An Early 2018 Summer of “Anime” Announcement

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Concerning my annual Summer of Anime block that takes place between the first day of June and whenever I finish it (usually late-July, early-August), I’ve kept this in the dark for some time, but I’ve been planning for what to do this year since, well, the last one ended. You could say I’m a plan-addict. (more…)

Entry #30 (Final): Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Spoilers?)

Nothing happens. Nothing substantial, anyway.

I think it’s amazing that a manga like this can be so filled to the brim with nothing and still accomplish in making me feel like it’s something. A good majority of this manga is the central character looking at the sky for, like, six pages and making a melancholic gesture or remark. You would think I’m exaggerating, but the bulk of this manga is actually just that.

Yokohama is a story of exploration. It explores all sorts of different themes and subjects such as time, love, childhood, roles in society, and all that good stuff. It has a knack for making the reader feel immersed through realistic events that don’t overexaggerate themselves for the sake of entertainment. It’s easy to feel for these characters because they don’t fall under any sort of stereotype or expectations from the industry standard. They feel like real people, even though some of those people aren’t even human.

It dazzles the viewer with a calm setting and a carefree atmosphere. The events that occur feel normal and without any saturation of obligation. No storyline in Yokohama will wow the reader with its creativity. Most of the events that transpire include sleeping over at a friends’ house, talking with neighbors about the past, or growing up in a town with not a lot of people or things to do. It’s this down-to-Earth style of setting, plot progression, and overall tone that makes this a perfect Slice of Life narrative.

Keeping the previous two paragraphs in mind, it was really hard for me to read this manga at points. I found myself looking at the page count for each chapter more than I can remember. As I stated above, this is a story of exploration. It wants to focus on its world and the characters within it, giving a sense of wonderment and an incredulous innate curiosity for appreciating the open world and its possibilities. As someone whose passion and curiosity only comes in short bursts (depending on the subject), Yokohama’s attention to detail painted itself as somewhat dull. I grew tired of reading similar chapters of the main character taking in her surroundings and letting the mood and presumed heaviness of such a scene wash away my collective spirits. Perhaps it’s the fault of my own, seeing as I’ve never been especially curious about exploring and traveling, that left my impression of this type of storytelling a little underwhelming. That’s not to say that this story did a bad job at portraying the mood of a particular scene. I just wasn’t intrigued enough in the first place to look into it any deeper. And the repetition kinda hurts, too.

I most enjoyed Yokohama when it focused on its characters’ interactions. The central character is perhaps one of the best “central characters” I’ve read all throughout the Summer. She isn’t exactly the most interesting character, but her simple, yet profound personality makes for a perfect caricature for the reader to immerse themselves through. As the plot continues, if you want to call it that, her character becomes more and more aware of the inevitable handicap being held against her: she has the ability to outlive her friends. Y’see, the central character is a robot, and the world she’s a part of has established these robots into the human population, which is mysteriously scarce all throughout. As time goes by and the people around her age, she begins to feel more human than robot, developing more acute emotions and a growing desire to interact with those around her. Her transition is somewhat of a highlight for this manga, as with a few other characters, and it does a lot for the enjoyment of following along on her journey.

Despite all its attempts, Yokohama doesn’t always hit the mark when it tries to establish a mood. The constant still-shots of the environment and images of grandeur felt lost on me, for the most part. However, the one thing I believe is the best thing this story has to offer is its overall tone. It effortlessly uses the resource of time to establish transitions of mood and weight with the characters in place (though, not the environment). Over the course of the story, somewhere between fifteen to twenty-five years pass in almost the blink of an eye. Like the somber feeling of time passing by too quickly, Yokohama has a good sense of how to pace itself in that regard. I’m typically very cynical of stories that use time skips to transition the relationships between characters, but this manga doesn’t make it feel superficial. I genuinely felt pity for the central character’s situation and the things she would inevitably have to face. Along with the other characters who knew this all too well and struggled to face that fact to some degree.

