Thursday, December 27, 2007



(from the press literature)

The last thing Kei remembers is the train running over his body. Now he is in a room filled with strangers, all resurrected by the featureless black sphere known only as the Gantz. But their reprieve from death may only be temporary, for unless they undertake the brutal missions that the Gantz assigns, all of them will die again.

(and now, my synopsis)

Kei, a snobby, cynical jerk, gets himself into a really dumb situation and literally loses his head because of it. Next thing he knows, he wakes up in a room filled with random, apparently dead people ... and a dog. There is a big ball in the middle of the room that gives them weapons and tells them to kill things and not question why. He does so, while whining the whole time.


Ohhhhh, boy.

Maybe it's a little unfair that I'm the one reviewing this show. However, the word of mouth had been positive, and actually, this arrived for me to watch right after I saw Elfen Lied, which I enjoyed. (That's another review for another time.) So, I'm not this squeamish person who only watches fluffy romantic comedies -- I have a fairly high tolerance for viscera and gore. My parents clean blood for a living and talk about it in great detail at the dinner table; it comes with the territory. Mature themes? Highly sexual content? Dude, normally I'm all there.

Gantz really wanted to push the envelope. Unfortunately, they succeeded. The result is a show that makes Battle Royale look like Marmalade Boy.

But when I think about titles like Elfen Lied and Battle Royale, they're violent, but they succeed because the protagonists at least have something to them that makes them human. There's something about them that you identify with, that despite all the horrible things they do, you can tell they're trying to rise above it. Just because circumstances force them to become monsters, they don't have to stay that way -- they can redeem themselves or at least try.

The thing that galls me about Gantz is Kei - from the moment he comes onscreen, you just know he's a soulless monster already. There's nothing there. He's already just a tool -- he's mean, extremely selfish, very cynical, and you almost get the feeling he's happy that way, or at least unapologetic. There is no fall from grace; he's already fallen, and has no desire to get back out.

Right at the beginning, the creators let you know Kei is a character you aren't supposed to like. How? In one of the initial scenes, a naked girl appears in front of him, an obvious suicide. One of the other men in the room drags her into the back to rape her. Kei stands there, not quite sure whether to save her ... or just watch and be turned on. When his childhood friend Masaru goes over and selflessly saves the girl, and the girl thanks him, Kei gets pissed off because she's not paying any attention to him. "What a prissy girl." Kei then decides she is there so he can get into her pants. He is no better than the attempted rapist. But that isn't the worst of it.

In the very end of that scene, the girl is molested by the dog, and she is giggling and cutely trying to "stop" the dog, without putting up much of a fight.

And that part of the scene is what makes Gantz itself unredeemable. Honestly ... that they had the gall to depict a girl who had just committed suicide and then seconds after a violent rape attempt, being giggly and laughing over a dog going down on her? I just ... can't compute this. It's beyond offensive, it's just insulting.

I continued on through the first two DVDs, and after that, Gantz just becomes an excuse for morally bankrupt people to blow stuff up. The plot is paper thin, and very stock sci-fi when you stop to think about it. People abducted for an experiment (in this case, social) by a foreign entity with some man-hunting thrown in for fun ... yeah, they're supposed to be hunting aliens, but it just feels like it's all a thin pretense for having hot people running around in tight outfits with cool-looking guns. It is incredibly exploitative -- it's along the same lines as pornography or war propaganda, and almost more offensive in some ways.

The most redeeming factor of the show, at least early on, is the character of Masaru (Oosato Masashi in the Japanese track), Kei's childhood friend who basically got them in this situation by saving a man who had fallen on the train tracks. If this show were centered around Masaru, a troubled teen with a violent past, but a good heart and a strong desire to do good, maybe it would easier to take, especially since Masaru is a much stronger and more well-rounded character. He alone out of the cast is an actual character, rather than just a cardboard cutout or a blowup doll, and he alone questions the situation, but of course, it's already foreshadowing at the end of the second DVD that he's not long for this show. It's a crime, but frankly, Masaru deserved a better show, rather than playing second fiddle to a complete cretin.

