Monday, January 27, 2014

Her name is Koko. She is Loko...I said "oh no!" (Jormungand)

Title: Jormungand
Writer: Keitarō Takahashi, 
Yousuke Kuroda
Director: Keitaro Motonaga
Episodes: 12
Related Series: Jormungand: Perfect Order

Jonah is a child soldier and the newest bodyguard for Koko, an international arms dealer with an entourage of hired guns. The cold-blooded kid hates Koko’s line of work, but following her into the darkest corners of the black market might be the only way he can find those responsible for his family’s slaughter. Besides, his employer isn’t like most merchants of death. She uses guile and cutthroat tactics to keep her clients armed to the teeth—all while cultivating her own warped plan for the future of world peace.

FUNimation | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Hulu

This might just be the best use of the "next time" feature that animes routinely employ at the end of each episode. It'll take a sharp utensil to the brain to dig it out of my head. It's in there for life and I'm okay with that.

Save time and skip to the bottom of the page for final thoughts.

My awesome friend Amy recently, and by recently I mean last night, introduced me to Funimation at the Movies Meetup in the DFW area and it was super entertaining! They had a screening of the first four episodes of an anime I had vaguely heard of, but never watched called Jormungand.

While the anime is not going to make it to my favorites shelf it was fun, goofy and had an offbeat humor that had the theater laughing. There were some truly hilarious one liners, my favorite being when Koko calls Jonah "a nice kid" and he answers back "Nice kids don't shoot people in the face." Koko then follows this up with a ridiculous metaphor about niceness being encased in a bullet. Probably one of my favorite scenes in the four episodes.

While enjoyable, the anime had a too much talking. It'd be one thing if the dialogue was interesting, but for the most part it was a lot of ammo speak. I know they're arms dealers, but still it seemed a little dry and the language took me out of the moment.

The characters were also a bit too preachy, especially Koko.  They argued a common theme in anime of world peace and whether or not weapons have a place in obtaining such peace. Can lasting peace truly be obtained at the end of a gun barrel? This will probably be delved into even more during the rest of the series.

It also tried too hard to get over how crazy Koko is. Every other villain was commenting on how "psycho," "crazy" or just plain "bitchy" she was. They needlessly used a sledgehammer to drive home Koko's eccentricity. Her actions were crazier than any offhand comment made by other characters. Actions still speak louder than words and subletly is not lost on viewers.  No need to shove it in my face repeatedly. Am I repeating myself...maybe employing said sledgehammer technique? Kind of annoying.

Usually, I find fan service to be distracting and tiresome in anime (I mean seriously how many panty shots of big breasted women can you see in an anime and not be bored?), but the little that these four episodes had was refreshing. It lightly made fun of itself and fan service in general. Valmet's nosebleed scene in the first episode (or it could have been the second) was perfect. I defy you not to laugh at Koko's reaction to Orchestra's only female assassin's reason for not wearing underwear.

Final Thoughts

Despite the long winded dialogues, more like monologues, and sledgehammer tactics at character building, I did enjoy what I saw of the series, especially the hints of supernatural elements surrounding one of the characters. I'll probably eventually watch the rest in the series since I'm interested in seeing where it goes.

I hope there are future meetups as this experience was fun. Some of the voice actors were actually present for the screening and there was a quick Q&A as well as door prizes! Also, you could take your picture with Maka and Soul - who could pass that up? Certainly not me.

The crowd was laid back and just genuinely happy to be out watching anime on a weekday. The Alamo Draft House had decent food and a decent price. Has good waitstaff and comfortable seating. Those putting on the event were friendly and enthusiastic. I definitely hope to attend more events like this in the future. Probably with my awesome friend Amy!

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Epic Year of Manga: Best of 2013

So every year I do a reading challenge on Goodreads. Not only does it help me keep track of what I'm reading and encourage me to continue reading, it's also a whole lot of fun. I read a lot of manga so this year I challenged myself to read 250 books with the understanding that at least half of that number would be manga.

In reality I read 224 volumes of manga, across 24 series, and 33 books in 2013 for a grand total of 257 books and 51,012 pages. To put this in perspective in 2012 I read a total of 181 books with only 105 volumes of manga, across 14 series, and 43,266 pages. I more than doubled the volumes of manga I read and increased the number of series I read in as well. In addition to all the manga I've been reading I've also watched a ridiculous amount of anime and Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese dramas.

Following are my best picks for manga, books, anime and dramas I read or watched in 2013. Most of the manga and anime will probably eventually get full posts later in the year if they don't already have one.

