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From the Ledge of the Chapel of Night...
Naruto (Manga) (2000-present)

Creator - Masashi Kishimoto

Plot : ANN Encyclopedia "When Naruto was born the spirit of a evil nine-tailed fox was imprisoned within him, rendering him the hate of the villagers in the ninja-village of the Leaf who feared the demon in him. Countering this hate he grew into the role of the clown, trying to attract attention by making a fool of himself and his teachers. But within him dwells the dream of becoming Hokage, the strongest warrior of the village. When he graduates from the academy he’s placed in the same group as Sakura, the technician and the girl he loves and Sasuke, the strong, quiet guy and his rival for Sakura. Leader and teacher of the group are Kakashi, the strange and always late, though powerful ninja."

Opinion : Naruto is another basically devisive series due, for the most part, to the popularity it has garnered. Being part of the In-crowd, oddly enough, means generally that you end up liking things that only a select group of people have ever heard of. I, myself, adore Koko wa Greenwood for the acting and the accuracy of the translation. But how many people have actually seen it or even heard of it? Naruto is immensely popular, therefore, no one likes it. Unless you do like it, which I do.

The plot of the manga isn't overly complex, the anime even less so. However, it's well thought out and well explained to the reader. This could be one of the reasons behind the popularity, seeing as how many concepts that might elude the reader are explained to them. Naruto also, along with many other manga, dips into the mythological and legendary areas of Japanese culture. Quite possibly others too, but I'm having a hard time thinking of any. Another manga that does this heavily is Rumiko Takahashi's wildly popular manga, Inu Yasha. It could be that this basis in myth grasps the reader on some level, allowing him / her to "own" what they're reading on some level.

The one thing that the manga has going for it now is that it is long. Long. I mean, really long. Like 400 chapters plus kind of long. Getting into something that big is kind of daunting, especially if you don't know if you'll like it or not, which is kind of the reason behind these reviews. Ask yourself a few questions. Do you like ninjas? Do you like stories that allow the characters to grow and mature over the length of the story? Do you like fighting where the characters beat the cheese out of each other? If you answer yes to these, more than likely, you'd like Naruto. We find out all about the world of ninjas, however gradual that might be. All of the characters grow and mature in sometimes surprising ways. And there are fights where the characters beat the holy cheese out of each other.

The story is not continuous. There is a break just about chapter 315 or so wherein we get one chapter that explains a little of one of the more mysterious characters, but then, when we come back, three years have elapsed. Story-wise, I think it was a necessary reset, but it's still a little jarring. Of course, if you've read that far, you want to see how the characters have changed. Naruto is also not a completed story. It's still ongoing and several sites host translations, so it's not difficult to find it. The jury is still out whether Naruto is worth collecting, but it is certainly worth reading. Moreso for the ninjas than One Piece is for the pirates.

Tags:
Current Location: Inside Orochimaru (it's dark and scary!)
Current Mood: calm calm

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Naruto (2002-present)

Creator - Masashi Kishimoto

Plot : ANN Encyclopedia "Naruto closely follows the life of a boy who is feared and detested by the villagers of the hidden leaf village of Konoha. The distrust of the boy has little to do with the boy himself, but it’s what’s inside him that causes anxiety. Long before Naruto came to be, a Kyuubi (demon fox) with great fury and power waged war taking many lives. The battle ensued for a long time until a man known as the Fourth Hokage, Yondaime, the strongest ninja in Konoha, fiercely fought the Kyuubi. The fight was soon won by Yondaime as he sealed the evil demon in a human body. Thus the boy, Naruto, was born. As Naruto grows he decides to become the strongest ninja in Konoha in an effort to show everyone that he is not as they perceive him to be, but is a human being worthy of love and admiration. But the road to becoming Hokage, the title for the strongest ninja in Konoha, is a long and arduous one. It is a path filled with betrayal, pain, and loss; but with hard work, Naruto may achieve Hokage."

Opinion : There is a problem with the Naruto anime. No, it's not that some of the time, it's truly subpar. No, it's not that the young Naruto's seiyuu is fucking annoying. No, it's not that there are only a couple songs in the entire huge series that are actually worth having. No, the problem with the Naruto anime is that it suffers and has suffered from the Dragonball Z Virus.

What the Dragonball Z Virus? No, it's not a massive case of angry constipation, though that does seem to be one symptom. You see, when Dragonball Z was in the process of being made, the animation caught up with the manga as it was being published. This was a problem because they had no story and couldn't push the story along until the manga had been furthered. Thus, you have what you get in Dragonball Z. Many, many episodes that are little more than filler, a place holder waiting for the story to move along. Once it moves, then -whew- constipation is over! Unfortunately, what could be used as a place holder in Dragonball cannot be used in other series. As funny as it might be, seeing Sana from Kodomo no Omocha powering up in that way would be just disturbing.

