Monday Manga: Highschool of the Dead

zombie killing, minor fan service, and a fun time


Rating Summary

Art: 4 – Above Average

Story: 4 – Above Average

Dialogue and Development: 5 – Action, Fan service, Plot

Overall: 5 out of 5 –  I loved this series

*Contains Minor Spoilers* Tentacle writes about events of the manga. Don’t want spoilers, stop reading.

While it is odd timing this manga review was actually scheduled for next week, but we’ll throw this up now in honor of Daisuke Sato passing on March 22, 2017

Still here?

Let’s begin. I’ll try to keep spoilers and plot kills to minimum, but I will mention some of it. I mostly want to talk about the series as a whole. There are 7 volumes you can find, making up 29 chapters, or “acts” as they label them, in this series. You can find 2 omnibus volumes. This is the most commonly seen title on the shelf and it’s nice to have a consolidated book vs seven individual books (limited shelf space).

What is this manga about? Well the zombie apocalypse in modern Japan. The story follows Takashi Komuro, along with his childhood friend Rei Miyamoto as they navigate the troubles of the walking dead starting at their school.

Romance plot: Takashi and Rei, as kids, made a promise to marry each other when they get older. This causes a problem when Rei starts to date Hisashi. He is a friend of Takashi, and is the first “known” zombie we actually see get busted up by Takashi.

There is a point where he is turned into a zombie and begins to attack Rei. Takashi of steps in and handles Zombie Hisashi in front of Rei. This leads Rei to accuse him of jealousy and was the main reason he acted out. Takashi basically says, “we are being attacked by zombies, your being stupid”. At some point in the series they reconcile and Rei admits she loves Takashi and doesn’t want him with any other women. So that’s your love story in a nut shell.

Character Favorites: Saeko Busujima is the stand out supporting character. She is president of the kendo club and the primary close combatant. She handles the zombies with ease, until she upgrades to an actual katana later in the series. She is this tentacles favorite character for the fact that she has a Saekodichotomy of emotional development that the others don’t seem to go through. She is self aware in the fact that when she is in the rush of battle, she enjoys bashing in the heads of zombies and understands that it’s her nature to be a predator. This awareness bothers her to the point where she feels that she isn’t any difference from the zombies themselves. Mindless killers. There is a point in the story where she decides that it would be better for everyone if she was just one of them, and almost gives up. Of course with a pep talk from the protagonist, she eventually snaps out of it and realizes that she is not the mindless killer that she once thought she was.

The development of her character is just the stand out side story (IMHO) of the series.

Other characters are Saya, the rich daughter of a politician (who I initially thought was yakuza), and is the logical brain of the cast. She helps in deduction of the zombies and has the logistical mindset for ideas. She plays the big sister to an orphan child they group picks up along the way.

Kohta is your “NEET” of the group, if you have to label one. He is is the overweight kid that has a knack for guns. He is kind of the ranged character if you were to compare it to an RPG game. He of course has his own love interest for Saya. He is the hero that has always wanted to be a hero. Once his character gets up and running, he’s pretty sturdy and can jump into the alpha male mindset if need to.

HotD

Overall cast: The group is a solid (fun) overall cast that looks to stand together as they try to outrun the fall of mankind.

Zombie: I love the explanation of the zombies. This is the first real sense I have of zombies are blind but follow sound. It’s “discovered” in this series really well.

Final Thoughts:  I do love this manga series. I love the anime. I have not seen the OVA: Drifters of the Dead, but I’m sure it’s just as entertaining as the anime.

If you want zombie killing, minor fan service, and a fun time (sounds like a tinder profile), then give this one a shot (or baseball bat to the head).

Monday Manga: Shaolin Sisters: Vol 2

Shaolin Sisters: 2 – All Action

SS2
Rating Summary

Art: 4 – Above Average

Story: 3 – Average so far

Dialogue and Development: N/A – Some dialogue, but all action

Overall: 4 out of 5

*Contains Minor Spoilers* Tentacle writes about events in the first volume of the manga. Don’t want spoilers, stop reading.

Just a short review:

Shaolin Sisters Vol. 2 does exactly as it should, delivers blow by blow action. This volume delivers the action in a manga I wanted to see. The angle of this book is 3/4th solid art, pure kung-fu action. While a little to follow what takes place on occasion, the bookstore clerk did not lie when they recommended  to me an action based story, and that is what I wanted.

