Monsters Growing: Rokudo no Onna-tachi Final Review

WARNING: ENDING SPOILERS

Rokudou no Onna-tachi by Nakamura Yuji is an unusual delinquent harem manga whose ability to embrace and rise above its basic premise has made me a fan through and through. The series concluded this year, and though it’s the kind of story where I could see the ending from a mile away, that doesn’t really impact how enjoyable it is to read. It’s a rare case of a manga that rarely falters and keeps getting better right to the finish.

Rokudou follows Rokudou Tousuke, a wimpy high school boy who uses a family spell to become more popular with girls but gets an unexpected consequence: The spell only works on “bad girls,” and number 1 among them is a human wrecking crew named Himawari Ranna, who’s practically an avatar of violence and destruction. While the series starts off as mostly gags, it quickly grows into a story about forging lasting bonds and finding the best version of yourself. Rokudou, like so many shounen protagonists, is all about the power of friendship, but even though the art is often unserious, the heart is definitely there. Rokudou genuinely cares for others, and he’s a surprisingly well-developed protagonist for a series that didn’t necessarily need it.

In my previous review, I likened Rokudou to Krillin, with Ranna like a cross between Android 18 and Goku due to the relative chasm in power levels. But if Rokudou is the Krillin, then his success comes from the idea that just because you’re not the strongest doesn’t mean you’re not strong—especially because there’s more than one way to be strong. Even if he’ll never have what it takes to win the biggest battles, Rokudou wants to make a difference where he can, while also having the desire to improve where can. And so when he does learn to throw hands, it’s like he’s both protagonist and side character simultaneously, and it doesn’t feel like a weak compromise. As the opponents get stronger—the final arc has Rokudou and pals up against full-in organized crime—so too must the good guys step up.

At the climax of the story, the question that has driven the series presents itself one last time: Could Ranna possibly care for, or even about, Rokudou if the charm spell were to lose its effectiveness? Was the unlikely bond they formed nothing more than an illusion? The answer is much like what happened with Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: It may have started as an artificial love, but it became real over time. To the credit of Rokudou no Onna-tachi author, Nakamura Yuuji, this development feels more than earned by both Ranna and Rokudou. 

Whether it’s being serious or silly or even both at the same time, this manga feels right. I’m glad to have stuck with it, and I hope that it’s remembered fondly as a series that combined its hodgepodge of tropes into something beautiful and hilarious.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights December 2021

Every month, I collect highlights from Genshiken author, Kio Shimoku’s, tweets. This month’s provide some interesting insight into Kio’s work history beyond the manga he’s known for!

Professional Work

Kio started filling this bookshelf back when Rakuen: Le Paradis (home of Spotted Flower) began, and now it’ll be full in two years.

Later, he remarks (while promoting a half-off sale) that he only does three chapters a year, but somehow it’s reached the point of having so many.

Kio doesn’t know how to use the Stream Lines tool [for making Speed Lines] in the art program Clip Studio Paint.

Color proofs of all the covers from the Genshiken Shinsouban Edition!

The announcement that next month’s Hashikko Ensemble is the final chapter. “I hope you’ll all stick around to the end.”

Other Work

Kio quotes a tweet about a special one-shot manga in Monthly Afternoon by Samura Hiroaki (Blade of the Immortal, Wave, Listen to Me!) about the life of the renowned second chief editor of Afternoon, Yuri Kouichi—a man who, prior to Afternoon, was responsible for bringing hits like Akira and Ghost in the Shell to publication. In the manga, Samura mentions his interactions with the famous manga artist Takano Fumiko, and Kio says in his quote tweet that he once worked as an assistant for Takano. He only did screentones for her, but she smiled and said to him, “I don’t care whether you’re a rookie who’s yet to debut—you did a good job.” The moment stuck with Kio.

3 out of 4 of the CDs for his 2010 doujinshi work seems to not be working. While he has the original 350-page paper manuscript somewhere (for a Star Wars parody called Sister Wars Episode I), he doesn’t know where it is. A fan mentions wanting to buy it, but Kio’s not sure what format he should sell it in. He also feels a desire to make Episode II. He’s had plenty of ideas for it, but he feels like he’s been forgetting them lately, so he probably needs to get it done sooner than later.

(Kio mentioned Sister Wars in his interview with the Vtuber Luis Cammy. You can read my summary of that interview here.) 

Interactions

Oguro Yuuichirou, the chief editor at Anime Style, gives high praise to Hashikko Ensemble and its characters, story, and visual presentation of music. Kio tweets being happy about it, to which Oguro re-expresses how genuinely good he thinks the manga is. Kio gives a thank you.

December featured an online extra for Spotted Flower that focuses on the editor character Endou. Kio responds to fan feedback, including from a fellow Ogiue lover and Twitter mutual of mine!

Kio is done with the last rough drawing, whose expression he changed around four times. A fan (who’s a huge Jin from Hashikko Ensemble fan) asks which character it is, to which Kio responds “the ostensible protagonist, Fujiyoshi,” and then reacts to the fan’s Jin profile picture.

Kio gets excited over fellow artist Ikuhana Niro making good on his word and getting a new car.

Other Media

Kio got his copy of Pompo the Cinephile (you can read my review of the movie).

Kio bought another Motorhead figure from Five Star Stories.

