Datte Maou-sama Wa Kare Ga Kirai / Good-bye World Conquest by Yamada Nichoume

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I absolutely adored the premise of this yaoi, the execution? Not as much.

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Into every generation is born a Demon King.  For each Demon King, there is a hero who must conquer him.  This is almost exactly the same set-up as the anime  Hataraku Maō-sama! / Devil is a Part-Timer, which I likewise adored. Only, in this version Maou (the name literally means ‘devil’) is a kind of hapless storekeeper who doesn’t really want the power to randomly enslave delinquents (it’s awkward to have people falling at your feet all day long.) The hero, Kamiko, is likewise atypical for what you’re expecting of a hero. In fact, when we first met him, it’s because he’s bought the building Maou’s storefront is in and forcibly evicts him.

The hero is kind of an a$$hole.

Not only is he a jerk, but he’s a little bit shady. At one point, Kamiko confesses that he went into the family business (and, yes, he means that in the yakuza sense) because he really just wanted to break-in to people’s houses and knock over vases (like a cat?).  Maou, of course, is like, “Dude! That’s not cool.”

Because, somehow, in these stories the devil is always kind of decent human being.

In Datte Maou-sama wa Kare ga Kirai all of this is really just background for Maou and Kamiko to have a lot of sex–because, you see whomever dominates the other one is the victor in this spiritual/world-domination power play.  Maou keeps trying to top, but he’s pretty helpless to Kamiko’s advances.

This is listed under the tag “dubious consent” on Baka-Updates, and I suppose you can imagine it that way since Maou does say ‘no’ and keeps telling Kamiko he’s a pervert and not to touch him ‘there’–but this feels more silly to me than rape-y. I suspect milage may vary, however.

For me, this was too tame.  (Also the early pages of the manga are badly translated, so it’s probably okay to skim them to get to the sexy-times.)

5 Centimeters per Second / Byousoku 5 Centimeter by Shinka Makoto/Seike Yukiko

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Seinen stories depress me.  Nearly all of those I’ve read or watched have left me wondering if anyone is ever happy in Japan. 5 Centimetrs per Second is no exception.

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My library had 5 Centimeters per Second collected in one big, fat volume which made me even more depressed because I could look at the thick book and think, “Wow, I read all that just to feel like this.”

The manga is billed as a love story between Tono Takaki and Shinohara Akari, but that’s straight-up bullish*t.  Not only is this story not romantic, but half way through, Akari’s story is dropped completely.  Instead, the manga focuses entirely on Tono and follows his “love” (more like lack-of-love) life with various other women he meets after his initial, seventh-grade crush on Akari.

I’m pretty sure the moral of this story is: having an intense romance when you’re young f*cks you up for life.

That theme is underscored when, after Tono is forced to move to some island he meets Kanae who falls for him hard, even though his heart is still focused on Akari (even though they gave up on even pen-paling after a few months.)  Her life gets completely and utterly screwed up by this devotion, too, to the point that, when, after Tono has gone off college and is living a depressing life as a salaryman, Kanae still won’t date the SUPER HOT SURFER DUDE WHO IS SUPER INTO HER (even though she’s mostly otherwise gotten her sh*t together).

WTH is wrong with these people??

I literally don’t know.  I spent the last half of the book muttering, “OMG GET OVER IT” under my breath.

I guess it’s romantic to wreck your life over some girl you loved in seventh grade?  No, actually, it’s not. It’s stupid. Look, I had some very intense crushes when I was young.  IT DID NOT RUIN MY ABILITY TO GIVE MY HEART AWAY TO OTHER PEOPLE.

I dunno, maybe the cherry tree (of the title, as supposedly cherry petals fall at this rate of speed) is cursed. (Although that doesn’t explain Kanae, whose life is also ruined by young love.)

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My take away: stay away from creepy trees.

Apparently, there is a movie. Probably the movie is not only beautifully rendered, but also POIGNANT–which I think is what this was going for, but utterly failed for me.  Also, could we PLEASE just stop with the message that after the age 15 adventures stop, and that everything afterwards is some kind of soulless compromise?

