MinMAY: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for May 2021

There’s a lot going on in the world that seems out of strangest dreams and nightmares, but within the specific realm of anime fandom, the big news has been that licensing rights for the Macross franchise have, at long last, been resolved. It’s like seeing pigs fly, then transform into Gerwalk mode. For all fans who have wanted to support Macross more directly but haven’t had the means to do so, this is our chance to let the creators and everyone else know what an impact Macross has had on our lives. I haven’t written any blog posts about the topic, but I don’t have that much to say except “Listen to my song!”

There’s not much out of it yet, but in the meantime, the official YouTube channel has uploaded the full Macross Flash Back 2012 (a sort of music video compilation) for a limited time. “Tenshi no Enogu” best song, by the way.

Oh, and despite the title of this month’s update, I’m Team Misa all the way.

Moving on to May’s Patreon sponsors, I’d like to say thank everyone, especially everyone here:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from April:

Courage and Experience: “Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 2” Novel Review

Part 2 of 3 of my Gaogaiger sequel novel reviews!

Minmaxer Fiction: The Intersection Between Dungeons & Dragons and Isekai

Thoughts on how one of the most typical modern light novel setups appeals to one of the classic Dungeons & Dragons player types

Violence Miu: 22/7 Anime Review

How a unique(ly violent) protagonist makes this idol anime memorable.

Apartment 507

Early reviews of Tropical Rouge! Precure and Burning Kabaddi.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 39 continues to have Jin’s mom, Reika, steal the show.

Also, I have two posts highlighting the best of Kio Shimoku’s Twitter account!

Post 1

Post 2

Closing

My second COVID-19 vaccination is this month. If you have the opportunity to get one, I highly encourage you to do so!

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights April 2021

Another month of Kio Shimoku tweets is here! The guy has finally learned how to thread tweets, which makes things easier for me. A lot of the month was promoting his books, as well as other titles in Rakuen: Le Paradis, where Spotted Flower runs.

Crossover Images Featuring Genshiken, Hashikko Ensemble, and Spotted Flower

A crossover between Jin and Madarame.

Image 1:

“Stand like you’re being held by a string from the sky!” [a way to teach proper posture for singing]

“It’s normal for me to be hunched over, you know. *mutter*”

A duo who will never see eye to eye.

Image 2:

“So what was like in high school?”

“Well, it was pretty ordinary. I was in an otaku club…and I had long hair…”

“Ahh, Hashi Tech has one of those too. It’s called the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture.”

“……Huh?”

I find this amusing because I sort of think of Jin and Madarame as similar characters, but they’re actually quite different. Jin is almost like if you mixed Madarame and Kohsaka.

Also, it turns out that teenage Madarame, Tanaka, and Kugayama doppelgangers (in an actual Genshiken club) actually did make a cameo in Hashikko Ensemble!

Old drawings from the @hashikko_music Twitter. In the first, Hasegawa is commenting that Sue has a nasty expression. In the second, Himari is about to make the same comment about Ogino-sensei, but is struck by their similarities.

More old drawings from the other account. This time, it’s Not-Sue holding Himari, only to realize it’s not Ogino-sensei.

Ohno and Mimi-sensei…and also Shion, who wants a grab.

More Tortoise!

Sleeping Tortoise Pose Series. Pose: Manji

Kio recalls a moment from 10 years ago, where a stray cat was curiously poking at the tortoise as the latter slowly tried to scuttle away. He remarks that, amazingly, this is the same tortoise who now actively rams the window asking to be let in.

Here’s how the turtle crawls in.

Miscellaneous

Thanking Taniguchi Jun’ichirou for his animation work on Genshiken. This includes Nidaime and the original series, where Taniguchi and Mizushima Tsutomu (who would later go on to direct Nidaime) worked on the infamous “nose hair” episode.

And another old drawing about washing your hands. I believe this was from early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kio bought an L-Gaim model kit!

Kurotaki Mai from Hashikko Ensemble with extremely realistic bunny ears.

That’s all for this month!

Heel Behavior: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 39

Reika, Jin's Mom, telling the Basso Masters to sing from the heels

Jin’s mom continues to be a tour de force in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 39.

