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Posts by flonz
Oh GANTZ, I love you, but I’m not quite sure what to do with you. Your storyline, graphics and characters are produced with such creativity that I only had to read the first issue before I knew that this could become a regular thing. But you are not without your faults. I know full well that you were not made for the likes of me; I can tell by the fact that for NO REASON WHATSOEVER you choose to put half naked women on every single cover! They don’t even have anything to do with the plot. They’re just there, with enormous jugs! Though it is truly bothersome to my feminine sensibilities, I will take you as you are, because real love is never having to say you’re sorry and, if anything, you are one unapologetic bastard.
A word of warning, this is the single most explicit manga I have come across, not counting the ones classified as porn but I generally steer clear of those as a rule of thumb. Shinyswoots, who apart from co-founding this site and being a good friend, reads more comic books than any other human being on the planet Earth (if you don’t believe me check the Guinness World Book) (Editor’s Note: Flonz exaggerates a bit), and even she had to concede that GANTZ takes the cake as far as sexually graphic content goes. But if you’re not totally opposed to nudity and violence then this manga should be the next one that you read.
It begins on a platform in a Tokyo train station with the two lead characters, Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato. While trying to save a drunken homeless man who falls onto the tracks, they are hit by the train and killed. Or are they? Somehow they are teleported to an empty apartment in Tokyo. There they discover a giant black orb in the center of the room and a group of strangers all claiming to have had similar near-death experiences. Green lettering appears on the outside of the sphere informing everyone that they’re lives have ended and now belong to GANTZ. They are then told that they will be sent on a mission to discover and kill the “onion alien”. At first the group isn’t sure what is going on. Are they dead? Is this some kind of new game show? Without knowing the answers, they are transported one-by-one to the location of the mission, where they quickly learn that this is not a joke or a show, and though they are not dead yet, they will be if they don’t start fighting.
As the mission plays out, the group learns some of GANTZ’s basic rules. Number one, while on missions neither themselves nor the aliens they are hunting are visible to humans, however, they are visible to each other. Second, the mission area has a strict boundary around it; cross that boundary and a bomb implanted in their brain goes off. Third, the suits provided by GANTZ give the wearer superhuman strength and agility, without it you are FUBAR. Fourth, if they die in the game they die for good. And lastly, the only way to end the cycle of being sent out on missions is to earn 100 points by killing aliens.
GANTZ is one of those mangas that pulls you into the story so that you can’t put it down, just the way any good novel does. You start to love the characters and really wish for a happy ending, only to see them brutally killed. I was somewhat surprised by how unafraid the author is to kill off main characters (don’t get too attached) and in really terrible ways. I can’t quite figure out which of the two leads is supposed to be the hero: Kurono or Kato? Kurono is more of an anti-hero, an unlikely soldier if you will. He doesn’t think of himself as a fighter or even a good person, but that is what makes him such a good character. Kato wants to be the good guy, he risks his life to save as many people as possible, but ultimately I find him to be a less capable warrior and leader. Where Kato tries to find a peaceful resolution, Kurono tears motha’ fucka’s up! It’s a dilemma, but I think I’ll give my heart to Kurono. He had me at hello.
Like all good manga, GANTZ has just been turned into a movie and I’m really excited to see it! They cast Kenichi (Cutie Pie) Matsuyama as Kato which kind of bummed me out because I would’ve enjoyed seeing him as Kurono. That being said, the guy who was cast as Kurono really looks like the manga character. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one. It’s such a great manga and it would make an awesome action movie, if done right.
We’ve all been there. It’s zero dark thirty in the morning, the faint glow of the moon coming through the window is blurry and unusually bright. You can sit, you can crawl, but the ability to walk from one place to another has become too much to handle. Oh yes, you’re shit faced, and while you may feel like death in the morning or whatever time you finally wake up, right now the only pain you’re feeling is hunger pain. Being drunk is pretty much the only time that you are given carte blanche to eat whatever the hell strikes your inebriated fancy. But what to cook? Here to help us in our time of need is the Drunken Chef. Not only are his recipes easy to follow for those with diminished motor skills, but they are tasty as well.
