Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice (2017)

For me, one of the most overlooked and underappreciated anime / manga franchises out there (at least in America) is the venerable Cyborg 009 series by the late Shotaro Ishinomori. Created in 1963, Cyborg 009 could be considered Japan’s first superhero property, and one of, if not, the first fully racially integrated superhero team stories out there. There have been countless comics, movies and TV shows made for the franchise, this being the most recent. It should be no surprise to my readers that I really like older anime and things that have interesting art styles, and I find Ishinomori’s versions of the classic 60’s manga style to be at least up there with Tezuka.

Sadly, I recall the art style of the 2001-2 show (that aired on Cartoon Network) to be a dividing force in anime fandom at the time, with some of the more “mainstream” fans disliking it “because it looked old”. Thankfully 2017 is an entirely different beast, and while this show has had a modern facelift, anime fans seem to be more willing to try different things today which is great! Don’t be surprised if I do more Cyborg 009 reviews soon, as the 50th anniversary has brought a handful of new shows, films, and comics to enjoy.

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The main story of Cyborg 009 involves a shady militarized weapons manufacturer and terrorist organization called Black Ghost, and their newest project – cyborg super soldiers. Nine people from around the world are kidnapped and forced to undergo experiments which turn them into cyborgs with superhuman powers. Realizing that they have been wronged, and that Black Ghost is a threat to humanity itself, the cyborgs band together in order to stop Black Ghost in its’ goal of starting the next world war.

This story picks up years after Black Ghost has been eliminated, and the Cyborgs are trying to live as close to normal lives as they can, only to have that ripped away from a new threat – Metahumans with abilities like their own that have seemingly been ordered to kill the Cyborgs. Called “The Blessed” these guys are all sorts of zany bad guys such as a Cowboy that can control the weather, and a man that can alter gravity at will.

Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice is a “Netflix original” that was originally released as three films in Japan. It was produced by Production I.G and OLM Digital and distributed by Toho with Kenji Kamiyama (he directed  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex ) as executive producer and chief of the project, and Kokai Kakimoto (Psycho-Pass movie unit director) as director of the films themselves. Netflix basically took this footage and edited it into a twelve episode series that premiered last month (Feb 2017).

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I mentioned earlier that there was a “facelift” of sorts for the animation and character designs, and for once this is a modernization that isn’t terrible. The Cyborgs in Cyborg 009 have always had iconic red costumes adorned with yellow buttons and long yellow scarves. This motif is intact, but the suits have been “upgraded” to armored protective suits with yellow vent ports in the place of buttons. oh yeah, the yellow scarves are there! It’s subtle, but it’s a welcome upgrade for the long running series. Another change is that the character designs have been tweaked a bit, even from the 2012 film 009 Re:Cyborg, also from production I.G.

While this may be the farthest departure from the classic art style by Shotaro Ishinomori, the character  designs are good, in honestly my only quibble is that every iteration seems to make Jet Link (Cyborg 002) look less and less stylized that his original design. Jet used to have crazy spike hair and a huge hooked nose, now he just has a big nose and shaggy blond hair as if played by a young Owen Wilson. This isn’t a deal breaker, but I wish classic character designs wouldn’t be hidden sometimes – this was also an issue for me with the recent Harlock CGI film. The flipside to that sentiment is that thankfully, Cyborg 008 – an African man named Pyunma, has been toned down as to not look like any sort of blackface character as he previously was depicted. Granted, this hasn’t been an issue since the 70’s or so, but seeing the original 1960’s version of this shows Aquaman is pretty uncomfortable at times.

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You may have noticed that this show uses 3D CGI graphics to render characters rather than a traditional style that mimics old-school cel art. Japan has caught a lot of flack for years in the way that they handle this sort of animation as it seems somehow “cheaper” than American and even European counterparts. This sadly isn’t an actual technical limitation, but a misguided stylistic choice. The following is an excerpt from an Anime News Network column on the issue that may shed some light:

Part of the problem is that not only are CG artists trying to imitate the look of 2D animation, but they’re trying to imitate an aesthetic that was born out of cost-cutting. If anime had always been lavishly funded, it might have consistently been animated on 1’s or 2’s (that is, 24 or 12 frames per second, or a cel every 1 or 2 film frames). But it’s usually far less. To try and match that, CG artists have started rendering at lower frame rates — 6 or even 4 frames per second.