Juline begins to fight her Pirate Sister, Seiline to prove who she is and that she is the daughter of their father Ryu. We also get the back-story of Seiline, how she became a Pirate Captain along with the relationship with the father. The battle ensues for a number of pages, where we also learn how Seiline’s sidekick/friend came into her life and trained her. Seiline became a rounded out character in this volume.

Sister Kalin didn’t receive too much attention in these pages, as she is still the “sweet” one.

We also introduce “Drake” another antagonist (demon?) who is after the bells. There is an incredible fight between him and the leading female antagonist, Bai Wang.

So will I continue reading the series after my first initial impressions? Yeah, I will pick it up when I get time. I’ve been catching up on Scum’s Wish, The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, and the latest chapters of Fuuka.

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So it’s been some time since our last entry (17 days). It’s been crazy the last few weeks here for the tentacle. On Wednesday I’ll share the game development news on the progress of Project: BuXia.

Friday Night Life: Betty Boop

Boop boop be doop!

Growing up on a wide range of cartoons in the 80s brought us wonderfully bad things like Thundercats and Silverhawks. I was enamored by shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Woody Wood Pecker. I also enjoyed the classics and developed that first cartoon crush on a scandalous Betty Boop. I can across this make up tutorial the other day and had to share. This youtube user’s channel, Jbunzie, did a fantastic job.  Happy Friday.

Developer’s Journal 2: Rise of the Tiger Clan

Rise of the Tiger Clan

In this edition of Developer’s Journal we look at the 2nd draft copy of the history section of one of the three clans found in our forthcoming RPG Art of War.  This focuses on the the rise of the Tiger Clan


Tiger Clan

Clan Family Names: Date, Huang, Khan, Lao, Luo, Luong, Ma, Sakai, Shingen, Sun, Yu, Zhang, Zhao

Common Tenets: Benevolence, Harmony

Common Concepts: Buxist, Youxia

Common Descriptors: Caregiver, Elemental, Fluid, Monk, White-hare

Clan Technique: Deflect Arrow, Ground Breaker, or Moon Rabbit Leap

Rise of the Stripped Tiger

The story of the Tiger Clan begins just as any other points in history where the oppressed bind together to stand against tyranny of any form. The clan comes from the former nomadic traditions of the vibrant communities across all of the Hanxia Plains. Farming villages that hold to seasonal festivals to celebrate the life of the common people. They believe in the practice of a balance of living in harmony with nature and each other.

They came into their own when the surrounding barbaric warlords threatened their quiet life with raiding and pillaging. Warlords living in the Wylds looking to expand their territory ravaged the land with constant displays of violence. Sending hordes of raiders to raze crops, demolish rival warlord’s villages, the slaughter livestock, enslave those who didn’t pay tribute and desecrate sacred shrines of the Enlightened Way.

It was the keepers of these holy places, the Buxist of the Enlightened Way, were the first to speak out against the imbalances of oppression. These monks of virtue trained in the use of chi, developed physical techniques to align with the mind to perform great feats of marvel. The Buxist taught the basics of these techniques to the local villages in order to help defend against the raiding bandits. They trained while they harvested and fortified their homes with the offerings that the Plains provided to them.

It wasn’t long until the warlord by the name of Black Jade heard of a village that learned the secrets of the balanced path and looked bend it to his will. Arriving in the village, Black jade, went looking for the senior monk that is said to have mastered shattering swords with his fist. To his dismay, the monk had moved onto the next village, leaving behind only his wisdom. Black Jade pressed the village elders for the location of the scrolls the he had left. Offering first with money, than protection from the other warlords, and finally he used intimidation.

Those that were present during the initial altercation are said to have been divided. Some stood in fear, unable to move, while others instinctively responded with flight. Then there were those that responded with a type of aggression of vengeance. Vengeance against those who didn’t follow the basic tenets of balance, those that followed corruption, power and tyranny.

Those that responded became known as the 13 Heroes of the Cleansing Jade. They traveled from village to village spreading their interpretation of the old teachings and training them in defense against invaders. These teachings united villages into larger communities that began to take the names of the heroes as their own. Bring about the 13 established families.

As news spread of the fall of warlord after warlord, so did the Emperor’s eye turn toward the plains. Rumors and fear of revolt spread throughout the court, and under encouragement of Kitsune Samurai of the court, the Emperor dispatched a royal military unit to suppress any threats of the empire. Upon arriving at the village of Lao, it seemed as though life was proceeding as normal. The troops of the Kitsune Clan attache were welcomed with loyal cheers. When village elders meet with the diplomats, they informed them that a resolution was already in hand, and all the Hanxia Plains villages remained loyal to the Empire.

