Saturday, September 30, 2017

Seven Shakespeares, vol. 3 review

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

Nana-nin no Sheikusupia, vol. 3, by Harold Sakuishi, Grade B+
This is the final volume of the big book collections of the first Seven Shakespeares series, and clocks in at 458 pages and 1000 yen ($9.50 USD), however, the last 161 pages of that are actually a reprint of the first volume of the second series, Non Sans Droict. While I've been harping on this series being pure historical fiction, the storylines this time are much more speculative than before. The second priest that secretly served Will's parish, John Cottam, had a brother, Thomas that became a Jesuit priest, and had been tortured and killed in the Tower of London. Sakuishi speculates that this was at the direct bequest of Francis Walsingham. Additionally, Sakuishi has Thomas cracking and betraying his brother, who is also then arrested, tortured and killed.

(3D ad board for vol. 1 of the sequel series, discovered at the bookstore.)

Initially, as I was reading through this volume, I got the impression that Sakuishi was deliberately dragging Shakespeare's wife's (Anne Hathaway) name through the mud. But as I was going through the wiki article, I learned that Anne didn't really have that great of a reputation to start with, and that at the beginning of the 20th century several writers had portrayed her in a negative light, and that the marriage was not a happy one at the end. A couple writers had her as cheating on Will, although Arliss Ryan, in the 2010 novel, "The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare" has the two of them going to London together, where Anne turns out to be the real author of Shakespeare's plays (echoing the concept for The Seven Shakespeares). What Sakuishi does that is different from the above-mentioned writers, is to have the 26-year old Anne pregnant with another guy's baby, and then seducing Will in order to force him into a shotgun wedding at age 18 to protect her reputation and marry above her station. She then continues her affair with the guy, Francis, after the marriage. I can't find anything on wiki indicating that there really was an acquaintance named "Francis." Sakuishi also draws Anne to be much uglier than her oil portraits show her to be.

So, the story. John's father, Combe, Sr., tells Cottam that he's learned that Cottam's brother, Thomas, has been captured and is being tortured, so Cottam should leave soon. Cottam won't, saying that he trusts his brother to not crack. The next day, Cottam counsels Will about keeping the faith and recommends that the boy bring his mother to the next service. That night, a messenger hands Cottam a letter from his brother, which had been written in prison, and two strangers watch the exchange to see who Cottam is. The next day, Will gets his mother to attend the service, and right afterward he sees John Cottam being hauled through town in the back of a cart, tied up in a bale of straw. Will chases after the cart to save the priest, but John Combe stops him from incriminating himself in the eyes of the law. Cottam also shakes his head at the boy to keep him away. Cottam is followed by the local magistrate, Thomas Lucy, for sentencing. Nearby in the crowd, Will notices a rather ugly woman who is smiling at the captured Catholic priest, and identifies her as Anne Hathaway. John and Will escape and cry uncontrollably where no one can see them. The Catholics in Stratford-upon-Avon go into a panic, and Combe, Sr., burns all his religious items to reduce the risk of being discovered. Cottam is tortured, but doesn't crack. The narrator says Thomas Cottam was beheaded on May 30, 1582, while his older brother continued to be tortured by Richard Topcliff, director of the secret police.

(John Cottam gets captured and tortured for being Catholic.)

The scene changes to Anne Hathaway's family's cottages (in fact, the family was relatively well-to-do, had a large estate, and the building had 12 rooms), where her mother discovers that Anne is pregnant with the baby of a lawyer named Francis. Her mother states that a wealthy man like that isn't going to marry a pauper like her, so they cook up a plan for Bart, a farmhand on the estate, to pick one of his friends to visit her on some pretext. Bart only knows three men, Will, Combe, and one other from school, so he gets the three of them together for a card game, the loser having to visit a "haunted house" for one night. Will is the loser, and Bart takes him out to an empty cottage where Anne is waiting. She seduces the boy and they have sex. The next day, Combe asks what happened, but Will is still in shock and can't talk about it. Some time passes, and one day Anne and her mother visit Will's father to accuse the boy of making Anne pregnant. John Shakespeare has seen this kind of manipulation before and is very fatalistic about it. Will decides to do "the right thing" and he marries her in a quiet ceremony in a small Protestant church. After the baby is born, Will becomes extra busy with his glove-making business, plus caring for the baby. One morning, Anne says the baby, Suzanne, named after her mother, is running a slight fever and she wants to take her to the doctor. Actually, she visits Francis to show off their new child. Francis likes the current situation, and the two of them have sex again.

(Anne Hathaway marries Shakespeare, then tells him to get rid of his rosary, for the sake of "their" baby.)