So, when Naruto, and to a different extent, Bleach, ran into the same problems, they had a different, but similar solution. Filler episodes. Or, in the case of Naruto, whole friggin storylines of filler. Indeed, very nearly 200 episodes of filler! It gets a bit much. When the filler ended, we had the second "series" of Naruto, Naruto Shippuuden. Same series, three years down the road. Oddly enough, while the anime had indeed caught up with the manga, it only took a month or two of filler before there should have been enough space for the real story to begin again, it didn't. It literally spanned out over two whole years of real time before the filler stopped. Naruto probably lost a great many fans over this, as not only the quality of the animation in the filler went down, but the quality of the story went down as well. A few storylines were truly hideous. If you're new to Naruto, then let me give you this bit of advice; watch the anime as you read the manga. Not only will it give you a depth of understanding that just watching the anime will allow, but you can also tell the filler episodes and, thankfully, get past them. Take out the fillers and you have a good, well paced anime.

Some of the animation is indeed subpar. You'll get that with television series now and then, though, if you look at Darker Than Black or Durarara!!, you wouldn't know it. Saying that, there are sections of animation that are above par too, including the movies. There are a few songs in the openings and endings that are fun, skippy and worth having. The first Shippuuden opening theme comes to mind. I do believe that the entirety of Naruto is worth watching, but for your own sanity, skip the filler.

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Current Location: The Hidden Leaf Village
Current Mood: calm calm

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Nausicaa and The Valley of The Wind (Manga) (1982)

Creator - Hayao Miyazaki

Plot : ANN Encyclopedia "A millennium has passed since "Seven Days of Fire," an apocalyptic war that almost wiped out human civilization. Since then, the earth is covered with an ever-growing "Sea of Corruption," a vast forest of fungi that secretes poisonous miasma and invasive spores, along with large and deadly insects inhabit within. In order to fight for more habitable lands unpolluted by the Sea of Corruption, the Kingdom of Torumekia has declared war against the Dorok Empire. Nausicaä, princess and heir of a small city-state named "Valley of the Wind" which pledged alliance with Torumekia, is now forced to join Torumekian to invade Dorok Empire. This war will change her life and the fate of human race forever."

Opinion : Eponymous - "Of, relating to, or being the person or entity after which something or someone is named."

When one talks of eponymous works of art in the world of anime and manga, there are other works that are older and, I'm thinking of Osamu Tezuka's masterpiece Astroboy, more respected, there probably aren't any that are better known than Miyazaki's first work.

Hayao Miyazaki has been, rightfully so, compared to Walt Disney. I would not compare them though as Disney is dead. Miyazaki also never set his sights on a family audience. Certainly, he has family movies (Kiki's Delivery Service), he also has movies that are dark (Mononoke Hime), weird (Howl's Moving Castle), or downright nightmare fuel-ish (Spirited Away).

Anyone who has seen a Miyazaki movie knows his distinct style. There's a round smoothness to his works that lend to a high degree of emotion and expressiveness. In the manga, there is also work in light and shadow, as well as an astonishing level of detail. Even for manga, who tend to be more detail oriented than much anime, the detail on every page and indeed every panel is simply breathtaking. We don't really see Miyazaki play with light this way in his movies until some of the more recent works, especially Mononoke Hime.

The story itself is large, thick and complex. It's full of twists and turns that even a lifetime reader found surprising. It's a hard story, it's a sad story. It's a "rocks fall, everybody dies" kind of story, but it's also a hopeful story and one of a kind that you rarely find today. A fully complete story. It is complete in a way that satisfies a reader. With Nausicaa, Miyazaki is also a relentless storyteller. By this, I mean that there aren't any real seperation of chapters. One piece flows smoothly into the next, no beginnings, middles or ends inside the larger story. Most anime and manga have chapters within that break up the story. Nausicaa is simply one very large story.

From a personal perspective, I would love to see this remade, but made into a television series, instead of a movie, if nothing else than for the completeness to the story that the movie lacked. I suppose I'm just a sucker for a helluva story. Nausicaa and The Valley of The Wind is one of the very few, select manga that should be in every fan's collection.
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Umi no Misaki (Manga) (2007 ongoing)

Creator - Kou Fumizuki

Can be read at : http://www.1000manga.com

Plot : ANN Encyclopedia "Goto Nagi has travelled to the southern island of Okitsushima to see Umi no Misaki and live there since his father work in US. In island have three cape of Fire, Water, Wind who workship Dragon god and the elder say he is a Dragon god reborn so now he have three maiden cape to worry about."

