Monday, August 1, 2022

Daytime Shooting Star volume 11 (Manga Review)

A teen girl in a cute outfit, has a surprised expression with her hands next to her mouth which is wide open. An adult is seen behind her looking down at her, with a teen boy on her other side looking at the adult.
    "Daytime Shooting Star" Vol. 11 (Viz) would be a lot worse if Suzume wasn't finally starting to really assert herself. In this volume we see her twice, TWICE, reject Shishio, and even take initiative to be upfront and direct with her boyfriend Mamura on top of that. 
    As you all probably know by now, if you've been reading this blog at all, I really like Suzume as a character and I like the overall art of the series. I also love a well done high-school romance shoujo manga. But this series has been all sorts of creepy because the main setup was that she falls for her uncle's friend, Shishio, who is a teacher at her school, and he starts by enabling her feelings, and then falls for her himself, AND then pursues her. And that is gross.
    I won't belabor this point, but I will say it, if you are a teacher/adult, you have no business confessing your feelings of romantic/sexual love for a teenager. Done, Period, End. So Shishio's infatuation and pursuit of Suzume was just wrong. 
    In an earlier volume, it looked like Suzume and Shishio wouldn't ever be really getting together and that Suzume chose the wonderful boy in her class Mamura instead. Suzume was starting to get her head into a good space. But at the end of Volume 10, Shishio goes and openly confesses his feelings for her! A high HIGHSCHOOL STUDENT!!!! Thankfully, this volume opens with her response to that as well as her response to a second attempt by him to tell her his feelings. 
    Sadly, not only is Mamura acutely aware of this going on in the background and naturally hurt by it, but Shishio continues to outright talk to Mamura about his intentions towards Suzume. So now we have an adult, who is pursuing a child for love, more or less teasing/goating/f-ing with another teen about it. If I were Mamura, I would have just reported the asshole and gotten him fired. 
    However, we do see Suzume growing and working hard on behalf of Mamura in this volume and asserting her own path in her life, rather than being at Shishio's whims. That makes this volume better than it could have been. I still wish the whole series was just more about Suzume and Mamura and maybe something they have to overcome (other than a gross adult) to be together (like the brilliant series "Ao Haru Ride" which is much more about their internal barriers and healing), because the whole thing with a lecherous adult is just icky. But I had been promised by other readers that the series would end in a good place, and it seems to be turning that corner. 
    As I said earlier, although the art is a bit simple in the depth of shading/backgrounds/ornamentation, I do like the figure drawing, there is at least some use of screen tones, and it has a good overall look. Couple that with a cute guy/girl combo and the sense that it will end in a good place, and I will keep reading to the end. Are you sticking with it as well? Or is Shishio just too much to put up with?

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Kageki Shojo!! Volume 6 (Manga Review)

Two high school girls in sailor uniforms stand back to back with joyous and open mouthed expressions, with their inner hands stretched out front and their outside hands over their heads in a performance stance.
    In "Kageki Shojo!!" volume 6 (Seven Seas), the Kouka school first years are finally auditioning for their parts in "Romeo and Juliet." The auditions will be judged by the students, and each group will be randomly selected to audition together so they have had no time to to practice as an ensemble.
    It's a fairly straightforward volume, told in a mixture of scenes of auditions alternating with backstory from several characters, but mostly focusing on our lead, Sarasa Watanabe.  A couple volumes ago, she was told that while her acting is extraordinary, that it is clear she is identically replicating her favorite performances by others, rather than finding her own version of the characters. So the setup for this volume, is really around what she'll do to find her version of Tybalt.
    I'm coming to terms with two things in this series: 1) it isn't going to be a yuri series, or even yuri-light like the anime "Revue Starlight" and 2) that even though I'm more interested in her roomate, Ai, Sarasa will always be this series' focus. I think the faster I come to terms with those two things, the more I can judge this series appropriately.
    So with that in mind, although it's still not my favorite topic for shoujo, it wasn't a bad volume. What I liked was that we learned more about Sarasa's journey before Kouka and also got some increased clarity on her relationship with Akiya. There was also a strong scene with one of the girls defending another girl from bullying in a way that probably wasn't realistic to their ages, but should serve as a lesson for how teen girls SHOULD support each other. It was a direct and sensitive confrontation of some light bullying. Always good to see.
    Our two main Tybalts, Sawa and Sarasa, got extended coverage of their auditions, and the volume concludes with all the characters reactions to finding out whether they got the parts they wanted or not. Those final pages were some of the best in the volume, as we got to see them each express their grief, joy, disappointment, or growth through their reactions to the casting. I'm not going to give anything away, so you'll just have to read it yourself.
    The art continues to be fine. I would describe it as well done, with some nice facial drawings, but not quite my preferred style either, and maybe a bit simple at times. I do find the lack of textures and screen tones makes it a bit more boring than my favorite artists, but technically it has a distinct rhythm to the art. So at least it's recognizably unique to this mangaka and not a generic look. The panels where we "see" the characters the students are portraying as they are acting in this volume are a cut above the normal art in the series. 
    The more I accept this series for what it's going to be, the more I will try not to pick it apart for what it's not. So as a shoujo series about an all-girls acting school, and with the plucky but raw (and apparently straight) Sarasa as our heroine, it's plenty decent. A slightly darker story, with the focus on her roommate Ai and Ai's complex internal life, and if Ai were also lesbian so we could get a true LGBTQ lesbian story (not just a fluffy yuri story - which also have their place) would have made it awesome. But now I know that where I hoped this series would go after the prequel volume's undertones, are not where it's actually going to go. So I'm putting to rest that sadness and I'm going to keep reading "Kageki Shoujo!!" for what it is.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

I'm in a manga and anime dry-spell. Help me!!!!

    I was going back through the last year's worth of blog posts and I realized that a great many of them are pretty negative or wishy-washy about the manga I've been reading. I feel like a complete ass for not liking them. But I'm really struggling lately to find good manga and anime series that hit me the way so many used to. I don't know if what is being released has just shifted away from my tastes or what, but I just can't seem to find much that I like lately. 
    I hope you all don't think that I just rail on these series just to be mean. I also know that just beause I don't like them, doesn't mean you don't like them. That's the great thing about art. Different things hit us differently. But there have been so many manga and anime that I genuinely love and reread/rewatch and I'm not finding as much lately. Help me out by suggesting some series I need to read/watch.
    Caveat, I only read manga I can legally buy in English translations and I only watch anime that I can legally stream/buy. I have Netflix and the free Amazon Prime video, but nothing else, so that certainly hurts my search ability too. 
    What I'm looking for: shoujo and yuri mostly. High quality writing, depth of character, emotional arcs (but I also love some that are just funny and sweet too). Please send suggestions!!!!

