Kaoru Mori’s Anything and something

kaorumorianything

As I mentioned in my artist spotlight, despite the number of Kaoru Mori’s titles that are available in the west, I was disappointed that, due to their length, many of her short stories were unavailable legally – That is until the recent release by Yen press of Anything and something, a collection of her short stories that she has had published in Fellows magazine, along with many of her various illustrations and sketches from the last 10 years, as well as artwork of both her earlier works Emma and Shirley and her most recent work brides story.

As the title suggests the titles presented cover a large swathe of subjects including –

Welcome to the mansion, master – where a young delivery boy suddenly finds himself the less than willing owner of a of less than scrupulous maid and butler.

Burrow Gentlemen’s club – One of the many contemporary period stories included in this book this tale, told in the first person, introduces us to a hostess club waitress who may be more than she seems….
Oh, did I forget to mention that she’s also a bunny girl?

Miss Claire’ s ordinary, everyday life – Despite the title of this 2 part story Claire, the sole renaming servant to the always broke Baron Heinz, has anything but an ordinary life, from see through glasses, to burglars, to even a gramophone built into a Victorian telephone [beating bill gates by 100 years!]

But by far my favourite part of the book was that Velvet blossoms, the story drawn by Kaoru and written by Satoshi Fukushima, and which I covered in my artists spotlight on Kaoru Moris works, has been included in this book [although retitled for the western release as “Sumires flowers”].
The story of two female art club members, one more interested in her art than social interaction, the other who uses the art club as a mean to “socially interact”, and how the two eventually come to understand each other and bond through art still stands in my mind by far as the one title that makes this book a must buy – In fact out of them all I think both Sumires flowers and Claire had the potential to be developed into their own [albeit short] series in their own right.

In all this series is an absolute must for fans of Kaoru Mori, whether through her recent work Brides story or [like me] through Emma.

Chuo dori info dump 24/01/2013

Firstly howdoo and yes i have yet again arisn from my undead sleep.

1] As anime blogger ogiue maniax has recentley posted on his blog The latest issue of Monthly Afternoon has announced plans to air a brand new series of Kios Shimoku’s Genshiken. currenllty theres no word as to wether it’ll continue from where the previous animate adpatation left or wether it’ll just go straight to Genshiken 2 and introduce the new cast.

My own thoughts? – ive already mentioined my thoughts enough times to make people sick to the teeth to hear about them.

2] For those of you still undecided or not knowing one of the longest running UK anime convention’s AYACON will be hosting what will be it last ever anime convention EVER on the 16th – 18th August 2013 at the Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, near Coventry.
their current guest list so far is video game voice actor and co-creator and Director of the hit web-series “There Will Be Brawl” Matt Mercer, with more announcments planned nearer to August.

for more details [and to register] go to http://www.ayacon.org.uk/

My own thoughts? – Ayacon was my first ever anime convention, WAAAYYY back in the mists of time [...okey more like 2001, but whos counting] and i for one willl definitly be going down to see this

3] American manga/ book publisher Vertical inc. have set up their now annual Marketing and Licensing Survey, allowing fans the chance to not only air their thoughts about Vertical but to also put forward their wishlists of series that they’d like to get licenced and released in the west.
HOWEVER there are some restrictions, namely no titles from Shogakukan, Shueisha or Akita Shoten, nothing published before 2000 and nothing that has a volume count above 14.
the closing date for amissions is 8th Febuary – so hurry on down and
fill in the survey today.


ANNNND FINALLY!!

Osamu Tezukas Barbara

barbara cover

When I started Chou -Dori back in 2009 if you had told me that a manga company Would bring out a manga title by the pure power of Crowd sourcing I would have wondered what you were drinking – and would have promptly ordered a double of it.

And yet In 2011 American manga company DMP [Digital Manga Publishing] set out to achieve just that – and now I hold the result of that project.

First and foremost Osamu Tezukas Barbara as a manga shows itself to be a work of its time – when published in 1973 Japan was still enjoying the euphoria of a culture addicted to the next big thrill – be it Drugs, art, sex and social and political revolution – and yet at this time it was clear that the party was coming to an end as political corruption was rife, and students of Tokyo university protested over the Japanese government signing the Security Treaty with the United States, a treaty that allowed American to place Air force bases on Okinawa.

Into this mix we are introduced to Yosuke Mikura, a relatively famous Author and social darling, with offers both political and matrimonial landing on his lap, all of which he casually casts aside, confident with his own talent and hubris – That is until the day that He find the young Vagrant, and the title character of the book, Barbara – whose otherwise foul mouthed, heavy drinking surly attitude towards Youske and his talents hide a gift that is both an unexpected boon to him and also a curse that will destroy him utterly….

In its execution this work shows the classic signs of a Tezuka manga , from the artwork to pacing to the script, with artist and philosophical quotes aplenty throughout the series – but don be fooled by this – even when compared to many of his other more adult works like supernatural series “Ode to Kirihito” and the murder mystery “Mu”, Barbara attempts to go into directions much darker still, dabbling into themes of the occult, physical abuse, drug taking and psychosis as we discover that Youskes own personal demons and……interests leave him to be less of a hero of this piece.

