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Vocaloid, comics, and animated movies.

Lupin the third: The Fuma Conspiracy

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Lupin the third: The Fuuma Conspiracy originally based off of a concept by Monkey Punch

Year: 1987

Summary:
Goemon is getting married to a school-girl, and Lupin&co are of course invited to the ceremony. Then a ninja hops down from the cieling and steals a precious family heirloom that holds the secret to an epic buried treasure.

Thoughts:
It’s a TV special, so it’s slightly shorter than your average movie, but still fits as a nice piece of family entertainment. The animation is pretty good, though the story is a bit of a cliche, it’s a well-executed one. Fans of Lupin will undoubtedly find it interesting.

My viewing experience was mainly a positive one, even though I have to call out the average stamp at times, and most of those times it’s knocked out of my hand because, while the premise is played straight, it still manages to be enjoyable to watch. It’s got a nice action scene, along with a Big Lipped Alligator Moment that stands out as a really funny car chase. The animation tended to focus on Goemon slightly more than the other characters, though he doesn’t really stand out more than the rest, so Goemon fangirls should be happy(As long as they can try and ignore the “wife” part). Oh, right, and Goemon’s hakama still looks like a skirt.

One of my complaints are about Goemons wife, whom Goemon fangirls no doubt are going to call “Mary-Sue” and pretend she never existed in the first place. She’s shown following Goemon in a school uniform, and there’s really not much I have to say at that point. Still, she manages to be a pretty cute character, though seems a tiny bit like an ascended fangirl. Her interaction with Goemon is pretty sweet, and to tell the truth, she acts more like the teenaged girl she is, leading us to conclude: Goemon, please leave your wife at home next time.

Not much I can say, really. It’s like an extended TV episode of Lupin, and a pretty fun one at that.

Score is based on a 1-5 scale here
Story: 1 for originality, 3 for being enjoyable anyway.
Characters: 3
Animation Quality: 4

Overall score(Is based on a 1-10 scale here): 6
Average, but well executed and might be fun to watch with a kid. Reccomanded for Lupin fans.

Places to buy manga in Japanese.

When it comes to shopping for manga, hoo boy. It’s not that hard to find a shop that sells manga, the hard part is finding the manga you want, since most shops just buy new, popular-right-now manga like Bleach or D. Grayman if you’re lucky.

But wether you enjoy Bleach or not, I’m sure you like other kinds of comics too, right? After all, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this. If you have a good Japanese bookstore close to you, you can probably ask them to supply the books you want. However, depending on the shop this could take up to two months, so you might want a quicker alternative.

These are the suppliers I use. I’ve bought items from them at least once, and I wholeheartedly reccomend them.

Mandarake
http://ekizo.mandarake.co.jp/shop/en/

Stock: Mandarake sells used goods. Most of the time, though, these are in very good condition, most of the tankobon(Standard-type pocket books containing manga) are quite cheap and they have a whole section dedicated to old shojo manga. They also carry old video games and Saint Seiya toys, along with doujinshi and music CDs(It is actually one of the few places around the internet where you can order IOSYS music).

About the site itself:
Most of the item names and descriptions are in Japanese. Ordering is a bit of a hassle, you have to first send an order, then they will make you an order page with the avadible items and send to your e-mail, and you can proceed to pay from there.

Shipping:
FAST, and that’s the only option. So shipping costs a tonne, but at least you get it the very next day or the day after that. Also, there are different stores, so if you want to buy something from two different stores, you have to fill out two different orders and pay two shipping fees. You can, however, fix the shop so that they only show items from one single store.

Good Points:
+Large selection of retro-items
+You can browse through a retro-shoujo section instead of having to go after a certain author.
+Fast shipping
+Items come shrinkwrapped to keep the already quite good quality

Bad points
-Items that “may be out of stock”, but they might very well be in or out of stock. You don’t know until you’ve placed your order.
-Ordering is a little bit of a hassle
-Expensive shipping
-Multiple shops with individual shipping
-Used books(albeit in very good, sometimes new condition).

Reccomended for:
People who like old shojo manga, IOSYS/Touhou fans, and beginners who want to start reading old shouojo manga but don’t know where to start.

YesAsia
http://www.yesasia.com/global/en/home.html

St0ck: YesAsia sells comics, books, music, movies, and some electronics. They have a very large selection of manga-Please note that I’m going to focus on the comics here- in Japanese and Chinese. They sell both Chinese, Japanese, and Korean stuff, but no manwha or comics on Korean, sorry. The variety is very good, I was able to find a good selection of books from my favorite, though-very-underrepresented authors(Osamu Tezuka and Ryoko Ikeda).

