Shadow Student Council Vice President Gives Her All

Shadow Student Council Vice President Gives Her All

In general, I like to read a manga before I watch an anime, but Prison School was an exception because, quite frankly, I couldn’t believe the images/ cosplay/ rumours/ spoilers/ vinyl statues that I have seen.

I watched the anime first and what I found was a sexy and hilariously archaic parody of school that wouldn’t have been uncomfortable in the company of 80s teen comedies like Porky’s or Animal House. This led me to the manga, which I found the first collection to be pretty average, story wise, but the art was nice, and I’ll stick with it because I know what is coming from watching the anime.

Of all the characters in both the anime and manga, the one that sticks out more than any of the others, is one of the baddies, the Shadow Student Council Vice President Meiko Shiraki. Why does she stick out? Well, she’s tall, with silver hair and glasses, and an extraordinarily large breast to waist to hip ratio, can’t seem to find clothes to fit her appropriately (well, except for stilettos) and sweats profusely… and I mean SWEATS whenever she is under any kind of pressure.

Of course, this means mangaka, Akira Hiramoto, presents her in the most obtuse of positions, showing off her enormous breasts, buttocks or labia majora, usually covered in perspiration and generally before executing some cruel form of torture on an unexpected male pupil. She is the sexy straight man of the baddies, and is amusing to see in her various displays.

What we have here with Shadow Student Council Vice President Gives Her All, is a series of 14 short manga vignettes showing Shiraki is various high pressure situations, such as a maths exam, trying to get back to a steeping cup of tea before it spoils, eating a mega-curry and several others. Some of the other characters peek in here and there, but these mostly wordless stories show her under pressure and then relieved of it.

It’s ecchi of the highest order for sure, and there is no doubt that the art by ReDrop isn’t sexy and over the top as the idea of the manga would suggest, but the stories themselves just aren’t engaging or, for that matter, very good. Actually they are less than not very good.

Considering Shiraki was the Darth Vader scaled villain of the piece, this is the equivalent of finding that major cinematic villain dancing on stage at Disneyland to MC Hammer’s ‘U Can’t Touch This!’ and it’s a big disappointment. I imagined this to be some kind of a story about other horrible things she has done to people, but it’s just putting her into situations where she gets sweaty, or naked.

I’m not sure how successful this was, but considering that I, as a fan of manga and don’t mind a little ecchi in my comics, am probably the target market, and I don’t like it, when you can probably take that as a pretty big failure.

This manga was published by Yen Press.

Score: *

WIRIA: No.

Doctor Stone Volume 1

Doctor Stone Volume 1

I’ve been trying to get through the embarrassing amount of manga I haven’t read, and was reminded, whilst looking at the pile, that a friend of mine had suggested that I, with my interest in science, sci-fi and teen movies, would probably appreciate a series with story by Riichiro Inagaki and art by Boichi called Dr Stone.

It’s just an average, but when a weird flash of light turns everyone to stone, mankind’s history comes to a catastrophic halt. Senku, a super intelligent high school student, kept his consciousness alive by counting nonstop for several thousand years before achieving the will power to burst out of his stone form… but not without his skin maintaining a couple of cracks from his stone form.

A year and a half later, his friend, Taiju, who is super strong but somewhat of a dummy, managed to break out through his not-stop thinking about the love of his life, Yuzurina, whom he was on the way to meet when the flash happened, and is now also stone.

The two start to research a ‘cure’ to the stone disease, and are on the right track when they are attacked by lions, and have to release the toughest fighter they know, Tsukasa Shishio, who subsequently dispatches the lions.

They also release Yuzurina, but soon they discover that Tsukasa and them have different values.

Whilst Senku and his pals are attempting to get life back to where it was all those thousands of years ago, Tsukasa thinks that all adults should be killed so the children can start the world over again… and so he starts smashing the stone adults…

This manga is extraordinarily surprising. At its surface, it’s a sci-fi mystery, but once you start dipping into it, it seems to be a massive moral story, but unusually with the GOOD guy wanting the corporation fuelled society back so he can indulge in his scientific and technological exploits. The writing is extremely tight, though occasionally leans into a bit of American catch-phrase-isms.