Summary

It’s now the finals of the Culture Festival’s music competition, and the Chorus Appreciation Society is up against the mysterious masked Basso Masters. However, not everything is as it seems. The leader of the Basso Masters isn’t anyone special or known—just a friendly third-year named Satou who was inspired by Jin to follow his interest in music. And even though Jin’s mom, Reika, gave Jin a deal to let him go to music college if they win, Jin himself doesn’t really care about that. In fact, he likes applying his match and science skills in electrical engineering, and simply wants to show Reika the merits of singing as a group.

The Basso Masters go first, but just as they begin their performance, Reika interrupts them to rearrange the singers’ positions to group them according to roles (Bass I, Bass II, Tenor I, Tenor II). She also provides some advice on how to sing from the entire body instead of just from the throat. The difference is so immediately noticeable and significant that even the members of the Chorus Appreciation Society can’t help but applaud by the end.

The Basso Masters singing intensely after taking Reika's advice

As Jin, Akira, and the others get ready for their turn, a student from electrical engineering brings to Jin an LED display meant to show the lyrics to their next song, “Kokoro no Tsubasa.” Here, we learn that Himari has been hard at work getting this done, going so far as to learn how to program. Akira, seeing how many people Jin has touched and changed with his passion for music (Akira himself included), encourages Jin to consider music college after all.

The Power of Reika

Once again, Reika steals the show, as she presents an interesting obstacle for Jin. I think the really challenging thing about her from Jin’s perspective is that her talent, as well as her ability to recognize talent, are undeniable. While Reika believes group singing is less important than solo performances, it’s not as if she dismisses it outright. In fact, it’s thanks to her immense understanding of chorus dynamics that the Basso Masters are able to put on an amazing performance. She also specifically tells Satou, the Basso Leader, that he’s actually pretty good at conducting, so it’s not as if she has an ego about it. Reika is simply incredibly unfiltered—another similarity she has with her son, even if they manifest differently. At one point, Reika puts on a spare pair of glasses, and the students at school instantly recognize her as Jin’s mom. The way the Kimura family carry themselves is unmistakable.

Reika’s advice for how to sing better explains a lot as well. Essentially, she says that the common folk breathe from the throat, the experienced breathe from the spine, and the true masters breathe from the heels. So, when you sing, your feelings should erupt forth like magma—through the butt, then the spine, then the throat, then the forehead, then the top of your head. Not only is it a vivid visual metaphor (especially for a song called “Hymn of the Earth”) but it explains why Reika believes that an exposed forehead makes for better singing.

Himari Working Behind the Scenes

I had been wondering about Himari’s lack of presence in recent chapters, and I’m glad that it wasn’t just her being outshone by other characters. The fact that she hasn’t been in the spotlight is also quite fitting for her personality, and in hindsight I think it was the smart move overall. She’s trying to help in her own way, and she doesn’t make a big fuss out of it because she doesn’t want the attention. This likely goes all the way back to Jin leaving Himari’s apartment (and the inevitable misinterpretation of events that occurred): she was probably helping Jin with this LED display. Moreover, Akira points out that Himari has always been fond of picture books and poetry and such, so the lyrics of “Kokoro no Tsubasa” must have resonated with her. 

Himari isn’t a writer, as far as we know, but could her appreciation of the written world lead to her eventually joining the Chorus Appreciation Society? Either direction would work, and would indicate where her character has headed.

Songs

Basso Masters: “Daichi Kinshou” (Hymn of the Earth) from the cantata “Tsuchi no Uta” (Song of the Land)

“Kokoro no Tsubasa” (“The Wings of Mind”) composed by Kitagawa Noboru

Final Thoughts

I’m worried that something disastrous is going to happen to Akira and Jin! Something tells me the conflict with Reika isn’t over by a mile.

Minmaxer Fiction: The Intersection Between Dungeons & Dragons and Isekai

I saw a tweet recently from someone complaining about isekai series that introduce and highlight stats and numbers the way an RPG would despite ostensibly being set in non-game fantasy worlds. 

In response, I  wrote the above tweet to give my two cents on the appeal of such an approach. However, it also got me thinking in another direction that takes this RPG fantasy game genre all the way back to one of its roots—good ol’ Dungeons & Dragons—and I realized something: these game-esque light novels feel like they’re written by what tabletop RPG players call “minmaxers.”

I was introduced to playing D&D thanks to Alain from Reverse Thieves, and after years of playing with him, I’ve come to learn firsthand that roleplaying is a very different experience compared to prose fiction or a television show. Essentially, it’s more like collaborative interactive storytelling compared to other mediums, and one aspect of this nature is that many different people with different goals come to the same table. You might have someone who’s more into exploring the world. You might have someone who wants the glory of slaying the monster and saving the day. You might have someone who wants a dramatic narrative. Because this dynamic is so important, many people have devoted many hours to categorizing the various D&D player types and thinking about how to best cater to them or even deal with their worst excesses.

