More Shojo Beating

Part 2 of my post on Shojo Beat's starting lineup. Part 1 is here. I'll try not to spoil anything (and I haven't read that far ahead anyway), but if you want your SB experience to be absolutely pure you may wish to stop reading now.

4. Crimson Hero. Oh, man. And here I was thinking Nana had some rangy guy friends. The boys in Crimson Hero are so gangly and their clothes so outrageously large that they're like gigantic walking kites. Kites of smouldering passion... for volleyball!

For you see, Crimson Hero is set in an alternate universe where people actually care about volleyball. Nobara, the boyish heroine, wants desperately to play volleyball for her school. But Nobara's mother wants her to go into the family business -- running a fancy-pants Japanese restaurant. And Nobara's sexy aunt... well, she doesn't care either way. Anyway, I think we all know where this is headed: Nobara gives up on her dreams and does what her mother says forever, her resentment coming out only as passive aggression and intentionally inappropriate taste in men.

This is a sports manga, which means there's a lot of believing in oneself. In fact, there's a whole fractally iterated system of self-belief. First you have to believe that you can try... then you have to believe that you can win... then you have to believe that you believe... then others have to believe that you believe in them... and, of course, all of these moments of clarity must be sparked by someone else yelling at you: "If you don't want it bad enough, go home! I'm disappointed in you! I never picked you for a quitter! etc.! etc.!" Because there's nothing more motivating than abuse coming from a guy who could be his own sail when he goes windsurfing.

5. Godchild. Two words: Gothic. Lolita.

Godchild is part of a complicated mythos. I erred by buying the manga entitled Godchild, volume 1: 19th-century anti-hero Cain's story starts in some other book called Forgotten Juliet, it seems. Godchild is actually book five. So I found it all a little baffling. The first story in the book is a psychotic riff on Alice in Wonderland about a March Hare-themed rabbit-masked serial killer. Cain must catch this killer while fending off the hordes of long-haired, velvet-dressed girls half his height that keep throwing themselves into his arms.

There are scalpels, ribbons, blood (not too much, though), mysteries, nursery rhymes and lace: it's a stylishly-done pastiche of all your favourite 19th-century themes. The art also eschews the standard Shojo wide-open-spaces-with-flowers feel in favour of densely packed panels filled with detail and dark tones. And gargoyles.

6. Kaze Hikaru. So, between when America forced Japan open with Perry's black ships and when the Meiji emperor took power and began modernising (= Westernising) Japan with his bare hands, there was a lot of debate about where Japan was headed as a country, and a lot of that debate was conducted with swords. The Shinsengumi were hired guns on the side of the Shogunate (so, against the emperor) but time heals all wounds and today everyone loves them.

Kaze Hikaru asks the obvious question: what if a stinky girl secretly joined the manly men of the Shinsengumi? Wouldn't her girl germs render the whole group unable to perform their duty?

A lot of the fun in this story is the Mary Sue-ish thrills of seeing the heroine, Kamiya, meet and interact with actual historical figures, so it'll be interesting to see if it takes off in America, where no-one really cares who OKITA Souji was in love with.

Kaze Hikaru's character designs are cute and cuddly rather than lean and angular -- it's probably the most aww-inducing of the six initial titles Viz has picked out -- but that just makes it all the more surprising when one of them kills some dude for being a traitor. (Also, I bet it will make the final chapter, where everyone dies of TB or is executed by the new government, a real downer.)

So, that's it. Six titles! Only ONE can survive! Let the battle begin!

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My money's on Souji sleeping with Hijikata, but that's only because I've been corrupted by Peacemaker Kurogane. The translated manga's just being released here, and I'm looking forward to the first couple of volumes, before the TB/shot in the back/ritual suicide heroic deaths start. Also, the anime has Saizou the angry pig, which makes it a must see.


Angry pig? I'm on board. Is the early Meiji era kinda like the "western expansion" era for Americans? It seems like a lot of fiction is set in that time.


Angry pig! I haven't seen Peacemaker Kurogane. I think Ruroni Kenshin is also a Shinsengumi story (but I don't know much about that either.)

The Meiji era ended, like, hundreds and hundreds of years of feudal rule, forcibly centralising power back in the Emperor and his government (as opposed to whichever clan happened to be strongest this century), so like any revolution there were a lot of folks on both sides with a lot invested in the outcome. Plus, a lot of the change was driven by folks who specifically wanted to be more like the West, so a lot of the resistance came from folks who quite reasonably liked their own culture just fine. So it's like "You're a traitor to Japan! You just want to make everyone wear suits, like the US!" "No, YOU'RE a traitor to Japan! You want to keep it poor and unsuccessful!" A time of upheaval and change when the old clashed with the new, etc., so there's a lot for fiction writers to use. Maybe it's more like the civil war..?

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