Thoughts on Haji-Otsu

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Note: I haven’t actually read this manga to completion yet. I’m waiting on the last chapter to be scanlated, but I have a feeling I know how it’s going to end anyway, so I’m jumping the gun here a bit. Forgive me. I won’t ever do it again.

Haji-Otsu is a manga with one key strength: cuteness. It has cute characters, cute-looking characters, a cute premise, and an adorably pure execution of said cute premise. While some may see the covers of the volume releases as slightly suggestive, it also conveys the type of atmosphere this story holds. An innocent airhead who is afraid of men is encouraged by her friends to confess to a guy she doesn’t actually have feelings for as a test of courage. When you confess to a complete stranger, you don’t expect them to take you seriously, right? Unfortunately for her, the guy she confesses to accepts her feelings and they enter a romantic relationship. Oh, my gosh! What a turn of events!

While Haji-Otsu thrives on cuteness, it also thrives on setting the scene. One would expect the bulk of the story to be the relationship between this newfound couple and how they interact with one another through this awkward situation. Though it does to a point, it decides to use it as a “for special occasions” sort of storytelling. The story is about these two people as a couple, but it tends to focus more on the side characters and how the male and female lead take their friends’ advice on various things. Putting it simply, it likes to spend more time talking about this unplanned romance rather than showing it.

  • Male and female lead walk home together.
  • Female lead talks to friends about male lead the next day.
  • Male lead talks to friends about female lead the next day.
  • Friends of both leads give them advice as to how to close the gap.
  • Both leads nervously try to execute said advice, and either don’t or do with unintended consequences.
  • Depending on the result, male or female lead will dwell on it for some time.
  • Start over from step two.

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One could say that this process of storytelling is repetitive and lazy. They would be correct. However, to give it some slack, the characters that are placed within the romantic relationship are so innocent, even the thought of making physical contact with one another will turn them into jelly. This is incredibly unrealistic, but it justifies the slow and experimental pace that this story treads upon. It is also justified by the female lead’s “fear” of men. I, for one, question her supposed “fear” of men, as she was nervous around the male lead for quite some time, but she never seemed genuinely frightened or threatened. I feel the “fear of men” is more of a plot device than a genuine adjective. She’s just incredibly shy. And pure. And nice. Regardless of the justifications, the story still begins to stale upon the halfway point, when the luster of cuteness begins to dim with the prospect of inevitable melodrama.

I’ve mentioned this before, and I feel I’ll mention it several more times in the future, but is it truly so satisfying to see a shy, quiet character turn into someone who is slightly more talkative and bold by the end? I feel the easiest type of character to develop is always the shy, kind-hearted ones. All one has to do is give them a character to care about and let time pass and suddenly they have the courage to make a hard confession or something. That’s what most of these stories amount to, and Haji-Otsu is not breaking the mold here. Only difference here is that every character is kind-hearted. While some are reserved more for comic relief or the voice of reason, all kinda blend together into this gooey, sugary sweet that is sure to cause some cavities. They all want what’s best for their friends or partner, and none of them ultimately stand out because of it. Male lead, check. Female lead, check. Male comic relief, check. Female comic relief, check. Male voice of reason, check. Female voice of reason, check. What makes this even more apparent is that the side characters hardly get any attention whatsoever. There is some indication of a blooming romance between a few side characters, but it’s never truly developed. The story meanders along with the slow and steady progress of the main couple, which serves as a good inducer of sleep by series’ end.

The ability to overlook these flaws is not completely obvious. After all, I enjoyed this manga plenty for the first fifteen chapters or so. Despite the slow progress of the main couple, the plastic purity of every character, and the looming drama, the story does itself well as a cutesy, first love tale. The circumstances that start the relationship is dumb, but since they’re rolling with it, may as well make it as sweet as possible to smooth over any nervous anticipation. Any sucker for sweets (like me) is sure to have an enjoyable time reading this manga at its sweetest. Pure characters are bland and lack any sort of impact for drama, but as a light-hearted, coming of age romance, they’re a dandy selection. Just expect them to take about five hundred chapters to finally show each other some skin.

