Category Archives: Anime and Manga

Western Comics Getting Gutted By Manga and Webtoons

I grew up with the likes of Batman, so it kinda saddens me to see how things are going for the Dark Knight, and his compatriots in western comic books. But at the same time, I don’t want to see Batman succeed for the wrong reasons. And with DC and Marvel comics having become full-on woke rags, it’s pretty much necessary for those comic companies to tumble, if it means that they’ll learn a few things as it happens.

If you’ve been following along, you already know that manga has been killing the hell out of western comics. As I’ve already covered, manga sales in the year 2020 were three times that of DC and Marvel sales combined. As pointed out by Deb Aoki on Twitter, EuropeComics has posted a graph which visualizes just how much hell is being killed out of western comics:

To further highlight the mayhem:

The first four publishers on that list are manga publishers, and each one of them outsells both Marvel and DC combined, with Marvel and DC placing numbers 7 and 8 behind Korean webtoon publishers.

It looks like no one is buying western comic books anymore, and I wonder why?

Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s because Marvel and DC have gone full-on woke, with DC having started a yearly publication starring characters whose sexual preferences are the most front-facing aspects of their personalities.

Did DC really publish this with the expectation that anyone reading it would feel like they’re being taken seriously?

Now, I get it. Your boomer parents and grandparents grew up with Hanna Barbara bullshit like Hong Kong Phooey, and would therefore feel threatened by anything from across the ocean that might challenge them, which has a lot to do with why they’re among the few left who are currently providing Marvel and DC as much support as they have. I also get that they grew up in an age where it was rare for cartoons to be made for anyone besides children. Even so, the idea that children don’t deserve better products just because they’re children is just an excuse to produce inferior products, which in turn conditions children into becoming adults willing to settle for mediocrity.


I read manga because manga takes me seriously enough to present me with entertainment without beating me over the head with the blunt end of whatever misguided moral that the publisher wanted to push, as though they couldn’t trust me to think for myself.

If the story is about a golden-haired dude battling it out with a galactic tyrant on an exploding planet, the comic doesn’t need to do anything to further justify itself. If some cook is facing off against his dad because of some deep-seated grudge, we don’t need a PSA telling us not to pick on people who like buttsecks. If some deranged scientist performs horrific vivisections just to enhance his capacity to explore come caverns, he’s plainly the bad guy, it’s not necessary to make him a Nazi, as well.

If western comic book heroes are to succeed again at some point in the future, they’re going to have to go back to being, you know, heroes. It’s going to take a whole lot of swallowing to down all the pride needed for Batman and the Avengers to come back up from where they currently are.

But in the time it takes for them to do it, I’ve got plenty of other things to read.

Manga Analysis: From Star Strings

Author: Akihito Tsukushi
Status: Concluded (one installment)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Psychological
Localization: Not localized
Rating: Not Rated

(This analysis discusses plot elements, and thus contains spoilers.)

I was browsing the Made In Abyss subreddit the other day, when I found a topic linking to other works by author Akihito Tsukushi. Among the stories that I found was a short story written by Tsukushi in the manga format, called From Star Strings (links to MangaDex).

From Star Strings is relatively short; it’s a one-off one chapter work, about 70 pages long, that I read through in about a half-hour. It told a compelling story about a girl who lived alone, having a planet to herself, who set off on a journey. Like many of Tsukushi’s works, the artistic style is like a combination of that of Tony DiTerlizzi and Precious Memories, but with something of a dark edge.

I suggest following the link above to read the story for yourself, and form your own first impressions before continuing on with this article. There are spoilers ahead.

The protagonist this time is a young girl who doesn’t know where she came from or anything about her life prior to having an entire planet to herself, which conveniently simplifies her motives. She also knows little besides her own name, which is Kuroru, and how to speak, which is conveniently just enough for her motivations to be communicated to the reader through monologue.

But let’s not fall into the trap of asking distracting questions.

On her little world, Kuroru had a sprawling, Earth-like environment to explore. She had plenty to eat, little to no danger, and did not want for anything. Except for one thing: she was alone. And having explored her own world, she deduced that there was no one else there.

One day, Kuroru happened upon a red, glowing string. One end was on the ground, and the string extended into the sky, beyond the girl’s ability to see the other end. She imagined that there had to be another world like hers on the other end.

She worked up the courage, and began tugging on the string. Then, minutes later, vibrations returned through the string that stretched into the sky. It seemed as though she finally made contact with another person!

Over the course of days, Kuroru would tug at the string, and await a response, which would come shortly afterward in the form of movement of the string. At one point, she thought to play music on the string. As before, she got a response.

One day, Kuroru decided that she’d meet the person on the other end of the string. But to do that, she’d have to climb the string to the other end. This would not be easy, as she had trouble gripping the string with her bare hands. What’s more, she did not know the distance she would have to climb to traverse the space between planets.

This page was selected to be representative of the artistic style of From Star Strings. Consistent with Tsukushi’s usual style, we see a cute character set in exquisitely-drawn environments.

So, she started preparing. She practiced going hungry to accustom herself to going without food, and dipping in water to accustom herself to holding her breath. She made herself a pair of gloves to help her grip the string. She packed food for the trip, carefully determining what she could preserve. And she even prepared a gift for the person she expected to meet.

