Thursday, June 28, 2007

Manga Review - xxxHolic Volumes 1-7

Overall Rating: A-
Synopsis: xxxHolic by Clamp follows Watanuki, an orphan who is plagued by spirits. While being chased by spirits, Watanuki runs into a strange shop and meets a strange woman named Yūko. She turns out to be a powerful witch, and makes a deal with Watanuki to help him remove his "curse" in exchange for working in her shop and cooking for her. Hijinks and adventure ensue.

I can't remember now why I picked up the first volume of xxxHolic, but I'm glad I did. The series starts off innocently enough, with the main character, Watanuki, being chased by spirits. By chance, he touches the fence of a strange shop, and the spirits disappear. But wait! "There are no coincidences, only hitsuzen". Hitsuzen, or fate, is one of the recurring themes in xxxHolic, and Watanuki's "chance" encounter at the strange shop leads him to meeting the shop's owner, Yūko, and his life is changed.

She offers to help him lift his "curse" (being able to see and interact with spirits), but only if he can pay the price. Since he can't pay up front, he becomes her indentured servant, cleaning the shop and cooking for her. The series really picks up though after the introduction of Watanuki's "rival" Dômeki. I put rival in quotes because it's one sided. While Watanuki considers Dômeki his rival, Dômeki alternates between seemingly not caring about Watanuki and protecting him. Dômeki can't see spirits, but he can exorcise them, so even though Watanuki hates it when he's around, Watanuki often needs Dômeki's help.

xxxHolic combines Japanese folklore and mythology with humor to excellent effect. I definitely recommend checking it out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Manga Review - Negima Volume 2 and D. Gray-man Volumes 2-5

Overall Rating:
Negima Volume 2: F
D. Gray-man Volumes 2-5: A-

Synopsis: It's time for something a little different. I picked up the second volume of Negima at the library and the second volume of D. Grayman, and I'm going to do a follow up review on both series. For my review of Negima volume 1 go here. For my review of D. Gray-man Volume 1 go here.

Negima is a disappointment. I had heard good things about the series, but it turns out it is little more than plot strung together to create excuses to show junior high school girls naked and in various states of undress. I am not reading anymore of this series.

D. Gray-man on the other hand continues to improve. They have introduced more characters (including a vampire exorcist named Krory they keep calling Krorykins!), and the existing characters (Allen Walker, Kanda, and Lenalee particularly) keep getting more interesting. I'm up to volume 5 now and I'm hooked. It isn't one of my all time favorites, but it's a fun read and definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cromartie High School Manga and Anime Review

Overall Rating: Manga - B? / Anime - A-
Synopsis: Cromartie High School by Eiji Nonaka, is a comedy manga centered around High School first year Kamiyama who begins attending Cromartie High to stay with his delinquent friend after junior high. Unfortunately, his friend isn't even able to make it into Cromartie, despite frequent references to how easy it is to get in. The school is populated almost entirely with delinquents, including a robot named Mechazawa (though most students treat him like he's human), a gorilla, and Freddie, a mute (who looks uncannily similar to Freddie Mercury.

This manga, and the anime based on it, is insane. Most of the time, that makes it fucking brilliant, and makes me laugh my ass off, but sometimes it's too bizarre. Part of the problem is that there is no real plot to the series, which makes some of the scenes disorienting and hard to follow.

That being said, both versions of the series are hilarious. Cromartie High is the school that the dumbest and toughest youths in the area go to, and they spend most of their days worrying about status, and who has the coolest nickname. Along with the thugs and gang members, Cromartie is also home to some stranger students. This includes a technophobic robot named Mechazawa, who most students are too dumb to figure out is a robot, a gorilla that's smarter than the rest of the students combined, and a mute that has an uncanny resembelence to Freddie Mercury that rides around on a giant horse named Kokuryu.