Among these player archetypes, a common one is the minmaxer: the person who’s all about designing strong characters from a statistical perspective by minimizing certain scores and maximizing others, often prioritizing power over all else. There are also less extreme versions of this, such as someone simply interested in game systems and how different stats interact with one another, but it falls in the same general space. However, whereas a Dungeon Master running a game might have to take into account all the potentially different priorities of their players, a web novelist or light novelist can write the stories they want without necessarily taking into account an audience composed of varying tastes, and instead tell a story where the “game mechanics” are front and center. Adding to this intentional rigidity is the fact that many of the light novels that fall into these minmaxer worlds are clearly more inspired by video games such as Japanese RPGs and MMORPGs, where mechanics mastery is often highly valued and encouraged by the games themselves—sometimes even over storytelling.

When you look at the typical trends of protagonists within these game-style fantasy worlds, this angle becomes all the clearer. Many isekai heroes are able to peer deeper into the inner workings of the world (So I’m a Spider, So What?), have some kind of special ability that lets them defy stat restrictions (Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?), or just know that there are game-like qualities to their world (My Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!). What these features have in common is that they “break” the rules, and it’s even easier when the rules are just numbers and calculations. If you’ve ever been or seen someone who wants to be praised for an interesting build or stat investment in a game (“Check out how I combine Helmet A with Sword B to deal with Situation C!” “I gave my monster 248 speed instead of 252 so I could add 4 to defense!”), it’s that same energy. When you combine it with the glory-seeking player type, you get the overpowered perfect light novel protagonist who masterfully exploits the mechanics, defeats the villains with ease, and gets the harem.

A picture of the four personalities of Kumoko from So I'm a Spider, So What? All of them are excited in different ways.
So I’m a Spider, So What?

Which isn’t to say that the minmaxer approach to writing stories is inherently bad or incapable of making for good stories. Rather, where I think the disconnect between those who want more classical fantasy stories and what light novels are offering today is that the minmaxer is traditionally very much not the kind of person who gets into writing or reading fantasy novels. To be that way, you have to come from an environment where numbered stats are even a thing in the first place, and that can only be the result of a world where Dungeons & Dragons popularized the notion of codifying fantasy-genre elements into stats with pros and cons for the purpose of gaming—a quality that then became the basis for many of the JRPGs that have influenced a generation of Japanese people, among them the writers of web novels and light novels. It’s a far cry from Lord of the Rings.

This contrast actually reminds me of an episode of the sitcom Home Improvement, of all things. In it, the mother character, Jill Taylor, is asked by her father (a retired colonel) to review his autobiography manuscript. But try as she might, Jill finds it incredibly boring and sleep-inducing because her father mostly writes about battle strategy and military formations, as opposed to dramatic exploits or anything emotionally resonant. Her father clearly values the mechanics of war, but what he wants his book to convey is not appealing to those with little interest in such things. Given this example, it’s also worth noting that D&D itself is descended from a miniature wargame called Chainmail, and one of the ways that D&D would eventually expand its audience was by adding elements that would appeal to those who care about things other than combat.

So while fantasy traditionally caters to those who want to witness a world of swords and sorcery where the sense of the mysterious and unknown is paramount, the minmaxer fiction that is so ubiquitous in fantasy light novels over the past decade or two is almost the opposite. In these worlds, all surprises can be overcome with deeper or prior knowledge. It’s no wonder why the latter approach can be so bothersome to those who seek the former, and there’s no Dungeon Master who can try to cater to both in real time.

How Incineroar in Smash Bros. Embodies Japanese Pro Wrestling

Incineroar is one of my favorite characters to play in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He’s the first truly traditional grappler character in the franchise, and his entire moveset directly reflects the Pokémon’s pro wrestling background. However, what I think is really fascinating about Incineroar’s implementation in Smash is that the character draws most directly from an old-school Japanese professional wrestling aesthetic and history.

To start off, a major part of Incineroar’s Japan-inspired wrestling design is a part of its identity as a Pokémon. It clearly takes a lot of influence from the beloved fictional wrestling character turned actual flesh-and-blood wrestler Tiger Mask—both are cat-themed athletes who are ostensibly heels but have a soft spot for children. But if you take a look at the relative strength of Incineroar’s attacks, you’ll find that it’s based on Japan’s cultural understanding of pro wrestling.

