Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BAKUMAN, VOL.1


Is becoming a successful manga artist an achievable dream or just one big gamble?

Averange student Moritaka Mashiro enjoys drawing for fun. When his classmate and aspiring writer Akito Takagi discovers his talent, he begs Moritaka to team up with him as a manga-creating duo. But what exactly does it take to make it in the manga-publishing world?

Moritaka is hesitant to seriously consider Akito's proposal because he knows how difficult reaching the professional level can be. Still, encouragement from persistent Akito and motivation from his crush push Moritaka to test his limits!
(From the backcover of Bakuman, vol.1)


Manga-Ka: Tsugumi Ohba (writer) and Takeshi Obata (artist)
Distributor: Viz Media
Format: Right-to-left
Rating: Teen

{I, the reviewer, give Bakuman volume 1, 8 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

"The mystery behind manga-making revealed!"

I remember the first time I ever purchased an issue of Shounen Jump magazine at the grocery store one day. I've always wanted to read a manga magazine and to get an idea of how to start my own (I really want to make my own magazine at the time, and so I was hoping to get some ideas). Now of course, I'd probably be WAY behind many of the series that were currently running. However, lucky me got to see a new series just start in that issue, the entire first chapter of Bakuman. Now I know that this series comes from the same creators as Death Note, however, that is not what caught my interest (I've actually never read or seen Death Note). What caught my immediate interest was the fact that this manga was about BECOMING A MANGAKA! As an aspiring mangaka myself, I'm sure you know how excited I was to see this. A manga talking about how to become a professional mangaka. How interesting!

The first chapter pulled me in. I really like how it was written, as well as the art style. I can remember reading it while I sat on the sidewalk, sun beating down on my head as my mom and I awaited for Dad to come pick us up. I remember finishing the story when we got home, and deciding this is something I should keep up on. Unfortunately, I never did get the chance to continue it in Shounen Jump (I hadn't had the chance to purchase an issue since), and for awhile I was a bit reluctant in purchasing the first volume when it came out. However, not too long ago, a good friend of mine decided to lend me the volumes of the series she had on hand, and today I finally got around to reading it.

Once again, I was pulled in. Lately I have been struggling with being lazy, messing around more on the computer instead of focusing on my art. I even recently missed my DREAM Manga deadline because of it. This manga really spoke to me, in a way, despite being geared more towards boys, but I think aspiring female mangaka could still get a lot out of this series. The cool thing about this series is it provides very vital information of professional manga-making while also providing an entertaining story to go along with it. We have an aspiring writer, Takagi, who discovers Mashiro's talent and begs him to team up and create manga. Well, Mashiro's first reaction was as if this guy was crazy, that dream's too big! Not only that, he later finds out his crush, Azuki, wants to become a voice actress!

Now here's where the story gets a little crazy. It is offered to her that if they're manga becomes an anime, would she play the voice of the heroine? Of course she accepts, sparkles in her eyes, and without realizing it Mashiro asks to marry her! Azuki runs back inside, totally embarrassed, but then speaks to them again through the speaker and agree to the proposal, under this condition; let's reach our dreams first. To be honest, that seems downright out there and cheesy, but then again, it's what makes this manga such an entertaining read. I also love the focus on dreams. I think it's better for us young people to strive for crazy dreams, rather than sit around and be dedicated to nothing, going through the motions. At least with the motivation of dreams, a person has something driving them, something they can be dedicated to and productive with, rather than just being someone taking up space, contributing nothing. At first, Mashiro was accepting the fact he'd end up as that kind of person, but with the support from both Takagi and Azuki, he finally has some ambition!

This story also shows all the hard work. Manga-making isn't all fun and games. In fact, it can be very stressful. I'm just an amatuer, and even I understand how stressful it can be with just the little work I'm required to do! Imagine meeting deadlines, being subjected to editors...yeesh. Takagi has to learn how to make storyboards while Mashiro has to learn how to draw with a G-Pen. It can be difficult to get out of your comfort zone and learn new things in order to be successful. And all the sleepless nights...whoa. And Mashiro's just practicing! I remember I had stayed up 'till around 4 AM in the morning finalizing almost ALL my pages I needed to submit to DREAM (cleaning, toning, typesetting) because the deadline was ON THAT DAY. Our main characters' goal is to have a series run in Jump (which I assume is short for Shounen Jump), and I can't even imagine how much worse it would be when submitting to an actual publisher with stricter deadlines that I could even imagine. I can't help but cheer these two dreamers on and their ambitions, as it's so inspiring, and I can somehow relate and connect to them just with my experience as an amateur.