    Here are some of my favorites (a non-exclusive list) to give you a reference:

Manga
  • Twinkle Stars
  • Fruits Basket
  • Ao Haru Ride
  • Kimi Ni Todoke
  • Sweet Blue Flowers
  • After the Rain
  • Bloom Into You
  • Ouran High School Host Club
  • Honey and Clover
  • Say I Love You
  • Kare Kano
  • Lovely Complex (Love Com)
  • Wandering Son
  • Kase-san
  • Citrus + (yes, I know it's trash)
  • Blank Canvas
  • Hana-Kimi (even though parts didn't age well)
  • Secret of the Princess
  • Pearl Pink
  • Kisses and White Lily For My Dearest Girl (even though it's got it's problems)
  • Tokyo Tarareba Girls (just started reading, but so far so good)
  • My Lesbian Experience With Lonliness
  • A Silent Voice (although the movie is better)

Anime
  • Maria-sama Ga Miteru (Maria Watches Over Us)
  • Sweet Blue Flowers
  • Sakura Trick (I will defend this series until the day I die)
  • Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride)
  • Fruits Basket (original version)
  • Kimi Ni Todoke
  • Chihayafuru
  • Wandering Son
  • Ouran High School Host Club
  • Honey and Clover
  • Nana
  • One Week Friends
  • True Tears (yes, I know it's trash)
  • Orange
  • Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions
  • Toradora
  • Kase-san and Morning Glories
  • Citrus (yes, I know it's trash)
  • Someday's Dreamers  II
  • Bloom Into You
  • K-On
  • Ano Hana
  • Anonymous Noise
  • Inu X Boku Secret Service
  • Usagi Drop (don't get me started on the second half of the manga though)
Movies
  • Just about all the Studio Ghibli movies
  • Liz and the Blue Bird
  • A Silent Voice
  • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
  • Wolf Children
  • Garden of Words
  • Your Name
SO WHAT AM I MISSING?!?!?!!? Please send suggestions in the comments. Thanks!!!!

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

How "Thor: Love and Thunder" got the ending wrong (ish)

Thor with his axe standing on the top of a mountain. Natalie Portman's The Mighty Thor is below, side characters from the movie are scattered in the background of the poster
    SPOILER WARNING - if you haven't seen "Thor: Love and Thunder" then you shouldn't read this post because I will spoil the very ending of the movie (that's the point of this post basically).

    I had the chance to watch "Thor: Love and Thunder" on Thursday night (it was a nice surprise, after work, and after electrolysis, I went to the mall and then a movie with my daughter and niece and stayed out late even though I had work the next morning! Look at me livin' it up!). 
    Please note that I am not a Marvel fan. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was a DC comics fan, never a Marvel fan. And I will still admit that overall I like DC movies better even though they have mostly been trash lately (I did prefer the Snyder Cut of the Justice League much more - but not in the same toxic way as the fandom that demanded it's release). I think I have only seen the following Marvel movies: Iron Man 1 and 2, Captain America 1 and 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2 (love em), Thor - all 4! Love me some Chris Hemsworth; Natalie Portman for the win! And I think I saw the first Avengers movie. I've also seen many of the non-Disney Marvel movies like the Sam Raimi Spiderman trilogy, the X-men triology, some of the First Class movies, and the two Andrew Garfield Spiderman movies. But given that there are like thousands more, it's fair to say that I don't really know (or care) much about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I say that so you better understand where I'm coming from with what I am about to say. 
    FINAL SPOILER REMINDER - I will ruin the ending of Thor 4 if you haven't seen it yet. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED
    Aside from being a fan of Chris and Natalie, I like that the Thor movies have more or less been able to be enjoyed outside of the main Marvel continuity (obviously they are linked, but they stand on their own pretty well). I'm not going to review "Thor: Love and Thunder" here, but overall I liked it a lot, although I thought Chris's overacting in the first half was just a bit over the top (but forgivable). I really enjoyed that it blended camp with high-quality moviemaking in a way that most campy movies don't. I also loved how Stormbreaker was anthropomorphized and the very brief moment when the camera is framed on Chris and we just see Stormbreaker starting to come in from camera right in a nod to it's jealousy was so perfectly animated. The pace of Stormbreaker's movement, the only slight entrance into the frame, it shows just how powerful animation can be when executed well. It completely expresses emotion from an inanimate object! Definitely my favorite moment in the movie (I looked and I couldn't find a GIF and could only find phone caps of foreign language ones on youtube). So I'm not going to review the movie more than this, but suffice it to say I enjoyed it a lot (and found myself genuinely laughing out loud constantly at it's very dry humor).
    What I do want to talk about is the ending. And I want to talk about it from a literary standpoint, which is why I prefaced all this with the fact that I'm not a Marvel movie fan. I am not going to talk about how the ending that DID happen might have been necessary for the future things it sets up in the MCU (because I don't care about the MCU). I DO want to talk about why the ending didn't quite achieve as much as it could have from a literary standpoint and what I (and my daughter and niece independently) thought the better ending would have been if connections to future projects weren't part of the equation (and it is worth noting that I am okay with the fact that movie executives have to make money. So I am not blaming them that this was the ending they chose because I get that they need to keep this enterprise going. I just get to talk about what I wish it had been if that wasn't part of their need set).
    Here's the actual ending: Gorr, who lost his daughter, begged for help from a god who laughed at him, slaughtered that god, then starts slaughtering all gods in an attempt to find "Eternity" who will grant his wish, actually makes it to the eternal and basically defeats both Thors to get there. But there is a final moment when Chris Thor could stop him, but that means leaving Natalie Thor to die alone. And so Chris Thor decides to be with Natalie even though he knows that part of Gorr's wish will be to destroy all gods and so Chris Thor will end up dying with Natalie Thor. The Thors urge him to "choose love." It's unclear if Gorr's original wish was to kill all gods, bring back his daughter, or both, but it is implied that his original wish might have been just to kill all gods. But instead, seeing the love between the Thors, Gorr choses to bring back his daughter and leave the gods alive. However, although Chris Thor is left alive, Natalie Thor still dies of her cancer. Then Chris Thor adopts Gorr's daughter as Gorr dies from the influence of the sword (or whatever) and Thor mourns the loss of Natalie by becoming a good father to Gorr's daughter. (Which is an admittedly sweat/funny scene and the young actress who plays Gorr's daughter is brilliant).
    This is a perfectly fine ending, satisfying enough, and apparently done to fit with the larger marvel continuity if the end credit's scene is any indication. But it could have been even better if we don't care about the MCU's journey, and only care about quality writing. Here's how and why:
    It comes down to the journey Gorr takes and who Gorr is in his core being. The movie starts with Gorr and his daughters as the last survivors in an environmental wasteland. He is doing everything he can to keep her alive, sheltering her with his body from the elements, but she passes away. He buries her and cries over her body, and lays himself on top to die. But then he hears that god killing sword calling to him. Gorr stumbles on the oasis, finds his god, makes his case, and his god laughs at him. The sword comes to his hand and he kills the god who cares so little for the pain and suffering of Gorr. Gorr's feeling in that moment is completely understandable and the sword is drawn to him because of that emotion. It is then explained that the sword will continue corrupting him and it helps us understand why Gorr goes from being momentarily enraged at his unsympathetic god, to wanting all gods dead - a dramatic personality shift from the loving father. 
    But Gorr is fundamentally depicted, at all times in the movie really, as a sympathetic villain. His pain comes from the unnecessary death of his daughter. He is a devoted father. And his pain was laughed at by the one being who could help. Then the sword further messes him up. So this is a perfect set-up for a redemptive ending. Not to excuse the deaths Gorr has caused, but to resolve his journey and restore him to the devoted father, and presumably kind person, he originally was. 
    And in many ways, that's what the movie does. He stops killing gods and he brings his daughter back to life. He choses love. But he could have chosen love in an even bigger way. A way that is restorative and reparative, rather than somewhat selfish. Framed another way, the actual ending has Gorr allow one more god to die (Natalie Thor) and brings back his dead child who will now be a fatherless orphan. 
    What if, and here's the point of this belabored blog post, Gorr sees Chris Thor's willingness to die with Natalie Thor rather than stopping Gorr and so Gorr choses to use his wish not on himself (bringing back his already dead daughter) but instead to preserve Natalie Thor's life. What if he saves a god and saves their love showing that he has truly come full circle and remembering what his love meant to him and that he has the power in that moment to give that to another pair? 
    Chris Thor, when given the opportunity to finally stop Gorr, recognizes that doing so means that Natalie Thor will die alone. By going to Natalie Thor, Chris Thor is signing his and every other god's death warrant, but believes that being there in Natalie Thor's final moments, that intimate kindness, is more important. In watching this self-less act of kindness and love towards Natalie, Gorr is urged to chose love. Again, it is unclear if his original wish would have been ONLY to kill all the gods and he switches it to bring his daughter back, or if both were part of the original wish and he just leaves the god death part out. I suppose the stronger interpretation of the actual ending has him using his wish for vengeance alone and killing all the gods, but the Thors' love for each other convinces him to instead grant life in the form of his daughter. I just think that being self-less and choosing love and life in the form of Natalie Thor living rather than expending it on his own desire for his daughter to come back from the dead would have been even more redemptive. It also, as I said above, would have been reparative: he had killed all these gods, and now he can grant a god life. Instead, he spends it on his daughter while allowing another god to die. 
    So what do you think? Would it have been worth sacrificing future MCU plans to have Gorr save Natalie Thor instead of resurrecting his own daughter?
    
🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Book Review)

A teen girl with orange hair, eating oranges, an overall surrealistic cover. Rolling green hills, a cottage, and a cross in the background
    
"Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit" by Jeanette Winterson (published in 1985) was a surprise find in my home library. I simply don't remember purchasing it. And so when I was looking for a "downstairs" book to read, I chose to read it without even knowing what it was about (Downstairs = on the couch, Upstairs = in bed - I often read two books simultaneously). I now completely understand why I bought it, and while not quite a masterpiece, it is well worth your reading.
    "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" is a short novel about a girl, growing up in a very Pentecostal English community and her growing awakening as a young lesbian. That in itself would probably be reason for me to read it, but of course, my main goal when reading a book is to love the language itself. 
    And there was much to love. As a first novel, Winterson displays an ambition in both her storytelling and structure. Much of the prose is straightforward, but in a beautiful way. Not ornate by any stretch but neither boring nor perfunctory. Hers is a voice I'd like to read more of. 
    The story itself, and in some ways there is both a lot of story and very little, is semi-autobiographical (I believe). It is a fast read in both the length of the novel and the briskness of the pacing, jumping forward in time as it sees fit. Ultimately it is what it skips over that proves it's greatest weakness as a novel.
    The Jeannette of the story is adopted by a very devote missionizing mother. Her adoptive father is only vaguely in both their lives, apparently with no ill-will intended, he just simply couldn't possibly compete for space around her mother, for whom the entire novel orbits. Her mother in many ways is the center of the community's fervent faith. And as young Jeannette so calmly, so naturally, begins first one, and then a second relationship with a female friend, the town looks to her mother for how to address such a "demon" as her once promising daughter has become. And between their faith and Jeannette, there is really never a choice as to who will win in the end. For this is the real world, and not a fairy tale.
    That for me, is the one spot this otherwise beautifully rendered book falters. The book's ending (by no means the character's end) simply comes up too fast and too scattered. Just the right amount of time is spent through the first portions of the book. Each scene, each time period, each description is exactly what it needs to be and nothing more. 
    But then the book ends so fast, abruptly, and with a large time jump with little in the way of justification for a particular reunion and how that reunion plays out. Clearly so much has happened, so many things have changed (but obviously not enough), and yet we aren't privy to those developments. That lack of overtness can work to an author's advantage. Don't bother wasting the time or real estate on unnecessary details and back story and exposition when it's not needed. But when the meat of the journey is removed, it leaves a hole. From the climax to the resolution, there is almost nothing provided. It felt as though the book was missing 60 or 70 pages between the two. 
    That structure certainly didn't ruin the book for me. There was too much beauty and interest in it, too much to recommend it. But I want to know what happened between that climax (I'm so trying not to spoil too much for you), and the end passages. However, Winterson has another biographical book, more of a memoir, and I plan on reading that as well. Maybe I'll find some of what was missing in "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" in there, to piece together the gap in the fictional Jeanette's story with the real one's. 
    Do read this book though. It's quiet, calm exploration of Jeanette's growing feelings and understanding of herself intersecting with the fervent religious beliefs of her community and her own maturing understanding of her god, as possibly distinct from theirs, is quite compelling.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day (at most). Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon Volume 3 (manga review)

Two twenty-something women in casual clothes, lay on the floor, staring into each others eyes, fingers on one hand lightly touching the other's.
    
