Category Archives: Manga

The Tragedy of (CLAMP’s) X

The Earth’s fate, whether it lives or dies, rests on the choices of an asshole. Will Kamui Shiro, the protagonist, become a Dragon of Heaven, fighting to defend the world as it is, or a Dragon of Earth, fighting to change the world (by purging humanity)? Joining him are twelve other superhumans fated to take part in the end of the world by either defending or destroying Tokyo. So is the main narrative of X, CLAMP’s tragic unfinished manga. 

Like Cardcaptor Sakurais a great manga. Indeed, I freaking love this series. There is a maturity and depth to the series that is, honestly, often lacking in other manga series. And there is a disturbing amount of gore, which ultimately proved the series’s downfall (in terms of publication).

What I find most interesting about the series, honestly, is how the apocalyptic forms the backdrop to the various human tragedies that befall both the protagonists and antagonists. Especially Kamui Shiro, the main protagonist who is, initially, a jerk. 

Until the tragic turn, Kamui is an uncooperative asshole. He is fighting his destiny and the attempts of his friends, both old and new, to (re)connect. He gradually begins to open up again and care about his loved ones. And then he makes the fateful choice to defend the world as it is.

Is Kamui truly an asshole in those early volumes or is he putting on an act? Is he trying to save his friends by pushing them away? 

The evidence points to an act. He does open up to his friends before making his choice. After the decision, he becomes positively passive. Indeed, as the arguably most powerful member of the Dragons of Heaven, he is cripplingly weak in fulfilling his mission. 

Has the trauma of his decision shattered his confidence, along with his unwillingness to attack Fuma? Or has some of Kamui’s darker personality traits been transferred to Fuma, the Kamui of the Dragons of Earth? 

Is the change in Kamui’s character a good thing or a bad thing? Would the series have been better or worse if Kamui kept some of his asshole character? 

Personally, I rather liked Kamui better earlier in the series. He is, I think, more interesting. He’s okay after the choice, but I find myself annoyed with him on numerous occasions. 

Kamui, however, isn’t the only character to let his personal drama detrimentally affect his mission as a Dragon of Heaven. Subaru Sumeragi, the main protagonist of the earlier Tokyo Babylon, has never recovered from the tragedy that befell him. He does manage to pull himself together enough to pull Kamui out of his catatonia, but his final confrontation with Seiishiro shatters whatever drive he still has left. 

Not even the erstwhile antagonists are free from drama. Kanoe, the benefactor of the Dragons of Earth, wishes to save her sister, Hinoto (the prophetic benefactor of the Dragons of Heaven), from her destiny as an oracle. Nataku, an adrogynous artificial human, sacrifices hir life to save a Dragon of Heaven from Fuma/ Kamui, thereby enacting a twisted family drama. 

Honestly, Heaven and Earth should be asking for refunds. In the end, it is human desire, so often self destructive, that will decide humanity’s (and the world’s) fate. Therein lies the triumph and tragedy of X

Live Action Naruto?

What? 

Lately, I’ve wondered if a live action adaptation of Naruto is viable. The franchise is fifteen years old with 685 chapters and two very long running anime series (Naruto and Naruto Shippuden). With all that in mind, can Naruto be adapted for live action?

I’m honestly not sure Naruto can be adapted to film without some major cuts. A single movie is impossible without becoming a confusing mess. A trilogy or tetralogy is certainly more viable, but the filmmakers will have to find the essential narrative and, largely, cut the rest. Another option is to film every arc. But who would be willing to commit to fifteen plus films? And what will happen when the main cast age out of their roles?

The best option, I think, is for a Game of Thrones style ten to thirteen episode a season television series. 

Here’s how I envision Naruto  breaking down by season: The first season starts with Naruto becoming a genin and covers the Wave and Chunin Exam arcs. The second season covers the Invasion of Konoha, the Search for Tsunade, and the Sasuke Retrieval arcs. The third season would cover the Gaara Rescue, Sai and Sasuke, and Hidan and Kakuzu arcs (ending with Sasuke killing Orochimaru). The fourth season would cover the Itachi Pursuit and Invasion of Pain arcs ( ending with either the Raikage calling the Gokage Summit or Nagato’s death). The fifth season would, then, take on the Gokage Summit and the initial stages of the Fourth Shinobi World War. Finally, the sixth season would cover the Fourth Shinobi World War. 

