Angelic Layer Chap. 4: Sportball

As I mentioned before, CLAMP is known for their beautiful artwork, but this series really doesn’t show it off. When Misaki interacts with characters as rambunctious as Tamayo and Icchan, a lot of the art looks like this:

I used to call it “squid art” for some reason. Maybe because the limbs look like tentacles? There’s a lot of this throughout the series, and I think it gets used way too often. I know that creating a comic is a ton of work, and not every panel will be — or even needs to be — a masterpiece. But to use a such a simplified method of drawing the characters so often just feels, well, lazy. Especially when I know that CLAMP has produced some amazing work.

Maybe I should cut them some slack. Everyone needs a breather, right?

Long anime series tend to usually have a few “filler” episodes, where the characters go to the beach and nothing important happens. You won’t see this as frequently in manga, and definitely not in Angelic Layer. The whole series is only five volumes long, so the story is quite compact. At the beginning of the book Misaki’s just learning what Angelic Layer is; by the end of this chapter, she’s in her first fight in a huge tournament. Moreover, her opponent is six-year-old Hatoko, but I’ll come back to that in chapter five.

On the subject of the tournament, there are a couple things that confuse me. First of all, the announcer tells the crowd the basic rules of angelic layer: the first angel to lose all its health, or to be pushed out of the arena (the “layer”) loses. Okay, I’m down with that, but have you ever actually heard a sports caster explain the rules of the game as it’s being played? Everyone in the audience is already a fan; they know how this works. I’ve never sat down to watch the Super Bowl and heard the announcers explain the basic rules of the game while it’s going on. It might be nice if they did, because what even is football? But it just feels a little out-of-place here. It would make more sense if Icchan explained all this when he was helping Misaki learn the basics of Angelic Layer.

Also, those appear to be the only rules of the game. But when Hatoko’s angel, Suzuka, lands her first blows on Hikaru, Mr. Exposition the sportscaster announces that Hatoko’s got the first set of points in this match. That is the first and the last time “points” are ever mentioned.

You don’t need points to win, so I have to assume that one of the following things happened here:

(a) points refer to the angel’s health, or “hit points”

(b) translation error

(c) CLAMP changed their minds about how the match winner would be determined and forgot to go back and change it

(d) There’s a gritty underground ring of people betting on Angelic Layer matches, and gamblers have created a “points” system in case of close matches or to determine payout.

The first option makes the most sense, but I like the last one the best.

Snow Drop Chap. 2: Alcohol Abuse

Welcome back to Snow Drop, and Ha-Da’s inadequately explored hatred of Hae-Gi. Seriously, there’s no reason for Ha-Da to hate Hae-Gi. Is it because Hae-Gi’s good-looking? As I mentioned in my previous post, Hae-Gi has no friends, so it can’t be that Ha-Da is envy of his so-called “popularity”. Granted, the main characters are in high school, a wretched hive of scum and jealousy, but it just seems so stupid and petty.

Much like a seventeen-year-old, come to think of it.

Ha-Da challenges Hae-Gi to a drinking contest with shots of tequila, which Hae-Gi accepts, for some reason. The only logic I can attribute to this decision is “high school”.

I used to read a lot of fanfiction, and participated in online play-by-post roleplays. Every so often, a writer will decide that their character needs to get drunk, either to show how edgy that character is, or give them a chance to make a fool out of themselves. Nine times out of ten, you can tell that the author’s never had a drink in her life. Characters get drunk after one drink, they puke immediately after getting drunk, they magically sober up when a bucket of cold water is dumped on them…

And, okay, some of those writers might have been me, thinking that I knew what heavy drinking was like from the occasional sip my mom let me have from her wine glass.

10 shots?! That’s enough to put me in a coma.

And I’m not saying that Choi Kyuang-ah has never had a drink, but that’s what this scene reminds me of. Not only because Ha-Da doesn’t get entirely blitzed after several shots of tequila (granted, he owns the club so it’s likely that he has a higher alcohol tolerance than Hae-Gi), but because Hae-Gi wasn’t feeling tipsy before the contest began. Which doesn’t seem like it makes sense, until it’s revealed that Ha-Da spiked all of Hae-Gi’s drinks before the contest actually began.


That’s not okay.

Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m not sure if I was okay with that when I read these books for the first time, but it definitely makes me uncomfortable now. If Hae-Gi was a girl, or Ha-Da was doing this to take sexual advantage of his rival, there’s no way Ha-Da would have gotten off scot-free. Ten shots of tequila are dangerous enough, especially when you only weigh 90 pounds like our pretty-boys here. Spiking Hae-Gi’s drinks beforehand could do some serious damage. You ever hear of alcohol poisoning?

Good, because I’m pretty sure Hae-Gi’s going to have it.

Fortunately, none of those terrible, terrible things that could easily happen after drinking all that happen to Hae-Gi, because he’s just too pretty to die. He just passes out for a bit, and then gets chatty. So-Na has the opportunity to search the unconscious Hae-Gi for her key, but opts not to. While normally I might complain about So-Na being stupid and missing her chance to get her key back, I’m actually okay with it. The poor guys taken enough abuse tonight, a girl who doesn’t like him going through his pockets would just be adding insult to injury.

Though I will point out that So-Na’s nameless bodyguard, who’s taking Hae-Gi home, thinks that black coffee will help Hae-Gi sober up.

I didn’t want to have to do this again, but take it away, Morbo:

Drunk!Hae-Gi wakes up and starts talking about “touching the sky” for his brother. What he means by this is that he wants to become a pilot. I really like this, and not just because I’m a student pilot. In a lot of romance manga, the characters are singularly focused on one goal, and then their S.O. comes along and sweeps them off their feet. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea of Hae-Gi being a model, because leads being models/actresses/superstars is pretty common in romance manga. Dreaming of being a pilot is something different, so it stands out to me, and gives Hae-Gi more depth as a character.

If only I could start liking the other leads.

Snow Drop Chap. 1: Meet the (Awful) Cast

I’ve decided that it was only fair to go back to manga for a bit, just because I have an absolutely absurd amount of it. I’m certain that I need to get rid of almost all of it. Even if I don’t intend to keep it all, it’s worth one last read-through. A final goodbye, if you will. I won’t subject you to any more Rave Master for the time being, so we’ll take a sharp turn to Snow Drop, by Choi Kyuang-ah. This is a series I started reading when I was fourteen, and religiously bought every book until the series ended, probably when I was sixteen. And for the purists out there, Snow Drop is technically manwha, as it’s a Korean comic. And it couldn’t be any more different than Rave Master.

Snow Drop is a dark, dramatic teen romance about a couple that no one thinks should be together. I’d read a few manga like this in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one as misguided as Snow Drop.

I almost immediately regretted my decision to re-read this book as soon as I opened it. There are so many problems with the series, and you’d think that would be pretty easy material to make fun of. It has an astounding number of things in it that don’t make any sense, like the belief that who you date in high school is who you’ll end up marrying and having kids with. There’s also several things that are pretty offensive but passed off as “true love”…like the female lead dating the guy who tried to rape her earlier in the series.

Holy hell, how did I manage to stomach any of this?

Unfortunately for the blog (or maybe fortunately), none of this happens in the first volume. This is our introduction to our main characters: So-Na, Ha-Da, and Hae-Gi. And I don’t like any of them. I know I should, but I don’t.

So-Na is our female lead,  a rich seventeen-year-old girl whose passion is her flower nursery, named Snow Drop. She’s almost always accompanied by her obnoxious friend Ha-Da, another rich teenager and self-proclaimed Casanova. The manga kicks off with Ha-Da complaining that he and So-Na have been enrolled in high school, as neither of them have been in school for several years. So-Na’s father basically blackmailed her into returning to school by smashing the windows of the greenhouse, and refusing to stop until she agreed to go back. It’s pretty telling for a character that doesn’t even appear in this volume.

My questions already begin to flare up when the two are introduced to their class for the first time. If Ha-Da and So-Na are part of such wealthy and influential families, why aren’t they sent to an expensive private school? One small change would have helped us avoid a lot of needless stupidity in the series.

I also want to point out that I hate the “new kid stands in front of class and introduces her/himself” cliche. This is mainly because never once, in my life, have I ever seen a teacher call a student to the front of the class to introduce them. Especially not in high school. Has anyone else actually seen this happen? Right now, I’m pretty convinced that this exists only in fiction.

