Manga Review: Eternal Alice Rondo by Kaishaku
What first caught my eye with Key Princess Story: Eternal Alice Rondo was the black and white diamond pattern on the back cover. The golden filigree border and picture of an Alice-like anime girl with rabbit ears on the front furthered my interest. However, I have to say, as an avid key collector, that the title Key Princess Story sealed the deal. Story / Plot: Young Aruto Kirihara is a student who is writing an Alice story sequel. He is so in love with Alice, it’s practically all he can think about. One night as he's sitting at his desk, he sees a bunny girl fall from the sky. He follows her to a library where he learns there are a band of girls searching for the “Never-ending Alice” story. These doll-like beauties fight with giant sword keys. When the key is thrust into the middle of these girls, their story flies out in pages to be collected in a book. Eventually, the pages (they think) will lead them to the “Never-ending Alice”. Not only are they fighting against themselves, but they have a common enemy who fights with a giant match sword and attempts to burn girl pages as well as any books in sight.
Warning: Those of you buying for your young family members, this book has a 15+ warning. There are several breast shots and for such an innocent story of girls trying to find an everlasting Alice in Wonderland story, this manga has some sexual themes that are not entirely comfortable. Aruto is seduced by the rabbit girl, his teacher, and his younger sister who reminds him that they used to bathe together. In the back, there is a page on Lewis Carroll, the original author of Alice in Wonderland. It explains how the manga does not mention him because of his alleged pedophile tendencies, yet this manga tale has pedophile and incestuous themes itself. Is this a contradiction the author did not realize, or is it on purpose?
Whatever the case, I still enjoyed this tale and would read more. The art tends to be bubbly and Sailor Moonish, but the backgrounds and buildings are very detailed. The artistic feeling of the book is old English with dusty libraries, three story estates, and rooftops that would make the chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins jealous. Chibi content is average.
Extras you will find in this volume:
- Full glossy pic in front.
- Lewis Carroll info page.
- Preview of the next volume.
- Manga reader/honorific guide.
To read more about Eternal Alice Rondo and the Key Princess Stories:
Review: Princess Ai
Princess Ai is a girl with a slammin’ body who finds herself lost on the streets of Tokyo. Her clothes are in shambles and all she has as a clue to who she is and where she came from is a heart shaped box. The scantily-clad bombshell meets a young innocent student named Kent who attempts from that day forward to help and protect her. Ai soon becomes a star singer, has tons of adoring fans, and sprouts wings! If any of you know anything about Courtney Love or her late husband Kurt Cobain, you can surely see the connection between them and the story. Ai means “love” in Japanese and it is said that Ai is loosely based on Love’s life story. Her heart-shaped box, which is prominent in the story, was a hit song by Nirvana and referred to a present Courtney gave Kurt.
The secret of Ai's origin is one that unfolds so well in the books, that I wouldn’t dare spill it. It is interesting to see the evolution of fashion in these musically inspired books. The first volume starts with simple shredded outfits and ends with an almost Playboy Halloween costume Lolita dress. Volume two adds some cosplay elements and ends with an even more elaborate Bo Peep-ish Lolita dress. There is also a vampire-like adversary who is dressed like a succubus vixen, reminiscent of Morrigan Aensland from Darkstalkers. Volume three brings in a lot of Victorian elements as well as Kingdom and Edwardian styles. The art in all of the books is the kind that you can stare at for hours, whether you are inspecting Ai’s costumes for inspiration, or her body for pleasure.
Special features in the books include:
Volume 2: An article about the making of the Princess Ai dolls.
- Volume 3: Ai paperdolls, an afterward by DJ Milky, and a cosplay Ai look a-like-contest review with pictures of the fans.
For those hard core Ai fans, you might want to invest in the Princess Ai Roses & Tattoos art/poetry book. This book does not have any more story in it, but it does have plastic sleeves with 16 full color pin-up pictures of Ai. Each pin-up has poetry on the back. There are also 12 pages of Ai stickers that you will never want to use because they are just so cool.
Though I am a Princess Ai fan, there are several items I do not own yet.
- Princess Ai: Rumors From The Other Side. The art is said to be fan art and the stories are from American authors.
- Princess Ai Color Me Manga Coloring book
- Princess Ai “Ultimate Edition”, which includes all three Ai books in one volume.