Later, Will and John Combe are walking through town when they come across a crowd in front of an old man locked up in the stocks. The crowd jeers him as he protests his innocence, When Will gets home, he discovers that Anne has found his rosary, and she tells him to get rid of it for the sake of "their" baby lest the authorities find out about it. As she leaves the room, her laughter is like the braying of a donkey. The narrator says that at age 19, Will's life is about to get worse. One night, a pair of poachers steal two deer from Thomas Lucy's lands (they turn out to be two of Lucy's guards). The next day, Lucy notices that his herd is smaller by two deer. His personal Protestant priest tells him that this must be the work of the Catholics, and that he needs to punish them quickly or they'll get out of control. Lucy orders his deputy, Scales, to bring the culprits to justice. Scales, a thin older guy with a goatee and bowl haircut, orders his men to scour the lands and locate the poachers. One of the men is a dolt that decides on pick on Roger, the kid who had lost his leg to Lucy's dogs 5 years earlier. Will and John Combe just happen to be visiting Roger's family at the time, and they point out that Roger is in no condition to poach anything. Unfortunately, the dolt notices that Will smells like tanned leather (from his work making gloves), so he gets revenge by telling Scales that the two young men are the poachers.

(Will gets punished for not bowing in front of Thomas Lucy fast enough.)

The next day, Lucy's guards swoop down on Stratford-Upon-Avon and arrest both Will and Combe. They're paraded through town, to the jeers of the townspeople. They're thrown into a dungeon cell and time passes. Will cracks, and wants to know why this is happening to him. Combe is more stoic, having been punished mercilessly by his father before, and he just bides his time. They pray a lot, and wait. At one point, Will tries writing bible verses on the wall with his fingernail, and in blood, and Combe stops him. Meanwhile, Scales' deputy is having second thoughts about the boys' guilt, and tries to get Scales to renew the investigation, but the guy only cares about whether Lucy is happy with SOMEONE being punished, or not. Combe, Sr., makes several visits to the Lucy estates, and eventually bribes Scales enough to get him to talk Lucy into freeing his son and his friend. The dolt guard ushers Will and John into the main mansion, where they're overwhelmed by the wealth Lucy controls. Will is a little too slow in showing his respect to Lucy and his wife, so the guard slams him to the ground. Will tries to argue that he's innocent (just as the guy in the stocks had), and claims that his father is a Gentleman, and therefore the Shakespeare family should receive some respect in return. Lucy just stares at the boy, saying that there are only two kinds of people - the nobility, and the trash. Will is trash. However, he is free to go, still retaining the stigma of being a poacher.

(Radcliffe's church goes up in flames, and Father Bell gives him a Bible, saying that he's going to find himself in the middle of Hell for his faith soon.)

When Will and Combe get back to town, the townspeople continue to deride them as criminals. John goes to his father and asks for permission to move somewhere else and start up his own trade business. Combe, Sr., acquiesces, and the boy promises to pay back the money owed for springing him from prison. He and Will pack up quietly and disappear in the night (Anne feels sorry for herself for having married into an unlucky family). Before leaving, the two boys vow to dedicate themselves to searching for freedom. Will gives John a present of a new pair of black gloves, while John gives them new names. Will initially likes "Lance Carter," then changes his mind and tries to take "Hughes Worth" instead (John wants to be Hughes himself). They travel on foot for several days in the rain, and are so filthy when they get to Lancaster that all the inns refuse to accept them as guests. "Hughes" faints from lack of food, so Will seeks out the source of a lantern light, and discovers a diminutive priest crouched in front of a hole filled with Catholic artifacts and broken pieces of stained glass windows. The priest, Thomas Radcliffe, acts like he's trying to bury the stuff under a pile of dirt, but it's clear that while he's dressed as a Protestant, both he, and the rest of the clergy in this church, are Catholics that are trying to avoid persecution under the current law. Will grabs one of the pieces of glass out of the hole, and cuts himself on it. Radcliffe persuades him to hand the glass over, and then bandages the wound, lets the boys stay overnight in the church, and serves them bread and soup for dinner (the best meal they've ever eaten).

("Hughes" and "Lance" find Radcliffe huddled in a shed behind the church.)

The next day, Radcliffe lets them get cleaned up, listens to their story, then writes a letter of recommendation to Walker, the sugar and salt dealer in Liverpool. As the boys get ready to leave, they meet the other priests of the church, led by Father Bell, who are also secret Catholics. The boys get to Liverpool and find Walker in the middle of a wrestling contest with his men. He gets one of the bigger guys to wrestle Lance, who loses three out of three falls. But, Walker greatly respects Radcliffe, and he gives Hughes the task of selling salt in town, and eventually has Lance selling sugar. Unfortunately for Hughes, a rival salt distributor, Johnson, already controls the salt distribution in Liverpool, and Hughes gets roughed up and no one buys anything from him. On the other hand, there's less control over sugar, and Lance makes a killing selling sugar to the Johnson household, so Walker decides to take on both boys and teach them the trade. Meanwhile, Bell and the other priests are coming under additional pressure from the Protestant government and they're trying to decide whether to run or stay their ground. Bell wants to stay, and Radcliffe, who has a reputation as being the most devote, best educated Catholic priest in the region, also wants to stay. One of the other priests, Malta, had been taken into the Church by Bell as a runaway, and he has greater misgivings. A little later, another priest, who's no taller than Radcliffe, runs up to the church with a warning that government forces are closing in on them, and said forces do arrive. Malta, who is in the belfry of the church, freezes up, accidentally dropping a candle onto the forbidden church records stored there, and starts a fire that eventually consumes the building. Bell gives Radcliffe a Catholic bible and tells him to go into hiding until the environment for Catholicism improves.