I was introduced to il maestro through a friend and immediately recognized his genius. His name is Jose, pronounced Hose (get it right people!) and he is revolutionizing the drunken cookery industry through a series of webisodes. So far there are only nine episodes, but I have personally tested out 3 recipes while drunk as fuck, and let me tell you this man has mad skillz in the kitchen. That’s right, skillz with a “z”. Jose isn’t limited to one style of cooking. The man doesn’t box himself in like that. One week it’s Mexican, the next Indian, and I love variety particularly when I’m 2/3 of my way into a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with the legend himself. After the second bottle of tequila the interview was fairly unintelligible, but this is what I was able to make out.
F: How did the web series come about?
DC: I used to make frozen pizzas after bar time, then pass out while they were cooking. When I was able to stay awake, you know, if I didn’t have money, I’d have to make whatever was in the fridge. And I’m not into filling my stomach with any crap just to get full — I’m not Vegan, for Goddsakes — so had to experiment and make due. So, after I lost my job at the Sizzler and my girlfriend kicked me out of the house, I thought I’d make the show. It’s my passion, and it’s what I want to pass on to the common folk.
F: How much of the series is scripted and how much is improved? How much of your performance is acting and how much is actual drunkenness?
DC: That’s a secret. I’ll tell you this…there is alcohol on these shoots. There’s gotta be! We’re all about keeping it real. I eat what I make. Every recipe is tested and proven by myself.
F: What is your favorite episode and why?
DC: The Freedom Pizza episode, because that’s where it all started.
F: How many people are involved in the production and how much does it cost to produce each episode?
DC: I have a buddy who does camera, when I can get him away from his wife, which isn’t too hard because he’s bored in that relationship anyway, and a sound person, usually my “producer” who lives next to my old place (where my bitch ex-girlfriend lives with my cat — MY cat, Mr. Mistoffolees — and who I sleep with once in a while to piss off my ex). Either her or this burly African American friend when his car isn’t in the shop, which it always seems to be. And my 8 year old niece does the website.
F: Where did you receive your culinary training?
DC: Chuck’s in Fontana, Wisconsin, and L.A. Community College.
F: What is next for the drunken chef? Ultimately, what would you like to see happen with the series?
DC: I want to have it out with Anthony Bourdain and I want to make food for Rachel Ray.
F: Will there ever be an episode where the drunken chef goes to a sit down pizza hut?
DC: Why, you wanna go? Sounds like you’re asking me on a date. I’m down. I’ll scrounge up some quarters for the tabletop pac-man game.
F: What is the most difficult part of the entire production process and how long does it take to make one episode from coming up with a story to completion?
DC: The most difficult part? Dealing with all these normal-lites who are asleep at 3am when I come back and cook. We usually decide on what I’m gonna cook, then go from there. Or we visit fans or whatnot and see what they got in their kitchen. We shoot an episode in a few hours, then my “producer” cuts it in a couple of days.
F: What’s your favorite drink?
DC: Templeton Rye w/2 cubes of ice. And beer. And other whiskeys. Whatever’s free, basically.
F: You’ve already tackled Italian, Indian and Mexican food in the series? What genre of food do you want to try next?
DC: I want to serve up some of the fine cultural cuisine of Chicago.
Last week it was announced that Warner Brothers had chosen Shane Black to film an adaptation of one of my all time favorite manga’s, Death Note. Japan has already released their own half-way decent, live action film versions of the graphic novel, which gives me great hope for the American version. The first, simply titled: Death Note is worthy of a peek, but not my favorite in the series. No, that honor goes to Death Note: The Last Name which is one of those truly rare and elusive breeds of sequel that is actually better than its predecessor.
Unfortunately, after the success of the first and second films, the producers decided to milk the fucking cow dry and made a craptastic trilogy that not only abandoned all logic but also the original story line of the manga. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and holding my breath that Hollywood doesn’t do the same because the story in the manga is pretty fucking awesome!
