The Slow and the Furriest: ODDTAXI

The anime ODDTAXI begins with a subdued and moody opening that feels mysterious and haunting upon first viewing. As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that it’s the perfect encapsulation of the series: a mystery and drama whose complexity and maturity belies its furry aesthetic. But unlike other popular anthropomorphic titles in recent years (Beastars, Zootopia), ODDTAXI is less an allegory or thought exercise into a society of civilized animals, and more a noir tale that peers into the people’s relationships with modern-day vices.

When a girl is reported missing, a middle-aged walrus taxi driver named Odokawa Hiroshi is one of the last people seen with her. Brusk, awkward, and largely unremarkable, Odokawa has an unusually keen eye for human observation and his own sense of right and wrong—which reluctantly draws him into the seedy underbelly of Tokyo. 

While figuring out the truth behind the missing girl (as well as myriad other enigmas) is one of the main driving forces of the series, ODDTAXI is also a collection of character studies that spotlight the particular kinds of darkness that regular people face in the 21st century. While the cultural image of the noir genre is often rooted in an older era (think Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon), here we have characters who are obsessed with the idol industry, exploitative collectible mobile games, social media clout, and more. The characters who fall victim to these addictions feel current, yet rhyming with a history of similar dangers in past eras. 

What’s more, these vices all tie directly into the main plot, meaning that the keen observations seen in these situations also provide a narrative function. 

Odokawa also makes for an interesting protagonist precisely because he often seems so ill-suited for the role. Noir protagonists tend to be flawed characters, but Odokawa’s deficiencies aren’t those of a grittier and more masculine type that one might expect from the genre, making him potentially more relatable to contemporary viewers. The fact that he’s fairly eccentric himself means there are plenty of questions surrounding Odokawa, and having the protagonist himself be surrounded with unknowns provides an additional layer of fascination. Fortunately, ODDTAXI delivers here as well. 

ODDTAXI is not a straightforward story, with many different threads running and getting intertwined into a web of relationships and motives. However, rather than feeling wholly disconnected, the anime turns out to be an excellent mystery with many seemingly disparate moving parts slowly fitting into a larger puzzle. The outcome is a series that treads ground in a way that feels familiar yet unique, and makes for both a really solid mystery and an interesting psychological look at how we try to mentally survive in society.

Haachama vs. Brian Pillman: VTubers and Evolving Gimmicks

“What do the virtual youtuber Akai Haato and the late pro wrestler Brian Pillman have in common?”

As I’ve continued to fall down the VTuber rabbit hole, I constantly find similarities to pro wrestling. When VTubers stream, they get immediate feedback from their live chats. They’re not static performers, having to respond to and reciprocate with a chat that’s eager to make their opinions known. “That applies to all livestreamers!” you might be thinking, but the added virtual layer changes the streamer’s relationship with their audience. 

While stream viewers might seek authenticity, the VTubers themselves are not expected to be “real,” and there are no illusions about it. In my eyes, there’s a real resemblance to the concept of wrestler gimmicks—especially in how varied they can be, and how they can be embraced to such different degrees. Some VTubers are like the Undertaker, leaning fully into their outlandish characters. Others are like Kobashi Kenta, a more down-to-Earth approach meant to convey a more personal connection to the audience.

And over time, these gimmicks can undergo changes both great and small as the performers, both VTuber and wrestler, adjust to the audience reactions and refine their craft. One common theme in stories about wrestlers, especially in the old territory days, is the need to figure out what keeps the audience coming back to pay good money while avoiding overstaying your welcome. Similarly, it is fascinating to look back at how VTubers behaved in their introductory videos compared to how they present themselves in more recent material. Rarely is there a VTuber who manages to stay perfectly within the original boundaries set for themselves. 

That brings me back to the question I asked at the beginning, and the answer is this: Both Akai Haato and Brian Pillman began as more conventional performers who found themselves in difficult times, and ended up reinventing their personas into larger-than-life yet authentic-feeling identities that pushed the envelope of what is possible and accepted in their respective fields.

