Sunday, May 12, 2019

Italian TV at its (not so) finest

It's recent news that, in its half-assed and misdirected effort to cut down expenses, RAI (basically the Italian version of public broadcast, with the difference that over here it's basically television's big fish instead of the graveyard where programming goes to die... well, it's also that, but still) is about to axe a few of its cable tv channels. Among them RAI Movie (public service's only 24h movie channel) and, even worse, RAI Fiction.

If you've followed me for a while on Twitter, you might have noticed I'm an incorrigible hound when it comes to 80s and 90s italian TV. I'm particularly fond of the format we over here call 'fiction', which really means tv series. They're usually cheap, by the dozen, they features the same carousel of actors over and over, and they tend to be a pretty good mirror of Italy's pop culture as a whole. This article, in loving memory of RAI Fiction's near demise, will comment on a few of my favorites. There's some good stuff from the 2000s as well, but I'll be keeping those aside for the moment.

I Cinque del Quinto Piano

Quintessential italian Tv for the true culture vulture. First aired in 1988, this sit-com features a nameless italian family, and their interactions as they unfold mostly in a single environment - their living room. There's Edoardo, father and editor at a small press; Gisella, former singing talent and now owner of a fashion boutique; Gianfilippo, son and token slacker uni student; Stefania, high schooler interested more in boys and girls over school; and Simone, the youngest son whose main mission is to annoy his older siblings. A fairly typical family from 80s Milan burgeoisie, but there's little politics at stake here: rather, the series focuses on the bizzarre, often surreal interactions between cast members, where the comedy mostly comes from each one's own archetype being pushed to its limits. Comedian Gian Fabio Bosco aside, the series features mostly nobodies, who did very little after this show.


For a totally different kind of show, Passioni. Big american family sagas like Beautiful  or The Guiding Light were a huge hit in Italy, and this two-part show (1993) was the country's take on it. Produced by Titanus and Berlusconi Communications (soon-to-be Mediaset), Passioni focuses on the dramas of the Boldano family, and an adulterous event that will change, years later, the lives of all involved. Betrayals, blackmailing, illnesses and bankrupcies abound. Lots of well-known italian actors in this one: Gigi Proietti, Virna Lisi, Lorenzo Flaherty and many others. Notable is the moving title sequence featuring Cocciante's Il Tempo. 

Il Maresciallo Rocca

Now, this one's a classic! While the previous two will be mostly unknown to today's general public, famous Carabiniere Rocca (played by legendary actor Gigi Proietti)'s crime-fighting adventures have become an italian TV cult, often re-aired even on RAI Fiction. Running from 1996 to 2005, the series follows Rocca as he goes through a series of family tragedies, in parallel with criminal-of-the-day storylines that tend to resolve in one or two episodes. While drama abounds, the overall tone is actually fairly light, with comedy provided mostly by Proietti's stereotypical portrayal of a Roman no-nonsense, old fashioned man who gets hopelessly left behind as times change. It also inspired a slew of italian police-themes series, such as Il Capitano or R.I.S.

Un Medico in Famiglia

Another classic. Running from 1998 to 2016, the mammoth tv show follows the adventures of titular public health doctor Lele and his extended clan of sons, daughters, relatives, friends, and colleagues. There is some mild drama (runaway kids, a couple deaths) but overall the tone is as comedic as it gets: of particular note is Lele's father Libero (played by famous italian actor Lino Banfi), an old-fashioned retired train conductor, who finds it harder and harder to cope with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren's increasingly wild and contemporary lifestyles. Lots of famous faces in this one, including Milena Vukotic, Giulio Scarpati, and Claudia Pandolfi.

