Monday, September 16, 2019

Missed It Monday - Takane & Hana volume 2 (Manga Review)

Yuki Shiwasu
Missed It Monday is the ongoing series where I review anime and manga I missed when they first came out.

Takane & Hana vol. 2 - 7/10

Takane & Hana is not normally the type of series I would read (broad comedy about older guy and high school girl), and yet, it continues to be charming and endearing in its own way with Volume 2 (Viz/Shojo Beat).

In Volume 1, we meet Hana, a high-school girl, who "saves" her older sister by going to an arranged marriage meeting in her place only to meet Takane, the heir to the biggest conglomerate in Japan, where she makes a total fool of his arrogance. Like so many series before it, this sets up the dynamic of the down-to-earth girl and the rich, beautiful, clueless, but has-potential guy. The only real concern I had was that she was still in high-school.

Thankfully, this series is really not concerned with romance, at all! We are not meant to take Takane & Hana seriously. Instead, and unlike horrid series like "Happy Marriage" which seem stuck in another century when it comes to male/female dynamics, Takane & Hana is all about the silly comedy and Hana is as spunky and assertive as it gets. No door mat here! 

Volume 2 picks up with Takane and Hana reaching a detente of sorts with their "relationship" (if one can call it that). They won't admit they might have feelings for each other, but they both keep seeing each other anyway, but they aren't going to be polite about it or make it easy on the other one either. In Volume 2, they go to a party for Takane's rich uncle who runs the conglomerate (and had arranged the marriage meeting), they go on another date of sorts, and a mysterious person from Takane's past shows up. (That's really it for plot, in a good way).

Through this all, Hana plays hard to get, Takane pretends like he doesn't care but swoops in to protect her, except, she never needs protecting at all. She's completely self sufficient and in no way dependent on him. But somewhere, in between all of this, there are a few revealing moments, where one or the other lets their guard down, and their real relationship moves a bit forward. But mostly, it's Takane yelling stuck-up things at her, and Hana dishing it right back at him, and everyone in the crowds marveling at the strange bickering between these two inevitable love birds.

It's a silly series and that makes the age difference somewhat less an issue (although it's still creepy). They shared one kiss (with her showing him how to do it right) in volume 1, but the closest to romance we get in Volume 2, is between Takane and a (hopefully willing) sea cucumber. Somehow, despite everything, these two people  are very likable in a broad comedy sort of way and I can't help but root for them to eventually get together (which of course they will). This isn't a deep series, and even when a mysterious person shows up, it doesn't signal high drama, but instead serves as a useful tool in moving the two stars closer together.

So if you like very broad, very loud comedy between two very different people who will ultimately become a couple, then this is for you. It might be most similar in tone to something like Love Com (Lovely Complex) although that featured two high-schoolers and probably a bit more introspection ultimately. But it's not a bad match. As for a comparable that is more recent, it's somewhat similar in tone to Kaguya-sama: Love is War, but without that series overarching narrative device.

The art also continues to be simple but pleasant, and in a style reminiscent of slightly older shoujo manga (which is a good thing for me). The only shaky thing is that it keeps up with the old trope of the older rich guy and the middle-class high-school girl. But other than that, I really do like it (even though broad comedy isn't usually my thing). Volume 2 gets a nice and simple 7/10.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Daytime Shooting Star volume 2 is full of cliched tropes (Manga Review)

Mika Yamamori
Daytime Shooting Star vol. 2 - 6.5/10

I'm uneasy with the basic setup of Daytime Shooting Star (Viz/Shojo Beat) to begin with, and volume 2 is filled with a lot of cliche'd plot tropes. It was still a fine enough read, but I'm starting to wonder if this is a series I will continue with. For those looking for more of the same shoujo, this might be fine, but for those looking for something unique, Daytime Shooting Star is wanting so far.

In volume 1, we met Suzume who was from the country, has no sense of direction, and is helped to her uncles house (where she's staying - cliche alert - parents are gone, she must move to Tokyo!) by a young man who is friends with her uncle (literally the first chapter of 50% of all shoujo manga from what I can tell). It turns out that the hot young man who helped her get there is also her teacher in school (yup, you saw this coming). What's a young girl to do other than fall in love with her teacher? (which is how volume 1 ends).

