Tsugumomo: The Battle Tits show that would be king (if it didn’t suck)

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:

guts like a flower

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:

tsugumomo water impact pg 2

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:

water impact anime

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.

Advertisements

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju vs. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

The manga versus the anime, I mean. That’s what this post is about. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju the anime aired its first half in the winter 2016 season, and it’s second half a year later. The manga just got a physical release from Kodansha Comics at the end of May 2017. They’re pretty much exactly the same, at least on the surface.

The basic plot of Volume 1 of the manga is identical to the plot of the initial double-length episode of the anime. A man whose actual name we never learn is released from prison. While he was in there, a rakugo master (who is called Yakumo, his rank in the world of rakugo, and whose real name we also don’t learn yet) visits the prison to perform. Our prisoner is inpired by this performance, and with nowhere to go upon his release, he heads for the rakugo theater to try to get Yakumo to take him on as an apprentice. To the surprise of everyone in the scene, Yakumo does take him on, more or less. He dubs him Yotaro (a rakugo character archetype, basically a fool which describes our MC well) and lets him stay at his house, but doesn’t really teach him anything. But Yotaro does manage to learn, thanks to Konatsu, a young woman also living with Yakumo. Konatsu is the daughter of Sukeroku, Yakumo’s best friend/rival and fellow rakugo practitioner who died fairly young under unclear and suspicious circumstances. Konatsu can’t carry on her father’s on account of her having a vagina, so she indirectly defies stalwart traditionalist Yakumo by teaching Yotaro Sukeroku’s rakugo. This plot is exactly the same in both formats, with most scenes and dialogue being replicated exactly in the anime. In fact there’s only one difference I can think of: in the manga, Konatsu basically explains the title, lamenting that by not allowing her to perform due to being a woman, Yakumo is effectively taking rakugo to the grave with him. Hence the shinju, or lover’s suicide, in the title. I believe this line was left out of the anime, forcing the viewer to figure it out themselves over the course of the series, which seems like better writing to me.

The characters are the biggest thing this story has in its favor. Yotaro in particular is immediately likeable. He’s extremely tall and kind of goofy looking, and is overly friendly with everyone. Yakumo is more spontaneous and free-wheeling than his curmudgeonliness would suggest. Konatsu is the hardest to pin down right off the bat, initially coming off as kind of nasty and ungrateful (especially in the anime, where her voice actress interprets her lines much more harshly than I read them in the manga). Eventually we learn Konatsu’s very valid reasons for acting like a bitch, and also that she’s really not a bitch at all.

The art in both the manga and the anime is very nice, but I think I like the manga’s character designs more. Typically anime will simplify character designs for animation, but that’s not really the case here, as they’re both about the same levels of complexity. The manga people just look a little less realistic and more idealized than the anime, with more attractive and expressive faces in particular. Konatsu is a lot cuter in the manga, and Sukeroku confused my dick. Yotaro seems extremely noodly, especially for a Japanese man, and was definitely shorter and more reaslistically proportioned in the anime. Yakumo looks distinctly younger in the manga, although on the front cover he looks his age (he’s also drawn in more of a woodblocky style on the cover, which is a cool touch). But everyone looks good in both formats and the differences aren’t significant.

The manga is fairly light on backgrounds, so the anime has it beat there. When the manga bothers to draw backgrounds, they’re uniformly beautiful, but the anime had that shit all the time. The manga’s panels flow extremely well and are extremely easy to read. Not really a comparable experience to watching an anime, but it takes about as much effort to follow the manga as it does to read subs on TV, for what it’s worth.

Basically what I’m getting at is that visually the differences are mostly negligible. Both offer an excellent viewing experience. Look past the visuals, though, and you start to see how the anime stomps all over the manga as the clear victor. Firstly, the manga made some unusual choices with the localization. The main title of the book is Descending Stories, which is the same subtitle given to the second half of the anime. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is printed on front cover, but it’s in a tiny little box in the upper right corner, using a dark red font that blends in with the black background. On Crunchyroll, the show shows up as Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, with the second season and it’s subtitle available as an option under that heading. To me it seems possible that people may not even realize the manga is related to the anime. Perhaps I’m underestimating the intelligence of the manga-reading community, but when shit like Aho Girl is a apparently a highly requested title I can’t help but wonder. I do think the title Descending Stories is a GREAT one though. It’s a story about people and their descendants, and about stories that are handed down. The title captures that beautifully, much better than an untranslated Japanese title.

