Donnerstag, 25. Juli 2013

A Study on Anime-Traits in BBC Sherlock

The attempt of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to retell the story of Sherlock Holmes in modern-day London turned out to be a tremendous success, so tremendous indeed that the series gained popularity all over the world and the hype didn’t leave Japan out. On the contrary, a manga series was announced on October 4, 2012 covering the first case “A Study in Pink”. Personally, I’m not an expert when it comes to western TV-Series, but as an Anime-addict, I noticed some traits in BBC Sherlock many fellow Otakus are quite familiar with. (I don’t think that the series is in any way inspired by the Anime I’ll mention later on, yet I found the similarities worthwhile enough to appreciate in this article.)

First: Take a look at some characters and you notice the use of trademarks, for example, Mycroft’s umbrella. It is not a rare case to see Anime-Characters that are defined by a certain trademark, a catchphrase (“You see, but you do not observe”) or a pose and it is the same in Sherlock. There is, for example, Mycroft’s female assistant who is glued on her smart phone almost for her whole screen time. She is no three-dimensional character since her whole character is defined by her smart phone-affinity. Of course, this doesn’t apply to Mycroft’s penchant for umbrellas. Yet, he is also more of a two- than a three-dimensional character. As Sherlock describes him, “he (Mycroft) practically is the British Government”. This means, Mycroft is the representation of governmental authority, the incarnation of the concept of power. Similar characters can be found in Mohiro Kitohs terrific manga “Narutaru” where Naozumi Sudo is the embodiment of nihilism whereas Takeo Tsurumaru represents chaos.
One could criticize those characters for being unrealistic, but on the other hand, this is exactly what gives them their iconic value.

The previous description applies to another character, the criminal mastermind, Jim Moriarty. Sherlock once calls him a “spider” in the web of crime. He is able to manipulate it at his will, making him the most dangerous of all criminals. Sounds familiar.
In Naoki Urasawa’s manga “Monster”, the angel-faced psychopath Johan Liebert is the mastermind behind an invisible web of crime that he solely holds in his hands. His character and his objective might differ from Moriarty, but the idea of an invisible web of organized crime created and manipulated by an embodiment of absolute evil is present in both works.

Let us not forget our protagonist, Sherlock Holmes. The super-sleuth who mastered the science of deduction is a (self-proclaimed) sociopath who hunts criminals for his own pleasure. He is an antihero, lacking humanity and compensating for it with intellectual prowess. The antihero-character was so famous in the last decade of Anime (it almost became a cliché). Light Yagami from Death Note and Leloch Lamperouge from Code Geass come instantly mind. Those characters try to solve the problems of the world by the use of morally wrong means. Though to Light the primary cause of his actions is to fight and defeat a challenging opponent. In Light’s case it is L, in Sherlock’s case it is Moriarty and both vice versa. I won’t bother comparing L and Sherlock, though it would be interesting to see both of them in competition.

The next point is more interesting to the female audience. BBC-Sherlock takes the whole “My dear Watson”-thing, that kept the Fujoshi,s busy for years, to a whole new level. It seems like all of their (wet) dreams have come true, now that no episode passes without hinting that the relationship of Sherlock and his dear John might be more than platonic, though they never cross the point of officially confirming it (maybe out of consideration for the male audience).
To those of you who are still not convinced that this especially pleases the desire of female Manga/Anime-fans, go and read a Hetalia-fanfic.
Spoiler-Alert! Finally it is time to look at the unbearably cruel cliffhangers at the end of Season 1 and 2. During my first rewatch, I noticed strange similarities between Sherlock and an Anime famous for its perfect usage of this plot device, namely Code Geass. At the end of the first season of Code Geass, the two protagonists Lelouch and Suzuka point a gun at each other. We didn’t know if one of them shoots or if anyone of them dies and we were left wondering for a whole year before it was explained what happened. Then, the finale of the second season showed the antihero Lelouch shouldering the whole guilt of the world and dying as a messiah while the whole world thinks of him as a mad dictator. Sherlock’s “death” at the end of Season 2 is not that ‘biblical’, yet he also has to die and in order to safe the ones dear to him, he claims to be a fraud, a psychopath and a murderer.  In the eyes of the public this image remains, while he actually “died” as a true hero.

Those are my main points and I hope you enjoyed it. If you are an Anime-Addict or not you should definitely give Sherlock a try especially now, that the third Season has been scheduled for autumn.

Montag, 24. Juni 2013

The operation ends – Review of Franken Fran Volume 8

You should never judge a book by its cover.

