Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu, vol. 18 comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu vol. 18, by Yusei Matsui, Grade B+

The capsule reaches the ISS, and the other crew members goad astronaut Mizui into unpacking the payload, since the rocket came from his country. He notices that the dummy suits are empty, then gets taken hostage, as Karuma and Nagisa bluff their way in with a fake knife, and a package of youkan (red bean paste) marked up to look like a bomb. Initially, the crew acts like they're going to fight back, then they cave in and allow Ritsu to copy the tentacle anti-self destruct research via her virus hack. The crew leader says "sure, why not," but requires the two kids to help around the capsule as payment. When the copy is finished, Nagisa and Karuma return to the capsule, and wait to return to Earth. Ritsu plots the return vector, and Koro helps straighten out a parachute problem. The capsule is guided to land near the school building, where Karasuma learns of the class's plans for the first time, and he prepares to get very angry, until Koro hands all of their data over to him in exchange for JAXA letting them use the capsule. Manami Okuda, the poisons expert, looks at the notes from the anti-self-destruct project. The ISS team had injected various creatures with the tentacle seed, and then ejected the lab containers out to space to explode more-or-less harmlessly. What they discovered was that the smaller the creature, the greater the chance of an explosion at the end of 1 year. The researchers had found a formula that loosens the atomic bonds of stiffer materials, which further cuts the risk of an explosion by half. For something Koro's size, after receiving the formula, the odds of a self-destruct are less than 1%. And, it seems that one of the poisons Okuda had tried on Koro already pretty much matches the anti-stiffener formula (it caused Koro to turn into a big blob).


The class tells Karasuma what they've found, and he gives them one month to show that Koro is not going to self-destruct, and then the rest of the time before graduating must be spent on assassination training just in case. During February, Koro enacts various holidays because he'd missed them while his students were on winter vacation. This includes Christmas and Setsubun, and lots of additional assassination attempts.  After this, they have to start planning on their future career paths, since there's only 38 days left to graduation. A few of the students have ideas of what they're going to do in the next year, including Karuma, who will stay in the city and go to the same school as Asano. Nagisa is in a funk because he doesn't have plans, and pre-school student Sakura yells at him for not focusing on tutoring her. She suggests that he should become a teacher, and he doesn't know how to respond to that. The next day, Nagisa is on his way to one of the high schools he's applied for, and there's a whole line of Koro-senseis waiting there to cheer him on (they leave to cheer on some of the remaining 3-E students, too). The day after, Nagisa gets a letter saying that he's been put on a waiting list for that school. Takebayashi failed to get into his school, so he's fallen into a depression. Koro tries to prevent the other students from using words like "drop-out" and "failure" to keep the boy from getting worse, and things just escalate from there until Takebayashi tries to shoot Koro with a machine gun, and ends up cheering himself up as a result.

("He's checking his list...")

Elsewhere, there's a condemned building about to be demolished. Shinagami 2 is inside, waiting for the command to start. Outside, a general is talking to Shiro/Yanagisawa about the need to stop Koro any way possible to prevent the 1% chance of a self-destruct. Shiro flashes back to when he was a promising up-and-coming researcher that had gotten a free pass on his anti-matter energy research proposal. He'd noticed the very cheerful Agura Yukimura, and vowed to destroy her just on principal. But, all his plans went up in smoke when his Guinea Pig escaped. He wants revenge. In the building, Shinagami 2 remembers when he first saw the assassin who'd killed his father so beautifully that he'd vowed to become just as good. At first, the kid had enjoyed learning to be an assassin and getting all kinds of praise and attention, but eventually it seemed that nothing he did was good enough for "the God of Death," and he'd decided to betray his teacher and take over from him as the new God of Death. Now, Koro is simply "the enemy." Shiro gives the signal, and Guinea Pig 2 destroys the building in a matter of seconds. The next step is to face Koro himself.

(Koro greets Nagisa at the high school he's trying to apply to.)