If you're looking for plot, skip this one, but if you just want a good laugh, Cromartie High School kicks ass.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Manga Review - Dramacon Volumes 1 & 2

Overall Rating: C
Synopsis from Tokyopop: Dramacon is a romantic dramedy about a romance that blooms over the course of several years at an anime convention.

Christie is a budding writer who is attending an anime convention for the first time in her life. She and her artist boyfriend, Derek, get a table in the artist alley to promote a self-published ashcan comic that she wrote and he drew.

Derek is a little too taken with the attention all the female cosplayers are paying him, which upsets Christie and forces her to deal with the player side of Derek that she had ignored up until now. Things quickly become more complicated, especially after she bumps into Matt, a handsome -- but shy -- cosplayer.

Svetlana Chmakova's Dramacon plumbs the depths of the emotional attachments that spring up in the superheated world of fan conventions - topics near and dear to the hearts of all true otaku ...

Normally, I try to write my own synopsis, but for Svetlana Chmakova's "Dramacon", I used Tokyopop's. The reason being that this is what made me pick up the first volume at Barnes & Noble, and check it out. Unfortunately, this one doesn't live up to it's description. The characters aren't very well fleshed out, and they seem to jump around a lot. For example, Derek goes from being kind of a jerk as far as boyfriends go, but an ok guy, to trying to rape Christie. Pretty big change if you ask me, and the reasoning behind it doesn't quite add up for me.

That said, I have to admit it's a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. The first two volumes are out, and I read them both in B&N's cafe one night. I think it has to do with my love for conventions and other people's drama (which go hand-in-hand). I think the series has a lot of promise, but is missing the mark. Hopefully, the third book will improve the series, and I can indulge more in some vicarious drama.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bleach Manga Review Volumes 1-19

Overall Rating: A+
Synopsis: Ichigo Kurosaki sees ghosts, and fights...a lot. All of this is pretty normal for Ichigo, but then he meets Rukia Kuchiki, a Shinigami (Death God) and member of the mysterious Soul Society. When a Hollow, an evil spirit, attacks Ichigo and his family, Rukia attempts to defeat the Hollow, but is wounded. To help him save his family, she lends Ichigo some of her powers, but something goes wrong, and Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Ichigo becomes a temporary Shinigami, and works with Rukia to handle the hunting of hollows until Rukia can recover. At least, that was the plan...

Before I picked up the manga, I saw the first four episodes of the anime at Stellarcon '06. It was a fansub (this was before it was airing on Adult Swim), so the translation wasn't great, but I fell in love with the characters and mythology of the series. I immediately started picking up the manga and planning a costume for Ichigo. A few months later, I cosplayed Ichigo at Heroescon, had read all of the manga that had been translated, and watched as much of the anime as I could get my hands on.

So, what's the big deal, right? I think it comes down to the characters. There are dozens of of them, and the writer Tite Kubo takes the time to give them all detailed backgrounds and relationships. I'm 19 volumes in, and while there's plenty of action, it's the character development I'm hooked to.

In the first 19 volumes, there are three main groups of characters, humans, the Shingami, and the Quincies. When humans die, their souls become Wholes or Hollows. Wholes are normal spirits, but the spirits that become Hollows are corrupted souls that must feed on the souls of the living (kind of like spiritual vampires). The Shinigami release Wholes and help them cross over to the Soul Society (the spirit world), and cleanse the Hollows so that they can cross over as well. They do so using big ass swords called zanpakutō.

The Quincies use bows made of spiritual energy in the form of bows to hunt Hollows, similarly to the Shinigami. However, unlike the Shingami, who purify the souls of the Hollows preserving the balance of souls between the two world, the Quincies destroy them. This endangers the balance of the world, and as a result the two groups went to war. The Shinigami won, and there is now only one Quincy left, Uryū Ishida. Despite his hatred of Shinigami, Uryū eventually becomes friends Ichigo, and even travels to the Soul Society with him.

