Category Archives: Anime and Manga

Why Konata Izumi Is Such a Sad Character

You may remember Konata Izumi as that happy-go-lucky character from the anime and manga series Lucky Star who is a regular fountain of pop-culture references.

Right from her introduction, and throughout the series, she’s depicted as plucky and snarky. What’s more, she indulges in a high volume of entertainment media, has little filter, and happily embraces the title of “otaku”, a term with a negative connotation in Japanese culture because it means “fanatic”, and is used to describe a person obsessed with entertainment media to the detriment of career and personal development.

However, Konata is a sadder character than meets the eye. Because Konata is a fictional character, it’s easy to take for granted that she’s the way she is because that’s the kind of character the writer wanted. But in real life, people’s personalities don’t develop in a vacuum, there are reasons people are the way they are. To the surprising end of developing Konata’s character, there’s a moment in the anime that shines some light on her background, and her character becomes far more understandable.

Early on, Konata’s friends visit her at her house. While there, they find a photograph, and mistakenly identify the woman depicted as Konata. But Konata corrects them, pointing out that the woman in the photograph is her mother, Kanata.

Then, Konata drops the bomb. She casually reveals that her mother is dead, and that she had committed suicide.

Then, it all starts to come together. Konata’s heavy consumption of entertainment media is a coping mechanism, and her lack of filter and willingness to take on a title that most would consider undesirable just for identity demonstrates the kind of detachment that would naturally come with the kind of person who came to the point that they don’t care what anyone thinks.

And Konata came to that point in an attempt to cope with a broken family.

The fact is, spousal abuse is an epidemic in Japan, and in many cases, the abuse escalates to the point that the wife commits suicide. When this is the case, the woman may be leaving behind a family that attempts to cope in ways that they don’t anticipate.

While Konata’s character remains light-hearted through the rest of the series, from that point on, she appears in a slightly different light. One’s family life, particularly in their childhood, plays a huge role in how that person develops. Behind Konata’s low-filter, carefree attitude hides a tragic family life.

When Lucky Star really took off in popularity, anime fans everywhere developed a huge nerd-crush on Konata, seeing her as a character that they could identify with, and in many cases, she was declared a “waifu-character”.

But considering her family history, a man that finds a woman like Konata would have to make sure that she feels loved, rather than treat her like merchandise.

“The funniest people are the saddest ones.”

Confucius

Pokémon is Not As Childish As It Looks

The idea that Pokémon is a childish game has been around for quite some time. It’s a superficial observation, which does hold up to an extent. But some of the themes of the Pokémon games are quite a bit darker than they get credit for.

Let’s examine some of the themes of each generation of games, one at a time.

Generation One (Kanto)
Shows how casino gambling can be used to fund genetic engineering experiments which culminate in a psychotic, telekinetic battling machine.

While Team Rocket were certainly the bad guys in raiding the corporate offices of Silph Co., let’s not forget that Silph was developing a proprietary PokeBall that bypasses the will of a Pokémon and guarantees its capture.

Generation Two (Johto)
Team Rocket cut off the tails of Slowpoke to sell for profit.

Later, in what can be called a TI’s paranoid delusion having come to fruition, electromagnetic waves were employed that literally drove certain creatures within its area of effect berserk. If all you know about Team Rocket is the buffoonery of Jessie, James and Meowth, you’re not getting the whole story.

Generation Three (Hoenn)
We get to see both sides of the climate change extremes.

With the Hoenn remakes (Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire) came a postgame episode that showed all of Hoenn being threatened by an impending meteor impact. The Devon corporation proposed teleporting the meteor to an alternate dimension, where it would strike a different Hoenn region in a different timeline, instead. Yeah, for an alternate Hoenn region, it could have been death from above, with no warning and no way to respond.

Generation Four (Sinnoh)
Hoo, boy. This one is a whopper. Where to begin?

The bad guys resemble a sci-fi cult. Like many cults, the group exists for the aspirations of its leader. Cyrus doesn’t share his true motives with the rest of Team Galactic, which involves wiping out the entire universe then replacing it with an emotionless universe governed by Cyrus. Grandiose, much?

In the anime, Cyrus meets his end when he’s killed by Giratina. If you don’t know what a Giratina is, it’s a Lovecraftian monstrosity that was banished to a different dimension for it’s violence. Considering what animals in this world do just to stay alive, to be so violent to end up banished to another dimension for it is quite a feat. And judging from the condition of the Distortion World, Giratina might not have learned its lesson.