Ikuhana Niro mentions that a new doujinshi of theirs is out, and Kio comments that he remembers how “that doujinshi” is under a different pen name.

Miscellaneous

Kio makes a cryptic tweet about not being able to ride the turbulent waves, and says, “See you tomorrow.”

We’ll come to know what “fogged glasses” looks like in the winter. I think this refers to Spotted Flower, but I’m not certain.

He took some kind of online quiz, I think, and the result it gave him was that he lives life on “hard mode.” Kio responds with “What the?” The test also apparently says that someone like him wants a life where they love and are loved. He thinks this might be fitting for a manga artist.

Kio got a back-support corset for when he has to do heavy lifting, like taking out tons of garbage.

Kio retweets Kotobuki Tsukasa (character designer for Saber Marionette J, Gundam: The Origin) talking about turning 50, and realizes he himself turns 50 next year.

Next month is going to be the end of Hashikko Ensemble, so I suspect there is going to be lots of reminiscing on Kio’s timeline. Here’s hoping!

Prelude to the End: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 47

Jin has a breakthrough and Kozue reveals another side of herself in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 47. 

Summary

Kozue catches up to Jin, who has left the clubroom because he’s lost the music inside of him. As the two walk and talk, Kozue helps Jin put words to what’s been bothering him: He’s frustrated over what he hasn’t been able to do, and it’s eating him up inside. In particular, Jin is frustrated over Akira being putting on such powerful performances despite being so inexperienced, and over Akira being recognized by Jin’s mom before Jin himself. 

As Kozue leaves, however, she nonchalantly gives Jin a romantic (as opposed to platonic) Valentine’s chocolate before walking off with a flushed face and singing “Haru yo, Koi.” The lyrics seem to trigger something in Jin, but rather than it being a realization about his potential romantic feelings, it helps him clarify why exactly he’s so frustrated when it comes to Akira. He both wants to acknowledge and deny Akira’s accomplishments—a contradiction has stopped his heart from moving and by extension, stopped the music within Jin. 

Jin rushes past Kozue while loudly declaring that he needs to “tell everyone,” which Kozue assumes is about her confession. Beet-red, she chases after Jin to stop him, only for the thing he wants to tell everyone about is his desire to put on that Whie Day concert in response to the girls’ Valentine’s Day performance. In addition, Jin has a special request for Akira.

The story skips ahead to White Day, where all the guys put on a show while dressed in bright and shiny tuxedos. However, the real event is a special “exhibition match” between Akira and Jin—the request Jin wanted. As Jin prepares to unleash his full singing might for the first time, the chapter ends…and reveals that the next chapter will be the end of Hashikko Ensemble!

Wait. Really?

So here we are at what turns out to be the penultimate chapter. I knew that the story was getting to a major point, but I didn’t expect it to be leading to the finale! Thematically, the story has come full circle with Jin going from recruiting Akira to competing against him, but I thought they’d overcome this and then move on to the next challenge. If this is really it, though (and there’s no sequel being announced), I think the manga is ending with at least some closure.

Got a Feeling So Complicated

Jin’s mix of pride in Akira and jealousy towards him is profound. They’re both such powerful feelings, and the dimensions they add to Jin turn him from a fascinatingly eccentric character to a truly human one. This is all the more the case because it’s kind of unsurprising given where the story has been going over the past six months or so. Jin wants to both love and hate Akira, but he can’t bring himself to do either. 

It makes sense that Jin has never gone all-out when singing. He chafes at the idea of competition and comparison that his mother, Reika, values so much, and he has rebelled in his own way by eschewing such notions. But perhaps this is also why Jin has never been verbally acknowledged by her, even though we know she thinks he has talent. To be able to not just cooperate but also fight could be the difference. The capacity to do both (and to know which is the right choice) might be even more valuable.

I don’t think this friendship will end on bad terms, but I think there are a few more twists and turns left.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

One thing I’ve enjoyed in this series is that characters are attracted to multiple people. It’s often the case in manga that only major characters (or harem leads) have feelings towards more than one character at a time. Here, though, you can see all these potential connections abound. Kozue previously showed at least a small interest in that judo club boy, but she also expresses a crush on Jin here. At the same time, Kozue is not the only one who likes Jin, seeing as Yumerun just confessed in the last chapter—and Kozue also feels at odds with herself knowing that. I just keep thinking about how affection can be a spectrum.

They’re the kind of romances that one is more likely to see in an actual high school (and probably beyond), and the fact that it’s a significant but not major part of the story also lends itself to this sense of authenticity. Multiply this across the whole cast, and you get Hashikko Ensemble. I love seeing the dramady of these singing fools, and even if none of these relationships actually resolve.

Just Gorgeous

Hashikko Ensemble always looks good, but there’s just something about this chapter’s artwork and paneling that’s downright amazing. Kio’s just an ace at portraying cascades of emotions, and the simultaneous sense of heaviness and humorous frivolity that comes from his artwork and composition really puts his talents on display. In the pages above, Kozue’s rollercoaster of emotions jumps right off the page, and the way Jin takes her for a ride with this earnest denseness makes me feel a kind yet pained smile form on my face. 

And when Jin shows that he’s going to get serious for his “exhibition match” with Akira, the way the panels build up to such sheer intensity actually startled me a bit. Kio has never really done a competitive manga—in fact, Hashikko Ensemble is the closest he’s ever gotten—but it makes me genuinely wonder what he could pull off if he decided to do a sports or fighting manga.

