Tag Archives: Anime

Friday Reviews: One-Word Titles

Every Friday I review two books or comic books (a lot from NetGalley). For today’s review post we have two titles by the team of J. D. Morvan and Bengal taking on a new perspective of international assassins and giant robot pilots.



Writer – J. D. Morvan | Artists – Bengal

NajaCoverNaja is the number three assassin in her organization, led by the mysterious zero who she has never met. She’s given a target, money, everything she needs to carry out her next assignment and hop on the next private plane. And she feels no physical pain whatsoever. None until she is tied up by a mysterious figure who tells her her life is in jeopardy. The #1 assassin in their little group believes Naja is trying to kill him, and is responding in kind.

What follows is a bloody trail of death with Naja trying to protect herself from #1. First step, find out his identity which involves breaking her childhood friend out of prison. For the first time Naja has felt pain and doesn’t know the road ahead, and she loves it.

It took me a while to get drawn into this story. I’m not a fan of narrated stories and the artwork can be cold and thin at times, though this also suits the tone of the story well. Get a little further in and you are treated to a twisted tale and action worthy of the next Bourne movie. The ending, however, is well … really screwed up given everything that has come before, and also a little bit confusing. I won’t spoil it for you, except to say that if you knew where this was going you might not want to finish it.

Bengal captures each of the international locations well, and Naja is drawn as cold and emotionless as she is supposed to be, making the few times she smiles all the more intriguing. The other assassins are interesting characters as well, if a bit genre archetypes. You are bound to be surprised at every turn. Probably not a lot like other things you’ve read and the artwork and colors are really excellent, but not for everyone.

(3 stars | Not for everybody)



Writer – J. D. Morvan | Artists – Bengal

MekaCoverIn Meka, a pilot and repair technician of a giant robot are stranded in enemy territory after a battle and are forced to survive. Throughout they question the point of their battling and what has brought them to this point, while trying to survive among the collateral damage of their fight. This is a story not just of brave pilots, but the hundreds of people affected by their actions in war.

I really liked this story, a tightly focused human story based around a common Anime trope. From a technical perspective the way the technician slid around the robot was kind of intriguing, though much of the rest of the action is so frenetic its a little difficult to get a sense of what is going on. This works well in a fog of war situation and what we are shown clearly is the devastation of the fight.

The robot takes a step and crushes a pedestrian unable to get away. An enemy robot is destroyed and pieces of it crash into an office building. Later on in a tense gunfight we are treated to a page of life flashing before our eyes of each person shot. This is the kind of stuff that is barely even implied in most giant-robot fighting stories.

Bengal’s artwork is well suited to this setting, and while the story is far less bloody it is not less devastating. My only complaint is that the ending felt a little abrupt and inconclusive, though again many stories of this type are. A good story for those who like sci-fi and anime and questions about the impact of war.

(4 stars | Worth the read)

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Amazon Manga Madness!!!

Long time readers of the blog may remember I like to read manga, but being an Amazon Kindle user my options were limited and they had none of my favorite series (including Bleach and most Viz media).

Apparently that has changed.

After a couple of layers of Amazon “you may like” or “customers who bought this item also bought”, I discovered Rurouni Kenshin – Restoration, a two volume retelling / tie-in with the live action movie (also discussed on this blog). Each volume is priced at $5.79 and are welcome editions to my Kindle (I’ll evaluate the story and the movie in a future post once the live action arrives on my doorstep).

It turns out Amazon has a lot of good titles: Naruto, Bleach, Attack on Titan, Rurouni Kenshin and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Single volumes all seem to be priced at around the $5.79 price though the Evangelion title’s offer three-in-ones priced at $9.39. Absent though is Fullmetal Alchemist, Trigun, Love Hina and numerous others that I would have loved to see.

As I have long suspected it would, manga looks great on the Touch. Barnes and Noble, who used to be the only game in town, did not offer manga on their eReaders, only supporting it on their tablet models. There are some quirks, however:

  • Manga is compatible with my Touch but not my first generation Fire. This seems odd since the Fire has a better resolution and supports a variety of other comics. It works on my crappy generic Android, however. To my understanding the Touch and the Fire are the same hardware generation so I find it a little odd that the Touch works and Fire does not.
  • The manga pages are ordered backwards, or more to the point they are placed back to front as a real printed volume would be. I think it’s a little weird to have to hit the previous button to get the next page, and the effect is not as natural as it is with the actual book.

The price point’s not bad, though I wish they offered more of the long running series in the same format as the Evangelion books (the equivalent of buying each volume for $3.13 instead of $5.79). Kenshin is a 28 volume series, and Bleach and Naruto have 50+ volumes. Manga has never been the cheapest hobby to sustain, and Amazon is cheaper than most print runs, but it’s still expensive to have a complete collection.

Overall I’m happy, particularly for trying new series like Attack on Titan that I haven’t read. One of these days I’ll have to review a real book so you don’t think all I read is comic books 🙂

What other manga titles do you like?


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Oro?Live Action Rurouni Kenshin?

Live action versions of anime have a long and storied history, a bad one. Leaving aside big blockbuster adaptions of cartoons like Transformers and GI Joe, most live action anime fails to capture what we love about the show, either by cramming too much or too little into the time frame, choosing poor actors, special effects that don’t live up to what they were able to achieve with animated cells, or dreaded things like the Bleach Musical.

That said, this trailer does show some promise that the movie might be at least as good as the live action Blood: The Last Vampire, which while not excellent, at least captured some of the OVAs spirit. So in the spirit of “Let’s Rush To Judgment” I thought I’d give you some of my impressions:

1) It’s a little weird seeing Kenshin look … well … Japanese – It totally make sense that the cast would be of Chinese or Japanese descent, given that this is a product not only of their pop-culture, but their history as well. But anyone who has watched anime for a while knows that many of the characters look … well … American. Certainly a long shock of red hair on the character wouldn’t look natural on this actor, and I’m glad that it seems they have muted this considerably.

