Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ninja Nonsense: The Legend of Shinobu

Overall Rating: C-
Summary: An anime series by Ryoichi Koga, Ninja Nonsense follows Shinobu a kind, hardworking, dedicated, but naive and somewhat clumsy ninja apprentice. The anime is reminiscent of Excel Saga or Nerima Daikon Brothers, and similarly does not have much of a story-arc, or even much plot in a single episode.

In the first episode Shinobu is attempting to pass her ninja exams which include staking panties from specific high school girls. One of these girls is Kaede, who is studying for her own completely normal school exams. Shinobu performs her invisibility spell, and sneaks into Kaede's room to steal her panties. Only one problem, Shinobu isn't a very good ninja, her spell doesn't work, and Kaede can see her while she "sneaks" in. Of course, things don't go as planned, and Shinobu ends up explaining the whole thing. Despite the fact that Shinobu is trying to steal her panties, Kaede takes pity on Shinobu, and the two become close friends for little to no reason.

Yeeeaahhhhh...this was a really weird one. Something I didn't cover in the summary is Shinobu's instructor, Onsokumaru. This thing is freaky. It's a shape-changing creature usually portrayed as a large yellow ball with a face, arms, and a loud deep voice. He's also extremely perverted (he's the one who wanted the panties). He took this from being a weird, over-the-top anime, and took it to another level. An extremely weird level. If you're into absurdist comedies, you may like this one, but otherwise I can't recommend it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Overall Rating: B-
Summary: Charley, a cyborg vampire who does the Vatican's dirty work, is the thrall of the local vampire playboy Johnny Rayflo. As the two of them fight crime--and each other--hilarity, violence and sacrilege ensue! But can Charley resist his own desperate cravings for blood? Find out as the devilish duo go up against a childlike vampire princess, a mysterious branch of the Unitarian Church...and each other

The above summary is the actual summary on the back of the manga. I am using it here, because it's why I bought the book. "Cyborg vampire who does the Vatican's dirty work"? That's sounds like three manga clichés I love! I was hoping for something so bad it was amazing, but Vassalord is actually decent. Not amazing, and it certainly falls into clichés, but it's pretty interesting, and it's got some good shounen ai action in there for my friends who are into that. My main gripe is that that there is obviously a lot of history between the two main characters, but it's only really hinted at. I think that as the characters become a little more developed this will be the perfect guilty read.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Emma: A Victorian Romance

Overall Rating: A
Summary: A historical romance series by Kaoru Mori. Emma is set in Victorian London, and is the story of a maid (surprisingly, her name is Emma) who falls in love with a nobleman named William Jones. Unfortunately, as the heir to his family, William is encouraged to marry into another wealthy family, and his family disapproves of him associating with people of the lower classes. Obviously, Emma is not their idea of marrying material. The series revolves around the tension caused by their love.

Emma is a great story that reminds me more of seminal Victorian novels like "Jane Eyre" and "Pride and Prejudice" that has been made into a anime. It is different from a lot of other anime/manga set in Victorian times as it does not include any fantasy or alternate history aspects to the story. If you like period romances, this one's definitely for you!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Strawberry Marshmallow

Overall Rating: A
Summary: Created by Barasui, this comedy/slice of life manga follows Nobue and her younger sister Chika, Miu, Matsuri and Ana through their everyday lives. What separates Strawberry Marshmallow from other slice of life comedies like Azumanga Daioh or Lucky Star is that the 16-year-old Nobue drinks and smokes, and acts like an irresponsible adult. In many ways, she fills the adult role that teachers and parents usually fill in these types of series. In other words, she is dysfunctional and the younger characters (everyone else is 11-12) seem more mature at times.

Of course, the group also has it's requisite moe characters in the form of Matsuri and Ana. In one chapter, Nobue forces Matsuri to wear a cat hat and tail, and say "meow" after everything, including when trying to purchase a new hat from a salesperson. Ana (who isn't introduced until volume 2) is from England, but has lived in Japan for five years and has forgotten how to speak proper English. Nonetheless, she decides that she is only going to speak in English and pretend not to understand Japanese, which inevitably leads to hilarity.

In contrast, Chika is portrayed as being the most responsible girl in the group (including Nobue), and is usually the voice of reason and an excellent cook. Miu on the other hand is the "problem child" of the group, says weird things out of the blue, and tries to play pranks on Matsuri and Ana.