About the site itself:
Using the search function can be tricky. Firstly, it’s reccomanded that, if you’re searching for an author, don’t click the name of the author if you find it. For some reason, each author tends to have several different names in the database, ^^;; So it’s better to just search for “author name” in the comic section. Also, you might wanna watch out so you don’t accidentally order the book in chinese, unless that was what you wanted of course. The names are romanized very literally(The Best Story=Za besuto sutori), so you might wanna look closely at them and only buy the books you’re absolutely certain that you know what they are.

Shipping:
FREE! If you order a certain number of books that are eligable for free shipping, you can get them for free. This seems to include most manga, so, yeah. The free shipping option takes about one to two weeks to arrive after the shop sends it. The items are sent at a certain date, often about 6-15 days after you pay for your orde, so it’s a bit slow.

Good Points:
+Wide selection
+New books in great condition
+Free shipping

Bad Points:
-Slow delivery
-EPIC QUALITY romanization(The titles of the books are transscribed in a funny way)
-The author system is kinda soppy(But that’s very easy to get around)

Reccomanded for:
Anyone with a favorite author, or is looking for a specific title. And everybody else, of course.

Note: These are all based on my personal encounters. If somebody has anything to add, please tell me in the comments.

Reading manga in Japanese

Ladies and gentlemen:
It is a known fact that oldschool manga is hard to find in english. Some longer works , such as Pygmalio, Ashita No Joe, and Rose Of Versailles are being scanlated, but the vast majority remins untranslated.

 Therefore, I’m going to take a moment to explain how to easily acess these treasures.

Requirements:

Basic kana understanding
Learning kana is rather easy. You can just find a chart online and start with trying to learn things like your favorite characters names, and write them down. It usually only takes around a week or two if you put aside an hour or two to study every evening.

A feel for Japanese
In order to understand Japanese, you have to be able to tune your brain into it. Listen to lots of Japanese music(Drama CDs and Audiobooks are fine too), watch subtitled anime, etc… This is hard to explain, but you should basically be able to understand when a person is talking Japanese, and perhaps understand a few words. It’s more important that you can understand, no matter how little.. If you’ve watched lots of anime for a long time, I don’t think you should have to worry about this.

A (Insert-native-tounge-here)-Japanese dictionary
Make sure it suits your needs. For example, if you have trouble getting your kana to stay in your head, you might want a dictionary that lists the Japanese words in kana. If you’re confident in your kana abilities, or want something that goes quickly, you should get one that lists the japanese words in western letters. If you’re experienced, have a basic grip of how to write kanji and want to read comics without furigana, or perhaps play games, you should try an electronic dictionary with touch-input. Dictionaries should be pretty easy to find at a local bookstore, either it’s there, or you order it. Jbox.com carries a Japanese-English kanji encyclopedia.

Manga with furigana
Furigana is tiny kana above a kanji sign, telling you how to read it. You can buy manga from your local japanese bookshop, if you have one, or you can use ebay. Mandarake has a whole section for vintage shojo, although they cost a fortune in shipping, since the only shipping option they offer sets is for high-priority, IE: Your books are delivered often within 48 hours of purchase. From my experience, most Keiko Takemiya books have furigana, Osamu Tezuka books do not.

How To Read:

Read the books with the help of your kana knowledge. If you’ve had trouble with getting a feel for Japanese, or simply have no idea what’s going on, you can pull up google translate, but be sure to have a Japanese font package installed on your computer first. If you don’t have a Japanese keyboard(Don’t worry, most of us don’t), you’ll need to find a romanji-kana converter online, and use that to translate the western letters to kana before you place it in the google translation program. Use your dictionary for kanji. It might seem very slow and troublesome in the beginning, but you’ll know enough to get a rough grasp of what’s going on.

Retronews!

This is the retronews section!
So, here, I’ll announce what I’ve heard about classic manga and anime being released or re-released to an english-speaking market.

Firstly, Hagio Moto, one of the founders of modern shojo and a part of the 24-group, has had ten of her short stories licensed by Fantagraphics! They will be released under the title “A Drunken Dream and other stories” as a single volume book with stories stretching across her career from 1970 until today. Among the stories is the much-praised Iguiana No Musume, a story that is partially autobiograhical.

Vertical, the company that brought us Black Jack, MW, and Apollo’s Song, has licensed Ayako. Ayako is often considered to be one of Osamu Tezuka’s more adult series, and will be released in an omibus edition in October.

Also, Tezuka’s Buddha is gonna be a movie next year. No idea how relevant this is, since IDK if it’ll get an international(english) release, but, still.

