The most FEMINIST manga I know: Arte by Kei Ohkubo

Everyone in anime/manga fandom misunderstands demographic categories. For example seinen: often described as gritty, edgy stories with lots of violence and sex, and sexual violence. Always dark, always psychologically complex, manly stories for manly men.

And then they get confused when they learn that A Bride’s Story is seinen. And so is Chi’s Sweet Home. Haha.

Bride’s Story is sometimes misidentified as shojo or as josei, because it’s about women, and somehow there’s this idea that only women care enough about women to read stories with female protagonists. Which is a rather sad thought, you know?

I am by no means an expert, but I am kind of getting the impression that there’s actually an entire sort of genre of seinen manga that is blatantly about women and their struggles in society, past or present, in foreign places or domestically! So, let’s discuss one such manga, Arte by Kei Ohkubo.

I first took note of Arte because of the gorgeous cover illustrations. Look at them! The details, the colour, the atmosphere! I’ve read the first three volumes now, which is enough to form an opinion.

Arte runs in Comic Zenon. There are currently six volumes out in Japan, five in France, where it’s published by Komikku. Before I discovered manga, I didn’t know I’d ever be grateful for my tedious French lessons!

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The fun I had last week …

Manga: I watched a Youtube video about “Shonen Anime’s Biggest Problem”, and while I agree with the core idea that power escalation is a huge problem for battle-focused shonen stories, and that making the fights bigger and more badass is meaningless without finding believable emotional stakes … Yeah, well, but I am mostly struck by just how few shonen titles people even know these days! And yet they try to make sweeping generalizations about the genre of shonen battle manga. In this video, there’s an attempt made to lump shonen manga in three sort of groups: first wave, second wave and third wave. Not only does he basically claim that Hunter X Hunter isn’t really part of any “wave”, being ~too unique, a ~deconstruction. He also shows a picture of Yu Yu Hakusho alongside Dragonball (as “first wave”), implying that he believes this to be another generic old shonen manga that just throws bigger and bigger enemies at the heroes, without depth or self-examination. Which is simply ludicrous! In YYH, Togashi already did many of the things he’d later do again in HxH, things that newbies today consider to be ~unlike anything that’s ever been done in shonen manga~.

It’s kind of sad how Rurouni Kenshin is never talked about in these videos or written analyses. It’d blow their minds! Because Kenshin is genuinely atypical in many ways, but it’s still a classic, famous and successful Jump manga. But … it doesn’t have a recent anime adaptation that can be watched on Crunchyroll, so it simply doesn’t exist for today’s crop of “shonen experts”.

Anyway, I just automatically lose respect for people when they say Hunter X Hunter is “not really a shonen manga” but a “deconstruction”. HxH is a shonen manga, and like many other shonen manga before, it plays with the reader’s expectations and comes up with a couple of surprising new takes on familiar tropes. That doesn’t mean it’s no longer a shonen manga, it just means it’s a good one. But that’s what happens if your entire shonen horizon begins at Bleach and ends at Naruto, and DBZ memes: you don’t know what you’re talking about.

I don’t know a lot of shonen manga myself, which is why I try to avoid blanket statements about the category as a whole. I don’t want to embarass myself, mostly.

Videogames: I am still busy with RPG Maker Fes. This week, I finally learned how to use variables to create a sidequest. I really find it oddly relaxing to think within logical commands. Obviously, it’s challenging and requires concentration and figuring things out, but it’s a kind of concentration that relaxes and satisfies me. At least … if it works. Sometimes I regret that Mathematics and numbers never clicked with me, because there’s something nice about their order and precision, quite different from the diffuse chaos of words.

TV: I don’t know what came over me, but I binge-watched Doctor Who‘s tenth season this weekend. I hadn’t watched any Doctor Who in years and really had no interest whatsoever. But … it was actually quite nice! I like Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, and I really like Bill as a companion, and it’s kind of funny I get attached to them now that the season and their time on the show is basically over, haha. Hmm. The thing is, I really like the stand-alone episodes of Doctor Who, but whenever it goes for complex and longer story arcs, I put up some kind of inner resistence, and don’t connect with it so well. I wonder why that is. Maybe I just like things low-key.