This is but a few of the hundreds fictions produced by italian TV over the 80s and 90s - if you want to find out more, I suggest perusing the rather exhaustive wikipedia entry on the subject.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Record of Lodoss War (ロードス島戦記) novels 1-7

So yea, Lodoss War. And not the (in my archaic, unrefined, D&D addled taste) pretty good anime, nor the far less amazing manga. This time it's all about the novels - and yes, they did come first. Even though it's not dōjinshi-themed, I actually meant to finish this writeup for a while, for a number of reasons:

1- It's one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, mostly because it appeals to my very orthodox tastes in fantasy. I like stuff where elves are elves, dwarves are dwarves, evil mages are a dime a dozen, and the knighty guy swings a big sword at a dragon. Sue me.
2- It's basically what fantasy lit was in Japan before that disgraceful isekai nonsense, so yeah, kid, time to see where the shit you're so into came from.
3- As far as I know, Italy is the only country outside Japan (and definitely in the West) where the seven-novels run has been published in its entirety, including the two books that were *not* adapted in the anime series. The French run got up to vol.4 or so, and only the first one is available in English.
4- The covers, while truer to the character descriptions in the novels, are laughably bad. And to think it's a famous Bonelli guy who made them...
5- While the pace, the plotting and the writing belie the story's roots as RPG replays, and Ryo Mizuno is certainly not Tolkien, the series is actually pretty decent.

The Grey Witch 

First volume, which you can actually get your hands on in English. Parn, the token fearless boy who dreams to be a knight, discovers his father's legacy and, after saving his town from goblins and meeting Deedlit the elf, embarks on a journey to stop Karla, a witch from an ancient magical civilization, from unleashing two nations against each other. He mostly fails, by the way. Here the anime follows the novels pretty closely, sometimes down to single scenes: a little more backstory is given to Kastull, the ancient kingdom Karla hails from; and Parn's knightly lineage is explored in slightly more detail.

The Flame Demon

This is one volume that was cut from the anime adaptation, and probably with good reason - not because it's bad, but because it' mostly a sidestory where Karla, now possessing Woodchuck the thief's body, plays a riff in Lupin /Carmen San Diego style, generally travelling around and unleashing ruckus wherever she can. In The Flame Demon, she once again takes advantage of ancient rivalries - a kingdom and a wandering tribe sharing the same patch of desert land - to wreak havoc, while seeking to unleash a powerful ancient djinn of flames on Lodoss.
Little overall arc advancement, except that the desert land that acts as setting is Flaim, the kingdom of king Kashu, who becomes a central character later on, so we get a bit more background on how he became king. Female characters are also slightly more prominent, as Deedlit uses her shaman powers to solve the situation, managing not to look like a complete (though still hot) bimbo; and the queen of the wandering tribe, who does not appear in the anime.

Fire Dragon Mountain pt 1 /pt 2

A Two-volume chapter, it was adapted in its entirety, and the anime follows the story quite faithfully. The forces of Marmo, the evil island kingdom, begin to stir in the form of Vagnard, a dark mage bent of resurrecting the Goddess of Destruction; and Ashram, who follows along on the evil path as a necessary means to save the cursed people of Marmo. This alliance of evil sets out to reclaim five ancient treasure from five dragons all over Lodoss, and it fall on Parn and his team to prevent the catastrophe... which is compounded by the rise of a number of tyrants all over the land, in a free-for-all grab before Lodoss falls into darkness.
As mentioned, story-wise the anime adaptation gives a good idea of the overall plot, and the novel mostly offers more background, flourishes, and details on the world and history of the cursed island of Lodoss. There is a distinct Game of Throne-ish political backstabbing subplot between the various kingdoms that the anime adaptation dropped almost entirely, probably to save runtime and focus instead on the adventure aspect.

The Holy War of Kings

The other volume that, save a few details for continuity, was not adapted into anime. The final two volumes of the series are sort of a 'second season' with different protagonists, which was then adapted in the anime's second series - The Holy War of Kings is, for the most part, a side-adventure bridging the gap between the two. There is some overlap, as some characters that appear in this volume become co-protagonists later on; some that were there in the previous four novels disappear; and some are novel-only (such as the master of the thieves' guild and his righ arm). Evil also makes a sort-of-comeback, as Parn and his friends are pitted against the army of Marmo's newest weapon... some giant that only a certain magic sword can harm. Yay.
Dumb mcguffin aside, more than The Flame Demon, this is the one 'extra' volume I would have included in the anime, as it would have made the protagonist switch from Parn to Spark between series a little less jarring. Same goes for mercenaries Shiiris and Orson, who in the anime just pop out of nowhere with no backstory to be given, details that the book instead covers.

