‘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’”

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”

Girl Got Game: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 8.5

End of line!

—Master Control Program

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In 1998, there was a Revolutionary Girl Utena video game. Semi-canonical, it was set chronologically immediately after episode 8, the one I just reviewed. It was created for the Sega Saturn. Sega Nerds reports.

The game was a visual novel, a type of video game that to this day has never found more than a niche market overseas, so it is no surprise that the game, subtitled Story of the Someday Revolution, never saw a release outside Japan.

Continue reading “Girl Got Game: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 8.5”

Did Not See That Coming: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 7

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 7: “Unfulfilled Jury.” 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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Actually, I’m kidding. I don’t think this show ever managed to do anything I didn’t see coming, but that’s mostly because I’d already watched a number of its successors by the time I saw it.

By the way, the image at the top of this post is official artwork. While I was searching for an eyecatch for this post, I happened to run into the blog Fairy Princess Witch, which features a group of girls who try to replicate the image. They don’t have the poses quite right, but it’s some dang fine cosplaying:

Juri, lean forward, and use your other hand. Shiori, grab her waist. Her waist, darn it.

Episode 7 is, hands down, one of the best episodes in Revolutionary Girl Utena. The first two episodes were very tight, but episode 3 was blah, and after that the show dinked around for a while. With episode 7, “Unfulfilled Jury,” it gets its game face back on. In addition to being one of the best paced and plotted episodes, it has one of the best sword duels. It also begins in earnest the use of bizarre and symbolic imagery that will become the show’s hallmark. Continue reading “Did Not See That Coming: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 7”