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.

Ao no Exorcist 87 -“Embryo” – Kazue Katou

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This title page is pretty fascinating.  It’s obviously Shiemi (Plant Girl)… who otherwise has a seemingly minor roll in the current chapter.  God, I love Katou-sensei!

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The chapter actually continues the conversation in the bath with Mephisto, Light, and Bon.   We find out that after the Blue Night, Lucifer took some of the research (the elixir, specifically) from the secret clone project and kept working on it.  Mephisto remarks tat he thinks it’s kind of amazing Lucifer managed to get the information all on his own and that he suspects a traitor.

Light has this to say…

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And does make a compelling case that it would make sense considering Mephisto used his time powers to keep a section of the secret project in existence in an alternate universe/timeline.  Mephisto is also very cagey (though vehemently denies knowing anything about) the existence of the missing Dr. Neuhaus.

Mephisto pressures Light to give up on that line of questioning. Light goes along with it, wanting to know who among the higher-ups knows about all this. We find out Angel is a survivor of the Blue Night, but remembers nothing.  The only Arc Knight involved was some guy with a monocle named Drac Dragulescu, who–if I’m supposed to remember anything about him, I don’t.  We find out he died under an alias, so maybe he’s a dead (pardon the pun) end.

When the bell rings at midnight, Mephisto says ‘times up’ and the boys are kicked out of the bath.

Light takes off and who do they run into but Angel, himself.  They have a humorous exchange in which Angel can’t believe that Light doesn’t stink for once and gives all the credit to his new apprentice, Bon. This scene is entirely played for laughs, but I was weirdly unsettled by it. I think it unnerved me because so far, everyone Light and Bon have met, completely ignore Bon, like he isn’t even there.

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Look at this. Dude even remember’s Bon’s name.

Creepy.

At the Paladin Headquarters Light goes to see Azazel, an entombed Grigori.  (Normally, I have all of this Biblical reference stuff, but I did not know that Grigori were a thing.  Here’s  what the Internet tells me about them: “The Grigori, (also known as The Watchers) The mysterious eighth order of angels, the gentle Grigori were created by God to be Earthly shepherds of the first humans.”)

Bon later calls Azazel one of the ba’al, but I assume he’s just using the Hebrew here, generally meaning ‘lord,’ and not Ba’al in specific.

There’s some discussion about where the ba’al reside. Apparently,  some live in Hell (aka Gehenna) but three “emperors” are here:

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Then we meet the watcher and get additional information that he’s a substitute nephillim (who takes on Azazel’s form in an emergency) because Azazel’s line died out.

Or…. did they?

Because when Light goes up to see what remains of Azazel (he refused a body and so returned to an elemental state,) Light calls Azazel “gramps”

Then we get a very dramatic scene of Shiemi (Plant Girl) waiting through the rain for dawn.

After that, we flash to Academy and everyone gathering at the steps talking about winter break. Seems everyone is skipping it to stay at school, Christmas is Rin and Yukio’s birthday and everyone shares theirs and discusses how they skipped it.  Shiemi rallies everyone to the idea of a joint birthday party… while dropping the bomb that she’s decided she isn’t going to be an exorcist after all.

Something is going on here and I’m deeply worried.  I think with the title and everything we learned here, Shiemi is going to be set up as one of the clones.  I do think she looks an awful lot like Lucifer (frankly, I think Angel does, too, but whatever.)  So…

I guess this is a wait and see game.

I continue to be impressed with Blue Exorcist.  How about you?  Thoughts?

Futouhen Sankakkei no Teiri by Agata Ito

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Sometimes when I’m trying to write a sexy scene for my fan fiction, I end up looking for inspiration by meandering down the yaoi hashtag on Tumblr. I came across a rather, shall we say, intriguing (very NSFW) image and I thought I would take a chance and check this one out.

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Futouhen Sankekkei no Teiri is basically a porn movie set-up.  I guess that’s intentional  since our hero, Onose-kun works at a video store.  It’s closing time, and a cute guy, Ikumi, wearing one of those surgical masks people put on when they have a cold brings up a hard core gay porn movie to  check out. His rental card is expired, so there’s some bureaucratic hoops to jump through before he can just walk out with his pick.

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Ikumi stands there, the more ‘sick’ he seems.  Onose is both concerned about him, but also, you know, takes the opportunity to check him out.

Like you would.