Bell and most of the other priests allow themselves to die in the flames. Lance and Hughes happen by to thank Radcliffe for helping them, and they discover the man cowering in a shed behind the church, clutching the bible. Malta is captured by the government troops, and he tells them that his name is Thomas Radcliffe. They arrest Malta for the time being. The government takes Bell's charred corpse and hangs it by the neck in a noose in the public square in order to ridicule the Catholics. Radcliffe joins Lance and Hughes in their carriage, and they talk him into changing his name to Milo and joining them on their paths to new lives of freedom.

The story returns to the "present" (1588), with a brief foray into the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, along the way. Mary is portrayed as a nasty, power-hungry woman that tried to raise a rebel army against Queen Elizabeth and was finally beheaded in 1587. Over in Spain, King Philip II had been hoping to put a Catholic Queen on the throne, and the death of Mary destroyed those plans. With Elizabeth, a Protestant, wearing the crown, Philip changed tactics and put together an armada to invade the country. With this background, Hughes tells Lance that Liverpool is becoming too dangerous for sea-based merchants and he has changed his mind and wants to go to London, too. That just leaves Milo as the sole holdout. One day, when Lance, Hughes and Li are out in a carriage, with Hughes telling Lance about Philip II, Li gets out of the carriage and gives Lance advice about a woman living in a huge mansion nearby. The woman is pregnant, craves sugar, and is having trouble sleeping. Lance makes a big sugar sale, and guarantees her as a customer for life by giving her herbs that will help her sleep at night. Hughes and Lance figure that with Li on their side, they'll have nothing to worry about in London. Some time later, Hughes comes racing up to the house on a horse, yelling for everyone to gather together in a darkened room. Yang, the priest that had warned Father Bell of the impending government raid, has been found. The government forces have been approaching Liverpool, and a family of practicing Catholic Gentlemen were arrested and hanged in public (not sure if Yang was hanged as well or not). Now that Milo/Radcliffe's life is in clear danger, everyone agrees to leave immediately for London. The rest of the book is then the first volume for the sequel series, where the group sets themselves up in London.

Summary: Well, I now know what everyone's background is, why they have fake names, and why Lance was working for a salt merchant when he finally started writing morality plays to be performed for the Protestant Church. I don't really like the liberties taken in the negative portrayals of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Anne Hathaway, and Shakespeare/Lance Carter is treated as either being too shrewd or too naive as the story requires it. The character designs are erratic, and in the middle of this volume, both Will and John Combe are drawn as to be completely unrecognizable (there may have been a change in Sakuishi's studio assistants). I'm not a big fan of historical fiction, although I do like seeing all the architectural and background pictures. Having Li as a prophetess and master sonnet writer kind of undermines the believability of the story premise as well. I probably won't continue reading the sequel, Non Sans Droict, in part because book prices are starting to get too expensive. Anyway, the series is recommended to anyone that likes this kind of thing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Ajin Poster Board

Advertising for the new live action version of the Ajin manga. Kei (right) is supposed to be 16-17 years old, so the actor playing him isn't young enough, and Saito (Poker Face, left) should be at least in his thirties and extremely dead-pan, so that guy looks all wrong. I don't like live action versions of manga, so I'd never watch this movie, anyway.

Text: "Wind God, Thunder God, and Ajin Screens." "Endless Repeat Battle."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Slow Bread

Yes, it may be slow, but do you really have to advertise that in front of everyone?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Biohazard Projector Light

Just in time for Halloween, we have a little pocket keychain LED flashlight, branded for the Biohazard video game franchise. 6 kinds, 200 yen each ($1.90 USD), about 3 inches long.

These things are made of cheap, light-weight plastic, so they will get scratched up if you're not careful, but for 200 yen they're a pretty good deal. The front cylinder is movable so you can get a sharp focus of the light on a wall or ceiling, and the lens is etched with one of the 6 designs (which can either be in red or green).

Mine is the green zombie. At night, if the area is really dark and you're projecting on a white wall, the image can be visible up to 6-10 feet away, and be at least 3-4 feet tall. It is pretty cool, although that may be hard to tell from the photo. I think that most of the designs are good, so I may try getting one more, hopefully it would be Nemesis or Hunter, although Zombie Dog might be spooky enough, too.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Yamakataya Ad - Pretty Innocent

I'm not really sure where to start, in making fun of the text in relation to the amount of make-up hiding the model. Yes, she's pretty. Innocent? Probably not.