The Holy Knights of Lodoss

Basically the source material for Record of Lodoss War: Chronicle of the Holy Knight (aka second series), which the anime follows quite closely. Spark, a new recruit for the 'good' league led by Kashu against the ever present threat of Marmo (who, through alliances and invasions, has actually managed to snatch away a big chunk of Lodoss for itself), assembles his own merry band of friends (names are irrelevant, just imagine a typical D&D party) and teams up with Parn and Deedlit to stop a double threat: the return of both Ashram (who, by the end, becomes really more of an antihero than anything) and Vagnard, who's basically now a lich and, with the help of Karla, tries to embody the Goddess of Destruction in the vessel of a princess, Nice (or Neese, whichever you prefer).
Especially compared to the still decent anime adaptation, these last two books are... surprisingly deep, and in a philosophical kind of way. There is politicking, with backstabbing both present and foreshadowed; a few very interesting meditations on destiny, predestination, and what it means to accept oneself; and, of course, swordfights. A *lot* more space than in the anime is given to Karla and her backstory, really bringing to the forefront how she embodies the 'end justifies the means' mindset.

So, is it good?

Kind of a moot question, as if you're reading this you probably don't know either Italian nor Japanese, but - if you manage, yes, it is. As the series progresses, Mizuno clearly began to improve both as a writer and as a plotter, gradually moving away from the more monolithic RPG /replay elements, to the point where the last 3-4 volumes are definitely not Tolkien or Weis/Hickman, but definitely no worse than any R.A. Salvatore or Terry Brooks. While the anime adaptations really pared off anything that wasn't action, the novels offer far more than that, fleshing out a fantasy world that could compete with most Western fantasy creations.
In a way, the Lodoss novels are really sort of a time capsule, as they embody what Western fantasy fiction was, in the eyes of a Japanese fan, circa late Eighties - early Nineties: orthodox, close to the canon established by Tolkien and alike, as far removed from isekai bullshit as possible. Even today it eminently stands out as a different, in a way more 'innocent' kind of fantasy, especially compared to overblown, self complacent, 'I would like to write House of Cards but I'm stuck with fantasy' crock like Martin's. Heroes are heroes, evil dudes are evil dudes, elves are magical and hot, dragons hoard treasure. Personal taste, but that's the ride I enjoy. To each one their own.

Note: a few more anime series set in the Lodoss universe followed, Legend of Crystania and Rune Soldier. They are original stories with no basis in any novel, and they are terrible. Avoid.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

晴れた日に絶望が見える by あびゅうきょ

While this one is not properly a dōjinshi, it comes from a mangaka I first encountered through their dōjin work, sooo... I arbitrarily decide that it still counts. Plus, in the case of あびゅうきょ, there is definitely a continuity in themes and graphic choices between 'official' and 'self-published' outputs, as they tend to wander around the same handful of bizzarre obsessions - mostly guns, girls, and the otaku world.

晴れた日に絶望が見える is an actual manga, a one-volume thing published through Gentosha Comics, a publishing house mostly (but not exclusively) geared towards the seinen (adult manga) business, in past years through their recently defunct Comic Birz magazine.

晴れた日に絶望が見える (I can see despair on a cloudless day) comes, however, from a far distant past - 2003, to be exact. It's also one of a series, which counts three volumes and goes under the bizzarre title of 影男煉獄シリーズ - something like 'The Shadow Man Purgatory Series'. In reality, each volume, including the first one, is made up of mostly independent one-off stories, accomunated by their shared protagonist: the Shadow Man, a figure covered head to toe in a black drape.

Each story follows more or less the same structure: the Shadow Man embarks on a conversation with a girl he encounters, a conversation that usually turns into a verbal chastisement of the Shadow Man's innumerable shortcomings and faults, as the two wander across landscapes ranging from a destroyed city to an idyllic playground. There is little plot to speak of: the manga's meat is, through the means of dialogue, a Kafkaesque indictment of human nature, with especially pointed retorts against the stereotypical shut-in otaku that, most likely, hides under the shadow man's draperies.

A one-shot is also included, a bizzarre pseudo-historical account of a young girl... who happens to be an ace pilot under the Third Reich. Yeah. In his work, あびゅうきょ is no stranger to fetishization of the seedier aspects of military history, so this weird snippet didn't come as a surprise - you either take it for what it is (and what is it? a tongue-in-cheek joke? actualy historical interest? some bizzarre pastiche) or move on.

