The hardest part of this job is figuring out when a series that looks like a dud is just a late bloomer. I didn’t get winner’s vibes from the first couple of volumes of Kurohime; the whole thing seemed like...By Serdar Yegulalp on 2009/07/28 17:04
The hardest part of this job is figuring out when a series thatlooks like a dud is just a late bloomer. I didn’t get winner’s vibesfrom the first couple of volumes of Kurohime; the whole thingseemed like a one-note joke. But then by some happy set of accidents Iread later volumes, where there was not only a story and a theme but(gasp!) character development and (shock!) heart ‘n soul.Lo and behold, the dud blossomed into a delight—something I confirmedfor myself when I cashed in some soda bottles and filled the gaps in mycollection.
Now here we are at lucky volume thirteen, after ourheroine has been booted back through time and send sailinghead-over-D-cups through plot convolutions that would’ve reduced mostany other series to laughable irrelevance. What keeps this particularbook’s boat afloat is how everything that happens plugs directly backinto its major themes, Love and Forgiveness. Mushy to be sure, but hey,I like this kind of mushy—the sort where big things are atstake, and everyone involved has to make hard choices, and you still go "Awww!" It’s the sort of popcorn entertainment that I don’t mind getting stuck between my teeth.
Ruka’s vacation is ruined right on the first day of summer. She hits another girl in the face with her elbow during a handball game—in her mind, it’s payback for having her foot stomped—and the coach lays down the law:...By Serdar Yegulalp on 2009/07/27 22:54
Ruka’s vacation is ruined right on the first day of summer. She hitsanother girl in the face with her elbow during a handball game—in hermind, it’s payback for having her foot stomped—and the coach lays downthe law: “Don’t bother coming back to practice.” She’s unhappy andremote, distant from other kids her age, annoyed by how the onlyattention she gets from adults—including her estranged father andincurious mother—is in the form of reprimands. This girl needssomething to do, and doesn’t know what.
One afternoon sherides the train into Tokyo, for no particular reason, and finds herselfstanding at the lip of an inlet to the ocean. Someone else is there, aboy who doesn’t look Japanese but speaks to her: “The sea in Tokyo iskind of like a broken toy, isn’t it?” His name is Umi—“Sea”—and he hasthe dreamy, amused air of someone who will probably never grow all theway up.
Black Lagoon has, from all we’ve seen, two types of storylines. The first is the slower, longer, more over-arching plot threads, like the Washimine-gumi saga that filled most of the last two volumes. Then there are the adventures where the...By Serdar Yegulalp on 2009/07/23 22:45
Black Lagoon has, from all we’ve seen, two types ofstorylines. The first is the slower, longer, more over-arching plotthreads, like the Washimine-gumi saga that filled most of the last twovolumes. Then there are the adventures where the scenery is puncturedwith flying lead, everything that can be blown up is blown up,and people reveal various perverse ways in which anything imaginablecan be used as an assault weapon. Guess what we get this time around.
It’s not as if the series is missinganything when it jams itself into absurdist-overkill action mode,though. Even when things are going through the roof and punching holesin the bottoms of passing airplanes, there’s always still some tenuoussemblance of story ‘n character, even if it’s relegated tosecond-banana walk-on status. The up-front themes this time aroundaren’t honor, loyalty, or the brotherhoods that exist betweencriminals—it’s Revy’s pissed-off psycho-smile and Rock’s pop-eyedstupefaction at what kind of crazy crap he’s managed to get himselfinto this time.
In a fight between you and the world, bet on the world.—Attributed to Franz KafkaExcept that some people like that sort of thing. They get a charge out of bucking the odds—the worse the odds, the bigger the thrill. They’re...By Serdar Yegulalp on 2009/07/09 22:13
In a fight between you and the world, bet on the world.
—Attributed to Franz Kafka
Except that some people likethat sort of thing. They get a charge out of bucking the odds—the worsethe odds, the bigger the thrill. They’re the embodiment of that Adidasad tagline Impossible Is Nothing, and it doesn’t matter if the endeavorin question is soccer, mountain-climbing, chess, kickboxing or theunlicensed practice of medicine. You see where this is going.
Truthbe told, it’s not just the fact that Black Jack is a risk-taker. It’sthat he’s beaten these odds before, can do it again, and doesn’t likepeople telling him otherwise. Through volume six of Black Jack hefaces one medical Iron Man triathlon after another, from braintransplants to brain tumors—but the real reason he flings himself soheedlessly at such outrageous jobs is to stand in stark contrast toeveryone who settles for having no hope. His biggest resentments arereserved not for those who want to stick him in prison and make sure henever practices again, but for quitters and cop-outs of all stripes …whether they’re rival doctors or his own patients.
Volume 29 of Berserk is Berserk as we may well have to like it. That must sound miles removed from the fanboy-ish praise I know I’ve lavished on this series in the first ten to twelve volumes of its run....By Serdar Yegulalp on 2009/07/05 21:51
Volume 29 of Berserk is Berserk as we may well have tolike it. That must sound miles removed from the fanboy-ish praise Iknow I’ve lavished on this series in the first ten to twelve volumes ofits run. But there’s no denying that the story has undergone majorchanges of direction, major shifts in tone, major alterations of focus.That might well be the karma, the fate of any long-running series;there were dozens of books in the hundred-plus Guin Saga serieswhere protagonist Guin himself doesn’t even appear or only enters as aperipheral figure. That doesn’t make it any less problematic to grapplewith whenever it comes up.
The first dozen or so books of Berserkwere all setup. They gave us the three key characters and theirconflicts: Guts, the demon-chased Black Swordsman; Griffith, the leaderof the Band of the Hawk, who traded earthly life as a warrior (and thelives of his comrades) to be reincarnated as an embodiment of evil; andCasca, the woman mercenary caught between both of them. Now Guts has anew group of hangers-on—the witch Schierke, the would-be kid warriorIsidro, and the former holy knight and now potential witch-in-trainingFarnese; Griffith has returned to the earth and created a new Band ofthe Hawk, and seeks nothing short of world domination; and Casca is nowa near-insensate husk of a woman, whom Guts and his crew have plans totake to a distant land in search of a cure for her madness.
I once theorized that the difference between Japanese and American comics is that the former are about characters and stories while the latter are about franchises. I’m in the process of being proven wrong about this—or maybe it’s just the...By Serdar Yegulalp on 2009/07/03 12:30
I once theorized that the difference between Japanese and Americancomics is that the former are about characters and stories while thelatter are about franchises. I’m in the process of being proven wrongabout this—or maybe it’s just the scope of the theory’s in need ofrevision. Case in point: the Blood: the Last Vampire continuity. It started with a short animated film, and then was rebooted into the Blood+continuity: a long animated TV series (two seasons), a set of novelsbased on the TV series, a manga based rather loosely on the TV series,and now a new prequel manga series.
And yet, through allof these variations and offshoots, certain things remainconsistent—much as they do, I suppose, in American franchise comics.The Hulk is always green and angry, Tony Stark is a genius playboyalcoholic, and Saya of Blood+ is always a mixture of girlish naïveté and deadly precision. Case in point once again: Blood+ Adagio,the newest installment in the franchise. It’s a prequel series, set inthe early years of the Russian revolution, and purports to fill inbackstory as to what happened to Saya and her compatriots during thattime.
Science fiction, rebooted.
Other Lives Of The Mind