If this is what Kio has pulled off before the conclusion, I can’t wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve for the final chapter.

Songs

“Haru yo, Koi” (“Come, Spring”) by Matsutouya Yumi. This is one of the songs the girls sang in the last chapter.

“Yakusoku” (Promise) from The iDOLM@STER. This was one of the songs performed by the otaku group during the big competition.

“Kanade” by Sukima Switch. This song is what brought Akira and Jin together all the way back in Chapter 1!

Final Thoughts

I still feel that there’s so much more story that could be told. They haven’t even entered another M-Con yet! I don’t know if the story was made to end early or if Kio thinks this is the right time, but I could keep reading about these characters living their lives for a long time. To Kio’s credit, that’s part of his magic as a manga creator.

As for predictions, the safe bet is that they’ll finally become an official club. I’m also still rooting for an Akira x Mai ending. 

And who knows? Maybe we’ll see their doppelgangers show up in Spotted Flower

Fukumoto Tries to Write a Girl Protagonist: Yamima no Mamiya

Two years ago, I found out about Akagi author Fukumoto Nobuyuki’s newest mahjong manga: Yamima no Mamiya, also known as Yami-Mahjong Fighter: Mamiya. Set 20 years after Akagi Shigeru’s death in the series Ten: Tenhoudoori no Kaidanji, the latest series aims to change things up in the well-worn mahjong manga genre by introducing in its title both a new way to play (“yamima” or “darkness mahjong”) and an uncommon protagonist for Fukumoto: a 17-year-old girl named Mamiya.

Due to the initial lack of digital releases of Yamima no Mamiya, I put off checking it out, but since early 2021, the series has started to appear in Japanese ebook shops. Now having read Volumes 1 and 2, my main takeaways from the manga are 1) It has that reliably strange Fukumoto style, and 2) Fukumoto doesn’t exactly know how to write female characters.

The Latest Gimmick: Darkness Mahjong

Yamima no Mamiya’s titular “darkness mahjong” is sort of the polar opposite of the Washizu mahjong first featured in the pages of Akagi. But whereas the latter involves playing with clear tiles that can reveal parts of your hand that would normally be concealed from view, darkness mahjong allows players to hide discarded tiles from view. However, should a player who hid tiles still manage to lose, they’ll lose much more than if they had played normally—and getting your “dark tile” claimed for a win results in an even steeper penalty. Mamiya is an expert in this style of play, and she shows sharp gambling instincts.

Mamiya and the Male Gaze

Character-wise, Mamiya’s androgynous appearance and youthful attitude give me the impression that she’s designed to come across as a product of a new era unlike what we’ve seen in the Akagi universe. However, she doesn’t feel like a character to whom the presumed Kindai Mahjong-reading audience of older men are meant to relate. Whereas Akagi Shigeru appeals by a badass power fantasy and Itou Kaiji has the charm of being a perpetual underdog, Mamiya is treated with a certain kind of distance that I presume is by virtue of her gender, like she’s a female side character in a salaryman manga who abruptly got the starring role.

Because of this, Mamiya’s presentation feels like a very conscious and intentional use of male gaze, though any sort of gratuitous sexual objectification is heavily limited by Fukumoto’s artwork. While Mamiya offers her body in a gamble with her first major opponent, a 70-year-old entertainment mogul named Onigashira Kanji, he bawks at the age gap—which then results in a running joke where Mamiya accuses Onigashira of being a perverted old man despite him trying his best not to make it happen. It’s humor by an old dude, for old dudes. 

Another Genius who Descended from the Darkness?

Given that Mamiya is presented in the manga as “Akagi’s legacy,” the big question that has yet to be revealed is if that’s simply due to her mahjong skills or if there’s some familial connection. Could she be his daughter? She does occasionally have a very Akagi-esque smirk. Perhaps she learned the game from her uncle Shigeru, and now she’s heir to his name. At the very least, she pals around with a now-gray-haired ramen shop-owning Osamu, who remains delightfully mediocre in every way possible—and like the past, he’s mainly there to be a Krillin to Mamiya’s Goku.

I’ll Keep Reading for Now

I don’t think it’s impossible for Mamiya to grow more interesting and robust over time, but Fukumoto’s heroes aren’t exactly about character development, so I’m not holding my breath. The series has also yet to finish its first big match, and without that final masterstroke moment where Mamiya’s presumed genius is on full display, it’s hard to make a solid judgment about the series. I’m going to keep following Yamima no Mamiya, hopeful that it’ll deliver.

Going Beyond Limits, for Better or for Worse: Anime NYC 2021

ANIME NYC HAS REPORTED A CONFIRMED CASE OF THE COVID-19 OMICRON VARIANT. IF YOU ATTENDED ANIME NYC, GO GET A COVID-19 TEST. 

One year ago, New York City was still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines had not yet begun to roll out, and many of the annual traditions we expected had to be put on hold—possibly even indefinitely. Though not seen in the same rarefied light as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s, Anime NYC had become an annual outing for my friends and me. I was sad, though understanding, that 2020 had to be canceled.

Anime NYC is right in my backyard, tends to have some interesting Japanese industry guests, and the fact that it has thrived in one of the toughest convention cities (see the defunct Big Apple Anime Fest and New York Anime Festival, among others) meant I’ve felt a strong desire to support the event—lest it go away and be substituted by unscrupulous scams and the like. When Left Field Media announced that Anime NYC 2021 was on, I was filled with both excitement and trepidation. 