I really enjoy slice of life manga and anime, and so it's no surprise I like Strawberry Marshmallow. I've read the first two volumes so far, and 3-4 are on the nightstand. If you enjoy this style, this one is definitely up your alley, but if you have a cuteness allergy, you should probably stay away!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Last Quarter

(Sorry, I couldn't find a trailer with subtitles)

Overall Rating: B+
Summary: Last Quarter, or Kagen no Tsuki, is a 2004 Japanese film directed by Ken Nikai, and is based on Ai Yazawa's manga (which to my knowledge has not been published in the US yet). The story follows Mizuki Mochizuki, a high school student with a dysfunctional family. Mizuki's mother committed suicide after finding out that Mizuki's father had cheated on her. Mizuki now lives with her father, his mistress (who he has now married, and her stepsister. The movie opens at her birthday party where one of her friends shows her a video of Mizuki's boyfriend, Tomoki Anzai, sleeping with her. Happy birthday!

She confronts Tomoki while his band is playing and throws her shoe at him, and then runs off. This proves to be a big mistake since she has to walk home with only one shoe. While walking home, she hears a song playing and wanders into an abandoned mansion to see who is playing it. There she finds a man named Adam, who claims to know her (which isn't creepy or anything), and that he's from London. When she gets ready to leave for the night (did I mention this all happens really late at night?), Adam asks her to stay, but she leaves.

Mizuki keeps going back to visit Adam and becomes closer and closer to him, while withdrawing from her old life more and more, eventually moving in with him. Everything is going well, until Adam disappears one day with no warning. Then, Mizuki's phone rings and its Adam (she has never given him her number) telling her he had to leave. She asks him to take her with him, and he tells her to meet him. She goes to the meeting place, and sees him across the street from her. Despite all the reasons not to go with him, she decides it's what she wants, and crosses the street. Tomoki witnesses all of this and tries to shout out to her, because it's a red light, but it's too late and a car hits her, putting her into a coma.

After the accident, Mizuki wakes up in front of an endless metal fence with no one around. A young girl shows up looking for her cat. Mizuki helps her find it, and then the girl and the cat disappear. The cat returns almost immediately though, and runs through the gate, where Mizuki sees Adam.

In a hospital, the young girl Mizuki had met, who we learn is named Hotaru, woke up from a coma. She had been hospitalized when she was hit by a car while searching for her lost cat. After leaving the hospital, she continued to look for her cat, and eventually finds one which looks exactly like hers. The cat hops through a fence surrounding an old and deserted mansion, which Hotaru obviously enters (I think the characters in this are really into old, deserted mansions since they keep going into them at the drop of a hat), and is surprised to find Mizuki inside. Apparently, it wasn't all a dream.

Unfortunately, Mizuki has become a ghost, and doesn't remember who she is, only that she loves Adam and needs to find him. Hotaru and her friend Sae try to help Mizuki find Adam and to figure out who she is.

Despite the fact that the main characters tended to make some pretty stupid decisions, I really enjoyed Last Quarter. It had a much more serious feel to it than most of Ai Yazawa's series, but the relationships were very reminiscent of her other work. If you like dark romance stories, and/or Ai Yazawa's work, then you'll probably enjoy "Last Quarter".

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Croquis Pop

Overall Rating: C+
Synopsis: A Manhwa (korean comic) written by KwangHyun Seo, with art by JinHo KoThe, Croquis Pop is the story of Da-Il, the latest assistant of the famous Manwha creator Ho Go. Unfortunately, he sucks as an artist, but he and his dead mom wanted him to draw the hopes and dreams of others, so he's determined to succeed (this speech wins Ho Go over and pisses off the current head assistant). However, Da-Il isn't just any assistant, apparently he has the power of a Croquer, which allows him to enter the “Dead Zone”, a place only the dead can see, and bring his art to life there.

On his first trip to the "Dead Zone", Da-Il encounters Mu-Huk, a spirit that battles the spirits brought to life by grudges. Apparently, Mu-Huk was created by Da-Il, but Da-Il doesn't remember creating the guy. Oh, also, the adventures that occur in the "Dead Zone" are given to other creators (like Ho Go) to draw. Very weird stuff.

Very weird is a great way to describe this one. I kind of like it, and the ideas are interesting and pretty unique, but the plot can get a bit hard to follow and I don't really like Da-Il, which makes it hard to care about what's going on with him. Volume 2 is due out later this year, so I may check that one out as well and see if it improves at all. If you're looking for something a little different in a teen hero story, check this one out. Otherwise, leave it on the shelf.