Friday, May 1, 2015

Manga-Mania May: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.

Welcome to Manga-Mania May 2015. A whole month where I will review 31 manga-comics before time runs out. Starting with a real tearjerker.
Six childhood friends drift apart after one of them, a girl named Menma, drown. Ten years after the incident, the ghost of an older looking Menma appears and apparently cannot pass on to the afterlife. The only one who can see her is Jinta, the former leader of the group of friends. She says that she needs him to fulfill a wish for her, before she can pass on from this realm. But the problem is that she doesn't know what it is. Jinta then gathers their estranged childhood friends (Poppo, Anaru, Tsuruko and Yukiatsu) and ask for their help in finding out what it could be that Menma wished for.
But once they are all together, they realize that they have to deal with hidden feelings, internal conflicts and old bitterness before they can help not only Menma, but themselves as well.
This series is about mourning. Some believe that it's something you need a certain amount of time to do before you move on with your life.
That is not true.
When we loose someone, we can't just get over it. It's not something we just get over. Sure, we move on with our life, but the lose is still there. Something is still missing, and it can never be undone. And it's not only that we miss that person, but also how it affects us. We change, not always for the better. And there are things we don't say to others, or worse; get to talk about years later, resulting in ripping up an old wounds, if they had ever healed in the first place.
In other words, mourning is complicated. And this series gives us a bittersweet and as realistic as possible tale about how five young men and women are still in pain over the loose of their friend. They just never realized it or tried to ignore it, which, of coarse, was a really bad idea that resulted in them becoming dysfunctional one way or another. And the portrait of these characters is done very well an without sugarcoating it.
This slice-of-life tale is one of the most touching stories I have read in a long time, but I think I would recommend the anime-version rather than the manga. It's name is Anohana, and it's simply better.
And it's name is shorter as well as catchier
That's all for now.
One down, 30 to go.
I'm Waezi2, and thanks for wasting time with me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teen-Hero Month: Young Avengers.

One of the major differences between DC and Marvel is the sidekicks.
Sure, Batman and Green Arrow are the only DC heroes who have had a apprentice the last 20 years, but DC has a longer history with kids in tights who helps adults with fighting crime.
But why?
One of the theories is that it's because of Bucky. THE kid sidekick of the Marvel U. When he died, so did the sidekicks. If teenagers became superheroes, they did it alone, since no adult heroes would repeat Captain America's mistake and lead a kid into battle.
This theory came from the pages of today's comic; Young Avengers.
Young Avengers issue 1 takes place some time after the Avengers Dissembled event, where the earth's mightiest heroes had been torn apart by Scarlet Witch and plot-holes at the size of my ego. But finally, a team of what could look like Avengers has appeared. The thing is... they kinda look like fan-boys.
We have a Teen-Thor with no hammer, but actual lightning control. A polite young Hulk. A boy with armor that seems to be more advanced than Iron Man. And finally, and maybe most unsettling; a young man in a modified Bucky outfit.
So... the writer of this series wrote Sex and The City? SERIOUSLY?! Dude...
This may be the second best sort-off Avengers spin-off series. What is really great about it is the characters. Not so much their personality and character design, but the art of discovering who they are, and what connection they actually have to the Avengers. And believe me, the one with the most shocking background is Iron Lad. A character I feel has been ruined in the story-line "Avengers: Children's Crusade" that I can not recommend at all.
The series only ran for 12 issues and a special, but it has plenty of action, nice art-work and build-up of the young heroes who are today considered the Teen Titans of the Marvel U(the New Warriors are still better, though...).
But I must admit... I'm not crazy about Kate Bishop. It's not that I hate her. But I don't like her either. I don't really know why, I guess it's like that there are some types of food you don't want to eat. It's not that it makes you bark, you just don't... like it. And the fact that her origin involves her being raped is a bit of a turn-off. But hey, that's just me.
And that was the end of Teen-Hero Month. Join me this Friday, as we turn the insanity up to eleven.
It's time for Manga-Mania May!

Monday, April 27, 2015

W2 and Eyz talk: Attack On Titan.