My Best Manga Reads of 2013

High School Debut High School Debut by Kazune Kawahara:  I laughed so much while reading this series! Haruna's naivete and determination make her an enduring character. The chemistry between Yoh and Haruna is beautiful and the care they take with each other heartwarming. The ending is perfect without feeling contrived.
Kimi ni todoke Kimi ni Todoke by Karuho Shiina:  While the pacing of this series is slower than I usually like, the characters and story more than make up for it. Sawako and Kazehaya are one of my favorite couples, seeming so different yet being more alike than even they realize. The friendships formed in this series seem real and steadfast.
Strobe Edge Strobe Edge by Io Sakisaka:  This is another series with slow pacing, but the story is absolutely beautiful. There is so much emotion and longing in this series along with believable and relateable characters. It has some of the best bonus stories and stand alone stories included at the end of each volume as well.
We Were There We Were There by Yuuki Obata:  This series will make you feel all the feels. It's more than just a love story and goes beyond high school crushes. It explores how guilt can create obligation and the tug of war desire and obligation have with each other. A wonderful series and an inspiring ending.
Venus Capriccio Venus Capriccio by Mai Nishikata:  I love how the series explores gender roles while creating two unique characters that will stay with you long after you've finished the series. The last volume isn't published in English so I read the fan translations. While I appreciate these translations, different translators can change the intention of a piece as some of the process is subjective. The last volume wasn't as good as the others, but I have no way of knowing if it's the translation or the story.

My Best Book Reads of 2013

Eleanor & Park Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell:  This book is moving and the story crafting is perfect. It's a little edgy with some truly swoon worthy dialogue. A beautiful read and I highly recommend it.
Ready Player One Ready Player One by Ernest Cline:  I loved this book! There's action, suspense and even a little romance. The world building is top notch and the 80's, science fiction and nerd culture references are not only entertaining, but integral to this world and plot.
Dare You To Dare You To by Katie McGarry:  This was one of those sequels I put off picking up. I was nervous because the pairing wasn't what I expected after reading Pushing the Limits. However, the author knew what she was doing and the chemistry between Beth and Ryan was perfect. While I disliked Beth in the first book, by the end of this she became my favorite character. She's a vulnerable yet strong female lead who one can't help but admire. The series deals with real world issues and makes no apologies. Great book, great series!

My Best Anime Finds of 2013

Say I Love You Say I Love You:  The characters in this series are fleshed out. They're flawed and at times even broken, but they aren't flat. I love that the story doesn't leave an antagonist as only a villain. They have back stories and they actually grow like individuals do. A really well done series.
Princess Jellyfish Princess Jellyfish:  This series is delightful and revolves around a group of girl otakus as they try to save their apartment with the unlikely help of a gorgeous woman, who turns out to be a crossdressing hottie. There were times when I teared up while watching this series and other times when I was laughing hysterically. Seeing these awkward girls slowly come into their own is just lovely. And the friendship (hoping it will become more) between Tsukimi and Kuranosuke is playful and sweet.
Kimi ni Todoke Kimi ni Todoke:  So I really love Kimi ni Todoke! The anime is just as well written as the manga series. I love watching Sawako start to make connections with other people. This series has some of the best supporting characters as well. I love how important friendship is in this series. The romance between Sawako and Kazehaya is delicate and wistful. I have so much love for this series!
Baccano! Baccano!:  Not my usual type of anime, but I found this after watching hours of videos on Anime Freak's YouTube channel. The plot of this series is unique and the pacing helps set the lively tone of the series. While there is violence, it's not needlessly so. The characters are fun and some are just flat out deranged. My favorite character is Claire, closely followed by Isaac and Miria. Claire for his unequivocal approach to life and Isaac and Miria for their joie de vivre.
Skip Beat Skip Beat!:  Skip Beat! is an anime that I have re-watched several times this past year. This premise of this series is ludicrous in the best possible way, but still retains sincerity at its core. The characters are well done, even those I don't like. I hate that it only has one season.

My Best Drama Finds of 2013

Boys Over Flowers Boys Over Flowers:  This K-Drama is over the top as only K-Dramas can be. I binged on the complete series in a week's time. No matter how outlandish the situation I was incredibly entertained. It's a kind of Cinderella story, but with near rape and meddling mothers. I might have been the only one of my friends that didn't want Jan-di and Jun-pyo to get together. I grew to be okay with the pairing by the end of the series, but I paired her with Hyun-joong even if it was useless.
It Started With a Kiss It Started With a Kiss:  This is another drama (Taiwanese this time) where the jerk ends up with the girl. Of course this might be like 80% of television dramas so I can't really complain. Regardless of the fact that he's kind of a jerk and she's kind of stupid, I really liked the series. It was fun and at times super melodramatic, but well worth watching. I tried watching the Korean version, Playful Kiss, and couldn't get into it. It was too fanciful.
High School Debut High School Debut::  I suppose that technically this is a Japanese film and not a television drama, but it's close enough that I'm including it. The film takes most of the seriousness out of the manga series and focuses on its comedic aspects. Have you ever watched something that was so terrible that it was funny? That's the best way to describe it. There are giant pencils, dancing santas (like over twenty of them), prat falls and a mini mall concert that is interrupted in the most hilarious way. There's no way you can watch this adapatation and not laugh and cringe at the same time.