Aimless Wanderings 8/9: Triumphant Return!
I suppose I should start this with a brief apology. But I won’t because I had travelled to the future in order to camp, and time travellers have nothing to apologize for. However, I accidentally went too far, and ended up a little bit post-apocalyptic. No, I can’t tell you when or what happens, but I’m certainly going to start stockpiling fluffy dice (trust me on this) until then. I hope you’re sitting comfortably, because this is the super mega special double issue of AW, and things are going to get long winded. Have you gathered ample stores of water and food? I can’t hear your answer, so it doesn’t matter; I’m going to start writing. Try to keep up.
The Meiji era; the age of the samurai is at an end in Japan in the wake of rapid westernization of the country, with guns becoming the weapon of choice for security forces worldwide. Katsu Cloak is returning to his nation of birth after a decade long sojourn in the United States, training at Annapolis, the naval academy. He returns to a country struggling to catch up with the modern era, awash with corrupt businessmen looking for an easy profit. Cloak, before even arriving home, gets himself involved in a conspiracy that could threaten the entire country. It is an age of rapid change, drawing even more attention to all those coming off the boats from America, moreso in Cloak’s case, as he garnered an impressive reputation as a marksman while at Annapolis from his ability to hit with every shot “like clockwork”. Cloak must now uncover and foil the conspiracy, all while trying to reintegrate into his old life.
Clockwork is unique in my mind, mainly due to the fact that I’m not a huge fan of “realistic” historical series, but also because I get a very Western(Eastern?) feel from the manga, which I have never experienced before. It covers all the staples of a western; the mysterious protagonist who has a coloured past, the overly ambitious trade company, the action girls, the damsels, frankly the only thing missing is the cows. To be honest, nothing much about the art or writing is all that special, though I am interested to see where this conspiracy goes in the end. I suppose that I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Boku to Kanojo no renai Mokuroka is a little surreal-ish, so try to bear with me here. Mizuhara Ritsu is the protagonist in a dating simulator. No, I think you misunderstand, his life isn’t like one, it is one, quite literally. Naturally, nobody knows that they’re video game characters and thus, goes about their lives as normal. Of course, normal for Ritsu is being a video game otaku lolicon. This trait is really only used as an excuse for his potential partners to beat the ever living shit out of him, and has never really been explored beyond that to this point. There wouldn’t really be much of a story here if it weren’t for the fact that Ritsu comes across a website that seems to be able to tell his future, approximately a day in advance. On a whim, he decides to follow its instructions and discovers he was put into a desirable situation with his, somewhat estranged, childhood friend of the female variety. Yes, Ritsu has apparently come into possession of the strategy guide for his life.
I’m not going to go into much more about this because there really isn’t much more to say. This is your standard ecchi romance manga fare, except for a few details: 1. Ritsu actually makes progress with the girls; none of this she forgets the incredibly intimate moment the next day shit that’s added in to stretch out a series. I’d rather read a short, well written story that has a clear conclusion, than a long series about people never acknowledging their feelings for one another. and 2. There are separate arcs for each girl. The manga starts at the branching point where Ritsu makes a decision that will influence which route he takes; after one route is complete, the story reverts to that decision and shows what would happen if he had chose something else. I cannot emphasize enough the need for more series’ in this genre to do this. Amagami SS did it, and it remains second only to Key Visual Arts series in my personal rankings for romance series, and if you’ve read some of my other stuff, you know how I feel about Key and their products. As a matter of fact, go watch Amagami after reading this series; you’ll have time, Boku to Kanojo is very short at the time of this writing.
Neneko Kaneko is possessed by a yamanko mountain spirit and has moved from her small mountain community to the city in order to attend high school. The possession isn’t all bad, when she needs to she can perform at superhuman capability at the small price of growing cat ears and a tail. The problem is that the ears and tail also show up whenever she feels flustered or from strong enough emotions, not exactly a normal everyday thing to happen. Lucky for her, she runs into Makoto Watanabe, a morose tall girl and budding poet, who can make the yamanko traits disappear via physical contact. Unfortunately however, she also comes into contact with the child-like Chimi Kitou, who can see spirits through one of her eyes, and feels the need to announce what she sees, which includes Neneko’s tail even when it’s normally hidden.
Yamanko! is a story about companionship, plain and simple. The main characters are initially thrown together by coincidence, but remain as friends through a collective need for love, platonic or otherwise (did he just foreshadow something? o m g. I totes think he did). The manga has an excellent balance between the emotional and comedic sides of the story and nothing gets really over the top, provided you can take mountain cat-spirit possession, second sight, and spirit-negating aura in stride. The mark of a good supernatural story of any type, in my books, is whether it is still an enjoyable read once you remove any special abilities from the characters, and this one passes with flying colours.
