Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Update on my own writing - Do We See The Same Ocean?

In addition to reading and reviewing manga, anime, and books, I also am an amateur writer. My first major project was the scripts for an 82 chapter yuri manga-style comic series called "In the Morning, I'll Say Hello." (just let me know if you want to read it - its only scripts since I can't draw!). Since finishing that project last fall, I've been developing a screenplay for an animated movie called "Do We See The Same Ocean?".

After months of thinking about it, doing treatments, character development, etc... I am finally at the drafting phase of the screenplay. The basic synopsis is this:

Rebecca Lewis is a tom-boy-ish teen whose parents move to a seaside town when her mother gets the job as headmaster at a prestigious private school. Rebecca is pushed to be an intellectual by her parents, but she loves being outside and becomes transfixed by the fishing industry. In her walks along the coast she stumbles onto a female shipwright. From a distance, Rebecca watches this woman planing the wood, sanding, staining...she watches her tanned muscles glisten in the sweat. Over time, Rebecca realizes she's falling in love with this woman.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Missed It Monday - Forget Me Not Volume 1 is problematic (Manga Review)

Mag Hsu and Nao Emoto
Forget Me Not Vol. 1 - 5/10

I picked up "Forget Me Not" Volume 1 (Kodansha Comics) solely because I really like Nao Emoto's art. The story is written by Mag Hsu and that's where I'm a bit concerned. Emoto-sensei's art is great again, but the writing has me both slightly intrigued and very very concerned. There are many red-flags in the writing and I'm not sure I'm going to keep reading this series because of them. I might give the next volume a try to see if the red-flags are actually resolved responsibly or if it is an indication of a fairly misogynist viewpoint.

The story is complex in that it bounces between present day and episodes in the lead character's past (middle-school through college so far). Yusuke Serizawa crashes on his scooter leaving work one day as he's distracted by a familiar looking woman. She then calls the ambulance, but when Serizawa awakens in the hospital, she's gone and hasn't left a name. However, she calls him and seems to know him, but won't tell him who she is before inviting him to meet with her.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Our Dreams at Dusk volume 2 is painfully insightful (Manga Review)

Shimanami Tasogare 2
Our Dreams at Dusk Vol. 2 - 8/10

With "Our Dreams at Dusk" volume 2 (Seven Seas), we pick up with highschooler Tasuku having come out as gay to some of the folks at the drop-in center. He's also beginning to think about his project for the abandoned home the non-profit he helps with (and runs the drop-in center) is refurbishing. But this volume focuses more on Misora Shuji, a young person at the drop-in center, and how his interactions with Tasuku helps Tasuku begin to broaden his own understandings.

Misora Shuji, who I will use "he/him/his" pronouns for here only because he's struggling with his gender identity and hasn't yet changed his own pronouns (although is probably a trans girl at heart), is a late elementary school (6th grade presumably) child who presents as a girl at the drop-in center.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Love, Stargirl - the sequel to Stargirl, and maybe the better book (Book Review)

Jerry Spinelli
Yes, this blog (and my twitter handle @yuristargirl) is named after the book "Stargirl" which means this review of its sequel "Love, Stargirl" isn't going to be very objective (no review ever is) but also is likely to go off the rails compared to typical reviews. I put off reading this book for a long while, uncertain whether I wanted to disrupt the strange magic the first book left with me. I'm so glad I finally read it. It's probably the better book even without all the critical acclaim of its predecessor.

"Stargirl" by Jerry Spinelli (whose wife's work has a special place in my family's heart) told the story of Leo when a strange, homeschooled girl, named Stargirl, starts attending his school. He's terrified and awestruck by her at the same time. Ultimately they become friends, then a couple, then he cannot fully digest what it means to be good to her, nor can she fully tolerate what she's giving up to be good to him, and the whole thing collapses just as she moves out of town.

