Magical Mondays: Dancing and Transformation

It’s just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
With your hands on your hips
You bring your knees in tight
But it’s the pelvic thrust
That really drives you insane

Rocky Horror Time WarpI’m sure these lyrics are familiar to most of you, dear readers. With the surprising prevalence of The Rocky Horror Picture Show despite its cult status, even if one hasn’t watched the film, many of its (for lack of a better term) memes have stuck in the cultural consciousness. As a younger me, while watching this I wondered what the heck a dance had to do with anything, and honestly as an adult I still don’t know for sure–although I fully know that in this film, things don’t really have to make sense. It just comes out of nowhere. But thinking a little bit harder, maybe it wasn’t as out of place as I originally thought. After all, Rocky Horror isn’t the only piece of media utilizing the magic of dancing in the way it’s typically used: to signify a transformation.

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Manga Mondays: Oyasumi Punpun

I’ve never not wanted to recommend a manga I like more than at this very moment. Even ‘like’ is too strong a term, for Oyasumi Punpun is something that’s endured, not enjoyed.

Oyasumi Punpun GodFrom the first chapter and the instant introduction to elementary school bullying, Asano Inio makes clear that Oyasumi Punpun is not the type of manga one would read when they want to feel better about life. The manga follows a young boy named Punpun Onodera—whose entire family, including himself, is represented as undetailed, cartoon birds—as he and his friends grow up among a corrupt society and dysfunctional families, and he tries desperately to hold onto his first love. What seems at first to be a cynical take on the slice of life genre quickly spirals into an “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong” sort of story. It’s a train wreck you can’t look away from and believe me when I say that there’ll come a point where you will want to.

So why am I still reading it?

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Manga Mondays: Read or Dream

rod_read_or_dream_v1_p_0000I recently sat down and read the Read or Die spinoff series Read or Dream. As you might have guessed, given my very uncomplimentary review of the original R.O.D. manga, I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this series. However, much to my surprise, Read or Dream was everything I had hoped Read or Die would be.

Read or Dream follows three sisters who run a book-related detective agency in Hong Kong. All three are Papers, meaning they have the ability to telekinetically manipulate paper, and they use their powers to help them solve their cases. The two older sisters, Michelle and Maggie, adore books and are more likely to buy new novels than pay bills. Youngest sister Anita hates books because she resents her sisters’ love of them, and she is constantly trying to whip Maggie and Michelle into being more responsible caretakers.

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Manga Mondays: Alichino

For this week’s Manga Monday, I decided to go with a blast from my past: Alichino by Kouyu Shurei. I first read Alichino way back in my freshman year of high school, which was frighteningly almost ten years ago, so let’s not focus on that. When I sat down to re-read it for the sake of this post, all I could remember was that the art was some of the most gorgeous I’d ever seen in a manga. Well, you know when people say “You’re lucky you’re cute…”? Turns out the art is pretty much all this series has going for it. I’m not sure why I’ve been holding onto it for all these years.

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Manga Mondays: Gosick

gosick1Gosick follows Kujo, a Japanese exchange student in a European country in 1924, as he gets accustomed to his new, very superstitious school. One day when Kujo gets sent out early to run an errand for one of the maids, he observes a murder. Kujo then gets accused of the murder by the town’s aristocratic detective, Inspector Blois. Kujo, running from Blois, finds himself at the top floor of the library and in front of Victorica, a super genius girl who skips class and helps Blois solve his crimes when she’s bored. They all become friends and they solve crimes together.

This manga reminds me a lot of the Encyclopedia Brown books, which is a childrens’ book series about a boy detective whose father (the police chief) seeks his son’s advice about cases. And by advice, I mean Encyclopedia solves the case. Victorica is Encyclopedia Brown, in that she listens to the facts and then solves the cases.

I personally liked Victorica; she’s just her quirky little self and doesn’t really care what anyone thinks of her. She’s like a mix of L from Death Note and BBC’s Sherlock. It does make for an interesting mix: she’s got the whole sweets obsession that L has and the ability to solve crimes. She also treats Kujo a lot like Sherlock treats Watson. She’s a very interesting character to read, and other than L I’ve never seen anyone like her in a manga.

However, Inspector Blois is one of the most annoying characters I have ever seen. I get the impression that he’s more of a comedic relief character, but he’s such a pain in the ass. He’s like a Hetalia character, specifically America, in that he’s always jumping to crazy conclusions or making bizarre suggestions about their next course of action. Hetalia is supposed to be over-the-top and ridiculous, but in a manga that is supposed to be about solving mysteries, Blois’ ridiculous antics only get in the way of the actual story.

Now, I said up at the top that the school was very superstitious. I just want to be clear that so far, there haven’t been any real ghosts, or zombies, or haunted houses. While everyone suspects these things, Victorica gets to the bottom of everything and figures out that the supposed supernatural has a very reasonable and logical explanation.

Gosick is a very good manga, and I highly recommend you read it. Be warned though, while there are only twenty-three chapters that I’ve found, some of them can be as long as fifty pages. So it’s a time investment, but it’s definitely worth it. And if you don’t feel like reading it, you can go watch the anime, which Saika reviewed ages ago. Do take note, though, that she didn’t think the show was very good.

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Manga Mondays: Plastic Girl

In my journey for a good horror manga for today, I came across a trend of others labeling manga with any horror elements as a horror manga. I love vampires and monsters as much as the next person, but spooky monsters do not a horror manga make. Shifting through the miscategorized, I finally came across a manga that, fair enough, I also wouldn’t call horror, but was much too interesting to pass up.

Plastic Girl CoverIn the same way that a Salvador Dalí painting causes the viewer to contemplate its meaning, so too does Usamaru Furuya force the reader to look beyond the surface with Plastic Girl. Much like art, though, I don’t believe there’s one correct interpretation of the piece. On the surface, Plastic Girl feels like an exposé of a young girl’s madness. Each couple of pages is a different topic which only adds to the disjointed feeling despite the main topic largely remaining the same—the topic being herself. This is complemented beautifully by the changing art styles with each turn of the page. Furuya moves from dark pen scratches, to bright pop images, to even woodprint design. The story, in this case, is not only about what is written; the story and the message depend more on the art and design choices than any other manga I’ve read.

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Manga Mondays: Attack on Titan

shingekinokyojin

Attack on Titan (also equally well known as Shingeki no Kyojin, its Japanese name) is set in humanity’s distant future. Around a century prior to the story’s plotline, huge humanoid monsters called titans appeared and began eating humans. Somehow, the remnants of mankind managed to build three massive walls to keep the titans out, and lived in relative peace for a hundred years. But then, one day, a giant titan appeared from nowhere and breached the outermost wall, throwing humanity back into chaos.

Anyone tired of post-apocalyptic story settings? Anyone? Bueller? What about manga and anime where teenagers have to save the world and are better at it than adults for some reason?

Yeah, me too, but this is a pretty good story, all told. It follows Eren Jaeger, his childhood friends Mikasa and Armin, and their team of rookies as they join the Scouting Corps, the branch of the military tasked with learning about the titans and regaining lost territory from them. Eren’s father, who disappeared the same day the Colossal Titan broke the wall, was an expert researcher on the titans, and the Corps hopes to somehow get back to his house in the lost territories so that they can unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the monsters. On top of all this, it appears that some of the humans have the ability to change into titans because of ~science~, and in that form they can either greatly help or greatly hinder mankind’s chances of survival.

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