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: 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: Yu-Gi-Oh! GX

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The never-ending saga continues.

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX follows Judai Yuki and friends as they study at the Duel Academy, a boarding school for learning Duel Monsters. There’s also some weird things going on with Spirit Monsters (Judai has a Winged Kuriboh) and some ancient Egypt-related things that made no sense.

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Winged Kuriboh Spirit Monster

The thing about this series was, if it was just a school drama with Duel Monsters it would have been excellent. But then the Egyptian mythology stuff had to get forced into the series and down the reader’s throat in order to try and relate it back to the original series. I’ve read Yu-Gi-Oh! GX twice; the first was for the hell of it and the second so I could have a clear memory of it to review it. I still have no idea what is going on with the Egyptian stuff. This series did not need an ancient Egypt connection, in my opinion; the Duel Monsters connection is strong enough to tie it to the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise. I actually quite liked the idea of Spirit Monsters and feel that it had a lot of potential, until it got severely overshadowed by the what-the-fuckery of everything else that was going on. The series was interesting and flowed rather smoothly until Mackenzie and Reggie (the bad guys who started all the random and irrelevant shadowy Egypt things) were introduced. The Egypt stuff was a forced attempt to connect back to the original series that failed.

But like I said, the series is generally really great and I enjoyed reading it. My favorite part (and I think a very crucial one as well) is that Judai is so different from any character in the original series. You have your Kaiba-ish character, Manjome, who resembles Kaiba personality-wise and has a somewhat similar deck, and a Yugi-ish character, Sho, who has a similar deck, personality, and physical appearance to the original protagonist. By making the protagonist, Judai, unique in all aspects, it makes Yu-Gi-Oh! GX more capable of standing on its own.

I love Asuka though. She’s such a strong character, a strong duelist, and they rarely draw attention to the fact that she’s a girl, which I think is a good thing. There was one small and quite ridiculous story arc, however, where there was a contest to see who the prettiest girl was, but she blatantly turned down the prize because she thought it was stupid, and that appearances were less important than Duel Monsters talent. I think she’s a great duelist and a great character, especially when you take into consideration that the original Yu-Gi-Oh! didn’t have any real strong female characters, who adds a lot to the depth of the story.

If you liked the original Yu-Gi-Oh!, then you should definitely read this. If you didn’t love the original, you’re better off passing this sucker up. And if you hated Yu-Gi-Oh!, you obviously shouldn’t read its sequel/spinoff. Hopefully this post satisfied you, because it may be a while until we have the best thing ever, a.k.a. card games on motorcycles; I have to get my hands on more than four pages of the material.

And I'm not going to stop potting Kaiba pictures any time soon, in case you were wondering.

And I’m not going to stop putting Kaiba pictures up any time soon, in case you were wondering.

Manga Mondays: Buso Renkin

buso renkin1The things I put myself through for you people. To be fair, this series isn’t really that bad if you can get over:

1. Papillon (the main rival)
2. Papillon’s outfits

However, Papillon himself is a subject of another post on another day. Buso Renkin follows Kazuki Muto after he saves a girl. In the process of saving her, Kazuki dies. The girl, an alchemist warrior named Tokiko, gives Kazuki an alchemic object, also known as a kakugane, as a heart replacement. The kakugane has the ability to transform into a unique weapon, or a Buso Renkin, based on its wielder. Anyway, Kazuki learns how to use his Buso Renkin, meets some friends, and gets into trouble with Tokiko.

One of my favorite characters in the history of manga is Gouta, an alchemist warrior who has a major crush on Tokiko and considers Kazuki his rival in love. He’s very much like Gokudera in Katekyo Hitman Reborn, but with a more realistic, down-to-earth personality. I also like how he defeats every bad guy by being clever. I value smart characters more than your typical shounen hero types (which Kazuki is to a T) and Gouta is so far from that. It makes me really happy.

I’m really trying to avoid saying a lot about this series because I’m probably going to wind up doing an In Brightest Day on everyone simply because there are that many screwed up characters. I’m not sure if that’s a testament to Nobuhiro Watsuki (author of Rurouni Kenshin)’s writing ability or a big mark against it.

However, speaking of Watsuki, the subtitle of this series should be ‘the time Watsuki went to an anime convention.’ If you read the notes as to why he did the things he did (he wrote a lot of them, which I found nice), basically every character and every scene had something to do with that darn anime convention. It drove me crazy. You couldn’t have gotten any other inspiration?

In short, if you can get past the GIF below (that’s Papillon) then you should consider reading this. Because the below GIF happens a lot.

