Kumiko Suekane (Afterschool Charisma): Suekane is allll over the place. The blog's tone is very casual, fannish, and jaded, to the point that I can't understand, like, 75% of her references. She's into Phoenix Wright. Complains about her magazine (!).
Moyoco Anno (Hataraki Man, Sugar Sugar Rune): There's one post on there, and in it she apologizes for not posting. And drawing - sounds like she's been sick. Tone is sad and bored. Feel better, Moyoco Anno!
Natsuki Takaya (Fruits Basket, Hoshi wa Utau): Very domestic. She talks about her assistants, presents people have given her, stuff she's bought, food she likes, and the weather. She posts photos of all of these things. The title of the blog is "Cat and Mouse and Stars and the Moon."
Kubo Tite's Twitter (Bleach): Casual stuff about work and his assistants. His fans send him fan-Tweets, and he says, "Thank you!" and sometimes comments on personal details they've mentioned. "I'm glad I've made a manga that fathers can read with their sons!"
Kaoru Mori (Emma, Otoyomegatari): I really enjoy hers. Excited discussions of her research material for Otoyomegatari and anything else she's been into recently. She went through an opera phase at one point, and obviously still likes the Victorian era.
She also posts a lot of sketches of busty women, attended by mock-embarrassed disclaimers that she does draw things other than busty women. Well, evidently you do not do so very often, Kaoru Mori. If you wondered why her women in Emma and Otoyomegatari are so much hotter than her men, this blog may help to answer your question.
At the core, 95% of shounen manga are fantasies of power. Most of them specifically work with the idea of an "inner strength" that's greater than outer strength - because, you know, most people reading manga are not big huge muscle-dudes. So the idea that this person of apparently ordinary physical size and strength could become the hero that everyone looks up to and fears, because of some internal quality, is very appealing.
Manga depending on this idea - and this occurs in shoujo as well as shounen - usually have some visible symbol of "inner strength." Bankai and transformations are Bleach's. Displaying and using your inner strength is simultaneously an act of aggression and a form of communication - if two shounen manga characters beat each other down with all their inner strength, they nearly always at least respect each other at the end. Sometimes they become BFFs! (See: like, half of Ichigo's current relationships with guys. He has beat most of these people up!)
In the most compelling shounen manga battles, when you agree to "show someone your true power," what you're doing is offering them a kind of intimacy, because you're showing them your soul.* And like in real life, making that offer requires a certain surety of oneself. This is why, when a Bleach character has summoned his Bankai for the first time in the past, he's always looked cocky or solemn or angry. He may also look tired or like he's under strain (Ikkaku did, and I think Hitsugaya?), but he never looks scared, because it goes against genre logic for a person who's not sure of himself to voluntarily put his soul out in front of someone else. It would be self-destructive - hence the trope where someone who's panicking or deluding themselves about something tries to use their secret technique, and either can't summon it, or loses control and kills themself with it.
Now, in later uses of the "true power," it's okay to portray it merely as a weapon, because the reader's already familiar with the character's soul, even if the opponent isn't. If every opponent reacts the same way to the revelation of the hero's power, the readers will start rolling their eyes. This is part of why characters like Ichigo just keep powering up throughout a shounen series. It's not purely escalation of the danger level; it's also a reassurance to the readers that the characters still have depths yet to be explored, and that they're growing and changing.**
(Some of the most successful manga of this kind are, I think, the coming-of-age stories, where these transformations mark a character's movement towards self-knowledge and responsibility. In my experience, shoujo manga does this better than shounen - Sugar Sugar Rune and Divine Melody are my favorite examples.
So, what all this was leading up to was: Soi Fong's first use of her Bankai, which is also the first time a female character has used Bankai in combat. ( Spoilers up to the end of Soi Fong's fight with Barragan (I don't remember the chapter number). )
At the beginning of the Arrancar arc I started keeping score on the female fight scenes. This is how my scoring works:
+1 for female hero winning
-1 for female hero losing
+1/2 for female villain winning
-1/2 for female villain losing
So, a neutral score would be zero; Claymore's score would be fairly close to zero, because the Claymores mostly fight women; and Battle Angel Alita's score would be, like, 7.63 * 10^9, because Alita almost always fights men.
