‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 4-8

Sugar Sugar Rune, volumes 4-8. Story and art by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Kaya Laterman. Del Rey Manga (New York), 2007. Rated Y (Ages 10+).

I previously reviewed the first three volumes of this series. Because this was adapted and translated by Del Rey, I speculated that a re-release might come from Kodansha Comics, since Kodansha more-or-less replaced Del Rey Manga. I learned subsequently that the rights now actually belong to Udon Entertainment, which planned to begin releasing the series sometime in late 2016.

That didn’t happen, so the fate of the English translation of Sugar Sugar Rune is currently up in the air. Since the series has been released in Japanese as a colorized web comic, I’m hoping for a colorized English version, but that may be asking too much. Also still in need of a release in North America is the anime, the English version of which, as I understand it, only aired in the Philippines.

More than once, I have seen Sugar Sugar Rune touted as one of the greatest of the “cute witch” magical girl stories—a reputation it probably deserves. But, perhaps because the series was largely ignored during its original North American release, I think it’s also fair to say that some of its fans have over-sold it. Is it good? Yes, but it’s not that good. Is it “the greatest fantasy comic of the last five years,” as Anime News Network claimed? Well, I’d have to survey most of the fantasy comics from the five-year block before its publication to form an opinion on that, but I doubt it. Yes, it’s a fine little manga, but calm down. Continue reading “‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 4-8”

Book Review: ‘I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You’

So many missed opportunities, it’s not even funny.

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter. New York, NY: Hyperion, 2006 [Disney-Hyperion, 2016]. 284 pages. ISBN: 142310003-4. Ages 12 and up.

This novel, with its clever yet over-long title, is the first book in Ally Carter’s bestselling Gallagher Girls series, which I’d never heard of before about a week ago when it happened to cross my desk. I picked this up because it has a funny premise; since it’s thematically related to the sort of thing I usually discuss here, it seems worthy of a book review.

Upon finishing this novel, my opinion is much the same as the one I started with: it has a funny premise. And that’s about it. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You’”

Comic Book Review: ‘The Courageous Princess’

The Courageous Princess, written and illustrated by Rod Espinosa. 3 vols. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-61655-722-5 et al.

I am something of a fan of Rod Espinosa, a Filipino draughtsman, former submissions editor of Antarctic Press, and creator of Amerimanga, who has upwards of fifty titles to his name. Years ago, on my previous blog, I reviewed his Neotopia, Battle Girlz, Chronicles of the Universe, DinoWars, and the first volume of the series we’re about to discuss.

The Courageous Princess was Espinosa’s Eisner-nominated breakout title. He originally created it as a self-published, illustrated storybook, and then he converted it into a comic and released it through Antarctic Press. The series, still incomplete, was collected and published in paperback in 2003, and that’s what I previously reviewed. For a long period, the series remained unfinished as Espinosa worked on other projects, but he at last completed the story and released the entire series through Dark Horse in 2015, now as a trilogy of graphic novels. The original collection, which is now the first volume, has been subtitled Beyond the Hundred Kingdoms, followed by The Unremembered Lands and The Dragon Queen.

I like Espinosa’s work, and this now-complete series is overall satisfying, but I can’t help but think it’s a bad sign. Espinosa showed a lot of promise when Courageous Princess first appeared, but has not shown much development since. He has a tendency to squander his talent on derivative and gimmicky projects such as steampunked fairy tales or a Rule 63 version of A Christmas CarolI’m also beginning to see that even his original work is limited in range … like, I really enjoy that one Espinosa story about the teenage girl who is initially uncertain, but through her pure-heartedness and fortitude leads a motley band of misfits to topple an evil empire. Really, I do.

Anyway, the story of The Courageous Princess is a fractured fairy tale reminiscent of, if less zany than, Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles or the musical Into the Woods. The story takes place in the land of the Hundred Kingdoms, where characters from various fairy tales (and a few modern fantasy works) intermingle, though most have by now grown old and moved on with their lives. Continue reading “Comic Book Review: ‘The Courageous Princess’”

‘Cleopatra in Space,’ Volume 4

The Golden Lion (Cleopatra in Space, Book 4), written and illustrated by Mike Maihack. New York, NY: Scholastic, 2017. Full color. ISBN 978-0-5425-83871-9.

I previously discussed the first three volumes of Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space, a space opera aimed at younger readers. Maihack originally began the series as a web comic. The web version stopped abruptly after bogging down, but Maihack rebooted the title as a series of graphic novels through Scholastic’s Graphix imprint. The web comic is not in continuity with the graphic novels, but Maihack suggests to parents that they could check it out anyway to get a good idea of the kind of material that’s likely to appear in the print version. Continue reading “‘Cleopatra in Space,’ Volume 4”

Movie Review: ‘My Little Pony: The Movie’

Possibly the best thing ever to come out of the My Little Pony franchise.

My Little Pony: The Movie. Directed by Jayson Thiessen. Written by Joe Ballarini, Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao, and Michael Vogel. Lionsgate and Allspark Pictures, 2017. 99 minutes. Rated PG. CNS Rating is A-I, General Patronage.

As I expected, critics are panning it, and it might turn out that My Little Pony: The Movie will prove to be a financial mistake for Hasbro and Lionsgate.