And then, Kuroru began her climb. At first, the climb was difficult. As she ascended, she eventually saw the tops of the clouds. Then, her own world became a bright, round and shrinking light beneath her. With gravity relaxing it’s pull, the girl was able to make greater distance with her strength.

As one of the story’s fantastic elements, the girl didn’t have a problem with breathing in space, and her temperature wasn’t an issue. But as her equipment began to wear, and there was no end in sight, the girl was in a great position to appreciate the enormity of the distance between planets.

If you’re familiar with other works by Akihito Tsukushi, you’re likely aware that he’ll sometimes use dark elements in his storytelling, to convey a sense of danger, and the possibility that things can go wrong for the protagonists. Such is the case in From Star Strings, where simply dozing off or losing her grip could send the protagonist drifting through the unfathomable abyss of space, never to be found by anybody.

But, in time, a sphere of light appeared in the distance, growing in size as the girl drew near! So she pulled herself towards it, and as the light expanded, she began to make out the landscape!

However, she did not arrive gracefully to the new world, as she lost her grip and plummeted a short distance to the new world, being injured upon impact. Surveying the new world, the girl’s heart sank. She did not see the kind of greenery she saw on her own world. The ground beneath her feet didn’t seem dependable, and shifted in places. And, worst of all, there didn’t seem to be anyone else around.

The girl arrived tired and hungry to a world that was inhospitable. No food or potable water awaited her. And there was no company. The vibrations that returned to the girl through the string were apparently generated by the girl herself, having returned to her after making its course across the string. It seemed like a terrible end to a fantastic journey.

But it was not over yet.

In time, Kuroru learned to live on her new world. She was able to procure “food” to eat. Curiously, the stones were edible to her. The girl was even able to make a shelter for herself somewhere in the shifting landscape. And she recovered from her injury, though it initially seemed fatal.

It was different from her old home. But she was alive. She found her own way to survive and form a routine of sorts in the marginal world. And she made a doll for herself, a sad attempt to cope with her loneliness and disappointment. Each time a doll was broken, she’d make a new one. Interestingly, she gave any doll she made the same name as herself, as this would make it easier to cope if anything were to happen to them.

But then, one day, she found it.

A string. Not the same red string that connected the world Kuroru remembered to the one she was on, but a blue string intertwined with a thinner blue string. It was previously inaccessible due to the shifting landscape.

She made a determination to climb the string, to make it to the hypothetical world on the other side. She did not hesitate to make this trip in the same way as she did for the first one. It took her less time to prepare herself.

What’s interesting is that, if Kuroru could have made another, similar trip, she could have returned to the world she had come from. On her previous planet, all her basic needs have been met. All of them, that is, except one. She was all alone, and while her old world was hospitable, there wasn’t anyone waiting for her there.

To the end of fulfilling her strongest desire, she was willing to climb a different string, not knowing what awaited her, on the chance that a person would be on the other end.

The last few panels suggest the kind of world that might have awaited Kuroru on the other end. However, the manga concluded before her journey ended. Did she make it to the other end? Was the world that we saw in the last panels the one she would have arrived on?

I don’t know. To take one from Tsukushi himself, let’s imagine.

From Star Strings was obviously intended as an allegory for those who pursued a path with hope, only to be disappointed. Yet, hope still does not completely disappear, because as we continue on, we may find another opportunity to go where we want to go, and for our wish to come true. The world can be harsh and unaccommodating, but we are not the world that we live in. And, in a sense, our world is something we can decide on for ourselves.

From Star Strings is recommended reading. And I give it a score of 8.5 out of 10.

You’re on a journey, aren’t you? But it’s not over, is it?

Review: Made In Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness

Developer: Chime Corporation
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Action RPG
Rating: Mature
 Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC

There isn’t usually much expectation that a video game based on a manga or anime would hold up when compared to the original source material. But when considering how beloved Akihito Tsukushi’s Made In Abyss is, one can hold out hope that the developer and publisher would understand just how important it is to the fanbase to do justice with Made In Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness.

While one may consider it a pleasant surprise when a game is released months ahead of schedule, if you’ve been following the game industry long enough to develop a little cynicism, you’d see it as a sign that the publisher decided to rush it, perhaps because funds were starting to run a little low. Or, as was likely the case with Binary Star, Spike Chunsoft wanted to rush the game to market while the recently-aired second season of the Made In Abyss anime is still fresh in the memories of viewers, and the game is in a better position to profit off the popularity of the license.

That’s not to say that Binary Star was a bad game. The skeleton of a highly ambitious project is there: great worldbuilding, an intriguing story, well-fleshed-out characters, and great potential for treasure-hunting mechanics. Of course, it’s easy to point out that these are owed to the source material, and that the follow-through would be in the efforts of the game developers. And that’s where things start to falter.

This game would be a blast if it weren’t for a few bad design choices that could have easily been decided against. The most notorious of which would be the repeatedly-spawning enemies. Normally, when a game character is placed in a sprawling, expansive environment, the player’s tendency is to take a minute or two to bask in the beauty of the scenery they are presented with. But don’t take too long doing that in Binary Star, because when you enter a new area, a timer ticks down, and when enough time passes, enemies start spawning. And they’ll usually teleport into existence right behind you, as though the game itself has a problem with you just wanting to chill.