The story of Hayate no Gotoku, or Hayate the Combat Butler, is about as odd as one might expect of a series ostensibly about butler combat. Ayasaki Hayate is unfortunate. There really isn’t any other word for it; he is forced into working multiple part time jobs in order to fund his parents’ gambling habit, and pay for everything else. His gruelling work has given him a superhuman body capable of amazing feats including, but not limited to, catching a speeding car on his bicycle, jumping to superhuman heights, and fighting tigers(successfully). Despite his herculean body, he couldn’t stop his parents from running up a 150 million yen debt and disappearing, leaving him to pay it off to what his parents described in their note they left as “nice men”. After escaping from the nice men with his legs unbroken, Hayate is desperate to get money any way he can, so he logically decides to kidnap the first young girl he sees for the ransom. The girl mistakes his intention and hears a confession, and is so flustered that she neglects to see some actual kidnappers coming. Hayate saves the girl, Sanzenin Nagi, who falls in love with him and happens to be an heiress and she gives him a job as her butler/love interest until he can pay his debt(~40 years).
I have thoroughly enjoyed this series ever since I found it many years ago. It is, at its core, a screwball comedy about being a servant to a 12 year old rich girl who is in love with you. Outside of its core, you find an even weirder world of crossdressing, ridiculous extravagance, and tigers that only talk to you. Not to mention the gradually more and more outlandish attempts to kidnap Nagi which only seem to be alluded to as if they were an everyday occurrence. Basically, if you need a laugh for whatever reason, check this one out. Also yes, there is a whole arc or two dedicated to a tournament where rich people pit their butler’s against each other, so there’s that too.
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo follows Kanda Sorata as he goes through his high school life. When we first join our intrepid hero, we find he has been ejected from the normal dorms at his school and moved to Sakura Hall, where the problem students get sent. What atrocity did he commit to be sent there? Well he took in a stray cat, which is against the rules of the dorms. Though he doesn’t really mind his new housemates, he can’t wait to move out of Sakura Hall due to some of their… eccentricities. But when Shiina Mashiro moves into the dorm, his “life gets flipped, turned upside down”, to quote Prince William. An artistic genius, Shiina has achieved many awards that adult artists only dream of getting, but with her childhood so focused on developing her talents, she missed out on learning “normal” life skills like: common sense, or social skills, etc. Naturally Kanda gets shanghai’d into being her primary caretaker, and together, they embark on a journey of self-discovery. But mostly it’s fun to laugh at the weirdos he has to put up with, cat’s asses and all.
This one jumped out at me due to it’s resemblance to another series, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, a show where the girl thinks she’s an alien and the main character, her cousin, takes care of her. The themes are largely the same, and both series are done well, so there’s another bonus entry for this issue. If you’re unfamiliar with either series, you can expect a well done story about the main characters ordeal while taking care of the girl, while discovering things about himself, and to have both of them grow because of it. In Sakurasou, the girl isn’t closely related to the main character, so there is a potential for a romantic subplot, something that, if you’ve been reading since the beginning, we have already determined I have a soft spot for. If, for whatever reason, you’re reading this and don’t trust my opinion on the matter, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo has been greenlit for the Fall 2012 anime season, so at least one other person who’s more qualified than I thinks that it has merit.
I have stated multiple times on the site that I am not a fan of series’ that turn every character into a heartless psychopath. Well, say hello to the exception to the rule. Fukashigi Philia follows four highschool friends who fight crime. I’m not talking about reporting jaywalkers and retrieving purse stuff, either. This is full-on Batman level vigilantism (I am, of course talking about BEFORE Batman was awarded an honorary Detective position in the GPD). Miisha and Yuugo act in an investigative and coordination capacity, respectively, where Rikiya is the Big Guy, and Tasuku is the crazy one- I mean the skilled fighter. Together they form The Crushers, named so due to how they “crush” crime (give them a break, their high school kids, it can’t all be gold). While breaking up a human trafficking ring, Tasuku comes across a mute girl in their base with a tatoo that could only belong to someone who he’s been looking for for years. She saves him from getting stabbed by showing him the future, so he takes her back to his house instead of, you know, the police or a hospital or something in order to glean more information about the man from his past.
This series basically covers every major “realistic” genre that there is. It’s got fighting, tragedy, mystery, and easily one of the more disturbing romantic subplots I have ever read (outside of Mirai Nikki, I don’t think anything will top that. Ever). This is both good and bad; good, because you get a wider readership interested, but bad because you can’t delve very deep into any one facet without detracting from another. That’s the biggest issue with Fukashigi Philia that I have. It has great variety, but not a whole lot in the way of depth. Everything else about it is well done and it is extremely enjoyable to read. The true depth of Tasuku’s insanity has thus far only been hinted at, which may be why I can enjoy it, it’s an implication rather than a confirmed part of his character. That, and the fact that his family was murdered in front of him as a child gives him a pass. Be as violently insane as you may/may not want, Tasuku, you’ve earned it.
And with that, I bring to a close the longest article I’ve written since ever. If you managed to make it this far, congratulations! You get to keep my opinions. The next issue of Aimless Wanderings will resume it’s normal length, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Thanks for putting up with me, now I’m going to drink myself into a stupor.