Bravest Warriors: The Search For Catbug Art Book Review

If you’re a fan of the Bravest Warriors animated series, chances are you’re also a fan of the cutest member of its cast, Catbug! Absolutely adorable with his squeaky voice and somewhat ADD personality, he’s now the star of an art book: Bravest Warriors: The Search for Catbug!

back cover blurb

Four teenage travelers traverse the universe saving those in need…though not always in the way you’d expect…in fact…never! Along the way they meet aliens, phantoms and other interdimensionals—including everyone’s favorite, Catbug. Sometimes…they even meet themselves!

Featuring more than 25 artists, this is a new one-of-a-kind art book in the style of a classic seek & find from Perfect Square featuring the Bravest Warriors.

The Review

The Search for Catbug is a collaboration between Cartoon Hangover and Viz Media. What they’ve done is take the cast of Bravest Warriors, twenty-eight artists, and a simple prompt and created a book that’s part game, part art collection, and part Bravest Warriors merchandise.

This hardcover opens with a two-page intro in comic book format that lays the premise for the rest of its contents. In short, Catbug eats foodstuff cubes from Chris’ dreams, which cause him to lose control over his jump abilities. The Bravest Warriors can’t let him go careening through dimensions so they take off to find him.

What follows is not so much a cohesive story as it is twenty-eight separate graphic interpretations of what the Bravest Warriors’ search might look like. Each drawing is presented as a two-page spread in full color. Those looking for a collection entirely rendered in the cartoon’s style may be disappointed. Character designs and art media are as varied as the artists participating, ranging from Leong’s anime interpretation to Kuhn’s CG illustration to Hillburn’s watercolor candyland to Monlogo’s Escher inspired piece.

However, two things unify this collection. Every illustration features the four Bravest Warriors, and each has Catbug hidden somewhere in the details. And of course, the game is to locate Catbug in each picture. It’s very similar to Where’s Waldo?, but unlike the Where’s Waldo? illustrations which hide Waldo among crowds of people, these artists use a variety of tactics to hide Catbug, ranging from making him super tiny to placing him against a backdrop of ladybugs.

That aside, the artists don’t appear to have had any constraints with the subject matter. Most depictions include other characters, objects, and places from the animated series, and several feature the foodstuff cubes that caused Catbug’s uncontrollable jumping in the first place. Some have the Bravest Warriors in battle mode, while others are more pastoral. In keeping with the tone of the show, the pieces are generally fun with a heavy dose of randomness. And for those who search and search but just can’t seem to locate Catbug, the book includes a handy answer key in the back along with artist credits and their self-portraits.

In summary

The Search for Catbug can be summed up as a playful artist tribute to Bravest Warriors. If you are completely unfamiliar with the Cartoon Hangover series, this book probably isn’t the best introduction. While the artwork is entertaining and it is possible for newbies to have fun locating the Bravest Warriors’ cute little mascot, this collection will be best appreciated and enjoyed by those who are already fans.

First published in The Fandom Post.

Research Ramblings: The Spartan Citizenry, Part 22

As noted in my May 2, 2014 post, Spartan warriors were an interesting bunch, and I’m continuing my series on them with today’s fact:

Spartan warriors wore their hair long.

It was as much a part of their military look as their standard issue red cloak. Primping isn’t something we associate with readying for battle, but when danger loomed, Spartan warriors would take particular care of their long locks and decorate their weapons and clothes as well.

And that concludes this series on the Spartan citizens! For those interested in learning more about them, these are some sources I used in my research:

The Spartans, documentary hosted by Bettany Hughes

Spartan Reflections by Paul Cartledge

The Spartans by Paul Cartledge

Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #12

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has a unique bent. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the twelfth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases).

Back Cover Blurb

To obtain a map of the northlands, Lawrence and company leave the Kingdom of Winfiel and return to Kerube. Seeking out a silversmith of notorious reputation, they are introduced to the beautiful Fran Vonely who offers to provide what they seek. However, Fran’s map comes with a price-in exchange, the party must travel with her to a village where an angel is said to have alighted and discover the truth behind the legend. But what of the rumor that a witch lives in that very same village?

The Review

Lawrence and company leave the island kingdom of Winfiel for the port city of Kerube. It’s only been a matter of days since the narwhal incident, but that misadventure seems a distant memory with Kieman pleasantly greeting Lawrence at the Rowen trading house with news of Eve’s latest profit-making success. However, the one our travelers have returned to seek in Kerube is not human but a being of Huskin’s kind.