Brian Pillman was once most famously known as Flyin’ Brian Pillman—an astoundingly athletic wrestler who could dazzle audiences with his acrobatic moves. However, after a car crash, Pillman had to drastically alter his style. Instead of emphasizing his now-compromised high-flying moves, he decided to blur the boundaries between the real and the fictional as a “Loose Cannon,”  culminating in an infamous moment where he seemingly tries to shoot “Stone Cold” Steven Austin.

Hololive’s Akai Haato, in turn, first introduced herself to the world as a traditional tsundere character, and was even used as a model of how a conventional idol-esque virtual youtuber should behave. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the person behind Haato was stuck in Australia for months. Unable to stream the way she normally would have, her conventional tsundere self gave way to the more chaotic and creative “Haachama” persona. From talking about smelling her own feet to cooking a tarantula to split personalities and time-distortion, Haachama has developed an even wider fanbase. She’s currently on hiatus, but fans await her return. 

Given the commonalities between pro wrestling and virtual youtubers, an important question comes to mind: what if there was a virtual youtuber tournament of some kind? Plenty of them will compete with each other in video games, but what if there were promos and smacktalk and the like? What if the PekoMiko War was more than a song and a Minecraft video, and lines were drawn in the sand, with tickets sold for the event?

In conclusion, VTuber pay-per-views are the future.

Play Therapy: SSSS.Dynazenon

The first thing to know about SSSS.Dynazenon is that you don’t need to have watched any of the prequels to get into SSSS.Dynazenon. Sure, its name implies a connection to 2018’s SSSS.Gridman, which is itself a sequel of sorts to the 1993 live-action Gridman the Hyper Agent. Even so, SSSS.Dynazenon is an insightful anime that stands on its own merits. 

The story of SSSS.Dynazenon follows a teenage boy named Asanaka Yomogi. After encountering an eccentric guy named Gauma claiming to be a kaiju user, his city is attacked by actual kaiju. Gauma is able to call upon a giant robot named Dynazenon, and Yomogi (as well as a few others) end up becoming Gauma’s copilots. With a different part of Dynazenon in each of their hands in the form of toys, they battle a group known as the Kaiju Eugenicists, who have the ability to control kaiju by bending them to their will. 

One question to ask when looking at many tokusatsu and mecha series is how much the characters’ primary motivations tie into the larger overarching plot and setting. In Gundam, for example, the connection is usually extremely strong—protagonists like Amuro Ray are thrust into the middle of long and painful wars whose physical and mental scars are the primary driving force of these narratives. Evangelion takes a different approach, forefronting the existing psychologies of its characters and using its science fictional setting as a means to explore their traumas. With respect to that dynamic, SSSS.Dynazenon falls a little more towards the Eva side, but goes its own direction.

SSSS.Dynazenon has a grounded feel that highlights both its characters’ personal histories and how their current circumstances as impromptu heroes impacts their views.  As Yomogi and the others battle, they’re forced to confront their own unique fears and values. Yomogi is trying to cope with his parents’ divorce and his mom’s new boyfriend. Minami Yume, one of Yomogi’s classmates, is emotionally distant ever since the mysterious death of her sister. Yamanaka Koyomi is a NEET in his 30s who constantly regrets not making certain decisions in his life (particularly a romantic one) that could have brought him down a different path. Koyomi’s younger cousin, Asukagawa Chise, refuses to attend school. Gauma searches for his past, explaining to the others that he’s actually thousands of years old.

While it can seem as if the fantastical elements are just a flimsy backdrop to the human drama at play, that’s not the case. Rather, one of the key strengths of SSSS.Dynazenon is the way that feeling both the added responsibility and thrill of fighting kaiju reshapes or reinforces their priorities and core beliefs. The fact that they carry around their respective vehicles like toys before growing them to giant size also makes me feel that there’s a link between the childish notion of “playing with toys” as a way to engage with the world and connect with others. In that respect, the antagonists of SSSS.Dynazenon, the Kaiju Eugenicists, seem to also have their own hang-ups but engage with them in less healthy ways.

