexual or heterosexual expression.

Chiba Saori (Chiba-san) is an apparently straight girl with a fetish for boys who dress like girls, and encourages Nitori-kun to dress like a girl. Because she "like likes" him.

By the third volume or so, those four, and their friend Sasa-chan, constitute their own little gang of sixth-grade oddballs.

The cast also includes Nitori-kun's elder sister, who becomes a model; various parents & classmates; and an eccentric adult woman who has some weird attraction to Takatsuki-kun. I mean, she has a boyfriend, but she definitely has a...weird affection thing for Takatsuki. I'd say you have to see Yuki-san to believe her, but I've seen her and I still don't quite believe her. (She's not exactly malevolent, just awkward, loud, and odd.)

Anyway, I have been reading this series pretty avidly, between other things. I don't know what else to say about it. It's a little like shoujo manga I have liked, like Land of the Blindfolded (but without the fantasy elements or the distinctive melancholy mood of that series). (OK, that's the main shoujo manga I like. >.<)

At least once this week I started up my laptop meaning to use it, then opened up a volume of Wandering Son and read that instead.

When I got to the end of the third volume, I looked for the fourth--by mistake I looked on WorldCat before checking the library's catalog, assuming they only had three volumes here. I ordered an Inter-Library Loan for Volume Four. By luck, I checked my account the next day and my "ILL" was in. I read it in a day, went back and got Volume Five.

I got on WorldCat just now, it looks like Volume Six was just released. I guess I don't have to wait so long to continue I forget most of it.
So, yeah, I should post.

Um, let's see...Oh! I finished Chikyu Misaki ! Yeah, it's only about half as long as King of Thorn, so it all wraps up in the third volume, which is also when it gives us lots of revelations which I at least did not see coming. Pretty cool, actually. Totally nuts, of course. Definitely geared to a male audience, too.
I haven't been doing my stupid little reviews. I have been reading stuff, though, if not really a volume a day.

Am not quite through Chikyu Misaki v2. Am loving all the eight-panel pages. This is narrative, people.

I like that the Big Secret is really not managing to survive long at all. The girls had to tell Misaki's dad last volume, & now Sanae's little bros have seen the monster & taken pictures, & he's interacted with two other characters.

There's a lot of story going on, & Iwahara wisely gives us a lot of story, instead of relying on the continuing-comic-book hook of "trying & succeeding to keep the same secret over & over."
(continued from here)

OK, Just read volume 6 of King of Thorn. (In a version translated from a Portuguese translation.) Ow. Ever read something where your mind is trying to make it all a dream so it makes sense/is less horrifying?

Yeah, it's like that. Clever enough, surprising twists in every volume despite actual foreshadowing throughout of one of the final ones, & I think mostly internally consistent.

Ow, my head.


Aug. 22nd, 2010 06:47 pm
Well, I've read King of Thorn vols. 4 & 5 now. One to go. Realized after borrowing a physical copy of 5 that I could read the whole thing in scanslation online. Stupid.

Well, no, I like having a physical copy I can thumb through to look back at previous scenes. It's quicker.

Um, review? 4 has twists, starts to explain just how weird the weirdness really is. There's a long flashback, 2 or 3 chapters.

5 takes it further. Starting to get a bit "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" by the end?

I guess I'll read 6 in scanslation now. (continued)
philippos42: (manga)
Oh, as for the actual story of Whistle! v2: It's pretty cool, actually. In v1 the team was effectively stripped down to six named characters, & we saw them come together to become a new team. This volume gets two more characters that were hanging around the edges to rejoin. But at some point the book has to have a footie game, right? In order to get to eleven members for the new team's first game, we have three characters added in amidst that without fanfare or introduction. I wonder if the book will get back to them.

Then we have the new team's first actual full game. I give the writer props for making the goalie on the opposing team really cool, possibly even cooler than Shō & Tatsuya. But of course he has a nasty heavy on that team too, to give Tatsuya problems.

Well, there's a bit of cliffhanger--or halftime--at the end of the volume. I guess I'll continue this when I get to it.


Aug. 17th, 2010 04:48 pm
OK, up to two volumes of Whistle!

