at which I once merely rolled my eyes.

I cannot handle Chigusa in Silver Diamond anymore. He needs to keep his hands off that teenager.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson

Jenna Fox awakens in a house with three people she doesn't remember - two frightened parents, who seem to have videotaped every important moment in her life, and want her to watch all of them in order; and one distant grandmother, Lily, who talks about her granddaughter as if she's dead, and tells Jenna to skip to the end. They tell her that she has been in an accident. Her body does not always move the way she wants it to, she seems to have forgotten words and feelings as well as people, and she has no sense of taste. At first, these things don't worry her.

The gist of what happened to Jenna is clear from early on, but the book is a thoughtful and often vivid take on an old idea. The prose is sparse, sometimes evocative and sometimes awkward, but it's in the first person, and suits Jenna's character well. It reminds me a little of a Hagio Moto story, with Jenna as the ever-present lost, otherworldly character who needs saving, and her grandmother as the coarse, reality-based one who goes grudgingly to work on it. (Actually, now that I think of it, the plot is basically the same as my beloved A, A', which is probably part of why I liked it so much.)

For science fiction, a genre in which it is not uncommon for a protagonist to save the world twice in one book, not a lot really happens - though politics are visibly taking place in the background, Jenna's activities consist of meeting people, going to school, dealing with her medical problems, and disagreeing with her family. The first half of the book is nonetheless very suspenseful. Beyond that point, though, the tension falls - it's difficult to convince readers that your character is torn between good and evil when she's never yet shown any sign of having evil in her.

A very good book. I've... actually already read it twice, and I only got it last week.

Tactics volume 7, by Sakura Kinoshita and Kazuko Higashiyama

(See my post on volumes 1-6 for the series' premise.)

I suspect that Kinoshita and Higashiyama are allowing their joint id to take over at this point. There are angst-ridden declarations of loyalty, followed immediately by hurt feelings, and Haruka and Kantarou are humiliated extra-special amounts. With bonus Hasumi humiliation! Also, adorable animal sidekicks show up, and Youko and Sugino get some hilarious dialog. So, something for everyone!

The plot still doesn't make sense.

Non-value-laden observations:

1) Is it a rule that, when a manga has a short, childish-looking hero with a tall, dark guardian figure, there's got to be a secret society that exists entirely to bother them? (See: Cain Saga, Black Butler, Pandora Hearts, Mythical Detective Loki.) I mean, has this ever not happened? Because I want a manga where where Riff doesn't have anything to protect Cain from, and they just end up getting really into novelty soap collecting.

(Hikaru no Go doesn't count - Hikaru is actually the guardian figure.)

2) Kantarou is albino, which I did not realize. So that means there's a manga where the albino isn't evil or locked in a box! That's nice. Though I guess we still have time for him to turn out to be a doomed genetic experiment.

I think this means that dark hair is a racial signifier in this manga - the only other light-haired characters have been foreigners and Shoukiku, who is a demon. I wonder why they chose to go that route - just to emphasize Kantarou's outsider nature? Exoticization of the past, by way of attaching racial markers to Showa-era people? Kinoshita's Japanese characters in Loki had a variety of hair colors, so this isn't her default mode. Or do they feel they need a differentiating trait because they're actually going to try to talk about race later? ...that's kind of an alarming thought, I don't know if I want them to do that.
Hahaha what.

That is my cumulative opinion of the whole series.

Spoilers. )
because I am about ten years behind on anime, okay?

And I just got to episode 7, and how is Tsuzuki still (quasi-)alive if he makes such consistently bad decisions? I do not pity you, Tsuzuki! You are too stupid!

Cut for spoilers and capslock. )
Tactics volumes 1-6, by Kinoshita Sakura and Higashiyama Kazuko

Kantarou, a hyperactive and opportunistic folklorist, has the gift of seeing and befriending youkai. He's always dreamed of finding and breaking the seal that imprisons the most powerful youkai of all - the Demon-Eating Tengu. In chapter one, he does! He then enslaves him. The first few volumes consist of a series of one-off stories in which Kantarou tries to use the tengu, the taciturn bishounen Haruka, and a tsundere fox demon Youko, to make money. Simultaneously, Kantarou and Haruka smoulder with UST at each other, and hide dark secrets about their pasts. (Youko cooks.)

This series has a number of issues, the main one obviously being that Haruka and Youko are Kantarou's slaves. It's suggested in volume six that Kantarou chose to do this to Haruka to protect him from something, but this doesn't really explain the Youko situation? The whole thing's really about humiliation kink, and there's a predictable rhythm of Haruka being haughty and dismissive, and Haruka getting beaten down or mocked. Kantarou, who incidentally looks like he's about ten, also gets beat up on some - ropes and chains sometimes make appearances when he gets too cocky.

The problem is that whenever the story approaches the edge of Higashiyama/Kinoshita's id, they always pull back hard, not trusting their own momentum. As a result, the pacing and characterization are awkward and erratic, and the story seems to lack confidence in itself. I don't trust it to bring itself to a satisfying ending. It's frequently very funny, and the art is quirky and adorable, but comedic moments often come at odd times, as if the mangakas are anxious to prove that they're not really taking this stuff seriously.

Some of their creative energy seems to be going into making porn doujinshi for their own series, with which practice I have no quarrel, but... you know, guys? If you feel it's emotionally necessary for Kantarou and Haruka to be having sex - and it is clear that you do - maybe you could put some evidence of that in the actual manga? Replace some of the sight gags about afros with makeouts. It might make the characterization make more sense.

(Though Higashiyama's credited as the writer, I lay responsibility on Kinoshita due to the thematic similarities to her solo series Mythical Detective Loki. In MDL, the Norse god Loki, trapped in the body of a cute five-year-old boy, takes a fair amount of abuse, sometimes resulting in images alarmingly reminiscent of shotacon porn. Loki is also talks like Kantarou, and has a similar tendency to torture tall, dark-haired bishounen. Possibly also notable: Loki's primary and cruelest tormentor is named Higashiyama Kazumi.)

I actually first read this two years ago. I was re-reading it because I picked up volume 2 of the ADV translation used very cheaply the other day, and decided to compare it to the Tokyopop one. The Tokyopop adaptation is far superior - which is unsurprising given that it is by Lianne Sentar. She's very reliable at turning out smooth adaptations that are internally consistent within themselves, though whether or not they're usually consistent with the original depends on who did the rough translation for her.

But her comedic timing's always great. She also did Fruits Basket, which I hold would not have anywhere near as many adult Anglophone fans if she hadn't been the adapter. (I'm wrong - the first 14 volumes were Kelly Sue DeConnick and Jake Forbes, as [personal profile] umadoshi points out, and Sentar took over at 15. Sentar also does Saiyuki, which I assume is where I formed such a positive impression of her.)

One interesting thing - two characters have different genders in each version, a powerful but emotionally incontinent tengu named Sugino and his/her wife/husband, a little blobby monster named Muu. I guess the mangaka avoided gendered pronouns in their cases? ADV made Sugino female and Muu male, while Tokyopop did the opposite, which I unfortunately think makes the most sense. Sugino cannot possibly be a powerful, attractive, and bossy woman, because Sugino has been around for five volumes without either dying or killing a baby. This is a Kinoshita Sakura manga! Not allowed.


Unrelated: On the metro I saw a guy with olives in his nalgene.

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