Anyway, the main thing I can comment on here is the big gray-green box sitting in front of the display case, blocking the shot. It's dehumidifier, for anyone wanting to cool down and feel a little drier while waiting for their partner to finish shopping inside where it's actually air-conditioned. (I took this photo in the middle of August.)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sept. 23rd Weekend

This weekend held some promise, but turned out to be mostly a bust. I had to visit the International Center, down by the Reimeikan history museum, on Thursday, and I saw workers putting up the stage and food booths for some kind of event for the coming weekend. I had one English class on Friday, so afterward I swung by the Center again to see if I could find the schedule for the stage show, and identify which event it was. Turns out this is for KTS TV's regular announcements of their new TV season line-up. I've seen this thing enough to know that most of the supporting activities held inside the center, and at the open area near Yamakataya in Tenmonkan, are pretty much all the same from year to year. I've taken photos and video from past events and didn't really feel like taking more shots this time of stuff that doesn't really change. When I arrived at the front lawn to the building, I discovered that the TV crew was blocking out the camera shots for one of the larger group events (each of the staff members on stage had name tags on identifying the personality they were standing in for).

Now, the event only ran from 10:30 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and Sunday, and the live portion mostly consisted of people talking about the upcoming TV shows. There were some song and dance numbers, most of which I actively intended to avoid, including manzai (the Japanese attempt at two-man stand-up comedy), a stage play by the local foamhead mascots, and three musical performances - one by a female karaoke singer, and then two trios. I don't know anything about the first trio, other than that the picture showed a woman and two guys in formal wear. The second trio is a Japanese hip hop group calling themselves Berry Goodman (possibly a joke on "very good, man", but more likely a rip-off of "Benny Goodman"), and I saw them last year. I dislike Japanese hiphop because the songs are stupid, but Goodman has a very strong, very vocal fan base, so they are popular here. I don't like them, though.

Anyway, I didn't have to work until 6 PM on Saturday, but it was raining all day, and most of Sunday. There wasn't much I had any interest in, and I had several projects at home that I wanted to get as much work on over the weekend as I could (one of which is shooting video for a little robot vehicle kit I bought some time ago). Because it's about a 1-mile walk to the Center from the apartment, I didn't want to go there in the rain unless there was a good reason for it (like, having to get to my job). Instead, I stayed home most of the weekend, although I did get up to Amu Plaza and the main train station (which is in the opposite direction from the Center) on Sunday for a few minutes to see if there was anything going on there. They had the Ai-paku event (booths and tables selling upscale ice cream), but that was it. Otherwise an uneventful time. (Although, after the Amu Plaza trip, I got to read a little Sherlock Holmes - The Hound of the Baskervilles - which was good, and I reread parts of the Cerebus Jaka's Story and Melmoth books, which are also good.)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Makino Minions Craft Kits

Makino is a fabrics and supplies store in Tenmonkan, and the display case in the front often promotes kit packages for stuff you can make. This time, they've got three of the Minions. The TV is playing scenes from one of the Despicable Me movies.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Final Sale

Chalk board sign in front of a shoe store in Tenmonkan. "If you don't buy these shoes, we'll be in trouble."

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dragon Sign

Sign in front of a restaurant in Tenmonkan. It's a very Monster Hunter-ish dragon.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mansatsu Tori Truck

There's a butcher shop half a block from my apartment, and there are often delivery trucks stationed outside. There's one specific truck whose lettering for the company name has always bothered me. The name is "Mansatsu", and the "M" at the beginning looks like the artist messed up the spacing in trying to cram an "i" and an "n" into the same space.

It took me an incredibly long time to finally realize that the "n" is the silhouette of a bird and that the "i" and "n" are really forming the capital "M". Now, it looks kind of elegant to me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Spiderman-Ironman Window

You can't really tell this from a photo, but this is a display case on the second floor balcony at Amu Plaza, about 6' tall, maybe 12' wide, and 2 feet deep. The main poster is on the back wall, and the Spiderman decal is on the window in front. Gives the display kind of a 2.5D feel.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pino Ice Cream Box

Pino is Morninaga's entry in the bite-sized ice cream market. For a couple dollars, you get 6 (or 8, I forget) little chocolate covered cones of vanilla ice cream as shown above, and a small blue plastic toothpick for picking them up so you don't have to use your fingers. They're a nice novelty, but not worth the money.

My only interest in them this time is because of the "Puchi Happy" (puchi = petite) family artwork on the back of the box. Kind of looks like Morinaga is ripping off Lego.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bone Bad

I went to the above restaurant for a drinking party a few days ago. They had good food, but like most bars in Tenmonkan, it's pricey. The interesting thing was that even though it was the first week of September, they already had Halloween decorations up.

This was a real blast from the past.

Bone Bad Frankie. I remember the character designs for this line of monsters from back in the 60's, I think, but I can't find anything online describing them.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Go! Go!