If this sounds like it might be an annoyance to you, you might want to go for the Steam version. Some clever players have developed a mod which prevents enemies from spawning in such a way. Otherwise, you might end up getting triggered at the sight of ferrets.

I get the idea that the game makers had a hard time deciding whether to closely follow Riko’s adventure from the manga, or give players a new, customizable main character to go on his/her own adventure. To the credit of the game makers, they decided on including both. However, it’s obvious that the meat of the game is in the new main character’s campaign, while Riko’s story (which only includes her adventures up to the second layer) acts as a kind of tutorial that’s a few hours long.

Unfortunately, to get to the better part of the game, to complete the tutorial first is mandatory. And as far as tutorials go, it doesn’t really work that great. Riko and Reg are likely to annoy you as they repeat the same lines over and over again while traipsing about in the Abyss. It won’t take long for you to get used to the fact that Reg “senses something” when he and Riko are in no immediate danger.

This is one game that isn’t to be judged by the first few hours.

While I’m complaining, I can also point out that the “strains of ascending” are a huge inconvenience. I know that it’s a huge part of the worldbuilding in Made In Abyss, but from a game mechanics perspective, it’s likely to bust your groove when you want to, you know, go up.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the irony that some twisted jerk built a staircase in a place where the very act of ascending causes people to barf.

But as much as I can think of to complain about, I found myself enjoying Binary Star quite a lot, especially when I got to the point when I could play the main campaign. That was when I could finally create and name my own customizable character, and have him interact with the other characters in Made In Abyss. And the execution was compelling and addictive enough that I eventually developed a forbearance concerning the game’s shortcomings.

The story follows a child who joins Belchero orphanage alongside a group of other kids. At that point, it’s been months since Riko departed into the abyss in a quest to find her mother, and since then, the other children began to speak of her as a legend. You might have noticed a dark undertone in the reasoning for training orphans to mine in the abyss, as there’d be fewer people who would miss them in the event that an expedition turns tragic.

If you see tendrils bordering the screen, you might want to wait a few seconds to acclimate. If your character barfs, he/she can get hungry again in a hurry.

The action in the game takes place in the Abyss, where you’ll have to make careful judgements as to what dangers to brave and how far you’ll go, considering that at the end of an expedition, you’d have to make a return trip. As you journey, there are many things to account for, such as what supplies you brought, what healing items and food you brought, and the weight of the treasures you find, considering that there’s a limit to how much you can carry before your character is slowed.

In addition to the HP bar, you’ll also have a hunger bar, which decrements with time. Hunger is something to account for when making longer trips, as when the hunger bar is depleted, your character becomes helpless. There’s also an energy bar, which depletes when the character takes an action. However, it’ll completely restore when the character stands still for a few seconds, as long as the character is not starving. However, it doesn’t recover on its own when climbing a rock face, which places a limit on how much you can climb at a time.

It’s possible to cheese some of the more dangerous primeval creatures, if you’re patient.

There are also status conditions to watch for, such as two different kinds of poison. There are also arm injuries, which temporarily limits the actions you can take with your arms, and leg injuries, which temporarily decreases mobility. Special items heal these conditions in a hurry, which is great, because some of them can be a serious problem when a dangerous monster is upon you!

While the game isn’t heavy on delivering the tension, there’s still a sense that things can go horribly wrong, even from just a moment of poor judgement. Just slipping on a rock face can result in your character falling to their death. It seems that this game’s M rating is largely owed to how grisly some of the possible deaths are. In some cases, it seems a little gratuitous, but it’s not as though the Made In Abyss series was made for kids.

Evil ferrets.

Made In Abyss is one game where if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. While in Orth, you can plan for runs into the Abyss, with shops for replenishing your equipment, food, and medicine. There’s also a facility for selling off relics that you find for money. You also have access to your room, where there’s a chest where you can decide what to take with you. There are also many armor items, but many of the more effective ones add significantly to your weight allotment. It’s a judgement call as to whether it’s worthwhile to settle for a particular armor set, or upgrade for a set that might be worth the weight it adds to your gear.

It bears pointing out that your character doesn’t gain EXP directly from beating enemies, you mainly get those from selling relics and completing quests. Thus, it’s usually better to avoid dangerous primeval creatures unless you need their drops or you have some other reason for fighting them.

It’s generally better to pick a cap with a lamp, even if it’s not the highest-defense option.

As the story progresses, more main missions open up, the completion of which can lead to the player growing in rank, such as from Red Whistle to Blue Whistle. Growing in ranks grants access to more skills, which can then be unlocked with points that players accrue by leveling up. Some of these skills are quite significant, and can increase the number of items that can be crafted, and improve other skills, such as mobility when climbing or dodging, or even increase the bag’s weight capacity.

It’s a bit of an indulgence, but there is some enjoyment to be had in having your own customizable character interact with characters from Made In Abyss. You can even give your character heterochromia, if stereotypical OCs are more your thing. And like stereotypical OCs, you can proceed to have them befriend just about every established character in the series that appears in this game. Having said that, there are at least a couple established characters which, if I were to see them while walking down the street, I’d cross to the other side of the street.