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What helps tremendously with the cute atmosphere is the cute style of drawing. Characters are cute, their expressions are cute (if not slightly erotic), their sparkly mood effects are cute. Everything about this manga screams “kawaii.” However, if one were to look past this, the art can be a little stale after some time. Not a lot really happens in this series, and aside from a few confrontations or brooding feelings of regret, there isn’t a lot of darkness to display. It’s typically characters either being secretly happy or obviously nervous. Y’know, the expressions that are easiest to make cute. To be honest, the art is what initially pulled me into reading this manga, but by series’ end, I don’t much care for it anymore. It’s not groundbreaking or even above average. It’s the norm for romantic comedy manga, with a little sprinkle of adorable purity.

A title like Haji-Otsu isn’t necessarily something to be dubbed “lost potential,” but it certainly could have done more to escape the path that most manga like this go down. It’s good for lazy fun, but not something that will really move more expectant readers, especially those expecting a high-grade romantic affair. Perhaps the story could’ve been improved with more assertive leads or side characters that the author seems to care about. Whatever the result, I would’ve appreciated a little more progress than what was given in Haji-Otsu. I never felt they really grew as individual characters, either. Ah well—too many sweets will make you fat.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Edit: It ended just as I expected it to. Damn, I’m good.

Entry #10: Muteki Kanban Musume (SoA 2016)

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(Also known as Ramen Fighter Miki.)

Like with my entry on Yuyushiki, there isn’t a lot to say with this anime, as both series don’t have a lot going on within them. Where Yuyushiki is a calm, yet comedic slice-of-life flick, Ramen Fighter Miki is a parody-comedy slice-of-life flick. That entails that the series will be loud, obnoxious, full of ongoing jokes, have references to other popular media, and occasionally defy the laws of common sense. And boy, does it do all this and more.

I’ll be blunt: this series is really dumb. But it’s supposed to be dumb, it’s a parody. Situations are typically over-the-top, satirical, and blatantly overexaggerated for comedic effect. However, that also implies that characters will act one way, and only that one way, from beginning to end. Ramen Fighter Miki does not disappoint in that regard. The characters are archetypes, the situations are fantastical, and each and every episode is zany to the max. If you enjoy that kind of thing, this will be your perfect bowl of ramen. If not, it’ll be a long twelve episodes.

What do I think? I enjoyed it. I’ve learned that I tend to enjoy “comedy” in anime more when the characters are energetic and morph their faces appropriately to the situation. I like spirit and enthusiasm in my comedy anime! But I also like when things are creatively stupid. Any anime can be stupid, but it takes effort to be creatively stupid. I feel Ramen Fighter Miki does a nice job of balancing itself with both raw stupidity and creative stupidity to service fans of both things. Lots of slapstick, too, if you dig that sort of thing.

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However, the most prevalent flaw of parody anime are no different here. As I mentioned previously, the characters have zero development over the course of the series. A lot of jokes and character traits are recycled, leading to an inevitable feeling of repetition or laziness (I fucking hate the male rival). Constant use of yelling which can either ramp up the comedy or shatter the viewer’s eardrums (or both). It lacks that emotional impact that makes series more memorable. Sure, one can be memorable for being stupid, but it’s a fleeting feeling. “Oh! Remember that one series that had the ramen girl punching the dog in the face? That was weird, right?”

Animation is standard for its time. The color palette is fairly bland but present enough to distinguish characters. The animation is, obviously, over-the-top and littered with weird backdrops and fanciful feats of comedic gusto. It serves the comedy well and does what it can to service the viewer. Surprisingly little sexual fan service for a series with two cute teenage girls with decent-sized busts. For a parody anime, I would’ve expected at least one “boy walks into room unaware that a girl is inside half-naked” scene. Instead, the focus is on slapstick and funny faces. A neat change-up.

It’s a humorous, but ultimately absent-minded series that does the one thing it knows it can do well: comedy. Unfortunately, it’s only a certain kind of comedy that only some will appreciate. They hardly change it up whatsoever and the series struggles with trying to find that balance between stupid and normal. When I found myself paying more attention to Grey’s Anatomy than episode eleven of Ramen Fighter Miki, it was then that I knew I was done with the series. The fun had wore off and I was simply watching it to finish it. It’s not really a bad series, per se, but it’s one that perhaps could’ve been better suited as a three or four-part OVA special.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

NFL Pick ‘Ems (Week Two; 2015)

Not in a huge writing mood, so I’ll keep this one fairly blunt.

