Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mansatsu Tori Truck

There's a butcher shop half a block from my apartment, and there are often delivery trucks stationed outside. There's one specific truck whose lettering for the company name has always bothered me. The name is "Mansatsu", and the "M" at the beginning looks like the artist messed up the spacing in trying to cram an "i" and an "n" into the same space.

It took me an incredibly long time to finally realize that the "n" is the silhouette of a bird and that the "i" and "n" are really forming the capital "M". Now, it looks kind of elegant to me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Spiderman-Ironman Window

You can't really tell this from a photo, but this is a display case on the second floor balcony at Amu Plaza, about 6' tall, maybe 12' wide, and 2 feet deep. The main poster is on the back wall, and the Spiderman decal is on the window in front. Gives the display kind of a 2.5D feel.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pino Ice Cream Box

Pino is Morninaga's entry in the bite-sized ice cream market. For a couple dollars, you get 6 (or 8, I forget) little chocolate covered cones of vanilla ice cream as shown above, and a small blue plastic toothpick for picking them up so you don't have to use your fingers. They're a nice novelty, but not worth the money.

My only interest in them this time is because of the "Puchi Happy" (puchi = petite) family artwork on the back of the box. Kind of looks like Morinaga is ripping off Lego.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bone Bad

I went to the above restaurant for a drinking party a few days ago. They had good food, but like most bars in Tenmonkan, it's pricey. The interesting thing was that even though it was the first week of September, they already had Halloween decorations up.

This was a real blast from the past.

Bone Bad Frankie. I remember the character designs for this line of monsters from back in the 60's, I think, but I can't find anything online describing them.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Go! Go!

This was kind of funny. There used to be a girl's TV anime series where the main character would call out "Ike! Ike! Go! Go! Jump!," and I've remembered that expression ever since. So, that's the first thing that came to mind when I saw this Halloween display in the 100 yen shop (the Japanese version of the Dollar Store) in Tenmonkan.

Actually, I lie. I happened to see this display the day after I encountered the below restaurant, and I thought the repeated usage of "Go! Go!" like this was unusual.

I was walking to the school last week, and the lettering on the door immediately caught my eye. The place is brand new, and I guess it's the second in the chain to open up.

A: "Do you want to grab something to eat at McDonald's?"
B: "No, I'd rather Go! Hungry!"

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Area 51, vol. 15 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Area 51, vol. 15, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A+
Well, the series has finally ended and I'm both happy and sad. Yes, this has been my favorite manga ever since I discovered it a few years ago, and I doubt there's going to be another tribute to horror and adventure like this ever again (with district names like Carpenter and Verhoeven, and bar and club names from every horror movie ever made), it's been a real trip. But, the finale was pure Hisa, and the artwork and pacing have been all I could ask for. Great stuff.

(The Undine prepares to attack Kishirou, but Gokuu interrupts her. He asks if the kappa wants a nice cup of hot tea, and the answer is "Maybe...")

H62) Your Tenderness Would Be Wonderful If You Were Not Here In This Town
The chapter starts with McCoy eating some fruit in a field in the rain, when a farmer comes up to threaten her, then lets her take two of the fruits since she's human. But, a group of animal-based bounty hunters arrive to claim the $200,000 on her head. McCoy easily dispatches them, then the farmer turns his shotgun on her, saying that he's got a sick wife. Later, McCoy returns to a hut, tossing one of the fruits to the female kappa, Shizune, telling her that she'll have to eat around the bullet hole and blood. Shizune sets the fruit aside instead. Then we get a flashback of McCoy killing Felix, Shizune insisting on tagging after her, the military attacking them for killing an angel, and the two of them finding this hut to hide in. Shizune still wants to kill McCoy in revenge for the death of her older brother, but she's too gentle to be any kind of a threat. McCoy's plan is to force the doppelganger out in the open by having everyone attacking anything that has her face. As they're waiting, the next bounty hunter arrives, this one an invisible man. He's a challenge to defend against, except that he has water dripping off his body from the rain outside, and McCoy and Pike allow their bullets to be sliced open to spill powder everywhere, and Invisible gets horribly burned in the resulting dust explosion. McCoy is merciless in finishing him off, scaring Shizune even more. McCoy exits the hut into the arms of more attackers (the final bounty reaches $500,000). Meanwhile, at the office, Kishirou is patiently waiting for his boss to return, and is casually defeating the bounty hunters that keep pestering him by using water attacks against them. However, one of the intruders is a water-using undine that gets offed by Son Gokuu, who drops in for a visit (the Counsel of Gods have declared McCoy "untouchable", but there's no such prohibition on talking to kappas). McCoy had told Kishirou to wait for her, in case she had a request of him. As they wait, Gokuu asks if the kappa wants some tea using the water from the defeated undine.

(The doppelganger restocks, then prepares to force McCoy out into the open.)

