Tag Archives: Ooku

Discussion: How Do You Pick Your Favorite Manga?

Today, a friend asked me on Twitter what my favorite manga was. I could give her a pretty quick answer of some of my all-time favorites (From Far Away and Monster) and some current favorites (Ooku and Bunny Drop), but I hesitated a moment and looked at my bookshelf, scrambling to pick just a few titles out of the many I’m collecting and reading.

It was really hard.

I read a lot of manga and I truly like about 95% of it, it not more. How do I pick from great shelf of titles when I’ve got Black Jack, Pluto, Basara, Emma, Otomen, Kimi ni Todoke, etc.? It’s extremely difficult to choose favorites! There’s so many different kinds of manga. Can I choose one each from different genres or gender spheres? What do parameters do I use to judge a favorite? Do I want to re-read it often? Do I search for a new volume (if the series is ongoing) in stores like a hawk? Do I go out of my way and buy the volumes I’m missing for higher than the cover price? There are manga that fit any one of those parameters, but they don’t *feel* like my favorites. Are they greatly loved? Oh yeah, and I’ll enthusiastically recommend quite a number of them to the right person. But are they an absolute favorite? No, not really…

My favorites are must-reads. I’ve read them all more than once and they’re titles I think I’d recommend to almost anymore. But more importantly, I’ve carried them with me through all the moving I’ve been doing in recent years and haven’t let these titles leave my bookshelves for a long time. There are very few non-favorites that have moved around with me through my college and post-college years.

So what do you use to judge what is your favorite manga? How do you make the final decision and what are some of your absolute favorites?

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Hollywood Gantz Premiere Report

Ughhhh, I don’t want to start off another post by apologizing for my absence, but I’m sure all of you understand that I have gainful employment matters to take care of before I can post sometimes. Making my car payments and being able to pay for groceries is unfortunately more important than blogging. There WILL be more posts very, very soon and that is a PROMISE.

Last week I went to the Gantz movie premiere in Hollywood, which was also broadcast live across the country to other theaters. There isn’t much to say about the Hollywood premiere other than that Patrick Macias of Otaku USA hosted the event, there were tons of screaming fans for the stars of the movie, no one upheld the no photos policy and that Deb Aoki’s About.com article has much better coverage of the witty banter between the stars during the Q&A.

So now that it’s been almost a full week since the Gantz one night event and lots of people have already had their say, here’s what I think about the movie:

It shouldn’t have had Kazunari Ninomiya in it. For one, I’m not a fan of his acting. He was horrible in the live-action movie adaptation of Ooku: The Inner Chambers, where he had the emotional variations of a stone.(Seriously, half the charm of a Fumi Yoshinaga manga is the way she draws people’s emotions. Acting fail.) Gantz was better, but only because Ninomiya could smile like a creepster at the appropriate moments. Second, I’m pretty sure the fact that Ninomiya is a popular idol, singer and actor under the management of Johnny’s Entertainment is the reason why Gantz became a PG-13 summer action flick instead of the gory NC-17 mess it was supposed to be. Idols have carefully crafted images to maintain after all.

Admittedly, I haven’t read the Gantz manga yet and I didn’t go to the premiere expecting to care about the movie, but talking to Deb Aoki of About.com and flipping through a copy she had, I wanted the movie to have tits, gore and a dog in it. A dog. Who left out the dog? That was a bad choice and I am mad at them.

Which brings me to the point that watching the movie did make me interested in the manga. I managed to get past the bad dubbing, where the leads sounded like ESL students and all the background characters sounded like they were from the Bronx, and see the enjoyable movie that lay beneath. I probably would have been creeped out to death by guts flying everywhere in movie form, but in manga, I find that kind of stuff bearable. There were also some really great aliens that the people under the control of Gantz (that big black ball, in case you didn’t know) had to face. The first set, ugly looking aliens with green hair weren’t all that great, but the second alien was a smiling plastic robot with a boom box who made great faces despite the whole plastic face thing. The third was a set of possessed Buddhist statues that had the essence of the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who at first, sneaking up on enemies while they weren’t looking. Also the idea of a giant Nio or thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara statues as villains is just cool to me.

In essence, Gantz really just committed the same error a lot of action films have–not leaving enough time for the audience to care about the characters, why they’re fighting and how they die. I’m not entirely sure why this happens, since I’m pretty sure a normal scene developing the characters must cost a lot less than a CGI-ed action scene, but the attractive actors will spur movie-goers into shelling out the cash anyway.

So in other words, Gantz is an entertaining movie. But if you’re a die hard fan of the manga, you’re going to be disappointed by the cheesy idol flick. If you’re an idol fan, then you’ll be just fine. Everyone, wait for the DVD release because the subtitled version should be better than the dubbed premiere for sure.

And sorry idol fans, but Kenichi Matsuyama, the other star of the film, is so much more fine than Ninomiya.