This style is jarring to western fans used to things like CGI animated films from Disney, Dreamworks, or Pixar. Hell there are even crappy children’s shows that look infinitely better than a lot of CGI anime – a recent whipping boy for this is 2016’s Berserk TV series – check out the bloodbath that unfolded after that show premiered to see how passionate fans are about this issue.

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So where does Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice fall into this picture? Well, thankfully it looks pretty good – it’s by no means the best I’ve seen, but the animators made some cool choices that show a lot of depth and show off action very well. There are a few janky scenes here or there, but for the most part the animation seemed on par with shows like Cartoon Network’s recent Green Lantern series or Disney’s Tron show. It seems that Japan is finally drifting away from the fake low framerate effect on their shows, now they just have to work out stiffness a bit more, and we’ll really start to see the style come into it’s own.

I did forget to mention earlier, but I watched this anime in English on Netflix, so we have an anime dub in play. This one was produced by California-based Bang Zoom! Entertainment who used to always do dubs for Manga Entertainment releases. They are usually a solid studio with this production being no exception. I haven’t followed a lot of today’s voice actors very much, but everyone involved seemed to do a great job, and there wasn’t anyone in the cast that grated on my nerves.

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All-in-all I really enjoyed this show, and hope more people check it out. Thankfully, it exists as an entry point into the franchise and really doesn’t require any knowledge of a 50+ year old back-story, but it also doesn’t alienate long-term fans. Perhaps the plot is a bit “too safe” to be anything immediately classic, but it’s a fitting chapter in a long story. If you think this looks cool, or want to see what is basically “Japanese X-Men” I’d give this show a shot!


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PTSD or Weakness: Real Experts on Why Samus Didn’t Shoot

Close to a decade ago, I worked for a gaming website called Gamrfeed, sadly the site folded and was absorbed back into it’s parent website VGchartz a long time ago. When I started working at my current job in 2011, I sadly did not have time to continue producing articles on the schedule that was required, so I had to drop it. I was really proud of some of the work I did on there, and do not want it to disappear into the ether as most websites do after a while. I’ve been posting a few of these “rescued articles” recently, and I feel that this one was probably one of my best. Since this article is from 2010, the references are incredibly out of date, but that should not stand in the way of the information presented.


Videogames often get a bad reputation for glorifying war and using it as a sort of exploitation.  Often they are criticized for brushing aside the horrors of war and battle for the sense that fighting is “awesome”, much like a Hollywood film.  An argument could be raised that most gamers don’t care about such things in games, or that they don’t want to see it.  Despite this general feeling, a few companies have been trying to express the bad side of conflict in their games.  These messages include the fact that war is not all about shooting faceless bad guys, and that we should change the way we look at it, but sadly this is lost sometimes.  A clear cut case of a situation such as this occurred a few weeks ago, as an anticipated Wii game called Metroid: Other M hit the store shelves.

Before the game actually hit, videos of the game’s cut-scenes began to scatter to the net much to the dismay of some gamers.  Samus Aran, the games heroic female lead, was seen to be given a lot more emotion and personality than ever before in a Metroid game.  Problem was, Samus has issues apparently, and this angered some fans.  The main offender was a scene in which Samus is seen to become weak and unresponsive in the face of her biggest enemy, a huge creature named Ridley.  I was shocked to see some of the responses that the video had garnered on Youtube, such as these:

(I have censored the curse words, but left the bad punctuation intact)

 

“Is it bad to have an emotional s*** who beat the living hell out of this thing 100s of other times, but breaks down crying this time? Yes. Very bad. They took some strong bad ass character and made them into a wimpy emotional s***. “

 

“[Samus is] a hardened professional bounty hunter, someone who’s been portrayed as a strong, fierce woman, who’s been on countless missions prior, faced much more frightening enemies, and has fought, killed and seen Ridley resurrected multiple times before this suddenly has a mental breakdown a cries in fear at the sight of an enemy she’s killed so many times prior to this? F***, you’re right, it’s just common sense. “

 

This attitude has been a common vibe for the past few weeks, as many felt that the game deviated from the established characterization given to Samus.  Some even went as far as to call the game sexist, as Samus was shown in a “weak way.”  The problem is that in the context of the game, the developers are trying very hard to imply that Samus suffers from some variation of an anxiety disorder, such as PTSD.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the many things that folks do not like talking about when it comes to warfare, which is a shame.  During the Vietnam War the United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that 830,000 Vietnam War veterans suffered symptoms of PTSD.

