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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!

REVIEW: Come meet the Beast Legion!!

29 Sep
 

I’m very much like your average fantasy loving fan.
No, scratch that.
I’m an ultra-rabid specimen of a sub-set of the same species. The kind that hoards multiple copies of a particularly good book and tries to bite anyone who wants to borrow one. Try and understand where I’m coming from, I take my fantasy seriously. Anyone getting in the way of that goes down.
Now that I’ve made that point clear, I’ll come to the object of my study today:
(Click to enlarge!)

(Click to enlarge!)

Looking for a dose of traditional action-fantasy right here on Indian shores?  Then look no further! The Beast Legion by Jazyl H. is our very own, home-grown fantasy comic! Complete with a prince at the crux of a prophecy, his faithful sidekicks/team, a dastardly villain named ‘Dragos’ who transforms into a… any guesses? (You got it, a dragon)… and his cronies who threaten to take over the world with…er…well, darkness. 
 

 

(Click to enlarge!)

(Click to enlarge!)
Okay, so maybe the storyline isn’t all that original. I could go out on a limb and say this is like some sort of hybrid between Power Rangers (except that there are no cyborgs or bots or morphing battle-robots – all evolving is done by the characters themselves!), Thundercats, and a dozen of the other, old-school stories that characterised the fantasy genre at it’s peak in the last century.

Characters and settings are a bit cliché, right down to the prophecy in all it’s “Only one person can save the world!” glory. While this makes the story seem predictable, for those looking for less complex and simply entertaining adventure, this will be soothing. Surprisingly however, the humour peppered throughout (which is at times subtle and over the top at others), provides a solid breath of fresh air in what would otherwise have been dangerously close to another run-of-the-mill tale.
(Click to enlarge!)
(Click to enlarge!)
The anthropomorphic forms of each character are a delight to the eye, and had me personally going over the details with my eyeball glued to the screen. Obviously much thought, passion and imagination have gone into the designing of the same and they only enhance the potential of each character. The artwork is a little on the shoddy side initially, but the improvement is visible with each passing page. By the 4th issue, one has settled down to art that is on it’s own reasonable, but relatively still has some distance yet to go.
For a work such as this, where the team consists of only one person producing content regularly, one has to give due credit to the author. There is promise that will hopefully manifest in the latter issues of this manga.
(Click to enlarge!)
For those interested in grabbing a copy of the same, issues 1 to 4 will be available in hard copy format at the Comic Con in Mumbai, this October.
In the meanwhile, you can check out more of The Beast Legion on their Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/TheBeastLegion 
Don’t miss it!

Review: Yotsubato! – The Manga

8 Sep
(Note: All manga panels must be read from right to left)

Good morn/eve/twilight folks, have you all been well?
Chewed your nails to the quick in anticipation of the lovely tidbits I drop you all?
Well your wait is over! Rejoice! Particularly because I have something utterly delicious for you today.
Ready? Yes/No?
This week I’d like to present my all time favourite manga to all of you: Yotsubato! (referred to as some by 4chan’s mascot, to my extreme horror) is one of those slice-of-life type of manga’s that never fails to cheer you up. Sort of like your Calvin and Hobbes or Garfield, this manga will make you crack up with it’s insane, yet completely normal situations – all the while reminding you in little bits about your own childhood antics.
(Click to enlarge)

The story is centred on Yostuba Koiwai, a five year-old with ever expanding curiosity and the child-like energy to match. Encountering new people and situations in her daily life, Yotsubas unique reactions make this manga one of a kind. Along with her adoptive dad, his friends Jumbo and Yanda and the three girls from the neighbouring house, each of little Yostubas adventures are unique and yet reminiscent of the kind of scrapes only children seem to get themselves into.

In addition to the always amusing yet different encounters with adults and with people closer her own age, Yotsubas reactions to inanimate objects also often yield uncontrollable laughter.
The mangaka unfortunately cannot be sued for blood vessels and stomachs bursting while reading.
What makes the shows context funnier still, is that the adults are no less childish. The relationship between Mr. Koiwai and Yotsuba makes for an excellent Father-daughter relationship, because he encourages her inquisitiveness and often participates in her escapades himself.
(Click to enlarge)

And characters like Jumbo and Yanda remind you that no matter how mature adults seem, they all have a kid inside them, just waiting to get out and stick it’s tongue out at you.
(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)
And the hilarious dialogues seem to add to the simplistic drawing style – for example, when asked where she’s come from, Yotsuba points and says, “from the left!” to the amusement and confusion of her new neighbours. Witty writing that makes one break out into giggles seems to be Kiyohiko Azumas forte. Deliberately incorrect spellings or ideas are portrayed through lines like “Make home at yourself!” – a line used by Yotusba to welcome visitors to the house.
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
 I could keep going on about the manga, and drop endless spoilers, but that might ruin the fun of discovering it for yourself. Personally, my favourite chapter happens to be Chapter 9, “Yotsuba and Revenge”, an amusing chapter showcasing the effects of mature content aired on television on children nowadays.
Was I convincing enough? Because I can’t emphasises how much sunshine this manga adds to my day.
It’s like happiness wrapped up in paper.
Give it a shot. This might just be what you were looking for all along.
The Resident Drama Queen

