Tsugumomo is a heinously horny manga by Yoshikazu Hamada. It debuted in 2007 in one of Futabasha’s online magazines before eventually moving to a seinen print one. It’s also a 12-episode anime series from a studio called Zero-G (probably best know for Battery the Animation, a BL-tinged baseball drama), airing in the Spring 2017 season. The manga is honestly fantastic and the anime sucks ass. Here’s why:
The plot is fairly ordinary, at least at first. Middle schooler Kazuya Kagami’s most treasured possesion is a obi that belonged to his deceased mother. It smells like cherry blossoms and he finds that strangely comforting. He carries the obi around with him, even to school, huffing it when he gets stressed. One day he gets attacked by some kind of supernatural entity and tossed off the roof of his school. In that moment, the obi reveals itself to be a tsukumogami, which in Japanese folklore is basically an heirloom or tool given sentience, an incarnation of the familial or personal bonds that item represents, and saves his life. The tsukumogami’s name is Kiriha, and her presence and the presence of her associates changes Kazuya’s life forever.
Needless to say, at first blush it reeks of mid-00s magical girlfriend harem shit, and it’s lame sense of humor (paper fan-smacking and crotch-manhandling jokes are about at sophisticated as it get) certainly does nothing to improve your first impression. However it does have one thing that helps differentiate it from other garbage that came out around the same time: EXTREME loli fanservice. It just gets worse and worse, doesn’t it, folks? You see, when a magical entity like Kiriha or Kukuri, the water goddess who joins the cast early on, uses too much of their power, they revert to a childlike physical shape. Hamada has absolutely no problem sexualizing his characters no matter what they look like, so there’s miles and miles of graphic nudity featuring characters who look like they’re in second grade. I can usually truck through loli service like the edgy teen I am inside. I’ve seen enough trashy anime at this point that I can usually ignore it. It rarely bothers me, perhaps in part because I know at least one real life 27 year old built like a 10 year old so it’s easier for me to write it off. But these bitches look like they just graduated to big girl underwear a few months ago. If I, jaded and horny as I am, say it’s a little unsettling, you know I mean it.
Like any harem worth it’s salt, there’s also copious nudity featuring characters of many other builds, from anime-typical high school looking girls, to full-figured adults, to 7 foot tall Amazons with titters like pillowcases full of helium. The fanservice is omnipresent and features some nonconsensual moments, sometimes played for giggles (there’s a totally insane scene involving a high stakes game of Memory against a pedophile goddess in an early volume that’s about as vile as the manga ever gets). Needless to say it’s not for everyone, and even if some of it pushes the right crotch buttons for you, some of it probably won’t.
“But wait”, you say. “I though you said it was fantastic.” I did, and it is, if you’re willing to wade through chaff to find the good shit. The manga dials back the loli service after a few volumes because Kiriha gets her powers back. It also cuts back on the rapey stuff after a while. But the real reason you stick with it is for the fights. You see, part of the deal with being a tsukumogami owner is that you have to do battle with supernatural entities and keep your home region free of curses. So Kaz and Kiriha fight a lot. And holy shit, the fights are so good.
While the art starts out a little rough, Hazama has a real knack for conveying momentum, motion and tension through his layouts.
This fight between Kiriha and Kukuri is an early standout. The way Kukuri’s beam attack extends over the panel line and encroaches on Kiriha’s panel, almost as if the panel itself is ducking along with her. The way the panels expand as Kiriha weaves her shield, ending in a panel as straight-lined as her finished product. The way Kiriha’s shit gets wrecked sending her and Kazuya flying in a detailed, squash n’ stretchy explosion. It’s all fuckin’ dope as hell. I also really like the way the sound effect characters in the explosion panel are following the outward flow of the action, a part of the explosion itself. It’s an expertly laid out fight, and the battles only improve as they go. The art in general improves considerably as the story progresses. More effort gets put into backgrounds, and characters’ bodies start to look more realistic. Hazama pays a lot more attention to the, uh, folds and creases of the female body. His nipples go from zit-like chest splotches to actually looking like nipples, and his plus-er sized characters (no one’s truly fat in this comic) shall we say droop and like squish in the way you’d expect someone built like that to. He also gets incredibly daring with his level of detail in the crotch area, which all makes for basically as good as you can get fanservice-wise without needing to be published in a different kind of magazine. Take a look:
This one’s not fanservicey, but it is disgusting and beautiful, the way the monster’s guts and ribs bloom like a flower from its back.
The writing also reveals itself to be quite good. You wouldn’t guess it from the run-of-the-mill storylines its open up with, but hey, that crap qualified as a hook in 2007. It never completely abandons weak or uncomfortable attempts at comedy, but it fleshes out its characters far more than most harems. The central relationship is not actually the easy way out ass romantic duo of Kiriha and Kazuya, but an ugly and kind of co-dependent trio of them and Kazuya’s mother Kanaka, who died suddenly before the story begins and who happened to be Kiriha’s previous owner. Kazuya misses his mom, and in a way Kiriha represents her in his mind. That said, he’s also intensely aware of the fact that Kiriha is her own person (or sentient piece of fabric) because 1) she’s nothing like his mother was and refuses to be a mother for him and 2) he’s sexually attracted to her and for all the crazy things this manga has done, it hasn’t done THAT.