This is not the first time there has been talk of PTSD in the Metroid series, as one of the canonized mangas (Japanese comic books) written to flesh out the story leading up to the first game showed a similar occurrence:

I was under the impression that the aforementioned scene and the comic pretty much solidified her status as coping with the disorder, but the negative talk online got me thinking about it. My thoughts are that folks do not understand such a disorder, and were saying things like that due to ignorance of the situation instead of sheer malice.  PTSD is one of those sensitive areas many do not want to talk about, so it can be understandable.

The problem is, it was hard for ME to have an opinion on the matter because I do not suffer from a similar disorder nor do I have a close friend or immediate family member that does.  My main question was, “Is Samus’s behavior in the game a true depiction of what PTSD can do to someone, or was the development team going for another angle?”  I set out to actually interview some folks that know what it’s like to be in situations like this, and get their opinions.  I was able to round up a war veteran coping with PTSD, as well as a mental wellness professional.  Here is what they had to say:

 

The Interviewees are:

Darian Koehne – Former Army (rank withheld), suffers from PTSD

John M. Grohol, PsyD.,  founder and CEO of Psych Central.com

 

Q: My questions today are about PTSD, what are your experiences with the disorder?

Koehne: I suffer with the disorder on a daily basis due to the fact that I am a combat vet the served in the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  I can’t even play games that depict the wars anymore.   It’s too real and I find myself dazing off while really into the game.  I have the same kinds of flashbacks because some the games are so real…and I know I am of sound mind, but I wake up and do security checks in the middle of night about 3 times a night.  I sleep in patterns of a couple hours at a time…I really did have to watch my 6 everywhere I went…. and it’s true when you see the death like that… it sticks with you and the smallest things set off some strong emotions… and the ones closest to us vets are the ones who can tell you even more….

Dr.  Grohol: I’m a mental health expert with a doctorate in clinical psychology (from Nova Southeastern University).

 

Q: I’d like you to watch the following video from a recent Videogame called “Metroid: Other M”.

(Clip was shown)

The context of the video is that Samus, the woman in the red and orange armor, has fought and seemingly defeated the creature (Ridley) in the video on two past occasions and assumed he was dead.  Her confrontations with Ridley all stem from it killing her family when she was a small child.  As we see in the video, Samus appears to be horrified to see Ridley after years of assuming he was dead, and simply freezes.  What are your thoughts on the video?

Koehne: That is very much so how PTSD works…. you daze out of it for long stretches and your brain seems to freeze and do its own thing or render you basically useless…

Dr.  Grohol: Mental disorders like PTSD are recognized disorders of brain and behavior that have decades worth of research and are based upon thousands of peer-reviewed studies. It is no different than having a disease like diabetes or Parkinson’s.

Q: This scene has caused a row amongst the gaming community.  Some feel she has PTSD, and others say that she should be able to “get over it” as she has fought him before and won. Can one simply “get over” something if it causes PTSD?

Koehne: A story answers this for my point of view.  I watched a man burn to death and pulled guard on his body so we could retrieve the remains and not let the insurgents disgrace the fallen soldier by dragging his body around the streets.  To this day I have a problem with barbecues which used to be one of my favorite things to do…. I still do BBQ every now and then…. but things have changed!!

Dr.  Grohol: If someone experience a trauma at an early age, such as having someone kill their family, then something like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is indeed a possible reaction. One does not simply “get over” a mental disorder because these are not choices we make in the first place. Who would consciously choose to be depressed, or to have PTSD? It’s an absurd argument.

Q: How realistic would a situation like the above be, or being a work of fiction, was it handled incorrectly?

Koehne: That is a great depiction of PTSD… and just to think soldiers have to deal with that in real life fights…

Dr. Grohol:   Someone who was in a situation where they had something to trigger a flashback, as what appears to occur in the video, could very possibly react in a similar manner — frozen in place, being unable to act or react for a time. Flashbacks themselves can be traumatizing, and different people will experience and react to them differently. The reaction of the character in the video was consistent with the way some people might react to meeting — once again — a murderer they thought they had previously killed.

 

Q: In closing, how do you feel about videogames beginning to handle tough problems like PTSD?

