• anime, Manga 13.05.2018 1 Comment

    This week I finished reading through a fan translation of Bartender.  Bartender is a manga that started in 2004 by Joh Araki with art by Nagatomo Kenji.  I first encountered it as the 11 episode anime show from 2006.  I really enjoyed the anime so I jumped at the chance to read the manga.  I was very glad I did.

    At first it comes across as a slice-of-life story that follows Sasakura Ryu, a young bartender in Tokyo, as he navigates the problems and odd customers that are a part of the service industry.  The manga’s true story line emerges slowly as the chapters progress.  We see Ryu take on new challenges in order to develop his career as he grows closer to a young woman who is the granddaughter of an elderly hotel chain owner.  Ryu is dedicated to developing his skill as a bartender but that is only a means to an end.  His true goal is to serve the “glass of the gods”, that is, to use his talents to offer customers a drink that will heal their soul.

    The theme of the manga is people connecting with other people in little, seemingly unimportant ways that heal their wounds and improve their lives.  Ryu’s father was a famous and ruthless politician that crushed countless opponents. Ryu wants to take the opposite approach to life and heal others through insightful, considerate service.  Ryu is a sensitive soul gifted with strong observational skills.  He’s the kind of person that notices small gestures and details of his customers and uses the knowledge to select just the right drink and start a conversation that will do them good.

    The manga tells a gentle, subtle story that, while not exactly action-packed, is a joy to read.  I recommend it to those who want to take a break from high adventure and follow a milder story with appealing characters.

  • I had the opportunity to read Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei.  Blame! is a science-fiction manga that was first put out in Japan by Kodansha Comics and in English by Tokyopop.  The Master Edition is now available from Vertical Comics in 6 large books.  One note worth making, a more accurate translation of the title would be “Blam!” – a reference to the sound made by the hero’s main weapon.  It seems the title was misunderstood, rendered as Blame! and then the title stuck.

    Blame! is a far future science-fiction story about Killy’s quest to restore order to society.  A great catastrophe occurred in the distant past when humanity enjoyed a level of technology far beyond what we know today.  The results included the majority of humans dying, the Internet of the future (far more advanced then the one we know) becoming inaccessible, the system designed to regulate Internet access going haywire and the system of automatic machines that built and maintained cities and/or space stations also going haywire.  A class of robots called Builders started building out of control and the result is the Megastructure – a truly immense structure that fills up a large portion of our solar system and consists of strata that are many stories high and separated by an almost impenetrable dense substance.  Each strata of the Megastructure holds a seemingly endless city made of jumbled buildings and similar structures.  There are no animals or plant life to be seen except for very few pockets where circumstances are shifted for various reasons.


    Cibo joins Killy on his quest and proves to be an invaluable ally.

    The Megastructure’s infrastructure is mostly damaged and the shattered remains of humanity exist in isolated pockets with no knowledge of each other.  A new class of beings called Silicon Life, cybernetic creatures that vaguely resemble humans in appearance, range throughout the Megastructure and hunt humans mercilessly.

    Wandering through this dystopian nightmare is Killy.  Killy is a human with a cyborg body that is on a mission to find any human who still possesses the Net Terminal Genes.  Finding a person with these extremely rare genes would allow authorized access to the Netsphere where the Administration (the Authority in Tokyopop’s translation) exist.  If authorized by humans, the Administration could bring the damaged systems of the Megastructure back in line and restore society.

    Killy, joined by human scientist Cibo, have to wander the endless city structure and contend with murderous Silicon Life, deadly robots of the Safeguard (a haywire security system that became so damaged it tries to kill all humans without Net Terminal Genes and all who try to access the Netsphere), distrustful and desperate human settlements and damaged remnants of the technological past.

    Blame! is sparse in dialogue and character development.  The art takes center stage and the result is a feast of surreal scenes and mind-bending landscapes.  The large, empty spaces reinforce the sense of desolation and loneliness that permeates the story.

    Although Nihei may not have intended it I think Blame! illustrates well the fallacy that many people currently hold about technology curing humanity’s problems.  The highly advances technologies on display in Blame! couldn’t prevent the catastrophe that destroyed human society.  Those technologies couldn’t put society back together again, either.  The author included notes in an art book dedicated to Blame! where he shares the outcome of the story.  Killy’s unshakeable perseverance and determination succeed in the end.  He plants the seed that restores humanity’s control of the Megastructure and in this shows that it is people with good character who will help society – not advances in technology.

    The lack of romance, character development and humor make Blame! lack wide appeal.  These omissions, however, help the manga focus on its main themes and premise.  Only true-blue science-fiction fans will enjoy this story.  I regard it as one of the best additions to my science-fiction shelf.


  • Captain Harlock

    Now that I’ve finally completed all 113 episodes of Galaxy Express 999 (1978) I can understand creator Leiji Matsumoto’s ideal of heroism. Matsumoto anime has been entertaining audiences for thirty years now and I can understand the appeal. Matsumoto’s stories are full of strong heroes fighting against impossible odds but that’s not the whole of the stories’ appeal. Matsumoto is a person who tries to get to the bottom of the concept of heroism. What motivates a hero? What does a hero give up when he faces evil? Read more…

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  • Well, Gundam fans, it’s out. The latest edition of the Mobile Suit Encyclopedia. This time it’s called Mobile Suite Illustrated 2009. This is at least the 6th edition. The earliest edition I have is the Mobile Suit Encyclopedia which appears to have been published in 1989 and claimed to have 370 mobile suits. After that came the Mobile Suit Encyclopedia Ver. 3.0 (1992) which claimed 559 mobile suits. 1998, 2003 and 2006 saw new editions. Read more…


  • Rubel Colus has a report on new merchandise for Five Star Stories fans:

    More Best of FSS
    20th Feb
    price: 2500 yen
    size: A4
    pages: 196 Read more…


  • Manga 10.02.2009 3 Comments

    “Anime fan” is the term that has stuck in the common parlance to describe most of us reading this but I think it’s a bit of a misnomer. Anyone who knows even a little about Japanese culture knows that it isn’t anime but manga where the real action is to be found. Manga is the Japanese word for what we call “comic books” but the term has come into use in English speaking countries for good reason; Japanese comic books are different from the western variety. New anime fans are usually surprised to learn how large a percentage of anime titles started out as manga.

    Those of us who have been sampling entertainment from Japan for a while know there is a much greater variety of stories and even genres in manga than can be found in anime or live-action shows. Many of the real gems never make it to the anime studios. It isn’t long before a good conversation at an anime convention turns from the screen to the printed page. Read more…