A road to Shissou Nikki

Some time ago, I’ve read a short book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. The book tells a story about the titular seagull who loved flying. His attempts at learning more about flight lead him to great peaks of mastery, and at the same time alienated him from his family and his tribe. Through the book, Jonathan learns flight beyond physical limits of his body, meets other seagulls with the same love for flight, learns from them and eventually becomes a great teacher himself. Then he descends back to the world and allows his pupils to spread his teachings.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

It is an interesting attempt to describe a way from a normal being to a deity. Through learning and work Jonathan went from a bird to a higher being. The story is naïve and fairytale-like. There is a lot that can be said about it, but today I just want to point out this idea, that one can arrive at a higher form of existence through learning and training. This idea sounds a little similar to some of the teachings by Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi), at least in the prof. Puett’s interpretation.

As interesting as it is though, it is not very practical, not very real world-like. There are plenty of people who devoted their entire lives to one occupation and became very good at it. There are plenty of people who have meaningfully learned their whole lives, constantly progressing and becoming better. But it is really hard to say if any of them have arrived at “the goal”, if any of them transcended normal humans. And, it is easy to say that they didn’t become deities, unlike Jonathan in Bach’s book. So, can we have a story that is a little closer to the world we are living in? A story that would reflect on the human nature and our struggles, on the way towards perfection? A story that would tell us what that “goal”, that perfection is?..

I don’t know if we can have such a story, but we do have Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Siddhartha is a story about a young man, Siddhartha, a son of a priest, who strives to achieve perfection. In his youth when he was serving the gods he sought to learn the nature of divine and the truth about life and everything. Unable to find the answers as a priest, Siddhartha went to become an ascetic, seeking to destroy his “self” to be able to see what lies beyond. Later he would become disappointed in this practice and come to a conclusion that no teaching can ever lead to his goal of enlightenment, that wisdom can’t be taught. Disappointed in the very idea of destroying one’s self, Siddhartha seeks to learn more about his self by indulging in the worldly pleasures and desires like love, food, gambling, earning money, etc. In due time, this will also become meaningless to him, pushing Siddhartha to want to end his life.

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen 2 Episode 14

Leave it to Gintama to throw a random curveball at you out of nowhere. Gintama season 8 has officially ended today. I repeat, Gintama season 8 has ended. Gintoki spent the entire second half of this episode explaining to us why this season had to be ended so abruptly and then complaining about Sorachi and the anime staff.

Let us start from the beginning. Here are a couple of nice pictures of Gintoki’s torture.

It would have been awesome if someone actually skipped the previous episode. They would have been treated to this nice visual of Takasugi hanging from the ceiling wearing a diaper. It would have been totally worth skipping an episode. Torture in Yoshiwara included getting molested by a bunch of old ladies. Gintoki, after going through that trauma twice, gave up on all his worldly desires and became a saint. Everyone lived happily ever after.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 14 (6)

Just kidding. A diaper wearing saint is way more disturbing than a lazy samurai with a permanent perm

Seita became a delinquent. Not that it is weird, considering the fact that he was made to work in an adult toy shop when he was little. Here is one of the best piece of news we learned in this episode. Hinowa can walk now. She still needs a walking stick but I am really glad she can use her legs again. On the other hand, her taking so long to heal acts as a cruel reminder of the torture she has been through.

Gintoki used the sno… mole he got from Tama to hide his identity and get away from the lady monsters. I am glad that he is still carrying that device around. It would have been pretty stupid to throw away something that convenient.

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Hunter x Hunter, Succession War arc – side characters’ riot

As you probably know, Hunter x Hunter anime has ended a while ago, but the manga is still going. Right now, a new batch of chapters is being released, so maybe it is a good time to jump in! The current arc in the manga is referred to as “Succession War”, and it is a part of a bigger arc, which we usually call “Dark Continent”.

I am telling you this to make it clearer what I am going to be talking about. This post isn’t going to be a recap of what happens in the arc, and it is going to be light on spoilers. But still, I will have to tell you a bare minimum about the Succession War arc, like its setup, the parties involved, etc. The arc is really good, and I’ll understand if you’d rather not have any spoilers before reading it; so, decide for yourself.

morning Biscuit

Morning Biscuit with her hair down, feel free to consider this a fanservice

To put it simple, the Succession War is all about a bloody game the king of Kakin Empire came up with in order to decide on his successor. The Hunter Association got involved because Kakin was instrumental in the expedition to the Dark Continent, which the association was planning. The Hunter Association wanted to just let things go their own way, avoiding any problems; obviously that was not going to work. In order to manage the problems, Kurapika and a group of hunters he selected entered this war as bodyguards for different Kakin princes.

I’ll stop the exposition here. So far, I have presented about 0.1% of arc’s content. Kurapika has multiple motives in this conflict and some of the hunters he enlisted have their own motives too. Each of 8 queens and most of 14 princes have some ideas and plans; most of them have their private troops and guards, and those include individuals who yet again, act out of hidden agendas, not just off their loyalty. This arc is complicated. So much so, that the infographics and charts that circulate on reddit and show just basic info over the characters, they got unwieldy big and now are replaced with 15+ page long documents. Even the Kakin wiki page had to use some fancy designs for their infographics, with tabs and all, just to be able to fit all faces that we saw this arc.