Opinion : For this, a little departure from the seriousness usually apparent in these reviews. I enjoy this manga from the pure standpoint of being a "guy". There are panty shots, beautiful, young, and above all, nubile girls in harem situations and much more that all tickle my guy parts. And yet, with it all, it's only ecchi and not even heavily ecchi. No outright hooha going on. Aside from some breastage, there aren't even any genitalia flopping about.

Above it all, there's a surprisingly decent story. Not a great story, truly, not even a good one, but a decent one. One that's complex enough and engaging enough to keep me occupied aside from the pretty, pretty character designs. Nothing is new in this story. Don't look for surprises. It's just a decent story with lots of pretty. So far. Since this is an ongoing story, it's quite possible for this to take a header into a much different lead, but nothing so far shows that it will. Again, I could be wrong.

There is a reverence of faith that is an interesting side note in the story. The girls live their lives for a singular idea and through it all, it makes you wonder what the hells their parents were smoking, but these are Japanese and I've heard worse from American parents. The hero is not quite useless, as he shows some sparks of wisdom and heartwarming moments, but is, on the other hand perhaps, naieve. Clueless might be a good word sometimes.

For what this manga doesn't have, it does have something I've found a little unique. Fumizuki brings the reader along as the story plays out, letting the reader in on the plot points as the main characters learn them. The initial coldness of the girls is explained, for instance, where some manga I've read would simply let it go. It's a very Chekovian thing to do. Show the gun, use the gun.

This manga might not be a mindblowing escapade into the art, but it is a good story and great eye candy.

Tags:
Current Location: Between two soft pillows!
Current Mood: sleepy sleepy
Current Music: Closer - Nine Inch Nails

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Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (1992 - 1996)

Creator - Naoko Takeuchi

Plot : From the ANN Encyclopedia"One day, Usagi Tsukino, clumsy 2nd-year middle school student (8th grader), stumbles upon a talking cat named Luna. Luna tells her that she is destined to be Sailor Moon, "champion of love and justice", and she must search for the fabled Moon Princess. Usagi finds friends that turn out to be destined senshi as well, and together they fight to save the world from the certain doom brought upon by the Dark Kingdom (Queen Beryl, the generals, Metallia)."

Opinion : Just out of high school, back in 1993-1994, I fuond out about the anime club at Ohio State. Called Animate!, it was held every other Friday during the school year. The showings themselves were free, but you could pay a small membership fee and could take out anime from their library, not only actual anime VHS tapes, but soundtracks on cassette tape as well. It was the early 90's, gimme a break. This was when I again fell in love with anime. Finding whole new shows, such as Tenchi Muyo!, Maison Ikkoku, and GS Mikami, listening to great new (at least to me) music from series such as The Bubblegum Crisis and the original Vampire Princess Miyu series? It was heavenly.

Animate! published, for the school year of 1994 (I believe), a newsletter detailing their schedule and not only each of the anime they planned to show, but several that might be previewed. One blurb near the back was about a show called "Sailor Moon". They stated that it would, and I paraphrase here, "...the show that would change the face of anime as we know it.". Later that year, they showed about half of an untranslated episode. I didn't see, at that time, what the fuss was about. Once, many years later, I was able to discern a little of what caused that statement, though, knowing what I know of the people that would have made those statements, I'm probably reading too much into it. Nevertheless...

Anime never stagnates. There are times, however, where one series, one movie, one show or one manga can take the whole of anime in an entirely different direction. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon falls into that category. Certainly, there were female manga-ka before Naoko Takeuchi. Rumiko Takahashi comes to mind as a woman that many female manga-ka point to as a major influence. And there were shows that could be categorized as shoujo, even htis, but the vast majority were shonen. Aimed at, and marketed, for boys. Even for Takahashi, her manga and anime were, for the most part (yes, even Maison Ikkoku), were aimed at a male audience. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon was not. It was aimed at an entirely female market. I would add an overly cliche'd female market, but where would markets be without stereotype? Themes like teamwork, even with disparate, and especially because of disparate female attitudes (Makoto vs. Ami), using weapons and violence as the last resort, especially if the protagonist feels that a redemption is possible...and then there's the romance between Usagi and Mamoru. And, well, romance in general.