What I read: Katsuhisa Kigitsu’s definitely unique medical-horror-comedy/satire manga Franken Fran, an experimental manga series containing numerous, mostly episodic, chapters about the “daughters” of Dr. Madaraki, the genius Dr. Frankenstein of Japan, especially Fran who performs operations that surpass the possibilities of science and do rarely end in a positive way. By the way, if you can read German, I highly recommend Burkhard Höfler’s marvelous translation published by Planet Manga.

What I expected:
  •         Steve Jocks and his evil powers of capitalism
  •         The annihilation and replacement of the human race by octopuses.
  •         Kuhou-San getting screwed up
  •     Gawrill(Sensei) going berserk
  •         Appearance  of Dr. Madaraki
  •         A satisfying conclusion

What I got: Neither Steve Jocks nor octopuses appeared, Kuhou-San got screwed up, but thinking of Fran, we know worse, Gawrill-Sensei didn’t even kill one person, instead she prevented Veronica to kill and we didn’t get the eagerly awaited reunion of Fran and her beloved doctor. So, my expectations, at least most of them, weren’t answered, but that doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied with this final volume. In fact, unpredictability is what made this manga so enjoying after all. Or who would have expected the flying spaghetti monster to appear randomly at the end of a certain chapter.

Either way, here’s the summary: The volume begins with a double chapter-story, the first in Franken Fran, about a ridiculously rich man who tries to turn an island he bought into an ideal anime-setting with countless cute girls, who apparently are the leftovers of Kuhou-San’s clones. The otaku audience is covered. Next, we have a theme park romance between two modified bear-like characters.

Adorea also has her own episode where she turns into No-Face from Spirited Away and eats almost all of her classmates. How did this happen? The pupils tried to create a new social order using different blood types and since Adorea has no constant blood type she eats those who have the one she needs to be accepted in this new school order. After this, Fran delivers a speech against discrimination and exclusion because of blood types. She always was quite the humanist.

 The sentinel’s final episode ties up the four characters and let’s them team up against the true evil (what was that again?). Personally, I thought the first Sentinel episode was really great, a deconstruction of the hero-genre, but thereafter I lost more and more interest in them.

Veronica attempt to take revenge for her only friend in school in the next episode is stopped by Gawrill-Sensei. As much as I dislike characters like Gawrill, I really took a liking to her, especially as a teacher.

 The penultimate episode tells a story of two Fran’s. Our lovely protagonist is sliced into two halves, a logical and an emotional, which both start to act on their own. This episode follows the emotional Fran for most of the time and shows that philanthropy alone doesn’t make the world a better place.

The final episode deserves to be called the climax of the series. Fran is captured in a luxurious boat that sinks to the bottom of the sea. Unable to escape, she waits and falls asleep. Dreaming, she encounters all characters that appeared in the manga, even the giant whales, on a party. Fran dance with Okita (in a human body) and at the end, she runs towards the door to greet Dr. Madaraki who was also invited. At this point she wakes up and is rescued by Veronica and Okita.

An epilogue-interview with the three sisters is definitely the most hilarious part of the volume. I just like to see Veronica getting teased.

For some reason, the last volume and many chapters of the second half of Franken Fran were less disturbing and mad than in the beginning. Sometimes Fran is shown as a serious scientist or a caring doctor without being a monstrous maniac at the same time. One could almost think of her as a rather normal human being when reading some of these chapters. In that way, I think it is not the worst thing for Kigitsu-Sensei to end the series at this point. He still continues drawing great manga and as long as he stays true to his style, I’m perfectly fine with it.

As for Franken Fran, it will remain in my memory as a unique masterpiece combining philosophy, science and otaku-culture resulting in many (not all) unforgettable chapters. If you want to read something you never read or saw before, Franken Fran is the best manga I can recommend.

Freitag, 31. Mai 2013

"Oh my God! They killed Cock Robin!" – Anime/Manga-Recommendation: Patalliro!

It is quite ironic that the first shōnen-ai anime to be aired in Japan is a satire of the genre itself originally written by a male author. In the year 1983 the adaption of Mineo Maya’s manga-series Patalliro! (started 1979 and continues until today) brought amusement to many Japanese TV-watchers. By the way, Mineo Maya is one of the few men who draw manga of this genre. If the same show had aired in the United Stated or in Europe at that time, it would have caused vehement protests and been cancelled for sure. Why is that so?

The opening

Patalliro! Tells the story of the 10-year-old king of the same name (feels more like a dictator though), who rules over Malynera, a small island where spring never ends and diamonds are the natural resource number 1. The young king is rich beyond reason and super intelligent enabling him to do whatever he wants. Him having diabetis is no hindrance to screw with everything that meets his way.

