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Moto 360 Impressions 2 (11 days and counting)

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So, I’ve been using the Moto 360 smartwatch for 11 days now, so I thought I’d write a second post to let you know how I feel about it. I’ve been using it pretty consistently every day.

First off, I still have no problems with the battery life. I have had it on Ambient most days, mostly out of vanity – it just looks better with a face on it at all times. I have not had it die on me once. I even…

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High fashion. Hong Kong, 2014/8/2.
I was fascinated at how all the construction scaffolding in Hong Kong was made out of bamboo. Amazing how it holds together, even at the size of a skyscraper!

High fashion. Hong Kong, 2014/8/2.

I was fascinated at how all the construction scaffolding in Hong Kong was made out of bamboo. Amazing how it holds together, even at the size of a skyscraper!

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Comitia 109 haul review 4

Another weekend, another batch of doujinshi I would like to introduce to you. Like the previous ones, all of these are completely original properties, not “fan fiction” type books. If you enjoy this, make sure to check out the previous reviews: 123

1. Remembrance by PLT (circle: i am nebula)

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Remembrance is a set of short stories about two angels and a god, all of whom are depicted as girls dressed in outfits resembling Japanese school uniforms. All of the stories are relatively light on dialogue, and do not delve too deeply into story- or philosophical elements. (also note that this has no religious context whatsoever, despite the subject matter)

For example, the first chapter opens with one of the angels, Koru, observing Saturn through a telescope. The other, Aru, approaches her and comments on why she doesn’t just fly up close, where it would be much easier to see. The first angel retorts that she sometimes prefers to experience things just as humans do, with all the limitations that entails. 
After a bit of banter about humans and their shortcomings, the two accept each others’ points of view, and they head off to Saturn together.

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The 36-page book is drawn in a style usually reserved for light, comical material (reminiscent of Kill Me Baby), and while Remembrance doesn’t go for straight out slapstick, the stories are lighthearted and easy reads. The stories do not interconnect, however the creator suggests in the afterword that they are part of a continuity, albeit out of order.

The art relies heavily on screentones and large-area spot blacks, and is generally well executed, if at times a little loose.

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I picked this up mostly because I really liked the colors and composition of the cover (see the artist’s tumblr for a bigger and nicer version), and while I don’t usually read this sort of books it’s not something that I dislike.
It’s a very light read, and closes with a dark god telling the reader “See you!” as she prepares to smash the world to bits.
It’s a A5 book (I seem to have a thing for these), 40 pages, 400 Yen.

Bonus round: Here’s a lot at the artist’s table at Comitia.

https://twitter.com/plt333/status/505893518343016449

The artist: PLT on TumblrTwitter

2. ROUCHE by Payo (circle: インコ(株) = Inko, Inc.)

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Rio lives in the underbelly of a big city. Feeding herself off scraps from a dumpster, she overhears some guys talk about a painting in some ruins, which they are planning to sell for a fortune.
Hopeful that she might get to it before them, she examines the ruins, but gets caught in the line of fire when a scuffle breaks out between a group of soldiers and some rebels, and hides behind a half-toppled wall in the ruins.

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There, Rio discovers a mural of a little girl smiling, labeled “Rouche. Immediately, she is ambushed by Ivan, a soldier who, like her, discovered the painting while trying to escape the armed conflict around them. 
Over the following days, Rio and Ivan keep returning to the ruins, gradually getting to know each other and making a pact to clean up the painting. But just when they are started to get along, the war catches up to them…

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The story starts out bleak, and, perhaps realistically for a world in constant conflict, it doesn’t end well for the protagonists. The 40-page story wraps up with a flashback illustrating the story of the real-live Rouche, a girl adopted by her uncle when her father gets drafted into the military at the start of war. Her uncle, a painter, vows to protect her, but his promise slowly turns into an obsession that ultimately drives him mad.

