Sgt. Frog: Manga on a Monday

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Hello, welcome back to “Manga on a Monday” the manga review series that has consistently only reviewed things no one cares about. This week we’ll be taking a look at the classic long-running comedy-Shounen manga series, Sgt. Frog (Keroro Gunsou), specifically Vol. 1.

Not before I get into reviewing the actual content, I would like to take a quick look at the quality of the volume itself (specifically the Tokyo Pop edition). The first thing that stood out to me was how absolutely atrocious the cover art of this volume is. It features a weirdly complex (probably prototypical) design of Sgt. Frog, floating in the air with electricity, a boring logo, and the other main characters flipping shit. I can tell you right here and now that if I didn’t already know what Sgt. Frog was I would never have bought this manga, just judging by the awful cover art. The book contains three short pages of bonus content, but I’m used to Vertical manga at this point, so I had almost forgotten that that’s about average. This volume also doesn’t have color pages at the beginning, although it does have pages that have better shading than the rest. The paper quality also isn’t the best, but eh, whatever.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, on to the content proper. This first volume introduces us to Sgt. Frog as well as the three other main characters, and a few other “frogs”. Most of the characters are to some extent generic tropes but they were still entertaining enough to read interacting with one another. The comedy was once in a while downright hilarious, but unfortunately most of the time it kind of fell flat. It’s certainly not the best comedy manga ever (I would give that award to Nichijou) but it’s also not the worst, it’s at best middling. The concept of the series is kind of humorous, but a more skilled writer could have done it better. The art is also not that best as many times during the manga I was thinking to myself “I hate how this looks”. Of course, nothing ever looks as bad as the character art in say, Voices of a Distant Star, but they’re never great. Although I have heard from fans that the art and writing get exponentially better, so these criticisms may only be valid for the first volume or two.

With that I think, I will be leaving you. leave your thoughts and opinions on the post and the mang down below. If you have any suggestions for manga I should cover in the future, leave them down there as well. Au Revoir.

 

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Episodic Anime Blogging is Completely Unhelpful. – Editorial.

This season I was planning on doing an episodic anime review of the series “Girl’s Last Tour”, of course, that was before I suddenly came to the realization that such posts are completely unhelpful to the reader. I have been reading episodic anime blog posts since back when Haruhi Suzumiya was airing in 2006, and I can’t believe I didn’t realize this earlier.

My major problem with episodic anime blogging stems from the central conceit of the style: giving your changing opinions on a show over time (in this case “time” being each episode). Even though these posts tend to market themselves as “reviews” they don’t function as such very well. When I read a review I want two pieces of information: what the author thought of the series personally, and if I should watch it. unfortunately, episodic reviews cant give me this information. They simply tell me how good a single episode was, and while bingeing (which is how I watch anime) that information isn’t exactly necessary.

Now it’s not that these reviews are inherently useless, they’re just that for me. I much more prefer reviews of a full series or heavy analysis content/ opinion pieces. Now, I know this is a shorter one (only being able to get two paragraphs out of it) but I’ll leave you there, as I don’t want to draw this point out longer than it needs to be.

 

Arakawa Under the Bridge: Manga on a Monday.

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Recently I’ve gotten into quite of a manga buying kick, and in order to feel like there was a reason that I was spending all of this money, I decided to start a new series. “Manga on a Monday” is well… Manga reviews on Monday, starting weekly although it may become bi-weekly. This week we’ll be looking at the first omnibus volume of the gag-manga Arakawa Under the Bride, from Verticle Comics.

I decided to pick up Arakawa Under the Bridge after taking a trip to my local Indigo Books and seeing it in the manga section. I have wanted to watch the anime for a while now so I thought, okay, I guess I’m buying this. The volume itself is a rather nice edition (of course it is, it’s published by Vertical). It has a really nice cover, and two separate colour short manga one for each volume in the omnibus, it also has a bunch of really interesting extras such as character concept designs.

The art in the volume is good in general, although I feel the artist’s style looks much more interesting and unique in the color pages (especially the colour outlines). The characters in the manga all have very distinct designs, except its horribly bland looking MC, of course, that makes sense seeing as it’s supposed to be a normal guy in an extreme situation. Not only do the characters look distinct though, they are also very distinct character trait wise.