This being a romance manga, So-Na’s seat in class ends up being right next to Hae-Gi’s, the most popular boy in school. I would like to make a couple complaints about this.

This is what the cover promises:

This is what we get:

Okay, he’s cute, but that is not the same person. And that beautiful blue-haired man was the reason I became interested in the series in the first place. Though thinking about it now, I actually didn’t fangirl over any of the characters in this series. Maybe I was over squeeing over fictional characters by that point, or maybe it was because they were all in relationships and therefore untouchable. Really, though, I think it’s because all the characters are dicks.

Looking through the series now, I searched for a character that I really liked, without reservation. I found one: So-Na’s body guard, and I don’t think he even has a name.

Even if the cast is full of jerks, though, there must have been something about it that I liked enough to buy twelve volumes of this crap, so let’s read on.

The other thing that bugs me about Hae-Gi’s introduction is that he’s called the most popular boy in school. Maybe this is a translation error, because Hae-Gi has zero friends. By definition, you have to have friends to be popular. He’s good looking, and a model, so I would accept that he’s the coolest kid in school, but definitely not the most popular. One of the nameless students (read: someone who’s not beautiful) even says that he’s standoffish and uptight about his name.

Ha-Da hates Hae-Gi immediately, for no adequately explored reason, and asks So-Na to figure out what Hae-Gi’s sore spot is. As luck would have it, So-Na is actually able to do this. Hae-Gi is short for Hae-Ba-Ra-Gi, or “sunflower”. His brothers, likewise, have flowery names. Those names (along with So-Na’s, short for So-Na-Moo, or “pine tree”) came from a book So-Na’s mother wrote, which is also entitled Snow Drop.

If you’re asking where So-Na’s mother is, by the way, she’s dead. Like all romantic heroine’s mothers.

So-Na, it turns out, also doesn’t like Hae-Gi because he’s not interested in floral language, after she tries to sell him some flowers.

While making his big, obnoxious introduction, Ha-Da invites all the kids in his new class for a party at a nightclub, Romeo, which he happens to own. And proceeds to insult the students that might not be able to go.

So-Na comes up with a game to ensure that everyone goes to the club, and I want to say right now that she’s surprisingly manipulative. You’d think that a girl who spent the last five years with just one friend would be a little more…obtuse when it comes to that sort of thing.

The game is this: you have to find your seatmate’s most precious item and take it from them for the day. The students will exchange everything back at Romeo, but if you don’t show up, then you don’t get your item back. Of course, So-Na ends up picking Hae-Gi’s most precious item, which turns out to be a marble with a feather in it. So-Na, though, doesn’t play by the rules of her own game, until Ha-Da rats her out.

You know, I sort of like Ha-Da better for doing that. I can handle annoying side-kicks; it’s the manipulative main character I’m having a hard time getting past.

Thanks to So-Na’s game, the entire class winds up at Romeo, and So-Na refuses to switch back the marble for her key until the designated swap time at 8 pm, even though Hae-Gi wants to get his marble back as soon as he can. Which is weird, because she really did not want Hae-Gi to get her key in the first place. You’d think she’d be in a hurry to get it back and not linger around Hae-Gi, especially because she doesn’t like him all that much.

As she’s playing with the marble she drops it and ends up losing it in the one place she can’t get it back. I think I’m supposed to worry about So-Na not getting her key back, but I don’t. I don’t like So-Na, and she could have avoided this stupidity had she just exchanged items when Hae-Gi wanted. Maybe if she was more likable I might actually care what happens to her.

God, this is stupid. Why did I choose to read this series again?

Rave Master Chap. 9: Speedy Sobriety

There’s one thing I’ve always loved about Rave Master: the cover art for each of the chapters. It’s the sort of thing I would draw if I had any artistic ability. Every time I see one of them I think that Mashima must have had a grand time working on them. They don’t have anything to do with the story, they’re just fun. The one for chapter nine, though, was my favorite as a kid and is my favorite as an adult.

I just love that! Where’s that manga? I would absolutely read Rave Master as a medieval fantasy. Of course, I’m reading it now anyway, so….

Anyway, Haru, Elie and Plue make their way to Punk Street. Like the rest of the manga so far, I’m having the most fun looking at the settings that Mashima’s put in. There’s a lot to see, and often jokes or small stories going on behind the main one. It’s an enjoyable Easter egg hunt.

