Sadly I don’t have as many images as last year, Danbooru (god rest its soul) having died in the interim. But I think Yoko’s and Darry’s bountiful ASSets are worth as much as any number of holiday-themed fanart, right? Of course I am. Now go out and enjoy the one day people won’t make fun of you for wearing weird costumes, but will actually love you for it. Or you can celebrate this holiday the way otaku celebrate all holidays: watching anime next to our life-size body pillows.
In the year 2301 Mars has been successfully terraformed and renamed Aqua, due to 90% of it being covered in water from the melted ice caps. On Aqua lies the city of Neo-Venezia, modeled after the Earth city of Venice. In Neo-Venezia girls trained to be gondolier tour guides are called undines and are the symbols of the city. Akari Mizunashi has just arrived on Aqua to begin training as an undine at the ARIA Company. She will quickly realize how truly magical Neo-Venezia and Aqua can be.
AQUA is the two-volume predecessor series to ARIA that first shows Akari arriving on Aqua, meeting Alicia and Aika, etc. Finally the first volume is available in english. I swear, the wait was at least a year. Fortunately, the wait was well worth it. Despite coming earlier there is no difference in charm between AQUA and ARIA. It’s wrong to even call them by different titles. The same themes of discovery, mystery, friendship, and nostalgia are all present here.
If you’ve seen the anime then you’ve already seen all the stories in this volume. The only new ones would be Akari meeting Alicia and Aika, although elements of those stories are already animated. It’s particularly funny to see how much Aika comes off as a lesbian stalker of Alicia’s in the early stories. The other stories included in the book are when the aqua alta hits the city, the first meeting with Cait Sith, and Akari’s graduation to Single on the Hill of Hope. Reading them again reminded me how much I loved the stories the first time I saw them, especially the Cait Sith one. There’s such a supernatural element to it that is rarely matched elsewhere in the series.
The art hasn’t changed much than what we see is ARIA. The same clear, beautiful images, with Kozue Amano rendering both SD figures and realistic cityscapes with ease. President Aria appears to be drawn bigger here in the beginning, which takes some adjustment, but that’s more a minor quirk than anything. The usual tokyopop quality applies. The binding is suitable and the cover is quite nice, and I really saw no issues with the translation compared to what I know. I wish they would of included the original full color spreads, however. I’m sure ARIA fans have already gotten their hands on this manga, or are soon. For non-ARIA fans it’s a good place to be introduced to the magical world of Akari and friends. Of course, watch the anime, too. Ah, this is really getting me pumped for the third season. Tokyopop reallys needs to put the release date for the second volume on their site already. Damn site. Can’t find anything.
First things first, Black FLAG is sex. Pure, unadulterated mecha sex. Look at those sleek lines. And apparently black only makes you two times faster than a normal FLAG. Can’t wait till Graham gets a red FLAG a few episodes from now and can start owning some gundams. I demand it happen.
A genetically engineered super soldier loli/possible trap with vague connatations of nazism. Par the course for a Gundam series I’d say.
Yes, let us entrust the super machine of mass destruction to the PTSD guy who sees things! It’s absolutely brilliant! I can’t wait till he goes even more batshit insane and destroys all of Tokyo while everybody’s like “how could this of happened?” Really need to start giving Gundam pilots psych screenings. Would save everyone a lot of time and money. Maybe their lives too.
Evil advisor is EVIL. Ok, maybe more extremely realistic than evil, especially when she’s talking to Lady Marina. Man, is that girl naive. Makes Relena Peacecraft look like Dick Cheney. While on the one hand it’s nice to have someone explain all the political machinations going on, it feels insulting to have it all laid out so plainly. Switch it up a little bit. The whole Tabiria thing wasn’t that exciting actually, especially the battle. Who knows there’s a problem when your gundam pilots are saying “Man, do we really need to kick these guy’s asses this much?” Hopefully some of these ace pilots can step up soon and provide a nice challenge.
She really does have a new outfit every episode, doesn’t she? And what exactly is she doing anyways? All I’ve seen her do is look sexy and drink some juice. The looking sexy isn’t all that bad, but she could actually be doing something while looking sexy.
Obligatory OH GAWD THE GIRLS OF CELESTIAL BEING ARE HAWT! Yaoi artists really know how to make sexy women with nice breasts. I whole heartily approve.
Seven Years ago a catastrophic meteor hit the earth and dried up all the oceans. Even worse than that, the meteor brought with it the Worm, aliens bent on destroying the human race. To fight the Worm ZECT and the Masked Rider System were created. But now there is dissent among the ZECT ranks as Neo-ZECT has formed to rebel against ZECT’s control. Into this volatile environment enters Tendou Souji aka. Kamen Rider Kabuto, offering himself to the highest bidder. And behind the war of the Riders the secret plans of ZECT begin to unfold…
God Speed Love is basically the TV series in a nutshell: great action and characters with a poorly thought out plot. First what I liked about the movie. Like I said the fight scenes are great, from the opening melee between six different Riders to Kabuto’s and Gatack’s final stand against Caucasus. Also since this is a movie set in an alternate universe you get to see a lot of the characters die, which adds a ruthless elements to the fights. The new riders serve their purposes and looks stylish while kicking some ass. Gotta love Kurosaki’s obsession with roses and that silly box hat he wears. Sure you’re the strongest rider. For an enjoyable superfluous element the ZECT cape uniforms were badass and I liked how female uniforms had switched to miniskirts. Very nice. Wish that had been in the TV series.