We then get a silly side story where two of the kids have a misunderstanding during Valentine's Day, and some of the other girls try to give chocolates to the boys they like. Karuma and Nakamura rag on Kayano for being too embarrassed to give her present to Nagisa. Kayano is an actress, and has kissed boys on stage, but that's nothing compared to the "kiss of death" she'd gotten from Nagisa in the previous book. As she working up the nerve, Nagisa sees Koro in a tree looking closely at a photo. The boy is about to take a shot at him, then gives up because this looks to be too easy. Seeing the boy in action as an assassin, Kayano settles down, gives him the box of chocolate, and leaves. Then, we learn that she'd also given a present to Koro, which is what he'd been so fixated on - a photo of her sister, Agura, in a bikini on the beach, and a box of chocolates.

(The General, the anti-Koro barrier, and Craig.)

In the last chapter, Irina and Karasuma go to a restaurant for dinner, and Irina gives him some "obligation" chocolate before resigning herself to talking about work. He wants Irina to quit working as a hired killer and move in with him. It takes her time to realize that he's serious, and she apparently agrees to the offer. Elsewhere, some guy is supervising the construction of a big black machine, and then he's joined by a soldier in a black trench coat (Craig Houjou). Also, Gakuhou shows up at the classroom to take a swing at Koro, then the two of them sit down to enjoy sweets over cups of tea, while talking about Koro's plans after the end of the school year in March, and how difficult it is to be a father. The narration ends by saying that even teachers have it hard trying to find their ways through life.

Summary: Only 3 books left. The climax is drawing near. What is the General's weapon going to do? And who is this new guy, Houjou? Will Guinea Pig 2 and Shiro be happy? Highly recommended.

Inside cover quote:
This is a new pattern from Koro-sensei.
The falling cherry blossoms are "Koro Storm,"
and are very peaceful and Japanese-like.
I want to share this excellent idea in public, too.

Back inside cover quote:
This is one small step for man,
One giant tentacle for mankind.
- Captain Koro

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu, vol. 17 comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu vol. 17, by Yusei Matsui, Grade B+

The class splits pretty much in two, with one group wanting to do what they can to find a cure to Koro's anti-matter juice, while the other gives various excuses for why they still want to kill him. (First, the world's top scientists haven't found a cure in the last year, how can they expect to do any better themselves?; second, what's the point of learning assassination if you don't assassinate someone?) Karuma is the most abusive of the second group, and he snaps as he pushes Nagisa around. Nagisa in turn gets angry and comes close to subduing Karuma. Koro steps in and says that if junior high students are going to fight amongst themselves, they have to do it in an assassination-style paintball match. So, the next day, the kids go out to the hillside for a game of capture the flag, with Karasuma acting as referee. Winner decides what the class as a whole will do next. Everyone gets ready, and the game starts, with Yuuma Isogai leading Nagisa's team, and telling Nagisa to hide and wait for the right moment to strike. Karuma leads his own team, and sets up traps and defenses that seem unbeatable. Karuma has most of the male students on his side, and 70% of the most highly-skilled specialists. But, Isogai is good, too, and both sides slowly whittle each other down. At the end, Karuma sends Ryouma and his team of 3 supporters after the enemy flag. Suddenly, Nagisa appears out of thin air and eliminates all four in one knife strike. Actually, he'd been standing with his back against Karasuma during the entire match, and no one had noticed at all.

(General MacArthur Koro breaks up the fight between Karasu and Nagisa, offering a paintball battle instead.)

This just leaves Karuma and Nagisa, and Karuma demands that the other boy come out and fight hand-to-hand - knives only. Nagisa still has his rifle and could easily snipe him, but he comes out of hiding anyway. There's a flashback to when Nagisa first started at Kunugigaoka. Karuma was a really smart kid who was equally at home street fighting against bigger groups of bullies. The only person that would eat with him at lunch was Nagisa. Then, Karuma left the school and Nagisa found himself on his own again. The two really like each other, but Nagisa is envious of Karuma's brains and physical skills, while Karuma is terrified of Nagisa's assassination skills. Now, it's a question of whether Karuma can overcome his jealousy of Nagisa and reclaim his spot as "best in the class." They fight, and Karuma keeps bashing Nagisa around. But, the class notices something that Koro elaborates on - Karuma is a great battlefield killer. He's strong, fast and clear-headed. But, while he concentrates on each attack, Nagisa is planning his next two or three attacks in the future. Karuma KO's Nagisa, then turns around to claim victory in front of Koro. But, he senses something behind him and spins around just in time for Nagisa to sumo clap him in the face. He bites his own tongue, which overrides part of the paralysis, but Nagisa feints with his knife, grabs Karuma in a judo sleeper hold and pins him to the ground. Karuma is close to passing out when he finds his knife again and considers stabbing Nagisa in the back. But, he was the one to make this a mano-a-mano battle, and he forfeits, admitting that Nagisa is the better assassin. (It takes a while for Nagisa to figure out the fight is over, though.)