You know, this could actually work. The only problem is one of production. I don’t know much about Japanese television, but I get the impression that the preference is, generally, for shorter, single season dramas. 

The problem with an American production company getting a hold of the live action television rights to Naruto is the danger of whitewashing the characters. Dragon Ball was whitewashed. The Last Airbender was whitewashed. And the proposed adaptations of Akira and Death Note features heavily rumored whitewashing of settings and characters. Hell, the rumored Naruto live action film featured some tween hearthrob up for the role of Naruto.

A solution to this problem, if American filmmakers get the greenlight, is to have a diverse cast. I’m not familiar enough with the current crop of actors to give a fantasy casting sheet. I’ll leave that to others.

I would love to see Naruto get a live adaptation. I don’t know if it is possible, but one can always hope. 

Of Olympians, Reservoirs, and Some Questions

When it comes to YA (still hate that name) SF, I’ve missed a lot. Largely because the glut in the genre came when I was “too old” to be interested. And, now that I’m trying to make up, I really am too old.

Obviously, I’m not talking about Harry Potter but rather Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I recently checked out The Lightening Thief  from the library. And yesterday, I finally got down to read it.

And I got about three or four pages in before I closed the book. With no intention of opening it back up.

This time, though, had nothing to do with any preconceived problems with the text. Not even my position on Greek Mythology in popular culture.

It was the structure and tone of the opening that immediately turned me off.

Seriously, playing around with whether or not the novel is “real” or a “piece of fiction” in a meta sense made no sense. And Percy’s narration? Just no.

That said, Percy Jackson and the Olympians does raise in an interesting question. Why are the Olympians in hiding? I can see it with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but not with the Olympians. Why hide themselves? Especially if it is real?

Okay, then the series will be AU rather than Contemporary and demand more work. But still!

But yesterday wasn’t completely disappointing when it came to reading. After putting down The Lightening Thief, I picked up the first volume of CLAMP’s Tsubasa. And it was freaking awesome! Mind you, I am a fan of CLAMP . . .

Anyway, my reaction to both works reveals an interesting insight. I’m not overly fond of YA. Especially in prose. But I love shonen manga. What is up with that?

Part of the answer, I think, is that the graphic story telling element eliminates the usual stylistic tone of a lot of YA that puts me off. Excepting dialogue and interior monologues, the “narrator” has little chance to talk down to the reader.

Another part of the answer may be the ages of the characters. The closer the lead characters are to the later teens, the more I like it. Remember, I hate Naruto volume one, but love much of Part 2. So, there is that.

Am I disappointed that I didn’t like The Lightening Thief? Yes. But it doesn’t do to dwell. Rather, it is important to move on. So many more books to read.

Given my problems with YA, any ambitions I have to possibly write in that genre is suspect. Should I write a YA even if I don’t like it? Maybe write a YA SF novel the way I would like it to be done?

That is, however, a post for another day.

 

Dropping. . . Fairy Tail?!

My local library has finally gotten volumes 20 and 21 of Fairy Tail. I’ve read them. And I hate to say it, I didn’t like them. In reading them, I’ve come to realize some major issues in Mashima’s plotting/ scripting.

For one thing, I am really hating the Edolas arc. Seriously, even when Lucy is the most powerful member of the guild (since the rest can’t use their powers), she is still portrayed as ineffectual compared to the others.

Further more, I’m not loving how the Oracion Seis arc ends. Really? Zero is defeated that quickly? Ugh. And the aftermath? Yesh.

