Mid-week doujinshi review, 15/4/21

Another doujinshi review, in the same week? You bet!

Here’s another gem that I got at Comitia.

Okaeri by Hatobue Kurocha and Seta

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Okaeri is a collaboration between two artists, whose work comes together to form one book in a way I might have never experienced before. There’s no “writer” or “artist,” as Kurocha and Seta decided to create this book as a “relay” project, alternating both art and writing.
Each double page spread features a full-page illustration with a short block of text, describing a new world the protagonist has stumbled into. The narration always closes with someone being told “okaeri,” and wraps up the scene while introducing a new object or companion that sets the stage for the next.

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The Nightly Forest

A gigantic moth paints stars across the dark canopy,
while a Chinese Lantern illuminates the forest, like a lamp.
It is beautiful here, and I see that you have many eyes,
but don’t you think it is a little dark for reading books?

Welcome home, little star.
Let’s return, many-eyed ones.

The star, which is pictured as being returned to its place on the text side of the page, was introduced on the previous page, while the main illustration on this one introduces the many-eyed ones, who create the bridge to the next. The conscious choice of different characters for “okaeri” (おかえり、お帰り) implies that, while being the same word, one of the “companions” is being told to stay in their world, while the other, new one, is being reminded they are out of their natural place, and should head home. It’s a great reminder how versatile the Japanese language is because of its context-sensitivity, and executed beautifully in this case. The title of the book (オカエリ), and the very last page (お還り) offer two more variations of the same word.

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The two artists’ styles are quite similar, so much so that I did not notice the “relay” structure at first. They both deliver a highly detailed, textured rendering of the ten highly imaginative realms the protagonist travels, and the illustrations are just a joy to look at. (By now you’ve probably noticed that this style of cross- and parallel-hatched sine pen linework is right up my alley)
The wraparound cover is another highlight of the book, featuring a selective palette of black and green on shimmering pearl white paper.

Okaeri only has 24 illustrated pages, but due to the one-page-one-world setup it chooses, it offers a lot more content in them than you’d expect. Each page tells its own tale and there is no overarching story beyond the protagonist wandering through them, so readers looking for an epic tale will be disappointed. However, the “relay” structure is really clever and fun, and the last page offers a sense of closure and validation for the protagonist’s journey.

The artists: Seta on Twitter, pixiv, Hatobue Kurocha on Twitter, pixiv

That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Weekend Doujinshi Review, 15/3/30

Finally, I’m back to introducing you to doujinshi I enjoyed. Life has been busy, so it’s been two months again…

Amefurashi by Torimura (circle: Daiouika)

WARNING: This book is about sexual abuse of a child. If you’re squeamish about these things (and I don’t blame you if you are), please stop reading. I will not post scans of the scenes in question, but the subject matter is pretty jarring, so be warned.

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There was a girl I liked. One day, her photograph was posted all over our town.
In the railway station, the police box, the shopping center, and lamp posts all over the place…
The flyer was everywhere.
After a while, the colors started to fade.
The paper got wet, torn, blown away by the wind. People would punch in holes with push pins.
Now, ten years later, nobody remembers her face.

These are the words of the opening narration of Amefurashi, accompanying scenes of a young boy helping a girl reclaim her school backpack from a creek some bullies had chucked it in. They laugh, and the girl, as little girls do, proclaims that she will marry the boy.
At the end of this prologue, the girl is pulled into a van and disappears, leaving the boy standing helplessly in the middle of the road.

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Cut to the present, the boy, now in his late teens, is a kitchen help at a family restaurant. His colleagues mention a pretty customer he should check out, and there she is – his childhood friend Natsu, who vanished all those years ago. She recognizes the understandably shellshocked protagonist (Referred to only as “Shu-chan”), and they rekindle their friendship and budding romance.

One evening, as they revisit a playground they frequented as children, Natsu reveals to the protagonist what happened when she was taken – in her words, by the imaginary sea-hares (Amefurashi) that he has been seeing since childhood: Her torturers dissected and studied her body from head to toe, and built a clone to replace her – the girl standing in front of him right now. She is just a fake, a copy of the girl who disappeared so long ago.

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The protagonist (understandably) struggles with his relationship with the girl, who implores him to help find the sea hares’ hideout, where the real Natsu is still imprisoned.
One day he overhears a group of girls talking about his friend having an affair with her teacher, and staggers into a back alley with a particularly high concentration of the imaginary sea-hares, where he finds Natsu about to enter a love hotel with an older man. Confronted by the protagonist, she explains that the only time she feels loved – even though she is a fake – is when she is with a man, that is the only time she feels human and alive, even knowing she has been replaced with a lifeless hull long ago.
The protagonist, after freaking out and smashing the gazillions of sea hares with a shovel, and scaring off the older man, takes her in his arms, and finally says it:

There’s no invaders replacing humans with clones. Where ever we search, there is no other, “real” Natsu.
You right in front of me, you are the real Natsu.