For example, British M16-agent Jack Barbarossa Bancoran (usually called Bancoran, but the whole name is just awesome), who tries to solve jewelry robberies or to catch members of the evil International Diamond Syndicate (IDS). He is basically the result of James Bond and Naraku (Inu Yasha) getting a child. His pruple eyeshadow is just one of the many female traits that male characters have in this series. In fact, there are more effeminate men in this series than female characters. Even Patalliro’s servants, the Tamenegi, hide a bishōnen-face underneath their funny looking masks.

Long before the term “trap” was established and characters like Mariya (MariaHolic) or Hideyoshi (Baka to Test) became popular, Patalliro! introduced a cast of men being way more beautiful than any women and on the top of the list stands 18-years-old Maraich, a former member of the IDS who is now Bancoran’s lover. He usually wears women’s clothing, high-heels and (why do I even need to mention this) make-up. We often see him getting really emotional and jealous, which is quite understandable considering Bancoran’s countless affairs with young men. I should mention that Bancoran has the ability to swoon young effeminate men with his glance alone, also giving him the nickname “Bishōnen-Killer”.

The 30-year-old animations take some time to get used to, but the background pictures and character designs, of course, are really beautiful. Castles and roses and all sorts of shōjo-manga clichés create homoerotic overtones; sometimes one is reminded of the first chapter of Dorian Gray. Apart from the animation, the soundtrack, opening and ending are all perfect, just what you would expect from a good anime series.

In terms of actual story, there isn’t much to say. The adventures of Patalliro range from action based adventures to sci-fi to almost everything you can imagine, but it’s essentially a comedy series and has remained so until today. The manga and anime contain so many jokes, one cannot compare them to modern representatives of the genre (except, maybe, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) when it comes to the sheer number of puns. There are so many funny jokes that there is still plenty to laugh about even if you leave all the jokes about yaoi and homosexuality out. Yet, those jokes make Patalliro! such a great satire of the genre and therefore it is even enjoyable for those who don’t like shōnen-ai at all.

Patalliro! is a mostly unknown and underrated series that deserves much more attention. I’m truly thankful to the fans who create subtitles, scanlate and spread information about it, especially for those who don’t speak Japanese or can’t get any of the volumes or DVDs.

Now, I will post some links for those who want to find out more about Patalliro! or want to give it a try. It’s definitely worth the try!

 A great, informational page dedicated to the series:

A part of the first episode (subbed)

The touching ending song

And last but not least: Cosplay Queen Kanda Midori's Maraich-Cosplay



Montag, 13. Mai 2013

Shingeki no Shōnen - Why Shingeki no Kyojin is no deconstructional Anime

Sometime last week, I read that Shingeki no Kyojin is a deconstruction of shōnen-manga, basically because it kills off important characters all the time.  Friendship! Effort! Victory! Those are the three basic principles of shōnen-manga. And Shingeki no Kyojin is deconstructional because victory is not in sight? One could compare it to Madoka Magika, or even to Mohiro Kitohs Narutaru or Bokurano, which are some of the best ones when it comes to taking cliches or whole genres apart. But if one takes a closer look, this just isn't accurate.

Shingeki no Kyojin contains so many cliches, beginning with its protagonist's sense of justice, or the training sequences, the thought of effort leading to success or melodramatic flashbacks. Its typical stuff you can read in almost every other shōnen. More important, these building blocks of shōnen-manga are not used in an ironic way, the cliches are not questioned. What makes it special is the combination with the horror-genre, so combination is the word, not deconstruction. If you think that, for example, the combination of Pokemon and lots of cruelty results in Narutaru, you might as well use the term deconstruction, falsely however. Narutaru utilizes the idea of Monster Animes and applies it to Real Life, which is one of the most common ways to deconstruct a genre. A more accurate definition of the term can be found under this link. It is the ironic element, reversing and perverting familiar settings, characters or whole genres to turn them into something new and creating disilliusionment and shock to the reader, especially those who expected stereotypical entertainment. Some people feel disappointed after reading or watching Shingeki no Kyojin because they cannot bear seeing characters die, others think of it as an extraordinary and ground-breaking concept. Both somehow misunderstood the point of the series.

It comes down to this: Shingeki no Kyojin cannot be lined up with Anime/Manga like Evangelion or Narutaru. Its difference from other shōnen is due to its use of horror-elements and its difficult power levels when it comes to enemies, but no more. One could call Shingeki no Kyojin the Touhou or the Sekaiju no Meikyū (Etrian Odyssey) of shōnen-manga, but no more. People may call it exciting, mediocre, cruel, epic, ground-breaking, yet, in the end it is just one of the better shōnen-manga out there, not more and not less.