Generation Five (Unova)
The theme of this one is philosophical, but goes to show that the popularity of an idea can cause people to give up something that’s clearly to their benefit to keep. Behind it all is a cultist who stands to benefit from everyone else giving up their Pokémon, and he actually came up with a plan to change society, first through persuasion, then through peer pressure. When his plan fell apart, he pretty much went insane, even as far as railing against his adopted son, and not accepting that he lost.

In the sequel game of gen 5, the bad guy attempts to murder the main character.

Generation Six (Kalos)
Are you sitting down? You might want to. The bad guy wanted to wipe out all humanity, except for whoever happened to be in his little team, with the Malthusian reasoning that there wasn’t enough resources to go around. Like many who think like that, he’s as enthusiastic as he was because he fantasized about being the one to manage all the world’s resources.

In the anime, Lysandre became one of the few humans to have been killed by a Pokémon, when he was killed by Zygarde (Bonnie’s friend Squishy shared in the guilt). It’s hard to imagine anyone shed a tear for him, but Malva might have. She was Lysandre’s girlfriend, and a TV anchor. So yeah, in Kalos, a Malthusian infiltrated the tech industry and the mainstream information media. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Generation Seven (Alola)
As much as I’d like to say that things cooled down since gen 6, gen 7 depicts a monolithic corporation endangering two universes for selfish reasons. Then there’s all that Lillie had to go through. That poor girl watched in slow motion as her family was torn apart, first when her father disappeared, then when her mother went insane looking for the ultra beasts, then when her brother ran away from home. In the original Sun/Moon, Lusamine ended up in an intermittent coma due to the cells of Nihilego remaining in her brain, and Lillie went to Kanto to search for a cure. If Lillie grows up to be normal it’s going to be against some pretty steep odds.

The Ultra variants of Sun and Moon have a postgame story where Giovanni enlists the bad guys from different regions, from different grimdark timelines where those bad guys succeeded in their plans. Considering how screwed up some of their plans were (see above), that’s a lot to contemplate.

Generation Eight (Galar)
The bad guy imprisoned a cosmic dragon, and slowly tore it apart, one fragment at a time, to continually extract energy from it. By the time the player encountered the thing, it was nearly a skeleton of its former self. What’s more, the bad guy was willing to risk a catastrophe for the entire Galar region, just to solve an energy crisis that would have been centuries away from being significant.

Is this to say that Pokémon is mainly about its dark elements? Not really. If anything, Pokémon is about the connections that one can form as they meet people who share their interests. But to dismiss Pokémon as being merely childish is to demonstrate how easy it is to hide an edge behind a disarming exterior.

Kadokawa Announces English Similpub, Bypassing Western Localizers

If you’ve been wanting manga continually delayed as Japanese cultural references are vetted through the filter of some gender-confused blue-hair, you’ve just been handed another L.

That’s because manga publishing company Kadokawa has just announced a similpub, releasing English versions of manga alongside the Japanese releases, effectively translating manga in-house, bypassing western localization companies with a direct-to-consumer model.

That’s a win. A huge, massive, epic win. Not only does this mean that manga is no longer being passed through the industry equivalent of a Twitter puritan with an interest in making it more “safe” for the trigger-sensitive, it also means we no longer have to wait months for a translation. What’s more, it also means no more need for “scanslations” by the fans as we wait for some super-slow American localization company to translate from Japanese to English, which should be all there is to it.

What Kadokawa is doing is the equivalent of “If you’re going to take so long doing something so simple, we’ll just go ahead and do it ourselves.”

I remember that this has long been a problem with video games, until game companies such as Nintendo adopted a similar similpub approach. That was great for people like me, who considered importing copies of Pokémon in the time it takes for an American company to localize the titles, which typically took around half a year, potentially longer, in the event that Nintendo wanted to release the games in the November window, for obvious reasons.

My first import game.

All that waiting for what should have been translating Japanese text to English. If interpreters can translate speakers in real time, reading text and providing translations shouldn’t be hard. Sadly, much of the game industry is still slow in this regard, with Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea being delayed by months as the translation is done by localization company NISA.

Kadokawa’s announcement is excellent news for those who want to read manga in their own language, but at the same time, want the manga to be unfiltered, direct translations of the Japanese originals. An argument can be made by the localization companies that translating is an art form, and sometimes, a direct translation with intended nuance can be difficult to do. It might sound like they have a point, but then, who better to translate than the publishers who have a direct line of contact with the authors, and could therefore more directly determine what was intended?

When manga is translated by a localization company with their own agenda, the result can be information lost that makes the artistic expression less resemble what the artist intended. This has been a problem for a long time, but in times past, it has been easy for localization companies to get away with it. In the nineties, there weren’t fan communities that were as well-developed as they are today. Today, it’s trivially easy to find fans that know the Japanese language, and could quickly point out differences between translations and the originals, often very quickly.