Once again, I'm so lucky to have fellow internet critic Eyz here on Comicsin5panels.com to talk about our passion for comics. This time, a manga.
What's up, Eyz?

Hey there, Waezi2. Glad to be back!
This should be fun!
Let's check out this pretty popular manga. Before we start, I would just like to had I used to read a ton of mangas about a decade ago.. but I sort of just stopped once I noticed how much I was spending.
Yeah. 
And if you want to know why I'm telling you that, it's because this is the book that sort of-brought me back to the medium.

And what a book it is. Attack On Titan is another example of a series I haven't read, but no one shuts up about(I don't read much mainstream manga). One half of the people who told me about it claims that it's spectacular. The other half that it's a wast of paper.
So I finally gave it a look.

Eyz, will you do the honer and tell us what it's about?
Here's Johnny!!!
Attack on Titan ("Shingeki no Kyojin") is the first onging series by writer/manga artist Hajime Isayama. Prior to this book he did a couple of one shots and he is also the writer behind most spinoffs of the series (because, yes, there are already a few of those). 

Personally I like to call the series "Attack on Titans", since it's closer to the actual original title (and it's the way I've been reading the manga in French, over here). Plus it just makes more sense (I remember thinking why the Planet Titan was supposedly attacking before reading this series). I still suspect some legal issues regarding the title which forced the translators to use such a random title (my guess? Due to some trouble regarding the Clash of the Titans/Wrath of the Titans Hollywood films).

The story takes place in a sort of alternate reality, in some vague European setting (possibly Germany? I'm saying this because of the names of most characters). In this world a sort of "plague" happened and now there are all these giant "titans" roaming the outside land. To protect itself, humanity built these giant walls (or did they?). And now every isolated community sort of forgot the threat of the titans on the other side of the walls.


The story begins as titans finally breah those walls. We are introduced to our main protagonists, Eren Yeager, his foster sister Mikasa Ackerman and their childhood friend Armin Arlert.

After witnessing the horrifying attack and losing their family, the three children decides to joins the military. A few years later, they are now soldiers in the survey corps, responsible for protecting the city whenever it's attacked by the terrifying titans.
But when you are a normal human, and you are fighting gigantic monsters who can regenerate, the odds are REALLY not in your favor.
So... you could call it the "300" of manga. Couple of soldiers who are going to fight an seemingly unbeatable force, knowing that they will most likely not survive. They die, so others may live.
The key-word being; "may."


Actually, I would rather compare it to, say, The Walking Dead. With giant monsters instead of zombies.
Titans Together!
Eyz, what is it that you like about this series?


What really surprised me in this series, for this type of fiction anyway, is that where you expected probably something closer to fantasy or even more traditional "shonen" mangas for kids (in Japan - believe it or not - this series is aimed at young kids and not adults, like "seinen mangas") there's a lot of focus put on the political aspect of this strange post-apocalyptic universe.

Also the whole medieval slightly-steampunk-ysh military is put in the foreground, front and center. 


Yes, the story is surprisingly realistic, considered the fact that involves giant monsters. And that's what I really like about it; the realism of war.
In manga, war is usually just something you... well, do. Even if the soldiers are 12 years old(like in Naruto), they just fight. Because, well, dattebayo!
But here, most of the soldiers who has to fight the titans for the first time freaks out. And honestly, that is only to be expected.
If we keep in mind that humanity is ridiculously small(like only 840 humans left in the world) they probably send the recruits to battle much earlier than in the real world. So they may not be as prepared as they could have been. This is shown right before the titans attack in chapter 3, where the newly-trained soldiers talk about what will happen WHEN they have defeated the titans. When, not "if". But once they finally see the horrifying creatures that is the enemy that they realized how screwed they are.
Which is unusual, since most manga-series start of with our heroes beating something that seems like a big threat with ease, like when Luffy(from One Piece) takes down a sea monster with one punch. ONE PUNCH. Here, many has to die before ONE titan bites the dust.


That is a point the manga gets across pretty well (which, from the little I've seen of it, the anime doesn't seem to do as well). I like the fact this seems to be the first time mankind came across titans. Or at least the first time they realized these things did exist in "recent history". People living protected by these giant walls, forgetting the hidden threat outside. 

