Archive for May, 2010

Kobato 1 and 2 (and random Canadian sakura pics)

I read the first two volumes of Kobato today, which is a new Yen Press series by CLAMP.  Kobato is a sweet but dim girl who has to learn “common sense” lessons to earn enough points for a magic jar (which is what most of volume 1 deals with – volume 2 has her trying to fill the bottle with pieces from wounded hearts) and is instructed and insulted by a weird, angry pseudo stuffed dog thingie who punishes her with his fiery breath attacks.  I expect we’ll learn more about them as time goes on, but for the most part I enjoyed easing into the series by watching Kobato figure out life in Japan.  It jumped from holiday to holiday, with her gaining experience through the year.  Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, etc. 

Each story is loosely connected by a few recurring characters that are new to the series, but as usual CLAMP threw in some familiar faces.  Supporting characters from titles like xxxHolic, Chobits, Suki, Angelic Layer and more all pop up.  I like trying to figure out if I can recognize old characters in a different art style, since the look of CLAMP’s series shift enough to make it tricky.  Yen did a good job of adding notes to the back identifying everyone so I got to see if my guesses were right or not.  The art itself makes quick shifts between pretty, cute and comical and was enough to keep my attention going through the episodic nature of the first volume.

Volume 2 deals more with Kobato trying to figure out how to help people recover from their emotional hurts.  As usual she has no clue as to how to go about it and her missteps are pretty entertaining.  (She also trips a lot, which becomes a running gag.)  She eventually gets a job helping at a local rundown kindergarten where the two new characters from volume 1 work – Sayaka-sensei and Fujimoto (the part timer who seems to have a million different jobs).  You find out why he’s so hardworking in this volume as the story runs through the whole volume, unlike the format of the first. 

Here is a bit from the Spring chapter in volume 1. 

I had to add this last scan because the first two panels are just so damn cute.  (She’s saving a spot, btw, which is very very important!)

I also wanted to talk about this chapter because I got to see the sakura trees here in Toronto this year (the trees were planted in High Park as a gift from Japan) and had meant to post some photos I took a couple of weeks ago.  Sadly we were unable to make a day of it like they do in Japan (because it was f-f-freezing!) though it probably would have been rude to try.  Even in the off time that we went (just before sundown on a Thursday night) there were a bunch of people there taking pictures before the blossoms fell.

I am disappointed to report that once again I did not witness the kind of rain of petals they are always showing in anime and continue to feel deceived.  Next year I’ll go on a windy day and see if that finally works.

Anyway, here are the pictures.  I thought they turned out well considering I took them with my cell phone.  They look just like the ones I took in Kyoto.  (Except without the elderly Japanese gentleman who kept wandering into every shot I wanted to take….)


May 12, 2010 at 9:44 pm 5 comments

Reading Gogo Monster (literally)

I have Gogo Monster signed out from the library right now. I’m dropping it off on my way home tonight but thought I’d write a bit about it since I’ve had such a *weird* time trying to read it!

First, this thing was due yesterday. I’ve had it for three weeks and hadn’t had the urge to read it (it showed up on the new book list and I threw it on hold since it’s not normally the kind of book I’d buy) and now it’s overdue. So I started out feeling like I had an obligation to read it before returning it which isn’t the best way to approach a book. :)

My reading experience went something like this:

-Threw it in a bag to read at lunch since I was supposed to return it to the library on the way home.
-Pulled it out on the ride to work.
-It’s a hardcover, but the only place the title is shown on the book is on the spine. Weird. I ignored the dull grey side with text and flipped to the colourful part of the book and started reading.
-Thought, “Who are these kids on the bikes and how many of them are there?” and “Why does that little girl think there’s a man in the tap?” and “Who the hell is Yuki? Is he the boy or the rabbit? Is he both? I’m so confused right now.” Flipped back towards the front and saw the words “The End” on a page I had missed and wondered if this is going to be one of those weird arty type books that’s going to be all over the place and is going to make me feel guilty for not liking it since it got such good reviews online. (This happens to me all the time.)
-Realized that I was READING THE BOOK FROM THE WRONG END!! Yes, like this was my first manga ever and I had no idea what I was doing. And I only clued in because I finally noticed the page numbers.

In my defense, I had only been awake for about 1/2 an hour at that point and I really did think that the front would be the visually attractive part of the book cover.

So I chucked it back in my bag because I was disgruntled at that point. I also ignored Gogo Monster at lunch in favour of a trip to the comic store to buy some new manga. I decided to keep it an extra day since I still had guilt (enough to ignore a $.30 overdue fine anyway), but wasn’t exactly feeling warm and fuzzy about it at all.

-Pulled it out at lunch to start reading. It looked long, and I was going to take a short lunch so I figured I’d get about half way through and finish on the streetcar ride to the library.
-Started at the right end of the manga this time.
-Read the oddly coloured pages at the front of the book.
-The story seemed really random right away, but still made more sense than starting at the end did.
-That fell apart about 4 pages in. Was feeling confused again.
-Flipped forward to see if these pages were duplicated in the “regular” part of the book, like they do for coloured pages at the beginning of other manga I had read. If so, would they make more sense somehow?
-DAMNIT!!! Looking at the page numbers, I realized I was reading it backwards AGAIN!

Yes! You have to open the cover, flip to the beginning of the odd coloured pages and read left to right. Then you have to turn the pages past where you just started reading, past the title pages and the story finally starts. But since I was wondering why I had just finished page 7 and the next number shown was 9 I turned back again, because at this point I had lost all faith in this freaking volume being logical. See, in my mind logic would have page 8 be the title page for the chapter… but it’s not. Page 8 is actually the front cover of the book. Arg arg.

Basically, the right to left pagination goes like this:
Cover as page 8, then 7-6-5-4-3-2-1, then 2 black pages, the title page, table of contents, another title page, a map spread, chapter title page, then 9-10-11-etc etc etc.

At this point I didn’t even care what the plot was, I was just annoyed that I had to expend that much energy trying to figure out how the book was laid out!


So the story itself? I ended up really liking it. It’s one of those tales that leaves you wondering if everything is actually happening as shown or if the main characters are just detached from reality. I did like that the adults let one of the students wear a box over his head at school without giving him much grief about it. :) I ended up taking not only my full hour lunch break so I could keep reading, but also snuck in an extra 10 minutes to finish it off. I could see me buying this sometime, and definitely recommending it to friends who are looking for a manga that’s a little out of the ordinary.

But only with a warning to check page numbers before starting.

UPDATE: Partial mystery solved!  bahamut has pointed out that there is actually a dust jacket for this volume which was removed by the library.  I’m so used to NOT having dust jackets on manga (even DMP stopped them) that I didn’t even consider it.  Must try to be more awake when reading in the future….

May 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm 10 comments

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