Ekrano by Kitoh Mohiro

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I’m still trying to find another science fictional manga as cool as Wombs, and I kept striking out.

Ekrano is clearly a one-shot chapter that’s been pulled out of a larger work. On the scan you can see page numbers that start in the hundreds.  It doesn’t seem complete, though Baka-Updates suggests that it is.

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If this is really the whole story, the emotional arc could be summarized thusly: hot-shot, high schooler pilot Solotto and her stick-in-the-mud companion, Shiruru, argue about the merits of doing your homework, especially Algebra, while killing mutant space-whales.

The mutant space-whales are actually on Earth. They were mutated when we brought asteroid harvested resources to Earth, having exhausted our own. The asteroid-based metals brought along bacteria, etc., that got into our oceans and in the air, and now basically the habitable bits of Earth have be colonized by space-infected-monsters. Humans live in floating cities, patrolled, apparently, by complaining high schoolers in skimmers.

Baka-Updates is convince this came out in 2012, but the art style reminds me of the original Star Blazers that I watched in 1979.

Especially, this guy:

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Shiruru, the Algebra-loving wet towel.

Is it worth reading? I mean, it will take you less than ten minutes, so maybe?  But the art is very rough and the plot is almost non-existant.  If the art style were hyper-realistic it might be more worth is, but as it stands… nah, I think you can safely skip this one.

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This is about as good as it gets.

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Blue Drop / Buruu Doroppu by Yoshitomi Akihito

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After having such good success with Wombs, I went to Baka-Updates looking for more science fiction.  I hit the tag “aliens,” just to see what came up.  The first one I found, was élDLIVE, about a middle schooler who hears voices in his head (which, according to the summary, will turn out to be something more mysterious than, say, run-of-the-mill mental illness).  I gave up after several pages because it got too silly for me and, probably more importantly, I found myself underwhelmed by the art style. I link it here, however, in case someone else might like to check it out for themselves.

Blue Drop, however, I stuck with. There wasn’t a lot of it, for one, and, secondly, I so rarely run across yuri that interests me, and this one was billed as science fiction, to boot.

It was an odd one. The summery reads thusly:

A collection of five sci-fi one-shots from the creator of Eat-Man, set in a world where people are still dealing with the repercussions of a war fought with aliens many years ago.

Yeah. Repercussions…

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… like child soldiers, who are turned into bombs for “self-sacrifice”?

A weird similarity to Wombs, actually, this idea of injecting something into people to turn them into living bombs.  In Blue Drop, however, it’s always young girls and the injection is done not with impregnation, but by a syringe and a “vaccine.”

Not that that plot point is immediately evident.  The first one-shot, “Broken Angel,” starts in the middle of the action.  A young girl is being taken somewhere by helicopter. A mysterious women jumps aboard and rescues her.

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We find out this mysterious woman, Yui, is a member of the resistance, who feels that forced self-sacrifice (i.e. the human bombs) isn’t self-sacrifice at all, but, well, you know KINDA evil. Also, the girl just happens to look like a former lover that the Yui lost years ago.

Yui, we find out in later chapters, has blue eyes because she’s half alien.  All of the aliens who invaded Earth, look exactly like us, except for these startlingly blue eyes… oh, um, and they’re all female (and all SUPER GAY.)

In fact, the aliens (even the half-alien Yui) are so gay that they’re a bit handsy and rape-y.  Pretty much, any time they’re given five minutes alone with a human female, they’re on top of them trying to kiss them or rip off their shirts/pull off underwear/etc. It’s actually kind of startling, especially since much of the rest of the story is kind of action-packed and very sci-fi.

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Most of the stories follow Yui and her various rescue missions.

However, “Tenshi no Itszura” 1 and 2, which starts  with a typical middle school love confession (except between two girls). Misaki-chan turns down Tomo-chan because she’s kind of into her teacher and she suspects that maybe Tomo-chan is more interested in a puppy-lovey thing and Misaki wants the va-va-voom, if you know what I mean.  The teacher she’s hot for is kind of a weirdo, even for the aliens. She jumps into the school swimming pool that’s dry as a ploy to get Misaki chan to jump in to help her… so she can try to rape her.

Luckily, Tomo-chan comes to the rescue with a pool hook to the head.

The second one is even odder, because we continue to follow the weird teacher and her bizzaro seductions. I this one the teacher lies on the beach and tells a passing girl student that she’s been attacked by an octopus and the only way to save her, as an alien, is to get the kiss of a human girl.