This only scratches at the surface of the series. I have only seen ~50 episodes of the anime, but what I have seen follows the manga very closely. I highly recommend checking out the series, it's fun, interesting, and has some great cosplay opportunities.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

BLAME! - Manga Review

Rating: C-/D

Synopsis: Killy is a man in a neo-futuristic world populated with humans, and humanoid like creatures living in huge mechanical towers. Killy is in search of humans who have Net Terminal Genes, and he has a mysteriously badass gun that he has no idea how he got it. Also, in this world, there is an entity/force called The Authority, which controls robots and is feared by humans.

BLAME! is classified as science fiction, but it could be almost any genre because the reader is given little to grasp. Most of this manga consists of action shots. Plot progression, character development, and even spoken words take a second seat to constant barrages of confusing scenes of violence and meandering views of the giant towers. The premise is confusing enough, but the added element of leaving most things a mystery (even by the end of the second book) gets wearisome after you've gone through so many pages of fighting, with no clear reason to care about the fight.

There are several elements similar to The Matrix sequels - the world is humans versus robots, with humans living in prolonged isolation in ridiculously huge mechanical towers. Though the reasoning behind the conflict in The Matrix doesn't exist here, humans aren't used to power the computers/robots. Several items lack any justification, no reason was given for the Killy's relentless searching for Net Terminal Genes, or why he was equipped with this mysterious gun, or why The Authority was ever involved with humans, nor why they've ceased to be involved with humans.

As I previously mentioned, the constant action interspersed with background detail shots muddle the plot, and most of the time, you can't tell who Killy is fighting. The occasional communication (especially in the first book) sheds very little light about what is going on.

Perhaps with all of the violence and action, the OVA anime version of this is much easier to enjoy, but overall it is a violent and confusing view of a desperate and desperately lonely world.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gacha Gacha (Capsule) - Manga Review

Rating: D

Synopsis: Kurara and Kouhei have been classmates forever. Kurara returns from summer vacation in Hawaii as school begins. Apparently, whilst in Hawaii, Kurara has developed multiple personality disorder, and one of her stronger other personalities, Arisa, is an incredibly promiscuous hedonist (as opposed to Kurara herself, who is slightly prudish). Kurara keeps her MPD a secret, but Arisa begins to attempt to seduce Kouhei everytime she appears. When Arisa turns back into Kurara, she has no memory of what's going on, and finds herself in compromising positions with Kouhei (who she blames). Kouhei has a crush on Kurara, and getting close to her means he is severely confused and abused throughout the story.

Note: This is a review of the manga Gacha Gacha (Capsule), not the following manga (Secret).

I attempted to read more than one or two of this manga, but initially I had a hard time following what was going on. Each one of Kurara's personalities are drawn as different people, so it was confusing at first. Then, once I got a hang of the idea that Kurara had multiple personality disorders, they spend most of the time getting Kouhei (who Kurara made promise to help her keep Arisa a secret) and Arisa into compromising position after compromising position.

When Kurara regains herself, she usually smacks Kouhei, and accuses him of attempting to take advantage of her. This scene becomes pretty much what the manga is about for the first book:
- Kouhei sees Kurara someplace (school, cafe, etc.)
- Kurara and Kouhei begin to talk
- Arisa takes over Kurara and sluts it up (usually getting as naked as possible and coming onto Kouhei as much as she can)
- Kouhei is confused, and indecisive
- Arisa turns back into Kurara, Kurara realizes she is nearly naked
- Kurara beats the crap out of Kouhei
End Scene

More personalities emerge as time goes by, such Meow (housecat), Alice (young girl), and Rin (martial artist). As the series develops, the shared secret that Kouhei and Kurara share helps their feelings for each other blossom into love. I'm afraid I couldn't read that far.

