by Mayumi Azuma
Rating: Teen (13+)
The fifth volume of Mayumi Azuma’s Erementar Gerade finished off the fight club story and expands upon the background and personalities Rasati and Lilea, a Pleasure and Edel Raid duo that was introduced at the beginning of the arc. From there the ever growing group begins their journey across the sea. In the sixth volume the group continues their journey across the ocean and crosses swords with the mysterious Greyarts!
With these two volumes we see the relationship between Edel Raids and their Pleasures shift a little bit. Up until volume five the Edel Raid/Pleasure relationships have generally been Male/Female. While there was a brief encounter with a Female/Female team, it’s only with these volumes that we get a real introduction and look at a same sex Edel Raid/Pleasure duo. Rasati and Lilea’s relationship shifts the idea of love and closeness from one of friendship, romance and exploitation to one of familial love and care instead. Given that up until now there was a strong underlying theme of men exploiting women for their own needs versus genuine love and friendship it’s interesting to see this permutation show up. The end of volume six features a return to the underlying theme of exploitation and abuse as we see an antagonist being punished in a way that’s more than a little evocative of sexual abuse. It’s actually a rather disturbing scene and stands out in stark contrast to everything else that’s been going on in the series so far. In fact the entire second half of volume six takes a surprisingly dark and disturbing tone. As for the cast, Cou continues to be slightly obnoxious and hot headed though he’s slowly beginning to calm down a bit. Unfortunately it’s not enough to really make him likable and I still find myself far more interested in the Arc Aile group and Rasati and Lilea.
Mayumi Azuma’s art continues to improve though I’m still not in love with it. It’s certainly serviceable and the action scenes are getting significantly easier to follow, but the designs still feel a tad too generic with few standing out or really capturing the imagination. Greyarts, for example, just kind of blends into the background as someone who’s supposed to be slick and stylish and cool looking but is ultimately forgettable. It’s a hard thing to really define. The best comparison I can come up with is the differences between Street Fighter and King of Fighters character designs. While the King of Fighters characters often look cool, modern and very hip and stylish they don’t quite capture the imagination or break into that iconic territory that make the Street Fighter character designs so memorable. I think a lot of it has to do with the designs conveying something of the characters personalities and when you dress an entire cast like they just walked out of an upscale, high fashion boutique they generally won’t convey much. Rasati, so far, is the stand out for the series in my opinion. Her design is interesting, not overly complex, and it conveys quite a bit about her character and who she is as a person.
The series is.. interesting. The dark and slightly disturbing twists and turns of these two volumes really has me wondering what the hell’s going on. It’s just such a strong shift in the tone of the series that it’s really taken me by surprise. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little curious to see how some of it plays out though.
The Aniblog Tourny is currently underway and this time around Sequential Ink is taking part in it. For those of you who don’t know, the Aniblog Tourny is a semi-annual tournament pitting different anime/manga blogs against each other. The sites are paired off and the one with the most votes moves onto the next round, and so forth and so on until only one remains.
Currently Sequential Ink is taking part in a first round match up against the fine folks over at Shonen Beam. So, if you haven’t already, please take a look around here and then go check out the competition before swinging by the Round 1: Matches 17 – 20 bracket and voting for one of us.
by Mayumi Azuma
Rating: Teen (13+)
The third volume of Erementar Gerade kicks off with Cou, Ren and Cisqua crashing in on Wolx’s attempt at selling his captured Edel Raids, including their companion Kuea! After that the group finds themselves caught up in an underground Edel Raid fight club as they attempt to raise money for their trip to Edel Garden.