SSSS.Dynazenon is also different enough from its predecessors that those who didn’t enjoy Gridman the Hyper Agent or SSSS.Gridman might resonate with this series. In particular, its characters are portrayed in a more subdued manner than SSSS.Gridman, where the central female characters, Rikka and Akane, cast a long shadow and often stole the spotlight through their sensual portrayals and powerful yuri energy.

Though I say that knowing the prequels is unnecessary to gain something from SSSS.Dynazenon, that doesn’t mean it’s pointless to have been a fan. Using my personal experience as an example, I came to the series cognizant of the fact that “Dyna” and “Zenon” are references to support robots from the original Gridman due to having watched Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (the Power Rangers-esque adaptation of Gridman the Hyper Agent), and later found myself excited over some mid-series character arrivals that call back to SSSS.Gridman. The key is that while the series does reward those with prior knowledge, it doesn’t punish those who are new and unfamiliar. 

SSSS.Dynazenon hints at ties to the prior series in everything from the title of the show to the character Gauma himself. However, unlike with SSSS.Gridman, the mystery of what exactly is going on is less of a core element and more an added bonus for existing fans of either one or both previous series. The core story—one of friendship and growth—remains.

Super Robot Wars 30 Thoughts, or “I MUST GET THIS GAME”

Super Robot Wars 30, the latest full game in the famed crossover video game franchise, has revealed its full lineup.

  • Super Electromagnetic Robot Combattler V
  • Mobile Suit Gundam (mecha only)
  • Mobile Suit Z Gundam
  • Z-MSV (mecha only)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
  • M-MSV (mecha only)
  • Mobile Suit V Gundam
  • Mobile Suit Gundam NT
  • Heavy Metal L-Gaim
  • The Brave Police J-Decker (New)
  • The King of Braves Gaogaigar Final (mecha only)
  • The King of Kings: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman (New)
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion III – Glorification (New) (mecha only)
  • Shin Getter Robo Armageddon
  • Mazinger Z: Infinity
  • Mazinkaiser Infinitism (New) (mecha only)
  • Magic Knight Rayearth
  • Gun x Sword
  • Majestic Prince
  • Knight’s & Magic (New)
  • SSSS.GRIDMAN (New)

There are some welcome surprises among the returning veterans such as L-Gaim, but the real shockers are in the newest series.

Hell and Heaven!!!

The entry that sent a bolt of lightning through me is Hakai-oh: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman, which is the novel-only sequel to Gaogaigar Final that continues and concludes the story that began all the way back in 1997. I’ve been following the story, even having reviewed the first and second novels, but I wonder if fans might be better off not reading the spoilers in them so that they can experience this amazing sequel through the lens of SRW first. This’ll be the first time that Gaogaigo and its allies will be animated, and already it looks incredible. I await the SRW rendition of Gaogaigo’s Hell and Heaven with great anticipation, I hope we get to see and use a certain massive Betterman, and I’m guessing we’ll get the new opening and ending (that currently exist only in audio form) as BGM.

I also want to compliment the English localization team because I think “Hakai-oh” is such a difficult term to translate. Literally, it means “World-Conquering King,” and I think King of Kings captures that feeling nice and succinctly.

Burning Heart to Heart

Speaking of Braves, I honestly didn’t think J-Decker would ever make it in. Out of the entire franchise, I think J-Decker is one of the genuinely best shows, and I’m very happy to see Deckard, Shadowmaru, and the boys get their due. My dream is that there are some combination attacks involving Shadowmaru and Volfogg, but I’ll be content even without that. And If you want to know more of my thoughts on J-Decker as an anime, I appeared on an old podcast review.

Toku Time

Arguably the biggest appearance from out of left field is SSSS.Gridman. While it’ll fit nicely within SRW, the fact that it has its origins as an anime sequel to a tokusatsu series means there are just a lot of odd quirks to consider. In particular, Gridman is basically an Ultraman, and the closest we’ve had to mecha in SRW that move similar to Gridman are the EVAs from Evangelion—a show that is itself inspired by Ultraman. Given how this series ends, I also have to wonder how it’ll fit into the Super Robot Wars 30’s story, but what always comes first is making things look awesome.