I enjoy mistaken identities and romantically confusing situations when handled in a comedic manner, but this one is very heavy-handed, and I feel sorry for the characters. There's not much amusing about the situations, and you begin to wonder why she doesn't get some therapy, as opposed to enlisting the help of poor Kouhei, who she spends most of her time teasing then abusing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Vampire Knight

Overall Rating: A+
Synopsis: A romance/supernatural shōjo created by Matsuri Hino, which focuses on the love triangle of Yuki Cross, Zero Kiryu, and Kaname Kuran. All three attend Cross Academy - a prestigious private school which is divided into two classes: the Day Class, which is made up of mortals, and the Night Class, which consists of vampires. The purpose of the school is to try to allow humans and vampires to live together peacefully. However, most of the students and staff in the Day Class have no idea this is going on, and apparently think it's normal for a bunch of bishōnen to only come out at night. Clearly they need their beauty rest.

Two people in the Day Class know the secret of the Academy, Yuki and Zero. Yuki is the adopted daughter of the headmaster of the school, Kaien Cross, who is a former hunter. Her earliest memory is of a snowy night when she was covered in blood and attacked by a vampire. Luckily, Kaname saved her from the vampire attack, but she can't remember why Kaname was there or what happened before he showed up.

Zero is a year older than Yuki, and is the child of hunters who were killed by a vampire. He was also taken in by Head Master Cross, and works with Yuki as a prefect for Cross Academy. The Prefects make sure that the Day Class students never learn the secret of the Night Class

Meanwhile, Kaname is the president of the Night Class, and a pureblood vampire. Purebloods are the most powerful of vampires in the Vampire Knight world, and can control or easily destroy even other noble vampires. However, Kaname chooses not to exert this control and as a result he is respected by all the other vampire noble students. He believes in Head Master Cross' goal of humans and vampires living together peacefully, and his presence keeps the other vampires in check. Normally stoic and reserved Kaname clearly dotes on Yuki, which confuses the other vampires at the school and infuriates Zero.

As the series progresses, we learn more about the past of the three main characters, the society of vampires in the Vampire Knight world, and of course the relationship between Yuki, Zero and Kaname. Who will Yuki choose?

When I picked up Vampire Knight, by Matsuri Hino, I wasn't expecting much. The premise seemed fun, if a little cheesy, but the outfits were gothalicious (yes, it's a word, I just made it up, so leave me alone). Usually I'm pretty good at gauging how much I'll like a manga early on, but this one surprised.

Sure, the story is a little cliché in parts (like how broody Zero and Kaname are over Yuki), or how obvious Zero's secret is, but overall I love the series. So far, six volumes have been released in the US so far, and volume 7 is scheduled to be released on August 4th, and you can check out a preview online at Shojo Beat. Regardless, if you like supernatural romances, then check out Vampire Knight for a fun and interesting series.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Paprika - Anime / Movie Review

Rating: A+++

Synopsis: Dr. Tokita has created the DC Mini, an unstable device still in testing that allows psychological researchers, such as Dr. Achiba, to look into the dreams of patients. Paprika is Dr. Achiba's younger, sassy alter-ego, who appears in dreams to assist neurosis diagnoses. An unknown villain steals three DC Mini's and begin wreaking havoc on the researchers by invading people's minds and dissolving all dreams into one. The mystery of the missing DC Mini's gets deeper as the world gets more surreal.

Quick History of Paprika:
Paprika is based on a science fiction novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui. It's a futuristic science fiction story he began in the late 80's/early 90's, and began serialization in the Japanese woman’s magazine Marie Claire in 1991. Tsutsui had many offers from other directors and producers, but chose Satoshi Kon to create an animated film of the Paprika story. The two bartenders in Paprika are voiced by TsuTsui and Kon.

Paprika is an amazingly beautiful movie. If you are in one of the U.S. cities showing Paprika, just GO SEE IT NOW! Now now now! Ahem, back to critiqueing - The brightly colored animation style lends itself perfectly to the surrealistic backdrops, and the story, though uncomplicated, definitely has some twists and turns.