Visually, this volume falls in line with あびゅうきょ's usual style: extremely detailed backgrounds, obsessive attention towards the minutiae of military machineries and uniforms, cute girls who tend to be on the stockier side. There is also an aboundant use of unusual perspectives and points of view, including fish-eye lenses.

All in all, another strange trip from the mind of a mangaka who has made weird fixations the pivot of their work. Reccomended if you're into the more bizzarre side of seinen. 

P.S: there is a video trailer for 晴れた日に絶望が見える. You can watch it here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Super Mystery Magazine MU

As some of you might (but probably most of you don't) know, I am quite the fan of the paranormal - an interest that used to be a bit more intense a few years back, when I was one of those people who actually read through the 'original' UFO documents with a magnifying glass, searching for the truth. Of course, while I hardly vouch for the belief that UFOs are having a snack among us, or that the Mothman might how up at my doorstep for a coffee, I happen to particularly enjoy the paraphernalia that comes along with the paranormal research culture. Mash that up with my interest in Japanese culture and media (which is not itself stranger to the weird, from Mishima's Utsukushii Hoshi to Aum Shinrikyo), and you get, along with my usual dōjin fare, Super Mystery Magazine MU.

And it's a vintage one, too. April 1987, to be exact. The magazine itself is a bulky, disposable manga-style monthly; printed, save for a few advertisements, on cheap telephone book-like paper. The cover hits a certain aesthetics, though from a design point of view it's a veritable disaster. At first glance I thought it was an instruction manual...

For the most part the contents are, as you would expect, pure madness. We run the gamut from occult WWII alternate history, instructions on hand reading, an article on feral children, and a whole lot of those airbrushy illustrations that used to grace the covers of stuff like Omni in the west. There is also a cute 'reader submitted drawings' page...

As I mentioned, most advertisements are in color, and they are ridiculous. Ever wanted your own Bio-Pit Alpha / Theta waves generator? now you got it, and in the cleverly new-age pyramid format. How about a Hiranya-brand UFO detector (a company that, by the way, seems to have tanked decades ago)? Mind-reading glasses? Craziness abunds, usually accompanied by creepy imagery right out of the Eighties book of tricks. Curiously, the magazine also holds a 'literature' section - which, in the issue I have, is dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft. There is a bio, a dossier, and even a full translation of 'The Statement of Randolph Carter'.

So, yet another oddity for the vault. Some of the Japanese is still above my grasp, but the visuals and aesthetics alone probably warrant publishing a few more issues.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

#Hot Coffee by Yume No Kakera

It's kind of difficult to gauge what constitutes an 'oldie' in the dōjin world. The thing I'm reviewing today, for example, date from 2005 - which is more than thirteen years ago, a whole era in the typical life cycle of a dōjin circle. Sure, when I was over in Japan there was stuff from the Ninetie and even the Eighties on display - with an appropriate price tag. On the other hand, my personal experience tells me that, when it comes to dōjinshi shopping, unless I get lucky anything older than two or three years is pretty much lost to history. Long story short, I like digging up old stuff - and, if you are like me, you might want to keep an eye for the next review, which will feature a funny little thing from 1987 (!).

Today, however, we're reviewing Hot Coffee, a very short dōjinshi by circle ユメノカケラ. It's a one-person circle, behind which hides a certain 藤田秀俊 (Fujita Hidetoshi), who is still active as of 2018, although with a very different visual style and... umm, let's say 'themes'. I'll let you figure it out by his current Pixiv page. Hot Coffee is a charming, black and white manga which tells, in a mere twelve pages, a cute little love story between a boy and a girl, who happen to bond over a shared love of... hot coffee. Yup, that terrible tasting Boss cans that you get from vending machines all over Japan. Could never stomach that thing, I was always more of a Melon Soda type of guy.

Unrequited love.

Story wise, we're in entirely familiar territory, that kind of flimsy yet timeless manga fare that is the sefest bet when it comes to capturing the soft-hearted reader like I am. There are fruitless waits by the vending machine; desperation when finding out the significant other might have a different crush; kissing and making up while guzzling hot coffee. Nothing new, really.
Visually, well... you can tell, especially comparing with what the artist is up to now, that Hot Coffee is an early work. Still, while the graphic style and tract are a bit rickety at times, they go a long way making the characters charming and apt to convey their emotions even without speech. Backgrounds are understandably kept to a minimum, anatomy is mostly spot-on, and there a are a couple more daring visual choice to spice it all up. By the way, in case you're wondering, the text pattern on the cover is an entirely unrelated lorem ipsum, about Trump and hi yacht. Yeah...