Koehne: Video games are a great way to teach the public… PTSD is very sensitive but people need to know we have alot of young soldiers coming home and families need to know how to recognize it so they can not become a victim of the PTSD but rather help support through the issue… I wish they would take on teaching the younger public that some people are disfigured from war and you shouldnt go around talking about them under you breath… THANKS FOR BRINGING SOME LIGHT TO PTSD…

Dr. Grohol: I think that video games have great potential to help shed some light onto serious concerns, like PTSD. If they can foster debate and discussion like this about a serious mental illness like PTSD, then they’ve done a great job in helping to educate people about these kinds of concerns.

 

While it’s apparent that Samus as a character most likely has PTSD, one can overlook the plight of many of our REAL servicemen and women no matter what country you reside in.  Having the opinion that someone should “get over it” is not only ignorant, but pretty disrespectful to those that have fought for our countries.  I hope these interviews have at least shed some light on something that a large amount of soldiers, rape victims, murder witnesses, and more have to deal with on a day to day basis.  For more information on PTSD and what you can do to help gain understanding or even help with research please check out some sites like Dr. Grohol’s Psych Central website.


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My Forays into Anime Cel and Original Art Collecting, a lost Otaku Hobby.

Back in around 2001 or 2002, I was poking around an internet forum and discovered the hobby of animation cel collecting. At that time, you could get some cels super cheap online so I jumped in and snagged a few. Cels (or celluloids) are paintings on transparent plastic sheeting used to create an animation. Each cel is one “frame”, and they are filmed and then put behind one another to give the illusion of a continuous motion. Since it takes hundreds of these to do a few seconds worth of film, there are ones that are similar out there, but no two are exactly alike. The cool thing (to me at least) with these was that they are all unique and original, and I that I got to own a piece of my favorite films or TV shows!

I honestly didn’t collect a ton of these because they can be pretty expensive and sometimes VERY rare. Certain shows did not keep their cels to sell; in fact, many of these cels ONLY exist on the secondary market because people fished around in studio dumpsters and hauled huge armloads out to safety. This was also the way people were able to obtain cels for bootleg Korean animation projects that I might review on here as well. At pretty much that exact same time period that I started buying these, animation had really shifted away from animation cels and into digital animation – now I know you can get digital scan sheets used in much the same way as some of the coloring sheets you are about to see, but I haven’t followed up on this, and don’t know the lingo.


Anyway here’s a few I’d like to share with you guys!

These first two are for Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995). Notice that  have pencil drawings for each. These are called “Douga” and are sometimes stuck to the cels they accompanied. Thankfully these are separated.

Note: these are crap pictures I took with my phone, my apologies.


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This one is from one of the Tenchi Muyo animes, probably Pretty Sammy (1995)

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These are from Great Teacher Onizuka (1999) – The one of Tomoko in the talent contest is actually multiple cels and a background, that is unfortunately stuck together. sometimes the paint from the cels acts like glue, and trying to force it could ruin the artwork.

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This one is in rough shape, but it’s from Galaxy Express 999 (1978), sadly the cel is stuck to the douga, and the black lines appear brown, meaning that the color was probably sun-bleached. All I’m concerned with is that I have it!

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Akira (1988) This is my prized cel! it appears to be a “key cel” of Kei since the number is circled, but I’m no expert in these things.

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I also have a few pieces of original artwork by two manga creators. These are in marker on  white Shikishi Boards.

dscn0018  Leiji Matsumoto

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Toohru Fujisawa


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ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department – Mid-Season Thoughts

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Every year it seems like a billion anime TV shows get released, and with each season having upwards of 50 shows, one can safely assume most of those are mediocre at best. I work a LOT, so I can’t watch everything I would like to, and truthfully, it’s very easy to burn out of anime fandom if one tries to be a completionist of any sort. I have to be VERY selective of what I watch, and usually I go for off-the-wall stuff that strays from the mainstream shonen fighting shows and paranormal adventure shows that everyone seems to absolutely love.

This year I decided to re-subscribe to Crunchyroll in order to watch the relatively recent live action Great Teacher Onizuka show, and have found a few gems from the “simulcast” section of the app. I’m not sure of it was the eye-catching art style, or the fact that it may very well have been the first thing on the list, but I decided to give ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department a try, and I’m very glad that I did.

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Based on a popular Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Natsume Ono, ACCA (as I will refer to it from now on) tells the story of Jean Otus, who acts as the second-in-command of the ACCA inspection agency. Jean’s job is to travel to the various major cities within the Kingdom of Dowa (which is, itself divided into 13 districts) and visit other ACCA offices to look for corruption, government waste, and other things that may destabilize the Kingdom. ACCA had been created over one hundred years in the past, during a lengthy period of unrest, in order to bring order to the masses. Many feel that ACCA is no longer relevant, but murmurs of revolution seem to be in the air. Small hints of possible revolution have been cropping up, such as scenes where various people start remarking on the increasing number of fires that have been occurring.