H63) This Is My Hunting Place
Things get a bit messy from here. The Japanese god Susanoo is being shipped to Area 51 from Japan, and he's despondent over the death of Amaterasu. The doppelganger, in McCoy's form, swims out to the ship and lets him defeat her in order to get some of its raw form on his face. It enters in through his tear glands and turns him into a form of blood-thirsty (literally) zombie. Susanoo then attacks the military guards, making more zombies. The standard anti-zombie defenses don't work on these guys, and the carnage spreads rapidly across the zone. Doppel returns to its lair in an apartment in the main city, suffering from "hardening." Generally, doppelgangers can only hold one form for a short time before their outer shell starts stiffening up and cracking. This doppel has been a copy of McCoy for so long that it's starting to panic. But, it can't locate another victim while its current victim is still alive, so it wants to force McCoy out into the open to finish her off once and for all. In the meantime, it drinks a little of the blood from McCoy's baby. Doppel had kidnapped one married couple, turning the husband into a zombie and locking him up in chains to have a hostage so the wife will care for the baby while Doppel is outside. The baby is additional bait to get McCoy to show herself. McCoy's running out of time, too, because her body is breaking up and won't be able to contain the sword Kusanagi much longer. She thinks she has the upper hand, though, since she really knows this town, and the doppelganger has been mostly confined to the Prison of the Angels.

(McCoy faces the doppelganger, and the memories of her lover and lost baby overtake her.)

H64) Finaly, It Is Over
The zombies are undefeatable, and their numbers keep increasing. However, they're blind and keep seeking high areas near water. McCoy deduces that Doppel must be at the top of a tall building near a water tower, and eventually she gets it right. Doppel turns around and smiles, and McCoy goes into a blind rage, becoming half-covered in leather-like straps that mirror her demon gun Pike's true form. Pike gets concerned and tells her to be careful, but she just starts shooting. Doppel says that it's learned all the techniques of its past victims, including the ability to confuse people as to where it's going to move next, the ability to redirect the paths of bullets, and the ability to use its head to spin a bullet back at its shooter. McCoy loses pretty quickly. Finally, she realizes that her human self is getting in the way of her revenge, and she banishes it to turn into a pure monster.


H65) Eyes, Just Like You
Monster McCoy uses her hate to draw on Kusanagi's power, and now, even if Pike's bullets don't even come close to their target, their explosions are so great as to blow off Doppel's right arm and both legs. Doppel can regenerate, but not fast enough to prevent McCoy from getting up close and at point blank. Doppel is realizing that things are looking bad for it, and it starts bawling that it doesn't want to die. At the same time, Pike is trying to break through McCoy's rage to get her to realize that with every shot she's losing life force and is going to die before realizing her goals. Doppel remembers the baby and uses its energy to grab the infant from its caretaker, and throws it in the air at the McCoy monster. McCoy ignores it and prepares to take the last shot that will finish them both. This is when the memory of Prince Charming emerges from McCoy's subconscious and, at Pike's pleading, uses his cane sword to sever the bond between McCoy and the gun. The monster armor surrounding McCoy shatters, and she falls back in time to catch her baby just before it hits the floor. Doppel sees its chance and lunges forward to make the kill, as Pike says it's glad this time that it's such a dangerous object. Pike explodes, destroying itself and wiping out the Doppelganger's upper body. Pike's final words are, "Farewell, my lovely" (in English) (the title of the first Philip Marlowe novel (by Raymond Chandler) to be made into a movie).

McCoy makes it out of the building, and Shizune drives them back to the office in McCoy's truck, crying. At the office, McCoy asks Kishirou to raise her baby for her, naming the girl "Miki" (from the kanji for "approaching future"). Kishirou agrees to this. McCoy says that Miki (later spelled Micky in English) has her father's lips, while the kappa says that she has her mother's eyes. McCoy is last shown holding the baby as Kishirou props her up.

(Part of the montage, where Gokuu has his new face. Genie of the Lamp is the guy with glasses.)

H66) Let Me Be Reckless For Now Even In This Town
Two days later, McCoy's body is laid to rest, and all the loose ends are tied up. Gokuu has been given a new head made out of metal by Cyclops, and Felix has gotten better after being shot in the forehead. Actually, McCoy had used the Needle of Life for the bullet, which restores one person to life, but can't cure diseases (which is why she hadn't used it on herself). Felix retrieved Kusanagi from McCoy's corpse and he gives the cursed sword to Shizuka to take back to Japan and the people of the kappa. After the doppelganger was defeated, all of the zombies it had created collapsed, dead (including the hostage husband of the woman tending Micky). Doppel itself disappeared, and is presumed to have gone into hiding. McCoy's casket is buried as all of her friends stand watch, and then Nemuri, the satori, sings a send-off lament for her. Everyone else leaves, and Kishirou dedicates himself to raising Micky.