Why could Jellal not stay “dead”? Really. Mashima’s great weakness is that many of the antagonists become redeemed. Which kind of makes things rather pointless. I mean there is Kageyama, Lyon and his team, Juvia and Gajeel, Erza’s old friends (including Jellal), and Hoteye. And if you read the spoilers: Coco and Pantherlily (Edolas) and  Ultear and Meldy (Tenrou) all eventually defect to aid the protagonists. Hell, Jellal and Ultear made great recurring antagonists! Why do they have to become good?

Yes, having Jellal back (and then imprisoned) puts Erza through an emotional ringer. But still, I think it would be better for her to still love Jellal as an antagonist rather than as a recurring ally.

I’ve also previously mentioned my annoyance about the whole Zeref plot twist mess. And of course there are characters who just cannot stay dead. Heart warming, yes, but still annoying.

What about Wendy? I really don’t like her introduction. She’s likeable and all. But there is a little bit of the Cousin Oliver about her, though. And her sudden inclusion doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, to be honest.

And one more thing, I really am starting to dislike how Natsu almost always has to be the one to defeat (or deliver the final blow) to the main antagonists in recent arcs. Why can’t Erza have been the one to defeat Jellal?

Now I’m just venting. Venting is, perhaps, good. I mean, I still love the art. I’m just finding myself frustrated with the repetitive nature of the story arcs and the tendency to redeem antagonists. Even when it seems more interesting to keep them as antagonists.
That’s it for my Fairy Tail rant. I don’t know if I will drop it or not. Maybe I’ll give it another arc or two and see if it improves. Otherwise, I may really be out of good manga to read. And that would suck.

Curses! Now I Have More Questions!

I hate it when this happens. Oh, well, so I was struck by more questions this morning and afternoon.

One, are most American manga style comics shojo? To my knowledge, I’ve only ever encountered one shonen (Jason Thompson’s King of RPGs). Are there any others? I would like to know.

The reason why I ask is while I’m determined to go with a more traditional American style comic book, I’m still interested in manga style. But I recognize that there is a huge problem.

I want the serialized feeling of a monthly release of new chapters/ issues. But (as far as I can tell) American manga style are almost exclusively in tankobon format (save for web comics). Am I wrong in this assumption?

Two, I’ve been thinking a lot about magic in fantasy lately. And my train of thought has led me to several questions.

Why does magic have to be explained or treated as a science? Why is it that J.K. Rowling is criticized for not being absolutely consistent in her magical rules? Magic is not a science!

And, furthermore, why should I accept the notion that magic should not completely work in the ways intended? That just seems silly, if you want my opinion.

I guess one of the annoying aspects of fantasy being thrown in with science fiction is having science fictional approaches imposed on fantasy. Oh well.

Three, we come to a recurrent question I have. How does a writer of many genres determine which genre to utilize?

I was working on one idea (the apocalyptic southern gothic fantasy) as a novel, but it seems to want to be a comic book series (more like miniseries). And I have another idea (the Babylonesque fantasy city intruding onto the U.S.A.) transitioning back to a novel from being a comic book.

Well, I think I’m out of questions for now. Tomorrow, expect a review of Scalped volume one and Morning Glories volume one. Until then. . .

31 Days of Post Day 22: What Pisses Me Off Leads to. . . Creative Explosions!

I don’t know what it is. There is just something about Glee that really pisses me off. It’s not the acting. It’s the writing. The more I think about it, the further I go, the more issues I find. Seriously. And all of that comes from watching a single episode.

But there is a bright lining to this. My problems with Glee serve as inspiration. If I ever do something realistic, I’ll be sure to remember to avoid the mistakes that just scream at me. Or in general. Like doing the research. Or making logical sense. Or not forcing characters to make plot dictated stupid decisions.

This kind of reminds me of my issues with Naruto. How the hell do the later chapters gel with what happens earlier in the series? Naruto is freaking village royalty (he is a distant member of the Senju clan and is a member of the Uzumaki clan). So why the hell is he really treated like familyless trash (besides the whole tailed beast thing)? I could go on.

Now, am I being fair? Maybe not. It would be interesting to see what the creators of Glee are going for and how far ahead they plan their narratives. And the same goes for Kishimoto. And Hiro Mashima for that matter (the whole Zeref thing is, honestly, a mess).