This was kind of funny. There used to be a girl's TV anime series where the main character would call out "Ike! Ike! Go! Go! Jump!," and I've remembered that expression ever since. So, that's the first thing that came to mind when I saw this Halloween display in the 100 yen shop (the Japanese version of the Dollar Store) in Tenmonkan.

Actually, I lie. I happened to see this display the day after I encountered the below restaurant, and I thought the repeated usage of "Go! Go!" like this was unusual.

I was walking to the school last week, and the lettering on the door immediately caught my eye. The place is brand new, and I guess it's the second in the chain to open up.

A: "Do you want to grab something to eat at McDonald's?"
B: "No, I'd rather Go! Hungry!"

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Area 51, vol. 15 review

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

Area 51, vol. 15, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A+
Well, the series has finally ended and I'm both happy and sad. Yes, this has been my favorite manga ever since I discovered it a few years ago, and I doubt there's going to be another tribute to horror and adventure like this ever again (with district names like Carpenter and Verhoeven, and bar and club names from every horror movie ever made), it's been a real trip. But, the finale was pure Hisa, and the artwork and pacing have been all I could ask for. Great stuff.

(The Undine prepares to attack Kishirou, but Gokuu interrupts her. He asks if the kappa wants a nice cup of hot tea, and the answer is "Maybe...")

H62) Your Tenderness Would Be Wonderful If You Were Not Here In This Town
The chapter starts with McCoy eating some fruit in a field in the rain, when a farmer comes up to threaten her, then lets her take two of the fruits since she's human. But, a group of animal-based bounty hunters arrive to claim the $200,000 on her head. McCoy easily dispatches them, then the farmer turns his shotgun on her, saying that he's got a sick wife. Later, McCoy returns to a hut, tossing one of the fruits to the female kappa, Shizune, telling her that she'll have to eat around the bullet hole and blood. Shizune sets the fruit aside instead. Then we get a flashback of McCoy killing Felix, Shizune insisting on tagging after her, the military attacking them for killing an angel, and the two of them finding this hut to hide in. Shizune still wants to kill McCoy in revenge for the death of her older brother, but she's too gentle to be any kind of a threat. McCoy's plan is to force the doppelganger out in the open by having everyone attacking anything that has her face. As they're waiting, the next bounty hunter arrives, this one an invisible man. He's a challenge to defend against, except that he has water dripping off his body from the rain outside, and McCoy and Pike allow their bullets to be sliced open to spill powder everywhere, and Invisible gets horribly burned in the resulting dust explosion. McCoy is merciless in finishing him off, scaring Shizune even more. McCoy exits the hut into the arms of more attackers (the final bounty reaches $500,000). Meanwhile, at the office, Kishirou is patiently waiting for his boss to return, and is casually defeating the bounty hunters that keep pestering him by using water attacks against them. However, one of the intruders is a water-using undine that gets offed by Son Gokuu, who drops in for a visit (the Counsel of Gods have declared McCoy "untouchable", but there's no such prohibition on talking to kappas). McCoy had told Kishirou to wait for her, in case she had a request of him. As they wait, Gokuu asks if the kappa wants some tea using the water from the defeated undine.

(The doppelganger restocks, then prepares to force McCoy out into the open.)

H63) This Is My Hunting Place
Things get a bit messy from here. The Japanese god Susanoo is being shipped to Area 51 from Japan, and he's despondent over the death of Amaterasu. The doppelganger, in McCoy's form, swims out to the ship and lets him defeat her in order to get some of its raw form on his face. It enters in through his tear glands and turns him into a form of blood-thirsty (literally) zombie. Susanoo then attacks the military guards, making more zombies. The standard anti-zombie defenses don't work on these guys, and the carnage spreads rapidly across the zone. Doppel returns to its lair in an apartment in the main city, suffering from "hardening." Generally, doppelgangers can only hold one form for a short time before their outer shell starts stiffening up and cracking. This doppel has been a copy of McCoy for so long that it's starting to panic. But, it can't locate another victim while its current victim is still alive, so it wants to force McCoy out into the open to finish her off once and for all. In the meantime, it drinks a little of the blood from McCoy's baby. Doppel had kidnapped one married couple, turning the husband into a zombie and locking him up in chains to have a hostage so the wife will care for the baby while Doppel is outside. The baby is additional bait to get McCoy to show herself. McCoy's running out of time, too, because her body is breaking up and won't be able to contain the sword Kusanagi much longer. She thinks she has the upper hand, though, since she really knows this town, and the doppelganger has been mostly confined to the Prison of the Angels.

(McCoy faces the doppelganger, and the memories of her lover and lost baby overtake her.)

H64) Finaly, It Is Over
The zombies are undefeatable, and their numbers keep increasing. However, they're blind and keep seeking high areas near water. McCoy deduces that Doppel must be at the top of a tall building near a water tower, and eventually she gets it right. Doppel turns around and smiles, and McCoy goes into a blind rage, becoming half-covered in leather-like straps that mirror her demon gun Pike's true form. Pike gets concerned and tells her to be careful, but she just starts shooting. Doppel says that it's learned all the techniques of its past victims, including the ability to confuse people as to where it's going to move next, the ability to redirect the paths of bullets, and the ability to use its head to spin a bullet back at its shooter. McCoy loses pretty quickly. Finally, she realizes that her human self is getting in the way of her revenge, and she banishes it to turn into a pure monster.


