snarp: small cute androgynous android crossing arms and looking very serious (Default)
JOHN: ok. what's this story about?

JOHN: ogre sex, or salamander shipping, or something?

ARANEA: Nope! Although I would 8e happy to tell you all a8out those topics another time.

Aranea Serket: A huge idiot who cannot effectively convey her fannish zeal for things in under 2,000 words, thus making everyone else mistrust/hate the things in question.

I overidentify with Aranea! How many ineffective rambling rec posts have I even written about Vampire Game? Probably a lot.

(Okay, Vampire Game in one sentence: It's an inexplicably non-misogynistic vampire manga, sort of about Bella Swan attempting ineffectually to use Edward Cullen to destroy her enemies, drawn really badly and adapted into English by someone who thought jokes about anal sex and jell-o were just the very best thing.)
snarp: small cute androgynous android crossing arms and looking very serious (Default)
Middle-schooler Miaka is Basic Clumsy Shoujo Heroine version 1.0, and her best friend Yui is the Cool-Tempered Genius Foil v. 1.0. They find a Chinese book called "The Universe of the Four Gods," and are transported into its story, where they are immediately attacked by slave traders, but rescued by a rude young thief named Tamahome.

Miaka ends up trapped in the book alone, and is told that she is the Priestess of Suzaku - basically, the book's heroine - and must gather the seven Celestial Warriors to summon the god Suzaku and gain three wishes. Tamahome is one of them, as is the narcissistic Emperor Hotohori, and his equally narcissistic concubine Nuriko. Seeing no other choice, she sets out to find the other four warriors, planning to wish to return home.

Wacky antics ensue! Miaka eats too much and Tamahome is greedy and Hotohori is vain! And then the love triangle starts! More wacky antics ensue - oh, look how mean Nuriko is, ha ha! Angst starts showing up! It's a love quadrilateral now! Someone has a tragic past and an alarming scar! Pentagon! Everyone has a tragic past now, and somebody just got raped! Hexagon! People are dying! Painfully! I think it's a love nonagon at this point! Dead babies! All the doomed characters from Please Save My Earth show up and are like, mannn! HALF THE ORIGINAL CAST IS NOW DEAD AND THE REST HAVE BEEN RAPED oh god

This manga is possibly a little more ruthless than you might expect from the first volume. I've been trying to think of another shoujo artist who's quite this cruel, and I can't.

Like you expect from long-running shoujo series, Watase spends the first few volumes on slapstick romantic comedy, with hints of darker things in the future. The darker things in the future turn out to be unusually dark. She puts a lot of energy into making her characters sympathetic, and she uses that to break your heart. When Kaori Yuki kills everybody off, she at least gives the possibility of resurrection as an incestuous schoolboy or a vampire zombie in a frilly dress. Not happening here! People die horribly and randomly and suddenly, and everyone is traumatized forever.

...I'm a bad person for finding this kind of refreshing, aren't I.

Another surprising thing is how matter-of-fact the sexual stuff is. It's common for some magical force to be used as a stand-in for sex in shoujo manga - for instance, off the top of my head, the psychic powers in Please Save My Earth, the feathers in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle (and if you tell me that it is shounen then I will laugh - laugh, I say), and the vampirism in Vampire Knight. These manga mostly try pretty hard to avoid discussing actual sex - PSME has a sex scene, but it's so wary of the subject that it has to spend half the series building up to it, and the characters are only able to discuss it in dramatic angst-filled outbursts.

In Fushigi Yuugi, the bad guys use rape as a weapon and have thoughtful discussions about its application. The good guys stand around discussing the impact it'll have on Miaka's magical powers if she's not a virgin anymore. Sex is evil and dangerous most of the time like you'd expect - as you may have guessed, it mostly occurs in the form of rape - but I'm just astonished that 1) it exists, and 2) it's treated as something so mundane. If you replaced the word "rape" with "Hyper Beam" you'd have Pokemon dialog.

And I know that I'm a bad person for finding this funny, yes.*

Basically what I'm trying to say is that Yuu Watase is kind of messed-up. But in ways that appeal to me.

Volume 13 seems to have finished up the major plot arc, but there are five more volumes, which I have yet to read. Let's see if Watase manages to kill off everyone who's still alive.

-

* Further evidence that I am a bad person: The point at which I completely fell in love with Vampire Game (not to be confused with Vampire Knight) was when the heroine, Princess Ishtar, convinces the ancient vampire king Duzell to sleep with her evil uncle and steal his evil secrets. Her plan hinges on the fact that her uncle thinks Duzell's her, incidentally. The vampire king, traumatized by Ishtar's superior level of twistedness, obediently tries his best, but fails at his mission. Ishtar and Duzell are my OTP, by the way.

You should read Vampire Game, by the way. I made a post explaining why.
snarp: small cute androgynous android crossing arms and looking very serious (Default)

(Originally published at SarahPin.com. You can comment here or there.)

that will totally make you want to read it.