That being said, I honestly don’t know what the complaints are about. I thought this was a great movie. My only (mild) criticisms are that none of the musical numbers are among the franchise’s catchiest, and some of the animation could be better, but aside from that, this is a fine, if not exactly stunning, children’s film. Looking at a few of the negative reviews, I get the distinct impression that the critics are turning up their noses not because it’s a bad movie per se, but simply because it’s My Little Pony.

However, in my humble opinion, this may be the best thing ever to come out of the franchise. I daresay this is the first time My Little Pony has come close to living up to its potential.

G4’s central cast, from left to right: Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, Spike, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Applejack.

Continue reading “Movie Review: ‘My Little Pony: The Movie’”

Comic Book Review: ‘Cleopatra in Space’

“But why are they in space? There’s no reason for them to be in space!”

Cleopatra in Space, written and illustrated by Mike Maihack. 3 vols. New York: Scholastic, 2014-2016.

We have before us a highly entertaining space opera swashbuckler aimed at a younger audience but also suitable for adults.

Author and illustrator Mike Maihack has worked on several different comics projects, including the webcomic Cow and Buffalo. He also produced an earlier webcomic version of the present story under the more facetious title of Cleopatra in SPAAAACE, which he halted abruptly in order to reimagine Cleopatra’s tale as a series of graphic novels, published through Scholastic’s Graphix Imprint. The stories of the graphic novels and webcomic differ in some details and do not overlap.

The series currently stands at four volumes, the fourth having released recently this year. I am here discussing only the first three, which are all I’ve got my hands on so far.

Continue reading “Comic Book Review: ‘Cleopatra in Space’”

Now Starting ‘Glitter Force’

The year 2004 represents a sea change in the magical girl genre. In that year appeared two series that would give a new look and feel to mahou shoujo. One was Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, a series aimed primarily at the neckbearded adult male crowd, and the other was Futari Wa Pretty Cure, aimed at young girls. Both would produce spin-offs. Pretty Cure became a cash cow franchise for Toei Animation, with an impressive total of fourteen series to date, the most recent of which, KiraKira☆Pretty Cure a la Mode, began in February of 2017 and is still ongoing as of this writing. There are also several movies, including crossovers that bring together cures from different series.

Both of these franchises are notable for introducing to the genre a heavier emphasis on physical combat. Both series also completed the process of all but eliminating the previously omnipresent romantic subplots in favor of a focus on feminine camaraderie. Continue reading “Now Starting ‘Glitter Force’”

Drawn Like My French Girls: ‘LoliRock’

They should have called it “Loli Auto-Tuned.”

LoliRock. Written by Madellaine Paxon et al. Directed by Jean-Louis Vandestoc. Marathon Media and Zodiak Kids, 2014-2016. Starring Kazumi Evans, Kelly Sheridan, and Vincent Tong. 52 episodes of 26 minutes (approx. 22.5 hours). Rated TV-Y.

Available on Netflix.

We now turn our attention to that other French magical girl cartoon, LoliRock. According to an earlier version of its Wikipedia entryLoliRock has the honor of being the first magical girl title from France, though this assertion was followed by the wisest and truest words to be found on Wikipedia, “citation needed.” One way or the other, we can can probably safely say that LoliRock is the first French magical girl show to get international attention. It made its appearance in France in October of 2014 and ran for two seasons. Its English dub now has a home on Netflix.

Continue reading “Drawn Like My French Girls: ‘LoliRock’”

Something Eternal: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 9

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 9: “The Castle Said to Hold Eternity.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

Watch for free here.

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In this episode, after two weeks of filler, we return to the main plot. The first story arc, known as the “Student Council Saga,” is drawing rapidly to its conclusion. In this episode, the basics of the show’s underlying mystery are laid before us, though that might not be obvious to someone who hasn’t already watched the whole show through.

Saionji returns. He’s still something of a joke character, but he plays an important role in this episode. We now learn that there’s more to Saionji’s obsession with Anthy than had at first been apparent.

Continue reading “Something Eternal: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 9”

Drawn Like My French Girls: ‘Miraculous Ladybug’

Les filles magiques de la France sont les meilleures filles magiques, non?

Miraculous Ladybug (a.k.a. Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir). Directed by Thomas Astruc. Written by Fred Lenoir, Matthieu Choquet, et al. Zagtoon, Method Animation, and Toei Animation, 2015-2016. 26 episodes of 22 minutes (approx. 9.5 hours). Rated TV-Y7.

Available on Netflix.

For over a decade, probably the most successful magical girl title from outside Japan has been the Italian cartoon Winx Club, a dungeon-punkish hot mess that’s like a cross between Harry Potter, Tinkerbell, and Sailor Moon. But within the last few years, France has gotten into the act with at least two strong contenders, LoliRock and Miraculous Ladybug. We’ll discuss the former some other time, but we’ll discuss the latter right now. A French magical girl cartoon rendered in CGI, Miraculous Ladybug is known in some countries (including the U.S.) under the more cumbersome title of Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir.

Le City of ze Lights et les girls de majeeks, oh ho ho ho!

Continue reading “Drawn Like My French Girls: ‘Miraculous Ladybug’”