Uncurrency Anime – Bakuman. S2

With the manga ending a few months a go and the 3rd season starting soon, it was about time for me to get watching the second season of Bakuman. Surprisingly, I liked it much much much more than I thought I would.

Bakuman, the manga, holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it far and away my favorite manga of all time, it also gave me a lot of motivation in times that I needed it. Bakuman’s a very inspirational manga, no doubt about it, but the anime, especially the first season, never managed to carry over its charms. It over emphasizes the parts that aren’t Bakuman’s biggest assets and completely forgets the reason why the manga is amazing as it’s supposed to be. I think a big part of me not liking the anime is basically the presentation. The manga emphasizes its “shounen essence” by giving it speed lines, exaggerated poses, different angles. . . basically “The Rush” sort of feeling (kinda like what Death Note did). The anime presents it more subtly (most definitely because of budget constraints) and the manga-anime translation doesn’t go that smoothly.

Nonetheless the second season definitely improved from the first season. The anime is still basically the same besides having the execution slightly sharper so it must be the content itself. It introduces characters that I love like Hiramaru, characters that I felt strong pity for like Miura, characters that just made things more fun like Iwase and characters that get more screen time like Aoki Kou. Everything felt livelier because of this and they finally got to the point where Bakuman just rolls. Competition on rankings, what it means to be serialized, what editors feel. . . all those inside the industry sort of stuff that we never see, the second season tackles with great confidence.

I don’t want to be overtly negative since I really enjoyed what I watched so I’ll stop it here with a positive note (especially since all I wrote about season 1 is bitchiness) kinda like how season 2 ends with Ashirogi Muto finally reaching one of their dreams. I honestly can’t wait for season 3 since this is when Bakuman finally completes the message it wants to give not only to Shonen Jump (or Jack lol) but to every manga reader and editor out there.

Execution: 33/40 (Slightly sharper than the first season)

Engagement: 24/30 (Exciting content made up for a rather lacking presentation)

Characters: 18/20 (They got this one on the dot.)

Production Values: 6/10 (Terrible)

Overall: 81/100 (B-)

Hourou Musuko Manga

So I finally jumped into the Hourou Musuko manga. I’ve always planned to read it since it aired a year ago but I didn’t know where to start. I already knew the main plot and the anime started somewhere in the middle so I kept on thinking if I should find the parts after the anime ended or just start from the very beginning. In the end, curiousity got the best of me so “beginning” it is.

Hourou Musuko tackles on crossdressing and gender identity crisis and this already evident since the very first few pages of the first chapter. What’s very interesting is the way it’s handled. It doesn’t stuff messages on how this should be treated or that but it sort of just acts on what’s happening around the characters and the changes they are having and it’s sort of up to you to figure out the message.

The first part of Hourou Musuko is the Grade School era. This was about 33 chapters and it’s in this part of Hourou Musuko when I realized the depth of this series is. It started by promptly laying out a plot of a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy but it slowly evolved into something else. The introduction of Chiba Saori (Ch.3) really made everything so fun and dynamic. There’s also the slow introduction of the relatively large cast with Sasa, Mako, Oka, Doi and of course Yuki-san and Shi-chan. It also showed how Maho became a model and how Shuu was one for a couple of chapters (it was only hinted slightly in the anime).

There really isn’t that much of a main conflict in the Grade School Era. There’s Seya, Maho’s to be boyfriend, thinking Shuu’s a girl, the whole Exchange Diary thing but nothing really sat as a plot. And with Hourou Musuko, this isn’t important at all as you just read to see how the characters interact with each other.

The Middle School Era is the part that the anime concentrated at and for a good reason. It’s certainly more massive than the Grade School Era and it contained probably the most important part of the manga. While reading this part of the manga, I was just completely amazed on how the anime managed to pull off telling this. The Middle School Era wasn’t exactly self contained and characters weren’t re-introduced or anything but somehow the anime made it work.

Probably the most amusing parts of the manga came after the part where the anime closed it off. The characters began evolving even more with puberty being injected from left to right and it was pure joy seeing that there was actually some closure to certain relationships. Saori and Takatsuki actually managed to make up and Doi wasn’t much of an asshole after all.