I am so sorry, for not being able to protect you that day.

This book is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever read. Because of the deceptively cute art, you wander in with completely unprepared for a study of childhood trauma that is so well crafted it’s devastating to read. It starts out tentatively optimistic, when the two reconnect, then takes a downturn when we learn more about the construct she has built inside her psyche to protect herself, and then hits absolute rock bottom when the protagonist and his friends accidentally watch a bootleg DVD that shows her being raped as a child – all the while calling his name (I mean holy shit). And it wraps up in a fantastic last two pages, when both of them take a tiny, tiny first step towards accepting reality, and healing.

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I was very conflicted about whether to write about this book or not. But in the end, I chose that I almost had to because of the emotional impact it had, and because I decided it was really well crafted to have that effect.
The 80-odd page book is beautifully crafted with another limited-palette cover (just like kraken, which I wrote about in my first review) and extremely expressive black-and-white interiors, but obviously the story overshadows everything.

In the afterword, artist Torimura (a young woman) describes a nightmare she had about a mass of sea-hares invading her house, which became the basis of this story. At the end of the dream, they transformed into a human girl who asked “Will you love me if I’m like this?”

I asked her about the inspiration for the incredibly chilling depiction of child abuse and the resulting trauma. She offered this anecdote:

“The sexual violence was inspired by a book I read in junior high school. It was a collection of first-hand accounts from rape survivors, and among them there was one that said, ‘my parents advised me to keep my experience a secret. They said my family would live in shame if their daughter was thought of as a rape victim.’ I was just a junior high school student, but this chilled me to the bone.”

The artist: Torimura on pixiv, Twitter.That’s it for today! Sorry, just one for today, I’m a bit exhausted… Hope you enjoyed the read.In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Weekend doujinshi review, 2015/1/18

Happy New Year!
I just realized I haven’t done a doujinshi review post in about 2 months. Life has been busy, but as I wrote in my previous post, I did attend Comitia 110 in November, and as always I got a few really nice books which I would like to share with you.

The below books were purchased at Comitia 110.

1 Yuusha to Maou by Nano Atsumi (circle: Ochiba Gaitou)

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Comitia 110 Circle thumbnail:

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Yuusha to Maou is Nano’s take on the popular theme (some might say trope) of a “chosen” hero, born to rid the world of evil. The hero of the story, latest in a line of individuals tasked with vanquishing the demon king the gods failed to in ancient times, grows up in a village among humans, who pamper him because of his status, but treat him as a distinctly different being, not even giving him a proper name (instead simply refering to him as “Yuusha,” literally meaning”hero”).

The hero grows up feeling alone and an outsider, having a hard time accepting his sole purpose as the hero of legend. When he finally ventures out to fight the evil hordes under the demon king’s command, he is promptly captured and imprisoned in the dark lord’s castle.

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Once in the castle, the hero finds that while he is being experimented on leisurely by the demon king’s super-adorable evil scientist underlings, the evil forces make no serious attempt at killing him. Rather, the dark lord seems to simply be sizing him up, even deliberately creating opportunities to just talk, while of course making sure to mention as often as possible how despicable and weak human beings are.

Slowly, the hero notices that the demon king’s heart isn’t completely in the fight, and, just like himself, lacks a sense of purpose in life. Finally, he notices that everyone keeps referring to the evil one simply as “demon king,” just like himself growing up being referred to as “hero.” Maybe hero and demon king aren’t so different after all?

IMG_20150112_0003 Yuusha to Maou is a simple, self-contained (albeit open ended) tale, illustrated in a beautiful style reminiscent of Disgaea or Taira Akitsu’s work. The artist used a traditional 4-panel layout, but the story is told as one and not a series of 4-panel ones.
In a way, I feel like the layout limited the book somewhat, as sometimes the panels are too small to tell exactly what is going on. Similarly, sometimes it feels like there should be a “punchline” to a certain story bit, but it falls flat, possibly also because of the 4-panel layout, which is traditionally associated with more comical books.

Yuusha to Maou is a “copy book,” which is the simplest form of doujinshi, a bunch of copies or printouts stapled together. The book is 28 pages including 4-color covers, with b/w interiors.
I am curious about why the artist went for a copybook instead of having it printed, but at the end of the day it’s about the contents, and Yuusha to Maou is a charming little book that is accessible and fun to read.