H65) Eyes, Just Like You
Monster McCoy uses her hate to draw on Kusanagi's power, and now, even if Pike's bullets don't even come close to their target, their explosions are so great as to blow off Doppel's right arm and both legs. Doppel can regenerate, but not fast enough to prevent McCoy from getting up close and at point blank. Doppel is realizing that things are looking bad for it, and it starts bawling that it doesn't want to die. At the same time, Pike is trying to break through McCoy's rage to get her to realize that with every shot she's losing life force and is going to die before realizing her goals. Doppel remembers the baby and uses its energy to grab the infant from its caretaker, and throws it in the air at the McCoy monster. McCoy ignores it and prepares to take the last shot that will finish them both. This is when the memory of Prince Charming emerges from McCoy's subconscious and, at Pike's pleading, uses his cane sword to sever the bond between McCoy and the gun. The monster armor surrounding McCoy shatters, and she falls back in time to catch her baby just before it hits the floor. Doppel sees its chance and lunges forward to make the kill, as Pike says it's glad this time that it's such a dangerous object. Pike explodes, destroying itself and wiping out the Doppelganger's upper body. Pike's final words are, "Farewell, my lovely" (in English) (the title of the first Philip Marlowe novel (by Raymond Chandler) to be made into a movie).

McCoy makes it out of the building, and Shizune drives them back to the office in McCoy's truck, crying. At the office, McCoy asks Kishirou to raise her baby for her, naming the girl "Miki" (from the kanji for "approaching future"). Kishirou agrees to this. McCoy says that Miki (later spelled Micky in English) has her father's lips, while the kappa says that she has her mother's eyes. McCoy is last shown holding the baby as Kishirou props her up.

(Part of the montage, where Gokuu has his new face. Genie of the Lamp is the guy with glasses.)

H66) Let Me Be Reckless For Now Even In This Town
Two days later, McCoy's body is laid to rest, and all the loose ends are tied up. Gokuu has been given a new head made out of metal by Cyclops, and Felix has gotten better after being shot in the forehead. Actually, McCoy had used the Needle of Life for the bullet, which restores one person to life, but can't cure diseases (which is why she hadn't used it on herself). Felix retrieved Kusanagi from McCoy's corpse and he gives the cursed sword to Shizuka to take back to Japan and the people of the kappa. After the doppelganger was defeated, all of the zombies it had created collapsed, dead (including the hostage husband of the woman tending Micky). Doppel itself disappeared, and is presumed to have gone into hiding. McCoy's casket is buried as all of her friends stand watch, and then Nemuri, the satori, sings a send-off lament for her. Everyone else leaves, and Kishirou dedicates himself to raising Micky.

From here, we get a 14-page montage with Micky going from a baby to a young adult, getting sick, being rejected for the first time, learning how to cook from the Genie in the Lamp, being taken for rides on Gokuu's magic cloud, applying for a job at a restaurant and making her way up to chief chef, rescuing a boy being beaten up in an alley, dating the boy, and finally getting married to him. Kishirou provides the couple with an armored car, and the couple turn it into Micky's Kitchen, and her customers include everyone who'd ever met McCoy. Finally, Kishirou tells Genie that he wants to call in his last wish - to be told where the doppelganger is. Genie sighs, says it's been a great 20 years, writes the location on a piece of paper, and fades away. The kappa returns to McCoy's old office to retrieve his trench coat and Prince Charming's cane sword. The series ends with him walking away from the camera, saying, "Let me be reckless in this here town."

There's a nice little insert sheet in this volume, too. It's double-sided and folded into 4 squares, the idea being to staple one edge together and cut the other edges open with a paper cutter to create a little booklet. It's a short story entitled "Haggis Pudding." One day, Micky is upset with her boyfriend because he disappeared when they were supposed to go on a date. He did bring back a piece of meat, which Mickey baked into a haggis pudding, but he won't explain how he got it. Kishirou bites into the pudding and spits out a bullet, which he recognizes. A long time ago, he and McCoy had been hunting a huge monster called a haggis. Kishirou had managed to get a rope around one leg, and McCoy shot it in the shoulder, but it escaped from them again. McCoy had pouted just like Micky is now, and Kishirou tells her to go back home to her boyfriend.