Unfortunately, I do feel the ending was a tad rushed. It didn’t have as much impact on me as some of the previous chapters had, and they went a little nuts with that whole “time-skipping” business. It ended just as it started: life goes on.

Yokohama

One really impressive aspect of Yokohama was its design. This manga was first published in 1994, but it looks as if it could have been published a lot more recently. There’s a certain timelessness (derp) about its design that made the story a lot more enjoyable to read, had they not used a majority of it painting landscapes with Bob Ross approving from his grave. All of the characters looked distinct and their personalities reflected well with their personalities (in a non-stereotypical way). If anything saved this story from being any more boring, it would be the colored pages. There’s a dreary sense with the traditional black and white outlines that’s hard to miss, but when the story decided to show color, it was gorgeous to the eye. Even with green hair, the central character looked as natural as if she were actually in front of me. I know that’s going a little far, but I was overall really impressed with how simple, yet glamorous the entire manga was presented.

By around chapter eighty or so, I actually considered dropping this. It was bombarding me with chapter after chapter of next to nothing happening without really digging deeper into the context of the scene, but I never had any mind to do so. It was then that I realized that I was more fascinated with seeing the central character interact with those around her as she was. When she was alone, I felt almost disappointed. I guess it goes to show that the characters in this manga were the high point for me, without much regard for the world around them. Because of this, a lot of the manga felt like wasted opportunities to me. That’s to be expected when a story tries to focus on every aspect of a story, whether it be plot, characters, progression, etc., and the reader only cares about one of those things. This is most unfortunate because I know that Yokohama did a good job with everything it tried to do, but perhaps didn’t have enough heart to break from its passive passion for me to fully feel immersed in the world it was showing me.

But I’m a narcissist, so it’s the manga’s fault every time.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: B+

Entry #29: Slow Starter (Spoilers, Explicit)

Slow Starter was a bit of a cop-out. It’s a tremendously short series, and with two manga titles left in the SoM, I jumped on it (no homo) to progress the event along faster. Can you tell I’m begging for freedom?

But (no homo) this entry isn’t about how burnt out I’ve become with the Summer. This is an entry about boy love.

The best kind of boy love.

Boy love that ends with some shake weights.

Know what I’m sayin’?

Suggestive innuendos aside, Slow Starter is pretty bad. This is definitely a title that is hindered quite a bit by its low chapter count. With only eight chapters to its name, there isn’t much build-up with the relationship between the two male leads. In fact, there isn’t much build-up to any character on their own. There are moments when the characters’ interactions induce a likable atmosphere, and the story began a good note. With the final chapter looming, though, the story sacrificed quality for closure.

The first four chapters feature the two male leads, their personalities, their first meeting, and how their blossoming romance takes root. The next two chapters focus on one of the males overthinking everything once he cannot contact his love interest, resulting in 1/4 of the series bringing nothing to the table but fantasizing without evidence and a near mental breakdown. After this is (inevitably) settled, the rest of the story flies by like a bullet train. They share a cute moment (Chapter 7 is six pages long), and a dirty moment (note gif above). Scramble it all together and you have half a story of decent, but not great, romantic development between two characters, and another half of little character interaction and joystick wrestling.

Way to prioritize.

Ermm.

Ermm.

The two male leads are the only people who matter. All the rest were tools. They don’t have parents. They don’t have (substantial) friends. They only have each other. Isn’t that cute? And stupid? Male lead 1 has black hair and looks like he could be into pussy. Male lead 2 has lighter hair and is completely gay-looking. Neither of them stand out much on their own, but are heightened when they’re around each other. If anything this story does right, it’s make the reader care about the relationship, if not for the people in it. They don’t have any real discernible qualities, either. Male lead 1 seems to be pretty insecure at first, but then we learn Male lead 2 is pretty insecure, too. It wouldn’t be too hard pressed to argue that they’re the exact same character. This story features a boy in a loving relationship with a carnival mirror. It looks different, but it’s the same person.

