By popular demand, we’re trying our hand at a manga review podcast! And what better way to kick things off than with a Halloween special? Dee, Vrai, and Caitlin share faves and flops alike in this monsteriffic medley.
Recorded: Friday 28th October 2018
Hosts: Dee, Vrai, Caitlin
0:01:58 Fast Pitch: The Promised Neverland
0:05:00 Hit Me With Your Best Sell (Side A) – Bloody Mary
0:13:30 Two to Mango (Side A) – The Ancient Magus’ Bride
0:18:58 One for Your Money? – Frau Faust
0:23:00 License Rescue 9-1-1 – Pet Shop of Horrors
0:29:15 ManGRRRR Corner – Black Bird
0:37:09 Two to Mango (Side B) – The Case Study of Vanitas
0:47:29 Hit Me With Your Best Sell (Side B) – The Demon Prince of Momochi House
0:56:02 Group Hug – The Girl from the Other Side
- Emma’s Choice: The gender-norm nightmare at the heart of The Promised Neverland
- Finding Inner Magic: Depression in The Ancient Magus’ Bride
- Requiem of the Rose King Nails Transmasculine Dysphoria–at a Cost
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee, the Managing Editor at AniFem. I also run the anime blog, the Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter @joseinextdoor. And today I’m joined by fellow AniFem staffers, Vrai and Caitlin.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai Kaiser. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can find all the places I have freelance by going to my Twitter @writervrai and checking my pinned thread, or you can find the other podcast I co-host @trashpod.
CAITLIN: I am Caitlin. I’m a writer and editor for AniFem as well as running my own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem—heroine with an E—and I am the anime expert for the Daily Dot. And you can find me on Twitter @alltsun_nodere.
DEE: And today we’re doing something we have never! done! before!
CAITLIN: [gasps dramatically]
DEE: [crescendoing] A Manga! Variety! Hour! Actually, we have never done a podcast about a manga series, period, so this is a brave new world and we have no idea what we’re doing.
DEE: Hopefully it turns okay and we can do more of these going forward. So listeners, please do let us know your thoughts in the AniFem comments.
VRAI: Yeah, a lot of people ask for recommendation podcasts, so we’re giving it a whirl.
DEE: Yeah. It’ll run a little bit like our season recommendation podcasts, but also not like that at all, so, it should be great.
Okay. With Halloween right around the corner and with us all being total suckers for paranormal nonsense, we’ve opted to kick things off by doing the Manga Monster Mash. We’ll be discussing, pitching, and griping about a grab bag of Creature Features. With any luck, it will be… a graveyard smash.
VRAI: [snorts in the background]
DEE: Also, fair warning: I have named each segment and all the names are terrible, and most of them have cheesy introductions. Y’all are welcome.
So! Let’s kick things off with our first segment. This one’s for you folks at home who zone out after 10 minutes of listening to a podcast: it’s coming in hot, so get ready for our Fast Pitch!
So our fast pitch for our Monster Mash is The Promised Neverland. It is written by Kaiu Shirai, the art is by Posuka Demizu, and it is published in English by Viz Media. I feel like this series is pretty well-known at this point, but do either of you wanna do a quick summary of it? [quietly] Or do you want me to do it?
VRAI: I mean, it’s so hard because this is one of those that has a big twist in the first chapter, and discovering that twist by accident was kind of fun, honestly.
DEE: It was. That is true.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s true, [crosstalk] but at the same time, we can’t—
DEE: It’s about a bunch of orphans living on a… living in a community together with a mother, and they discover things are not what they seem. We firmly believe The Promised Neverland really deserves its own podcast. I think about half our team is reading it, if not more, and we’re all very into it.
But with the anime coming up and the manga supposedly entering its final arc, we sort of thought it would be best to wait and give it a proper discussion. But we thought since we’re doing a big podcast on monster series that hitting up The Promised Neverland—you just, you kinda had to, right? We just kinda had to recommend this one for this podcast, so.
I love it. Are you all about in agreement with me on that one?
VRAI and CAITLIN: Yeah.
VRAI: Yeah. Shounen manga are usually super not-my-bag, but this one is unique enough and also deliberately paced enough. Like, it has a beginning, middle, and end. [amazed] It’s going to end, at a reasonable time! I’m about that.
DEE: It is. It’s very exciting. It also has a female protagonist, which is relatively rare in shounen and almost unheard of in Weekly Shonen JUMP. So that’s also very exciting. She’s great, by the way—Emma.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh yeah, I love her.
DEE: And without getting too deep into it—again, for folks who are wanting to discover it themselves—it does definitely deal with some issues involving gendered expectations for the characters, and social critiques, and it’s a very sophisticated, excellently paced, plotted story. I wrote an article about it for those who have read it—or for those who really don’t mind being spoiled—on the site called “Emma’s Choice,” so you can check that out and we’ll link to it in the podcast notes as well.
Anything else we wanna say about our Fast Pitch or should we move on? Read it! You’ll like it, [crosstalk] I’m pretty sure.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Good.
DEE: It does have some horror and gore elements, so if that’s not your bag, obviously that’ll probably be a dealbreaker, but otherwise it’s really great, so… yeah.
CAITLIN: And, I mean, it’s relatively mild. I’m not a big horror person, and I’m definitely not a gore person, but I’ve never really minded anything I’ve come across in The Promised Neverland.
DEE: That’s true. It is relatively restrained. There’s still some disturbing imagery, but yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s heavy on the gore necessarily.
So… Now, of course, there are a lot of manga out there. We don’t have all have time to read the same things. So for this next segment, one of us will be giving the other two our very best sales pitch on why a particular title is worth precious minutes and hard-earned monies. Vrai… [sings enthusiastically and intentionally poorly to the tune of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”] why don’t you Hit Me With Your Best Sell?!
DEE: [still singing] Fire awaaaaaay!
VRAI: [chuckles] Oh.
DEE: [crosstalk; sarcastically] I’m a gooood singer. [laughs]
VRAI: [crosstalk] How can I say “no” to that?
CAITLIN: Ah, an AniFam Karaoke Episode! Just, an episode of us all singing.
VRAI: And dancing. The dancing is in spirit.
Yeah, I have been reading a manga called Requiem of the Rose King, which is an ongoing manga published by Viz and written and drawn by Aya Kanno. I don’t know if I’m recommending it or if I’m just vaguely noodling about it.
DEE: [cracks up in the background]
VRAI: [through pained laughter] I actually think I’m pretty sure I’m not recommending it, but I also can’t stop reading it.
DEE: You’re not hitting me with your best sell, Vrai.
VRAI: No, I’m not! I can’t!
DEE: That’s why this was a working title.
VRAI: It is a… It was pitched to me as “The LOLsy Shakespeare Manga,” which is not untrue. It is a Gothic manga reinterpretation of Richard III with a lot of Shakespeare’s other history plays sprinkled in. And when I say interpretation, I mean that in the loosest sense possible.
