Sunday, 26 February 2012

Manga Musings: Onani Master Kurosawa

Myriad manga are set in the school environment and granted, a lot that I've come into contact with focus on cute high school girls. Onani Master Kurosawa however, is unlike anything I've ever read before. At its heart it's a coming-of-age drama that follows the titular Kurosawa as he matures from his anti-social beginning, looking down on everyone around him, to learning the importance of friendship and social contact. Where this manga differs is through is that the central themes, and eventual catalysts for his change are revenge and masturbation.

Kurosawa is a self-alienated boy who keeps very much to himself. He actively chooses not to interact any more than is absolutely necessary with his classmates, and - despite hiding it well from others - actively despises the one person who consistently attempts to reach out to him - a kind hearted otaku named Nagaoka. The only thing the boy actually cares about is his "Daily Duty", and every day after school he waits in the library until everyone leaves before retiring to the girls' bathroom where he proceeds to jack off while picturing one of his female classmates. Charming, right? Well it gets better as when he notices a girl being bullied, he decides to dish out his own form of justice where he steals their uniforms and leaves his sticky white calling card all over them.

Now, I'm no prude by any stretch of the imagination, but the scenes with Kurosawa jerking off in the girl's lavatory weren't pleasant. They were explicit without showing anything (other than a few... "stains" on the wall), mainly due to the blunt and coarse internal dialogue. I confess at this point I was on the verge of dropping Onani Master for its sheer grossness. But I felt I should give it more of a chance. Following his stunt with the bullies, the victim, a quiet and frankly nutty girl, Kitahara, approaches Kurosawa in the bathroom and says that she will keep quiet about his daily activities, if he'd perform the same, twisted vengeance on anyone else she so desires. Frankly, this didn't sound like it was going to get much better, since now it seemed to be a manga about manipulated wanky justice. However, shortly after, the story took a turn that made it far mroe interesting. Slowly, through his relationship with a girl in his class, Kurosawa begins to undergo a gradual transformation and what follows is a fairly impressive tale of love, atonement, and the importance of never being alone.

I personally think that the artwork is probably the most impressive aspect of Onani Master, which doesn't necessarily fly the flag for great story and characters. However, the art style is unlike anything I've seen in another manga. The main drawings look to have been drawn by pencil, and instead of using screentone, the shading has been created again by pencil. Then in an odd contrast to this very hand-drawn feel, the gradient tones appear to have been digitally added. It's an odd sort of effect, but at the same time it's oddly effective. This rougher, more sketchy style of artwork, complements the crude nature of the content - after all if a scene with a boy whacking off was crisp, precise and pristine, it would give off too much of a clinical vibe, and this is meant to be dirty. Dark, unsavoury, and dirty.

Certainly, if you can get over the initial parts with Kurosawa's vulgar, no-nonsense toilet exploits, then you may well enjoy this manga. Honestly, I'm glad that I did continue reading. It may not be one of my favourite series ever, but for a teenage tale with a twist, it was quite impressive. So if you have some spare time, it's only four volumes long, why not give it a go.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Naruto Filler is Getting Worse

Several months ago, I wrote a post on the filler episodes in Naruto. In particular I was praising Shippuuden for at least attempting to link its filler with the story, as well as voicing concerns about the "Tales of Days Past" standalone episodes. To quote myself:

"It remains to be seen how the filler situation in Shippuuden will continue. I can, however, say with some confidence that if the crappy "comedy" episodes stick around, then any vague good that the earlier plot-relevant filler arcs did, will soon be overshadowed by the poor quality fluff currently halting the main narrative's progression."

Sadly, the above seems to have come to pass as following an all too short run of actual plot (a meager 25 episodes, of which several contained flashbacks of previous content), we were thrown back into more mundane fluff. This time, instead of recalling memories of the past, the premise for each standalone story in the twenty episode run is Naruto encountering someone or something during his painfully long sea voyage to the Lightning Country. Initially, it's bearable. OK, catching a giant swordfish is a brainless distraction but whatever, it's only one episode. Unfortunately, the "only one episode" delusion doesn't last for long, and soon you want the torture to end - JUST GET OFF THE GODDAMN BOAT ALREADY! It's Frodo shitting in the woods all over again.

Even the "comedy" elements lose their charm rapidly; there are only so many times you can see the "Oh Gai is seasick, how HI-LAAAAAR-IOUS!" gag before you wish they'd just give up and toss him overboard to see how he fares with the sharks. 

I'm somewhat behind with the anime and still attempting to trudge my way through the inane drivel that's currently gracing my screen, and with each twenty-four minutes of my life that ebbs away watching Naruto get poisoned by mushrooms, fight his own clones, or get into a battle over marriage, I feel less and less inclined to start the next installment. Frankly, the only thing keeping me going is the eventual promise of plot, and GOOD plot at that. It's a genuine shame that the fluff has descended to this level, when it was at least tolerable before - since it's now making me dread the next time that the story takes a break and I'm wedged back into this crap-padded cell known as filler. For now, I'll just have to soldier on and hold onto the tiny ray of light that is a semi-humourous moment that raises a smile and doesn't involve Gai vomiting over the side of the ship or practically dry-humping solid ground every time they dock for supplies.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Fun With Poo

Yes, dear reader, you did read that title correctly and fair warning, this post will likely be crude. If you think that this may offend you, then please don't read, as it could get a little gross. However, this whole thing is a bit of fun (with a serious point hidden away somewhere) and well, forgive me, but this was composed at 2am when it all seemed like such a brilliant idea.