And here we begin to see the shounen-y heart of the series coming to the forefront. Following a rather brutal hand to hand fight between Wolx and Cisqua the Arc Aile contingent, previously looking to capture and defeat the Edel Raid hunter, instead cut a deal with him and the two groups part as friends. Following the conclusion of that story the series launches into an arc involving an underground Eden Raid fight club, which really seems to be an excuse to give Cou and Ren some time to train and explain in more detail the relationship between Edel Raids and their Pleasures, those that wield them, and the nature of their powers and abilities. Throughout the story Mayumi Azuma continues to touch upon the idea of women being exploited and treated as objects through her use of Edel Raids. It reaches new levels as our heroes witness an attempted rape upon an Edel Raid and we see more of the buying and selling of Edel Raids, something that once again brings to mind the illegal sex trafficking industry. It’s not all clever metaphors and subversive messages about the treatment of women though. Indeed there’s one scene that does a lot to reinforce certain gender roles and stereotypes. It comes when Cou and Ren are discussing the nature of their relationship and Cou states that he wants to protect Ren because… he’s a man and she’s a girl. Ugh. One step forwards, two steps back. Hopefully it’s something that will take a bit of a back seat or be subverted as the series progresses though.
The artwork seems to be getting more and more solid with each volume. While there are still some issues with the clarity of the action scenes, they’re definitely more coherent and easier to follow than those of the first two volumes. This is especially true of a surprisingly intense fight scene where Cisqua gets to strut her stuff in combat against an Edel Raid user. Mayumi Azuma imbues the blows the two exchange with a surprisingly good sense of force and power. While the character designs still leave me wanting, particularly the designs of the Edel Raids when they’re in their weapon form, a few new characters and outfits for existing characters appear and they’re a bit more to my liking. Clearly though that’s a matter of taste but I did find Cisqua’s hand to hand gear a bit more interesting and memorable then her normal clothing.
I have to admit that the series is starting to grow on me a bit, though at this point I’m not terribly interested in Ren or Cou. No, right now it’s the supporting cast that’s interesting me more. That’s not really that unusual for me and shonen manga though. Still, there’s a nice subversive feel to the series at times in the way it stealthily injects doses of real world womens issues into the series via Edel Raids.
Hiroshi Yamamoto brings us MM9, an entertaining novel following the exploits of Japan’s Monsterological Measures Department, a group of civil servants tasked with predicting, studying and handling Japan’s defenses when it comes to kaiju (giant monster) attacks!
This is an incredibly fun read. It’s light, breezy and very entertaining. The book is essentially a short story collection, each chapter telling a tale of one of the MMD’s encounters with a kaiju. The stories are primarily linked by the small ensemble cast of characters more than any over arching plot line, though there is a vague one of those in a few of the stories as well. Hiroshi Yamamoto does a great job at capturing the feel of the monster movies with stories echoing and bringing to mind some of the various movies fans of the genre know and love. The entire book is also a love song to the genre as a whole with references and nods to not only Japans pantheon of kaiju but the international contribution as well. Keen eyed readers will pick up on passing references and nods to Lovecraft, the movie Them!, various myths from around the world and more. None of the characters are terribly fleshed out or three dimensional but that really only serves to reinforce the feeling of a kaiju movie and series where characters tend to have one or two pronounced personality traits and roles to fill. The explanations and scientific theories that are used to explain how the monsters exist are interesting and dabble lightly with ideas like consensus reality, quantum physics, Schoedingers Cat and more.
Obviously I’m not familiar with the original Japanese edition but this English language translation from Nathan Collins reads quite well. There’s not a lot of awkward phrasing or verbiage though this causes the one or two moments that an odd turn of phrase pops up too really jump out at the reader. Still it was light and easy, casual read.
Haikasoru has generally been promoting itself as a hard sci-fi/fantasy line, carrying the best and most popular works of the genre from Japan. This, however, feels like a light novel and not in a bad way. It’s incredibly and incredibly simple and easy read which bats around some high minded sci-fi concepts but doesn’t delve into them to the point where the text becomes dry and boring. Add this to the whole giant monster concept, a dedicated group of scientists battling and directing operations when it comes to them, some rather thin characterization and you have a recipe for a bad light novel. Thankfully, it’s not. In fact it’s exactly the opposite. All the ingredients gel together wonderfully and the result is the kind of light, easy read that makes for perfect vacation, traveling and beach reading. In the end, MM9 is an enthralling, fun read and in a perfect world more folks would be talking about it.
MM9 is available now from Haikasoru.