Tag: comics

Oh, My Goddess! v. 48 (75 Books LXVIII)

Fujishima Kosuke’s Oh, My Goddess!, a series approximately as old as I am, has finished; Dark Horse published the last volume earlier this year. I was a relative latecomer to the comic, picking it up only in 2007, I believe, when it was already approaching twenty years old. I was able to blow through most of it that had been published up to that point fairly quickly, since someone must have dumped the first twenty volumes or so at a local Half Price Books. I had to pick them up a few at a time, since I didn’t have that much spare cash in college, and also had to figure out what order Dark Horse’s initially unnumbered volumes ought to be read in. Still, the best way to read OMG is probably to marathon several volumes at once, take a break, read several more, and so on.

That isn’t to say that the series is bad, but rather, it’s very uneven. There were some story arcs that I enjoyed, but several others I was happy to just skim through quickly and get to the next good part. Generally, the best story arcs were the least ambitious, and Fujishima did much better at more-or-less slice of life material than action or large narratives.

Which shouldn’t be surprising, really. Our hero, Keiichi, is very much an everyman character, but a very likable one, and he’s an everyman who, by chance (or fate, I suppose) gets to star in the platonic ideal of nerd wish-fulfillment stories when the beautiful, traditionally feminine goddess Belldandy shows up and starts living with him. Comedy ensues, new characters come and go, we have our occasional dramatic moments while exploring this character or that’s backstory, and so on. My favourite moments, though – the ones I remember best – tend to be relatively simple things. For example, Keiichi deciding to buy a nice ring for Belldandy, killing himself for a couple weeks working lousy part-time jobs to get the money for it, then going to buy it once he has the exact amount he needs only to realise that he forgot to account for sales tax. Another: Keiichi goes to apply for graduation from college, only to be told that he’s not eligible because he didn’t get any credit hours for a second foreign language, so he’ll need to stay a little longer; this one’s a favourite because almost the exact same thing happened to me when I applied for graduation.

So when Fujishima got more ambitious, as I mentioned when talking about volumes forty-seven and forty-one, I lost interest fairly quickly. Unfortunately, this final story arc took years to resolve, and by the time it finished I’d nearly forgotten how it started. If you’re wondering why I’m being a bit vague, that’s why, and it’s the peril of long-running, serialised stories – I simply forget plot points over time, and I don’t want to go back and re-read things that, in this case, I didn’t enjoy much the first time around.

Getting to the ending, it’s fine. It’s roughly what I expected, though I would’ve thought that we would see more appearances of characters from throughout the comic’s run, or at least some of the main ones. Fujishima seems to enjoy hamming it up, and honestly I would’ve liked to see some of these guys who, in real-time, we haven’t seen in years.

Regardless, I’m just glad that the series finally got its happy ending. Perhaps I should go back and re-read some of the early volumes soon……

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Uzumaki – Spiralling Into the Grotesque

uzumaki4I’ll give Uzumaki this: I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Author Ito Junji’s concept sounds like one hell of a creative writing challenge: the town of Kurouzu-cho is cursed by spirals. Every chapter repeats the “spiral” motif somehow, and though some episodes succeed more than others, I have to tip my hat to Ito just because he could write a three-volume comic using such an odd hook.

The first few stories are the most effective, in part because the supernatural elements only appear late in the episodes. So, in the first story, a man becomes obsessed with spiral-shaped objects, like snail shells or whirlpools, which causes his wife in to develop a phobia of spirals in the second chapter. Throughout each of these chapters the characters look like they’re simply crazy, and the horror is more effective because the bizarre events in this town are ratcheted up gradually in each succeeding story arc. So, the audience isn’t shocked at the outset and desensitised for the rest. Also, a series of stories taking place in the same town like this runs a risk of straining the audience’s suspension of disbelief with questions like, “Why doesn’t everyone leave?” Because of the gradual escalation, though, it’s plausible that, at the end of each episode, the town’s residents would assume they’ve seen the worst and choose to stay.…

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On the Hobby of Collecting Hobbies

One consistent problem I’ve had throughout most of my life is that my principal hobby is collecting hobbies. Almost everything is interesting to me, and my shelves are stuffed with books of literature, history, philosophy; DVDs and glorious blu-rays of film and animation; plenty of music and comics. If I had the time, I’d get into even more – theatre, fine arts, sports, cuisine, and who knows what else.

So much dabbling does have its advantages. There are few people with whom I can’t find some common interest, provided it’s not too obscure – and even then, there’s a decent chance I’ll at least be aware of what they’re talking about. Having a wide field of reference also helps when dealing with authors or directors who also have a wide field of reference, whether I’m reading through T.S. Eliot’s tangles of allusions or Tanigawa Nagaru’s off-hand references in the Haruhi novels.

It also allows me to be especially selective as far as what I read and watch. The majority of the books I read, the films I watch, the albums I listen to, and so on, are at least memorable. Of course, it’s also possible that I don’t have as much appreciation for the excellent since I don’t have as much mediocre content to compare it to, but for now I’m content with the selective approach to media.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time, so even though I have a working knowledge of so many topics, that knowledge tends to be fairly shallow. So, for example, I watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica as it came out, and though I enjoyed it, much of the discussion of the show centred on how it relates to other magical girl shows. I had nothing to say on that, because I can count the number of magical girl anime and comics I’ve experienced on one hand. I did catch the Faust references, though.