If you have read or watched Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin), imagine a couple of those novels condensed into a manga arc, and further compacted temporally and spatially to fit into a week spent on a passenger ship. And, add more characters. That is what Succession War is.

concert

More fanservice. Just read the title card on the left. Basho in a freestyle rap battle, it is golden.

Bassho rap battle

Did you think it wasn’t for real?

For realz

Izunavi’s rock concert. Okay, that is good enough for now.

Now to the topic of this post. In his last few arcs, Togashi experimented with complexity and structure of the story. Making the protagonists never even meet the arch-villain, making the villains and the good guys switch their moral images, blending separate fights and encounters into an inseparable stream of events: I feel confident saying that he knows how to write unusual and complicated stories. And judging by the looks of it, this new arc will be one of them.

But, there is something else, besides it being complex, that stands out to me a lot. I am talking about the side characters. Just to make myself clear, let’s step back and remember the York Shin arc. The main characters on the good guys’ side were Kurapika, Gon, Killua, Leorio, maybe Melody and Hisoka. The main bad guys were the Troupe (counting each member as one). The side characters are people like Neon Nostrade and other Nostrade family members and employees, the mafia, the Shadow Beasts, the ten dons, the freelance assassins (who were “helping” Zoldycks to fight the Troupe), etc.

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen 2 Episode 13

This is another episode filled with random comedy moments. We got to see Gintoki, Hijikata, Yamazaki and a fake Takasugi pretending to be mannequins. This review will have a lot of screenshots since there are some really good moments in this episode.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 13 (8)

The thought of Takasugi pretending to be a mannequin is extremely funny

We also learned a lot of random information. Firstly, Yamazaki can fly!

Gintama Season 8 Episode 13 (3)

Hijikata had no qualms about treating him like a horse

Gintama Season 8 Episode 13 (4)

He can also split into two

Gintama Season 8 Episode 13 (5)

Gintama Season 8 Episode 13 (6) Continue reading

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san

Some time ago, I started reading this romantic comedy manga about middle school students – Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san by Souichirou Yamamoto. You may have noticed its recent anime adaptation. It is a little weird that, even though I don’t read that much manga, it is the second time I start reading a series before it gets adopted into an anime.

But anyhow, my experience with Takagi-san is limited to the manga, and specifically to the beautiful translation by ziM and Anni from manga-tube.me. It was also my first time reading scanlators’ talk in a chat as new chapters get released. I always knew there were real people standing behind any manga scanlation release, but it was Takagi-san and its team that made me feel it.

Takagi and Nishikata 8

The pictures in this post aren’t from the release I’ve mentioned above, sorry. Thought it would be better to post the ones with English text, so everyone could also read what the characters are saying.

It is a story about two students, Takagi and Nishikata; and the gist of it is that Takagi pesters Nishikata, makes fun of him and makes him embarrassed in a variety of ways. Sounds malicious, but it really isn’t; Takagi clearly likes Nishikata in a very clear and direct way (no inner conflicts and other tsundere shenanigans) and her picking on him often does good for both of them. I’ll talk about it in a sec. Nishikata almost always falls prey to Takagi’s schemes, even though he tries his best not to.

If you have watched/read Tonari no Seki-kun you may find the setup to be somewhat similar. And it is kinda true, in both series there are two students, and a stronger one constantly “defeats” the weaker one in a funny way. Except Seki-kun is mostly just a comedy, there is no romance there. But it is not the main difference, I’d say. When watching Seki-kun you are tempted to ask yourself “is Seki going to be alright? Is Yokoi going to be alright?” They are always wasting their time at school, and Yokoi getting into small troubles is almost a theme there. You can safely say that Yokoi would have been better off if she never saw Seki, at least from the pragmatic perspective. I know this is a comedy and all, but still, it is tempting to think along these lines. In Takagi-san, this aspect is completely different.

For one thing, most of the Takagi’s jokes are aimed at Nishikata’s childish ways, like him being embarrassed to say certain words, being embarrassed to admit he secretly reads a romantic manga and so on. On the other hand, when it is something that could be good for Nishikata, Takagi would encourage it. When Nishikata started athletic training, Takagi made fun of his muscle soreness and said, “It would be good if you don’t quit after three days”. When he didn’t quit she praised him for it. Of course, she turned it into a taunt as well, but you get the picture; Takagi wasn’t just having fun at Nishikata’s expense, she was trying to make him a better person as well.

Takagi and Nishikata 1

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen 2 Episode 12

Here is a confession. I honestly didn’t think that Utsuro’s parting words were in fact a threat.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 12 (1)

Of course I expected Utsuro to come back but I didn’t realize that he had made plans to continue his carnage after getting revived. The way I saw it, Utsuro always thought that to live is to suffer. So it would make sense for him to pity the humans who foiled his plans to destroy humanity and chose to continue living, doesn’t it?