X-TREME RADICAL Mazinkaiser 

As far as I can tell, Mazinkaiser Infinitism appears to have its origins as just an action figure of Mazinkaiser with a Mazinger Z: Infinity aesthetic. What’s funny about this version of Kaiser is that while the Mazinger Z in the Infinity film is a nice retro-modern update to a timeless design, even this Infinitism version of Mazinkaiser feels like it’s perpetually stuck in the 1990s—a Rob Liefeldian super robot that screams hypermasculinity. That was the case for its debut appearance (in a Super Robot Wars game!), the Mazinkaiser OVAs, Mazinkaiser SKL, and now this.

…And the Rest

I haven’t seen the recent Code Geass film, but I have fond memories of the near–train wreck that was Code Geass R2. I don’t know if there’s much for me to say here. As for Knight’s & Magic, I don’t know anything about it other than that it’s a mecha-themed isekai light novel. While it’s not the first SRW series with an isekai light novel origin (that honor goes to Aura Battler Dunbine), it’s still the first to be from a modern, post–Sword Art Online light novel. For that reason, I’m rather curious as to how it’ll be, and I might even be tempted to watch the anime.

See You in October

You damn well better believe I’m reviewing this game. 

Oh, What Could Have Been: Maku Musubi Final Review

Maku Musubi by Hotani Shin is a manga that hooked me instantly. Its story—that of a high school girl who abandoned her dreams of becoming a comic artist but finds new life creating scenarios for theater—resonated with me because of its exploration of its protagonist’s creative process, and it made me want to read more. 

The series ended up being five volumes total, and my takeaway is that the series is great fun from start to finish, but feels like it was cut short and prevented from reaching its true potential.

In Maku Musubi, heroine Tsuchikure “Musubi” Sakura and her clubmates are working towards competing in competitions against other schools. They even attend a joint-school event where different drama clubs gather for what is essentially a practice run with professional critique. This little arc is great: it emphasizes the eccentric yet compelling nature of Sakura’s scripts, and also introduces an extremely harsh judge whose cold-blooded reviews of every performance provide a “villain” of sorts that challenges everyone to rise to the occasion. The judge clearly recognizes Sakura’s potential, her inability to meet his high standards makes her screenplay a “disappointment” in his eyes. But then they never truly get to any competitions, and so we never see them get to the first true step of their main goal. 

The manga has plenty going for it despite this lack of resolution, and its main focus in the final chapters on the club president’s unpleasant past with the former members who left prior to the first chapter brings out all of the things that make Maku Musubi interesting to read: character introspection, depictions of club-life camaraderie, and a flair for the dramatic (literally). Still, it feels like Musubi’s story could have gone so much further. Her creative struggle could have grown into something even more impactful if given the chance.

Manga isn’t an easy area to succeed in. I’m reminded of another title I reviewed years ago called Haru Polish which, like Maku Musubi, clearly stops earlier than was intended. But when  you look at manga about acting, it’s hard to end things at the right time. Glass Mask is notoriously long—around five decades old with no finish in sight. Now Playing finishes at four volumes when it felt like it had more left in the tank. Act-Age was doing great until the author’s sex crimes forced that series to be canceled. I don’t know if the theatre genre in manga is cursed or what.

I hope Hotani Shin ends up doing another manga, and that they’re able to make as big and beautiful a series as they hope. In the meantime, Maku Musubi was a great ride.

Back Arrow Never Asks for Too Much

In today’s media landscape, it can feel like everything is about having an obsessive audience. Mobile games incentivize you to try to get every ultra rare and keep following a neverending story. Superhero movies, like their comic counterparts, want you to watch every single sequel and spin-off leading to the next mega film. Manga and anime want you to look into every character’s backstory and all the convoluted history that connects them together. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but they can be exhausting.

Under these circumstances, the anime Back Arrow is like a breath of fresh air because it doesn’t expect your total time and attention. Every episode, I would be entertained and intrigued; I might even have speculated what would happen next. But in a time when my mental space is being bombarded by world-changing events on the regular on top of all the aforementioned fan-forward storytelling, I like having an anime that’s just trying to be a sandwich instead of a 10-course meal.