Ughhhh, such a frustrating volume. "Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon" is quickly becoming the worst type of the "new" explosion of "yuri" (it deserves the quotes here) manga. 
    In "Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon" volume 3 (and forgive me, but I hate that it's spelled that way and not "donuts"), Hinako can't figure out what she feels for Asahi or what she wants them to be: friends or something more? But not in the "am I attracted to this person or do I want to just be friends" sort of way that we might assume. NOOOOO, this is just dithering, completely unrealistic, drivel that has none of the classic "will-they-won't-they" tension nor anything valid to say about the LGBTQ+ experience from what I can tell so far.
    Let me break that down a bit more. Starting with why I put quotes around "yuri" in my opening paragraph. I want one of two things from yuri, either 1) actual LGBTQ+ representation/meaningful storytelling and/or 2) deeply intimate emotional connections between women (whether sexual, romantic, or not - such as friends/sisters). 
    But much yuri of the past few years seems to be populist dreck designed to appeal to those who are not ready for actual LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream manga OR who want the superficial trappings of it with none of the actual writerly craft it takes to have fully realized characters with deep and complex inner worlds who have actual feelings. 
    So much modern yuri, at least what is making it in official translations in to the US recently, is bland, unwilling to commit, and so poorly written. These series confuse characters who have "never thought about it" (romance, sex, etc...) with actual people who really do struggle with understanding who they are and how they fit into the world - you know, the way actually every human being does think about those things! Even if you are on the aro/ace spectrum, you have pondered why other people feel and think and perceived differently than you. You are not unaware. But so much modern yuri seems to focus on teens and twenty-somethings who seem like they have no concept that they or others have inner selves at all. And while there are some actual conditions in which a person cannot understand that another person has an inner-self, a "theory of mind" if you will, that is not what these character's stories and traits are about. This is shoddy, manipulative, and/or spineless writing.
    "Doughnuts" is quickly becoming emblematic of that wishy-washy version of yuri.  And I, for one, am no longer so desperate for representation, that I will accept anything with two women in it who might even vaguely be interested in one another. (Quick reminder: you are allowed to disagree with me, you are allowed to like or even love this manga, you are allowed to be moved by this writing. It is completely normal and a good thing if we disagree. Your feelings about it are just as valid as mine and I would like to know if it did affect you differently, please leave a comment!). I love a good story where nothing happens but two women stare at each other, blush at each other, yearn desperately for each other. But that's not this series either.
    In this volume, Hinako knows she wants to be around Asahi and spend time with her. When Asahi's friend Fuuka shows up, it creates some stirrings of what might be jealousy. But for being an adult twenty-something, Hinako is either: 1) completely unrealistically written as to have absolutely no sense of self, 2) maybe on the asexual spectrum (not that they'll ever do anything interesting with that like how "Bloom Into You" tackled it), and/or 3) written so that the author never has to actually commit to what romantic and sexual love between women looks like in order to keep this as middle-of-the-road, won't-offend-anyone as possible. 
    I don't know anything about the mangaka, Shio Usui, but it seems to me as if this series is written by someone who has no idea how women actually think or feel, and no idea that love between lesbians is just like any other romantic/sexual love. These characters in no way think, talk, act, feel like actual 20-somethings (or even humans for that matter - just bad writing). Hinako's lack of personal clarity isn't some sort of complex coming out story, figuring out who you truly are and what you truly want. Nope. This is just superficial angst pretending to be exploring sexuality and female relationships. This volume feels incredibly inauthentic. It's almost like a child playing with dolls. Even Fuuka, who actually seems to know she is romantically and sexually attracted to women isn't written convincingly. I'm worried that this might be another mangaka and/or editor and/or publisher who found a way to cash in on the yuri craze. 
    Now, the only other thing I can think of, to try and offer another point of view, might be that with Japanese society still largely hostile to LGBTQ+ people (forced sterilization of trans people who want certain legal recognitions, no gay marriage, etc...) maybe, just maybe, Hinako is so repressed by society that she really hasn't ever thought about her feelings for women and really is actually so not in touch with her own body and mind that she is oblivious to romance and sexuality. Maybe. But then we'd expect better writing to make that linkage clear. I don't think this series has any intention of exploring any actual feelings, issues, etc... 
    And yes, I know it's a light romantic comedy, so I'm not expecting deep dark treatises on sexuality, misogyny, homophobia, or other forms of oppression. But these characters are simply not three-dimensional people, these are not how people actually think or feel or talk. Even in a comedy. 
    So let us compare it to a completely unrelated series that is unmistakably yuri and a comedy (I know that most people would gag that I love it): "Sakura Trick" (and I'll specifically reference the anime here since I haven't read the manga). "Sakura Trick" is a comedy, a broad comedy. A comedy with male gaze and a horny camera operator. It is not deep. It does not tackle any social issues. But it doesn't shy away from actual intimacy between characters (and I'm not talking about sex or making out). As broadly played as "Sakura Trick" is, we can actually identify with these characters. We care about them. Their actions feel plausible (in the context and style of the series, and for their ages). And there is no shyness about it being girls who really really really like girls. So while "Sakura Trick" is much broader than the comedy in "Doughnuts" it shows that you don't have to always be "Maria-sama" or "Sweet Blue Flowers" or "Nana" - you can do light comedy and light romance. But you do have to commit to being honest in any genre.
    I'll probably read the fourth volume to see if it's going to go anywhere. But even if it does, it won't excuse the poor writing to this point. Volume 3 is non-committal fluff dressed up as yuri with no intention of going anywhere interesting. 

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Not only what we have lost, but what we still have left to lose after the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Dear family and friends,

They are coming for me. On Friday, 6/24/22, in a concurrence, the supreme court said they want to take away the right of gay marriage and they want to recriminalize gay sex. And after that they will take away discrimination protections for me in voting, health care, and employment. 

If you continue to vote republican behind the defense of being a “fiscal conservative” then you are directly injuring me. Every time you vote republican you are personally striking at me, personally taking my rights away, personally advocating for hate and discrimination. 

You cannot turn a blind eye anymore. If you think I am hysterical, remember that as recently as in my parent’s generation these things were illegal, I was illegal. Please, it is not too late. If you love me. If you love anyone at all. Please.

Your daughter, your niece, your sister, your cousin, your mother, your friend,
Yuristargirl

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Metal Lords (movie review)

Two teen boys and one teen girl in a classroom, one teen boy has death metal stage makeup on, the teen girl has a cello
    Random movie review: "Metal Lords." I was bored, it was on Netflix, so I watched it. And, it was actually pretty decent. How to describe it? It's a light teen comedy/drama movie about metal and friendship and growing up. It definitely doesn't have the realism of something like "We Are the Best" and it doesn't have the quite the emotional depth of "Edge of Seventeen" (2016 - god I love that movie). But it's also not as funny nor as sweet as "School of Rock." But despite some uneven parts and some unnecessary gross-out moments, there were enough genuine laughs and bright spots to be worth watching for anyone who likes light teen movies and likes music. 
    The basic premise is that there are two high-school best friend outcasts, one who is domineering (but deeply hurting inside) who loves metal and plays the guitar, and the more emotionally centered kid he had previously befriended (and who is the fulcrum, so to speak, for the movie) who plays drums. They form a "band" if you could call it that. The guitarist is determined to enter the school's battle of the bands to show everyone that they are "somebodies" and become stars like a prior metal band that came out of the school.
    But can they do it as a duo? And therein lies some of the best moments of the movie. Our drummer watches as a girl in the marching band goes ape-shit crazy on a teacher and then stumbles on her later playing cello - and she's good. Couldn't she join the band? Not if the guitarist has anything to say about it. 
    So we get a burgeoning teen love (drummer and cellist) that conflicts with an old friendship (guitarist and drummer) and that conflict propels some emotional growth in all three. But oh, the conflict between the guitarist and cellist reaches a peak in one of the best scenes in the movie (I won't spoil it).
    There's also healing family wounds, coming out of your shell, and romance. Unfortunately, for all the good, there are a few uneven moments, and the film as a whole has a less-than-believable overall tone. But that's not to say it doesn't work, it's just light, fun, fare - and that's okay.
    All three leads are wonderfully cast. There are some funny cameos from actual metal musicians and there's a great twist with a psychiatrist. There are also some interesting moments with the "rival" band - showing how as douchey as their music is, they're actually decent people. It's nice to see a teen movie where there is a mix of personalities, not just the good ones and the bad ones. But a whole bunch of average people being somewhat decent.
    Interestingly, there is also the regular appearance of a side character with Down Syndrome, played by an actor who has Down Syndrome. I'm a bit torn about this character, and I would be interested in hearing from some folks with even greater knowledge of disabilities than I do as to whether it is positive representation. My hunch is that, it is. The scenes with that character and the guitarist have a gentleness and humanity that I liked, it didn't feel forced to me, it didn't feel exploitative, and I think visibility is great. But, I also might be missing things that might have bothered others about that role (or maybe not, maybe it was good representation?). At the very least they tried and that's something too.
    Other kvetches: it didn't pass the Bechdel Test. There was only one female lead. She did not interact with any other female. There was another girl thrown in just to tempt the drummer. There was no interaction between any female characters at all. 
    And on another note, there was one gay joke. It started really badly with the guitarist calling having the girl in the band "gay." But then the other two look around at posters in the guitarist's room and the sight gag of all those singers with makeup, tight pants, and crotches packed with socks poked fun at the machismo of metal mixed with the innate queerness of many metal bands - and their infatuation with dicks. It was a funny turnaround to be sure. But that's still an uneven commentary on using "gay" as a pejorative. While they did manage to turn it back on the person who said it, it didn't quite resolve in a way that makes being gay okay. All it basically said is that all metal is gay, not that it's not okay to call things "gay" to demean them. On the whole, I wish they didn't make that joke, but there's been worse. 
    So on the whole, the movie was nice, it was sweet, but it isn't one I'm likely to watch again. There really were some laugh-out-loud moments, and the cellist's explosive temper is so well done by the actress. The overall tone was a bit mixed - veering more towards light teen comedy than anything really meaningful - but uneven at times too. And yet, there was some growth in several characters. So as imperfect as it is, if you're bored, like music, and like teen comedies, it might be worth watching.
    
🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Adachi and Shimamura volume 3 (Manga review)

Manga cover. Two Japanese teens sit on a train, one holds the others hand, the girl whose hand is being held is shyly freaking out. They have scarves on due to the cold.
    
I think I am going to stop reading the "Adachi and Shimamura" manga. So this review of volume 3 will probably be my last stop with this series (however, that does mean that I can pick up a new series to start - gotta respect the 'ole budget after all).
    In Volume 3, Adachi and Shimamura exchange chocolates for valentines day. I mean seriously, that's about the only thing that happens all volume, and although it introduces a new character (an old friend of Shimamura's who is likely to cause trouble/confusion somewhere down the line) there's basically nothing go on.
    And it's not the good kind of nothing either. I'm fine with those slice-of-life, no real plot sort of stories if they are well done. However, this series is becoming the worst form of yuri (well, 2nd worst after the male-oriented, hentai-light type). It's the type of yuri that is neither a deep and meaningful exploration of the complexities and depths of female friendship, nor an actual romantic coupling (or even better, an actual lesbian couple - the distinction I'm making is better left for a later date). 
    No, this is the super bland, queer baiting, non-committal, meaningless dreck kind of yuri. The kind of yuri where the actions, feelings, inner-monologues, and everything else feels fake, contrived, and confusingly vacant all at the same time. Nothing they say in their inner monologues makes sense. Nothing they do in their interactions makes sense. The actual writing has horrid pacing, abrupt jumps and transitions, and is just generally really poor. 
    I think the closest current series that I can think of to compare it with is something like "A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow" and yet I think (9 volumes in to that series so far) that that series might actually turn romantic (god I hope so). But that series too suffers from some of these same non-committal, confusingly non-realistic depictions of teenage girls' minds and hearts. However, at least "A Tropical Fish" is slightly more interesting, with characters that have some actual depth to them. "Adachi and Shimamura" just doesn't know how to create that. It's so poorly written. And it's queer-baiting with no real sense that there will be a legit romantic and/or LGBTQ+ payoff that makes it's frustratingly vapid storytelling worth it.
    I thankfully am at the point in life now, and with the increasing availability of LGBTQ+ media to consume (I doubted you "Heartstopper" - but 5 episodes in you are very very adorable), that I don't need to waste my time or my money on such a less-than-mediocre "yuri" (maybe it's not even queer-baiting, maybe it's just yuri-baiting) manga like Adachi and Shimamura. Volume 3 is likely to be my last for this series. 

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Daytime Shooting Star volume 10 (manga review)

A young teacher and his female student stand side by side, she pulls down the corner of her eye and sticks her tongue out.
    Been a slow month for new releases in the series I'm currently reading, and I'm on a bit of a tight budget at the moment so I haven't been starting any new series. Soooo, that means it's time to review another volume of "Daytime Shooting Star" which I've been slowly catching up on.
    This will be a short review, so be prepared for SPOILERS throughout (as there ain't much else to talk about): In volume 10, Suzume very cutely asks Mamura to be her boyfriend for real. He is cutely blushing throughout the entire chapter. And THEN...and then, just when you thought we were past this...G**D*** Shishio-sensei decides to act like a spoiled brat/total creep and gets Suzume alone in a classroom, and hugs her tightly, and when she asks him to let go, he says "no." 
    Let's remind everyone (for the millionth time) - Shishio is her adult teacher. She is about 16 years old. THIS IS NEVER OKAY. But, on the plus side for this series, she does reject him and commits herself to Mamura. So hopefully my internet friends who told me the series resolves in a healthy way are right and we're on a good path with Mamura. 
    But still, why can't we have a series with someone as cutely oblivious as Suzume and someone as cutely sensitive/devoted as Mamura WITHOUT the whole teacher and student thing? Is it too hard to ask for good shoujo with same-age protagonists ("Ao Haru Ride" FTW)? Also, is it too hard to get a good shoujo romance with same-age protagonists, that is actually interesting? (I'm looking at you "Shortcake Cake" - you started so good and got so bland, dropping all your high-drama stakes along the way and making your female lead take the backseat and erasing her personality - for shame!)
    So with volume 10 of "Daytime Shooting Star," we formally get our couple. Suzume continues to be a nicely uniquely characterized shoujo heroine, Mamura is likable with some of the characteristics of a modern shoujo male lead (kind, sensitive, devoted - not cold and cool like the late 90s, early 2000s shoujo males - ughhhh "Peach Girl" why did you have to give those two assholes your attention?). We're putting to rest (I think, finally) the teacher/student relationship in this series (and not a moment too soon), and so here's hoping that the series gives us some fun volumes of Suzume and Mamura getting to know each other and deepening their relationship as it finishes up.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Star Trek The Motion Picture 4k UHD Director's cut Remastered(Movie Review)

    Today was one of only two days to see Star Trek The Motion Picture in 4k, completely remastered, UHD, director's cut IN THEATERS! So naturally I was there! I won't bore you with too many details, but basically, they went back to the original footage in three different formats that it was shot in, cleaned it up, used the previous director's cut edit, and truly color-graded it for the first time. I have always liked this movie, far more than most people, but I also was well aware of its weaknesses. So I was definitely looking forward to seeing what they did with it. Let's do a quick good vs. bad to get things rolling:

The faces of the characters from Star Trek look out over the movies title with a rainbow color filter over them.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Kageki Shojo!! volume 5 (manga review)

 
Two teen girls in school uniforms promenading. One has a military coat overtop flaring out behind her like a cape.
   