 

Blue Exorcist: Chapter 88 (Happy [Merry X-Mas] Birthday Eve.)

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Since officially giving up on Shingeki no Kyojin, I do believe the Ao no Exorcist is now the only manga I’m reading as it comes out.

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Chapter 88 starts with Rin, our hero, convincing himself and those around him that Plant Girl (Shiemi) is dying and that THAT’s the reason she no longer wants to be an exorcist.  While a number of the others agree that’s a possibility, none of them will let Rin straight-up ask (because that would ruin the plot device.)

Shiemi derails speculation further by organizing everyone into teams to put together this giant birthday/Christmas party.

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At the mall, the speculation about Shiemi’s potential upcoming demise continues.  Several alternatives to death are offered–many of them based on Japanese folktales–until pink-haired Shima says, “Look, maybe she just changed her mind.”

Which everyone finally accepts as a possibility.  However, both me and my friend who read this with me this morning, instantly thought: HE KNOWS SOMETHING.  Izumo thinks the same thing and confronts him.

Tell me, does this look like the face of a liar-liar-pants-on-fire?

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I think so, too.

We bounce around through the various “teams” doing their party prep, and then switch to Suguro (Bon) who is trying to sort through all the information that he and Light got about the secret clone project.  Randomly, Bon comes across a familiar name: Shiro.

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Yeah, Bon, you and me both… I had NO IDEA who this was at first….

I had no idea, even with a visual prompt, I still had nothing. THANK GODS for the wiki (and a friend who with a better memory for names who double checked) because even with the surname supplied, I still had no idea that Shiro Fujimoto was our heroes’ DAD (or adoptive dad.)

Though this suddenly makes sense as to why Satan was able to possess him on the Night of Blue Fire or whatever it’s called.

As if this wasn’t enough of a plot development, Bon notices that there’s a page missing from the list of clones.  In particular, subject 005 seems to have been struck/stolen from the record, leading Bon to believe “Subject 005” is likely the successful Satan clone.

My money is still on Shiemi, btw.

Waking Light up to tell him this news, we get a funny interaction where Bon is fed up with Light sleeping instead of investigating and Light tells him that be works best when he’s accessing his unconscious mind (aka sleeping.) Me, too, brother.  Me, too. Bon is irritated by this, but decides maybe now is the time to ask for permission to go to the party.  Light’s all, “Whateves, dude. You’ve never been required to follow my orders, anyhoo.” (Paraphrase.) Bon, being terminally serious, takes this as an okay. (ILU, Bon.)

Other ways in which Bon is me:

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I really think I might have to take all the volumes out of the library again and re-read.

After this we flash to boob-lady (Shura) who convinces younger-brother Yukio that he, too, should try to relax a little and hang out with kids his own age for a change. Yukio wonders why she’s not going and she drops the random bomb that she’s off looking for a life-partner. (?? Okay! That’s kind of his response, too.)

We then discover that Yukio is legit crappy at crafts, and always has been. When he tells a meant-to-be-heartwarming/self-depricating story about how Father Fujimoto used to indulge his and Rin’s inability to art, Bon pulls the OMG SAD I KNOW A SECRET face, but Yukio doesn’t press him overly much about it, and they go back to crafting their decorations.

The very last scene in the chapter is another flashback in which we find out that while Rin has been content not to know anything about their “true” parentage (or at least he was then), Yukio has always had (and continues to have) a burning desire to know.

Which given this final image:

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What is that? THE FLAMES OF HELL? The crumbled void of nonexistence???? The yawning maw of Hell Itself????!!!????

Whatever it is, it is NOT HAPPY FAMILIES!

