Archive for January, 2013

“Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman” — ‘A Lavish Banquet for Guys in Trouble’

Baku­mat­su Gijin­den Roman is a fan­ta­sy tale set in late 19th Cen­tu­ry Japan. When the black ships returned to Japan in the 19th Cen­tu­ry, the 200 year old rule of the Shogun was over­turned, and with it came mass social insta­bil­i­ty and ram­pant crime. For­tu­nate­ly the peo­ple one town have a Robin Hood-like pro­tec­tor, Roman, who is actu­al­ly “Mis­ter Helper” by day. Aid­ing Roman is his sis­ter Koharu (dressed as a nin­ja) and their cute dog Saku­ra (dis­guised with a ker­chief over his head). There’s also a full cast of char­ac­ters sup­port­ing him, where­as oth­ers are hunt­ing him and some whose motives are still unknown.

This is Roman on the left, in dis­guise, and his sis­ter Koharu beside him. In the mid­dle is Suzu­ki Magoichi,  the new inves­ti­ga­tor with a hid­den mis­sion and a mas­ter of gun-fu. To the right of him is the mys­te­ri­ous geisha Lady Oku­ma with a hid­den agen­da her­self, and on the far right is prob­a­bly the vil­lian’s com­e­dy relief hench­man.

Bakumatsu-Gijinden-Roman

‘A Lavish Banquet for Guys in Trouble’

The episode opens with mas­ter thief Ishikawa Gojue­mon gloat­ing over the suc­cess of his most recent rob­bery at the behest of Lady Oku­ma. What he stole was­n’t revealed, but his reward was a night with her, which did­n’t exact­ly turn out all that well: he winds up drugged and par­a­lyzed, lay­ing on the mat­ting, and they the geisha leans over him, catch­ing his gaze as her eyes turn into hyp­not­ic kalei­do­scope pat­terns. In the next scene, the poor thief is wan­der­ing the streets of the city in a daze, until he is noticed by the police, upon which starts to wake up but the image of her eyes is too strong and he dives into the riv­er to his death.

And what was stolen? It was a map of the coun­try, the most com­plete map ever made, describ­ing every nat­ur­al land­mark and water­way, an essen­tial source of infor­ma­tion for any invad­ing army, and just it so hap­pens there is a West­ern mil­i­tary force already estab­lished in a hid­den fortress near­by, where the mys­te­ri­ous geisha has just deliv­ered it. Roman and com­pa­ny have to invade the fortress and retrieve the map to save Japan from inva­sion. Magoichi is also involved, as his mys­te­ri­ous supe­ri­or orders the death of the fortress com­man­der. From then on, the map switch­es hands sev­er­al times until the fortress com­man­der rides away with it, prov­ing in the process that he, too, is a mas­ter of gun-fu.

Com­men­tary: If the char­ac­ters, espe­cial­ly Roman, and the over­all theme of the series appears to resem­ble Lupin III, it is because both were the visu­al cre­ations of Mon­key Punch. Whether Roman is sup­posed to be an ances­tor of Lupin is doubt­ful, giv­en the time frame, as Lupin III grand­fa­ther, the orig­i­nal Lupin, was French.

This Week in Comics — 2013/01/23

“The Avengers” #4

I know that the Avengers TV series occa­sion­al­ly had episodes with mind con­trol themes, but the com­ic, on the oth­er hand, is real­ly going over­board with them.

In the first three issues, the con­tin­ued sto­ry line had a group of senior British min­is­ters and rank­ing mil­i­tary offi­cers all believ­ing they were the sur­vivors of a nuclear war and Britain was now under the con­trol of the Hell­fire Club. What gave the plot away was the fact that they all remem­bered hav­ing the same break­fast, a result of a hur­ried brain­wash­ing effort dur­ing the set up of the plot. That was­n’t the only brain­wash­ing that occurred: the whole pur­pose of the effort was to fur­ther brain­wash the offi­cials and return them to Britain. Thanks to the efforts of Steed and Mrs. Peel, they were thwart­ed, although not before we get to see Mrs. Peel in her leather and spiked col­lar from the tele­vi­sion episode. Plus a demon­stra­tion of how Steed and Mrs. Peel arranged their own sys­tem of break­ing mind con­trol with each other.

