Archive for the ‘Hobotaku’ Category

Boys Over Flowers

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Overall Rating: A+
Summary: A drama/romantic comedy shojo series created by Kamio Yoko. The TV series is a Korean adaptation of the Japanese manga. The story revolves around Geum Jan Di, a high school girl who works in her family’s dry cleaning shop and a fast-food restaurant. The story begins when Jan Di delivers some dry cleaning to the ridiculously posh and exclusive Shinhwa High School. Only the richest and most talented kids are granted admission to Shinwa, and they don’t even have to go to class if they don’t feel like it. When Jan Di gets there she discovers that the young man whose clothes she’s delivering is about to commit suicide. Apparently, he has been getting bullied because the F4 (or Four Flowers) decided they didn’t like him.

Jan Di saves the boy before he can commit suicide, and her actions soon become public knowledge, and expose the bullying. The public demands changes at the school, Jan Di becomes known as “Wonder Woman”. In order to appease the public, Jan Di is offered a chance to go to Shinwa on a swimming scholarship. Jan Di declines, but her family agrees for her, so our adventure begins!

On the first day of school, Jan Di meets the infamous Four Flowers. They are the most beautiful, popular, rich and powerful boys in the school – Goo Jun Pyo (the leader), Yoon Ji Hoo (the sweet one who plays violin), So Yi Jung (one of the playboys), and Song Woo Bin (another playboy). All of the other students clearly worship the Four Flowers, and try to give them presents and treats. Jan Di is enraged by the boys’ behavior, and fantasizes about confronting Jun Pyo.

She finally gets up the courage to do it after he bullies her friend Oh Min Ji after she accidentally slips and drops some ice cream on her shoe. Jun Pyo demands she licks it off, and when Jan Di confronts him he offers to let her take Min Ji’s place. Instead she pushes Jun Pyo over.

Jun Pyo declares war on Jan Di, and gets the school to bully her. Jan Di refuses to give in, despite the bullying and the rest of the Four Flowers begin to think she’s “interesting”. Ji Hoo is totally sweet and offers her a handkerchief when she’s covered in flour, and protects her from some boys trying to hurt her. Is it love?

In the meantime, no one has ever stood up to Jun Pyo before. He interprets her actions as a demonstration of love, and begins to develop feelings for her as well.

Who will Jan Di end up with?

The beginning of “Boys Over Flowers” drags a little bit, but once things get going it’s a lot of fun. I love stories where A) the main character is a woman, B) the woman stands up for herself, and C) there are pretty boys. I like all of the characters (even the mean girls), and I think they’re do a really good job of developing the relationships (Jun Pyo and Jan Di are particularly hilarious). My only complaint is that I wish there were more female characters and that the women interacted more. Regardless, the series is proving to be a lot of fun, and if you like your high school romance/drama with a healthy side of comedy then I think you’ll enjoy this one a lot.

What US Media Can Learn About Dynamic Female Characters From Manga

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Last week I came across this article on Jezebel titled “Memo To The Media: In 2010, Add More Dynamic Female Characters” buy Latoya Peterson, and I wanted to spend some time discussing it. The main concept of the article is that while manga has it’s fair share of sexism and follows plenty of stereotypes it also has a lot more content for women and by women than you can easily find in mainstream US media.

I loved the article, and was really pleased to see that many of the manga the Latoya recommends are titles I haven’t read yet. The one title I had read, Nana, is one of my absolute favorites. Does it portray women in romantic relationships with men? Yes, definitely. The main difference for me between Nana and US-based media representations of women is that it treats them like real people. They also pass the Bechdel test because the two main characters are women, they talk to each other, and they often talk about things other than men. A+

There are plenty of issues with manga and anime and their portrayal of gender (fan service being a prime example), but there is such an amazing variety of options it’s easy to find titles that are women-centric, and deal with issues of gender in mature ways. I agree with Latoya’s premise and wish that the US would create more material that is for women and by women that presents women as more than accessories, are from different walks of life, and don’t have to be made-over to be beautiful.


