Monday, March 27, 2017
Saturday, March 25, 2017
(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
Meka Tofu no Fukushuu, by Tori Miki, 2016, Grade: A
The Revenge of the Mecha Tofu.
When I finished reading the manga volume on Plinius, I got to wondering what else Tori Miki had been up to recently. I've reviewed his "Anywhere But Here," "Daihonya" and "Frozen Food Agent" books some years ago, but I hadn't seen anything else from him since then. So, I went to Amazon, which showed a couple recent books, then I went to Junkudo to look at them directly. But, except for Plinius, everything else was sold out. The computer system showed one copy of Meka Tofu on the miscellaneous adult men's shelves, but I couldn't find it there. Then I went to Junkudo's sister shop, Maruzen, a couple blocks away. Their computer also showed only the one copy, but no location code. I asked a salesclerk for help, and she had to call someone else because she had no idea where to look. The second clerk arrived a few minutes later, with the book. It's a bit expensive, at 1080 yen plus tax ($10 USD), but it's a large paperback and has 240 pages, so the price isn't that bad.
(Attack of the giant mecha tofu, against Tokyo. Again.)
Essentially, this is a collection of about 50 short stories and illustrated essays that have appeared in a variety of magazines (COM, TV Bros., SF Magazine, etc.) from 1991 to fairly recently. The book is broken up into the A Side and the B Side. A side is dedicated to gag and SF manga parodying other anime and manga, while B side is SF related. The title story has a villainous teddy bear attempting to destroy Tokyo again, this time inside a giant block of tofu, which is impervious to bullet and missile attacks, but not to being flash-frozen. Most of the stories are jokes, relying heavily on sight gags, slapstick, and Tori's trademark silly characters. Although, there are quite a few more serious essays, where he reminisces on meeting Hideo Azuma (one of his idols), starting out as a manga artist, and on the works of people like science fiction writer Sakyo Komatsu (Japan Sinks, and Bye Bye Jupiter). The essays occasionally use a handwritten font that is really hard to read, so I basically skimmed over those.
(The secret behind the Lake Isshi monster.)
The gag and SF manga are a lot of fun, though. There are representative samples from Anywhere But Here, and a full reprint of the commemorative story for Kuru Kuru Kurin (which I love) that ran for the 50th anniversary of Weekly Shonen Champion magazine. One SF-related tale follows the adventures of the Hayabusa satellite project out to an asteroid and back to Earth. There are two stories tied to the Fukushima reactor melt down in 2011, one which has a variant of Astroboy cleaning up the waste from the meltdown, then being vilified for having a nuclear core as a power source. The second is a more serious story, where there are two parallel worlds following the earthquake and tidal wave that wiped out the northeastern coast. In one, the reactor was halted before the meltdown and release of radioactive gas, and our world is in the other. The story follows two versions of the same character as he lives in both worlds, and accidentally crosses the boundary between them.
(Lupinus Kid, Pursuit to Orion.)
One of the chapters has Tori and some friends visiting mystery sites around Japan, and uncovering the truth behind their secrets. In the above pages, he talks about a volcanic lake in southern Kyuushu, near mount Kaimondake (which I climbed last year), and the sightings of Japan's version of the Loch Ness monster - Isshi. Then, in "Lupinus Kid", we have what starts out as a parody of the Roadrunner and Loony Toons cartoons, with a shootout between the hero, Lupinus Kid, and the villain, Wolf. However, after Wolf goes over the edge of the cliff and apparently dies in an explosion, life takes a turn for the worse for Kid as well. Years later, he returns to the town, and everyone is now drawn as hyper-realistic anthro animals. The artwork is fantastic on this. Eventually, Kid locates Wolf, who survived the explosion, but was horribly mangled and turned crazy, and things return more-or-less to normal.
(The Characters of Sakyo Komatsu.)
In the Sakyo Komatsu section, Tori talks about a magazine Sakyo published that included works from many of Japan's leading manga artists, such as Leiji Matsumoto and Monkey Punch. It's worth buying Revenge of the Mecha Tofu just for the history lesson in this chapter.
Summary: Tori is a great gag artist, and a good SF story teller. The manga in this book represents a lot of his life's work. It is a bit hit-or-miss, especially with some of the essays, but on the whole, it's worth the money. Highly recommended.
Friday, March 24, 2017
(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
Design, vol. 1, by Daisuke Igarashi (2016, KC Afternoon), Grade: B+
Daisuki is a fairly well-known manga artist, although I only read book one of his Children of the Sea (translated into English by Viz in the U.S.) and nothing else after that. I was given a copy of Design, which started running in Afternoon magazine in 2015, so I figured I might as well read it. It's pretty good, but after the 250 pages, I'm still not sure what the plot is.