 Onose is totally straight, of course, TOTALLY, but, you know, how it is in these things–just one whiff of Teh Gay and, suddenly, you’re considering things you never thought of before.

And, there’s a bit of hurt/comfort going on here, because look at this poor guy!

When Onose finally closes up for the night, he sees Ikume clinging shakily to a lamppost.  There is some discussion about what’s wrong and Ikumi let’s slip that maybe he’ll be fine, if he could just get used to the the vibrations. Onose is all, “???” but suggests maybe he could help Ikumi get back to his place, since he just happened to notice his address on the renewal form and it wasn’t far from the shop.

Ikumi lives on the top floor of a swanky apartment and, much to Onose’s surprise, someone else is home when they arrive.

Roommate suggests Onose come in for a while, maybe have a cup of coffee or beer as as thank you for helping Ikumi home.  Onose is feeling a little weird about it all because, well, for one, he kind of hoped to ditch and run, but also Ikumi’s heavy breathing and flushed face in the elevator on the ride up was kind of turning him ON.

Things, of course, are about to get a lot weirder (or, depending, a lot hotter.)  Yes, it’s nice of you to help Ikumi out of his suit so it won’t get wrinkled, Onose, but, no, no one thought that buzzing at Ikumi’s backside was a phone ringing, except you.

So yeah…

Sexy times ensue.

We do find out that Ikumi is doing what he’s doing as a dare, but that’s because roommate knew that Ikumi had a crush on Onose.

One warning, in case it’s a squick of yours, the “roommate” turns out to be older brother.  Normally, I don’t read incest, but I got suckered into this one as the reveal isn’t until the very end (though I kind of figured… it was easier to pretend they just happened to look a lot a like until the confirmation at the end.)

The sex is explicit, fairly hot, and to my taste (which I think has been established is fairly perverted.)  So, if you can get over the whole ‘they’re brothers’ thing, I would recommend it to you.  After the amazing art of In These Words, Futouhen Sankakkei no Teiri seems flat, but it’s decent-to-good art–certainly more than tolerable for a one-shot.

In These Words Vol. 2

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I couldn’t stand not knowing was was going to happen next SO MUCH that I actually ordered the second collection of In These Words directly from the publisher.

It came today.

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The story picks up just where it left off in volume 1.  Serial killer Shinohara has cornered our psychologist hero, Asano Katsuya.  There is tazering.  There are threats and fondling. Sexual torture ensues.

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In the middle of it, we discover that the ‘dreams’ Asano has been having are based on reality.  Shinohara takes a picture of the scars on Asano’s back and shows them to him.  Much, “This can’t be true” is said.

Then, Shinohara takes Asano back to the very warehouse where he was tortured in all his dreams, where we discover….

…Shinohara isn’t the same guy that tortured Asano.

Similar looking, but no. Not at all.

Here’s where things get weird and a little confusing. Because, all of a sudden we get flashbacks to where Shinohara recruits Asano to work for the police. That’s right Shinohara isn’t even a bad guy. He’s just been play-acting one, in the hopes of triggering Asano’s proper memories.  In fact, this entire prison thing has been a ruse to try to get Asano over this massive mental block he had over the true identity of his torturer.

The last two-thirds of the book is devoted to the meet-cute, which involves going to a love hotel in order to look through case files in private. (Don’t ask. It actually kind of works, though.)

We also find out that Asano totally deserves his campus nickname “Ice Queen” because after their first VERY VANILLA hook-up Asano lays out the rules and they’re basically, “Look, this is just f*cking, don’t fall in love, don’t tell anyone about us, and don’t ever touch me in public.  I make the appointments and you show up if you want some. Otherwise, it’s all off. And I bite your dick off.” (Seriously, he demonstrates on a piece of steak.)

So, I’m guessing this is an on-going thing and I’m just going to have to wait until there’s a third volume completed before I can get to the end of this thing. Because from what I can tell the ACTUAL serial killer is still at-large somewhere and just being f*ck buddies isn’t USUALLY where these sorts of stories end — although maybe? Still, there’s been no plot resolution whatsoever, and I kind of have to figure they’re at least going to try to catch the real villain at some point.

Was it worth the $ I spent to have it shipped? Totally. This thing is GORGEOUS. There are amazing pull-out ‘posters’ and every page is very well-drawn.  I’m a little disappointed it’s not wrapped up in two volumes, but I can wait.

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