Meh. That's what I think of Kageki Shojo volume 5 (and pretty much all the volumes other than the prequel/introductory volume "The Curtain Rises). I'm so sorry to keep subjecting you all to my reviews of manga that I just don't feel very drawn to (is that a pun?!). In general, I just find so much shoujo and yuri to be middling. And don't get me started on how little true josei is published in the US. My big question to all of you: is there no fantastically well written yuri, shoujo, and josei out there any more? Has the industry just become dominated by trite, superficial storytelling and bland art that can't decide if it's moe or realistic? Or is what gets translated to the US market so limited, that they pick lowest common denominator titles to publish even though there are a lot of higher quality ones in Japan going untranslated? (And yes, I feel meh about anime the last few seasons as well).
    But, let's talk Kageki Shojo Volume 5 while we're here. In this volume, the girls begin the process of rehearsing for, and then auditioning for, their brief Romeo and Juliet scene that they will perform with the main troupes at the school's cultural festival. Mostly, this volume focuses on Sarasa trying to figure out which character she will portray and how to develop her own style for that character. In this way, it reflects back on the earlier volumes where she was both magnificent at acting, but her acting was also a direct copy of another famous performer's style. Fascinating, is when Ai gives her some advice and then remembers where she learned that from (her famous actress mother...).

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Our Teachers are Dating Volume 4 (manga review)

Two adult women teachers holding hands, one has her other arm around the other, in front of a school on a clear day with flower petals floating in the air around them
    Somewhat unexpectedly, Our Teachers are Dating Volume 4 (Seven Seas) came shrink wrapped. I just assumed it was some weird Amazon warehouse thing. Well, for what is mostly a sweet, simple comedy/romance, it turns out the final chapter of this final volume was about as steamy as it gets. I was surprised there wasn't an explicit content warning on it actually, but the shrink wrap now makes sense. More on that to come.
    Our Teachers are Dating is a very light rom-com about two women teachers at a school who fall in love, date, and in this final volume, get married. It's a simple story. There is really no drama, no character growth, it's just meant as a feel-good story, I guess. I would honestly say that it's below average. Nice but nothing special.
    This final volume had the two women telling their families that they were planning on marrying which at least provided some interesting dynamics, especially when one family does not take it well to start. But honestly, there isn't much to say about this volume or series. Do you want to read a simple rom-com about two lesbians teachers falling in love? Do you not want to have to think while you read it because there is no depth? Then you're in luck.

Eclair Bleue, Eclair Rouge, and Eclair Orange (manga reviews)

Two teen manga girls sharing a bike
    During the period where I took a hiatus from blogging, I also had to decrease my manga purchases, and so as a result after reading the first two volumes of the Eclair series (Elcair and Eclair Blanc) I didn't purchase the final three (Rouge, Bleue, and Orange) [published by Yen Press]. I'm finally beginning to chip away at my backlog and given the nature of these volumes, it made sense to just talk about all three at once. And frankly, there isn't much to say.
    Do you like middling, repetitious, and tropy yuri stories that are way too brief, relatively simplistic, and often have an unresolved tone to the ending? Well then you're in luck, cause that's about all you get with these three. And BTW, if it wasn't clear, I'm not a super huge fan of this series.
    Let's start with the format. Each story is very short, shorter than your average chapter of a serialized manga. It's interesting to me, because while I don't enjoy reading short stories (literary fiction short stories), I have found that I do enjoy writing them. So with that growing understanding of what I like about my own writing of short stories, it has made me even more suspect of the one-off stories in manga. And frankly, these don't have much to say. A great short-story provides amazing depth on the characters, time, and setting without ever spending any time on it. The writing hints, implies, or at least provides fertilizer for the mind to imagine all that came before and all that will follow. You'll find very little writing on that level here. Further, a great short story manages to either really give meaningful insight into a character, situation, or event or actually transform (even if minutely) the character in the space of the short story. Again, you'll find very little of that in these stories.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Even Though We're Adults Volume 4 (manga review)

A young adult woman with shoulder length medium brown hair, stares at the reader by looking over her left shoulder while her body faces to the left.
    I'm going to say it...so far I like "Even Though We're Adults" by Takako Shimura. I'll get to why in a moment. But Volume 4 continues the series about a married female school teacher who (emotionally) falls for another woman she meets, and is forced to confront new feelings as well as old problems in her marriage to a man.
    For a quick summary of volume 4, keep reading. If you don't want SPOILERS, then proceed to the wrap-up/discussion below. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Daytime Shooting Star volume 9 (manga review)

A high school girl and boy look uncomfortable standing net to each other, but make sideways glances at the other indicating that they are actually romantically interested in each other
     This will be a short and sweet one. "Daytime Shooting Star" volume 9 (Shojo Beat) finally turns the tide from uncomfortable (immoral perhaps) almost relationship between a male teacher and a high-school student to being a more typical high-school romance between two high schoolers. 
    See my past reviews of this series to see why I was so skeeved out by it, but I had heard from others that the series would resolve in a much better way than it started. And at approximately the 2/3rds point, I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    SPOILERS AHEAD:
    Summary, Suzume moves to live with her uncle, bumps into a cute guy who turns out to be her homeroom teacher and her uncle's friend. They fall for each other, and the ADULT just barely avoids starting an actual romantic relationship with her. Gross. Anyway, along the way, Suzume meets Mamura, a high-school boy who confesses to her, but while she's drawn to him as a friend, she is so stuck on her teacher, that she turns Mamura down. In volume 9, following on the promise of volume 8, Suzume and Mamura actually takes some steps forward as a potential couple, while Suzume continues trying to move on from her teacher. 
    END SPOILERS
    So thankfully, this series seems to be turning the corner and heading into more acceptable high-school romance territory. I'm going to stick it out to the end and I'll let you know. 
    As for the art, it really is above average. While it isn't quite up to the level of my favorites (I'm a sucker for 90s shoujo style, think Hana Kimi, Ouran High School Host Club, Clover by Clamp, etc... as well as mangaka's such as Io Sakisaka and Natsuki Takaya amongst others) it is certainly better than most of what's out there now which tends to have too cartoony and cutesy a style and less realistic. The art here bends towards realism without quite embracing the overly lanky and exaggerated shoujo style of the past that I love. I do love that the style of the faces is unique to this mangaka and I am quite drawn (pun?) to that face style. Even if the overall art isn't quite as beautiful as Io Sakisaka's art, it still is a plus for the series. (also, it does make pretty good use of screen tones which so many modern shoujo series seem to skimp on! >_<  And I LOVE screentones!!!!!)
    Should you read it? If you haven't started the series, maybe wait until I finish it to see if it's worth it. But if you have started and were as bothered by the initial adult/student relationship dynamic as I was, then things are going in a better direction and so it's probably worth seeing through to the end.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

