Archive for the “manga” Category

Lessons with Rereko.

I'm beginning to suspect that part of the reason why I appreciate the Manga Guide books so much is because the audience surrogate character tends to be female. Not only that, but a cheerful, energetic, never-give-up, let's-positive-thinking female character. It means that she gets the majority of the screentime, and so people like me can ogle the eye-candy while our brains try to work out the concept being explored.

An unfortunate side-effect is that the smart teacher doing the explaining is generally a guy, of the Young Nerd-type Everyman variety seen in plenty of anime. While this is obviously to provide a little romantic comedy into the entertainment, it's probably best not to look too deeply into the gender roles.

Of course, MGTDatabases has several more characters than the teacher-student duo of MGTPhysics and MGTDatabases, and the explainer is a little (female) fairy. I wonder if I need a bigger sample size.

The Manga Guide To Electricity is a little harder for me to understand than MGTPhysics and MGTDatabases. Which is odd, since I didn't have trouble in school with this bit of my Physics classes (my problem areas were in Chinese, Literature, and non-calculus higher math like Statistics). I can only imagine what Molecular Biology would be like.

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Yes, I realize that I should probably have said something or posted something, but Real Life has a way of sneaking up on people. Sorry.

Anyway, I don't actually have access to all my saved pictures, and I'm not going to browse imageboards on this netbook, so the next few posts will be picture-less. Just a heads-up.

(Contrary to rumours, my existence is not so linked to Tokyotosho that when it goes down, I suddenly cease to exist.)

I've been reading Yotsuba&! lately, and I fear to think what code parsers will make of that ampersand-bang combination. (For those who are not familiar with the series, it's pronounced "Yotsuba-to", with the "-to" meaning "and".) This was mostly sparked from the Nanako& parodies of Persona 4 I've seen on imageboards.

I'd not gotten around to reading this manga until very recently, and I must say that while I appreciate it as a great series, it's not one of those I was kicking myself for not encountering earlier (unlike, say, Zettai Karen Children). This could be because of the very nature of the series: you can marathon it and it is a perfectly valid method of reading, but for the full effect, it's best to take it a few chapters at a time. Slowly, savouring it, and thinking back on what has gone before.

It's not exactly Deep or Intellectual. It's just the story of a little five-year old girl who Enjoys Everything and has an inexhaustible supply of energy, possibly like real five-year old girls. It's held at arm's length, like Calvin and Hobbes: we can enjoy and laugh at Yotsuba's antics, but we are saved from cleaning up her messes. The fun without the price.

Most of the comedy comes from the reactions of those around Yotsuba, rather than Yotsuba herself. The characters need to explain stuff to Yotsuba, but they have to dial it down to a level a five-year old can understand. In turn, they have to try understanding how a five-year old thinks; the audience gets to join in, although we get the advantage of context.

Do I like Yotsuba&!? Compared to Azumanga Daioh (which many people like to compare it to), certainly. Compared to all the stories out there, though, I do like it, but not so much that I'd follow it closely; the re-read factor is slightly lower, since it is highly suitable for a pick-and-choose of your favourite chapters, leaving the others kind of in the shade. It is a great palate-cleanser, a superb accompaniment, but not a full meal. Good to read in addition to another story, but not really something I would take alone.

Character-wise, I suspect I am basically Jumbo (aka Takashi Takeda), which makes it quite suitable that my Favourite Character (so far) is Asagi Ayane.

Note: This will likely be my only post for the week, unless something changes. I might make another one if the stars (and my hard disk) aligns, but no guarantees.

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From The Manga Guide To Databases.

Publisher link for the whole set, at a discount to boot.

There's something about putting entertainment and education together that seems to boggle the mind. Entertainment is supposed to be fun, and education… isn't. Therefore, "edutainment" is usually seen to be Trying Too Hard, and only the really effective ones survive.

What is effective may be a difficult question to answer. Something that is great for one person may be horrible for another, and so when I say that the Manga Guide books are Effective Teaching Materials, I can only speak for myself.