There’s so little to this story outside of their relationship that there isn’t even anything worth mentioning. There’s some highlighting of Male lead 1’s former passion for baseball that’s used well in the first half, but is all but abandoned later on. Male lead 2’s past remains a complete mystery by story’s end. Slow Starter lives to its name. It was so slow to start anything that most didn’t even start before it ended.

I thought that the art was a little lacking, personally. There were a lot of panels where the characters’ faces looked wobbly. Not to mention the amount of times the characters’ faces were missing their eyes. And like the characters, the art doesn’t really stand out in any regard. It just feels there. It doesn’t coax you with beautiful bishies or over-the-top expressions of love or passion. It’s a true to life adaptation of a boring romance between two tree branches, swaying in the gentle wind.

That didn’t make any sense, but it sounds more appealing than this.

That's good.

That’s good.

With how short the title is, one would think that it’s worth enough to read. I’d be a little hesitant to recommend anyone this title. Perhaps to a class of aspiring writers who want to write good boy love. This is an example of what not to do.

  • Character likability is vital.
  • Build-up to SOMETHING THAT MATTERS is important.
  • Art should be expressive, but still pleasant to the eye.
  • Eight chapters is tough to work with.
  • Sex scenes should be sexy.
  • Pacing, pacing, pacing.

Learn.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: D+

Entry #27: Torikagosou no Kyou mo Nemutai Juunin-tachi (Spoilers)

Yeah.

Yeah.

Not much in the mood to write the usual insightful and passionately-charged entry, so I’ll spitball the entire series in a few short paragraphs.

The main character’s okay. She has a strong mindset that not a lot of Shoujo leads have. Though, by the end, she doesn’t change very much. Her logic is also questionable.

The two male leads are both stereotypes, both in personality and design. The design is to be expected, as the artist for this title is known for illustrating Yaoi titles. Their personalities led me to believe that the artist was also responsible for the story, as they both seemed as though they could wind up with each other as opposed to the female lead.

The ending is a bullshit “____ years later…” cop-out that I despise seeing in stories. Not to mention, the once poor, clinging to every paycheck female lead suddenly gets a letter from a previously unknown Uncle or something saying that she’s the heir to his fortune with two chapters left in the story. Rushed. Stupid. Clamoring for a happy ending. Horrible.

Character interactions are a bit of a plus. If anything about this story feels genuine, that would be it. They all have a good bit of chemistry, even if the stereotypes drag them down the whole way. Kinda wish they focused more on the painting, though.

Speaking of painting, the art for this manga disgusted me. It may be because I’m heterosexual male, but I don’t much care to see males drawn in a “bishie” form. It’s to the point where one of the male leads are thought to be a girl at the beginning of the story, only to say “Whoops, I’m a guy!” later on in the story. Fun fact: I never noticed this transition from girl to boy, so when the characters started addressing him as “he,” I became incredibly confused for, like, three chapters before looking it up. I can’t say the art was bad, though. With painting being one of the focal points of the story, you’d expect it to be highlighted a tad more than the things hovering around it. It isn’t.

Up and down series. Emotionally, I was done with it by chapter ten or so. Couldn’t get into it, but it continued to impress me objectively with its characters’ insights and interaction. The ending really bogged down the score. God, the ending was fucking awful. It’s unfortunate that the ending became the major highlight, because the series doesn’t have a lot of huge flaws otherwise. Oh well.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C

Entry #26: Ibara no Ou (Spoilers?)

The end of a story can be both good and bad, to varying degrees. Some are good in the sense that they wrap up the story well, others are good because you no longer have to stomach whatever you chose to be viewing. Some are bad because they leave the viewer with more questions than answers, others are bad because the viewer is forced to acknowledge that the story they loved so much has nothing more to show. The examples I provided are obviously juggled between objective and subjective analysis, but it brings a lot to the table in terms of how I rate a title. A good ending can save a series, while a bad ending can ruin it. But that’s common knowledge.

