Friday, April 28, 2006

Keroro again... (he made me cry!)

Well, yesterday I finished reading "Sgt. Frog" vol. 10, and as ever, it was super-cool. It ends up with, with, how do they call it?... a "cliffhanger", no? Yeah, something like that... And now, the next volume will be issued in July only, so I am quite anxious to see what's gonna happen. It's a critical moment for the Platoon, so, I am waiting to see.

But the thing is... Keroro made a sad speech by the end of the book and, as a result, silly-me here even cried. Then I turned the page and read the rest. Guess what? It was a joke! Yes, he made that speech as a joke. And I - the very silly, pathetic reader - believed him, got moved, cried, but actually the "stupid Frog" (as Natsumi-chan would call him most of the time) was JOKING!!!! Gyaaaahhhh... Fine, fine, OK. I almost forgot it is a comic book, funny-ha ha, but seriously... He was SO convincing...

(I have a problem: sometimes I get a bit too involved!)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Adorable Amphibian Invaders

My latest manga passion is "Sgt. Frog" ("Keroro Gunso", ケロロ軍曹 ), by Mine Yoshizaki. It's cute, it's funny, it's clever... Sometimes while in the office I start counting the hours to come back home and read more of the books - see what the Sargent and his comrades will be up to next. As Natsumi-chan would wisely say: "these guys are up to no good..."

The artwork is fantastic and the plot quite simple: Sgt. Keroro is a diminutive green alien from planet Keron that looks pretty much like a frog and has plans (of sorts) to conquer the Earth (called "Pokopen" in Keronian). He is found and subsequently "adopted" by the earthling Hinata family:

- Fuyuki-kun - the weird boy who likes UFOs and the occult and who actually finds Keroro;
- Natsumi-chan - Fuyuki's elder and bossy sister;
- Aki-san - the Mother, a manga editor, the "sek-see" character of the series.

Their names (the Hinatas) are all related to the seasons and you can see signs for them in their bedroom doors: Winter (Fuyu, for Fuyuki), Summer (Natsu, for Natsumi) and Autumn (Aki, for Aki-san).

Gradually, new characters are introduced in the series, namely other Keronian aliens, such as...

- Tamama Nittohei - the black, cute one, with a slightly problematic double personality disorder and irremediably devoted to his "Mister Sergeant, Sir" (and candy, all things sweet);
- Giroro Gouchou - another amazing alien, the red one, very belligerant (apparently) but who falls in love with Natsumi-chan and kind of "adopts" a very cute kitten found in the Hinata's garden on a rainy cold afternoon;
- Kururu Souchou - the yellow one with crazy eyes, the genius of the platoon, inventor of crazy weapons and appliances that should help in conquering the so-coveted Pokopen;
- Dororo Heichou - the blue alien Ninja who ends up falling in love with the planet and its inhabitants;
- Angoru Moa - Keroro's cute niece, powerful enough to cause earthquakes and destroy planets at a whim. She is also in love with her "uncle", and has Tamama (Tama-chan) as her arch-rival (though she doesn't realise that herself!). Lady Moa is also known as the "Lord Of Terror", although nothing in her sweet, docile appearance would suggest that.

As for Keroro, he is green (d'oh!), hyper-active and easily distracted and performs the Hinata's household chores as determined by Natsumi-chan. He could even suffer of attention deficit disorder or something. While he should really be actively involved in plans, reports and strategies for control of Pokopen, the only thing he can possibly think about is buying and assembling Gundam plastic models!

Of course, there are other supporting human characters:

- Momoha Nishizawa, the rich girl who is terminally in love with Fuyuki-kun and also has a split personality like Tama-chan;
- Momotchi's butler and mentor/secretary, Paul Moriyama, who is an older guy and a very interesting character;
- The poet and handsome rebel Mutsumi Saburo, aka 623 (this time, it's Natsumi-chan the one in love with him!);
- Koyuki-chan (the pretty Ninja girl who befriended Dororo and who is in love, yes-yes-yes, with Natsumi-chan) etc etc...

The series is great fun and only God knows how much I identify with Fuyuki-kun's character: the outsider in school, looking for UFO's and ghost stories, super-shy and not good at PE at all! I was pretty much like that while in school, weird and always finding excuses for not attending those unbearable PE classes, ha ha!