Lines, Crowds, and COVID Mitigation

Vaccination rates are generally high in NYC, and we have a general mandate for indoor venues. However, the situation was different even compared to Otakon three months ago, thanks to the rise of the Delta variant, the colder weather, and concern over waning efficacy of vaccines. In the end, I decided to attend, thinking that there might be a drop in attendance that would give plenty of breathing room. After all, New York Comic Con 2021 in October saw lower numbers, right?

Not so. Anime NYC 2021 was packed with fans extremely ready to revel in the convention experience. In fact, attendance was up compared to 2019—from 46,000 to 53,000. By comparison, New York Comic Con saw a drop from 260,000 to 150,000. 

I find that this contrast highlights the difference between having a larger but relative more casual and mainstream audience versus a hardcore base ready to go wild. The former will see better results in the good times, but the latter will ride with you even when it gets bad. I suspect this has less to do with loyalty towards Anime NYC itself and more to do with passion for anime and manga in general, but the results are the same.

Anime NYC 2021 was from Friday, November 19 to Sunday, November 21. It was clear that the showrunners knew how big the lines were going to get, as they began sending out alerts encouraging as many people to grab their vaccination wristband and badge on Thursday before the con. However many heeded their advice, by the time Friday rolled around, it was clearly not enough. The con opened at 1pm, but people were lining up since 9am, packed together outside in fairly cold weather, all while being unsure of whether they were on the right line. In previous years, this would have been a nuisance. With COVID-19 around, I could only hope that people kept their masks on and were smart about it.

As a press attendee, I had the benefit of being able to avoid the brunt of these problems. However, what should have been a five-minute process of “getting in” turned into almost half an hour as I was told three different things by three different people as to how to get my wristband and get into the Jacob Javits to get my press badge. So while I was fortunate to not have gotten the worst of the lines, the small taste I had made me aware of how much worse it probably was for the attendees on Friday. Saturday and Sunday seemed more organized, but I don’t know how much it alleviated any issues.

In addition to better communication and maybe even the ability to line up indoors, I have to wonder how much of the problem is that the Thursday badge pick-up hours only go to 6pm. Anime NYC is very much a commuter con, and I imagine many people are working or going to school from 10am to 6pm. Even in pandemic times, New York is still often the city that never sleeps.

Omicron Variant

Of course, the elephant in the room in hindsight is the news that one attendee had a case of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19. Any sort of precautions were inevitably taken without knowledge of its existence, but excuses also don’t treat infections. Thankfully, none of the people I know personally who attended Anime NYC (including myself) have tested positive, but between reports that the Omicron variant spreads more easily and that the person who was found to have it may have spread it to half of a group of 35 friends, it’s clear that there needs to be an extra layer of vigilance.

Take mask compliance, for example. I found it to be mostly there, but it felt like people got more and more lax. All the classic errors of masking were there (not covering the nose, taking it down to talk, not wearing it all). While this is partly on those attendees who flouted proper mask usage, I would like to have seen better enforcement by the con itself. Even the simple act of providing free masks at the con could go a long way.

Dealer’s Hall

The Dealer’s Hall felt like any other at a professionally run big con, but I did notice one thing in particular: People seemed very, very eager to buy stuff. It was as if two years’ worth of pent-up desires to purchase came crashing to the surface. So not only was it packed each day, but attendees were behaving like the money they had was burning holes in their wallets. Because of my wariness over COVID-19, I went in and out, trying to avoid staying in there for too long.

That said, I did purchase a few things with the intent of making them part of my convention memories, so I understand that sentiment. I got an official May hoodie from Guilty Gear Strive, nabbed some new manga, and found a booth that actually sold old Japanese movie brochures. I picked up one for God Mars and a couple for Goshogun.

Other highlights of the Hall included the HololiveEN booth where you could take photos with cut-outs of all the EN girls (including from the inaugural generation), a tribute wall to the late Miura Kentaro, author of Berserk, along with a New Japan Pro-Wrestling booth where you could hit the actual NJPW ring bell.

Panels

One of my favorite things about anime cons are the panels. While Anime NYC isn’t anywhere close to the amount of content you’d get from something like Otakon (and it’s clearly not the con’s priority), there was at least a panel track when you wanted to sit and listen.

Due to other engagements, I was unable to attend the Aramaki Shinji panel. I was told it was informative and even went over some of his work on American cartoons (M.A.S.K., Pole Position), though it seemed like Aramaki had less time than he thought.

Hololive Council

I’ve been getting more and more into Virtual Youtubers over the past couple years, and so I was looking forward to HololiveEN Council’s con debut at Anime NYC.

One of the running jokes among the fandom is that Hololive English group streams tend to be pretty “scuffed,” and this was certainly no exception. The panel started roughly half an hour late, and there were technical issues throughout, such as audio delays. Still, it was good to see the Council get their moment in the sun at a convention, and they were entertaining nevertheless. While the panel was focused on HoloCouncil, HoloMyth (the first generation of HololiveEN) made a cameo with some messages for their kouhai.