The premise: Lingalind is a world of constant strife, with countries big and small vying for supremacy. Surrounded by a divine Wall that cannot be crossed, mysterious drop pods called rakuho fall from the sky and provide mysterious armbands known as Bind Warpers. These devices allow people to manifest their convictions and form giant robots called Briheights, and are the primary weapon of war. One day, a group from the tiny village of Edger finds a rather unusual rakuho containing a man with no memory—other than the seemingly insane notion that he comes from beyond the Wall. This man, who comes to take the name Back Arrow, is not only able to manifest a Briheight without having any conviction of his own, but is also able to defeat other Briheights without killing them, which was thought to be impossible. 

Back Arrow is like a cross between Gun x Sword, Star Driver, and Code Geass (even sharing the same director in this last case), only a whole lot less subtle. And given what those three series are like, this means watching Back Arrow is like getting hit over the head by two ham fists. The two major world powers are the Republic of Rekka, a hyper-exaggerated Dynastic China with Three Kingdoms elements, and the Supremacy of Lutoh, essentially pre-Revolution France with a seedy underbelly. Back Arrow and the residents of Edger Village all look like poorly dressed cowboys. But somehow, the anime ends up being really entertaining with endearing characters, lots of twists and turns, and some pretty solid action scenes—all without being bogged down or burdened with an excess of unrealistic ambition.

That’s not to say Back Arrow phones it in. The series’ narrative developments aren’t that surprising, but it’s never boring. In many ways, Back Arrow reminds me of really good pro wrestling. It’s ridiculous if you step back, but it’s easy to suspend disbelief thanks to the charisma of its presentation. Moreover, predictability isn’t a four-letter word, and in fact can be the foundation of some of the best stories because they have satisfying payoffs. 

Superhero Fans Are from Mars, Venus, Krypton, and Everywhere Else

It’s the 4th of July, so here I am to discuss my ever-changing relationship with American superhero comics fandom.

I’ve been an avid comics reader since childhood, and having interacted with many fellow fans over the years, there’s one truth I’m often reminded of: there’s no one type of fan. It’s not just that Fan A might like Spider-Man and Fan B might be into Jimmy Corrigan, either. How people approach the very act of experiencing comics can be so fundamentally different that calling them both “comics fans” ends up being a gross simplification, and failing to understand that can stifle one’s own understanding of the power of comics.

I recall a conversation with someone who’s a big fan of the Batman franchise. The topic of spoilers came up, and they basically replied, “Oh, I don’t care about that”—not so much because knowing in advance what happens didn’t bother them, but because the actual story isn’t the biggest priority for them and their fandom experience. Rather, it’s the characters themselves (Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, etc.) and the values and traits they embody in and of themselves. It’s what allows these characters to be placed into alternate-universe fanfics. It’s also what allows them to be protected, in the eyes of such fans, from bad writers and plotlines. If Batman is written to be a racist, they can remember the perfect version of him instead. Japanese manga scholar Ito Go calls this kyara: the capacity for a character to be removed from their context and still exude a sense of identity, and superheroes certainly are iconic.

I’ve noticed more and more fans like this, and I believe their passion is real and wonderful. At the same time, this is not the type of fan I grew up with, and their interactions with both one another and with their comics are not the kind I cut my teeth on. Instead, I’ve generally been more accustomed to textual analyses, plot speculation, and the classic “who would win in a fight?” I caught up with an old friend at New York Comic Con 2019 two years ago, and their explanation of the ambitious nature of Marvel’s House of X and Powers of X stood in stark relief from the Batman fan’s way.

In his book Comics and Narration, French comics scholar Thierry Groensteen writes about a generation gap he feels with younger comics fans:

“For readers of my age…comics has always meant being exposed to a certain type of fiction, divided into genres and series, and being hooked on adventure stories. It went without saying for us that comics…was a “narrative type within the narrative genre.” Of course, we have to acknowledge that comics…arouses among certain groups of younger readers different expectations…. [O]ne needs only to consider the phenomenon of “cosplay”…to realize that these young people who dress up as their favorite hero have little interest in the story—what they are seeking…is the hero or heroine with whom they identify. The emphasis is on the characters themselves, their costumes, their attributes, possibly the values that they incarnate, but not at all the context in which they appear or the adventures that they have had. The phenomenon of identification is difficult for readers of my generation to understand…[W]hat mattered to us was how they gained hero status through their actions and how they swept us up in the excitement of their adventures.”

