Do Cyborg Vampires Sound Good to You? They Do to Me!

April 13, 2009 at 6:02 am (Animanga) (, )

(ETA 2: originally written 03/17/2009 but if I want to backlog posts I can, so there. :P)

So hey, who wants a manga rec?

In a nutshell, Vassalord is about Charley the cyborg vampire who is a vampire hunter and his adventures with Rayflo, a hedonistic vampire who is his master and the source of his blood. If you guessed it was shounen-ai, you guessed right! But the description utterly fails to take into account the complex relationship between Charley and Rayflo, one that’s long and changing and is full of denial and confessions and forbidden desires and just, I was expecting a thinly veiled excuse for extremely homoerotic blood-sucking and yeah, there is that, but I wasn’t expecting the twistiness of Charley and Rayflo at all.

It helps that the characters are themselves interesting. There is no set seme or uke (top or bottom) which I find fascinating as a part of their complex relationship to each other. The other characters are pretty cool too, and when’s the last time you saw a scruffy hard-boiled detective in a manga? And then there’s the obscure vampire lorebits, and the plot which looks to be shaping up to something rather interesting…The characterizations are a bit shaky in the beginning but they even out, same with the art.

Even if the premise doesn’t sound like your thing, check it out anyway and give it a couple chapters. Probably not NSFW; there’s no sex (only sublimations) only violence (well, it’s got vampires, what were you expecting?) and some non-explicit nudity. Also Rayflo likes to go around with his shirt open (I’m not complaining, but people around you might).

The link up top leads to an online viewers which seems to be a bit slow so be warned if you have a slow connection.

ETA: I just got some exposition on one of the newest characters and a;dkljaf;sdkf, why is this manga so much more awesome than it should be. On the other hand, cyborg vampiric vampire hunter so uh, maybe not that surprising after all.

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Parasites

February 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm (Animanga) (, , )

It occurred to me why it is very easy to make Uchiha Itachi (of Naruto fame), and indeed any Uchiha character, into a vampire. It’s because both the Sharingan and vampirism are inherently parasitic means of gaining power.

Think about it. The Sharingan depends on copying and storing the jutsus of other ninjas; it’s only originality is the fact that it isn’t. I mean, it kind of makes sense given Kishimoto’s given history of ninja historically having a bunch of squabbling clans instead of villages, each with their own special signature jutsus. Why come up with a niche technique that’s powerful against almost everyone when you can come up with a technique that’s less powerful against everyone? It was bound to show up sooner or later; the Uchiha just lucked out.* The Sharingan depends on the existence of other people in order to be effective and grant power. Even its level-ups work the same way. The Mangekyou Sharingan depends on the existence of the best friend (whose blood must be spilled in order to grant greater power. Sound familiar?). Preventing eye deterioration and the subsequent loss of power and blindness depends on having a brother to kill.

Whereas vampirism, well, do I really need to spell it out? Vampires depends on spilling the blood of others in order to achieve longevity, power, and plain survival. If there are no other people, vampires will die; in the same way, without other ninjas to oppose and live around, the Sharingan is kind of useless except as a nifty way to dodge blows–a tactic that will only work for so long.

So while normally these AU and crossover things hit snags when it comes to translating powers, Itachi–>vampire works eerily well. The black-and-red color scheme doesn’t hurt the transition either. ;)

* Incidentally, this is why I think the Uchiha rely on katon (fire) jutsu to show when their nin reach manhood, and why they consider themselves to be specialists in katon jutsu. Once they became legitimate (Konohagakure’s police force) they needed a way to prove they weren’t just filthy jutsu thieves, profiting off the hard work of the ninja around rather than creating their own.

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Reaction Shots: Sakura Gari 6 RAW

January 29, 2009 at 6:32 am (Animanga) (, )

I actually downloaded this yesterday and then proceeded TO NOT EVEN UNZIP THE FILE.

Clearly school is screwing with my head.

As always, warning for incoherent rambling + spoilers.

