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This blog is a storage space for various thoughts, observations and musings centering on shōjo manga (少女漫画, Japanese comics for girls) and josei manga (女性漫画, Japanese comics for women) in the widest sense and manga written by women. Topics from other fields of relevance, such as music, art, literature and film may be discussed here as well.

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Viewing all posts with tag: magazine: ribon



[Manga Review] Who’s got your back? Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi

Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha)In the past few years, the big three manga magazines for elementary school girls have been spicing up their usual mix of romantic comedies, school dramas, idol and magical girl manga with a spine-tingling element of horror. Ribon‘s most successful title of this wave is Ishikawa Emi’s Zekkyō Gakkyū (Screaming Lessons, alternatively Scary Lessons for its French and German translations by Tokyo Pop) which was published as 20 volumes from 2009 to 2015. This collection of surprisingly shocking short stories – considering its young target readership – was turned into a live-action movie in 2013, received the Shogakukan Manga Award in the childrens’ manga sub-category in 2014 and has recently been revived for a sequel called Zekkyō Gakkyū Tensei (Rebirth), with 6 volumes published so far.

Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha)Right between the original series and its sequel, Ishikawa worked on a shorter, 2-volume series titled Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan (lit. Hikaruko-chan Behind You) which gives off a distinct Japanese horror flavor just like Ishikawa’s longer hit title but relies much less on shockingly scary scenes and replaces them with a bittersweet portray of a ghost girl who’s trying to reach back out into the world of the living.

Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha)After an accident that should have been fatal at the young age of 14, timid Asahana Hikaruko finds herself unable to leave our world completely behind her. Her lingering attachment to her old life and Haruki, the boy she’s had a crush on for so many years but for whom she was unable to openly show her support, leads her into an arrangement with a handsome instructor of the office for vengeful spirits. From now on, if she doesn’t want her spirit to disappear completely, Hikaruko has to prove herself as an onryō, a vengeful spirit, by scaring her designated ‘targets’, making them scream or cry with fear. But instead of being all that frightening she’s much more interested in helping others, for example Hana, an elementary school girl who is bullied at school and almost driven into suicide before Hikaruko gives her the strength – a little push in the back – to confront those torturing her.

Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha)Thus, Hikaruko’s boss is starting to run into trouble because his novice isn’t able to prove herself to be much of a success by the standards of the other vengeful spirits. Hikaruko-chan however carves out her own identity as a supporter to those in need, something she herself wasn’t capable of doing during her lifetime. Sooner or later this will inevitably lead to Hikaruko and Haruki meeting again, but in a different way than Hikaruko imagined it, and Haruki will have to decide between – literally – the world of the living and the dead.

Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha) Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha)
Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha) Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha)

Ishikawa’s short but sweet series provides a peak into the lessons learned between life and death making use of the concept of miren (未練), a sort of regret or – more positively – lingering affection and attachment that let’s our protagonist ghost girl stay close to the world of her old self but also makes it hard to let go of the people she used to love. In the course of her existence as a spirit, Hikaruko learns to motivate people to move forward, to seize the day and make the most of the time that is giving to them during their lives, something that unfortunately Hikaruko no longer has the chance to do.

Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha)Both the episodes told throughout the series and the overarching plot are engaging and touching as Ishikawa has managed to create a likeable protagonist facing a task she thinks she’s completely unfit to fulfill and an interesting and diverse cast, like the handsome older ghost instructors or eccentric vengeful spirits. Each side character leaves an impact, influencing the main story around Hikaruko and her crush Haruki, propelling it forward with Hikaruko’s emotional evolution as a ghost, the dead girl watching over everyone protectively from behind.

Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan by Ishikawa Emi (Ribon Mascot Comics, Shueisha)With its cute character design and an intriguing ghost story that’s never too complex, there remains no doubt that this series is primarily targeted towards a very young readership. But its well-balanced mélange of the spooky, the funny and the melancholy should speak to older shōjo manga readers as well. Whereas there are some pretty heavy shocking moments in Ishikawa’s long-running hit series Zekkyō Gakkyū and its Tensei sequel, Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan only as a very mild horror taste making it perfect for people who usually don’t read horror manga and also need a bit of psychological depth and development in their stories. With these two volumes you’re in for a nice treat for the Halloween season without a second of boredom. And despite the heavy topic of death looming in the background and its urgent message to support the people you like while you can, there is a lot of warmth and humour here which makes reading this series all the more satisfying!

Title: Ushiro no Hikaruko-chan (うしろの光子ちゃん)
Author: Ishikawa Emi (いしかわえみ)
Volumes: 2 (2015)
Magazine: Ribon
Label: Ribon Mascot Comics
Publisher: Shueisha
Additional information: Have a look at the first pages of volume 1 and 2 on the publisher’s site. In an author’s comment on the inside of the dust jacket of volume 2, Ishikawa mentions her eagerness to continue working on this series. No news on that for the moment though, so this should be considered a completed series for now.

On a final side note, I really like Ishikawa Emi’s non-horror short stories she’s published in Ribon and its special seasonal editions – I really hope they’ll be collected in tankōbon format soon! (Shueisha, do you hear me?!)

