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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Reading and cleaning. Not necessarily in that order. 
23rd-Oct-2005 02:50 pm
Harsh realization dawns at last as the air in the mornings start to bite back hard. I have lost well over 20 lbs. in the past year and thus have no winter clothes that fit me. So, I spent much of the weekend cleaning (read: emptying) out my room and closet and replacing what I discarded with a new, very small wardrobe. My mother was beaming like a floodlight in the changing room; given that more than half the time even my comfort-oriented self must admit that an L is too big now, I am reluctantly succumbing to what I call "thin people clothing." *eyes her new pants warily* Shoot me now.

While I was at it, I also rearranged my books somewhat and packed away a good four foot Roman column's worth of English-translated manga. My life is an endless battle between my book obsessions and my limited shelf space. (Indeed, you can get a really good idea of what's on my mind by looking at what's in the front of my bookshelves.) Anyway, here's what's been read so far:

Yamaguchi, Masakazu. Arm of Kannon. Vol. 4. Los Angeles: TOKYOPOP, 2004. (First Japanese Edition: 2002)
Summary: This volume concludes the backstory of a previous person infected by the arm--and how he was able to purge himself of it. Unfortunately, we learn that Mao was destined to wield the arm, and even Ryo Kanmu's attempt to banish the boy to another dimension is, apparently, unsuccessful.
Comments: What can I say? I actually like ero-grotesque stories a la Urotsukidouji every once in awhile. And Yamaguchi's in peak form with the style; think CLAMP crossed with Maeda Toshio. His artwork is both strikingly beautiful, disturbingly sexy, and gut-churningly monstrous. We get plenty of battles, of course, but most of it is just filler fight scenes for the fanboys. This is the end of the first storyline, and the manga makes an abrupt shift in plotline after this volume. I'm eager to see where it goes from here.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition
Rating: 5.5/10 - Well, I can stomach it, but you might not. Be warned. It will evoke a strong reaction.

Matsushita, Yoko. Descendants of Darkness. Vol. 7. San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2005. (First Japanese Edition: 1999)
Summary: The dastardly Muraki is back again, and this time he's up to some no-good cloning at Shion University, murdering young women for hanks of hair. The Shinigami get involved protecting an eyewitness and take jobs at the attached high school. In this volume, we also learn that Tsuzuki isn't human. *cue angst*
Comments: Everyone loves or wants Tsuzuki...except me, that is. So he's not human. It's a sign of Matsuhita's ineptness as a storyteller that I find myself wholly unmoved by that revelation. So what? He's dead, anyway! Gimme a break. Naturally, Muraki is in full form, molesting Tsuzuki even more blatantly than usual in standard yaoi-esque fashion, and Tsuzuki gets in nice and good with BOTH Tatsumi and Hisoka, one right after the other. (Note that the homoerotic elements get thicker and thicker in this series as BL increases in popularity.) The only high point of this volume for me is Oriya, whose dry personality and charming character design is appealing--but DAMN does he have bad taste in childhood friends!
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition
Rating: 5/10 - The die-hard fans love it, but the rest of us are indifferent.

Katsumoto, Kasane. Hands Off!. Vol. 4. Los Angeles: TOKYOPOP, 2005. (First Japanese Edition: 1999)
Summary: Kotarou is the damsel in distress once more--twice in a single volume, no less! Of course, it's Tatsuki to the rescue as always, but this time around you really get a taste of his inner pathos. The last story focuses on Yuuto's dweeb past and the good-hearted girl who gave him the confidence to look people in the eye.
Comments: TOKYOPOP's translation of this serious is EXCELLENT, and it skips along with easy and colorful slang. As usual, Kotarou gets mistaken for a girl, much to his outrage; even Yuuto's female friend assumes that he's the "girlfriend." There something hilariously shota about it all; Kotarou attracts the attention of a lecherous nurse at the hospital...it's kinda funny to see such an effeminate kid become the object of everyone's desire. Naturally, the relationship between him and Tatsuki is oh so slashy, but you and I both know that nothing will come of it. Theoretically, Kotarou has a girlfriend, but I couldn't help notice we don't see all that much of Mio in this volume. I think even Katsumoto would rather her boys find happiness with each other.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition
Rating: 5.5/10 - Lightweight diversion for the fangirl in all of us.

Ninomiya, Tomoko. Nodame Cantabile. New York: Del Rey, 2005. (First Japanese Edition: 2002)
Summary: Chiaki's got a gay admirer, and his school's got an new, presigious foreign lecturer. Chiaki's still dreaming of being a conductor, but will Stresemann's lechery work for or against the boy's ambitions?
Comments: There is something so delightfully offbeat about this manga series. When you read it, it doesn't really feel revolutionary, but the characters and the situations in which they find themselves is so unusual and entertaining that one easily forgives what on the surface seems to be a typical relationship-driven shoujo manga. Nodame is of course oblivious to her own weirdness, and I love watching the straightlaced Chiaki get sucked into the madness of it all. A highly-recommended manga that has won the Kodansha Manga of the Year Award.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition
Rating: 6.5/10 - Hearty, skip-along fun for everyone.
23rd-Oct-2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
as much as i love YnM, I must agree that Matsushita is very "go with the flow" kind of writer which leads to plot holes and a lot of "...what?" Yuki Kaori and Rumiko Takahashi take my breath away with how they intricately add little scenes and lines and comments that give away a huge secret without you realizing it. If you reread Cain's "Sound of a Boy Hatching" directly after reading "Judus' Kiss" there are soooooooooo many hints and clues about what was to come in JK that it is unbelievable that you could have missed they signs. With Matsushita it is just like she is pulling things out of thin air as she writes and it greatly diminishes empathy towards characters. When Muraki's master plan is revealed all I could help thinking was "...what? huh? but that... WHAT THE HELL?" It is quite disappointing...
23rd-Oct-2005 10:29 pm (UTC)
*nods* I agree with Yuki Kaori in particular. You know she plans ahead not just from the plotting, but because she SAYS she does in her notes. (Though, I like her shorter works better than her longer ones.) Matsushita probably *was* pulling things out of thin air; the series went on for longer than she expected it, and it wouldn't surprise me if her perfectionism got in the way of a good relationship with Hakusensha.
24th-Oct-2005 12:12 am (UTC)
I have to say I'll always be a big fan of Yami no Matsuei. It's too bad it ends at volume 8. (Which is to say that there are 11 volumes out, the series was discontinued at about enough content for 13, 14 volumes, but it stops being coherent after volume 8.) I never really got the impression Tsuzuki not being human was supposed to be a particularly big thing, though. I'm pretty sure I'd figured that out a bit before volume 7. What's important about that is a bit different and hinted at at volume 8, but, alas, we'll never actually know how it pans out!