Overall, while the story can seem a little crazy at times, it's an entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the world of manga-making. And this is only the beginning of the journey! I think anyone with dreams of becoming a manga artist would enjoy this, especially those who have already started trying. You'll be able to relate to the characters in at least one way another. I look forward to seeing how it all pans out.

Recommended?
Sure! I think all aspiring mangaka should give it a try, or anyone who interested in the behind-the-scenes of manga making.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Surprisingly, I don't remember anything, unless you consider the "c" word language.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
When Azuki's mother was offering Takagi and Mashiro something to drink, she mentioned some alcoholic beverages.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
Takagi briefly mentions something about manga with sex, pregnancy, and abortion in it. Besides that, I don't think I remember anything worth mentioning.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
None.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Takagi quotes a saying from someone who said "Heaven does not create one man above the other" and he doesn't agree with that saying.

*CHAPTER INDEX*
1. Dreams and Reality
2. Dumb and Smart
3. Pen and Storyboard
5. Time and Key
6. Top and Bottom
7. Smile and Bashful

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TWELVE GATES: ISSUE 1: January 2012



The debut of the new online bi-monthly manga magazine Twelve Gates! This issue includes chapter 1 of the following series (not in order);

Angels Among Us
Infinite Dreams
Love, Grim
Masquerade
Open Hands
Revival Psalm
Sisterella
The humanBEing
The Sparrow Cafe

~Check Out Twelve Gates~



THE REVIEW

I discovered the magazine a bit on accident. One of the mangaka apart of it, Sai Reba, had a link to it on her deviantart, so I decided to check it out. She is the mangaka of such titles as Two Kingdoms and FireWire, which runs in the onlime magazine DREAM. In this magazine, however, she has a third title under her belt entitled the humanBEing. What really caught my interest, however, was what kind of manga this magazine carries; positive/Christian!

As part of my effort to give exposure to not only webcomics, but Christian and/or positive manga, I've decided that I will review each issue of Twelve Gates that are released, giving short comments about all the stories that are inside! So the way I review them will be slightly different and more condensed than usual. Thinking of it more of an overview. I will point out what I like and not like in each story, and which ones I am more apt to follow (though for everyone's sake, I will read through them all!). Due to a multitude of stories, I shall begin reviewing them one by one (not in order of appearance in the magazine).

Sisterella by Cali Mica. Rated G.
DESCRIPTION: The tale of Cinderella with a twist. This story focuses on the step sisters of Cinderella, mainly Betia, who hopes to find her true love.

I found this story to be adorable in it's own right. The art of this story is probably the most amatuerish and rough compared to all the others, but cute none the less. It sort of reminds me of selenaloong's style, which I like, and with more practice, I'm sure Cali will get better as the story progresses! So, obviously, it's a twist on Cinderella. It actually seems like a whole different story entirely, with inspiration from the original tale, but that's also why it is interesting. Our main character girl, Betia, wishes to have a BIG FAMILY, and she likes babysitting children as it's "good practice". In this chapter, she and her sister fear to return home due to the mom and sister making them clean until midnight! S

Interest? High.
If I were a normal reader, I would follow this regularly.

Open Hands by Mushi. Rated PG-13.
DESCRIPTION: In the land of Diyro, racism against beast-men is becoming more acceptable. Although most beast-men have fled, some half-bloods like Hwro and Fel managed to blend in with men. But when their secret is found out, their life of leisure is taken from them as they are forced to flee like the ancestors before them.

I have to admit I have mixed feelings about this one. Obviously, it's a fantasy manga. On the other hand, it's a Christian manga. Is it well blended? Not exactly. In my opinion, it just seems sort of odd when talking about the God in our world in a fantasy setting. Unless you refer to God differently, or give Him another name for that world (since the events in this world obviously did not happen in their world), it can seem a bit out of place. Hwro and Fel have the ability to shape shift, and they are on the run from Jin's assassins. There also seems to be a side-plot coming into play about a girl named Aya dating a jerk who treats her badly. The art in this pretty good, but still very rough.

Interest? Curious.
If I were a normal reader, I would probably glance back at this from time to time.

Love, Grim by H.E. Hinze. Rated PG-13.
DESCRIPTION: When told she has 2 months to live, Ainsley's shocked. But as time passes, she learns she needn't be concerned with herself, but someone else; that there may be more to life than rolling with the punches, more to others than their past, and that people may choose to suffer a fate worse than death for the one they love.