All in all, a nice and little amateur work that doesn't break new ground mostly because it doesn't mean to. Good stuff.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

British by MANAT

I hate isekai. I really, really do. It's probably my least favorite genre in contemporary Japanese fiction: from the absurdly overhyped  Sword Art Online, to the slew of 'guy dies then ends up in a fantasy world' shlock published nowadays by Ascii and friends, there isn't a single work - be it anime, manga or novels, that managed to convince me. It's wish fulfillment fantasies made bare, usually carried by a vehicle of horrid, second-rate fantasy that makes Ryo Mizuno look like avantgarde.

You can imagine my disappointment when I found out that British, a dōjinshi I bought solely on its lolita-toting cover, was actually an isekai. Actually a single, slim episode of an isekai. And not a very good one either. Yeah. The cheap price was pretty much the only upside - I think I paid 200 yen or something like that.

So no gothic lolita babes in this brochure by MANAT (actually the circle name of illustrator Tomozo Kaoru), but the premises the genre has gotten us so used to. Some guy is in love with a girl on the swimming team, but then he dies (surprise surprise) and his spirit ends up in some kind of parallel dimension, where a bimbo dressed like Alice in Wonderland has to fight chibi monsters and... attend school.

Aaand that's it. British is slim even by dōjin standards: twelve black and white pages, plus a three-lines postscript. Apparently it's part of a series, which doesn't really address the main issue: why endlessly fraction already weak stories in bite-sized slices that can't stand on their own?
Things are a bit better on the visual side. Tomozo Kaoru is a competent draftsman, so proportions are usually spot-on and the paneling clear and readable. Nothing stellar, as contemporary manga has set pretty high standards for visuals and graphic design, but it' serviceable.

Aside for a handful of  dōjinshi, Tomozo Kaoru has illustrated one of Eiji Otsuka's weakest works, as well as their own 'group fo people hunts down monster borne out of humans' series which I'm never going to read, as that's probably my second least favorite genre after isekai. All in all an unfortunate purchase from a circle I'm unlikely to keep following.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Atelier Third

I was about to review Yoshitomi Akihito's excellent 'Unrecorded Works', since I've already branched outside dōjin in the past... but I realized it's been fully scanlated already, so just take my word and go read it. Instead, I'll be reviewing a magazine issue. Yeah.

One of the things that I kind of expected, yet still surprised me when I was over in Tokyo and Kyoto, was the sheer number of commercial art galleries. These big Japanese cities have been, and still are, a flowerbed of ephemeral trends and micro-cultures (for the mainstream take on this you can pick up any FRUiTS back issue, take a look at Tokyo Fashion, or even watch a few Kawai.i International episodes - very mainstream sources, but sometimes they do strike gold). I even ended up, more or less by mistake, in the mid of a Yasuto Sasada vernissage, artist included. I have a print of his in my house too, by the way.

Published ephemera in the field of Japanese contemporary art (subculture-oriented, of course) is kind of difficult to get a hold of, so I usually buy mine secondhand. I've only recently become acquainted with Talking Heads: released by art publisher Atelier Third, this magazine straddles the line between ephemeral and collectible, as each issue is themed; fairly beefy (almost 200 pages on average); and professionally glue-bound. Topic vary but usually focus on the intersection between fine/ commercial arts, fashion, and that peculiar horror-meets-kawaii aesthetics that has been dominating japanese subculture for... pretty much decades now.

Each issue follows an anthology format, with about a dozen artists featured. Photographers are usually reserved the twenty or so color pages at the beginning and middle of the issue, while illustrators, manga and essays take up the bulk of the b&w pages. Contents are usually very NSFW: issue 32, for example, features a few bondage artists, as well as guro illustrators. I tend to enjoy that kind of fringe-themed artwork, so generally the contents of Talking Heads are right up my alley. While images dominate, the publication is not beginner friendly language-wise, and there are a few fairly lenghty essays collected toward the end of each issue.