Which leads me to my next gripe: how many Japanese words they left untranslated. I’m of the opinion that naturalness should come first for any translation, and that untranslated words rarely made something read more smoothly. There are some exceptions though. The actual word rakugo is one. Rakugo is a unique art form, and uniquely Japanese. When there’s no equivalent in another language, you have no choice but to leave it. For a story like Descending Stories, where rank is extremely important to understanding the characters, leaving sensei and shisho in Japanese with translator’s notes for both makes sense. Leaving yose, a rakugo theater, untranslated, doesn’t. There is no functional difference between a rakugo theater and any other theater, so they should have just called it a fucking theater. Same thing with debayashi, which is just intro music.  The manga does have sources cited and an informational mini-comic at the back about rakugo, which is cool and helpful.

The area where the anime overtakes that manga in the biggest way though is the audio. It has a pleasant but not exceptionally memorable score. It has a cool OP and ED for both seasons, with the 2nd season being a little better for both. It also has voice acting. There. I said it. It should be obvious but the mere presence of actual spoken words in a story about people getting up on stage and speaking makes the anime unavoidably superior to the manga. It helps that the voice acting is awesome all around, with every actor giving a performance as nuanced as the writing.

To boil this fucker down, if you have to pick one, pick the anime. The manga is good, don’t get me wrong. It has quality art and exceptional writing. But the anime has that too, and also people talk. The anime is damn near flawless, in fact, so I suspect that the manga with continue to be good. But the anime will always be better.


 

You may have noticed that I seem a little more coherent in this post, and maybe also a little grumpy. That’s because tonight’s drink was *drumrolllllll*

FUCKING NOTHING. That’s right, I am stone cold sober. A sinister confluence of events has conspired to leave me dry. My supply was running low in the first place, but it just so happened that it ran out right around the time I had to pay rent, which means I don’t have enough money to resupply right now. Luckily I’m not actually an alcoholic, so I won’t suffer any ill effects physically, but I do miss drinking while I write. It’s one of the few pleasures in my life. Beside like every other part of my life because life is GREat HAHAHAhahahahaha

Review of Dreamin’ Sun, vol.1: Ichigo Takano still fahkin slays kid

I say “still”, but this was actually written before Orange, the series for which Ichigo Takano became best known (as of right now) . Orange was a deadly serious lightly-SF shoujo tragedy romance type of thing. It’s excellent, and is the kind of thing I’d wholeheartedly recco,mmend to sappy teens. Dreamin’ Sun (published in English by Seven Seas) seems pretty fuckgn far from that, at least right now. It’s maybe a touch less refined than Orange (which also wasn’t flawless, but this isn’t a fucking review of Orange now is it?) but it’s still a fun read and very good in it’s own way.

Quick summary: It’s about a girl named Kameko Shimana. She doens’t like her name, for reasons that the book fails to make entirely clear (at one point it states that Kameko means “tortoise child” but she seems to hate Shimana more and they never say what that means) with a slightly complicated home situation. Her biomom died in an accident, biodad remarried, and now she has a six month old half-brother. She feels sort of cast aside, and being a moody high schooler she takes the most dramatic approach to solving her problems and runs away. While skipping school and not really trying that hard to find a place to stay, she conveniently runs into a kinda hot drunk guy in a park who offers to let her stay at his place, on 3 conditions: 1: that she tells him why she left her home. 2: that she finds his keys for him because otherwise they can’t actually get in, and 3 that she “have a dream and fall in love”. SHe meets his conditions, and learns that she’ll be living with two other hot dudes in a single family home. They already have this sort of found family thing going on and she is the interloper in their house, but everyone takes to each other quickly (albeit to very different degrees) and romantic shenanigans ensue.

Dreamin’ Sun is billed as a “heartfelt comedy”, and it’s sort of that. The heartfelt part is what it misses the mark on the most. That’s not to say that it feels inauthentic. Kameko is an adorably doofy, awkward, moody, very believable teenage girl. She runs away for reasons that seem extremely petty and steretypically teengirl-y at first, but are later revealed to be more nuanced. She has low self-esteem and habitually compares herself to other girls, telling herself she’s not attractive enough. imo she’s pretty cute but she can’t hear me lol ;( She falls in ‘love’ with Asahi, the friendly, nattily dressed one of the pretty boys, ludicrously easily, and it’s seems like it’s mostly because he was nice to her. She’s refreshingly proactive about trying to get him to like her and then panics and flees when she think’s she’s blown it. What I’m getting at is that the emotions at play all feel real enough, but they’re also super low stakes. Maybe it’s just my perspective as a grown ass man who had a dull but loving family situation, but even the stuff later in the volume, where she and Taiga the hot landlord try to convince her dad to let her live with her new found family, comes off as some drama queen shit that ends up being resolved too easily. If treated with a bit more gravitas it might have hit harder. It does need to be gotten out of the way before the story can really start though, so take that criticism with a grain of that delicious pink Himalayan salt.