(Cubel, on assignment in a jungle against rebels.)
The story is fairly straightforward, though. A bioresearch company is in the process of splicing animal DNA into humans, creating what's called HAs (human animals). They are currently attempting to contract with the militaries of different countries to lease these HAs as guerrillas, assassins and shock troops. Within the company, we have two competing researchers - Victoria and Okuda.
(Cubel, An and Babe in Africa. Shoe doesn't fit.)
Okuda is the more relaxed of the two, and he spends his time at his estate, where he's created the frog girl, Cubel Chul (my choice of spellings, since the names are never given in romaji) and the two tiger hound girls, An and Babe. Victoria is much more attention seeking, and has developed a 5-member team with dolphin DNA. The dolphins are stronger and faster than Cubel, and they have a sonar sense that acts kind of like telepathy. But, they're more emotionally unstable.
(Cubel and An play-fighting.)
The dolphin team can speak fluent Japanese, but Cubel requires a throat amplifier because she doesn't have vocal cords, and An and Babe are more animal that human - they just growl and grunt. In the first book, both sets of teams are given missions to wipe out rebel and terrorist bases, which they do very easily. However, there is a social backlash against companies that do bioresearch, meaning that the HAs have to live in secret.
(Babe is out looking for an easy lunch.)
Unfortunately, Babe has always been more feral than not, and she's taken to stalking the streets of Tokyo and killing civilians. When she's about to attack more prey, one of the dolphinoids rushes in and attempts to stop her. Plus, we have the introduction of a wild card - Jasmine. She's a normal human currently working as a maid in Okuda's mansion, but she's unable to escape her past as someone referred to as Brains Splash Licks.
Summary: Overall, this book was a very fast read. I did skip over the parts where the main characters talk about gene splicing, but I read the rest of it fairly easily. The artwork is very clean, with simple, thin lines. The character designs are a bit stylistic and cartoony, but the individuals are each distinctive and I can tell them apart with little trouble. The backgrounds are good, as is the pacing. As mentioned above, I don't know what the plot is, and I have no idea where the story is heading. I'm not sure if I'll continue the series when book 2 comes out, but I'd be willing to keep giving it a try. Recommended if you like combat adventure.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Monday, March 20, 2017
Last week, Amuplaza had their first-ever Saigo-don event. The name is a pun on Saigo Takamori, the local hero known as the "last samurai", and "saikou", meaning "the best," and "don", meaning "food served in a bowl". The food booths were serving bento (box meals), ramen and donburi (bowls of rice with some kind of topping.)
I didn't go up to Amu Plaza during the week, and I had to work most of Saturday. So, my only option was to visit on Sunday, which kind of turned into a "small non-adventure."
There are two long walk events in Kagoshima. The first is the one from Terukuni shrine to Ijuin city, 20 km away (12 miles), in October. The other is a recreation of the Ryoma Sakamoto honeymoon walk in Kirishima, which was held last weekend. Ryoma and Saigo were two of the rebels that fought against the Shoganate in the 1860's, which led to the eradication of the Shogun-system and the return of power over the country to the Emperor. Prior to the main outbreak of hostilities, Ryoma was ambushed and injured. He retreated to Satsuma (the present-day Kagoshima) to consult with Saigo Takamori. Saigo recommended that he return north via back roads on the pretense that he and his new wife were on their honeymoon. Part of that route is commemorated in the current Honeymoon Walk.
Unfortunately, the Kirishima start point is at the north end of Kinko Bay, and it costs something like $10 to take the train one way, and the walk itself costs $20. It's about an hour by train to the closest station, and I'm not sure how far the start point is from the station. Plus, you have to register at the door 1 hour before the 8:30 start time. On top of that, the good route, which goes through the mountains, was on Saturday this year; the Sunday route just went through flower fields. And, the sky was heavily overcast. I really didn't feel like having to get up at 5:30-6 AM and then spend $40 just to walk through flowers that I couldn't take pictures of for 4 hours, on Sunday. So, I kept making excuses to myself for why I wasn't going to go, even though I had been wanting to for the past year. The bottom line was simply that I didn't want to spend the money.
Which brings me back to Saigo-don. It's basically just an advertising event promoting local restaurant and grocery store food, at elevated prices. I wanted to try a dish of some kind, but I didn't want to spend the money. And, especially not after blowing off an opportunity for a lot of exercise. On the other hand, I'm in the process of preparing my U.S. tax papers, and I needed a place to sit down and spread the papers out on a table to check the numbers, and I couldn't do that at Amu Plaza. Instead, I went to a regular family restaurant, bought a cup of coffee, and blew the afternoon that way.