It was just last week that the team of Digimon Tamers did a reunion where they faced an enemy named “Political Correctness”, which had an attack called “Cancel Culture”, in a setting where misinformation was presented unashamedly by corrupt media outlets peddling fake news. This clearly shows that the Japanese don’t have the same values as western media companies, and that they clearly view the likes of cancel culture as an enemy to overcome. Which it is.

And it was the week before that the president of Kadokawa inadvisably suggested that manga writers started self-censoring to make manga more palatable to the likes of Google and Apple. This resulted in huge backlash against the Kadokawa president, and Kadokawa itself demanded that the president take a 20% pay cut, on the reasoning that his remarks would cost the company money.

If Kadokawa had gone through with it, Kadokawa would have been the manga example of Get Woke, Go Broke, showing once-and-for-all that embracing the likes of political correctness would make a manga company less successful. But that didn’t get very far, as Kadokawa as a whole was not as enthusiastic about giving up money just to virtue signal.

And it was earlier this year that localization company Seven Seas Entertainment came under fire for publishing a light novel that was hugely different from the Japanese original, and they eventually caved and re-released the same light novel, bringing it more in line with the Japanese original. The same Seven Seas Entertainment is usually more enthusiastic about releasing manga that has the potential to be controversial, such as when they acquired the rights to publish a particular one about a decade back, but backed down when retailers threatened to stop stocking Seven Seas products.

But with a direct-to-consumer, similpub model, there wouldn’t be any need to drag manga through the localization process, or through stodgy retailers, meaning the only ones that would censor a translation of Kadokawa’s manga would be Kadokawa themselves, and Kadokawa has already demonstrated a lack of interest in self-censorship.

What’s more, a direct-to-consumer, similpub localization model would eliminate expensive middle-men from the localization process, resulting in higher profits for Kadokawa, and faster. Not only that, English-language consumers would get translations much sooner, and more in-line with the Japanese originals. Everyone wins! Except for lazy localization companies.

I know that some in the political correctness crowd might not be happy with this development, and might respond with a boycott of some kind. But what are they doing reading manga to begin with? Weren’t they aware that they were reading censored versions of media produced by writers that don’t have their values? There are better ways of coping with the fact that not everyone has the same ideas as they do, such as getting over themselves, accepting the reality of the matter that different people are allowed to express different viewpoints, and develop thicker skin. Perhaps then, they’ll come to comprehend this development as a win for them, too.

MyAnimeList has provided a list of titles that will be the first to be included in the program, some of which will be available for free for a limited time. This might be a great opportunity, so why not check it out?

Digimon Tamers Snipes At Cancel Culture

When I first saw Digimon, at first I dismissed it as another Pokémon me-too. But I gave it a chance, and discovered that it was respectable in its own right. Digimon Tamers was the high point of the series, a sentiment that’s shared by the general Digimon community.

On August 1, at Yokosuka Arts Theater, Digimon Tamers celebrated its 20th anniversary with an event where voice actors read from a script written by Digimon’s writers, which added a new antagonist to the story.

The villain is named Political Correctness. His attack is called Cancel Culture. The names were in English. And no, I’m not kidding.

An actual reading from the event by Digimon voice talent.

The Japanese seem to want to make it abundantly clear that they see what’s wrong with western culture and it’s entertainment industry, and they are absolutely not on board with it. What better way to do it than with one of the Tumblr crowd’s favorite Japanese IPs, and in a manner so devoid of subtlety that even a knuckle-dragging, horse-toothed, dim-witted ignoramus wouldn’t need what’s intended to be explained to him.

It’s true that Japan has an advanced society that favors intellect. It’s based on this perception that the PC crowd has touted the Japanese, as though they are at all sympathetic toward their various causes. What they don’t seem to realize is that the Japanese definitely do not have their values. The Japanese have a heavily meritocratic society, and heavily esteem traditional values, including those which protect the traditional family. The same could be said of much of the Asian world.

In Digimon, the bad guys are usually classified as viruses. In biology, a virus is an organism that injects instructions into a host cell in order to change the cell’s instructions, and therefore, its behavior (usually to the end of making more viruses). Computer viruses are so named because they hijack a program’s instructions in a similar way.

Cancel culture and political correctness are like viruses, but in a memetic sense. They are an instruction set that overrides a host’s better judgement, and subverts their capacity for rational thought to the end of perpetuating the memetic itself, which continually seeks out new targets towards the end of its own self-perpetuation.