The biggest change, probably, is that… You may know that Richard III, as written by Shakespeare, became one of literature’s great villains because, you know, he was writing a play and his benefactors were the royal family that kind of overthrew Richard Plantagenet, so it kind of behooved him to… exaggerate a little bit. You know, he had a hump and a shriveled arm, and most of that probably wasn’t true.
But for the manga, the manga decided, “No, no, no, manga is only for pretty people, so it made the decision that Richard’s curséd thing that marks him out as a horrible demon from infanthood is the fact that he is intersex, which is—mm!—a decision. It is a decision!
DEE: [cringes audibly] Oh boy.
CAITLIN: [horrified] Oooo, no.
VRAI: [pained] Yeah.
DEE: You know what, Vrai? You know why I thought this was gonna be a pitch segment? I got this confused with Bloody Mary, which I knew you did really like. [laughs]
VRAI: Oh, no, I do really like Bloody Mary! Do we want to start over?
DEE: [through laughter] If you wanna keep talking to us about your obsession with Requiem for the Rose King, you are welcome to do so. I just got the monster series confused.
VRAI: I am legit… [conflicted] Agh. Um. I actually do wanna talk about Bloody Mary, though, I like that series. Um… [chuckles] amazing.
Ah, yes. So, I read Bloody Mary, which is a 10-volume series published by Viz and written and drawn by Akaza Samamiya. It is a vampire manga. And it is very silly. I think it’s qualified as shoujo rather than BL, because it’s quite obviously a romance, but the characters never smooch.
CAITLIN: It is released under the Shojo Beat label, so.
DEE: So someone, somewhere, decided it was a shoujo. Yeah.
VRAI: Yeah. So basically there is a vampire named Mary—don’t think about it too hard—and he wants to die and he can’t, basically. Many comedy shenanigans. And he comes seeking out this priest named Maria who supposedly has the ability to exorcise vampires. And he’s like, “All right, great, I found you. Please kill me.”
And Maria is not about it, partially because he’s lost his powers. He’s supposed to have these great world-shattering powers, but they’ve been locked away for plot reasons. And so he says, “All right, I can’t do this, but if you stick around with me and act as my bodyguard, then eventually, when I figure this out, I’ll kill you.”
And so the two of them are on this mystery tour to figure out why Mary wants to die and why he can’t remember his past and what happened to Maria—that is, the reason he bears these exorcism powers but also is incapable of using them.
And it is silly Gothic shenanigans of nonsense! It is, on the one hand, this totally melodramatic thing that swings between comedy suicide attempts and also these very serious speeches about wanting to die and how living forever is awful, and it’s so sad and tragic. And there are beautiful vampire people who are wearing exquisitely drawn outfits. And then it’ll—
DEE: [deadpan] Naturally.
VRAI: Of course!
DEE: What else would vampires be wearing.
VRAI: Of course! And it’s good, and I’m about it, but also it’s kind of adorably sincere. Like, Mary and Maria have a really genuinely cute bond that I got really invested in. I really wanted to see them learn to communicate with each other. And you guys, you guys: [whispering] what if he learns he maybe doesn’t want to die after all? [gasps dramatically]
DEE: Gasp! I never would see that plot twist coming.
VRAI: Like, it’s totally melodrama-popcorn. But also, it is a love story. It’s about these characters learning that they need each other and they wanna be together forever. There’s no sexual assault in it. There is—
DEE: Hooray! [laughs]
VRAI: I know! The bar is so low!
VRAI: They have a fun dynamic. The art is pretty and very lush in that Goth Shoujo way. And, yeah. It’s 10 volumes long, it’s completed, and it’s been totally released in English, so you can read the whole thing and have done. [frustrated] I don’t know why we’re getting an anime of Ten Count instead of this. I’m so mad.
DEE: There’s so many things we could be getting an anime of instead of Ten Count.
CAITLIN and VRAI: [emphatic] Yeah.
DEE: This is definitely on the list. So yeah, this sounds like a… Yeah, I’m gonna refer to it as a BL even if it isn’t technically in the genre, because it sounds like it kind of falls into that category a little bit in terms of being a queer love story. It sounds like a fun little BL. I am kind of a sucker for paranormal stories, so, yeah.
CAITLIN: Aw, now I’m sad. My library doesn’t have that one.
VRAI: I had to get it through inter-library loan. It was good. It was a good choice.
DEE: Yeah, it’s a bit of a deep cut. It’s one I vaguely remember coming out when I was working at a bookstore and I just never quite got around to giving it a try.
VRAI: I feel like the releases have been drip-fed for a long time. Like, the last volume just came out in the last couple months.
DEE: Mm-hm. Yeah, I think they were releasing it as it was coming out in Japan. I’m guessing? Don’t quote me on that, folks, I am not looking at the Wikipedia page as I say those words.
VRAI: But no, yeah. I was… ‘Cause I read it because: “Well, it’s vampires. I guess I gotta.” And I wound up being really pleasantly surprised. It was a good pick.
DEE: That’s great! I will have to see if I can snag that one at some point and give it a read. ‘Cause I’m always trying to get more into, um—especially BL titles. And I just have a tough time because of the assault issue that you mentioned earlier.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yep.
VRAI: [crosstalk; pained] Yeah, so much of the popular stuff is so…
DEE: That does crop up in a lot of the popular series that have made it into English, yeah. Not to say that it’s in even the majority of BL titles—it probably isn’t—it just seems to be in a lot of the stuff that’s in English, so it’s tougher to track things down.
CAITLIN: And the stuff that gets adapted to anime.
DEE: God, yes, especially the stuff that gets adapted to anime. Overwhelmingly so, which is irritating… But.
CAITLIN: Well. We’ll always have Jackass.
DEE: [sighing] Yeah, and we’ll always have… Yeah. We’re definitely seeing—the more titles we get in the US, the more non-assault-involved manga we’ll get, so… that’s always good. [crosstalk] So hopefully we’ll get more titles like that.
VRAI: And I’m sure we’ll have a—if this podcast goes well, I’m sure we’ll have one down the line that talks about ones that don’t suck. And we recommended a few on the BL podcast we did a few episodes back, so…
DEE: Oh, for sure, yeah. But it sounds like this is a nice one to add to that list too, especially if you’re into vampers, which, uh… I know you and I are, so.
VRAI: [laughs] Yes.
DEE: All right! Anything else you’d like to say about Bloody Mary, Vrai? [crosstalk] I think you sold that pretty well.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Nah. Nah, nah, nah.
DEE: Hey, Caitlin.
DEE: This dance floor is lonely. Take my hand, won’t you?
DEE: Because, you see, it may only take one to read a comic, but it takes Two to Mango.
CAITLIN: [deeply disappointed] Oh, God. Dee.
DEE: I am so tired! I’m on so many cold meds. So many cold meds!
DEE: Yes! Two to Mango, where a pair of your hosts share their thoughts on a manga they’ve both been reading. And I hope you guys brought some margaritas, ’cause I’m bringing the salt on this one. It is The Ancient Magus’ Bride by Kore Yamazaki, published in English by Seven Seas.
