“Simply Touching” – The Magic Touch (manga) – 6/10

Mangaka: Izumi Tsubaki

Genre: Romance/Comedy/Shoujo/School

Review Status: Incomplete (4 Volumes/9 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed by Shoujo Beat Manga.

Art: Typical shoujo art. It could be a template for other shoujo.

Summary: The star of her high school’s Massage Research Society club, Chiaki Togu is otherwise a normal, quiet girl until she falls in love at first sight with a gorgeous back – a back that happens to belong to Yosuke, the hottest guy at her school! Unfortunately, Chiaki’s attraction to Yosuke is thwarted by her own insecurity and the scheming of other girls – especially her twin sister Sayaka! Although Yosuke seems to be out of Chiaki’s league, she would do anything to give him a massage. The two eventually strike up a deal in which she will be allowed to touch his back…if she can make him fall in love with her! (back cover of 1st volume).

Review: This manga has by far and large the most unique premise I’ve come across in manga; A romance that happens because of  massage. And I don’t mean any massage parlor, either – it’s a school club dedicated to the art, and a girl who’s obsessed with it because it’s the only skill she has. Chiaki wants nothing more than to be a great masseuse, so that attracts her to the most irritated, painful back she’s ever seen.

It’s amazing how such a unique and interesting plot can fall so hard into all the tropes of shoujo ever. Chiaki is very much a typical heroine, torn over her feelings towards Yosuke and determined to do her best no matter what. The issue is that she’s torn over her feelings – she clearly was attracted to the prospect of massaging him from the beginning, and we the readers are explicitly shown that. So why all the drama about whether she had actually fallen in love with the person it belonged to first? It simply didn’t happen. Yosuke is a little different from the typical love interest by being angry and irritable. He’s not into other girls. Or, heck, other people. The issue comes in when he’s attracted to Chiaki for her charm…which is cheesy to begin with.

A lot more could have been done with that if they hadn’t decided to ignore the family dynamics and relationships of these two. The first volume introduces Chiaki’s twin sister who’s been busy making Chiaki’s life miserable, ruining her good name, and it’s resolved with barely any issue in that same volume. That same volume also brings up an interesting relationship dynamic between Yosuke and his brother, and that brother with Chiaki’s sister. All the mistaken identity issues just wrapped up for the sake of introducing club activities! Bah.

It wasn’t a total loss, though. I thought the club activities and trickery were pretty funny – I’ve never seen so much involvement from a club president in a manga before, and he’s crazy enough to make me forgive a lot in this series. The only goal is to learn massage and if that means entering an underground massage tournament, then so be it! Summer parties? Massage! Sleepovers? Massage! There is no rest for these kids. (wat) I’m also rather fond of the opponents introduced here. It provides an interesting mash-up of quirks and personalities, and I really enjoyed how it worked with that.

Overall, it’s cute, but a fairly typical shoujo romance. If you have a particular interest in massage then it might be a little more entertaining, but other than that nothing special.

Recommended: 12+. There is some innuendo in some later volumes, especially after Chiaki mistakes a comment about her being ‘small’ as about her breasts. This is discussed.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Kitchen Princess (manga)

“Making Life Sweeter” – Honey And Clover, Season 1 (anime) – 10/10 Peeps

Genre: School/Slice of Life/Romance/Drama/Josei

Review Status: Complete (24 Episodes/24 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by VIZ.

Art/Animation: This goes for more sketch-like art and done in pastels. It’s kind of artsy itself. Most everyone and everything looks delicate, and works in so many ways. The chibis are also incredibly cute. The animation is more than adequate as well – it looks great.

Summary: What do you get when you cross creativity with self-discovery and unrequited love? Art school! Yuta Takemoto has no idea what’s in store for his life when he enrolls at a Tokyo art college, but he finds out right away it’ll never be dull! Love triangles form as fast as friendships when both Takemoto and senior classmage Shinobu Morita fall hard for she artistic prodigy Hagumi Hanamo. And while architecture student Takumi Mayama secretly pines for an older woman, dazzling ceraicist Ayumi Yamada pines for him! Confused yet? (back cover of first DVD set)

Review: There aren’t that many Josei anime out there, which makes this a real treasure since it tops most other josei in legnth and depth. This series decides to explore growth against the backdrop of college, which a lot of people can relate to, and in a twist through the eyes of Yuta, a young man who is making his way through it all. He’s living in a run-down apartment building with several other students. He’s worried about his money, focusing on his studies, and just living life as it comes. With the injection of Hagumi into his world, things start changing little by little.

