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Dated 31 January 2012: I built a kotatsu

Behold, the bespoke kotatsu, in all its glory.

Okay, I didn't really build a kotatsu. I bolted an electric wall-mountable low-wattage ceramic heater to the underside of a cheap square coffee table.

My first encounter with a kotatsu was almost 10 years ago, while watching Love Hina. There's an early scene during which Keitaro is forced to hide underneath one for some contrived reason. At the time, I couldn't understand why he was complaining about the heat. Reading the manga (incidentally, offered online for free by its author, Ken Akamatsu) clarified things a bit. 14 volumes of Love Hina gave me a better understanding as to the functions and features of this weirdo heated table thing. Still, I couldn't understand why Keitaro wasn't bending Naru over the kotatsu at every opportunity, but that question is not germane at this time.

Love Hina
Naru's kotatsu is big enough for two. Three, if you're perverts.

There are probably a few changes I would incorporate were I to construct Ghetto Kotatsu 2.0, pending further testing. It doesn't help at all that the temperature in Southern California was regularly in the 80s this January (think high 20s, if you use Celcius).

Dated 27 February 2012: Velvet Kiss might be the first manga I've recommended

Kano's first appearance.

Despite blogging about anime for more than 10 years, I've only rarely discussed manga, and I don't recall ever recommending any titles—perhaps Nausicaä and Love Hina in the very early days of this blog, back when it was still hosted on Geocities. I've quietly lamented that there are far fewer manga blogs than anime blogs, but never made the effort to redress that shortage myself. Then again, when the anime blogs I follow offer manga recommendations, I've usually disagreed with the bloggers' assessments and lost interest after a few chapters.

Nitta's job is going well.

Despite the risk of inspiring similar lackluster responses, I'd like to recommend Velvet Kiss by Harumi Chihiro as a currently ongoing adult title that has far exceeded my expectations. I say "adult title" because although genitals are never shown (or censored out), there is regular nudity and sex appears in literally every single chapter.

Kano is a lot nicer when she's asleep.

On its face, Velvet Kiss is a wish-fulfillment manga about a young salaryman who is blackmailed into being a petty rich girl's "friend" (read: gopher and sex slave). It works, though, because Nitta is a reasonably successful and self-assured adult who had an active sex life prior to becoming Kanoko's whipping boy. That is, he's not another school-aged Potato-kun who somehow stumbled into the sweet shit. In fact, Nitta quite openly despises servicing Kanoko. There's a lot angry sex in Velvet Kiss. If forced to describe Velvet Kiss in simple clichés, I would say it's a tsundere sex drama with the lead male taking the rare role as the tsundere.

Nitta and Kano
Try a little tenderness.

Simple clichés don't quite do Velvet Kiss justice, as its real triumph is its ability to get the reader to care about the characters. It's a triumph because none of the characters are particularly sympathetic. There is a lot of selfish behavior, treachery, manipulation, and disloyalty in Velvet Kiss, which would normally incite hostility from its readers (excepting those with soft spots for poor little rich girls), but I care enough about Kano and Nitta that I eagerly anticipate each new chapter.

Nitta and Kano
Today was a good day.

As of this post, Soba-Scans has translated all 30 chapters currently published. Additionally, Digital Manga has licensed the first two volumes. Assuming they mean to actually print volumes and not just trowel it into iPad molds, I hope to someday have a full rack of Velvet Kiss books on my manga shelves, although if I alphabetize they would be uncomfortably close to my Yotsuba&! volumes. Oh well, it can't be helped.

Dated 3 March 2012: Gunslinger Girl is better than ever

Triela and Henrietta
Triela and Henrietta, members of the Social
Welfare Agency since volume one.

Despite being mostly displeased with the second season of Gunslinger Girl during its initial broadcast four years ago, I bought the Il Teatrino Blu-ray discs anyway. I was much more impressed after this second viewing. Even in Blu-ray form, Il Teatrino suffers from the same problem the TV broadcast did, namely a tragically low animation budget. Curiously, though, I can't claim the production values in general are low, as the locales are still well-researched and the audio is much better than I expected. For example, a short scene showing bullets being loaded into a magazine includes sound effects that realistically duplicate the noise a handful of full metal jacket pistol rounds makes. I have no idea if the sound effect was recorded specifically for Il Teatrino or pulled from a bank of stock noises, but it's a good inclusion considering that some shows can't be bothered to differentiate between the sounds made by wooden baseball bats from those made by aluminum ones.

Petrushka didn't quite make it into Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino, alas.

Possibly my greater appreciation of Il Teatrino also results from the 20/20 hindsight conferred by being up-to-date on the current manga run. As a point of reference, bear in mind the original season of Gunslinger Girl covered approximately one chapter per episode. Il Teatrino went a little further, extending the anime to about the first 30 chapters (ending before properly introducing Petrushka). A great deal more has occurred since then. The manga is now up to chapter 93 and is still ongoing. I could tell you the shit's hit the fan, but that may be an oversimplification of events. However, being caught up with the manga and having the benefit of knowing where the story is going and understanding more of the characters' backgrounds does make Il Teatrino better than watching it in a vacuum.

Rico is a lot better now than in Gunslinger Girl season one.

Additionally, I find the changes to the animation styles and character designs more faithful to the manga, at least in spirit, although I do find Henrietta's glassy-eyed vacant stare a little unsettling. Il Teatrino Rico's new-found personality is a more accurate reflection of her manga personality as the girl who subconsciously marvels at the freedom her cyborg body affords her, leaving her unusually cheerful despite her otherwise poor treatment.