I jokingly told my wife (after viewing episode one) that this show could be summed up as “office politics – the anime” which was perhaps a bit flippant considering the way the show has progressed these past few episodes. To some, ACCA might seem slow – as it is free of the ridiculous exposition dumps and false world building that a lot of modern anime seems to be comprised of. Instead, the story is left to breathe while the viewer is allowed to see some sites, and understand the culture of the various districts within Dowa. This almost makes it a animated travel show ala Anthony Bourdain. Jean travels to places, buys gifts for his co-workers and sister, and samples the local cuisine. Food, in particular, takes such a large role in some episodes that one wants to sample the exotic sandwich breads and pastries that everyone seems to be obsessed with.

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I think the main reason this show has endeared itself to me so much, is that it reminds me a LOT of a few other shows from a number of years ago that had a similar traveling theme – Kino’s Journey, and Mushishi. Kino’s Journey was a philosophical show that saw the titular hero visiting various towns that all seemed to be examples of philosophical conundrums, and example being a town where everything was handled by majority vote to the conclusion of there being one person left alive in the entire city. Kino would go to these places and observe the issues these people have and rarely take action to alter the path that fate was going to take. Mushishi was a  bit different but involved a traveling apothecary / exorcist as he went from town to town saving people from paranormal creatures and other bad things.

ACCA is very similar in the way Jean interacts with the other districts, he’s there to inspect these towns, not to do anything to alter them in any way. in some cases, he is even witness to an attempted rebellion, and decides that preserving the status quo is better than reporting this to his superiors. One of my favorite “visits” is Jean’s trip to a city that is full of gigantic people that eat enormous food. It’s never made abundantly clear why this is the case, but I’ll pretend that the produce all has growth hormone in it or something, because nothing else makes much sense. it’s obviously a slight softened jab at America from an outsider’s perspective, but it still gave me quite a few chuckles. Seeing Jean and company try to eat strawberries the size of basketballs and sandwiches that would make that guy from Man Vs. Food blush.

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Jean soon finds himself to be the object of a persistent rumor, one that places himself at the forefront of a suspected Coup d’état that he has no knowledge of. It seems that many feel he is in some way an information broker for coup leaders, and that his travels are actually a cover for bad things that he may be doing. People think he is rich, and privileged due to his large house and his smoking habits (smoking seems to be very scarce and an extreme luxury) so him being some sort of spy makes sense to many. Sure, he has heard the same murmurs from around his office, ones of fires and killings, but has no clue why he is suspected, or why the rumor is so specific. Many see him as non-caring or naive about this situation, but Jean is pretty stoic and street smart. something like a baseless rumor isn’t going to rattle him.

I won’t actually spoil anything here, but episode seven delivers a huge bombshell in the plot department, one that will likely move the narrative to the season finale and hopefully beyond. I have not read the manga or kept up with ratings, so I have no idea how much story is left or how cost effective more would be, but I really hope the show continues for a while instead of stopping at episode twelve. assuming the ending is good, ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department could end up being a personal classic of mine – an anime that may not be the next Dragonball Z or Naruto, but I will end up remembering for a long time. Here’s hoping it stays this way as we move into the back half of the series!

Stay tuned for my thoughts on the entire show in a few months!


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Queen Emeraldas Volume 1

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I am so glad to finally read this! I’m a big fan of Leiji Matsumoto, so I was pretty disappointed with a now defunct anime company called ADV only releasing half of the OVA animated series that was loosely based on this original 1978 manga. That was like a decade ago, and there wasn’t really a good way to get the rest of the story legally. Flash forward to 2016 and not only can you buy things like a legit copy of Captain Harlock on DVD, but one can also buy this original manga in a beautiful hardcover edition!

If you like space operas, I’d definitely recommend checking out some of Leiji Matsumoto’s works if you are unfamiliar. He is, perhaps, most well-known (by a casual audience) for inspiring the fabulous animated music videos for the French House music duo Daft Punk during their Discovery era. These videos were later collected into a film called Interstella 5555. Older fans may, no doubt, recognize his other works such as Star Blazers (Yamato) or Captain Harlock – it’s all the same guy.