The books are set at a secondary school level: if you've studied the subject then, you probably already know all of this. In Singapore, secondary school is age 13 to 16 (you start on the year of your 13th birthday, so technically age 12), so I suppose this would be high school in US terms. Most of this stuff will probably be learned in Secondary 3 and 4, at the depth that will generally be taught at that level: you'll be introduced to, say, Newton's Laws, and learn how to apply them in simple situations, but all the little niggly details that tend to trip people up when they revisit the subject at a higher level are brushed aside, because that's not what the books are for.

They also obviously do not teach everything you're supposed to learn at that level. The one for Physics deals mostly with the whole force-and-motion thing, which leaves out stuff like circuitry and electromagnetism and thermodynamics and whatnot. (Presumably the electromagnetism bits will be under The Manga Guide To Electricity, which upon browsing I am sad but unsurprised to note does not include any form or mention of Biri-biri-san.)

For my first round, I got The Manga Guide To Physics and The Manga Guide To Databases. I did study physics in secondary school (didn't do too shabbily then), but it's been over a decade since then. I've never formally studied databases (or at least not databases as is, rather than being attached to MySQL or whatnot), but being Le Geek on the Internet means that I'm largely familiar with the hows and wherefores. So the books did not actually teach me anything new, but they were good refreshers.

And, of course, the manga portions were fun.

Each book is illustrated by a different artist (or set of artist-and-writer). There's the manga sections which deal with some situation arising which requires knowledge of the subject to solve, and there's the big explanatory blocks of text-and-equations after the manga bits which go further into the concept. The manga is read left-to-right, which caused me a small amount of difficulty at first.

MGTPhysics deals with one Megumi Ninomiya, who is not very good with the subject in question, and her role as Simplicio is further reinforced in my mind by her mild resemblance to Yui Hirasawa. Megumi has been beaten in tennis by Sayaka, who is pretty much the ojou-sama tsundere archetype, due (somehow; it's presented as "it bothered me during the match, so I couldn't concentrate") to the counter-intuitive nature of Newton's Third Law (the one about equal and opposite reactions). So she enlists the help of her classmate, "International Physics Olympics Silver Medallist" Ryota Nonomura, to figure out the mysteries of Physics. It's done in a school-life slice-of-life kind of way, with Megumi occasionally flirting with Ryota, presumably just to break up the tension and Walls of Text.

Meanwhile, MGTDatabases is set in the Kingdom of Kod (somehow), a fantasy kingdom deriving its revenue from sales of fruit (somehow), and Princess Ruruna and her personal assistant Cain are visited by the Database Fairy Tico to help them organize their kingdom's fruit sales. Somehow. It gets a little odd, with various NPCs dressed in medieval court clothing typing away at modern computers. There's also Prince Raminess from a neighbouring kingdom, who is FABULOUS enough to probably be voiced by Daisuke Ono. It's a more shoujo art style than MGTPhysics.

The MGT books are probably not the most efficient way to present information, but by going back to the dialogue method of instruction and adding the familiar anime-esque style of humour, it's a lot less dry than a textbook, at the trade-off of taking up more pages to explain stuff. This is perfect for revision, rather than teaching; the books appear to be for reading on your own, and maybe asking a friend for help if you get stuck, but in a classroom it's basically the teacher's job to do what the manga sections are doing: give examples and explain the concepts in a more interesting manner. (The fact that this does not happen very often is kind of sad.)

Should you get it? If you are taking the subject at that level right now, certainly. If you want to brush up, it's great. If you already know all of this, though, then the only appeal will likely be the manga sections, which are good for a few minutes of entertainment, but probably not worth the price.

Personally I'm happy with these because I have learned that when writing fiction, you never turn down knowledge of any sort, and revising always helps. Also, I am an inveterate fanfiction writer, meaning that already I am speculating on the possibilities in the characters.

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It's actually quite good.

Publisher link.

The twintailed blonde girl is tsundere.

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Tea for two.

Sometimes I get reminded once again that my tastes in general hew quite closely to the norm, despite what the immense amount of flames and insults I have received regarding said tastes might suggest. To be more precise, my tastes are close to what anime production companies believe to be, if not the norm, then at least in the vicinity of the norm, able to recoup its expenses in making an anime from the manga thereof.

Or something.