The artist: Nano Atsumi on the web

2 Metasequoia by Rocou (circle: 2nd-function)

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Comitia 110 Circle thumbnail:

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On a pitch black sea, a gir is sailing towards an abandoned research facility, all the while conversing with a derelict robot. Humans are long extinct, and the two – the robot being the preserved mind of a scientist, while her nature isn’t explained in detail – are the only lifeforms to be seen.

We find out that the reason for their voyage is a search for food, since the girl has finally run out after being confined to her home for as long as she can remember. The robot points out the leaves protruding from her hair, but she explains that they are only capable of generating auxiliary energy reserves.

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The two enter the facility via an access elevator on the roof – demolishing the robot’s body in the process – leaving the girl to drag the barrel-shaped head part with her into the dark halls (“It’s ok – I designed the head to be light!”).

After a long walk, and endless bitching and moaning from the robot head (“I never should’ve wasted all that money on the brain preservation procedure..”) they reach a control center, where a derelict service android summons a food package, before bursting into flames.

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Metasequoia is the first book of a series, kind of a rare thing for doujinshi. As you can tell from the synopsis above, the story moves at a leisurely pace, without action pieces or a real resolution, but offers a lot of introspection about life in its (very very) post-apocalyptic world.

The book’s appeal lies in the witty dialogue between the pure-minded and optimistic girl, and the desolate and snarky robot. This contrast between the characters’ personalities creates an interesting dynamic that kept me intrigued through the book.
The artwork, a bit simplistic with lots of spot blacks and whites, and fairly rough brush strokes, sets the stage for it but doesn’t steal its attention. I am, however, quite partial to the storytelling when the service android collapses.

Metasequoia is A5, 32 story pages, and leaves the reader with more questions about its world than it answers. Good thing there’s a sequel!

The artist: Rocou on the web, Twitter. More samples from the Metasequoia series can be found at: http://mtsq.jimdo.com/

That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Weekend Doujinshi Review, 2014/11/9

Another weekend, another self-published manga review. Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for previous installments!

This time around, I am introducing one book from Comitia 109, plus one that I got at Comic Zin. I thought you might enjoy some relaxing reads to recover from last week’s Halloween special

1. That is not love by Juzo Kirisawa* (Circle: Kinokotou)

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After a brief break,this is another one of the doujinshi I got at Comitia 109. (Only two weeks til 110!!)
Comitia 109 circle thumbnail:

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That is not love (interesting, the thumbnail calls it “This is not love”)  is part of a series about a geek from the country making his way through art school in Tokyo, his unrequited love for his cousin, and the gap between otaku and regular people (?).

Art student Kiichi is back home in Hiroshima over the holidays. The book opens with Kiichi being quizzed about his life in Tokyo (love life in particular) by his uncle at a family gathering. His cousin Mokko (this is probably a nickname but the only reference to her in the book) interrupts the interrogation, but quickly gets her own share when the uncle starts plotting to find her a husband in turn.

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That is not love continues to depict Kiichi’s time in Hiroshima at a leisurely pace, including a skype call to a friend’s and a phone call with possible love interest Nakayama back in Tokyo, leading to the deduction that there’s not really much to do in the small town, except for the upcoming fireworks festival… Which gets canceled due to a rainstorm.

IMG_20141109_0003The book closes with Mokko coming to meet Kiichi at the train station, just as he is about to head back to Tokyo, and the romantic tension just keeps on coming…

That is not love is a 26 page A5 book with a glossy color cover. As the color illustration suggests, it is a very laid-back, slice-of-life story without any huge events or resolution, but does a good job of conveying the characters’ emotional states.
The art is just gorgeous and left in pencil uninked, giving it a raw quality that I felt really added to the slowlife atmosphere of the book.

The artist:  on Twitter, pixiv
Juzo Kirisawa’s works on Comic Zin
*note: I am using names in their native (family->given) order, unless the artist is specifically using a different one. In this case, the artist’s name is alphabetized in the given->family order on the book.
Some of Kirisawa’s books are available on Amazon, so I’m going to embed a product widget here too. In case it doesn’t show, try turning off any ad blockers you have installed, or just go to Amazon.co.jp and search for 桐沢十三 .

2 Tirol and the Dragon on Scary Mountain by Kurusu Tatsuya (circle: Ponz)

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In a village where humans and spirits live together harmoniously, little elf girl Tirol is leading a simple life with her grandfather. One day, he tasks her with finding and slaying a dreadful dragon that has been posting on elves and animals in the region.

As she proceeds on the path toward the mountain, Tirol meets several animals, all quivering in fear as soon as they year that she’s heading for the mountain, but she assures them she’ll be fine, as she has learned some magic from her grandfather.