"Stargirl" was celebrated for its championing of non-conformity (Stargirl's given name is Susan) through all the "wacky" things she does to bring joy into the world. I'm dating myself, but for fans of the show "Dharma and Greg," she's much like a teenage Dharma.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Missed It Monday - Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty Volume 1 (Manga Review)

Megumi MorinoMissed It Monday is a feature where I review anime and manga that isn't super current, but that I missed the first time around. I'm going back to try and find awesome series.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty Vol. 1 - 7/10

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics) was first published in English in 2017. We meet Tetsu, a short but hardworking high-school student who wants to skip college and go straight to work to support his family, particularly his mom who is in the hospital in a coma (naturally, cause this is a shoujo series!). His father wants him to go to college, so to settle things, his father lets Tetsu work for his housekeeping company so long as he maintains his schooling. If he can prove that he can balance both, then his father won't complain if he heads straight into the workforce.

Tetsu is employed by the wealthy family in a mansion at the top of the hill. There is a ghost story about a straight haired girl that appears in the windows of the building in the back. Tetsu finds out that the family's daughter is ill and unable to leave her special house at the back of the property (again, shoujo!). One day, while tending to the gardens, he ends up meeting this mysterious girl, Shizu.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Reviews will return next week

Sorry, my manga order hasn't come in yet and I haven't found any good anime to watch recently, so no reviews this week. But we'll return Monday with a "Missed it Monday" column (probably) as well as new reviews. Thanks for sticking around!

Friday, July 12, 2019

O Maidens in Your Savage Season volume 2 shows the quality is for real (Manga Review)

Mari Okada and Nao Emoto
O Maidens in Your Savage Season vol. 2 - 8/10

A series about five naive high-school girls learning about sex through 18th century literature should be good, but could easily be awful. It is with much relief that the second volume of O Maidens in Your Savage Season (Kodansha Comics) shows that the quality and promise of the first volume wasn't a fluke. This series is for real, and deftly balances comedy, nostalgia (for our own youth), romance, and messaging with great art and great writing quality.

At the end of volume 1, the literature club (our club of five high school girls using literature to learn about sex - having deemed that ages written expression to be a pure form of sex over whatever their peers are constantly talking about) is being shut down by the principal. One of several arcs in volume 2 consists of gaining student support and a new adviser for their club. Those are fine, but its in the more character driven arcs that this series flexes its muscle.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Komi Can't Communicate Volume 1 exceeds expectations (Manga Review)

Tomohito Oda
Komi Can't Communicate Vol. 1 - 7/10

I'm not a fan of shounen manga generally, and I was skeptical of the premise of Komi Can't Communicate vol. 1 (Viz): Komi is a beautiful, but alone, high-school girl who can't talk and her underwhelming classmate Tadano takes her under his wing to help her achieve her dream of making 100 friends. Yikes, that sounds like it could be fairly condescending to women. Further, while not a strict 4-koma, it is a comedy manga that is scripted in short comedic bursts, also not my preferred style. So I was pleased to discover that it was a well balanced, kind, and funny manga.

Komi is beloved by everyone for her beauty, her grace, and her aura of perfection. But no one really knows her because she doesn't talk (which ends up adding to her mystique as most people don't even realize she's not speaking). It turns out, whether from some speech issues or social anxiety (I'm not a speech pathologist, so I have no idea where this communication disorder is coming from), she doesn't talk in school at all, and any attempts to do so get barely a single sound or puff of air out. That hasn't hurt her popularity, but it has left her completely alone and without any friends.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Missed It Mondays - Reviewing the problematic Gakuen Polizi by Milk Morinaga (Manga Review)

Milk Morinaga
Missed It Mondays - The first in a periodic series of Manga and Anime reviews where I review older series I didn't read at the time of publication.

