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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Ultimate Blue and Ultimate Weapon... 
13th-Oct-2005 07:36 pm
And what is it with all of these VIZ Media titles, anyway? I feel like a certain VIZ-pimping fanboy...

Takahashi, Mizuki. Musashi #9. Vol. 4. La Jolla: CMX, 2005. (First Japanese Edition: 1996)
Summary: Continuing the story of Shingo, who is desperately in love with Kou. Kou has a new mission that does not involve him, however, where she must recover a "special" vial of lipstick from an irritating young Japanese girl. Suffice to say, though she restores the girl's good name, she does not recover the stolen information. Ah, well. This volume rounds itself off with a side story from Musashi's youth, foiling some airplane hijackers.
Comments: Well, what can I say? The story improves after I've taken an extended vacation from it. In this way, the repetitive narrative elements don't grate on me so badly. I love the genderbending elements of this title and Kou's cool competency. Is it possible to be a strong female and still be a woman? Apparently not even in the 90's (except in Ikuhara Kunihiko World). Takahashi's art is quite clean and lovely as well, sort of like Yoshida Akimi's but more commercial. It reminds me a bit of the old Joker series, actually. And I can't help but posit a bit of yaoi action between Shingo and Kou's male double, who Shingo most amusingly calls "One-Niner." There's definitely a bit of sexual tension there, and I love the way that "One-Niner" just smirks knowingly at Shingo. ^_^
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition, direct sales
Rating: 6/10 - Worth a once-over, at least.

Takahashi, Shin. Saikano. Vol. 5. San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2005. (First Japanese Edition: 2000)
Summary: Oh, let's see. Chise almost but not quite gets it on with Tetsu, Shuji says goodbye to a dying and mutilated Akemi while Chise says goodbye to an equally brutalized Tetsu who thinks that she is Fuyumi, Atsushi kicks the bucket, (a living) Fuyumi says goodbye to (a living, naturally) Shuji, and on the last page Shuji and Chise decide to elope.
Comments: Okay, know what REALLY irritates me about this volume? It's not Chise's inability to grow a backbone to support those ridiculous mechanized wings of hers; heck, she's even starting to get a little bit legitimately scary and out of control, killing all the MEN who see her on contact. (But c'mon, Ultimate Weapon Chise shouldn't need to stand around dancing like a ninny to find Shuji!) This time around, I can't stand the way Takahashi uses the tremendous suffering of his characters as an opportunity for the male ones to get a bit of boob-oogling and groping under their belts. So maybe tremendously traumatic experiences inspire people to jump into bed with each other, but this is just gratuitous, offensive, and ridiculous.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition
Rating: 2.5/10 - Shit, I just don't care anymore. Believe it or not, there are redeeming qualities here...provided you can get over the misogyny.

Takahashi, Shin. Saikano. Vol. 6. San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2005. (First Japanese Edition: 2000)
Summary: Shuji and Chise elope and eventually end up in a town of refugees, where he gets a job as a fisherman and she as a waitress. Unfortunately, she now needs to pop pills to stay healthy, and a guy from the SDF is after her. (And boy does she seriously threaten him. Was that a bit of backbone showing???) By the end of the volume, it seems that the Ultimate Weapon is finally taking over what's left of Chise, and she's about to kill Shuji...if she doesn't die from the strain (or whatever) first.
Comments: Not only do they turn a woman into an ultimate weapon, they keep her dependent upon pills to stay alive! Talk about exploitation! As a feminist I'm outraged at all the ways in which females are used, abused, and degraded by the men in this series and by the (male) author. I was starting to feel pleasantly surprised by how scary Chise was getting, lying to that guy and telling him directly into his mind that she'd poisoned his noodles. But no. It's Shuji to the rescue with a promise to put her out of her misery before the end. Oh give me a break. As if, were this to happen in real life, he could even if SHE wanted him to. What sort of ultimate weapon would she be if such a dweeb could off her? I'm still holding out hopes that she'll wipe Shuji and the rest of the misogynistic people of this world off the face of the Earth, but I know it'll never happen.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition
Rating: 3/10 - "I'll kill you before you do REAL damage!" Okay, I changed my mind. This series still has the power to royally piss me off.
13th-Oct-2005 11:43 pm (UTC)
Wow... have you ever watched the anime?