The story follows Paprika/Dr. Achiba's efforts in reality and dreams to investigate the disappearance of the DC Mini. As the movie primarily explores realm of dreams and the cross-over between dreams and reality, some parts of the plot could be missed if you're not paying attention. Some of the characters are a bit stereotypical (beautiful uptight genius Dr. Achiba [and her beautiful uninhibited alter-ego Paprika], grey-faced sourpuss chairman, etc.), but it didn't bother me, as it helped keep the story going even in the midst of the most over-the-top craziness.

The consensus of the viewers I know is that they wished there was more. We did not feel like we'd been cheated out of our money, but rather, we could have spent twice as much time watching more and more dreams, more Paprika investigations, more everything. It is a gripping and awesome movie and I hope you all get to see it. Paprika (the character) has been one of Tsutsui's most beloved characters over the past 16 years, and having seen the movie, it is easy to see why. Paprika is perpetually courageous, young, excited, and whip-smart.

Pictured (l to r): Paprika and Dr. Achiba
In the opening sequence, we follow Paprika as she goes in and out of reality to travel around the city - hopping in and out of advertisements, skipping across the road, stopping time and traffic for fun - she's brilliant and bright. Then she changes into Dr. Achiba, yawning as she drives in to her office early in the morning. It gives the audience exactly the right idea about the characters in relation to each other and their surroundings.

In lieu of being able to buy you all tickets (which I would sincerely love to be able to do), here is a link to a free download of the theme song from Paprika "The girl in Byakkoya" provided by the creator Susumu Hirasawa's website. Susumu believes the song should be released for free.

So, in case you didn't get the drift, I think you should go see the movie because it's absolutely awesome.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Anime Review - The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Overall Rating: A++
Synopsis: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya follows Haruhi, as she searches for aliens, time travelers, and espers. Kyon - the narrator of the series - is an ordinary high school boy who she manages to rope into her schemes. Wacky times are ahead.

Haruhi soon forms the SOS Brigade, a club at their high school to get things started. She then bullies Yuki, the quiet one, Mikaru, the shy but attractive junior, and Itsuki, the mysterious transfer student to join, and the club's anime stereotypes are complete. Soon after, Kyon learns that Yuki is an alien, Mikaru is a time traveler, and Itsuki is an esper. What the fuck is going on?!? Apparently, Haruhi is God?!? It sounds like insanity, but it's a great show. Check it out, now!

The first episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a little disorienting. After watching the end of the episode, and the second one, it becomes obvious that the first episode is a movie made for a high school project. Some people I've talked to don't like the first episode, but I think it's hilarious. The plot is narrated by Kyon, and reminds me of how I would describe what's happening in the episode to one of my friends. Plus, the "special effects" are hilarious.

The series really gets started with the second episode on the disk (the first episode is number 0). We first meet the narrator, Kyon, who is jaded, sarcastic, and completely normal. In contrast, we then meet Haruhi, who announces during her introduction to her high school class that she has "no interest in ordinary humans", and only wants to meet time travelers, aliens, and espers. Kyon gets roped into her antics when he casually asks her about the fact that she constantly changes her hair. It turns out she thinks that each day has an associated color and number to it, and so changes the color of ribbon and number of ties in her hair accordingly. This, is the least of her eccentricities.

On the first disc, we are also introduced to Yuki, a quiet bibliophile, who turns out to be an alien super-intelligence; Mikuru, a shy but buxom moe-type junior, who turns out to be a time traveler; and Itsuki, a charismatic bishounen, who turns out to be an esper. The hijinks are wacky, the characters are fantastic, and I can't wait for the second disc! Oh, did I mention the awesome dance routine during the end credits? There's an awesome dance routine during the end credits. Be sure to watch them at least once. Seriously.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Avril Lavigne's Make 5 Wishes Volume 1 - Comic / Manga Review

