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Anime Review Presents – SAMURAI CHAMPLOO

20 Oct

 
Konnichiwa minna!

Has everyone been indulging liberally in anime while I was gone? Your oujo sama spends a lot of time watching anime and reading manga, and tends to get lost in those worlds – all for you! All so that I have recommendations that people will enjoy. Ready for what I have this week?
Samurai Champloo is an old anime, originally aired in 2004, and ever since it’s debut continues to remain one of the classics in the field. Set in the ‘Edo’ period, the story is centered around Fuu, a 15-year-old girl who works in her uncle’s teahouse. A random series of encounters bring her together with two ronin – Jin and Mugen – whose lives she saves, only to insist they help her find ‘the samurai who smells of sunflowers’. Though vague initially, the antics of the characters keep you sufficiently entertained, until just enough of the central plot is revealed to make you wonder what’s going on.

Don’t let the simple “samurai” tag fool you. Every episode has a surprise, coupled with the traditional badass sword fights. What makes Champloo different from your average Shogunate period, katana-wielding samurai anime is the characters. Jin partly plays up to the stereotype of the undefeated sword-master with a dark past. But Mugen is a different kettle of fish altogether. The definition of Samurai only barely applies to this rogue who – in addition to using his sword – bites, kicks and slaps his way through his enemies. And his enemies aren’t always the bad guys. He itches to take on anything he comes across that may be remotely stronger than him. Mental? Absolutely.
The most startling factor is probably the inclusion of hip-hop in the series. The very first episode opens with an odd style of rapping which makes the viewer sit up and take notice. After that one comes across myriad references to rap, retro, graffiti and even Van Gogh! Perhaps in any other anime, or as part of another storyline these symbols might not have made sense, but they fit right into the madness that is Samurai Champloo.
My favourite part about the anime is undoubtedly it’s soundtrack. With every track beautifully executed, there are some fantastic hip-hop numbers on the album,in addition to the usual and typical anime style themes. Within a few episodes, you’ll be left scrambling to find the whole soundtrack and listen to it in one go.

Still not convinced? It’s been directed by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop and Animatrix fame. Do I see you nodding there? Now you see what I’m getting at. Give it a shot. You won’t need more than the first episode to get hooked. And you’ll find another jewel to add to your collection.
I shall be back next week, with yet another anime to recommend – meanwhile, have a look at our Mumbai Comic Con Express Updates! You don’t wanna miss it!

Monday Manga Madness: The Bare Neccesities – I

18 Jul

I have been talking about a wide variety of manga in this little writing space. We have ranged from swords to fantasy and onward to more diverse topics. Most of the recommendations have been generic and I am certain an avid manga reader would have managed to recognize more than a title or two. In addition I try and stay away from grading a manga on any scale, for simplicity’s sake. Considering how subjective the very idea of manga and it’s appreciation is, grading stuff would lead me down a sticky slope I am not very keen on sliding. However this one time I will be breaking from convention, no not by grading anything. But instead by recommending manga that should absolutely, most definitely, under no circumstances be missed by any fan of manga anywhere.

And yes, when I say anywhere I mean the realm of the Elder Gods too.

Right, so here it is. This isn’t my list of favorite manga mind you. I’m not sure I like them too much. I prefer my manga more light hearted and funny, and these are pretty serious in both content and delivery. But these manga, have surpassed the norms and cliches that hold down other more commercially viable manga out there. These works have transcended into a realm where they are now truly without exception masterpieces of fiction. Each series presented here is a hallmark blend of brilliant story writing and excellent artwork. They are surreal, and moving to such a degree that I assure you….go through this list of manga and you will not come away unmoved.

Let us begin.


Oh yeah, I went there.
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20th Century Boys:

Man, what more can I say about this manga that has not already been said. A classic of the mystery/sci-fi genre. Naoki Urusawa’s magnum opus will draw you in from page 1, and it will not let you go until the story is done with you. This manga has a force to it, a power, a spell perhaps crafted delicately and elaborately. A spiraling story line hooks you not just once, but many times over. With many of the hooks coming in only later much later into the story line. So much so that you might get jittery by the sheer power of the cliffhangers that dot its storyscape. They are infrequent, they come when you least expect them and almost always they have something to do with that one character in the series upon whom you would pray and wish no harm befall. But there is harm, heaps of harm. And there is much much more.20th century boys, is one of those manga out there that openly defies constraints like genres and stereotypes. Tropes are used and discarded with unbelievable abandon, and nothing in this manga is what you expect. The title itself comes from the classic rock and roll track by T. Rex. The tale begins in distant past, proceeds into dizzying future and an unusual narrative allows for time skips and jumps that reveal the present. Mystery is the name of the game. For indeed the entire story is one big unraveled mystery, as the tale progresses our heroes unravel bits and pieces of the great mystery. However the answers bring with them more questions, hard questions. And not all questions want to be answered. Some are old questions, some are secrets. And secrets always protect themselves.