Newssource:
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-01-13/osamu-tezuka-ayako-manga-listed-by-amazon
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-03-08/fantagraphics-adds-moto-hagio-a-drunken-dream

Hyperspace Bunny

Today, I’d like to take some time to talk about a comic that might appeal to oldschool-fans, particularly people favouring shonen manga of the 1970’s. It is a webcomic and can be found here: http://hyperspace.smackjeeves.com/

 Summary:
Hyperspace Bunny is an alien attending a scavenger hunt on earth. Her mission is to find things listed on a list, and she may not buy or steal them. She moves in with a human family, and does her best to defeat her opponent.

Thoughts: This is intended as a parody of anime tropes, but comes across in a different, oldschool feeling than the usual things. This makes it feel more like a cross between Keiko Takemiya and Rumiko takahashi, thanks to the whimsical and wacky tone of the series. It feels a tiny bit rushed in parts, but that can be attributed to the parody elemant. The overall flow of the story can be clunky, but it’s passable.

For a parody protagonist, Bunny is a pretty capable character who manages to escape the usual OMG-ITS-A-GIRL trope many characters have been stereotyped into over the years. The other characters are, well, parodies, but they come alive in a nice way thanks to the writing.

The art in this comic is _very_ oldschool, looking like a cross between old manga and western animation from the 20’s. It all contributes to make it feel like an old shonen comic from the 70’s, and the art, although not being magnificent, manages to keep high quality through the comic.

Note that it is hard to make an exact rating, since there are only 2 complete chapters up as of the date of writing, though there are 10 issues planned.

 Story: 3(For a parody, it’s pretty wacky and entertaining.)
Characters: 3
Art: 3

Overall Score: 7
It’s entertaining, and you care about the characters a little, even if the flow could use a little work.

Pure Trance, Junko Mizuno(Also, retro blog)

Retro blog.

From now on, this will be a blog for me to write about and review stuff from, or based on existing concepts, the year 2000. Things with a retro feel to it will also be featured, though the criteria for “retro feel” is quite loose and a bit hard to define, so, yeah.

Expect lots of manga and and silent movies from me.

Today’s endeavour:

comics-pure-trance.jpg

Pure Trance by Junko Mizuno

Year: 1998

Summary:
The humans have now retreated underground after they accidentally’d the earth’s surface in the last world war, and girls have started overeating food capsules. The story starts out in a certain eerie clinic where the boss spends her days getting high on medicine meant for the patients, torturing her employed nurses, and creating artificial humans.

Thoughts:
Sounds like your typical post-apocalpse story? Oh, no, no, no. Chigau desho*. This is Junko Mizuno, usually meaning a sugar-on-acid type story.

For starters, we don’t really get to meet the characters like in a standard manga where a character shows up, is shown full view, gets explained for us, and then goes on to be a protagonist or interact with the protagonist. No, this reads a bit like an underground comic, where the characters are explained in footnotes to be read during or after the story. It might be a little confusing in the beginning, but once you get into it, the story has a very nice and even flow.

The real gold is in the art, though. The (main) characters all look like a cross between 1970’s long-lashed shojo characters and the choppy fat-legged cuteness of shonen manga from the 1960’s. All the main characters are girls, often scantily clad or in the nude, but in the art style, it is all rendered to complete cuteness, so if you are uncomfortable with seeing women in erotic wear, this probably won’t bother you that much in comparison to lots of modern-day shonen manga.

Also, the backrounds are very detailed. One thing that stands out about this work is the near none-existance of screemtone. Everything is drawn by hand, with no cheating by screentone backrounds. The existing screentone usage is merely for backing up the pictures, and is used in places where it is appropriate to create that kind of effect. This adds to the retro effect very well. I have complaints about the characters, though-Everybody who isn’t a pretty women is drawn like toy or somekind of cutesy thing. I don’t mind the eye-catching female characters, and I understand that it is a good effect to use to distinguish the main characters, though it still feels a bit like Mrs. Mizuno has employed the fashion of not putting effort into what she doesn’t find pretty, at least at the time this book was drawn.

Strewn along the pages are also footnotes called “pure trance trivia” that explain not story-crucial things, but instead tell us little things about the world the story is set in. The author reccomands us to read the story first and the footnotes later, understandable since it’s easy to get lost in the notes and interrupt the flow of the story. The author also says to read it again after reading the notes, creating a very nice effect.

Now, this comic is similar to an underground comic, dreamlike and sometimes whimsical, with no real climax or ending. It ends like it starts, abruptly, and it’s more like we got to follow these characters and this world for a little while. It’s a book that needs to be read several times in order to really grasp the story, but it’s a very enjoyable one at that.