Claes is still the Gunslinger Best Girl.

Oh. I was going to recommend the Gunslinger Girl manga. Volumes one through eight are currently available, and volumes nine and 10 will be released as the fourth omnibus on March 13th. Hopefully Seven Seas will continue to release additional volumes regularly. (When ADV had the English-language rights to the Gunslinger Girl manga, there was a considerable lag between the releases of volumes three and four.) Never known for exactly pulling its punches, the Gunslinger Girl manga has currently reached a rather dark place. The short natural life spans of the cyborgs and the debilitating effects that occur prior to their death have been fixtures of the manga since the first volume and remain recurring themes throughout the story. By the 90s, the degradation has touched all the surviving girls from the manga's original crew. It's a good read, but don't get too attached. [P.S. Spoilers, I guess.]

Dated 28 April 2012: Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is better than expected

Torrid fan service!

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia made a good first impression because Yuuko, this season's resident ghost girlfriend, is remarkably charming. It also helps that the male lead is not another potato. Ironically, I can't remember my first exposure to Amnesia. At some point, maybe a year ago, I added the RSS feed for its manga releases to my aggregator and downloaded many of the early chapters. However, I read none of them and cannot remember how I came to hear about Dusk Maiden of Amnesia in the first place. After a couple amusing episodes, curiosity got the better of me and I did something I never do: I read the source material past the available anime. (The manga benefits from numerous sight gags and extras currently absent from the anime, possibly biasing my overall opinion of the show more favorably than other viewers.)

Teiichi and Yuuko
Awesome reception!

I'm caught up with the current manga releases of Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, and while its male lead does suffer later from some of the unassertive, indecisive behavior compelled by the Otaku Virtues, his relationship with his ghost girlfriend remains acceptably free from tiresome problems that plague most school comedies. I say comedy, but Amnesia is a drama as well, and arguably a drama first. The mystery surrounding Yuuko's death (and life) drives the serious portions of Amnesia while Yuuko's flirting and mischievous irreverence keep the comedic aspects engaging. Through 33 chapters, the character count for Tasogare Otome x Amnesia remains small, assuring large doses of the extremely fetching Yuuko in each installment. Is "fetching" too old fashioned to say anymore? Hopefully it's okay to use the term to describe a Girl of the Year candidate who has been dead for over half a century. (Let's be honest, though, nobody is defeating Mine Fujiko for Girl of the Year honors barring a huge upset.)

Dated 26 July 2012: Velvet Kiss volume one acquired

Velvet Kiss and Sailor V
Behold! my Velvet Kiss and Codename: Sailor V purchases.
Not sure I understand why Velvet Kiss is shrink-wrapped
to protect the innocent while Codename: Sailor V is not.

I received my copy of Velvet Kiss from I gave this title one of my rare recommendations back in February before the series ended. Members of the scanlation team contributed to the official licensed copy, and the result is a more professional, polished product that reads more naturally and gives the reader a better initial understanding of the dynamics among all the characters' interactions. Technically, this is porn, but really Velvet Kiss should be viewed as as merely (?) an unconventional romance that just happens to include nudity and sex acts at least once per chapter. I suppose that description might make it a difficult sell with more subdued readers, but Velvet Kiss is really well done and I'd like to see it succeed in the English-language market.

Aa! Megami-sama, Velvet Kiss, and Lovely Complex
Oh My Goddess!, Velvet Kiss, and Lovely Complex size comparisons.

One additional note: As you can see from the pictures above, Digital Manga publishes Velvet Kiss in the same large format used by (for example) Bunny Drop. This is satisfyingly larger than the more common size still used for most American releases, to include the Sailor Moon re-release and Kimi ni Todoke, which in turn is already larger than the typical Japanese manga tankoubon.

Dated 16 December 2012: I bought more stuff

Velvet Kiss volume two and Evangelion volume 13
One of these is not like the other.

I continue to encourage people to buy Velvet Kiss because it's really good even though it features both sex and baseball. Volume two is out already. [Spoilers: It has "Pomf."] Volume 13 of the Evangelion manga is out also. The Eva manga continues to diverge from the television broadcasts and The End of Evangelion, but there's both good and bad there. On the plus side, Shinji is not a whiny little shitheel. But on the other hand, volume 13 invokes shounen jive superpowers. I'm not sure I'm okay with that.

Dated 28 December 2012: Autumn 2012 season summary

It turns out you can bully a girl into seizing the reins of destiny.

I knew that GIRLS und PANZER was going to be good, but I certainly wasn't expecting it to be so popular. As others have pointed out, GIRLS und PANZER sets the new standard for anime catering to military otaku. This is largely due to its extensive attention to detail, but it also doesn't forget to remain accessible to general audiences. You don't need to catch a Sergeant Oddball reference to appreciate Yukari infiltrating the Not American school in a Sunkus uniform. Sadly, GIRLS und PANZER may have been a bit ambitious in its planning and production. The show's finest moment is unavailable to Western audiences (officially, anyway) due to copyright and licensing issues. Its final two episodes have also been pushed until spring 2013. Personally, I'm glad studio Actas decided to work to standard and not to time, so I'm all right with the delay.


Dated 15 September 2013: She's not dead; she's resting

Shikabane Hime manga volume six cover.
Please also translate Macross: The First.

Holy smokes, someone is translating the Shikabane Hime manga again.