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Book Report: Innocent Bird by Hirotaka Kisaragi

December 31, 2008 at 7:43 am (Animanga) ()

It is a short, three-volume manga about a faithful demon and a faithless angel. Shirasagi is a demon determined to keep his faith in God and one day be redeemed; Karasu is the angel who has begun to doubt and is sent to send him back to hell. Things get more complicated when it’s revealed that Shirasagi is actually Andrealphus, Beelzebub’s uh…pet. Things just get more complicated from there as Karasu and Shirasagi struggle to realize their greatest wish: to be together forever.

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Hetalia and Softening the Impact

December 2, 2008 at 2:14 pm (Animanga) ()

Axis Powers Hetalia is an online manga mostly set around World War II. The premise is that all countries have been anthropomorphized; the manga plays out their historical interactions as if they were interactions between people. Most of the characters are male; as you might imagine, there is a strong BL overtone to the whole thing, though there are several relationships put in terms of brotherhood (which either makes the BL overtone thing better or worse, I don’t know; the characters don’t seem to have any parents, they just…pop into being.).

Anyway. So you have countries around the WWII era personified into painfully adorable near-chibis; their interactions as persons reflect their interactions as nations.

What the anthropomorphization does is soften the impact of national interactions, which of course include war. This is slightly inaccurate; rarely do the Hetalia characters engage in battle onscreen; their conflicts tend to be funnier, more buffoonish, rather than cruel and violent. The manga seems to focus more on what happens OUTSIDE of the battles; how nations ally themselves with each other and act and react to each other, how they help and hinder one another on the world stage. Battles are left mostly out of it, now that I think on it. The closest Hetalia comes to depicting a battle “onscreen” as it were is the strip about America declaring independence from England–and even that was more after the fact than the actual battle; more about its aftermath and the change in their relations, than the actual fighting.

Of course, battles help shift national interactions, so it might be kind of strange that this component of their relationships is left out. But as I said, Hetalia helps soften the impact of reality, codifies alliances and treaties into simpler analogies that are easier to grasp. With war, with actual battle…it’s hard to do that softening thing, because softening the impact of war quickly reaches the point where softening becomes disrespect. Easier to gloss over the battles themselves and work around them; but working around them misses how each battle, each fight between characters, can also affect and alter national relationships. Fighting is itself a human interaction, after all.

But at the same time…it’s hard, to portray a battle with the adorable little characters. Harder still to portray battles as interactions between people because then the violence perpetrated by one upon the other throws the nature of their relationship–both in the context of battle and outside of it–into sharper relief. Empires putting colonies in line becomes one character beating another, over and over; their relationship is clearly codified as an abusive one.

I was thinking about recent Chinese history and how it might be thrown into Hetalia terms, when my mind settled on the Rape of Nanking. The Rape of Nanking falls into that category of awful to contemplate, and impossible to soften without disrespect. How do you translate that into Hetalia terms? For all its content, Hetalia is not very serious business. The fanfic is, though. If you were to write the Rape of Nanking into a fanfic, you could conceivably soften it–Japan trashing China’s house for no good reason, for example. But why would you want to? Here is an interaction between nations that has been codified into terms of human interaction; that is the essence of Hetalia. How could you justify writing it as anything other than Japan raping China? It would be awful to write, it would be awful to read, but then again, the reality was awful too. Would softening it Hetalia style be disrespectful? I say yes, partly because there’s no real reason for it to be softened, when history has already translated it into personal interaction for writers. To soften the incident would be to obscure the reality; it was a violent, violating crime by Japan against China. Any fanfic–any writing–about it shouldn’t be lighthearted and funny and buffoonish. The same could be said of any other similar incidents in any war; the use of Napalm in the Vietnam War, the Holocaust, slavery…

Those things will never appear in Hetalia, because how could you even begin to approach them from a Hetalia point of view and be comfortable and not feel like doing it was somehow deeply wrong? Hetalia itself is not serious busness, but the topics it deals with are.

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Kusuri-uri Theory

November 29, 2008 at 8:48 am (Animanga) ()

In the epilogue of the last arc, Kusuri-uri mentions that as long as there will be mononoke, there will be the Sword of Exorcism, and as long as there is the Sword of Exorcism, there must be a hand to wield it (or something to that effect; I’m paraphrasing from memory here).