Unlike Groensteen, I feel I can relate to both his perspective and the “cosplayers” he finds inherently difficult to connect with. Still, I myself have noticed that when I talk with people from different groups about comics, the gears in my head turn in ways to accommodate the type of fan I’m talking to. Understanding their priorities also means understanding the kinds of questions that will bear fruitful responses. I don’t mean that I am constantly making intensely conscious decisions as to what to say or ask, but that talking with the Batman fan and the HoXPoX fan almost requires a different frame of mind.

While we all have our own ways and preferences, I think failing (or refusing) to acknowledge these differences creates tension among comics fans. People can even like the same comic but have very different ways of deriving their enjoyment. Trying to reconcile them (in the sense of trying to judge then with the same parameters) may be a fool’s errand. Recognizing that perspectives can be incongruous but appreciating them all the same lends strength to comics fandom as a whole, and all its possibilities.

Ju-shin Ly-ger: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for July 2021

Summer 2021 anime is just beginning, and there are plenty of shows I’m looking forward to. Chief among them is Getter Robo Arc, bringing the classic giant robot franchise into the 2020s. I definitely plan on reviewing it once it’s done, but I’m curious to see how it does with a modern-day anime audience.

Speaking of robots, Bandai just announced the GX-100 Soul of Chogokin: Gaiking and Daikumaryu. Coming in at 82,500 yen and measuring about 750mm, it is going to be an impressive hunk of diecast metal. I’m not a super big fan of Gaiking, but I’m looking forward to all the toy reviews.

Also, check out this GX-100 celebration stream featuring Sasaki Isao, singer of Yamato, Gaiking, Getter Robo, and many other classic themes.

Before getting into the posts from the past month, I’d like to thank the following Patreon sponsors:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from June:

20th Century Boys: Pandemics, Conspiracies, and Cults of Personality

How the Urasawa Naoki manga is eerily more relevant than ever before.

BNA: Brand New Animal, Assimilationism, and the Myth of the Model Minority

This series from 2020 continues the trend of socially conscious furry anime.

Little Lady, Big Meals: Kozuma no Kobito no Kenshin Recipe

One of my favorite manga authors, the creator of Mogusa-san, has a new series!

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 41 brings the Culture Festival tournament arc to a powerful finish, as well as some surprising insight into the Kimura family.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter account through June featured a lot of insight into his older work.

Apartment 507

Pui Pui Molcar!

Closing

I mentioned last month that I am fully vaccinated, and it’s given me a new sense of security and freedom I didn’t have before. However, now we have a new COVID-19 variant, the Delta variant, wreaking devastation around the world. It’s also getting a foothold in the US, and I find myself nervous that I’m getting a little too complacent and worrying about trying to neitheo over- or undercompensate for the current situation. Having to balance the psychological happiness that comes from doing things again with some sense of normality with awareness that we are in no way close to getting out of this pandemic reminds me of all the conscious decisions I’ve had to make these past 18 months, and the toll it can take.

That being said, I plan on being at Otakon next month. I’ll be fully masked, and playing it as carefully as I can short of canceling. I hope it’s the right choice.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights June 2021

Kio Shimoku June 2021

These are tweets from manga author Kio Shimoku from June 2021 that I found notable and informative. They include a number of early sketches from Genshiken, and his dreams of having a vacation home just for building model kits.

Genshiken and Related Drawings

Though he can’t quite remember, Kio presumes this is Ogiue practice from Genshiken. He thinks he made her too loli in these drawings.

Original Sue design from Genshiken. Kio thinks she comes across differently here.

Early Madarame. Kio thinks he captured the spirit of the character well. Character descriptions on the drawing include: close-cropped hair, thin, lolicon, high-energy, glasses, and likes fighting games. Originally, he was supposed to be the best at fighting games among the group, and his preferred main was Nakoruru from Samurai Shodown. The notes also describe him as being essentially the leader of the club despite being a second-year, and also that he likes to tease others.