From here, we get a 14-page montage with Micky going from a baby to a young adult, getting sick, being rejected for the first time, learning how to cook from the Genie in the Lamp, being taken for rides on Gokuu's magic cloud, applying for a job at a restaurant and making her way up to chief chef, rescuing a boy being beaten up in an alley, dating the boy, and finally getting married to him. Kishirou provides the couple with an armored car, and the couple turn it into Micky's Kitchen, and her customers include everyone who'd ever met McCoy. Finally, Kishirou tells Genie that he wants to call in his last wish - to be told where the doppelganger is. Genie sighs, says it's been a great 20 years, writes the location on a piece of paper, and fades away. The kappa returns to McCoy's old office to retrieve his trench coat and Prince Charming's cane sword. The series ends with him walking away from the camera, saying, "Let me be reckless in this here town."

There's a nice little insert sheet in this volume, too. It's double-sided and folded into 4 squares, the idea being to staple one edge together and cut the other edges open with a paper cutter to create a little booklet. It's a short story entitled "Haggis Pudding." One day, Micky is upset with her boyfriend because he disappeared when they were supposed to go on a date. He did bring back a piece of meat, which Mickey baked into a haggis pudding, but he won't explain how he got it. Kishirou bites into the pudding and spits out a bullet, which he recognizes. A long time ago, he and McCoy had been hunting a huge monster called a haggis. Kishirou had managed to get a rope around one leg, and McCoy shot it in the shoulder, but it escaped from them again. McCoy had pouted just like Micky is now, and Kishirou tells her to go back home to her boyfriend.

Man, I am not happy to see this series end, but it did go out on a high note. Hisa does have a couple of other titles out too, including Jabberwocky and Nobunagan. Manga is getting expensive now (this volume was about $6.50 USD, with tax), so I'm not sure I want to start buying anything else at full price, but who knows. Anyway - highly recommended. And, Farewell, McCoy.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ajin, vol. 11 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ajin, vol. 11 (Good Afternoon, 2016-17), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: A-.
The new book starts out with a doctor delivering a still-birth, and about to give up and walk away when the baby begins crying. The mother is just happy that her child is alive now and calls him "Kei." Back in the present, Kei and the rest of the group are waiting for things to start snow-balling. Tosaki confronts Cnl. Kouma, and tries to get him to join the anti-Satou group, with no results. From here, the storylines fragment, with Kei encountering Manabe, the last surviving bodyguard from the last major battle. Manabe sees Kei holding the gun he'd given his boss, and realizes that the man must be dead now. He has decided to run away, and goes to a phonebooth to book one-way tickets to nowhere, but as he looks at his reflection in the window glass, he makes up his mind and disappears before the travel agent on the other end can complete the travel arrangements. Satou and his two coke-head minions take an ice chest out to a field for some reason, while Tanaka decides to make a parlay for peace with the government, supposedly with Satou's blessing. One of the cabinet ministers prepares Sokabe to take over Tosaki's position in the Ajin research group, and Tosaki's group picks up the researcher, Ogura, on their way to a pre-arranged meeting place between Satou and the cabinet minister at an abandoned sports arena. When they get to the arena, Ogura warns Kei about the hazards of "flood"-type ghosts (IBMs = invisible black monsters). The problem is that floods, which consist of a large number of ghosts at one time, tend to only follow simple "win" orders when their "host" is overcome with extreme emotion. Ogura mentions a Dutch Olympic speed skater that had been in the middle of a race during the Games, and at the end collapsed. He accidentally summoned 9 ghosts, which went on a rampage in the arena for several minutes before dissipating.  Ogura says that Kei has the potential to summon 15-20 ghosts, then tells the boy to forget everything he's just said - he'd love to be around when Kei does invoke a flood. Then he turns to leave, opening up the last of his stashed cigarette packs.

(Manabe decides to not run away after all.)

Kei and Kou position themselves on the roof of the stadium, while Tosaki and Izumi go to the security room and watch the TV monitors. Sokabe shows up and tries to talk Tosaki into quitting again, to no effect. Satou and his two minions get into one car, and Tanaka into a second (the programmer hangs back and asks if Satou is really going through with this, and the guy smiles and says, "yup"). During the drive to the arena, Tanaka doesn't notice that Satou dropped back and took a turn off the pre-determined route. When he gets to the meeting point, Satou is missing, and the cabinet minister accuses Tanaka of trying to play games with him. Tanaka still thinks that Satou is going to show up to negotiate a truce with the government, but Kei realizes that this is just another stage in the game Satou is playing with them. He and Kou run into the building to find a TV to watch the news. Elsewhere, the Japanese Prime Minister is attending a big public event at an air force base, and as he gets on the stage, Satou shows up through the heat haze in the distance, armed for bear and approaching to attack the PM. Just prior to this, a camera man looking like Satou tried entering the air force grounds through the front door, was recognized, and immediately straitjacketed and dragged to an interrogation room. The TV news crews aim their cameras on the Satou on the runway, allowing everyone in the arena to see what's happening. Tanaka feels betrayed, and as he slumps to his knees, one of the cabinet minister's bodyguards shoots him with a tranq dart, and the minister gives an order to take Tanaka with them for torturing as they leave.