There are a few boss characters, but with a few exceptions, they’re some pretty simple battles that can be cheesed. But this doesn’t bother me, as the boss battles aren’t really the main point of this game. Once you’ve completed all the boss battles and most of the game’s major objectives, you’ll come to a steep drop-off in reason to continue playing. Sure, you could continue to take on missions and develop White Whistle skills, but there isn’t much at that point to do with those skills.

While spawning enemies can be annoying, you can use them to your advantage. They can become a great source of food and other drops.

This is one game that can be pointed to as being highly ambitious, and having a lot of potential just from the source material, and while there are some redeeming qualities, the whole deal is held back by an apparent rush to an early release date, and some poor design choices that could have easily not been made.

I think an appropriate score for Made In Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness would be 6.5 out of 10.

This might be one race to the bottom that you could get behind.

UPDATE: Literally, update. Among the changes in version 1.0.3, you can skip the Hello Abyss mode and go right into Deep In Abyss mode, which is where the meat of the game is. That’s great for players who might lose their patience with the initially-mandatory pseudo-tutorial mode.

But that’s not all, they also changed the system that spawned in minor enemies when you spend enough time in one area. Not by eliminating that mechanic entirely, as I might have preferred, but by making it take more time for the enemies to spawn in. I gave the game another try, and I noticed that it took much longer to get attacked by evil ferrets.

It seems the developers at Chime were aware of gamers’ biggest complaints, and they addressed them. That’s great for those who are still on the fence on whether to give Binary Star a try. But the update came weeks after I already completed all the game’s major objectives, so they wouldn’t make that much of a difference for me unless I decide I want to give this game another go.

Missing a better initial experience with a game that ends up getting an update is one of the ways that the game industry, in its current form, would punish a gamer who rushes through a new release like a freak.

Ash Ketchum Finally Does It!

Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town has finally done it! In the latest episode of the anime, Ash defeats Leon, the standing #1 trainer in all the world, in the World Coronation Master’s Eight tournament! In so doing, not only has Ash defeated the previously-undefeated Leon, the 10-year-old trainer has finally succeeded in becoming the world’s number one trainer!

It’s been a long, long journey. After all, the Pokémon anime has been running for 25 years, starting from it’s debut episode on April 1, 1997. In that time, Ash has gone from having little apparent talent or knowledge (but a whole lot of enthusiasm) to a skilled and competent trainer. You might remember if you were following along in the early episodes, but his first two gym badges were awarded to him outside of battle, and it wasn’t until his third gym challenge that he earned a badge. But since the Indigo League, Ash has developed a lot in competency. Even though it took a while.

Since starting out on his Pokémon journey, Ash has won some significant victories. Ash progressed high in the Indigo League, which was a feat, considering it was his first tournament. Ash also won against the Champion in the Orange League, and later obtained all the symbols in the Battle Frontier, a feat that impressed Scott so much that he extended Ash the offer of becoming one of the Frontier Brains (which Ash declined). It wasn’t until Ash became the Alola champion that he was ranked among the other champions.

As a champion, Ash got to battle in the World Coronation series, where he took on (and overcame) champions such as Diantha and Cynthia, the latter of which seemed nearly indestructible when Ash first witnessed her battle. All this culminated in Ash’s battle with the world’s number one trainer, the previously undefeated Leon.

In case you’re wondering about spoilers, public screenings of Ash’s victory were displayed in public in Tokyo:

And even though the episode has only aired in Japan so far, the English-language The Pokémon Company has announced Ash’s victory on Twitter within minutes of it happening:

So no, it wasn’t realistic for you to avoid knowing this before watching the anime for yourself, especially with fans all over the world discussing it.

One question that would understandably come up is where the Pokémon anime would go from here. We already know that the anime picks up with Ash’s friend Goh, who goes on an expedition to locate the mythical Pokémon, Mew. As of this posting, we are a week away from the release of new installments of the Pokémon video games, the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet versions for Nintendo Switch. The setting for the games will be the new region of Paldea, based on the real-world locations of Spain and Portugal. If Paldea is the setting for future episodes of the anime, Ash could continue as the main character there. But as for what his goal may be, we don’t yet know, as Ash is already the world’s number one trainer. But it’s possible that future episodes may focus on new characters, such as the new protagonists Florian and Juliana.

Florian (left) and Juliana (right) as they appear in Pokémon Scarlet

As things go for the Pokémon anime, it’s when one journey wraps up that another follows close behind, and this is usually timed to occur with the release of new installments of the Pokémon games. That Pokémon’s marketing machine is well-oiled may have a lot to do with why it’s the highest-grossing intellectual property in the world’s history.

This is undoubtedly a huge day in the anime world, as Pokémon has been one of the most popular and longest-running anime of all time (this is episode #1221). But if Ash can become a Pokémon Master, and Naruto can become Hokage, then perhaps we’ll see the day that Luffy finally finds the One Piece treasure. But I’m not counting on it happening anytime soon.

Congratulations, champ! Now, what are you gonna do next?

Was the Crystal Onix Early To Terrastallizing?