At the same time, this is one of the best animated television shows I've seen in years. The artwork is gorgeous, the character designs are beautiful, and the blending of the CG and cel style just looks good. Technically, it's one of Gonzo's best; they also pushed the envelope in that sense, and did it right. The music om the show, both the score and the songs, are awesome. The opening ("Super Shooter") is by Rip Slyme, one of the most popular and skilled Japanese rap groups out there. (Yeah, Japanese rap -- and it's fun!)

The voice acting is also top-notch, both in English and in Japanese, especially considering the material they had to work with. Voice actors really will do anything you pay them for ... but it takes a good cast to put feeling into something as unfeeling as this.

You can tell a good story using extreme methods. Sex and violence aren't inherently wrong - life is often dark and ugly, and people do bad things to each other, and yes, it can be highly entertaining to watch the dark side of humanity. However, Gantz does nothing but wallow in its own depravity. Moreover, with the amount of money and time you'd have to devote to this time given its release format (thanks to Shueisha enforcing its 2-episode a DVD policy on an international level), Gantz simply isn't worth it.

Gantz is really the pinnacle of anime exploitation.

In trying to be edgy and relevant, Gantz glorifies everything that is seen to be bad about manga and anime, and makes you ashamed to be human in the process.Christina Ross

Recommended Audience: A hard R for extreme violence, sexual content, and very mature themes. Not for the squeamish - you almost have to be a sick, twisted individual to want to watch this, thanks to the main theme of the show.

This manga review was taken from here

Friday, December 21, 2007

The School of Water Business

Mangaka : Inokuma Shinobu

A school to teach teenagers how to pleasure society. That's what the School of Water Business is. Of course, the pleasure would be performed within water businesses. What's a water business? Just think of it like a place you'd go to to get a massage, and any part of the body you wish... And your masseuse could use any part of their body they wished... And they just happened to be girls... Well, you get the idea. As you might have guessed, this manga is not for little kids.

(This isn't Hentai, it's just there are some adult related themes and I would have to consider this to be PG-13 or a little higher.)

This manga review was taken from here

Monday, December 17, 2007


Mangaka: Urasawa Naoki

The original Astro Boy manga introduced young readers to the realities of racial conflict by presenting them on a level children could understand and discuss with their parents, but this meant that Tezuka could not fully explore the more mature psychological and moral issues in the background of Astro's grim world. The rough and episodic nature of Astro's adventures and the long time over which Tezuka developed the world and character also limited his capacity to bring to the fore the emotional and philosophical potential of the universe and characters he had created. Naoki Urasawa's Pluto is, quite simply, Astro Boy for adults. The work is a retelling of the Pluto chapter of Astro Boy, originally entitled 'The World's Strongest Robot,' which looks at the seven most powerful robots on earth as their programming and human vanity force them to fight one another. The original story focused on Astro being asking why humans create these temporary life forms, robots, then bind them to specific programs and hardware which lock them into limited roles in life, and why ultimately do humans make robots destroy each other. Naoki Urasawa preserves this central question, but adds to it many subtler questions about the psychological and social tensions which would arise in a society as densely populated with robots as Astro's.

One new question is how the existence of extremely human-like robots affects both human and robot identity. How do non-humanoid robots feel about those robots who can 'pass' for human? How do humans feel about their growing inability to distinguish human from robot? How do low-powered robots feel about the sophisticated robots who are immeasurably more powerful and important than they are, not by chance, but by human design? How do other high-powered robots feel about Astro, whose uniquely sophisticated electronic brain makes him the only robot to have real human-like learning capacity and to experience nearly-human emotions, and who is also the most universally beloved robot ever created? One might envy Astro as the 'ambassador of peace,' friend to all humans and robots, destined to bring the two races closer, or one might pity Astro as the first robot truly capable of feeling the pain of the conflict between the races and the loneliness of being the only one.