But appar­ent­ly that was­n’t all the brain­wash­ing the Hell­fire Club was up to. In issue #4, the plot con­tin­ues, this time at a very fan­cy masque ball with the theme of black and white. One guest arrives wear­ing black, accom­pa­nied by two fig­ures dressed in paint­ed in white. Said fig­ures were per­form­ers of an art form called butoh-fu, a Japan­ese form of dance epit­o­mized by a Zen-like form­less and grace­ful­ness. The dancers were said to place them­selves in a hyp­not­ic state for their per­for­mance, a dead give­away that hyp­not­ic hijinks are upcoming.

Inves­ti­gat­ing a mur­der sep­a­rates Steed and Mrs. Peel from the rest of the guests at a most pro­pi­tious time. When they return to the dance floor, its almost emp­ty except the man in black and the orches­tra. It turns out that the dancers in white have the guests in a trance, blankly danc­ing away into the night, fol­low­ing the dancers like mute Pied Pipers, only to be res­cued by Steed.

“How per­cep­tive. Their every move, every posi­tion, was an act­ed spa­tial engram direct­ly affect­ing the neur­al path­ways of any­one who wit­nessed it.”

In oth­er words, mind con­trol through sight and move­ment. As for the man in black, he’s con­duc­ing the orches­tra, them­selves entranced by the music they’re playing.

“Its a down­ward spi­ral. Every note they play fur­ther ensures they must play the notes that fol­low. Aur­al hypnosis.”

Mrs. Peel, how­ev­er, has some musi­cal tal­ents of her own, break­ing their trance with a well-blown tuba blast. Then she con­fronts the con­duc­tor, whom she dis­cov­ers was the per­son who per­formed the brain­wash­ing in the pre­vi­ous issues, and he is still wield­ing some hyp­not­ic tricks up his sleeve (or under his shirt, in this case, a set of speak­ers, not to men­tion spi­rals on the backs of his white gloves.)

“The high sound is your ner­vous sys­tem. The low sound your cir­cu­la­tion. I’ve learned to manip­u­late that high sound, and thus the ner­vous sys­tem and thus the brain.”

For­tu­nate­ly Mrs. Peel is able to resist long enough to put a bul­let through the speak­ers and through him, as well.

In the end, the ques­tion remains of what was the over­all goal of the kid­nap­ping attempt and there­fore the ques­tion of whether or not it was suc­cess­ful is still unan­swered. But the last scene shows a satel­lite over­look­ing Britain bear­ing the arms of the Hell­fire Club. More mind con­trol via satel­lite? Maybe next month will say.

“Mondaijitachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?”

“Mondai­ji­tachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?” is a new ani­me series based on a series of light nov­els about three teenagers (two girls and one guy) with extra­or­di­nary abil­i­ties who are sum­moned to a world to com­pete in a series of games. In real­i­ty, they were sum­moned to aid a strug­gling orga­ni­za­tion that was almost wiped out by a much stronger ene­my through those games. Because of the hope­less sit­u­a­tion and the oppor­tu­ni­ty it affords for the three to com­pete and to make friends, they all agree to join the belea­guered organization.

Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est is one of the teenagers, Asu­ka Kudō, who is seen in the first episode (of two at the moment) order­ing a sub­or­di­nate around. There was a dis­tinct spe­cial effect at that moment which led me to expect she pos­sessed some form of ver­bal con­trol, not explic­it­ly lim­it­ed to peo­ple, as she also appears to order birds as well. That was why I was inter­est­ed in see­ing the sec­ond episode. There, she bla­tant­ly orders an oppo­nent not only to sit down and shut up, but then to reveal the truth of how his orga­ni­za­tion was able to defeat numer­ous oth­er orga­ni­za­tions (through hostages) and that he killed the hostages as soon as they were tak­en. For that, she and the oth­er girl chal­lenged him: that is prob­a­bly the sto­ry of the next episode.