This is slice of life in the most serious of ways. The cast of characters is HUGE, from the old art teacher who’s desperately trying to get Shinobu to graduate to Takumi’s coworkers, and relationship quirks and changes happen over time. It’s astounding to see it flow so naturally and hard to pinpoint how expactly they grow, the little things that you *know* but can’t really say. Everything seems fine on the surface at the beginning between them all. Harumi doesn’t seem to be that big a deal, even if it’s made clear in the beginning that both Shinobu and Yuta have love at first sight.

And, quite frankly, there’s a lot of missteps for both of them. Shinobu has an eternal quest for money, and disappears for days -weeks – months on end with no notice. At school he’s as carefree as anything, but that also makes him a tad insensitive to the feelings and desires of others. Because we see it through Yuta’s eyes, he’s self-aware that he is more interested than normal in Hagumi, but he never makes a move himself. He’s too unsure of himself, and rather intimidated because he notices little things happening around her that build his suspicions that he’s not the only person that’s longing for her, from a wooden badge to a new pair of shoes that Harumi discovers. But when it comes down to the line, neither have the will or words to tell her that they’re in love with her, though Harumi only has eyes for Shinobu, even with Yuta by her side and an ever-constant friend.

At the same time, another love triangle brews. Takumi is in love with an older woman who lost her husband in a car accident. She didn’t go looking for love, but Takumi nonetheless fell for her. But she doesn’t think that Takumi can be with her, and even though he does his best, he is turned away. His best friend Ayumi has always been in love with him, and she doesn’t hide it very well. However, Takumi can’t love her back. It just can’t happen.

Every bit of this happens against the backdrop of school and life. Takumi graduates and finds his way into an architectural company that sends him out into the world. Ayumi graduates, but with her skills she can stick around the campus and make great works of art, establishing herself as a reliable artist and starting to make a living. Between these and the things Shinobu is becoming famous for, it’s a constant cloud reminding them that college life can’t last and that they need to figure out what they will do with their lives and why. Yuta grows more and more frustrated by his own choice, unable to figure out how he’s going to support himself with it. And Harumi grows more and more involved with her own art, but in the back of her mind she worries about her cousin and how she can ever repay him for what he’s done for her.

Overall, this is a fabulous anime. While not complete – there’s a second season to wrap things up – this is a fabulous first half that really manages to be sensitive about love and how complicated relationships can be.

Recommended: 16+. This is mostly clean – almost entirely clean – and while the handfull of swears isn’t really the big concern, the one instance of implied sex is. It’s not graphic, but you do get the strong implications.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Moyashimon (anime and manga)

Nodame Cantabile (anime)

Ano Hana (anime)

Kids on the Slope (anime or manga)

Welcome to the NHK (anime or manga)

Genshiken (anime or manga)

Tatami Galaxy (anime)

“Play Ball!” – Taisho Baseball Girls (anime) – 9/10 Peeps

“If All You See Is How I Look, You’ll Miss The Superchick Within” – “Superchick” by Superchick

Genre: Sports/Comedy/Slice-of-Life/Historical/School/Romance

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by Sentai Filmworks

Art: It’s super-cute! The girls are all fairly recognizable, which says a lot because of how large a cast it is, and it’s in bright, vibrant colors. Definitely nice to look at.

Summary: 1925 – six years since the end of the Great War, four years since women were allowed to join political associations and one year since Emperor Hirohito assumed the throne. Only thirteen years after the death of the Meiji Emperor, Japan is a nation re-inventing itself, swept by wave after wave of wars, disasters and political unrest. War looms in China, males over the age of 24 are about to receive the right to vote and a strange new type of school uniform called the “sailor suit” is being introduced. But at least the national pastime, baseball, remains bound by tradition, the exclusive realm of men and boys. Until now. When a local player arrogantly states that girls should become housewives instead of going to school, teenage firebrands Koume and Akiko respond by forming their own baseball team. It’s shocking. It’s scandalous. And yet, in a nation in which almost anything seems possible, it may just be the start of something greater than any nine girls can imagine. It’s not just a game, it’s history in the making in Taisho Baseball Girls! (Back cover of DVD case)

Review: This was one of my favorite anime that I watched over winter vacation. Taisho really succeeds at capturing an era, before the destruction of WW2 and during the years when massive social change was happening. Koume is a young girl that wants nothing but to embrace the coming era. She wants a new, modern hairstyle. She wants a sailor suit instead of a kimono. She wants things that her traditional parents would never let her have, and it bothers her to no end. Her best friend Akiko is in similar straits, but because of her fiancée’s arrogance, has latched onto one way they can show that they can be modern: Play baseball.