To make things clear from the start (something this story doesn’t do), I enjoyed reading Ibara no Ou tremendously. It had that dark, adventurous atmosphere that made it easy for me to become immersed. In a way, it reminded me of the Metroid games, with a lot more characters present. I hadn’t planned on reading the entire thing in a day, but the story held me in its iron grip throughout the entire thing. Even by the end, I was still craving a little more.

Ibara no Ou 2

There are a few things that should be noted before someone dives into Ibara no Ou:

1. Do not expect outward explanations.

This isn’t to say that the story doesn’t explain what’s going on. It does better than many stories I’ve read in the past. What I mean is that you shouldn’t expect an explanation of why the situation is the way it is. The main antagonist of this story is an “evil for the sake of being evil” stereotype. His involvement in the whole process is never explained, though briefly hinted at. The process itself isn’t even explained. By the time the story begins, everything has been set up. By the end, it is still never explained. How the process started, and why. Why was it funded? Who funded it? Who allowed them to continue the process? Who authorized the equipment? Why assume that those involved with the process would stay quiet about it?

The story is effective if you immerse yourself in the current situation. One can describe it as being encased in a glass chamber, excluded from the reality outside of it. If your focus is on the current situation, Ibara no Ou makes a lot of sense (despite it being fantasy). But your focus can only remain inside the chamber. To step outside of it will only get you lost and alone. And confused.

2. Deus ex machinas will occur often.

You know the age-old cliche of suspenseful adventure stories. A character is at the end of their wits, and it looks like they’re not gonna be able to survive. But suddenly, they’re saved by someone or something at the very last second! This could work a few times, if the reader genuinely suspects that the character in question is capable of dying. Though, when it’s the main character and there are many chapters left, it’s not as effective. The main character has plot armor 99% of the time. The story’s not fooling anyone.

There was actually a small tidbit at the end of the story that explained said deus ex machinas, which took me by surprise. I appreciated this story’s attempt at trying to fill its mistakes. It gives a sense that this story knows a lot more than one would expect.

3. This story is Fantasy. Fantastic things will happen.

Who is the strongest, most intimidating person you could possibly think of? Got someone? Now, imagine them facing off against a giant lizard-type creature whose strength and agility far outweigh even the most physically gifted human beings. These creatures are also twice their size. Do you think they stand a chance?

How about surviving a fall from hundreds of meters into a stone-filled sea? Controlling other people’s minds? Being able to survive with only your heart and one of your lungs? Shooting off part of your ear to wake up from a hallucination, then never mentioning it again? Remember the creatures I was talking about? Do you think they could outrun them? There are others things I could point out, but they would require more explanation. And for the sake of avoiding as many spoilers as possible, I’ll refrain from going any further. Just know that not everything is going to be realistic. There are little miracles spread throughout almost every chapter.

Ibara no Ou 3

For what it’s worth, Ibara no Ou is a fantastic read for those willing to immerse themselves in a world that is not ours. Though, not without its issues. Some of these issues come from the cast of characters. I always found that its hard to really develop characters in hostile situations. They’re almost guaranteed to act a certain way, and hardly stray from that instinctual means of survival. Most of the characters come across as one of two things: strong and independent, or weak and dependent. It’s this simplicity that makes the characters less than what they could be, but for the situation that they’re placed in, it’s excusable. I only wish there were a way that these kinds of stories could show more personality than what’s expected or logical in that case scenario. It’s always boom or gloom; fighting on versus giving up.

At least the cast is diverse to some degree.

I’ve already picked on Ibara no Ou’s story quite a bit. However, for what was set up, its end result was satisfactory enough for me to ponder it afterwards. Though, I can say wholeheartedly that the build-up was much stronger than the climax. As the train chugged along, and the information was slowly being spoon fed to my brain, I began to become more and more uninterested in what was left of the series. Part of this was because of trying to process any logical sense out of what I was reading (it’s still difficult). Another part was because the flaws became all the more apparent. Ibara no Ou’s story thrives on suspense and intrigue, while also being complimented by standard characters and great pacing. Once everything came to fruition, the pacing became more of an avalanche of exposition, while the suspense was rapidly fading away, giving way to only the standard characters. In comparison to other stories, Ibara no Ou’s ending is satisfactory, but doesn’t properly translate to the build-up that it gave itself.