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Guest Post: How Strong is That Heroine in Your Manga?

I asked for help with blog posts while I am recovering from surgery and a few people were nice enough to oblige! First up is Kristin Bomba,  a writer and the head editor for ComicAttack.net. She writes a column called Bento Bako Weekly/Lite/Bonus on that updates Monday, Wednesday and Friday, respectively. She also has a collection of anime reviews at girlg33k.blogspot.com or you can follow her on Twitter under @girlg33k_Kris. Take it away, Kris!

While the lovely Daniella is recovering, I offered to step in with a guest post. In an effort to generate intelligent discussion, I roamed around my manga shelves and tried to find a theme to focus on. I decided to try my hand at a little semi-feminism. I had considered talking about Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku The Inner Chambers, but I really want to save that for a MMF (hint, hint). So rather than focus on a single title, I’d like to look at several titles, and a few anime (just to expand the pool I’m drawing from), and talk about the roles of women, particularly strong female characters. My goal is to point several of these out, and try to compare them to other female characters that tend to sit around and wait for the men to do everything for them. Well, let’s see how it goes.

I think we’ll start with a couple of my favorite female heroines. First we’ll look at a very unconventional heroine – Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club (Bisco Hatori). Haruhi is the exact opposite of the traditional heroine and the series frequently points this out both within the story and as in 4th-wall remarks. She’s oblivious to male attentions, indifferent to the differences between males and females, independent, boyish, apathetic and incapable of asking for aid. Haruhi is exceptionally perceptive to the feelings of others, which allows her to save the male characters from the darkest sides of their emotions. It is with Haruhi’s astute (and often unfortunately blunt) observations that the boys around her change and grow. The twins, Hikaru and Kaoru, especially, who begin the series withdrawn and with a self-made barrier between them and everyone else. Haruhi breaks this down almost single handedly. Without a mother, Haruhi took on many responsibilities growing up, always trying to do everything alone so as not to worry her father. Even when she needs help, she doesn’t know how to ask. This frustrates the guys, who try to teach this fiercely independent young lady that even someone as capable as her needs a little help sometimes. She’s a wonder woman, but not Wonder Woman.

Another favorite female character of mine is Juliet from Gonzo’s Romeo x Juliet (Reiko Yoshida). To be honest, Romeo is a bit of a pansy in this version, though he does grow a pair later on. It’s Juliet who steals the show as the Red Whirlwind, a vigilante who fights for the rights of the citizens of Neo Verona, rather like Robin Hood. The Capulet family was wiped out by Romeo’s father, leaving only Juliet behind. She must carry the fate of her family and the hopes of those who have protected her all these years on her young shoulders. She sets aside her heart’s desires to lead an uprising against the tyrannical Montague, and ends up making the ultimate sacrifice to save all of Neo Verona. All of this mostly on her own, with Romeo mostly along for the ride, or acting under the strength of her influence.

Perhaps one of the strongest females I’ve seen is female warrior Balsa, from Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Nahoko Uehashi). Deadly with a spear, Balsa has vowed to save lives to atone for those that were lost in her past. She kicks all kinds of ass, and she’s fully clothed. It’s unfortunate that I have to mention that detail. I think characters like Revy from Black Lagoon and Motoko from Ghost in the Shell are amazing female characters, but their clothing choices aren’t exactly modest. It’s great that they’re comfortable with their sexuality, but you can be on equal footing with the men without baring your cleavage and shaking your butt cheeks, too. Really, why does one of the most powerful women in Japan have to waltz around in little more than a very revealing strapless swimsuit? And for that matter, why must she be such a loose woman? I always found it a little odd that a pure cybernetic person, who doesn’t even believe she has a soul anymore, is so willing to have so many sexual relationships. Then again, maybe that’s exactly why, because they don’t really mean much to her. Still, you can be sexy without wearing minimal clothing or sleeping around.

Other strong female characters:

Kotobuki, Tsubasa Those With Wings (Natsuki Takaya). Though she has to turn to thievery to survive, she works hard to be a good person and have a legitimate job. She’s independent, though she does often get overwhelmed by the chaos brought about by the main male character, Raimon (I actually think Takaya writes good females regularly; Tohru, despite her very mild demeanor, rescues pretty much the entire Sohma family all on her own in Fruits Basket).

Kyoko, Skip Beat! (Yoshiki Nakamura). Kyoko starts out living her life for a man, and then sets out to get revenge on said man, which is the driving force behind much of her ambition for a good while. But she eventually gets beyond that and starts doing things for herself, and becomes a strong young lady who is capable of amazing growth as a human being.

Tsukasa, Tokyo Crazy Paradise (Yoshiki Nakamura). They don’t get much better than this. Tsukasa is just as strong, and often stronger, than any of the males in the series. She’s strong, both physically and emotionally, and is capable of amazing feats in battle. She’s the personal bodyguard of the main male character, a yakuza leader, and continually saves his (and many others’) life.