But this is not a time or era when you’d have a flock of girls ready to sign up! They have to beg, plead, and cajole to get even six members, and all 12? It takes half the series just to get the team together. At the same time, it doesn’t fall into a trap of being repetitive. While they’re looking for members, the girls who are interested have to learn baseball from the ground up. None of them even know how to throw the ball, and have to enlist their English teacher, Ms. Curtland (yep, she’s actually English!) to teach them. They have to create their own clubhouse, tend their own field, and fight the school administration to be able to do the most basic school activities. It’s pretty cool to see these girls so willing to put themselves on the line, because everything is against them. They are outright dismissed by other schools because the only other teams out there are boy’s teams – and many see it as silly to challenge girls. Their families definitely don’t approve when they find out. And the school wants nothing more than to shut them down.

This is never really presented in an overly dramatic way, which is really admirable. All the these things are just the Facts Of Life in this story and the girls just find ways to deal with it.

At the same time this weaves in everyday life, mainly in the form of Koume’s family and what happens when a boy she meets falls in love with her. She’s not really thinking about that at this point in her life, but she has unwittingly brought a major complication into getting her family’s support. Her friend Akiko is in an arranged marriage against her wishes. And while some of this falls back on traditional tropes, it’s another thing that is just seen as being what it is – something common in those days, nothing surprising or overly shocking. And these things do manage to come to a fairly satisfactory conclusion.

Overall, it’s a wonderful series that wraps up perfectly in 12 episodes, and definitely one that I am happy I invested in.

Recommended: The back cover rates this as PG, and I think that’s pretty accurate. The most offensive that it could get is there’s one girl that clearly has a crush on the main, and another girl that crushes on that girl, but it’s hard to say whether this is romantic or a case of girls just idolizing each other like modern girls idolize famous women. I’m fairly sure that it could go either way.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Bamboo Blade (anime or manga)

Hikaru no Go (anime or manga)

Girls Und Panzer (anime)

Chihayafuru (anime or manga)

Moshidora (anime)

Big Windup (anime)

New Year, New Anime!

Well! My Xmas plans didn’t go quite as well as expected. I didn’t manage my 12 Anime Reviews, though it wasn’t for lack of trying (I ended up on an extended trip with no internet, which I hadn’t anticipated), but I am coming back with… well, fewer reviews than before since I have taken on a few larger responsibilities and interests, but I’m still excited about what I’m reviewing! Thanks for staying loyal readers!

On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas Blogging..

I’m ending with an all-out post to Great Anime Moments of 2007. 0rion’s post made me remember that 2007 was a fabulous year for anime. I mean, who doesn’t like the testosterone and awesome-fueled extravaganza of TTGL? Or the cute cyber adventures of Dennou Coil? I know that if I was forced to make a list of moments for this year, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with five. Quite frankly, I’m eager to see what next year has in store because of how disappointing this year has been.

At least next year will be off to a great start, with Chihayafuru Season 2 airing for the winter season. There is hope for it yet!

Highlights from this post:

moyashimon_micro-organismsYes, these little guys that I adore to absolute pieces. So fabulous. So funny. A great show overall.

And then there’s Death Note. It is unbelievably hard to to believe that this staple of any anime watcher’s diet today aired that year. I mean, it’s friggin’ DEATH NOTE! It’s amazing that anything else came out that year, period. Or that we remember anything else came out that year.

On The Eleventh Day Of Christmas Blogging…

Another post from TWWK on the meaning behind certain Christmas specials. This time around, it’s all about Ah! My Goddess, a classic romance whose manga has been running for about 40 years. Here, he acknowledges that you can’t really mention Jesus where the Christian god doesn’t really exist, but that doesn’t mean that the spirit of the holiday doesn’t shine through! I’ve been through some hard times financially with my family (and on my own), and know how hard it is to really find a heartfelt gift. It’s easy to tell someone that you don’t need anything… but when the spirit of giving is upon us, it’s unbearable hard to just let it go.

Highlights from this post: It covers THREE episodes! Three! And you can watch them on Funimation’s site.

On The Tenth Day Of Christmas Blogging…

Kimi ni Todoke, a series I’m very personally torn on, has its Christmas episode explored in a very in-depth post. This post gets me because it acknowledges that Christmas isn’t a thing in Japan – for good reason – and yet managed to pull an episode so full of heart out of it. Yes, even in a country where they don’t do the Western version, Western values have bled through enough to make this a wonderful and touching thing.

This is especially true since Sawako’s family does a more traditional Christmas, where you celebrate with family. As people grow up and move out from their parents’ houses, they start having Christmas parties and celebrations with friends… no wonder Sawako’s dad is upset! It’s a sign his baby is growing up and starting to move on.

Fantastic post about a fantastic episode.

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