The characters seem to struggle a lot to just survive, rather than fight easily through waves of new monsters. Each victory seems to matter.

This is my happy face.
Do you have a favorite/least favorite character?

To be honest, apart from the main trio the other characters are kind of in retreat, for the first few volumes in the manga. Something I imagine the anime could introduce better, with several books released with enough history to introduce everyone around the same time.
I really liked the trio of main characters from the go, they're all different and unique enough to each contribute his or her part to the fight. Although Armin got the chance to shine a little more later on, since he doesn't appear to do that much at first. Mikasa's probably my favorite female manga heroine in ages.

The later volumes would develop and expand upon most of the cast, even supporting characters got a chance to tell their story (or suddenly become important key players in the plot).

Since you just started, and I'm about ten volumes farther, I won't spoil the surprises to you. But keep an eye on everyone - and I do mean everyone! Some throwaway lines do or background scenes do come into play later on. It really helps that the author seems to have a clear idea of things to come and isn't just improvising page after page.


Yes, I have only read the four first books, but I sense that there are many surprises yet to come. In the flashback in the flashback in vol 4, we get some more details on some of the other soldiers. It's almost like the build up to making one of them a traitor. But that is very unlikely, since they are fighting titans who wants to eat them.
And just like you, I think I prefer Mikasa of the main trio. She is something that is rare in manga; a female character who are not over-hysterical, nor is she meaningless for the plot(like Sakura from Naruto). She is levelheaded and calm, one of the reasons to why she is the best soldier on the field among the newly trained squad. In fact, she is so cool-headed that it's close to sociopathic.
But then again, when you are surrounded by man-eating giants, trapped like a rat, being a sociopath seems rather unimportant compared to survival.
(also, I noticed the lack of pantyshots in the story. Odd for a manga.)

But I have a problem with Eren. Not with his character, but rather his role in the series. As I said before, I like how realistic the series is, and I kinda feel like it's losing some of that realism by throwing a messiah into the mix. Because, isn't that what Eren is? Like Yugi from Yu-Gi-Oh, who has a magic puzzle from Egypt, or Naruto from... well, Naruto, who has a demon sealed inside of him? I get that the story would be rather short if it wasn't for Eren and his ability to turn into a titan, and that humanity need some kind of edge. But still... it bugs me a tiny bit.

Mikasa is a fun character. Like she was a response to the usual cliché main heroines of mangas. She's not a frail damsel in distress and actually ends up saving the day more than once. 

For all intends and purposes, it feels like a manga aimed at adults. (but then you notice a couple of classic shonen tropes here and there, and the fact the main heroes are so young - adults are typically useless or villains in shonen mangas) 

You just touched a very interesting point I'm sure people will have a problem with as the story progresses.
It starts like a mature story, hence my comparison with The Walking Dead. But let's just say what the plot really revolves around - what are the Titans, where they come from and why - will turns this tale slowly into a more fantasy/typical manga. 

Honestly sometimes I wonder if in 5 or so years there will be a fighting tournament and everybody transforming into Titans... You know, classic manga stuff.

Any speculations - from your point of view, what might happen farther down the line?



Well, if the titans are zombies, that would explain how there keep coming more of them, despite the fact that they don't have sex organs. And the basement that Eren's father told him to go to may have their family history, as well as explaining the history of the titans. It could be an Einstein-guild thing?
Maybe that's why Eren has memory loss? It's so he don't know about his family's guild and shame until it's absolutely necessary?

Another thing that could indicate that titans are human-made could be the sudden appearance of the colossal titan(the one who is higher than the wall). Maybe it's one that has been developed in order to smash the wall?

Then again, it could be evolution, and it's just the first of it's kind...

See? We have much more fun guessing than knowing.


Man, I almost forgot the part with Eren's father. The man is either linked to the origin of the Titans or at least knew (knows?) the truth about it. It wouldn't be much touched upon in the last chapters, so I guess it has something to do with the overall series' main end game. 

Fun fact, I originally thought this colossal titan would turn out to be Eren's father, I had this entire theory in mind, explaining the timing setting the beginning of the series in motion and all that...