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Posted on Oct 31, 2017 (Tue, 12:23 am). .

[Review] Mutsu A-ko: Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya

The cover of the bunko version of Mutsu A-ko's Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya published by Shueisha Every year, I’m getting a little giddy with anticipation as February 14th is drawing nearer. And not for the obvious reasons of impending showers of chocolate, flowers, jewellery and all that stuff Valentine’s Day is supposedly made of if a whole industry dedicated to it were to be believed. No, it’s close but it’s not quite the reason. That feeling usually gets really strong in January, with the warm lights of Christmas long gone and the cold cruel wind blowing, as I’m making my way through snow (or even just rain). But I put that feeling of longing and excitement off, until on Valentine’s Day or one day later, on February 15th, I grab a certain volume of short stories from the shelf and – indulge in warm, fuzzy shōjo manga nostalgia!

The book that I blew imaginary dust off yesterday for its big moment is called Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya by Mutsu A-ko, a small bunkobon released in 2005 by Shueisha as one of three volumes in the Ribon Otometic Memorial Selection (the other two being short story collections by Tabuchi Yumiko and Tachikake Hideko, respectively). And it’s the very same title story from it, which roughly translates to “The Candlelit Night When Even The Angels Dream”, that is such fantastic material for annual re-readings in synchronicity with the outside world.

It’s Monday, February 15th, in the quiet neighbourhood of Asahigaoka, the day after Valentine’s Day. The two angels Spinet and Vivace are a little exhausted from their work the previous day but still they manage to watch over the love lives of a handful of girls and young women who are all connected to some degree on that fateful snowy night of candles lit and stories told during an electricity blackout in the small residential area.

For example, there’s Sasae celebrating her 17th birthday with three of her friends on that Monday evening. She is in love with her childhood friend Shikawa-kun who told her recently he needed some time to see her as anything more than just a friend. The girls dream about their future lives, their ideal partners and marriages, when in the present, love is something bittersweet and hard to reach for most of them, even for Olive who has a boyfriend but has to keep a long-distance relationship with him because he goes to university in far away Tokyo. But there is quite a bit of hope for Sasae herself who happens to meet Shikawa-kun when the girls go out into the dark of the blackout, the hope that his feelings for her finally might have changed when he greets her with a present.

Kari, a young woman with an inferiority complex caused by her boyfriend’s all too perfect ex-girlfriend, meets an alien girl named Piin while she’s sitting on a park bench in the snow during the blackout. The alien seems to know Kari from the inside out and takes her on a ride in her spaceship. From this higher viewpoint, Kari sees her world in a completely new light and realizes there is no reason to worry so much about her boyfriend and his dedication and earnestness towards her.

The school girl Kimako has been secretly watching her mysterious new neighbour, a boy called Haneo who has the whole school buzzing with gossip because of his excentricities, through her window. She learns he’s obsessed with extraterrestrial lifeforms and finally gets to meet Haneo in person in the snow during the blackout when he’s following a spaceship with an alien and a human girl on board through the neighbourhood.

And Banana, who has taken some time off after her graduation from university because she doesn’t know what to do for a living, daydreams about becoming an essayist when she suddenly gets the chance to win a trip to Paris and work as a professional travel writer through a competition in a womens’ magazine. But as the deadline is drawing nearer and nearer, she’s facing a massive episode of writer’s block, which she’ll finally (and successfully!) be able to overcome on the night of the blackout, remembering a trip to a lovely antique toy store in the north-east of Japan which brought back so many memories from her childhood.

This short voyage into Mutsu A-ko’s world provides an excellent introduction to the author’s early works: These bittersweet romantic comedies are decorated with cute details and settings (kawayui being the keyword here, yes, even cuter than kawaii) and follow girls in preppy clothes – most of them shy, some of them quite free-spirited – who are mainly focused on getting their crush to notice them, while the male characters range from the level-headed to the geeky.

The original tankōbon of the title story was published in 1982, the other 4 short stories also included in the bunko version date back to even earlier, so you’ll get a good impression of the sense of carefreeness both of youth and adolescence portrayed in shōjo manga in general but even more specifically during the prosperous times of Japan’s high-speed economic growth. The ideas some of the characters have about gender roles or romantic love might be a little dated. But in the end, what wins the reader over even today is Mutsu A-ko’s idiosyncratic mixture of slightly over-the-top comedic elements and beautifully nostalgic or melancholy romantic scenes with pretty artwork that has become the very definition of what clever editors of Ribon magazine once coined otometic. No matter how old you are, if you’re reading this for the first time or out of nostalgia, Mutsu A-ko manages to draw you into her very unique, charming, magical world, a universe you’ll want to revisit again and again, and not just once a year ;)

More about the author, whose birthday it happens to be today (February 15th), about a recent new edition (Best Selection) of her early works published by Kawade and about the otometic ‘way of life’ is soon to come! But for now, if you’re proficient enough in the Japanese language, buy your copy of this lovely little book!