Quick summary, for those who don’t know—we’ve talked about this in our anime recommendations podcast, but if you’re coming in for the manga version—it is the story of Chise, a girl known as a Sleigh Beggy, who can see the fae and work magic. After a traumatic childhood of being tossed between different relatives, she offers to sell herself in an otherworldly auction. She is bought there by Elias, an inhuman mage who offers to become her magic teacher and also intends to make her his bride. The two begin a complicated relationship as Chise works towards understanding her powers, gaining confidence, and self-realization.
Talking about this one without spoiling it is going to be difficult. But, Caitlin, I think you weren’t actually on any of our podcasts where we talked about The Ancient Magus’ Bride—the animated version?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] No, I don’t think so.
DEE: I am curious to hear your thoughts. We’ve never really gotten your thoughts on the series; this very popular series.
CAITLIN: You know, I have not read the latest volume of the manga out of fear—
DEE: [crosstalk] That’s fair.
CAITLIN: —because your reaction to it was very strong. [brief pause] I like a lot about it. I like Chise’s emotional journey and her journey of healing outside of her relationship with Elias. I love the folklore elements. Folklore being incorporated into popular culture is always so fun.
And it makes me feel a little bit like—this is such a cheesy thing to say, but my grandmother is English, and so there was always a lot of English children’s literature and stuff. I read a lot of Beatrix Potter as a kid. And so that was sort of… It’s not like she was putting out milk for the fairies or anything like that, but you know, it sort of brings in some of my more immediate background and elements of my grandmother’s life that I may never really have been aware of, so that’s always kind of cool. Like, something that takes place in the English countryside as opposed to your BBC dramas all set in London and stuff like that, and the folklore.
But man, yeah, no, that… [sighs deeply] It’s a tough one. It’s a tough one to get past.
DEE: So did you watch the anime all the way through?
CAITLIN: I did not.
DEE: Okay. So, I couldn’t even, like… ‘Cause the way the anime ends is… the manga hadn’t gotten to that point yet, and then we got to that point, and it was basically the same. And I have rage-quit this series, dear listeners. And I was curious—I, for some reason, had thought you had read the most recent volume.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I have it.
DEE: [crosstalk] I’m sorry I scared you away from it!
CAITLIN: I have it!
CAITLIN: But I haven’t read it yet. I’m just like, “Ahhh, I don’t want—I don’t want to be mad about it!”
DEE: Yeah. And I know Peter’s keeping up with this one as well—and he sadly couldn’t join us for this podcast—but I know his thoughts and I know the thoughts of some other folks who have watched the anime or read the manga are a lot more charitable than mine.
I felt like the more recent events undid a lot of the character development and direction the story seemed to be taking Chise in a way that really didn’t sit well with me. And they could be playing a long game, and maybe they will eventually address it, but at this point, I’ve kind of lost faith in the story, which sucks.
I’ve never… It’s rare for me to feel betrayed by a story, and I felt—(A) I felt betrayed by the story, and (B) I felt like I kinda betrayed our readers? Because I was really big on this one when the first episode came out of the anime—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Listen, you didn’t know.
DEE: —and I was like, “Well… shit.” [pained laughter] So…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] You couldn’t have known.
VRAI: [crosstalk] We have all been there, I think.
DEE: No. And, again, we have a very good article on our site by Lynzee Loveridge, talking about how the show discusses depression and trauma. And she said in her piece that even though the ending did backtrack in a lot of ways, she didn’t feel like it took away from what the story had done before, so not everyone is going to feel the way I feel about it.
But, I am salty and annoyed. I hope I’m wrong and it goes and it continues to develop in the direction it seemed like it was going to develop, but they made some big… they created a big chasm and then tried to paper a bridge over it, and it did not work for me at all.
CAITLIN: Yeah. What I know about Frau Faust—which is by the same writer—from what I know about it, it’s not super surprising, ’cause I think the things that we thought The Ancient Magus’ Bride was interrogating was actually playing straight. That’s my feeling on it.
DEE: Well, that is extra concerning for the next segment we’re moving into, which I had called—which we have… I say “we”; I’m sorry, guys, I shouldn’t be implicating you—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; faux-annoyed] Yeah! Don’t put this on us!
DEE: —in these crimes. [laughs]
The next segment is called One for Your Money? And it’s where we’ll talk about a volume one we’ve recently read and what we thought, and if we’ll keep up with it. So this is not a guarantee that the series is going to hold up, but it is a… “Here’s one volume of a thing and here’s what we think.”
And I thought it would be thematically appropriate to jump from one Kore Yamazaki monster series to another one. So, I had picked up the first few volumes of Frau Faust in a Kodansha digital sale a while back, sat on them, and then was like, “Hey, as long as we’re doing this podcast, I might as well read the first volume.” So I did. So yeah, I checked that out, hoping it would give me the stuff I liked about The Ancient Magus’ Bride without the more troubling implications.
And, as the title suggests, it is a re-imagining of the Faust [pronounced “foust”] legend… or should I say “fahst”? Is it “fahst” or “foust”? Does anyone know?
[Unintelligible as CAITLIN and VRAI race to reply. VRAI wins]
VRAI: Most people say “foust.”
DEE: “Foust.” Okay, I thought so, but I didn’t wanna be like, acting extra fancy over here like, [in a snooty voice] “Oh, it’s foust,” when it’s not.
DEE: So yeah, but the manga follows the scholar, Joanna, also known as Faust, as she travels in search of the missing pieces of her demon contractor, Mephistopheles. In the first chapter, she meets a boy, Marion, who wants an education, but is too poor to afford one, so he kind of insists on traveling with Joanna on her journey, because she is a very learned scholar and he wants to keep picking up more information for her as they go.
The inquisition is after her; she’s got a homunculus daughter who runs an orphanage…. Overall, I thought it was—I thought the first volume was a lot of Medieval Fantasy Fun. So I did enjoy it and I do plan [to] keep reading it.
I’m a sucker for the setting. It seems like it’s not… It’s playing somewhat fast and loose with the middle ages. Like, there seems to be relative gender equality as far as the first volume goes. The first volume was very short, by the way. Like, the last quarter of it is a standalone story that has nothing… It’s just like another Yamazaki one-shot that she wrote. So I really got a very limited idea of what the story was gonna be about.
But it felt like she had created a world that let her have this female scholar running around getting into scrapes without having to deal with the kind of crap that a lot of Medieval fantasy deals with, where the women are just constantly subjected to sexist bullshit, so I appreciated that about it right off the bat, and it made it easy to just kind of enjoy it. There seems to be kind of a focus on personal freedom and choice; there’s a whole big scene in the last chapter of the first volume that’s about that.