The current High School Era is really fun. The characters are now teenagers and somehow the theme changed from crossdressing to growing up in general. There’s a lot of blushing from the now slightly sexually charged characters and it’s really fun to see the differences in the way they act from when they were in Grade School til current.

It’s also notable on how Shuu and Anna’s relationship was handled. I swear it was really fun seeing how Anna changed her treatment to Nitori, from a cute little sister to someone she’s actually turned on by. I kept laughing in a certain scene where Nitori was changing to a girl’s outfit and Anna got all flustered because she saw Nitori’s body. Oh wait there’s also the massage chapter where Anna just used an excused to touch Nitori. Oh wait there’s also Anna admitting on getting slightly jealous when Nitroi complements other girls.

This manga was really enjoyable (to the point where it kept me awake in the early morning because I couldn’t stop reading) because on how dynamic it is. It keeps on changing and changing. Characters keep on developing and developing. The art of the manga keeps on developing and it really looks amazing now. I don’t like how I keep using this phrase often but it’s really legit with Hourou Musuko: “I’ve never read anything quite like this”.

Slice of Life in anime is something I’ve been watching for a long time but this is the first time I experienced Slice of Life in a manga setting.Very unique and different but very enjoyable at the same time.

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji

Searching for a good Shoujo manga is hard. You will always get fooled by premises that sound unique and with potential for great romantic development but most of this premises are completely gone after 3 chapters in order to give way to “generic shoujo route of falling in love”. What I love about Shoujo manga though is that there will always be a handful of series that do not go in this route and actually both fulfill its premise while keeping up with the romantic department. Kimi ni Todoke played with purity in its most absolute value; Dengeki Daisy played on with a “Depressingly hopeful premise” even after 40+ chapters; Tonari no Kaibutsu Kun never forget that grades are very important to Mitty because she’s a nerd; Ao Haru Ride never forgot the important details to the main characters relationship.

After reading Ao Haru Ride recently, I tried to find similar manga that would give me a fresh take on usual cliches and it really took me awhile to find this manga. Really, the number of atrocious Shoujo manga really reaches critical mass. Strobe Edge, LD-K, Sukitte Ii Na Yo. . . OH MY GOD THEY ARE SO GENERIC AND TERRIBLE. I would like to particularly mention LD-K and how it made me vomit on how offensive it was. Anyway, I eventually stumble upon this series, Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji or “Wolf Girl and Dark Prince” in english. After going through those dungpiles, this really was a goldmine.

Ookami Shoujo started out wonderfully. Of course I had my doubts (I still have that premise fooling mindset) but what I saw in the first three chapters was amazing. It was a full-on insult to the Generic Shoujo manga territory. Guys were presented as assholes who treat their girlfriends as pets while girls were just dumbfuck stupid and shallow. The thing is, this is how most Generic Shoujo manga are. In Ookami Shoujo, or at least the first three chapters, I loved how they went on with that mindset like nothing was wrong while actually being aware that these people are horrible.

Interestingly though, Ookami Shoujo then turned into a real relationship drama which in turn made this series more down to earth though it did become slightly generic. The main character, Erika, kept on trying to bring this series into the usual generic shoujo route by forcing her pretend boyfriend Sata Kyouya to “go have a nice Christmas date” or “eat my Valentine’s chocolate” but Kyouya will always have a way of insulting her ideas. Which leads me to my most fucking favorite character of this series who I will probably add to my MAL favorite characters soon.

Sata Kyouya is a damn fine, well written character. He’s an asshole, like most bishies are supposed to be, but with actual awareness on how horrible he is. One thing that impressed me with this series that it has really witty writing and most of these are poured in to Kyouya’s dialogue. I still remember one of the things he said in one chapter: “These people aren’t in love with each other. They’re just in love with romance”. That is a fucking genius yet true thing to say. He trolls on Erika to the point of making her cry almost every other chapter and their relationship is fucking terrible AND I LOVE IT.