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Matsumoto has woven a fine tapestry of interconnected stories with stoic characters that anyone can love; unfortunately, most younger anime fans ignore classics and he has somewhat fallen out of the mainstream as of late. I was assuming that some of his older comics would never come out here, until I read a recent news article from Publisher’s Weekly, touting VERY strong sales of older comic titles at Anime Expo such as pre-orders for this very book!

“At the Kodansha Comics panel on Saturday, Ben Applegate, director of publishing for Kodansha Comics, cheered the ongoing rebound in manga print sales. “You’re probably seeing all the industry people here smiling, so you know that the manga industry is doing really well,” he said. “This resurgence of manga is allowing us to take chances on different series we wouldn’t usually in the past.” […] An example of a title that, in the past, Kodansha might have thought was too risky to publish in English is Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas, which the publisher is releasing in August. An older, classic SF adventure, the advance hardcovers of the book were sold out by weekend’s end.”

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As for the book itself, the story surrounds a boy named Hiroshi Umino, who strives to be a powerful star captain so that he can live by his own rules and sail the “sea of stars” like his heroes. His run in with Emeraldas changes his life forever, as she slowly becomes his mentor (of sorts). Emeraldas is basically like Xena in this book, a total badass that kicks booty and takes names. You often see supposedly feminist comic characters that end up being some sort of fetishistic dominatrix-style sexual wish-fulfilment trope, but that’s not how Emeraldas rolls. I wouldn’t name my very own cat after a character with skeevy undertones like that! We see Hiroshi and Emeraldas sharing eerily parallel origin stories until they meet again later on.

If you are also a huge fan of Matsumoto’s works, or are familiar with stories like the aforementioned Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, Galaxy Railways, Arcadia of my youth or Maetel legend, you will absolutely love this. This story adds more substance to a somewhat overlooked character that constantly shows up in various shows as a background character. Otherwise, this book stands on it’s own well, and acts as an introduction to a character that thankfully appears in a ton of material. If you become a fan you will want to branch out and see more. And hopefully, if this book ends up selling well Kodansha will release more Matsumoto manga!


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IWGP: Ikebukuro West Gate Park: volume 1

IWGP: Ikebukuro West Gate Park: volume 1

Cast your time machines to about a decade ago, during the US anime/manga explosion (sadly followed by an implosion a bit later). It was during this time that I was in an anime club at college and started buying tons of manga since I got a huge discount at the retail chain I worked at. I got hooked on the anime Great Teacher Onizuka and started buying the books and other merch from the now defunct company Tokyopop. After a while Tokyopop tried to release like 40 releases a month, so I had to stop my crazy buying habits quite a bit.

I haven’t really bought or followed that much manga since this time due to space limitations and the general taste in this product shifting away from what I actually enjoy (not a fan of the Moe genre), but every once in a while I get a wild hair to try a new series, and here we are. I got this book from a sale that Akadot Retail was having, and figured that a book for $2.00 was too good to pass up. I may get more if this experiment goes well, and truthfully I never purchased much from Digital Manga Publishing.

Apparently Ikebukuro West Gate Park is based on a popular 2000 TV series in Japan, I have not seen this series so I cannot comment, but I see that according to Wikipedia the book and show are somewhat different to eachother. It’s funny that I mentioned GTO up there, because this book reminds me a lot of the general tone of GTO. Yeah Fujisawa’s Onizuka stuff is generally written much better, but this book has a balance between gags and drama that I enjoy quite a bit, although the balance is a bit off at the beginning. I would say the first quarter of the book is a bit too light-hearted considering that this is a mystery novel about a potential serial killer and a street gang trying to stop him.

IWGP: Ikebukuro West Gate Park: volume 1

The story follows a guy named Makoto that seems to have all sorts of connections to street gangs and other illicit activities despite seemingly not being a part of said activity. He runs a shop with his mother and has some sort of oddly close Batman/Commisioner Gordon relationship with the local police that has yet to be fully explained. He and a few friends meet a couple of girls at a New Year’s Eve party (the over-hyped 1999-2000 millennium celebration in particular) and hits it off with a girl named Rika. Ikebukuro is plagued with reports of a serial “strangler” that seems to be attacking girls that go on dates with older guys for money, and this has everyone scared. Some bad stuff happens and it’s all up to Makoto to stop it (to not go into spoiler-land too much).

Not much else to say about volume one, other than I will be seeking out the second book and that this is definitely a mature book so make sure you are okay with that if you give this a shot.


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