Incineroar’s forward smash is an Enzuigiri, and it has immense damage and KO potential. To a viewer mainly familiar with American promotions, the Enzuigiri is mostly used as a transitional move to something stronger or a counter to an opponent’s offense. However, the technique has a greater legacy in Japan, where it is the finisher of Antonio Inoki, one of the three most famous Japanese wrestlers of all time. Inoki is a legend as both a champion and the founder of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and was even used as the model for the character Fighter Hayabusa in the NES game Pro Wrestling, where the Enzuigiri is known as the “Back Brain Kick.”

If you look at what Incineroar can do off a grab, you’ll find a similar phenomenon. Of the character’s four basic throws, the deadliest one is the German Suplex. Again, you have a move that, outside of Japan, is seen as kind of generic; maybe at most, people might associate it with Kurt Angle or Brock Lesnar. But the German Suplex is also the defining hold of Karl Gotch, the man known as the “god of wrestling” in Japan. Gotch had an enormous influence on the Japanese pro wrestling style, and even today whenever a wrestler pulls off a German Suplex in Japan, it’s seen as a big deal that can potentially end a match right then and there.

Another powerful throw Incineroar uses is the Argentine Backbreaker. While this move is seen in the US as more impactful than the Enzuigiri or German Suplex thanks to wrestlers like Lex Luger and the man who originally popularized it, Antonino Rocca, its footprint is even more prevalent in Japan. Not only did Rocca wrestle in Japan later in his career and is possibly the namesake of Antonio Inoki, but the Argentine Backbreaker also gained notoriety in the pages of the manga Kinnikuman. There, the character Robin Mask (a wrestler dressed like an English knight) uses it as a finishing move, calling it the Tower Bridge. Moreover, it’s clear that at least Sakurai Masahiro (the director of the Smash Bros. franchise) knows Kinnikuman: he posted to Twitter an image of Smash characters mimicking the Muscle Docking technique from the series:

Moving on, Incineroar’s best attack is arguably its side special, the Alolan Whip. While the name itself is a parody of the Irish Whip, the more important part is the follow-up: a vicious Lariat. 

One of the most famous American wrestlers to ever entertain fans in Japan is Stan Hansen, whose Western Lariat became downright iconic everywhere he fought. On the Japanese Wikipedia page for “Lariat,” the history section literally begins with a mention of Hansen, and in current times, the Japanese wrestler Okada Kazuchika is famed for his “Rainmaker” Lariat. Incidentally, Incineroar also has another related move taken from the Pokémon games—Darkest Lariat—but that’s closer to Zangief from Street Fighter II’s Double Lariat.

Generally speaking, I find that pro wrestling has a lot more of a longstanding influence on Japanese pop culture than it does American pop culture, despite the fact that pro wrestling as we know it has its origins in the United States. Even today, manga and anime wholly unrelated to wrestling or hand-to-hand combat (like Laid-Back Camp) will throw in a few references, as if to assume a common understanding among readers. So while having a wrestling cat for a Pokémon is not altogether that unusual regardless of culture, I find the execution of such a concept in Smash Bros. Ultimate to be very reflective of that enduring legacy. The fact that Incineroar so embodies the values of Japanese pro wrestling makes it all the more fun to play, win or lose.

Genshiken’s Kio Shimoku Is Now on Twitter!

In one of the biggest pieces of Genshiken-related news to come out in a long time, author Kio Shimoku finally has a Twitter account, @kioshimoku1!

He’s genuinely new to the platform, as he seems to not even understand how to thread tweets. He also doesn’t really respond to fan tweets. Even so, it’s become a great place to learn things about the man that were previously unknown. But in recent years, he’s been willing to open up more (and has even done a couple interviews), and now he’s providing valuable creator insight and even a bit of personal history.

While I would love to translate everything, I don’t have the time for such a time-consuming endeavor. Instead, what I’m thinking of doing is just sharing some highlights from Kio’s account once a month or so. 

Here’s one group of noteworthy tweets, as well as a summary below.

After having watched the Professional episode on Anno Hideaki, Kio reminisces about past Anno works, like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind [where he was an animator] and Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. Aim for the Top! he couldn’t watch as it was coming out because it was an OVA, and his family only had Betamax, so he couldn’t rent tapes. Years later, after winning the Afternoon Four Seasons Award for manga while in college, he used his prize money to buy a VCR.

