I know I’m probably not the first person to say this, but the Spring 2022 anime season has been rock-solid. I can’t watch every show, but the sheer amount of quality made for quite an enjoyable April, even as the world continues to teeter between hope and despair. Spy x Family, Ya Boy Kongming, Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, Birdie Wing, and a whole host of other series are just knocking it out of the park.
Kio Shimoku’s Twitter was full of design drawings for Hashkko Ensemble. There’s a lot of insight into his early decisions for the manga!
One other piece of big news from April was the announcement and release of the final DLC for Super Robot Wars 30. I still can’t believe Shinkalion made it in! It makes me want to draw giant robot fanart…
Mou mantai is Cantonese for “no problem.” It’s also a signature phrase of Hong Kong native Zhong Lanzhu from Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, whose second season started today. The new anime season is upon us (again!), and I’m feeling positive about new shows, including seeing Lanzhu and the other Monster Girls in Love Live!
Of course, to say that there aren’t any issues is not entirely truthful. April Fool’s, I guess?
Life is good, but not perfect by any means. There are things we can’t control, like the unexpected twists and turns of international affairs. But there are things I can affect, and because life is personally busier at the moment, a part of me wonders if I should reduce my output for Ogiue Maniax. Right now, I typically do 2–3 posts a week (which I’ve kept up for the past 11 years or so), and the new result would be 1–2 posts a week. This would obviously make things easier for me, but then I feel like my Patreon might not be worthwhile anymore for those who still follow me.
A part of me also wonders if the reason I’m feeling this way is because Super Robot Wars 30 is so danged long. Enjoyable, but I think only now (months later) am I reaching the final third of the game.
Speaking of Patreon, my patrons continue to support me. To them, especially those below, I say: Thank you.
I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t full of fear of where the world is going. While violence is nothing new, there’s something about these particularly brazen lies we’re seeing used to justify a takeover of a sovereign nation that has me worried that the world is going to scary places, if not already there.
That said, while I sometimes would like to more fully disconnect my fandoms from the world at large, it’s a great deal harder than one might expect. Case in point, I started watching 2001’s Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier, which is about people who were kidnapped and forcefully integrated with machines, who then rebel against the massive warmongering arms dealer that made them who they are. Even an adaptation of a classic action manga has dimension. That’s not in the same ballpark as, say, a harem series, but I think it’s ideal to discuss both the anime and manga that embraces every level of political engagement to those that are more passively political. Heck, isn’t the biggest anime basically Attack on Titan?
Here are the special Patreon members who continue to show me their generosity. While the lack of new members might be viewed as a sign of stagnation, the fact that so many continue to stick with me is something I appreciate.
It’s been a long time coming, but here are my thoughts on Gundam Unicorn at last. Speaking of political anime…
Kio Shimoku’s Twitter was pretty light in February, but I expect that to change in March with the final volume of Hashikko Ensemble.
I’m impressed how well Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier holds up. It feels just as fresh today as it did when I’d catch episodes on Cartoon Network back in the day, and the focus on diversity, peace, and criticism of warmongering feel more relevant than ever before. I hope the ideals that anime brings can be something we can reach in our lifetimes.
I love the works of Higashimura Akiko. Whether it’s Princess Jellyfish, Tokyo Tarareba Girls, or even the recent Webtoon A Fake Affair, her stories about women feel utterly authentic even as they can sometimes dip into the realm of the fanciful. But Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey is a little different from these other titles: an autobiographical series about how Higashimura herself became a renowned professional manga artist. Rather than some self-aggrandizing memoir, however, it declines to pull its punches by conveying the sacrifices she made, for better or for worse, to get to where she is.
Titled Kakukaku Shikajika (“And So On and So Forth”) in Japanese, Blank Canvas traces Higashimuta’s path starting from her days as an overconfident high school student assured that she’ll be the next big manga artist. Her plan to get into an art college and use that as a platform to launch her career leads Higashimura to her first art teacher, Hidaka-sensei: an expectations-defying hothead of an old man who runs his own independent class and constantly pushes his students to just keep drawing no matter what. From art lessons to art school to her first published manga and more, Higashimura lays out the strange-but-profound relationship the two of them share.
I myself attended a fine arts school but ultimately did not end up in a career directly tied to that particular world, and there are definitely elements of Blank Canvas I can relate to—particularly in terms of remembering the greater talent and hard work that I would see in my peers. I may even still have trouble honestly assessing how much of the opportunity I squandered versus how much it benefited me, but when I read Higashimura, I can feel the harsh yet fair weight of her self-assessment, as she emphasizes just how much Hidaka’s teachings stuck with her. Through the ups and downs of Higashimura’s artistic life, including a mentally and emotionally draining struggle between her “fine arts” side and her “manga” side, her teacher’s lessons (both in life and in art) crop up as both sources of inspiration and dread.