(Hayami takes a sniper shot for the "kill Koro side".)

The class agrees to try to save Koro, and everyone feels a bit closer to everyone else as a result of the civil war. Karasuma allows this change in plans, with one caveat - the class only gets one month to find a cure. After that, they have to go back to their assassination studies and their initial goal of killing Koro. Koro is happy either way. Soon, Ritsu, the super computer, collects all of the tentacle research information available on the net. Most of the work is within research lab intranets that she can't access, but she can get project names, at least. Only one team is working on curing the tentacle self-destruct, and it's located on the International Space Station. However, there's a way to get their data - by using an experimental Japanese spacecraft to fly to the ISS during a supplies restocking flight. The class spends the days leading up to the launch studying the rocket and the ISS craft. On launch day, they infiltrate the rocket site, put a USB thumb drive in one of the JAXA computers so Ritsu can hijack the system, and then make their way to the rocket. Most of the kids want to volunteer for the mission, except the rocket is still unproven, meaning that Karuma and Nagisa get pushed into the job instead. The capsule has two dummies wired with feedback sensors. The dummies are removed and Karuma and Nagisa take their place in the payload. The rocket launches, and Koro follows along, talking through the capsule wall as if he's finally afraid that the kids won't find a cure for him. Nagisa reassures him that no matter what happens, they won't forget what he's taught them. Koro is happy with that, then the second stage boosters trigger and the rocket hits mach 24 to reach escape velocity, leaving Koro behind (it's the first time anything has ever gone faster than Koro can). Koro is ecstatic.

(Nagisa tries the sumo slap technique, and Karuma bites his tongue to counter it.)

Summary: We get a little of the history behind Karuma and Nagisa's relationship, and we see Nagisa at full power - like a snake that can not be stopped. The race to space is a bit silly, but the artwork is good. Highly recommended.

(Koro wishes the rocket "farewell".)

Inside cover quote:
He uses this half-way expression when he doesn't know if something is good
or not. When he falls into an unconscious state, he calls this his ""&"#$&$ yellow."
It is very cryptic.

Back inside cover quote:
When you take out a card loan or use a cashing window, you may overpay by
a tentacle. After you pay it back, you may over-extend yourself by a tentacle, too.
And, there are credit limits, too... What?...。
- Koro Prison Law

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Golden Bomber Cardboard Art Exhibit

There's an "air band" in Japan called Golden Bomber. Their gimmick is that the leader records music in the studio with hired studio musicians. Then, the "band" runs around on stage, pretending to play instruments (only the leader actually sings) and acting out various performances as the CD plays in the background. They formed in 2004, and have released 12 singles and 11 albums so far. For the most part, they're a parody group that trades on their looks, and the heavy use of make-up and costumes. They're currently running an exhibit in the Taka Plaza department store (Takapla) on the 6th floor, of the cardboard props used in past shows. The exhibit is free, since the goal is to sell their DVDs. When I was there, many of the other visitors were housewives in their 40's or 50's. No one was buying anything.

I'm assuming this is an elephant.

The old Greek rock carving where you put your hand in the mouth, and if you lie, it bites your hand off.

In the middle of the floor was one of the band's bigger set pieces. It's probably a parody of Attack on Titan. Not much to do and see in the exhibit if you're not a fan of the group. Good thing it was free.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sept. 18

As usual, I had to work most of last Saturday. This didn't matter that much, in that the only event I knew of, the one in front of Lotteria, in Tenmonkan, only ran on Sunday. Additionally, though, we had a huge rain storm roll in during the afternoon, and I was completely soaked when I got home that night. So, if there had been anything else going on, it probably would have been cancelled.