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At long last, Tirol reaches the dragon’s lair, and finds that, while huge and fearsome, the beast is quite reasonable. Why is eating elves and animals such a horrible thing, he asks, after all you eat pigs and cattle, don’t you?
Tirol ends up learning a lesson about the circle of life, and returns home with a better understanding of the food on her table, and its value.

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Tirol and the Dragon is laid out like a children’s storybook, with a single image on each page, accompanied by a block of text with very little Kanji. It reads very much like a fairytale, especially when Tirol meets the talking animals and learns a little more about the dragon from each of them. The story’s resolution is also very reminiscent of any number of fairytales, and the whole package is not only suitable, but downright geared towards children – this would make a fantastic book to read with a small child.

That’s not to say it’s not an attractive book for grownups – after all I purchased it immediately when I saw it at Comic Zin. The art, with very precise and purposeful pen strokes, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and the cover is printed on fantastic textured canvas stock. I would’ve loved to see the cover in color, but I get the feeling the artist left it in black & white on purpose, almost like a coloring book for children.
Tirol and the Dragon is B5 sized, and 24 pages. It’s 300 Yen at Toranoana or Zin, and that’s an absolute steal for such a gorgeous package.

The artist: Kurusu Tatsuya on Twitter, the web.
Tirol and the Dragon from Scary Mountain on Toranoana and Comic Zin

That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Special Halloween Edition Doujinshi Review

I know, I know. I’m late to the party. Halloween is not usually a big thing for me, since I’m from central Europe. But I made a trip to Roppongi on Friday to see the lifesized Patlabor Ingram (which was super cool, but unfortunately already getting prepped for transport and I didn’t get a good look at it), and the streets were flooded with people in flashy Halloween costumes, so it gave me an idea. Why not do a Halloween-themed doujinshi review?

So I made a short trip to Melonbooks and Lashinbang in Omiya yesterday to specifically look for books with Halloween-ish content. I expected to find a lot of cute witches, ghosts, and possibly some horror content, although I wasn’t sure whether the big stores would be stocking the heavy stuff.
But lo and behold, the first thing I found was this:

IMG_20141103_00011. Kuwareru (being devoured) by Nagomiyasan (Suzuki Nago)

Kuwareru‘s protagonist is a regular Joe, down on his luck: on the very first page, his wife files for divorce, and her lawyer reads him the conditions for meeting their adorable daughter Yukari.
A few days later, he is spending some time with Yukari, and we get the feeling that her innocent smile just might be his salvation, when suddenly he passes out and awakes to…

IMG_20141103_0003Chained to the wall in a barren room, the protagonist finds himself face to face with a huge, savage-looking monster that looks like straight out of Attack on Titan.
Both of them are bound by chained linked to the wall by a timed lock, the last one holding the monster down being set to 15 minutes earlier than the protagonist’s. Next to where he’s sitting, he finds a rusty knife, and binoculars, while the beast on the other end seems to be surrounded by human body parts from multiple victims.

He remembers a similar scene in a horror film, where the main character ended up cutting off their own foot to survive, but quickly dismisses the idea since the knife doesn’t look nearly sharp or strong enough to amputate anything… So he does the understandable thing: He freaks the fuck out.

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Only afterwards does he remember that he was with his little daughter when he was apparently abducted… And things only go downhill from there.

Kuwareru is a classic locked room horror story, and while there is some gore in it, the main scare element is definitely psychological. The main character faces the realization that his life is over, not only because he is about to be dismembered by a hulking monstrosity with gigantic fangs, but because he has already lost everything – his career is stagnating, his wife dumped him, and his dearest daughter may well be dead already. It’s a no-way-out situation, and this being a Japanese story, it is safer not to hold your breath for a happy ending…

Kuwareru  is 28 pages in B5 format, with a matte 4-color cover (probably the scariest I’ve ever seen on a doujinshi). It’s a pretty standard production physically, and definitely more about the story than visuals. The art is reasonably professional, and purposefully comes apart at times when the protagonist loses it.
The original price was 400 Yen, I got it at Melon Books for 549.

The author: Suzuki Nago on Pixiv, Twitter
Kuwareru on Melonbooks

Surprisingly, I didn’t find anything else appropriate for the theme at Melonbooks. So I moved on to Lashinbang, which sells second hand doujinshi and character goods.
And there, at the opposite end of the Halloween doujinshi spectrum, I found:

2. Potoneko Halloween by Naru Nanao & KOKONOBI (circle: Ice & Choco)

IMG_20141103_0006Okay, this is something that would normally never pick up, but it was the only book I could find that actually said “Halloween” on the cover, so I just had to get it.