The art is extraordinarily beautiful, and all the characters are, probably deliberately, statuesque, and the action scenes are a joy to the eye.

Score: ****

Prison School Volume 1

Surely to truly experience manga to its fullest, one must read it all. Action, superheroes, romance, sports…

… and whatever the hell genre this one falls into!

Image to admit I had already watched the first season of the anime of this manga and thoroughly enjoyed every perverted minute of it, but it stops at a satisfactory ending, but with no further seasons seeming to be coming in the near future, I’ve decided to proceed with the manga, but rather than start at the start of the end of the story the anime told (which is very manga accurate). I’ve decided to start from the beginning to get the benefits of the full-tilt ecchi experience that Prison School has to offer.

Prison School was produced by mangaka Akira Hiramoto, who won with Prison School in the General Manga Category at the 2013 Kodansha Awards, the Japanese Manga awards, where it shares the title with previous year winners like Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and Hitoshi Awaaki’s Parasyte. Hiramoto is also responsible for other mangas Me and the Devil Blues and RaW Hero.

Prison School tells of the first 5 male students to be accepted to the all-girl boarding school Hachimitsu Private Academy; Shingo, Joe, Dre, Gackt and our hero, Kiyoshi. As one would expect, these hot blooded young men decide to try and see the girls in the shower block, and, as one would expect, their mission to do so goes horrible wrong, and they find themselves with a choice, be expelled, or face a month in the school’s prison.

The schools prison system is run by the Shadow Student Council, led by the president Mari, a man-hating disciplinarian, her second in charge, Shiraki, a busty psycho with a riding crop, a problem with excessive sweat and an uncomfortably (for the boys) shirt skirt, and finally Hana, a karate expert who ends up with a strange predilection for golden showers.

Unfortunately for Kiyoshi, he has fallen for the darling of the school, Chiyo, a sumo enthusiast whom he has agreed to go on a date with, and he won’t let being trapped in prison stop him from getting there. He and Gackt come up with a plan to get him to his date, but will the Shadow Student Council stop him?

Unfortunately, this being volume 1, we don’t find that ultimate result out, so whilst the volume does end on a decent cliffhanger, it doesn’t end satisfactorily, which is a bit of a bummer. The story is extraordinarily sexist and rude, but fans of this type of comic would expect no less, and in actual fact would insist on it. This is American teenage movies like American Pie or Porky’s in comic book form, so I guess one does have to ask that the reader be acceptable of the type of humour it represents.

Hiramoto’s art is dynamic, but occasionally uneven and even a little bizarre in its choices to show nipples in one drawing, and not in the next… is there a nipple limit in manga?

All in all I look forward to further tankoubon in this series, but this first volume, which granted does require a lot of set up, fails to end on a satisfactory note.

Score: **

Fairy Tail Volume 1

An ex-co-worker of mine was a big fan of Fairy Tail to the point she named her cosplay name after one of the characters in this anime (Hi Tash!) but honestly, even thoigh she pestered me to read it, I never got around to it… until now! I have to say it wasn’t what I expected!

Fairy Tail is a manga produced by mangaka Hiro Mashima, who also gave us Rave Master, and he says that the idea of Fairy Tail came from the sense of community he felt from being with his friends, and the quest that some young people have in real life to find their calling.

Fairy Tail Volume One takes us to the fantasy land of Earth-land and in this volume, we meet Lucy Heartfilla, 17 year old celestial wizard who wants to join a guild called Fairy Tail for the sense of community (like I said above… the main part of the guild is even a pub, which, it is said, Mashima got part of his inspiration).

While searching in a town, she accidentally finds herself embroiled in a human-trafficking ring (specifically one that kidnaps young women), until she is saved by Natsu Dragneel, a dragon slayer wizard who has fire based powers, and his associate Happy, a cat with some shape shifting abilities.

After they save her, she is invited to join Fairy Tail as it just so happens that they are members! They introduce her around the group, but discover one of their kin, Macao, has been kidnapped (a LOT of kidnapping seems to happen) by apes called ‘Vulcans’, and so immediately start what will no doubt be a series of adventures which will take them all over Earth-land.