Man, I am not happy to see this series end, but it did go out on a high note. Hisa does have a couple of other titles out too, including Jabberwocky and Nobunagan. Manga is getting expensive now (this volume was about $6.50 USD, with tax), so I'm not sure I want to start buying anything else at full price, but who knows. Anyway - highly recommended. And, Farewell, McCoy.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ajin, vol. 11 review

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

Ajin, vol. 11 (Good Afternoon, 2016-17), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: A-.
The new book starts out with a doctor delivering a still-birth, and about to give up and walk away when the baby begins crying. The mother is just happy that her child is alive now and calls him "Kei." Back in the present, Kei and the rest of the group are waiting for things to start snow-balling. Tosaki confronts Cnl. Kouma, and tries to get him to join the anti-Satou group, with no results. From here, the storylines fragment, with Kei encountering Manabe, the last surviving bodyguard from the last major battle. Manabe sees Kei holding the gun he'd given his boss, and realizes that the man must be dead now. He has decided to run away, and goes to a phonebooth to book one-way tickets to nowhere, but as he looks at his reflection in the window glass, he makes up his mind and disappears before the travel agent on the other end can complete the travel arrangements. Satou and his two coke-head minions take an ice chest out to a field for some reason, while Tanaka decides to make a parlay for peace with the government, supposedly with Satou's blessing. One of the cabinet ministers prepares Sokabe to take over Tosaki's position in the Ajin research group, and Tosaki's group picks up the researcher, Ogura, on their way to a pre-arranged meeting place between Satou and the cabinet minister at an abandoned sports arena. When they get to the arena, Ogura warns Kei about the hazards of "flood"-type ghosts (IBMs = invisible black monsters). The problem is that floods, which consist of a large number of ghosts at one time, tend to only follow simple "win" orders when their "host" is overcome with extreme emotion. Ogura mentions a Dutch Olympic speed skater that had been in the middle of a race during the Games, and at the end collapsed. He accidentally summoned 9 ghosts, which went on a rampage in the arena for several minutes before dissipating.  Ogura says that Kei has the potential to summon 15-20 ghosts, then tells the boy to forget everything he's just said - he'd love to be around when Kei does invoke a flood. Then he turns to leave, opening up the last of his stashed cigarette packs.

(Manabe decides to not run away after all.)

Kei and Kou position themselves on the roof of the stadium, while Tosaki and Izumi go to the security room and watch the TV monitors. Sokabe shows up and tries to talk Tosaki into quitting again, to no effect. Satou and his two minions get into one car, and Tanaka into a second (the programmer hangs back and asks if Satou is really going through with this, and the guy smiles and says, "yup"). During the drive to the arena, Tanaka doesn't notice that Satou dropped back and took a turn off the pre-determined route. When he gets to the meeting point, Satou is missing, and the cabinet minister accuses Tanaka of trying to play games with him. Tanaka still thinks that Satou is going to show up to negotiate a truce with the government, but Kei realizes that this is just another stage in the game Satou is playing with them. He and Kou run into the building to find a TV to watch the news. Elsewhere, the Japanese Prime Minister is attending a big public event at an air force base, and as he gets on the stage, Satou shows up through the heat haze in the distance, armed for bear and approaching to attack the PM. Just prior to this, a camera man looking like Satou tried entering the air force grounds through the front door, was recognized, and immediately straitjacketed and dragged to an interrogation room. The TV news crews aim their cameras on the Satou on the runway, allowing everyone in the arena to see what's happening. Tanaka feels betrayed, and as he slumps to his knees, one of the cabinet minister's bodyguards shoots him with a tranq dart, and the minister gives an order to take Tanaka with them for torturing as they leave.

(Yes, Satou is coming in through the front door.)

Kei, Kou, and Tosaki continue to watch the TV, as "Satou" rushes forward, pulling a pistol and shooting at the PM and his bodyguards, and throwing three satchels into the crowd. The audience panics and overwhelms the military guards urging them to remain calm. The main question everyone has is how Satou could have gotten past security, and Kei comments that the attacker looks just like Satou, but it's like watching a rerun of his actions from the big battle against the SAT forces. In the air force compound, Kouma had been arguing with his boss over the treatment of the cameraman they'd apprehended. Kouma is convinced that this really is Satou, but the cameraman cries, saying that he's been mistaken for this "Satou" guy so many times that he's lost his job, and his family has disowned him. The boss sees Satou on the monitors aimed at the air field, and orders the cameraman to be released and taken to the safest, most secure part of the building. Kouma compares the "Satou" on the field with the SAT battle footage, and also realizes that they're being played. But, there's still the question of how "Satou" got onto the base. One of the guards says that there was a sensor trigger at one of the far compound walls, but a guard dog patrol failed to turn up anything out of the ordinary. And, to go from that wall to the event podium would have required someone to run faster than a car, which Satou can't do. Then, the results of the fingerprints the guards ran on the cameraman come back, and they're a match for the real Satou. Finally, after the boss finishes keying in the security codes at the last door, the cameraman asks him if he REALLY thinks that this part of the base is safe from "Satou."

(Tanaka feels betrayed by Satou.)