Kameko is particularly well developed, but the boys don’t get quite the same authorial love. Taiga and Zen, the alcoholic, perceptive, unusually-young-for-a-landlord-at-21 landlord and the hyperactive, childish, slightly tsundere jerk with a heart of gold, respectively, are fairly well developed for guys who probably won’t really be the focus in the end. Asahi is the one that’s really hurting for character development. He can be boiled down to “hot, nice, already likes someone else”. He has no hobbies (zen likes pandas, watches anime, likes sports) or any sort of life history that might shape who he is (Taiga has some connection to a sexy widow who apparently visits frequently to try and bed him, and is also the son of a prosecutor who “helped” [the most loaded use of the word i have ever seen] Kameko’s dad a few years prior). He’s just there, and hot. You can take this criticism with a big honking generous ass grain of road salt, because he’s so transparently set up as the main boy that I suspect his development will be laid out more gradually over the course of the next 9 volumes. But it’s still kind of a mark against this volume.

As for the “comedy” part of it, I ws honestly worried. The first chapter is a fucking dud and a half. It really just wasn’t funny. I don’t know what went wrong. Luckily the other 3 chapters make up for it. The comedy is mostly of the manzai-ish type common to slice of lifey stories like this, but it’s bolstered by some excellent expression work. Ichigo Takano has always drawn really detailed and expressive faces, with a particular focus on the eyes, and there’s more room in this story for that to shine than in Orange, where the characters were only ever sad, worried, or lovestruck in varying degrees. In Dreamin’ Sun they’re sad, worried, lovestruck, scared, angry, confused, grossed out, happy, lonely, desperate. Takano’s character designs have always had a slightly different feel to them from your average soft-edged shojo design, a touch more realism, closer to something you might see in a seinen manga, and I really dig it. Kameko is adorable, the dudes are hot i guess, I’ve never really been into dudes, and everyone is realistically proportioned (absurd spaghetti legs are often a problem in shojo art).

The rest of the art is perfectly fine, if a little workmanlike. Shojo rarely has time for detailed backgrounds because it spends so much time zoomed in on faces, but I feel like Dreamin’ Sun had almost no backgrounds at all. Orange at least had a few panoramic shots. The closest this book gets to that are two horror movie-esque fisheye lens scenes, both used to humorously evoke dread. The backgrounds are at their most detailed in these scenes but they’re still barely more than doodles That’s not a dealbreaker when the characters are as appealing visually as they are here, with their variety of outfits and reaction faces, but it’s worth noting.

The panel work is best described as ‘excitable’. When the emotional action ramps up, the panels start to be split along diagonal lines, which makes the pages look as fracutred as Kameko’s headspace. The best example of this is near the beginning, when she find’s Taiga’s keys dangling improbably from a tree over the edge of a cliff. As she reaches for them she starts to fall. Throughout this sequence, there are tons of diagonal panels. But then out of nowhere Asahi shows up and grabs her from behind (oooh baby) and stops her from falling. Almost as soon as he touches her the paneling calms the fuck down. it’s an interesting choice that sounds good on metaphorical paper but on actual paper in can be a little confusing. Otherwise this book is very easy to follow (compare it to Honey So Sweet, for example, especially vol. 1, which as much as i love that comic was god damn BAFFLING to read sometimes.)

There is of course the expected abundant sparkles, hearts and assorted crap that pervades the empty space in so many shojo comics (do they do that shit so they don’t have to draw backgrounds?). At it’s most extreme word bubbles get filled up with music notes, although I figure that implies that they words contained within are said in a singsong voice. They never get totally out of hand (like they do in Honey So Sweet, mayb I’ll review that one someday) and aren’t particularly distracting if you’re expecting it, but there are are definitely a lot more here than in Orange. Butthen Orange wasn’t supposed to be fun.