As the royal army traveled to secure further territory from the savagery of the remaining warbands, they found similar stories with each village. The royal emissary called for each hero to return with the Kitsune Clan as honored guest to tell their story to the Emperor. Those that agreed, arrived in the capital to a grand ceremony with an audience to appear in front of the royal family. It was here that, the Emperor annotated each of them minor noble standing. He called the collection of heroes representing each village in attendance the Tiger Clan for their calm and fierce demeanor. All members of the Tiger Clan were assigned the duty of protecting the realm from injustice, preserving the code of BuXia, and keeping the kingdom in balance.

icon-2-tiger-clan-monk

Monday Manga: Shaolin Sisters: Vol 1

3 Sisters, 3 Bells. = 3 of 5 stars

3 Sisters
Rating Summary

Art: 3 – Average

Story: 3 – Average so far

Dialogue and Development: 3 – quick development that could have been stretched over the first two books, to give more history of the characters.

Overall: 3 out of 5

“Juline Kenga’s life changes suddenly when the school she was living at is attacked, leaving only her alive. As his final act, the kung-fu master gives her a small bell from her father, a missing powerful sorcerer. Now Juline must search for her two half sisters, each who possess their own special bells. She and her sisters must use the secret of the bells to find their father and defeat Bai Wang, a sorceress on a sacred mountain who wants the power of the bells for herself.” ~ AnimeNewsNetwork (ANN)

*Contains Spoilers* Tentacle writes about events in the first volume of the manga. Don’t want spoilers, stop reading.

Still here? Let’s move on.

While browsing the local used bookstore for their fine collection of manga, this tentacle looked to break from its romantic comedy and harem-esque manga it finds itself consistently going back to by no fault of its own. It was looking for something different to break beyond the barriers of its comfort zone and expand into the universe of martial arts action manga. Something without too much top busting and cloths ripping fan service and something slightly focused on a good story with action.

While pursuing the aisles (yes, plural, it’s great to have manga supported locally nearby), a staff member came up to inquire if this tentacle needed assistance (sure enough, it did). Commenting on this middle-aged otaku’s shirt, the staff member proceeded to ask questions of interest to help narrow down the subject matter needed for choosing the proper material to start this exploration into action and adventure.

After narrowing down the selection, she recommended an easy read with a compelling storyline to start the travels. The choice was between the two: mecha or martial arts. As a martial arts film fanatic, we chose the later and proceeded through a few title before settling on the first volume of what could be a fun series: Shaolin Sisters.

The opening scenes feature Juline Kenga, martial artist and heir to a sacred martial arts clan. She is off on excursion to a nearby spring to bathe before a morning of training. The art in this section is standard to the classic semi-heavy lines of manga illustration, taking into consideration of the properly illuminated areas to offer a bit of early fan service in the first few pages. While we don’t mind the fan service, as it is a staple in all genres, it was a bit early and one should know it is the only part here in this first chapter that is presented. Hopefully, it doesn’t make a consistent appearance in the series, but it serves the purpose of getting the reader’s attention.

Minor rant over, we move on to find Juline being found by servant of the clan that was sent to answer a summons from the master. As it is in many stories of many young masters of the martial arts, she is late for an important training. Without much delay, she readies herself and rushes back to the training hall excited to begin practice.

It is during this time of her morning dip, that the old kung-fu master and all members of the clan are under assault of one of many antagonists, King Baiwon. Baiwon looks to collect three artifacts said to hold magical powers to aid his rule of the people. When Juline arrives, she finds everyone, but a few survivors, that have been outright slaughtered off panel. Including the injured and slowly dying master who then informs Juline of her past.

The master informs Juline of her past and that her father has left her a present. A single bell that is said to be infused with magical abilities. He tells her that it is one of three bells given to each of the owner’s daughters, and that she was one of these sisters. The dying master entrusts her with the bell and the knowledge that she now must find her two sisters, who each maintain similar bells.

3 Bells
Fast pace forward…

In succession the manga moves pretty forward in her travels to find her sisters. When she gets closer to her first sister, Kaline in a nearby village, their bells ring out for each other. When Juline tells Kaline of her story, Kaline is hesitant but joins her in the quest to reunite the three bells. It fast forward even more quickly and we find the third and final sister with the last bell. When in close proximity, all three bells ring out with Juline telling her story. While Seiline, who is a pirate captain does not believe her two sisters and says they must prove their worth. The challenged has been accepted by Juline and will face the eldest sister Seiline in combat to prove her connection of a common father.

Cliff hanger ending.

