Until I’ve passed the anime’s plot, I won’t be able to read Ushiki Yoshitaka‘s Yumekui Merry without thinking about its adaption. The anime disappointed me quite a bit, to the point that I ragequit near the end (I do plan to finish it sometime, though). The manga makes me happy and sad because it doesn’t suffer the same problems as the anime, which means it also shows how the anime could’ve been better.
Like most American manga fans, I was introduced to the medium through tankouban; and also like most of them, the only other way I can read manga is through scanslations. Reading manga this way, one usually goes unaware of the magazines that series come from. This leads to an interesting difference in the way that manga is consumed as a whole, and it’s a difference I’m becoming familiar with as I progress in manga fandom.
These past 4 days, I’ve been searching unsuccessfully for new manga to read. I like action series with cute girls, so I looked for works in that vein, but time and again I was confronted by failures in illustrating action. Finally, I stumbled across Taboo-Tattoo by Shinjirou, an exciting new series that works to show exactly where all of the others failed.
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.)
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.