I generally really like stories where normal people get drawn into something supernatural and weird, with creative, unusual monsters or alien threats. Some of my favourite bits of 3×3 Eyes essentially did this in combination with a POV shift, so you also get to see the main characters from the perspective of a clueless newcomer. One famous example of this occurs right after the timeskip, when “Pai” has lost her memory and lives as a normal schoolgirl, until creepy puppets try to kidnap her and a strange young man claims to know her from a past life. And that’s Yakumo, our protagonist! (I love Yakumo.) And the creepy puppets are like something out of a Doctor Who episode, totally, especially when their backstory is revealed … and ultimately it’s about humanity and stuff. Aww.

 

 

The fun I had last week … lazy edition

Hey, I did it! I wrote three long-ish blog posts in the past week. This here’s technically a fourth, but I don’t think it counts since it’s just rambling. I’m really tired, so this is probably going to be a short post anyway.

Watching the opening of the new Duck Tales TV show makes me really nostalgic. Not necessarily even for the old TV show, but all those comics! I know it wasn’t a thing in the USA, but in several European countries, Disney comics were big. And they were wonderful. I think the next rainy weekend afternoon will be spend bingereading Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck …

Despite the fact I have a lot of unread manga waiting on my shelf! Reports of an upcoming Pluto anime has reminded me of the fact I still haven’t finished reading the manga. I should probably do that, too. But we’ll see when I get around to that …

I’m still making my way though Dragon Quest VII. I don’t think I’ll finish it in time for Ever Oasis, but I’m confident that I won’t take too long now. And I’m happy with my progress. I actually did a little bit of mini medal collecting and stuff like that, even though that does not advance the story and is therefore technically a waste of time (if you’re trying to finish a game quickly). But it’s much more fun to play more leasurely and not always be 100% focused on the next goal.

I have not really kept up with E3 news! I know that Hironobu Sakaguchi is going to reveal a new Mistwalker game next week, and that Nobuo Umatsu is involved, so that’s something I am curious about. Some artwork has been teased so far … Oh well, just a few days left.

Rurouni Kenshin Reread: Part 4

In this installment of the Rurouni Kenshin Reread, I’ll be sharing my ~extremely complex and insightful~ thoughts on the seventh volume of the manga. Depending on your POV, this either counts as the ending of the first manga’s arc, or the beginning of the Kyoto Saga. I’ve seen it both ways. Actually, I’m only half-kidding when I say “extremely complex and insightful”. This post actually turned out more analytical than I anticipated.

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The fun I had last week – Sunday wrap-up

I’m forcing myself to write these posts even if I haven’t managed to write a proper blog post all week. I was kind of busy wih real-life stuff, and … videogames, haha. I’ve been focusing on Dragon Quest VII lately, and made considerable progress. Perhaps I will manage to finish the game before Ever Oasis comes out?

Playing DQ7 put me in a Chrono Trigger mood, because it’s a JRPG, it has Toriyama designs and it involves time travel! I don’t feel like replaying Chrono Trigger at the moment, but I do like to listen to its music and think about its plot and characters.

Square Enix announced a new game by Tokyo RPG Factory, the guys who made I Am Setsuna (another game I’ve yet to complete). Lost Sphear looks a lot like I Am Setsuna, and the trailer suggests that it’s also going to have a melancholic feeling. But the settings aren’t exclusively snowy and the soundtrack isn’t piano-only, so I’m thinking that this game is probably going to have a more open and adventury feel? The plot sounds kind of like The Neverending Story, which isn’t a bad thing, of course. That book will always be special to me.

I’ve decided to quit visiting The Mary Sue. It’s something I’d mostly been doing out of boredom and because I don’t really know any other websites of that type. But since I don’t care for Marvel, superhero movies and Star Wars all that much, most of their content is boring and irrelevant to me anyway. I also think this narrow focus on the biggest franchises is not compatible with the website’s supposed feminist ideals. Most of their resources go towards promoting multi-billion dollar corporations, instead of more obscure stories and creators that don’t get much attention from mainstream platforms. I have a similar problem with AnimeFeminist, who focus a lot on current moe anime available via Crunchyroll, and who have neglected to talk about a couple of manga that should be right up their ally as far as “feminism” is concerned … But anyway, that’s not a fair comparison because AniFem is just a bit disappointing, while TheMarySue is actually loathesome in their hypocrisy and disdain for their readership. The PR disaster surrounding the Geekosystem merger is a great example. For something more recent, try this article, an ad for an unpaid internship at TheMarySue. After commenters criticize the website for not paying their interns, the article is quietly edited to remove any mentioning of unpayment. Which is a bit dishonest already, but to top it all off, a TMS writer goes around the comments smugly telling everyone “Where does it say it’s unpaid?”, which is just incredible disrespectful and insulting and dishonest and so many adjectives more. Basically, this website has no credibility left. I don’t consider it a feminist website at all. I’m not saying that the individual writers and editors aren’t feminists; but the website itself, the way it is organized, financed and run, makes it a very bad platform for actual feminist thought.

