One Step Off: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for April 2018

It’s time once again to look back on a month of blogging, and to give my gratitude to my supporters on Patreon and from Ko-fi. Thanks to the following!

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

I have to apologize this month, as I was supposed to have written and posted my re-read review of Genshiken volume 8 in March. Unfortunately, I came down with a bad cold towards the second half of the month, and rather than try to force it out I decided to delay it to this month. It’s actually mostly finished and requires largely final touches. Because of this, the final re-read for Volume 9 will be delayed to June.

You might have noticed that I avoided posting this past Sunday. As some might surmise, it was to avoid the chaos that is April Fool’s. I didn’t have any sort of chicanery at the ready, so I didn’t want anything I published to seem disingenuous. I do kind of miss making April Fool’s gags, though, so maybe next year.

On another related note, I’m currently trying to figure out if I should switch to a lighter posting schedule, given my real-life work schedule and my relative dissatisfaction with the quality of my writing as of late. I’ve always valued my consistency and my willingness to (more often than not) just let pieces go rather than sit on them forever. However, recently, I’ve felt that many of my blog posts don’t have the amount of spark, inspiration, and insight that I prefer. Fewer posts per week (i.e. one or two instead of two or three) makes sense on the surface, but I’m worried that having so much wiggle room could make me slack off.

The other concern is my Patreon. I want to make sure there’s enough content to keep justifying it, and I have to wonder if one to two weekly posts is actually enough. If you have any thoughts on either of these matters, feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear it.

It’s not really doom or gloom; it’s a desire to not stagnate. In any case, here are my favorite posts from March:

 

Kio Shimoku and Genshiken Trivia Courtesy of “Mou, Shimasen Kara”

Following Chapter 1 of Hashikko Ensemble was a special interview with the man Kio himself. There’s a lot to learn from it!

A Look at Precure Popularity

Thoughts and musings on the varying popularity of Precure and its characters throughout the years. Spoilers: Cure Marine is amazing, Heartcatch Precure! is the best. No, really.

Defying Assumptions. Fujoshi-style: Kiss Him, Not Me

My final review of a really good fujoshi-themed manga.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 2 of Kio Shimoku’s new music manga. It’s filled with potential.

Patreon-Sponsored

Aikatsu! and Idol Franchise “Experiences”

Aikatsu! feels rather unique to me, and I try to explore why.

Also, while I didn’t quite consider them my favorite posts for the month, I did review quite a bit from the New York International Children’s Film Festival. Check the NYICFF tag out! I might get around to more of them this month!

Closing

Can Ogiue Maniax make the impact I desire? What shows of the Spring 2018 anime season will get reviewed on the blog? Find out…some time!

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The Fujoshi Files 177: Arai Tamako

Name: Arai, Tamako (新井珠子)
Alias: Tama-chan (珠ちゃん)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Barakamon

Information:
A middle school student and resident of Gotou Island near Kyuushuu, Arai Tamako is an aspiring manga artist who wishes to be published in a shounen magazine. However, unlike the typical manga for a shounen publication, Tamako combines an eccentric art style and bizarrely violent content that one might see in a more avant-garde magazine. She is best friends with Yamamura Miwa, with whom she occasionally bickers but also teams up with to tease the weak, be they younger or older. Tamako also has a younger brother, Aki, who is more level-headed.

Tamako discovered BL by accident at a younger age, and though she claims that side to be a small part of her general interest in manga, she is afraid of the other residents of Gotou Island finding out the truth. On top of that, the arrival of master calligrapher Handa Seishuu to the island has sparked her fujoshi imagination, especially when it comes to the (imaginary) relationship between him and high schooler Kido Hiroshi.

Fujoshi Level:
Though Tamako originally struggled to suppress her fujocity, over time she has increasingly let it slip through. She reaches the point where she is on some level trying to assert her fantasy in reality by suggesting somewhat openly to Seishuu and Hiroshi that something should happen.

Ensemblers Assemble: Hashikko Ensemble Chapter 2

It’s the second chapter (and the first regular-sized chapter) of Shimoku’s new manga!

