Saturday, 12 March 2016


Ohikkoshi is a collection of short slice-of-life stories by Hiroaki Samura, who's usually better known for his saumrai fantasy series Blade of the Immortal. I was attracted to it back when the english-language version was first released by the really badass cover art, which you can see above. Unfortunately, there's no delinquency or violence in here, so it's a bit of a bait-and switch. Fortunately, what there is is a bunch of really good, relatable stories, so it all works out in the end.

More than half the book is taken up by the five-chapter story Ohikkoshi, which tells the tale of a group of young students and their multi-directional web of semi-requited love. And a crazy Italian teacher on a ridiculous quest for revenge. The most obvious thing that makes this story stand out among the crowd when it comes to Japanese comics, especially those that get english translations, is that the characters are all in their early twenties, and none of them live with their parents.

Furthermore, they're all really cool: they look cool, they dress cool, they're in cool bands, they drink in cool-looking bars, and so on. The romance follows suit, it's not earth-shatteringly melodramatic, and relationships don't seem like they have to be life-long one true loves. They're just a group of people who fall in and out of love, sometimes at inconvenient times. There is one boring romantic trope that's popular in a lot of Japanese comics and cartoons, but I can't really tell you what it is without spoiling it for you, but nevertheless, it's annoying when it turns up. On the plus side, once it does turn up, it's kind of cast aside and everyone moves on. I really liked this story, it's cool and aspirational without being a total fantasy, and it's realistic without being grim and depressing.

The second story is called Luncheon of Tears Diary, and it details the long string of tragedies that befall a young comic creator after her series gets abruptly cancelled. It's kind of like a more adult version of the girls' comics being printed in Britain in the 1970s and 80s, where the heroines would tumble through hardship after hardship, living lives of constant despair, all while dreaming they might one day be a ballerina. Always a ballerina. But rather than strict boarding schools and servitude as a maid under a sadistic butler, Natsumi's problems include homelessness, gambling, indentured sevitude as a prostitute, and so on.

It never gets depressing, though, for two reasons. The first is that it's so fast paced, you don't really get to "live" each of Natsumi's tragedies before the next one befalls her. The second is that the comic has a very subtle black humour about it and it's very aware of how over-the-top and melodramatic it is. Again I can't really say much more about it without spoiling anything, but Luncheon of Tears Diary is a great read that I shot through in no time.

Finally, there's Kyoto Super Barhopping Journal, a short, autobiographical story about a rain-sodden drinking trip to Kyoto. It's nice I guess, but it's really just filler. Anyway, Ohikkoshi is an excellent book, and I highly recommend reading it.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Bishoujo Kamen Poitrine, Episode 1

Bishoujo Kamen Poitrine is a superhero show from 1990, created by the legendary Shotaro Ishinomori. It's a lot lighter in tone than the works for which he's usually known, though, being part of Toei's "Mystery Comedy Series." On her way to school on the first day back after the new year holidays, Yuko visits the local shrine, and by chance meets a strange old man for magic powers. For no obvious reason, the old man tells her she should fight against crime and injustice, and gives her the power to turn into the eponymous superheroine, Poitrine. Later that day, her younger brother goes to the local videogame store to buy the latest Dragonball Z game (really!), where he also hears of a local rumour about the Phantom Videogame Thief, a weird goblin-like thing dressed like Sherlock Holmes, that stuns people with a cattleprod and steals their Famicom cartridges.

Obviously, he later falls victim to that very same thief, though since he's out of the room at the time, doesn't get shocked. Somehow, this all culminates in a showdown between the Phantom Thief and Poitrine in some kind of industrial wasteland, where after a very short fight, the thief's identity is revealed, Scooby Doo-style, and everyone gets their games back.

It's a cute, silly little show, and you know I'm always going to be at least a little biased in favour of live-action Japanese action shows from the 80s and early 90s, so I definitely recommend giving it a look. Unfortunately, there's only one subbed episode available, having been released on the 1st of April, 2015, a day that will live in infamy.

On that day, a few weird old shows had their first episodes subbed as "April Fools" jokes by various groups, most notably (because they were shows I've been wanting to see for a long time) this one and the original Taiketsu Lionmaru. Oh well, hopefully someone'll pick up these shows in the future, and either way, one episode is better than nothing, which a fair few of my wishlist shows still have. And the tokusatsu subbing scene is a lot better than it was ten or even just five years ago! Luckily, though, this episode doesn't end on any kind of cliffhanger, so you can watch it on its own with no problems.