Kio believes he first heard of Nadia from the very first info about it in Animage, and thinks (but isn’t certain) that he knew Anno’s name at that point. Kio was all about Miyazaki Hayao’s anime at that time, and believed anime should be all about big adventures, so he recorded Nadia on Betamax every week. He certainly did notice the production issues that anime faced, though.

After trying to remember if he drew any Nadia fan works at the time, he remembers that one of his drawing submissions was actually published in Animage. [Note: I wonder if we could find his drawing…] He’s also pretty sure he drew some Nadia doujinshi, but can’t remember what it was about (other than it was not pornographic).

But then…

Kio is reminded by his Twitter followers that he not only drew a Nadia fan comic in 2012 as part of an anthology, but that he made the exact same response of having drawn doujin but having no recollection of the contents.

Finally, Kio drew this picture of Nadia in a plugsuit.

Speaking of drawings, it’s one of the best reasons to follow Kio on Twitter.

Sue vs. Hasegawa

Sue vs. Hasegawa aftermath

People have been saying she reminds them of Yajima from Genshiken, so Kio provided these notes.

Hasegawa Kozue, first-year Architecture and Construction major at Hashimoto Technical High School.

  • She was introduced unceremoniously to Hashikko Ensemble, but she has such a powerful presence that she became one of the central characters. She became the group’s conductor so easily that she feels broken.
  • She’s the only one who can fight Sue toe-to-toe.
  • Despite being only a 1-dan in Judo, she can toss her 2-dan older brothers (and others of that level) around with ease.
  • She sometimes acts as the author’s avatar.

Ogiue! Kio practiced drawing Ogiue in an older style for the Twitter introduction image at the top of this post.

Kio Shimoku has a pet turtle.

Orihara and Shion

And that’s all for this time. Look forward to next month, maybe?

Whack Chin: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for April 2021

It feels like I blinked and now a new anime season is upon us. There are plenty of shows that are catching my eye, including 86: Eighty Six, SSSS.Dynazenon, NOMAD: Megalo Box 2, and of course, Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 3. I hope everyone is doing well, and in a place where they have something that can provide them joy and comfort in trying times, whether it’s anime, manga, or something else entirely.

COVID-19 vaccines are in full swing at the moment, and while I’m not sure I should be the one to say it, everyone should get vaccinated when they can, and continue to practice safety measures like wearing face masks. I look forward to the day we can comfortably see our loved ones and maybe even attend an anime convention or two without fear.

Thanks to April’s Patreon sponsors:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from March:

Wellness for the Self, Wellness for the World: Healin’ Good Precure

My review of 2020’s Precure anime.

The Perfect Storm of Virtual Youtubers

My thoughts on how Virtual Youtubers unite different groups on the internet.

Thought on Anti-Asian Racism in the US

Something more personal, and less anime-related. I hope you’ll read it.

Apartment 507

I tried out Joy Sound Karaoke on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s a decent way to get in your karaoke fix.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 38 features Jin’s mom, and she is ammmmazing.

Closing

I hope that we remember that pitting the poor and minorities against one another is exactly what powerful bigots want. It keeps us divided and unable to see the systemic problems that keep people oppressed. Do not let the racism foisted upon us control our lives. Do not misdirect your anger.

Breakers Revenge: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 38

A new chapter shows Jin’s mom, Reika, in all her glory. But before I dive into the review, a few important pieces of news:

First, Volume 6 of Hashikko Ensemble is currently on sale in Japan. This volume doesn’t appear to have any limited edition extras, which is good for my wallet.

Second, Kio Shimoku is finally on Twitter! Follow him @kioshimoku1. In addition to posting art on occasion, he also tweets stories about his life both past and present. For example, did you know his family only had Betamax instead of VHS growing up, and he used the money from winning the Afternoon Four Seasons Award in college to buy a VCR? I’m thinking of making occasional posts summarizing interesting tweets from Kio. 

Third, today is Ogiue’s birthday! Happy birthday to the best girl ever.

Now, on to Chapter 38!

Summary

Despite a fantastic performance by Mai and her group, Noi Majo, the Chorus Appreciation Society beats them and moves on to the finals of the School Culture Festival tournament. Stepping away from the stage to take a break, Jin’s mom (with Yumerun) finally arrives at the high school. Shuusuke immediately recognizes her as the world-famous soprano, Kimura Reika, who has sung in operas across the globe. She’s also infamous for her selfish attitude that has earned her the nickname “Breaker”—a portmanteau of burei (rude) and Reika. The members see a lot of her qualities in Jin.