If I need to say anything in conclusion of this chapter, it’s that I will forever adore Katou-sensei for her ability to continue serious, intense plot, while giving us these lovely, light, fun character moments.  Shopping trips are kind of like the ultimate in “curtain fic,” and yet, we’re treated both to some wonderful character development between Fox-Girl (Izumo) and pink-haired Shima, in which we see Izumo not exactly warm up to him, yet seriously discuss the ways in which she’s decided to deal with him as a potential double-agent (while also fan-girling over cute cakes!)  Similarly, we get goofy “I don’t art” from Yukio, which is just sweet and silly, yet which seamlessly leads into a major character/plot issue, which is: what is up with Satan? What exactly is this world? And what is Gehenna? (which are the literal questions that Bon asked Light, previously.)

Frankly, this is fairly brilliant stuff.

So, you know, I feel like I could almost let myself join this fandom.

I’m just… still so BURNED from Bleach, that I’m afraid…. Still. I may just have to risk it again.

Thoughts?

 

One-Punch Man by Yusuke Murata (One)

Since all the cool kids were doing it, I thought I’d finally get around to checking out One-Punch Man.

I read the first volume and I sort of feel like my review could be summed up by this (web) comic strip from Questionable Content: “I can’t tell if it’s a brilliant deconstruction of shounen anime tropes or just garbage.”

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Yeah, it’s pretty brilliant parody.  I mean, I guess.  I don’t fail to see the humor in a guy who “over trained” and can now defeat all his enemies with one punch. I kind of even adore that he got into hero-ing for “fun,” (although the author seems to change his mind about this backstory and there is, at least, some sense that Saitama has a well-honed sense of justice that go him into hero-ing even earlier.)

But, will the joke sustain me?

Eh, I’m not sure.

This is where I get into arguments with people who try to tell me that the best comic book superhero movie of all time was “The Incredibles.”  Yes, it’s a good movie.  But, to say that “The Incredibles,” which is intended as a send-up, a parody,  is the best superhero movie  is to actually discount what I LIKE about superheroes, and to only enjoy the ways in which people make fun of superhero tropes.

I feel very similarly about shounen.

I know it’s cheesy. I know it’s melodramatic.  I know that so many of the fights are unrealistic and drawn out and could just be over if someone would just Do The Thing (or if the villains weren’t quite so OP, too.)

But, okay, one of my favorite themes is good conquering evil–and part of that story is always how HARD good has to fight to win.

I dunno.  Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for this.  Probably it’s better consumed as an anime, even though it was the web comic that went viral.

The robot is cute, though. I now at least understand the copious amounts of fan art of him. And I do kind of love this art style when it crops up:

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So, I don’t know. I guess I’m going to go against the grain here and say, “whatever.” Have fun with it, kids. I’ll just enjoy your fan art instead of canon, k?

Not Love but Delicious Foods (Make Me So Happy) by Fumi Yoshinaga

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Baka-Updates tells me that an alternate name for this manga is Even Without Love, We Can Still Eat. I’m a little confused as to why that’s not the official name, because that sentiment perfectly sums up this extremely autobiographical one-shot manga by Fumi Yoshinaga.

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Dude, this manga is so autobiographical the main character is F-mi Y–naga, a woman who is described as “a thirty-one year old female who makes her living drawing men engaging in anal sex.”

Like What Did You Eat Yesterday? this entire manga is an excuse to write and talk about food. In fact, it’s a legit restaurant guide. The beginning gives us the whole this is a work of fiction spiel, but then ads, “But all the restaurants listed in it are real.” Each chapter ends with a location map, hours, and tips on what to order.

Not sure how I feel about this. I love What Did You Eat Yesterday? but not for the right reasons. I’m supposed to love the recipes and food shopping advice, but I actually tune in for the characters and the slice-of-life vague attempts at plot. (I skim a lot.)

I skimmed a lot of this manga, too, only I wasn’t often rewarded with much character. I found out that Yoshinaga and I probably wouldn’t get along. I’m a little like the guy she tries to date in chapter 7 who is like, “Yeah, food is okay, I guess.” (She dumps the guy instantly).

 I mean, I can appreciate a good meal, but I’m not a foodie. I don’t have the interest or the vocabulary to discuss the relative spiciness of any given meal or discern the various levels of… whatever.  Look, I’m already bored trying to figure out how to talk about how people talk about food.