A lot is explained/introduced later on, so I won't touch upon that. But let me say - most of the fun is speculating about this whole story, since the author clearly has the story in mind and he can actually hint at later stuff. (Like I said, pay attention to background details!)

Some times the journey is more fun than what the mystery box was hiding all along.

Even if the ending ruins it, I can already say this was great storytelling. I just hope it stays intelligent and doesn't end up as all those other shonen mangas.. (Please no tournaments where "Titan shifters" fight one another...)

Anyway, the manga and the anime are huge in Japan. From what I glimpsed they ended the first "Season" of the anime before things got weirder in the manga (and as you can see from Eren's "early death" in the manga - what a great cliffhanger that was! - the whole story was only getting started there). 



Alright, here's the plan: put on a jetpack that only works when you have tall stable areas that your hooks can stick to so if you can manage to get behind the titans and use your swords to cut the one part behind their necks that would kill them...
... Man, we are screwed!!!
What are you hopes for the series, down the line? Or fears?

I actually only have ONE actual fear for the series; that it will drag out.
That's what normally happens to a popular manga. They are sometimes allowed to go on and on and on till the point that it's just ridicules, or the original plot has been changed so much that you can't recognize it(like "Dragon Ball", that stopped being about finding the balls and instead became about fighting). Eventually, we stop caring, just waiting for it to end. Seriously, I stopped reading "Naruto" three years ago(72 books? DUDE!), and just waited for it to die. And without being to sure, I think the same thing is about to happen to my favorite manga series; "Blood Lad".
But then again, as you said earlier, the writer seem to know EXACTLY what it is he want to do with this story, so maybe it won't happen? And I'm not saying I want it to be a SHORT story, just not too long.
But then again, some stories work well with being long, such as "Monster" or "Liar Game".

Hajime Isayama's taking sort of an unusual route, at least for a manga.

I really think this will have a precise end in sight and won't go on as long as One Piece, for example. 

Instead he's spreading the series into an entire franchise with several spinoffs already launched. My own fear is for all this to dilute the original content, make it less "special".
You've probably heard of the typical spinoffs mangas have usually. Like non-canonical "SD" (super deformed) parodies? Naruto or Dragon Ball received books like this. Evangelion has an entire lineup of different sort of books of different genres taking place across alternate realities.

Well, Attack on Titan instead has a "canon" spinoff prequel telling the first time mankind faced Titans. And there's this sidestory spinoff following the point of view of a character that you probably haven't seen yet (he appears early on in the anime, but much later in the original manga). Levi, who's quickly becoming a huge fan favorite.
And there's talks about two more spinoffs already!


And I look forward to read the spin-offs.
I'm glad I gave this series a chance, and even though "Blood Lad" still is my favorite, "Attack On Titan" is most likely the best written series on the market right now. Everyone should read it, so they at least can have an opinion about this very unusual manga series that provides a different kind of action, a good mystery, and a pretty grim and fascinating look at human behavior.
Shall we call it a wrap, Eyz?


Sure.

Now let me tie this (Japanese) MANGA review on such a (US) COMIC BOOK-oriented by asking you - have you heard about the "comic" Hajime Isayama is writing with/for Marvel Comics?


... Huh... I actually didn't know that.
Hey, wouldn't it be awesome with a Stan Lee cameo? :P

Actually I really thought we should mention this at some point, Isayama is writing a Attack on Titan/Marvel Universe crossover comic (eyzmaster.blogspot.ch/2014/11/… ).

Complete with Titans attacking the MCU's New York City, and it even contains an appearance by the Guardians of the Galaxy - which I imagine he became a fan of after watching the movie from the looks of it.

This sounds completely crazy. And definitively crazier than anx of the official spinoffs.

If anything it's another sign of manga authors/publishers trying to broaden the appeal of mangas and make expand series outside the regular main books (along all these spinoffs we talked about).

I never expected to see a manga officially cross over an American comic. Let alone such a weird pairing.
(I'm totally gonna buy that, though.)