Poteneko Halloween is a book from 2002, and unlike the other books I have been introducing, it’s simply a collection of illustrations rather than a manga story. According to the introduction, the artists had produced a variety of goods to go with it, such as a clear file (a plastic sleeve/folder to protect loose sheets of paper) and a decorative plate.

The 6-page insides of the book are fairly similar to the cover: There is one illustration per page, with a small block of text describing the artist’s motivations for producing the respective images.

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From what I can find on the web Naru Nanao is a fairly well known games illustrator, and Kokonobi a frequent collaborator (and former assistant?). The book is full color, and printed on pretty thick stock. It was 100 Yen at Lashinbang, I assume that’s because there’s not too much content and it’s fairly old.
There’s a lot of Kancolle illustration on Kokonobi’s Pixiv profile, including one for this year’s Halloween:

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halloween! by ここのび on pixiv

The artists:

Naru Nanao on Wikipedia

Kokonobi on Pixiv, Circle profile

And finally…

3. Kaijuu Wakusei (Monster Planet) by duke

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What would Halloween be without a good Kaijuu movie?

The story is set on a distant planet inhabited by peaceful creatures. Humans invade, and start harvesting the “Kaijuu” as material for weapons and armor. When one of the beasts, a sort of plant-dragon, being herded into town for slaughter, fights back, it’s put into chains and thrown into a dungeon.

There, it encounters a young girl, who has been imprisoned for living together peacefully with the monsters.

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Soon, she is taken back outside to be crucified publicly.. Until the plant-dragon bursts out of the ground from underneath and starts attacking the soldiers torturing the girl.
The soldiers being powerless against the monster, the town’s “king” shows his true colors: He’s a Kaijuu himself, having feasted on the monsters for years.

From there on, it’s an honest-to-god monster brawl, in the vein of the best of the Godzilla movies.

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Since I got this book at Lashinbang, I didn’t get to look at the insides, and half expected it to be a collection of Kaijuu illustrations. Very pleasantly surprised that it was a proper manga, with great art and a good story. Very satisfying conclusion, too.

Monster Planet is a 44-page story in B5 format, square bound with a semi-glossy 4c wraparound cover. It was 300 Yen at Lashinbang, and well worth it I think!

The artist: duke on Pixiv, Twitter

edit: Forgot one! Here is another “illustration collection” type book by artist kr3:

4. kr+4 by kr3 (Shibano Kaito)

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A beautiful collection of witch-themed illustrations. The artist points out on the first page that he loves drawing witches, which have a fairly defined general theme. The book features 7 illustrations, including the cover, each covering a different color or element.

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There’s no text or anything, but the illustrations are gorgeous, so I feel it was a steal at 100 Yen.

The artist: Shibano Kaito on the web

That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed this look at a few books a little different from what I usually read. Want more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Weekend Doujinshi Review, 2014/10/26

Another weekend, another self-published manga review. Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for previous installments!

The doujinshi in this week’s post are not from Comitia, but actually from a store! I stopped by Comic Zin in Akihabara with a friend visiting from Canada this week, and of course I couldn’t stop myself from getting a few for myself.
Zin is a great store, because they, unlike a lot of other stores, have the erotic, “adult” doujinshi  in a completely different section (read: floor) of the store. As others have pointed out, Akihabara is full of porn, mostly because it attracts more male otaku than female (which is not to say there aren’t boatloads of BL doujinshi to be had here too). We visited a few other shops too, but weren’t able to find such a good selection of original, non-adult books as Zin had. The West Shinjuku Zin store, by the way, is a fantastic shop as well, and has the adult- and all-ages books clearly separated (albeit next to each other).

On to the books.

1. Kuwagata by Higurashi Mikio

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Kuwagata, which translates into “stag beetle,” is a book about two boys, rambunctious Yusaku and quiet Takaya, spending their summer vacation in the countryside. In the opening scene, they race into one of the boys’ grandfather’s house with their catch of the day, a huge stag beetle.
Catching large beetles is a hugely popular pastime for young boys in Japan, where insects or all shapes and sizes are ever-present, and is a popular ingredient of the romanticized “perfect” boyhood summer.

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The beast clocks in at 10cm, beating the previous record of their friend Hana – at which point we start to notice there is a wheel missing from the tricycle. Hana has been away at the training camp of her tennis camp, a fact Yusaku laments vocally.