2) Where’s Yahiko? – Even with a lot of fast cuts, this movie shows a lot of characters that would be instantly recognizeable to fans of the Manga or Anime, except one, the young Samurai brat Yahiko. I’m sure some people will be bummed by his absence, but given the arc this movie seems to cover, it would over complicate things to include him. I think this is a good decision. The tone of this movie seems a little serious minded, and Yahiko’s presence in the early arcs was largely for comic relief. A good Kenshin will accomplish enough of this on his own without needing a little sidekick. And Sagara’s there so Kenshin still has an ally / adversary to play against.

3) We’re covering a lot of ground – The presence of the Gatling gun means we’re probably going at least through the Oniwabanshu arc, which concludes at the end of Volume 4 of the Manga. The prescence of a Megumi looking woman seems to confirm this, as her arc takes the bulk of Volumes 3 and 4. But Kaoru screaming at the end seems to be from the when Udo Jin-e captures her in Volume 2 and tries to bring out the killer in Kenshin. In the Manga these are two separate story arcs, and I’m not sure how the movie will treat them. I have a feeling there will be some blending going on, which might result in the elimination of the Aoshi character altogether, or making him Kenshin’s adversary in some other way, possibly resulting in his death which would significantly change canon. Okay, this is a lot of speculation, but given the elements we’re seeing, some kind of blending has to be going on. Thankfully, they at least seem to be getting rid of the stupid fake Battosai from the opening arc. If he really turned out to be Jin-e, I’d be okay with that.

4) Oro sounds weird coming out of a person – He says it, at least twice in the trailer, though both times it seems like its out if sync. That said, this is a defining character trait of Kenshin, and would be missed if not there.

5) The scar is exaggerated – If you think about the actual injury, maybe not, but it does stick out at moments.

6) Action is a little frantic – One of the fun parts of the anime in particular was getting inside Kenshin’s head. His finishing moves were always well laid out, often his opponent thought he recognized the move, but then Kenshin would throw in a little surprise. One of the first I remember of these was him using the sheath of his sort as a second weapon as he whirled around, seemingly missing with the sword. This might be a little hard to convey convincingly in live action, but I hope we still see some insight into his technique.

Overall my impressions are that this looked good. I have a feeling there will be some of the same mash-ups of plot we’ve seen before, but the trailer does give me hope that they’ve got the tone right, both the action and the humor. Casting can always be better, but I’ll give this guy a chance, whenever this movie comes out in America (late 2013)?


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First Impressions

“The book was better than the movie.”

“You have to watch it in the original language. The english dub is painful.”

“The original version is by far the best.”

My wife and I saw The Hunger Games yesterday after she plowed through the book the day before. While we disagreed on some of the finer points, we generally agreed that the movie fell short of the book, that key moments, details and events were left out. While movies are oftened accused of not being as good as their source material, watching this particular movie brought up two points that I thought were worth sharing.

1) You’ll always think the first thing you saw/read/heard is the best version

For me this comes up all the time in Anime. While generally speaking I try to watch all anime shows in their original language, there are a number that for one reason or another I saw in English first. For me Hellsing sounds terrible in Japanese, as do Akira, Steamboy (I mean who’s better than Patrick Stewrat) and Metropolis. Conversely, the english adaptions of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bleach and Trigun are painful to listen to (particularly Trigun). I think one of the main reasons for this is that moment when we form our impression of the character, what they look like and how they sound.

In The Hunger Games I listened to the audio book rather than reading which gave me some very set preceptions of how names were pronounced and how certain characters sounded. In particularly Effie (played by Elizabeth Banks in the movie) has a much more exaggerated affectation in the audiobook, and I found Banks to be too subdued (though kudos to her for sitting through makeup that would make Mrs. Slocomb faint).

A kind of exception to this rule for me was Watchmen. Though I find the graphic novel to have a much richer amount of background material, due to the way it was published, I liked the movie ending better, despite having read the graphic novel months before. The movie ending pins the destruction of the world on one the main characters and not on some manufactured evil brought in from seemingly nowhere. The graphic novel is like a mystery where the murderer is introduced only in the last few pages, rather than in the first 20% of the book. In the movie we meet our murderer up front, have time to suspect them and others.

But I digress.

I formed a lot of my impressions of The Hunger Games from the audiobook, a form of reading that is often more practical for me since I can listen to audiobooks at work. Reading in this fashion does have some downsides however which may have colored my perception of some characters.

2) Audiobooks choose what points to emphasize rather than letting you decide where to place emphasis

More than just the affectations of Effie, the audiobook shaped my impressions of some of the main characters particularly Peeta and Katniss. I didn’t really like either of these characters at first. I found Katniss to be cold, to suspicious of people around her, and at times very flightly and indecisive. I found Peeta’s love from afar to be far from believeable, and found Katniss’ references to him as “the boy with bread” to be distracting. (I don’t want to give people the impression I didn’t like the book because I actually did overall).

Audiobooks are a performance like any other and I didn’t realize until I saw that the movie how much of my feelings about these characters was colored by that performance. Seeing the movie, even with its faults, made me much more sympathetic of Katniss and much more believing in Peeta’s love and overall charming and noble nature. Even before the movie however, I was softening on both of these characters as I read (this time on the Kindle) the second book. While we may have a preference for the first way we encounter something, this does not mean we can’t learn or change our views by seeing other versions.

I still stand by my standard axiom, read/see/hear whatever came first then see what came next, but I think it’s important to recognize how we bias our opinions of what’s to come.

What do you guys think? Is there always a “best” way to see something, or is it subjective?


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