I was busy working on my Basket Case blog Sunday, and didn't get out of the apartment until a little before 3 PM. I headed to Lotteria, which was running the ALSOK 50th anniversary event. They called it a "Kid's Fest," but it was really more an advertising campaign aimed at adults to sell home security systems, and promote their trained staff. The monitor to the left was playing a video of a bunch of uniformed people doing martial arts. I arrived just as the crew was tearing everything down.

I assume the bullet-proof vests were there just to impress the kids, and not because the security guards really think they're necessary.

They did have the live stage, but all the schedule showed was a few skits with foamhead mascots, alternating with sales spiels.

I see these cars on the street occasionally. ALSOK - ALways Security OK.

I think Jackie Chan used this scooter in a Police Story gag sequence.

Amu Plaza

Turned out, though, that Amu Plaza was celebrating its 12th birthday that weekend, and they had a live music stage in front of the train station. The 3 PM act was slow setting up, so I went into the basement to get free sample coffee from Kaldi. When I came back up, these guys were performing an a cappella routine. They weren't bad, but I didn't feel compelled to record them.

They claimed the song was one they'd written themselves, called "Coffee Time." I took a few photos for the blog and went back home. I looked at the schedule, and I didn't recognize any of the names of the other acts. After getting out for a little exercise, I just wanted to read manga and work on the blog again.

Small audience, even though it wasn't raining this time. (The weather had turned warm and humid again, and everyone here was sweating.)

While the 3 PM act was performing, the 2PM group had been been selling CDs and signing photos. I tried taking a picture of them for the blog, but they kept moving around and not giving me a good shot.

Overall, not an exciting weekend. However, I did get a lot of work done for the blog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kochi Kame Final Chapter in Jump

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ok, I knew this was going to be inconvenient, but I didn't know by how much. I had a lesson with a new kid on Monday, which was the same day that the last chapter of Kochi Kame was running in Shonen Jump magazine. I figured that I'd get a copy on my way in to the school to show off. I stopped at the first konbi, and they didn't have the magazine. I stopped at a second place, and they didn't have it either. I made the mistake of asking the clerk if the magazine had come out yet, and she disappeared into a back room for several minutes. When she came out, she said that Kochi Kame was so popular that Jump had completely sold out and they didn't have more copies. Unfortunately, the delay caused me to get to the school just as the lesson was supposed to start and the owner of the school yelled at me just like the hero of the manga, Ryou, gets yelled at by his captain. I could have tried timing things better.

(Ryou is portrayed by the other artists in the magazine.)

After the class, I hit 3 other konbi nearby. In one, some guy was doing tachi yomi (standing and reading manga for free), and it looked like he had Jump in his hands. But, he wouldn't leave, and when I asked the clerk about it, she thought the magazine was sold out there, too. So, I tried some of the other places I knew of, in the hopes that I'd still get lucky. But, after 45 minutes and hitting a total of 10 konbini within walking distance (tell me where in America you can say that you walked to 10 different convenience stores within 45 minutes) the next typhoon hit the city, and rain just came pouring down. I gave up and returned to the previous place to see if the tachi yomi yarou was still there - he wasn't. I grabbed the copy of Jump he'd put back on the shelf and ran to the counter. The clerk recognized me and said "this is good you found it, isn't it?" I told her about the tachi yomi yarou, and she acted stunned that something like that could have happened in her store. Anyway, I got my copy, and it was only $2.75 USD or so.

(Another fold-out poster of Ryou in various forms.)

The magazine doesn't have much in the way of extras. There's the main fold-out poster, stuff written by the editors about Kochi Kame ending, and the fact that Ryou's eyebrows are going to appear in all the other manga works, so the readers should try to find them all. The last Kochi Kame chapter is basically all of the characters from the last 40 years showing up and saying goodbye. No real story, just a bunch of slapstick gags.

(Ryou's captain getting ready to deal out some more punishment on the slacker.)