Friday, December 4th, 2009

Overall Rating: A+
Summary: A psychological/horror/detective seinen series created by Naoki Urasawa, which follows Dr. Kenzo Tenma. An incredibly skilled brain surgeon from Japan, Tenma seems to have it all. He is working at the Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf, is up for a promotion, and is engaged to the director of the hospital’s daughter, Eva. Unfortunately, the Director, Heinemann, consistently gives priority to high-profile patients at the cost of the lives of less important people. Tenma becomes increasingly unhappy with this arrangement, believing that his role should be to help those in the most need.

He gets his chance to stand up to his future father-in-law when twins Johan and Anna come to the hospital. Johan is suffering from a gunshot wound to the head, and Anna is clearly in shock only talking about “killing”. Their parents are dead, and Tenma decides to operate on Johan even after the mayor of Düsseldorf is brougt in and he is ordered to work on him instead. Tenma saves the child, but the politician dies despite the efforts of other doctors. As a result, Tenma loses everything. He is no longer favored by Heinemann and Eva leaves him.

He confesses his frustration to the young boy, Johan, and soon thereafter, everyone in his way dies of poisoning. Johan and his sister have vanished, and Tenma is the primary suspect. Thus the 18 volume story of how a humanitarian act can cause a rash of serial murders, and Doctor Tenma’s journey to find the killer begins.

I became a fan of Naoki Urasawa when I started reading “20th Century Boys”, and have enjoyed his take on Osamu Tezuka’s “Astro Boy”, “Pluto”. Now, I’m addicted to “Monster”. I’m only three volumes in, but I can’t wait to read more. I highly recommend this one.

Nabari No Ou

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Overall Rating: B+
Summary: An action/comedy/drama/supernatural shōnen series (or superdramactedy for short), based on the manga written and illustrated by Yuhki Kamatani. The story follows Miharu Rokujou, an introverted kid with a devilish side, but who otherwise seems pretty normal. Out of the blue, his classmate Koichi Aizawa approaches him to join a Nindō club, which Miharu refuses.

However, the situation changes when Miharu is attacked by ninjas and is defended by Koichi. During the fight, Koichi defends Miharu and explains to him that there is a secret ninja world called Nabari, and that he is destined to be king. Miharu has the secret art Shinra Bansho written in his blood, and as a result he cannot return to his normal life.

Miharu learns that Koichi is a part of the Nabari world, as is one of his teachers (and advisor for the Nindō club), Tobari Durandal Kumohira. The other ninja of Nabari will stop at nothing to learn the Shinra Bansho, and so in order to survive Miharu must learn to use the power himself or get it out of him. Unfortunately, Miharu doesn’t want to become a ninja and getting the Shinra Bansho out of him could kill him.

The set-up may sound kind of crazy (and it is at times), but this show plays the different elements of superdramactedy (yes, I made that word up, so what?) off each other well. The plot is interesting and the characters work well together. Throw in a dash of comedy to lighten things up a little and some good old fashioned ninja action and magic, and you have a winning combination.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Overall Rating: A+

Summary: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a science fiction romance and drama movie with some touches of slice of life based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel of the same name (時をかける少女 (Toki o Kakeru) in Japanese). The story starts out normal enough, and follows Makoto Konno, a high school girl, and her two best friends, Chiaki Mamiya and Kōsuke Tsuda through their everyday lives. However, soon Makoto realizes she has the ability to leap through time when she goes back in time when she avoids an accident that otherwise would have killed her.

Throughout the film Makoto consults with her aunt. When I was watching the movie this didn’t quite make sense to me (how did she know about time travel?), but when I was looking up information about the movie I found out that the implication is that her aunt is the protagonist of the book, and that movie is set after the book takes place.

Initially, Makoto uses her newfound power to do whatever she wants, and uses it to ace a test, and play karaoke for 10 hours (one of my favorite scenes). However, she soon realizes that her actions can adversely affect those she cares about, and she must use her powers more carefully.

My friends Leah and Will recommended this one to me. It sounded interesting and fun, so I got it from Netflix, and fell in love with it. It’s a great movie, and I wish it had been shown in more theatres in the US. Do yourself a favor and watch this one.