Friday, January 28, 2011

review: Fruits Basket

This is another one of the mangas I read online and then went to buy for myself in "analog" format (like Death Note).
There is an "Ultimate Edition" released by Tokyopop USA that has two volumes in one book and bonus material. I like those, they take up less room on the shelfes. Unfortunately the third one seems to be sold out - if you find one at a reasonable price, please tell me!

Rating: 5/5
Volumes: 23 (26 anime episodes)
Mature content: emotional and physical abuse (but only little blood is seen)
Genre: Shojo

There's a story about the twelve Chinese zodiacs: Once upon a time "God" (or the Jade Emperor in other versions) called the animals for a banquet. They came and had a good time, and those who attended became the zodiacs: the rat/mouse, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the ram/goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. The cat was invited, too, but the rat deceived it, so the cat missed the meeting and is not a part of the zodiac.

Fruits Basket (short: Furuba) is a shojo manga. It's about the girl Tohru Honda. Since her mother died in a car crash she lives in a tent. But then she is discovered by her classmate Yuki Sohma and invited to live with them (he lives with a cousin and they both fail at housework). It turns out that some members of the Sohma family carry a curse: they turn into one of the zodiac animals (including the cat) when hugged by a member of the opposite sex or when being stressed or weak. One after the other Tohru gets to meet all of the "zodiacs" and grows quite attached to some of them. But shape changing isn't the biggest problem that comes with the curse...

The biggest downside of this manga is once again the female lead. I don't know why these kinds of girls are so popular in manga and anime. Tohru is as empty-headed and uninteresting as it gets (even worse in the anime than in the manga), but everyone adores her because she's "cute" and "nice" or something like that. The most intelligent things she's saying is stuff she learned from her late mum, other than that she's mostly just agreeing or saying sorry.
Another strange thing about Fruits Basket is Akito, who is supposed to be the "God" out of the Zodiac legend. Head of family or not, how the zodiacs are treated by him is out of it. In every normal community the police would be called on him. It's not only mindgames, he imprisons them, and abuses them psychologically and physically, quite often ending one of the zodiac up in hospital, and even taking out an eye. But still everyone loves him. There's a major spoiler in the end (in the manga) that I won't give away here, but that doesn't make it any better. I have zero sympathy for that person and I still think he's one of the worst villains and gets off with an undeserved happy end.
Oh, and literally everyone in this story has issues. And most of the parents shouldn't have had kids.

The rest is awesome though. It gets rather angsty at times and is more bittersweet that you'd expect from a shojo. It will probably make you feel glad you were born into your family though and not the Sohma's.

There are many characters, but they are introduced at a pace that's not overstraining.
My favourite characters are Hanajima (one of Tohru's best friend, dressing in Gothic Lolita style and able to sense "waves"), Hatsuharu (the ox) and Rin Sohma (the horse) - I love their Goth/Punk style of clothing - Hatori (the dragon) and Kazuma (who adopted Kyo when he was little). But most of all the cat zodiac Kyo - after all I love cats (and hate leek). He also very much reminds me of someone I know.

The chibis are extremely simple, but after getting some used to it, that's fine.
Everyone has a kind of symbol assigned to them, for the zodiacs it's their animal of course, Tohru a onigiri (riceball), etc. It helps recognizing them and their speech bubbles.
And the animal forms of the zodiacs are just too cute!

I would recommend to read the manga instead of watching the anime. Not only is the anime missing out some of the most interesting characters, the end is also quite different and has a very unfinished feel to it.

Wikipedia Article
TV Tropes Read more on this article...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

review: Bleach

Somehow I got into Bleach. Found the anime somewhere on the web and decided to start watching it - without knowing how insanely many episodes there are.

For those who don't know it: Bleach is a shonen (= for boys) manga series. It started 10 years ago and developed into a huge merchandising, with anime, movies, video games and apparently even several rock musicals. Creator Tite Kubo recently announced that he's about half way through the story, so there's 10 more years to come.

Rating: 5/5
Volumes: 48 (and many more to come)
Mature content: some fights get a little bloody, in the manga more so than in the anime
Genre: Shonen

The story revolves around Ichigo Kurosaki, a teenager who can see ghosts. One day a Hollow (a kind of evil monster ghost) is after him and his family, there's a fight and the Shinigami (or Soul Reaper, a kind of Grim Reaper) who was supposed to kill the Hollow is wounded and transfers her powers to him, so the Hollow can be killed. After that Ichigo, now a "Substitute Shinigami", starts to get to know a whole new world, and gets caught up in a huge Shinigami treachery/Putsch/war.

So what do I like, what do I dislike (warning: this might contain some spoilers).