We have such extreme personalities as, a businessman who gets asthma attacks if he doesn’t repay back his debts. A girl who thinks she’s from Venus (although maybe she is?), a musician who wears a full face- star mask on his head, a gun-obsessed crossdressing nun. A guy in a Kappa suit, a little loli girl who tries to turn the community under the bridge into something of a mafia organization, and more. As you can see all of the characters are very distinct, and probably not something you’ve ever seen in any manga or anime before.

As for the humor itself, as it is a gag manga, I thought it was hit and miss. There were some absolutely hilarious jokes and puns that had me rolling on the floor (figuratively), but it also had jokes that just weren’t very funny. Of course, there weren’t any jokes so bad that they outright offended me, but there were certainly some “meh” moments. This being a gag manga, the storyline isn’t really important, but it did get me to care about the main two’s relationship and had me wanting to see it prosper.

With all that said, I must say that overall I had a good time with this manga and will certainly be buying the next omnibus volume whenever Vertical releases it. So, if you’re a gag manga fan, or just looking for something wholly unique to add to you’re manga collection I definitely recommend checking this one out.

Lucky☆Star, a Review.

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Ah, Lucky Star. This series was one of the first anime that I began to watch (yet I didn’t finish it until I was well into the 100s of completed anime). Although it took me about a year to complete, I still consider it one of my favorite shows of all time (within the top 9). The reason I love this series as I do is a combination of the animation style, the characters (so many waifu candidates!), the atmosphere, and the overall comedy. In this post, I am going to be breaking down all of these elements (and more) while trying to convince you to check it out.

The series can crudely be defined as a “four girls moe-comedy” show (but it is most certainly more than that. The series is incredibly laid back but knows how to get the blood pumping at certain points (Ala the Legendary Girl A segments or the Initial D parody scene), or how to have you rolling on the floor laughing. Although it does tend to lean more towards comedy than just being purely laid back (after the first director leaves) unlike some other very relaxed shows such as Aria.

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There are four main characters in Lucky Star: Konata Izumi, Kagami Hiiragi, Tsukasa Hiiragi, and Miyuki Takara. Konata is a hardcore otaku, which is where much of the comedy in the series is derived from. Kagami is an average tsundere, and tsukkomi, she’s the “smart one” of the group and is basically the straight man. Tsukaa, unlike her twin sister Kagami is somewhat dimwitted and the most innocent one of the group, really the only thing she’s good at is cooking. The final of the four, Miyuki is an almost saintly, moe girl she is the main character with the least screen time, and developed character. While reading those descriptions, the characters seem quite simple, but the chemistry between the different characters, and how they react to each other in different combinations.

The animation is Lucky Star is incredibly varied and interesting. It can go from having mediocre people standing around talking animation to an insane Initial D parody to using the exact style of the “Anime Tenchou” short in seconds. This ability to shift styles so quickly while still distinctly being Lucky Star. During most of the show the animation is relatively fluid, but where I feel the show really shines within the realm of visuals (outside of the parody animations) is the art design. First of all in the department of art, is the character designs. The mark of a good character design is whether or not you can tell who they are simply through their silhouette and Konata as well as the rest of her friends pass this test with about a 94 percent average (that’s pretty freaking good!). Konata is the obvious example, what with that iconic face shape and sticking up hair, although the others can be recognized as well. Along with the great character designs I also really just like the overall look of the series.

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Lucky Star is at its heart a comedy series. As much as it’s incredibly soothing to watch the comedy is still ever present. The series can be incredibly spastic at times, but it can also be very dry. The dry and sarcastic humor is probably my favorite part of the series, much more so than the spastic moments, although I do enjoy both. Much of the comedy in the series is references to otaku culture, (including the Anime Tenhou scenes, and the Initial D parody). This can make the series very hard to get into if you aren’t deeply versed in anime culture, specifically anything before the year 2007. Being someone who’s in pretty deep when it comes to anime, I enjoyed the references deeply, although people who believe that “reference is the lowest form of comedy” idea is true may have a hard time with the comedy.

With all that said, I hope that this post has convinced you to watch this series. Sorry that I’ve been gone so long, but I’m glad to be back. Anyway, with that I shall bid you adieu.

 

 

Happy 100th Birthday to Jack “The King” Kirby.