Atelier Third is also worth exploring in its own right, as its range of publications has a lot to offer, to those into the darker side of Japan's alt culture: a slew of monographies, slightly more mainstream art periodicals (the very interesting ExtrART, for example), and the horror/dark fantasy short story quarterly Night Land. A publisher worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

BrownS by ニリツハイハン

While I steer clear of openly H dōjinshi, which I find not only in poor taste but also often shoddy in layout and execution (I mean, I really don't get how an ahegao with a mess of speedlines around it could ever be erotic...), I occasionally purchase works that conjugate high production values, or an interesting visual style, with... umm, let's be generous and say, 'my personal preferences'. A case in point is the short dōjinshi I'll be reviewing this time around, which features the bullseye combination of tanned skin and short, blonde hair. Blue eyes optional, I'm not that picky*.

BrownS by ニリツ is an illustration book that, while a bit short on the page count, make up for it with excellent production values: large A4 format, full color, nice glossy paper. Each illustration is a pinup, focusing on shōjo who conjugate tanned skin tones with a variety of other desirable traits - flaxed hair, provocative swimsuits, and so on.

The subject matter, in the context of Japanese anime-style illustration, is of course as trite as it gets: in these cases, it's usually the craftsmanship that makes all the difference, and Nilitsu has plenty of skill to show. Often entirely devoid of backgrounds (though, where they are present, they are of very good design and execution), the illustrator focuses solely on the human form, which conforms to a manga aesthetics but with the added values of a keen eye for complementary color combinations; and a strong sense of shading and chiaroscuro. Every image is also accompanied by a short description detailing the creation process, and a few rough sketches are provided at the end of the book. As I mentioned, while there are a few ecchi pinups, nothing really forays into H proper.

With its only flaw being the very short page count, BrownS is a nice addition to my collection of Pixiv artists' books, and  sign that Nilitsu is someone to keep an eye on - while the subject matter is certainly not revolutionary, it's all in the execution, and they have that figured out.

*Coincidentally, I've never been in a relationship with a blonde. What a waste. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

SAILORBON by Various

In between the job hunting and taking care of my estate and dogs, one thing I'll be focusing on early 2019 is the first draft of a... young adult mystery novel. Yup, that's right. I've been selected as one of eleven participants to Il Battello a Vapore's A Caccia Di Storie, a residency that has spawned quite a few literary careers in the past few editions. Details on my story will be forthcoming (and we're actually forbidden to blog the details, from what I gather), but I've been reading a lot of New Orthodox mystery fiction lately, so...

New year, new dōjinshi review. Sailorbon is actually a group effort, featuring about 100 different artist and helmed by dōjinka 午前4時, ostensibly centered around a nautical theme - which is, surprisingly, largely followed by participants. Sure, considering the topic it'd be way too easy to cheat and simply draw a girl in a sailor suit (and some artists certainly do), but all is forgiven considering Sailorbon's overall quality. There is no clear low-hanging outlier, and all featured artists have done a very good job of providing a nice, on topic illustration, regardless of differences in style. Since reviewing every single illustration would probably overkill, I will focus on highlighting in no particular order a few of my favorites, and a few that stuck to the theme in ways that I found interesting.

I have mentioned before that, while I enjoy the very detailed and pseudo-realistic style a lot of Japanese artists seem to embrace, I al always very open to slightly more abstract visual choices. For example, I really dug  のすけ's playing with very simple basic colors, contrasting with the complex starry patterns.

On the other hand, artists such as ざいん choose instead to play with perspective, softer colors, and almost pastel-like coloring. Shōjo are, of course, the dominant subject in Pixiv-style illustration, and it's also the case with Sailorbon - I'm pretty sure every illustration that doesn't feature a cute girl features a cute boy...

The nautical theme offers a lot of interesting subjects to play with, and some do. ノナ offers us an extremely simple image, composition and coloring wise, counterbalanced by the awesome visual cues and melding of the pretty girl and sailor themes and iconography.

Just in case you thought I had something against pretty 2d girls, let me show you a snippet of 麦白子's offering - blonde on tan, yummy.

