Tag Archives: manga comedy

Manga Review: Behind the Scenes Vol. #3

There are a LOT of anime and manga centered around glamorous idols and movie/TV stars, but what about the humble folk that do the grungy, tedious work behind the camera? The unseen teams charged with creating film sets, costumes, and props are the subject of Bisco Hatori’s Behind the Scenes!! Viz Media has released Volume 3, and you can read on for the review. (Reviews of previous volumes can be found here.)

Back cover blurb

Ryuji Goda, Art Squad president and sterling example of self-confidence, has become anxiety-ridden Ranmaru’s greatest role model. Surely under the guidance of such a genius, Ranmaru will come into his own? But now a film camp at a remote mansion is putting Goda’s assurance to the test. Is Ranmaru up to the challenge of saving his mentor from his greatest fear—a child?

The Review

In anime and manga, the camp setting is generally used for clubs to practice, train, and bond. However, even though the Art Squad says they are going to “Film Camp” in Scene 11, it’s actually a multi-day shoot at a borrowed vacation house. Aside from the fact that they are staying at the shoot location overnight, the Art Squad is just slaving away for student director Riichi Kai again. In other words, it’s the usual unreasonable demands sprinkled with set design techniques. The only truly new element is that this film cast includes Rin Debito, a child actor (and a paid one at that). While the clash between the snooty Rin and child-phobic Goda is entertaining, Hatori-sensei also tries to paint the kid in a sympathetic light, but Rin’s personal dilemma only makes him come off as inconsistent. As such, when Ranmaru gets Rin back on track with a cliche phrase, the resolution seems much too convenient.

Once film camp is over, we get a chapter dedicated to Tomu. Aside from the fact that he’s a ball of energy and his family’s loaning the Squad studio space, we don’t know too much about him. However, Hatori-sensei fills in a lot of blanks when Tomu and Ranmaru lend a hand to the Modernist Cinema Club. For a simple-minded character, Tomu winds up in rather complicated situations, and it’s fun getting into his brain.

The volume closes with the Squad’s summertime fundraising projects. While these arcs feature the usual art design and crafts, they are different in that the Squad isn’t under the thumb of a director. In other words, we get to see them direct themselves–with hilarious results. Whereas they only dealt with one kid at Film Camp, they field a whole bunch when they hold a craft workshop. Then they tackle something more in line with their skills when asked to create a haunted house. While this project definitely showcases Maasa’s talents, mouse-hearted Ranmaru winds up key to their success in a surprising (and amusing) way.

Extras include bonus mini manga, embedded notes from the creator, glossary, and author bio.

In Summary

Although it’s billed as “Film Camp,” the Art Squad’s off-campus getaway is really just the usual student film set chaos, albeit with a child actor in the mix. However, we do get to see the Squad in a different element when they tackle summer fundraising. A healthy amount of art/craft techniques are, of course, incorporated throughout (including detailed instructions on shrinky dinks), and those curious about the Squad members will get some intriguing glimpses into their personal lives.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Behind the Scenes Vol. #02

There are a LOT of anime and manga centered around glamorous idols and movie/TV stars, but what about the humble folk that do the grungy, tedious work behind the camera? The unseen teams charged with creating film sets, costumes, and props are the subject of Bisco Hatori’s Behind the Scenes!! Viz Media has released Volume 2, and you can read on for the review. (Reviews of other volumes can be found here.)

Back cover blurb

When the Art Squad is assigned to dress a set, Ranmaru is shocked at how seriously Goda takes the job. Every action figure and empty soda can is placed with utmost care to tell the story of the character who lives there, every sock and towel artfully be-grunged with coffee grounds and fuller’s earth to support the narrative. Ranmaru has always been detail oriented, but isn’t this taking things to the extreme? He’s about to learn that attention to detail can do more than just set the scenes!

The Review

So far, Art Squad projects have been manifestations of various antagonism, but it now appears that Goda treats all requests as challenges, even when they’re not. In the case of their latest Film Studies assignment, one seemingly innocuous word has Goda turning an otaku bedroom set from a low-key job into an intense task that newbie Ranmaru can barely keep up with. Following that, a student actress asks Goda to help her get rid of a clingy boyfriend (by posing as her new boyfriend), and Goda instead drags the Art Squad into Mega-Operation: Filthy Room!!