Given how much work I went through to get this copy, I'm not going to damage it by scanning any of the pages. Instead, I had to resort to taking a few photos of the highlight pages. Actually, though, the last volume, #200, was also planned for a simultaneous release. The nearest bookstore had a sign saying that #200 would arrive on the 20th. (I'm writing right now on Monday, the 19th.) I'll go back to the store tomorrow and see what happens. I'd like to get the special promo version, which is $9, but I'll settle for the regular $6 version. It's not that I really like this title - I do, but mainly for the detailed looks into Japanese sub-culture. However, there aren't that many titles that have lasted 40 years and hit 200 volumes. So, yeah, this one is kind of special. And it will be easier to scan sample pages of the book than it is of this magazine.


Update: I went into the bookstore at 4 PM on my way to the school. They had a sign up saying that Kochi Kame was completely sold out. I went to their sister store a couple blocks away, and they just didn't have any indications at all that the book had been there. I asked a clerk about this, and she replied that, yes, it sold out that morning. But, it seems that they do have it on backorder. They just don't know when the next shipment will come in. My impression is that most of the "customers" were scalpers. Anyway, I'll have to wait and see if I can get the normal book version of #200.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Jump Ryuu - #18, Osamu Akimoto

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Jump Ryu vol. 18 - Osamu Akimoto

Well, this is just about it. I'm starting to write up the comments on this volume at 1 AM, Sept. 19th. In a few hours, Weekly Shonen Jump magazine will hit the shelves and the last chapter of the Kochi Kame manga will be out. This is going to be followed with the simultaneous release of volume 200 of the collected manga (although typically the book won't make it to Kyushu until 3 days after the Tokyo release). And then, Kochi Kame will have ended a pretty-much unbroken 40-year run. Sigh.

(Box panel showing the art page and the blue sheet.)

Back in the 1990's, when I was first getting interested in manga, a friend of mine, who owned a bookstore in Minnesota, had picked up a bunch of old volumes of Kochi Kame. At the time, I was more interested in stuff like Dragonball and Ranma 1/2, and the art in Kochi didn't appeal to me (that, and I couldn't read the Japanese dialog). Later, though, when I started researching the history of manga, I got volume 1. To me, it felt like Akimoto was ripping off Akira Toriyama's Dr. Slump. There were a lot of slapstick gags that were alike, and some of the character designs were kind of similar. Of course, Slump didn't come out until 1980 and Kochi started in 1976, so it was the other way around. That didn't matter; at the time, Kochi Kame still didn't gel with me. Then, about 8-10 years ago, I bought a copy of Shonen Jump, and the story in Kochi that issue was about roasting coffee. Since I was roasting my own coffee too, it really hit home. By that point, the character designs had evolved a lot, and were much easier for me to relate to. From that time, I'd developed a soft spot for the "modern" Kochi, because it really is my go-to manga for learning about ANY new trend in Japan, be it manga writing, making plastic models, or drinking specialty coffees. So, yes, I am going to buy both tomorrow's Shonen Jump, and volume #200, and I'm not going to give my impressions of them here.

(Alternate DVD wrapper.)

Ok, Jump Ryuu.
Because I wrote up issue #17 just a few days ago, I'm not that compelled to spell out the contents of this magazine this time. We do get a good overview of Osamu's manga bibliography, with his debut in 1976 (the year after I graduated from high school) in Young Jump with Kochi Kame, and his other manga (lots of one-shots, plus the series Mr. Clice.) Osamu's work studio is a huge contrast to that of the other artists I've seen - big, clean and with a large room that looks like a lobby with a mannequin wearing a uniform from the manga, and a sofa that can seat over 20 people. We do get a lot of sample art, and commentary about how different panels work if you're a student of the art form. The blue page section focuses on shading lines, and the art school pages talk about digital coloring, shading, and inking sound effects. The magazine ends with the 2 pages of editor commentary, and the advertisement for volume 19, for the artist and writer on Death Note and Bakuman.

(Road to Jump page, with picture of Akimoto.)

For the extras, we get the drawing of Ryou, the blue page (with the Captain accusing Ryou of doing something stupid again), and the extra DVD jacket page (which is beautiful, again). Overall, the best part of the magazine is that there are several photos of Akimoto, making it easier to associate the artist with the manga.

(Regular DVD case and wrapper.)