For Kiriha, Kazuya is basically a thing onto which she can transfer her feelings for his mother. Kiriha and Kanaka had an intense love for each other (that did get sexual on occasion) and it’s clear that Kiriha loves Kaz in a similar way, but it’s also clear that he’s not Kanaka and never will be. Kanaka was a prodigy in combat and Kazuya struggles constantly. Kanaka was a decisive risk taker, and Kazuya is a timid worrywart. It’s easy to see how complex feeling likes this could generate some tension. At the risk of getting too spoilery, a reveal later on regarding just how Kanaka died explains some of Kiriha’s more egregious tsudere behavior throughout the story. She wants to protect him, but needs him to be able to protect himself. She loves him but resents him for very understandable reasons.
Kanaka, for her part, mostly crops up in Kazuya’s dreams as a vaguely remembered almost-figment of his imagination and spouts cryptic shit, frustrating Kaz to no end. Kazuya’s (and others’) memories play important thematic roles. The idea that memories aren’t always perfectly accurate, that memories of one person can shape your relationship with another whose memories of them differ, and that those differences can can affect how people process grief, informs the trajectory of the plot, which really kicks up once Sunao, a high school aged exorcist who met Kanaka as a little girl, enters the fray. And the central conceit of a story about tsukumogami, beings basically formed by memories attaching to objects, ties it all together. In this regard the writing never falls into the trap of telling over showing, and leaves it to the reader to figure it out. Or maybe you’re not supposed to read into a titty title this much…Again at the risk of spoiling good plot points, Hamada also has the cajones to kill off a main character, which helps to keep the fights from feeling too low stakes.
Anyway, I’ve railed on enough about what the manga does right. Here’s what the anime does wrong:
EVERYTHING! It leans so hard into the weak ass comedy it falls over. Tsunderes punching their crush to the moon over some accidental slight wasn’t that funny when the manga first started, but it sure as shit isn’t funny 10 years later. Yet the anime basically rolls around and masturbates in that shit.
Spekaing of masturbating, the fan service is way too tame. I appreciate the fact that the TV version kept the fog n’ light censoring to a minimum by going for extensive redraws on the BDs, but the nudity is nothing to get excited about. The anime’s character designs lack the detail of the manga’s, the animation is clunky, and fundamentally it fails to titillate.
That clunkiness extends to the fights, sadly. The stiff animation robs the manga’s layouts, which the anime often borrows directly, of their momentum and intensity. And a reliace on ugly CG makes monsters and elemental attacks less threatening. Exhibit A: In the manga version of the Kurkuri fight, her massive Water Impact attack looks like this:
You get a sense of its tremendous scale, and the flat hammer-esque face bursting through the clouds gives it a sense of deadly speed and force. It looks dangerous, and Kiriha and Kazuya’s sopping, ragged forms clawing their way out of the aftermath confirm it. In the anime, we get this:
Like god’s dog taking a blue crayon shit from the heavens, this dorky-looking CG ball oozes out of the sky and plops innocuously down on our heroes. It can be hard to tell in a still but I don’t have to goods to make GIFs. In motion its fucking lame.
To top it off, the anime is going to end right before where the story stops being episodic and starts developing its plot and characters. Meaning Kanaka’s presence in the anime is meaningless. She ends up saying stuff that will never have any bearing on what appears onscreen. She’s a walking talking red herring, and that frustrates me to no end, because she single-cold-dead-handedly makes the story what it is.
Ulimately, Tsugumomo the anime’s biggest failing is that it was made 5 years too late. If this had come out in 2012, with a 2012 ecchi budget, from a studio like Xebec who know how to handle action and gazongas, this would have been great. If they had ditched the tired comedy to focus on the fights and characters, and maintained the intensity of the fan service, it could have been the gold standard for ecchi titles, easily up there with High School DxD and Monster Musume for GOAT porn.
Sadly, the manga is not available legally in English. The first two volumes were on JManga’s app, but that company no longer exists, so you’re stuck with scanlations. The censored version of the anime is available on Crunchyroll and dubbed from Funimation. The uncensored English BD version has no release date yet. I try not to advocate piracy, but in this case there’s no other option. The anime is not worth your time. If you’re sold on this idea, read the manga. It can be found wherever manga can be stolen.
So I really like Faygo (whoop whoop mmfwcl). They have some unusual flavors, my favorite of which is Pineapple Watermelon.
A while back an old friend got married. At the reception hall bar, I asked for a Mountain Dew with “something fruity” in it. The bartender gave me Dekuyper’s Watermelon Sour. It was delicious.
These two tales are related, because the other day I went to the liquor store and got myself some watermelon Dekuyper’s. Then I went to the grocery store to get some Mountain Dew. While I was walking down the soda aisle, I found some Goya pineapple soda and bought that instead, and that’s what I’m drinking tonight. The recipe is roughly
1 fuckton of Dekuyper’s Watermelon Sour
1 whatever space is left of pineapple soda.
Dekuyper’s doesn’t get me that drunk though, so this post turned out pretty coherent. I was able to more effectively discuss themes and whatnot. I’ve been considering drinking less when I blog lately, because the more I do this the more want my thoughts to be taken seriously. Even though it was started as kind of a gag blog, I feel like I have some worthwhile points to make and I don’t want them to be dismissed on account of people thinking I’m just some drunk idiot. Don’t be surprised to see more sober-ish posts in weeks to come.