Friday, August 29, 2008

The Machine Girl

Warning: This movie is incredibly violent

Overall Rating: B
Summary: An action/horror film directed by Noboru Iguchi about a young Japanese schoolgirl named Ami Hyūga. Ami was an average high school girl whose mother and father commited suicide after allegations that they murdered someone(s). Now, all she has left is her brother. So, when her brother and his friend are killed by bullies, she swears revenge!

Ami begins tracking down and killing the bullies involved in her brother's death, but discovers the ringleader is the son of a ninja yakuza family. Despite being an amazing fighter, Ami is captured and the family tortures her, eventually cutting off her left arm. Managing to escape, but barely hanging on to life, Ami seeks shelter from the parents of her brother's friend. The mechanics take pity on her (after she beats the mom in an arm-wrestling match) and the father constructs a machine-gun arm for Ami. They then set out to seek revenge for their dead family members.

"The Machine Girl" is a hilarious gore-fest. Defintiely not for the faint-of-heart (I was squirming depsite how fake the gore is), but I definitely recommend it for a laugh. I would have rated it higher, but the movie leaves a lot of loose ends. For example, they never explain her parent's deaths outside of the fact that they were accused of murder. There are a couple of other parts where the scene doesn't really have much context, and they never explain why Ami is such a bad ass. Still, it's a lot of fun, and I recommend it.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Overall Rating: B+
Summary: Set on the planet Daikūriku, which is populated by a humanoid race who are all born female. At the age of 17, everyone is expected to choose a permanent gender and then live their lives that way. The focus of the anime is on two warring nations, the Simulacrum and the Argentum.

The Simulacrum seems more technologically advanced, and is cleaner, while the Argentum has technology similar to that of industrialized nations of the 20's and 30's. This includes zepplins and biplane fighter aircraft. The Argentum's economy has been failing, and pollution is on the rise, so as the series begins, Argentum is preparing to launch an attack on Simulacrum, who are the only ones with helical motor technology. The Argentum believe this technology will help them improve their economy and clear their skies.

The main defense of the Simulacrum is the Simoun, which are aircraft that can seat two and is powered by two helical motors. The helical motor is technology from an ancient civilization, and not even the Simulacrum fully understand it. The Simulacrum's theocracy is centered around these aircraft and their pilots.

In the past, the Simulacrum found the ships during an excavation, and according to their religion, two priestesses descended from heaven and explained to them how to operate the Simouns. Both the ship's power and the Simulacrum's religion center around the Tempus Spatium. They beleive it is this power that allows young women to change their genders at 17 and powers the Simoun.

The Simoun are crewed by priestesses called Sibyllae. The Sibylla (the plural of Sibyllae) have not yet chosen a gender, and doing so disqualifies them as Sibylla. In fact, because of the war some Sybylla have been given permission to delay their choice of gender past the age of 17 to defend the country.

The main weapon of the Simoun is a large glowing green gem, positioned between the cockpits, which produces an effect known as Ri Mājon when the Simoun is flown in the correct pattern. The Simoun Gem is activated before takeoff when the two Sibyllae kiss it after kissing each other (which isn't really explained at all). The Ri Mājon are incredibly powerful and can destroy all the ships in an area if successfully done.

Sibyllae are organized into chors of twelve priestesses. A choir at full strength operates six Simoun, which is sufficient to allow them to inscribe the most complex known Ri Mājon patterns in the sky. The series focuses on one particular Simoun choir, Chor Tempest, which has a reputation as an elite unit.

I decided to check this anime out at Gen Con Indy last week, because it sounded interesting. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I love watching anime at cons. Unfortunately, the crowd there was made up of immature boys who high-fived and giggled nervously every time the girls kissed. I admit to being confused by why they needed to kiss to activate the Simoun, but the behavior of the boys made the anime a lot less enjoyable. Regardless, what I saw of it was really good, and I ended up interested in seeing what happens next, so I will definitely be checking more of it out. Just a warning that you should go into it knowing there are girls kissing and some ennuendo, but it really didn't come off as all that sexual to me. More like when you're in elementry school or junior high/middle school, and you know that you like someone, but you have no idea what to do about it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Absolute Boyfriend

Overall Rating: A
Summary: A romantic comedy manga with a splash of science fiction created by Yuu Watase. Absolute Boyfriend is six volumes long and is the story of Riiko Izawa. Riiko is a high school girl with an addiction to buying things online, and has never had a boyfriend. In fact, she is rejected by every boy she asks out. The manga begins with Riiko asking out her current crush, and being immediately rejected.

After the rejection, she is wandering in the park, and finds a ringing cellphone. After answering the call, she returns the phone to an oddly dressed (kind of steampunk actually) man named Gaku. Gaku is a salesman for a strange website called Kronos Heaven, and offers Riiko anything she wants on the site for returning the phone. Riiko responds that all she wants is a boyfriend, and to her surprise Gaku says he can help.

When Riiko visits the site, she learns she can create her ideal lover. Still not believing Gaku, she customizes her lover with options like loyal, intelligent, attractive, etc. and orders him for a three-day trial.
The next day, men wearing outfits as strange as Gaku's deliver a large box to her door, and inside is a life-like figure...who is completely naked (don't worry, there's no nudity). Following the instruction manual, Riiko kisses him to wake him up, which also makes him to be in love with her. Unable to think of anything else, Riiko names him "Night".

Now Riiko has to deal with a man living with her (she lives alone) who wants to have sex all the time, a next-door neighbor named Soshi who may be more than a friend, a best friend who may be hiding things from her and who she is now hiding things from, and how to explain all of this without anyone finding out who "Night" really is.