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Today one of the worlds most influential comic book creators ever, Jack “The King” Kirby had the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth. Now I know that this blog is normally centered around anime, but this man and his work has meant so much to me over my life that I felt I had to talk about it. In case you aren’t in the know, Jack Kirby was an American comics book creator and artist, born Agust 28, 1917 who died February 6, 1991. Throughout his life, Jack Kirby created and co-created some of the worlds most well-known and beloved superheroes. Some of these creations include Thor, The Fantastic Four, Captian America, Silver Surfer, Cyclops, Etrigan The Demon, and Kamandi:

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The Last Boy On Earth.But in this post, I don’t want to give you a simple history lesson. In this post, I want to write something more personal. I’m going to give you my history with this man’s art, and what it’s meant to me over my life. The first memory  I have of encountering his work was when I was twelve years old. I was at a local comics book/ video store and was going through some of their back issues when I stumbled upon an issue of what is now my favorite comic of all time, OMAC: One Man Army Corps #4. Right out of the gate I was blown away with the amazing art which this series had. I loved the was his machines were so intricately designed and the dark thick shadowing on the blocky square -awed characters. I loved the way that he screwed with proportions, yet his characters never looked off. This style of shading and proportions would heavily influence my future artistic endeavors.

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But it wasn’t just his art that drew me into his stories it was something deeper. Although I didn’t realize what this was until I have embedded myself deeply into the work of Jack Kirby (which involved reading all of The New Gods saga, as well as Journey Into Mystery, OMAC, and Fantastic Four, among others). What I loved in his work even more than his writing are his themes. Jack Kirby’s work tended in his early days to have themes of war with Captain America being the prime example. But the theme that appears in his later work is what I truly resonate with, the theme of pushing towards the future. Jack Kirby seems to have had an incredibly optimistic view of the future, with his later work tending to have some sort of route in sciences. Fantastic Four is the first of these, with Cosmic Rays, and the like being worked into his stories, but where I feel this theme really shined is once again in the great, OMAC.

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This series featured a look into the future, where the world is united and is looked after by the Pece Agents. These men and women protect the entire world with their identities hidden by cosmetic spray as they represent the whole world, not just a single country. I have always found this idea quite appealing, a world where crime is judged by many an unbiased people, not a jury of random people off the street, or a single judge both of which, could (in some occurnce) be paid to slant the decision in one way or another. This world while it may seem perfect (to some) still has problems and that’s why I find it so interesting because humans are always compromisable and are never truly good nor evil, meaning that a perfect world can never exist. This idea has shaped the way that I look at the world and human life until this very day.

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Before I finish this post there is one last thing I would like to touch on in relation with Jack “The King” Kirby, and that is the way he wrote dialogue. In the world where books like Teen Titans and other teen-oriented books were trying to be “hip” and always used the slang of their area in the dialogue, Kirby’s work stood out among the rest. His dialogue was always packed to the brim with meaning and was writing in a way that makes it seem timeless and so it can be enjoyed in any era. Jack Kirby’s characters were the few of the time that didn’t sound like some sort of hilariously campy uncle or a generic “rad” teenager. They sounded like people. Real honest to god people with actual emotions, which even today is really special. The characters weren’t constantly spewing 60s or 70s slang, they just spoke in English. No frills. No silly eloquences like Stan Lee’s writing tended to have. They spoke like an average joe you’d find on the street. And that’s something which has rarely been done right, even to this day.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed this “little” post about what, Jack Kirby’s writings meant to me and why I enjoy it so much even to this day. See you in the next one.

The Reflection: Drop or Watch Summer 2017 #2

refrectionimage505px I just watched the first episode of Stan Lee’s The Reflection, and boy was it ever interesting. This series is Stan Lee’s ninth time stepping into the world of anime production, and the second time he’s making a series not adapted from a Marvel comic. Lee co-created the series with DMC (Detroit Metal City) director Hiroshi Nagahama, who also did the character designs. The show is produced by Studio Deen (KonoSuba, Sakura Trick).

Well, I suppose first I shall talk about the art and animation. The art in this series is my favourite so far this season. I love the dark shadows and flat colouring on all the characters. The art really reminds me of David Aja’s pencils and Matt Hollingsworth’s colours on the 2012 Hawkeye comic book series, which had a fantastic minimalistic style. As much as I love the art, I must say the designs don’t animate great. The only time we get incredibly fluid animation within the first episode is when the characters are in silhouette. As well as this, there are a lot of frame skips in the series, which when used as a stylistic statement (the Baccano OP) I think looks great, but in this series, it appears to be more of a cost cutting measure.