This is where the first volume of Shaolin Sisters ends, just before the family duel. Is this first volume interesting enough to continue the adventure into the next book? That’s a great question this tentacle is struggling with. It has potential to take off, but the fast introduction, development of character and story does not hold its attention. What can be said is that it is a jump into the action type of story and moves at a pace readers will like for a fighting manga. It should be a quick series to finish. Volume 2 currently sits on the nightstand but hasn’t been picked up yet. Maybe this weekend. Will everyone be kung-fu fighting?

Let’s sum it all up out of 5.

Art: 3 – Standard. Good solid lines and proportions of the characters are not distracting. Nothing outlandish.

Story: 3 – It could be an interesting read, it just moves a little too quick for me.

Dialogue and Development: 3 – quick development that could have been stretched over the first two books, to give more history of the characters.

Overall: 3

Developer’s Journal 1: Art of War

In this tentacle’s free time it makes RPG supplements or hires freelancers to do so under the company name that you can find in the widget to the right of your screen (click the logo).  Now we have made several different type of products, mostly focusing on the Pathfinder Compatible system. This tentacle originally wanted to create an Asian fusion campaign world inspired by anime, Three Kingdoms of China and the Warring States of Japan.

This project was originally called Project BuXia and was to be developed for the Pathfinder d20 system, but as things went along the mechanics didn’t feel proper for world setting. So we started to look at other gaming systems. One was Savage Worlds, which offers a free from character development and would be fast and easy to jump right in. The issue was multiple types of dice. This tentacle wanted to keep the system simple. Multiple dice served their function for the system of Savage Worlds really well, but we didn’t want players worrying about having to keep track of different dice.

We looked at OVA: the Anime Roleplaying System from Wise Turtle Games. It uses a d6 base and already has rules centered around anime fun. This tentacle loves this system, and everyone has d6s lying around from either Monopoly or Yahtzee. However trying to squeeze the world we wanted into this system felt forced. So we tried again.

We looked back at past systems to find Big Eyes, Small Mouth 3rd Edition. A classic system using an updated rules from the Tri-Stat System which we loved using growing up. Again it had everything we wanted and the game is designed for the Anime/Manga RPG fans alike. Expanded skill sets for customization of characters and templates for anime influenced build outs. The ability to scale the dice to the power level you wanted is great from GMs and Players alike. Our issue was the point build numbers were to large and as this tentacle fleshed out the world it wanted to create, we realized this was too anime. Our flavor text and world merging ended up more based on the martial arts films and samurai tragedies of the movies.

This shifted our focus to drop the anime feel and focus on a rich dynamic setting. We wanted to keep the original goal in mind of having a simple system using the same die type and no more than a handful of them. The game mechanics should be simple, open, and easy to  understand while offering enough character customization to have in depth backgrounds. So we looked at the base rule set of the standard Tri-Stat system and found our answer.

A simple 2d10 base mechanic system with a modified point build structure for character and rules. We came up with a house ruled system we call BuXia. This gave rise to the writing the introduction to the book (soon to be kickstarter) Art of War. The opening (unedited) text is below. It includes a brief introduction, theme & tone, along with what we call BuXia Code, similar to the Bushido or Wuxia code.

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Welcome to the world of The San Empire.

Art of War is a world setting where bushido meets wuxia. Martial arts, katas, and Chi are as commonplace to the farmer as it is to the Emperor. Youxia wander the lands protecting its people from burdening lords, as the samurai hold their ground against the Oni warlord armies. Feats of wushu masters running up bamboo trees and punching holes into walls, while a ninja clan moves swiftly along the moon clad roads skirting patrols as they infiltrate a castle. Elemental benders of the village summoned by the council to intercept and negotiate with the demon possessed monks that torment local farmers, all while avoiding hungry ghost of the forest.

Join me for an evening of listening to the guqin and shamisen. If we are lucky, we might see a geisha dance this time.

Theme and Tone

The Art of War takes place on the continent of XX, which is home to many bright cultures and traditions. Art of War focuses only one of these empires, the San Empire that is made up of three states joined under the current reign of the Emperor Wu Zhang. Under the Mandate of Heaven, he directs the sacred lands of the people controlled by the three Great Clans: Kitsune, Tiger, and Serpent.

What is the Art of War influences?

Art of War is a 32mm narrative miniatures skirmish game that pulls its inspiration from parts of Eastern History. The first being the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history that took place between the end of the Eastern Han and beginning of the Jin Dynasty. This period is often referenced as the Three Kingdoms period of Wei, Wu, and Shu.