I’ve occasionally considered focusing my attention almost entirely to just one, maybe two fields, but have never seriously attempted this. As much as I respect those who have an encyclopedic knowledge of a particular subject, I find the world too fascinating to devote myself to just one aspect of it. So, I continue to run about in circles, in a mental equivalent of getting a free sample of every item at the supermarket without actually buying enough of any one thing to make a full meal.…

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Gunslinger Girl – Finale

So, after a tumultuous, often uncertain journey of seven years, I’ve finished Gunslinger Girl. I’ve written a couple posts on Aida Yu’s series before, after its return from publishing limbo in North America, one enthusiastic (of volumes 7-8), one rather concerned about the direction the author had taken (of volumes 11-12). Though volumes 13-14 were fine, I’m afraid that this final (fifteenth) volume largely, though not completely, justified my concerns.

The climax to Gunslinger Girl‘s story is in the next-to-last omnibus (volumes 13-14). Aida gives us one more big shootout with the most prominent terrorists the Social Welfare Agency had been fighting, including the man behind the Croce Incident. These volumes are very action-heavy, which is good because that’s what Aida is best at. Many, if not most, of the main characters are dead by the end (which shouldn’t be a spoiler if you’ve read even one volume, since the girls’ short lifespans is emphasised constantly throughout the series), so the fifteenth volume shouldn’t have much to do besides tie up a few loose ends.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of the ending. Some parts I like, some I don’t, and some I’m just unsure of (note: if you care, I’m about to get into some legitimate spoilers).

yoshikawakazunori

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The Bibliophile’s Journal VI

Well, now that I’m mostly moved into a new apartment, I’ve had some more time to read. Part of my newfound free time has gone into resuming my study of Japanese, as well as my usual mix of film and anime, but on the literary front here’s what I’ve been up to:

I finally, finally finished Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. For the patient reader, the narrator’s frequent asides, long descriptions, and multitude of characters and plot threads can be quite entertaining. I enjoyed them for a couple hundred pages, but as the book dragged on and on I began losing interest. By the halfway point, I really only cared about Pip’s relationship with Estella, and that’s partly because I can identify a little with his feelings in a hopeless, one-sided romance.…

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Maynguh Memories of Japanese Japanese Comics

clampSo, say you’ve started taking Japanese classes. What do you want to do, especially if you’re a bibliophile like me? Start reading, right? Novels and poetry are pretty tough, though, so you go to the next best thing – comics, which you’ve just discovered are not mayn-guhs but manga. I mean, hey, they’ve got pictures and stuff to help you out, so they’ll be easy, right?

I won’t say “wrong,” but they’re not really “easy,” either. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, it depends on which series you have the fortune (or misfortune) of picking out. My experience with Japanese comics in the original language started inauspiciously with the first two volumes of CLAMP’s X, which I found at a Half Price Books. It may as well have been printed in Mandalay, for all I could get out of it; a few years later I got an English edition, which only improved matters slightly but did show me that the density is not a bug but a feature, so I needn’t feel too bad about getting totally lost in the Japanese volume.

As a general point, though, already knowing the story does help immensely in following these comics. I fared much better with another CLAMP series, Cardcaptor Sakura, which I’d read in English not too long before. Being written at a generally lower level helps, too.…

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Early Impressions of Bunny Drop (v. 1-2)

Bunny Drop, by Unita Yumi, is one of those comics I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now, even before the anime adaptation came out, but I only recently got in the first couple volumes. So far, it’s about as good as I’ve heard.

The premise is that a thirty-year-old bachelor, Daikichi, goes to his grandfather’s funeral and there learns, with the rest of his family, that Grandfather has a six-year-old daughter, Rin. The mother is nowhere to be found, and nobody wants to take the girl in. Irritated by his relatives’ callousness, Daikichi decides to take care of Rin himself.…

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Maynguh Memories of the Dropsies

I’m sure we’ve all met the type of comics fan who’s determined to finish every series he begins, no matter how long it goes, no matter how silly or overly convoluted the plot gets, no matter how bad the art deteriorates; he’s started this comic, and nothing will stop him from finishing. I can’t help but respect the completionists’ determination, but I can never count myself as one of them. Though money is sometimes of little object to me, time is too valuable for me to spend hours on something I no longer enjoy.

Sometimes, that line of when to drop a series is clear enough. For example, I read the first four volumes of MariaHolic, and though not outright bad, they weren’t very good, either; the jokes, art, and plot were all competent, but just barely. I don’t even know how long the series is, but when something hovers around that C- or D+ range, I feel comfortable just not bothering to seek out anything more of it.

A little more difficult are those disappointing series that start off strong. Very soon after I first started following anime and comics, I came across recommendations for KareKano. Most of the enthusiasm was for the anime adaptation, but a couple years ago roughly I came across the first volume of Tsuda Masami’s original comic and decided to check it out. I didn’t care much for the art, but the characters and humour drew me in and gave me high hopes for the rest of the series. As it happened, a local Half Price Books had a bunch of volumes available, so I bought a bunch of them – up through the ninth.…

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The Bibliophile’s Journal II

First, a programming note – over the next couple months, I’ll be finishing up my web design certification, and I’ve just begun a Biblical studies programme, so I’ll be busier than usual. I’ll continue to blog and update every Sunday, but expect more short posts like this for a little while.

With that out of the way, I’ve gone through a few graphic novels over the past couple weeks. I talked about Gunslinger Girl volumes 11-12 in the previous post, but here are the others:…

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Is Gunslinger Girl Running Out of Steam?

Gunslinger Girl is one of the only stories I know where it does not constitute a spoiler to reveal that this or that character dies. Artist Aida Yu makes it clear very early that every cyborg-assassin girl is going to die, probably horribly. At its best, Gunslinger Girl uses the constant presence of death to its advantage, for example with Triela’s story and her relationship with Hilshire. Sometimes, though, Aida overplays his hand, and especially in Seven Seas’ most recent omnibus volume (volumes 11-12) his writing gets tiring and predictable.…

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