Title: Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya (天使も夢みるローソク夜)
Author: Mutsu A-ko (also: Mutsu Eiko, 陸奥A子)
ISBN: 4-08-618395-1
Publisher: Shueisha
Format: Bunko, 320 pages
Year: 2005
Additional information: Contains the 4-chapter (‘omnibus’) title story and four other short stories (“Kintarou-kun”, “Oshaberi na hitomi”, “Milky Sepia Monogatari”, “Magical Mystery Instant Coffee”). Published as part of the 3-volume Ribon Otometic Memorial Selection (りぼん おとめチックメモリアル選) celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ribon. More info @ Shueisha Manga Net.

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Posted on Feb 15, 2017 (Wed, 6:54 pm). .

New anime ramblings, mostly for my own reference.

The month of April, as every year, marks the beginning of the spring season anime series. What I’ve seen so far mostly made me squeal. Not in delight but in terror >_< Major disappointments everywhere. And why does just about every new show this season feature big -no!- abnormally large-breasted girls? I'm okay with the usual otaku fanboy service in a lot of anime, but why does just about every show have exclusively busty girls now? There's simply no escape, argh! Kono minikuku mo utsukushii sekai, the new GAINAX show, features major fanservice. Major as in a barenaked girl, a girl dressing; the female main character clinging to the male main character’s back wearing a jacket ONLY.
The story? The first few seconds were awesome and I was hoping for something very deep. But no, they decided to turn this into some mediocre Mahoromantic-esque crap with just a few, minor bits that might save the show from being totally boring. So, otaku boys, keep watching this. I won’t though, thank you.

Boukyaku no Senritsu (Melody of Oblivion), also by GAINAX, features the worst backgrounds since about 1991. This is below TV-series standard. Even a six-year-old can draw more intricate background settings >_<
Apart from that, it was so-so. Apparently, there was a war between monsters and mankind in the 20th century, almost everything was destroyed. The surviving people slowly built up everything again and, through the years, forgot about the war, the monsters and the melody (? something religous I think?). But now new monsters are appearing, little boys are secretely sacrificed and our hero has the power to destroy the evil attackers. Nothing new here. Except for the monster in the shape of a bus transforming into a bull. Yeah right. And guess what: The protagonist’s love interest has big bouncing boobs. And the main evil guy is amazingly good-looking and has the ability of making big-breasted women faint.
Again, this is too stupid for me to keep watching.

What’s better than one big-breasted schoolgirl? Well, a bus with four scantily clad young ladies, of course! -_- Bakuretsu Tenshi is a GONZO show though, so no surprise here. The mechas fighting at the beginning of the first episode were kind of cool. Oh and the main male character is a young cook (or kokku, as the girls say o_O;;;). And that’s where the originality ends. Joe looks like Ayanami Rei (but is quite the opposite character-wise), Meg is an Asuka-lookalike. The plot and the BGM remind me of early 90’s action cyberpunk anime. It’s all been done before. The animation is really good though. I’ll probably watch one or two more episodes to see how this turns out.

Koikaze is the story of a 27-year-old salaryman falling in love with his 15-year-old sister. Only the Japanese can make a TV story like this one. I must admit I kind of liked it. It was very calm and had an almost ‘innocent’ atmosphere… I’m not sure if I want to see more of it, though -_-;; Even with the incest thing aside, it’s just another shounen romance title. And I don’t like those.

The only new shoujo show I’ve seen so far is Aishiteru ze Baby. The manga runs in Shueisha’s Ribon so this is a series for very young girls. It definitely has an appeal to an older audience too as the story is bitter-sweet and has its sad and mature moments.
Kippei, a high school student with a rather large female following, has to take care of his 5-year-old cousin Yuzuyu because her mother ran away. So far, the anime follows the manga quite closely and Yuzuyu is the cutest little thing ever ^^;
The show’s production seems to have been done very rushed. For example, the lip-synchronicity is non-existant most of the time, which happens very very rarely in Japanese animation. The chara design is very similar to the manga but nothing spectacular.
It’s funny and cute though and I’ll probably keep watching it.

Kenran Butoh Sai – The Mars Daybreak is a pretty average sci-fi series. Still good enough for me with so many bad shows this season -_-;;

My favourite new series so far is Madlax. It’s an anime by BEE TRAIN, famous for NOIR, .hack//SIGN and Avenger (which was really really bad). The story itself is exactly like a mixture of the aforementioned three shows. However, it has a lot of originality and I hope it’ll be at least as good as NOIR and maybe even as good as or better than .hack. The mystery, almost not having a clue what’s going on, the pretty chara designs, the cool BGM, it’s all there.

The series I like most ATM are those that have already been running for some time: Mujinwakusei Survive (Uninhabitated Planet Survive), Hagaren (Fullmetal Alchemist) and the genius Mousou Dairinin (Paranoia Agent). And I’m sure there’ll be a few more good new shows this series that haven’t aired/been fansubbed yet. We’ll see.

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Posted on Apr 15, 2004 (Thu, 8:46 pm). .




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