Back on the airfield, the fake Satou keeps shooting and running forward, until he runs out of bullets. He's ordered to drop his pistol, and kneel where he's standing. He drops the gun, but waits for a pick-up truck to arrive and pick up the PM. The PM and his guards get on the truck, then "Satou" breaks left and chases the truck as it tries to race away. He's actually getting up to 30-40 mph, catches up to the truck and makes a huge leap up and into the flat bed. One of the guards shoots him straight in the eye, and there's no reaction. The landing in the truck is too rough, and the clips holding Satou's head come loose and the head falls off to reveal a black smoke ghost hiding inside Satou's clothes. We then get a flashback showing that Satou had his minions lop off his head and pack it in the ice chest before Satou could generate an all-new head. Presumably, the minions drove the impostor to the far compound wall, as Satou himself pretended to be the cameraman and went through the front door. The ghost starts dissipating and makes a lunge at the PM, and it's unclear if it reaches the guy or not.

(Satou is just not himself today.)

In the arena, Izumi approaches Kei and tells him that she wants to save Tanaka. She's convinced that he's willing to join their side now that he feels Satou betrayed him, and Kei agrees, telling Kou to go with her. Meanwhile, Tosaki is making his way through the facility's kitchens when he's confronted by Sokabe. Sokabe had mentioned sometime earlier that he'd never seen his "sempai" (older colleague) without his gloves on, and expects that this is to prevent anyone from collecting his fingerprints. But, here in the kitchen, Sokabe notices that Tosaki has his gloves off and is prepared to fight him. Sokabe pulls out a tranq gun, saying that it's time for a regime change. He'll dart his sempai and kill him painlessly in his sleep. Tosaki picks up a knife from the counter. Sokabe also promises to "play" with Izumi, getting her name wrong.

(Tosaki makes the first move against Sokabe.)

In a rage, Tosaki leaps forward and stabs Sokabe in the stomach, while the dart gun fires off in the wrong direction. They fall to the floor, and Sokabe manages to grab a nearby ice pick, and jabs that into Tosaki's side a couple times before finally dying. Tosaki says that her name is Izumi Shimomura, and she's HIS personal secretary. He straightens up his clothes and joins Kei and the others. He apologizes to Izumi about lying to her about his having secreted records of her being an Ajin, and if she wants to leave now, she can. Izumi just stares at him, and says that she already knew that, and she's going to stay with them until the end. Then the group splits up to go their own ways, with Kou accompanying Izumi, and Tosaki and Kei going solo.

Summary: We're getting into the "Final War," and Satou is showing himself to be just as erratic and daring as ever, risking the loss of his memories by generating extra heads, just to achieve his objective. And Kei is scrambling to keep up. But, at least we're down one antagonist with Sokabe gone (unless he also turns out to be an Ajin). Lots of good artwork, especially the fight between Tosaki and Sokabe. Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Satsuma Kurobuta

Japan does have some interesting company logo ideas, sometimes. Here, we have Satsuma Kurobuta, which is a specific black pork native to Kagoshima (previously named "Satsuma").

The dash lines for "kuro" (black) and "buta" (pig) have been turned into pigs, although from a distance they look more like cats.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Full Moon, Sept. 2017

Really clean, sharp views of the moon in the night sky are so rare now that I take pictures of them with the pocket camera whenever I get the chance. I'll take 20 shots, just so that one will turn out well.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Kami Usagi Rope Machi Shop

Kami Usagi Rope ("paper rabbit Rope") is a spin-off TV anime from another ensemble show. I haven't seen it before, but the goods shop is now on the 6th floor of the Taka Plaza department store (the store itself is used as the background for the billboard above), and I wanted photos for the blog. The goods shop is available from Sept. 8th to the 24th.

Unlike past goods shops, this one has lots of interactive activities for both children and adults, from a "high-five" button slapping booth, to a hoop toss game, and art tables. The goods themselves include t-shirts, packages of ramen, chips, etc. All of which is over-priced. The electronic games also cost money (500 yen; $4.50 USD), but maybe you get prizes for high scores.

The high-five game, where you have to hit buttons as they light up.

Hoop toss.

You can sit at the kotatsu in this set piece and pose for photos for your friends.

The background is a panorama scene of Rope's town. The art table here is set up for making acrylic art plates of the TV series characters, for 648 yen each. I didn't try that myself. I was there at 11:30 AM on Tuesday, and there were only a couple older housewives that dropped by to play the High Five game, so I didn't get to see what the finished plates look like.

Close-up of one part of the panorama.

One of the other tables had coloring pencils and oil crayons for use on sheets of the characters' faces. This was free, so I asked the staff if it was ok for me to draw something, and they said "sure." I decided to try something a bit oddball, which took over 30 minutes to finish. While I was doing this, the DVD player looped through the TV anime shorts 3 times. So, now I have a better understanding of the show. It's essentially a low-key gag series, with the characters mostly standing and talking to each other, and being obnoxious. It's almost like Beavis and Butthead plus Family Guy, but not really.

If I had my little scissors with me, I would have made the combination more seamless. It's now hanging on the wall at the shop, along with all the drawings by younger children.