20th Century Boys
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It is a roller coaster ride across a fantastical Sci Fi background and one of the few manga that should probably me made mandatory reading at such level. Would do wonders to the education system. The writing has a very Stephen King feel to it, an otherworldly feeling of despair and unease will constantly creep into your thoughts as you read on. Which of course allows for great atmosphere for the manga. There are definitely things about this manga I dont like, for instance the pacing of the story over the course of many chapters becomes decidedly Shonen like. The climaxes and constant cliffhangers become almost repetitive. As cardinal a sin as it gets. This reminded me of JJ Abrams and his disaster in Lost, of the promising start and how hey bungled it up simply because they did not know when to stop. But thankfully the series ends before this can become a serious problem. Smart decision that, very smart decision.

A visual treat
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A problem with reviewing of manga series like this one is that I am unsure as to what elements of the story, if any should be revealed. And as such anybody expecting details of story from this review would be disappointed. In fact, this isn’t even a proper review. Consider this a very strongly worded recommendation. Read 20th century Boys, find it right now and read it. Just trust me else this distant disembodied cyberspace entity will haunt your dreams forever. Trust me and find this manga and read it. You will not be disappointed, you might not be elated with what you find… but what I do know for sure. Is that you wont come away from it unchanged.

La Mangafique

13 Jul



Anime: The who, the what, and the where (and other nitty-gritty’s)



It’s out there and it’s coming to get you.
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So, sometime in the past 10 years or so, you must have noticed this craze going about infecting young and old people alike, called “Pokemon”, which seems to consist of absurd fantastic creatures, a parallel reality and the ability to capture said creatures and battle with them. (If you really still don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve been living under a rock). Ever scratched your head and wondered just what it is and why people are crazy about it? Some if not all of those questions, can be answered if you delve into the world of anime.

Out of pets to collect? Start collecting these.
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Anime, is essentially defined as animation created specifically in Japan. Ask a fan and they’ll tell you there is a world of difference between the animation that pours out of Japan and that which is made in the rest of the world. So much so, that anime is now more than just a term to define a certain kind of animation. It is now a phenomemon, a movement, a cross culture ideology that has managed to cut across barriers of race and language to bring together followers from across the world. Cult much? Hell yes.

Though the origins of anime lie buried somewhere in the 1910’s , anime as we see it now didn’t hit the globe till the late 60’s. Osamu Tezuka, popularly known today as “The God of Manga”, adapted western techniques of animation and applied them to his own project, “Astro boy”, which took the world by storm and is still much loved today. Pokemon, Shin Chan, Sailor Moon and Gundam have become some of the biggest symbols of anime culture.

What came first, The transformers or Gundam?
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Anime in itself can be made from scratch or adapted from manga. Most anime is adapted from manga series, allowing a larger audience access to work that may only have been available in Japanese in the manga form. One of the biggest debates among fans of Japanese animation is that of the superiority of one form over the other. Manga fans claim that the anime destroys the authenticity of the storyline to make it more appealing to a mass audience, while anime fans argue that anime is easier to watch for those who don’t have the patience (and of course money!) to acquire and read manga.

Of all the features that draw the line between animation and Japanese animation, distinct characteristics include hair in the most impossible shades, disproportional bodies, eyes that would make your own bulge, out of the world scenario’s and a dollop of fantasy the size of the sun. So, if cute little girls with squeaky voices who save the world isn’t your cup of tea, you can always turn to anime with a slice-of-life scenario, or even some apocalyptic set-up, where contrary to expectations, the world DOES come to an end.

Eyeboggling!
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The image courtesy Akito Maru: http://akitomaru.deviantart.com/art/Anime-and-Manga-Eyestyles-65459083


Does anime have any after effects? Of course it does. In some cases symptoms of excitemet, exhilaration and ultimately addiction may be seen in some of the test subjects exposed to anime. Others may be found instantly allergic and essentially form a part of the anti band wagon. Though admittedly, the former outnumbers the latter by figures you couldn’t calculate if you were anything less than Einstein. Cosplay, figurines, and special edition collector’s items form the main chunk of anime spin off merchandise. Anime conventions worldwide becoming the gathering place for fans who want to invest in the same, alongside showing off one’s cosplaying skills.

So now you know what anime is. Just to summarise, in case it still went over everyone’s head:

  • Pokemon and Shin Chan are anime
  • Power Rangers is not an anime
  • Anything made outside Japan is NOT anime
  • Anime does not always make sense
  • Green/Red/orange/Purple haired people are normal in anime
  • Greeting other people in Japanese is not completely out of the place among anime fans.

And most importantly,

  • The phenomenon is here to stay, so go with the flow, or get swept away!
And in case you were wondering – this is just the beginning of La Mangafique! Pop by every Thursday for your weekly dose of anime news, reviews and madness!


Ja ne!

Calyptra Oujo Sama