Now for the few things I didn’t like. One is that the movie completely sidelines the Worm, the supposed main enemy, until the very end of the movie where some weak plot twists are used to try and make them relevant again. Before that we have all this stupid ZECT vs. Neo-ZECT fighting, which doesn’t even make that much sense. The only reason Neo-ZECT wants to rebel is that they hate being controlled. Admittedly ZECT can be pretty evil, but some fleshing out of Neo-ZECT would of been nice. It also doesn’t make much sense that an organization with only two Riders would pose a threat to ZECT, but whatever.
For a personal pet peeve, later in the movie there’s an orbital elevator Kabuto, Ketaros, and Gatack are on. While fighting both Kabuto and Ketaros fall off into the atmosphere. Kabuto survives fine while Ketaros dies. How the hell did Tendou survive reentry? He was on fire the whole time! And then Gatack’s back on earth the next minute with no explanation how he got down. I know random scene changes are a common element, but this was just silly. Hard to take the movie seriously after that. Tendou’s various emotional breakdowns were also funny. I swear the guy showed more emotions in this movie then he did in the whole show. If you enjoyed the TV show then you’ll most likely enjoy the movie since they’re just so similar. Just remember that it’s Kabuto, so turn you brain off and enjoy.
You never know when you might ingest a microscopic space pirate queen bent on galactic conquest. This omake was just so out there, even for Potemayo, but still hilarious. DELICIOUS KINGDOM!
Out of the ocean comes the invasion of the death-stench things: bizarre configurations of rotting fish and spindly, unnatural legs. Mindlessly they move forward like machines, purpose unknown. Their stench of death covers the land in horror…
Gyo is a very freaky manga. Downright insane at times. Exactly what one would expect from horror veteran Junji Ito. The plot is very simple. It covers Tadashi’s and Kaori’s, a young quarrelsome couple, reactions to the bizarre horrors that crawl out of the sea. The death-stench things are all manner of fishes with legs. Sounds ridiculous, but the way it is presented is brilliant. It starts with one fish with legs, but then it’s a shark with legs, then it’s an entire swarm of marine animals walking from the sea, till all of Japan is covered by them. Junji Ito manages to top one horror with the next in every chapter till the terror changes from the fear of the unknown to the fear of something we can’t see. He also uses the sense of smell to create a tense atmosphere of expected terror. An explanation is given for the death-stench things, while at the same time opening up the door to an even greater and more terrible horror. Just great storytelling all around.
The art is starkly realistic, showing every look of revulsion on the character’s faces. Junji Ito also has quite an eye for marine life, too, creating the natural yet completely unnatural creatures, Viz’s production for this volume is perfect. It’s minimalistic yet graphic on closer inspection cover grips you as soon as you see it. It gripped me in fact, enough to buy the book without knowing anything about it. I love everything about Gyo. It’s an unique and fresh concept that grabs you from the beginning and never lets go or loses its tension. In the contemporary manga market it’s great to see something so wonderfully different. A must read for any horror, manga reader or not, fan.
In an alternate world increased technology has lead to the creation and widespread use of ArmSlaves, giant mecha used for combat. Sousuke Sagara is a crack ArmSlave pilot and top soldier for the anti-terrorist group Mithril. But there’s one dangerous battlefield Sagara hasn’t been sent to yet: a Japanese High School. This is where Sagara must go to guard the happy-go-lucky and popular Kaname Chidori. Needless to say, Chidori doesn’t take too kindly to a guy who’s constantly stalking her. Sagara now has to work his way through the hazards of daily school life, protect Midori from mortal danger, and hope she doesn’t kill him in the process.
I have never seen any incarnation of the Full Metal Panic anime, so this first volume of the light novel series was a fresh start for me. It is a pretty fun book overall. The character dynamics all work well to tell a good story, like the cute Sagara/Chidori relationship and the bitter antagonism between Sagara and Gauron. The book reads like a lite military thriller but never bogs itself down in technical jargon, unlike certain passages in Scrapped Princess. The plot is crisp and moves at a good pace throughout, though is still rather predictable. Don’t expect many surprises. FMP does a good job of explaining its own history without sounding like a textbook, especially with the development of advanced technology in a realistic manner. The translation never comes off as particularly jarring or just plain wrong, which is always nice.
With the cover design Tokyopop finally relinquished their own absurd attempts at modern art and went with the original cover. It’s about time for this. Can actually tell it’s a light novel now. Sadly the designs on the inside aren’t so great, with garishly large bullet holes in the corner of every page. Creates a very unsavory and juvenile effect. Unsuitable for a story mostly about soldiers fighting each other. Sadly no color illustrations, but it seems all the original images were reproduced adequately.
FMP is probably the most high profile release Tokyopop has done yet, so it’s nice to see it done well. There’s still some publishing issues Tokyopop needs to fix with its releases, but they’re getting a bit better with every release. Looks like this is a long series, and based on the strengths of this first volume I’ll definately keep up with it. FMP is a B-movie action adventure the whole way through and it doesn’t try to hide that in anyways. An enjoyable read for most and a must for any FMP or light novel fan.