The second influence comes from the warring states of Japan, known as the Sengoku period. Before the unification by the Tokugawa shogunate, the years of these warring states spans from the beginning of the Onin War and ending with Siege of Osaka. This setting also pulls elements from the Nara and Kamakura periods of Japan’s history.

The Kingdom of Joseon of Korea, the Tru’ng Sisters of Vietnam, the Tibetan Empire, and many other parts of history have inspired the tapestry in the creation of this imaginary world.

This is an imaginary world pulled and created from many aspects of history, but is in no way a representation or a perfect mirror of these rich cultures. It is a make believe place that is a mesh of ideas, thoughts, and historical aspects sewn together to created this project.

What is the BuXia Code?

BuXia takes its names from both the Bushido Code of the samurai and the Wuxia Code of the martial arts. Combining these two codes and infusing it with a mix of anime inspiration, kung-fu epics, and ronin sagas we create the world of Art of War. A world where individual members from one of the major clans come together to prove their might against each other to earn honor through experience or to face a good death. The following are the prominent tenets of BuXia.

1.     Benevolence: Those who follow the Path of BuXia look to help others whenever possible. It is a warrior’s duty to protect and guide those in need. In its simplest form, benevolence teaches that offering military protection against bandits, tending to the poor, helping farmers mill the fields when drought or sickness overwhelms them, and helping friends when in need. This tenet is the most prominent and widely respected of the all codes of the Path.

2.     Courage: The tenet of courage to a warrior is the willingness to confront hardship, pain, danger, intimidation and and the uncertainty of death to do what must be done. In BuXia, courage sometimes meets conflict on the battlefield for some warriors. Samurai concept hold courage as a central focus of their belief and are more prepared to fight and die without hesitation, be it by orders or from an unavoidable situation. However one of the shinobi concept will recognize that having a path to retreat takes courage when backed into a corner and fighting against unfavorable odds. A youxia recognize surrendering and accepting defeat in a duel takes more courage than losing face by not standing back up when knocked down.

3.     Harmony: Balance in the world, everyday living, between the body and mind are notable ideals that are not always obtained. Perfect Harmony is the highest state of enlightenment that very few have achieved in the world that surrounds the warrior and is is difficult to achieve. The practice of a kata but never wanting to use it if possible is the most common struggle for a warrior given that they are drawn to seek justice, which often lends to violence.

Those along the Path seek to achieve at least one aspect of their life to be in balance. A fortune and glory hunter will often lean heavily on their following of the Benevolence code handing their riches ones that need it. A swordsman may master deadly chi techniques, yet only use non-lethal force on others of lower skillsets.

The kingdom as a whole will balance their living with that of nature by incorporating gardens into their cities and only expanding when they need to for population purposes. The empire builds roads around thick woods to preserve a species of bird, and will knead the soil of the plains to cultivate farm land. Daily life supports the give and take needed to have harmony.

4.     Honor: Honor teaches that every warrior stands in judgment over himself at all times regardless of the circumstances. A warrior cannot truly follow the Path of BuXia if he acts as one expects, and not as his own sense of honor dictates. A warrior with true honor will follow the philosophy of BuXia even as every aspect of society around him falls corrupt. He will act justly even if he is commanded to behave dishonorably by a superior.

5.     Respect and Courtesy: The showing of admiration to wise elders, peers that battle alongside a warrior, or even those that may be less skilled but strive to be great are worthy of some respect. This virtue is a trademark of the Code in the San Empire. Concept Warriors are civilized heroes and are unlike the savage barbarians.  Respect and courtesy with proper manners at all times sets concept warriors apart from animals. A warrior who shows excess undue emotion and rudeness not only violates this code but can result in losing face, while respecting those around them and shaming himself.

Respect is a virtue that mixes with honor and plays a vital role in court. A warrior who suffers a failure of respect from those of higher status, demonstrates honor by enduring provocations and avoids drawing attention to other’s failures. In order to maintain face, many make a point to shun those that engage in uncouth spectacles and improper behavior, since to draw attention to discourteous behaviors can make matters worse.

 

Adam Savage did a Ted Talk about his love for Cosplay

While this isn’t an official scheduled blog entry, it’s more than worth sharing. As a plan my costume for this years Anime Cons and GenCon, I came across this Ted Talk done by Adam Savage on his love for doing cosplay. I felt it was worth a share.

Now to figure out which character from Samurai Champloo to do, Jin or Mugen this year for cons. Or maybe I should stick with the natural ginger theme and be Joui?