The rowdy bunch – Fairy Tail

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It took a long time and several try-outs before I really started to watch Fairy Tail. First I was somewhat disturbed by the extremely cutesy and simple characters and the seemingly gag-driven dialogue. That was a mistake. Even if it is gags galore a pretty part of the time.

The longer I watched the more depth and personalities everyone got, and they became more likeable too. The gags are not too disturbing (except the fart joke episode, that was just nasty, or maybe my kind of low humour isn’t so Japanese). I love most of the music choices, though. Like every time there is a rowdy fight in the Fairy Tail hall (and that happens a lot), they fight to Offenbach’s Cancan music. And the time Lucy thinks Natsu is in love with her some small parts of The Maiden’s Prayer is played, and a little Vivaldi springs up here and there. Pun intended. Not to forget the theme song of the Magical Council, The Habanera from Carmen. And among the strangest soundtrack choices, like ever, when Land of Hope and Glory suddenly breaks out in strange places. Wonder why?

The Fairy Tail bunch is certainly both quirky and rowdy; loves to fight and break things, but they are fiercely loyal and never give up.

The story is somewhat predictable. I mean, male protagonist, MP, meets bad guys, get pummelled, stands up, tries again and wins. Or female protagonist meets bad guys, gets pummelled, loses half her clothing and gets rescued by MP. Or rescues MP. That could happen – well, I’m sure it did, maybe, but I can’t remember. Or Erza rescues everyone.

But the magic and the world itself are cool, and the characters very loveable. Of course everyone loves the cuddly, nutty Natsu and Grey who suddenly takes off his clothes all the time. In the manga he’s wearing less and even strips naked sometimes, but in the anime he’s wearing long shorts, which lessens the funny side of it, since there is no real shock value in someone suddenly appearing in knee-long shorts. Or Elfman who tells everyone who does something cool that they are a real man (even women). And Ezra, who is the strongest female character. Lover her huge wardrobe of different armour and weapons (that she of course carries around and changes into in a split second). Even if the armour often seems to lack midriff protection. Zodiac spirit magician Lucy is another story. I found her quite annoying in the beginning. But she doesn’t come along as quite as retarded as many shojo girls.  She’s starts off a fairly weak leading character (but fortunately grows stronger and more likeable as the show goes on). There are lots and lots of characters, so it took a while for me to keep them apart. Otaku fact: sometimes I make lists of the characters in anime or manga I like.

I love the magic, though. Magic is always good. And the magic is not the same for all, there are lots of different kinds of magic, from Lucy, who makes contracts with spirits of the zodiac and get them to help her, Natsu, who uses dragon magic and eats fire, Gray who uses ice and Ezra, who calls forth a multitude of weapons (and outfits to match each).

One thing I always find fairly disturbing is the unnecessary panty flashes and boob views. Fairy tail has a lot of those. Not that unexpected in a shounen manga, where it’s more rule than exception. There is even a special term for those things (panchira, a.k.a. panty flashes in manga). Well, it can be done in a slightly respectful way or just be damn creepy. It’s not creepy here. And it follows a lot of cliché tradition (hey, Hollywood) in the way girls fight and somehow manage to lose more and more clothes, while the scraps of cloth still manage to cover the important parts. Sometimes I stop watching anime where the sexist crap is too blatant. Highschool of the Dead was one of those, even though some of my fav voice actors were in it. But it made me feel a bit queasy. Maybe it was the zombie theme, though. A story where you have to kill your classmates since they suddenly try to eat you doesn’t mix well with trying to look up the skirts of the still living…

Apart from a relatively sexist presentation, Fairy Tail clears the Bechdel test with a good margin and has a lot of strong female characters.

Some of the fillers eps in this one are quite funny, strangely enough. If you, like me, have followed Bleach and Naruto slavishly for years, fillers can be something of a red flag. But then again, some of the regular Fairy Tail eps are a little bit long-winded and quite frankly just boring. I mean, there must be more ways than one to do fighting.

In the arcs where the story is quite good, it might had been better with not as repetitive and a bit shorter fights. But the anime took off again in the last arch where there is a huge tournament (I love games, competitions, and development/training in anime) and now, in season 2 it’s much better.

Still, Fairy Tail is not one of my absolute favorites but it’s fun to watch when you’re in the mood for something light and cheerful.

Making Manga – in anime

I like manga; I like drawing and work in the publishing business, so anime about making manga should be right up my alley, right? Most of the time it is.

This season I started watching Gekkan shojou Nozaki-kun, strangely enough, since seemed like a fairly typical shojou staple. But it’s about a mangaka, and that made me give it a go.

   Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun - 02 - Large 04 Mangaka and assistants.