(Yes, Satou is coming in through the front door.)

Kei, Kou, and Tosaki continue to watch the TV, as "Satou" rushes forward, pulling a pistol and shooting at the PM and his bodyguards, and throwing three satchels into the crowd. The audience panics and overwhelms the military guards urging them to remain calm. The main question everyone has is how Satou could have gotten past security, and Kei comments that the attacker looks just like Satou, but it's like watching a rerun of his actions from the big battle against the SAT forces. In the air force compound, Kouma had been arguing with his boss over the treatment of the cameraman they'd apprehended. Kouma is convinced that this really is Satou, but the cameraman cries, saying that he's been mistaken for this "Satou" guy so many times that he's lost his job, and his family has disowned him. The boss sees Satou on the monitors aimed at the air field, and orders the cameraman to be released and taken to the safest, most secure part of the building. Kouma compares the "Satou" on the field with the SAT battle footage, and also realizes that they're being played. But, there's still the question of how "Satou" got onto the base. One of the guards says that there was a sensor trigger at one of the far compound walls, but a guard dog patrol failed to turn up anything out of the ordinary. And, to go from that wall to the event podium would have required someone to run faster than a car, which Satou can't do. Then, the results of the fingerprints the guards ran on the cameraman come back, and they're a match for the real Satou. Finally, after the boss finishes keying in the security codes at the last door, the cameraman asks him if he REALLY thinks that this part of the base is safe from "Satou."

(Tanaka feels betrayed by Satou.)

Back on the airfield, the fake Satou keeps shooting and running forward, until he runs out of bullets. He's ordered to drop his pistol, and kneel where he's standing. He drops the gun, but waits for a pick-up truck to arrive and pick up the PM. The PM and his guards get on the truck, then "Satou" breaks left and chases the truck as it tries to race away. He's actually getting up to 30-40 mph, catches up to the truck and makes a huge leap up and into the flat bed. One of the guards shoots him straight in the eye, and there's no reaction. The landing in the truck is too rough, and the clips holding Satou's head come loose and the head falls off to reveal a black smoke ghost hiding inside Satou's clothes. We then get a flashback showing that Satou had his minions lop off his head and pack it in the ice chest before Satou could generate an all-new head. Presumably, the minions drove the impostor to the far compound wall, as Satou himself pretended to be the cameraman and went through the front door. The ghost starts dissipating and makes a lunge at the PM, and it's unclear if it reaches the guy or not.

(Satou is just not himself today.)

In the arena, Izumi approaches Kei and tells him that she wants to save Tanaka. She's convinced that he's willing to join their side now that he feels Satou betrayed him, and Kei agrees, telling Kou to go with her. Meanwhile, Tosaki is making his way through the facility's kitchens when he's confronted by Sokabe. Sokabe had mentioned sometime earlier that he'd never seen his "sempai" (older colleague) without his gloves on, and expects that this is to prevent anyone from collecting his fingerprints. But, here in the kitchen, Sokabe notices that Tosaki has his gloves off and is prepared to fight him. Sokabe pulls out a tranq gun, saying that it's time for a regime change. He'll dart his sempai and kill him painlessly in his sleep. Tosaki picks up a knife from the counter. Sokabe also promises to "play" with Izumi, getting her name wrong.

(Tosaki makes the first move against Sokabe.)

In a rage, Tosaki leaps forward and stabs Sokabe in the stomach, while the dart gun fires off in the wrong direction. They fall to the floor, and Sokabe manages to grab a nearby ice pick, and jabs that into Tosaki's side a couple times before finally dying. Tosaki says that her name is Izumi Shimomura, and she's HIS personal secretary. He straightens up his clothes and joins Kei and the others. He apologizes to Izumi about lying to her about his having secreted records of her being an Ajin, and if she wants to leave now, she can. Izumi just stares at him, and says that she already knew that, and she's going to stay with them until the end. Then the group splits up to go their own ways, with Kou accompanying Izumi, and Tosaki and Kei going solo.

Summary: We're getting into the "Final War," and Satou is showing himself to be just as erratic and daring as ever, risking the loss of his memories by generating extra heads, just to achieve his objective. And Kei is scrambling to keep up. But, at least we're down one antagonist with Sokabe gone (unless he also turns out to be an Ajin). Lots of good artwork, especially the fight between Tosaki and Sokabe. Highly recommended.