But, like I say, all of this drives me to want to engage with these narratives. What about Naruto (or Glee or Fairy Tail) pisses me off? How do I take that and make something new, something my own?

This is, then, an example of an Octavia Butler Moment. Or several examples, to be honest.

I’m not going to claim that my, perhaps, more outlined and planed narratives will be better. Hell, the Glee I would have envisioned would never, ever, see the light of day on network television! But then again, would I really want to do something similar to Glee. Not really. Plus I really don’t want to work in television. At least for now.

Off to brainstorming now. Expect a ranting post on zombies tomorrow.

Later.

 

31 Days of Posts Day 19: On Being a Gay Geek

What does it mean to be a gay geek? I don’t know, though I am one. I think that is because every one is different. Being a gay geek may mean one thing for me, and being a gay geek may mean something else for another person. So, what does being a gay geek mean to me?

Fun. I love being a geek. And I love being gay. It is who I am. Simple as that. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I love comic books. I love science fiction and fantasy. I love video games (though I suck at playing them).

As I explored in my post on sword and sorcery, I tend to direct my interest, my fandom in ways quite different than most fans.

Take He-Man and She-Ra for example. I’ve always identified with Evil-Lyn and Shadow Weaver in ways many other gay men have identified with Judy Garland.

And He-Man himself is fine, though too muscular for me.

I’ve posted some on my interest in adding LGBT characters and themes in speculative fiction, comics, and video games. And in the past few years, the progress has been phenomenal.

But we are far from where, ideally, I think we should be. It is nice that DC approached Alan Scott’s coming out/ kiss so nonchalantly. The ideal, I think, is when the fandom (and the coverage) have the same nonchalance. We’re not there yet, but hopefully the day will come.

This does bring up how these characters (new and old) are handled. I don’t know the context of a Phil Jimenez interview where he criticized the usage of relationships with LGBT characters.

I guess Jimenez’s  issue is that by partnering LGBT characters they are made less threatening. In a way, I agree with him. I like the fact that Wiccan and Hulkling are a couple. But aren’t they a little boring? And given that Alan Scott seems to have lost Sam, is he not effectively out of the dating pool for a good while?

It depends, I suppose, how exactly one likes their representation/ characterization/ usage. I’m in favor of a more in your face philosophy. Like the scene where Congorilla catches Starman in bed and comments on his partner’s appearance. Something like that.

I get that “Klaineing” is less threatening, but it is also so much more boring.

That’s just me, though.

Strangely enough, I’m not as fond of specifically LBGT genre work. As I’ve said, Dryland’s End is one of the worse piles of textual dung I’ve ever read. And Kirith Kirin is not much better. Although I love Grimsley’s Dream Boy, I can’t say much for his speculative work.

And don’t get me started on Class Comics. Nice art (occasionally) but bad writing (usually).

Yes, I admit that I am not immune to male eyecandy/ fanservice. I first got into Fairy Tail because of Mashima’s usage of Gray (and other male characters), remember? Maybe I’ll post about this one day in more depth.

I think next year I’ll try to keep the commitment to post something on National Coming Out Day. Whether it is this or a new post I don’t know. Time will tell. But that’s it for today.

 

I’ll have a post up tomorrow talking about what I like to call “the Octavia Butler Moment.”

And I finally bit the bullet and watched an episode of Glee. Acting, thumbs up. The writing? Oh my, so much that drives me bonkers in annoyance.

 

31 Days of Post, Day 2: Banning and Censorship

This is Banned Books Week. Given that, I wanted to take the time to post again about the banning and censorship of books and manga. Personally, I find the whole notion of banning and censorship distasteful.

I’ve criticized the English translation of Naruto several times over its censorship.

I can understand why removing Shikamaru’s brief smoking habit happened. I agree that teens should not be encouraged to smoke. What, however, is more likely to influence youth smoking: peer influence or media? And let’s ignore the fact that the “cleaning up” leaves it pretty clear that Shikamaru is smoking but the cigarettes are just absent. Besides that, given the internet, it would not be hard for any Naruto fan to figure out what is going on.