The reader is left to draw their own conclusions about what happened to Rouche, where the painting came from, and whether it might have been the curse of her and her uncle’s fate that drew Rio and Ivan to the painting, and their demise.

Both art and storytelling are a bit unrefined,  but Rouche still delivers a gut punch or two that makes the book well worthwhile. 
I might have actually skipped this book had it not been for the production values: The covers are rounded, and the blank page separating cover and content is a deep shade of blue, with a pattern of silver foil stars embossed on it. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the contents, but I really do appreciate when artists go to such lengths to make their books look apppealing. It’s an A5 book, 300 Yen.

The artist: Payo on TwitterPixiv

That’s it for today! I hope my reviews are helping illustrate how varied and fun Japanese self-published comics can be when you look outside the fan-fiction and porn sections. I will try to keep this on a roughly weekly schedule, so stop by again next week!
Also, I always welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

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Abandoned onsen hotels. Kinugawa Onsen, Tochigi, Japan 2014/10/12.
Really creepy to see so many of these completely abandoned and rotting away. I guess they must have had a huge tourist boom in the 80s, and couldn’t keep it alive after the economic bubble burst.
The main part of town is now about half a kilometer downstream, closer to the train station.

Abandoned onsen hotels. Kinugawa Onsen, Tochigi, Japan 2014/10/12.

Really creepy to see so many of these completely abandoned and rotting away. I guess they must have had a huge tourist boom in the 80s, and couldn’t keep it alive after the economic bubble burst.

The main part of town is now about half a kilometer downstream, closer to the train station.

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Moto 360 Impressions

I just got my Moto 360! Here’s a few impressions from my first day and a half with it.

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Firstly, hardware. As you’ve no doubt gathered from the gazillion reviews already out there, it’s got a very nice premium build, the metal housing (I got the silver/grey one) looks fantastic, just like a high-end watch should. What surprised me was that it’s actually really light, I expected a lot more heft…

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Comitia 109 haul review 3

Continuing the series of reviews of books I got at Comitia 109, today I have another 2 doujinshi to introduce to you. Like the previous ones, all of these are completely original properties, not “fan fiction” type books.

1 Nikochuu Witch Kemuri by Totsuka Kodama (circle: Aramugi)

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This is an odd one. Circle thumbnail:

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The 40-page book contains two chapters of an ongoing story featuring Yanikura Kemuri, university sophomore and chain smoker. After some awkward social moments at school (such as being invited to a party that she actually wants to visit, but turning it down when she notices other peers watching the conversation), Kemuri steps outside for a smoke, and starts hearing voices calling her name.

Shortly after, she finds herself under attack by a monster named Mildzebub, an obvious riff on the cigarette brand Mild Seven. Instinctively, and with some help from the voices in her head, she gets out her cigarettes, and, after a short struggle, lights up. And in a burst oftobacco magic, the monster is vanquished.

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In the second chapter, Kemuri goes out for lunch with a friend who has fallen in with some kind of sect, and tries to persuade Kemuri to join. When Kemuri tells her about her encounter with Mildzebub, her friend rambles on about how tobacco was originally a way for Native Indians to connect with the spirit world, and repeatedly points out there are some Nicotine addicts in her sect as well, who would be able to help her.

When Kemuri blows her off, they are attacked by Kuraclown, a bird-shaped monster riffing on Lark cigarettes. To her surprise, Kemuri’s friend turns out to be a fellow nicotine addict witch, who deftly strikes down the monster with her own tobacco magic.

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My first impulse to get this book was the art, which distinctly reminded me of the short-lived Shounen Jump serial Hachi.  I don’t know whether that has been translated into English, but if you get a chance, do check it out.
Now obviously, the art in Nikochuu Witch Kemuri (Nicotine + chuu(doku 中毒) = Nicotine addict, btw) is not as consistent as Hachi’s, and the story is a bit hit-and-miss, but it does get points for originality. Tobacco Magic? WTF?