The book itself feels oddly bare bones. The cover art is cute, the binding is pretty standard manga binding, and there’s a short preview gag manga at the back. But there’s no table of contents which bugged the bujeezus out of me for some reason, and there are only four chapters which feels really short. It ends at a logical place, but still, only 4.
I feel like I keep coming back around and comparing this to Orange, but really they’re nothing alike. It’s the apples to Orange’s oranges (fuckin end me lol) It’s just my only other touchstone for Takano’s work, so hopefully you the readster feel like I evaluated Dreamin’ Sun effectively as its own work. I also feel like this comes off as me being really hard on it, but I atctually liked it a lot. It’s not as obviously special off the bat as Orange was, but like it’s main character it has plenty of time to grow into itself and figure out what it wants to be, but it’s already plenty fun and totally adorable. That’s the most embarassing fucking sentenced I’ve ever typed. It may not be life-altering or -affirming yet but it looks like it’s on its way. Recommnded reading, if only so that you know what’s going on in the upcoming, likely better volumes.


Tonight’s booze was Moonlight Meadery’s “Sensual” Mead, here to help me get even more in touch with my feminine side than normal. Moonlight Meadery is local to me, and I drink their shit all the time. They have a lot of different varieties, but “Sensual” seems to be the closest to a traditional honey wine mead. It has a kinda fruity undertone that differentiiates it from your bog standard mead, and it’s pretty tasty by itself. I had it with some Generel Tso’s chicken and a slice of leftover pizza. Paired well with both but what the fuck do I know. I accidentally threw the cork away so I had to finish the whole bottle because I’ve earned from experience that Moonlight’s mead skunks out fast. I tried mixing it with some things, including apple juice, which was delicious, and DEW. S. A., Mtn. Dew’s insane new blend of Code Red, Whiteout, and Voltage. That one just tasted like Dew for the most part, but now my guts are boiling and I’m sure I’l have the mingin’ shits at work tomorrow. Drink Moonlight Meadery mead if you can find it. Just be smart about winging homemade wine coolers with it.

Liteweight out.

One time I got in a fight over whether or not Kengo Hanazawa’s “I Am A Hero” was explicitly anti-feminist/anti-woman. BTW this is also a review of I Am A Hero.

A very good friend of mine, who we’ll call C-ko (on account of her name begins with C and tacking -ko on the end of names is a common naming convention in Japan) seems to me to be a staunch feminist. She’s expressed some hesitance to call herself a femiinist in the past, but she has all the hallmarks. Very pro-women’s rights, pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-choice, heavily involved with various counterculture scenes, I’m pretty sure she’s gone to protests, etc. I’m hesitant to call myself a feminist too, despite being a far left punk rocker type and strongly in favor of all that shit too. The difference between us is she’s very active and vocal with her support for these causes. Personally I tend to be less vocal because i feel in some ways that as a dude into anime my views aren’t taken seriously. People tend to assume I’m a GG troll or Im “just saying that to get laid” so I don’t talk about it a lot. I suppose that’s my privilege in action, that i can afford not to do anything.

Moral of the story, we share similar left-leaning, probably-feminist views. We also share a love of horror, dead stuff, and all things grim and dark. I know she likes zombies, so I figured that she’d like I Am a Hero.

But she fucking HATED it. How could she possibly hate it? It’s fantastic. It builds painfully slowly, giving you brief glimpses at the terror ahead before finally erupting into a completely nuts-out crazy chase scene. The representation of mental illness is captivating and accurate (at least based on the OCD aspect of it, which i have to a fairly severe degree.) The art is excellent, especially Hanazawa’s use of two-page spreads, often with a nauseating fish-eye effect. He also does this thing which is prpobably my favorite aspect of his art/panel flow/layout skillz, his brutal slowdowns. A lot of horror media, comics and movies in particular, rely on sudden shocking violence or gore or whatever to scare. Everything is fine, then suddenly someone dies. ooohh, so spooky. fuck that. Hanazawa does the opposite. These dramatic slowdowns, where he’ll string together full-page spreads to give you the gory details like individual frames of animation slowly clicking by on a projector. It’s a brilliant inversion of the typical horror jump scare and it works fantastically, and uniquely to the comic medium. Especially the one where a crashing plane’s landing gear collides directly with a human head. More on that in a minute.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

For the uninitiated, I Am a Hero is the tale of a mentally ill manga artist, Hideo Suzuki, trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Prior to the apocalypse, though, he had one serialized work which got shitcanned after only a couple volumes because it was super weird an nobody liked it. Now he’s working as an assistant to some insufferable fuck, hanging out with his girlfriend, Tekko, and trying to deal with his mental illnesses. I’m no expert but he definitely has OCD and is probably schizophrenic. I also think he’s probably on the autism spectrum.

