labingi: (Default)
For the past couple of years, birthday present money from my parents has gone toward funding some sort of life necessity. This year, however, that wasn't the case and I actually got a couple of birthday presents in the form of manga, Blade of the Immortal vol. 26 and House of Five Leaves vol. 8.

They're a marvelous contrast to each other: the back cover of House of Five Leaves features a fat cat; the front page of Blade of the Immortal features a starving dog, and that sums up the difference really. Here are my quick impressions:

Blade of the Immortal 26
Series summary: a young woman, Rin, seeks revenge on the group of swordsmen who killed her parents in 18th-century Japan. To that end, she hires a bodyguard, Manji, who is has been infected by mysterious "worms" that make him nigh impossible to kill.

This is one of those volumes that is mostly an extended battle scene, but it's a reasonably interesting one and the end segment brings to a head an important moral plot thread that has been winding along since the early volumes. Overall, it's a good volume but lacks the plot and character development of the best.

Spoilers follow )

House of Five Leaves 8
Series summary: A timid samurai, Masanosuke, gets taken in as a member of a gang of kidnappers, led by Yaichi, and discovers he quite likes them (in 18th-century Japan).

This is the final volume of House of Five Leaves, and I must confess it's the only one I've read, the rest of my knowledge deriving from the anime. However, I wanted to see how the manga ended, and I was not disappointed. Though different from the anime's ending, this conclusion feels thematically and emotionally similar. It's a happy ending--very happy really, but understated and earned enough to make me root for the characters and their continued well being.

Spoilers follow )
labingi: (anotsu)
I just did a quick skim through the scanlation of Blade of the Immortal, volume 28 and can report it's made of win. It will be a while before it's released officially in English, but it's something to look forward to. It's basically one great catalog of character-interaction dramedy beats, and it has the awesomest Manji & Makie pic ever.

Quick, fairly non-spoilery paraphrase:

Makie to Anotsu (re. his turning the table and fleeing her): Now I understand how irritating it is to have someone run away from you.

Anotsu: Just as long as you understand.

Thoroughly fun! :)
labingi: (Default)
Roundup: Personal Reflections (not Reviews) on Reading and Viewing I've Managed to Do:
* Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)
* V for Vendetta (graphic novel)
* Blade of the Immortal, vol. 23
* Rango (movie)

Memory and Dream is an interesting test case for my responses as a reader. It's a thoroughly good book. It has well-developed characters; a tight, page-turning plot, good handling of the English language. I read it all, which is more than I can say for most books these days. I enjoyed it; there were moments I was truly engaged. But it never gave me a cathartic hit. It just didn't move me as a narrative.

Memory and Dream (Spoilers) )

V for Vendetta (Spoilers) )

Blade of the Immortal, 23 (Light Spoilers) )

Rango )
labingi: (anotsu)
"The Raskolnikovian Anotsu"

I figured I should follow up my Makie essay with an Anotsu essay, probably the first of a series. Here, I'll argue that Anotsu is a spiritual cousin of Ivan Karamazov (The Brothers Karamazov) and Rodion Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment). These are all men whose passionately defended philosophy of defying traditional morals is somewhat at odds with their instinctive morality. If I placed these three on a continuum running from thought to action, I'd put Ivan on the "thought" end, Raskolnikov in the middle, and Anotsu on the "action" end.

Spoilers )
labingi: (Default)
"In Defense of Makie"

As I have been familiarizing myself with Blade of the Immortal fandom, the friendliness and intelligence of which I really admire, I have noticed a running strain of dislike for Makie. Since I love her dearly, I wanted to respond with a manifesto on her awesomeness. Now, I'm happy to say that Makie does not seem to be hated. Most comments are along the lines of "I'm sorry to say she annoys me." I understand where the annoyance comes from and I'm comforted that the fandom is not volatile in its dislikes. Yay, BotI fandom! And now, on with the defense...