(What I find interesting is that the fighting game skills went to Kohsaka, and that the character gained a lot more vulnerabilities in the actual manga. Those flaws are part of why people like Madarame, and here we see sort of what could have been.)

Ogiue autograph boards, the purpose for which Kio doesn’t remember.

By the way, if anyone has the actual final versions of these, I would like to make a deal.

Sketches of anime directors Ikehata Takahashi and Mizushima Tsutomu. Both worked on Genshiken anime.

A rough manuscript of a manga Kio was planning before Genshiken. It would have been an action series featuring magical sage powers (senjutsu).

The wife’s ex from Spotted Flower, crossdressing as part of a prank on the editor character.

Giant Robots and Model Kits

A custom design for a Zeong. Kio feels like he still doesn’t have what it takes to make this work.

A 20-year-old photo Kio took of a model kit he built. The robot is the L.E.D. Mirage from Five Star Stories, and the photo was taken with a non-digital camera. Airbrushing was probably involved.

Kio saw Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash. Even though the Universal Century timeline has been around for a long time, the film is full of imagery he’s never seen before: what first class looks like for civilian space travel, a military mess hall that’s like a food court, the terror of having to move around the legs of mobile suits in combat. He was glued to his seat while watching..

A 1/144 model kit of the Waff from Gundam: The Origin. It’s the only airbrushed Gundam model Kio has, and he likes how it’s small but still looks chubby. 

Kio’s first tank model kit: the Panzer IV Ausf.D from Girls und Panzer. Kio mentions not really knowing how to do weathering, and that he used the darkest paint from the Waff on this kit as well. He also likes how sharp the details are.

The first thing that Kio thinks of when he sees the term “plastic model training camp” is Plamo Kyoushirou, the proto–Gundam Build Fighters manga. He recalls wanting to be like the characters taking the kit boxes out and saying, “I’m gonna make the Dougram!” and “I’ve got the Real-Type Zaku!” 

After he became an adult, he started collecting them to his heart’s content. It’s why he wants an extra vacation home, so he can have room for all the kits—though actually, he has so many he can’t add any more. But model kits keep on evolving, and he wants to keep up.

Kio continues to describe his dream of a lodging just for model kits that would have all the equipment and features needed to build kits, and stacks of manga to read. Then, he and the others there would go out at night for drinks.

After someone mentions that the possibility is closer than he might think, the conversation mentions a Wonder Festival dealer named “Backyennew.” Kio responds that he knows this garage kit maker.

Responses to Other Works

Kio recalls this crossover drawing between different Shounen Sunday characters. After trying to remember what happens on the next page, a follower answers that it was a kind of fourth-wall breaking moment where they mention that the other manga authors said to do this.

Kio watched the anime film Pompo: The Cinéphile, and thinks it’s a really interesting movie. He talks about how important the editing process is, and recalls that back when he worked on Gonensei [The Fifth-Year], he tried to cram every idea in. For that reason, the progress the character Gene makes as a first-time director is impressive.

By the time of Genshiken, Kio knew how to edit down better, though he actually just took the cut material and turned them into extras in the collected volumes.

The director of Pompo, Hirao Takayuki, is happy that Kio “of Genshiken fame” tweeted about the film. Hirao says he read Gonensei, and that the pain from that manga is still with him today. Kio gives him a big thank-you, mentions how young and inexperienced he was at the time of Gonensei, and compliments Hirao for the highly technical edits. Kio also says the movie being shorter is a good thing, and that he still want so get the second half of the limited-edition extra booklets.

…And here he is with both extras.

Kio says that even though he only read a little bit, Uncle from Another World is a manga that made him think that he’d like to see it as an anime.

In order to get all the limited-edition goods, Kio went to see Shin Evangelion four times. The fourth time around, he felt he could just sit back and enjoy the movie.

Hashikko Ensemble

Kio points out that this song, “Ame” (Rain) from “Mizu no Inochi” (The Life of Water) is mentioned in Volume 3 of Hashikko Ensemble.