Omamori Himari is getting animated, and will be airing sometime in 2010, which I know is Old News, or possibly Old Olds. I've only really noticed these happenings because I went on a re-reading binge recently: for the most part, I don't particularly follow news of upcoming anime, unless they are of things I am currently obsessed with. Omamori Himari, sad to say, is not one of them, but I do like it for the comedy, so this piece of information is not unwelcome.

There's not much to say apart from that. Himari will be voiced by Ami Koshimizu, to the probable interest of a friend of mine. The art style looks a little different, but it's a bishoujo harem comedy anime with action elements; I can tolerate quite a lot. Good or bad, the anime will not somehow magically invalidate the existence of the manga, so I see it as a bonus more than anything.

All this mild interest could be because the primary reason I like the manga in the first place are the Wacky Comedy Hijinks, some of which are probably too risque to broadcast. And in the true tradition of my odd mental patterns, I've latched onto yet another minor side character as my Favourite: Lizlet L. Chelsie, the British teacup in maid form.

After Hayate the Combat Butler, I may have to clarify what I've come to realize is an assumption about me: I don't actually have very much interest in the maid uniform thing. I mean, I don't dislike it actively, but to me, it's only an outfit that happens to have frills, which I do find interesting. However, since lots of magical girl outfits in general have frills, it's not like the maid uniform has a monopoly on this.

So the reason I like Lizlet is not because she wears a maid outfit. (Besides, she does state that she's not actually a maid, but merely a waitress in a maid cafe.) Unfortunately, I don't know why I like Lizlet, other than a faint desire to see her in casual clothes for some reason or other. Possibly this is because casual clothes means that she's not on duty, which implies some sort of special occasion, such as a date, which in turn promises a given amount of romantic development.

Maybe it's because compared to the other girls in Yuuto's harem, Lizlet's approaches, despite being as direct as the others, is relatively tame. Yes, she does want to do the dirty with Yuuto, but it's presented as more of a Young Lady In Love kind of thing, ratcheted slightly towards the ecchi side. (Again, compare this to every other girl in the harem, all of whom want to do the dirty right now.) Lizlet does exhibit signs of distress when she's left out of the harem hijinks, but mostly because she's been left out of the fun; jealousy does not appear to be a factor. Lizlet appears perfectly happy to share, which is probably not a happy thought for Yuuto.

Maybe it's Lizlet's non-combat status. Yes, she does her her own special moves ("Black Tea Drop!"), and she has the advantage of being invincible as long as her "real body", the teacup, is undamaged. But she's a shoujo protagonist in the midst of this shounen action manga, and she knows that the best place to be when the fighting starts is somewhere else.

Or maybe it's because her teacup is implied to be an erogenous zone. To speak of unusual euphemisms.

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Quite illustrative.

I admit that this is a little late for my usual two-posts-per-week. Let us just leave it at "Real Life" and move on.

Zettai Heiwa Daisakusen translates roughly to "Absolute/Ultimate Peace Plan", which happens to be the primary premise of the manga: two countries were at war, but peace was quickly declared when it was discovered that the prince of one country and the princess of another were deeply in love with each other. Prince Johanne is a proud warrior, and Princess Euda is a gentle healer, as keeping with traditional gender roles or some such. However, the truth of the matter is that the True Love is not exactly True, and indeed only an act to stop the senseless violence from continuing. And so now Johanne and Euda have to learn how to live with each other, while pretending to be lovey-dovey in public.

This, incidentally, is not a spoiler, since the manga takes immense pains to mention all of this at the beginning of every chapter. It's as tedious as it sounds.

Even so, I find myself fascinated by this manga, despite it being very, well, shoujo. For everyone who criticizes moe anime for being repetitive and unimaginative, please take note of the incessant refrains of "I love him! Wait, no I don't! Wait, yes I do!" that make up the majority of the inner monologues. And Johanne, in true shoujo love interest style, is pretty much a jerk, albeit with the requisite Heart Of Gold. Most of the manga is told from Euda's point of view, which does mean that she gets the vast majority of screentime.

And that, perhaps, is why I'm still reading this: apart from the amusing situations Euda gets herself into in trying to make herself love Johanne (except not really, except yes, except no, except yes), she's fairly short, and has pretty much one dress style. Comedy is thus obtained in inverse proportion to Euda's height.

(Also, Euda reminds me so much of Kyonko that I'm starting to associate the two together now. This is a little odd.)