Note that it doesn't matter who the woman fights here. If Yoruichi were to defeat a moderately-sized talking sea snail entirely offscreen, while onscreen we had, like, Hanatarou, Kon, and Don Kanonji fighting big terrifying things with lots of trash-talking? Yoruichi would still get a full point for her dead sea snail.
What I'm trying to say is, I feel I was being fairly generous.
Obviously, lots of spoilers under the cut.
( All the battles involving female characters from the beginning of the Arrancar arc on. )
( 'From the beginning, it's stated that Tousen is blind, but there are actually several scenes that suggest that he can see.' )
THE HAT IS ON FIRE"
But I just - why do people die in Soul Society? I mean, they're all dead already. Do they, like... double-die? What are the mechanics of this? Is it explained?
( In which I proceed to go ON AND ON about this idea. )
For some reason I thought this was the last volume… I guess I’m happy it’s not?
But I’m disappointed by the sense I’m getting that, in the long run, no shounen manga dares stand in the way of the almighty Shounen Jump formula. For one thing, the formula seems to require that the female characters either stop getting fight scenes, or make them the froofy passive-looking metaphysical kind.
For another, there seems to have been an executive decision that Soul Eater lose his hat, acquire a hairstyle somewhere between present-day-Ichigo’s* and Edward Elric’s, and completely change the shape of his face and eyes. Because it’s not okay to have a protagonist who doesn’t look exactly like every other protagonist?
Also, Black ★ Star has suddenly become the number-one angstiest member of the cast? The guy who pronounces a little star in the middle of his name to emphasize how special he is? The one who was introduced as a parody of Naruto!? Yet he is now More Special Sasuke! It’s like the manga’s IQ is progressively getting lower.
If Patty ends up getting angst, too, I’m just going to retreat into writing fanfic where everyone’s an adorable moron again.
* Hey, remember the good old days when Kubo Tite actually had a recognizable personal style? Whatever happened to those days? THE SHOUNEN JUMP FORMULA HAPPENED TO THOSE DAYS. If Mizuno Junko ran a manga in Shounen Jump, within twelve months it would become a story about a fourteen-year-old boy overcoming his rocky relationship with his dad through montage-intensive training to become the best evil naked zombie drug dealer gigolo nurse.
** I just checked and Soul Eater actually runs in Shounen Gangan, not Shounen Jump. Close enough!
Wow. Hiei and Kurama’s backstories are actually pretty hardcore.
I just want to show this to Kubo Tite and go, like, “THIS IS HOW YOU DO THE MORALLY-AMBIGUOUS DUDE’S FLASHBACK SEQUENCE.”
No, seriously, Kurama’s backstory is more badass than most of the villains in Bleach. Kurama. Do you know how sad that is? ’cause that is eight points of sad on the shindo scale. (Note: The shindo scale goes up only to seven.)
Wow, that was fast. I wonder how the mangakas get through all these fight scenes they don’t care about? I guess that’s why they have assistants. (Some of the pages were out of order in my downloads, and I didn’t notice. I’m very serious about this.)
If you read my last post on this subject, there are spoilers below. If not, there aren’t.( Read the rest of this entry » )
Because I clearly didn’t bring enough books with me, I’ve started reading non-CLAMP-related scanlations again. I’ve just finished volume 15 of Bleach.
Apparently one of my narrative fetishes is tiny cute people doing paperwork in a crotchety, hyper-masculine way. (Who knew?) Hence, my favorite part of the arc thus far is the scene with the little shinigami boy sitting behind a desk with some tea and complaining that he is “dead tired,” while furthering a plotline I don’t really care about.
My disinterest notwithstanding, I’ve got some predictions:( Read the rest of this entry » )