Hana finally returns the next day, surprising the duo at the creek where they have been hanging out. After she whacks Yusaku over the head with her racket for criticizing her tennis club activities, they get the chance to present their grand victory (the beetle), and she is… utterly unimpressed. Hana is portrayed as, physically as well as mentally, more mature than the boys, and it quickly becomes clear that the relationship between the friends is going to change in a big way…

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This book is from 2007, but personally I didn’t feel like it shows its age at all. It tells a universally recognizable story of the very beginnings of puberty. While the boys, particularly the taller one, are still quite noticeably still children, we get a hint of their development as well when Takaya clearly shows an interest in Hana that goes beyond friendship (and promptly gets heckled by Yusaku for it).

Kuwagata is 20 pages in A5 format, and sold at Zin for 324 Yen. The cover has a beautiful matted finish with a hint of a pearl shimmer that really brings out the blue of the sky and water. The art, while not likely to win any awards, is very fitting for this youthful slice-of-life story.

The artist: Higurashi Mikio (currently going by Ukiwa Yoruno) on Twitter, Pixiv
Kuwagata at Comics Zin

2. TUBB: 桶の狭間で (TUBB: In between the tubs) by Kasahara Tetsuro

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Unlike the other books I’ve been showcasing, this one is actually a side project from an established Manga creator. Kasahara Tetsuro is best known for the manga Rideback, and has been published pretty consistently since 2000.

Oda is a newcomer at a security outfit called “Cucumber” in the distant future, using robotic exoskeletons called “TUBB” (Technical Utility Body Build, nicknamed “tubs”) to protect their clients. It’s a fairly dystopic world, where desert abounds and global warming has triggered the evolution of gigantic insects. He has been there just short of a month, but is already thinking of quitting, largely due to his insufferable superior, Imagawa.

But not all of Oda’s colleagues are as horrible: There’s also Nohime, who despite her cute looks is by far the most capable of the TUBB operators due to her military background. True to form, Oda is smitten with her and trots along into hazardous situations obediently.

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Cucumber’s mission du jour is the escort of a team of engineers set to inspect a power plant (power transmission from space via microwaves, in case you were wondering. They encounter a gigantic beetle called a Rhinodon, and with Nohime preoccupied with subduing a panicked Imagawa, it’s up to Oda to cut the beast down to size with his trusty chainsaw gun.(!)

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As I said before, Kasahara is a published pro, and it definitely shows. The art in TUBB is fantastic, the pacing is just right, and the even with the limited space, every single character is relatable and likeable.

The story finishes with Oda looking down at the handily dispatched Imagawa, and the narration saying “I never imagined that I would be shedding tears over this guy only a few months later.” I have yet to find a sequel to this, I honestly don’t think there is one… Dammit Kasahara!

TUBB is 36 pages long, A5 size, with a matte, textured wraparound cover. Zin is selling it for 630 Yen.

The artist: Kasahara Tetsuro on the web, Blog
TUBB at Comic Zin

And that’s it for today! As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Comitia 109 haul review 4

Another weekend, another batch of doujinshi I would like to introduce to you. Like the previous ones, all of these are completely original properties, not “fan fiction” type books. If you enjoy this, make sure to check out the previous reviews: 1, 2, 3

1. Remembrance by PLT (circle: i am nebula)

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Remembrance is a set of short stories about two angels and a god, all of whom are depicted as girls dressed in outfits resembling Japanese school uniforms. All of the stories are relatively light on dialogue, and do not delve too deeply into story- or philosophical elements. (also note that this has no religious context whatsoever, despite the subject matter)

For example, the first chapter opens with one of the angels, Koru, observing Saturn through a telescope. The other, Aru, approaches her and comments on why she doesn’t just fly up close, where it would be much easier to see. The first angel retorts that she sometimes prefers to experience things just as humans do, with all the limitations that entails.
After a bit of banter about humans and their shortcomings, the two accept each others’ points of view, and they head off to Saturn together.

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The 36-page book is drawn in a style usually reserved for light, comical material (reminiscent of Kill Me Baby), and while Remembrance doesn’t go for straight out slapstick, the stories are lighthearted and easy reads. The stories do not interconnect, however the creator suggests in the afterword that they are part of a continuity, albeit out of order.

The art relies heavily on screentones and large-area spot blacks, and is generally well executed, if at times a little loose.

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I picked this up mostly because I really liked the colors and composition of the cover (see the artist’s tumblr for a bigger and nicer version), and while I don’t usually read this sort of books it’s not something that I dislike.
It’s a very light read, and closes with a dark god telling the reader “See you!” as she prepares to smash the world to bits.
It’s a A5 book (I seem to have a thing for these), 40 pages, 400 Yen.

Bonus round: Here’s a lot at the artist’s table at Comitia.

