Aimless Wanderings 4: Applied Phlebotinum
Contrary to what I have led you to believe thus far, this article will not pertain to phlebotinum, or its various applications, and I apologize for misleading you. It will, however, contain valuable information about a few more anime and/or manga that I feel deserve to be given a wider audience.
Read or Die (referring more to the OVAs than the full series) follows one Yomiko Readman, a cute, clumsy bibliomaniac who occasionally serves as a substitute teacher. Her more regular job calls upon her abilities as “The Paper”, a superhuman agent for the British Library’s secret intelligence division. Her superhuman qualities manifest in a power that can only be described as the ability to control paper with her mind, or papyrokinesis (please note that I actually have no idea what this power’s fancy name would be, but feel free to adopt this one). This power is basically limitless, and Yomiko can do almost anything as long as she has paper including, but not limited to, stopping bullets, fighting with a functional paper sword, flying in a giant paper airplane, etc. She also happens to have a sort of addiction to books, sometimes spending thousands of dollars weekly, buying various tomes to put in her already cluttered apartment.
The actual story of the OVA follows Yomiko and a pair of co-workers, a phase shifter and a “normal” former special forces soldier (normal as in he has no powers outside of being a BAMF), as they oppose the I-Jin, the resident evil organisation. The I-Jin want, among the normal supervillain stuff, a book that was owned by Beethoven, recently purchased by Yomiko, that will somehow help them attain world domination. Naturally this leads to some of the most fun superpower fights in a show; one notable example is near the beginning where there is an aerial chase involving Yomiko on a giant paper airplane chasing down a steam powered glider across the Manhattan skyline. It’s a fun show to watch, and if you’re looking for more after just three OVA episodes, there is a full series, based in the same world, following a trio of papyrokinetics, but is only loosely related to the original OVAs. A little weird, but it’s one of the reasons that I love anime so much.
As we go on, we will come out of weird, and into a more- oh, wait. It seems we’re still in weird for now. Regardless, Mnemosyne is about a humble private detective agency that will take on any case brought to them. Oddly enough, no matter what year you go to see them, it is always staffed by the exact same two women, no matter the decade. Mainly due to immortality, Rin Asougi has been taking odd jobs for as long as she cares to remember; partially due to the stuff she doesn’t care to remember, and partially because she really has been around for a very long time.
Essentially, this show has seinen bait written all over it (seinen is the age classification for males aged 18-40, for those who didn’t know), containing reasonable people, alcohol and blood in equal amounts, and sex in all flavours, but none of it is all up in your grill about it. There is definitely a certain amount of squick factor, as in people who know of immortals have gotten very creative with how to go about torturing them, but if you can get your head around that, you are in for a treat. Often confused for an OVA for its shortness (6 episodes) and its somewhat risqué subject matter, Mnemosyne is a breath of fresh air for when you get mired with “standard” anime.
Our next show comes from the mind of the author of possibly one of my favourite series of all time, Bakemonogatari. Katanagatari, or “SwordStory”, is, as mentioned, based on a twelve volume novel series by Nisio Isin. Despite the similar names, the two works are unrelated in any way other than the fact that they’re awesome and by the same author. Katanagatari takes up the story of Shichika Yasuri, the seventh head and last practitioner of Kyotouryuu, the No Sword School, and Togame, the Shogun’s Strategist. The set up is as follows: Kiki Shikizaki made 1000 swords throughout his career, and his skill was such that battles were often decided by how many of his swords each side had in their possession. There were 12 blades that were so perfectly crafted, however, that they bestowed supernatural abilities to their users, and they were deemed the Deviant Blades. When the Shogun emerged victorious, he had collected 988 of Shikizaki’s swords; all but the 12 Deviant Blades. So, in order to cement his rule, he sent out his strategist to collect them. After being betrayed twice by those she hired to search for the blades, Togame came to Shichika, as his fighting style actually makes it impossible for him to wield a weapon. So, why should he help her? Why, for the most noble reason of all: love.
This is easily one of the most beautiful series I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Everything about the show is so vibrant and crisp. Of course, you can never ignore the writing, either, which is just as entertaining as it is believable. Despite the light supernatural touches in the show, they seem to make the rest of the show more grounded rather that less. The protagonists are likeable and real, with believable flaws and quirks that remain constant. The antagonists are just as well written; they have true motivation for doing what they’re doing, rather than to just spite the heroes. There is very little that I can count against this show, other than the fact that it’s only 12 episodes long, but there was a very good reason for that, and it worked great for the show. If I went into every single thing I liked about Katanagatari, I don’t think this would be done on time, and you would end up reading a novel. Just take my word for it, and if you haven’t checked out anything I’ve recommended so far, at least check out this, you won’t regret it. And then go check out the rest of the stuff too.