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.


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?”