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.

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. 

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

The author of Mogusa-san, one of my favorite manga in recent memory, has a new series out. Kozuma no Kobito no Kenshin Recipe by Ootake Toshitomo tells the story of a down-on-his-luck salaryman named Oomori Shizuru and a 15-cm tall pixie named Mint, who shows up with the intent of becoming Shizuru’s wife and cooking him delicious meals. The series, whose title translates roughly to My Pixie Wife’s Recipes of Devotion, combines two things Ootake has focused on in his relatively short manga career: exquisitely drawn food and oddball romances.

One big change from Ootake’s other manga—Mogusa-san, Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite, and Teasobi—is that Kenshin Recipe isn’t published under Shueisha’s Young Jump label. Instead, it’s serialized in the web-only Comic Gamma Plus, which is under Takeshobo: a publisher arguably most famous for its mahjong magazines and manga. Essentially, the Takeshobo audience tends to skew older, and this is evident just from Shizuru being 27 years old instead of a high school or college student. However, Kenshin Recipe’s focus on cuteness means it’s not nearly as horny as many of its Comic Gamma Plus peers.

The highlight of the series thus far has to be the cooking scenes. Mint is around six inches tall, yet she has to use Shizuru’s human-sized cookware. Kenshin Recipe shows the way she gets around this: by casting a disinfectant spell on herself and doing everything from headbutting eggs to utilizing fire-resistant clothing to climb inside a frying pan. Ootake knows how to draw food and make it look good, and this provides a perspective on dish preparation that’s both fun and different.

Mint is the linchpin of the series, and while she’s no Minori Mogusa, she has her own unique charms. Putting aside those who are really into fairies and/or wives making home-cooked meals, one thing that stood out to me was Mint’s reasons for wanting to marry Shizuru in the first place. Having long observed him from afar as he left work every day, his sad figure at dusk made her want to protect him. It’s simple and silly, and even has a bit of wish fulfillment thrown in, but I rather enjoy the bit of agency given to the pixie.

There are plenty more opportunities for absurdity, and I’m eager to read more of Kozuma no Kobito no Kenshin Recipe. Based on Ootake’s past works, though, the truly entertaining parts are going to come when he introduces an expanded cast. It’s his strength with ensembles that brings his work from good to great.

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

I never read 20th Century Boys until this year, but in some ways, I’m glad I waited this long.

Warning: SPOILERS

20th Century Boys in 2021

A manga by the award-winning author Urasawa Naoki, 20th Century Boys (published from 1999 to 2006) is a decades-spanning mystery about a man named Endo Kenji and his childhood friends, whose innocent elementary school antics are resurfacing in bizarre and dangerous ways. A Book of Prophecy they wrote around 1970 with far-fetched doomsday predictions about plagues that seem to be coming true, and at the heart of this conspiracy is an enigmatic and politically powerful cult leader known as the Friend. But while the Friend’s identity is unknown to all, there’s a hint that Kenji should know who he is: the Friend’s symbol is exactly the same as one Kenji and his friends came up with when they were kids.

Although conspiracies, cults of personality, and apocalyptic disease are not that unusual in fiction, these elements resonate particularly strongly in 2021. Between QAnon, authoritarians such as Bolsonaro and Trump, and then COVID-19, there are a lot of parallels between what happens in 20th Century Boys and what has transpired in reality. There’s a certain poetic element to a series revolving around The Book of Prophecy seeming to tell the future in itself, but whatever farseeing power it might have possessed are less interesting to reflect on than its portrayals of human behavior. What struck at my core from reading 20th Century Boys was not merely the presence of all these current dangers, but the all-too-real psychological reactions we’ve seen actually take place in the world.

QAnon vs. the Friendship and Democracy Party

One vital difference between QAnon and The Book of Prophecy is that the former has not been substantiated in any way, whereas the latter’s predictions are actively made true through the machinations of the Friendship and Democracy Party led by the Friend. Regardless of actual success rate, however, the two bear some fundamental similarities. In one scene in 20th Century Boys, the character Manjome Inshu recalls how he came to know and support the Friend. Manjome, who has a history of being a snake-oil salesman, is one of the people responsible for giving the Friend his messiah-like aura to his followers. At one point, they use a rope and pulley to make the Friend seem like he’s levitating—a flimsy trick that could have been undone by a bit of swaying. However, not only does the audience buy it hook, line, and sinker; even one of the assistants who literally helped hoist the Friend up by rope starts to believe the man can fly. Manjome, thinking to himself, comes to a realization: the people are just looking for something to believe in. Like QAnon, the Friend’s following is not about logic, rationality, or even trying to understand the world through one’s emotions. It’s working backwards from a conclusion because of a particular desire to see the world a certain way, and to feel like one has a part in its transformation. 