One of his most asshole-ish thing he’s done was telling Erika that he likes her then proceeding to tell her that “LOL that was a joke”. Erika, being someone who wants things to go generic, really thought it was true even though you can see how out of character the confession was. This proceeded to Erika telling him to die and pouring him with water. How did Kyouya fix this problem? He gave her a necklace and told her “Now you have a collar and you’re mine”. And that in itself won her back to him.

Sata Kyouya is like a horribly gone wrong Bishie mixed with a male-Beatrice mixed with a Senjougahara typed mouth. He’s a cool guy and if I were a girl, my ovaries would explode (oh god what?). The switch of focus in this series really made him shine (and still shining) and I’m just glad that I picked up this series.

There’s a lot of more awesome moments in this series that I didn’t mention and really READ THIS MANGA. There’s only 12 chapters translated so far and actually like Ao Haru Ride, this is a relatively new manga (started 2011). It’ll be easy to catch up so go on read this.

*Also just a request, if you’ve read a relatively new awesome shoujo manga, then please go ahead and suggest it to me because I am itching right now to find a new one.

Ao Haru Ride

I came across this title while I was surfing at a certain forum to look for decent shoujo manga. I haven’t really read any good ones since Tonari no Kaibutsu-Kun (that was like a year ago) so imagine the smile on my face when I was finally able to read something decent and not so generic shoujo manga for once.

If I talk about the story, it would either sound like a terribly generic premise or a booohoohoo dorama so I won’t talk about that. And yes I do think the premise is slightly crappy (two lovers separated when they were young blablabla) but what drives this manga is both execution and emotion. And honestly when it comes to any entertainment, these two are the most vital parts.

I think it’s quite a feat. that I geniunely care for a story with “long lost lovers finally reuniting” as it’s theme. The way the author managed to execute  such a story with such refinement amazes me. Maybe it helps that both characters were pretty “normal” (the emphasis on “cool guy” or “bishie” is toned down) in the beginning of the story and I didn’t have to roll my eyes as much.

The story then turned into a “I will be the one to change this bad boy into a good kid” type of story. I thought it would fall to pieces. I thought “oh god it’s turning into generic crap” when the first few chapters started. But then the author did her magic again and it turned such story into a very emotional character arc. I think I let up a tear in one scene. The author is pretty good at drawing out emotions and again the sense of refinement prevailed yet again. It didn’t turn into a “Boohoo HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND MY PREDICAMENT” type of melodrama but one where you really sympathize with the character.

Now 16 chapters in, I must say, this manga is REALLY REALLY REALLY good. EVERYONE GO READ AO HARU RIDE.

Billy Bat

After finishing reading Pluto and watching Monster, I went ahead and attacked more of Urusawa’s works. Billy Bat is a very contrived series. Urusawa now concentrates on history and how he can put different conspiracies in it.

The series is about Kevin Yamagata who draws a comic called Billy Bat. He gets notified that someone from Japan has the same character design and he thought that maybe he got the Billy Bat idea from what he saw when he was in Japan a few years back. He goes to Japan again to figure out who’s the author and maybe ask permission to use it. Little did he know that the Billy Bat character that he’s using spans for generations, even probably before Jesus Christ and its surrounded by different murders, mysteries and conspiracies.

Everytime Urusawa attacks a certain part in time, I always have Wikipedia ready. I’m not exactly familiar with Japan’s history but I’m really surprised that the Shimoyama incident is actually real and I got creeped out a bit. Same goes for the whole Francis Xavier, the first disciple, Oda Nobuaga. . . Urusawa weaved it so well, you can’t tell the difference between real and fiction anymore (except the bat of course which in all honesty is hard to believe).

I really had fun with the whole Lee Oswald and JFK arc. Urusawa really took all the conspiracies, played with it, added his own conspiracies, blown it up a bit, added Billy Bat to the entire scenario and my god was it magnificent. Urusawa really researches everything (or maybe he has a knack of raping Wikipedia) and I love the little bits of details here and there that she adds.

I still like Pluto a bit more than this, but Billy Bat is really interesting, especially if you love conspiracies. It’s still ongoing though (70+ chapers) so you have to wait patiently afterwards.

Bakuman. – (END)

I’ve never really said much about Bakuman. here (besides ranting how the anime doesn’t do it justice) but now that it has ended, I just have to. Out of the hundreds of manga I’ve read I am not afraid to say this ends up as my favorite.