Another focus is robots' capacity to love and have family. The central character followed by the narrative is actually not Astro but the robot detective Gesicht, one of the original Great Seven robots, who is assigned to investigate the Pluto case. Following him we see the experiences of a humanoid robot working with human and robot colleagues, human and robot victims and human and robot witnesses. We also see him living with a robot wife, and dealing with the widows and orphans left when robots are destroyed. The backgrounds and families of the other Great Seven are also filled in, and we see how different super-robots have or have not imitated human lifestyles and friendships. It is also our first real chance to meet Astro from the perspective of an outsider, rather than taking the boy hero as our point of view. References to Astro's home and family remind us of the grim fate of the robotic parents Dr. Ochanomizu created for Astro who, as we recall from the original manga, will be destroyed at Dr. Tenma's order.

Urasawa also adds a detailed investigation of how the existence of super-robots would affect war and the balance of global politics. Taking the shallow political despot who was responsible for the conflicts in the original story, Urasawa creates instead a very realistic middle-eastern war, similar to those which have been so controversial in the last years, and then asks how the existence of robots would change it. How do robots, who are forbidden by their programming from harming humans, feel about fighting wars for the humans where they are forced to destroy one another while unable to harm others? How would mechanized armies change the speed and cost of warfare? How is it fair for there to be a Robot Law when there is no corresponding Human Law limiting humans' capacity to do harm to one another or to robots? And does making robots more and more human also inevitably mean making them capable of hate, irrationality and murder? These philosophical themes are not absent in the original Astro Boy manga, but here Urasawa has brought them much more to the foreground, presenting a mature philosophy of warfare which is clearly closely related to Tezuka's own treatment of it, both in early works like Metropolis and in late social commentaries like Adolf and Ayako.

The art style of Pluto is perhaps as starkly different from Tezuka's original as it is possible for art to be. In Urasawa's rendition, all people and places are reproduced in near-photographic detail with far more realistic proportions and faces than one sees in most manga today. At the same time, Urasawa preserves a very Tezuka-like pacing and layout, with very detailed cityscapes and landscapes of the style Tezuka used to punctuate his work. Urasawa even includes the characteristic 'emotional abstracts' which Tezuka used to convey very intense scenes. (US readers will know these best from the rape scene in Adolf and the enlightenment images in Buddha and Phoenix, but they may be seen as early as the Moth and Flame scene in Crime and Punishment.) The effect makes the visuals a perfect match for the tone and story – this is Tezuka, but a harsh, adult Tezuka, not stylized for children anymore.

Pluto has received the prestigious Osamu Tezuka Cultural award, and praise and honors from all directions, with good cause. Urasawa reminds us why Astro was the most moving and influential of the many hundreds of stories and characters created by the 'God of Manga.' I cannot overstate the quality of this work, nor its emotional impact. After reading it, I found myself re-reading the original Tezuka manga with fresh tears in my eyes. Masao Maruyama and Rintaro, creators of the Metropolis movie who worked with Tezuka on many of his animated works, spoke at AnimeNEXT 2006. I heard a fan there ask them what manga and anime they liked best out of everything Japan had produced. Rintaro answered that they both treasured each and every page Tezuka ever drew. Maruyama added, 'Also Naoki Urasawa.'

This manga review was taken from here

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Fairy Tail

Mangaka: Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail is a new shounen manga series being written by Hiro Mashima after he finally ended his popular Jump manga “RAVE” in 2005. It is set in a steampunkish world of adventure, magic, mages and guilds, where mages are the main adventurers in this series.

These mages are often members of Mage Guilds which provides access to information and quests but there is one particularly infamous Mage Guild that is a thorn in the side of the Mage Council because of the trouble that its members create - the Mage Guild called “Fairy Tail

The story starts off with a young girl called Lucy who arrives in the town of Harujon who wants to be a proper mage and join Fairy Tail. While in Harujon, Lucy meets a boy called Natsu who has a serious case of motion sickness and a cat named Happy. Together, they unravel the mystery of the charismatic travelling mage who claims that he is the famous Salamander from Fairy Tail.