While a virus eventually causes its host cell to burst, killing it, political correctness would eventually turn a person into a neurotic shell of their former selves.

With this development, the Digimon creative team is taking a shot directly at the PC crowd, sending the message that “No, we are not your allies.” It might even be what it takes for them to figure out that the Japanese entertainment industry in general is against political correctness, and interpret it as an attack on their creative endeavors and their culture as a whole.

But it’s hard to tell just how clearly you have to spell it out.

Manga Publishing President Already Backtracking Concerning “The Great Mistake”

Wow, that did not take long! Just days ago, the president of manga publishing company Kadokawa had started trending with his opinion that manga content is more extreme than Japanese swimsuit content, and suggested that he wanted matters to change so that manga would be more likely to be reviewed by American tech companies like Apple and Google.

Kadowaka president Takashi Natsuno faced immediate backlash for his comments, from the industry, from the fans, and from his own company. As a result, Natsuno has issued a public apology, and has voluntarily taken a 20% pay cut for a few months at the request of Kadokawa, which he would be returning to the company.

I’d be speculating, but I suspect that Natsuno’s earlier statement may have been virtue-signaling as damage control for his earlier statement about the opening ceremonies of the olympic games, which this year were hosted in Tokyo. Here is what he said:

“Compared to the Olympics, such shitty piano recitals don’t matter.”

That in particular was a legend statement that he didn’t need to feel sorry for. But sometimes, a person attempts to handle the situation in a manner that makes matters worse, which might be an explanation for why he would later attempt the Japanese equivalent of trying to score intersectionality points. Except, the Japanese have stronger sensibilities than western feminists, which is why his virtue signal exploded in his face.

If any SJW had any hope of infiltrating the manga industry or Japanese culture, it just vanished in a hurry, as “the great mistake” parasite didn’t last long enough to have a significant impact on the intended host company, and was eliminated quickly enough that it leaves no doubt that western intersectional politics don’t stand a chance in Japan.

I’ll be honest, I was willing to play the long game on this one. American content companies take a long time to learn their lesson, so it was a refreshing surprise that Natsuno faced backlash so quickly. And on top of that, he actually listened to criticism. That’s a far cry from the typical western CEO who is too proud to admit his fault, and surrounds himself with pusillanimous suck-ups who are too afraid to tell him that he’s wrong. Ah, the superiority of Japanese corporate culture.

As for American content companies, it seems like they’re finally starting to come around, but it might take a few years before we fully see results. Sometimes, a company figures out what’s going wrong, but they have little choice but to honor commitments that they’ve already made, unless they have a legal out. What’s more, it would make more practical business sense to attempt to recoup losses that they’d otherwise take in full if certain projects were simply cancelled, full stop.

When an entertainment company has been going in a wrong direction for a long time, there is inertia involved in getting them to change course. On the plus side, we’re already seeing some positive change in some of what Disney is offering, particularly related to Star Wars where Jon Favreau or Dave Filoni is involved. Because Kadokawa reversed course so quickly, it’s a definite victory for the manga community.

They made a show about SPED clone troopers. And I like it!

By the looks of it, Japan is still going to be the place where entertainment is still entertaining. Even though net ground has not been gained, it’s still a victory in the culture war, as it shows that intersectionality’s offensives were not sufficient to overcome, or even so much as make a dent. And with matters trending back around on the western front, victory is beginning to show on the horizon.

Manga Publishing President Considering “The Great Mistake”

For a while now, people have been turning to manga (Japanese comics) as an alternative to American comics, for a variety of reasons. It’s gotten to the point that a manga series has single-handedly outsold the entirety of the American comic book industry.

Among the reasons that people have been turning to manga is that the Japanese are less political in their entertainment, and therefore, anime and manga are yet to be poisoned by intersectional politics, or have their entertainment value ruined by reason of its wussy sensibilities.

For the most part, the Japanese have balked at the idea of their own media being influenced by western or international sensibilities. In that sense, they’ve done well in staying true to their own national identity, and as a result, their entertainment has remained entertaining.

You probably saw the title of this post, and wonder what I mean by “the great mistake”. This is what it would be called when a Japanese media company decides to compromise with the likes of intersectionality or western politics, and in so doing, alienate their audience and consequently learn the hard way why it’s such a bad idea to self-censor and lose customers as a result.

People tend to learn better when they have examples of failure, as such would provide material evidence that a certain decision is a bad idea to those for whom it is not already abundantly evident.

Takashi Natsuno, the president of Japanese manga publisher Kadokawa, has stated that manga is rarely reviewed by the likes of Apple or Google by reason of content which he considers more extreme than that of Japanese swimsuit models.

