Aimless Wanderings 1 – Public Emasculation
(WRITER’S NOTE: The following paragraph is a one-time message that goes over the boring details of why I am doing this. Feel free to skip it if you couldn’t care less. It’s not like I have feelings or anything. – Pudgetron)
Hello, and welcome to the first of what I hope to be many installments of Aimless Wanderings. This is basically going to be my vehicle for letting the world know how much free time I have by way of introducing a plethora of new anime or manga series to you, our hopefully loyal readers. In each installment I will explore a few series that I find interesting and give some initial impressions. Now that I have bored you to death, let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?
So, for some reason, I have decided to publicly emasculate myself for this first issue by talking about my somewhat guilty pleasure, romance manga. Some of my favourite series have been spawned from these roots, but one of the major problems I have with the genre is the lack of closure in the relationships, a lot of the time even when the series ends. I understand that sexual tension helps to drive narrative but dragging it out too long, as most shows do, starts getting ridiculous. Today, I will be discussing three notable exceptions to this pattern, at least in my mind.
Let’s start this off with an anime that I don’t think anyone would let near the romance genre, for fear of being infected with a bad case of explosions: Busou Renkin created by Nabuhiro Watsuki. The story kicks off as one Kazuki Muto, a typical high school student, gets killed trying to save a girl from a monster. Full on impalement action through the heart. Naturally, he wakes up the next day totally fine, with a quickly fading memory of the night’s events, which he quickly dismisses as a bad dream. The girl from that night, Tokiko Tsumura, soon shows up to dispel any of those notions. She explains she felt responsible for his death, and resurrected him through the power of alchemy, replacing his destroyed heart with kakugane, an alchemical material used in their weapons. Kazuki decides to help Tokiko fight the homunculi she is hunting. The biggest reason I enjoy the relationship development in this anime is because it is so very logical; no accidental pervert moments, no “oops, I accidentally just fell into your crotch and now neither of us can stand up properly”. It is literally just somebody not looking for it, but finding herself falling in love with this guy’s pure, almost naive, trust in the mission, and the values of people.
The next selection is just plain pleasant to read. GE-Good Ending is the story of high school student Utsumi as he pines after his sempai in the tennis club. On a particular day, while spying on her from the school roof (not stalker spying, insecure spying, not that it makes it any less creepy), he gets noticed by a classmate who is in the tennis club and for some reason she decides to help him win his sempai’s heart. This series and I maintain a bit of a love-hate relationship, but the reason I am mentioning it here, is the character development that takes place throughout. Unfortunately, I can’t go into too much detail here due to the nature of the developments that occur, and my desire to entice you to read it by avoiding spoilers here. But I will say that unlike many of the other stuff that I have found, the characters seem genuinely human, with flaws and insecurities abounding. There are even a few characters with some very troubled pasts, but only a few, because I refuse to believe that every person is broken in some way, as some series seem to want you to believe. In short, GE is honestly a fairly bland romance manga, as far as the relationship dynamics, but the characters are so well fleshed out and believable that it almost doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t simply focus on the main love triangle either, with a cast of side characters that, at least in my opinion, has one of the best laid out side stories I have ever seen, never really getting the limelight, but the dialogue never lets you forget that it’s there. Unlike the previous example, this is pretty much as pure a romance manga as you can get, so if that causes problems, I’d stay away.
My final entry on my this first entry in the Aimless Wanderings series is one I have mentioned on the podcast at least twice, and is probably one of my favourite manga, period. Umi no Misaki is the story of Nagi Goto, and picks up when he moves to the remote island where his mother (who has long been deceased) lived before meeting his father. From Tokyo, he really doesn’t have much experience in a rural setting, but luckily, he runs into a helpful island girl right as he gets off the boat who shows him around the island. During his tour, he asks if she would take him to the titular cape, as most of what he remembers from his mother is related to the seaside cliff in some way. Naturally, when he gets there, he manages to fall of into the ocean far below, and his last moment of conciousness is the girl, Shizuku, diving in to save him. He wakes up on the beach, shaken but basically unharmed, and he continues on to his new home. When he gets there, he gets a call from his father informing him that he won’t be able to make it to their new home for at least a year. After the standard awkward greeting with the neighbours, he gets to sleep. The next day, he starts school, only to discover the island only has 17 school age children, and he also finds that Shizuku is also attending the same school. Only, when he tries to greet her, she pretends she doesn’t know him. Through a series of events, he finds out that she, along with two other girls from his class, are Cape Maidens: the handmaidens of the Dragon God, the local deity, and they are basically worshipped as goddesses themselves. I find myself rambling a bit, so the synopsis will stop there, but the dynamic changes drastically soon after Nagi’s discovery. This is an especially well written manga, and the comedy doesn’t become ridiculous, while maintaining some running gags throughout, although some of them become less important as the story goes on. The most notable factor in this manga is the character development as Nagi comes to terms with the duties of both the Cape Maidens and himself as he settles into his role on the island. Another refreshing factor that arises is the attitude toward nudity and sex portrayed by the author. This is in no way an adult manga, but there is little to no censorship in any of the relatively frequent times that the characters bare all. It doesn’t happen for sex appeal, either; minus a couple gags near the beginning, every situation where it occurs is completely natural and is just an aspect of the setting, rather than the focus of the scene. I cannot recommend this manga enough to anybody who reads any genre, as it has a bit of everything in it (except maybe giant robots, but it’s still ongoing).