At first it seems like the typical shojou school thing. A girl confesses to a boy he likes, but instead of running away/ignoring her/blushing or whatever they usually do he gives her an autograph. Then he invites her to following him home. When she does she realizes that he’s a popular mangaka, drawing shojou manga for a weekly magazine. She gets roped in to help him drawing backgrounds and gets to know the other people helping him. There is a bit of gender stretching (I won’t say bending, since it’s really not that), since the mangaka’s heroine inspiration is a boy and some of the other females aren’t exactly traditionally feminine (one is called the prince, for instance, and is fawned over by all the girls, well that’s not unusual, another is fighting and running away). One thing I don’t get is why the protagonist in this case is so smitten by Nozaki, since he’s about as charming as a block of wood, well he can draw, but that shouldn’t be enough. But he’s completely clueless in many ways and that’s a tad charming. Funniest thing so far, when Nozaki and his best friend stay up all night drawing a BL manga for the best friend of the protagonist in a dating game. Well, I guess you had to be there.

 

Sekai-ichi-hatsukoi Making manga, not all about the drawing stuff, mostly about the publishing side. I do work in the publishing business, and I can relate to much that is happening (the cyclical stress, the ranting on people not delivering the material on time or perfect and things like that).

sekai1 Realistic stress levels in publishing…

This is somewhat in the same universe as Junjou Romantica, one of my all time favs. Some of the characters show up in this one too, but only as extras. And yes, it’s BL (or Yaoi if you make that distinction where yaoi is more explicit). But as usual the manga is much more explicit. And like in some of the most enjoyable fanfic everyone is gay. Everyone on the shojou magazine staff is gay (well, one hasn’t been partnered off in the manga or anime – at least not yet). The mangaka. The only male assistant. The staff on the shounen magazine. The sales staff. The literature department. The CEO. Especially the CEO, Isaka, but we know that only because we’ve watched Junjou and his story isn’t included here. The people working in manga stores (even when they don’t know it). Everyone except the girls (well, they might be, but this is Yaoi, not Yuri).

sekai2This is what it’s all about

Well, I can’t say I watch this only for the portrayal of publishing, since I’m all about the BL, and the story isn’t called “the world’s greatest first love” for nothing, but the well thought-out industry portrayal is an extra plus in my book.

 

The mangaka and his assistants. I’ve watched half an episode and that was enough. I hated it, even though it supposedly is about making manga. Supposedly, since all I could see were tits and ass gags. Or tits and pants since this is Japan, where pants are more sexy than derrieres. PWP is a fairly common term in fanfic, for those short stories with lots of sex without any semblance of storyline, hence PWP, or porn without plot. This is worse. Pants without plot and more juvenile than any childish manga I’ve ever watched. I won’t give this a second chance.

mangaka_san_to_assistant_san_to___01___large_34Level of jokes in this anime

Bakuman – I can’t believe I didn’t find this earlier, since it’s by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, who did Death Note together, and Obata did draw another all-time fav of mine: Hikaru no Go. Well, I guess I’ve wanted Hikago to go on, and couldn’t really accept that the manga was over and by some stupid principle refused to watch or read anything later. But now I’ve changed that, and I’m glad I did.

Bakuman - 01 Making manga.

 In Bakuman the main character Mashiro Moritaka, called Saiko, is convinced to try being a mangaka by a classmate, Tagaki Akito – who happened to see his drawings. Saiko is very good at drawing and the classmate is going to write the story. There is some romance going on too, but not too disturbing, more on the cute side, actually. And he inherits his late uncle’s studio (the uncle was a sometime popular but later failed mangaka), which his grandfather has kept intact for three years, just waiting for the grandson to want it. The anime is about their struggle to get published and serialized in “Jack” (badly disguised Shounen Jump). And there are a lot of other quirky mangakas too (not the real ones, though), like adorable little wingnut Eiji, who, like several of the others, seems to have some kind of psychiatric diagnose. I think I have to do a chart… or a list of those soon. There are a lot of other manga mentioned, with real names, posters and drawings, not only barely concealed made up names (like in Genshiken, where I get less than half of the manga mentioned). Their editor, who at one point mentions that he’s taking over editing One Piece. And when they show the “Jack” issues there are lots of pretty covers with Ichigo and Naruto. This is one of those series where you seriously root for the main characters – and quite a bit for the others too. I like that it’s not super short: Three seasons with 25 episodes each is enough for a while, and probably very rewatchable too.

Anachronism as an art form – Saiyuki

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The story behind Saiyuki is a 16th century Chinese novel where a monk gets a mission from God, well Buddha, to go to India to find some sacred text. It’s been filmed and adapted in numerous versions, but this manga and anime is very loosely based on the original. The story is supposedly taking place in ancient times and starts with humans and demons living happily side by side, until something makes the demons lose their minds and attack the humans. Genjo Sanzo, a highly ranked Buddhist priest, receives a mission from the three aspects of Buddha to go to India and find out why. He is to take three companions with him on the journey.
The companions are three demons who aren’t affected by the general craze. Son Goku is a young boy, at least in appearance; in reality he’s an extremely powerful entity who has been captive in a mountain for more than 500 years for causing a disturbance in the heavens). But Sanzo set him free and has more or less adopted him. He’s always hungry, maybe since he didn’t eat for 500 years, but that’s a standing joke. The other two are Cho Hakkai, a mild-mannered scholar who was a human, but he slaughtered 1.000 demons when his lover was kidnapped and committed suicide, and turned into a demon himself. And then there is Sha Goyjo, half-demon, womanizer semi-professional gambler and all around bad boy. Wasn’t this ancient China? No, not really.