Now, I remember reading somewhere else that ayakashi don’t only arise from the souls of dead people (or living people who are repressing parts of themselves) or need to be from people period. Under certain conditions, they can also come about from objects or tools. Ones that are highly coveted and are valuable, I would guess. I remember a mention of tools which are used continuously for ninety-nine years?

Anyway, so let’s suppose that the Sword of Exorcism is one of these objects. Clearly it is a special object, and we’ll suppose it’s been around for a long time, used continuously to sever mononoke. What if the Sword of Exorcism gave rise to an ayakashi? What form would this ayakashi take? Perhaps…Kusuri-uri?

But Kusuri-uri refers to himself as human, doesn’t he? So maybe he isn’t an ayakashi. Maybe he’s a mononoke, one created when the ayakashi born of the Sword of Exoricism came into contact with positive emotion, or perhaps simply neutral emotion–and the emotion in question belonged to Kusuri-uri, hence turning him into a mononoke whose duty is specifically to wield the Sword of Exorcism. Sort of like Ochou-san and the Noppera-bo, where the mononoke was born of Ochou-san’s repressed resentment and despair and took on an autonomous aspect (which she may have been subconsciously influencing; the mononoke loves her faults and all, rather than overlooks them as her mother and husband did–he loves her for who she is.). In a sense, Kusuri-uri is himself a mononoke, essentially human but a vessel through which the Sword of Exorcism may act (hence his transformation whenever the sword is drawn).

The details of his contract between them, or agreement, or symbiosis are unclear (and I mean, I might just be flat out wrong, so.). Obviously it expresses itself physically in Kusuri-uri’s coloring and markings. But it also seems to grant him a kind of immortality; he’s still alive and well decades after the first four arcs are set.

(It may be that he was a human who gained enlightenment and thus attracted the Sword’s ayakashi’s attention.)

So, um. I’m not sure exactly where this leads or what conclusion may be drawn from it, but. Just a thought.

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Mononoke

November 28, 2008 at 3:28 am (Animanga) ()

Last night I watched the first five eps (aka the first two arcs) of Mononoke. It’s really really good; the visuals are so colorful and over-the-top you’d think they wouldn’t work for a mystery/horror show but they really do. It’s like this crazy funhouse candy shell over the seething darkness of the human id, and there’s always something that’s just slightly out of true, enough to make it just a little grotesque and creepy. They’re not beautiful, but they are effective and extremely cool to watch. Check it out, yo! And if you need more convincing, here’s a beautiful AMV/unofficial trailer to help sway your mind.

But enough blather! This is a meta journal, not a rec journal! And so, I move on to: thought about the Medicine Seller. Or Kusuri-uri, because the Japanese is more fun to type and say and also shorter.

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Unafraid to Need: Saiki Daisuke and Wanting to Matter

November 20, 2008 at 6:24 am (Animanga) (, , )

Because apparently Epic won’t leave my brain alone? Here, have a mini essay thing I wrote about Daisuke.

I’m pretty sure it’s chock full of spoilers for Epoch, but I might have to look into that more closer — it’s possible that it’s only full of spoilers up to a certain point. Spoiler warning to be revised at a later time when I have the .pdf on hand.

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The One True Ring

November 14, 2008 at 12:58 pm (Animanga) (, )

Okay, so this is beyond lame, but I want to gather up random bits of meta I wrote before I had this journal. This is the first: a collection of random thoughts on the theme of rings in Kaori Yuki’s Count Cain/Godchild (it’s had two English names. No, I don’t know why either.). Might be more to come…I can think of at least one or two other things I’ve written I’d like to add to the collection, if only for the sake of completeness. I can’t remember when I originally jotted these notes down.