Now this one is a rather interesting story! I like how it's a bit on the dark, supernatural side. We are first introduced to this guy, he's kind of like a Grim Reaper. He works for a demon who (obviously) works for the devil. His job? To take souls down to Hell. Well, the demon gives him a new assignment; there's a girl who has 2 months to live. So for these 2 months he has to follow her until it's time to take her soul. However, she's stated that her soul belongs to God, and trusts in His mighty power. The art in here is a bit rough, but has a nice, distinctive flavor I feel fits the series well.

Interest? VERY HIGH
If I were a normal reader, I'd be an instant fan.

Revival Psalm by Scumash. Rated PG-13.
DESCRIPTION: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

This was another interesting one, although I admit to being fairly confused to what the heck is going on, but all the more interested in it. Our main character is all alone, and there's mentioning of the other people disappearing or getting eaten by their own shadows, and have become apart of...trees and stuff? It's actually really creepy. I'm not sure if I really understand everything, but I am curious to see how this story unfolds. The art, though pretty good, is still a bit rough around the edges. The shading looks to be done traditionally, which gives for a more pencil-sketch look, but all the same pleasing to the eyes.

Interest? High and Curious
If I were a normal reader, I'd follow this regularly.

the humanBEing by Sai. Rated PG-13
"A story about friends and enemies; love and hate; forgiving and forgetting; holding on and letting go. A story about being human, and being MORE..." Follow the story of ten friends as they survive college, friendship, love, and life in general. No matter who we are, what we know, or what we believe, we are all HUMAN.

This story comes from the same lady who does Two Kingdoms and FireWire. If any of you have heard of her, and may be a fan, you'll definitely like to see this. It has her distinctive art style and great story-telling skills. I really like how she does comic relief moments! This chapter serves more of an introduction to our main characters, and so what it's main premise will be is still a bit vague, but it's still enough to draw you in. Characters make a story, so introductions are of upmost importance. I like how the characters have their own personalities, and it's fun to watch them.

Interest? VERY HIGH
If I were a normal reader, I'd be an instant fan.

Infinite Dreams
DESCRIPTION: Freddy is beginning to worry about what the future holds for him after high school, causing him to have so much anxiety that he begins having trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. Freddy cannot run from what is in store for him. He must go on towards the future, the slowest way possible

This is most likely the oddest story in the group. And the way it was written was hard to follow. The art is pretty rough, though not too bad. What I found odd was, okay, he's in school and admits to not listening to the teacher and so forth. Then there's this hamster in a shirt that shows up? Somehow this is suppose to lead to an epic adventure. While I am curious, the delivery of this introduction was a bit on the poor side and not enough to hold my interest. However, I am curious to see the artist's growth in skill as more chapters are released.

Interest? Low
If I were a normal reader, I'd probably pass.

Angels Among Us by Erika Bias. Rated PG-13.
DESCRIPTION: After the death of her older brother, Rin Kisagi is living alone in a dangerous world. Rescued from those responsible for his death, she finds herself in the company of two young warriors, Ryo and Taro, as she is pulled into the secret world of the ninja! Will Rin trust them with her life, when there’s no one else to turn to?

Now this manga has the most eye-pleasing art out of all of them! Just by looking at the beauty full-color illustration of the first chapter I wanted to take a look! This is based in a somewhat alternate, modern day Japan. Rin Kisagi is our main character. It begins with showing her coming home, to an empty home, as she lives alone with no family. She is still pained by the death of her brother, who was killed by a bunch of attackers. The city is not safe. She has two caring friends who are willing to take her in, but kindly refuses as she wants to remain in the house that she's always lived in...with her family. This is an action story, and it has ninja in it. The delivery of this first chapter was great, and the art is very good! This is probably the most professional-looking series in the whole magazine thus far!

Interest? VERY HIGH
If I were a normal reader, I'd be an instant fan.

The Sparrow Cafe by Alison Varela (aka The Lady Dove). Rated PG-13.
DESCRIPTION: When Jenny learns that she and her family are moving to Mexico – her entire world is turned upside down! From culture shock, missing her friends, and the icy glare from Micah, nothing will ever be the same for her.

This was a pleasant surprise! I had been reading this manga at the website Christianmanga.com, and for awhile it wasn't updated. It was not only nice seeing this again, but this appears to be an entirely NEW version. The art is a little better, but still with the same, distinctive touch. In the old version, Jenny discovers that her family is moving to Mexico via her friend, but this time her parents tell her directly. This chapter focuses on her finding out and saying goodbye to all her friends. However, I kind of wish that the redone version was like the old version, but I will give this new version a chance. It was a bit short, and not enough to really judge, so I'll be hanging on.

Interest? Medium
If I were a normal reader, I would follow this from time to time.