The dynamic between Faust and Mephistopheles is… kind of sexual? I think? It’s right on the edge, so I’m curious to see where that’s going. And I think it helps that it’s a josei series because since it’s targeted an older audience, I’m not… I’m a little more willing to go, “Well, it’s being fun trash,” if that is the direction it ends up going—and I don’t know if that’s the direction it will go.
I am a little concerned about some of the stuff going on with Faust’s gender. In the flashbacks, she appears to… not have boobs? and be dressed in more masculine-presenting clothes, and I don’t know how they’re gonna play that. Might be fine, might be really bad. So I am gonna come back to it ’cause I do have the other volumes, but at this point, I would maybe tentatively recommend it? I’m afraid to recommend anything anymore. Ancient Magus’ Bride did me bad.
VRAI: Dee, I once told people to read Killing Stalking because I thought the first season was going to do interesting interrogative things that it was just gonna [eventually] play straight. So…
DEE: [crosstalk; weary] Yeah…
VRAI: Yeah, we been there.
DEE: [pained] Oooops? [pained laughter]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It happens to everyone.
DEE: No one bats a thousand, yeah. So, that was for Frau Faust, but overall I— [imitating an ambulance] Wee-ooo-wee-ooo-wee-ooo! [exaggerated surprise] Do you guys hear that? What was that?
CAITLIN: Oh, God.
DEE: [imitating an ambulance] Wee-ooo-wee-ooo-wee-ooo! [through excited laughter] Oh man, you know what that means?! We’ve got ourselves a License Rescue 9-1-1! Quick, Vrai! What do we need to save today?!
VRAI: I feel like I could run this section for months and never run out of titles, [pained laughter] which makes me really sad. But the title I want to talk about today is Pet Shop of Horrors by Matsuri Akino. It was published by Tokyopop. It ran for 10 volumes. And it is one of my all-time favorite manga, so it breaks my heart that it is no longer legally available. [laughs weakly]
The story is set in 1990s LA, in Chinatown. There is a man named Count D, who supposedly runs a pet shop that sells love and dreams, and—
DEE: You called?
VRAI: No, two less letters.
DEE: Aw, well, y’know.
VRAI: And it’s an ironic punishment series. You know, he’ll sell you a pet—usually one that looks like a human being and is very spooky—and you sign a contract that has three rules on it, and if you break one of the rules, he can’t be held responsible for what happens to you. Usually that means people die in terrible, ironic ways, but sometimes it means that their lives get better, occasionally.
And so while there are these—along to these string of murders comes Detective Leon Orcot, who is positive that there is something weird going on with this pet shop, but he can never prove it, and everybody believes that he’s just obsessed with this case, and he’s completely lost the thread.
And the manga is semi-episodic, but there is also a developing thread of Leon and D kind of having this Foe Yay tête-à-tête. It is one of the many manga I love that… is really queer, but nobody ever confesses their love. It’s definitely about their obsession with each other and about them learning from each other.
The art is absolutely gorgeous. It’s in that Goth shoujo style—this is already a pattern—where there are these beautifully intricate wardrobe designs and a lot of big eyes and detailed hair. It’s also quite effective as a horror series, both as gore and with some interesting Twilight Zone-esque sort of thought experiments, I guess. It runs the—it draws from a couple different mythologies in interesting ways.
I wish that it would get picked back up and get a new translation because Tokyopop was kind of famous for, let us say “loose translations” of manga series, and I’ve never actually seen side-by-side comparisons of Pet Shop, but it was kind of famously one of the ones that… Like, there would be whole scenes where background dialogue would originally be relevant to a scene and get changed to something else.
And I am inclined to believe people because there are definitely plot threads as I read it in English where things don’t quite sync up in a way that it feels they’re meant to; lots of dropped threads and plot holes. And I know for certain there was at least one short story that was just—like an omake short—that was just omitted from the English-language release for no discernible reason.
DEE: Well, the reason was it was Tokyopop. [crosstalk] Sometimes they did that.
VRAI: [crosstalk; laughing] The reason was it was Tokyopop! Yep.
DEE: They made great strides in making manga available to everybody, but they—yeah, “loose translations” is a nice way to put it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I read it when it was coming out—when I was in high school—and I didn’t realize that the translation was so awful.
VRAI: [whispers] Yeah. Yeah, it’s not… The example I always think about for some reason is this translation of background text where something mysterious has happened because it’s Tuesday and Pet Shop of Horrors. And supposedly in the original text, Leon is thinking to himself like, “Aw man, this guy is really mysterious after all, huh.” And in the English text, he’s just thinking about, “Aw man, she looks kind of like that tattoo artist I shacked up with one time.” [amused] Because, I don’t know, the English translation is very dedicated to ostensibly proving he’s heterosexual.
DEE: Well, that’s just silly.
DEE: So yeah, it does sound like this one could benefit from not just a license rescue, but a full re-translation, kinda like they’re doing with Fruits Basket right now.
VRAI: Yeah, I think it would be great. And there is an OVA that I think you can still get. I don’t think it’s very good. And all of the… It chose some of the most iconic monsters, but in my mind, some of the most boring stories that don’t really show off the recurring characters very well. So it’s kind of a disappointment. And I think a one-cour anime series would suit this show extremely well. It gives me feelings, and sometimes I still go back to it and have a good cry.
DEE: Aww! You didn’t tell me it had feelings in it!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Aww.
VRAI: There are feelings! I hate to tell you this, but there are feelings.
DEE: No, that actually sells me on it more. I’m not a huge… I’m real hit-or-miss on horror genre-type stuff, but if I know that it’s also got emotional resonance, then sign me up.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s—
DEE: The OVA is on HiDIVE, by the way. In the US, anyway. Obviously, I can’t guarantee other regions. But I was curious, so yeah, there’s a four-episode OVA on HiDIVE.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s not… it’s not very good.
VRAI: I’m sad about how not-good it is. But yeah, so… Good, good series. I miss it. Please, somebody pick it up and re-translate it for me.
DEE: I think we all get at least one of those, right? Now that we’re big, fancy anime critics. Like, we all get one license rescue. I think that’s how it works.
Phew! Now that we’ve taken care of that emergency…
DEE: I think it’s high time we stop lavishing praise on series. We are humorless feminists, after all. We can’t be having fun all the time.
CAITLIN: [emphatic] No!
DEE: So, with that in mind, let’s turn it over to Caitlin for our ManGRRRR Corner—
DEE: To discuss a monsteriffic series that just did not fly for you.
CAITLIN: Nope. “Did not fly.” I get it—‘cause they’re tengu! That’s right, this is Black Bird, which is basically just Twilight but with Japanese mythological figures instead of vampires and werewolves. Black Bird was released in the U.S. by Viz’s Shojo Beat label, and it was written by Kanoko Sakurakoji.
And it is about a girl named Misao who can see monsters, and then on her 16th birthday, the monsters start trying to kill her! But her childhood friend Kyo comes back, and says that she is the, uh… what is it called? The Senka maiden! And every monster is going to try to get her because eating her will give them eternal life, and marrying her will bring their clan prosperity, so everyone’s gonna either try to marry—and of course, in these things, “marry” always means have sex with her—or to eat her.