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The first episode follows 3 different characters, Eleanor Evans, Exon, and Ian Izzet (although I have heard that later episodes have another main character). Elenor is a reporter (?) with the ability to teleport short distances. Exon is a guy in a Marvel Now Cyclopse costume who has the ability to copy other’s powers, and Ian Izzet is Ironman. None of the characters has any characterization in this episode as it mostly focused on fights. Here’s hoping the characters will stop being nonentities in the next episode.

The premise of the series is that after an event called The Reflection some of the population begin to gain superpowers. Then these people either become heroes or villains. The first episode had no story whatsoever and worked as more of a setup to the world episode. Really it just consisted of a bunch of hardly interconnected fight scenes between two different heroes and multiple different villains taking place in different places.

So after watching the first episode, I must say that I am greatly intrigued with this series. While the plot and characters weren’t great the animation and art are interesting enough for me to continue watching the show for at least one more episode. So to answer the question of which this series is a namesake, this is a watch (for now).

 

Made In Abyss – Drop Or Watch Summer 2017 #1

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I wasn’t planning on finishing continuing this series after last season, but I just finished watching the first 4 episodes of Made in Abyss and I have a lot (relatively) to say. First, a preface: Made in Abyss is a Summer 2017 anime based on a monthly web manga created by Akihito Tsukushi. The series is being made by Kinema Citrus who made the amazing Is The Order A Rabbit?? and the equally spectacular Barakamon. The show is directed by Masayuki Kojima (Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai, Black Bullet).

So now that that preface is over with I suppose I shall begin my first impressions proper. The animation in this series is amazing. The art style really lends itself to fluid and dynamic motion. The art and animation for the monsters are different and rougher,  even to the point that they look like they’re out of a different series entirely. Which gives them a very unsettling feeling.

Made in Abyss has two main characters. Those being, Regu (the robot boy) and Riku (a normal human). From what we’ve seen so far, the characters appear to be pretty interesting Although I will admit at the beginning of the series I was slightly worried about the character of Regu as when he was introduced he had amnesia, which lead me to believe he was quite a blank slate. Luckily the series used an absolutely fantastic montage scene and when we come back down from this montage Regu has a personality and is a fully formed character, which I thought was absolutely genius. Riku is very much so a driven-shounen protagonist, except she’s a girl. That’s the only difference. But that’s fine as I enjoy the character archetype.Plot:

The series has a pretty simple premise. The two main characters live in a world where there is an island where a city of adventurers popped up because on an abyss there, which is filled with expensive artefacts which they sell to the outside world. Regu and Riku are both apprentices in abyss diving at an orphanage. After Riku’s mom’s possessions are found at the bottom of a letter Regu decides to help Riku get to the bottom of the abyss and find her mother. This idea of an abyss makes me incredibly intrigued and I’m just dying to know more about what secrets it holds.

In the end, after watching these four amazing episodes I have decided that no, I will not be dropping this series, I’ll watch it all the way through and hopefully have a great time doing it.

 

 

My Favourite Anime OP- Anime Questions

So remember when I was doing the 30-day anime challenge then quit? Well, I’m doing it again. But not properly. You see, in this new series “Anime Questions” I will answer questions no one asked about me as an anime fan. This series will be written en-masse then released weekly (so I actually have content coming out).

If you’ve read my last post you probably already know that K-ON!! is my favorite anime of all time. But, not only is K-ON!! my favorite anime it also gave me what I consider to be the greatest anime opening of all time. The opening in question is the first OP of the second season, “GO! GO! MANIAC!” by the band Ho-Kago Tea Time. GO! GO! MANIAC! is quite strange for a Ho-Kago Tea Time song as they normally have more of a pop-punk edge whereas this song has more of a J-pop influence.

When it comes to this OP I don’t just love the song, I also love the animation. This entire OP is animated incredibly well, which is to be expected since the series is created by Kyoto Ani. The CGI in the op is done quite well and blends great with the 2d backgrounds. Getting back to the song, the vocals provided by Yui (the character from the show, not the singer) are absolutely spectacular, and all of the instrumentals are done incredibly well. I just realized that I have absolutely nothing else to say about this OP (I’m no Mother’s Basement) so I’ll be signing off here. See you in the next one.

K-On! And Preconceptions.