When the Dynamax phenomenon was first revealed in a trailer for Pokémon Sword and Shield, some players recalled that certain oversized Pokémon had already appeared in the first season of the anime. First was a Dragonite just a few episodes in, then a Tentacruel a few episodes after that. Later, we’d see more in the appearance of giant Alakazam, Gengar, and Jigglypuff.

While it’s not likely that a connection between the appearance of these Pokémon and the implementation of a new gameplay mechanic decades later was intended as of the time of their first appearance in the anime, it’s still fun to think that they might have factored into the thinking of Game Freak as they developed Sword and Shield.

But with the upcoming Pokémon Scarlet and Violet games, there is a new mechanic, called “terrastallization”. This makes a Pokémon take on a crystalline appearance, as well as gain a new type.

As tantalizing as it may seem, there actually is precedence for such an occurrence in the anime, decades prior. To see it, we’d have to go back to the Orange Islands. The Pokémon I’m referring to would be the Crystal Onix.

In the early days of Pokémon, the Crystal Onix captured the imaginations of fans everywhere. Not just for its dazzling appearance, but also for the fact that it seemed to resist the Water types that would normally lay an Onix out flat, but was weak to Fire moves, which they usually resisted.

As it so happens, terrastallization doesn’t just change a Pokémon’s appearance, it also changes its type to whatever Tera type that the individual Pokémon has. Based on the evidence provided, we can determine the type of the Crystal Onix, as there is only one type that resists Water but is weak to Fire, and that type is Grass!

It’s interesting to think that decades prior to the implementation of terrastallization in a main Pokémon game, there was already a similar concept shown in the anime. But what do you think? Does this look like a coincidence to you? Or might the Crystal Onix have been in Game Freak’s consideration as they were developing Pokémon Scarlet and Violet?

Anti-censorship Mangaka Wins Seat In Japan’s House of Councillors

In a huge culture war victory, mangaka Ken Akamatsu has just won a seat in Japan’s House of Councillors. He ran as a member of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, and became the first mangaka to win a seat in said house.

By the way, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party is similar to America’s conservatives, and a mangaka is an author of Japanese comic books.

This is a culture war victory because Ken has strong anti-censorship views, particularly concerning manga (Japanese comic books). He’s of the opinion that if westerners are interested in manga, they should have them as the author intended. He was also outspoken against proposed legislation which would have outlawed many doujin (unofficial, independently-made manga) because the legislation in question would have been overly strict in handling copyrights, and made no distinction between drawings and photographs when it came to depictions of nudity.

Considering this, it seems likely that Japan’s mangaka are going to continue to hold strong in resisting western pressure to adopt woke themes in their work, and with a mangaka now championing them in public office, their position is getting stronger.

Because Japanese entertainment is free of woke themes, many are turning to manga and anime as an alternative to the politically-charged comics and cartoons produced by western entertainment companies. Foreign influencers recognized that this is happening, and have attempted to include manga and anime in their sphere of influence, to various degrees of failure.

It was just last year that the president of Kadokawa expressed his belief that manga was more extreme than swimsuit content, and that he wanted the company to change so it would be more likely to be reviewed by western tech companies like Apple and Google. Because his words had the potential to cost his company a lot of money, he was made to take a pay cut, which included paying back back-pay.

Prior to his election, Ken Akamatsu was most famous for Love Hina, a comedy about a boy who made a promise to meet a girl again upon attending a prestigious university, but forgot her name. As he studies for the entrance exam, he becomes the manager of a girls dorm.

It stands to reason that those in the creative arts would take less kindly to attempts to censor them, but things aren’t always so straightforward. With western media companies, it’s usually the companies that have creative control over IPs, and the IP creator usually sides with the media company because they don’t want to risk losing involvement with their own brainchildren. Western media companies tend to bow to vocal minorities, in part because they wish to avoid the potential for negative publicity, but also because western activists tend to be entitled and belligerent. Worse yet, western media companies tend to lack either courage or principle.

Japanese media companies tend to be more principled, and what’s more, because the manga industry is highly competitive, mangaka tend to make fewer choices that would risk alienating their audiences.

Principled and based.

Japan now has someone in their House of Councillors to represent mangaka and those who read manga, and he has a strong anti-censorship position. The woke mob continues to lose ground.

Review: Girls’ Last Tour

Genre: Slice-of-life, science fiction
Studio: White Fox
Original Author: Tsukumizu
Status: 12 episodes as of 2017
Platform: Amazon Prime

Sometimes, it comes out of nowhere: an anime that you’ve never heard of catches your attention. You give it a watch, and it surprises you because what you just saw was effectful for how understated it was, and for how little attention it gets. And it’s thoughtful enough that one can ponder its themes days after watching the finale.

Girls’ Last Tour (GLT) features Chito and Yuuri, a couple girls journeying through a desolate futuristic cityscape aboard a kettenkrad (a small, WWII-era utility vehicle). As they journey, they converse with each other, make discoveries, and learn more about their world through these discoveries.

Here’s the official trailer:

While one might imagine a post-apocalyptic setting to be grim, dark, and edgy, GLT is lighthearted in tone. While the girls do sometimes make difficult choices concerning their own survival, the survival aspect is eclipsed by the philosophical undertones.