- Princess Ai of Ai-land: The comic strip collection by DJ Milky
- Princess Ai: Encounters which has Ai mingling with other Tokyo Pop stars such as Ein from Midnight Opera, Pam from Tarot Café, and the cast of Rhysmyth.
Brand new Princess Ai books are coming. The first one was released in Dec 2008 and is titled: Princess Ai-The Prism of Midnight Dawn- Volume 1 by Christine Boylan & D.J. Milky. This is the first of the trilogy and my copy came with a music CD of Ai songs, though I am not sure all copies do. It’s hard to tell if this will be as good without Courtney’s input, but we shall see. I look forward to cracking it open and letting the dashPunk community know.
Princess Ai successfully combines a love of art, music, and fashion into a series that will have you occupied for hours. You can find these items at Amazon.com
Coraline and Neil Gaiman fun for the day!
This video made me laugh so much. It’s a brilliant piece of fun promotion and thanks to Neil for my word of the day: Koumpounophobia. By the way Koumpounophobia is so uncommon I did not find it on Merriam Websters site nor on Wikipedi.
(via Neil Gaiman)
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Voting for American Gods
On Feburary 9th the pole opened to elect one of Neil Gaiman's books that would be given away for free. The titles to choose from were: American Gods, Anansi Boys, Coraline, Fragile Things, M is for Magic, Neverwhere, Smoke & Mirrors, Stardust. It was Neil Gaiman's blogs 7th birthday and he wanted to do something fun so he worked it out with his publisher Harper Collins that he could put up one of his books for free for at least a month. Go Neil... thank you for helping to open the eyes of those traditional publishing houses. I like it when the publishers get woken up to the greater world of promotions especially when it is over a more scary tactic like giving free book copies. With the help of established writers smoothing the path then the little known writers and new writers will have a greater chance of getting a green light on promotional ideas like giving away a book copy. Neil asked his fans:
"What I want you to do is think -- not about which of the books below is your favourite, but if you were giving one away to a friend who had never read anything of mine, what would it be? Where would you want them to start?"
Instead of just choosing the title himself, Neil put it up for vote for one week on his blog. This was also a great choice because some times the artist is too close to their projects to see exactly how it is interacting in the wild. Just ask the guys over at KISS, they thought that Beth was a B-side throwaway song and once in the wild it went on to become as extremely popular title.
After 26,400 votes, American Gods won with 28% of the vote.
He was suprised that the fans made that choice and said:
"I don't think I would have put up American Gods as a first choice for free book myself -- mostly because a) it's really long and b) it divides people. As far as I can tell, for every five people who read it, one loves it utterly, two or three like it to varying degrees, and one hates it, cannot see the point to it and needs convincing that it's a novel at all."
But he was thrilled over the process and will still go with the choice because as he put it that is democracy.
Neil Gaiman will post the links to get a copy of the free book latter when those details are available.
Stardust best fantasy tale since The Princess Bride
Tristan fianlly gets Victoria to enjoy a romantic dinner under the starlight only to find that Humphrey was willing to travel to another town to get her an engagement ring for her birthday. After watching a falling star Tristan makes a deal with Victoria that she will marry him if he gets her the falling star and returns to her by her birthday which is within one week. The problem is that the star fell on the other side of the Wall which divides England and the magical world of stormhold.
The rest of the tale is an adventure fairy tale following Tristan as he races to get to the fallen star and return before the week is up. He also has to survive while the evil witches and the Kings murderous sons also pursue the fallen star in hopes of cutting out it's heart for eternal life.
This is the best epic quest / fantasy tale since The Princess Bride! I give it 10 out of 10, wow! Stardust is pure art* presenting me with a delightful tale suspending me in time and space through it's immaculate reality*. The twists and turns of the story surprised me and even though it had a typical fairy tale ending I was proud for the hero whom I cared about watching him grow in skill and character and actually earning the happy ending.
Tristen is set on an epic quest with only one week to earn the love of his true love by getting the fallen star and return back through the wall. All of the classic elements of a Joseph Campbell's hero's journey were present but Neil Gaiman enhanced the tale with delightful touches to those steps. One instance was when the hero was about to cross the threshold and got denied by the threshold guardian. I mean he got his ass kicked by that old man who demonstrated an unexpected proficiency with that stick, I was in tears from laughing so hard.