Weirdly, this works.

Except, once again, a girl who likes the gullible one comes to the rescue.

But, yeah, this one was kind of weird.  Every once and a while, I thought ‘hey, it’s all science fictional, yay!’ and then it would just go full on porn-y, with almost zero warning.  I dunno, though, I mean it was a sort of fun, fast read?  So maybe it’s to your taste?

Wombs by Shirai Yumiko

 

I love me a good science fiction manga and what’s not to love about pregnant soldiers with the ability to translocate (because, um, they were implanted with…um… aliens.)

 

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I was turned on to this one by a friend who read the first volume in paper.  However, you can find 32 chapters (about 4 volumes) of it on Manga Here.  Baka-Updates reports that Wombs was published in Japan in 2009 and is complete in 5 volumes.

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The story follows Mana Oga, a new recruit in the Special Transfer Corps.  Like any good army buddy story, Mana’s got a charismatic, if foul-mouthed, commander, Sargent Armea, and a diverse, rag-tag gang of colleagues.

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The nerd, the hot-head, the space-case, and the character with plot-turning mysterious backstory.

I would be more snarky about the all army tropes this one hits, but I found it weirdly compelling because it’s SO weird, so science fictional.

The action takes place on a planet that humans (presumably from Earth) have terraformed and colonized… only, we’re not the only colonizers out there, and someone else arrives to lay claim to the planet. We were on Hekiou first, so we’re in constant battle with the more technologically-advanced new colonists (who are decidedly inhuman), which we, cleverly, refer to as Seconds.

The unit that our hero, Oga, is attached to is the human colonists’ “secret weapon.”  Somehow… and it really doesn’t bear considering how... we discovered that human women could be implanted with neibass embryo and that this caused them to have the ability to cause massive physical dislocation.  Initially, the army used these women as human bombs, impregnating them and dropping them out of airplanes.

But, at some point, (either the humans or the neibass evolved and) a woman learned how to use this bifurcation/dislocation of space to travel between focal points that the neibass have left behind.

So, now women use this ability to drop soldiers into areas for combat (and, of course, bring them back out again.)  The creepy/cool part about all this is that the embryo are GROWING inside the women, and they have a symbiotic relationship… they’re really sort of pregnant, only not. The military normally removes the neibass before it comes to term, and then some of the career military types, like our Sargent Armea, go back and get re-impregnanted.

There’s this whole culture in the women’s units of “within only” spaces. “Within” meaning that you have something living within you… but you get better food, there’s recreation involving male strippers, all sorts of special allocations (but nothing motherly, because there’s an attachment danger….)

Fascinating stuff. A very compelling story, especially since there’s also obviously mysteries involving what the human military’s real agenda is, what the Seconds are up to, and of course what *is* this weird inter-dimensional space that the women can enter in and out of.

And, you know, this isn’t shounen, but seinen is written for those who have aged-out of shounen, so there are hero power-ups and main characters with super-special unique abilities.

In short, pretty much everything I like. (I mean, there’s no porn, but… damn the Sargent is pretty damn hot):

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I like that all the women are fully-armored (thus, fully dressed) and physically trained to be good soldiers.  There’s a lot of competence porn going on, honestly, so maybe–so long as you stretch your definition of ‘porn’–it hits ALL my buttons.

Gangsta. 45 by Kosuke

The newest chapter of Gangsta. is out. MangaTown has it.  Go check it out.

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As my loyal readers already know, I’m not a huge fan of the Gangsta. spin-off, Gangsta.: Cursed. So, I’m disappointed to discover that our beloved mangaka is still quite obsessed with Marco and his former gang of evil Second Destroyers (who, for reasons known only to Kosuke-sensei have a Russian name).  This entire chapter is devoted to more of the same blood and and death.

Which is, I’m sorry to say, BORING.

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Literally, for me, the only moment of interest is a tiny flashback scene featuring the younger versions of our heroes:

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Literally the only thing I care about: my two bae.

 

I am, however, glad that Kosuke-sensei is still writing and producing, so I will quit my complaining and thank my lucky stars for that.

 

 

Spider-Man by Hirai Kazumasa & Ikegami Ryoichi

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If only the rest of the manga looked like this….