There are five seasons and 200 episodes. The seasons are labelled; Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon R, Sailor Moon S, Sailor Moon SuperS and Sailor Moon Stars. All of the seasons are very worth watching, except SuperS, which seems to be done for some reason I can't fathom. The SuperS movie sucked even larger objects. It wasn't good. And that is truly disappointing as the R and S movies are really quite good, not only in the quality of the animation, but the music and story as well. The final season, Stars, more than made up for the deficiencies of SuperS.

Whatever you do, steer clear of the DiC dubs. Words cannot express the sheer horror. They not only have horrible actors, but changed the names (thus losing several layers of meaning, puns and wordplay from Takeuchi) of the characters themselves. Female characters are suddenly men, ostentiablly since English speakers (specifically Americans) are sensitive to homosexuals...or something like that. Simply horrible! But, you know what? I think I would rather watch the dubs than 90% of American cartoons out there, but there are limits.

Character progression is another feature of many anime. While most long ruinning anime (anything generally over a season) have some progression, it's usually nto very subtle. Gaining a new weapon or technique or something similar is often used, as well as the death of a friend or mentor. Sailor Moon is, by degrees, more subtle. Even during the first season, we see characters doing things out of experience that weren't there at the beginning of the series. Again, the idea of character progression, while not new, is brought to another level in the series.

While I believe Animate!'s note on changing anime wasn't as lofty as bringing shoujo to it's prominence, perhaps one of them had a premonition on where the series might eventually lead.

Tags:
Current Location: The Dark Side of the Moon
Current Mood: tired tired
Current Music: Sailor Yell! - Sailor Stars OP

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The Bubblegum Crisis (1987-1991)

Directors - 5 notables, including Masami Obari

Character designs - Kenichi Sonoda

Plot : (ANN Encyclopedia. Again, because I can't do summaries)"In the near future, Tokyo was left flattened as a result from a great earthquake. A new city, MegaTokyo, was then recreated due in no small part from the aid of a multi-million dollar company, Genom Corp. Genom created and mass-produced biomechanical creatures called Boomers to aid in the restoration of MegaTokyo. When the Boomers began to run out of control, the ADPolice at first tried to stop them, but they proved to be far more difficult to deal with than was first imagined. Under the ever looming Boomer threat, a group of four girls from varying degrees of society banded together. Calling themselves The Knight Sabers, they were the only ones with enough firepower and resourcefullness to defend the fledgling MegaTokyo from Genom and it's berserk Boomers."

Opinions : Let's face it. There are very few completely original ideas left when it comes to media entertainment. What makes a success is taking something tried and true and presenting it in a new fashion. The Bubblegum Crisis is like that. Yes, it's a wholly derivatiev work. Hells, the mood music in the begining, the hero and villian names and even the backgrounds are all taken out of Ridley Scott's masterpiece, Bladerunner...

...until the soundtrack kicks in. You know it's going to be something different when the first few strains of Konya wa Hurricane spin up. And that's how the whole series is, connected as they are from one to another with bitchin' music. At about this same time, there were a few other anime to come out that had a similar idea. Kimagure Orange Road, to some extent Maison Ikkoku and, later on, Ranma Nibun no Ichi, just to name a few. Luring new viewers in with catchy and, more importantly marketable, tunes, The Bubblegum Crisis and shows like it grew followings for their music as much as for their anime. Soon, seiyuu weren't the only stars of the shows. Megumi Hayashibara has made a careerr out of being both seiyuu and songbird and is, or at least was, the arguable queen of anime. Or, possibly, its' powder puff princess. Even today, established bands are doing anime (The Pillows, X Japan, Origa) as a way to reach out to more fans. We've grown almost accustomed to having at least the opening and ending themes being snappy.

The animation for The Bubblegum Crisis is, for the time period, a bit above standard in most areas, but much above in others. If you look at the comtemporaries (Kimagure Orange Road and Urusei Yatsura), you can see that's how anime was done. When it was brought to America, AnimEigo was the first company to dub it, indeed one of the first technically correct dubs out there. And by that, I mean that they didn't edit the script for the sake of the audience. That much is good. However, their budget apparently lacked when it came to finding people that couple, well, act. If you want to watch / listen to an anime series and how it's NOT supposed to be dubbed, find AnimEigo's versions. Simply hideous.

The first three episodes of The Bubblegum Crisis were probably designed like a pilot, as their story is self contained and really could be seen by themselves. The next five are another seperate set of stories that build on the first three, but also build each of the characters and let them grow. Oddly enough, the quality of the animation in episodes 4-8 increase dramatically over the first three.

The Bubblegum Crisis wasn't the first powersuit anime, or the first team crime-fighter anime, or strong women anime, but add a rockin' soundtrack and perhaps it's the first to be all of that and more...despite being derivative.