Jin is bothered by his mom’s attitude, feeling that she allows her immense talent to be her excuse for poor behavior. Jin tells a story from middle school, about Reika agreeing to sing with his boys’ and girls’ choir—only to never come to practice until the very last day, put on an astounding performance at rehearsal, recognize Yumerun’s ability, and then skip out on the actual day of the recital in order to perform for an Italian conductor. 

While Reika explains that she 1) called to cancel rather than bail without warning 2) ended up making way for Yumerun’s rise 3) didn’t want to take away from a performance that was supposed to focus on the kids, Jin still can’t accept how much she inconveniences others because music is something people create together. Reika responds that music is about self-expression and the passion of the moment, and points out that there are no “chorus majors” at any music colleges, showing how important individuals are in the field. But when she questions the usefulness and motives of Jin joining a technical high school just to form this group, Akira comes to his defense to talk about how much discovering singing thanks to Jin has helped him change and grow. Reika then decides on a deal: if they can win the entire competition, then she will let Jin go to a music college. Jin seems more confused than pleased.

Giga Drill

Reika was introduced two chapters ago, but her “true” debut (i.e. meeting Akira and the others) exceeds my expectations in nearly every way. This manga has great moms, and I don’t mean it in that way. 

In my Chapter 36 review, I mentioned how I had originally imagined Reika as much more strict and demanding, but everything about her screams the opposite. She’s like pure “id,” doing whatever she wants whenever she wants. And while she seems to have this in common with her son, the finer details of their respective approaches and philosophies regarding music do reveal a profound divide between the two. 

Jin sees music as a product of effort, and cooperation; Reika sees it as spontaneous artistic expression. Whereas Jin has broken down music scientifically in order to master its ins and outs, Reika utilizes intuition and natural sense. There’s a part in the flashback where Jin thinks, after hearing his mom sing with the group during rehearsal, “Why couldn’t I have inherited that talent?” To put it in Naruto terms, it’s sort of like if Neji had a Rock Lee for a kid.

(Though, incidentally, Rock Lee’s actual situation in Boruto is the opposite of Reika’s. His son, Metal Lee, is a born genius. But I digress…)

I really love this conflict in the Kimura family because it’s simple on the surface yet has so many layers in terms of the characters’ respective personalities and views of the world. Neither of their respective views on music are necessarily wrong, but they’re clearly a product of what does and doesn’t come naturally to them. Yet, while Jin is trying to make up for what he lacks and doesn’t have that innate understanding of song, his ability to thoroughly analyze and break down music can be considered a talent in and of itself. Jin’s forcefulness doesn’t fall far from the tree, further highlighting the ways Kimura is influenced by his mom both consciously and subconsciously.

I also am beginning to wonder if I should reevaluate my thoughts that Jin might be somewhere on the autism spectrum. It’s not been stated outright at all, but Jin’s personal admission to not being able to interpret song lyrics without outside help, his scientific breakdown of music, as well as his seeming ignorance about social mores all seemed to point in that direction. However, now that we’ve seen Reika on full display, there’s a chance that he’s comparing himself to the ridiculous standard set by his world-renowned operatic soprano mother. Of course, there’s a chance he could be neuroatypical and also have to deal with a genius mother, so the jury’s still out.

Romance Odds and Ends

While Reika dominated the chapter, Akira does get some small moments. When seeing Mai perform, he’s in awe of her ability to sing both boy’s and girl’s roles. He even blushes a little, but he seems to blush all the time. And when Akira begins to defend Jin in front of Reika, Shion can be seen enthralled by Akira’s passion, giving him more courage as well. I don’t know how that love web is going to end up, but I hope they’ll all be happy.

Songs

Noi Majo: “Zenryoku Shounen” (“All-Out Boy)” by Sukima Switch

Electrical First-Years: “Moonlight Densetsu” (aka the Sailor Moon opening)

The song Reika sang with the kids is “Origami” Suite, for Soprano Solo with Girls’ Choir and Piano by Kobayashi Hideo (not available on Youtube).

Final Thoughts

If it isn’t obvious, I think Reika is a fantastic character as both an adult figure and foil for Jin.

As for her nickname, if it were to be translated in English, I think I would go for Breaker standing for “Brazen Reika.”