Summary

Kimura Jin wants members for his ensemble club, and he’s asking the quiet yet unusually deep-voiced Fujiyoshi Akira to join. Akira’s reluctant, but Jin has a proposition: if he can help Akira speak more loudly, Akira will join the club. Akira tentatively agrees.

But while Jin calls it an ensemble “club,” it’s more of an “appreciation society” at the moment—the distinction being that a group only gets club status if it has five or more members and an advisor. Jin’s first choice for advisor, Takano-sensei, refuses because she’s more of a violin specialist than a vocal one.

Jin’s also not the only one trying to get a club off the ground, as a friendly (?) rival in Hachida Shinji, who has dreams of forming a “mountain castle club.” Shinji is skeptical of Akira’s chances of speaking at a normal level, to which Jin replies that Akira’s body will understand.

As the three continue to talk/argue, they run into the Class 5 teacher, Kitano-sensei, who’s lecturing a blond delinquent-looking student named Orihara. Unbeknown to Kitano, Orihara is actually wearing noise-canceling earphones. Jin pulls out of Orihara’s ears to have a listen, prompting Orihara to start swinging at Jin, which then causes Akira to instinctively yell out. His voice is so deep and resonates so much that it astounds everyone. Jin’s first thought: Akira has “singer’s formant,” i.e. the ability to sing both loudly and clearly, which usually only comes with musical training.

Story in Motion

So now we’ve established the initial goal, and it’s the classic “getting enough club members” story—a tried and true trope that I don’t mind one bit.

If things go as typically expected, Orihara is on track to becoming a member. I have to wonder what his for might be, both character-wise and voice-wiser. Hachida Shinji is a potential member as well. Maybe they’ll pull the “combined club” trick, a la Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai with its “eastern magic and napping society.”

Shinji

As an aside, the idea of a club dedicated to studying mountain castles is tremendous, and I hope Shinji gets his wish.

I also think Kitano-sensei will be their advisor, but that might just be wishful thinking. Her brief appearance has already made me a fan. She’s adorable!

Another character I think is going to make a splash is a female classmate named Hakamada. In this chapter, Jin asks her what music she’s listening to, and something about the way she’s framed says to me that she’ll be significant somehow.

Jin is a Character

The way that Akira ends up yelling out plays perfectly into Jin’s notion that he’ll understand what to do “with his body”—as in almost by instinct. But is Jin actually the calculating type? He sure doesn’t seem that way. And yet, he’s also the one who offered Akira exactly what he wants.

Jin might look like a typical anime otaku, but he really is a music otaku through and through. He carries around a device to measure the number of Hertz in people’s voices and appears to have both a technical and intrinsic understanding of singing. What’s more, he hears an anime song and thinks “Ghibli? Disney? Eva?” as opposed to something more hardcore.

Jin’s vocal range really is absurd. It was established in the first chapter, but here he basically shows that he can cover most of the guy parts (as well as some girl parts) and only really needs Jin for the deepest registers.

By the way, Akira is actually a bass, not a baritone! I madea mistake in my description last review. Chalk that up to me having no real music knowledge.

Singer’s Formant

Speaking of being a total newbie when it comes to music, I’m still not entirely sure I understand Singer’s Formant. As far as I can tell, certain sounds don’t carry as well, so singers train to be able to project loudly and clearly over even orchestras in large spaces. Correct me if I’m wrong!

I also found this video, which might help explain things better.

Songs

If you’re wondering what that “anime” song is that Jin is asking about at the beginning, it’s. “Trancing Pulse” by Triad Primus from The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls.

Final Thoughts

Actually, a lot of teachers are introduced quickly in this episode and they all seem full of personality. I’m looking forward to seeing which ones become more prominent as the manga progresses.

Until next time!

Like this post? Feel free to check out my Patreon, or leave a tip at my Ko-fi.

Movie Madness: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for March 2018

Is it possible to see too many movies in a single month? It looks like I’ll be testing that out. Not only is it the start of the 2018 New York International Children’s Film Festival, but we’ve got the recently released Black Panther along with Pacific Rim: Uprising, Isle of Dogs, and A Wrinkle in Time. I’m a bit concerned about the sheer quantity overwhelming my ability to engage with each movie, but we’ll see how it pans out.