La Mangafique presents: "Anime Species 2"

1 Sep
 

Hellodarlings, remember me? I wouldn’t blame you for having forgotten,but even drama queens like me need a vacation now and then. Though I don’t knowif checking up on one’s minions really counts as a vacation. Haveyou all been well? Entertained by everything on offer during myabsence? Ready for fresh doses of my insanity?
Then let’sstart with part two of our feature on major anime categories. Whilethe earlier edition dealt with, for lack of a better word, tamergenres within the animeverse, this time we delve into the darker,edgier sides of anime!
Shoujo:Easily one of the more popularcategories, Shoujois a heavyweight in the animeverse and tends to dominate both mangaand anime alike. Heavily characterized by multiple bishounenheroes and villains (allof whom fall for the heroine); ugly ducklings turned into maidensfair (usually but not unhappily in distress); romantic settings;obstacles to the lead pair in the form of disapprovingparents/grandparents/uncles/aunts; and the couple’s best friends whojust about lay down their lives to help in the name of true love. Theterm Shoujoitself translates to ‘young woman/girl’ and denotes the 10 to 18year age-group this genre caters to. Popular examples include KaichouWa Maid Sama, Vampire Knight and SkipBeat. One of the latest to join thegenre, Uta no Prince-sama ~Maji Love1000% is still airing, and has all thegirls swooning. Did I mention rabid fan-girls are a special, freepart of the package? Be prepared to fight for your favourite guy.Sometimes I wonder what it would take to buy my way into one of theseseries.
With so many cute guys to choose from, ofcourse there’s going to be a 1000%love!


Shounen:The second heavyweight contender inanime/manga, Shounenencompasses the boys and their toys. Shounenrefers to boys ages 10 and over and into the grade school years.Anime/manga in this category is essentially enjoyed for it’s crazy,over the top adventures, typical superhero-like protagonists, andconstant battles and challenges that keep one’s adrenalin pumping.Popular hero breeds include ninjas (Naruto),pirates (One Piece)and magicians/wizards/alchemists (FullMetal Alchemist), accompanied by long,ongoing storylines. Another popular example, Bleachhas been selling like hotcakes since it’s inception in 2001, andcontinues to do so till this day with multiple movies and OVAs onlyfuelling the rabid fandom. Merchandise originates mostly from Shounenmanga and anime, with spin-offs providing fans with something to bragabout. This lady does not quite understand the craze, not being ateenage boy herself, but will admit to taking some pleasure in someof the less graphic ones.

What do those faces tell you?This is srs bsns!

Josei:Coming onto the more serious genres,Josei -Japanese for ‘woman’ – is essentially anevolution of the Shoujogenre. Like growing up and dealing with the lesser pleasantries life,Joseidoesn’t cloak the ups and downs of reality, bringing togetherelements enjoyed by mature women into overall realistic storylines.Not as big as Shoujo,but big enough to make an impact, this genre is mostly sought out bythose who seek enough emotional baggage to fill an airport. Tears anddrama aren’t held back, and if you see a glimpse of your lifewithin the manga you read – well then, that’s the mangaka’sintention. Ai Yazawais a known name in this field with two famous titles, ParadiseKiss and Nana, under her belt. Anotherclassic is Honey and Clover, its characters dealing with thevarious issues like friendship, love and life as they mature throughtheir college years.
Fashion, the lowlife, friends, the works.

Seinen:The male counterpart of Josei,Seinen isalso about grown up life – with extra large doses of sex, violence,maiming, rape – you name it. Meant for adult males, anime and mangain this category aren’t for those with tender stomachs or fragileminds. Innocent and likable characters suddenly morphing intopsychopaths and gore galore are pretty much the order of the dayhere. Psychological issues are also deftly dealt with – ever constant,ever biting and may leave you reeling more often than not. You havebeen warned. Popular examples include Monster,Basilisk: Kouga Ninpo Chou, and DeathNote.

Caution! Thatgood looking dude is a psychopath.

 
Hentai:I’m sure a number of you just scrolled right down to the bottom forthis. Hentaicovers, to put it briefly, everything perverted. And I meaneverything perverted.Sub genres includes Ecchi, Yaoi, Yuriand tons more. This genre covers anime and manga ranging from brieffan-service (cleavage flashing, and so on and so forth) to full onhardcore sex. It rakes in the most moolah for obvious reasons. Guysmay deny it but they watch it, and therefore hentai is the animeequivalent of Playboy (I kid – it can be so much worse!). If you wereexpecting examples, you have another thing coming.

.Ikid. Golden Boyis one such example – and the lady’s not telling you why.
Did my pearls of wisdomenlighten your journey into the world of anime? In other words, areyou there yet? Do comment with what you thought, and what you’dlike to see!
See you next week,with more anime/manga madness!
The Resident Drama Queen
Calyptra Oujo Sama