It all stemmed from a conversation I had several months ago discussing shounen manga, specifically the big three (One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach). Then at one point I came up with an analogy to highlight how the three mangaka often appear to work... through poo. I suggested that if each of the trio were told to incorporate a turd into their work it could go as follows:

One Piece (Eiichiro Oda) - I could imagine the introduction of a character that had eaten the Poo Poo Devil Fruit, which gave the user the ability to turn his entire body to poo, and shoot small (but deadly) fecal projectiles from it's hands. Upon more thought I could also imagine a running gag of this guy slipping over when in turd-form since... well... it can be slippy.

Naruto (Masashi Kishimoto) - I'd say that in a story that's generally more serious, this would likely be a little light relief, and would be a "gag jutsu", much like Naruto's Sexy Harem or the Thousand Years of Pain. The Poo-poo no Jutsu, a powerful technique that causes the unfortunate victim to develop sudden, volitile diarrhea.

Bleach (Tite Kubo) - My thoughts on what Kubo would do with a turd, was quite simple. I suggested that he would simply dress the poo in sunglasses and make it look cool.

It may seem like a throwaway idea, but in essence it displays how I see the way that the three mangakas work. Oda's One Piece has much more of a humour content than the other two, thus I can imagine that if presented with a ridiculous inclusion like this, he could use it as a starting block for something bigger, maybe a mini arc or something. Oda can take the ridiculous and make it sublimely ridiculous. Kishimoto also has that sense of fun at times, but Naruto is a much more serious story. That said, he does manage to infuse moments of levity some of which that are crude and in your face, so the inclusion of something so gross could be done without affecting the gravity of the main plotline. Finally, when it comes to Kubo, while he does have some moments of decent storytelling, it always comes across to me that he's more concerned with the style of Bleach rather than its actual content. It seems, moreso than the other two series, that it wants to look cool. It has the cool character designs, the stylised fights, and while it contains some humour, it's not on the same, almost puerile level, of the other two. So while claiming that he'd simply have a turd in sunglasses may seem like a cop-out answer (and in truth I couldn't see him ACTUALLY doing that if presented with this challenge), it symbolises more the approach I believe he'd take. Somehow, he'd find a way to make a steaming lump of faeces look cool, which when you think about it, is quite an impressive talent.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Monthly Round-up: January

First up I have an apology to make for the severe lack of posts this month. There's little good excuse and I've certainly failed hardcore at the "Blog more" resolution I made. 

Initially I had planned to do a weekly round-up of what I've been watching and reading, but thanks to my (possibly unhealthy) addiction to Skyrim, before I knew it I'd already missed the first two weeks. So, I decided to do a monthly one instead. At the moment I'm not entirely sure how these posts will go, and they may well morph into something completely different, but we'll see how it goes. I'm also hoping that by keeping a record of what I've watched/read this year, my next 12 Days of Christmas post may be a little easier, since last year I forgot what I'd seen in 2011 and what I'd watched before!

Anime I've Watched:
  • Arrietty - I've barely watched any anime this month, but it felt quite fitting that my first of the year was a Ghibli film, and the latest one at that! Thoroughly enjoyed it, though wasn't quite as blown away as I had expected to be. Still loved it nonetheless.
  • Morita-san wa Mukuchi 2 - I finally finished off the last episode of this, and while it's harmless enough, I'm kind of glad it's over. I was definitely getting more and more bored throughout the series' run.

Ongoing Anime I've Watched

Manga I've Read:
  • Vinland Saga - From starting at volume four, I've now managed to get up to date on this, and damn it's good! It's definitely very tough going to reading it as it's scanlated.
  • Black Paradox - The final two chapters of this were finally scanlated, so I managed to finish it off, and even by Junji Ito's standards, it's bloody weird!Definitely not my favourite of his works so far, but it won't put me off reading any more.
  • Faster Than A Kiss - Another of the 25 Days manga that I wanted to get up to date on. Quite enjoy it, though at one point I found it a bit repetitive. It definitely got more interesting when it started delving into Kazuma's past and his relationship with his family.
  • Black Bird - Again, a 25 Days request that I wanted to get up to date on. Still really enjoying this one, especially since while it has all the shoujo romance, it also has a fair bit about the politics of the youkai clans, which for me gives this series an extra edge.
  • All Rounder Meguru - Now up to date on this 25 Days manga. Still enjoying this one. I must say I remain surprised at how much I've enjoyed the mixed martial arts manga I've read. I assumed my love for HSDK was mainly due to the humour of the Masters (which it is) but I think there's also some inherent part of me that enjoys the combat side.
  • Nichijou - Started and read all that's translated of this. I've certainly gained more of a fondness for Nichijou than when I first started the anime. No longer bored by it and find it quite amusing.
  • Hanamaru Youchien - Another series I picked up and have read all that has been translated. Just as cute as the anime, shame that not more of it is available to read.

Ongoing Manga I've Read:
 As you can see from the above list, I've been shockingly poor with anime this month - something that I'm working on this month as I still haven't finished most of the Fall season, and I owe a post on my final thoughts, with luck that should be coming soon, alongside a post on whatever Winter titles I eventually pick up.