However, there were, as there always is in Yoshinaga’s work, some gems.  Most notably, chapter 4, in which Yoshinaga discovers someone in her circle is an honest-to-god gay man. Literally everyone else knew. Meanwhile, Yoshinaga is all, “Well, I’ve met gay guys, but this is the first time I’ve learned someone I already knew was gay….”  They go get some foodie thing or other and then have this fascinating little exchange:

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Okay, well… so all my complaining? Turns out, Yoshinaga is well aware that what she’s writing isn’t very true to gay life.  Her friend forgives her saying basically, “Look, if I was offended by misrepresentation, I’d be pissed off 24/7.” Preach it, brother.

Kind of explains my constant state of incandescent rage.  *kidding!*

The back of the volume says that this manga is an “homage to two of the greatest things life has to offer: friendship and food.” And, for sure, it’s about food. Friendship? I guess I’d have been less cliche.  Really, it’s more like that alternate title that implies that even if life is kind of ‘meh,’ good food is a thing.

Very Yoshinaga, actually.

Shinigami no Koi by Haruno Ahiru

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I bet you’ve been asking yourself, where is all the shinigami yaoi porn, haven’t you?  Well, I found it for you in Shinigami no Koi.

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This manga describes itself as “shinigami x clumsy office worker,” and I kind of feel like that sums everything up quite nicely.  Our hero, Thanatos, doesn’t really like his job. As a shinigami, he’s supposed to watch over human’s lives. He finds humans dreadfully boring… well, most of them.  There is this one he finds amusing: Asahi Shintaro.  Shintaro is a big-hearted, goofy office worker, who has the tendency to act first, think later.  His antics make Thanatos chuckle.

So, of course, the assignment comes down.  Time to take out Shintaro.

Even though Shintaro is a favorite, Thanatos doesn’t figure it’ll be a big deal. Shinigami aren’t human. They don’t have time for all that messy copulating and procreating.  Feelings aren’t really their strong suit.

And yet…

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I have to say I’m kind of enamored with the supernatural imagery in this yaoi.  This is what it looks like when Thanatos steps out of heaven and heads down to the Human World.

Meanwhile, back in the story, Thanatos has tracked down his prey and is ready to strike him dead…i008.jpg

…when all of a sudden, Thanatos remembers a cute story of this guy’s life and suddenly falters.  The boss of the shinigami gets an instant ping (no kidding,) and, believing that Thanatos has been ‘possessed’ by this human,  intervenes to ‘change his fate.’

At first I misread the pronoun and thought that the shinigami-boss was interfering on behalf of Thanatos, but it becomes obvious that it’s Shintaro that the boss is after.  Since Thanatos hesitated, the boss plants what looks like a kitten drowning in the river. Shintaro is halfway over the rail to save it when Thanatos pulls him back. It’s only a stuffed cat.

And… here’s where things get… weird, or maybe badly translated.  Shintaro and Thanatos have a back-and-forth about which one of them was trying to commit suicide and Shintaro seems to be under the impression that Thanatos is either an escaped mental patient or trans (and/or a cross-dresser).  Irritated, Thanatos gives Shintaro a laundry list of all the ways he’s been kind of stupid and nearly died in his life, and Shintaro decides Thanatos is a stalker… but invites him back to his place anyway, to which Thanatos basically replies, “You moron, this is why you’re going to die young!”

Which is cute.

When Thanatos tries again, Shintaro is half asleep.  Shintaro wakes up a bit and sleepily mistakes Thanatos for a dream wife and kisses him.  That’s it for Thanatos, all hope of murdering this guy is out the window.  He stumbles his way out…. and gets his ‘pink slip.’

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Thanatos isn’t exactly fired. Let’s call it a semi-permanant transfer to the human world and a human body.  He’s now going by Tanato Subaru… and is working at Shinato’s office.