Kio went to see this mini concert by the Oedo Coraliars. He was blown away by the harmonizing.

Until next time!

Finishing Strong: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 41

Akira singing as the audience (including his mom) stares on while impressed

The end of the current arc paves the way for the next!

Summary

As the Chorus Appreciation Society’s finals’ performance continues, the boys pour everything they have into their singing, Kozue has actually begun conducting the audience more than the singers on stage. With a strong finish, the Chorus Appreciation Society is declared the winner of the Culture Festival’s singing competition.

Soon after, Jin and the other members confront his mom, Reika. After a brief pause, Reika goes up to the group…only to focus on Akira, rather than her son. She remarks that Akira has talent, and that he should contact her because she knows a good music teacher for him. Jin is stunned into silence.

Later, as Reika and Yumerun are leaving by car, Yumerun comments that she thinks Jin has actually improved a lot. She asks why Reika thinks Jin has no talent, to which Reika responds that she never said any such thing. Rather, what she has meant to say is, why would someone with his talent join a chorus or choir, where people go to hide their lack of ability? When asked why she’s never said this outright, Reika answers that calling your own kid talented is embarrassing.

“Relative” Talent

Reika: “But I’ve never once said Jin has no talent.”

The way Jin’s mom really feels about him is something of a revelation, and like the characters themselves, I completely misinterpreted the situation. But I had also previously wondered about whether Jin truly is “untalented” or if he’s just holding himself to a ridiculously high benchmark in Reika, and I believe we have our answer here. Simply because Jin has to study and learn what comes intuitively to his mom, he perceives himself as needing to make up for some deficiency. 

On some level, Jin might be what you call a Larry Hemsworth—an exceptional individual who assumes they’re unexceptional because he constantly compares himself to others close to him who arguably shine even more. But also like Larry, who believes his being a pediatric surgeon pales in comparison to his three brothers’ acting skills, the question of who’s more talented between Jin and Reika is subjective. Jin’s ability to break music down, analyze it scientifically, and put it into practice is amazing in its own right, but he seems to be unable to see it from that perspective.

It remains to be seen whether Reika’s glowing words about Akira create a rift between him and Jin, but I doubt that it’s going to result in any sort of high drama. Perhaps like his mom, though, Jin might be surprisingly indirect in specific situations—as in her conversation with Yumerun in the car.

Yumerun and Jin

The audience getting into the song, and Yumerun seemingly being captivated by Jin’s singing

The chapter has a moment where Yumerun is looking at Jin perform, and she seems to be quite taken by him. They’re childhood friends, and she seems to have some sort of unusual fondness for the guy, but given that everyone is blushing all the time in Hashikko Ensemble, it can be kind of hard to tell what’s romance and what’s not. However, given their history, I feel like something may develop…or at least turn into some Boa Hancock and Monkey D. Luffy situation like in One Piece: a comedically one-sided love where the lack of reciprocation is more due to empty-headedness than incompatibility.

To the Next Story

The image of Akira wowing the audience with his powerful bass feels like a turning point of some kind. His classmates already knew he had a deep voice, and he’s sung in public on multiple occasions at this point, but I predict that he’s gonna gain a whole new reputation after this.

The likely thing is that we’re going to see enough new members join them for the Chorus Appreciation Society to gain proper Chorus Club status, and I expect there to be familiar and unfamiliar faces alike. In my view, Mai is the most likely one, but I think there are probably going to be some real curveballs in there. Might there be any unnamed audience members from this even who will end up as recurring characters?

Songs

“The Wings of Mind” continues and concludes from the previous chapter.

Final Thoughts

Great artwork in this chapter. I continue to enjoy the fact that the portrayals of singing feel intense but don’t go deep into the realm of exaggeration. Not that I mind it in general, but I think it works well for the relatively subdued quality of Hashikko Ensemble.

Also, I don’t think I recall this event being called the “Hashi High Acapella King/Anything-Goes Decisive-Battle Tournament,” but maybe I just glossed over it. In any case, I give props to Kio Shimoku’s first-ever tournament arc.