One big difference compared to other Hololive conventional panels I’d seen online was that there was less interactivity with the live audience. Namely, much of the interactions were scripted and questions were taken from Twitter rather than a live audience, which was a tad disappointing but also understandable given the size of the crowd and the inevitable technical difficulties. Overall, it felt like a very managed experience, possibly because it was sponsored in part by the Consulate General of Japan in New York. Also, while the interactivity wasn’t as high, the fans in the audience tried to bridge that gap. It was easy to notice who got the most enthusiastic fans—Ouro Kronii’s “Kronies” certainly wear their preferences on their sleeves.

Afterwards, I got some Hololive merch thanks to a friend: A Ceres Fauna button!

New Japan Pro-Wrestling Strong Spirits

While there weren’t many guests who flew in from Japan this year, one surprising appearance came from New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s “Switchblade” Jay White, leader of Bullet Club. He was there to promote NJPW’s new mobile game: New Japan Pro-Wrestling Strong Spirits. 

Jay mentioned that this was his first-ever convention appearance, and he was pretty much a natural at entertaining the crowd. My favorite thing was his insistence that he was the sole reason NJPW sold out Madison Square Garden a couple years ago, and every time he said it, a large and obnoxious image of this fact would flash on screen. 

Although I had a good time , part of me regrets going to this panel because I should have expected an audience of wrestling fans to be loud and care little about the risks of COVID-spreading associated with yelling. One person in particular was loud, maskless, and insisted on shouting constantly. I also had the sense that the fans love bringing attention upon themselves.

As for the game itself, “bizarre” is how I would describe it. Unlike so many other wrestling games, it uses all existing video footage for moves, as well as green-screened video of the wrestlers during turn-based move selection. The developer of the game (from Bushiroad) even said they had to clear rights for the footage in 150 countries. There was also an example of training to improve your wrestler’s stats, and the key point here is that it also has live footage of your chosen NJPW wrestler, this time getting sweaty in the gym. This, I believe, is where the real appeal of the game might be. It will also predictably have a gacha component, but the developer claims it won’t be pay-to-win.

GKIDS

I’ve long known GKIDS for their involvement with the New York International Children’s Film Festival, but they’ve also been putting out some excellent titles on home video lately. GKIDS was there because many of their films were having American or east-coast premieres at Anime NYC. While I was unable to see most of them, I was glad to find out that they’re pretty much all getting limited theatrical releases, notably Hosoda Mamoru’s Belle in January and Pompo the Cinephile in Spring 2022. I was able to see Pompo at the con, and you can read my review here.

At the panel, I found out how successful Promare has been, which is quite a bit. It’s the reason the film keeps getting re-screenings in theaters while others do not.

Cosplay

I didn’t take many cosplay photos this year, but I wanted to at least share a couple.

Final Thoughts

In spite of an inevitable lack of Japanese guests and trepidation over the pandemic, Anime NYC came back at a time when people were champing at the bit to do something in person again. I had a decent time at the con, but seeing the crowds made me realize a truth about this new era: More success means more precautions are necessary if we don’t want worse-case scenarios happening. I hope that whatever fallout occurs due to the Omicron variant, it becomes an outlier rather than a standard of conventions.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights November 2021

Another month of Kio Shimoku tweets. The real highlight this month is his opinion on ero manga artists.

Hashikko Ensemble

Kio promoting Hashikko Ensemble Chapter 46. He doesn’t like how Kurotaki Maki is cut off here, so he retweeted his old drawing of her as a bunny girl. Kio also remarks how he’s noticed that all the girls are pretty stacked (with one exception).

Here are the specific chorus/glee club versions of the songs from this month’s Hashikko Ensemble.

Anime and Manga Impressions

Kio saw the anime film Sing a Bit of Harmony. As the creator of a manga about singing, he noticed the realism with which the main character of the film, Aya, breathes while performing.

He didn’t know a Zombieland Saga movie was on the way.

Kio thinks the Zombieland Saga first ending theme sounds like a graduation song.

Kio drunk-reviewing the latest chapter of Five Star Stories. He doesn’t remember lines or story details, but it made an impression on him—particularly the character  Auxo’s expressions.

Hobbies and Model Kits

There are official water-based Gundam model kit paints now, and Kio comments that he’s had cases of the paint going all over the place using water-based acrylics. It was still fun, though. He’s painted a Juaggu and a Z’Gok that way.

Some old Gundam model kits that Kio built.

Kio finally managed to store a ton of manga in boxes. At least some of the boxes are from 20 years ago, and there are about 25 boxes with 30 books each. 

Health

Lately, Kio’s knees have been hurting after walking.

He used a saw for the first time in a long while, and now his arm aches.

Kio drinks the Japanese energy drink Lipovitan D Super to start working on a new manga manuscript. He also decided to take an outdoor bath because it’s not that cold outside, and finds it’s actually good for work.

Thoughts on Ero Manga Artists

Kio has much respect for ero manga artists because of how much they have to master: poses, anatomy, camera angles, etc. Apparently, one thing people say is “If you want to get good at drawing, do porn.” But Kio also respects those porn artists who aren’t trying to make a career and just want to draw horny things. He actually drew some in middle school, but he stopped because he was afraid of his family finding out.

What Is Love?: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 46

Jin is on one heck of an emotional arc in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 46.

Summary

The girls of the Chorus Appreciation Society (plus Yukina and Yumerun) start on their Valentine’s Day mini-concert—Kozue’s idea for bringing Jin out of his musical funk. But within himself, all he can seem to hear are their flaws. Still, while they’re lacking either skill, group coordination, or both, they seem to have the very music in them that he’s lost.