So far this story has been a pretty engrossing read and Hiro Mashima brings a new twist to the weak mages of the typical fantasy stories. Here in the world of Fairy Tail, the mages are the ones who fight villains and go on crazy adventures.

I would say that the characterisation and emotional style resembles that of One Piece while the world and fighting system resembles that of HunterxHunter, although I’d say that it is not as complicated and indepth as HxH. So if you like the usual shounen adventure and fighting fare, you can give Fairy Tail a try because it is pretty decent stuff.

This manga review was taken from here

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hikaru No Go

Story : Yumi Hotta
Mangaka : Takeshi Obata

Hikaru no Go (ヒカルの碁 lit. "Hikaru's Go") is a popular Japanese manga and animeboard game Go written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The production of the series' Go games was supervised by Go professional Yukari Umezawa (5-dan). The manga is largely responsible for popularizing Go among the youth of Japan since its debut, and in other areas such as mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea. More recently it has gained much popularity in the United States. The title is sometimes abbreviated 'HnG'. coming-of-age story based on the

First released in Japan in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump in 1998, Hikaru no Go achieved tremendous success, spawning a popular Go fad of almost unprecedented proportions; it received the Shogakukan Manga Award in 2000 and creators received Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2003 for the series. Twenty-three volumes of manga were published in Japan, comprising 189 chapters plus 11 "omake" (extra chapters). The anime series, which was created by Studio Pierrot, ran for 75 half hour episodes from 2001 to 2003 on TV Tokyo, along with the 77-minute extra New Year's Special that aired in January 2004.


The same basic storyline is followed by the manga and anime, with a few small changes between the versions. While exploring his grandfather's shed, Hikaru stumbles across a Go board haunted by the spirit of Fujiwara no Sai, a fictional Go player from the Heian era. Sai wishes to play Go again, having not been able to since the late Edo period, when he possessed the body of Honinbou Shuusaku, an actual Go player of that period. Sai's greatest desire is to attain the "Kami no Itte" – "Divine Move," or the "Hand of God" – a perfect game. Because Hikaru is apparently the only person who can perceive him, Sai inhabits a part of Hikaru's mind as a separate personality, coexisting, although not always comfortably, with the child.

Urged by Sai, Hikaru begins playing Go despite a lack of interest in the game. He begins by mimicking the moves Sai dictates to him, but Sai tells him to try to understand each move. In a Go salon, Hikaru defeats Akira Touya, a boy his age who plays Go at professional level. Akira subsequently begins a quest to discover the source of Hikaru's strength, an obsession which will come to dominate his life.

Hikaru becomes intrigued by the great dedication of Akira and Sai to the game and decides to start playing solely on his own. He is a complete novice at first, but has some unique abilities to his advantage; for instance, once he has a basic understanding of Go, he can reconstruct a game play by play from memory. Through training at Go clubs, study groups, and practice games with Sai, he manages to become an insei and later a pro, meeting various dedicated Go players of different ages and styles along the way. While Hikaru is at this point not yet up to the level of Akira, he demonstrates a natural talent for the game and remains determined to prove his own abilities to Akira, Sai, and himself.

Effect on the popularity of Go

Hikaru no Go dramatically increased the popularity of Go in Japan and elsewhere, particularly among young children.[1] Go professional Yukari Umezawa served as the technical advisor for the manga and promoted it on behalf of the Nihon Ki-in.[2] She had a short 5 minute special at the end of every episode instructing kids how to play Go. One of the reasons that she helped make Go so popular was because she was called "best looking Go Professional". The manga also spread Go throughout The United States. As a result, many high school and middle school Go clubs were started by students influenced by the manga.

This manga review was taken from here