Monday, September 11, 2006

Manga Monday 8

Before I plow directly into my review this week, I thought I would highlight my ten favorite anime! I went ahead and lumped anime series into this countdown as well. Seriously, check these titles out if you haven't already!

11. Vampire Hunter D
I'm cheating already. There's a lot of Hayao Miyazaki in the countdown, so I thought I would add another title to demonstrate a little more diversity. This is a horror classic that follows a mysterious man - D - who hunts vampires in a world overrun with the monstrosities.

10. ROD: Read or Die
Originally a film, I prefered the series that followed, as three paper mages work as bodyguards for a best-selling writer with a bit of writer's block...and a secret history.

9. Howl's Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki's latest film didn't get the highest praise when it was released in America. It wasn't as accessible as his previous two titles, boasting an old woman (sort of) as its protagonist in a world teeming with war, and a bit of a complicated conclusion. It is a stellar story when it comes down to it, however. It only suffers in that it doesn't top other films he's created.

8. Paranoia Agent
This is one bizarre, strange series. It chronicles the mysterious deaths and injuries sustained by one psychotic boy dubbed "Little Slugger" who has a knack for appearing in impossible places to beat people with a crooked baseball bat. This is a multi-layered work that really becomes something more than its story by its conclusion.

7. Grave of the Fireflies
This tale tells the story of two children striving to survive in the latter days of World War II, after their mother's death leaves them in the hands of a distant relative, and eventually, on their own. A tear-jerker.

6. Spirited Away
Sort of an Alice In Wonderland type of tale, Miyazaki's acclaimed film follows a young girl alone in the spirit realm, as she tries to reclaim her old life amid the strange creatures that demand her attention.

5. Akira
A classic, based on the manga by Katsuhiro Otomo, follows a boy in a motorcycle gang in a post-apocalyptic setting, who develops a strange form of telekinesis.

4. Kiki's Delivery Service
Of all of Hayao Miyazaki's movies, this is the one that deserves more attention than it's gotten. Kiki's Delivery Service follows a young witch-in-training as she struggles to find her place in the world and grow up in a foreign city.

3. His & Her Circumstances
Based on Masami Tsuda's manga Kare Kano, this anime series explores two model students' dark inner selves as they work to build a relationship and group of friends.

2. Princess Mononoke
Miyazaki's masterpiece. An epic tale of a warrior tainted by the mark of a demon, seeking to understand the demon's wrath and striving to protect the forest spirit from the greedy humans who lust for its power and resources.

1. Neon Genesis Evangelion
What is left to say about a masterpiece such as this? It's perfect. This series begins as a story about giant robots and the children who control them, but transcends its genre by its conclusion, foregoing all conventional storytelling and subverting everyone's expectations. Grafting religious symbolism to key elements of its story, this series ends up being about the characters and their relationship to one another and the world around them.

Alright, time for the manga review!

Hmmm....this is one you probably haven't heard of...

Naruto (Volume 1)
Masashi Kishimoto

The record-breaking juggernaut Naruto has been in the news again lately, just begging me for a reading. So, it's about time I look over the manga to see what all of the hubbub's about...

From the pages of Shonen Jump, leaps Uzumaki Naruto, prankster and general mischief-maker in the village of Konohagakure. One so troubled (and lonely) easily captures the hearts of his readers, demanding empathy from anyone who's ever felt like an outsider, or a general underdog. Naruto may be a laughing stock, and he may not be the best ninja yet, but he vows that one day he will be respected by his tormenting village as the best shinobi of his people, and consequently earn the title of Hokage. The fourth Lord Hokage saved the village a dozen years prior by finding a way to defeat the evil nine-tailed fox spirit, dying himself in the process. This legend is still fresh in the minds of the villagers and for reasons to be revealed in this, the first volume of Naruto, our protagonist's fate is tied to that mythic battle.

So why is this title so insanely popular? I'm not sure. It's a fun read, full of intricate, sprawling fight sequences and pranks, but also great characters who do their best to outdo one another. The art is pretty, but I've certainly seen better in other titles currently on the market: Death Note, Eden, Planetes... Naruto is unabashedly a boys' manga. Ninja, surprise attacks, shuriken, silly lovesick girls....it's all in there as the story progresses, amid the silly "groundhog technique" and page after page of doppelgangers. I personally like a little more substance with my action, so I can't really speak to the book's appeal. But then again, I'm not exactly the target demographic either... This manga was enjoyable, but nothing to get super-excited about. C

Manga Monday 7
Manga Monday 6
Manga Monday 5
Manga Monday 4
Manga Monday 3
Manga Monday 2
Manga Monday!

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