I’m going to be direct here: I’m not concerned about what Apple or Google thinks when it comes to anime or manga. I get my manga through websites like BookWalker. While BookWalker is available as an app, anything purchased through BookWalker can be read through a browser on a tablet. No need to go through an American storefront.

Something like two hours passed since writing that last paragraph. I went to BookWalker, and got distracted rereading much of Made in Abyss.

Here is what the president of Kadokawa said in a June 22nd video interview, with translation from Nicchiban:

“The fact is that there are people who have miraculously beautiful figures, and there are people who think there is value in that, and there is money to be made. I don’t think it’s fair to say that this is unfair, and I don’t think the argument about whether gravure is good or bad is valid. On the other hand, Japan is full of manga that are more extreme than swimsuit gravure. The publishing industry that I’m in is full of ‘liberal’ people, but I feel that we need to recreate standards that are appropriate for this Internet age, including such things.”

“Japan is full of manga that are more extreme than Gravure. This and other factors prevent Japanese manga from being reviewed by Google and Apple. So, I feel that we need to redefine the standards of the Internet age and determine what is acceptable for the public and what is not. The publishing industry I’m in is full of libertarians, but I really feel like we need to rethink things.”

As the article points out, it’s possible that he’s being misinterpreted, and is pointing out that the more extreme manga is difficult to host on Apple and Google. I doubt it, but if his intention was to call for self-censorship in manga, I’m not actually worried about it, for a few reasons.

For one thing, the idea of self-censorship to appeal to western audiences is tremendously unpopular among mangaka. I know that mangaka can speak for themselves in this regard, but it’s easy to see why they’d feel this way. Artists don’t like arbitrary restrictions placed on their forms of expression, which is something that western artists should be able to relate to. What’s more, if someone in an entirely different culture doesn’t like what the Japanese produce, they don’t have to read what the Japanese produce.

What’s more, Kadokawa’s position is so grossly unpopular that even if he used his sway in the company to encourage mangaka to self-censor, the more popular mangaka may use their own sway to seek out a different publisher. Though, in many cases, it’s not as easy as that. Sometimes, content creators are bound by contract. Such “golden handcuffs” are something to watch out for in the event that you want to make a deal with a company to promote your big idea, as is the forfeiture of creative control of your IP, so they’d get to decide what to do with the characters you created. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Then, on top of that, self-censorship would hurt the manga publisher’s bottom line, as readers would quickly feel alienated, and turn to another manga.

But another big point is that Takashi Natsuno is only a temporary president. He was only hired on for a couple months, and isn’t likely to remain much longer. If he’s going to fire his mouth off with such unpopular opinions, he’s not helping his career in the creative industry.

Speaking of firing his mouth off, Natsuno had this to say about the Olympics’ opening ceremony:

“Compared to the Olympics, such shitty piano recitals don’t matter.”

Whether you agree with him on the creative direction of the manga industry, he’s certainly capable of throwing out one-liners that bring down the house.

What makes censoring manga so stupid is that characters in manga are just drawings. They are just lines printed on paper (or shown on display screens, as the case may be). People shouldn’t get so hung up over depictions of violence against people who aren’t even real, or the objectification of characters who, by definition, are merely objects to begin with. They are fictional depictions, and escapist fantasies presented to people for their enjoyment. If you don’t like what’s depicted, you don’t have to consume it.

The idea that art must be a sincere expression of one’s intrinsic values or a vehicle to further a progressive message is a product of a society that has gone awry, and lost sight of the fact that art can simply be creative, without need for justification.

What’s more, people shouldn’t be stuck on the idea that something has to be accessible through the likes of Google or Apple or Facebook, or some content aggregator. If something is anywhere on the net, it’s accessible. If a person thinks that the internet is just one search engine or social media site, they’re stupid. And stupid people shouldn’t decide what everyone else on the internet sees, reads, or shares.

But they’re sure trying.

As for “the great mistake”, while it would have every chance of backfiring in a huge way, the failure it would result in would be clear, plain, and indisputable, showing what would happen when you attempt to replace the audience you already have with a hypothetical audience which hasn’t expressed much interest. If Natsuno were to go forward with “the great mistake”, he’d be a dubious kind of volunteer to make a point that few others in his industry would dare to.

Probably because they’ve been watching from afar what’s already been happening with Marvel and DC. But if a manga publisher makes the mistake, and the damage were to be localized to just one publisher, then it can be said that the SJWs tried on every platform that was available to them, wasn’t able to succeed on any of them, while keeping the damage to a minimum. While it would be better if no publishing company has to be lost, sometimes, some people insist on proving a point, even if it means someone takes the fall. In war, not every soldier gets to return home.