The Girls’ Last Tour anime is based on the manga of the same name, authored by Tsukumizu. Those already familiar with the manga will see that the anime follows the manga closely. But while the manga has a messy but emotive look (comparable to Ueda Hajime of FLCL fame), the art in the anime has a more basic, clear look. In either case, it’s clear that both manga and anime are made with a whole lot of heart.

As is typically the case for slice-of-life programs, there is a particularly strong emphasis on the personalities and interactions between the characters. In GLT, the stakes are a lot higher due to the fact that there are only two main characters.

The main characters are Chito, a diminutive and reserved character who is often quite meditative, and Yuuri, an impulsive, free-spirited person who wears her heart on her sleeve. The two are nothing alike, resulting in the two frequently expressing difference of opinion as they find themselves in different scenarios. Which is one of the joys of this show.

The differences between the two characters makes their positive attributes more evident. Chito is a bookworm, but Yuuri doesn’t know how to read, so she’s slow to see the value of books, or keeping a journal. Yuuri is more physically inclined, being a better aim and being better at swimming. Neither one of the two can do everything on their own, a point that their experiences prove well.

The two sometimes beat each other up.

Perhaps I’m imagining it, but it seems to me as though GLT does more to portray Chito in a sympathetic light. Which is perhaps to be expected concerning an introspective character in a light-hearted, philosophical slice-of-life anime. But there are times when Yuuri’s relatively care-free approach wins out, and makes Chito’s concerns seem perhaps unnecessary. One of the two is more prone to worry, and while the case can be made for that being beneficial for one’s survival, sometimes the case can be made for worrying very little.

Over the course of their journey, the girls find joy in the little things: food that they find, fuel to top off the kettenkrad, enough water to bathe in, and sometimes the odd artifact. In rare cases, they might even find another human being. And there is a lot to find in the huge, multi-level city that is GLT’s setting.

Sometimes? Often.

As one watches GLT, they may take an interest in the show’s lore. What is the girl’s mission, if they have one? Where did they come from? What is their destination? How did the city get to be in the condition it’s in? How far ahead in the future is the setting?

The show doesn’t do much to answer these questions, aside from the occasional clue. But it seems as though answering these questions isn’t the point. For all the worldbuilding that’s there, it serves the purpose of providing the characters with a setting. Having established the setting, the focus of GLT is the interactions between the protagonists. And Chito and Yuuri are two characters that reflect off of each other so well that to dedicate an episode just to expanding lore would seem like a distraction.

No one will card you after the world ends.

And when we get into the brain-fuel that GLT provides, I almost don’t care how the world ended. Besides, there are many, many anime out there that’ll happily tell you the many creative ways that the world could end. And personally, I think there’s more new ground to be covered when the purpose of life is pondered by two girls who can easily find joy in what they find, rather than be miserable that they don’t have what someone else has.

Having watched the first season, I wondered whether there would be more. The 12 episodes we have now account for most of the manga’s story. However, the few chapters that are left would only fill a few episodes. Thus, a second season seems unlikely to happen unless it involves a lot of filler. And it’s been a few years since season one concluded. Thus, it’s unlikely that Girls’ Last Tour will be picked up for a second season.

Thus, if you’re interested in how the story concludes, the fifth volume of the manga picks up where the anime leaves off, while volume six closes out the series.

Girls’ Last Tour season one gets a score of 8.5 out of 10.

Girls’ Last Tour is a lovingly-crafted, intelligent show. I recommend giving it a watch. Then, go out there and live the best life you can live.

Review: Made In Abyss (Volume 10)

Author: Akihito Tsukushi
Status: Ongoing
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Horror
Localization: Seven Seas Entertainment
Rating: Older Teen
Available to read online on BookWalker, fees may apply.

(This review contains commentary, and therefore contains spoilers. You’ve been warned.)

Volume 10 of the translated version of Made In Abyss has dropped, as of last week. For those who have been waiting to read this installment of Akihito Tsukushi’s opus in the English language, here you go. This installment picks up where the last one left off, wherein Reg and Faputa were fighting over the fate of the village of Ilblu, but things weren’t looking great for Reg. And with no more line of defense for the village, Faputa became free to engage in unmitigated mayhem.

If you’re new to Made In Abyss, you might expect a light-hearted romp from these cute, endearing characters.

But anyone who expects anything as light-hearted from Made In Abyss hasn’t been following along. While the rest of the series used imaginative concepts for its horror elements, Volume 10 is notable for its heavy gore. At times, I even found it hard to look at. But hey, I’ll still take it over the cheap jump-scares of American horror films.

Tsukushi is great with expansive, beautiful landscapes. However, those take an aside this time around, as much of the action takes place within the crumbling walls of the village of Ilblu. I found myself appreciating the use of perspective when communicating the enormity of the Turbinid Dragons, which tower over the protagonists like skyscrapers.

Much of this volume centers around the strangely-endearing character of Faputa, who initially engages in her genocidal rampage with a singular focus. However, when Belaf imparts his memories to her, she begins to change. But rather than cease from the aforementioned rampage, she becomes less motivated by hatred and more by duty. But even then, she develops the desire to seek her own value and live for herself.