The artist: PLT on Tumblr, Twitter

2. ROUCHE by Payo (circle: インコ(株) = Inko, Inc.)

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Rio lives in the underbelly of a big city. Feeding herself off scraps from a dumpster, she overhears some guys talk about a painting in some ruins, which they are planning to sell for a fortune.
Hopeful that she might get to it before them, she examines the ruins, but gets caught in the line of fire when a scuffle breaks out between a group of soldiers and some rebels, and hides behind a half-toppled wall in the ruins.

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There, Rio discovers a mural of a little girl smiling, labeled “Rouche. Immediately, she is ambushed by Ivan, a soldier who, like her, discovered the painting while trying to escape the armed conflict around them.
Over the following days, Rio and Ivan keep returning to the ruins, gradually getting to know each other and making a pact to clean up the painting. But just when they are started to get along, the war catches up to them…

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The story starts out bleak, and, perhaps realistically for a world in constant conflict, it doesn’t end well for the protagonists. The 40-page story wraps up with a flashback illustrating the story of the real-live Rouche, a girl adopted by her uncle when her father gets drafted into the military at the start of war. Her uncle, a painter, vows to protect her, but his promise slowly turns into an obsession that ultimately drives him mad.

The reader is left to draw their own conclusions about what happened to Rouche, where the painting came from, and whether it might have been the curse of her and her uncle’s fate that drew Rio and Ivan to the painting, and their demise.

Both art and storytelling are a bit unrefined,  but Rouche still delivers a gut punch or two that makes the book well worthwhile.
I might have actually skipped this book had it not been for the production values: The covers are rounded, and the blank page separating cover and content is a deep shade of blue, with a pattern of silver foil stars embossed on it. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the contents, but I really do appreciate when artists go to such lengths to make their books look apppealing. It’s an A5 book, 300 Yen.

The artist: Payo on Twitter, Pixiv

That’s it for today! I hope my reviews are helping illustrate how varied and fun Japanese self-published comics can be when you look outside the fan-fiction and porn sections. I will try to keep this on a roughly weekly schedule, so stop by again next week!
Also, I always welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Moto 360 Impressions

I just got my Moto 360! Here’s a few impressions from my first day and a half with it. (Edited for expansion and corrections after a week)

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Firstly, hardware. As you’ve no doubt gathered from the gazillion reviews already out there, it’s got a very nice premium build, the metal housing (I got the silver/grey one) looks fantastic, just like a high-end watch should. What surprised me was that it’s actually really light, I expected a lot more heft from the steel casing and glass panel.
I was a bit let down by the leather band. Now, I haven’t worn a watch in ages, and use very little equipment that has any leather on it, so my opinion isn’t the most well-informed, but it feels a bit cheap to me, I’m tempted to say plastic, but it’s actually closer to thick, printed cardboard, if that makes sense. It also creaks. (edit: It still does after a week) On the other hand, the clamp looks really really nice. Love the flat design. Very sleek.

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Photos also make it look pretty huge and thick, but it really doesn’t feel that way when it’s on the wrist. It’s about 4.5 cm wide and 1cm thick, so the shape probably makes it feel a little smaller.
Also a nice surprise: It charged from 30% to 100 in less than 2 hours (I’d read it would be 3-4), and the setup process was painless (provided one is patient enough to wait for the updates to finish before doing anything). Bluetooth connection has not been a problem for me so far either.

The screen, as you might have heard, doesn’t have the best pixel density, so if you look closely you can definitely see the pixels. And, as many have pointed out, the chamfered edge magnifies them, resulting in a lot of chromatic aberration on the edges when you have a bright watch face on. I have slight OCD-ish tendencies, so that bothers me a lot. I’m using the black faces, mostly the really nice triple-timezone one that comes preinstalled.

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And of course, I slapped a few custom faces on there from the web, just for kicks (and, in the case of the fake apple watch face, trolling. Don’t worry, I deleted it pretty fast)

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The big question is, what does it actually do?

The first thing you’ll notice is that it mirrors all of the notifications on your phone, as well as Google Now cards. So if you don’t have access to a lot of Now cards (I think we get like half of the good stuff over here in Japan), or get a lot of notifications, it’s kinda boring. It kept bringing up the steps card, which is what it implies – an automatic pedometer step count that is always on. So far it feels pretty accurate, but I wasn’t that active today.
I’ve got that card disabled now, because it kept coming up again and again…

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Cards pop up in a compact little strip at the bottom of the watch, and if you pull them up, expand into a pretty nice full-screen view. If you want to get rid of them completely, you have to swipe them away – some will expand to the right side, but if you swipe them off the left side they will disappear.