When the apocalypse finally rolls into town, he does a lot of panicking, fails to save his girlfriend or his cowerkers, and basically just runs away. But then he remembers: He has a gun! Gun laws are super strict in Japan, but it’s not impossible for civilians to own them, and he is one of the few who does. And that’s where the volume ends.

So what C-ko found disgusting was the attitudes of the male characters towards the female characters, what she saw as it’s mangatypical teenage boy power fantasy “when the world ends, I’ll be the main character!”-ness, and how she believed that reflected the author himself’s views. She thought Hideo was a self-absorbed dick who only saw his girlfriend as a warm hole (and that the author probably only saw women that way too). This was supported by the way the other manga artists talked about women, including the one female assistant, Mii-chan. It comes out eventually that the main manga artist and Mii-chan were doing the wild thing (and she was probably also banging ANOTHER one of the assistants). Mitani, another assistant, calls Mii-chan a dirty slut (this is after he’s killed her because she was a zombie, by the way) and other nasty things, mostly because she wouldn’t fuck him. C-ko thought this was reflective of the author’s attitudes.

Eventually Hideo and Mitani start trying to get out of the city, and Mitani starts spouting typical disaffected otaku shit, about how he hopes the normies and bitches are the first to get it, and how hikkikomori nerds will be the real heroes. Your 4-channer, meninist, red-pilled dweeb stuff. The kind of themes 99% of all light novels about getting sucked into another world deal with. Again, C-ko believed this to be the author directly stating the theme of his work.

But then Mitani gets killed by a fucking plane. The character with the most vile views about society, women, and his peers gets his dome exploded by a direct hit from a big ol’ jet airliner. And this to me SCREAMS satire. It frames the rest of the story as satire. And that was my take on it. By killing the biggest shitbird in the book in an incredibly dramatic way, Hanazawa says “fuck this guy and this line of thought.” Let’s go back a bit.

Hideo does seem kind of rude to Tekko. They spend a lot of time fighting. At one point they make up, and Hideo very bluntly says to her, “Let’s have sex!” and Tekko giggles and agrees. This reinforced C-ko’s belief that Hanazawa just sees women as a thing to fuck. To me it’s just sort of an example of Hideo’s social disorders/maybe autism, and representative of Tekko’s understanding of how her boyfriend’s brain works. Tekko is a goddamn saint. She sees right through Hideo’s bullshit to the damaged but fundamentally decent guy he is. Hideo is a weirdo and not particularly likeable, but Tekko gets him. In fact, she was the one who initiated the relationship. She knew what she wanted and she went out and got it. Mii-chan, the only other woman in the story, wants to have sex with a bunch of different dudes, so she does just that. She wasn’t being coerced. She was in no way a victim. On the surface the women of this story seem the least developed as characters. But Hanazawa lets us infer what the women are like through how the men treat them. And it’s clear that they’re the only ones who have their lives together.

Hideo often repeats the phrase “I am a hero” to himself. But he isn’t one. This isn’t a power fantasy. Hideo screams and flees. In the first book, he never once fires his gun. The only zombie he kills is Tekko, to put her out of her misery. He’s pathetic. But he’s redeemable, and that’s why Hanazawa lets him live. He thinks some nasty shit about Tekko and Mii-chan, but only for a little while. He doesn’t let it take command of his attitude toward life like Mitani did. Whereas Mitani thought he was a victim of life’s cruelty, and thus became a victim of zombies, Hideo at least tried to improve his day to day life. So when the zombies come, he’s able to take charge a tiny bit, and run the fuck away. He’s not a hero yet, but he could be.

The problem is, you kind of have to be familiar with the anime/manga/light novel industry and it’s tropes to see this. The topics of otaku, hikkikomori, and their attitudes towards women are the kind of things that come up in media and discussion of those media a lot these days. People often cite things like Irregular at Magic High School, Re:Zero, Sword Art Online, and battle titty shows like High School DxD as regressive in their attitudes towards women. Some nerd is the main character, and women fall all over him as he effortlessly saves the day with newfound powers or something, even though he’s boring and awkward, and that this reinforces the idea that men deserve women, that doing something nice gets you a fuck from the fuck machine. In my opinion, I Am a Hero skewers the bejeezus out of these kinds of anime and manga and the attitudes contained therein.

