However, Yuuno isn’t there right now, (she’s chasing after some weird guy who looks like a cross between L, M, and Light) so we’re treated to happy school comedy + panty shot. They meet up with Yuuno in the park, and she’s basically doing all she can from flipping out and murdering the people around Yuki, and, then, out of nowhere, dogs attack and L-ight (as I’ll refer to him) comes to save the day. The group runs to a local Gazeebo, and the main part of the manga beings.
You see, the dogs are controlled by another diary user with what must be one of the most lame diary powers ever. Inside, Yuki is forced to use his diary to predict what the dogs are going to do, and there’s a little bit of tension as the people first don’t believe him and he’s forced to convince them that he can see the future. Finally, they beat the dogs.
Then, predicatbly, one of Yuki’s new friends is revealed to be a part of the diary user’s plan (surprisingly not L-ight, who had been acting like a dick). She confiscates Yuki’s diary and holds Yuki hostage. There’s a long and complicated sequence in which L-ight uses the limitations of Yuki’s diary, acting gay (as in, actually homosexual), and some trickery to beat the traitors. They run away, Yuuno tries to murder them, Yuki stops her by calling her his girlfriend and giving up his hope for any kind of a real life. Finally, at the very end, there’s a big twist that was actually fairly unexpected
Basically, this volume introduces a bunch of new characters, and establishes that Yuki is really, truly up crap creek without a paddle. The problem is that it has way too much of the silly “If I do this, he’ll do that” shinanigans that I was hoping to not have to sit through. The diary use-age in this volume was lame, with the new antagonist clocking in at an astoundingly small 5 micro-fonzies. Also, the new characters proceed to completely marginalize the older ones, especially freakin’ L-ight. Basically, if the next volume is like this, I’m dropping Mirai Nikki.
Art: Same as always, but there are fewer bad character designs, especially since the major new character’s design is effective plagiarized from another, more popular manga.
Ease of Reading: Fairly Easy + a little. Not quite pushing it up the next category is the fact that it’s got an awful lot of complex syntax. Also, the diaries still don’t have furigana, which makes reading them slightly harder.
Title: Cloth Road (volumes 2 and 3)
Author: Hideyuki Kurata
Runs in:Ultra Jump
Rating: 11 ( this includes a 1 point deduction for involving models who are not Zoolander and a 1 point deduction for super-powered battle tournaments)
How much I’ve read: 3/5 volumes (unfinished)
Story: Volume 2 is basically all about the battles. There’s a brief side-story at the beginning that is supposed to be heartwarming, but, the majority of the volume is devoted to the battle between the twins and their rivals, another pair of siblings. There’s an amusing dualism, in that our heroes are separated when they encounter a member of the other team, and have rather different experiences, a Fergus falls for the Loli while Jennifer and the non-loli have an amusing bit of rivalry.
Of course, this means that there’s going to be a battle, which there is, and the contrasting styles of our team versus theirs are on display. They’re a love-love sibling couple who really get along while Fergus and Jennifer are always fighting with each other, but, underneath it all, Fergus and Jennifer care about each other and vanquish their rivals.
Oh yeah, along the way they pick up a walking wardrobe and a rude little doll, who later prove to be quasi-important. However, for right now, they’re the comic relief characters. My biggest problem with this volume was that, while fun, it didn’t really advance the story at all. Of course, this means volume 3 is going to be all story and no fun bits, and you’d be right.
In Volume 3, Fergus and Jennifer get separated, with Jennifer ending up studying under another model in the art of ass whoopin’ while Fergus learns about where cloth comes from and how to be a good tailor. Basically, volume three could have been handled in a training montage, but it wasn’t. Basically, other than the fact that it’s about clothing, we have a very standard shounen series. This isn’t to say that it’s bad, it’s just not what I was expecting. Oh yeah, it’s reveled that Fergus and Jennifer’s parents were kind of odd.
Art: Lots and Lots of weird little details combined with bizarre character designs and very, very quiet backgrounds. It’s an interesting style, but, it tends to cause overload.
Ease of Reading: Annoying. Either I need to learn more techno-clothing gibberish, or dudes need to put in some furigana. Some of it isn’t awful, but, on the whole, it’s not a quick read, unless you’re some kind of crazy clothing person. These volumes are either slightly easier than the first one, or I’ve gotten better at bizzare vocab.
Other comments: I’d like to announce that I was right on in my previous comments on this manga.
Title: Otaku no Musume-san
Author: Higansou, 202, Kouta and Kanau
Runs in:Dragon Age
Rating (out of twenty): 14 (does not include a +.5 for Maison Ikkou reference +1.5 for hilarious explanation of manga pairings, -1 for female character obsessed with the breasts of another character)
How much I’ve read: 3/3 volumes (ongoing)
Story: This volume begins with Kanal sick in the hospital. The first couple of chapters of the volume focus on Kota realizing that he’s been an idiot, and his kid needs to come first. There’s a bit of humor after Kanal returns from the hospital and the main character goes on a shopping expedition, and is forced to say no to a purchase of a limited edition figure. Other humor when Kanal is being carried downstairs by her father and Kanal’s classmates show up. There’s another sitcommy chapter where Kota’s sister vists, and there are attempts, which eventually fail, to hide Kanal. However, the real reason why this volume rates so highly are the later chapters.