DEE: [dryly] Literal object to be gained. Awesome.
CAITLIN: Yep. And so, of course, he is going to be the one to marry her. And he immediately declares her his property, and insults her, and assaults her, and there’s this whole thing where… you know how in Twilight, Edward wouldn’t have sex with Bella because he was afraid it would be too much and he wouldn’t be able to resist eating her?
DEE: Yeah, or he’d kill her with his awesome vampire strength. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, he would just fuck her to death.
DEE: [crosstalk] So romantic.
CAITLIN: Just one thrust and she’d just… [through laughter] just fall apart!
DEE: With his rock-hard penis.
DEE: Their skin is described as being like rock! This is a fair concern on Edward’s part, quite frankly.
CAITLIN: You know what, that doesn’t sound like it would be any fun anyway. Just…
CAITLIN: Ugggh… Anyway, so in Black Bird, there is a record that says that Kyo should not fuck the Senka Maiden, for some reason, and they will not tell her why. And she wants to fuck Kyo, and he wants to fuck her, but he can’t let her, and he just constantly shames her for wanting to… And they won’t tell her why.
And of course, the reason “why” ends up being that once they start having sex, they just can’t stop.
DEE: This actually almost sounds worse than Twilight.
CAITLIN: It’s really bad!
DEE: At least Twilight didn’t shame Bella for wanting to bang Edward. [crosstalk] He just wouldn’t let her. [laughs]
CAITLIN: I mean… [skeptical noises] So, yeah, it’s… Misao is a completely passive heroine. She can do nothing for herself; she is just an object for Kyo and everyone to fight over. She’s completely helpless. She gets kidnapped constantly. She cries constantly. Her only personality is how much she’s in love with Kyo. That is all she has going for her; that is all of her motivation. We never see her do anything else but think about how much she loves Kyo.
DEE: I’m impressed you got through this entire series.
CAITLIN: You know, the duty called. [laughs] Kyo, meanwhile, is a real fuckwad.
DEE: [amused] I was getting that sense, yeah.
CAITLIN: He’s very pretty, and he has these beautiful black wings, and the moment he sees Misao after so many years, he grabs her tits. And there is such a permissive attitude towards: “Oh, well, that’s just how guys are.”
DEE: Ugh. I hate that.
CAITLIN: And he is… Like, he gets mad and he yells at her, and he punishes her whenever she tries to do something on her own. A couple of times he almost hits her. [pained laughter] It’s really just… It’s really awful, and everyone around them in the series talk about how obviously Kyo loves her and how he’s such a good boyfriend, and how he’s such a good—spoiler alert: this is Twilight; they get married; sorry—how much—
DEE: [deadpan] But Caitlin. Which one falls in love with a baby. This is important.
VRAI: [cracks up]
CAITLIN: No one falls in love with the baby.
VRAI: [crosstalk] No, that’s Kare Kano.
CAITLIN: No, Kyo’s parents… His mother was an orphan and his father was the caretaker of the orphanage.
DEE: Ohh, no.
CAITLIN: And then… um… [pauses; thinking]
DEE: This is just like an endless series of “yikes.” I mean, you don’t have to list every single yikes. [laughs] But…
CAITLIN: Yeah. I get very heated about Black Bird. I hate it a lot. So yeah, it’s bad! It’s really… It’s not the most offensively terrible shoujo manga I’ve ever read, and I do see how it’s compelling. It’s very well drawn. It’s got a lot of drama.
It can be sexy at times. Like, there are… the sex scenes were… that don’t involve force or abuse or crying, those sex scenes actually are genuinely very sexy, which is even more infuriating ’cause God knows there’s not enough good sex in shoujo manga. [laughs]
So I can see why—and it was a hugely popular series both in Japan and the US. It was one of their one of Viz’s bestsellers for quite a while. It’s… It’s better than Hot Gimmick?
VRAI: That’s not just a low bar, [laughing] that’s…
DEE: [crosstalk] Where did we embed that bar again? Is it in the basement at this point?
VRAI: [crosstalk] Currently in the mantle of the earth.
DEE: [laughs] Yeah, I mean… y’know, I’m not gonna fault anyone for enjoying what they enjoy, but it does sound like this has a lot of problems with it. So, definitely one I’ve never been interested in, based on buzz that I heard that was to the effect of what you’ve been telling us, and now I’m definitely not gonna check it out.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, don’t. There’s nothing in it for you, Dee. There’s nothing in it for you. [laughs]
DEE: Well, there’s so much better shoujo out there. I have several of them in my queue, so… Heck, Bloody Mary, I just added to my list, so…
DEE: Yeah, I think we can—I think I will definitely be avoiding that one, for sure. We appreciate that report, Caitlin. Thanks for suffering through the entirety of Black Bird for us.
DEE: So we don’t have to. “ManGRRRR.”
Now, uh, one sec, I need to turn this cassette tape over real quick, and then, Caitlin, if you wouldn’t mind spinning me over towards Vrai, we can begin… Two to Mango: Side B!
VRAI: Oh yeah.
DEE: That’s right, we’re back! Another Two to Mango. Because I read a lot of manga and we had some good crossovers. This one will be another vampire series because it is Vrai, after all.
VRAI: [laughs] I’m obligated. I have to.
DEE: You know, it’s your brand. You have a brand and you should own it
So yeah, this is The Case Study of Vanitas. It is written by Jun Mochizuki and published in English by Yen Press. Vrai, could you give us a summary? You’ve read it more recently than I have, and I tend to—with Jun Mochizuki stories, I don’t sweat the plot. I just get tangled up in the big emotions and character development. So if you wanna give us kind of a quick synopsis, I think that would be excellent.
VRAI: Yeah. Although, let me say first, it is bold of you to say that I read this because it’s my brand when you came out of nowhere to say, “Hey, this is entirely your thing that you would enjoy very much.” And you were right.
DEE: Oh, yeah! Yeah, listeners, basically what happened was, I was reading volume three, and I got to the point where I realized the Trash Boy was sad and was low-key in love with the Cinnamon Roll Vampire. And I went, “How have I not told Vrai about this story?” [laughs] And immediately told Vrai about this story. And I think you went out and grabbed the manga, like, within a couple weeks? Pretty quick after that, so.
VRAI: [laughing] Yeah!
DEE: And I wasn’t wrong, was I?
VRAI: No, your screenshots were very compelling!
VRAI: So, the series begins with a vampire named Noe Archiviste, who is on his way to the new world of—it’s like a fantasy London or Paris—
DEE: [crosstalk] Paris.
VRAI: Paris, yes. And while he is on the way, the ship gets attacked by a vampire who has been cursed and is attacking humans, which in this universe is not normally a thing that happens; they are fairly segregated. And all of a sudden, this flashy mortal named Vanitas appears and he says that he is going to cure all vampires. And he opens this magical book, and he is able to—and he cures the young woman. And Noe says, “Oh, hey, that’s the book I was looking for. I came here specifically to look for that and learn from it, so I’m gonna follow you and figure out what’s going on.”