In one panel in particular, I remember thinking to myself, “She kinda looks like a turtle.” That’s one way you could describe the art. It certainly has an interesting style. It reminds me a lot of old fashioned styles of character design. The characters look more realistic, with the women and children being shown in a more cartoonish light. Speaking of diversity above, this is one of few stories from out east to feature a black guy among its main cast of characters. It also features a few Americans and a small child, too. For the most part, they don’t look Japanese, except perhaps the eyes, which is a really nice attention to detail. The creatures all look and feel fairly terrifying, as well. The art was a definite strength, which helped capture the mood and emotion of the characters’ reactions. Though, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of their screaming faces. Their agape mouths took up half their face. Seriously.

Subtle jab?

Subtle jab?

If Ibara no Ou were to finish how it started, this may have become a favorite title of mine. However, as the smoke and mirrors started to show, its quality started to suffer. Knowing that the characters would only show so much, I began to distance myself from them. The story lost its charm when it tried to become psychological. The logic began to falter, as well. Even more than it had to that point. There was one instance by story’s end that really threw me off, but I’ll let the reader find out exactly what. Believe me, you’ll know it when you see it. Not a perfect story, but a better story than most.

Personal Score: B+

Critical Score: B-

Entry #25: Octave (Spoilers?, Explicit)

This is by far the hardest title I’ve had to rate this Summer.

Yeah, dude.

Yeah, dude.

The issue is, is it good? Or is it bad? These changes, these situations that arise in these two central characters. Their sudden, unexpected changes. They lead to growth, but there doesn’t ever seem to be any definition to them. It’s kind of like having instant gratification, except in this case, in the form of character development. But it’s not quite sudden, either. These characters mope and overthink every little thing. If anything, this story is an excellent case of why communication is key in a relationship. For two people who claim to be dating and/or are in love with each other, they don’t really open up to each other (emotionally) very often. There’s build-up, but to what? It almost seems like what they worry about doesn’t match what they learn in the end. Like trying to learn how to cook a pizza from scratch, only to discover that you’re really good at repairing refrigerators. But to have these characters face these unexpected developments is good for making their lives feel realistic, but it just feels like a letdown for those wanting genuine strides made between two people.

Even my thoughts are jumbled.

Let’s see if I can hammer this down one by one. Let me start out by saying that Octave is not what you expect it to be. To call it a romance is a stretch. From my perspective, this is a story about finding yourself. Romance is only an attribute used to further develop oneself. Sex, homosexuality, the former life of an idol, all of these things only attribute to the main focus of peering into the mind of the female lead. In a sense, this story is almost like following the female lead as she reacts to these new developments happening in her life. She is the main character, and you know it from the very beginning.

Octave 4

Every other character, other than the female lead’s partner (who is female, hence the yuri tag), are what I like to refer to as “role players.” They play their role. That’s it. Whether it be to assist the main character as a shoulder to cry on, a friendly advice giver, or one who challenges her to face her inner demons, they do their parts and do it well. But that’s all they’re there for. In fact, there are a few characters who only arise to provide conflict to the two leads’ relationship. A few notable characters (brother of female lead’s partner, specifically) get a little more attention than others, but for the most part, the characters feel like pawns as opposed to genuine people. It would be nice in a war, but this is Yuri manga, damn it.

Speaking of filling their roles well, why the hell is the main character so irresistible that not one, not two, not three, but four people magically fall in love with her after a single night of her company? This is what I meant above by “instant gratification.” This manga has no idea how to pace falling in love. But once the love begins, it’s masterful in trying to maintain that love. Except, y’know, three of those characters’ love is only used as plot drivers, so it feels almost like a slimy business proclamation. Even the female lead’s partner started out strange. Y’wanna know how their “love” bloomed? Y’wanna know what made them more than friends?