“No one is immune to failure. All have tasted the bitterness of defeat and disappointment. A warrior must not dwell on that failure. But must learn from it and continue on.”

Grand Admiral Thrawn

Review: Made in Abyss Official Anthology, Layer 1: Irredeemable Cave Raiders

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

Made in Abyss is just a few volumes in, and it has had such an impact that it resulted in a collaboration from the Mangaka community, the end product being this: a tome of comedy skits inspired by Akihito Tsukushi’s magnum opus.

While the original Made in Abyss manga was mainly a fantasy adventure with some horror elements, this anthology focuses more on humor, with references to the main series.

It’s tempting to say that a book like this would have limited appeal. After all, it was written mainly for those who enjoyed the original Made in Abyss to the point that they would justify purchasing a non-canon derivative work contributed to by various artists, and that’s just what it is. But Made in Abyss is such a big hit, that the anthology has a reasonably large potential audience to appeal to.

Different stylistic takes on the characters, such as this one by Yuki Hotate, is part of the anthology’s appeal.

Many of the jokes were in the original, but in this book, they were labored to the point of awkwardness. Nanachi is irresistibly fluffy, I get it. That’s not to say it’s not funny, but the jokes are obvious to anyone who has already read Made in Abyss, and just about meaningless to those who have not.

Still, the anthology does have it’s redeeming qualities. For one thing, there’s more of a look at fan-favorite characters such as Ozen, Marulk, Liza, and Prushka, who are significant to the canon story but were far from overstaying their welcome. Also, those who remember Bondrewd as a resourceful nemesis might enjoy the dissonance in antics such as his impersonation of Daft Punk. This is, of course, far easier for those who succeeded in repressing the memories of his atrocities. Poor ol’ Nanachi…

What’s more, those still relatively unfamiliar to manga may appreciate the introduction to a handful of new artists, and to a few different subsets of the manga art style.

A lighthearted take by bkub OKAWA, in a campy 4koma style. Personally, I really liked his take.

A second volume is already available. Would I spring for it? I don’t know. There’s a saying, too many cooks spoil the broth. There isn’t much expectation of consistency when there are multiple artists with multiple art styles and multiple humor styles. It helps to have focus, because sometimes, when there’s something for everyone, there might not be enough for anyone. That’s a weakness for a compilation produced by multiple artists, and why variety isn’t always a winning formula.

That’s not to say that I have anything against any of the individual artists. But if I want to read a manga by Kuro (for example), I’d prefer to get one that Kuro authored, and have an expectation of a consistent experience throughout.

From “Preparations for the Journey”, by Ike

Okay, not only am I beating a dead horse, Nanachi is hollowing out it’s skull for use in Riko’s armor. It’s time to move on.

As obvious as it may have seemed already, your likely suspicion is confirmed: the Made in Abyss Official Anthology was primarily made for those who like Made in Abyss so much that they’ll eagerly buy up the merchandise bearing its name, including a compilation drawn by some of its more prominent industry fans. If that doesn’t sound like you, then Layer 1: Irredeemable Cave Raiders is an easy pass. And you might be happy to know that it’s not necessary to enjoy the rest of the Made in Abyss manga.

To give it a score, Made in Abyss Official Anthology, Layer 1: Irredeemable Cave Raiders gets a 6 out of 10. It’s okay, but it owes much of its consistency to repeatedly telling a joke that you likely read before picking the book up. Nanachi is fluffy, but Nanachi doesn’t like being pet. It’s awkward for Nanachi.

By the way, a Nanachi plushie is a thing. But it’s in excess of $100 on eBay.

But does it smell like Nanachi?

 “From even the greatest of horrors, irony is seldom absent.”

H.P. Lovecraft

Columbia Pictures to Attempt a Live-Action Made in Abyss Movie

Have you recently discovered Made in Abyss? If so, you’re not the only one. It seems that one of the media companies that your dad still follows has taken notice, and now wants to make a live-action film based on Akihito Tsukushi’s manga. The film is set to be produced by Columbia Pictures.

That scream of horror you just heard was probably you.

I prefer to keep an open mind when it comes to this kind of thing, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that remembers the mistake that was Dragonball Evolution. In fact, it’s almost as though Hollywood hates the manga and anime industries, and are intentionally trying to sabotage them. If that’s the case, their plan has already backfired in a huge way by illustrating their failure to produce something appealing to an intended audience.