And so there is this threat: this ancient vampire who is invading other vampires’ dreams and stealing their true name, which causes them to become shambling sort of elder monsters. And so Vanitas and Noe are working together to unravel what the heck is going on with this while Noe is also, in true sidekick fashion, working to figure out what’s going on with this mysterious asshole that he has wound up working with. [crosstalk] There are feels.
DEE: [crosstalk] Sad Trash Boy. Yes.
It is… quintessential Jun Mochizuki, so anyone who has read Pandora Hearts, I think you will have a very good time—and enjoyed it—will have a very good time with Case Study of Vanitas. I’m an absolute sucker for these kinds of big, messy, emotional fantasies, so… It’s one of those series I tend to not think too critically about, so when we put it on this podcast, I was like,”Oh no, now I have to think critically about my favorite trash series,” basically.
But yeah, overall, I think it handles its main characters really well. I think it has some kind of issues with the way it treats its female characters, even though I generally like them.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Would agree.
DEE: Does that make sense? Like, they’re cool ladies and I enjoy them, but I think the series doesn’t—I think the series has a tendency to either kind of sideline them or… Vanitas in particular, because he is an asshole, a lot of… Most of his assholishness is kind of enjoyable, like, “Oh, you.” But when he’s messing with Jean, it veers into the realm of uncomfortable.
VRAI: Oh, those are my least favorite parts.
VRAI: Those are not—’cause it’s full-on. Like, she’s the tough warrior lady, but she gets all flustered when he flirts with her or plants one on her, but of course it’s for plot reasons, so it doesn’t make him an asshole, [hissing] except he’s still an asshole.
DEE: Well, and I think the series is usually pretty good about being, like, “Vanitas kind of sucks.” People do call him out for things, it’s just he doesn’t always get called out for the things you want him to get called out for as hard as you want.
VRAI: Yeah. I’m also—like, I really like Dominic, but I am a little bit wary, because she is this fantastic masc-presenting lady who comes in and saves the day and is Noe’s childhood friend and flirts with all the ladies, and she’s a lot of fun. And actually, there was an omake that was her and Jean hanging out. And more of that please, forever? [crosstalk] Good ship, good ship.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, I like them together.
VRAI: But also, I have this sneaking suspicion that they’re going to push it from “she’s Noe’s childhood friend and she’s the only one he can drink blood from for plot reasons” to “she’s secretly pining for him.” And I would be extremely not about that, because then it’s like, “Oh, she flirts with the ladies, but really she has the Real Feels for this dude.” Please don’t do that, Manga.
DEE: Yeah, I hope they don’t go that direction. If it’s anything like Pandora Hearts, there will be a lot of subtext about a lot of different potential ships and it’ll all just staaaaay subtext. [chuckles]
VRAI: [weary] You know what? Yeah, if it all stays subtext, it’s… Yeah, it’s fine. It’s whatever. It does… boy, it’s subtexting hard with Noe and Vanitas, though.
DEE: Oh, yeah, no. Again, I got to the end of that volume three and I was like, “Oh! Oh, we might actually be veering a little bit harder into the BL with this series,” and I got kind of excited about it, so…
VRAI: Yeah, I’m sure—
DEE: I’m trying to temper my expectations because it runs in a shounen—it runs in one of the Gangan magazines, which tend to be a lot more free and loose with the concept of “shounen.” A lot of their series are more targeted—it’s almost like “shounen for girls,” and I hesitate to use that description because I think there’s a lot of blanket terms in there that are problematic just by their usage, but I think you guys probably know what I mean when I say that?
VRAI: Yeah, yeah, I follow.
DEE: It’s stories that… It’s action/fantasy-type stories that also feature a lot of pretty boys having emotions at each other.
DEE: And things like that. I’m personally very fond of Gangan shounen. But Case Study does run in that magazine, and so I could very easily see it being one of those that continues to shiptease without ever really, like, committing.
That doesn’t necessarily bother me. As long as it doesn’t go full “no homo,” I’m perfectly happy with things saying subtextual. Shipteasing doesn’t bother me at all. But I know some people, it really does, so I always try to temper my recommendations with that.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s one of those things, like, if it’s across-the-board where just everything is subtext—male/male, male/female, female/female—if they’re all on the same level, it’s fine, it’s whatever. That’s a background that’s not the main focus of the plot and I respect that. But if it’s one of those things where like, “This is subtext, but this gets to be elevated to text”—mm, not about that.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s frustrating. I totally get that.
VRAI: I do get… And this series started in 2012, right? So it could be running for a while yet?
DEE: Yeah, it’s fairly new. She wrapped up Pandora Hearts and then started this one right away, so… 2015, actually. They are releasing it chapter-by-chapter digitally—Yen Press is, actually. So you can technically read the chapters, like, within a few days after they come out in Japan. I don’t, but you could. I just wait for the volumes.
VRAI: Yeah, same. I think this might be a sad ‘un? Like, the opening hook is “let me tell you how I killed this guy”! Which they may or may not subvert that, but I’m preparing for it to be A Sad, Full of Emotions?
I’ve only read the first couple volumes of Pandora Hearts. I’m sure we’ll talk about it more because you love it so much, but…
DEE: [wistfully] I love it so much. And, like, a lot of asterisks on that. It is not a perfect series, but I do adore it.
I expect bittersweet, is what I will say I expect from Case Study, just based on my reading on the kind of things Mochizuki does. It will probably break our hearts, but I would say it will probably not be, like, hopeless tragedy in the process.
VRAI: I can live with that.
DEE: Hanging on to those two things side-by-side, yeah.
VRAI: So I think if you are a fan of Gothic fantasy, um…
DEE: It’s steampunky as hell, and I love it. There’s this wonderful note in the back of the first volume where Mochizuki sends the initial sketch of one of her airships to her assistants, and it is like the most detailed, expansive airship you’ve ever seen. And her assistants all send back, like, “LOL, I’m not drawing that” and one of them’s like, [pleadingly] “Miss Mochizuki, you have to understand. There are only 24 hours in a day. Humans only have two arms!”
DEE: [through laughter] It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and I was like… Ahh, anyway, my point being: it’s very elaborate and pretty, and I’m sure that her assistants were very tired by the time they were done helping her with it. But her art is beautiful, so, yeah, if you’re into that sort of style. And, again, if it’s anything like Pandora Hearts, it will be big, messy, emotional. [delighted] And if that’s your bag, you’ll probably have a really good time. It’s my favorite trash.
VRAI: I support you in this.
DEE: Yeah, so… that is Case Study of Vanitas.
[plaintively] Hey Caitlin, I’m tired of talking. Now that I’ve rage-dropped Ancient Magus’ Bride, why don’t you [singing] Hit Me With Your Best Sell [stops singing] about what I should replace it with? And yes, this is Side B again.
