Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

Tag: comics

Gate 7 – Volume 1

Lately, I’ve been wanting to re-read some of my old CLAMP comics, and coincidentally while shopping around this weekend I came across their latest work, Gate 7.

I have mixed feelings so far. The first volume has a lot of talking, but I never felt like it was progressing very much. The protagonist, Chikahito, is a high school student (of course!) who loves history and Kyoto, can cook well, is a bit awkward and loud at times, and – actually, he’s basically Watanuki from xxxHolic, also by CLAMP. It’s only the first volume, but the more I think about it, yeah, it’s the same character. I like Watanuki just fine, but he’s not so great that he merits creating a clone here. Here’s hoping he at least develops along different lines later on.

Not that the other characters are much better, so far. Again, it’s only the first volume, but nobody really stands out yet. As for the story, Chikahito visits (and soon moves to) Kyoto, where he’s dragged into getting involved with a group of people fighting supernatural something-or-others – it’s not really clear yet who or what, exactly – in a power struggle that goes back to the Warring States period. I have enough confidence in CLAMP to trust that this will make more sense later on, and I’m just interested enough to give it another volume, but so far it’s mostly alternated between exposition and action scenes that look neat but where neither protagonist nor audience is sure what’s going on.

Translator William Flanagan, who’s also done most of xxxHolic, seems to have done his usual good work, and there’s also several pages of helpful end notes, which I always appreciate.

As for the art, it’s typical CLAMP fare. Fancy clothes, lanky characters, lots of detail – I love it, though those who don’t care for their style won’t be converted here. My one complaint is that there are a few pages that are clearly intended as colour illustrations, but are printed here in black and white, with mixed success. The frontispiece, for example, still looks good, but the illustration between the prologue and the first chapter just looks flat and dull.

Again, though, I’m still glad to see new work from CLAMP, and look forward to the next volume.…

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Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Comic)

I’m currently creating a fansite for Kumeta Koji’s comic, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. For now, it’ll be a fairly simple affair, with reviews and reference information about each volume. Since one can find most basic information about the series from Wikipedia and fanart on any of a number of fanart sites (e.g., Danbooru or Safebooru), I’ll focus on my own impressions of the series, and some more detailed information than what one finds on more general sites, like when different memes or characters are introduced, or how the different translators have dealt with the source material.

For now, here’s a draft of my overview of the series as a whole:

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So, introducing Kumeta Koji’s Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. Though much of what I’ll present on this site is plain, factual information, perhaps I’ll say up-front that I adore Zetsubou-Sensei. With the sole exception of Yotsuba&! (its spritual opposite, I suppose), it’s my favourite comic series, and the anime adaptation is one of my top five. So, though it’s not my style to go over-the-top fanboy, almost everything about the series appeals to me so much that I can only write from the viewpoint of a fan.

With that disclaimer, I’ll start with a few words on the series as a whole. The title means “Good Bye, Mr. Despair,” possibly a reference to James Hilton’s Good-Bye, Mr. Chips. That is a literal translation, so why the North American publisher, Del Rey, decided to use the Japanese title here confuses me. The fansub I have of season one of the anime uses the title “So Long, Mr. Despair,” which has a decent ring to it, I think, better than the unwieldy (in English) “Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei,” and gets the meaning across just fine. At least the average anglophone can look at it and know right away what it means. That said, Del Rey did mostly redeem themselves by adding the subtitle “The Power of Negative Thinking.” The twist on Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s classic The Power of Positive Thinking fits the tone of the comic very well. I don’t know if they consulted Mr. Kumeta, but I imagine he would probably have approved the addition.

Regarding the comic itself, Kumeta uses a satirical tone throughout the series, and almost every chapter revolves around roasting some societal problem or personality quirk, like shut-ins (hikkikimori), perfectionists, stalkers, media hype of all kinds, comic conventions – there’s even a page on TV Tropes dedicated to listing the tropes Zetsubou-Sensei undermines!

As one would expect, Kumeta definitely favours a dark sense of humour. The protagonist’s rampant cynicism is the comic’s hallmark joke, which leads him to attempt suicide multiple times per volume. He even tells a student in chapter four that the true love is best expressed by double suicide.

Kumeta also keeps up a frenetic pace. Text fills some pages like wallpaper, and jokes come fast and often, not only in dialogue but in the background art and text lists on the sides of panels. Luckily, the minimalist art style prevents the panels from feeling too chaotic. There’s no unnecessary detail, and no colour. Literally, black and white dominate the palette – even shades of grey are kept to a minimum. The art does its job well, though – the characters are distinct, the action is clear, and overall I find it quite stylish and appealing.

The series does have the fault, though, of falling into a pattern after the first two or three volumes. Most chapters begin in the classroom, a topic is introduced,  Sensei declares that some aspect of that topic leaves him in despair, there’s some dialogue, then everyone goes into town and finds examples of that topic. Though the solid material usually holds up the unimaginative presentation, the series could use some more variety in its later volumes.

On a final note, I’ll mostly cover what’s available in English, and at least for now I’ll focus on the comic rather than the anime. Though both versions are excellent, the comic is currently more easily available, though once I get caught up with the comic I’ll probably look into adding a section for the anime, as well.…

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The Sudden Death of Moe

Well, for me, anyway. Moe has been around for several years and far be it from me to predict when it’ll end, but for me it died while reading vol. two of Kakifly’s K-On!

I don’t think K-On! itself caused it; I did like the first season of the anime adaptation, though I never watched season two. Rather, while about halfway through the graphic novel, I realised that I just didn’t care about this story. I think the sudden realisation may stem from a recent episode of the ANNcast podcast, where one of the co-hosts (Justin Zevakis, IIRC) commented that, as a grown man, he had no reason to care about what a group of high school girls are doing.

Actually, maybe my distaste isn’t with moe per se, but with high school comedies. The first graphic novel I really got into was Azumanga Daioh, by Azuma Kiyohiko. At the time, I was in high school, so watching a bunch of high schoolers was relevant to my interests, even (or perhaps especially) if they were girls. Since then, though, I’ve seen several other shows with the same setting, some of which I’m sure I’ll still like, but at this point I graduated high school five years ago. The setting seems really trivial, and honestly some stories suffer from the lack of gravity inherent in most teenage relationships. ToraDora had this problem – though the urgency the characters felt to clarify everyone’s feelings may have seemed important from their point of view, I found that sense of urgency unnecessary.…

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