My Wandering Warrior Existence (Manga review)

    
This is an impossibly hard review to write. What is the proper balance between writing an honest personal review of a work of art, respecting both the person and the effort they took at creating the work, and any attempt to critique a work that is also a memoir and not pure fiction? Those are easy questions to answer when the reviewer unequivocally enjoys the work. However, it can feel icky when the reviewer doesn't enjoy the memoir as much. I don't ever want to judge another person. But should I comment on the craft behind telling the story? 
    Today, the memoir in question is "My Wandering Warrior Existence" by Nagata Kabi (Seven Seas), the fifth memoir manga in her series that began with her seminal, brilliant, heart-breaking, affecting manga "My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness."
    Essentially, "My Wandering Warrior Existence" suffers in relation to the extraordinary "My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness." In fact, I've felt that each volume since that first one has been one of diminishing returns. That doesn't mean they haven't been good, or powerful, but with each one maybe a little bit less so. Maybe it's that the freshness and uniqueness of "My Lesbian Experience" simply couldn't be recreated now that it was in the world - after all it was so unlike anything before it, but all her works after invariably must contain reflections of it. Or maybe it really is that the subsequent volumes simply aren't quite as excellent. But for whatever reason, "My Wandering Warrior Existence" feels like the slightest of the five volumes so far. 
    It is, of course, quite good actually. Her rough art has amazing charms. And her writing about herself is brutally honest. But on the whole, "My Wandering Warrior Existence" isn't necessarily as memorable or profound as the prior works. And yet of course, every reader is bound to connect with different things differently, so maybe for some, this will be your favorite so far. However, it began to feel less important to me as her story shifts from some of the more desperate, dark, and harrowing places in the previous volumes. This volume mostly focuses on Kabi's attempts to begin dating, or thinks about beginning to date, and for the most part doesn't mine the levels of desperation, illness, and pain of the prior volumes that gave them their gravitas and import as literature. 
    That being said, there is one very complex and personal thing that Kabi brings up in this volume. I won't spoil it, but it could also be quite tough for some readers and she does provide a trigger warning and the page numbers to skip through. Purely as a reader, I felt it quite difficult how Kabi reveals this truly horrific and major personal information but then also moves on from it very quickly and never returns to it. This is her truth and her life and her processing laid bare before us, so maybe this is really what it felt like to her and she was able to just move on. But at the same time, I wished she had either explored the implications of this in her life more thoroughly and what the healing process was like (or wasn't like)...or maybe hadn't brought it up at all. In some ways, this event could be seen as making everything in the prior four volumes make sense. And Kabi starts to talk about it with that level of significance but just as suddenly as this revelation is made, she moves on saying maybe it really isn't the cause of all her challenges after all. Huh? 
    I certainly don't expect anyone to expose themselves so openly and personally if they don't want to, but then why bring it up at all just to deny that it has any role in the larger life story she's telling through this manga series? I suspect because it does have a bigger role than she is ready to explore publicly right now (or maybe even admit to herself). 
    As a reader though it left me feeling badly. An analog for the feelings that this approach evoked in me might be similar to when your partner says they cheated on you years ago but felt horrible keeping the secret - they unburden themselves at your expense (BTW this has never actually happened to me, my [very few] ex's are all good people). Like, what are you supposed to do with this information now? You were happy a minute ago, thinking everything is fine. But after sharing, they get to feel better (no more guilt) and now you feel worse. I know that that is not at all a fair comparison to make. Kabi has no need to justify how much or what she does with anything she reveals in her work. But it was my honest emotional reaction to how this event is handled so briefly in this work, for better or worse. It left me feeling burdened with its enormity with no recourse.
    Other than this brief section, which occurs roughly halfway through the volume over the course of a couple pages, there are episodes about wedding photos, dating apps, grandchildren, and a lot of research about relationships. These are fine, occasionally humorous, sometimes a bit didactic, but often feeling more like filler. Which makes the volume feel like filler, i.e. just not up to par with some of the prior volumes. But let's say hypothetically there were to be a few more stunning volumes after this one, then if one were to read all of them together, the stories here might work in that larger arc. But as a self-contained volume about her thoughts on dating, it just didn't quite come together as cohesively (or as importantly) as the prior volumes.
    Is it good? Should you buy it? Did you like her other stuff and want to keep supporting her as a creator? It was okay and I will certainly keep buying new volumes from her as they come out. As I said in the beginning, I feel very icky trying to write a review of a memoir, because that is that person's life. And who am I to judge another person's life? But as a reviewer, I can look at the art of putting that story on the page, and in this case, "My Wandering Warrior Existence" didn't work as well for me as her prior volumes. The explosive freshness of "My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness" may simply not be a fair comparison for any other works by her. Yet it exists and can't be ignored. 

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Daytime Shooting Star volumes 7 and 8 (manga review)

    I think the last time I wrote about "Daytime Shooting Star," I swore off finishing the series even though people told me that it ended better than it began. Well, I'm a completist and it was killing me to only have part of the series on my bookshelf, so I'm back to reading it. In this quick review, I touch on volumes 7 and 8.

Two manga covers, each depicting the faces of two teens

    Quick synopsis: Suzume moves from the country to Tokyo to live with her uncle when her parents go overseas (or something that parents seem to do in manga a lot). In Tokyo she meets a friend of her uncle's who just happens to be a teacher in her school. She falls for him. The question is whether he will fall for her, and whether anything will happen.
    And so if you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know that it is that premise which really really pisses me off. Adults should not have anything to do romantically with children ever. Especially educators. And the frequent depiction of "May/December" relationships between adults and high-schoolers in manga is deeply upsetting to me because it appears to normalize something that shouldn't be normalized. 
    Adults should, if they become aware of some infatuation from a child, either 1) ignore it, 2) make clear that nothing can happen ever, 3) stop all interactions with the child, or 4) some combination of all three. That's where "After the Rain," although it starts by veering into not good territory, actually handles those three points quite well and we see how the adult guides the teen back to a better place and away from the adult. 
    Thankfully, although it isn't done with the elegance of "After the Rain", volume 7 of "Daytime Shooting Star" does finally show the teacher taking some responsibility for the path he is going on and perhaps trying to make it right. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't go into details, but it's a start to maybe some repair work in this series. 
    Volume 8 goes a bit further as it reintroduces the teen boy character, Mamura as a potential love interest of Suzume. What somewhat bothered me is how the author conveniently has Suzume's friend Yuyuka fall for someone else after she seemingly had her eyes only on Mamura. While this clears the path for Suzume and Mamura to eventually get together (which of course would be healthier for her), it felt too convenient and easy to just brush aside Yuyuka and her story arc. 
    I think back to one of my favorite series, "Ao Haru Ride," and how Futaba and Yuri must work through their mutual crush on the same boy and how it affects their relationship. That was so well written. I am doubting we'll get that level of depth of writing in "Daytime Shooting Star." But at least maybe we can see Suzume realize she's better off with a fellow teen her age. 
    What I'm a bit worried about is that the teacher still admits to the uncle that he loves Suzume. So although he appears to end things in Volume 7, why isn't he questioning himself as to why he got so emotionally (and almost romantically) involved with a child? Sounds like he needs some serious therapy. I doubt we'll get that level of depth in the writing either.
    On the art side, I really do like the overall style. It's somewhere between the older shoujo style I love, and the newer more cartoony style. The facial expressions are great, and when it wants to, the art can be really well done. It's on the "plus" side for art quality.
    Should you keep reading this? Who knows. I will because I want to see where it goes and because I hate having partial series on my shelf. That being said, although maybe it has taken a turn for the better, I don't see it handling the rest of the story with any more depth, nuance, or maturity than it handled the first half. So I still think this will end up as a so-so series.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Gender Queer is a phenomenal graphic novel (quick review)