"Hey Kubyey, people tend to misunderstand us, don't they"

Mittwoch, 1. Mai 2013

First thoughts on Evangelion 3.0 (Spoilers!)

EVA 3.0 in a nutshell by Meguro Fukuzou (mostly nsfw)

“What is this I don’t even…” is what I’d have said if I hadn’t watched End of Evangelion. After an amazing start, we have to realize that 14 years have passed since the end of Eva 2.0, which basically means 14 years of plot are missing and don’t even think of getting an explanation in the movie. The desperate Eva-Nerd is thrown into a completely new situation after analyzing and interpreting for years to understand enough of the series to feel highly sophisticated about it. No, Anno really didn’t give the fans what they wanted, or at least what they expected from the trailers at the end of Evangelion 2.0.

It’s a desolate world, there is no trace left of the social life, no schools, and as a matter of fact: no-slife-of-life scenes. Instead, we get a lot of meaningless Mari and Asuka-fanservice (not the ecchi sort though). And that’s all we get of them, no need for character development, or in Mari’s case, character. She has remained a waste of screen time, and so have the new characters introduced in the movie. The one with the pink hair caught my interest (yes, “only shallow people do not judge by appearances”), but I don’t expect her to be of any relevance in the following movie.

In retrospect, it is really interesting how the characters, one of the strongest point of EVA, have been portrayed so weakly. Ayanami being mute and lacking character is, of course, nothing I can blame her for. But all the effort of making her into an emotional human being is neglected in this movie. Then there is the long awaited appearance of Kaworu, rest assured fangirls. Yet, he didn’t leave much of an impression. Though his relationship with Shinji, still being as whiny as we know him, was the best kind of character interaction in the movie, which is rather sad. Then there is Fuyutsuki’s conversation with Shinji, releaving him the truth about his mother, a great attempt, but the expected mindfuck was rather disappointing.
 When did EVA stop to be an allegory depicting characters and their problems with society and themselves? I guess with the start of the Rebuild-Movies.

Apart from philosophical and psychological themes, there is still the good old plot: the Human Instrumentality Project, Adam, Lilith aso. This movie means a good piece of work, even or especially for people like me who stockpile their EVA theories, only to get them messed up by Anno every time. 3.0 is truly confusing, not only because 14 years of information is not revealed to the audience. Too much happened, and it will take time to figure things out. Of course we’ll never figure them out completely, but there is a lot to be found out and that’s what makes EVA worthwhile, even after 18 years since the start of the series.

This movie was a disappointment. I have to admit, I didn’t expect the Freudian depth of the original series. Nor did I want to see End of Evangelion being redone. I didn’t expect 3.0 to become as good as 2.0 either. 

Yet, I didn’t get what I wanted, but isn’t that why I’m watching Anno?
I’m one of the few people that don’t hate him because of that.


Dienstag, 23. April 2013

World Book Day - Literature Recommendations

しびれるね、文学。                 Artist: Suou
397 years after the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, we celebrate - at least those who actually read books - the World Book Day, which is also called World Book and Copyright Day, but for some reason the first name is generally preferred. This day is or ought to be to book sellers what Valentine's Day is to the chocolate industry. Either way, without further delay I will present to you 5 pieces of literature I highly recommend, beginning with...

Demons (Бесы) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This is one of the lesser known books among Dostoyevsky's big five or '5 Elephants' (from Crime and Punishment to The Brothers Karamazov), but it is by far the most radical and devilish of them. Apart from that, there is a lot of humour in it, espescially when it comes to poetry, though I had to read it twice to realize. And for those of you who want to become God and don't have a Death Note at hand, Kirillov's philosophy might be very intriguing.

Samstag, 13. April 2013

Haruki Murakami: 1Q84 "It’s Only a PaperMoon"

Zur englischen Gesamtausgabe von Vintage Books

In seiner ‚Laufbiographie’ „Wovon ich rede, wenn ich vom Laufen Rede“ äußert sich Murakami voller Bewunderung über sein literarisches Vorbild Dostojewskij wie folgt:

„Die meisten Schriftsteller werden im Alter schwächer und schwächer. Aber nicht Dostojewski. Er wurde immer größer und besser.“

Vielleicht war gerade das der Anlass für den japanischen Popliteraten, der mit Bestsellern wie „Kafka am Strand“ oder „Naokos Lächeln“ auf der ganzen Welt gefeiert wird,  noch einmal alles bisher Geschriebene übertrumpfen zu wollen. Ergebnis ist der etwas über 1300 Seiten lange Roman „1Q84“: eine Tour de Force, sowohl für den Autoren, der es im Jahr 2009 zu schreiben begann, als auch für den Leser, ein surreales Mammutwerk und womöglich das Magnum Opus Murakamis?