Now even though I’ve watched anime since I was a kid, back in the days when we just called them ‘cartoons’, I’m only a recent full-tilt convert to anime, and it’s come from a sense of boredom with western comics. Prior to my current addiction I really only ever purchased Akira and a couple of western-styled manga like Dirty Pair. (I do have an occasional Lum, Ranma 1/2 and some only Shonen Jumps in my collection).

To this relative newcomer to manga, I find Mashima’s art and style to be reminiscent of One Piece, even down to the pseudo-fantasy/ historical setting. I imagine this is what Harry Potter would have been like if created by Eiichiro Oda!

The story runs along at a cracking pace, and the art style matches the frenetic tale it tells. I do have to admit I’m not a great fan of art going from a particular style and then changing to express an emotion like shock, but the story was good enough that I could overlook that.

The characters are great, though! Lucy is our access to the guild so we learn about their habits and laws through her eyes. I hav to say I also enjoy her magical powers as they are really inventive and not something I can recall seeing ever before!

Natsu is also an interesting, passionate character who like his powers suggest, is a bit of a hothead, and Happy is just (so far, it’s only volume 1) as his name suggests, a happy cat who can talk and grow wings!

This volume also has some descriptions of jokes that may not have translated from the Japanese too well, and describes a few translation changes to make sense to western readers.

I can see myself buying another volume of this as I enjoyed it, but I think the next volume will need to have more of a hook as I can’t really see the characters getting too much development, but I hope I am wrong.

Score:***1/2

Gigant Volume 1

Gigant Volume 1

Sometimes creators occasionally seems to like to say about a new product they are releasing is that it is ‘above genres’ or ‘can’t be classified’. Usually, you’ll read about that is the now-defunct comics magazine Wizard, or Fangoria, which even once had a section of their magazine called ‘It’s Not A Horror Movie’ due to the amount of time creators would think that they could make their project more legitimate by giving it some kind of weasel word like ‘horror-adjunct’ or ‘it’s a gore-thriller’.

Well those people shouldn’t have been entering their films into a magazine dedicated to horror, and usually, in the Wizard articles, the ‘new take on super heroes’ would result in a super hero comic.

I’ve discovered recently that the REAL unclassifiable stories come from Jason and Korea in the form of manga, and that managkas, or comic creators if you will, really make comics that are unclassifiable. if you are in Sydney, you can visit a big book store called Kinokuniya, who have a MASSIVE Manga section, and realistically, the only genre split is ‘General’ and ‘Adult’.

… and in the ‘Adult’ section was where I found this manga, Gigant.

Gigant is created by the mangaka Hiroya Oku, the creator of manga/ anime series Gantz, a story about a mysterious black sphere who takes people from the point of their deaths and subjects them to a trail where they fight horrible demons and Inuyashiki, story of an old man whose body is accidentally destroyed by aliens, so they provide him a cybernetic battle body.

Yep, Oku is an interesting guy, and if you think those stories sound nuttier than squirrel poo, well, sit down, strap in and grit your teeth because this story is off the freaking charts.

Gigant tells of young wanna-be filmmaker, Rei Yokoyamada who discovers that porn star, Chiho ‘PaPiCo’ Johansson has moved into her neighbourhood whilst removing slanderous poster put up in the streets near their house, and due to his kindness, they developed a friendship.

One day, Chiho find an old man in a helmet, a backpack and a pair of Y-fronts who is injured lying the the street. She goes to assist when he slaps a strange watch-like device on her wrist, and then turns into a ventriloquist dummy.

Very quickly she finds out that the device has the ability to grow to ‘Gigant’-ic sizes and burst out of her clothes, which her porn movie producers quickly incorporate into her films. If this wasn’t enough of an upset to her life, her boyfriend gets increasingly jealous about her relationship with Rei, and they break up after he assaults Rei, no she has to use her powers to save him.

Another weird thing is happening whilst Chiho’s life has been turned upside down. A website called Enjoy the End has become popular: it’s schtick? It has a series of questionnaires that people can vote on, the options being increasingly bizarre options…. but they come true.