Book cover for Gender Queer which depicts a young adult looking at their reflection in a lake of themselves as a child.
    Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, is a phenomenal, touching, and elegantly written graphic novel about a gender non-conforming/non-binary person who is also asexual. It is rare enough to get solid representation of and by someone in the non-binary community, but perhaps even more important is the exploration of asexuality and the intertwining dysphoria that accompanies both aspects of the author's experience.
    It covers roughly the first 25 or so years of the author's life, as E [note: E uses Spivak Pronouns] goes from a carefree early life to increasing pressure by the outside world to conform to (and confirm Eir) social gender norms. In addition, the treatment of menstruation, gynecological visits, body dysphoria, and so much more is laid bare for non-binary/asexual readers looking for an image of themselves in media, and for those looking to better understand non-binary and/or asexual experiences.
    One of the things about this graphic novel that was most impactful to me was the somewhat dispassionate (and I mean that as a compliment) style of both the writing and art. There is nothing performative, nothing trying to make some grand point, nothing overly emotional in the presentation. This is almost a journalistic memoir in it's clear, simple retelling of various experiences in Eir life. Rather than undermine the value and insight of the memoir, that style serves to make the actual insight more profound because it is not presented through any intense layers of emotion that might distract or detract for some readers. I found it to be incredibly moving, insightful, and beautiful and the style of both art and writing served it extremely well.
    Many of you may have heard or come across Gender Queer in that conservative media has been bashing it as pornography. It is not. There are some moments where sexual acts are depicted, but they serve as points for unpacking internal experiences, sensations, feelings, and understandings of self. They most definitely are not depicted pornographically or for any eroticism or titillation . Like I said in the paragraph before, the whole thing has a slightly dispassionate, journalistic quality, further emphasizing that this is not porn. 
    Worryingly, even the New York State Education Department came out against this book recently in a disappointing way when the pulled a twitter post from the state librarian championing this book and its personal meaning to her and her child. [Tweet posted below this review for posterity because it has been removed from twitter]. Lauren Moore is the head of all libraries in the state, not just school libraries, but public libraries, research libraries, state university libraries, and was absolutely correct to give this graphic novel a personal shoutout because it is most definitely appropriate to adult, teen, and maybe even some younger readers. It is so disappointing that the government can't even respect freedom from censorship and the LGBTQ+ community in what is supposed to be a liberal state. (And for those who know me, I am risking my job over this post because NYSED was not pleased with me when I wrote to them directly with my concern over their response and statement, but that's a story for another day).
    So although this review is coming out well after the graphic novel was published, I wanted to respond to the March 2022 dust up with New York State and give this graphic novel another bit of positive press. It is a truly beautifully written, drawn, and observed memoir about two underrepresented and frequently misunderstood aspects of the LGBTQ+ continuum. I highly recommend it.
Tweet from Lauren Moore stateing "I chose "Gender Queer: a Memoir" by Maia Kobabe. I'm grateful for books that let my kid know they're not alone."
What a beautiful statement that should have been entirely non-controversial.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Kageki Shojo volume 4 (manga review)

Two high school girls with feathers falling around them
    I want to love this series, but "Kageki Shojo" volume 4 (by Kumiko Saiki, published by Seven Seas) just spins it's wheels and keeps us at arm's length from our lead character.
    "Kageki Shojo" is the story of an all-girls performing arts school where the goal is to enter the adult all-female performance troupes upon graduation. Watanabe Sarasa is the tall, goofy, high-energy, raw talented, odd-ball who is also positioned, maybe destined, to be a great and unique talent. Should be an amazing series, right? Sadly, this volume doesn't do anything meaningful and in four volumes, I'm not getting a good feeling for this series living up to it's early promise.
    Volume 4 focuses on a once-a-decade school sports festival where the main competitors are the adults from the performance troupes. It is set up as a type of fan service to the fans of the performance troupes. By various circumstances, Watanabe Sarasa has to fill in for one of the adult performers. Of course, her elevation to this position should be a source of great drama amongst the other students, but by and large, that just doesn't come to fruition. While some grumbling is hinted at, four volumes in, everyone seems to have more or less accepted our odd-ball with the high-ceiling untapped talent. Which makes it pretty drama free. 
    In addition to there being no real inter-personal conflict, there is no intra-personal conflict either. Yes, you might say that the whole end of volume 3 (she must find who she is as an actress instead of perfectly mirroring other's great performances) has it's fulfillment in this volume. But it wasn't enough. There is no interiority which how Watanabe is written. We don't really know what she's thinking or feeling or struggling with, not in any depth. (If you read this with any regularity, you know I like my characters with angst) The story is told too much from a third person perspective without enough internal insight. And with little meaningful plot or inter-personal conflict instead, there just isn't much actually happening. Hence my "spinning it's wheels" comment earlier. 
    What continues to be most sad for me as I read this series, is that the prequel volume "Kageki Shojo: The Curtain Rises" focused on Watanabe's roommate, Narata Ai, who is much more interesting and is given much more internal conflict. She's beautiful, somewhat famous already, but an outcast in many ways, with complex internal emotions, she holds others at a distance, and her outcome and destiny are not as clearly fixed as Watanabe's. 
    In fact, I always read Narata's arc with the potential to be very open ended and potentially sad. She was a teen idol in an idol group, who was the outcast of that group. Her move to the Kouka school almost has the feel of going into exile, almost like Maria in "Sound of Music" going back to the nunnery. So what will this hold for her? Will she continue on to join Kouka's troupe? Will that make her happy? Does she long for something else? Is that something else in entertainment, or is it something totally different? There's so much to explore with her character. I so wish that we got more of Narata in the main series. I really wish she was the main character in the main series. She is simply more interesting.
    So "Kageki Shojo" volume 4 is fine. The art is somewhat simple, but still engaging. What little conflict there is is fairly superficial, the plot itself isn't that interesting, and we don't really get any insight into the lead character. I just don't know where this series is going, or what it's trying to say or be. Or maybe, I do, and it's too simple an outcome and I'm looking for something more that will never be there. (shrug). Ah well, it's not bad, I'll keep reading it, but it isn't great either. It's just sort of fluff.

BTW, this is the 300th post on this blog!

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.