I know that Hollywood is capable of producing animated movies, so what explanation could there be for their insistence on an unwelcome interpretation, especially considering a history of repeated failure in the very same endeavor?

Another potential issue is that the manga and anime both feature children in situations that are not only dangerous, but traumatic and horrifying, and punished in ways that are likely legally not allowed. The prospect of putting child actors through what the plot of Made in Abyss puts the main characters through might raise some eyebrows. Manga and anime are only drawings, and don’t require the participation of actual children, which is one of many reasons why an animated film might be preferred.

Come to think of it, a live-action retelling of the adventure of the Ganja Squad might be interesting. If that were the case, the movie would act as a recount that gives more background on the star compass, and tells the origin story of Faputa, as told by Vueko, without breaking up the flow of the story in the anime.

Hey, open minds, right? Why don’t we save our disappointment for when they actually show something to be disappointed in? After all, people actually liked the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

Review: Nendoroid #167b: Suntanned Cirno

It happened one hot summer day: A knock at my door. Then, as I opened it, in came an ice fairy. “This is great!” I thought. “With my own ice fairy, I won’t have to pay as much to keep this place cool!” But then, she sat herself down in front of the air conditioner. This was not what I had in mind.

I decided to go for my first Nendoroid, Cirno from the Touhou Project series of video games. This would be the suntanned variant; the ordinary Cirno has lighter skin, doesn’t have the little decorative sunflower, and doesn’t come with the vine.

Here is the back of the box:

One might wonder what the significance of this character would be to me that I’d choose her out of the hundreds of Nendoroid characters available. Come on, it’s Cirno. If you’re familiar with Touhou, it won’t take long to figure out why she’s the most popular character. I liked the suntanned variant because there is a certain irony in that even an ice fairy can only do so much to cope with the hot weather.

I didn’t buy this just to leave it in a box in a closet. I intended to open it. Here are the contents:

Included is a set of faceplates and limbs, giving this expressive character’s figure a variety of possible poses. She also comes with a couple accessories, including an icicle lance, and a small frog encased in ice. If you’re wondering about the bloomers, she comes wearing another pair, which allows for different poses.

Changing the faceplate is a bit of a process. Apparently, the neck (which is articulated) is a part of the faceplate, and changing her faceplate takes undoing her hair.

I didn’t have it out of the box for long before some of the plastic showed signs of stress. Particularly, on a couple of the icy “wings” indicated in the picture above. I’m a little concerned that they might break if I mess with them too much, and goes to show that Nendoroids are mainly just for show, and not so much for the kids to play with.

There she is, set up on the stand! Cirno is adorable, even with her cocky smile. For most of the figure, the paint job is pretty basic, putting aside her hair, which has a nice subtle gradient.

One of Cirno’s accessories is a frog encased in ice. It’s easy to forget sometimes that Cirno can have a bit of a naughty side. She views frogs as inferior creatures, and believes that she has the right to freeze them if she wishes to.

And this is Cirno looking not-so-happy. Perhaps Suwako found out what she’s been doing to the frogs? It’s a bit more obvious in this picture, but the legs bend at the knees. What’s more, they also pivot where they meet her bloomers, so they’re pretty well articulated. But the feet? Not so much. It’s the stand that keeps her upright.

Notice the lack of footwear? Perhaps, when you can fly, shoes are kinda superfluous.

Here’s Cirno in an action pose! I decided that I’d go with this one, and it’s currently sitting on my desk, where the added personality is much-needed.

Now to give Nendoroid #167b: Suntanned Cirno a score. To be honest, I didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth. A typical Nendoroid would set a person back $60, or even more for highly-sought-after characters. That seems like a bit much for what basically comes down to a collection of delicate pieces of plastic.

But because I like the character, I think I can give this product a 7 out of 10.

And I think that’s really the point. A Nendoroid isn’t so much about collecting every single one as it is about having a highly-collectible figure or an attractive conversation piece depicting a character that you really like. If you don’t like the character, then really, what’s the point?

But to be blunt, I think it might be a while before I spring for another one. Marnie from Pokemon, maybe?

Manga Review: Made in Abyss (volumes 1-9)

One magnum opus, please. Hold the mayo.

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 consists of general impressions and is spoiler-free)

See that cover up there? If that alone were to cultivate your expectations, it might not take long reading Made in Abyss to discover that it’s a serious case of artistic style dissonance. That’s putting aside, of course, the many warnings circulating the web.

Made in Abyss is an excellent fantasy adventure and is one of the best examples of worldbuilding I’ve ever seen. This review is just getting started, let’s dive into it.

The story begins in an island town surrounding a deep abyss. The town’s economy depends on treasures discovered in the Abyss, with even residents of an orphanage participating in treasure hunts.