[New England @ Buffalo]

Rex Ryan looked really good in his debut as the head coach for Buffalo. Tom Brady looked really good in his debut game after a disastrous offseason of scandals and court battles. Pit these two legends together and you have Tom Brady winning by about three points. He’s 9-4 against Rex Ryan’s teams. Then again, Ryan’s teams never had a quarterback like Tyrod Taylor.

Winner: New England

[Tennessee @ Cleveland]

Tennessee had a big win last week against a really bad team. This week, they’re going up against a bad team with a (usually) good defense. This will be Marcus Mariota’s first big test as an NFL starter. And wouldn’t you know it; Terrance West, after being traded by Cleveland two weeks ago, already gets to face his old team. It’s like they planned this or something.

Johnny Manziel had one good series last week before becoming essentially worthless to finish off the game. Now that he’s the announced starter, he should be able to get some adequate game planning in before the game. Then again, it’s Cleveland, so who knows how adequate it may be. All I know is that Cleveland’s offense is nowhere near as good as its defense. I also didn’t think Tennessee’s defense was all that good, either, but it held Tampa Bay to 14 points. Let’s hope Johnny Manziel doesn’t throw a pick-six on the first play.

Winner: Cleveland

[Houston @ Carolina]

Well, Carolina isn’t facing Jacksonville, so this makes this pick tougher.

Luke Kuechly may not play this game, which is a huge blow to their defense. Even if he doesn’t play, I expect their defense to play well. Maybe not to their full extent, but well enough. Houston is already switching starting quarterbacks after Brian Hoyer’s miserable day against Kansas City last week. Will Ryan Mallett provide a difference for this Houston offense? Probably not. The bigger question for me is this: will Nate Washington have another 100-yard game? That was the biggest surprise for me last week.

Winner: Carolina

[Arizona @ Chicago]

Jay Cutler looked okay last week, thanks in part to a strong running game. Nevertheless, he ended the game with only 50% passing and a pick to end the game. Arizona’s run defense is really, really good. Put those two facts together and you get a very one-dimensional offense, which makes it easier for the defense to adjust. For me, this one isn’t even close. Arizona is stronger in just about every category.

Winner: Arizona

[San Diego @ Cincinnati]

Y’know, my initial thoughts were that San Diego should win this game. However, I was watching the NFL Network last night when something popped up on the bottom of the screen for this game. It claimed that Cincinnati had one the last seven match-ups against San Diego. Curious, I looked up how many times this was within Andy Dalton’s timeline, and sure enough, he’s 2-0 against San Diego (in the regular season).

I declined to mention that both of those game were decided by only a single score. Maybe this game will be the same? Who knows. Regardless, I don’t think Cincinnati’s defense is the same as years’ past. Regardless of the previous regardless, Andy Dalton has a knack for making me look stupid in the regular season. What the hell? I’ll take Cincinnati and the trends.

Winner: Cincinnati

[Detroit @ Minnesota]

Minnesota looked atrocious last week against San Francisco. They couldn’t get Adrian Peterson going. Their run defense was essentially paper. The receivers couldn’t get open. It was a terrible travesty. Detroit’s defense, too, looked pretty bad against San Diego last week. But was that because of Philip Rivers and his established near-elite passing? Perhaps. Teddy Bridgewater may not be as much of a threat.

If Detroit’s defense is still as good as it was last year, this match-up should be no problem. But Minnesota’s at home this week, and they aren’t nationally televised, either (which may or may not have been a problem with San Francisco). Matthew Stafford’s throwing arm is injured, too. Will that affect the game?

Winner: Detroit

[Tampa Bay @ New Orleans]

Drew Brees at home? Against Tampa Bay’s defense? Struggling or not, they have to get it done here.

Winner: New Orleans

[Atlanta @ New York (Giants)]

Atlanta looked really, really good last week against Philadelphia. New York looked really, really good against Dallas because Dallas kept shooting themselves in the foot. Atlanta, like New Orleans, tends to do much better at home than on the road, so it’ll be an interesting transition. Nevertheless, Atlanta’s the much better team on paper. It’s actually not even close.