In volume 2, Suzume goes on a class camping trip and guess what?

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Art of Forgery - a really superficial survey (Book Review)

Noah Charney
The Art of Forgery - 5.5/10

I love art, particularly turn-of-the-century realism and post-impressionism. I also love art forgery. I think it's incredible that people are either talented enough to fool others, or creative enough to hit on the gullible or corrupt nature of so-called professionals in the art sales industry (although I am fascinated, I would never advocate for it, and I am disgusted at the way it corrupts our understanding of artists and history). I've read many great books on the subject, each detailing a specific forger or forgery ring. I love the technical art details as well as the machinations behind the sales.

However, "The Art of Forgery" by Noah Charney, is not one of those great books. It reads like a survey course or the entries in an old-fashioned encyclopedia. It details a great many forgeries and forgers, organized by thematic topics, but does so in anywhere from just a few paragraphs to a mere few pages. Thus, there is no depth or detail in the discussion of any of them. Having read many books detailing individual forgers referenced in this volume, I was left feeling as though this book could best be viewed as a way for me to identify more forgers to get complete books on, but not as a valuable read in and of itself.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Blank Canvas volume 2 shows the college struggle is real (Manga Review)

Akiko Higashimura
Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist's Journey Volume 2 continues the autobiography of creator Akiko Higashimura, a well known mangaka. As is my general policy when reviewing autobiographies, I won't be giving this a numeric rating. After all, who am I to rate someone's actual life? I really liked volume 1, and volume 2 meaningfully continues that story.

Volume 2 opens with Akiko applying to her final art college. Disturbed by the news she didn't get into her first choices, she was too distracted to paint well during the exams for this one. Although she was sure she wouldn't get in there either, she was finally accepted.

The majority of volume 2 traces her college path and her visits home. She spends most of her first year unable to paint, skipping classes to avoid feeling like a failure, and just generally falling apart, her dream of being a mangaka slipping away.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Hatsu*Haru volume 8 is sweet and simple (Manga Review)

Shizuki Fujisawa
Hatsu*Haru vol. 8 - 7.5/10

I am still really enjoying Hatsu*Haru (Yen Press) as a series, but there is always the question of whether a series should end when the couple gets together, or whether their time together can be written to be even more interesting and meaningful than the set-up?

We can all think of shows that tanked after the couple got together ("Chuck" anyone?) and shows where the time together was even better ("Kimi Ni Todoke" is a manga that does this really well and "Dharma and Greg" [TV] nailed this by doing the meeting-each-other and the post-marriage relationship at the same time). With vol. 8, we start to see where this series is going to fall on the in-relationship interestingness spectrum (yes, that's a thing).

Volume 8 starts with two chapters focusing on our side couple, Taka and Shimura. To refresh our audience, Taka is Kai's best friend, and Shimura is the head of the newspaper. Shimura and Taka pretended to date to make it clear to Riko that Taka didn't like her so she could focus on Kai's feelings. Volume 8 opens with Shimura telling Taka that it's time to break-up from their fake relationship. This throws Taka for a loop and forces the two of them to do some real thinking about each other. These two chapters are well done, sweet, and open up some background story on Shimura to complement what we learned about Taka in earlier chapters.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Missed It Monday - O Maidens in Your Savage Season Volume 3 (Manga Review)

Mari Okada and Nao Emoto
Missed It Monday is an ongoing series where I review manga and anime I missed when they first came out in search of great series to keep reading.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season Vol. 3 - 9/10

Volume 3 cemented it. O Maidens in Your Savage Season is simply amazing. It so perfectly captures the mix of pubescent sexuality, naivete, lust, fear, anxiety, confusion, and passion with a mix of realism, drama, and comedy. And the art continues to be extraordinary. Basically, I loved this volume and I love this series. I don't say that lightly, I'm pretty "meh" on most series, hate a bunch of others, and only seldom rave.

O Maidens follows the exploits of the literature club, five high-school girls who read well-regarded literature and dissect it with a heavy focus on analyzing the sex scenes. In volume 2, they escaped being shut down when the got a faculty adviser. In addition, each girl is beginning to explore her own sexuality as well as open up (at least to the reader) about their own pasts.