The Abyss itself is home to many monsters and other life forms, which makes trips to the abyss dangerous. However, the Abyss has an enigmatic “curse” which makes raiders experience deleterious effects when they attempt to ascend upwards. The deeper the expedition, the worse the effects.

The main character is Riko, an orphan girl whose mother is a famous raider. One day, when on a raid with others from the orphanage, Riko is attacked by a monster, but saved by a mysterious robotic boy with no memories of where he came from, or even why he attempted to save Riko. The robot boy then lived among the orphans, passing himself off as a human boy.

One day, a celebration was held in honor of Riko’s mom, who went on an expedition she did not return from. However, Riko did not give up hope that her mother was still alive. One day, she was shown a message from among her mother’s effects:

Come to the bottom. There I’ll be waiting.

If you guessed that Riko escaped with the robot boy into the depths of the abyss to reunite with her mother, knowing that she’s embarking on a journey from which she can never return, then you’re getting the hang of this “manga” thing.

As Riko and Reg journey through the Abyss, they encounter numerous life-forms that range in danger from benign to the kind of thing that even a man with a death wish would want to avoid. So nightmarish are the denizens, that this manga might even ruin leaves for you.

Much of the progression of the early story has to do with how the group copes with the dangers of the Abyss, as well as how they find the basics for survival, such as food, shelter, and water.

In the instances in which there is danger, there is a sense of something at stake, since Riko’s party isn’t just some assemblage of generic character classes (warrior, healer, wizard, etc.). Riko and her friends are dripping with personality, further supplemented by moments of levity which serve to further characterize the cast. Because, you know, just because the plot isn’t being advanced doesn’t mean the story isn’t being meaningful.

What’s more, there is a connotation of lasting consequence with every possible thing that could go wrong. For example, if someone were to fall over and hit their face on something, they might have to wear a bandage on their face for a very long time. If an artifact slips out of someone’s hand and they end up losing it, it’s gone. If someone ends up injured or poisoned, the agonizing choices that have to be made for one’s immediate survival are just the start of it.

And that’s just what nature has to throw at the heroes. Once other humans are involved, the stakes get higher over whether they are friend or foe. For example, once this guy starts showing up:

…That’s the last chance for anyone who is faint of heart to take a hike. Over the course of the series, the only one who has managed to outdo Bondrewd’s horrors was Bondrewd himself.

To describe the art style in just a few words, think Ichigo Machimaro meets Tony DiTerlizzi. The stylistic design of the characters is a stark contrast compared to how gorgeous the environments are, whether they are of the island town or the majestic landscapes of the deep abyss.

The way the characters are stylized seems to follow their intended effect. Children and more sympathetic characters tend to be portrayed with softer, rounder features, while adults generally have sharper, more angular features. While the manga obviously stars the children, the adults are in a class of their own, as they exude a certain world-weariness that would be difficult to find outside of fast-food staff.

One thing I found kinda surprising was that there was nudity. Not just that it was there, but also that it was treated as a matter-of-fact thing. It was mainly the tip-of-the-mountain that was showing; I didn’t see any tube steaks or roast beef sandwiches. But if you’re mature enough for boom sticks, grown-up beverages, and movies where things get killed, you could probably handle it.

Made in Abyss has an intellectual element, as well. A few volumes in, and the birth allegories start to become more obvious. And the more you think about it, the more you start to notice. Or is that confirmation bias at work?

From what I’ve seen so far (up to volume 9), this manga series seems excellent, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. New volumes seem to come once every few months to about a year. That’s fine, considering that it’s more likely to be a better product if it’s not rushed. Still, volume 9 ended with a cliffhanger, which doesn’t do much to make waiting easy.

There is already an anime adaptation underway, but I’m kinda on-the-fence as to whether to give it a look. It’s not that I have a problem with knowing what’s going to happen; it’s that I know what parts of it might be difficult to watch. It’s one thing to read the difficult parts, but seeing them in motion might be emotionally draining.

But hey, the warnings aren’t to discourage you, they’re to make sure you’re mentally prepared. Still, Made in Abyss wasn’t made for everyone. Some audiences might find this one disturbing.

But now onto it’s score. Made in Abyss volumes 1-9 get a score of a satisfied Nanachi out of 10.

Which, as you might guess, would be a 10 out of 10. It’s outstanding.

By the way, I wonder whether Akihito Tsukushi has heard of Cave Story?

(The art provided in this review is snippets from the reviewed manga, to give an example of the work. These are used for review purposes, and therefore fall under Fair Use.)