I haven't (yet) as it seems incredibly sad. Now, with your take on the manga? I guess I'll probably NEVER do as it seems to be quite infuriating...
13th-Oct-2005 11:47 pm (UTC)
The anime? Are you kidding??? The manga alone makes me want to send the mangaka a mailbomb it makes the feminist in me so angry, there's no way I sit through the entire series.

(I hear the manga and anime have opposite endings, though.)

Let's put it this way: Saikano is a series only a fanboy could love. :P :P :P
13th-Oct-2005 11:58 pm (UTC)
I see. I'll totally avoid then since stuff fanboys (or rabid yaoi fangirls too) love I usually can't abide by them.

BTW? Basara (vols. 1-2) were in stock... I wanted to pick them up tonight but it's raining like crazy so I'll go this week-end... can't wait to see how it is (I'll see if they have Banana Fish, while I'm there since their website were showing both series did not have vols. 1-2 on hand and look what happened to Basara).
14th-Oct-2005 12:10 am (UTC)
I only started Saikano in the first place because a lot of people (well, they were all fanboys) raved about how INTELLIGENT the series is. (Okay, maybe if you're a toad, but otherwise...)

Well, I hope you enjoy Banana Fish and Basara. They are some of the best shoujo titles available in English right now. (Incidentally, Banana Fish is routinely voted among fans as THE best shoujo manga of all time.)

So it's raining there too? Same here. For a week straight...
14th-Oct-2005 12:42 am (UTC)
It's been YEURK weather since this week-end, actually... which helped me stay inside all week-end as I was sick.

And I just hope BF won't be too much of a turn-off (it's all that stuff about the page being yellow O.O... but as long as it does not make the images or text hard to read, I hope I'll be able to get over that)...
14th-Oct-2005 12:53 am (UTC)
*nods* It was raining so hard last weekend that the train tracks flooded and I was nearly an hour late getting home. Quite *coughs* significant when that's the difference between midnight and 1 am...

The *pages* of the French version of Banana Fish are yellow!? How tacky is that??? ^^;;;;
14th-Oct-2005 12:58 am (UTC)
I thought it was a gimmick like the Japanese did? Mmmmm... I wonder... maybe I'll check both versions first before putting good money down (if I go to Indigo or Chapters in downtown Montreal (15 minutes from work), they have their manga unwrapped and both languages so I could compare).
14th-Oct-2005 01:00 am (UTC)
*snorts* Yellow pages in tankoubon or bunkoban? Yeah, right. The covers of the Banana Fish books are yellow, but the pages are white. And the art in general is quite simple, so that alone shouldn't be straining your eyes overmuch.
14th-Oct-2005 01:03 am (UTC)
I'm really wondering what they tried to do... Since I'm not too crazy on yellow, I'll go check both versions instead... I like getting dust jackets AND my own language but yellow paper is creeping me out, I must say... (unless it's more like sepia... that I could tolerate... I'll see just how yellow this thing is).
14th-Oct-2005 01:05 am (UTC)
Well, if the pages really are yellow, I wouldn't get my hopes up for sepia. :P What's the point of doing yellow if it's not a bright shade of "banana yellow"? *rolls eyes in amusement*

If it's any consolation, though, the English translations are very well-done.
14th-Oct-2005 09:27 pm (UTC)
I have to ask - why are you reading Saikano in the first place? Seems like needless masochism to me. I don't believe you about the redeeming values, either. ^_^;;
14th-Oct-2005 09:34 pm (UTC)
*laughs* Well, it was one of those things where everyone said it was good, so I tried it. And hated it. At this point I'm just reading it so that one day I can write a REALLY good hate screed against it. :P
14th-Oct-2005 09:39 pm (UTC)
Yay! I want to read that. Especially if you include the anime - I watched it, and wanted to gouge my own eyeballs out after. That was enough to keep me away from the manga. In my world, "cheap and exploitative" is not the same as "powerful and movng."
14th-Oct-2005 09:42 pm (UTC)
Or, better yet, I'm considering doing a bit of a hypothetical plot "improvement" to the series after I see how it actually ends. You know, all the places where one could make the men (as opposed to the women) suffer and be exploited.
29th-Oct-2005 11:59 pm (UTC)
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