Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some manga turn into a chore, or a slog, after a dozen volumes or so. Bleach, in particular, lost headway about volume nine or so, and degenerated into a flashy recitation of incomprehensible half-translated archaic-Japanese called attacks which was tolerable only because the layout and style is so slick and breezy that the story is over before you can really get up a head of "I don't care about these people", thus leaving *just* enough good-will to not take the next three volumes off the pre-order list.

Other manga go through phases of the moon, in turn bland, self-plagiarizing and repetitive, and light, airy & delightful. The Wallflower is my exemplar of this elliptical class of comic. Some of the mid-teen volumes were flat and undistinguished, but the latest, volume 18, has suddenly blown the doors off the morgue, leaving a set of wildly-swinging chrome hinges rattlingly metallically upon the door-frame. Suddenly Takenaga-the-dark-haired-bishounen is an actual *person* instead of a hair-colored cipher; the goth-loli tertiary characters return and prove that a "rule of four" works even better in comedy than hoary old "rule of three" gags, and Sunako returns to her proper central place in the chaos. The Wallflower is suddenly, giddily *fun* again. Wonderful!

Now, one can only wish that Skip Beat can pull off the same trick. Because I'm getting tired of the narrow rut that particular comedy manga has gotten locked into.

Meanwhile, on the anime front, I'm enjoying the early episodes of Shakugan no Shana. The first dozen or so episodes are gorgeous, beautifully animated, and dark, dark, dark. The show lives in an existential abyss, with an undead protagonist who's literally a thing (mono), a walking magical shell designed to keep the universe from imploding around the sudden absence after a monster ate the original person (hito) - devoured his "existence". Now he's watching his romantic interest fight said monsters. Said romantic interest is herself an emotionally undeveloped cipher who doesn't really think of herself as a person, having been Raised-by-Wolves to the point where she doesn't really have a name - just a sword and a mission. He names her after her sword. This is a strange foundation for what eventually turns into a tsundere love comedy, but there you are. It doesn't live up to the early episodes, from what I remember of the fansubs, and rumor has it that the second, unlicensed season is a trainwreck. Oh, well. The beginning is a gem, and the ending credits absolutely rock.

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