Gintoki, who knew Utsuro well, knew what his last words meant and set out to find his next incarnation. He went searching through all the Altana reserves for him.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 12 (3)

Gintama Season 8 Episode 12 (4)

Hmm.. Something seems strange. That is not a world map Sorachi!

This has got to be one of the stupidest mistakes made by Sorachi. Or more like, Sorachi simply refuses to acknowledge that Japan is not the only country in the world. Gintoki didn’t even have to step out of the country. Utsuro got magically reincarnated in Japan again.

Gintoki searched all over Japan, found baby Utsuro and tried to kill him.

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen 2 Episode 11

It turns out, Kanna really is Kagura. She can now transform from being a little girl to an old woman in a matter of minutes. Sorachi hasn’t explained how she manages to do that yet.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 11 (11)

I hate the unrealistic pointy chins

Gintama Season 8 Episode 11 (1)

All hail Granny Kagura

I am sure Umibozu would love to learn this trick, turn back into a teenager and flaunt his hair.

Kagura didn’t find a way to heal Sadaharu. She felt bad about returning to Yorozuya without achieving anything. So she lied about being Kagura’s daughter. To be honest, it is an extremely stupid thing to do. Lying about being Kagura’s daughter and causing all kinds of problems to Shinpachi is way worse than admitting that she hadn’t found a way to restore Sadaharu.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 11 (10)

Here is a nice picture of Sougo and Kagura being friendly

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Gang-aji Ttong (Doggy Poo) – Messing with anime fans since 2003

I honestly thought I had watched enough anime to not be surprised by anything any new anime throws at me. Then along comes Doggy Poo, a Korean anime about a piece of dog poop, to remind me why anime is such an interesting medium.

Doggy Poo is the story of an abandoned pile of dog poop and it’s struggle to find its purpose in life. I will be calling the protagonist Poo from now.

Doggy Poo (3)

This is the piece of poop we will be talking about – Poo

Poo is not the least bit happy about being born as dog poop (who would?) and dreams of being useful to someone or something. It meets several living beings during it’s life, namely some birds, a leaf, a lump of soil and a dandelion plant. Some of these creatures act rudely towards Poo while some of them willingly listen to its fears and offer support.

Poo hates being called dog poop, so much so that it cries when someone calls it poop for the first time.

Doggy Poo (6)

Doggy Poo (5)

Who wouldn’t feel bad for this sorry creature?

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen 2 Episode 10

To be honest, I feel a little bad about badmouthing Katsura. He is actually planning to follow Shige Shige and Nobu Nobu’s footsteps. He is even writing a constitution for Japan all by himself. Only in Gintama can a terrorist become a country’s prime minister.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 10 (2)

Sorry Zurump. You might actually make a good leader

Also, imagine the advantages of having a prime minister like Zurump. You don’t have to waste any resources for providing him security. He can take care of himself just fine.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 10 (3)

Also, who would want to mess with this monster?

Some people tried to assassinate him and he threw a couple of bombs at them with a smile. Watching Kastsura trying to change Japan is going to be fun for sure. Matsudaira is not the least bit happy about Katsura sitting at the top of the country and is trying to assassinate him.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 10 (5)

Sakamoto is currently out on a temporary transfer to the Kaiji universe

Here is the big news. Meet Kagura’s daughter – Kanna.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 10 (6)

Huh?

Kanna is more of a clone than a daughter. Kagura apparently traveled to the Dragon Ball universe and learned how to make clones.

Gintama Season 8 Episode 10 (16)

Gintama Season 8 Episode 10 (17)

Let us build a Kagura army!

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen 2 Episode 9

This episode is everything we have been waiting for. Gintama is back to being a comedy and this episode is unpredictable and funny, just the way Gintama has to be.

Gintama Season 8 EPisode 9 (1)

For starters, Shinpachi didn’t get to act cool

The cafe’s owner kicked him out along with the Amanto for fighting in his cafe.

Sadaharu has shrunk to the size of a peanut and is in a vegetative state. Gintoki and Kagura went their separate ways after their battle with Utsuro. Kagura is travelling from planet to planet trying to find a way to wake Sadaharu up.  Gintoki said that there is something he wanted to do and walked away. Knowing Gintoki, I wouldn’t be surprised if he just wanted to play some Pachinko or visit some anime makers and apply for a transfer saying that he is tired of Gintama. Shinpachi is currently taking care of Yorozuya all alone and waiting for their return.

Gintama Season 8 EPisode 9 (3)

Sadaharu

Not everything is bad though. Hasegawa is calling himself a hero and is now a big star. He is being praised by everyone and is living a life of luxury. I don’t even want to get annoyed about him acting all high and mighty. We all know that he is going to end up being homeless very very soon.

Gintama Season 8 EPisode 9 (4)

Just enjoy your fame while it lasts Hasegawa

Here is a nice picture of the Shimura house for you.

Gintama Season 8 EPisode 9 (5)

Whoa, whoa, WHOA!

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