It has its problems here and there, but what Bakuman. always had, and consistently so until the end, is its willpower and energy (which the anime failed to replicate in oh so many levels). There was always that drive in Takagi and Mashiro to be better, not only for their dreams, but for their own. They always realize that it’s not in their personality to be satisfied with just being average (Tanto arc, PCP not getting an anime) and it always drove them to create a piece even better than before (PCP, Reversi). Well of course the main motivation for the Ashirogi team was for them to get an anime in which Miho will be the voice actress and sometime along the way, because of this motivation, I became so immersed and also drove myself to excellence in what I do with motivations I had.

Of course you cannot talk about Bakuman. without talking about its wild and diverse cast of characters. My favorite has to be Hiramaru-sensei and his editor. They always have these jabs that never go old. There’s the cold then turned lovely Aoki-sensei, the trashy Fukuda-sensei, and of course the main rival, Niizuma-sensei.  Each characters personalities reflect the manga they are making. Personally I never really had that much infatuation with the main cast, but I never really hated them. I love all the editors though and their ways of caring for their mangakas, especially Hattori.

The main selling point of Bakuman. is its insights to the whole manga industry. “Popular = Best” is what’s important in Shonen Jump. From names/storyboards, to questionnaires, to rankings, to the editor’s department, Bakuman. really gave you an inside feel to the industry.Of course there’s that whole “It’s a manga about a manga” cynicism (and maybe that’s why the anime failed) and that was the main catch for me.

The Death Note duo, Ohba-Obata, created a gainax-stylized pump-ish feel to complement its never-ending competition theme (something the anime failed to realize). The whole story seems to mirror the duo’s own personal experiences and opinions, something I always loved. I especially loved the way Ashirogi Muto ended Reversi as a complete story (never dragged or anything) and how it somehow mirrored the way Death Note was done. In Death Note’s time, it was probably one of the most popular manga, but Ohba-Obata decided to end it when it needed to end. Actually, based on rumors, Death Note was actually supposed to end halfway through the story, with Light dying instead of L but the editors didn’t want to because its popular. Still Bakuman. addressed these issues SJ had (along with other problems) and I can’t thank Bakuman enough for doing this.

Bakuman. is my favorite manga of all time. What I wrote here doesn’t even do justice to how good it is. EVERYONE GO READ IT NOW THAT IT’S FINISHED.

Pluto – Astroboy’s “The Greatest Robot in the World”

In case you’ve never heard about this manga, it’s about an arc in Astroboy wherein a sultan from Persia sends a robot called Pluto to kill the 7 greatest robots all time. It’s only a 2 episode arc in the 1980’s remake but Naoki Urusawa (the insanely good germanophile writer who did Monster) manages to extend this story into 65 chapters running for 6 years. The story now revolves on the detective, Gesicht, as he tries to solve the mysteries of the recent robot killings.

I watched the original version of this  “The Greatest Robot in the World” arc and it is incredibly childish as much of Astroboy is. But something doesn’t seem right when one robot is ore apart after another. There’s that sense of potential darkness lurking inside that two partner, and what this manga does is unleash it. I won’t spoil the details but if you want to watch it, you can find it on Youtube and its only 2 episodes.

Pluto is really good at creating mystery as much as most of Urusawa’s works but what stands out is emotion he gives unto the characters. It’s kind of banal to say that since half the characters are robots but his storyline and dialogue really reaches to your heart. In particular, Gesicht’s heavily built up back story (which I will not spoil) actually made me tear up a bit.

Of course nothing would be what it is without Astroboy, or as he is called here, Atom (Note that the original name for Astroboy is “The Mighty Atom”). While Gesicht is the main character of this manga, Atom is the protagonist in Osamu Tezuka’s world which Urusawa is using. His character is also developed, well enough that if you did not know anything about Astroboy, you would still love this guy. What happened to him in this manga is very shocking, considering I did watch the original version, though the major plot points all ended up the same.

I heavily recommend this manga. It’s not very long but the ride is enthralling and emotional at the same time.

(I made a manga category since I do end up reviewing what I read)