Donald Trump vs. the Friend

When it comes to the Friend’s authoritarian nature and god complex, the commonalities between him and Trump stood out to me from the very beginning. However, when the Friend’s identity is finally revealed, their resemblance only gets stronger. The Friend, as suspected, was part of Kenji’s childhood circle, but one who viewed Kenji with utter disdain. The Friend—a boy obsessed with anime, manga, and other children’s entertainment of the time—accrued knowledge, things, and experiences as a way to impress his classmates. Yet, it was Kenji who seemed to capture the attention of the other kids. The Friend was so hellbent on one-upping Kenji that, when a planned trip to the 1970 World Expo in Osaka fell through, he decided to just lie and fabricate journal entries for school as if he had actually attended the event. The wounds of failure remain so open and painful to the Friend that even in the mythos provided to his followers, it’s canon that the Friend Definitely 100% Attended the Osaka Expo and It Was Amazing.

Other clues point to a man with the mind and maturity of a little boy as the mastermind. Many of the hints about who he really is require knowledge of his childhood hobbies because they inevitably reflect what the Friend values. In this sense, 20th Century Boys is somewhat like Ready Player One, which also plays on the idea of pop culture trivia being key to everything, though in the case of 20th Century Boys there’s no Gary Stu power-fantasy protagonist. Also, prior to the big identity reveal, one character manages to get a close look at the Friend and is able to sketch his appearance from memory. When drawing the Friend, the character remarks that even though the Friend is clearly not a child, his face looks as if the man has never aged emotionally—a description that also seems to get ascribed to Trump.

In Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Dangerous Man, the author Mary L. Trump (a psychologist who’s also the niece of the former US president) explains that Trump is unable to let go of grievances. Every slight he’s ever felt sticks with him forever—as shown by an anecdote of how Donald’s older sister recalling a story of him getting a bowl of mashed potatoes dumped onto his head for being a bully still seems to hurt the man well into adulthood. He has spent a lifetime constantly trying to get others to believe that he’s the richest, the smartest, the handsomest, and the best person in the world, and even becoming the leader of the strongest nation on Earth wasn’t enough to placate that selfish desire. With the Friend, his being overshadowed by Kenji became a deep psychological scar, and he uses that motivation to reach a similar place. If you erased my memory of the publication history of 20th Century Boys and told me that the Friend is a reference to Trump, I would believe you. But that’s not the case, and what we’re left with, in retrospect, is a very accurate portrayal of how someone with the most vile qualities could win the hearts and minds of others and remain just as terrible. 

COVID-19 vs. Bloody New Year’s Eve and Beyond

The spread of deadly disease is a recurring horror in 20th Century Boys, though in the manga’s case, it is a biological weapon utilized by the Friend to achieve his goals. I’m not going to get into much detail here, but I think the example I give is going to make it clear why 20th Century Boys ends up being a curiously ominous work when it comes to human psychology. In one scene, a scientist character is trying to make a colleague of hers—one who is responsible for developing new viruses for the Friend—understand at heart just how many people died from the virus they spread on “Bloody New Year’s Eve,” the name for the traumatic events of December 31, 2000. So what are these overwhelming casualties brought on by the virus? What is this horrifying statistic that defies human understanding? 

150,000. 

That number was meant to shock and horrify when it was written. But COVID-19 has killed nearly 600,000 people in the United States, and it has taken the lives of nearly 4 million people worldwide. “150,000 deaths” was a pie-in-the-sky notion dreamed up by a manga author, and we in the real world now see that as the “early days,” when the infection rate hadn’t gotten so out of hand. 

The trauma of the coronavirus is going to stick with us for a long time. 

A Compelling Warning

There’s much more to 20th Century Boys than simply being prophetic, and it’s a superb manga in terms of art and storytelling. Nevertheless, the way its narrative relates to these difficult times makes it all the more powerful. What should have been a suspenseful piece of fiction with an examination of humanity now feels closer to a documentary with a foreboding warning of how easily the human mind can be warped by a diet of bad information. I hope we’re able to heed its messages.

Nazuna Insomniax: Call of the Night

Kotoyama’s Dagashi Kashi is one of my favorite manga of the past ten years. So, when I saw a couple years ago that they started another manga, I jumped at the chance to give my early impressions of their new title: Yofukashi no Uta. Since then, I kept reading in Japanese while doubtful that it would get licensed in English, but that’s exactly what happened! 

Released by VIZ, Call of the Night (as it’s now called) is a laid-back yet moody story that’s subtly charming while defying expectations.  The story revolves around Japanese boy named Yamori Kou, who wanders his town at night due to a general feeling of dissatisfaction, and Nanakusa Nazuna, an immortal vampire girl who’s not big on creating undead progeny and would rather have fun her own way. Kou decides that he wants to become a vampire, but it’s not just a matter of having his blood sucked—he also has to fall in love with Nazuna for it to work. Thus, in order to fulfill his goal, Kou must learn to understand his own feelings and to find what it would take for love to enter his heart.  