The female lead’s partner (I’ll just call her “Partner” from now on) kinda raped her. She stripped her naked and started suckling on her after making fun of her rant on men, despite the fact that she’s a virgin.

Can you feel the love tonight?

There was a comment about this story below the table of chapters on the website I use to read manga that stated that the story “developed too fast.” It was a subtle jab at something I find obscenely apparent, and is entirely correct: this story develops love faster than I devour pizza. Everyone just falls in love like it’s nothing. Though from there, the love remains and is handled, for the most part, well. The only thing is that while the love starts fast, anything past that develops slower than Internet Explorer. It almost feels… stupid.

Now then, were there any positives about Octave?

. . .

. . . . .

. . . . . . . . . .

Why can’t I think of anything? It wasn’t a bad story by any means. In a lot of ways it was insightful and had a lot of relatable storylines. So… why am I having trouble really relating to any of it? Fun fact: I almost dropped this manga by chapter fourteen. I was so sick of the lack of communication and irrational behavior by the main character that I was ready to toss it aside. But I didn’t, and I pushed on. By the end, I almost felt empty. Like, I had continued the story only because I was certain that the relationship would improve by the end. I had seen the potential in the relationship from the start, as the characters are the opposite of each other personality-wise.

Then again, their relationship started off with a maybe, maybe not consensual night of titty plucking. That should’ve been my first sign.

Not rape.

Not rape.

Octave is an intriguing story. It focuses a lot on how the music industry is basically run by managers and sex appeal as opposed to just music, which is a nice change of pace. It also focuses on why people would want to join the music industry and how it pulls people in, only to have them face failure early on, since it wasn’t what they expected. Not to mention the issue of jealousy, image, and attitude problems and all that typical music genre jargon. Unfortunately, this is only highlighted earlier on, as the later chapters are almost 100% dedicated to the relationship between female lead and Partner. As I’ve written this entry, I’ve realized that this story is actually fairly superficial. I suppose it’s easier for me to develop a definitive opinion as I gather the evidence for both sides of the coin. The character relationships are sporadically good, with almost all other characters being shrugged off for the sake of the main couple, unless they can provoke them. The story likes to focus on self development, among a variety of other topics, but doesn’t give sufficient amount of time to any of them, and even comes off as pretentious to some degree. It squanders its focus quite a bit. It makes the whole experience feel unnecessary.

One thing I never mentioned was the art. This is a rare occurrence where I wish the manga was done in color, because the colored pages felt a lot more refreshing than their black and white counterpart. It gave off a sweet, relaxing atmosphere that (usually) suited the mood of the manga. Without the color, it looked just like any other manga of its kind. It took away that mood, that blissful nature that would’ve made this story a tad stronger subjectively. Oh, and the sex scenes aren’t sexy, either. But I don’t think the sex scenes are supposed to be very impactful, anyway. None of them last more than a few pages.

Oh, and their nipples are just ovals. Two manga in a row where that’s happened.

Octave 2

I wasn’t sure what to think when I finished this manga. By the end of this entry, it’s almost obvious to me: it’s shit. It’s shit that tried to not be shit, but still had enough of a stench to reek itself out of its disguise. The whole focus of the manga, the relationship between the female lead and Partner, had almost no attention until the very end. And by that, I meant interactions between the two that didn’t involve fingering their pissholes. It felt conceited. It felt rushed. It began under stupid pretenses, and only developed after the female lead realized with ten chapters left that talking to your girlfriend actually does a lot of good, instead of overthinking everything and talking with EVERYONE ELSE about your problems. The other characters are plot drivers and throwaways. The art is typical, except when it’s colored. The other themes explored were intriguing, but left underdeveloped. It had potential. That’s really all the good that could be said.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C-