Monday, December 9, 2019

Fruits Basket Another volume 3 is a fun conclusion to a fun side story (Manga Review)

A high-school boy in a school uniform stands proud and confident but warmly so
Fruits Basket Another vol. 3 - 7.5/10

Let's be clear, Fruits Basket Another is meant for fans of the original Fruits Basket manga. It certainly could stand on its own, but the depth that comes from unpacking the relationships between the characters and their parents, and who those parents are from the original Fruits Basket series, is at least half the fun.

With volume 3, Fruits Basket Another  (Yen Press) wraps up in a satisfying way. And the journey to do so is filled with all the pathos and internal suffering we'd expect from Natsuki Takaya. Thankfully, it also balances the kindness, humor, and fun of the early Fruits Basket chapters in this cute next-generation story.

Sowa Mitoma is the only daughter of a single mother who is frequently away for weeks-on-end with work and who is mercilessly (but usually passive aggressively) cruel to her daughter when she does come home. In this volume, we also find out why Sowa's elementary school friends rejected her, and it definitely connects some dots. Like most of Takaya-sensei's best work, this one concerns a lot of parental rejection of children. I can only wonder, imagine, and perhaps pray for Takaya-sensei. To write so much about parental rejection, I wonder what she may have been through in her own life and I hope her works are therapeutic for her.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Still Sick volume 1 is a welcome adult yuri/LGBTQ manga (Manga Review)

two adult women at work, one sitting, the other standing, papers fluttering around
Still Sick vol. 1 - 7/10

I'm really split on yuri manga as a genre. On one hand, I love the really great ones where there are deep, complex feelings between girls, where the gazes and blushes are filled with so much sub-text. The best of them speak to me on so many levels.

But on the other hand, some yuri is geared more towards a male gaze and audience (and is often just gross). And somewhere in the middle, is the yuri that just fails to commit itself to same-sex relationships at all, feeling more like queer-baiting than anything else. Add to that, a lot of yuri is focused on school girls and sometimes I just want actual adults in my manga. Overall it can get a bit hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in yuri.

So I'm always on the lookout for yuri involving adult women, and even more so for manga that might actually represent these women as lesbians, true LGBTQ+ representation. While not a perfect first volume by any stretch, Still Sick vol. 1 (Tokyopop), is promising enough in both regards to be well worth a read and with room to grow in authenticity as the story progresses.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Missed it Monday - Tales from Earthsea (Anime Review)

A young man opens his arms to a large dragon at sunrise
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime/manga that I didn't watch/read when they first came out.

Tales from Earthsea (anime) - 5.5/10

I put off watching Tales from Earthsea (Studio Ghibli) for a looooooong time. I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan. And even though Hayao Miyazaki is undeniably a genius, my favorite Studio Ghibli movie is actually From Up On Poppy Hill which was directed by his son, Goro.

Goro also directed a Tales from Earthsea and the reviews at the time were not kind. Coupled with the fact that I have read and reread the original Earthsea trilogy (now 5 books) by Ursula Le Guin countless times, it just didn't seem like I should tarnish my thoughts of Earthsea by watching the movie.

Finally though, I felt I could watch it and not have it affect my love for the books. I'm sad to say that it isn't a very good Earthsea movie. It also isn't a telling of the stories from the novels. But more so, it isn't really a very good movie in its own right. That being said, it also isn't a bad movie, so long as one does not try and compare it to the books, and the world those books describe.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Our Wonderful Days volume 1 is...weirdly bland (Manga Review)

Two high school girls on a train, one asleep on the others shoulder
Our Wonderful Days vol. 1 - 6.5/10

There were so many yuri manga series that started publication this month. Sadly, Our Wonderful Days volume 1 (Seven Seas) was the most bland of them all. It wasn't that it was bad, but it was just so weirdly not-memorable as to be somewhat useless. It wasn't without any value, and I'm a bit curious how one character (and the side characters) might evolve. But there isn't much to this volume either.

Koharu and Mafuyu were friends when they were little. Mafuyu moved to Tokyo. Now she's back and they meet on the first day of school. They become friends again and also hang out with two of Koharu's other friends. There isn't actually much between Mafuyu and Koharu that suggests where the series will go other than that it's a yuri series, so it's a foregone conclusion. It's actually their friends Nana and Minori that are the most interesting. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Hatsu*Haru volume 9 loses its way a bit (Manga Review)

A highschool boy lifts up his highschool girlfriend and they make eyes at each other
Hatsu*Haru vol. 9 - 6/10

I have really liked Hatsu*Haru (Yen Press) so far, but volume 9 fumbles a bit. It's really a mixed bag with some wonderful and amazing moments and some real head-scratching non-realistic random plot junk plus some new stuff with a side character that suggests that the series will go for a while just because it can, rather than having a tight narrative.

Summary: Riko is the petite but strong girl who has always protected other girls in the school. Kai was the playboy who grew up with Riko and has fallen deeply in love with her, wanting something so much more than he ever had with his casual flings. By this point in the series they have gotten together.

Sadly, like many a series before it, it just doesn't know what to do with them once they are together. Unlike seminal series such as Kimi Ni Todoke that uses the relationship to springboard truly deep character growth and emotional exploration, Hatsu*Haru can't quite leave the broad comedy behind to find any solid emotional truth.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Missed it Monday - the Fruits Basket reboot fails (Anime Review)

A high school girl and two boys smile as they come down stairs out of a home
It pains me to use this art, Tohru looks like an 80's
space alien here.
Fruits Basket (reboot anime) season 1- uhhhhhhh 5.5/10?????? I guess?

This was a nearly impossible review for me to write. First, I LOVE the Fruits Basket manga. Natsuki Takaya is my all-time favorite mangaka. Her series Twinkle Stars is my all-time favorite, but if that didn't exist, then Fruits Basket would be my all time favorite. They're like 1A and 1B truthfully. In fact, I feel as though everything that Takaya sensei worked out in characters, plot, themes, and her art development in Fruits Basket were perfectly synthesized and consolidated with Twinkle Stars. I don't see how that series could have been born without Fruits Basket, but I digress.

Quick obligatory synopsis of the season: Tohru Honda's mom has died and she's living in a tent in the woods while going to school and working. She stumbles on the house of two boys from her school, Yuki and Kyo Sohma. She ends up living there with their cousin Shigure. Turns out, many of the people in the Sohma family turn into animals from the Chinese Zodiac when hugged by a person of the opposite gender. What is Tohru's role to play in this complex family?

Friday, November 22, 2019

Daytime Shooting Star vol. 3 cements a disgusting possibility for the series (Manga Review)

Four attractive high-school boys in uniform on a purple background with stars
Daytime Shooting Star vol. 3 - 4/10 or 7/10 (depends on what happens next)

I'm so sorry that lately I seem to be giving mixed ratings. But sometimes an individual volume can't be judged in a vacuum and the way the story evolves later will change the way I feel about a current volume. Such is the case with Daytime Shooting Star vol. 3 (Shojo Beat/Viz).

The story: Suzume moves in with her uncle, falls for an older guy, who happens to be her teacher in school and a friend of her uncle's. In volume 3, she finally confesses to him. At the same time, she thinks he's getting back together with a former girlfriend.

Let's get the obvious concern out of the way first. I am not okay with adults dating teens, and I'm really really not okay with teachers dating their students or even contemplating it down the road. The whole set-up to this series hinges on that possibility. My sincere hope is that they never get together and that both of them grow up and grow on their own paths. But this volume seems to suggest that the teacher, Shishio, might harbor feelings for Suzume, the student. Yuck.