These two chapters reemphasize what readers already know about Goda: he is completely devoted to his art and his forceful personality somehow sweeps everyone else along. Along the way, readers also get a smattering of set dressing techniques as well as a hint of romantic feelings. At the end of Volume 1, a word of thanks from Ruka put Ranmaru in a fluster, and Volume 2 continues in that vein with Ranmaru’s fluster developing into a crush. However, those looking for a love arc are likely in for a long, drawn out ride. Ranmaru’s too timid to make a move, and while he observes that Ruka might feel something for Goda, she’s not making moves either. As for Goda, he, as Maasa puts it, “loves only art.” So while there is the potential of a love triangle, hardly anything is in motion.

Romance doesn’t seem likely among the other Art Squad members either, judging from Chapters 8 and 10, close-ups on Maasa and Izumi respectively. Maasa desperately wants a boyfriend, but when Ranmaru gets dragged along to a singles meet up, he quickly learns how the Art Squad’s resident gore expert self-sabotages her prospects. As for Izumi, he’s got a gaggle of fangirls but seems neither interested in nor capable of sustaining a deep, intimate relationship. As such, it looks like art will be the sole passion driving the engines of the Art Squad for a while.

Volume 2 also includes a Soh-centric chapter. In Volume 1, Ranmaru’s bossy cousin served mainly to heap disdain on Ranmaru and reinforce his insecurities. Now Hatori-sensei seems as if she’s completely changed her mind about this character. Chapter 9 depicts Soh not as arrogant and self-assured but as depressed as Ranmaru. The 180 in her personality is a lot to swallow, but it does make her interactions with Ranmaru funnier, and along the way, readers get to learn about resin crafts.

Extras include character profiles, embedded notes from the creator, glossary, and author bio.

In Summary

If you thought love entered Ranmaru’s life, think again. He may be harboring a developing crush, but for the most part, he’s just struggling to keep up with Goda’s latest project. In fact, romance seems to be getting nipped in the bud among all his fellow club members, but there’s passion aplenty for their work along with a lot of Art Squad craft techniques.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Behind the Scenes Vol. #01

There are a LOT of anime and manga centered around glamorous idols and movie/TV stars, but what about the humble folk that do the grungy, tedious work behind the camera? The unseen teams charged with creating film sets, costumes, and props are the subject of Bisco Hatori’s Behind the Scenes!! Viz Media has released Volume 1, and you can read on for the review.

Back cover blurb

It’s two months into Ranmaru’s college career, and if he’s learned one thing, it’s that he’s really uncomfortable around other people. But when he stumbles into a zombie mob attack, he’s totally forced out of his comfort zone! Of course it’s just a movie shoot, but when he wakes up from his ignoble faint, he’s been whisked away behind the scenes with the Art Squad! Could this group of weirdos be what Ranmaru’s been looking for all his life?

The Review

Hatori-sensei is best known for Ouran High School Host Club, and her latest English-language release is another club manga. However, Behind The Scenes!! is not a story of handsome bucks in the spotlight. Rather, it is about the unseen and often unappreciated individuals that work off camera in the world of film.

Our main character is Ranmaru Kurisu, a first year humanities and sciences major at Shichikoku University in Tokyo. A wimpy fisherman’s son from the boonies, Ranmaru grew up being picked on, never participated in school clubs, and has a massive scapegoat complex. (His eternal catch phrase is “I’m sorry.”) He’s the type of character that gets annoying really fast. Fortunately, within two pages, he literally runs into the Art Squad when he ruins a student film shoot. As payback, Goda, the Art Squad president, forces Ranmaru to help with another prop project and discovers that Ranmaru’s actually quite talented. In fact, all the mishaps in Ranmaru’s life came from others trying to take advantage of his skill at crafts.

Ultimately, this is the story of the village misfit finding a place where he belongs and evolving. Ranmaru needs a lot of help in that respect, and that’s where President Goda comes in. Whereas Ranmaru’s a limp noodle, Goda’s a blazing sword of a personality. He’s a perfectionist with no qualms about bullying others because he sets insane standards for himself. Most Goda/Ranmaru interactions consist of Goda belting orders and Ranmaru freaking out. Fortunately, we have the four other quirky members of the club to provide additional breadth of emotions.

Because they are university students, their schedules are much less structured than a high school student’s. As such, Art Squad members spend seemingly all their time slaving on sets and costumes for the four university film clubs. And even though they’re only college students, the directors have big time egos. Film is a collaborative endeavor, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the clashes that arise between them and the Art Squad. As such, story arcs are structured that the film clubs play the part of antagonist, making one outrageous demand after another. However, Goda takes those demands as challenges, and as the club tackles them, Ranmaru learns what it’s like to be a part of a team while readers get a peek into the more practical aspects of filmmaking.