Tags:
Current Location: NeoTokyo
Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: Chase the Dream - Kinuko Oomori

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Akira (1988 / 2001)

Director - Katsuhiro Otomo

Plot : (taken from the AnimeNewsNetwork Excyclopedia, because I'm no good at summaries) "In the year 2019, thirty-one years have passed since the outbreak of World War III. In Neo-Tokyo, all authority is waging a never-ending struggle against the underground that virtually rules the shattered city. A top-secret child with amazing powers of the minds breaks free from custody and accidentally gets a motorcycle gang involved in the project. The incident triggers psychic powers within one of the members, Tetsuo, and he is taken by the army and experimented on. His mind has been warped and is now on the path of war, exacting revenge on the society that once called him weak."

Opinion : What can be said about Akira that hasn't already been said? It's a seminal work in the giant tapestry of the art that is anime. It's one of those benchmarks you hold up for the rest of the world to judge as a standard, much like Citizen Kane or Star Wars or True Grit. Much as the animation itself is nearly flawless, much as the story convolutes down to the oft-times heavy handedness of Otomo's other works (see Roujin-Z, which Otomo scripted), this movie is not for the uninitiated. When your friends want to get involved in this "anime-thing" you watch all the time, Akira is not what you show them.

On a technical note, there are two distinct versions of this movie (possibly more, but only two major ones). To those otaku who came to anime before 2000, we're more familiar with the Streamline version, released in 1988. The rights were bought by Pioneer and rereleased in 2001. The newer version, while technically better, contains some points that are a little grating. For instance, whenever Tetsuo yells out Kaneda's name, it sounds, at least to me, that he's yelling, "CANADA!"...and it makes me giggle every time. And while I do enjoy and appreciate the newer version for the accuracy, I still like the voices and emotion in the older version.

Not enough can be said about the animation itself, the echoes of which can be seen in a great many works of today. Even watching anime, seeing Akira is a little off-putting. Little is exaggerated for the sake of beauty or cuteness or anything else. You get the ugliness of people as they might be. People are also killed by the scores in this in interesting and gruesome ways. Perhaps it is this realism which stands Akira by itself against most of the rest of the anime genre. Even in the stark weirdness that is serial experiments Lain, there is an anime cuteness to Lain in her bear suit. In Akira, that realistic cute is turned on its' head, even to the extent of being nightmare fuel. The ending brings something primal, past the mass destruction, there is the primal relationship between Tetsuo and Kaneda and, beyond that, possibilities. A future of hope that hadn't been. A happy ending, essentially, but nonetheless an intense movie.

Tags:
Current Location: Tokyo Tower
Current Mood: chipper chipper
Current Music: "Life is Like a Lifeboat" - Rie Fu

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For my friends who aren't following me on Facebook...

I am now selling my photography on Etsy.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/twojaysstudio

5 photos tonight, at least 4 more tomorrow. Then, with luck and work, a couple new every week. This is exciting! :D

Current Mood: artistic artistic

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Whew! Fell asleep last night before I got a chance to post!

Anyway, for my birthday this year? I built a new computer! Whee! And, when Diablo3 comes out? I plan to get a good video card and it will roxxor my boxxors!

First all, 3.1Ghz Phenom II black, dual core. 1 *TERABYTE* SATA Barracuda HD. You know? My first computer had a 2 Gig drive and I thought that was bitchin' way back when! A terabyte. *shakes head*

Anyway, 4 Gigs Corsair RAM, 24x dvd burner. On mobo sound and video for now. 650w power supply and 3...count'm *3* 120mm fans. If the case wasn't stainless steel, it'd probably want to take off and fly around the room. It pumps out a LOT of air! XD

Lastly. Windows 7, full version. OMG, it's hot. As steady as Windows 98 and MUCH faster than anything they've put out. It makes me giggle how nice it is. And, it was only $105! Yeah, bitches! :P

Anyway, for only around 800, it's faster and nicer than most computers at that price range. I'm very happy because...I BUILT IT! HAH! XD

*giggles and runs around the room*

Current Mood: chipper chipper

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You know, I've written fanfiction, regular fiction and poetry for almost 30 years now, man and boy. I've never had the modesty to think that I've done learning about it. Thank you, for the comments AND the criticism. I appreciate them both. I just wish I had the time to write regularly. Perhaps my stories wouldn't be so rough then. *sigh*

Ah well, hope you enjoy the conclusion. It certainly goes places you might not think. ;)

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Well sirs? Whaddya think?

Current Mood: artistic artistic
Current Music: Evanescence - Good Enough

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