Right before they can start their encore, however, Shion brings out her Valentine’s chocolate for Kousei and makes another confession. Kousei deflects by asking Jin if she has any hope of getting into a music college and having a career (the chances are rough. Kousei further comments that Shion’s not that good with the technical work needed for their high school either—as if to imply that Shion wouldn’t be prepared for the hardship of dating him. 

At that point, Yukina cuts in and remarks that Kousei is underestimating Shion, and promises to help Shion with her schoolwork. Yukina actually only has a month until she graduates, which prompts the two girls to leave the concert and get started practicing. Losing its alto in Yukina and its accompaniment in Shion, the concert comes to an impromptu end, to Kozue’s chagrin.

Yumerun tries to brighten the mood by delivering an intense confession of her own to Jin (“Please go out with me with the intent of marriage!”). While she says her feelings for him were likely always obvious, Jin (ever oblivious) mentions that he never even noticed. When Jin asks what kind of feeling “love” even is, Yumerun replies that it’s to treasure someone—while also thinking inside that it’s about wanting to have someone all to yourself—Jin curtly replies, “I don’t think I’m worth that much,” and leaves. Akira immediately gets up to chase, but Kozue stops him, saying that he shouldn’t be the one, and goes off after Jin herself.

The Details of Drama

The above summary is a lot wordier than I would typically prefer, but I felt that the contours of this chapter are important this month—especially because of how serious Hashikko Ensemble is getting. The drama has ramped up in many ways even if there’s still a dose of levity, with the Jin-Yumerun interaction emphasizing that contrast. In some ways, it reminds me of the Karuizawa story in Genshiken (where Ogiue finally pours her turbulent heart out to Sasahara), but the difference is that Ogiue started out full of pain, and Jin’s recent turn is more drastic compared to how we first meet him back in Chapter 1.

Jin and Love

Jin is the main focus throughout here, and I love what they’re doing with his character. The conflict that’s broiling inside him feels so real. Jin’s impressions of the girls’ performance come after Akira’s, and their differences in this moment really drive home how out-of-sorts Jin feels. Akira’s perspective comes from a less experienced place: He can tell how strong Yumerun is, that Kanon sings like it’s karaoke, and how Kozue is uncharacteristically not that great at it.  Jin’s analysis, on the other hands, is very cynical and clinical, which feels so unlike what we expect of him. It’s like he’s turned a harsher ear on others as a consequence of becoming harsher on himself.

Then, when he’s asking Yumerun what it means to “love,” I get the impression that he’s not just talking about people. I suspect that he’s doubting whether he truly ever understood what it means to love music. Perhaps he feels that he’s been confusing his highly dedicated study and time poured into singing with genuine passion. When he says he isn’t worth that much, I think it might be because he seems himself as something of a fraud.

Master Yukina

Kousei continues to resist his interest in Shion, but one fun development out of this is Yukina and Shion’s friendship! I’m a fan of how Yukina and Shion quickly lose track of what they were talking about in the first place—It’s like watching a real and genuine friendship grow. Shion starts to call Yukina Shisou (“Master”), and I hope we get more of this in the future.

Jin, Kozue, Yumerun

Given the tiny bit of blushing, I can’t help but wonder if Kozue feels something for Jin beyond his surprisingly muscular body. The fact that she has a thing for that childhood friend of hers already means she’s potentially into multiple guys—a nice change of pace from so many other manga. The story seems to be going towards forging a bond between Jin and Kozue, and I think maybe it’s precisely because Kozue can’t sing all that well that she’s the right person to talk to Jin. Akira might very well drive Jin further down the hole, while Kozue’s lack of skill means that “having the music inside yourself” isn’t necessarily tied to one’s ability.

The fact that Jin was entirely unaware of Yumerun’s love for him is completely unsurprising, and I still wonder if he might be somewhere on the spectrum. Yumerun’s near-yandere romantic emotions are equally unsurprising. If there is some kind of love triangle at work here, I don’t know which I would cheer for. All possibilities are excellent, even the less orthodox ones.

Songs

“Haru yo, Koi” (“Come, Spring”) by Matsutouya Yumi.

“Mugi no Uta” (“Song of Wheat”) by Nakajima Miyuki. The lyrics of this song in particular feel like they’re talking to Jin and his current problems. “Even if the wheat loses its wings, songs have their wings.”

Final Thoughts

Akira refers to Yumerun as “Yumeru” in this chapter, and I can’t entirely tell if that’s actually her name or if Akira is just misremembering it. If it’s the latter, it’s a reminder that they barely met each other.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights October 2021

Kio Shimoku claims at the beginning of October that there won’t be as much tweeting, but that turns out not to be so much the case. This month also features (?) Kio drunk tweeting for the first time!

Work-Related

Kio felt he did a good job with the linework in this “pencil” layer for some extra art for Spotted Flower Volume 5, but laments that he inevitably has to cover it with ink lines.

Kio explains that he had all this energy doing collaborative illustrations and tweeting a bunch because of the double-release, and apologizes that it won’t be the same once September is over.

Kio thanks readers of Spotted Flower, and mentions that he has no idea where the story will go.

Working on a choir-themed manga, Kio is extremely grateful to all the talented musical composers involved.