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The second chapter is a whole series of ways in which  Thanatos keeps saving Shintaro’s life. He keeps doing this ostensibly because he wants to be the one to kill Shintaro. It gets very silly. Though there is some serious implication that because Shintaro has outlived his due course, his body is breaking down and is now more vulnerable to death in all its forms.

Then, there’s a left turn.  While Thanatos is watching over Shintaro when he has the flu, Shintaro suddenly remembers the dreamy kiss. The memory of having kissed Thanatos triggers a desire to try out gay sex before he dies.  Only Shintaro can’t get away from Thanatos in order to try it out.  Apparently, masterbating to the gay videos isn’t the same (which we never see ‘on screen’ so this feels completely out of the blue), and so he contrives to sneak out and hook up with a pro.

Thanatos stalks Shintaro, of course, and confronts him about all the STDs he could catch… and then offers to “mimic sexual reproduction.”

They’re just getting to it when the chapter ends.

According to MangaHere, the final chapter is coming out soon.

I think I’d like this better if it wasn’t for the sloppy writing. The art is alternately very cute and very spooky.  The humor… almost works for me in the way a lot of translated Japanese humor nearly does, (that is to say, I can often see where I’m supposed to find things funny even if I don’t.)

But, I had to really think to parse what the hell Shintaro was doing with the gigolo and then we got the whole confession of how the doing it solo to the videos wasn’t working because real life was somehow hotter… and while I liked the IMPLICATIONS of that, I was like, “Wait, when did Shintaro have any time alone to even try this?  Also, hot? Couldn’t we have seen that on screen???”

Probably my issues have to do with humor, in general.  I much prefer serious stories, so, for me, the silliness got in the way of a potentially hotter storyline.  Milage may vary.

Kuma Miko / Girl Meets Bear – vols. 1 & 2 – by Yoshimoto Masume

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Comedy is a hard sell for me, but I found myself paging through Kuma Miko at Shoreview the other day. I know next to nothing about Shinto shrine maidens (miko) and I’m endlessly fascinated by other religions, so I thought I might as well take this one home and give it a try.

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I find it interesting that at some point this got translated to Girl Meets Bearsince even with my limited Japanese I know this says “Bear Shrine Maiden.” Possibly, though it’s not obvious to me by looking at the Mangahere site, that “Girl Meets Bear” is actually the title of the first chapter.

The back cover flap reads: “In the deep mountainous regions of the Touhouku area, the comedic story of the miko of bears, 14-year-old Machi, and her childhood friend, the talking bear, Natsu, takes place as Machi struggles to qualify for city-life with Natsu’s assistance.”

What’s important to note is that, while Machi really, really wants to go to high school in the city, the story actually never gets her there (at least by the ending of volume 2, BakaUpdates seems to think it’s on volume 7 in Japan and still on-going.)

Given the set-up, I initially thought we were going to leave shrine life and the humor would be all about a fish-out-water/country bumpkin lost in the big city (with a bear companion.)  But, no.  The joke is that Natsu tells Machi that she COULD go to the city, but she has to pass a series of tests to prove that she’s prepared… so we end up with jokes about watermelons (a homonym for the JR rail pass, apparently,) that go so far over my head that I’m thinking I should be studying this book myself, before I consider heading to Japan.  I almost wonder if some of the native appeal of this manga is that a lot of people can relate to how baffling life in the big city is.  As an American, unfortunately, the jokes are mostly just baffling.

Even though it’s comedic, you get a sense of life in the deep recesses of rural Japan.  We find out, for instance, that there might be electricity in a mountain village, but not gas.  There’s also another scene where the town councilman finds out that the old people in the town are expecting a ritual, but no one is exactly sure what it’s supposed to be.

Also, it’s just pretty:

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Wikipedia tells me that there was an anime of Kumamiko (as one word) that aired from April to June of 2016.  The only place I can find to watch it is a fan site, KissAnime. However, there also appears to be a controversy around the ending episode.

I’m not sure I’m going to actively pursue this manga, but I would probably pick up the third volume if it showed up at the library.  If for no other reason that I’m fascinated by the in-jokes I won’t get and the details of life we see.