Production quality of the 500 Yen book is pretty standard, with a glossy cover and medium heavy, matte white pages. There is a 2-page sketch section in the back explaining the monsters and their (tobacco brand) inspiration, which is sort of cool.

The artist: Totsuka Kodama on the webPixivTwitter.
The first two chapters of Nikochuu Witch Kemuri are online here.

2  Usagi Samurai (Usagi Samurai boards a boat) by 天邪鬼 (Amanojaku)

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Completely unrelated to the great Usagi Yojimbo, Usagi Samurai takes a decidedly cute take to the world of leporidae swordsmen. The titular character finds himself in the country (Hyuga instead of Iyo), and tries to hire a ferryman to reach his destination. Unfortunately, the town is engulfed in a thick fog, making the voyage impossible.

Having overheard the conversation, a fox in a monk’s robe approaches the samurai, and offers to dispel the fog. The samurai wastes no time in agreeing to the deal, and the fox takes him into the mountains.

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After a long and treacherous path into the mountain, Usagi Samurai finds himself at a guesthouse being treated to great food and a bath in a hot spring. He enjoys himself, forgetting about the issue at hand… Until the fog lifts, and he makes his way back to the harbor town. There, he notices a change in the town’s appearance, and asks a few sailors what year it is, only to find that roughly 400 years have passed.

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This is a nice, compact take on the classic Japanese folklore theme of kamikakushi, an “abduction” by the gods, as famously depicted in Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away.
The art is gorgeous, not to mention cute as hell, which is almost a requirement for books about bunny samurai. Most of the animals are actually quite carefully selected, a fox traditionally being a servant of the gods in Japanese folklore, and raccoons (such as the one serving the food in the page above) being shape-changing tricksters, but also very popular good-luck charms used by restaurants to pray for good business.

The book is gorgeously produced, with the cover having an almost Washi-like quality to it with a faint metallic shimmer. The artist apparently cranked out this 12-page story in just the 2 weeks between Comiket and Comitia, which is extremely impressive.
This seems to be a pretty long-running series, as I also got another issue from 2011, which says it’s already the 5th one.

The artist: 天邪鬼 on the web

 

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Comitia 109 haul review 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a ton of books at Comitia 109, and am still slowly working my way through them. Here’s a look at another couple of books from the batch.

1 Melissa by Mephisto (circle: Angraecum)

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Sadly couldn’t find the circle cut, they must have been listed under a different name. The artist states in the afterword that this is his first stab at an original book.

The title character is a girl magically bonded to an “arsenal” housing millions (or billions, depending on who you ask) of the world’s mightiest weapons. She acts as the key to the arsenal, and is thus able to conjure up any of the weapons at wish.

A being of immense worth, and, at the same time, danger, she is confined to a cell on a prison island, which the protagonist (a newly-hired guard who frames the story with a letter to his mother) catches her trying to escape from.

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From there on, things quickly escalate into an all-out battle, as a sorcerer-soldier from a hostile country (?) attempts to abduct Melissa, and she singlehandedly whoops his ass as the guards stand uselessly by.

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The art has a dynamic, fairly conventional style, and definitely a little rough around the edges. But not so much as to distract from the story too much. Ultimately, the book reads very much like a prologue. It’s a very, very brief glimpse into Melissa’s universe, and roughs out her character just enough that I might look for a sequel, maybe.  Time shall tell whether we ever see more of her.

But man, that cover. gorgeous.

The artist: Mephisto on the webpixiv, and Twitter

2 雑貨屋 by Biyora (circle: クレープたべたい) (Zakkaya by Crepe Tabetai)

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Circle thumbnail:

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雑貨屋 translates into “general store”, and modernly also refers to a store selling assorted trinkets for home decoration etc. The heroine of the book is a gatherer, who scours the ruins of an ancient city in the “forest of stones” for rare artifacts to sell in her store.