As a general rule, disengage before you start to feel yourself burning out. This applies to not just anime or entertainment, but even work. Managing your health mentally, emotionally, and physically to the best of your abilities!

In other news, I’ve started a Ko-fi page for Ogiue Maniax. It’s basically an online tip jar, ideal for those who want to support Ogiue Maniax now and then, but either won’t or can’t commit to a Patreon sponsorship.

So from now on, my monthly list of supporters will include both those from Patreon and from Ko-fi.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

MagiGold

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

My favorite posts from February:

“I Go High, You Go Low”: Hashikko Ensemble

Kio Shimoku’s new manga! Expect to see this every month for the foreseeable future.

Join the Bakery: Kira Kira Precure a la Mode

Another Precure series concludes. How does this one stack up to its predecessors?

The Legacy of a Knight. Mazinger Z: Infinity

The 2018 sequel/revival of history’s most important super robot. A must-see for giant robot fans.

 

Patreon-Sponsored

The Unreality of Virtual Youtubers

Thoughts on the success spawned by Kizuna A.I. and those who followed her.

Closing

Watch A Place Further than the Universe. It’s not just “girls doing something,” it’s “girls getting something done.”

Defying Assumptions, Fujoshi-style: Kiss Him, Not Me

Kiss Him, Not Me (aka Watashi ga Motete Dousunda in Japanese), a manga about an overweight fujoshi who suddenly finds herself with a harem of handsome classmates after losing weight, recently concluded in Japan. For those who might have been alarmed by the seeming shallowness of the initial premise, I believe this series to be worth a second look. Instead of a series centered on fat-shaming and mocking female anime fans, Kiss Him, Not Me is thoughtful, intelligent, and emphasizes the importance of self-image, all while remaining delightfully humorous.

I can definitely see why readers might have been worried at first, because I was as well. It’s true that most of protagonist Serinuma Kae’s suitors initially are drawn to her due to her dramatic “makeover”—the result of her favorite character’s death causing her to not eat. The apparent shallowness and lack of concern over how the series might interact with perception of eating disorders made me wary, but as the series went on, I found that it addressed my criticisms almost without fail.

While many of her suitors are taken in by her dynamite body, one in particular is an exception. Most of them initially cannot recognize Kae post-weight loss, but it’s her senior in the history club, Mutsumi, who immediately knows who she is—as if Mutsumi had been viewing her as a human being all along. Eventually, all the other guys understand that it’s her personality that makes Kae beautiful, but Mutsumi’s presence is the first sign that body positivity is an underlying message in the manga.

Throughout the series, Kae’s weight yo-yos for humorous effect, showing that it’s just as easy for her to regain all her weight as it is for her to slim down. This might make it seem like Kiss Him, Not Me is either dealing in weight gain/weight loss fetishism, or emphasizes a certain body type as being “authentic,” but there’s even a plot point dealing with that subject. When a new character claims the old, chubby version is the “real Kae,” it’s an opportunity for the manga to tell a story about the perils of tying identity to appearance.

In general, Kiss Him, Not Me shows that it puts more consideration into its themes than one might expect at first glance. I don’t intend to spoil the ending, but I will say that the series stays strong even as it concludes. The finale feels a bit rushed (as if the series needed to wrap up sooner or later), but it’s not nearly enough of a blemish to ruin all of the positives and positivity this manga offers.

Like what you read? Check out my Patreon and Ko-fi!

Kio Shimoku and Genshiken Trivia, Courtesy of “Mou, Shimasen Kara”

Over the past year, the manga magazine Monthly Afternoon has featured interviews in comic form with its own serialized manga authors through the series Mou, Shimasen kara. Afternoon Gekiryuu-hen by Nishimoto Hideo. This past month’s issue puts the spotlight on Genshiken and now Hashikko Ensemble creator, Kio Shimoku, so I’ve taken the liberty of summarizing all of the Kio factoids in it.

-For the first time ever, Kio actually reveals his “face” (albeit in manga form). He’s known for being a private person, but he decided show himself through this manga. He reasons, “I’m over 40 now, so what does it matter if I show my face or not?”

-Kio used to work analog, but has been an all-digital artist ever since Jigopuri. He does everything, from thumbnails to color, all on his Wacom. He doesn’t customize his pen or brush settings much.