The trio decides to split up, Haru and Plue to get food, and Elie to go gambling. I don’t know exactly what money Elie has to go gambling with, as she spent everything she had on the dog race earlier. I’m pretty sure she didn’t get any of her cash back after blowing up the stadium. They both agree to look for Musica and meet back later.

Anyway, I had to stop reading for a minute when I came to this panel:


It always bewildered me that people would see Plue and think, “it’s a dog”. Or, worse, “it’s a bug”. People are actually freaking out about the weird thing eating lollipops.

I remember watching the anime Gankutsuou when I was in high school, and one of the characters in it had blue skin. One, out of the entire cast. No one every said, “hey, he has blue skin, that’s weird.” It bugged the hell out of me. So, everyone’s bewilderment over what the hell Plue is – even if only for one panel – is awesome, and so much better than the crowd accepting him the minute the see him.

Anyway, Haru runs into a crazy drunk guy at the restaurant who claims to know where to find Musica. Haru tries to get the drunk guy home, who engages in some dancing and some crying, antics that were hilarious to me as a kid, but not so much anymore.

Alcohol dependency! Hilarious!


More hilarity does (not) ensue when Plue gets drunk as well. Haru, frustrated by all this, throws a conveniently placed bucket of water at the drunk. As soon as the water hit him, he begins to melt–

–No, wait, that would make more sense than what actually happens next.

As soon as he gets doused, he sobers up.

This is another trope I can’t stand. Please allow Morbo to explain:

Listen up, anime. We need to have a little talk about alcohol:

  • If you are drunk and have a bucket of water thrown on you, you don’t become sober. You become drunk and wet.
  • If you’ve been off your face for days and suddenly hear that the man who murdered your father is in town, your oath of vengeance will not sober you up. You will be drunk and pissed off.
  • If you’ve drank too much sake at the cherry blossom festival and an alien attacks, you will not become sober just long enough to save the day. You’re more likely to trip over your katana that your master handed down to you than anything.
  • If you wait long enough and rehydrate yourself, you will become sober, often followed by a hangover.

I know that suspension of disbelief lets fiction get away with a lot, but this is ridiculous.

Anyway, the magically sober man finally reveals that he is Musica, the legendary blacksmith, surprising absolutely no one. He agrees to fix the Ten Powers sword with the caveat that Haru stays away from the shop during that time.

One weird thing I remember about Rave Master is that the name of Haru’s sword changes between the first and second volumes. The sword itself has ten different forms, and Haru can switch between its forms if he has the right Rave stone. In the first book, it was called the Ten Commandments. Maybe because I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school for most of my life, I thought this was a completely badass name for a sword. In the second book, it’s known as the Ten Powers. I have to wonder if Mashima changed the name of the sword, if there was some kind of translation error, or if keeping the name “Ten Commandments” was too potentially offensive for Western audiences.

Tokyopop – at least when I was reading manga all the freaking time – wasn’t known for being consistent with names, especially with fantasy series when there’s lots of made-up names. I thought that the sword’s name might change from volume to volume, but it remained the “Ten Powers” sword ever since.

Translated manga is weird.

If you ask me, Haru probably shouldn’t have left his sword with a drunk guy that he met not ten minutes ago. Especially because the minute he leaves the smithy, you find out Musica agreed to give Haru’s Rave stone to Demon Card.

So…Demon Card doesn’t know Haru’s in town, didn’t know Haru would be going to Musica, and trusted an alcoholic with that is incredibly important.

Oh, wait, maybe they trusted Musica with it because he can magically sober up.

No, Rave Master, I’m not forgiving you for that one.

C’mon, he’s a total bad boy!

At the same time, Elie is gleefully leaving a casino and runs into another guy…who also happens to be named Musica. Now, as a thirteen-year-old girl reading this, I was always on the lookout for bishis. That is, the pretty anime boys worthy of squealing over. The moment I saw Musica #2, I knew he was the bishi I had been waiting for.

Yep, I immediately declared him the hot guy and ran to show my sister his picture. She saw him and informed me that he was “butt ugly”. And if my older sister didn’t like he was cute, then he probably wasn’t. After all, she knew more about that kind of thing than I did.

And so chapter 9 ends, with me wondering if Musica #2 was cute or not.