It begins simply and innocently enough when Light Yagame (some translations call him Raito), a 17 year old genius, discovers a notebook on the street, with the inscription “Death Note” on the cover. Inside is a list of rules, 1. Any human’s name written in the notebook will die, 2. When writing the person’s name you must also picture that same person’s face in order for that person to die, 3. If the cause of death is not written within 40 seconds of writing the person’s name, they will die of a heat attack. It doesn’t take long for Light to figure out that this is not a sick joke. Not only is the notebook real, but having possession of it comes with the added bonus of being able to see and speak to the Death Note’s original owner, a reaper or “shinigami” named Ryuk whom left the notebook in the human world specifically to watch how it’s power would corrupt a mortal. And holy shit does his plan work. Light decides to use the Death Note to rid the world of all evil, but rather than coming up with random ways for each criminal to die thereby hiding the fact that someone is behind the deaths, Light kills each victim with a heart attack. Ballsy, very ballsy. He wants the entire world to know that there is a supernatural force behind all of this, and he wants them to fear it just as they would any Spiderman or Batman. But unlike Batman or Spiderman, Light doesn’t see himself as a superhero, he sees himself as a god.
With the death toll rising, the international community is forced to take action by creating an interpol task force to try and catch the serial murderer nicknamed Kira by the Japanese media. Heading up the Japanese investigation is Soichiro Yagami, Light’s father. Oh snap! Someone has Daddy issues. However, unsatisfied with the slow progress of the case, Interpol “sends in the wolf” in the form of a mysterious detective known only as “L”. L is by far my favorite character. I’m in love with him. If he were a real person I’d marry him! When we’re first introduced to his character all we know is that he is a mega-genius who solves “unsolvable” crimes. It’s not until around chapter 11 or so that we finally see him and discover that he is pale, shaggy, barefoot and constantly eating candy. Truly a man after my own heart. Did I mention how much I am obsessively in love with this character?
From L’s introduction on, the story is basically a psychological cat and mouse game between him and Kira as each man tries to find and destroy the other first.
I think what I like most about this manga is the moral question that it poses. Kira and L are virtually the same character: both savants, both young and both want to bring criminals to justice. The only real difference between the two seems to be the lengths they will go to achieve their ends. I won’t ruin the ending for all of you out there who haven’t read it, because that would be cruel and unusual. But allow me to say, it doesn’t disappoint. The entire series manages to be funny, poignant, sad and dark mixed together and served up with some spectacular art. If you haven’t checked it out you definitely should before the movie comes out, because god only knows whether or not they’ll bastardize it. Oh, pretty please let them cast L well!
I’d like to kick this post off with a shout out to the lesser known, far more conservative, yet equally bat-shit insane sister of Japanese Manga; Korean Manhwa. I’ve recently allowed myself to become FAR to obsessed with not one but two manhwa’s. The first is called Forbidden Kiss and you can read the English translations here. But I must strongly advise you that once you fall down this rabbit hole there will be no return from wonderland. This guilty pleasure beckons to me every morning and I can’t help but click the link to see if the newly translated issue has been posted yet, only to find that cruel bitch of a message telling me that my next issue will be coming soon. Not soon enough my friends, not soon enough.
The basic story is pretty stereotypical of manhwa, which is to say that we’re gonna have to utilize our suspension of belief here people. Okay so, Lee Ha-Eun our heroine lives with her mother, step-father and younger step-brother Lee Shin. Lee Shin just happens to be a local gang leader (known as a jjang in Korean) and a total badass, I mean the kid drives a goddamn motorcycle and he’s only 16-the legal driving age in Korea is 18-ballsy move dude! One day on her way to school Lee Haeun runs into a busy street to catch her bus and causes a minor fender bender. The driver of the damaged car, 17 year-old Han Shihu (I can only assume driving laws are not strictly enforced in this village) gets out and starts screaming at Haeun that this is her fault and she must compensate him for the damage done to his vehicle. However, the amount of money he asks for is enough to cause anyone a panty stain, but especially for Haeun seeing as she’s only a high school student. She doesn’t want her parents to find out so she can’t ask them for help, and there is no way that she’ll be able to earn this kind of money without taking her clothes off. So what’s a girl to do? Become Shihu’s slave and work off her debt through menial labor. Logical, no? So she starts working for him secretly, going to his house after school to clean it, and surprise, surprise, Shihu starts to fall for her. But wait, just as the rich, asshole-ish Shihu is warming up to her, she starts to realize her step-brother Shin, isn’t such a bad guy after all. In fact, a casual observer might even says she’s in love with him, though she won’t admit it to herself, and wouldn’t ya know, Shin has been in love with her THIS WHOLE TIME!!! OMG-A love triangle! I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Lee will be just thrilled when they discover this revelation.