Shonen Jump's translation of vol. 2 is disappointing. It looks very rushed. There are word balloons with misplaced arrows. I saw multiple cases of a character saying "he" when he means "I." And when a mysterious new character is introduced (some quick online research indicates it's Matsushita Soujū), he's called "Shō"--like the name of the lead character--the first time, then some pages later "Sō." I guess the translator & the adaptor each rushed & relied on the other one?

It sucks is what I'm saying. Actually, no, the plot is intelligible, regardless.

Oya-san gets a good line early on about how it takes time & effort to get anything up to standard. Here it is in another translation that hasn't been taken offline yet. Actually, Oya-san has more than one good line in that scene.

So, yeah, good manga, shame the print translation got a bit sloppy.

(Here, by contrast, is Soujū's first appearance in scanslation. Not looking good for the official adaptation.)
In about the last week, I have read vols. 3-5 of Yotsuba&! in the ADV edition (Javier Lopez's translation). Also an online scanslation of vol. 2. And found out about the Yen Press editions. After a good while of knowing Yotsuba only from the occasional clips in scans_daily, I'm in full fan mode.

So yeah, the new Greatest Thing Ever, & less ironic than I usually mean that.

And of course, as the first full volumes I read were ADV, I got used to that voice for Yotsuba. The way Lopez had her call Koiwai-san "Dad" instead of "Daddy" sounds right to me now. I could justify it, but it's just how I was introduced. Isn't her speech supposed to be a little-kid version of her father's masculine idiom?

Also, the first ADV volume jokingly suggests that Yotsuba may be from another planet. Then I read it. Oh, yeah, she could be. She's from "overseas." She has green hair. She swims like a fish, even though her father calls himself an "iron hammer." When the surf flipped her floaty-tube over at the beach, she was upside-down in the water for a moment, & seemed not to mind when she came out. And then there are lines the stargazing story which can be read to indicate that Koiwai got her somewhere other than Earth.

After the stargazing story ADV abandoned the translations. Did they finally decide this wasn't really about an alien after all, thus not kewl enough?

It's all ADV's fault ;)

Well, one thing that's not. I got the idea that Yotsuba was only 3 or 4 years old. See, I decided that Fuka was roughly 12-14, then Ena was enough smaller she might be 8. Then I started out thinking Yotsuba was maybe 6 (just a little younger than Ena). But Yotsuba was so much smaller, & not visibly in school, that I decided she might be younger. So yeah, I didn't know, but maybe 3-5. But she's six, I guess. At least, she says she's six at one point. And Fuka is sixteen. And Ena is...10?

Anyway, this is really cool. I recommend Yotsuba to practically everyone.
She's the daughter of a noble sorceror family down on its luck. She doesn't use magic very much because she's not that good--she understands the theory, just lacks control in practice. But hey she has (yet to be explained in volume 1) super strength.

He's the prince, but he has an alternate identity as an anonymous spaz.

The first three chapters all end with some variation on, "I will master magic & make it to the palace! I will!"

Oh, & the prince figures out that the heroine can't control her powers not so much because she sucks at control (as she believes) but because she's so awesomely powerful.

But when there's an emergency she kind of can control them.

Eyes rolling yet?

So, yeah, it's like that.

The Lapis Lazuli Crown, by Natsuna Kawase (or LAPISLAZULI NO OUKAN, by Kawase Natsune).

I can forgive this a lot because the author is clearly having so much fun with it.

And, you know, she created her own characters. :P

Translator Sheldon Drzka did his own script adaptation on the CMX version. That's different. Really, the script is a little shaky in places, but I think that may be from the original.

First volume has a back-up story, bizarrely titled "Daisy Romance." I would call it something else, like "The New Moon Thief." The back cover of the volume has a bit of art with the characters from that short story, & its heroine looks enough like Miel, the heroine of The Lapis Lazuli Crown, that I assumed it was Miel. Confusing!

Oh, well, it's very silly, but it's not offensive. Just tropey. OK, maybe offensively tropey.
philippos42: (manga)
This has got to be a put-on.

* * *

Earlier this week I was up all night, due to giving Penguin Revolution v2 a close rereading; arguably not worth it.

Then I decided to go ahead & water the plants, & sleep some in the morning. Then, instead of going to sleep, I read the entire first volume of Yotsuba&!