Extras include character profiles, embedded notes from the creator, glossary, and author bio.

In Summary

The Art Squad may play a critical role in their school’s films, but they’re hardly the glamorous type. They’re a high-energy misfit group, the perfect place for a spineless artsy-craftsy misfit from the sticks to brandish his skills. If you’re interested in fun comedy with quirky characters and a lot of snark and screaming with film and art jargon thrown in, give Behind the Scenes!! a try.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Manga Dogs Vol. 3

From Bakuman to School Rumble, the manga/anime industry has been a popular subject of manga and anime in recent years. Now joining their ranks is Kodansha’s manga series Manga Dogs, and you can read on for my review of Volume 3. (For my review of earlier volumes, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Teenage manga artist Kanna Tezuka’s series about a high school for Buddhist statues is facing cancelation! Meanwhile, the manga course that’s given her so much free time to draw at school is under threat from a principal taken with the next big thing: light novels! Their teacher’s solution to this existential crisis is an inspiring field trip, but will it be enough to get these dogs to start drawing at last?!

The Review

The appearance of the new editor-in-chief at the end of Volume 2 made it seem like the story was heading in a new, strong direction. Sadly, it winds up much like the kidnapping arc. The threats breathed by the editor turn out to be nothing at all, and the arc wraps up within the first chapter of Volume 3 without any real consequences for Kanna.

The manga then returns to its usual course of standalone chapters with Kanna’s three dogs blowing all sorts of hot air while avoiding anything remotely connected to drawing. Chapter 30 is unusual in that we see a happy, dressed up Kanna, but for the most part, she’s the same snark and sarcasm she’s always been. As in Volume 2, she doesn’t seem to enjoy being a mangaka, and even turns an invitation to a magazine publisher’s party into something to be depressed about. Toyama-sensei tries to liven things up by making Shota’s sister, Kanna’s editor, and the school principal wackier, but for the most part, it’s the same tired themes we’ve seen over and over.

The final arc feels a bit random. It begins with a kind of manga history lesson and ends with Kanna’s class actually creating manga together. While a Japanese audience might appreciate reading about past mangaka, most references will probably go over the heads of Western readers. The story then awkwardly segues to the impending cancellation of the manga class and the students’ last-ditch effort to prove themselves. Kanna’s heroic leadership over their joint collaboration seems really forced considering the boys are shiftless as they ever were. Perhaps it’s meant to be inspiring, but when the boys start doing their usual whining about work, I’m ready to pull the plug on the class.

Extras include the opening illustration and table of contents printed in color; translation notes; short bonus manga; and author afterword.

In Summary

Manga Dogs reaches its final volume, and to be honest, it’s a relief. Its characters weren’t likable, and the humor never was that clever. I’m actually surprised it lasted three volumes. Considering how pointless the storylines were, Manga Dogs really had to be put out of its misery.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Manga Dogs Vol. 2

From Bakuman to School Rumble, the manga/anime industry has been a popular subject of manga and anime in recent years. Now joining their ranks is Kodansha’s manga series Manga Dogs, and you can read on for my review of Volume 2! (For my review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Kanna had just gotten used to balancing her two lives as a high school student and a professional manga artist when three starry-eyed bozos intruded on her well-ordered life! But as she faces down a rival, a kidnapper, and her dismal popularity rankings, her dim-witted disciples have her back. Maybe having pets isn’t so bad after all?

The Review

Volume 1 ended with Kanna and her manga pages kidnapped by a “manga artist hating guy.” Since she’s literally tied up, her three dogs must save her, especially considering there aren’t any other characters to do the job. While they do manage to step up to the challenge, Toyama-sensei takes every opportunity to make the rescue as weird as possible.

Speaking of weird, Toyama-sensei seems to be trying too hard to make her characters unique, and they just wind up weird. In Chapter 18, she goes out of her way to point out that Kanna’s ditzy homeroom teacher is a guy. Volume 1 never specifically stated that Okamoto-sensei wasn’t female, and going by looks, I assumed the teacher was a woman. To have the narrative point out Okamoto’s true gender so specifically this late in the game comes across as very odd and somewhat pointless. We also have the return of Ms. Chiba. I had pegged her as a one-time character, but she is apparently part of the regular cast, serving as a delusional fujoshi dinosaur.