CAITLIN: Well, I do genuinely think that you would really like a series called The Demon Prince of Momochi House, which I’m pretty sure I’ve recommended to you before.
DEE: The name definitely sounds familiar.
CAITLIN: It is currently running shoujo manga being released in the US by Viz’s Shojo Beat line and written and drawn by Aya Shouoto. And it is about a girl named Himari Momochi who receives a letter that a house has been willed to her on her 16th birthday. And she has been an orphan; she has never known her family before.
And so she goes to the Momochi house, but it is actually on the border between the human world and the spirit world. It is inhabited largely by yokai and there is one human currently living in Momochi House who is named Aoi. And Aoi is the Omamori: the protector of a Momochi House. And he… In order to protect it, he transforms into the Nue, which is a creature in Japanese mythology that’s very powerful, that… So, it is described as having “the face of a monkey, the legs of a tire—tiger—the body of a tanuki, and the front half of a snake for a tail…”
DEE: I just googled it. I’m looking at pictures. They are… complicated creatures.
CAITLIN: Yes. But, in this case, the Nue is a beautiful, silver-haired pretty boy.
CAITLIN: Of course. And it is a very sweet, supernatural romance series. Aoi is a very, very sweet boy. Himari is sort of in a tricky situation where she is locked into this world that she knows nothing about. Whoever sent her the letter about Momochi House probably does not have her best interests at heart, because it is a dangerous place. It is full of yokai, and most yokai do not have good intentions towards humanity. They’re kind of creatures of chaos. They are chaotic neutral. [chuckles] Largely. [crosstalk] Sometimes chaotic evil.
DEE: No, that tracks. Usually, I would say chaotic neutral is, overall… legitimate, yeah.
CAITLIN: Most are chaotic neutral. Some are a little bit more malicious. But, anyway.
DEE: And some are a little bit more benign, so.
CAITLIN: So she is trying to figure out the mystery of Momochi House, because Aoi is sort of trapped there as the Omamori. And it’s… [pauses; sighs] Things are sort of happening… He’s completely been forgotten in the real world. It’s all a very mysterious situation.
But it is beautifully drawn. Just absolute, absolutely gorgeous art. They are all so pretty. All so beautiful. Boys and girls alike. But mostly boys.
DEE: [chuckles; good-natured] Yeah, I mean. It’s a shoujo.
CAITLIN: It’s not a reverse-harem because there’s no romantic tension between her and any of the other characters. It’s just, it is her and Aoi pretty much clearly from the start. [emphatic] And Aoi’s a very good boy!
DEE: [laughs] You did mention that.
CAITLIN: You know, he hasn’t been around humans since he was 10 years old. He doesn’t really understand things. But he tries. And he’s not cruel or rude or mean to Himari when she doesn’t really understand Momochi House. He’s just like, “No, no, no, this is not how that works. How about you not do that and I’ll take care of that as the Nue?” And he really—
DEE: [crosstalk] How’s Himari?
DEE: Sorry, I didn’t mean interrupt. How’s Himari as a character?
CAITLIN: She’s good! She’s good. She’s kind of…
DEE: Fairly active protagonist?
CAITLIN: She is. She tries. So her main thing is that she wants to unlock the mystery of the Momochi House, but she’s kind of in over her head, ’cause there’s a lot of very powerful forces at play. It is not totally episodic, but that plot is sort of background radiation for a lot of the time, and then she’ll end up stumbling on something that is dangerous and so that will sort of set up the plot for the next few chapters. It’s largely episodic.
But it’s never like, “Oh, this stupid girl is trying to do something that she doesn’t understand; she’s putting herself in danger, aggggh.” It’s more like: she’s trying to do this thing and she’s just… It’s so difficult, but she’s still going for it because she cares so much about Aoi and she really wants to help him because he is not going down a good path as the Omamori; it’s not something that is safe or healthy for humans to be.
So that’s sort of how it goes. It’s definitely more of a mutual assistance rather than him rescuing her or her rescuing him, so it… It’s just, it’s nice, most of the time.
The Nue is sort of… The Nue as an aspect of Aoi—are they separate beings? are they the same?—it’s interesting. ‘Cause Aoi is safe. He’s cute. He’s cute and he’s sweet and he likes her a lot, but he’s still very innocent. And the Nue is definitely… The Nue is not trying to do anything sexual with her, but there’s definitely a more sensual feeling about it. Like, she is drawn to it and it’s dangerous, and it is something that she is—she’s definitely not capable of understanding ’cause it’s totally otherworldly. So it’s sort of an interesting dichotomy between the safe and comfortable and the attraction of the kind of sexy-dangerous.
Yeah, it’s just been a very interesting read. But every volume ends with the spoiler, so watch it! Or, not a spoiler, a, uh…
CAITLIN: Cliffhanger, thank you! Every volume ends with a cliffhanger. [crosstalk] So watch out for that.
DEE: Naturally. Just real quick, before we move on: are there any other female characters or is it mostly dude yokai who show up in the story?
CAITLIN: [a bit apologetic] It’s mostly dude yokai.
DEE: [resigned] Okay. I was just wondering.
CAITLIN: Yeah. They’re all pretty boys.
VRAI: I do have to say one more thing before we move on to the last thing because I forgot. About Vanitas: Early on in the story, there is a point where the story introduced a sad pensive cursed vampire named Louis, at which point I said, “Fuck you, Jun Mochizuki, and I guess I’m ride-or-die now.” All right I [unintelligible beneath laughter].
DEE: [laughs] But thank you for reminding me that there was an Interview with the Vampire reference in Vanitas. Thank you for that.
Yeah, I might check out Momochi House. It definitely sounds—I’m placing it—on the scale of yokai-driven shoujo, it sounds like it is maybe not as good as Natsume’s Book of Friends, but maybe better than Kamisama Kiss. So probably something I might enjoy. So definitely for folks at home who like yokai-driven supernatural romances.
Which, in fact…. Guys, this has been fun, but I really miss hanging out with the two of you together. So how ‘bout we bring it in for a Group Hug and wrap this up by chatting about a series all three of us are reading. Sound good?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] All right.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I’m about it.
DEE: This segment is called “Group Hug,” by the way, folks at home. [proudly] There were so many more simple names I could have used, but no, I went with Group Hug.
The series that we will be finishing up with here that I think all three of us are pretty on-board with, is The Girl From the Other Side. It is written by Nagabe and published in English by Seven Seas.
Quick sort of summary? I mean, it’s more of a mood piece. The plot is… there’s definitely a plot, but it’s fairly slow-paced. It takes place in a medieval European-style world where humans live inside the city gate—and it is called The Inside—and then there are these black, animal-like creatures who live in The Outside. And the story takes place in kind of a middle ground: it’s a recently abandoned village where there is one of the creatures, who just is called Teacher, who is taking care of a little—probably, what? Five, six-year-old girl?
VRAI: Seems right.