Meryl and Milly, Trigun (Yasuhiro Nightow). Meryl and Milly are the top insurance agents at Bernardelli Insurance. They’re capable enough to continually be sent after the most dangerous man on the planet, Vash the Stampede. And they can hold their own decently well with him when pressed. Meryl is a whiz with her coat full of derringer pistols and Milly can knock almost anyone down with her concussion gun. Their cheerfulness often gives Vash hope for the future.

Kaoru, Rurouni Kenshin (Nobuhiro Watsuki). Kaoru runs her own dojo, and holds her own quite well alongside Kenshin in battle. While she’s not strong enough to help him take on his biggest adversaries, she’s fantastic as support, and is able to fight off and organize battles against enemy soldiers and minor “bosses.” She’s the master of the Kamiya Kasshin style of fighting, and takes great pride in the style and her students (few though they may be). Her immense capacity for understanding and compassion pulls Kenshin out of his dark past.

Youko, The Twelve Kingdoms (Fuyumi Ono). Once she stops whining about how much she hates her situation and how unfair it all is, she truly steps into her role as ruler of the kingdom of Kei and becomes a powerful force, taking back her kingdom from the conniving and corrupt politicians populating her kingdom. She journeys outside the palace to live among her people, and ends up getting involved in a revolution against a usurper to her throne.

Casca, Berserk (Kentarō Miura). The only female soldier in Griffith’s elite army, Casca leads her own troop, and is behind only Griffith and Guts in skill. Unfortunately, the fact that she is a female is driven home repeatedly in the series, as because she is a female, she can never be as strong as the strongest man. This is something that pops up in many titles, and while factually and scientifically true, it’s a little annoying that in fantasy, women can’t be as outrageously strong as the men (see: Guts). Berserk is also one of very few titles I’ve seen where the woman’s menstrual cycle has an effect on her skills. Usually it’s ignored entirely. It’s also worth noting that the worst weapon used against Casca is rape; rape begins her path with Griffith (who saves her), and later destroys her sanity.

Honorable mentions: Nadia (Nadia: Secret of Blue Water), Natsumi and Miyuki (You’re Under Arrest), Riza Hawkeye (Full Metal Alchemist), Faye (Cowboy Bebop), Chizuko (The Daughter of Twenty Faces), Kumiko “Yankumi” (Gokusen).

Ah, now that I’ve talked about all these cool women, I don’t really want to talk about the weak and lame ones. The ones who just sit around and let the men do everything. Like Misao in Black Bird, Suzuka in Captive Hearts, or almost any character in a Yuu Watase story. Here are some of the worst I’ve seen.

Aoi, Ai Yori Aoshi (Kou Fumizuki). The epitome of the perfect Japanese woman, Aoi’s greatest asset, which is commented on by multiple characters throughout the series, is her ability as a housekeeper. Yes, this woman cooks, cleans, shops, mothers everyone, is obedient, and the ultimate domestic. She has loved one man and will always love one man, and will do anything for him. She was born and raised to know and acquiesce to his desires. I found the series to be very sweet and charming, but it’s hard to ignore such a typical idealized female. Especially when you compare her to the other women in the series who are decidedly more outgoing and independent.

Belldandy, Oh My Goddess! (Kōsuke Fujishima). Oh, someone’s gonna hate me for this one. Everyone loves Belldandy, but she falls into the same tropes as Aoi. It’s hard to hate such charming characters, and I don’t hate them, but neither can I ignore their status as pure male fantasy/wish fulfillment.

Suzuka, Suzuka (Kouji Seo). Suzuka is actually a fairly strong character for a shōnen sports manga, but the fact that she gives up her dream that was the focus of the entire series, and in effect makes the guy she is with give up his dreams, just because she can’t keep her panties on, kills it for me completely. Though admittedly, I found her to be exceptionally annoying and didn’t like the series anyway.

So, what makes a strong female character? That they can stand toe-to-toe with the men? That they are the rescuer more often than the rescued? Does a skimpy outfit automatically lesson their presence, or does it have no effect? Is it more important to be physically strong or emotionally strong? And what about the weaker characters? The ones who sit around looking pretty, or cater to every whim of the male they’re partnered with. Which is the better role model? Is it a weakness to be enamored with a guy? Just about all the characters I mentioned above, in each category, are in love with someone. You can be independent and still want to be with someone. After all, it’s human to need others. But it crosses a line when a female’s entire existence is to simply please her male partner. When they’re created with little to no outside motivation beyond that. It’s certainly not right for a boy to believe that women exist simply to serve him. And we don’t always need a guy there to do everything for us; we’re not weak, we can stand on our own feet. We’re not all Sleeping Beauty, who can only live through the love of a man, or Rapunzel, who must be rescued from a tower. What stands out to you, dear readers, and defines the strength of your favorite manga or anime girl?

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