As for our main character Kanna, she remains as unlikeable as ever. Once the kidnapping arc concludes, Manga Dogs reverts to its usual pattern of very short, standalone chapters, and roughly half of them deal with some aspect of Kanna’s manga career. The release of a graphic novel, a signing event, and a rise in series ratings are usually positive developments for a mangaka, but Kanna has such a pessimistic attitude toward them all that I wonder why she bothers drawing manga. Toward the close of the volume, Kanna’s series is threatened with cancellation, and I find myself hoping the editor-in-chief will can the series and put her out of her misery.

Extras include the opening illustration and table of contents printed in color; translation notes; chapter 1 of Teach Me Buddha!; and short bonus manga.

In Summary

After concluding the Kanna-gets-kidnapped arc, Manga Dogs resumes delivering its usual standalone chapters. Some of these brief arcs deal with the boys’ continued cluelessness about manga production, but the rest focus on Kanna’s progress as a mangaka. Unfortunately, she’s no more lovable than she was in Volume 1, and after reading the awfulness that is Teach Me Buddha! (the first chapter is included as an extra), I can’t get myself to cheer for her at all.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Manga Dogs Vol. 1

From Bakuman to School Rumble, the manga/anime industry has been a popular subject of manga and anime in recent years. Now joining their ranks is Kodansha’s new manga series Manga Dogs!

Back cover blurb

Kanna Tezuka is a serious 15-year-old manga artist, already being published as a pro. So when she finds out her high school is starting a manga drawing course, even she gets excited. But it’s a fiasco! The teacher is useless, and the only other students—three pretty-boy artist wannabes—quickly adopt Kanna as their (unwilling) sensei. But they all have ridiculous delusions about being an artist, and if Kanna can’t bring them back down to Earth, she’ll never get any work done!

The Review

Manga Dogs is meant to be a comedy. Unfortunately for Kondansha, its humor tends to fall flat. This is partly because jokes involve a lot of cultural references–in particular, manga references that go back over half a century. For example, character names are twists on mangaka from the 1950s and 1960s. Then there’s the actual interaction between the characters. The back cover blurb touts Manga Dogs as a “sharp-wicked satire of the manga world.” While it does focus on the travails of manga creation, the story is better labeled snarky than sharp-witted.

Because it is a satire, reality gets flung out the window, and the main character Kanna Tezuka enters Tokiwa High School’s brand-new manga major only to find she has a whopping total of three fellow classmates and zero instructors. Kanna’s already made her manga debut and working hard on her first series so it doesn’t really bother her–until her pretty boy classmates start pestering her for lessons.

Kanna’s not the easiest protagonist to warm up to. She’s neither cute nor sociable. She has no friends. There’s no need to cheer her toward the holy grail of publication because she’s already attained that. Although she’s desperate to keep her series Teach Me Buddha! going, her work is so uninspired and subpar I want it to get canned.

As for the supporting cast, they are meant to be a reverse harem. There is the blonde prince Fumio Akatsuka, the serious glasses type Fujio Fuji, and the loli shouta Shota Ishinomori. However, no romance is blossoming between Kanna and any of these three stooges. The boys are deeply passionate about manga and equally delusional about what’s required to succeed as a mangaka.

Chapters are very short (generally ten pages), and most are self-contained arcs. The majority boil down to the boys fantasizing about the glorious rewards they will reap for the manga they’re too lazy to actually create and Kanna alternately losing her temper and mocking their stupidity. Therein lies Manga Dogs main weakness. Whereas other parodies, such as Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, create humor by taking the many stereotypes and tropes of a genre and turning them on their heads, Manga Dogs presents minor variations of Kanna getting mad at the boys unrealistic views, and that gets old fast.

Extras include the opening illustration and table of contents printed in color; translation notes; mangaka afterword; and short bonus manga.

In Summary

Manga Dogs Volume 1 manages to end on a cliffhanger, but I’m not particularly interested in the ultimate fate of Kanna’s manga career. Her unlikeable personality and lackluster work make her a difficult protagonist to root for. Her three handsome classmates give the initial impression this series is a reverse harem, but they mainly serve as a chorus of dumb, dumber, and super dumb. Some of their antics may garner a laugh or two, but on the whole, it’s hardly witty or entertaining.

First published at The Fandom Post.