Thursday, September 25, 2014

ANI-MOVIES, *Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Vash the Stampede rides again in this midquel, and all because the fans demanded it! Since Cowboy Bebop: The Movie did some decent business for its franchise as a midqual, mostly due to the strong American fanbase, one for Trigun was also made. Unfortunately, this movie came out about 12 years after the original anime ended, but it still managed to gain enough momentum from otaku on both sides of the Pacific to propel this space western into being made in the first place.

Beginning about 20 before the TV series began, the "Humanoid Typhoon" manages to stop a bank robbery by the large outlaw Gasback, who himself is betrayed by his own gang that make off with the loot. Fast-forward to sometime around the middle of the anime series(at least after Wolfwood first appeared), Gasback is still at large, and threatens to take out the members of his old gang who used their stolen money to become big shots, like the last one in his list Cain who became a city's mayor. Cain hires dozens of completely bombastic bounty hunters to try and stop Gasback, and all this noise attracts Vash to make sure things go down peacefully. Insurance agents Milly and Meryl show up too to deal with any damages caused by this grand shootout. Gasback finally arrives, but he's managed to rope Wolfwood in as his personal bodyguard for saving his life. Instead of trying to kill Cain, Gasback makes off with his city's giant lightbulb which powers it main generator. Meanwhile, the appearance of a sexy redhead named Amelia has spurned Vash's affections, and she seems to have a personal beef with Gasback that goes way beyond a large bounty.

As a movie, this fills in the bill for a standard Trigun story stretched out to 90 minutes. Obviously the quality of animation is a lot better, but still keeps the flavor of the 90s TV series. It acts a good stand-alone chapter, while at the same time works as a great intro to the Trigun universe. Badlands Rumble is definitely a fine look at what makes anime sci-fi truly awesome, so pick it up for your library today.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Dramacon

Probably the most successful of Tokyo Pop's American manga lineup was this 3-volume series of graphic novels by Svetlana Chmakova, most might remember her from her work in Cosmopolitan, her webcomic Chasing Rainbows, and her series of Nightschool from Yen Press. Recently, she's been doing the "manga" adaptations of the Witch And Wizard novels. This sold well in the States and overseas, mostly because it focused on the otaku culture in general, but also how it affects the lives of its fans inside and outside of conventions.

The series is broken up into one year for each volume, all at the same convention, and using most of the same characters. The first year has webcomic writer Christie going to her first anime con with Derek, her comic artist and boyfriend. Throughout the convention, she meets Matt, a cosplayer who constantly wears sunglasses, although she learns that he has them on to cover his missing eye. Christie and Matt end up falling for each other while she has a falling out with Derek after he sexually assaults her, which admittedly seems a little forced onto the reader to accept. The second year sees Christie returning to the convention with her new artist Bethany, and reuniting with Matt after not having the courage to speak to him since the last con. Matt has found a new girlfriend since then named Emily that he brings with him and his trendy sister. Bethany meets with some of the officials from the "Mangapop" publishing company who want to hire her on as an artist, but she declines until she gets some more schooling done. Matt eventually breaks up with Emily, and he Christie promise to meet up again at the next con. The third year has Bethany having to confront her overbearing mother showing up at the con demanding she look for a real career and not as a comic artist, plus having her artist alley neighbor Raj finally build up the courage to ask her out. Christie meanwhile makes her first failed attempt at her own cosplay while hooking up with Matt after three cons.

This is a pretty essential reading for any hardcore American otaku who regularly go to conventions at least on an annual basis. Svetlana's art style and writing is deeply appealing, and worth looking into not only here but in her other works. Dramacon has been released as three separate paperbacks, plus in a hardcover "ultimate edition" that collects the entire series along with a bonus ending that totally makes it worth getting.

Monday, September 1, 2014

MISC. MANGA, *Clubbing

As part of DC Comics' Minx line of manga-styled comics, Clubbing was written by Andi Watson who specialized in anime-themed titles like Geisha and Skeleton Key, and drawn by Josh Howard of Dead @ 17 fame. The Minx line was largely focused at teenage girls with a love for manga, although aside from Josh Howard's art style, the story plays out similarly to the movie Hot Fuzz which was released about the same time that this graphic novel was released.

Charlotte(or "Lottie" to her friends)is a snobby goth girl from London who gets punished by her parents for trying to get into a club with a fake I.D., and sent to the countryside to spend the summer working at her grandparents' golf course. At first Lottie doesn't mind most of it, especially the young groundskeeper Howard, but the sudden murder of her grandfather's secretary leads Lottie to want to investigate it further than the police do. Without giving away the ending, the story involves Lottie's snarky inner monologue working through the mystery which involves a secret society, and the summoning of an ancient demon.

Clubbing is a pretty good attempt at an original manga, at least for a mainstream publisher like DC Comics, without it getting to mired down in too many clich├ęs. Andi Watson has some incredible dialogue, and Josh Howards cheesecake art is surprisingly toned down for this project, but still appealing. My only real complaint is that about 10% of the book is taken up with previews from other Minx titles.