Ok, now, the DVD. The first chapter has Akimoto drawing the art page. He's been doing Ryou for so many years, he can do this pose in his sleep. Akimoto starts with pencil, roughs the pose, then comes back in with a pen to ink the outlines, and he uses actual paints and brushes for the color work. The second chapter is a tour of Akimoto's studio, with the huge couch in the lobby, various awards he's won over the years, and a life-size statue of Reiko. The studio itself is big and airy, and he has a time clock system for keeping track of the hours his assistants work. We get to see Akimoto as he's talking, which is good, but he really doesn't say anything special to his readers for sticking around with him for so long. The last chapter is on how to ink sound effects.

(Examples of Akimoto's artwork, featuring various famous locations around Tokyo.)

Summary: Magazine-wise, there's not that much really earth-shattering. A few pictures of Akimoto and his studio, and then a lot of examples of the Kochi Kame manga (the good point here is that the editors compare the original character designs to the later ones to show how they changed over time). I do like the alternative DVD cover a lot. The art page with Ryou feels kind of generic, but the blue page is good. For the DVD, the best part is watching Akimoto taking a blank sheet of paper and working all the way up to the finished art page. Recommended if you want to know how to draw manga.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

July-Sept. articles in the media

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from July-Sept., regarding anime, manga and related stuff.

Japan Times

Anime discovers a rural outpost

The life of Japan's 'god of manga'

'Your Name.': Makoto Shinkai could be the next big name in anime

Japan's team spirit remains youthful in anime

Popular police box manga 'Kochikame' to end 40-year run

'Kochikame' manga series goes out with a bang by setting Guinness record

Anime, manga to play bigger role in luring tourists to Japan

Daily Yomiuri

Waki Yamato's 50 years as manga artist

Ajin review

Hokago Saikoro Club review

Read the life of Osamu Tezuka in English

Honda, the skeleton bookshop clerk review

The Isle of Tokko review

The Great War of Archimedes review

Hi Score Girl review

Sweetness & Lightning review

Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store review

'Kochikame' author looks back on 40 years


'Kochikame' ends record 40-year run


Pop-up cafe in Tokyo, Fukuoka to cater to fans of 'Yo-Kai Watch'

Old school gets reboot as manga academy for aspiring artists

'Naruto' musical finale set for international livestreaming

Itoh's 'Genocidal Organ' film scheduled for winter release

Manga greats' old apartment to be rebuilt as a museum by 2020

Tekken makes flipbook to help delinquents

New Pokemon video games to hit store shelves in November

Future talent set for Japan-China-Korea festival

Shunji Iwai among directors at San Francisco film festival

Crowdfunding campaign begun to assist aspiring manga artists

'One Piece' statue heralds latest feature film in Osaka

All aboard the Cat Bus at newly revitalized Ghibli Museum

'JoJo's Bizarre Adventure' in Sendai takeover

Spooky event in Tokyo reflects ‘yokai’-human coexistence

Hopes riding high that 'Comic Train' will help Tohoku region

'Sword Art Online' coming to big screen in Japan in 2017

Live-action 'Gin Tama' film gets green light for release in 2017

More stars prowl in for 'March Comes in Like a Lion' movie

Glider from Miyazaki's 'Nausicaa' anime gets test flight

Special 'Gundam Build Fighters Try' episode set to air on Aug. 21

'Cyborg 009' 3D-CG trilogy set for November

'Expelled from Paradise" shop to open in Tokyo's Ikebukuro

'Tiger Mask W' TV wrestling series grappling your way in fall

Crowdfunded 'In This Corner of the World' set for big screen this fall

Light shed on a new dark god for 'Death Note' film series

'KanColle' movie to open Nov. 26 in 60 theaters across the nation

Police manga 'Kochikame' to end after 40 years on the beat

Teaser for 'Monster Strike' film promises emotional finale

Makoto Shinkai stakes his claim for summer's big anime hit film

Manga preserved for posterity as art-form gains hard-won respect

'Rising star' to write 'Tiger & Bunny' movie

'Bleach' manga gets live-action film adaptation starring Fukushi

Japan choosing 88 travel spots for anime fan 'pilgrimage'

First Godzilla anime film gets green light for release in 2017