Which is a bit of a problem, because as anyone who’s used Google Now a bit will know, there’s no way to get them back. So if you swipe the weather card away, it’s gone until it decides to pop back up by itself (or if you tell the watch to “show me the weather”).
There is also no way to hide the cards and still have them appear when you swipe up, which annoys me to no end.
Edit: “Muting” the watch (drag down from the home screen) will ban all cards from the home screen. The watch won’t vibrate or light up for new notifications anymore, but if you swipe up all the cards are right there, so there’s no need to dismiss them completely.

Third-party notifications look nice as well. Here’s a few samples.

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Personally, I’m happy with the LINE integration, as it gives me a glance at a message that allows me to judge whether I want to get my phone out and reply, or if it’s just a message from a corporate or news account. Edit: It actually now contains a Reply button on the expanded card (to the right), unfortunately all input is voice based so no multilingual input for now.

The watch can also actually run apps, although the option for this is kinda tucked away awkwardly – you have to tap the watch screen, which brings up the voice input menu, then scroll down from there through a pretty neat list of predefined actions (“take a note,” “remind me,” “show me my heart rate,” ‘send email to…,” and so on), and at the very bottom, it says “Start…” which will bring up a list of apps that are available on the watch. The neat part is, these get synced automatically from your phone, so you don’t have to go look for wear apps. If an app you are using on your phone has wear capability, it’ll show up.
Here’s what happens if you launch Google Keep (which I use for reminders and short notes a lot):

IMG_20141008_224519If you scroll down, it’ll show the rest of your notes, and even let you edit them, via voice input. (Which, thankfully, is great on Android) Unfortunately, it doesn’t give me the option to switch languages, or discern between them automatically, as my phone does. Hoping this will get added soon.

Another app that I’ve been using a lot is the Stellio Music Player. Without it, you already get simple “next/previous/stop” type controls when playing a song in Google Play Music, but with the Stellio player, you can actually launch the app from the watch, browse through your collection, and have a fully-fledged player on the watch, without ever getting out the phone. Great on the go and in crowded Japanese commuter trains. Paired with the clock, this is 99% of why I get my phone out when I’m on the go, so this is great for me.
Looks pretty nice, too!

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Of course, these apps aren’t perfect, especially the third party ones… As you can see in the first picture above, some content tends to get cut off because of the circular display, because the developers are clearly thinking more about the square ones like the Samsung Gear Live or the LG G Watch. A more jarring example is the Yahoo commuter app:

IMG_20141008_230309No idea what the icon in the top left is even supposed to be. I was pretty excited to see that some Japanese developers are already working on this platform though.

When you fire up the camera on your phone, it gives you a remote shutter card, but that is pretty useless – It’s just a button without any way of telling what’s actually in the picture.
Luckily, there’s already an app called Wear Camera Remote, which does just that. So you can just put your phone down somewhere, position yourself and take a selfie remotely, which no doubt will create a stir in Japan because it enables you to take pictures from angles such as this:

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Other apps that showed up on my watch were the preinstalled Google Fit and Motorola Connect, with another set of fitness-related options such as the heartbeat monitor and step counter (two options which I really like, btw. Always wanted to have a heartbeat monitor), as well as Runtastic. I also got Wear Mini Launcher, which is great to launch Wear apps faster without having to scroll to the bottom of that menu.

And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with it so far! I’m sure I’ll find some more apps to do, and Wear as a platform is bound to evolve fast, but this is what it’s good for right now. I have been pretty ambivalent about the actual need for such a thing, but I decided to jump on early because I was proven wrong about cellphones, smartphones, and tablets, so there.
There’s a few things I’d like to get remedied, such as not being able to hide the cards completely while still being able to swipe them up,  but overall it’s a better experience than I expected.

And lastly…. I know what you really wanted to ask me about. Battery life. It’s been ok. I have had Ambient Mode (screen always on) on purposefully, because I’ve heard it takes a pretty good bit out of the battery time. Additionally, I did everything you see above, both to entertain myself and test stuff, and to show others, so I’d say it was probably heavier use than I would get after getting used to it. I took it off the charger at 8:30 at 96%, and it is now 23:30, at 3%. So with ambient mode on, I got about 15 hours out of it. So if you’re looking for 2 days+, you’re out of luck. Thankfully, I wasn’t planning on that, and the charger turns it into a really nice table clock:

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Edit from day two: Tried it without ambient mode on today, which means the screen goes completely dark when not in use. 8:15 off the charger at 100%, 85% after 4 hours, 70% after 8, 49% after 12, it is now 23:30 again and I still have 41% left. So turning ambient mode off definitely has a noticeable impact on battery life.