Kio talks about how he used a technical high school as reference for Hashikko Ensemble, and that he basically drew it in Volume 2.

Kio links to a couple of songs that have shown up in Hashikko Ensemble. In turn, the composer of those songs retweeted him and expresses how happy she is about them appearing in Hashikko Ensemble, which Kio finds to be a good thing.

After all the endless work from doing two collected releases and more, Kio finally relaxes at a nice spa and massage place. But when he went to take a nap in the nap room, there was an old man snoring there. Though, overall, it was the first time in a long while that he had no trouble waking up early.

Hashikko Ensemble vs. Spotted Flower

Kozue: “A forced growth spurt?!”

Kio struggles all night to work on the final page of his manuscript for the recent chapter of Hashikko Ensemble, while at the same time being aware that he’s probably going to make corrections to it in the morning anyway.

People could win Spotted Flower stickers!

Hobby-Related

Kio wonders if they still make ekranoplans, and finds himself wanting one when he thinks about them.

Kio is tempted to get a small apartment very close to Akihabara.

“I escaped from reality.” Whether this is related to the previous tweet is unclear.

Kio buys Five Star Stories Volume 16, as well as a Newtype Magazine with Five Star Stories on the cover. He also has a model of the VOLKS Arsculs, but hasn’t built it yet because the binders are pretty daunting. (At this point, it’s pretty clear he’s a huge fan.)

Kio looks at his Speed Mirage Five Star Stories kit. It took him ten years to finish it.

Kio retweets a model kit site’s tweet featuring the Kettengrad, the namesake (?) of Ritsuko from Kujibiki Unbalance.

Kio and Drinking

Kio worries about the fact that he likes himself best when he’s drunk, to which others reply. Artist Ikuhana Niro says “Yep, I like you!” to which Kio says, “Thanks!” Another individual mentions that communication skills get stronger after drinking, which Kio agrees with.

Kio drunk tweeting. It’s mostly about him heading home, having trouble getting through his door, and asking if people like Drunk Kio. Ikuhana inevitably replies with a yes, but asks him to take care of himself.

Kio later thinks he drank a hangover supplement on the way back, but can’t actually remember it.

Miscellaneous

Kio successfully makes a phone call, and then reminisces about when he was a kid. He hated talking on the phone, sometimes to the point of tears.

The weather’s getting colder, so Kio is bringing his pet tortoise back indoors.

Kio dons the belly warmer for the coming months.

All Eyes On: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 45

Akira asks everyone whether they think a beginner can get into music college.

So much of what I’ve been wanting and anticipating has finally hit in what is one of the most impactful chapters of Hashikko Ensemble yet.

Summary

At a meeting, Akira openly asks the Chorus Appreciation Society members if they think he has what it takes to get into a music college. While Tsuyama gets mad at him for bringing that up among students at a vocation-focused technical high school, Jin points to Akira’s many impressive qualities as a singer. However, while Jin’s words are filled with praise, his demeanor barely hides his conflicted emotions. But even though Jin doesn’t understand what exactly he’s feeling, it has a real effect on him physically and psychologically—Upon attempting a rehearsal, his voice cuts out, and he finds himself unable to sing. To everyone’s surprise, Jin takes a break from chorus activities.

Without Jin, the society’s general mood turns sour, and as Valentine’s Day approaches, Kozue gets an idea: Hold a private Valentine’s Day performance in their meeting room, with all the girls—even the normally non-participatory Kanon and Mimi-sensei—as the singers. The girls give the guys their chocolate (including certain romantic hopefuls trying their luck), but the “concert” itself has a couple twists. First, as per Japanese tradition, this Valentine’s Day event is to be reciprocated by the guys via a White Day performance. Second, a couple of guests are included among the girls: Hashimoto Tech’s resident arm wrestling champion,Yukina, and Jin’s childhood friend and ace soprano, Yumerun. As the performance begins, the chapter ends.

Jin Reaches the Breaking Point

Jin starts to sing but then suddenly stops, and it almost looks like his entire being is shattering from around the throat area.

Jin’s spiral was more a matter of “when” than “if,” and it signals a crucial moment in Hashikko Ensemble. Up to this point, the friendship between him and Akira has been the lynchpin of both the manga and the Chorus Appreciation Society within. To see a serious metaphorical fracture is the most direct drama we’ve seen as of yet.

Jin’s inner conflict seems clear to me: His mind and his heart are at odds with each other. On the one hand, he intellectually understands on a deep level everything about Akira’s talents and continuous improvement, and even wants him to succeed as both a friend and a person undeniably passionate about music. On the other hand, seeing Akira accomplish so much more in such a short period (even earning praise from Jin’s infamously blunt mother) must fill him with an envy that’s hard to isolate from his other emotions. As Jin states in his thoughts, he feels proud that he’s the one who discovered Akira and who first recognized his potential, but for the master to have been surpassed by the student so soon is itself a blow to Jin’s pride in himself that he achieved through hard work. It’s like Jin wants Akira to both succeed and fail, and this has compromised his ability to approach music itself.

I live for this kind of complex emotional richness in manga.

The Girls Do Their Thing

Kozue announces Yumerun as the special guest.

I’ve been hoping to see the girls do their own thing. It’s not just for some arbitrary requirement to fulfill, but simply that there are so many excellent female characters that I feel they could use a spotlight that’s founded in the very gimmick of Hashikko Ensemble: music. I did not expect Yukina or Yumerun to show up, but their presence is welcome.