Now that I'm not so sleep-deprived, I may be backing off from saying this really is The Greatest Thing Ever. But man, I hope this stays in print for a long time to come. It's that good.

I think this series benefits from the digest-sized pages. If it were in the comic-book format used for manga imports when I was a kid, some of the pages would be a little spare. Not all of them, certainly, or even most--but I think this one looks good statted down.

Later, I was walking the dog, & thinking she's a bit Yotsuba-like, but then, the dog is three. Yotsuba is probably about three.

I like how Yotsuba calls the neighbor "Mom" (or whatever the Japanese idiom is here) as if it's her name, & is completely oblivious to others' concerns about her not having a mom.
philippos42: (manga)
After much delay, my attempt at a review of Land of the Blindfolded vols. 4 & 5.

I scribbled notes on volume 4, but I don't think I've posted on it. And now I've lost the notes. I was going to reread volumes 1-3 & refresh my memory, but I haven't yet.

Volume 4 is all LotB (chapters 11-15). Previous volumes had fewer than 5 chapters; they filled the page count with extra backups about other characters. No backup short story in this one. It's basically the "Student Council President" arc. I don't think we learn her name, actually. The student council president tells Arou (the sole member of the Gardening Club) that he has to cut back his garden on the school lot. He eventually gets her to allow him to keep the vegetables growing until harvest.

Tsukuba may have gone for an innocent feel to this series, but she knows what she's doing.1 There's a serious sensuality to the series, however innocent the things portrayed. The way things are framed, the way things are associated, creates implications. All those zucchini!

That said, I also found my reactions were "wrong," being used to fantasy stories with more expansive time scales. When Kanade (Arou's girlfriend who sees glimpses of the future) saw a vision of Arou in the future, looking at a picture of a woman who looked like the student council president but also like Arou, my mind went to, "It's their future daughter!" Well, no, not in this series. Kanade doesn't see that far ahead. The picture is of Arou's mother, who the president just sort of looks like. Which is meaningful.

One episode is a cute little digression with Namiki & his dog--who meet the Student Council President outside of school. At one point I was struck by how old my eyes are & how little one panel was. :sob!: In the "Sakura Mail" Tsukuba asked if we'd noticed the ostriches--I had to go back & peer.

-- - --

Land of the Blindfolded vol. 5 (chaps. 16-20). The word for this volume is "akebanatsu," to throw open the door. So far we'd seen Arou with sort of passive seeing powers, but in this one it seems like something weirder happens. And we meet his junior high friend Honma Eiichirou,2 who's definitely a strong personality & with an emotional nature almost opposite to Arou's in a way. Honma thinks this manga should be more superheroic. Arou disagrees. So, yeah, the power level & possibly the stakes go up in this volume.

Again, Kanade may be innocent, but Tsukuba isn't really avoiding sexuality, just writing a virginal character. Kanade's friend Eri is doing rather more with her boyfriend3 than Kanade is doing with Arou. Kanade considers sharing a room with Arou overnight & then sabotages that.

And Tsukuba is having fun drawing half-naked guys in the beach scenes. The guys are a bit gangly here. The artist had been covering them up to this point, & with their shirts off, their torsoes are clearly a bit idealized--narrow waists & broad shoulders. (This sent me back to Tsukuba's later series Penguin Revolution to compare. I think she did get the hang of shirtless guys more in time. Still idealized, just more expertly drawn.)

The first episode this volume (chapter 16) is going to be creepy to a lot of American readers, with its attempt at a justified crush on teacher. I think it's a relationship with cute elements, & the guy doesn't try dating her while he's in her class. But it could be a trigger.... So, yeah. Just get past that & go on.

I love the way Namiki relates to Arou. He's still trying to be Arou's rival for short plain girl Kanade, but he also comes to Arou's defense when people call Arou a monster. Back & forth, more or less in the same scene.

The collection also adds a tiny (6 p.) backup story about Namiki's dog, showing Namiki's adoption of the dog from the dog's perspective.


When I tried to get these on the library's shelves, the library was happy to comply (they'd already started the series), but then we were told that these 2 volumes are permanently out of stock. I don't really know about CMX in general, but at least these two specifically. That was about when CMX's shutdown was announced, & they'd gotten volume 3 not so long before, so I gave up on ordering any CMX. I borrowed these through inter-library loan so I could read them, but I'm not making CMX even a little bit of money now, I suppose now practically no one is.