Gakuen Polizi - 4.5/10

I'm not quite a "fan" of Milk Morinaga, but I have really enjoyed some of her work. My favorite is "Secret of the Princess" (one of the least talked about of her yuri manga - and which holds a special place in my heart for reasons unrelated to anything Morinaga-sensei could have planned). But I also really liked "Girlfriends" and at least the Nana and Hitomi chapters from "Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink." So it was somewhat surprising that I had never read "Gakuen Polizi."

SPOILERS (because it's a 2012 manga, so deal with it) and Content Warning (transphobia and sex trafficking of minors) to follow.

Gakuen Polizi (Seven Seas) is a two volume series that follows Aoba and Midori, two high-school girls in the special undercover high-school police department known as the Polizi. They are placed as partners in a peaceful all-girls high-school because Aoba is a rookie and Midori had a problem on her last case and her father wants her somewhere safe this time. Along the way, Midori's old partner comes back to stir things up, and a few cases are investigated, two of which are actually quite serious.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Daytime Shooting Star Volume 1 doesn't shoot for much (Manga Review)

Daytime Shooting Star vol. 1 - 6.5/10

I've been waiting for the publication of Daytime Shooting Star (Viz/Shojo Beat) for awhile. I've had it on my list since it was announced, but I'm pretty sure I encountered the name of the series even before then.

It was originally published in 2011 in Japan, so making its English debut 8 years later presents some problems for me as a reviewer. When it reminds me of several other manga I've read (and it frequently does), it can be tough to figure out whether I would have felt differently about it if I had read it before the other ones, is it lacking only in comparison, or is it genuinely bland?

Daytime Shooting Star Volume 1 introduces us to Suzume Yosano. She has just come to Tokyo from a small farming town after her dad gets transferred over seas and her mother is more worried about him than her ("I'm worried about your dad going by himself"... so we'll send you to live with your uncle in the big city). And so, just like so many other manga, it's another one about a girl without parents striking out on her own (I don't actually mind the trope, it's the parents leaving for work part that is the stupid part - give me a runaway or dead parents or something dramatic like that!).

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Futaribeya volume 2 ups the ship-baiting (Manga Review)

Kasumi and Sakurako
The colors in this photo of the cover don't do it
justice, the pastels in the actual print are beautiful!
Futaribeya Vol. 2 - 9/10 (if you are a fan of moe yuri-ish 4-koma); 6/10 for everyone else

I just can't quite wrap my head around the purpose of Futaribeya now that I'm two volumes in to the series. I don't know who it is written for and that confuses me. However, I also can't help but care about the two main characters, Sakurako and Kasumi. Despite the fact that it isn't the type of series I normally read, and the actual plot is all but non-existent, I find myself enjoying the series.

Volume 2 (Tokyopop) definitely upped the pseudo-yuri. What is intriguing about this light comedy series is that there isn't any explicit guidance on whether or not Sakurako and Kasumi are just friends and room-mates, or if one or both want more, or if they are actually more. In that sense, it's like "ship-baiting" - ie. the series is set up to make people imagine them in a true relationship without providing any sense that it is actually occurring. For people who love "shipping," this is definitely a series for them. And volume 2 really ups the baiting.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Awakening of Faith attributed to Asvaghosha (Buddhist Text)

"The Awakening of Faith" is a probable Chinese origin Mahayana Buddhist text likely composed between 400-600ce. However it is attributed to Asvaghosha (80-150ce), so you can already see the complicating factors. It is considered a keystone treatise on "suchness," and deservedly so, but it is not without its flaws. The version I read was translated by Yoshito S. Hakeda and published by Columbia University Press in 1967. There are many versions out there (seeming print on demand reprints of another translator's version), but you can get this one used for cheap!

"The Awakening of Faith" is sometimes titled "Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana." In this case, one should not mistake Mahayana in the title with the sect of Buddhism bearing that name. Here, it is another term for "suchness" or "thusness." At its core, The Awakening of Faith is a brisk treatise that connects suchness with the tathagatagarbha and the wisdom literature. For that alone, it was well worth the read.