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K-on is one of my favourite anime series of all time. It features my favourite characters, favourite music, and favourite setting in an anime. But my opinions after watching the series aren’t what I want to talk about on this day. What I shall be discussing today is how K-On beat the preconceptions of many who watched it. At least, those who watched it the whole way through.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from K-ON and really as far as I can tell, neither was the rest of the anime community at the time. To me, it just felt like Kyoto Animation wasting their time instead of making Haruhi season 2. Then it was released. And the first episode was actually kind of mediocre. It wasn’t great, yet at the same time, it wasn’t bad. It just kind of felt like another entry in the slew of mediocrity that was (and still is) most of the moe genre.

But then episodes two came around and, something happened. I saw a character who started out with absolutely not motivation in the first episode, gain the want for something, a guitar. She wants this guitar so she can be more to the Light Music Club than just someone who sits around and wastes time while they practice (and also do their fair share of sitting around wasting time). In fact, she goes so far as to get her first part-time job, just to get this guitar. This blew me away when I first saw it, “Character development? In a moe show? This is incredible!” is what I’m sure I was thinking at the time.

from then on in my perception of this series as merely a fanservice, only for males shows was cracked. But it truly shattered when I discovered something amazing. The majority of the people who watched K-ON in Japan were females. Highschool aged females. As soon as I heard this I began to question it. There was no way this could be true> But the farther down the rabbit hole I went, the more pictures I saw of girls with K-ON key chains and the like, the ticket sales for the movie, as well as other anime directors opinions on the series made me realize: there really is something more to K-ON.

These thoughts on the series were expanded so much more when I finally saw season 2 and the movie. Season 2 is where most of the development of the series takes place, and it has a much clearer season arc (although S1 did have an arc) which was: enjoy the last year of us as Hokago Tea Time (the name of their band). Characters backgrounds, relationships and demeanour were expanded on so much, as well as what their home lives were like. Thes series did everything it could to be the best anime it could be. Not just the best moe it could be and that is what truly shattered my preconceptions of K-ON.

DESCENDER: A MASTERPIECE OF TIN.

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I just finished reading Descender Volume 1: Tin Stars. It collects the first 6 issues of the currently running Image series written by Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Essex Country), wih art by the amazing Dustin Nguyen (Li’l Gotham), and it was extraordinary. Merely 20 years ago you would be hard pressed to find an Image book which was considered a masterful work of fiction (excluding The Maxx, and mabye Spawn). But in recent years, when Image started moving away from 90’s superheroes (with pouches and belts galore) and started to focus on more interesting indie esque series, they became a comapny constantly ringing out 10s (ie. Invincible, East to West, and Paper Girls).

Alot of the appeal of Descender (at least for me) is the spectacular art by Dustin Nguyen. I’ve followed him for an incredibly long time, and he may very well be my favourtie current comic book artist. He can really bring the spectacular alien worlds, scenery, and characters to life using his incredibly interesting, and cartoon esque water colour paint style. The amount of white used in both the character designs of the UGC characters, and much of the background makes the use of color look even more stunning and stand out. This is one of the few comics where I actually stop to admire the art regularly, and that’s something special.

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Of course as we all know art is only half of a comic book, the writing is just as important. Jeff Lemire is one of my favourtie comic book writers ever, meaning that him and Dustin Nguyen teaming up for this book makes it an absolute dream for me. He has the profound ability to flesh out a world and it’s characters equally, and at the same time. Each of the few planets that we visit in Descender all feel intersting and origional. They all have their own destinct popuations, from one that only has robots left alive, to one popualted completely by robot hating pig esque alien things. The universe obviously has a deep hirstory and lore that I’m excited tofind out more about when I inevitabley buy  “Descender Volume 2: Machine Moon”.

Descender is interesting in the fact tha it is one of the few, truly great science fiction comics of the 2010s. Where as back in the 1950s and 60s so much of comics were space operas like Adam Strange, Star Wars, and Jak Kirby’s The Fourth World, but today we don’t have much of that. Of course we do have Thanos, Gaurdians of The Galaxy, and all of the Star Wars comics, but all of those are in an interconnected web which can, at best can kind of stand alone, and at worst are so bogged down in continuity that they drown under the weight of their own history. Descendeer isn’t like that, it’s new, fresh, and exremely exhilerating, the art is stunning, the writing is interesting, and the universe is spectaular. This comic is truly beautiful, and you should all go out and pick it up.