So, that said, if you're interested, you can read some scanlations through chapter 20/volume 5 here. It's not as good, as they don't translate all the 'Sakura Mail' panels, but it can give you a taste.

1 Of course she does. It is a Love Manga.
2 Whose character design reminds me of the "rebel" guy in Whistle!
3 (Just how much more seems undefined in the English script.)
OK, so I've read Chikyu Misaki v1 now.

I momentarily thought it neat seeing a series with so many female characters playing off each other. But it bothers me that it's using the trope of having several of them fall for the male obake-child. It's not a harem manga, not yet anyway, but the protagonist, her best friend, & one apparent antagonist are all kind of crushing on the squirt after five chapters. Or rather he's imprinted on the protagonist & the other two are crushing on him. And of course the protagonist also has to deal with her new pet/little brother, so it's not just a crush thing; reality impinges. That leaves one female character that's not attached to him nor that impressed so far (but then she has a boyfriend, much to the protagonist's chagrin).

I like it. The lake monster is cute, so far the bespectacled friend is only a little annoying, & I appreciate the sense of a built setting & a story that knows where it's going. I also note that as someone closer in age to the main character's father, I may be rooting for him to get together with his girlfriend more than one is supposed to. (But I may change my mind on that.)

I'm going to continue with this. I hope it doesn't end up putting me off lake monsters.

This is really different from the other Iwahara series I'm reading, King of Thorn. I was looking for comparisons, but they're just very different series.

I mean, technically, King of Thorn has a female protagonist p.o.v. character, but the male characters (Americans no less) have actually done a lot of the work so far, to the point I'm identifying more with them. It's an ensemble, with quite a team. So far we've seen bits with Marco & Tim alone against monsters. At the end of volume two, they're mostly split up.

And maybe therein is a similarity.

In Chikyu Misaki, we get to see bits away from the main core cast, things with other characters that we don't see. Some of this ties back to the weird child; one scene shows him playing with the little brothers of one of the main characters. Some of it is setting up future conflict. And some of it is due to it being a series where a lot is coincidentally going on.

So, lots of characters, & shifting points of view, rather than really focusing on one protagonist.

Both series play with the image of a young woman taking care of a small boy. Obviously Tim is not Neo, but they are both fair-haired I think.

And of course they both have ambiguously amphibious aquatic dragon/dinosaur things.

So there are similarities.

Also, at this point, I think these are both stories that knew where they were going from the beginning. I'm not as sure this is true of King of Thorn, but at this point it feels like it--probably because there's so much visible world-building & backstory in Chikyu Misaki.

But Chikyu Misaki is funny & means to be. A romp, I think. King of Thorn is an action story with deeply detailed violent action scenes. I like both, but they're not the same genre.
I'd read King of Thorn v1 a few years ago. While looking for some interesting manga, I saw a plug for the same artist's Chikyu Misaki. So let's see what there is to see from Yuji Iwahara.

I notice that when I get a copy of Nightschool, I devour it immediately. I put off reading King of Thorn v2 for days. But it's cool.

King of Thorn has a token Japanese girl lead & a bunch of Westerners--Beikokujin. It's sort of a disaster movie scenario, where you're wondering who'll get picked off next.

It's definitely a different feel than, say, Nightschool. Not so packed with characters, & moving in a very different way, lots of panels of detailed physical action. But I like the action in this as opposed to the quick high-magic fights & overpowered characters in the last Nightschool volume. Then again, it was really in Nightschool v3 that we see over the top powers, as that's one with Mr Roi & Daemon showing that they're more powerful than one expected.

I got Chikyu Misaki v1 as well & am also putting off getting through it. I notice there is also a little blond boy in this. And a lake monster! Seriously, second page, full color, there's an image of a lake monster! I love lake monsters! I hope it's good.
Nightschool: The Weirn Books, volume 3, or chapters 13-18 (plus bonus story!)

Mr Roi rocks.

Daemon is cool.

They are both called teachers, but they are very different.

There's a night university? Eron says he goes to university & it looks hard for him to hide his night-thing-ness. Interesting that someone like Mr Roi is at a high school.