I'm glad that you mentioned it, because it only further prove my point that this is a very unusual manga.
Once again, thanks for taking the time to do this crossover review with me, Eyz. And to those of you reading this review, please check out Eyz's blog (eyzmaster.blogspot.com) as well as his Deviantart account to see his awesome artwork(theeyzmaster.deviantart.com).
See ya around, Eyz!


This was fun!

Thanks for the shout out! And see you folks around here!


And thanks for wasting time with us:)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Teen-Hero Month: Young Justice.

You ever read a Teen Titans comic from the Silver Age? Where Robin and the other sidekicks had really silly adventures, fighting ridicules bad guys like Mr Twister, Ding Dong Daddy and Mad Mod?
Young Justice is the 90's answer to that.
Superboy, Impulse and Robin. They were the teenage superheroes with solo series during the 90's. So with three popular young heroes like that, it was no wonder that DC decided to make them a team. Peter David was the one who became responsible for making the magic work. And he did a wonderful job with what would be the Teen Titans of that decade.
This series is fun. The comic is not filled to the brim with angst, grimness and unnecessary gory deaths. It's funny, silly, has strong characters who you actually believe are 14 years old. Not to mention that we have some pretty great revivals of characters who hadn't been used for some time back then, like Red Tornado, who had taken a break from... well, everything, and was meditating in the JLA's old headquarter whatever he was human or just machine. But after Robin and the others move into the cave, he finally get's out of his coma-like state, now realizing that he HAD to be human. How else could these teen-heroes annoy him so much?
And that's the most important part of the characters in Young Justice; they ARE annoying, like kids are at that age. Impulse live up to his name, never thinks twice before he does something that seemed like a good idea in his head, and Superboy keeps bragging about his powers(just to name a few).

But it's not always silly adventures, like playing baseball in order to save an alien planet, or were-wolfs attacking a TV-show because they feel insulted by how their spices was portrayed. We have heavy stuff, like racism, loosing the right to your child, mother issues and the big D; Death.
Death is a resurrecting theme in this series. Like: what does it mean to die? How should we react to murder? Why do people have to die? And since the main characters are just big kids, they can't cope with death as well as adults.

My favorite character(besides Red Tornado, but he is an adult) is, believe it or not; Lobo. That's right, Lobo was once part of a teenage super-team. Due to a story-line called "Sins Of Youth," all the adults of the DCU was turned into kids by magic. After the spell was reversed, the only one who did not return to his actual age was Lobo, who for a time had to change title from the Main Man to the Top Teen. and having him be part of Young Justice is probably one of the weirdest thing to ever happen on the pages of a DC series. In fact, my favorite issue through the series is 32, where Lobo actually does all he can to be the perfect gentleman, when he invites one of his teammates out on a date, and even get's hypnotized in order to control himself. Believe me, it's hilarious!
So even though the references are outdated, I would say that Young Justice is worth a read. It's not collected in TPB, so you either have to go and buy the issues separately, or find it on Comixology.
That's all for now. I'm Waezi2, and thanks for wasting time with me.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Greg Pak comics in 5 panels.

 I have god-like powers
Many see me as a monster.
And even though I just want to help, I end up hunted by those I wish to protect.
But I always take the role as the hero in the end, no mater what anyone thinks of me.
.... AAAAAND is the cause of property damage for thousands of dollars.
What the heck, man?! I bought the same story five times in a row!?
Ain't I a stinker?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Teen-Hero Month: Kick-Ass 2.