Masgquerade by bbqbert. Rated PG-13.
DESCRIPTION: Life sucks. Life sucks worse when you’re doing it alone. Elias learns the hard way that falling down can be devastating without friends. And getting up after falling down is never easy. Unless, of course, you’re not alone anymore.

This is another one of the more professional-looking ones. The delivery of the first chapter is a bit messy. I found too much going on, and it was a rush introduction of some of the characters. It had a good prologue, though. Obviously, it's setting up for an interesting story. My interest was mostly peeked at the end however. What was said on the last page convinced me I have to see the next chapter!

Interest? Medium, but Curious.
If I were a normal reader, I'd probably follow this often.

And there you have it! My first impression of the debut of Twelve Gates! They have quite an interesting variety of both Christian and positive stories. I'd highyl recommend this magazine to anyone looking for an alternate to some of the manga out there. Each manga is rated appropriately to what is obviously there, or what is to come. Be aware of content based on the ratings (they have a list of what the ratings mean, and what the manga could contain if so rated). Some of the manga contains violence (including a little blood), disturbing images, and minor language. Watch the rating to see if the story is okay for you!

Until the next issue coming in March!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

AN INTERVIEW WITH ROCKLOBSTER

My first vic---I mean, guest, for this interview series is rocklobster, blogger of Lobster Quadrille. We talked about reviewing, anime openings, faith, and Thundercats!

1. How long have you been an anime fan?
I've been an anime fan technically since I was nine, when Voltron first aired in USA. But it wasn't until Ronin Warriors came out that I started to slowly become an anime fan. By the time Dragonball came out, I was hooked.

2. Any series you are fond of, anime or American, from your childhood?
Anime=Voltron, even though I saw the Japanese version and it's better, I still like it for the nostalgia.
American=Transformers and all the cartoons Bruce Timm and Paul Dini made out of the DC characters.

3. What is it that you like about anime, and do you like it better than American cartoons?
I like anime better because most of the time when I watch American cartoons, I feel as though they are taking the audience for granted. Just because people will watch anything doesn't give you a license to make utter garbage.

4. Mecha. If you could drive one of these, what would you do with it?
I'd probably figure out some way to control it with a wristwatch like Roger Smith in Big O.
5. You are highly known for recommending anime to anyone who will listen (especially if they are reviewers). Any reason for that?
With Cartoon Network deciding that anime isn't that profitable anymore, the Internet's really the only venue left for anime other than DVD's. As reviewers, we are the ones who are now promoting the anime.

6. Do you recommend stuff simply out of kindness or is there an alterior motive? (Muahahaha!)
I know if there are more viewers, a show becomes more popular.

7. The earlier reviews on your blog, "Lobster Quadrille", are often very short. Is it because you like to keep things "short but sweet", or you just don't have much to say about it?
To be honest, I wrote the blog to practice for CAA back when they had the old review system. It got to the point that I got so uptight with the mods rarely updating their review page that I stopped caring. Now that they have a new system, I've been remedying that by making longer reviews.

8. How would you describe your current reviewing style?
I try to watch and/or review an anime on paper by starting it at least two months before I actually want to post my review. I figure out about how long it will take to watch the show and give myself a temporary deadline. While I watch the show, I take notes.

9. As a reviewer, what important points do you like to convey to your readers?
I want people to realize that just because Japan's culture is different from ours doesn't mean you shouldn't watch anime. I call attention to the offensive material because I want my readers to know what to watch out for.

10. Have you ever come across a series that you can simply say "Do. Not. Watch" and leave it at that?
Yes. FLCL, or Fooly Cooly as it's also known. It's just 6 episodes of utter garbage. Do not watch it. I don't care how popular it is.

11. Would you consider yourself an otaku?
Yes.

12. Are you an avid reader of manga?
No, manga is harder to come by for me. My library has trouble getting it and the nearest bookstore is too far away. I also don't have the space for it.

13. Which is better, anime or manga, and why?
Anime, because it takes a shorter time than most manga to tell its story.

14. I notice on your review entries, you love to link up to the intros and endings. Would you consider yourself a person who loves to sit through the opening and ending sequence of a show just 'cause it's cool or has an awesome song (maybe both)?
Yes, I consider the intro like an advertisement for the actual show. That's why I think they're so important.

15. What are some of your favorite opening and ending sequences?
I'll narrow it down to five openings and five endings:
For openings: .hack//sign, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Serial Experiments Lain, and Gundam Wing's 1st opening.
For closing: Cowboy Bebop, Mr. Stain on Junk Alley, Rahxephon, Azumanga Daioh, and Spirited Away.