I suspect that the reason Yumerun is part of the performance is because this is, in part, Kozue’s plan to get Jin out of his funk, and she’s been in regular contact with Yumerun ever since M-Con. The way Jin instantly beams upon seeing Yumerun shows a connection that’s different from what he has with everyone in the main group, including Akira, and I think Kozue recognizes that bond. The deal about the guys having to return the favor on White Day only adds to the idea of this performance being a way to encourage Jin to find back.

Speaking of Yumerun, I love the reaction to her from Mai. While Hashikko Ensemble is full of eccentric personalities, there’s something about Yumerun that exudes “odd duck” vibes. It’s not just the fancy dress either, as her mere presence—especially that “anxious confidence” look she always has on her face—kind of feels like a disco ball in human form.

Mai, Yukina, Kanon, Kozue, Yumerun, and Mimi-sensei singing.

I also love this image of all the girls singing together because you can really see their personalities shining through. Kanon is nervous and unsure of herself. Kozue is earnest but also in an unfamiliar situation. Yumerun is, well, Extremely Extra.

Songs

“III. Blue” from “The Wings of Mind”

“Haru yo, Koi” (“Come, Spring”) by Matsutouya Yumi. This is the song the girls start performing at the end of the chapter.

Final Thoughts

Volume 7 of the manga is on sale in Japan and worth checking out. There’s a picture of Mai and Yumerun together in swimsuits, and the fact that it came out before this chapter (which is their official first meeting) is interesting. 

A Tribute of Violence and Reverence: Getter Robo Arc

Getter Robo Arc is one of the most unusual Getter Robo anime ever, doing what none of its predecessors even bothered to try: Be a generally faithful adaptation of the manga. This choice is all the more unusual because 1) the manga never finished, and 2) watching any (or even all) of the previous Getter Robo anime only prepares you to a certain degree. But Getter Robo Arc has different priorities than many anime, including its predecessors, and that’s to be a letter of love and gratitude to the original creator of Getter Robo, the late Ishikawa Ken.

Getter Robo Arc is the story of Nagare Takuma, son of the original head pilot of Getter Robo, Nagare Ryouma. Having experienced tragedy and now filled with a desire for revenge, he travels to the Saotome Research Institute (the home of Getter Robo) to get some answers. However, heading the Institute is his father’s old co-pilot, Jin Hayato, and the old scientist recognizes in Takuma the same fiery spirit as Ryouma. Hayato draws Takuma into piloting the mighty Getter Robo Arc against a mysterious force from beyond the cosmos bent on wiping out humanity known as the Andromeda Stellaration, and joining him are Takuma’s friend Yamagishi Baku, a psychically gifted monk whose older brother also has ties to Getter Robo, and Shou Kamui, a half-dinosaur descended from the first Getter Robo’s enemies. As they battle, their struggle takes them to the core truths of what the mysterious “Getter Energy” is.

It’s difficult to exaggerate how varied the Getter Robo anime prior to Arc have been. Sometimes they’re approximate counterparts to manga versions with the edges shaved off a little, like with Getter Robo, Getter Robo G, and Getter Robo Go. Sometimes they’re heavily reimagined sequels and reboots that play with elements of the franchise like Lego blocks, as is the case with Shin Getter Robo Armageddon, Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, and New Getter Robo. So while Getter Robo Arc is supposed to be the last manga entry and the direct sequel to every manga version before it, watching literally every anime that has come out before will give you a rough preparation for what’s going on, but there will inevitably be a lot of blank spaces to fill out in terms of understanding. Someone coming in with this as their very first Getter Robo anime may feel lost for at least two or three episodes.

Yet, even with this confusing aspect of the series and animation that comes across in the best of times as desperately trying to make the best of limited talent and resources, I really enjoyed the ride that Getter Robo provides. Even if Takuma, Kamui, and Baku can never stay on-model from scene to scene, the anime conveys their intensity in spades. Though the story feels like a rickety minecart, the franchise’s general emphasis on the positives and negatives of limitless human potential ring loudly here in a way that shows the original manga’s undeniable influence on works like Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann. And while the battles aren’t quite as gorgeous as the ones found in the 2000s OVAs like Armageddon, they’re still impressive and exciting. 

I didn’t go into this show knowing what I’m about to mention, but I think it can be important for fans to know an important SPOILER about the Arc manga:

It never finished.

Similar to Miura Kentaro’s recent passing and Berserk, Getter Robo Arc and Getter Robo as a whole are in a state of limbo because of Ishikawa’s death in 2006. While the question of whether Berserk will continue is still unknown, the anime version of Arc barely adds anything extra to the cliffhanger that greets viewers by the end. I can’t say I’m entirely satisfied with that approach, as I think it wouldn’t have been a terrible idea to at least try—the manga’s still there, after all. But much like with Miura and Berserk, it might not have felt appropriate to take a generally faithful manga adaptation to a conclusion not envisioned by an author like Ishikawa, who clearly had an entire universe of Getter in his mind.

Overall, Getter Robo Arc comes across as crude and inconsistent in execution, yet filled with love and passion. In a way, it perfectly encapsulates the Getter spirit. It does make me wonder if we’ll ever see more Getter Robo anime, but I think that’s, in a way, an inevitability.