Score is based on a 1-5 scale here
Story: 4
Characters: 3
Art: 5

Overall score(Is based on a 1-10 scale here): 8
If you like oldschool shojo/shonen and guro-kawaii, this is sure to appeal to you.

*=Touhou joke

Princess Debut

Since I have so many games, I’ve been wondering if I should review some here, insteadof simply going *keyboard smash* OMFGUGAISTHISISAWESUMSAUCE!!!111one.

 So, I give you, princess debut:

 945174_108033_front.jpg

The premise is rather simple: This is a dating sim. For girls. On Nintendo DS. Yeah, really. The setting goes: You’re a girl who gets to stand in for a princess who doesn’t wanna learn to dance in time for the ball. So you switch places with her, find a dance partner, and aim to learn to dance in time for a special holiday. If you get it right, you can then marry the prince. So, it’s a combined dating sim/dancing sim.

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 The whole “dancing” system is OK for a minigame, but it gets kinda boring after a while. New dances appear every so often, though, and you can get new dresses throughout the game, so it earns a few points for trying to make it interesting. All the dances are real dances, and set to classical scores like “Swan Lake” or “Flower Waltz”. The animation of the dancing couple is really good, too. It really looks like they are dancing, and there is a mode where you can learn dancing for real from the game.

I found the main character a bit of a sissy at times.. But, it came from Japan, so I shouldn’t expect too much regarding gender equality. The princes are all very cute, you can find all the usual archetypes from anime here, like the “kid brother” boy, the “onii-chan” type, megane-kun, a tsundere guy, and the childhood freind. Sadly, there is no great amount of character development, and it’s pretty easy to see what princes what choices will lead to, mostly. But there is enough moe-interaction with the boys to make it worthwhile, and you can miss a few choices without getting a bad ending.

 In short, this is a nice game, usefull for short bus trips and shorter periods of play. Final score: 3/5

Me and Romance Movies

Today, I came across something interesting while I was browsing the “That guy with the glasses” site: An article about romance movies for men.

Well, since I’m a bit of a movie-person(Although I like silent films the best, thankyou very much), I checked the article out and came to some astonishing relevations.

 Now before I continue further, I must say this: Yes, I’m a girl, and no, I do not like romance movies. If it has explosions and action, yes, I’ll probably watch it. If it’s old, filmed in the 1910-1930’s, I’ll watch it. If it’s funny, I’ll probably give it a try. I’m usually not that picky with my movies, they can frankly be pretty predictable and half-bad if they’re to serve as temporary entertainment, except if it’s a romance movie.

Romance stories and dramas can be beautifull, yes, but in order to appeal to me, it has to be something really, really, really good. Because I really can’t stand those movies that are all about some stereotyped chick in her 20’s-30’s, who dons make-up and thinks clothes are her life. I mean, hold on. I don’t know any people around me who acts like that. I don’t act like that. So why the heck should I bother watching? It’s the same crap in every movie, right? Girl-falls-love-with-guy, one-of-them-screws-up, they-get-together-at-the-end-anyway.

Guess what? That list proved me wrong.
The descriptions of every movie actually made them seem like movies I’d watch. Why? Because, a) They’re mostly funny, and b) They actually seem to have a decent story.

So, if you don’t like romance movies, try that list. Really, there’s lots of really good movies on it! And the sappy-predictable-romance-frilly-bullshit is far, far away. :)

So, I’ve opened an oekaki-board..

Ehehe, yeah. ^__^

Don’t worry, I’m still going to update this blog- I just need some more time to finish the Ravex In Tezuka World review. In the meantime, you can visit me here:
http://www16.oekakibbs.com/bbs/Sailor-Kitty/oekakibbs.cgi

Black Jack game

So, I picked up the Black Jack DS game after thinking long and hard, and then finding out that Rock was in the game(coughcoughfangirlcoughcough).

At first, I was afraid I would have trouble playing, since I don’t even know kana. But it turned out to be pretty easy, as long as you have basic Tezuka knowledge, even the story is easily understood at times. Note that I say “at times” because most of the time, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. Dialouge and such are complicated, but it’s fun to watch that too, because the sprites are entertaining and they’ve got voice acting, too- ^W^ I’ll try to post some screenshots later on. I’ve decided to take as many as I can along the way.

I really hope Rock doesn’t die in this game… I mean, the guy never gets any happy endings. Uh, I should probably save my fangirl-banter for later..

Anyways, I really should write up a review of this game once I’m finished with it, :3 I really reccomand this game, no matter how good/bad you speak japanese.

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