Faeces falls from the sky like rain and an earthquake occurs because they were voted on… does it have anything to do with Chiho’s weird device?

Well, it’s only volume one so I guess I won’t find out for a while.

Oku’s art and story are both extraordinarily sexy and violent at the same time. His art is exquisitely beautiful, and obtuse, with some bizarre traces of realism that remind me of Western comic artist John Byrne’s addition of real photos into his work occasionally.

I’m going to say that this is an intriguing comic that has piqued my interest, and I’ll definitely be buying the next issue.

Score: ****

BOOK REVIEW : Venus in the Blind Spot by Junji Ito

Venus in the Blind Spot by Junji Ito

Whilst I have been a fan of comics for as long as I can remember, other than a few dalliances with Shonen Jump, arguably the biggest source of Japanese comics (or manga, if you prefer) I’ve never really read much except for a few reprints that companies like Dark Horse Comics did in the nineties, and the entire Akira series by Katsuhiro Ôtomo that Epic Comics, an adult line of Marvel set to emulate the more Euro Heavy Metal, released during the eighties.

I’ve always liked the style of Japanese art seen on anime like Battle of the Planets, Kum Kum, Kimba, Marine Boy, Astro Boy and the stunning space saga that is Macross aka Robotech, and I admire the fact that with manga, in general, one creator works on a title until they decide to give it up… I wonder how long Marvel would have survived if creators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko just stopped Fantastic Four or Spiderman! I don’t know why I didn’t jump onto manga more, especially when on considers how much I loved a comic by Guinea Pig film conceptualist and mangaka (comic creator) Hideshi Hino, whose manga Panorama of Hell sat me firmly down and taught me that there was more to horror comics than the sexualised fantasies of Vampirella, or the sub-superhero is exploits of western horror characters like Werewolf by Night and Morbius.

This brings me to my more recent discovery of the work of Junji Ito. Ito was a dental technician who submitted work to a magazine called Gekkan Halloween (translation: Monthly Halloween… who wouldn’t love a monthly Halloween?) which was well received and became his series Tomie, about an immortal girl who curses the men she comes across. Ito has sited Hino and H. P. Lovecraft amongst his influences so how could I not immediately fall for his work?

This volume of his work, Venus in the Blind Spot, is a collection of 10 short stories, mostly in his exquisite tight black lines, but occasionally with colour pages or splashes of colour for effect, and a few mini-posters taken from covers of other comics like No Longer Human. This is all wrapped in a beautiful hardcover volume which has a double sided dust jacket: a similar image is on both sides (that of a beautiful blonde woman seen in the reflection of an eye) but the interior cover is clean (and the woman is smiling instead of staring blankly) with none of the titles obscuring it. This dust cover hides, on the actual cover, a terrifying image of the remains of a man being crushed by the foundations of a house, taken from one of the tales on the inside.

In this collection, there are several tales which are amazing: Billions Alone, which tells of a killer who is sewing people together, The Human Chair, based on a story by Edogawa Ranpo, a tale about a mythical chair that has a person living within it, An Unearthly Love, also based on a Ranpa story, which sees a woman married to a man with an unusual affection for a manikin, the very Lovecraftian The Licking Woman about a woman who attacks people and licks them, leaving a deadly rash where her tongue has touched, Keepsake, about the child born of a dead woman and finally, the masterfully bizarre story of The Enigma of Amigara Fault, a story of an earthquake that reveals a crevice covered in human shaped holes that seemingly echo actual people’s body shapes, causing them to have a compulsive need to enter them.

Unfortunately the other stories didn’t resonate too much with me, though I do think the art of Venus in the Blind Spot, the story of a girl who mysteriously disappears when you get close to her, is possibly some of Ito’s finest. I had a particular dislike for the fanboy-ish Master Umezz and Me, in which Ito explains his own obsession with mangaka Kazuo Umezu, who created the manga The Drifting Classroom, which Ito respectfully parodies/ pays homage to with his own manga The Dissolving Classroom.

The first thing anyone will notice about Ito’s work is how beautiful it is. His characters are all exquisitely beautiful in the execution, with delicate features and calm stature, which is juxtapositions fantastically by the grotesque monstrosities that they become when angered, or due to unfortunate circumstance, which is the key to great horror.

