Sporadic Sequential
Friday, February 29, 2008
Special Bonus Leap Day Post!

Thought of the day: Do you think there are Japanese equivalents of groups like When Fangirls Attack and Girl-Wonder.org that campaign for less sexist portrayals of women in shonen manga? I mean, I'm a heterosexual guy and find images of scantily-clad women appealing, but even I'm distracted by all the blatant fanservice that gets shoved into shonen manga:

I seem to remember reading that a large proportion of Shonen Jump's readership in Japan is female (I want to say at least 50%, but I can't find any figures to back that up; all I could find was a quote from Shaenon K. Garrity stating "SJ has a huge female readership, and in a recent survey it was the most popular manga magazine for girls, beating out all the shojo magazines" but that doesn't necessarily mean anything about the relative size of the female audience reading shonen); given that many female readers are being subjected to repeated images like the one above, do they grumble about the sexism or do they just accept it as something that comes with reading material specifically marketed toward another demographic? (After writing this post, I realize I really have no idea what feminism in Japan looks like, or what cultural attitudes are towards material frequently labeled as offensive in the U.S.)

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Thursday, February 28, 2008
(This Post Only Written So There's A 'February 2008' Listing On The Sidebar)

Hello, and welcome to the apparently now monthly format of Sporadic Sequential! Let's get right to business, OK? Here's some stuff I've been reading recently (which, for me, means "within the last 30 days"):

Gin Tama Volumes 2-4: I'm not sure what it is, but I didn't enjoy these later volumes as much as the first. There are still amusing moments, but the quirky charm I found so appealing in book one now seems a bit forced. Perhaps my perception of the book's attempts at humor is being negatively influenced by creator Hideaki Sorachi's space-wasting non-omake omake. (If you really can't think of anything to fill the space between chapters, blank pages would be preferable to indulgent text pieces complaining about having to come up with filler material). Or maybe now that the novelty of the series has worn off, the repeated gags seem a bit stale. Whatever the case, I'm having doubts about continuing with this series, especially since I just learned that it's already up to volume 22 in Japan. (I've already ordered volume 5 and it should arrive tomorrow, so that will probably serve as the make-or-break deciding point for me.)

Ral╬ęGrad Volume 1: As awful as everyone's been saying it is. I knew that this was the manga featuring boobies, but even so I was unprepared by how one-note this pandering, juveline manga is. It's like Porky's with some medieval trappings hastily slapped on. What a waste of artist Takeshi Obata's considerable talents. Although I will admit it was amusing to imagine throughout the volume that Ral was L from Death Note reincarnated in another dimension.

Togari Volume 1: I forget why I even sought out this book; I think it was because it showed up on Deb Aoki's readers' list of best new seinen manga of 2007. Another disappointment, Togari was painfully amatuerish in both story and art (something mangaka Yoshinori Natsume himself more or less admits in the endnotes). There were some interesting concepts in there (protagonist as questionable anti-hero; limited quest to round up set number of sins; protagonist's weapon may end up being his downfall in the long run) but the execution was average at best, especially in the artwork. Consider the scene where Togari, who has returned to the modern day mortal world after being in hell for the past 300 years, witnesses how much things have changed since his death: We're supposed to feel Togari's sense of being bewildered and overwhelmed, but scenes like the one below fail to accomplish that:

A cut-out cardboard facade of a poorly-drawn four-story building probably isn't the best way to convey a scope of towering modern architecture that astonishes our out-of-time anti-hero. (To be fair, I did browse through later volumes in the bookstore and it looks like the art improves, but there are too many other good books out there for me to invest more time and money in a series whose debut was so mediocre.)

Alive Volume 3: A bit of a letdown after earlier volumes, this installment of the alien virus invasion/possession adventure felt more like a warmed over superhero comic than an engaging sci-fi story. I don't think anything new was revealed this volume (though I could be forgetting something); instead we were introduced to several different "comrades" for Taisuke to interact with -- and by "interact" I mainly mean "fight." On the plus side, I think I've finally managed to pinpoint whose style Adachitoka's artwork reminds me of: Rick Leonardi combined with Carlos Pacheco, with a little Pat Olliffe thrown in on faces.

Kekkaishi Volume 12: Yet another book that fell short of expectations. (I'm beginning to see a pattern here.) The subplot exploring Matsudo and Byaku's past relationship (which felt like it took up more than half the book, but that may be an exaggerated impression) completely distracted from Yoshimori's infiltration of the Ayakashi's fortress, robbing Yoshimori's battle of any momentum or excitement. (In contrast, the side fight between Aihi and Kaguro was both compelling in its own right as well as relevant to the main focus of Yoshimori's quest to avenge Gen since it (1) provided a story paralleling Gen's background and (2) taught us more about Kaguro, Gen's murderer.) It was still a good read overall, but the disproportionate focus on two relatively uninteresting side characters brought this volume down a notch from the series' generally high level of quality.

Gon Volume 3: I loved the chapter with Gon and the wolf brothers. Those tiny little wolf cubs were so fierce -- and adorable! I'll be curious to see if my daughter enjoys this volume more than the second one.

Presents Volume 2: Even more cracktasic than the already fabulous first volume! I loved the dark take on the Cinderella fable, and Kurumi's battle with the Grim Reaper is fun if familar. But it's the series of stories showcasing a sadistic Santa Claus that really stand out. It turns out that Santa has the ability to see how kids' futures will turn out when he bestows his gifts upon them, and if Santa's gift causes a child to grow up "naughty," well, then that child had better watch out! Consider the case where Santa gives a boy the baseball bat he's been wishing for. An innocuous enough gift, right? Wrong. Turns out that, in the boy's hands, the bat leads to a life of wanton murder. So, rather than risk creating a bat-weilding homicidial maniac, Santa does what any responsible adult would: Give the boy a different present that won't lead him down the path of ruin Bash his brains in with said bat so he won't grow up to be a public menace. And the two other Santa tales depict Mr. Kringle dispensing cruel, ironic punishments that would make the Fleischer/Aparo Spectre proud.

Click above image to see what happens next!
[Warning: depicts gruesome cartoon violence inflicted by beloved childhood figure]

Well, thanks for reading. Be sure to check back next month for an exciting update on which manga series I'm enjoying (or not)!!