I told her all my thoughts on the matter and she didn’t buy it. I respect her views, and obviously as a real life lady the book hits her differently. But I just couldn’t understand where she was coming from. THe fuckin plane, man! The plane! We got in a pretty legit fight over it. She couldn’t believe I would like something so despicable. I couldn’t believe she wouldn’t like something so, if not exactly subversively pro-woman, at least decidedly anti-shitty man. Not to mention all the well-executed horror.

I Am A Hero is a one of the best horror comics of the past probably 10 years or so. It’s also (imo) a savage satire of nerd masculinity, the manga industry, and Japan’s patriarchal society and inbuilt misogyny. It’s a fantastic read, but it’s apparently not for everyone. It’s funny, if she had liked this I was going to recommend one of my other favorite horror manga, Berserk. But now that seems like a bad idea.

I am a Hero is being released as 2-in-1 omnibuses by Dark Horse Comics.

———

Tonight’s drink was a Pimm’s Cup that i made wrong. Pimm’s is a delicious liquer that tastes like breakfast. A proper Pimm’s cup is made with Pimm’s and lemon-lime soda or ginger ale (the lemon-lime soda version is best) then has cucumber, mint, and lemon muddled in. It’s tastes like French toast and honeydew melon and is delicious. But my Pimm’s cup was just a half-drank bottle of grape soda filled back up with Pimm’s. So it tasted like licking someone’s feet after they did that stepping on grapes to make fancy wine thing. It also didn’t get me as drunk as I had hoped, so on the whole I can’t recpommend it.

Liking anime doesn’t make you a Pathetic Nerd. You like anime BECAUSE you are a Pathetic Nerd.

And the reason why boils down to cultural differences. In the capital W West, a.k.a the United States, (which is where I live, and where I experienced everything that this post is hinging on) if you aren’t a screaming, gesticulating extrovert there is something wrong with you. Or at least that’s the general public perception. Even if you’re a sports-loving, beer-swilling, pussy-grabbing man of few words, your man-of-few-wordsness supercedes your pussygrabitude to define you in the public eye. You are a pathetic nerd no matter how far you can huck the pigskin. You’ll probably just shake it off though.

For the people (like me, I guess, although not nearly as badly as some people I know) that actually are weird and shy, though, this can cause some problems. Emotional connections of some kind are in your hierarchy of needs, but if you’re a fuckin dweeb these connections can be difficult to form. Enter anime. It looks like nothing the average high schooler has ever seen. It’s a cartoon, but there’s blood! And big floppy titters! And 90% of the characters are rhigh schoolers themselves. This is the main draw. But what keeps them coming back is the fact that, in Japan, extroversion and attention-grabbing are sort of frownedupon. That’s not quite true, but that’s how it looks from across the Pacific. It’s just due to cultural norms, but to us loud fucks in America Japanese people can seem chronically timid and apologetic. For actual timid and apologetic people, this can be an affirmation. “See?” you say to your two friends who brought their own lunch from home, “There are people like us out there.” To people incapable of speaking their minds, struggling find a place in society, the combination of power fantasies and awkward romances that anime provides sates their lust for escape AND pats them on the back and says they’re not that weird.

Anime: cum 4 the titters, stay for the assurance that plenty of other people can’t talk to girls. So next time someone says “You like anime? You must be a sad nerd!” You can tell them proudly, “No! I was a sad nerd first. And thus it was easier for anime to rope me in and pander to me~b-b-b-baka!!1!!”

Tonight’s drink was a perennial favorite of mine: Cherry 7up and sake. Basically i just almost fill up a cup with 7up and then pour in some decent sake until the cup looks like it’s spill. like 3/4 zup and the last 1/4 sake. If have a nice quality sake, the drink takes on a pleasant and inviting pink color, like cherry blossoms at hanami lol. If you have shitty sake it’ll look like watered down Pepto Bismol. I’m going to call this beverage the Pathetic Nerd from now on. Please help me 1) spread the gospel of this delicious concoction and 2) convince people that that’s a good name for a drink. Because then perhaps one day a beautiful woman (or man, or * or whatever else you’re into) will ask for a Pathetic Nerd at a bar. And you can sidle up and say “Hey gorgeous. You called?”