And finally, of course, there is no lack of troll pictures. Check out ケロ's pretty marinarette:

All in all,  an excellent collection of illustrations that really displays the variety of styles that can be found among the Pixiv community. The only faults, really, are the minuscule size of the book - barely an A6 size - and, as mentioned, some artists' lazy choice of simply putting a girl in a school uniform and call it a day. Faults that I am more than ready to forgive, given the overall quality of the illustrations within Sailorbon. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

SHORT-WORKS~ HP by はっとりみつる

SHORT-WORKS~ HP by はっとりみつる is one of those purchases of mine that straddles the grey line between dōjin proper and commercial work - while its imprint seems to be a mere vanity label, this single volume collection is published by a well established author (mostly known in the West for the mediocre Sankarea and the much more enjoyable Umisho), with production values that rival that of the published tankōbon of his main series. The volume features most of Hattori's one-shot works, along with some pin ups for magazines, and a couple of logos / chara designs for brands.

The main featured one-shot, which is also the longest and split in four blocks across the volume, is the hilariously titled 'Kishizuki-san is a Graceful but Bitchy Girl', which is exactly what the title promises: pretty much rom-com fanservice featuring Kishizuki-san herself, who is in fact the school's idol, and graceful and bitchy in equal measure. The story is pretty much non-existent, but graphically it's on par with Hattori's main series - and full color, which always helps.

The other one-shots are mostly b&w, and generally fall within the standards of comedy, with a dash of yuri here and there. The highlights are definitely 'Dear Miyuki-chan', a bizarre almost-mystery with a hilariously comedical twist ending; and 'Existence Check', which is Hattori's first published one-shot ever and, graphically, far from the author's current style but still not too bad at all.

Rounding out the collection is a gallery of illustrations for various clients, from pinups for manga magazines to a mascot designed for NHK Japan, to a way-too-cute 'manatee burger' chara created to promote Mie's food industry...  I have to say it's quite nice and refreshing to see an author who's not afraid to show commercial work for hire and humble beginnings along with more recent work - as I mentioned in previous posts, the tendency is to swiftly sweep under the rug all traces of non-professional, non-manga work as soon as an author reaches some kind of notoriety. A shame, really.

Overall, a pretty good collection, which made me appreciate more a mangaka who, to be honest, hadn't impressed me much before.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Acqua - Pianeta by 結布

Warning: cover aside, the images in this review are NOT of the actual reviewed item. There are none online, and the volume is so tightly bound scanning or photographing would actually require tearing it apart. So, yeah, enjoy some unrelated eye candy!

Lately I've been trying to shift more of my (meagre) Japanese practice into actual reading and listening. NHK takes care of the former (everything still pretty much sounds like a jumble of 'u' sounds), while the former is mostly done through manga, though I've begun to tackle bits and pieces of novels here and there.

One of the best manga I have read in its original language so far is Acqua-Pianeta (awesome Itarian title by the way) by 結布, of who I had read before the excellent ゆかりちゃん, though this time around Yuu is in charge of the story, as well as the artwork.

I admit that most of my reasons to like Acqua-Pianeta boil down to the fact that I simply love slice of life, nothing-happens postapocalyptic (is eupostapocapyptic actually a word, or just an oxymoron?) stories in the vein of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, and that's pretty much a requirement for enjoying Yu's single volume story of people stranded on a flooded, yet surprisingly peaceful future Earth: if you expect things to actually happen, you're out of luck. The biggest adventure our girls face - yes, all of the co-protagonists are girls - is finding an old sign pointing to a long collapsed Tokyo Sky Tree. The rest of the time they go to school, fish, attend some singing practice, et cetera. The backstory on what happened to Earth is barely touched upon - apparently most of people have moved to Mars - but, honestly, that's not really the point of this manga to begin with, so all's forgiven.

The artwork, on the other hand, is all but ordinary. In full color, Yu has a painterly style that is nothing short of amazing: landscapes are rendered in a technique that almost borders into watercolors, and the anatomy and layout of each scene is invariably spot-on. She has a special flair for spanning, full -page scenes that do away with frames, letting the manga approach illustration territory.

So yes, very good stuff. I understand her most recent work is some kind of Yami no Moribito adapatation, which I'll be sure to pick up as I really enjoyed the novels too.

Italian TV at its (not so) finest

It's recent news that, in its half-assed and misdirected effort to cut down expenses, RAI (basically the Italian version of public broad...