It’s great to see Nanachi back in the action, but it’s mainly Belaf who intervenes between the two of them, and the bunny doesn’t seem to contribute much. Which lends to the fan theory that Ilblu was originally intended to be Nanachi’s point of departure, but Tsukushi changed his mind when he saw how popular the character became.

But then, Ilblu ends up destroyed, so where would he have ended up? It might be interesting to see what role Nanachi plays in future chapters.

But there’s another problem, and that’s that what was created in the village cannot survive outside it. And with the village being destroyed, Riko’s new friends are about to say goodbye. What’s more, the village’s ability to protect from the strains of ascension are dissipating, and we get to see a particularly grotesque transformation as a result.

When all is said and done, Reg extends the offer for Faputa to join the party. While many fans would crane their necks to hear the answer (especially if it’s “yes”), Faputa instead leaves us in suspense as she decides that she’ll consider it, before wandering off on her own.

Sure, she just engaged in mass-murder, but she’s so adorable, right?

So, what’s my opinion? Is Made In Abyss Volume 10 worth 1000yen (about $8) on BookWalker?

(This image was censored for this review. This scene was not censored in the English publication.)

I give Made In Abyss Volume 10 a score of 9 out of 10.

If you’ve enjoyed the series up until now, Volume 10 is a safe purchase. And I think series loyalists would appreciate the conclusion of the Ilblu arc. What’s more, the excellent artwork and storytelling of Akihito Tsukushi are also there. It’s a welcome addition to a fantastic series, and I’m not disappointed with it, at all.


It Happened: DeSantis Officially Revoked Disneyland’s Special Privileges

If you put money on Disney pushing sexual perversion on children without consequences, then you just lost money. But probably much less money than you deserve to.

Disney’s special privileges gave Disney the authority to operate Disneyland nearly as though it were its own separate state, granting them special tax privileges and even so far as granting them the authority to build their own nuclear power plant if they wanted to.

However, a bill was introduced which would revoke Disney’s special privileges. After passing the Florida senate and the Florida house, the bill reached the desk of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who signed it. Now, Disneyland has to compete fair and square with other theme parks.

Now, leftists are screeching because large multimedia corporations are being held to account and made to play fair. It’s an irony that you’ll recognize unless you somehow missed the left’s close relationship with multimedia conglomerates, tech oligarchs, banking cartels, the corporate information media, retail giants, academia, the energy sector, the military-industrial complex, among many others.

This is just the latest episode of a drama in light of Florida passing the Parental Rights In Education Act, which has been deceptively termed the “DoN’t SaY gAy BiLL” by the self-appointed thought police who believe you’re too stupid to think for yourself.

The alphabet soup crowd in Disney’s employ spoke up in protest, and even though the protest was an utter failure from a numbers perspective, Disney’s upper leadership decided that they wanted to avoid any bad press, so they decided that they’d create content that exposed more children to sexual perversion.

Which, by the way, is the exact opposite of what you’d want to do if your aim is to avoid bad press.

Sure, the leftist journos celebrated Disney’s bRaVerY, as one might expect them to. But that’s one circle jerk that left out the general population, who didn’t respond as kindly:

Over two-thirds of people are less likely to do business with Disney in light of their desire to expose children to sexual ideas, and about the same amount are likely to seek out family-friendly alternatives to Disney.

Disney doubled down, as one would expect from a fanatical leftist. So, DeSantis decided that if Disney is going to get into politics, they’re going to lose the special privileges that were previously afforded them by the state of Florida.

This is how we win. Challenge the fanatics, and force them to show their true colors. The only thing the left knows how to do when challenged is to overplay their hands, so they’re going to behave predictably when things aren’t going their way. Then, make sure they experience their well-deserved consequences.

Also, as relates to corrupt entertainment media companies like Disney, one should seek out alternatives. It’s not even as hard as you might think. Putting aside The Mandalorian, Star Wars hasn’t been doing that great lately. And as for Marvel, things have been coming apart since the conclusion of Phase 3. Disney has a bunch of classic movies that you probably saw as a kid. But putting that aside, Disney doesn’t really have much going for it on Disney+.

Before seeking out entertainment alternatives, I want to point out that the idea that the heroes of entertainment media must inform people as to moral principles is a misguided notion. The fact is, entertainment media is just made up, and shouldn’t inform anyone’s moral compass. I point this out because too many people point to their entertainment as something that informs them of their virtues, as though this was necessary to justify it.

The fact is, entertainment is only supposed to be entertaining. That’s the entire point.

Your best defense against malign influence in entertainment is understanding that your moral values are decided independent of the entertainment you consume. Hopefully, you understand that watching a show about an unethical hero doesn’t mean you should emulate his unethical actions.

If you’re seeking alternative sources of entertainment, I can recommend manga and anime. While Japanese entertainment has been the target of negative press in recent times, this is largely because the corporate media understands that they have no control of Japanese entertainment, outside of perhaps a few localizers.

From Mobile Suit Gundam 00

What’s great about anime and manga isn’t just the esoteric appeal, it’s also that many, many genres are represented. Some anime are comedies, some are horror. Some anime are adventure, others are drama. Anime is great because you’ll find something for you, whoever you are.