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Manga Mondays: Secret Stream

Sixteen pages usually isn’t enough to cover a topic in any grandiose sense, so I’m not sure why I built up the expectations that I did. Maybe it was the summary, which said that SecretStreamCoverAkihito Yoshitomi’s Secret Stream would try to tackle internalized homophobia? No. That was definitely it. After reading the sixteen pages, though, I’m not sure if the summary was holding onto the same hopes that I had when starting, or if Yoshitomi thought that he was truly saying something meaningful, without realizing that they weren’t really saying anything of import in the end.

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Manga Mondays: Flow

flow2I pressed the “Surprise Me” button again, you guys. And this time I got something really cool!

Flow features a boy named Leerang in an alternate universe. There, every child gets to meet God once in their life. God takes a form of a specific animal and can grant the child one wish. Usually, kids make their wishes fairly quickly. Leerang, on the other hand, has waited ten years to make his wish. However, Leerang knows he can’t make a very exciting wish because his God has taken the form of the cat, the weakest of animals. The “stronger” (or most revered) the animal form your God takes, the more powerful wish you can get and the higher your status in society. After you make your wish, God goes away but you still retain some residual power that you can use. Anyway, this story follows Leerang as he decides what his wish should be and the consequences of that wish.

This is a Korean manga and it’s quite interesting. For one, the layout of every page is very different. Blank, white space is frequently utilized; there may only be one our two small panels on a manga page. I think it’s intriguing, but I don’t see what the layout does to enhance the story. What it does do is make you appreciate the art more. First off, this manga is entirely in color. Secondly, it’s beautiful art. Some of the artsy scenic panels (of which there are a lot) are truly gorgeous. The one thing that irks me, though, is that there isn’t much variety in character design. There are two female protagonists and they look like they could be sisters; both have reddish eyes and red hair. I just wish the coloring could have been switched up a bit.

I love the premise too. It’s like a combination of Fruits Basket and His Dark Materials and it’s really cool. Like Furuba, the animals of the Zodiac are the most featured. Leerang’s friend, Ryun, has a dragon and is considered to be the strongest kid around. Leerang is still my favorite character though. He’s gutsy and very much your stereotypical shounen hero, but with a slightly different twist, in that he doesn’t feel the need to “try and save everyone” like Naruto or Ichigo; he has a much more self-centered goal. I guess that might come from being a Korean series and not a Japanese one.

Anyway, there are thirteen chapters available for your reading pleasure, and I highly recommend you go check out my new favorite series, Flow!

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Manga Mondays: Blank

Amnesia is an issue that’s tackled quite often in manga, whether it be through subplot or the main plot, and usually it’s trite as hell. When this convention shows up, it’s usually safe to assume that the memory loss will stay long enough for the characters to suffer a breakdown, but the memories will all somehow return at the end of the story / arc so that there can be a happy resolution. Wanting a happy ending isn’t something to be faulted for, and even writing something about the mysterious healing powers of love, while usually uninteresting, isn’t something to get angry over. However, the mention of memory loss in a romance carries with it the warning of tired tropes that don’t endear a work to me. It’s no wonder that when I read that Furiko Yotsuhara’s Blank dealt exclusively with the issue, I wasn’t overly excited to read it. And how was it? Eeh.

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Manga Mondays: It’s Not My Fault That My Friend’s Not Popular!

not popular 3So in case you’ve forgotten, I’ve already bashed It’s Not My Fault I’m Not Popular to death. And then bashed it some more. But for some strange reason, I thought it might be interesting to look at a spin-off to see if the story improved when told from a different perspective.

So there are only six chapters of It’s Not My Fault That My Friend’s Not Popular! which follows Naruse Yuu, Tomoko’s sweet and normal friend, during middle school.

I think setting this manga during middle school was an excellent choice. When It’s Not My Fault I’m Not Popular started, Tomoko was in a desperate frenzy to make friends in high school, which is why a lot of her actions seem extreme. In middle school, there is no such extreme desperation. It’s just Tomoko being awkward.

The addition of another friend, Komi-chan, is also refreshing. While Komi-chan is somewhat awkward like Tomoko, she’s not nearly as extreme as even middle-school Tomoko. She strikes a nice balance, and is a perfectly normal character in a sea of wacky ones. I think in real life I would be friends with Komi-chan, so it’s great to see a character that I can relate to.

The competitions between Komi-chan and Tomoko for Naruse’s friendship are amusing without being over-the-top. In a manga that (I think) is supposed to be a slice-of-life story, having too many ridiculous antics takes away from the charm. Are there bizarre moments in this series? Yes, but they are tempered out because there are more characters and more normalcy in general.

However, if you really want to understand what is going in this series, you have to read the original. I find that sad because I like this spin-off better, and it’s not worth it to read thirty chapters of crap so you can read six (more like five and a half) chapters of okay manga.

In short, while this is an all right series thus far, it’s really not worth reading the original. So save yourself some trouble and skip over It’s Not My Fault That My Friend’s Not Popular!