I think I will have to check out Nodame Cantabile, though.
24th-Oct-2005 01:09 am (UTC)
*curious* Do you know whatever happened to Matsushita? After awhile, her work ceased to be a good fit with Hana to Yume, but she never went on to any other publication, and as far as I know, she did not change her penname and go anyplace else.

Tsuzuki not being human was supposed to be a particularly big thing, though. I'm pretty sure I'd figured that out a bit before volume 7

There's always something unusual about Tsuzuki. I just find myself unable to empathize with his angst in this volume.

I think I will have to check out Nodame Cantabile, though.

Oh, do. Definitely! I was really surprised by how totally offbeat it was.
24th-Oct-2005 05:55 am (UTC)
Do they explain what Tsuzuki is, besides simply 'not human'? :|
24th-Oct-2005 12:59 pm (UTC)
The word used in Vol. 7 is "demon."
25th-Oct-2005 03:14 pm (UTC)
They do eventually hint a good bit at what Tsuzuki is, but at the time the series is discontinued no straightfoward explanation has been put forth. :(
25th-Oct-2005 03:04 pm (UTC)
*curious* Do you know whatever happened to Matsushita? After awhile, her work ceased to be a good fit with Hana to Yume, but she never went on to any other publication, and as far as I know, she did not change her penname and go anyplace else.

I think she went crazy. Or got very depressed. Or something. The quality of her work shot straight to hell before the inevitable discontinuation. I really have not been able to find anything about what happened to her, so I hope that she is okay. I hadn't looked in awhile but perusing right now I can't find any new information... All the fansites stopped updating when the manga stopped coming out.

One person claims that this site has a recent picture of Matsushita Youko, and that they have seen other older pictures and it is totally her: http://www8.ocn.ne.jp/~setsuko/staff.htm

While it's the right kanji for her name and her bloodtype is AB, this says this woman is a Scorpio and I believe Matsushita-sensei is a Cancer. >_>;; Well, still, perhaps she is a hairdresser now!
25th-Oct-2005 03:10 pm (UTC)
She seemed like a very neurotic person (dangerously so) in her sidebar comments. Do they institutionalize people in Japan? Maybe after she got out she DID become a hairdresser...things like that could happen. >_<

It's just strange how completely she has disappeared from the radar.
25th-Oct-2005 03:25 pm (UTC)
I don't really know about mental healthcare in Japan -- but it's the best explination I've heard so far!
25th-Oct-2005 03:47 pm (UTC) - WHOA. YnM is being continued. o_O
So, while I was going through all that crap I clicked this one really recent link where a person was like "I have these scans that are supposedly from a recent Hana to Yume with a new YnM sidestory" and everyone else on the thread was like "Oh, it doesn't look like her artstyle" and "It's clearly a doujinshi." I forgot I left it downloading in the background.

Well, they're all wrong. It's not her artstyle for volumes 1-8, but it's absolutely her artstyle by volume 14-equivilant, only a little better evolved and less crappy and distorted looking. (Which gives me HOPE man. I couldn't TAKE that shit before. It still has its distorted moments, but I can live with it. Probably.)

The sidestory is about Muraki, Oriya, and Muraki's finally shown fiance Ukyou. It's 52 pages with a color insert of Hisoka and Tsuzuki and is printed in blue zasshi ink. Having subscribed to zasshi in the past I have zero doubt that the insert page, reading: "Hana to Yume Summer Special Edition Manga Supplement BIG VOLUME 52p Yoko Matsushita Yami no Matsuei Special postcard included!" is, in fact, a Hana to Yume splash page. I don't really have time to read all 52 pages right now... but it's back! o_O I dunno when monthlies will resume, but this must have been in this summer's issue.

25th-Oct-2005 03:55 pm (UTC) - Re: WHOA. YnM is being continued. o_O
Huh. Very interesting. On one level, I'm not surprised; after all, why would Viz have decided to release a title that was never going to be finished? (Since they *are* Hakusensha, it's safe to say that they knew something that us normal people did not.) On another level, I'm very surprised, given that it seems Matsushita either had a falling out with her publisher, with herself, or both. Still, even the notoriously flaky Kouga Yun made a comeback with Earthian after how many years? So nothing's impossible.
25th-Oct-2005 04:00 pm (UTC) - WHOA. YnM is being continued. o_O
Personally I think she should stick with what works, forget all that crap about Hisoka's family, and just continue with this stuff about Oriya and his brothel. >_>;; Just browsing this, him, Muraki, and Ukyou's love triangle shit is SO MUCH more interesting than anything that happened in teh entire Gensou Kai arc. *cough*
29th-Oct-2005 11:57 pm (UTC)
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