.... Yeah, so I did the math, and came to the conclusion that Barbara Gordon in the N52 is NOT a teen hero.
Oops...
Let's talk some more Kick-Ass instead.
Kick-Ass 2 takes place a year after the events in the first series. The superhero community has grown large, and Kick-Ass has even formed his own superhero team; Justice Forever. Everything seems to go Dave's way.
That is, until the arrival of the world's first supervillain who calls himself the Mother Fucker. He is the son of the mob-boss that Kick-Ass and Hit Girl killed and now he seeks revenge. He gathers an army of other goth-pricks, and decides to ruin Kick-Ass' life, as well as anyone who wears a superhero outfit.
Believe it or not, but I like the sequel. It's not my favorite comic or anything, but I can appreciate it for what it is. A dark comedy. But it still has problems.
First of all, I would have preferred it if Hit Girl were out of the picture. I never really cared for her, and it seemed like the end of Kick-Ass 1 implied that this was the end of her story. But I do like the idea about her training Kick-Ass, giving him the skills necessarily for fighting crime. That was my problem with the first book, that Dave, who is suppose to be this big comic nerd never thought that taking self-defense MIGHT be a necessity for being a superhero.
But again, Hit Girl fills up too much of the story.
Another problem is the ending of the series. When two sites dress up, one as heroes, the other as villains, then a final battle is to be expected. But it just didn't seem... final battle-ish enough. With a action series like Kick-Ass, you would expect some more fighting on screen than off screen. We mostly see Hit Girl fight, but I would have preferred seeing nerds and wannabees in tights duke it out as well as they could.
But as I said, I like this series for what it is. It's over the top, dark, very violent and has a pretty good idea about how a extreme superhero-subculture works.
That's all for now. I'm Waezi2, and thanks for wasting time with me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Teen-hero month: Kick-Ass.

I don't like Kick-Ass.
I get what you all see in this series, but it's just not for me.
If you don't know about possibly the most over-hyped series of our time, here is the skinny:
Dave is just a regular guy who likes comic-books. He and his life is pretty boring. So one day, Dave decides to do something about his pretty meaningless existence and becomes the world's first real life superhero.
... AAAAAAND then gets his ass handed to him on his very first patrol.
He manage to get better after his sever beating, and is a lot more successful on his second attempt at being a hero. His fight against a bunch of muggers gets filmed on a phone, uploaded on YouTube, and BAM!: he is a superstar.
But being a superhero is FAR from being as great as it sounds, and Dave finds himself surrounded by violence, the mafia, and insane people in spandex.
Sounds great, right? I disagree.
The first thing that bothers me is that this is suppose to be the great "what if superheroes really exist" book. But let's be honest here, folks; it's been done before. Like Watchmen or Blankman. It's not a revolutionary idea the comic presents to us. Not to mention that the real-life superheroes existed YEARS before the comic was published.
Another thing is that this book feels like it's been written by a teenager. I'm not implying that Mark Millar is a bad writer, not at all. In fact, he wrote my favorite Spider-Man comic. But sometimes, it feels like he is having too good a time writing unnecessarily dark and mean-spirited stories. There is nothing smart or well-thought about this comic. It's very loud, very bloody, depends on it's over-dimensional violence to sell, and is pretty much the equivalent of an action-flick movie.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I prefer a smarter story. I'm not saying that Watchmen is a better comic than Kick-Ass. They are two different stories to different kinds of readers. Saying that Watchmen is better than Kick-Ass is like saying that coffee is better than carrots. The two things are very different, has nothing in common, and should not be compared.
But I do have ONE major issue with the series;
Kick-Ass a fetish book.
Dave is lumped upon in every way possible(mentally, emotionally and physically). All for the reader's entertainment. We're "OK" with that because he's clearly a disturbed figure that needs the thumping to get by. This is the "choice" he makes. It's similar to why some like Jackass(notice that both ends with "ass") or extreme reality TV. Because the person who is suffering is asking for it, it's funny. And to be fair, comedy is about seeing the entertaining in misery(we all grew up with Tom and Jerry), but there IS a line. Kick-Ass does not simply cross that line, it also walks back to the line and urinate on it in front of children. And if only it actually WAS funny, then it MIGHT have been okay. But it's not, it's just uncomfortable to read.
But I actually like the movie. I think it embrace the fact that it's a silly story and actually allows it to be a dark comedy. Not a perfect movie, but better than it's comic counterpart. And to be fair, I DID enjoy the Kick-Ass 2 comic, which evolves the idea of what the superhero subculture could be like(but ends up with a final showdown full of plot-holes and lazy writing).
My advice; skip the comic and watch the movie instead. It's actually funny and has stuff like jet-packs.
That's all for now. Next time, I will talk about the N52 Batgirl series. And you are NOT going to like what I have to say about the wheelchair-less Barbara Gordon.

I'm Waezi2, and thanks for wasting time with me.