Indeed as we watch Youskes take for granted the good fortune that Barbaras presence seems to give to him I couldn’t help but be reminded of the endless line of talent show “celebrities” all desperate to reap as much as possible from their less than hard earned fame. It could also be seen in another way as an analogy of drug addiction itself, with Yosuke’s obsessive desire for both Barbara and for fame resulting in his eventual spiral towards inevitable loss and self-destruction.

barbara_01_014

Also the pacing of the series left me disconnected at times and while this could be attributed to the series being released episodically by the manga magazine “Big comic”, the episodes themselves felt at best only loosely connected – indeed some, like chapter 5 ,“the demon on the dune”, where Youske returns to an island where he met his first love in a younger time but which turns out to be much, much more – felt more like a short story in format that had been wedged into the series.

As a result this work could be seen as Osamu Tezuka’s attempt to both compete with the rising Gekiga movement, [whose series that were focused on violence and sex scenes gave us series like Kazua koike's samurai series Lone wolf and cub] But also His attempt to remain relevant as a mangaka at a time when, despite the fact that he is known now as “the godfather of manga”, by the 70’s he was struggling to remain relevant to an audience that was increasingly looking for more darker and edgier works to whet their pallet’s.

Indeed it could be argued that, while trying to appeal to the more adult readership, it feels like Tezuka has deliberately handicapped himself, with his plots and characters seemingly pantomime like and one dimensional in their personalities and backgrounds – it felt like he was hesitant to take the story too far into the darkness that others [like kazua koike] were wholesale plunging into for fear of alienating fans of his more light-hearted, child friendly series.

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But one thing is clear though – Barbara is by far one of Osamu’s more darker and unsettling titles and you should not go into this looking for the comedy and light-heartedness that is symbolic of much of his other works.

Genshiken second season, volume 1

So, here is it.

After months of conflicted opinions, and after talking about my doubts about Kio Shimoku’s reasons for his decision to restart Genshiken [whether motivated by a personal desire, by pressure from fans or his employers, or from the failure of his two previous manga series Digo-Puri and Kujibiki unbalance] here it is – the first volume to be released in English by Kodansha USA.

The first volume almost literally starts off from where the original left off [ its chapter count even starts from chapter 56] with Chika Ogiue, one time self hating yaoi fangirl and now president of the Genshiken, finding herself with not only cosplayer extrordinare Ohno and resident pervert/comic relief Kujiki but also a new set of members – yaoi fangirls Yoshitake and Yajima [with the formers over enthusiasm for pairing off people balanced almost straight man like by Yajimas more quieter, although still strong love of all things BL]. We also get an unexpected addition to the group with American anime fan and regular quoter of anime series both well known and obscure Susanna Hopkins, who fans of the original series will remember, adding her own randomness to the mix.
But by far the most…unique member to join the Genshiken is Kenjiro Hato , a demure, polite and all round refined seeming young lady – there’s just one slight problem…..

This girls a man.

Yep, Genshiken has its very own cross dresser and what’s more he’s also a Yaoi fan [known in Japan as a “fudanshi”] who also has a talent for drawing Yaoi – but only when he’s a woman – why does he dress-up so? Time will tell on this but his need to change clothes also results in the return of a alumni to the series….

While the rest of the original cast do turn up from time to time [which I have some thoughts on - but more on that later] by far the one to receive the most appearances is that of Madarame as its his apartment that inadvertently get sequestered for use as a changing room for Hato – we also see more development for Madarame who while in his days as a member and then president of the Genshiken was the general go-to guy for all things anime and ero games – now faces a life where, now with a full time job and commitments, wonders if now is the time to finally put aside his otaku days – and theres’s also there’s the question of his own unrequited feelings for Saki……..

The artwork, as with his previous work, is always top notch – with detailed work on rooms, props even little things like bra staps and book covers – all of them show the marks of Kio shimkou’s almost obsessive attention to detail, as is the ever present number of anime and manga references littered throughout this volume [ fortunately for the less than knowledgeable Kodansha have taken a note from Del rays releases and supplied notes to explain the more...obscure references].

And yet I cant help but feel that while I would be lying if I , as would any fan of this series, would enjoy a chance to rejoin this series again I would have rather have seen a full reboot – all new members, no returning cast – a clean slate.

As it is the series, while resplendent with new members, seems to think that it needs to keep bringing back members of the old cast all of the time for no other reason it seems but to say “ hey you remember these guys right?” it feels like its too tied to the past and I for one think that that will not only put off people who haven’t read the original series, but also start to get grating to reader of this series as well.

Another problem I see lacking with this iteration of the series was the very reason that made me love the original series – and that’s diversity.
We had Kousaka with his love of games, Ohno and Tanaka and their love of all things cosplay,
Kugayama [and later on Ogiue] were the artists, and im sure that we’ve all met someone as extreme about their love of anime like Madarame. wrapping it up we have Sasahara representing the newbie anime fan, fresh faced and wet behind the ears, kuchiki the self confessed hentai fan and all round pervert whoose more than willing to bare all [to everyones consternation] and Saki, the outsider with little to no interest in hanging around with these weirdos but for her boyfriend Kousaka.

And yet with the new group everyone is in some way a Yaoi fan – with Ogiue, Yoshitake, Hato and Yajima Fujoshi, and Ohno and Sue avid readers of Yaoi – where’s the diversity?

….[sigh] and Yet Kio Shimkou managed to take a story about a disparate group of Otaku and make a fan favourite series that spawned two animated adaptations, a light novel adaptation, CD dramas and multiple pieces of merchandise. Maybe Kio can make lightning strike twice with this series.

……..Only time [I hope] will tell.