Cardcaptor Sakura is one of the biggest titles in the magical girl genre. It was the first foray into mahou shoujo manga by the unbelievably prolific four-woman team Clamp, which produced it from 1996 to 2000. Its anime adaptation, which began airing in 1998, is one of the few TV cartoons that can hold up in terms of technical quality more than a decade after its run. The anime adds a great deal to the story; some of it is padding, but a lot of it is real improvement. A sliced, diced, and dubbed version was released in English under the title of Cardcaptors.
For reasons I’ll explain in a post I was working on for today but didn’t get finished, I don’t care much for Cardcaptor Sakura. Nonetheless, I must announce that after all this time, Clamp is adding a third arc to the story, the “Clear Card Arc,” currently underway. The first collected volume appeared in Japan last month. I don’t believe any English translation has appeared as of yet.
The original story featured its heroine in fourth and fifth grade, gradually powering up as she collects the “Clow Cards,” each of which contains a magic spell. The sequel now has her in middle school.
While many fans are excited, I’m scared. What is Clamp going to do to that poor girl now? She barely escaped all those perverts last time. I’m especially worried about Tomoyo, her obsessive best friend who at first seems to be an innocent little ten-year-old girl until Clamp casually drops the bombshell that she’s a monomaniacal lesbian stalker with a costume fetish and a penchant for voyeurism. Is this going to be the story arc where she hides a camera in Sakura’s bathroom or something?
The greatest fantasy comic of the last 5 years has just ended its publication run in America and nobody cares. Oh well, I’ll just give it an A- and cry sad tears over why there aren’t more fans of Sugar Sugar Rune. —Carlos Santos, Anime News Network
Sugar Sugar Rune, volumes 1-3. Story and art by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Yayoi Ihne. Del Rey Manga (New York), 2006. Rated Y (Ages 10+).
Sugar Sugar Rune may be one of the magical girl genre’s best-kept secrets. From time to time, I see this title named as the best of the so-called “cute witch” magical girl stories. Anime News Network, as quoted above, in 2008 even went so far as to call it the best fantasy comic of the last five years, and also said it has “one of the most satisfying, most creative, most epic endings to a fantasy series ever.” There is evidence for this in how the series gets sold: take a look on Amazon, and you will see that the aftermarket prices are reasonable for the first seven volumes, but then shoot up to ridiculous numbers for the final volume, apparently because people are actually willing to pay upwards of forty-five dollars for Sugar Sugar Rune‘s allegedly mind-blowing finale. Continue reading “‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 1-3”
Alien Nine, story and art by Hitoshi Tomizawa. CPM Manga, 1999. 3 volumes. Rated Age 16+.
Alien Nine is that deceptive kind of manga I like, the kind that starts out looking cute and then grows darker and grimmer. Although its premise suggests a target audience of children and it has a simple and cutesy style, this actually appeared in a seinen magazine, that is, one for adult men. Originally running from 1998 to 1999 and filling three volumes, it in 2003 saw a one-volume sequel, Alien Nine: Emulators. There is also a four-episode OVA adaptation. The OVA only managed to cover half the story before it ran out of money, but is nonetheless a cult classic.
The story revolves around three twelve-year-old girls obliged to protect their elementary school from hordes of goofy little aliens by trapping those aliens and then maintaining them in a vast zoo (or prison) on the school grounds. After introducing this absurd premise, Alien Nine grows steadily more gruesome and violent as the aliens grow more dangerous, until it descends into angst and body horror. By depicting creature-catching as less than it’s cracked up to be, it may be considered a subversion or deconstruction—or whatever the kids are calling it these days—of Pokémon and similar brands.
Alice 19th. Story and art by Yuu Watase. Viz Media, 2003. 7 vols. Rated T+ for older teen.
Yuu (or Yû, or Yu) Watase is a prolific and influential creator of shoujo (girls’) manga whose work, according to her Wikipedia page, fills over eighty volumes. She has explored a few different genres, primarily focusing on teen rom-coms and historical fantasy. She’s best known for her bodice-ripping, wuxia-inspired reverse harem sword-and-sorcery epic Fushigi Yugi, which broke the mold of the schoolgirl-gets-sucked-into-an-alternate-universe brand of Japanese pop fantasy. It’s a gigantic stew of melodrama, overwrought dialogue, lush costuming, hawt bishie boys, dippy romance, rape, martial arts battles, naked chicks, gay jokes, and rape.
How should I characterize Watase-sensei’s work? Remember the old days before Tivo when people used to channel-surf: you’d be flipping through the channels looking for something to watch, and for a brief moment you’d land upon the Lifetime Network, which was “television for women.” And it was always some guy beating the hell out of a woman. Every. Single. Time.
Yotsuba&!, volume 13, by Kiyohiko Azuma. Translated by Stephen Paul. Yen Press (New York): 2016.
I have on my shelf a twelve-volume set of Kiyohiko’s instant classic Yotsuba&!, right underneath my twelve-volume set of Sailor Moon. The twelfth volume had ended in 2013 on a more-or-less satisfactory note, and no more volumes came out for about three years, so I simply assumed the series was over.
Tuxedo Mask, the sometimes useless boyfriend of Sailor Moon, does not, strictly speaking, wear a tuxedo. As I learned recently while researching for a character’s costume in a story, Tuxedo Mask wears white tie, the most formal of formalwear in the West.
The rules of white tie, I have learned, are strict, so it is unsurprising that the most famous formally dressed man in the world of magical girls frequently breaks them. Oh, Tuxedo Mask, how many rules of men’s full dress have you violated in how many different versions? Continue reading “Tuxedo Mask Doesn’t Know How to Wear a Tuxedo”
Evergreen, story by Yuyuko Takemiya. Art by Akira Kasukabe. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Seven Seas Entertainment, 2012-2015. 4 Volumes. Rated Teen.
I grabbed up the first volume of Evergreen to assuage my disappointment when I was browsing the manga section at the local Barnes & Noble and couldn’t find the volume of Shugo Chara! I was missing. I’m glad I did.
I was unsurprised, after finishing that first volume and hunting up where I could get the rest, to learn that the authoress, Yuyuko Takemiya, is also the creator of Toradora!, which is the Casablanca of Japanese high school rom-coms. Like that famous film starring Bogey, Takemiya-sensei’s work is good not because it avoids clichés, but because it uses all of them, and it makes them feel shiny and new. Continue reading “Review: Evergreen”