Spoilers for much of the manga.

~~~

I remembered a comment I read somewhere about Kaori Yuki’s plots being INSANE but being set much more thoughtfully then you’d think. And I realized that that is more or less the case concerning Suzette’s ring.

The ring shows up three times: when Suzette returns to find her unfaithful lover, when Mikala shows up, and when Cain dies. Each time, there is the strong theme of fidelity with that particular story, and with the characters. The end result of that fidelity is always death.

With Suzette, she was devoted to her lover, who was not to her. The ring was her engagement ring. There was a Romeo & Juliet deal with them, except this time Romeo declined to die and decided to marry someone else. Juliet returns half-crazed from being buried alive and kills her Romeo, as well as herself. Suzette is loyal to her disloyal fiance, even until her death she believes that he loved her. She is buried with the engagement ring. (Maybe this is of significance: Cain was in love with Suzette, who was his cousin. He aided her Romeo & Juliet plot against his better judgement by providing the poison Emerald Forest.)

The ring later shows up on Mikala’s finger. Mikala is basically a clone made from the ring finger of the dead Suzette. Mikala was told and believes that Cain belongs only to her; she believes this to the point she will not tolerate anyone or anything hurting him (for example: a dog attacks her, Cain gets scratched protecting her, and Mikala nails the dog to a door). She is not so much loyal as obsessively and possessively in love with him. When he rescues her from the fire, she and Merry have a discussion about the nature of love. Mikala ends up betraying the Delilah member sent to make sure she kills Merry. However, as a result her unnatural lifetime runs out–and she “dies.” Leaving behind the ring.

The last time it shows up significantly is at the scene of Cain’s death, when Clehadol finds him. In the events leading up to it, we see Riff’s “fake” good personality win out over his “real” evil one, Riffael. The reason Riff’s fake personality wins out is because of his love and devotion to Cain; he can’t bear to watch his evil self kill or hurt his master. He finds Cain underground due to his understanding of Cain, knowing Cain’s likes and dislikes to the point he can find him anywhere. And then the building starts to collapse–but Cain refuses to leave Riff, who only has a little time to live. They are found together, Cain gently held in Riff’s arms, Riff protecting him with his body, even to the end. Both are dead. The ring is in Cain’s palm; Clehadol takes it and obliquely gives it to Merry.

So we see that the ring represents fidelity, love and loyalty, even until death. Actually, specifically suicide. It is a symbol of Suzette’s undying love for her fiance and belief in her fiance’s reciprocated love, despite all evidence to the contrary. She later dies along with her fiance (you could call it suicide as well since her hands are coated with the Emerald Forest poison; she may have still been aware that it killed, though why it took so long is a mystery). It is the symbol of Mikala’s (conditioned?) obsession with Cain, which later becomes a kind of genuine love for him, but her actions to prove it (to Merry and herself) result in her own death (suicide, again.) And then we have Cain and Riff. Riff, who kills “himself,” (ie. Riffael) to go to Cain’s rescue. Cain, who stays behind with Riff, knowing that he will die as the building collapses. Love and loyalty until death — to the point of suicide.

You could throw in the ring representing love from beyond the grave to boot. The ring appears with Mikala, who is at least Suzette’s body brought back to life. And then it appears when Clehadol carries out what he feels is Cain’s last wish, setting up the tea party with the ring for Merry, as a symbol of Cain’s promise to return to her for the party. The ring would represent love even after death, or love despite death, or the love of the dead.

More ring symbolism: the other ring, the sapphire one in the Solomon Grundy story. Not quite the same symbolism as Suzette’s ring, but the theme of love until death is certainly still present for Rose.

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Apocalypse Now

November 13, 2008 at 6:49 am (Animanga) (, , )

Someone’s writing a–I hesitate to say fanfic, even if it’s technically true, but it’s more like a novel in scope, really. Anyway, it’s the plot of CLAMP’s X/1999, but set ten years later (so, er, x/2009?). The premise is: what if Kamui had been given an extra ten years to think over his decision before he had to pick a side?

It’s called Epic, and the first book Epoch is currently being posted here scene by scene, though you can also request the .pdf of the entire first book. I highly recommend it; it’s what I ended up doing and it was totally worth the wasted hours spent mailining Epoch rather than studying. *grins*

I wish I had a more coherent, more meaningful review to give, but I really don’t, unless “Seriously guys, this is really really really good, and also relevant to many current issues and you need to read it right fucking now” counts. Anyway, Epoch made me think, so here, have some thoughts. They’re all chock-full of spoilers for Epoch so er, behind the cut we go! Half of ’em were x-posted to the Epic comm, but the other half I didn’t get a chance too…kind of debating whether or not I should. I want to turn #4 into an actual, fullblown essay, when I have a little more free time.

Okay, enough blather! Here are the comments for real.

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