I really hate that fandom has been taken over by all these shitty enterprises that try to cash in on pop culture hypes, usually exploiting young, aspiring writers who are naive enough to believe that writing clickbait listicles is going to count as “experience in journalism” and help their future career. A few months ago someone offered me the ~amazing opportunity to work for him for free and get “exposure” – in retrospect, I should have been much less polite. I genuinely hope that all of these websites fail and disappear. Remember: if someone is going to be making money with your work, you deserve to be paid for it; if your business model hinges on unpaid labour, your business deserves to go down.

Anyway … I wonder if E3 is going to bring any videogame news that is relevant to my interests. I hope so. I actually have this dream fantasy that Square Enix is going to reveal Final Fantasy XVI and it will be a “back to roots” kind of thing that melds traditional Final Fantasy traditions with a unique graphics style and more modern elements that feel fresh and unique. I really appreciate all the non-FF titles that Square Enix has produced lately, but deep down inside, I just want to get excited about a Final Fantasy game again. I want to listen to the main theme and get chills of anticipation, I want to save crystals, ride chocobos, stuff like that!

What else? I promise that the next Kenshin post is going to come soon. It’s just such a good part of the manga, I don’t want to half-ass my commentary! I am also deeply in love with Wave, Listen To Me. I wish I was one of those influential bloggers so I could convince people to read it! Alas, I’m not.

 

The fun I had last week – Sunday wrap-up

I am in a race against time: Later this month, Ever Oasis and RPG Maker Fes will be coming out – on the same day, even! Since one of them is technically not a game, but a game creation engine (for noobs), I can easily play them at the same time without getting annoyed. But I still haven’t finished Dragon Quest VII. I haven’t been playing a lot of videogames lately. Some adults would consider this proof of their maturity, but I just feel like a failure.=P  I hate having unfinished games, and when it comes to Dragon Quest, it’s like I’m cursed. But I will finish this one.

So much manga, though. So little time. I am proud of my collection. It’s not especially large, but that’s the point: it’s only titles I actually consider worthwhile or interesting! There are so many Youtube videos where people show off their manga collections, and it’s all about how many books they have, like, the sheer numbers! Many people even say that they keep buying a series just to have it complete, even though they don’t enjoy it. I don’t get that. I wouldn’t have the space for this to begin with, but I don’t see the point of spending money on something you don’t care for.

I feel very disconnected to English-language manga fandom. That’s probably to be expected, because I’m not American and I rarely read manga in English. I speak French, so I buy French manga. The quality is better, the price is lower and there’s a greater choice of titles. But English is the language I’ve always used for my fandom activities, so I’m kind of stuck in my own personal corner!

While tidying up my manga shelf corner, I found a potted plant that I had put in that corner at one point, and then … forgotten. It’s a vriesea … in red, but I cut off (ripped off) the red leaf padle because it had completely dried up. Considering that this plant hadn’t been watered for a couple of weeks, or even months, it must be completely dried out anyway. But I can’t tell, the leaves are still completely green. Apparently this particular plant dries out without turning brown? Or it’s super-resilient. It’s also growing two or three sideways offshoots, which makes me excited about this plant again. The reason I forgot about it to begin with was that it always looked the same … Is there a manga about house plants? There must be.

I bought Dungeon Meshi vol. 1. In the USA it’s being released under its Engrish subtitle, Delicious in Dungeon, but I got the French version, which has the superior title: Gloutons et dragons. Admit it, that’s brilliant! One thing I’ve found surprising about the reception of this manga is that no one is mentioning how very many JRPGs contain a cooking feature. It’s been in some older titles, like Tales of the Abyss, but more recently it’s been in I Am Setsuna and in Breath of the Wild! Just to name some. The feature felt a bit out of place in I Am Setsuna, which really made me wonder when and why “cooking in jRPGs” even became a thing. This is an excellent opportunity to promote the blog Pixelated Provisions, which is dedicated to the worthy cause of recreating meals and food from videogames.

The weather is nice and I am feeling much more energetic than I’ve felt in a while! I’m a loser who’ll spend that energy on videogames, manga and hopefully on blogging.