I'm two volumes into this one, and I am hooked. This is another one Rachel recommended to me, and after "Life" I needed something lighter. "Absolute Boyfriend" definitely did the trick. This one is fun, has some great plot, and the characters are interesting. I also loved the progression of Night's personality. When the manga starts he's basically a robot and a bit silly (and very pretty). As it progresses, he develops feelings, and his rivalry with the serious Soshi provides a lot of humor and depth to the story. If you're looking for something light, then this one is a great choice.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Overall Rating: A+, but in a kind of disturbing way
Summary: In the drama Shōjo manga created by Keiko Suenobu, we meet Ayumu Shiiba, a middle school student who is intelligent, but struggles with her studies.  Ayumu is getting ready for her high school entrance exams, and relies heavily on help from her best friend Shii.

Shii's dream is to get into Nishidate High School, and Ayumu resolves to get in to. Shii always does well in class, and with her help, Ayumu continually improves in her studies. After raising her grades and doing well on the exams, Ayumu makes it into Nishidate, but surprisingly Shii doesn't make it. Apparently, helping Ayumu brought Shii's grades down, and Shii blames her failure on Ayumu.

As Ayumu starts high school, she has started cutting herself to understand her friend's pain and feel completely alone. Fortunately, she meets Manami who befriends her and the two start hanging out.

All of the above happens in the first volume of the series, and gets darker as the volume progresses. After volume 1, apparently Borders starts shrink-wrapping the volumes, and after Volume 6, the volumes go from Older Teen to Mature, so this stuff definitely isn't for kids. In fact, I had to take a break from reading, and then read something light after I got done, because even volume 1 is intense. However, it's also amazingly compelling, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Just go into knowing it's pretty brutal, and realistic in terms of portraying depression, and bullying in Japanese high schools (though it is certainly sensationalized to a degree).

Friday, August 8, 2008


Overall Rating: A
Summary: In this fantasy shōjo manga written by Surt Lim with art by Hirofumi Sugimoto we're introduced to Kasumi, a normal high-school girl. Well, almost normal anyway. Kasumi and her father move away from the city when he gets a new job, and Kasumi gets enrolled in an elite private school. Fairly typical manga plot so far, but Kasumi isn't a normal girl. On the way to their new home, Kasumi and her father stop in some woods so her father can look at some plants (I think I remember correctly that her father is a Botanist), and Kasumi falls out of a tree she has been climbing. The tree is high enough that the fall should kill her, but she is saved by mysterious lights.

After recovering, she discovers she can turn invisible, but only for as long as she can hold her breath. This power comes in handy when she inadvertently pisses off the fan club of the class president Ryuuki (this is very similar to the fan club in Fruits Basket for Yuki). Led by the Vice President, Reina, the club makes Kasumi's life hell, and tries to get her to leave the school. Fortunately, Kasumi makes friends with Yuuta, whose nickname is Otaku-Ken because he is such a nerd and tries to help her. Kasumi also meets Maiko, a fellow student who seems to have a connection to the mysterious lights, and what is the enigmatic Ryuuki up to?

I actually enjoyed this one a lot, even though some of the plot was very familiar. The plot and characters were different enough from Fruits Basket that I really enjoyed it, and the art is very cute (though the lack of noses on some characters distracted me occasionally). Overall though it's a good start to a shōjo series, and I will definitely be checking out the next volume.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fairy Cube

Overall Rating: A
Summary: A three volume fantasy shōjo created by Kaori Yuki, which follows high school boy Ian Hasumi. Ian was born with wing marks on his back and the ability to see fairies and the world they live in. Unfortunately for Ian, no one believes him, and have taken to calling him "Ian the Liar". Ian also has a spirit twin named Tokage who hates him and an abusive father who burned the fairy marks off his back when Ian's mother left to prevent Ian from "flying away". Not so great actually.

Recently, there have been a series of murders in the city. The victims have had  their backs slit open and the blood spurting out has formed the shape of wings. As a result, the crimes have been dubbed "the fairy murders".

Ian's childhood friend Rin Ishinagi is the only one that ever seemed to beleive Ian's stories of fairies. In fact, he was once able to show her the fairy world. Now she has returned to the city, and Ian's feelings for her are returning as well. Unfortunately, they may cause him even more trouble!

Okay, I picked this one up on a whim in Borders the other day (I thought the title sounded funny), and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The characters and plot drew me in and has me wanting to read volume 2 as soon as possible (it's already out but I haven't had a chance to get back over to Borders. I definitely recommend this one to fantasy and shōjo lovers. Check it out the first 22 pages online here

Friday, August 1, 2008

Yoki Koto Kiku

Overall Rating: B
Summary: Created by Koge-Donbo, this dark comedy series is a parody of a Japanese mystery novel, "The Inugami Clan". The series follows Yoki, Koto, and Kiku Nekogami - three triplets who love each other, their older brother Sukekiyo, and his fiancee Tamayo. However, the patriarch of the Nekogami family dies and leaves the family fortune to his eldest grandson, Sukekiyo, who is off at war. If Sukekiyo does not return within six months, one of the triplets or Sukekiyo's fiancee, Tamayo, will inherit the fortune.

That's when the trouble begins! The triplets plot to take out Tamayo and each other so that they will be the one to inherit the fortune. Each of the triplets has a dream for what they want to do with the money, and a weapon of choice. Tamayo tries to play the peacemaker and is apparently an expert at avoiding weapons and fights in general.

I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. It's very dark humor with the triplets seemingly killing each other and constantly plotting each other's and Tamayo's deaths. The only thing I didn't like about this one was that it was sometimes hard to follow. For example, early on the triplets kill each other, but then they keep showing up. Whether they are dead and shinigami, or never really died wasn't entirely clear to me. I think this is part of the parody aspect of the manga, but the confusion led to me rating it lower. Regardless, I recommend this one to anyone who enjoys dark humor.