Rating: A

Synopsis: Hana is a little girl who is spending her life as a hermit. She barely talks to her parents, and at school she refuses to say even one word. The only way Hana spends time with people is by talking to her imaginary friend, Avril Lavigne, and by creating personas online to interact with the people she knows in real life (Bryan, a boy she likes, is into videogames, so she finds him online and talks to him while claiming to be another guy working on game designs). She is miserable in her life, and sees an odd online ad that promises a free mystery gift - she orders it and a small demon arrives promising her five wishes. (Volume 2 available July 3, 2007)

I read this comic assuming that it would be horrible. I was surprised by the dark story, and the rich artwork. The plot resembles a children's story from Neil Gaiman. I was also pleased at how little of the story actually involved Avril Lavigne - Hana likes Avril's music a lot, and created an imaginary friend that resembles Avril. This imaginary Avril acts as Hana's conscience, but her helpful advice is slowly being drowned out by the promises coming from the wish-demon.

As usual, any story involving free wishes has some lessons for the main character to learn. Hana's first wish turns out ok. She wishes that Bryan, the boy she likes, will notice her in a good way and she'll end up in his arms. This wish is fulfilled by her tripping near him in school - he catches her, asks if she's ok, and complements her eyes. Unfortunately, she makes her second wish without clarification and ends up destroying the only congenial relationship she has. As the first book ends (it's the only one out right now) she has made her third and fourth wishes, and the next book will see how they are fulfilled.

The wish-demon even comments on the different lessons Hana is learning, and it is difficult to tell exactly what kind of trickster we are dealing with. He begins to use Hana's computer to destroy the online personas that she has created to interact with her schoolmates. It's hard to tell if the wish-demon is intent on wreaking havoc for fun, or if he's actually on the good side. I suppose this will be revealed in the later books.

Like I said, I didn't expect to be giving a good review to this book at all. The down side of this book is that while it is lavishly colored and illustrated, it is relatively short in relation to other manga books, so you're getting less pages for your money. That being said, I would still recommend at least reading it. Hopefully the upcoming books will keep the standards as high as this one did.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Paradise Kiss Anime Review

Overall Rating: A
Synopsis: Yukari is an attractive high schooler, but her life consists of traveling from high school to cram school to home, and back again. Her monotonous life gets upturned when she meets a group of fashion design students. They want her to be their model, and after some hesitation, she agrees. Mostly, because she meets their leader, George, who is ridiculously attractive. They give her a makeover that involves cutting her bangs and giving her sexier clothes to wear, and the show is underway.

I had heard good things about Paradise Kiss before I got a chance to watch it, but once I sat down (actually laid down in my bed) and started watching it, I quickly fell in love with the series. Of course, I'm predisposed to liking a series about fashion with attractive, androgynous men (One of the main characters, George, who has greyish/green hair, is definitely a bishonen), and adorable Japanese women with pink hair (Miwako is dating Arashi, the blonde punk, and dresses in frilly clothes, squeals a lot, and runs around doing adorable things) in it. As most of my friends know, I'm a vain motherfucker, and I like to dress nicely. So, it would be difficult for me to not love an anime that seems to pander directly to that.

Fortunately, the series is a lot deeper than that. The characters are well-developed, and interesting, including a tranny named Isabella who has been dressing in women's clothes since she was little. She has been friends with George ever since he designed her first dress for her, and always supports him. She acts as the mother for the group, looking out for everyone.

The characters are passionate about their clothes and their relationships, which are complicated and realistic. For example, the main relationship in the series is between Yukari and George. Yukari spends the series trying to figure out what's important to her in life, and trying to balance her desire to be a successful model, trying to impress and please George, and to be respected by her mother. George, on the other hand, spends his time feeding his own ego, and treating women (including Yukari) like trophies, but you get to watch his relationship with Yukari change him subtly over the course of the series.

If you like your anime to involve action, panty-shots, and robots, then this one isn't for you. However, if you like interesting characters, involved story, hot androgynous men, and pink haired, adorable women, then this one is for you. The anime is based on the manga series of the same name, by Ai Yazawa and published in English by Tokyopop, but I haven't had a chance to read it...yet.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Hobotaku Budget Tip #2: Get a Library Card

If you don't have a lot of time to hang out at the bookstore (or if they've officially begin giving you the evil eye) then a prime way of getting more manga into your daily diet is to get a library card.