Not Just a Vampire Story

I think it’d be all too easy, and even unfair, to write off Call of the Night as just another vampire story. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the genre, but I think the way Kotoyama approaches the concept and builds his story to include it gives more than enough for those who just want an interesting manga regardless of its supernatural trappings. In addition to the basic vampire-oriented jokes (Kou’s blood is apparently super delicious), it’s just a really clever and poignant character study that touches on the balance of joy and malaise, as well as the burden of social expectations. One defining contrast between Kou and Nazuna is that the former is comfortable talking about romance but blushes at anything remotely dirty, while the latter is the exact opposite. Anytime a conversation veers towards sex, Kou quickly tries to change the subject, while Nazuna can’t stand thinking about love. 

That’s the foundation for a lot of the humor in the story, but there are other amusing moments as well. For example, the topic of cell phones comes up, and Nazuna replies that she has one already. However, Nazuna’s phone turns out to be one of those gigantic Zack Morris-style portable bricks, hinting that she’s at least a couple decades older than Kou despite her appearance. The presence of “outdated” items like the cell phone and even wristwatch walkie-talkies lend a certain nostalgic atmosphere to the series in general, somewhat like how dagashi plays a role as old-fashioned candy in Dagashi Kashi.

Future Volumes

I’ve read past the first volume that’s currently out in English, but without spoiling too much, there are later developments that add some interesting wrinkles. The addition of new characters familiar with Nazuna expands her world and her identity more, such that her story gets fleshed out to a greater degree. She already isn’t quite your typical vampire, but the story goes on to further emphasize that. 

While I have some of the books in Japanese, I plan on getting all of them in English going forward. Kotoyama makes some fine manga, and I hope that they find success outside of Japan as well.

Tan-June: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for June 2021

Last year at this time, it felt like the world might not ever be the same again. This past month, I became fully vaccinated.

While I’m still exercising caution in a lot of different ways (including wearing a mask in public), the extra safety a COVID-19 vaccine has provided has helped tremendously to alleviate some of the psychological pressure I’ve been feeling since 2020. For the first time in a long while, I feel like I can grasp some sense of the normal again. I’m still undecided if I want to attend the recently confirmed Otakon 2021, though.

I just hope that we actually learn from the mistakes we’ve made on a social and political level, and that we must create a better “normal” than the one that resulted in a global catastrophe powered by greed and willful ignorance. I’m fortunate to be in a place where I could obtain a vaccination after a year and a half of keeping safe, as not everyone has been able to do that. The real failures—whether they’ve been in the US, Japan, Brazil, Sweden, China, India, or elsewhere—are the consequences of poor leadership above all else.

I can’t make anyone get the vaccine, and availability varies from place to place, but I hope everyone does what they can to at least protect themselves and those they care for.

Thank you to June’s Patreon sponsors, with special gratitude to the following.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from May:

Miura Kentaro, Berserk, and the Pursuit of Perfection

Thoughts related to the untimely passing of the author of Berserk.

Miss Nagatoro and the Teasing Girl as Goldilocks Archetype

An exploration of the appeal of teasing girls.

Witch Hat Atelier: The Fantasy of Science, the Science of Fantasy

My review of one of the best fantasy manga around.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 40 continues to have Jin’s mom, Reika, steal the show.

And here’s more from Kio Shimoku’s Twitter account.

Closing

I just learned that Zettai Karen Children is ending soon after 17 years. It’s amazing to see a series that ran for seemingly forever actually reach the finish line. Authors and artists, take care of yourselves!

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights May 2021

Tweets of interest from Kio Shioku’s official Twitter for May 2021:

This past month saw the unfortunate passing of Miura Kentaro, author of Berserk.

“Whaaaaaa?!”

“I can’t believe it…Berserk is actually…”

 “Whether it was his art, his storytelling, or his characters, he poured his overwhelming passion into everything. I’m trying to find the right words, but I don’t have them…My deepest and heartfelt condolences for Miura-sensei in his passing.”

Shin Evangelion Reaction

“I saw Shin Eva. It wasn’t an illusion. It wasn’t, right…?”

Kio watched a recording of The Professional: Anno Hideaki where Anno says, “I’m okay with dying for my creations.” This made Kio’s head spin. (Having come so soon after Miura’s death, it seems to have hit Kio extra hard.)

Art

A rough nude sketch of Ogino-sensei from Spotted Flower and a preview of the next chapter out.

Kio’s first drawing of first-generation Kasukabe Saki from Genshiken in many years.

Kurotaki Mai from Hashikko Ensemble.

