So Fanime was completely awesome. I went to lots of great panels (three of them involving Carl Horn), events (the masquerade was okay this year, and there was the “Restricted Rock Paper Scissors” game I participated in… and lost), and saw clips from movies that I now have to own (including “The Scorpio Incident” and John Woo’s epic “Red Cliff” ). The only real disappointment I took away from the con was in its selection of manga. While I picked up plenty of good stuff at the dealer’s room (and at the swap meet), the manga vendors there left something to be desired.
In short, it’s gotten to the point where I’d rather not buy manga unless I can get a decent discount on what I’m buying, and while the Comic Cellar (known to me from their perennial spot at Frank and Sons) had most of what I wanted, their only discount was “no tax.” The other vendor that was offering a base 20% off had the ten volumes of “Monster” that I’ve been wanting to pick up, but in order to qualify for greater discounts, you had to buy 14 volumes of stuff. I made it to twelve before I realized I’d have to start picking up stuff I had no interest in.
… I’m only now starting to realize how incredibly self-serving this sounds, so I’ll wrap it up now. The moral of this story (as is turning out to be the case quite often here): www.amazon.com FTW.
My thoughts on what I bought at the con, after the break.
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 9
Actually, I didn’t get this at the con, but I picked up the Wednesday before, brought it to the con and got editor/translator Carl Horn to sign it, so I’m counting it. While the last volume had a “business as usual” feel to it, this one feels like a return to form in terms of quirky subject matter, pacing, and density of story. Eight chapters this time around, with two two-part stories, one three-parter, and a one-shot to wrap things up. In these we’re treated to such intriguing concepts as haunted dolls that stalk TV personalities, urban legends that lead the KCDS crew to a dead pervert with a thermoptic camouflage suit, and.a political power broker who could hear the future being pursued from beyond the grave in order to find out who the next head of Japan’s top political party should be. We also get some interesting and surprising background details on embalmer Makino’s past, which is good because she’s too often defined by her job, and the clash of her intelligence with her valley girl speech patterns. Here’s hoping we get something like this for Numata in upcoming volumes. My one complaint is that the ongoing mystery of spirit medium Karatsu’s ghostly guardian seems to have been firmly put on the back burner after the events of vol. 7. It’s nice to see that Kikuchi, the girl with similar powers to him, makes a return appearance here, but I’m looking forward to at least getting a few more details in the next volume.
Bleach vol. 27
In which lots of Arrancars get their asses handed to them, we get to see Kisuke show off how much of a badass he is, and Ichigo, Chad, and Uryu finally team up again. These things are definite pluses, and this volume maintains the style and energy that’s infused the series since day one. What leaves me worried for the future is that after Orihime is kidnapped by the Arrancars in this volume, it looks like we’re headed for a repeat of the “Soul Society” storyarc. The only difference seems to be the much larger, and more powerful cast that’s going to be involved. Would it also be too much to ask mangaka Tite Kubo to have big bad Aizen actually do some WORK in order to enact his plans rather than sit around, delegate, and look menacing? I have faith that Kubo isn’t so lazy or uncreative to simply repeat his past triumphs, so I’m holding out hope that he’ll show off how this arc is going to be different in the next volume. (For those of you who have read ahead and know the answer, feel free to laugh and/or hint cryptically about it in the comments section.)
Paradise Kiss vols. 3-5 and Nana vol. 16
I read all of “ParaKiss” several years ago and bought the first two volumes for half off almost as long ago. I can’t remember the exact reason why I never picked up the rest of the series for myself, but after spotting vols. 3-5 being sold for $2 each at the Fanime swap meet, I knew it was my destiny to buy them (or just extremely random good luck). After re-reading all five volumes, I’ve found that mangaka Ai Yazawa’s story of the turbulent romance between Yukari, a normal high school girl, and George, a rakishly charming student at a fashion school, holds up extremely well. More than anything, it succeeds at taking a subject I have no interest in (fashion) and presenting it in a way that makes it interesting for me. On the other hand, I’ve only read half of “Nana” vol. 16 so far because I just can’t seem to get into the things that are going on in it. I’ll eventually get around to it, but I’m starting to think this series is due for a re-read at some point as well.
Red Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayama
I haven’t read all of this either, but so far it’s been inspiring me to do a second “Art Manga” podcast focusing on all of the negative connotations that phrase has in my mind,
Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul
Did I mention that they don’t just sell manga, anime and games at the swap meet? I’d heard mixed things about this crossover, so I passed on picking it up when it came out, making a mental note to see if I could find it for half off at Comic-Con. Then I spotted someone selling it at Fanime for $7 (the HC normally retails for $30), and I figured “What the hell.” In all honesty, for that kind of deal a comic would really have to work at being awful in order to make me regret my purchase, and this one doesn’t. While Grant Morrison and Paul Dini are touted as the writers on the cover, the crossover also features Peter Milligan and Fabian Nicieza writing multiple chapters as well, and they’re all not bad. Though everyone involved has done better work elsewhere, there’s a feeling that they all know what they’re getting into (editorially mandated crossover to boost the sales on Batman titles, and bring Ra’s Al Ghul back from the dead) and have as much fun as they can with it. The storyline is simple enough, Ra’s Al Ghul has come back from the dead, but his host body has been poisoned with polonium, so he’s looking for a suitable host body – namely his daughter Talia and Batman’s son Damien. Even with its simplicity, there’s plenty of action to satisfy superhero fans, and lots of amusing details from the writers, including a trio of supervillain supermodels, a mystic map that is split up into some interesting parts, and pretty much anything Alfred does to hold everyone else’s interest. I do wish for two things: that the characters of the White Ghost and the Sensei had been fleshed out more, considering their importance to the story and to Ra’s Al Ghul; and that certain chapters had better art. Most of what’s here is serviceable, or even good (most people don’t like Tony Daniel, but I think he does good work here), but the chapters done by Ryan Benjamin are pretty bad. Not “Larry Stroman in ‘X-Factor’ vol. 7” bad, but bad enough to make me wonder how he got such a high-profile gig in the first place.