I’m doing some mindless cooking (it makes sense) and so I decided to hit the “surprise me” button over at MangaPanda again.  This time it turned up a singular chapter of the 1970s Spider-Man manga by Hirai Kazumasa (writer) and Ikegami Ryoichi (artist), and I thought, “Okay, why not?”

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For me as a long-time Marvel fan, probably the best part of this was noticing the differences between the Japanese version of the main character of what could arguably be considered Marvel’s flagship title.

The most notable difference is the name.  Gone is Peter Parker, and in his place is Yu Komori (his name sounding quite similar to the Japanese word for spider: kumo.)  Yu is still very nerdy and spends his after school hours in the lab, where he is bit by the self-same radioactive spider that gives him the same superpowers as his American counter-part.

The other startling difference is that in place of Mary Jane is a pen pal, Rumiko.

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Aunt Mei (May)

Rumiko introduces the shounen element here.  She comes to Tokyo to enlist Yu’s help finding her nii-san.  Their mother is sick and is in desperate need of a million yen to pay the hospital bills, but elder brother has gone missing and, being a country girl, she doesn’t know her way around town.

Yu agrees to help her.

Meanwhile, TOTALLY COINCIDENTALLY, there is a bank robbing cyborg on the loose: Electro.  He’s been stealing from banks, almost like he’s desperate for money for something. This is a departure from what I remember about Electro.  I thought he was just a guy who got hit by freak lightning, but in this universe somehow people instantly assume he’s a cyborg (maybe this is just Japan. You know, “Oh, another kaiju… no, one of them cyborgs.”)

Yu doesn’t put two-and-two together though, until it’s too late.

In fact, he helps Rumiko follow her brother’s trail until it grows cold. Yu figures he has failed in his promise to help Rumiko either find her brother or get the money to help pay her mother’s hospital bills. That is, until the Daily Bugle newspaper (the one the Marvel Spider-Man is a photographer for) offers… wait for it…. a MILLION YEN prize to anyone who can capture or kill Electro.

A big fight ensues and Yu rips the mask off only to find…….

Yeah, Electro is Rumiko’s nii-chan.  Life sucks for Yu.  He gives Rumiko the money (with no explanation) and she leaves hating Spider-Man for having killed her elder brother.  Yu is left with guilt about the enormity of the responsibilities involved with superhero-ing.

Despite the massive origin story differences, I would say that, emotional arc-wise, this Japanese Spider-Man is exactly who Spider-Man would be if he were originally from Japan and not Queens, New York, if that makes any sense.  I guess what I mean is that this kind of crushing sense of ‘am I a monster or a hero?’ feels very Marvel.

Also I love that Yu has a pen pal!  That’s both so very 1970s and so… dorky (she says as someone who is an avid pen pall-er well into the 2017s.)

Would I recommend this?  Uh…. maybe as a historical document.  The art is old-timey and not really what I hardly even think of as manga-esque.

Ja mata!

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?

RahXephon by Yutaka Izubachi & Bones/Takeaki Momose

Once again, feeling kind of at a loss for something to read, I decided to hit the “surprise me” button on MangaPanda.  The random generator directed me to this: RahXephon, which is categorized as: action, mecha, ecchi, drama, and seinen.

Important for my current needs, it was considered complete at sixteen chapters.

I read the whole thing.

I’ll be honest, ecchi and hentai are usually two labels I avoid.  You and your straight sex is fine with me, so long as you do it behind closed doors, okay?  (*teasing!*)  But, you know, there’s a little truth to that, in that I’m happy for the labels so I chose to read or not.

This time I chose. So, I’ve really never read anything that’s been considered ecchi before, and now I feel I understand this term a bit more.  It involves a lot of nipples–either being seen through clothes or actually full-on naked shower scenes–and panty shots.  Wikipedia tells me that ecchi is more playful and less explicitly sexual than hentai, and I would totally agree with that assessment. Ecchi felt to me like super-aggressive fan service, to the point where I wondered if this was supposed to be a science fiction harem manga.

But, whatever. Personally, I found it little distracting from the story (like I do most fan service), but milage may vary.

The concept behind RahXephon is kind interesting.  Seventeen year-old Ayato Kamina grew up reading Wizard of Oz, and I was hooked by this introduction to the manga:

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And we very quickly discover, in the vein of the movie “The Matrix,” things are really not as they seem.  In fact, Kamina isn’t even living in the TIME he thinks he is….

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With this strong hook, the story actually skips back to set-up a bit about who Kamina is.