16. When you are watching an anime with favorite said intro, do you get excited each time an episode starts?
Cowboy Bebop, Lain, and Trigun got me pumped up all the time.

17. Have you ever discovered an anime with an awesome intro but terrible storyline, and/or vice versa?
Bad, intro, but good story: Big O and Berserk
Good intro, but bad story: Tenchi Muyo GXP

18. Being a Christian, has your faith ever effected how you view anime and manga?
Yes, I found Chrono Crusade very enjoyable because they portray the Catholicism so well, even with the liberties taken in the story.

19. Has your faith ever been the reason for deciding whether or not to view a series?
Yes, for a while, I was very reluctant to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion because I'd heard it was anti-Christian. I eventually watched it on Adult Swim, and found it very enjoyable in spite of that.

20. Have you ever seen a "glimpse of God" in an anime or manga before? For example, something that either strengthened your faith or made you think of Him?
Yes, in Haibane Renmei, we meet angelic creatures called Haibane. In one episode, Rakka, the protaganist is talking with an elder Haibane, who tells her that sin traps us in a circle and that the only way out is to acknowledge our weakness.

21. What is your opinion on Christian attempts at manga?
I like the idea, but I have reservations because I find that many Christian writers tend to spend too much time preaching to the choir.

22. Have you read any attempts at Christian manga?
I've read a little bit of Shelter of Wings.

23. Why do you think many Christian manga fail miserably?
Secularism is more inviting in the long run. We need to stop thinking that we are going to change the world. It's God's job to change hearts, not ours. We merely plant the seeds. I think most Christian writers and/or artists don't realize this. As an EWTN priest once said, "God's in management. We're in sales."

24. If you had the chance to direct a Christian anime, what would it be about and who would be involved?
I'd make a series of movies based on Madeliene L'Engle's Time Quintet. I think every Christian who likes good fantasy or a good story period should check out her books. I'd get either Paul Dini and Bruce Timm or Walden Media, the people behind the Narnia movies.

25. Let's discuss a little more about your blog. When did you decide you wanted to start a review blog?
I started it because I got tired of CAA not updating their reviews quickly enough. I wanted to get my thoughts out there, so I thought a blog would be the best route.
26. Have you ever reviewed a recommendation? If so, what was it and did you enjoy it?
I've reviewed four recommendations so far: Rahxephon, Mushi-shi, Gosick, and Ouran High School Host Club. I'm in the process of reviewing two more recommendations: The World God Only Knows and Romeo X Juliet.

27. I notice you like a few old school anime. What are among some of your favorites?
Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock, Astroboy, Speed Racer, and Beast King Golion.

28. What differences do you notice most between newer and older anime?
Older anime is looser because the technology we have today didn't exist back then.

29. Several series in the 1980's had an obvious anime-style to it because it had Japanese animators. What are some of these American series you would almost like to consider anime, and why?
Transformers, because some of the writing on it was actually quite profound for a kids show. I remember an episode where Beachcomber had a Pyrrhic victory defending a forest from the Decepticons. At the end of the episode, he's standing in the now smoldering forest and says very sadly "We won" because he's realized the cost of his victory--the forest is now dead. I also remember the episode where the Decepticons turned almost the whole population of Earth into their supporters with a "hate plague". That one was really heavy stuff!

30. Thundercats: New vs. Old - the winner, and why?
New.

31. What do you like and not like about the old and the new series? What are some of the pros and cons of the two?
The new show has better story and animation. However, I hate the fact that there's no opening, and that the Thundercats practiced slavery.
The old show had a great opening and I still think it would entertain a child who'd only seen the new version.

32. Time for the random question of the day; Lion-O vs. He-Man. Who would win?
Lion-O, because Lion-O actually managed to defeat Mumm-ra without the Sword of Omens.

33. Before we end this, did you enjoy this interview? Any questions you liked or disliked answering?
Yes, but I didn't like the manga questions. I don't read manga, so I couldn't answer those very well.

34. Recommend something. Then run away.
How about I recommend more than one title?
Anime:
Slayers--all 5 seasons. (I haven't watched seasons 4 or 5, but I have a feeling they'll be just as good. You can watch it on Hulu, FUNimation, or Youtube. Here's the order you should watch each season: Slayers, Slayers Next, Slayers Try, Slayers Revolution, and Slayers Evolution-R.
Erin--this is a great coming of age story. I really enjoyed this one. You can watch it on Crunchy Roll
Mr. Stain on Junk Alley--want to see what you can do in seven minutes with no dialogue? Check this out!
Manga:
The only manga series I'd recommend is Maison Ikkoku.