Another bit of censorship which bugs me from Naruto is the decision to silhouette Konohamaru’s Sexy Girl on Girl and Sexy Boy on Boy techniques. Given that every other application of the basic jutsu (even the harem technique) is fully depicted (to my knowledge), why are these two censored?

Oftentimes, the instances of censorship in manga are really stupid. Take the decision to change the cross Greed is tied to to a slab from Fullmetal Alchemist. Seriously, were the editors afraid of religious complaints or something? That just seems silly.

Finally, I wonder what the translator on Fairy Tail is going to do as the series becomes more risque. Hopefully Kodansha will have more sense than Viz.

Moving on to banning books, I find it funny when individuals try to ban books that they themselves have never read.

One of my English professors told the story of a time when someone tried to ban the novel The Catcher in the Rye. He wanted the novel banned because he that it was Catch Her in the Rye! Seriously, how utterly stupid! Read the damn book first!

The Catcher in the Rye has an undeservedly bad reputation. Yes, it is a novel (maybe the novel) of teen angst. But, come on, the rumors of its dangers are greatly exaggerated.

Now, I don’t have any lists including some of the most banned or attempted banned books. But Huffington Post does have a list of the top ten from last year. Let’s take a quick look, shall we?

Of the ten, I’ve only heard of four of them. Of the ten, two are perennial favorites to be banned (To Kill a Mockingbird and Brave New World). The rest, I’m guessing are YA or children’s books. I don’t know much about the books on this list, but I have to ask: How is The Hunger Games occult or Satanic?

The danger of banning books lies in that it takes away the ability to read those books from other people. And, of course, what is to prevent banning books on more political grounds?

Banning books is never a good idea. And censorship is a slippery slope. I can see why censorship takes place on occasion, but I don’t think it ever really works. Not in this day and age anyway.

Tomorrow on Day 3: Chris Colfer’s The Wishing Spell will be reviewed.

Novels and Comics

I’ve been thinking about what I want to be as writer. Do I want to write the same basic narrative over and over again? Or do I want to push myself and experiment outside of my comfort zone? And where do I want to go with it?

My answer is firmly in the later camp. My current work in progress can best be described as an apocalyptic- steampunk-southern gothic mashup. After that I want to tackle a heavily fantastic planetary romance. And after that? Maybe an anthropological fantasy crossover?

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I’m struggling over whether I just want to stick with novels (which would arguably be the easier route) or work in both novels and comics (perhaps a harder route but also more fun). Honestly, I haven’t decided yet which way I want to go (and hopefully this post will help push me in a direction).

For fun, I wrote a comic book script. To be honest, I really enjoyed that. And there is something about comic books (and manga) that irresistibly draws me creatively to those genres.

The truth is that I want to write a comic book series or two (or more). Despite all of the difficulties involved, I still want to write comics.

But, and here is the big but, I don’t want to write for Marvel or DC. While I have rediscovered my love for superhero comics, I don’t want to write them. Too much of a Scorpio for that, I think. I want to write my own stories that I (and the art team) control.

Let’s forget briefly that I want to write comics and explore why writing a large novel or series of novels will not work.

The omnibus idea I mentioned a while back was an attempted out. My intention was to collect a certain amount of material (perhaps say three novels and some shorter pieces) and release it all at once. The more I look at this idea, the more I think it’s stupid. Seriously, it can’t work.

I’ve also played with the idea of a novel series. But even that doesn’t come close to working for me. I want the feeling of an actual serial not individual standalones that may refer back to each other or those bloated monstrosities.

And that is, I think, part of why I want any long running series idea I have to be a comic book series rather than something like A Song of Ice and Fire. I don’t want to write something like that. With a comic book, I could focus on several projects at once rather than devoting myself solely to a single project for who knows how long.