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Ayako Takasu from Megadere.

I'm writing this post on my Eee PC, away from any wireless hotspots (in fact, I think this place actually inadvertantly blocks out Wireless@SG due to its construction). I'm also not feeling too well (update: fever of 38.5 degrees Celsius) and thus not thinking too clearly; I've forgotten a lot of details (such as full names of characters), and while I'll try to correct the blanks later, I may miss a few (or end up not bothering in favour of medicine and sleep).

Extrange Twittered recently about Medaka Box, which I've also been coincidentally checking out. (Really; I was intrigued by the bishoujo character designs, and was hoping for some form of moe comedy.) In the manga, the titular character, one Medaka Kurokami, is a first-year high school student who gets elected to be the Student Council president, largely because she's the only member of the Student Council. In both the one-shot pilot and the first chapter of the manga proper (which restarts the story and ignores the one-shot canonically), she dragoons her childhood friend Zenkichi Hitoyoshi, who happens to be the viewpoint protagonist, into joining.

It's an interesting story. Medaka is supremely confident in her abilities to do every bit of the Student Council work, to the point where she wears the armbands of every position in the council, from president to secretary to treasurer. Considering her near-superhuman competence in just about everything she does, this is not an unjustified belief. The "box" referred to in the title is a suggestion box she set up to help solve every problem the student body sends her way. Zenkichi is only slightly less superhuman, but a lot more unmotivated as per the usual tsukkomi role.

There's a meme going around that perfect characters make for boring stories. (Good for moralizing perhaps, as in various religions and myths and Silver Age Superman stories, but not entertainment.) With Medaka's hypercompetence, it would seem that she would be some sort of all-purpose problem-solver, but as in a lot of other stories (or anime and manga, due to my personal selection bias), she's still saddled with a fair number of flaws.

"Flaws" may not be the proper way to put it. Extrange called it "tensai-dere", which sparked off the train of thought leading to this post.

I'm not going to have a lot of pictures in this post, mostly because Medaka Box, being a relatively new serialized manga, doesn't have a lot of artwork for it yet. This is why the header image is that of Ayako Takasu, which I'll mention in a bit more detail later. A quick search of imageboards shows some effort, but sadly NSFW. As it is, expect lots of pantyshots and undies under the cut.

You have been warned.

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So I managed to get my scanner working again, and tested it out on a random 4-koma from Lucky Star, manga volume 5, Chinese translation.

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Taken from the Musashi scanlation.

I've been re-reading the manga Love & Collage (shortened to AiKora; it makes sense, really) recently. A quick summary for those unfamiliar with AiKora: the main character is a Perverted Harem Male Lead who's obsessed with certain types of body parts on his "ideal girl". Through the usual plot contortions, he ends up in the presence of four (later six) of his main ideal "parts", each one Platonically perfect, except on different girls. Cue Wacky Hijinks.

Anyway, I had a long and rambling musing about how the various "parts fetishism" that are the premise of the story can be mapped well enough onto the idea of individualized moe traits, but then I lost interest in favour of the cute girls therein. Which in turn sparked off the faint rudiments of a post about how I could take a story like this and spin it out into something deeper about the niches of anime fandom and whether or not it's all justified in the search for the highest aesthetic pleasure…

… or I could just read the damn manga and enjoy it.

Why was I reading the manga? Because I wanted to immerse myself in an unrealistic and yet ultimately optimistic story featuring cute girls of various personality types just being happy, being themselves. What makes the girls cute? They have features I think are cute, like Yukari's glasses (as Kureha understands very well), or because I can imagine them to be my ideal version of "cute", such as Kirino's voice, which obviously can't come across in a visual-and-text medium.

That's about all.

Is there something to be said about how I am identifying with the protagonist and his like-minded fellows in my appreciation for "parts", however abstracted? Probably, yes; the different factions are shown to be somewhat pitiful, in an affectionate and yet cutting manner. Tread this path, the message seems to be, and you'll likely never be anything more than a pervert in the eyes of society. Despair all who enter here.

Yeah, whatever. I just want to read about Kureha's valiant efforts to convince Yukari that glasses are attractive on girls. It's lazy and shallow, but dammit, it's still fun.

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