My favourite character though is Tama-chan. He's got the cutest eyes and expressions and, in spite of his split personality, is mostly lovely and well-mannered and polite. Tama-chan is also the younger of the aliens, and has a little tail, a tadpole tail (they are froggies in the end, no?). Aw! and he calls Fuyuki "Fukki"!! Ain't that just adorable???

And lastly, another funny character, which does not appear much, but I thought was hilarious: the Ghost girl (or Grudge girl), who lives in an abandonned room chez Hinata. She is a bit of a piss taken on the recent Japanese horror films, I think, and the idea is just excellent. I expected however they would use her a bit more. Let's see how it comes up in the next books, though.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Do as Infinity (arrived today!)

I just received this fantastic double CD from DAI (Do As Infinity) from CDJapan. It also comes with a DVD containing clips from all featured songs. It is a real pity they are no longer together, but this special compilation is a treat for all their fans.

I think I already have most songs in other DAI's CD's, and I especially love "Fukai Mori" (end theme for InuYasha), and "Yesterday and Today". This is a must-have indeed! I am delighted.

The clips on the DVD are just gorgeous, everything looks like a dream, and all very well produced. Van Tomiko has an exceptional voice and a catchy presence, as do Owatari Ryo and Nagao Dai. They are all so beautiful and talented! All in all, this is an excellent product, with beautiful, top quality presentation, and I am very happy with my purchase. Could not recommend it highly enough!

I only wished they had also the clip for "Raven", the ending song for the horror film "Uzumaki" - a very strange film, based on the (also very strange) manga by Junji Ito.

(I have published this mini-review in the CDJapan website, by the way.)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Shura no Hana, Lady Snowblood...

I bought two mangas some days ago, ie, volumes 1 and 2 of "Lady Snowblood", by Koike Kazuo, illustrated by Kamimura Kazuo, and edited by Black Horse.

These have been written in the early 70's and became very popular in Japan at the time. Immediately after their publication (73, to be precise), the film "Lady Snowblood" ("Shurayukihime") was released. This is one of my favourite films, which 30 years later would strongly influence (or rather inspire) Tarantino's "Kill Bill". "Kill Bill" by its turn was primarily inspired by the manga itself, which is pure pulp.

I love "Kill Bill", and think it's great fun to watch. However after seeing "Lady Snowblood" I must say the former pales in comparison with the latter (the "original"). In this sense I nowadays see "Kill Bill" pretty much as a rip-off of "Lady Snowblood", with due respect to Tarantino and his work. But yes, even the camera shots seem like copies of "LS". Well, I believe "Kill Bill" may be a tribute of sorts to "Lady Snowblood" manga and films, but then again, I am not a film expert to say.

Tarantino used the two famous and astounding songs from the original, "Urami Bushi" (aka "My Grudge Blues" ) and "Shura no Hana" ("Flower of Carnage"), both sung by the gorgeous Kaji Meiko - who is also the star of "Lady Snowblood", this pretty and gloomy flower of Hell, white snow tinged with blood and moonlight.

The manga is very graphic. Lots of violence and sex. Mark thought the violence was a bit over the top, but we must agree that Yuki was a professional assassin, thus, she would do that for a living. She needed money (lots of it) to pursue her revenge, her family grudge.

He also thought she was taking her own clothes off all the time, however it's not her doing that in fact - but her foes, of course, who also try to rape her every so often. He restarted reading it and quite liked in the end. Caution here: if you don't like violent plots and scenes that some few people would certainly classify as "hentai", just keep clear of these books.

In the other hand, if you love manga, and are a fan of either "Kill Bill" and/or "Lady Snowblood", please grab your copy now.

Yuki, our Lady Snowblood, looks gorgeous as well in the books, however sometimes the body proportions do not seem quite right. Most of the time, she looks quite realistic and with a truly beautiful, almost angelical face, as well as the other characters and scenarios, which are very well drawn. No "big eyes" though, or cute magic girls and talking animals! Everything looks and feels quite real here.

To buy the books, you can go to my favourite manga site, JustManga. They deliver everywhere and have the best prices. To buy the films and CD's, go to Amazon or CDJapan, making a search for Kaji Meiko (Japanese form) or Meiko Kaji (westernized).

Now you may ask: which is more violent, books or film? I must say definitely the books.

"Crimson roses have their sharp thorns.
I don't want to hurt you, but I have to stab you with my thorns
Burning, it's burning,
It keeps on burning within my grudge blues"

From "Urami Bushi" - "My Grudge Blues", sung by Kaji Meiko