I’ve already pledged to myself that if I ever write an epic fantasy in novel form, it will be no larger than The Lord of the Rings. Beyond that, I’ll have to get out my authorial Vorlon planetkiller.

But I can, and want, to do several long term comic book series. Including an epic fantasy.

This brings me back to thinking about manga. I’ve been on a bit of a manga break over the past few months. The siren song, however, is starting to get louder. So, I’ll have to indulge in some reading soon.

Thing is, I would love for some of my ideas to be manga (heck, my favored idea positively screams occasionally for it). Unfortunately, that ain’t happening for the foreseeable future (if ever). The main thing is that I want the serialized nature of comic books (and manga). And the more manga influenced American comics don’t really have that due to the fact that the manga market in America is almost exclusively in collected form rather than serialized (excepting scanlations).

All of that does not mean that I cannot be heavily influenced my manga. I’ll just have to condense everything to fit 24-32 pages a month!

Damn, pantsing blog posts can be very therapeutic. But hell, it did push me in a direction. Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say on this topic (for now at least). But if you have any comments, please do so.

Anyway, here is a brief look at what I hope to have for next week:

Part two of my myth series where I review The Implied Spider.

A review of Chris Colfer’s The Wishing Spell.

And maybe a few things I haven’t thought of yet.

Fairy Tail!


I first encountered Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima a few years ago by way of a blog called Hot Fictional Guys. One day, the blog had a post featuring a ad for the anime. I was struck by Gray Fullbuster and his penchant to be shirtless more often than not. A few more posts on the seires followed, I think, each one increasing my interest in the series.

So, one day while I was in Barnes and Noble, I happened to be perusing the manga shelves when I saw Fairy Tail volumes available. Curious about it, I picked up the first volume(along with some Naruto).

And damn, but I was impressed. I have to say that, aside from One PieceInu Yasha, and Pluto this is the first volume of a work that I’ve really liked. Usually, I really dislike first volumes of manga (like Naruto and Fullmetal Alchemist).

From that first volume, I was hooked. Though I only possess four of the nineteen released volumes (1, 7, 13 and 14), I am incredibly lucky that my local library has a standing order on the series. I have read the entire series (as its been officially released in English) twice so far. And I’m looking forward to rereading the series again when either 20 or 21 is released.

So, what has me so passionate about the series, even as I’m falling out with most of the manga I’ve read? I think it is because Fairy Tail has been consistently excellent from its beginning. And the series is getting better with each new arc.

Mind you, there is a fair bit of formula in Fairy Tail, but it is a winning formula, if you ask me. Each chapter, each volume leaves me excited and satisfied. And that, I think, is a sign of a good series.

Are there deeper meanings, too? Yes. The role of friendship in making characters stronger. And there is much to the argument that Fairy Tail Guild acts as an alternative family. There are also questions of redemption and motivation. Can Jellal be redeemed? Why does Laxus act the way he does? And Master Jose?

Outside of these deeper themes, the series is also highly imaginative in its presentation of magic. Magic is rather like a learned mutant or metahuman power. Personally, I like this usage of magic. Perhaps, some look into this series as an example of dungeon punk is in order.

Moving on to the characters, I enjoy so many of them that it is hard to pick a favorite. Even the villains and minor characters are extremely well done. The interplay with the characters, how they complement and bounce off each other is, oftentimes, very well done. Hell, who really is the primary protagonist? The secondary protagonist? And, what exactly is Lucy’s role? I’ve blogged before about the difficulty of figuring out Lucy’s role. As the story progresses, it gets even harder. Is she “just” the effective narrator? Or does she have a larger role to play?

Now, a lot of these questions will be answered when the series finally reaches a conclusion. As it stands, it is likely to go beyond Mashima’s first series, Rave Master. But how much longer is the question. Could this series extend into the forty or even fifty volume range?

Whatever the answer is, I look forward to the journey. I first came to this series because of images of Grey Fullbuster shirtless. In the years that followed, I have come to love this series for the great story telling and art. So, maybe the lesson should be, you never know what will lead to gems. It could be anything. Even a hot shirtless character.