Helen Keller’s Impeccable Riichi Defense: Greatest M ~Mahjong Tournament of Eminent Figures~

Greatest M ~Mahjong Tournament of Eminent Figures~ is a manga about Helen Keller playing Japanese mahjong co-written by one of the creators of Kakegurui. No, seriously.

If that’s not enough, it’s actually about Helen Keller competing against other famous historical figures in order to determine who will become the next God, as the current Almighty has decided to retire and needs a successor. The solution, provided by other deities: use a test of luck, i.e. gambling, to determine who is best suited for the role. Also, contrary to mainstream conceptions, He is actually a She, and basically acts like a Japanese idol—it’s unclear if that last bit of irony is intentional.

Over-the-top mahjong manga is not all that uncommon. Saki is about yuri and ridiculous mahjong feats. Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku: The Legend of Koizumi is about superpowered politicians instead of superpowered lesbians playing the game. Greatest M is no exception, and indeed bears considerable resemblance to Mudazumo in many ways. But while the essence is very similar, this particular manga presents its players’ abilities as only seemingly magical. No one’s bending reality to cheat—they’re just so impressive that it looks that way. 

For example, one of Helen’s opponents is the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (famous for “The Great Wave Over Kanagawa”), and while it seems like he can see what every tile is going to be, it’s actually because he’s such a master of capturing everything in a single moment that his observational skills allow him to metaphorically “freeze” time. As for Helen herself, her life spent both deaf and blind makes her skilled at navigating tricky table situations, owing to the strength she possesses to move forward in total darkness. 

I should mention that I’m merely assuming that Helen Keller is the main heroine of the story because she’s on the cover of Volume 1, and it’s been promoted on Japanese manga news sites as the series featuring Helen Keller playing mahjong. Given the tournament format of the story, it might very well be Zhuge Liang who goes ahead. Because Helen would be the most intriguing protagonist, my hopes are that she remains in the spotlight, not least of which is because the manga’s portrayal of Helen’s teacher Anne Sullivan is absolutely perfect.

Greatest M is a fun manga and I like the not-too-serious matching of wits and deception that comes part and parcel with a manga that depicts both theatrical competition and the game of mahjong. I’m not sure how those with disabilities might regard Helen Keller’s portrayal—both in terms of her being a cute anime girl and how her blindness and deafness is depicted in the series. Nothing seems especially offensive to me as of yet, but it is curious to see her drawn like a blind girl you’d see in an older visual novel. Also, while the first volume is a wild ride, I’m not certain that this series can maintain its momentum before the gimmick runs a little dry. I’m going to keep up with it in the hopes that it goes somewhere interesting, even if it doesn’t include Super Saiyan Hitler as a final boss.

Sun Guts: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for March 2021

Here we are: roughly a year since coronavirus basically forced the world to change course. I seriously could not have imagined all that has happened since, and it feels like ten years have passed in the span of one. I’m losing my grip on time a bit, but this makes me wonder if doing these monthly blog updates actually helps in some way. I can see the days and weeks go by.

In happier news, the Blocker Corps IV Machine Blaster crowdfund to digitally archive the series was successful! I talked about it in a post to drum up support, and it actually didn’t make it until literally the 11th hour by crossing the finish line with only 11 minutes left in the all-or-nothing campaign. It’s not going to be on anyone’s list of best anime ever, but knowing I helped to keep an anime alive makes me feel good.

After all, I know what it’s like to have the support of others. Thank you to March’s Patreon sponsors:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from February:

God Mars and the Legacy of BL Fan Shipping

A look at the giant robot anime that is foundational to the fujoshi fandom in Japan. Gundam Wing before Gundam Wing, you might say.

That’s Ruff, Buddy—Nichijou: My Ordinary Life

My long overdue review of one of the funniest manga ever.

Otakon Needs Our Help

My favorite anime convention might not survive another year due to the Coronavirus. Consider supporting them!

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 37 has the most intense musical performance yet.

Closing

The 2021 New York International Children’s Film Festival starts this Friday! Unlike previous years, it’s a virtual festival this time around, and the $40 two-week all-acesss pass is an incredibly good deal. If you live in the US, it might be worth checking out.

Also, how about that Pyra and Mythra in Smash Bros. Ultimate, huh? I’m thinking about writing something in regards to fanservice in character designs, hopefully providing a nuanced perspective.

Stay safe, get vaccinated. I wish you good health.