The other manhwa that has me powerless in its clutches is Mary Stayed Out All Night. Now, if you are lucky enough to be able to understand and read Korean, you can find the scans here. If, you’re one of the rare few that don’t know Korean you’re up shit creek for the time being, unless you happen to know a very kind and extraordinarily patient Korean who is willing to translate it for you, such as I, myself do (Lee Hye Kyung you rock my world!). But fear not, from what I understand Manga Fox is in the process of translating it, so hopefully the English version will be out soon! It’s written by the same author that did Full House, which any manhwa nerd worth their salt has read and loved, if you haven’t, fore shame! Here, consider it an early Christmas gift from your pal Flonz. As much as I love Full House, I’m loving Mary even more. Firstly, the art in Mary is pretty damn awesome, the attention to detail is incredible and really does a lot to further the story. Plus, the characters are quite frankly more likeable. Wi Mae Ri, the heroine is adorable and hardworking but a bit of a, for lack of a better word, square. When her friends drag her to a rock concert, she puts her headphones on and complains about the noise until she happens to look up on stage and see Kang Moo Kyul. Boom goes the dynamite and they decide to get married. This goes down like a fart in a space suit with Mae Ri’s father, who is about as keen to have a long-haired, eu de beer smelling, unemployed, musician son-in-law as he is to have a colonoscopy. So he sets up a contract marriage between Mae Ri and his rich friend’s son, Byun Jung In. Mae Ri is forced to split her time equally for the next 100 days between her hastily married rocker hubby and her rich contract husband, in the hopes that she might change her mind and choose money and stability over what is best described as dead sexiness. If you simply cannot wait for the English translations to come out, you could check out the live action drama that just came out based on the manhwa. Yes, I have watched every episode, and you may be asking yourself, do I love it? My reply: Does a bear shit in the woods?
My older brother first introduced me to comics as a kid, and from there my nerdiness grew at an exponential rate. Until one day, like a crack addict trolling back alleys looking for a high, I found myself desperately searching my local comic store for manga. Eventually I caught wise and just got my fix delivered right to my door, which had the added bonus of sparing me the frustration of dealing with the moron working at my comic store. If there is one universal truth in this world it is this: Manga is addictive. It is mind-blowingly awesome, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you need to, you know not what you are missing. In the hopes of persuading others to hop on my nerdy bandwagon, I give you the top 5 reasons why manga f*#@$ing rocks.
#5 They’re Insane.
Japan is where reason and logic go to die, so of course, why would their graphic novels be any different? On a bat-shit insane scale of 1 to 10, most manga plots are about a 20. Yet somehow, because they come from such a crazy culture to begin with, I TOTALLY BUY IT! A boarding school where a secret class of vampires attends school with an unknowing bunch of humans, protected only by the two fifteen-year old school prefects? I’m sure it happens all the time in Tokyo!
Oddly enough, western culture crops up all the time in manga, often with hysterical results.
#3 Easy Access
Thanks to the inter-webs, those of us too cheap to actually purchase volumes of manga can go online and find fan-scan sites. I would highly recommend these two:
#2 You want it, they got it
I know I sound like a used car salesman, but seriously, there are manga’s for everyone. Romance, Fantasy, Drama, Martial Arts, History, Sci-fi, Psychological and the list goes on forever. One word of warning for those who haven’t ever read manga and don’t speak Japanese: DO NOT CLICK ON ANYTHING LABELED YAOI (unless your into gay porn). I’m not joking.
#1 The Art
For my money, the art found in manga is unparalleled. Hino Matsuri is probably my favorite. He has a style that is both exaggerated yet still realistic. He writes fantasy/romance-ish stories that have a way of staying with you after you finish a chapter. A friend of mine, and fellow manga freak, calls his work “sexy”. It’s not dirty or anything, but I think that’s probably the most apt description, it is sexy if not a touch melancholy.