Stardust is an expression of pure art bringing me to a suspended moment through a beautiful balance between drama, action, comedy, and tension. There are many films that try to get this balance but many merely push and pull me from one moment to the next taking me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions leaving me feeling drug out and tired at the end of the film. Neil was able to get it so that I laughed often while griping the edge of my seat thrilled by the action and drama of the scene.
Neil uses a delightful sense of dark humor that put such a twisted smile on my face. He just hits you right from the start of the movie with a murder that I could only laugh at because it was delivered with such tong in cheek. Neil has the King disappointed in his sons because they haven't murdered each other yet, desiring only the strongest son to survive and ascend to become the next ruler of Stormhold. As shocking as the kings position was Neil made it seem so natural that a short distance into the film I found myself only laughing when a son would get himself killed, thinking to my self 'well he wasn't kingly material,' like it was some kind of acceptable behavior. Twisted... I love it.
Throughout the movie there is a beautiful exploration of true love. This story line was masterfully woven into the tale and takes the audience all the way to the very last scene where we find out that true love is not conditional and it is eternal.
The artwork, set design, and graphics all lend to the immaculate reality that Stardust is able to forge from the very beginning and maintain through to the credits. For example the wall that separates England from the magical world of Stromhold was short maybe 3 feet tall yet I never once thought to question why everyone passed through the crack in the wall and not just jump over it. Another example would be on the air ship where the crew collects lightening but it seems so natural like any other type of fishing barge that is out the on the ocean.
The special effects were absolutely beautiful. I loved the scene when the evil witch used her magic to create a road side in by having it form from a point in space and expand out until it filled the normal space it should fill. The subtle use of a light effect for Una which made he glow but they did it in such a manner as to make the whole thing seem so natural. Not only well done on the effects but they added to the immaculate reality keeping me pulled into the world Neil created.
With all of this raving I do have to say "Please, Please stop the use of the helocoptor pan shot." I am so sick of seeing a helicopter pan shot of people walking. Why not try something different. If you want to show them walking a long distance then put the camera behind them and focus on a far off distance point in front of them or something else. I was also disappointed when the director let Una ride the unicorn in an un lady like fashion and did not make her ride side saddle.
The plot twists were really well played in Stardust. Neil builds beautifully an expectation, lulls the viewer into a false sense of security and then blows your mind by zigging when you expect the plot to zag. I could sit here and list the many, many instances when this occurs but I don't believe in putting spoilers into reviews and for those readers who have already seen the film then you already know of the moments I am speaking of and you are probably sitting back like me with a big goofy grin on your face as you recall those moments.
In addition to maintaining such a tight immaculate reality with beautiful effects Stardust had some wonderful little touches too like the use of traditional folk magic. Neil surprised me by not turning to the traditional overused and expected forms of divination like the use of the crystal ball, reflecting pool / mirror, seeking an old shaman but instead had two less used forms the main one being the use of intestinal divination. Yes folks, things get eviscerated so that the witches can view their organs to see the future. As gross as this practice is they did a wonderful job with it making it seem so natural and by not showing anything to the audience and thereby avoiding the modern day trap of being grotesque. The other form of divination was the use of rune tossing. All I can say is that there is a beautifully tense scene on a beach that just wowed me.
In the end it is all about the performance and everybody loves a good show even swashbuckling, murdering, privateers!
The film stars: Adam Buxton as Quintus, Ben Barnes as Young Dunstan Thorne, Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorne, Claire Danes as Yvaine, David Kelly as Guard, David Walliams as Sextus, Henry Cavill as Humphrey Monday, Ian McKellen as Narrator, Jason Flemyng as Primus, Joanna Scanlan as Mormo, Julian Rhind-Tutt as Quartus, Kate Magowan as Una, Mark Heap as Tertius, Mark Strong as Septimus, Mark Williams as Billy, Melanie Hill as Ditchwater Sal, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia, Nathaniel Parker as Dunstan Thorne, Peter O'Toole as Lord of Stormhold, Ricky Gervais as Ferdy the Fence, Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare, Rupert Everett as Secundus, Sarah Alexander as Empusa, Sienna Miller as Victoria Forrester
*Art: as defined by James Joyce something that neither pushes nor pulls you but merely presents it's self holding you in the moment. As apposed to pornography which he describes as something that drives you either toward or away from it.
*Immaculate Reality: Akira Kurosawa talks about immaculate reality where the story / movie is so self contained that the audience is pulled in and does not question the events because they are natural within the reality crafted by the story / movie.