Of course, thematically one would expect there are occasional ideas that seem unusual which are due to culture and tradition, but when the actual stories themes kick off, they are quickly overlooked. His ideas of compulsion and obsession are prevalent and perhaps reveal that doom comes to those who are unable to control them.

This volume has some good stories in it, but it’s probably for completists of Ito only, and a starting reader might do better with Tomie, Gyo or Uzumaki instead.

This volume is published by Viz Media.

***

Cutey Honey (2004) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Cutey Honey (2004)


Film: I was too old to like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when it first hit Australian televisions, and yet somehow I did. When it first appeared on television I was working in a job where I was home early enough to watch it, and I guess I loved it as it tapped into my love of ‘uniformed hero teams’ like Fantastic Four and the Thunderbirds, and started a love of Sentai that remains to this day. 

With the new Power Rangers film out, I’ve been hit again by Sentai fever and have been watching the original MMPR on Netflix, and due to a bad influence who love anime and manga at work, have started getting back into Japanese movies, comics and cartoons again.

One thing I decided I needed to revisit was this film, Cutey Honey, a live action film based on the manga (and subsequent anime) of artist Go Nagai directed by another anime director, Hideaki Anno, best known for Neon Genesis Evangelion, and who created a new type of special effects for this film, ‘Honeymation’ which combined single photos of the cast which is then turned into ‘live’ anime sequences for effect, giving birth to another term created for this film, Digital Comic Cinema.


This movie tells the tale of Cutey Honey (Eriko Sato), an android copy of a human who has special powers which she uses in her fight against the forces of Sister Jill (Eisuke Sakai) and his (her?) villainous gang of thugs Panther Claw. Cutey Honey gets some help, though, from a cute young police officer, desperate to prove herself, Nat-chan (Mikako Ichihawa) and a reporter, Seiji Hayami (Jun Murakami), but will their combined skill be enough to thwart the baddies?


It’s a bizarre film, even by Japanese standards, with completely over the top villains and crazy events that only make sense within the confines of the film. If you tried to describe the events, I imagine people who watch ‘normal’ films either wouldn’t believe you or would suggest you accidentally ingested horse tranquillisers.

Japanese model Erika Sato is no doubt an exquisite beauty, but in this her acting range extends all the way from sad faced covergirl to squealing excitable sexpot. Actually, the squealing in this film is so frequent, sometimes I felt like I was at a 14 year old girl’s birthday party at a bowling alley, but she is something special, and the camera loves her! Unfortunately, unlike the anime, there are no flashes of nudity with Cutey Honey activates her powers, though she is frequently seen in her underwear, miniskirts or a garbage bag… yep: a garbage bag.

I should point out that Sato is not the ONLY beauty in this film, Mikako Ichihawa is lovely too, though I wish she smiled more, even though it’s not in her characters range.

The film is a load of fun, and it’s funny too. In an age when most superhero films are dark and depressing, this one has a distinct joy in its story, and the bad guys seem to only exist to be evil, though typically, there seems to be an element of Honey’s origin that’s tied into them. Their costumes are bonkers too, looking like rejects from that old MMPR show.

It is overacted, dumb and fun and you’ll perhaps doubt your sanity for watching it, but it is definitely a spectacle worth trying.

Score: ****


Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Madman DVD release which is present in an OK 1.78:1 image with a good Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track presented in Japanese with English subtitles. The film runs for approximately 89 minutes.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: There is a decent amount of extras on this disc.

The Making of Cutey Honey is a 20 minute subtitled extra highlighting the cast and production of the film. It’s actually quite funny as it’s like a 60s styled, school aged aimed doco, with a whole pile of dialogue like ‘now Cutey Honey is a police officer… I wouldn’t mind being arrested by her’… I’m actually reading the subtitles in a Troy MacClure styled voice! The subtitles on this are occasionally annoying though as the feature itself has a fair bit of Japanese text on it so finding WHERE to see the subtitles seems to be a chore!

There is a bunch of trailers, from the sneak peak, to the actual trailer and a bunch of TV spots.

My most hated of extras, a stills gallery!