DEE: And the two are—supposedly, if she touches him, she will carry his curse and become one of the Outsiders as well. But the two of them have this very sweet, trusting relationship as they try to unravel the mystery of this world and stay safe from the humans who think she’s cursed and who think he’s cursed, and are just kind of trying to live on their own in this village together. [uncertainly] Do you think—did that do the story justice?
VRAI: Yeah. It’s… You mentioned with Frau Faust that, when you picked it up, you were hoping for Ancient Magus Bride without some of the baggage of that series? And I kind of feel like that’s what this is. I’m somebody who liked the Magus Bride OVA but couldn’t get into the series for, uhh… reasons. But I felt like a lot of what I had enjoyed about that series is here.
It’s very quiet and pensive and there’s… It’s not quite drawing off—it’s not quite drawing so explicitly from English folklore, but there is very much that feel about it that you get from fae stories of, like, “there are certain rules in place and you’re just expected to know them, but they’re maybe unspoken.” And it gives things kind of a spooky, roundabout… If you’ve ever read a Neil Gaiman short story, it actually kind of reminds me of that kind of feel.
DEE: It does have that tone to it. I would agree with that, yeah.
VRAI: And I really like the scratchy ink pen art style. These are really quick volumes to read—I think, like, 20 minutes, maybe—but they use negative space so well, which is something I really like in manga.
I think that the main relationship is really sweet. Yeah, I…. the actual plot elements when they do crop up are as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face, but I find that kind of endearing. [chuckles]
DEE: How do you mean?
VRAI: Well, the stuff that’s about prejudice and Inside and Outside; and is the curse really real, or is it just because we are afraid of the Outsiders as people who are Inside; and denominations—arbitrary denominations of groups; in-group, out-group. And I’m like, “Oh, oh, you’re saying A Thing, but you’re doing it really stylishly.”
DEE: Yeah, I’m kind of curious to see what sort of A Thing it is saying, because the curse does seem to have some—again, trying not to get too spoilery here—the curse does seem to have some actual repercussions and parts to it, but it… I’m curious to see if that is the curse itself, or if it is, like, the act of being outcast that causes people to lose parts of themselves. ‘Cause there’s a whole thing with memory in volume four. And I haven’t read volume five yet; it just came out a couple of weeks ago.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, me neither.
DEE: It’s in my next RightStuf order.
CAITLIN: It’s on hold at the library.
DEE: Well, there you go. But, I’m kind of curious to see if it’s trying to do any one-to-one parallels or if it’s just kind of… So far, I think it’s done a pretty good job of being just an umbrella concept of “outcasts.” Does that make sense?
Like, it doesn’t feel like it’s pointing specifically to any one group or type of prejudice and saying “that.” It just seems like it’s more dealing with a broader concept. And I’m curious to see where it goes with that, because I think it could be good, but it could also be a mess, which a lot of these fantasy analogs to real-world prejudice often are.
But the central relationship between the girl—what’s the girl’s name? She has a name—Shiva!—between Shiva and Teacher is really endearing. I think the series—Vrai, you said they’re quick reads, because so much of it is told through image. Like, there’s not a ton of dialogue? I think it does a really good job conveying the trust between them and how important she is for Teacher, who’s been alone out here for so long.
The elements of, like, the uncanny, with some of the other Outsiders are, I think, really well done. There’s some parts that are genuinely unsettling. And that use of the all-black and all-white art style tonally fits the story extremely well, and I think kind of lends to that air of eeriness throughout the story.
I’m really into it. It’s one of those where I don’t wanna… I keep thinking “I should write a piece about it,” and then I’m like, “Mmm, I should wait until the entire thing is written before I write a piece about it.” [chuckles] But I’m always excited for a new volume and I’m always… I just get sucked right into the world.
VRAI: It is generally—I wouldn’t call it a horror series, but it does do the eerie quite well.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s more like a… creepy—
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s kind of like a Gothic ghost story. Y’know?
CAITLIN: Ahh, yeah, I think that’s a good way to put it. Yeah, I like… I like Shiva. Shiva’s a pretty well-written small child.
DEE: She feels like a small—like a kid. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah. The way she sees the world and her understanding of the world is very true to how… I don’t know how old she’s supposed to be, but let’s say like a four-year-old.
DEE: Yeah, I was gonna say around five. That’s my best guess.
CAITLIN: And her sense of humor. I would say she’s more innocent than kids her age are. Listen, I work with four- and five-year-olds. Four- and five-year-olds can be terrible. But she’s just always very, very sweet and well-meaning. But overall, just like her outlook is pretty accurate to a four- or five-year-olds, which makes her a lot more endearing and it really does bring… makes Sensei’s—Teacher’s—sort of mission to protect her from the curse and their connection resonate.
DEE: Yeah, they’re both very gentle characters, I think, which is used in contrast to both the Outsiders and the other humans around them, and makes you… It does really feel like they’ve sort of carved out this space for themselves in this world where neither side really seems to understand or approve of what they’re doing.
VRAI: And I think it helps that the various—there are different kinds of antagonism they’re facing. Like, the human antagonists are not the same feel and kind of threat as the other Outsiders.
DEE: [crosstalk] Absolutely.
VRAI: Which I think [unintelligible due to crosstalk] the conflict well.
DEE: Yeah, the humans are pretty straightforward, like, mob mentality—“we hate the cursed” kind of thing. But the Outsiders are a much more fascinating otherworldly element. Which, again is… I just… [excited] I really, really like the series, you guys.
VRAI: It’s good. It’s really interesting, and kind of unique.
DEE: And again, it’s one of those [where] anytime I pop open a volume I pretty much have to read the whole thing in one sitting because I just get completely pulled into the tone and story. And it’s one of the most—I think it’s a very complete series as far as art, story, dialogue, everything coming together to form this very particular type of story that the author wanted to tell.
VRAI: Is Nagabe a pen name? I don’t think they’ve… I can’t find anything else that they’ve done.
DEE: I assume so, but I’ve not dug into the writer at all, so I don’t know anything about ‘em.
VRAI: [shrugs verbally] Anyway, it is good. I think this is one we would all unilaterally recommend, yes?
DEE: Yeah, I would, absolutely. And that’s why it was a Group Hug.
DEE: Okay, so I guess I’ll play us out, folks. Sound good?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] All right, let’s do it.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah-yeah, I think this has gone well.
DEE: And that brings us to the end of our Manga Monster Mash Variety Hour.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Chatty AF. We were flying by the seat of our pants and, [laughs] with any luck, it turned out well. If you did like what you heard, tell your friends, and if you really like what you heard, we’d love it if you’d head over to www.patreon.com/animefeminist and become a patron for at least $1 month. Your support really does go a long way towards making Anime Feminist happen, both in print and in your ear buds.
If you’re interested in more from the team and our contributors, please check us out at www.animefeminist.com, on Facebook @AnimeFem, on Tumblr at @animefeminist, and on Twitter @animefeminist.
And that’s our show! Thanks for listening, AniFam, and we will catch you next week.