- It's long. Really long. Really, really long. And not all of it is interesting. Some fights take way too long, stretching over several chapters/episodes. It is shonen, I'm aware, but sometimes it's just too much.
- Speaking of too much: the way certain people gain more power, again and again and again just seems ridiculous. Oh, and please - just kill Aizen already.
- Some of the characters right out annoy me. Mainly Orihime Inoue. She's one of those female manga characters you find everywhere: huge tits, not very bright, naive and more or less useless - but even so greatly liked by all other characters in the story. If you'd cut together the scenes in the anime in which she goes "Kurosaki-kun...", standing on the side, hands clutched together in front of her huge breasts and tears in her wide eyes I bet you'd get several hours of material.
- Since it's so long it's really hard to catch up when you've discovered it later. It took me a few months just to watch the anime episodes.

- Unfortunately in many (most of those I read or seen, maybe with the exception of the josei ones) mangas or animes the female characters seem to belong to one of two groups: they either have huge breasts, are generally stupid and in need of help or they have small breasts, are generally stupid and aggressive. The women in Bleach are different (well, most of them). One of the main female characters, Rukia, while being rather small and sometimes found in a "damsel in distress" situation, is a person to be taken seriously, in battle and outside. Actually some of the strongest fighters are female, Yoruichi being one of them. She's one of my favourites, she really kicks ass. And then there's Unohana: she's never seen fighting, being the Captain of a unit of healers, but everyone (including the strongest warriors, good and bad) shows a great deal of respect to her, sometimes even fear.
- It's not really black and white. The antagonists of the beginning become friends of Ichigo. Some of the "bad guys" are given a back story, and with it sympathy. I'm pretty sure that some of those, like Ulquiorra or Grimmjow, are the most loved among fans (and their deaths much mourned). Some of the "good guys" seem to be rather unpleasant characters. If I had to choose between being a prisoner of Mayuri ("good guy") or Ulquiorra I'm not sure the good side would get my vote... Sometimes it seems like people just happen to be on one side or the other, more by chance than by character.
- In addition to the characters being really well designed also the relationshsips between them are great. Of course the Ichigo/Rukia/Renji trio is awesome with their friendship (or love), trust and humour. There are lots of other deep relationships, like Urahara and Yoruichi (one of my favourite couples), Ikkaku and Yumichika or Kyōraku and Ukitake. Or the relationships the Vice Captains have with their Captain. Not all have been explored to the same amount and much is left in secret or unsaid. For example it is never mentioned that Urahara and Yoruichi are in fact a couple - but it's generally assumed by people. I do like that, in a way. It's very unspectacular and not "in your face". At the same time I know it's very clever, because everyone can interpret things to their liking.
- It's funny (specially the omake/extras).
- The anime has some really good filler arcs.
- I admit there's some nice eye candy and fanservice for the girls.

That's it for my review of Bleach. I will leave you with a few useful links.
And in the comment section I will collect a few fanfiction stories that I like. Yeah, somehow I got into that, too... Most will have mature content, just so you've been warned. Feel free to add your own recommendations.

TV Tropes site on Bleach
Bleach Wiki
Group on deviantART dedicated to the better fanart
Journal with theories and discussions on Bleach Read more on this article...

Friday, January 7, 2011

"If you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong."

I've been into the anime Bleach the last few months and I just finished reading "I Shall Wear Midnight" by Terry Pratchett. The blog title is a quote from that book and it made me think.
I have spend my time over christmas and New Year at my parents, doing pretty much nothing, except reading, watching some TV or DVDs and "wasting time" on the internet. I have to go back to work on Monday and frankly I'm not really motivated.

After all this watching Bleach I feel kind of guilty about that. I feel that I should be motivated, that I should try hard to do my best and all that. While my co-workers are struggling to get under 10 hours of overtime, I hardly have any. I really don't have a lot of ambition. I don't want to "have a career", become a manager or something (though I'd like to earn more money some time of course).

People say "follow your dreams" and such. But what if I don't have any? I don't have a lot of ambitions in my job, I don't want to travel around the world, I don't have any great hobbies and I don't want to change the world. I always hated those question in job inteview: Where will you be in 3 (or sometimes 5) years? I really don't know what to say, but I feel like I ought to say something special.
Of course I have some things I'd like to do, some places I'd like to see, some things I'd like to change. But it's nothing big, nothing that would deserve a sentence like "follow your dreams".

A friend told me "many might have some dreams or goals, but many also settle for what they have" - settle. That sounds like a compromise. It has the taste of failure. Surely those people did something wrong, went wrong. They didn't try hard enough, they gave up. Their lives must not be worth much. They can't be happy like this, can they?

But didn't some wise man say "the journey is the destination"?

Let's face it: most of us are going to be average people, leading ordinary lives.
And there's nothing wrong with that. Read more on this article...