Holo’s encounter with the Great Sheep of Winfiel in Volume 10 brought to the forefront an aspect of Holo of which Hasekura-sensei hitherto only gave brief glimpses. Volume 12 continues delving into the particular dilemmas of legendary spirits with Huskin’s fellow sheep Hugues. Unlike Huskins, who survives in the fields as a shepherd, Hugues has made a life for himself in town–as an art merchant.

It seems a strange occupation for a sheep, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. After Holo has her fill of teasing the faint-hearted Hugues (who has nowhere near the fortitude of Huskins), he shows the three travelers his merchandise. The paintings are ostensibly of saints and other religious figures, but the true subjects of his collection are the backgrounds–ancient forests, hills, and waterways. Most of these landscapes, where spirits like Holo and Hugues once thrived, no longer exist, and those that remain are rapidly being destroyed by human activity. In commissioning such paintings, Huskins strives to preserve a small piece of the world that once was, and it is a reminder that Yoitsu, as Holo knew it, might not exist.

Even so, she’s determined to find her homeland. Through Hugues, they meet the silversmith Fran Vonley with whom they strike a peculiar deal. She agrees to draw them a map to Yoitsu if they travel with her to investigate a village’s seemingly conflicting stories of an angel and a witch.

Once the setting changes to the village of Taussig, the story very much takes on the flavor of their sojourn in Tereo. A search for clues put Lawrence and company in the midst of a village contending against outside forces, and Fran, like the clergywoman Elsa, is the determined young heroine who has a mission she must see through.

Some of the text is confusing. Like many previous volumes, there are sections of dialogue where it is unclear who is speaking. In a couple places, it seems like wrong names were inserted. As such, understanding the Taussig conflict, which is predominantly a religious/political one, requires some mental effort and a bit of rereading. Fortunately, it is much easier to comprehend than the narwhal deal in Kerube and does manage to come to a tidy end. In addition, Hasekura-sensei also lays the groundwork for future stories with the rumors swirling about the north. Before, Lawrence and Holo traveled with the Church/pagan struggle in the backdrop. Now, the powerful Debau Company is emerging as a player looking to profit off the northern lands, and it seems like it will only be a matter of time before their activities directly affect Col’s or Holo’s homelands.

This light novel includes the title page, four illustrations, and the table of contents printed in color as well as seven black-and-white illustrations and a world map.

In Summary

Though a new merchant gets introduced in our Spice and Wolf world, this volume is less about the marketplace and more about man’s impact on an all too quickly changing world. As Holo continues to seek to Yoitsu, an encounter with another ancient spirit forces her to consider what she might find at the end of her journey and her options in a world dominated by humans. Speaking of humans, their search for Holo’s homeland leads not only to the unraveling of a legend’s mystery but also presents a commentary on the very best and worst of humanity. So there’s not much of an economics lesson, but we do get to witness the desperate measures people resort to when major forces clash.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Research Ramblings: The Spartan Citizenry, Part 21

As noted in my May 2, 2014 post, Spartan warriors were an interesting bunch, and I’m continuing my series on them with today’s fact:

Spartans were very superstitious.

Most of these superstitions were tied to warfare. Their business might have been exclusively war, but they weren’t so reckless as to charge into a fight without the backing of the gods. After all, if anyone knew the cost of war, they did. In fact, in 432 BC, King Archidamus hesitated to declare war against the Athenians. (He eventually got outvoted and led the campaign himself).

At any rate, commanders did not lead the charge unless their priests received favorable signs, and every military army had a herd of sacrificial animals to discern the will of the gods at any time. Border campaign sometimes got stopped because of unpropitious sacrifices. Eclipses and earthquakes have also put an end to campaigns.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartans!

Research Ramblings: The Spartan Citizenry, Part 20

As noted in my May 2, 2014 post, Spartan warriors were an interesting bunch, and I’m continuing my series on them with today’s fact:

Spartan warriors were famed for dancing.

This might sound kind of odd because we don’t associate ballet with camouflage and semiautomatics, but in those days, fighting involved coordination that was often signaled by drums and pipes. Because dance is physical movement choreographed to sound, it became for the Spartans yet another means of military training.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartans!

Research Ramblings: The Spartan Citizenry, Part 19

As noted in my May 2, 2014 post, Spartan warriors were an interesting bunch, and I’m continuing my series on them with today’s fact:

Spartans killed those who got in their way but spared those who surrendered.

People nowadays often think of Spartans as bloodthirsty brutes, but if they could win without spilling blood, they would. Their fearsome reputation served them well in this respect, and many adversaries would simply take advantage of their mercy policy and not risk battle.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartans!

Haikyu!! Anime Fangirl Gushing

While I am a cosplay enthusiast, my miserly nature strictly limits my cosplay-related purchases. However, the instant I came across Haikyu!!, which began simulcasting on Crunchyroll last spring, Karasuno High School uniforms fell into the “must have” category. And now, both my husband and I can show our spirit for the Karasuno volleyball team in our latest outfits.