That phrase gets used a lot in v. 3: "Night things." What the hunters call the various monsters & such. Which gets us "Nightest night thing that ever nighted" as a description of Mr Roi.

I suspect that the Sohrem-chosen & those who remember the taken are the same but I suppose I could be wrong.

The Sohrem is probably lying when it says that killing the other one will help.

I'm really not writing well when I sit down to the computer, sorry. This post feels thin to me.

The plot twists come fast & furious--no really, there's a lot of plot twist in this volume, & we leave things in even more dire shape, with at least one new unresolved problem. When does it get resolved? I don't know.

The action gets very brutal by the end of volume 2. It may be triggering, what with one character undergoing a very sudden personality shift.

But Izumo is still sexy.

I suspect the Jagara really are too keen to put outsiders in positions of authority.

Not for nothing is it called, "Sword of the Devil." Don't get too attached to these characters.
philippos42: (manga)
Whistle! is a pretty good sports manga. (Sport manga? Sounds like a fish.) A good example of the Japanese idea that it's fine to be a dork in pursuit of excellence at something--even something other people don't understand.

I hope one day my country stops teaching Holden Caulfield in schools & we can regain that belief ourselves.

There's a definite lead character to draw you in--you start out identifying with him, perhaps. Then we meet more & more characters, & build up a team. The first star of the book is not the superstar jock, in fact he has an inferiority complex. But he gets better. The book is about growth.

I played soccer one year about the same age as the characters here. I never knew the stuff about strategy the author sticks in. If I had been exposed to that in training, I might have stuck with it. Or maybe not.

Marv Wolfman tweaked the script for Shonen Jump's translation. This is mostly not so noticeable, except around the main character's older brother, who works at a host club. I don't think we have those; we get a little note at one point: "Host club = bar." Sometimes older bro comes off like he's a gigolo, & referring to his job as "escort," while accurate, reinforces that impression. I'm not sure how they should deal with that stuff in what's supposed to be an all-ages book, but I suppose explaining host clubs to kids is no harder than explaining adult-oriented businesses in our own country.
I want to gush about something, but I don't have the ability right now to do the post that does justice to this.

Svetlana Chmakova's Nightschool blows so many other fantasy-outside-your-window series away. Is it what superhero comix used to be to me? Or better than they ever were?

The cast is huge. Like seriously huge, a lot to keep track of. There are many concepts floating around in the series, & each has depths, which are unexplained but which the writer seems to know. I wonder if at some point the mystery & the inventiveness will run out & I'll be bored. But for now, it's still unfolding & interesting.

And what characters! Among others: The little Russian-American (OK, Russo-Canadian) seer who was used to play the stock market by a gang of werewolves & just wants to go home; the Hunters who protect her, & the mysterious teacher who trains them. The spell scientist who teaches young witches at the school (& is always breaking holes in the classrooms) has left various large "seals" around in the past--how old is this guy anyway?--& has a sentient library who smiles with glee when he leaves it (her?) new scrolls. The comical night principal who may have swiped the percolator from the teachers' lounge; the pointy-eared "demon" teacher training young weirns (witches) in use of their "astrals" (sort of sentient assistant extensions of oneself)--who throws a snotty new pupil (previously home-schooled) straight into the final...and that pupil, about whom a mystery is brewing.

I get the impression that Chmakova at least has some idea what it all means, that this isn't JJ Abrams-style mysteries-without-solutions-yet-thought-of. I hope that the characters that are lying near death will come back so we can see more of them. I care about these strange characters.

The cast has actual ethnic diversity too. Not only are there weirns (a sort of witch), "demons" (with pointy ears), Hunters (that feels like it should be capitalized here), vamps, a mermaid, blah blah blah; but each group incorporates characters of different color, language background, etc. In the black-&-white art, character colors seem to come mostly in white & toned, but they have different face shapes & hairstyles--so if you're keeping track you can tell them apart.

I guess Chmakova has spent time around young children, maybe teaching even; the "astral training" class has that wonderful sense of understanding pedagogy. In so many ways, this reflects what people are actually like, in their wild imperfection & messiness. Not something an antisocial self-isolating nerd could manage to put in his raging power fantasy--which is why it walks all over what we get from too many "fantasy comics."



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