Hidaka-sensei is definitely a character, and reading it made me think about how differently people can be built both inside and out. Hidaka-sensei is portrayed as someone who would berate and even physically hit his students, but was nevertheless confident that anyone who put in the time with him would improve. The mix of faith and Spartan training is an odd combination, and I could see it being actively harmful to certain types of artists. Yet, Higashimura makes it clear that this helped her greatly, even if she didn’t always want to admit it.
The series also provides insight into the kinds of manga that influenced Higashimura, and it makes me interested in looking deeper at the shoujo magazine that inspired her the most: Bouquet. If the series found in Bouquet are part of the reason we got the artist of Princess Jellyfish and all these other great titles, they’re even more worth reading in their own right.
Blank Canvas is complete at five volumes, and its combination of levity and brutal honesty are hard to forget. I feel like it’s just as likely to convince someone to become a comic artist as it is to get them to rethink that career choice, but more importantly, it’s a gradual and thorough processing of all a life has to offer—the beautiful, the ugly, and the realization that it’s easy to mistakenly assume which is which.
Happy New Year (again!) to all who celebrate the lunar calendar and the Year of the T-T-T-T-Tiger.
As the Omicron variant (hopefully) peaks at varying times, I’m naturally spending a lot more time indoors—even more than usual. A new anime season has made things easier, with returning favorites like Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, and Princess Connect! Re:Dive, as well as interesting new stuff like The Kodama’s Lazy Life and Tribe Nine. I’m also catching up on Ranking of Kings, which I’d heard such good things about, and there are still a few shows like Slow Loop I’m planning to check out.
I’m also delving into the world of Webtoons a bit more with Higashimura Akiko’s A Fake Affair (perfect for Valentine’s Day maybe) as I also read through her autobiographical series Blank Canvas. Her stuff is amazing, and I will almost always recommend Higashimura works. I’m relatively inexperienced when it comes to Webtoon stuff, so I’m open to suggestions.
My webspace is still down, and the administrators appear to be MIA. It’s kind of a pain, but this blog is old enough that trying to find every image I uploaded during my earlier years and switching to new hosting might not be feasible. If I get to the point where I’m supposed to renew, well, that’s another matter.
In the meantime, here are my biggest Patreon members, who help keep Ogiue Maniax going.
Every so often, I think about revamping my Patreon, as it’s been kind of stagnant in terms of approach for quite a few years now. One issue is that this is not my full-time job, and I don’t know how much I could actively devote to running it, so I’m hesitant to promise or aim for anything big. Would people be interested in Patreon-only content?
Looking at oneself in the mirror can garner different experiences. For some, it’s a chance to reaffirm their self-confidence. For others, it’s an opportunity to make sure one is presentable to the outside world. But for many, staring at one’s reflection can be the hardest thing in the world, as it means confronting one’s fears and doubts, deeply buried in the psyche and surfacing through the eyes. To this effect, Tokyo Tarareba Girls by Higashimura Akiko (Princess Jellyfish) acts as a magical mirror. Its narrative, about 30-something women dealing with Japanese societal expectations, can be both compassionate and unforgiving in the same breath. It highlights the successes and failures of love while asking, “Which ones are which?”
Tokyo Tarareba Girls is about three female friends who moved to Tokyo as college students ready to take on the world, only to one day find themselves 33 and still single. Where once they were were seen as youthful and energetic, they can’t but help feel old. In a collective panic over their waning chances for finding love, they make a pledge to get married by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The core characters—TV writer Rinko, stylist Kaori, and restaurant chef Koyuki—are all beautifully complex and flawed characters. Their regrets are many, particularly when it comes to men they once rejected, only to see them turn into hunks over the years. They fear sitting on the sidelines, but they also fear messing up everything good in their lives, unsure of whether their actions should reflect youthful indiscretion or the wisdom of maturity. And throughout all this, the manga keeps asking the readers to interpret those decisions through the lens of their own experiences. There’s rarely a preaching of right or wrong, except for maybe the idea that women shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking they “need” to get married.
While single, 30-something women are the target audience for Tokyo Tarareba Girls, I believe that anyone who’s had to deal with pressure about when certain things “should” happen in life can connect with this story. You were “supposed” to lose your virginity by this point. You were “supposed” to have a career by this age. You were “supposed” to grow out of your childish hobbies at this age. What Tokyo Tarareba Girls does is encourage readers to consider those statements more thoroughly, think about how or why those expectations exist. And like the mirror it is, each person can come away from Tokyo Tarareba Girls with different ideas of both the manga and life in general.