Most libraries have been stocking up on their manga and graphic novels, as the American Library Association (ALA) has made a lot of effort to appeal to younger readers. The ALA has also created comic lists on age-appropriateness, so young children won't accidentally get Hellsing or Batman: The Killing Joke. On the other hand, this does introduce the difficulty of finding the manga in the library, as manga could be found in three to five different sections.

The library sections for manga/comics (and representative comics):
- Juvenile Graphic Novels - Babymouse, Owly, Yotsuba, Spiral-Bound
- Young Adult Graphic Novels - regular Batman, Ranma 1/2, Elfquest, Inuyasha
- Graphic Novel Section (usually near the sci-fi section) - Bleach, Ceres, Sin City
- Call Number 741.5 - Dilbert, Mutts, Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes

Several libraries have displays of their manga centrally located for the summer months, as children become frequent visitors. Keep an eye out for these.

A few rules for picking up manga at the library:
  • Bring a List -
    In case you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of making lists, especially of awesome books I want to read (and their author/artist). This makes it easier to look up the books if you can't easily find them on the shelves - and if they don't have them, then you can request an interlibrary loan if another local library does (speak to a librarian or visit the library's website to learn more)

  • Glutton yourself scrupolously -
    If you see an entire run of a manga that you want to read (such as Deathnote 1 - 12) then make plans to return the manga as quickly as you can to the library as you finish the books. In most libraries, as long as you return your books on time, there is no limit to the number of books you can check out, so get them all!

  • Request books -
    If they have volumes 1 and 4 of Ranma 1/2, then don't feel bad requesting 2 and 3 (I did this earlier this week). Most libraries let you request books as you check out books, or have specific computers or forms for requesting books.

  • Keep your eyes open -
    Even though librarians discourage people re-shelving books themselves, sometimes there are books (i.e. manga) shoved in all over the place on the shelves - be sure to give the shelves a once over if there's a missing volume you're looking for.

As always, be courteous - don't fight with a kid when you both put your hand on that last Bleach vol. 5 - let them have it. If they check it out, you can just request it. Now you can have a great summer full of free books!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi No Koe) - Anime Review

Rating: C- / D

Synopsis: In the future, Mikako and Noboru are middle-school sweethearts forced to separate when Mikako is accepted into the interstellar mecha program. Noboru, her boyfriend, is then left on earth to angstily await each message she can send him from space. The 30-minute anime follows their relationship primarily through text messages sent between them on their mobile phones from earth and space.

The impressive part of this OVA (original video animation, i.e. straight-to-DVD) is that the creator Makoto Shinkai wrote, directed, and produced the entire thing on his Macintosh (and did half of the original voice-over). The anime is only 30 minutes long, but I can't say I enjoyed that 30 minutes very much.

The background animation is beautiful and serene, full of open skies and empty rooms, which gives a bleak feeling to the film. The character design, on the other hand, seems a little half-hearted and sloppy. In its entirety, there are only three people shown at all.

The world is empty and sad Noboru, left on Earth, must wait the lengthening times it takes for Mikako to message him back from light years away (with the last messages taking eight years). And since the anime is mostly exposition, we hear every moping thought.

Yes, there are a few mech fights, but they are glossed over in favor of more internal dialogue about loneliness and longing. It seems strange that in the future, full of middle-school girls in interstellar mechs, the only way they can manage to communicate is via 20th century mobile phones (Mikako and Noboru even mention text messaging is "old tech").

If a friend has this, then I would suggest taking the 30 minutes to watch it (which is what I did) but I have no desire to watch it again, nor would I put it in my Netflix queue.

Or, here (and I apologize profusely)
My Horrible Pun Review: While the background imagery in Voices of a Distant Star is good, the rest of the anime is nothing to write home about.