Once upon a time, the Vampire King Duzell got a bit grumpy and decided to kill all the humans. He came close, but was finally defeated by King Phelios, who destroyed him with a spell called La Gamme, which takes the life of both the target and the one who cast it. In his dying breath, Duzell curses both of them to be reborn again in one hundred years, to repeat their battle.

Phelios is destined to be reborn into the body of one of his descendents - but Duzell forgets to specify what he’s going to end up. The broody vampire king finds himself trapped in the body of a newborn kitten, and the pet of Phelios’s descendant, the irresponsible and manipulative Princess Ishtar.

Ishtar holds Phelios in contempt for 1) being the sort of person who would throw his life away, and 2) marrying his cousin, something that afterwards became a royal tradition. Ishtar does not like her cousins. Sometimes they try to poison her. Though disconcerted, the scheming vampire king sees certain obvious possibilities in his situation. Duzell, eventually regaining enough of his power to transform his cat body into that of a human (with great restraint, the mangaka refrains from giving him fluffy ears), reveals himself to Ishtar.

And Ishtar, to Duzell’s bewilderment, joyfully takes over the entire project, sweeping him off on a tour of the country to meet all her cousins and kill whichever of them he wants. “And hey! Maybe I should give this world domination thing a shot, too!” It quickly becomes clear that Duzell is no longer the one in control of this intrigue. Ishtar particularly enamoured of his ability to shapeshift into a (male) body that looks just like her - she can make him deal with her suitors!

Duzell, whose social skills are stunted from centuries of talking only with his brainwashed servants, is no match for Ishtar. It’s particularly great when he starts falling for the suitors.

In case it is not clear, I really, really love the Ishtar-Duzell dynamic. Particularly the Ishtar half. She is possibly my favorite shoujo heroine ever. She’s smart and self-absorbed and lazy and lies a lot, and her occasional acts of heroism are perfectly in character, because the shallowness and meanness are how she protects herself from people who want to use her. She understands her own motivations perfectly. And she has actual relationships with female characters! They get whole plot arcs, even! (One of those plot arcs is extremely tedious, but let’s set that thought aside for the moment.) Duzell, by comparison, is extremely straightforward, and not much good at self-analysis - he wants to find Phelios and kill him, and he wants Ishtar to stop embarrassing him, and he has no idea how to accomplish either of these things.

The manga is not perfect. Cut for some complaints. )

…uh, in conclusion, read the manga, and write me fanfic where Ishtar embarrasses Duzell, but be prepared for a vague sense of dissatisfaction?

I think I’m not very good at making people read stuff.

snarp: small cute androgynous android crossing arms and looking very serious (Default)
Cut for major spoilers. )

Also, in nitpicky news, it looks like they forgot how they were romanizing some of the names, and left some formatting errors in there again. There's a really obvious wrong-word-balloon thing right at the beginning. I didn't notice any others right off, but one of the squinty guy's longer conversations was really awkward, so maybe there was some switching in there that was tricky enough I didn't notice it.

A good thing is that the characters have pretty distinctive voices, so you can usually tell when something's gone fishy with the formatting. If there's mis-attributed dialog in, say, Vampire Game, you just can't tell - the sneaky Princess, egomaniacal Prince, much-put-upon royal bodyguard, and haughty vampire king all sound like fourteen-year-old South Park fans.

...not that I don't appreciate the lines about lube and dirty limericks the translators stuck in there (I'm sure this makes me a terrible person and a failed Serious Manga Reader), but it's kind of jarring when an extremely stodgy character suddenly says something really snippy. Shock potty humor works best when it is a shock. It shouldn't be coming from all directions at once, especially if you're trying to fit a semi-serious shounen-ai story in there, too. Ishtar and Yujinn making buttsecks jokes, sure; Vord and Duzell, some of the time, fine; but not Darres. And I'm sure he was using distal-style most of the time in the original, but you couldn't tell it here.

Unless I'm midjudging this and they completely scrapped the original plot. I don't think they did - they'd have dumped more of the politics - but I'd say it's possible that Ishtar was originally dumber, and Duzell's angst more obnoxious. Which thought saddens me.

...I wish more people read this manga. It's good! I mean, the art's awful and the plot's infuriating - but - well, it's good anyway! It has a better cross-dressing- heroine- surrounded- by- guys- who- are- prettier- than- she- is- yet- whose- egos- she- constantly- deflates than Ouran Host Club! It has a haughty immortal vampire king who looks exactly like said heroine (due to magic... things...) and whom she immediately wraps around her little finger and starts sending to deal with her unwanted suitors! And he looks all ominous and serious all the time while thinking stuff like, "Damn that princess, tricking me into seducing her pretty, evil, incest-fetishizing uncle! He's not even my type!" (Though this may be bullshit translation.) It has no idea how suspense works! It has no idea what shoulders look like! It has two palace guards whose original dialog was apparently so pointless that the translators could replace 90% of it with dirty jokes that don't fit their facial expressions! It has horses that don't work!

It's great, I promise!

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