Otaku moments with Hasegawa, previously posted on the @hashikko_music account. She worries about having accidentally outed herself as an otaku, but when asked if she’s a fujoshi, Hasegawa responds, “That isn’t the setting this time.” Also, when Shion expresses interest in Miyazaki anime, Hasegawa considers going into the deep end: Horus: Prince of the Sun, Panda Go Panda, Heidi, 3,000 Leagues in Search of Mother, Anne of Green Gables.

More previous art. Orihara loves the “AMEN”s, and Hasegawa does a pose from what I believe is Hellsing?

The pet tortoise

Miscellaneous

Kio explains that the “broken Gouf leg joint” incident from Genshiken wasn’t exactly based on reality, but he had a similar experience as a kid. In a later tweet, though, he realizes that the reason it happened to him is because model kits in those days didn’t use polycaps on ball joints, which made for a less maneuverable limb.

Kio quit his habit of downing energy drinks before starting his work.

That’s all for this month!

Wild Wings: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 40

As Akira and Jin sing, they remember their first encounter in the classroom when Jin asks Akira to join his Chorus Club.

It’s time for the Chorus Appreciation Society to sing in their last song of the School Culture Festival, and Jin is nervous about being onstage in front of his mom. Fortunately, Kozue delivers a confident speech about their happiness spreading music through the school, which calms Jin down—though she then turns it into a taunting preemptive declaration of victory. 

Their performance of “The Wings of Mind” begins, and the four guys harmonize perfectly, the beauty of the song causing emotions to well up in nearly everyone listening. The LED display Himari programmed displays the lyrics, and before everyone realizes it, the entire audience is doing the same as she is: singing along and being drawn into the performance. However, the chapter ends with Reika with an ambiguous expression that seems to read as her not being terribly impressed.

Song, Singular

This month, there’s only one song, and it’s the centerpiece of the entire chapter. The power of “The Wings of Mind” seems to be its ability to resonate on a very personal level with everyone listening to it. The song brings about a range of emotions: hope and disappointment, nostalgia and discovery, past and future. The two flashbacks indicate this strongly: Akira remembers meeting Jin in the classroom and being introduced to the world of music, while the senior members of the Rugby Club recall looking at the younger teammates as they themselves have to move on to the next phase of life. 

This potentially ties into a previous conversation Akira had with Jin about individual interpretations of a song’s meaning. It’s something Jin has trouble with, and to see “The Wings of Heart” hitting people in different places highlights the notion that we bring a part of ourselves into the songs we hear. “Art is how you interpret it,” or something like that.

Thanks to the LED display of the lyrics, the audience is singing along with the Chorus Appreciation Society.

Perhaps this is why the audience gets swept on in singing. As explained in the chapter, it’s not just that the lyrics are visible, but that it’s as if everyone is being compelled to follow along by the song. Everyone, that is, except Reika. 

1v1 Me, Son

The bit of nervousness (or self-consciousness) Jin feels before the performance is not just understandable—it speaks to the core of Jin’s internal conflict. His mom thinks he’s not trying to prove that talent doesn’t matter so much as he’s hiding his own lack of, and Jin is afraid that she’s right. In this respect, I think the whole “sing-along” plan he thought up might actually backfire, as I suspect Reika sees it all as a gimmick: more camouflage for Jin’s comparatively mediocre vocals. 

Reika and Jin’s contrasting priorities reminds me of arguments made about competitive games. Players of 1v1 games will point to the fact that in a 1v1 scenario, you own all your wins and losses, whereas team games soften the blow of failure by giving players the excuse of blaming their teammates. At the same time, there are impressive things achieved through the group cooperation of team games that 1v1 games can’t touch. All of it is true at the same time, making it so that neither side is inherently correct.

The Hasegawa Kozue Show

Kozue provokes the other groups by saying they knocked everyone else the hell out the tournament, and they're here to win.

This comes as a shock to Mimi-sensei, who thought Kozue was going somewhere kinder.

Kozue carries such power in this manga, being a kind of motivational force that can redirect the inertia of the other members, not unlike Saki from Genshiken. The confidence in her speech, the way she sets Jin back on course, she’s proving more and more how invaluable her friendship can be.

Even if he never said so outright, it’s clear at this point that Kozue is one of Kio’s favorite characters. One thing I like about her character and the emphasis given to her is that she’s nowhere near a traditional “bishoujo” by manga standards, and I like that it bucks expectations and stereotypes. Even her romance (of sorts) with poor Sora from the Rugby Club feels refreshing and new. 

She gets thanked by Kousei and blushes a bit, but I don’t yet see it as anything special. It feels more like Kozue is unaccustomed to such direct gratitude, especially from a guy like Kousei.

Final Thoughts

This sort of feels like the series could end soon, but I really hope it doesn’t. I want to see the club officially form, and for some new faces to give opportunities for more interesting storytelling and drama.