-He almost never uses assistants. Kio had one assistant on Genshiken Nidaime and none for Hashikko Ensemble, his new series. For those who don’t know, this is highly unusual.

-Kio got the inspiration for Hashikko Ensemble because his daughter joined a vocal ensemble, and he happened to listen to an all-male group.

-He was never a musician, but knew a local group, so he did do some singing for them about once a month, and even had a voice trainer. He’s a second tenor, which was the basis for Akira’s baritone in Hashikko Ensemble. Kio has a fairly deep voice himself, so he decided to exaggerate it for the manga.

-Once, in school, he saw two kids harmonizing on the way to class, providing further inspiration. “I want my manga to make readers want to sing.”

-Kio was in the softball club in elementary school, the judo club in junior high where he was the captain, and the art club in high school.

-He submitted his first manga in high school, for Shounen Sunday. It was about a high school student who works at a used bookstore and discovers an ancient text that he then tries to decipher.

He drew a lot when he was kid, and was an otaku in middle school, where he imitated Doraemon, Kinnikuman, and Captain Tsubasa.

-However, he stopped drawing between 4th grade of elementary and the start of middle school. This was because he was really into Miyazaki Hayao as a kid, and when he couldn’t copy Miyazaki successfully, he got depressed and stopped trying for those few years.

-In middle school, he helped a friend out by drawing backgrounds for his manga, only for Kio to realize he was also better at drawing the characters too. One day, when he tried to draw Miyazaki characters again, he noticed he had gotten way better.

-He wanted to be an animator, but Ghibli only wanted people 18 and up. Once, he created a manga based on the Laputa novel in a couple of notebooks.

-In college, he majored in Japanese art because he thought the pencil and brush skills would translate to manga.

-Kio’s dad worked at an insurance company, and while he wasn’t flat out against Kio’s aspirations, he would constantly ask him to consider the risk of being a manga creator. This made Kio want to quickly win a manga reward, to help his parents accept it.

-The school he went to had a club called the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, becoming the inspiration for Genshiken. Surprisingly, however, Kio was actually only a member for half a year. He didn’t quit because if anything in particular, he’s just not good with group activities.

-Despite what it might seem, the Genshiken characters are not based on any real life counterparts.

-In response to the realism of his characters, Kio says he tries to convey a sense of “presence” with them.

-Kio feels Genshiken came at the perfect time, matching the zeitgeist of the era. However, it makes him feel like a one-hit wonder. If Hashikko Ensemble fails, he’s going to feel enormous pressure.

-He didn’t attend a technical high school so he needs more research. One of he authors of Mou, Shimasen kara. did, and the other has a sister who attended one, so they try to help out.

Thoughts

Kio’s done a lot!! He sort of seems like a renaissance man.

That bit of surprise aside, it is fascinating finding out just how many aspects of his own personal life and career have made their way into his manga. The attending a Genshiken-like club is one thing, but it’s notable that he was in the judo club and then the art club—just like Hato. He also converted to using a tablet monitor for manga at some point—just like Ogiue. While his characters aren’t based on any real people in particular, he takes bits of himself and places them in his creations. While not stated outright, I think it’s pretty clear that Jigopuri (which is about raising a baby) is the product of firsthand experience.

Like this post? Feel free to check out my Patreon, or leave a tip at my Ko-fi.

“I Go High, You Go Low”: Hashikko Ensemble Chapter 1

Genshiken author Kio Shimoku has debuted a brand-new manga series this month, and it’s a bit of a departure from the otaku-centric tribulations of daily life that he’s known for. Fan that i am, I’ve decided to start doing monthly reviews for it, much like my previous Genshiken Nidaime posts.

Summary

Fujiyoshi Akira and Kimura Jin are new students at Hashimoto Technical High School. Akira sports an unusually deep voice that cracks when he tries to raise it, so he generally avoids speaking if he can help it. Jin is anything but quiet. Notorious throughout the school for his undaunting enthusiasm and his loud, boisterous tunes between classes, Jin wants to recruit fellow students to form a vocal ensemble.