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The anachronisms start fairly right away. For example: the case of Cho Hakkai’s pet dragon who can turn into a jeep. Yes, a car.

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The bic and zippo lighters that Sanzo and Sha Goyjo use to light their cigarettes. Cigarette packs and cans of beer aside, there is Sanzo’s reading glasses and newspapers, not to mention the gun he wields and frequently fire bullets to make people shut up, when he’s irritated, at walls or at his companions. Not to mention the credit card he uses, presumably let to him by the three aspects of Buddha. This is one reason I love Saiyuki, it is so silly it’s wonderful. And Sanzo doesn’t just fight with a gun (filled with spiritual bullets), but when he’s really serious he’s using a holy text roll that otherwise hangs around his neck. Other than that it’s the usual fights, friendships, enemies becoming sort of friends and enemies that are too bad to even consider. Not to mention the backstory 500 years ago, taking place in heaven. I won’t spoil that, since it’s really one of the best parts of the whole thing.
It’s completely enjoyable, from beginning to end. There are four different parts: Saiyuki, Reload, Gunlock and Reload: Burial, with backstories of the four main characters. There is also a couple of OVA:s called Saiyuki Gaiden and two movies. Don’t miss the omakes called Urusai (shut up), they are completely silly and even more anachronistic than the real thing (answers to questions like “why didn’t the Sanzo gang go by airplane to India?” and other things like it).
Mangaka is Kazuya Minekura (I’ve seen her Bus Gamer or the fairly recent OVA Wild Adapter, a very bloody yakuza-yaoi mix.) Minekura’s drawing style is very distinctive and not everyone likes it. I’m not one of those. I can truly recommend the Saiuki art books too, with drawings of the characters in lots of different settings.

Habitually Breaking the 4th Wall – Gintama

I know that there are a few anime out there who habitually breaks the so called fourth wall (speaking directly to the audience), but the one I know best is Gintama.

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Gintama is brilliant in many ways and has a total disregard for almost anything resembling reality. It takes place during the Meji restoration in Japan, middle 19th century, last of the samurais etc. Except not since it also seem to take place in modern times. Aliens have invaded Japan, using the locals as cheap labour and has forbidden the samurai to wear swords. The leading character, Sataka Gintoki, is instead wearing a wooden bokken (Internet purchased…) that sometimes feels more effective than a real katana, well, sometimes not. He is that he takes on anything as , almost always with abysmal success, at least monetary-wise, even if he of course saves the world now and then. His sidekick, Shinpachi, is a teenager and heir to an abandoned dojo. Then there are Kagura, the strongest girl in the universe, and Sadaharu, her gigantic and cute dog/demon or whatever it is. Since it’s the Meji restoration, the Shinsengumi are there too, as the Shogunate police force, with a little different names, though. They are completely nuts, mostly, especially Okita Souji, who tries to kill Hijikata whenever he can. Hijikata, on the other hand is obsessed with mayonnaise and Shinsengumi captain is an obsessive stalker, oh, and another of them often cosplays as Echizen Ryoma from Prince of Tennis. One of my favourites is Katsura, the terrorist and former friend of Gintoki (his name means wig), and his pet Elisabeth, who may or may not (well, may) be a man dressed in a giant white penguin-like costume. Also the ninjas, Hattori, who suffer from haemorrhoids and Sa-chan, a masochistic female ninja who is completely obsessed with s&m and constantly tries to get Gin to tie her up.

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Breaking the 4th wall, as usual.

Hard to follow? Not at all and it’s not so complicated to get, once you start. The story is full of manga and anime references and sometimes the cast from other animes show up, like Bleach and Prince of Tennis. And they break the fourth wall constantly. Like Otose, the landlady, who suddenly has a wriggling snake tongue for a short while, since her voice actor also does snakelike villain Orochimaru in Naruto. She also jumps out and kills the director since a gorilla ranked higher than her in a popularity poll. He is then replaced by a robot. The cast often refers to the viewers, Gintoki complains that they didn’t wake him up in time for the show and so on. And after the first season the leading characters get together and make suggestions of how the story should develop, mostly blatant ripoffs or parodies of other manga/horror movies.

The episodes are often stand-alone, but there are some longer story archs. It is better to watch from the beginning anyway.

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A little gender-bending with Gintama and Katsura.

The fujoshi-friendly part:

I can totally see the slashability of this series (where the most popular pairing is Hijikata/Gintoki, strangely enough, I would have thought Katsura/Gintoki, but what do I know?) I don’t really feel the need to seek out doujinshi/fic, since it’s parody and fun all the way. I wouldn’t want to read serious stories about the characters, and if the stories are comedy I think just to watch it is enough. And you don’t have to get the manga, movie or historical references to appreciate it.

There are lots and lots of episodes (I think 264, plus a couple of movies).