The first one focuses on Haruka, the local fujoshi. She’s sitting at a table while, nearby, Kanal’s friends, including the fujoshi-in-training discuss their interest in Nikibi, the Kujibiki Unbalance of this particular universe. First, they’re discussing the addition of a new character, with some people not really getting his role in the work. Haruka leaps into action, and gives a long diatribe about his importance to the work, followed by an unconvincing denial of her interest in nikibi.
The next subject of conversation is the relationships the the manga, with some people (read: the F-i-T character) expressing an interest in seeing the two main male characters together. Haruka asks her to clarify, does she mean Rindou x Azark? She doesn’t quite get it, and so there’s the traditional puppet explanation (think Nadeisco) of the term in question (AxB along with Seme and Uke). The kids aren’t quite sure about the difference between seme and uke, and, in a feat of stunning brevity and clarity, Haruka says “it’s the one who puts in it and the one who it gets put into,” confusing most of the grade schoolers but causing a fight between her and Kota, who wandered in during the middle of the explaination. It’s really hard to describe how funny this sequence is, especially as F-i-T suddenly realizes what Haruka is talking about and begins hyperventalating in the middle of the fight.
The last chapter has the apartment complex acquire a dog, which brings the longstanding plots of the residents to fruition. It turns out that they’ve been slowly turning the apartment into a parody of Maison Ikkoku, by giving the landlady an apron, and, now, by naming the dog Souichiro. Then then proceed to find that when Kanal takes the dog to the park, they have a sort of otaku-detector, as certain people stop and stare and Kanal runs around calling out “Miss landlady… Mr. Souichiro….”
Art: The art is still a weakpoint of this manga, but it could be a lot worse and I’d still read it. Basically, the humor in the last couple of chapters more than covers for art weaknesses.
Ease of Reading: Easy. Furigana, easy vocab, and nothing really out of the ordinary. It’s not Yotsuba, but it’s not far from that. Haruka’s ranting is a bit wordy, but it doesn’t happen often, so there’s no point in bumping up the difficulty rating.
Other comments: The way they break up chapters is bizarre. Either the chapters are generally very short, with the occasional long story, or some of the chapters are really just collections of page-long short humor beats. Either way, it’s not bad, just jumpy.
Alright, time for some visual novel reviews! Since I haven’t played them through, you’re going to be getting more of an “impressions” rather than a true review, but, whatever, deal with it.
Utawarerumono: Following the proud tradition of leaf aquaplus releases that are actually interesting games without the porn (see comic party) comes Utawarerumono. It’s basically a political story set in a feudal-type japan with animal-y people. I do love me political stories, and, since it has a tactics game built in, it’s actually a good bit of fun to play. The characters are relatively moe without being super saccherine, which doesn’t hurt. Usually, I play games where I actually like the main male character, or, failing that, the main character’s best male friend, and Utawarerumono is an exception. I don’t dislike Hakuoro, the main male character, but he’s sort of… blah.
To be more specific, he’s not like the traditional worthless male lead that basically exists as a cipher for the player, but he’s sort of… quiet and competent. He’s polite, kind, and generally a good guy, but that’s not what I look for in fictional characters. Give me someone loud and full of bravado, a Roland (from the song of Roland) rather than a Lancelot or Gallahad. In fact, everyone in the story generally acts like a responsible, sensible person, much to my vague discontent. It’s also easier to read than, say, most other visual novels, but it’s still annoying enough that I’d have to make it a full-time project to finish it.
Saya no Uta: Holy crap, I love this game. Admittedly it’s a bit weird, and the plot has some serious holes, but all is forgiven due to the tone and execution. You play a medical school student who has been in a car accident and underwent extensive brain surgery. Afterwords, the entire world seems a horrible nightmare of monsters and chunks of flesh. His friends appear to be horrible masses of muscle and goo, and human speech seems like the bizarre warbling of nightmare. There’s only one small ray of hope in his life, Saya, the daughter of the doctor who saved the main character’s life. She alone appears as a normal human in a horrible, twisted, terror-filled abyss.
Of course, I wouldn’t like the game if it was just that, so there’s a bit of a twist. Saya isn’t really a normal person, instead, she’s a horrible monster, who, to the main character’s warped senses, appears human. So, we have a parable of alienation, as the main character grows closer to Saya, he becomes more and more distant from the safe and sane world of human beings, but, at the same time, to remain in the human world brings about unbearable pain and discomfort. For a while, the character can stay on the fence, but, as events unfold, the two spheres of the world, Saya’s covert monstrousness and overt humanity and his friend’s overt monstrousness and (theoretically) covert humanity, can and must come into conflict.
It’s fascinating to see how it plays out. Especially since in visual novels you generally put yourself in the place of the main character, so you can really see the difference between his perceptions and what the rest of us see. Anyway, it’s really a great game, and I highly recommend it, provided that you can deal with some sex and a whole lot of really creepy scenes (when the game begins, you can turn down the level of horribleness to something tolerable, but that’s for people who haven’t been exposed to non-euclidian horror for years, i.e. not me)
Anyway, that’s about it for this installment. I’m planning on going to Anime Boston next month, in case anyone else is. Remember to vote for Kamina!