When Jin notices Akira’s exceptional baritone, he sees Akira’s voice as the perfect complement to his own alto-soprano range, and becomes dead-set on having Akira join, all while unaware that Akira was actually a singer himself in middle school before his voice changed. While Akira is reluctant, he ends up having second thoughts for one major reason—Jin thinks he knows how to fix Akira’s voice.

A Dynamic Duo

Although Hashikko Ensemble has only just begun, the concept of a pair that’s greater than the sum of its parts has me intrigued. It’s not exactly new territory, with titles like Haikyu!! and Kuroko’s Basketball among the more famous, but I am curious to see how this turns out in a non-sports, non-shounen narrative.

Making Akira’s voice extremely deep is a simple yet unorthodox character choice. While I’m no expert on singing manga, my experience is that main characters in such series tend to stand out because they can sing extra high (such as in the manga Shounen Note) or powerfully. It’s also uncommon, despite the commonness of teenage settings in manga, for the voice-cracking that comes part and parcel with puberty to actually come up in series.

One aspect of Akira that isn’t entirely clear is whether his reticence over his voice is because of the attention he receives from the other students (who inevitably remark how “manly” it sounds), because it’s a painful reminder of when he could sing, or some combination of the two. Whatever the reason, it helps to give Akira a strong sense of character and presence, despite his fairly generic appearance and demeanor.

In contrast, Jin stands out tremendously. Because of the way he looks, comparisons with Onoda Sakamichi from Yowamushi Pedal feel inevitable, but two differ in two important ways: Jin seems immune to embarrassment, and he’s a “music otaku” rather than an “anime otaku.” There’s something about a guy who so overwhelmingly looks like a dork while being utterly fearless in the face of his peers that instantly appeals to me. It’s what I aspired to be in my teenage years, so I find Jin quite admirable. As for what being a music otaku means, Jin has a scientific understanding of sound and voices, speaking of vocal cord vibrations and decibels, which is why he believes he can help Akira.

“Ensemble” Cast

While the main focus of this opening chapter is Akira and Jin, there are plenty of side characters with potential to enrich the story. As with Kio’s other series, realistic portrayals of human relationships look to be one of Hashikko Ensemble’s strengths, and I look forward to seeing how the cast at large develops. From the first chapter, the stand-out character has to be Hanzan, the wisecracking son of a Buddhist temple who actually wore a wig to school on day one just so he could reveal his bald head during class introductions.

One factoid about their high school is that boys outnumber girls by about 11 to 1. I have to wonder if this will play a major role in the story, or if it’s just for realistic flavor. I wouldn’t mind seeing some female characters join the cast (there’s already one who shows up briefly), but would also be fine if it remains guy-centric.

Songs

Originally, I was going to list every song that shows up in this chapter, only to realize that Jin sings so much that the number of tunes encroaches into the double digits, and I’ll leave it to someone who’s more of a music buff in general. Here’s a sample:

Hashimoto Technical High School Anthem

“My Grandfather’s Clock” (Japanese version). English lyrics by Henry Clay Work, originally performed by Johnny Cash.

“Te no Hira o Taiyou ni” (Sun in the Palm of My Hand). A children’s song originally featured on the weekly television program Minna no Uta in 1962.

“Kanade” by Sukima Switch.

“HEIWA no Kane” (Bell of Peace) by Okinawa Yukihiro.

“Country Road” (Japanese version) by John Denver. This is the version from Whisper of the Heart.

“Country Road” is particularly significant to the story, as it’s the point where Akira is finally drawn in by Jin’s singing—particularly Jin’s ability to handle traditionally women’s roles.

Final Thoughts

This series definitely has potential, and I don’t mean that just because I’m a Kio Shinoku fan. It’s somehow both low-key and energetic at the same time, reflecting the different personalities of its two central characters.

There’s another manga that also runs in Monthly Afternoon titled Mou, Shimasen kara: Afternoon Gekiryuu-hen, which features interviews with other Afternoon manga creators. This month’s is Kio Shimoku, and in it he mentions being especially invested in Hashikko Ensemble because he doesn’t want to be a one-hit wonder after Genshiken. I hope Kio finds new success with this manga.

As for the rest of that interview, it’ll be the focus of my next blog post. SEE YOU NEXT POST.

Like this post? Feel free to check out my Patreon, or leave a tip at my Ko-fi.