Spoilerific through volume 24 scanlated version )
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Simultaneously reading Blade of the Immortal and watching House of Five Leaves has prompted me to write one of the shortest crossovers in history. Here 'tis. (I disclaim everything.) Essentially no spoilers but behind a cut just in case. Rated G.

A Very Frightening Encounter )
labingi: (anotsu)
"Anotsu/Makie: One of Those Love Stories"

I'll preface this post with an apology as I'm about to commit the error of writing meta about a series I don't know very intimately yet. Having been firmly schooled over my early misapprehensions about Mirage of Blaze, I'll approach Blade of the Immortal with a healthy degree of disclaiming: everything I'm about to say could be wrong or wildly incomplete. (I have only read brief summaries of the last 5 or so volumes.)

There's much to love about BotI, but I'll focus here on the relationship between Anotsu and Makie, which has peaked my fannish interest more strongly than any text I've encountered for quite some time. Their relationship, for me, has become part of a triad of related love stories. Compared to Naoe/Kagetora in Mirage of Blaze and Cathy/Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, the Anotsu/Makie subplot of BotI may be a junior sibling, but a sibling it is. Each of the central relationships in the triad resonates with the others. MoB and WH resonate along the axis obsessive love that transcends everything. Anotsu and Makie aren't quite there; rather, they resonate in terms of interpersonal dynamics.

Fairly Light Spoilers for BotI )
labingi: (Default)
I need to do an update, so here is some stuff.

* I finish reading Pale Fire. Pale Fire is to the Russian Revolution as Slaughterhouse 5 is to the firebombing of Dresden.

* Speaking of getting unstuck in time, I also watched The Fountain, which is a very good and interesting movie about coping with death. And very pretty and a bit historical and science fictiony. I have little to say against it except that Isabella (in the 16th century plotline) falls flat (but she's mostly symbolic anyway). And there is a certain amount of race fail, combined, however, with a genuine interest in non-Western traditions, which mitigates it, I think. The rest is lovely.

* Having seen the Blade of the Immortal anime, I am now catching up on bits of the manga. I doubt I will read the series in toto, but what I am falling in love with, I'm falling for hard. At first, I was a bit blown away that every single person in MoB fandom seems to be a fan of BotI too, but the more I see, the more it makes perfect sense. These stories--despite coming from different media, being aimed at different audiences, having different tones, and accomplishing different things--are of the same soul, which leads me to ask, has anyone (in English) crossed them over? And if not, why not?

* Speaking of MoB, I did catch up on vol. 22 (prologue-ch. 2) and have only been very quiet about it because it didn't do much for me. Part of it I'd read already (Naoe and Irobe, which is nice.) I was expecting more about Nagahide and was, thus, a bit disappointed not to get it. I find the Red Whales a bit dull (or, to take responsibility, have not invested the time in getting to know their panoply of characters), but I did enjoy Takaya bonding with the boy who reminded him of Miya.

* Rewatched some M*A*S*H. It remains one of the best TV series ever made, full stop. It also strikes me that Hawkeye is a pretty direct ancestor of Boston Legal's Alan Shore.

* I have also been watching two other shows I'm keeping mum about: Doctor Who series 5 and The House of Five Leaves. Both are interesting me, but I want to wait till they've ended to make my final assessment.
labingi: (Default)
I can't tell you how happy I am to have found an anime that really pleases me. It's been a long time since I've come across one that's more than diverting. The only real problem with Blade of the Immortal is that it's one of these non-ending anime and is, in general, too short. It makes me want to read the manga, though my apprehension of investing great money and shelf space endless book series with few words/book makes me balk.

But to the anime: It's a samurai (or let us say swordsmen/women) anime, apparently set in the pre-Meiji 19th century (?) [1], which concerns a girl's quest for revenge against the band that killed her parents. To expedite her revenge, she engages the services of a warrior whose body is infected by supernatural worms that repair him when he's injured; hence, he can't be killed. What makes this anime work, in a nutshell, is terrific characters, all around.

spoilers follow )


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