Haikyu uniform

My husband is a near exact physical match for Captain Daichi, but he insisted on Kageyama’s Number 9

For those unfamiliar with Haikyu!!, it’s a sports anime centered on a high school volleyball team. The story follows two freshmen: Shoyo Hinata and Tobio Kageyama. Hinata is the eager raw talent who couldn’t truly play the sport due to the absence of a boys team at his middle school. Kageyama, on the other hand, is a seasoned and genius player, but his high-handed attitude cost him the respect of his middle school teammates and a championship victory. The two wind up at Karasuno High School, and though they start as rivals, they learn how to work with one another and, more importantly, what it means to be a team.

Although the fall anime lineup remains to be revealed, I’m fairly certain that Haikyu!! will be my favorite anime of 2014. This is fairly unusual for me since my taste leans heavily toward shojo, fantasy, and historical, and Haikyu!! is none of these. However, even if you’re not into the sports genre, even if you dislike volleyball in real life (like me), even if you’re not really into anime, give Haikyu!! a chance. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it sucks you in.

For one, the cast is immediately relatable. Whether it’s Hinata’s nerves sending him running to the bathroom or discouraged ace Asahi’s reluctance to return to the sport, you definitely get where they’re coming from.

Haikyu jersey (621x593)

My Karasuno Volleyball Team jacket!

For another, the pacing is excellent. Volleyball requires a large group of people, but characters get introduced in a way that really establishes their personalities and how they connect with the rest of the team. The show also makes volleyball rules, strategies, and tactics comprehensible for the uninitiated. At times, explanations border on info dump, especially with faculty advisor Takeda-sensei referencing a “how to” guide for volleyball during practice. However, if you don’t know your wing spiker from your float serve, it’s quite helpful.

Another huge plus is that I can recommend Haikyu!! to viewers of all ages. The subtitles do include a few cuss words (though I think that’s more of a reflection of Crunchyroll’s translation choices than the content), but there are no giants eating people, no end-of-the-world devastation, no fan service. Yes, there is the one cute girl whom a third of the team is crushing on, but she is NOT a panty-flashing airhead, her breasts aren’t the size of watermelons, and she’s not a wacko sadist who can’t cook. What you get instead is an overwhelmingly positive vibe from a bunch of boys, each with his quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, as they go through ups and downs yet strive to bring out their best in the game. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I fell in love with a cast like this. Even among Karasuno’s rivals, no one is truly hateful, and several are worthy of their own fan followings.

And while Team Karasuno’s goal of winning the Nationals is what drives the plot, there’s plenty of humor to be had. Between ill-aimed balls, snarky potshots, and hilarious visual metaphors (my all-time favorite is Kageyama holding the Hinata bazooka), Haikyu!! manages to be fun and inspiring and gripping all at once. Add to that cool character designs, excellent action sequences on the court, catchy opening and closing themes, and you’ve got one gem of an anime.

So check it out! Even if you don’t have a Crunchyroll subscription, you can watch the with-commercial version for free. And perhaps you’ll find yourself joining me among the ranks of the Haikyu!! cosplayers.

Research Ramblings: The Spartan Citizenry, Part 18

As noted in my May 2, 2014 post, Spartan warriors were an interesting bunch, and I’m continuing my series on them with today’s fact:

The Spartan community encouraged all citizens to hunt.

In fact, they had an interesting policy in place to promote the activity. Hunting required horses and hunting dogs, animals privately owned by the rich. However, if poor citizens wanted to hunt, rich citizens had to make them available at any time.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartans!

Research Ramblings: The Spartan Citizenry, Part 17

As noted in my May 2, 2014 post, Spartan warriors were an interesting bunch, and I’m continuing my series on them with today’s fact:

When not on campaign, citizens occupied themselves with choral dances, festivals, feasts, hunting, physical exercise, and conversation.

To be honest, this doesn’t sound too much different than the pursuits of their Athenian contemporaries, but the Spartans had to endure and survive a lot more to achieve this lifestyle.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartans!

Research Ramblings: The Spartan Citizenry, Part 16

As noted in my May 2, 2014 post, Spartan warriors were an interesting bunch, and I’m continuing my series on them with today’s fact:

Spartans considered arrows “feminine.”

This was because arrows were a long-range weapon that allowed you to kill without really seeing your enemy. The Spartans’ weapons of choice were a thrusting spear and a short iron sword, which required them to get up close and personal. Despite their disdain for arrows, they did use bows and arrows in their auxiliary forces.

Tune in next week for more about the Spartans!