He’s actually kind of annoying.

He has a tendency to blow off Reika, a girl he grew up with–who lives with him, in fact, but who isn’t related by blood.  She’s kind of an adopted sister, but she’s clearly got a crush on him.  He’s been pushing her away pretty much their whole life, including one time so hard she fell off a wall and scarred up her back.  Kamina is currently trying to discourage Reika’s affection by hooking up with another girl.

Bickering over the boy ensues.

I would have been bored by this already, except when Kamina is being hauled around between the arms of his two warring love interests, we cut to a scene of someone in futuristic military-esque garb who is spying on them.

Then, the sunglass-wearing men in black arrive who try to kidnap Kamina, with some noise about his special ability. The spy, a woman named Hiroka, shows up in the nick of time and kicks the butts of the men in black and our real adventure begins at last!

Hiroka breaks our heroes into an underground facility where they start to realize that, maybe, they’re underwater?  Moreover, there’s a giant egg that holds a super powerful robot that Hiroka says is a threat to her people’s existence.

When asked who her people are, Hiroka basically says, “Earthlings.”  She informs them she’s working for TERRA, the future United Nations.

Okay, there’s a surprise.

Turns out, our heroes have been living in a bubble.  Literally.  The people inside what is known as Tokyo Jupiter think it’s 2015, but in actuality it’s 2033.  And, Tokyo has been secretly controlled by a race of blue-blooded alternate-Earthlings called Mulians, (“Mu” for short). The Mu are obsessed with reversing the timeline and reverting Earth back to their ancestral paradise (an odd sort of Aztec-ish fantasy world).  To do that, however, they have to control this robot, known as RehXephon, which is reputed to have the power to alter reality by granting the wishes of its pilot. Of course, the only one who can pilot RehXephon is our hero, Kamina.

Kamina decides to join forces with TERRA and helps wage war on what are essentially his own people.  And, it turns out, the connection is deeper than that.  His own mother is the leader of the Mu.

Dun-dun-dah!

Despite using every opportunity to show off naked/half-naked lady bits, there’s actually a lot going on in this manga.  We learn early on that the connection RehXephon has with Kamina extends to Reika, his adoptive sister/love interest.

In fact, one of the things I ended up enjoying about RehXephon (kind of despite myself,) is that all the intriguing mysteries that were set-up from the start get revealed.   Like, even though it’s kind of standard to just have the audience accept the ‘chosen one’ trope, we eventually find out WHY RehXephon has a connection to Kamina… and Reika.

The villains are villainous, but they also have a reason for doing what they do.  I was a little disappointed in Mom, if only because we never really saw (in the manga, anyway,) why the so-called paradise is so much more appealing than “filthy” Earth.  I would have preferred more There there, but my imagination could fill in.  It wasn’t like TERRA didn’t have faults, and one could extrapolate from what we see that maybe all of Earth had become a kind of military hegemony.

But, by in large, (ignoring the random boob shots), the story was satisfying.  It started out being about the conflicted relationship of brother/lover, that conflict was central to the plot, and ended with that relationship resolved/healed.  Tokyo is freed from the tyranny of the time/AU alien overlords and the (false?) paradise lost, but the reader is left with the impression we saved the right people for the right reasons.

There is sacrifice and there is loss, but like Dorothy in Oz , our heroes embrace the ‘real world’ over the fantasy one.

The end.

Would I recommend you read it?  I’m not sure. The boobies were awfully distracting (SO. MANY. BOOBIES.) and the story veered so far into cheesy that, at one point, I stopped reading to check to see WHEN RahXephon was written, expecting to find that it was from the 80s, or something.

Turns out, no.  It was made in this century. Early in this century, but still this century.

It was at this point that I discovered that this story was simultaneously produced with an anime https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RahXephon (26 episodes).  I guess, even though it sounds like the anime is quite different in several regards, I might recommend that, if my description of the story sounds interesting to to you, you should try the anime, instead.  Most people I know prefer to binge watch a thing, and this might be a good candidate for that. I’d love to hear from someone who has already watched it, or chose to watch it after having read this.

I’m not sure if I’m going to bother tracking the anime down.  I like the premise all right, but it wasn’t as grabby-hands for me as, say, Psycho Pass. Like, I read all the way to the end, despite all the perky/exposed nipples, but that was enough for me, you know?

So not exactly a ringing endorsement, I’m afraid.