I don’t plan on blogging anything release-by-release, but what a pleasant surprise to see chapter twelve of Karasuma Wataru‘s Deus x Machina finally done! As the subject of my first post, this series is somewhat special to me, and I was sad to see that the scans halted just as things were getting good. In a funny twist of fate, Horobi no Michi finally released the chapter just days after a new scanslator called Riceballicious took the initiative himself. Because I saw Riceball’s scanslation first, the images in the post will be from his version.
Mori Kotarou‘s Stray Little Devil presents a rare conundrum in manga art. On one hand, Mori’s art is incredible—the level of background detail and the beauty of the world he creates are on par with the likes of Nihei Tsutomu. His character art and designs are even a step above Nihei’s, having an unrivaled crispness from panel to panel. These qualities, along with an entertaining story and intelligent writing, ought to make Stray Little Devil an instant classic, but taking a look at these pages from the first volume reveals where its perplexing trouble lies.
Itou Ei is an excellent character artist, and I’m sure that his illustrious portfolio of pornography is worth a look, but Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is a terrible manga. Nevermind that the plot and dialog are an incessant bombardment of poorly-delivered cliches; the action scenes are crippled by a poor sense of space and direction, and there’s no sense of ‘flow’ between images. Besides the character art, there’s really no reason to read this manga, but even that suffers from a failure in communication. This image from the fifth chapter perfectly expresses my point:
Here, Angela has just severed her arm in order to escape from a dimensional anomaly and is about to launch into battle with a Japanese priestess. Ordinarily, Ann wears a blank expression and fights with a sense of utter seriousnes. However, it’s difficult to judge what kind of character she really is—90% of the time, she acts and says things that give her a (cheesy) sense of ‘mystery,’ and she appears to take herself way too seriously. However, once in a while, she’ll randomly seem like a lighter or less serious character, and will wear facial expressions that seem different from her personality for no particular reason.
The above image creates the expectation that a more sadistic side of Ann has awakened from the heat of a worthy battle. This would’ve been a potentially interesting new aspect of her character, but in the next panel and for the rest of the battle, her face is as serious as it ever was before. This is the only image that implies any level of sadism on her part.
It seems to me that Itou Ei didn’t put much thought into his art for this series. In spite of the characters and story taking themselves deadly serious, it’s clear from his commentary in the omakes that Ei doesn’t take the series seriously at all. Things like the above image are drawn on a whim, and make it impossible to tell what the characters are really like. Everything about Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is haphazard like this.
(Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is licensed in my region by Seven Seas Entertainment.)
Bad things happen when a manga author doesn’t like the adaption of their work. Kare Kano, GAINAX’s promising shoujo romcom adaption, was hamstrung when Tsuda Masami complained that it focused too much on comedy instead of romance and refused to allow another season, which lead to Anno Hideaki‘s departure from the studio. The project was left in shambles, culminating in one of anime’s most disappointing endings. Toriyama Akira said of Dragonball Evolution that he wasn’t sure what it had to do with his original manga at all. These disapprovals by original authors can range from hazardous to depressing, which is why it’s refreshing to see a manga author give their thumbs up to an anime adaption.
Love can do some interesting things to people, and the first three chapters of Noguchi Takashi and Yumemakura Baku‘s Kurozuka are a great example of how someone’s face can evolve while falling in love. This post will study the gradual change in Kuromitsu’s facial expressions over the course of the first three chapters while she rapidly falls in love with Yoshitsune.
Tamaki Nozomu‘s Hakodate Youjin Buraichou Himegami (which I shall henceforth refer to as Himegami) is an impressively illustrated action story that also exceeded my expectations in terms of storytelling. The last two volumes were a thrilling climax and conclusion with a number of great moments that I’ll be getting into below.
First, I want to talk about my favorite part, which took place in the early chapters of volume 4. In this part, Hyou-chan gets overwhelmed with power and goes on a killing rampage, during which her personality changes into a far more honest and sadistic counterpart to herself. The whole bit called back to what I discussed in my last post about Hyou-chan’s facial expressions by introducing a new set of them that exemplified her change in personality.
Tamaki Nozomu‘s Hakodate Youjin Buraichou Himegami (which I shall henceforth refer to as Himegami) is a fun and well-illustrated action manga with plenty of notable moments, especially during fights. The mark of a great action manga isn’t just good-looking fights, but fights that can’t easily be found elsewhere, and Himegami has both of those qualities.
It wouldn’t do much good to go into detail about fight scenes for obvious reasons, so instead, I’ll be highlighting another great aspect of Himegami: the facial expressions of the lead-character, Hyou-chan (particularly in the first chapter).
From her first appearance up through the first combat scene, Hyou-chan remains almost completely silent. She displays a whole range of personality through facial expressions instead, most of which are the same ones she wears throughout the manga.
While doing research for my last post, I got interested in one of Tamaki Nozomu‘s other works, Hakodate Youjin Buraichou Himegami (which I shall henceforth refer to as Himegami). It’s a decent action manga with a focus on gratuitous ass shots, but one thing that caught my eye in the first chapter was this important-looking woman:
While reading up on Karasuma Wataru‘s Deus x Machina, I noticed people were comparing Machina to Mina Tepes from Tamaki Nozomu‘s Dance in the Vampire Bund – some even claimed that Machina’s design bordered on plagiarism (Bund=2007, Deus=2008). It’d been too long since I’d read any of Bund to comment on that, so I checked it out to see how they compare.
I wouldn’t consider Deus x Machina plagiarism at all. The obvious similarities between Machina and Mina Tepes are that both are lolis, often portrayed in sexually suggestive poses which involve twisting their bodies a lot; both have a sort of commanding presence (Machina especially); and most notably, they both wear long hair in twintails.