Another great thing about anime is that it’s produced in a culture that is untouched by cancel culture. Thus, the writing is not inhibited at all by the delicate sensibilities of a bunch of screeching snowflakes who seemingly have no idea how to ignore something that’s not according to their tastes.

From Cardcaptor Sakura

Another great thing about anime is that even the stuff that’s made for kids doesn’t insult their intelligence. Of course, a lot of it is made with the expectation that you’ve done your diligence as a parent and have already taught your kids that cartoons don’t teach them how to behave.

I’m going to reiterate this because it’s really important: Parents need to do their due diligence by teaching their kids that cartoons do not teach them how to behave. It’s not as easy as just telling kids as much, raising children actually takes effort!

Because my generation is familiar with the likes of Family Guy, American Dad, and King of the Hill, they should understand that there are cartoons that kids would not appreciate as much, and some that aren’t made for them. In anime, there are many cartoons that were made for grown-ups, so grown-ups aren’t being left out.

From Ghost In the Shell, an anime with a more mature edge

There are alternatives to Disney, and some of them are vastly superior. With western entertainment companies increasingly going woke, our best bet seems to be anime. If you want a suggestion in addition to the other anime pictured, Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki is generally considered a great place to start. Really, just about anything by Miyazaki is considered a classic.

From Spirited Away

The flow of the era is coming around to our favor. But in the time that it takes for companies like Disney to learn their lesson, they have to take a few hard hits. In the time that it takes for that to happen, it’s not a bad idea to find some alternatives. At this point, anime and manga seem like the best way to go. And why not go for it, if you haven’t already? You’re likely to find something that you like.

You might even find that you’ve been watching anime, and didn’t know it.

From Pokémon: XY

Crunchyroll Dropping Free Simulcasts, Sentai to Withdraw 60 Anime From Platform (pay attention to headline)

According to Bounding Into Comics, anime streaming platform Crunchyroll is set to end their free simulcast program, which presented anime at no charge with commercial interruptions. Not only that, they’re pointing out that Sentai Filmworks is withdrawing 60 anime from the platform.

Because both stories are being presented in the same headline, it may appear that the two are connected. Which they are, by virtue of the fact that both stories involve Crunchyroll.

From the story as presented, one might even get the idea that Crunchyroll would be done with simulcasts, altogether. But in typical journalist fashion, the clarification comes a couple paragraphs in:

“For the Spring 2022 season and future seasonal releases, Crunchyroll will update our offering on simulcast titles by subscription tier. To view new and continuing simulcasts, a premium monthly or annual subscription will be required.”

So, Crunchyroll is still doing simulcasts, as a paid service. I get that Crunchyroll is not viewed in a favorable light, but does the headline have to be worded in a way that allows the reader to make the worst assumptions? Journalists know that many people just read the headlines as they browse, so they word their headlines in a manner that cultivates the assumptions of those browsing, while burying the real story a couple paragraphs down, knowing that it’s usually the first paragraph that’s sampled when the page is indexed by search engines.

I usually like Bounding Into Comics, but I’m disappointed with how they handled this. Tsk, tsk.

Having said that, I recognize that the anime community has legitimate grievances with Crunchyroll, largest of which being that they have a bad habit of using the platform to express their own political biases, which is especially inappropriate considering that what’s localized is Japanese content, which came from a culture that doesn’t have the same California-metro culture that embodies the bulk of misguided activism. Then there’s the fact that they’ve thrown a huge chunk of their budget behind High Guardian Spice.

It’s my opinion that translations should be handled in-house, by the original producers, as they (along with the author) would have the best idea which cultural elements are most significant to the work. And for that matter, they’d likely also realize that consumers of Japanese animation are not babies, and would therefore be able to comprehend that something originating from Japan might have Japanese cultural elements. It’s also my opinion that the producers should be the main distributors, not some middle-men such as Crunchyroll.

While localizers may be loathe to admit it, they’re still in competition with pirates. Even as far back as the mid-2000s, teams of free localizers could produce a subtitled version of an anime episode within days or perhaps even hours of its broadcast on Japanese television. While professional localizers may claim that they’re producing a higher-quality product months (or even years) after the original broadcast, the fact is, for the typical anime fan, even a cheap-o pirated sub will do.

Considering this, it’s easy to see that, as is the case with simulpub with manga, simulcasts are the best that anime publishers can do when in competition with pirates. Even then, it’s still not enough to sway those willing to wait a couple days if it means getting the product for free.

Thus, it becomes a practical course of action for publishers to appeal to those willing to financially support them by ensuring that they don’t have to wait for it. Otherwise, fans might find it more appealing to wait for their peers to translate anime and manga if it means it becomes easier to fill up their tanks.

What’s more, that popular anime can flit from one streaming platform to another might make it hard to follow anime with a license that changes hands from one streaming service to another. If you follow a great many anime, you might face the expensive decision of subscribing to multiple streaming services at a time.

Of course, many of us might remember a time when anime was a far more expensive hobby. Remember when an anime movie on VHS could set a person back as much as $50?

Crunchyroll just lost a lot of content, and they just became less appealing as a budget option.