The story starts out with a guy pestering her to get him an “iron flower,” seemingly an everyday item that she has run out of stock of. After some convincing, the heroine agrees to make a run and get supplies.

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It turns out that the “iron flowers” are actually gears (like the ones on the cover), and the artifacts the heroine is selling are various machine parts such as pipes, screws, and cables. Upon returning to town with her bounty, she briefly encounters a friend who bugs her about bringing back machines, which are evil according to her. Except for windmills and weaving machines, which are necessary for life. This leads to a bit of really witty dialogue, as the heroine calls out her friend for being a hypocrite.

She delivers the gear to the guy, who uses it to fix up a mechanism to draw up a big parabolic antenna. Nobody knows what it is, so they just decide it’s a big iron flower, which the ancients built for purposes of… Hanami (picnics under blooming trees).

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And finally, in the last 4 panels, the story takes a 180 degree turn worth of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Totally took me by surprise, in an awesome way. I was on the fence on whether to spoil it, since most of you won’t get to read it, but decided against it, in case someone sees this who might. If you want to know more about the book, feel free to contact me.

The whole book is drawn in a deceptively simple, comicky style, but there’s a surprising amount of detail crammed into the art, with purposeful, clear lines that convey a lot of confidence. It’s only 8 story pages, and the story is super compact, well structured, and with great, witty dialogue.

The artist: Biyora on PixivBlog

That wraps up the second round of my doujinshi reviews, hope you enjoyed! Lots more to come, let’s see if I can keep up the pace.

(mirrored from my Wordpress blog)

Filed under comics manga dojinshi doujinshi art Japan

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FMA translation for Faith, part 3

So, I bought a few more volumes of those Full Metal Alchemist deluxe collections. Here’s the sketch pages beneath the covers!
Previous posts: 1, 2. And of course check out Faith Erin Hicks' work, who started me on these.

from vol. 6:

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top:
Sloth, early design.
A big guy. I envisioned something close to Frankenstein [’s monster].

bottom:
Greed.
His design was almost completely fixed from the start. 
The only real difference is the Ouroboros mark’s location.

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Left
Lust:
Bad girl. 
Slasher. 

mid left:

claws extend and retract at will.
One jab into Cornello’s head and it’s over.

top right:
I scribbled some ideas for the Ouroboros mark on the back of the original pages.

Gluttony:
Fat bad guy.
Will eat anything.Even Cornello.
Trademark phrase: “Can I eat it?”

※They are artificial beings created on the base of a (pseudo) philosopher’s stone, which is made from the compressed lives of 50-ish humans. So in order for them to die, one has to kill them 50 times.
The plan is for there to be another 5 of them, named after the 7 deadly sins.(“Greed,” “Envy,” and so on.)

bottom left:
Lust and Gluttony were designed as a set.

Volume 7:

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A sketch from when I was thinking about what the surroundings of Xerxes would be like. A desert, perhaps?

bottom:
I can’t find the early designs for Mei Chan! So I was digging through old sketches, and found this page where I messed up the left and right hand.
Pretty amazing I didn’t catch this even after inking it…

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Early design for Barry the Chopper.

Looks like his design was pretty close to finalized from the start. Same goes for his real body.

bottom:
Barry’s real body.

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left:
Early design for Scar ①
Looks like he was a little more open about his emotions than the final design.

right:
Early design for Scar ②
More nuanced emotionality than ①. 
Possibly lost the cigarette because Havoc was around?
…Also, piercings??

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What is this… Maybe a failed design for a TPB cover?

That’s it, another three volumes down! I’ll keep doing these unless I get told to stop, at the pace that I get around to buying them. Which, incidentally, you should too! 
FMA collected edition volume 6 on Amazon.co.jp
FMA collected edition volume 7 on Amazon.co.jp
FMA collected edition volume 8 on Amazon.co.jp
Or get the translated editions in your language, or whatever. It’s a great book and belongs in any good manga collection.

Filed under fma Fullmetal Alchemist manga sketches japanese