There’s also trailers for other Madman releases: Godzilla, Mothra, Mecha-Godzilla: Tokyo SOS, Please Teacher! and Seven Samurai.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s cute and dumb fun: yeah I’ll watch it again.

Comic Review: Naruto Volume 1

NARUTO VOLUME 1

If you’ve read anything about me here at the To Watch Pile, you’ll know that I love my comics. I’ve been collecting for years and enjoy everything about them, but I insist that both the art and the story are of a decent standard.

It’s a medium that celebrates both and should do so.

Now I’ve mainly been a Marvel or DC guy, with a few dalliances into Dark Horse and some of the other smaller companies, including the mighty 2000AD and also for a while was grabbed some manga stuff, like the Akira collection, and now defunct company Eclipse used to do Robotech comics as well., and even occasionally, and for a reason opposite to my claim about liking both art and story, I’d get Shonen Jump comics just for the cool Japanese styled drawings.

Now I’ve not bought manga for years, but recently, due to an occupationally change, I have become in contact with HUGE anime and manga fans, and upon their say so I have decided to check some out. It just so happened, coincidently that the bookshop near my work started getting a pile of manga collections in: Sailor Moon, One Piece, Death Note, Attack on Titan, and this one, Naruto, which I decided to give a go.

Naruto tells of a neophyte ninja desperate to prove to a town that hates him that one day he will be the greatest ninja in the town, but first he has to graduate ‘ninja’ school and prove to all who despise him that he is greater than the evil force that’s living inside him.

This comics was published by Viz Media and as it is a manga, it does read from back cover to front, and each page from right to left.

Story: This first Volume of Naruto is all about setting up the story. It’s divided into 7 chapters which start at Naruto becoming accepted into the Ninja teachings and how he and two contemporaries, the serious Sasuke and dreamy, love-lorn Sakura start on their journey with their teacher Kakashi. This book also reveals the horrible secret that Naruto has hidden within.

The story is all about introductions and setting up but never becomes bogged down with them, and the story moves along a quite the clip. Writer/ artist Masashi Kishimoto has really given The main characters a variety of personalities, and they read nicely as completely different ‘types’ of people.

Score: ***1/2

Art: Madashi Kishimoto’s art is fantastic. It’s nice and simple and light and the characters are just ever so slightly cartoony, but not enough so it becomes a distraction, or do you ever not think they are ‘real’ people. The action is fast and furious and contemplative scenes are relaxed and understated.

Score: ****

WIRIA: I sure will: it’s totally cool! I’ve even already bought Volume 2!

Nerds of Oz: Weekending 19th May 2017

Week Ending 19th May 2017
Back due to popular demand is Nerds of Oz, or, as I like to call it, who got my pocket money this week!!

Comics

From Marvel comics this week I grabbed the latest Kingpin and X-men Blue, both which are excellent for different reasons. Kingpin is an amazing look at the private life of Daredevil’s villain, and is very much aimed at the Sopranos or Breaking Bad styled fan with its glorification of the gangster lifestyle, and how a normal person can be dragged into it. Both X-men titles are awesome at the moment, though Gold is a little above Blue. Jean Grey is certainly a far more rounded character now though, which is cool.


I have also started to read manga again, and am starting with Naruto and One Piece, both suggested by a friend from work.



Magazines

As an extension of my new found love of manga, I also picked up the latest NEO mag, just to see what new animation and manga are around.


Books

I stupidly have started another Partworks (you know those fortnightly newsagency collections) and this is the current issue of the new-ish Games Workshop, 40K novel collection.


DVD/ Blurays

Are they future reviews? Possibly, but this week I grabbed Idle Hands, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Bye Bye Man, Split, I Am Not A Serial Killer, the Legacy Collections of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Wolfman, and the latest entries into the Resident Evil and Underworld franchises.




I also grabbed an anime called High School DD, which is basically the 80s film Revenge of the Nerds vs Busty Devil Women. Sounds awesome.


Records

I finally got my hands on Volume 2 of the Stranger Things soundtrack, which I am quite happy about!


Gaming

Last but not least, I grabbed this cool box for my Magic the Gathering cards!