By the way, the oth­er girl not only talks to ani­mals but dupli­cates their abil­i­ties and the guy is not only incred­i­bly strong but there may be some­thing even more mys­te­ri­ous about him and his abil­i­ties. Add a whim­si­cal char­ac­ter in the form of the Black Rab­bit, the explana­to­ry char­ac­ter and mys­te­ri­ous allies and ene­mies and this may quick­ly become one of my favorites. We’ll see.

‘Enchantée!’ — “Eerie Cuties”

One of the more fun web comics I fol­low is “Eerie Cuties” about a trio of sexy super­nat­ur­al teenaged girl­friends and their equal­ly super­nat­ur­al friends. (Ace, below, is actu­al­ly a were­wolf.) All the tropes of typ­i­cal car­toon teenagers com­bined with all the tropes of typ­i­cal car­toon super­nat­ur­al events. I this case, its dating.

But what do you do when you’re dress­ing for a date and one of the oth­er ‘cuties’ is mak­ing moves on your guy? Espe­cial­ly since appar­ent­ly this is not the first time (or the sec­ond, or the third … ) that this has happened?

ec20130114a Why, you get spell­cast­ing Moth­er to do some­thing about it.

ec20130116a

Appar­ent­ly this is not the first time this has hap­pened, giv­en the almost casu­al way she casts her spell, and most like­ly with the same person.

This Week in Comics — 2013/01/09

I have not been read­ing most of the new DC 52 uni­verse, espe­cial­ly the Super­man titles, but I at least try to keep up in case some­thing shows up that I should be aware of.

Well, that paid off this week.

Action Comics #16: “The Second Death of Superman”

I’m not exact­ly sure what is hap­pen­ing here: chaot­ic is hard­ly a descrip­tion for what is going on, but at some lev­el it appears some­one has bro­ken time so that things are hap­pen­ing out of time and across time, cul­mi­nat­ing with the return the crea­ture who killed Super­man in a famous sto­ry­line sev­er­al years ago and the return of the Cri­sis of Infi­nite Worlds. Oh, and the found­ing three adult mem­bers of the Legion of Super-Heroes just showed up, trav­el­ing from a future where they were outlawed.

If that last part sounds famil­iar, it should: the Legion had been out­lawed in the past, through the machi­na­tions of the super-hyp­no­tist Uni­ver­so. In fact, even the future time has bro­ken, and the Legion them­selves unknow­ing­ly help Uni­ver­so attain pow­er before they are out­lawed and they have to return to the present to pre­vent the changes in the future.

Uni­ver­so: After all, a hyp­not­ic dis­guise is child’s play, no more than a mere mod­icum of skill, even in front of a mass audi­ence. How­ev­er, hyp­not­i­cal­ly induc­ing a pow­er­ful telepath to think she scanned your mind … now that requires sub­tle­ty.

As this sequence is not in the reg­u­lar Legion title, I must assume that these events are part of the chaot­ic time­line and not set in the cur­rent continuity.

Mars Attacks Popeye

IDW is pub­lish­ing a num­ber of comics based on “Mars Attacks”, the ear­ly trad­ing card set and the lat­er inter­est and movie sur­round­ing it. Among the one-shot comics include crossovers with Judge Dredd, Ghost­busters and Popeye.

In “Mars Attacks Pop­eye”, the invad­ing horde of Mar­tians are met by the Sea Hag, who hyp­no­tizes them all to do her bid­ding, which, being the destruc­tion of the town of Sweet­haven and Pop­eye, is quite to their lik­ing. How­ev­er, even the sci­en­tif­ic might of the Mar­t­ian invaders is no match for the spinach-pow­ered fists of Pop­eye and his father Poopdeck Pappy.

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