Winner: Atlanta

[San Francisco @ Pittsburgh]

This is probably the most interesting match-up of the week. San Francisco looked like a rough and tough team against Minnesota last week. It looked, dare I say, like the Pittsburgh teams of old: strong running game, decent quarterbacking, and a stingy defensive front. Pittsburgh looked okay offensively against New England, but their defensive secondary was awful. If Kaepernick takes advantage of this, he may be able to have a good game against them. Otherwise, he’ll just have Hyde do all the dirty work.

Pittsburgh is still without Le’veon Bell, but DeAngelo Williams proved a suitable replacement with over 100 rushing yards against New England. If Pittsburgh can actually put some points on the board against what looks like a powerful defense, I don’t think San Francisco has the firepower to keep up with them. It’ll be a fun one, for sure. I wish I could see it.

Winner: Pittsburgh

[St. Louis @ Washington]

Washington’s defense actually looked pretty good against Miami’s offense last week. This is surprising because I thought the final score would more like this: 49-3. St. Louis’s offense may not be as loaded with talent as Miami’s but I think they’ll put up a decent game. St. Louis and Miami are actually kind of similar, with St. Louis’s special teams play a tad better with Tavon Austin returning punts.

But to be honest, it’s really hard to pick Washington against, well, anyone.

Winner: St. Louis

[Baltimore @ Oakland]

Oakland showed last week that they are still Oakland. This pick’s easy.

Winner: Baltimore

[Miami @ Jacksonville]

Okay, really? Miami’s got a really lucky early schedule to be facing the likes of Washington and Jacksonville in the first two weeks of the season. Miami had a bizarrely difficult time scoring points against Washington last week. How close will this match-up be? Despite how close it may be, Miami should win this game 99 out of 100 times.

Winner: Miami

[Dallas @ Philadelphia]

Another interesting match-up. Philadelphia looked good whenever it was in rhythm against Atlanta last week. But when it wasn’t in rhythm… ouch. Dallas should’ve destroyed New York last week, but the NFL told Jason Garrett that it was Sunday Night and the game had to be exciting to boost up the ratings. So, Garrett told Romo to fuck up a little and keep the game close until the final drive where he can show off how unbelievably one-sided the game actually was. Really, it should’ve been 70-26.

Dallas is the better team on paper on offense. Philadelphia is the better team on paper for defense. If Phildelphia’s defense played like it did against Atlanta, then Romo should only target whoever Byron Maxwell is covering. If Dallas’s offense played like it did against New York, Philadelphia should win. Dez Bryant is out, too, so that takes out some of Dallas’s firepower. But there’s one statistic that speaks volumes for Dallas going into this game: their record (last season) on the road.


Winner: Dallas

[Seattle @ Green Bay]

Y’know, I’m kind of tired of seeing this match-up. We had the Fail Mary play a few years ago. We had the opening night game last year. We had the 2014 NFC Championship miracle win. Now, we have this. Something smells like big business here and I don’t like it.

Initially, I would be a little hesitant about picking a winner in this game. However, without Kam Chancellor last week, Seattle’s defense looked a little deflated. Green Bay’s offense, however, barely skipped a beat without Jordy Nelson. Then again, they were up against Chicago. Oh, and Green Bay was 8-0 at home last season. Yeah, Green Bay is definitely looking like the better choice here.

Winner: Green Bay

[New York (Jets) @ Indianapolis]

Indianapolis got destroyed by a gruesome defense last week. This week, they get to go up against another gruesome defense. I’m sure Andrew Luck is thrilled. However, this week Indianapolis is playing at home, so it should provide some sort of a motivational boost, at least.

FitzMagic played an okay game last week against a typically good defense. Now he gets to face a typically okay defense, so I think he’ll have a good game. His running back options are limited, but Indianapolis did a decent job against the run last week, so I don’t think it’ll much matter. He still has Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Indianapolis’s offense is a little shaky. Their offensive line looks to be under construction and despite a new running back in Frank Gore, he only carried the ball eight times last week. If they want a more complete offense, they need to be more willing to give him a shot.

On paper, this is kind of an evenly matched duel. It’s a tough choice, and my mind actually wants to side with New York. However, I’m not giving up on Andrew Luck and his uncanny last name. It’s hard not to lean his way.

Winner: Indianapolis